Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Courtesan

Simon Burns stood in the garden, the five buckets of frogs stood at his feet. The courtesan at the window oozed jealousy, eyes stabbing like knives as the other woman scurried away, handbag swinging. He guessed that like everyone all she really wanted was to find love. He could sense her portentous determination even across the lilac garden. As he glanced back at her, he saw she was now down to her brassiere, wine cup in hand, but the peacock display in her hair remained untouched. A petal brushed he cheek and he hummed "are you lonesome tonight?"

The copyright of this post belongs to Jenni Crowe

Thursday, 20 June 2013


The journey begins at the base of the spine. Beneath the cerise silk shawl, the sharp white shirt, the green camisole I find that there’s a place for me. The riches of her bones lie in wait, like a shoal of regimented fishes, each one connected to the next like a little punch of promise. We are camping in a garden, in the rain, sisters but not sisters, weaving together a tapestry of many coloured memories to lie beneath. I feed her tea and oranges; she gives me coffee and almond biscuits. This could be the Café Americain, I think, as my fingers paddle their way up her back. The air is thick with imagination. I swallow the gift of her kiss, and travel my hands on, up, round, until I reach the point at which her composure melts.
‘That dress you’re wearing,’ she says. ‘It’s in the way. You should have taken it off when you came flying down the stairs. I thought I could trust you to do that. And the hat. You are seriously overdressed in that hat and that pompom scarf.’
There is a free spirit of enthusiasm in her voice as she draws me into the arc of her arm like a baby newborn. ‘Have you come here for forgiveness,’ she murmurs, ‘or have you come to raise the dead?’
Happiness bubbles in my heart. I know how to help. I know the joyous things that we can do. I raise myself on one elbow, touch my finger to her lips at journey’s end. ‘Meet me in the morning,’ I say, ‘and you’ll find out…’

The copyright of this post belongs to Jill Glenn

The Ostrich Plans to Set Sail

The ostrich marches on board with a quite particular step. ‘It is,’ he says, ‘the embarkation that gives most pleasure’, and then he dips his head shyly, looking overboard to blow a kiss at the shoal of fishes. They dart away, startled, into the turquoise shadows, swimming to the rhythm of a different drum. The ostrich stands like a rock in the sunshine for a moment and looks over his shoulder. There’s no-one there. He turns to Noah.
‘Should there not be two of us,’ he asks. ‘I think there should be two of us’.
Noah looks the other way.
‘Bit of a problem there,’ he says. ‘Accommodation on board a bit tight. You know how it is. All the rooms connected. And so many have brought gifts, such riches, but they all take up space. So there’s only a single cabin for you.’
The ostrich droops. The joy goes out of his day. He feels that tristesse, that melancholy that has assailed him all his life when plans go wrong.
Noah watches. ‘Would you like a drink of punch?’ he asks, hopefully. ‘It’s on the rancid side, having come by sea in a barque, but I know your tastebuds aren’t what they were, so I’m sure you’ll like it. And I know there’s no room for a partner, but I have got you a little friend…’ And out of his pocket he produces a thrush.

The copyright of this post belongs to Jill Glenn


Remembrance cuts through him, sharp as a lemon in the mouth. He is missing many things: several buttons, and the bodkin with which to stitch them on, his parrot, half his false teeth; indeed, as a castrato, he is also missing something else more personally significant – but he is no longer missing his memory. He is Stephen, restored to himself at last. His hand closes over the little angel talisman in his pocket, and he lifts up his voice in a rollercoaster of relief. No sooner has he hit the highest note than he loses himself again. A parrot, vivid as a lime leaf in the sun, darts out from underneath the foliage. A lurking cat appears with a dozen eggs in a basket and a pocketful of change. The jester happens by in a pair of knitted jodhpurs with a shaving brush behind his ear. The table is not set; he cannot find his right shoes. He is no longer Stephen, there is no angel, there is no remembrance. He has taken out the picture from his own photo-frame; he is empty of himself. He begins to cry.

The copyright of this post belongs to Jill Glenn

The National Supper

Dapper in his fisherman’s sweater and jodhpurs embroidered with silverfish, the jester thinks himself a fine figure of a man. In a good light you might notice that his shirt is a little faded, that his shoes are tawdry, that he still has a couple of rollers left at the back of his hair, to illustrate the pains he has taken to in preparation. But the light in the huts is not good, and so he looks at his reflection in the polished coaster with unwarranted pleasure. He is the joker in the pack of hosts at this national supper, at which octopuses will dance with themselves, and herons fish for compliments. He furnishes the whole affair with that air of demi-monde. Oh, the jester, the guests will say: you know what he’s like, with his commas and his moons, his fish-on-a-Friday, his xtra-large portions. Fishhooks and knickerwhiskers, how he fancies himself. What a pollock!

The copyright of this post belongs to Jill Glenn

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

What Makes A Giraffe Laugh?

“What makes a giraffe laugh?”
My little granddaughter, a girl with laughing blue eyes and a perfect round face, looks up at me with glee. She is giddy with delight as we are on a trip out together, without encumbrances or limitations. It is midsummer day and so we have determined to make the most of the long, sultry daylight hours, and just be.
I feel a sense of becalmed joy as her tiny fingers touch my jewellery.
“I bought you those earrings for Christmas, didn’t I grandma?”
“Yes my darling, and they are my favourites” I respond, my love for her almost tangible in the air that surrounds our bodies. Hers, petite with a grace and freedom of movement exquisite. Mine, bigger, taller, and broader, with the streams of the years crossing my face like all the suns and shadows I have known. I smile.
“Why are you always smiling grandma?” she asks.
“Because I love to be with you”, I reply.
Geese, forming a big V in the summer blue sky fly overhead.
“Look” I say, “our own letter from the alphabet. We both have it in our names, the geese are saying ‘hello, have a nice day’ “.
Olive giggles and blinks long luscious eyelashes, jumps up and down in delight, and with a burst of fun filled radiance, she runs along the geranium fringed path to the next enclosure. This pace suits me, some quiet questions of contemplation and some running and jumping. With this, I can keep up because I experience an uplift in my bones, being aware of the gratitude in my spirit to have this little girl in my life. She wants to see and talk and draw and question, like a palmate leaf open to all that the universe can offer.
After explanations, the little drawings in our sketch books, we head for the café where tourists sit under red umbrellas. An Inman in his robes with his holy countenance engenders more inquiries from Olive, who is fascinated by other cultures and costumes.
“I have a sari at home grandma, mummy bought it for me on Brick Lane, and sometimes she draws me a bindi”.
“What is a bindi?” I ask, amused by her knowledge.
“It is a little beauty spot, and it goes right here” Olive retorts in a voice aghast at my ignorance. Pointing to her forehead, her little fingernail is painted candy pink and on her brown arm little bracelets, childish and sugar pink, rattle and tinkle.
“What shall we eat?” I ask, “my breakfast porridge has disappeared into my feet”.
She giggles.
“You are funny grandma, there is no porridge down there!”
We have so much to still enjoy on this midsummer’s day, which I will never forget, but know that she will.

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Rule

My Name is Buttercup

I hold a granny smith in my little hand, it is my token against all disaster. It comforts me. I am called Buttercup and I love everything that is yellow. I heard on the Children’s News bulletin that there was an outbreak of Yellow Fever on Christmas Island, and I wondered if that was where all the Christmas trees grew, and if I could catch the fever myself from our tree. It stands now in a bucket of brackish water in the back yard. In our yard there is also an old pram where I keep my pet stoat. He is called Pear, which I think sounds rather Japanese. I like Japanese people because they look yellow. One of my brothers, a particularly horrid boy of indeterminate parentage, calls me Buttercup the Cow, and my pet the Rotting Pear. He doesn’t like me, and tries all the time to rile and torment.
But it doesn’t ever work. I think placid yellow thoughts, resigning myself to always being the odd girl out. At least in this family.
After I feed and pet Pear, I go up to my little cot bed at the top of our house. I enjoy the smell of my own pillow and rejoice that I am a girl, even if an odd one. Because if I’d been a boy, I’d have to sleep down there amongst them all.
The boys, all noisy and bothersome, have no interest in the wild life I love.
And they are not at all beguiled by yellow.

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Rule

Star Gazer

I am able to furnish you with all the details.
Under stress I carry out all instructions immaculately.
And I am stressed.
You ask me how could such a tawdry state of affairs exist in this, the 21st century?
Well, prepare yourself, I come from many centuries and I have travelled well.
Suspend your jester role and take this story seriously, because I am not the joker in your pack.
There was once a house that I inhabited many years ago. It was shaped like a stargazer pie with many gardens, lakes and follies surrounding it. I built a domain wall all about to keep my captives in and my captors out. I could time travel from the tall turreted tower, wherein my special machine sat in splendor. I can be a slippery fish I know, but this tale is true.
I met Magellan and Einstein, and the plans for the combustion engine I buried within a hole in my domain wall. Along with manuscripts and musical scores gifted to me by Dickens and Mozart. I wished them to be hidden time capsules of ingenuity and creativity for the future generations.
I also met a man who made many claims, including being able to feed thousands with just five loaves and two fishes, I can confirm this now as fact. I was the boy who shared the lunch.
You see, I cannot only travel, I can change persona, nationality, sex and identity.
I can sing: “…here comes the mammy, like a canny woman” in order to rock squalling infants to sleep, and fish around my psyche to invent stories, tales that would transport tyrants from their rages into docile gentlemen. Riding calmly into the fading light of battle, tamed and beguiled, if sometimes beleaguered. Yes, my life has been a roller coaster, no wonder my motto has always been “A pond I fished, it was as deep as England” penned by my good friend Ted Hughes. Because, I am as deep as England.
As I said, I am able to furnish you with all the details

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Rule

Once, Under a Theban Sky

'This is the day that our Lord God made long ago, a day that makes my heart happy to have seen, little one.' Meriamun whispered the words but in my overcharged mind they boomed. I raised my head from the bowed position. I had held as still as possible, as still as I could given the energy that rippled in my veins, kneeling on the stone floor whilst the high priest had completed the requisite offerings, voiced the words that I had spent years waiting to hear.

For a large man, his hands were gentle, swift as the Oryx, as he tied what remained of my hair into a topknot. His eyes, the colour of our blessed river in Shemu, smiled down upon me. A warm breeze crept into the cramped space, tickling my newly shorn head and filling my nostrils with the sweetness of jasmine oil. Clear reminders, clear confirmation that, after so long I had fulfilled my promise and had been given, been bestowed with the great honour of the title 'God's wife of Amun'.

Meriamun twisted his torso and somehow made to kneel next to me. 'Now we prayer as equals, little one' he murmured in my right ear. We were then prostrate in front of the one who had created everything and Meriamun intoned a short prayer as conclusion to my anointment, extolling the God to forgive us, absolve us of all our sins.
As was my wont, I added a silent coda to the lady that dwelt in my heart, Isis. I saw no sin in this.

We stood, and Meriamun clasped me in his arms. Though he was past 50, his strength had not left him. I squealed, 'do you mean to crush me Lord priest,' in mock protest but my voice betrayed joy. Joy that he still felt able to hug me in the way he had done so since I was a very little one.

Moving out of the shrine room and into the temple courtyard, we were greeted with cheering and clapping. The spontaneity caught at my breath. Meriamun calmed our temple folk with his arms outstretched. I looked across to my right where a group of my sisters had gathered with sistrums between two of the columns. At a nod from the high priest they began a chant in praise of Amun, of Ra, of all the gods. In celebration of my elevation. Soon everyone had joined them and the song, echoing from the high ceiling, resounded and mixed with the musk of myrrh that had been burning in the censors all morning. I attempted to sing also but my voice was a pomegranate stone, lodged in my throat. I battled the tears in my eyes.

When it was over, many of those assembled came forward to wish me well. Though they still spoke with the same voices they always had, I heard the reverence in their tone, saw in their eyes that, for them, unlike Meriamun, I had changed. An invisible curtain fell in the air between them and I, and I accepted that the joy of my new position would always be tinged with the sadness of distance from the self I was, from how I was perceived by my brothers and sisters before.

Outside, in the temple grounds and beyond, there was a furious hurrying and scurrying. Co-incidentally, or perhaps ordained by Isis, my lifeboat, my barque day, when I had crossed from votary to priestess, was also the day when, here in Thebes, we were expecting the goddess-on-earth herself, our Pharaoh, our Queen, Cleopatra.

A Nubian guard came quickly up to Meriamun and spoke. I was a few feet away and could not hear him clearly above the hubbub. His words came as gibberish, and sounded like 'yabba dabba do'. The old priest searched my eyes puzzlingly. I went to his assistance, feeling like I had begun my new role at last. A comfortable feeling, like when I would run my childish fingers over my Father's soft leather pouch. That in which he kept important papyri.

The guard towered above me and looked sceptical at first until he recognised the headdress of God's wife. He nodded in respect and repeated his question. I translated for Meriamun - having had a Nubian grandmother helped - 'his name is Calyp and he says there is a problem with the amount of food ordered for the Queen's banquet.' But Meriamun had moved away, called by another problem to deal with no doubt. Happy for me to deal with this one, I thought, just as he should be. 'Calyp,' I smiled up at the guard, 'show me please.'

It was still early morning. As I walked with Calyp towards the kitchens, the expectation of the Queen's coming was growing, almost an ululation. There was so much to make ready, so much to ensure as right that I knew I would see my whole life this day. But, I was busting with happiness, replete with the nurturing my parents, their parents and kind, dear Meriamun had given me, and this would sustain me. I was sure.

When evening came, I would take my place as part of the welcoming when the Queen approached, carried aloft by her retinue. The torches that would light her way to the city were prepared. A flickering fantasy of her power. This thought intruded on my way back from resolving the kitchen problem.

'For how can she be Isis, the Lady of two lands,' I mused,'it is political whimsy.' I chided myself, if Cleopatra had deemed herself one with the Goddess then, as she is our Pharaoh, it must be so. I remembered the words of my Mother long ago. 'Be still Ankensenptah, be good of heart, be open of mind.' I chimed the Goddess's name but visualised my Mother, not Cleopatra, as I wandered off to the next task. The fattened bison required the correct offerings and words of prayer before it was sacrificed to bless the Queen's feast.

Ra was rising above. Heat touched my forehead. I looked forward to the promise of some tea. Later, much later after the grind, the gradual grind of this special day.

Copyright Gabrielle Mooney 2013