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All is Flux
Editors M.B. Gerlach
J.L. Rushworth & J.M. Young
Dedicated to all those who lost a loved one to Coronavirus, and all the health care staff and key workers who work so hard to see us through the pandemic.
All Change – Hannah Stone
– after Thanatologist David Kessler
There is a tribe which honours how death
When the bereaved family open their eyes
on the first full day of loss, they see this shared,
for, overnight, every household in the village
has moved something out into the yard –
a chair, a table, any belonging.
My urban, northern community pretends
the only difference is absence. We hoist
the soiled Parker Knoll into a skip, bury
unwanted stuff in a landfill.
We hold quiet ceremonies in cold buildings
and, after a decent interval, ‘move on.’
‘Late’ is what the dead are called
in cultures where they know how to be present.
My mother is not yet ‘late,’ but she has missed
her time to shine, and all the furniture
in her brain is being re-arranged
round spaces where her memory once lived.
‘How long will I grieve?’ we ask the therapist.
‘How long will your loved one be dead?’ she replies.
CEPHALOPODYSPHORIA – Mathias Gerlach
the very first time, i am 12 years old.
it starts in my chest, beneath my lungs,
the space between my diaphragm and heart
quaked by hiccups. then something bigger.
the scientific name for giant squid is Architeuthis.
their tentacles grow back when you sever them;
it’s one way only – the cut arm withers and dies,
but a new one sprouts in its place over and over.
i taste blood and kelp like fishmongers’ air,
and my hands grasp the bulge in my throat.
brine in my mouth, my nose, eyes and ears:
a reversed children’s rhyme before i retch.
a giant squid’s suckers are lined with teeth;
they have three-feet-long prehensile penises.
giant squids exhibit sexual dimorphism.
their only natural predators are sperm whales.
weeds can be beautiful, too – Leah Barron
there used to be flowers in my ribcage,
vines entwined with my veins.
my body was a terrarium:
it kept me warm.
i kept my garden growing,
watered the wallflowers that
consumed me. i was
now those wallflowers wilt.
there is ivy climbing my limbs;
i can't bring myself to cut it back.
my bones are more rotten than alive.
i am the body they forgot to bury.
forget-me-nots are forged in my brain,
but i don't want to remember.
what were once willow vines
are dry-damp branches
cracking under the weight of my footsteps.
i am not a home for flowers;
i am not the greenhouse i once was.
the garden inside of me is overgrown.
i am wearing dry rot antlers. these
wildflowers and weeds
belong to me.
i am the patron saint of what is meant to be.
This is the seventh in the series of anthologies under the Wordspace imprint with Indigo Dreams, and contributors are all involved with Leeds Trinity University in some way – students, staff, alumni, visitors to the Writers’ Festival and performers at our Wordspace Open Mic. In keeping with tradition, it is edited by volunteer MA students, with members of the Creative Writing staff.
Three Years – Jennifer Rushworth
Three years ago, I was the girl who had everything.
My hair was a golden waterfall that fell to my waist, and my
skin was tanned and freckled from days spent
doubled over with laughter in the sun.
My confidence was unwavering, my opinions strong.
I was a girl with dreams that would easily be achieved.
Three years ago, I had an amazing Nanna.
Her cheeks were rosy and her laughter infectious as she danced
to old war music whilst cooking the Sunday dinner, the living
room window clouded with steam.
Her heart was loving, her soul pure.
She was the woman who believed I could do anything.
Three years ago, my mother was in perfect health.
Her legs were strong from hours spent walking
and seeking adventure, never worrying about the time of day
or where on the map she ended up.
Her work ethic was determined, her lust for life insatiable.
She is the woman who stays strong no matter what.
Glass Ceiling Installed in Flat-Roof Pub – Andy Clark
Cropped hair, dark glares
all scars and sinew
Their eyes bore holes
then dart to and fro,
and pupils dilated.
and their preassembled friends,
some pieces lost in construction.
Here they’re collected,
their hatred directed
freely with no form or function.
They wait for a chance,
a misguided glance,
to take exception
to anything mentioned.
Their knuckles are white
and these violent delights
when they come to a head …
you know what Shakespeare said.
Weather: the Sequel – Oz Hardwick
Everything is changing, from the weather to the shape of my skull. It’s been the wettest/driest year on record, and every day brings snow or locusts. It’s like the predictable sequel to the surprise hit horror movie, with a different writer and director. The plot’s more or less the same, only this time I have the head of a bird, and I walk into the abandoned mansion like a Max Ernst collage, with a curved beak and a tight cravat. Each room is filled with jump-scares, with faces glimpsed in windows and shadows shaped like blades, and every door leads back to the wide hall with suits of armour, sinister portraits, and all the glass-eyed taxidermy of a lost empire. The sudden hiss is just a black cat, though it studies my feathered skull as if I was a helpless fledgling, the high camera angle adding to the suggestion of prey. From the top floor comes the sound of a baby crying, though by the time I have climbed the stairs, with all their helter-skelter Hitchcock perspectives, it has become a musical box winding down, tugging Brahms into the locked attic room like a body in a sack. But the room isn’t locked, and the baby is a china doll, and the musical box is the stuffed corpse of Brahms, with glass eyes and a cat’s teeth, and the crying tune is the weather scratching at the window, too afraid of change to stay outside for another night. I lift the latch to let it in, and climb onto the ledge, stretching my beak to the Hammer lightning. By the time I hit the ground, I may have grown wings.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley said, ‘Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.’ And she was right: change is profound to us all, whether it’s big or small, life-affirming or life-ending. We live in a constantly changing, ever expanding universe, which may perhaps, one day, shrink back down to the stardust from which we are all made – though that would be an unimaginable loss, as that same universe is, after all, home to the biggest changeling of them all: the human condition.
The works collected in this anthology remind us that we are living in unprecedented times – but these times are what have shaped us, defined us, what we’ve rebelled against and what we’ve fought for. Journeys through tragedy, reflection, the cosmos and a shared history await.