I punch in the code for the second floor,
elevator slowly ascending to a locked ward.
A secret space
for those whose minds have pulled up roots,
memory twisting and evaporating
like petals floating into the clutches
of an unexpected wind.
I see him.
paper bones rattling beneath his skin,
tiny frame swallowed up
by the beige cushions of a chair.
I watch him,
fingers entwined with those of the woman beside him.
She strokes circles into the back of his hand,
her thumb soothing a patchwork of weary veins,
as if the room around them never existed.
They stare into each other’s eyes,
speaking a language filled with shapes and pathways
that traverse beneath a sky
only they can touch.
A clatter of plates pulls him from their connection.
He sees me,
a spectator on the edges of his new reality.
His eyes blink the room into focus.
He lifts his hand as if it holds the weight of the sun,
reaches for me.
Today, he knows I am his daughter.
-Susan Richardson (From her collection, Things My Mother Left Behind)
Raanana, June 12, 2017
I’ve finally said it:
You say you’ve come a long way
Just to see me
And now you have to go back home
To your wife and dog
But I’ve come a long way too:
I’ve come from my Columbus.
I hopped on a bus on Carpenter
Back in 1939 or 40
And came to spend a week or two
With you in your Columbus
At this place that’s not my home.
Sometimes I don’t know whether
I’m coming or going when
He tries to trick me into saying
There’s only one Columbus
But any fool can see that
Mama and Daddy’s alive and well
In my Columbus
And my sisters too,
Why, I was just talking to them this week
And at work they still depend on me
To read the ticker tapes to local rags.
You should have seen me
During Pearl Harbor
In my Columbus.
His Columbus is that nursing home
Where you have to ask permission
And the cemetery where my beloved family’s buried.
Who would want to live in your Columbus?
No siree Bob!
I try to follow you wither soever thou goest
But when you cross that Stygian river
Into a reality that’s only big enough
For you and your youthful memories,
You must know you’ve left me back
On distant shores.
You’re my mother,
God knows I’ve tried my best to honor you,
Show you the respect that came so naturally
When I was a child
But time’s arrow seems to’ve stopped, turned around
And gone backward so that
You’re the child
And I’m just an old man
Tired, o so tired, of the banalities of life
And the tricks it plays
As though every day were April Fools.
Yes Mom, your Columbus is far better
Than my Columbus
But what good is a reality
If you’re the only one who sees it?
And what good is mine
If there’s no rhyme or reason?
The mantel clock on the kitchen shelf
in my father’s house possesses a squat
pendulum encased by glass. It spoons out
seconds in nonchalant swings: factory efficient,
all business and no small talk. A drone of a thing.
Skeins of leaf shadow flicker through the picture
window, its filigree falling across Lazyboy leather.
His face is a fire of shattered autumn sunlight.
Memories swarm as dust motes, visible
but uncatchable, or maybe they float on thin
web parachutes in the stratosphere.
So we speak in mechanical movements:
“I’ll miss you when you go back,” he says.
“I’ll miss you too,” I say
(repeat at regular intervals).
All of this observed, it seems, by the mute
Grandfather clock standing butler-like over us.
Before, its clamorous chimes startled everyone
except my father, until he opened the door to its
belly and inserted a decisive finger, halting noisy
machinations. Unspooked, my children slept easy
As I wheeled luggage to the front
door on our last day, I noticed he had started
the timepiece’s ancient heart beating again.
Shooting ticks and tocks into the room like
The cronikers were reclaiming the house.
Filling up old biscuit tins, the mouths of
figurines, cracks between floorboards,
teacups, U-bends, every cobwebby orifice
with the relentless sound of their unabashed
Cool white floorboards lie under hot cheek
And clenched jaw. Mother’s broth chirps downstairs
On the stove. A spilt vase sends the shadow of black-star
Seed heads across the wall. Apple wood scent crawls up
Her back. A breeze is bird-song through the old open sash
She is all feathers, framed in the doorway, where still- life
Thoughts tread old paths. Her face the soft yoke of a
Blue egg on Sunday, says ‘plant me a tree and the birds
Will come’ Her peace is whipped milk in a cool clay mug.
Trivial rituals delivered in love that bind her to us
My father stands in sterile white light, Grapefruit bitters
Curling in sparkling water. Unease is somewhere in the scrape
Of a chair and my mother’s voice describing her birds. As if he
Is caught at the swoop of a hill, the steep dip in the pit of him.
Softly he closes the gate to the silvered path of her words.
against receding waves that keep pulling.
Everyday is new to me. Folk tell
me something new everyday. I’m mulling
over I belong here, here is not hell.
I have a husband who makes the tea, there
behind the counter. Folk confuse me when
they say so sorry but they need to share,
my husband is dead. They don’t make sense.
Show photos of me with a strange cute man.
I nod sweetly. Hold hands. They’re clearly mad.
Steven, my husband, bring us tea, kind and
sensitive. He goes along with their sad
news. Waves pull all value I have hoarded
all away from me, memories tethered.
4. All Away
All away from me, memories tethered
by fragility. Lacks strength of spider’s
web, or ship’s anchor rope. Stranger blethered
I have two sons. One no longer with us.
Competitive. Aspired. One capricious.
Dead. Blue and white rope he used. My son. Brave.
Bravest he ever was. Wouldn’t let us
hug him. Let me put my hands on his brave
shoulders. Then he pushed away. As if to
say I’m strong enough to stand on my own.
Isn’t that brave? You know he had blue
and white rope round his neck. He was known
as brilliant yachtsman. Memories slipped
by my frantic grasp to prevent their drift.
Bios and Links
is a Welsh poet whose most recent writing is in The Crank Literary Magazine, Briefly Zine, Re-side Magazine, Abridged and Green Ink Poetry. She has poetry forthcoming in Dreich’s Summer Anywhere anthology, Songs of Love and Strength by TheMumPoemPress and was winner of Poems for Trees competition with Folklore publishing. She is an MA student in Poetry Writing with Newcastle University and The Poetry School, London.
was born and brought up in the north of Ireland but has lived in England, Australia, and New Zealand. Her short fiction won first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2020 and was shortlisted for the Australian Morrison Mentoring Prize in 2014 and 2015. Her flash fiction performance won second prize in the Over the Edge Fiction Slam 2021. Her poem, “Fusion”, was longlisted in the Fish Poetry Prize 2021, and she contributed poetry to the Label Lit project for National Poetry Day (Ireland) 2019. Her poetry and fiction has been published internationally in publications such as Lighthouse, Skylight47, Spontaneity, and Other Terrain. Follow her on Twitter: @Fionaperry17
Her first collection, Alchemy, is available from Turas Press (Dublin).
is a Laurel Prize nominated poet. She has been shortlisted for several poetry prizes and won the Hedgehog Press’ collection competition 2020. She has two poetry collections:
Fording The Stream and Where Flora Sings, a memoir in prose and verse, The Road To Cleethorpes Pier and a new pamphlet, Earth Magicke out April 2021. She has been widely published online and in print, most recently: Hedgehog Press, The Blue Nib, Impspired & forthcoming in Sarasvati and Dreich.
She performs regularly at open mic events and facilitates a women’s poetry group in Nottinghamshire.
Instagram : meggiepoet
Facebook Author Page: Facebook.com/margaretbrowningroyall
lives and works in Berlin. In her dreams, she can swim like a manatee. Annick tweets @missyerem and has, to her utmost delight, been published by Pendemic, Detritus, @publicpoetry, RiverMouthReview, #PoetRhy, Anti-Heroin-Chic, Rejection Letters, Dreich, 192, The Failure Baler and Rainbow Poems. https://missyerem.wordpress.com. https://linktr.ee/annickyerem
is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet (2019 and 2020) and reviewer who lives in rural Worcestershire. He is an active member of the Open University Poetry Society, managing its website and occasionally editing its workshop magazine.
He has been shortlisted for several national competitions and his poetry has appeared in a wide range of anthologies and magazines. In 2019 Hedgehog Poetry Press published his first collection, ‘Saudade’, following the success of his poetry conversations with Sarah Thomson, ‘Thinking You Home’ and ‘A Hostile Environment’. In August 2020 Hedgehog Poetry Press published his pamphlet, Psychopathogen, which was nominated for the 2020 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets and made the Poetry Society’s Winter List.
In 2021 he was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Reviewer of Literature.
To find out more visit his website: www.nigelkentpoet.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @kent_nj
-Olive M. Ritch
is a poet originally from Orkney. She was the recipient of the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2020 and in 2006, she received the Calder Prize for Poetry from the University of Aberdeen. Her work has been extensively published in literary magazines, anthologies and websites including Poetry Review, Agenda, The Guardian, New Writing Scotland, The Poetry Cure (Bloodaxe) and the Scottish Poetry Library. Her work has also been broadcast on Radio 4.