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The Rose Magazine


Issue Four

Copyright 2017 The Rose Magazine




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Table of Contents

The Blow-Ins – Toby Buckley

Junior B Championship - Daniel Galvin

Port of Call - Fiona Perry

About a Girl - Michael Gallagher

Let’s Say - Edward O'Dwyer

Pianos in My Head - Aidan Hynes

Hark - Cathal Gunning

Words-Worth – Anthony Brophy

Billy Banks - Mark Rowlands

Beyond Caravaggio - Órla Fay

The Weeds of Kilquinn - Paul Anthony Corbett

Featured In This Issue


The Blow-Ins

Toby Buckley

On Wednesday, my neighbours clatter

in again at odd hours.

I hear their flat creak,

fit to burst with the unplanned clutter

of twenty bodies (give or take)

in a single-bedroom flat.

A head here, a foot there,

cooing at each other through air thick

with bodies and movement,

scratching on their stained mattress,

crashing around the room –

kids in a playground

or junkies in a nightclub.

The evening sun glints

off their feathers

like mother of pearl

or oil spilt on water.

I wonder if they pay rent.



---

Junior B Championship

Daniel Galvin

The team talk made no sense

offered by an aging decorator

from the neighbouring townland of Drowndrew,

addled by paint fumes

in his pink and white splattered pants.

Seanie now silently broods in the dugout shade

making love to a last cigarette

but his rant still rings in your ears:


'These fellas are down from the city

with their socks pulled up 'round their knees

calling us farmers.

They don't know where their breakfast comes from in the morning.

Well I'll tell ye where it comes from lads:

FROM OUR FARMS DOWN HERE IN COURCEY ROVERS!'


They're all out today on the spectators' bank.

The men arm crossed furrow faced experts

who hawk and spit between grunting critiques.

The women a gallery of clucking hens

before their sons set them squawking-

'Get it in!'

'Get it out!'

'Refereeeeee!'


The parish daughters: a thin row of tight denim.

The parish priest, looking strange without the pulpit.


The opposition enters the field

jogging limply into position with white-strapped knee caps

and hurleys possibly plucked from an ash tree en-route.


The man you'll be marking must be thirty-five-odd

and his breath carries hot with old porter.

He squints in the sun as you scan him for weakness,

sweat gleaming on his forehead already

and still a bit wheezy from the warm up.


He asks- Were you out last night?

You tell him no.

He looks troubled.

The wrinkled hems of his boxers poke out below his shorts-

another indication of inadequate skill.


The ref arrives late and overweight,

head high in dignity as he bounces to the line

while a fourth umpire has been conscripted from the pub.

To hoots from the bank he throws the white coat over his mass shirt

and sullies his Sunday shoes in the muck by the goal

for the parish.


A toot of the whistle

-someone screams 'gahaantafuknowlads!'

and the sliotar's released like a flaming spud.


You drop the first ball that springs your way

and a bodiless voice from the bank calls you to:

'Get the rag out!'

but you don't know what this means.

You're blown off the next one like an empty Tayto bag

and Seanie's alive again, marching ten feet onto the playing field

to request that you

'Get your finger out of your ass!'


Your man brushes against you,

you tense for the shoulder-

but now the fella's on his knees

spewing last night's Guinness through the face-guard of his helmet.

There's strings of spit dripping from the bars.


You look to the sky to thank Christ-

And Christ!

here comes the ball.


As you extend the receiving paw heavenward,

you think of the murmuring men

who will spit their approval

and the mitten-clad mothers

who will squeal in delight

and the skinny GAA girls

who might shift you tonight

and the off-duty priest

who will send you to heaven

and Seanie

who can fuck off anyway


and the leather bullet hits your palm

hot and unforgiving.

Miraculously, it sticks.



---

Port of Call

Fiona Perry

He asked the driver to park outside

her old family home. A cottage now scalped

of thatch and peopled by ghosts.

"I proposed here," he said, his belly

juddering with unexpected lamentation.

And I see them together, weathered


By past love affairs, striving. Harbouring

the hope that hidden hurt is healed by new

grand designs. As a child, I knew:

they are mismatched yet

united in a scrabble to find enough

common ground to build


A family. He came to consider it all

a mistake. Settling. But without

her? His spirit is a seaweed air sac.

The illusion of volume hiding the dawn


Of collapse. He nets and caskets

her in revised memory. The teeming

lough gazing at us in the wing

mirror whispers freshwater


Solace. She is shrouded, silenced and stilled.

"The hearse will be at the graveyard by now,"

I said, "we have to go." Black gloss of the cortege

car travelling like a bullet.



---

About a girl

Michael Gallagher

- August 25th 1991 -

If love is indeed a battlefield, then I might as well have been back home knitting winter mittens for the troops. That’s not to say I wasn’t keen on hurling myself headlong into the fray. Oh no, I was ready to give my heart and soul for the cause. Sadly, the spellbinding figure who’d stirred my devotion to that cause was entirely unaware of my desires.

For the past eight months, I’d been desperately in love with my beautiful classmate, Sarah Fallon. Unfortunately, as a naive teenage boy, I’d vastly overestimated the effects of desperation as an aphrodisiac, and consequently, Sarah’s heart and all other desirable regions remained frustratingly out of reach.

Sarah Fallon was the best looking girl in town, maybe even the country. But hey, if you’re going to fall head over heels in love with someone, why not aim high? Her sparkling green eyes were wonders of the world and my heart practically skipped a beat whenever they happened my way. In fact, my entire cardiac system was in such a constant state of tumult that I’d pretty much earmarked a defibrillator as next year’s Christmas present.

Sarah was all dark brooding looks and feline grace. She was a dizzying combination of the doe eyed Winona Ryder and the bonkers sexpot from the movie, Betty Blue. Her blend of the innocent and the downright sexy was a heady brew, and I wasn’t the only one who wanted to drink from her cup, so to speak. My teenage temptress could barely step out of her front door without some lascivious boy / man / teacher / lesbian / lesbian teacher venturing over to flirt and try their luck. I know all this because I was often to be found in the immediate vicinity of Sarah, I wasn’t exactly following her but we did tend to turn up at the same places, with Sarah invariably entering first.

I grew up in the sleepy, almost comatose seaside town of Moville in the wild north west of Ireland. Like many small Irish towns, Moville began life as a road. This innovation proved sufficiently attractive for a few easily impressed souls to set up shop on either side. From there the town spread out across the surrounding hills until it hit a population of around fifteen hundred. At that point someone must have planted a sign reading TOWN FULL UP down by the old stone bridge because the population has remained relatively stable ever since.

Moville was a town where nothing ever happened, and it happened with crushing regularity, so for me, falling in love with Sarah was big news. If I’d had a front page to hold, I‘d have screamed for someone to hold it. Whether I’d have run the story is another matter, because try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get beyond the headline: BOY FALLS FOR GIRL.

The campaign to win Sarah’s love began with my old pal Ray Toland. We’d been friends in primary school, but by the time we hit secondary school we’d long since drifted apart. Fortunately for me, Ray and Sarah were very close. She was quite literally his girl next door, so cosying up to Ray seemed an ideal way to infiltrate the life of Sarah Fallon. I caught him up one afternoon on the way home from school and a tentative friendship was quickly re-established.

At sixteen years of age, Ray Toland was already a striking figure about town, tall, muscular, with blonde hair and blue eyes, he’d surely have been pre-approved for instant platinum membership of the Aryan Brotherhood, had he been that way inclined. But that wasn’t Ray, he was a decent easygoing guy, and the even better news was that Ray would provide little competition in the Sarah boyfriend stakes.

In small towns, secrets are rarely kept secret for long, and Moville wasn’t about to buck that trend. In the rumour filled corners of the school canteen, tongues had been wagging for some time about Ray’s sexual preferences. There was talk of an incident with an older man, and I’d practically jumped for joy at the news. Going toe to toe with Ray for Sarah’s affections would have proved a fruitless undertaking. I wasn’t exactly Quasimodo Von Mutant, the king of the Ugly Tribe, but at the same time, I was no Ray Toland.

My plan began to bear fruit, and within a month or so, Sarah, Ray and I had formed a tight little band. Sarah was everything I’d hoped she’d be. She was sharp as a tack, delightfully dippy and she followed all the hippest bands because she liked their music, and not, as was often the case with me, because they were a cool name to drop.

Nothing ever happened in Moville, and it happened with crushing regularity. Music provided us with an identity and a temporary escape from the cultural vacuum of small town life. On fine afternoons we’d stroll along the shore together while Sarah ranted and raved about some amazing new band she’d heard on the John Peel show. I of course would quickly agree on just how ‘bloody awesome’ those guys were, before rushing home to thumb through my NME’s in order to find a nugget of insider knowledge I could shoehorn into our next conversation.

For a teenage virgin in love, the I-like-everything-you-like plan seemed like it couldn’t fail. But life’s what happens while you’re making plans, or in my case, the dreaded ‘friend’ category happened while I was filing my paperwork down at the planning department.

Sarah’s categorization came as a desperate blow. In years to come, I would realise that escapes from Alcatraz had a higher success rate than break outs from the average woman’s friend zone. But I patched up the wounds from Sarah’s friendship bombshell and clung desperately to the hope that if I persevered long enough, I would surely come up for sex parole.


And that’s how things stood on that fine August morning as I headed up the hill to meet Sarah and Ray in the town square. New York rockers, Sonic Youth were coming to Ireland, or to be more precise they were coming to Dublin. Bands with any semblance of a career and an ability to read maps rarely strayed within a hundred miles of Moville. Our plan was to catch the early bus to Derry, and board the specially chartered coach later that afternoon. Ray and Sarah were already in the square, chatting on a shop window sill as I approached.

‘Hello gorgeous,’ said a smiling Sarah.

She leapt up from the window sill and greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Although I immensely enjoyed the physical contact, I ruined the moment by overanalysing her phraseology. Sarah habitually greeted me with the words ‘hello gorgeous’ and I couldn’t understand why she bothered. Surely if the word gorgeous was worth an airing, it was only fair to follow it up with something a bit more passionate than a peck on the cheek. Bandying the word around was almost cruel. Wouldn’t it have been kinder to greet me with a simple ‘hello average looking person’ instead? It might have sounded somewhat incongruous to a passing pair of ears, but it would have been a truer representation of our relationship status.

‘Isn’t it a beautiful morning?’ said Sarah. ‘This is going to be a day we’ll be talking about years from now; I can feel it in my soul.’

‘You might want to be careful, I felt like that the other day. Turned out it wasn’t my soul at all; it was just some trapped wind.’

I had a worrying tendency to turn into a babbling idiot around Sarah. Thankfully, she let it pass and linked her arm with mine as we joined Ray on the window ledge. He was rolling a few cigarettes for the journey.

‘Hey Neil,’ said Ray distractedly.

Ray’s enthusiasm for our rekindled friendship had waned in recent months as he’d sussed out my ulterior motives. He was never overtly rude or confrontational, Ray was too much the gentleman for anything like that, but we both knew I’d been more than a little manipulative.

‘You look nice, Neil,’ said Sarah. ‘God, if I’d known everyone was getting dressed up; I’d have made more of an effort.’

Sarah looked amazing, as always. She wore a figure hugging, mid length black dress with small white polka dots and a pair of battered black army boots. This was a typical Sarah outfit. It was a look that wouldn’t work for everyone, but Sarah carried it off with the effortless grace of the drop dead gorgeous. Although I was hardly the harshest of critics when it came to all things Sarah, if she’d turned up in full Waffen SS regalia, I’d undoubtedly have shelved any protestations and complimented her on her Iron Cross.

I was about to reassure her that she looked more than presentable when she became distracted by a vehicle from the Inishown Luxury Coaches fleet as it came trundling down the hill towards us.

‘Fantastic, we’re on our way boys,’ said Sarah as she pulled Ray upright and corralled us both over to the bus stop.

The ancient rusting coach pulled up with a squeal of brakes and struggled to a halt at the bus stop, where it sat belching all kinds of noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Obviously, the owner of Inishowen Luxury Coaches had a well developed sense of irony.

We hopped aboard and after an uneventful forty minutes of Sonic Youth themed chat; we arrived safe and sound at Derry Coach Station. With the first leg of our journey complete, it was time for Operation Vodka Buy (One of the less cryptic operation titles of recent times).

Ray looked the eldest so he adopted his legitimate off licence customer persona and strode manfully into Shortt’s Wines & Spirits, where he demanded ‘a bottle of your cheapest full strength vodka’. Subtlety and subterfuge weren’t necessary when you looked like Ray.

Within the hour, we’d been inducted into the Sonic Youth travelling army and shipped out on the chartered coach for the four hour drive to Dublin. The back seat was quickly occupied by some higher ranking cool people so we were forced to split up and find seats where we could, and due to our odd number, I ended up sitting on my own. Sarah and Ray sat together and I went into a bit of a mini sulk after that, but by the time we hit the outskirts of the capital my mood had lightened considerably. This change of heart could be attributed to the sterling efforts of Mr. Karkazov and his surprisingly palatable vodka.


‘You’ll love these guys, honest, they’re really amazing,’ droned Ray in my ear as we waited for the support band to get their set out of the way.

Sarah had wandered off somewhere and I was stuck talking to Ray. It’s not that he was poor company, quite the reverse to be fair, but he wasn’t Sarah, which was a failing I found in a lot of people. How was I supposed to win her heart if she kept wandering off? My whole plan for this particular day involved spending as much time as possible with Sarah and the vodka was meant to provide the necessary Dutch courage I’d require to finally make a serious move. However, on this occasion Ray wasn’t letting up about the upcoming support band and his boundless enthusiasm was beginning to get on my nerves.

What did Ray know about music gigs? I was an experienced concert goer. I’d attended a grand total of two, and with this depth of experience under my belt, I’d firmly concluded that support bands were never really amazing.

The as-bad-as-it-sounds Seamus McGinty’s Accordion Big Band was one such lowlight. They’d opened some years back for Irish country music legend Big Tom. I’d accompanied Mum to this musical horror show when Dad conveniently came down with flu. This was of course back in the days before socialising with a parent became credibility suicide, but technically, it was still a gig so I was counting it as such.

Ray the human publicity machine wasn’t letting up.

‘They’re from Seattle, where it rains nearly as much as it does here-’

‘Yeah, okay Michael Fish, I get it. They’re a decent support band. And speak of the devil; here they come now, about bloody time.’

They were a three piece called Nirvana and they didn’t look like much as they shambled onstage. From what I could see, this miracle band consisted of a human beanpole, Animal from The Muppets and a homeless guy. I re-evaluated the homeless guy when he turned around. He had good hair; and that was certainly a tick in the plus column, the follicle factor can be very important to a fickle sixteen year old when it comes to evaluating a band’s worth, but he was wearing a revolting green jumper. Oh dear, oh dear. I put a tick in the minus column.

That was the last I heard from Ray or anyone else for the next forty minutes. Homeless guy rolled up the sleeves of his hideous jumper, strapped on a cheap looking guitar and bashed out the opening chords:

Der de der - chiga chiga chiga - der de der

The band launched into the song I would later know as Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was raw and punky, and more than a little reminiscent of The Pixies but the sheer energy emanating from the stage was staggering. At times it was a bit of a mess, but it was a life changing mess.

The rest of their set was stuffed to the gills with incredibly powerful punked up rock songs that any band would kill for. I was blown away. I’d even forgiven the singer his dreadful jumper. This guy was the real deal. He played his guitar like it was a life or death struggle, had a rasping voice that could strip the paint from the walls of your soul, and of course there was the aforementioned good hair, most of which was plastered all over his face by the time he threw his guitar to the ground, smiled to his latest converts and slouched off the stage.

Within minutes Ray resurfaced looking shell-shocked but happy.

‘That was really amazing,’ I said excitedly.

Ray fumbled in his pocket and took out a packet of cigarettes.

Told you you’d like them, want one?’

He placed a cigarette into the corner of his mouth and offered me the packet. I took one, even though I rarely smoked.

‘Yeah thanks, definitely need something to calm down.’

Ray lit my cigarette and then his own.

‘I’m gonna be like that guy someday,’ he said.

‘How’d you mean?’

‘I’ve been writing some songs and I’m gonna put a band together.’

‘Yeah, definitely, you should go for it,’ I said.

‘D’you fancy giving it a go with me? Only I’ve seen you wandering around town with a guitar.’

This was true. I’d persuaded my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar the previous Christmas. It was intended to be the first step on my road to rock stardom; unfortunately, I’d received the guitar only weeks before falling head over heels for the delicious Sarah, and from that point on, the acoustic guitar lay gathering dust in the corner of my room while I lay on the bed pining for my new love.

Ray must have spied me with the guitar on the rare occasion I’d lugged it round to Sarah’s. I’d carried it there in the hopes of impressing her, and I suppose she’d been about as impressed as anyone would when a friend pops by with a musical instrument they can’t play.

These were definitely the kind of circumstances in which great bands were formed. I imagined myself telling the story of our formation to music journalists on a hedonistic American tour. I’d probably be going through my cocaine phase by then, and I’d be irritable and rude during the interview, but they’d be secretly impressed that I wasn’t the kind of rock star who kowtowed to the music press. Then I’d usher the journalists out of my room and beckon in a gaggle of adoring groupies to attend to my every sexual desire. If I wanted to keep that potential wet dream alive, then keeping schtum about my nonexistent guitar skills seemed prudent.

We planned the future of our unnamed group for the rest of the evening, and for the first time in months, I had something on my mind besides Sarah Fallon. It felt like the great weight that had been crushing my heart for eight punishing months had been temporarily lifted. Somehow, I’d become a guy in a band. I was a young man with a creative outlet. It remained to be seen whether I had any creativity to bung up the outlet, but it was a start. And more importantly, it was something that didn’t involve following Sarah Fallon around like a lovesick puppy. And as far as I knew, girls tended to like guys in bands, so adding some creative mystique to my otherwise rather feeble armoury couldn’t hurt.

We gave the final encore a miss and fought our way through the crush on the main floor to the street outside, where we smoked another couple of cigarettes before Ray spotted the coach pulling into the far corner of the car park. As we ambled off towards it, the beautiful hot and sweaty goddess Sarah jogged over to join us. I immediately added her hot and sweaty look to all her other breathtaking looks, happy, sad, fluey, constipated. It was all one enormous collection of gorgeousness as far as I was concerned.

‘I’m so happy to catch up with my boys at long last. We were down the front for Sonic Youth, didn’t see you guys at all,’ she said.

‘We’ve been making plans for our new band,’ I said proudly, studying her reaction for signs of uncontrollable lust at my new change of status.

‘Oh wow, that’s brilliant. I knew you two would be a good match for a band. What are you going to do in the group?’

‘I’m going to play guitar and Mark’s gonna sing and play rhythm guitar. We’re still trying to nail down the sound and- hang on, who’s we?’

‘Sorry?’ said Sarah.

‘You said we were at the front for Sonic Youth.’

‘Oh Neil, I’ve got some great news as well. Me and Simon are getting back together. He was at the gig too. Simon knows I’m a huge Sonic Youth fan so he came all the way down to Dublin in the hope that we might meet up and -’

She sighed and flashed one of her world beating smiles.

‘-we did. Isn’t it fantastic?’

Simon was still on the scene when Sarah first appeared on my radar. He was a couple of years older than me and had a motorbike, the ownership of which seemed to make him unfathomably popular with the opposite sex.

To me, he always looked like he was in a really crabby mood or spoiling for a fight but Sarah seemed smitten with this smelly borderline criminal. I’m not especially proud, but at night I’d tune into the local news and pray for a breaking story about a grumpy motorcyclist who’d tragically crashed into a tank of sulphuric acid. What can I say? I was jealous and quite vindictive when it came to imagining Simon’s agonizing demise.

Thankfully, just after Valentine’s Day, Sarah saw sense and gave the filthy reprobate his marching orders, leaving the way clear for yours truly to step in and play the long game, a game that was scheduled to reach its conclusion on this trip. Simon’s unexpected appearance had thrown these precious plans into disarray.

‘That’s brilliant news. I’m so happy for you,’ I said with as much conviction as I could muster.

I could feel my heart struggling to beat, the crushing weight had returned with a vengeance.

‘I’m gonna leave you guys here if that’s okay. Simon’s staying with some friends and they’re having a party so we were going ride over on his bike and see how it goes from there. You understand don’t you?’

‘Of course we do, don’t worry about it. You take care though,’ said Ray.

‘I knew you guys would understand. I’ll see you on Sunday. You can tell me all about the band.’

I didn’t get a chance to advise her against going to parties in strange cities with scummy bikers who weren’t worthy of her love. She simply waved, turned and ran off into the throng.

Ray knew I was hurting and on the seemingly endless journey home he did what he could to lift my spirits. He conjured up all kinds of fantastic life-in-a-band scenarios involving non-gender specific groupies and their loose moral code, friendships and rivalries with other cool bands and rather less excitingly, a list of potential guitar teachers for yours truly. And as the miles of blackness zipped past the coach windows I consoled myself with the fact that even if our songs didn’t make Sarah fall into my arms (which of course they would) then I’d still have the consolation of being a cool dude in a band.

Perhaps music would offer me a way out of my Sarah Fallon love rut. I took solace in this vision of a contented musical future as the road stretched off into the night. Fame and fortune in the music industry would bring me the happiness that love had always promised but failed to deliver. After all, that singer from Nirvana looked happy enough.



---

Let's Say

Edward O'Dwyer

Let's say it isn't out of your imagination

that this grinning clown has come, red-nosed

and floppy-shoed, up your driveway

to where you and your wife

are sharing the swing chair on the patio.

Let's say this is real, happening,

and like the best of clowns, this one

is ambiguous, could be full of silly humour

and, just as easily, full of nastiness.

Let's say he immediately produces a bouquet

of flowers from one of his never-ending pockets,

offers them to her with his perennial smile.

Let's say she smiles, accepting them.

Should you get jealous of such a thing?

Could you lose her to him, a clown?

Is it at all possible she has always hated

your sense of humour, your failure

to be self-deprecating, to willingly be

the joke? Is she about to tell you

it's over; that she and the clown are together;

that he's here to pick her up for the rest of her life?

And now, have you ever before felt so colourless

in your sensible, well-to-do clothing

from designer stores? Let's say, then, he pulls

a handkerchief from the same never-ending pocket,

hands it to you. You've seen this part of

the act before, you know the handkerchief

goes on and on and on. Let's say, then, she's gone.



---

Pianos In My Head

Aidan Hynes

I grew up with pianos in my head

notes like sirens call each day,

in rooms I enter with an upright

raincoats hang from chairs

children read Beano and Bunty

before turning to Bach and Chopin.

In windows the purple glow of a paraffin heater

burns winter with musical airs

notes dissolve where curtains are drawn

in the piano room where my father was waked.


When the musician misses a beat

I hear the swish of my mother's dress,

pencil marks on the music sheet

resoluto, a tempo, crescendo

filters to the family table.

Little fingers run arpeggios

bellicose waltzes, a cacophony

of marches, my mother

holds a hand on the half note

and sighs with only days to go.


In rooms I enter with an upright

there are promises to keep

arguments in sealed lips,

Sunday dressed pupils anticipate polished ivory

a final hairbrush in the dusted mirror

the Academy examiner takes tea in a china cup

hot palms close handwritten theory books.

Resoluto, a tempo, crescendo

my mother's judgment day has come.



---

Hark

Cathal Gunning

My gesticulation

+ lo-tone

+ ur breathlessighing

+ notears

Turn2

Bodies imposing

On

One another

U No

Wh@ else

Sounds like

Fighting

+ in

Intimacy

We're golden

G.O.O.D

OK

Impossible

The can't last silence of holding in breath

In order 2fall asleep faster



---

Words-Worth

Anthony Brophy

Zepp's scorched-earth coffee seized the nostrils but Joe was wider than awake.

'What's the story Joe?'

'I need 300.'

'….Say that again?' Zepp squinted, verb-blind, through ink-rimmed lenses, four walls of books surrounding him, pillars of prose, his very seat of learning, Tolstoy, warming his coals.

'300,' repeated Joe, paper plain.

'Words?'

'Yep.'

'..300??'

'Give'm up Zepp!?'

'..You're kidding?'

'Am I?'

'No Joe-'

'No?'

Nervous, Zepp tittered and laid his brow to the page. It settled him down, like breathing library air or fingering a first-edition 'rare'. He didn't like this new cock 'n' balls Joe. Didn't like it in the old Joes either; Orton, Heller or Conrad to boot. But he had responsibilities to the world greater than the joy of lazy taste.

'300's too much Joe.'

'Too much, or too few?'

'Much too much for a regular Joe like you.'

'For a Joe like who?'

'…For one like-'

'You?'

'…C'mon now Joe,' Zepp sputtered, '300 you cocky fuck!? For O'Connor or Carver I might open the book!'

The book lay before them, a silenced soprano, binding with leather their soul in her breast.

Joe felt Zepp splay his clean, covetous mind across it, an ice-kissed knuckle sliding over his chest.

'300 Zepp. Open it.'

'I can't.'

'Yes you can.'

'…Why Joe?' he choked.

'Open it'

'Tell me WHY!?'

Joe just smiled, not cold or cute, not brave or sure. He fought demons born the same day he was, waited for him in the mirror, just like Zepp did.

'….Why Joe?'

'Open it Zepp.'

'…You'll break my heart if you hurt them Joe.'

'And I'll break mine if I don't.'

Zepp lifted his head from the book, leaves fluttered, flapped, and up they flew, into the air-

Three hundred birds of prayer.

And landed.

Where?



---

Billy Banks

Mark Rowlands

This is life on the billy banks

On the billy banks you got no chance

I was a little boy on the billy banks

With soaking wet socks and my brother’s old pants

I left the broken billy banks

Without a single backward glance

Don't take me back to the billy banks

I'd burn them down given half a chance

Don't take me back to the billy banks

Where no one smiled and no one danced

I grew up thinking all children cried

And that's all they did till the day they died

Don't bury me on the billy banks

On another desperate hopeless day

My soul was buried there as a child

And it's still buried there today

Broken glass

And broken lives

Vicious kids

With hungry knives

There's no romance

On the billy banks

On the billy banks

You got no chance


This is love

On the billy banks

The whores in the subway

A fiver a wank

In the bus shelter

On the billy banks

We smoked stolen fags

And learned to kiss

The cold and the rain

And the fog and the mist

The drunks in the doorways

Soaked in piss

They're empty now

And left to rot

The wind blows through the shells

Of the prison blocks

From my window

up 50ft high

If I reached out

I could touch the sky

And if I fell

I knew I couldn't fly

I knew dreams weren't real

I knew I would die


So don't paint that mess

With fake romance

When my brother died

I got to keep his pants


Born and bred

on the billy banks

Not alive nor dead

On the billy banks

Ambition shot in the head

On the billy banks


Nothing was said

On the billy banks

So i hid inside inside my head

On the billy banks


Don't talk to me

About the working class

The salt of the earth

Leaves a bitter taste



---

Beyond Caravaggio

Órla Fay

Dublin, February 2017


There it hangs, just its-dark-self,

not even spectacular and yet closer inspection

requires even closer inspection -

this fabled work, word-of-mouth enhanced,

Chinese-whispered vast, requires some undoing.

The pronouncement of its title

is the casting of a spell:


La Cattura di Cristo


He, Himself, eyes downcast,

kissed by Judas and fled by John

while lamp-bearing Peter watches on.

And you look to the soldier's arm

wrapped in polished armour,

reflective as a mirror

and grapple with your own conscience,


as the painter had contrived

in his battle with the light and the dark.

The greatest betrayal is a watermark,

a watershed, a benchmark.

I remember the day she placed

the sword in my side, how the wound

could only heal with time and plenty of it.



---

The Weeds of Kilquinn

Paul Anthony Corbett

Town meetings were a rare event in the town of Kilquinn, but Cliona Mangan had been quite insistent that all those who were of fair health and good conscience should attend. 'Herself just back from abroad,' the townspeople whispered, 'already calling the shots.' For it was the oft-heard opinion of many a Kilquinnian that those who idled more than a few weeks overseas would inevitably return with notions and Cliona Mangan, no more than a month back on home turf after a decade away, was considered to have more notions than many who had gone before. Worse yet, Cliona Mangan was a single woman deep into her thirties with not a whisper of courtship on the breeze. Her singledom was taken as a personal insult by the women of Kilquinn, who tended to marry young and waste little time before bearing children.

Despite these misgivings, curiosity spared few cats on the soft early summer's evening in question. By half past seven the church hall, the only space large enough to accommodate the town's populace, was jam-packed. Packed like it hadn't been since the days when an empty space on the pew would not go unnoticed. For much to the consternation of those most invested in their faith, the pews had emptied over the years and the spaces never refilled. Kilquinn was, after all, one of many ancient little towns of Ireland catapulted into the 21st century, and religion was no longer the only distraction to be had.

The meeting was not called, as some had speculated, to address the recent spate of disappearances amongst the local pet population. The real reason the townspeople had been summoned on that balmy evening was concerning the remarkable changes which had swept across the townlands in recent years. For Kilquinn had flourished in the time since the complete lack of work and any form of entertainment beyond a greying pub had lit a fire under the feet of Cliona Mangan and her like. Those, like Cliona, who had returned were startled to find those familiar fields, gently rising from the flat ground of the town as if in a no-hurry ascent to heaven, now full of the noise of agricultural bounty. They discovered the town itself, once a slanting, creaking array of shabby charity shops and greasy-spoon cafes, now a hive of organic markets, hair salons and gastro-pubs serving fancy chips with tomato relish in place of ketchup.

To the people of Kilquinn, the source of this newfound prosperity was as clear as the lake-waters to the north. Look at any boomtown and you will always find one single driver, one catalyst for a miraculous blooming in an otherwise luckless place. But there was no gold to be found in the streams which veined through the town and on toward the river. What they did have was Dominic 'The Dom' Hubrity and, more specifically, his miracle fertiliser Hubrifert, which had transformed the once dreary produce of the townlands into the envy of rural communities throughout the nation. Supermarkets battled for the rights to the now renowned Kilquinn rooster potatoes. A host of craft breweries threw their profits behind the superb barley from the flatlands to the south of the town. Local farmers had even begun diversifying into fashionable organic food crops, some of which they had barely heard of before these times of change and plenty. They grew kale, alfalfa and rocket and, with a decent helping of Hubrifert, each foray into new arenas of boutique agriculture proved a resounding success.

The man behind it all, the man himself, arrived to the town meeting last of all. Heads turned as The Dom Hubrity eased into the church and gifted his smile to all present. 'A family man,' they thought, 'patron of the local Gaelic Football club, brother to the Minister, one of our own.' Hubrity took a humble seat at the back, all handshakes, nods and shoulder-pats to those within reaching distance. To the people of Kilquinn, The Dom was, in many ways, the opposite of the likes of Cliona Mangan. He had refrained from gallivanting in foreign lands. He had married local, stuck with his people, and been richly rewarded with the success that he and, by extension, his community were currently enjoying. Which is why it stuck in the fickle craw of many when 'herself just back from abroad' announced that today's gathering had been called to address a problem which, she claimed, was directly attributable to The Dom Hubrity, the Champion of Kilquinn.

'People of Kilquinn, there is a menace amongst us,' Cliona said, with a pinch too much hysteria some thought. She took a standing position in front of the steps to the pulpit as murmurs spread like Chinese Whispers through the pews. Heads twisted, cheeks were scratched. What possible problem could there be in these times of good fortune?

'I'd like to introduce you to Professor Marcus Fitzpatrick, who has kindly taken time out from his work at the university to speak with us. He will explain things better than I ever could.'

From the front row pew, a musty cardigan of a man shifted forward and turned to face the townspeople. Cliona nodded to him to begin, and Fitzpatrick cleared his throat before speaking.

'So, as Cliona mentioned, I've come down from the university where I lecture in Environmental Science.'

A yawn worked its way from the back of the church like a virus transmitting at the speed of speech.

'My specific area is invasive species and a few months back I was asked to come here to Kilquinn to study a peculiar infestation of a previously unknown vine-weed, which hasn't been officially named, but which I understand you have been referring to locally as chokers.'

Chokers. A ripple of discomfort spread through the hall at the voicing of the word. For all present had had their struggles with these cursed vine-weeds. Chokers had sprang up in the fields, up the walls of the farmhouses and barns and, eventually, upon the houses and shops of Kilquinn town itself. The vines grew with remarkable impatience, wrapping around any object that would lend them a leg up towards the sun. In response, Kilquinnians busied themselves hacking down the troublesome weeds from their properties each morning, just as Canadians would shovel snow from their porches in winter. Out in the fields the weeds were particularly aggressive and farmers eventually swallowed local pride and brought in outside help in the form of immigrant workers who, for an informal wage, would man the machinery needed to protect their tormented crops round-the-clock.

'I'll spare you the boring details,' Fitzpatrick continued, perhaps noticing the yawn surfing through the room, 'but the gist of my findings is that the arrival of these chokers is a direct result of the use of the local synthetic fertiliser known as Hubrifert.'

The church sprang alive with human voice. The Dom Hubrity, however, was calm as ever. He kept his arms folded and stared without expression at the two figures standing in front of the pulpit.

Janet O'Sullivan, Kilquinn Bridge Club President, leapt to her feet. About her sat her six children all under the age of thirteen, each tranquilised by a distraction of a varying degree of technological advancement. The youngest with her delighted face in a single sheet of yellow paper, the eldest head buried deep in the glare of a mobile phone. She shushed one of her young lads before addressing the professor.

'Hubrifert has been a god-send to this community, Mr. Fitzpatrick. How can you be so sure that it has had anything to do with these wicked chokers?'

The professor glanced at the red folder he held in his hands.

'Well, the timelines for the appearance of the weeds seemed to closely match the widespread use of the fertiliser in the community, so I…'

'Coincidence!' Malcolm McDaid, one of the townland's most prosperous farmers, barked from the back, and rumbles of agreement spun through the room.

'Of course,' Fitzpatrick continued, after silence had been restored, 'matching timelines alone would not be sufficient to deliver a conclusive answer. So I ran some tests back at the university and…'

Jeers erupted at the mention of the word university, for although few present had sat in a lecture theatre, they knew well enough to know they did not enjoy being lectured to.

Cliona stepped forward and raised her voice above the din.

'Please, all, listen to the man,' she pleaded, and waved her hand in the general direction of the professor. 'The tests they ran in their labs, each time the place was crawling in chokers. Believe us, there is no doubt.'

'You're all welcome to review my findings,' Fitzpatrick added, and waved his red folder above his head.

An almost spiritual silence befell the church hall. Kilquinnians may have been innately distrusting of outsiders, but they certainly weren't so naive as to dismiss the cold, rational hand of science. For throughout its long history, it had always been the application of science, of new technologies, machinery and medicines, that had hauled the town up from the mud of poverty and ignorance. An air of admission descended on the gathering. They knew it was true. Hubrifert was directly to blame for the invasion of chokers in the town and the fields beyond.

Colm Duffy, bank manager and all-round purveyor of common-sense and propriety in the town, was next to speak up.

'Professor Fitzpatrick, I don't doubt for a second your integrity or the veracity of your findings, but perhaps we needn't be too alarmed. Surely all that is needed is an alteration to the chemical make-up of Hubrifert. There must be some form of fix we could implement.'

Murmurs of agreement rose up from the congregation. Colm Duffy was well-respected in the town, a man of solutions.

'Well,' the dishevelled scientist replied, 'we did test variations in the composition of Hubrifert, but I'm sorry to say there were only ever two outcomes. Either the status quo of excellent crop growth accompanied by an infestation of chokers, or, if we altered the composition too much, no chokers but poor crop quality.'

'So, what you're saying,' a voice called from the centre of the room, 'is that we've a choice between putting up with the chokers or returning to how things were before?'

Fitzpatrick stroked his bristled chin before responding. 'Well, I'm not suggesting that you halt all use of Hubrifert immediately. I appreciate that this could be disruptive to the local economy.'

'Look,' Cliona interjected, frustrated at the lack of urgency in the professor's words, 'the crux of the matter is if we don't stop using Hubrifert, these chokers will overrun this town and the lands beyond it. This isn't some far off possibility. Look around you, it's happening right now.'

The people of Kilquinn did look around. They looked out the church windows and saw the tractors spraying The Dom's fertiliser across the gently rising fields in the distance. Some looked even closer to home, at the vines creeping up the walls from the shadows of the very hall they sat in.

As for Cliona Mangan, many present were beginning to see her in a new light. She had spoken on this day with an authority rarely seen in the unmarried women of the town. Perhaps she was not the uppity prodigal daughter they had once thought her to be. Perhaps her time away had gifted her with wisdom beyond the reach of the fields of Kilquinn, and here she was now returning to save her homeland from impending catastrophe.

'I should add,' Fitzpatrick said, 'there are exciting new technologies available which could offer an alternative source of…'

It was at this point that the towering, silver-headed frame of Dominic Hubrity rose to its feet. Silence descended. Even the professor knew instinctively to pull up short on his explication. The Dom strode through the central aisle between the pews, nodding at the many townspeople he knew, before passing Cliona and the professor without greeting and stepping up behind the pulpit. With the air of a feudal king assessing his royal guards, he scanned the expectant congregation before him. He hosted another moment's silence before speaking in a baritone cadence which seemed to the townspeople as if it would be as much at home in the corridors of power as in the local pub.

'As what is being discussed today has direct relevance for my own business interests, but more importantly for the welfare of the people in my community, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to say a few words.'

Cliona and the professor, awkward in their stance below the pulpit, retreated to their front-row seats.

'Good people of Kilquinn,' Hubrity continued, 'when I was a young lad, about the age of my dear friend Janet O'Sullivan's eldest there, I was sent by my father to work in the fields beyond this town. For as many of you well remember, Kilquinn was a tough place back then. A tough place to be a child, a tough place for all.'

Grey and white heads nodded throughout the room, and even those born long after the times The Dom spoke of listened in quiet enthrallment.

'But see now how far we've come.' The Dom spread his arms Jesus-wide, as if to embrace all present in one fatherly hug.

'See now how our fields flourish, how the bells on our shop doors jingle throughout the day, how our children stay in school where they belong. How they play rather than work in our fields and they play on full stomachs.'

'All of this,' The Dom paused to look out the vine-framed windows at the fields beyond, 'all of this has been made possible through the hard work and invention of the people of this fair land. All of this has been made possible through Hubrifert.'

By now there were one or two tearful eyes in the room, and not all of them belonging to the usual suspects, those one or two Kilquinnians known to all who would grace any stranger's funeral for the chance to wet a handkerchief.

'You see, my fellow Kilquinnians, Hubrifert is not merely a fertiliser. No. Hubrifert is our prosperity. It is our liberty. It's what keeps our children from the workhouse, the bailiff from your doorstep. It is the very lifeblood of Kilquinn.'

Quiet yeses could be heard throughout the hall. Heads nodded and spouses smiled agreement to one another. All were with The Dom. All but Professor Fitzpatrick, who studied his fingers in silence, and Cliona Mangan, who shook her downward-tilted head. Some of the townspeople looked again at Cliona in reassessment. The ratty red hair, the accent softened by being too long away. What did she really know of Kilquinn? What did she really understand? But of those who gazed again on the deflated frame of Cliona Mangan, not one of them noticed the strands of chokers which had sidled under her armpits, and which seemed to be imploring her back into the wood against which she sat.

The Dom Hubrity looked out once again to the fields beyond the town. Perhaps he searched for Kilquinn House, his stately home which once belonged to the local English landlord before this young nation was caesareaned from the belly of a waning empire. How proud was he and many for him that no foreign master enjoyed the view of the town that he, a son of Kilquinn, savoured each morning from his balcony. He brought his gaze back to his people before continuing, his voice bolstered with yet more heft than before.

'Who,' he proclaimed, while looking directly down on Cliona and the professor, 'who would deny the children of Kilquinn the comfort and prosperity we can provide through our use of Hubrifert? Through our use of this miracle we've been blessed with? And yet, Hubrifert is no manna sent to us from the gods. No, Hubrifert is the fruit of our invention, our toil, our spirit. Who would deny the mothers and fathers of our fair land the opportunity to pass on to their sons and daughters this, this culmination of everything our forefathers strived for? Who would deny our children their future?'

At the very moment the Dom finished speaking, spontaneous applause exploded throughout the church. A single cheer rose from the back of the room igniting a chorus of acclamation from the townspeople. Tears streamed unashamedly down the cheeks of even the stoniest of Kilquinnians and all present, all but Cliona Mangan and the professor, basked in the rapture which filled their hearts.

It was loyal Janet O'Sullivan who first thought to rise to her feet. To give the Champion of Kilquinn the standing ovation he so richly deserved. But as she began to rise, she felt a force drawing her back down. Dropping her clap, she pushed her hands down on the wooden bench to offer some leverage, yet found herself rooted to the spot. For hidden from sight below her, the vine-weeds known in these parts as chokers had wrapped their spindly arms around her ankles and calves.

Had the other townspeople present tried to stand, they too would have met with the same unbreakable resistance as Janet O'Sullivan. Had they muted their applause for just one moment, they would have perhaps also noticed the unusual absence of the barks and bleats which usually accompanied a summer's evening in Kilquinn, which may have led them to ponder why so many of their pets and livestock had been disappearing in recent times. Indeed, had they looked away from the orator behind the pulpit to the walls of the church, they would have witnessed the rapid assault of chokers climbing to the ceiling, as if being fuelled by the euphoric applause which filled the room. Yet no one present seemed aware of the scourge which swept around them. Even Janet O'Sullivan gave up on her struggle to rise to her feet. She instead re-joined the thundering, all-smiling adoration, and neither she nor anyone else noticed her six children, in order of age and size, being dragged down to the cold stone floor.

One by one the townspeople fell. They fell holding their clap as long as they could, until the tentacles of the chokers wrenched their hands apart and back behind their backs. They fell with adoring eyes fixed on The Dom Hubrity, even as he too was tugged down behind the pulpit by the snaking claws of the chokers, which sped up his tall frame before sliding down his throat and blocking his windpipe.

As the rumble of applause began to drain from the room, those who remained standing, with rapturous smiles carved into their faces, watched on as their champion was dragged to the floor, and they followed the gape of his bloodshot eyes out through the gaps between the vines which now covered the church windows. They followed his gaze out to the homes beyond, the humble terraced houses of the town, the prouder farmhouses in the distance, the majesty of Kilquinn House itself, all now blanketed in swarms of chokers, all equal at last in their capitulation, and as the final writhe bolted from The Dom's defeated body, they followed his terminal gaze out the window to the fields beyond, fields now wholly silenced of man and machine, of bird and beast, fields known so well to every son and daughter of Kilquinn, to farmer and labourer, to banker and shopkeeper, to those who never dared to leave and those who couldn't wait to flee, fields they thought would last to the end of time, fields they always saw as rising gently from the low ground of the town, as if in a no-hurry ascent to heaven, fields which could also be viewed as sloping downwards toward the town from the hills above, as if in a creeping descent into hell.



---

Featured In This Issue

John Bermingham is a visual artist in the South East working in photography, digital art and compositing, stylised portraits, and video. John has made numerous music videos and animated shorts. From 2015 John has had a number of exhibitions in Waterford, Tipperary, and Dungarvan, most recently during the Dungarvan Festival of Food. Last year John took silver in the advanced projected category in the SACC National Creative Photography Competition. In 2013 John produced and released his album Everything Is Wonderful. To see more visit www.allthatcanbe.com, www.facebook.com/allthatcanbe


Toby Buckley is studying an MA in the Seamus Heaney Centre in Belfast. His work has previously been published in The Open Ear, The Tangerine and HCE Review. He is currently working with Belfast Pride.


Daniel Galvin is a 22 year old writer from Co.Cork who lives in Galway. He has had his writing published by The Moth, Pulsar, Hidden Channel Zine and The Scum Gentry. He came first place in the Spoken Word Platform at Cuirt International Literary Festival 2017, and won the May Sunday Slam in Dublin. He will perform his poetry at this year's Electric Picnic. Daniel studies writing at NUIG and is currently working towards his first collection.


Fiona Perry's short stories and poetry have been published in The Irish Literary Review, Spontaneity Magazine, Into The Void, Dodging the Rain, A New Ulster, Tahake Magazine and Skylight47 amongst others. She has had two works of fiction included in anthologies of Australian Award Winning Original Short Stories. She grew up in Northern Ireland but has lived most of her adult life in England and Australia. She currently lives in splendid isolation in New Zealand. Follow her on Twitter @Fionaperry17


Before switching to prose, Michael Gallagher enjoyed considerable success as a scriptwriter. He has written comedy for the both Channel Four and the BBC (nb. - that's proper funny BBC, not BBC Northern Ireland). In 2014 he won the Galway's Great Read creative writing competition with his short story, First Light. Michael lives in Galway and is currently shopping his recently completed first novel around while working on a second. More info: facebook.com/whirl-jack


Marina Campenni was born and spent most of her life in Naples, Italy, but is now based in Dublin. She started her art studies at the age of 19 at 'Scuola Italiana di Comix' based in Naples, studying the basics of drawing and 2D Animation (both classical and digital). She continued her art studies in a self-taught capacity. In 2012 she worked on the making of "L'Arte della Felicità" (winner of the Best Animated Film Award at the 27th European Film Awards). Since then, she has been working freelance as an animator and illustrator and experiments with painting. Marina's portfolio can be found at https://www.marinacampenniart.com


Edward O'Dwyer was born in Limerick in 1984, where he lives and writes poetry and short stories. His first book of poetry, The Rain on Cruise's Street (Salmon Poetry, 2014), was Highly Commended by the Forward Prizes. His second, Bad News, Good News, Bad News (Salmon Poetry, 2017), was recently published. He has also edited two anthologies for the community publisher, Revival Press - Sextet (2010) and Sextet 2 (2016). He is busy working on a third poetry collection and a collection of short stories. There is also an idea for a novel gestating at the moment.


Born in Co. Mayo, Aidan Hynes is a teacher and writer based in Dublin. He has published short fiction and poetry in various magazines, newspapers and journals, including the short story anthology 'Ireland In Exile' (Ed. Dermot Bolger), and 'Summer in the Story', The Irish Times (Write Now series), Whispers&Shouts, Connaught Tribune, Delo (Slovenia's national daily - translated short fiction), Irish Echo (New York), among others. A runner up in short fiction George Moore Gold Medal Award (2004), including short listed and runner up in 'Over The Edge New Writer of the Year' (2007, 2013, 2015). In 2008 Aidan was awarded an Arts Literature Bursary from Dublin City Council. He has taken up several artists' residences in Ireland and Spain. He holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin.


Marta Re is an artist, painter, and illustrator, born in Casale Monferrato (Alessandria) Italy. After obtaining a diploma in painting and decorative painting at the Art College Ambrogio Alciati (Vercelli), she moved to Florence. In 2011 she graduated in Painting and Visual Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence BA (Hons) first class. In 2013 she moved to Stratford Upon Avon (Warks) United Kingdom, where she currently lives and works. You can see more of her work at https://martare.carbonmade.com/


Born in Blackrock, Cathal Gunning now splits his time between Dublin and Mayo. In university, he authored opinion pieces and satirical cartoons for the University Observer and film criticism for the College Tribune, and was selected for UCD's career mentor programme. He contributed "Malahide" to online collective 'Snakes of Various Consistency', and he is an editor and co-founder of the online poetry, art, non-fiction, and literature collective 'Cold Coffee Stand' (www.coldcoffeestand.com). His debut novel, Innocents, will be published by Solstice later in 2017. Excerpts from 'Innocents' have been short-listed for the 2015 Maeve Binchy Award and the Cuttyhunk Island Writer's Residency.


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