Celia

Sometimes I’m Celia,
Other times I’m just C.
Perhaps on Fridays I’m Cee-Cee,
On Mondays I wonder, where’s me.
On Wednesday I’ll be crying,
On Thursday I’ll feel like dying,
It’s just my pillow and me,
A rock under my head,
My head mired in fog,
Fog swallowing me whole,
My whole divided into parts,
Parts of me drifting to where I cannot reach,
And where I reach is up a path,
A path so steep,
A perpetual mountain.
And if Luck is my friend, I’ll chance upon a plateau.
But Luck comes and goes, never in threes.
Still – the plateau I’ll take
Just for a while,
The sum of my parts rejoin
And I will be me.

The Journey

One path, many turns,
Sometimes steep, sometimes flat.
Sometimes you’ll stray. Maybe I will too.
But my dearest heart, remember
There’s love and there’s being in love
And we’re bound by a promise we’ll come together,
Our journey goes on,
The end point shrouded in mist –
Far away, where the giants slumber
And the fairies dance and the elves make mischief.
There’ll be a river we’ll cross,
A boatman and his boat,
Space for one.
You’ll go first.
And only then we’ll part,
You, to your world, and me, to mine.

Heirlooms

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

She told me, once, that there was a time to love.
That love was a path with twists and turns,
Climbing, descending.
Hidden, or half-formed.
There were times love came to a halt,
Times it came to nought:
A journey wasted,
Nothing shared, nothing gained.
There were times, she counselled, when love would crush,
Would leave you desolated,
Isolated like a lone house on a vast empty plain.
And there were times love lifted you,
Drifting you along,
Feeling heady, feeling like you could love and live forever.
Love, she said, moulded memories
Stored away, waiting to be dusted down,
Cherished once more.
But sometimes, she told me, those memories crumbled,
Or rotted away.
Or were abandoned, like forgotten heirlooms.
The heart can also forget, she cautioned.
Though it does beat on.
I loved, she said.
But afterwards, I told myself, never again.

The Boats

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Strange to think of it now,
That day on the sand,
Our buckets, our spades,
The sea in and out, in and out.
Brine-coated air, damp on our skin,
The lingering smell of shell fish.
I remember sounds too: the lone seagull’s call
And the call of the men,
The women too.
And the children’s cries,
The crescendo as they drew nearer,
Crammed together, bodies on top of bodies
As though they formed the rafts they travelled upon.
On land they still clung to each other,
Weeping, pale face after pale face.
Amongst them there was only one I remember:
Quietly serene,
Quite still.
‘Sacrifice to Neptune,’ muttered one man to another.
‘Was it worth it, do you think?’

Jordan McQueen flash fiction visual verse

Little She

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

It slinks up through fisted clouds
Still clinging to the night
We sat there.
You and I.
Watching, watching.
Damp grass underneath us.
Smells sweet, you said.
Like childhood, I said.
Do you remember? you asked.
I’d rather not
I’d rather the dawn was the child
Sun-blushed promise,
Untouched unsullied
A smile so bright, unwavering
Like the laughter in our house,
Pitter-patter footsteps like summer rain
Once upon a time.
I can still hear her,
The Tinkerbell chimes,
Little bells of sunrise,
So you remember, then?

Image by Erin Quinn

Don’t Tell Me To Die

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

This is me.
Before I go. Before I leave you all.
Floating. Weightless.
I do love you. I really do.
And this for me is happiness.
There are no flowers. No ambling by a river, like Ophelia.
Romanticism is absent. They’re drilling outside. A builder hollers.
A whistle follows. Shrill.
I close my eyes to it. And tell the water to swallow me whole.
The urban sounds are drowning.
My breath is held. My chest expands, tightens.
My heart drums on. I latch onto it.
The brain tells me to breathe. To rise.
I’m no phoenix. The water owns me now.
It’s time, she whispers. It’s time.

Image by Denise Nestor

Art Prep

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

I wonder about you sometimes:
I knew you had potential, the skill.
And here it is: your assignment.
The first one you’ve completed since the year begun.

I marvel at your work.
The detail.
Then I think of what it means.
I asked you all to draw something of the everyday:
And this is the product of your pencil.
I wonder at you. I really do.

Of course, I know all about what happened at home.
Your father who never returned from war.
But it’s not about that, is it?
I wish you’d confide in me. I’ve given you chances.
But then, They tell me I give too much time.
I hear their talk.
 I’m too close, They say. Too close.
I just want to help. To listen. No-one else does in this place.

I wonder:
They’re still breathing, aren’t they?
I can almost see the gentle pulse of their breasts.
Tell me they’re breathing.
I look again: the bottom one. So still.
And I realise.
What you see,
Of the everyday.
That one.
It’s
Me.

Photo by Marcus Bastel

What The Vulture Saw

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Beautiful blue
This is what they call sky blue
A serene wash. Not cool.
No, not cold. Never cold here.
Dust, dust everywhere. Bone dry they say.
Like that stick of wood. Parched. Splintered.
Run your fingers along it and you’ll soon know.
Quiet too.
Not peaceful. This quietude drinks everything up.
See that can there:
I watched him suck the contents out.
Then: bang-bang-bang!
A caterwaul came from his mouth. A liquid wail.
The ground met his knees.
Head lolling forward. Arms spread out.
A desert scarecrow.
God! Where are you God?
Words screamed into stifling air.
Smothered.
And the caterwaul again.
His own Jesus in the wilderness.

Image by Alice Connew

Three

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

The Pyramid Constellation.
Though that one’s the North Star,
Guiding me to you.
Let me join the dots with my fingers,
An idle trace from one to the next and the next.
But I daren’t touch that:
The smudge of your past.
Never fades
You never say.
The imprint of the number three,
Farrow & Ball Bruised Red.
Three’s a crowd,
Third time lucky,
Three is the magic number.
No magic, no conjuring, no rabbit pulled out of a hat.
Luck turned and so did he.
What was it?
The weather vane spinning 180 degrees,
The East wind drifting over the ocean, tipped with poison,
Blowing a storm of words then violence.
The mark that meant you belonged to him,
Possessed by a man possessed.
You touch it, I’ve seen you. Is it to remember?
Never return, my dearest heart,
My Constellation of Three.
Never return.

Image by Jenni Fagan

Cusp Of Sleep

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Sleep well, my sweetheart. My gorgeous girl.
Let the lullaby drift you away
Into that dream world of yours,
The land of everything, where bubbles fleck the sky,
Floating idly while the music box plays
Its never ending tune of everything that’s good,
With its fairy princess twirling infinite circles.
Around and around and around and around,
Like my finger on the cushion of your palm.
Whispers of I love you and I love you more,
I’ll see you in the morning.
I’m not sleepy you say,
Cherubic fingers rubbing your eyes,
Don’t fight it, my dearest. Let yourself fall into sleep.
There’s a world full of wonder just waiting to catch you,
To take you on a fantastical trip you’ll forget in a heartbeat.
Drink it in while you can, taste its delights,
But don’t stray into darkness, stay away from there.
‘Though I’ll be here regardless. Always remember that.
So sleep well, my sweetheart.
My gorgeous girl.

Image by Nick Simpson

MH17: In Memorial

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

The picture: the smile, white teeth, thumbs up,
Smartphone messages of everything’s all right.
Seeing loved ones, new places, of sealing deals,
The Captain’s voice and the crew’s
Stemming flutters in your heart.

Two rebels at play:
Your move, my move
Pawn, Knight, Bishop.
Your move, my move
Queen, Rook, Check.

Tail wind pushes metal fast above the clouds,
Films watched, games played, babies fed, babies settled,
Children cry, are we there yet?
Tea, coffee, then drowsing into Neverland,
Stuttered REM and Through the Looking Glass dreams.

Two rebels at play:
Your move, my move
Pawn, Knight, Bishop.
Your move, my move
Queen, Rook, Check. Mate

You’re falling, falling; no, you wake up it’s a dream,
Spurred by the turbulence knocking hello.
No problem, you’ve been there before,
A dozen times or more; it’s nothing, you see?
Hands held, armrests gripped.
It’s fine. It’s always fine.

Two rebels at play:
Your move. Our move?
Shoot to kill.
Your move. Our move.
Take aim, fire.

298 people never arrived.
298 lives destroyed.
298 people who’ll never breathe again.
298 people cast as angels in the sky.
Countless more cast as mourners, forever marked by Death.

And the rebels?
It was your move. Our move?
Denials will haunt you.
Now you move. We move?
Cease hiding the truth.

Image by Katherine Fawssett

Black Tattoos

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Tap’s on. Can’t be bothered to turn it off. My rebellion against you. A tiny one, but add them all up and they have clout. Kids screaming outside, running riot. My turn. No my turn on the bleeding bike. Make them stop. They make me want to screech as you do, you did. Want to be sick. This thing inside me’s growing too quick. I want it out, out out and then I’ll throw it away like you threw us away. I hate you, I hate you. I’m telling Mum. No don’t come in. Don’t you dare come in, Keely. And don’t you dare come back. There’s a peace in here. It’s in the aqua blue you left on the walls. I could swim in it, like I could swim in you. Those were the days, and these are the days I have before me. I’ll take a pen and mark them off, each strike in black, tattooing the skin of this room. Water rushes out with all the hate I have in me. It’s scalding hot, like the sand on the beach you took me to in June 2011. Hottest day of the year. Running through the sand, crystals blistering our feet. Well it felt like that. Rain keeps falling. Not raindrops, not like the song turning rain into sun. That doesn’t happen does it? Not in a million years. Door slams, walls shakes. Mum? Mum? Mum! Banging on the door. Sam called me an ugly cow. Handle turns. Twists. That god awful squeaking noise that you promised you’d fix. I want to twist around and shout. Get out, will you? Steam smudges the mirror, fills the room. Let it be smoke. I’ll breathe it in, like all the fags I’ve stashed away. Bet the smoke would kill me before the fags. Mum, please. Why does she have to cry. She knows how to turn it on. You did too. See, there’s proof she’s yours. All your accusations come to nought. But you won’t come back, will you now.

Image by Sally Fear

Barkin’!

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

I ‘ate this.
The standin’ around,
The non-stop preenin’.
My teeth checked,
Breath smelled.
My paws checked,
Even my arse checked.
Check check check.
Yes go ahead and check your bleedin’ boxes.
Don’t matter anyway – Milton’s goin’ to win the show.
Great Dane that he is.
Then there’s Trixy Wixy Woo or Shoo or whatever her name is,
Her name’s on everyone’s lips – ‘Have you seen the miniature schnauzer crossed with a spaniel?
Astounding!’
First of her kind, or so I ‘eard.
Course the attention’s gone to her ‘ead:
Loves herself she does, struttin’ around like the Queen of Sheba,
That bleedin’ fuschia bow in her hair.
Matching the ribbon in her owner’s hair.
All very matchy matchy.
And as for Mr. an’ Mrs. Miserable here: they’ve got everything ridin’ on me winnin’.
I ‘eard ‘em talkin’ in the kitchen back in December, bleedin’ strategisin’,
Mortgagin’ the ‘ouse,
Creatin’ a rumour,
Gettin’ the bookies all excited but not too excited, nudge, nudge, wink wink.
Borrowed more from the twins.
(They’re bad news I’m tellin’ you)
In the end they put two hundred grand on me winnin’.
Two hundred grand?
Barkin’ I tell you!
I tried to tell ‘em.
In the end I sent ‘em up the bleedin’ wall.
They were so busy arguin’, at each other like ‘ammer an’ tongs, who was goin’ to get what when they won
(They?)
They missed the infection in my claw
Until now when Miss Uppity exclaimed ‘What’s this?’ as she held my paw far away from her ‘oity toity nose.
An’ they were all huffin’ an’ puffin’ and posturin’ that she was mistaken.
Well she wasn’t bleedin’ mistaken and no one gives a monkeys about the pain I’m in.
The vet said there’s no ‘ope.
Don’t matter anyway. It’s all over now.
We’ll go back ‘ome and then God knows.
The bank, the brothers’ll come knockin’ at the door,
And I’m tellin’ you now: as soon as there’s a rat-a-tat-tat I’m gone.

Image by Rhona Byrne

The Way You Returned

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

When I climbed this peak
I did it for you.
This peg of the earth
Kept me pegged to you.

I wandered alone
Without a thought,
Through pelting rain,
Then hail, then frenzied snow.

As I reached the top
I reflected on you.
I looked out to the lake
And began to see.

How much I’d forgotten,
Pictures hazed by fears,
Dulled as you dulled
From those pocketed pills.

How I wish you could share
This sky, this view.
All I have is a memory
Though it ebbs and it flows

Of us scaling a mountain
In a faraway land;
Far away from life
And its trammelling pains.

The wind cut out,
And instead came a breeze –
Clear, and afresh,
It spirited, then coursed right through me.

So clear it was,
Clear as the water below;
It made me turn
East with its blush of dawn.

For the first time
A crescented smile
Etched its way on my face,
For there you were, standing next to me.

Image by Brendan Hoffman

Mist Carriage of Thanatos

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Dust hazes the sky
Awaiting spring cleaning.
But it’s not spring for a while,
And there’s no spring in me.

You see, you took it with you
As you slipped away,
Too brittle, too broken
To stay with me.

Some say I spat you out:
Unwanted they claim.
But that’s untrue, I say (again)
You forever held my heart.

In a dream I saw
The mist carrying you away.
At the helm was Thanatos.
So I knew. And I waited.

You left me that morning,
Left me mourning your loss,
Like the lone wolf, wandering,
Wondering would I see you again.

You know, I met a wolf –
Face to face as they say,
She, a she-wolf, so still,
Mother-child, version of me.

She knew I’d think of her,
As I think of her now,
In the days of your leaving,
There’s the she-wolf, weeping.

Image by Marc Schlossman

The Digested Read of Us

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Me?
You.
Numbers scribbled.
You –
Called?
Why not?
Date?
Date.
Turned into a few
More.
Feels like
snowflakes
Sprinkling on my face.
Will you?
Yes.
I
Love
You
Better
Worse
Death
Part
I
Do.
Tick. Tock.
Blue cross in the little window.
I’m fat-ugly-hormonal-crazy
You’re not.
Shit, fuck, fuck off to hell
You –
Now push Mrs. M.
I can’t.
You –
Oh don’t you start.
Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. M. It’s a …
We
Made this?
Oh so tiny
Miracle.
Sleep
Less
Every-
Day
Every
Shade
Of emotion
Another?
Another?
And so it goes.
And so it goes.
Feeling full
Filled?
This
Journey
But?
But –
Are we
There
Yet?
Still feels like
Snowflakes sprinkling
On my face.

Image by Jean Gill

What’s In A Name?

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

Forest Cherry
Chariots of Fire
Hurt Red
Selma Pink
Imitation Lilac
English Patient Rose
The Best Exotic Marigold
(who’d wear that?)
Wall Street
(that’s crimson to you)
Gladiator
(ditto)
Godfather
(blood red)
Atonement
(a lovely shade when you’re seeking forgiveness)
Shakespeare in Love
(that’s Gwyneth pink!)
Mystic River
Tootsie
(obvious, obviously)
Brokeback Mountain
(a dreamy dawn)
Scarlett Letter
O’Hara Pink
Don’t Give A Damn
(That’s red, not Rhett)

Image by Sigrid Calon

Elise

First published on Visual Verse: Anthology of Art and Words

‘I don’t like it either,’ he whispers in her ear.
Elise doesn’t hear him approach, doesn’t hear his gentle cough-cough. She turns to him, appraises him, his glasses and the Gorbachev birthmark on his temple.
‘I’m actually undecided,’ she replies, taking a sip from her glass of white wine. Too tart, she thinks.
‘I misinterpreted your frown.’
‘I was frowning at the frame. It doesn’t suit the picture. Too much white.’
He stares at the picture, his head tilted to one side. ‘I’m undecided about that,’ he says, then smiles.
‘Touché,’ she says.
‘Come here often?’
She laughs, a tipple of laughter, her head thrown back. ‘Nice try.’
‘Markus,’ he says, holding out his hand.
‘Nice to meet you,’ she takes his hand, then withdraws it quickly.
‘And what about you?’
‘What about me?’
‘Won’t you tell me your name?’
‘My name?’
‘I never liked mysteries’
‘Is that what I am?’ she asks. ‘A mystery?’ Her gaze turns back to the painting and its mess of diagonal candy-coloured stripes. ‘It looks like a mistake, don’t you think?’
‘You’re changing the subject.’
‘I am?’ Elise indicates to the catalogue in his hand. ‘Thinking of buying?’
‘Perhaps,’ Markus replies. ‘Do you know the artist?’
‘Now that’s a tough question,’ she says, her brow furrowed. Then she smiles at him. ‘Her bio’s at the front. When you sift through the hyperbole, you’ll see she hasn’t done that much.’ She leans in closer, lowers her voice. ‘And I wouldn’t buy this one.’
‘Oh really?’
She drains her glass. ‘Nice meeting you, Markus.’
He watches her slink away, the side to side swish of her narrow hips, all dressed in black. Straight shoulders, straight back. Her long neck. Alabaster white, almost as white as the picture frame she so dislikes. A touch of Audrey Hepburn about her.
Markus glances down at the catalogue then flips to the artist’s bio. Elise Costa. There’s a black and white side profile of her. She’s wearing a white shirt, but the smile’s unmistakeable.