Sunday, September 29, 2013

She Said .....

An interlude
A prelude -
silent roads from A to B.
Red rivers crossing.

Threads of memories
outlines of smudged red lipstick
I’d like to tell you lies - she said.
Truth would flood my eyes.

Red rivers cross
singular pursuits
with double-barrelled names
in cheap hotels.

I leave the radio on.
Fling wide the windows
I don’t want to smell my body's decay
Or hear unanswered cries for help.
Red rivers crossed.

She mutilated me
far beyond
my life.
Please remove your fingers from the dam,
I said.

By Poppy Taylor

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cursory Rhymes

Miss Muffet suffered from congenital Arachnoids-Phobia. It went back to the time she was left unattended under an old oak tree in the grounds of the family estate in Letchworth. She shudders when she remembers how that creepy, hairy sensation curling around her neck frightened her off her tuffet. The screams didn’t elicit any help. Indeed, it took months of therapy at Dr Patel’s Hypnotherapy Centre before Miss Muffet stopped trembling. The centre was quite well known, located behind Bet Fred and the Polski Sklep just off Green Lanes.

Despite Dr Patel’s reputation, however, he was unable to do anything for her other than to stop the trembling. The trauma stunted her growth, which is how she acquired the title “Little”. Dr Patel told her that the experience had overwhelmed her normal biological and psychological mechanisms, resulting in a feeling of helplessness, terror and loss of control. He couched it all in medical jargon, which didn’t help much though it sounded like he knew what he was talking about. It would have been much better if she had been hypnotised into thinking that she was a ring-tailed monkey that delighted in devouring spiders. They have a technique of holding them in their paws and nipping off their heads like a bud.

She should never have confided in Peter and told him about her secret phobia. She knew he loved her very much and it came to him as quite a shock when she broke off their relationship. Peter had his own obsessions, which consisted of an inordinate fear of rejection, inadequacy and loneliness. He would never accept what Muffet had done to him and one day he’d pay her back.

“You just wait and see,” he mused, as he looked at himself in the mirror, flexing his biceps.

It happened all of a sudden. Muffet woke up covered in perspiration. She found herself alone... in a dark wood. Without realizing it, she lashed out in self-defence. Blood flew everywhere and the blows thudded. She was in a small room. A voice hissed.

“It’s nothing to worry about, Muffet my dear. Just a simple case of Arachnoids-Phobia.” 

The voice faded. She felt a furry sensation on her legs, her stomach and then her breasts. She was defenceless and overwhelmed by a cold terror. She opened her eyes and there he was, wearing a weird spider costume but still recognizable.
“Peter!” she screamed. “Have you gone out of your mind?” 

He stepped back and opened his palms towards her.

“Reject me would you?”  

In an instant she was entwined in silk. The more she struggled the more enmeshed she became. He sank his pincer jaws into her neck, rendering her motionless.

                      Poor Miss Muffet is encased in a posset,
                                   With little or nothing to say,
                               Peter the Spider sat down beside her
                              And said “Now you’ll never run away!”

by Wali Hawes

Sunday, September 22, 2013



Brassy as prized art, a conglomeration of junk
leers at me cockily from the hedgerow.
Its centrepiece – a fridge – sits stark
flanked by bulging plastic sacks
stuffed with crumbling chunks of plastered laths.

Toadflax and clumps of lemon balm
slicked thick with oil from a rusted sump
slump down dying, a car battery sits
sullen as a ticking bomb beside a pair of shoes
tongues crumpled, soles worn perfectly smooth.

Conscience tugs. Behind the Blackthorns
a mattress weeps for all abandoned lovers.
I look and see the pinched face of Jesus in the stains,
smell clods of childhood, taste blood-iron
from a knee, scab-torn raiding orchard apples.

Back home, I relate the heinous crime
to my wife. Disgraceful, she says, appalled.
After dinner we sit out in our garden
and watch sugar-stealers glide like daydreams
in the evening breeze, rendering the sun obtuse.

by Peter Wilkin

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Blemished: in the name of gods she didn't understand. She had been no different from the other girls she used to play with - girls who wouldn't dare meet her eyes now. 

Every morning she would go to get water from the river with her mother. It was a long way down to the river and they had to cross part of a forest where many wild animals lived. Later they would boil the water. One bucket was for cooking and drinking, the other one for washing and watering the animals. Her family would take their lunch cuddled together on the loamy ground of their little hut. Every evening, after she had fed the animals, she used to sit in a circle with her friends, singing and dancing, exchanging stories about the animals of the forest. Every day had the same routine as the day before. 

Then, one night, everything changed. Two of her little brothers were taken ill. It happened so suddenly, without any warning. Their bodies were hot and their tongues swelled up, bluish in their little mouths. Both of them died before the sun rose. It was like a bad dream and she couldn’t wake herself up. There was an unnatural silence inside the hut. Her mother glared at her, hatred flaming in her eyes. Finally she let go of the dead children clutched in her arms and pointed at her with her trembling hand. 

"It was you!" she screamed, spittle sparkling from her angry mouth. "You killed them, you little witch!" 

There it was, the horrible word. Its sparks burned in her heart, used up the air she needed to breathe. It hurried through the village, spreading its poisonous seed from door to door. 

"A witch! Beware!" 

Her mouth had gone dry; words had left her, words that wouldn't have saved her anyway. Soon, she could hear voices coming nearer. The deep voices of men, the elders of the village, who were discussing her faith. 

"Stone her!" somebody said, "Burn her!" suggested the voice of her uncle. 

She could feel fear blazing through her veins, faint from the nausea that overtook her. 

"Get out!" A new voice whispered from somewhere in the darkness of the hut, "Flee before they come and take you away!" 

She couldn't think clearly. Yet her hands had already started pushing against the wall, seeking the small hole at the back. There! She had found it! But it was too small... In a panic, she shoved away a few crumbling bricks. No one noticed the noise. Her eyes misty with tears, she managed to squeeze through. Her feet carried her away, pushing forward in time with the beating of her heart. By the time they had found out, she was already hidden deep in the woods, running for her haunted life.

by B.E. Seidl

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Midweek Motivation

Feeling a bit stuck? Need a touch of midweek motivation?

Never fear - here are a few fun and useful tools to get you writing again!



Plot Scenario Generator

I found these sites really useful for taking a story off in an unexpected direction, finding titles and place names, or for setting myself a 15-minute writing challenge to create a new piece of flash fiction and get myself out of a rut.

Kindly suggested by Mary-Jane Holmes as part of her online course in flash fiction writing.

Have fun everybody!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

See the man

See the man
                   flexing his muscles at mommy?

The other dumb parents love their kids
                                                             too much.
                                          A zygote split into two
that’s how alimony is born.

Inhale deep the stream of hot dog steam
Tall hand, titanic shoes
                                       That’s all that’ll be left of me
when this is over, baby
                           It’s a done deal
And I would shake your fat fingers
if you were the lawyer
                                   but you were the catalyst.

Aili Izsak-Niimura

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Quiet

I wake up sweating; it is just after sunrise. I dress and leave my flat in a hurry. The streets are empty. I hail a cab.

The driver doesn’t know where he’s going; he’s been working all night. Several u-turns later I jump out at some traffic lights, his curses ringing in my ears, and jump on a bus before it pulls away.

I get off and walk for what seems like miles. I turn a corner towards a hospital and enter intensive care. I walk past an empty bed. I ask about the occupant; he has died. I walk into a side-room.

There’s a middle-aged man, machines, a tracheotomy tube. A nurse checking the equipment.

“It’s been a quiet night,” she says. “No improvement, but no worse.”

I sit down, waiting. I speak to the man. He is my father. His eyes are half-open and the breathing machine fills the room with sound. I tell a joke, no response. The machines start bleeping and the doctor and nurse rush in. They send me out.

I’m called in and told that my father’s blood pressure is dropping. It’s likely he is going to die, so if I have anything to say I should say it now. Taken aback, I stand silent. I hurry out and make phone calls. No-one answers; I leave messages.

I watch the doctor and nurse push medicines into my father. Tension rises as dad fails to respond. We all three watch the blood pressure monitor dropping.

“Leave him alone.”
The doctor insists he has to try everything.
“Leave him alone, it’s not working.”
I get out a CD and ask if my brother brought in the CD player.
“I haven’t seen one and they don’t have one on the ward.”
“He loves Mozart, it might help.”

The doctor informs me that if his blood pressure drops below 30 there’s nothing they can do.

I watch the machines. 65, 64, 60, 59. It continues. The doctor leaves the room. The nurse moves towards the door. I panic.

“Are you leaving?”
“I can stay if you want me to, but you better say whatever you have to say now before it’s too late.”

I hold my father’s gnarled hand and whisper in his ear. The nurse busies herself. She starts talking to dad about what she’s doing and what’s happening. I look at her as if she’s mad.

“They can still hear, you know,” she says.

I start singing Mozart, quietly at first then louder.

“Daa, da-da-, da-da-du-da-da-daah-,” 

I watch the machines. 36, 34, 33.



The heart machine slows, stops.


We both stop.

The breathing machine continues its shuttling noise. Suddenly, dad farts loudly. I suppress a giggle. The nurse watches me.

There seems to be a small breeze in the room, though the windows are shut. 

by Afia Nkrumah

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lilies, redux

Consider the oak leaves in my yard
how they roil and spin
as the wind whips them skyward
and they fly out of reach.

Observe as they settle
and carpet the fading grass
a beauty of red orange gold
that puts my Oriental to shame.

See my reluctance
to rise from my chair
take up my rake
and wreck the splendor.

Watch as I toil
to gather the glorious piles
shove them in bags
and drag them curbside for collection.

By M. W. MacKay

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I’m on the train on my way to my psychotherapy appointment. Most of the people entering and leaving the carriage glide past each other soundlessly like fish; ghostly shapes in the glass box of the train window. One woman catches my eye because she stumbles on five-inch heels. She has giant silver earrings and jangles like a Christmas tree. She must enjoy attention.

She retrieves a fancy cloth-covered notebook and a pen from her handbag and starts to write. I can't see what she is writing, even after I crane my neck conspicuously in every direction possible.

I’m jealous. I haven’t been able to write anything for months. I'm starting to feel like one of those childless women who obsess about babies. Every time I see someone writing, I seethe like a bucket of snakes.

I blame the therapy for my writer’s block. It’s making me too happy. Last night I dreamt that I was a marine biologist, swimming with serene, jewel-coloured fish.

The woman is probably just writing a shopping list or something equally mundane, I tell myself. Then her phone rings, one of those jarring tones that teenagers have, and she starts talking about passports. It's a very boring conversation. 

She lets her notebook fall onto the red velveteen of the seat next to her and I can see that the pages are densely covered with tiny cursive script.

I get up to get off the train, but it’s too soon. It jolts and halts in a tunnel. With the jolt I stumble back a step and catch sight of a line in the woman's notebook: 

"Sometimes my world crumbles, and everything falls into place."

In that second I make a decision: I'm not going to therapy anymore. I don't care how much they say I need it.

When the train finally lets me out, I go to a payphone. The floor of the phone box is covered, practically stuffed, with Islamist propaganda leaflets. The words that catch my eye are: 

"The Muslim loves death and strives for martyrdom."

I stare at the jumbled pile of black and white fliers and let my eyes sag until they blur into an amorphous grey shape. It looks like a shark in a Rorschach blot kind of way. What caused the extremist to lose his inspiration and dump them all here? Maybe he was weighed down by a world that didn't match him.

I have another moment of clarity; I have to find this disillusioned man. He’s perfect for me - I can't write, and he evidently can’t complete his mission either. I imagine that we’re kindred spirits.

The black text on one of the leaflets swims into focus, a web address for the Islamist organization; that’s a good place to start. But first I pick up the phone to cancel my appointment.

by Liz Barnes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Midweek Motivation

Greetings all!

We at Cafe Aphra enjoyed this piece so much that we thought we would share it with you. :)

It was taken from here: Between Letters, at Quora, but we believe the original is from 22 words.

Comments welcome!

14 Writers Handwrite Their Writing Advice on Their Hands

by Josh Sowin

Wofford College asked some fiction authors for a photo of their writing advice written on their hands.

I think it's all pretty solid advice. See what you think:

Neil Gaiman

Karen Lord

David Drake

Ekaterina Sedia

Garth Nix

Karin Tidbeck

Gene Wolfe

Jaym Gates

Jody Lynn

Joe Haldeman

Karin Lowachee

Lev Grossman

N. K. Jemisin

Patrick Rothfuss

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Poem

A Rescue
We, I don’t think, are taught about humility.

            We learn to share, to wait in line,
            to use our words.

We are not taught to be changed with them.

            Did you know that an apology once saved
            my life?

It was from a pastor; I’d paid a high price for his sin.

            It took months but, face to face, eye to eye,
            he took his burden back from me.

I felt my days ahead untighten and my hands finally unfold.

            The lines on his cheeks shallowed, too, if just for the moment
            the words gathered before flight.

By Megan Wildhood