Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cafe Aphra closed for the holidays

Just to let everyone know that Cafe Aphra will be closed for the holidays and will be re-opening its doors on Monday 6th January. 

From all of us here, we'd like to wish our readers and contributors a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR and say THANK YOU for making 2013 such a great one.

May 2014 be full of joy, fun, magic and, of course, writing!!

With love,
Tha Cafe Aphra Baristas

Monday, December 23, 2013

Un Petit Christmas Ditty

Alternative Title :'The Thought-Fox, Revisited by a Drunk Woman'

I sit, fingers poised above keys, shivering in my conservatory freeze
Un petit Christmas ditty, please, would end my struggles, creative pleas
And ploys.
Despite the lack of fuss or noise – the house is quiet of voice and boys
The words just do not want to come.  Unpressed, keys don’t know joy or fun
Don’t make you laugh or make you think or make you feel or make you drink.
Drink. Aha, the very thing.  Perhaps un petit verre de quelque chose
May tease out words, make them flow like harmonies across staves from treble to bass.

I sit, fingers poised above keys, shivering less, crumbs on my knees
Sod the computer, let’s get a pen.  It might work better.  I’ll try again.
Unstraddle heights off computer chair.  Straighten my knees, then prepare
For inspiration - now in ink.  Damn, the taps on in the sink.
Down the hall and turn it off. Whisky and lemon for my cough
Might make me feel more like myself. The honey’s on the highest shelf.
A stool would help.  Put down the glass.  Could be dangerous. Start to laugh.


Feel unsteady, where’s my pen? I need it for the, the , the thing again?
What’s it called? A Christmas ditty.  Stupid idea.  Pretty shitty
Thing to get people to do at this time of year when we’re all so witty. Wizzy. Busy.
I canna write and I canna think. I canna rhyme. My pens in the sink
And I’m over here on the breakfast bar. 
And now I hear my husband’s car.
The dog starts barking.  He’s in the door.
( I think I’ll hide down on the floor).
What are you doing Yvonney, he says?
I squint up pleasantly and show him my vest. My lest. My list.

Are you pissed? He gives me his hand.  I show him my list.  He can’t understand
Why the house is upside down, with bottles,Pringles, cake , lemon, honey and biros lying everywhere
 Or why Youtube forlornly performs carols to the empty orthopaedic chair.
Then he gets it.  What a man. 27 years married.  He DOES understand.
It’s the writing group Christmas task. 
What are you trying to write this year Yvonney,      he asks?
by Yvonne Stevenson-Robb

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas dinner

“I wish he’d have told me she was vegetarian,” hissed Cynthia as she hacked at the turkey. “It’s bad enough him bringing her so soon after the divorce.” Awful pompous little man.
Nathan sighed.
“Darling- ”
“I mean, have you seen her?”
Have I ever. “Darling, remember what we said.”
“What did we say? That your brother’s a- ”
Damn sight luckier than me, that’s for sure. “I agree it would have been thoughtful if Mark had told us, but she says she’s fine with a bit of stuffing.”
Cynthia swigged at her wine. I’ll bet she is. Apparently she’s got a PhD. I wouldn’t for the life of me have thought she had a brain under all that hair.
“Well she can’t have stuffing.”
“Why not?”
“It’s got meat in it.”
“Just veg then! But do try to be nice dear, hm?” Nathan whisked her glass and the bottle away as she turned around.  
First Trudy, now Samantha. She must be a double D if she’s a day. Why does my brother get all the luck?
“Thank you so much for bringing in the wine, darling.” Cynthia swept into the dining room armed with an enormous smile and two plates. She leaned over to fill her glass. “Cheers, everyone! Do start.”
The silence was punctuated by chewing and appreciative noises.
God, this is awful. Maybe I should put on some elevator music or something. “I’m sorry Samantha- it is Samantha, isn’t it? I’m so sorry I didn’t have a veggie option for you, if I’d known earlier I would have had something ready, but...”
Here she goes.
“Don’t fuss, Cynthie! At this rate we won’t be finished in time for the Queen’s Speech!” Mark belly-laughed and winked in the direction of Cynthia’s parents.
He’s not even attractive. Must be the money.
Cynthia’s mother frowned on cue.
“I’m sure we don’t need to watch that, do we, in this day and age?”
Oh shut up mother, can’t you see he’s provoking you?
Cynthia’s father leaned over Samantha.
“The stuffing is delicious dear, have you tried it?”
Cynthia opened her mouth as her father heaped Samantha’s plate with it. Oh let her eat it.
Mark waved his hand away. “She’s fine with her veggies! Loves ‘em, don’t you?” he roared, slapping Samantha on the thigh.
Nathan pressed his lips into a smile.
I should have become a doctor too.

by Sara Roberts

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I was out shopping the other day. It was cold and grey, and I’d slogged my way to the market with a heavy heart. The bus was packed as ever - I was wedged into a pack of cold, unyielding south London bodies and the air was thick with tuts and sighs, toothsucking and general disgruntlement, until it tipped us all out in front of Brixton tube.
So there I was, walking down Granville Arcade, past the fruit and veg, the African snails, the yam and plantain and green bananas, and all at once I was reading a sign above a pile of nice, juicy fruits that said:
Lady, lady, please don’t squeeze up, squeeze up me mango!
I felt myself shrinking, softly. It was not an unpleasant feeling – as I got smaller I got warmer, sinking comfortably into myself. My innermost core started to glow, the warmth spreading into my skin.
As I shrank, the feelings of London angst began to melt away. I could feel my bones relaxing and my skin smoothing out – oils starting to trickle throughout my system. All the sour feelings were turning deliciously sweet. Drip by drip, a feeling of warm contentment percolated through.
I wrapped my arms around myself, hugging in all those good, rich feelings, and I felt my legs being sucked up – my bottom grew larger and firmer to accommodate them. I could feel my bottom starting to glow! My heart started pumping; a steady, rhythmic beat. I could feel my blood circulating - it was turning into sweet and juicy liquid. I was so juicy I could have burst except for the firm skin holding me in. I felt fluid but secure and supremely confident sitting up there under the stallholder’s cheeky sign. I was glowing like tropical sunshine on that cold, dark London day.

by Becca Leathlean

Sunday, December 8, 2013


The best days start slow. Dawn light leaking
past curtains, weakening as the year turns to face
Winter. The best days pull me behind 
two dachshunds into the world. Always a wonder,
frosted silver, dripping rain, fragrant with old leaves,
new flowers, spit snowflakes or warmed with birdsong.
The best days begin with perfect coffee, dark roast,
chocolate shaken in, one, two, a couple packets
of sweetener, cinnamon dashed, a drop of cream.
Scent of it drags the dogs and me up the stairs,

into the house. They anticipate their breakfast.
Sometimes I mix the ratio wrong. Magical potion
imbalances, and the day follows suit.
The best days catch up correspondence on my tablet in bed,
dogs laid like logs between my legs, cat in the window
daring the sun for warmth. The best days start with stories, I am
still the child who asks for a story before bed.
Stories, poetry, a necessity like air or water or food.
No other cup of coffee matters like that first one. 
It can make or break the day that weaves above the mug 
writhing ribbons of steam.

By Rachael Ilkins

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Softest Hour

My little brother didn’t cry like other babies.  He bleated, like a cleaved pig.  I clapped my palms against my ears - it never helped.

“… a son… to carry on our name… and toss the ball around.”  Our walls were thin.  “…tea parties and dolls… not my thing.”  And dad’s voice carried. 

“We love you so much honey,” ma stroked my arm while she lied, “that’s why we want another.”

I cried into my pillow and dreamt I was a boy.

Pa moved my cups and saucers to the den and made Danny a bed in my garden playhouse.  Come nap time, ma laid him in it, shut the doors – midnight blue – and tiptoed backwards.  As she inched by, she’d press a chubby finger to her lips, tousle my hair and scratch Burke’s floppy ears.  

“Shhhh - it’s the soft hour,” she’d say.  Her winks made me warm.

I never used my tea set again.

It was a crisp autumn morn.  Upstairs, the vacuum hummed and sucked but below, Danny’s shrieks rang out like a bludgeoned porpoise - and split the soft hour.

Our daschund panted when he heard biscuits jostling in their tin; he loved the pink, liver-flavored ones.  I taunted ol’ Burke before I lobbed the treat in my playhouse and pulled open the dark blue doors. 


His tail smacked against the plastic walls.  My lil’ brother choked then stilled. His silence proved louder than his screams.

I ran.


“… and has your dog attacked before ma’am?”  The deputy was unexpectedly short - I was disappointed by that.   

“Never.”  Ma sounded weary - that scared me more.  From the stairwell, I could only see her when she paced past the threshold between the kitchen and the hallway.  Her heels clacked against the tiles.

Danny had only been dead three days.    

“… then how… I mean… if the doors were…?”

Ma turned her back to the deputy - stood stone in the archway as he droned on, “… but he had him by the throat ma’am.  Must’a jerked him pretty hard… crushed neck and all… ”

Her eyes darted to and fro; then angled up the stairs, docked in mine and slowly widened.  I bowed my head.


I didn’t go to Danny’s funeral - ma said I didn’t have to.  Pa left when I was nine. 

“It’s ‘cause I killed Danny?”   

Ma arched her back and tugged at the hem of her house-dress.  “Don’t be silly dear,” her eyes like a fish, “you never hurt your brother.” 

“But I did… ”

Ma struck me - for the first and only time. 

Each fall, we take our boy to see his gramma. She’s buried next to Danny beneath a canopy of Balsam firs.   

Someday I may tell them.  But for now, I lay a rose upon each grave… and race my son to the car.

by Chad V. Broughman

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Apolonia the midwife took me to a hovel
roofed with yagua, the base of the palm frond.
A squat woman nodded Yes,
I could meet her children.

They lay splayed on long benches:
one deaf-mute,
another blind and crippled,
the last spinning a coconut.

His head bobbed up and down,
his smile never changing
as he watched the coconut wobble to a stop,
then spun it again on endless repeat.

I tried to speak to him.
“These are the fruits of this tree,”
said Apolonia, tugging me gently away.
“You mistake movement for intelligence.”

“You might as well talk to a palm,”
Apolonia shook her graying head.
“Its fronds wave in the same wind
whether you’re speaking or silent.”

Jan Steckel