For this issue I got you all writing about secrets. Everybody has them, nobody keeps them. Perhaps you have one. Perhaps you are keeping one. Perhaps people are keeping one from you. And on that note:
[su_quote]three people can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
Jay Stonestreet, Creative Writing editor
[su_spoiler title=”DaisyChains” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Claire sat out on the deck, a glass of sparkling water in her hand. She pushed herself forwards and backwards with her tiptoes, lost in thought.
She was eight years old and plucking daisies for a necklace. At eight every daisy was the same; she didn’t discriminate against the crumpled ones or the ones that had wilted in the heat. As a child she had been reprimanded for not striving higher. She was told she’d never achieve anything if she didn’t. It never occurred to them that she didn’t particularly want anything. All Claire wanted was to be happy. And now, at thirty-five, she felt she had achieved her goal. She was content with her whitewashed Missouri house in the suburbs and a husband who really did care about her, even if they had their difficulties.
A droplet of water landed in the river. It was beginning to rain. Covered by the balcony above, she remained still, sipping her drink, whilst the rain came down in torrents.
Things in Claire’s life often happened like that. One minute everything would be calm and satisfactory, the next the world would be crashing down around her just for the clouds to part again and the blue sky to begin peaking through. The storm was always over quickly, almost as if it hadn’t happened at all. And sometimes, she couldn’t help but cause the storm.
Soon Rick would be home from work. Tonight they were celebrating.
With a sigh, Claire left the deck and went inside. In the kitchen she prepared the table in advance, laying down cutlery for three courses and arranging a little display of flowers in the centre. Daisies of course.
She flitted round the kitchen just like a regular housewife, except she wasn’t. She was a writer, the kind of writer who was always eager for a new story and would go to extreme lengths to get it.
Currently, Claire was suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. She’d tried everything to rid it but nothing was inspiring.
The clock in the hallway struck ten. Rick was late. That would be a good comment to throw in, Claire thought. She stirred the mint and pea soup she had just blended over a moderate heat, humming to herself. As she stood stirring, a key clicked in the door and her husband entered.
“Hello,” he called, pushing closed the door behind him. He hung up his coat and turned to her with a broad smile, that ‘Hi honey I’m home’ kind of smile.
“Hello,” she replied, barely taking her eyes off the stove.
“Everything okay, my dear?” he asked, noticing her distance.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said, her voice clipped. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“Starving,” he exclaimed, pouring himself a large whiskey and taking his seat at the table, his eyes taking in the flowers and the spread of cutlery.
Claire took the soup off the hob and served it into two deep bowls. She placed the bowls onto plates, already garnished with bread and a knob of butter, and laid them on the table.
“This looks wonderful,” Rick commented, staring widely. “You never do soup for starter. You never make a starter. Why all the effort?”
Without waiting for his wife’s response, Rick picked up a chunk of bread, ripped it in half and dunked it into the soup. Soup ran down the bread and over his fingers. When he’d taken the bite, he licked his hand with a large, wet tongue, before picking up his soupspoon and slurping down the green liquid.
“Do you really not remember what we’re celebrating?” Claire asked, letting the childish tones of disappointment creep into her voice. “And do you have to be so vulgar?” she rebuked.
Stunned at her tone, Rick dropped his spoon with a clatter.
“I’m sorry Claire, have I forgotten something?”
“Only our wedding anniversary,” she retorted.
Realisation and guilt.
“You always forget. I knew you would. And you were home late. Is it so hard to come home on time once in a while?” She paused. “It’s okay, I’m sure you were doing something mighty important. Having a drink after work were you?” she questioned. She’d smelt the mixture of alcohol and chewing gum on his breath the moment he’d walked in.
“Actually yes.” The anger in his voice bubbled out. “Julian’s wife was diagnosed with cancer at the weekend so I took him out for a drink.” He downed his whiskey. They pinned each other to the wall with angry glares.
“Maybe I’d hurry home more often if you weren’t such a nag.” Rick left the table and poured himself another drink.
“Like that’s going to help.” The words slipped out before Claire could stop them.
“It’ll help me.”
“That’s it, isn’t it? Always looking out for number one.” Claire’s anger was back, it was seething inside her.
She threw down her napkin and left the room, hand cupping her mouth as if to hold back her tears. Only there were no tears. Claire’s anger was manufactured. She ran up the stairs and threw herself on the bed.
After several minutes, Rick stomped up the stairs behind her. He wrapped his arms around his wife and pressed his face against hers. They simultaneously murmured apologies and held each other. The soup went cold in the kitchen below, no other food having been prepared. Claire had known they wouldn’t make it past the starter. She also knew that she was so adored by her husband that, no matter what passed between them, nothing would be different in the morning.
After some time, Rick’s breathing deepened; he had finally succumbed to sleep. Careful not to wake him, Claire wriggled out from between his arms and tiptoed to her office. She sat down in her dark leather chair, pen in her hand, and began to write.
Claire liked to play with her husband and fix her writer’s block. That was her secret.
[su_spoiler title=”Secrets” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Held tongue, knowing glance,
Sealed lips, no second chance.
It knocks on the inside of my teeth,
Demanding to be released.
Pacing on my bitten tongue,
Hands clasped, head hung.
It hammers on my heaving chest,
Suggesting it would be for the best
If I cast off its heavy chains
And appease its hunger pains.
Its mood swings like a pendulum
Between sweet words and sour tantrum.
It offers excuse after excuse
To justify letting it loose.
Custodian of an unknown truth,
Gardener of forbidden fruit.
Your secret is still safe with me,
Swaddled in trust and loyalty.
[su_spoiler title=”Silence” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Mute. Compassion lacks where selfish hearts rule.
It lurks in murky waters facing
Narcissus’ face: image twinned.
Tempered glass has no ripples;
These depths can’t hold for long,
Snakes whisper poison,
And soon. Your
[su_spoiler title=”The Last Words of Rozalia de Sousa” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Upon seeing her body
the careful book was prized from Rozalia de Sousa’s
cartographic fingers and placed in an
ominous box locked twice.
The police department (who were almost always idiots)
found on the last page
of an otherwise menial diary
a passage in a somewhat demented language
so did with it the only thing they could
and filed it away below ground.
The secret alphabets of old de Sousa’s
age held tight the mystery
in a fragile paper prison, the key to which
had been long thrown in some
constabulary imbecile’s ocean.
The newspapers printed a murder mystery;
stamped in their crude ink that the killer hid
inside those inscrutable letters
the knowing symbols and ciphers
scratching their chins who listened and heard
the writerly victim’s last breath
but louder and louder the stomach
of the international community
rumbled for truth and so I gave in / gave up
my time to set to work on the page,
flew in from the continent for
as long as I needed and true to her lasting enigma
the old eremite spoke freely to me.
– I confirm these words / this whole page
is hers lifted from hard translation.
De Sousa knew her death / my future
by God’s prophetic communication.
[su_spoiler title=”A Room with a View” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]My room looks out
over the oasis.
I lean out of the window
to see the meeting place
of a distant past
and the people of Tibetsi.
It is impossible to
cut off the world
from time and space.
Being drunk in the oasis
is a curious impulse.