Edited by Niema Bohrayba
Hi, I’m Niema and welcome to my first February Showcase! The vibes of the new year carry through with the advent of Chinese New Year, which will coincide with the Gregorian date of February 10, 2024. This is one of many calendar systems observed around the world, and reminds us of the many ways we connect with the concept of time and, indeed, how we record it.
February is synonymous in our culture with love in all its forms, and marks LGBTQ+ History month in the UK. Many of the pieces I’ve selected reflect our theme of ‘Beginnings And Endings’ through the lens of love.
Our first piece is a poem by Alex Mayberry. Day After Day highlights the power of a loving, motivational voice we trust to get us through the most difficult of challenges, so that we can start again the following day.
Day After Day
From earphone to heart,
in words soft yet bold,
coated in gravel, her voice,
got me over the threshold,
day after day.
“One foot in front of the other babe”.
Day after day
of an autumn spent alone,
truly alone. Elder trees
stripped of their leaves,
becoming as exposed as I
by changing winds, sympathised.
Stoically, they reassuringly stared,
with puffed out chests
and hearts bared,
approving of my attempts
to navigate paths they had mastered.
“One foot in front of the other babe.”
Each shaky stride towards taking stock.
Each ever-more confident step towards awareness.
Each grateful glide towards healing.
Each tear-filled limp towards forgiveness.
“My love, keep on running”,
she and they whispered,
assuring that getting through today
was all that was required of my growing.
Until acceptance was found in the knowing,
that tomorrow would be better.
(c) Alex Mayberry, 2024
You can connect with Alex on Instagram: @alexmayberrythefirst
Our second piece is an emotion infused, beautifully written poetic short story by Zara Relphman. Schoolgirl Crush speaks with vulnerability to the experience of unrequited feelings and the transformation that takes place when we contemplate this and begin to move forward with our lives within the confines of a whole new reality.
She comes to me every day after school. We meet at the end of the path at 3.30pm. I wait for her for 40 minutes, because she finishes later than I do. I look for her in the sea of other girls, waiting for her smile and her little run to me. I feel the butterflies swarm in my stomach when I spot her. I ignore them, because she’s my best friend and nothing more.
She gives her other friends a wave goodbye before embracing me in a hug. One of those hugs that is bone crushing but welcomed. We walk into town together, as we always do. Chatting about our days, laughing, holding hands. She talks about boys all of the time. I talk about her all of the time. Liking boys turns into boyfriends. They then meet her after school too, but never at the end of the path at 3.30 after waiting 40 minutes – that’s just for me.
She always gets the boyfriend to bring one of his friends along for me. We went on double ‘dates’. I never cared for them. The boyfriends would never really last long. She would get bored. I loved the times she would get bored. It meant I didn’t have to share for a while. She loved me more than she loved them. Or, they broke her heart. I didn’t love those times. I would get defensive, because I wanted her heart to belong to me. She likes a lot of boys. I’m not a boy. The process would repeat a lot. But that was OK, because she still came to me at the end of the path at 3.30pm. She still cuddles me, holds my hand, defends me to the death, kisses my cheek. Those are for us. She’s my best friend and nothing more. Because I love her and know that she loves me. I try not to read into it. I continue to ignore the butterflies every time I see her face. I pretend to like the boys she brings along to double ‘dates’. I wipe her tears after every heartbreak. She looks into a new boy’s eyes. I pretend I wish she wasn’t looking into mine. She wants this new boy to kiss her. I want her to kiss me.
I don’t know why I feel the way I do. I continue to meet her at the end of the path at 3.30pm, waiting for 40 minutes. Only, one day, she doesn’t show up. She left with the new boyfriend she wanted to kiss her. Forgetting about me and my heart. She grows angry at me for not liking her new boyfriend. I grow angry at myself for loving what can never be mine. I could never be angry at her. She pulls away from me and into him. The bone crushing hugs and hand holding turns to a brief wave in my direction. The chatting and laughing turns to a text every now and then. The butterflies in my stomach turn to jealousy in my chest. I don’t ignore it, because she’s my best friend and we felt like something more. She has a lot of schoolgirl crushes. I only have one. We no longer meet at the end of the path at 3.30pm, so I keep walking. Scarred from being a girl who loved a girl. While she continues to be a girl who loves a boy.
(c) Zara Relphman, 2024
You can connect with Zara on Instagram: @zlrelphman, X: @zlrelphman and via their website: hatchman4.wixsite.com/zararelphman
Next, we have a poem by Michael Gold. The Planet Is Burning serves as a powerful reminder of our climate emergency and the impact of not taking action.
The Planet Is Burning
A heavy mix,
For a quick fix,
Of the curse,
Food not growing,
No one knowing,
Where we are going,
And how long,
Can we prolong.
Life on earth?
Can the planet survive?
And still remain alive,
There is also a reality.
And a practically,
That we cannot arrange,
To reverse climate change,
All we can do,
Is try to go slow,
We are perplexed,
What to do next?
For there is no text,
That we can follow,
Or lies left to swallow,
The truth is frightening,
Being struck by lightning,
As we suddenly realise,
That the world we idolise,
Could soon change for ever,
Unless we endeavour,
To finally sever,
Our links with capitalism,
Which like feudalism,
Is an abuse,
That’s outlived its use,
The choice is not just for us,
So, we should make a fuss,
It is about future generations,
Including our own relations,
The problem is capitalism,
And we need radicalism,
To find the solution,
For a peaceful revolution,
To end the anxiety,
Of our throw-away society,
(c) Michael Gold, 2024
You can connect with Michael via his website: radicalsoapbox.com
With Michael’s poem in mind and how much we depend on our beautiful planet, my final piece is something I have written myself: a few reflections on how I try to keep in touch with the natural world around me during the colder months, when my inclination is to hibernate indoors at any given opportunity. I motivate myself by remembering all the things I’d be missing out on if I didn’t venture into the cold.
Enjoying The Natural World During Winter
Despite the firm grip winter has on us in the Northern hemisphere, I enjoy incorporating a little nature into my day-to-day activities because I find it restorative and inspirational. On my walks, I’m beginning to see the stirrings of new life emerging from some of the flower bulbs waking up from their sleep, such as the lovely blue/purple crocus I spotted recently in my local park. I enjoy sipping a warm cup of herbal tea from my flask as I take a break from my walk to enjoy the beautiful bird songs and, as a bonus, I might get to spot a blackbird or two.
At home, weather permitting, the cold clear winter nights offer the best opportunity to catch a planet or two through my little telescope. Throughout February 2024, the gas giant Jupiter is visible in the evenings, while the planet Venus shines brightly as the morning star before sunrise.
Weather permitting, I’m especially looking forward to seeing Venus on the seventh of February because the planet will be snuggled up to a waning crescent moon. This pairing always looks lovely.
The February new moon will take place on the ninth at about 11.00 pm GMT but will be visible as a waxing crescent from February 11 and 12therefore. More and more of the moon will be illuminated as the month progresses until February 24, where the moon will reach its fullness.
This year’s February full moon will be what’s known as a ‘micro moon’. This is because it’s taking place while the moon is farthest away in orbit and will appear to be small in size. Regardless of how small or big the full moon will be this month, I’m sure I will enjoy it as I always do and try to catch some moonshine – providing it’s not hiding behind the clouds!
(c) Niema Bohrayba, 2024
With a 20-year career in operational and strategic human resources, becoming a fellow of the Chartered Institute Of Personnel And Development, Niema is now exploring the world of creative writing and working on her first book. You can get in touch with Niema via Pen to Print.
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to: pentoprint.org/get-involved/submit-to-write-on/
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