By Mirabel Lavelle
Welcome to my last June Showcase. It’s been an honour to introduce new voices and showcase returning ones this month. Next week, I’ll be sending off the first draft of my children’s book to my editor, so wish me luck!
Saturday 24 June marked Armed Forces Day in the UK. It’s the day we show support to the community of serving women and men, veterans, cadets, reserves and families that make up the armed forces. We commemorate War Heroes up and down the country.
I’d like to start the Showcase with an excerpt from a recently published book, commemorating the voices of such citizens.
Veterans’ Voices (Excerpt)
Afghan was indescribably difficult at times. I wondered if life would ever be the same and even if I would survive. Other times I felt such love and camaraderie from my comrade family, that it soothed the most painful of days. I lost one of my closest friends out there, Channing, within a few weeks.
Channing was a 25-year-old medic who was killed by the Taliban on her way to teach Afghan soldiers basic medical advice. When we were informed of Channing’s death, we had little time to grieve. The Army is 24/7, there is nowhere to rest, to go, stop and reflect. You work nights, guarding the camp and your comrades. When you sleep, your mind and body are exhausted but still, always on alert, like a gazelle in the wilds of Africa. Alert, always watching for predators and attacks.
As medics, we thought that we were protected. We were wrong. We were all vulnerable, like every one of our brave soldiers that worked in Afghanistan. We were all part of the machine that had to keep going, processing, and ready for action. But we are all human and losing one of our own in a scary place, in horrific, unnecessary circumstances is a kick in the stomach that never goes away. We may have been soldiers first, but we were people, with feelings and fears. Comrades were supportive but due to our position, we had to bottle our grief in some ways. It never went away. It remained, fizzing and bubbling under the surface as we continued to be part of the machine. Myself and seven other comrades got to carry her coffin onto the plane, a final goodbye, sending her back to her family. After Channing died, I double-checked everything and became super vigilant. The reality was that none of us were immune.
We spent Christmas 2012 in Afghanistan. It was the hardest time of year for many of us, but the Army made a great effort. We missed our families, but we had our forces family and made it a wonderful day.
During our time in Afghanistan, bands and celebrities would come out and visit. It felt really special and even more so that they were travelling out for us, to show gratitude, lift our morale and entertain us. One time Daniel Craig came out and we got a free screening of his latest Bond film, Skyfall. It was an amazing night. We had visits from the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron and Cheryl Cole also visited us. I remember fondly one night, the entertainers had us all on our feet dancing to The Harlem Shake. It was brilliant fun and is on YouTube still! It was times like that where we felt normal and hopeful. For a few hours got a chance to try and forget the horror that was going on around us. Some respite from reality.
© Helen Aitchison, 2023
Next, a couple of poems by a writer we have seen before. I love John’s work.
Long Distance Call
A bouncing light, flashing from a distant rock pool, is sending me a coded message.
A private call, waiting for an answer.
The clear signal, acting as a beacon, pulls me towards the source.
The sun suddenly vanishes behind a small, grey, fleeting cloud and my guiding light disappears. Communication is lost and my interest fades as quickly as the beam.
I head away from the sharp, slippy rocks and turn back to the safety of the warm, soft sand.
The sealed bottle continues to bob around the rock pool, propelled by the gentle breeze, its base occasionally catching the sunlight.
Miles away, sitting in the shadows of the palm trees, Fatima is unaware that someone nearly discovered her handwritten, desperate cry for help.
© John Holmes, 2023
Doesn’t Sound Right
What a beautiful word.
As it drifts from your lips, it conjures up the image of wind charms, catching a gentle, spring breeze.
Eight letters, arranged in perfect harmony, as if created on Mount Cithaeron itself.
Yet, behind these letters lay a Victorian factory of loud screeching machines, grinding wheels, vibrating metal tubes and howling sirens.
A workplace with no coffee breaks. No holiday periods.
A permanent riot of intrusive noise.
Cacophony, another beautiful word; that lies to you
© John Holmes, 2023
You can connect with John on his website: johnholmeswriter.com
The following piece comes from a fellow Maltese writer.
I want to be caught up between the branches of your legs
And forge a forest path of autumn leaves through your arms.
My future is five seconds from this moment when you will cup my cheek
And I will bend my mouth towards you like a tree towards the sun.
It is a week from now and I’m braiding your fingers
Through my hair and wondering what sunlight must taste like
To the potted aloe veras on my windowsill
And if at night they wonder whether it will come back
My future with you is a timeline bent out of shape
A kaleidoscope of possible realities
Your arms around me are a different time zone
And I can no longer care to look at the clock.
But my survival instinct is kicking in
Telling me I’ve grown too comfortable
Telling me that the sunshine won’t last
Telling me to store up while I can for days it won’t come.
And yet, all I want to do is make a hammock
Between your arms and sink into your skin
Because I’m too young to be this cynical
And I’m tired of pretending naivety doesn’t taste good.
So maybe it was never about the future
Because time is relative and so are you
And we are vines wrapped around each other’s forest floors
And you are someone worth surviving the drought for.
© Nicole Piscopo, 2023
You can connect with Nicole on Instagram: @maybe_its_fate_poetry
Thomas has written for Write On! many times and I’m delighted I’m the one who brought this master of Flash Fiction to our pages.
A Model Setting
Jason slid his fingers beneath the strap of her bra; her body, once cocooned, now radiating heat as she turned towards him. His jacket was off, his shirt following suit as their bodies embraced awkwardly over the gear stick. The temperature was rising, until Jason felt an icy chill cascade from her body.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I… I don’t know. I just get the feeling they’re watching us,” she whispered.
Jason glanced out the window, where the big people – their creators and occasional masters – dallied around. “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “They’re Gods, not perverts. It’s just us here…”
© Thomas Nixon, 2023
He looked before he entered and, as predicted, the suite was deserted. The bed freshly made, the dresser and drawers fully stocked. He could live here if he wanted to, if it wasn’t for the family who actually did.
Right now, they were in the bath. He’d stood outside, listening to the sounds of laughter as water went overboard, soap suds filling the air. The children were happy, though yesterday he’d heard their mother crying as he hid in the storage cupboard. A part of him wanted to step out and hug her, to make things right.
Maybe tomorrow he would.
© Thomas Nixon, 2023
One Step For Humanity
They spotted him over the pacific ocean: a white blip sailing across Earth’s orbit. Jamison’s heart leaped at the sight; their Captain’s body becoming eerily clear on approach.
The retrieval mission was a multi-million-dollar project, one they’d fought like hell to make happen. Washington was apologetic, but resolute: their commander was space debris. There would be no rescue, until the private sector sensed an opportunity.
No matter the cost, Cap said nobody would be left behind. As the shuttle surrounded the suit’s icy exterior, they knew their mission was finally complete.
“We got you, Chief,” Jamison said. “We’re bringing you home.”
© Thomas Nixon, 2023
You can connect with Thomas on Twitter: @Tnixon98
This short piece is from Haley Pitman, who you’ll remember edited last month’s Showcase, alongside fellow Sunderland University student, Amelia Cave.
The Slip Away Tree
Wither wilt wires
Holding fiberglass leaves
The roots went dry with the fires.
Under our tennis shoes
Bring your watering can eyes,
And flood it!
With our drowning riversome tries
If we stall any more
The tree will fall.
And everyone will ask the riddle.
“Do you hear it if no one is around?”
We’ll hear it plenty.
We made the sound.
© Haley Pittman, 2023
Connect with Haley on Instagram: @HaleyPittman and LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/haley-pittman-7b0545265
I loved this wonderful article by debut writer Kim Minshall about making the untrendy, trendy.
The Eternal Trend
I vividly remember the day I arrived home from school, armed with a hand-knitted wall hanging for my mom; it was a buzz, to say the least. This wasn’t my first brush with handicraft. At home, the Knitting Nancy had been out countless times. My mom was a maestro on her beloved knitting machine and my nan was wholeheartedly addicted to knitting toys. Here I was, five years old and already hooked. But it wasn’t trendy back then, was it?
My crafty love affair continued throughout my teens and, after moving to Sunderland in my late 20s, I started feeling lonely, so began going to my mate’s house to craft. Each week, she’d rhinestone her burlesque outfits, while I knitted. We were in our element!
Then I had a thought. I’d heard about Stitch and Bitch groups which originated in America during World War II. Could it work now, in Sunderland?
When a new funky record shop opened in town, I eagerly eyed up their couches, asking for permission to use the room for a meet every Saturday. After a couple of weeks and some heavy Facebooking, I nervously awaited the first get-together.
I decided to remove the barriers often self-imposed by knitting groups: kids were welcome, as were all genders, ages, skills, crafts and abilities. Pop Recs provided the space every Saturday morning between 10-12. It worked. People didn’t just come the once, they returned each week and, before long, we’d filled every couch in the room.
But it still wasn’t trendy, was it?
The next decade passed in a fuzzy haze, consisting mainly of pom pom fluff and a lot of laughter. But we’ve also had members attend from across the world, established a yearly Scarf and Hat Charity Drive for the homeless and held wool sales, craft fairs and community events.
In fact, the group has forged artistic futures. Talented members utilise everything from paper and thread, to beads and dyes. Some have started a business in the industry or dedicated their retirement to teaching others through volunteering. I’ve progressed to taking unique commissions, publishing knitting patterns and creating a brand of all-in-one-knitting-kits with a good friend.
It’s not just the camaraderie we love; there’s something magical about creative people bouncing ideas off each other while choosing sweater colour schemes, sharing new skills, or discussing the finer details of a button band.
But, of course, it’s trendy now!
(c) Kim Minshall, 2023
You can connect with Kim on Facebook: Kim’s Minny Makes and Instagram: Stitch & Bitch Mackem & Tap’em @stitchandbitch.sunderland
Finally, I’d like to end with a photo of a school project I took in the food hall at The Hay Festival. Local primary school children drew pictures, took photographs and wrote about the River Wye. As a teacher and grandmother, I find I always learn a lot from children. The project was called: ‘Help Save The Wye’. It makes me think about stewardship of our surroundings and our planet.
These children got me thinking about the environment they will be inheriting. ‘Environment’ was one of the topics that came up during our presentation at the festival and it is, after all, what we exist in. These children’s message of hope most definitely has a place in current literature. Children should be seen and heard, because they remind us grown-ups of what matters most!
Connect with Mirabel on Twitter: @Mirabel20287342 and Instagram: @mir.j.car1
Image of Welsh Bathing Site (c) Mirabel Lavelle, 2023
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