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Jade Staircase Lament – In a Station of the Metro

By Martin Porter

Just as the sun sets across the Tuileries, the spring moon rises above the Rue de Rivoli. The air is clear, the sky radiates colour with spectral translucence. I descend into the Metro, grasping the glossy brass handrail so as not to slip on the verdigris-stained brass-edged steps, illumined brilliant jade in the jewelled dusk.

The air is rank, dank with the sweet smell of cherry blossom mixed with the perspiration. I catch my breath and catch a glimpse of her waiting for him, dressed comme des garçons in oriental silk, smart, déshabillé, classic Parisienne chic.

Her face glows, transparent as a nimbus, yet real, more real than everybody else. A gust of hot air sweeps through the station as a train approaches. Hats are held to heads, unbuttoned jackets flap. Nothing about her is disturbed. Discarded tickets blow about her. Specks of dust sparkle through her.

She had already seen him in town dashing through spring showers, as if to a meeting. She was early, buffed and scented for their rendezvous, anticipatory. She was early. He was late.

He is late. Even now, she waits, uncomplaining. He is, to put it simply, never going to arrive. Against hope, she still waits.

Looking away, I push the turnstile and enter the desolate black dendritic roots of the metro. Waiting on the sooty platform, a discarded flier rises in the draught from the tunnels. I brush a pastel pink petal of cherry blossom from my collar.

Martin Porter was born in Jersey C.I., but now lives a retired life in Whangarei, New Zealand, writing poetry and flash fiction.  He has recently had flash fiction published in Flash Frontiers, Blue Note Review, Flash Flood, Flash Mob 2013, Bare Fiction magazine, was an invited reader at Auckland Library for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day Awards 2013, and won the Whangarei Library Flash Fiction prize in 2012 and 2014.  He can be found on the web at poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com.

Photo Credit: Metro Paris – Ligne 13 – Porte de Vanves by Greenski

If You Ask Me: The Ranting Sister

By Matt Galletta 

Question:

My sister likes to rant. A lot. What she rants about doesn’t really matter because we agree about most of the things she likes to rant about. (Though lately it’s been about how everyone is overreacting to threat of Ebola in the US and not concerned enough about what’s going on in Africa.) The problem is that I DO agree with her, and I feel like no matter what I say she goes off on me. It’s like she has this whole lecture planned out, and she needs someone to sit through it. There’s no room for me to talk at all. I’ve told her that if she just needs an audience she should get a blog, but she won’t. She won’t even say anything to our uncle who posts American Ebola stuff nonstop on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been finding myself avoiding her. I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to do.

So you’ve been avoiding your sister…like the plague?

(Pause for hysterical laughter) Continue reading

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INTERVIEW: Simone Caroti

Simone Caroti is Course Director for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Full Sail University and a senior research scientist at the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization devoted to bringing the humanities and the social sciences into the debate on human colonization of outer space. He is the author of The Generation Starship in Science Fiction, a critical history of multi-generational interstellar travel in science fiction. His second book on the Culture series by the science fiction author Iain M. Banks is currently under contract from McFarland.

In this interview with Paper Tape editor Kristy Harding, Simone talks about Iain M. Banks, his forthcoming book on Banks’ Culture novels, and his work at the ARI.

PT: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Simone. Tell us about your new book?

SC: The book originates from a proposal I sent to my publisher, McFarland, in December of 2012. I’d been wanting to write about the Culture series for fifteen years by that point, so I was actually relieved when I decided to take the plunge. McFarland declared itself interested, and I started researching. I continued until April 3rd, 2013. Banks’ announcement of his terminal illness hit me hard, and I immediately stopped working on the book – I didn’t know how to go on.

PT: His death hit me quite hard, as well. I was reading A Song of Stone when it was announced.

SC: I own A Song of Stone, and I very much want to read it, but right now I just can’t. If I may ask, did the atmosphere of the book seep into your reaction to Banks’ announcement?

PT: That’s a good question. I think the atmosphere of the book did seep into my reaction to Banks’ announcement but in an unexpected way. The thing that impressed me the most about A Song of Stone was how Banks wrote about the worst of human behavior with such beautiful language. It was as if he took these characters wallowing in a trash heap, and he gave them dignity. So, when the announcement came out I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of his personal dignity and all the love he received from the community and the horror and tragedy of the cancer that took him away from us. I think sitting with that terrible beauty while reading A Song of Stone helped me to sit with the best and worst of the human experience when the announcement came out, the love and the pain surrounding his death, which is beautiful in itself, in a way: Iain Banks’ work helped me grieve his death. It’s the greatest gift I think I’ve ever received from an author as a reader.

SC: I love that. I think you capture the mood of most people who love his work – you certainly do so for me, and I’m thankful for that.

PT: Thank you. I know we’d all rather have him here still, writing books. Obviously, you did go on eventually. What happened? Continue reading

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This Word Is Forest

By Harmony Button

Sometimes writing — as well as reading — is a kind of bushwhacking. Sometimes, the path exists, and you can almost feel it, underfoot, even when the scrub oak has reclaimed the openness above it, growing in from either side. Sometimes, you think there is a path, but all there is is your own inertia, and when that stalls, there’s no going forward.

This is what happened, the last night of my summer break, the night before I had to re-become my teacher-self and re-be school-responsible and all that good adult-like stuff: Jason and I started up the canyon as the day was slowly fading.

It takes a while for the sun to set inside a canyon — there is a surprisingly long lingering of diffuse light after the source has disappeared behind first the trees, and then the canyon wall, and then finally the far horizon, all the way across the valley, beyond the Oquirrh’s western range, through the double sunset that reflects back from the face of the Great Salt Lake.

*

There is a certain kind of clarity that comes from spending time in forests — as if the forest canopy was the equivalent of a giant tin-foil hat on the world, blocking out all the alien mind-probes and toxic corn-waves. The denser the forest, the greater the protection, the sweeter the bubble of purity: a space set aside from the openness of other types of wilderness. In the lovely little poem “Sweet Darkness,” the poet David Whyte writes that “the night will give you a horizon / further than you can see.” A forest, like darkness, is a kind of closeness, and a boundless expanse. It is womb of limitlessness. Still, there comes a time when the emotional horizon stubs its toes against the literal rocks, and a flashlight comes in quite useful.

Continue reading

Photo Credit: Campfire and sparks in Anttoora by Kallerna

The Awakening

By Dave Dormer

It wasn’t until my early twenties had I realized just what I’d done.

We walked for what seemed like miles through overgrown and choked hiking trails. The odor of campfire smoke clung to everything we owned and my throat felt like it would collapse at any moment. There were little trails of blood on my shins from whipping branches that my brother, who walked ahead of me, would let loose when I wasn’t looking, ‘Sorry’ he’d reply with a grin. I can’t recall how many times I rolled my ankles on the rocky trail, but I had to keep up to my dad who’d always stride ten feet ahead of us hollering, ‘C’mon guys. Keep up!’

We finally reached the fen, my favorite part of the trail and a little easier to navigate. It was still early spring and not much moved other than whiskey jacks flitting about the trees. I kept my eyes trained on the tree line of the marsh’s border in hopes of seeing a moose on its way to drink or swim, but nothing moved.

As a chubby kid and not much for stamina, I eventually trailed behind the rest of my family and our dog. The rustle from the plastic bag in my short’s pocket was a reminder that I was on duty to clean up after him. When my gaze returned to the trail, that’s when I spotted it. A brown wooden box nestled among broken, decaying branches and roots of a dead-fall. I stopped. I looked at the box, and then to my family who were quickly disappearing around a crook in the trail.

‘What is it? Why is it here? I couldn’t take my eyes off it. My stomach twisted in knots at the sight of it. It was like looking at a Christmas present that I couldn’t have. I imagined my dad’s voice booming in my ear as if caught standing again, admiring his shotgun that hung on our wall, ‘Don’t you ever touch it!’ Continue reading

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The Gambler

By Alexander Drost

When I arrived in Sparks, Georgia it smelled of grit and dark pine. The air was so muggy that my shirt was its dampest shade of gray. A clan of children hopped on the bus just outside town.

“That was some hit, Peggy!” One of the boys said. “You really beat the devil out of it.” Peggy smiled.

The bus hissed, the children skipped off and disappeared into the hanging woods. I watched them retract from the road and fingered the poker chip in my pocket, gently edging the engraved 19 with my thumb nail.

“This is as far as we get to it,” the driver said. “The Inn is half mile up there—You’re the Thomson boy coming in, yeah?”

“Yesir.”

“Mmmhm—well stand straight Mr. Thomson. Folks in Sparks can spot a weak spine.”

I thanked the driver and sank off the bus into the clay. It became heavier with every stride I took, and it wasn’t long until my slacks were a violent weighty-amber.

STARKEEP INN

The sign was almost unreadable; its paint had eroded to the wood and the post from which it hung was cracked with sap. The Inn’s veranda railed along its face and its wooden sides were peeking through two trees, grotesquely twisted, and feeding off the lawn. I followed the stepping stones.

A screen door slap jolted my glance upward to face two women, most definitely twins. Both dressed in black gowns which in no way accented a lick of beauty.

“Mr. Thomson,” they said simultaneously. Continue reading