Once Upon A Time

By Nusrat Ahmed – Once upon a time, in the kingdom of England, there lived a green woman. She has a little hamlet built of green vegetables and Ladyfingers that she uses for décor. She used to wear large spectacles with a thin coating of green plastic covering the frame. Everything was green, from her spoon to her indoor plants. Her fragrances, as well.

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By Nusrat Ahmed

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of England, there lived a green woman. She had a little hamlet built of green vegetables and Ladyfingers that she used for décor. She used to wear large spectacles with a thin coating of green plastic covering the frame. Everything was green, from her spoon to her indoor plants. Her fragrances, as well.

Every time they were packaged in a green bottle. She would use a green-coloured face cleanser and green-coloured fragrance oils before lying on her bed. She used to paint her nails green, dusted with yellow sparkles on top. When she used to leave her lush area, the school children would wave her goodbye. Everyone she saw on the street used to smile at her, shake her hand, and say something kind.

I was one of the children whom she admired the most because of my demureness and focus in class. I used to pack the vegetarian rolls and green peas in a green box built from the last pages of my school notebook at lunchtime. I would ring her doorbell and leave the tiffin box in front of the doorstep, so she didn’t know who was doing these charmingly illegal activities.

I used to grin pleasantly as I watched her lift the box from her doorstep. I used to go to class as if there were no consequences for the mischievous act that occurred only a few minutes earlier!

Hmm, roasted Ladyfingers tomorrow, visualizing…

“Linda!”

The teacher yelled. It wrecked my ability to think about anything else, and all I could think about was her screaming melody. Ugh! It was definitely not a melody! Please accept my apologies for being a sarcastic infant.

“Yes, yes, Miss”

“What are you thinking?”

“Roasted Ladyfingers, Miss”

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry”

After so many nervous attempts, “Emm” I uttered.

“Miss, I was pondering and trying to memorize the spelling of poemeeeeee yes, pomegranate. I’m having a hard time remembering that spelling.”

“Alright. Take a seat.”

I sat in the tiny chair, oh what an apprehensive relief!

The very next day as I placed my secret tiffin box, the green lady laughed “hahhaha caught you. So, this sweet little cherry has been the one leaving me these surprises for so long.”

“Come on my darling. Oh your nose looks pink today, have you put pink blush on it.”

Holding my nose, I spoke “no, no, it is just the cold that is messing with me.”

“Please take a seat in that warm, cosy chair”

“Oh my butt hurts, move right now!”

A green frog appeared in the chair with an exclamatory face.

“Behave! Todd.”

“Why are you sitting on my chair?”

“She’s our little visitor, Todd.”

Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience. I frowned and asked how this large chair could possibly contain this little frog! Like an enraged oven, the frog became red.

“See what kind of guest you invite in, no respect nothing, talking about my size and length! Sure, I realise that chair is very gigantic for me, but it is mine!“

“Please, don’t be too noisy,” said the green lady. She took my hand in hers and led me into her home’s kitchen.

“I’ve prepared the best lunch. What is this… um, it’s made of coconut, and filled with the fruit that you’re still having trouble remembering the spelling of.”

I was just drooling over the ruby juicy pomegranate, covered with finely crushed red candies, with a burst of white chocolate ice cream leaving a cooling sensation in my tiny mouth. Although mom has strictly said no to ice cream, but forbidden acts are always delicious.  Just to add, a little act of mischief never hurts anyone.

Honestly, 5-year-old me had no idea what other ingredients she was talking about except pomeeee, yes pomegranate, I was not familiar with others items she discussed.

But it was spoon-licking good. While I was enjoying my lunch, I noticed she was pouring tea, which had a glittery appearance, as it flowed from the hot boiling kettle. She uttered “gold!” That, according to my mom, is really expensive. I have only ever seen a locket on mom’s neck made of gold. 

“Well, I’m the only one who can make gold teas. I have so many unique recipes that I will gradually feed you. Now finish it fast since you have to get back to class.”

“Oh wait, I need to warn you about something!”

“You are not allowed to spill the beans in the class about the little event that took place in my kitchen. Not even your mom should know.”

Without any hesitation, I grabbed my small backpack and began heading in the direction of my school. As you know, I am just 5 years old, I can’t hold any secrets from my mom; my tummy hurts to let those secrets reside in my belly. On that buffeting windy night, I just spilled the beans to my mom. Absolutely forgetting about the warning she gave. Now, who knew after spilling her green secrets, she would flee? With her green hamlet too.

Warning! (Do not spill the beans about this dish)

Image (Frog) – Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Image (Pomegranate) – Photo by Priyanka Singh on Unsplash

‘100 Years of Silence’ – Poetry

By Ciéra Cree – plagued by her thoughts; an unfamiliar voice /
utters words of depreciation /
that permeate the silence…

By Ciéra Cree

In commemoration of ‘International Women’s Day’ 2021.

Disclaimer: This piece is not published with the intent of pushing any personal agenda.

plagued by her thoughts; an unfamiliar voice
utters words of depreciation
that permeate the silence
 
the depths of her mind etched out
in a cross of grey
smudging her opinion
& craftily painted lips
colour staining porcelain skin
is she worth more than this?
 
she holds a touch that’s feather-light
& sleek as a ballroom floor
a symbol of fragility
encased in a false serenity
 
adorning her heart on her sleeve
as she paces relentless streets
filled with dark corners &
societal mourners grouped in an
atypical fleet
 
protest leaks from the edges
of delicately pencilled eyes
fluttering from the lashes of
an unbound compromise

why should women have to disguise
& present themselves with a mask,
to be a walking “pop of colour” 
with a mind kept
sheltered in the dark?
 
one hundred years of silence
& a proudly retained composure
held together with a smile & the promise
of change creeping ever closer
 
she isn’t just an object
which is easy on the eye
she’s not merely a victim
failed by a system
that doesn’t try
 
to mediate opinion
& value individual worth
 
for this girl is wholly human
& that’s what should be put first

Image: Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

A Winter Love (Short Story)

By Ciéra Cree – We watched the snow as it fell, amonting upon the floor. It looked so perfect there; untainted and untouched by humanity. I remember…

By Ciéra Cree

We watched the snow as it fell, amonting upon the floor. It looked so perfect there; untainted and untouched by humanity.

I remember that you were standing next to me and that I wished you were standing closer. Occasionally our hands would brush against one another and I could tell that neither you or I really knew what to do. Did you want to move away? I didn’t want to.

In my mind the moment which marked winter was when I could see my breath linger in the air. It never ceased to be able to fascinate me every single time. During those brief moments that piece of me stood still, adrift and able to fly. I bet it would feel liberating to be in that position; in a place where gravity was defied.

Your coat was navy but now hung speckled in ice. Despite the fact that the cold was clearly taking its toll your eyes remained warm. You were wearing one glove with the other hand vacant, dipping into the residence of your pocket in intervals.

I walked to the sidelines of the crowd, missing your presence immediately. My hand felt numb as it exited its glove, fumbling among my bag for a pen. Once I found the pen I wrote what my heart wanted to say:

‘My dear beautiful stranger

I don’t know who you are

And you don’t know me either

But I saw you from afar

I noticed you seemed funny

And the smile upon your face

It made my heart become filled with warmth

That could not be erased

Our hands were nearly touching

And I didn’t know what to do

So I’m writing you this message

To get my feelings through

I think you could be special

But if we leave I’ll never know

So if you feel it too

Come to the bench among the snow’

After writing the note I read it through, blushing loudly. Before giving myself the chance to second guess I ran back over to the crowd, tapping his shoulder quickly and thrusting the note into his hand. I had never felt so simultaneously brave yet embarrassed before in my life.

The time where I sat half hiding behind the bench seemed to last an eternity. Was I being too forward? Too childish? Too everything?

It was beginning to get darker and I knew that I had to go soon which was pretty heartbreaking. I glanced over to the crowd longingly one more time, unable to see the recipient of my ramblings. My heart sank into the snow, becoming cold too.

I took my bag and prepared myself to walk down the path home that I knew all too well, alone as usual. Suddenly something clipped the hat on my head, startling me immensely. What kind of childish idiot was trying to start a snowball fight right now?

It was a glove. Maroon and rolled up into a ball. I picked it up, unrolling it and wondering why it nearly hit me. There was a note inside, reading:

‘To the girl who ran back to the bench

With the silly bobble hat

I’m by far not a poet

But here’s my number

Let’s have a chat x’

My heart thawed. Maybe this winter was going to be warm after all.

Image: Josh Hild on Unsplash

‘PAIN & PEOPLE’ – Visual Poetry

By Ciéra Cree – alas, it appears that you ripped my heart / and now it’s leaking / bleeding unevenly / down and down and down and down / here, this…

By Ciéra Cree

‘PAIN & PEOPLE’ is a piece of experimental visual poetry about the ability to feel human emotion. It was long-listed in the 2020 Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize (London).

Featured image: Jr Korpa on Unsplash

A Witch’s Midnight Whisper (Short Story)

By Nusrat Ahmed – On that day a massive, sinful wind was blowing outside. The universe seemed angry. A black crow started staring at me with his wicked sense of eyes; his…

By Nusrat Ahmed

On that day a massive, sinful wind was blowing outside. The universe seemed angry. A black crow started staring at me with his wicked sense of eyes; his immoral wings gave me a strange, foreshadowing feeling. I observed the forest as I tiptoed towards a small green hut, before suddenly seeing an old witch. She was making an emerald green potion for someone, with a mischievous, immoral expression on her visage.

The fictional witch started reciting her melancholy poem, sparking imagery in my mind. It was a cold, chilly October; Halloween was just on his way. Autumn leaves had just landed under the maple tree precisely a few days ago.

Tiny beige twigs hugged and pinched my toes. “Ah!” I complained in pain, putting my hands over my mouth. A faint voice echoed in my ears, “Shhhhh! The witch might hear!”

Her enchanted magic wand took my senses away. It was so pleasant to watch her from a distance; her hypothetical sweet scent cured my illness and parted unpleasant situations that were hovering throughout my head.

Upon my curing she was left exhausted, doomed with the maddening curse of being sinful yet simultaneously equipped with an aura of healing. Sometimes I think of her now still, and about the little hut in the forest. I wonder what she is doing and how it would feel for her if she were to also have the chance to experience the imagination taking you to another world.

Image: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

‘The Man In The Mirror’ – Poetry

By Anushka Dey – When I look into the mirror / I wonder how little it knows / How little of the man that is me it shows…

By Anushka Dey

When I look into the mirror 

I wonder how little it knows 

How little of the man that is me it shows

Does it know I limp not due to my old age?

Does it know l was never a bird to be kept in a cage?

That l was crazy about mountaineering 

And on one such unfortunate trek 

I fell and broke my leg. Thank heavens! Not my neck.

Oh! How much knowledge it does lack 

It doesn’t know the stories of the scars on my back

It is unaware that l was a wildlife photographer by profession

It wasn’t only ‘fill-bell’ occupation but my addiction & passion

Yes, it can show the wrinkles underneath my eyes 

But does it know the wisdom & experiences behind them lies?

Then all my thoughts were cut-off as the neighbourhood children come yelling 

“Grandpa! Grandpa! It’s time for storytelling.”

With one last look at the mirror l feel pity 

Not for the children, thinking they will too be crumbled of old age as they grow

But for the mirror for how little it knows

How little of the actuality it shows

Image: Alex Lopez on Unsplash

‘Tranquility’ – Poetry

By Ciéra Cree – people wonder why I spend the years / staring at the same old lake. / just the same man / paintbrush in hand / by the…

By Ciéra Cree

people wonder why I spend the years
staring at the same old lake.
just the same man,
paintbrush in hand,
by the bridge on his own again.

again (yes, again)
because I do this frequently.
you see, people like myself 
don’t really care for
small talk or
shallow company.

I’d much rather stand by the water.
a place, at least one to me,
that I feel could handle my depth.

Image: Berkeli Alashov on Unsplash

‘Perfect Storm’ – Poetry

By Soyeenka Mishra – The palpable, howling wind— one I hadn’t heard since years / Racked up in intensity this time; so strong, so cool, so vibrant…

By Soyeenka Mishra

The palpable, howling wind— one I hadn’t heard since years

Racked up in intensity this time; so strong, so cool, so vibrant

A barely concealed power rests within, 

Waiting to be unleashed, that can destroy everything in its wake

Still I love this storm… I wish it’d go on forever

Nothing has ever matched the mood of my heart so well, 

And made me feel lively thus!

The excessively heavy rain—

The noise a deafening melody, 

A serene symphony, veiling the preponderant potency—

Makes my glasses blurry with the spray, and my hair and clothes saturated,

My appearance that of a drowned rat

But never have I ever felt so refreshed, so alive

Out of reach of the dreary world— portentous, draining, and exhausting

The distant places impossible to see, the perspiration forms an opaque sheet

The wind roars with such vigour, making the water charge at me

My heart thuds in my ribcage,

But standing there immobile, I’ve never felt so alive 

The water flows down the streets like a river, 

The surface disturbed with a million raindrops

Broken trees lie on the roads, vehicles long abandoned

A minute precedent of what’s to come—

Unforeseen, unexpected, and intimidating

Not a single soul is to be found out here

But yours truly, who stares around with awe

The wind swirls and dances, 

Sending sheets of mist in all directions with a dull groan, an anguished lament

A catastrophe to some, a nuisance, a tragic calamity 

But to me, a fortuity, serendipity

Sure, I understand the physics behind it

But it’s not a time to be scientific, but poetic

Goosebumps cover my arms and legs

Due to the frigid temperature of the storm; I could be safe inside my home 

With a warm cup of coffee before the fireplace

But the tempest calls out to me, summons my very essence

I don’t want to get away from the cold, the wind, the rain, 

And the beauteous tranquility of the moment

Despite the chaos, the disquiet, it somehow calms my spirit 

I take my sweet time observing, 

And absorbing for content with my sweer, indolent gaze

This sight, this view, the scenery

Disastrously beautiful, or beautifully disastrous—

Majestically magnificent all the same

Nothing will ever be the same again

At last I take my glasses off

And embrace the wind, the rain, the storm

Everything’s a messy blur now; I can only feel the tiny pinpricks

Of the rain, and the wind slamming onto my skin

I close my eyes and feel ice spread through my veins

But nothing has ever encompassed

Such harmony, such inspiration before;

A terrifical, puissant beauty, meant to be

Image: Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

‘Down The Memory Lane’ – Poetry

By Soyeenka Mishra – Life has been so beautiful ever since / I met you that fateful day: five years ago / On a random afternoon of leisure…

By Soyeenka Mishra

29.01.20, 19:09

Trigger warning: this piece contains some detailed description of heartbreak & painful emotion.

A poem inspired by the series ‘Storm & Silence’ by Robert Thier. Read our review of this series by Anushka Dey here.

Life has been so beautiful ever since

I met you that fateful day: five years ago

On a random afternoon of leisure.

Sure, our path has always been

Riddled with obstacles endless,

But getting past them every time

Is task I’d never get tired of

I smile with bittersweet nostalgia

When I reminisce about those days

Aching for every Wednesday to arrive quickly

So that we could meet and pour our hearts out

And experience the happiness of a lifetime

Within those few hours; and when time ran out

It was always a cruel separation which would

Restart the agonising wait of a week all over again

These thoughts make me realise just how much

You changed the very being of who I was,

Turning a directionless, broken doll

Into someone full of animation and emotions.

You gave my life a purpose, something

To look forward to with resolution

Your hopes, your aspirations, your expectations

Made me want to live up to them, and

Fulfil every single one of your wishes.

I strived to see you smile that toothy grin of yours

Crooked on one end, that made my heart flutter and

Skip a beat every time I caught sight of it.

Under your love and affection,

I blossomed into a stronger, happier individual

Who no longer floated adrift without an aim

And who was now likeable to others

Who understood all perspectives of life

Calmly and acceptingly and tolerantly

You taught me how to live, how to laugh

How to love, how to breathe, how to treasure

You were my only comfort at all the times

I broke down, always getting me back on my feet

Wiping away my tears and stealing away my grief

In a trice, just like that

I always marvel at how close you grew to me in such

A small span of time, and then you stole my heart away

You became my muse, the only source

Of eternal joy in my sorrowful existence

I cherish those passed moments such dearly,

It makes my eyes well up to think that

I won’t have such moments anymore

Where you talk, I listen and I talk, you listen

When our souls resonate in perfect harmony

And life seems pleasant again

It’s undeniable and inevitable that

Our time together has run its course

And now it’s time to say goodbye

I knew it was coming for some time

Yet I refused to acknowledge the reality

As I wasn’t prepared (not that I am now)

I might never be ready for this disintegration

From a kindred spirit, the love of my life, my lifeline

But it was never meant to be forever, was it?

It was as if you were made just to make me

Live again, not just exist, and leave my life

Once it was as splendorous and extraordinary

As you believed I deserved to have

Now that you’re gone, I’m trying with all my might

To stay collected and not break into a million smithereens in woe

I promise you I’ll stay strong for you

I won’t return to that shell of a person that I used to be

Before you blessed my life with your existence

Sure, I let some tears flow at night when

I lay on the bed with a gaping void in my chest

Anguish in my heart and ice in my fingers

Painstakingly aware of your absence from my life

As my brain refuses to sleep and torments me endlessly

That’s when I miss you the most

When all kinds of thoughts pay a visit to my mind

And you’re not here to kick the intrusive ones out

But every morning I wake up with determination

And make an effort to adore the tiniest of felicity

Of the day, never losing hope

Walking with my head held high

I swear that I’ll never let you down

And I’ll make you proud that

I learnt to live life peacefully again without you

In it, but with your memories always in my heart

To guide me back to light in case I start fading away

Image: Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

‘Mood Ring’ – Prose

By Anonymous – I bought a ring second hand; spur of the moment, I suppose, though more a spare moment for the glimpse that caught my eye…

By Anonymous

I bought a ring second hand; spur of the moment, I suppose, though more a spare moment for the glimpse that caught my eye.

It’d won my gaze, with dull shine and a haze and all the ways in which I’d never seen before; almost never before.

I asked for a price, a fair price I did pay. My curiosities enveloping, my satisfaction untamed, then just as that, I took it away.

I put the ring upon my finger, of course the ring did turn blue. My eyes didn’t brighten, my heart remain unlightened; because, I felt like it knew.

And then a thought did come to mind, had it worn that shade before? 

Second hand to me, and to them before that – does it know another feeling? Does it know love? Or its meaning?

Had it worn rage like vermilion or sapphire? Had it worn pain like an unfilled desire? 

And happiness, like a star far away; like saudade, a mind made, for the past that never stayed.

Sadness, anger, so many moods, but tell me mood ring;

How are you?

Image: The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

‘Last Lullaby – For Life’ – Poetry

By Anushka Dey – What kind of a miracle you are, oh ! Architect of my fate / It’s the greatest unsolved mystery to me till this date…

By Anushka Dey

What kind of a miracle you are, oh! Architect of my fate 

It’s the greatest unsolved mystery to me till this date 

Gallant you are my unsung warrior 

A shield from all ordeals, you are my saviour 

How do you mould your affection with your fortitude 

Would I be breathing, without your solicitude? 

Inspire me your words, “Pay no heed, society will frown 

you are unique my darling, l believe you will never let me down.”

Your amusement, your delight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

Through the maze of life, you were my guide 

Darkness or light, you were by my side

You sank and drowned, but pushed me ashore 

Left me broken and alone to explore 

It is hard to part when you are so dear 

To my heart you are so near 

Arms to rest on so strong, yet so tender and kind 

Where else on earth would I ever be able to find? 

Your touch, your embrace so tight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

You ask me to take it easy 

How can one do that, when it is driving them crazy? 

Force me not to see you depart

For it will tear my heart apart 

Bid me not farewell, sing me a lullaby 

Before you leave me or say me goodbye 

Your absence won’t be acknowledged in sleep 

The harsh reality through my veins will not seep

Your visage, when you kiss me goodnight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

You cannot leave me behind, take me along 

Because you are the composer, I am the song 

Our bonding will stay forever this way 

It will just tighten today, tomorrow and everyday 

With your warmth and presence divine 

My world will again shimmer and shine 

Even beyond the grave, on your lap my head will lie 

Because love is eternal, it will never die 

Your smile, the seraphic sight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright

Image: Jackson David on Unsplash

‘Our Most Significant’ – Poetry

By Anonymous – Always when we walk, / you would wander too far / into the dark; and always / I would follow you, / through gardens of grey…

By Anonymous

Always when we walk,
you would wander too far
into the dark; and always
I would follow you,
through gardens of grey,
with pages of stone
and black chalk.

I met you in a coffee shop up north.
We both drank tea,
you took sugar, of course.
I got confused because my coat
looked exactly like yours,
and we’d both gotten up at the same time
so when I returned I could have sworn
I’d drank more, and the seat
was unusually warm;
that was when I noticed
the ruby lipstick around the rim,
then you were standing over me
hazel hair with a fringe,
“look at you”
the first words you said to me –
the rest, poetry.

Dandelion dreams
blown away with the
husk of a seed.
You didn’t seem happy,
and for the longest time
I didn’t mind, you were mine
in your perfect misery.
At night we’d go to a lake
that looked across the sea.
There was where we’d bleed
out our bitter resentment for
all the things that weren’t to be.
To me, our most significant
moment was when you
pressed a fifty pence piece
to your lips and threw it so far
I swear the only star
in the sky called its chance.
Into the unknowing distance it fell
and just under the oceans screams,
you’d whisper quietly –

“do you hear how the waves
land softly upon the shore?
how the moon pulls them in,
to send them out again in force;
and the man made of sand
with his sword, ‘not one night more!’
disappearing as would dust,
into an ocean, the sweetest storm;
and as breaks the light of day
within the calm, he finds anew.
to look for hope, to look for love
vowed for victory, but never soon.”

If there was where we’d fall to sleep,
I’d wake with tales of kings and queens.
You’d touch my hand, but never speak,
for only the lonely know nothing of dreams.

Then came the day when we’d part ways.
I’d hardly processed that your hair
was no longer hazel before you spoke,
nothing notable. A subtle joke.
It didn’t seem right to smile but I did.
And as I did I became aware,
that this was likely the last time
you would make me laugh.
Your voice withered, and
thus replayed a montage
of our fondest moments.
I regret to say I don’t remember a goodbye.
We were there 4 minutes, maybe 5.
The sum of a lifetime swept away,
where I’d seen promise, you saw decay.

So recite did I, the kinder times.
Until nothing would remind
me of the memories you left me.
Until soon your face
fades from familiarity;
as have all the faces
of lovers whose names
have long since slipped my tongue.

Months, years would pass before I
find myself in the same place we’d met.
As I ordered my tea I noticed,
my jacket sat opposite another man.
No sachets of sugar next to the
lipstick stained cup emitting steam.

Struck with grief,
I ran to the lonely lake
and dived deep. As I arose
thousands of coins clinked
and slipped between my fingers
and blew through the wind
like sand into the sea.
Who was I to think of
only one star in the sky?
For tonight, they’re all in plain view;
and the words whispered,
they weren’t meant for me,
they were meant for you.

Always when we walk
you would wander too far
into the dark; and now
I stand idle by, as
it envelops you,
more fool me
and my lonely heart.

Image: Kenny Luo on Unsplash