December Contest Winner: Taylor Skaalrud’s Holiday Ode

I can still remember as the embers –
like the stars wrapping ‘round the globe –
faded last December.

We were made together, in November,
and I’m reminded of you by the wind;
its seasonal scent carrying you back to me
with hints of nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon;
its chill bites me like you did
after I first held close your shivering sleeve;
when it slows, and writhes and wraps ‘round my face –
like you, as our lips met when I tongued at your sweetness.

I’m mulling over my soul – steeping it in solitude –
when they say you’re back in town.
You – with your raw dark spirit and body like cream –
let me breathe you in;
let me drown in you;
let your arousing aromas
turn my lonely haze – If only just for the holidays –
into a dream of love in fog.

You’re intoxicating,
mystifying,
… and eggnog.

Contest Winner: Erin Vance’s “Twelve Weeks and the Virgin Mary Cries for Me”

I have a champagne flute in my hand. The bubbles have gone flat. The liquid is warm. I scan the modest crowd for my date. He is handsome but I don’t love him. I wear a gold dress like the Goddess Brigid.

Sláinte! A man smacks his pint of Beamish into my champagne flute as he grins at me and then rushes past. Most of the drink spills onto my dress.

Cliona! Finish your drink and come dance with me! Clare rushes over and kisses my cheek. I pour what is left of the champagne into my mouth and grin, my cheeks puffed out. Clare laughs and tugs me towards the dance floor. It’s so great to see you out, Clio! It’s been what, two, three months? I thought you’d followed Beck to Canada!

Twelve weeks and seven days. Tomorrow it will be thirteen weeks. I haven’t seen Clare for around ten. Beck left eight weeks ago.

I’ve been really busy with classes is all! Clare laughs, stumbling backwards into a man with long hair gathered into a bun. He turns around and smiles, grabbing her around the waist. She keeps facing me while they dance together.

And it looks like someone’s in the honeymoon phase with a new man!

What’s his name? Darren?

Brendan, actually.

He’s cute.

We’ve only been on one date, it’s nothing serious.

Whoever helps you get over Beck is A+ in my books, Clio! She winks, and swivels to grab the man by the cheeks and kiss him hard on the mouth. He looks surprised when she pulls away and she throws her head so far back that she can wink at me. Clare dissolves into giggles.

I’ve got to go to the toilet. See you later, Clare. Stay safe, okay?

The toilet is quiet. It smells of vomit but at least its quiet. I check my phone. The only message is from my mum. Happy New Years, sweetheart! Play safe! I open Instagram. A little red circle tells me @BecktheWreck has posted a new story. I debate whether to click on it, knowing he’ll be able to see that I’ve viewed it. He unfollowed me when he went home to Toronto. I scroll through posts of friends and family celebrating the New Year. Glittery dresses, champagne flutes, kissing couples, my best friend Asha posing with her cat for a New Years kiss. I click on Beck’s Instagram story. He is smoking a joint in his bedroom with a redheaded girl. She smiles at him. I used to smile at him like that, I think. Back in TO where I can ring in the New Year with 5 ounces of premium legal Mary Jane! He laughs and adjusts the camera. This is Mary Jane! The girl laughs. It’s Catherine, you dummy! I watch the video four times. I pause it when Beck’s smile is wide. I cry in the bathroom at 11:05pm on New Years Eve.

My phone beeps. An email reminding me of my appointment at Reproductive Choices Clinic in the morning. I know they will probably turn me away. I know I should have let someone who can actually qualify take the appointment. But, just like I know I should tell Beck about the baby, I ignore it and hang my head between my legs.

-X-

I wake up and Brendan is open-mouthed, snoring next to me. I roll over and scroll through Instagram, stopping on a photo of Beck and the redhead, kissing while confetti falls around them. It’s captioned Third NYE with the love of my life. So happy we found our way back to each other in 2018. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2019. #blessed #couplegoals I want to comment on it. More than that I want to message him and tell him how angry I am. My appointment is in an hour on the other side of Dublin, though. I tell Brendan he can let himself out and eat whatever’s in the fridge. He grunts and rolls over.

I hold my wool coat close around me and lean into the wind. I pass St. Brigid’s Primary School. I stop at a stained glass window depicting the Saint.

Please. I whisper, before carrying on towards The Liffey.

At a newsagent by Beckett Bridge, papers have Abortion Legal Today! Splashed across the cover.

-X-

Quite frankly, Ms. Boyle, I am shocked that you would book an appointment for an abortion, knowing you would not be eligible, therefore taking this time away from a deserving woman who is eligible. I know this is upsetting but there is nothing we can do. I can direct you to Marie Stopes in the United Kingdom if you’d like. I know it isn’t ideal but you would have ten more weeks to make the trip and get the funds together. Perhaps the father can help out with the cost?

The nurse hands me a pamphlet and I leave the clinic. I cry and I think about all of the statues of the Virgin Mary weeping. She was probably weeping because she couldn’t get an abortion, either. Protesters flock me as I leave the clinic. Do you really want to start the New Year with murder, ma’am? A few women with signs chant Reinstate the Eighth!

I spit at the stained glass image of Brigid as I walk past the primary school. A little girl playing in the playground runs over to me.

You can’t spit at things! That’s not allowed! The girl is six or seven years old. I wonder if her parents wanted her. As I walk back to my flat I wonder about every child and parent I see. I wonder how many children were actually wanted. I wonder how many women chose to be mothers. I stop at a Macdonald’s and order a large fries. I open Instagram.

My girlfriends are posting about the first day of abortion access.

#WeLegalizedIt #ProChoice.

Beck is posting about the dispensary in his neighbourhood.

#WeLegalizedIt #ProCannabis.

My cousins are posting photos of their kids asleep before midnight on New Years Eve.

Clare is posting photos from the party the night before. In one I am clutching my stomach and grimacing at the camera.

I click on the messages tab.

Hey, Beck. It’s been awhile. Text me when you can. 00353 1 830 0700. C. I don’t expect him to message me back, but I need the money to cross the border and get the abortion. He bought the condoms, after all.

As I finish my fries and lick the salt from my fingers I wonder about the redhead. I wonder if she’s ever been pregnant. I Google “abortion in Canada.” No legal restrictions on abortion at any stage. Outside, a group of girls with pink pussy hats hold up signs that say We did it! In big letters above a photo of Savita Halappanavar. In October I saw on Instagram a photo that Beck’s best friend posted of the two of them outside of a dispensary in Toronto, holding little baggies of weed. It was captioned We did it!

I wonder if there is anything wrong with the fetus that could warrant an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder what the chances are of a medical emergency that would warrant an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder if the herb mix I saw for sale online could actually induce a miscarriage after twelve weeks. I wonder if Beck will message me back. I wonder if I’ll be able to tell him. I haven’t told him in any of the twelve weeks I’ve known. I wonder if the Virgin Mary wept because she could not get an abortion after twelve weeks. I wonder if God is laughing at me, spitting on St. Brigid, comparing myself to the Virgin Mary, and just a week shy of being able to get an abortion in Dublin. I wonder if God is laughing at my bank balance and the extra 800-euro I need to make in order to go to England to get an abortion after twelve weeks.

I throw up in the MacDonald’s bathroom.

November Contest Winner: Fernando’s “Mind the Gap”!

Mind the Gap

you say of things that behave in unexpected (unexplainable) ways that they are haunting (haunted).
but to haunt is to occupy a place you are not supposed to be, to exist when you should not.
a sense of uneasiness, the gap between the expected and the unexpected, the wanted and the scorned, the comforting and the scaring.
that’s where you find us.

it’s a place like the gap between the train and the platform when you need to take that single step to enter the train and you hesitate.
“Mind the gap!” the speakers would blare in London bellow, and like that gap, a haunting feeds on — and draws out — the irrational.
we revel when we are not paid attention to.
like tripping into a train, a good haunting best happens when you’re looking elsewhere.

And now i must excuse myself, and, while i appreciate your offer, i must refuse.
you invited me here.
you opened the doors and let me in.
you showed me around.

i am wanted here.
i am expected.
i can’t haunt you.

so, good tidings to you.
someday, we will catch up.
your unesteemed interlopers.

November Contest Winner: Taylor Skaalrud’s Haunting Poem

They can’t see what I see beneath me; marooned & timbered stories.
The sea of history resurfaces, It,
Trauma creaks and seeps and seeks its ghost.
It finds familiar feelings.

Wound in the wound it writhes with time’s tithes – the tides;
the black-bile-mould that festers beneath floorboards that
pours forth from holes in the souls that line these walls
until it touches something – someone warm.
An ember to hold onto to turn house into its home.
But this chill house’s hearth cannot house a lively flame
and so, it smothers shrouded Allison with love beyond the grave.

November Flash Reveal

Our editors got caught up watching Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and couldn’t resist basing the monthly flash writing contest on that show. We gave our Patrons an image of The ALP’s home-base in Saskatoon (a character home over 100 years old!) and asked them to haunt the house.

Our winning submissions include an eerie poem by Taylor Skaalrud and a letter written by a ghost by Fernando! We will be posting these flash pieces on our blog over the next few days, so be sure to check them out!

Do you want to get in on these contests? If so, all you have to do is head over to our Patreon page, sign up to donate $2/ month, and bingo, you will receive immediate access to our contests and early access to our On Editing blog series. The top three flash pieces will be featured as the winners on our blog every month. The donations made on Patreon are collected on the first of every month, so if you sign up to donate anytime during December, you will get immediate access to all the perks, but you won’t be charged until January 1st!

August Flash Contest Winner: Erin Vance!

Hello! About a month ago we started our monthly writing contests for our donors on Patreon and promised to post our top 3 picks on our blog–we only have 1 contest entry for this month, but it’s really good. The first contest has closed and the second is launching later today (bonus round: if you start donating before Wednesday you’ll get a hard-copy of antilang. no. 1 and get to participate in the writing contest!).

Without further adieu, Erin Vance’s “Happy Hour”

After she let the rhubarb rot with its roots still anchored in the garden, Aoife filled the prescription. The pharmacist’s ivory coat was stiff like rawhide. He handed her the medication. Aoife plodded home along the dirt road, breathing the dust until her chest felt tight and her head spun. Meclizine hydrochloride. Take two tablets at onset of vertigo symptoms. If dizziness and nausea persists, take one tablet each hour, not exceeding thirteen in a period of twenty-four hours. Do not operate heavy machinery or drink alcohol while taking this medication.

Aoife swallowed hard and coaxed saliva to the front of her mouth. The medication was fetid, chalky. The tablets stuck to the sides of her tongue, began to dissolve as she choked them down her throat. Aoife rounded the corner to the house she shared with her mother, to the porch, to the overgrown garden, the decrepit oasis where the mosquitos were still leeching the blood from her mother’s hands. Aoife’s mother sat on the porch in a pink housedress, a gin and tonic in one hand, the other lingering over a jar of Arbequina Gourmet Stuffed Olives. Aoife’s mother had a proclivity for the anchovy stuffed ones. Aoife liked them because the image of the goddess Mnemosyne was transposed onto the label in faux-gold leaf. Aoife kissed her mother’s forehead, the white hair soft like feather grass. She dropped the paper bag from the pharmacy on a table and went inside to mix herself a drink. Three o’clock meant gin and olives. It was three forty-five. Just enough time to have two or three gins before four o’clock ushered in vodka and soda crackers.

Image result for pigeon

Aoife settled in a plastic chair next to her mother and flung her dirty sandals off the porch. The two women sat in a dry sort of silence, the air around them astringent, smelling slightly of formaldehyde or insulation. Aoife refilled her glass, and her mother’s. Her hands were clammy from the condensation. A pigeon impaled itself on a metal spike, upon which had previously hosted a citronella candle until it melted off in the sun. The macabre interlude prompted Aoife to bring the vodka onto the porch. She sucked on unsalted soda crackers, her head spinning again. She wondered if she should take more of the medication. She popped two tablets into her mouth. They were lost in the wet sludge of crackers and vodka and saliva. The pigeon twitched. It let out a sound that was half-squawk, half-scream, a multi-lingual death growl. It was only three feet away from where Aoife and her mother sat. Aoife sucked on a cube of sugar, filtering vodka through the cube as it dissolved. The bird whirled around on the stake, like a child swinging a hoop around on a stick. It made Aoife dizzy. It wasn’t really whirling. It couldn’t be. She wondered if she should take more of the medication.

Aoife stood to refill her mother’s glass. Her feet were wet. They’d been damp for a long time. She picked up the crystal glass and it splashed onto her hand, stinging where she chewed the skin away from her nail beds. The astringent vapours coated her body. Aoife felt unclean. She turned to the pigeon on the stake. Flies were swarming it. They formed a big, black cloud. Aoife cried out and they were gone. The pigeon was gone, too. Not even its bones remained.

Aoife wondered if her mother had also seen the bird, had also seen it whirl and disappear. Her mother was silent. Aoife sat. The plastic chair dragged against the wood with her weight. Aoife closed her eyes against the spinning afternoon. When she opened them, the sun had set. Out of the corner of her eye the porch light bounced off of the pink fibres of her mother’s housedress. She wondered if she was an amnesiac and brought the drink, still stiff in her hand to her lips. The liquid was warm. Her mouth buzzed with fruit flies. Aoife wretched. She flung herself onto the ground. She writhed, spitting and gagging, tearing at her lips, scraping her cheeks and tongue with her jagged nails. Her head was full of bugs. Aoife ran screaming, straight into the stake. It caught her in the neck. A pigeon cooed in the distance. She gasped, but did not struggle. She fell and closed her eyes, clutching the wound, and went to sleep.

Her mother did not stir.