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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Poems by Ryan Wood:

Jung at Heart

Our nature makes us search for many things
To analyse and see which path to take.
We magnify the image of our lives:
We snorkel on the surface of the lake.

From out of depths that we can never tap
Come archetypes and shapes that we decode.
The tools we use for this take many forms;
We read, or pray, or meditate our road.

But certainty eludes us every time:
Our compasses, just windmills in our hands
For North and South mean little when we go
By landmarks that we cannot understand.

Amongst us there are those who cannot bear
This limbo of the mind or of the soul:
The journey overwhelms them so they rest,
And tell themselves that they have found their goal.

We should not stop, mistaken in defeat;
Although we are uncertain every day.
Far better that we go on with our search;
Appreciate the view along the way.

Glazed Images

"I met a traveller from an antique land"

You've put so much into your convictions, so
don't go flicking blunt insults;
For fear that the polished veneer might yield and
the surreptitious inner-putty suck in your carelessly tossed pebble;
Or, that like a pistol-crack ricochet, bounce back
and shatter your so carefully blown visage.

Despite that preparation: midnight crises of faith
and introspection; layered finishings of pseudo-confidence
that say: "It is through choice and not necessity
that I do this thing";
At this layered image's very centre is a heart
That beats out of time: its subtle murmurs relate;
in mundane non-bombardment, to mere tremors.

But when a stone; absorbed in nonchalance,
then wrapped in the bile of moody mullings over, is propelled, finally;
A titanium-tipped deadly pearl, in a flash of inflamed insecurity;
Or when, instead of breaking through and reducing
your opponent to shattered smithereens of inadequacy and self-doubt,
the shiny, smiling façade focuses your random photon
into a beam so intense that shell and heart shake
from side to side, in resonance of old insecurities.

The tail of that tempered, vitriolic drop, hardened
in the water bath of resolution, is grasped and shatters;
a myriad of self-convinced intentions.
You stand in a comfortless desert, stretching far away;
A quivering, naked heart devoid of its formulated cushion. Say to yourself:
"Look upon these works, ye Mighty, and despair."


This room's walls are softer than they seem.
Somewhere, in their pale, off-white blankness
is the stamped impression of that which they surround:
A face pushed through thin putty
and left to set;
a mask to tag this hollow box.

The poster-laden walls,
the grimy, chaotically ordered shelves,
a homemade pot, a box of tissues;
pink, of course.
A sensible coat hangs next to a profusion of garish colour.

It's the same, behind the face that made the mask.
In there sits a grimy, chaotically ordered brain;
surrounding some sensible reasoning, obscured by garish impulse.
In its centre, the cortex of this mirrored room,
is a cushion of pink tissue,
wrapped around a vase of homemade sanity.


I have been brushed aside.
Along with the weak, the inane and the inept, I sit,
at the bottom of the barrel,
with my feet up.

The words on the page, behind which I shelter,
slide gradually upwards, unregistered.
They represent the excuse; the falsehood:
They hide me from reality, and reality from me.

Occasionally, they refocus.
I realise four unremembered, unregistered pages have slid by.
I take the opportunity to kick for the surface;
to gulp a few lungfuls of sweet relief.

Friday night.
I'm wallowing in the aphotic depths again:
I sink into the glass; the glass sinks into me.
I relax.
The rest is again unregistered.

The world refocuses.
Reality hits but not so gently this time:
Four blank hours have slid by.
I swim to the edge and am hauled aboard.
A gasping, bedraggled amnesiac, I lie back.
After a few days of Wimbledon and long drinks,
I sink back down again.

Sometimes, when you come up for air,
you're so desperate that you don't see the waves behind you.

"Crafty Crow"

Over the fence, the dog begins to whine:
He's had a tough old life.
His rheumy eyes have seen many mundane things.

"She did the three of us out of five thousand pounds in the end."
And so it goes:
broken marriages,
petty treacheries
family feuds.
"She lives around here you know;
shan't ever speak to her now.
Crafty crow:
did us out of our inheritance."

Moving out of the light into the gloomy interior,
the air is lacerated by glowing dust motes.
The wheelchair jerks this bundle of long-festering bitterness
unceremoniously down a ramp which hinders more than it helps.
With a muffled, pitiful exhalation we creak to a stop,
opposite an iridescent modern Pieta.
"Nice; beautiful I suppose; but not my sort of thing,"
before rolling off to greedily inspect shiny postcards of the same picture.

Joining the maul of thin grey bodies;
Thin venous hands reach for divine images:
grey stone crenulations with a backdrop of snow;
the same walls caressed by the summer sun there are more of these ones;
multifaceted windows and the newly commissioned celebration of pure, new life.
But first to go are the words.
Thoughts, tenets and meaningless niceties, extolling the virtues
of peace wisdom and tranquillity,
as if they hadn't enough of these things already.
Still, these modern-day relics are seized
and exchanged, for small change from embroidered purses.
Murmuring sentiments, thinking of yesterday and of forever:
buying salvation.

"I never really knew her, you know.
After the whole business with the money,
none of us talked to her again."
And so the temporary, transient sleep, which punctuates life, comes again.
The eyes droop and that pained arthritic old hand
clutches, still tighter, the bag of cheap church postcards.

The dog tucks his threadbare head beneath a battered paw.
He's forgotten where he buried his bone,
and he suddenly feels very tired.

Original Sin

There is a pear tree in his new garden.
Strewn around it are the fallen:
Rotting and leaking in the shadows and the sun.
Stripy, stinging, minute jump-jets
Take off and circle; buzzing, droning
Into the hot and sticky air

Nearby, I sit in sleepy lethargy,
Batting wasps away from my orange juice.

His new garden...
Her new garden is two hundred miles away:
It has an apple tree in it,
Also complete with windfalls and wasps.
I have visited each, just once,
And have sat in each, wondering similar things.
Questions of People and Love and such;
Of vicious circles and of The Way Things Are.
Is this the way; that after thirty years
Of thundery, humid summer
A twilight winter must come,
And we are left to sweep the debris
From two separate gardens?
Is this the way?

After the desiccated husks
Of the once succulent and rotund
Are swept away, I notice something else:
Amongst the fruit that did not fall
Are skeletal cores like those upon the ground,
Hanging dead, like gibbeted corpses
Rotten before they ripen.

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