Exposure № 116: Redemption | Suspended

Redemption

New Snake-Oiler Nika Ostby shares some beautiful photography with us in a new series. Above, his image “Redemption”. Below, you see “Suspended”.

Suspended

We’ll be featuring more of Nika’s photos next month.

* * * * *

Nika Ostby is twenty, but is kind of an old man. (He wear slippers and drinks a lot of tea.) He is fascinated by the redemptive quality of water. Whether he is taking photos or not, you can find him by the sea. He is drawn to the ocean. This is his first contribution to Snake-Oil Cure.

 

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Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issue 6

Snake-Oil Cure favourite Brenda Mann Hammack took over the site this week with her wonderful Victoriana. If you missed anything this week, you should take a chance to catch up below!

Monday

Wednesday

Friday

 

More from our great Snake-Oilers, old and new, next week!

Gargoyle Triptich III: Tinderbox

Her womb does not wander, but her heart
wobbles like a planet.  Since Cardiff’s moved
to London overnight, even sky’s slipped
bogward.  So, no one really blames her
when she sighs, “I won’t get up,”
and draws the musty bedclothes
over head.

Even Vesper can’t be bothered to object
now its feathers have turned purple from neglect
and spleen-burst temper.

Without Victorine, its tantrum might be moon flare
or poof for all Herself takes notice,
and Scritch is busy poking mortises
in hip to fix its rotting carcass,
so, Hob, alone, is left to mind the script
of blue-vein pattern that marks her wrists,
like marbled alabaster.

Too quick to cast indifference as disaster,
Hob’s lizard skin burns white in calcination
that might be worry, love, or even consternation,
but isn’t.
Indignation is its only mood,
self-interest its only obligation
though it doesn’t mean to kindle conflagration.

Soon, a cushion starts to sizzle,
then a tassel of her hair;
a titian braid goes up in Guy Fawkes fashion.

She’s a sparkle-bloom, a Leonid,
a candlestick cum whirligig,
and though Scritch knocks (by accident)
the washstand’s pitcher, empties it
upon the carpet, she will not crispen more than this
for flammability of skin
is offset by those drams of tinctured arsenic
mixed with antimony.

She’s more than bony in complexion.
She’s more or less immune to firing,
scald, suttee, and spontaneous combustion.

But, her temper isn’t proof against such unctionless behavior.
Scritch will not cease its ill-advised palaver
while Vesper rails against the window pane
like gravel, hailstorm, migraine.

Hob cannot be found, which is a loss for artful science
as odes on expiring gargoyles could be the rage in literary violence.

She never thought she’d say it, but “that child is missed.”
Herself can but admit that patience
with refractory gargoyles is a gift she lacks,
while Victorine was all but martyr-cast
when it came to wayward crossbreeds of anatomy and temperament.
She could keep them pent with mollified suspense
and even grim amazement.

Now, she’s gone, Herself is left to fend off polymorphous boredom,
disaster-prone estrangement
from that happy state of mindless mutability that preceded story.
She’ll have to think of something—else conclusion could get gory.
It’s bad enough when boudoir’s made a lizard’s crematory.

As Scritch, like mandragora’s root, keeps up its rib-cracked shrieking,
and Vesperbird makes hummingbees seem fast as dodos breeding,
Herself restores the bed that’s left and Hob’s red eyes flick, blinking
from in between the andiron dogs
like expectation piquing.

*

This week’s series of three poems comes from Brenda Mann Hammack’s neo-Victorian fantasy in verse, which revolves around a twelve-year old girl, Victorine, and her companion, a chimerical creature forged of cat, owl, and dragonfly.  At the beginning of the narrative, the duo resides in a manse that is part museum, part mausoleum. Fearing that adult caretakers will make a morbid exhibit of the Humbug, Victorine decides that the two must run away.  In her ensuing encounters with human children, the girl finds that the outside world is far stranger than she’d realized—and even her own nature is not quite as natural as she had believed.   In the following selections, the residents of the manse cope with Victorine’s absence.   The adult figures include: Herself, a spiritualist, who remains in perpetual mourning for her stillborn daughters, and Himself, a teratologist, or a creator of monstrosities.  Scritch, Vesper, and Hob are a trio of excitable gargoyles.

* * * * *

Brenda Mann Hammack is Associate Professor of English at Fayetteville State University where she teaches creative writing, women’s studies, and Victorian literature.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Toe Suck Review, Gargoyle, Mudlark, Caveat Lector,Otoliths, A capella Zoo, Bull Spec, Steampunk Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster.  She currently serves as faculty advisor and managing editor for Glint Literary Journal. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Gargoyle Triptych II: A Seance

Not even fox cry could be more supernatural than goat-eyed Scritch wuthering in drawing room.
Even skeptics retch
as, ever mimetic, gargoyle delivers watersong through phossy-jaw.

“The spirits of the charnel-house are with us now,” Herself croons.

Himself nods benignant, eyes cat-lit.
Lucifer flies on lamp glass snooze.

Sitters clench fingers as Hob, beneath table, rubs skull to shinbones.

Flesh is eel jelly.

They had not meant to raise sleep-crusted Scritch, meant housebroken spooks
who spelled names in Ouija.

Himself seems indifferent to lung-rot, smiles indulgent.

Not Barnum, Robert-Houdin, or even Hermes (Trismegistus) could look so bemused by crisis,
shambles, slaughterhouse as gargoyles lick, pinch, snap, chew till devotees gust into gloom
safer than inside.[1]

Herself (abandoned priestess) is more ruinous blue than ever.  Her skin: bruised
under eggshell.  Arms, hands, even face craquelured.

By daylight, nothing improves.

Her spirits are oddly silent.  What good are reliquaries without worshippers?  Toe stub,
knucklebone.  Her little saints—those almost daughters kept in bottles—

had never known
disbelief, hunger, hope.  What could a gargoyle make of baby?
Curdled yolk.

Which one broke bottle glass, gulped formaldehyde like eggwhite?

Scritch:  transparent abdomen, dreg-clogged.


[1]  Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin was a celebrated Victorian illusionist.  A god of magic, Hermes Trismegistus escorted the dead to the Underworld in Greek mythology.

*

This week’s series of three poems comes from Brenda Mann Hammack’s neo-Victorian fantasy in verse, which revolves around a twelve-year old girl, Victorine, and her companion, a chimerical creature forged of cat, owl, and dragonfly.  At the beginning of the narrative, the duo resides in a manse that is part museum, part mausoleum. Fearing that adult caretakers will make a morbid exhibit of the Humbug, Victorine decides that the two must run away.  In her ensuing encounters with human children, the girl finds that the outside world is far stranger than she’d realized—and even her own nature is not quite as natural as she had believed.   In the following selections, the residents of the manse cope with Victorine’s absence.   The adult figures include: Herself, a spiritualist, who remains in perpetual mourning for her stillborn daughters, and Himself, a teratologist, or a creator of monstrosities.  Scritch, Vesper, and Hob are a trio of excitable gargoyles.

* * * * *

Brenda Mann Hammack is Associate Professor of English at Fayetteville State University where she teaches creative writing, women’s studies, and Victorian literature.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Toe Suck Review, Gargoyle, Mudlark, Caveat Lector,Otoliths, A capella Zoo, Bull Spec, Steampunk Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster.  She currently serves as faculty advisor and managing editor for Glint Literary Journal. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

 

Gargoyle Triptych I: Quite Contrary

The following poems come from Brenda Mann Hammack’s neo-Victorian fantasy in verse, which revolves around a twelve-year old girl, Victorine, and her companion, a chimerical creature forged of cat, owl, and dragonfly.  At the beginning of the narrative, the duo resides in a manse that is part museum, part mausoleum. Fearing that adult caretakers will make a morbid exhibit of the Humbug, Victorine decides that the two must run away.  In her ensuing encounters with human children, the girl finds that the outside world is far stranger than she’d realized—and even her own nature is not quite as natural as she had believed.   In the following selections, the residents of the manse cope with Victorine’s absence.   The adult figures include: Herself, a spiritualist, who remains in perpetual mourning for her stillborn daughters, and Himself, a teratologist, or a creator of monstrosities.  Scritch, Vesper, and Hob are a trio of excitable gargoyles.

*

The shadow is a moving bruise,
the path like skin when arsenic stanches hue
and pulse.

Nerve betrays her as the crunch of cockle shell
perturbs the garden’s argumentative polyglot.

Requiescat won’t soothe them now the child has left.

They clamber on the turret: a copper-colored eft with wings;
a bent Methuselah without pelt or even flesh
to keep its insides to itself; a Celtic curse,
or, else, a feathered elf so fast one cannot tell its shape.

All three give meanness something else to gape
about besides itself.

Both near and far, Herself hears branch-slither:
“Whisker went that pretty maid who scold us stories?”
They listen for that soft, clipped cadence of a voice.

Waylaid, Herself cannot defray the cost of consciousness
now bent on hearing chronicles at bedtime.

She only knows a few, and those, like birdlime,
are loathed by flying things for sticking
so to rote, to rhyme that never varies from its pattern.

In sum, she can’t extemporize, and ever-afters
provoke barks of something turpentine
with anguish.

They can’t be sanguine in the face of zealousness,
and can’t abide a moral if it sounds like one.

Denied, they unwrench form from shadow,
and fill the air with pain, appassionato.

* * * * *

Brenda Mann Hammack is Associate Professor of English at Fayetteville State University where she teaches creative writing, women’s studies, and Victorian literature.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Toe Suck Review, Gargoyle, Mudlark, Caveat Lector,Otoliths, A capella Zoo, Bull Spec, Steampunk Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster.  She currently serves as faculty advisor and managing editor for Glint Literary Journal. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

 

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issue 5

This week, some poetry and fiction graced our shores. Check out what you missed below, and stay tuned for more next week!

 

Wednesday – Poetry

Friday – Fiction

 

More to come next week from favourite Brenda Mann Hammack!

Always Crashing in the Same Car

August 27th, 10.03am

Tires were screeching around the coastal roads of Sarnia, roads that from above formed a right-angled triangle floating in the deep azure of the English Channel. Several passengers peered from the windows of an airplane descending into the island’s tiny airport and saw the husk of a car, its exhaust puffing like an aged smoker, make a sharp right turn below them before disappearing behind a swathe of trees. The old Volkswagen now heading along the longest straight on the island – the hypotenuse of the triangle – was slowly gathering speed.

The coast and its cresting waves blurred into a wash of blue as John’s foot pressed down on the accelerator. Finally, at sixty miles per hour – far too fast for the narrow street ahead of him – his hand twitched and the car squealed left across the pavement and through a wooden barrier that separated him from the water and the rocks below.

In John’s mind, he flew gloriously off the edge of the cliff, plastic, metal and flesh caught in the air simultaneously, sailing away from the ground. In reality, the VW thumped with a scrap-metal crash into a ditch, and his head thudded with a dull snap against the driver-side window.

August 10th, 12.21pm

The geometry of shadows gathered around Gillian’s feet was on the move. High above her, the noon sun cast a strange kaleidoscope of lines on the sand, and John watched as she reached the water and stepped, tentatively at first, into the English Channel. Even during the summers, the salty, thick waves were cold to the touch, and he imagined the goose bumps now peppering her arms.

She hopped forward, her body tensing into right angles. The bathing suit still fitted snugly, the same one she’d taken on their honeymoon. John smiled and leaned back onto the sand as she disappeared into the water.

Gillian waded in and, in a moment of quotidian bravura, finally dipped her shoulders under the water’s surface. The salty sting of the sea slipped past her skin as she swam further out, and eventually her body temperature equalized and she was comfortable. The goose bumps had disappeared.

She stopped and turned over onto her back, her hair, tied in a loose bun, weighing her down like an anchor. The sky wasn’t cloudless – Sarnian skies rarely were – but it was bright, with sheer spots of sunlight pounding at the sand. Leaning her head forward, she could still see John’s feet, his white chest, and his eyes, closed to the sky above them.

“Why don’t you fuck off back to England?” The voice woke John, clear above the sound of the sea brushing the sand. He propped himself up on his elbows and watched a teenage girl in ankle-high Converse shoes and a miniskirt trying her hardest to stomp across the sand and away from a boy wearing nothing but swimming trunks and a dumbfounded expression.

“What was that all about?” he asked. Gillian had returned and the goose bumps on her legs had mutated into tiny grains of sand.

“Dunno.” She lay on the towel next to him. “Not much to do on a Sunday if you’re a teenager.”

August 21st, 5.34pm

John left Town and drove toward home. The movements were familiar, the turns of the road second nature. The rocks, grass, sand, and glass houses moved past him barely noticed. It never took more than fifteen minutes to drive anywhere on the island.

Along the coastal road, he sped up and passed Fort Grey, a coastline fortification that, like all the others, stood defunct at the water’s edge. Concrete and cylindrical, atop it a flagpole flapped a Sarnian flag wildly in the breeze. Retrieving his phone from the passenger seat, he dialed home. No answer. He tried Gillan’s mobile, leaving it to ring several times before hanging up at the sound of her voicemail message.

Gillian had settled into the back of the Duke of Normandy pub. She let her phone buzz futilely against the table. A glass of beer stood waiting for her just beyond it, and she took a hearty swig. Before they were married, she only ordered wine or, in an emergency, gin and tonic. But now, beer had become a staple – cheaper and longer-lasting – and the low wooden beams and dark corners of the Duke of Normandy had become welcoming in a way that their home was not. The cold glass sides and summer skylights that John had installed two years ago were impersonal and cold to the touch.

Her phone chirped and she picked it up. A text message read: Where are you? See you at home!          John parked and went in through the conservatory door. The sun was low enough to cut diagonally across the room, leaving a slice of orange light leading from the floor up to the interior door that led to the kitchen.

Gillian arrived half an hour later, the sun setting through the trees, and the sound of waves bristling against the distant coast. Her old Volkswagen fit neatly between the garage and John’s slovenly parked Audi. John was asleep on the couch, today’s copy of the Sarnia Herald folded open and balanced on his chest.

August 27th, 7.17am

The sun climbed higher that morning as Gillian rose. John lay still, asleep between the waves of their bedsheets.

She left the note in the kitchen beneath a stone figurine that they had received as a wedding gift. The note was short, could be read as brusque, but she didn’t want to run to more than half a page.

Snores percolated like coffee as she slipped her maroon travel bag out of its usual place in their walk-in closet and grabbed handfuls of clothes from the dresser drawer. Stuffing socks, underwear, then t-shirts and pants into the bag, she paused for a moment. If she had been expecting one last roll, a twist of limbs that signaled a disturbance in John’s sleep, she would have been disappointed.

August 27th, 10.12am

Tires were screeching around the coastal roads of Sarnia, roads that were just the ragged edge to the Sarnian soil. Gillian was high above. From this distance, the island always seemed so idyllic, a misty antique, something to be preserved for the future. She lay her head against the airplane window and she sensed a gust of air colliding in a spiral with the plane’s propellers. The island shrank away from her, a patchwork of fields interrupted by the reflections of greenhouse roofs.

The airplane tilted left and into the clouds. Gillian stared out, glimpsing between the white wisps a congregation of cars and people on a coastal road, blue lights and more piercing red ones flashing at the scene of some accident or crime. Who said nothing ever happened in Sarnia? she said to herself.

Her stomach lurched, the clouds enveloped the airplane, and suddenly the island disappeared.

* * * * *

DLR likes writing for fun, and writing for money. He likes his dogs to have beards, and his bourbon to have poise. He is editor and cofounder of Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure, and his other Snake-Oil can be found here.

The Honorable Scar

There’s honor to the scar,
this jagged ridge of my survival.
Sure it was a dumb adventure with a knife
that did it.
But people don’t know that.
And the years can keep a secret.
There’s a mark on the back of my hand
where I caught the blade of the thief
when riding rescue to some woman’s handbag.
It’s a souvenir from a skiing accident
down the steepest slope in Vermont.
Or I was sliced by thick jungle creepers
in the depths of Costa Rica
or fought ten rounds in a Brooklyn gym
and you should have seen the other guy.
There are times when all I have
to prove myself with is skin
so why shouldn’t it stretch the truth a little.
I’d rush in if a woman was threatened.
I could match wits with that treacherous downhill.
Jungles, middleweights.. . they’re safe
because I’ve never had the opportunity.
But I did try to peel a potato once.
An honorable man has to start somewhere.

* * * * *

John Grey is an Australian born poet who works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International and the horror anthology, “What Fears Become”, he has work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. III, Issue 4

Great new fiction, photography, and poetry from some classy Snake-Oilers this week. Check out what you missed below.

 

Monday – Photography

Wednesday – Fiction

Friday – Poetry

 

More to come soon! Watch this space.

See and Know

I look around myself
Never spending much time in..
Easier to cast my eyes
Than knowing how I got to this place that I take in

I look around
Sometimes the words lie too much with me
Calmer more relaxed they would take their place
Open doors see a happier side
See my inability to extinguish lies

See and know
That you can’t take this picture from me
And god knows you tried

Because I have looked deep and around myself
And seen it here and now
That I’m glad to know you

* * * * *

David Mellor was born in Liverpool in 1964.He Left school with nothing, rummaging around various dead end jobs, he then went to college and university. In his 20s he first discovered poetry, and started writing and performing and has done so ever since. He has Lived on the Wirral for the past 8 years. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.