I’ll keep this relatively brief but firstly, welcome to the newly mutated arm of Use Your Words.
For anyone reading this that isn’t aware, over the last year I have run a couple of events at Brew Dog in Southampton for writers to read and share their work. It’s been wonderful to see so many people come forward enquiring about taking part as well as having more spoken word performers booked on local DIY shows. In the back of my mind over the last couple of years I have been toying with rebooting my old lit mag in some capacity and so, in an effort to try and provide a platform to champion writers outside of performance, I decided to do this.
In this first issue I am delighted to share some fantastic work in the form of poetry from Georgia Penny, Chloe Brehaut and Phaedra’s Love, and short fiction from Susan Tepper and Iris N. Schwartz.
My hope is that I will be able to release new work fairly regularly in some form or another so if you’d like to share your work, please check our submission guidelines. You can also sign up to our newsletter if you’d like to get content via email and updates about future events/releases here.
Hope you enjoy,
· Hello My Dear ·
by Susan Tepper
As usual Dr. Schnapps is smoking his pipe. Out in the hall I can smell it. I haven’t the heart to tell him that his pipe tobacco makes me nauseous. When I enter his consulting room he is standing near his desk. He makes this little bow. “Hello, my dear. I hope it’s been a good week.”
Like clockwork I start crying hysterically. I don’t even have my shoes off yet when the tears pour down my face and I start retching and gagging and snot jams my nostrils. Every time he speaks those gentle opening words I just fall apart.
“There, there,” he says. “Have a tissue and lie down and tell old Schnapps all about it.”
“It’s going to take more than one tissue.” I choke back phlegm clogging my throat.
“My dear, take the entire box. Tissues are all part of the service.”
The script never changes. I never feel better. Week after month after year.
“Lie on the couch and tell old Schnapps what is troubling you, child.”
Well, for one thing, it’s your pipe. Of course I don’t say it. He’s deeply sensitive. He always makes sure to have the unscented tissues without the lotion that greases them up and leaves an after-taste if you need to wipe your lips when you’ve finished sobbing. I appreciate that small touch a lot.
I also don’t say that I feel strange calling him Schnapps when his diploma from Université Tremblova with its gold crested seal and hand-lettered black fountain pen ink clearly has certified a ‘Dr. Emile Schnapenfodder’. I don’t say I feel it’s silly and beneath him to mock his true name, Schnapenfodder, which his family, I’m sure, carried with a certain pride instilled in them from years of impoverished suffering in their homeland. Filthy slobbering work that I’m sure involved pigs. I don’t say any of this but continue to sob each week.
Taking off my shoes, I settle onto his consulting couch. The room is always dim and slightly warm. Everything in here ancient; from his homeland I suppose.
Schnapps clears his throat. “My dear, because we are making limited progress, might I suggest you come twice a week? Your insurance will cover the extra cost, I’m certain.”
Twice a week! Has Schnapps gone bonkers? Two of us bonkers cannot be a good result. I’m trying to straighten out my neurotic tendencies and he wants me to come here and smell his pipe tobacco two times a week? I squirm on the couch batting the pillow.
“Is it the wool pillow making you feel uncomfortable?”
“No, no. It’s not the pillow. I like the pillow, it keeps my neck from freezing.”
Schnapps raises one eyebrow over his round, frame-less spectacles. Like a brown bristly mountain with a lot of cactus-type overgrowth. “You have a frozen neck?”
“Well, yes. It is winter. It’s February. Everyone has a frozen neck in February.”
His eyebrow collapses back down behind his specs. “My dear, that is a problem you are not addressing.”
“What do you mean?”
He coughs a few times. Hollow. I think of a skeleton coughing. “Well,” he says. “To do nothing about a frozen neck in February is to feed your neuroses. Have you perhaps considered wearing a scarf?”
“Some women do. Men also. Healthy people find a way to solve what is troubling them. For instance, if you get a corn on your foot, you can stop into the pharmacy and purchase a corn plaster. Dr. Scholl sells them in a variety of sizes and styles. The healthy person would do this simple task. The neurotic, on the other hand, would lament over the corn, perhaps cry out while walking. My dear, do you understand the difference?”
I take a moment to absorb this information. “Is Doctor Shawl from your same University?”
Schnapps chuckles and the pipe nearly falls out of his mouth.
I sit up quickly. “That could have caused a fire! You have all these old rugs. Do you know how fast a fire can start?” I press my hands to my heart to stop the palpitations, at the same time spinning my head wildly searching for the exits. There’s only one way in or out. This paralyzes me. I feel stuck to his consulting couch unable to move or speak.
“If you have trouble with a scarf you might consider a turtleneck sweater. They are very becoming and sold in many colors. You certainly have the figure for it.”
I’ve heard about these therapists often seducing their patients which is why I chose one old enough to be my great great great grandfather. Schnapps’ comment about my figure makes me feel more nervous than ever. Like I want to jump out the window. I realize I’ve never noticed a window. But now I see it, there it is! Next to a corner, with long dark maroon drapes practically hiding it. A leafy fern on a stand placed in front of that window. Deliberate? Did Schnapps set the plant there so he could seduce his patients while still managing to keep them from jumping out the window?
My head is feverish. I can feel my life veering toward minus zero. “Have you ever heard about not smoking in public?”
Schnapps looks startled, then his eyes twinkle behind the specs. “This is not public, my dear, this is a private medical office.”
“No! You are wrong about that, Doctor Schnapenfodder! I am the public. Anyone who comes here is the public. Technically, you can only say it’s private when you’re here alone. When I’m here it’s public.”
“Aha!” He’s been rocking in his chair and doesn’t change the rhythm. He grins, the pipe clenched in his teeth. His teeth are in bad condition. I knew that before today. I gave him a pass on his teeth because of his poor beginnings. I’m usually a stickler for hygiene; particularly teeth. Teeth are one of my areas.
“You know how teeth are one of my issues?”
He nods: rocking rocking rocking.
“Doctor I feel you should have your teeth professionally cleaned. You may have lingering bacteria that could seep down into your heart valve.”
“My dear, should we switch places?” When I just stare at him, he taps the pipe against a glass ash tray. “You come sit in my chair and I’ll take the couch. I feel a bit tired today. It will be a nice change. You can be the doctor and I will be the bad patient.”
“Are you saying I’m a bad patient, is that what you’re saying?”
He yawns. “No, my dear, it was just a joke. A little joke. When you become less neurotic your system will adjust to the humor of the universe. Until then… we can only wait… hope.”
“OK.” I swing my legs off the couch and stand up. “I’ll switch with you.”
Schnapps looks surprised, then shouts, “That’s the spirit! Rise to the challenge.”
We pass like strangers in the night. He lies down shutting his eyes. “Ahhh… I had no idea my patients were so comfortable. It is a very good couch. Whereas that rocking chair, my dear, I hope you don’t find it too unwieldy without a nice soft cushion under your behind.”
His eyes remain shut. I glide toward the window. Weightless like an apparition. Lifting the potted fern. Ceramic from the old country. A pretty country scene. It’s heavier than I expected. A lot heavier. It makes me hunch a little. Glancing over my shoulder, I can see his eyes are still shut, the pipe clamped in his teeth. He’s snoring lightly. What if that damned pipe falls onto one of the threadbare throw rugs? Inferno!
Moving toward him, I lift the pot bringing it down on his head hearing the crack. The ceramic pot strangely still intact. The pipe, landed on his chest, is not burning. But Schnapps, dear Schnapps. Soil is spilled everywhere.
Susan Tepper is the author of six published books of fiction and poetry. Her seventh book, a Novella, will be out in late 2017 by Rain Mountain Press, NYC. Tepper has received many awards including 7th Place Win in the Zoetrope Novel Contest (2006), 2nd Place in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2014, multiple Pushcart nominations and a Pulitzer nomination for a novel. www.susantepper.com
· Morning Dialogue With Myself ·
by Georgia Penny
Today I’m going to get out of bed
I’m going to tick things off of my to do list
I’m not going to be too scared to move
I’m going to overcome the sludge in my brain
I’m going to get dressed
I might even wear makeup
I’ll go to classes and take notes
I won’t hide in the bathroom unable to breathe
If I do ‘x’ task can treat myself to ‘y’
I’ll avoid the sad music that makes me want to cry and give up
I’ll force my rickety limbs to take me places and do things
And I won’t make excuses to go home or not to leave the house in the first place
Today I will be productive
Today I will kick the lethargy
Today I will feel the sun on my face
Today I will be me again
Today I won’t be subdued by the black hole in my head
Five more minutes
Maybe ten more minutes
Maybe an hour
Just a few more minutes now
Hit snooze again
Is there any point in moving now?
It’s too late now.
Is there any point in anything at all?
Hide under the covers
Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.
Georgia Penny is a Southampton based freelance photographer, specialising in live music photography. Check out her work here.
· Milo is Depressed ·
by Phaedra’s Love
Milo went to learn what it was all about
He worked hard all his life to make his parents proud
The institution took the wind out of his sails
Milo asked why should I bother
Oh mum and dad
These kids are of another class
I don’t mean lesson wise
I sit beside
A person who’s not civilised
Their wealth and status don’t disguise
Their predatory patriarchal fucking bedroom eyes
Cause milo is depressed
At the fact that there are no arrests
Of these rapists and racists
There are too many cases
That privilege is the language of this campus
Privilege protects these future bankers
These creeps feel threatened by me
By my sexuality
Because they hate the thought that another boy
Might look at them the way they ploy to get their dicks wet
Milo is depressed
Milo recognised he had some priveledge too
Least of all an education for the lucky few
He used his voice and wrote in the yearbook
Be an ally or shut the fuck up
Phaedra’s Love is a creative project mostly focussed on emo music but also writes short poems and stories. For more info check here.
· I am too sad to move ·
by Chloe Brehaut
the streetlight situated outside my bedroom window
its bright light shines through the windows,
illuminating the walls with a dull orange glow.
i am too sad to move.
it’s raining outside,
the sound of the rain hitting the windows is soothing.
yet i am too sad to smile at the comfort it brings me.
gusts of wind bounce the telephone wires suspended in the air,
and the tattered and torn net curtains
are tugged at through the little open windows with each gust.
i am too sad to move.
with each day i spend here in this familiar state
of depression and loneliness and grey,
i beg my body to forgive me.
i’m wasting my life rooted to the same spot,
watching the sun rise and set through the seasons,
in the comfort of my depression pit.
the light comes and goes, changing each and every day,
sometimes, it’s quite pretty.
it’s summer now, though the days are shortening
and the rain is getting heavier,
it feels more like autumn turning into winter
but in spring the trees sprout leaves and flowers grow in the corners of my windows,
while in autumn i hear the leaves crunching underneath children’s feet,
and the wind whisking them off their branches
but i don’t have a reason to move from here.
i am too sad to move.
Chloe Brehaut is a south coast photographer and poet based in Southampton. For more info check out her website here.
· Cicatrix ·
by Iris N. Schwartz
From less than half a block away, her date stared at Corinne. He matched his Internet photo perfectly. Corinne raised her chin to signal him. He looked again, then turned and walked away.
She could see it in his face. Disappointment. Anger. Revulsion.
It was too soon. How could it not be? Today marked three months. Why had she let Stacey talk her into this? No, she couldn’t blame her best friend. It was her own fault, answering a dating site post with a BS photograph — a “before scar” shot. The real BS was believing anyone would be interested again, ever.
Corinne remembered looking at it, for the first time, in the bathroom mirror at her doctor’s office. It started an inch down from the middle of her left eye, and continued, nearly straight the whole way, down to her jawline. What the doctor called a ‘cicatrix’ defined the left side of her face — in essence, bisecting it. The scar was medium-thin, mean. It didn’t belong. This was a Cubist painting. This couldn’t be Corinne’s face.
Now sitting on a bench in Father Demo Square, Corinne felt sweat bead along her hairline. Her right-hand fingers started shaking, and then the entire hand performed a sort of palsied dance. She breathed slowly and deeply. Her hand grew still. Then, a brain hijacking: the thought, I am going to look like this for the rest of my life.
No, oh God, no.
The sweat spilled down her forehead, mixing with tears and cascaded down her cheeks and chin. Her eyes burned from melting makeup. She hurried through her tiny “date handbag” for tissues, located a single crumpled one, and gingerly pressed it to various sites on her face and neck.
She pictured the muscular man on the bench across from her enveloping her in his arms, stroking her hair, whispering, “Corinne, you’re a beautiful woman.” Of course, Mr. Pecs was probably gay. If not, still living in his parents’ basement with a cherished action-figure collection.
No man would ever call her beautiful again. And if one did, he wouldn’t mean it. Not with her Georges Braques face. Her broken face.
Two months later
Stacey asked, “Why don’t you place an ad, instead of answering one? You’ll have more control.”
“What do you mean?”
You say who you are,” Stacey continued, “and what you want. And this time, if you feel ready, you can post a photo of how you look now.”
“I don’t know….”
“The Derma-Cov does a really good job, and the scar has faded somewhat, hasn’t it?”
“I…I…I don’t know.” Corinne looked down at her lap, started twisting the napkin that came with the uneaten Italian rainbow cookies. Hard to believe, but she had no appetite for Rocco’s cookies today.
One month later
Most of the waiters at Rocco’s nodded and knowingly smiled when she walked into the patisserie.
Corinne sat at a table facing the entrance, clutched her cell, and glanced down at her scar date journal while waiting for date number five.
She scrolled back to number one: Nick. He told her she looked like a superhero; the scar was “cool.” What else, Corinne had wondered, did he find cool? A broken leg? Heroin addiction? Acid in the face? She shook her head. Nick was thirty-four going on twelve.
Corinne shut off her cell, looked up. Still no sign of number five. She dove into her handbag for her compact. The cicatrix taunted her. Of course it was still there. She could see it under Derma-Cov and foundation. Where would it go? Onto the cheek of the flawless blonde cashier?
Corinne pulled at her fingers, then opened the journal again.
Number two: Sean. Told her he was built like a football player. Sean had a pleasant face, dark blond hair, smattering of freckles. He was, however, built like three football players. Or a stadium. Plus he’d just come from playing the game with his ten-year-old twin sons, so he smelled like a football locker.
Corinne was still focused on her phone when she heard a deep voice. “I believe this chair is for me?”
She looked into the eye of number five, Rob, who sat down before she could speak. He had not posted a current photo.
Rob explained he’d been in an accident, had lost sight in his left eye ─ which is why it was milk-white. Corinne didn’t know whether to look at one eye or attempt both. She wanted to leave, but he was saying that every date who saw him walked away.
“Maybe because you lied to them,” Corinne said. She no longer gave a crap. This situation didn’t have legs.
“Post a pic of the post-accident you,” she offered.
Rob waved both hands in the air. “Then no one will show up.”
“You showed up for me.”
“You’re a beautiful woman, with both eyes working.”
Corinne snorted. “What do you want? Why don’t you put a black patch over your left eye, wear a sexy poet shirt, and walk around with a parrot on your shoulder? Women will think you’re hot!”
“I think you have something there.”
Corinne stood up, smiled at the cutest Rocco’s waiter. Then she looked at the melancholy man at her table. “Bye, Rob.”
The scents of pungent espresso, sweet pignoli nuts; the touch of the manager’s hand on her shoulder as he guided her to the door ─ everything palpable was waiting.
Iris N. Schwartz is a fiction and nonfiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her work has appeared in such journals as Bindweed Magazine, Connotation Press, andJellyfish Review, and, most recently, Anthology Askew: Love Gone Askew. Her first fiction collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth and Other Stories, will be published by Poets Wear Prada in autumn 2017.
Photography for this issue by Alex Thornber, taken from his Impressions series. For more check out Nucosi Photography or Nucosia on Instagram.