Showing posts from 2013

Cafe Aphra closed for the holidays

Just to let everyone know that Cafe Aphra will be closed for the holidays and will be re-opening its doors on Monday 6th January.  From all of us here, we'd like to wish our readers and contributors a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR and say THANK YOU for making 2013 such a great one. May 2014 be full of joy, fun, magic and, of course, writing!! With love, Tha Cafe Aphra Baristas

Un Petit Christmas Ditty

Alternative Title :'The Thought-Fox, Revisited by a Drunk Woman' I sit, fingers poised above keys, shivering in my conservatory freeze Un petit Christmas ditty, please, would end my struggles, creative pleas And ploys. Despite the lack of fuss or noise – the house is quiet of voice and boys The words just do not want to come.   Unpressed, keys don’t know joy or fun Don’t make you laugh or make you think or make you feel or make you drink. Drink. Aha, the very thing.   Perhaps un petit verre de quelque chose May tease out words, make them flow like harmonies across staves from treble to bass. ( SCRABBLE TO BACK OF DRINKS CUPBOARD, FOLLOWED BY DASH TO CAKE TIN IN KITCHEN, RETURN TO ORTHOPAEDIC COMPUTER CHAIR, CLIMB BACK ON ) I sit, fingers poised above keys, shivering less, crumbs on my knees Sod the computer, let’s get a pen.   It might work better.   I’ll try again. Unstraddle heights off computer chair.   Straighten my knees, then prepare For ins

Christmas dinner

“I wish he’d have told me she was vegetarian,” hissed Cynthia as she hacked at the turkey. “It’s bad enough him bringing her so soon after the divorce.” Awful pompous little man. Nathan sighed. “Darling- ” “I mean, have you seen her?” Have I ever. “Darling, remember what we said.” “What did we say? That your brother’s a- ” Damn sight luckier than me, that’s for sure. “I agree it would have been thoughtful if Mark had told us, but she says she’s fine with a bit of stuffing.” Cynthia swigged at her wine. I’ll bet she is. Apparently she’s got a PhD. I wouldn’t for the life of me have thought she had a brain under all that hair. “Well she can’t have stuffing.” “Why not?” “It’s got meat in it.” “Just veg then! But do try to be nice dear, hm?” Nathan whisked her glass and the bottle away as she turned around.    First Trudy, now Samantha. She must be a double D if she’s a day. Why does my brother get all the luck? “Thank you so much for b


I was out shopping the other day. It was cold and grey, and I’d slogged my way to the market with a heavy heart. The bus was packed as ever - I was wedged into a pack of cold, unyielding south London bodies and the air was thick with tuts and sighs, toothsucking and general disgruntlement, until it tipped us all out in front of Brixton tube.   So there I was, walking down Granville Arcade, past the fruit and veg, the African snails, the yam and plantain and green bananas, and all at once I was reading a sign above a pile of nice, juicy fruits that said:   Lady, lady, please don’t squeeze up, squeeze up me mango!   I felt myself shrinking, softly. It was not an unpleasant feeling – as I got smaller I got warmer, sinking comfortably into myself. My innermost core started to glow, the warmth spreading into my skin.   As I shrank, the feelings of London angst began to melt away. I could feel my bones relaxing and my skin smoothing out – oils starting to trickle throughout


The best days start slow. Dawn light leaking past curtains, weakening as the year turns to face Winter. The best days pull me behind  two dachshunds into the world. Always a wonder, frosted silver, dripping rain, fragrant with old leaves, new flowers, spit snowflakes or warmed with birdsong. The best days begin with perfect coffee, dark roast, chocolate shaken in, one, two, a couple packets of sweetener, cinnamon dashed, a drop of cream. Scent of it drags the dogs and me up the stairs, into the house. They anticipate their breakfast. Sometimes I mix the ratio wrong. Magical potion imbalances, and the day follows suit. The best days catch up correspondence on my tablet in bed, dogs laid like logs between my legs, cat in the window daring the sun for warmth. The best days start with stories, I am still the child who asks for a story before bed. Stories, poetry, a necessity like air or water or food. No other cup of coffee matters like that first

The Softest Hour

My little brother didn’t cry like other babies.  He bleated, like a cleaved pig.  I clapped my palms against my ears - it never helped. “… a son… to carry on our name… and toss the ball around.”  Our walls were thin.  “…tea parties and dolls… not my thing.”  And dad’s voice carried.  “We love you so much honey,” ma stroked my arm while she lied, “that’s why we want another.” I cried into my pillow and dreamt I was a boy. Pa moved my cups and saucers to the den and made Danny a bed in my garden playhouse.  Come nap time, ma laid him in it, shut the doors – midnight blue – and tiptoed backwards.  As she inched by, she’d press a chubby finger to her lips, tousle my hair and scratch Burke’s floppy ears.   “Shhhh - it’s the soft hour,” she’d say.  Her winks made me warm. I never used my tea set again. It was a crisp autumn morn.  Upstairs, the vacuum hummed and sucked but below, Danny’s shrieks rang out like a bludgeoned porpoise - and split the soft hour. Our daschund pan


Apolonia the midwife took me to a hovel roofed with yagua, the base of the palm frond. A squat woman nodded Yes, I could meet her children. They lay splayed on long benches: one deaf-mute, another blind and crippled, the last spinning a coconut. His head bobbed up and down, his smile never changing as he watched the coconut wobble to a stop, then spun it again on endless repeat. I tried to speak to him. “These are the fruits of this tree,” said Apolonia, tugging me gently away. “You mistake movement for intelligence.” “You might as well talk to a palm,” Apolonia shook her graying head. “Its fronds wave in the same wind whether you’re speaking or silent.” Jan Steckel

Dinner at the Saturnines

“I received a message from a Mister Stamford , informing me that Menac’s to go to his school.” Count Saturnine took a long slurp of his soup. It stuck to his upper lip and dribbled down his chin. Barnaby Featherspoon stared at him before reaching over with his napkin to dab it clean. “For heavens’ sake,” the Count batted Featherspoon’s hand away. Menac sniggered. His mother slapped him across the back of his head. “Who is this Stamford?” she asked.             “Damned if I know.”             “Damned anyway, I expect.”             “What was that, my dear?”             “Nothing, my husband.”             “Turns out he’s on the Grand Council. Upshot is, Menac’s going there.”             “I want to stay here,” Menac said.             “Speak when you are spoken to,” his mother snapped.             “The boy can speak, wife. Don’t smother him like you always do. Ignore her, Menac. She’s like all women, stupid and vain.”             “The only reason you are

3 - 2- 1

And so we've arrived at the final countdown. The last few days of November are waiting. How's it gone? Here in New England it is the evening of the 26th. The supermarkets are crammed with turkeys, and every conversation focuses on how far people intend to travel for Thanksgiving. My mind rests upon how this month has gone for everyone. Did you make the progress that you hoped for? Did you conjure the words, or edit the words, or polish the words to the extent that you planned at the start of the month? And the thing I wonder about most, as we visit this little cafe that sits in the cloud, is how our target-setting and aspirations have affected our writing practice. I will be the first to confess that I have struggled. Those first few days when I found time to write for an hour and work on my opening chapter were soon lost: I was preparing for my GRE examination, drafting my applications for university admission, chasing down pieces of paper which evidenced the marks a

The Space Between the Words

The Space Between the Words Now you have gone into that space Beyond language You have gone into the pauses in our conversation The time beyond time and time within time You are in those moments when we sit in the audience Waiting for the curtain to rise And the end when the curtain has closed And the actors have taken their bows You are within the pauses of the bird’s song When we strain to hear the next note In the water between the fish In the traveller’s silence within a foreign language You are in the air that fills the sky In the moments after the sunset You are between night and day Spirit next to soul You are in the space between the words The moment before the artist picks up her brush By Vicky Letterman

One Moon, One Star

    There is just one star in the sky when she pulls herself out of the water. Glancing up, the moon hides against blue-black infinity, shows itself, then hides again. Bursts of cloud weave, dance, disguising chunks of the moon’s white surface nibbled into scalloped edges. The green and white sea flexes it’s power, playful, deadly, siren-dangerous, as always. The tide begins to turn. She must be careful. The sea can take you back if it wants to. She can’t go yet. Not yet. The salt tastes delicious around her mouth. She scents the silt and seaweed remembering green, purple and darkest blue from her water world. Warm wind washes over and around her and welcomes her at last to the land. She is exhausted but cannot rest; her time here is measured by the tide. There should be enough, just. Yes, there should be enough. This is not her first time. She turns her back to the sea and the single star, shining softly down on her, and makes her way, slowly, up the sand. Now the crashing wa

Lullaby for a Winter Evening

Lie down and let me tell you about snow about geometry and silence two parts cold to one part marvel let me tell you of the twofold mystery of its nature how a single flake dissolves at once how two flakes linger when they gather whitely on the ground Lie down and give your face to snow drifting down like petals in a spring orchard taste it on your tongue a fleeting kiss of ice Lie down and listen to the wind wind through the apple trees twisting the bare twigs into complex runes against a curtained sky spelling out a recipe for snow Sally Zakariya

In Sickness and In Health

His feet repulse her. It’s her own fault. She threw a pair of socks at him telling him to put them on and keep them on. He just took it to heart. The socks, one folded into the other, were odd. One yellow. One black. He’d not taken them off. Not for days.        He’s lying on his side now, away from her. She reaches out to his back. It’s freezing. She squeezes her eyes, waiting to hear him not breathing. Ten, nine, eight. How long should she wait. Seven, six. The bedside clock quietly matches the seconds. It’s years since the alarm went off but the ticking is soothing. Breaks the silence. He used to rise before her. Brought the tea. Left the house at eight.       He snorts - a mix of breath and snore. He moves his foot back, brushing her calf. She stares at the ceiling, moving her legs to the edge of the bed. Stretching one foot from under the quilt she wriggles her toes. Long wisps of grey hair spread out on the pillow. He needs a haircut. And his bloody feet. Toenails. The heati

Falling off the bandwagon

Cafe Aphra's Alternative NaNoWriMo has been getting some great feedback from a steadily increasing number of writers. People have been telling us how they've been more committed to their writing through setting their own targets. These conversations are less about how many words we've written and more about our reflections upon our writing practice - how and where and why we write. We've been celebrating and sharing our writing and our reflections upon writing via this blog, the Cafe Aphra facebook page, through emails and face-to-face conversations. And this all makes me feel more guilty about the fact that I have fallen off the bandwagon. It's not just that I've slipped. One minute I was there, sitting among the trombones and the music boxes and all the other bits and bobs which would be part of any halfway decent bandwagon, and the next minute I'm all alone watching everyone else share the bandwagon's journey over the horizon. There are many ex

Danzas Nocturnas

You like dark corners, forbidden places Just the things I say ‘no’ to. A rebel spirit stirs your Contrary and unstilled blood, A memory of ancestors that can still Be glimpsed in your wilder moments. You are a faux agent provocateur, sir Running with the pack when it suits you Posturing before the rest of the neighbourhood’s Petty brutes and hoodlums. You seek me out in the middle of the night Pushing through the bathroom door and pausing To pour yourself onto my lap, an ecstasy of purring As I sit and pee and stroke your head. When you wake with a comic expression Of sleepy slant-eyed resentment And yawn enormously with a foul little belch I am amazed by the extending length Of your elastic yoga-stretched body. Little sausage, fly-hunter Tip-toe dancing bull fighter, You pounce on the prey of your imaginings Then wrap your tail in a circle and sit in it Picturesque as a Chinese vase By the fireplace. by Sara Roberts

Flash yourself unstuck

Do you need to kickstart your writing this month? Has your November challenge so far been less than prolific? Don't worry.... several of us here at Cafe Aphra & Friends are in the same position.  Today I successfully avoided working on my novel by starting on my next assignment in the online flash fiction writing course I am doing, courtesy of Fish Publishing (which I would warmly recommend). One of the tasks in today's section on dialogue was the following: A husband has crashed his wife’s car and has to tell her but is avoiding coming out with it directly. The wife didn’t insure the car and at some point has to come clean about that too. Build a dialogue that has no lines of summary, no attribution, no description of tone, no characterizing of voice or words; just two voices.  Because you have no attribution - no he said or she said - you must portray those silences and pauses through punctuation. With only their exchanges you must deliver who they are, what


I suppose what first intrigued me about Elena was her long jet-black hair. Despite her advancing years, she looked like a Disney princess. I imagined she had an army of little animal helpers who did the washing up at home while she sang sweet songs and brushed her tresses. On more than one occasion, I found myself lingering a little longer than was decent on her siren features. I must rein that in, I thought. Mustn't make it obvious. Other blokes in the office had warned me. Geoff Breen had had a nasty run-in with her. He'd fantasised about her long enough before making his move, but she'd cut him dead. He was so screwed up about it. "I don't know whether I want to shag her or punch her," he'd told me. "Maybe both, I don't know. She's a right cow. Probably lesbian." We'd laughed. The problem is that Geoff doesn't understand women, not like I do. You have to be a bit smart, you know, sensitive. Now I was seeing Elena for the fi