Fragile This issue is in response to the separation of families at the US border. Artists and writers from Ireland and around the world have contributed their words and pictures to the magazine, where everything connects. If you like the work here, please consider donating to RAICES, a non profit agency which promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Thank you.

Bread and Jam for Superman by Niamh Boyce I thought it was feathers, the tail of some bird. Then I peered out the window and saw a child with short sticking up hair. A boy of about five, just standing there. His yellow t shirt was yanked loose at the neck, stained at the stomach. He was very thin. I opened the latch. ‘Which one are you?’ ‘James.’ I cut a slice of batch; he watched, fingers curled and ready. I spread the gooseberry jam right to the edge so he’d eat the crust. My lot always left the crusts. I handed it out and he gobbled it … Continued Read more

Small Shoes by Maggie Smith If there are fewer stars now than when I was a child,   I can’t say which are missing, who was the last to see them.   Is it not a crime unless we call it a crime?   It is difficult to document a disappearance, a boat full of stars   capsized. Stars lying in the sand   face-down, wearing small shoes. Add that to the report:   some of the stars washed up in small shoes.     Read more

I don’t do well in the sun like Lily by Breda Wall Ryan Lily with her speckled throat and tongue made for kissing flashed a ring her auntie stole from Woolworths on Saturday. She swore the stone was as real as her glamour. She wore a store-bought dress printed with showy flowers, a stunner I had to pretend to admire and try not to gag on my envy. I strolled through the park at her side in my mother- stitched button-through cotton, Lily all fashion-plate glam, hips swinging, an eye-catcher named, she said, for the perfumed flower in the formal beds.   A scarlet beetle crept over my wrist, parting the hairs in … Continued Read more

The Forgotten Front by Nuala O'Connor By Bois de Faisán, where the pheasant still squabble and rush in regal livery, lies my Jack. He fell at Fromelles and, though they had slaughtered him, they say the Germans gave him a decent burial. I wonder what lies with him: my photograph at his breast? His gas mask tucked under one arm? Do his gold fillings glisten beneath the earth the way they did when he threw back his head in laughter? Sticky blue clay holds my Jack, the way our marriage quilt once held both of us. I sleep under it now in hope of this: that … Continued Read more

Nineteen Ways to Say I Love you by Niall McArdle ONE A child’s candy, a little circle pink as lamb’s blood, sweet and tasting of the goodness of maltodextrin and glucose and carageenan gum, a love heart embossed on its hard and rippled shell, and inside that heart the words For this is a sweet that belongs in the rejected pile, yet that somehow escaped the shrewd and narrow eye of the woman who works at the end of the line at the factory, whose job it is to seek out those imperfect hearts and throw them away. It does not occur to her that she is a heart breaker. … Continued Read more

My Menopausal Womb by Anne Walsh Donnelly Hairdresser empties tubes into a black bowl, stirs a mixture of what looks like day-old blood. 366, he calls the dye.   He pastes my greying hair, doesn’t take long to cover. Thirty minutes of flicking through Image, Hello and Good Housekeeping and I’m scarlet again.   Gynecologist puts my feet in steel stirrups tells me to spread my legs covers his hands with latex gloves grabs a speculum tells me to cough and inserts.   When he withdraws I know what he has to say before he opens his mouth. And I wish there was a colour like 366 … Continued Read more

Unheard by Nathanael O'Reilly Immigrants suffocating in an abandoned Hanjin shipping container cooking in the midday sun at a remote rest area beside a first-world highway beat on the steel walls and shout desperately in their native tongue but they are too far away from the restrooms and vending machines     Read more

Diverted by Marie Gethins Life is curved. Backs against concrete, we sit side-by-side: two letter Cs. Our tunnel stays cool in the afternoon heat, dry in the monsoon rains. Balaraj remembers the time before the tunnels when we lived in a hut. He points to empty mud flats. From our tunnel, I look up at the hill houses with their dark window eyes and imagine being inside one of the squares. He tells me about big trucks driving down our village road, tyres tall and wide filling the sky with dust. People ran out to watch. The trucks stopped, their dirt cloud turning the … Continued Read more

A History of the World by Fiona Perry A wide-eyed boy, urgent and loud banged On our front door that night and shouted. Get Out. Bomb He was clutching a gun talisman-tight to his camo uniform This boy was not much older than my son is now His hair was wet with sweat around the brim of his beret   My mother’s response was to pad into the kitchen, Wrap custard creams in tissue paper for the two mile walk to Her sister’s house. Coats over pyjamas and shoes without Socks. The stars shouting silently. Miniature escape routes. I Had never been out so late.   Now we … Continued Read more

K-K-K by Lauren Foley The phone call comes while my mother is rinsing her hair in the kitchen sink, with one of those white rubber faucet attachments that don’t quite fit the tap so water spurts every which way out of its would-be seal. I can see from my vantage point sitting on the countertop that a pool is forming between the back of the sink and the windowpane; a couple of dead flies are floating, exposing their bloated bellies, and the spray from the tap is creating a water-feature effect so it looks like the scene is missing only a miniature palm tree. … Continued Read more

Tsunami by Tony Black It’s supposed to hit you like a tsunami, isn’t it? Instantaneous and enormous – BOOM! Done. A switch flicked: a binary distinction. You were childless, now you are a father. You’re handed the child, and this is it: the moment. That moment. “In that moment I knew…” “From that moment on…” “That was the moment…” But how had you felt, then? Tired? Relieved? Concerned about your wife? All of these things, inter alia. And the alia?  Did they include an overwhelming, all-consuming, and unconditional love? A love above and beyond all other love, for the miracle you hold so tentatively … Continued Read more

Paragon by Amy Louise Wyatt   I wanted to know I had a body – for no body is eternal.   As child, the Canon taught me how to count on fingers of one hand. In this way, I was fifth – for he counted in order of who to love.   God, a mighty thumb, bulbous and worthy. Family, an index less important than God. Friends, an equator running the hand. I kept my ring finger for those I did not know.   Then me. Tiniest, least significant, furthest from God. The most unlike the thumb. In every way.   Now an adult, the … Continued Read more

Mother by Rachel Coventry Mother,   in the summer that followed the winter of your death, I was barefoot in the kitchen, unsuitably dressed for visitors, cooking for myself, my head full of what I’d do to him.   When I came face to face with the virgin and her solemn, disproportioned child before that I had been blind.   I put your holy picture in the bin, Mother, it was finally time.     Read more

Whacher by Jan Carson “Well there are many ways of being held prisoner.” Anne Carson “Whacher”   I peel back the edge of her Welcome mat. The key is in the usual place. I let myself in. I am quiet. I’m always quiet. The night will be ruined if I wake her too soon. In the hall she’s left his clothes draped over the banister: striped pyjamas, a dressing gown, a pair of burgundy cord slippers. I heel my trainers off and slip out of my clothes. I keep my own underwear on. She has not insisted upon his underwear. There are certain things you … Continued Read more

Good Boy by Susanne Stich Since god stopped looking after this place the boy has sat by himself. The sound that is left is mainly in his head, a faint buzz he is slowly getting used to. Wherever he looks there are children, adults, dogs. They all lost their home. Nobody knows where to go. Buildings crumbled to snow that won’t melt. No one seems to notice the boy, and no one asks about his ears. There are other things to do, so many things that people have started to walk in circles. From his vantage point on the curb he watches the young pull … Continued Read more

Play by Tania Hershman says the girl in the coat by the piano, who knows   I only sat down by accident, haven’t   the skills to do what she wants   on the black and the white of it. Put   your hands here, says the girl with the coat   by the piano, placing hers over mine on the cool   and the dark of it, whispering notes in my ear.       Read more

Briar Patch by Katherine Duffy   You’d like to help     honestly you would but you’re caught in the sprawl and tumble of your very own briar patch.   Winter is coming or something twilight maybe darkness maybe     a shadowy reach sometimes piercing sometimes crosshatched.   Fear among others is a briar the ambition of brambles is deep     they’d rather have your blood than let you have their fruit.   You can remember being a child before all of this sun on an ivory dress before the marks were made     before the grey areas.   Now you’re very still. You’d like to help but there are … Continued Read more

The Fisherman by Monica Strina In the mornings, it is just me and the heron. He watches my feet sink into the sand as I walk towards the sea holding my fishing rod in one hand and my bait box in the other.  My footprints unmake the tiny star shapes of pigeons’ feet and the palmed imprints of seagulls’ feet, and perhaps he wonders whether I will ruin the marks he has made when he, too, is gone. My first cast decides the rest of the day. If the line whistles in the air, forming a perfect arch over my head, and then hits the … Continued Read more

Cyber Pup by Eddie McClenaghan All your barks sound the same. You have a vast database, neatly catalogued yelps and growls, preloaded. I can’t shake how aware I am that you’re synthetic. You’re cold to my touch. Petting you is unsettling, even when your chassis responds with closed eyes, arched back, contented hissing sounds, static sighs. Your paw fills my palm with icy, artificial affection. You fetch the same carbon stick I throw with unrivalled skill,  but I take no joy in your company. His name is calligraphed with laser precision on your undercarriage as you roll over, beckoning me to rub your belly. I have … Continued Read more

Black Rabbit by K.S. Moore I remember the black rabbit sat on a throne of hill, the gold-specked, green   slide down to the road, where we stopped cars to wait for his shadow.   He loomed on the day, glowered just short of marking our tracks for animal life.   I wanted to join him, dye my hair in a shade that matched his gleaming fur, feel him change me.     Read more

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