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STORIES INTERWOVEN WITH POETIC THREADS SALVATION! Let your Light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and Glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Matthew 5:16 The morning sun streaming through the stained-glass windows alit everything aglow.
Eerie and religious, shading on Calvin's arms a royal blue. The light spraying from
the Archangel Michael, sword in hand, foot upon the dragon. At the Altar, Father John intoned... "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter
under my roof, but only say The Word..." and Calvin and the congregation continued
..."and My Soul shall be Healed." Calvin with his eyes closed, followed along in a hoarse whisper. Breath broken, he Prayed,
with tears slowly falling. They always did at this moment of Worship; He couldn't stop them.
Still after so many years...crying so openly, being so touched. Today, Calvin's mind always returned to that Day. That Day when Calvin, inexplicably,
came to Know personally of the Love of God. Calvin was much younger then, newly arrived at Bathurst, both town and prison. Tough city and harder jail. Bathurst Gaol was the punishment centre, where you got sent, when the system desired to Teach a Lesson. And Calvin had just been sentenced to residence for four years. He was "green" as they say in the yards. A newbie, his first time. And he was struggling. It was quite the culture shock. Nothing in "normal" life prepares one for the experience, nor for the emotions that ensue
every day viciously. As one faces a daily regime of Pain, where the only language spoken is in violence. Despair drops like a dead weight carrying one to depths even Evil dreads, and it becomes like a dress worn wearily. The only respite is inedible meals and walking laps, kept company by head miles, dreaming of nooses. First night, Calvin was agog, trudging up flights of metal stairs in a world of fluorescence decorated with razors and bars. Home was now a three-tiered complex of 6-by-10 cells, two to a box. Calvin wondered about his cellmate, as the three guards accompanying, unlocked a heavy steel door. "Miles...You have a cellmate." And the door clanged shut with firm finality. Calvin looked around his new lodgings...metal bunkbed, metal toilet and two metal shelves, with an extremely scratched metal mirror...lacking totally in any form of comfort. His heart just sank deeper. "What's your name? Why are you in here? I am telling you there has been a mistake. I am a medical one-out." Miles pointed at his chest. Calvin was about to introduce himself, but could say nothing, as Miles got into his face with rising voice... "Don't even bother settling in! You aren't staying!!!" And Miles raced for a red call button set into the wall. It had the word "HELP" emblazoned alongside in many languages. Buzzzz...Buzzzz...Buzzzz... Click...a scratchy voice over the intercom spat... "What is it now, Miles?" Miles launched into a scream at the speaker.. ."I told you fuckers not to put someone in with me. Send someone in to spy on me, did you? Didn't you learn from the last one? He is still in the infirmary. You had better get this one out of here quick!!! " Miles began pacing up and down the 5 feet of spare space in the cell, yelling at the top of his voice.. ."Superintendent Goldman said that I have a green light. A Green Light!!! And I am going to use it. What's ten more years? I already done 20." Calvin backed up against the farthest wall, trying to his best to stay out of Mile's way. Miles had a very dark look in his eye, and he kept throwing violent glances at him. As soundtrack, Calvin could hear running steps...thump thump thumping on the metal stairs...thump, thump, thump...And there was a screeching alarm going off loudly... whoop whoop, whoop whoop... Keys jangled desperately at the cell door, and Miles turned and said... "I would stand right back right now if I was you." And the door flung open... Wide-eyed, Calvin watched a scrum of Guards rush full pelt into the cell... Dressed all in black and holding large riot shields, they barreled and bashed Miles face-first into the pockmarked concrete. And Miles stood no chance despite his earlier bravado and despite his ringing screams... "I will KILL YOU!!! You Hear me! I know who each of you are. You are dead!!!" "You have no idea! I have a Green Light. You are all dead!!" sang through all the cellblocks as Miles was dragged off into the night. And all the others nested tight in their cells began also loudly hooting and whistling and kicking their doors in delight. Once Miles and his drama had receded enough, one of the remaining Guards turned to Calvin, saying... "Inmate Hart, come along now. We are going to have to find a place for you tonight. This cell will be out of action until Reports have been written and I don't know if Miles will be back or not. Come along..." Another door opened, and Calvin was again bundled in. As the door again banged shut, Calvin took a deep breath...He had no idea what to next expect and this was only the first night. "It is going to be a long four years. Oh God...Father help me..." And an indigenous man, curly haired and overweight, sprung up from the bottom bunk. "Good Day, young fellow. Name is Trevor. Where you from? First time? Ay." Calvin tried to speak, and only a jumbled mutter came out...Visibly he was struggling, he rocked on the balls of his feet, his face strained and very red. Dropping his bundle of bedding and clothing, he burst into bellowing tears. Trevor let Calvin be momentarily tended to making two cups of tea with a jailhouse boiler, and he spoke calmly... "Don't worry, young fellow. All of us lose it in some way at some time whilst in here. Best let it all out." "Don't you worry, and when you are all done, come over here and have a cuppa. Uncle Trevor will look after you. Good thing they put you with me. Ay?" Calvin shivered at the long-ago memories. Those had been very hard times. And he still wondered how he got through it. "Thank You, Father" he whispered as Father John intoned "Our Father who art in Heaven..." Calvin could barely recognize his life these days. Things were so vastly different from those tough times. He had worked very hard to recover and improve his Life. He now had a Profession which pleased and interested him, and his Painting which he loved. And, He had Her... "I am Happy" Calvin thought as he leaned slightly aside, nudging his Partner gently in affection. She smiled back sweetly as the Assembly started in Hymn...and as Amazing Grace soared throughout, Calvin remembered Bathurst again, and his first Service in prison... He had attended out of a kind of desperate seeking, but without any real hope. He was seeking help...some sort of relief... some way to get through the coming years... Yet as soon as he walked into the chapel, he wasn't sure that it hadn't been a good idea to come. Emotions rolled in him fiercely and he struggled against tears... "Mustn't, mustn't cry in here." But when Amazing Grace started up, being tearless became hopeless for Calvin. And, he cried as he sang along as best he could... "I once was lost..." It had been a long time since he had been to a Church. As Calvin was leaving the Chapel, the Prison Chaplain stopped him.. ."Do you want to stay for a half hour and have a cup of coffee? Maybe spend a few moments in Prayer with me?" Calvin nodded Yes, alone with the Chaplain sat to a cup of coffee. "Mmmmm...real coffee... It smells so good." Warmth was the gift in that cup, and Calvin was Grateful. "My name is Father Bob. I know that you are wondering why I singled you out today. Don't worry, I do it from time to time. As the Chaplain, the Guards give me some leeway in the Chapel and its affairs." He had a kindly face, fatherly, in all his earnestness. Calvin could see that he actually cared. Father Bob continued..."During My Prayers this morning, God let me know that I needed to help someone specifically today. And, when I saw you, I knew that person was you. Can I Pray for you? Will you Pray with me?" And, Father Bob began Praying a Prayer just for Calvin...and in those few quiet intimate moments, Calvin came to Know that wherever he went and whatever he did, he was not ever alone. "Thank You, Father" Calvin whispered making the Sign of the Cross in unison as the Service ended. He was so very Grateful to Father above and to Father Bob and to many others. Filing out of Church, Calvin and her, stopped briefly with Father John.. ."Peace Be With You. As always so good to see you both. And, Calvin, Mary in the Office tells me that you have volunteered to help with the new Community Centre. Bless You! It is truly more Blessed to Give than to Receive." Calvin nodded to Father John... "Yes, Mary and I are meeting tomorrow to discuss how I can best assist. I thought maybe to volunteer a day or two a week. Community is important to me." "Excellent news, Calvin. I am sure that I will be seeing you both at the Opening Night next week. Have a Blessed Week." Father John farewelled them, warmly. And the next morning Calvin met with Mary at the Church Office... "I am so very Grateful for so much... To Father above, to They before, to Those besides. And I feel a strong need and desire to give back even just a little to My Community." Mary beamed gladly back at Calvin. She was very involved in her Community and not just with Church. She was also leading the Team overseeing the development of the new Community Centre. Calvin continued.. ."So I am here today because I would like to volunteer one or two days a week at the new Community Centre. Could you use the help? I would also like to dedicate a special painting for the new Centre. What do you think?" Mary touched Calvin on the arm "What good is it... if someone claims to have Faith but has no deeds? The Words of Saint James. I would welcome your help at the Community Centre. I will organize all the forms and email them to you. And a painting for the Opening would be just great." "Have you seen the new Centre yet? Come I will give you a little tour...It has come a long way since being just a wasting heap." And Mary led the way, displaying the results of charity and community and a lot of hard work. And when Calvin arrived back at Home, in his Inbox just as Mary had promised, was the Volunteer Application Form and accompanying National Police Check. So, without wasting any time, he filled them out, and sent them off. Happy and satisfied, Calvin put them from his mind. His criminal past wouldn't matter, he thought, it had been so long ago, and he had done his time. Several days later, he received an email from Mary..."This will be about my Volunteer Application." ...and he crestfallen read... Dear Sir Grateful For your Volunteer Alas I must declare Denial of your proffer Apologies This is a House of God Sinners can't enter here Peace Be With You Mary Sadness lived deep in Calvin and it welled up just then...He couldn't even speak. "I need some air" in despair he wandered, sprouting stones of bitterness as he walked. So deep in his rancour was he, that he didn't notice Father John walking too, and they near collided. "Oh, it is you, Calvin. Both of us so lost in reverie...a happy accident. Tonight is the Opening Night of the Community Centre...looking forward to seeing you there. You are still able to make it, aren't you?" Father John chatted as he caught his breath. Calvin almost said something, and then he stopped himself...Farewelling Father John, at least he knew the truth... Salvation doesn't carry far here. © MICHAEL HISLOP Australia "THE POET GUNSLINGER" The two gunfighters circled each other. The taller, thinner one, his boots shuffled slowly upon the dirt in front of the Angel's Creek saloon. He had carefully chosen to have his back to the blazing noonday Sun. He scratched his back in a "Rib-tickling" motion to scare off a fly who got too close to the tension in his muscles. His eyes now were half closed like a hawk that swoops upon its prey. His arms long and limber ready to snap like the jaws of a bear trap upon the handle of his colt 45 pistol. The one with the ivory eagle handle...the eagle's talons gripping a branch with 47 notches carved upon it. The polished silver barrel half hidden in the black leather holster, still showed its gleam, as if it were on fire from the Sun's searing rays. He was steady and ready for whatever came at him. Circling about twenty feet away was a master gunslinger. After a hundred men fell before his frontiersman 44 pistol...he stopped counting. No one, I mean no one, was faster on the draw than he. He could shoot the wings off a fly...on his first try...and have the gun back in its holster before one could blink an eye. He was the best of the best...with one small flaw. That is, he hadn't been in a gun fight in over a year. After he killed the bandit leader and 12 of his men without even a scratch upon him. The small town in Mexico made him their king. They serenaded him with songs, women, and drink. He partied for days and never stopped his drinking, dancing, or hordes of lovers who adored him. Now, he was here to meet the new king of the gunslingers, the so-called poet who called himself "Fango"... "well, let's see what poetry of my own that I shall put upon his grave stone." He squeezed a smile upon his face. His muscles twitched and a burp forced its way between his lips. He could taste the kielbasa and cabbage he had had for lunch. The bitter sweetness of it was still there...he licked his lips, as if sampling the musty taste in his mouth. Then he shuffled his thick legs in the snakeskin boots to take his fighting stance. He was wearing wrangler jeans. They clung to his legs as like a pair of stretched leotards. The top button on the size 34 waist was now open. It would take a lot more inches to close it now. Luckily, his gun belt was tight around his protruding belly. On both sides of the belt, his skin hung over...obscuring the tops of several bullets that were racked upon his belt. In fact, most of his belly hung over the belt. The proof of way too many happy hours spent in the saloons "All you can eat" buffet. The two gunfighters faced each other head on. The one with the belly fat spoke first. "You are the one they call 'Fango' the poet gunslinger" he giggled at that thought, then involuntarily he let go a backward trickled down from up top and made its way out the back door of his ballooned wrangler jeans. A wild prairie dog who had been sitting there at the hitching post and wagging his tail...took one sniff of the air, gave a yelp, coughed, and with his paws, in a flurry, frantically tweeted his nose...then ran away whining into the open prairie. The heavy set gunny gave a twitch, scratched his butt and continued his proclamation... "I am going to send you to hell, Fango !!!" At the sound of the word, "Hell", Fango's hand was already in motion. Like the talons of a bird of prey, it gripped the bone handle, like a vice, and drew the gun from the slippery leather holster. The hammer cocked, the nozzle pointed, the bullet fired before the other gunny had finished the name "Fango" as it still dangled upon his lips. Fango fanned the gun three times more. The hollow point 45's hit the gunny in the belly...and in less than an instant, he now could buckle that top button on his jeans with the four powerful bullets had taken six inches off his waist. All that blubber was now just mist in the sunlight. The surprised gunny with his gun still in his holster, looked at Fango with awe in his eyes...he spoke as he fell to the ground.. ."I was going to count to three...but you didn't let me." Fango was astounded that he got that many words out with just his last breath. He looked down at the gunny and said: "Fango's my name, Gunslinging is my game. No one is faster on the draw, As that was the last sight you saw. I always make a sensible poem, When I send a bad guy to hell's home. There is no room here on Earth, For a gunny without any worth. I shall hold my "Guffaw" for as long as I can. For evil doers who turned and ran. I am 'Fango' the gunslinger of Poet's fame All for Justice, remember my name." He took his pen knife and carved another notch on the ivory handle of the Colt. As he turned to walk away, he looked over his shoulder. The prairie dog was back kicking dirt over the gunny...trying to bury what his nose couldn't bear... then, into Fango's eyes he did stare.

© FIBBY BOB KINNEY USA "REGRET" On a scorching May afternoon, he sat on the cool, white marble floor of the Taj Mahal, his head bowed in contemplation. Despite the blazing sun and the oppressive heat, a throng of tourists streamed through the iconic monument, eager to witness this beautiful testament to love. The steady sound of their footsteps filled the air, punctuated by the guffaws of children. Yet, amidst this joyous lively scene, the man remained lost in his thoughts, oblivious to the noise around him. His elegant suit and expensive sunglasses hinted at a life of privilege, but his handsome face was marked by a profound sadness that seemed to consume him entirely. Absorbed in his sorrow, he absentmindedly scraped the stone floor with his nails, appearing detached from the world around him. Suddenly, a gentle hand on his shoulder shook him from his reverie. A small child stood before him, offering his ice cream with an innocent smile. The man's lips curled into a faint smile as he declined the offer with a shake of his head. The child, undeterred, ran back to his father, only to return moments later. This time, he placed a 100 rupee note and the ice cream in the man's hand before crossing his fingers and scampering back to his father. The man watched the child leave, tears welling in his eyes and falling onto the pristine marble. He was engulfed by a wave of brouhaha regret, reflecting on how the relentless pursuit of wealth had distanced him from his loved ones. His mother had spent her final days waiting for him, only to pass away before they could reunite. Now, all that remained was an overwhelming sense of sorrow and a poignant reminder of the time lost forever. ** POEM - "REGRET" Beneath the excessive heat waves, He lost himself in fate's dark caves. A journey begun with love spellbound, Stuck in doggerel moments around. How to heal, whom to blame, Bound by greed, caught in life's game. Loved ones on hope's threshold stand, Waiting for the touch of a familiar hand. Years passed, moments lost, Yearning hearts paid the cost. Returning victorious, world in hand, Yet he felt defeated and couldn't understand. Lost assets into time's cruel weeds, Nothing gained in the race of greed. Sorrow and regret the only friends, Greeting them on life's widdershin ends. © FATIMA Z. SARAH India S H A D O W S Myra was a four-year old little girl who was afraid of shadows. The first time she noticed her shadow, she was with her mother Cory, while they were out for a walk one early spring morning. She was so terrified that she started running and screaming for help, saying that a black monster was chasing her. Her mother, catching up with Myra, hugged and comforted her. She explained to her little girl, what shadows are. Still, her fear of shadows remained, specially at night amidst the myriad shapes cast by the lights. And so, whenever Myra walks outside during the day, she always looked straight ahead, avoid glancing left or right so as not to see the shadows. At night, she'd eat dinner before dark and immediately go to bed to sleep. Her mother, though worried about her daughter's phobia, just hoped and prayed that she'd surpass it as she grows older. One afternoon, Myra with her two friends, were playing in a nearby meadow. Soon, they were attracted by wildflowers and decided to pick some. In her excitement, Myra ran toward a grove where more vibrant flowers abound. Doing so, she got separated from her companions and in her return, she took a wrong turn became confused and got lost. It was getting late, the sun was setting and soon twilight came. Calling out while crying, Myra was trembling with fear for soon, shadows would start showing up as the moon is already rising. She helplessly sat down behind some bushes and closed her eyes. At times, however, she would peep hoping to see someone looking for her. In one of these peeps, she saw the shadows of two people holding torches. Closing her eyes once more, she prayed for those shadows not to come near her. She even covered her mouth to silence her sobs and cries. But then, something hard bumped at her back. As she let go of a terrified scream, she was enfolded in a tight hug and a hand stroked her hair. Opening her eyes, she saw it was her father with her brother who was annoyingly letting out a loud guffaw! Myra's happiness at being found overcame her annoyance with her brother. At last, she was safe and realized that the shadows saved her. From then on, she was not afraid of shadows anymore. She even told her mother that shadows are now her friends since they kept her company when she was alone. ** YOUR SHADOW Never fear your own shadow You can't lose it no matter what you do Wherever you go it will follow Attempt to run away, it will chase you It's such a weird but smart fellow A shadow is a dark spectre Just a shy and harmless stalker On its own it can't file a finger Only you could make it flutter You are its lord, you are its master Best allow it to be the echo From our distant forgotten woe Don't ever consider it a foe To befriend it is far better For it stays with you forever I could then say that those people Who fear their shadows are risible most specially when they're adults If they are kids it's comprehensible Cute and in itself, tolerable. © MYRTLE REYES EVE TEJADA Philippines LOVE IS ENOUGH "Are you sure? Are you ready for a new relationship?" , she asked. Jack stops for a moment, and even though she's on the other line, Jack knew, she felt his delay. "Am I ready?" Almost a year ago, Jack's beloved wife passed away. They have three children, knowing they were closer to their mother than he, perhaps because he had spent a lot of time working abroad. Jack is worried, having a hard time explaining to them, about his new-found love, it's not to forget their mom, but to continue with his own life, as it was the last word of his wife to him, while she was sick. Until Jack met Rose through social media, she may not be the match of his long, lost wife, but her charm is amusing, her laugh, her rib-tickling tales and stories, caught him unprepared to be in love, with Rose again! But is he ready? Rose asked him. When he asked Rose if it's possible for her to accept him, he is older than her, and he, having three children. "Are you sure? Are you ready for a new relationship?", she asked. Not that Rose doesn't believe him, but he's sure, Rose knows all too well, how he had some hesitations. There were times when they would talk on the phone, he'd have to cut their conversation only because his son might hear and Jack knew, it irritated Rose on the other line. But then, love truly conquers everything, including his fears and anxiety. Jack has to accept the challenge, whatever will be, will be! Without much brouhaha, Jack and Rose became sweethearts, anyway, their long-distant affair, and yet, they haven't met, personally. Their first meeting was so exciting. Jack is still hurdling traffic, when Rose suddenly appeared from one corner of the street, Jack recognized her immediately, and in excitement, he couldn't stop blowing the horn of his car, for Rose to notice him, forgetting that he was in the middle of traffic! Jack found rose to be lovelier and livelier in person, and he thinks that she's the one he is looking for. Jack is actually a silent type of person, especially since his wife just died. But Rose made his days and nights happier, having many stories, her childhood, and for Jack, Rose is amazing. Days moved on. Jack visits Rose during weekends, because of his work and their distance. She's in the city, and Jack is in the next province, until the COVID pandemonium broke. No one could just go from one place to another, stores were closed, parks were closed, no transportation, either. That's when their problem arose. They go back to their usual communication, by phone. It's plain sailing on the early part of the pandemic situation, days, months passed like they don't have any problems, unfortunately, they also don't have much progress in their relationship. Jack usually calls Rose at night, soon as he sensed she's home from work. Their office partially opened, as the government gradually eased the movements of the people, but not with long distant travel. There seems to be no problem, until the times Jack couldn't reach her, and other times, her line was busy. He even tried calling her on break time. Knowing that there's still some restrictions going on, Jack expected Rose to be at work but there's one time during lunch, Rose was not at work. Her friend informed that she went home to get something and would be back afterwards. Still, Jack doesn't see any problem, until the incident recurred, and this time, her friend, whom Jack happened to befriend too, made a mistake of telling a similar alibi, thus, Jack calls again as soon as he approximated when Rose would be home, only to find out she's not. Jack realizes that Rose is somewhere, not in her home and not at her work, either. That night, Jack, not losing hope, calls again, much earlier than usual, only to find out that her line is again busy. Later in the night, Rose calls back, only to say goodnight, as she mentioned she's tired and wanted to rest. His usual time of calls seem to always be occupied, and restricted. Just like the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. She's even turning off her phone, as soon as she says goodnight. Jack can't do anything while having difficulty contacting her, he can't travel because of travel bans. Rose told him that their subdivision is prohibiting visitors to come in. He'll just have to wait for whatever Rose will divulge. And if there's love no more, Hide it, while I'm asleep. If ever you would leave, Please, just do it real quick! 'Coz you haven't felt the pain Of being left behind. It happened once before,
What else, my end this time? You once said you would stay, Together, till we age. Why now, shying away? The guffaws, tend to fade! But if ever I'm wrong On whatever I fear, Forgive me, my mistake, I want us to be still. Jack does not stop, only to be disappointed, again and again! Until one night, he was able to talk with Rose, which he regretted at once. Perhaps, it's better not to hear the truth, than to learn she is no more yours. Rose met a man who's so near, while Jack is too far away. A man who can give her anything, that Jack can' least at the moment. Covid-19 hit Jack directly in his heart. The world stopped spinning, he couldn't think straight, everything became dark, he's back in his grave! Jack tried still, to persuade Rose to return to him, but Rose couldn't resist the many promises of the new guy. And worse, the man forbade Rose to talk to him at all. Yet Rose gave Jack a glint of hope. Rose asked for a little time, to try her luck, if she becomes successful with the man, Jack can move on, but if Jack can still accept her, she might return. Rose knew she still loved Jack, but her dreams, and the hopes of achieving them is very near, and she wanted to grab it, if it's to sacrifice Jack. If it's fair to Jack, only Jack will know. Jack can't do anything but to accept his fate, what Rose is achieving now, are all the things he wanted for her, yet Rose can't wait, and the opportunity is waving on her. Jack, unable to talk to Rose, follows through her friends. Each moment without her is a thorn in his heart. Does the man love Rose more than his love for her? Jack offers his future to Rose. Jack learns how the man pampers Rose with gifts and material things. And as the pandemic bans eased up, he thought that they're probably going even big rock pinned on him. So many tears fall, until one night, a friend of Rose, calls him, with information that Rose and the man are quarreling in the car and Rose can't do anything but cry. Jack wants to rush to help Rose, but circumstances prevent him and it's almost in the middle of the night, the distance is not that near. He begs her friends to look after Rose, for anything might happen. Early the next morning, Rose calls Jack, telling him all the stories while crying! That man is so possessive, wanting her to be caged just for him. Jack can't do anything but cry, worried about Rose and as they talk, Rose tells him, "Take me home from here, take me home with you!" Jack is shocked by what he hears . "Is it true?" "Is it true, are you serious?" asked Jack. Rose is still crying and says, "Yes!" She wants to escape from the prison where the man is keeping her. Without wasting time, Jack immediately flew to Rose. Soon as Jack arrives, Rose cried and asked Jack for forgiveness. But to Jack, he never counted her failings, all he knows is that he loves Rose and that's enough. © NATHANIEL D. CRUZ PHILIPPINES THE WESTMINSTER CHIMES Lately, I have dreamt of better times, more often now as I count the Westerminster Chimes. As darkness draws in, nights are getting colder, I definitely feel it more. For many a year, I was someone people would see, now those same people don't even look anymore. They only care about themselves now, long forgotten are the pastimes we shared... But never mind, I'm just waiting for the soup kitchen to open at the Westminster nine chime. Maybe tonight, the shelter will have a bed for me, you know some dogs get treated better. Perhaps I should crawl on all fours and beg, but to be honest, I would rather go hungry... As I walk with my rucksack and my sleeping bag, I spark up a ciggy just as Westminster eight chimes it's time to wriggle on, I don't want to be back of the queue again. If you're five minutes late, they only give you half a plate, the food aint' so hot, it gives me a terrible stomach. Suddenly, a scream makes me look back in the distance, I see someone being attacked. As quickly as I could, I ran toward them, and with all my strength, hit the attacker with my rucksack. He fell to the floor like a sack of spuds in front of me, I looked over at the woman she had just completely froze... I said , "It's alright, he can't hurt you now, I believe I may have knocked him out." My eye caught sight of a knife on the floor, this wasn't a domestic, it was something much worse. Then police were everywhere, must be six with firearms. They shouted, 'Kneel down", which I did without any hesitation. "It's not me you want", with a doggerel tone, "it's him, on the floor", as they cuffed me saying, "You're going nowhere." As the Westminster Chimes hit nine, "Thanks a lot", I said, "I won't get any supper now."
"Don't worry", said the officer in the car, "We will sort you some food, then you can tell us what happened, when you've eaten, had a wash and a comfy cell to sleep in". I replied, "You can't keep me here, I've done nothing wrong." To which he answered with guffaw, "Only joking, you're the town hero." "That's just hilarious, even rib-tickling by your standards", I replied. .."I just want to go, it's been a hell of a day." At the station, the Duty Sergeant said, "You caught that serial killer, we've been hunting him down for over a year now."

I asked, "What about the young lady! Is she alright?" "Yes, thanks to you, she is fine, she has so much to say, but it is traumatic for her." I hear the Westminster chimes ten, and I haven't eaten again. "You will eat soon" , the officer said, "Her father said you can have anything." "Anything" I said, "A steak would be nice" with my guffaw laugh. "I haven't had one for years..." The young lady spoke, and through her tears, " You'll be able to eat whatever you want, Dad's putting a spread on, there will be steak, and chicken and everything you like." When we got there, her father took me to a room. "Inside you can shower, and there's a choice of clothes, everything is for you, even the shiny shoes." "Let's get you suited and booted, then we can go and eat, what you did tonight has put me in a risible mood." The hotel had a wonderful spread, I've never seen a table without any bread...
"Thank you so much" , the young lady said. "Honestly, it was nothing." "I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for you." "I'm just glad I got there before he used that knife." Then a voice shouted out,
"Here's the man that saved my daughter's life!" Everybody cheered, it was a brouhaha as they started to clap. The young lady whispered, "Do you know about the reward?" "You standing here, is reward enough for me." As in my facetiae manner, I said, "You know what, I'd love a mug of tea." As I sat down, a waitress came over, and with guffaw, she chuckled, "Strong, two sugars if I remember right." It was Mary Jane, who I knew from before, " Praise God you no longer sleep in shop doorways!!" "Neither will you, now" , as she smiled at me, and handed over a hotel key. "This is your room, and it's number nine, so you can always remember the Westminster Chime." I asked "For real!!! This room is for me?" She said, "Yeah, and the good news is it's paid for! All those clothes are moved in, it's your's for now." "So with the reward money, you can build a new life..." I suddenly remembered a poem we wrote together... Just a home... All we want is a place to stay, Somewhere we feel comfortable every day. It's not much to ask for, a place to call home, A warm bed to sleep in, somewhere to charge our phone. A kitchen to cook in, a bathroom to shower, A couch to sit on maybe doze for an hour. Maybe it will happen, perhaps sometime, Until then, we will live by the Westminster Chime. No more widdershins, our lives on track again. Just a home, to take away the pain. © Badger and Mary Jane I now run a homeless shelter, with Mary Jane. Dreams can become reality sometimes, yet still, I listen out for those Westminster Chimes.... © STEVE LYMAN UK "SEABROOK'S SOLITARY SHORE"

In the tranquil village of Seabrook, nestled along the littoral expanse of the coast, there lived a contemplative soul named Eli. Drawn to the liminal space where land and sea converged, he found solace in the ebb and flow of the ocean's rhythm. One mist-laden morning, Eli's solitary reverie was interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious woman, a naiad, seated upon a weathered driftwood log. Her eyes, like liquid pools reflecting the azure sky, held secrets untold. "Do you feel the pulse of the sea, Eli?", she whispered, her voice a haunting melody carried by the breeze. Eli, captivated by her ethereal presence, approached cautiously. "The sea speaks in whispers," he replied, his voice barely audible above the gentle lapping of the waves. "But its words are lost to those who do not listen." The naiad smiled, a knowing glimmer in her eyes. "You have a poet's soul, Eli", she remarked, her voice as soft as the sea foam. "Few understand the language of the waves as you do." As days turned into weeks, Eli and the naiad forged an unlikely friendship, their conversations ranging from the mundane to the metaphysical. They spoke of dreams and desires. Of fears and aspirations, finding solace in the shared silence between their words. Together, they explored the Aquamania that gripped their souls, finding solace in the gentle patter of rain and the thunderous applause of storms. They danced beneath the moonlight, their laughter mingling with the song of the sea. But as seasons changed, so did the currents of their lives. One fateful day, the naiad vanished into the depths, leaving Eli to navigate the shores of his heart alone once more. Lost in a pluviophile's lament, he searched the horizon, yearning for her return. In the twilight of his longing, Eli found solace in the whispers of the wind and the rhythm of the waves. And as the moon cast its silvery glow upon the sea, he penned a poem to immortalize their brief encounter: In Seabrook's embrace, we danced,
Two souls entwined, by fate enhanced, But like the tide, she slipped away, A fleeting naiad, lost to the bay. Though storms may rage and waves may crash, Her memory remains, a gentle splash, In every drop, in every sigh, the spirit of the sea draws nigh. © CONCETTA PIPIA US "UNTITLED" In the remote areas near Chumabhati village of Kalimpong district, in the Darjeeling, Himalayas, lived a young girl by the name of Binsa, with her family comprising of grandparents, parents, uncle and aunts. She had a pet dog called Junkiri. Her dog often wagged its tail to hear "You are a mutt" from Binsa. A young girl of just twelve years old, Binsa would explore the hills in the early morning, on the sloppy roads walking silently, cherishing the tranquil atmosphere along with her faithful dog, Junkiri. Binsa was a happy-go-lucky girl, contented with what little her family could afford, though she was very much fond of studies. "Keep all your books on the shelf and clean the dust" , yelled her mother, as several books were lying on the bed, disarranged. Suddenly, Junkiri leaped on the bed and exercised some gymnastics which Binsa trained this obedient creature. Like a gush of wind, it started to move in widdershins, as Binsa exclaimed, "Either you sit here on the chair, or you rest in the courtyard." "You are an expert gymnast, my boy", exclaimed Binsa, to encourage the pet. It was a wonderful chord between the amiable creature and a beautiful heart like Binsa. She loved her pet so deeply. Each new step that it displayed, raised a rib-tickling impact. And the family engaged in fun and spell-binding guffaws. It was time for Binsa to go to her school as she cherished the time she interacted with her teachers and classmates in the Chunabhati Primary School at Kalimpong. English was her favorite subject and she was excellent in Mathematics. She aspired to become a leading journalist in India, someday. She enjoyed library time and regularly brought poetry books, home. She wrote good poetry. Over an attention to the doggerels of Hillaire Belloc, Geoffrey Chaucer and Robert Frost. She was mesmerized and ardently guffawed in an engrossment. Her dreams were enveloped in poems that perhaps were unknown to her mother, Falguni. She was much curious to know about English poets around the world. Her favorite Indian poet was always Rabindranath Tagore. A brouhaha erupted from her expressions in the recent poems that she wrote. Binsa grew up to be a strong visionary over her journey to New Delhi. She had completed her journalism from Lady Sri Ram College of Arts and Commerce and now she was deliberately austere of her desire to pursue her post graduation and doctorate from Delhi University. Her parents, Falguni and Hiten, wanted to fulfill their daughter's dream and expected to raise an intellectual from their family. Her published books like "Ephemeral Marsh Marigold" and "Tista's Catastasis" were the best sellers on Amazon recently. She traveled different countries like Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, to receive several awards and honorary book launches, sponsored by some publishers. She continued to pursue Journalism to fulfill her long, cherished dreams. She uplifted the spirit that " Where there is a will, there is a way". Her journey was not easy. She struggled with her deprivations, weaknesses and worked hard with a devotion, dedication, a strong determination and with an undaunted courage to make all her dreams come true. COURAGE SUSTAINS THE DREAMS Emboldening spirits demerge in a chase, Dreams are after all, an oblivion. Desperate over a determination and undaunted courage Where there is a will, there is a way. The facetiae of the world, Must not corrode the hidden desires. Bungled over attempts to endeavor, At times lead us to be victims of a brouhaha Never allowing to be weak to efface One's dreams that require constant perseverance. Catastrophes, calamities, deprivation often damages lives Yet the willpower again, uplifts the souls to parade A marked goal with sacrifices and hard work,
May be an accretion to the ladder of success. Deprivation teaches to value the period Needing to cover the progressions. Any superior echelons are attainable Where there is a pleasure in dreaming the success. © SOMDATTA MITRA
India "MIND POWER OF A STRONG WOMAN" She gave no ear to the voice of discouragement. Though like wind, it blew into her face each day. She gathered herself together through stumbling steps at first. Never did the two words 'give up' made her mind a slave. If there was ever a doubt, you'd never see it in her life. Friends and family were always the ones she built her walls of defense against. For the wind of discouragements were words that most times, broke her heart into millions of pieces. There were times she'd guffawed at the remarks thrown into her face. For she was a woman who saw victory in all the discouragements. A healthy life was one she defined as free from doubt, free from fear, trusting her instinct and moving on with her life. She always wore a smile defeating her enemies around. That's what I will always treasure about her. ** "MIND POWER" There was a brouhaha over his doubting words Excitedly she rose from her slumberous years of silence Picked up the pieces of her life Put on that smile of victory Marched out of his embrace And promised herself I'm never going back there, again. © JAYNOBO JAYMES
Papua New Guinea "DARK WILDERNESS" It was a Friday like everything else. I was down and my eyes were tired after the 4th time you said no to me. Looking back at your photos and videos of you, made me yearn for your love. Your words are like flowers bloomed in spring and your body is sensuous, erotica playing to my muse. "But there is no other way, I can't cope with your wants and needs. What you are asking is beyond me." I was confused. Is it too much to just wanting you, perhaps? "Alas, I will always be needing you and wanting you, I Love You. You said I was your soulmate, how could you do this to me?" And I cried, sitting inside a sweet-smelling café, with its richness freshly baked chocolate brownies in front of me. I thought, well, why don't I just give the lad what he wants, scornful that I just imagine how the previous relationships went downhill. He looked at me inside of the screen of my i-Pad. With a longing look of my eyes, he said it was over. He continued, but I just switched off my i-Pad because I know now, nothing good comes out from him. He was aching with sorrows and tiredness. I was like him, feeling dejected and unwanted by the person whom we've given our life for. As lonely as it is, both of us were looking for a companion, took comfort under the blue sun and now it died under mushroom clouds. Till death do us apart, the sentiment I assume. I can never become unchristian with the scriptures playing at the back of my head. My mind was jammed for a little while. I thought about that day when he kissed me on the forehead after we amorously made love. Risible, holding our breath, our hands were touching honeyed sentiments of hidden pleasures. "Do you go to the seaside?" I asked. Waves will come crashing the beach and take the sand with it. But how many times the waves come, the beach will always be there, the water leaving the sand dunes behind. "I am the wave, I will always grasp you, I will never let you go", I said holding on his cheek smudged with kisses. Night was fading into dawn. I saw the mountain range outside the window of winter clasp town, Fuji-san. At the end of the snowy mountain, can you see the trail where it goes to the valley of shadows? There, I shall remain, waiting for you. I hit the send button on the messenger, and I slumbered into Aubade, with tears in my heart.
** " A THOUSAND NIGHTS" A thousand moon perhaps
I've waited for you
Like a widdershins
you never stood still
My heart withered like the rose
on winter dews
Your eyes were beautiful
at the thought of me,
Tempest awaken
Soul is in quandary Dark days of dark rain
Ruin both of our days together Mystery of hope, dwindling of fate
At last, you left, where else
I'm still searching for me in those
thousand nights. © SHEILA ANN Malaysia "THE UNDELIVERED LETTER" Sometimes, the thought of a loved one occupies your mind, without leaving a corner for any other thing; whether it brings joy, remorse or grief, it doesn't matter; love is a patent balm that hurts as it heals. So was the case with Nanu, who for some time now, was caught in the whirlpool of that emotional river, from where it was difficult to exit and painful to stay stuck. For over six months, Nanu was trying to draft a letter but unable to finish; words never seemed perfect to express his state of being. Finally, one day, after shredding into bits, all that he had written, he wrote just three words, folded and placed it in a pink cover, and tucked it in his left shirt pocket, keeping the cover in a way that it remained just inside without protruding over the rim. Before stepping out, he looked at himself closely in the mirror, hung on the wall, combed his perfectly cropped hair, which remained, as it were, in the same place where they were before. He always disliked his hair. His friends could style their hair the way the barber wanted, and the hairs obeyed meekly to the barber's scissors, but his hair behaved like stubbles in a freshly mowed field of grass, straight and obdurate. Maya was staying a furlong away from his house, on the opposite side of the row of houses where he stayed. Every day, there was some or other occasions when he would have a glimpse of her, on his way to or from his house. Of late, he had increased the frequency of his outings, which bothered his parents, but in the absence of any specific material evidence, they just thought it as normal and stopped bothering. When he neared Maya's house, he saw movement of unknown people, in spruced-up, fine linens and sarees, going and coming like tiny red ants. He paused and looked keenly; Maya's brother had come and was parking his cycle. He called him near and asked, "Hey, Bunty! What's the matter?" Bunty smiled and whispered, "Maya's engagement...", and hurried back with a guffaw into the house. II. Nanu looked through the window at the sun, slowly setting down over the hills, with a hazy pallor shading the trees at the bottom of the hills. Holding the pink envelope in his hand, he thought what went wrong in his life, that he is neither happy nor morose, living like a sapless being, ferreting out the past from its holes, and putting them back like a child fiddling with toys out and in from the toy tray. Nanu lighted a cigarette, took a deep and long puff, slowly blew circles of smoke, observed keenly as they went up twirling, and savored their languid dissipation in the air. He tore the envelope into pieces and threw them down in the grass beyond, took a deep breath and exorcised himself out from the clutches of the past. There was an instantaneous change in the color of his face, turning from gloomy and pale to a perceptible gleaming, not visible before, which made him always look sullen and sulking. A new energy rushed through his veins and he thought that it was the mental block which he had nurtured in his own mind, and which has, at last, dissolved in an instant of self-revelation. He sat down and wrote the following lines: Rejoice in what you have, and leave the unattainable Never make brouhaha over things beyond your control. Say goodbye to irredeemable past, welcome the new day, If you have the will, you shall have your own sweet way. © KALUCHARAN SAHU India

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