She rambles around Plénée-Jugon,
seeking signs, leftovers of her younger self –
life tending kitchen gardens, a commune,
her home at L’abbaye de Boquen. She took a vow,
to return. Determined, she makes her oath good now.
Besret’s Cistercian monks have long gone
and she found years ago, she cannot believe
in God. The oak-timbred door creaks open
and within whitewashed walls, sparse
furnishings, hard pews, scents
of chalky musk
press her back
guitar riffs, folk songs, radical liturgies
and always people holding hands,
spiritual and temporal
her worn out hippy soul lights a tapered prayer
for peace –
Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook was published in July 2019: ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press. Her first pamphlet is due to be published in 2021. She is a Pushcart Prize (2019 & 2020) and Forward Prize (2019) nominee and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, UK (2017). She believes everyone’s voice counts.
My mother enrolled me in a tap-dance class when I was five; I hated it. The little outfits hung awkwardly on me, the sequins always falling off. The shoes hurt my feet. My steps were uncoordinated and always three beats behind everyone else’s. I couldn’t twirl without stumbling. Everyone else got that lovely tap sound as they danced across the floor. “She’s very pretty with those blonde curls,” the teacher told my mother. “But she has no grace.”
Grace was my only friend in sixth grade. I was hers. We sat alone at our lunch table. We laughed together. If one of us had money we bought a candy bar to share. We exchanged books. One day I invited her home after school. My mother bought cookies. Her parents didn’t want her to go, but she came anyway. We were happy walking home as I told her about my games and chemistry set, but when we got to our apartment my mother sent Grace home. I didn’t understand. My mother said, “I’m sure she is a lovely girl, but she’s colored. She belongs with her own kind.” “She is my kind: we read the same books, laugh at the same things, like the same cookies,” I insisted, but my mother walked away.. Grace’s mother told her that she couldn’t have anything to do with me. The rest of the year I sat alone at lunch; no Grace.
My grace period for paying my student loan was up. The credit mafia made threatening calls, sent threatening letters, even knocked at my door. “But I pay everything I can at the end of the month. I’m supporting two kids,” I told the man on the phone. “Sometimes I give you ten dollars, sometimes twenty-five but I always pay” The man scoffed; “Your money problems aren’t ours.” A friend who was a lawyer worked out a credit plan with them, but I was broke halfway through every month and lost any line of credit for seven years.
“Grace period is over,” they repeated to my lawyer. “No grace left.”
“Forgiveness is an act of grace,” My husband told me when he broke my jaw after a disagreement about nothing important, something I can’t even remember. “Just let it go. I’ll never do it again,” he insisted. Then he repeated, “Forgiveness is an act of grace.”
I laughed and told him, “Everyone knows I have no grace.”
Michelle Cacho-Negrete is a retired social worker who lives in Portland Maine. She is the author of Stealing: Life in America. She has 80+ publications, 4 of which are among the most notable, 5 in anthologies, 1 won Best of The Net and another won the Hope Award.
Connor Doyle is a photographer and filmmaker based in the Chicagoland area. Graduating from Hampshire College’s Film/Photo program in 2016, Doyle’s work focuses on the idiosyncratic details of daily life in Northern Illinois, specifically his native Wheaton, IL. Though often trivial, his subjects capture the formal beauty and potency of these everyday sites, urging his viewers to reflect on the significance of their lived experiences. Connor’s work has been published in the Prairie Light Review, the Hole In The Head Review, the Burningword Literary Journal, and the Parliament Literary Journal. You can visit his website at https://connordoylephotographyfilmmaker.cargo.site
Issue 103, published July 2022, features works of poetry, flash fiction, short nonfiction, and photography by Laurel Benjamin, Ellen Birrell, Ronda Broatch, Mary Buchinger, Roger Camp, John Cullen, Emily Davis, Lisa Delan, Lauren Endicott, James William Gardner, David Goodrum, Peter Grieco, Greg Hom, Jenny Hubbard, Rachel Laverdiere, Larena Nellies-Ortiz, Dante Novario, Dian Parker, Yasmin Phillip, Michelle Reed, Amanda L. Rioux, Jim Ross, Aaron Sandberg, Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb, Beth Spencer, Jeffrey Thompson, Patricia Walsh, Racine Watson, Richard Weaver, and Hannah Zhang.
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