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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 2: March 2020
Tanka Tale: 250 words
Author’s Notes: 75 words
By Claire Everett

Subtle Ghosts


once more from my pen
“this life of short lives”...
the cursive
of the sabbats
scurried and sung

And so, it seems, I go to the lattice alone to look out upon a landscape I have walked a thousand times, in different shoes and selves. There is she. And there am I. Friends who have failed one by one, middle aged, young and old and yet how they dance the may-blossomed lanes and echo in the caves, ghosts, warmer to me now than this thrall of ink and dreams. And what of the travellers of this flesh-and-blood way I'd sooner forget, those other me’s dotting plain and mound? In sleepless valleys they stand in the blank moonlight but cast no shadow, speak without a voice and leap without a sound.

without a by-your-leave...
in a starlit rowan
beyond the lych-gate
a blackbird sings

Oftentimes, my lips against the bone-cold pane, I cry out for my mother but that name, the first to shape my palate, now comes as a whisper only I can hear.

Make a lonely bed for me. And shelter it from the wind: tell the others not to come to see me night or day.

She answers only as myself to me. But I am stilled. Then I watch until all are gone. Some to sleep in the shifting sea and some under turf and stone.

And I am once more and never alone.

over yourself
to tell me...
first robin
of Imbolc

Author’s Notes:

Italicised sections and title are taken from the poem “A Chilly Night” by Christina Rossetti (1830–1894).

Imbolc (“Ewes’ Milk”): the Celtic cross-quarter day that follows Midwinter, and aligns with Candlemas and the contemporary Groundhog Day (February first). In the British Isles it marks the beginning of the lambing season and heralds the first light of spring. In Gaelic it is Feile Brighde, the “quickening of the year,” the etymology stemming from “in the belly.”

Claire Everett
Issue 2, March 2020

is the author of two tanka collections, twelve moons and The Small, Wild Places; and co-author of Hagstones: A Tanka Journey with Joy McCall, and Talking in Tandem with her husband, Tony Everett. In 2017, Claire joined the editorial panel for the Red Moon Anthology. She served on the editorial team for Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka (Volume 4, 2011), and in 2015 she edited the Tanka Society of America’s Members’ Anthology, Spent Blossoms. She served as tanka-prose editor for Haibun Today [from December 2011 thru September 2016], and as founding editor of Skylark Publishing and Skylark: the journal [from the inaugural issue in April 2013 thru the final issue, Summer 2019].

Claire is mum to five children and step-mum to two and likes nothing better than to be cycling through the Dales with Tony on their trusty tandem Tallulah, or walking on the North Yorkshire Moors.

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