Scarecrow by Steve Toase

Scarecrow

Sitting in the only chair in the room the guitarist began to sing. She sang the carpet into furrows of clay and the light-bulb into a paled sun. She sang twelve jolly dons into the already crowded bedsit. Through the floor erupted stick tied men, the taint of mildewed coats filling the room. Around the window shabby crows cluttered up the curtain rail. On a Monday outside time she sang beauty between those four walls that lingered long after everyone left.

When the day passed to night I passed the night sleeping alone in a single bed, under a window too easily opened from the outside. Next morning I got up in my one pair of jeans, with my reduced money for the week, and I carried inside my chest one crow feather, a mildewed thread, and a clod of ploughed clay.

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Scarecrow by Steve Toase

Impish by Steve Toase

haunt 1. Sulphur

The sulphur turned us impish, nestling in our marrow like a hiding toddler. Staring at our faces you may have noticed small nubs of keratin erupt upon our foreheads. Behind us dragged our tails of thorns and fox tongues.

We did not inflict our mischief upon others. All our tricks were inward looking. We were both Grifter and Mark.

Our horns we hid. The girls with concealer, the boys with fringes that scraped their eyes. But our tails? Oh, we were proud of our tails. We bedecked them with ribbons and lengths of neon climbing rope. Bottle tops that caught the light, and some with bells teased from the necks of friendly cats. We dressed them like we were mingling at Carnivale, and we were proud of them. Yet they were treacherous things, our tails. Their thorns snagged three score times a day. Sometimes upon ephemeral things like a whispered word. Or the glance of those taking afternoon tea beyond a window we would never see from the other side.

Other times they caught in the route of a store detective. Shifted his footsteps until they fell in behind ours. The dance moves of the uniformed were never as rapid and staccato as those tapped out by our cloven hoofs.

On curtained days the thorns of our tails became knotted, tearing into our sheets. Became wrapped around with strands of brown and blue smoke. In the dark the fox tongues whispered words to us like blackberries. Some sweet. Some sour. We picked ourselves free with care, thread by thread.

2. Chalybeate

The chalybeate turned us ferrous, seeping into our skin like midnight thoughts. If you looked close enough at us you would see cuisse and revebrace cleave to our limbs. Plackart wrapped around our torsos. Vental covering our face when we no longer wished to talk. Yet we had no oils to care for the iron that wrapped us. No wax to rub into the once polished surface.

On our slow walks around town, feet weighed down by rusted sabaton, blisters of corrosion chipped off with each step. Our armour became shabby with each encounter. Rusted crumbs littering the well-tended grass where we lounged. Where we avoided people and homes that were not homes.

3. Magnesia

The magnesia turned us luminous, woven through our fingers like strands of radiance. No-one paid us attention, but we glowed. The midday sun at midnight. Magical and out of place. We gleamed and glittered. They ignored us. We knew this was because the brightness under our skin would scorch their eyes out. So they stepped aside and lowered their heads away from us. Glanced anywhere but in our direction.

Impish by Steve Toase

Call for submissions for Haunt anthology

Tunnel

We invite stories or poems from people who have experienced homelessness, or vulnerable housing in Harrogate.

Please send 250 words, or 25 lines of poetry including blank lines, and a 50 word bio about your experiences of homelessness or vulnerable housing. 

Closing date 20th April.

All appropriate submissions will be put on the website and some pieces will be selected for the anthology.

Submissions to haunt.harrogate@gmail.com

More Info

HAUNT /hɔːnt/

v.  To inhabit, visit, or appear to in the form of a ghost.

n.  A place much frequented.

v.  To haunt one’s thoughts or memory.

The history of this town haunts us.

These buildings in which we live are spectres of past opulence.

The healing of this town is not for us.

Harrogate is known for its past as a wealthy spa town, and still has a reputation as a genteel place of tea rooms and flower shows.

This is not the Harrogate of everyone. For some people this idealised history is a haunting presence in their lives. In the fabric of buildings where they live in one room, or the parks where they sleep.  Their experiences are muffled beneath the dominant voice of Harrogate.

Haunt explores how people who are homeless, or bedsit residents, live inside these ghosts of the town’s past. Haunt gives people a place to tell stories not normally heard within the accepted narrative of the town and bring them to a wider audience.

Call for submissions for Haunt anthology

Pantomime By Steve Toase

Theatre

Her pockets bulged with sweets collected from the stalls after pantomime performances. Each pear drop and chocolate mouse wrapped in torn strips of old poster bills.

Leant against the lobby wall, she offered me a striped humbug bandaged in an advert for Dick Whittington.

I stared for a moment. At her gift nestled in her palm. At her. She waited.

I reached out and she tipped the sweet into my hand. Even through the crumbling paper I felt the sugar, tacky against my skin. With dirty nails I picked the fragments from the surface and placed the mint in my mouth.

“Can you taste the glamour?” she said, her voice a blaze of spotlight. “The panstick and scorch of footlights? The tang of scenery paint?”

I tasted none of these. Just dirt trodden carpets, the cloud of dust as the grand drape descends and the house lights burning away the glitter.

With the sweet clagging in my throat I turned away, her scent of peppermint fading to nothing, and I walked back into the knives of February’s gale.

Pantomime By Steve Toase