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This week's title is May Contain Nuts. The final entry time this week is 11pm (UK time) 16th November 2018. Predicted prize fund is £50!

Editorial

18th September 2018

Deciding on a theme for Hour of Writes is a tricky business. It must be precise enough to inspire writers to create pieces with clear connections to the theme, but broad enough that each entry will be unique. Of all things Attack And Receive could have been inspired by, it came from a playing card in the franchise that dominated my childhood: Yu-Gi-Oh. With such an aggressive phrase, I was hoping for war, embittered couples, and intrigue. I was delighted to find all this, alongside some whimsy.

I was immediately drawn to Entry 3155, which explores a situation too many of us will be familiar with. It reminds us that those who suffer from violence often turn to violence, that this cycle is not easily broken. Entry 3155 also shows that there can be a lot of power in simple language.

Entry 3160, Red Poppy Boy (gets what’s coming to him), has a lovely rhythm that drives the reader through a story of addiction and consequence. This can be seen especially in the second stanza, with: ‘an A1 stealer / all state receiver / a total syringe believer’. Successfully employing rhythm always makes a poem more compelling.

With Entry 3163, we see a regular structure and rhythm used to great effect. The images were very vivid, essential for communicating a story with such a degree of movement and as many changes in scene. I particularly enjoyed the shift in scale in: 

‘Zipping through the midges and the dragonflies / We crest the spikes and fall into a murderous scrum’,

making the poem more dynamic and cinematic. 

For me, Entry 3159 was the obvious winner. Gentle and concise, the piece takes us ‘inch by inch’ through a race. The poem is dense with imagery, and it is a credit to the author that they evoked such a strength of feeling in me with so few lines. I keep returning to: 

‘The last water gone / Like legs / with nothing left / except blisters, cramp, / tiredness beyond enduring’

drawn by its subtlety of rhythm and simplicity of language.

Thank you to everyone who entered. Judging this competition was a wonderful excuse to sit down, have a cup of tea, and immerse myself in varied poetry and prose. You each responded to the prompt differently, making this process an absolute pleasure. I hope you all continue to write great work for Hour of Writes, and for yourselves.


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About The Judge

Jack Cooper works at the University of Oxford, in a laboratory that uses the sexual courtship of fruitflies as a model to understand core features of development and behaviour. His poetry has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, and shortlisted for The New Poets Prize and Segora Poetry Competition amongst others. Stephen King, Final Fantasy, and K-Pop are the great loves of his life.

You can find him on Twitter at @JackCooper666, and on Instagram at @JackCooper0696


Ephemera

I
Realization

Only closer to midnight did David manage to solve the conundrum that had been confusing him all day. The funny realization brought him great relief, as well as anger with himself and still more confusion, this time about human psychology.

He was standing outside a bar, snow covering his hair and clothes as if to help him keep cool head. Nevertheless, he was sweating.
“What a fool! A complete, stupid, unbelievable fool!” He whispered to himself as his fingers were hastily dialing her number. “Hi... I missed you,” he said in a singing tone trying to cope with all the goosebumps that appeared out of nowhere the second he heard that sleepy voice on the other end of the line.

II
Introduction

Okay, it’s pretty cold. I should have put on that warm sweater, I admit. And still the weather these days is not quite what I expected. Anyway, that couple over there – David Richardson and Regina Greenwood. Been together for how many? About four months now. They try not to show their feelings in public. It’s almost funny how pathetically they fail. See the way he holds her hand sort of caressing it with his thumb? Pay attention to how she almost jumps every time he speaks to her. And then of course there are the radiant eyes and the – Just look at them! I guess now I should take back what I said about their not showing feelings in public and all. Damn it! It’s mid January! How long do I have to wait for snow?

III
Confusion

David woke up a bit later than usual. It was Sunday - no work, just rest, hanging out with friends, spending time with his girl-friend. All week he’d been planning to take Regina to some place nice on Sunday. He’d been so excited about it. He counted days. And now it was Sunday, but somehow the enthusiasm was gone. His phone rang. Regina. He thought for a while. For some reason he didn’t have the heart to talk to her right now. Decline.

David looked out of the window. For the first time that year it was snowing.

***

It was a little after 11 p. m. when David entered the bar in which he’d agreed to meet with his friend Neil who at the moment happened to be sitting at a small table aside, tete-a-tete with his beer.

“And where is your girl?” He asked almost immediately after they exchanged greetings. “I mean, you guys go everywhere together. You quarrelled or somethin’?”

“Oh no, it’s all okay,” was David’s response, although his voice and his mood pointed to the contrary.

“Come on. Be honest with me, man. Somethin’ happened?”

“Why do you think - Okay, maybe. Actually, it’s all pretty strange. Today something is just not the same. I can’t quite put a finger on it. But yesterday everything was fine. When we saw each other last time, everything was fine. We said good-bye until today, exchanged passionate kisses… Yeah, it all was pretty much amazing! Damn! I love this woman. I’m gonna call her. I have to call her.”

“Sure as hell, you gotta call her.”

“You know what?”

“What?”

“Maybe later.”

“As you wish,” said Neil shrugging his shoulders and drinking up his beer.

***

Just when David was about to split another beer with Neil, a tipsy man at the next table ruined this brilliant plan by approaching a group of ladies who sat nearby and shouting insulting obscenities in their address. Obviously, it was time for David to defend the honour of the womanhood. At once he ran up to the man, grabbed him and dragged him away.

“You don’t understand!” screamed the man making attempts to free himself and even, it seemed, put up a fight with David. “All women are like this. They cheat on us and we don’t even suspect!”

David’s fist stopped midway as his adversary pronounced the word “cheat”.

“Thank you, buddy,” he said, tapping the visibly puzzled man on the shoulder and headed towards the exit.

IV
Forgotten Night

It’s Saturday night. Regina decided to prepare some kind of surprise for me. And so I’m standing on top of a sky-scraper, watching the moon, or rather what is left of it. Astonished at first, now I seem to remember it’s lunar eclipse tonight.

I know she’s about to show up and sheer excitement is flowing through my body. Here she is. My girl. Grace and simplicity. She’s chose to wear a dress. This is totally not like her. She’s done it for me and I more than appreciate the effort. Oh, and of course here is the silly pink lipstick she never stops wearing. I hate it but on the other hand it’s often a reason for light banter, and flirting, and kissing…

I can’t take my eyes off of her. I find myself gazing in her captivating green eyes, tonight of some unnatural green tint, greener than usual if that’s possible. Why wouldn’t it be? Everything is possible. “Follow me,” I see her plump scarlet lips whisper as she steps off the roof. “Wait!” I cry out, not able to bear the thought of losing her. She’s hovering in the night sky,
her features illuminated by the enormous circle of the moon that has moved from the shadow although I don’t remember when. Thank God she’s alright. I sigh with relief, but not for long as her eyes encourage me to do the same. I’m scared of falling. It doesn’t suit a man to be scared. On her face appears a smile, alluring but with a hint of disdain. She flies away from me. Although I lose her sight, I know where to find her and seconds later I’m running down the corridor in a hotel. I know she’s cheating. I open one of the doors and have the proof before my eyes. The scene is too heartbreaking to watch and I fail to hold back the tears.

V
Psychology of Dreams

– So, what are you trying to tell us, doctor, dreams reflect reality?

– Well, not exactly. And not always. You see, dreams are the place where there practically isn’t anything impossible. In dreams our suppressed fears, hopes, desires etc. come to life. But as I once told in one of my lectures and as you may have already noticed yourself, dreams are an exceedingly subtle matter. Even professionals in this field frequently fail to figure them out completely. Some say they are the natural outcome of our daily experiences and obviously one could hardly disagree with that. Others, however, argue that dreams have more to do with what’s to come, rather than with the past. They are confident that dreams are given to us from above and for a reason. You probably heard of the so called prophetic dreams?

– Yeah, sure. I think I even had one myself. So dreams are a way of giving us a warning?

– Or they can simply mean nothing. Sometimes you’ll never find out. But there definitely is some sort of connection, no matter how little, between dreams and reality. You couldn’t just cut them off from real life. I mean they inevitably draw pictures from the everyday experience. And on the subconscious level they may remotely influence our mood and thoughts as well.

– Wow. That’s interesting to know. Thank you again for agreeing to talk to us on such, I dare say, universally important issue.

VI
Conclusion

“Hi…I missed you”

“Oh yeah? Then why have you been ignoring my calls?”

“Actually, it’s a long story.”

“Well, since I’m already awake and you say you missed me –”

“I guess my reality is too good to believe in. I guess my brain can’t manage my happiness and tries to block it by inventing non-existent problems and presenting me with unlucky possibilities in relationships. But don’t worry, I’ll never listen to it again.”

“I haven’t understood a word you just said, but that was the most original excuse I’ve ever heard. And since you refuse to listen to your brain, how about meeting? Right now! I’ve missed you too, you know.”



Neurobiology… Of… Love

Last week's competition

Last Week's Winner!

Winning entry by Madkins
Neurobiology of Love


Do not suggest that one cannot feel the longing
For another individual.
Do not imply that neurons simply navigate and transmit
signals to modestly control our ability to move, breathe, see, think.
Do not offer me that rash rhetoric of equivocation
Defending the notion that love is not ingrained in the very depths of our being.

No. The winding, twisting, interlacing tubes of intensity
Trap the very core of what it is to love.
Inside is like a spring, crystalline pool heated by the tender rays of sun.
Coiling all around and leaving no area unmarked.
The intensity runs boundless like water plummeting south
Against a creased face of a mountain edge.

Nerves, carving out their path, staining all around
Without hesitation chooses for you.
No democracy in sight but a struggle for power that you will surely lose.
No choice in who, nor when, nor how long, nor how much, nor how little.
Relinquish all thoughts of conscious control and leave
It to the dictator.

So phenomenal it is to love.
So phenomenal it is to be loved.

Yet, how preternatural it is when the desired equilibrium is not present.
When red, bloody flesh is torn away, revealing those woven tubes. You see.
There it is.
Trapped.
Harassing your every moment of clarity.
Screaming at you.
Forcing you to listen.
Usurping your composure.
It stabs.
Stabs you with jolts of intense burning.
Stabs you with piercing sensations.
Stabs you with eventual numbness.
The pain clings to you tenaciously like poison ivy.
Its grip tighter and tighter.

Love is mellifluous music on repeat.
Love is a somnambulist in which you never escape.
Love is beyond limerence.
Love is lachesism.
Love is ethereal, almost ineffable.

How does love provoke such a plethora of endless definitions?
None right. None wrong.
And still. Why is humanity bound in an endless stream, condemned to follow
The stains and paths set out for us by those interlacing tubes?
Because, to put it plainly, that’s what it is to be human.
So, be scared; be terrified, if those nerves merely control your ability to move, breathe, see, and think.
My Notes