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PART OF THE Summer in the City ISSUE

Introducing New Writer Awardees Rachelle Atalla and Lindsay Macgregor

The New Writers Award recognises serious aspiring writers and provides them with the opportunity to develop their craft. Watch this space for the new up-and-coming names in literature.
This month, we introduce you to the writing of awardees Lindsay MacGregor and Rachelle Atalla.

Extract from ‘Spine’
By Rachelle Atalla
Full short story published in Gutter, Issue 12, February 2015

I noticed a young boy approaching, carefully, through the rows of people spread out in the sun. Turning his back to me, he came to a stop in front of my lounger and sat down in the sand. He wore no t-shirt, only shorts and a baseball cap that was too big for his head. He was thin, unbearably thin; a thinness that made me feel sick. He could have only been about ten but he resembled an old man – skin and bone worn away to nothing. He gripped a backpack in his right hand that looked empty. On his wrist he wore red and yellow beads – the beads could have been made for a toddler. From my lounger, I shifted slightly, giving myself an elevated view of his movements. The boy stretched himself out, placing his backpack behind his head to create a pillow. He ran his fingers through the warm sand, clawing handfuls, letting his fingers fall flat again. He moved his body from side to side, suddenly sitting up, drawing his knees close to his chin and burying his toes under the sand. In that position, I saw the entire framework of his spine. Every bone protruded out towards me, allowing me to see how he was made. He seemed hardly a person in that moment – just an arrangement of bones. He lay back down and within minutes was sleeping soundly, his face turned away from the sun. It made me wonder what would become of my bones once I was gone. I had always disliked the idea of cremation. My parents had bought their cemetery plot when I was a child, needing to be together, one on top of the other. I’d never had their foresight.

The boy could only have been asleep for twenty or thirty minutes, but for all that time I watched over him, imagining I was protecting him from whatever harm I thought might approach. He had scars on his arms; the scars pale against his dark skin. I found myself thinking pigmentation was a strange thing. Who had given him those scars? Or had he made them himself? I thought about my butchered bowels and what was left of them. I wanted this boy to know I cared for him. We were united, this boy and I, from circumstances out of our control.

He woke, rubbing his eyes slowly, and sat up, grabbing his hollow backpack. He took a yellow football top out of the bag and pulled it over his head with the baseball cap still on. Like the cap, the shirt was also too big, drowning him. There was a price tag hanging from the back of his shirt, which didn’t seem to bother him. He got to his feet, weaving through the loungers and towels, until he was away, lost to me through the crowds of people.

Poems
By Lindsay Macgregor

 The Lewis Chesswoman

She knows she’s just a dolled-up
pawn to him. Slugs more mead.
Recites the game-plan in her head,
rehearses every sideways move.
How she’d love to go berserk
with mitts like these, his bishops
putting shame to shame. Instead,
it’s constant stalemate.

(In Poetry Scotland)

 

Cudknot

Year upon year, she mowed the back lawn,
Backward and forward, come hell or high water.

Thirty years on, she looked past the fence
To a field of cudknot and fescues – a mess.

So she mowed down the field till she blunted the blades
Then she shoved and shunted; she started again.

Out past the pond to the lip of the river,
She striped every field from Ceres to Cupar.

In a year and a half she got out to the cliffs,
Left a strewing of purslane and sheepsbit and thrift.

The look in her eye pierced the eye of each daisy
Through Cornwall, past Roscoff and into the valleys

And hills of the Causse, she kept cutting those swards
And cutting and cutting and still there was more

To be mown, more to be mown as she mowed
And she mowed on right out of this world.

(Published in New Writing Scotland, 29, 2011)

 

Lugworming

Two lumps of men
on a plate-glass beach
vulcanised by their gear
like old buddy bull-seals
end-on to the horizon
slicing through the daily
slap of a low ebb
without ever
touching.

(Published in New Writing Scotland, 30, 2012 and Ink, Sweat and Tears)

 

Sunday Rituals

Someone sits at a window
as rain runs from gables
in unbroken lines.

At an upright piano
another sings psalms
of the Fathers.

A shepherd lies down
in the dunes. These are surely
most terrible times.

(In Ambit, 219, 2015)

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