Paris, seen from MontmartreJoshua Veitch-Michael
Zinc and slate against my thighs,
a metal sky above me, low,
forbidden, lurking,
if I stretch my ungloved hands,
I reckon I could harvest
all the citrine gems, the golden beryls,
fire opals, amber stones
concealed behind these autumn clouds

The red brick chimney in my back
discharges central heating fumes,
and it feels almost friendly,
like a lukewarm handshake
from a perfect stranger

While I close my eyes, the world
keeps spinning round and round,
vague smells of car exhaust,
domestic fuel, spicy dishes drift up
from the busy avenue nearby
where cars are honking, children lauging,
stories lived

The mizzle wafting in the air
feels like so many tiny tears
but it’s just water falling down

Perhaps, when I get back to life,
today, tomorrow, sometime soon,
there will be snow, a blanket, white
and spotless, cloaking all the dreary details
of the city

But right now, I do not move,
a static gable rider high above
the vales of Paris, quite content
that all I have is bricks,
and zinc, and slate, and murky skies…


Screens. A collection of very short stories - 6


“How do I look?” Ewa asked, self-consciously touching her blonde ponytail. She wasn’t actually apprehensive about the interview, she’d done that before; but if she didn’t show at least some last-minute panic, people might see how easy-peasy her job was. 
“You look perfect,” Czesław answered, barely looking at her. He was checking his watch, then gazed out of the window where the usual morning traffic was jamming up the Wojska Polskiego Avenue. “You’ve still got half an hour to rehearse your answers anyway.” 
“Has anyone prepared the photos they wanted for footage?” 
“Yes, Ewa. Relax.” Czesław double-clicked on a folder, and a dozen of selfies appeared on the 24”-screen. They all showed the famous red-brick building with the tower in the middle, the double railway lines converging toward the entrance, with slightly inebriated young men standing in front it, grinning from ear to ear and giving a wobbly thumbs-up. 
“Just tell me again—why do they want to talk to me about… that?” 
Czesław shrugged. “Some sort of anniversary, I think. Who cares? It’ll be good publicity and boost our business. Things are always way too slow in January.” 
When the Canadian TV-team arrived at last, Ewa had finished rehearsing her lines. She sat in the huge meeting room, the silver-and red agency-logo W Events clearly visible on the wall. It had cost over 8,000 złoty after all, so they’d better film it, too. 
The interviewer was a chubby and jovial brunette who did her best to make things easy for Ewa. The dreaded question about Oświęcim was finally asked ten minutes into the interview. “So you organize boy bachelor parties in the camps—have I got that right?” the brunette wanted to know. 
“Oh, yes, of course.” 
“But why?” 
Ewa smiled patronizingly. “That’s not hard to grasp. There’s a market, you know. We had to satisfy the increasing demand. Lately, it has become quite a fashionable place to party.” 
“Wait—it’s fashionable to party? In the death-camps of Auschwitz?” 
“Oh yeah. Why wouldn’t it be? Let me show you the photos. You’ll see for yourself.”


Screens. A collection of very short stories - 5


Two-hundred-and-forty users were online when Tom connected. Forty had switched on their web-cams, the remaining two hundred preferring to remain faceless, bodyless nicknames. Chatroom promises such as hairy_hot20, str8boy, 18oz, nz-slut. 
Of the forty who had switched on their cam, most offered zooms of their lower body parts. Tom discovered few faces, even fewer smiles. Adult chat via web-cam seemed to be a serious business. 
He heard moaning. Saw men rubbing their members. Glistening skin, the rustling of body-hair. An uncut Australian. A shaved Indianapolis chest. Mexican fur. L.A. drooling. The written exchanges consisted of encouragements, come-ons, loud cheers when a peak was announced, reached, and displayed. 
Tom watched the shows in silence, his web-cam directed at his face. He felt a strange kind of yearning well up inside. His right hand moved down to his crotch. He felt a binge of remorse, but only briefly. 
That’s when someone chatted him up at last. A certain “fulloflove”, whose cam showed a handsome young Indian boy in his twenties lying on his bed, fully clothed. The boy looked straight at Tom, a shy smile twinkling around his lips. 
They started to place their conversation in the public chatroom, amidst the expressions of desire and lust. Tom needed both hands now to type his sentences. 
The boy had just moved from New Delhi to San Francisco and was living with his cousin. He didn’t have any local friends yet, the town was new to him, the country strange. Tom told anecdotes of with life with Brad. The boy grew sad, saying he was looking for his Prince Charming, too. “I wanna wake up with somebody,” he wrote. 
They moved on to everyday items like walking the dog, exchanging advice about cooking and recipes. 
Tom found their conversation rather comical. While everybody else was rubbing, watching, getting aroused, reaching a climax, here they were, chatting about curry and how to prepare a good meal. 
“You guys talking potatoes?” an anonymous participant asked after a while. His nick was hairy hot. 
“Potatoes and love”, Tom replied.



water lilies interwoven with
your mahogany hair,
white in skin and dress and crown
you lie, a watery last smile
on periwinkle-shaded lips,
your left hand clutching poppies
and your right a branch of willow
from the tree aslant the brook

no mortal coil will trouble
from now on your sleep,
sweet maiden nevermore…
for sleep it is – a definite
and dreamless rest
from madness, men and child –
that you have chosen,
bidding farewell, desperate
and hurting and with rues

so tired of soliloquies,
of murder and deceptive acts,
of others telling you
what you should be and who,
unwilling to find shelter
in a convent and unable
to escape a man’s embrace
unsullied, you became aware
your only say was to say no

your love, although a woman’s,
turned out less brief than
your existence

some are weeping now, some
scattering sweet roses to the sweet,
and some continue vengeful killings;
but the only one who knows is you,
your secret cancelled by a graceful herb
you chewed before you joined
the icy brook, your final bed…


Screens. A collection of very short stories - 4


After her working day, Barbara was in no mood for a chat. Still, she answered the phone when she saw it was her mother calling. Stifling a sigh, she said, “Hey mom. How are you?”
“Hello, dear. I’m fine. Just wanted to let you know I’m back home.”
Barbara poured herself a glass of Chardonnay and settled on the cherry-coloured Bespoke sofa in the living room. She listened dutifully to her mother talking about her stay in London: the concert in the Royal Albert Hall, the stroll through St. James’s Park with subsequent tea and scones in the “Inn The Park” café, the crowd, the noise, and Selina’s cats were fine, it seemed.
“I hope you pulled out the key when you left, mom!” Barbara finally interrupted her mother’s detailed account.
“Dear me, yes! I checked twice before heading for the train station!”
“Good. We don’t want Selina to come back from Berlin and discover someone has emptied her flat thanks to her gran, do we?”
Her mother gasped with horror at the mere thought. Barbara had a minute’s respite to sip her wine. Then, her mother started to prattle about all the kitchen items Selina had apparently purchased. “Selina’s become a neat and clean young lady, let me tell you, Barbara! And so nitty-gritty! If I didn’t know it, I wouldn’t believe she’s your daughter.”
“Nitty-gritty? Selina?” Barbara laughed despite herself. “How’s that?”
“Well, for instance, she’s put that modern cutting board right next to her bread bin in the kitchen. Very handy, I daresay, when one wants to prepare a sandwich—”
After five minutes, Barbara decided she’d invent a stew she needed to stir, kissed her mother good-bye and finally leant back, closing her eyes and enjoying her Chardonnay.
The wine was chilled just to perfection.
Selina called the next morning. “Hi mom! Back from Berlin!” she panted. “We landed at 3 a.m., and now I’m on my way to work… Running as we speak, in fact. ‘Roll on bedtime’ is all I can say.”
“Nice of you to call, however. Enjoyed Berlin?”
“Awesome, mom! Will send you snapshots from my iPhone when I’m in the tube, okay?”
“Alright, darling. Everything’s okay with your flat?”
“Yes. Granny’s been a darling! Even emptied the dish-washer before leaving. Oddly enough, however, she left plenty of bread crumbs on my iPad in the kitchen…”