In the Bleak Mid-winter

By Jonathan Andrews, 2nd Year, English Language and Literature

In the bleak mid-winter

Atop my sofa-throne

My Godly Plasma Telly

Offered me a Wonga loan.

The price had fallen: half price,

Off half price! Off half!

And iPods, consoles, Turkeys;

Beauteous Golden Calves!

Our Lord; wealth cannot sate him:

Nought keeps Him at bay.

Gluttonous, He grips us all

Via the airwaves.

Sheep and Scrooge are chewed up,

Swallowed, and entombed,

As our Tyrant-Glutton

Greedily consumes.

Has our Lord enough yet?

No. He never shall.

His ever-widening maw devours,

But to no avail.

His stomach strains and stretches

As new-bought goods pour in;

The choking BOGOF bargains

Leave Him starved, stick-thin.

For all He eats is worthless

And He must have yet more;

Thieving from the foolish rich

And the starving poor.

He kicks away his mother

And her warm embrace,

So that He can worship

A faceless interface.

But how can I defame Him?

That Greed-stirred Lord is me.

And my family, and my friends

And all humanity.

His creed sustains me,

Every penny spent.

I can but grumble, offering

Heartfelt, hopeless dissent.

Advertisements

Onion Riddle (translated from Old English)

By Jonathan Andrews,  2nd Year, English Language and Literature

I am a marvellous being, something strange

Yet miraculous, bringing hope and joy

To wives of men, given in ring-exchange;

Quite useful for the neighbours! I destroy,

Scathe, harm no borough-citizen; none die,

Except the one who chokes me with their hands.

My base is firm, my stem is steep and high

And burrows deep; and in a bed, I stand,

Arise, remain, and last for hours a time;

Somewhere below, in nether-regions’ lewd –

I’m not sure where – I am rough-haired sublime.

Sometimes the comely daughter of a rude

And boorish man, fair-haired, handsome to view,

A maiden proud in will and bold in thought,

Boastful in heart, presumes to know mine too;

She rushes me, and grips and grabs, assaults

My redness; my head’s ravaged, freedom-blocked,

Imprisoned and enclosed, cramped and forced in.

But soon that wife of twisted, coiled lock

Which oppressed and confined my wandering

Shall think back to our meeting, and her eye

Shall wetly moisten, and her whole shall cry.

Brothers

By Ellen Hickey

There were three brothers hailing from a little Irish town near the coast.

Tumbling hills and green pastures surrounded the town. In the distance, the tiny heads of marigolds seemed to pepper the fields like gold dust. It was comprised of little more than a church, a collection of bran-like cottages with thatched roofs and a pub-inn painted in the colour of stale soda bread. Everything was drenched in a lingering, fetid scent of country air.

In the town’s near-empty pub and under the dim glow of amber gaslight, two of the brothers were perched on some precarious-looking oak stools. Next to them a vacant stool remained.

One of the brothers was lean, with angular features and copper coiled hair that looked as though it had been clawed out of a telegraph pole. His hooded hazel eyes reflected dancing slices of amber gaslight and continued to switch back and forth from his cigarette and the vacant stool, like a tawny owl searching between two field mice. The other brother had a large, wide face, with the complexion of unpasteurised cheese and a somewhat vacant expression. His eyes were fixed in front of him, watching the bubbles float to the surface of his pint. He paused, lowered his eyes and sighed. “I can’t believe we killed the poor bastard, Sean.”

The smaller wiry man looked agitated, having something of a nervous disposition. His butter-coloured fingers flicked at the filter paper filled with tobacco in-between his thumb and index finger, clicking his tongue sharply. “What do you mean we, Cain?,” he seethed in a whisper. “You’re the one who pulled the trigger.”

He lit the roll up and exhaled, unfurling a serpentine trail of smoke from his lips. His brother gritted his teeth and returned accusingly, “it was your plan.”

“I told you to shoot at him, give ’em a fright, I didn’t tell you to shoot him in the arse. If you weren’t so steaming drunk all the time-”

“I didn’t know the wound would go septic,” Cain muttered, overriding him and lowering his moist blue eyes. If possible, his complexion appeared to blanche even further. It had happened just the day before.

Peter was the third youngest brother after Cain, and was by far the most virtuous of the three. He was fiercely religious. His brothers scorned him for being so pious. He had in the past often lent them money; his two brothers were slaves to the vices of gambling and alcohol. He’d angered his siblings by telling them to fill their heart with the Bible’s words instead of their pockets full of coins and liver full of whisky. Sean studied the collection of elaborate playing cards on the table as though it was the devil’s bible. “Well. We’ve got to burn the body.”

The crescents of amber light in Sean’s eyes flickered. Spluttering, Cain dropped his pint, causing the spumy liquid to splash his forehead and trickle down in foamy pearls. “We can’t. It’s not Catholic, it’s just not right.”

“Well, shall we bury ’em in a shallow grave in the woods until the worms get him?,” Sean snapped. “We’ve got to lie low. Tomorrow’s Sunday. He’d be in church. Go and tell the priest or the old harpies who worship him so much he’s run away with a nun. Or that he’s had a divine revelation and taken a canoe to Jerusalem.”

Cain never knew why his brother refused to set foot in the church since he’d become a young man, only that he’d had a great disagreement with the priest and that he was never to ask why.

“There’s a boat coming to the harbour on Tuesday morn’, heading for New Zealand. We’ll sell our livestock at the market and leave. I hear they’re looking for workers, and the soil is so fertile you’d have thought God had sown it himself.”

Cain said nothing, but nodded tentatively.

*

Next Tuesday at dawn the vast canvas of sky erupted, the plumes of clouds swelled and glowed vermillion red, and the sun began to seep through the clouds, illuminating the harbour. The great ship docked, creaking against the craggy wooden posts.

Father Conner and a young altar boy with wheat-coloured hair stood waiting for the sailors at the docks, holding a couple of collection boxes. Cain bowed towards the young lad and dropped a tarnished silver coin into the box, and Sean followed. He paused for a second and fixed his cool gaze at father Conner, who shifted uncomfortably in return. He produced another silver coin and watched it roll into the tin box.

Hello, everyone.

We hope the new year was off to a good start for each and all of you. Things are going well here at Cabbages, and the editorial team is more active than ever.

In fact, we are happy to announce that our tenth issue is nearing completion. If all goes according to plan, it will be available to pick up at King’s venues from the 12th of February. Distribution will happen alongside a poetry workshop that is currently being organised, and which we are all very excited about. Keep an eye out for posters on campus!

As the new issue comes out, new content will be available on the website as well. We apologise for the past lack of posts, and we’re hoping to bring you weekly updates from now on – starting tomorrow! Expect poetry, short fiction, translations, and a new multi-chaptered story; all to keep your literary needs appeased and satisfied.

See you soon!

– The Cabbages Editorial Team

Nostalgia

by Jonathan Andrews, 2nd Year, English Language and Literature

 

I long for nostalgia.

The good old look back

Of a grey, chequered past

And whitewashing the black.

 

But now that black past

Is with us every day.

The videos, the photos.

The comments we make.

 

They’re frozen in time

And a record is kept.

Forever and ever

In stone they are set.

 

Those kind, carefree times;

That rose-tinted land.

Now the roses are knotted.

Delusion is banned.

 

You weren’t always happy.

You weren’t always mild.

You could be quite a bastard

When you were a child.

 

I long for nostalgia.

But I won’t be led

By the nose. The Past Lives.

And nostalgia is dead.

Paranoid Lights

by Francesca Brooks

Steamed white fish and green vegetables: that is what Tomasz will have for dinner. There is still time to prepare it, despite the diversion through the paranoid lights of central London: Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Leicester Square.

You might have struggled already with the name, ‘Tomasz’. Not a slipping and sliding over soft consonants, as anyone who speaks Polish would know, but a hard crackle. More like ‘Tomack’.

But Tomasz will introduce himself as Patrick, a queer Anglicization of his name. Not Tom? No. Because there is something in that final smack which defines his character. Don’t pick over the details, he’ll be Patrick.

The luxury of light when I left work kept me out on the streets. The gaping ache at Sloane Square: jostling me back towards paving stones, to the open air; its stuffed clutch a repellent; more than I could bear.

It was all I had in this city.

Between the warren of white roads in Chelsea, across Green Park down the dim avenues of light and high-cast trees, to the emptied-out square of Covent Garden; I have already dreamt of my own disappearance, wondered if I could dissolve into the London crowds, the London air.

This is no place I should be, they will say. Neither where I work, nor where I live. Not on the way between, but a labyrinth, lost and disconnected. An island on the trackable map, drifting.

Patrick, a ‘mobile personal trainer’, has no prescribed route, only scribbles of shifting itineraries. A series of diversions enacted in the wake of figures cutting the light, casual-gifted smiles, the single visible trace.

Walking the city’s loud, visceral centre, he is a stranger.

Perhaps he walks at the same distance from the world as I do and senses it. In the hem of my dark green coat and my hesitation at the lights, he sees it.

Here are the traffic lights at Leicester Square, and here I am, unraveled; tendrils of overflowing pubs and street-spilling crowds curling at either side but never touching me. I turn as Patrick arrives beside me to wait for the lights to change, and smile.

It is something I give away, a smile, before crossing the road. Disappearing into the lightness of not-being, gestures barely break the surface of the night.

In a city of anonymity Patrick accepts the static of silences unbroken.

He accepts, but it is not real. In Warsaw, Krakow or Gdansk perhaps: the same. But Patrick is from a small village. Into the hands of gasps his mother passes his business cards still.

His London: a swelling mass of lights, an ever-beckoning possibility. This London arouses but never fulfils him; coat hems swishing and then disappearing into impenetrable sets of crowds.

My loneliness on this smog-hot-rich city street is a palpable scent, remnant of a life I’d like to wriggle out of.

Not now. Not at this moment is it a good idea to follow me: tracing the warmth in a careless gesture as if it were an invitation. I do not need this, now, in the deep swell of this central London rambling. I am all too vulnerable, too aware, suddenly.

To fade and evade I quicken my pace as I come around the side of Leicester Square tube station. Patrick is back-lit by cabinets of sandwiches, expensive juices, and pizza slices: nauseous glow. But the bookshops on Charing Cross Road convince me that I have lost him. I sink into myself, the unsettling rhythm of strangers on city streets.

A steamy coffee and conversation: that is what Patrick will have for dinner now.

The paranoid lights keep blinking in. They light everything like a film set, like coincidence, like fate.

Central London and his heart pounds: wilder and faster. A different rhythm to the flashing glass panels, the vegetable matter of his home near Kew. Everything moves at a quicker pace here: there is no shame in running to catch up.

Patrick wears a leather jacket, residue of sweat beneath it, the gym clinging to him. He remembers this as he sprints: an awkwardness. There are only so many routes in central London – a constellation of landmarks following a predictable thread, all converging on Trafalgar Square.

But I see no theatrics, no cinematics, only the cold glow of artificial lights on the surface of the fountains. There is no coincidence in the gathering of that smile and its weakening shadow. If you track it, it is no longer a random act of fatal London.

A little too self-consciously I sigh at the balcony of Trafalgar Square, launch my thoughts towards the fountains below. The skies mauve and crimson ripple beneath clouds and currents into other deep-metal shades.  In the dark, this square belongs entirely to cold London.

In the loneliness of this city, this city beyond possession, my job. The night air in my hands: I breathe it away without even meaning to. These fragile touches of life: sprawling like the roadways and train tracks. This closed, dark centre. The soft traces of my London life: as quiet as the plash of the water illuminated.

For Patrick: a gift. London suddenly majestic: a column, a clock tower, a coat. The broad arms which clasp beneath the National Gallery, and hold, here, the thread he has been following.

So here is Patrick landing beside me, another life. That swell which pulls me, rising to a new pitch: I saw you at the lights at Leicester Square and now here, and I thought: a coincidence. I must talk to that girl.