Saturday 8th November

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Have a great weekend.


After fifty years she ran out of curses. Just like that. She opened her mouth… and silence. It was the first time since her childhood that she couldn’t taste ash.


  1. Instead there was a lingering smell of honey. It seeped from her pores, it hung on her clothes and puffed through the air in every shop and office she visited.

  2. Forever it seemed
    she’d nagged him
    nurtured him, nursed him
    pot pourri filled the house
    she put her fingers to her lips
    dragged them away
    and smashed the last ashtray.

  3. For years you live with a taste in your mouth. It reminds you of rain in a metal barrel. When the child arrives it changes. A sun-shower, your body sings.

  4. Alison stared at her husband, flopped like a whale on the easy recliner in front of the television and wished for the thousandth time she’d made better life choices. Her daughter wasn’t much better: thirteen years old and already fifteen stone. Too much television, too much junk food, too much like her father. Sparrow looked up, her attention momentarily distracted from the on-screen action. “What is it, mum?”

    Her mobile phone began to ring from the kitchen and Alison shook her head. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “The two of you are just bones in a big bag of fat.”

    She stumbled into the kitchen and got to her phone before it went to voicemail. “Mum?” she said, noting the caller ID. “What’s up?”

    He mother’s voice was faint. “It’s gone,” she said in a dry whisper.

    “What’s gone? Mum? Are you all right?”

    “The curse…” her mother went silent for a moment. “It was a long time ago. I saw a gypsy woman…” She was interrupted by a bout of coughing.

    “Do you need me to come up?”

    “No.” He mother recovered. “I tell you another time. It’s a long story. Never wish ill on someone, Ali. Promise me that.”

    “Of course mum, but why--” she was interrupted by another round of her mother’s hacking cough. “I’m coming up,” she said. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” She snapped the phone closed and picked up her coat from the hooks in the hall. “I’m popping up to see mum,” she said as she entered the living room.

    She stopped, the colour draining from her face. The room smelled of hot candle wax and in front of the television, where her husband and daughter had been five mines before, were two skeletons, each surrounded by a pool of fat.

  5. My husband always says he’d have to kill me twice – once to get me six feet under and the second time to stop words from coming out of my mouth.

  6. A witch without curses is like a typewriter without keys. They are both denuded of their capacity to disseminate power and influence will. And a bit old hat to boot.

  7. He wakes up. Naked. Alone. No sense of time or place. He call's out. Silence. He dresses, walks into a hallway, calls again. Silence. He sees the front door. Runs.

  8. She had tried every curse in the book, but he still hadn't turned into a frog. Maybe she was losing her touch. Perhaps that's why he had left her. Bastard.

  9. After three years of radical silence in the Himalayas, Ani Tenzin Palmo said “Well, it wasn’t boring.” Now like a tree she breathes in harm, releases it as positive energy.

  10. Because of him all her dreams went up like smoke, stuck in her throat like a warning. Then SNAP! It occurred to her – it was her not him all along.


  11. Numbness, that’s what came first. And then a deep, warming sense of relief. Release, even. They had gone at last. There would be no more trouble. Then the tears came.

  12. Grandmother’s punishment was washing out her mouth with soap, carbolic on her tongue, between her teeth. These days her words fermented like bubbles in alcohol, popping on breaking the surface.

  13. She rushed upstairs to the mirror. A new face blinked at her. New, but still familiar. Same wrinkles and greying hair, but radiant. The ugly duckling was now a swan.

  14. Why did everyone have to kiss her like a prince and the next second turn into a frog? Maybe it wasn't them who were cursed … Maybe it was her.

  15. She liked to chew spent matches while she thought of you. The next time she opened her mouth there would be little bitter poems written on her tongue. For you.

  16. She spoke rich words of love that formed strange shapes in her mouth like the heaviest cake filled with chocolate and, with alarm, he realised, at last, she adored him.

  17. Let down by her sour tongue
    she was speechless.
    Without its bitter kick
    the words furred her throat,
    laying wrapped around one another
    like cats in front of a fire.

  18. Beryl lived in an upside down house; bedrooms downstairs, living room and kitchen upstairs. It had been designed that way so that she could appreciate the view of the forest from her full-length arched window by which she would sit, painting her toenails. She always had to have neat toenails; varnish not chipped, smudged or revealing evidence of growth since their last treatment. She rarely bothered painting both fingernails and toenails but she liked them to be the same shade, especially in summer. Her favourite was a dark plum, perhaps because it showed off her expertise in its application as pale, baby pinks and mother-of-pearls were for those washy-wishy people not committed to the art of pedicures.

    Beryl soaked her feet in a bowl in front of the television before turning attending to her cuticles. Her hands were in poor condition; overworked, calloused and there was dirt under nails on her stubby digits. She would ignore them again. No one would notice.

    She'd just watched a programme about life in an animal park. She'd seen it before but the uniformity of individual types of animals never failed to amaze her. In her experience, humans were far more diverse. To make matters worse, they usually pretended not to be and went to great pains to exclude those outside of the norm.

    Beryl had fallen into this category from the age of ten. Labelled a freak, she grew up in care homes, bedsits, finally inheriting her family's wealth at forty-one. She was the last in the line. Actually she was the only one, a never-to-be repeated experience.

    At fifty, things changed. The curse stopped. Blood no longer flowed from her mouth each month and she was able to rotate and start painting her fingernails instead.

  19. At time of death your life flashes before you. She’d always been a good girl. Everybody said so. She saw tiny Clare, barely able to walk, dragging a monstrous shopping bag. Its handles digging into her fingers, turning them blue. She tried desperately to keep up. “Such a good little helper,” she heard the neighbours say. Why couldn’t they see? Why didn’t they help?

    Older Clare, kneeling in front of the grate, her hands black with soot, chapped from scrubbing. She couldn’t ride a bike, but she could set a fire and clean the floor before she went to school. “Such as good little worker, a real little Trojan,” said the nurse checking the bandages on mother’s ankles. Why didn’t they stop and ask?

    “She has dedicated her life to her mother; such a good daughter, a saint,” they whispered behind her in the shops. No boyfriends for her. Her adolescent fumbles, all thwarted by the thud of the walking stick on the bedroom floor. Cleaning up a mother covered in sick and sticky with excrement kills the passion.

    The doctors had been baffled by mother’s illness. “Being a selfish, controlling witch doesn’t show up on a laboratory slide, does it Mother,” Clare muttered as she looked at herself in the mirror.

    Such a good girl, she always did what mother asked. “When you said you’d rather be dead, how could I refuse mother?”

    “Life flashes before you at the point of death, but it didn’t have to be my death did it?” smiled Clare. She added a rose and adjusted her sleek black outfit. The cleavage was good. She’d kept her figure as well as her virginity. “Well one of those is going after the funeral. It won’t be you that’s banging on the floor tonight will it mother?”

  20. It took another fifty years to ignite a new fire inside. By then, her lips had thinned into sharp slashes, and her cheeks were hollowed out like inverted female hips.
    Valerie Gregg

  21. If you pour only undue curses,
    What for those blessings and benedictions?
    She muses, speechless, aghast,
    for the ashes in the urn, the corner,
    her loved one, makes her sober.

  22. Her eyes smouldered. The tip of her nose, exquisite. Her lips flickered at the edges. Her butt, shapely. Her waist as slim as a cigarette paper. Her mouth, an ashtray.

  23. The power of words. It is all about context, is it not? Your first words in your mother tongue tend to be "mom" and "dad", filling their brimming hearts with pride, while uttering the same word "dad" in the ear of a boyfriend can spark a heart attack of the more fatal kind. Her first words in Italian had been a string of curses. No news there. Foreigners are the newly found kids, eager to please and perfect parrots. The guys would egg her on, falling into fits of laughter at the contrast between her blond hair and those sulfuric words, her glossy pink lips turning into the mouth of a volcano, her puzzled expression at the miracle of it all, the attention. When she started to juggle the language more skillfully, the curses became less colored, no longer ostentatious, like chameleons curling into the background, signaling now that she was one of them. They shared cappuccinos in the morning, the trams that were never on time, the tedium of a student's life. They shared the cold beer and the free food on which they dined going out for an aperitivo. "Hey, let's get a plate of those mini pizzas they are bringing out". Her Italian hunk of a boyfriend faced the bar, and was already pushing back his chair. She turned around, her manicured fingernail getting caught in her finely knitted scarf, tearing at the threads. "Cazzo." "A decent woman does not speak like that". She froze as if he had thrown vitriol at her, the taut skin over her high cheekbones melting away, clinging to her lips as lampreys, sucking at the blood, sucking, sucking her words away. Silence. She picked up her bag from the nearby chair. "I need a cig, a cigarette", she said, and went outside.

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  25. Lil, hurry up, get ready, Chess night tonight, put out that smog, no don’t light another one. Just get ready and don’t put your face on – no not now. No!

    coll @

  26. She was thrilled to note the cackle was gone and the warts on her chin were disappearing. Witchcraft was an interesting phenomenon, but menopause? Now, that could have its advantages.

  27. She rinsed her mouth out with soapy water; burnt her broomstick, pointed hat, cloak and curses on bonfire, hard heart melted in heat. Buses slower than broomsticks but seats softer.
    30 words.

    Mary Rose

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  29. Three years old
    and clambering up
    through kitchen shadows
    to reach my mother’s honey,
    I found in the cupboard
    a smell of grey resentment
    and had to taste sweetness

  30. From Douglas -


    She spat the last words into her palm. Sticky words. Black like tar and smelling of something rotting or dead. Sour like turned milk, she thought. Sharp like the smell of ditch-dead sheep. Ursula knew they were the last. Mashed together into a final curse.

    She tipped the palm-sticky mess onto a saucer. Poked it with the point of one finger. Moved it around. Bent low to take in the acrid breath of it. Drinking it in as he was wont to drink his tea when it was too hot in the cup.

    There was a smile on Ursula’s face. Or something like a smile. Her skin pulled tight at the corners of her mouth, the grey of her eyes sparking. Like the choked ash of a fire after it is raked over and something like life returns with small licking flames tongueing the air. There was a lightness to her movements, too. Not dancing, but close to.

    Her last curse. At last.

    She set the saucer down on the table. Next to the invitation.

    It’s not always the case that you know. Not always seeing when something is the last. More’s the pity, Ursula thought. For if she’d known, his last kiss, touch, kind word, she might have savoured them. Each one. Enjoyed them. Not lost them, and looked back to find them, and finding only bitterness in the loss.

    And ever since, a curse for every day. Against him, against her. For words thought and spoken have power. She knew that. Understood the weight of a curse. The thrown sting of what they could do. What they had done.

    Ursula unfolded the paper. Flattened the crumpled creases of the black-edged page, so she could read again his name and the name of the church.

    Then silent tears fell.

  31. In this silence the world waited. It would soon be time for summer. Mother Earth had been reborn, spring was in the air and green returned to fields and forests.


  32. She had meant the curse to be a joke. But when he came to her and she saw he had no mouth, she realized she had magic inside of her.

    Jamieson Wolf


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