The International Literary Quarterly

February 2010


Rose Ausländer
Charles Bernstein
Amy Bloom
Jean Boase-Beier
Carmen Bugan
Moira Burgess
Larry Butler
James Byrne
Jim Carruth
Neil Charleton
Ronald Christ
A.C. Clarke
David Dawnay
Patricia Delmar
Des Dillon
Anne Donovan
Gerrie Fellows
Cheryl Follon
Ronald Frame
Hazel Frew
Rodge Glass
David Goldie
Jane Goldman
Martin Goodman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
Kusay Hussein
A.B. Jackson
Kapka Kassabova
Velimir Khlebnikov
David Kinloch
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Gerry Loose
James McGonigal
Gerry McGrath
Donal McLaughlin
Kate McLoughlin
Andrea McNicoll
Willy Maley
Peter Manson
Laura Marney
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Edwin Morgan
Ewan Morrison
Laura Muetzelfeldt
Hom Paribag
Mario Petrucci
Clare Pollard
Sheila Puri
Claire Quigley
Elizabeth Reeder
Alan Riach
Dilys Rose
Suhayl Saadi
Sue Reid Sexton
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Jim Stewart
Zoë Strachan
Chiew-Siah Tei
Valerie Thornton
Anthony Vivis
Marshall Walker
Zoë Wicomb
Xu Xi

40 Glasgow Voices

Volta: A Multilingual Anthology
(One poem: 82 languages)

Issue 10 Guest Artist:
John Hoyland RA

Founding Editor: Peter Robertson
Deputy Editor: Jill Dawson
Art Editor: Calum Colvin

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boulossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Sari Nusseibeh
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Jeff Barry
Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. The Regime of Islands by Laura Muetzelfeldt  


‘That used to be an island.’
   ‘That bit of rock. It used to be an island.’
   Off-white foam charges the beach, wearing itself out before reaching the sand. In the distance, a dog runs tipsy circles round its owner, walking alone. Charlie looks at Eve as if trying to work out a puzzle, then looks away. His eyes rest on a rock being washed and washed again by the advancing tide. Taking a breath first, Eve says:
   ‘They reclassified everything in the 90s. Now it’s just a rock.’
   ‘Looks like an island to me.’
   After he speaks, Charlie looks at Eve, not sure if this is just one of the things she says because she likes the way it sounds. She stares at the clump of rock and tries to imagine someone standing on it. How big would they be? Every now and then an angry wave makes the rock disappear – trying to tidy it up, to start again – but it’s always still there when the foam has gone.
   Further along, they pass the place where they first met, five years ago. Three tank traps have shifted over time and settled to make a sheltered cove. The grey concrete cubes are dotted all the way along the beach; a hangover from World War II when they thought the Germans might invade. As they walk, Eve watches her feet press the wet sand. Every step makes the colour around it lighten, bleaching it, like the last suck on a Slush Puppy. She listens to the sound of her wellies flapping against her calves; it’s comforting but somehow slightly embarrassing.
   The suck and pull of the tide labours away with long, asthmatic breaths. Eve looks back over her shoulder at the tank traps and pushes her hand further into her pockets. A gull lets out an anguished cry as they step inside a concrete pill box. Inside, there is an ancient cold. From outside, it appears to slope ominously, as if making a slow, inevitable descent towards the sea. Eve squints through the letterbox slat where the soldiers would have pointed their guns; the sky is overcast but it’s still light. Charlie reaches out, takes hold of her hand. A jag of hard skin by one of his nails skates over her palm, drawing scribbles.
   There was a bonfire the night they met, sheltered in the space between the three tank traps. Her friend Heather had asked her along; it was Guy Fawkes Night and she’d rented a small cottage near Dunbar. Eve remembers the taste of gritty red wine from a solid plastic mug and the orange glow from the bonfire on the concrete blocks. When it got dark, Heather’s friends set off fifty pounds’ worth of fireworks that lit up the sky in shrieks of reds, yellows and greens. It took several attempts to light the candle inside a gigantic paper lantern, but then it floated away; a red bauble getting smaller as it headed out to sea.
   The first time she saw Charlie, he was crouching by the water’s edge, skimming stones into the darkness. Later, when she reached into his pocket, he still had a collection of smooth, flat stones for skimming. Flashes of light from the fire lit up the back of his head and his scruffy brown hair made him look somehow childish, his ears poking out impishly from a hairstyle that had long grown out. He was wearing the camouflage jacket he later lost in Paris on their anniversary. At the time, Eve had thought he would be upset - he always wore that jacket - but instead he was relieved. He was getting bored of it, he said, now he had an excuse to buy a new one.

   He always uses her name when he’s cross with her. Normally, he just calls her ‘angel’ or ‘baby’, although he’s stopped doing that so much lately. ‘Baby’: a name he probably called her, she thinks.
   In bed he used to call her all the dirty words he knew, strung together in the darkness as he gathered momentum. Now he just turns on his side, defeated, and falls asleep. She lies awake beside him and curves out her anger in the silence, their cold backs almost touching. In the darkness she listens as the tick from the clock starts up from nowhere, scratching away at the silence, unsure at first, then gaining in confidence.

   ‘Evelyn? Is this about me working next weekend?’
   ‘Evelyn’: the name her mother used to call her when she was in trouble. A seagull’s cry cuts through the November air and is answered by a dog barking at the water’s edge. The smell of rotting seaweed from along by the headland carries on the breeze. Beyond the rock, a distant lighthouse starts flashing its warning call. Charlie gives up trying to drag her into the present and his fingers go quiet, now just holding her hand. Eve keeps watching the sea.
   Sitting by bonfire Eve had watched, almost hypnotised, as flames jerked manically to the sound of lively cracks. When she looked up, Charlie was still skimming stones. Heather followed Eve’s line of sight and told her Charlie’s girlfriend never came to things like this; she was a law student and didn’t like getting sand in her shoes or smoke in her hair. Eve turned to look at the fire, feeling the warmth on her cheeks. Charlie seemed to hear his name, and came over to ask what they were talking about. He was holding a packet of sparklers and pointed the open end towards Eve. He laughed when she put gloves on before taking one and she felt awkward, not sure whether he thought this was endearing or silly.

   She knows he’s looking at her now without taking her eyes off the sea. An angry gust of wind whips across her face, he leans in and bangs her shoulder playfully with his. The light is fading, everything becoming more vague. The beach is empty; the man with the dog has gone. Further north, another lighthouse starts calling out in the darkness, answering the first, the two beams in silent conversation with each other. Faintly, almost imperceptibly, Eve squeezes Charlie’s hand.
   When the fire died down and they ran out of dry wood to burn, the boys dared each other to run across the dozy embers, turning the grips of their trainers bald like old tyres. It was getting cold and now everyone was sitting, crowded round the fire. Whenever someone got up, it set off a ripple of accommodating shifting of feet and legs. Every time this happened, and he had to move, Charlie moved a little closer towards Eve.
   She was speaking to everyone but him and could hear her voice rising, giddy. When Heather stood up, Charlie reached over and took the cigarette from Eve’s mouth, taking two long drags before giving it back. She could feel it on her lips, slightly damp, and noticed her chest rising and falling in the glow from the fire. Then he opened some marshmallows, and they took it in turns to melt them on the end of sticks, watching as they turned to goo behind dark, sooty shells.
   On the walk back to the rented cottage, Charlie linked his arm through Eve’s. The darkness and uneven path made her stumble, and it annoyed her that he might think she was drunk. Halfway through a story about an abandoned bird she’d once rescued, he pointed to the sky and said:
   ‘That’s Orion.’
   ‘I know.’
   ‘The Hunter.’
   Eve had always thought it looked more like an acrobat or a clown, and Charlie said, ‘Depends how you join up the dots.’
   ‘I guess.’

   ‘Eve, what is it? Tell me, what’s wrong?’
   She follows the pattern of freckles on Charlie’s wrist, scattered like a constellation and thinks about touching them. Instead, she reaches down and dusts the sand from her jeans. In her pocket she can feel the folded paper of the email she found amongst the debris on his desk. Slowly, she turns to Charlie. He looks old. Beside his eyes, lines drawn like childish stars crack like ice every time he smiles. She thinks he might have lost weight, but his eyes are still the same. Something inside her catches. A sudden shiver of cold taps her shoulder blades, makes her want to be held.
   Eve smiles, nudges Charlie with her shoulder.
    It’s getting dark and she can hear the waves break over the island in front of them, but now it has to be imagined to be seen. Squinting, she can just about make out the shadow of the tank traps, but nothing’s familiar anymore.