1st Place: Drifting by Cormac Culkeen

jesus this wind is cold you can feel the North in it, all icy edges inside the neck and gusting numbness into the face even a hoodie won’t stop it. The night sky is a black loom and the stars are just hidden by the clouds and the moon lights their edges with silver. I can hear some shouting already and the roars echo back and forth as they wind down over the dank hills. I look at Alex lying beside me, and he looks at me, but it doesn’t reach to his eyes. He only came along because of me I know that, and the strands of moonlight make him look white, whiter 

than he is and his eyes are looking on something through my head and beyond, and it hurts to turn my head but I do and I can just make out a break in the clouds and the sky is like dark cobalt, it’s beautiful but I can see it and Alex can’t. I look at the windscreen fractured with screeching lines and the moonlight is like breakers in the ocean all foaming white upon it 

I can see the edge of the road off in the distance, too tall for me, for the car that we’re in I can remember the road leaving, the wheels, the spinning into black air with silence behind it, and the tree growing out of the headlights and snaring us out of the air and something fell on us for the first time

at the edge of my eyes where it hurts to look I see a sputter then a drench of red  and a shape in the grasses below, and I know it’s Barry and he knows where the money is.

I look at Alex again my eyes are the only things that can move and I know something terrible has happened, his eyes have dreamt up a surface of marble 

he looks like a religious painting and his life was a thread that brought him to this unknowing where the world snatched him out and threw him elsewards.

he didn’t know anything I want to make that clear oh he didn’t know he was only along for the ride, I want to feel sad but I can only remember how it feels, like hearing music drifting down a hallway or notes of running water

it’s strange to think like this, this detachment, each pulse of my head forming into the night air in droplets and floating away 

this run would have made everything all right, a new clean road to turn upon, now that’s all gone too every plan like a hissing ripple, everything is closing in pockets about me and I don’t mind, there is only now only my sliding racked pearls of breath

and a cheshire crescent sneaks out from a seam in the clouds and movements shadow into figures moving slowly hooked to the beams of their flashlights, the grass dances in the wind offering up prayers and I didn’t think something could be so beautiful

there is movement up the tree and a face that says ‘because’ moves level with my door, and there’s the creak of steel preferring its dents and I don’t want him to see my eyes I don’t want them to see I’m still here, I can feel a drifting with the wind and I feel like spores cast into wet night

as the door opens, as the light tips into height and distance, as I move I can feel something vast something welcoming 

there is movement through everything, and I’m gone like a face in the curtains

About the Author

Cormac Culkeen is a writer of poetry, fiction and short stories. He lives and works in Galway and is currently completing a BA Connect in Creative Writing in NUI Galway, returning to university full time as a mature student in 2018. His written work has been published in The Burning Bush, Skylight 47 and The Wild Word poetry magazines. He believes that writing should knock the air from a reader’s lungs, give them something to go into the world with or sit in their head like a waiting spider. Sometimes all three.

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Published by sonderlit

New Irish literary magazine reflecting people, our differences and similarities.

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