Susan Coltman

My grudging generosity
scrambled over scrambled rocks.
Two-faced, laughing its head off.

Unfinished things, the sense
of never quite getting to the whole truth.
They danced on the dark side.

I wrote the silences – in between
The words flowed – crept into my dreams,
and noise filled the silent cavities.

Overwhelming exhilaration!
A new chapter had begun.

Susan Coltman

Wife and the Mother of Three Dogs.

The shed stands alone at the bottom of the garden. He sits there day after day analyzing the properties of compost. She is in the garden with the dogs, a middle aged, pear-shaped woman. She is the mother of three dogs. The dogs have become her life and it isn’t the life she had hoped for. The dogs are everything to her now. She gazes at the shed. She feels like a silent witness on the sidelines of life. She can smell wet dog, astringent and bitter. She has a chocolate brown retriever, two terriers and the paraphernalia of canine life. For her, life is not complicated.

Ten years ago it was different. She was a young bride wishing that her new husband would take her and whirl her away in a mad, fast tango that would go on for ever. Her heart burst open with emotional enthusiasm as the fragrance of falling rose petals pierced her joy. But his life turned into compost, into rotting vegetation and earthy calculations as he tried to compensate for the disappointment of a barren marriage. Down there in the shed, weighing and measuring and collecting data. Oh, thank heavens for the dogs!

There is so much blood. It covers the front of the lorry and slides down the silver paint and drips onto the road. She cradles the lifeless body, the matted fur and dangling paws. The driver stands beside her. The palms of his hands are turned up to face the sky and he shrugs his shoulders slightly. There is pain behind his eyes.

“I couldn’t stop, lady. Your dog was under my wheels before I could brake. I am sorry.”

The earth and sky collide. She is squeezed between them, suffocating, drowning in all that blood. The earth is a wet ball spinning in space, spinning out of control. She wants her husband back.

The shed in the garden is a foreign country. She is a pilgrim on a stony road. She is on her knees, crawling, crying. The tears run down her face and the little dogs lick up the salty wetness. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t see them. She only wants her husband. She is a heap lying at the door, sobbing and begging. The smell of the wet leaves in the trial compost heaps is of death and decay. Death and decay.

He opens the door and pulls her to himself. He is making small comfortable noises and he is kissing her hair, wiping her tears, smearing blood all over his shirt. For the first time ever, he bends down and gently lifts the two little dogs up into her arms. He steps out of the shed and closes the door behind him.

Leaves fall. Compost is heaped up, then it heats up and then it decays. Soon it will bring back life. When spring comes again, he will spread it around the garden and then watch the new leaves unfurl.

He picks up a shovel and gently takes her to the rose garden. Underneath the roses, the fragrant pink roses, he starts to dig a grave.

Susan Coltman


A purple orchid. A glass pot with an orchid in it. The girl has tied beads around the top of the pot. The roots slipping under and around the slimy stones in the bottom of the pot. Sad, purple orchid. Most of the flowers have died and lie forgotten on the carpet.

The girl sits in a bamboo chair facing the window. On the desk in front of her is her laptop computer. It is small and silver coloured. It is tethered to the desk by looping leads, trailing over the surface and snaking off the edge. Her right hand crouches over the mouse. Her left elbow rests on the desk, her head is in her hand and her fingers rest in her hair. Images flicker across the screen. Florida summer seeps into the room.

Gardens. They are all gardens, pretty gardens filled with hot flowers and forest leaves. Boring and predictable.

Why do they have ridiculous names like “Rafael” and “Dewaal”? Why not Michael or John? Her bare feet hook into the legs of the chair. The tortoiseshell clip holding her hair opens and a golden wave is slipping onto her shoulder in slow motion.
Gardens. No imagination. They are all Barbie dolls, plastic looking. Or little sex kittens, newly weaned. Or embarrassed teenagers in too small bikinis that barely cover the frizzy bits. Why not a lumber yard with texture and sweaty men with dirty fingernails?

Click, scroll, scowl. Click, scroll, sigh. Click, scroll, yawn.

The apricot cat thinks about walking across the keyboard. The girl reads the cat’s mind and gently nudges it onto her lap. The cat switches on its engine. Loud purring and kneading paws.

She leans towards the screen. Her feet grip the chair, her body electric, alive. Her eyes alight and dancing. She looks at the light on a face. A body perfectly displayed. Unusual angles, subtle and compelling, personality coming through. Who is this photographer with such a reckless portfolio and such a love of light?

This is the man. This man must take her pictures. He will bring her alive in print. He will take her places. He will be the one to kick-start her modelling career.