The Return (full sequence)

The Return

1. Penelope Waits

why do I constantly
look out our window
hoping to see your ship
returning to its harbour?
why do I listen for the sound
of your footsteps echoing
up to our bedchamber?
but I know you too well
you've gone after
your own desires
& I'm the spider
who waits quietly
the thing with journeys
is that they spiral inwards
to your own dark heart
should you return
you'll find me here
spinning a web
to ensnare you
& every night I unpick it
while hungry men wait below
none of them
have your eyes
or your smell
all the heroes returned
from the wars,
except you
long have I dreamed
of your dark hair, tanned skin,
& sinewy form to emerge
out of the frothing sea-water
& into my arms
but I know you too well
you will come home only
when you are tired
of your journeys
your betrayals
your lies
& after so many threads
I'm tired of waiting
for our lives to begin again
is there anything worth
between us?

2. Telemachus Schemes

I planned to go & find him
in my dreams a goddess
with long dark hair &
ivory skin faintly whispered
that he would return
I traveled but found
no word of him, just assurances
so I pace the walls of our palace
while fat old men
drink our wine
eat our food
lounge around
planning to covet my mother
in my father's house
they pay no attention to me
I wander unnoticed
& unchecked
my mother hides behind walls
picking & unpicking at embroidery
there is nothing to do
but wait
my father left me for the wars
I was too young to join
now that I'm older
my mother seems unsure
of my intentions
every day I look
to the fathomless sea hoping
to see my father's ship
negotiating the waves
one day I will find him
my time will come
3. Calypso Sings

It is surprising what a storm
throws up on the shore -
today walking along
the alabaster sands
after a tumultuous night
I found a man
he was bedraggled
partially clothed in seaweed
& rags, his skin tanned &
muscles on his sinewy arms
like knotted rope
I thought him dead
but as I watched
he coughed up seawater
so I got to my knees
& softly sang
to arouse him
he awoke in despair
he had lost everything -
his men, his ship,
his way home
I led him to my house
plying him with wine, goats cheese,
& grapes, while singing
to calm him
slowly I fell in love
with the scars on his back,
his long sea-bleached hair,
his moods, & his occasional
he explored the hidden caves
of my island, the forests
& secret waterfalls
I wanted him to forget
his family
his own people
I kept him here for seven years
& took him for my lover
I wanted him to love me
but his heart was already taken
the other gods
wanted me to throw him back
to the ocean
& he was restless
pining for his wife
he would sit on the beach for hours
watching the waves
slowly sobbing & staring
in the direction of his home
I knew I was no longer part
of his story
so I let him go
he will go back to his wife
& I will be left here
looking out to the sea
watching over him
as he sails away
hoping my charms
will keep him safe
on the ocean paths
he will return to his island
& win back his lost kingdom
I will be left here
on my own again
singing softly to myself

4. Eurylochus Laments

Curse the Gods
& all those who follow them
I am not a fatalist, but I know
we are all doomed
he will escape though
he always escapes
it is us who pay for it
we have faced a monster with six heads
eating our crew-mates, a witch
who turned us into pigs,
women with beautiful voices
trying to lure us ashore,
a giant who dashed the heads
of the crew against a cavern wall
& ate them whole, & of course
Gods seeking vengeance for his
own transgressions & deceits
& each time
he survives

he is my lord & king
when you gaze into the chaos
long enough
you get to see how things will
fall into place
he will make it home &
win back his kingdom
our wives, sons, & daughters
will grieve, wondering what
became of us
all will marvel at his survival;
the story of the lost sea-wanderer
emerging like Orpheus
out of the Land of the Dead
sparing no thought for us
we will be lost
amongst the waves,
scattered across these islands
& forgotten
he will return
& sacrifice us all for it

5. Athena Watches

it was not meant to happen like this
he wasn't meant to take so long
to get home
events can spiral
even out of our reach
when you play everyone
like puppets the strings
can get tangled
the human race is nothing but story
individual lives
threads of narrative
to be told in the dark night
by the roaring bonfire
under a black sky burning
with bright stars
we gods know this
& yet we also know
that we are part of this story too;
a story within a story
I contrived for everything
to turn out the way I wished
yet the path always branches
onto an infinite number of
other paths to take
he was imprisoned on that island
for so long I told her
she had to let him go

 when he does return
he will be alone
there will be reunions &
reconciliations & bloodshed
I have done my best
to set things right
yet there are always other pathways

6. Odysseus Returns

Saltwater is in my blood -
most of my life has been spent
in the sea or boats

after Troy fell
it was a rough journey home
every day I dreamed
to return to the rocky shores
of my kingdom

to see it's olive trees & quiet bays
& wander the long hill-paths

she held me captive for years
& slowly I fell for her charms
but then she told me I had to go

she gave me a sharp axe &
I built a boat from the tall
alders, poplars, & firs
on her island, once it
was finished she loaded
it with pomegranates, goat's
cheese, apples, & wine
& then off I went sailing
the oceans paths home

when I returned I was alone,
there were parasites living
in my house
eating my food,
drinking my wine &
after I killed them all
I was king again

with a people I no longer recognise
or understand

a young man calls me father
watching me intently with every step

& my wife
is not her
not the woman I left

she has erected walls within walls
I cannot find my way through her labyrinth
she kept suitors out of our bed for so long
she has grown used to the solitude

every night I dream
I am lying on the white sand
listening to the waves rolling lazily ashore
& she is there
standing over me
softly singing
while a breeze blows through
her long brown hair

then I awake
it is still dark
& I hear my wife
muttering in her sleep

on the wind
I can hear the waves
calling me to sail again -
saltwater is in my blood

Joanne Fisher

It’s nice to see it all together.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Morning Song (poem)

Morning Song

while sunlight streams
into the room, Mahler's

I've Lost Touch With the World
plays in the background

a title rather apt these days,
while I might be the star

of my own dreams, nowhere
else do I garner such 

significance, I exist in
the margins of thoughts

struggling to rise above
the vapidity of modern

life, so I'm adrift in the
labyrinths of my own

fantasies, probably not
a bad thing if I am truly

lost to this world...

Joanne Fisher

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Maria’s Problem (flash fiction)

Maria’s Problem

Maria squeezed the body through the trap door and then, with all the strength she could muster, closed the door and latched it so it would stay shut. She was definitely running out of places now. Every available space in the house was full of dead bodies. It wasn’t as though she was a serial killer, well at least her intentions didn’t start out that way…

Maria’s problem was that she was so beautiful other people wouldn’t leave her alone, and that was all she wanted: to be left alone. The trouble is they followed her wherever she went, and even followed her home. She tried telling them she would never be interested in them, but they never listened to her. Once they began breaking into her home, that’s when she had started killing them. She viewed it as a mercy killing, because in the end her beauty couldn’t fulfill their wildest desires anyway, and as she couldn’t give them what they truly wanted, she knew the situation could soon turn ugly for everyone involved, so it was best to finish them off as quickly and quietly as possible.

And now her house was stuffed full of bodies. She sighed. The stench was getting unbearable. She would have to set fire to the house and fake her death…. again.

Joanne Fisher

My only excuse is this story has been in my head for several days now and the only way to get rid of it was to write it down… and then publish it on WordPress…

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

How Is It Done? (poem)

How Is It Done?

It's like there are these words
swimming around the inside
of my skull

& all I have to do
is be quick enough
to catch them before

they slip away beyond
the dark swift waters

swirling cascading words

catching rainbow trout
with a net

Joanne Fisher

Originally published in Spin 38

I managed to dig out this poem which was published a while ago now. A couple of years ago I published a version of this poem on this blog. I wrote it down from memory (and even got the title wrong) and came up with this:

Writing Poetry


It’s like I have

these words

swimming around

the insides of my

skull &


all I need

is be quick

enough to

grab them –



rainbow trout

with a net


Joanne Fisher

I tend to prefer the second version due to the conciseness to it. Which version do you think is better?

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Back From Riding (flash fiction)

Back From Riding

Eileen was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Cindy, her granddaughter, walked in.

“Had a good day my dear?” Eileen asked.

“I was out riding with Jess.” Cindy replied. Eileen already knew that and noted Cindy’s brown hair was all mussed up.

“Is Jess staying the night again?”

“Yes grandma. Is it alright if she stays again? It is the holidays.”

Of course! She’s a nice girl and I’m glad you’ve got a good friend like her. You two are like different sides of the same coin.” Eileen told her. Cindy grabbed a glass and filled it with water from the tap. She drank it all in one go.

“What do you mean?” Cindy asked frowning.

“You seem different, but at heart you’re both the same.” Eileen explained as she chopped some carrots. Cindy looked momentarily perplexed.

“Can I help?”

“No I enjoy cooking for you. Just go and keep Jess company.” Eileen urged.

Once everything was in the oven or bubbling on the stove top, Eileen went to the living room and watched Cindy and Jess laughing at some joke. They were so in tune with one another, she thought. She hoped life would treat them well.

Joanne Fisher

Since I wrote Out Riding I’ve been flooded with ideas of stories about young Jess and Cindy.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Austin Street Revisited (poem)

Austin Street Revisited

everything's still here
on a smaller scale -

the driveway
                         not so steep
the park
                 not so large
the creek
                  not so wide

once this suburb
was the centre 
of the universe

the land dreamt
and created me
I walked away
into a wider world

but I am still here -

playing in the park
                                     with my siblings
avoiding the creek
                                    where the pirates lurk
escaping the boys
                                   from across the road

running up the driveway
                                                to home

Joanne Fisher

This is another older poem that I’ve reworked. It’s more sentimental than the other ones which is probably why I don’t like it as much. Our house at Austin Street was the first house I remember living in (though it wasn’t actually the first). My brother and I visited the place around twenty years later to find it was exactly the same as we remembered it, though everything seemed smaller. Funny that. In these pictures my house was the white one with the pale green roof.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Wolf Hunt (poem)

Wolf Hunt

you who encourages
the wolf that bites
and injures, that 
mutilates and weakens

you pretend to be trying 
to stop it, but
instead you
scratch it behind the ears

your homes are wolf-proof
just hearing it howl outside
your door, but sometimes
you find fur across your path
and what was staring through
your windows last night?

in other places the wolf
can get through the holes
in the roof, the thin cracks
in the door, or can be heard
scuttling across the rotting

and while you're sitting secure
unworried about all the death
and decay in the street, your
silence will end

you will open your door
to find white sharp teeth
and blood on your doorstep

Joanne Fisher

This was a poem I wrote when I was younger…

I’m thinking about putting The Oracle story on hiatus. There has a been a sharp decline in interest in the story. I know the main character is not an easy person to like, but that was sort of the point of it… When I bring it back I’ll probably truncate the story so it ends sooner than I was planning. There was going to a be a build up of tension on the ship. but I can always allude to it later in the story. The latest installment of Contraband has also not done so well, but as there is only one more episode to come, I’m not as concerned about that.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Door (flash fiction)

The Door

I went to visit my friend Madeline. When I arrived she was cutting up meat in the kitchen. I looked around the room and noticed there was a door in the middle of a wall that I swear I had never seen there before.

“Is that new?” I asked her.

“Hmm what?” she asked without turning round.

“That door. I don’t remember it being there before.”

“Oh that door! Yes it appeared there a few days ago.” she stated.

“Appeared?” I asked.

“Yes. One day it wasn’t there, and then another day it was.”

“And you don’t think that’s odd?” She turned to look at me.

“Yes it’s very odd. Open it and have a look inside.” she suggested. I cautiously walked up to the door and opened the door slowly. All I could see inside was total darkness.

“Is there a light?”

“No it’s totally dark. If you walk in there with a light, the darkness will eat it up.” she told me.

“Excuse me? Eat it up?”

“Walk in there and you’ll see what I mean.” she urged. She stopped cutting up the meat and walked to my side. “Go on!” I gingerly put my foot forward to find there was a floor there. I took a few cautious steps in. I turned my phone’s torchlight on and found it failed to illuminate the blackness around me. I turned to face Madeline.

“That’s totally weird!” I remarked. She smiled at me. It was then I saw her eyes suddenly turn red.

“Goodbye.” she said as she closed the door and I was engulfed in darkness.

“Hey open the door!” I screamed. I walked forwards to where the wall and door should be, but found nothing but empty air. I flailed around lost in the pitch black. “Please open up the door!”

Joanne Fisher

This was inspired by the prompt March Writing Challenge Day 30 – a character encounters a door in their home that wasn’t there before provided by Emine Beasley. Though it wasn’t the main characters actual home…

In other news: I finally got around to submitting some poems to this years issue of Catalyst. I probably won’t hear back until October.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher