Sunday 31 March 2024

The Return of Excalibur - Flash Fiction Story by Sarah Das Gupta




The Return of Excalibur

Flash Fiction Story

by Sarah Das Gupta

Long ago far in the west was a mighty King, Arthur Pendragon who carried the great sword, Excalibur and the magic scabbard which protected the wearer from wounds. He gathered round him a group of knights who were the flower of chivalry and who sat at a round table so all were of equal status. All took a solemn oath to take part in knightly quests and oppose the power of evil. Yet it is hard to maintain this sense of humility among men trained from boyhood to compete in jousting, sword play and battle. Gradually the Round Table became divided by feuds, competition and jealousy. The company of knights was slowly divided into opposing factions and rival groups.

Rebellion eventually broke out, led by Mordred, with his rabble of treacherous followers. The two sides, finally faced each other in the last great Battle of the West. All day the noise and clamour of battle continued. Cavalry charges swept over the battle field like giant waves breaking on a rocky shore. Men fought in single combat, great battle axes falling on helmets and battered shields. The drums of war echoed and re-echoed among the mountains by a cold, grey sea. The field ran with the blood of the slain and a bitter wind blew from the east.

Near the end of the day, with the dead and the dying covering the field, Arthur stood face to face with Mordred.

‘You have avoided me in the fight. Is it death you fear at the hands of your rightful King?’ Arthur’s challenge rang out in the gloom. ’If a witch had not stolen the scabbard of Excalibur, I could not be wounded.’

‘Nothing, I fear nothing in Heaven nor Hell. Nothing at all,’ Mordred snarled and the word ‘nothing’ rang out across the field of the dead.

Arthur wasted no more words but charged with his lance which crashed against the black breastplate, shattering the metal and delivering a terrible wound in Mordred’s chest. In a last frenzied effort, Mordred thrust forward with his broadsword, striking the King with such power, his breastplate broke in two. Then forced to his knees, Mordred collapsed, impaled on Arthur’s lance. Dying, he cursed the King, ’Perish, Pendragon and let your name be for ever forgotten.’

Arthur, reeling from his wound, fell back into the arms of Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights.

‘Where are my knights?’ whispered Arthur, breathing heavily.

‘I am the only survivor, sire. But I will get help from the castle. You will, recover, my lord.’

‘No, I am weary. The end is near. Carry me on your shoulders into the forest, beyond this field of the dead.’

His eyes could still command obedience. Bedivere could not but obey the dying King.

Bedivere pulled Arthur onto his back and hurried towards the darkening edge of the forest; he could feel the breath of the King, growing weaker. ‘Hurry, hurry or I shall die.’

The knight hurried through the maze of dark trees which seemed to whisper, ‘Faster, faster.’

A full moon had risen and a silvery light shone between bare branches as he ran. Then suddenly the trees ended and a lake shimmering in the moonlight lay before Sir Bedivere.

‘Leave me here at the edge of the forest.’ Arthur’s breath was fast and shallow. It rose in the cold air, like incense drifting heavenwards in the moonlight. ‘Take Excalibur and throw it far into the lake. Then return and tell me what you saw.’

Bedivere hurried to the edge of the lake but when he lifted the sword, it was like lead in his hands. He looked at the jewelled hilt washed by moonlight. He was seduced by its beauty.

Hiding it in some bushes, he returned to the dying Arthur.

‘What did you see? Tell me quickly.’

‘I saw the water gleaming in the moonlight and heard the rushes whispering in the wind.’

‘Liar! Traitor!’ For all his weakness, the King half rose and gripped Bedivere round the neck.

‘Go again, Hurl Excalibur into the lake and tell me what you see.’

Bedivere ran back to the lake. His mail-clad feet rang out as they touched the pebbles on the shore. Again, he whirled the sword in the air. Emeralds and rubies flashed in the feathery moonbeams. His hands burnt as if the sword were welded to his palms. He hid the blade among the rocks and returned to the weakening King.

‘Leaning on one arm, Arthur asked,’ What did you see?’

‘I saw the wild geese fly across the moon’s face and I heard the bittern call from the salt sea marshes.’

‘Traitor! Liar’ Why do you deceive your true king? Go once more and keep the faith.’

Again, Bedivere ran over the stony foreshore. He held Excalibur high in the cold air. He whirled it three times round his head. He let it go. The great sword made a brilliant arc of colour. White diamonds, blood- red rubies, emeralds, sapphires, topaz, blazed in a glorious riot of colours. As it arched over the water, it flashed in the moonlight like the magic lights of the frozen North. From out of the lake rose a hand, dressed in white damask, mystical, wonderful it grasped Excalibur, waved it three times, before it vanished into the depths of the lake.

Despite his tiredness, Bedivere felt an inner joy as he returned to Arthur.

The knight heard the sound of oars striking the water. A boat made its way to the edge of the water. Inside three women veiled and dressed in fine, black silk walked silently up to the king.

Lifting him to his feet, they took him to the boat. Tears ran down Bedivere’s face as he watched the women pick up the oars.

‘Why do you weep? The King is not dead. We are taking him to Avalon to rest. Whenever the world is endangered, he will return, the once and future king.’

Bedivere watched the boat until it disappeared into the dawn mist rising from the water.

Sarah Das Gupta is a retired teacher from Cambridge UK.who has also lived and taught in India and Tanzania. Her work has been published in many magazines/ journals, including: 'Lothlorian', 'American Writers Review', 'Songs of Eretz', 'Pure Haiku', ''Berlin Review', 'New English Review' among others. She is interested in folklore, mythology and history.



Two Poems by Stephen Philip Druce


Planet Orpzier


Swivelling glove voyages

dagger desolate

in a pearly moss ravine,


scampering patchwork blizzards

dwindle in a phantom furnace

of prowling Venus leaves,


festered in starfish delirium,

oddity cinders clamber

neon tombs adrift,


as raincoat sparrows slope

in smouldering tantrum,

the ancient wolves in woodpile satin,

rage in the sunken ghettos

of blinking candle passages,


muzzled in needle avalanche,

the sneering pyramids

of wizard fossils blur

in a twisted porcelain twilight.



Planet Quivoria


The electric stone preacher

scribbles a jettisoned rascal

in a frosted moon utterance,


marooned in a glacier spasm,

the lashing wombs of roulette thistles

cradle meddling lambs in a web

of teaming sword oblivion,


steeped in a weaving naked dawn,

the crimson piper pirouettes in

a quicksilver cabaret of blueberry doves,


as shackled sculptures frenzy

in foxglove slumber, the drizzling

sunflower tremors straddle

anchored pilgrims in fevered mockery.

Stephen Philip Druce - Is a fifty eight year old poet from Shrewsbury in the UK. His poems are planet based. They describe the events that take place on the planets that exist in his imagination. His work has been published in the UK, India, Canada and the USA. He has written for London theatre plays and BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Four Poems by Ann Smith


I sip Chablis
from a mug

in our room
a tallboy with no drawers

A Coy Bird ( alternative title - A Marvel)  

This afternoon two large, black, shiny birds forage
in the pots of rosemary, lovage, thyme and mint on my balcony.
One bird, head down tail up, suddenly stands tall
holding a long slender metal stick in its beak.  
I gaze helplessly as it flies off with my plant label.    

winged carrier
a jackdaw

Dewslake Fair   (a Triolet)  

It hailed and rainbowed at the fair
on Dewslake farm that Winter's day
We sipped mulled wine and sheltered there/
It hailed and rainbowed at the fair
We samba'd with the drummers where
they carnivaled with strut and sway
It hailed and rainbowed at the fair
on Dewslake Farm that Winter's day

Ann Smith - Born and brought up in South Wales, UK, Ann Smith graduated in French and Italian at Bristol University then moved to Wiltshire where she worked for many years in the electronics industry.  Ann retired in 2009 and moved back to Wales with her husband.   She has been writing  poetry for a couple of years and particularly enjoys illustrating her poems.  So far she has earned three toilet brushes and two bottles of rum for her poetic efforts.

Ann’s poems, collaborative works and commentaries  have featured  in Failed Haiku, Poetry Pea, The Wales Haiku Journal, The South Wales Evening Post, Under the Basho, Scarlet Dragonfly, The Haiku Foundation, Mcqueens Quinterly, Community Times Caerleon, LEAF journal, Asahi Haikuist, Drifting Sands, Five Fleas itchy poetry, Blithe Spirit,  Prune Juice, The Cherita and Gembun Anthologies, and Poems on Conflict – (Hall writers forum)


Eight Haiku & Senryu by Ram Chandran


Eight Haiku & Senryu


gold moon-

stealing some of its sheen

the yellow cherry blossom



inexplicably beautiful-

every night insomnia


flashes of waves ...

just above 

seagulls flapping their wings


a bit of moon


falling cherry blossom


somehow it rains

when I am 

on seashore


spring night...

the jasmine exudes

more fragrance


a nameless bird


give her a name


night blooming jasmine romancing the moon



Ram Chandran is a Corporate Lawyer by profession.He has been writing English poetry since his college days. He is writing Japanese short form poetry since 2020 and his English language haiku and other Japanese short form poetries- around 500 - have been published internationally in various prestigious print and digital Journals. A collection of his Tanka poems titled " The flight of a dragonfly" was published in April 2023 by Southern Arizona Press (SAP).

Four Poems by Lynn White


Angels Wings


I am pondering the nature of 

angels wings.

Fluttery things.


like powdery moths

or butterflies, 

fluttering by.

Or, feathered like a bird's.

Made to hover and soar.

To glide on the thermals,

higher and higher,



Not tight skin and bone

like bat's 

or scaly like dragon's.


Long before the birds 

and the flutterbies.

But, after than the angels,

later than those fluttery things.


So did the feathers come first

and fall to earth

becoming scales

on the way down.

How far did they fall

before they left heaven 

and hit the ground flying

to metamorphose

and make a scaly shell

of skin ready to burst

and open dustily. 



Scaled like moths

in clouds

of dust


Not so different then

in the scales of things,

those powdered creatures

those fluttery things,

those angels wings.





It should be the dragon that breathes fire,

that’s him there above the horse,

but he’s quiet and calm 

in tune with the sweet music

quite breathless just now

while in flight



in metamorphosis.

It’s the horse that looks dangerous,

his breath steaming

about to catch


no doubt 

about it

they will surely change places

when their metamorphosis 

is completed

and the music stops.


First published in Mehfil, June 2020



In the Clouds


I’ve seen a dragon in the clouds

and a humming bird

and a tea table

set for tea.

Some say they’ve seen Christ

or Mohamed,

or fairy kings and queens.

They have all stayed a while,

my shapes in the cloud.

None have left.

Not until now.


when I saw the man 

with his tufts of hair

growing haphazardly

here and there.

With his open red mouth already blooded.

With the sunlight shining through his eyes.

I have never seen such colours in the clouds.

And now 

he seems to be leaving,

not blown away,

but stepping out


hungrily towards me.


First published in Gateway Review, 2018 



Voice Of An Angel


Once I thought love

would be enough

to fly us away


past planets and stars

reaching up to them

breaking through 

the atmosphere

to grasp that moment

and put it in a glass,

our own shining orb

that would stay forever

gleaming and shimmering

and singing at my touch

with the pure notes of

the voice of an angel

breaking through 

the atmosphere,

your voice

a voice so pure

it will never shatter

the glass.


It’s lustre has faded now

but it will stay forever

a still shining sphere

in my memories 

and dreams.

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Consequence Journal, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Gyroscope Review, Blue Pepper, Arachne Press and So It Goes. and

Friday 29 March 2024

Five Poems by J.J. Campbell


take my ball and go


i've spent a good

portion of my life

in silence


fighting the urge

to tell the world

to fuck off, take

my ball and go

the fuck home


but it's not like

forcing myself

into public has

actually paid

off for me


it only means

the poems

include a few

different faces


the pain never




i remember

the first rush

of adrenaline

when you are

being shot at

while running

through a field


you don't have

to be the fastest,

just quicker than

the slowest friend




no one we lived

around was a

good shot

day old bread toasted


slipping dirty looks through the fog


sweet kisses in the dirty air


she met me on the street near

my favorite bookstore


we looked at furniture and old clocks


we stopped by a hole in the wall

for a bite to eat


day old bread toasted with

some trendy jam


i'm not from this world


i'm an old soul that tends to get lost

in whatever hip shit this is called today


still wearing flannel


humming lyrics to a smashing pumpkins



she laughed, started singing them


two old souls with all these years

and miles between us


we'll share our first kiss in the neon

glow of some broken street light


a bit of rain still hanging on


enough warmth to get us through

a dreary night

in this fleeting life


i love you can sometimes

be like trying to walk on

razor wire


you hope all the pain is

worth it in the end


i've been lucky enough

to reach the other side

a time or two


but as is everything in

this fleeting life nothing

lasted long enough, at

least for me


now, i'm sure those

women are laughing


barely have any memories

of me at all


i remember every kiss


every corny ass line


and every last goodbye


i suppose i am a glutton

for punishment


there always could be

worse ways to have to

spend your life


and what is the point

of having a great tolerance

for pain if you never get

to use it

i knew it was the drugs talking


i remember being stabbed in the big

toe and never drinking with a marine

ever again


hobbled down to my buddy's house

and he used a bottle of peroxide

on the wound


and giggled as i bit down on a

ragged ass towel


i never had the guts to ask him

what he used that towel for


a few days later


i limped into a smashing pumpkins



all my friends were dancing

i was over to the side


this beautiful young woman

started talking to me


and right as my courage started

to grow a younger friend came

over and told me i had to get out

there, it was amazing


i knew it was the drugs talking


i turned around and she was gone


the band played soma and this

fragile life got the first glimpse

of what being a poet is really like

J.J. Campbell (1976 - ?) is trapped in the suburbs, plotting his escape. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at Synchronized Chaos, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Beatnik Cowboy, The Asylum Floor and Misfit Magazine. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights. (


Five Poems by Dawn Pisturino



First Movement – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18

The church bells ring discordant tones,

Sombrely blending with the grey dawn breaking.

Awake. . . Awake. . . to a brand-new day

Of mourning.

Fear and doubt clutch the young composer’s heart,

Rending him in two, reminding him of his St. Petersburg failure,

Creating a divergent counterpoint.

No more. . . No more. . . the church bells cry.

His fingers feel dry and empty on the ivory keys;

But through the window,

Nature’s orchestra chimes in,

Ushering in a slight note of hope.

He hears the strings in his head,

Soft and low, and the theme emerges.

His fingers stroll along the keys,

The notes roll from his supple fingertips.

Woodwinds echo back and forth,

A personal expression of the pain he feels

And the passion in his heart.

A lone horn blows, signaling an avenue of help

In Moscow.

Torn by confusion and ambivalence,

He knows he must respond.

Accompanied by a rising cacophony

Of tension, he departs,

A rudimentary concerto in his head.



Adagio Sostenuto

Second Movement – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18

He throws open the windows at Ivanovka,

Absorbing healing sunshine into his pale skin

And clean, flower-scented air into his tired lungs.

Moscow’s stink and grime cling stubbornly

To his psyche, but the countryside urges him

To retreat into his childhood memories.

Birds trill like nature’s flutes

Among the full-leafed trees,

Insects scurry along the ivy clinging to the walls.

Green lawns roll like treasured carpets

Before his aching eyes,

Rich with nature’s tapestry:

Gardens bright with colorful blossoms and butterflies,

Drifting on a summer breeze.

Imaginary strings soothe his teeming brain

While peasants toil in the fields,

Turning the rich, brown Russian soil. 

Home! Home again! Home!

His heart expands with excitement,

The passion roils in his breast.

His vitality returns; he feels renewed.

His fingers spread with suppleness,

And he’s touching the piano keys,

Expressing his joy.

Bless the good Moscow doctor.

Bless the fresh country air.

Bless the morning’s glorious sun.

Love and beauty and woodwinds

Echo in his ear.

He retrieves the composition

He wrote so many years ago

And forms new notes on the paper.

His second movement springs to life,

Embracing a familiar world.

He knows he will finish it.


Allegro Scherzando

Third Movement – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18

Nature presents him with her full bounty.                                                                                                                                  

Life resounds with a full orchestra of melodies and moods.

While trouble brews in the rest of Russia,

The young composer lives safely in his dreams,

A relic of the past.

But he is free now of darkness and doubt.

He marches resolutely forward,

A genius in his own right.

His heart swells with resilience and pride

As he strides across the grounds of Ivanovka

On long legs, his large hands clutching a pen.

Absorbing the sun’s life-giving rays,

He puts pen to paper and completes the composition

That will place him among the greats,

Remembered by lovers and enthusiasts alike

For decades to come.

He finds contentment in his work

And can return to Moscow in the autumn

With renewed strength and hope,

Buoyed by a positive outlook

And confidence in his ability to overcome.


A Rainy Day

grim clouds cover the valley

with a burial shroud

of smoky fog and moist dew

that dampens the spirits 

trying to lighten up the day


the ethereal world of the dead

beckons to me

my hands disappear into the fog

dampness curls my hair

into fat ringlets

tears mingle with the mist

my heart drops like a lead weight


cat jumps on my lap

shivering with cold

begging for hugs and kisses

she misses you too

you were her favorite


dog howls at unseen ghosts

flying on the clouds

slipping through misty wetness

then slumbers deep in joyful dreams

of running through the fields

free and unfettered


rain tip-toes gently on the roof

cat purrs softly

dog rolls over                                                                                                                                 

sleep overcomes me in my chair

I’m with you again on a sunny day




wet asphalt reeks of


from the hippie shop


next to the baker

setting out fresh loaves of whole-

grain organic bread


sweetened with honey

and freshly-picked rosemary

grown wild on the farm


miles from the feedstore

where baby chicks-ducks-geese wait

patiently for homes


and children stroking

soft down on trembling bodies

with their baby hands



Dawn Pisturino is a retired nurse in Arizona whose international publishing credits include poems, short stories, and articles. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, most recently in Hidden in Childhood: A Poetry Anthology, Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, and the 2023 Arizona Literary Magazine. She is a Mystery Writers of America and Arizona Authors Association member.

Three Poems by Steve Klepetar

Changing So many women turned into trees  or reeds or weeping stones. There was a man bent over a pond  who became a flower. Another died  b...