3:18am – Beth O’Brien

 

3:18am is awake like its own alarm.

 

We bump into each other on the landing

because we are restless at the same time,

for different reasons,

and we jostle for position in the darkness,

 

both of us waiting for the other

to find the light switch.

 

 

unnamed (3)Beth O’Brien is currently studying a degree in English Literature at the University of Birmingham. She loves reading, writing, food and seeing the world – when any of these overlap, she loves them even more!

Advertisements

Belly Button – Belinda Rimmer

 

On days so dark

I think only of eclipses

my fingers ache from probing

as I try to find a fragment

of my mother

inside my belly button.

 

One small discovery

and we could be reconciled.

Hours with only fluff

and other debris to show.

My belly feels sore, tight.

 

Nothing prepares me

for a seahorse,

a bloody seahorse,

stuck part way out,

tail hooked.

I ease it onto my chest.

 

In a bowl of salty water

it bobs about, happily.

 

What is it trying to tell me?

 

To forget the whole nurturing business,

focus on making your own way

or get what you need from books,

there are plenty of good mothers (and fathers)

lurking within the pages.

 

Note: Male seahorses give birth; neither parent care for their young.

 

 

Profile18Belinda has had a varied career: psychiatric nurse, counsellor, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. Her poems have appeared in magazines, for example, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, ARTEMISpoetry and Obsessed with Pipework. She has poems on-line and in anthologies. She won the Poetry in Motion Competition to turn her poem into a film and read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. You can find her at belindarimmer.com.

After Me – Julia Molloy

 

Darling, come closer. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing to fear. You are always safe with me. Whenever you smile, I’ll smile too, though mostly you make jokes that aren’t funny these days. Whenever you cry, I’ll be waiting with my shoulder and a glass of your favourite wine. It’s the Rioja you prefer now, isn’t it? When we first met, it was all about the alcopops and fluorescent cocktails that quickly got us high so we could dance and be free. We’d dance to songs we no longer heard while others vomited and fought and cried. We’d dance and hold each other close. I guess we lost friends that way. But I can still remember how it felt, the first time we held each other. Our shoes stuck to the floor and the DJ shouted through the air, but all I could focus on was you. I thought my skin would ignite. As the years have mellowed, as our days have grown more fleeting, we savour the Rioja while we can. We don’t dance or play music. We sit, and we hold hands through fading daylight and long dark nights.

Darling, come closer. That was what you used to whisper in the darkest of nights after our son died. We held each other under bed sheets you always insist on ironing. We waited for time to do its work, but I think we both still feel the emptiness. So we hold each other wrapped in the clean, sharp edges of the bedsheets. We stop asking why.

Darling, come closer. I worry about who will keep you safe after me. Who will know about your favourite Rioja? Who will know how to leave you in peace when you come home from work, how to give you that space in which to breathe? Who will know the hole inside? I suppose someone could learn this soon enough, but still I worry. I don’t recall learning these things about you as much as absorbing them. We cried once at a study where children were punished and rewarded to see if they learned better. Our own son toddled at our feet. But now I come to think of it, that was how I absorbed these things about you. Your joys and your hates, your laughs and your rages, punishments and rewards. Who else can absorb these things and keep you safe?

Darling, come closer. I need to feel you near me. You don’t understand why I worry so much about you, why I don’t worry more about myself and what I must face. You don’t understand that worrying about you keeps the fear away. When we met, I remember how I felt a weight had been lifted from my mind. I didn’t have to be alone. I could hold you in my arms and you wouldn’t even comment on my clammy skin. Now, I worry about you to keep darkness at bay.

Darling, come closer. I can feel the darkness coming. I whisper to you again and again, or at least I think I do. You’re smiling, but not as you used to. It’s a smile that will turn into a cry the moment I close my eyes. I whisper again, or perhaps I don’t. Perhaps this is just the dream of life. Perhaps this is how you are after me.

 

 

Author photoJulia Molloy is a short story writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, Crack the Spine, STORGY, Platform for Prose and Riggwelter Press. Her work was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2016. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and now works at a government organisation. You can find her at www.juliamolloy.org and on Twitter @JRMolloy2.

Unwavering – Susan Richardson

 

Each day, as I reluctantly get out of bed,

to face the sunlight and blindness,

I ask you to hold my hand so I

won’t feel afraid of standing still.

You wrap my fluttering pulse in threads

of warmth that traverse your palms,

dulling the edges of my anxiety.

You teach me to shake off rage

and laugh at the act of coming unglued.

How quickly I learned to seek your

voice in the clamor of being alive,

rely on the steady cadence of your heart

to quiet the noises that breathe in darkness.

You stand unwavering in the center of

our life together, a beacon that always finds me.

Feeling your fingers against mine,

I stand beside you, content to close my eyes

and let the sun shine on my face.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, The Writing Disorder and Eunoia Review, among others. She was awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A Series, and chosen as the Ink Sweat & Tears March 2018 Poet of the Month. She also writes for the Arts and Lit Collective, Morality Park.

Stairfoot – Ali Jones

 

They enter dark waters in fire damps,

waiting in the amniotic dusk,

below the surface, while the mouth

breathes fire to the sky.

 

Softly, they flow downwards,

grow back into the mineral landscape,

tossed back up to the light when

the earth sees fit. Some were found in shards

where the water world dammed

and womb fluid filled the streets.

 

Maybe they are fish now,

transforming all together

into a great shoal, the older men leading,

the boys drifting, tentative, into

bodily definition, coal, ironstone,

fireclay, ganister, shale and sandstone;

 

all become them. Separated from life,

in wonders and challenges, they enter again,

transfigured by fire and waves,

and they shall be here in many wonderful shapes,

the grain of wheat, the running hare,

leaping alive at the harvest, or turned back in again.

 

 

(Historical note: The Oaks Colliery explosion is the second deadliest coal mine disaster in the United Kingdom after the disaster at Senghenydd Colliery. There were two more explosions on 13 December 1866, which killed 27 rescue workers. The Oaks Colliery, one of the largest coal mines in England, experienced 17 further explosions until it ceased operations in the 1960s.)

 

 

Author photo 2Ali Jones is a teacher and mother of three. Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She has also written for The Guardian.

The night journey – John Grey

 

beneath stars,

and bridges,

one flat, one arched

 

the river’s

always on the move

and eventually

 

when it’s so dark

that only sound matters

that river is all –

 

broken street-lights, shuttered stores

even houses and the people in them

disappear –

 

I lie in bed

distinguishing from silence

a low hymnal

blue and gray sound –

 

far from here

it’s just starting out –

 

far from here

it’s already where it’s going –

 

within earshot

both these things are happening.

 

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. His work has recently been published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review, and is upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Rose Tinted Glasses – Susan Richardson

 

The experts say my disease is genetic.

It spreads across families without discrimination

and taps randomly on the shoulders of children,

condemning them to a life of waiting for

the world to become shadows and pitch.

 

I stand alone with my dying retinas,

cocooned in the muslin of a fading canvas.

I have searched for a family connection,

a blood born comrade in a life of darkness,

but they tell me there is no one.

 

As the years pass and my vision

careens down a steep precipice, I

remember stories of a paternal grandfather

I never knew; a good dancer with sensitive eyes,

who always wore rose tinted glasses.

 

He was only 32 when he died, leaving

my grandmother to turn him into legend,

and my father to fend for himself

against the grief of a broken mother.

The secrets of his blood are caged in mystery.

 

Did my grandfather pass down the

genetic code that chains me to blindness?

Are my eyes a reflection of his own?

I hold desperately to the idea that he is the link,

but in my family, legends don’t go blind.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. Much of her work focuses on her experiences as a partially sighted woman in a sprawling urban environment. Her work has been published in Free Lunch, The Old Red Kimono, Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila–Na- Gig and Chantarelle’s Notebook. In addition to poetry and creative non-fiction, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”.

Nickeled-and-Dimed – Iris N. Schwartz

 

Brooklyn, New York; 1967

In the middle of the sitcom “Love on A Rooftop,” Lenore, eight, announced she had swallowed a nickel. Her voice was low, her words measured.

Imogene rushed over. “Are you sure?”

Her sister nodded.

Imogene paced the living room, muttered, “How could this happen?” Regarding her younger sister on the sofa still watching Judy Carne, the eleven-year-old again probed, “Are you sure?”

Lenore smiled, slightly.

“Why? On the one night Mother and Dad go out!” Suddenly Imogene was speaking with an emergency operator. “I don’t know how it happened!” and “She’s breathing fine.”

She hung up, shut the TV, glared at Lenore. “You better not be making this up!”

“I’m not.”

“Because if you are…”

The doorbell rang. Two lanky young men in police uniforms were at the door. They probably hadn’t spotted the mold on the mezuzah.

“Is this the household with the coin swallower?”

“Yes, yes, oh God,” the older sibling responded.

Blond Policeman sat down by the unsteady kitchen table. Brunet Policeman stood nearby in the living room, examining the family’s antique, glass-doored bookcase. He seemed rooted there. Would he be nesting soon?

“Can I get you coffee?” asked Imogene. “Gum?”

“No, we’re fine.”

Brunet finally walked into the kitchen. He and Blond questioned Lenore about how she’d swallowed a “Buffalo nickel,” which she “collected,” and was “examining in the dark.” She “didn’t want to bother her sister” by turning on a light. When the eight-year-old held the nickel high, it tumbled from her left thumb and forefinger into her open mouth.

Blond: “Any trouble breathing since the incident?”

“No.” Lenore spotted a humongous water bug by the table leg closest to Blond. Would he notice?

Brunet asked the older sister their parents’ whereabouts.

“Oh, God… they’re at a PTA meeting, and were planning to eat out. They haven’t been out in years, and…”

Brunet: “Well, we need a family member over eighteen to tell us whether she’ll stay here or go to the hospital…”

Lenore gulped. She hadn’t been to a hospital since her tonsillectomy. They hadn’t given her ice cream afterwards like they promised. Just watery Jello. She wouldn’t go! She tried to stomp on the water bug as it neared. It sped away.

Imogene decided their parents should be called and brought home.

Dad grumbled that this was the first time in three years they’d gone out, and now they were back. Early. Mother wore makeup. The sisters knew not to look her in the eyes, hers with mascara, theirs not.

Blond told Mother and Dad that Lenore could get her stomach pumped in a hospital, or the collectible coin would come out the next couple of days if she ate fibrous food and drank lots of water.

Brunet admired out loud the glass-doored bookcase. Was it for sale? Dad and Mother shook their heads, no.

The parents let nature take its course. They didn’t yell at or spank Imogene or Lenore. Mostly Dad grunted; Mother favored silence.

Two days later a dusky Buffalo nickel was affixed to orange contact paper, accompanied by Dad’s funny words. This was taped to the door leading to the basement. Anyone who visited could read it. It hung on that door for a year.

Lenore had dreams involving Blond and Brunet till early spring.

 

ins current cropped (1)Iris N. Schwartz is the author of more than forty works of fiction. Her literary fiction has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including 101 Words, The Flash Fiction Press, Gravel, and Jellyfish Review. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published widely, as well. Ms. Schwartz’s first short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories, is scheduled to be published by Poets Wear Prada in Autumn 2017.

The Moon – Ion Corcos

 

The moon’s light opens the sea,

brings limestone and sea urchins out of the dark,

lets me see more than I would in the day,

when the light is hard, reflects off water,

white houses, the rocky hills.

 

It is hard to see fish in the sun,

except when they come to the surface

to nibble bread, or when they are dead;

thrown back to the water, untangled

from a net, floating.

 

I prefer night, the white moon,

phosphorescence in the dark sea,

like a turn in a dream, the quiet

silver of fish, the mystery

of stars.

 

Ion CorcosIon Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is www.ioncorcos.wordpress.com.

The History Of Their Handprints – Len Kuntz

 

It was the second fire

Years after the garage

Had burnt down

I came home from

Night church

The light switches

Wouldn’t work

I didn’t smell smoke

Right away but heard

My kitten Christopher

Mewling downstairs

The hallway door

Leading there was closed

And in the basement

The shell of my brother’s

Bedroom had become

Charred crimson cinders

Each slat of wood

Resembling red rebar

Or long stove coils

In the smoky haze

I scooped up Chris

Went to a neighbor

Dialed the fire department

They brought an investigator

Who grilled me

Out on the damp lawn

Until it grew so dark

I could no longer see

His expression and

Determine if he was

Actually serious

He pointed questions

Was I resentful my

Parents had left me

While they lived

Somewhere in Idaho

Did I want retribution

Were there issues

I had with them

That would lead me

To set my house on fire

I said

No

No

And

Of course not

I never said how

In those years

Each day was spent

Hustling the demons

That buzzed around

My shallow skull

Like a hive of

Angry wasps

Sometimes drilling

Their stingers

Straight through

My hippocampus

I never said I

Was actually thrilled

My parents were living

Someplace other than here

Where the history

Of their handprints

Still haunted everything

Darker than

The thickest smoke

Glowing brighter

Than any oven coil

Burning everything

To ash

Again and again

And again

 

6294_1156782568787_1504415167_30412971_8075954_n (2)Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU, a story collection out from Unknown Press.  You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

Ascending from Vilenica Cavern – Glen Sorestad

 

One hundred thirty-four stone steps

drag us into the somber underground.

It is so novel an act, we have no thought

of what lies ahead when the time

comes to return to the comfort of earth.

 

Here in Slovenia’s Karst region

this huge limestone cave awes the breath

from us as, step by step, we descend

from sunlit warmth to eight degrees —

a constant, day or night, year in or out.

 

In this well-used cavern at a location

that is not its lowest depth at all,

but a spacious room where music

is played and prayers are uttered,

we listen to a brass ensemble blow

bats right-side-up, with notes flying

into every rock niche, sliding up

and down stalactites and stalagmites,

reaching out and up, shivering

a thousand candles with delight.

 

Over flicker and sputter of tapers

poets declaim poems and bring

evening to a close. Now we must

ascend to dark Slovenian night.

One hundred thirty-four steps: the test.

 

Up from the underground we climb,

single file, a stream of souls spiralling

to an imagined heaven. Our first steps

identical to those of the descent,

but now steps enlarge and each leg

must somehow be lifted higher.

A cruel joke? Has someone altered

the step size while we were below?

At one hundred steps we huff

and wheeze, wanting to stop

and rest, but there is no stop,

no looking back on this ascent

from the underworld, just keep

our eyes on the climber ahead

and hope that person doesn’t stop

or falter because these steps

will not suffice for two. If one

person stops, then we all must.

 

The only sounds are footfall

on stone, the puff and gasp,

and the rustle of clothing.

Just when we think our hearts

will burst and our leaden legs

will not budge another step,

we are returned to earth.

Night is cool, a lighted path

leads us to food and wine.

 

Sorestad 5x7Glen Sorestad is a Canadian poet whose work has appeared in publication in various parts of the world, has appeared in over 60 anthologies and textbooks, and has been translated into eight languages. Sorestad lives with his wife Sonia in Saskatoon on the northern plains.

Void – Lynn White

 

There are dark misty spaces

topped by the blackest clouds,

so that I can’t see into them.

I have always been afraid

of the monstrous beings

which may lurk there

waiting in the dark.

But now the mist

is lifting,

moving

away.

The cloud is becoming thinner,

allowing the light to penetrate.

Now I am even more afraid,

afraid of the light,

afraid

that it may reveal

not monsters, but

the bare boards

of emptiness.

 

Lynn...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. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems have been widely published on line and in print publications. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-White-Poetry/1603675983213077 and lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com.

Looking at your pictures… – Francesca Leone

 

Still feels like stepping on a grenade.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Piazza Trilussa in the morning is at its most beautiful:

the air crisp, cold like a knife,

the silence of a city who’s still in bed,

quietly stretching out in the dark.

But that night when we said goodbye,

it was truly something else.

A beauty from God’s grace.

What a blessing it was to

get my heart broken on a night

like that. I felt so alive with pain.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Let’s hope it never does.

 

fl-picFrancesca Leone is a 24-year-old living in Rome, Italy. She writes in English at https://frellification.wordpress.com. She is currently writing a fantasy novel, but poetry remains her first love.

The searchers – John Grey

 

When I claimed to have seen the boy,

the others shouted “where?”

But he was already gone.

I was in a bunch of weary men and women

who were more than ready to pack it in,

cold and damp, and aching for their warm beds.

As the others retreated, I stayed behind,

in woods so silent and empty,

nothing rivaled my heartbeat for sound.

The trees felt like the dark walls

of an abandoned church,

the rocks, altars stained with rain.

And I was the preacher without flock.

Or was that the flock without preacher?.

Was the boy really out there?

Every square inch of forest had been trudged through

by his would-be rescuers.

The wind was bitter, clouds low and gray.

It wasn’t winter but not through lack of trying

on the weather’s part.

Maybe he’d found a secret place

out of reach of red-eyed shivering saviors.

When I ran away and hid, I wanted people to find me.

But that was a long time ago.

When I claimed to have seen the boy,

maybe that was me skirting between the trunks,

through the brush, terrified, miserable,

but enacting part of a plan to be retrieved, taken back,

squeezed even deeper into the family fold.

I stopped. I listened to the shouts.

I longed to cry out in return.

But that wasn’t how it was supposed to work.

I had to lead them on that weary chase longer,

until the anger was fully drained from my pursuers

and only the compassion remained behind.

Forty years later, I wait and watch.

The boy is probably home and safe with his mother

tor all I know.

Most likely, only I am out here now.

So do I keep searching?

Or do I go home to bed?

Wait a minute. What was that?

I thought I saw… or felt penetrate.

Small but bright. The boy. But which one?

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. His work has recently been published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review, and is upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Slow Clapping – Richard King Perkins II

 

It would be an untrue kindness

to say it started innocently enough

 

when we both knew otherwise.

 

I asked you to walk with me

to the side of the building

hidden by shadow and irregular trees

 

where we could speak freely

about dandelions and reverse-image suns.

 

As intended, the conversation ended

and the sidelong glances

into distance and unlit corners began

 

and we became exciting people once again;

nearly glorious

 

but from the moment we caught our breath

there was a redefining;

 

a subtle sickness of stomach,

the ebb of coherence

 

so that even our false selves

had lost whatever fragment of innocence

that might still have remained.

 

And yet,

because we belonged to no one indefinitely

 

there was a steadying, a recovery,

liars made well by ill-given pardons

 

our pathetic espousals applauded

by the rhythmic clapping

of lime gloves in an artificial darkness.

 

rkpiiRichard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.