Carnota – Elizabeth Gibson

 

We are in a glass dome of summer – pick us up and shake us,

and pollen-dust will swirl around us. The delirious strip of sea

is the other side of our zip: we curve and arc into each other.

Life is reduced to blue and green, with dots of pink and yellow,

and all I could ever need for fullness again is this sea and sky,

these hills of foxglove and gorse, and long Galician granaries,

their stone frames warming lizards and cats. We stop, to sprawl

among the brittle mauve patches of seaweed, watch dolphins

spinning like cogs, in and out, in and out of the wave machine.

Hey, I see a whale – well, I see spray – but no-one believes me.

We find the corpse of a small creature – a porpoise, maybe,

all beak and curve, now brittle with sand. Across the meadows

are chubby brown goats, and foals gulping from patient mothers

whose fringes tumble like kelp. It all keeps circling in on itself.

 


Elizabeth Gibson is a Manchester writer and performer, and the Editor and Photographer for Foxglove Journal. Her work is often inspired by her travels, as well as themes of queerness, community, body image, and mental health. She has recently been published in Aurelia Magazine, Giving Room Mag, Lighthouse, Popshot, Queerlings, and York Literary Review. She is @Grizonne on Twitter and Instagram, and she blogs at https://elizabethgibsonwriter.blogspot.com.

Souvenir – Isabel Greenslade

 

I left the car on the cliff top,

went looking for a toilet, found a bird.

There used to be a coal mine under here –

that’s what the guidebook said,

and the mark on the map.

 

It’s long dead, whatever it was,

probably dead when I was at home

looking it up in the bird book.

Fieldfare? Thrush? Which colour plate,

which description did it fit?

Anyway, there it was, trapped in a toilet block

in a car park empty of other visitors.

There were only two of us.

 

This assemblage of stone sand wind and air

progressed up and down the cubicles,

one two three four five five four three two one

its feet scrabbling on the overhead cisterns.

Too far above me to catch, it wouldn’t be wafted

towards the doorway with my map.

 

Already I was trying to name it as it struck

at the skylight that we could both see.

Death was always certain – inside a neglected egg,

by teeth or talon, by being shaken loose.

It didn’t need its name, only the sky which turned solid on it.

 

I flushed and walked out over the stone floor

into the wind, past the laminated pictures of the mine.

I got back into the car, drove to the heritage museum

where miners are trapped on a screen, to be bidden by a button

so someone knows they’re still there.

 

It’s history now, that bird. I thought about it

on the motorway all the way home.

 


Isabel is from and of London where she works in a museum. In a former life she was a youth worker then a tour guide. Her poems has been published in Orbis and she can be found discussing poetry, art, gardening urban history, and the natural world on her Instagram account @ijgreenslade.

Beyond the Tree Line – Hugh Cartwright

 

It’s our first Christmas adrift in the stars.

And Molly’s first egg.

“Can I break it now?”

“Be gentle.”

Molly’s just four, the youngest of our tiny community. She taps the egg with fierce concentration, as if it’s the most important job in the Universe.

Suddenly the egg shatters and a glittering shape unfolds from among the fragments – a silver Christmas tree. It would weigh a handful of feathers on earth; here in deep space it floats effortlessly.

The tree glides quietly through the cabin until I tie it down with red ribbon. Our little group of 19 gathers round in a circle, linking arms and singing carols.

On 12th night, Molly helps me shepherd her tree into the airlock and we set it free. It glides behind the ship, not wanting to leave. But, as the hours go by, it gradually falls away, dissolving into the star-strewn sky.

#

Our 27th Christmas; it will be the last before we reach our new home.

Molly is unwell, but she is our talisman; she must crack the final egg. A shimmering, golden tree emerges, capped with a crown of sparkling stars.

Our group now numbers 22. We gather around the tree for the final time, holding hands and singing carols.

On 12th night, Molly, whose memories were of nothing beyond our ship, is dead; she is the first to die.

27 trees drift behind in a soundless, invisible line, watching over us as we rush towards a world that Molly will never see.

 


Hugh’s not really a writer. His career has been spent in Universities, working at the interface of artificial intelligence and physical science. Now retired, he has begun to write occasional stories, some colored with elements of science fiction, others being just a little odd. It helps to take his mind off his impossible project: growing citrus trees in the Canadian climate.

Grief – Yvonne Gaskill

 

And there were days

Days when my chest screamed

My blood wept

And I choked on my own pain.

 

Days like empty glasses

Cold, cutting, cavernous.

 

And there were days

Days I felt so small

I could have slipped through pavement cracks

My skin so thin.

 

Days like vacant tombs,

Diminishing, decreasing, dying.

 


An English graduate, Yvonne has always enjoyed creative writing, particularly poetry. Recent bereavements have led her to write more as a kind of therapy. A journalist for more than 30 years in print and broadcasting, Yvonne covered everything from terrorist attacks to celebrity interviews. She reported and presented on regional TV and radio stations and also for national news networks in the UK.

Echinoderms – Margaret Holbrook

 

You take all life from your

immense, fathomless,

median disc.

Asteroidia,

spangle tipped in salt

to the end of your arms

red spotted markers.

No brittle stars or

basket stars but true

Asteroidia.

And in your watery sky

environment you flourish,

live, die, regenerate,

shine brighter than any

celestial form.

 

 

IMG_0641Margaret grew up in Cheshire where she still lives. Margaret’s poems and short stories have been published in several anthologies and magazines and online journals including most recently: Schooldays, Best of British, Flash, I love you, Patches of Light, Torrid Literature Journal, The Foxglove Journal, The Wilfred Owen Association Journal. Margaret also writes plays. Her monologue ‘Our Brian’ was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Opening Lines’. In 2017 her play ‘Ruthless’ was longlisted for the Top Five Competition at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre. Her play The Bus Stop was performed at The Old Sawmill in Congleton in May 2019 and will be performed at Buxton Fringe Festival in July this year. Margaret hosts the Poetry and Prose Open Mic at The Petersgate Tap in Stockport. Keep in touch: www.margaretholbrookwrites.weebly.com

Horses on the hill – John Grey

 

It’s near sunset and the horses are high up on the hill.

Clouds are moving in. No rain but much shadow.

The light’s an untrustworthy yellow.

He opens the barn door wide

then climbs the rise toward where

the mare and her colt, the stallion,

nibble away the hours on the lush grass.

 

It’s the third day of his new status

as a widower farmer.

He looks at the turkey vultures

with a more jaundiced eye.

Likewise, the red fox.

Or anything willing to peck over a carcass.

The death of a loved one

brings out every death.

Some creatures react with glee.

Others, like the horses,

indulge their mellow indifference.

 

Some things won’t change.

He’ll still cut up his apples,

pour salt on the slices.

He’ll drink tea with globs of honey.

And he’ll attend to the horses,

fetch them back to their stalls

while it’s not too dark out.

Their manes glow.

Their heads nod amiably.

And they follow where he leads.

The horses are the perfect companions

if life is to reestablish itself.

 

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Nebo, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

 

 

Death in Spring – Ben Banyard

 

She took her last breath as we put the clocks on.

Lambs, daffodils, Easter eggs, cheerful optimism,

but a funeral to attend and relatives to console.

 

We’ll Google the church’s car park,

agree to work around that afternoon with bosses and clients.

Follow the coffin in, glance at riotous banks of grape hyacinth.

 

There will be hymns.

All Things Bright and Beautiful no doubt,

The Old Rugged Cross, perhaps.

Choke back a lump in the throat at the eulogies,

smile with damp eyes at anecdotes.

 

What will move us most are the details of her youth,

how she played nicely with her sister sometimes,

what her parents did for a living;

Spring details, when her life was beginning.

 

 

ImageBen Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, UK. He’s the author of a pamphlet, Communing (Indigo Dreams, 2016) and a full collection, We Are All Lucky (Indigo Dreams, 2018). He blogs and posts mixtapes at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com.

remember – Lisa Reily

 

our dog came first in our relationship,

our first child, our only child,

our Henry.

remember his tongue-wagging runs on the beach,

our cabin amid the paperbarks,

ocean mist coming through our window?

remember the soft call of the butcherbirds,

the laugh of the kookaburras

the only sound to wake us?

remember cups of Earl Grey tea on our balcony

while Henry slept in his basket;

the simple pleasure of our walks on the sand,

Henry running ahead on the empty beach,

ears wagging, sand stuck to his nose;

holding hands over rocks, limpets, starfish

and crashing waves that we thought would sweep him away,

climbing to the tops of cliffs, losing our way back down?

remember the mist that went on forever, covered everything,

took with it the cliff, the long stretch of beach,

Split Solitary Island;

remember the ashes we scattered on the sand,

the beach that took them, that took

the love of our lives,

ashes forever to float to the island;

our first child, our only child,

our Henry.

 

 

Photo - Lisa ReilyLisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and stories have been published in several journals, such as Panoply, Amaryllis, Riggwelter, River Teeth Journal (Beautiful Things), and Magma. Lisa is currently a full-time budget traveller. You can find her at lisareily.wordpress.com.

The day the rain finally came – Michael H. Brownstein

 

Flood water drizzles away in the mid-Missouri heat of July,

mud hardens into adobe brick and the early morning dark olive

green sky is not full of dew, but resin and hard tack.

When the first breeze blows late morning, it is not

the dust of the earth that lifts itself into air,

but the dead of the earth – dead seeds, dead fall,

the dried out carcasses of crayfish and tulip lipped toads.

Suddenly the green grass is beard grizzled and graying,

the ants bring drying blood back to their queen,

large bees settle in the shade of a blossom and sleep.

Then, one afternoon, a cackle in the sky, the clouds

gather into bundles of storm and heat lightning.

When the rains come, everything moves out of the way.

Cracks in the clay eat what they can and the river

opens its huge mouth to take in everything else –

ants, bees, the dead wood congregating on the dying grass.

Then it is over and hotter and stiller and even a shift in weather

cannot rise all of the dead things decomposing into the air.

 

 

unnamed (3)Michael H. Brownstein’s work has appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Convergence, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), and The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the admin for project Agent Orange (projectagentorange.com).

Along the Gridley River – William Doreski

 

On the waterfall trail the moss

wigs with damp an intelligence

greater than ours. Painted

 

trillium spikes the roving eye

with rippled, blood-streaked petals.

We pause by the deepest pool

 

and watch the falls fall into it.

Trout? you speculate. No more

hooking fish by the lip. I broke

 

my fly rod years ago. Let the big

specimens die of old age,

as I plan to do when the light

 

thickens and the waterfalls freeze

and pharmaceuticals no longer

excite my favorite organs.

 

We enjoy the contrast of rock-

broken and still water, the swirl

of leaf decay icing the pool

 

like the world’s first birthday cake.

Nature’s always rebirthing itself

in a shrug of clichés. Brightly

 

ethered, it wings about us on fire

with floral imperatives. Leaning

on each other in the mist of flies,

 

we let the mood distinguish us

from the other forms of life.

Among them, only falling water

 

and maybe the painted trillium

seem mobile enough to track us

to our secret mutual lair.

 

 

william-doreski175William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.

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.

I have yet to attend a funeral where it didn’t rain – John Grey

 

You were buried near twilight

and as the moon went missing

behind a combination of clouds,

and oncoming night methodically

devoured the shine, it was up to

your tombstone to illuminate

its surrounds, sprout grass and

wildflowers, as sky splashed,

on your new forecourt, star-sized tears

in the shape of rain, each one plopping

into the last, and your shadow,

having rid itself of you, found, beyond

death, new life as a black umbrella.

 

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Nebo, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Too late? – Kieran Egan

 

Mrs. Reardon walks down the pavement

which is more broken now than when 

she pushed four different children in their prams,

two of whom will be at the funeral today,

of the man she married

because the man she loved married her friend.

Her friend died last year and the man she loved

will also be at the funeral of the man she married.

The man she loved realized too late, too late

that he cared less for the woman he married

than for Patsie Reardon, née Walsh, of days long gone.

 

Mrs. Reardon and the man she still loved 

passed on this street with their children in prams, 

then he with a son and football and she with ballet shoes and a daughter

then walking with further sons and daughters, some taller than either of them.

 

Would he, after the funeral and after due time . . . ?

Her heart and stomach were afraid and light and excited.

Or will the formal reserve they had cultivated like a shell

be now so hard they can no longer break through it?

Were they still the two who had once loved each other?

His once hair . . . her once taut skin . . .

 

 

unnamed (2)Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quills (Canada), Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review (Canada), High Window (UK), Orbis (UK), Raintown Review (USA), Envoi (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Qwerty (Canada), Snapdragon (USA), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Acumen (UK), Canadian Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House (U.K); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

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.

Cologne – David Armand

 

It was a mirrored, wooden cabinet

hung at about eye-level so he could see

himself before he left for work

in the morning, when it was still dark out

and everyone else was asleep and warm.

 

And he kept nothing but cologne in there,

bottles and bottles of it: Brut, Old Spice,

Pierre Cardin, English Leather, Coty Musk,

Stetson, Aqua Velva, Afta, Skin Bracer,

Preferred Stock, Aspen. Cheap stuff

 

his kids gave him, or maybe he bought it

himself at the drugstore for under ten bucks

so he’d have some variety in the morning,

some choice in how he presented himself

to a world where he didn’t have many choices,

 

a world that was hard on him, and one he’d leave

far too soon: just after a meager Christmas one year

at only forty-two years old, all those cheap bottles

collecting dust now, their contents slowly evaporating

until the day comes when there’ll just be nothing left of him.

 

 

armand_lgDavid Armand is Writer-in-Residence at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature. In 2010, he won the George Garrett Fiction Prize for his first novel, The Pugilist’s Wife, which was published by Texas Review Press. His second novel, Harlow, was published by Texas Review Press in 2013. In 2015, David’s third novel, The Gorge, was published by Southeast Missouri State University Press, and his poetry chapbook, The Deep Woods, was published by Blue Horse Press. David’s memoir, My Mother’s House, was published in March 2016 by Texas Review Press.