A Problem Shared – Laura Muetzelfeldt

 

Everything important Mum ever told me she told me while cracking eggs. The news was always followed by a business-like tap, freeing wobbly flying saucers from their shells. Mum could crack eggs and open them with one-handed, something I tried to get the hang of, but couldn’t; I always ended up having to rescue tiny triangles of shell from the goo. Making cupcakes to sell at school she told me once they found a lump inside her which turned out to be her twin, dead and swallowed before she was born. Her stories always lasted as long as the recipe took to make, then we would sit down with Dad, and the secrets would fizz inside me as he tucked into whatever we’d just baked, not knowing what I now knew.

Most of the secrets she told me were to do with love. Once, whilst making an almond cake for someone’s birthday, she said:

‘It was only when I met your father that I realised my whole life up to then I’d mistaken lust for love.’

I wasn’t sure what lust was, but it sounded dangerous, creeping – liable to spread when you turned your back.

Mum looked less like a mum when she was baking, like she was just playing at being a grown up. That day, she had flour smudged above her eyebrow and her sleeves rolled up so that they kept drooping, nearly getting in the mixing bowl. I pushed up my sleeves but they kept falling down and getting messy.

All the times we baked, I never told Mum my secrets. I never got that thing where telling other people made your problems seem smaller. For me, it always made them double not halve: like kisses or a punch, they were something you could never take back.

 

 

 

unnamed (4)Laura is a teacher, writer and silversmith who lives in Glasgow with her family. She writes short stories and has been published in journals such as The International Literary QuarterlyBandit Fiction, and Ink, Sweat and Tears; her story, ‘Anna on the Wing’, was highly commended in The Federation of Writers Scotland Competition 2018. She also writes young adult fiction and her novel, Perfect Memory, was longlisted for Fish Publishing’s Young Adult Novel Contest.

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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.

Wings – Arlene Antoinette

 

Driving home from the rehab center,

my mind filled with thoughts of my

father who was recuperating from a heart

attack, I watched as a buzzard attempted

to land atop a streetlight post. Oddly, his feet

missed the perch, I ducked while driving

afraid he would fall, splat, onto the roof of

my car. Of course, that result never occurred

to the winged creature who flapped his wings

a total of three times and landed steadily on

the post which was the goal from the beginning.

I laughed at myself, not believing how foolish

I had been to think the vulture could be grounded

so easily.

 

 

stillmyeye

Arlene Antoinette is a poet of West Indian birth, who has given her heart to Brooklyn, New York where she spent her formative years. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Little Rose Magazine, Tuck Magazine, I am not a silent poet, The Open Mouse, Neologism Poetry Journal, 50-Word Stories, A Story In 100 Words, The Ginger Collect, The Feminine Collective, Boston Accent Lit, Amaryllis, Your Daily Poem, Sick Lit Magazine, Postcard Shorts and Girlsense and Nonsense.

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.

Worlds Apart – Deborah Guzzi

 

beneath my skin

milk flows like fire:

today I have eaten

 

my daughter’s mouth pulls

her hands knead my breast, her world

deep brown eyes hidden

long black lashes flutter closed

no more but she suckles on

 

in the shade we sit

beside the hotel’s grand door:

no coins in my bowl

 

 

 

debbie 3aDeborah Guzzi writes full time and travels for inspiration. Her third book The Hurricane is available through Prolific Press and at aleezadelta@aol.com. Her poetry appears in: Allegro Poetry Magazine and Artificium in the UK, Existere – Journal of Arts and Literature and Scarlet Leaf Review, Canada – Tincture, Australia – Cha: Asian Literary Review, China – Eunoia in Singapore – Vine Leaves Literary Journal – Greece, mgv2>publishing – France, and Ribbons: Tanka Society of America, pioneertown, Sounding Review, Bacopa Literary Review, Shooter, The Aurorean, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Concis, The Tishman Review, Page & Spine & others in the USA. the-hurricanedg.com.

Turn the Wheel – Ali Jones

 

He marks the year with stones,

feels the fire in trees rising,

 

when the sky calls up life.

He inhales beneath the horse chestnut,

 

stands in his father’s footprints,

eyeing the benign branch caught stars.

 

His mother leashes his hand,

they ride on wind dogs and go hunting

 

for the best kindling, where hills

are clouded with sheep.

 

In autumn, leaves throned gold,

he pockets treasures, and watches

 

the flames recede in the fall of red and yellow,

dry wood transformed in age.

 

He mounts an iron horse,

flesh consumed with the spirit of speed,

 

the season carries his skeleton to cage

a man’s soul, while roots travel

 

down, sinking with winter’s life,

to condense into vital coal.

 

 

 

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 Sun and the Moon Dance – Deborah Guzzi

 

Father sits zashiki* across from mother

at a low table in a rice paper walled room—

the moon, Tsuki-Yomi, to her sun.

His eyes crinkle—rays on ice in moonlight.

Mother, Amaterasu, named for the Goddess

returns his smile. Her newlywed

countenance warms him.

 

snow slides from

the ryokan’s roof:

udon steams

 

His chopsticks dance

to and fro, from the sushi to her

lips in an ageless ritual,

pink roe from an ivory stalk,

she licks.

 

the inside door

to the bathhouse stands open:

the hall is too long

 

 

*zashiki – in the tatami room

 

 

debbie 3aDeborah Guzzi writes full time and travels for inspiration. Her third book The Hurricane is available through Prolific Press and at aleezadelta@aol.com. Her poetry appears in: Allegro Poetry Magazine and Artificium in the UK, Existere – Journal of Arts and Literature and Scarlet Leaf Review, Canada – Tincture, Australia – Cha: Asian Literary Review, China – Eunoia in Singapore – Vine Leaves Literary Journal – Greece, mgv2>publishing – France, and Ribbons: Tanka Society of America, pioneertown, Sounding Review, Bacopa Literary Review, Shooter, The Aurorean, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Concis, The Tishman Review, Page & Spine & others in the USA. the-hurricanedg.com.

Distracting photograph – Kieran Egan

 

Pensive, looking sideways, unfocused eyes,

perhaps wondering about her future.

 

Now flight-phobic, terrified of takeoffs.

To ease her anxieties I had suggested 

we bring and talk about photographs of ourselves, 

at ages five, and ten, fifteen, and twenty.

 

We examined the pensive ten-year-old girl looking sideways.

The woman she had become started to reminisce 

about her family, her school,

and what the girl in the photograph most cared about.

 

It was just a few minutes’ distraction, to ease her fears,

neither of us anticipated the flood of sobbing tears.

 

 

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 (UK); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

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.

Caterpillar – Arlene Antoinette

 

After a brief search,

I find my ten-year-old daughter

in the garden, crouched by my shrubs,

staring at her right hand

extended towards the heavens.

 

On her index finger crawls a greenish-

yellowish creature

mesmerizing my child

who normally couldn’t sit still.

 

Looking closer, I see

the miracle of her stillness

is the result of a caterpillar

leisurely making its way up her finger.

 

She glances up at me with

awe on her face,

the look only a child

experiencing an exciting marvel

for the first time could display.

 

In that moment I feel the dread

every mother feels

when she realizes her baby

will grow up one day and all

her “firsts” will be gone.

 

 

stillmyeye

Arlene Antoinette is a poet of West Indian birth, but has given her heart to Brooklyn, New York where she spent her formative years. Her work has been published in The Ginger Collect, The Feminine Collective, Boston Accent Lit, Sick Lit magazine and Girlsense and Nonsense.

olio d’oliva – Diana Devlin

 

she pours oil

into a fancy bottle

tiny golden globules rise

like fish coming to feed

and all at once she hears

nonna’s laughter

ancient church bells peal

invite the pebbled path

and its people

up to the duomo

plump tomatoes

figs

and frogs caught

in coffee tins

home

 

 

IMG_4511Diana Devlin is a Scottish-Italian poet living near Loch Lomond. A former translator, lexicographer and teacher, Diana now writes full time and shares her life with a husband, two daughters, a Jack Russell and two eccentric cats. Her work has been published both online and in print and she is working towards her first collection. She is a member of several writing groups and enjoys sharing her poetry at public events.

Buried – Sara Comito

 

You can get a horse as soon

as you get a backhoe big

enough to bury it, Momma

told her. Likewise, she didn’t

have the smarts to bother

with college.

 

Down the pier a sailor smoked

and mended his net. Feeling her

stare, he pegged her for

lonely, took her out to sea.

 

Momma didn’t get a husband

til she had a big enough knife.

The net was big enough for this

new catch, but – Momma

will be missing me.

 

His face cracked with years

of salt like those sore, handknitted

knots. Swells made false islands

of horizon. Seven miles and you

lose the land, he says.

 

The distance she can’t

make sense of. It folds itself

into a wave she could ride

all the way back there and bury

everything. But she can’t

tell.

 

Is it big enough?

 

 

Bio photoSara Comito is a writer living in Fort Myers. Her poetry has been published at places like A-Minor Magazine, Thrush Poetry Magazine, and Blue Fifth Review. Her interests include a new love – fiction writing, plus experimenting with world cuisines, camping in Florida’s swamps, and watching her teenage son invent his future.

Fight or flight – Angelica Krikler

 

Come and lie with us, the flowers said, you have nothing now. Like us, there is no one to love you and your marriage bed must be the thorn bush, your funeral pyre the dams that will not break

Forget keeping your physique and the limescale in the kettle

You are a leopard in the snow. There is no way you will survive

Everything you planted will turn against you

Soon you’ll forget about hairdressers, and you’ll start to malt like us

And songs will be nothing more than the hum of crickets, the sound of your own fist beating your body

Scallop shells will give birth to you

Family will simply be nature’s surrounding colours

And your lipstick will be a rush of blood

Or else, write until the pen runs out

 

 

unnamedAngelica Krikler is a student from Essex who is hoping to study English Literature at university next year. She spends her time writing, reading and watching American stand-up. She has previously been published in The Claremont Review, Morphrog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Y-Magazine and Cake Magazine.

Pomfret Pillars (For Chennai) – Udit Mahalingam

 

It is a Holi day:

Powdered clouds of purple

Stain a sky, drier than

The melange of rivers we found

 

Flushed out in an Indian sun.

There is a lady we

Affectionately call ‘aunty’,

Selling her piles

 

Of Pomfret at every boiled street end,

Her son, aimlessly stacking them

Higher than a sacred peak.

Their brutal fall

 

Into vestigial puddles

Effaces them.

He is a child of the land:

Ascending green, white and orange.

 

Bending back,

He unreels uninterested seconds,

Seeping away with

Coloured clouds…

 

 

image1Udit Mahalingam is a teenage poet, whose works have appeared in publications such as ‘Hebe’ and ‘BUSTA RHYME: North West Voices. He was a commended winner in the 2017 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Apart from reading whatever he can get his hands on, Udit volunteers at his local library, swims, plays tennis and sometimes over-watches his favourite television shows. He hopes to study English at degree level.