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.

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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.

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.

Fear of flying and other forays into the unknown – Claire Sexton

 

Don’t start with doubt and dissension. Don’t walk that tortuous plank right now.

Raise your head skyward and contemplate the birds – flying without a hint of reservation or restraint.

Self-consciousness has no meaning for them.

No avian ever fell from the sky because of overthinking; plunged earthward with their head in their wings – shouting ‘where did it all go wrong?’

But here I am undercutting my resolve with insidious doubts and oscillations – a suitcase of distraction and a rucksack of denials. A poker iron to stoke the flames.

I light my candles and repeat my affirmations. Yes, today I would like to travel first class. Today I would like to watch a movie and lay my head back in my chair.

I’d like muffins and fresh rolls please. Carbohydrates, and polite conversation. A perfect aptitude for give and take. Delays that do not make me sweat and toil.

Most of all I would like to taste the tranquility of knowing I have made progress. I have left the house. I have washed my face. I have all my documents, and time to spare.

Firefighters and first aiders will no longer be required.

 

 

Foxglove picClaire Sexton is a forty-something librarian living and working in London. She also writes poetry and occasionally creative non-fiction. She has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, Stare’s Nest, Peeking Cat Poetry and other magazines. She has just adopted a magnificent tortie cat called Queenie.

Earthquake – Susan Richardson

 

The earth rolls beneath my feet, a wave

carrying me across the courtyard.

I sink into his mouth.

Afternoon erupts with fear as the

ground spits back its shaking aftermath.

Sunburned pavement cracks in his grasp.

Evening whispers its descent,

peppering the sky with darkened clouds.

Far below, the world stands still.

 

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice and Sick Lit Magazine, with pieces forthcoming in Amaryllis. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize.

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.

Ithaca – Rachel Lewis

 

My wife is behind me

And my life before.

The sky lit from inside itself

With golden dying day.

Turning itself,

Turning itself,

And turning again.

We are sailing east

Towards a dawn

That has not yet risen and will not

Til terrors past absolve us

Of having left at all.

Ithaca, sharpening blue

And deepening silver,

My house just one

In our city stretching out the coast.

My father buried there, his dust

Rising in flowers touching heads to dew.

My nurses there, their old hands threading

At baby clothes, sat in sun smiling wrinkled.

Ithaca I can feel you holding back.

Something in me will not come with me.

It will stay murmuring in the cypress,

It will croak with the cicadas at night,

It will live with the snakes in the sand and the gulls on the water.

Promises, winds,

They cannot move a weight of water.

Ithaca I promise

I have never and will never leave you

Even as winds blow me on

Into the rose red grasp

Of this first dawn alone.

 

 

Rachel headshot portraitRachel is a London-based poet. She was previously a poetry editor for the Mays Anthology and a Young Producer with Poet in the City. Her poetry can also be found on the Poetry Society website, in the Dawntreader and Kindling journals, and unpredictably at live events around London.

The loom of life – Ann Christine Tabaka

 

The tapestry of life is said to be woven in tears.

First the bobbin is wound tightly with love. 

Then the shuttle weaves through the fears.

The warp holds the tension below and above. 

Winding through fleeting days months and years.

Each bright colored thread intertwining thereof. 

Nimble fingers working as the timeline nears.

The final results we must not lose sight of.

As the resplendent design of the master appears.

 

17498590_10208707888030767_5119352462877867180_nAnn Christine Tabaka was born and lives in Delaware. She is a published poet, an artist, a chemist, and a personal trainer. She loves gardening, cooking, and the ocean. Chris lives with her husband and two cats. Her poems have been published in numerous national and international poetry journals, reviews, and anthologies.

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.

Hand-me-downs – Kate Garrett

 

The bricks housed phantoms;

the anachronistic soda counter

 

I now recall in a haze of decades

and miles as solid, yet of its time

 

and the man running the shop still

slicked his grey hair Brylcreem smooth.

 

Some villages never catch up.

The drugstore was plastic and rounded

 

and faded and chrome, Americana buried

just for me, so I could uncover

 

its message one morning—

the new kid with bony shoulders grandma

 

folded into floral sundresses I wanted to love,

relics of a childhood that wasn’t mine.

 

But I know we each spent our time huddled

and waiting for progress, or nuclear winter,

 

nursing fears we couldn’t name, hiding

in cellars from the first sign of a black sky.

 

kate-newKate Garrett is a writer, mother, editor, wife, history buff, and amateur folklorist. Her work is published here and there online and in print, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent books are The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) – which was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards – and Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016). Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will be published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi.

Natural disaster – Roma Havers

 

Black ice skitters us sideways,

Toes curling to grip what can’t be gripped,

We fold in together, back in the jack-in-the-box,

Bruised fabrics and china faces, almost smashed

But only crumpled like plastic bottles

In skips they fall against, blueing and breaking red lines

On precious skin.

 

Dust rises against noses and mouths,

Twists into taste with the remainder of suckled sweets,

Shuddering tarmac emits dark smells,

And we avoid doorways like the spirit of Passover,

The earth splinters, ripping things apart

That should only revolve slowly,

Like tufts of snow.

 

Water chucks chins, cranking necks,

Pressure builds in stomachs and hearts,

Legs flounder like they’re caught in machines,

Cogs still turning, grinding them into the world,

And then the lid of the earth slams down,

Latching its final latch on its impenetrable

Steel water chest.

 

It is not these things I fear,

Not the dark destructions of a turning world,

Mother Earth can take me as she chooses.

 

No, I fear the wrath of untended hands

squeezing finders through my ribs.

I fear a misstep, scabbing my face shut

into blindness.

I fear the ticking shelves in my skull

will tip over and plunge me into the goldfish bowl

of empty memories.

 

roma-haversRoma Havers is a Manchester-based poet, currently in her third year of an Drama and English degree at The University of Manchester where she is the Books Editor for The Mancunion and Chair of the Creative Writing Society. She performs regularly at spoken word nights, and events such as Reclaim the Night and UniPresents.

Harriet – Lydia Allison

 

I found him in a place

with an endless ringing

like the noise of an alarm clock

his body hot as blankets

 

a bad place

with gaps in the walls that let in a light

smoke and I couldn’t see his face

 

skin touched my skin

it changed

I found you in a different place

and now have two names

and two monograms to prove it

two mistakes

 

southerndown-pictureLydia Allison is a Sheffield-born poet whose current writing stems from a love of weddings and wonky romances. She is a member of Writing Squad 8 and has appeared a number of times both online and in print, including two of Pankhearst’s Slim Volumes (This Body I Live In and No Love Lost). She enjoys a range of modern and contemporary writers, particularly female American poets. Her other favourite things in life are the Yorkshire countryside and cake for breakfast. Follow her on Twitter @LydiaAllison13 and find more poems, stories, and links here: lydiaallison.wordpress.com.