Yellow Ribbons – Pene Morley

 

The newspaper did nothing to stop the cold seeping from the wooden bench into Steve’s bones. He hugged his anorak tighter around his shoulders and tucked his hands under his armpits. Swapping that old blanket for a tin of baked beans had been a bad idea.

Shoppers, muffled up in coats and scarves and hats, trudged to and fro in front of him. Most ignored him, but some watched him out of the tail of an eye as they passed him. He wanted to grab them and tell them, ‘I was like you once, before I went to fight your bloody war’, but he knew they wouldn’t believe him; they never did.

A woman hurled a half-eaten burger into the bin at his elbow, and he eyed it for a moment before snatching it up. Then he noticed the girl staring at him, knock-kneed, gripping a plait in each hand as though she thought her hair was going to fly off.

‘It’s for my dog,’ he said, nodding to where the lurcher was curled up among the carrier bags at his feet.

The dog raised its shaggy head at the sound of his voice, and he tossed the burger between its paws. It snapped it up.

‘What’s his name?’ the girl said, edging closer.

‘I don’t know. I call him Bob but he’s not really my dog; he just follows me around.’

‘Can I stroke him?’

Steve nodded. The girl bounced down on to the ground at his feet with a grin, and the lurcher stretched out his neck to sniff her mouth, his tail thumping the pavement.

‘My dog’s called Scruffy,’ she said, giggling and squirming as Bob licked her face. ‘I got him when my daddy died but nobody can see him; he’s invisible.’

Steve crumpled up the burger bag and chucked it into the bin. Not having a dad must be tough on the kid, but you wouldn’t know it looking at her now. She was holding Bob’s ears up like butterfly wings and chatting to him about everything and nothing. Steve was about to ask her about her dad, when a slip of a woman rushed up and grabbed her by the shoulders.

‘How many times have I told you not to run off like that, Anna?’ she said, pulling the girl on to her feet.

Anna twisted in her grip. ‘I just wanted to see that man; I thought he was daddy.’

The woman’s body slumped, like a puppet no longer in play. She glanced over at Steve, exasperated, and for an instant he thought her tired eyes were pleading with him for help.

Then she tugged at Anna’s arm. ‘Come on, I don’t want you bothering him.’

‘But he’s got a dog,’ Anna said, digging in her heels, ‘and it’s real.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘And he’s got no laces.’

‘What..?’

Her mother stopped pulling her arm and turned to Steve. She studied his cracked, unlaced army boots and then looked back at Anna, frowning.

‘Remember when Daddy’s laces broke and he used my ribbons to tie his trainers,’ Anna said. She smiled at Steve. ‘Would you like my ribbons for your boots?’ She knelt at his feet. ‘I think they’ll look ever so pretty,’ she said, threading her ribbons through the lace holes.

Her mother gazed at Steve as if to say, ‘I’m sorry, about her’. He grinned at her, and she reached down to stroke Bob and hide the flush of colour that had appeared in her cheeks.

 

 

PM bio picPene Morley lives in the south of Germany with her husband, teenage son and two Labradors. She discovered very short stories on Twitter over a year ago and now tries daily to do one of the writing prompts. Since then she has also started writing flash fiction and is writing a novel which she hopes to have finished soon. You can follow her on Twitter @PeneMorley.

Siren – Jessica Michael

 

There is an ache like oceans

emptying themselves of everything but salt.

 

I walk the bottom,

cut my feet with wandering,

I fear her reckless chasms

and keep going.

 

Because for years

I thought I had a choice

in who and what and how I loved

 

when the only choice I ever had

was if I loved at all.

 

Here I am,

singing music to call the sea to shore.

 

 

10036_2Jessica Michael lives and writes in Prescott, AZ when she’s not traveling this intriguing blue planet. Her work has appeared in Allegro, Comstock Review, Red Fez, Rebelle Society, Outdoor Australia, and others. Find her poetry and photography at www.authorjessicamichael.com or follow her on Instagram as @authorjessicamichael.

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.

Traveller – Ali Jones

 

He arrived, a long washed sailor,

over the rolling sea, making home

because he likes what he sees;

the waist nipped flouncers in sky

high heels, he brings them sunshine,

 

in the grey northern streets, freestyles

beats, wears flip flops with no thought

for others. He wants to fit in though,

with winkle-pickers and pool cue crowds,

not with grim suited pen-pushers.

 

Under his feet, colours splatter the pavement,

smiles spread silently across his face,

he hears old ladies whisper, scandalised,

then turn silently away;

he wears the world well.

 

 

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.

In Autumn – Trivarna Hariharan

 

If a river ever

lost her way

 

into a forest,

what upon returning

 

would she find

but a bark of flowers

 

falling at her feet,

over and over?

 

 

PhotoTrivarna Hariharan is an undergraduate student of English literature from India. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has authored The Necessity of Geography (Flutter Press), Home and Other Places (Nivasini Publishers), Letters I Never Sent (Writers Workshop, Kolkata). Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday, Otoliths, Peacock Journal, One Sentence Poems, Birds Piled Loosely, TXTOBJX, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, and others. In October 2017, Calamus Journal nominated her poem for a Pushcart Prize. She has served as the editor in chief at Inklette, and is the poetry editor for Corner Club Press. Besides writing, she learns the electronic keyboard, and has completed her fourth grade in the instrument at Trinity College of Music, London.

New Beginnings – Rachel Bower

 

We are starting again

this wrinkly belly and me

learning how to walk again

and even how to talk

to strangers without

the shield of peach cheeks

and little legs.

 

We are tottering through the retail park

off kilter

but determined to find a latte

and drink it hot this time,

just this time,

even if the milk floods our shirt

even though we’re waddling a bit,

still bruised from birth

and we think of him safe

and scan the tarmac again

without anchor.

 

Our balance is off.

You shrivel in my hollow

as I try to unfurl

and wonder how to tilt on my feet.

 

Only eighteen minutes left

’til we see his starfish hands.

 

We wobble together and smile.

 

Rachel Bower photoRachel Bower is a poet and research fellow at the University of Leeds. Her pamphlet, Moon Milk, will be published with Valley Press in May 2018. She is currently co-editing an anthology with Helen Mort entitled Verse Matters, which is out with Valley Press in November 2017. Her book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in August 2017. Rachel’s poems have been published by Stand Magazine, BBC Radio, Now Then Magazine, Valley Press, Three Drops Press, The Stare’s Nest, Pankhearst and others, and she has had poems shortlisted for several prizes, including The London Magazine Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize 2016. She is also the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.

Spider – Natalie Crick

 

The whisper

Wicks from her lips.

A soothing salve.

 

She bends, twists,

Feet touching the walls

In eight different places.

 

Her laurels always rove.

Search.

Hold.

 

Gagging the dawn chorus

Until

The hunger moon thins.

 

Dissecting a house fly,

She commits

Murder on the brightest window,

 

At first frost

Opens the door

Without a guest to feast.

 

Natalie Crick PhotoNatalie Crick, from the UK, has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, Ink In Thirds, The Penwood Review, The Chiron Review and Rust and Moth. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.