Alma Mater – Laura Potts

 

Widow-black and winter, evening took me south into

lamps burning blue in the dusk. Out and over my hometown musk

lay the hinterland hills breathing low in the dark. Still,

frostspark sharp on the city streets, holy rain sweet

in the winter and the wet, with no evening stars ahead I let

the pavement take me home. Through the town nocturnal, gloam

 

and grey, my chimney throat coughing its smoke, I saw aslope

on the city’s slow spine those old black gates, the summer of my days

inside. Grief cracked my face. Those navy girls and me, a pace

always ahead. But in the pale stairwell light the ghost of my girlhood dead

in its fresh green spring and gone. From roadside wet I looked on

at this child of light, her afterglow bright, her ashes of life

 

already black. The cold breath of loss on my face. At my back

a schoolbell cracked at the evening air. I saw Death at my table there

tipping his hat, and the years in my face that sank as I sat

at that desk at the back of the class. I remember that. And last,

on an old December evening, down hallways dark the wilting hymns

of girls turned ghosts before their time, I saw their eyes

 

like candles cold, like lights no longer leading home. Outside, to the bone

I shook and swung, the darkened seas that were my eyes done

and gone at the sight of myself. Each girl ringing her own passing bell.

Well, in that mist and half-dark morning, my face a clenching fist

in pavement pools, I saw that septic, terminal school

for what it was. No, I never went back, of course.

 

I tipped my compass north.

 

 

527Laura Potts is twenty-one years old and lives in West Yorkshire. She has twice been named a Foyle Young Poet. Her poems have appeared in Seamus Heaney’s Agenda, The Interpreter’s House and Poetry Salzburg Review. She has recently been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction at The University of Colorado and also made The 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize shortlist. This year Laura became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air at Christmas 2017.

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At the Museum – Claire Walker

 

For fossil hunter Mary Anning.

 

In glass cases, bigger than my childhood

home, they display the rocks of my life’s work.

Together, men caw like gulls over scraps,

applaud their knowledge and its evolutionary weight.

 

They will not, yet, accept these finds as a woman’s

will not acknowledge my days searching the tide;

days when the sky could do anything – layers

of grey and blue stacked against each other.

 

How easily we set ourselves this way:

man over woman. They call me Handmaid,

think I gather pretty shells in my bonnet

for no reason but a pleasing shape.

 

They are wrong to try and erase me –

an expert at preserving remains.

The swirls of my fingerprints are spelled out on flint,

letters chiseled in the lines of my nameless bones.

 

 

12718029_871924849596518_4897711566017020968_n (1)Claire Walker’s poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines including The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Poetry Shed, and The Chronicles of Eve. She is a Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. Her first pamphlet – The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile – was published by V. Press in 2015, and a second – Somewhere Between Rose and Black – will follow in December 2017.

Balinese Cremation – Lisa Reily

 

In the searing heat and smoke we step back,

not expecting death to find us

on the way home from our fruit smoothie;

the exotic thrill of guava still on our tongues.

 

 

Photo - Lisa ReilyLisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. She is now a budget traveller with two bags, one laptop and no particular home. You can find out more about Lisa at lisareily.wordpress.com.

Outside the window – Tony Press

 

You can’t see nothing from here but if you could, what would you want it to be? That’s what she asked the first time I ever went to her apartment. We’d met in Sioux City when I was living there on a highway crew. She lived in Correctionville. Yes, Correctionville is the real name and you’ve probably already got an idea why it’s called that. Don’t bet on it.

I thought about it. Really: what would I want to see, if there were anything to see out her kitchen window. I’d seen the rest of the place and my answer was more important than you might think, because the kitchen was the only room with a window. The living room slash bedroom was nothing but three walls and the bathroom was the same, just smaller. It had more plumbing, too, which was a good thing.

Sweetie, I said, I’d like to see one of those Venice canals.

Venice? Venice, Italy?

That’s the one.

Oh, Darrell, did you ever go to Italy? Did you ride in one of those boats there?

No. Nope. I’ve never been across the Atlantic. Or even seen the Pacific. The farthest east I’ve ever been was South Carolina and the farthest west – you’ll laugh, maybe – was Kansas. I was at Fort Riley for four years and two more in Manhattan after I got out.

Manhattan? New York Manhattan? I thought you were talking about Kansas.

I am. It’s smaller than the one with Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building and all that, but it’s got the same name. I was working at the university there: Kansas State.

Oh. Oh. Okay. Anyway, let’s just stand here and you can tell me about the canal out the window.

I poured her another glass of wine and one more for me, and then I lowered the light. I’ll give the place some credit, it had a cool dimmer switch, at least for the kitchen. I put my left arm around her shoulders and with my other I pointed outside.

Look, that’s the Grand Canal and over there … can you see it? That’s the Bridge of Sighs. If two people stand on that bridge and kiss they will be together forever. Flat-out-fucking-forever.

Really?

Really, I said. Step up onto it with me, but careful, ‘cuz it was raining so it might be slippery. I held her hand. That’s it, I said. Easy does it.

It feels real, she said. I’ve never been any place like this.

Kiss me, I said, and we’ll never be any place else, no matter where we are.

She did, and we held that kiss until I needed to breathe. She could have lasted longer, she said, and then we kissed again. I moved in that week.

I’ve still never seen the Atlantic, or the Pacific. I did – we did – get out to Nevada once. We drove to Omaha and took the train to Elko, where a buddy’s got a place. We saw mountains on that trip, so that was cool: no mountains in Iowa. I’ve got a cousin who lives in Hills, Iowa, but the name’s a joke. Maybe I ought to tell my cousin to look out her kitchen window and think about what she’d want to see, in her heart of hearts.

We have a bigger place in Correctionville now, a real house, with windows in every room, but each night before we go to bed we stand at a window, and look out at the Bridge of Sighs.

 

 

beast crawl.14.tp fotoTony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. He’d be thrilled if you purchased his 2016 story collection, Crossing the Lines (Big Table). It’s available at indy bookstores, directly from him, or even from that Amazon place. He lives near the San Francisco Bay.

Dreaming of Dog – Linda Imbler

 

Come to me while I’m sleeping,

show me that you are trusting of me

and that you wish to go home.

Show me that you wish to see your backyard,

that you like your doghouse

on the porch – with your bed.

You’ll find your soft blanket,

you’ll settle into deep and restful sleep,

where dreams of rabbits are waiting

for you and you’ll watch them frolic. 

Come to me while I’m sleeping,

show me that you love your dinner

and the crunchy treats that follow

after that last bite.

Then you’ll follow me inside

and I will pet you while you nap,

pet your head, then chest,

pet your back down to the tail,

recalling your busy day

and looking forward to tomorrow.

Come to me while I’m sleeping,

show me that you are happy

that you have found me. 

You’ll come to me,

walk into my arms and not squirm,

rest your head on my breast

and let me kiss the top of your head,

and I will smell your fur and feel its thickness.

Come to me because I have called you

and you have answered.

 

 

SONY DSCLinda Imbler is the author of the published poetry collection “Big Questions, Little Sleep.” Her work has appeared in deadsnakes.blogspot.combehappyzone.com,
bluepepper.blogspot.combuckoffmag.com, Fine Flu Journal, Bunbury Magazine, Blognostics, Nailpolish Stories, Broad River Review Literary Magazine, Mad Swirl, Ascent Aspirations: Friday’s Poems, Unbroken Journal, The Voices Project, GloMag, The Beautiful Space, and Zingara Poet. Linda has poems forthcoming in Leaves of Ink, Halcyon Days, PPP Ezine, The Moon Magazine and Bindweed. Online, she can be found at lindaspoetryblog.blogspot.com. This writer, yoga practitioner, and classical guitar player resides in Wichita, Kansas.

saving a shell – Paul Waring

 

I picked you from a shallow grave

of mussel shells one of many 

that lie close to the sea wall beneath 

the promenade left exposed when 

the tide rolls back into the horizon

 

haphazard clusters of naked nacreous 

sockets without eyes and blue-black 

domes of weathered backs in rockpools 

at rest on soft skin of red and grey

pebble and stone I chose you

 

I don’t know why I stepped over 

seaweed tendrils sprawled on sandstone 

to ask questions about your secret life 

how you met death unglued unhinged 

prised open cracked like a code 

 

scooped out by curve-billed curlew

or common gull abandoned washed 

and buried here by the incoming tide 

in this ghetto of empty homes I don’t 

know why I thought I could save you

 

 

IMG_6036Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His poems have appeared in journals/sites including Reach Poetry, Eunoia Review, The Open Mouse and are forthcoming in Clear Poetry and Amaryllis. He recently returned from living in Spain and Portugal and continues to enjoy being re-acquainted with the wonderful variety of nature in Wirral and other parts of Britain. His blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com.

Higashi-Koenji 東高円寺 – Anne Louise Avery

 

*Higashi-Koenji is situated in Tokyo’s Suginami ward and is famous as a center of alternative youth culture and for its temples and shrines.

 

The summer my father died

I moved to Higashi Koenji.

The house had new tatami floors

And a fat white cat called Setsuke.

It smelled of cedar wood and mayonnaise. 

It was also

By a video store,

The best in Tokyo

(with every X-Files episode

And sun-faded posters of Peter Sellers).

A lantern carver lived next door.

His mother left me peaches on our stoop

Coated with a thin dusting of mica.

One day, I walked to the station

At six fifteen am to catch a train to Mitaka-shi.

It was my father’s birthday,

The Seventh of July,

And overnight the station people had covered the entrance

With silver stars and 

Long streamers like tentacles 

(Watermelon pink! Slush blue! Frog green!)

For the Tanabata Matsuri, 

The Star Festival,

When the Weaver-girl and the Cow-herd

Meet on a bridge across the Milky Way

Made of magpie wings.

In the evening, I eat grilled eel and

Strawberry cheese cake and

Scratch a wish with marker pen on a thin strip of tanzaku paper. 

And I tie it next to all the other wishes

Bristling on a bamboo branch in Koenji temple.

 

Anne Louise Avery PassportAnne Louise Avery is a writer, art historian and the cartography editor at the travel journal, Panorama (http://panoramajournal.org). Her recent book, Albion’s Glorious Ile, published by Unicorn Press, was featured in the Guardian and on Radio 4. She is also the director of the acclaimed arts education charity, Flash of Splendour. Follow her on Twitter @annelouiseavery and @petitflash.

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 Return Trip – Mark Danowsky

 

My social contract

is a travelogue

 

What I can recall

must be sorted

 

Being social requires

a day to unpack

 

This is how I find

my way back home

 

Mark Danowsky bioMark Danowsky is a poet from Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in About Place, Cordite, Gargoyle, Gravel, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Subprimal, and elsewhere. Mark is Managing Editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and Founder of the poetry coaching and editing service VRS CRFT.

And Then At Times – Charles Bane, Jr

 

And then at times

the dips of our marriage are

no different than the falling

into love in Richmond Park

before we started home, and I

wrote every day until the motion

of the ship made me certain that

for every berth going out,

new souls put in, spit from

foam. If I could read Greek or

understand the errand of the

cardinal we watch for with coffee

in our hands, I could make poetry

on the tips of fence spears where

he stops and the fire of you would

go urgently from land to land.

 

charles bane jr - bustCharles Bane, Jr. is the American author of three collections of poetry including the recent “The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems” (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015) and “The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry”, as well as “I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories”  (Avignon Press, 2015) and “Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall” (Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project. See more at http://charlesbanejr.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.

Tickling Heaven – Fabrice B. Poussin

 

What will he do, the sequoia living in the city,

to belong in the geometric skyline above the sea?

 

Can he compete, layer by layer, for a life deserved

against the structure made brick by brick, of blood?

 

Does he often cry, dislodged as his old friends

have been for so long, homeless among millions?

 

Is survival an option, for the giant without years,

who faces clones of metal and molten rock?

 

Attempting to breathe, bleeding a sweet thick sap,

how can Earth guarantee his daily meals!

 

Far from mile-long roots, unable to move,

shackled in rebar, concrete, and ill will.

 

Far above his cheap imitation of a false brother,

a single tear begins a journey to shake new grounds.

 

Me-BWFabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 200 other publications.

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.

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.

Choking – Jonathan Butcher

 

I remember you in the school

dinner room, choking on the

corned beef sandwiches that

the dinner ladies forced down

your throat; waste held no

relevance between those walls.

 

I remember you sat alone at break

times, hands and stones slapped

across your face like whiplashes,

for an injustice you were far from

capable of committing.

 

And you walked home, your head bowed,

through those orange bricked streets

that framed our morning walks, alongside

the neglected grass verges like miniature

jungles we never dared to enter.

 

Those doors opened once again, before

the sun set behind the grey roofs and dust

like trees, you stand and stare once more

in that hallway mirror that hangs rusted,

and only slightly cracked.

 

Foxglove submissionJonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online journals including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook ‘Broken Slates’ was published by Flutter Press.