Bear – Rhianne Celia

 

She kneads herself into the grass,

brooches of hay collecting on her back.

I’m on my stomach, the grass glossed

and sun-pooled, and for once

I’m not waiting for something or someone

to slip from surface talk to the big stuff

as readily as a mother forgives –

I’m watching her beard fill with buttercups

and the wet beads on her tongue nudge back

and forth as she shimmies against me.

I reach for a stick, throw it, and off she trots,

her paws a skit as she loses track

of its flight. She returns with an open

tennis ball in her mouth, a clopping ring box

she presents with a flourish. I readily accept,

placing it on my stomach like an upturned

book, and then I’m looking at the sky – a hearty

magenta block, and the remainder of my evening

appears in hob flames and final Tupperware clicks.

She leads me home, my hessian stopwatch,

urging me to live, live, live.

I swallow as the script starts up.

 

 

FGBorn and raised in Manchester, UK, Rhianne has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Manchester. She has loved words (and arranging them) since she could put fluffy pen to paper (that’s a lot of fluff, and a lot of paper!). She explores human relationships in all of their wonderful complexity in her work and writes a lot about mental health, a subject close to her heart. You can find more of her poetry and general musings over at rhianne-writes.tumblr.com.

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Pumpkin pie – Cath Barton

 

In the dark street the window of the sweetshop shone out. Maisie, aged nine and three-quarters, had taken a detour on her way home from school. She pressed her nose up against the shop window; there were meringues iced to look like ghosts, witches’ hats made of chocolate and little marzipan pumpkins. Maisie pushed her hands deep into the pockets of her coat as she continued to stare at the sweets. In the right-hand pocket her hand closed on something unexpected and she pulled it out. It looked like a small, hard, shiny nut. She held it in the palm of her right hand and touched it, very gently, with her left index finger. Would a fairy appear in a puff of smoke and offer her three wishes, or at least her pick from the sweets? Nothing happened. She touched it again, said one of her own magic spells under her breath and waited. Still nothing happened. She put the nut back in her pocket and turned, reluctantly, from the bright window.

When she arrived home her mother was in the kitchen, looking flustered as she always seemed to be these days.

“Tea’s nearly ready,” she said. “I wondered where on earth you’d got to, Maisie. Wash your hands quickly now.”

They had bread and butter and jam for tea, as usual. Maisie had a cup of milk and her mother drank tea, weak tea. The two of them sat in silence, each lost in her own thoughts, but after a while the warmth from the food and the one-bar gas fire made them easier with one another.

“I’ve got a surprise,” the woman said, and the girl looked up, uncertain whether to ask what it was. Her mother was unpredictable, and Maisie didn’t understand what made her upset.

“It’s a pumpkin. Your dad brought it round. I’m going to make a pie.” She smiled at her daughter in an entreating way.

Maisie found it difficult thinking about her dad, so she thought about the marzipan pumpkins in the sweetshop window instead. She had never eaten pumpkin pie, but she had had marzipan on Christmas cake and she knew she liked that. She managed a wobbly smile

“Tomorrow,” said her mother, “We’ll have it tomorrow. It’ll be a treat.”

That night, when she knelt by her bed to say her prayers, Maisie held the shiny nut between her hands.

“I’m giving you a third chance,” she said, and then, surprising herself with her boldness.

“And just so as you know, this isn’t for me. I want you to make things better for my mum and dad.”

Next day Maisie stopped at the sweetshop window again on her way home from school. The marzipan pumpkins seemed to be winking at her. When she put her hand on the nut in her pocket it felt different. She pulled it out and gasped: it had turned into a coin, as bright and shiny as the shop window. Maisie pushed open the shop door, a bell tinkled and a little old man appeared from a back room.

She ran home with her bag of sweets. At the door she hesitated, hearing voices in the kitchen, but there were no shouts, no tears. Just soft talking.

They had tea together, Maisie and her mother and father. Pumpkin pie. Which, actually, the girl did not like. But she didn’t say so, just smiled. As they all did. Later, Maisie looked in the bag for a marzipan pumpkin. But the bag was empty, apart from a small, hard, empty nutshell.

 

 

Author pic.CathBarton.smallCath Barton is an English writer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella 2017 for The Plankton Collector, now published by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Cath was awarded a place on the 2018 Literature Wales Enhanced Mentoring Scheme to complete a collection of short stories inspired by the work of the sixteenth century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. Active in the online flash fiction community, she is also a regular contributor to the online critical hub Wales Arts Review. She tweets @CathBarton1. Find out more at https://cathbarton.com.

Competition – Louise Wilford

 

I won a competition. Yes, I did. My fingers

drew a poetic Fall, all red and gold decay.

I know the debt I owe – Keats’ ode still lingers –

but my creation was, in its own way,

worth fifty quid.

 

Chaotic interlinkage. Velcro hooks of words,

confusing as a froth of wasps stuck in a honey pot.

Some end up barbed wire bundles, spikily absurd,

or limp on, split and wounded. I’d be the first to spot

my writing sucks.

 

Yet sometimes words escape, their goal the blooded page,

and go home, battle-weary, on figurative legs;

they mesh like lovers meeting, no griping war to wage,

and fit like Lego bricks or halves of Easter eggs,

a greater whole.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshot, Pushing Out The Boat and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children’s fantasy novel.

Years later, we drive home – Michael H. Brownstein

 

Drive with me through this field of prayer,

through mudflats and iron foot,

the eulogy deep and dried passion fruit,

the salt of columbine, a terrain of frenzy,

lacewing and the yellow mollies of spring,

milk and milk thistle, a porcelain of words.

 

Drive with me past the girth of oak,

the prayer tree, the blue iris,

purple passion, the field of glories

behind the back forty no one touches.

Share with me wild onion, mint,

dandelion leaves and acorn meat,

the edible leaves of the Acacia.

 

Drive with me. Share my bounty.

The eulogy premature, prayer alive in flower

and grass, blossom and honey bee, a porcelain

of words, of muscle cars and beaters,

this car we are in now going home again

a strength in who we really are.

Brighten your day.

 

 

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).

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.

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.

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.

A Black Forest Sojourn – William Ruleman

 

(Breitenberg, Neuweiler-Hofstett, Germany, 2010)

 

Shaggy firs, like long-lost friends,

Shelter me from pelting rain;

Birches shivering in chill winds

Numb me to my own dumb pain,

 

While purple clover, fresh-mown hay,

Apple trees that bow with red-

Gold suns for yet another day,

Lull me to an early bed.

 

I wake at dawn and long for home.

The room is plain; the sky, although

A glad blue, gleams with alien glow,

As cold to human sight as chrome.

 

Yet when my Heimweh shows no cease,

I head to the woods and find a strange peace.

 

 

Bio pic 3William Ruleman’s most recent collections of poetry include From Rage to Hope (White Violet Books, 2016) and Salzkammergut Poems and Munich Poems (both from Cedar Springs Books, 2016). His translations of Hermann Hesse’s Early Poems (also Cedar Springs Books) and Stefan Zweig’s Clarissa (Ariadne Press) were published in 2017. More about him can be found at his website: www.williamruleman.com.

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.

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.