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.

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Stairfoot – Ali Jones

 

They enter dark waters in fire damps,

waiting in the amniotic dusk,

below the surface, while the mouth

breathes fire to the sky.

 

Softly, they flow downwards,

grow back into the mineral landscape,

tossed back up to the light when

the earth sees fit. Some were found in shards

where the water world dammed

and womb fluid filled the streets.

 

Maybe they are fish now,

transforming all together

into a great shoal, the older men leading,

the boys drifting, tentative, into

bodily definition, coal, ironstone,

fireclay, ganister, shale and sandstone;

 

all become them. Separated from life,

in wonders and challenges, they enter again,

transfigured by fire and waves,

and they shall be here in many wonderful shapes,

the grain of wheat, the running hare,

leaping alive at the harvest, or turned back in again.

 

 

(Historical note: The Oaks Colliery explosion is the second deadliest coal mine disaster in the United Kingdom after the disaster at Senghenydd Colliery. There were two more explosions on 13 December 1866, which killed 27 rescue workers. The Oaks Colliery, one of the largest coal mines in England, experienced 17 further explosions until it ceased operations in the 1960s.)

 

 

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.

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.

The Oblong Mirror – Adrian Slonaker

 

On one side

of the oblong mirror

framed in silver and peridot,

I am your woman.

You are my man.

We ride for hours in my cozy Packard

under Cassiopeia and the Little Bear, 

listening to staticky fados

and spot-off weather reports

while talking with touches.

It’s the way it should be,

it must be.

Or maybe you are my woman,

and I am your man,

as I piece together the shards,

the glimmers,

the nuances of the mirror’s other face.

 

 

AdrianSlonakerphotoAdrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Adrian’s poetry has appeared in Dodging the Rain, Red Fez, Amaryllis, The Remembered Arts Journal, Squawk Back and others.

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.

I want – Sarah Hulme

 

I want to run outside

And grab handfuls of dust

And pour them into your lap, pour them.

 

I want to explain that these

Are my doubts

And how I lose them when the wind blows.

 

But they always come back, muddled.

And I’m not blaming you except

It never happened before.

 

The raspberries are out and

I have pips in my teeth.

 

 

EPSON MFP imageSarah Hulme is a Durham University graduate who enjoys writing poetry as a way to understand thoughts, feelings and the world we live in.

The First Year Out – Holly Day

 

Numbers of geese flew overhead and you laughed at my excitement, our mutual

relief

at the sight of the old farm still standing, the broken windmill, the

outlying buildings.

They held a future we dreamed aloud – a vegetable garden,

flocks of chickens and turkeys, thick as clouds and eager for morning.

Your fingertips relieved the ache that settled into my shoulders

so many years before I’d lost count.

 

The ache set into new places, almost forgotten, for a little while longer

for a full season of wonder

as we made final promises against a sun that kept disappearing

as if into a great crack in a wall of reoccurring rainbows. You told me

about the geese

that would land in the new pond and stay, the cows that were coming soon

spoke as if we had a real destination, a plan.

 

I am still holding onto that first day, descending over barren hills

borders between states disappearing into thin spiderwebs crisscrossing a map

sacred ash in a smoldering iron pot. I remember when you laid out

your theory of the sun-scorched, explained how we

were just like those clouds of birds that came to rest on the flat, golden

plains around us

their feathers taunting us our slow, tired bondage to earth.

It all made so much sense back then.

 

 

Holly Day bioHolly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center
in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Ugly Girl.

Childlessness – Antony Owen

 

You and I have perfected being invisible,

to be the disappearing dot as people move on

we will always be children growing grey like shovelled snow.

~

You and I have swallowed bruises from joy at others’ children,

made chemical love with natural hopes to conceive

mourned in revelations of blue stripe tombs.

~

We wanted a baby so bad I held you like one in our Ikea tomb.

At seven PM on the dot we mixed potions dead of magic

I was so close to your skin and noticed you had gone.

~

You and I have heard it all like how one day it will happen for us

like Sheila and Tom down the road who sold a house for seed,

one night I stood naked in the firelight and doused the flames.

~

You alone knew that our spines are like hand rails on tube trains,

everyone is leaving and there is only you and I in the dark eye

the pin-prick daylight will not conceive us and we no longer weep.

~

I alone knew that my bloodline stops with me, thank god it stops

but remember the cherry tree that blossomed then died

they cut it down and the roots fought hard to keep it.

~

I alone know that you and I are sick and fucking tired of polite sadness,

to avoid the conversations that make others feel awkward because we are,

to realise that some family trees bear fruit so sweet it makes the wind smell bitter.

~

You alone know that the sharps box is Pandora’s box letting us out,

the needles mock us like talons of a crow on Jacobite earth

next week is our check-up but we are nether here or there.

~

I alone know as a man who sees our children writhing in the dreamcatcher

that there is a beach with a gate for us where the sea-smoke cools the sun,

I alone know that the manger of loving you is more than tangible life.

 

 

biopic 3Antony Owen was raised in the industrial heartland of Coventry which is a notable inspiration of his work. Owen is also a critically acclaimed writer on war poems with work translated in Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. His fifth collection of poetry, The Nagasaki Elder, (V.Press) was published in September 2017 and is already its 2nd print run. The Nagasaki Elder was inspired by direct testimonies of atomic bomb survivors taken in Hiroshima plus evacuees displaced from conflict. Owen’s work has been commissioned by BBC and National Poetry Day and is regularly taught in Hiroshima at monthly poetry workshops by Professor Klein. He was chosen by CND UK as one their first national peace education patrons alongside AL Kennedy. Owen was also a recipient Coventry’s 2016 Peace & Reconciliation Award.

The Hoopoes Are Back – Lynn White

 

The hoopoes are back,

even though

the walls and holes they liked to nest in

were destroyed by human nest builders

four years ago,

when there was a housing boom

and money to be made.

 

The hoopoes are back,

even though

the new holes and rubble they liked to nest in

were destroyed by human nest builders

three years ago,

even though,

there was no market for nests

and no money to be made.

 

The hoopoes are back,

even though

the new holes and rubble they liked to nest in

were washed away two years ago,

as the walls that stopped the storm flow

were destroyed by human nest builders,

to prepare the ground for money to be made.

 

The hoopoes are back,

even though

their nesting places are hidden, buried

under growing mountains of rubble brought

by the human nest builders a year ago

as there is no demand for human nests

and no money to be made, except from rubble.

 

Hey, the hoopoes are back! I’ve seen them!

The hoopoes are back!

 

 

 

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, in recent anthologies such as – ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press, ‘The Border Crossed Us’ and ‘Rise’ from Vagabond Press and journals such as Apogee, Firewords Quarterly, Indie Soleil, Light and Snapdragon as well as many other online and print publications.

Postcard from Fiesole – Diana Devlin

 

Far away,

I see you best:

fresh as a blood orange

when I close my eyes.

Your breath on my neck,

as warm as toasted walnuts,

trickles through olive trees.

I sit in the shade

and sip the ruby elixir

of you.

 

 

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.

The Play’s the Thing – Robert Pelgrift

 

– Hamlet, II, ii; Macbeth, V, v; As You Like It, II, vii

 

“…de petits morceaux de papier… deviennent des fleurs, des maisons, des personnages…”

 

– Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann

 

From lines of printed letters on a page,

figures stand and move, flats rise in a set,

shapes, sounds and actions exist. On the stage,

for their hour, the poor players strut and fret.

 

Where nothing was, the play becomes a thing,

a being; and the stage is all the world,

where, like folded paper bits opening

in water, flowers and houses are unfurled.

 

And people rise, exist. The play takes place.

The being is the idea that attends

the people’s acts, words and purpose; and when

they feel love or anger, speak, stand or pace

about, they make the play, until it ends,

and settles on the printed page again.

 

 

RYP JR picRobert Pelgrift practiced law in New York City for many years and is now an editor for a legal publisher, working in New York City.  His poems have been published in various anthologies and in The Lyric, The Rotary Dial, The Galway Review, The Foxglove Journal and The Waggle.

Sun against Moonspill – Hannah Downs

 

the kind of dream

surprised me.

 

the bruises

are

 

r e a l f a k e

 

(lost in questioning.)

 

thatsnotmyarm anditsnotyours

 

but

she

smile/speaks

 

all light

 

 

into gone glow.

 

 

 

the lamp posts

drifting out of sight(.)

 

clouds of

atmosphere below.

 

 

everything white.

 

She smile/laughs

us

 

into ruin

 

 

you/I

 

moon still.

 

 

image1Hannah is a student nurse at the University of Manchester who adores reading, writing and all other creative pursuits. She has previously self published a chapbook collection called Driftlight, and had their poem “Smile(.)” selected for Editor’s choice in the online magazine Under the Fable.

Dumbarton High Street – Diana Devlin

 

Dumbarton High Street in the rain

getting out of the house for a change of scene

I people watch from Costa

broken brollies lie abandoned

like dead crows flapping in the wind

people click across the road like crochet hooks

heads bent to avoid the rain

as in a Lowry painting

I leave my cosy spot and do the same

anything to break routine

a woman taps me on the arm

coughs like a shovel on concrete

in a scraping rasp she asks the time

time for change I think

outside Poundland now and I look down

spare any change a small voice says

change is what we need I think

along a bit the 206 sizzles to a stop

the doors hiss open and I see the sign

no change given

the rain refuses to let up

 

 

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.

Could Be Stardust, Could Be Rain – Alison McCrossan

 

I am stardust. Yet it could be said I’m mostly rain.

‘What riddle is this?’ you ask.

‘Oh, only the original. Who am I?’

‘Doesn’t that lead to Why am I?’ you say.

This is getting painful.

You poke at the ground where you sit and hold up your hand. Your finger is crusted with wet sand. ‘How many grains?’ you ask.

‘Impossible to know unless we Google an equation.’

You’re a professor of archaeology and reckon that makes you academic. ‘An academic with working man hands,’ you often say with a laugh. Your dark curls fall down one side of your face, facial features too young to know it all.

‘How many people have asked this question?’ you say.

‘That’s not getting us any closer to an answer.’ I swipe away an assault of meaningless equations that have sprung up on the browser window of my smart-phone. I forgot to add ‘grains of sand on a fingertip.’ Wet sand would alter the equation too-surely adding another factor or something. Oh, the credence I give Google.

I’m the creative sort, not that it matters. Even the academic uses Google. You have often told me I love too much, too deeply, and too soon. I might have said, but doesn’t this life deserve such enthusiasm. I add playfulness to my art in the hope that another might smile. Not that I’m adverse to contemplation. I’m thinking more about the why of everything today, but on other days I’m known to just wonder at the stars and not how they relate to me.

You say, ‘A grain of sand. A spit in the ocean. A collection of atoms in the shape of you, in the shape of me. Everything. Nothing. Dimensions of perception that go on and on and bend and circle ad infinitum. You could be stardust. You could be rain. It’s entirely up to you.’

‘What are you suggesting? I’m not depressed and depression isn’t a choice.’

‘But you are in pain,’ you say.

‘I ache all day for night and cry all night for morning.’

‘Why?’ you ask.

‘I lost my job, the days are long. My love is gone and I can’t afford the rent.’

‘Distractions,’ you say, drawing a crooked line in the wet sand with the same finger.

My eyes trace its path. Without distractions I am hollow, pain with a hollow centre that is, a capsule without the drug inside.

I kick off my shoe and dip a toe into the sand. The sand has soaked up the rain and resists my toe. It hurts.

I am a void always searching. Searching is distraction and any of the following: pleasure (say music); escape (say wine); status (say job); to go on (say have babies); to learn (say ask who am I) or explore (say ask who are you).

Look at you. I compare. You are contained. I might say you are of the moon, steady and influential. One of a kind. More than a search tool or answer to me maybe. ‘How does it feel to be one of a kind?’

‘You should know. I am part of you.’ You disappear into the hole you poked in the sand.

 

 

alisonMcCrossanAlison McCrossan is 44 years old and living in Ireland. She enjoys writing fiction, including flash and short stories, and is currently working on a novel.

Yesterday Calling – Laura Potts

 

Somewhen,

a gull snaps its wings

and laughs

as I stretch out the past

 

to the city with its dark heart

and us,

splitting our skins for a kiss.

 

On the rim of a memory,

spinning,

we fizz

like silver pins

on that street

or this.

 

My lover’s words I remember

trembled

like globed pearls on tepid stars

the hot dark of torchlight

kicking

from the pavement

sparks

as he went.

 

Bone-bent,

with eighty-six years in my face,

I read books

and play cards

and years have dried up,

slow prunes

in a vase.

 

But last,

in my crabbed hands his skin,

doused with river lights,

no foul breath of wartime but

a whole lost world of long-kissed nights,

 

thin films of eyes candled bright

in the lobes of my palms,

the four-medal arms deliberate,

passionate,

strong.

 

 

Afterwards, the distant salute of a bomb.

 

 

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’sAgenda, 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.