Riparian zone – John Grey

 

The bends, the lichen-coated rocks,

dissipate the current

so that it spreads out sideways

to the banks,

before continuing downstream.

 

Along the margin,

bees drift in and out

of purple harebell lobes,

bright white arrowhead,

patches of southern iris.

 

For a hundred miles,

a modest greenery

of riffle and grass,

muskrat hole and wildflower,

pilots the flow,

unhurried and content.

 

A selfless strip of life

conjoins these waters.

Without it,

the river draws no breath

 

 

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.

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Another life – Nigel F. Ford

 

Time: twenty two hours, five minutes and forty-eight seconds.

Red is seated on a stool working on a mobile phone, occasionally looking up at Grey, who is seated on an opposite stool and talking incessantly.

Observer is caught looking at Red, who looks up from the phone and catches Observer’s eye.

Observer looks away quickly, and Red drops their gaze back down to the phone simultaneously.

Observer watches Red eating small dishes of food, in quick succession: fried aubergine, grilled sardines, chicken croquettes, octopus rings, a stick of grilled prawns, etcetera.

While Grey sips at a small beer and talks incessantly.

Red drinks blood red wine and is now almost at the bottom of glass number three.

Red looks up and the eyes of Observer and Red meet and hold for three seconds.

Red now seems to have finished eating and drinking. Grey has finished their beer. Grey dismounts from their stool and pays at the bar.

As they leave, Red looks back at Observer and their eyes meet and hold for an eternal flash of time.

Grey and Red disappear into the whirling crowd of evening strollers in the street of the warm, black night.

In another life, Observer tells self, smiles a small self-conscious smile.

Time: Twenty two hours, twenty five minutes and twenty four seconds.

 

 

Photo on 18-12-15 at 13.02Born in 1944, Nigel F. Ford wrote his first radio play aged 14 (refused). Jobs include reporter for The Daily Times, Lagos, Nigeria, travel writer for Sun Publishing, London, English teacher for Berlitz, Hamburg, copy writer for Ted Bates, Stockholm. Had a hand in starting the Brighton Fringe in 1967. He started painting etc. in 1983 and has regularly exhibited in Sweden and on the Internet in various publication. In addition, several magazines in UK and US have been kind enough to publish his writing. Such as Nexus, Outposts, Encounter, New Spokes, Inkshed, The Crazy Oik, Weyfarers, Acumen, Critical Quarterly, Staple, T.O.P.S, The North, Foolscap, Iota, Poetry Nottingham, Tears in the Fence etc. He is now trying to produce & direct one of his stage plays.

Bees make honey – Cath Barton

 

Three jars of honey glistened on the window sill – golden and translucent. Outside a bee hovered. Lucy raised a finger tip to the glass and the bee came close as if to kiss it. Then, propelled by some unseen force, one of the jars tipped and smashed on the flagstones. Lucy watched, frozen and impotent, as the bee repeatedly flung itself at the glass in distress.

At breakfast Lucy’s hands trembled in her lap. Mark, sitting opposite her and reading the paper, noticed nothing.

“I’m going down to the hives this morning,” she said.

“Okay,” said Mark, through a mouthful of toast. “New honey’s great, by the way,” he added, looking up and grinning at her. “Tell your bees.”

“Cheer up,” he said, when she didn’t respond. “It might never happen. Got to run.”

He kissed the top of her head and ruffled her hair as he got up from the table, scattering crumbs.

Hearing the car leaving minutes later, Lucy put her hands onto the table-top to steady herself. She felt as if the bees had stung her, though they hadn’t, never had, never would, she knew.

She went upstairs, switched on her laptop and looked at her e-mails. Six new messages, all from him. Expressing undying love in six different ways. Their sweetness was cloying. She deleted them all. Immediately another pinged into the in-box.

“You all right??”

“I’m fine,” she wrote back. “Just tired.”

“Tell me you love me,” said the next message. She stared at the words on the screen. Then pressed delete. Her finger trembled as she did so. She didn’t feel fine.

She pulled on her bee suit and wellington boots and walked through the long grass to the hives. Out in the fresh air she felt better. She checked the hives.

“Sorry about the broken jar,” she said, in a whisper. “I’ll be more careful in future.”

The bees circled her head as if telling her not to worry. Lucy knew that bees understood things no humans ever did. She’d like to come back as a bee. She’d said that once to Mark, who’d laughed. That was the trouble with Mark, always laughing, never taking things seriously.

She hadn’t meant to look for someone else. Why would she, with a happy home, everything she could want. Except.

“I think the bees are like your children,” Mark had said.

He’d laughed as he said it of course. It was like a physical blow but she hadn’t let him see that. He hadn’t meant anything bad. She knew she should talk to him about it. But she’d left it too long.

They’d met in the library. Changing their books. They talked and got shushed by the librarian. Out on the street they talked more, gone for coffee. People do that. No harm, she’d thought. But she should have told Mark. Not let it become secret. Not let it become anything.

It had become too much.

Back in the house she made coffee, sat at the computer again. Just one new e-mail from him, reasonable, reasoned. She replied, agreed to meet.

She took him a jar of honey. Gave it to him with trembling hands. Told him that she and Mark were moving. They wouldn’t have bees in the new place.

“No room,” she said, looking down at her hands in her lap, still now.

He cried and it was unbearable. She left without looking back.

The e-mails continued for a bit. She deleted them all, unread.

She did think of getting rid of the bees. But they needed her. And they were a comfort.

 

 

Cath BartonCath Barton is an English writer and photographer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella for The Plankton Collector, which will be published in 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Read more about her writing at https://cathbarton.com.

Side By Side – Gerry Sikazwe

 

Side by side, we’ve walked

Through dust sickening, mud

bleaching and the pleasant in between

 

Side by side, we’ve walked

Through stabbing thorns, cutting

stones and soft grass comforting

 

 

whatsapp-image-2017-05-22-at-07-04-26-e1495504308777Gerry Sikazwe is a Zambian poet. He is currently studying at the University of Zambia pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. He manages a poetry page on Facebook: “Words and voices from a root” and a poetry blog, Scribbles of a Root. His poems have been featured on sites such as Dissident Voices, AfricanWriter.com, In Between Hangovers, Mshikamano.com and Tipton Poetry Journal.

Creation Story – Ann Christine Tabaka

 

Tell me a tale

How the world began

How earth was born

Long before man

 

Each culture has

Its creation story

A myth or song

Filled with glory

 

A fiery battle

In the heavens above

Or an act of valor

Bestowed with love

 

A giant tortoise

On his back the earth

A star-woman

To life gives birth

 

The trickster raven

And sun gods

Juggling planets

Against all odds

 

The epic sagas

Of ancient ones

Passed on in fable

From fathers to sons

 

As images form

Before my eyes

Filled with wonder

Worlds crystallize

 

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. Chris has been selected as the resident Haiku poet for Stanzaic Stylings.

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.

Myth-Making – M.J. Iuppa

 

Seemingly—our canoe slips on-

to the pond’s glassy surface, cutting

an easy wake above the mass of floating

fanwort undulating in the slow rock

& keep of summer —hypnotic in its spell—

a breath of wind, glancing against each

 

cattail, sways the scrim of privacy—a glimpse

of us paddling in measured strokes to the center

where we’ll sit idle, looking for a sign of life

 

stirring— a small painted turtle pokes its head

above water & sees us first; then, sinks—

leaving a trail of stars in its descent.

 

 

MJ Publicity1 CropM.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to present, is a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, NY, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full length poetry collections, forthcoming This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin NY.

burning bright – Linda M. Crate

 

you wanted me to be seen not heard

to be a passive girl who hid behind

the beard of the sun and the skirts of

moonlight,

and to sit lonely perched on your pedestal

in the gilded cage of your love which

was really lust;

 

but i am the butterfly landing on clover

gentle yet still wild

refusing the confines and cages

of any net that would fall upon me because

i am not someone you’ll ever tame

where i prefer to be the butterfly i can also

be the unicorn or the wolf

 

i can be a harpy and a chimera

or the soft petals of persephone’s flowers

life is a matter of perspective,

and you refused to see the relevance of mine

rejecting what was not yours;

insisting that your reality must be mine,

too, but we were two different people looking

out to sea

 

you saw only dangers and threats

i saw only mermaids and love

wanted to swim beneath the jade sapphire

confines that knew no beginning or end

so deep they could understand

my intensity and depths but weak men

cannot handle the helm of strong women

we burn just a little too bright for their candles.

 

2007Linda M. Crate’s works have shown up in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She has four published poetry chapbooks the latest of which is If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016). She is also the author of the Magic Series and two forthcoming chapbooks Wild Thing and My Wings Were Meant to Fly.

Lexicon – Steve Komarnyckyj

 

The river made no excuses for itself,

Having known so many dead

Having known so many living

The moon drew a veil over its face

Yearning, as always, to erase

Its beauty and proffer only the dark.

The world groped for an alphabet.

 

IMG_2158Steve Komarnyckyj’s literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals. He is the holder of two PEN awards and a highly regarded English language poet whose work has been described as articulating “what it means to be human” (Sean Street). He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.

Sleep With Dead Grass – Ken Allan Dronsfield

 

Chill in my tired bones

steamy breath follows

crispy red apples drop

firewood cut & stacked,

 

walk the dying fields

sleep with dead grass.

 

Colored leaves release

spinning down to ground

unpacked winter clothes

full dresser and closets,

 

walk the dying fields

asleep in dead grass.

 

Autumn’s song plays

a freshness of spirit

feel a harvest solstice

life’s circle goes round,

 

I walk a dying field,

I sleep in dead grass.

 

Ken Allan Dronsfield, Bio PictureKen Allan Dronsfield is a poet who was nominated for The Best of the Net and 2 Pushcart Awards for Poetry in 2016. His poetry has been published world-wide in various publications throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. His work has appeared in The Burningword Journal, Belle Reve Journal, Setu Magazine, The Literary Hatchet Magazine, The Stray Branch, Now Then Manchester, Bewildering Stories, Scarlet Leaf Review. EMBOSS Magazine and many more. Ken loves thunderstorms, walking in the woods at night, and spending time with his cat Willa. Ken’s new book, The Cellaring, a collection of haunting, paranormal, weird and wonderful poems, has been released and is available through Amazon. He is the co-editor of two poetry anthologies, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze and Dandelion in a Vase of Roses available from Amazon.

the other side of nowhere – Paul Waring

 

It announces itself in muted shades of light –

returns from nowhere 

 

to stretch taut skin of summer into shadows 

to shed above baked earth 

 

that hears tangled webs of parched root

whisper need for change. 

 

Autumn stands solemnly

with hands to deliver last rites; 

 

pulls down mist to lay moist sheets

on musty carpet, wraps a blanket

 

of cold around the body 

of winter, locks life like a vice

 

until sharpened light of spring 

signals release. 

 

And the promise 

of new beginnings on March winds 

 

that arrive back 

from the other side of nowhere.

 

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.

After Dark – Ali Jones

 

I wake at 3:15am, weight shifting towards her,

did she hear the rain? I listen to her snared cry,

try to understand the rhythm of dreams,

what happens behind her eyes, as we travel back

into our room, hazy in gathered night,

shadowed gloom making everything strange,

 

I rearrange us, fuss up pillows, billow bedding

to hold us tight until morning light comes.

Other people stir, the breathing agents of sound

too loud for easy rest. She settles, eyelids flutter,

 

I lie awake, stilled by rallying whispers of breathing,

marvel at the differences of our waking world,

how we stand at ease and claim our places,

and how deeply we commit to sleep,

 

though we fight it, nightly, reading story after story,

playing as late as we dare. The day is wrung from us

in fits and starts, sung through open lips,

teasing the snagging air, a stored syntax

 

of waking tongues, that have begun to find the sounds

they need to make, and try them in the wee small hours,

before daytime takes us away into another realm,

to refashion us into sometime else, and make us whole again.

 

 

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.

Pinjarra and Me – Graham Burchell

 

(Pinjarra, the saltwater crocodile at Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium)

 

we came into the world in the same year

you

chased out of a shell 

and into the muddle of mud and mangrove

 

me

snipped slapped weighed and wrapped

 

for you 

it was crocodile breath the press of a mother’s teeth 

and the first flush of river

 

for me 

it was the touch of fabrics voices the breath

of last adult meals and afternoon light 

 

perhaps we were born on the same day

same moment to be axis points on a globe

 

you

with your long leathered face 

silent hunger and cold blood in brackish water

 

me 

with my green bones and jellyfish flesh turning 

towards cathedral bells beyond the walls of the room

 

 

we are each sixty five years old separated by glass

along the way we’ve made mistakes

 

you 

for being in the wrong place after a flood

for becoming stranded on a Queensland farm 

 

me 

how long have you got

 

now look at us

 

DSCN2854Graham Burchell lives in South Devon. He has four published collections. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He is a Hawthornden Fellow, 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, winner of the 2015 Stanza competition, and runner-up in the 2016 BBC Proms poetry competition.

Pinky Swear – Jayne Martin

 

The caustic odor of rubbing alcohol burns my nostrils, settles on my tongue. A nurse paints Vaseline on my parched lips. I can’t remember the last time I was kissed.

I am tethered to tubes, encased in a coffin of flesh and bone that ignores all commands.

The growing cries of gulls, boardwalk barkers, laughter and shrieks of excitement begin to flood the room.

I sit in the car of a rollercoaster as it chugs and bumps up the steep incline toward the point of no return. Braver kids raise their arms high over their heads. I squeeze my eyes shut until it’s over; say “I want to go again,” relieved when you do not.

The ocean breeze sends salt and sand up onto the walkway where we smoke cigarettes stolen from my mother’s purse and stroll looking for boys. We make up names, Bridgette and Marilyn. Names that sound older and sophisticated unlike our own. We fool no one.

A pipe organ bellows. With fingers still sticky from cotton candy, we board gaily-painted steeds, ride round and round, each time stretching as far as we dare for the brass ring, each time finding it just out of reach.

Our bodies distort in fun house mirrors and we wonder who we will become.

Pinky-swear friends forever.

We do not anticipate the power of decades to divide.

The nurse rolls my body onto its side to slip a fresh sheet beneath, and I see you next to my bedside. You wear our favorite sweater, the rose one we passed back and forth until it unraveled, your smile still a mouthful of braces, your hand outstretched to me. In it, a brass ring.

 

001Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Orphans, Midwestern Gothic, f(r)iction, Blink-Ink, Spelk, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry.” She lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.

The lost art of making friends – Claire Sexton

 

This making new friends business is 

hard. 

Nerve-wracking even. 

I’ve blundered through relationships in 

the past,

and lost a few good ones, as well as 

some not so good. 

I thought I might have lost the knack 

entirely:

the subtle, smooth, glamouring;

the sentences sung;

the harmonies hashed out with 

vivacious aplomb;

sparkling in the early hours with a 

glass of plonk;

telling the awkward truths and then 

sleeping it off. 

Waking at noon; hoarse, and good for

nothing.

 

I thought that maybe that had ended. 

That never again would I stand 

forehead to forehead in a mud-strewn 

field, listening to The Libertines. 

Or fix someone’s wedding gown, and 

watch them make their vows, and find 

another life, away from me. 

Or love their children, and twirl them 

around one hundred times in a row, 

like a human helicopter blade.  

 

But here I am exploring new friendships.   

Here I am on a train to Piccadilly, with 

the babbling hoard encroaching. 

Trying to forge the foundations of 

another faith. 

Another shared idolatry. 

Another blast of love.

 

View More: http://rupaphotography.pass.us/headshots-rcppor2015Claire Sexton is a forty something Welsh writer who has previously been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Peeking Cat Poetry, The Stare’s Nest, and Light – a journal of photography and poetry. She often writes about her struggles with her mental health and loneliness.