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.

First Available Cousin – Ray Busler

 

It had still been dark when we were called. It wasn’t a pajama run; I was dressed, but still slept a few miles in the car. There were no cousins for me to play with this time. We lived closest, most available for urgency, first on the scene.

I couldn’t wait on the big porch, too much winter for that now. I missed the wooden swing, missed the creaking and mesmerizing motion of the thing. Last summer we rode, four cousins abreast in that swing for hours of false alarm. My oldest cousin told of broken swing chains and loose eye bolts that, in some parallel child universe sent chubby pink tots, not unlike myself, sailing in full pendulant moment, sailing loose in the air before finding the steel spikes of the wrought iron fence well below porch level. A lucky one missed the fence to be only crucified in the mock orange bush. She was saved, as the tale went, by an uncle by marriage, and merely had her eyes gouged out by thorns for her trouble. We cousins loved that swing, relished the idea of it and I longed for the day I could be the oldest cousin and tell the tale, with some improvements that I whetted in idle mental minutes.

Now, it was winter and I waited in stale stifle too near the gas logs in the parlor. When there was a full complement of cousins the parlor was off limits, too many fragile memories to be exposed to the rough usage of youth. One was an acceptable number though. I sat on my hands deliberately avoiding the sensuous feel of Dresden figurines and the other flotsam of irreplaceable family history.

There was, almost lost in the repeating wallpaper pattern of pink roses, a painting – a woodcut really. Japanese, I suppose today, assuming that then future role of older cousin. Blue ink and black, with a touch of red in the eye of a rampant, distant sea risen dragon, an icon of the storm in the foreground. The real hero of the drawing was the wave about to crash down on a frail boat. There could be no possible reprieve from that wave. It was a wave of inevitability. I watched the wave until I could hear a phantom wind, smell spectral salt and rotting squid. I watched the wave until…

“Your Grandmother has passed on.” The words woke me.

“Do you understand? Do you understand what I mean by death? Your Grandmother is dead.”

Of course I understood death. That’s why we were here, wasn’t it?

 

Ray lives in Alabama with his long suffering wife of 40 years. That is to say she is older than 40, but didn’t suffer for the first 20.  Ray writes for the pleasure of the writing, and the joy of inflicting it upon others.

Something else – Claire Sexton

 

It was like an affair, but not. There was

love in my heart, and hers, I believe.

We saw new places together, and

were inseparable, kind of.

 

She was always stronger, in ways that

men count. She knew all my

weaknesses.

 

She was diamond. And I was glass.

 

Men may count friendship as

something less, than rings on the

finger, and sonogram pictures.

 

But you were my love, and I stutter

and start, as I think of the way, and

the manner, it was lost.

 

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.

Reel Life – Chrissi Sepe

 

Why did I choose “Dance of the Dwarfs” when my dad’s best friend, Elijah, had me perform piano for his new friend? This stranger was a glum man with a blonde bowl haircut and bangs: the spitting image of Paul Williams.

“You must listen to her play!” Elijah said. “She’s a child prodigy!”’

My piano teacher gave me the song only hours earlier. What made me think I could play it? My fingers fumbled, and I knew I was horrible.

“Always a pleasure,” Elijah said.

Elijah had heard me play dozens of times. I gazed up at Paul Williams from the piano bench. He simply nodded.

“Why don’t you sit in with us in your dad’s studio?” Elijah asked.

The studio was actually my parents’ bedroom where my dad kept his reel-to-reel machine. There were seven people already crammed around the double bed, all facing the reel-to-reel that stood to the side of the room on a small, wooden table. Everyone focused on the melodic music of trumpets, drums, guitars, and the sweetest voice that ever emanated from a woman: Marcy with the beautiful, long, blonde hair. She had a tiny brown, cut out leather purse strapped around her gold turtleneck sweater and those Indian moccasins that dominated the streets of the 1970’s. Elijah closed his eyes as we listened to the song written by my dad.

“Beautiful! Bravo!” Elijah said, eyes now open, his hands applauding loudly.

“You are an amazing singer!” my dad exclaimed, turning to Marcy.

My heart gently sank because my dad never complimented anyone on their singing. He was a singer himself, therefore a harsh critic.

Back in the living room, my mom sat on our couch, reading a magazine. I sensed that she didn’t like when musicians hung out in her bedroom on a weeknight. Why did she want to spoil the fun?

“Mom?” I asked. “Why do you think Elijah closed his eyes while the song played?”

“It helps people listen to the music better.”

I was surprised she had an answer.

Several years later when I was a teen, my dad died, and Marcy sent us a condolence card. I told Elijah how thoughtful that was.

“Oh yeah, Marcy! She blamed me for not contacting her to tell her how sick your dad was. She’d heard from someone else that he’d passed. I hadn’t heard from the woman in years, and she reams me out?!”

When my mom tossed out most of the sympathy cards, I grabbed Marcy’s from the pile and brought it into my bedroom. I cradled it in my hands.

Over the years, I’ve mostly remembered how my dad complimented Marcy’s voice and how Paul Williams only nodded after I’d played my song. What I should carry more closely in my heart is how Elijah invited me to hear my dad’s reel-to-reels. And how my mom knew exactly how to answer the question of why Elijah’s eyes were closed when he listened to the music.

 

unnamedChrissi Sepe is the author of novels, “Bliss, Bliss, Bliss,” and “Iggy Gorgess.” Her essay “Anais Nin – A Recipe for Immortality” appears in Volume 13 of the Anais Nin Literary Journal, and her short story, “Caramel Macchiatos and Conversation,” is in Volume 14, both published by Sky Blue Press.

Losing Mum – Arlene Antoinette

 

I dreamt of wild flowers

in a field filled with little girls

blowing hair off handfuls

of dandelions. Little boys chasing

two headed giraffes, and grandmother

holding up her famous peace cobbler

to the sun yelling for everyone to come

and get some.

Hungry, I headed towards the

house but stopped as I saw you there

holding baby Johnny in your arms

soothing him with one of those lullabies

you used to make up. The sound of rhythmic

clicks played just beyond your words.

When I opened my eyes, I was sitting alongside

your bed, your chest rising and falling as the

respirator forced air into your uninterested

lungs.

 

stillmyeyeArlene Antoinette enjoys writing poetry and flash fiction. More of her work may be found at: Sick Lit Mag, GIRLSENSE AND NONSENSE and Boston Accent Lit.

Looking at your pictures… – Francesca Leone

 

Still feels like stepping on a grenade.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Piazza Trilussa in the morning is at its most beautiful:

the air crisp, cold like a knife,

the silence of a city who’s still in bed,

quietly stretching out in the dark.

But that night when we said goodbye,

it was truly something else.

A beauty from God’s grace.

What a blessing it was to

get my heart broken on a night

like that. I felt so alive with pain.

Will it ever stop,

I ask myself.

Let’s hope it never does.

 

fl-picFrancesca Leone is a 24-year-old living in Rome, Italy. She writes in English at https://frellification.wordpress.com. She is currently writing a fantasy novel, but poetry remains her first love.

Homage To An Avuncular Neighbor – John Michael Flynn

 

At ten I brought him my new

Boy’s Life each month

to share a survival story or two.

 

He did the talking

mostly about the Pacific theatre.

He knew war, didn’t like or glean any sense from it.

 

I did more than listen to his silences.

I grew wiser within them.

I brought their lessons to my father.

 

On sunny days we mowed and raked his lawn.

All winter long I helped him

shovel his drive.

 

Today, I learned he died in bed

while his wife was baking zucchini bread

for an annual church function.

 

His daughters and grand-children

were far away.

No game on TV. No warning.

 

Just the week before, I’d held his ladder in place

while he’d nailed above his garage door

a big wooden yellow butterfly

 

that he’d cut, designed

and painted himself.

He called it Easter Light.

 

headshotjohnmflynnIn 2015, John Michael Flynn was an English Language Fellow with the US State Department at the Far Eastern State University in Khabarovsk, Russia. He is now back home in Virginia, where he teaches English part-time at Piedmont Virginia Community College. His most recent poetry collection, Keepers Meet Questing Eyes, is available from Leaf Garden Press. You can learn more about John and his published work at www.basilrosa.com.

Right About Now – Peycho Kanev

 

Right about now all is lost in the currents

of time. The sun is rising just to become a contradiction

of the candle which was lit by a shaky hand

last night, and now it’s no longer needed.

 

Slow music starts. The begonias snuggle together.

They slowly lower the body in the ground.

 

021Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and two chapbooks, published in the USA and Europe. He has won several European awards for his poetry and his poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Hawaii Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review and many others.

When The Wind Came Up – Jackie Davis Martin

 

When the wind came up she hated the world. Before that, before the sand started whirling around, before her ears hurt with the sudden gusts, she’d found a moment of peace, as slim and painstaking as the slight parenthesis of the moon, now obscured by heavy clouds scuttling urgently. Before the moon disappeared, before the wind came up, she’d considered that maybe there was some point to surviving, something to be said for living in the moment the way her grief group was instructed to think. She could see it then, standing next to her close friend, another woman old as she was, but both young because they’d known each other for so many years they carried the former selves within the old and didn’t see the new old. There was some peace in knowing that she didn’t have to achieve anything more and having the company of her friend to watch the ocean, listen to its gentle shushes. But then the wind came up. At first the women stayed, trying to discern the speed of the tide, walking backward up the grassy knoll to the parking lot that overlooked the beach. But then, with sand whipping around them suddenly, they couldn’t see well and sought shelter in the car, which they quickly discovered had a flat, and so called for roadside help and waited in howling wind and the growing dark and had nothing more to say. Now she was back in her own head, locked into a loss as solid as this car, the wind blowing billows of sand, the world too much to interpret once again. When the truck arrived, its lights flashing into the darkness, and a young man with a jack got out, she understood why people found faith.

 

Jackie Davis Martin has had stories published in journals that include Flash, Flashquake, Fractured West, and Dogzplot, as well as story collections Modern Shorts, Love on the Road, and the recent Road Stories.. Prizes were awarded by New Millennium and On the Premise and finalist placements fjdmor a novella (Press 53) and a chapbook of flash fiction (Conium Review). A memoir, Surviving Susan, was published in 2012.  Jackie teaches at City College of San Francisco.

 

Prunus Pumila – Carl Boon

 

Snow lay atop the boxwoods

all winter,

lather on skin,

and shielded

the sand cherry’s branches.

Now the dead wood

splinters when I pull,

and the leaves have bronzed

early. What should be neon-

red this sunset’s

glimmerless, a girl

too long neglected.

On the south slope

January comes—

Lake Erie finds its way

and waits.

 

I read it’s part rose,

part shade, where my father

used to sit and study

the broadening pin-oak.

The final spring he lived

it shone hot pink,

the blood of the lawn

he watched grow

nights like this,

nights in a chair with coffee,

the hedge a memory,

the trellis empty

of the purples we knew as kids.

 

Today I drew away

as much of the dead as I could.

My wrists grew furious

cutting, aligning, motioning

to corners of the yard

unseen in decades.

I stood back,

then I moved forward

as my father might’ve,

at peace with what remained.

 

cb-picCarl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently Burnt Pine, Two Peach, Lunch Ticket, and Poetry Quarterly. He is also a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Slow Clapping – Richard King Perkins II

 

It would be an untrue kindness

to say it started innocently enough

 

when we both knew otherwise.

 

I asked you to walk with me

to the side of the building

hidden by shadow and irregular trees

 

where we could speak freely

about dandelions and reverse-image suns.

 

As intended, the conversation ended

and the sidelong glances

into distance and unlit corners began

 

and we became exciting people once again;

nearly glorious

 

but from the moment we caught our breath

there was a redefining;

 

a subtle sickness of stomach,

the ebb of coherence

 

so that even our false selves

had lost whatever fragment of innocence

that might still have remained.

 

And yet,

because we belonged to no one indefinitely

 

there was a steadying, a recovery,

liars made well by ill-given pardons

 

our pathetic espousals applauded

by the rhythmic clapping

of lime gloves in an artificial darkness.

 

rkpiiRichard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

Unfinished breakfast – Roma Havers

 

Cold burnt toast waits in dawn light

for a kettle shriek,

porridge stains hob-tops,

stiff boils emerge into oaty alps,

a lung faints above clouds

as her tongue lolls onto stone tiles;

last kiss into dirt and breadcrumbs,

A rib cracks in a gust of air,

lets out a tire hiss;

 

the cat flap swings in spring air

and paws tread prints into her snow-flesh,

veins mark snakes and ladders under claws,

purring, its soft head dings at a dead arm

and licks a line from ear to throat,

the wet skin does not move

 

like a pond where freeze takes hold

and goldfish hang

mouths open, in the glass,

the cat scrapes at the surface,

starved for fish.

One last tear melts down her,

red with life,

and the kettle sings mourning blues.

 

roma-haversRoma Havers is a Manchester-based poet, currently in her third year of an Drama and English degree at The University of Manchester where she is the Books Editor for The Mancunion and Chair of the Creative Writing Society. She performs regularly at spoken word nights, and events such as Reclaim the Night and UniPresents.

The Time that Land Forgot – Ryan Quinn Flanagan

 

walking down by the plaza

the time that land forgot

walking in shoes and socks

and in a hurry

because everything closes:

the door, the laundromat,

the mind…

and everyone forgets

so I could hardly blame the land

for thinking itself an Olympic sized swimming pool

and no longer land

which made it very hard

to walk.

 

ottawa

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and mounds of snow. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

The Day After – Nancy Iannucci

 

A tremor & a shift,

Kerouac’s Desolation Pops dropped

to my feet by the jolt.

 

Black tea dyed crescents on the envelope,

tsunamis rushed ashore. My heart

raced & read, reread & raced through

 

your words with a flux capacitor.

Your letter came today, but

we gathered yesterday

 

by the flowers during

your calling hours. I thought

you never responded.

 

contributors_photo_nancy_iannucciNancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work is published/forthcoming in numerous publications including Bop Dead City, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Star 82 Review (*82), Gargoyle, Amaryllis, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Poetry Breakfast, Rose Red Review, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, and her poem “Howling” won one of Yellow Chair Review’s Rock the Chair Challenges.

Scattered ashes – Maria Sledmere

 

Father died at sea, like most of the men on the island. We didn’t hold a funeral. Ma came with the ashes one Sunday morning and we skipped church, the three of us plus Ma’s friend Fiona, to drive out to the docks. It was quiet, the fishermen still out on the water, or else having a lie-in. I thought how strange it was, the quiet. Normally there’s such a bustle; clanging of metal and tugging of rigging and bumping of sterns and shouting. You could only hear the sea, its constant, sheet-like rustle, the evil cries of gulls overhead. I remember looking out across the purple water, its shivers of grey, the mounds in the distance that formed the archipelago. I thought: he’s on one of those islands. Daddy’s out there. He’s coming home some day. Ma said: Do you want to do the ashes? I frowned. I didn’t know what she meant. She was holding out this wee tupperware tub so’s you could see what was inside. It looked like flakes of rust, or mouldy cereal. I didn’t want to touch it. She seemed to understand; I guess she was disappointed. Fiona, gem that she always is, rubbed me on the shoulder; held my hand as Ma scattered the ashes. I was worried they were going to blow back in all our faces – wee Tyler crying with impatience, Johnny playing with the zip of his jacket – but somehow the wind caught him and the ashes were swept up in this swirling breeze which disappeared somewhere across the sea. We stood there for ages afterwards. I kept watching for boats, because I couldn’t stand just being there all sad watching the waves take my father away. I was still thinking: He’s out there. Maybe they had him on a boat; it was a mixup, the wrong body. Maybe they burned a deer and said it was him. It was quite possible. They’d done it before, to trick the grieving families into believing there was a body. Most of them were forever lost at sea. We’d done it in school, the fishermen’s stories. Fiona must’ve noticed I was crying then, because she gave me a bunch of tissues and pressed my face into her soft belly, itchy with a thick woollen jumper. I wasn’t really crying; it was the way the wind stung my eyes. I felt something hard and sad inside of me, like a thing I couldn’t lodge from my chest – like when you have a bad cold and it all builds up. It was just this…object. I guess I carried it around for a long time. In the car back home, Fiona drove while Ma kept her head out the window, the wind blowing back her greasy hair. Johnny played his Game Boy while Tyler watched, scrabbling for a shot. I tried to breathe, but my chest was so sore. I would write it down on Monday: he’s still out there. The teacher would give me a star, and I’d think of him out there at night sometimes, all those ashes up-scattered to the one particular silver-glinting star. I wish you could peel it off from the sky, the way you could with the stickers in your jotter.

 

Maria Sledmerauthor-pic-maria-se is currently studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow, and is otherwise an assistant editor for SPAMzine and part-time restaurant supervisor, a job which provides her with many ideas for strange stories. She regularly writes music reviews for RaveChild Glasgow and has had work recently accepted by publications including From Glasgow to Saturn, DataBleed, Robida and Germ magazine.  When not obsessing over the literature of Tom McCarthy she may be found painting, making mixtapes or writing about everything from Dark Ecology, Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.