After Me – Julia Molloy

 

Darling, come closer. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing to fear. You are always safe with me. Whenever you smile, I’ll smile too, though mostly you make jokes that aren’t funny these days. Whenever you cry, I’ll be waiting with my shoulder and a glass of your favourite wine. It’s the Rioja you prefer now, isn’t it? When we first met, it was all about the alcopops and fluorescent cocktails that quickly got us high so we could dance and be free. We’d dance to songs we no longer heard while others vomited and fought and cried. We’d dance and hold each other close. I guess we lost friends that way. But I can still remember how it felt, the first time we held each other. Our shoes stuck to the floor and the DJ shouted through the air, but all I could focus on was you. I thought my skin would ignite. As the years have mellowed, as our days have grown more fleeting, we savour the Rioja while we can. We don’t dance or play music. We sit, and we hold hands through fading daylight and long dark nights.

Darling, come closer. That was what you used to whisper in the darkest of nights after our son died. We held each other under bed sheets you always insist on ironing. We waited for time to do its work, but I think we both still feel the emptiness. So we hold each other wrapped in the clean, sharp edges of the bedsheets. We stop asking why.

Darling, come closer. I worry about who will keep you safe after me. Who will know about your favourite Rioja? Who will know how to leave you in peace when you come home from work, how to give you that space in which to breathe? Who will know the hole inside? I suppose someone could learn this soon enough, but still I worry. I don’t recall learning these things about you as much as absorbing them. We cried once at a study where children were punished and rewarded to see if they learned better. Our own son toddled at our feet. But now I come to think of it, that was how I absorbed these things about you. Your joys and your hates, your laughs and your rages, punishments and rewards. Who else can absorb these things and keep you safe?

Darling, come closer. I need to feel you near me. You don’t understand why I worry so much about you, why I don’t worry more about myself and what I must face. You don’t understand that worrying about you keeps the fear away. When we met, I remember how I felt a weight had been lifted from my mind. I didn’t have to be alone. I could hold you in my arms and you wouldn’t even comment on my clammy skin. Now, I worry about you to keep darkness at bay.

Darling, come closer. I can feel the darkness coming. I whisper to you again and again, or at least I think I do. You’re smiling, but not as you used to. It’s a smile that will turn into a cry the moment I close my eyes. I whisper again, or perhaps I don’t. Perhaps this is just the dream of life. Perhaps this is how you are after me.

 

 

Author photoJulia Molloy is a short story writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, Crack the Spine, STORGY, Platform for Prose and Riggwelter Press. Her work was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2016. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and now works at a government organisation. You can find her at www.juliamolloy.org and on Twitter @JRMolloy2.

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Too late? – Kieran Egan

 

Mrs. Reardon walks down the pavement

which is more broken now than when 

she pushed four different children in their prams,

two of whom will be at the funeral today,

of the man she married

because the man she loved married her friend.

Her friend died last year and the man she loved

will also be at the funeral of the man she married.

The man she loved realized too late, too late

that he cared less for the woman he married

than for Patsie Reardon, née Walsh, of days long gone.

 

Mrs. Reardon and the man she still loved 

passed on this street with their children in prams, 

then he with a son and football and she with ballet shoes and a daughter

then walking with further sons and daughters, some taller than either of them.

 

Would he, after the funeral and after due time . . . ?

Her heart and stomach were afraid and light and excited.

Or will the formal reserve they had cultivated like a shell

be now so hard they can no longer break through it?

Were they still the two who had once loved each other?

His once hair . . . her once taut skin . . .

 

 

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 (U.K); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

We Will Not Wander More – Louise Wilford

 

We will not wander more. No lotus-blossom keeps

us in our seats, but just the glitter on the wall that seeps

 

into our souls. We love the soothing lullabies of lies

and loss that roll like waves of smoke across our eyes.

 

These padded gondolas will rest our limbs. Our long

hallucinations glow like pearls. Here sounds our final song. 

 

The dying skeletons of ships float by above,

but here we rest, below – bereft of love.

 

The sob of marriage split, of love betrayed,

of feuds and frauds and factions – all displayed

 

in widescreen, stretching thought just broad and high

enough for skimpy hearts and those who’re wide of eye.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 60 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.

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.

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 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.

Rose Tinted Glasses – Susan Richardson

 

The experts say my disease is genetic.

It spreads across families without discrimination

and taps randomly on the shoulders of children,

condemning them to a life of waiting for

the world to become shadows and pitch.

 

I stand alone with my dying retinas,

cocooned in the muslin of a fading canvas.

I have searched for a family connection,

a blood born comrade in a life of darkness,

but they tell me there is no one.

 

As the years pass and my vision

careens down a steep precipice, I

remember stories of a paternal grandfather

I never knew; a good dancer with sensitive eyes,

who always wore rose tinted glasses.

 

He was only 32 when he died, leaving

my grandmother to turn him into legend,

and my father to fend for himself

against the grief of a broken mother.

The secrets of his blood are caged in mystery.

 

Did my grandfather pass down the

genetic code that chains me to blindness?

Are my eyes a reflection of his own?

I hold desperately to the idea that he is the link,

but in my family, legends don’t go blind.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. Much of her work focuses on her experiences as a partially sighted woman in a sprawling urban environment. Her work has been published in Free Lunch, The Old Red Kimono, Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila–Na- Gig and Chantarelle’s Notebook. In addition to poetry and creative non-fiction, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”.

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.