Hush – Stephen Mead

 

Snow squall:

All the falling feather tufts

lace soft & as intricate

to marvel with night

coming on, blue lit—–

Look up—–

clock tower, yellow,

the face of it a moon

with hands, & the traffic

sizzling to distance

humming for our foot-

steps that crunch some,

& dissolve in the thick

wet carpet magical

as water pushing out

watercolor & our hands,

held, love, simple &

holy as parchment:

Remember this.

 

 

me cropped to squareStephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Find out more at Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead.

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Yes, I Can Hear What You Are – Stephen Mead

 

Yes, your fingers through darkness are

dialing this old rotary phone, yes, that purring whirl,

the disk spinning, yes, past numbers, yes, a

lit elevator set on reaching the right floor…

 

Yes, already your voice, yes, nectar pouring over,

liquid butterscotch soft, as you stand, yes, in

the distance, mouth shadowing the receiver &,

yes, those holes where, yes, breath travels

resonant as a shell pressed to one’s ear…

 

Such wavelengths are feel-able, yes, wisps

of incense gently bouncing against skin, yes,

schools of fragrance, each with a particular

taste, hue, texture, yes, the very air is filled

with their volume, yes, presences of whispers

flickering like quicksilver…

 

Reel the threads to me, yes, an invisible cable

spooling whirls through the night.

At last sound is touch, yes, porpoise-warm &

surfacing, yes, from strange water depths.

Love, yes, what you are is

a friendly primeval being calling my name

beyond rings, yes, there where we swim

blinking neon to then ascend, yes, yes,

lucent bubbles now one

 

 

me cropped to squareStephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Find out more at Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead.

The Piano – Robert James Berry

 

When you played,

the display china plates

would tinkle.

I’d imagine them falling

especially when you trilled,

which was integral,

a profound thrill. But

most of all I loved

the big-boned silence

between black chords,

now that was resounding.

 

 

RJBRobert James Berry lives and writes in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is the author of nine collections of poetry: ‘Smoke’ (2000), ‘Stone’ (2004), ‘Seamark’ (2005),’Sky Writing’ (2006),’Sun Music’ (2007),’Mudfishes’ (2008), ‘Moontide’ (2010), ‘Swamp Palace’ (2012) and ‘Toffee Apples’ (2014). His poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as ‘Stand’ (Leeds, UK), ‘Poetry Salzburg’ (Salzburg, Austria), ‘Westerly’ (Perth, AUS), ‘Rattapallax’ (NY, USA) and ‘Landfall’ (Dunedin, NZ). Robert was born in the UK and educated in England, Ireland and Scotland. He holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Stirling, Scotland and MA and BA degrees from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. He has lectured in English Literature at universities in England, Malaysia and New Zealand. He is married with three sons.

A Problem Shared – Laura Muetzelfeldt

 

Everything important Mum ever told me she told me while cracking eggs. The news was always followed by a business-like tap, freeing wobbly flying saucers from their shells. Mum could crack eggs and open them with one-handed, something I tried to get the hang of, but couldn’t; I always ended up having to rescue tiny triangles of shell from the goo. Making cupcakes to sell at school she told me once they found a lump inside her which turned out to be her twin, dead and swallowed before she was born. Her stories always lasted as long as the recipe took to make, then we would sit down with Dad, and the secrets would fizz inside me as he tucked into whatever we’d just baked, not knowing what I now knew.

Most of the secrets she told me were to do with love. Once, whilst making an almond cake for someone’s birthday, she said:

‘It was only when I met your father that I realised my whole life up to then I’d mistaken lust for love.’

I wasn’t sure what lust was, but it sounded dangerous, creeping – liable to spread when you turned your back.

Mum looked less like a mum when she was baking, like she was just playing at being a grown up. That day, she had flour smudged above her eyebrow and her sleeves rolled up so that they kept drooping, nearly getting in the mixing bowl. I pushed up my sleeves but they kept falling down and getting messy.

All the times we baked, I never told Mum my secrets. I never got that thing where telling other people made your problems seem smaller. For me, it always made them double not halve: like kisses or a punch, they were something you could never take back.

 

 

 

unnamed (4)Laura is a teacher, writer and silversmith who lives in Glasgow with her family. She writes short stories and has been published in journals such as The International Literary QuarterlyBandit Fiction, and Ink, Sweat and Tears; her story, ‘Anna on the Wing’, was highly commended in The Federation of Writers Scotland Competition 2018. She also writes young adult fiction and her novel, Perfect Memory, was longlisted for Fish Publishing’s Young Adult Novel Contest.

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.

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.

Blood Tendrils – Meredith LeMaître

 

You know nothing about

Me and that stings,

That you don’t know what I like to read o’ winter nights,

Which finger I like to stick up at sexism,

What time of year I love best;

It’s early summer when the sky’s iridescent, and I can lie on the sticky new grass, gaze at the fat clouds floating heavenwards, 

Apple blossom threaded through my hair.

But you didn’t know that, never thought to commit it to the library of memory.

The boy I’m half in love with has learnt what lights me up like a firefly, apart from being with him. The only thing that links us now, is the blood which slides through our veins, wraps its tendrils around our wrists. 

That we both have noses like the buttons in Mama’s sewing box,

Thin feet as the angels do in Renaissance paintings.

Tell me 

is blood and resemblance

ever enough?

 

 

wp_ss_20170723_0001Meredith LeMaître is a home educated writer and dancer from Brighton, UK. Her poems have previously been published in Hebe Poetry magazine, Now Then Manchester and Risen Zine, she has also been Highly Commended in Foyle Young Poets’ Award and was a Poetry Rivals 2016 finalist. You can find one of her articles on Hebe Poetry website. She loves writing, crafting, acroyoga and ballet and is interested in colour, languages and mythology.

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 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.

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.

 

 

Alison 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.

Missing You – Lisa Reily

 

Raspberry and mango bougainvilleas, the tang of guava,

an orange and silver carp on a Balinese path, breathing

its last breath of hope, for someone to save it.

 

Pomegranate seeds popped into your mouth

dribble down your cheek to stain your new white pants;

your snow-teeth bite into watermelon, crumbling

from its watery pink into water itself.

 

My love for you is a crisp yellow pineapple, pale seaweed

dabbled in sunlight, the musky pink of my fingernails;

blue-grey dolphins, white baby seal love, the emerald sun

and the cool green sky; a tortoise underwater, an ache of forever,

 

a smiling purple dog; a yearning unresolved.

 

 

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.

Fight or flight – Angelica Krikler

 

Come and lie with us, the flowers said, you have nothing now. Like us, there is no one to love you and your marriage bed must be the thorn bush, your funeral pyre the dams that will not break

Forget keeping your physique and the limescale in the kettle

You are a leopard in the snow. There is no way you will survive

Everything you planted will turn against you

Soon you’ll forget about hairdressers, and you’ll start to malt like us

And songs will be nothing more than the hum of crickets, the sound of your own fist beating your body

Scallop shells will give birth to you

Family will simply be nature’s surrounding colours

And your lipstick will be a rush of blood

Or else, write until the pen runs out

 

 

unnamedAngelica Krikler is a student from Essex who is hoping to study English Literature at university next year. She spends her time writing, reading and watching American stand-up. She has previously been published in The Claremont Review, Morphrog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Y-Magazine and Cake Magazine.

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.