A Stone – Oak Ayling

 

Do you think

A stone taken up from the ground

Forgets where it is from?

Erased of place, of memory?

 

Do you think it remembers

The rough kiss

The tender current

The air, the ocean

The chatter of falcons nesting?

 

Does it still think fondly

Of the year you were born?

 

 

IMG_20181005_083822_391Oak Ayling is a young woman quietly stitching poetry into the blurry windswept border between Cornwall and Devon, England. Highly commended by Indigo Press in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2018, her work can be found in Anti Heroin Chic Magazine, the fast growing lit mag From Whispers to Roars and forthcoming charitable anthology ‘Shorthand’ by author Helen Cox in support of UK homeless charity Streetlink.

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A fist lost – Gareth Culshaw

 

The pitch was always poor in under 14s 

footie. At the start of the season the council

would send men out. Paint the lines,

mow the turf, align the goalposts.

 

I always played better when he came

standing there with his accent.

My first goal scored, smiles all round.

Jogging back, raised fist to you

 

yours pumped in the air. We got on 

back then before the stubbornness set, 

distance in years between us showed.

 

That break in the relationship a hole 

in my memory, will never be filled.

 

 

IMG_1727Gareth lives in Wales. He has his first collection out now by FutureCycle called The Miner. He hopes one day to achieve something special with the pen.

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.

Two Sisters, The Fourth Of July, 2008 – Eliza Spinna

 

Two weary goddesses on the hot concrete. We blast the crackly radio full volume.

I dance barefoot; my limbs are still unsure of themselves.

 

The summer asphalt sears my fleshy, uncallused feet. Rose bobs her head casually, coolly. The coolest.

I am seven and my sister reads comic books but as far as I am concerned my sister is the sole superhero

 

in this town. My hands are smudged blue with melting popsicle. A piece of pink

cotton candy is lodged between Rose’s two front teeth. I don’t think she knows herself better than anyone

 

else knows her. Thinking too hard, she says, is a recipe for disaster. She has a hole in her shorts.

One of the buttons on my yellow sundress has popped. At this age I am unsure of most things. Today,

 

I think, is like Sunday but instead America is God. I tell Rose this and she laughs like I said something

funny but I really do mean it. Patriotism and praying seem very similar to me. They both involve

 

reverence. Rose has begun to question God and America, but I am still young and Church is fun enough

and on Independence Day you get to see fireworks, and the simplicity of abiding by these rituals is

 

coherent in my seven year old mind. Other things I am already sure of: my sister is a fireball

that is hurtling towards the sun and I cannot wait to see how spectacular the explosion is.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 11.05.38 PMEliza Spinna is a Manhattan-based emerging poet and writer. She is a rising senior at Stuyvesant High School.

Gone – Kenneth Pobo

 

While eating at a diner just north

of Shreveport,

the world ended.

I hadn’t even gotten

my cherry pie yet.

A drizzly day, clouds

had many vacancies.

 

I’d like to remember Earth

at seventy-five degrees,

an abundance of Winston Churchill

fuchsias blooming

in a window box

held to a wooden garage.

Instead,

 

a confused moon mourns

tides it can no longer turn.

 

 

imagejpeg_0_2 (2)Kenneth Pobo had a book of ekphrastic poems published in 2017 by Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. Forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House is a book of his prose poems called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Check out Ink Pantry, Brittle Star, and West Texas Literary Review to find more of his work.

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.

The Good Girl – Louise Wilford

 

Childhood stains it all,

blood that no amount of spit-wet tissue can rub out.

 

The playground grit against our knees,

the slap of rope on asphalt, skipping songs

coating the summer day. The walk-in cupboard where our toys

were kept, silverfish in its dusty corners.

 

That’s where I hid the card, the broken bits

of yellow-painted egg-box daffodils.

Crumbs like dried yolk stuffed in the Ludo box.

 

I’d missed school with the ‘flu’, so couldn’t finish it myself.

She’d stuck on the final leaves, filled in the last

few letters: OTHER’S DAY.

 

Glass animals on the windowsill

watched me as I tore the card to bits,

each wound a slice into her skin.

 

She’d ruined it, just as she soiled that Sunday

when she told them all I’d lied.

And all the while her alligator smile

tuned out their doubts.

 

As if a girl like her…

 

I felt her fingertips against the cardboard flowers,

her grinning brush-strokes on each painted edge.

 

Those old, sad days in which we played and wept.

For good or bad, they’re where we learned to be.

Until we die, they’re where our lives are kept.

 

 

unnamed (2)Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 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.

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.

Honest Hands – Susan Richardson

 

If he is the rain, then I am gravel,

parched under the embers of shame,

longing for the relief of him.

He washes the soot of loneliness

from my skin and offers me comfort.

 

Irish blood and bones, he is

the son of verdant landscapes,

shared pints of stout and fierce loyalty.

He navigates life vigorously

and laughs with his whole body.

 

His voice carries the tones of Autumn,

rich with the luster of unravelling gold.

I sink into the warmth of his words as

he helps stitch my broken limbs

with threads offered from his heart.

 

I remember so clearly the night

he wrapped his arms willingly

around my imperfections.

It was the first time I was

touched by honest hands.

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice and Sick Lit Magazine, with pieces forthcoming in Amaryllis. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize.

Distracting photograph – Kieran Egan

 

Pensive, looking sideways, unfocused eyes,

perhaps wondering about her future.

 

Now flight-phobic, terrified of takeoffs.

To ease her anxieties I had suggested 

we bring and talk about photographs of ourselves, 

at ages five, and ten, fifteen, and twenty.

 

We examined the pensive ten-year-old girl looking sideways.

The woman she had become started to reminisce 

about her family, her school,

and what the girl in the photograph most cared about.

 

It was just a few minutes’ distraction, to ease her fears,

neither of us anticipated the flood of sobbing tears.

 

 

unnamed (2)Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quills (Canada), Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review (Canada), High Window (UK), Orbis (UK), Raintown Review (USA), Envoi (UK), Shot Glass Journal (USA), Qwerty (Canada), Snapdragon (USA), The Antigonish Review (Canada), Acumen (UK), Canadian Quarterly and The Interpreter’s House (UK); also shortlisted for the John W. Bilsland Literary Award, 2017 and for the TLS Mick Imlah prize 2017.

Garage Cobwebs – Alyssa Trivett

 

As the cobweb hangs

by the hockey goal

near the bike with

cracked spokes,

oil spilled from yesteryear

covers the cement surface

in artistic splotches,

in holy water coffee ground

dots throughout.

We are only chess pieces

piling things,

playing irregular Jenga.

Knocking the stump remover

bottle over and rattling rusted

metal shelves.

The sealed chamber opens.

We skate with

recycling and trash bins,

soaking up the sun in

brief movie clip moments.

 

 

unnamed (1)Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she listens to music and scrawls lines on the back of gas station receipts. Her work has appeared in VerseWrights, In Between Hangovers, and recently at Otoliths and Five 2 One.

Last One – Rachel Lewis

 

The sun had almost given out that day

I went out late, after the sun had almost

Left us all behind.

 

The first thing I saw was the birch tree,

That had turned such a shade of yellow

As I’d never seen.

 

It was brighter and purer somehow than any green,

And the colour ran sharp through me, set me

Crying as I walked.

 

Blackberries were pouring down. The grass

Was dying in the last of the wintry light.

The streetlight glow began.

 

Willows by the river, and the plane trees,

All said “I know” whenever the wind filled

Their echo chambers.

 

Ducks and geese and magpies live here,

Resourcefully around our houses.

Swans, blackbirds as well.

 

I swung on the kissing gate and realised

I don’t know whether he’s for real, or if he’ll

Ever come back here.

 

 

Rachel headshot portraitRachel is a London-based poet. She was previously a poetry editor for the Mays Anthology and a Young Producer with Poet in the City. Her poetry can also be found on the Poetry Society website, in the Dawntreader and Kindling journals, and unpredictably at live events around London.

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.

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.

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.