keep your pomegranates – Linda M. Crate

 

i have no respect

for you

because you are a man

who shirks duty

and pretends love is a game,

running from his problems

as if mere demands that i be a stranger

will make it so;

a part of me will always love you

but i don’t want or need you—

you were the wolf that turned on me,

snarling and yowling like the wind you ripped

out my vital organs

leaving me to bleed in the snow beneath the pines;

i had to die to who i was to survive

acquire new feathers as i rose from the ashes

of your chaos

a white raven whose flames will never die—

i will not be defeated so easily

as that

will come back to haunt you like a ghost

since you have done this to me for many moons now

four years is enough time to torment me

especially since you’ve already moved on

i need not these memories of you because they’re more

bitter than sweet and i have never acquired the need

for pomegranates in my life.

 

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

Comparing Scars – James Diaz

 

the apple did fall far from the tree

and went out into the dark

with almost no light

inside

 

some places are all haunting

nothing else matters

but that you leave there shaken

 

when I was younger

I had an impossible dream

that I could grow old

and not be happy

but still be in the world

 

living in a place no one could find

I wouldn’t have needed much

a chair, a table, a bowl, a spoon

a front door

a few years of silence

of forgetting.

 

IMG_8420James Diaz is the founding editor of the literary arts & music journal Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in HIV Here & Now, Foliate Oak, Chronogram, and Cheap Pop Lit. His first book of poems, This Someone I Call Stranger, is forthcoming from Indolent Books (2017.)

Choking – Jonathan Butcher

 

I remember you in the school

dinner room, choking on the

corned beef sandwiches that

the dinner ladies forced down

your throat; waste held no

relevance between those walls.

 

I remember you sat alone at break

times, hands and stones slapped

across your face like whiplashes,

for an injustice you were far from

capable of committing.

 

And you walked home, your head bowed,

through those orange bricked streets

that framed our morning walks, alongside

the neglected grass verges like miniature

jungles we never dared to enter.

 

Those doors opened once again, before

the sun set behind the grey roofs and dust

like trees, you stand and stare once more

in that hallway mirror that hangs rusted,

and only slightly cracked.

 

Foxglove submissionJonathan Butcher is a poet based in Sheffield, England. He has had poetry appear in various print and online journals including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Elbow Room, Your One Phone Call, Mad Swirl, The Transnational and others. His second chapbook ‘Broken Slates’ was published by Flutter Press.

The Easter Bunny on a Glass Elevator Going Down – Zach Smith

 

In retrospect the event seems so bizarre, that it’s more like a dream.

My aunt had taken my cousin and me to the mall.

It was in the spring, at some point shortly before Easter.

The Easter Bunny was stationed in a playful land of candies and eggs and fake plastic straw of every color imaginable. This was in an open area at the bottom of the mall’s glass elevator. An Easter variation on the mall’s Santa set up.

I don’t know if this still goes on, the mall Easter Bunny that is, I haven’t seen one in years, but I haven’t been looking either.

The setting was accompanied by music played from a DJ stationed nearby.

At Christmas there are plenty of songs to play on a continuous loop to keep the atmosphere. You don’t even need lyrics. Anyone can recognize “Jingle Bells” by melody alone. The same goes for “Frosty the Snowman,” or “The Christmas Song” (though everyone knows the latter as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”)

For Easter, the music choices are more limited. There’s “Peter Cotton Tail” of course, but it’s not nearly as recognizable, considering DragonForce did a song using the same chord progression and nobody noticed. If you want to get real religious you could opt for the song “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)”… but that’s probably not the best choice either. There are not a lot of “great” Easter songs to play for the mall Easter Bunny. So what is a DJ to do? Why, play some of the contemporary hits of course.

The year was 1991, I was six years old at the time.

When we got to the bottom of the glass elevator to see the Easter Bunny, the song he was dancing to was… “Losing My Religion” by REM.

The argument that the song title is a southern expression that roughly translates to: “losing your temper” is weak at best. The phrase too specifically implies something else. Even the music video is very religious oriented, with fallen angels and so on. Playing that song for the Easter Bunny would be the equivalent of playing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” at a wedding.

Consequently eighteen years later “Single Ladies” was played at my wedding, with both my aunt and cousin in attendance, despite the fact that that specific song was placed on the “Do Not Play” list. Come to think of it, it might have been the same DJ since both were utterly deaf to lyrical significance and/or irony.

At the mall, I asked my cousin the obvious question:

“Why is the Easter Bunny dancing to ‘Losing my Religion?’”

“Ah… because it’s a good song,” she said, sarcastically, as though I should have already known something so obvious.

That’s debatable… and also not the point.

 

with hatZach is a graduate of Chestnut Hill College and has been writing for more than a dozen years, struggling all the while with dyslexia. His work has previously appeared in Crack the Spine, Revolution John, Fast-Forward Festival, the Short Humor Site and Schlock Magazine, among others. You can find out more about him at his blog: theobscuritysymposium.wordpress.com.

Walking – Allison Grayhurst

 

A grain I throw

in the water, floating, ready to

sink. I see you – thin as anyone

must be living on such an edge – tense

and tired of holding your breath. So many years –

a raging prophet, flailing your limbs

to keep the barnacles off, to keep the ones you love

close and to keep your mission in perfect purity.

 

These days the summer is dried spit on the pavement.

It opens my eyes to the struggle everywhere – pigeons

waiting for water, children running up the dry incline,

facing a bridge, the great restructuring.

 

You, riding the gilded wing – love is like the Earth’s dirt,

necessary, elemental, and its smell, saturated with memories.

I love you: Sometimes it is easy.

Sometimes I am a woman in God’s funnel cloud,

bending back to look, but seeing only storm.

 

allison-grayhurst-profile-picture-2016Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Three times nominated for Sundress Publications “Best of the Net” 2015, she has over 950 poems published in over 400 international journals. She has twelve published books of poetry, seven collections, nine chapbooks, and a chapbook pending publication. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay. Learn more at www.allisongrayhurst.com.

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.

Neighborhood – Catherine Zickgraf

 

In her blue robe,

Mom would light up beacons from her woes,

flashing on the porchlight among row homes.

 

Needing safety,

I’d leave home after bedtime, and row across

sparkle-snow, and drag my footpaths through

the pines, past a creek bridge, and abandoned

railroad ties. I’d follow telegraph roads under

the ocean, seeking the eternal glow of escape.

 

me-and-grandmoms-picCatherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan, and three dozen other cities, but now her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write poetry. Her work has appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her new chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press and is available on Amazon.com. Watch and read more of her poetry at http://caththegreat.blogspot.com.

Clothespole – Catherine Zickgraf

 

Mother used to spin from the stem of our old clothespole,

except as the paint dried at the first stirring of springtime.

 

Great-Grandpop strung rope from garage roof to porch hook

to shake out the clouds of socks and towels.

 

He built our homestead which still stands after decades—

though he’s long-buried, he’s a hero in mirrors and frames.

 

Great-Grandmom used to pin me too to swing from her lines

and I’d fling legs out and back

in the cirrus shapes stretched where wind flew her flags.

 

Circling our old clothespole in grass dark as pine,

Mother and I, both in our times, scaled the air to touch

the sunshine between us and abundant depths of sky.

 

me-and-grandmoms-picCatherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan, and three dozen other cities, but now her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write poetry. Her work has appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her new chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press and is available on Amazon.com. Watch and read more of her poetry at http://caththegreat.blogspot.com.

Hand-me-downs – Kate Garrett

 

The bricks housed phantoms;

the anachronistic soda counter

 

I now recall in a haze of decades

and miles as solid, yet of its time

 

and the man running the shop still

slicked his grey hair Brylcreem smooth.

 

Some villages never catch up.

The drugstore was plastic and rounded

 

and faded and chrome, Americana buried

just for me, so I could uncover

 

its message one morning—

the new kid with bony shoulders grandma

 

folded into floral sundresses I wanted to love,

relics of a childhood that wasn’t mine.

 

But I know we each spent our time huddled

and waiting for progress, or nuclear winter,

 

nursing fears we couldn’t name, hiding

in cellars from the first sign of a black sky.

 

kate-newKate Garrett is a writer, mother, editor, wife, history buff, and amateur folklorist. Her work is published here and there online and in print, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent books are The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) – which was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards – and Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016). Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will be published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi.

Fire – John Grey

 

I touched fire when two

and I’ve not forgotten.

I was burnt, bubbled, red,

darkened, and the flame

burned so pretty too.

 

I glanced longingly

at the liquid in dark bottles

but my mother snatched

them away.

Likewise the taunting

sharp edge of a knife.

And the patio railing

that invited me to climb.

 

But with fire

she was not quick enough.

I learned that lesson

the hard way.

You can suffer in your hand

what your heart endures.

You can shriek

a kind of glory

until the salving butter comes.

 

unnamed-bioJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. His work has recently been published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review, and is upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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.

Exam conditions – Katie Lewington

 

I can’t believe I have to give myself permission

these stapled sheets are winding me up no end

pen tapping as if the feet of Astaire

I pick it up and put it down

an effortless weight

too many ghosts are swirling around the ticking of the clock

sighs

and scratching nibs

stillness

lessons learnt –

the power of three, commas and paragraphs

bulging thoughts unable to word

throbbing heat beneath the skin

less resistance

put more work in

then able

to put it all behind me

and begin.

 

kl-picKatie Lewington is a UK-based writer and has been drafting, editing and rewriting her bio since she started submitting to literary magazines and journals two years ago. It isn’t as if she doesn’t know who she is, she just isn’t sure what is relevant. Her creative writing can be read at https://katiecreativewriterblog.wordpress.com. She can be contacted through Twitter @idontwearahat.

 

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.

The beauty of you – Francesca Leone

 

I have really tried so hard,

 

wrote about everything

(but mostly nothing) and kept

my mouth shut.

 

I got very close to true emotion

once or twice.

A good line on a man,

the ocean,

even a rhyme.

 

Lately I am face to face with the reality

of losing you

and losing my hunger for this.

I was a better writer when you hurt me.

Whatever I do to myself or let anyone else do to me

cannot come even close

to the beauty

of you twisting the knife in me.

 

There was something truly poetic in the way

you wrecked me. Every time like I didn’t expect it

or sign up for it willingly.

 

But I’ve always been fucking good at sorrow.

 

Now you’re back into my poems

and of course I put my faith in this magic again.

 

Draped in blue,

still imagining that one day I’ll get to have a conversation with you

 

tell you to please ruin me forever

for eternal glory.

 

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.

 

Sid and Cassie – Maria Sledmere

 

If you told me, aged sixteen,

I’d be alone on a hilltop, sipping vodka

from a water pistol borrowed off my brother,

I’d have said, wow, cool. 

 

If you told me then, that in a bedsit

I’d be gold-toned, honing sapphic desire in my underwear,

poking slugs around a fish tank

and naming them in lieu of past lovers,

I’d have said, lovely. 

 

If you told me he’d write me a letter

with real imprints of tears in the ink,

I’d have opened my glossy lips

and laughed with careless teeth.

 

If you told me I’d end up

gazing down at the boats on the Brooklyn Bridge,

I’d have wondered how I ever felt

at all before this.

 

In the hospital garden once I sat

in my straw hat, with pin-curls and a mugful of gin

and he would come to kiss me

in his mismatched pyjamas, but I

 

was half-dreaming – I said I would love him forever

and for a while I meant it. I thought

the pink mist would surround me again;

I thought he would eat my chips

and in the darkness we would twist

as clumsy as those slugs,

 

like the day in the ambulance

when everything was bright and plastic and blue;

almost forgotten, the world not turning,

yet everything lovely,

lovely as you.

 

In the mirror I splash my face with glitter and lightning.

Maybe he has that hand-knitted hat

still full of my stardust, the nicotine traces;

I miss him, totally, but you know

it’s only the boats that go places.

 
author-pic-maria-sMaria Sledmere 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.