Everything bright and illuminated – Melissa Goode

 

He sits in the back row. The concert has already begun and the stage is lit. The school orchestra plays Bach. His daughter, Joanna, is stern, focussed, behind a cello. They sound excellent, but he will tell me they dropped x, raced across y, and could have lingered at z and he will hum it a little to show me how it should have sounded. I will say, she’s seventeen. She’s a star. He will smile, probably at my ignorance, my upbringing, my haven’t-got-a-clue.

#

I stand in the doorway, my wet umbrella drips London rain onto the floor. Joanna is vivid on stage with her red hair. She is a flame. He faces straight ahead, lit by the light from the stage, a portrait. His gaze is hard, merciless, like a hawk. She dips her head over the cello and I feel the movement in my chest.

#

We could lie on a beach in Hawaii, him and me, pale beneath the white blaze of the sun. Joanna plays in the water and meets American boys and girls her age who make her laugh. We drink frozen cocktails all day—strawberry, coconut, lime, pineapple. Let’s try mango. There is sand everywhere, in the carpet, the shower, under our nails, inside our ears. When he and I lie down at night, he leaves the lamp on and looks at me like he could eat me entirely. We move slowly as if we have all fucking day and night. We do.

#

He has saved a seat. I touch his shoulder and he looks up at me. Sorry, traffic, I whisper. Hello, he mouths. He smiles. I move past his sharp knees to the seat, his hands reach out and hold my waist as I go.

 

MG_WEB-7Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, Griffith Review, New World Writing, Litro Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Gravel, and Jellyfish Review among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter.

Ascending from Vilenica Cavern – Glen Sorestad

 

One hundred thirty-four stone steps

drag us into the somber underground.

It is so novel an act, we have no thought

of what lies ahead when the time

comes to return to the comfort of earth.

 

Here in Slovenia’s Karst region

this huge limestone cave awes the breath

from us as, step by step, we descend

from sunlit warmth to eight degrees —

a constant, day or night, year in or out.

 

In this well-used cavern at a location

that is not its lowest depth at all,

but a spacious room where music

is played and prayers are uttered,

we listen to a brass ensemble blow

bats right-side-up, with notes flying

into every rock niche, sliding up

and down stalactites and stalagmites,

reaching out and up, shivering

a thousand candles with delight.

 

Over flicker and sputter of tapers

poets declaim poems and bring

evening to a close. Now we must

ascend to dark Slovenian night.

One hundred thirty-four steps: the test.

 

Up from the underground we climb,

single file, a stream of souls spiralling

to an imagined heaven. Our first steps

identical to those of the descent,

but now steps enlarge and each leg

must somehow be lifted higher.

A cruel joke? Has someone altered

the step size while we were below?

At one hundred steps we huff

and wheeze, wanting to stop

and rest, but there is no stop,

no looking back on this ascent

from the underworld, just keep

our eyes on the climber ahead

and hope that person doesn’t stop

or falter because these steps

will not suffice for two. If one

person stops, then we all must.

 

The only sounds are footfall

on stone, the puff and gasp,

and the rustle of clothing.

Just when we think our hearts

will burst and our leaden legs

will not budge another step,

we are returned to earth.

Night is cool, a lighted path

leads us to food and wine.

 

Sorestad 5x7Glen Sorestad is a Canadian poet whose work has appeared in publication in various parts of the world, has appeared in over 60 anthologies and textbooks, and has been translated into eight languages. Sorestad lives with his wife Sonia in Saskatoon on the northern plains.

Bali – John Grey

 

Sea water laps against the docks,

the bright, inclusive restaurants,

their gaily painted menus

selling their show

to passing tongues.

 

The air is good enough to eat,

lawa, babi guling,

cascading smells of soy and chili.

 

Night-clubs

soundtrack the breeze.

Some places, its one guy strumming a guitar.

another, the tuneful choral chimes of gamelan.

 

A myna bird rocks on a branch,

converses with the deep loll of a gong.

 

An old woman perches against

the post office wall,

tenun woven cloths spread before her

 

Old men,

their brown faces weathered like figs,

look out at the few moored boats

that appear and disappear

in swaying dock lights.

 

Signposts lead to pleasures great and small.

Sounds or sights, food or drink.

it’s a sorry night

when everyone’s not inebriated with something.

 

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 Moon’s Call – Natalie Crick

 

Hush now,

The sound of the moon

Budding on the float of her own white voice,

 

Her call, like

Spider silk strung from the darkest

Branches, swaying woozily.

 

Moon turns her ripe eye

To the ground, making

Music that melts,

 

The whole wood

Lit with alarm,

Dawn like a black knife.

 

Natalie Crick PhotoNatalie Crick, from the UK, has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, Ink In Thirds, The Penwood Review, The Chiron Review and Rust and Moth. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Weekend – Jonathan Butcher

 

Hapless at weekends, yet still with that

contrived joy; in the beer gardens and car

parks, where perfume and aftershave still

smell fresh against fake fur and denim.

 

The hiss of music from the outside speakers,

that threaten to fall, but never damage conversation.

The bottles strewn across badly mounted tables

and tree torn, cracked pavements.

 

The warmth of this room blocks out winter, yet

its shell remains fragile, like rusted gates that

no longer retain the strength to block out the

weakest of imposters.

 

And again we glide without protest, our voices

placed only where needed, our feet as nimble

as ever; tripping over curbs now an art form,

that at last we have finally mastered.

 

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.

Da Eye Wifey / Woods Number 1 – Kersten Christianson

 

Title “Da Eye Wifey” borrowed from Shooglenifty.

 

Emerge from the fog road

squint-eyed

to belly flopping waves

jumping from one small sea-

sick ferry to another

saltwater & cod tongues

summer grasses & violet lupine.

Blue butterflies swarm

the sunlit forest.

Awakened, we ramble;

Trans-Canada Highway

from west to east

and back again.

Mile 0,

I’d follow you forever.

Chime of cymbal,

song’s end.

 

img_2972Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016. Kersten’s recent work has appeared in Cirque, Inklette, Sheila-Na-Gig and Pure Slush. Her book Something Yet to Be Named by Aldrich Press and her chapbook titled What Caught Raven’s Eye by Petroglyph Press will be published in 2017. Kersten co-edits the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she lives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie.

 

Erebus – Christopher Eskilson

 

Days have passed since

I

was in my mouth,

long and oddly shaped.

 

The touches

of a dead rock leave me opened wide.

Silence sits beneath a maze of multiplying sand.

 

I had never forgotten a tune the planets learned,

brightening like a spoon collecting

pictures of a gone world.

 

Now, my pupils burn.

The innards of a feeling blacken.

The vibrations sigh

& bury your

excuse me.

 

Let go, spreading out along a road

cutting through my woods.

I rub my tongue in evening as

the pines curl asleep.

 

Listen:

The dream

—its special music—

hums.

 

This is the mind;

cold and black light blue;

the desert carelessly approaches.

 

A sea of squeezing bites.

 

I can’t inhabit where I goes.

An effigy,

a wild silence.

Living, burning, lost control.

 

img_1684Christopher Eskilson is a Junior at Pitzer College studying English and world literature. He is a managing editor at the Claremont Colleges’ The Student Life Newspaper and also an associate editor for Claremont Graduate University’s Foothill poetry magazine. In the past, he has worked as an editorial intern for Red Hen Press in Pasadena, California. Christopher’s work has appeared in After the Pause, 30 N (formerly the North Central Review), Apeiron Review, A Quiet Courage, and others.

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.

Right About Now – Peycho Kanev

 

Right about now all is lost in the currents

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

of the candle which was lit by a shaky hand

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

 

Slow music starts. The begonias snuggle together.

They slowly lower the body in the ground.

 

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

Winning the tombola – Maria Sledmere

 

She turned the package over in her fingers. Silken, purple, properly gift-wrapped. The thought of what might lie inside glazed over her mind like the sweetening glow of a bar of milk chocolate, crunched alone on a cold evening.

She had a full hour to herself, before they returned. This kitchen, the room of her life, seemed transformed before her. The bread bin was open, the fridge was bursting with its hoard of treasures. She didn’t need to touch anything, though it was seductive, to think of the carrots neatly lined up like pens in a stationer’s, the orange juice, the dark bitter rye bread, the drawers chockfull of hazelnuts and brazils and the luxurious sugared lemons they’d bought for the festive season.

Earlier, he’d pinned her against the mahogany wardrobe.

“Do it like this,” he whispered. She remembers such words like a litany.

There were seven words to be said for the lottery. The old women tittered at the sight of her skirt, the hole in her tights. It was an unfair judgment; she had done nothing but turn up, as was her right. Seven words to be said. The music was harsh and synthy; dissonant, like the music they play in a mall, only slowed down to a creepy, molluscan crawl.

He poured dark muscovado sugar on her tongue, lovingly. He put his finger in her mouth, swirled it around, till the coarse stuff got sticky and wet and dissolved. It was as if he had drained the juice of her blood and here she was, dried and rasping. Come.

He used to scrunch her hair in his palms, and later it would lie a certain way against her neck, limp and curled, the filaments crushed.

He had been a jazz musician once. He had played the saxophone in her sleep, the shrill buzz of those notes swivelling through the staves of her veins, twisting her organs to a new truth.

The old women drew papers from a golden box. The one with an amethyst scarf waved a number, triumphantly, as if declaring the birth of an age.

“That’s me!” she had shrieked, leaping from her seat. Their eyes had been upon her, and maybe for a moment she had felt ashamed. Still, it didn’t last. The parcel was duly handed over; she treated herself to a taxi home.

What was the use in waiting? She had dallied long enough.

The ribbons fell apart in her fingers. Her heart backflipped, a ballerina. So this was the promise?

What she saw made her vomit.

 

author-pic-maria-s

Maria 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.