Giving to Charity – Megan Whiting

 

Yesterday I gave my life away.

Ripped the past from the present

and left my house devoid of memories.

Bullied my childhood into boxes

and coerced my teenage years into carrier bags,

then lugged the entire sorry lot to the one place it might be useful.

Here, I handed every part of my former self to an elderly volunteer,

who groaned at the weight of my old life

and decided what it was worth.

Only then could I return to my empty house

and start again.

 

 

megan image 5Megan is a freelance writer and proofreader based in Suffolk. A poet at heart, she has been published in anthologies and online and offers personalised wedding poetry as one of her services. Megan loves to read and go for tandem rides with her fiancé. Find out more at www.meganwhiting.co.uk.

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Picking up lost leaves – Gareth Culshaw

 

The sunlight I once knew.

That yellow light that crept over

the slates and dripped to the tarmac.

Garages with corrugated roofing

that kept the snow from sliding.

Houses with gable and hip roofs

that now have a buckle of solar panels.

The tree that reached for the sky,

even stroked the clouds when we 

were small. Graffiti on the walls

and swear words in the puddles 

of teenage spit from years ago.

New neighbours with quiet eyes.

Swifts that came for a generation

now lost to the winds. The banging

footballs that hammered away time,

just an echo in the ears of myself. 

Moving back to a place I once knew,

is like a tree picking up the leaves

it lost in autumn, and asking them

to belong again.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

View from Ferryside – Byron Beynon

 

History oozing into pores

invigorates the past;

there’s the castle for instance,

high on a humpbacked hill

reaching out from Llansteffan’s

sand-ferrying shore.

The eternal language of seabirds

regional accents

in the warm rain

as they dive and soar,

sudden shifts in scale and tempo

recording the deep tales

from the journeying sea.

A landscape navigating

through the syllabus of days

that have vanished

onto the skin of time.

The air pure with thoughts,

clear with water-music

occupies this space

entering the cartographer’s

coast of memory.

 

 

Byron Beynon 2014Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His work has appeared in several publications including London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, San Pedro River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Yellow Nib and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets). Collections include Human Shores (Lapwing Publications) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).

On Blueberry Hill – Roy Moller

 

the moon took ill

and left me in the loop of

decisions, decisions

past decisions

 

and it would take a world war

to rip the railings I’ve erected around me

 

and here goes a car alarm,

squeezing and releasing

 

 

Roy MollerRoy Moller is a poet and songwriter who lives in Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland. He is the author of the short-run collection Imports and his work has been featured in the anthologies The Sea (Rebel Poetry) and Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. His musical works include My Week Beats Your Year, described by Louder Than War as “profoundly moving and inspirational”. His website is www.roymoller.com.

Bed Against the Partition – Roy Moller

 

In from Ontario to have me,

she rooms in a floral,

threadbare situation

in strange Scotland,

picking up chanting

from Infants and Juveniles,

and pigtailed little madams

shoo-ing away

clodhopping brogues

from elaborate elastics

and hopscotch plotted

in chalk mark.

 

She samples the songs of

pat-a-cake in action.

She is handsome, she is pretty,

She is the flower of the golden city.

 

She’s seven months seeded,

sitting out playtime

perched on the edge

of a tartan coverlet

wishing the quilt

and pillow would muffle

anxious appointments,

obligations pressing upon her

and pressing within her

till she can skip over

this rope again forever.

 

Roy MollerRoy Moller is a poet and songwriter who lives in Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland. He is the author of the short-run collection Imports and his work has been featured in the anthologies The Sea (Rebel Poetry) and Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. His musical works include My Week Beats Your Year, described by Louder Than War as “profoundly moving and inspirational”. His website is www.roymoller.com.

Higashi-Koenji 東高円寺 – Anne Louise Avery

 

*Higashi-Koenji is situated in Tokyo’s Suginami ward and is famous as a center of alternative youth culture and for its temples and shrines.

 

The summer my father died

I moved to Higashi Koenji.

The house had new tatami floors

And a fat white cat called Setsuke.

It smelled of cedar wood and mayonnaise. 

It was also

By a video store,

The best in Tokyo

(with every X-Files episode

And sun-faded posters of Peter Sellers).

A lantern carver lived next door.

His mother left me peaches on our stoop

Coated with a thin dusting of mica.

One day, I walked to the station

At six fifteen am to catch a train to Mitaka-shi.

It was my father’s birthday,

The Seventh of July,

And overnight the station people had covered the entrance

With silver stars and 

Long streamers like tentacles 

(Watermelon pink! Slush blue! Frog green!)

For the Tanabata Matsuri, 

The Star Festival,

When the Weaver-girl and the Cow-herd

Meet on a bridge across the Milky Way

Made of magpie wings.

In the evening, I eat grilled eel and

Strawberry cheese cake and

Scratch a wish with marker pen on a thin strip of tanzaku paper. 

And I tie it next to all the other wishes

Bristling on a bamboo branch in Koenji temple.

 

Anne Louise Avery PassportAnne Louise Avery is a writer, art historian and the cartography editor at the travel journal, Panorama (http://panoramajournal.org). Her recent book, Albion’s Glorious Ile, published by Unicorn Press, was featured in the Guardian and on Radio 4. She is also the director of the acclaimed arts education charity, Flash of Splendour. Follow her on Twitter @annelouiseavery and @petitflash.

Blackberrying – J V Birch

 

We walk along the river in Arrowtown

from full sun to dappled shade to welcome shadow.

 

Trees hum with a green to remember

as the shallow water trips and twists over rock bed.

 

We find the fat little jewels of blackberries

race back to our childhoods as we share each bounty

kiss clean each other’s purple-stained fingers

recall the tenderness of us.

 

J V Birch website photoJ V Birch lives in Adelaide. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She has two collections – Smashed glass at midnight and What the water & moon gave me  published by Ginninderra Press, and is currently working on her third. She blogs at www.jvbirch.com.

Pinky Swear – Jayne Martin

 

The caustic odor of rubbing alcohol burns my nostrils, settles on my tongue. A nurse paints Vaseline on my parched lips. I can’t remember the last time I was kissed.

I am tethered to tubes, encased in a coffin of flesh and bone that ignores all commands.

The growing cries of gulls, boardwalk barkers, laughter and shrieks of excitement begin to flood the room.

I sit in the car of a rollercoaster as it chugs and bumps up the steep incline toward the point of no return. Braver kids raise their arms high over their heads. I squeeze my eyes shut until it’s over; say “I want to go again,” relieved when you do not.

The ocean breeze sends salt and sand up onto the walkway where we smoke cigarettes stolen from my mother’s purse and stroll looking for boys. We make up names, Bridgette and Marilyn. Names that sound older and sophisticated unlike our own. We fool no one.

A pipe organ bellows. With fingers still sticky from cotton candy, we board gaily-painted steeds, ride round and round, each time stretching as far as we dare for the brass ring, each time finding it just out of reach.

Our bodies distort in fun house mirrors and we wonder who we will become.

Pinky-swear friends forever.

We do not anticipate the power of decades to divide.

The nurse rolls my body onto its side to slip a fresh sheet beneath, and I see you next to my bedside. You wear our favorite sweater, the rose one we passed back and forth until it unraveled, your smile still a mouthful of braces, your hand outstretched to me. In it, a brass ring.

 

001Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Orphans, Midwestern Gothic, f(r)iction, Blink-Ink, Spelk, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry.” She lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.