The Plaque – Kate Whitehead

 

Aileen stands in the upstairs bedroom of the holiday home, sensing subtle traces of him: a faint sharp aroma of old spice, a musky hint of pipe tobacco. Dazzled by the surprise of another day’s sunshine, she peers down at the historical tableau: kids jumping from the high stone harbour walls, catapulting magically through space.

She reaches into the musty wardrobe for a pinstriped dress belted at the waist, pats her close coiled curls and applies the peachy orange lipstick. Strapped into beige high heeled sandals, she navigates the cobbles, steps lightly and confidently down the hill, greeting familiar faces with a casual nod.

If he were here today, she thinks, we would walk together, mad dogs in the noonday sun marvelling in unison at the fantastic summer that reminds us of 1976. In her solo state, this unexpected burst of blue brilliance only accentuates her sense of loss, twisted under the harsh glare.

Her foundation trickles down her right cheek, melting in the brightest sun of the day. She’s tempted to retreat into the cool cavern but doggedly continues her weekly constitutional, climbing the haphazard steps, breathlessly gulping at the still salt air.

Aileen rests for a moment at the top, scowls disapprovingly at the floating detritus, discarded takeaway boxes tangled in the early brambles. Her scowl falls into a small self-congratulatory smile as she admires the deceptively distant elegant grey contours of the holiday home, sandwiched proudly in the middle of the granite.

Huddled at one end of the splintered brown bench with the missing slat, a blonde woman sits clutching a small notebook.

“Sorry, should I move?” she asks, half grimacing, half smiling – Aileen can’t be sure.

“No, there’s more than enough room for the two of us,” Aileen drawls authoritatively.

The blonde woman scours her small trove of uncontroversial chit chat, talks about the weather for the tenth time that morning.

She’s called Alice and she lives in the village all year round, at the top of the hill.

Aileen half listens to Alice mulling over shards of a memory of him.

“Oh, just look at that time, I’m late for lunch!” Aileen exclaims, slicing into Alice’s monologue about autumn in the village.

Standing up dizzily, Aileen turns and notices it, larger, bolder, golder, recently screwed on: the second plaque, below her husband’s.

Aileen trembles, shocked and enraged at the blatant unbelievable audacity of this thing that’s appeared overnight.

She spits the words at Alice. “They can’t do this, not without my permission, this bench is ours, we paid 500 pounds to put the plaque there in his memory because he loved the village so much.

“I need to talk to someone about this, someone who knows I need an explanation.”

“So you own the bench, do you?” Alice mutters indignantly, resentful at being privy to such a morbidly intricate drama.

“Goodbye then, enjoy your day,” Aileen growls, slowly regaining her starchy composure.

Alice observes Aileen’s cautious descent back down the steps and over to the other side of the harbour, paralysed by an overpowering sense of gloom. She raises reluctantly from the bench, her daily dose of calm contaminated by the morbid nature of this revelation…

Aileen sits on a stool in her porch, unstraps her beige high heels, shuts her eyes and imbibes the familiar scent: dusty tomato plants mingled with the spicy cinnamon of her tiny purple orchids.

She can’t decide: will it be lunch first, then the stern phone call to the woman at the chapel, who knows everything, to get to the bottom of the troubling matter of the second plaque?

After a single glass of merlot, suffused with transient drowsy contentment, she wistfully recalls her husband’s easy-going good nature and lets it go, the matter of the second plaque. His words chime in her head, gently mocking.

“Well, what harm can it do, two plaques on the bench? I’m happy to be with the other fellow anyway.”

It’s the end of her solo summer sojourn in the holiday home, drifting through the huge rooms, relieved when the huge sun sinks leaving her shrouded in a comforting twilight blanket. She watches the evening news, tut-tutting at the relentless stupidity of it all, crochets for the grandchildren then slides gratefully under the lavender-scented sheets.

Alice seeks out a new bench for her morning calm the following day, on the other side of the harbour. It is slightly concealed by overhanging branches and next to an overflowing litter bin buzzing with flies. If she twists her head slightly to the right, she can see the golden yellow contours of her own home high up above the harbour. She reaches behind her, runs her hands along with the rough wood, relieved to find it unadorned, seized by an unexpected feeling of gratitude that time hasn’t outsmarted her yet.

 


Kate’s Whitehead’s short fiction often has a strong sense of place. She did gain a certificate in creative writing from Birkbeck but ultimately has gained more inspiration form reading widely and voraciously and listening to authors she admires talking about their approach to writing. Her writing has been published in online literary journals, fanzines and the print publications Confluence and Impspired.

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Walking the Dales Way in Autumn – Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon

 

Rain-glistened raised roots

emerald moss-coated stones

water spattered, spreading cow pats

slippery wooden footbridges

rocking, ancient stiles

with hard-sprung gates –

 

all conspire to tumble me as I walk

our old ways in these Dales

long swept by winds, storms,

artists’ eyes, mizzle and sunlight.

 

Somehow, I stay upright

and advance slowly, mindful

of the present moment

rich with overflows

of tricky beauty

as breezes waft smells of byre

and mulch of fallen, slithered leaves –

 

I find I am

unbalanced only by time

about to run out.

 


Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook is ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press, July 2019. She is developing practice as participatory arts facilitator. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

Gaia’s Song – Claire Shaw

 

We start slow

Let the fire burn low

As the shadows grow

by Moon Mother’s glow

Wait

 

Lick the grease from our fingers

Breathe the smoke in that lingers

Wait

 

Test the ground with our feet

Wait for the beat

The thrum

Feel the life in the peat

The hum

We drum

 

We dance

fling the embers as we spin

a trance

there’s heat on our skin

a chance

to feel the fire burn within

 

and now we’re striped with sweat and dust

 

we’re dripping

with the scent of musk

heady incense

burning lust

 

and we are bound

to the sound

of the beat

that we found

at the hearth at the heart of the world

 


Claire Shaw is an emerging UK-born poet and author whose work has appeared in publications including Black Hare Press, The Dawntreader, Silkworm and Grimsy. She currently resides in The Netherlands with her husband and two cats and works in Digital Marketing. She loves to travel, practice her photography, and read like it’s going out of fashion.

diner – Tammy L. Breitweiser

 

A three day trip

A torn plastic booth

White stuffing protruding

From the wound.

Bandaged haphazardly with silver tape

 

The aroma of stirring coffee with a spoon

On day 16.

Fills my nose

But my mind is still on

Six driving hours and two time changes

 

Misty droplets roll in from the lake

The fog horn is not the sound

Which concerns me.

 

“I am four years old

The year I learn to lie,”

Says my little companion.

Elsa always told me

“Don’t get attached”

 

What else do you need?

“Pink marshmallow mountains”

You had a bowl of ice cream

I had a glass of tequila and lime.

 

We drive down Highway 90

The bridge from old life to new.

I grip the wheel and think about

All the times I have driven on this road

Where I was going and how

A boy started the whole thing.

 


Tammy L. Breitweiser writes, walks, inspires, and teaches. She is the conjurer of everyday magic with short concise poems and stories. Her fiction has been published in Gone Lawn, Cabinets of Heed, Spelk, Five on the Fifth, Clover and White, Fiction Berlin Kitchen, Shorts Magazine, and Elephants Never. She is the lead moderator for the Sarah Selecky Centered community and a teacher for the school.  You can connect with Tammy through IG @inspiretammyb.

Life with a View – John Short

 

Gascony

 

After we parted yesterday

the grass was dancing.

You’d wanted kind words

but I was happily silent.

 

Outside the old room

with flaking plaster walls

I sat on the porch

and watched young frogs

hop through vines.

 

Rough wine from oak barrels.

I drank it on the porch

as the world seemed to dance.

 

Beyond fields of maize

and bright yellow rapeseed

your village perches

with its pink roof jumble.

 

From the highest point

land shimmers like mirage.

We see for miles

to glacial mountains

ascending from the plain.

 


John Short studied Comparative Religion at Leeds University (UK) then spent many years in France, Spain and Greece doing a variety of jobs. In 2008 he returned to Liverpool and a couple of years later began submitting work to magazines. Now internationally published, he’s appeared in places like Pennine Platform, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Ink Sweat & Tears, Envoi, French Literary Review and The High Window. In 2018 he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by StepAway Magazine and has been featured twice as Poet of the Month on the Write Out Loud national poetry forum. He lives in Liverpool, is a member of Liver Bards and reads at local venues and beyond.

Breakfast Club – Jeffrey Joseph

 

I take my daughter into Breakfast Club,

Tracksuit bottoms sparking as I force myself along,

And leg ends heavy with damp;

She skips beside me, taut with a promise of the new,

Her sentences long, long, her questions unanswerable,

Her laughter unanswerable.

 

In the busy, smelly, milk and plimsoll hall, she stands bemused –

Aware, perhaps, that something is changing,

Hearing across a span which I have lost

(Or, if not lost, forgotten),

The din of warring hopes.

 

Through the window I see her – a uniformed dot –

Move, unnoticed, to her place.

 


Jeffrey Joseph was born in London in 1952 and was educated at the University of York, University College Cardiff and at The Open University. He worked at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before spending many years as Performance Manager at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. He is a heavily published musical journalist and poet. His music has been performed on the South Bank, at St John’s Smith Square, in Westminster Abbey, in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, throughout Europe and in Africa and the USA. He is published by Warwick Music/Hal Leonard Music and is distributed on-line by lulu.com.

Who I’m Really Thinking About When My Grandaughter Assumes I’m Missing Her Grandfather and Gives Me that Soft-Sweet Look – Diane D. Gillette

 

I remember Rita in her pink kitten heels, her hair coiffed up in a lavender helmet, her lips leaving ruby stained proof of her existence on my neck. She tasted like merlot, and sounded like the sigh after a storm. I remember the pretty way she danced around my living room to the Nat King Cole record she brought over. Her hips entranced me, and I pulled her back on the couch so we could make love all over again. I remember the way her gardenia perfume settled into my pores for days after she was gone. How I could feel her skin under my hands, soft like butter, for weeks, for months, if I just closed my eyes and thought about her. I remember the taste of rain in the air when she drove away. I remember thinking that no matter what she said or believed, she’d come back. I remember finding the wedding announcement from the newspaper. Or rather, it found me. A manila envelope with no return address. No note attached. Just the announcement, snipped and clipped so sharp – a papercut right to the heart. It said the bride had been beautiful. But there’s no way Rita could have been as beautiful as she had been dancing in my living room.

 


Diane D. Gillette (she/her) lives in Chicago. Her work is a Best Small Fictions selection. Her chapbook We’re All Just Trying to Make It to January 2nd is available through Fahmidan & Co. Publishing. She is a founding member of the Chicago Literary Writers. Read more at www.digillette.com.

The Beach of the Cathedrals – Glenn Hubbard

 

The pseeping of pipits. The ticking

of robins. The flicking of redstarts.

Is the curtain-raiser.

 

Descend to the sand to walk up

dark naves. Arches and stacks

of schist and layered slate.

 

Stop to peer into the cracks and caves,

the patient work of tireless waves. Wait.

To hear the drip of fresh water.

 

Blue mussels in dense colonies.

Clenched goose barnacles in clusters.

Safety in numbers.

 

Near the shore

note the pools.

How they shelve.

 

Imagine the sun-tempered cool

on a day in July. The slide

in from the soft edge.

 

The sand sucks at the soles

of your shoes. Ascend,

the sound of the sea dissipating.

 

The pseeping of pipits. The ticking

of robins. The flicking of redstarts.

Is the send-off.

 


Glenn Hubbard has been writing since 2013 and lives at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid. He has written a good deal of nature poetry over the years, inspired by the flora and fauna of both Spain and the UK. Some of this work has been published in journals such as Words for the Wildthe Dawntreader and Sarasvati.

don’t – Mark Goodwin

 

don’t

 

try to tell

a wet shape

 

silent but for

grasses’ grasping

 

at it

 

that the five

snail shells lit

 

like tiny bulbs of

coloured glass

 

kept in wet’s

cradling

 

palms

 

cannot hold

solid

 

sound

 


Mark Goodwin is a poet-sound-artist, and speaks & writes in various ways. He is also a walker, balancer, stroller, & climber. He has a number of books & chapbooks with various poetry houses, including Leafe Press, Longbarrow Press, Nine Arches Press, & Shearsman Books. His poetry was included in The Ground Aslant – An Anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry edited by Harriet Tarlo (Shearsman Books 2011) and The Footing edited by Brian Lewis (Longbarrow Press 2013). His latest chapbook – a compressed mountain travelogue called Erodes On Air – was recently published in North America by Middle Creek. Mark lives with his partner on a narrowboat just north of Leicester. He tweets poems from @kramawoodgin, and some of his sound-enhanced poetry is here: https://markgoodwin-poet-sound-artist.bandcamp.com.

Index of Sylvia Plath’s Journals Used to Make a Poem – Anna Percy

 

I cannot and I cannot and enough heartbeat and warmth enough and you won’t see him if he asks again would no doubt be shallow the lady or the tiger encouraging letter I met a man I moved to a new house at midnight excerpt bronze boy night after night screaming only listen to me this last once I thought even dreaming of being strewn with starfish and shells we also had trouble yesterday the rejection girl thought she wanted each wrapped why don’t I write? So the headlines blare the two of them in an unidentified hand

 


Anna Percy has been writing for the page, stage and publication since 2004 mostly in the North of England. In 2010 she co founded the feminist collective Stirred Poetry. She has three full length collections with Flapjack Press. This poem is from an upcoming pamphlet The Everlasting Now from Some Roast Poets.

You’re so cool – Anna Idelevich

 

A tear mist stettled on the city

and I can’t see, I don’t write for show-off,

I’m driving on the night road of interconnections, you can’t see

point blank,

but it is audible, audible as if the stars are pouring ointments,

on the rustle.

I am one of them small, millionth.

Communication with you is nothing but needles,

but it’s dark in the car, I’m sitting lit up,

let’s say lit, but the Universe was not enough

gunpowder,

and it’s just a silhouette filled up with you

light, do not remove all the sadness from the stains,

and you can call for a long time and pull your hands into the distance.

Such a nebula over the city

illegal,

your colossus is reinforced concrete,

but the song sounds not funeral, but restless,

as if window tokens were nailed through the air to

rest,

and if there is no time, then there is neither river nor bank,

turn your head, I am parallel to you, to the fire and

time.

 


Anna Idelevich is a scientist by profession, Ph.D., MBA, trained in the neuroscience field at Harvard University. She writes poetry for pleasure. Her books and poetry collections include DNA of the Reversed River and Cryptopathos published by the Liberty Publishing House, NY. Anna’s poems were published by BlazeVOX, Louisville Review, Salmon Creek Journal, Bourgeon Magazine, In Parenthesis, O:J&A, Gyroscope Review among others. She hopes you will enjoy their melody, new linguistic tone, and a slight tint of an accent.

A Summer’s Afternoon in Castile – Glenn Hubbard

 

Endless August afternoon.

Vegetation yellows.

Seed heads

sizzle and pop.

Their beaks

open wide,

distressed,

beside themselves,

the small birds

are overheating.

Only the kite,

tirelessly circling

above the exhausted

earth, endlessly

adjusting the angle

of its forked tail,

appears unaffected.

 

Then a breeze arrives like a blessing

and in the tiny pools spangling the river bed

the pond skaters ride the ripples

while the dragonflies, momentarily spooked,

rise and stand off a while

until the rushes come to rest once more.

Up above, the leaves of the poplar

tremble, sparkle and click.

Down below, the dozy dogs

prick up their ears.

And out on the stubble,

the never-knowingly-not-nibbling sheep

raise their heads

in slack-jawed, dumb surprise.  

 


Glenn Hubbard has been writing since 2013 and lives at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid. He has written a good deal of nature poetry over the years, inspired by the flora and fauna of both Spain and the UK. Some of this work has been published in journals such as Words for the Wildthe Dawntreader and Sarasvati.

Sleep Revolutions – Anna Percy

 

Awakened from a dream

where in a repetitive

 

fashion

I

tattoo

 

elaborate scenes on the                 meatiest part of my thighs

in reality my skin is altered             by mere sunlight age and accident

I do not see the images                     fully formed each viewing they are

in lasered stages b l u r r e d             into obscurity for the next round

the sense arises that this cycle     of subjecting myself to pain

for an artistic vision                             is trying to tell me something

 

about my poetry about how I make the same mistakes again and again

 

like blueberry gin after midnight

and emotionally distant men

 


Anna Percy has been writing for the page, stage and publication since 2004 mostly in the North of England. In 2010 she co founded the feminist collective Stirred Poetry. She has three full length collections with Flapjack Press. This poem is from an upcoming pamphlet The Everlasting Now from Some Roast Poets.

I Have Walked This Path Before – James G. Piatt

 

I am peering through raindrops, which are

washing away my memories watching the past

fade as I walk along an old path I have walked on

many times before.

 

I have walked this path before, in the springtime

when cheery trees were pink with blossoms,

giant maple trees were showing their pink buds,

and young animals in their new born freedom

loped along the river, carefree, and filled with the

excitement of new birth.

 

I have walked this path before when the summer

heat silently placed its warmth upon my

shoulders as I sat on a beach chair near a placed

pond thinking about the beauty of nature, and

listening to the sweet warbling of tiny songbirds.

 

I have walked this path before when autumn’s

slowly increasing winds started their polished

journey into winter with whispered hints of

fading time, and the sun was covered with dark

moisture filled clouds.

 

I have walked this path before when the chill of

winter blurred my footsteps, tiny birds took

refuge in bushes and I, bundled up in wools and

layered cotton, pondered on the coldness of the

season, and what I should etch onto the marble

face of my tombstone.

 


James is an internationally published poet, a Best of Web nominee and three time Pushcart nominee. He has had four poetry books; Solace Between the Lines, Light, Ancient Rhythms, and The Silent Pond, 1500 poems, five novels, and 35 short stories published worldwide. He earned his doctorate from BYU, and his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, SLO. He writes poetry to maintain his sanity, and sometimes succeeds.

Baskett Slough III – Marc Janssen

 

The milk sun combs uncombed fields

While

An atonal chorus of geese concert invisibly directly overhead.

 

All around

The illusion of softness

In the graceful curving hill-scapes,

Rust carpets of oak leaves,

Before it is broken by an insincere tittering of human voices.

 


Marc Janssen lives in a house with a wife who likes him and a cat who loathes him. Regardless of that turmoil, his poetry can be found scattered around the world in places like Penumbra, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and Poetry Salzburg. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and was a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate.