The Return Trip – Mark Danowsky

 

My social contract

is a travelogue

 

What I can recall

must be sorted

 

Being social requires

a day to unpack

 

This is how I find

my way back home

 

Mark Danowsky bioMark Danowsky is a poet from Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in About Place, Cordite, Gargoyle, Gravel, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Subprimal, and elsewhere. Mark is Managing Editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and Founder of the poetry coaching and editing service VRS CRFT.

Darjeeling – Sudha Balagopal

 

The voice on the scratchy microphone announces a weather-related train delay. Rubbing cold hands, Jon makes his way to the station’s cafeteria. A petite young woman with high cheekbones sits at a table by the window; her hodgepodge bags lie strewn.

“May I?” he points to the vacant chair.

When she nods, he settles down, orders Darjeeling tea —fitting for Northeastern India. Despite grimy windows, the snow-capped Himalayas are breathtaking, clouds bobbing around majestic peaks.

“I’m Jon.” He rests his elbows on the table. “You’re from here?”

She resettles the woolen shawl over her shoulders. “I’m… Saya.” She gestures toward the mountains, says, “I’m from there,” in accented English.

“Lucky.”

She shrugs.

Tea arrives; he removes the cozy, pours himself a cup.

“I suppose your train’s delayed too? On your way home?” he asks.

“No.”

The tea is delicate, fragrant. She’s prickly.

“I’m heading further north.” He smiles, attempts humor. “Perhaps I’ll find Shangri-La.”

“Good luck.” She frowns. “You won’t have cell phones there, or internet. No movies or restaurants.”

She doesn’t like her mountain home?

He watches as she gathers her belongings and leaves the cafeteria.

***

Later, he spots her huddled against cutting wind, peering at the tracks on the opposite side of the platform. No trains on either side. More raspy words emerge from the microphone.

He pulls the hoodie over his head, approaches her.

“Hello, again!” He intends to inquire about his train.

She doesn’t turn around to look at him.

The wind swirls her words, attempts to take them. He thinks she says, “Go away!”

“Where?” He tries humor again.

“What?”

“I want to find out about this train delay. Please understand I’ve come a long way to see the Himalayas.”

“What you imagine isn’t… I can tell you my mountain village is closed, small, suffocating. The sameness…” She’s bitter; her nostrils quiver.

“I shouldn’t look for lost paradise?” He hopes his smile is disarming.

“You and your Shangri-La!” She turns to look at him, her cheeks red.

“What’s wrong with wanting to find it?” He pulls on gloves, drops the smile.

She glares at him. “It’s not real!”

Another incoherent announcement comes through the system. He tilts his head and closes his eyes to make sense of it.

When he opens them, she’s slipped away in her noiseless manner.

***

He walks into the station manager’s office. They tell him all trains, up and down, are canceled until tomorrow. He must find lodgings for the night.

A commotion as an older, heavy-set man bursts in. “Saya!” he yells, the single word wrapped in menace. Jon doesn’t understand the rest.

While officials attempt to calm the man, Jon’s eyes scour the platforms.

The sun weakens and heavy clouds gather. Soon, the mountains are obscured. Along with Saya, Shangri-La is lost in the horizon.

 

Author2.1Sudha Balagopal’s recent short fiction has appeared in Foliate Oak, Peacock Journal, Right Hand Pointing and Jellyfish Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn, and two short story collections, There are Seven Notes and Missing and Other Stories. Read more at www.sudhabalagopal.com.

Azarquiel Bridge, Toledo – Ray Ball

 

The plateau was hot and dusty.

It claimed me as clay for its baking.

 

I walked to the train station

With feet swollen,

With fingers parched by parchment and paper,

Parched by dry air,

Parched by the past I sought.

 

I seek.

 

I stopped on the bridge to rest,

To watch the water.

The river thirsts.

 

Glimmers of heat reflected off its surface.

For a moment, I saw a watery mirage of the palaces of Galiana.

 

The Tagus has never rushed.

It takes centuries,

Slowly submerging legends.

It wastes no energy as it wends to the sea.

Languid.

 

The river inscribed its banks into dry meseta,

Meandered past the temples of Romans and Visigoths,

Past the homes of Christians and Moors.

They inscribed their parchments with ink.

 

FullSizeRender (1)Ray Ball has a PhD in History and teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage. When not in the classroom or the archives of Europe and Latin America, she enjoys hiking, biking, running marathons, and spending time with her spouse Mark and neurotic beagle Bailey. She has published history books and essays with several presses. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Women Speak and Eunoia Review.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

Number 13 – Claudia Delicato

 

You are the season that keeps me awake

The endemic smile sewn on this sun

this nippy sun

Finding myself awake from a painful sleep

of memories

bad moves

how many do we still consume together?

 

You are the restless conversation

the finger sliding on the brim

when my sight is halted

the eyes that are not observing

digging in a shallow

blue

 

You are the trip, the plane, the train

The car with no fuel

The road with no sign

You are the rainy day when my map is not plasticized

The extra charge on my restaurant bill

You are the short blanket, the cat that doesn’t purr, the host without wine

You keep me sitting at the edge of this chair

While holding my hand firmly

Like you would do with a kite

You are afraid to see fly away.

 

cd-picClaudia Delicato is a 23-year-old Italian momentarily living in Belgium. She has been writing since she learnt how to hold a pen: she loves poetry the most, writing in English, Italian, and Spanish. You can find her work at https://hungerness.com – hungerness is her nom de plume. She is so enthusiastic about sharing her writing (and reading) passion that she started running spoken words events in the city of Ghent.

 

Poem in which I am a Swarm of Cicadas – Lorna Martin

 

we weep out of our old body and leave it

static the crunching of what used to be

our skin is distant like when roots below our

many tender limbs snap there is no

unravelling me from the swarm there is no

untangling but being caught each movement writhes

through all of us each drop of light boils

through all of us we have waited

seventeen years in the earth womb

 

to see the sun and die.

we pile up in gutters roaring

bellowing ourself towards each other

all of it the swarm hot movement

 

the scattered insect our million wings expand

our million eyes on the blur of us

one and the swarm and each tiny beating part of us

moves as one intent and there is no fear no worry

just movement just heat all kinetic and

 

still

my wings tremble

 

Lorna Martinlm-pic‘s work has most recently appeared in A Quiet Courage and Roulade Magazine. She was awarded the 2016 Brunel Writer prize and was shortlisted for the Mslexia Poetry Prize in 2014. Lorna is currently working on her first chapbook of poems. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lornarabbit.

Number 12 – Claudia Delicato

 

Rays of light in the corridor. Tracks of electromagnetic spectrum in floating dust. Bathroom’s door is open. I stretch my leg to plunge my feet in. I fail in practice but my theory is on it. Smell of northern European cities, I turn my head and blame the body lotion. I feel safe in memories. I sink into the tub declaring a national holiday in between my extremities.

 

cd-picClaudia Delicato is a 23-year-old Italian momentarily living in Belgium. She has been writing since she learnt how to hold a pen: she loves poetry the most, writing in English, Italian, and Spanish. You can find her work at https://hungerness.com – hungerness is her nom de plume. She is so enthusiastic about sharing her writing (and reading) passion that she started running spoken words events in the city of Ghent.

What I could do, but won’t – Jessica Hanson

 

I could put on those shoes there

the little ones

unlock the door and walk out

and not stop walking until I reached somewhere I wanted to be

where I could escape from the inexorable emptiness inside me

as empty as the house I have deserted.

No one need know, as long as I am back by sundown

yet I know I will not

(it’s not what people do)

I know I will sit here and dream of waves breaking

on far-away shores

of sunsets over foreign towns.

And I will learn to be content.

 

Jessica Hanson is an 18 year old with a love of writing, travelling and books. She tweets at @JessicaGraceH.

dsc_2666

The red suitcase – Roma Havers

 

And here I sit and pack my soul

into the red red suitcase.

 

For I am paper planes

Crisping under sunlight through a magnifying glass,

 

and she is the hand waving,

behind the glass.

 

They are all hands waving,

pressing nails beneath our eyes

to hold in the salt water;

for the make an ocean here would drown us.

 

And I do not know whether I will feel further away;

the last few months have been the distance

that I tracked with string, holding our lines together

like a spider’s web across the map.

there was no salt water between us then,

only the rising flesh of the earth’s own secretion.

 

When I get there I will light a lantern for you.

and let the mist of distance breathe in the cracks between us.

 

 

roma-haversRoma Havers is a Manchester-based poet, currently in her third year of an Drama and English degree at The University of Manchester where she is the Books Editor for The Mancunion and Chair of the Creative Writing Society. She performs regularly at spoken word nights, and events such as Reclaim the Night and UniPresents.

 

 

Map logic – Elizabeth Gibson

 

How simple you are: a strip

of land, two big roads going

up like arteries, nothing more.

A thin triangle, a lone figure.

Past your head you crumble,

scattering fragments of earth

and water, hair that is rocky

and damp with storm. I can

place my hand over you and

I can ache for you. Yet I feel

distanced. I wonder whether

you were ever mine, really.

 

Here I am in the hexagon of

dreams. It is like a parachute

stretched out, the sort we ran

under as kids. It is also like a

star, as gaudy and as hot. We

are vast. We are a bloody big

country, you forget how big.

From Paris roads spiral out,

pulsing, like the white lines

of an orange. How can I feel

so alone here? We are so big.

We are connected. And yet…

 

egibson

Elizabeth Gibson is the founder of Foxglove Journal. She is a Masters student at the University of Manchester and a Digital Reporter for Manchester Literature Festival. She is a member of The Writing Squad and her work has appeared in The Cadaverine, London Journal of FictionFar Off Places, Octavius, Severine and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She won second prize in The Poetry Society’s 2016 Timothy Corsellis Prize. She tweets at @Grizonne, Facebooks at https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethGibsonWriterPoet and blogs at http://elizabethgibsonwriter.blogspot.co.uk.