First Available Cousin – Ray Busler

 

It had still been dark when we were called. It wasn’t a pajama run; I was dressed, but still slept a few miles in the car. There were no cousins for me to play with this time. We lived closest, most available for urgency, first on the scene.

I couldn’t wait on the big porch, too much winter for that now. I missed the wooden swing, missed the creaking and mesmerizing motion of the thing. Last summer we rode, four cousins abreast in that swing for hours of false alarm. My oldest cousin told of broken swing chains and loose eye bolts that, in some parallel child universe sent chubby pink tots, not unlike myself, sailing in full pendulant moment, sailing loose in the air before finding the steel spikes of the wrought iron fence well below porch level. A lucky one missed the fence to be only crucified in the mock orange bush. She was saved, as the tale went, by an uncle by marriage, and merely had her eyes gouged out by thorns for her trouble. We cousins loved that swing, relished the idea of it and I longed for the day I could be the oldest cousin and tell the tale, with some improvements that I whetted in idle mental minutes.

Now, it was winter and I waited in stale stifle too near the gas logs in the parlor. When there was a full complement of cousins the parlor was off limits, too many fragile memories to be exposed to the rough usage of youth. One was an acceptable number though. I sat on my hands deliberately avoiding the sensuous feel of Dresden figurines and the other flotsam of irreplaceable family history.

There was, almost lost in the repeating wallpaper pattern of pink roses, a painting – a woodcut really. Japanese, I suppose today, assuming that then future role of older cousin. Blue ink and black, with a touch of red in the eye of a rampant, distant sea risen dragon, an icon of the storm in the foreground. The real hero of the drawing was the wave about to crash down on a frail boat. There could be no possible reprieve from that wave. It was a wave of inevitability. I watched the wave until I could hear a phantom wind, smell spectral salt and rotting squid. I watched the wave until…

“Your Grandmother has passed on.” The words woke me.

“Do you understand? Do you understand what I mean by death? Your Grandmother is dead.”

Of course I understood death. That’s why we were here, wasn’t it?

 

Ray lives in Alabama with his long suffering wife of 40 years. That is to say she is older than 40, but didn’t suffer for the first 20.  Ray writes for the pleasure of the writing, and the joy of inflicting it upon others.

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.

Prunus Pumila – Carl Boon

 

Snow lay atop the boxwoods

all winter,

lather on skin,

and shielded

the sand cherry’s branches.

Now the dead wood

splinters when I pull,

and the leaves have bronzed

early. What should be neon-

red this sunset’s

glimmerless, a girl

too long neglected.

On the south slope

January comes—

Lake Erie finds its way

and waits.

 

I read it’s part rose,

part shade, where my father

used to sit and study

the broadening pin-oak.

The final spring he lived

it shone hot pink,

the blood of the lawn

he watched grow

nights like this,

nights in a chair with coffee,

the hedge a memory,

the trellis empty

of the purples we knew as kids.

 

Today I drew away

as much of the dead as I could.

My wrists grew furious

cutting, aligning, motioning

to corners of the yard

unseen in decades.

I stood back,

then I moved forward

as my father might’ve,

at peace with what remained.

 

cb-picCarl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently Burnt Pine, Two Peach, Lunch Ticket, and Poetry Quarterly. He is also a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.

The blank page – Katie Lewington

 

Can be a snowy winter setting

duvet without a cover

love note

origami swan

aeroplane

printed work

a tissue

newspaper

for writing notes

a rag or duster

wrapper

sleeve note

receipt

-treasurer of chewed gum

flyer

manifesto

poem or story

a yes or no answer

for the question

do you want to be my boyfriend

bad news

rejection

a grave of truth.

 

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.