The Piano – Robert James Berry

 

When you played,

the display china plates

would tinkle.

I’d imagine them falling

especially when you trilled,

which was integral,

a profound thrill. But

most of all I loved

the big-boned silence

between black chords,

now that was resounding.

 

 

RJBRobert James Berry lives and writes in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is the author of nine collections of poetry: ‘Smoke’ (2000), ‘Stone’ (2004), ‘Seamark’ (2005),’Sky Writing’ (2006),’Sun Music’ (2007),’Mudfishes’ (2008), ‘Moontide’ (2010), ‘Swamp Palace’ (2012) and ‘Toffee Apples’ (2014). His poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as ‘Stand’ (Leeds, UK), ‘Poetry Salzburg’ (Salzburg, Austria), ‘Westerly’ (Perth, AUS), ‘Rattapallax’ (NY, USA) and ‘Landfall’ (Dunedin, NZ). Robert was born in the UK and educated in England, Ireland and Scotland. He holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Stirling, Scotland and MA and BA degrees from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. He has lectured in English Literature at universities in England, Malaysia and New Zealand. He is married with three sons.

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Lacuna – Alfie Prendergast

 

Lacuna means a gap in something;

like we don’t know how they built Stonehenge.

That’s a lacuna.

We have a lacuna in our knowledge about Stonehenge.

A Stonehenge lacuna.

I used to have a lacuna lacuna but then I looked it up.

It has the same root as lake.

Latin: lacus, meaning pool.

Which is odd. Because a pool, a lake,

is by definition a gap filled.

The big empty lake-shaped space in the earth is filled

with water; making it a lake.

Otherwise it would be a crater.

From the Greek: krasis, meaning mixture, then krater,

meaning mixing bowl.

Which also suggests a gap filled

with whatever’s being mixed.

 

I suppose all lacunas are filled.

Pools, mixing bowls. The water in them

is so perfectly clear that we can’t see it.

It is the same temperature as our bodies.

It is empty space. But it is there.

Thin and fluid,

awaiting murky knowledge.

shining a light in the dark, the edge of the light.

The border of the darkness is the lacuna.

It’s empty but full.

 

 

unnamed (1)Alfie Prendergast is a writer currently studying an MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He writes about human futures, occult pasts and thoughts overheard. He is currently working on his first novel, as well as producing Open Mic Podcast; a literary reading podcast which hopes to capture the intrepid energy of open mic reading nights in podcast form.

A Storm in My Heart – Geraldine McCarthy

 

We sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor, slugging cheap red wine. Our combined CD collections lie in a heap between us.

“How’re you set for tomorrow’s classes?” Kate asks, ever smiling, ever upbeat.

I frown. “I think my lesson plans are okay, but I hope my supervisor doesn’t come ‘til next week.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re a bit of a perfectionist, Rachel?” she says, gently. “Me, I hope my notes are good enough. After that, Mr Davis will have to take me as he finds me.”

We have a tendency to talk shop. Thursday night, our housemates are out on the batter, but we need to be reasonably fresh for school.

“So, what are we going to play next?” I ask, stretching my legs to avoid the feeling of pins and needles.

“‘Here Comes the Sun.’” Kate puts the CD in, closes her eyes, throws back her head, and smiles.

The tune fills the room. I can see how it would be her favourite. I sip more wine and marvel at the simplicity of the lyrics.

The song ends and we allow a silence to settle.

“Your turn,” she says.

I hesitate. “It’s called ‘A Storm in My Heart.’” I flip through the CDs, find Dolores Keane, and kneel to pop the disc in the player. Music fills the room and I feel like an empty Coke can being tossed down the street in the wind.

The smile slips from Kate’s face. Song over, she is first to speak.  “It’s a bit dark, isn’t it?”

“I suppose.” An image of Dan in his best suit comes to me unbidden. He wore it  – navy with a delicate pinstripe – at my cousin’s wedding. Our last outing.

“Maybe we should finish up for the night,” she says, “in case of a supervision tomorrow?”

“You’re right.” I tidy the CDs into two neat piles.

We troop upstairs.

I toss and turn in my bed. Five years I’d gone out with Dan. It started with the Debs. I invited him. Always that insecurity that I was the one to ask him. Then, last summer when I got back from a holiday in Australia, he said he’d been seeing someone else.

They say grieving for a living person is worse than grieving for the dead. They also say we can create hell in our own heads. Is that what I’ve been doing?

Before drifting off to sleep, I imagine tree branches becoming still again, clouds parting, debris being swept away, and a ray of sneaky sunshine poking through.

 

 

IMG_0407Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. In a former life she was involved in tutoring, lecturing, translation and research. She has been writing short stories and flash fiction for nearly three years now. Her work has been published in The Fable Online, The Incubator Journal, Seven Deadly Sins: a YA Anthology (Gluttony, Wrath, Avarice), Scarlet Leaf Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction and Every Day Fiction. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/cruthaitheacht.

Reluctant Diver – Susan Richardson

 

I move toward the pool with delusions

of grace coursing through my muscles,

eager to feel the sky against my skin.

I am caught on the wings of a dream,

limbs in perfect formation,

like a bird in tandem with the wind

plunging toward the water.

I stop to linger in the scent of flight.

The smell of chlorine attacks my senses,

tearing doubt into my imagination.

I stumble to the ladder and start

my climb to the 3- meter board,

a thimble of fright tapping

a ballad across my rib bones.

Cold metal screams against my feet,

vines of anxiety crawling with skill

up the back of my neck.

I look nervously toward my coach,

pleading for a glimmer of confidence

or a fistful of staunch advice.

“If your fear is greater than your desire,

climb down”, she tells me.

It turns out I’m not a bird after all.

I prefer my feet on the ground.

 

 

 

IMG_0069Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles.  In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called, Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, The Writing Disorder and Eunoia Review, among others.  She was awarded the Sheila – Na – Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize, featured in the Literary Juice Q&A Series, and chosen as the Ink Sweat & Tears March 2018 Poet of the Month.  She also writes for the Arts and Lit Collective, Morality Park.

Gone – Kenneth Pobo

 

While eating at a diner just north

of Shreveport,

the world ended.

I hadn’t even gotten

my cherry pie yet.

A drizzly day, clouds

had many vacancies.

 

I’d like to remember Earth

at seventy-five degrees,

an abundance of Winston Churchill

fuchsias blooming

in a window box

held to a wooden garage.

Instead,

 

a confused moon mourns

tides it can no longer turn.

 

 

imagejpeg_0_2 (2)Kenneth Pobo had a book of ekphrastic poems published in 2017 by Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. Forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House is a book of his prose poems called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Check out Ink Pantry, Brittle Star, and West Texas Literary Review to find more of his work.

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.

Plastic Wing Beats – Beth O’Brien

 

Bird wings beat in a tree nearby

and it sounds like someone is repeatedly shaking

a 10p bag.

Not a flimsy 5p one, or a sturdy bag-for-life,

but the one in between.

 

I realise I know more about plastic bags than bird life

and think it is sad I’m comparing something natural

to something that isn’t,

because I’m sure it should be the other way around;

 

but I have never thought a carrier bag

sounded like wing beats before –

and I still don’t.

 

 

unnamed (3)Beth O’Brien is currently studying a degree in English Literature at the University of Birmingham. She loves reading, writing, food and seeing the world – when any of these overlap, she loves them even more!

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.

Chocolate – Robert Beveridge

 

If I could take a drop

of honey from the tongue of Satan,

 

or dip my silver chalice

in an Erewhon river of chocolate,

 

I would feed you, my lips to yours.

 

Instead I have filled my mouth

with words, my cup

with water from a mudpuddle

 

still I ask you

take your nourishment

from me

 

 

20160903225845_IMG_2924_20160903230828315Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Savant-Garde, Other People’s Flowers, and The Indiana Horror Review, among others.

The Laws of Physics – Richard Luftig

 

There is a pull

of a new moon

tonight, a yield

of starlight

that blinks

on, then off, as

only the clouds

command. Down

 

wind, the piers

that jut from

shore to shoals

are statues

with freezing arms

where even

barnacles sag

from dripping

ice. A neap

 

tide that refuses

to rest makes

whispers that

can still awaken

the waves while

along these sea-oak

shores, a jetty

that just a few

short hours ago

made a beach

 

now worries

the sand and

constantly tells

us as we struggle

to make a safe

harbor about

the gravity

of our situation.

 

 

just-dad-2Richard Luftig is a former professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio now residing in California. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Canada, Australia, Europe, and Asia. Two of his poems recently appeared in The Best Ten Years of Dos Madres Press.

Musings on my 49th birthday and my eccentric, slightly worn-out body – Claire Sexton

 

I’m 49 years old and I’ve just decided that I like my body.

I like my deep-set eyes; the ones that make people think I am something

I am not; an accident of genetics; an unexplained phenomenon.

 

I like my crooked nail and my birthmark that looks like a permanent

bruise; inflicted by a pugilist god.

Like my flesh is showcasing my emotional vulnerability. My perceived tenderness.

 

I like my freckles and my age spots too. I like my knobbly knees and

elbows, my tendency to put on weight

sideways, not front-ways. Like a wobbly Welsh dresser, or iced custard tart.

 

I like my Irish colouring. So pale that make-up never quite produces

a shade light enough. Never accounts

for the least brazen amongst us. Always, still, venerates the fake-golden calf.

 

I even like my teeth, with their precarious overhang, and odd, eclectic vibe.

Like an informal wake, or

an overture of broken, slightly unpredictable, but still cherished, individuals.

 

I like my backwards glance, my gallows humour, my department store

trauma, and my elevator musak – my

creative flow. Singing in the bath and talking to cats. Like a glamorous diva.

 

I like my body. I like its quirky knobs and buttons, its tatty china cups and

clattering-lid teapot.

And finally, I like the fact that it keeps on going. I like the fact I’m still alive.

 

 

 

Foxglove picClaire Sexton is a forty-something librarian living and working in London. She also writes poetry and occasionally creative non-fiction. She has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Foxglove Journal, Amaryllis, Stare’s Nest, Peeking Cat Poetry and other magazines. She has just adopted a magnificent tortie cat called Queenie.

Belly Button – Belinda Rimmer

 

On days so dark

I think only of eclipses

my fingers ache from probing

as I try to find a fragment

of my mother

inside my belly button.

 

One small discovery

and we could be reconciled.

Hours with only fluff

and other debris to show.

My belly feels sore, tight.

 

Nothing prepares me

for a seahorse,

a bloody seahorse,

stuck part way out,

tail hooked.

I ease it onto my chest.

 

In a bowl of salty water

it bobs about, happily.

 

What is it trying to tell me?

 

To forget the whole nurturing business,

focus on making your own way

or get what you need from books,

there are plenty of good mothers (and fathers)

lurking within the pages.

 

Note: Male seahorses give birth; neither parent care for their young.

 

 

Profile18Belinda has had a varied career: psychiatric nurse, counsellor, lecturer and creative arts practitioner. Her poems have appeared in magazines, for example, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, ARTEMISpoetry and Obsessed with Pipework. She has poems on-line and in anthologies. She won the Poetry in Motion Competition to turn her poem into a film and read at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. You can find her at belindarimmer.com.

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.

Brick – Samuel W. James

 

Feel the slugs sliming on your underneath

and wait for summer, when a colony of ants

may claim you as their spot. Feel the kick

as you hop off the road, and the landing.

Think about your situation on the pavement.

 

Feel the mosses and lichens take hold

as flakes and cracks drive into your outer layer.

Feel them checked for insects by birds,

and the many threads of spider web left.

Think about your situation on the pavement.

 

 

SWJ picSamuel W. James’ poems can also be found in AllegroThe Eyewear ReviewThe Fortnightly ReviewDissident VoiceThe Literary HatchetAmsterdam QuarterlyLondon GripClockwise CatPeeking CatSentinel QuarterlyScarlet Leaf ReviewDoor is a JarThe Beautiful SpaceElsewhere Journal and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Wings – Arlene Antoinette

 

Driving home from the rehab center,

my mind filled with thoughts of my

father who was recuperating from a heart

attack, I watched as a buzzard attempted

to land atop a streetlight post. Oddly, his feet

missed the perch, I ducked while driving

afraid he would fall, splat, onto the roof of

my car. Of course, that result never occurred

to the winged creature who flapped his wings

a total of three times and landed steadily on

the post which was the goal from the beginning.

I laughed at myself, not believing how foolish

I had been to think the vulture could be grounded

so easily.

 

 

stillmyeye

Arlene Antoinette is a poet of West Indian birth, who has given her heart to Brooklyn, New York where she spent her formative years. Her work has been published in Foxglove Journal, Little Rose Magazine, Tuck Magazine, I am not a silent poet, The Open Mouse, Neologism Poetry Journal, 50-Word Stories, A Story In 100 Words, The Ginger Collect, The Feminine Collective, Boston Accent Lit, Amaryllis, Your Daily Poem, Sick Lit Magazine, Postcard Shorts and Girlsense and Nonsense.