Eustace – Sandra Arnold

 

The shock of seeing Eustace in the charity shop window almost rattled Miranda out of her skin. She’d never believed her parents’ insistence that they hadn’t got rid of him. But twenty years later there he was. Eustace as he’d looked at the edge of the sea, watching her father tip grandpa’s ashes into the waves. Watching her father’s tears as the arc of grey grit hit the water. Listening to tales of grandpa’s fishing days; how he’d taught generations of boys to swim and fish and sail; how he was the best of men. While her cousins watched bits of crushed bone drift away on the tide, Miranda watched the boy. His white curls haloed around his head like the seeds of a dandelion clock before they’re blown away by the wind. She asked him who he was. “Eustace,” he said.

The psychiatrist suggested art therapy as a way to unlock whatever had caused Miranda’s mutism. However, he added, as several of her cousins exhibited the same symptoms there was probably a genetic component.

While Miranda painted Eustace he told her he knew why all the girls in her family were mute. She didn’t go back to art therapy. Instead she talked to Eustace.

The psychiatrist reassured Miranda’s parents that imaginary companions were common in solitary children, and it was simply coincidence that the boy in Miranda’s painting resembled her grandpa’s brother who’d drowned as a child, and when Miranda started socialising with real children the imaginary one would disappear. He did. And so did the painting.

“Nice painting, eh?’ said the charity shop owner.

She nodded. “I’ll take it.”

She’d show her cousins. She’d tell them about Eustace. She’d tell them everything.

 

Sandra's author photoSandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She is a novelist, essayist, short story and flash-fiction writer with a PhD in Creative Writing from CQ University, Australia. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally and has won several awards. Her flash fiction appears in numerous journals including The Airgonaut, Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Flash FrontierBlue Fifth Review and was selected for the UK 2017 National Flash Fiction Day international anthology, Sleep is a beautiful colour. Learn more at http://authors.org.nz/author/sandraarnold.

Reel Life – Chrissi Sepe

 

Why did I choose “Dance of the Dwarfs” when my dad’s best friend, Elijah, had me perform piano for his new friend? This stranger was a glum man with a blonde bowl haircut and bangs: the spitting image of Paul Williams.

“You must listen to her play!” Elijah said. “She’s a child prodigy!”’

My piano teacher gave me the song only hours earlier. What made me think I could play it? My fingers fumbled, and I knew I was horrible.

“Always a pleasure,” Elijah said.

Elijah had heard me play dozens of times. I gazed up at Paul Williams from the piano bench. He simply nodded.

“Why don’t you sit in with us in your dad’s studio?” Elijah asked.

The studio was actually my parents’ bedroom where my dad kept his reel-to-reel machine. There were seven people already crammed around the double bed, all facing the reel-to-reel that stood to the side of the room on a small, wooden table. Everyone focused on the melodic music of trumpets, drums, guitars, and the sweetest voice that ever emanated from a woman: Marcy with the beautiful, long, blonde hair. She had a tiny brown, cut out leather purse strapped around her gold turtleneck sweater and those Indian moccasins that dominated the streets of the 1970’s. Elijah closed his eyes as we listened to the song written by my dad.

“Beautiful! Bravo!” Elijah said, eyes now open, his hands applauding loudly.

“You are an amazing singer!” my dad exclaimed, turning to Marcy.

My heart gently sank because my dad never complimented anyone on their singing. He was a singer himself, therefore a harsh critic.

Back in the living room, my mom sat on our couch, reading a magazine. I sensed that she didn’t like when musicians hung out in her bedroom on a weeknight. Why did she want to spoil the fun?

“Mom?” I asked. “Why do you think Elijah closed his eyes while the song played?”

“It helps people listen to the music better.”

I was surprised she had an answer.

Several years later when I was a teen, my dad died, and Marcy sent us a condolence card. I told Elijah how thoughtful that was.

“Oh yeah, Marcy! She blamed me for not contacting her to tell her how sick your dad was. She’d heard from someone else that he’d passed. I hadn’t heard from the woman in years, and she reams me out?!”

When my mom tossed out most of the sympathy cards, I grabbed Marcy’s from the pile and brought it into my bedroom. I cradled it in my hands.

Over the years, I’ve mostly remembered how my dad complimented Marcy’s voice and how Paul Williams only nodded after I’d played my song. What I should carry more closely in my heart is how Elijah invited me to hear my dad’s reel-to-reels. And how my mom knew exactly how to answer the question of why Elijah’s eyes were closed when he listened to the music.

 

unnamedChrissi Sepe is the author of novels, “Bliss, Bliss, Bliss,” and “Iggy Gorgess.” Her essay “Anais Nin – A Recipe for Immortality” appears in Volume 13 of the Anais Nin Literary Journal, and her short story, “Caramel Macchiatos and Conversation,” is in Volume 14, both published by Sky Blue Press.

Sinister – Maurice Devitt

 

*Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed.

 

At school I wanted to be

left-handed, so I told

the teacher my right arm

was broken, hitched it in a scarf

around my neck and proceeded

to write with my left – whispery

at first, but gradually I gained

strength and my ‘O’s became

perfectly rounded: pieces of art,

letters I could stand back from

and admire. That day over lunch

I drew one on the classroom

floor, pulled a rope-ladder

from my pocket and climbed

down, careful to cover my tracks.

It seems I tunnelled in the dark

for hours, until suddenly I saw

a circle of light, clambered

towards it to lift myself out,

only to be met by the cold stare

of my mother,

a stick of chalk in her right hand.

 

Personal PhotoRunner-up in The Interpreter’s House Poetry Competition in 2017, Maurice Devitt was winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition in 2015 and has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Patrick Kavanagh Award, Listowel Collection Competition, Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, Cork Literary Review  and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. He has had poems published in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia, runs the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies site and is a founder member of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.

How I arrived at who I am – John Grey

 

When I was seven,

my father bought me an airplane kit,

something to put together

with glue and guile

and instructions translated directly

from the Korean.

 

He did not help me in any way.

And I proved useless at the task,

would have set fire to the little

balsawood pieces

had I been allowed to play with matches.

 

There are other projects,

other details,

but they all amounted to the same thing.

My hand and my eye

were as Sanskrit is to the Ford Edsel.

 

So I grew up

surrounded by piles

of shapes and images,

and the encouraging cry of,

“Go for it, kid.”

 

That’s why I sat in the corner

building things that always fell apart,

falling apart the more

with each passing year

while I struggled to patch here,

hammer a nail there,

employ the tools

whose use I never understood.

 

Luckily, somewhere along the line,

I was able to set aside objects

and take up with words.

Sure, the sentences I constructed

were no more stable

than my cars, my castles,

my Lego giraffe.

But, as long as it was down on paper,

a Ford Edsel really was Sanskrit.

It got so not even I knew the difference.

 

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.

Losing Mum – Arlene Antoinette

 

I dreamt of wild flowers

in a field filled with little girls

blowing hair off handfuls

of dandelions. Little boys chasing

two headed giraffes, and grandmother

holding up her famous peace cobbler

to the sun yelling for everyone to come

and get some.

Hungry, I headed towards the

house but stopped as I saw you there

holding baby Johnny in your arms

soothing him with one of those lullabies

you used to make up. The sound of rhythmic

clicks played just beyond your words.

When I opened my eyes, I was sitting alongside

your bed, your chest rising and falling as the

respirator forced air into your uninterested

lungs.

 

stillmyeyeArlene Antoinette enjoys writing poetry and flash fiction. More of her work may be found at: Sick Lit Mag, GIRLSENSE AND NONSENSE and Boston Accent Lit.

Haybalers – JD DeHart

 

Pollen shaken

into the air greets my

nostalgic nose.

What summer must have been

twenty years ago.

 

The haybalers are somewhere,

I hear them in the distance,

churning. But the sound

of birds outweighs them.

 

There will be no more rumble

when they are finished, left

with the quiet, I will only

sneeze in honor

of the child I used to be.

 

Bio pic 10JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His poems have recently appeared at Cacti Fur and Strange Poetry.  DeHart blogs at jddehartfeaturepoems.blogspot.com.

Comparing Scars – James Diaz

 

the apple did fall far from the tree

and went out into the dark

with almost no light

inside

 

some places are all haunting

nothing else matters

but that you leave there shaken

 

when I was younger

I had an impossible dream

that I could grow old

and not be happy

but still be in the world

 

living in a place no one could find

I wouldn’t have needed much

a chair, a table, a bowl, a spoon

a front door

a few years of silence

of forgetting.

 

IMG_8420James Diaz is the founding editor of the literary arts & music journal Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in HIV Here & Now, Foliate Oak, Chronogram, and Cheap Pop Lit. His first book of poems, This Someone I Call Stranger, is forthcoming from Indolent Books (2017.)

Choking – Jonathan Butcher

 

I remember you in the school

dinner room, choking on the

corned beef sandwiches that

the dinner ladies forced down

your throat; waste held no

relevance between those walls.

 

I remember you sat alone at break

times, hands and stones slapped

across your face like whiplashes,

for an injustice you were far from

capable of committing.

 

And you walked home, your head bowed,

through those orange bricked streets

that framed our morning walks, alongside

the neglected grass verges like miniature

jungles we never dared to enter.

 

Those doors opened once again, before

the sun set behind the grey roofs and dust

like trees, you stand and stare once more

in that hallway mirror that hangs rusted,

and only slightly cracked.

 

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.

The Easter Bunny on a Glass Elevator Going Down – Zach Smith

 

In retrospect the event seems so bizarre, that it’s more like a dream.

My aunt had taken my cousin and me to the mall.

It was in the spring, at some point shortly before Easter.

The Easter Bunny was stationed in a playful land of candies and eggs and fake plastic straw of every color imaginable. This was in an open area at the bottom of the mall’s glass elevator. An Easter variation on the mall’s Santa set up.

I don’t know if this still goes on, the mall Easter Bunny that is, I haven’t seen one in years, but I haven’t been looking either.

The setting was accompanied by music played from a DJ stationed nearby.

At Christmas there are plenty of songs to play on a continuous loop to keep the atmosphere. You don’t even need lyrics. Anyone can recognize “Jingle Bells” by melody alone. The same goes for “Frosty the Snowman,” or “The Christmas Song” (though everyone knows the latter as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”)

For Easter, the music choices are more limited. There’s “Peter Cotton Tail” of course, but it’s not nearly as recognizable, considering DragonForce did a song using the same chord progression and nobody noticed. If you want to get real religious you could opt for the song “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)”… but that’s probably not the best choice either. There are not a lot of “great” Easter songs to play for the mall Easter Bunny. So what is a DJ to do? Why, play some of the contemporary hits of course.

The year was 1991, I was six years old at the time.

When we got to the bottom of the glass elevator to see the Easter Bunny, the song he was dancing to was… “Losing My Religion” by REM.

The argument that the song title is a southern expression that roughly translates to: “losing your temper” is weak at best. The phrase too specifically implies something else. Even the music video is very religious oriented, with fallen angels and so on. Playing that song for the Easter Bunny would be the equivalent of playing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” at a wedding.

Consequently eighteen years later “Single Ladies” was played at my wedding, with both my aunt and cousin in attendance, despite the fact that that specific song was placed on the “Do Not Play” list. Come to think of it, it might have been the same DJ since both were utterly deaf to lyrical significance and/or irony.

At the mall, I asked my cousin the obvious question:

“Why is the Easter Bunny dancing to ‘Losing my Religion?’”

“Ah… because it’s a good song,” she said, sarcastically, as though I should have already known something so obvious.

That’s debatable… and also not the point.

 

with hatZach is a graduate of Chestnut Hill College and has been writing for more than a dozen years, struggling all the while with dyslexia. His work has previously appeared in Crack the Spine, Revolution John, Fast-Forward Festival, the Short Humor Site and Schlock Magazine, among others. You can find out more about him at his blog: theobscuritysymposium.wordpress.com.

Homage To An Avuncular Neighbor – John Michael Flynn

 

At ten I brought him my new

Boy’s Life each month

to share a survival story or two.

 

He did the talking

mostly about the Pacific theatre.

He knew war, didn’t like or glean any sense from it.

 

I did more than listen to his silences.

I grew wiser within them.

I brought their lessons to my father.

 

On sunny days we mowed and raked his lawn.

All winter long I helped him

shovel his drive.

 

Today, I learned he died in bed

while his wife was baking zucchini bread

for an annual church function.

 

His daughters and grand-children

were far away.

No game on TV. No warning.

 

Just the week before, I’d held his ladder in place

while he’d nailed above his garage door

a big wooden yellow butterfly

 

that he’d cut, designed

and painted himself.

He called it Easter Light.

 

headshotjohnmflynnIn 2015, John Michael Flynn was an English Language Fellow with the US State Department at the Far Eastern State University in Khabarovsk, Russia. He is now back home in Virginia, where he teaches English part-time at Piedmont Virginia Community College. His most recent poetry collection, Keepers Meet Questing Eyes, is available from Leaf Garden Press. You can learn more about John and his published work at www.basilrosa.com.

Neighborhood – Catherine Zickgraf

 

In her blue robe,

Mom would light up beacons from her woes,

flashing on the porchlight among row homes.

 

Needing safety,

I’d leave home after bedtime, and row across

sparkle-snow, and drag my footpaths through

the pines, past a creek bridge, and abandoned

railroad ties. I’d follow telegraph roads under

the ocean, seeking the eternal glow of escape.

 

me-and-grandmoms-picCatherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan, and three dozen other cities, but now her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write poetry. Her work has appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her new chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press and is available on Amazon.com. Watch and read more of her poetry at http://caththegreat.blogspot.com.

Clothespole – Catherine Zickgraf

 

Mother used to spin from the stem of our old clothespole,

except as the paint dried at the first stirring of springtime.

 

Great-Grandpop strung rope from garage roof to porch hook

to shake out the clouds of socks and towels.

 

He built our homestead which still stands after decades—

though he’s long-buried, he’s a hero in mirrors and frames.

 

Great-Grandmom used to pin me too to swing from her lines

and I’d fling legs out and back

in the cirrus shapes stretched where wind flew her flags.

 

Circling our old clothespole in grass dark as pine,

Mother and I, both in our times, scaled the air to touch

the sunshine between us and abundant depths of sky.

 

me-and-grandmoms-picCatherine Zickgraf has performed her poetry in Madrid, San Juan, and three dozen other cities, but now her main jobs are to hang out with her family and write poetry. Her work has appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, Victorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her new chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press and is available on Amazon.com. Watch and read more of her poetry at http://caththegreat.blogspot.com.

Hand-me-downs – Kate Garrett

 

The bricks housed phantoms;

the anachronistic soda counter

 

I now recall in a haze of decades

and miles as solid, yet of its time

 

and the man running the shop still

slicked his grey hair Brylcreem smooth.

 

Some villages never catch up.

The drugstore was plastic and rounded

 

and faded and chrome, Americana buried

just for me, so I could uncover

 

its message one morning—

the new kid with bony shoulders grandma

 

folded into floral sundresses I wanted to love,

relics of a childhood that wasn’t mine.

 

But I know we each spent our time huddled

and waiting for progress, or nuclear winter,

 

nursing fears we couldn’t name, hiding

in cellars from the first sign of a black sky.

 

kate-newKate Garrett is a writer, mother, editor, wife, history buff, and amateur folklorist. Her work is published here and there online and in print, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her most recent books are The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) – which was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards – and Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016). Her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will be published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams. Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi.

Fire – John Grey

 

I touched fire when two

and I’ve not forgotten.

I was burnt, bubbled, red,

darkened, and the flame

burned so pretty too.

 

I glanced longingly

at the liquid in dark bottles

but my mother snatched

them away.

Likewise the taunting

sharp edge of a knife.

And the patio railing

that invited me to climb.

 

But with fire

she was not quick enough.

I learned that lesson

the hard way.

You can suffer in your hand

what your heart endures.

You can shriek

a kind of glory

until the salving butter comes.

 

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.

Holding A Séance To Contact The Dead Guinea Pigs – Lorna Martin

lorna-martin-guinea-pigs

lm-picLorna Martin’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.