falls like knives. We say nothing but the rumbling of wheels on concrete, comet-tails of salt-spray blasting the windshield, all visions bound in gauze. Father, we slice through our histories this way, in sap-lit tunnels, past slag dumps and steeps of cobblestone, a legacy of rusted pipe and rusted fence, waiting for the echoes of ourselves. This is what it means to be side-split, a hometown gypsy straddling rivers. Your thighs become trembling bridges. *** Sometimes, I feel like a soot-faced orphan. Father, I finally learned about the hot-footed strike of Time this thin February morning. A dart tipped with pungent Urgency struck my strepped-throat and I decided to narrate our slips into cosmic silence. I’ve been meaning to tell you: all that I understand of this city is riding in your car, a thunderstruck passenger counting the distant ticks of your heartbeat, pulsing the call of Pittsburgh: Our Lady of Pittsburgh, riddle of soot and steel, a city washed in her own bleak geometry, a city of scrambled bridges and suffocating side streets I cannot name on my own. It’s true, I have never seen blue water at 55 miles per hour. Allegheny, Monogahela—rivers glide like fat slugs in a marriage of sludge, endlessly birthing the Ohio. Once in awhile a derailed tree scrapes the bottom: knotted knuckles panning palms for flecks of gold, while a fine silent silt sticks in our throats. *** When my voice turns to rust, I rubberneck my gaze across the river. The houses sag like rain-soaked cardboard, the ashen, rice-paper faces of my grandmothers. Their roots lose grip in this kind of muck. Foundations writhe like sun-starved branches til the windows are slit eyes, half-asleep. Father, my limbs tingle the same pins and needles, aching for unraveling the rivers of atrophy, aching for the breathless sunburned side-stitch of escape. We have carved our name into the fresh grit of countless stoops. Even this cold rain cannot claim us. We could peel back the layers of this paint, thick with the fingerprints of generations, and watch the bloodless colors trickle into the storm drains. What I mean is: we could finally milk the cataracts from our eyes. We could glide blindly outbound and begin again.
Mother, your bed is dollhouse warm, a hand- me-down form, sheets crease like the pearl- melted-palm on your thigh, a shimmering puddle of skin, a single fish scale. Time undoes us this way. Nights we dip our crowns into the hearth and are blessed with bewitching reds, the firegold spun from our own soft skulls. Mother, time undoes us this way. While you sleep, I whisper new words like prayers. While you sleep, a jar of pennies sings like the ocean. The radiator fills with mice.
In the most overlooked of spaces (despite mother’s persistence) lies a lump of orange shag tucked (surreptitiously) behind your ear. The bridge of your nose collapses at Fern Hollow and your best attributes long buried around the bend, sucking black earth. Who cares for the sonorous tree-lines (sycamores), the couches of your lungs rattling like a radiator in the raw air, limestone cobbles clabbered in bloody black syrup. Lift a finger (bent-up rumpled willow) and you’re nearly there, pointing toward home.
Danielle McMahon’s poems have appeared—or are forthcoming in—tiny spoon, Lammergeier, Rogue Agent, Storm Cellar, Tales from PA, Dappled Things, and F Word.
1) The trees are bridal, all arrival and expectation – bees hum: the mill of them but that’s what it takes to turn earth into heaven and put it in a jar. Returning to the hive they’ll round or waggle dance communicating the distance to food. Communal survival. Shakers who distilled medicinal herbs and canned food saved their ecstatic dances for Sundays. Sine qua non: a necessity; no dance, no food, no earthly heaven. Were you a blushing bride, shy, full of anticipation like these pollen dusted bees, these dark red buds? The uncracked secret of my oldest sister carried inside you no bigger than a bud, dwarfed by bees. How do these craggy twigs pop out their petals? Wedding narratives conjure tropes. Snowdrops patch the lawn; memorials of winter’s passing chill beauty. May’s heat. The trees are bridal. Snowdrops, tear drops. The earth is weeping. 2) The earth is weeping: my projection. Boughs are bowed down by the weight of the blossoms while the dogs bow-wow, well, bay anyway, in the rush for a stick, a scent, each other. Lilac buds are dark, unopened, a stoppered amphora next week a panicle of perfume. For some there will be no spring closed up as in a coffin, a plain pine box from The Shaker Collection. There is a difference between silence and silencing. A stilled voice (jarred, canned, bottled) is transparent and hidden as air, like clear water, clear right down to the bottom of things. 3) At the bottom of the pool coins flashed like the mouths of tiny caves leading to a brighter world. Riches the lifeguards threw for the kids to gather, no goggles allowed. Who could resist? The drain grate terrified; but the coins were nothing compared to the goldfish released from a big tank. We’d catch and bag them, my older brothers or sisters at the edge of the pool to help. Did the fish ever survive the ride home? Sinuate in clear plastic bags flashing brighter than coins with more promise. I always imagined they died of car-sickness, (silly boy) caught between greed and empathy. I loved their flash but hated their fate. Sunburnt, noses peeling we’d enter the cool house and forget about the fish dumping them in a bowl only to find them after a nap or the next morning floating belly up, or swimming exhausted on their side for one more day. We always made it home. 4) You carried daisies. Your handsome groom two months before your sixtieth anniversary in a dark suit. “She wasn’t even sick,” he cried on the phone when I was home from the funeral as a shooting star scratched the sky. You carried daisies but loved roses. 5) Dandelions are beautiful. I picked them and you refused them: allergies. But, they’re beautiful, I thought—I think— and I picked them for you. My beautiful Mother, I thought—I think--doesn’t understand dandelions. 6) Long grass is bent under its burden of dew, silverstrung and tinseled, the Shakers pastured their cows here. The hulk of the great barn, a last grand architectural feat is in ruins. In the shade of black walnut trees rhubard is passing in a patch older than you; now that you’re dead, you’re old like spring, like autumn, like a rhubarb patch, older than the last Shaker—Brother Arnold—who said, If you have the calling, we have the bed.
At first it was beautiful as fire fell from the sky in chunks, streaking meteor after meteor in the dim gloaming, sky reflecting off the pond. So much light. Then everything—the sky, the pond, the trees, the grasses— all begin flaking to ash, burning the evidence. The dogs and I watched from the window. Then the house burned and the window from which we watched. Then, not quite us still bright in our clothes and fur in the burning coals, the heart of a campfire, the dimming embers.
Michael J Carter (he/him) is a poet and clinical social worker. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, MomEgg Review, and Western Humanities Review, among many others. He spends his time walking his hounds and knitting.
It is probably not true that you had to brush aside whole opera curtains of cobwebs to enter, but walls the rough stucco of the cave left you with no doubt that you had entered the subterranean world of the cellar. It never merited the exulted title of basement. A basement was a place for ping-pong, for parties, for hanging out. Whatever hung in the cellar hung on thick nails worthy of a crucifixion. In the attic, there were treasures. In the cellar, there was junk, and secrets: parts of ancient torture machines, straps and belts that intoned, Restraint and Repent. The cellar was not a good place to hide the Penthouse in. It wilted and became soggy and made you feel dirty. The cellar was not a good place to sneak a cigarette. The smoke hung blue and low in the air and lingered on the conscience, a Hiroshima cloud. Like the delta of the Nile, the cellar flooded annually, but nothing but mildew, children of spores, grew in the alluvia. The result was that the house was sinking, and you had to bail it out, bail it out, because one vessel, one odd collection of species, one family passing buckets to each other, had to survive, had to carry on, or it would all go down. For, oddly enough, the cellar was the seat of preservation: rows of pickles, jams, stewed tomatoes, beets, beans, pears. In the cellar, pies cooled, things congealed. My father stored carrots and potatoes in a barrel of sand, and, like an archaeologist, you had to dig for them expecting to find the remains of dead ancestors, but finding instead carrots and potatoes, not bones, but bread.
William Derge’s poems have appeared in Negative Capability, The Bridge, Artful Dodge, Bellingham Review, and many other publications. He is the winner of the $1000 2010 Knightsbridge Prize judged by Donald Hall and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a winner of the Rainmaker Award judged by Marge Piercy. He has received honorable mentions in contests sponsored by The Bridge, Sow’s Ear, and New Millennium, among others. He has been awarded a grant by the Maryland State Arts Council. His work has appeared in several anthologies of Washington poets: Hungry as We Are and Winners.
as i step from plane onto tarmac the ancient bedrock acknowledges me it sounds my secret Sicilian name - this island knows its son lost prodigal - to the new found land tempted there by plenty - its pane e lavoro - conveniences of every kind that fired the senses of all its lost children seducing them slowly to recantations of bitter births among the fallen arid stones of villages some no longer there - and changing names once lyrical into something more pronounceable - this island knows its blood and calls it back from all its emigrations, over the dry terraced hills blistering in the high sun and the too-blue Mediterranean waving welcome as it breaks upon the bouldered shore. in my village the festa begins as eyes of a generation lost and a new generation begun, meet with mine each wet with tears and glowing with a thousand spoken memories - they call me by my secret name sit me at their table beneath a cloudless campagnia sky. feed me oil and olives, bread and wine made by them for me my expanded family grown beyond my parents memories beyond again these terraced hills and too blue seas chained only by traditions and the blood that will always be…
Joseph A Farina is a retired lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, drawing from his profession and his sicilian-canadian back round, he is an internationaly award winning and published poet. Several of his poems have been published in Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, The Wild Word, The Chamber Magazine, Lothlorian Poetry Journal, Ascent, Subterranean Blue and in The Tower Poetry Magazine, Inscribed, The Windsor Review, Boxcar Poetry Revue, and appears in many anthologies including: Sweet Lemons: Writings with a Sicilian Accent, Canadian Italians at Table, Witness from Serengeti Press and Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century. He has had poems published in the U.S. magazines Mobius, Pyramid Arts, Arabesques, Fiele-Festa, and Philedelphia Poets. He has had two books of poetry published—The Cancer Chronicles and The Ghosts of Water Street and an e-book, Sunsets in Black and White.
you call out my name in the small chirp of a lost, wounded bird dying somewhere deep in the woods. i run through brambles to search for you. i have taken you under my wing as early as when we were both fledglings, when i would, on countless times, climb the lone aratiles2 tree in your front yard, poise myself on tiptoe on the seat of my trike and grab at the limb above-- always falling with a start, always starting with a fall. after the usual slips, the inevitable scrapes, i would divide the pickings: for you, the plump, cerise ones; for me, the still green, tart gleanings. to see your smile was harvest rich enough, bursting forth like the sweet fruit in your mouth, enough to wipe away the teardrops rolling from your cheeks like heavy, overripe pomes falling, bruised on the sod. after noon, i would wing it from school to where you constantly stood beneath the canted shade of the tree. brooding over why you cried often then, i thought it was from the hunger in your aching belly that you would clasp rather than speak of; or from yearning that comes from being left behind, you, being a year younger and unable to reach over the head to touch ear, to be in Kinder class3 where i was. only when i was full-fledged a wife, and you, to be one soon, that you asked me to lend ear and from the slow ripening of a three-year old’s understanding, told of those afternoons when Kuya4, rogue among the agnate5, would come into the room again and again where you napped on a mat, and there, became sower many times more copious than seeds that spew from tender aratiles trampled underfoot. you didn’t have the words then to ask, while still in the haze of sleep, if this harrowing was just some painful dream. we both wept then, hard, bitter tears, raw like tart aratiles too soon reaped. you took flight after. we never saw each other again. today, i could not get to you. all i see are the mortar and bricks i have immured myself in, lined with layer upon layer of paper, a nest against time, against distance… yet your voice now calls, always only a wingspan ahead, leading me into blind corners where remembrance nested. i need to find you, to cradle in my palms your tiny, fragile form-- frail as a nestling’s, to enfold your rent and bleeding breast-- rutilant as crushed aratiles, eaten by cancer and by the canker we were fated both to share as cousins on the distaff6, yet as sisters more, and to the end, as very first friends. though i have already implored the saints of stigmata for their bleeding hands to lift you from your brokenness that you may fly again, even so, i would raise my cupped, beggar’s hands in supplication to someone— to anyone who would hear our bewildered cheeping all the way back from the clutch of childhood left to ourselves, alone. no one heeds us, as always. but i have always felt it was you who saved me, not i, you, as you always swore; for all i bore was a sun-kissed handful of plucked peace offerings, red and round like rosary beads, agleam with the hint of my sweat blended with the salt of your tears. your voice dies with the falling of dusk. all i hear is the ululating of the wind; but night birds on the first watch chide me in orchestrated chorus and just as suddenly stop: i now realize it is my own wailing i hear, a murmuration tearing through the silence of your passing.
1. A small fruit bearing tree, with small, round fruit which when ripe is very sweet, has skin the consistency of ripe tomatoes, and the color of bight red cherries; in English, known alternatively as Panama cherry, Jamaica cherry, Singapore cherry, Sabah cherry, and strawberry tree. It is a fast growing small yet hardy tree known for thriving in poor soil, can tolerate acidic, alkaline conditions and drought, and its seeds are efficiently propagated through dispersal by birds. It can help prepare and condition the soil for subsequent plant growths. According to folk medicine, its leaves are believed to be antiseptic, anti-pruritic and can ease abdominal cramps, and is even believed to have antinociceptive or pain-reducing properties. Scientifically, it is known to be a very rich source of Vitamin C and recent studies see its possible role in preventing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other associated diseases. It is popularly known in the Philippines by its local name, aratiles. 2. As endnote (1) above 3. A traditional practice up to the sixties in Philippine public education to gauge learner motor and physical development to be of the age of five, six or so, as then the only form of admissions test administered to qualify for Kindergarten entrance. 4. Kuya: originally meaning elder brother; used generically and popularly however, to refer as a term of deference to any older male of roughly the same generation as the one making the reference. Kuya could literally be elder brother, cousin, friend. Also used as a form of address to denote familiarity or recognition when hailing or talking to a male considered to be affiliated with the household such as the regular handyman, house helper or anyone who, though considered as a stranger, is given due respect. In the latter case of non-related males, this reference could refer to a much older male, as an informal alternative for the less familiar “Mister.” 5. Agnate: from father’s lineage/side of the family 6. Distaff: mother’s lineage/side of the family
Rossella Moya-Torrecampo of near-senior age, from the Philippines, is engaged in higher education and training, in the field of English communication for various purposes including academic and professional, and in the field of literature. She has taught tertiary, graduate and faculty students, as a Professor at the University of the Philippines for thirty-eight years. Her interests are folklore research and poetry writing. She has a BA in English (Creative Writing), an MA in Comparative Literature, and an EdD in Education, while she remains an amateur writer of poetry.
-after the composite photo by Karen Elias
What can be said to the perfect mother sitting stone still in the 1950s living room where you never really lived? Poised, not reading words you cannot say, syllables that might crack the stone sitting room? Still in the 1950s, she smiles beautifully but doesn’t hear words you cannot say, syllables that might crack the polished stairway you creep down. Comfort? There is none. She smiles but doesn’t hear grief, pain, anything slightly unpleasant. Still, you seek comfort, creep down the polished stairway. Maybe this time she will turn her head, believe your grief, pain. Instead, anything slightly unpleasant goes unsaid. You protect her, this beautiful sculpture, who might, this time, believe you, turn her head and feel your scowl. It could destroy her, this beautiful sculpture. The unsaid? The child protects the mother, who sits stone still in her 1950s living room. Don’t allow her to feel the scowl that would destroy her. You cannot say the words that might crack syllables, alter the 1950s room, her life. She sits still as stone. What can be said to the perfect mother? Your syllables might crack her. Your child words could destroy her poise, uncover where you really live. What can be said to the perfect mother? Poised, she smiles beautifully but doesn’t hear. Why destroy both child and mother? You’ve never lived outside cracked words you cannot say. Silent, still.
Mothers and Daughters by Karen Elias.
The best of neighbors, they ignore boundaries, inquisitive countenance peering over into what we claim as ours—rectangle of land, sky delineating what is paid for and possessed, which is why, at day’s end and beginning, we need them, each wide-eye and petaled chin trespassing on morning coffee, on evening strolls around the cloistered yard that need their joy, their bright exuberance of orange, unsolicited and bold.
Two Poppies and the Fence by Karen Elias.
1933 and you left your four-year-old daughter with the neighbors to “mother” a house six-hundred miles away in Connecticut, a house, white clapboard—no, an institution of cottage after cottage—full of words we no longer utter: “feeble-minded,” “imbecile,” “moron,” “retarded,” families asked to give up children for the good of the community to “facilities,” “training schools,” farms where they could “better benefit society,” a costly way to say “eugenics” before change that wasn’t change, as slow as the delayed turn of a head, lips mouthing monikers unsaid in polite society, the infamous abuse chronicled in detail in places not here: thick welts on the back, ritual rape of the “innocents” by gardeners and “caretakers,” such sharp digressions from the later narratives you, “our” grandmother, later recited as tales of “your kids,” the ones you unreservedly loved, taught how to flatten and roll pie crust, expertly bake lemon meringues. In the meantime, 1933 and you left/ abandoned my mother Which is it? Look more closely between lines, words, years that flip the meaning of sacrifice in the middle of the Depression, a job-switch trick that sawed you in half but gave her food, a known place to stay with the neighbors— all the truths or rationalizations of a divorced single mom in 1933. In your white, starched nurse’s uniform, you mothered other people’s abandoned children. Say it: that’s who you were. Compassionate? Selfish? But also, the grandma who taught us to shuffle cards, win at “Spite and Malice”; the housedress- wearing matron who watched church on TV, on Saturday nights invited me to sleep over on your plaid fold-out couch, the “Meme,” who taught me to fry potato pancakes, bake pastries. Once grown, I was afraid to tell my own mother of my then-husband’s affairs, but I told you. “Once they jump over the fence...,” you shook your head. And that was enough to help me restructure the story with alternate motivations, insert, as possible plot twister, the desperation I was just beginning to feel, just beginning to understand that, beneath the mistakes and regrets, you’d felt it too.
They arrived in Columbus from Cincinnati, Joplin, Paducah, Wichita, Kansas City, Eau Claire, Flint, from the long, lonely roads of a traveling salesman hawking Selby Shoes in a case the height of a boy, hefty ladies’ shoes that looked uncomfortable but weren’t. They arrived a century before Twitter’s truncated missives from Chicago’s Morrison Hotel, per the photo’s caption “in the heart of the loop, 46 stories high, then the tallest in the world; in 1965 the tallest ever to be demolished, every room with bath, circulating ice water, grille-protected “servidor,” where business travelers avoided tipping by placing in grated hallway compartments their wrinkled trousers, their stained shirts—waiting for them to be washed, pressed and returned, all without disturbance of the road-weary, sleeping off his hopes for more (or some?) sales on the way out of the Depression. (“Both schoolgirls and salesmen are awfully busy,” he wrote my mother.) They arrived with the small square for a one-cent stamp left blank, the way this salesman—my mother’s guardian when the divorced neighbor took a job 500 miles away— must have felt when crowding the postcard’s rectangle with tight script to a small growing girl, born in 1929, bigger each time he saw her, a bit more grown-up whenever he tucked black-and-white or extravagantly colored photocards inside a letter to his wife/her grandmother— “our best pal” he called her— always signing “your own Grandpa” in the tiniest available space in the far-right bottom, as if not wanting to complete the route his letters would take without him to their home on Remington Road, Bexley, Ohio, never close enough to where he was then when he latched the worn sample case, took off once again in the just-washed blue Oldsmobile. Each trip, he’d send with a kiss a letter, a 20-cent Western Union birthday telegram (“I love you very much”), or his latest postcard, at the last minute adding with a favorite newfangled ballpoint pen on the opposite photo-side a ——————> long arrow directing her to his specific floor where he slept poorly without them in the high-rise hotel, his version of I am here: “Grandpa’s sample room” or just “Grandpa.” Or they arrived from Hotel Cornhusker with the descriptors, “Host to the Most in Lincoln, NE... 300 rooms from $1.50 to $6,” from the Hotel Kanakee, IL (“Where the traveling public meet, dine, drink...”), from Hotel Pére Marquette, Peoria (arrow to 8th floor), or the Inman in Champaign (“Coming closer every day. How would you like to see me Saturday for lunch?) They’d arrive from places close to both the Badlands and gold mines. (“That’s just like God,” he’d explain, “He evens things up if we can only look for and find the good things,” which they did for each other, one hundred or 1000 miles away.) The postcards arrived from seemingly everywhere, from her seventh birthday to almost her fourteenth. Was it her fourteenth, or later, that the heart attack caught him? Sixty-eight, all alone in a hotel in Rockford, Illinois. Was that when the postcards stopped? And who found him? Who told them? Mother, now also gone, do you remember? All the missed dinners and holidays. No mention of the war, bills to pay, only “I hear you are a great help!” “Take care of Grandma. She means a lot to us,” and tidbits from Sunday sermons along the way, postcards a small substitute for presence, but something, something for a child to hold onto, to memorize: “Grandma writes you are a fine little girl. Sometimes she overdoes it for all of us. I am glad she has a good girl like you to help.” Yes, good like you, repeated again and again in the small script that traveled miles to your long fingers, your waiting eyes, and now journeying further to mine— house to house, state to state— all you, my mother, saved of him neatly tucked in a handwritten envelope, in a taped cardboard box, waiting to be opened, to speak.
English and creative writing professor at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 14 collections of poetry—most recently Begin with a Question (Paraclete, International Book + Illumination Book Award winner) and the ekphrastic collections Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (with Karen Elias) and In the Museum of Her Daughter’s Mind, a collaboration with her artist daughter (www.hafer.work). She has poems included in the anthology Christian Poetry in America since 1940. In addition, she has published the story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite) and 4 children’s and YA books. Please see www.marjoriemaddox.com Marjorie Maddox Hafer (pen name: Marjorie Maddox) www.marjoriemaddox.com
Ella drinks to forget a man who still can overrun her thoughts with suggestions. Come with me, he whispers and she goes off with him in the sports car and her face turns to ash as he hits the pedal hard and the road flies beneath at over a hundred miles an hour. Ella drinks her way back to the 1990's, forgets that there's a roast in the oven and vegetables bubbling on hot plates as her mother stands over her, dripping blood and her father... he's so invisible, she's never laid eyes on him. She's attractive, the mirror provides all the assurance she needs but she could not keep the one who fills her glass with her own hand - he not only drove too fast, he ran too fast - until…until...she opened the door, she jumped, she rode the pavement om her elbows and knees until she mercifully stopped. Her mother was right, the dripping blood was right, maybe her father, courtesy of his disappearing act, was right — some choices become, in time, nothing but this overwhelming thirst. I've cut my finger, her mother says. Come and help me. Once again, her mother is not well but Ella is the one who takes the medicine.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Rathalla Review. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.
In our home they hung doors with thick, rectangular hinges, balanced, holding thirty-seven times their weight, subtle and greased, quietly moving silent slabs of wood to offer solitude or to open and expose the light of day. Solid and firm within the jamb, heavy with strain and time, hinges hold a home’s security within the soundless judgment of lock and key. What indeed do hinges tell us if not the amazing flexibility of secrets and pain? Hinges throw open the doors of hope and shut in the forlorn shadow of depression. We needless trust what truths Both come and go.
A 3-foot by 4-foot by 5-foot triangle makes a right angle. This knowledge allows the builder to carry a straight line along and away from an already existing point in space and time. The line, if extended, has two options – if the universe is flat, like the earth, the line will extend to the end of eternity; if it is flexible, and self-contained, like an Einsteinian glass ball resting on the back of a turtle, the line will continue in an ever-lasting 180 degree angle, and eventually return upon itself. The elegance of mathematics, its geometric subtlety of right angles and straight lines, can connect a room addition to a house and a straight line to the universe. The thunderous accuracy of mathematics suggests that a house is more than an angle and a line, more than mortar and brick, more than foundation and roof. If properly constructed, a house becomes its own universe, the beginning and end of memories scratched in the table top, and growth charts on the wall; of holding fast to grandma’s stew recipe, and the crawling stage of granddaughter’s daughter; of summers running out the back screen-door, and of all things stored in three-dimensional boxes, and stories, and hearts.
Thom Brucie has published two chapbooks of poems: Moments Around The Campfire With A Vietnam Vet, named “the best chapbook of 2010” by Irene Koronas of Ibbetson Street Press, and Apprentice Lessons, poems which explore the dignity of labor. Individual works have appeared in a variety of journals and publications, including: DEROS, San Joaquin Review, Cappers, The Southwestern Review, Editions Bibliotekos, Pacific Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Wilderness House Literary Review, and others.
Lately, your words have started to taste of oleander milk sap, Your mouth numb with it, tonguing at the back of your molars, Where the shape of your nationhood is losing its edges, Dissolving cane-sugar sweet, petroleum film-thick. Your body has become whitewashed, shuttered between sash cotton panes, Muffled in lime plaster, Cape Dutch Revival in an autoclave, The woman screaming in the thatch roof, Rhodes pinning green gabling vernacular to her swollen throat. Vernacular, holy vernacular, a useful colonialism, The semiotic granadilla vine of urban revivification projects, The redistribution of apartheid wealth to fund yet another bronze Madiba, Smiling beneficent at you in a gated courtyard scrubbed clean of His blood. Yes, lately your words have started to falter in their meaning, Detached by your reluctant radicalism, your foolish poststructuralism, Voice thick and velveteen and putrid like the corpse flesh of the King Protea, The City swallowing the woman whole and bitter, washed down with a Rock Shandy.
In Hartbeespoort, you seek answers in the water hyacinth, A parasitic hierophany choking the bronchiolar inlets of the City, Who speaks of the things that kill her with resignation but not regret, And passes you an unfiltered cigarette in place of a sign. You realise, twenty years too late, that she does not love you, the City, No, not as a nation state should, But you have learnt how to unlove and unform one another, How to rot and destroy in tandem as the water hyacinth’s womb-lining breaks. This is a cigarette tribunal at the edge of the world, Just you and the City, daughter-brothers-in-arms-in-apocalypse, Waiting as the skein of your existence pulls taught around your neck, Currents of corrupted birth waters reaching ankle-height and growing. What monstrous existence, you think, reaching for another cigarette, What luck.
Regret is followed by the krantz aloe funeral march, On the highway between Johannesburg and Hartbeespoort, Where self trades for tar trades for doubles trades for loss— Trades for something like forgiveness. (are you sure this is what you’re looking for, bon vivant? the krantz aloe asks) You pass them, foreign undertaker in a rental car, Spurs of frantumaglia lava breaching compacted ash, Perforating razed ruins of the rattling earth, An irreparable amount of damage, provincially indicted. (collateral, the krantz aloe says, this will all be collateral in the end) The air is oily with burnt veld, your hand sticky with it, Unsure of the grief that begins to settle, misplaced, Heat-blanched yet immeasurable, In the intimate spaces between your ribs. (this is a mourning that is not yours, bon vivant, the krantz aloe says) You glide mercury-smooth on a melting highway, Pursued by the sound of the krantz aloe funeral march, A bones-bound asphalt body crushed under your wheels, Another grim summer autocrat looking for reconciliation.
Aiden Tait (they/he) is a small-batch poet operating from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their work has been featured by the South Atlantic Modern Language Association and has been published in The Lamp and Tidewise. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
After George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From
I am from an outdoor playhouse in Poway with an unfinished roof From Souplantation and Mary Kay I am from slanted unfinished wood and a brick fireplace I am from a nectarine tree Whose branches wrapped round the splintering deck I am from watercolor and pink Cadillacs From Walthall and Lane From perseverance and elbow grease From neurosis I am from Jesus skits on Sunday mornings From cherry pie and pot roast From an Arkansas farm when Dallas secretary work couldn’t feed the child And from beatings that left Nana unrecognizable to her own mother And first steps out of the rocking hair that my great grandfather whittled, sanded, and polished And from moments that I pass on to my daughter as she rocks herself in that same chair.
The director asked me if I could do it and I said yes because I thought I could Instead of a simple lean back into the tub followed by an underwater blink take a beat then rise My lungs immediately rebelled My mind went back to the pull of rip tide in slightly too deep Pacific when I was young and fearless and didn’t care how cold the water was and didn’t worry about the animals whose home I might be invading That moment when for just a second I thought I might know for certain what happens when we die before my mother That moment when I fought like Hell because I remembered my little sister was out just as deep as me My lungs’ rebellion in that bath tub kept my body sitting me up so quickly that we couldn’t get the planned shot I kept telling the director that I was willing to try again He liked my attitude and my acting so I got to keep my part We just had to change the scene
CLS Sandoval, PhD (she/her) is a pushcart nominated writer and communication professor with accolades in film, academia, and creative writing who speaks, signs, acts, publishes, sings, performs, writes, paints, teaches and rarely relaxes. She’s a flash fiction and poetry editor for Dark Onus Lit. She has presented over 50 times at communication conferences, published 15 academic articles, two academic books, three full-length literary collections, three chapbooks, as well as flash and poetry pieces in several literary journals, recently including Opiate Magazine, The Journal of Magical Wonder, and A Moon of One’s Own. She is raising her daughter and dog with her husband in Alhambra, CA.
“Mirror, Mirror on the wall? Who’s the fairest lady of all?” And yet again she lies. For I hound insincerities. Quirks to fancy, villainy to fascination; The elf but reigns the realm of tangibility. Define realism. This and that are somehow coexistent, and yet, mutually exclusive. An anxious body stands and sees the elf falling apart. The body is frantic and naked in nightmares; And ugly during meals, And ugly while taking a walk, And pretty only in its burrow, And pretty only in denial. Cursed with blessings; suffocated with gratitude. The growl of weakness amplifies. Laying paralyzed at the gate I saw the dusk fall; Where are my roots? “আকাশে ঘনালে মেঘ বাকি পথ হেঁটে এসে, শেষ হয়েও পড়ে থাকি অবশেষে। নিভিয়ে দিয়েছি, ফুরিয়ে গিয়েছি ডুবিয়েছি কত ভেলা, প্রেমিক নাবিক জানেনা সাগর একা রাখা অবহেলা।“
Bhagyasree is currently a PhD scholar at IIT Mandi. She was born and brought up in Agartala, Tripura where she pursued her education until graduation. Before embarking on her PhD, she completed her Master’s Degree in English Literature from Savitribai Phule Pune University and has worked as a guest lecturer thereafter. Besides academics, she takes an active interest in music, classical dance and drama. Earlier she published her creative work in regional publications. She is keenly interested in the philosophy of existentialism and tries to look at various aspects of socio-cultural politics through this lens. These poems are also reflective of the same.Contact info: 7005583763 (phone), email@example.com
I stand at the door, Apprehensive to knock. Staring at my parents' chappals, Lined outside the door. I circle the house, Peep through the windows. I listen to the symphony of its chaos. The resonating static on the radio. Papa's indistinct call to Maa, "Chai ban Rahi hai na?" Maa’s vivid response, "Har Samay Chai!" Yelled to transmit the noise of the pressure cooker. She is frying aloo pakoras, I feel like a little girl again. She is making green chutney. The green of the coriander leaves, Sketches my childhood alive. It’s getting difficult to breathe. Maa calls my sister, Asks her if I happened to call. "No." It pierces through her soul. "Don't wait for her call," my sister adds. Maa nods a dull nod. The radio static has died. Papa hasn't demanded tea. The pressure cooker is not in use. I can't smell the pakoras. Maa hasn't asked if I've called. I can't see my parents' chappals, Lined outside the door. I circle the house, Peep through the windows. I listen to the discord of its quiet. I stand at the door, Apprehensive to knock.
Nishtha Sachdev is a research scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Roorkee. She has completed her master’s from the Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. She has a knack for Urdu Poetry and loves reading Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Farhaz, Amrita Pritam, Mohsin Naqvi, Irfan Siddiqi. Her academic areas of interest include Nationalism, Post Truth, Media Studies, and Gender Studies.
Lovely Y-shaped glass Filled with icy clear liquid. Half-full, frosted, Tapering glass pitcher, so Cool, so healing, so refreshing. A ritual of preparation, the father Home from work, mother impatient for The queen's reward. Masterfully he mixes gin, vermouth, A quick stir, then confidently placing the Sacred vessel before her. The evening begins. The king sits kitty-corner at the open counter, the Young prince sits across, waiting. The princess near the queen, dreading. King, queen, pitcher, glass. All gathered for the sadness. Her beautiful brain Slows, dulls, becomes unharmable. Anger smiles, opportunity wickedly arrives. The canny snappish slippery thing Darts forward and flicks, Looking to strike - The prince and princess Immobilized by unstoppable loss By betrayal, by youth. The bite pierces deep, The venom lingers, a sickness of spirit. Having survived, again and again Tolerance develops, knowledge recovers. But somewhere deep Children never understand, Never forget. Daytime, the royal scullery Empty, all quiet. Daughter and son watch carefully sideways, Pour gin into the sink Then water into the sacred bottle. Enough to make a difference, maybe, Not enough to get caught, maybe. It seems unnoticed. But that evening the slither Re-emerges, Anger still smiles, Head tilting this way and that. Sharp red eyes, Intensely ready, hungry. When the prince and princess confront the King, he angers. Understand, you'll never. Later they learn of the other Prince, lost, full term. The queen's pain, her sadness. The powerful woman denied A man's chance, her brothers' chance. One night, while the Prince and princess are Away, the queen stumbles and falls Among her gathered subjects. The center of laughter and pity. Humiliated, she determines to change. Some new evening it begins A single short squat glass of Shimmery orange brown liquid, A sliver of lemon, Small blocks of ice, Shifting cut glass diamonds of Yellowish light. Less potent, less dangerous. The darkness subdues, but it is Still there, hidden. No lovely Y-shape, no icy clear liquid. Older, slower, resigned. Still, it winds the Paths, searching, searching. The queen misses her companion. Somewhere far inside She fiercely loves its Truth to death.
String your bow, brave Odysseus. Launch your arrow through Eyes of Axes, through these Honorless men. They must Die. Mustn't they? Penned by suffering and doubt, you Found your way out, Enslaved by cunning and power, Found your escape, Ensnared by temptation and Ease, found your way here. None can hold Your bow, none string it - None can lace the Arrow through axe loops to Win your wife, to save his life. Their ending has Sailed toward these Suitors all their gluttonous Years. Son of Pain, Pray for them now, They have no way out. The doors are locked. The deals are done. They cannot reach their Shields and spears. So many of your comrades Lost along the way. These suitors know Even less, they do not understand. They stumble, pleading, Crying, to a Shadowy, ignorant death. As yet another life, for you, Begins.
Joe Welch is resuming a poetry career he began in my 20s when four of his pieces were published in the Harvard Advocate and Padran Aram. After college, he kicked around the country for a few years and then settled down and helped raise his family in Chicago. Having recently retired, he is now writing full-time and beginning once again.
To love a dead thing is to want without receiving. It is almost winter in this room. Outside, the trees are discarding their own onto the grass. The love letters have gone out with them, tracing my footsteps like a needy lover, like an echo of something dead. When the baby doesn't arrive is to love a dead thing, too. Even if it never was. It is nighttime now, and I am faking funerals in my dreams. The onlookers are tiny words written in little type. I cannot see where it is to go. To love a dead thing, though, is to awaken the sleeping and snuffed It is a poem read at candlelight. It is a perfect prayer by a lover to her beloved.
Tara Propper has earned her MFA in poetry and PhD in English. Her poetry has appeared in the Southampton Review, Moveable Type, Ekstasis Magazine, Literature Today, Long Island Sounds (edited collection), Taj Mahal International Literary Journal, Vagabond City Press, P – Queue, and is forthcoming in Impost: A Journal of Creative and Critical Work and Janus Unbound. Her chapbook, This body was never made, is under contract with Finishing Line Press. Her scholarly work has been published in Composition Forum, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, Feminist Connections, and Resources for American Literary Study. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Literature and Languages at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Sitting across each other at the dinner table, the light was physical. “Nuance” comes from the Latin “nubes”– cloud. Odysseus asleep on the Phaeacian ship was tectonic and I didn’t miss it. You anchor your gaze somewhere between the mustard bottle and my left elbow and I skydive through obscure clouds wondering dumbly if the tail on that one means you love me or if the dust bunny is suggestive of our death. I got an A on that paper because I didn’t miss it. The gradation in the off-ness of the wine is slow and I finally ask you if you think anything of it. Are you sure he was asleep, you ask back. The cloud search is mathematical and manual. A year later I caught the back of your neck in the crowd — the night was licking it rather sensually as if to mock me. I asked you when was the moment you knew and the yeast in the night leaned in to catch your reply not me. Somewhere between the wine bottle and the fork, you said. But it was a Monday, I thought, Mondays were soup days.
Penelope is a poet and writer from Cyprus, working on critical translations of classical Greek texts. She was the recent Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Review of Books and if she could time travel she would go back to Shakespeare’s time so she could watch a play from the pit, with the peanuts and the shouting.
I have walked on the gravelled alleys of many cities, To understand love, longing and loss. I have seen in lonely bus stops the distempered souls of fading sarees and brown pants. Unmeasurable lives enter our own, incalculable in their impressions, And tenderness unearths itself Each night, as our hands touch, Comprehending human vulnerabilities. We measure territories by the width of our souls, And forget the road signs and street names that choose our destination every day. Nowhere is a place we travel to, marking it with the transience of time and space, Naming ourselves, Naming places in search of poetry And in the meanwhile, poetry often gets found.
Dr. Neepa Sarkar is presently working on two books on Anti-pastoral and collective memory respectively. She is a Fiction Reader for Mud Season Review, Book Reviewer for Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies and has taught in the Department of English, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore and was the Coordinator for MA English there. She has a Ph. D in English Literature from the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Pondicherry University, 2019 and her thesis was on Literature and Collective Memory. She has presented papers in international and national conferences and has published chapters and articles in books and journals including History Today and Middle West Review, Irish Studies Review, The Confidential Clerk, Melus Melow Journal, Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Glocal Colloquies and The Himalayan Journal of Contemporary Research, H.P. University, Shimla. She won the Issac Sequiera Memorial Award (2018) for her paper on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Three of her chapters on Partition Literature and Postcolonialism and Ecocriticism and Detective Fiction respectively have been published by De Gruyter Press and Lexington Books. Also, her poetry has been published in Within and Without Magazine, US, an anthology brought out by Cyberwit publishers, India and Daath Voyage journal. Her poems were shortlisted for the Srinivas Rayaprol Prize (2015). Her interests are Film theory, Creative Writing, Memory Studies, Science Fiction and Literary Theory.
Was it paint she lacked or trust in her own inspiration? Her pigments were never the finest. No lapis blued her skies; they fade to white. Now-brown leaves confess themselves occlusions. The alchemies of stone and oil evaporate with age; let time brush art with revelation. Images emerge though thinning overpaint. A childhood scene she thought to share then chose to mask: wishing away with a woodland glade the crumbling, ochreous edges of that rough thatched cottage; the ragged children straggled on the step; the father, careless with his jug. want windows the heart years deglaze the camouflage vaporise regret
Born in Liverpool, Sue Steging now lives near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. After a career spanning education and psychotherapy she enjoys having time to write about the human and non-human world around her. Her work has been published in various journals and anthologies and she received The Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing in 2023.
I circled back along the emotional compass I couldn’t help myself, feeling lost tugging and pulling at memory, like soft taffy I somehow sketched a ragged line up there in the dim rafters then pulled it towards me like penny change the man had jingled on the counter a leg up finally on the chocolate bars don’t shove, you boink, there’s enough space for what you might as well remember I raised life a nickel but the picture cards didn’t blink they had lives, I suppose, and lovers, and stories of their own field rows and woodlands and sheltered summer canopies if you had been there, which indeed you had you would have seen that deal I closed or that ball I tagged up and over the fence boards it seemed so peaceful, with the Sun taking its graceful bow in soft obeisance to the far trees, the pastures, the hills it’s all a dim pastiche, a sketch in oils and paint on a canvas stored safely in heaven we weren’t sure in advance how all of this might be, in the armchairs of the waiting having been through so many triumphs and travails our dreams are a shared memory we mustn’t be greedy to hoard a mirror of the pale delusions of immortality when it’s time, we reach out, knowing something has to be there whispers of personage, instances of soul a reflected reverence of being
it mightn’t have occurred to Odysseus to wear long underwear in the Aegean night if Penelope hadn’t gotten it so perfect and right the postcards were few and often waylaid her oaths of fidelity tested and frayed Telemachos my son good steadfast boy sure as the surf spray pride and joy twenty years’ wait is a heck of a stretch with Poseidon acting the part of a wretch surrendered at first to Kalypso’s nymph clutches seven long years without help of some suches Athene my proxy took matters to Zeus who messengered Hermes, thanks, thus I sprung loose on a raw sea awash in Poseidon’s old tricks I had one of my own, not with stones but with sticks and lanced out his Cyclops son’s misshapen eye then returned to the voyage with hopes breasting high though the snares seemed unending, singing Sirens and such Circe’s hot lusts ever warm to the touch we forged on ahead, with tough sacrifices Scylla the she-monster’s six-headed vices a choice between feeding her many-mouthed cravings and risking a whirlpool of Charybdis’ mad ravings lotus-eaters offered narcotic enticements to make us forget the here what and why(ce)-ments and Aeolus, the wind-maker, with his ox-skinned bag unleashed one last insult, one more blast, one more snag but the shores of Ithaca loomed clear at long last I prayed dear Penelope’s heart had held fast beset lo these years by a surfeit of suitors would I still on Olympus have one or two rooters I’d slip through unnoticed on Ithacan shore a poor hapless beggar that most would ignore save an oxherd and swineherd whom I now befriended and this was the prelude, our story soon ended enduring yet insults from Penelope’s suitors I set down the challenge, with few to no rooters who might string my longbow, a feat of great strength all takers soon failed, and then at length I let fly my arrows, the slaughter commenced long years of exile, by blood recompensed a handful of suitors resorted to spears which Athene deflected, to resounding cheers I finished the others, with strong spears alike until I had made my final last strike Penelope, darling, come soft in my arms delivered on high from travails and harms now let our passions run wild and free me unto you and you unto me as husband and wife, devoted and dear loving and faithful, our hearts ever near our hopes will be buoyed, ecstatic, sublime on seas of devotion, for now and all time
A native New Yorker, Ron Micci is a prolific author of plays, novels, screenplays and stories. His one-act plays have been staged in Manhattan as well as elsewhere in the country. Two have been published by Brooklyn/Heuer Publishers, and three self-published novels appear on Amazon.com. Many of his writings can be freely sampled on the Booksie website. Fleas on the Dog magazine website recently published his humorous piece "My Redacted Life" (Issue No. 13), and "Your Bra Is Blocking My View" in issue No. 14.