because they were not brushed with hope, not stroked by love.
What reason did they have to live?
But because they hadn’t heard how hopeless it was,
Each new tuft pushed up into life and died.
Published by The Emma Press, Sable Books, Medusa’s Laugh Press, Dream Catcher, Live Canon, Smith/Doorstop, Dempsey and Windle, The Frogmore Papers. From the Bottom of the Wishing Well won second prize in Paper Swans Press Pamphlet Prize and will be published shortly. Her full collection Amber was shortlisted by Hedgehog Press.
I already had the appetite when my body rose in the oven unleavened breasts garnering a level of attention I hadn’t had before.
It seemed I could suddenly give rise to anyone I possessed in a glance but avoided the mirror.
Nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of attention a sixteen year old gets when she arrives into school from summer doubled in height, halved in weight and holding the temporary golden ticket of ‘the right kind’ of body.
Boys that would’ve viewed my previous self as an unusable lunchtime football fell over each other in asking my number and claimed to have fingered me before we’d ever met.
Sexual confidence – I don’t know how I had it Sometimes I wonder was it being the child that ate all the chocolate
Being acceptable enough to fuck was all the satisfaction I needed for a very long time.
I am bearing witness to how little it had to do with me how temporary how far down the wrong rabbit hole you can go when motivated by not being ‘the wrong kind’
of body, of person.
beam is a 26 year old woman from Ireland, a new poet and a recent MA graduate in Vocal Performance. At the moment beam is working on her first collection after being published on Spilling Hot Cocoa Over Martin Amis. Recent work includes surviving the pandemic and several disappointing sourdough loaves. You can find more of her poetry @personalbeam on instagram.
I couldn’t help myself, the threads stitched themselves. Automatic needlework. Needles work to seal your features on my lap and spools of green threads conjoined to form envious eyes that judge even in lifelessness. Less life passes in your face each day as the needles rise and fall of their own accord. The emerald cords skipping fabric instead into flesh lacking protection that felt the sharp incision of metal through skin and bone with surgical precision. A collision of strands travelling on re canals filling with grievous knots that thwart tenderness. Under the skin on my wrist aligned with my own blue ribbons, they stream together. Together in these symbiotic stitches we share our mutual afflictions.
My ally gone. The day before my tenth birthday. Now I am with the dark suits and dresses, Amongst the orchestra of sobs, coughs, and creaking pews.
Great-aunts I’d only seen as words in mum’s tired address-book, Their raining eyes turn to downpour As The Lord is my Shepherd is sung or bawled. Rainstorms on legs. Some sang with belief, others grief.
As his frame slides out towards flames, the heartbroken, Some seeing a reflection of their own frailty, Some still pouring into hankies converged on Mersea Island where we were comforted by Shepherd’s pie
Served by aprons on stilts. All in Arthur’s memory, his thanks for our compassion. Remembered amongst Royal Copenhagen blue-white Tableware, Shy behind a bespoke glass shield. And burning silver-cutlery.
Nothing was as old as the ancient chest Which survived Nazis and was liberated from A Danish castle, even older than the great-aunts.
Paul Attwell lives in Richmond with his partner Alis, and Pudsey the cat. Paul’s experiences of depression and ADHD shape his work. Blade is available from WrongRoosterPublishing at https://www.wrongroosterpublishing.com/ Early Doors will be available mid-May. Paul’s poems have been on IS&Tears, Runcible Spoon, One Hand Clapping and Amethyst.
Moving on is 50 over the limit on a snow-covered motorway, then remembering I have children. It’s dyed hair, and a tattoo, and poems written in the dark. Or in the bathtub. Like this one.
Moving on is dropping weight, getting surgery, cutting out sugar, running a 15K. It’s sitting an extra five-minutes in the car park to cry, before going home.
Moving on is a bustling twitter feed. A website, a brand, too many projects. Travel across France. It’s more lovemaking, more bedtime stories, more cuddles, more crafts.
Moving on is grieving, telling myself that you are the worst kind of dead to me. It’s knowing that you’re the kind of dead that isn’t dead at all.
Elizabeth M Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer and language teacher. She lives in Paris with her family and two cats. When not writing poetry, she can be found working on her podcast or webcomic, pottering about her garden, or writing a variety of different things under a variety of pen names. She has words in, or upcoming in Selcouth Station Press, Pollux Journal, Authylem Magazine, Fevers of the Mind Press, and Tuna Fish Journal, among others.
Summer’s citrus groves and orchards offered us kids little for snacks, no ripe fruit, until finally autumn, and then we relished that after-school, georgic freedom, scrambling like colts and calves after
another numbing four-walled week of classroom duties, so we sought out those first oranges of autumn, those softening, pliable skins, digging deep, our dirty finger- nails, deep into sneezing rinds, piquant
and green, ripping off the too-tight wrap-around skins, sinking our unbrushed teeth deeper into the sweet yet acid flesh. I recall a local farmer once calling out—those were not oranges, but greens, immature like us, yet
like us, changing fast, even as we spoke, doing what citrus does best, uniting its sugar brix with sour PH, that sweet and sour taste mixing October’ s foggy days with November’s cooler mornings that opened increasingly
chilly and sweater-cold, when the oranges, the grown ups called “hamlins,” expanded suddenly from golf-ball size to baseballs, even as we clutched them in sweaty hands. Yes, a whole orchard contained, an inland inland sea, with baubles and bubbles like
like tropical Christmas trees, filling up with sweet juice. We kids just called them “Earlies” but we loved that citrus mix that satiated the paradoxical palates of adolescents—country kids growing up fast under a lengthy sun-burnt south,
where we learned from stuffy schoolbooks that fruit trees up north were called “Deciduous,” those apples, pears, peaches and cherries, yet in the groves that circled ‘round a winter haven’s chain-of lakes,
we could not imagine nature’s world beyond the evergreen leaves of mild winters, nor could we see inside the mystic spin of nature’s evolving shades and colors, nor understand the classroom biology
that explained why the rind of an orange stays green until Florida’s temperature falls near 40 degrees; therefore when we woke on those first chilly November mornings, we saw how the ethereal frost powdered the skins and rinds with concentric
circles and created for us—kids running in bare feet and cut-off jeans—the contradiction of the natural world of a sandy ridge that centered our peninsula, yet it would follow us down the winding rows and glancing blows of our lives. Was it just the steamy
climate? Or some juxtaposition of the sweet and sour of a sub-tropical fruit, something sharply contrasting, some concentricity of rainbows ‘round the rinds of expanding minds? Something gleaned in the cold-front snaps of Christmas? Something in December mornings
when the green circles of childhood spun full- circle into the ripe oranges of adolescence.
Reed Venrick usually writes poems with themes of nature.
Typical story: alone on an island. New twist: whatever you dream will come to life. Wanting company or to dare even leave the stagnant sand, you tell yourself to dream of something useful: and the next morning, you wake to seven flares. For a week, you shoot flares into the air, no one comes. But each morning, you wake to a new delight: Monday a bed to sleep in, Tuesday green bananas, Friday a pillow. By Saturday, already-ripe avocados welcome you to the day. As expected, you are getting arrogant, lonely, and want home. God-like,
with that filthy pride, no crowd to applaud. You want to go home. So tell yourself to dream of a sailboat and strong winds. Almost home! You wake and there’s a horse mistaking your hair for alfalfa, mistaking you for his owner, and you know nothing about horses.
So you dream that you’ve already read through the encyclopedia labeled H and have learned horses don’t really like saddles, don’t really need apple water-soaked bridles to keep them content. Instead you dream of a water trough and fertile soil to replace the sand. The horse sleeps open-eyed and standing up, but you already know this has something
to do with fear. New day, no water clinking into the tin. New day, and the grass seeds stay seeds. He looks at you looking at him, and both of you know this is no place for a horse. The next day, you wake and the horse is gone.
Assume your dreams were filled with horse-eating creatures. The kind with teeth that can rip through strong thigh muscles. Maybe wolves, maybe furless tigers—it doesn’t matter. He’s not coming back. Or you dreamed of a field with tall grass and wildflowers in a place where it’s always April. You dreamed of other horses, then you dreamed him there.
Sean Cho A. is the author of “American Home” (Autumn House 2021) winner of the Autumn House Publishing chapbook contest. His work can be future found or ignored in Copper Nickel, Pleiades, The Penn Review, The Massachusetts Review, Nashville Review, among others. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California Irvine and the Associate Editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal. Find him @phlat_soda
I’d hate to leave any uncertainty regarding our position: yet if you still have any questions in that department, I’ll take them offline, as well as your contemplative stare, that pins me through with something like love.
Something like love that pins me through, with your contemplative stare: I’ll take them offline, as well as any questions in that department… Yet, if you still have any uncertainty regarding our position, I’d hate to leave.
Nicole Lee was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated at Malvern and Oxford. She has worked as a banker in Hong Kong and London and now lives in Wandsworth, works in Kew and writes poetry. She has been published in various online journals and long-listed in the National Poetry Competition.
Last night, I dreamt of rats, rats white and grey: some tiny, some as large as domestic cats. Locked in my home, frozen in candlelight, no sooner had one pair scurried off
than another entered – dropped down with its pregnant mate –
from gnawed-through ceiling plaster, narrowly missing my petrified head. Incisors flashed: sharp and ivory-white. Intelligent ‘we know you’ eyes stared me out, pierced my sanity.
I woke up sweat-soaked, heart pumping – flung open my bedroom casement, and bathed in ice-cold air.
Relieved, and strangely aroused, my hand soothed my body –
until I heard rodent feet scratching behind the skirting board, skirmishing in my attic.
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, [MA Creative Writing, Newcastle 2017] lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She is a Pushcart (2019 & 2020) and Forward Prize (2019) nominee. She believes everyone’s voice counts.
The double glass sent back my first reflection; unrecognisable, a lack with eyes I’ve searched for answers on my mother’s breast, a Hera with her spurting milk creating chaos I’ve searched for meaning through shuttered words, anthologies and lexicons, but none of it was found I’ve searched for polis within myself, because the Alexandrian poet said so, but still, its iron gates were in-and-out locked down I’ve searched for sun rays in Bible texts, but darkness looms in doubtless quests, the candle light again, violently, put out I’ve searched for laughter on mountain peaks, the Muses and the Titans refused to laugh out loud I’ve searched for caves, the black abyss, I swam in oceans I could drown; “Behold!” the great philosopher commands, “Let’s start to go down!”
Elena Pitsilidou is based in Cyprus. Her poetry has won the 7th Undergraduate Poetry Competition 2020 of the University of Cyprus. Her writing has also appeared in print and online publications in the UK and the US, such as The Psychologist, Reader’s Digest, and We Said Go Travel.
in your mind Einstein’s walking with the attributes of thought in your heart Joyce’s talking existential tension taut
pencil broken paperwork sleepy Einstein’s bending time howling of an introvert brave Ulysses skipping rhyme
these two met where borders blend where hearts and minds still can meet pub pints quenched by older men words and numbers still compete
You can write a universe in an ordinary day, tell me how the moons traverse, or this tab you’ll surely pay.
Joyce responds with scolding brands – Make our universe sublime, do the math for holding-hands in my heart and in your mind.
Bill Fay has been published by Puget Sound Poetry Connection, Creative Colloquy, and the Virginia V Foundation, among others. Bill lives with his beautiful wife and their bodacious cats, Tucker and Annie, on Fox Island in Puget Sound, near Seattle. Favorite quote: “When the quill is sharp, the mind is never dull”.
Loose shingles, gutter dust washed out like government issued grass seed. What now? The president, China, Tim Allen. Making lists as healthcare.
Remember when the wind said, “Hold Me” and it wasn’t a whisper? We both heard it, louder than a train whistle, clearer than the leaded glass of your father’s liquor cabinet. In broad daylight, we ran like dogs being pelted by steel bolts.
Around the fire now, the stalking glow of ember, as it was thousands of years ago when the first story was told—but it’s not the only light that can pull me away, a flash from the forest, an echo.
No comfort these days. Without you now. Still waiting for the day when the wind comes for me again.
John T. Leonard is an award-winning writer, English teacher, and poetry editor for Twyckenham Notes. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University. His previous works have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, december, Chiron Review, North Dakota Review, Roanoke Review, Punt Volat, High Shelf Press, Rappahannock Review, Jelly Bucket, Mud Season Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Genre: Urban Arts, Stonecoast Review, and Trailer Park Quarterly. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs. You can follow him on Twitter at @jotyleon and @TwyckenhamNotes.
Flocks of seagull’s dive with mighty beaks Yawing open, tongues whipping. I run, only finding corridors of empty doors And faceless people With tears where eyes Should Be. I look down at the blood where if cascades Down my legs, With clots, chunks of liver. A baby is screaming in my arms Its mouth open But filled With Hot tar Melting its face away. Until the child is just molten wax Dripping down me, Hardening onto a sea of blood. I walk away with Daddy Longlegs. His taps singing, a knife on crystal. So, we toast the admiral In his tricorn Hat. Who looks at me like I’m nothing? I feel the sweat burn my brow And slip between my breasts. A bald man sucks my nipple I swat him away And keep Walking. Naked.
Jane Langan’s poems were published in the anthology, Footprints and Echoes, shortlisted in the Lockdown Haiku competition with Fish Publishing, and had a special mention from The Welsh Poetry Competition. She was longlisted in the Mairtin Crawford Awards. Jane just completed an MA in Creative Writing. Jane’s Blog: http://howilikemycoffee.blogspot.com/
A girl forgets she has a body she can feel, that she exists outside this bubble she’s created. Once she would choose escape, run away to a place with warm skies and salty air. Now she stays grounded or at least tries. She nods to the other runners she sees, fewer each day. No words are exchanged, a mute nod of encouragement, sometimes a wave. This world looks so different from what she imagined. She sometimes wishes to go back to when the anxiety that raced through her blood was due to the lover whose name she rarely breathed into existence. Now she stares out windows, the world trudging forward in a strangely silent way— like a movie without sound, her motions exaggerated. But if there’s no one to witness it does it matter if she cooks in her underwear? Does it matter if she dances to 80s hits at midnight? She bakes brownies, licks the spatula, pulls the pan out early so the brownies are so gooey she needs a spoon to eat them. She does this, cross-legged on the couch, her dog curled up beside her, the world slowly turning outside, death creeping a little closer each day.
Courtney LeBlanc is the author of Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), chapbooks All in the Family (Bottlecap Press) and The Violence Within (Flutter Press). She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She has her MBA from University of Baltimore and her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: http://www.wordperv.com. Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.
Societal progression is diminished When discourse is quelled And consumed by bias fervor,
Where to believe is to be severed, Struck down for thoughts contrary To a mass collective,
Merely a manipulated flock Stricken with agendas Solely not their own,
And derived from sweet tears Of ancestors long gone And ashen,
But there is no growth is systemic hatred, Nor no power in moral judgements Subjective, and ever contradictory,
No, there is no power in oppression, No matter ideology, No, no matter collective assumptions
Driven by skewed discourse contrived.
A R Salandy is a mixed-race poet & writer whose work tends to focus on social inequality throughout late-modern society. Anthony travels frequently and has spent most of his life in Kuwait jostling between the UK & America. Anthony’s work has been published 130 times. Anthony has 1 published chapbook titled ‘The Great Northern Journey’. Twitter/Instagram: @anthony64120 https://arsalandywriter.com/ Anthony is the Co-Eic of Fahmidan Journal.
It must’ve been the Harmattan, this time; I know, I know — this is Alaska, not Africa, but my Nigerian friend said it’s a “pesky” wind that bears this name, and I have to believe the suddenness with which the latest gale blew in — all its rage and paradoxical warmth tearing through town in a few hours — makes it such a force, built under pressure, kicking that sand-like dirt in our faces (as if we were characters in a billboard Queen song) leaving us with nothing but the bitter, below-zero chill, slippery roads, and an irritatingly low level of snow that would otherwise brighten these black winter nights.
I believe our good friend H, as we’ll call him, was on vacation from West Africa, but got lost on his way to Florida or California, pulled along by the current of another wind, which erred in its assumption of his desired destination, thus moving him to air his grievances with us, as if we were to blame for his unfortunate detour.
So goodbye, H — I know your true nature now, and pray we never meet again.
Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum is a writer and teacher born and raised in Alaska. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Japanese Studies with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She currently serves as the Mat-Su Vice President of Alaska Writers Guild. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @caitbuxbaum
A worn ash branch 2-feet long Y-shaped the dowser whom I expected old man toothless gaps stringy hair gray unwashed beard hanging to his chest patched clothes draping off a frame lanky from cheap whiskey as thin as an eighteen-year old fashion model speaking in Appalachian accent I can’t decode not the six-foot tall fifty-year old equipment operator prosperous real estate salesman wears spotless Land’s End outdoor work gear keeps his well-drilling truck cab warm and clean auger gleams in the cold November sun most of his time on his mobile phone juggles appointments rod’s handles worn polished repeated use wanders for an hour around the forested hillside where we would build our cabin before announcing the divining rod pointing to the carpet of decaying grass and tree bark fallen oak leaves deer droppings bear scat right here this point upon my skeptical nod of assent starts up his rig bores a hole through the clay smooth rocks and boulders below rain runoff underground channels past tree roots through limestone strata at 90 feet an aquifer gives us a steady stream through flood and drought for house for barn and frost-free hydrants in fields we test the water for 500 chemicals biologics industrial pollutants no bacteria, no animal waste, no gasoline or diesel fuel, no Sulphur, no fertilizers, no contaminants at all nothing but H2O pure as if distilled we could sell it to city consumers who never taste real water or use it to produce craft vodka compensate losses from our farming
An early black and white photo of Frost dressed in dark jacket white shirt with long sleeves closed with French cuffs and links as for a session of teaching or sitting for photography looks young still already tastes success his face drawn dark alone focused sits in a wood armchair leather covered cushion against the back writes on a rough cut homemade easel end of one board raw with saw marks set across the arms an opened booklet in left hand pen held in right – a wedding ring? signs an autograph perhaps on inside cover I first see the photo in college imagine the setting is his home kitchen in Franconia. That’s the poet’s life, I learn, one summer with uncle and cousins in Jefferson a few miles from Franconia the farm land surrounding my grandparents’ cottage cows knock down the white picket fence my mother’s parents erect in a fit of picturesque as they walk through Pricilla Brook flowing past stir and muddy the water the farmer hays the field by the cottage he leaves a tuft of flowers I fancy this a tribute similarly when brush hogging first growth grass in our cattle fields I leave a plot of weed flowers uncut I walk the fields to check on calves on water levels in the stock tanks remove grass and turf dropped from the cows’ cuds Autumn blown leaves ice in the Winter I remember, of how, Frost already thirty on his grandfather’s farm in Derry treks the cow pasture clears leaves from the spring we share Platonism a useful metaphor I move to California live in Berkeley three summers I joke to no one’s amusement San Francisco gave Frost to New Hampshire New Hampshire returns the favor with me
Summers I swim in the Baker River bicycle up Highland Street hill out of town by Hatch’s dairy that delivered milk to the Plymouth Inn during the War through Smith Covered Bridge hike across Barney’s farm fields bordering the shallow river with blue clay banks Barney keeps dairy cows delivers milk in the village I and buddies transform into blue aboriginals clay covering our skin caking our hair mother shouts as I pedal away from the house “don’t get polio”
park paths silver ice childhood memory run slide face up swelling hurts
Storms triumph twilight fills with processions of black clouds white light between flashes foam churns on ships’ wakes beyond flooded grassy fields forests of wind felled trees sails of a thousand ships drop below the gray horizon of the wine dark sea
smoke of the burning city floods the sky with silence no pleas
only you alone on the shore mourn your impetuosity beat your breasts, O maidens, and rend your garments