What Coming Home Looks Like – Aisling Keogh

I do the school run when darkness fingers the light-
gently giving two to the idea there will be any sun today.
That grey half light forgives my no make up face
and those tiny pink purple veins around my nose,
inherited from my mother.

My black coat touches off bare ankles,
sock less inside walking shoes, and forgives my saggy breasts.
Bra-less, they sit on a stomach that should be smaller.
I always wear earrings to look more put together
than I actually am.

This morning, I did the school run like this, in my pyjamas.
And came home to you, a visitor in my house, in my kitchen, in your pyjamas.
And instead of yelling “be with you in a minute”
and running to change, I kicked off those shoes
and stood barefoot on my unwashed floors.

I unzipped my coat without a thought for my forty-something body
and wondered how many times we’d done this before?
Even though this was a first.

 

Aisling Keogh is a psychotherapist and a stay at home mother to three young children. Her short stories have been published with The Irish Independent, Crannog Magazine, Wordlegs, Ropes, Bangor Literary Journal, A New Ulster, and “Story Cities” an anthology published by Arachne Press, in June of 2019. Her first published short story, “How to Save a Life,” was shortlisted for the Hennessy Irish Literary Awards 2011. In 2018, Aisling finished writing her first novel, which she is currently submitting to agents, and in January 2019, she was shortlisted for the Doolin Writer’s Weekend Short Story Competition. In her free time Aisling likes to write and sing.

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Stained Lass – LindaAnn LoSchiavo

Religion classes taught us to behave:
Defer fun’s gratification. Submit.

The patriarchy ruled the afterlife — —
Along with most improper things. Obliged.
Coerced. Imperfect those Confessions, stained.

Could any child prevent assaults or blab?

Each catechism lesson drilled down deep,
Swore death would be “the best day” of your life.

Meanwhile, your body was a sacrament,
Impure of thought and deed upon command

Swift holy water dip on the way out.

 

LindaAnn LoSchiavo is a dramatist, writer, and poet. Her poetry chapbooks “Conflicted Excitement” [Red Wolf Editions, 2018], “Concupiscent Consumption” [Red Ferret Press, 2020], and “A Route Obscure and Lonely”‘ [Wapshott Press, 2020] along with her collaborative book on prejudice [Macmillan in the USA, Aracne Editions in Italy] are her latest titles. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild and SFPA.
An interview — https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/interview-with-lindaann-loschiavo

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 33 Contents Link

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Heading East – John Short

I left the rural town in Gascony
after camping in its graveyard
for a week with dog-eared poetry

then tobacco country, ratatouille,
tomatoes nabbed from fields
in the dead hours of afternoon.

At Lautrec, the Sisters gave out soup
and rustic loaves whose crusts
cracked and collapsed like old timber;

a madman with a shaven head
and heavy crucifix around his neck
persuaded me to drink with him.

Finishing one bottle he went off
for more – I thought to escape
but just sat there and made no move

and near my feet, our cigarette stubs
like spent shells buried in the dust:
one for each year of a misspent youth.

 

John Short lives in Liverpool and has had poems and stories in magazines around the world. Forthcoming in The Blue Nib, Sarasvati, Marble Poetry and Poetry Salzburg Review, his full collection Those Ghosts (Beaten Track Publishing) will appear later this year.

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TODAY – Shannon Frost Greenstein

Today, I pissed off the mascot for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Just imagine, going viral for insulting a panda.

vitriol, toxic poison, flowing through veins made of ones and zeroes, hatred made incarnate; the pro-Panda community up in arms, offended on behalf of Bing Dwen Dwen, furiously tweeting, and I suddenly have a headache and would like to leave work.

Today,

I lived the Manifesto, as do we all, every day;

a cog in a churning machine, regurgitating profit at the expense of human bodies;

capitalism started on the plantation, after all

sacrificing health and peace and peace of mind, materialism made incarnate, the world weeping and the planet melting and the price of insulin skyrocketing, and I suddenly feel radical for thinking that the privilege of prophylactic medicine = life.

Today,

I mothered.

a miniature version of myself, a symbiosis, our prize in the Darwinian lottery.

I coaxed him into the car and out of the car and into his chair and out of the bath, syrup in my voice, authority in my eyes, unconditional love made incarnate, until our four year-old nonverbal spectrum of wonder sleeps, and I suddenly wonder how to navigate with him through a world I cannot share.

Today,

I tried to eat food;

the omnipresent voice of my anorexia reminding me of my inherent worthlessness.

The bones of my skeleton are forever hidden too far under flesh and fat for me to appreciate their prominence, self-loathing made incarnate, and I suddenly feel guilt for the weight of the world, Sisyphus’ rock, and shame for having needs, biophysical needs, the needs of a body without value or willpower that I cannot overcome.

Today,

I stayed up too late staring at Twitter.

I am a villain, monocle affixed, twirling a coiffed mustache, out for vengeance and pandas; I am Lex Luthor to 2022 Olympic Mascot Bing Dwen Dwen’s Superman.

apparently

a world that loves pandas cannot tolerate a mentally ill Marxist with a special needs son who chooses to tweet Pandas are something I don’t really agree with at the reveal of the mascot for the Games of the XXIV Winter Olympiad, satire made incarnate, and I suddenly feel lonely and misunderstood and want to go to bed.

Today,

I lived and

tomorrow

I will live again.

 

Shannon Frost Greenstein is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine, and a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @mrsgreenstein or her website: http://www.shannonfrostgreenstein.wordpress.com.

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Clowning Around – R C deWinter

loud and infuriating
full of yourself
so boastful
egocentric
so
so
so MALE
shedding testosterone like a leper shedding skin

you make me crazy
why should i love you
when it’s obvious you’ve found your true love
and it’s YOU

and then i stop
simmer down
cool off
blink my inner eyes
and take a good long look
inside your shadow self

and there i see what lies beneath the raging clownsuit
you wear for everyday
a thick molasses pool of doubt
small boyfeet firmly stuck in that gooey morass
feeling unworthy
feeling unloved

but wait
i blink again
i have this habit
kindness
always playing out that deceitful rope
projecting what i think
always flavored with compassion instead of truth

now i’m flummoxed
and don’t know what to do

should i trust my intuition
help that small boy
if he’s real
come unstuck
or should i shut this down

take you at face value
and kiss the loudmouth clown goodbye

 

RC deWinter’s poetry is anthologized, notably in Uno: A Poetry Anthology (Verian Thomas, 2002), New York City Haiku (NY Times, 2017), Cowboys & Cocktails (Brick Street Poetry, April 2019), Nature In The Now (Tiny Seed Press, August 2019), in print in 2River, Adelaide Magazine, borrowed solace, Genre Urban Arts, In Parentheses, Night Picnic Journal, Prairie Schooner, Reality Break Press, Southword among many others and appears in numerous online literary journals. Her art has been published too, and was licensed to ABC for use on the television show “Desperate Housewives.”

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Whale Fall – Lisa Creech Bledsoe

Baleen whales can live a hundred years—
a fact known from generations-old harpoons locked
in the flesh of harvested whales—artifacts:
antique bullets, unexploded mines from a war
about which someone’s grandparents still have nightmares.

What will be cut one day from your body
or mine, that might be considered museum quality—
and what generation’s stories will be sealed in
such a reliquary?

Having made immense improvements to the diving bell
in the late 1700s, Charles Spalding and his nephew
Ebenezer proposed to recover silver, lead, and other
cargo from a ship wrecked in the Irish Sea. Seated
together in the bell, they were guided down with weights
but died, it was thought, after toxic gasses
from rotting bodies pinned in the wreck bubbled up
into their muscular, resolute shell.

Something in me bends away without my understanding
from the exquisite peal of swan and owl, burrows down
to a dreadful — or perhaps magnificent—lightlessness.
Our bodies grow heavy as if guided down by weights, and will
one day be given, or taken by fluke, weapon or
waters slashed to white by sea winds—

then we will fall like the whale,
whose curving architecture, whose mineraled vaults
and sweeping courtyards are briefly thronged with votaries,
then embraced by the current, and more tranquil songs.

 

Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of North Carolina. Her first book of poetry, Appalachian Ground, was published in 2019 and she has poems forthcoming in The Main Street Rag, Front Porch Review, and Jam & Sand.

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Walls – Carl “Papa” Palmer

have ears
listen
pay attention
available
don’t talk back
or offer opinion
never interrupt
let you have your say

being the wall
should be mandatory
taught in school
at home
on TV
a college class
before marriage
prerequisite for politicians
and not just in America

 

Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer. Carl is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Micro Award nominee. MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever!

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Closure – Amanda Pendley

I look back
the way women do to make sure they’re
not being followed home at night
I look for the boot prints
the hot air
the everything that reminds me of you
there is only one redeeming factor left
about churches anymore
and it is that you don’t have to go inside
to study the stained-glass windows
the people inside probably feel like they are atoms
minuscule things
bees
looking up towards honeycombs
which makes me feel more god-like
not that it’s a competition
just that I am still alive enough to see
my breath in the air
instead of suffocating
hotboxed by hellfire
I always felt like fumes were coming
through the vents
little voices
in the way that they would keep the temperature
so cold you couldn’t get comfortable
enough to fall asleep
staying in the closet was a constant kick to the ribs
as soon as I would sink into my own warmth
the thermostat would drop below zero
southern Baptist churches rarely have stained glass windows
our pulpit had no windows at all
so no wonder it took me so long to
find the way out
I was blind in object permanence
a roly poly in an altoid tin
so when I see the sky
I look around
look behind me
afraid that the world will become a box
and I will lie bloody
impaled in its jaws
refusing to go back inside

 

Amanda Pendley is a twenty-year-old writer from Kansas City who is currently studying Creative Writing and Publishing at the University of Iowa. She has previously worked as an editor for Elementia Teen Literary Magazine and as the Nonfiction Editor of Ink Lit Mag. She is currently the Editor-in -Chief of Ink Lit Mag.

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the stranger – Christine Brooks

she came up to me, asking for
a chance
to chat in private
said I looked like the kind of person who
could help

she said she was looking for her daughter,
given up on
July 4, 1967
or perhaps, even
taken by nuns

not one day had passed without thinking of
her baby,
barely, even a
moment

she had no way of knowing that
I was adopted, & wondered
often about the woman who
gave birth to me
or that my research concluded at her grave,
years after her
heart stopped in the middle of a June night

a regular Wednesday took my birth mother out
but, somehow
a Friday night, which wasn’t very regular at all,
brought her back

or at least,

that’s how I remember it

 

Christine Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature and her M.F.A. from Bay Path University in Creative Nonfiction. Her poem, the price, is in the October issue of The Cabinet of Heed and her poems, life and I Don’t Believe, are in the fall issue of Door Is a Jar. Two poems, friends and demons are in the January 2020 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press and her poem, communion, is in the January 2020 issue of Pub House Books. Her book of poems, The Cigar Box Poems, was released in February 2020.

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Fire – Ann E Wallace

It could take a lifetime
to recover
from the daggers
you speak, proud,
uncensored. But yours
are not
the words
of a brave man.

A coward’s compulsion
masked
as honor, respect
for truth, spews weakness—
you would not brave
a future
with one like me,
who may be
sick
or failing.

Perched in safety
alone, you sear
hot
words
into my skin among
so many other scars, numb
reminders all
of the fires
I have walked into
and through
alive.

 

Ann E. Wallace has a new poetry collection, Counting by Sevens, available from Main Street Rag, and has published poems in journals such as Crack the Spine, Mom Egg Review, Wordgathering, Snapdragon, Riggwelter, as well as Cabinet of Heed. She lives in Jersey City, NJ and can be found online at AnnWallacePhD.com and on Twitter @annwlace409.

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Radio Silence – Juliette Sebock

There aren’t any notes that have meant so much
as a letter of you. Alone in my room;
hyperventilating when the radio flared.

How could you mess up Italian food?

I went to the city to escape the beat
and saw you in the shadows.
You danced next to Gandhi and Church
and crept into my bed when I tried to sleep.

The first lady slept one head over,
struggling to comprehend my static.
Still, I never hoped for much.
Why would Kate want to be my friend?

You followed me in store windows,
a reflection in tinted glass.
You whispered in the roar of the train tracks,
growing louder, white noise forcing me to sleep.

 

JULIETTE SEBOCK is the author of Mistakes Were Made and has poems forthcoming or appearing in a variety of publications. She is the founding editor of Nightingale & Sparrow and runs a lifestyle blog, For the Sake of Good Taste.

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Menopausal Mother Earth – Karin Blak

You could be excused for thinking of Earth as a mother. The creativity of giving birth to life, producing something from nothing, adapting and adjusting to make space for just another one at the table, always inclusive rarely divisive. The perfect picture of traditional motherhood.

Like a mother, she manages many life forms, supports and nurtures the young and the small. She works hard, sometimes day and night, to pull it all together and create an equilibrium in our environment. Like many mothers, she carries on when she is too tired, not able to take time out to rest. Too much to do, too many needing her help.

At dawn she stretches in awe at another day that breaks, another opportunity to witness her work prosper, another day of providing for others, another day of carrying on regardless. One day may seem the same as the rest, but it is the little differences that excite her.

Because she is so capable, expectations increase and she proudly tries to adjust, happy to help, happy to be there, happy to be needed … or so she says.

And gradually, as the demands overwhelm, the hours in the day too few and tasks too many, the stress of the creativity, the pressure of capability, the persistence of carrying on regardless reaches its peak.

Early menopause induced by stress on every aspect of her ability and her energy, she burns, she freezes, she blows and she heaves. Reaching out for support that isn’t there, for understanding that barely exists, research that proves that this is too much, but action hardly enough to placate her needs, much less restoring her former glory …

… the pressures compact, the voices as the world around her darkens: “You used to be capable, you used to have the creativity, you used be ok. You can beat it, if we dig down deep you can carry on providing if you really want to.”

Mother Earth reaches for her last resources and lets them go, all at the same time … Mother of Earth splinters, all she wanted was a little of what she had so proudly gifted for so long, yet no one came forward. She burns, she freezes but no longer blows and heaves.

In her later years, which came too soon, she needed a little of the nurture and the care from the children she loved and contained in her years of creativity. It may be too late for the former glory, but a little contribution from everyone whose life she created, would put her in a place where she could sustain herself. A place where what she gives comes back again, plus a little more.

 

KARIN BLAK writes poetry, essays and fiction about relationships, emotions, society and other awkward situations. This writing draws on her experiences and training as a psychosexual, relationship and family therapist. Curiosity is a constant companion in her search for where the stories start. She maintains a regular blog at https://karinblakblog.wordpress.com/

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Sgraffito Skies – M S Clements 

Passion sharpened nails tear the evening sky,
Scraping at the waxy black of dusk.
And across sgraffito skies,
Comes a bitter juice of yellow grapefruits
And sour Seville oranges,
Weeping from those citrus cuts.

Fill my bowl and fill it again.
With tart crepuscular fruit,
All laced with acidic poison,
To feed my sorrow laden night.

Impatience breaks the hold of darkness.
Chased away by dawn’s own bullwhip.
It cracks and snaps at sullen gloom,
With vicious flicks to summon reluctant fortitude.
New scars will lie beside the old,
Those scarlet welts conspiring.
A host of grievous sores
Concealed by diurnal calling

This battlefield life,
Where I am never the victor.
Yet I persist, never defeated.
And forward I advance
My limbs all trembling.
Weighed down by campaign medals,
Pinned upon a fragile psyche,
All jingle-jangling and chiming out,
‘Come to me, Sirius,
Find me once again.’

And that snarling cur returns my call.

With diamond tipped claws,
He slices with savage precision.
Opening the soft skin of night,
Licking at the freshly made wounds
That cross my sgraffito life.

 

M S CLEMENTS is a former teacher of Anglo-Spanish heritage. She recently completed her debut novel, The Third Magpie and hopes to see it published later this year. As well as editing the speculative love story, M has also had a short story published in Cabinet of Heed and another printed in an anthology of women’s writing, Carrying Fire.
She continues to live on a building site in rural Buckinghamshire with her family, assorted builders and a visiting peacock called Darren.

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The Kiss – Ellie Rees

Rupert was sixty-four when he drowned, fifty years ago.
I wondered what such an old man was doing
swimming in the sea, off Exmouth.
He had taken his teeth out; put them in a pocket –
his clothes, neatly folded, were found on the beach.

I remember his eyes – blue, like the sea –
they stared at me, unseeing.
Entangled in his limp embrace,
I throttled him to keep his head above water,
I was saviour and attacker.

Something yellow bubbled from his mouth.

Let the others haul us both into the dingy,
let the swimmers push us back to the blood-red cliffs.
From out of the crowd, wearing a bikini,
a woman with a child perched upon her hip
said she was a doctor – told me I could stop.

Police Station, a statement, then deep shadowed lanes;
the radio was playing a whiter shade of pale.
We stopped in a village, ate scampi in a basket –
sunset blushed the pub a psychedelic pink.
Later, I was sick.

I walk on this shore with my fellow ‘rescuer’,
my husband of forty-seven years;
he takes my arm gently then leans in for a kiss.
You have no idea how difficult it is
to give the kiss of life – to a mouth with no teeth

once you’ve sucked all that yellow foam out.

 

ELLIE REES gained a Phd in Creative Writing from Swansea University this year. In an earlier incarnation she was a teacher of bright young things from all over the world. Now she is teaching herself to be a poet. One of four finalists in Cinnamon’s recent Debut Poetry Collection competition.

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Sevy – Sara Mullen

For Eden

Hazefallen evening,
the window wound down.

Beyond reeling hedgerows
the fields race

flyawayhome
skies

while darkening trees
wave lornful bye byes

and, little one,
you trail your song,

a cotton thread
on the breeze.

Bye bye –
dusk gorges gold,

the road rolls on
and you,

you trail your little ghost song
who knows where.

 

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Orationis (Or a rosary of stars) – Tudor Licurici

Infinite, Eternal Cosmos, let not the fevered ardors of our passions by nihility’s oblivion be eaten and annulled, but keep them in your sacred reliquaries of twilight memory to be stored for all aeons that our souls may rejoice in them once more when the fragile recollection of past worlds befalls them. Let the aethers collect all dreams of prime youth gilded by maternal embraces that soothe the souls of infants. Let the nebulae consume all kisses and whispers of the ages’ lovers that they may resonate once more through the worlds’ sundowns. May they live on in the glimmers of nightskies and enrapture the lovers to be. Let not the tears of our departures dry utterly, but keep them humid in the sprays of spring rainfalls, that they may not have been a vain weeping but a communion with the sorrow of the stars. Let not the overflowing joy of our births and the immense grief of our deaths become extinct with the years, but hold them in the memory of stellar fires that they may glare atop the worlds forever. Let not the innocent joys of our childhood ever wither, but hold them in doting grip like you hold the dreams of angels.

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Creep – Gale Acuff

When Sunday School is over, Miss Hooker
slips her Bible and her teacher’s copy
of our workbook into her purple purse
and walks out to the parking lot with me

following–I always hang around so
I can open her car door for her
and she always says Such a gentleman
thank you. I try not to watch her legs
when she gets in. I don’t know why I don’t
–I look somewhere else for those few seconds,
at her front tire, maybe, or at the sky
unless the sun’s too bright and even then
I squint. That’s the way my eye makes a cloud.
I look at her again when I hear her
pull the door shut. Next she’s putting on her
seat belt and shoulder harness in case
she has a wreck, of course, driving home, God

forbid. If I were grown I’d carry her
there in my arms every step of the way
and I’d like to tell her so and one day
maybe I just will. I’ll pray about that
again tonight, right after I whisper
the Lord’s Prayer in the darkness, and beg
that God protect everyone I love
–it’s natural then to slide right into

praying for Miss Hooker and wondering
what it’s like in her bedroom at night, not
that I’d ever go there. She’s not married
so I guess she sleeps alone, except for
a cat or dog, or maybe both, maybe
one on either side of her. Her lamp is on
and she’s reading a magazine, something
about clothes or hair or shoes or makeup.
Sometimes I think I can even hear her
yawn. Then she says Good night to the cat or
dog, or maybe both, and turns out the light,
and sleeps and dreams, maybe of marriage
and babies. Or both. I’d like to creep in

without waking the cat and dog and her,
and sleep there at her feet and when she wakes
and yawns again and opens her eyes and
makes me out, I wonder what she’ll say and

what I’ll say back to her. Oh, I’m sorry,
I’ll try, but the front door wasn’t closed and
you should probably be more careful–begging
your pardon–and I was just passing by
and noticed and thought I’d come in to tell
you and not ring your doorbell instead in
case there was a burglar with a knife at
your throat. Or gun. And then I came back here
to check on you and suddenly I felt
very sleepy and here I am, and there
you are, ha ha. She’s so grateful that she
gets up (I’ve got my eyes closed and face buried

in the quilt) and makes us breakfast and then
it’s time for me to walk to school, so we
stand at her door and she gives me her hand
and I shake it and I’d like to kiss it
but I have manners and don’t pump too hard.

On my way home from school I stop back by
to check her again. She serves me a snack
and before I split I drop to one knee
which means she has to bend over to me
so maybe that isn’t gentlemanly
and propose. That’s when I wake on Monday

morning, cold and hungry and stupid but
loving Miss Hooker as much as ever,
praise the Lord. Next Sunday I’ll walk her to
her car again and open her door and
she’ll get in and this time I’ll look at her
legs as she gets in but look first to see
if she’s looking at me looking and if
she is I’ll die and if she’s not I’ll burn.

 

GALE ACUFF has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

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The Gap – Gareth Writer-Davies 

the space in which the rat
moves
is the gap between floor and ceiling

the bounds
of the home
he is making

sensing
marking
alert to my scratchings

I know his purpose
what
I am to him

is something
moving
and breathing

waking
and sleeping
in the gap between floor and ceiling

 

GARETH WRITER-DAVIES: Shortlisted Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017), Erbacce Prize (2014), Commended Prole Laureate Competition (2015), Prole Laureate for 2017, Commended Welsh Poetry Competition (2015), Highly Commended in 2017. His pamphlet “Bodies” 2015 (Indigo Dreams) and “Cry Baby” 2017. His first collection “The Lover’s Pinch” (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018.

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Autobiographical – Mark J. Mitchell

My life lacks color.
I don’t affect trailing scarves
that flow in the wind and catch axles.
I never sleep in a coffin.
at demonstrations I obediently
hold up my sign and chant as I’m told.
I have no mysterious lovers.

I quietly construct marinades
out of herbs and leftover wine.
I read three or four books at a time.
I’ll be seized by the need
to find a poem that hasn’t been written.
I curl softly into my wife’s arms.

But sometimes, sometimes,
I dream in German
and other times
in French.

 

MARK J MITCHELL’s novel, The Magic War appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied  at Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. He lives with his wife, Joan Juster making his living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/

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The Theme From Jaws – Tiffany Belieu

father is back and angry
again the lifeguards post red flags

spousal violence witnessed
according to my therapist(s)

makes one depressive, overweight,
inner tube leg-dangle anxious

advice from those who survive
when the storm comes, tread lightly

at the wave’s crest take a breath
hold up those who, like you, hurt

this raft the bits of family
we banded together, held each other

afloat through fierce waves we knew
would calm, lap sorry at our feet

but we’ve seen too much blood
and fins to ever feel safe to swim.

 

TIFFANY BELIEU is a poetry late bloomer. Her work is published or forthcoming in Awkward Mermaid, Collective Unrest, Pussy Magic and Moonchild Magazine. She loves tea and cats and can be found @tiffobot on Twitter.

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