Feverish – Kristin Garth

With scarlet fever, swans grow fangs. Two teeth
will spill, orange bills, overhang. While you
perspire beneath a portico, two beasts
conspire, crooked necks, approaching slow. Drool, blue,
that tinges feathered throats, you try to scream,
too raw to properly emote. Grey feet advance
too quick upon St. Augustine, wild gleams
in beady eyes — you deem them rabid. Chance
a feeble stand, retreat, screen door, if you
can. Land before them, lustrous grass, their mouths
upon your flesh so fast devouring. Shooed
away, saviors emerging from the house:
Veranda’s dangerous for you, it seems.
They will tell you it was a fever dream.

 

KRISTIN GARTH is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her poetry has stalked magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2: One, Former Cactus, Occulum & many more. She has six chapbooks including Shakespeare for Sociopaths (Hedgehog Poetry Press), Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Press March 2019) and The Legend of the Were Mer (Thirty West Publishing House March 2019). Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), and she has a fantasy collaborative full length A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony forthcoming in June (Rhythm & Bones Lit). Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie), and her website kristingarth.com

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

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Puff – Marie Fields

I took up smoking when I lived
In the ex-hotel, ex-brothel building
Everything had been repurposed
I’d sit in the kitchen with my feet up
Puffing on Sobranie Cocktails
The insulation so terrible that I
Didn’t even need to open a window
No fear of the alarm drawing attention
Not like Johnny would care
He’d probably join me
I splayed out a smorgasbord of
Colorful cancer in front of me
Letting each one inch me closer
To a high I was loathe to
Leave behind in sleep
The itch so strong I had to
Start chewing gum during the day
Keeping up the façade of decency
I had repurposed
Just like the building.

 

Image via Wikipedia Commons

After Before – G J Hart

Before when sailing
Was plain, I moved
From here to there,
Rowed with oars spare
As ulna, returned hopes
To rivers
Risen
With hope.

Then, Built a cabin
With fir And foul
Language,
Hauled up jasmin,
And leant and watched
My plot
Scud through
Gasping storms.

After with rivers
Withered, I sacked
Kindling and clothes,
Boarded a ferry,
And leant and watched
It scatter
Years
Across my shoulder.

Arrived I relished
Forecasts and ice cream,
Hung hollows
For coming storms
And sat before
Waters
Beneath
Vaults of endless growth.

 

GJ HART currently lives and works in London and has had stories published in The Molotov Cocktail, The Jersey Devil Press, the Harpoon Review and others. He can be found arguing with himself over @gj_hart.

Image by Julius Hagen from Pixabay

You Ful I – Andrew Shields

The mirror shows you how to read
the secrets and the signs.
You’re not as young as you once were,
but something keeps you going.

As to why you don’t feel old,
the mirror has an answer.
Someone found a way to spell it,
even if it’s wrong.

There’s magic in the words and letters
moving round and round.
Read them every way you can
to cast their loving spell.

 

ANDREW SHIELDS lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems “Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong” was published by Eyewear in June 2015. His band Human Shields released the album “Somebody’s Hometown” in 2015 and the EP “Défense de jouer” in 2016.

Image by awsloley from Pixabay

Little one, I’m sorry – Kate Garrett

I was given the damning choice between feeding you
from a bottle and hearing from the midwife that “breast
is best”, shamed like a boisterous child flaunting the rules

or nursing you in secret, holding you between my heart
and the fear-bellows bred from the mouth of your father
who raised a fist and claimed my body belonged to him

(it is mine) and breastfeeding was forbidden under his roof
(also mine). I had to choose the safest path for the long game:
taking comfort in holding you close, in our pocket of quiet –

a plot planted in my mind to take you all away from there
as I offered my plastic replacement to your little lips, tears
streaming down your tiny chipmunk cheeks, nuzzling
for the warm scent of milk and love, the skin of a mother.

 

KATE GARRETT is editor of three web journals, and her own writing is widely published. Her first full collection, The saint of milk and flames, is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Press (April 2019). Kate lives in Sheffield, UK with her husband, children, and a cat. Twitter @mskateybelle / http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Image via Pixabay

 

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Cold Potatoes in the Wind – Steve Sibra

My father worked the pipelines
at night he drank in bars
with bare bulb lights and red plastic window shades
he never shaved
when he was sober —
used a straight blade to carve himself
into the outline of a family man

My father
tore pieces off people
I watched from a pickup window
as he beat the local butcher unconscious
in an alley behind the dry cleaners
“Who taught you to treat a cow like that?”
he raged
his fists like bloody mallets
he drove drunken spikes of shame
into the slack face of a gentle man

When I was seventeen
two cattlemen came to town
found my father teetering on a bar stool
one held his arms
the other blasting holes in his chest
point blank, with a sawed-off

Pieces of his heart lay on the bar room floor

When I heard about it
I took the old Chevy Apache half-ton
and a can of gasoline
I burned their house after midnight
heard a woman’s scream
as I drove away
period of punctuation
for a long hard sentence

I parked in front of the sheriff’s house
spread out in the back of the truck
Deputy Lester shook me awake

Now I sit in the state pen
pretending to do the paperwork
big words that tell me nothing
designed to get me out

But I don’t want “out”
I am teaching myself the guitar
I want to sit cross-legged on the floor
like John Lennon in “Norwegian Wood”
then go to the prison rooftop
eat cold potatoes in the warm summer wind
watch the sun turn the color of wine.

 

STEVE SIBRA grew up on a wheat farm in eastern Montana in the 1960s and 1970s. He moved to Seattle and made a living for 35 years by selling vintage comic books. His poetry and prose have appeared in various lit journals including Matador Review, Shattered Wig and Sleep Aquarium.

Image via Pixabay

My Mummy is… by Dan Brotzel

GENTLE GIRAFFE BOOKS — PARENTS AT WORK SERIES, No 17

My mummy is…
A SENIOR SEO CONTENT PRODUCER

Hello! My name is Kyle and I am nine years old.
Today I’m going to tell you about my mummy’s work.

My mummy is a senior seo content producer.
She works in an office with lots of other people.
She writes lots of things. It’s very busy work.
Mummy has to drink a lot of coffee to keep herself going.
Mummy has three stress balls.

Mummy works on the Internet.
The Internet is like a giant library.
But the Internet is not a library in a building. It’s in everyone’s computer.
Mummy helps to make it easier for people to find things on the Internet.
She says this is what seo means.
It stands for search engine optimisation.

To search for things on the Internet, mummy says, people use a thing called Google.
Google is a search engine. A search engine is different to a fire engine.
Google is like a big computer inside the Internet that helps people find things.
You type in ‘underwater train’, and Google gives you a list of videos of trains going underwater. You just click on the one you like.
My mummy doesn’t make underwater train videos. She doesn’t make train videos at all.
She says she works more in the e-commerce, professional services and b2b tech space.

Mummy says Google is like a big race.
Everyone wants to see their things come top of the list.
But not everyone can come top of the list.
Mummy says some naughty people try and cheat their way to the top.
Mummy says these naughty people are called black-hats. I think this is because they wear black hats.
Mummy says she never does these naughty things. Not unless there is a compelling business case for pushing the best-practice envelope.

Mummy thinks a lot about something called keywords.
Keywords are things that people search for a lot.
Some keywords are ‘cat videos’ and ‘Taylor Swift’ and ‘anti-wrinkle cream’ and ‘payday loans’ and ‘pornhub’.
Mummy says keywords help her understand what people are looking for.
Then she tries to make things that have these keywords in.
But it is very hard work, says mummy, because different people like different things.
She says that’s why no one clicked on her white paper about new developments in cloud-based e-procurement software.

Mummy doesn’t make things for herself.
She makes them for her special friends.
Her special friends are called clients.
She says some of the clients are like me.
Are they nine? I ask. You would think so sometimes, she says.
The clients give mummy money to thank her for making things for them.
Mummy uses the money to buy food and clothes and toys for me and my sister.
I tell mummy to be really nice to her special friends. I like toys.

Sometimes mummy makes things for Facebook and Instagram and things like that.
They are places where people can chat with each other even when they are far apart.
Mummy puts videos and pictures on Facebook that she pretends her special friends made.
Her special friends want people to click on their things.
But often no one clicks on the things mummy makes for them. That makes mummy and her special friends very sad.
Are you making cool stuff like underwater train videos? I ask.
No darling! laughs mummy.
Well, you should, I say. Remember, we need the money.

Mummy is a manager.
Managers look after a team of other people who help her do the work.
But mummy also has a manager of her own. She calls him My Boss.
Mummy’s boss must be a ghost, I think, because mummy says he’s not all there.
I want to meet the people in mummy’s team one day.
I want to play with them, because they sound really funny.
Mummy say they are all jokers and muppets.

A very special part of mummy’s work is landing pages.
Landings pages are like runways. People land on them when they click on something in the Google list.
Mummy says she has to give landing pages a lot of extra care and attention.
What about me, mummy? I say. Do I get extra care and attention?
Of course you do! she laughs. You mean the world to me! But I don’t have to worry about optimising your conversion rates.

Sometimes mummy has to use special words I don’t understand.
She talks about featured snippets and influencer marketing and rinsing the competition’s PPC budget.
She says I would make a good seo content producer one day because of my strong ideation skills.
What are ideation skills? I ask.
Coming up with lots of new ideas, says mummy.
Like when I tried to explain broadband with pasta tubes? I ask.
That could work, she says, writing it down.

You need lots of special qualities to do a job like Mummy’s.
You need to be a good writer.
You need to be a fast typer.
You need to be good at understanding things called spreadsheets.
Mummy says that a spreadsheet is a big piece of paper full of numbers that no one understands.
But how can you do your job if you don’t understand? I ask.
I pretend it’s a game, she says.

I’m very proud of my mummy.
She does a very important job.
But mummy says that her job is only work.
She says her real job is being my mummy.
She says it is the best job in the world.
When I grow up, I want to be a senior seo content producer like you, I tell her.
I pray that day never comes, says mummy.
Why? I ask.
Mummy sighs and says nothing.
Why? I ask again.
Because you are so clever, you could do something you actually want to do.
Like what, mummy? I ask.
Like… an underwater train driver, she says.

Image via Pixabay

 

A Love Not Supreme – Ian C Smith

He remembers a night-long drive, fractious children – the reason for travelling by night – finally still, I Spy, Play School tapes, reached saturation point, semi-mountainous terrain straddling two states, through silent hamlets, his wife beside him also asleep, exhausted, radio tuned softly to his favourite DJ, Lucky Oceans’ jazz gems.

Past midnight, traffic thin, occasional headlights crisscrossing like wartime searchlights on the ever-winding road, exhilarated by Coltrane’s tenor sax, he goes over life’s teeming possibilities, the hope you might stumble upon the unhoped for that thrusts aside sudden mishaps when subsistence is conjured from little money.

Yet unweighted by the crush of years, he pictured their destination, the inexpensive cottage amidst tumbledown outbuildings, trees, on a cliff above a river where children romp in speckled sunlight, she plies her profession, studies, while he continues house-husbanding, writing everything down slant in the crabbed hand of one never quite certain.

Blueprinted dreams of happiness his trusting vision as chronicler, neglecting love’s demands while those years peeled away, children now adults hooked on their own dreams without passports to happily ever afters, leaves him with only the blur of absence like a silenced bell, a memory of night music, words calligraphic wreaths on paper.

 

IAN C SMITH’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, Poetry New Zealand, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.

Image via Pixabay

White Light – Christine Brooks

When I was younger
seven or eight, maybe
even
younger than
that,
the thunder came rolling
in
over our house that
had been
dropped
on the outskirts of
urban-ia
landing on a street mostly
forgotten.

28 Ionia rattled and
shivered, but
Never, not ever
crumbled from the
booms,
Or from the
bolts.

I hid from the loud claps
house shaking, knees
knockin’,
under the bed, hoping
for time to grow longer and
Longer
as I counted the
seconds
between the
Growls and
bright flashes of
white.

Come out, you say
the angels are just bowling, no
need to quiver,
no need to shake.

Look at the dark sky
streaked
with light, even in pitch
there is
—light.

Sometimes, it isn’t thunder
that rumbles and grumbles, or lightening
that flashes and
flickers our lights

No, not at all.

The angels are
bowling
I remind myself

and when I do
I am with you again
in your arms
starched white nurse’s cap
Bobby-pinned high atop
Your salt and pepper
Bouffant hairdo

Even in pitch there is
light.

Even in pitch there is
light.

Even in pitch
there is
light.

Image via Pixabay

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