It isn’t the missing, as such, (although it is that), not the physical, the hands, the four o’clock silences, (although it is.) It isn’t the being unanchored, uncertain, unsheltered, head of the queue now. (Is it?) It isn’t the day’s fragments saved up to tell, the absent reassurance, the unshared celebration.
It is the never, the always, the gone, the where, the what the hell.
Sherri Turner has had numerous short stories published in magazines and has won prizes for both poetry and short stories in competitions including the Bristol Prize, the Wells Literary Festival and the Bridport Prize. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies. She tweets at @STurner4077.
i read somewhere yes it was a reputable source that a gaggle of scientists
whored out to the government from thirdrate universities
have declared the prairie dog a condiment
something to be served as a piquancy on a bun with godknowswhatelse
the prairie dog! the prairie dog!
a tunneldwelling rodent whose fleas make them vectors of the plague
yes that plague
imagine chopping and mincing and cooking prairie dogs to a tasty paste
and the hapless serf at your favorite fast food palace asking would you like yersinia pestis sauce with that?
not to mince words but are you fucking kidding me?
wasn’t it bad enough when president dementia elevated ketchup to vegetable status?
but not to be outdone by a dead talking head the current cockwomble is taking it to the next level
herbed maggot soup? horse piss frosties? peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches? rhus radicans with of course yersinia pestis dressing?
reality’s caked with funhouse mirrors and i’m beginning to hurt in places i didn’t know i had
i think it’s time to stick twigs in my hair paint myself with woad and dance naked in the moonlight in the middle of the road
but hey gotta run it’s thursday night and you know what that means
bowling with the cia
RC deWinter’s poetry is anthologized, notably in New York City Haiku (NY Times/2017), Coffin Bell Two (Coffin Bell/2020) in print: 2River, Adelaide, Event, Genre Urban Arts, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, the minnesota review. Night Picnic Journal, Prairie Schooner, Southword among many others and appears in numerous online publications.
Much good can come even when the sun blinds itself — we are the only knowing, and we spell out the words of its spiral. It is only these stones, hovering, that make a sun what it is — otherwise, nameless, and alone awaiting its own requiem among other great beings of gas, dust, coal fire.
Meg Smith is a writer, journalist, dancer and events producer living in Lowell, Mass. Her poetry and fiction have appeared recently in The Cafe Review, Trouvaille Review, Beliveau Review, Sirens Call, Dark Dossier, and many more. She is a past board member of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, a festival honoring Lowell native Jack Kerouac, and produces The Edgar Allan Poe Show, honoring Poe’s presence in Lowell. She is the author of five poetry books, and a short fiction collection, The Plague Confessor. She welcomes visits to megsmith.com, Twitter @MegSmith_Writer, and facebook.com/megsmithwriter.
She was a fragile acrobat on broken rooftops of escape jumping into arms euphoric before pain had time to register.
Armies advance across steppes, houses gutted for sustenance. Machine guns and home-made grenades zipping over walls.
He dreamed a nest of miracles a golden goose in the attic; sad executions on frozen earth while skies remain indifferent.
The world is a tragic dancer up in blind spaces of oblivion running into arms euphoric before pain has time to register.
John Short lives in Liverpool. A previous contributor to The Cabinet of Heed, he has appeared most recently in South Bank Poetry, One Hand Clapping and The Lake. His pamphlet Unknown Territory (Black Light Engine Room Press) was published in June 2020. He blogs sporadically at Tsarkoverse.
My city has no streets, it moves on difficult trails cleared in haste through a tall topography, in glimpses of red through an infection of forest. Red called and I answered, cut my way up that first ridge and my city festered without corners; a metaphor thick with biology. I said the same things over and over, told fertile Earth she was safe, like a tick doomed to the creases of a great sugar pine.
Don O’Cull’s work has appeared in Don’t Talk To Me About Love and he has been named Barnes & Nobles’ Poet of the Month. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and an MA in English from SNHU. He currently resides in St Petersburg, Florida.
in a surprisingly unremarkable notebook. Being a substantial dreamer, he prefers a spiral-bound A4 jotter, and has chewed the end off of every biro he’s ever owned. Tapping into a darkness deep within himself, he dreams of the elements, of ancient dust, the fundamental chemistry of the Universe. He is once again Kal-El, but fully grown now, walking the streets of Krypton before the cataclysm that his eyes never saw but his subconscious keeps remembering. Sometimes there is peace, sometimes a weakness so human it terrifies him. He dreams of Lois and wakes abruptly, alone in a dampened rage of longing. On every fresh page he records those same accusing lines, details the relentless weight – of himself, of time, of a puzzling planet always needing to be saved from itself; one whose saviour dreams of emerging from a phone booth in downtown Metropolis, not entirely sure he’s wearing underpants.
Robert Ford’s poetry has appeared in print and online publications in the UK, US and elsewhere, including Under the Radar, Brittle Star, Dime Show Review, The Interpreter’s House and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/
the dust drifts in sunlit particles by the window and the garden the weeping willow the wishes where is the well
you say my name but it is not my name it is made of glue you have forgotten to turn out the whirring shadows in the kitchen made from the lights if you could find the word stumbled halfway up the stairs you come with us now rooms are not rooms anymore
I hold my hand out for thin blades made of airless wonder they are unsettling you the grey stubble itching at your face the snails have eaten away your eyes cloudy blue your smile I do not want the house to be sold but the boys in your head have been making fires
to rescue this careless disorder of time creaking at bones shattering do you hear bombs closing in ear splitting blood where do you dissolve
you drive with your hands my mother and uncle when they were small safely in the back for the day sandwiches made from napkins in that tank barely metres away run
dressed in the night in your best brown trousers packed for the train talking in and out of sleep you ask them to be invited round ghosts to play cards with dimensions
we cannot let go of hand-carved furniture sentimental jewels lay under the chambers secrets scrawled into crumpled letters that have aged and burned away
frail a twist of light conjured everything made from embers you turn to beautiful strawberries in hot weather picked from the allotment potatoes with earth still welded what you make us with memories
Louise Mather is a writer and poet from England. You can find her on Twitter @lm2020uk and her work/upcoming work in Streetcake Magazine and The Cabinet of Heed.
How moon came to hold you in its tide is inscribed on the interior curve of lightning whelk, sturdy shell of sea, wave rolled polished thin as sky before blue ignites, burning away blanketing stratus.
Owl posts boundary of palmetto and marsh, this sponge called ground, called dirt called land of our bones, flowering giants of magnolia, flowering candles of pine, heavy with resin, palms shade the estuaries of our eyes.
Unstitched in a hard, wave levelling wind, as if hands could dig a hole in sea or gulls unbolt the carapace of moon as constellations spark on our fingertips. We abandon structure, every house a bone framing of pain and sorrow.
Our tongue is wind laced with gull and tern, thunder off the Gulf, as mockingbird borrows song so do we, there is no supplication in cypress or oak, no more complete embrace than the girdling of lightning.
We await birds, not yet fledged, anticipation of flight wedged in the ribs, we are tangled in fox grape and thorn, we contain shade, our roots reach limestone, you pressed birdsong to my lips, cicadas paused, the deep breath that must be remembered.
Hand fluttering, not yet ready to stretch into wing or the vowels that undulate between our names, brackish waters ebb and return, whoever falls first in these flatwoods and bays of palmetto will be there to cushion the other falling, cicadas singing, fern shrouded, subsiding into sand.
Peach Delphine is a queer poet from Tampa, Florida. Former cook infatuated with what remains of the undeveloped Gulf coast. Can be found on Twitter @PeachDelphine
The little boy’s toy green dinosaur on the floor with its jaws open wide in a frozen roar,
in his sister’s bedroom, sparkly cat ear headphones on a purple pillow, her ballet slippers hanging on the door,
Her older brother’s game console still on waiting for him to click to his new solo battle,
on the kitchen counter is mom’s nurse badge, car keys and purse, mask and tissues are protruding out,
in the laundry room, a tug rope on the floor, the full bowl of kibble, a wooden gate to keep the dog from jumping,
an unlocked case sitting on a chair, an empty torn box of ammo rounds, a smoking gun,
one fearful night in a family’s home, where children played, the dog ate, a mother called home, are silenced, no one should be lost in isolation.
My non-fiction stories, essays and columns have appeared in several magazines; weekly and daily newspapers in Ohio as well as the Chicago Tribune. I am also a graduate student at Kent State University in Ohio.
You fell asleep gently, my love I covered you before the ambulance arrived They took me away, too Because I couldn’t stop screaming
Loving you was my life’s symphony
On this black occasion, your family is here I dress in blue because it was your favorite color I re-read your poems by the gravel and grass And the minister… And the Amazing Grace… And the mother fucking coffin
Don’t leave me
Your mother’s awful dress And the eulogy
Don’t talk about how good he was He was bad at almost everything But he loved me And if he had only one stick of gum left He handed it to me
No, shut up, I won’t buy your wreath Or your flowers To be draped upon his grave They aren’t beautiful enough If you knew him, you’d understand
You – you kicked him out at 16 Because he loved me Applause that you came around years later You never held his thoughts As he crumbled into darkness
Don’t talk about him like you knew him
My sunrise was his and his sunset whispers my name
Oh my sweetheart, my darling I bought you Yoda pajamas Because he was your favorite An unwrapped gift, but you would have laughed I would have snapped a photo And our friends on Facebook would have smiled
I lay upon your cold grave My 98.6 degrees keeping you warm You are my home, my heart, my everything
And I do not get up
Jimmy Broccoli is a Branch Manager of a library within the Greater Metropolitan Area of Atlanta. He enjoys playing with puppies and writing frightening verse. You can find him on Facebook.
Pasta bake with crunchy crust of cheese and seeds And crushed up crisps, Chicken roast Potatoes: oiled and floured In puffed up bowl of Yorkshire.
Fat fallen cooker, grainy pear Bulging purple plum Nestle together under crumble roof Melt icy vanilla (pale yellow river) Home grown, hand cooked, love.
Thick-set quiche, hand delivered With skirt-frill lettuce Christmas bauble tomato And finely sliced Translucent moons of cucumber
Dwindles to chocolate painted biscuit, Pale eyed banana In pale bellied custard, Furrowed sea salt crisp A kind of Communion wafer.
To sludge of sodden Weetabix: Whole brick Half brick Doll-sized spoon Nil (by mouth).
Coral knuckles of prawn float In Earthy coconut curry Steaming terraced lasagne Poached egg bobs like pickled eye In buttery onion soup
To fuel the bedside vigil; Onlooker’s appetites Pulling and pushing Like the tides Of the days –
Scrabbles for crackers and cheese When time’s stolen by nursing Afternoons spent preparing Comfort food to fuel The comforting.
Tea medicine Chocolate medicine, for the soul After witnessing Injected medicine To control
The breath The pain Of my life-giver As life seep out of her Impossible as water from a stone.
Nicola Ashbrook is fairly new to writing, having had a previous life in the NHS. She has just finished her first novel and has pieces of flash in various places online and in print. This is her first poem. She’s pretty sure it’s a poem anyway, poetry being a little baffling to her. But, sadly, it is a piece of CNF.
give us a twirl you whisper on borrowed breath ever my Dad you smile on Christmas morning wink admire my festive dress I blush bully my leaden feet to circle unfurl fanned-out hopes you’ll lose your pain to death but not yet never yet always sometime later later arrives before afternoon sarnies cold ham with mustard pearl onions and rum mince pies your Christmas teatime favourites so I eat double helpings some for me some for you washed down with lukewarm beer you hate your bitter chilled
My time narrows into his phone, waiting for him to call me, as his brain gets morphed into a dusty vessel of work emails.
Without warning, a bulldozer runs us over, separating our livers from one another. My car becomes a hollow tomb.
I scream sorry into the vortex of wanting and kissing.
His tongue sticks out like a lizard as I drive away, without my feet.
I land on the ground of my room, but my shadow doesn’t follow.
I stand patiently at the window, writing us back to life, blinded by feathers of his muffled gasps.
One last love letter will knock his head back into mine.
Barely existing by my breath, I remember how good it felt to hear him say, I love you.
Our shared music chokes me awake at night, as I light my ears on fire.
A phantom version of me sweats through my body, squeezing the beginning out of my head.
I emerge as a wide-eyed child, eager to befriend new creatures, to wave our wild hips across the puddle of lost lovers.
I reflect the still standing trees, becoming a new society of crazy to call my own.
Hanna Pachman is a poet and filmmaker who uses writing to conquer objectification, health issues, and robot brains. Her poetry has been published by or is forthcoming in Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Collidescope, What Rough Beast, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fourth & Sycamore, Oddball Magazine, and Aberration Labyrinth. Originally from Connecticut, she currently hosts a monthly poetry event, “Beatnik Cafe” and is an Assistant Editor for the poetry magazine, Gyroscope Review.
Our gowns all rustled in a plume of red, I felt a little like a parrot, perched upon my plastic seat, With spiky sunshine puncturing my skin, And marbled beads of sweat running down our spines That arched and curved in vain attempts To stave off heat that swathed the cooing birds. It was, of course, unfortunate that the heatwave hit The day we were to walk the stage. And yet it strangely added something to The summer dream that day became, Remembered as a Polaroid that slowly burned When my name was called. I smiled and tilted mortar board If only others knew the heat Between that teacher and myself. I shivered as the memory called, The way he gasped the night before, Falling into downy pillows, still hot With rays of sun through afternoons Of heat of which we’d never seen before. He shook my hand, his eyes kept low, I saw the sweat stains on his shirt And wished that I could call him out. Not a woman but a student in this gown, I knew that we would never share a bed again.
Rachel Hessom is a writer based in the UK. She writes daily poetry on her blog, patientandkindlove.com and she enjoys tweeting words that vaguely represent poems. She is currently training to be an English teacher so that that she can pass on her love of literature to the next generation.
Nearly empty spaces Manifest in the early morning Reveal themselves and other things To be found in place where you didn’t expect To find things you might never have considered To look for in the first place, or even the one that follows The first place
Like urban railway stations Which routinely echo The fact of the city Slightly, time-wise, before It wakes up, as its daily introduction And reveals itself to itself and its witnesses
Sometimes We need silence, as well as early mornings To notice things And sometimes silence is used only As a mistaken assumption Because just as emptiness is not necessarily empty Silence is not necessarily silent
There are spaces within silence that reveal a world Of undercurrents, forgotten incantations, and even Forgotten or denied spaces, beyond the ends of sentences Behind a wish or within unconscious walls of negligence Lingering lonely and sometimes dangerously Lacking memory or courage to be recalled
Silence as absence of interference Is a good starting point for thinking But silence, as an alternative to speaking Elongates distances and misunderstanding Becoming a poor substitute for dialogue
Silence, when used instead of conversation Emulates emptiness and thereby contracts The bridging and breathing- spaces available to us So I like to call out here, to speak these points Where silence has not heard a word for some time.
In the shadow of the mountains there sleeps spectacular insects one whip of their sharp sting may ring your breath away
They hide in the turf slip to the damp bottom where they feel welcome in the slick, wet, heat. They creep without fear on the wetter side of the Ox A man from West Sligo once told me they have been known to kill. Beware the black wasp.
A long beetle with a switch of scorpion tail that twitches upwards towards disturbance.
Don’t step on it, one sting could finish you off!
The cry of a man whose child has the frog’s lick and knows about these things; That same man showed us how to cut Lee ridges for potatoes. Taught us how to keep ducks safe. Took us fishing for salmon after storm had swelled the river the catch weak from the spawn bouncing into his watery path.
Brought us to the Fairy Fort that circled the bottom of his land raised his hand quietly shushing, so we could hear them.
So I moved to the drier side of the Ox started burning coal instead of turf.
Sinéad McClure is a writer, radio producer, and illustrator. She has written and co-produced 15 dramas that have aired on RTEjr Radio. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Crossways Literary Magazine, Meat for Tea—The Valley Review, Live Encounters—Poetry & Writing, Poethead, and The Ekphrastic Review. She often revisits the theme of the natural environment in her work and has a particular interest in wildlife conservation.
the children open eyes wide as grey winds billow thru the alley finally they believe me that our food becomes deep rich earth— a transformation they would not accept on faith. the centipedes and earthworms rejoice in my work as I bucket up their troping of rebirth. mulberries fall round about: dark corpuscular rain. and I trowel in the compost, feeding the mouths of corn, tobacco, high balancing begonias that dance like pink chandeliers in the draft. A mama thrush sneaks in the maple leaves above, kids scuttling aswirl as I dig. one lone squash blossom flashes out in sudden relief, life from death— shock of yellow on black of earth.
On the first day of the course, the tutor told us to do a Stanislavski.
This was after he’d given his movie credits. A couple of bawdy British “Confessions” movies and the film that finally killed off the British horror industry. And he seemed proud of it and I was fucking awed by him with his jumper tied round his shoulders and his indoor sunglasses and his perfect teeth. I was fucking awed by his Certainty in Himself.
And then, ten minutes into the ‘lecture’, he told us to do a Stanislavski.
Which is how I found myself out on the town with the shoppers and the baby buggies and the druggies and the meths heads and the oldies, and I thought this was going to be It. This was how we were going to Learn. This was going to change my life.
I listened to a bald bloke talking to his mate on the blower about needing a “hundred Thatchers” for something and I fell into step behind him. I imitated his walk a bit – the strut and the constricted swing of the balls in the too-tight jeans – and I wondered if I could dare try to drum up conversation with him. Just ask him the time, perhaps, but in the lingo, with the old dog and pears and whatever else I could remember from the TV. ‘cos how would he know? He wouldn’t know I’d just started at the not-quite-a-University. He wouldn’t know I was an acting student.
Apart from the long coat and the scarf and the badges, that is, but I’d turned the lapels up and out and I’d adopted the walk and I could do it, I could do it, I could do it.
The bald bloke disappeared into Ladbrokes and I was left loitering around the bus station with the dirty macs and the blue rinses and the drivers with their ghee-greased DAs. That was still good, though. That was what Peter director man had suggested we do. So I sat there on a bench for half an hour, maybe an hour, and I turned my collar up further and I adopted the posture of the ardent fag smoker, although I put the biro away after attracting more than a few funny looks. Which should have been fine. Because there were plenty like that where I’d come from. Before today. Before I’d been packed off on the train to the digs and the Uni with a six pack of crisps and the single saucepan that my mother had been able to spare.
There were plenty of the lost and alone to be seen in the town centre back home. They were in their own worlds, too. How difficult could it be? Even without the White Lightning cider and the dog on a string.
The hour passed. It might well have started to rain.
When we got back to the lecture theatre, and after Peter had got off the phone to his agent to check that, once again, the film industry had no use for him, I got to hear of some of the others’ exploits. The big girl from Stoke had gone into a gay bar at 10 in the morning and had a right old time of it playing pontoon with a couple of geezers who she swore blind were wearing chaps. The self-conscious skateboarder had found himself down by the river and fed the swans whilst reciting Keats at passers-by. And a goodly quantity of the rest of the cohort had been down to HMV for the sales.
What had we learned from this, Peter wanted to know? Putting ourselves into the shoes of others. Being out there and Taking On A Part. What had we learned about the craft of being an Actor?
And this might have been the first inkling of the first hint of the first chink in the armour of this course and its pseudo-intellectual, anti-intellectual bunch of tutor poseurs who would rather have been propping up the bar in the Ivy than speaking to unwashed poxy students like us.
Because he’d thought it was a learning experience.
I’d sat there for an hour. Maybe two.
He’d thought we’d have “got something” from Being Other People.
Which meant he’d thought we knew who the hell we were.
But what really hit me, as he let us talk and he looked at his watch and he waited to scoot us out of the seats so he could get back to exercising his own seat, was the thought that should have occurred to me from the first.
Maybe the ones who’d been to HMV had known. Or had known that it wasn’t worth the knowing.
It was Day 1 of the course. And maybe some of us knew who we were well enough to have a punt at being someone else of a drizzly Monday morning, but he sure as hell hadn’t told us who the fuck Stanivlaski was.
Mike Hickman (@MikeHic13940507) is a writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions, the Blake-Jones Review, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Bandit Fiction, Brown Bag and the Trouvaille Review.
You came to the door like it was the last one on earth, huddled on the welcome mat in the single-digit snow like your life depended on it.
When we opened our home to you, you hurried in and made yourself comfortable, like you belonged.
We let you out, but you came right back, and we couldn’t say no in the face of your enthusiasm, only closed the bedroom door by sheer force of will, waking to your laundry room cries like new parents.
In the morning, nothing worse for wear, we fed you and pondered our next move. As you cozied up to us, we became familiar, our bond fragile in the face of some premonition of entropy spurred by a shadowy betrayal.
To put ourselves at ease, I say, it’s just someone else’s cat.
Four decades later we’re all blabbermouths adrift on a sea of hyperbole shouting to be heard. — Steve Rushin, Sports Illustrated, 1 Apr. 2002
In this mathematically mediocre nation it may be difficult for the algebraically disabled to accurately determine variables of the directrix— I may not even understand this though Socrates might parade me before an amazed assembly of elitists to illustrate how, behold, this under- educated daughter of the working class exposed to field rows and grain silos innately does grasp lines of symmetry, parallel rays, and cones sliced into curves— but how to reduce Point A at one distant end of a horizontal axis to a singular finite cause— a virus, a hubris, too much airtime to fill, no handler, no filter— this craving for simplicity usually leads down some slippery slope or a continuum of faulty causation (thereby corrupting validity of the vertical axis)—an injustice just as sure as when geometry is involved I likely know not whereof I speak. I am but deaf when promises echo from a hollow chamber; when an ellipse of a Center of Interest encased in its own circular (s)hell wherein it is both central and the two fix’d points adding up to no reflection and over self- valuation utters 260,000 words of self- adulation, I know a titmouse from a mule. Consequently, in an oval room a person babbling at focus point f1 is easily heard by a person preening in a mirror at focus point f2.
These persons are the same person yammering about himself. This is nothing new under the sun. If we could graph this debacle the whole hullabaloo resembles a boxy dragonfly, one wing steering leftward the other straining far right tugging the thoraxes to shreds just like that delicate kite my father crafted from balsa and newspapers loosely held by Elmer’s glue and scotch tape, the same way it split to ribbons facing its first Wyoming gust in the untrained fists of a five-year-old. Oh, the tantrum! Where x and y, where w and z on the infinitely expanding asymptotes represent dichotomous extremes each symbolizes fear without qualification. Where x champions Top Dog shouting genius, prophet, chosen where y satirizes the Satyr x empathizes with Underdog and y screams fact and x screams fake. In the hyperbolic hyperbola arcing from x to w, arcing from y to z words heard wrongly, wrongly said slippery words meaning something other than their meaning, a joke, perhaps not to the many cudgeled daily by void adverbs, waiting . . . waiting, waiting for one substantial verb, for any signifier that means. Props, his followers shout, for thinking outside the linear box as the graph takes on the angles and curves of a four-horned goat’s polycerate con- figuration, which is not as rare in nature as you may think; it’s more common than truth which is now endangered, nearly extinct and the muddled axes of cause and effect are anything but imaginary as they stretch one end bemoaning unfair assignations of hooves and tail and twitching ears and one end crying in narcissistic outrage by proxy how unfair to goats, one end decrying endless negative and derogatory language as they imagine Center of Interest supine, praying in tongues to their ancient God for strength and answers, claiming how, with no sleep or pay this martyr transforms to Atlas shouldering a world despised because it so despises him. How theoretically, parabola can be used for deflection, radar, satellites and concentrating the sun’s rays into hot spots of brilliance and sanitized healing with the precision of a head-on collision that kills both drivers, if not for regulatory rollbacks harming the vulnerable like watching lightning bolts slither down the extrados of a rainbow and the vertex, that excluded and undecided middle at the rise who might at any moment slip either way, or worse, decide for themselves. If not for the steepening curve and the only thing flattening here is the earth.
Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. Norris’ poems embody the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.