Issue 37 – Rengay

Witching Hour

plastic surgeon––
the neighborhood’s best
carved pumpkin

Dracula’s missing

front tooth

first date
during the horror flic
our embrace

full moon

the werewolf caught

with his fly undone

all trick no treat
the she-devil’s grin

nobody dares

to touch it––

candy corn

Bryan Rickert, USA & Terri French, USA

Ligamental

broken steeple boy . . .
I’ll read the Bible
if it has unicorns

seeking nourishment

a grub from Shrek’s ear

Jupiter jig
his left knee healed
on the way up

reflecting on . . .

personalities

in rainbows

ceramics play
kids fire up the kiln

end of night

candle’s tears

stopped in their tracks

Geoff Pope, USA & Robert Kingston, United Kingdom

Just Desserts

snow capped mountain
my Oreo cookie
McFlurry

our white chocolate soufflé

at Café Jacqueline

devil’s food cake
the conversation
turns sinister

with my cherry blossom

frappuccino

a whipped cream kiss

first time we touch
the scent of cinnamon

dipping my finger

in the chocolate fountain

and into his mouth

Jackie Chou, USA & Kath Abela Wilson, USA

Getting Away

get-away weekend
we each carry
our own baggage

the back stories we polish

for show and tell

airport shuttle
so many stops
that aren’t ours

seeing parts of the city

not in

the tourist brochures

our carefully planned itinerary
lost

finally

having to let go

and move on

Julie Schwerin, USA & Angela Terry, USA

Even in Toronto

small-town girl
dreams of Toronto
even in Toronto

the CN Tower

taller than my soul

afternoon shower
arm in arm on Bay Street
Burberry and St. Laurent

water, water, everywhere . . .

halyards clanging

by Lake Ontario

summer in the city reflected
in the museum’s crystal front

at the Hockey Hall of Fame

my boy keeps asking

to see the Zamboni

Naomi Beth Wakan, Canada & Michael Dylan Welch, USA

Band-Aid

broken finger
little girl misses
her bike

homebuilt trolley races

we take turns at crashing

birthday party
half blown balloon
flies away

wave roll

the kayaker spitting

out sand

ice cream lands
on a bald head

moon launch

the astronaut’s Band-Aid

loses it sticky

Zoe Grant, New Zealand & Ron C. Moss, Australia

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Issue 37 – Sequences

Sequences

the almost vacation

whispering a come on sleep app

pillow talk exchanging last words

weighted blanket a late winter snow

escape room extending our stay

daydreaming the caress of a narrative

blue hour a tug of sweet light

Lorraine A Padden, USA & Peter Jastermsky, USA

tying Iona

a hand’s width too slow
his empty sandals
waiting for the splash

raindrops
on magnolia
she says he’s gone

tears on the doorstep
another mother
wrings her hands

weeping birch
some truths
are better hidden

knots
in her school shoes
trying to untangle this

storm rages
in my hip flask pocket
Gandhi’s autobiography

Iona––
tying our lives
to a driftwood prayer tree

Tim Roberts, New Zealand


Split Sequences

Fairground Games

July heat

melting

as he takes the reins

at the horse pull

the cotton candy

tilt-a-whirl

centrifugal force

draws her near

on my tongue

eyeing the next car

the roller coaster

starts with a jolt

Bryan Rickert, USA & Kat Lehmann, USA

Where the Flowers go

discipline

licked into shape

the sergeant’s barked command:

as you were

the only way

after

the passing-out parade

passing out

to make men of them

surviving

first contact with the enemy

wedding plans

Keith Evetts, United Kingdom

New World Martini

stirred and shaken

special order . . .

add two or four olives

to Mr. Putin’s drink

preparing my head

guided meditation

upon the sunroof

plinks and plinks

for world news

one more day

the planet revolves

around a tyrant

Richard L. Matta, USA

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Issue 37 – Haibun & Gembun

Haibun

Watching it live

I am five and a half. Everyone is in the living room. The ceiling is Artexed and the carpet is the orange of a nightwatchman’s jacket. I’m sat in my pyjamas with a glass of milk. My grandparents are behind me on dad’s Practical Woodworking project pine sofa. On either side, my parents lean forward on the brought-in kitchen table chairs. Dad puts his hand on my shoulder as the astronaut steps off the ladder…

outside             on t.v.             the moon

Alan Peat, United Kingdom

Appeasement

Tonight I would like to silence the sweetness of the summer wind. Listen to another voice, feel the touch of a hand, feel …

on my pillow
the dream catcher
circling

Instead, I take a book from the bedside table and read, so as not to listen to the wind and call the sleep.

tourist
I wander among
stars

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo, Netherlands/Italy

ideation

just suicidal enough to fake my death consummate my pain in some dramatic gesture delete social media and finally get some good fucking sleep to dream for myself alone imagining everyone wondering what happened

heavy summer
when I’m depressed even my cat
doesn’t like me


ripples

there is morning today, and it is like any morning, more or less, the sky is gray, there is my phone in my hand and words of war gleaming under the glass, and it’s another blunted senseless day of carrying on with it all

drops of milk
stirred into my morning coffee
news of bombings . . .

Ash Evan Lippert, USA

Shark Week

Monday morning the mechanic calls and tells me to sit down. Wednesday I receive an email from an anonymous woman who tells me I’m missing out on the most romantic experience of my life and that I should wire her $1000 to secure it. Friday evening two Cub Scouts are standing at my door with a box of cookies. It’s out before I can stop myself: ‘What’s your angle?’

the warm-hearted smile
i usually flash––
endangered species

Benedict Grant, Canada

Travel Advice

Sit in a café and read a newspaper in a language you want to know better. Pretend you’re never going home, even if you’ve never left.

red-eye departure
adding my two cents
to the bathroom wall

Bob Lucky, Portugal

Lent

Alone in my desert.

Reading Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, unable to climb out of the Inferno into Paradise. A virtual church pummels with platitudes. A purgatory of filling tax forms, swamped with unfiled receipts and too much coffee. COVID cabin fever compounds the gloom. Snow melts to grime. My banjo plays the blues. A colonoscopy is booked.

sorting sepia photos
so many
forgotten names

There’s no GPS in my desert.

Wandering aimlessly in boredom, binge watching movies, all the same construct with not very subtle twists. Hours spent gazing at Facebook, getting kicks from the minutia of other folk’s lives. Every time I resolve to snowshoe, the temperature drops to the minus teens.

Longing for Spring.

For dog-tooth violets blooming in the elm root hollow, trilliums carpeting the forest, marsh-marigolds gilding the mud flats, an insistency of cardinals, and sunbathing with the dandelions in fresh, sweet grass.

spring equinox
druids circle
the sarsen stone

Bryan D. Cook, Canada

she says she loves me but I have my doubts

another anniversary
the flowers
I bought her
don’t even warrant
a kiss


not even science wants him

lying
in the coffin
my first time
smelling him
without the whiskey

Bryan Rickert, USA

Family Ties

Mother insisted that Dad have a funeral mass. I spoke up. That is not what he wanted! He said he wanted a wake, play his old 78’s, wear party clothes, get plastered…Ten eyes glared at me. You are upsetting her, they said. Daddy’s girl, they added.

I pulled my black dress over my red slip and joined the others at the church. I swayed to my IPOD Frank Sinatra tunes before the service started, and sipped vodka from my water bottle during the homily.

nightmare strangled by apron strings

Carol Judkins, USA

De-can’t

In the grocery store, a colander is only a dollar.

slipping through

I keep looking at the tag. One dollar.

the cracks

I assumed colanders were expensive. All those holes.

a quantum

It’s not until now, at 23-years old, that I wonder why we spent years—decades—carefully pouring the water from boiled pasta.

revelation

I choose the white one and put it in my cart.


Connecting the Stars

Our old house is listed on realtor sites today, a Tuesday. I think of other Tuesdays that brought a shift in my life. First child’s birth. Second child’s birth.

moving day

My throat feels sore. Nothing terrible, just the brink of something. I immerse myself in the comfort of a warm bath.

grandmother’s lilies

If home is the place where it’s okay to feel sick, where will I feel sick now?

in a stranger’s lawn

Maybe this Tuesday is just another birthing, a former life pushed into gravity.

Kat Lehmann, USA

from Red Riding Hood’s Blog

Recently, I’ve been reading some poets who’ve been trying to revise my story, like I’m an iPhone that needs an update, or like I’m little more than a “social construct” with as much value as a can of soup. Like they know. For whatever reason, they’re not satisfied with me living in “once upon a time,” in illo tempore, so they wrench me out of the primeval forest of myself — one of the few places left where you can still find wolves that talk — and relocate me in suburbia, like I’m in a witness protection program, where they say I’ve become a bored soccer mom, divorced from the Wood Cutter (who has a drinking problem), with two kids, driving a Toyota, and living the kind of life where I do little more than make the cupcakes of ennui, all the while longing for those timeless days when I traversed the woods like a lit match on a path that was dangerous, dark, and deep.

summer strip mall
all-you-can-eat coupons
at the Pork Palace

So let me set the record straight. What people miss is that the wolf didn’t dispatch my grandmother, didn’t devour her like a Thanksgiving ham, because — wait for it — the wolf is my grandmother, and vice-versa: sometimes she’s the grandmother, sometimes she’s the wolf, and there is no difference; it just depends on how you look at it. I thought everyone knew that. So, later in the story, when the wolf eats me, don’t be concerned, don’t call the Wood Cutter, and don’t rewrite me, because if you really think about it, you’d realize that I belong in the belly of the beast, because that’s where I find the time to change, to let my teeth grow long and sharp, to perfect my growl, and where, finally, I become reborn as the “great mother,” the one who is fierce, ferocious, and free. The one coming your way.

ice cave––
the dragon’s heart stirring
in the dark

Keith Polette, USA

“Lady, Be Good”

I park her wheelchair and set the brake before taking the open seat. Josie and Clare are already waiting. They don’t speak, even when I give my standard wink. There’s an unfamiliar tension in the room.

Some of the tables have been moved, encircling one in the corner. The usual smell of overcooked greens is missing, drowned out by the pungent scent of blue-rinsed hair. I notice that Josie’s eyes are watering from eye make-up, and most of her lipstick has missed her mouth. Indeed, stray lipstick seems to be everywhere.

A sudden frisson announces his arrival. Tall, with a straight gait, he walks across the room to join two other men. “His name is George,” Clare whispers to me. “A bachelor,” Mom adds, “and he can drive at night.”

rest home radio . . .
lulling her to sleep
with The Man I Love

Lew Watts, USA

Med School Confidential

One year, 1969 – 1970, Texas, at the very height of the Vietnam War. I passed my every course with high marks. And then one day I walked away.

I had a mustache and Yellow Submarine lunchbox, but had to wear an official white coat and tie each day. The school provided me with a black bag, stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, and lots of other assorted junior A.M.A. goodies; still have ’em. The school also freely prescribed all the pretty pills I needed to get me through round-the-clock schedules. I took a lot. I drank a lot.

ego tripping
with maxwell’s silver hammer*––
knee jerk reflex jerk

Four of us shared our own cadaver, a silver-haired giant of a gentleman who popped-up every day for us from his steel formalin tank. We named him “The Senator.” The smell persists no matter how many times you wash. Can almost still smell it. One day, in the respiratory physiology lab, they provided a dog to experiment upon. I still remember that poor sacrificial dog and will never forget her eyes looking at me – – the last straw. Shortly thereafter, I resigned, walked away from it all, and broke my parents’ hearts. A week later, I received my draft notice.

and ever after . . .
always following
what my dog tells me

*A Beatles song off of the Abbey Road album (1969)

Mark Meyer, USA

Nuptial Rightness

pear liqueur
learning a new
catechism

A humid, warm, treacle-still afternoon. Someone props open double garage doors. This does nothing to dispel the cloying heat, only letting in more hot air. Heaped bowls of potato salad, pickles, rice, pasta and roasted peppers load long trestle tables spread with embroidered white linen. Lines of golden spirits bottles stand already open. Guests fan themselves as they pile plates with spit-roasted pig and accompaniments.

Someone places in front of the bride the whole roasted pig’s head, its mouth agape and singed ears tipped at jaunty angles. A delicacy. She recoils slightly, downs her champagne in three gulps, then holds out her glass for more. Several glasses in she’s picking ruminatively at a glossy porcine cheek, popping crispy morsels between red lips slick with grease. The levels of golden spirits drop.

Dusk, and it’s still stiflingly hot. No one cares – we’re singing folk songs in a language we don’t speak and smashing glasses on the driveway. Some people dance. Everyone agrees signs are good for a long and happy second marriage. Captive butterflies, released during the ceremony, flew off after they warmed up briefly in the bride’s cupped hands. We reckon if we make it through tomorrow, our headaches will join the memories.

a horseshoe
of white satin
her new prince

Marietta McGregor, Australia

Never Forgotten

From the back of a drawer falls this letter, written in 2001 from the woman I shared an apartment with in the late sixties. I’m sorry I didn’t write at Christmas, she says. My sister died an hour after Christmas midnight of ovarian cancer. She tells me now that in her dying, she was able to end a nine-year estrangement with her sister, not unlike the long estrangement between the two of us. Despite having her own ovaries removed, my old friend dies less than a decade later of a cancer in the ovarian family. I tuck her letter back into the drawer under the last letter from a good friend who died of esophageal cancer. When I think I can bear no more I uncover a letter from an artist friend I met in the sixties in O’Hare, our commuter plane grounded by snow. Brilliant, he was already exhibiting at the MoMA and we became close. My apartment was soon filled with his photomontages. Three years ago he had a serious stroke, ending his darkroom days and art tours, and died a month ago. I’ve thrown away so many old handwritten letters and am glad to have these with the imprint of the person still seared into them. I’m glad I have my first husband’s letters from Vietnam, dead now also of esophageal cancer. I’m also glad I have letters from my father telling me what a good daughter I was to him and my mother.

spirits
float through
my house
the genie’s bottle
uncorked

Pris Campbell, USA

A New Nose

in the mirror
the high cost
of living

“It’s malignant,” the voice on the phone tells me.

I arrive for surgery the following morning. Numbing injections. The first causes tearing up. Then injections two, three, four and so on. By the time the surgeon is ready to start, I’m sure he could decapitate me.

“I’ll remove the tumor a layer at a time and look at each under the microscope until I’m sure the cancer is gone,” the doctor explains. “I won’t take more than I absolutely have to so that rebuilding your nose won’t be too much of a problem.”

“Fantastic,” I tell myself. “A new nose. Maybe it’ll look better than the one I’ve seen in the mirror for 75 years.”

jousting
at windmills
the surgeon’s scalpel

Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, USA

Chicago Café

Everyone looks at him, even if briefly. He sits alone, staring into space, occasionally taking sips from a small espresso cup. The tics seem to mostly involve his head and shoulders, a contraction, a violent shrug, a silent sneeze every minute or so. The verbalizations, hardly more articulate than grunts, are near-constant, just barely audible above the din of conversation. I wonder if his neck and throat hurt as badly as mine at the end of a long day. I want to say something, but would that be more unwelcome attention? Silent thanks for the pharmaceuticals that keep me contained.

symptom check         I stick out my tongue at the doctor

Stephen A Allen, USA

F   O   G

so thick even the low-beams bounce back into my eyes making it difficult to drive faster than a snail’s pace. I squint and clutch the wheel, try to stay right of the dotted center line. Night blindness usually keeps me off the road after dark, especially when it’s raining, but not tonight. This is my first meeting for parent’s of children struggling with substance abuse. Tonight’s discussion will be on boundaries; that is something I desperately need help with. Stopping at a red light, I exhale the breath I’ve been holding. I will get there. . .I will get there.

zero visibility
everything loses
its definition

Terri L. French, USA

Act

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

I pause to take a breath and to discuss the metaphorical aspects of these lines with my grade eight class. They try to build up convincing discussion points.

“Let’s get back to the text,” I say after a few minutes of interaction.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this,
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

My students pretend to be attentive. But I notice the furtive glances, the blushes, the smiles, a spaced out expression while the hand doodles.

I continue, straight-faced.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

hearts and flowers . . .
a folded piece of paper
in a uniform pocket

*text from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Vidya Shankar, India

Gembun

the mollusk’s new handbag

cheetah print
one more whiskey
before the dancefloor

Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA

old photograph––
this is me
this was me

pouring myself into the body-shaped abyss

Vijay Prasad, India & Richa Sharma, India

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