Issue 37 – Senryu & Kyoka


fading moonlight
the sounds of crystal
glasses

adèle weers, Switzerland

church bells . . .
the beggar spreads
his mat

Adjei Agyei-Baah, Ghana

kids the color of questions

Adrian Bouter, the Netherlands

everything
you could touch in me
mimosa

Agnes Eva Savich, USA

cancer
her weight in pills
left behind

aka moone, USA

examining room
with no window
I bring up claustrophobia

Alanna C. Burke, USA

zoom book launch
as if I were
a ghost writer

reading your lips the next best thing

Alvin B. Cruz, Philippines

online harassment
a stream of symbols
in my inbox

Angelo B. Ancheta, Philippines

sound of thunder––
she sings her favorite song
inside a pillow fort

Anthony Lusardi, USA

Instagram––
who’s the fairest
one of all?

rising elevator
but still
the glass ceiling

hail mary crossing the length of his friendzone

Antoinette Cheung, Canada

temple sill the stains of prayers

Arvinder Kaur, India

armoire necklace
trying on mom’s
femininity

Ash Evan Lippert, USA

penny candy
she tries on
the edible lipstick

beginning to breathe
on the table
between us
a full carafe
of cabernet

Barbara Sabol, USA

Roman ruins
the fallen arches
of my feet

Barbara Strang, New Zealand

coming of age
outgrowing the straws
in juice boxes

unpopped kernels . . .
my poem stays
in the pot

Barrie Levine, USA

staring back at me
happiness
in a photograph

Ben Gaa, USA

driving with dad
bumper to bumper
on the big questions

Benedict Grant, Canada

an old poet
reading myself
to sleep

St. Christopher––
when I believed
in grown-ups

Bill Kenney, USA

dripping wet
from the pool
a wolf-whistle

Bisshie, Switzerland

somewhere between
the bathroom and the kitchen
I become old

Bob Lucky, Portugal

missing her more each day
the dog
works a little harder

Bob Moore, USA

esker trail
my legs read
the glacier’s story

Brad Bennett, USA

nesting dolls the girls of my inner selves

seasonal depression
a fistful of empty
calories

tattooed women
wanting the trouble
dad said they’d bring

Bryan Rickert, USA

palliative
telling me
first

burning incense
smoke curls around
my last amen

C.X. Turner, United Kingdom

rooftop bar––
gazing
at sun-tanned stars

Carol Judkins, USA

a bookmark
where my son
grew too old

Chad Lee Robinson, USA

memento mori
as if we needed
another reminder

Charles Harmon, USA

a sugar cube
dropped into a cup of tea
on a blind date
my personality dissolves
in a borrowed tongue

Chen-ou Liu, Canada

cycling
a blast of wind lifts her skirt––
his interest
in the day moon
wavers

Christina Chin, Malaysia & Alan Peat, United Kingdom

the pallbearers
carry her lightly
my mother’s life

Christine Eales, United Kingdom

new manicure
the tv news anchor
shares her views

Christine Wenk-Harrison, USA

ebbing tide
online and offline
of digital friends

Christopher Calvin, Indonesia

cutting her long hair
as if it would
make a difference

Claire Vogel Camargo, USA

summer asks
from the back of the car
are we there yet?

Curt Linderman, USA

touch up appearance
maximum Zoom setting
makes no difference

Curt Pawlisch, USA

soft pastels
coloring my dreams
post-breakdown

Cynthia Anderson, USA

remembering great nights
the old wine-stained table

Dan Dolen, USA

this stairway
that creaks under
my weight
I find it some
excuses

Daniel Birnbaum, France

every night laundry from bed to chair

Danny Daw, USA

airflight
childhood stories
of behind the clouds land

Dave Chandler, USA

“trickle-down”
but at the bottom
dry, dry, dry

tax cut––
he adds to his collection
of houses

David Oates, USA

leaving home
empty seats
on a Greyhound bus

David Watts, USA

nothing to say
I fill the message
with emojis

lockdown
my choice of kigo
out of season

Debbi Antebi, United Kingdom

24-hour laundromat
a little pile of unmatched
baby booties

Debbie Olson, USA

old scars––
the stories we tell
others

Deborah Burke Henderson, USA

after sixty-five
trying envy
for a change

Elena Malec, USA

the sink full
of plastic cups
rental cabin

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco, USA

adding a lilt to the melody jasmine rice

Eric A. Lohman, USA

skipping stones
the ripples of
family dysfunction

Erin Castaldi, USA

divorce trial
the child is cut
in two

Ernest Wit, Poland

charity dinner
how to remove
the silverskin

“now to the war”
the professional way
he knotted his tie

Eva Limbach, Germany

end of the visits
behind the window
his wrinkled hand

Françoise Maurice, France

social media break
the world still beautiful
without filters

G.R. LeBlanc, Canada

her eyes
the colour of thunder
forgotten birthday

the only son’s cell phone “out of reach”

neuro medication
the mugginess of July
in my brain

Geethanjali Rajan, India

choosing a facemask
my growing collection
of variants

gentrification
my neighbor’s home
becomes a house

Helen Ogden, USA

late evening walk
my footsteps
half the distance

Herb Tate, United Kingdom

washing mother’s feet
I pretend to be
a good son

James Babbs, USA

sleeping
with strangers
the last train home

James Gaskin, Japan

vacation
she lands
her head on me

James Schlett, USA

lunch counter
watching the end
of grandpa’s cigarette

Jamie Wimberly, USA

twenty years
after the day before
what we did not know

Janet Ruth, USA

average white guy
a not-so-super power
being unremarkable

Jason Richardson, Australia

pizza box
the number of slices
in a zero-sum game

Jay Friedenberg, USA

at Arlington
seeing her father
for the first time

Jeffrey Walthall, USA

preparing
to smile and nod
power suit

at both corners
her mouth turned upwards
balanced beam

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui, USA

holiday
on a different couch
how handsome he is

Jenny Fraser, New Zealand

soap opera––
perfect bouquet
in the litter bin

Jenny Shepherd, United Kingdom

local bus
the old-timer
hems and haws

Jim Krotzman, USA

preening
your inner peacock
the ex

Joanna Ashwell, United Kingdom

campus walk detoured by the smell of weed

John Zheng, USA

family tree––
the stories I heard
around kitchen tables

rehab
not all scars
visible

what he wants
to be when grown
the length of my shadow

Joseph P. Wechselberger, USA

stress fractures the fatigue of his laurels

Julie Schwerin, USA

mammogram
a crucifix hangs
from a pushpin

dusting
my one song
on the piano

June Rose Dowis, USA

new baby
the toddler swaddles
himself

this anxiety
ignoring the call
to prayer

Justin Brown, USA

stillborn
and I cry over
lost keys

Kala Ramesh, India

teenager in the house and other ways of knowing

Kat Lehmann, USA

my torn kimono
along the seam
of five summers

Katherine E Winnick, United Kingdom

after radiation––
I spend the morning rebuilding
the snowman

Keith Polette, USA

unrequited
tying thoughts
into a knot

Kevin Valentine, USA

new drapes––
cleansing the home
of her ex

Kimberly Kuchar, USA

emerald earrings
I inherit more
than her laugh

lifelong learning the curveball

kjmunro, Canada

news headlines . . .
sunflower bouquets
fill a grocery store bucket

a child’s guide to stars
orienting myself
with bears

Kristen Lindquist, USA

the pianist
eighty-eight
& out of tune

Lent
I give up editing
my life

more salt
for the soup
we get to talking politics

LeRoy Gorman, Canada

third martini turning into myself

growing old in the dark beyond my father

ultra-marathon
my son tells me the miles
he’s running from

Lew Watts, USA

black coffee
washing off
his sugar-coated lies

Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo, Philippines

before pressing send
what I really
want to say

Lori Becherer, USA

still missing . . .
the person I thought
you were

Lori Kiefer, United Kingdom

empty nest
storing firewood
in the toy box

Lorraine Carey, Ireland

walking on clouds
if only he
would slow down

Luminita Suse, Canada

another nightmare
passes through her wall
of dreamcatchers

M. R. Defibaugh, USA

unleavened––
the last time i rose
for communion

fallen leaves––
the city clears the hungry
from main street

m. shane pruett, USA

rain on May Day
here in the castle gardens
a Virgin-free grotto

Maeve O’Sullivan, Ireland

old widower
all desires
over the hill

Manoj Sharma, Nepal

depression––
focusing on the flight
of a feather

global warming––
how rare is now
the dew

Margherita Petriccione, Italy

notebook page––
a trial-and-error history
of my hopes

Marie Derley, Belgium

birthday month
scrolling past
free gifts

Mariel Herbert, USA

new diet waisting my time

platoon the human trafficking of war

Marilyn Ashbaugh, USA

storm chaser
always looking
for an argument

Marilyn Fleming, USA

the road less traveled . . .
construction crews
here as well

Mark Forrester, USA

a small gift
of our time together––
smiling buddha

birthday cake––
how many more summers
before i die

traffic jam––
am I too old to sing
with Taylor Swift

Mark Scott, USA

campsite store . . .
sales stalled by the kid’s
bag of pennies

Mark Teaford, USA

unseen dawn––
the hard graft of thought
in this footnote

Meg Arnot, United Kingdom

the Veil
she says
it’s more like smoke

Melissa J. Fowle, USA

trying on new clothes
secrets she wants me
to see

Michael Battisto, USA

outdoor concert––
the new conductor
settles the score

Michael Dylan Welch, USA

ghost light . . .
traces of a long-dead
rose

Michael Flanagan, USA

pop diagnoses
a label for all
that ails me

just
as i am
sunrise service

Michael Henry Lee, USA

thoughts and prayers
the empty space
between two hands

Mike Fainzilber, Israel

swing door
the to and fro
of laughter

Mike Gallagher, Ireland

payday flowers
he gives the clerk
the whole story

Mike White, USA

chessboard his loneliness black and white

Minal Sarosh, India

red roses
the times he tried to say
I love you

Mona Bedi, India

group zazen over
smiling, we fold the sheet
on creases

Neena Singh, India

Ellis Island tour
looking in every room
for my Opa

b u c k e t l i s t t h e l e n g t h o f t h i s f r e i g h t t r a i n . . .

Nick Hoffman, Ireland

zen garden
accepting the weeds
just as they are

Nick T, United Kingdom

holding my breath
my lover gives me
hers

chewing on God
my mouth
empty of bread

Nicky Gutierrez, USA

day-old bread
he returns too late
to apologize

Nika, Canada

Alexa––
feeling the need
to apologize

long covid
cutting a cross
in the sourdough

P. H. Fischer, Canada

biker prophet
a parable of the roads
not taken

list of sins
longer than my
knees can last

vintage diner
we finish each other’s
sentences

Pat Davis, USA

detention class
preparing the soil
for weeds

Patricia Hawkhead, United Kingdom

17 billion earth-sized planets
and there’s a man
chasing his hat

Patrick Sweeney, Japan

bookmark
my losing
lottery ticket

Paul Engel, USA

Shinto cleansing rite
in the water once more
I dip the ladle

petro c. k., USA

pulling the wings off my daddy issues

in spite growing an empire in me

Pippa Phillips, USA

immigrant––
is it stamped
on my forehead

Ram Chandran, India

midlife crisis––
changing churches
i and pastor

Ramesh Anand, India

sumi-e
the arcs that cradle
her eyes

Ravi Kiran, India

boundaries
her therapist
newly single too

Reid Hepworth, Canada

diagnosis
mother walks past
the deity

Richa Sharma, India

enlightenment
the acolyte snores
mouth open

juxtaposition
the first cut
is the deepest

Richard Tice, USA

budget deficit
filling potholes
the morning mist

Rick Jackofsky, USA

meditating––
almost an awakening
I fall asleep

Rob McKinnon, Australia

another war––
this fragile urge
to grow old

dry riverbed––
my part
in it

Rob Scott, Australia

extra inning loss
slowly the little leaguer
licks his ice cream cone

Robert Witmer, Japan

city fountain . . .
at midnight she kicks off
her shoes

Roberta Beach Jacobson, USA

a pork barrel
falls from the truck
election year

Rohan Buettel, Australia

incense offering
after I am gone
only ashes

Ron Russell, USA

each relative
full of advice
first tricycle

Ronald K. Craig, USA

diving off the cliff
I slip
inside the sea

S.M. Kozubek, USA

dragon kite running herself ragged

Sarah E. Metzler, USA

flickering candles
we talk of the dead
in passing

Sarah Paris, USA

no music
playing inside the car
just this city

Saumya Bansal, India

fitbit
on the fritz
counting my own steps

Scott Wiggerman, USA

pre-school class
tumbling out to play
the teacher’s inner child

whiskey stash
he tests the strength
of her forgiveness

Seánan Forbes, USA

mood swings
not even google
can explain

Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, USA

after our fight
a long discussion
about the weather

Sharon Walter, USA

victoria’s secrets
all those algorithms
gone wrong

Sondra J. Byrnes, USA

temple queue . . .
I revise and reorder
my prayers

Srinivas S

asks if I have
anything of my own
my wife

sub-zero level
a fresh feed
of war news

Srinivasa Rao Sambangi, India

​​locked classroom . . .
more young lives
taken

Stephenie Story, USA

at the moment
in the moment
for a moment

without the messenger bearing the news within

Steve Bahr, USA

first time in group
she points out
my undone shoelace

old enough . . .
a teenager gives me her
seat on the bus

Steve Dolphy, United Kingdom

garden party
the doll’s eyes
unblinking

Sue Courtney, New Zealand

shaved head––
suddenly few question
her authority

Susan Bonk Plumridge, Canada

mortal (syn)apses blaming my brain for my dastardly deeds

if only lies
were easy to tell
like Pinocchio
the growing nose
of a cheating spouse

Susan Burch, USA

my attempt
at finding purpose
third wheel

Tazeen Fatma, India

laundry basket
I let his decisions
pile over mine

carte blanche : my body my rules

Teji Sethi, India

the whole world
in his hands
except . . .

23 and Me
suddenly I’m
the middle child

Terri L. French, USA

​​wheels up––
turning my watch back
one hour

Thomas Cirtin, USA

boarding the Greyhound
a Hefty trash bag
for luggage

Tim Cremin, USA

substitute art teacher
seeing shadows
in a new light

Tim Murphy, Spain

from squaring up
to shaking hands
the drunk who loves everyone

Tim Roberts, New Zealand

past lives
I sleep with
my ghosts

Tina Mowrey, USA

<<<<cease-fire>>>>

reality . . .
the less I want
to know

Tom Clausen, USA

liking jazz
now I’ve heard
all of me

Tony Williams, United Kingdom

warding off bad spirits
my windchimes
hang

Tuyet Van Do, Australia

church stillness
just stepping in
to remember

the curl of fingers around themselves regrets

Tyler McIntosh, USA

collage . . .
the empty sections
of her life

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams, USA

sprinkling salt––
she says I’m not good enough
for her son

Vandana Parashar, India

between us––
the simulacrum
of exchanges

Vijay Prasad, India

every emotion
at the speed of sound
four-month-old

one dog barks
then two join in
political rally

William Scott Galasso, USA

Return to Issue

Issue 37 – Haiga

Golden Wedding
wrinkles smoothed
for the day

Christa Pandey, USA

at this table
you told me how much
love you have
for her

Giddy Nielsen-Sweep, Australia

on the shelf
a packet of rice
just in case

John Hawkhead, United Kingdom

search party
the drunken man
looks for himself

Senryu: Ken Slaughter, USA, Photo: Jan Slaughter, USA

taxidermy
what to do with my
aging body

Marianne Paul, Canada

the fight for my body overturned

Mariel Herbert, USA

with silver bells
and cockle shells
more legislation pending

Maxianne Berger, Canada

water ring
on the coffee table
her one indiscretion

Julie Schwerin, USA

behind the fence
such longing for a
friend

Katja Fox, United Kingdom

family gathering
sipping the voices
in my tea

Ron C. Moss, Australia

cobalt violet
my genes oxidize
into twilight

rs, USA

ICU a lullaby floats through the intercom

Senryu: Terri L. French, USA, Photo: Steve Hodge, USA

Return to Issue

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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