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
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
Instead, I take a book from the bedside table and read, so as not to listen to the wind and call the sleep.
I wander among
Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo, Netherlands/Italy
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
when I’m depressed even my cat
doesn’t like me
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
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––
Benedict Grant, Canada
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.
adding my two cents
to the bathroom wall
Bob Lucky, Portugal
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
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.
the sarsen stone
Bryan D. Cook, Canada
she says she loves me but I have my doubts
I bought her
don’t even warrant
not even science wants him
in the coffin
my first time
without the whiskey
Bryan Rickert, USA
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
In the grocery store, a colander is only a dollar.
I keep looking at the tag. One dollar.
I assumed colanders were expensive. All those holes.
It’s not until now, at 23-years old, that I wonder why we spent years—decades—carefully pouring the water from boiled pasta.
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.
My throat feels sore. Nothing terrible, just the brink of something. I immerse myself in the comfort of a warm bath.
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
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.
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.
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 . . .
what my dog tells me
*A Beatles song off of the Abbey Road album (1969)
Mark Meyer, USA
learning a new
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.
of white satin
her new prince
Marietta McGregor, Australia
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.
the genie’s bottle
Pris Campbell, USA
A New Nose
in the mirror
the high cost
“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.”
the surgeon’s scalpel
Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, USA
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.
Terri L. French, USA
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
the mollusk’s new handbag
one more whiskey
before the dancefloor
Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA
this is me
this was me
pouring myself into the body-shaped abyss
Vijay Prasad, India & Richa Sharma, India