Dad rings to tell us it’s prostate cancer. He’s phlegmatic; says that at his age he’ll most likely die with it than of it. We talk around the subject; he puts mum on. She’s worrying about us worrying so she’s overly upbeat. I tell her that we’ve sorted the passports and we’ll see them soon. We agree it’ll fly by.
The cat is still asleep in its patch of sunlight. Way above, the honey buzzards are still circling. Music still drifts from kitchen to garden. Nothing is different. Everything is different.
winter evening in the shade of his second shadow
Alan Peat, United Kingdom
Visiting the Past
Running along the length of Korea are majestic mountains. Covered in lush forests filled with aromatic Hinoki trees, they provide a comforting escape from the rush of city lives. For millennia these mountains have stood as sentinels, calmly watching the flow of time and the journey of humans.
rain forest café the waiter in a zebra shirt and leopard pants
Carol Raisfeld, USA
. . . When everyday is like yesterday in dreary predictability I seek succour in memories, drown in nostalgia savouring every lick, until its sweetness too evaporates until I turn to words for sustenance, each stroke relished and gourmandised and hope reigns eternal . . .
stretching the day beyond her means tram stop
Madhuri Pillai, Australia
the dregs of nirvana
Thursday rain he serves me leftovers on the chipped plate
Kelly Sauvage, USA & Agnes Eva Savich, USA
minutes on the meter
high anxiety the abyss of an unfinished poem
Kelly Sauvage, USA & Robert Moyer, USA
50’s dance party getting into the swing of things
a trombone player
directing the band with his slide
her poodle dog skirt from the thrift shop–– never been worn
with two straws
he waits for a slow dance to ask her
In the Still of the Night
taking the long way
Angela Terry, USA & Julie Schwerin, USA
Om Shante Shante
a poker chip nestled in the stone Buddha’s palm
free from desire
disgruntled patron suing the casino for bad feng shui
lost among slots
the endless chimes
of ten thousand things
losing streak bad karma catches up
the way out the door
Terri L. French, USA & Kat Lehmann, USA
Land of the Free
electric gate Your Kind of Community in glowing white letters
picket fences a white man shadows the black teen
thud of footsteps one bark answers another
ID check the black teen’s shadow slips out of the gate
Source: Remixed from pages 40, 42, 64, & 68 of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Shloka Shankar, India
When you speak to me or I to you, in all the different languages between us from all the worlds we live – in silliness, in seriousness, in public faces, in private fears, in the idioms of our mothers and what of our fathers has left us tongue-tied, we speak in a broken-wholeness of tongues. Seasoned past the half-mark of our lives we find, like schoolgirls, spice where there was only salt to taste before.
a splutter in heated oil–– chattering friends
Anannya Dasgupta, India
Thoreau’s call for simplicity still strikes a chord. Lately, I’ve been doing my bit to clear the clutter. Nothing major: just getting rid of things that I’ve been carrying around for years and have outgrown. Like you.
useful, sure, but are they really essential oils
Benedict Grant, Canada
Our Daily Bread
The old man’s recollection of that summer was clear. Much of the food and resources from the larger Caribbean islands nearby were used in the war effort. The boat that came to collect all the men of age to fight the war in Europe was the last to come for quite some time. Subsistence living suddenly grew even harder.
the walk to school a mango split four ways
Run by a handful of nuns, the only school was next to the Catholic church and it only had so many chairs. When a new child came in, one of the older kids simply cycled out. This is how, at age twelve, he became a working man. Barefoot and whip skinny, he would walk a kilometer through rough terrain to help build some of the island’s first real roads. Cutting down trees and splitting boulders. At quitting time, he would walk back home and help tend the small hillside garden plots the family would use to grow food.
island sunset fish and rice by lamplight
Telling me the story about the day his little brother was baptized the old man starts to tear up. At the time of the baptism, the islanders hadn’t even seen flour for nearly nine months. He simply recalled waking, working, and going to bed hungry. Baptism was an important time for the people whose life was rooted in faith. The family only had one pair of baby shoes and they had one purpose. For this family devoted to faith, the shoes were worn by every child on their day of baptism. In those days the sacrament was performed in Latin just days after birth, just in case. When the service was over, the priest took him aside. Pulling a small pouch of oats from under his cassock, the priest gave it to him. “For the baby”, the priest said. “It’s all I have to give.”
communion the only bread for months
Bryan Rickert, USA
One moment your forehead is weaving a frown, then your lips curl up into a half smile. While putting you to bed, I try to anticipate what the next day will bring: a new expression, a string of gurgling sounds, or a different shade of blue in your eyes?
As you stare intently at my face, your right hand hanging on to my hair, I wonder if you will remember these bonding moments, my one-sided conversations.
my share of the silence mother’s day
Looking through our family albums, I notice there isn’t a single photo of just me and my mother. When I ask her why, she says she was always the one behind the camera.
old diary that little girl’s voice still inside me
Debbi Antebi, United Kingdom
The first thing I notice is the noren over the door, which is shaped like a pair of trousers. As I know only basic Japanese my English students wrote out the kanji characters for man and woman so I don’t enter the wrong side. A kind lady greets me at the reception and chats away. I don’t catch most of what she is saying. She imitates washing her body and I nod and smile. She then imitates getting into the pool and I give her a thumbs up.
vending machine the change warms my hand
I undress and lock my clothes away. This is my first time being completely naked in front of strangers and I feel butterflies in my stomach. Scrubbing myself thoroughly at the washing area, I know that absolute cleanliness is important. The hot water is quite invigorating. Moving around, the heat makes me sweat profusely.
bubbles come up as I break wind a floating world
Just then a hunky Japanese man strides in with quite a package. He tests the water and jumps straight in. No pre-wash. He sits across from me and I catch a glimpse of his ripped abs dripping with water. I move towards the foaming spray, afraid that my manhood might get stiff for all to see. He turns around and reveals angel wings tattooed on his entire back and buttocks. My students said that the yakuza are the only ones who openly display their tattoos and they don’t like foreigners. I get out and cool down in a different bath.
cycling through puddles the reflection of street lights guide me home
Diarmuid Fitzgerald, Ireland
The painter of landscapes
gentian indigo carmine brilliant blue fast green sunset yellow carmoisine erythrosine ponceau 4R
choosing hues from the spectrum— dad’s medicines
Geethanjali Rajan, India
Kat Lehmann, USA
On the verge of climax, he pauses to change the radio. “I prefer Rob Zombie when I’m fucked up on pills.”
evening primrose he gets off on my trauma
Over Before It Begins
The last time I shaved my legs, I had a panic attack. It was the first date since my engagement ended and when I told the guy I hadn’t shaved in a while, he said “well, you’ve still got a few days.”
cold tamales the bitter taste of expectations
Lori A Minor, USA
Too far to the left, to the right, breathe, find your center and move from there
Rooted, as if you were a tree, let all your weight go down below your feet, all the way to the center of the earth At the same time, suspend your head from the heavens to ride the clouds
Feel your feet spread out like the bottoms of a sand dune shift your weight without pushing off from the ground as if a thousand pounds hung off your coccyx bone Now pop your head on straight, your neck and spine in perfect alignment as if they were a string of pearls imagining a one-pound weight hanging from your chin
Keep your wrists seated at all times making beautiful lady’s wrists If your right leg is substantial your right arm is insubstantial If the left arm is insubstantial the right leg is the one to look out for
Be like water, your gaze soft your eyes resting on the horizon But above all, first and foremost, you must relax
tai chi shifting my stance in the checkout line
Michael Henry Lee, USA
An old friend told me that since she’d stopped drinking two years ago she could no longer write. “My muse flew the coup,” she said. That seems to happen a lot with those who’ve chosen to ride the wagon. I wonder where all of these muses go? Playing the slots in Vegas maybe? Sipping a café au lait at a little French Bistro? Tucked away at a Himalayan Buddhist retreat? They may be happy that the artists, writers, musicians they inspired went dry. Can you imagine the sense of responsibility? Seldom do they get credit for any work of art produced, but always receive blame when inspiration is lacking. I’ll bet they’ve all met up to raise a glass to freedom. But there will be a few—those who actually miss their keepers—who will return with a bottle in hand, “Drink up,” they’ll say, “We’ve got some work to do.”