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CONTENTS

# Letter From The Editor

# 'A Skier in The Land of Dreams' by Irina Tall Novikova

# 'Self-portrait As A Bundle Of Losses, Knotted Up Reasonably As A Guise Of Flowers' & 'Portrait of God as a Missing Dad' by Paul Chuks

# 'Under The Ground' by Mykyta Ryzhykh

# 'Elegy, Three Inches' & 'A Love Poem Might Be Possible' by Robin Kinzer

# 'Almost as much as She wants to see you fly' by Mathew Gostelow

# 'Bilingual' & 'Desperate Measures' by Olivia Burgess

# 'Reece Mews, 1991' & 'Incantation' by Italo Ferrante

# 'The Other Worlds Songs', 'there are wolves in sky and, during the waltz of the hidden, epistolary episodic belles lettres to the shoreline unknown ~' & Four Photographs by Brian Michael Barbeito

# 'Our Chemical Art' by Stephen Orr

# 'Elvis Loses His Cape in the Emergency Room', 'Eco Poem For Jared' & 'Lord, My Problems Are All First World' by Will Schmit

# 'An Iridescent Mood' & 'A Tragedy Shakespeare Forgot to Write' by William Doreski

# 'Two Days in Miami' by Stephanie Young

# 'Monochrome' by Megan Feehley

# 'Coronation of the Damned' by Olivia Grace Viteznik

# 'A Glum Day and Dour' by Chris Dahl

# 'Cherry Blossoms 1, 3 & 4' by Russell Streur

# 'The Quietness of Waiting' by Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi

# 'A Long Walk East' by Corey Bryan

# 'Pasture Statues' by Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi

# 'Let Me Go' by Stephanie Haun

# 'Viaje Inaugural' & 'Things I hope I'll never have to explain to my little sister' by      N. L. Rivera

# 'Arrival' & 'Out of Nowhere' by John Grey

# 'Honey Hibiscus' by Nic Job

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Letter From The Editor

Dear Readers,

The world is welcoming the return of spring once more, as it emerges from the ground with its fistfuls of flowers and the birthing of new life from hedgerow to harbour, days lengthen, the sun lingers a little longer over us, and the nights grow warm in their beds.  Our February and March submissions periods absolutely breezed by and we skipped up a bounty of new Spares for our Volume 6 collection.

While submissions have begun to pour in for our forthcoming AI Protest Supplement “ART/ificial” which is set to release this summer to mark our first year anniversary as a publication, I have been quietly watching this edition of Spare Parts Lit emerge and weave itself together out of blank pages and open tabs.

This volume bursts like a garden; a jumble of blossoms, each soft-petalled body unique, each bestowed by its maker with the gift to produce its own fruit. The contributors of Volume 6 offer up a bouquet of rich fantasy, photography, love, anxiety, power, art, pressure, pain, redemption and mystery.

We would ask that readers please be aware that we have one Trigger Warning amongst the pages of this volume, which is signposted ahead of the piece. We believe that discussions must be opened regarding some of the ugly realities of life and in particular the sanctity of consent, but we also recognise that many may need to be given control of when and how they interact with and process these matters.

In all of my letters I have made an attempt to convey the passion and the fulfilment I experience in running and editing this magazine - over the last year it has driven, pushed and powered me through all of life’s unpredictable terrain. I don’t know what the future holds for this publication, nor do I know where the road ahead leads, but I do know that we are going the distance, that Spare Parts Literary will continue to stand for creatives and provide an open platform for their work, and that I will do all in my power to nurture its growth and to encourage and edify this community.

And so, it is once again with boundless joy that I invite you to embark upon your journey through the astounding Spare Parts Literary Volume 6.

Oak Ayling

Oak Ayling

(Editor in Chief)

Vol 6.

Vol 6.

A SKIER IN THE LAND OF DREAMS

By Irina Tall Novikova

A skier in the land of dreams... Irina Tall.jpg

Irina Tall (Novikova) is an artist, graphic artist, illustrator. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art, and also has a bachelor's degree in design.

The first personal exhibition "My soul is like a wild hawk" (2002) was held in the museum of Maxim Bagdanovich. In her works, she raises themes of ecology, in 2005 she devoted a series of works to the Chernobyl disaster, draws on anti-war topics. The first big series she drew was The Red Book, dedicated to rare and endangered species of animals and birds. Writes fairy tales and poems, illustrates short stories. She draws various fantastic creatures: unicorns, animals with human faces, she especially likes the image of a man - a bird - Siren. In 2020, she took part in Poznań Art Week. Her work has been published in magazines: Gupsophila, Harpy Hybrid Review, Little Literary Living Room and others. In 2022, her short story was included in the collection "The 50 Best Short Stories", and her poem was published in the collection of poetry "The wonders of winter".

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SELF-PORTRAIT AS A BUNDLE OF LOSSES,
KNOTT
ED UP REASONABLY AS A GUISE OF FLOWERS

By Paul Chuks

“My mother forbade us to walk backwards.

that is how the dead walk, she would say.” - Anne Carson. 

 

I try to turn my sins against me with a straight face

but like the lores of mountains are

hidden beneath stones, I leave them under

the nakedness of my skin. This is where unbelief begins;

to chase transgressions up the tree of morality. At the choir

session, three verses are sung in my mother's tongue in an

attempt to church me. This is a story frequent in history

but nobody has ever smiled at it: a boy wakes up

and watches his faith wear away, then he is tethered away from

what can be loved & dropped at the edge of tragedy. What is

morality if not a divine dream of human behaviour?

& what is a dream if not the pleating of two realms

into a pair of shut eyes? life is born, but death is what lingers—

meaning our bodies are formed from hands dipped in

darkness & things not of light have secret attraction, like

the black hole. I wish to God my body a guise of flowers. Is it not how to serve God when our faith is dead? how prayers turn

to wishes & water our tongue in days of sorrow. My love

died in July, what is most painful is that another July is nigh

& my love will die again—even in remembrance. I have found

that ironies are the mathematics of language, because how does

one solve the equation of a thing dying even in its remembrance? that would be walking backwards like the dead & our mother already forbade us.

PORTRAIT OF GOD AS A MISSING DAD

The story goes like this; a boy wakes up from sleep to meet

his mournful mother. He has known her only as the origin of

his being. At school, other kids present the candy their fathers

bought them for lunch. At home, curious to know, he asks; Where is my Dad?

Silence, they say is loud too, but never did

they say the roaring sound above us was its language and it understood thundering down a heart.

This is love unfinished & the boy relates to every tragedy that could trigger a tear. This story

repeats itself when he prays the same prayer for years & there is no

response; when he learned about slavery & wondered where God was;

when his best friend died of something God healed in the bible &

when the headlines kept reporting about bombings. Perhaps one has not lived

if a question has not been echoed back as an answer. To articulate

the silence between himself, God & his father, he says the trauma of silence

should title his biography. If you held

his face & watched his eyes, you'd see 

a hologram of him wandering many

stories & if you kissed him, there he'll

stand  & rage— telling you

no matter the subject, the question

remains; where is God & my Dad?

Paul Chuks is a songwriter, poet, and storyteller. He is of Igbo descent and resides in Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Heavy Feather Review, Trampset, Ginosko, and elsewhere. He is a reader at Palette Poetry, Mud Season Review, and The Forge. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s analyzing hip-hop verses or moving his body rhythmically to the songs raving on his roof.

UNDER THE GROUND

By Mykyta Ryzhykh

***

1

Рeople sit around
Clay figure
Рeople are sitting inside
Clay figure

2
light haze in the belly of graceful flowers
this is not a landscape

3
Mom, Dad, what's the matter with you?
We are like worms we are like worms
We crawl under the ground

Mykyta Ryzhykh is the Winner of the international competition «Art Against Drugs», bronze medalist of the festival Chestnut House, laureate of the literary competition named after Tyutyunnik. Long list of awards Lyceum, Twelve, awards named after Dragomoshchenko.

ELEGY, THREE INCHES

By Robin Kinzer

Lying on the beige stretch of my bedroom carpet

is a mouse curled in on himself.  Silent and still,

his pose mimics the dried-out husk of a cicada’s shell.

 

Tiny dun sweep of fur, I lean closer to check

if he’s still breathing.  My fat black cat, long gone,

has likely made a play-thing of him.  He did not

stand a chance.  The mouse’s breath comes

in uneven gulps.  I call two emergency veterinarians.

 

One is closed, and the other chokes back a laugh

when I say mouse.  By the time I’ve made a bed

for the mouse out of tissues and a coffee tin, he

has stopped breathing.  A pale cellulose pillow

props up his miniscule head.  A stray coffee bean

rests just beneath the limp curl of his tail.

 

Now he has been taken from me, just as you

were taken from me in this same season,

six winters ago.  My cat, guiltless, watches

as I search for a shovel.  My feet stick

and stutter as I force them to the frozen ground. 

 

I nestle the mouse’s body deeper into

the coffee tin, and bury him in the cold earth.

A LOVE POEM MIGHT BE POSSIBLE

Kat demands an elegy without drugs.

 

Try hard to conjure up, but the first date

was crouching on checkered kitchen floor

over thin yellow lines of crushed Adderall.


First kiss, swooned stomach.  Believed body

was riding a Ferris wheel, but only after snorting

chalky rows of driver’s license-cut cocaine inside

a filthy bathroom stall smelling of rosewater.

 

First sex stimulated by oxycodone, tongues

loose and hips looser.  Freckled flesh flung over

paper-pale, anodyne glow spread from scalp to sole.

 

On truly desperate nights, even gluey blue bottles of Nyquil

passed between grasping fists.  The morning after, memories

made liquid, the night before an ooze of limbs and laughter.

 

Kat demands an elegy without drugs.

 

Says to remember first date again: the purple hair

dye massaged with tender palms into tingling scalp.

The fashion show: vamping in pearls, plaids, feather boas.

Two bodies squeezed into tiny dorm room bed until

five a.m., laughing stomachs sore.  Pills long forgotten.

 

Night of first kiss.  Crying in the backseat of a Manhattan

taxi, after wallet and lucky thrift store sweater were stolen.

Head cradled in lap.  Fingers tickling across face

like friendly spiders, rope laddered spine unknotting. 

 

Sober, the sugar-spun morning after first sex:

Sunlight filtering through pink sequin curtains,

prism-bursts scattered over bare breasts.

Hesitance gone.  Catapulting into kiss.

Then peanut butter pancakes for breakfast.

 

The truth?  A love poem without drugs may be possible.

But not an elegy.  Not when worn-out veins finally

found fentanyl, sealing the envelope of suicide note.

 

Not when regret tries to rewrite every memory, like

undoing the drugs from happy memories might undo

the drug at the end.  Might undo the end altogether.

Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet, memoirist, teacher, and editor.  Robin has poems and essays published, or forthcoming, in Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Blood Orange Review, fifth wheel press, Delicate Friend, Anti-Heroin Chic, Rooted in Rights, and others.  She’s a Poetry Editor for the winnow magazine.  She loves glitter, Ferris wheels, vintage fashion, sloths, and radical empathy.  She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer and at www.robinkinzer.com

ALMOST AS MUCH AS SHE WANTS TO SEE YOU FLY

By MaThew GosTelow

I remember when they handed you to me. A blanket-bound bundle, sparkle-dark eyes wide open. A perfect baby girl. I was shocked that something so small could summon feelings so big - bigger than that stuffy room, than the whole hospital. Bigger than the sky. More love than I thought possible. But also fear. Fear that I would hurt you by mistake. Just picking you up felt like an epic journey, an exercise in risky logistics.

 

Moments after you were born, you kicked one foot free of your blanket cocoon. I couldn’t stop staring at your little toe. The tiniest, curliest, pinkest shrimp I ever saw. I was terrified I’d harm that toe before it even touched the ground. I had cold sweats, imagining it caught on my clothes, twisted unnaturally.

 

I get that same icy shock right now, thinking of what you’re about to do.

 

I dreamed last night about getting you ready to walk to school on your own. Do you remember? We did it in stages. I let you take the lead; watching you decide where to turn, when to cross, checking you knew the route and looked both ways. You were sure-footed, careful, confident. Each day I left you a little earlier. First I waved you off at the gates. Then across the road from school. On the corner. At the end of our road. Until eventually we kissed goodbye at home.

 

That day, watching you step out on your own, there was a lump in my throat; part love, part pride, part fear. Those great big feelings, bundled in your blanket, they never disappeared. They grew bigger with every passing year. Looking back, I realised that process – training you to walk to school – was more for my benefit than yours. It helped me let go, by degrees.

 

It takes an incredible force to leave Earth’s gravity. The man from the agency explained it to me. He called it ‘escape velocity’. It’s thirty three times the speed of sound - three times faster than a bullet leaving a rifle, he said. The image didn't reassure me. The planet resists, you see. She wants to hold you, keep you safely grounded, almost as much as she wants to see you fly.

 

He says you’ll be away for almost three years. Nine months in the aluminium belly of that ship, before you land on the surface. You’ll live there, on another world, for a year, experimenting, testing, before you start your journey home. Your feet, that curly toe, will be the first to walk on Mars. That lump is back in my throat, feelings fighting for space inside.

 

The distance to Mars expands and contracts, he said. When it’s close - just thirty four million miles - we’ll get to talk. But even when our orbits pull us three hundred million miles apart, past radio range, my love and fear and pride are big enough to bridge the void between us.

Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a dad, husband, and fledgling writer, living in Birmingham, UK. Some days he wakes early and writes strange tales, which have been published by Lucent Dreaming, Janus Literary, Roi Faineant, The Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow Quarterly, voidspace and others. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2022 and has won prizes in contests run by Bag of Bones Press, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. You can find him on Twitter: @MatGost

BILINGUAL

By Olivia Burgess

The clock taps her watch: just gone six.

Spices wait in their little jarred globes, music ebbs

and nods along to a bassline I heard a while ago.

There are granite facts in this language, the dialect

of a dissolved stock cube

the flour pot,                the sugar jar

the military assort of bowls under the sink. Our most-loved pan

hums and simmers

(garlic, mustard, dill)

and someone will ruffle my hair,

another insists on an apron while I rush for befuddled nonsense.

Thinking of moonlight -

the back door swung for steam -

the stars chatter and bray. Starchy water rises to a crest.

Someone will nick a morsel from the hob, and I will pretend

to be angry like a child in a play.

An oven preheats, winks,

a kettle angrily boils like the blood

in my heart,

seizing and prancing and soaring. Flattened with the

rolled pastry on the silicone baking sheet because

nostalgia of the present is never built to last. I’ll have to

leave this moment, this momentous life-eclipse

to answer myself outside

this kitchen, this house, my mind.

The pan is for right now

and I’m thinking

how wonderfully solitary

how free.

DESPERATE MEASURES

My uncle said that every time a ‘slow’ was printed on the road, it meant someone had died.

He stood in the flushed candlelight pouring wine, sloshed cherry crimson

tinkling sonnet in a spotless glass.

I never knew that paint could be the outline of bodies

every half mile, two yards, then climbed by my rare footfall. Soon there won’t

be anymore room

save the vomit of resin paint and the jagged lines of tyre scars. I don’t have many fears,

minus the normal ones,

sacrilegious conjures of plane crashes and the drip of IV’s

Maybe throw a cliche like love and death and mourning

Make myself feel better, home remedy.

 

I wonder if he knows how many times I’ve locked myself in a bathroom

and spun round with the light fixtures

Or if he can remember the way soaring fifty feels like taking flight,

a steering wheel in blind hands. Being seventeen feels like holding a breath

for as many days as possible

how first light in the morning is to search for the side in your chest for the ache.

He won’t know the unmistakable nuance of a stranger’s staring eyes, right at the small hole

in your back where your pigtails used to linger

a bookbag at your feet. Things have changed. I’ve wrung myself out

a thousand times over

a million different mirrors

no matter how many nail varnishes I try to paint over myself

I’m still me, whoever that is.

 

I’m not a religious person, but there’s a prayer for every ‘slow’ on that hopeless, gunmetal grey.

Olivia Burgess.jpg

Olivia Burgess (she/her) is a 17 year old poet raised and residing in the UK. She has a smattering of publications from a short story chapbook to a variety of literary magazines including Paper Crane Lit. When she's not composing poetry (usually based on herself, nature, or her muse) she's telling unnecessary jokes and staring, for no apparent reason, at the moon. More can be found on her Instagram @light.green_eyes

REECE MEWS, 1991

By ITalo FerranTe

I ask you what you can’t ask a ghost.
When can I repair myself?
How do I paint a gasp
in thinned oil paint?

I miss you,
your infra-red cuffs,
the imprint of corduroy
on my cheeks.

Day of the year: hypodermic.
Time of the year: high-strung.

You were sick of me
breathing & blinking off-kilter.
You pushed a roller sponge
into my throat.

Prey or fury, man vs beast,
asthmatic lilac. Remember me
streaked & blurred.

A pre-verbal scream.

This is a pope.
That is an electric chair.
Is this a boudoir or a theatre?

I stick my eyelids together.

INCANTATION
after Taylor Swift

this is me trying

light slowed by water

the palette of a scream

this is me trying

a hologram of you

the size of a sugarcube

this is me trying

you hold me like a bird

groomed by gravity

this is me trying

a mote of dust

a whiff of hurt

this is me trying

you hum in my eyelids

like a carousel

this is me trying

the faster I run to you

the more mass i gain

this is me trying

can I bury you

beyond my marrow

this is me trying

we’ll lose bones

if we age together

this is me trying

louder than the beeps

after a soak cycle

this is me trying

the breaking of my voice

was your favourite trauma

Italo Ferrante (he/him) is a queer poet who earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick. To date, his work has been selected for publication by Poetry Salzburg, Impossible Archetype, Cardiff Review, Sage Cigarettes, Inflections Magazine, Lighthouse, and Orchard Lea Press. Recently, his poem "Ode to Abruzzo" has been shortlisted for the Oxford Brookes' International Poetry Competition (2022).

THE OTHER WORLD SONGS

By Brian Michael BarbeiTo

after the dawn and its mist, was the day, prosaic and normal, clear and neither good or bad, and then the strange dusk where shapes melt away and night afterwards overtakes streams and estuary, inlet and lake, boulevard and rural road and city street. that is when the angels used to arrive, or be heard, finally heard. they sang songs together, actual angels, and the songs were melancholic and rueful, crestfallen and lamenting something. I wondered why they sang. I wondered for years and years and years as I listened to them. they didn’t bother me, or comfort me too much. they were on the side of good and not bad. but why were they always sad? oh how deep and intense they were, w/their songs. but now they are long gone and sometimes how I miss them so. oh angels, come back and sing your songs. astral tunes. limbo lyrics. other world whines. complaints from eternity. what would or could a mystic orphan lost soul do in a suburban place surrounded by mediocrity, ambition, modernity? nothing, that’s what. but I miss the songs. please sing a song old friends, just once, somewhere sometime somehow. perhaps in the deep and still witching hour when the wind whistles wild unencumbered through the distant reeds on the edges of towns hardly known, when one is all alone, near lonesome loam, far and far and far my friend, so very far from anything like home. 

THERE ARE WOLVES IN THE SKY AND, DURING THE WALTZ OF THE HIDDEN, EPISTOLARY EPISODIC BELLES LETTRES TO THE SHORELINE UNKNOWN ~

the past is a long while away, when there was the dream of an orange city and the night, and another and me caught in fright, trying to make our way. or the great and grand cathedrals north. I told the woman, ‘there used to be a church under the ground, and I went there and it was beautiful and old and functional,’ and the woman surprised me by saying first, ‘I know,’ and secondly, ‘it is gone now…’ and I thought about all that and there were wolves in the firmament one two three maybe more. and I listened to so many things, hundreds of things, and read until my eyes couldn’t function, but in the end I closed my eyes and tried to listen to the rainstorms. Mata once read The Thorn Birds near southern balconies whilst I watched the skies over the sea. and one day, someday, I will live in the skies over the sea. why do you long for much? opulence. fashion. power. fame. money. food. the new. the gauche. the decadent. more. more. more. why, if you were different, you could live in the sky ov’r the sea. w/me. we could live there forever. w/the wolves. I will be there anyhow. you should stop by. oh one time I went down there after a long strange dream and walked the coastline at dawn. joggers. yoga people. walkers. the world. but I was always a stranger. I only looked up in the end and yearned for home, longed to live again in the air, w/out a care, where the astral wolves sway by the thousand fold lair.

FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

IMG_6455 Brian Michael Barbeito.jpg
Brian.jpg

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet and photographer. Recent work appears at The Notre Dame Review.

OUR CHEMICAL ART

By STephen Orr

 

 

For the eyes of Tho. Morgan

34 years

Violettowne

Victoria

 

Just remember, Thomas, if not you, then who? Twenty years work and my boys arent interested, Bessie’ll sell the whole lot, the cameras, the paper and chemicals, the cart and Mavis (as you know, just point her in the right direction) to the highest bidder. So its just you. And now youre saying well, he chose, he did it, what do I owe him, and youre right, you owe me nothing, except perhaps the memory, the times we spent photographing those mountains, those fat families and their harmoniums and dead children and the ocean and square-riggers and when you said, Mr Trent, Mr Trent, look at that! don’t we have a spare plate? So heres the bits I didnt show you, and all of its yours now, all of the secrets, and the stuffs in my redroom.

 

  1. There are dozens of glass plates, and when theyre done, reuse the old ones. Equal parts collodion and potassium iodide. Once through, wait a bit, then silver nitrate (and use sparingly).

  2. If you havent got an eye yet you never will, but Ive always said you have, you have got an eye, Thomas! Look for the heart of a thing, the bit that makes you feel happy-sad-and-good-and-bad, something, there has to be something in what youre photographing. If the Reynolds want another memento mori (and they will) its because they loved their bubba despite it taking three breaths and dying. You know you cant afford to waste a plate, so keep your eye, son. Say to yourself, would the old bastard have done it? Would he? Dont waste your time on hills, or the moon. Any idiot knows what the moon looks like and it’ll always be there and most people excepting fools dont need reminding.

  3. Once it’s done, give it a good hour to dry, longer if you can. While youre waiting, crack your eggs, get your whites, mix your albumen, add the ammonium chloride (1.8%). I may be low, you may need to buy more, I was about to, but as youve probably guessed, my decision was made quickly, this letter even quicker, and now Im dead and gone (praise the Lord!) youll have a few jobs to take care of.

  4. Make your mixture, stir, leave it a day, strain it, tip it in the tray on the top shelf (you know the one), make sure you get all the air bubbles, like I showed you, all of them, then soak your paper on one side (like Ive showed you), then your silver nitrate (20%), and remember what weve been doing together since you signed on, Tom. Remember that lady, the old woman in the gaming house and I said it makes a picture of you, maam, and she said that box, it draws a picture of me, and I said it doesnt draw, it makes it, like you and me standing here now, just us, here, now, and she said but how can I be in two places at once! and I said, well, its complex … She was a pitifully stupid woman, Tom, as am I a man, having given up so close to the finishing line, but then again, so much pain Ive avoided. Is this right, Tom? To avoid what Gods set out for us?

  5. So now your exposure. Youre best with that job, youre quickest, always were, youll have no troubles. Then, when youre ready, mix your gold chloride with water, and reuse it, you can get ten prints from half a bottle, and dont forget the baking soda, mix well, and I guess this is the bit Ill miss, when the images appear, when a man and woman and child make another life, there, on the paper, still magic, dont you think, Tom, magic? And I told that lady, Johnson or James or something, I showed her and said there you are and there youll be forever, and isnt that a miracle, and she said Im not sure I want to last forever, and I said why not, so your great-great-grandchildren might know what you looked like, and she said a person comes and goes, and has their bita time, and thats all they should expect, and I said no, no, whys that, just cos its always been that? I grant you eternal life, missus! But she wouldnt hear of it, said only God grants eternal life, didnt want to outlast herself, took the photograph (remember?) and ripped it into small pieces and said a person should be grateful for the moment, if thats whats given then who are we to meddle with Gods plan? And maybe she was right, Tom. But our Chemical Art, our art of Light and Life and Death is an act of faith. Do you see that? Life beyond our town, our city, our country, our time, our world, and if thats the case, I might be judged harshly, but at least Ill know (but wont!) you understood, forgave me, carried on our little alchemical church.

  6. Where was I? Youve got your paper in your gold-toner, no more than four minutes, time it, Tom, four minutes, and then the most important thing of all, the fixer, because just cos an image is there one moment doesnt mean it will be the next, lots of things can happen, Tom … one minute you see a person then they fade and theyre gone and its an expensive piece of paper with nothing on it, see? So you gotta be careful to fix it properly: bita water, 15% sodium thiosulfate, mix it well, make sure it all goes in. It all fades. Funny, cos theres not a single photograph of me, Tom, so youll only have your memory to rely upon (Bessie and Charlie, too) and isnt that wonderful, like the old lady said, just your bit of time.

  7. Wash it well, let it dry, you know how, and watch its not humid, the paper hates humidity, and when its dry put it in a frame and give it to whoever, and watch their face, Tom. Like I said, every man and woman (children are too dumb, I guess) likes to think people will remember them, think well of them. Its all we have to hope for.

  8. Then theres the case of money. If you could slip Bessie a few dollars now and then, thatd be nice.

  9. And the photograph Ive attached here. 18-something, me and my brother, little kiddies on the pier, and that old man, that Fenton, the one who started all this, who took me on and taught me everything, the first photograph he ever took, he reckons, and Jack and me (bless his soul) were just fishing, and we were happy, and he called across the river, hey, you two, hold still while I take your photograph, and I called whats a photograph, and later, he showed me. See, theres proof that me and Jack were having a good time, nothing but our fishing lines and the sun and the breeze and each other, happy (despite the fifty years of shit that followed). Once, and just for a while, for an hour perhaps, but thats enough, isnt it, Tom?

stephen orr oca.png
Stephen Orr.jpg

Stephen Orr’s first novel Attempts to Draw Jesus was based on the disappearance of Simon Amos and James Annetts in the Great Sandy Desert in 1986. His fascination with Australian landscapes has since led to the Barossa Valley of the 1950s (Hill of Grace, an examination of Lutheran fundamentalism), the suburbs of Adelaide, the Australian wheatbelt, as well as second-hand car yards. At the same time he has written for a range of publications on subjects as diverse as Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries and Scottish graveyards.

Stephen has worked as a secondary English teacher since 1996, mentored young writers and won or been nominated for a range of state, national and international awards such as the Dublin International Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

He lives in Adelaide.

www.stephenorr.com.au

Twitter: @datsunland

ELVIS LOSES HIS CAPE IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM

By Will SchmiT

Hollow body guitar lies ready to ache in a velveteen case,
like stitches down a breastbone fat frets staple the neck.

The high e string, bent like a haywire, pokes a ventricular
hole in the wall of sound reasoning, ambulation is reduced

to a slow hand grasping for the chord, and a rock steady beat
depends on how that hand falls and where a finger picks

up the surgical riff. Open heart tuning takes a trained ear 
for a slide, wah-wah pedals amplify a detectable blue note

in the foot stomping monitor. It’s one for the money
and two will leave scars. A flat third leaps into the air,

the bridge looms large in the land of a thousand dances.
The pop chart dodges a bullet, the instruments are sterilized,

a surging crowd waves an arc of bic lighters,
behind a curtain the hit machine sweats an encore.

ECO POEM FOR JARED

The pinkest blossoms fall to the gray street. The sun,
like a comedian, turns summer into a drought. Year in
year out we commemorate the lost bees, search the ice
shelf for new definitions, jargon away the wilderness
as kindling while a coyote cub paws an abandoned bus.

Try explaining New Year’s to a washed-out bridge,
use the twisted metal rails to point back to town. Up
-stream bears fish for running salmon under documentary
drones. A community notebook, on a teeter totter of logs
and stones records, “I was here.” Never, what to do next.

An unseasonal snow falls like a thousand white cranes
shitting in slow motion above the coastal trees. Venus
and Jupiter, with no climates left to lose, shine against
the black sky like prayer beads with skin in the game.
The moon pulls us like a sister to the front of the line,

assigns shovels to fight the fire, waters the rose, plants
darling trees, stirs a new river in the belly of the beast,
pours concentration from palm to palm, spreads wide
the reading lamp, initiates another round of singers to
the sound of the ground gearing up for the final war.

LORD, ALL MY PROBLEMS ARE FIRST WORLD

The etiquette to address heaven is far above

my tip of the hat. When folks say, “Love has no strings,”

 

I tune my guitar.  A fox jumps the sunset fence.
I pour something biodegradable down the drain.


The morning’s daffodils spring from the mud.
I order therapy socks online, buy two, get one

person to see our future.  Power lines
are threatened by the gale, road crews

in bright yellow, string makeshift poles
amid the rain sagging redwoods.

My phone has enough charge to stream
late night jazz. I grind coffee by hand,

set up the propane to boil water,
wonder how my grandparents made

love last without ice cube trays or
kept their eyes from going star blind.

Will Schmit.JPG

Will Schmit is a folk poet making the coffeehouse circuit in the Redwood Forest towns of Northern California. Will has been performing on the live stage, with or without musical accompaniment, for better, or worse, than forty years. Will’s most recent recording Fix My Car A Spoken Word Mythology is available for streaming at Spotify and on iTunes.

AN IRIDESCENT MOOD

By William Doreski

In an iridescent mood I cross

the frozen marsh to explore

the forest beyond. Skunks and fox

scatter, but the purple brown

tree trunks remain aloof. Years ago

I tracked myself through these woods

and found blood spoor in the snow.

Since then I’ve dreamed of bones gnawed

in the leaf-fall, gutted carcasses

abandoned by hunters, stone-lined

cellar holes gradually healing.

 

Today I’m scouting for nests perched

in leafless boughs to determine

if we’re losing all our songbirds

or if they’ve retreated deeper

into lonely woods to evade us

and our storms of microplastics.

I count a few nests but not enough

to account for last spring’s lack of song

in my neighborhood. No thrush

or painted grosbeak, hardly a sparrow

or phoebe. Winter looms ahead,

the forest upholstering in drifts

heavy enough to keep me indoors.

Ten days before Christmas, though,

only a dusting of snow preserves

my footfall for whomever follows.

 

When I circle back to the marsh

I feel that follower closing in

so I lengthen my stride and cross

the ice-slick in two or three minutes

and reach the paved road where friendly

dog-walkers brighten the landscape.

When my shadow catches up with me

I re-incorporate it into myself

and go home still iridescent

enough to light the pages

of some harmlessly readable book.

A TRAGEDY SHAKESPEARE FORGOT TO WRITE

This morning the wind plays a role

in a tragedy Shakespeare forgot

to write. A role like Iago’s

but without the cunning rhetoric.

 

We’re afraid for us. The trees

mistake this winter storm for

the Great New England Hurricane,

which left hardly anyone standing.

 

Rain scrawls threats on the metal roof.

Whirlpools posture then dissolve.

The sunrise withholds its colors,

hoping for a better afterword.

 

We feed the cats as if someone

has a future. We clean all three

litter boxes respectfully,

regardless of our mutual fear.

 

The wind won’t let us forget.

It cups in our ears and savages

places we might have sheltered

had we lain in bed long enough

 

to forgive each other’s trespass.

A divinity could cloud-walk

across the storm and calm it,

but we lack the faith to empower

 

such a brazen illumination

free of the usual redundancies.

The gusts favor the warming south.

They form massive speech balloons

 

we can’t fill without rereading

every play that Shakespeare finished,

enabling a mimicry even

the tossing trees would respect.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Dogs Don’t Care (2022).  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

TWO DAYS IN MIAMI

By STephanie Young

I knew you for two days, in Miami

Ten years my junior,

you were someone’s girlfriend

and so was I. 

 

I see in you what slipped from me

Light 

Blithe

Beauty

Time

 

You swim alone in the ocean, 

we watch you from the chilly shore

No towel, no change of clothes

 

At a tourist trap on the strip

you buy a sweatshirt that says:

 “Shark Patrol”

So we don’t have to go home

 

Pacific optimists

we strain to glimpse the juicy sunset

melting down the wrong side

 

“I really admire you” you tell me, tipsy in the way back seat

“I want to be like you, when I’m your age”

I don’t tell you

I don’t know anything

 

“You have so much time”, I tell you

Knowing it feels bad to hear

unless it’s no longer true

 

You reappear later 

in frantic texts and social media posts

“If you come back now, we will just forget all about it,” I bargain with no one

Then I see you on the news. 

 

I don’t know your story

I’ll never figure it out

 

In my story, though, you live in the ocean

You live for two days

You burn brightly, on the right side

You’re swimming back towards us, 

                on Shark Patrol

Stephanie is a psychologist, academic, and writer. Her creative work has appeared in Heart Balm Lit and Plainsongs Poetry Magazine.

Twitter: @StephanieRuthYo

MONOCHROME

By Megan Feehley

                 The nothingness becomes aware of itself in the presence of a desaturated sunset. The view is idyllic–the rooftop of some massive, domineering building. Isolated. Jammed high enough into the sky that traffic is only a faint, distant buzz from below. The sun bobs on the horizon, dull even in the way it burns her eyes. Streaks of it bounce off the black glass that coats the structure. An office, the memory floats to her. She sways like a willow branch.

                 When did the sky lose its color? The varying scales of blandness spread like a mold, eating decaying clouds. She scrapes her fingernails against the concrete ledge. She sits with her legs crossed, distantly aware that one squinted glance at her dangling shoes would spell trouble. She used to paint sunsets because they were easy; you couldn’t go wrong with them. Splatters of pink, blankets of gold, pools of orange. 

                 Deep sadness is hastily shoved aside by a blazing terror at this horrible emptiness. The sun slips away. The monolith building is a nest full of busy bustling bees. Her cubicle is on the twelfth floor. The ugliness of it all is enough to have tears springing into her eyes. The air is cold up here; goosebumps ripple across the skin of her arms.

                 God, when did it get so dark? This is the closest she’s been to heaven–there’s no doubt about that. It’s not supposed to be barren like this. She’s itching now. A little urgent thing grasps the starter chord on the old motor in her head and pulls pulls pulls until it recoils with a guttural snarl. Then she’s stumbling back, away from the ledge, and onto her ass. Too close, too close.

                 It’s not just the sky, is it? She’s been drifting through the haze, hollowed out into weightlessness, unable to catch the cues of passing time. It’s all smothered under a sheet of smoke and ash. She unfurls onto her back. The night is an ocean of black pricked with little bleeding stars. They regard her with distant understanding. From up here it's almost like their little secret.

Megan Feehley is a queer writer and poet from San Diego, California. She graduated from San Diego State University in 2020 with a BA in English. Megan enjoys the strange and thrilling aspects of life. She is also partial to lazing with her cats and night drives along the coast.

Instagram: meganfeehley
Twitter: @sadhouseghost

CORONATION OF THE DAMNED

By Olivia Grace ViTeznik

The gaunt and twisted bodies of my lords & ladies lined the pews,

eager for a monarch to be anointed,

and the reign of terror to commence.

She who was born from light

will devote herself to darkness.

Their haggard voices wailed maniacally,

“Long live the Queen.”

Hollow faces stared as I marched to their drums,

With cloudy eyes

and the proudest of smiles.

Yet, despite their countless gazes

I never felt more alone.

And I knew, should the ceremony conclude,

I would meet an isolation I thought impossible.

The power before me was freedom no longer

But a heavier burden

Destine to fuel my rage

And ensure my rule of this barren kingdom.

Forever after.

Shrill support turned to impatience

as I could not bring myself to kneel.

Paralyzed,

wondering why I had left my home in secret,

with bridges unburned.

Their sickly shrieks echoed as the crown shattered upon the floor.

Gnarled hands reached

Pleading for damnation

as I stumbled out the gates,

their land ablaze behind me.

Nothing more shall fester here.

With filthy robes and bloody feet

I wander the wastelands.

A shimmering wall finally insight along the horizon.

Battered and newly hopeful

I return from whence I came

To bend the knee before Compassion.

To be born anew

Yet again.

Olivia Viteznik.jpg

Olivia Grace Viteznik is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She uses her
various backgrounds in theater, production, music, design, and communications for
outside-the-box extrospection and self reflection.

Instagram: @0liviaV

A GLUM DAY AND DOUR

By Chris Dahl

begins with a memory that flares

in my hand like a burning branch.

Some things we can save

for future use, but what burns

consumes itself and we are left with

only a fraction of what it once was.

 

By this morning it was obvious the roses

were done.  Now the vase has been

dried and stored.  How long do I hold on

before the pain is overwhelming?

Memory as torch, illuminating

the local sorrows.  Drop it

and I could save myself, but then

the house might burn down, the whole

forest catch fire. 

 

Day clings sullen and dull but it’s too early

for lights—and even the darkness when it arrives

will not be epic darkness.  Have you ever tried

to measure “enough?”.

 

Another blossom falls

from the flowering shrub.  Even though

it’s only August there comes a time

when everyone leans toward destruction.

And the burning transfixes us, the burning

like a miniature star, voracious in appetite,

unrepentant.    All the trees, all

the flowering plants grow toward the sun.

They are not confused

by what crackles and roars.

Chris Dahl.jpg

Chris Dahl hopes to cup a handful of murky pond-water  and reveal another world half-hidden in this one  Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts, was published after winning Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition.  Her poems have been placed in a wide variety of journals—most recently in Bennington Review and Whitefish Review—and she has had poems nominated both for Best of the Internet and a Pushcart Prize.  She lives in Olympia, Washington where she serves on the board of the Olympia Poetry Network and edits their newsletter. 

CHERRY BLOSSOMS 1

By russell STreur

Cherry Blossoms 1 - RS.jpg

CHERRY BLOSSOMS 3

CHERRY BLOSSOMS 4

Bio Photo Streur.JPG

Holder of two awards for excellence from the Georgia Poetry Society, Streur is the author of Fault Zones (Blue Hour Press, 2017) and his work is included in the anthology of Georgia poetry Stone, River, Sky (Negative Capability Press, 2015).  His photography has been widely exhibited online and in the Atlanta (GA) area.  He is currently the editor of the on-line eco-poetic journal, Plum Tree Tavern, located at https://theplumtreetavern.blogspot.com/

THE QUIETNESS OF WAITING

By Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi

The hand of dawn

burns the finger rays away

and come out; so bright

we call it love; The twigs

and the squirrels

and every tree becomes beloved.

That's how everything loves;

falling and burning

in the uprightness of eternity.

Quietly. Morning is born

again; in an elsewhere that bows

the storm of another heart.

And the stones are filled and patient

with the roses sitting upon them

waiting for someone

to bring down the moon's ring

on a twilight that can

never leave the stars lonely;

that cannot leave your fingers naked.

Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi transcpr_edited.jpg

Oladejo Abdullah Feranmi is a Poet, writer, and veterinary medicine student from Ibadan, Nigeria. An Haikuist, He reads submissions at Sea glass literary magazine and edits for the incognito press. His works are published in Gone Lawn, Brave Voices Magazine, The Lumiere Review, and more. He tweets from; @oaferanmi_

A LONG WALK EAST

By Corey Bryan

The  birds gossip to one another

as I walk  back from the farmer’s

market, whispering to each other that I

spent way too much on daikon radishes

and hibiscus soda. I take refuge from their

words  in my own mind. I  had a crazy

thought today, my love, and I just wanted

to bounce it off your romantic brain.

I thought about how  wild the world is

that if I just leave my house and walk

in one direction long enough I would reach

the ocean eventually. If I  spent less  time

writing poetry and more time walking east,

I  could revel in the sea breeze and shake

the sand from my hair. I could kiss the salt

spray and build castles out of driftwood.

I could weave the dune reeds into a fiber

crown and place it upon  your head

and anoint you queen of the universe

or at least our 30 feet of white sand.

So if you think that that’s a good idea

and that yes, I could easily  take a break

from writing poetry I will lace  up my good

walking shoes, my dear, and leave the pens

and paper at home, walking east into the sunrise.

Corey Bryan is a fourth year student at Georgia State University majoring in Rhetoric and Composition. He is currently writing daily poetry prompts, along with some original poems, with a friend of his at poetryispretentious.com. He has 2 poems forthcoming at Sage Cigarettes Magazine and The Bluebird Word.

Instagram: @poetry_is_pretentious

Twitter: @pip_prompts

PASTURE STATUES

By Alfredo SalvaTore Arcilesi

Millie mooed.

                  Cate mooed with her.

                  The cow stared at them.

                  Millie giggled at the old joke, a pure, authentic song.

                  Cate giggled with her, exaggerated, trembling notes.

                  The cow stared at them.

                  Millie continued to pet the cow's cheek. Cate stroked the other, looking for signs of impatience in the otherwise stoic animal, searching its blank yet somehow knowing eyes for knowledge of her charade. What made her want to release the scream that had been lodged in her throat for inconceivable minutes was how Millie, sitting comfortably in her numb arms, was so far away from screaming; Millie, who had every justification for adding her shrill voice to the one behind them. She hadn't asked Millie if she was all right; doing so would have given her the impression something was wrong.

                  She hadn't asked Millie her actual name; as far as the little girl's amiable behaviour indicated, they had known each other all their lives, and names didn't matter. She hadn't asked Millie her age; from the moment she took the little girl into her arms, she could tell the small human being was no older than her career.

                  Three-years-old, Cate mused again, as she transferred Millie from one desensitized arm to the other, careful not to break contact with the cow. Three years, and once again she imagined the retirement banner, growing longer and larger as the idea cooked in her mind, advertising the pitiful number.

                  Cate was grateful for the brown-and-white animal's presence. Moreover, she was grateful that the cow was the first thing Millie had noticed. She wouldn't have thought to mosey on over to the cow; instinct—training—would have told her to immediately transport the dishevelled little girl to her car; and there they would have waited for the next routine steps. And then she would've known something was wrong, she thought. And then she would've started screaming.

                  A scream perforated the ambience, a cocktail of pain, fear... and perhaps a note of anger.

                  “Mooooo!” Cate issued her loudest impersonation yet. Millie echoed her sentiments, prolonging and exaggerating the bovine language until it devolved into more giggling.

                  Another scream smothered the laughter, and, for a terrible moment, Cate thought she felt Millie stiffen; thought she saw registration on the little girl's suddenly sagging face.

                  “Moo mooooo moo moo moo mooooo moo,” Cate interjected, the single word spoken in the rhythm of conversation. She fixed upon Millie's eyes, hoping the little girl would take the bait, ready to shift her little body should she decide to go peeking behind her back, toward the scream.

                  Millie's bowed lips glistened, saliva pooling as she gathered her thoughts about the conflicting sounds. Cate readied her own lips with another string of nonsensical cow-speak, when Millie broke out of her trance, and fired off a meaningless statement of her own: “Mooooo mooooo mooooo”—laughter—“mooooo moo moo moo.”

                  Relieved, Cate kept the dialogue flowing for as long and as loud as was necessary to beat the intermittent screaming from Millie's ears. As their banter rose and fell with the outbursts behind them, she imagined how the others must have seen them: vulnerable backs; a revolving red light highlighting Millie's arms wrapped comfortably—Or is she in shock? Cate couldn't decide—around her neck; mooing from unseen lips; the cow itself unseen, blocked by their combined bodies.

                  How unreal it must have appeared to them. How grotesquely real it was to her.

                  How beautifully real it was to Millie.

                  A terrible thought returned Cate to their cozy huddle: This is your first time, isn't it? The scream she struggled to keep deep down in her gorge threatened to erupt. It occurred to her that this cow—not the pair grazing further down the fence, dangerously close to the break; not the calf flanked by several adults; not the others standing nonchalantly, laying nonchalantly, living nonchalantly; not the countless others that might have been a blur in Millie's passenger window—but this cow might very well have been the very first cow Millie had ever seen.

                  Cate mooed, and wondered if Millie could detect the underlying melancholy. You don’t need to meet a cow, she desperately wanted to assure the little girl. Not now. Not like this. She was certain that when Millie was one day no longer a size fit for one's arms—There's no guarantee of that, Cate sadly reminded herself—she might learn to hate the cow. All cows. The way Cate hated them for what they had done to Millie. To her.

                  To Millie's mother.

                  The human sounds behind them were less frequent now, quieter, the pain, the fear, the anger—if ever there was—giving themselves to realization. Cate hoped Millie's mother would soon forget how to scream; hoped her mother forgot her daughter's name. This line of thinking was drenched in selfishness, but Cate had accepted it... for now; may guilt torment her later. It was just that she and, more importantly, the cow had worked so damned hard to keep Millie occupied.

                  Or are we keeping the cow occupied? Cate thought for the first time.

Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi.jpg

Artisan baker by trade, Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi has been published in over 80 literary journals worldwide. Winner of the Scribes Valley Short Story Writing Contest, he was a Pushcart Prize nominee, and twice nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net. In addition to several short pieces, he is currently working on his debut novel.

LET ME GO

By STephanie Haun

            They held hands while walking in silence through the midway.  Listening to the blended sounds of the Bottle Stand, balloons popping at the Balloon and Dart, and the incessant bell of the High Striker, they dodged couples and families laughing and squeezing happiness from every single moment in existence on that midway.

            They never said a word.  They never stopped to play lose games of skill or chance.  They never looked at each other.

            He kept his fingers interlocked with hers.  Her nostrils flared while her lips quivered.

 

            She finally spoke softly.  “Let me go.”

 

            He clenched her hand tighter.

--------

Stephanie Haun.jpg

Stephanie L. Haun holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Creative Nonfiction from Queens University of Charlotte. Previous works have been published in The Smart Set, Drunk Monkeys, Beyond Words, The Centifictionist, and others. Stephanie is a Perry Mason fanatic, an avid knitter, and a sometimes trombonist. She can be found on Twitter: (@shaunwriter) and Instagram/Facebook (@stephaniehaunwriter). Her website is www.stephaniehaun.com.

VIAJE, INAUGURAL

By N. L. Rivera

he finds a scar on my stomach

and traces a path up to my sternum,

winding slowly, patient

in his exploration—

 

i think about the ocean

about bodies of water

and how they might have prevented

our meeting.

 

he charts a map

of all the routes he could have taken,

measures the distance to my heart

in nautical miles

 

he tells me he’s waited

a lifetime

to find me. i think about

the caribbean.

about central america,

about guatemala,

and the arawak-speakers

 

who, for reasons we can only guess,

left their land,

ocean-drifted

and landed in

cuba

and borinquen—

all these dreams we call home.

 

he brings his lips to mine.

i think of all the tides

that brought us together,

 

and i am grateful.

dios mio,

i am grateful.

Trigger Warning:

Please be advised that the following poem includes reference to Sexual Assault

THINGS I HOPE I'LL NEVER HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO MY LITTLE SISTER

why you should pick your friends carefully

and how you’ll never know

       who to be afraid of

       until it’s too late

and why you should always

       tell your friends or your

       partners or your family

       “no” as often as you can

       (see who really listens)

and that two-thirds of all sexual assaults

       are committed by someone

       the victim knew

and how you’ll never know

       who to be afraid of

       until it’s too late

and how to stitch yourself back together

       when someone who you never gave permission

       decides to treat your body

       like kindergarten arts-n-crafts:

              tear you all up and cut off the corners

              and hang you on their fridge

that sometimes there

       is just nothing we can do, sometimes

       your body betrays you, sometimes

       you end up a prisoner to yourself

       so that’s why you have to practice saying “no”

       til the word leaves your mouth

       easy as your breath

that two-thirds means

       majority which means

       listen i’m speaking from personal experience here

that the odds really are not in our favor so

       learn how to say “no” goddammit

       i’m begging you to learn how to say “no”

i swear to god, honey,

       i wish i was lying

       but you’ll never know who to be afraid of

       until it’s too late.

N.L. Rivera is a queer Latino writer currently based out of New Jersey. Their work has appeared and/or is forthcoming in Miniskirt Magazine, Bullshit Lit, beestung, and elsewhere. One of these days he’ll develop a strong sense of identity, but in the meantime, they plan to keep writing poetry. Online, he tends to lurk on Twitter @nrrrivers and Instagram @n.l.riversss.

ARRIVAL

By John Grey

Love will come

and it will claim a heart.

Looking for cause

is as pointless as arguing

who discovered America.

Vikings, Italians, lost colonies,

Phoenicians, Chinese, Carthaginian...

I can make a case for them all.

I can even argue for those

blown off-stream who didn't even

know they were here,

didn't even know what they'd done.

It's still love

even if it feels more like remorse

or vice.

It's love even if the newspaper did it,

or the bright light of day

or the unwinding smoke of a cigarette

or the slurp of spaghetti through lips.

Trying to explain it

is to shoot holes in your argument.

Besides, what is sufficiently known,

doesn't bare repeating.

What can never be known

works in all our favors.

Be content that a landing was made

on a place that could support it.

There was someone already there.

For them, the gifts you bring:

warm, feed, shelter,

even hurt and kill.

Discovered at a price

but still discovered.

OUT OF NOWHERE

I recall your lovely smile, Marie –

            the night,

            the patch of earth,

            the green-lit avenue,

the blue eyes – opened suddenly wide –

            a “you”

            in every single way

and the voice

from which soft singing emerged –

            laughter always –

and the light brown hair

            like a thrush’s wing in the moonlight,

            slightly wind-ruffled,

perfume like remnants

of a Persian dream –

            yes, I have a memory

            that swears it was you.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

HONEY HIBISCUS

By Nic Job

            In the early morning their brain feels like honey. There is a sweetness to the gelatinous weight of their limbs, and stickiness to fog lingering in their thoughts. The cuddles and only-half-good-natured-groaning-at-the-alarms time of day. The when-he-wakes-up-for-work time of day. He sets his alarms earlier than he has to just for these moments. They’re still honey-like, and cling to him.

            Some mornings, they ooze out of bed after he does; join him in the shower, curl against his back as he makes coffee, putter around the kitchen packing him lunch while he eats breakfast. Kiss him at the door.

            Other mornings, they stay in bed. They doze, drifting, as he wanders in and out of the bedroom for kisses between items in his morning routine. Those mornings, sometimes sleep drags them back under, and sometimes they are coaxed from the bed for one last kiss by the door. He leaves for work, and they nurse a mug of tea until their own alarm starts ringing.

            Only then do they do their own teeth-brushing and hair-combing and breakfast. It hasn’t been that long, so the oatmeal is still warm on the stove. Feed the cat, check the hummingbird feeders on the porch, do the dishes.

            Their laptop is open on their desk, so when they settle in with another mug of tea it is only a click of a mouse and a brief scan of their fingerprint on the power button before they are staring at the same document they have been staring at for weeks. There is no editor to give them deadlines, no expectations on this, their first manuscript.

            He built their office so that the light would stay soft, but always saturate the room. A place ideal for such scholarly pursuits as writing. It was on the opposite side of the house as his workshop, so the noise of his machining didn’t disturb them in the hours between his return from work, and their abandonment of the day’s productivity. It was quiet now, barely an hour or two after his departure. They put on a Spotify playlist of Taylor Swift instrumentals. Familiar enough to hum along to, unfamiliar enough to avoid pesky word muddling.

            They minimize the document tab. Open another.

            Have any of their knit hats on Etsy sold? One, but it is already finished and just needs mailed. Honey still lingers around their thoughts. Is there a cache of blog posts scheduled for publication? Yes, but a couple more couldn’t hurt. They wander between office bookshelves, leafing through writing manuals and how-tos and anthologies. Searching. Compiling. Making mental archives of content and curating a couple of potential posts. Any new journal contests or interesting submission calls? They scroll through the Submittable open submissions list, clicking on each one. Even those they know they won’t enter. There are a couple though, that they may stand a chance at, so they send pieces—consider it a win.

            They use the free LinkedIn Learning access on their old school email to look up courses on web design. Digital publication. Web management. They add fifteen new courses to their library. They watch the first ten minutes of three of them. They switch to old project management saves, and spend an hour and twenty-five minutes taking notes on a lecture detailing Gantt charts.

After lunch, they return to their manuscript with a fresh cup of tea. Honey Hibiscus, from Jamaica. Allegedly.

Nic Job.jpg

Nic Job is a student of the world and spends as much time as they can traveling and observing. Cultures, places, people, and themself. Their work appears in Club Plum, Oyster River Pages, and Olit. Follow more of their work on their website Life's Looking Glass of Words and Twitter  @nicwrites13

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