Four Poems

John Sweet

Photo Credit: smilla4/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

bluest sky

snow on the first day of spring and
then the next and
how fat will you get eating
nothing but dirt and sorrow?

or maybe it’s the space between love
and broken bones I’m talking about here

colleen laughing as she’s
pushed down the stairs or maybe this is
just the way she wanted it to be

do you remember her telling you that
everything was fine?

do you remember the cuts on one arm
and the bruises up the other?

regret is a tiring thing

stand there with your hands on fire,
the children in tears,
and consider all the reasons a man
might have for drinking himself to death

consider the absolute failure of
pollock’s last paintings

believe in the age of famine

lesser gods crawling through
the filth of lesser minds

side streets and abandoned factories and
the futility of building palaces
on graveyards


christ has no use for your suffering

phone rings and it’s your father saying
so long motherfucker just the
way it happens in your dreams and
hatred is easy so why not embrace it?

look at all the politicians
all the holy men
who want you to understand that killing
the enemy is your only option

look at all the enemies they offer

it’s only inevitable to find yourself on
someone else’s list because
no matter who you are
you’re the wrong person

you grow fat on apathy and fear
because they taste so goddamn good

nineteen-year-old kid with a gun
kills a mother of four
and what we need now is a tv movie

what we need are arguments from
both sides that accomplish nothing

that sound good in campaign speeches
and spilling from the assholes of
media personalities and
then on the second day of spring i
wake up to bitter sunlight and
children’s toys stuck in the frozen mud

i wake up to dried blood and
empty apologies

every day of my life wasted thinking
the next one will be better



not a fear of death, not yet, or
at least not while awake but
desperate times call for stronger drugs, and
all the burned girls standing laughing
out in the rain

all the reasons the heart has
to betray the body

the o.d. and the car crash

a sleight of hand where everything you
love is no longer anything that matters so
grab a shovel

dig a tunnel
down to christ’s back yard

watch cobain turn blue at the
foot of the bed

spent your whole life believing in
magic but
there is no magic here


an eye

all poems starve in
the desert
of your mind

all wars begin with
the idea of god or the
concept of greed

this need to kill
the enemy
leads to the need to
create enemies

to become one

some stranger in a
windowless room
smiling in antici-
pation of the
day i die


on arthur ave

man says he’ll feed the
starving children dust

says he’ll burn
hollywood to the ground

will teach the priests about pain
and in the background a
television plays too loud
and a stereo
and the portrait of christ above the
sofa has been done in
luminous paint

still sings even after the
lights have all gone out

still bleeds


John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A Flag on Fire is a Song of Hope (2019 Scars Publications) and A Dead Man, Either Way (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press). Email: bleedinghorse99[at]

Five Poems

Lacie Semenovich

Photo Credit: Julian Macedo/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

The world is empty
for D.H.

The world is empty
of you before we feel

the space of you occupied
by should haves, chances
waiting to be taken, plans
unfilled, promises broken

without intent or malice,
simply the unknowable
future we all borrow against.

We ask cliché questions.
Have only silence to offer
in grief’s call and response.

We are not clever or profound
when death stares us down
through closed eyes.

Tonight someone
pours whiskey to the earth
for you, barbecues ribs in your
memory, smokes a cigarette
without you, whispers your name

in prayer, talks your spirit home until
the sun colors morning.


Muse on Vacation

My Muse is on vacation in Paris or Berlin or Venice.
Her temp sits with his feet on the desk—snoring.
She sends postcards—a photograph of Rodin’s The Thinker,
Michelangelo’s drawings, a poem from Zimbabwe—throughout
the summer with a sentence or two about natural beauty and human
creativity but not enough to piece together her romances. She meditated
a whole month in India—silent—refusing even to hold a pen.
She went to China to see The Great Wall and read mountains
of poetry, but stayed only a day saying she felt stifled,
saw too much important work to be done. She felt unprepared,
untrained. I think she blamed me. She writes that she doesn’t know
when she will return. Not to wait for her. Not to while away my hours
jealous of her escapades. I fear she will find a lover. One who bathes
her in dictionaries of rare words. Who does not ignore her
in the middle of the night when she lashes against the bed frame.
Someone who follows her to Antarctica in search of talking penguins.
I want to pull stars from the sky for her. Transcribe the ancient hearts
of women before words complicated everything. I write all the bad poems
I can so that she can see how much I need her.


The Ocean


We picnicked on the beach,
befriended the land crabs.

I scooped holes
in the sand,
hands cupped
in giving.

I piled
a new mountain
behind me.

The sand slid
into my eyes.

The mountain
buried me.
The crabs carried
my still beating heart
to the ocean.


On the third day
God named the Earth.


The sea turtle
washed ashore
bloated with death.

I said a prayer
and left him
to his decay
and carried my own
down the beach.


When a never born
child’s name is stolen,

a never mother weeps.


The wind builds
in my ears.

The waves teach
me to fall.

The sharks lick
my cut knees.


He drives with impatience.


I meditate
to carry peace
in my pocket
from this life to the next.


The reincarnated child
hops with joy to see
his light tower again.

The adults shiver

and say prayers.


Everyone sleeps
while I write,
while the mountain cuts
new teeth.


Sleeping Alone

I miss the weight
of your calloused hands
on my bare stomach
pulling me into the cave
of your torso.

Sleep comes quicker
when your breath
guards the hollow
of my ear, when your heart
beats against my back.

I lie awake with the ghost
of your knees bending
into mine.


A Mother’s Vigil

She waits
for her son
all night, all
day, until
time is light
and dark.

Until she is
and awake
in every

Her yarn-
burned fingers
crochet American
flags. She
sleeps, white
knuckled, sweat
filled, dreams his
birth, remembers
his death.

by war, she will not
recognize his
face when
he returns. His eyes
dimmed, full
of sand and blood.

The cat claws
at the door. Tree
branches scratch
the roof. Dogwoods
bloom. Snow
surprises the ground.

She turns
on the night
and sits
in the half moon’s
light, hook
and yarn twist
and separate,
the pattern
so familiar
it makes itself.


Lacie Semenovich is a poet and fiction writer living in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Her work has appeared in B O D Y, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Qwerty, Chiron Review, and The Best Small Fictions 2020. She is the author of a chapbook, Legacies. Email: lacie_clark[at]

Bay 4

Hannah Ray

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

I hear the lady next to me crying.
She wants to go home.

Two days later she’s gone.
Starch-fresh sheets.

I hear another woman
With an accent behind
The curtain between us.

She had a section too,
And cannot move
To lift her child.

I shush long and loud, to
Get you to sleep,
The lady listens, and copies,
Her child is soothed.

When I can walk,
I pad round to her.
She cries, tells me
All the things I felt,
Two days ago.

I tell her she can
Ask to see the Breast
Feeding team.
I hear them come round,
They help her feed her baby.

She cries,
Behind the curtain, I cry.
Our babies are soothed.
She thanks me,

I never knew her name.


Hannah Ray is a writer and editor living in West Cornwall, UK. Her professional career spans more than 12 years in the media and tech industry, including running editorial for Vogue, Instagram, and the Guardian, and consulting for Netflix and the BBC. She writes fiction, non-fiction and short stories. Her first novel, Family & Company, was longlisted for the 2019 Mslexia Novel Competition and she is working on her second novel, Hard Reset. She works as a freelance writer and editor for startups and artists on the cusp of revolutions in technology. She is currently a writer and editor for Substack. Twitter: @heyhannahray Email: heyhannahray[at]

Two Poems

Jenny Hockey

Photo Credit: GIS@Sam/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Eltisley Avenue

Thursday 4th
and school kids thunder by
as winter daylight creeps about our purple room
in a ground floor apartment with an unwanted piano,
where I sit out my hours working green nylon yarn
into doll-size jackets and mitts, my swollen body
squeezed into a vinyl armchair.

All day and the midwife doesn’t show.

Monday 23rd
Two weeks past my date
they gather me into their arms—a stretcher’s too long
for our door, set aslant in the small shared hall.

Tuesday 24th
Wearing a dressing gown abandoned
by an old boyfriend, I step down out of the ambulance—
a baby asleep in my arms.

Two doors up the road, a neighbor wipes her eyes.


He was a Good Person

You knew that whatever you asked him for—
a tea bag, a hand with pushing your desk
nearer the window, the name of someone in Central Admin
who could organize a payment,
his face would brighten
at the chance to help,

a good person who’d ease back his chair
from his desk, ready for a chat
and even a cuppa shared—

after he’d walked down the corridor
—a word with a colleague along the way,
to fill his kettle in the kitchen,

a good person with a long institutional memory
and an amusing story or two to tell
about the woman in Central Admin
who never paid out on a Tuesday,
only on Fridays every other week,

a good person who, even before you asked for help,
would enquire about your husband
and whether his stress fracture had healed
and how your recent conference trip to Ukraine
had gone

and something would prompt him to tell you—
by the way, about the ducklings,
six or was it eight of them, newly hatched on the pond,
not the pond by the Vice Chancellor’s office,
the pond they recently dredged,
just behind Central Admin—

and what kind of tea bag exactly would you like?
PG Tips, decaf, ginger and lemon?
There might be a lapsang souchong somewhere,
if you could just give him a minute—


Jenny Hockey lives in Sheffield, UK. She belongs to Hexameter, The Poetry Room and Living Line—with poems in magazines such as The North, Magma, Toasted Cheese, The Frogmore Papers and Orbis. She retired from Sheffield University as Emeritus Professor of Sociology to write and read more poetry and in 2013 received a New Poets Award from New Writing North. Oversteps Books published her debut collection Going to Bed with the Moon in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email:[at]

Four Poems

Sara Falkstad

Photo Credit: Polly Peterson/Flickr (CC-by)

sawmill, winter

the crisper the air, the louder the sound
of the sawmill
carries over the five miles

timber thuds bouncing
off the network of crystals
the sound is not here but everywhere

loud landings, heavy chains
the cold relentless and dry, the sky
still pierced by stars

the creak of my shoes
only pinching through; pine trees
still stretching

into the blue dawn
shivering for every sound
of dying timber

every year
the shrill song of the sawblade
gets a little louder
I used to not hear it at all, until one early morning
it was there, in my air as I stepped out ready for work
and a taxi driver told me
just how far the sound could travel
the sound: clearer as they cleared
more of the forest in between here and there

and the song will keep going
until we live in a vast and tree-less place
until we can see for five miles

until our bellies are brushed
by the North American contorta plants
replacing a deep
uncontrollable system

until they have nothing left to cut
at the sawmill five miles away
until the song of the saw blade dies out


forest, late winter

the stars are animal eyes
in the between-black of the woods.
the first tawny owl
calls out of the dark tangle.
the beam of my head torch hits
a drop of resin, turning it
into a microscopic diamond
as small as the one in my first engagement ring
from a small shop near the Smithfield Market.
but much more radiant, carrying
the entire wonder of
this biotope.
on the pink-grey pine trunk
it gleams.
I resist the urge to stretch my hand out
to pierce the drop’s perfection.
as resin, it would be insignificant.
a whiff of forest on my finger, soon
blending with my protein to the point
where it is lost.
but as a diamond in the night
it is unique and brilliant, waiting
in a dark forest
until everything is made as bright
by the morning.



I walk the land
under the waxing moon.
new pine silhouettes
clawing at the evening sky.

the trees awaiting removal, prone
on the curling moss.
their nerves cut off, their smell
lingering above the heated ground
suddenly exposed to the day.

tufts of beard lichen
line the scars in the ground
like lifeless animal fur.

this is farmer’s land, owner’s land, the hand
that signed the deed calls the shots.
these woods are not mine
any more than the air I breathe.

the air, the trees, the water seeps
up through the pockets of the Earth
like tears of mercury and lead.

this is land-owner’s land, this is clear-cut land
washing away
from underneath my feet, the black
greasy peat peeking out
from the wounds of forgotten riches.

from the top of the tree stump
I blow off the sawdust
like the dust off a record. my fingers record
each poor and each abundant year.
counting the years
until the tips of my fingers
become wood.


devil’s-bit scabious

half-grown trees march
up the hill, reclaiming
what was cleared.

birch, willow, aspen, all petite
invade the corridors
between the planted spruce with a spring
in their step.

if left alone, they will decide amongst themselves
who gets to stay, who gets to go.
not lord-of-the-flies-like but rolling the dice

like monopoly, half skill, half luck
until a wild
order is restored.

humans and deer have made way
through the couch grass and tormentil
a trampled respite
from the land run
of the species.

tortoiseshell butterflies flutter
in their panicked butterfly way
filling the air like precipitation.

behind our backs
they are sucked back in
to the pin cushions
of the devil’s-bit scabious.

purple velvet, orange silk
a royal highway laid out
through the baby woods
never to become a forest.


Sara Falkstad (b 1982) is a poet, teacher and artist based in the West of Sweden. She has attended writing courses at the Mid Sweden University, Bona folkhögskola and Österlens folkhögskola, as well as the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Summer School at Queen’s University Belfast. Her poetry has been published in various Swedish journals and her book of poetry De enhjärtbladiga (“The Monocots”) was released in 2020. Email: sara.falkstad[at]

My Father Calls to Ask a Question

Lori Bellamy

Photo Credit: Sandra/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Are they still good?
He’s on the other side of the country, holding a jar of beans.

I remember when the beans came in.
My two uncles, my one aunt, my grandmother, grandfather,
all of us, sat in outdoor chairs,

we snapped the tips off of those beans,
pulled the strings down the sides,

there were October Beans
and Scarlet Runners whose pods
opened into amethysts.

At a minimum they’re 32 years old.

Canned goods
saved from down those treacherous steps.
Fetched from the cellar
that smelled like peaches and laundry.

Picked from a garden
with blueberry bushes covered in gauze,
my grandfather there in that rippling land.

They were good.

How do I describe the steam that filled the kitchen?
The orphan who grew into my grandfather?
The mirrors all over the house
That reminded my grandmother
to be beautiful?

My father wipes the dust, shines up the jar.

Those are definitely past their best-by date, I tell him.
Why would you want to eat them?

How does a family disperse like milkweed seeds?
Like wishes floating,
trying to find a place to land.


Lori’s father recently sent her an elementary school notebook filled with Lori’s poetry. It made her realize that she’s been writing poems for most of her life. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Quarterly magazine, the Poem-A-Day section of the Indolent Press website and other publications. Lori spends her free time fighting with the cat over desk space, dancing in the park on crisp spring mornings and crocheting silly looking hats. Email: lori[at]

End of Tunnel

Broker’s Pick
Diane Webster

Photo Credit: Carlos Sá/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

What if at the end
of the tunnel was a mirror?
Scary sight of a woman
staring back until I see
it’s me; scary anyway.

I touch myself to convince
I am real or imagined hoping
I don’t feel a real hand
at the end of reflected fingers.

But then trapped as much as
a chained door in fairy tales.
Go back? Stay here?
Unless I believe, I believe
mirror is reflection liquid,
and all I have to do is meet myself,
merge myself, come out
on the other side,
other side of the tunnel.


Diane Webster’s goal is to remain open to poetry ideas in everyday life, nature or an overheard phrase and to write. Diane enjoys the challenge of transforming images into words to fit her poems. Her work has appeared in Home Planet News Online, North Dakota Quarterly, Talking River Review and other literary magazines. Email: diaweb[at]

Two Poems

Carla Scarano D’Antonio

Photo Credit: Ann/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

My Mother

Last night I dreamed of my mother,
her soft light touch on my face.
She said, I had some free time and came here.
I was melting in her tenderness
under the touch of her smooth old fingers,
her cheerful voice moved,
almost in tears.
Why did you come here?
What happened?
But she didn’t reply,
only her love surrounded me
as if it was the last time.
And I drank it
with dry lips.


Hospital Nights

I cannot say you weren’t there,
I have a clear memory you were present the whole night.
You are here,
all the nights after my three caesarean cuts.
You cuddle the new born babies—
(boy, girl, boy)
curled up and soft like kittens—
feed them with sugared water,
tuck them in the hospital cradle,
hold their tiny hands, stroke their upturned nose,
their faces are like apples.
You watch me, containing your excitement, slightly worried.
I doze, in and out of the anaesthetic
grip on sleep,
already recovering.
The babies are all right,
I am all right.
You were there, my mother,
you are here.


Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She was awarded a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading in April 2021. Email: scaranocarla62[at]

Three Poems

David Sapp

Photo Credit: Tony Hall/Flickr (CC-by)


It was the same wooden sound
As the pews at Saint Vincent,
The same complaint of arthritic joints,
The same burnished surface
Slipping beneath my fingertips,
The same lemony redolence of polish
And something more: the stale
Remnants of previous tears,
Rage, fear, despair, finality.

The wood of the courtroom
Did not evoke the same assurance of
Or comfort in salvation or redemption
As in the church nor a reason to gaze
Upward at predictable but reliable
Narratives in stained glass—
Where my mind might wander
Over Mother Mary and the Trinity.

In the passage from witness room,
A heavy door to witness chair,
I looked at none of them,
I acknowledged none of them,
I resented all of them,
Mother, father, lawyers, judge,
As I was merely a utensil—evidence
To confirm the tawdry domestic
Details in their melee over children.

Initially, an anxious young man,
My responses were wooden. And then,
I suddenly comprehended the battle
Over my little sister’s sanity—
And why young men are willing,
Eager, to be led off to war,
To die on a distant, obscure shore.
Their idealism and purpose is pure.



I am astonished
By the skepticism
As they walk past
This abundance.
At the edge of the meadow,
The nice young couple
Afford me an overly
Generous berth,
An eccentric old man
In a funny hat, bent
Picking wild blackberries,
A mess for my wife’s
Breakfast. Berries, berries,
Everywhere berries,
Who wouldn’t covet
These berries flying plump
On vines, irresistible,
These roly-poly cherubs?
In their indifference,
These two could not know
That with this plethora,
Daring the pricks of thorns,
I am ecstatic in nostalgia:
Fifty years ago,
My aunts would stop
Their day for berries.
In her flowered cotton dress,
Aunt Martha gathered
Cousins, pails, and
Grandpa’s dog, Henry,
To make a morning of it,
Chatting happily,
Scheming preserves,
Pies, cobblers, crisps,
Blackberry jam spread
Over warm bread,
A poignant memory
Of a ripe summer day
In the heart of winter.


Solitary Temperaments

Where the trail turns
Further into the woods,
Densely lush and leafed,
Where encounters are infrequent,
Dainty hooves pierce the dirt.
Long-legged creatures, two
Does, wander into my path,
Heads high, ears keen,
Eyes wide and wary,
Their lean flanks rippling.
And two young women,
Runners for the team,
Sprint by, flash a chary glance,
Shoes sucking the mud,
Their lean thighs rippling.
Apparently, we are the odd pair,
The lonesome fox and I.
She’s up early, darting about,
Crimson piercing viridian,
And pauses. Our mutual
Astonishment turns to
A fleeting, unabashed regard,
Each as curious over the contrast:
My bright neon-yellow jacket,
Her ruddy red coat—
Black socks fashionable in June.
Our hearts beat faster
As we are slightly skittish
Over our chance rendezvous.
“Why, how do you do?”
And then there’s a recognition:
We are as reclusive as the other,
Disinclined to apologize
For solitary temperaments.


David Sapp, writer, artist, and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grants for poetry and the visual arts. His poems appear widely in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. His publications include articles in the Journal of Creative Behavior, chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha, a novel Flying Over Erie, and a book of poems and drawings titled Drawing Nirvana. Email: danieldavidart[at]

Four Poems

DS Maolalai

Photo Credit: Gauthier Delecroix/Flickr (CC-by)


they come rolling,
like storm-
broken ships
with masts
and with rigging
hung ragged.

the wind
blowing hard
through a long-
empty mine shaft,
catching spars
sawed through, wet
rot and woodworm.
it’s pleasant
by no means; all
twisting treed
orchards and smashed
by car crashes
but still,
I do love it.

I do:
Chrys, lying
with her mouth half open,
her hand
against her cheek
making dimples with the fingers
like a lady
checking the freshness of a pear.
out of her mouth,
these sounds
like slaughtered animals.

I love it.
I do. it’s the sort of thing
I love.


A weathered down hill of a mountain

his mind was the landscape
just south of the city—
it was dull, disappointing,
blunt and unimpressive.
something which didn’t
get sunsets behind it
and wouldn’t have known

if it had. and his life was the same—
was a weathered down hill
of a mountain—god he was awfully
dull. he drank and he talked
about drinking quite often.
and lived in a flat
overlooking the river
with this woman he liked
and who liked him.

he could play the piano
in a dull sort of way.
knew paul simon songs.
knew elton john songs.



driving to work
on the N4 this morning
and I cut someone
accidentally off.
got home about five,
checked the letterbox—
out fell three fingers
like curled frozen shrimp.


Walking the bruise

a fine night,
and peaceful. rising
3am—wanting a cold
glass of water
and walking the bruise
as it flows
with midnight
through our kitchen—
deep blue, falling
through uncurtained windows;
some mixture of yellow
and the black which makes
blue. I thumb off the faucet,
go back to the bedroom.
stand by our window
in blue silhouette. in bed,
my girlfriend stirs
and pulls her feet under
the covers. and in
through the window
night comes with a rush.
when she wakes
I’ll be gone: just
the shape of a shadow,
outlined by the breeze
of this mild
winter night.


DS Maolalai has been nominated nine times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019). Email: diarmo90[at]