Three Poems

Poetry
W. Joseph O’Connell


Photo Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Incision

I deny myself
the pleasure
that comes from her…
things she did for me

swimming every morning,
cutting myself at night
therapy is happening,
in softness of heart

thought occurs to me…
try to find the help I need,
because I know
it is the knot in my stomach
and the scars
that need healing

 

There is No Reason Why

I feel like screaming
not knowing who I am
stopped being myself
even before I went to Iraq

today was hard
a doctor asked me to describe what I remember about the explosion that killed four soldiers
I think about that night all the time,
a nightmare I have lived with for more than ten years
struggling to stay in control of my emotions
numbing myself with alcohol and pills

nighttime, my usual walk through the neighborhood
realizing I was having a suicidal ideation
I didn’t consciously start having that thought,
it occurred to me by surprise

next day,
out of bed before the sun rises
then all day at work
the dread of going back to the house
the scenario I wanted to avoid
an all or nothing kind of life

every setback is a catastrophe
I am exhausted
when I get home,
I take a painkiller and lay down to sleep
awakening fourteen hours later
thank God, it is Saturday

 

Head Trip

Early morning, Sunday under the Florida sun
reflecting on the weekend
heading back home for Texas
first time I didn’t drink in a while
it takes all day to cross the sunshine state

I stop in Pensacola for fried-chicken dinner
then the long haul through the pinewood South,
bridges over green lakes and swampland
bugs splattering against the windshield keep me awake
something in me seems to ask myself, why am I trying so hard?

crazy, moving forward,
volunteering for every conflict that came along
twenty years in the service
anything can be justified to keep myself grounded
feeling everything and nothing at the same time

marriage was the first casualty of war
now the house is empty, and the miles traveled are lonesome
all that is left is an idea that I am destined to be alone
the road at night remains my best friend
as always, it lets me pretend I’m still the hero

pencilW. Joseph O’Connell is a writer living in Texas.  After serving combat tours in Iraq in 2007 and 2011, he was retired from the Army in 2020 for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has published two novels, render, and dd 214. Twitter: @wjosephoconnell Email: bill_oconnell1968[at]yahoo.com

Souvenir

Poetry
Jenny Hockey


Photo Credit: solarnu/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

I found a Chinese baby’s shoe
with a bell to warn off mice

that’s smaller by far
than any shoe I’ve worn

and holds only the ghost
of my fat-toed child’s first pair,

one lost on a roadside verge,
one kept.

pencilJenny Hockey‘s poems range from the sad to the surreal to the celebratory. A retired anthropologist, she takes an oblique view of the ups and downs of everyday lives. In 2013 she received a New Poets Award from New Writing North, Newcastle, UK and, after magazine and anthology publications from 1985 onwards, Oversteps Books published her debut collection, Going to Bed with the Moon in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email: j.hockey[at]sheffield.ac.uk

Five Poems

Poetry
Mandy Haggith


Photo Credit: ccdoh1/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Foxglove

Lynn’s brush
is delivering a foxglove,
a vixen
birthing a cub,
lick by lick,
onto the paper.

Hush settles.

Lynn’s brush
is smoothing the surface
until the foxglove
is perfectly reflected
in the still pool
of the page.

 

Tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
for David Sandum

Is it you I hear, here in fernshade,
showing me how the stump has grown
from scales, each fanned and fallen year
etched so we won’t forget?

We won’t forget. I come and go
with my weakening grief. You reach out
from a hockey-stick trunk, unfurl
a fiddler’s joie-de-vivre, let work drop away.

Drop away below. Here, light
is caught, sequestered, treasured,
shared in silver-backed shadows.

I hear your voice (‘Better get on’),
see how we shall carry on,
follow the guiding arrow of a frond.

 

Matsukaze

Monday
an onshore breeze
discussed in whispers
by twisted pines

Tuesday
missing my mother
hush say the pines
we understand

Wednesday
listened to the pines
dancing with wind all night
not sleeping at all

Thursday
I perfect the art
of pining
under quiet pines

 

Home

Robin in the rowan
casts snippets of gossip,
a crystal commentary
on this blue morning.

Hoar melts on rushes.
Frogs and newts splash in the pond
as if they haven’t heard
the forecast of frost.

Great tits and blackbirds flutter
the way people walked the marches,
boundary checking,
territory testing.

Badger, jaunty wood-snuffler,
you turn your head
and your bright black-button eyes
seem unafraid of me.

All of this
makes me feel
welcome.

 

January

The days are short, nights long.
Sun drops from below cloud.
Low-angled light

shafts
through
skeleton
trees,
all
still
resting.

Already the tide
has reached its nadir,
lapping, lapping at the rocks of the year.

pencilMandy Haggith lives in Assynt, Scotland, and teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her books include four poetry collections, most recently Why the Sky is Far Away (Red Squirrel Press 2019), a tree poetry anthology, a non-fiction book about paper and five novels. Email: hag[at]mandyhaggith.net

A Wall Of Pictures

Broker’s Pick
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Tim Crowe/Flickr (CC-by)

A wall of pictures
was the reminder of a life built
throughout many years.
In the pretty, white frames
was the pretty family
on holidays,
at weddings,
at parties,
kids’ faces pressed against the glass,
a chronological display of their diaper days
to rosy, freckled cheeks beaming with lost teeth
to moodier, reluctant expressions in photos where
their parents forced them to smile for the camera,
to detach from their phones
for just one minute.

A wall of pictures
served as proof and passage
into the classification as “perfect, suburban family.”
It was a trophy mounted for all to see,
screaming, “Look at how happy we are!”
as guests could admire adoring wedding photos
and adorable baby pictures
and lament
the days when their children
still lived at home,
ruefully eyeing the Lego
splattered around the carpet,
or the sink full of greasy, cold water
from last night’s dishes
that had driven them crazy when their own children
had made a similar mess in the house
but now wished to see again.

But a wall of pictures
could not show that the mother
woke up to a cold bed,
the pillow next to her
still plump from the absence of a husband’s body.
A wall of pictures could not show
the nights he had been spending
at a friend’s,
or the looks of sadness and hatred
that they passed when they did see each other,
unlike the wedding pictures organised on the wall,
where their eyes overflowed with
the promise of spending a life together.
A wall of pictures could not show
the slow, pained steps the mother took
as she crawled into the kitchen for coffee
after another sleepless night,
nor the letter that lay waiting on the mat of the front door,
asking for a divorce.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com

“Every meal begins with your hands”

Poetry
Simon Perchik


Photo Credit: Jonas Tana/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Every meal begins with your hands
dry and around your forehead
squeezes into its hiding place

—in such a darkness both shoulders
slump forward till they hear
the tablecloth pulled closer

fed air and a shirt collar
left open, waiting to lie down
where a plate should be —it’s the sound

your fingers make when drop by drop
a makeshift lake is pieced together
from a missing vase —wherever you eat

it’s night, still wet, bending over
and hand to hand breathe in the smoke
from a chair no longer there

—you eat from a chimney, reach up
with your eyes covered by a bedsheet
still warm from roses and ash.

pencil

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website. To view one of his interviews please follow this link. Email: simon[at]hamptons.com

a brief history of my pubic hair

Poetry
Ann Pedone


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

I.

I wanted him to want me more than
his ex I wanted him to keep fucking me maybe even
marry me so I ignored the voices of Gloria Stein
em and Judith Butler in my head and I
did it agreed to be waxed shaved smoothed
plucked and aloe
veraed I spread eagled myself on a table in a strip mall wax
ing center and opened my legs spread my legs held my legs
high behind my head and opened, when asked to, like a butter
fly

I told him it looked liked a drowned rat or a twelve
year old girl I told him I felt like a porn star at least from the
waist down but every month I called in my appoint
ment every month requested the one waxer who made me
feel a bit less uncomfort
able 18 appointments over 18 months until he
left me

my friends scolded me called me a stooge for the patri
archy questioned my feminist loyalties and asked me
how after twelve years of French post-structural post
colonial post-modern critical theory in grad school I could have
done such a thing I felt humiliated duped be
littled like I had succumbed to some
thing that I had vowed to
fight against

II.

six months later in a hotel room some
where on the mid-Peninsula my new boy friend my current
boyfriend asked me if I had ever seen the Courbet painting L’Origine
du monde

full-on center lies a woman stretched out on white
sheets naked mid-thigh to breasts legs open revealing a thing so
weirdly dark so lush and thick almost
irrational in its openness almost
obscene in its mystery so wild with possi
bility that you can’t take your eyes off
of it
right then and there I decided to
let it grow

over the following months I watched it monitored
its progress like a baby’s first steps washed and
dried it after every shower bought pairs of see
through panties so he could see the newly
sprouted hairs peeking through but I was nervous
what was he going to think would he
hate it ask me to shave it off leave me for some
one else

surprisingly it came in curlier than I
remembered looked blonde almost
in the sun light shimmered
like gold dust in the shower
and now it dances
when he is
on top of me
blooms when our bodies meet
is shy when he falls
asleep retains the
deep cypress scent of his skin
alive insatiate
a dark amber dark in the full
watery gathering that is my body

pencil

Ann Pedone is an independent scholar and writer who graduated from Bard College with a degree in English Literature. She has a Master’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature from UC Berkeley. Ann is the author of the chapbook The Bird Happened. More recently her work has recently appeared in Ornery Quarterly, Riggwelter, Main Street Rag, Poet head, and Cathexis Northwest, and The Wax Paper, among others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Email: ann.pedone[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
James Croal Jackson


Photo Credit: brx0/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Decade Dead

I exist in a perpetual state of thirst
and cold. I think I live in winter
and I don’t even like Christmas.

And I don’t like Christ, the dead
man left hanging. Were he to have
magic, that would be a good time.

And his rich Daddy. Abandonment
issues, for sure. My dad wasn’t
rich and he only abandoned me

when he was dead. Then was
the void of the voice. All
appliances in the house breaking.

My mother and I don’t know
shit about plumbing. Dad patched
pipes while I cast Raise on my

fallen Final Fantasy fellows.
It’s been ten years and there is
still everything to learn. That’s

ten years more of everything
I haven’t learned.

 

Red Lobster

The host stares blank pages at us,
mumbles in the vicinity of lobsters
in that overcrowded blue tank.

The waitress sings the menu,
points to CrabFest (overtures /
variations)—we are here,

always, for Cheddar Bay Biscuits,
the perpetual stream birthed in wire
baskets that make our intestines scream

minutes after paying
the check.

It is July 6th and fireworks explode
over trees
and, of course, we think them gunshots

because we are in a public parking lot,
our bodies full of grease that could drop
any minute in this America,

two-thousand-nineteen.

pencil

James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in Sampsonia Way, San Antonio Review, and Pacifica. He edits The Mantle Poetry and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. Email: jamescroaljackson[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
Marchell Dyon


Photo Credit: Geoff Bosco/Flickr (CC-by)

The Winter House

All the stars are frozen
The town crier blows heated air from
His lungs into his frostbitten fingers

Shaking them as if somehow
Freeing his fingers from the cold
He cries winter is approaching all is well

Even in their slumbering heat
Bodies press together not out of love
But out of necessity

Even in dreams they hear him wail
Through the night snuggled in their false security
The last log burns maxing out its warmth

There’s only the distance of their bodies
There are only inches of cotton blend between their naked selves
They will not share, separate blankets now,

Soon separate beds across town
One in the sight of the town crier
The other only in earshot

News about the winter house travels faster than light
Other ears like deer perk up so soft and so velvet
To catch snippets of sound, listening for cold words shouted

Ringing like church bells
Before the silence
Without prayers, they climb into bed,

They are past redeeming
Their anger bathes in silver shadows
Shadows glistening like tinsel

Time moves in and out
So, does the snow

 

The Winter Train

Always, she imagines how she would go
Tonight, this thought came to her
Swifter than other nights

The thought that she should leave him
She saw herself mentally writing
Her escape letter

Her letter would simply read leaving,
No more black eyes, forever gone, Jill,

She would then pass unafraid on the winter train
Dazing up at the moon, watching trees bare white

Happy to count the stars,
Happy to see them twinkle deep in the night sky
Happy just to be rid of him
Happy to be free

To watch
The snow falls like she does now

For now, she will be better
Next time,
She will be quicker, more agile in her steps

She mumbles this frozen prayer on the wind.
She believes this as she turns
Her frosty key into the front door lock.

She will continue to try to make herself invisible
As not to enrage his heated fists.
Fists he had promised to keep frozen
Time and time again never to thaw

Here again in this prison she called home
She knows now she haven’t yet
The strength to leave him

Her thoughts of leaving on the winter train
Keeps her warm at night, keeps her sane,
Keeps her alive…

So, another winter, she will dream of leaving
Till her heart and mind tells her it’s time to go
On nights like these

Still she imagines herself moving fast in slow motion
inching passes rooftops
Sugared with just enough frost, just enough snow.

 

Clocks

She watches
As I wind the figurative and literal clocks
Time to us is precious
Years are blessings
But some days aren’t always miracles.

She breathes with every second
Her heartbeat is like a stopwatch rhythm fading
Her breath is a cold smoke rising in the air
Mother and daughter now life companions

As for the clocks, I wind them tight
To get us through the night
In her voice frosty as hinges
She chimes many thanks to me
I answer her by covering her chilled feet
Again, with her electric blanket

There aren’t many hours left to my gray companion
I savor these moments
Before all clocks stop

And I’m left alone
With only the companionship of silence

pencil

Marchell Dyon is a poetry enthusiast. She enjoys reading poetry wherever she can find it. Once she was nominated for the best of the net prize for her poem “As I Stand by My Window Dreaming of Falling.” Her most recent publications are Toasted Cheese Lit Journal, Trouvaille Review and Medusa’s Kitchen. She has constantly developed her craft despite having both schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. She continues to write in Chicago IL. Email: marchelldyon[at]yahoo.com

Last Thursday Night

Poetry
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Claudio Marinangeli/Flickr (CC-by)

Last Thursday Night

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
Rain battered the paint off our old pickup truck
as you drove on,
reminding us of another job that needed doing
that neither of us could afford.
You kept your eyes fixated on the road,
yet I was certain I could feel them on me,
criticising me, hating me.

Do you remember what you said?
Probably not.
What was one more comment
in our relationship where your disappointment
was practically writ on the browning wallpaper
of our apartment,
weaved into the threadbare stitching of our couch?
What was one blustery Thursday evening
in this world where time and days were counted
for monetary purposes only,
anxiously massaging hands
as we waited for the next paycheque,
counting how long we could last
on the next loan?

But I remember your words,
sharp as your wit had been when we had met,
back in the days when love had held us together
and not the common noose of debt around our scrawny necks.
“You’re a failure.”
Perhaps it was the worry of the rent
that we could no longer afford
that made you say it,
but the rain and the anxiety and the chugging of the truck
made a gluey knot that stuck to my heart.

I had failed.

We exited the car mutely,
the memory of a time that had once been
filled with our laughter
and lusting irises
silenced and erased
by the hand clenched around my vocal cords
and the hopelessness that pricked a tattoo of tears in my eyes.

I had failed.

I’ve been thinking about your words all week.
I have let the initial pain, like hot, choking syrup,
harden around the cavities in my chest,
maturing into something stronger.
Anger. Determination. Ambition.

Yes, I have failed.
I should not have spent my time driving secondhand pickups
or living in a dingy apartment.
I should not have been working three jobs
or eating reduced-priced, near-expiry-date meals.
I should not have been with you.

Perhaps you don’t remember last Thursday night,
but you will remember this Thursday evening
when I walk out our squeaky door
with my few belongings that you haven’t pawned away
to begin my new life.

Do you remember what you told me
last Thursday night?
It set me free.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com

Five Poems

Poetry
DS Maolalai


Photo Credit: Paul Downey/Flickr (CC-by)

My Grandfather

heavy the tread
like a box
with flowerpots.

his fingers
dust brown
and warm soda
bread. a man
is a knuckle. made hard
with antique.

with simple food,
with hot tea,
with sunlight,
with cigarettes.

watering a plant.
watering a plant.
watering a plant.

 

On the Apartment Balcony

faces; flashing flowerpots
from someone else’s garden. light
beaming, the river
for once blue
and not grey. people on the quays,
smoking cigarettes
or walking. enjoying the heat
in general
like cats amongst activity
which prowl about a garden
playful in their chasing
of butter-
and mayflies.

I stretch my arms southward
and slouch on the apartment
balcony. in the kitchen
chrys makes cocktails
out of gin and crushed mint
leaves.

 

Alberta

I liked it a lot.
this was Calgary,
and our rented house
took the top of a hill, lurching
on a view
which went rolling down
past mountains and downward
into the river.

all around the edges
wood hung
like the dribbles
of enormous candles. swamps
with pine needles;
rain
settling on rain.

once
I woke up at 5 a.m.,
filled a glass of water
and went to the garden
and smoke
was stalking the street
in wisps.

we were fine,
the neighbours told me,
out early
gathering apples.
the wildfires
were 200
miles off;
we were only seeing it now
because they were bad
in particular this year.

 

Smoking

3 a.m. bar
closing. mr
and dame cigarette

outside. her back
on the wall,
his hand
braced against it. cold

damp stone
such as might be found
in caves
or the quiet moisture
of subway platforms.

his head
is half dangled. hers
tilted back. elbow
cupped, very
stylish. she blows

her smoke. it mingles,
goes up.
becomes stars.

 

The Fish Tank

after two years
he pulled out the suitcase
that had been sitting at the bottom
of his wardrobe
and discovered it had only ever
been half-unpacked
when he moved in.
those old shirts went in the trash
along with most of the things
he had saved that time—

bunches of letters
and movie-ticket stubs
kept in a drawer to decay after first dates,
a secondhand radio
and some pictures bought from street vendors
and all the empty bottles
bunched beneath the sink.

the rest he threw in,
not bothering to fold things,
and found there wasn’t enough there
to completely fill it up.
he fished out some of the old letters
and threw them in on top.

then he put on his coat
and placed a note in front of the fish tank
asking his landlady
to give the fish to her daughters
or at least
to not flush them away,
left the keys on top of the fridge
and opened the door.

the room looked much as it had when he arrived,
no plaque up with his name on it,
no new paint on the walls.
the goldfish were his only addition
and a bedside locker
he had found on the street
with the door hanging loose
and repaired.

everything else
was white walls,
cheap pine,
and a stain on the toilet.

he picked up his suitcase
and the plane ticket from the stripped mattress
and was very careful to shut the door
properly behind him.

pencil

DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three 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]live.ie