Janette Schafer – three poems

When I was Seventeen
after Laura E. Davis

My mother slumped on her couch
eyes clouded with Jesus and
ecclesiastical frenzy, fingers fluttering,
fervent fear for my virginity. I did not date

or learn to drive. Always the visions.
They were of my doom or downfall,
a clutching of hand to heart.
I believed in Jesus

but He did not believe in me.
Could he whisper to my mother
of some good to come? Tears
and choking, a laying on
of hands, a casting out

of demons that oppressed
me. They spoke through her voice:
I would fall to the wide path
watching life as it passed by
and hoping one day to join it.


On the occasion of buying a used copy of my own damn book

Reasons why you should not Google yourself. Ever.
My book was on Amazon marked,
“Used. Good Condition.”
Arriving media mail, it pleased me
that it was read; dog-earred pages,
name of the most recent owner
in pristine cursive, bright pink highlighter.
The first owner was Susan—I had signed
that it was lovely to meet her and her husband.
Louis, the second owner with
the beautiful signature, I am glad
my words were with you for this long while,
and pained that you decided to let them go.


Found Sonnet #1

He seemed to be Hemingway, living life
as a strengths-finder; ready to confront
pencils on paper, blankets made of psalms.
Ladies could not put him down; he was a
real page-turner. Traveling a long trail
of captured landscapes and all-powerful
testimonies, he sojourned alone through
dark valleys, jukebox car alarms, all while
braiding the storm. He learned to act quickly,
fighting the bulls, dining on oranges
and Scotch neat. He was not a big sailor
but a shell-shocked soldier, difficult and
lost, a tightly written nuanced story.
Don’t make him a heartland; he is not home.


Janette Schafer is a freelance writer, photographer, and opera singer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a 2017 Maenad Fellowship winner in creative writing through Chatham University. She was a 2015 Arts MODE Fellowship awardee in playwriting through New Sun Rising LLC, and the resulting theatrical work “northeastsouthwest” won the Spirit of the Fringe award at the 2016 Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. Upcoming and recent publications include: Calamus Journal, Eyedrum Periodically, The Woman Inc., Zany Zygote Review, and Chatham University broadsides.

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Hélène Demetriades – three poems

The tenderest offering

Morning rises
from the softest bed,
the tenderest of offerings
you can put your arm
or body through

No captain at the helm
to navigate his way,
no boat gliding us,
just a spontaneous
unfolding pouring
as the heart of all things

And silly scarecrows
dew drenched
in their fields
stiffen in rusty futility
at the sparkling
cackle of life


The world is a music box

The world is a music box
wound up with a universal key.
Birds call
traffic drones
people chatter.
Each town, each land
singing
its own signature tune,
while the silent heart
of the earth
thrums through it all


A life of papers

A life of papers
in my hands
Reams of years
held to account
Frothing white
and shredded loose,
bulging in
the black trade dust bin.
Father’s script is
scattered,
characters blown apart,
like my mother’s ashes
in my hands
that caught the wind
and flew away


Hélène studied English at Leeds University, trained as an actor, and later as a transpersonal psychotherapist. She lives with her family in South Devon, and is soon to be published in Reach Poetry, The Dawntreader and Sarasvati, (all Indigo Dreams Publishing).

Meggie Royer – three poems

Conversion

Meaningless, to ask how animals still survive
when left on their own.
There was never anything out there
to call mine.
The way stones, scattered, ring like pews
in the darkness.
And still I am told/what it means/to be a God.
How to give up. How to give in.
That a baptism is more than a sinking.
And still I am told/to point my toes
to ask the priest to bless me once,
then twice.
The water like silt in the darkness.
Then the knife, still on the table.
The kettle, lid off,
steam gone.


Sigourney

I am told the scene broke me
in which/the alien/burst through her stomach.
That I grew into myself like a nettle.
The sky deep outside like paint/
the rest of the audience/able to move on.
Unexpected, the way the body runs
without serotonin.
Even when the walls crumble,/
the keyholes/gone/or worse.
A few left the theater.
Most stayed.
I saw your face next to mine, lit by shadow,
and said nothing.
Being beneath someone else for too long
is so hard/to explain.


the florist forgets my name

i. And something bruises like earth inside me. To ask/or not to ask/if she remembers how he came here, weeks ago, for roses. Daylilies. Whatever they had. Whatever/she could find. The morning outside still swollen. My neck, still swollen. Blood against my teeth like a cherry. How he wanted/to show her/he
still owned me.
ii. A chicken, with its head gone, still knows how
to walk. And I walked. I walked. I could do nothing but. Til he came with the sunflowers/from the house/now pressed/now folded/between parchment paper like time.
iii. We used to garden. Til the whole thing was overrun
with weeds, choked like a dog on a chain. Dust rising so hot it smoldered. I’d lay bowls made of ripe fruit/the knife used to cut the slices/always/with the handle/closest to my hand.
iv. In case he reached. In case I couldn’t.
v. I ask her for whatever’s left, in the cooler,
on the shelves, tied in bouquets along the back. I ask her for whatever’s left. It’s all I know/to say.


Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently working as an educator on domestic violence in Minnesota. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance Magazine, The Harpoon Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015
Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.

Marissa Glover – three poems

The Boy From Down the Street

I met the boy from down the street
by accident. He answered questions
like any man: Nine. Devon. Fine.
Until my son, the one among
us brave enough to ask the most
important questions, innocently
asked Devon if he had a mommy
and daddy.

……………………..Devon’s back is turned,
his little legs and wheels can’t carry
him fast enough or far enough—
the question hits him from behind.
My neck grows hot. Apologize?
Explain? I wait and watch and wait.

The boy stops pedaling and walks
the bike back, closing the distance
between him and me. He passes
my three-year-old without a glance—
all forty-nine inches of skin and bones
have steeled his spine, his eyes meet mine.
My dad left home when I was two.
I haven’t seen him since. Silence.

He waits for me to fill the gap
with something new. What lie
will Neighbor Lady peddle the kid?
I surprise him with the truth:
My mommy left when I was three.
I haven’t seen her since. Silence.

Devon exhales. He looks away.
Studies each house, each tree. He speaks:
Yes, well, my mom would never leave.
He runs to pick up his small Schwinn,
blood-red and scratched. He pedals hard.


Better Than Sex

When my grandma tells me there is a cake better than sex,
I don’t believe her.

So she describes it—
I listen, still not believing,
watching her eyes water at her words,
her hands animate the actions as she lists ingredients.

Better than sex,
she says, licking her lips,
which have dried in the telling.

Looking to the kitchen clock,
she clears her throat with a cough,
and gives me final instructions in staccato
as if reading from the yellowed recipe card
kept in her mother’s tin on the stove:

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 30 minutes.

I ask, Who has that kind of time?

She sighs, Exactly.


L’Esprit de l’Escalier

I hate her name—
the way it drips from your lips
like you’ve gulped too much of her
like you don’t care
that half of it slides from your mouth
coating your chin—my ears,
gloating.

Tell me the secret for moving on.
Is it part of your training?
Timed runs carrying your kit
pull-ups sit-ups push-ups planks
clean, load, sight your weapon—
Break my heart. Green Beret.

When you call me controlling—
just like your mother, you add,
knowing the punch it packs—
I want to tell you all the ways
you failed to satisfy.

My body, with your small hands and form
that always smelled of someplace else.
My mind, with the games you played:
“I didn’t say I would pick up milk on my way home;
I said I could. You will have to get it if you want it,
and learn to listen better next time.”

I pack in silence, as you warn me
I’ll be back for money—certain
I can’t make it without you.

I descend the stairs, walk out the door,
and think of all the things I should have said.


Marissa Glover teaches and writes in central Florida and shares her thoughts more than necessary, which she considers a form of charitable giving. If it counted as a tax deduction, she’d be rich. Her work has appeared in various places including Strange Poetry and Stanza’s Solstice Sounds and on her parents’ refrigerator.

Joanna Nissel – three poems

Before Entering the Ward

Soap suds to her
forearms, she slides her
palms over the outer
edges of her fists.
Interlacing her fingers
to get into the cracks,
she traces the slight
web of skin between
each knuckle. She runs
her nails under one
another, mining the
space for stray germs.
Last of all she sweeps
the curve of skin
between her forefinger
and thumb in a
semicircle. When she
shakes her hands, she
flicks water droplets
outward like throwing
salt to banish bad
spirits.


Nocturne from the ICU

Halogen bulbs form a spine of
artificial light through the centre
of the ward; it bisects the
narrow room; throws shadows
on tired faces in beds with wires
and tubes. Past midnight, the
lights dim into a soft yellow
that mixes with the blue walls.
The ensuing green reminds you
of an aquarium. You pace
below the row of beds, placing
your feet gently so your rubber-
soled slippers won’t squeak
against the floor. If you wake
the lady in bed three, she won’t
know where she is. She will
demand to see her husband. She
will cry. You look at her fragile,
limpid arms – coated in
puncture wounds from daily
blood tests. You realise that the
wrinkles in her face are laughter
lines. You realise you have
never seen her laugh or smile.
You want to stop looking.


When the Widow Wakes

When, at last, she dredges herself from her bed of memory, afternoon sun on the kitchen’s burgundy tiles illuminates a scarlet sheen. She gropes varnished counter tops for support, as if blind. Fumbles kettle switch, opens back door, breathes intermingling cold air and steam. An old cure: a jolt like livewire. Her eyes clear. She boils an egg for breakfast, sings a sixties song. Sings the words wrong, the way she misheard them when she was young. She spreads the words onto her toast and bites.


Joanna lives near Brighton and interns with Tears in the Fence magazine. She is an MA student at Bath Spa University. She was first published in Irisi magazine, and has work forthcoming in Amaryllis.

Jimmy Pappas – three poems

Adjusting for Aberrancy

Fire an arrow at a bull’s eye. Adjust for wind speed,
gravity, distance from the target, weight of the arrow.

Look at a star through a telescope. Consider the atmosphere,
temperature, humidity, human miscalculations, faulty scopes.

Shoot a bullet at the target of a man. Make adjustments
to hit the red heart printed on the center of his chest.

Speak a word. Gauge the sensitivity of the hearer, the anger
of the speaker, the multiple meanings of the spoken word.


The Boy Tried to Walk

The boy tried to walk
down the path where the men walked
but the men moved too fast.

The boy tried to talk
at a table where the men talked
but the men did not notice.

The boy tried to call
to the men who stood above him
but the men could not hear.

When the boy died,
he traveled on the shoulders
of the men who carried him.

He lay quietly
and listened to the men
who spoke about him.

They said, Isn’t
it terrible
about the boy.

But they walked
and talked
and did not hear.


How to Achieve Immortality

Curry the favor of the gods.

Never feed the gods their own children
for supper. They are sensitive abut that.
You have probably already swallowed
yours whole, except, of course, for the one
who tricked you with the boulder wrapped
in a blanket. He’s the one throwing
thunder bolts at you and trying to bury
you alive. Keep thinking it’s not your fault.

Twins are very popular with the gods.
If you don’t have one, find someone
who looks like you. Follow that person
like a doppelganger, haunting their days.
Leave their nights alone. Others will take
care of that. You will need your sleep.

Fall in love with a statue or a painting.
The gods have a sick sense of sexuality.
Chose one that shows your impeccable
taste in art. Make no effort to hump
the statue. That may be taking it too far.

The gods find animal sacrifices appealing.
Goats are especially popular. You can eat
the meat. Leave them the bones and the skin.
Prometheus’s liver is being eaten by an eagle,
as we speak, for sticking his neck out for you,
so take advantage of this deal.

The calendar will be rearranged
to fit you in somewhere between
Pisces and Sagittarius, both of which
have lost their usefulness.

If you win the approval of the gods,
they will turn you into a constellation.
The sky could use another crustacean.
Perhaps this time it will be a spiny-
tailed lobster. You can click your claws
as you scuttle across the Milky Way.
The Crab will envy your glory.


Jimmy Pappas served during the Vietnam War as an English language instructor training South Vietnamese soldiers. Jimmy received an MA in English literature from Rivier University. He is a retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, including Yellowchair Review, Shot Glass Journal, Off the Coast, Boston Literary Magazine, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. (jimmypappas@goodreads.com)

M Stone – three poems

Pretense

Half slip glides
past narrow hipbones.
Snakeskin shed,
surrendered
to bathroom tile. Feminine
wile: a tepid act.


Threadbare

Life: an ill-
fitting dress—chafing
fabric, tight
collar, frayed
hem. Some days I long to slip
free of this attire,

study it
with keen eyes, noting
stains, a hole
in the sleeve,
before rending the cloth to
strips for the rag pile.


The Old House

A new swimming pool swallows the backyard;
the thinned woods are threadbare rags.
Our beloved maple now a phantom limb,
amputated for uninterrupted green lawn.

I ask: “If you could, would you live here again?”
My sister says no, too much has changed.
She pulls away from the curb, but I want to circle

back for one last look. I swear I left a piece
of myself in that unfinished basement,
beneath the grime-caked window.


M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry and fiction while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared, or will appear, in SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and Amaryllis. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.

Donna Pucciani – two poems

After the Earthquake

Around the table, we drink coffee
in small cups, peel oranges
with little knives. Crumbs of cake
dot the blue cotton tablecloth
like chunks of houses all over Umbria
felled in the streets.

Just when the pieces of our lives
fall into place, another tremolo
sets us afire, breaks us into pieces
where our fears multiply.
The lights flicker. Television falters.
I look up at the wooden beams,
imagine them crushing us,
leaving the house roofless
where concrete used to be.

But for now, we are safe and whole.
The sheep still in the valley, the bees
swarming in the apiary on the hill
as though nothing has happened,
nothing at all.


Pilgrims

The sheep have left
the pasture today after

roaming from square
to green square daily

for months, with clouds
of ibis following for fleas.

They’ve spread their gentle wooliness
in Umbria not far from the sea.

Now they have disappeared.
No white creatures foam the hills,

only verdure folding into itself,
the loneliest green of tangled kale

under olive trees shivering
in their own silvery hair.


Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry on four continents. Her work has been translated into several languages and has appeared in such diverse publications as Fifth Wednesday, The Pedestal, Shi Chao Poetry, Italian-Americana, Poetry Salzburg, and Istanbul Literary Review. Her most recent book of poems is Edges (Purple Flag Press, 2016). donnapuccianipoet.wordpress.com

Jennie E Owen – three poems

Veterans at the train station

Soft invader
arriving through mist and fogged windows,
drizzle framing the platform. I watch

the pensioners now, faces bob
over scarlet uniforms, buttons
as shiny as the business end of a bayonet.

For a moment I think
of reunions, hot tea
scalding good china, tiny
sandwiches soft between
the teeth.….Stepping

off, I pin on the bloody petals
forgetting sacrifice
forgetting the horror of it all.
Shredded, pulped
lost deep beneath the mud.


Night Music

It appears I’ve given up sleep for lent.
Now I lie awake, a connoisseur of the different tones
of dark. The even tide of your breath. And
further, a golden thread stretches from my heart
to the soft and shallow flutter of our children.
A symphony of inhalations.


Lepidopterist

I fight the urge to shake the jar,
to pierce your skin,
crushed velvet, red,
tender as a baby’s wink.

Your tiny heart is frantic, as
you wonder why the sky is so low.

Pressed like a cut flower
in between pages.

The dust from your petals leaves grease marks
on the lines.


Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. She is a University Lecturer of Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children.

Stephen Daniels – three poems

Extraction

I struggle to live with you,
throughout the day, I find it easy
to ignore you. I grind down hard
refuse to accept the discomfort.

When we try to sleep together
the hurt increases, it’s unavoidable,
we desire different things.

You have to leave,
but beg with nerve-
ending pleas to stay.

The only outcome is extraction –
root removal.

To dig deep into me,
the only thing holding us together
scrape out everything
that lets me know you are there.

I am saying goodbye
and I’m not sure how to feel.

I will miss the function you performed
the sensation of you being there.

I will notice the space you leave. I’ll fail
to recall how unhappy you made me.

Forget how I used to lie awake
concerned about the damage

you were causing.


Passing

You were all top and I all bottom, which should have made it easy
as I shuffled past you. I wondered where
to put my hands and If you
were thinking the same
as your hands
slipped
across
my
thighs
from one
to the other,
the moments in between.
I placed my hands behind me and looked
at you. This unsure smile we shared, as you apologised.


To the cat

that sits in the front window
all day. I see you relaxed
with each paw firmly in place,
your knowing grin
or is that your cat mouth,
it looks like a smirk as I trundle
past on my way to work.

I can’t understand
how you sit in the same spot –
without a cubicle or a screen
to stare at. Without having someone
barking orders all day,
and no vending machine
to keep you going.

As I return I wonder about your worries
about the dog-eat-cat world
you live in and how each passing pet
admires you, every cat wants to be you
and every dog wants you.
You are unmoved.
The taxidermist’s prize specimen.


Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His poetry has been published in numerous magazines and websites. His debut pamphlet, Tell Mistakes I Love Them, was published in 2017 by V. Press. Find out more at www.stephenkirkdaniels.com