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.

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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

Paul Waring – two poems

Time To Go

time sticks
to soles of shoes
and feet itch
to pull up roots
when it’s time to go

places can weigh
you down
like an overcoat
full of bricks
heavy as mondays

that rain
blue consequences
and living
is a light that
hurts your eyes

when flowers
forget to smile
trees stare blankly
and a blackbird
is just that

so it’s important
to know
before hope falls
like a final skittle
behind the horizon

that places can
get under your skin
turn you inside out
and make you button up

………………..on the wrong side


in cities at night

foxes overturn bins of light sleepers
clinically unpick dead bones of take-aways
and sashay away deaf to sirens
that spike through night air

unobstructed you accelerate
through gears of sleep….I reverse
to a window seeking culprits
but only gangs of October wind

loiter on corners belowchase plastic
bags that escape witch-like or hang
impaled on branches….as traffic rests
sharpened sounds of night emerge

a bruised can drums past margins
of parked cars….inside park gates
an owl hoots derision at a whining
passenger jet blinking in blackness

I swell night’s underbelly in a crowd
of one….people and things merge
snake hope and doubt….a river
seeking deep and dark recesses

can’t stand still….turn off or sleep
and cities at night are clocks
that count time….unlike people
like you and….occasionally I


Dr Paul Waring, a retired clinical psychologist lives in Wirral, UK. He once designed menswear and, in the 1980’s, was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. To date, his work has appeared in Reach Poetry, Eunoia Review, The Red Ceilings, Optimum Poetry Zine and will feature soon in the Northampton Poetry Review and Amaryllis Poetry. More examples of his work can be found at https://waringwords.wordpress.com twitter: @drpaulwaring

Melanie Branton – three poems

After Larkin

The vast, warm store on the High Street,
pimping overpriced clothes. An overheated house
of mandatory fun, where placards
shriek, “Mix It Up!”, “Playful Colours!”
above rails of sour lemons, hard emeralds, thorned roses,
chains, belts, clutches, tights, corsets,
wire cages trimmed with lace, deceitful
whites that you know will renege
to grey within a couple of washes,
where uniforms with clipboards
guard a chilly hall of mirrors.
They tag you with a number, before
hiding you behind a heavy curtain.

But past the columns of structured separates,
past the headless mannequins twisted
into seductive poses, past a line of twill slacks
pressed into knife pleats confronting you,
a flight of airforce blue, a whole flotilla of navies,
sprawl Men’s Casuals. Charcoal that glows
into umber, groves of olive, a Sahara
of khaki opens out before you. Airy
boxers flap in the breeze from the fan,
elasticated slips bunch on a pair of thrusting hips,
Y-fronts, algebraic in their mysteries, enfold
a value you’ll never find, an insoluble equation

that warns us we will never know what men are,
or what they do, that they will always lounge
beyond the limits of our striplit section,
loose knit, light jersey leisurewear
printed with cartoon characters.


The Guardians

I use the names of people I love,
people who were once briefly kind to me,
as passwords, talismans I touch
several times a day, my fingers

seeking out their gentle kiss in the keys
to my treasure chest, my word hoard.
They stand sentry, ward off harm.
I type and, by the magic of megabytes,
they are transfigured into little stars.

I wish upon them.


Instructions for Candidates

Do not turn over your paper
until instructed to do so.

You may attempt the questions in
any order you like.
You do not have to answer
in full sentences.
Some sections of the paper will be
multiple choice.

All work submitted must be
the candidate’s own.
Do not write in the margins.
Write clearly and legibly
in black ink.
If you make a mistake,
draw a line through it
with a ruler
and start again.
You will not be marked on your spelling.

If there is anything you do not understand,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.
If you require any additional equipment,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.
If you feel unwell,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.

It is the candidate’s own responsibility
to ensure that he or she manages the time wisely:
you will not be told how much time you have left.

When told to stop writing,
put your pen down immediately.
You must leave the examination room in silence.

The following page has been left intentionally blank.


Melanie Branton is a poet and spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her first collection will be published by Oversteps Books towards the end of 2017.