Meggie Royer – three poems


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.


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,

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

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 about 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. (

M Stone – three poems


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


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

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.


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).

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.


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


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.


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
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

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 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.