Publication | Michael Penny

I have nowhere else
to leave these words.

I tried hanging them
from the cedar’s baroque branches
but couldn’t climb that high.

And I attempted to hide them
in the granite’s crystals
but light demanded more.

I brought them to the beach
but the waves washed away
even my intent.

The night’s rats investigated,
gnawed and nibbled,
but would not commit to feed.

Even the maggots
and their friends of decay
said my words weren’t ready.

For a moment I hoped
the wind would
cloud-lift them.

In the end,
I still had to open them
with no other place for them

once hidden in my heart
but now let go and here.


Michael Penny has published five books, lives on an island near Vancouver, and occasionally consults on the regulation of lawyers.

At Least That Moment | Andrew Shields

… die Aussicht auf eine gute Aussicht …
(Christof Hamann and Alexander Honold,
Kilimandscharo: Die deutsche Geschichte eines afrikanischen Berges)

When Sisyphus was almost at the peak,
the clouds came down, surrounding him with fog.
He reached a flatter spot where he could rest,
although the damp still found its way beneath
the tattered rags the gods had given him.
He watched the dewdrops forming on the stone
but could not see around that bitter burden
to guess how soon the clouds might dissipate,
or if they might come down enough to leave
the summit in the sunlight and the sky,
a sight that always made him feel as if
he’d stolen something precious from the gods
before the stone began to roll back down
and left him, for at least that moment, free.


Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems “Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong” was published by Eyewear in June 2015. His band Human Shields released the album “Somebody’s Hometown” in 2015 and the EP “Défense de jouer” in 2016.

36 | Birdy Odell

36


Birdy Odell is a Canadian artist and writer whose work highlights themes of death, childhood, abandonment and fear.  She works primarily in found words and flash fiction, and is the winner of the Saskatchewan Library Association Award for Book Spine Poetry, 2017 and was named 3rd place winner for Blank Spaces Magazine’s Writing Prompt Contest for Flash Fiction August, 2019.  Her work has appeared in Barren MagazineThe Cabinet of HeedPicture the Dead , Nightingale and Sparrow and  will appear in upcoming issues of Dark Ink,  Blank SpacesTwist in Time and an upcoming anthology to be published by Vociferous Press.   You can connect with her on ‘Instagram’,  ‘Commaful’ and ‘Twitter’ @birdyodell and through her website    https://birdyodell.wixsite.com

Everything has to Rest and Reset | Tim Suermondt

History cools its feet in the creek
and the world stands still, no moves

negative or positive can be made.
When History stands, shaking off

rivulets of water, the world commences,
back in business. “Time to stir things

up again,” History says, not worrying
what the result will be, “so many people”

it once sighed, watching a group of them
weeping, “if they only knew it’s just my job.”


Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL  from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Stand Magazine, Galway Review, Bellevue Literary Review, UCity Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.

Maeve | Billy Fenton

They say you still stand upright
inside this mound of stones,
since before the time of Christ,
sea billowing behind you like a cape,
mantle of trees and mountains
stretching as far as your eye can see,
a weapon upright in your hand,
to fend off the unwelcome,
sure to come from the shadows
between earth and sky.

I sit down beside you,
scan the land I was born in,
know for fact what is
beyond the shadows.

You do not ask me.

I do not tell.

I try to imagine your world,
like so many who came before me,
who created a land out of legend,
merged space with longing,
let meaning and story rhyme.

[Named for the mythical Irish queen]


Billy Fenton writes poetry and short stories. His work has been published in the Irish Times, Poetry Ireland ReviewBangor Literary Journal, Crannog, Galway Review, and Cattails. He was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award in 2018, and for a Write by the Sea Poetry award in 2019. He can be found on Twitter @BillyFenton7

The Pact | Juliette van der Molen

deep in the dark
of the barn a lone
candle flicks and licks
ordinary spaces into
the spectral unseen.

we are hidden here,
all of us,
cloaked bedclothes
rustling to huddle for
warmth and maybe
protection, though
it’s not a thing
we need by daylight—
here in the blackness
privilege hides.

Betty[i] cradles the egg,
the head of a newborn
in a palm untouched
still smoothed, innocent,
and she won’t say how
she knows,
won’t tell us
who told her—
there’s power in that.

Abigail slides the jar
so ordinarily clear
against the straw,
nestled in the dirt,
a vessel readied in offering
her lips pressed tight
knowing she must place it back
precisely, lest the blank space
on the cupboard shelf bleat
her secrets
to the godless god fearing.

Ann brings metal,
filled with water,
sloshed through a wood
that slowed her
terror pressed steps for
this night, the most important
of all nights, the third leg,
and eye,
and ear,
for the necessary posture.

they won’t call it witchcraft,
this simple scrying,
a peek,
a wink,
into the future of hims and he.
no pins,
no chants,
no effigy,
just milky ribboned egg white
twirled into water—
readied with future for all to see.

held high in candle light
twists and twirls,
who is he?
this is what they need to know,
all that matters,
their future husbands-to-be.

breath held,
they will not disturb
Venus, as she spins
fortunes watery web.

a key?
a stalk of wheat?
a cross?
but no—
it is a coffin[ii],
death bell,
drawn by the hand of Satan.

a muffled shriek and shake,
glass slipped to break,
this whiteness now gleaming black,
these three,
now joined by secret[iii]—
Salem’s first witchcraft pact.

 


References

[i] Elizabeth (Betty) Parris, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam, Jr. were involved in a form of Oomancy (divination by eggs) using a technique called the ‘venus-glass’. This involved dropping an egg white into a glass of water and reading the shapes created to determine who their future husband might be and what his occupation would be.
[ii] Prior to the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, a coffin was seen during one session of the ‘venus-glass’, which reportedly terrified the girls and led to them having fits akin to possession.
[iii] Betty, Abigail and Ann never admitted to the Oomancy and instead chose to blame their afflictions on others once their physician determined that the only reasonable explanations for their fits was a response to witchcraft.


Writer’s Commentary

The Pact is pivotal to the story in discussing possible motivations for first three afflicted girls in Salem.  It is rumoured that they may have engaged in their own form of fortune telling and divination. When I started to think about the fact that these girls were young teenagers, it made me think back to my own impressionable time at that age. Many a sleep over involved half baked seances and ouija boards. We sought answers for a future that was uncertain and wanted more power than we had as young girls. This theory, that these girls seeing a coffin during their scrying, could have terrified them so much that it affected them physically and emotionally is one that I am interested in exploring. Like so many children, they’ll do just about anything to save their own skins, including lying about their ‘afflictions’ to the clergy and the doctor of Salem. These lies, whatever the motivation kicked off a chain of events that led to the death and trauma of many innocent people. I shudder to think what might have happened if Salem had access to social media channels during that time. What is real? What is fake? What is the agenda behind someone creating lies and accusations? These issues did not die with those in Salem and did not stop with the end of the trials, these are issues that have extended into our future


Juliette van der Molen is an expat poet living in Wales. She is an intersectional feminist and a member of the LGBTQIA community. She is a poetry editor for Mookychick Magazine and author of Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse CollectionMother, May I? and Anatomy of A Dress. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2018 and Best of the Net 2019. Her work has also appeared in Burning House Press, Memoir Mixtapes, Collective Unrest and several other publications. Her forthcoming collection Confess: The untold story of Dorothy Good will be published by TwistiT Press in October 2020.

 

Who Will Tell My Story? | Ivanka Fear

Hers was a face lined with time.
88 years of drawing on life,
sketches of the past century
etchings of a history – her story
a story only she knew
in its entirety
pencilled by her own hand.

The lines blurred as I stared and I saw
my own mother’s face
in her face.
(The mind misguides.)

Hers were eyes bright with life.
88 years of recorded time,
snapshots of defining moments
frames of a feature film presentation – her film
the one film only she ever saw from start to finish
of such epic proportions
directed by her own vision.

Her eyes teared up as I pictured her and I looked into
my own mother’s eyes
in her eyes.
(The eyes beguile.)
Hers was a mind filled with life.
88 years of stories stored in time,
accounts of incredible adventures
tales of woe and amusements – her musings
musings only she remembered
as clearly as yesterday
filed away in her own head.

Her voice faded as I listened and I heard
my own mother’s voice
in her voice.
(The ears deceive.)

Hers was a body wrinkled by time.
88 years of carving out a life,
a series of short stories
volumes of somebody’s life – her body
a body of tomes only she read
from cover to cover
written from her own heart.

Her body crumpled as I watched and I saw
my own mother’s body
in her body.
(The heart lies to itself.)

I wanted to hug her.
Because I knew.

It’s up to me to tell my mother’s story now.
And then, who will tell it when I’m no longer able?

Who will tell mine?


Ivanka Fear is a retired teacher and a writer from Ontario, Canada. She holds a B.A. and B.Ed., majoring in English and French literature, from Western Ontario. Her poems and short stories appear in or are forthcoming in Spadina Literary Review, Montreal Writes, Spillwords, Commuterlit, Canadian Stories, October Hill, Adelaide Literary, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Sirens Call, Utopia Science Fiction, Bewildering Stories, Polar Borealis, Aphelion, Wellington Street Review, The Literary Hatchet, Sad Girl Review, and Lighten Up. She is currently working on her first novel.

 

The Last Housewife | John Grey

She ironed in the parlor,
eyes on high alert
as her favorite soap operas
reached their latest flashpoint
while her hand methodically
moved back and forth
across her husband’s shirts,
trousers, underwear,
to the soft hiss of steam
that dissipated in the air.

She was more concerned
with whether the handsome doctor
would see through
the duplicitous nurse
than if a tablecloth was wrinkled,
a handkerchief scorched.
The various TV plots intrigued her.
And there were no plots
in her daily life.
People stayed together
just the way she ironed –
through habit.

She prepared his meals
to the sound of the radio:
the romantic trials and trysts of others
with melodies she could hum along to.
Young love caught her attention.
Old love followed recipes by rote.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.

Damon and Pythias | Nick Soluri

for Mitchell Toolan

How the bad ones let us try, let us
see what we can handle ourselves
before they take ownership of our bodies.
They let us play the game, let us sweat,
and always seem to stack the rules against us.
In the dark hours I know I was close,
out there in the deep water, letting it fill
my lungs and cascade behind my skin
like a waterfall of broken-hearted tears.
It might be a sad truth that people will
not protect each other, but they can still
give each other enough hope to keep going.
So I swam as hard as my arms would
take me until I reached a shore, and
right now I’m running barefoot through
the thick of it, letting the sand cut my feet
until the blood cakes up between my toes.
It is not so much that they did not want
us to win, but that I can almost feel them
cheering in the distance, waiting to see
my battered mind and body arrive
holding my fist high in the air, and
hear the whole world roar.

 


Writer’s Commentary

“Damon and Pythias” at its core, is a poem about friendship. I wanted to take a spin on one of my friend’s favorite Greek myths and relate it to how he helped me out during a particularly dark period in my life. Without him, I don’t know what would’ve happened, and I wanted to write something for him as a thank you.


Nick Soluri is a writer from New York. His poetry has appeared in Five:2:One Magazine, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Ghost City Review, Boston Accent, Albany Poets, Occulum, and others. He tweets @nerkcelery

Manhattan, 1971 | Lynne Cattafi

After Robert Caro

Someday, let us sit on this bench and reflect on the gratitude of man.
Robert Moses

I am awake before the alarm clock,
remembering the day at the edge of the Hudson,
the lowest point on the map,
surveying before me the scarred and filthy railroad tracks,
grit, mud. Death Avenue, they called it. Wretched.

I imagined what no one else could,
saw past the wasteland to the blue river, the Palisades.
And I made it in my own image. Me, a Jew from New Haven
(they never let me forget), a university man.

Now, my reflection in the light of Lincoln Center.
My light in the spans, cantilevers, the trusses
of the Verrazano, the mighty Triborough.
My sweat in the dank tar of the Cross Bronx.
My sunlight over the sands of Fire Island.

Bella said, Public service is the noblest of causes, son,
so I gave them an escape from their gritty reality,
a way to trespass on another kind of life,
forget cramped tenements, filthy with vermin,
the only light a pinch of sky visible
in the inches between colliding buildings,
sooty bricks and mortar.

But the floor opened up under our feet, they said.
Your dreams ran ramshod through city blocks. Lives.
(You call these lives?)
What could we do in the face of your power?
What could we do? they asked.

You could be grateful, I say. Only God created more than I did.
Why weren’t they grateful?


Lynne Cattafi teaches English to middle schoolers at a private school in New Jersey. When she’s not teaching pre-teens to love writing poetry and reading books, she enjoys drinking coffee, building Lego cities from scratch with her children, walking her beagle, and reading historical fiction and mysteries. Her poetry has appeared in Elephants Never, Marias at Sampaguitas and Vita Brevis. She can be found on Twitter at @lynnecatt.