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.

Daughter Lost | Scott Ragland

Scudding clouds dimmed the window light, rendering Mary’s notebook barely visible in the darkness, but she adhered to her duty and continued transcribing her father’s verses.

“You must not fail me in heeding my Muse,” he said, “before my other faculties abandon me as well.”

He sat in his usual chair, head bowed, sightless eyes lidded.

“Although uttered in language elevated beyond your comprehension, the words I relay represent the pinnacle of poetic endeavor, I assure you,” he said, “and will forever move men’s minds to contemplate God’s intentions for mankind.”

Mary dipped her pen into the inkwell.

“No doubt, father,” she said.

Her fingers cramped as she wrote his next dictation: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

And to serve in Hell?

She closed the notebook, silently as a Bible after prayer, and let her father’s words fall into darkness.


Scott Ragland has an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from UNC Greensboro in the U.S. Before taking a writing hiatus, he had several stories published, most notably in Writers’ Forum, Beloit Fiction Journal, and The Quarterly. More recently, his work has appeared in apt, The Conium Review, The Nottingham Review, Ambit, The Common (online), Fiction International, Cherry Tree, and CutBank (online), among others. He also has flashes forthcoming in Zizzle Literary and the minnesota review. He lives in the U.S. in Carrboro, N.C., with his wife, two dogs, and a cat. His three kids have left the nest.

Eagle at Beinn Mhòr | Matthew M. C. Smith

a skiff of snow, veils of mists
a surge of tides, swell and rise
around the broken steeple
of mighty Beinn Mhòr

we shudder towards land, gazing as watchers
the black-stacked cliffs, the rock-strewn acres
flocks of gulls above wide waters
a call, a pointing to white-tailed eagle

the shadow falls in glacier-white gloom
hunter from crags with angel-span
it cracks water, clinging prey
with ascent imperial

to colossal throne


Matthew M. C. Smith is a Welsh poet from Swansea. He has been published in Panning for Poems, Re-side and The Seventh Quarry and won the RS Thomas Prize for Poetry at the Gwyl Cybi festival in 2018.  Matthew is the Editor for new micro-poetry broadside project Black Bough Poetry. Twitter @MatthewMCSmith @blackboughpoems

Amanuensis | Paul Bluestein

The footprints of crotchets and semiquavers
climb and descend. Quavers and minims
leap up and down the staircase
that is the lines and spaces of the staff.
Accidentals, scattered among Good Boys
who Deserve Fine Awards and
All Cows that Eat Grass,
wait in the expectant silence
before the music begins,
to trip us on the journey from
whole tone to whole tone

I can transcribe precisely the what
and how of the composer,
but cannot translate the who –
the passion and intensity..
With ornamentals and articulations,
I can capture what was in the head,
but not what was in the heart.

Set aside the distracting precision
that notes and rhythm demand.
Look beyond the prison bars of the staves
to find the composer’s true path,
not from brain to paper,
but from soul to fingers
and on into the world.


Paul Bluestein is a physician (done practicing), a blues musician (still practicing) and a dedicated Scrabble player (yes, ZAX is a word). He lives in Connecticut with his wife and the two dogs who rescued him. When the Poetry Muse calls, he answers, even if it’s during dinner.

dear joan | Sophie J. K. Scott

my maid of orléans. you haven’t replied to my words
since may. i fear you don’t want to know what the angels

and i were discussing over breakfast. we have such
gallant tongues. you used to lend them an ear, too

but it’s a wonder you heard us with all that chainmail
breathing into your neck. i miss when you had a cherub’s

face, before your father tried to weave joan into some man’s
fable. was it their trickery that carved you into something

coarse? or was it the way you led that war. you raged
through those battlefields like the river loire. you were

so pretty as a pageboy. you always hated that, but my
divine eyes never wavered. nor did my voice. i gave you

michael. i gave you catherine. i gave you margaret. i gave
you all the deities and all their sweetest murmurs. i haven’t

stopped sending my word down to earth. i coaxed you all
through rouen. i was the englishman who gave you the

blinking cross you tucked in your dress. i still blink at you
now, though you’re thrice burnt through. though your ashes

tear up and down the seine. though you have no neck &
no ears & no tongue. though you have none of this, but

the memory of a stubborn mouth that crowed out i die
through you. i died through you. & the flames spat your feet.


Sophie J.K. Scott is a history student studying at Cardiff University and drinking lots of tea.

Oleo Again (Naturally) | Laura Yash

During the war, I longed for butter. Not the paltry scraps they slid over to you in exchange for the wretched ration card, but mountains of it. Rivers. I wanted to bathe in butter, in the same manner than Cleopatra washed herself in virginal milk. To clog my pores with it. Become butter, as it were. I was so wearied by the hardships of battle, the indignities and privations and constant demand for sacrifice (I won’t let anyone say we on the Home Front didn’t suffer; one doesn’t need to sit in a tank to suffer). There was only one way to remedy the situation: I needed to live deliciously again. I needed the ambrosia, the manna of butter. But Amy – the girl I shared a bed with at the time, my lover if you prefer – didn’t understand. She got what she could, blessèd thing – but it was never enough. The problem, you see, is she would only use legitimate means.

“It’s not right,” she said, whenever I mentioned the black market. Her head could not be turned from Mrs Simm’s dreary, righteous little shop, not with promises of chocolate or new stockings or any one of my descriptions of the back alley’s bounties.

“I need it,” I told her, again and again. Writers, I explained, have delicate stomachs – to go with their delicate nerves – and their appetites need to sated. Not just that, but respected, as much as you would respect a diabetic’s insulin. Or a blind man’s cane.

She offered me her government-sanctioned share always, the dear, but it wasn’t enough. My craving only grew more insistent.

“Rapunzel’s father,” I said to her (wanting to use a reference she, poor pet, could understand) “risked it all for his wife. The woman wanted the witch’s greens and he got them for her, knowing if he was caught it could mean instant death. Or worse – transformation into a frog, or some other slithery thing.”

“He was caught,” Amy replied. “And they lost the little girl.”

Truth be told, I didn’t remember every detail of the story when I first cited it (what with all my schooling, I had moved quite beyond those childhood tales, as you can imagine), but I thought it was right to stand my ground.

“When he first stepped into the witch’s garden, he did not know what would happen: only that his pregnant wife was hungry, and he was willing to do whatever he could to help her.”

“But the witch took their daughter,” Amy insisted, “and she wouldn’t have, neither, if Rapunzel’s dad just bought his wife radishes from the shop, like any other bloody man would do.”

“Amy, I am pregnant, in my own way, with my work, and I need – ”

“Any fool knows you shouldn’t be messing around with witches. He was asking for trouble, and he got it.”

There was no point talking to her when she got into one of those moods. I’d try to reach her again, I thought, when she was in a more sensible frame of mind. So I graciously swept up my books and left her to grumble over fairy tales, all alone in that mouldy little living room.

She tried to placate me with margarine.

“It’s almost as good,” she said. She had slathered the tricksy stuff all over a slice of toast, ruining the bread underneath it.

Margarine. Mar-gar-ine. Marr my tongue with this forgery, I thought. Jar my taste buds with this fake filth. In-decent pretender to butter’s throne.

I’m not an unreasonable man: though I had little hope, I tried her yellow Judas. Attempted to show some Blitz Spirit and make do with muck. But I’m not some celestial creature – I’m flesh and blood, and I can only bear so much.

“Get me butter,” I told her, one wan November afternoon. “Or get out.”

The troops were out in Egypt, doing something or other – it was hard to keep up. What were they even fighting for, I wondered, when it had all gone to seed over here. When the krauts were bombing Canterbury and the milk ration had been cut to two and a half pints a week.

Amy didn’t even look at me. “I can’t do it, Bob,” she said. She was hunched over a pan frying a half or a quarter of an onion. Frying it in oleo, no doubt. “If you want it so much, you can get it.”

I wasn’t quite ready for that. “Should I grab your basket and put on your apron, too? Would you have me knit my own hat and make jam for the boys at the front in Cairo or wherever the bloody hell they are?”

“My brother’s one of them, Bob.”

“Then by all means, send him some biscuits or some woolen underpants. Just bring me butter.”

“I won’t go against the war effort.”

There was no going back after that: she wasn’t a woman any more. She had been transformèd into a Ministry of Food poster.

So she went, in the end, to dig for victory or to make ammunition or to be a nurse overseas or to tuck the children left behind by her gallant soldiers into bed each night. She was replaced, of course, by a Sarah, and then Sarah by Ruth, and Ruth by Gerty. There’s always a woman in my flat, some Jenny or another. So why linger on Amy?


Laura Yash was born on the fourth of July in Chicago (her mum went into labour at a parade). Patriotic birth aside, she moved to the UK aged three months, and is now a Londoner with a confusing accent. Recently, Laura has been spending some time writing flash fiction around the subject of margarine. She really believes in oleo’s thematic potential.

Peripatetics | Jack D. Harvey

We have here to speak
of stone benches,
hard and uncomfortable,
mostly antiquarian,
of peculiar significance
in the lives of those citizens
of the world, those old Greeks
and the others,
scholars and vagrants,
walking and sitting, sitting and walking,
thoughtful heads, sensitive souls,
sore behinds;
philosophers all, of one
sort or another,
but a hard bench
is a hard bench.

The way in which they
won comfort from the hard stone
was by fortitude or willpower
or plain indifference,
standing the pain on its head,
or, for the less limber of mind
or more resourceful,
by collecting rags in the streets
or boughs fallen
from trees along the concourse.

Symbolizing the common rights
of noble-minded men they sit.
Their tired feet become
precious necessary relics,
delicate and easily broken.

Their thoughts collapse
on their own lives,
troubled by too much
time spent on the road;
the bleak consequences of
loneliness and deprivation
make them old
before they know it,
cold to the world
and even wisdom and
history have no comfort,
no good end.

Like the hero of the Odyssey
they return eventually,
but they return unrecognized
and leave again incognito.

Sitting alone, in the days,
in the nights, wayward
in their thoughts,
the history of Rome, eternal city,
compassed in blocks of
stone on the hills;
the tragic emperor’s reign
no more than the life
of a precocious child.

 


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

Cape Horn | Jack D. Harvey

Read the nebulous twilight
before you try to take wing
against the night,
black as a crack
or bright with the moon;
read the silvery leaves
of the willows
before you venture midstream
in a canoe silent as the grass.

All the loose beginnings,
the ventures undertaken, understood
turn on dangerous flights;
benevolence of angels
or devils,
freshening the poorest enterprise.
The die, once cast,
turns joyous, nervous,
in the air,
no longer a cube
in fateful repose
but a revolving shape,
ending its journey
and beginning anew.

Let go! Hold fast!
Under white cliffs
by a far-off sea
ships are drawn up,
the argosy assembled.

It’s time to leave now,
time to strike out
new ways,
leave
before bell rings,
or letters come,
before cock crows,
or the law is changed;
cross the hall, the threshold,
shut the door behind you;
leave the old land.

There before you
grim and shining,
the sea’s unblinking eye,
the voyage south;
again and again
against the cold,
against the antipodes
that restless bitter water,
rising and falling,
that shouting restless voice,
warring against the night,
borne away on the wind.

Beyond Patagonia,
beyond the unsinging lines
of enormous deliberate seas,
a dream, your dream,
in the coming dark
bright as a bird;
again and again
rising
at world’s end
the loom of the cape;
again and again,
restless, monotonous,
the same fateful danger,
the same fateful repose.


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and a number of other on-line and in print poetry magazines. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, N.Y. He was born and worked in upstate New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.

The little train of the Somme | Brenda Donoghue

The big trains muscle into the station and quiver over you.

But you can travel where the larger locomotives dread.

Soft meadows and slippery tillage hold no terror for you.

You are agile, your route moved easily, dancing out of reach of attacking fire.

You dart out at dusk or dawn when the half-light shrouds your smoke from  the enemy.

Narrow tracks carry your modest carriages filled with hay for the horses and bread for the men.

You deliver love letters and stories of family.

You are gentle when you fetch wounded limbs and broken men and body baskets home.


Brenda Donoghue lives in County Cork in Ireland. She has had work published in Crannóg literary magazine and in the ‘From the well’ anthologies 2017 and 2018. She has had a play performed by the Cork Arts Theatre (2017). She achieved an ‘editors choice’ in the Flashback fiction competition November 2018.

The Great Experiment | Carl Boon

First there was an uncertain wind
bearing east then west,
sometimes battering us & sometimes
it felt like romance. A blanket to shield
the dying, a blanket given by a lover.
So we decided to plant trees
where there were none,
build caves, and converse
on notions of longitude, latitude,
parallels & God. We dreamed tigers
before we saw them & made living statues
of ourselves in the sun.

As the centuries passed we ate the corn
then told stories of our eating it;
we built bridges and wondered
of the ones who’d see them fall—
if they’d remember us who’d fallen for them.
One midsummer morning came a call
that we needed protection, sacrifice,
certain roots to make us delirious.
We had to be more than we were,
they said—longer arms, a restructuring
of the mountains. Our very flesh needed
new considerations.

I took my sister by the hand, we stopped
in a field of dying strawberries,
& surveyed the behind-us: little fires,
toddlers chanting with sticks at their hips,
the colors of the earth as yet unnamed.
I carried her forward with the thought
she needed reassurance, sunflowers,
days to repeat. Now she’s tall & I’m tottering
toward senility, the all of all the nothings
we’ve never been. They’ll put me gently
on boards of pine one day
& carry me away.


Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie SchoonerPosit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.