Sick Bay | Gareth Culshaw

(Based on the short story, Gusev, by Anton Chekhov)

Gusev lies in the sick bay. The ship breaks up
waves that are in search of beaches. The iron
groans from squeezing between currents.

Illnesses feed off his body then wait to jump
into another. His eyes scratch away the morning
as he wakes. He tries to yawn but his jaw

is a rusty hinge on a cemetery gate.
The boat goes up and down kneading the sea.
Gusev thinks of home. His family and friends talk,

he replies with unhinged words. Slobber slugs
down the side of his mouth. The ship calms down
happy at last to be on the sea. A porthole is open

allows a breeze to escape the outside. The heat crushes
the skin of the ill. Gusev grabs his knees, so they
don’t spring his body into the sea. Gusev asks

a soldier to take him up top deck. They look into nothing.
The waves try to outdo each other, manure and hay fills
Gusev’s nostrils.

‘There’s nothing to be frightened of. It’s just scary,
like being stuck in a dark forest.’ says Gusev.

Three days later Gusev dies. They sew him up
in sailcloth, fill it with iron and place him on a plank.
The priest speaks then the board is tilted.


Gareth lives in Wales. His first collection, The Miner is available from Futurecycle. His second is due in 2020. His main critics are his dogs, Jasper & Lana who prefer sticks to poems.

He can be found on Twitter at @CulshawPoetry and his website, gculshaw.co.uk

Fy Duw, A David Jones Pastiche | Gareth Culshaw

I said Oh! where is the song?
I looked side to side.
(He’s teased me in the past
with his shadows in sunlight.)
I knocked the door for his answer.
I have knocked since childhood
waiting to be announced.
I have walked my feet over the paltry tarmac.
I have travelled along the dead leaves
ancestry beliefs from book to song.
I have blinded my brain
searching the sky and sun.
I have sensed His bruises
in wood and stone.
I have glanced at technology.
I have listened to words
without bigotry.
I have kept my breath
when in the unknown.
I can walk past Him
when my head is in the next century.

I have gazed at the sky to see the birds in case I might
hear the voices of the earth, in case I might believe that
God is in their throats. I have sung to the oak tree, be my
father and for the grassy fields I thought I sensed some
murmurings of His creature, but Fy Duw, my ears heard the silence
of mining and the horrifying coin a coliseum-glue….O Fy Duw.


Gareth lives in Wales. His first collection, The Miner is available from Futurecycle. His second is due in 2020. His main critics are his dogs, Jasper & Lana who prefer sticks to poems.

He can be found on Twitter at @CulshawPoetry and his website, gculshaw.co.uk

Black Tuesday | Holly Salvatore

cheap and dirty
I break bottles in the driveway when I’m angry
our house sinks a little more each day
we reinforce with I beams
bats colonize the attic
I stain my skin orange with ore
bathing naked in the creek

I want to tell you a story about a boy selling newspapers, breathing ozone through his paper mask The streetlights are on and I can’t breath I love you
I want to tell you a story about infidelity, but instead I tell you a story about smog
so thick I cut words in it, my hands are stained black
You tell me to go wash them without even looking

“There is no royal road to the solution of smoke.” — St Louis Post Dispatch
on November 28th, 1939, we all go blind as an inversion chokes the city
I blow the coal dust out of my nose until my sleeve is ruined
Remember this? How we tamed nature and killed it? We said we were sorry, we just didn’t know
it couldn’t live in captivity
when the sun doesn’t come out for the 9th day in a row
I think of you kissing me and nothing else

carbonite solarite
this can’t go on forever
you call me your dirty girl and I think “high-sulfur, bituminous,
I’m your dirty, dirty coal”
back at the house we replace the floors
crooked windows and doors
I tell you about my past life as the smoke commissioner
how I did my best
but it wasn’t enough

St Louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cartoon from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, November 26th, 1939, pg 18


Writer’s Commentary

On November 28th, 1939, St Louis, MO had what Wikipedia calls “a severe smog event.” In actuality, St Louis had been having air pollution issues almost since its founding; the city passed its first smoke ordinance in 1893. By the 1930s, St Louis was the most polluted city in the country. In large part, the smog was due to the use of “soft” high-sulfur, bituminous coal mined from southern Illinois just across the river. Bituminous coal burns “dirty,” but it was cheap and there was tons nearby, so everyone used it.

Seventy years later, my parents bought a house that was built on one of the old Peabody coal strip mines in the area. Each year, it sinks approximately 1/16th of an inch into the improperly re-filled mine, resulting in slanted flooring and crooked doors/windows. Set something round down and it will make its way across the room.

So, this is the history of a city that brought itself back from the brink and the history of my life there.

It’s also a way of self-soothing about climate change, because I feel powerless.


Holly Salvatore is a farmer in Boulder, CO. They tweet @Queen_Compost, and are excellent at naming chickens. Find them outside.

Gardens are for burying secrets | Nikkin Rader

don’t let him in your house,
so I dug a hole and put our found corpse in it,
but he began to sprout,
a lazarus taxon I can’t unmouth,
reappear in fossil record–
phoenix fire or witch inspired.

he wept like my father under blue TV lighting in the dead of night,
but redhead deadman risen, made only to unearth the crops–
miraculous lies spewing from liquored lips

besides magic protection for the openings of his body, man has equal need for the magic protection over openings to his dwelling, roofs of holy places, windows of holy places, a lust for strong protection more important than ordinary domestic windows. Without chimney, smoke from fires can sustain you. Travelers cannot escape the stoking, the he-smoke and she-smoke, other-smokes ignored.

or, liveth and believeth in the rise and fall of sun, to street dance on uncut rocks by moonlight days after the tomb-vowels: he who thou lovest etched over planty arcadia or echoed near our abode. no more plague on these stems from nearby death sea, just pesticides to keep the undesirables out, wrongdoer bugs exiled, sickle backs of heathens, tying all hoe down, hose ‘round tree, enmity rising from rosebeds–

he came in grave-cloth and stunk of wet shit, a beetle dwelling in his eye, black as soil, its iris wisp or sea-wine. ever since he came here the fungal curse returned, tainting berries and roots buried. sulky vision intrusive on tongue. you are not the same man born from below, no, you

became something else when under the earth, skin rotting, mind melting, in want.
wishing instead for him to shed his skin for me to wear, then go disappear back to–
from whence did you come?

I tell creature to hop o’er my fence made of dogwood tau,
but he leaves behind crushed butterflies,
worms crawling over aluminum can tabs, chewing plastic. if only
I could ground his bones into compost until we are all barren land-selves.

bodies bore of gender yet we do not make for lovers, taking to empty dirt hole.
keepers abstaining roamers thru bay of salt circles and needle thread traps,
we tire of them and spike faucet, water spew & shout:
let me cultivate the trance that burns cloudy– wets our palms splayed over fire–

sleepy somber would you drop arsenic down wishing wells or fleece wool ‘round neck
cool in early morning light? seen uphill: the man reborn of unwanted might
running down towards town before children wake.

remember, not all dead things stay lying and
not all living things simple kept– breaking bread–
shaking off what thoughts of you burrowed into my peach–


Nikkin Rader has degrees in poetry, anthropology, philosophy, gender & sexuality, and other humanities and social science.  Her works appear in Occulum, the Mojave Heart Review, peculiars magazine, littledeath lit, and elsewhere.  You can follow her twitter or insta @wecreeptoodeep

An Arkansas Airwoman Cheats Her Death | K. T. Slattery

(i)

I am sure I saw you outside of your house-
But memory refuses you any other backdrop,
A never changing world,
Except at Christmas when four angels
Spelling N O E L adorned the never played piano.
Every year the obligatory Christmas visit
Brought three little girls racing in-
To be the first to play the big joke
Switching them round to spell L E O N.
Your stove and refrigerator as old
As your wooden leg
You refused to have refitted.
All the fixtures in your house
Including your hair and wardrobe
Frozen in decades past.

(ii)

A plane fell from the sky
Crashing through the Live Oaks
Adorning itself with their Spanish Moss
So it hung like tinsel from the wreckage.
Gators scrambled away from the impact
A propeller gradually slowed
Until the words Banks-Maxwell
Revealed themselves upside down.
For four long days the propeller stood still.
You kept your life, but lost your leg
And with it your spirit.

(iii)

When you put on your old jazz records
Did you imagine yourself whole again?
A woman who saw U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico
From a cargo ship bound for South America
Beheld the birth of jazz
Saw Satchmo’s cheeks puffed out like two Frigate birds
Accomplished pilot
Training the men deemed worthy to join the cause.

 

Unsung, you sacrificed your leg and more-
Then returned to Arkansas
To a piano that never made music
In a house where time stood still.


Writer’s Commentary

From the moment I started writing, I have wanted to compose something that pays tribute to my great aunt, Adele Thorell – a woman who was ahead of her time and witnessed so much history first-hand. I remember a woman who listened to jazz incessantly and never left Stuttgart, Arkansas. However, she was so much more than this. Attending Tulane- she was in New Orleans for the birth of jazz. Whilst travelling to see her brother in South America, she and her parents were forced to stay below deck for most of the trip when U-boats were spotted in the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, an accomplished pilot, she trained fighter pilots during World War II. Her adventures came to an abrupt halt when she crashed in the swamps of New Orleans and lost her leg. She returned to Arkansas and never left again.


K.T. Slattery was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up just across the state line in Mississippi. She attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, where she studied English Literature and Philosophy. K.T. now resides on a mountain in the West of Ireland with her husband and an ever increasing amount of rescue pets.

Find her on Twitter at @KTSlattery1

The Litigator | A. M. Walsh

Attorneys study every letter;
in smoke and stench they hone their stings– Osip Mandelstam

My desk is                    a paper armoury:
the keys clink              like a chain lifting ordnance
into                                my keyboard
but there is no            boom
my broadside              is
just a                             swoosh.

I am a hired gun         for different faces,
a professional             chameleon.
I’ll name the price      for you to become
my temporary             enemy.


A. M. Walsh is a poet and lawyer who lives in York, UK and started writing poetry in 2018. He has been published in the web magazines Chaleur and Royal Rose and has work forthcoming with Drunk Monkeys. He is presently working towards publishing a pamphlet.

You can find him on Twitter at @amwpoet and Instagram at @amw_poet

 When People Ask Me So How Do You Feel About the War in Ukraine? | Nicole Yurcaba

Contains references to violence and rape

A Ukrainian can be pushed down for a long time, but when his forehead touches the ground, he’ll rise up and no one will stop him.— an old Ukrainian saying

I think of Evgen, who, five years ago emailed a picture
of his grape-eye and the blood-creek cruising his face.

My father, 75, was in his bedroom, searching for his passport
and packing his suitcase, determined to die in the mother

country. I, at 26, postponed studying literature in Kyiv.
I think how many times I cancelled and re-planned.

It’s too unsafe, my father says. Listen to your father,
my mother pleads. Listen! I am always denied

home, return, chance, existence, identity. I am a woman
of two countries, but in one tanks roll through my wheat-

fields; my sunflower fields, now snow-covered, are imprinted
with artillery and bomb blasts, are stained with the lives

of brothers, of cousins, of sisters and century upon century
of rape and enslavement My willows bend and creak,

and I remember my grandmother, how she wiped tears from my cheek
and said You, like Ukrayina, are large and beautiful—

 a mystery no one’s meant to decode.


Writer’s Commentary

In a Ukrainian family that came to America as political refugees, I learned vast amounts of history. My family is very political, and from a young age I learned to debate not only American politics and history, but also international politics and history, specifically Russo-Ukrainian relations. Because of my family’s history in Ukraine and America, and as many of my family members were imprisoned in Nazi camps, I have a deep interest in World War II. Thus, I admire people like Horace Greasley who defied camp guards and high-ranking Nazi officers. More recently, because of my own desire to return to Ukraine—a return that has been delayed more times than I can count due to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine—my poetry has focused on what “home” is to people like me who live as part of a culture’s diaspora on soil where we don’t necessarily feel we have an identity.


Nicole Yurcaba, a Ukrainian-American writer, teaches in Bridgewater College’s English department, where she also serves as the Assistant Director for the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. Her poems and essays appear journals such as The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Chariton Review, Still: The Journal, OTHER., Junto Magazine, Whiskey Island, The Broadkill Review and many others.  When she is not teaching, writing, or traveling, or dancing to Depeche Mode and Wolfsheim in goth clubs, Yurcaba lives, gardens, and fishes in West Virginia with her fiancé on their mountain homestead.

 She is the Assistant Director of the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, on Twitter at @bwaterpoetfest and  Facebook at (Bridgewater International Poetry Festival).

Disguise | Megha Sood

The acrid smell of the past
that rotten gut-wrenching smell
that fills you with disgust

the reflection of the memory
so deeply etched in your
sullen mind
the one you fervently try to erase
the emptiness,
deeply seeded in your soul

like that in the eyes of the orphan
left at the step
of the church
that metallic taste of
those brackish memories
lodged firmly in the back of your throat

never to be spat our
lodged like the toothpick in
your warm supple throat
every breath brings you pain
grief changes you in different ways

you build up a facade
built on the broken lies and empty truth
those empty smiles try fervently to
cover your broken truth
which rears its head then and again

like those incense sticks in the graveyard
my broken smile
disguises the pain.


Megha Sood lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is a contributing author at GoDogGO Cafe, Candles Online, Free Verse Revolution, Whisper and the Roar, Poets Corner and contributing editor at Ariel Chart.

Her 290+ works have been featured in 521 Magazine #Sideshow, Oddball, Pangolin review, Fourth and Sycamore, Paragon Press, Royal Rose, Visitant Lit, Quail Bell, Modern Literature, Visual Verse, Dime show review, Nightingale and Sparrow, Piker Press and many more. Her poetry has recently been published in the anthology “We will not be silenced” by Indie Blu(e) Publishing and upcoming in six other anthologies by US, Australian and Canadian Press.  She recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest.

She blogs at meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/ and can be found on Twitter at @MeghaSood16 and Instagram at @MeghasWorld16

I Forgive… | Madelaine Smith

They would have me write – they wish for my words –
though they could have heard me in the court,
could have listened then to hear what I had to say.

Now they give me the chance,
now when the words I write will be my last.

Gentlemen, Friends and Neighbours,
It may be expected that I should say
something at my Death…

I have lived a long and good life
through turbulent times
and now I reach my turbulent end.

I forgive all persons that have wrong’d me.

How did I come to this?
My life has been small, I kept to my hearth,
though my husband played a larger part
than I would have liked on the stage of our times…
and paid the price.

I did as little expect to come to this Place
on this occasion, as any person in this Nation.

I concerned myself as a good wife should
with household matters –
the sunshine of domestic life –
the children, the land, the servants.
Chatelaine from an early age
I kept to my sphere, helped the poor,
tended the sick, welcomed in those in need.

My crime?       My crime was,
entertaining a man of God
who, I am since told,
has sworn to have been in the
Duke of Monmouth’s army…
an invader,      a rebel,                        a traitor.

Would not I, a good housekeeper,
a fair and generous lady of the manor,
mistress of my own demesne,
would not I welcome in one of God’s servants?

I welcomed in a man of God –
yet stand convicted of harbouring a traitor.

The jury, good men all,
found I had not committed a crime.

The judge – who sends me to my death –
would not accept innocence as a verdict.

My words were not heard.
He would not listen.
I felt surprise and fear.

Once, twice, three times
he demanded of the jury their decision.

On his third asking the jury,
eyes down, announced me guilty.

I forgive all persons that have wrong’d me.

The judge, eyes on mine,
announced I was to die…

at the stake…
to burn… like a witch.

I forgive all persons that have wrong’d me.

King James, the second of that name,
has saved me from the flames.
Instead I am to die
by an executioner’s axe.

He has given me the death
my husband did in some part
impose upon the King’s own father.

I acknowledge his Majesty’s Favour
in revoking my Sentence.

I forgive all persons that have wrong’d me.

The dawn is coming; my time is nearly up.
I must put aside my pen to pray one last time…

Pray for my soul…

Pray for a swift end.

I forgive all persons that have wrong’d me;
and I desire that God will do so likewise.

 

A found and enhanced poem based on the last speech of Madam Alicia Lisle,
beheaded in the market square, Winchester, September 1685.

http://powys.org/Murder/AliceSpeech.html


Writer’s Commentary

In the Square in Winchester there is a plaque highlighting the spot where Lady Alice Lisle was executed for harbouring fugitives during the Civil War. She was 72 years old. For Heritage Open Days in 2018 the local Loose Muse group of poets put on a reading entitled ‘Extraordinary Women’ in a church just a few hundred yards from the execution spot. Lady Alice needed her voice heard. The line ‘the sunshine of domestic life’ is a reference to Sunshine of Domestic Life: Or, Sketches of Womanly Virtues, and Stories of the Lives of Noble Women by William Henry Davenport Adams


  Madelaine lives in Winchester. At the age of four when asked if she wanted to be a hairdresser or a nurse when she grew up Madelaine answered that she would rather be a poet. Having now grown up she thinks she ought to get on with it. Madelaine has worked in bookselling, publishing, theatre, museums, and was editor of New Writer magazine for five issues.

Madelaine has had work published on Ink, Sweat & Tears, Paper Swans (online and in print anthologies), Perverse Poems, and as a part of the Silent Voices project (silentvoicespoetry.wordpress.com/) in South Magazine, Reach, and Panning for Poems, as well as in local anthologies and exhibitions.

 Madelaine has three unpublished novels in a drawer. She can be found on Twitter @MadelaineCSmith and Instagram instagram.com/madelainecsmith/ 

It Was Coltrane’s First Soprano Sax | John Grey

he imagined himself playing it maybe
in that underground railroad of a wind
blowing up South Michigan avenue

just had to have himself a piece
of what was already there
mapped out by his fingers
coded in his lips

couldn’t bust it open at first
sure the tunes came
but like doorbells ringing
when nobody’s home

wanted that tone in the upper register
that could outlast lungs
by ten dozen notes
wanted that sweetness
where air illuminates metal
buffs its shine
loops over and through
like a breathless knot

had to have it

got it


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.