The Woman In The Straw Hat by Ruth Z. Deming

Was there ever a man as miserable as Roy O’Riley? He finally broke his silence at a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting. “It’s my wife. I can’t stand her. And don’t tell me to get counseling. The woman will never change. Doesn’t want to and never will.”
Thirty people in the audience of the church basement watched their matchless Roy “The Renaissance Man” begin to sob. He put his hands across his face and collapsed onto the podium.
“Now you know why I used! But never again. I’d rather die.”
After the meeting, five friends sat down at a table and listened to what Roy had to say. The room smelt of burnt coffee and cigarettes, though the church banned smoking. Clothing acted like a sponge, not a pleasant smell.
He and Diana had maintained the façade of their perfect marriage.
“A marriage of convenience,” said Roy. “The woman never has a nice thing to say to me.”
Diana, a shapely woman, kept the figure she had when she was named runner-up for Miss Pennsylvania.
She had such a hold on him, he couldn’t do anything without her. He followed her like a puppy dog, loathing himself, but what could he do? The leash seemed unbreakable.
His colleagues listened in silence.
Roy, a brilliant man, some would call him a polymath, announced he would recite The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge Taylor. “You’ll see why,” he told them.
The poem recounted the tale of a boat lost at sea. The sailors aboard were starving when the sea bird, the albatross, visited and fed them all with the fish he dove for under the rolling waves. The Mariner then did a terrible thing.
“With his cross-bow, he shot the Albatross,” said Roy, in a whisper. “And was forced to tell the story to everyone he met.
“And I,” he paused, “I am the human albatross.”
Endlessly sobbing, Roy’s words flowed like lava from his mouth. He could not stop talking.
“I haven’t the will to leave my wife. It’s as if she’s the source of all my energy, my motivation and self-confidence. Besides what would our children and grandchildren think?”
Barbara, an Irishwoman, with dyed shoulder-length red hair, said, “Roy, what are you talking about!  How can you believe all the bullshit you’re feeding yourself?”
“Barb’s right on the money about everything she’s saying,” said white-haired Marty.
Danielle spoke up. Everyone knew that this thirtiesh black woman began shooting “heron,” as African-Americans referred to it, after her brother was shot by a North Philadelphia cop. “I’ll grieve forever,” she had told the group, “but with tears, not heron.”
She continued, “If I could give up my drug, Roy, you can give up that wife of yours.”
“Never in a million years would I have believed what you’re telling us, Roy,” said blonde-haired Shelley, a doctor’s wife and the mother of a 12-year-old son. Abstinent for six years from her cocaine addiction, she wore a pink medalion around her neck reading, “One day at a time.”
“Listen, I have an idea,” said white-haired Marty, a retired Philadelphia postmaster.
The six of them lowered their heads and listened to Marty, clean and sober twenty years.
Everyone agreed it was an idea worth trying.
“Should I write my wife a note about it?” asked Roy.
“Sure,” said Marty. “Tell her you’ll be away with one of your NA buddies and will call her when you get back.”
They took Marty’s white pickup truck to Watkins Glen, New York. Marty drove with his right hand, holding a Marlboro Light out the window, as Roy marveled at the scenery.
“Hey, what’s that clinking sound in the back of the truck?” asked Roy.
“My pup-tent. I always bring it to the races. We’ll sleep under the stars if you’re up for it,” said Marty.
“Would love to,” said Roy. “Eons ago when I was a Boy Scout, we’d go camping all over Pennsylvania.”
He pushed up his red Philly’s cap, remembering. He laughed. “One time we were in the Pocono Mountains and there was a lightening storm. We were stranded with rain water pounding down on our tents, but our leaders knew what to do. Scary as hell at the time, but something to talk about years later.”
“The things we never forget,” said Marty, blowing smoke out the window.
The pickup climbed the hills, its automatic gears switching frequently. The boys kept swallowing to clear their fogged-up ears.
“Amazing view,” said Roy, looking at mile upon mile of unspoiled landscape. Trees of every variety – maple, oak, pine, tulip – shone in the sun and waved their leaves. Roy thought he’d sound foolish if he said, the leaves were waving at him.
The traffic was getting heavier. Such a beautiful day for a race on the two and a half mile race track.
As they closed in to “The Glen,” Marty and Roy became so excited they thought their hearts would burst. They looked at one another and patted their chests.  “My first NASCAR race! Thanks for bringing me, brother.”
And there is was, straight ahead of them, spread out like an amusement park with every color of the rainbow and movement like a jack-in-the-box.
A man in an orange vest motioned where they should park. A long way off from the track. Roy was amazed to see how everyone funnelled into many turnstyles. It reminded him of cattle being taken to the slaughterhouse.
Marty paid the hefty price with his Visa Card. Roy noticed he had forgotten to think about his wife, so captivated was he with all the excitement and loud noise.
He smiled and rubbed his hands together. Before taking their seats, they stood in line and ordered hot dogs on buns, with packets of mustard, ketchup and relish, and hot french fries. Both men dug into the little cardboard packet of fries.
“Delicioso!” said Marty. “Much better than McDonald’s golden fries, if you can believe it!”
They wove through the crowd toward their seats. Marty had season tickets.  Since his wife didn’t like racing, he always brought along a friend.
“I haven’t felt as excited as when I was fourteen and had my first sexual experience,” Roy laughed.
“I was two years ahead of you,” said Marty. “Twelve.”
They laughed.
“How long’s the race, anyway?” asked Roy.
“It’s long. Three hours!”
Roy whistled between his teeth, as they took their seats. Roy was surprised at how uncomfortable they were. Next time, if there was one, he’d bring a cushion.
Vendors walked up and down the steps, selling their goods. Many were college age, studying at nearby Cornell, Ithaca, or SUNY Courtland.
A kid came along selling drinks – beer, mostly. Glass bottles were not allowed.
“Got any root beer?” asked Roy.
The young man reached into his cooler and pulled out a can of Hires Root Beer.
“Make that two,” said Marty.
What a colorful crowd sat before them. A mosaic of reds, purples, pinks, blues, and whites.
“Marty, you won’t believe this,” said Roy.
“Try me,” said Marty.
“I’ve never been happier in my life.”
“It’s the root beer,” said Marty. “Caffeinated.”
“Nope,” said Roy, holding up the brown-striped can, turning it around to the ingredients, which included plenty of sugar but no caffeine.
The noise of the crowd was deafening, as the announcer introduced the thirty or so drivers plus their cars.
Finally, the black and white checkered flag came down and the crowd roared its approval.
Many in the stands pulled out binoculars. Many had also placed bets with their friends, not allowed at NASCAR races.
The cars, long and low, looked no different than regular automobiles. Their exteriors were plastered with ads and their innards had every innovation possible for maximum speeds. Rocket engines in a car.
“I’m gonna bet a bag of hot roasted peanuts on that orange Impala,” said Roy.
“I like the red Ford,” said Marty.
“Neat logo,” said Roy, closing his eyes and imagining the word “Ford,” blue and encapsulated in a football-shaped design.
The high decibal sounds resonated into their very beings.  They felt they were the noise, and part of the 90,000-strong fans, a zen-like feeling that was new to Roy.  He leaned back in his seat, looked up at the impervious blue sky with a few clouds strolling unhurriedly along, and felt, well, ecstatic!
“Gotta do something about this feeling,” he thought. “Gotta capture it again. Somehow.” Maybe, he thought, he’d take up oil painting again.
As each car whizzed by, their bodies jumped again, the way an astronaut feels when he lifts off the earth’s surface.
Similar to a baseball game, folks in the stands got up and stretched or went to the refreshment stands and restrooms – and returned, loaded down with huge bags of pretzels, corn dogs, steamy cans of Budweiser, Coors, Rolling Rock – adjusting their caps against the fading sun – but made sure they were back in their seats before the finalists zoomed in.
The black and white checkered flag came down and the loudspeaker boomed out the names of the winners.
The screams were deafening.
“My yellow Impala beat your red Ford!” shouted Roy above the roar of the crowd.
“Ready for a bag of roasted peanuts?”
When he found the peanut man, he motioned him over.
After the show, they sat eating the peanuts, tossing the shells on the cement floor.
A woman in a straw hat turned around on the seat in front of them.
All that Roy noticed were her eyes. Violet like Elizabeth Taylor’s.
She stood up and whispered something to Roy. He turned to Marty and asked when they were coming back.
“My buddy here says three months,” Roy said to the woman in the straw hat. “Shall we meet then?” He shocked himself with those words.
“I’d love to,” she said. “It was the Hires Root Beer that attracted me to you. I’m a former drug user,” she said. “Ten years clean and sober. Everyone and his brother gets stinkin’ drunk!  I’ve been looking for another teetotaler.”
They laughed and high-fived one another. Roy didn’t mention he would begin divorce proceedings the moment he got home. It would take time, of course. He knew nothing about the woman in the straw hat. Maybe lady luck would be with him this time. Nothin’ wrong, he thought, with a little fantasizing.
“Ready?” asked Marty.
Roy’s first thought about camping was that nothing was as delicious as drinking hot coffee in the mornings around a campfire, the smoke rising in the air, the way native Americans sent signals to their far-off comrades.
They set up the tent on the flat part of a huge hill. Since the night was fair, they slept out in the open, gazing at the glorious pitch-black sky, far from the city lights.  Glimmering millions of miles above them were the Milky Way, Orion the Hunter, fair Andromeda, chained naked to a rock to be devoured by a sea monster, but Perseus shone above and would save the maiden in distress.
“Maybe we’ll see a shooting star,” said Marty, staring at the vast expanse of the sky.
“Ya think?” asked Roy.
“Keep your eyes open and don’t fall asleep.”
It could certainly happen with a vista like this. All those gleaming dots in the heavens were stars or constellations. The cold air brushed their cheeks. Were those katydids singing, “KatyDID, KatyDIDN’t?”
And then the chorus of owls. “Whoo, whoo, whoo!” Roy imagined their soft feathery bodies and necks swiveling, looking for prey.
Here came that feeling again.
“Sheer and pure ecstasy,” thought Roy, as he imagined the woman in the saucy straw hat and those brilliant violet eyes cuddling next to him.
His eyes closed, as he joined the stars and fell asleep.

ruth deming

Ruth Z. Deming has had her poetry published in lit mags including Literary Yard, River Poets, Blue Bonnet Review and JonahMagazine. She lives in Willow Grove, a suburb of Pennsylvania in the US of A.

A Kind Of Resurrection by Rupert Loydell

Just for a moment I felt alive again,
a weight lifted, as the sun beyond
the curtains spilled in to announce
Easter day. Then clouds drifted
across and the light reduced, but
my headache had gone and I had
slept through, first time for days.

My broken tongue was mended;
I spoke to myself of things not seen,
of things I wished had not happened
or been. Other moments were waiting,
but let them wait. One step at a time,
only one step at a time. I rewrite
the past, confronting the history

that sits in shadow. You emailed
several photos. I still had hair,
the optimism of youth; a singer
whose music we both liked
stands in the crowd that we
are part of. It is a hall of mirrors,
a labyrinth, a future made of light.

Rupert Loydell

Rupert Loydell is a Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University, a poet, editor and artist. He has run Stride magazine since 1982 and is a contributing editor to International Times. Shearsman recently published Dear Mary, a book of poems about art, colour, annunication and Italy.

I Don’t by Jay Passer

wear white socks
drop bombs on anyone
walk on water
order the execution of my brothers or uncles
drink milk
shave very often
question the inexorable corruption of the police
admit my addiction to cinema
know a hell hole of a lot
eat okra or nopales (that shit is slimy af)

Jay Passer 2

Jay Passer’s work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

The Calm for W.P. by Stefanie Bennett

She died, and the micaceous almost summer winds
Dizzily scudded across Arizona
Via the Pacific crest
Piercing Sacramento’s side.
Neither dust
Nor blind intervention
Rattled that topaz blue.

She left, with a casket of leaves embellishing
The motorcade, her wish
Homely attuned
As it lassoed the sweet aroma
Of Ponderosa
And a spotted owl’s
Digital refrain.

This, the forest’s logbook accentuates
In incised resin
The colour of rain, while
‘Days of Our Lives’
Winged on cable, and
CNN’s disfigurement
The able.

Stephanie Bennett

Stefanie Bennett has published several books of poetry, a novel & a libretto… tutored at The Institute of Modern Languages & worked with Arts Action for Peace. Of mixed ancestry [Irish/Italian/Paugussett-Shawnee] she was bourn in Queenslans, Australia. Her latest poetry title is “The Vanishing.”

The Arbitrary Abattoir by Paul Tristram

The abandoned abattoir setting
was an arbitrary choice.
Not discovered by ‘Scouting’
which is normally the case…
but, on an afternoon Autumnal stroll
which I participated in with Dr Peters.
The out of town car park, situated close by
on the almost deserted country lane,
and the short canal walk to the building
made it all the more appealing
for its privacy, seclusion
and gothic sense of romantic foreboding.
I was casually aware that illegal substances
were being consumed at the soirée,
but, there were only adults in attendance,
and I myself never dabble in anything
other than Courvoisier and Amyl Nitrite.
There were thirty guests invited…
yet, some brought along a friend or two,
no actual ‘Head-Count’ was given.
Mostly made up of ‘Gaspers’, ‘Voyeurs’,
‘Swingers’ and ‘Weekend Sinners’.
The ‘Erotic Asphyxiation’ which went wrong,
was preformed and participated in
by an experienced married couple.
Whom have previously attended
over forty five of our little ‘Get-Togethers’.
The ‘Marital Problems’
which have only just come to light,
were, of course, unknown to everyone present,
apart from the couple themselves, obviously.
When the Sad Event took place,
I was not anywhere near to witness it…
I was in a deep, meaningful conversation
with a severely depressed hermaphrodite
who goes by the name of ‘Bonnie Prince Albert’.
We were stood just outside the back entrance doors,
poor Bonnie was quite intoxicated
and crying pitifully over the loss of a brother
to cancer just two months previously.
From what I can gather from everyone,
who was not off playing their own games,
stood close by and a-watching…
there was absolutely no sign
of anger, argument nor struggle…
her ‘Light’ simply and quietly went ‘Out’.
Where upon, I was searched for and found,
and immediately dialled the three 9’s.
As for ‘Foul Play’, ‘Ill Will’,
a dastardly premeditated plot,
an ingenious pathway into obscure murder?
I shall let you work it out and decide…
after all, you are the investigating Police Officers,
whilst I am merely an off-duty Magistrate.

Arty Pic Of Pauly

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet. Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press) ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at You can also read his poems and stories here!

Away From the Light by James Babbs

in the darkness I can be
anything I want to be
the powerful super hero
who comes rushing in
and saves the world from devastation
over and over again
in the darkness
I’m stronger than I really am
and I can fly
I don’t even have to try
it doesn’t take me any effort at all
and I know the answer to every question
I never harbor any doubts or fears
I know how to take care of things
I’m capable of building bridges
that span incredible distances
and I can tear down the highest walls
if that’s what it takes
in the darkness I’m everything
I always wanted to be
and I will never hurt you
I won’t fuck things up
by doing something stupid
I’ll always keep myself together
and never break your heart

James Babbs-Author Photo

James Babbs is a writer, a dreamer, a three-time loser and an all-around nice guy who just wants to be left alone. James is the author of Disturbing The Light(2013) & The Weight of Invisible Things(2013) and has hundreds of poems and a few short stories scattered all over the internet.

Two Lads by Paul Brookes

at my till. I put first lads
goods through while second

says to his mate,
“I’m gonna get a kitchen knife
and rip your twatting head off.”


“I’m gonna put it in shoebox
Set fire to it. Piss on the remains ”


“Do you want a receipt?” I ask
the first lad.


Paul Brookes was, and is a shop assistant, after employment as a security guard, postman, admin. assistant, lecturer, poetry performer, with “Rats for Love”, his work included in “Rats for Love: The Book”, Bristol Broadsides, 1990. First chapbook “The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley”, (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). Read his work on BBC Radio Bristol. Recently published in Blazevox, Nixes Mate, Live Nude Poems, The Bezine, The Bees Are Dead and others. “The Headpoke and Firewedding” (Alien Buddha Press, 2017) illustrated chapbook, “A World Where” (Nixes Mate Press, 2017) “The Spermbot Blues” (OpPRESS, August 2017).


Apron by Andrew Taylor

the Coca-Cola apron is pale
blue red green and black

Original taste partagez un
Coca-Cola St-Malo except

this is Bordeaux the teenage
lovers remain long after their

espresso is drained a cyclist
coasts through the arcade

wine case rear carrier perfect
for fruit and vegetables

Like you can make me feel
across the sweatshirt

as the rain gives way to late
afternoon sun

Andrew Taylor 2

Andrew Taylor’s second full collection, March, is forthcoming from Shearsman Books in September 2017. Poems have recently appeared in Stride, In Between Hangovers, Zarf and Molly Bloom. He lives and works in Nottingham.


Unwelcome by Rupert Loydell

I allude to myself in the landscape,
allow myself the luxury of hope,
recall singing these songs to you
as a child, visiting these places
when you were small. We shared
jokes, made cardboard houses,
still shared common ground

before you became older
and I unwelcome. I have
torn up the map, pasted it
into new paintings and let
reference numbers, grid,
hills and trees and roads
become a sort of pattern

under layers of colour.
I have to talk myself back
into being calm, am working
through panic and unrest,
trying to remember when
we were both carefree
and easier to live with.

Rupert Loydell

Rupert Loydell is a Senior Lecturer at Falmouth University, a poet, editor and artist. He has run Stride magazine since 1982 and is a contributing editor to International Times. Shearsman recently published Dear Mary, a book of poems about art, colour, annunication and Italy.

Fusion by Jay Passer

I’m the hologram your mother always warned you about
you are a warm ladleful of hollandaise

nothing was quite real for me as a child
except for the collie dog that I was allergic to

I’m a slurp of stone soup and a compulsive masturbator
you are pillows and panties and selfies and candy

old age is growing in all the wrong directions
my scrawls are hardly at risk of arrest and imprisonment

while you execute gymnastic quirks of charisma
balancing nuclear warheads on your elbows

I collate geographical innuendoes on photoshop
as the sky remains cluttered with ominous misgivings

I quake and quiver after a particularly intense reverie
a grizzly bear on the loose or an alligator or an elephant

or the Venus de Milo in disguise as an ecdysiast
visions summoned in an instant via smartphone

to unlock the grail of my fervor for you
I have yet to conjure the perfect password

Jay Passer 2

Jay Passer’s work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.