Two Different Fruits by Gareth Culshaw

We are two different fruits
trying to mould into one.
I’m a pear, forcing new growth
at the top, in hope it leads
to someplace new.
You are an apple. Happy
to go round the days
each week. Never forcing
yourself to mile away
from here. The seeds I have,
wait, for the right ground
to grow from.
You have already set seed,
will we ever flower together?

Gareth Culshaw

Gareth lives in Wales. He has his first collection by futurecycle in 2018

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Big Hands by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

apparently
I have big
hands

and know how
to use them

I have this on the good authority
of the sizing ladies at the wedding ring
places

and on the better authority
of my woman

which is why I am sitting here
staring so unnaturally
at my hands

wondering why cuticles
sounds so much like cubicles
of skin.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan Black & White

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a happily unmarried proud father of none. His work can be found both in print and online. He has an affinity for dragonflies, discount tequila, and all things sarcastic.

Cat Patrol by Willie Smith

The cat’s eyes,
mirrored on the glassdoor, glow –
chartreuse phosphors to wheel the slain
to be again caught, blooded, tortured, left to rot;
to remind ghosts cracks at higher birth exist,
perhaps, far away, say, that of a lapcat.
The fallen rats, lacking such electric stares,
feel the call but to return as repeats
doomed to pack the world’s meat,
kindling in their faces hopelessly
more of their own horror. Good Nazi
saint, the cat turns licking chops,
eyes overlaying the patio wiped.
Hops up into the cell of an armchair,
curling jaw to coccyx, squinting lids fast,
to pray for the now of a couple takes
to nothing dream.

Willie Smith’s poems and stories have appeared in the toilet, the recycling, the gutter and in his worst nightmares. He is a retired office boy living off, in the form of a dubiously-deserved pension, the taxpayer.

Splinter by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

chin deep in the
place where perception
pummels
not for a fraction
of a second
did I believe
so much could
splinter

the accepted pharm
causes tremors
you jerk a number
of times in your sleep
then snore deeply

for a longer second
I consider parallel universes
if I’ve fallen from
one into another
from another
back—does everything
equal out after the
spin out

then roll onto my left side
and wait for sleep

wanda-morrow-clevenger

Wanda Morrow Clevenger is a Carlinville, IL native living in Hettick, IL. Over 459 pieces of her work appear or are forthcoming in 156 print and electronic journals and anthologies. Her magazine-type blog updated at her erratic discretion: http://wlc- wlcblog.blogspot.com/

Little Penny Vultures by Paul Tristram

Twenty five years on The Force
and I’ve never encountered anything like it.
We only stumbled upon them by chance,
after finding a 12 year old kid,
with his dirty, ripped jeans rolled up,
wading in the water fountain
outside the Council Offices.
Picking up the pennies
that idiots have thrown in there
like it’s a wishing well
rather than an ornamental water feature.
I was about to ‘Caution’ the little tyke,
make him throw the money back in
and send him packing.
When I spied a little girl,
which turns out to be his 11 year old sister,
absolutely filthy and scraggily,
long hair like a bird’s nest,
foraging in a litter bin close by.
With them being ‘Minors’
and the grimy state of the pair,
we needed to speak to the ‘Parents’ or ‘Guardians’…
and that is where the true Horror began.
We got the both of them into the back of the car
and after much crying and blubbering
they directed us to a Small Holding
by the side of Owl-Innocence Woods,
the nearest end, half mile away or so.
The property had belonged to their late Grandparents.
Anyway, the Mother had left a couple of years ago,
run-off to Tiger Bay in Cardiff
to ply her trade as a Street Corner Prostitute.
She’s in Eastwood Park, as we speak,
serving a ‘Drug Mule’ sentence.
The Father, a chronic alcoholic,
had finally finished drinking himself to death
around 3 months ago,
we’re still waiting for the actual date
to come back from the Coroner.
The electric and gas were on payment meters
and that soon ran out.
After a week, the smell from their Father’s corpse
had gotten so bad
that the children had moved over to the barn
and were sleeping in a make-shift bedsheet fort.
It’s horrific, they’ve been following the Milkman around
and stealing whatever he leaves on doorsteps,
scavenging litter bins and shoplifting all over Town.
I even found a half-eaten box of dry dog biscuits
by the little girl’s blankets.
They’re not old enough to understand ‘Begging’,
nor of where to go to get any ‘Official Help’
with their sad and pitiful predicament.
Their ‘Old Man’ absolutely detested the Police,
so the instilled dread of the Law
stopped them from coming knocking upon our door.
I don’t know, it’s really done-me-in, this one…
it’s bloody heart-breaking, completely.
Poor little buggers…
I guess they’ll be shipped-off to that big Care Home
with the wire-meshed windows and locked doors now…
God Help Them… out of the frying pan and into the fire.

paul smoking - Copy

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) http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1943170096 ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326241036 And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326415204 You can also read his poems and stories here! http://paultristram.blogspot.co.uk/

Letter to Lois by James Walton

I’ve experienced falling
but never in such a tumble

twirling like a tin can

I wanted to tell you
without the safety
of a cloak’s heightened perspective

how much I love
your human fragility

the joy in a wind chime

to feel the scissor depth of an ending
the gothic pages of ink

newsprint wrapping a bouquet

the short speech of balloons
a stagey mess of comic action figurines

tell Jimmy my favourite one
is still you and me in mufti
holding out our Press cards
the ill fitting fake lenses
my gin to your tonic

and I’m now way past
the speed of time’s sight
where our shape has no dimension
holding on to this cobalt krypto rock
because I don’t want the super power

of living without you forever

James Walton

James Walton is a poet published in newspapers, journals and anthologies. He’s been a Librarian, a cattle breeder, but most of the time a Public Sector union official. Short listed twice for the ACU National Literature Prize, a double prize winner in the MPU International Poetry Prize, and Specially Commended in The Welsh Poetry Competition – his collection ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’ was published in 2015.

Gail Is Gone by Bruce Mundhenke

Gail is gone.
I heard about it
Just the other day.
No more ball and jacks,
No more Barbie dolls,
No more jumping ropes,
No more Beatles records
Stacked to play.
Nothing else
I’ll ever hear her say…
I saw her brother Bruce today,
I’m sorry Gail is gone,
It’s all that I could say.

Bruce Mundhenke

Bruce Mundhenke has worked as a laborer and a registered nurse. He enjoys writing poetry and is an avid reader. He finds in nature both inspiration and revelation. He lives in Illinois with his wife and their dog and cat.

 

Stewed Pears by Ruth Z. Deming

I made an impulse purchase at the grocery store. A whole rotisserie chicken. Nicely browned. If you saw it, you would have bought it too. Peeking through the plastic dome, which reminded me of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, was a dead chicken, aching to be made into chicken noodle soup.
Putting on my comfortable shoes, a white pair of clogs, whose inner soles fell apart a week after I bought them online, I set up all the ingredients on the kitchen table. Chop chop chop! Mushrooms and onions. Into the crock pot went the ingredients including low-sodium chicken broth. On the Jacques Pepin cooking show the maestro used Japanese Udon noodles instead of the regular. I split a package in two with a loud crack that would have woken up the cat, snoozing in a spatter of sunlight, if he were still alive.
Setting the pot to “high,” I went into my freezing cold living room and stared outside at the three inches of snow we’d gotten.
“Oh, I hope she’s home, I hope she’s home,” I thought, as I lay on the couch, covered myself over with a warm quilt and began reading “Happiness in This Life,” by Pope Francis. He’s an excellent writer and advocates for more participation in the Church by women.
After twenty minutes, I could smell the chicken. I returned to the kitchen, lifted off the steamy glass lid and stirred everything around. Did I really make this? Nothing could have been easier. The noodles were already plump and getting soft.
From the fridge, I removed a small covered bowl of stewed pears and warmed it slowly over a burner. What a great dinner this would be. I nearly always eat alone, listening to soft music on the radio. A regular Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Looking out the living room window, I saw a long line of kids getting off the school bus, huge backpacks weighing them down. My own two kids were once among them but they flew the coop and I rarely see them.
Lacing on my sneakers – I don’t have a single pair of boots – and clamping on a blue beret as if I were Picasso – I tentatively walked next door to see if she was home.
Stepping up onto the front porch, I peeked through the living room window and there she was, napping on the living room couch. It was uncanny how we had so much in common. Except my life took a different turn. I was always busy. Too busy. Blogging. Writing short stories. Posting ridiculous things on Facebook, which few people “liked.” When her husband died in Florida, her family brought her up here to live with them, right next door to me. I was ecstatic. A new friend. As if I were in fourth grade again.
Do you know how hard it is to make friends when you’re of a certain age? Old and gray and falling asleep to Kojak or the Rockford Files on “Cozi TV.”
Eileen moved in with her son and daughter-in-law. They refused to let her drive, claiming, “We’ll take care of you. You’re in your retirement years, now, Mom.” Neither did they let her cook.
When she opened the door, I was afraid she wouldn’t remember me. The snow had kept us apart for a month.
“C’mon in,” she said.
“Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked, peeking inside.
“Of course,” she said with a smile, “it’s my house. Have a seat.”
We sat together like two old maids on the living room couch.
She turned off the television. “I just keep it on for company,” she said.
“But now you’ve got me!” I said. “Ruth. Remember?”
She laughed. “My memory’s bad,” she said, “but not that bad.”
I told her about my chicken noodle soup and hoped she’d come over for dinner. Not to be. Stacey would make dinner when she came home from work.
The house was huge. Bigger than mine, since they’d added a whole wing, somewhere. I didn’t understand the layout. Maybe it was the top floor where her son Bill had his home office.
With loud bounces like a rhythm player, Bill came bounding down the stairs.
Nice guy. Sometimes, I’d send him an email. “Bill, may I come over and have you fax something for me?”
“Sorry,” he once wrote. “Me and my buddies are on a camping trip in the Poconos.”
Now he told his mom and me, “I’ll be home soon, gonna pick up my truck.” His daughter, home from college, would drive him.
“Sorry to be nosy, but what’s wrong with it?” I asked.
“It’s getting inspected.”
Eileen told me, “You’re not nosy. You’re just curious.” That woman had such a way about her she could’ve been a female Dalai Lama.
“Bill,” I joked, “while you’re gone your mom and I are gonna do some shopping. She’ll be driving my car.”
Bill laughed. “Well, you better wear helmets,” he said.
Eileen and I relaxed, sitting back on the couch.
I wasn’t exactly in a panic, but I hadn’t sat down with anyone for just a chat in a dog’s age. There was no supper to fuss over, nothing really to do except think and talk.
Could I do it?
The train hooted in the distance.
“Wherever I’ve lived, there’s always been a train,” Eileen said.
“Even on Mildred Avenue?”
During the summer, the two of us had driven to the house where she grew up. It was one thing I could help her with. She wanted to see it. When her family lived there – she was one of six kids and the grandmother and aunt lived there, too – a vacant lot stood next door. All the neighborhood kids played there.
She was able to direct me to the house after a couple of wrong turns. She was like a homing pigeon remembering her early origins.
“No one had any secrets. We were one big happy family.”
She fairly flew out of my car when we got there. I was taking photos of the huge brick house with porch. The empty lot was now filled in with a house. In this hilly neighborhood, you climbed up about eight stairs before you got to the house. On each stair was a red geranium.
No one was home. Her happiness shone like a halo around her.
The train whistled again.
“That’s the Roslyn train,” she said with assurance.
“You are amazing,” I said.
Back at home on her couch, I said, “You know, my boyfriend Scott works at SEPTA, the regional railroad. When he hears the train whistle, he knows if there’s something wrong with it, if it needs a tune-up.”
“Interesting,” she said, wearing a blue sweater, which matched the color of her eyes.
“I’ll tell you a funny story about a train,” I said. “You know, I’m from Cleveland. Cleveland, Ohio.”
She nodded.
“My Uncle Marvin, who worked for the newspaper, took his young son, Mark, on a train. Some nuns got on the train. My uncle knew Mark would stare at those nuns and want to know who they were.
“We’re Jewish, you know.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish,” she said. She had barely any wrinkles in her cheeks and looked remarkably young. She was seventy-six to my seventy-two.
“So Marvin distracted Mark, making him look out the window, probably at the slums passing quickly by with their dilapidated houses and washing machines on the front porches.
You know what, though? I found it all fascinating!”
“That’s because you have a creative mind,” she said. She was always praising my so-called creative mind, which embarrassed me.
There was a quick movement on the hardwood floor. And a large exhalation of breath.
The dog Daisy was sleeping on a warm spot on the floor. “There’s my best friend,” said Eileen. “She comes in my bed at night and keeps me company.”
I didn’t mention I’d hate to sleep with a dog or cat, and certainly not a man.
“You know, my boyfriend Scott lives right next door to me. We take naps together but I can’t stand sleeping with him all night long. Nothing like my own sweet bed.”
I changed my sheets once every three months. I’d have to remove a shelf-full of books from the bed – at least thirteen now, including The Pope book, Tom Hanks’ short stories, 99 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, The Vanity Fair Diaries, The Mare, Finances for Dummies – plus pads of paper, pens, handkerchiefs made from old cut-up pajamas or blouses, a long red piece of elastic for doing exercises for flabby arms, and more things, I’m sure, hiding under the two warm blankets that covered me up in the 12 degree weather.
The living room where we sat was as dimly lit as a barn. There were more photos and paintings and wall hangings than in the Barnes Museum. Eileen pointed to a photo of a white-haired man, with his arm around her and their two grandchildren.
“What a handsome man,” I said. “Look at that snowy-white hair.”
She said that’s not how she remembers him. His hair was once black as coal. And he was a writer. He owned his own newspapers and wrote children’s books. When he sold his businesses, they retired to Florida, where he was beginning to die. Emphysema. One time she drove all the way up from Florida to visit the family since he had that little jigger of oxygen in the back seat whenever he needed to slip it through his nostrils to breathe better.
“Since you’re not gonna eat my chicken soup, how’d you like some of my stewed pears?”
“Stewed prunes?”
“No. Stewed pears. Like apples, but you use pears instead.”
“How creative,” she said. “Sure, if you don’t mind going home to get them.”
Slipping on my freezing-cold Chinese shoes, I walked carefully home in the snow. I ladled a goodly amount of pears into a glass Rubbermaid container and snapped the lid shut.
They smelled so good there was no way she wasn’t going to like them.
She ate them right there on the couch, as if it were summer and we sat on their front porch with hanging plants and songbirds flying by.
She washed out the container and handed it back to me.
We heard Bill pulling into the drive.
He stomped his feet at the side door and came in to say hello.
“You don’t wanna know, Bill, where-all we drove,” I said with a straight face.
“Almost all the way to Florida,” his mom said, “but I wanted to be back in time for dinner.”

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.

In Tandem by Sanjeev Sethi

(1)

Willing clay pigeon to your verbal skeet
is there scheme to whittle this stencil?

(2)

Prompts bruited about swing
their way to suitable bullhorns.

(3)

Lies offer home to horde of evanescent
notions to breathe harmoniously.

(4)

More cushioned we’re, more insensitive
we become: this is caliber of cocoons.

(5)

To argue with pleasantries
is sign of severance.

(6)

Only the well-heeled raise flag of
no-money. Word slingers exhale.

Sanjeev Sethi

Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). A Best of the Net 2017 nominee, his poems are in venues around the world: The Stray Branch, Ann Arbor Review, First Literary Review-East, Right Hand Pointing, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Synesthesia Anthology: 2013-2017, Scarlet Leaf Review, Peeking Cat Anthology 2017, Communicators League, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.

Diner by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

I find myself in this diner again.
The food is atrocious and the waitress
looks like a repo man with skid marks
for hands.

The kitchen is full of young Mexicans
that came for a better life
and scrape leftover ketchup
off the plates.

The radio always cranked to musical genocide.

If someone is steering the ship,
I don’t see it.

The only other customer is talking
with the napkin dispenser.

If you come to this diner
make sure you use the bathroom
before you come, just trust me
on that.

But it’s along the bus route
which is nice.

And has no name
like those crack babies
that pop out
right into the care
of the state.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan Black & White

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a happily unmarried proud father of none. His work can be found both in print and online. He has an affinity for dragonflies, discount tequila, and all things sarcastic.