Thursday, 31 January 2019


Blue your eyes

by Joan McNerney


Blue your eyes
this edge of snow
in silent sky.
Brown eyes soft
tree bark patterns as
yellow flicks
sparkle in wintry sun.

And now it seems
your eyes are green
green as spruce
turning to grey eyes
glancing across as if
from a mountainside.

Your eyes two violets
hidden beneath frost.
Close your eyes
as sleepless stars
glide through night
in aerial ballet.

Black coal eyes
glowing on fire
red flames leaping
out of eyes burning
blue your eyes.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019


Thanksgiving Day Stands Alone with Me in the Kitchen

by Ariana D. Den Bleyker


I.

The way my grandmother pronounced tacchino,
I imagined it bambino, cheeks red
from bearing down hard, or a paper lantern, or

a piece of jewelry tucked away, the pearls strangely gleaming—
bambina—part jewel—a hybrid star punched out
of a puzzle looking to find me in a girl’s creative universe,

little, or a princess in disguise—all shimmer.
We won’t forget the bambina, bambina, bambina, dismissed
from the kitchen, supper—twirling, twirling

as the ballerina I knew I was because of tacchino
suddenly uttered like a magic word.
Though I grew taller & stronger, budding fruit

just waiting for the sun to breathe itself into me,
I never wanted to be a woman—
more importantly—one of these women

holding moss covered stones, ancient wells, trailing vines
entangled in their eyes—their treasures concealed
in canyons where I’d float on their pale hazel-blue waves

or fully immerse myself there, could submerge
myself as the beloved or that vivid hope, molten,
hardened around my youth—

2.

While at the counter preparing Thanksgiving dinner,
these two women speak to me.
I imagine them walking down rocky paths toward me,

strong Italian women returning from fields, graceful women
carrying baskets of figs. What I know
of these women, I know from only what I see, photographs

of San Angelo, of my mother’s childhood stories—
most of them from watching my mother, my grandmother,
her strong arms lifting sheets out of cold water
or from the way she stepped back, wiping her hand
on her apron, her jars of roasted red peppers
suspended in olive oil. I saw who I’d become

in these women as they worked,
matriarchs grinning & happy in fields
spilling their bounty into their arms, giving away

baskets of eggplants, loaves of bread. I see them
in my daughter, the same unending energy,
quick mind, that hand, open & extended to the world.

When I clean the kitchen counter, I turn, laughing
at my daughter, I remember the last time
I said goodbye to my grandmother as my daughter turns

to me now, as I turn & I see my grandmother walking
toward us, through the fields,
behind her hundreds of girls dressed in black.


* * * * *

Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley where she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and every once in a while sleeps. She is the author of three collections, sixteen chapbooks, a novelette, an experimental memoir, and three crime novellas. She hopes you'll fall in love with her words.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019


1920

by DC Diamondopolous



A ray of sun struck the copper’s badge and bounced off, lighting up the voting box inside H. L. Drugstore in me South Bronx Neighborhood.

Now washed and mended, I wore the same blood-splattered dress, patched at the cuff, tattered ‘round the collar, mud stains on the hem. It showed the scars from when we marched down Broadway, I holding a sign, The Vote For Equal Pay For Equal Work.

It had started a glorious spring day, fresh from a night of rain, splendid with the radiance of blooming cherry blossoms. Little sister Annie pestered to come along. I told her, “Stay home with the youngins. You’re too small and there might be trouble.” She says, “I’m big enough and I’m a comin.” And so she did, running along the sidewalk, keeping step with the march. Annie inherited the stubbornness that we McPhersons shared. 

Hundreds marched. Me arms feeling the ache from holding the poster high above me head. Women clutched banners that stretched the Avenue. Coppers on horseback, coppers on foot, looking for agitation—someone stirrin’ the pot.

It did me heart good to protest among me own, knowing our numbers was a force to reckon with. Still an’ all, we had to keep going, every day, every spare moment spent on the vote. 

A man outside Woolworth’s shouted, “Only vote I give you is a kick in the knickers.” Someone threw a rock. Glass shattered. Horses reared. Men broke through the lines. Big oaf of a bloke grabbed me sign, slammed it hard on me head, he did. I fell to the ground. “Lucy!” Annie’s voice had the shock in it. I sprawled in the street until I forced meself up. I looked ‘round for me hat. I got to me feet and when I did something hit the back of me neck, and I tumbled. Slumped on Broadway, staring at the buildings, the raging men, determined women, the world and all its unfairness swirling then dimmed.

Sirens, distant on the rim of me twilight, wailed, coming as a call to get meself up. On hands and knees, I was, when a copper kicked me in the chest. With great pain, I grabbed his ankle and raked short broken nails into his flesh. He shrieked. I rolled a ways over. Stood. For the sake of me sisters, I held up me fists like Jack Dempsey, but before I could sock ‘em in the kisser two other coppers pulled at me shoulders, squeezed meaty hands around me breasts. I kicked. Sunk me teeth into their fingers. Their red Irish faces flushed with the memory of booze, their breath foul as the steerage our family sailed in across the sea.

They threw me into the paddy.

Father brought us here after mum died, for a new start, a better life. Working in a factory twelve hours a day, no windows, low pay, bosses forcing themselves on me. If I’d a had no father or brothers, I might a hated all men. But I and me family could eat. Back home, how can you march with an empty belly? So I wrap hopes and dreams and those of me family in the red, white, and blue.

From inside the paddy, I looked over me shoulder for Annie. The riot swallowed her whole. “Lucy!” But I heard her voice shrill as a whistlin’ tea kettle.

Across the aisle from where I was sittin’ a woman with a gash on her cheek bled something fierce. I ripped off me sleeve, dropped to me knees, and pressed it against the stunned woman’s cheek. Through her tears, I saw eyes that kindled rebellion. The woman beside her began to sing, “Let Us all Speak Our Minds.” The others, meself included, joined in the anthem. A copper in the front of the paddy banged his billy club on the grill and yelled, “Shut-up!” With no mind to the brute, we continued to sing. Louder. On the floor, a poster encouraged us with the words, Never Give Up. Our voices united, overpowered our fears, until he unlocked the gate and struck the nearest woman with his wooden stick.

Annie appeared, her thin arms waving as she ran alongside the wagon. I yelled through the bars, “Go home.” I, the eldest of six to me parents’ brood, demanded a say in their raising and sending me brothers off to war.

Head aching, chest hurting, hair falling ‘round me shoulders, me hat trampled somewhere in the fight. To jail I’d go. A criminal. A dangerous woman. I smiled at the notion and the girl who held me cuff to her head nodded as if reading me mind.

The wagon’s siren split traffic with a blaring fright as we drove down Broadway and turned a corner. The Harlem River glimpsed between outdoor markets, shops, and eateries. Fear starting to get the best ‘o me.

The jail full of suffragettes, it had no where to lock us up. So they let us go.


A year passed since the brawl as I wait to vote. I look into the face of the women around me. Pride. A quiet jubilance. The change in our lives happening in this tiny drab storefront.

I think of the women who fought before us not having the chance to live this day. Do they know? I reckon they do.

I want to believe in something bigger now. That brotherhood will find the compassion to form a union for all of mankind.

I’m next.

A copper stands beside the ballot box, protecting the case with a scowl and a gun on his hip.

He motions me forward.

I keep me head high as I stride to the glass box. I write me vote in big letters and slip the paper into the slat as if planting something that one day will bloom.

I thank the good Lord for this day. Knowing that so shall life get better for me, it will get better for all.


* * * * *

"1920" was first published by Alpha Female Society. 

DC Diamondopolous's website: http://www.dcdiamondopolous.com/


Monday, 28 January 2019


BLACK FLAG


1. The killer on Forensic Files says to his blond captive; You’re about to have a bad day. I can only imagine. The blindfold. The chokehold. His fingers’ dull caress.

2. Ants crawl up my sleeve, down my dress. I am trying to be humane, picking them off one at a time with a wadded up Kleenex. But even after I kill, I feel them on my skin.

3. They are unstoppable - triumphing over ant bait, partying in those tiny poison pyramids - oblivious, probably breeding.

4. On my way to work I arrive at that stranglehold of freeways - over and underpasses connecting the arteries of the 10 with the 405, where the freeway rises and rims the sky, a momentary blindspot. Or an opening.

5. On the drive home, I contemplate murder.

6. I spray the ants with Black Flag. Next day a cricket does a death march across my floor. And then another.

7. “I have to go pull dandelions,” my friend Catfish emails. “I refuse to spray poison on the yard,” he writes. It’s like he knows. Now I watch TV all night, so guilty I can’t sleep.

8. The killer on Forensic Files waves as the detectives lead him off to prison. I wave back.


* * * * *

"Black Flag" was first published in Moon Tide Press’s Anthology Lullaby of Teeth (Sept. 2017).

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in The Best American Poetry 2016, Verse Daily, Plume, 
Rattle, Literary Mama, Diode, Pirene’s Fountain, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. 
She’s the author of four poetry collections; How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and 
other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), 
and Junkie Wife, (2018). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com 


Sunday, 27 January 2019


THIN-SKINNED

by Alexis Rhone Fancher


You called it the ‘Winter of the Oranges,’ that February into March when our love was new, and the downtown Farmer’s Market sold thin-skinned navel oranges for cheap. You’d grab our reusable bags and head for 5th St, sampling each farmer’s juicy segments before bringing home a ten pound sack. I’d never tasted such consistent sweetness - orange to orange, sack to sack, week to week - like nature had conspired to make every orange equal. Bursting they were - skin too thin to peel with fingers - they needed a sharp knife to slice them smartly into quarters or peel them whole, rind a single, perfect spiral, a three-way between peel, pith and fruit. That winter you squeezed the juice into goblets, overflowing. You poured your love into me. But Spring came. The knife bled. Something stupid I said. You, and the oranges turned bitter overnight.


* * * * *

"Thin-Skinned" was first published in Vox Populi, 2017, and also in KYSO Flash, 2018, where is was nominated for Best Small Fictions, 2018.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in The Best American Poetry 2016, Verse Daily, Plume, 
Rattle, Literary Mama, Diode, Pirene’s Fountain, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. 
She’s the author of four poetry collections; How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and 
other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), 
and Junkie Wife, (2018). A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com 

Saturday, 26 January 2019


Winter Rose

by Alethea Eason


I am a rose opening blood red petals
that have gripped my small furled heart,
layered like lacquered nails over the nectar,
hiding my heart from the lips of the sun

the petals hold off the kiss,
but the breath of the blue day
tears open my flowering face,
petal after petal becoming ruby tongues

my heart wants to find shade in the night,
to hide in the slant light of winter's weak sun,
but the rose is blossoming red in the cold dry air


* * * * *

Alethea Eason is the author of three novels, Hungry, Staved, and Heron's Path. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in www.delsolreview.com, Lamplight Magazine, The Fictional Cafe, The Episcopal Cafe, the anthology The Kindness of Strangers, and ironsoap.com, among other journals, websites, and magazines. She was an educator in California and Chile, and has offered classes called Renew Your Muse dealing with intuitive, creative and spiritual expression, especially for those who feel art does not live inside of them. It does!

Friday, 25 January 2019


Letting it Go

by Darlene Cleary


I stare at paintings of sky now. Not
that I want to fly, or ever did.
The deepening of color, from faint
blue, to one like a sea, almost,
where leaning over the gunwale
of a small craft out from shore
ten miles or more, depth becomes
obscure. And so I am taken in…

I stare at paintings of the sea as well,
and cast myself among the swells
that rise and slap and drop. Turning,
turning to find myself within this
immensity: a rock, a spit of land,
but there is none, nothing, no place
to swim, and so I tilt my frame to float
and stare once more at sky. So this
is where I’ll stay, and I
and drifting violet clouds will
watch it all go by.

Thursday, 24 January 2019


It’s hyperreal –

by Marina Kazakova


It's hyperreal -
the August morning in Brussels:
black curls beneath the wispy clouds,
ink eyelashes and
fluffy eyebrows
brushing soft asphalt -
a sleeping Roma guy
smiles
while dreaming,
perhaps, a funny cartoon,
threatens to disappear
half-starved, abandoned, doomed.
The voice of Brel
is filling the air:
“Ne me quitte pas” -
too sad to hear,
too sad
to bear
the hyperreal picture
of the blessed
left totally ‘à deux,’
with asphalt,
with dreams,
with Brel:
“I will offer you
pearls made of rain”…


* * * * *

Marina Kazakova (b. Gorky, 1983) is a writer, poet and audio-visual artist in Belgium. Published internationally in magazines and journals (Three Rooms Press' Maintenant, AntiNarrative Journal, Crannog), Marina is a frequent performer. She has been shortlisted at different poetry/film-poetry competitions and was awarded various prizes. She is author of verse novel Tishe...Piano, the film adaptation of which was shortlisted for International Short Film Festival Leuven 2013, Miami Indie Wise Festival 2018, XpoNorth Festival 2018, and got ‘The Best Narrative Short’ Award at the International Film Festival behalf Savva Morozov in Moscow in 2015. Her literature works deal to a large degree with confrontation with the past and explore the challenges posed both by memory and grief. In addition to poetry, Marina has written essays and articles for such publications as The Word Magazine (Brussels), Culturetrip. com, Seanema.eu. Marina holds a Master in Public Relations and in Transmedia. Currently, she is Communications Officer at ‘Victim Support Europe’(Brussels) and working on her practice-based PhD in Arts “Lyric Film-Poem. A research on how the unique characteristics of lyric poetry can be expressed in film” at Luca School of Arts (KULeuven).


Wednesday, 23 January 2019


The flat land

by Marina Kazakova


The flat land,
once home
to coal miners,
potato eaters,
the great Flemish masters,
is swiftly losing its chassis -
its temperate climate,
broad shoulders and broad mind…
Flat voices
over-pronounce
the Flemish sounds,
over-use the dialects
in the presence of exiles,
white squatters
are getting even whiter,
ex-punks build fences
to protect the witlof gardens
from the invasion
of lowbrow middle east folk.
The flat wet land
is good for crops,
spreading the seeds,
cycling or ropewalking with sticks
along the walls
of graffiti,
stating precisely but temperately
“Dear Refuges, go home. Please.”


* * * * *

Marina Kazakova (b. Gorky, 1983) is a writer, poet and audio-visual artist in Belgium. Published internationally in magazines and journals (Three Rooms Press' Maintenant, AntiNarrative Journal, Crannog), Marina is a frequent performer. She has been shortlisted at different poetry/film-poetry competitions and was awarded various prizes. She is author of verse novel Tishe...Piano, the film adaptation of which was shortlisted for International Short Film Festival Leuven 2013, Miami Indie Wise Festival 2018, XpoNorth Festival 2018, and got ‘The Best Narrative Short’ Award at the International Film Festival behalf Savva Morozov in Moscow in 2015. Her literature works deal to a large degree with confrontation with the past and explore the challenges posed both by memory and grief. In addition to poetry, Marina has written essays and articles for such publications as The Word Magazine (Brussels), Culturetrip. com, Seanema.eu. Marina holds a Master in Public Relations and in Transmedia. Currently, she is Communications Officer at ‘Victim Support Europe’(Brussels) and working on her practice-based PhD in Arts “Lyric Film-Poem. A research on how the unique characteristics of lyric poetry can be expressed in film” at Luca School of Arts (KULeuven).



Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Girls

by Susan Tepper

We went door to door—me and Patsy collecting April, then Roberta, ‘til we rounded up a posse of girls. Five or six or seven of us to make the trek into town. Several miles in walked barefoot. It was summer and our soles were tough like Navajo feet. By Labor Day I could scrape them with the thickest needle from my mother’s sewing box and it wouldn’t leave an indent. We were toughening up through our feet; though back then we didn’t know much about toughening. We knew only to laugh a lot, and scream at whatever bothered us which was plenty.
Worms. Heavy rains brought out a gazillon fat worms that slithered on the pavement. We tried stepping around them. We screamed more. It was all too horrible. A squashed worm could start a chorus of screaming. April, fixated on the worms, and other insects, bent over studying them closely. Later she did her pre-med and became a doctor. But back when we were twelve, all she wanted to find out was if the worms were happy or sad being out of the dirt. Rosy-pinkish worms that looked too much like a part of our bodies. The part that got all tingly when we pedaled hard, pressing against the bicycle seat.
 We were starting to want attention. We wanted earrings and lipstick. Soft Capezio leather flats in pastel colors, paired with matching Pandora cardigans. So badly did we want, that some of us stole to get those things. Camille stole mascara from McCrory’s and got caught. She had to wait in the manager’s office for her mother to finish work then come get her. She had to promise she’d never steal another thing. She said the store detective kept sneaking looks up her shorts the whole time. Her mother yelled at her in front of everyone in the store office. She batted Camille around the face saying she was a stupid girl.
Our houses looked pretty much the same, newly built in the middle of wild strawberry fields. Honeysuckle and mountain laurel grew wild, too.  My dad dug out a laurel bush and dragged it onto our property where he planted it next to a big hunk of granite. It grew high there. While murmurs of war in a far off jungle, and wannabe beatnik-kids wore black and smoked marijuana.
About halfway to town we reached the railroad station. The old wooden station house peeling its red paint. We always stopped at the station to pee. Because it had a bathroom built just for one, Camille named it the horse stall. “I need the horse stall bad,” Bobbie was saying.
At that point we were always pretty much sweaty and thirsty, pushing to get at the Coke machine on the deserted platform. Patsy was tickling Bobbie to try and make her pee her shorts. Patsy was the strongest; though we were all strong. I was thinnest but still very strong. When you have brothers you become strong out of necessity. Bobbie was yanking on the bathroom door screaming: “Locked!  Oh hell oh hell oh hell oh hell,” clutching herself.
The single door opened. Out came a woman, tall and papery thin. She had on a red cotton dress faded like the station house red. Her cheeks sunken. Watery, blood-shot blue eyes. Her strawberry-blonde curls looked rusty in the bright sun. A smell of liquor surrounded her like perfume. She grinned at us all gathered there, sort of gaping.
“Hiya, girlies.” Said it like she knew us. Except that voice was from nowhere near the train station. I thought of a western woman like Roy Rogers wife. That same twangy sort of sound.
We stood there nodding at her saying our polite hellos back. I thought her hair looked like she left it too long in the curlers. Back then I was very conscious of hair. Some girl in school said my own hair looked like doll hair. You mean fake? I asked the girl. She couldn’t quite explain which upset me a lot. The woman’s dress needed a good pressing as my mother would say.
 “I got rid of it,” the woman said. Ringing her hands the way Patsy’s mother wrung out the washing from the silver tub when the machine broke down. I saw red smeared on the woman’s fingers.
“A lot of blood came out of me, so much blood. I never seen so much blood.” Yet she seemed happy enough; smiling; her stained, crooked teeth almost doing a jig. I don’t know if the others saw the blood on her hands.
  “Dammit! Get in there.” I shoved Bobbie toward the bathroom door.
 The woman didn’t move over to let her get by. She seemed not to notice—Bobbie, or any of us, really. She just seemed to want to get on with her story.  
“I used a coat hanger.” She kept on smiling, all loopy and crooked. I felt her liquor smell rise into my nose. I stared at the belt on her dress. Red cotton, with its worn out leather buckle. The kind of dress passed down from sister to sister to sister. Washed to death until there was no life left to it. The woman cackled. I stood there shivering uncontrollably. Despite the terrible heat beating down.

* * * * *

"Girls" was previously published in Counterexample Poetics.

More about Susan Tepper and her widely published work can be found at www.susantepper.com.



Monday, 21 January 2019


This month there is an additional Moon Prize: the thirty-third Moon Prize goes to Oonah V Joslin's beautiful and haunting story "Song of Everything," posted here on December 24, 2018.


Song of Everything
by Oonah V Joslin

Sapling opened his branches and stretched up towards the light. On the forest floor everything was dark and needle still. He could hear water babbling non-stop.
“What is that noise, Mother?” he asked the tall spruce who guarded him.
“It’s Brook, Sapling, dear.”
“What does it say?”
“It tells of what it has seen and asks where it is going.”
“Who is it asking, Mother?”
“It asks the converging waters and the stony river bed.”
“And they tell it?”
“They tell it what they know.”
“What do they know, Mother?”
Sapling’s mother sighed in the wind. She wished she had all the answers. “Don’t ask me. I speak only to the earth, rain and wind.”
***
When springtime came, birds perched in Sapling’s arms and made nests all around the forest; and they sang.
“What are they singing, Mother,” he asked.
“They are singing love songs and lullabies, dearest,” answered Spruce, “and songs about lands far away.”
“Do you know the words, Mother?”
“Alas no, for I only speak to the wind that carries them.”
***
Sapling grew taller daily. He could see way into the forest now, to where shafts of light streaked through the canopy and onto the floor and wild flowers rampaged in colourful clouds of blossom. He could smell their perfume and hear the bees, busy with excitement, ruffling petal skirts.
“What do bees sing about, Mother?”
“They sing about pollen and honey and love. All the sweetest things in life.”
“And the flowers?”
“Flowers don’t sing, Son.”
Sapling looked at the bright blooms of the forest, and he could see why — flowers were indeed loud enough, in silence.
***
Down in the deciduous wood, the first leaves turned to yellow and red. The flowers, birds and bees were mostly gone. Sapling longed to be as tall as his mother, as tall as Fir and Pine, as tall as Douglas and Conifer. 
***
Snowflakes crinkled as they settled all around him and he held his branches out stiffly to catch a few and admire their lace. Even the darkness became light. The moon played an ever-changing chorus of shadows over the snowflakes and they reflected harmonies of deep blue and purple until the rosy pink of dawn.
But Sapling did not like the song the morning brought. He heard men with harsh voices and a zinging sound cut through the air. It made him quail. “What song is that, Mother,” he asked.
Spruce heard the buzz-saw too and the crack of wood. She caught the sweet, sad scent of freshly cut bark. “That is the song of death, Sapling. Sooner or later all fall or are cut down.”
“When, mother?”
“None can tell.”
They watched as the handsomest tree in the forest crashed to the ground and was hauled away.
“What happens when we fall, Mother?”
“Some say we burn. Others say we go to a beautiful place where all is joy and light, feasting and songs.”
“Do you believe that, Mother?”
“I wish it might be so.”
***
The men with harsh voices came closer. 
“Too small ‘d’you think?”
“Nah, we can take the little’uns root and all. They fetch a good price.”
They smeared an X and an R roughly on the barks.
“I wish we could fly away, like birds,” said Sapling.
“It wouldn’t help. Even birds must learn that song,” said Spruce.

* * * * *
"Song of Everything" was first published in Every Day Fiction, http://www.everydayfiction.com/song-of-everything-by-oonah-v-joslin/#comments
Oonah V Joslin is poetry editor at The Linnet’s Wings. She has won prizes for both poetry and micro-fiction. Her book Three Pounds of Cells ISBN: 13: 978-1535486491 is available online from Linnet’s Wings Press and you can see and hear Oonah read in this National Trust video. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam is serialised at Bewildering Stories, along with a large body of her work (see Bibliography). You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at Parallel Oonahverse https://oovj.wordpress.com/.