Sunday, 15 July 2018

Drinking From the Rock               

by Lisa Fields

Driving toward 
mountain peaks                          
wreathed in pale gray fluff
we arrive inside drizzling rain,
and climb the steep path
Fog moves
in filmy tatters-
to reveal wondrous towers of rock
by curtain folds
as the fog exhales

Surrounded by stone shoulders
one conifer stands
straight-spined, vibrant
it explains to us
the hidden water
it sips from veins
of rock

A memory arrives
I am a young woman
in a pretty summer dress
trying on sophistication-
borrowed from somewhere
in calculated flattery
I sip from the tall glass
re-filled beyond my comfort-
to please

Returning to the present
I wonder
if --
I will learn to wear my limbs with ease,
and like the lone tree in its reaching,
select only the essential

* * * * *

Lisa Fields lives in Southwestern New Mexico. Writing poetry expresses her desire to be immersed in a state of balance. Her inspiration comes from the joy of wild places and the challenge to live happily in the domesticated world. She is a contract writer for Quirine Ketterings, Professor of Nutrient Management in Agricultural Systems, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. In her home state of NY, Lisa served the farming community as an Extension educator for 10 years, and then worked for 10 years as a self-employed advisor.

Saturday, 14 July 2018


by deb y felio

Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon;
the days may be long, but short are the years,
presence is precious in late afternoon.

The journey requires a house over strewn
with toys and laughter and tantruming tears
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon.

The setting sun, the rising of the moon
require the comfort and assuaging the fears.
Presence is precious in late afternoon.

They become daring for risks opportune
ignoring you, seeking friends’ loudest cheers.
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon

Celebrating graduations in June, 
insistence on independence one hears.
Presence is precious in late afternoon

The years are passing, a familiar tune
yet something has changed in the tone, my dears,
the voices are theirs in late afternoon,
Be gentle, be kind, they leave very soon.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Hit and Run

by Riham Adly

FYI, no astronaut launches in space with his fingers crossed, and people won’t follow you on twitter based on your Myers-Briggs personality type. Tea-time and time-travel don’t mix; it’s just not how it goes. You think my life’s an eternal night lit by the ghost lights of perished stars? You know what I am? I am the fish that ended up on your plate Mr. Consumer, a sea-bass in an ice-slurry knocked unconscious. Whatever happened to mammalian pain? You enjoyed watching my live gutting, didn’t you? Admit it. Admit it! All those meditations on motherhood and those failed attempts to dazzle them gods, and OMG, those peanuts that I keep telling you ARE NOT NUTS---Again, I repeat, NOT NUTS! Roots, it’s always been those roots missing, those slow riveting fingers no longer thrust deep into the earth--- Severed. You think I’m a modern tomato when I’ve always been a spring-time cherry---a real-time cherry, not a cherry tomato. You taste me and think: Cardboard. It’s this love-hate thing I have for you and this hate-love thing you have for me. Piano man, I’m telling you, I don’t approve of the colors of leaving, and I don’t like jailbreaks. The clock reads 11:11 again, then 4:11 then 5:11 then 7:11. You are tiresome and exasperating like an ulcer, like that incomprehensible whiteness on my MRI scans. I’m tired of riding my bicycle up your walls.  I want you back home, but:
   1) Not without those waterproof boots.
   2) Not until you burn that “Lazy Benders Grunt in Sex” poem you gave me for our anniversary.
   3) And not before you admit that the LangKawi percussionists are awesome and that the Earth is flat---
         As flat as those pee- nuts…

Thursday, 12 July 2018

It’s Really All About the Right Key

by Riham Adly

The congregation of metal clanked with her every move in an inconsolable jingle. Farrah got used to the sound of her burden as the keychain, toiling above the hill of her breasts, got heavier every day. Everything and everyone in Farrah’s life had a key. The key to her husband’s heart was his stomach. The key to his generosity was her obedience, the key to his pleasure was her vagina. Her kids had keys too: hugs, praise, and that firm voice of hers. Her parents, her friends, and even her employer had their own set of keys. One day while Farrah counted her keys, she realized, that one, very important key, went missing.

Farrah looked for it everywhere, under her bed pillows, in the wardrobe closet, in the drawers of her desk. She even looked inside her fridge, in the kitchen cupboards and in the belly of her stove.
Where could it have gone?  Farah looked down at her left breast behind which her heart lay shielded in its ribcage, unreachable, indestructible.  She remembered a time when her heart was a room without any trapdoors or contraptions--a time when it could skip and sing before reaching the outskirts of childhood and growing into the curse of womanhood.  She tried to quiet and shush her heart, but it pushed and punched its every beat a cry, a plea.

There was only one place left where she dared not look. The chest of drawers high up in the storage room where her most painful memories sat, neatly folded and pushed away.

My key, her heart demanded, find my key. 

When she reached the top shelf she found her book of secrets, and inside the book she found a map. The map led to a cottage nestled in the depth of pocketed time. She walked the length of her shadows, traversing the recollection river. Aubergine-hued Lily thickets lining the path with their black devil’s tongue stood like infantrymen ready to shoot.  When she last saw them a lifetime ago they had had soft petals of white and pink.  Her skin pricked and she felt a fever burn inside when she stood in front of the unlocked gate.  Inside the cottage she glimpsed the keeper of her heart’s key. Not much had changed except for the silver that adorned his beard.  His eyes still held the saddest shade of purple. Time lay curled in his lap like a cat. She watched the man that was not her husband cradle his pain and play with his own key chain.

Grief spilled in torrents when their eyes met.

“Did you come back for me?” The keeper asked, “I still have your key.”

She remembered their deep passion, how he filled the dead space of loneliness in her heart, how he watered the dead flowers once blooming with her youth. She remembered the hushed calls, the secret letters, and the cloying sweetness of roses.

“Adultress,” they had called her. “A sinner.”

She remembered the whiplashes, the cries, the pointing fingers, the accusing eyes, and the weeping of her children pulled from her grasp. If only their love hadn’t been a sin. She held the keeper’s eyes and let him see all she could not speak.

“I’ll sit here and wait then, till you’re free.” Her keeper said, “you still have my keys. You will always have my keys.” 

So she left the cottage and abandoned her key, letting her heart sit in its prison, but was her heart really imprisoned? Did it need a key? 

The inconsolable jingle of her chain guided her back to the sound of her children playing hide and seek. Time with its lancinating edges walked her back to the high shelf in the storage room. 

“Hi Honey.” Her husband chimed, his fingers wrapping her waist in a tight grip. She stood taller, her head held high. He must be proud, she thought. For people bless him even when he’s hit her/ cursed her/ belittled her, even when he has sinned.

She smiled at him, letting him hear the metallic tinkle of her key chain.

His grip of steel tightened.

“Darling, what would you like to have for lunch today? Would you like the lamb and lentil soup with rice pilaf and some Tzatziki?” She reached out and kissed him full on the mouth, “Try to come home early today, I’ll be wearing your favorite dress.” His grip relaxed. She smiled again.

She smiled more and more every day, enjoying the sound of her keys’ clanking jingle.

* * * * *

Picture used with permission of the Artist, Nikolay Reznichenko.

Nikolay Reznichenko was born in Saratov region of Russia, in 1958.
From 1982 Nikolay had lived in Karelia (Russia), where he taught painting and graphics. It was in Karelia, in 1986, where his first exhibition took place. Its success determined the future success of his works in many other exhibitions.

That same year he moved to St Petersburg. From 1989 Nikolay Reznichenko was a member of Free Arts Association where he permanently participates in all exhibitions. To a considerable extent his art was influenced by the Russian Orthodox tradition of icon painting; he has direct experience in working with icons and restoring them.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Words Leave Lips

by Kelli J Gavin

Words leave lips
Too harsh
Too often

Words hurt souls
Too rough
Too deep

Stop and think
Pause, just for a moment

What happened?
What happened to you?
Why did you let it?

Those words came at you
You took them
You reached for them
You received them

Why did you take them in?
Did you long for them?
Did you expect the hurt in them?

You speak those words
You run to those words
You use those words as if a gift

If they hurt you
They will hurt others

Throw them away
Throw them in the ocean
Deep and far and fierce

Rid yourself
Rid your mind
Your mouth
Your heart

Your life doesn’t need them
No one needs them

Stop reaching for them
Stop sharing them
Stop gifting them

They aren’t needed 
They aren’t wanted
Will never be appreciated

Words leave lips
Too harsh
Too often

* * * * *

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of 22 years and two crazy kids. She is a Writer, a Professional Organizer and owns two companies. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you). Check out Kelli J Gavin on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram: @KelliJGavin and her blog:

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

 by Sherry Shahan

When she was wheeled into the day room, attended by her IV drip, Jack thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She seemed absolutely pure, evacuated of all evil, honed to perfection. Her head was an imported melon covered by the finest filo pastry, stretched and rolled thin. Her cheeks were eggshells. Concave. The hair on her head was shredded coconut. The hair on her body was dark and fuzzy, like the mold on Gorgonzola. Her skin was the color of Dijon mustard – that wonderful brownish tinge that comes from lost vitamins and minerals. She was everything gourmet Jack had denied himself.
According to the nurse, her name was Iris and this was her eighth admission in three years – her parents checked her in, she put on some weight, she went home, she lost it. This time, she’d done a two-month fast and then eaten a carton of laxatives. Jack was impressed, he felt encouraged; apparently, it was possible to go through the program without being totally brainwashed.
When Iris looked at Jack, she wondered what he was doing on the ward. Not exactly no-boys-allowed, but he was the first male anorexic she’d ever seen.
When Jack looked at Iris, he couldn’t help but imagine what life would be like in their own tenth-floor apartment, no elevator. Living room with bar bells, rubber balls, wrist weights with Velcro strips. Medicine cabinet with over-the-counter laxatives (chocolate squares, capsules, herbal mixtures). Diuretics in timed released tablets. Digital scales, fine-tuned to a quarter-ounce. Disposable enema bags. No kitchen. Ultimate control over their bodies.
Iris smiled at him; her T-shirt said YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
“Everyone’s on a diet,” she said softly, “and all they do is gain weight.”
Jack nodded.
            “The nurses are jealous of my figure,” she continued. “Most people are. Even Dr. Chu. Why do you think he started this program?”
Jack couldn’t think of any other reason.
“They won’t be happy until everyone on this unit looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.”
Jack sighed.

After dinner, Jack opened and closed the metal chairs 350 times before stacking them against the wall. Then he focused on questions to ask his nutritionist: How much does the average toenail clipping weigh? How many calories do you burn clipping them? What happens to the saliva I swallow?

Therapy filled the following days:
Plus lectures. “The issue isn’t food,” Dr. Chu droned on. “It’s about seeking perfection in an imperfect world.”

Dr. Chu gave Jack permission to join a few patients on 20-minute walks around the hospital grounds. Monitored, of course, by the physical therapist who made sure no one jogged.

Jack stared at his lunch: a sandwich (with crust), an apple (with skin), and a lettuce salad with a little packet of oily dressing. He portioned his sandwich with a knife and fork, careful not to touch the bread in case calories could be absorbed through his skin – the reason he’d never used shaving cream or aftershave.
He tried not to look surprised when Iris asked the nurse for a bullion cube. “This potato doesn’t have any flavor,” she said. “May I have a cup of hot water, too, please?”
Bullion sloshed over the potato melting the excess butter. Iris ate the potato and left her floating butter. The nurse didn’t make her drink the bullion because it wasn’t on her menu.
At dinner, Iris used her finger to wipe a pat of butter on an asparagus spear, then suck an adjacent finger, pretending to remove the excess butter. The buttered finger scratched an ankle and the calories were absorbed by a yellow sock.

Iris gave up her wheelchair on the eleventh day.

Iris and Jack shared secrets. Jack told her how he’d stayed up the night before the weekly weigh-in drinking gallons of water so the scales would show an increase in weight, which he’d pee away later. Iris told how she’d smuggled fishing weights onto the ward and sewed them into the hem of her hospital gown. “As long as the scales show a weight gain,” she said, “we have an argument against the doctor raising our calories.”

After lights out, sometimes at two, sometimes three or four, depending on the schedule of the night nurse, Jack sat on Iris’s hummingbird feet while she did sit-ups. She rode his bony spine while he sweated out push-ups.
“Was it good for you?” he’d ask afterwards, collapsing from exhaustion.

The next weigh-in showed that Jack had not put on the required weight. Dr. Chu
summoned Jack into his office “to chew the fat.”
“We monitor your weight very carefully,” he said.
(It’s our job to make sure you gain as much weight as possible while you’re here.)
“Did you hear me, son?”
“We can’t let you go home until your weight stabilizes.”
(You’re a prisoner until you gain a thousand pounds.)
“Do you understand, son?”
“Since your chart indicates no weight gain, even after we’ve raised your calories another 200 per day, the staff can only conclude you’ve been exercising after hours.”
(We have closed circuit cameras and hidden microphones in your bedroom.)
“Are you listening to me, son?”

Jack found Iris in the day room playing solo scrabble. Four ‘S’s spelled slim, slender,
slight and svelte.
Iris smiled at him. “I got emaciated on a triple-word score!”
“They’re on to us,” Jack said, sitting beside her. “Guess all that water before weigh-in didn’t make up for exercising.”
“Salt pills. Then we’ll retain more water.”
“Tomorrow’s my mom’s birthday and I have a two-hour pass,” he said. “I’ll buy some.”
“Wrap them in a tissue,” Iris said, “and put it under your arm. Nurses never check
Jack savored these conversations with Iris; he relished them.
Sandy and another bulimic strolled by sucking orange wedges.
“Quitters,” Jack murmured.
“No will-power,” Iris whispered back.

Before visiting his family, Jack stopped at a drug store and bought a packet of salt tablets.
A display of boxed chocolates by the register gave him an idea. He headed to the Home Remedy aisle and grabbed a carton of laxatives, then paid for a small paintbrush and the latest copy of Weight Watchers.
He set the laxatives on his dashboard during his mom’s birthday party. They were a melted mess by the time he returned to the hospital. In the parking lot, he used the brush to paint the pages of the magazine with laxative. Then he checked in at the front desk. Pockets were turned inside out. Shoes shaken. Cuffs unrolled. Frisked, like a felon. Thankfully, the salt tablets didn’t drop. Sweat kept the tissue in place. No one questioned the magazine.
“Have you seen Iris?” he asked the nurse.
“Took her to ICU an hour ago.”
His heart slipped. “Is she okay?”
“Her resting pulse shot up to 250 beats per minute,” the nurse said. “That girl’s a cardiac arrest looking for a place to happen.”
Jack didn’t bother to ask if Iris could have visitors. He knew the answer. He also knew the hospital layout better than most of the staff, since he used to jog the halls late at night.
He found her in Room 602. She wasn’t under an oxygen tent. Good sign. She had an IV. drip and a heart monitor. Her eyelids fluttered lightly.
“Iris?” he whispered, moving closer.
“Jack?” Her voice was thin as angel hair pasta.
He held a limp hand. “How’re you feeling?”
“How do I look?” she asked, eyes still closed.
“Like a delicately carved skeleton,” he said.
She smiled. “Come closer.”
Jack lowered the rail and slipped under the sheet. He was about to give her the magazine when the bouncing ball on the screen went flat and a siren sounded. Nurses stormed the room screaming medical stuff Jack didn’t understand, although “Get the hell out of that bed!” seemed clear enough.
A nurse slapped at Iris’s arm and jabbed it with a needle.
Jack watched from the foot of the bed and stuffed pages of Weight Watchers into his mouth. He choked down the table of contents. He finished off a laxative-lathered essay, ‘Hunger Pains.’
The bouncing ball reappeared on the monitor, slowly, at first, just a simmer, then full boil.
While Iris began to breathe comfortably, he finished off ‘Feed My Lips’ and ‘Food for Thought.’
His darling had pulled off another near-death experience; Jack had never hungered for her more.

* * * * *

“Skin and Bones” first appeared in ZYZZYVA as “Iris and Jim” in 2004.

Sherry Shanan's credits include several novels published by Random House. Her short stories, personal essays, and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Oxford University Press, ZYZZYVA, Confrontation, Exposition Review, and many others. Upcoming publications include Westwind (UCLA Literary Journal), Mount Hope (Roger Williams University) and Dark Ink Magazine. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches an ongoing writing course of UCLA Extension.

Monday, 9 July 2018


by Lara Bosley

The woman said she walked
on eggshells, came
home all yolkifried.
The man said he tried
the shirt but it was
backwards so returned it.
The woman claimed she ate
fire for brunch which
was free with the setpaper.
The man demanded
burnmarks to annihilate
his wishful thinking.
She said she sighed
motorbike rides all morning.
He queried whether
that was a time
or place for
lilac quipping.
She said they’d
bloom probably
regardless of colour.
It’ll wash out
She appendaged.