Sunday, 31 October 2021

                                                           THE LOOKING GLASS


by Alethea Eason


 A girl named Elena and an old woman named Marta lived on a lonely windswept coast. Their cottage rested behind a grove of eucalyptus trees that sheltered it from the gust the sea cast onto the land. When Elena stared out her bedroom window at night, the trees danced madly, waving their hands at the stars. There was always a clutching at her heart as she watched. She feared that if one of the trees saw her face in the window she would be grabbed into its leafy arms, never to see Marta again.

One day the two of them sat on a grassy knoll that rose in front of the cottage, sunning themselves while Marta mended a hole in a fishing net. Elena watched Marta work and thought about how the trees looked as they stirred at night. For the first time, she wondered if Marta and she were all alone.

“Are there any others like us?”

Marta didn’t look up. “Not in this world.”

Elena’s face had freckled from spending most of her days outside. The sun had bleached her hair to a sandy white. She scratched her nose with dirty fingers. “Then how did we get here?”

Marta’s hair was the same shade as the girl’s. Lines traced her face, especially when she smiled, but Elena was thankful she was not very old, not yet.

Marta tied a knot in her string. “We were sent.”

“By whom?”       

“All of them. They all wanted us here. I found you one morning, sitting as calmly as you please, right here in this spot.”

Elena frowned as Marta continued working. “Were we bad?” ‘

“Heavens, no. We are here for good reasons. There’s much we have to do. The work is mine now, but someday it will be yours.”  Marta yanked on the net and was satisfied her mending would hold. She stood up before the child could ask more questions and gathered it in her arms. “The tide is low. Go to the rocks, and bring back a pail of mussels for dinner. I’ll have a surprise when you return.”

After she filled her bucket, Elena studied the water. The surface appeared to be eye level, and she felt the sea breathe as it rose and sank. She climbed out of the low pools and up the sandy bank so that she could see the gray water meet the grayer sky. Did anything exist beyond that line?

Goosebumps crawled up Elena’s arm, and her stomach felt queasy. She grabbed the bucket and hurried as fast as she could to home.

Elena ran into the cottage. “Where is the surprise?”

Marta took a frying pan from its hook and poured wine from a large green bottle into it.

“You’ll find out in a little while. Elena, do you ever wonder where we get the things we need? This pan, for example, the wine we cook with, or even this bottle that holds the wine?”

What a strange question. Elena put a cork in the wine bottle after Marta set it down. “Haven’t these things always been here?”

Marta didn’t answer, and Elena’s uneasiness grew. After dinner, she cleared the table and wiped it clean. As she worked, Marta went into her room. When she came out, she held a disc encased in ebony and supported by a thick handle of silver. A sapphire cord looped through a hole at the end. She laid the thing face down on the table.

A rosebud, it’s head slightly bent on a stalk with three delicate leaves and three thorns had been engraved in the round back of the object. Elena traced the pattern with her fingertip.

Marta watched her for a moment. “Do you feel anything?

What was Marta up to? “No. Should I?”

Marta turned the object over. Elena peered into it. Her face reflected back to her. She gasped and pushed it away. “That’s me?”

Marta smiled. “Of course, that’s you. This is a tool called a looking glass. I use this to create all we need. I made the sea, the trees, and the birds that fly above us by gazing into it. I even made the frying pan because we needed something to cook with. I could have created another world, but I have memories of the sea, and so here we are.”

Elena folded her hands on the table, grateful for how real and secure it felt beneath them. How could things not be? Why did they need to be created? Then a more troubling thought entered her mind. “How did we get here?”

Marta moved the mirror to the side and reached across the table to place her palm on the little tent that Elena’s hands had formed. “As other worlds began to die, they dreamed of this place. They dreamed you, and they dreamed me, other Martas and Elenas before us, and even the looking glass. We were made from the desire for life.”

Elena bent her head and looked down at their hands. “To die? Like the mussels I pulled from the rocks?”

“All things die, but you and I, we are here to help life itself to continue.” Marta reached for the looking glass and held it in front of Elena again. “Don’t be afraid. What you see is your reflection, just like when you look into a window or a puddle of rain water.”

Elena cocked her head, and the image did the same. Her dirty fingers that afternoon had smudged her nose. She blinked. A young woman looked at her, the smudge no longer there.

She covered her eyes. “Marta, someone is in there.”

Marta turned the glass over and held it to heart. “You saw yourself, that’s all. Your power has now been linked. And now I must ask you to do something very hard. You must promise me to never look into it again until after my death. The power it holds will be yours, but only then.”

Elena gripped the table edge. “But, Marta, you’re not going to die, ever.”

“Not for a long, long time.”

“That means that someday you will.” Elena squeezed the table harder. “What do you do with that thing?”

“While you sleep, I remake worlds, and always this one first.”

Elena’s body suddenly felt heavy. She squeezed her eyebrows together and covered her eyes again. “My head hurts. I can’t fit your words into it.”

“Look at me, Elena.

 Elena lowered her hands.

 “You must take what I am telling you seriously. A part of your readiness, the test of your power, will be to resist the glass. When I am away, you are not to touch it. Do you understand?”

Elena yawned. “No.”

“Will you promise me anyway?”

Elena nodded.

As Marta tucked her in a few minutes later, Elena looked at the trees beyond her window. “I wish you made the eucalyptus less scary.”

Marta sat on the bed. “I had no idea that they bothered you. They are another memory I seem to have. Their leaves would be used when people caught colds.”

“What are colds?”

“Something I chose not to bring into this world.”

Elena woke in the middle of the night and found Marta in her rocking chair holding the mirror before her face. She stood with cold feet in her doorway and stared at the back of the chair, afraid to lift her eyes in case she might catch sight of what was shown in the glass.

Marta lowered it to her lap. “Come here.”

Elena couldn’t move. “I don’t want to create the world, night after night. How could I think of everything in the world?”

Marta pushed herself from the rocker and placed the looking glass by its dark blue cord on a peg next to where her thick shawl hung.

Where had she kept the glass before? Elena put on foot on top of the other. “Don’t you ever sleep?”

Marta reached for the shawl and wrapped it around her. “I no longer need to. I’ve been here for what would be lifetimes in the other worlds. Once something has been created and put in its place, the sea, for instance, all it needs is a little attention and I can move on to new things. Put your slippers on and come with me.”

Elena followed Marta to the back of the cottage. The sea had sent only a breeze that night and the eucalyptus waved gently above their heads. They walked under the shaggy branches through the bark that lay in piles on the ground.

Marta finally stopped. “I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.”           

“What was that?”

“I didn’t trust what the one who was here before you told me.” She picked up a leaf and broke it in half. “Smell this.”

Elena took a whiff. “It’s musty.”

“But underneath that?”

Elena sniffed the leaf again. “Something strong.”

Marta knelt and took Elena’s hands, pulling them to her heart. “And healing. There is nothing in the world I have made here for you to fear.”

But the craving to peer into the looking glass grew stronger inside Elena each day. When Marta left the house, she often stood transfixed before the rosebud, wanting to trace its delicate lines again. What would she bring into her world? Would the glass show her animals and plants and objects that she’d never think of by herself?

One day when Marta had gone on a ramble, the desire to touch the glass became a deep hunger. She’d gotten taller so that now her eyes were level with the rosebud carving. She stood close enough to the glass to almost press her lips against it. Her fingers flexed at her side. She tapped a foot to keep from grabbing the silver handle.

Then, her breath unfurled the bud into a full white blossom. The stem supporting it turned dark green, the leaves and thorns pressed up from the wood. The newborn flower’s scent drifted to her nostrils.

Elena.

Did the looking glass speak? “Can you hear me?”

Dew appeared on the ivory petals.

“I would like someone to talk to who’s my own age. Could you do that?”

The perfume of the flower increased.

“And I would want more sweet things to eat. And a soft baby animal that isn’t wild that could be all mine.”

Turn me over, Elena.

She put a hand on the wall to brace herself.

Turn me over.

Her fingers on her free hand quivered above the flower. “I can’t.”

Of course, you can. Touch me. My petals feel like velvet.

Her index finger brushed the rose. A searing pain shot across it as though she’d touched a hot stove. She pulled her hand back and put her finger in her mouth.

The next time won’t hurt. I promise. That’s the worst of it. Turn me over. You can have anything you want.

Elena bolted from the house and down to the sea. She shoved her hands into the water. The salt burned her finger even more. She matched her breath with the waves to slow her heart and lifted her eyes to the horizon.

Nothing lay beyond the intersection of sea and sky. The realization hit her as though a wave had enveloped her. Only emptiness lay beyond the beach and the house, the trails Marta and she explored, and the hills to the east.

She felt sick with fear.

When Elena walked into the cottage, Marta was scrubbing some wild carrots. “I forgot all about making these.”

She didn’t sense what had happened? Elena wanted to be warned again, do not touch the looking glass. But the old woman hummed a tune and continued her chore.

“Why do you keep the looking glass on the wall. Why not hide it from me?”

Marta straightened and put her hands on her back. “I can’t do that. The greater it compels you and the more you hold back, the stronger your power will be.”

Elena ran to her room. Marta did not try to comfort her.

Time passed slowly the way it had always done for the two of them. Nothing seemed urgent. The looking glass remained silent and the rosebud only an etching in wood. Yet, as long as Elena stayed inside the cabin, she felt the glass’s presence. Her fingertip stung continually unless she rambled outside in the world Marta had created.

One spring morning, Elena took a walk through the yellow grass that grew on the plateau that looked over the sea. She wandered farther than she’d ever gone toward the hills. A rabbit scurried from a bramble. She made a mental note so that she could find the spot again in the summer to pick berries and then followed the rabbit through a jumble of rocks that loomed ahead.

The rabbit disappeared into them. Elena climbed to the top. She sat and dangled her feet over the edge but then pulled them up suddenly.

A void lay below her. No black like night, no constant gray when the fog and the sea seemed to become one. Not even an endless pool of white light. There simply was nothing. Beads of sweat gathered on her forehead. If she fell, she would vanish like the rabbit.

Though her legs could barely carry her, Elena found her way home. Elena entered the cottage, wanting to throw herself into the old woman’s arms, but Marta wasn’t there. She couldn’t stay in the cottage alone. She had to find Marta, but before she could take a step, the looking glass called to her.

Elena, one glimpse and you will no longer be afraid. You will understand everything.

The glass pulled her to the wall.

You don’t want to be scared anymore, do you?

The rosebud came alive. The first delicate petals had just loosened when Marta stepped through the door carrying a basket of apples.

Elena jerked herself from the wall.

“Did you touch it?”

Elena stood mute.

Marta’s face turned pale. “Did you touch it?” 

Not this time.

“No, but I wanted to.”

Elena’s words tumbled out as she told Marta what had happened at the rocks, her terror of becoming nothing, and she’d touched the looking glass once long ago and how her fingertip still burned.

Marta exhaled. “You have resisted, or you would have looked into it long before now.”

The next morning Elena picked a basket of strawberries for breakfast and prepared them while Marta sipped nettle tea. She carried two bowls of strawberries to the table along with a pitcher of cream.

“There must be something on the other side of the rocks.”

Marta poured the thick cream into her bowl. “Nothing is there.” She took a bite and wiped the cream from her mouth. “I haven’t been able to create anything beyond that point. Maybe someday you will.”

Elena glanced at the looking glass on the wall. “I hate that thing. And I’m sure I have no talent for creating worlds.”

After that day, Marta sat with Elena on the beach and explained how she gazed into the glass. All that was around them, the gulls and crabs, the eucalyptus and cedars, the rains that kept their cistern filled would appear and then materialize. And she would see what the other worlds needed or mend broken things in the fabric of their existences.

“You talk and talk,” Elena complained one day after Marta pointed to a spout of water blowing from a whale’s back, one of her recent creations. “But I still don’t understand.”

It was a familiar complaint. Marta answered in the same way she always did. “When the time comes, you will know. The pictures will come.”

Marta stood slowly. She walked back to the cottage, bracing each step with her walking stick. Elena watched the bank of fog that had been resting on the water all afternoon flow inland. She stayed until the sun disappeared, and only then did she go home.

The next morning, Marta could not get out of bed. She took Elena’s hand. “Go outside and tell me what you see.”

Elena rushed from the house and down the path to the beach. The sun came out behind the fog bank. She stepped back. Nothing lay before her, no swells of water, no gulls singing in the air. There was no longer the smell of salt in the wind. She turned to run home. The tops of the eucalyptus trees were gone as though an invisible hand had rubbed them out. The hills to the east disappeared one by one. Only a small patch of blue hovered overhead, the rest of the sky erased.

 Marta’s eyes were closed when Elena found her. Light had gone from the window.

The looking glass beckoned. I am the only hope you have.

There was a candle on the bedstand. Elena lit it and strode to the glass. She took it from the wall, expecting her hand to be seared. But the handle was only warm, the last warmth left in the room. Sitting down on Marta’s bed, she stared at the back as the rose unfurled.

Look into me. Marta does not have to die. Look into me and make it so.

Elena wanted nothing more than to have things the way they used to be and for Marta to be well again. Squeezing her eyes shut, she turned the looking glass over. As she was about to open them, she heard Marta’s voice from an evening long in the past.

“You must resist the glass. I could not and worlds died. This one was almost lost. If you look, everything will end.”

Elena turned her face away and pointed the glass toward Marta. Time stopped. She remembered Marta being not so old. She remembered feeling safe. Bonfires made with driftwood on the beach. Walks where they would pick blackberries as they strolled. She remembered a time she did not know anything about the looking glass. The longing for the past tore at her heart. The glass felt like an anchor in her hand.

How could it be so heavy?

If you only look at me, you can make the past live again.

She barely breathed.

“Look at me.”

Elena didn’t move, afraid the glass played another trick.

Marta’s voice. “Look at me, Elena.”      

She opened her eyes. The peace in Marta’s face reflected back to her, no looking glass needed for Elena to be filled with her love. The glass felt light as a cloud now. Marta grasped it with a shaky hand and turned it so that Elena could see herself. The young woman who appeared so many turnings of the years ago met her eyes.

Elena took the glass as Marta’s hand dropped from it and became the creator of worlds.

The next morning, the sun was warm and lit Elena’s skin, striking it like a match. She had remade the sea, not really knowing how. She walked to the water. The waves splashed gently over her feet.

She raised the looking glass and peered into it. “What would have happened if I had looked into you before Marta died?” 

She saw herself by Marta’s side, her eyes fixed in horror as she clutched the silver handle. The bed floated like a raft in the nothingness. One moment Elena held Marta’s hand, in the next Marta was gone. The void swallowed suns flung far out in space. Elena watched other worlds blink out and galaxies collapse upon themselves. And then she no longer existed

The looking glass whispered. You were the last hope.

Elena fell to the sand and filled her fist with the course gains. Did Marta make each one by one?

After a long while, she sighed. “I have world to create.”

But first there was the most difficult task. She carried Marta’s body, so light now, to the beach and made a bed of driftwood and dried eucalyptus bark. She held the looking glass so that it caught the rays of the sun. The wood smoldered, and the flames soared.

Elena sensed that someone in another world beyond the horizon gazed into a looking glass, remembering Marta, pulling out possibilities like bright fish from the sea.    


* * * * *

"The Looking Glass" was published originally in Strange Worlds (Avon Camelot Books, 2000) and then in the version appearing above in Stunning Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Borderland Writers Co-Op, 2020).

Alethea Eason's poetry has recently been published in El Palacio, the Magazine of the Museum of New Mexico. She released the novel Whispers of the Old Ones (young-adult magical realism) in April. She is currently working on the Opened Earth Poetry SeriesThe Mermaid Lucia and Rainmaker, the first two chapbooks in the series, are available on Amazon.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Five Stars

by Meg Weston


I’m hoarding gold these days
the backlit leaves of maple and oak
clinging to branches before the wind
pries them loose and strips
the color from the sky.

I’m grasping the last light of each day
before we change the clocks and it’s dark
in the afternoon, and dark when I awake.
I’m trying to hitch a ride on the tail
of our sun 93 million miles away.

I just found out that my father’s cousin
had five children who perished
in the holocaust.  No names on the family tree,
just five small asterisks.  My father never told us.
Like a hit and run driver this news crashes
into my world leaving me bewildered, searching
for buried names in the fallen leaves.

I think of the teenager Greta who is taking us to task
for robbing her of her future, valuing the pursuit of gold
more than the preservation of the wild, plundering
the Amazon rainforest, ploughing under our primeval
forests, leaving a desiccated inheritance

the missing trees that should belong to her
this wobbling planet that gives
me such moments of joy
seeing gold in the maple leaves.

I’m clinging to the fading light
knowing darkness will fall
hoping it will be illuminated
    by at least one star
         but I’m wishing for five stars
                                             full of hope
                                                 for the futures
                                                     of all those children.


* * * * *

Weston’s poetry expresses her passion for geological processes that shape the earth and stories that shape our lives. Her obsession with volcanoes can been seen in photographs on her website www.volcanoes.com. After receiving an MFA in Creative Writing in creative non-fiction from Lesley University in 2008, she's studied the craft of poetry and her poems have been published in The Goose River Anthology, Red Fez, and The Mountain Troubadour. Her poem, Her Skates, received an award in the 2021 Carol Lee Vail Poetry contest from The Vermont Poets Society. Weston is the co-founder of The Poets Corner www.thepoetscorner.org



Friday, 29 October 2021

WHEN THESE TIMES WANE

by Lorraine Caputo


After nightfall, I hear a one-man band, the toilet-tank float flapping
against a drum, the pan flute. I used to see that
man walking, playing on other streets, in another barrio – but never
in this part of town. What is his memory doing here?
Will I ever hear your shuffle along the daytime streets again?

            I wonder, once this pandemic wanes, who will still be here?
            Will that one-man band? How many of the women selling in
            the Saturday morning market streets? Who of us will be left?

All Hallow’s Eve dusk, a strange ├Žnemic dried-blood light permeates the
sky, its deep glitter drifting into the corners of this cityscape,
into the deepest, finest folds of this valley … a strange light …
thousands of spirits of this pandemic & those of other centuries,
of conquests & wars – returning in search of their kin …


* * * * *

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appear in over 300 journals on six continents, and 19 collections – including On Gal├ípagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. In 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or http://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Hourglass

by Eve Makoff


The hours flip by on the mud-brown digital clock on my dresser.

Fluorescent red. 
1:21. 2:34. 3:18. 4:25. 
I am awake because I am counting. 
My waist is a 27 but should be 24.
An hourglass. 
36-24-36.


Toes dug into the sand, face-down on my towel, whispering under my armpit. 

“I’m so fucking fat.”
I’m 13 years old and I ate 5 brownies.
I should always weigh 125 pounds. 


Peanut butter. 

188 calories in 2 tablespoons. 
16 grams of fat. 
Thickly spread on soft white bread in the cafeteria at the camp under the redwoods. 
No peanut butter for 20 years.


Grade point average 

SAT/AP scores
Class ranking 
Tennis games 
Extracurriculars
Friends Suitors Colleges


3000 miles away.

The freezing air whips my face on 116th Street and Broadway.
40 degrees and I’m barefoot. 
On my stoop an old man says I had Michelangelo toes.
In 1984 the drinking age in New York is 19.


Married at 32 

9 pounds 11 ounces
8 pounds 7 ounces
8 pounds 15 ounces
Divorced at 42
Married at 49


Carbs Laps Miles 

Degrees Jobs Salaries


[Belly laughs-Soulmates

Awe-Transcendence-Grief
Poems-Music
Words
Silence]


Time

How much do I have left?
X


* * * * *

Eve Makoff is an internal medicine and palliative care physician. She is studying narrative medicine at Columbia University and reads and writes in her spare time. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Obsession

by Sarah Dickenson Snyder


Maybe it started with the composition book
in kindergarten, those thick spaces
and straight lines I filled and stayed on,
all the words I first learned to spell,
rhyming its own spell, releasing
a geyser: call, tall, small…
my hand another person,
someone strange and strong,
different from the little girl inside my skin,
then to the calligraphy set
under the Christmas tree,
that pen infusing a new language in me
as I held the nib at a slant
to create a new dimension.
Onto carving in slate
and the letterpress
and drawers of fonts.
What stays on a page
or a stone is like saving a moth,
the flutter inside my palms
until I release it to live in the night.
I touch carved letters, press the scar
to feel the healing.
My mother always works her way
onto the page tying or untying an apron
(am I trying or untrying to be her daughter?).
No, I have not lettered her gravestone
though she lines the basin
of our pond. I dive into the past,
swim in her ashes and bits of bone
and plant words in furrowed rows,
surprised by what grows.


* * * * *

"Obsession" was first published in Literary North.

Sarah Dickenson Snyder has written poetry since she knew there was a form with conscious line breaks. She has three poetry collections, The Human Contract (2017), Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019). Recently, poems appeared in Rattle, Lily Poetry Review, and RHINO. She has been nominated for Best of Net, was the Poetry Prize Winner of Art on the Trails 2020, and a 2021 Finalist in the Iron Horse Literary Review’s National Poetry Month contest. She lives in the hills of Vermont. sarahdickensonsnyder.com


Tuesday, 26 October 2021

 

Lantana Sun

by Pratibha Kelapure


Ghaneri, the smell of dirt as they are called
in Marathi – the language of the people
with the hearts of butter living in the land
of rocks – yet the colors of the rainbow –
these charming clusters of lantana flowers
keeping company with the five-year-old girl
alone in the garden on sunny afternoons
of long dry summers when
the work keeps father away and mother busy
the many incongruities of life of the needy
the girl oblivious to the lack of supervision
the landscape is dry, but there are colors
and butterflies flitting about in the bushes
with the tiny clusters of red, yellow, pink
and purple, her own secret sanctuary
too young to comprehend the cruelty to nature
she separates single flowers from the clusters
and makes a pile, a colorful palette to create
a pretty-pretty rangoli on the landing stone
her mind a confluence of folktales and fairies
an afternoon of bliss for all she knows – for now


* * * * *

Pratibha Kelapure is an Indian-American poet residing in California. Her poems appear in Choice Words: Writers on Abortion (Anthology, Haymarket Books, 2020), Entropy Magazine, Plath Poetry Project, miller's pond poetry, The Lake, Tab Journal (upcoming), Amethyst Review (upcoming), and many other literary magazines. She is the founding editor of The Literary Nest.



Monday, 25 October 2021

 

Fair, Not Lovely

by Pratibha Kelapure


Glow & Lovely (formerly Fair & Lovely) is an Indian skin-lightening cosmetic product of Hindustan Unilever introduced to the market in India in 1975. They changed the name after the backlash last year from the BLM movement.

Color of the skin, a girl’s destiny in life
Pick of the litter, claimed by some of you
Men who could afford to choose a wife
With fair skin tone, a trophy for status
And level of success in career, perhaps
An American Green Card or a Mercedes
At the gate of your Beach Candy bungalow
The matter of your own skin tone is utterly
Insignificant as is your handsomeness quotient,
The personality of a wet dishrag, violent temper
All are acceptable; it is a girl’s destiny
We strive to lighten our skin tones
Nightly applications of turmeric-laced milk
And thank goodness for Fair & Lovely.
Less trouble for parents if we get snatched early.
All those dolls quickly claimed and locked
In those curio cabinets of your homes
We are the buds picked before
We could bloom, the colors of our petals
Forever remain unseen by the sun
Of course, that is immaterial
As long as the vases are pretty and
We snugly fit without inhaling too much air
We are envied by our darker sisters
Who don’t know their own good fortune
They could choose later in life wisely
The affable men who might love them


* * * * *

Pratibha Kelapure is an Indian-American poet residing in California. Her poems appear in Choice Words: Writers on Abortion (Anthology, Haymarket Books, 2020), Entropy Magazine, Plath Poetry Project, miller's pond poetry, The Lake, Tab Journal (upcoming), Amethyst Review (upcoming), and many other literary magazines. She is the founding editor of The Literary Nest.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

The Year of Running Away

by Allison Thorpe

 
One summer I sold flowers on a street corner.
It was Arizona and the sun converted
the crust from my northern bones
into orange smoothies and halter tops.
I skateboarded in the park
and forgot the language of snow.
 
With each bouquet I hawked,
my hair grew blonder and wilder,
the sun a drama queen
turning my skin into a fading
remembrance of winters past
until I owned that street corner.
 
Bright carnations and daisies,
a whisper of baby’s breath and fern,
the bundles flew into car windows—
a quick gift for grandma,
husbands hoping to bury mistakes,
hospital errand duties—
impulse buying in a fast food world.
 
I lived in a shady apartment
above a thriving jazz club
with Jeannie who read palms
and took her bible to bed,
two windblown transplants
eager for adventure.
We obsessed over Etta and Billie
and the syncopation of women.
 
We hung out with life that summer,
tasted dangers mothers warned us about,
paving our own path to adulthood
and flourishing in that culture
where even the cactus bloomed,
beautiful and temporary
like dust dancing sunshine.


* * * * *

"The Year of Running Away" originally appeared on Workhorse Publishing website.

Allison Thorpe is the author of several collections of poetry, the most recent being Reckless Pilgrims (Broadstone Books). Her work has appeared in such journals as So To Speak, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Split Rock Review, Roanoke Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Gingerbread House. She'd love to be an international poker player.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Tenth Avenue Normal

by Allison Thorpe

 
For awhile my father was good.
There were parties, shiny shoes,
 
a new house on Tenth Avenue,
my own dreaming room,
 
back yard wide enough
for the ruby sprawl of tomatoes,
 
green sponge of grass
to ease our summer toes,
 
bright family pictures
in front of the giddy lilac bush.
 
It all fell into cosmic alignment,
and even my mother was happy.
 
But the dark things that chased
my father swallowed him again,
 
overworking their late nights out,
or sulking behind the Sunday newspaper,
 
but soon flaming our cheeks with harsh slur
or the unexpected stinging handprint,
 
oozing into our chary bones
until their shrill pulse became
 
the ticking of our days.


* * * * *
 
"Tenth Avenue Normal" originally appeared in Pleiades.

Allison Thorpe is the author of several collections of poetry, the most recent being Reckless Pilgrims (Broadstone Books). Her work has appeared in such journals as So To Speak, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Split Rock Review, Roanoke Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Gingerbread House. She'd love to be an international poker player.


Friday, 22 October 2021

Sometimes I Stay Quiet, So I Don't Launch An Attack

by Juliet Cook


I'll never reach a wider audience.
It grows increasingly narrow
and divided into pieces
that want to delete each other.
I've never been able to delete
anything fast, especially not another human being.

Even if I dislike or disagree, I have a hard time
thinking I can end something by quickly hitting a button,
tossing them into an online pile of trash.
Maybe I give too many multiple choice chances
to rancid meat or maybe I don't give enough.

Maybe I am too messed up and broken
and divided into conflicted fragments,
but at least I don't make fun of other people's faces
and brains. At least my heart hasn't shrunk yet.
At least I don't think so, but what do I know?

I think I hear something hissing,
then buzzing inside one of my ears
then flying out of a shrunken corsage
that turned itself into a nest of angry paper wasps
who weren't invited to the popular dance.
Tiny swans bang their heads and jump over the edge.


* * * * *

Juliet Cook's poetry has appeared in lots of print and online publications. She is the writer of quite a few poetry chapbooks, recently including Another Set of Ripped-Out Bloody Pigtails (The Poet's Haven, 2019), The Rabbits with Red Eyes (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2020) and Histrionics Inside my Interior City (part of Ghost City Press's 2020 Summer Micro-Chapbook Series). Her most recent full-length poetry book, Malformed Confetti, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press in 2018. She is brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

The Abandoned Doll

An ekphrastic poem inspired by “The Abandoned Doll” by Suzanne Valadon*

by Lisa Molina


My precious Mimi lies on the floor,
beckoning me to pick her up and
hold her to my now-budding breasts.

I haven’t abandoned her.

Mama says I am no longer a child.
That it is time for me to
put childish things away.

As she dries my back,
I look into the mirror.

Is it me                                                                                               
or Mama
that I see?

I don’t know anymore.

I do know this:

Just as my back is turned
to Mama in this moment,
it shall be forever turned.

If I’m no longer a child,
and not yet a woman,
I am alone in this world.

No more will I allow
Mama to hold me
close to her breasts,

if I am not permitted
to love my Mimi, as
I have so many years.

I now see the
pretty pink bow
on my head
in the mirror.

Mimi also wears
the bow I lovingly
made and tied on
her long ago.

So-

After Mama goes to sleep,
I shall pick up Mimi
off of the floor,
and walk to the river,

where I’ll give her one
final hug so tight
that it will be painful
to my swollen breasts.

Then, I will kiss her
on her cheek
and say goodbye,
as I place her in

the flowing waters
along with my
own childish
pink bow.

I’ll watch as my
beloved Mimi
and pretty pink bow
float down the

moving and
constantly-changing
river, until I can no
longer see them.

I will not cry.
Only children cry.

Rather, I shall
smile to myself,

knowing they are
floating freely

to the land of
forever-childhood.


* * * * *

*Here is a link to “The Abandoned Doll” by Suzanne Valadon:
https://nmwa.org/art/collection/abandoned-doll/

Lisa Molina's "The Abandoned Doll" was originally published in The Ekphrastic Review.

Lisa Molina is a writer/educator in Austin, Texas. She has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2022, published by Fahmidan Publishing & Co and Sledgehammer Literary Journal. She has twice been chosen as a winner of the Beyond Words Magazine 250-Word Creative Writing Challenge. Her poetry has been published in both print and online publications, including Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Fahmidan Journal, Beyond Words Magazine, Trouvaille Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Daily Drunk, and Amethyst Review. When not writing, reading, or hiking, she can be found working with high school students with special needs.



Wednesday, 20 October 2021

 

This month's Moon Prize, the 84th, goes to Cynthia Anderson's poem "In the Naked City."


In the Naked City

by Cynthia Anderson


Sometimes orbits drift too close
and the objects they hold collide—
like the time years ago when I walked
the streets of New York far longer

than I should have. Exhausted,
desperate for a cab, I didn’t mean
to make eye contact with a tall,
homeless lunatic—a brother

from another planet disguised
in a long dark coat. He wove
through the sidewalk throng,
foiling my efforts to avoid him,

until he stood in front of me,
opened his arms, and locked
me in an embrace. The clock
stopped. In that long moment,

I found my voice and yelled,
LET GO. He did,
and I was borne away
by the crush of humanity—

what just happened
acknowledged by no one.


* * * * *

Cynthia Anderson has published ten poetry collections, most recently The Missing Peace (Velvet Dusk Publishing, 2021). Her poems frequently appear in journals and anthologies, and she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. In 2020, she took up short form poetry and since then has been exploring haiku, senryu, cherita, and related forms. Cynthia is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. She makes her home in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com


Tuesday, 19 October 2021

 

In the Dark

by Elise Stuart

 
In the dark, where writing waits,
the unconscious becomes conscious.
The writer closes her eyes to see.
Black scratches on white paper
transform invisible to visible.
Messages do not clamor to be answered.
The list of what must be accomplished
is far away in the other room.
The phone is silent.
There is only
the soft breathing of cats,
accompanied by the hum
of refrigerator music.
In the dark, the moon keeps
her promise of light.
The stars, sheathed in dark splendor whisper,
and the poem inside
awakens.


* * * * *

Elise Stuart is a writer of poetry and short stories. She’s facilitated numerous poetry workshops for students in Silver City schools, feeling how important it is to give voice to youth. Her first poetry book, and then her memoir, My Mother and I, We Talk Cat were both published in 2017. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico with four cats, a sweet rascal of a pup, and her piano.


Monday, 18 October 2021

Connection

by Connie James


The elderly sit in their wheelchairs and those that use a walker try to get around more. Maybe they say hello but alone they feel.

They have lost their connection from their life, they have no sense of belonging.

The culture parts them away like old love letters.

Family visits and leaves the blue moon for them to see alone.

Being alert doesn't always belong to youth.

The elderly are constrained. No contact, no touching as though they are deaf and dumb.

Try a smile, try a hug. Listen to your heart beat and tap with it as you dance the love for them, for they live between the dark and light of their life now.

The giving and receiving this is truly connection. Does old age have anything to do with it? I ask you this because maybe you haven't retired yet and dealt with white hair or realized your climate is changing.

Giving becomes the natural response to receiving.

Let this connection express the wonderness overflow.


* * * * *

Connie James is a poet, mother, and grandmother who has lived in Eugene, Oregon for many decades. She has been published in literary journals and anthologies such as Mermaid Mirror and The Elephant, and has published two chapbooks: Magic Mirrors and Poiesis. Connie is also an artist, and her illustrations are included in her chapbooks. When not writing or drawing, Connie is an avid supporter of all arts.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

 

A Fairy Tale Life

by Mary Rohrer-Dann


“Keep house for us, cook and clean, wash and weave, knit and darn, milk the cow, chop the wood, plow the lower forty acres,” said the Dwarfs, “and, sure, you can hang with us. Also, tend the bees, weed the garden, feed the goats, keep our accounts and invest wisely (we work hard for our money) and care for Ma and while you’re at it, home-school Dopey. Don’t forget to pick up Doc’s meds, scour the shower grout, and collect more Valerian root (Grumpy’s having trouble sleeping), and please please please find something for Bashful’s intestinal gas, okay?” 
The dwarfs put on their caps, shouldered their shovels, promised, “You shall have everything you want” and left for work singing “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, etc.”
And into the forest ran Snow White screaming, searching for a huntsman, a witch peddling poison apples, a wolf–whatever.  Any savior would do.


* * * * *

Mary Rohrer-Dann is author of Taking the Long Way Home, (Kelsay Books 2021), and La Scaffetta: Poems from the Foundling Drawer (Tempest Productions, Inc., 2011). Find her flash prose and poems in Philadelphia Stories, Clackamas Review, Third Wednesday, South Shore Review, Vestal Review, Rat’s Ass Review, 6S Society, and in Keystone: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (forthcoming).  She paints, hikes, and volunteers at Rising Hope Stables and with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Although she has long lived in central PA, she is still a Philly girl at heart. 

 

Saturday, 16 October 2021

 

I am a woman of soft auburn dreams—

by Devika Mathur


a soft noise that appears after a thunder/ you wish to dissolve my nectar into your blood/ Slowly, a miracle happens when I wake up.
I have a world full of clouds that hesitate to rain/ a tongue so moist/ as soft as pollen/ my neck is a hallway of thousands of leftovers kisses & untouched words.

       A displaced person,
Slowly you watch me,
My fingers getting fixed, a fuselage
And my other fingers weaving a mesh of your memories.

brightening of your breaths
My shawl/ arteries of the silver in the rock.
But I need time—
My time to make some small dreams.

a landscape in which we are mortal/
A hot pot full of garlic & cloves
for I have a thing for cooking and the process that follows.
The stridency of mating
behind the bushes of rosemary
out of myth into history.
This is my pure sound.

A window is suddenly blurred/ a woman calling a child from far distance/ what remains is city of us/ drawing maps of fidelity/ the talk is of death.

I say such trivial thing all the time.
Do not be foolish to rely on my orange juice now.
I dream of winter trees in my fist/ in the evenings of summer breeze.


* * * * *

Devika Mathur resides in India and is a published poet, content writer, editor. Her works have been published or are upcoming in Madras Courier, Modern Literature, Two Drops Of Ink, Dying Dahlia Review, Pif Magazine, Spillwords, Duane's Poetree, Piker Press, Mojave Heart Review, Whisper and the Roar amongst various others. Her works have been included in the US-based Indie Blu(e) Publications—The Kali Project, As the World Burns to name a few. She writes at https://myvaliantsoulsblog.wordpress.com/. She recently published her surreal poetry book Crimson Skins 
available now worldwide. insta- @my.valiant.soul


Friday, 15 October 2021

Lament

by Carolyn Martin


A modest star
waits in silence
above
a cityscape,
pondering
what might have been
if it were a dandelion,
a hummingbird,
even a fly
scrounging plates
after dinner guests
have gone.

What’s the use?
it complains to
a passing cyan gem
when its spurt
of light
leaking through
the random universe
is shunned
by sky glow
and no one
searching
for a dream
thinks
to offer it a wish.


* * * * *

"Lament" was first published in Soul-Lit and is part of Carolyn Martin's new poetry collection The Catalog of Small Contentments (The Poetry Box, August 2021).

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 135 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK and her fifth poetry collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, was released by The Poetry Box in August 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com


Thursday, 14 October 2021

 

Resiliency

                        by Carolyn Martin


The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best friend.
– Isaac Bashevis Singer

Scribbled on bank slips, grocery receipts,
and note pads from a dozen charities,
snips of words hide in dismissive dark.
Until, that is, they’re dumped into recycling
and escape with an errant breeze
prancing around the neighborhood. 

A divorcee walking her Cavachon
picks up –  uncrumpled and intact­ –
I thought of you today/but can’t remember why
She laughs to herself – her pet annoyed
by the sudden pause – How about
a hundred whys I never think?

Proud of her resiliency, she tucks the lines
into a neighbor’s cedar fence. 

Farther down the street, a therapist –
out to free his mind before his office turns
off birdsongs and wafts of wisteria –
grabs a scrap and frowns. Most things I say/
aren’t worth the air I breathe.
Depression, he suspects as he jogs in place,
memorizing words for tomorrow’s consult team.

With morning on the run,
the world is shutting down lands
on a dandelioned lawn with everything
that rises must – impatient for an audience.
While I want to tell the truth/
and already said too much
catches its breath beneath a flowering plum.
Proud of its profundity, it questions
why it’s lying here and not in the first
or last lines of a prize-winning poem.


* * * * *

"Resiliency" was first published in Carolyn Martin's new poetry collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments (Poetry Box, 2021).

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 135 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK and her fifth poetry collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, was released by The Poetry Box in August 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

We Take Home Chunks of Time

by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick


we take home chunks of time
crystal sandy from the beach we've just learned of
and stones smoothed from centuries
of wind and waves

we place these stones one by one in
our own garden or the grounds of the apartment
building we happen to live in

have turned its discarded space into a garden
clipping by clipping, seed by seed
stone by carefully gathered stone
wearing a path from ocean to home

and on a day like today
where the clouds roll in just as it is getting hot
where we tidepool, hold hermit crabs
espy fish, rock crabs, anemone and

wave after crashing wave your smile
I love to see you smile and the seagulls
go caw-caw!


* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick (she/they) is a queer, disabled, bilingual, poet and a columnist for Los Angeles Poet Society. Disabled with scoliosis at a young age, their poems often focus on trauma, shedding light on this isolating experience. They are a Lead Collaborating Fellow of The Poetry Lab and founded the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks. Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net nominated, Kelsey’s forthcoming microchapbook, Bone Water (Blanket Sea Press, September 2021) and their first full-length poetry collection, Here Go the Knives (Moon Tide Press, January 2022), focus on their decades surviving with scoliosis. On the gram @theexquisitepoet and online at www.kelseybryanzwick.wixsite.com/poetry.



Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Her Name Was Becky

by Tamara Madison


The morning after our dog barked, barked,
barked into the darkness, a row of cars
appears on the side of the road at the half mile
turn. The cars are there all day, windows
glinting in the sunlight, and men in dress
trousers with big cameras prowl around
in the dirt on the edge of the neighbor’s farm.
My parents do not say why, if they even know.
The next day, Mother hands me an article:
A girl from another town, Becky Sayers
is her name, a girl about my age, ten,
found dead in a ditch. Something about a man
and a car outside of a store in Brawley,
something about puppies. Then, “Officers
have not determined whether it was a sexual
assault.” I don’t know what that means,
but perhaps something in those words
can tell me why Mother has given it
to me to read instead of telling me herself.
I hold the yellow square like a puzzle
my eyes can hardly fathom.

                                               
* * * * *

Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, The Worcester Review, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and many other publications. A swimmer, dog lover and native of the southern California desert, she is thrilled to have recently retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school, and more thrilled still to be awaiting a second grandchild into the world.