Friday, 30 December 2016

A poem by Tom Sastry

Before entering 2017


Try to see clearly what it is you love.
Whatever you love, be honest.
If it is your family, more than the world
do not be ashamed.
If it is your cat
or the smother of the morning bed
or a certain goal scored at Wembley in the 1970s
have no regrets.
Be proud of your love.
Bring it to mind. Bring it to the front
ahead of all other concerns.
It is hard to do but not impossible.
Hold it, as literally as you can, in your hands.
It is touching you. Touch it back.
Say goodbye.
You need to get it out of the country.
You need to preserve it.
Write it, draw it, pickle it, cure it
freeze it, hide it, bury it,
put it in a bottle,
tell it to a friend,
carry it in the hollow sole of an old shoe
to wherever it will be safe.

And when hope has bolted
into the deepest cave of your belly
hiding from all the temporary things,
the memory of your love will have a form
and you can summon it -

when its lightness feels like an insult,
when you need it most.






Tom Sastry is a poet and spoken word artist living in Bristol. He has been widely published in print and online. In 2015 six of his poems were selected from tens of thousands for inclusion in the anthology The best of 52. He was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets and his debut pamphlet Complicity was published by Smith/Doorstop in October 2016.

Monday, 26 December 2016

A poem by Alicia Hoffman

Every Day I Discover Something


A carpenter ant curling the lip of the dog’s dish.
A cutworm moth clinging to the kitchen towel.

Just yesterday, corn tassels grew like unicorn horn
from what we had hastily planted in infertile soil.

There is a man that lives on the corner who speaks
no English beyond Good Morning, How Are You?

Every day I discover him near the garage of his house
trying to tune an ancient radio, unrig a washer, dryer,

fridge. A junk collector, he drives the city on Thursdays,
crams treasures into a rusted-out van. The fact I speak

no Spanish shames me. I smile and nod and wave.
Walk away. I am aging. At night I slather creams

on the creases of my face. I measure appropriate intakes
of sugar, salt. Every day I discover more ants. Unsure

of where they are coming from I take the small hose
of the vacuum and suck them up. If I’m killing them

or giving them a wild ride they can climb out of
I do not know. Too many hold on to God. Only He

gives us what we can handle, the church ladies say. Days
I feel I am saved from some mysterious being coming

to squash me like a bug under a boot I don’t say a prayer.
I see the crabgrass grow and the clover speckle the lawn

like small stars. Most of us are strong enough untested.
By day, I weed out the dandelions. By night, they rise.








Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Her poems have appeared recently in Radar, Redactions: Poetry and Poetics, A-Minor Magazine, Word Riot, Hermeneutic Chaos, The Inflectionist Review, and elsewhere. Her second collection , Railroad Phoenix, is coming out early 2017.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A poem by Justin Hilliard

the production that is my life


the curtain rises
ENTER wailing child
carried to the next room
by DOC in scrubs
and circumcised

act 1
child grows and is closely watched by
MOTHER who goes back to work in the
factory when he turns 4 and FATHER
who stayed in the factory to pay for
a growing newborn and a high
maintenance wife
churches come and go,
but nothing really sticks with him, nor
does anything noteworthy happen for the
next twelve years until he
gets laid by SUZZIE who
never knew what she wanted
and only has
4 lines of dialogue
child graduates and goes to college
mostly for the solitude of his dorm

act 2
characters dance on and off the stage, but too few
stay until the curtain call
child tries to maintain his grades, but
he drinks and smokes
until life moves along in the
blur he’d been looking for
enter the love of his life SASHA or was it MONICA?
settle on GIRLFRIEND
who moves into his dorm
where their grades can plummet
together
child’s FRIENDS are numerous and mostly the same
coked up party kids and ne’er do wells
he’d ran with his entire life
child smokes a pack and a half a day,
but girlfriend wants him to stop

act 3
during the intermission you missed
child drop out of college after
graduating to two packs a day and losing
his girlfriend
he found a job at the factory
on a recommendation.
he grew old fast and did
nothing noteworthy
child signed up for mature dating
and found someone as lonely as him
named WINNIE, the name lingered in
his throat like the booze
he quit years ago
child retires from the factory
with hardened blisters as his
sole severance

the curtain falls
the show is over








Justin Hilliard reads and writes along the beaches of his native sunshine state, where he also edits his literary journal, The Chaotic Review

Monday, 19 December 2016

A poem by C.J. Miles

Something Not About a Damselfly


There is a sky, I'm told, above
Everything: drunk, dizzy,
Screaming, I gave you rivers,
I gave you cancer, what more?
Why are you always calling to me?
I am always calling to you.
I've spent the last eight hours flirting
With the walls between us.
Living alone, what a dumb way
To be, so I am giving up on being
Good at anything that isn’t you.
There is a sky, I’m told, above
Everything, and today you are
That sky, a scratched record
That keeps skipping: hip thigh,
Hip, thigh, your funny bone,
A laugh track to everything
That makes your spine blush.
Imagine if dragonflies breathed
Fire, imagine the sun stopped
Paying rent. Watch me forget
Everything that came before you.
Watch the sky, always above
Everything, gripping what we know
To be the ends of tomorrow.








C.J. Miles lives in Iowa with his wife. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Forage, Eunoia Review, and Algebra of Owls. Follow him on Twitter at @cjmilespoet.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

2 poems by Maurice Devitt

Mrs Mourinho’s Weekly Shop


She plans with liquid precision,
her hand-written list a fragment
of cursive joy and every week
she tailors the formation.

When she learned that attack
was the best form of defence,
she front-loaded with red meat
and carbs, added extra sugar,

leaving the fruit and veg to sweep
up at the back. When she thinks
the going is likely to be soft
she will pick a team of cereals

and pulses, enough roughage
to facilitate a passing game.
Is comfortable in Tesco’s
but when playing away

in Lidl or Aldi, she expects
a more continental form
of open shopping, parks
the bus and believes every item

to be ripe for substitution.
She was one of the first to spot
the potential of kale, scouted it
in a small speciality shop

on the other side of town
and completed a swap that included
the young, sprouting broccoli.
Happy at first with its

performance, particularly
when partnered with potato,
latterly she found it
too green and had fallen back

on two experienced heads,
cauliflower and cabbage,
old-fashioned but reliable.
As the shopping window

closes, she has been tipped off
about a young, versatile
foreign star, but is worried that
quinoa may just be a flash in the pan.



-----
Previously published on 2nd February 2016

Raft of the Medusa

After Gericault

The sea swells and the boat bares its teeth,
stands tall, pushes into the crowded waves,

His skin becomes porous as he clutches
loose handles of air, weight drains

and his arms are like ribbons flapping,
his face flattened by the wind.

He feels himself swallow the storm,
gulp it down until it rages inside and out,

eyes rolling in concert with the sea. No time
to consider the sacrifices made to get here,

no time to scan for the cropped shape
of Lampedusa, for now he must scramble

with the flotsam of death, swaddle his son
against seething eyes and treacherous hands,

count every breath, forget the words
for panic and fear, because today

may never spell tomorrow, and hope
is impossible to calibrate, when every hour

seems to sneak in extra minutes and the men,
who survived last month, are found

smothered in an English lay-by.


About Maurice Devitt


A graduate of the MA in Poetry Studies at Mater Dei, he is the recent winner of the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition 2015. He has been placed or shortlisted in many competitions including the Over the Edge New Writer Competition, Cuirt New Writing Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Collection Competition and the Doire Press International Chapbook Competition. He has had poems published in various journals in Ireland, England, Scotland, the US, Mexico, Romania, India and Australia and is a founder member and chairperson of the Hibernian Writers’ Group.

Monday, 12 December 2016

A poem by Luke Schamer

You Must Squirrel


A lone squirrel sat on the roof’s edge
and nipped at fall leaves, trying
to contain a leaf with only
one front leg.

Maybe she was deformed, or lost
the other front leg in an accident,
maybe a switchblade left open
in the woods she called home.

Suddenly she was not alone
but instead encircled by other
squirrels, just like her.

Except the others had all
four legs.

The other squirrels obviously
came to assist Lost Leg’s feeding.

But rapidly the family of squirrels
—most likely Lost Leg’s own—
bit harshly at her body and neck
as Lost Leg opened her jaw
in pain as she attempted
to clamber away.

At school, she sucks in her
stomach that presses too hard
against a soft heart,
wishing to be invisible.





Luke Schamer teaches English at a juvenile detention center in Dayton, Ohio. He has had writing published by Star 82 Review, Matchbook Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, and Maudlin House, among others. In addition, Luke is a produced screenwriter for three films: Drop of a Cane (comedy, 2017), Before Flame (drama, 2016) and Fire, Rain, Wind, and Snow: A Story of the Prairie (documentary, 2016).

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A poem by Pippa Little

My Other Body 


might be wildly unafraid of oceans
and how it feels to be rubbed in lard, with strong lungs
and hot sting of piss against icy thighs

might be a stunt double famous for soaring dives
or mother of dozens, climbing a mountain of babes;
maybe an inmate, pacing my six by eight cage,

nearly humanoid but for a fuzzy orange hide:
somewhere, my other body has pleasured a hundred lovers
bloomed like the queen of the night
and goes with me always, on the insides of my eyes








Pippa Little is Scots and now lives in Northumberland. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. Her latest collection, Twist, is forthcoming from Arc and a pamphlet of Mexican poems, Our Lady of Iguanas, published by Black Light Engine Room Press, came out this spring.

Monday, 5 December 2016

A poem by Louise Robertson

My Brother's Biological Father Asks for Forgiveness


When my brother
Facetimes me Sunday
at 4:30 pm,
with the tablet half-pointed
to the ceiling so I can
just see his chin
and a bottle bobs into
view like he’s showing it to me
on purpose,
I start walking. Phone
held away from my head, I get
out of the house. I go
over the grass yard and falling-apart
driveway, head toward the bike trail
by the creek. This is a year
with cicada. They shiver and the sunlight
sieves through the leaves of ash trees
marked with red exes and the ash trees
soon-to-be thus marked.
My brother
confesses what
his biological father told him
when he tracked them down.
They tried to abort him. Why’d
you do that? I don’t say.
We know where we come from.
The creek folds its own water.
Our lives are supposed
to be filled with shame,
start to finish. Let me
illustrate: 20 to 40 pounds heavier
and I’m sorry. Two whiskey bottles
down and my brother is
sorry. Get born at
the wrong time: Sorry, sorry.
My brother's biological
father is dying, is dead,
has to pull off that coat,
had to get
out his secret truth
to the one he did it to.
My brother
made the sign
of the cross and
ate the sin and let his
biological father go.
We know where we come from.









Louise Robertson has completed the following checklist in no particular order: Journal publications (Crack the Spine, Red Eft Review, Gyroscope, and others). Poetry event organizer. College (Oberlin). MFA (George Mason University). Awards (Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Columbus Arts Festival, and others). Slam teams (Rustbelt, NPS, and others). Full-length book (The Naming Of, Brick Cave, 2015). Has trouble sleeping. Tries to be nice. Likes biking and swimming. Hates running. Does it anyway. Loves her two kids.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A poem by David Henson

This Time, Swords


A giant sword rises through the floor,
skewers the sofa,
pokes through the ceiling.
She turns the page.

A blade crashes
through the window, slides
behind her neck.
She tilts the book out of the shadow,

then lifts her feet
as another sword nicks at her heels.

She fights to stay awake
as a half-dozen more
criss-cross around her.

The land line sounds.
When she picks up, a pin
juts out of the mouthpiece
between her open lips.

Applause crackles in her ear.
She hangs up then twists
and limbos to bed --
tomorrow's another day.





David Henson and his wife live in Peoria, IL. His poetry has appeared in two chapbooks as well as various journals including Ascent, Lullwater Review, Pikestaff Forum, and 7x20.