Picaroon - Issue #9 - July 2017

Hello rogues and rapscallions, readers and writers. We hope you're enjoying your summer (or winter if you're in the southern hemisphere). Issue #9 brings poems with odd animal and offbeat fairytale influences, poems that feel like summer, poems to remind you of America, poems to remind you of the rest of the world, poems befitting Pride season, and anything else you're not expecting (or maybe you are by now).  Issue #9 features work by Louisa Campbell, Matt Nicholson, Carol Eades, Paul Vaughan, Karen Little, Tobi Alfier, Robert Okaji, Wayne Russell, Kenneth Pobo, James H Duncan, Cheryl Pearson, Marija Smits, Rosie Garland, Leslie Thomas, Katerina Neocleous, Louise Warren, Mark Totterdell, Susan Taylor, Ali Jones, Amber Decker, Daniel Edward Moore, JC Reilly, Angi Holden, Jacob Butlett, Howie Good, Jonathan Butcher, Jean Atkin, Bridget Clawson, Gareth Culshaw, and Darren C. Demaree.

Hello rogues and rapscallions, readers and writers. We hope you're enjoying your summer (or winter if you're in the southern hemisphere). Issue #9 brings poems with odd animal and offbeat fairytale influences, poems that feel like summer, poems to remind you of America, poems to remind you of the rest of the world, poems befitting Pride season, and anything else you're not expecting (or maybe you are by now). 

Issue #9 features work by Louisa Campbell, Matt Nicholson, Carol Eades, Paul Vaughan, Karen Little, Tobi Alfier, Robert Okaji, Wayne Russell, Kenneth Pobo, James H Duncan, Cheryl Pearson, Marija Smits, Rosie Garland, Leslie Thomas, Katerina Neocleous, Louise Warren, Mark Totterdell, Susan Taylor, Ali Jones, Amber Decker, Daniel Edward Moore, JC Reilly, Angi Holden, Jacob Butlett, Howie Good, Jonathan Butcher, Jean Atkin, Bridget Clawson, Gareth Culshaw, and Darren C. Demaree.


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<strong>Issue</strong> <strong>#9</strong><br />

<strong>July</strong> <strong>2017</strong><br />

Edited by Kate Garrett<br />

All poems copyright © <strong>2017</strong> individual authors<br />

Selection/issue copyright © <strong>2017</strong> Kate Garrett / <strong>Picaroon</strong> Poetry

This Month’s Rogue Poems ● <strong>July</strong> <strong>2017</strong><br />

Doubloons<br />

Louisa Campbell<br />

The opposite of entropy<br />

Matt Nicholson<br />

A multiple choice apology letter<br />

Carol Eades<br />

How to write an american poem<br />

Paul Vaughan<br />

Bindweed<br />

Karen Little<br />

Good Girl’s Escape<br />

Tobi Alfier<br />

Memorial Day, 2015<br />

Robert Okaji<br />

A Day in the Life<br />

Wayne Russell<br />

Our Smell Must Have Been Named Suspicion<br />

Kenneth Pobo<br />

Feral Kingdom<br />

James H Duncan<br />

There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe<br />

Cheryl Pearson<br />

Her Ladyship Makes a Request<br />

Marija Smits<br />

Watching the first five minutes of Jaws with a feminist psychogeographer<br />

Rosie Garland<br />

Reclaiming switchgrass<br />

Leslie Thomas<br />

Bloods<br />

Katerina Neocleous

Who will adopt this specimen?<br />

Louise Warren<br />

Hirudo<br />

Mark Totterdell<br />

if i could turn into a cat or a hare<br />

Susan Taylor<br />

Signature<br />

Ali Jones<br />

This Is the Story<br />

Amber Decker<br />

Campfire Chat<br />

Daniel Edward Moore<br />

Canali<br />

JC Reilly<br />

That Summer<br />

Angi Holden<br />

Ode to Gay Men<br />

Jacob Butlett<br />

Explosion in the Puzzle Factory<br />

Howie Good<br />

Garden<br />

Jonathan Butcher<br />

Making Small Adjustments<br />

Jean Atkin<br />

Junk Mail<br />

Bridget Clawson<br />

Tenant Before Us<br />

Gareth Culshaw<br />

Trump as a Fire Without Light #259<br />

Darren C. Demaree

Doubloons<br />

Louisa Campbell<br />

For Ira<br />

no more sagging soft in socks<br />

get out yer booheapy baby<br />

éclatter in yo clogs<br />

jangling jelly beans<br />

choose all yuh fave rit colours<br />

swing wide woomphilly<br />

hold all big SPACE you want<br />

of course they do<br />

of course they love you<br />

u uneek u arr<br />

go piraton the swishum see<br />

your air is full of treasure you treasure<br />

you treasure you treasure you treasure

The opposite of entropy<br />

Matt Nicholson<br />

Half-cut moon,<br />

hung bent,<br />

in mud-black sky.<br />

Goose-winged clouds<br />

scrummage<br />

in shit-edged puddles.<br />

Wind, like knives,<br />

throws rain<br />

down stone-dead streets.<br />

And then I<br />

hear you<br />

laughing out loud<br />

and dive<br />

into<br />

the silence that follows.

A multiple choice apology letter<br />

Carol Eades<br />

a) To Whom it may concern,<br />

b) Oi,<br />

c) Hi,<br />

d) Dear______<br />

i)___________ (insert name here)<br />

ii) Bitch<br />

iii) Companion on the way,<br />

I am a) very a) upset<br />

b) quite b) regretful<br />

c) somewhat c) annoyed<br />

d) not at all d) contrite<br />

e) embarrassed<br />

f) sanguine<br />

About the a) regretful<br />

b) unfortunate<br />

c) ridiculous<br />

d) totally reasonable<br />

events of<br />

___________________________<br />

(insert time of incident)<br />

I’m<br />

a) sad<br />

b) happy<br />

c) embarrassed<br />

d) angry<br />

e) indifferent<br />

f) mortified about what happened.<br />

I wish we could be<br />

a) friends again<br />

b) alone with an array of weapons.<br />

c) civil in future<br />

d) in the 1950’s with traditional values and respect.

If I could do it again I would<br />

a) take it all back.<br />

b) have said it much sooner<br />

c) have done things differently<br />

d) have given you something to cry about.<br />

We both<br />

a) said things that we regret<br />

b) have things in common<br />

c) are capable of murder<br />

d) were under stress that day<br />

I hope you a) can forgive me<br />

b) die slowly and alone<br />

c) have a good life and a successful future<br />

.<br />

Yours a) truly<br />

b) sincerely<br />

c) hopefully<br />

d) venomously __________________________ (Sign here)

How to write an american poem<br />

Paul Vaughan<br />

the kid was eighteen, nineteen<br />

tryin’ to grow some hipster beard but failing.<br />

Just a low bush crawling over his cheeks<br />

and he hated me for making him work.<br />

No-one was selling cigarettes on the kiosk<br />

and he was just standing staring into space<br />

by the self-service machines doing nothing<br />

Hey will you come and sell me some smokes,<br />

twenty Windsor Blue Superkings.<br />

Never seen a boy move so slow.<br />

He’s glowering at me with his chin on his chest<br />

and he’s never smoked one damn cigarette<br />

so he’s staring at the packets<br />

no idea what twenty Windsor Blue Superkings looks like<br />

and hands me some king size bullshit.<br />

No I want Superkings<br />

We ain’t got no Windsor Blue Superkings just these<br />

and he’s waving them at me and doesn’t care<br />

like I should be grateful he’s even breathing.<br />

Hell, just give me a packet of Superkings<br />

I don’t care which brand<br />

so I point at the fourth packet from the left<br />

three shelves down.<br />

He scans them so I pay and shove the cigarettes<br />

into my pocket and they don’t even have contactless<br />

so I have to type type type my P.I.N.<br />

and goddamn no I don’t want a receipt.<br />

He turns his back on me and walks away<br />

to talk to some girl stacking up the magazines<br />

and I don’t know but she could do better<br />

than an insolent grunt like him.

Outside I peel off the cellophane and pull<br />

out the foil and pinch the filter on the cigarette<br />

with my thumb and index finger drag it out<br />

put it between my lips and rustle for the lighter<br />

somewhere in my pocket<br />

all I can feel is keys<br />

so I pull it all out hold all the things in my hand<br />

and it’s there so I spark it up.<br />

Lift it, watch the flame lick the end of the cigarette<br />

going crossed-eyed<br />

drag hard.<br />

And it’s a fucking menthol.<br />

The guy sold me fucking menthol cigarettes.

Bindweed<br />

Karen Little<br />

Traveling at the speed of internet, contemporary legend insists<br />

fictional stories be witnessed by close friends. Walking fish invite<br />

themselves in to twirl pizzas or replace chocolate with mud. She<br />

refuses colour Tv; blood is grey, occasionally black, so could be<br />

mistaken for coffee or soup stains. Defending her territory<br />

by threatening rivals, her delicate beauty makes her hard to kill;<br />

when death threatens she creeps underground before trumpeting<br />

her regeneration in Spring. Cautionary tales are no less macabre<br />

than blank-eyed monsters; Brothers Grimm tales reveal disagreeable<br />

children asking for water or biscuits who always wind up dead.<br />

Scared of the black holes inside her slippers when she parks them<br />

under the bathroom sink we know they could swallow us<br />

and no one would haul us out. When she dies, her upside down<br />

eyes terrify us, we push back the fringe of hair to be sure the birthmark<br />

remains. She regenerates pale but strong, clambers out, heart on sleeve,<br />

her face unlined, her fertility undiminished despite the passage of time.

Good Girl’s Escape<br />

Tobi Alfier<br />

Let me tell you something:<br />

I got a mason jar of Everclear<br />

propped between my knees,<br />

Annie Lennox blasting on the radio,<br />

and I’m parked up on a hill, scenic<br />

viewpoint of nothin’ but a ferris wheel<br />

in the valley below, clouds teasing<br />

across the moon above, a blanket<br />

wrapped around my shoulders<br />

and all the strength of no one<br />

I ever loved in my heart.<br />

Sweet dreams are made of this.<br />

I smoke my last cigarette, flick<br />

it miles out into the dirt, rummage<br />

around to find the memoir of who<br />

I should have been, read a few pages<br />

by the light of the cell phone…<br />

I got nothing owed to no one,<br />

nobody waitin’ home for dinner<br />

crying over the spilled milk<br />

of me bein’ gone. For an hour,<br />

for a day, for nineteen sunrises<br />

and sunsets, it just don’t matter.<br />

Mail piled up inside the door,<br />

not leavin’ a clue for anyone that I’m<br />

on a mission to find out what that label<br />

of Johnny Walker ain’t tellin’. I’m<br />

warm-souled but no fool.<br />

I watch the ferris wheel seats rock<br />

up top, some empty as my bed,<br />

and others—who know whose paths<br />

are crossing tonight and who cares.<br />

I am the butterfly crossing paths<br />

with this nighttime desert breeze,<br />

and that’s all you need to know.

Memorial Day, 2015<br />

Robert Okaji<br />

I turn away from the sun, and drink.<br />

Every window is dark.<br />

No one hears my song, not even the guitar.<br />

When the rain pauses the grackle rests on the cedar picket.<br />

Etymology: from Latin memorialis, of or belonging to memory,<br />

leading to home and family, their connotations.<br />

Remembering is simple, she says. But forgetting...<br />

The coral snake slips by, unseen.<br />

Nothing lives in my shadow.

A Day in the Life<br />

Wayne Russell<br />

Life is a dance with death on a daily basis<br />

life is a struggle to stay sane enough to keep<br />

our heads above a rabid sea of filth.<br />

Life is bills and payments to be made, ones<br />

that I cannot pay, due to lack of work, lack<br />

of work leaves you bleeding pulverized in<br />

a Tampa bay shanti town; drunk off money<br />

that you either stole from a clueless passersby<br />

or panhandled from a kind hearted person,<br />

kind enough to know that you would take the<br />

money they gifted you and run straight to the<br />

package store to buy a cheap six pack of beer,<br />

and some smokes if you really panhandled<br />

superbly that day.<br />

Kids running past me on the way home from<br />

school blinded by youth and naivety, poke faces<br />

at the homeless and downtrodden basket people.<br />

They see me as a spat on the ground, through gapped<br />

yellow brown teeth; I do an odd take on an old Irish<br />

jig that I learned in a pub in Scotland back in my 20’s.<br />

The kids are no longer poking fun; they run away like<br />

a frightened pack of youthful coyote pups, they vanish<br />

over the horizon line, down past the Baptist church,<br />

down past the shops and bars and English pub, the<br />

deli; with the best pressed Cuban sandwiches on<br />

earth, they run past the hooker named Lola wearing a<br />

pair of electric blue nylons with runs and moth holes<br />

eaten clear through.<br />

Lola laughs and throws her track lined arms up towards<br />

the cloudless skies; God shakes his head and turns away<br />

in from his creations run amuck, in disgust.

I finish my last beer, and light up a smoke, walking towards<br />

Lola I offer her one and she snatches it; I light it and laugh,<br />

then I walk on down the uneven sidewalks of the city and<br />

look for a place to call home for the night.

Our Smell Must Have Been Named Suspicion<br />

Kenneth Pobo<br />

Away from home,<br />

a Sunday. We decide to go to church,<br />

any church, whatever pops up.<br />

A Bible Church, not promising,<br />

but in we go—about 50 people<br />

and a broken-gate grim minister.<br />

Strangers, our smell must have<br />

been named suspicion.<br />

After a blustery service, some regulars<br />

shake our hand. When you blurt<br />

that we’re married, two men,<br />

faces close like barn doors. We should<br />

have spent Sunday with birches<br />

and pines. They stay open<br />

day and night—trees, hands extended,<br />

every leaf an invitation to listen<br />

to bird or breeze.

Feral Kingdom<br />

James H Duncan<br />

it is a feral kingdom, a life<br />

lived out of boxes, months<br />

and years in spaces borrowed,<br />

couches loaned, small<br />

corners to call your own so long<br />

as grace and luck and favors<br />

hold out<br />

those dinner parties you threw<br />

in your married twenties<br />

are history book memories now,<br />

as is the ability to invite<br />

a woman or old friend over<br />

for drinks, dinner, a quiet evening<br />

of talking and nostalgia;<br />

daydreams of the transient<br />

it’s easy to feel like a failure,<br />

working two jobs and still<br />

not making enough to hold off<br />

the legal bills, medical bills,<br />

and also make rent, utilities,<br />

keep gas in the car—daily<br />

negotiations with intangibles<br />

and inchoate hopes of<br />

tomorrow and tomorrow<br />

but maybe the next rent sign<br />

will be the one that says home<br />

and maybe the next piece<br />

of mail that chases you down will<br />

say Current Balance $00.00<br />

maybe the gods will say, you’ve<br />

seen enough, rest here,<br />

close your eyes and breathe<br />

because even if it’s just<br />

enough room to stretch your<br />

legs as they shovel dirt

on top of you and pray over<br />

books you’ve never read,<br />

that last home sweet home<br />

is better than never unpacking<br />

all those boxes at all

There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe<br />

Cheryl Pearson<br />

A different man for each daughter, a different beat<br />

in the dark. The same slow filling, after. Hands flowering<br />

under my heart, footlings kicking my ribs to black.<br />

There is light, you know, at the moment of conception:<br />

the white spark of a star falling into the world.<br />

I know things. I browse the web at night for news<br />

in the glow from the aglets. Laces tight, refusing<br />

the moon, my girls asleep in the steel-capped toe.<br />

By day they swarm like beetles, butter the tongue<br />

smooth with their sliding. I’m not even old,<br />

though it’s true: my milkless dugs are blue<br />

and move like pendulums. But given half a chance, I’d still<br />

know how to buck beneath a man. Bite a bright cry<br />

on a round shoulder (carefully: my teeth are soft,<br />

and sitting loose). But these days, no one asks.<br />

All the couplings, all the christening frocks.<br />

No one asked about those, either. Why all the children?<br />

Why the shoe? In any case, what would I have answered?<br />

I want a love that stays, a love that grows. I want to leave<br />

the world changed. And look, now: my name beloved<br />

in all these mouths. The weight of us redesigning the earth.

Her Ladyship Makes a Request<br />

Marija Smits<br />

Sing to me of the sea Lysander,<br />

sing to me of the sea.<br />

Sing to me of the rushing and the crashing<br />

of the woosh, swoosh, wooshing<br />

of the waves on the shore.<br />

Sing to me of the sea Lysander,<br />

sing to me of the sea.<br />

Sing to me of the darting and the dancing<br />

of the silver-skinned fish<br />

in the shallows and the deeps;<br />

of the selkies and the sirens<br />

conspiring, inspiring<br />

sailors to their doom.<br />

Sing to me of the sea Lysander,<br />

sing the sea to my skin.<br />

Let me swim in your blush<br />

and the salt water crush<br />

a kiss<br />

from your lips<br />

as your song finds its way to the sea.

Watching the first five minutes of Jaws with a<br />

feminist psychogeographer<br />

Rosie Garland<br />

I<br />

Build a house on tar and volatiles,<br />

on sand that blooms with bitumen,<br />

a garden that buds trees slick with gasoline apples.<br />

Climb down to the cellar. Dig,<br />

through sediments and shales. Dig.<br />

Till you find the place to plant it:<br />

this hunger that fills you fat to bursting,<br />

that tears down the sun for shining,<br />

the moon for its mockery of healing,<br />

every month from whole to broken, half to whole;<br />

this thirst that sucks stars across its event horizon<br />

and stamps them into cinders.<br />

Shovel dirt into the pit and beat it down.<br />

There are eyes beneath us, and more than eyes.<br />

Rising more slowly.<br />

It is patient. It measures time in millions.<br />

Ignores our eyeblink lives.<br />

Bends light, twists it into a companion<br />

with a mouth that quenches meteors.<br />

There are eyes beneath us, and more than eyes.<br />

There are things that do not sleep.<br />

Things beyond persistence, beyond extinction.<br />

That outlast the gallop of tectonic plates,<br />

watch Pangea unknit, wander in jigsaw pieces, knit again.<br />

There are things that wait for the right moment.<br />

Rising more slowly.

II<br />

High above the faultlines, a tightrope girl is dancing.<br />

Dusted with first love, she glitters, spilling<br />

constellations. Her legs melt the water into ribbons.<br />

She is made of moons: breasts, belly, buttocks, backbone.<br />

Pillowed on night fish and ringed with brittle galaxies,<br />

she listens to the circle dance of plankton,<br />

the growth of coral, the foghorn hum of humpbacks.<br />

Her shadow kisses its reflection.<br />

There are eyes beneath her, and more than eyes.<br />

She’s a long way from shore. She pounds her heels,<br />

kicks off the lace line of the tide<br />

and heads for the lights that string the horizon,<br />

elbows sharp as fins. We scream warnings,<br />

how she’s swimming in the wrong direction,<br />

out of her depth, away from home. She can hear us,<br />

but strikes out, strongly, for the stars.

Reclaiming switchgrass<br />

Leslie Thomas<br />

She said listen to yourself<br />

when I doubted<br />

after he locked the doors<br />

when I was late.<br />

When he shouted because<br />

I let his stew get cold.<br />

When he claimed the grass<br />

wasn't greener anywhere else,<br />

I believed him<br />

despite a hushed inside voice.<br />

Again she said<br />

listen -- and I heard the truth<br />

about that grass.<br />

Its roots are shallow<br />

with dainty blades,<br />

easily subdued by a rake.

Bloods<br />

Katerina Neocleous<br />

Behind the greenhouse glass<br />

of your one way mirror<br />

you observed<br />

and medicated us.<br />

Noted our pale skin<br />

but not the marks<br />

you left in the name<br />

of good order.<br />

In your gaze<br />

we were monsters<br />

but you stole our hearts<br />

from their scarlet bed<br />

plucked them<br />

like wild poppies,<br />

breaking their petals<br />

with your rough hand<br />

naked stalks in<br />

a wrinkled heap<br />

all that was left,<br />

when we got away.<br />

We will adapt -<br />

grow new hearts<br />

in the dark, resistant<br />

to your care<br />

bloom with a stench<br />

which affronts you deeply<br />

– we’ll laugh at this –<br />

but brings us sustenance.

Who will adopt this specimen?<br />

Louise Warren<br />

No one will take the Dodo bones<br />

the tongue worm, the slipper lobster.<br />

They are too old, too odd to sit alongside this family<br />

on their sprightly sofa.<br />

To appear in photographs and Facebook,<br />

to be a meaningful addition, to fit in, almost like flesh and blood.<br />

On the other hand<br />

blowflies settled.<br />

A pickled wallaby found its place.<br />

Even that medicinal leech slipped into the gap<br />

that before was so unfilled, so vacant.<br />

In the sad orphanage the moon jellyfish floats in its own tears.<br />

Bloated and pallid it is an unwanted dead thing.<br />

Stuck inside the bottle it has a sour adolescent unhappy smell,<br />

a hundred years away from the tidal wash of the ocean,<br />

even its sting is shriven,<br />

Like the swan stomach it has not been claimed.<br />

Unlike the flamingo skull, the glass snail it has not found a home.<br />

Is not now tucked up, although, perhaps not quite tucked in.<br />

For many of these specimens are proving to be disappointing<br />

when the novelty has worn off. Like that jar of lizards<br />

they have not quite settled in as they adoptive family had wished.

Hirudo<br />

Mark Totterdell<br />

We fished it from the canal and fetched it home.<br />

Delighted, we gave it a childish, chiming name.<br />

We feared no harm from it, meant it no harm.<br />

We installed it in my room, in a goldfish bowl.<br />

It seemed to settle, as far as we could tell.<br />

It sat like a still black tongue in its clear glass bell,<br />

then shifted from pulsing blob to waving dark<br />

trunk, then kept on performing its nifty trick<br />

of morphing from dash to fat dot, from ball to dick.<br />

I was so happy to keep it by my bed<br />

and watch it, with not a thought in my soft young head<br />

that my pet might pierce my skin and slurp my blood.<br />

I slept, and in the morning it had gone,<br />

as if some tiny miracle had been done,<br />

or sleight of hand. We never saw it again,<br />

but kept for many weeks to come a dread<br />

of treading on its body, shrivelled, dried,<br />

or, far worse, grossly swollen and undead.

if i could turn into a cat or a hare<br />

Susan Taylor<br />

the best of me would perch<br />

among plants in the window box<br />

and survey the Friday evening heat<br />

of dogs yipping in the street<br />

among a din of cars and diners<br />

Cat-Hare-Me would be nonplussed<br />

by the drone of male voices below<br />

I’d be protected by felicity of otherness<br />

from politics with its fake news<br />

jawing enthusiastic aggression<br />

if I could turn into a cat or a hare

Signature<br />

Ali Jones<br />

One summer we danced in our mothers’ wedding dresses,<br />

fabric spilling around our feet, it was <strong>July</strong>,<br />

our hands were full of rose petals, strewing red,<br />

a measure of water and flower heads stashed under the bed,<br />

with a bleed of felt tip transfusion, our secret.<br />

We were all daisy chains and hedgerow hair,<br />

the neighbour’s bonfire blackening white to faded sepia.<br />

Did our bodies know we were dryads, building castles<br />

of spindle and apple, besom in the corner a cauldron<br />

in the fireplace. There was always another hour<br />

to shape stories, to beg the cat to stay balanced in fantasy.<br />

Years are our distances travelled in circles, looking back,<br />

we can’t quite see how we danced, or what our loves were,<br />

find what was waiting beneath our tongues.

This Is the Story<br />

Amber Decker<br />

in which i never wed<br />

in which i spend my life in a tower<br />

smoothing my hair into braids<br />

in which i am really a boy<br />

who has a sister<br />

who doesn't speak<br />

in which my sister curls herself<br />

against me at night in bed like a cursive 'C'<br />

in which my sister covers<br />

her pretty face with her hands<br />

in which i am really a killer<br />

in a gingerbread house<br />

in which even my death<br />

at the hands of the hero<br />

is delicious<br />

in which i am really a sorceress<br />

able to disarm whatever lock<br />

skin can fashion itself into<br />

in which i am fallow<br />

and beautiful<br />

and wasp-waisted<br />

and sweet<br />

and starving<br />

in which I prick my finger<br />

just so I can finally get some sleep<br />

in which i am wine<br />

in a silver goblet,<br />

the poisoned apple<br />

in the witch's basket

in which i am the secret princess<br />

whose throat shivers<br />

under the blade of the huntsman's knife<br />

as she begs for her life<br />

in which i am the queen<br />

devouring the throat of the man<br />

who offered me a pig's heart<br />

in place of what i asked for<br />

in which i am the pig<br />

in which i am the heart<br />

plunged into the iron pot

Campfire Chat<br />

Daniel Edward Moore<br />

You said knowledge is a raincoat<br />

on a burning beach.<br />

I held our umbrella in flames.<br />

Everywhere hands were swaying<br />

like Palm trees, against the sky’s<br />

cancerous clouds threatening<br />

to kill feelings like fish,<br />

we’d much rather save<br />

than less beautiful things.<br />

Like men chained to letters<br />

at the end of their names,<br />

ignorant of the master’s<br />

shack out back, where<br />

a mattress of straw, a jaundiced heart,<br />

had nothing to warm its veins.<br />

I said wisdom is a black arm band<br />

for the pale asystole tribe.<br />

Kindness offered to meet us half way.<br />

What better place to watch<br />

judgement die than the streets<br />

of a ghost town mind.<br />

What better way to try<br />

to escape than with roses<br />

of teeth filled with fur.

Canali<br />

JC Reilly<br />

In Venice, the canals skulk through the city like green-cloaked men. Oh, not<br />

the Grand Canal, which imposes and processes like a king in robes of deepest<br />

hunter, studded with jewel-like boats. But the smaller ones, the rios. They are<br />

furtive, like pickpockets and grifters, and scuttle along alleys and through<br />

clandestine neighborhoods, hugging walls, keeping to the shadows. For all<br />

their crooked green ubiquity bordering the campi and piazze, you try not to<br />

notice them, lest they think you troppo curiosa, or an easy mark. Still, each<br />

time you encounter them, you assess their shifty surfaces, the way they<br />

consider you through uneven glances. You worry that your gaze will somehow<br />

offend, that they’ll catch you catching them at their most shady—easy enough<br />

to do when la luce is low, late in the day. But canals are quick to hurry on their<br />

way, focused as they are on their next assignation with taxi or gondola. And<br />

after all, perhaps you are the one who skulks, today meeting the Rio de San<br />

Anzolo at different points, always by accident. The third time, on the Ponte dei<br />

Frati, which doubles as the steps to the entrance of the Agenzia delle Entrate<br />

over the Rio, you want to sneer at the discovery of a revenue office on the<br />

“friars’” bridge (Church and taxes as Renaissance as anything in this place),<br />

but something about the canal stops you. Maybe it’s the austere, unmoving<br />

figure in her own green cloak who stares back at you in rebuke. She looks as if<br />

she knows you are up to no good and scheming.

That Summer<br />

Angi Holden<br />

Exams over, papers closed, we sauntered<br />

through lemonade afternoons, read<br />

dog-eared copies of The Mersey Beats,<br />

fingers sticky with fresh-squeezed oranges.<br />

We listened to Ummagumma and Dark Side<br />

on his father’s Bang & Olufsen, abandoned<br />

our virginity between polycotton sheets,<br />

mouths stained with raspberries.<br />

Waited for results.

Ode to Gay Men<br />

Jacob Butlett<br />

after Valzhyna Mort<br />

They show up like a hookup scribbled on a schedule<br />

they keep stopping by every other week<br />

they who’ve fallen to the nadir<br />

of the tallest wine bottles<br />

emperors of the office and playhouses<br />

and like glitter from a confetti cannon<br />

shivering I spread apart at their caress<br />

their laughter breaks down walls<br />

battleships comply to their orders<br />

and bonfires paw near their feet like faithful bears<br />

and sprints after taxicabs and wanders<br />

they strip me as if disrobing themselves<br />

and strum me between their legs like an acoustic guitar<br />

and yes this song these eternal crescendos<br />

like sweat from their foreheads<br />

those guitar cords too loud for my mortal mind<br />

those guitar cords too soft for God<br />

they who tell schoolchildren to exist with tolerance<br />

they who tell rainclouds to piss off<br />

they who kiss other men on river walks<br />

they who’ve danced with the virus of death itself<br />

they who’ve always listened to my concerns, sensual encounters<br />

which restrain me to my bed<br />

Reader their lips find me<br />

like insatiable missiles<br />

they’re hard restless<br />

and when this nightclub collapses<br />

they stop to rip out one of my chest hairs<br />

Reader it’s not just me<br />

it’s anyone’s Reader<br />

don’t go<br />

save me leave me<br />

in this temple of fabulous missiles

Explosion in the Puzzle Factory<br />

Howie Good<br />

What I’d like to do if I could is grab a policeman and walk him on a leash down<br />

the avenue. Instead, a guy leaps out at me. “What’d you say?” he demands.<br />

The more I stare at his face, the more it resembles a carnival mask, green,<br />

violet, and pink. Clocks can be heard to howl. I guess we have to learn to love<br />

the dark. We’re all up to our necks in it. E. Dickinson, in a ultra-black pinafore,<br />

approaches on a sleepwalk with the alphabet prowling around her. It just<br />

happens. No one planned it. And then? And then the deer are fat and ready for<br />


Garden<br />

Jonathan Butcher<br />

The entrance remained blocked to those who<br />

refused to untie their hands, whose pockets<br />

reach down mile long legs. No entrance granted<br />

to those faces that express everything other<br />

than the words they omit and that bounce off<br />

each crumbling, towering wall.<br />

Each path of this garden leads inwards, lined<br />

with Mandrakes and blackened berries,<br />

the pollen from Angels Trumpets’ dust over<br />

any throats that dares to bare protest, silencing<br />

them into sickness like a disobedient, airborne<br />

infection.<br />

No doubts from anyone entering that those<br />

the cobble stone paths are uneven by design,<br />

a faulty ruse to twist both ankles and tongues.<br />

They are then drenched by the water fountains<br />

laced with soil, that quenches only the shallowest<br />

thirst.<br />

And on their retreat, they wipe their eyes clean<br />

of this filth, their veins now transfused and again<br />

flowing steadily. Their presence increases once<br />

outside of those walls, their voices now clearer,<br />

and they now repeat on command every word<br />

those flowers and walls recited.

Making Small Adjustments<br />

Jean Atkin<br />

Under a strip light in a garden shed<br />

her bicycle is upended. She turns a pedal<br />

with her left hand, ear bent to catch<br />

the click of the gear change.<br />

In her right she holds a small screwdriver<br />

and the skill to make the quarter turn<br />

that lays the calibration like a feather on a wire.<br />

Out in the half-dark, in the whirr of the freewheel<br />

the neighbour’s cat plays with a boy, exchanging<br />

the wait and rush of crouch and pounce.<br />

The boy mistimes his touch and a claw<br />

knifes a red trail across his skin.<br />

And every day the woman takes to the roads again<br />

spinning through the suburbs in a white trail of spray<br />

anticipating the dash of cats, the surprise of boys.

Junk Mail<br />

Bridget Clawson<br />

My existential update came today<br />

notifying me that my truths and beliefs thus far<br />

are false, including you.<br />

I don’t trust this truth completely either –<br />

essentially I am unchanged.<br />

The remains of my day have unfolded as usual:<br />

emptying the wire-on-wood birdfeeder;<br />

Mr. Cleaning it to remove earwigs and sprouts;<br />

filling it with black oil sunflower seeds.<br />

I ran an experiment recently and discovered that<br />

I attract more White-breasted Nuthatches<br />

with black oil sunflower seeds<br />

than I do with suet.<br />

The proof is in the bird count.

The Tenant Before Us<br />

Gareth Culshaw<br />

The woman before us<br />

fattened up turkeys to sell.<br />

Then cut the top off a traffic cone<br />

and dropped the turkey inside<br />

before slicing off their heads.<br />

The woman before us<br />

didn’t use the black bin.<br />

Instead made rings of fire<br />

sending up her shit to the sky<br />

leaving behind burnt glass, ceramics.<br />

The woman before us<br />

kitted out the house with second<br />

hand furniture, carpets<br />

so we smelt death all around us<br />

when we walked, slept.

Trump as a Fire Without Light #259<br />

Darren C. Demaree<br />

How much rum and history will it take to forget this man? Good lord, nobody<br />

kill him, we need him to be consumed by time and his own hatred for the<br />

human race. Let him be a whiff of the cautionary tale, and then let the<br />

atmosphere have him as an emission, an error, someone we used to regrease<br />

the wheels of our progression.

For writer biographies / web links, please see the<br />

‘Contributors’ page on our website.<br />

Thank you for reading!

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