Robert Ford – 1 poem 

Cymbalaria mularis

 

                        at Durham Cathedral

 

They built their God a house

to shoulder the heavens,

demanding all of the sky above

the broad loopings of the river,

where it slowly pinched its banks

into a single, swollen drop.

 

Above the waterline, where its

sprawling founds tread the stout,

bread-coloured rock, jewelled

chains of toadflax rope themselves

into ancient niches worked by

the insistent, scouring rains of

 

ten centuries; like hermits

riding out a life of storms from

a lonely Atlantic cell, their

ivy-leaves shrug off the beat

of each droplet, dipping their

solemn heads in prayer.



🍃


Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, Clear PoetryEunoia Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears.More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/

Paul Beckman – Fiction 

May It Be Written

May It Be Done

I am the third son of the fourth daughter. For years no one spoke of this pairing—it was always the seventh son of the seventh son. How Orthodox—how sexist—how far-fetched, but none-the-less that’s what was palavered about. Until now, that is. 

I was tired of my family members not talking with each other at different times for reasons both remembered and forgotten so I took it upon myself to resolve it for once and for all and let them disagree and still talk—even though it’s goes against our DNA.

In a recently released but much earlier translated footnote in the Dead Sea Scrolls that only I had been privy to (since I created it), the third son of the forth daughter is the be-all and end-all in the family and in the community. 

Being that one, I was entitled to a life of leisure, multiple wives (if I choose), fresh baked goods galore, the decider of all disputes and a fresh young ox on my plate whenever the urge struck me.

To break the news, I called for a family picnic which is the only way to get my entire family to show up anywhere. Everyone comes—even if they’re not speaking to others. I’m known for my picnic spreads. A word of explanation: in my family any gathering where food is served is called a picnic whether it be Thanksgiving or Passover.  Don’t ask. Okay—tradition—that’s the best I can do.

I broke the news over the serving of the brisket which meant that only a fraction of the family actually heard me. My brisket is to die for. Word made it around the table after a bit and soon each person had their own interpretation. “How about the 1st daughter of the third son?” “The only child of an only child?” “The second cousin of a second cousin twice removed?”

As I had expected none got the true gist of the Dead Sea Scroll footnote.

So over desert; Babka, apple strudel and rugelach and decaf coffee with Sweet and Lo, I explained that nothing was going to change except that I was now titular head of the family. I wanted no ox, young or otherwise, no more wives and I planned to keep on working. My role was basically to settle in-family disputes. Period. I was to act as a mediator and my word was the word. I was to be the Supreme Court, the Ralph Bunche, and the Gandhi of the Mirsky clan. That’s all I told them—no big thing—no tributes—no major changes except that we will no longer have family members not talking to other family members for long forgotten or petty reasons such as we have today and have had so often in the past.

As the picnic wore down I stood packaging the leftovers for anyone who wanted whatever there was and by the time everything, including all of my Tupperware, was all gone so was my family—never to be heard from again; but who bonded as never before, only this time with a common enemy to scorn and talk about at their family picnics.


🍃

 

Paul Beckman was also one of the winners in The Best Small Fictions 2016!  published by Queen’s Ferry Press

His stories are published worldwide in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction and Literary Orphans. His work has been included in a number of anthologies. Paul earned his MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. His latest collection of flash stories, “Peek” weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. Paul lives in CT and his website is www.paulbeckmanstories.com

 

Glen Sorestad – 2 poems 

What the Photo Cannot Show

 

 

In the photo two young brothers

step towards the Brownie camera;

the older may be five,

the younger sibling not yet three.

This is their backyard.

 

The older one appears eager

to protect his sibling: one hand

reaches towards his brother

to steady that chubby wobbler

on the uneven lawn.

 

The elder cannot know,

but five years after this photo

he will thrash an older, taller boy

for stealing his brother’s cookie.

 

Nor can he know he cannot

protect his brother against

cancer that will snuff his life

in four short decades.




🍃


All About Winning

 

 

Hey, it’s your turn to win! a disembodied voice

shouts out to me. Each morning here. Some mornings

I ignore the voice, ignore the words.

 

Other mornings I want to shout back at it, engage

in a personal accounting of wins and losses,

determine how I rank overall in the scheme of things.

 

This recorded vending machine voice hails me

as I pass it by on my usual mall walk route.

It’s just a money-scooping small crane,

 

a vending machine programmed like

a midway huckster, luring us over to operate

the scoop and take home the plush teddy bear.

 

There’s no limit to what you can win!

The machine taunts with phony enthusiasm,

though we know there are limits to everything.

 

What I want to tell it is that I am a winner.

Whether I have maxed out my wins, or whether

my luck is waning is not for me to say.

 

I do know my soul mate appears determined

to share the rest of her life with me; I’ve outlived

my parents, even my younger brother;

 

my limbs are all intact, and I am still quite able

to walk past without a second thought and ignore

this nameless, bodiless barker.


🍃

Glen Sorestad is a well travelled Canadian poet whose work has been published widely throughout North America and elsewhere. His poems have appeared in over 60 anthologies and have been translated into seven languages.

His most recent book of poetry is Hazards of Eden: Poems from the Southwest (Lamar University Press. 2015).

Iris N. Schwartz – Fiction 

So Said Lynette

 

When she was five years old, Lynette began rewriting her life as a novel. (She was three when she started reading.) Now she is nine. 

Lynette’s real-life parents, Bill and Sarah Smythe, put back vermouth and inhaled Marlboros. Bill, six feet, four inches, possessed the frame of a man who eats only when prodded. Sarah, thin but shapely from afar, up close exhibited a fine network of facial wrinkles often bestowed upon the nicotine-addicted. Lynette’s friends thought Mr. and Mrs. Smythe exotic, envied Lynette her flaccid parental bonds. 

Lynette never told her friends that, most weekend mornings, she vacuumed heaping ashtrays and washed sour-smelling highball glasses; and then prepared pancakes, sausages, and fresh-squeezed orange juice for herself and older brother Jimmy. She washed and dried breakfast pans and dishes. Checked on her parents, always finding them, fully clothed and snoring, on their extra-long bed. This was comforting as well as worrisome for nine-year-old Lynette.

John and Judy Wilson, the parents in her book, drank only cold water or tea, and toked Jamaican weed solely on special occasions. They didn’t throw parties for adults; they planned fun and educational family events.

Lynette’s alter ego, Kendra, an average-height brunette with above-average looks, had no trouble making friends, and was expert at double-Dutch jump rope and on-line games.  

In her novel, Jimmy did not exist. Rather, Lynette replaced him with a Dalmatian dog, Tintype. Was Tintype a silly, quaint name? In her book, So Said the Wilsons, no name was silly.

Lynette kept the novel a secret. Once in a while, when Bill or Sarah tried to shake free of an alcoholic haze, one or the other would ask why Lynette took her “little briefcase” into the bathroom. They didn’t wait for an answer, just mentioned it to their boozehound friends as if it were the cutest thing in the world.

The girl disdained the lot of them.

In the bathroom Lynette could think. Cry. Write. Breathe. Some days, locked in for an hour at a time, she felt lucky no one in the family suffered digestive problems.  

She wanted to make the Smythes suffer. Bender Bill micturated in his pants in front of his   daughter. Sloshed Sarah exhaled smoke rings into Lynette’s face. Jism Jimmy addressed Lynette as “Skelet-o” or “Miss Ug.” For all that and more, she wished them ill. Or dead. It didn’t make her proud of herself. It gave her relief.

Paragraph one from So Said the Wilsons:

“Every year John and Judy Wilson planned intricate escapades for their only child, Kendra, to bolster her intellectual, social, and physical well-being.  This Saturday was ‘Excavate Your Treasure Day,’ complete with crayon-wrought treasure maps, hand-sewn   pirate costumes, and Judy’s special combination pink lemonade-honeyed green tea. John had been planting ‘little boxes of fun’ for a week, on the grounds and inside their two-story home. Both parents worked hard to provide Kendra—and pet Dalmatian Tintype!—a ‘bootyful time! ’”

Her opening paragraph makes Lynette want to retch. She will improve it, as she’s a fearsome editor. Plus, writing the book transports her to another zone: a caring-parent, self-abusing-brother-free, loyal-dog zone, where every living creature is hers to mastermind. 

She’s sure So Said the Wilsons will sell. Longer term, the kiddie novel should allow Lynette Smythe to emancipate herself. To leave this booze-soaked dunghill and its denizens behind.

That Saturday the Smythe parents were throwing one of their disgusting soirees, which meant Jimmy would have to go to the basement, or a friend’s house, or under a rock, or behind a giant trash cart to obsessively masturbate. Lynette would have to stay in her room most of the night, or ride miles away with her laptop on unicorn Destiny.

Oh, for a day with John and Judy Wilson! An afternoon whispering to Tintype and brushing his coat! Lynette would swear off Candy Crush. Quit jumping rope. Even lock away her laptop—No access to So Said the WilsonsNo texting friends!—for a month.

On Sunday morning Jimmy was not in his room. His bedcovers were in their usual disarray. Backpack and cell phone were gone. No stench of sweat. No cum-stained socks. Lynette felt flutters of panic in her stomach and throat.

She ran to her parents’ bedroom to alert them. No Bill! No Sarah! Wrinkled bedspread. No keys on the dresser; no wallet, no purse!

Lynette covered her mouth with her hand to slow her breathing. She sat on the rug in the living room and shook back and forth. The nine-year-old envisioned Bill and Sarah, bloody, under a truck; Jimmy, mangled, inside a dumpster, face half-hidden by apple cores and paper coffee cups.

For the first time that morning Lynette noticed the living room was devoid of full ashtrays, dirty glasses, and soiled cocktail napkins. No cigarette smell, either. She peered through the windows overlooking the Smythe driveway: No SUV! What was going on here?

How would Lynette be able to continue her schooling? What would happen when she ran out of food? Who would pay the mortgage? How would she celebrate her tenth birthday tomorrow?

As unlikely as it seemed, Lynette knew that had to be it. Her parents and brother must have left early─and stealthily─to buy her a birthday gift! Sarah and Bill must have cleaned up all party detritus last night before collapsing into bed, and conspired, along with Jimmy, to make Lynette the happiest ten-year-old in the neighborhood. 

Lynette could barely believe her luck. Could Bill and Sarah Smythe live up to John and Judy Wilson? The nearly-ten-year-old felt tired from sudden excitement and good fortune. It was, after all, early Sunday morning. She hadn’t slept enough─or eaten. Now was a perfect time to sit on the couch and wait for her family. Surely they would bring breakfast back. 

Warm. Warm…and soft. Movement. Licking. Lynette raised her head. Dalmatian puppy breath warmed her cheeks.  This adorable creature was running around her, then to her, panting in her face and licking her cheeks.

“Finally!” Judy took a drink of cold water, laughed, then called to her husband, who was rolling a diminutive joint in the kitchen. “John, Kendra’s back! Bring that weed in here.” 

Judy turned back to her daughter. “I think Tintype was scared he’d never play with you again! Be a dear and bring us some rolling papers now, would you?”


🍃

Iris N. Schwartz is a fiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Most recently, her work has appeared in Grabbing the Apple: An Anthology of Poems by New York Women Writers; and insuch journals as The Gambler, Gravel, Jellyfish Review, MUSH/MUM Journal, andSiren. She has work forthcoming in Pure Slush (Volume 12).

Charles Rammelkamp – 3 poems 

City Man, 69. Arrested for Shoplifting 

 

The worst part?  Not my age in the headline, 

a grandfather, a criminal. 

Somebody who should know better.

A derelict. A bum.

No, the worst: having to explain

to my granddaughter Emily, ten years old,

no doubt mortified by the news. 

 

Not that it actually happened,

but close enough

to inspire the fantasy.

 

At the grocery store self-service checkout

I discovered I didn’t have the cash

to cover the things I’d put in my basket.

Lettuce, coffee, carton of juice:

these were necessary.

But the mango, the avocado?

I’d have to leave these behind.

 

But then, who’d ever know

if I just tossed them into my shopping bag?

Eagle-eyed peroxide blond Yvonne, that’s who.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I stammered,

shamming the part of dotty old man,

scanning the sales slip in disbelief

as if reading stock market numbers.

“I was sure I paid for them.

Oh, well, I’ll have to leave them behind. Sorry!”

 

I left the store, head held high,

playing the part of a dignified senior citizen,

but feeling like a petty sneak thief.

This is the worst part.

 


🍃

The Perp 

 

At first, I thought he needed help.

Technology’s always daunting to these older folks,

used to cashiers, baggers, checkout lines.

The way he looked around, furtive,

like a kid needing a bathroom,

I was sure he’d pressed the wrong key,

bought something he didn’t want

and didn’t know how to undo the purchase.

 

But then he tossed the mango

into his World Wildlife Fund bag,

the panda on the side cuddly

as I figured this old guy to be,

and I just felt sorry for him,

probably living on a crummy little pension,

Social Security check barely covering his medicine,

squeezed like we all are in this economy

that favors the wealthy, scorned as a freeloader.

But I just couldn’t let him steal the mango.

 

“Sir,” I said, touching his arm

as he started walking away.

 

Then he got all defensive, pulled out

his receipt like some ancient Egyptian scroll,

pretended to look it over for the transaction…

well, maybe he was confused,

maybe he did think he’d paid for it.

 

But then he not only handed me the mango,

he gave me an avocado, too.

That’s when I knew.  Poor old guy.



🍃

Edouard Manet - 'luncheon on the grass'.

Edouard Manet – ‘luncheon on the grass’.


Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Manet

 

What are you looking at? Yes, you.

At Gustave and Ferdinand 

trussed up like fowl on a dinner table?

The swell of my breast? My bare haunch?

The smooth hip, buttock, thigh?

My clothing heaped beside me?

Yes, you, the intruder, the voyeur.

What are you staring at?

 

Even Eugenie lowers her eyes,

stepping from the pond

nimble as a dainty doe, discreet.

 

Certainly Gustave and Ferdinand,

despite being mummified in their clothes

behave as if nothing’s exceptional.

Even in that ridiculous turban,

gesturing to his brother-in-law,

Gustave’s as cool as the glade

in which we find ourselves

on this close afternoon at the start of summer.

Of course I should make myself comfortable.

This is a picnic, not a formal banquet –

though you’d never know it from their clothing!

 

Besides, nobody’s looking.

Except you.


🍃

Charles Rammelkamp edits The Potomac, an online literary magazine – The Potomac — A Journal of Poetry & Politics He is Prose editor for BrickHouse books in Baltimore, where he lives. His latest book is a collection of poems called MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY (Apprentice House, Loyola University) and another book, AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, has been accepted by Apprentice House as well.

Stefanie Bennett – 1 poem

REVISION

 

 

And – I would have

Such a school

As has not been.

 

I would decorate

Open spaces

With pupils.

 

I would ban

The word

‘Scholar’.

 

I would teach

That some

May not listen.

 

I would have

Such a school

And it be named

 

“Chuang Tzu”.


🍃

Stefanie Bennett has published several poetry books and has poems with Illya’s Honey, The Fib Journal, Eskimo Pie, Dead Snakes, The Mind[less] Muse and others. Of mixed ancestry [Irish/Italian/Paugussett-Shawnee] she was born in Queensland, Australia.

Stefanie’s latest poetry title is ‘The Vanishing’ published by Walleah Press and available from Walleah, Amazon and Fishpond Books.

Cordelia Hanemann – 1 poem 

HAULING COMPOST                             

The truck is angled in the drive;

it bears a mountain of compost

just in from the city landfill

—the detritus of winter’s disrobing

sucked up by roving Leaf-Vac maws,

churned in the jaws of vast tumblers

to fine tilth, now piled in my truck.

It is a mound as high as heaven,

as black as hell. And I know

what work it entails:

            I and my spade;

            I and my back;

            I and my wheel barrow;

            I and all those endless hours

                        of shovel and fill,

                        haul and dump,

            then on hands and knees,

                        the smoothing out,

                        playing the pudding-soil

                        through gloved fingers,

                        over placid beds.

I don’t know why each year I do it—

            so much work,

            so much sweat,

            so much dirt.

But, spring calls; I go.

            I must, I think, I must

                        —love it.


🍃

A native of Southwest Louisiana, but the daughter of an army officer and diplomat, Cordelia has lived in Japan and London as well as in the US. She earned a PhD from LSU with a dissertation on the language of contemporary poetry and developed a career as a university professor. A published poet, her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, most recently The Sound of Poets Cooking and up-coming,The Well-Versed Reader. Cordelia is currently the featured poet for Negative Capability Press, and The Strand Projectrecently presented a monologue she wrote for performance. An inveterate gardener and a botanical illustrator, she is currently a practicing artist and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also working on a first novel, about her roots in Cajun Louisiana.

K.B. Ballentine – 2 poems 

​REFUGE

 

She handed me a stone, a leaf, a mustard seed.

I kept them safe, pillowed on pink satin,

read to them every day, hummed

my grandfather’s red harmonica sometimes.

The house tilted, hollowed when she left,

spilling grief in her absence.

Mismatched hearts choked in our house

where streaks of anger burst, blurred

each dinner, each new dawn.

The seed, the leaf dried then cracked,

bits of dust gathering and blowing away.

Under hushed violets and hesitant snows

the stone still pulses, traces of pink clinging.

A reminder of shadowed nights,

a blanket, her hands tucking me in.


🍃


WELCOME TO ROOM 307 

 

You sit in the back of class,

write notes on your arm

where pink puckers the inner skin

like fill-in-the-blanks.

Earbuds plugged to a world

you choose, abandon mine,

and I wonder where you are —

not here, not now. Not with us.

For us? Against?

Your eyes meet mine, and you jolt,

quench the almost-grin that slipped in,

quick look away. Oh, don’t you see?

I used to be you. (Scared.

Of you, of me — everything.)

I smile. This day, this week — even

the overly long year — won’t last

forever.

Slouch into the room, echo those sad

tunes. The moon will wash

your midnight tears. Dawn waits

at the curve of earth.


🍃

www.kbballentine.com

“Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush afire with God but only he who sees takes off his shoes.” — EB Browning.

K.B. Ballentine has a M.A. in Writing and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry. Her latest collection, The Perfume of Leaving, has just been awarded the 2016 Blue Light Press Book Award and will be published this summer. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and publications, including Alehouse, Tidal Basin Reviewand Haight Ashbury Literary Journal. In 2014 she was a finalist in the Ron Rash Poetry Awards and, in 2006, a finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award. She was awarded a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize in 2006 and 2007. Fragments of Light (2009) and Gathering Stones (2008) were published by Celtic Cat Publishing. Her work also appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI:  Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). Her third collection, What Comes of Waiting, won the 2013 Blue Light Press Book Award.