0. No going back.
It is black on white:
he is a cheat.
Horizon crumbles bleak.
Moretta abandons its mystique.
Water quits its belly dancing.
The silhouette is licked up by the mist.
The edifice towers like a bully’s fist.
The stair leads to nowhere.
1. I believed that mother earth
wouldn’t be able to make a move
at such a dreadful news.
I was sure our favorite canal,
where he took me for the ball,
would fully dry at my soul’s dire cry.
I imagined our august Serenissima
sinking in gloom at such a doom.
They all mumbled their usual sailing song
as if nothing under the sun was wronged.
I’m hurt more by their neglect
than by his double mindset –
2. How – what – why?!
My thought is rocking mislead
like a gondola banging the canal’s end.
My breast is bouncing like fish out of water
splashing the air with vaulting despair.
My blood is flooding my heart
like Aqua Alta the square of Saint Marco.
3. It turned phantom, his small sandolo,
that used to take me at midnight
colluding tight like sardines in it
and ferry me beyond the world,
now sinking in one single word –
There is only one answer to that –
This is the tide of the rattle!
This is the heart of the matter!
I can never restore my virtues better
but with a proper vendetta.
I will never cool my blood
without striking vendetta in his heart.
I will never find sleep unless I dip
4. I will put on my moretta –
eyes flashing flames,
lips dancing poise,
hands gliding silk,
and with a siren’s sprezzatura
will lure him in silent bravura
by the dark side of our canal
where at the corner, I am sure,
he will attempt to tear my shawl,
to plant his inamorato’s kiss as before,
I’ll then pull my moretta
and treat him like maledetto:
I’ll kiss and bite, hug and strike,
look and char, speak and spike –
gusting syllables shall rain
flame, petal and thorn,
as a red rose under a storm –
if this doesn’t force him to jump in the water
ready to drown his dull adultery clatter,
though this canal is shallow for that matter,
then he is beyond cure, even by vendetta.
5. Vendetta would matter
for a romantic trespasser
who kneeling confesses his sin
and rising gets on the ladder of divine accent;
not for the habitual go-getter
who randomly sinks his own stature.
If this turns to be the case,
I’ll then leave it all to Fate.
I’ll save my tender heart from hate.
I’ll keep my sweet soul elate.
under my trusted moretta
I may befriend vendetta
as my future playmate.
Ekaterina Dukas has studied and taught linguistics and culture at universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and authored a book on mediaeval art for The British Library. She writes poetry as a pilgrimage to meaning. Her poems appeared in Ekphrastic Review and have been honoured in its Challenge selection several times. Her poetry collection Ekphrasticon is published by Europa Edizioni, 2021.
The Year I Went Without Having Sworn Vengeance
I had first worn it instead like a mask. As black as a thought denied air. That still only hinted at death. The same death that worriedly rid itself. Of loose threads. And souls forever lost on the world. When it thought no one looked. And the same mask I tried out on another. As the evening cooled. And the stairs rested for a time. But it asked far too much of me. Made too damning a case for my guilt. And then had worn it like a veil that had lived. Its entire life in the shadows. Until that moment it might be. Kissed back into the light. Free of desire. Or references to desire. And I had worn it another time like a shawl. That betrayed little of its own needs. Only mine. Its forlornness washed again and again. In the lunar blue waters. Only to be reborn. As the lunar blue waters themselves. And had finally worn it like a dress that said. Nothing of the body that had worn it. Never mind itself.
Poems from Mark DeCarteret’s manuscript The Year I/We Went Without have been taken by The American Poetry Review, Hole in the Head Review, Meat for Tea, Nixes Mate Review, Plume Literary Journal and Unbroken.
Vengeance is Sworn
the spying sun receding at dusk
diffuses yellow suspicions
across calm canals
spotlights her flawless face
her divine décolletage
her darkened eyes
and flushed cheeks
beauty admired by him
in yesterday’s first light of love
canals wait patiently
for the traded words to sink
like a millennium of words before her
to carry vengeance to the depths of Aion’s memory
to merge with the eternalised cycles of failed love
gliding and twisting through time’s flesh in a flash
in La Serenissima, she is not serene
she saw him at Carnevale with her
Cara, la maschera, her friend pleads
she is not afraid to show herself
Dammela, she demands, la lettera
my quilled words are not hollow
this Kairos moment is mine
in the last light of this day
La Serenissima: refers to the Republic of Venice
Cara, la maschera: dear, your mask
Dammela, la lettera: give it to me, the letter
Caterina Mastroianni is an Italian-born Australian poet living in on the land of the Cadigal and Wangal people of the Eora nation. She has published poetry in various literary magazines and four Australian anthologies, most recently in the Live Encounters Poetry and Writing Journal and in the Poetry for the Planet: An Anthology of Imagined Futures anthology by Litoria Press.
When the Mask Comes Off
She pecked his cheek, extended the handle on her bag, and glided out the door. Her coat tails and wavy mahogany tresses floated up to wave goodbye. Katelyn furrowed her forehead. A nagging sensation persisted, but she still left Truman for her best friend, Scarlett.
Venice awaited the pair. It had been too long since the two best friends traveled abroad.
From the curb, she hailed a cab. The worn vinyl sang when she got in. Following the key and notes composed by her fidgeting, the tune continued. When the car shifted out of traffic to make its second stop, Katelyn noticed a woman waiting on the sidewalk, her wild hair piled atop of her head, set ablaze by the setting sun’s rays. With her hip, Scarlett held up her overstuffed bag.
As the trunk closed, the new passenger slid in, and the cab drifted back into a lane. On her lap, Katelyn rested her clenched hands, but Scarlett pulled them apart, intertwining her fingers with her friend’s.
“I cannot wait. Venice, here we come! Are ya ready for us?” Scarlett interrupted the mundane silence with a splash of exuberance.
In the rearview mirror, the driver eyed the pair. He nodded and winked, wearing an understanding smirk.
Katelyn loosened her friend’s grip, “God, when was the last time we took a trip? Just us?”
“Leaving the guys behind. This is going to be freakin’ fantastic.”
As the cabbie pulled away from the international terminal, he yelled from the open window. “Have a good time, ladies.”
On board, the friends settled into their first-class seats. As they organized their in-flight necessities, the two chatted about nothing in particular. Lurching back as the jet left the runway, Scarlett grabbed Katelyn’s hand.
“Here we go. I know how nervous you are when you fly.”
From the window, Katelyn watched the distance grow between land and sky. “You remember most everything, don’t you?” Her fingers burned in her friend’s grasp. No escape.
Spring had yet to arrive, but the festive atmosphere warmed Venice. The pair didn’t waste time becoming acquainted with the city. After dropping off their luggage in their shared hotel suite, the women began their exploration.
“We need to find out about that ritzy ball. The one George told me about,” Scarlett said. Her handbag swung on her forearm while her hands animated each word.
“Can we eat soon? I’m starving.” Katelyn’s voice grieved for a peaceful, solitary moment.
Scarlett rolled her eyes.
Late into the evening, they returned to their lodging’s rented comforts. The conversation may have faltered with her traveling companion, but Scarlett found a listener on the other end of a phone call. From the bathroom, a repulsed Katelyn listened to long-distance wet puckers.
Throwing her clothes on the bed, Katelyn said, “I need to give Tru a call. How is Alastor?”
Scarlett’s eyes never left the screen as her fingers sped through a maze of letters on her phone’s keyboard. She muttered, “Al is fine.”
“Who are you writing to now?”
“Um. No one. Nothing. I had some messages I had to answer.”
While Scarlett started her preparations for the night, Katelyn relished the silence and picked up her phone.
She whispered. “Hey. We made it.”
She inhaled Truman's sweet voice.
“Expecting someone else?”
“Nope. I’ve been waiting for your call. Everything going well?
“Ahhhh. You can always come home, you know.”
“Venice has a special, infinite beauty. I may never come home.”
“Okay. I’ll catch the next flight.”
The lightness and familiarity in his voice relaxed her.
“We may have to think about that. Baby, we were out all day. Do you mind if we talk tomorrow? What’s your schedule like?”
A scrubbed clean woman came out of the bathroom and climbed into her bed. Her eyes avoided Katelyn’s.
“Ciao, Babe. Isn’t that what they say? Love you.”
Rolled over on her side, Scarlett faced the wall. Katelyn tossed it on the table, then flicked out the light. “Night, Scar.” A muffled response escaped from the mound of covers.
Costumed and coiffed. Painted faces and nails. The week ended with the grand gala, infamous because of stories recounted by past invitees. During the week, Scarlett had cozied up to some influential Italian and procured two tickets, promising, in return, something she would never pay.
“Black?” Scarlett growled.
“It has a red petticoat. It leaves something to the imagination.”
To traverse the canal, Scarlett ordered a gondola, desiring to make a sublime entrance, given her inferior floral costume. An attendant assisted them as they stepped up onto the marble landing. Two ornate doors of a Renaissance-aged villa opened and allowed them entry. Inside, the ceiling opened to the marvels of a starry sky as disguised guests feasted on food, drink, and other merriments.
The women frolicked and danced until a lull fell upon the crowd. Stepping outside, Katelyn gazed over the Adriatic, hypnotized by the city’s lights. Lost in imagination, Scarlett startled her with a touch on the shoulder.
Shoulder to shoulder, Scarlett moved closer, her rambunctious voice turned angry, and she scowled. Cheek to cheek, she narrated a tale to an unwilling audience. The redhead’s heated words branded her friend’s loyal heart.
“He loves me. I have the proof. Truman wrote me this letter.” In her shaking fist, she displayed a crumpled letter.
A weary Katelyn leaned away, attempting to escape the onslaught. When the barrage faded, Katelyn ripped the mask from her face.
“You fool, Scarlett. Does Alastor know? He’s too good for you. He doesn’t deserve this.”
“I wrote the note. It was me! All this time, I’ve known.”
“What the hell are you thinking? That he would leave me for you? You’re out of your mind. And those text messages? We answered them. Yep - me and Truman — together.”
Adjusting her mask, Katelyn, poised in her determined posture, returned inside – and never looked back.
Cheryl Ferguson Bernini
Cheryl Ferguson Bernini, originally from Connecticut, lives in Italy where she and her husband, Giacomo, share (use that term lightly) their home with four felines. You can read her stories, both fiction and nonfiction (in English and Italian), online and in print. Follow her on Twitter: @FergusonBernini and Facebook: @CFergusonBernini.
Should I Listen to Her Advice?
"See, I said that it was so," you whisper,
sibiliating, into my ear, as you
try to slide the letter into my sleeve.
I push your palm away, preferring not
to know. Curiosity overcomes
me, though. I grasp the letter greedily,
clasping it with my fearful fingers, then
remove my mask to read and reveal the
truth. I recognize his handwriting, the
loop of each "l," "g," and "p," the slant of
every "r," and "s," and realize that
I have been deceived, definitively.
The scent of his cologne emanating
from the pages assaults my senses, just
as surely and assuredly as it
seduced her. I want to inquire how you
obtained the letter, yet conclude that it
perhaps is better not to know. "You must
denounce the scoundrel!" you insist, hissing
again into my ear. "Denounce him!" I
wonder if revenge really is a dish
best served rather cold, or, maybe, "if it
were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were
done quickly." Oh, such are the seducing
powers of suggestion and persuasion.
Renée Szostek's poems have been published in the Seven Hills Review (2022 and 2021), Panoply, Peninsula Poets, the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal, Integra, and several anthologies published by the Moonstone Press. She won the Third Prize for Poetry at the Westminster Art Festival in 2020 and 2021. The University of Michigan Arts at Michigan Arts Info email newsletter selected four of her haiku poems as "Haiku of the Week." She is a member of the Academy of American Poets, the Poetic Genius Society, and the Poetry Society of Michigan.
The black veil covers the queen’s silky complexion as it blows in the wind atop the castle roof. Her daughter places a gentle hand on her mother’s shoulder, a comforting touch, as she lifts the veil revealing her mother’s solemn expression.
Below war looms and the king rides in battle. His crown gleams in the sun light and his horse neighs.
Mother and daughter bellow as a sword plunges into the king’s chest, his blood staining the ground. He looks up at his wife and daughter as he takes his last breath.
The women cling to each other, weeping, tears drenching their purity and watch as their beloved king is still and silenced, the enemy cheering.
The queen pulls her daughter’s veil over her face and the princess pulls her mother’s veil covering her mother’s face once again.
Only sorrowful blue eyes appear through the blackness.
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher has been writing since 2010 and has had many micro-flash fiction stories published. In 2018 her book Shorts for the Short Story Enthusiasts, was published and The Importance of Being Short, in 2019. Her most recent book, In A Flash, was published in the spring of 2022. She currently resides on Long Island, New York with her husband Richard and dogs Lucy and Breanna.
The Cruel Cost of Love
You have taken my heart,
but your theft will not go unpunished.
For all you hold dear dies
by revealing the contents
of this single, damning letter;
I now hold it, and you, in the palm of my hand.
It is I who will now be giving the commands.
It is I who will now be the real ruler of this land.
Behind your glistening golden throne, my puppet,
I will be the one pulling the strings;
in all but name, I shall be king.
Why the fiery eyes? Why the long face?
Why the look of shock and horror, Your Grace?
Who did you take me for?
Some dumb, illiterate whore
who would not know,
who would not catch on to your crooked plans?
But your lips are sealed now
because you know as well as I do
that they’ll have your head on a platter
should this letter ever make its way into their hands.
Spare me the details of why you did it.
But I must know--
Was she worth it?
Justin Farley is a poet and author from Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been published in journals such as Calla Press, wrkwndr, and The Wee Sparrow Poetry Press. He has released three collections of poetry, all available on Amazon. Follow him on instagram @justinfarleypoet or visit his blog @ www.alongthebarrenroad.com
Banish from Her Heart So Vile a Thought
and yet, unmasked and having consumed
the fire of her love’s letter to another (the wretch!),
a deceit revealed by her Rachele,
how could not this Maria succumb to blood vengeance,
the bleeding desire, the sharp tip of a cold dagger
through his breastbone…to vital Hell?
Is anything more inevitable
than the shriek of indignance,
the bloodshot eyes,
the steely stare away from betrayal's bold, bald fact,
toward fury’s object, this man (the clod!),
the fated force of her swift reprisal for his lies?
Sworn vengeance swallows and swells all her beauty
into a shadow, hard knot. It sticks
in her eyes, her stiff limbs, her throat,
as it will into him.
Darren Lyons was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and received an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from The New School. His poems have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, The Inquisitive Eater, and Chronogram, among other journals, and a poetry/painting project of his was featured on The Best American Poetry Blog.
She insisted that I meet her here, away from narrow passageways and bridges,
where Venetians transitioning from one side to another observe life on the
canals and on the streets, where careless whispers hang in the air indiscreetly,
as rumours and innuendos flow back and forth with the tides. Here, we are
inconspicuous. It is secluded and quiet.
At first, I was reluctant to meet but Eleanor, my childhood friend and one-time
confidant, persisted. Once, we had pledged undying love to each other, but our
relationship cooled when she became jealous and possessive. Wearing a mask,
her head and shoulders draped in a shawl, Eleanor arrived incognito. Wasting
no time on pleasantries, she didn't break it to me gently. Edoardo, my lover to
whom I am secretly betrothed, is having an affair.
My heart sinks. I feel nauseous, faint. Turning away from her, I push her back.
She grasps my shoulder, insisting that it is not a meaningless fling but a serious
relationship bound to end in matrimony. Accusing her of lying, I send her away.
Yet, seeds of doubt are planted in my mind.
As she flounces off, a note falls from her pocket. I am about to call out, when I
notice Edoardo's writing. Trembling, I pick up the note and read it. He asks
Eleanor to stop writing to him, to stop pursuing him. I am his only love. He will
never betray me, not with her, not with anyone.
Roberta McGill grew up in Ireland where she loved reciting poetry as a child. She immigrated to Canada with her husband and lives in Orillia, Ontario. Her poetry has won several awards at the annual K. Valerie Connor Memorial Celebration, Orillia, including a first prize award, and has appeared in several anthologies. She is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society.
The advances he makes are measured as even a lioness wouldn’t move half as stealthily towards her prey ... his movements were gradual, allowing the young girl to get used to a few touches, here and there, that she didn’t even think anything was amiss.
a lily plucked -
the deeper murmurings
Kala Ramesh, a haikai poet and mentor for the last 17 years, is the Founder and Director of Triveni Haikai India, Founder and Managing Editor of haikuKATHA Journal. She is the haiku editor at Under the Basho. Her third book – the forest I know – published by HarperCollins, was launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2022.
The words crowded her mind. She turned away, trying to clear a path between future and past. She wanted movement. Instead she felt trapped, confined on all sides by lies, betrayals, contradictions.
She had been held by desire, standing on the precipice of ecstasy, a wave of immanent consummation. Who pulled back first? Did it matter?
And now these words, words, words, blocking her breath—ravenous rumors and insinuations that permeated the very air. Were they real, or just an accumulation of hearsay, whispers composed of scraps of gossip collected by those who would never forgive her for the beauty bestowed upon her by fate.
What action to take—and against who? Was there actually talk of murder? Was she the intended victim, or was she to be the one to wield the knife? What impulse had conceived of such treachery?
As the walls grew louder, closer, outside became more and more distant, unrealizable—a dream, a fantasy, a painted transparency of sea and sky.
the mirror cracks, falls,
shatters, becomes opposite--
the final act shifts
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/, and see more of her work on her website http://kerferoig.com/
Vengeance is Sworn
The reason for vengeance: suffocation
Tongues may wag with the widening of eyes
when hearing the story behind her muffled cries
in the toilet you see for she can't cry out loud
as it is against the rules to make a sound.
What have they done to you to make you cry
Did they ask for money or were their requests sky high?
All they did was ask for you to cook some food
and make you wear clothes in colours suiting their mood.
They also requested you never talk back
even if what they wish for verged on the unreasonable track.
You have to comb your hair this way, not that
and stop showing your emotions like a spoiled brat.
You were asked to stop working as it was getting in the way
of all the tasks they had assigned for you every day.
A house is never clean, you know, without constant care
so when we said you could work, we meant for just an hour here and there.
So is it any wonder she cries soft and low
for each step she takes has become such a chore
that her dreams too are filled with a thousand buzzing gnats
she just can't seem to flee.
Nivedita Karthik is a graduate in Immunology from the University of Oxford. She is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer and published poet. She also loves writing stories. Her poetry has appeared in Glomag, The Society of Classical Poets, The Epoch Times, The Poet (Christmas, Childhood, Faith, Friends & Friendship, and Adversity issues), The Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, The Bamboo Hut, Eskimopie, The Sequoyah Cherokee River Journal, and Trouvaille Review. Her microfiction has been published by The Potato Soup Literary Journal. She also regularly contributes to the open mics organized by Rattle Poetry. She currently resides in Gurgaon, India, and works as a senior associate editor. Her first book of poetry, She: The reality of womanhood, was recently published by Notion Press (available on Amazon).
Pray, do not speak-
The stream is a streak of grey
And the iron gate a witness.
The cracked earth murmurs
Of arching shadows where absence rests.
Favors hang in shreds, desires etched
Thin on the walls like the worms
Creeping upon a forgotten grave.
I am unmasked in the hurrying wind.
Antiquity trickles in the hallowed ways
With the rising scent from the ruins.
I believe, I choose to be a floral shackle
Taking root in the middle of a twisted tree
In a tornado, a torment until eternity.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing the most. Besides having a blog of over 200 poems (http://dassarmafamily.blogspot.com), her poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Sparks of Calliope, Trouvaille Review, here and elsewhere. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, she currently lives in Bengaluru.
I Explain Some Lilacs
You ask, should I squat in this repossessed house?
Inseparable from who appear in it
frameless and tacked to the clay
where grows a white lilac
reads a screed that begins
the night, empty streets.
And I will tell you all about
why I will not hate a song that
aborts April rains
song that breaks spells
that is, I cannot promise
stone tiles of a dream fugue.
Shop shutters across the city
unrested, filled with chimera
lacuna that lulls the naïve.
And I will tell you that I will learn
how to plant the moon
that will entwine itself
in those lime washed walls
tinted taupe grey
a walled garden
that say, this is a house,
these are the children
these are Pa’s fists
rhyme and lyrical vagary
staircases to the dunes
the sedge grasses
wetlands and a river.
Ilona Martonfi is a mother, an activist, an educator, literary curator, poet and an editor. Born in Budapest, Hungary, she has also lived in Austria and Germany. Martonfi writes in seven chapbooks, journals across North America and abroad. Curator of the Argo Bookshop Reading Series. Recipient of the Quebec Writers’ Federation 2010 Community Award. Martonfi lives in Montreal, Canada. The Tempest, Inanna Publications, Spring 2022, is her fifth poetry book.
“Let's just keep this between ourselves,
but I think you really need to know.”
Not here, I thought. Not now.
Do I want to know? Once spoken
I know it cannot be unheard.
I'm conflicted, wanting and
rejecting at the same time.
Whatever it is there are always
going to be consequences.
It doesn't matter if there's any truth
behind the babbled story -
gossip's the most prized gold,
the most valued currency at court.
She blurts the sordid details,
words tumbling over themselves.
How ironic that one so skilled
in duplicity should be betrayed.
My pride it at stake, I must
stay composed and in control.
Yet fire rises in my veins and
bile chokes my throat.
I'll have to put on both my masks -
first the veneer of icy coolness
then slip the velvet one back
over my eyes, knowing it won't
conceal the black flames of ire.
First I must deal with this tattler, a
tell-tale too keen to drip her poison.
Next my betrayer, who behind my back
makes me look like a fool. Something
creative, cruel and long lasting I think.
Something that will take time to stew.
Vengeance is a dish best served cold.
Emily Tee spent her working life wrangling numbers. Now retired, she has recently started writing poetry. She has had some pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review challenges and in print with Dreich magazine, with some others in print later this year with Dreich and elsewhere. She lives in England.
To celebrate our SEVENTH anniversary in July, we are trying something very new- an ekphrastic marathon. PLEASE JOIN US for this intense and fun experiment! The incredible queen of microfiction Meg Pokrass will be our judge for fiction, and the brilliant, one of a kind Brent Terry will be our poetry judge. The marathon itself is a writing experience. You can then take your seeds, sparks, and drafts and polish and work them out to submit to the contest. Click image above to view more details and sign up!