Guest editor's note:
I feel so rich—I know, a crazy word to use here, but “rich” feels right—after having read all these extraordinary submissions from all corners of this planet on which we continually work to open ourselves to each other and to make joy. It’s a challenge—the open and the joy. And so was it to select work here. I gave myself a numerical limit. A combination of energy and craft and some alchemy that sometimes found disparate people I don’t know writing threads of my story that they have no reason to be aware of (some aren’t out there at all) is what led me to these works. I could do nothing but take you in.
With gratitude to all of you who submitted. With gratitude to this place for our words. With gratitude to Lorette for asking me.
Red Sky at
morning or night? I knew the rhyme
once before dawn and dusk
became jelly became a fluid mass
splattered on the horizon
before they stole the hands
of clocks my watch
leaving their naked faces
round with shock
she’s late again the carer
the girl with the copper hair
who never stops to chat
pushed for time she claims
I’m not surprised the way
she fills these walls
with her life story then
cries at my annoyance
no sign of my boy I’ve been
watching the tan scum of tea
ride the cup no idea
who put it there where is he?
came last autumn brought
roses from his garden a car
is reversing now fading
odd same make as my son’s
she’s back the carer
the girl with the copper hair
claims to be my daughter
as if I’m a fool as if I’d forget
her nearly seven years old
loves the wig in that dress up box
of memories just out of reach
like the words to that rhyme
Kate Young lives in England and her poems have appeared in various webzines, magazines, and Chapbooks. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness has been published by Hedgehog Press and her next pamphlet Beyond the School Gate has been accepted for publication in 2023. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
I still live in our house by the sea. It’s been so long since you’ve been gone, but each day I carry out our routines of walking on the beach and embracing the sunset with a drink on the terrace. Stargazing at night, welcoming the new moon and its phases. I’m alone, but not lonely. Memories keep me company.
Sometimes I force myself to do something different. Once or twice a month I go to the pub and socialize with the locals, but I feel lonelier in crowd. I don’t know how else to explain this.
The other day I thought I’d change my walking venue and ventured into the forest. It was in its autumnal attire, the mix of colours from red to orange and brown. A delight for the eyes. I strolled upon the fallen leaves, tossed them in the air and stood under their colourful shower. It was amazing. Then I came to an opening where the forest ended. I kept walking until I arrived at a place where there were three circles, each drawn by chalk or lime. They weren’t far from each other but distinctly separate. I knew they were portals to take me to you. Not knowing which one to take, I returned home and went to sleep thinking about them.
In my dream you asked, “How to do you know they were portals?”
“It’s just a gut feeling,” I replied.
“Maybe they were stone circles?”
“There were no stones. I observed each one carefully.”
“You do realize I’m elsewhere.”
“I know, but, maybe, just maybe I can visit you wherever you are.”
“What if you end up in the wrong place, at the wrong time?”
“I’ve thought about that, too. It’s still worth taking a chance. The odds are probably 50-50. My life is very boring now, perhaps this will bring some excitement.”
“What if you arrive at a horrible place among hostile people?”
“What if I end up with you?”
“I’d love that, but you know you can’t change the past. The only thing you can change is the present and your future will be a result of that.”
“There you go, you said it. How do you know we can’t change the past? We are wiser now, aren’t we? We probably learned something from the experience. Perhaps we can be more proactive than reactive.”
“How would you know which portal to take?”
“I’ll trust my gut feeling. Not the one on the left. Maybe the centre, or the one on the right. Centre, I’m thinking. Safer.”
“My love, this is a treacherous journey.”
“I know, but what if I choose the right portal and be with you again?”
“It’ll end up the same.”
“How do you know? Even if it does, I’d still cherish the time I’d be able to spend with you.”
“There’s no stopping you.”
The following morning, I walked through the forest, stood in the middle of the centre circle, and closed my eyes. Praying, hoping. Behind closed eyes, I could see beams of light. Reds, oranges, yellows of autumn. Then the colours changed, to purple, magenta, indigo, azure, and pale blue. I was transported elsewhere.
Sebnem E. Sanders
Sebnem E. Sanders lives on the Southern Aegean coast of Turkey and writes short and longer works of fiction. Her stories have appeared in various online literary magazines, and two anthologies. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. More information can be found at her website where she shares some of her work: https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/
A Tender Place
If you could see me through my living room window,
you’d know I’m at home in this clatter of colour,
slight tinkle of teacups, a salamander woven
from pineapple fibres climbing the wall.
It’s here I keep company with the bright blue
peacock, a mask from Bali, and its mate,
a red-gold lion’s head with bulging eyes. Here I
drink my solitary coffee like the unknown
characters in Hopper’s Nighthawks diner.
Sometimes, I grow dizzy, images swirling
around my head, like the stars in Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Or sit at my computer wishing to stroll through
Pissarro’s garden with its Plum Trees in Blossom.
I find balance in art, where my spirit hums, trying
to harmonize, accept how life gives and takes away.
Divorce from the first husband, death of the second.
One moment lost in grief, the other captivated
by a good book about someone else’s life.
Here, I can muse about time—how it molts memories
the way birds molt feathers when they’re not needed
for movement or courtship. Where I can feel tender.
Sandi Stromberg lives in a house filled with an assemblage of colorful, eclectic artworks, as well as masks and rocks collected by her geologist husband. Her poetry has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. Published in many small literary journals and anthologies, she is a dedicated contributor to The Ekphrastic Review, which has honoured her with one of its Fantastic Ekphrastic Awards. She has also contributed to the Review’s “Throwback Thursday” and been a guest judge.
Ghostly bicycles, or are they coiled snails,
announce the presence
of the animal world.
Perhaps the painter is hiding, perhaps she's decided
not to reveal
her signature presence.
The world of time reverses itself
as a plunge of green and blue.
Orange is the colour of time forgetting.
You once said we must open all doors
But it wasn't you, was it,
permitting the alteration of time?
Colors collapsing onto themselves,
like the one eye looking out from the sea,
keeping watch from this new
Kathleen Ellis’s most recent poetry collections are Outer-Body Travel and Narrow River to the North. Her manuscript Body of Evidence won the 2022 Grayson Books Poetry Contest. Her poems have recently appeared in The Café Review and in the anthologies Rumors, Secrets, and Lies; A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis; and Enough!: Poems of Resistance and Protest. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maine Arts Commission, and the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize from Nimrod magazine, she teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Maine, Orono.
The maximum load a material can bear when stretched without fracturing.
I am seven, walking in the woods at Burnham Beeches, snuffling for treasure in the leaf litter, like a well-trained hound for truffles. My father keeps me on a short leash. I find a small skull in the bronze crunch, under mouldy rotten branches and fresh fallen beech mast.
We learn Tudor Times at church school: pollarding, coppicing, sheep shearing, wattle and daub, timber framed building, how cows and sheep and pigs grazed on common land before enclosure, how snouts and trotters rummaged free range in these woodlands, how wild boar gave birth in springtime to striped piglets with waggling tails, snorting, eating violets.
I put the skull in my pocket, climb trees and eat rose hips. Years later, I find it, on my father’s birthday—14th October—sorting through detritus, in the family home reclaimed by ivy, piles of decomposing scores, rusty paperclips, coffee grounds and teabags, wool and feathers, in the rain-soaked roofless study.
Mice nest in shreds of Mozart music, clippings of cricket matches and clock mechanisms. Broken lightbulbs cocooned with spiders’ webs and moth wings, crunch underfoot in stagnant puddles. Rolls of sellotape and a set of Narnia Chronicles grow ears of glowing orange jelly fungi. The desk crumbles. It trembles with beetles. I smell the rotten branches, berries and autumn forest floor from childhood.
Brambles crack apart the stonework. In the Highlands, cottages were cleared for grazing. Sheep made more profit for lairds from grassland. Tenants starved or fled to fish or emigrated. I remember the lanolin grease of sheep fleece between my fingers. While lawyers wrangle, my family home falls into strata, sinks as layers of sediment in a murky river, falls into mulch like copper beech leaves, a merz of medicine cabinets, chair legs, vinyl records, concert tickets, pearl bracelets, moth-eaten wool blankets and mouse excrement.
Swallows circle overhead calling into the last top corner of sunlit ice-blue. Air-filled aerodynamic skulls slicing through the storm clouds. Paedomorphic skulls under a thin shield of flesh and feathers. Neither fibre glass nor bamboo is stronger than this two-phase composition of collagen and calcium. This bird’s pneumatised skeleton, inherited from dinosaurs, has incredible intrinsic tensile strength and is perfectly adapted to flight and thousand-mile migrations.
Saskia is a poet/artist/academic in the UK.
Time-Molt, Tender, by Annaliese Jakimides
It’s all there:
The dusk, the wind
And the autumn leaves
The bicycle you crashed,
And the wire fence
Petals of sunflowers
Grass that arrived home
On a picnic blanket
Honeycomb and hot asphalt
Black seed of illness, grief
Pressed between the thin
Rice paper of your chrysalis
This oldest metaphor
When Time becomes merely
The snake-skin of your eternity
Is this most human pain:
Over the colour
Of your next wings.
Jenna Funkhouser is a poet and artist living in Portland, Oregon, recently published by Spiritus Journal, As It Ought To Be, and the Saint Katherine Review, among others. Two of her poems won first place in the Oregon Poetry Association’s 2022 Spring Contest. https://jennakfunkhouser.com
I can’t think of my mother
without thinking of onions
and vice versa. She loved those
vidalias and spoke sweetly
to them as she cut, but the purple
onions were her nemesis
and she drowned them into submission.
Such was her way
in the kitchen and the car
where she trapped me with her perfume
neck and her clutch foot pressed
to the floor. She was a manual driver
in an automatic world. And green
with envy. She was hard
like a shell by the time I came along
for the second half
of her story. Narrative
is a series of scratches or so I’m told
which is not as comforting
as you might think. There was a song
she used to sing, but the words escaped her
and she had to make up her own.
The melody never suffered though. Sad.
There was not enough sky in her life
and we all knew it. Sometimes
I could almost see through her skin
to the tender girl she once was, but
the scales were tightly woven and I
didn’t have the tools or the fortitude
to handle such danger. I would’ve
carried her around in a pillowcase
if I could’ve to keep us both safe. We joke,
but swimming was never a hobby
for her but a means of survival.
The fish rots from the head she said
over and over again in the weeks
before her death
and for once she was telling the truth.
Crystal Karlberg is a Library Assistant at her local public library. She is also a speaker for Greater Boston PFLAG.
Deep within Green’s Leafy Swell
The raptor hunts. It scans for prey.
Great fear engulfs the garter snake.
It slithers near the risky edge.
Hurry, go! Though where? Which way?
Great snake dispel your trembling fright.
The threat is real, no turning back.
Now hurry, find a safe escape!
Ah, precious weeds like roof or veil.
The threat is real, no turning back.
The corvid caws, then gnaws a shrew.
Beloved weeds: the serpent’s shield.
Hide deep within green’s leafy swell.
The corvid gnaws, then caws with gust.
Snake slithers near the risky edge.
Hide deep within green’s leafy swell.
The raptor hunts. It scans for prey.
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts has authored seven books. Her most recent collection, As If Labyrinth – Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released in 2021 (Kelsay Books). Her eighth book, The Ethereal Effect – A Collection of Villanelles, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her poems appear in Anti-Heroin Chic, Blue Heron Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Panoply, Silver Birch Press, Sky Island Journal, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and elsewhere. She’s a Best of the Net award nominee and serves as a poetry editor for the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
Scene from an Industrial Childhood
My father came down from the factory,
came down from the factory with his steel hands,
his steel hands and his stone face, his heart,
his heart as soft as water, as air, as soft as,
as soft as flowers. My father came down,
came down with the flowers and the animals,
and the animals loved him and followed him,
and followed him with flowers in their mouths.
In their mouths, they held words like love,
words like love to conjure rain, and my father,
my father raised his collar and lowered his voice,
lowered his voice until it was quieter than flowers,
quieter than flowers in steel hands, quieter than,
quieter than, quieter than his beautiful stone face,
his beautiful stone face that softened with a word,
with a word like love, and all the animals whistled,
whistled like freedom, as my mother waved, wild,
waved, wild as love, as my father came down,
came down from the factory to hold her tight,
to hold her tight in the love of their shining son.
Oz Hardwick is a poet, photographer, academic, and occasional musician, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published ten full collections and chapbooks, including Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and most recently the surrealist political chapbook Reports Come In (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2022). Oz is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University (UK). www.ozhardwick.co.uk