Two Poems by Deborah Akubudike

Pseudo-Psycho

she threw me shards of glass,
gave me perfect cuts – a cup of tea; whispering,

you’re not good enough.
you think?

i’m one of those who drew you y’know.
hell yeah, i draw so damn well, bitch!
draw out my veins, thread by thread,
sew a dress to cover your naked body.
draw up my drowning psyche from your
ocean’s belly.
draw you a picture of a man crushed by a sandstorm,
teach you brownian motion the hard way [with art]
through his body;
close it up by turning yours to ashes. or something inside of you,
groping like you are.

some girl’s hand’s reaching out to me
from a closed cupboard.
it’s not dark, but i don’t see her; i just feel soft fingers
doodle invisible marks on my chest, massage me slowly as if trying to say,
“take it easy…easy…”

i’m trying
not to binge live. but tell me,
is there any other way round a bridge asides the one parallel
to your trembling feet? i guess not.

i’m one who understands this world’s
binary system – if it ain’t one,

it’s zero.


War-rant from the East

there were marching bands – the kind during funerals: when
soldiers die in place of kings, no matter how cruel.

everyone, someone, or a group of people screaming like
a man’s mother holding a green cloth stained with someone’s blood. a man’s trying to rip out the stained area with high hopes, & history seems to be repeating itself.

place gold chains
on teeth. try to remind
us where we come from, with whips.
plait our coarse hairs with wires from the northern hemisphere
of a bald country. aye, bloody braids lock us between someone’s gapped
teeth.

i see iron bars hang on my head,
like “bangs” – sparks of it lit my face & mother’s searching for me.
she still thinks i’m at the war front, or dicing my fingers on social media’s
chop board.


i’m not a fool yea. trade the christmas tree for one eyeball,
a pine tree for another.
“i can’t tell”, you think
i can’t tell what you doin’ huh?
who told you soldiers don’t die?
with or without pride, death is death & the soul’s another forgotten memory. fight for peace? – ironic indeed.

“cease fire! i repeat, cease fire!! you’re under arrest!!!”

pain doesn’t ease pain: why can’t humans understand?
i’m somewhere close to home, watching the parade with all sympathy & you can agree,
people sign their death warrant the very moment they are born,

alive.


Akubudike Deborah is a poet and lyricist who draws her inspiration from various things including the Bible, philosophy, Greek mythology, art, etc. She can be reached on Twitter: @akubudikedebbie; Instagram: @ad_poet and blog: https://adpoet.home.blog.

Three Poems by Christ Keivom

People’s tragedy

In my end is my beginning,” -T. S. Eliot


Only the dead know what the living don’t.
If you left this world what world would
You leave for? Tell me.
No one asks me, but the best reason
To write is that there’s no reason to live.
And words preserve us like anniversaries.
What is the name of that water inside us
Which departs forever and forever returns
Where we put our hand
And experience eternity-
You are like me, you too owe, death
A life and when seeing you on the street
(and not in a bedroom)
Reminds me in the particular there’s the universal;
How we’re full of nothing,
As the world is full of people
And I would like to say something
To everyone I see: Live on.
As the death of someone we love more than
Ourselves is lowered into the earth.
People’s tragedy. People’s tragedy.
The sun just before setting.
One last call at midnight.
A handful of white tufts floating in the air.
The few cities in the world where its raining
As I write this. As you read this.
As I re-write this aloud and somewhere
Whatever is lost, it does not return.
People’s tragedy. People’s tragedy.
How I’m not sure if I should tell you
What follows next is- something
No one saw it coming: it will
Be someone’s birthday when the world ends.


Afterword

When the nights sprawled on and buried the sun.
It was as though a young person died unseasonably.
We must have been people
With a three day wish and two days to live
We must have been alone-
In graveyards and cities where
No one knew our names.
On some other world that’s so far
Up or down there
Where the elevator stops just once
The music did play and ended
(like a life someone formerly had)
And life was always this glowing exit sign
At a show that went on:
So long as we were in it.
And what wouldn’t we want death to know about us?
Tonight, it beckons to us with a searchlight
Clearing the darkness;
From within the great dream of the night
How we sleep into it-
How like animals, in the end we walk toward
Whatever calls our name.


Start with the Last Things

I have a photograph of that night.
You’ll see in it what you’ve already memorised inside.
Where I’m writing this there’s a thunderstorm
from my childhood been-beating against the window.
Outside, this morning a person stood under the streetlights
so garish and loud that the second person
not too far away looked like
the unfinished shadow of the first.
You can fill that in.
You can call it.
Our hands from two different worlds, joining?
Sunsets. Moonrise. How terraces hold us.
Memories cross our minds like planes
But never do leave or land.
Its love to fall from the sky and still falling.
I found you. The way darkness tells itself
about the origins of light.
And did we talk about God? I think we talked about God.
Did you kiss me with a past instead of the future?
I remember that too. (the phone rang in your leaving).
Listen, I have a photograph of that night.
In it you will see love: the moon
hung loose from its shaking.
Night: an endless vocabulary of darkness.
Someone looks up and the whole world is spelled out.
And at this very moment.
Everyone’s thinking of someone.
Everyone’s writing about someone.


Christ Keivom, is an undergraduate literature student at Delhi University. His work has previously appeared on Novus Literary Arts Journal, Charmolypi Literary Review, and Write now lit. Follow him on Instagram @passmethecigarettes.

Three Poems by Isabella Scala-Kazanecki

Growth Chart//Chalk Marks

You don’t grow into beauty, you remember it.
Because we are the afterlives of beautiful things.
Because our skin covers the space that has always been around us. Because we wait for what is visible but it’s always been there. The picture finally fitting the frame.
That’s why Giulio took my mother’s hand
after she cried for Salvatore,
never having met each other before,
him, only two years old.
Vieni Vieni…
That’s why.
And you are perfect no matter which ears you got.
Everyone fighting over a piece, a parcel
of your familiar face.
You look like you were born with the sea crashing in both of them anyway. You look like you belong here.
You look
    born.


Set For Life

The scratch-off pulls slightly with the wind at
the base. Half buried, it tugs and she blows.

Three or four white pebbles steady.
The kind you only see in fish tanks, and other

small worlds. The ones that feel encased, set,
and bubbling. Bay Parkway yells its smells.

There is a map of when my nose closes
and opens, when my head aches and

clears. I could close my eyes and still
make it to the bakery, the train station,

the cemetery. Expiring fruit and wet cardboard,
Halal food from the cart, warm bread, the

steam of precisely ironed pants, fish
dethawing in heat, cats in heat, the breath of

an anxious hustler speaking softly into a
cell phone, heated. Then, the earth’s tar

slapped surface opens up and reveals angels
like: he who stares fixedly in the window,

in a shirt the same color as the fleshly pink
chickens with their legs spread,

spinning on a skewer, the one under the yellow
umbrella, selling PPE, ass slid down to

the edge of the chair. And the face,
wide open, dry hair spreading up and far,

hands suspended over a green trash can.

The light reflects off of the translucent bag

creating a halo. Our eyes lock, she lowers,
takes a bottle, heads off. Heaven ends.


Cara Chiara

Dragging nectar from the honeysuckle
flowers growing through the fence from your
neighbor’s yard with our lips tight and our tongues strong, I earned your trust and you, my obsession.

Pulling your face together in mock
disgust, you suck your teeth and tsk tsk
me when chew the petals of
juiced corpses which sour my mouth.

“They’re right, you are like a little monkey!” You’re smiling, and your eyes are warm but still,
I fill with shame and we’re silent for a moment,
laying in the grass as our mothers voices
waft from the kitchen to your large backyard.

They are so happy, speaking their
first tongue, two fashionable ladies who feel as if
they’ve raised both their daughters and their mothers. It
does not matter what they say to each other,
so much as the intonation and breath
that string each word along.

Turning onto your right cheek to face me,
you tell me your name means clear, like crystal,
and I gently push the base of my palm
into your hairless, suntanned arm.

“Sorry, clear.” I giggle. “It’s just that
I saw right through you.” Ignorance from injury.
“Like a crystal,” you say, as you calmly pick
an ant from my hair, “not a window.”


Isabella is a writer, photographer, and dancer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate student at The City College of NY, working towards her Master’s Degree in English Literature. She is the author and editor of her zine Quarterly Quarters. Follow her on Twitter @isabellasayit2x and on Instagram @isabellasayittwice.

Navigating the Storm by Jason de Koff

The typewriter tapping of raindrops on leaves,
accompanied by branches bending, creating sounds,
of waves crashing,
preludes the coming storm.
Bright white flashes illuminate the shadows, and
are answered by grumblings that grow louder.
The dialogue ensues with increasing intensity,
such volume, even pillows can’t muffle.
At the height of insanity,
a door slam,
and then gone,
dissipation now yields only rain.
The cooled soil has no energy,
for more activity in the near future,
a great understanding established,
between two opposing forces.


Jason de Koff is an associate professor of agronomy and soil science at Tennessee State University. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Jaclyn, and his two daughters, Tegan and Maizie. His chapbook, Words on Pages, is currently available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPdK3.

It starts with birth by Ella Walsworth-Bell

Gutache cramps my style
I love him, we’re
married, it’s natural
but we’re afraid.
Wishing for freedom
yet wanting the world
to stay only two.
Belly is tight as
a barrel bound with
iron bands. I moan.
My husband makes tea
and toast, as if guests
have called in. I ignore him.
Lights are low. Everyone’s
tired. Another midwife comes
‘Let’s get this done,’ she says
There’s a mewl, and this
thing emerges, this bloodied head
Our baby enters the world
And is loved.


Ella Walsworth-Bell is a speech therapist living and working in Cornwall. As a child, she washed up in Falmouth after crossing the Atlantic in a sailing boat with her parents. Myths, magic, and fairytales fascinate her. She writes poetry and short stories about love, acceptance, and disability. Follow her on Twitter @bellwalsworth and on Instagram @ellawbell.

Three Poems by Katie Proctor

the mess we leave behind

It started out like a shot in the dead of night, waking us from
the reverie we’d fallen into, five years’ worth of complacency
wrapped up in two school uniforms, ties unfastened and
abandoned on the floor like we’d never heard of hesitation.
Because we never had, and it was the rush of it all that
planted the seed right there in that bedroom, your scent
orbiting me like a moth to a flame, clinging to my every
waking moment. And we were planets then, sun and
moon like the posts from 2012 described that I never
believed in, not until paper walls plastered in a rental flat
became the only thing I thought I could trust, and the
feeling of your bedsheets tangled up in our limbs became
my only real memory. Collective, codependent. But it
was the mess we left behind that made a cavity, my
sweet tooth like caramel, melting. It was the remembrance
of nights waiting for the water to wash you away, the
fear of gravity like cling film, glued to me in the heat of
the summer. I think of the healing, of the inches I grew
stepping out of you. The mess we leave behind lingering,
an unmade bed, empty bookshelves. The ghost of you,
fading out of the pages.


lessons and teachings

I was twelve years old on a windowsill, plants as false as the
sparkly façade covering a deviance that threatened to exile me,
that girl, that one there. Floor to ceiling whispers, secrets switched
on grass dewy with the blooming of technicolour beginnings.
Kisses under tables, it started in a classroom, ended in a cold
kitchen, a car ride home thinking about forever and the things that
aligned to give us a moment, some black hole burning out on
borrowed time. It was emptiness and light then, learning how to
be the sister I never had for a family formed in secret. To hold
hands in a hotel bathroom at 2am, wipe tears in the blue of a
corridor lit by emergency, bury hatchets in a backstreet in Italy.
For the hiding, for the fear and the anger and the nights spent in
the dark, I never had many people, what if I lose them all now?
The little bits of heart they’ll find when they need to remember
what it’s like to make daisy chains in the dark under a desk after
hours, fold them up, a time capsule in a blazer pocket, a memory
of March at fifteen. I will linger, fragments of a broken psyche in
the back of a locker, paper cranes, mutilated translation, and
when it is cold and I’m not there I need you to grin and bear it like
I did before it all got easier. Before the flights and the food we
could barely eat, and the romantic trauma that floats like a ghost.
Shit, life is tough and people are joyless, but you will be a lantern
like I was. Watch the fireflies, strike a match. Lost is ticking away,
the moon pulls a fresh tide. And with it, light.


Angel Numbers

Everything is you in the way that you said and every other way
at once, like a back door left open for the possibility of something
nameless. Spinning in my red dress, in pastel shades of spring,
one hand where two should be, fingers laced in a cat’s cradle,
antique, porcelain, I see us by the water and it’s raining when I
kiss you and we laugh. You can tell, it’s written all over your
face, I know, painted and gold framed, I’d hang us in the Louvre
and people could learn how to feel without regret from our touches.
Yours, with rhythm and beauty, epical, I lock it up tied with a
ribbon, check the date, count in angel numbers. Think of you
when I lie blanketed by the deaf night, each streetlight dancing
like a firefly, like me, like us, delicate and with serenity. Sleep,
you hold me and it’s quiet and bright, blue and neon. A summer
somewhere, we are infinite, a bench by a darkened lake, I am
yours in the way that you said and every other way at once.


Katie Proctor is a poet who writes about love and mental health. Their second poetry collection A Desire for Disaster will be published later this year by Hedgehog Poetry. They love literature, history and classics, and plan to study English Literature at university. Follow them on Twitter @katiiewrites and on Instagram @katiiewrites.

My Little Sister Gave Me Lice by Evelyn Maguire

While I sleep, the louse who has made my scalp her home stretches her six legs and begins to explore. To me, the hair atop my head is something to be tied into knots, braided into ropes, covered with hats and scarves, bemoaned over, vacuumed up from the bathroom floor. Its color is a reminder of my grandmother, its smell is a signal of my penchant for lavender, its length is an ode to the pandemic.  

To the louse atop my head, my hair is a forest. There are over 100,000 trees in these woods, dense and honey-colored, well-rooted and huddled together. It is a grove worth dying in, worth passing on to her children. It is the last forest that she will ever venture to. By the time the louse has reached my head ready to raise her legacy, she is near the end of her month-long life. She is an elderly woman, this louse, with a tiny cane that she taps as she inspects my roots.  

While she looks for the perfect trunks to leave to her children, she thinks of the forest she was  born in: dark curling trees, thick and sun-soaked, prone to saltwater showers and vigorous  scratching. She wonders what became of her siblings, wonders onto which forests they now  dwell, considers her lovers, and if they have already flaked away like dust. She thinks of the  perilous jump she made, how daring she was to leap, but how compelled she was, as well. When she felt the wind of this forest brush against her childhood home and knew that yes, this was  where she was destined to die.  

To the louse atop my head, maybe I am a God to which she gives thanks for sustenance. Maybe I am a necessary evil, of which she knows it is my nature to destroy her and her offspring. Or perhaps, maybe I am nothing but a moving arboretum. How nice it is to think of that. To be thought of as something incapable of good or of harm, to be something simply being, simply breathing.


Evelyn Maguire is a writer living in Northampton, MA. She is the co-founder of the literary magazine Overheard, loves horror movies, and anything with olives. Follow her on Twitter @evelyntweeting.

Three Poems by Gareth Culshaw

WAITING AT THE BUS STOP WITH A GIRL I HAD NEVER SEEN

Her ears twitched as radar’s searching for Alien sounds.
I saw the make-up smudged over her vimto swigging lips.
She wore yesterday’s face. Spoke into her phone with a muted tongue.
The bus was late. Two dogs sniffed the air through a garden gate.
Swifts busied themselves with chicane moves below cirrus clouds.
I had my hands in my pockets like a golfer waiting their turn to putt.
She finished the call, put her phone back in her mouth.
Her eyes were the same as a mole’s when digging through soil.
I was going to ask her if everything was fine, but her stilettos made me weary. Perfume coughed from her chest.
Mascara kept the sunlight out of her eyes. The bus was late.
Cars filled the silence with brake sounds and arguing rubber.

I looked down the road for the bus nothing came by except
a pick-up truck full of fence panels. The driver had a beard
made from the death of someone he loves. She got up,
walked away from the stop. I bull-frowned. She had ballerina calves,
tennis player thighs and left me to watch the swifts above my head.
I never saw her again, that’s if you don’t count the day,
I watched a blackbird through my binoculars.


THE WIDOW

Her back rounds like the spine
of a dog that shits in the corner of a
field. Her hair is icicles of a marriage
that lasted half a century.

I watch her shuffle the earth below her feet. Fingernails antique
brown, her eyes stick out like
prolapsed hemorrhoids. The
wedding ring

tarnishes with each winter. The voice
she heard every morning from
the kitchen, the voice that cracked
with every drag, every can of stout

is out there somewhere, and she
aches for it to come back. But the
cross on the wall stays still.
And the church she visits hints at silence.


THE NEIGHBOUR WHO WAITS FOR HER HUSBAND TO RETURN HOME.

I noticed her walking in his shoes last week
carried Lidl bags that made her shoulders
budgie slouch. Her wedding ring is a coupling
to her husband’s hand. He went away on a train,
and left his return ticket in a woman’s mouth.
The family have been waiting to hear from him
ever since. He posts letters to his wife,
tells her he is velcroed to an island and awaits a boat
to pick him up. She replies via strimming the living
room and painting the garden hedge.
Someone said they saw him in the local Co-op.
He bought firelighters, whiskey and a pack
of digestives. She reads the letters to the church
congregation as they sit with Werther’s Originals.


At night, she dunks hobnobs into his cup of Tetley,
sees his creosote frown on the edge of the fading biscuit.
The dog sniffs the shed air before sitting
on a Woman’s Own magazine. She dips more hobnobs,
then with a golfer’s swing, throws the tea onto the lawn.
The dog watches with woolen sock eyebrows.
She goes to bed at midnight, lies on a Dunelm Mill quilt.
Shivers from the cold that feeds through open windows.
Holds his pillow as a Koala on a tree.


Gareth lives in Wales. He has two collections by FutureCycle, The Miner & A Bard’s View. He is a current student at Manchester Met. Follow him on Twitter at Culshawpoetry1 and on Instagram at culshawpoetry.

Five Poems by Lorelei Bacht

The Nature of this Beast

It was only my mind
Drawing stars on a cloth over your face,
Imagining constellations,
Thinking you my father,
Brother in arms of undertow –
Magnificent scarecrow
I made, but made no time, no space
To see the underside of you.

I was fascinated with your fascination
With me, the large flowers you patiently
Grew on the inside of my skin,
How you decorated the air
Around my messy hair,
Which you mistook for a forest –
How effortlessly you catapulted meaning
Onto whatever came out of my lips
And believed me a witch.

I don’t know what you want,
But I do not have it.


The Glass Ceiling

How long the night hours
Must have appeared to the lonely,
Suffocating fish.

Rice paper gills that rise and fall,
Tremble, tremble, tremble – no more.
An empty sock, the colour gone,
A toy too slippery to hold
The children’s attention.

My first impulse
Is to stay put; yours is to run.
Man must happen, after all,
No matter how brutal
Or inconsiderate the path
He has chosen.

He disregards warnings,
Drives without a helmet.
Whatever pulls him, he will fall
And insist on falling. He will
Claim to love it, and reinvent
Himself as the downbeat husband.

I’ll let him off the hook –
It’s just like in the books, until:
The car crash or the broken hand.
Then he will ask for help again,
From his official attendant.

All night, the fish claimed to resent
Moral judgement.

But perhaps,
With his last gasp,
He came to see
That it did not make any sense
To jump out of the tank.


And Here in the Still

There is no music soft
Enough to ease my pain
Sound of the rain
I am learning to feel
The contours of my own
Emptiness

Not yet aware of what awaits
Awake at half past two
Way too early to make
Life-changing decisions
I sit in bed vast expenses
Of nothing in my head

That I may be a bird
Or better yet a stone
Cease to feel abandon
Hope which was the shape
Of my prison now by the door
I notice half in disbelief
There never was a lock

No wheel to spin no narrative
To dream into being
Silence an unexpected gift
Underneath everything
Hiding in the minutes between
The loose flakes of my existence
Bursting open

Unaware of the subterranean
The slow but certain
Work of pain he marvels
At my timing if I did
Not explode then
Upon impact
Why shatter now like glass


House Arrest

ur lives suspended in a glass bottle:
No air, no other place to go at the weekend
But home, where all there is to do is care
For the children and avoid having each other.

We drink our morning coffee in slow sips,
Savouring the feeling of looking occupied,
Making small talk, failing to fill the minuscule
Spaces left around the dark matter of your affair.

Day after day, I work through my unrequited
Sentiments and learn not to care. You explain:
You deserve a life just like in the books;
It is not your fault that you have read them.

I discover my middle-aged husband to be a young
Victorian lady, reading forbidden novels in the barn,
Dreaming of romance, something else, while I am
Denied any choice, right, agency, desire.


The Chase Itself

In his armchair, I began to perceive
The radical asymmetry of courtship:
One wanted; the other one wanting –
A blank, a starting point of pure
Intentionality. What is a man, if not
A collision course, a catastrophe

Seeking to happen? And I, where it
Happens. Day after day, I will receive,
Entice, convince that I am the ocean,
Profess an unbounded taste for sailors,
Their pipes, greasy laughter, complete
Absence of personality. The sailor sails

The sea and that is it. For him: an eternal
Quest for a home, another home, yet
Another. He cannot sit at the table.
As for the fishwife: an understanding,
Barely audible at first, then increasingly
Loud, a cloud bursting open,

Rumble, grumble, roll of hailstorm
On the deck. Wisdom of the siren:

You can never win the game
Of incompletion.


Lorelei Bacht is a European poet living in Asia. She writes about ruins, real and imagined. Her recent work has appeared and/or is forthcoming in Visitant, Quail Bell, The Wondrous Real, Not Deer Magazine and Abridged. You can find her on Twitter @bachtlorelei. She is also on Instagram @lorelei.bacht.writer and @the.cheated.wife.writes.

Three Poems by Eleanor May Blackburn

Insects

we pushed dirt ridden fingers into scabby gammy knees together- who has the biggest grossest yellowest sore? It becomes a competition like that of bulldog that caused the injuries in the first place. We whisper in larger than hushed tones that we are in love, you are invited to my house for tea with chicken nuggets and sweetcorn and running up and down the stairs. I never understood your enthusiasm for putting the brightly coloured caterpillars inside the Tupperware until you could see the little beads of sweat standing out like antennae on their heads. But I said it was OK. You sharpened your finger and blamed it on the scissors. I don’t think it was enough. Next you drew a rectum in my planner that my Dad frowned at while you frowned at me in the street. Now you sell coke and probably wouldn’t remember me all that much. I wonder if you remember the caterpillars. I do


Proxemics

we snogged with syrupy cider stained mouths
threw bile up the side of a too-small tent
‘don’t touch her’
squished side by side in sweaty proximity
you- always sweatier
unexplainable toxic waste green
we tried that time to no avail
bodily fluids still mingled and seeped together
nervous anticipation stretching wide
over our so much smaller then frames
too much?
so much more than the first time
followed closely by the second
mud coloured blood trickling over kneecaps
captured in a picture sent around to others
with little relation to the event
a long time passed
longer than the horizon I lazily watch
with another
so different than I-
nothing broke
a pair of atoms smashed messily together
heavy with inevitability
skins was on somewhere nearby
cassie and sid reuiniting
the best generation
my parents somewhere above
snoring as is typical
it felt like I gained
not lost
I am unsure of what


Bare

he picked up a 3 quid bunch of wilting flowers from the flimsy hut by the side of the road. they swept away my resentment and turned me soft and lovely again, they died 2 days later. they were already dead. I am an ode to all things delicate and easy, the way the petal curls makes me creamy. the way you grunt in bed curls the downy hair between my thighs. I could curl away from you in the same manner but then you would know, a magician should not reveal their secrets; too soon anyway. the baby pink of the tulips match my peach fuzzed cheeks as you spend another hour glued to your phone.


roses are not the only thorns

I am told that flowers are beautiful/I am told that I am beautiful/by the men/therefore I know these things to be true/the words are ugly in my mouth as I try relentlessly to taste them/much like the blossom that does not appease but I steadily continue to chew


Eleanor is a 23 year old actor and writer from Sheffield. She is being published in the upcoming anthology: Globalisation: The sphere keeps spinning by Making Magic Happen Press. She loves moomins, Yorkshire pudding and Blink182. Follow her on Twitter at @EleanorMayBlac1 and on Instagram at @eleanormay_actor.