NOT JUST ANY LOVE SPELL by Alyson Tait

Marina stood in front of the chapel with a wooden box in her hands.  She watched a scrawny teenager close the heavy doors.  

He wore a tux an inch too short; bribed at the last minute by someone in the groom’s family to be an usher, she was sure. 

The doors closing were a sign that the bride was ready to make her entrance, that the clock had struck noon. 

Pews were full.

The wedding was about to start.  

The time she’d allotted for her ritual was slim. 

Marina hustled to the top of the steps and sat down,  legs folded under her — the small box set on the cement.  

Marina opened the lid, doors in her peripheral. If they opened too soon, she would be exposed.  The entire plan would be ruined if she was forced off the leyline to the altar. 

Quickly she removed a square of fabric: silky white with a patch of lace and a single pearlescent button in the middle.  Next, she grabbed a pair of scissors with large black handles and freshly sharpened blades.

 She whispered as she cut into the square, lips moving at warp speed. 

Banish the imposter. 

Protect the lover.  

Shield the innocent.

The scrap fell to the ground in two pieces as she swapped the scissors for other contents — a bundle of herbs and a lighter.  She deftly lit the sage and stored the lighter,  thick smoke curling into the air. 

A scraping sound flitted underneath the doors. 

With urgency, Marina closed the box, tucked it under her arm, and stepped around the corner of the building. Her lips moved again as she waved her smoking bundle through the air. 

She didn’t hear the doors open, but it felt like perfection when she heard a high-pitched scream coming from the spot she’d stood just moments prior. Through a satisfied smile, she repeated her chant. 

Marina finished her sweep of the chapel’s perimeter, legs aching but stable when she reached the front doors again. They stood open, and the inside of the building looked dark as far as she could see.  

A mess of flowers littered the entry, and the two halves of the fabric she had destroyed trailed into the building. 

She doubted the pastor had left with the doors wide open, and very few clergies appreciated her cleansing their buildings; however, badly, she wanted to. 

She’d be in trouble if she entered, even though bad proposals rippled into the spirit realm, and churches were no exception. Not even the veil hid that Heather was never meant for that ceremony, and Marina had felt the dark cloud over the groom’s head. 

With no other options, she shrugged and turned away. She may not be able to change the damage done inside, but still, she was happy.  A doomed relationship had been destroyed, and as an added benefit, she had another chance to court Heather now that she wasn’t in the chapel with that prick. 

My spell worked just as planned, She thought, that or the note I left in her bouquet.


Alyson lives in Maryland where she got married, had her daughter, and began her writing journey. She has appeared in Altered Reality Magazine and (mac)ro(mic). You can find her on twitter @rudexvirus1.

THREE POEMS by Molly Andrew

Blackberries in Autumn

You’re a deviation from the season,
like picking blackberries in autumn.
Or fishing at a frozen lake,
snowflakes powdering my hair and arms
like the dust of old books.
You’re an early morning thunderstorm,
tearing the sunrise like crushed tissue paper.
You draw me towards you
and I finger paint with lipstick on your face,
tracing a constellation.
Then we’re up on our feet,
darting along the ridge of a hill
and tumbling down to the bottom again.


Little Red Inside the Wolf

I was swathed in scarlet.
Everything was dark.
I would go fearlessly,
counting all the seconds if I died.
But I would tear my way out
to plant you heavy with rocks,
dragging you down, crippling you.
Enticing you off the path you drew for me.

Enticing you off the path you drew for me,
dragging you down, crippling you,
to plant you heavy with rocks.
But I would tear my way out,
counting all the seconds. If I died,
I would go fearlessly.
Everything was dark.
I was swathed in scarlet.


Persephone

Pulled beneath the crust of the Earth,
the dread Persephone, Queen of the Underworld,
still wearing the garlands she forged above.
Hypnotised by the fruit of his country,
inexperienced girl craving a barbarous man,
she abandons the vegetation of her blood.
He’s a shadow, that sentient hieroglyph:
“bow down, pretty lady, tell me you love me,
sit here, rule beside me, hold me and fuck me”.
She trails a black silk train down the aisle,
doused in crumbs of grain for confetti,
and is swept up in his arms for a second time.
Kneel for the goddess,
kneel for the queen,
plant seeds in her name in springtime.
She crushes the jeering pomegranates,
dominates the dead with one hand,
and while she’s no lily of the valley,
she’s a cornfield of Hell.


Molly Andrew is a 20-year-old English Literature student at the University of Exeter who enjoys writing poetry in her free time. She finds inspiration in both the personal and the imaginative. Writing is an incredibly cathartic pastime for her.

TWO POEMS by Ash Slade

Brewed Symphony

washout roads clutching pounding
pulses. cars dribble down waterslide
streets, a percussion ensemble
thunders nightlife songs.
raindrops
tap-dance on cobbles.

pelted ice balls thrash a rickety,
tumble-down deck, pea soup blocks
the light-up strands. winds of cargo
trains blowing through sundown,
wildcats sit on tips of houses looking
at golden torches. bolts clap together
like claves, electrical eddies flare up,
no earplugs.

leaves trampled and mangled to bits, feet
hacky-sack tins from curbsides to asphalt
walks. shoes find their beats as washboards
batter windowpanes. twenty-four hour
laundromat machines in a tailspin, daily rags
float around sunken cellars lost to
clogged up storm sewers.


Flying Fortress (Nine o Nine)

This poem was originally published by The Common Breath.

the world paused and
suspended motion on
October third, when a fireball
explosion lit-up old nine o nine.
like burned-out house lights on
the edges of cul-de-sac roads,
seven wicks were snuffed out
in plumes of smoke. the de-icing
building collapsed, the runway
turned into a messy morgue.

like a bomb struck by a match chaos
erupted in the clouds. a soldier’s roots
stripped to scrap, strewn wild on the
cold burial ground that houses the sap
of loss.

the chiefs read off a hotline number for
families to call. responders set out to lend a hand.
mothers and fathers on their knees
no pills to curb the edge. at the podium,
the governor echoed a lunch meat speech to the
newsroom sea. pencils scratched on pads when
asked about the crisis, he sealed his lips.

the bucket above poured out, as the seraphim
blew into their wings like tissues. a place in black,
waiting for the next flash bulletin.
lives incinerated like bonfire ash dragged by
a whirlwind gust. training to put back together
bits you can’t mend.

as the world takes a nap, families mount a
restless guard. their core crumbles and
creaks, and the floor caves in. a glowing
light is lost at record speed. their biography told
upon burial in the brittle ground. clans move on
from stolen lives, remembering the loss.


Ash Slade lives in a small Connecticut town. He enjoys collecting poetry books, journals, and pens. In his spare time, hobbies include: spending time with friends and family, reading, and shopping. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

TWO POEMS by Cassandra Finch

BODY AS A METAPHOR

This body is a junkyard, a haunted house.
Skeins of mouseholed muscle, ligaments rusted stiff,
Watching the others dart by, limbs obedient and obliging.
Trading like for like, salvaging what can be saved,
Dragging the redeemable scrap away
From weariness like a blanket of snow.
A shipyard of wrecked vanities, skeletal, scuttled,
Left for the wind to tease, and to slow ruin.
The rust creeps, sleepless; the rags
Bow to the breeze. At the bottom of the sea
The barnacles offer their testimony, their final affinity
For smoothing shattered and forgotten things
Offering no prescription for these jagged ribs;
The broken parts accumulate, turn Queen’s Evidence,
Testify against the carefully meted untruths
Of their owner, who lies for safety
And not for gain. The compulsion
Is an old one, worn out by use,
And no longer fooling anyone.

Slowly I have slipped my obligations,
Scattered like snakeskin, uninhabited
By caution or responsibility.
The body fails, time and again. I
Inhabit it only when other options are unavailable,
Which is always. I make excuses for it,
Even to myself, even when I know better.
It offers me a future bright with needles,
Shored up with aluminium, and with so many pills to take.
It offers me no future at all.
It marks time, month on month, dosing at intervals
To ensure I do not forget the immense unlikelihood
Of it existing to begin with. It
Will kill me as surely as fire, as drowning,
But it will do it slowly, allowing me
To note its various intricacies,
Marvel at its irreducible complexity,
Asking the questions that time does not allow.


UNDER

Subterranean London conceals a family
Of inbred pigs, huge and blind in the darkness,
And pale, their bristly hides
Scraping the filth from the walls.
A tiger paces beneath the Edinburgh cobbles,
Twisting, furious with waiting;
Below Dublin, a monstrous snake coils.
Paris is the plaything of a pack of gigantic dogs,
And a colossal moth, wreathed in smoke,
Pupates under Amsterdam.
Berlin, naturally, shelters a bear
Of astonishing bulk, with claws like sickles,
And Madrid’s unfeasible monitor lizard
Is Cretaceous in its size.
New York’s great king rat has predated
Even the sewer alligators,
The vast coyote of Los Angeles curls its tail
Beneath El Capitan in the coldness of night,
And the rangy, hungry wolves under Seattle
Rattle the pines with their howling.
The cities pulsate, live and breathe,
Flood in resentment and glory and fear;
Bathe in failure, preen in hazy dawns,
Kick sunsets away across rivers and beyond horizons,
Warm the worn stones, tenant empty galleries,
Smooth the wooden floors of the museums,
Haunt night buses, wait alone for the train,
Devour lovers and losers and drunk businessmen,
Exhaust metaphors, frustrate poetics,
Ride the blue night and glimmer,
Winking at the cameras in space


Cassandra Finch (she/her) is a writer, artist, and zinemaker from Essex. Her work sits at the crossroads of disability, queerness, class anxiety, and life in the suburbs. She is currently currently working on her first poetry chapbook. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by Luca Massimo Lombardo

You wake up early in the morning
and it’s already raining
can’t even understand how
and you find yourself in a crowded train nice girls in their fancy tights
newspapers talk about debts, markets, television
it is too much.
Someone is reading The Catcher In The Rye still, there is hope.


Luca Massimo Lombardo lives in Milan, Italy. He writes short stories and poetry. He’s the author of “Rats Chewed Up My Doormat” published in Italy. He’s interested in everything that happens after 2am. You can find him on Twitter @VinicioLombardo and Instagram @inpistachiowetrust.

UNSPOKEN DILEMMAS by Sumaiya Sharaf Bidisha

My eyes talk more than my lips
when I am with you.
When I am trying not to speak,
don’t misunderstand me but
I disagree with you the most.
You remain in my great mistakes
yet you are my incredible happiness.
How long I have been yearning to
open my heart to you.
But I keep shutting my doors
with the fear of losing you.


Sumaiya Sharaf Bidisha is a clumsy social weirdo who never means what she says. Her unnatural dreams push her to write even more. She believes everyday is new challenge and we should stop worrying about future to make our presents better. Follow her on Instagram.

THREE POEMS by Tina Lamoreux

day drunk

she’s lying in the spare room

drinking in lovely days with

alcohol

sleeping in daylight

with counterfeit company,

she recognizes them, their lazy shadows

she can feel them,


the weight of

them.


heavy with dismay.


Self L-O-V-E

I must know 

myself, 

every inch

curve 

space

between my thighs fully 


before I allow you deep within
me 

so you do not discover

and lie to me with me

and tell me, 

what my body

says. 


I must know 

the difference

between

my voice and 

yours

so you will not 

take up

residence and 

claim

the discovery of 

pleasure

for yourself.

 


Shitfaced.

It’s a sobering moment, sitting with a trash can between my legs. Naked. 2AM. I think about everything that we wrote to each other. Dry eyes. Dry heaving. I drank so so so much of you away. I can’t feel my lips. But I can feel the fluid in my head swish and swirl and release through my mouth. You don’t have a right to make me like this. But you did. I let you. It’s not even that it hurts, it’s that I’m trying to get rid of you. You refused me, mind, body and spirit. I have to expel you like all the other demons.


Tina is a freelance writer and poet. She found her magic forest in Central PA where she is currently finishing her BA in English. You can find her staring off into space or drinking at a local coffee shop while pretending to be mysterious. Follow Tina on Instagram and Twitter.

FEATS OF STRENGTH by Brittney Uecker

Content warning: the following short story contains gore and references to bodily injuries.

This is unbearable pain. This is death. This is what it is like to die, and this is how I will die, pinned beneath this tree. I’m not even a naturey guy. This isn’t even my element. I had only ventured out on this path out of desperation, a crazed impulse. This is what it is to die alone, of my own stupidity or shitty fate, my guts squishing out of me like jelly from a donut.

Anica had finally done it—she had finally pulled the plug on our dying relationship. I knew she had been tossing around the idea for some time, dabbling in the fantasy of living untethered, no longer burdened by my unpredictable mental states, shit that she didn’t ask for. I knew her eyes had been peeled for a reason to leave. I guessed she had been waiting to fuck all the other guys in our apartment building. When the studio unit opened up downstairs, she jumped at the opportunity, a perfect excuse to bail on me while veiling it in, “Oh, Chris, I just need some space. I need to focus on my work. I need to know what it’s like to live alone.” 

So yesterday, she gathered a bunch of her burliest, manliest friends to come over to what was now only my apartment and help her move her things three floors and two halls down to her new, pretty studio. I watched in emasculated humiliation as their pumping muscles lifted her furniture, heaved her boxes and emptied her closets. Our life divided with surgical precision—half the silverware left in the drawer, a single plate and one pillow. She left the Xbox but took the TV—undue cruelty. I waited for one of the Incredible Hulks to pull out a saw and slice the sofa down the middle. 

 “I’ll only be downstairs,” she assured me half-heartedly once all her things had been cleared out, as if that would assuage the sting that was more like a gaping bullet hole, as if that would erase the pain. I’d never felt emotional pain manifest physically in quite the way that I did then, an overwhelming wave of nausea, vertigo like I had been punched in the ear, a cold sweat like a bucket of water being emptied over my head. I leaned over and vomited on the cheap linoleum of what used to be our kitchen floor. The sharp splat was followed by her groan of annoyance and the click of the door shutting behind her. Downstairs might as well be a different building, another continent, another planet, another dimension.

I thought that was pain.

When I woke this morning—”woke” a generous term, considering I hadn’t slept a wink—mania was starting to eclipse depression, my moroseness morphing into a sort of blacked-out desperation, true insanity. I need to get out, I told myself. I just need some sunshine. I need to get my blood pumping. I need to be outside. The rapid fire thoughts. I got in my car and drove to the state park on the edge of town. It was still sunrise, on a Wednesday no less, so the trail was empty and quiet. A healthy person would have called it serene. I walked the path and tried to clear my head, tried to empty my brain of the images of Anica’s molars when she laughed out loud, the condescending air of her reassurance, the barrel-chests of the men moving her shit. 

I didn’t know how long I’d been walking or in what direction. I could be on another coast at this point, on the fucking moon maybe. My legs were moving on their own accord, no cerebral involvement. I was so focused on forgetting, I didn’t notice the tree until it was on top of me. Maybe it was beetle rot or divine intervention or the cosmic bad luck of stepping on the wrong leaf at the wrong time, real butterfly-effect shit, but I almost missed the echoing snap, the whoosh of air, the sudden pressure like God holding my body in a vise. 

I felt a warm wetness dribble out of my ear and down my neck—blood. The rest of the pain was so complete and systemic that it all morphed into a single feeling. I couldn’t pick out any individual sensations—my powderized ribs, my pelvis in cracked ceramic chunks like pottery sherds, the slick squelch of my organs being pierced and penetrated. Only the warmth of life leaving my body.

I tried to will my arms to move, to summon some superhuman, panic-induced strength to lift the tree off of myself, but any conscious intentions were severed from the rest of my body. I thought of the men in the apartment, the ease with which they lifted all of Anica’s shit, their faces as calm as Hindu cows as they carried our life away. I wondered which one of them she would fuck first. I wondered which one of them she already had. 

I should have thought of her in that moment, of how much I loved her, tried to send a message of apology or devotion or desperation through the ether in my last dying moments. I thought of our empty apartment and how long it would be before anyone knew I was dead. I couldn’t move my arms, but in my last thoughts, I wrapped them around the trunk of the tree stacked on top of me, whose deadly power was not its fault, and forgave it. I thanked it. I kissed the bark and closed my eyes.


Brittney Uecker is a librarian and writer living in rural Montana who writes all lengths of fiction and dabbles in poetry. Her work is published/forthcoming by Waste Division, Stone of Madness Press, Second Chance Lit, and Pages Penned in a Pandemic. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @bonesandbeer.

INDIGENIZE TASTE by Rida Akhtar Ghumman

My nano could weave intricacies
in the kitchen, on the shelves, in hearts and clothes
Women “they” just buried as mothers
Bibi A and Bibi B
Unnamed yesterdays

I went to school
Learnt to pronounce c-a-p-i-t-a-l-ism
But I was never taught to inherit
Even from nano, her taste
To touch and persevere
To teach and enrich

She bore a daughter and she gave birth to me
I was taught to inherit in hierarchy
Respect for Nano and love for mama
While systemic hegemons taught me
numbers, unfair systems, ecology, and race
But nothing taught me Nano’s taste

As if crosia lace, mother tongue, and balanced biryani spice
Could only be poor or exotic
But not worth wearing: as exquisite indigenous taste


Rida Akhtar Ghumman is a student of English Literature working in creative corporate marketing. She can be reached on Twitter and Instagram at @RidaAkhtar_

SAMHAIN by Ceinwen Haydon

Foggy mornings’ slow reveal of light
tempts mother to breathe deep, expand
her sight, appreciate nuanced contrasts.
Autumn hushes anxiety with surprises –
a bright red leaf lies on piles of mulched grey,
fairy rings of fungi grace claggy ground.

Shafted sunshine sighs, on lower ground,
allotment bonfires smoke in filtered light.
Twilight shifts, plays in varied shades of grey,
fey pageants unfold, imaginations expand:
shadows nurture her mind’s surprises.
Pungent vegetation marks Samhain’s contrasts.

Life feeds on death feeds on life. Contrasts
collude to renew under sleeping ground.
Her feet sink in mud, yet leaves shoot surprises,
a blinking toad’s hibernation is broken by light.
Dusk creeps forward each day; buried seeds expand,
snowdrop bulbs swell, lend silvered tones to grey.

Midday bursts of sunny warmth morph to grey,
multi-hued tapestries show beauty in contrasts.
She walks in long strides, feels her lungs expand,
her feet nestle in wool-lined boots on ice-slick ground.
Reaching home, she’s beckoned by her bare porch light
and letters in her hallway provide welcome surprises.

Today’s full moon, illumes night-time surprises,
lit in the gloaming her hair glitters speckled grey.
Her son’s italic script makes her heart flutter light.
Like the toad she blinks, and relishes life’s contrasts.
She’s glad and agitated as she paces her home ground
and watches framed family photos chat and expand.

Her hopes for Christmas lift, swell and expand,
her nomadic boy will be back, the best of surprises:
her calloused, old feet barely touch the ground.
His eyes always blurred sea-blue with cloud-grey,
his need to wander and stay home, lifelong contrasts.
Wherever he lays his head, he sleeps well, travels light.

Mother’s autumnal dreams expand, colours invade grey
inked bright by surprises. Dreich weather is in contrast
to warmth on home-ground, as her son steps full into heartlight. 


Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She holds an MA in Creative Writing [Newcastle University, 2017]. She believes everyone’s voice counts. Follow her on Twitter at @CeinwenHaydon.