Three Poems by Deborah Akubudike

Kintsukuroi

“…you cannot truly love another until you know how to
love yourself”

shards.
one. two. three.

plucking, picking like flowers
withered
in the middle of a baking summer
a decade ago though. i love her.

i breezed through it like the east wind; learned
of wabi-sabi pottery my vitreous face and body.
i learned to weave lacquer in my skin play with broken chords in an opera and smile because i love her.
there’s this silence in the opera house because the audience want more but
i can’t give perfect notes. besides
the chords aren’t broken eyes are
and thoughts break
oneself
it’s similar to ceramics. leave her alone, i love her.

i stare at the mirror, at who i used to be;
touching places the human eyes refuse to see
smiling at
how i’ve fallen for a special clay pot
before
 after
  forever.

my aesthetic self.


Autumn Eve

I see someone

frozen, where my body lays
carefully embalmed
   waiting for my grandchildren
to pick up the weeds,
 burn an incense and call out for
protection  a prepaid harvest,
the way the ears pick up the lyrics of
a withered song [one by one, till all that’s left is the East wind
of a once beautiful woman]
  and lets that fire burn them
alive.

Her grandson’s eating songpyeon
 the way
her mind ate her till she became
  the weed
everyone wanted to throw away
from her father’s grave.


Allegory of a Cave

From Plato’s definition, “love is a serious mental disease”; describing a romantic love.

black hollow eyes
and red irises dance wildly
waltz style, two by two in seven times two, i second that. gold darkness tongues licking flares
hands locked and satisfied fingers.

naked hot bloody eaten
frigging high
excuse my french. i’m drunk and torn from red roses, my tongue’s occupied
with two many  breathss
both his and mine; locking, interlacing and drinking scarlet hearts.
no interjections, flat out flattery, no tongues no lies.
but i’m watching myself drown in my lover’s liquor cave, our heartbeats reverberating, a feeling i can’t understand or explain bound
 in a rather untimely spell too hard, i fell
   to insanity luckily no bruises no bleeding
inside of me. i’m safe, in his eyes. those eyes.

i’m tainted? no, untainted
you see
but
no regrets. nonetheless, i know too well
when a pair of hearts beat, they’re alive.


Akubudike Deborah is a black poet and lyricist, who enjoys hiking, listening to music and writing. Her works have been featured in Cypress Journal, TWPM, etc .She can be found on Twitter: @akubudikedebbie and Instagram: @ad_poet.

Four Poems by F.C. Malby

Believe Her

Trigger warning: this poem alludes to sexual assault.

when she tells you he touched
her in inappropriate ways,

inappropriate places, asked
if he could just take a photo

with your top off, please, please.

Bought her things that raised

eyebrows. She knew she couldn’t
be bought but that did not stop

him from sticking a price to her body
and making her sweat. Believe her

when she tells you she feels
unclean and ashamed. Ask her

if she is ok, tell her she did the
right thing because she will
wonder. Oh, how she will
wonder — when the people she

trusted turn against her, people
she thought might know better

but they don’t, because no one
ever talks about it, hiding their

eyes and covering their ears
because it’s distasteful,

discomforting, challenges the
status quo, rocks the equilibrium

of society and social groups.
Tell her she did the right thing

when he is questioned, or after
he has died and his family is

still grieving. Believe her when
she tells you he was frightening

and forceful, when he was loved
and revered by so many. Tell her
it was right. Think of your daughter
or niece or granddaughter. You

will be doing the right thing if you
believe her, help others to see

the truth.


Swirls of Blues and Yellows

The clouds swirl
with blues and
yellows, the stars
mingling with the
night sky, rolling like
balls of fire over the
hills of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
The scene is a dizzy

fusion of lines
and Catherine
Wheels of colour. The
houses sit quietly,

waiting for sunrise. The
streets, empty, the homes
quiet. The bustle of
the day is behind and

it is impossible to
know what lies
ahead. For now,
the homes are at rest,

while the sky scrambles
over the hills, sweeping
its balls of fire, into
another galaxy.


Sugar Lines Her Lips  

Sugar lines her lips the way salt
lines the rim of a tequila

shot. She throws words at me
after a long shift. Her bite

unmoved by the sugar. The sting
and tang remains. She uses

words that she says tells me she
loves me, doesn’t mean

the harsh ones. Baby, you know
I don’t mean it.
And it does,

sting, makes me catch my
breath, purse my lips,

breathe
through my teeth and she

tells me she wants me really I do
she says but the words no longer
burn or sting, no longer satisfy

the part of me that loved her

once. Come here and climb in
with me
feels more like salt

than sugar, no longer thrills me
and she no longer feels like home.


Cheap Cider

Sweet sixteen, they say,
and it was, as we swigged
cheap cider from oversized
plastic bottles with the
others, passed it round, met
on the set of The Mikado. He
persuaded me to go for a
walk, kissed me on the lane
outside the school. It was a
strange sensation, the first
kiss, made my head spin. He
had electric blue eyes, wide
lips and a girlfriend, but he
met me at the bus stop and
walked me to school, minus
the girlfriend. I watched him
sing Go Go Go Johnny Go
with the band and his black
leather jacket and floppy
blonde hair, his eyes
scanning the room for mine
as he strummed, reaching
for the chord changes, winking
at me, making my stomach flip.
I wouldn’t find out about Chuck
Berry until years later when I
could still hear the Swedish
guitarist singing about Johnny,
that he never ever learned to read
or write so well, but he could play
a guitar like a-ringing a bell.

Field parties turned into beach
parties until we lit fires and those
turned to house parties until the
police were called. Neighbours
didn’t like the spillage on to
the streets, didn’t like the noise. I spilt
red wine, it bled on to the white
carpet as we filed out and he took
the blame. Those days stretching
into Fridays at the Arts Centre,
all in black and denim and
paisley, listening to The Cure,
The Mighty Lemon Drops and
U2; when he was sent to the
States for the summer, he told his friend to watch over me. I
never needed watching over.
Friday I’m in Love was the
soundtrack to those years
where I felt free, felt alive. This
was the summer of love.


F.C. Malby’s work has been widely published online and in print. Her stories have won several competitions and she was nominated for Non Poetry Publication of the Year in the Spillwords Press 2021 Awards. Follow her on Twitter at @fcmalby and on Instagram at @fcmalby.

Five Poems by Ashley Sapp

Sad Girl Poets

I am sensitive.

Perhaps it is a prerequisite for becoming a sad girl poet,
A dreamer within a realist,
A someone who feels more than she reveals
Except for in vulnerable places:
Naked as your eyes roam her body, noting her scars,
Her lumps and curves,
A someone who is simultaneously anonymous and vulnerable.

There are no secrets; writers expel them in a breath,
A natural circumstance escaping the ribs,
A frailty beneath the bony shields;
And yet,
We cannot help but undress, divulge,
Lie upon the table for hands to pick and devour:
Unprotected, we ingest your secrets in return.

I am sensitive, yes,
But I am also savage.


Snapshots of Here

I take a breath as I seize the view, product of the mountain
That feels as though I am stealing something, shoplifting from
Nature itself (I cannot pay for such a thing), so I am guilty as I
Turn and place a bit of grass, a bit of tree, a bit of sun into my
Pocket to cradle and stare in awe of later.

Once when I was younger, I felt brave enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, tall and giant and worthy, and the breeze
Caressed my face and gently held my hair. I savored joy in
Fear because I stood there anyway, defiant, daring for the
Mountain to (just try) and drop me beneath.

Later, when I was older, I felt scared enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, small and tiny and brittle, and the breeze
Threatened my face and then pulled at my feet. I savored fear
Because I stood there anyway, expectant and asking for the
Mountain to move and (please) drop me.

But now I am here to simply hang my life on the shoulder of
The land and take a seat at this rolling table, ready to feast on
Meals made of scenery and time and dessert, of course, made
Of memory. I am nostalgic for made-up stories in my mind,
But this still feels real enough (to me).

This place is one that I seek in times of need and comfort
And even desperation — here, this place reminds me of how
Fragile but also valid my bones (these bones) must be to
To feel every step taken, a sudden jolt from feet to head,
Saying, “Listen to how this body speaks.”


Trauma

Trigger warning: this poem contains references to sexual assault.

People around me have been slowly
practicing leaving, a routine of escaping
in different bodies, ones that curated
madness over happiness, and so
I learned that my body was not
my own. I gave it over to hands and
mouths and teeth, scraping against
earlobes and jawlines, gracing collarbones
and flesh that stretched over hip bones
and down skinny, awkward legs.

I was taught how to escape my body,
too, when it was stolen from me,
my vision blurred by drugs, frantically
searching for something to lock eyes on,
something other than the person moving
above me, across me, inside me. Lycanthropy
turned me into a bird, so I flew from
the scent of stale beer, away from my body
and out the near window, returning to myself
when I was more prepared to be savage,
to take me back from those hands and
mouths and teeth, baring my own,
realizing my own, feeling my own.

I am altered, but
I am not madness.

Give me my body.
I’ll tell you what I am.


Devastated in Swaths of Color

Flowers bloom from between my teeth,
and I swallow seeds meant for planting.
I drink water and water and water until I am filled,
my skin soaked, though my eyes dry.
I can see others pretending I have not arrived,
my words buried beneath their muddy feet
as they run towards something I am not meant to know.
But the sun casts shadows as much as it sheds light,
and I am understood, heard, seen within this land of birth.
I carve myself into bartered bark,
both devastating and deserving.
I see myself in the color green,
a signal of how I’m nascent and hopeful.
Soil is found beneath my nails in all the ways
I have touched experience. I am gathered in your hands,
a bouquet of trying. Pink and yellow and purple
rest on my tongue, and I smell the scent of familiarity.
Reciprocity spills itself upon your fingertips,
which I meet with my own. They touch my hair,
locks of revolution, and I smile—for I am spring.


Say Something

I won’t lie. I am told to say something often,
an aching appeal to peek inside,
and the pressure is intimidating
because I carry words like tears held captive behind my eyes.
I can envision myself.
The direction I move is flawless but quiet,
a zenith of harmony that is sensed rather than said.
I won’t lie – I am caught in the middle, the rhythm, and it makes
me feel; oh, it makes me feel.
An ellipsis of songbirds form on the sill,
and I find courage there as I am told, again,
to say something. My voice flickers like the imagined wink
in the Cheshire moon, a hint in the gaping night.
I won’t lie. Everything I ever thought to say,
it came from a scarlet throat.
So I can’t help myself. I can’t help, myself.


Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog, Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @ashthesapp and Instagram @ashsappley.

Two Poems by Millicent Stott

Winter, Divine

I could sense that storm
long before it arrived
the light of amber, feline eyes
splashed so casually
against the varnished blue
of dusk
my headlights burning through the fog
her wet hair draped about her
velvet like a rabbit fur,
a slippery gown,
winter, divine and
we are falling in the frost
please, don’t be so gentle
leading me into the woods
sugar mice and crimson snow
from the party girl
whose teeth chatter in the cold
purple lips sweet as
washed up dolphins and
night walks in the cemetery
the rich steam in my morning shower
the crisp leaves crushed underfoot
promise I’ll stay


Watercress

These woods are sodden with
blackberry and blackbird song
so hold me tight till I can no longer
feel their green eyes on me,
bury me among the bracken,
we must squeeze our eyes shut
I will feed you
on watercress and the mushrooms
that make you sick
and they may never find us here
the chanting witch with the
sad white face howls at the moon,
when they drowned her daughter
in the lake
I saw her soaked blue skirt
float above the surface,
then her smiling face like a demented dove
golden tendrils of angel’s fingers
I know how many people
at the mercy of your sweet hunting knife
I know that we can stay here
hands clutched, bruised, moss infused
against the
strange, jagged night


Millicent is a 19 year old English Literature student and poet. She loves feminist literature, cats and star gazing. Her work is inspired by folklore, queer love and the natural world. Follow her on Instagram @millicenteve_.

Interference by A.R. Salandy

Over there, Over there! cried he,
As two men jostled and hollered
As rain poured and onlookers bolted
In search of uniformed help-

Nowhere to be found,

But off in the distance
The slow wail of gales
Intermingled with sirens
And crashing waves too

As onlookers interfered

In hope of forceful interruption
Of men driven by passion
And antagonized by weather brutish
That now acted to interrupt a fight,

Where no man might stand against forces natural.


Anthony is a mixed-race poet & writer who has spent most of his life in Kuwait jostling between the UK & America. Anthony’s work has been published 120 times internationally. Anthony has 1 published chapbook: The Great Northern Journey. Anthony is the Co-EIC of Fahmidan Journal. Follow him on Twitter @anthony64120 and Instagram @anthony64120.

semi-verbal by Lucy Doherty

i sense myself sinking into it.
we’re in a shop, picking out clothes.
my mother is laughing at the cheap trinkets.
what do you think?
i am clean and cold. The music coming from the ceiling is heavily autotuned. my mouth feels so small. i can’t open it.
my mother’s eyes are too bright. mine are unfocused and empty. she’s waiting for me. i nod and twitch my lips.
she leans in and whispers, “we’re going home soon”.


Lucy Doherty is a 17-year-old girl living in South-Central Wisconsin who tentatively calls herself a poet. Poetry makes her feel like she’s filled with electricity. She enjoys comedy, singing, and candy. You can find her other work and her social media at lucypoetry.carrd.co.

Three Poems by Jeremy Jusek

a brief love poem

After eighty-five years
of playing rootsie,
the two tree’s branches
finally intertwined.

A breeze blows.


The Local Cinema Was Recently Purchased by a Serious Man Who Believes a Little Less in Movies Than His Idealistic Predecessor

Conscription sat me in a
cinema, where I watched
little movies of my friends’ big lives

and learned who picked whose
nose. And worse still where they
flung the boogers.

I severed my shadow like
Peter Pan, feeling particularly
boyful as I danced

with their silhouettes
and shouted obscenities
at my own.

My shadow paled
as the sun set—its straining
brothers, once mere targets,

shielded by branches from pooping birds,
were become mighty, two-dimensional
ships, waiting for the anchor

to dissolve, swallowing my shadow and
the world and all its creatures
and my friends’ boogers

into an ocean of vague similarities
long past I’d, without my own knowledge,
fallen asleep in my chair.

And who could blame me? The chairs
were recently replaced and attendance was up
into the rafters because the chairs put us there.


Drawdowns

Paint is only testable at 4 Mil. Otherwise
detestable. All is detestable, all faded
blighted grime in different colors.
Knick. Knack. Avoid the bubbles.

There are bubbles in my paint
rising to the surface,
pointed crime, progress
infinite.

A human blip
called a drawdown
starved in a lab
watching paint dry
before it’s time to test
how washable it is.


Jeremy is a poet and playwright living in Cleveland with his wife and two kids. He earned his MFA from Arcadia University, is the author of “We Grow Tomatoes in Tiny Towns”, and runs the West Side Poetry Workshop. To learn more, visit www.jeremyjusek.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JeremyJusek.

Brief Interaction with God and Pizza by Ashley Pearson

  I was Christened fashionably late in a white lace gown from the sales rack at Bergners. I can not remember being baptised, but I imagine it was a grand affair. Much of my family was in tow; a crowd of stiff pressed black pants and strong cologne.
  My dear Uncle, who was on the brink of his third divorce and fourth marriage, was named as my godfather. I wonder if the title of godmother was passed between girlfriends/wives and handed down like a worn Bible. I thank God that I never had to come under their care and be tucked away in the back of some book shelf.
  My baptism brought a sense of normalcy to my birth which was wedlocked, adopted, and foreign. There had never been a Korean to hold my last name. But, there were generations of blonde or bald heads dunked by Lutheran pastors. And, in tradition, my bush of black hair had to be plunged too.
  Briefly, in the baptismal font, a small German child reflected below me.
  I imagine that we celebrated in good, middle-class, Midwestern fashion with a pot roast at home or pizza from a place that handcuts their own pepperoni. I could not eat solid food, but maybe one of my cock-eyed cousins slipped me a pomegranate seed to ensure my sanctity, fertility, and abundance (it was never too early to spit blasphemy on a girl).
  Wedlocked, I was 0-1 with God. Perhaps, 613 seeds down the road, I could break even with Him.


Ashley Pearson is a writer, creative writing and biology double major at Knox College. She is Korean-American. Ashley has been published in The Global Youth Review, Ogma Magazine, and elsewhere. Her work is forthcoming in Qmunicate Magazine, Catch Magazine, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ashley___writes and on Instagram at @ashleynicolewrites.

VAMPIRE by Holly Redshaw

I wait on your replies,
They mean as much
As your mouth and touch,
Though somehow still,
They’re never enough.
There’s a gap, a crack,
A little jagged, perhaps.
I feed on your love
To fill me up,
I must leak, I suppose,
It keeps draining out.
And I hold you close,
I bite your skin,
I give, give out,
And let you in;
Take from whatever else
the earth can give,
But there’s dirt
out there, and smoke.
I don’t know if
I can let myself live
In a place where people are happy
To just be unhappy.
Where satisfaction’s crude,
It’s normal to be rude
Uncouth
Feral
And empty.
The sky is empty,
The clouds are only air –

I feed on your love
To fill me up.
I must leak, I suppose,
It keeps draining out.


Holly is a bassoonist from London, currently studying for her Masters at the Royal College of Music. When not playing the bassoon, Holly enjoys going on long runs, making her own bread, and writing reviews of crème brûlées on her blog, “Can’t Be Beaten.” Follow her on Twitter @hollyredshaw and on Instagram at @hol_red.

THE DELIVERY MAN WAVES by Kevin Bonfield

Silhouette of a child
Waving.
Her Dad,
I’ve presumed to be
her Dad,
so powerful,
not tall,
but a presence
at the door.

Her Mother,
I guessed her Mother,
struggles
with the dawn grizzling
of
(what I imagine is)
a sibling.

Still waving
Glancing left
To catch a parents eye
Her face
In shadow
Back lit by
Modern trappings
Yet I feel the smile
Without glancing
Back

This magical
Moment
Simple
Yet soiled
By what we know


Kevin Bonfield is a rather private writer inspired by a certain past, a glorious present and a hopeful future. Follow him on Twitter at @bonfield_kevin and on Instagram @kevinswrites