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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

TWO POEMS by Andrew Davis

EVE

I stole some fruit
that wasn’t mine to take.
Nobody actually knows
what fruit it was,
but let’s say it was an apple
so we have a picture for our scene.

I stole it because,
yet to taste knowledge,
I didn’t know any better.
It was bitter, not yet ripe.
The skin stuck
between the spaces in my teeth.

Voices shouted inside me,
screamed rebellion
against my God, my husband.
Knowledge is dangerous.
Not to those who learn,
but to those who hoard its fruits.


THEFT

Happiness doesn’t always come easily
But sometimes, I’ll steal its clothes
Try them on for size
Wonder why they don’t quite fit


Andrew Davis is a writer based in Cardiff. He writes a mix of prose and poetry, which has been published in anthologies and online journals by independent publishers including Black Pear Press, Fictive Dream and Abergavenny Small Press.

THREE POEMS by Helen Bowie

Content warning: Some poems in this feature are not safe for work (NSFW).

BOUDOIR BLOODHOUND

An undergarment
A frisson trinket
Boudoir bloodhound
Pillarbox red
Viewed through the lens
Of dead cellos, splurged ends
A costume in decay


A WOMAN’S WORK

Have you ever had a day so bad you get in from work and you say

Darling
I hate my job
so much
that we should have a baby

But you realise

your baby will grow

and one day

they too will need a job

and you cannot do that

to another soul

so you say

Darling
I hate my job
so much
that we must never have a baby


CRUMBLED

You said
After last night
My dick
Is a crumbled ruin
Like a tourist
To the ruins
Of the ancients
I am haunted
A beautiful memory
That cannot be reclaimed
Destroyed
By visitors
From another time

Helen Bowie is a London based performer, podcaster and poet. Helen has a day job at a charity, and no formal artistic training. She forever feels like a charlatan and an interloper. Find her on Twitter @helensulis.

TWO POEMS by Emma Bider

BACK FROM THE FIELD

When he returns to the party
the dim, silken air sounds new.

Whispers in the ear
imperceptibly altered,

vividly assembling
an original offering.

This loss of familiarity
chained him a moment.

Time out of step,
he tunes his thoughts

to the swollen tide of people,
thirsts for a distinct foundation,

a tether the habitual alone
can bestow,

he shivers with an alien pleasure.


WHAT WE DID NOT HEAR

The static coming from the walls
a sheet of sound,

and those subtle changes in it,
like the background noise of public fountains

the sounds of coins,
pigeons roosting, the aspirational splashing
of commuters on a hot day.

If I listen close enough to my office
I hear snow or some form of snow,

or fall leaves in a gust of wind,
leaving stamps on pathways,
after heavy rain.

When I see the hazy yellow fields of heat
I hear air being pushed through vents,

asking if I might be persuaded
to breathe a little louder.


Emma Bider is a writer and PhD student living in Ottawa. She is currently fixated on identifying plants in her neighbourhood. Emma’s collection of short stories We Animals comes out in December 2020. You can follow her on Twitter at @ebider. 

FIVE IN THE MORNING by Aqueb Safwan Jaser

You tell yourself a lot of tales.
When it’s five in the morning.
Sometimes a mosquito buzzes.
But you mistake it with someone’s calling.

In the flashlight, you make pigeons fly.
Your shadow friends are here for a while.
But you’re surprised.
‘Cause you’re only used to goodbyes.

But that’s alright.
Even goodbyes slip the eyes.

The sun is nearly waking.
Your tales will be left unheard.
Probably, because, that’s what you preferred?


Aqueb Safwan Jaser is a Bangladeshi creative writer who appeared in an anthology titled ‘Ten Square:Hundred Word Stories From Bangladesh’, The Elixir Magazine, Revolt Magazine, and The River Bird Magazine. Being a cinephile he also writes for High on Films. Currently, he is pursuing a degree in Marketing while working as a Content Writer.