Thumbprints
 
currants of color
as in spices and herbs,
as in safety and ginger—
currents of water
have a way with words, too,
paddlefish, large mouth bass,
tiny vertebrae, bottom feeders
 
when the weather comes in,
mixing metaphors,
birch and mullein slip
deeper into the stream
and somewhere else color rises, 
currant and current,
the scent of opium in tea

Michael H. Brownstein work has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011). 

It's Time
                            as my ovary released
stringy mucous, dangling from me,
soon time to have sex, before midnight,
before the ticking
shrivelled up my Cinderella egg
 
it's time
                             as my endometrium
did not erode but welcomed success.
A tadpole dot, an eye of DNA, splitting,
multiplying, shedding layers. Burrowed
itself in the wall of my womb
 
it's time
                            as my umbilicus popped
out and my lungs pushed harder,
heeded the placental need,
a cuckoo greed to plunder,
yet keep me sweet
 
it's time
                             as my uterus contracted,
squeezed and nudged him down the canal,
a walnut shell split to let him crown,
after forty one weeks, my white knuckles
and guttural breaths pushed him clear
 
it's time
                      as my body split open
to alter my breaths, for the next stage
as he slithered out,
creamed in his protective glaze
 
wrapped in a lemon blanket
we sought each others eyes.
A gaze to herald our time.
 
 
Irish poet and artist Lorraine Carey's work has been published in the following: Atrium, Prole, The Blue Nib, Ariel Chart, Poethead, The Honest Ulsterman, Sixteen, Vine Leaves, Live Encounters, Picaroon, Laldy and The Runt Zine, among others.
A runner up in both the Trocaire/ Poetry Ireland and The Blue Nib Chapbook Competition 2017, her artwork has featured in Three Drops From A Cauldron, Dodging The Rain and Riggwelter Press. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows - Revival Press is available from www.limerickwriterscentre.com She lives in Co.Kerry with her husband and four children.
In Istanbul

(After Child Ballad 53: Young Beichan)

 
You came
                from a strange land, all that
 
clamorous
                dwelling, but not
 
staying;
                halfways here, wearing strangeness
 
like dust
                in your hair, you
               
linger in my kitchen.
                I’ve felt your chest’s
 
irregular tattoo
                - footfall on Thameside
 
the difficult music
                of sailors, the night tide
               
sluice and suck of it.
                Storks muster over
               
the Bosphorus, swinging south
                to Africa. You too
 
must leave.
                I chop mint
               
sensing something terrible
                might happen
 
a slip, a fall           
                - a storm or wreck
 
an ambush in an alley.
                I won’t know
 
when they find you at dawn
                bloodied and limp
               
wonder why you strayed


Tim Cresswell is a geographer and poet. He has been widely published in poetry magazines in the US, United Kingdom and beyond. He has poems in, for instance, The Moth, the Rialto, the North, Magma, Poetry Wales, Salamader and Riddlefence. His collections, Soil and Fence were published by Penned in the Margins (London). 


 Past Due         
 
Sometimes, when I’m quiet
I feel them in my arms, I’m not sure which one.
If I close my eyes and run with the illusion
there is a baby in my arms
a tiny, warm head press against my chest
can almost hear the contented wheezing of infant sleep.
 
I try to get the cat to climb into my lap and take the place
of the phantom baby, try to get it to curl just so in my arms
press against me just so and stay still, let me cover it in blankets
fall asleep, but my old tom cat won’t have anything to do with that.
 
I have heard to women who buy baby dolls to fill the ache
losing or wanting a child has left behind, but I can’t do that,
I can’t be one of those women
curled on the couch, wrapped around a realistic-looking rubber doll
cooing nonsense lullabies to a latex child.
 
 
 
 

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle. Her nonfiction publications include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano and Keyboard All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and Stillwater, Minnesota: A History.   Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press),  I'm in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.), and Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing)  will be out mid-2018, with The Yellow Dot of a Daisy already out on Alien Buddha Press.


 “Swimming Nude on A Pink Beach in Bermuda”
 
When the sun drops behind the black mangroves across the lane,
a million tree frogs announce the time to move out of the salt
water pool; invite us to abandon our sandals and flip-flops,
approach the pink beach, to hug the remaining light before it is gone.
 
The purple waves beckon us with blue curls of fingers. Find our cave
with the warm, still pool at its lip, wade in, slide off our shorts,
embrace the water like a lost lover, pulling in its energy,
watching the cuckoos congregate above us on the vine-covered bluff
to see how we do it, how we coax the clear water to accept our whitened
bodies, our limbs that lack the grace of the killifish that explore the bottom
where our toes stir the sand like a kitchen blender.
 
Is it against some law to spend the night in this paradise? We must
reapply our tight wet skins and crawl like amphibians  onto the dry sand,
wade under the burgeoning canopy of frogs and birds to our own private nest above the hotel pool.
 
 Whether John Dorroh taught any high school science is debatable; however, he managed to show up at 6:45 every morning for a couple of decades with at least two lesson plans in his belongings. His poetry has appeared in Dime Show Review, Ingigent Press, Suisun Valley Review, Eunoia Review, Sick Lit, and others. He also enjoys crafting short fiction and the occasional rant.


A letter home
 
He enlisted.
That's why he's in Iraq.
First for a cause
and then for that scar on his cheek.
 
Plenty of medals
where a bully's knuckles once struck.
One of the reasons that got him here -
tearful eyes on a bed in the dark.
 
He's writing a letter home,
careful not to give away secrets.
Gunfire and explosions in the background.
But the pen holds steady.
 
It's the usual stuff.
Bored -just sitting around.
The rations are foul.
No mention of loud choppers overhead.
 
Two in his platoon were killed last Wednesday.
He leaves that out also.
Likewise, no mention of the eyes of the locals -
no hate, no thanks, just bewilderment.
 
He'd never make a newsman.
Not when he censors everything
to make it for general consumption.
He doesn't lie exactly.
 
He just doesn't trust
the truth in the wrong hands.
And he has to be up early.
It's time to finish up his correspondence.
 
Ironically, he ends with,
"Take care. Keep safe."
Like there's a war in Nebraska.
Like the eyes of the world are on Ralston.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.  
 

Tongue Ring


Lorna was in the cereal aisle, examining 
brands of granola, with the same 
plump hands and topaz ring I remembered
from ten years of sharing an office. 

Her blue eyes rose beneath short red bangs,
blocking my chance to push my cart past
someone else I had not seen since it happened.

Did she notice something off in my quiet questions:
Your grandson? Your daughter? Your garden?
A reversal of our office relationship 
when I unloaded daily, every gory detail, 
from family fights to bouts of bowel disease.

Did she think it odd that I mentioned
only my oldest child, not my youngest?

The words wouldn’t leave my mouth, 
as if they were attached to my tongue 
and letting them go would require 
sticking out a red piece of flesh
no one wants to see.  

So we said goodbye, leaving the headstone
in the cemetery down the street—
the very reason I was in this neighborhood,
shopping at her grocery—still hidden 
inside my mouth, like a tongue ring
only I knew was there.

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks,  Field Trip to the Museum, (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press.  Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Glass,  Beltway Poetry, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Gargoyle,  and Connecticut River Review. She is also the author of forty books for young readers. Visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com  

Dance with Meaning
 
Come the end of autumn term
we watch our daughter’s troupe perform.
 
As one of those who understands
not much about expressive dance
 
I hear with thanks and some relief
Miss Shervington’s prefacing speech
 
explaining that the coming piece
exemplifies the Middle East.
 
The leotards and limbs find space
where fear and terror mask each face,
 
then edging ever centre stage
they finally converge and make
 
a single shape which I compare
to hands combined in act of prayer;
 
a transitory smile, closed lids,
then they scatter, blown to bits.
 
Without the prologue’s clarity
I might have thought this parodied
 
an end of season dancing show
and dads that didn’t want to go,
 
who supplicated then half slept-
heard a clap and quickly left.

Raymond Miller


On paper
 
About this Snow White thing.
You know – a mop, true empathy
and hair as black as coal, etcetera.
I could blame Oprah and, I quote,
You’ve got to learn to love yourself.
Those seven little bastards didn’t help.
But the truth I realise
(and so should all you Princes) is,
in 25 per cent of cases,
being a fairy-tale chick will
result in weirdness and when that happens.
Well. Best left in our glass coffins or what.


Mhairi Owens recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews. She tutors in Creative Writing there and is Scottish Languages Editor for The Scores. Her work has been published or is pending in several places, including The Glasgow Review of Books and The Rialto

This Other Life
 
 
The what if alternative to chronic gothic memories
whistling around my mind so late now,
a life in which my parents value art’s integrity,
understand love’s kindnesses, children’s fragility,
where education is sanctified in lieu of lucre,
that is the current fantasy owning my insomnia.
 
Mapped undergraduate days begin in my teens
reading poetry, crashing in and out of love,
studying dreamily on campus, eschewing student jobs.
Qualified, I start real work in my mid-twenties,
enjoy lunch I can afford at a redolent hip deli,
leave my desk at day’s end, hands clean, satisfied.
 
Marriage to a woman who treasures books delights
despite autumnal affairs, because we take time
to touch each other, ‘sorry’s power stitched to last,
witnessed lessons of quality sustaining long-term.
Her people friends whose approval I value,
love our crumbling inner-city street, its old elms.
 
Wounded but little, at least until older,
I do not convey hurt, either to body or soul.
Suffering wrongs never eclipses me in moments alone,
betrayal’s burns resulting from minor exchanges only.
Friendship vanquishes seclusion, beauty is all.
Wrong moves?  Few and trivial in this wishful life.    

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Antipodes, Australian Book Review, Australian Poetry Journal,  Critical Survey,  Prole,  The Stony Thursday Book, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.
                                                                                                                                                   
                    
SoundLines currently consists of 6 members co-founded by Jeffrey Loffman and Gary Michael Studley. The members write poetry that ranges widely in tone, rhythm and rhyme and covers subjects from the momentous to the everyday.
See Jo Field’s THE ANGLESEY LEG (Happenstance Press), Trevor Breeding is a prize-winner, Jeffrey Loffman’s BREATH-TAKING: A Geography (Lapwing) has received appreciative reviews (see Ink, Sweat & Tears), Gary Michael Studley’s
Is a prize-winner and his THERE IS ANOTHER WAY is available using the web-site www.soundlines.co.uk; Peter Sinden’s Blog has a significant following
and the artist Robert Marsh has been real crowd pleaser in the group’s readings at festivals and in LiveLit nights.





In the bath

she ponders Relaxation
and wonders when she lost the art.
Or did she never master it?
She can’t remember ever being tempted 
by pictures of those little suckered pillows 
tucked under heads of carefree women
feigning nudity in catalogues.

It’s not occurred to her to scatter candles
ranged about in coloured glass and lit
to cheer the bleakness of those tiles and mirrors.
She has no muzak piped into the steam,
she doesn’t buff away with any languid loofah
at flesh which ought
to hold its nerve-ends buried deep.

Experimentally she leans her skull
of rattling odds and ends like small sharp dreams
against the bath’s cold skin. Occipital froideur
leaks in to numb the scalp, surging 
through semicircular canal and lacrimal sac 
to eyelids effortfully clamped.

The aerial whirring of her brain observes
traffic congested in the rush-hour of the neck.
Each hard shoulder is a waste of cones,
slip roads at a standstill, a central reservation
with — oh oh — an accident.
She pulls the plug.


Jo Field


Is This The Poetry Bus?

The poets have small rucksacks and unnecessary hats.
Speaking with octogenarians they try
not to mention death. They’ve been told the human soul
packs the same weight as a nightingale
when they had believed it was insubstantial
as a wisp of breath.

They observe three cyclists on the pavement
outside the newsagent, adjusting lycra, watching
a towering girl, the Sun under her arm, clunk clunk
from the door on platformed boots. The cyclists
may or may not be poets, but they practise
pertinent similes behind her back.

A further poet puffs up in the nick of time
with wild hair, torn tights, bandaged hands
and the query which makes at least one other think:
I could get a poem out of that.


Jo Field



One-Man War

Jimi Hendrix plays The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock, Monday morning, August 18th 1969

With surreptitious ease
one-man war 
declares itself
in squeeze-trigger beats
spirals into air
explodes in chords
from fingers straining
at the killing floor

soars
       shrieks
                 distends
                             fragments

pitches to shrillness
distorts to human screams
inseparable from
banshee wail of bombs
engages all enemies
(drums return small fire)
feeds back the lies
bombards with shock and awe

                                    rolls 
                             dives
                  tumbles
     implodes

craters lives wrapped
in some other flag
splinters the dream
scatters patriot songs
in shrapnel sounds
from sea to shining sea

the echo of each wire-strung note
begs America the beautiful
no more



                                                              The Bee House

                                               The middle air brick breathes in bees,
                                               sucks them into its waxed windpipe,
                                               spits them out like grape seeds granted flight.
                                               For 15 years the cavity has been their home,
                                               a storeyed comb built on generations
                                               of nurture and industry, thriving, sweet 
                                               and moist. Is that a damp patch in         
                                               the corner or the stain of surplus honey? 
                                               
                                               In the wall behind my wardrobe a bee generator hums,
                                               a pipe organ with tones I moderate
                                               by opening and closing the door.
                                               A strange fragrance clings to my hanging clothes. 
                                               When they scouted a cracked corner skirting                                                                                                           
                                               I awoke to bees skimming past my nose,
                                               watched them float in the room’s sunlight,
                                               dream-motes looking for a logical escape.

                                               In winter the wardrobe stops its organ notes;
                                               the air brick holds its breath;
                                               the wall is cold and quiet. 
                                               From the guttering I scoop handfuls of congealed corpses,
                                               damp and black and honey-textured,
                                               fit to mulch with the husks of summer bees
                                               swept up daily by the score,
                                               a concoction to sweeten the soil.

                                               By April the sun is striking warmth into the brick.
                                               I begin to wonder when they will stir,
                                               whether they will emerge in gasps of life
                                               or burst into a controlled and frenzied cloud
                                               to weave a fisted mitten clutching at a branch,
                                               a dark and glistening mass 
                                               clasping a queen kernel in its beating heart.  


Trevor Breeding



THE  THATCHED BARN

prompted by Samuel Palmer’s‘ A Barn with a Mossy Roof ’ (1828/9)

  

The poor gleaners of Kent scavenged fields,
eked out some kind of life, leftovers
modern farm methods did not gather.
By candlelight ‘Swing’ signed letters,
burnt barns; clumps of moss
charred darker, some a brighter orange.
Shadows sneak over the roof,
a crumpled thatch of grassy yellows.
Nearby beside rocks and scree,
stone walls with timbered doors
locked  - but when evening comes 
unbolt the door, fill the store!
Blood-red decay with earth tones
beneath ominous sky, wages are cut.
The hidden-away workers try
to make ends meet even now.
Wealden land houses all this.

Shoreham, where Samuel Palmer painted this, is close to those Kent villagers, near where the River Adur pierces the Downs, who were desperately driven by poverty and hunger.     The Captain Swing riots around 1830 started around there [Captain Swing: Hobsbawm & Rude, London, (1969 )p.190].


KUFANIYA

The title references Anjan Sundaram’s Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship (London, 2016). This Rwandan word, according to Anjan Sundaram, relates to a Presidential policy of killing the government’s own troops and use of child soldiers for which “only several warlords have been prosecuted (p.143).” 

 
We return home like weeds on a path
keeping eyes front so not to see
‘The Watcher’ whose glare burns homes
whose persuasion enfolds us,
each child has shards of steel
to machete their dreams
                                                  for his sake

We live in blackness where hawks grab
prey, talons dart sharp as cameras flash
on invited crowds huddling around
‘The One’ whose portrait dominates,
while here a shredded uniform,
small as a child, joins the pile
                                                   for his truth

The hawks wing to bright facades
where the beautiful party,
while weeds are plucked out of sight,
we fear our footfall may leave marks
and, as lost children,
we too will be marked
                                                  for his benefice





Jeffrey Loffman


Mirrored

Before the mirror fell
before the key rusted on the hook
there was candle light to warm the glass
there was pale skin dusted
with perfumed powders 
and long hair brushed and parted
Unknown faces fabricated new expressions
immaculate as glass
their features set in seconds
fingers sometimes touching the surface
like kissing themselves

Make me fresh again sighed the aged
Make me beautiful sighed the maid
Make me look more like the General
Make my beard grow make me venerable
Make my eyes speak of my soul

‘I’m not looking in that mirror ‘
said the sinner

Practising a laugh
practising a smile
practising a cough
practising a kiss
practising a hat
a scarf or a fan
practising a cigarette 
or a movement of hands.

‘All is vanity’ said the Bard.
No-one was looking when it fell
its a mystery, all that history, and
every shard a tale to tell - 
for eighty years it served us well..

But ‘I’m not looking in that mirror’,
said the sinner.



Rabbits


A youth strides across the stage
Stroking a rabbit, the rabbit’s eyes are big and black
It has just been taken from a sack
Its heart almost explodes…
The lion dreams always of a bigger beast,
The cliff shakes the grass
Above the sky falling.

A naked mansion waits for news,
Down marble hallways the dust settles;
A youth spies another youth
Watching him from across the way
From a window on the same floor
Of a similar building;
He does not wave.
The lion leaps across the stage!
Or was he thrown?

The rabbits of Prague
Eat sausages made from grass and men
They suspended all contrition in 1942
Knowing they had a job to do
Jumped to it!
At last the Jews resume their joy for dancing
And they ‘jump to it’ too
Spared at last the ignominy 
of explaining themselves,
their bounce is greater now than even the Russians,
prouder than even the Greeks…

Waving flags only they can see,
they scatter the rabbits over the edge.


Robert Marsh