tropical house by Martin Potter

tepid lapping a concrete lip
the koi concealed until they rise
ripple the water’s viscous skin

where you could sit on the smooth ledge
or a piously provided bench
back from the basin’s retaining wall

lily pad leather patches the pool
while heavy foliage arched above
screens off the structure of glass sky

you first learned a banana leaf
caught in the humid comfort heat
the minah birds’ voices drift

across from nextdoor climate zone
it’s an iron-girded universe

About the Author

Martin Potter (https://martinpotterpoet.home.blog) is a British-Colombian poet and academic, based in Manchester, and his poems have appeared in AcumenThe French Literary ReviewEborakonScintillaInk Sweat & TearsThe Poetry Village, andother journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December, 2017. 

‘The Accident’ by Janet Olearski

RAJIV: I thought I’d start this off with something along the lines of “Falling barrel kills workman.” Then, I’ll write something like, “Police are investigating the tragic death of an Indian labourer at a building site in Khalifa City.” I thought the barrel thing was quite interesting. I mean it’s not every day a barrel falls on your head. No, I’m not being funny. Well, I suppose I am. I could perhaps try to write it more sympathetically. In this job you have to bear in mind that people will read what you say about their relatives, so you have to get the story across without overdoing the morbid details. But that’s what makes my job intriguing … finding out the morbid details.

FOREMAN: (Translation) His name was Sunni. He’s been part of this crew for six months now. To tell you the truth I could never find him when I needed him. I couldn’t find him that day either. Until I found the missing barrel. One minute the barrel was on the edge of the roof. Next minute it was on the ground and Sunni was underneath it. I don’t know how the barrel got there. I don’t know why the barrel was on the edge of the roof. I’m only the foreman. It’s nothing to do with me. Maybe first you speak to the owner.

MOHAMMED AL QABAISI: Yes, I own the land, but it is not my fault. You need to know anything, you ask Mr Mahmood the Engineer.

MAHMOOD: Mahmood with you. Yes, I heard about the accident. It wasn’t my fault. I’m only the engineer. I was in my car driving back from Dubai when the accident happened. If you don’t believe me, then you can check the speed cameras. Ask the men on the site, not me.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

BODU: I have a doubt how barrel was on end of roof like that. I working on other roof, not that roof. Ravi working on that roof, I think. No, I did not see him. I’m just thinking he is on other roof because he not on my roof.

HABEEB: Sunni? What I think of Sunni? I’m thinking he owed me 525 dirhams.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

KAMIL: I didn’t see nothing. I working put seal on roof. No problem with barrel. Ravi taking care of barrel. Ask him. Barrel was good. What I am think of Sunni? Nothing. Always talking on phone. Not pay attention to nothing. 

MARISOL: I call Sunni maybe twenty times, but he never answer. I got his baby. What I do now?

CHANDAN: (translation of phone interview) I miss my dad. I want him to come home.

BRIGADIER HAMAD: We have arrested the man responsible. Ravi his name. Sorry for him. He gonna pay lotta money for Sunni family, and he get deported. Or, maybe get death sentence.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

About the Author:

Janet Olearski is originally from London. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Wasafiri, Constellate, Far Off Places, Litro, Bare Fiction, and elsewhere. Her work also includes the story collection A Brief History of Several Boyfriends, a novel A Traveller’s Guide to Namisa and, as editor and contributor, The Write Stuff anthology. 

The Purple Love Affair by Helen Openshaw

The violet hue of purple dreams
in a tiny wedding bouquet is
held against an equally tiny waist 
with a promise.

And later, violets given for anniversaries
remind them of the breath held,
cloudless day.
Later still Parma violet sweets
in paper bags from the corner shop
make a different gift.

Found in pockets and bedside tables – 
a smiling sorry to comfort and soothe
the path taken together.

About the Author

Helen Openshaw is a Drama and English teacher from Cumbria. She enjoys writing poetry and plays, and inspiring her students to write. Helen has had a short monologue commissioned by Knock and Nash productions. Recently published poetry work has appeared in Secret Chords by Folklore publishing and Green Ink Poetry magazine.

‘Three Women Blues/Lay Lady Lay’ by Parrish

hey, 

it was a crazy long drive to that endless night in seattle, from redding to eugene you were sleeping in my lap, dreaming of jack that night at wamu, me stroking your hair and playing these dreams of you, somehow we made neptune before the show, i found blind willie mctell on brooklyn avenue, he’s playing now where i lie alone but for rose thorns cutting my lips, you said you knew him and mentioned white jack’s tribute called three women blues, smiling at me like creation was a game show and you were its host, you touched the jacket and the music started like your finger was a stylus, i’m overcome by that deathless georgia voice humming words i’ll never understand, slaves in chains revolting against their masters rose up before me, i was seeing myself in your eyes, baby, they were putting heads on pikes like it never happened in this country of george floyd choking under some dumb cop’s knee but happened every time you came to me on your knees wherever we happened to be, you were so wild and fun and full of bile that when i bit into you i had to swallow the throw-up in my mouth just to kiss you again, sometimes i didn’t since you told me you liked your taste on your tongue, i was the one crawling in that seattle record store, your head nowhere near my pike since you had swallowed it on the road, i’m dying for lack of your breath, waiting for you to return it to me, this coveted record in my hands as you coo, that’s me, babe, i’m all three women doncha know, moving your two hands’ three fingers from your cheek to your thrapple, as if you were finger painting yourself, tracing now the flawless curves of your breasts where my head almost never rested, your fingers coming together at your tits’ points, a quick violent twist sketched in your nipples like they had they just suddenly bloomed, and then your magic fingers pushed outward as if you had just plucked them for me, rose petals you carelessly tossed at my eyes, they found my mouth instead, i craved your flowers’ taste, there’s no word in this language for the shade of your skin, it’s more of a sound, a gurgling throat drowning when it’s thirsty, you make it on me wherever you capture me at my desk, on park benches, in the driver’s seat helpless in the slow moving portland traffic and i’m stroking your neck like its beautiful color will permeate my hands and make every object i touch a marvel of the universe, next to us i hear a truck’s lonesome whistle blow, its driver had timed his long air-horn squeal with the sound of my release, you said you were three women always looking for a pair, like you’re the holy trinity in a single mouth i enter three times a day to receive g-d’s blessing, i’m the yellow, you sang, and i’m the brown too, as for the third color, you said it was the black of your neil young shirt, you’d wear it after the show, in our lay lady lay bed, showing me again the colors of your mind that was just my desire unhinged, only i was the lady you were laying, my pike was forever yours, i couldn’t take it back if i wanted to, i didn’t even try that afternoon on brooklyn avenue where neptune still stands despite the plague reaching out to touch what you had drawn on the canvas of skin, your petals grinding my teeth, forget these boring record stores, you said, let’s follow jack, he’s in portland tomorrow, that’s when I noticed him on the wall, supervising the store from that slightly ripped poster and singing about the colors your hair happened to wear that week, red-blonde-brunette, a different one each day, i preferred your natural black but i didn’t care as long as it was mine to chew and i was chewing then, on my knees feeding on you feeding on me, your head again lending me my pike, i wasn’t revolting in this place more public than keller fountain park had been, your fresh nipples keeping my hands steady, the taste of flowers famishes me, the clerk started to holler for the cops through the window, somehow they were never far when you were near, but jack’s voice stifled his scream, not mine, from the wall he put your pink phone in the clerk’s hand, it’s camera eye had been activated by your rectum always winking in the open air, your panties your knee pads, you sure know how to pack for a trip, and it’s jack’s three women coming through the store’s exceptional speakers, you had it put it on when you touched blind willie, the soundtrack for the movie the clerk was filming with your phone, he looks like jack too, sitting on the counter so calm above his california gal going down on me slow, taking us in through your nether eye, and you’re talking out of the side of her mouth, saying we’ll do this again in portland, babe, then reno, all the way to nashville, let’s make ernest tubb’s record store, it’s the best, jack says, you’re coming baby, like it or not, jack screams from the wall, and you pant the same words in my ears, jack and you in stereo, i’m always coming between you two, it’s ok, you’re voice never sounded sweeter singing i’m like three women in one, ask jack, i don’t have to, i’m watching you now, you put your movie on my phone, it’s like you have three mouths, how come jack always gets two for my one, there’s no off switch for these dreams of you, variegated colors of your lay, lady, lay mind in our lay, lady, bed, blues like chains wrapped around my head.  

About the Author:

Parrish is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer and critic living somewhere in California and teaching most usually at UC Davis. Parrish’s recent short fiction has appeared in Raritan, Ploughshares, Equinox, Vestal Review, Sonic Boom, and Blood and Bourbon.

That Movie Moment by Emma Lee

That moment when your hero’s eyes lock with hers, 
the woman who’s his one true love, 
the audience catch up and root for love to win.

That moment you realise you’re in a black dress
so you merge with the shadows as the light shifts
and you’re to let go and allow him to be with her.

That moment when the floor tilts, focus shifts
like a fog wrapped itself between you and the world
and blood starts to drain from your heart.

That moment you want to snatch the spotlight back,
but you bow your head. No one watches you concede,
slide towards the exit and slip out to embrace the dark.

About the Author

Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), is Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com. FB: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaLee1. Twitter @Emma_Lee1.

A Peruvian Autumn – Part 2

Borderline poem 10

by Jorge Ccoyllurpuma

I’m tied to the ground like a sad child’s balloon or the smile of a drunk.
I’m made out of cardboard and milk, of darts; I’m made up of feathers you don’t have but that I invented for you.
I’m a stone at the window of God; I’m also the stone in your dirty window.
I am a plastic kite and a boat in the bathtub.
I’m a bathtub of hot water, with Pisco and eggs for your stomachache.
I am, I’ll say it now, your dirty laundry.
I’m tied to the sky by every fiber of December’s rain, I’m blue incense.
I’m the unmovable afternoon right where you are.

* From Para detener el tiempo (2013)
* Translated by Jesús de la Garza, Martina Hoines and Pieter Odendaal

a violet dawn before the great wilderness

by Victoria Mallorga

burning tires
lavender grows down highways 
as we learn how to kiss in the backseat
forget our hands, 
ignore the smog behind us the
city’s many eyes              ​ workforce
long men and batons ready
for the unapologetic labor 
of correcting wildlife

but us, 
we grow like foxtails
bullets rain dry over a body
unable to hold blood,
over bodies that meet again
in the backseat whispering
little lovegrass, chanting
until light collapses into 
our hands, until wildlife
raises from my fingertips
and we know this is
the end of our running days
               as the melody of a floral lullaby
              ​ bursts from the radio, overpowering
              ​ the motor, the burning oil 
              ​ sirens howling kilometers close,
              ​ hiding the smell of gunpowder
              ​ that claws its way towards our 
              ​ little car.

so you drive us citybound
your nightshade smile, your 
kisses down the back of my hand
your solar-powered heart, 
your warm cruelty 
turned against
the burning asphalt
that trembles in wait
foresees the blood,
the final stand, the glistening 
warmth of our getaway car under vines
as you pour yourself into me 
kiss my hands until 
my fingertips overwhelm
the city               ​ ​ bury us
underneath an impossible new 
wilderness.

Ritual

by Karina Medina

At the height of my forehead
I picked up a coca leaf
i closed my eyes
I looked at mandalas leaves.
In the rite
I took the pain
in my hands
I left it
at the root.
A tear in the soul.
I opened my eyes
like trails
I saw the river running away from me
with a dread of ancestors
those that forced me to speak
in another poem.
I am left alone
without leaves
without mandalas
without roads.

Be Quiet

by Emilio Paz

Silence is a face.
Has a cold look
That penetrates the bones.
Bones that are made of paper:
Weak
Brittle
Easy to burn
Silence is a face of sand.
It melts in the hands of memory.
But it always leaves a mark.
Floral scent trail
That is confused with the stench of cemeteries:
Decomposition accompanied by classical music.
Virgilio watches over Dante’s silence.
Dante consumes Beatriz’s silence.
Beatriz is content with God’s silence.
And God?
Silently on the altar
While the priest preaches.
He preaches that is confused
With what he wanted to say
But that he never tried to say.
Silence that is a drop
That starts a river.
Rio who commits suicide in the sea.
Everything returns to one
Even the words
And silence is an eternal return.

About the Authors

Jorge Alejandro Ccoyllurpuma (b. Cusco, 1987): Poet and literary translator also known as Jorge Alejandro Vargas Prado. He has published poetry, short stories, and a novel. As a Quechua descendant, his creative work explores this ancestral Andean culture and language. 

Photo: Julio del Carpio

Victoria Mallorga Hernandez is a queer Peruvian taurus, poet, and editor. Currently, she is an associate editor at Palette Poetry and an MA candidate in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Revista Lucerna, Plastico, perhappened, Anti-Heroin Chic, Kissing Dynamite, and Thin Air, among others. Across the hemisphere, she moonlights as the chief coordinator of Literature in the Alternative Art Fair (ANTIFIL) and reviews books for La Libretilla, a Hispano-American project. Victoria has published two collections in Spanish, albión (alastor editores, 2019) and absolución (2020). Find her on Instagram or Twitter as @cielosraros.

Emilio Paz (b. Lima, 1990) is a teacher of philosophy and religion, and a graduate of the Universidad Católica Sedes Sapientiae. He is the author of Septiembre en el silencio (Club de lectura poética, 2016), La balada de los desterrados ( Ángeles del Papel Editores, 2019) and Laberinto en versos (La tortuga ecuestre, n°394, 2018). He is the winner of the Marco Antonio Corcuera Foundation competition and the ninth international competition “El Parnaso del Nuevo Mundo” in the short story category. He has been published in various media in Peru, Mexico, Chile, Spain, Venezuela, USA, Argentina, India, Ecuador, Romania, Costa Rica, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria and France. His work has been translated into Romanian, French, Italian, Bulgarian, Uzbek, English and Tamil. He has participated in many international as well as national speaking engagements. He teaches philosophy and conducts poetry workshops. He has also published works on the relationship between poetry, aesthetics and education. He has participated in many international philosophical conferences.

Photo: Mike Paredes

Karina Joelly Medina Paico (Lima PERÚ – 1986) : Teacher, writer and editor. She studied at the Higher University of Applied Sciences (Advertising) and is currently studying Art Education at the National School of Dramatic Art. She has participated in certified dramaturgy, poetry and theater workshops dictated by the Cultural Center Spain. She has been published in the anthologies Dew of Poems (2017), Spring Verses (2017), Crystal Verses (2018) and Poetic Love (2019) of the Peruvian Society of Poets; as well as in the poetry collections The Danger of Being Alive (2018), Beside the Road (2019) and The sea doesn’t stop (2019). Her own published collections of poems are Pavo real (Ediciones Marginales – 2019) and Eterna estación (Pléyades Ediciones – 2021. She has worked as a copyreader and editor from a very young age. She is the editorial director at Pléyades Ediciones, her own company. Nowadays Karina Medina works as a researcher and compiler of Peruvian poetry. In 2021 she presented her Coral Collection project, which consists of four books of poems written by young and consecrated poets, Peruvian and Latin American. The first published Volume 1 is Ultimísima Young Poetry – 21 Peruvian female poets. Volume 2, Ultimísima Young Poetry – 21 Peruvian male poets, will be published this coming September. The other two volumes will be published in 2022.

Photo: Biblioteca Abraham Valdelomar

Commitmint by Karen Henderson

Margot realised that Cheryl had left her sunglasses behind. The pair of gaudy Ray Bans, tortoise-shell rimmed and bug-eyed, lay on the cheap lipstick-coloured vinyl table top of the diner booth, twinkling like forbidden gems.

She sucked her mint chocolate chip milkshake through a straw, the condensation from the striped cup cold on her hand, and then considered what she’d do next. By now her old schoolmate would have reached her SUV, two squalling brats in tow. The sky was cloudy now. She wouldn’t remember the glasses.

Margot looked at the convex mirror reflecting the diner’s entrance, meant to save the cashier from the bored violence of small town hoodlums and the shoplifting attempts of knock-kneed school kids in need of chocolate and recognition. Her fish-eyed reflection gawped back at her, showing greying red hair the colour of the vinyl booth, and an expressionless freckled face.

Margot remembered how her insides had tightened when Cheryl had spotted her and slid into the booth next to her. ‘What are you doing back in town, Margot? It’s been so long. How have you been?’ she’d squealed.

Cheryl had then had the nerve to ask, voice bright, her long painted nails grasping a grimy toddler covered in ice cream, if Margot had “found her man yet”. That blond princess: always perky, bleached and waxed, she’d had the perfect ass in high school.

When Margot said that teaching her literature class at the local community college took up all of her valuable mating time, Cheryl had breathed out, “Our Margot, so INTELLECTUAL,” and patted her hand like someone consoling a grieving widow. Bitch. 

Cheryl had then launched into a long monologue about her job at the salon, her two baby ‘angels’, her husband Jeremy who worked in some oil field up north; Margot had zoned out about halfway through, only to be brought back to the conversation when one of the ‘angels’ had thrown the remnants of his cone at Margot, narrowly missing her head.

Not running into washed-out high school peers was one of the many perks of the city, Margot thought. She wasn’t sure why she’d packed up and moved back home to her hometown, except for the fact that when you feel small anywhere, you were nearly non-existent in a big city like New York. 

Margot breathed in deeply, her fingers tightening around the milkshake cup. She didn’t need to steal Cheryl’s glasses; what did she even mean to her now, anyway? So Cheryl had been popular; Cheryl had been beautiful; Cheryl had been loved. Surely Margot, a woman of 33 with two degrees, was above petty thievery in an attempt to ‘stick it’ to the graduating class’s golden girl of 2004.

She closed her eyes. She could still remember that day, sobbing in the bathroom sinks, as a younger, nonchalantly cruel Cheryl laughed at her cheap clothes, boyish hair and virgin status. She’d stayed in that bathroom for nearly an hour after, afraid that Cheryl might come back.

Margot opened her eyes. She took a final suck of the milkshake, and made a decision. Taking one last look at the cashier, who was absorbed by her phone, Margot’s right hand beetled out, grabbed the arm of the forgotten glasses, and slowly pushed them into her purse.

They fit in neatly beside the purloined key chain; stolen lipstick holder; an illegally acquired mug, lip prints still on the glass; and her prize item: a slim silver cigarette holder. She trembled, and let out a long breath. Her fingers relaxed around the cup, leaving crumpled grooves. There. She felt better; she felt grounded; she felt safe.

A horn honked outside. Cheryl, in her candy-pink Land Rover, was waving enthusiastically at Margot. She waved back with her right hand, while her left hand tightened into a fist. Standing up, she grabbed her bag of treasures, and left the diner. She’d be there again next Thursday, when mint-chocolate milkshakes were on special again.

About the Author

Born in Canada, Karen Henderson now lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. She is passionate about writing in many genres but has a special love for slice-of-life, sci-fi and spooks, as well as poetry. She contributes regularly to the Irish zine This is Not Where I Belong and has worked in journalism, publishing and documentary.

Wildcat Scratch by Gerry Stewart

‘Touch not the cat 
without the glove.’

My scowl should warn you,
I’m not your typical tabby.
Brows knitted, 
blunt is my nature. 
Even alone,
I am a glaring of cat.

Exposed in the twilight
far from cairn or den,
my hackles rise
at your approach.

Do not seek me out.
Though I once purred,
my voice has muted
to only spit and sting.

You can try and tame me,
only I will walk away
unscathed.

About the Author

Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Totems is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2021. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.

‘The Noah of the Marshes’ by Mike Fox

On that first night, exhausted and with no other sound to distract, he would fall asleep to the wash of the sea lapping at the fens to the east. His beard had already started to grow, and he would never feel the need to shave, or even trim it, again. Neither would any piece of land exert a claim on him. He had built the place he could now call home from the flat shell of a lighter: it would always float, even in the shallows. From this day on, his tasks would arrive with the seasons. He would wish to possess no portion of the earth: the water itself would be his freehold.

He would absorb a new self from his surroundings, he would interpret the world accordingly. In times when the marshland flooded and the subdivided meadows brimmed into each other, he would feel the ghost of the sea in the saline currents beneath him. He would glimpse the shadows of hags and witches, floating disdainfully through the morning mists. He would sense the wraiths of fowlers, trudging forever knee-deep on what was once dry land. He would feel at one with them, share the spirit of this place, let his pulse be an echo of the tides.

When the rivers were low he would glimpse the weft of an eel trap, left to rot amongst the reeds, and understand that the present is but a child of the past. On silent evenings he would gaze for hours at pickleweed, spiny rush, saltgrass, tule and scirpus, while the colours of the sky spread out across the still waters on which they rested. 

Soil and pathway, when the need came to return to it, would feel hard and unyielding, with no forgiveness or promise of change. He would spend no more time there than circumstance required.

As the days stretched and shortened he would learn to read the seasons, to rejoice when the leaves were back on the willows, to relinquish when they fell again. 

In June he would see the terns arrive in such numbers as to form a curtain across the sun. He would learn to whistle in the plovers, so beguilingly they would settle without fear by his feet. Ducks, geese, gulls and even herons would follow and learn to take food from his hand, the shy gaining courage from the bold. He would earn his nickname from the mockery of onlookers, and care little.

He would come to trust in portents and visions, take his place in the quiet flow of time. He would make no demand of the future. Solitude would teach him that stillness is a form of prayer, and that nothing is truly separate from anything else. He would think sometimes of his former life, and practise the art of forgetfulness. 

About the Author

Mike Fox’s stories have appeared in journals in Britain, Ireland, America, Australia and Singapore. His story Breath (Fictive Dream), and Blurred Edges (Lunate Fiction), gained Pushcart Prize nomination. His story The Homing Instinct (Confingo), was included in Best British Short Stories 2018 (Salt).  His story The Fun Police (Fictive Dream) was listed in Best British and Irish Flash Fiction (BIFFY50) 2019-2020. His story, The Violet Eye, was published by Nightjar Press as a limited-edition chapbook. www.polyscribe.co.uk or @polyscribe2

‘Easter Sunday Before Mass’ by Frances Holland

Forgive me, Mother,
For I have sinned
Against tradition.

It is one year exactly since
I last asked this forgiveness,
In my head,

But I have still never confessed
To eating the backs out of
my Easter Eggs

Before Easter Sunday rolled around. 

24th March 2021

About the Author

Frances Holland is a writer from Northumberland. Her work has been published in Litro, Mslexia, Mookychick, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among others. She teaches English and Media at a local school, where she is also Writer-in-Residence.