‘SEX AT OFFICE DEPOT’ & ‘DR. SUESSING’ by Wendy Cobourne

soft cartel may 2018


Bargain box of envelopes says
No-lick, Instant-stick
Popular No. 10 style.

I twitch a tired brow.

I take them home
And stash them like a secret.


Leave me the fuck alone.
Do not call me on the phone,
Do not wake me in the morn,
Do not make me leave the house,
I don’t want to go, go out.
I am thinking, leave me be,
I am brooding, leave it to me.
I am running ‘round in squares,
I am counting how much air.
I am writing purloined poems,
I must survive, alive, alone.

Wendy Cobourne is a former reporter who abandoned the formulaic restrictions in order to focus on creative writing. She has published one poem, one micro-fiction story, and one short story. A few of her favorite writers are Italo Calvino, Charles Bukowski, and William S. Burroughs.

‘Dilemma’ by Lahari Chatterji

soft cartel may 2018

Padma could feel the warmth of the noodles in her hands as she wrapped the square, pink Tiffin box with a checked napkin, knotted it and tucked in a blue plastic fork. She picked up the red water-bottle with the green strap and shook it to check whether she had filled it up already. As the clock chimed from the dining room shelf she rushed to her bedroom mirror to mask the shadows of her fatigue with a few strokes of the blusher. She punched a kalka shaped bindi on her forehead and drew out her leather purse from the unlocked wardrobe. Only a few ten rupees notes were left in it. Those were enough for the day. She would ask her husband for some money when he returned at night.

Anshu pricked her omelette to pull out a piece of green chilli and held it aloft before Aryan’s eager eyes. Aryan, elder to her by three years, snatched it from her fork. Slipping a finger underneath the top bread of his sandwich, he added it to the tiny rings of chilli sprinkled on the white fibres of boiled chicken and chewed his breakfast with relish. He hated eggs and Anshu could not stand the taste of chicken.

“Hurry up,” Padma called out while unzipping her children’s school bags to check whether they had packed all the books and exercise copies as per their respective timetables. She did not want them to suffer the humiliation of standing outside the classroom as punishment for an entire period.

Piles of soiled utensils crammed the kitchen sink. She had no time for them now: she would tackle them only after dropping her children to school. Her in-laws lacked faith in school buses. At least, she did not have to spread old newspapers near the school gates and sit there for hours like many other Moms, who chaperoned their children back home. Her younger brother-in-law, who was still enslaved by sleep, would be ready by then. He would mount his bike and whizz to the school to pick them up.

As usual, before leaving Padma faced the corner of the room where a small, burnished, cuboid projected out from the wall like a balcony. It was from this wooden block that the Gods and Goddesses surveyed her family. The smell of incense still hung in the air. She joined her hands to seek their blessings. Then clutching Anshu’s hand, she hurried towards the bus-stop, often on the verge of tripping while trying to keep pace with Aryan, who almost galloped along the bustling street.

They did not have to wait long for bus number 22. Loping to the door of the vehicle, she paused to watch her children climb safely into it. Then a sudden excitement gripped her as she hitched up her sari a wee bit to raise her leg and land on the steps of the bus. Will he be there today?

Continue reading “‘Dilemma’ by Lahari Chatterji”

‘Lucky’ by Rich Elliott

soft cartel may 2018

I am standing in the middle of Boone Lake. It’s a sunny, late-winter afternoon, and a layer of cold sweat lies on the thawing ice. The air has a bite. I am splashing in puddles on the ice, trying to make it crack. A few yards away patches of open black water taunt me.

My friends on shore have gone silent, like, What the hell is he up to? The lake is deep, and the ice is thin, and what I’m doing is really stupid. So why am I doing it?

The answer is complicated.


People have always told me I’m lucky. This started when I was young. Something providential would happen to me, and my parents would say, “Well, Tommy, you’re the lucky one.”

This narrative made me feel special. Like I was favored by the gods or something. For a long time I felt I deserved to be lucky because I was a good boy.

For no rhyme or reason, lucky things did, in fact, happen to me. For example, I was always finding money on the ground, once even a hundred-dollar bill. This led to my habit of looking down when I walk.

I also had uncanny fortune when it came to my teachers. Each year I was assigned to the best teacher in my grade. Our school had some really terrible teachers, but mine were always the ones who had us skipping ahead in math, building rocket ships, memorizing Shakespeare sonnets, and running laps around the other kids.

Continue reading “‘Lucky’ by Rich Elliott”

★ ‘The Yellow Slide Agreement’ by Amber Beardsley

soft cartel may 2018

Once upon a playground there were two kingdoms. One of these was ruled by me and JoEllen, my greatest ally, and the other was ruled by two older boys named Jake and Josh. Because the only ones who knew about these specific realms of power were limited to the two rulers who had founded them, not only did JoEllen and I rule over our side of the playground as co-queens, but we also served as knights under our own rule, protecting our land and enforcing our own policies. Naturally, Jake and Josh did the same on their side, as they too had no other permanent members of their realm.

Unfortunately, the boundaries of both of our domains were very poorly determined, and the lands of our respective reigns often intersected. This meant that we met one another in disputed territory frequently, and whichever side spotted trespassers first was generally also the first to give chase. Most days, Jake and Josh were successful in chasing JoEllen and I back to our side of the playground, mostly because they had the advantages of being in third grade when we were in second, and they were energetic boys and we were slightly less energetic girls.

While most of our encounters involved Jake and Josh chasing JoEllen and I from the green and brown slides set near the gymnastics bars in a curve all the way across the blacktop, finally ending by the big yellow slide in the middle of the wood chips, we did have our own small but glorious victories every now and then. One winter afternoon, after several feet of snow had been collected and then plowed toward the wooden 4x4s that separated the blacktop from the wood chips, JoEllen and I were working with my friend, Rebecca, on building a snow couch the three of us could sit in after we had completed our work. It seemed that since the already muddy boundaries regarding the kingdoms were now further covered up by mounds of fluffy white snow, we had to be in some kind of M.A.D.-esque stalemate for the season.

Either we were wrong, or Jake and Josh decided to break the truce without scheduling a meeting to re-negotiate our relationship, because the moment they spotted us with our guard down, they pounced. And I mean, literally, they pounced and tackled me and JoEllen into the snow, and poor Rebecca was abandoned as battle in the form of frantic snow-throwing broke out. Somehow, JoEllen was able to escape Jake’s clutches and run away to the far end of the playground, and I was able to gain the upper hand in the struggle that Josh and I were involved in. He must’ve had slippery gloves and couldn’t hold his own, for I succeeded in flipping us over and throwing snow into his face and peeling his hands off my arms before I, too, ran across the blacktop toward the doors that led inside the school. I made sure to mark that day as a victory for JoEllen and me, despite initially being surprised.

Continue reading “★ ‘The Yellow Slide Agreement’ by Amber Beardsley”

‘Inside of A Drop of Water’ by Felicia Ryan

soft cartel may 2018

You are everything.

You are a complete biosphere

of microorganisms and life force.  You are

understanding and movement. You are lost and found.

Like the mysterious sock that emerges from the dryer without its mate.

There is light and dark. There is aging then death. It’s all the same. We are

here and they are there.  We encapsulate all these tiny moments on a long continuum.

Who do you choose to be in this moment? A caring daughter, parental caretaker, older sister, attentive friend, supportive spouse, present step-mother, or committed employee. You are an infinite number of decision trees that flow from one another.

You are deliciously simple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gourmet

 carrot ice cream. Your warrior soul comes from steadfast Capra genus

 and wild red hair from the salon. You are Three Stooges and Cinéma France.

You are great skin and bad backs.  You are an ex-smoker and a health and wellness coach. You are silly and serious. You use humor to cover the mistakes. You know when to blame the farts on the dog. You are different variables all happening at the same time in cascade. You are waves in the ocean. You change direction when you need to.

You lap up into and meet yourself.

You are perfect balance and stumbling grace.

You can retreat and pause any time you like and still end up

 where you are. Your sanctuary is a library; find safety on its warm leather

couches, pull your favorite book from its shelves and be lulled by the rhythm of raindrops on its window panes. This internal space lives in your present mind always open and accessible. Your stillness allows action and movement. Even butterflies and birds take time to glide on their chosen air currents. You have an infinite number of books, memories, and choices to draw from.  Past and future are all at once here.

Your life is an Escher drawing but not in a cruel or confusing way.

Let’s rethink that. Maybe your life is just an Etch-o-Sketch.  Shake the toy

and the scene resets. Nothing is written in sand that the ocean can’t wash away.

Their future is not yours. Your future hasn’t even been lived yet.

There are beautiful and elegant loops in your life.

Like light and water you bend and refract into yourself. Your beauty creates this beauty. Your pain creates this pain. The waves carry you forward.

Your life is all connectedness and all knowing.

You are a precious drop of water for a thirsty soul.

Felicia is driven by curiosity. She takes things apart and puts them back together: dryers, door handles and ideas. She values directness as well as kindness. In life or salsa class she will be moving in the opposite direction of the crowd (sometimes not on purpose). Her family is nice enough to leave all the drawers open for her to push in so she feels useful. She lives outside of Boston on the North Shore with a large man with a heart of gold, a tween who sings like an angel but can’t remember to wear her own coat home from school, and a greyhound named Arnie.

‘Side Effects’ by Felicia Ryan

soft cartel may 2018

I can feel the knot in my stomach tighten as I wriggle my foot back and forth trying to squeeze it into my sneaker. The mouth of the other sneaker is flopped open and its defeated tongue is hanging out just mocking me. My feet are swollen and my cankles spill over the edges. Such a lovely term, I first heard it used by another weight loss group support member Tina M. describing her Old Greek Yia Yia’s ankles. There was no delineation between the ankle and calf. It is common when you are overweight or a Greek Yia Yia to sport some hefty cankles. Then I remember how my back aches and that I feel soooo old. I yell in desperation at my sneaker “I am only thirty years old and fat.” I kick the stupid thing across the room.

This constant utter disgust of my body is more motivation to try a new medication that the annoying woman at the weight loss support group suggested. I go begrudgingly because I am trying to work through my food issues but I can’t stand the people in this group. Annie K. hides pizza in her sock drawer and whines about how guilty she feels about it. Peter R. dips circus peanuts in cool whip crouched on the toilet so no one sees. I like to eat full bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and fold the empty bag into a tiny square and hide it in the trash. Then I spend the next twenty-four hours stewing in a puddle of self-loathing and nausea on the couch. But unlike the other group members I politely keep my suffering to myself. Is any of our “secret eating” really a secret? No one scratches their heads about why we can’t fit into the subway seat next to them.

So when “sock drawer Pizza girl” mentions this new weight loss medication has both an X and a Z in the name, it must be good, right? Having studied Marketing in school I know that the drug companies put Xs and Zs in the names of medications so that they sound scientific. I have tried everything to lose weight. I have seen every dietician in the greater Boston area, had massages, gone to weight watchers, drank disgusting shakes, starved, binged and now here I am lost in a sea of my own sad stories and drowning in fat. I am usually not a sucker for those quick fixes but I am so desperate to lose weight I might forgo the conclusion that pizza is Annie’s only friend and consider trying this medication even though she suggested it.

I pop two pills out of a blister pack and put them on the table. I know I could avoid all this misery and drama if I just swallowed them now. I bet I wouldn’t hesitate to take them if they were dipped in chocolate or deep fried. Great, now I’m hungry.

Continue reading “‘Side Effects’ by Felicia Ryan”

Three Poems by Sarah Tun

soft cartel may 2018


My sister hates me
ignores me and tells lies
but I let it go
because I know she feels


waves of
      ocean under sky
dim moonlight
       over water
       the sky
rim of starlight
         soft shades of comfort
         blankets the night watch
as I slumber.

Burger King

A corner
quiet relativity
pure beef
once a day

of food
luke warm

they do not know

No food
no drink
can feel
or quench

Only love
perfect love

First published at age 7, Sarah wrote two stories when sent out of the classroom for being naughty; the principal liked them so much she posted them in the office window. Sarah has written copious poems and novels, self-publishing one “Confronting the Darkness”, a sci fi fantasy especially for young people. One short story has appeared in Polar Expressions. Originally from Canada, she is a world traveller, has lived in 5 countries, and resides now in England. Further information can be found at http://www.sarahtunwordsandvoices.com