Two More Poems by Nick Ascroft

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I Coo Haiku High, Eh

(For Ames)

One Use a toothbrush, eh,   to clean your goose-
flesh ballbag,  then icewater it.

The use?
Sweet fuck all.  Momentary relief perhaps.
The itch, eternal.

Two Then Jesus claps:
Oi!  Throw no stones, you hypocrites!  (The king
Of killjoys.)

Pilate’s wife’s repulsed.  A thing
so brutal. Why? Yet …  It’s just so right now.

Three Always, we bring plagues:  in the cacao,
Minute mites;  moths, mice, flies and ants.

How scabies
crazed me.  Like fleas that bite the baby’s
brow, the unseen seethes.

Four His fluorescent
shite,  I scoop an iridescent  crescent
round his bits.

Am I infectious?   Are these
Disease-borne fingers?  He wees, sighs: oh please.

Turn to Camera in the Birthing Suite

(for Kate at 35)

At this – attaching a maternity
pad’s sticky wings to either side of your
gigantic knickers – I wink, turn to the
omniscient camera and say I am sure
that none submersed in postmodernity
as low as you have soared above their raw
and unrelievable eternity
of pain, fought unironic through the flaw
bonanza of the hypnobirth, the TENS
placebo and such taciturnity
or absence as the stand-in midwife lent,
and stayed so measured. I discern indeed
the greatest heroism in your labour.
And here’s to Entonox to blunt the sabre.

Four Poems by Samuel J. Fox

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& I want to make the dawn a new color perhaps something ungodly not gilded maybe a hemorrhage where the moon is a clot of bone & the clouds do not form the shape of a face I once cupped like a handful of river do not form the shape of memories we impose upon them in loneliness for what is this time of day but a resurrection of the same thing that trespassed on our hearts yesterday I did not want to go to the city where love makes a home in another human’s arms I do not want to go to the city where the gutter is a more respectable place to leave our old selves behind I do not want to dream of her any more than I want to paint dawn a color more suitable for waking up hung over from thirsting for a mouth willing to suck the past off my tongue or lick the tears from months ago that I still have not had the grit to wipe away they say every man is an island that’s a gigantic lie every person is an ocean of blood & every palm parted and coraled open is a delta into which every minute flows I want to paint the dawn the same color I feel it’s the most contused blue with the hue of a wilting rose sitting below it the sun a thorn of light pressed against my cheek where a kiss will not suffice to remind me of how warm it feels to be loved by someone else when I refuse to love this silhouette of mine or how it slowly grows longer behind me into a soft wound

& I used to see God as a means to ask for the unaskable to speak embers into the branches of my lungs now I am dead to God for it must be that the field where he sowed his fucks was never reaped for he must be overgrown caring for all of this sorrow he sang into the darkness I stood at midnight on a hill overlooking my town over the clock tower standing stentorian over the cemetery where my kind is rotting in their own soil the stars grinding their nuclear teeth at their wide podium I think the smallest worlds act like the gears in a grandfather clock all of them functional all of them minute when one disappears the chiming of the hours halts every person their own world but somehow when one of us suffers we go on spinning in our own resolution & God is nowhere but holy if holy was a place to reach for and never touch & I am suffering silent a flesh-bag of illuminous, nasty mercy a burning-man made of bone flammable at the touch of mundane miracles God has no part igniting & I want to leave the poem of this world sometimes not knowing who would go on to keep blowing on the fires artists leave behind making unconsumable burning brush of our veins, our terrible souls

& I have tasted the shadow on my tongue like ash it dissolves into a bitter remnant & by shadow I mean a rash of resentment toward this world and its people who may hate me simply because I am my heart plush with blood repeats its same sentence while serving its indelible purpose in my chest & I know as I stagger the sounds of the world out by looking at my phone at photos of people I hardly know at articles declaring the indefinite end of the world I could fall in love with any of these people in this club & the moon sneers a Cheshire grin & the redhead at the bar with me flashes a smile that turns sepulcher every time I look over & isn’t every mouth a graveyard for what is not said I could just as easily draw lines in the clay where one side is love the other hatred & my line be a miniscule crack in the dirt to say it is thin this relationship with the world I so love dissect a life into hours and those hours to minutes and those minutes to seconds & maybe there are approximately thirty that take our breath away I want more than that I confess the only thing I hate about this world is how we treat each stranger the only thing I love about this world is everything is everything is everything & I am no longer afraid to live

& I have sung all the songs of late that penetrated my sternum and made a timpani of my ribcage I wander on with death and coffee her veil of mica-flutter fly wings her dress green like moss on the side of a fallen spruce singing my body may be gone but I hope you carry me on in your heart, in your mind, in your soul singing but I am too weak to be your cure singing I’ve seen fire & I’ve seen rain singing there’s no one in the world like you and I almost believe the words but words don’t believe in us so I make them mean something I taste each breath I take and give it back I keep songs on loop in the pocket of my jeans I keep songs in my hat while the Carolina sky falls to soak me to the soul I keep songs in my ashtray burning while the light rises I keep songs in my passenger seat on those long dark drives to see family who will then pack songs into my ears they themselves arranged when the world grew too dim to see the truth in a lover states away I keep songs in my hand when another wants to beat the ever living shit out of me I will give them to him instead and so death leaves me be to flirt with the rest of the world and I stay my blade I unknot the noose I unload the chamber I close the cap I turn the lights of my porch on late past midnight & keep songs in my throat so if I ever do meet the Lord he will recognize me by my faulty hymns

Samuel J Fox is a queer essayist/poet living in the Southern US; he is poetry editor for Bending Genres and a columnist/reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine. He enjoys coffee shops, graveyards, and dilapidated places, depending. He tweets (@samueljfox).

‘During John Travolta’s Face/Off Operation…’ and ‘Good Day I am A Horse’ by Nick Ascroft

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During John Travolta’s Face/Off Operation …

… they discovered he had 39 faces all stacked one on top of the other
for easy access.
Always another face underneath.
SLICE this one’s Christian Slater SLICE here’s Jeremy Irons SLICE
Margaret Thatcher, etc.
Who’s your plastic surgeon asked one of the face/off operators.
This is some intricate work.
John Travolta looked at the guy.
Regulation company jumpsuit. Nondescript.
Body-count fodder. Guy’s gonna die for sure
and probably not in his own shot.
Probably three of these guys get wasted then the camera swings up
to the metal walkway.
Always a metal walkway in these places.
Guy’s got a grey-blue jumpsuit and a blue-grey gloved hand
on the circular saw.
Not gonna see it coming.
Who’s your plastic surgeon, Mr Travolta? Then BANG BANG BANG:
brains, guts, balls.
SLICE Darth Vader SLICE Freddy Mercury SLICE
Mr Miyagi out of Karate Kid.
Karate Kid 3 though. Trying to be professional but less you know fire.
John Travolta looked up at the walkway.
Where’s that go, he asked the anaesthetist.
Fuck you, thought the anaesthetist. Just so fuck
completely you.
SLICE Little Mermaid SLICE Liberace SLICE White Fang SLICE
who’s that?
That’s you. Deep in the face stack.
Thought you were something, but no.
Another face in Travolta’s deck of visages.
Just another cheap grin in John Travolta’s club sandwich of faces.
It’s like Alberto said.
Dr Alberto, sorry. You know.
Sorry, the anaesthetist. Name got cut from earlier due to run time.
Fuck you.

Good Day, I Am a Horse

And hello, I am a beaver.
To you my sincerest, I am a starfish
with an old-fashioned disposition.
Ever yours, a beetle, one of many, writing,
amid a rainstorm, of commas, to an eagle.

Wotcher,

says I back,

an eagle, via telegram (stop).
Rustling in its seat, from back in the 1990s,
some undergraduate lofts its hand.
It drops it. It mutters the word
‘anthropomorphisation’ and wonders at a tut.

Get a grip, thinks a chorus

of skinks,

in French.
An extinct moa laughs in an extinct dialect
of Maori and slaps its beaked forehead.
A kitten on the internet holds up a sign:
Yoo iz so speshl hoominz haha.

Nick has a new and selected poems out now, Dandy Bogan (Boatwhistle 2018). He’s a New Zealander mad for indie Dad-jangle.

‘self-portrait in a porch fire’ & ‘indigestion’ by Elijah Tomaszewski

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self-portrait in a porch fire

my glasses, smudged by
her milky face and chewed fingertips.
my glasses on the sill
in the bedroom. my kitchen billowing black.
my screen door smacking.
my faucet not filling anything
fast enough. my voice
another’s: snarling, buried, wicked.
my girlfriend looming
over my shoulder, half-heeled.
my greenery
consumed, reverting to
skeletons. my garden
burnt, my girlfriend’s cigarette
bursts the soil.

indigestion

syllables slid up my throat
from my boiling stomach;
they’d burst through the spaces between my teeth.
they tasted
of port wine, old pennies, dryer sheets, lime cordial,
of reheated Italian dinners and
of waking up nervous. I pursed
my lips to keep everything in.
words churned on my palate, defeated; few escaped
out of the corners of my mouth
as a watery liquor the bartender had called Black Death.
I swallowed my tongue,
the most powerful muscle, and let it slip down into
a place I’d forgotten.
your sentences, creamy, coated me in pinks and blues
and became my medicine.

Three Poems by Samantha Goh

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Lemonade

I remember coming to your kitchen in the summer. Laughing, we’d haul our harvest of lemons onto the counter. You’d add too much sugar into your lemonade, so much that it tasted like sugar water flavored with lemon instead of the other way round.

I remember the fluorescent lights, the neon hues casting their gaudy luminescence on your body. The beat was pounding, and your eyes glazed. I told you to stop, that it was enough. But you didn’t listen, just like with the sugar.

I remember the rain pouring down, drenching everything with a silver shimmer of water. I was the one to write your epitaph. Set in stone, I wrote, ‘She was born with a gift for sweetness.’

It’s raining again today. I move my umbrella to the side, and let the drops patter endlessly on me, around me. Some of it finds its way into my mouth. It tastes of lemonade.

Intertwined

I want to know you as you are, to the deepest recesses of your soul. You don’t have to mold yourself a certain way to please me. Love is a process, and we’ll learn together. I want to know your quirks, and hear your whispered ‘goodnight’ in the peace of a darkened room. Hear a symphony with me, and hear the stories told across the distances.

I want to ruffle your hair during a conversation, wink with a shared secret when we pass by each other. I want to peck you on the cheek with your friends watching, and glance back to see you with your hand on your cheek, holding my kiss with stars in your eyes.

I don’t need to see the flashiest shops and the latest movies. I want the thought, the sentiment. Bring me to a quiet picnic spot by a rushing waterfall, give me a flower to tuck behind my ear. Smile when I sing on a whim, and dance along spontaneously with me. When we jump off a cliff, I want to feel your hand in mine, fingers intertwined.

The Bank Account

The day we met, I opened a relationship bank account with you. It wasn’t intentional, just so you know, but a matter of instinct. I met your clear, emerald gaze, and with a smile, entered my first deposit.

When I crashed into you turning the corner, you apologized and said it was your fault. We both knew that it was me who hadn’t been paying attention, but you could see my cheeks flaming and said it out of kindness. That was my second deposit.

We had many transactions, you and I. Uncountable deposits, numerous withdrawals. Over time, the deposits seemed to evaporate, and the withdrawals turned to stone. Ten dollars seemed like five. I even had an overdraft with you, but you smiled and bequeathed me a windfall.

Now, I hardly see you. I turn corners unencumbered. But my account remains full. Not a dollar lost, patiently waiting, slowly growing.

Sparkly and sweet, Samantha is a budding writer looking for magic in the world.

Five Poems by David Hanlon

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Ravine

Space created
by erosion
from our
river run
dry yet
still we
stand tall
and steep
cross- sectional
side by
side

Tonight will be the night I finally rest

I tell myself that restlessness burns
deep down
in my stomach
like a head-lit match with no other end
it is just burning
& burning & burning on & so I read write edit
& on & on
constantly on
will this obsessiveness drive success or
trigger
my downfall? my hand hurts as I write this my mind’s stuck on
overdrive
I was going to watch a film I
was going to meditate
I was going to eat more than a peanut butter
sandwich I was going to turn off
this phone screen
but how to tame how to steer this energy
that’s like a rocket?
continuously blasting off on its own stubborn
course my eyes
sting now like they will tomorrow morning after
another night of
not enough sleep & I know this but routine
is a rope around my neck tightened by the evening
stillness those reflective hours when the
proverbial
lightbulb flashes & blinds my capacity for
reason
is it that our best writing
comes to us in the moments
when we are not doing
what’s best for us? or are these just
the late-night ramblings
of a navel-gazing junkie?

Change

Faster than a humming bird’s
wings you’re gone,
and I’m here,

slack-jawed
at how much loss
can be felt
from a single
wing beat.

I’m left, unhinging
myself to a morning
breaking at sunset:

I pine for the Arctic in summer,
the midnight sun,
but then I remember

its winter is in complete darkness;
I’ll hold the night sky
thick between my teeth,
bite down on it
as it fills my mouth,
trying not to forget

how many times
I’ve been awakened
by the dark.

We all want something to call our own,

don’t we? I read recently on an online dating profile. Ownership: why do we want to own someone like a possession? To feel we have control over something? Because we can’t face the reality that, ultimately, we don’t have control over anything? Like how long we’ll be able to keep possessing things for, how long we’ll be remembered for?

Two Times

People only talked about
how hard break-ups were
but not about how much learning
I’d take from them.
If I’d have known the latter
in advance
would the aftermath
have not been so hard?
Or, like with any hard learnings
about oneself,
is enduring the pain
a part of the process?
Then reflecting on it
as you heal?
Is that kind of loss
a dress rehearsal of sorts
for a loss caused by death?
So we are better prepared, more resilient
to cope with it?
I have lost two times in my life.
Will the learning from these be enough
to get me through:
the naïve romanticist
turned budding realist.
Is life not just nurturing
our growth
to make us more accepting
of our inevitable deaths?

David Hanlon is from Cardiff, Wales, and currently living in Bristol, England. He has a BA in Film Studies & is training part-time as a counsellor/therapist. You can find his work online in or forthcoming with Occulum, Riggwelter Press, Dirty Paws Poetry Review, Into The Void, Impossible Archetype & Yes, Poetry, among others.

‘I’m a dreamer’ & ‘Why you left’ by Richard Tilly

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I’m a dreamer

I’m a dreamer.

I won’t deny it.

Those days I spent looking through the window wasn’t because I wanted to see the outside world.

I was dreaming.

I was in my world.

A world where I could be whoever I wanted.

And do whatever I wanted.

Being stuck in here with you has taught me one thing.

One very important thing.

That living in the real world is better than the world in my head.

Sure, I can’t do whatever I want.

I can’t have everything I want.

But there is one thing I can have that dreams can never give me.

Why you left

There has to be a reason you left.

A damned good one.

Otherwise you wouldn’t leave me like that.

I don’t believe you would.

You loved me, didn’t you?

So why would you leave me?

You must have had a reason.

I know you must have.

You had to.

That’s it.

You had to leave.

You wouldn’t leave me.

Richard Tilly is currently a student living in the north of Sweden and has been writing fiction and poetry for as long as he can remember. He also runs a blog called Rtillyflash (Rtillyflash.com).