It’s beginning to look a lot like… winter around here lately. We’ve got quite a few icy poems this issue, plus wolves, fairies, fairy tales, witches, unlucky rabbits, and even unluckier guinea pigs (in a much different way).
Featuring work by Mary Bach, Rishika Aggarwal, Gareth Writer-Davies, Phil Wood, Sankar Chatterjee, Selena Bulfinch, Chris Hemingway, Paul Brookes, Terri Simon, and Kristen Figgins.
Somewhere out in Nowhere Land a songbird waits for me,
And sings of things that never were, and that will never be.
I’m smitten with the music that he warbles sweet and clear.
He’s in the treetops high above, and yet he sounds so near;
And if I close my eyes and rest
I feel wings flutter in my chest
And magic places far away in space and time seem near,
Like they’re more real than my home, and what’s around me here.
Princes bright and dragons bold fight battles round my bed,
And giant ogres want to grind my bones to make their bread.
Witches cackle, donkeys bray and cats wear leather boots,
Children run through forests, and play tunes on magic flutes.
Then knights and trolls and goats come out to skip across the floor,
And Irish women selling clams clap hands and call for more.
So bears and pigs and wolves join paws and dance ‘round in a ring,
And mermaids swim up to the shore to hear the sirens sing.
Old men grow young, and strong and straight,
Whilst black birds argue and debate.
And it does not seem strange to me; I do not feel perplexed.
I shake my head and laugh and wait, to see what happens next.
Then the moon smiles down at me and asks me to come swim.
The stars agree. ”The air is fine,” they say, ”so come on in.”
I dip my toe into the sky, and it does feel just right
And so I close my eyes and dive head-long in to the night.
Mary Bach is a writer, animal lover, bibliophile and all-around nerd. She’s funny, but often her writing is not. She lives in The Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin with her husband, blind dog and small herd of cats. Mary has been published in The Creative Nexus, Reflections from the Center, and Living with Nature. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org and her blog In Other Words, https://othermary.wordpress.com/
your mouth gaping, like river’s
first and last breath. your mouth
gasping, like flame’s birthing
and dying flickers.
blood to blood, battle footprints
staining swan-roads. your breath
like whispers on the wind, reaching,
touching flame, one last time.
and there is something to be said
for the gold-beating wings of
hope through universes. weaver’s touch
on severing threads. billows on water
shaping lives, living
Rishika Aggarwal is a 22-year old poet from Mumbai, India, currently studying for her masters’ degree in English Literature. She’s been reading for as long as she can remember, and dreaming of being a writer for about as long. Her work has been featured, or is upcoming, in The Rising Phoenix Review, Vagabond City Lit, Deranged, and Sapphic Swan Zine. You can find out more about her at her blog, http://rishwrites.tumblr.com, and read more of her work in her chapbook, #FDD017 (Golden).
Isle of Portland
the earth starts to move
from West Weares to Church Ope
and prayers are said
upon the higher ground of Nicodemus
last night in the pub
“He crossed the path of the beast
and within a week
was buried at the church of St Andrews Avalanche”
I look down the curve of Chesil Beach
the flung causeway
to the soft fields
and think of bunnies
the holes they make between rocks
the earth starts to move (sideways)
Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition, the Welsh Poetry Competition and Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition (2015). Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize (2014). His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet “Cry Baby” will be published in 2017.
Werewolfing back to smother thought
of humble life in grandma’s sighs;
there’s calling through the swaying pines
under the scarf of crimson sky.
The sizzling scents will muzzle growls
with tender lamb for shepherd’s pie;
they’re howling through the swaying pines
under the hood of blooded sky.
Werewolfing back to smother thought
of please and thanks for grandma’s pie;
better to howl and hunt in hunger
beneath the pines with sullen sighs.
The pack all snarl and salivate,
the scent will tremble in their eyes,
they’re feeding under heaven’s sky.
I sit and pray over humble pie.
Outside they wait beneath the pines
and hear the howl of me inside;
across the floor the crusts of pie,
grandma no longer trusts my eyes.
Phil Wood works in a statistics office. He enjoys working with numbers and words. His writing can be found in various publications, most recently in: Sein und Werden, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Open Mouse, London Grip and The Centrifugal Eye.
I entered into the famous Catedral, a historic Renaissance-style Catholic Church located in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru. Among all the golden decorations inside, hanged high on the wall an old framed painting of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. But what was on the plate in front of him (seemed to me an unrecognizable black object)? I could not focus on it via my camera lens since use of a camera inside was strictly forbidden. I asked a local devotee standing next to me. He smiled and told me that it was a grilled guinea pig. “A grilled guinea pig?” I exclaimed. It turns out that the Spanish Conquistadors, after invading and defeating the indigenous Inca habitats in the country, started converting them to Catholic Christianity. One of the popular cuisines of the region throughout the history was “grilled guinea pig”. In order to be friendly to the locals as well as make the conversion process easier, the church officials at the time took the liberty of commissioning the painting with the deliberate choice of portraying the last food of Christ, before his crucifixion, a grilled guinea pig. And throughout the centuries, the painting stayed in its original form with no attempt to modify the content. In a way, it made sense, whether it was intended or not. That painted grilled guinea pig became a historic witness to the forced religious conversion of the defeated by the winner in the flow of the river of civilization.
A PhD-level scientist, Sankar Chatterjee possesses the passion for traveling worldwide to immerse himself in new culture and customs to discover the forgotten history of the society while attempting to find the common thread that connects the humanity as a whole for its continuity. His most recent (2016) essays appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Quail Bell Magazine, The Missing Slate, and Travelmag – The Independent Spirit, respectively.
The Snow Queen in Eden
Boots crunch ice
She crosses the ice orchards at night
pausing to pick, from black trees
the brittle bodies of frozen birds.
Later, she will shake out her long hair by the fire
a thousand melting stars falling loose
and her hands will burn my skin.
My queen’s tongue tastes like razors –
She has devoured her magic mirror
and I have not the power to defy a woman
with a mouth full of glass.
There was a time we gathered wildflowers
and carried them to the edge
and threw them in the River That Eats Memory.
I wrung out my heart in those waters
but still, something clings –
her long fingers tossing petals, a sandal strap, sunlight.
But the river devours and mirrors cut
I spit blood in the bright snow
and comb my lady’s hair with numb fingers.
Laid out on fur coats, I dreamt of a river
where we washed out our hearts,
as winter eats the corners of the world.
Selena Bulfinch is a Canadian fantasy writer and poet whose tastes run towards the mythic and dark. In addition to writing, she works as a librarian and bookkeeper. She is often found in the company of a large, angry cat.
Hunting for Geppettos
Some say they’re everywhere.
of imagination and distrust.
Some say they’re nowhere.
As if all these martinets and burgermeisters,
could push their buttons alone.
The Geppettos are found
in the spaces between,
corporations with their imperatives,
of spoilt, wooden children.
Oh, and that thing with the noses,
looks like they’ve sorted it out.
Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Cheltenham. He has self-published a collection of poetry and lyrics (Cigarettes and Daffodils) and a prose collection concerning alien management consultants (“The Future”). He has read at Cheltenham Poetry and Literature Festivals and co-runs the “Squiffy Gnu” weekly poetry prompt blog.
Enter her grove barefoot,
no leather here,
no blood sacrifices
Offer her honeyed milk,
not wine. Offer water to wash,
olive oil, salt, honey, coarse meal,
sweet scented flowers,
cakes drizzled with honey,
soothing herbs, especially
those of childbirth
rue, malva, and salvia,
perhaps a special dish
of cheese and herbs.
She is a presence,
a voice only, no image.
A post of cypress-wood,
draped in cloth, perhaps.
Otherwise a living tree
to recall her sacred grove.
Her rites are done outside.
She spares our daughters
heavy with bairn,
spares our wives
in pangs of labour
Cares for the mams
who fret over their bairns
carrying on now,
and how they fare.
She lives for now.
Part of her that may be
one sister knows what’s been
another what is to come.
Paul Brookes was a poetry performer with “Rats for Love” and his work included in “Rats for Love: The Book”, Bristol Broadsides, 1990. His first chapbook was “The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley”, Dearne Community Arts, 1993. He has read his work on BBC Radio Bristol and had a creative writing workshop for sixth formers broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live.
Christmas Eve, early morning,
driving my house-mate to work,
it is so quiet even the car engine whispers,
even the tires on the road
seem to be wearing
their fuzzy slippers.
Nothing moves, except us,
like the fog has rolled
into bedroom windows
and snuggled everyone
into fleece blankets.
They come flying out of the mist,
left to right across the windshield,
then, like we’ve taken them by surprise,
a quick U-turn, as if hoping
we hadn’t seen them,
translucent dragon-fly wings
on their sparrow-sized bodies.
A pair of them, leading a pack
of illuminated fliers.
Inside the car, neither of us
wanting to reveal our individual
hallucination, until, sputtering,
our collective descriptions –
no wind to blow leaves,
not bird wings, too big for dragon-flies –
just the same, only one conclusion.
Fairies, only slightly less surprised
by us than we are of them.
Terri Simon lives in Laurel, Maryland with her husband and dogs. She has eclectic interests, ranging from computers to spirituality. Her work has appeared in “Black Mirror Magazine,” “Jellyfish Whispers”, “Mused,” “Rat’s Ass Review,” and others, as well as the anthologies “A Mantle of Stars: A Queen of Heaven Devotional,” “Secrets and Dreams,” and “Switch (The Difference)”. She received honorable mention in Kind of a Hurricane Press’ Editor’s Choice for 2015.
It feels like freedom, sitting next to a grown woman,
squeezed into a corset, blessed woman, crowned in silver and gold,
body-strong as we grapevine in a circle,
body-vulnerable in diaphanous skirts.
We gargle meditatively, our voices vibrating
across each other’s solar plexi.
This witchy thing, inspired by
Druids, ancient and unknowable,
those Roman-fodder, those barbarous,
who never wrote anything down,
who probably practiced human sacrifice,
at their altars under monoliths, but
that’s what all the websites say, in curly-que letters,
BASED ON THE DRUIDS,
like wishing can make it true,
all at once),
and under that in fine-print,
really brought to you by: a man named Gerald Gardner,
British civil servant who thought one day in the 1950s,
to look at nature and breathe in the moon
and stare at the stars and say yes, okay, yes,
this I worship.
And so we sit pentacle-corner to pentacle-corner,
humming hymns to horned gods
that I don’t believe in,
but the night smells like basil and mint
and the gardenia blossoms
in the desert heat, delicate blooms
that shouldn’t thrive here, but do,
like me, like magic.