The Writers’Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 12 “Truths and Lies”

moon-1024x660 _truths and lies_

The Geese
by Peter Clive

We exist in the shadow of words.
We live the lies they tell,
with no say in the matter:
the price we pay for the power of speech.

We squander the bitter birthright of truth
that torments bird and beast,
for the promise it lets us make ourselves
that we are more, the promise
with which we deceive ourselves,

a deprivation we call grandeur
as we describe all the exploits,
the ideas, insights, and achievements,
the heroes and gods, that speech allows
our tongues to trade with our ears,
but the only true songs are songs of loss,
and I remember the words of Sibelius,
that no music ever thrilled him,
more than the sound of the geese overhead.

We raise words like Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
We dig in their shadows to find our tongues,
and endure the excuses that slip off them
in the hope that in some serendipitous harmony of lies
one day some truth may chime.

I sit beside the canal in Manchester
where layer upon layer of lies,
deposited like silt, like strata,
over generations of theft and empire,
support the latest conceits of glass and steel,
and I hear them: the geese.

The geese on Salford Quays
sound exactly like the geese on the loch
outside my mother’s house in the Outer Hebrides:
such incongruous congruence,
and there is only pity in the land.

……………………………………………………………….*****

Make Believe
by Peter Clive

When a child pretends to be a ballet dancer,
or a tiger,
or a wolf,
or a conductor beating time,
waving a drinking straw baton at an imaginary orchestra,
and an audience of adults at some family gathering
finds itself temporarily pressed into service
in its various departments,
and smiles and says
“how cute, good effort, well done”
before dispersing
to continue their more serious conversations,
remember that this child is not playing.
This child is deadly serious.
This child’s world is no less real to it
than all the worlds adults solemnly summon
with words about stock prices and political appointees
and all the familiar farces and fables and foibles and follies
with which we populate and crowd out our adversities,
calm and navigate the seething surface of turbulent distress
and confer on overgrown jungles stalked by unnamed fears
the genteel appearance of a well-prepared garden party.

Remember that,
when all your best laid plans lie in ruins
and everything has gone wrong,
and everyone laughs,
and no-one is taking you seriously.
Remember that,
when the orchestra you are trying to conduct
gets up and walks off
despite your protests
because it’s got something better to do.

Remember that to make anything
first you must believe in it,
and then you must not give up,
until eventually, you are that child again,
dancing
and prowling
and howling
and beating time
despite it all.

……………………………………………………………….*****

Grenfell
by Peter Clive

This police line between them and us
draws a line under things.

And as we shuffle and mill about
at the perimeter of disaster
it reminds me of Hillsborough,
only in so far as it is
yet another instance
of that fault line
which runs through our society,
one more bloody example
where one was more than enough:

the fence line
against which the faces
of doomed football fans
on a Saturday afternoon
press themselves onto the front pages
of our Sunday morning papers;

the front line
along which trenches
and barbed wire decorated with corpses
of school friends machine gunned side by side,
twist and wind over the mud of Flanders,
and across the map of France;

the bottom line
pulled across our throats like a razor
by wealthy plutocrats, reaching down
from their penthouses high above the law,
levitating 24 storeys above the 24th floor of the inferno
holding us hostage in homes ablaze with poverty,
insisting we share this fate they have decreed,
this austerity they have condemned us to;

the telephone line
over which the voices of the dead are heard,
faltering as they take their last smoky breath,
trying to say goodbye and falling silent,
one night in June;

It draws a line under things. Grenfell must stand
as a charred black tombstone for all the victims
of lies and broken promises, and its fires
must light a beacon in our mind:

a beacon for all the ghosts of dead refugees
sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,
their fumbling shades still seeking our shores,
groping through the cold dark abyss
as that false dawn filling the London sky
in the early hours of a June morning,
guides them towards those who went before,
now come back to meet them in the grave
and tell them how we burn down their homes
before they can take their place in them,
how we murder hope and all journeys are in vain;

a beacon for all who our society punishes
with poverty and hunger and wars
and catastrophes not of their making;

a beacon that guides all of us
towards a common destination,
one night in June,
to shuffle and mill about
at the perimeter of disaster,
a place prepared for us by neglect and ignorance
and prejudice and greed and cruelty,
waiting just on the other side
of the line between them and us
that draws a line under things,
and in the end none of us will survive this.

…………………………………………………………*****

The Sound of Lies
by Miki Byrne

A lie should have weight.
Sufficient to bend a voice.
Cause it to sag and pull,
like old telephone wires.
Should crack words.
Change tone and timbre.
Or should burrow virus-like
into technology.
Arrive misspelled, ink-splodged.
Offer some indication of its deceit.
Stand out from other phrases.
in red, purple or green
so that the brain might twitch
in recognition, open a third eye,
and say ‘I see through you.’
But no.
A lie arrives with the same tone,
emphasis, delivery,
as every other phrase.
It’s disguise so neat and clever
that some lay undiscovered
for a lifetime.

………………………………………………………………..*****

The Mistresses’ Tale
by Hazel Hammond

I put my hand on the cool linen sheets
wait, my breathing fills the unfamiliar room.
Two piles of pillows, the bedspread an ocean becalmed
The window ajar, from below the sound of traffic along the front.
Praises me

I am too hot in the lined jacket, stockings and heels that click
Anxious to shed the skin of the day, buttoned blouse
Skirt a shield covering the heat of pleasure to come
My skin anticipates the warmth of your touch and
Softens me

She said I was cool, calculating, and stole him
from her child comforted evenings, and checking the larder.
I think more of crystalline snow- flakes, cracked ice in cocktails
Determinedly edging leaves with formal beauty,
Like me.

My cheeks flush as I allow the clothes to fall,
Then tumble in the sea of sheets Billows of cloth,
Is this silky enough, pretty enough, alluring enough
to make him tell lies, take time to again,
Choose me.

……………………………………………………………….*****

The Maid’s Tale
by Hazel Hammond

It’s a warm treat in the tea shop
All paid for – so a choice of cakes
And the soft internal heat of the sugared tea

arriving from Brighton
To the unfamiliar scuffling of the crowd
I remember the eau-de-nil satin nightdress
She must have bought it specially

To be seen – photographed
With the flash whitening the scene
Bleaching out the gloss of the satin
And the softness of her curves in the nightdress

Of course I have seen a lot
I have had this treat before coming to the high court – a witness
Not ‘just the Maid at the Grand’
A witness to the performance of the eau-de-nil satin nightdress.

Lace inserts and shoe string straps – off the shoulder
Does not tell all the history, of her difficult husband
The afternoons to be spent at the lawyers
And how assets will be divided

She will know this later for now –
It’s a night with her lover, in the Grand
With the almost liquid satin nightdress.

……………………………………………………………..*****

The Detective’s Tale
by Hazel Hammond

It’s a sort of routine now
Checking the film stock, testing the shutter
Preparing the camera lens, powder for the dish
Which arcs and smells, my pockets a cabinet of ideas

The maid at ‘The Grand’ knows me, years now
At six she’ll be at the staff entrance
She bends over the linen cloths and china
The warmth hits you, tea trays laid and nearly ready
We’ll have a little click later- we call it testing the shutter

She’s a creamy skinned girl, independent
Little bits of money from our work together
We’ll be seeing the adultery of others,
The soft shyness of their unfamiliar nightwear
that will make a picture for the court – testing the quickness of the shutter

Among the steaming kettles, here below those fancy rooms
counting out 2 cups, two saucers, milk jug, sugar bowl
we embrace, scuffle and take our pleasure
while above they pause, wait for us to knock
enter with a tray – me behind – a flash
we have the evidence caught by the click of the shutter.

She’s a creamy skinned girl, independent
Little bits of money from our work together
We’ll be seeing the adultery of others,
the soft shyness of their unfamiliar nightwear
that will make a picture for the court – testing the quickness of the shutter
among the steaming kettles, here below those fancy rooms.

…………………………………………………………..*****

Nameless Now
After Mary Oliver
by Bethany Rivers

though I will not ever
……know your spoken name as
………….it cannot be spoken

I don’t know the name you
…….truly know me by unless
…………..it’s the one you almost chose

a name can mean so much
……& like an alethiometer
………….we don’t usually see

deeper meanings the way moonbeams
……penetrate the undergrowth which only
…………badgers can see the colours of

though I may not ever know the
…….true meaning of how I belong
………….to you until after I’ve given

up this mortal clothing as I learn to live with
…….the questions live with the journey
……………I’m so often too tired to pursue

but thankfully you come to me
…….in dreams & carry that which I cannot
………….name or touch to somewhere

where truth is a welcome embrace
…….raindrops fall into a forest pond
…………..the non-words spoken

……………………………………………………………*****

The Rooks Story
by Susanah Violette

She once lived in an aerie high above the town, the people, the man, his wife She could even see the sea on clear days

She lived with only the rooks above her, their hoary beaks and corrugated barking gobbling giblets down, making morning a battered tin roof or a table ramshackled with arguments

She loved beneath their chimney pot nests, where they chuckled and pecked and perhaps looked down on her, cackling

adultery was a scarlet A drawn in lipstick across Her breast, appalled to look in the mirror at its raw edges, see the shameful blushes worn by Her ghost in the name of love.

Her body was thin, shaved to skin waxen and waxed, She would lie down willingly, bend like the day and keep her eyes open like the night never would, truth lay across Her forehead like a damp cloth

In Her desire, She succumbed to his, a degradation where love trips up, it embarrassed Her to be hung from a tree and whipped

fucked from behind in a toilet the cistern cool on Her cheek, though it was a posh one, it still smelt and She still flushed and washed Her hands after,as if She could wash the guilt from Her skin, as if She could watch it spiral down the plug hole like germs.

She didn’t eat
The rooks gossiped, how thin She had become

ashamed, at her longing, She watched his children run over the wife’s ovulation kit, her calendar, and two birthdays using them like a bridge, they ran into an illicit waiting womb, leaving the wife’s empty and worse – aged

in his hands She was slowly dying, Life took the risk recklessly, life loved Her, he was killing her not because She was his lover and he could, but because She was always his Mother, his wife too, a babbling bright brook, a stream of constant Mothering – both, all women are Mothers

Mothers are horrific.

the rooks disagreed, discussed, disgusted with Her, finally, fed their young loudly and with gusto.

She went to the clinic. Stopped throwing up, Took another lover, for a time, one who could hold her while She still bled, dissembled

the bleeding never really stopped

in her femaleness She would always be a Mother, always be bleeding, making blood threats

the crows sang loudly and pulled a new baby down to her as easily as singing the rain from the sky, their song a miracle, a blessing, a girl

another Mother for the world.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

Husband
by Jem Henderson

I’ve always found it quite difficult
to walk in high heels.
Maybe it’s from when I broke my ankle at ten years old,
standing on a bright yellow tennis ball, my foot travelling around a little further than it should have.
I still had to walk home from school on it.

When we met you had these clear high heels with skinny black straps.
Stripper shoes.
You told me that you would show me how to walk in them – heel toe heel toe heel toe.

Instead, you showed me how to run.
How to stride and achieve with no fear of failure,
knowing that we’d work something out if I fell.
You showed me how I could be okay,
how the world belongs to women like me that are simply themselves.
No need for heels and conforming to normal.

Now, you keep your stripper shoes hidden,
along with a black gaudy wig; padding, a skimpy silk dress.
A whole drawer of secrets you’d promised not to keep.

It’s not the discovery that hurts.
It’s that I gave you all of me.
And I only get half a person back.

……………………………………………………………………*****

Learning to Trust
by Nicky Phillips

The sun’s directly overhead as I wait by the gate.
A stampede of small feet and she’s by my side,
eyes wide with excitement, fringe stuck to her forehead.

Words and giggles pour out as her hand tugs at mine;
come see, Mummy, come see. We go back in
to the wooden pegs marked with ducks and rabbits;

she crouches low, peers between forgotten
drawstring bags, chattering about the snake
the boys said they’d seen in the changing room.

And, Mummy, she bubbles, hands together as she jumps
up and down on the spot, there was a fox asleep
behind the bush while we ran our races, they saw it!

Her face puckers into a puzzled frown as I ask
if anyone else had seen the fox or the snake.
She skips, chit chats by my side on the way home

for cheese sandwiches and chocolate buns.
Down the lane, I point out a real and welcome
muntjac in the field, tingle with her delight.

……………………………………………………………*****

False Truths and Honest Lies
by Nicky Phillips

The ladies in the changing room say
the red hat suits me perfectly, as I tackle
the angle of the tilt. I’d always been told
blues and greens were more my thing
(uncomplimented, it must be said),
blending in on high-summer hikes,
river jaunts, though Sophie was miffed
when I sported a turquoise concoction
to her school swimming gala.

My step is light as I leave the store.
Potential outfits rush at my mind’s eye:
turban of pumpkin hue for Thanksgiving,
fiery scarlet on Bonfire Night, ruby
velvet during the season of goodwill.
Sophie arranges to see my outfit days
before her wedding, loves the dress,
thinks the layers on the hat too frou-frou.
Says how well a fascinator would suit.

……………………………………………………………………….*****

Scienta/Knowledge
by Rona Fitzgerald

I saw such wonders out among stars
grafting my lens, embracing
………………………………………….Copernican movement.

Revolution of celestial spheres
chiaroscuro of tides, phases of Venus
………………………………………..pearls on the milky way.

In their wisdom, my compatriots
in urban Rome forbid such views
………………………………………………….contra mundum

I recanted
…………………………………………..allowed geocentric
conviction to hold stable
……………………………………………..the elliptical earth.

And yet it moves!

……………………………………………………………….*****

Treachery
by Linda Menzies

Ice slides treacherous underfoot,
a pavement’s slick sheen of trickery,
but to be expected, in winter.

Your treachery was a fog of lies:
Covering another woman’s body
Then calmly eating with your family.

The wind sends out a banshee howl
which can’t contest the visceral scrape
from my throat, raw with anger and grief.

Mist curls smoky amongst ancient trees
dampening the leaves, anodyne –
a natural event, soon to pass.

My brain fog, though, clouded the truth,
Allowing all your lies to flourish.

…………………………………………………………..*****

The Trials
After Helen Steadman’s Widdershins

by Megan Pattie

There were women about the towns sometimes
with pleasant faces and kindly words to say,
but their advice came forth in heathen rhymes
and at night they’d come to take men’s souls away.
They came to women to sooth them through their pain
with helpful herbs beside the birthing bed,
yet who but some unholy angels’ bane
would interfere with what the Lord had said?
For every malady they had their plants,
and age-old knowledge stored to offer aid,
but secretly they said demonic chants
and gave the townsfolk cause to be afraid.
So no matter all the good that they had done,
fear sent them to their pyres, every one.

………………………………………………………………*****

Monasteries & swans & you
by Millicent Stott

Meet me in the attic again
amongst the
boxes of dresses,
all I dream about these days is
monasteries and swans
and you.
Impish, you perch in the edge of
my mind
with your sad eyes,
counting wads of cash
strapped with tape,
crumbling a cigarette under
your fancy shoes.
You are melting ink,
dripping,
arms running with chalk
and sweat.
Little elf,
I never could work out what you
were thinking,
so I dress you up like a doll,
make you look how
I like,
sometimes indifferent,
sometimes ashamed.
Pull your jaw up
to see a shadow of a smile.
You never look up,
just light up another,
head hidden behind
the pearly smoke veil of
things you left unsaid.

………………………………………………………………………*****

Sea Salt
by Millicent Stott

Somewhere far off,
we still sit in that starlit garden,
watching the dark and shadowless
forms of two hedgehogs
frolick among the flower beds
oblivious to our presence,
our man made qualms and
uncertainties.
Somewhere, the mellow perfume
of white lilies still coats the breeze,
whilst blood rushes, surges in my ears.
The entirety of the North Sea
sleeps restlessly in my mind.
We spoke as fresh petals
drizzled like syrup
onto the dewy grass,
spirit infused thoughts
envisaging strange colours,
new lives into being.
All the while, sea salt still dripped
from our hair,

our words.

……………………………………………………………..*****

…………………………………………………………..

I Lost the Night
by Millicent Stott

I lost the night in a shining wave of

party dresses and pearly champagne,

Chased it on light and blistered feet

off the dance floor as it fled,

and hid between bleeding rose bush and trickling stream,

gentle thorns scraping the edge of the evening

as I followed,

always followed.

The sugar paper stars smiled,

‘if only she knew’ as I tried in vain to
keep up,

weak limbs, aching mind, dragging my tangled thoughts behind me,

My roots sunk deep into bubbling soil,

confessing nothing.

The night was missing, far deep into the woods,

I abandoned my search,

the moon sour as a pear in my mouth.

………………………………………………………………*****

The Best Day 
by Millicent Stott

“What was the best day of your life?”

Hesitant,

I am tempted to say;

Birthdays,

Mine taste like scooping thick sweet,

sugar cream icing onto my tongue,

Tasting as it melts slowly,

Eating pizzas with friends,

Ruby red ribbons, bouncing curls and crisp £5 notes.

Perhaps I should say concerts,
The ones with

cheap, sour beer and chapped lips,

The thrill of the beat in my chest,

My pulse mimicking the bass,

Feeling my glitter eyeshadow slide

down my cheekbones as I sing

mindlessly to the songs I know so well.

Maybe Christmas is a safe bet;

Orange spice, luscious green

becomes the icy house,

Gingerbread and joyous song,

Melodies made from tinsel,

A burning hearth,

Poodle draped under the tree like

A gift,

wrapped as a secret,

Giddy and pure and perfect.

I suppose everyone loves parties,

Shiver inducing fizz apple shots ,

Bright, rosy lips,

Twirling and swaying till

Your body,

even your bones, ache from the strain

of your stilettos,

Blistering feet, smudged mascara,

Waking up to your friend’s pancakes

and an incurable migraine,

Laughable guilt from the night before.

And I love my friends,

Constant and loyal,

Holding my hair back or reminding me,

not to go in the sea in winter,

Knowing I will regardless.

Long, blue nights spent plaiting hair

and watching doctor who,

Discarded cans, paintbrushes, pressed flowers, echoing museums and aimless wanders.

But what was my best day?

I dare not say;

When the snow lay so thickly on the

ground that

our bus was cancelled,

Revelling at turning my key back into

the lock that sticks,

Back, back into my pyjamas,

Still warm,

Raspberry tea and thick blankets and

muted street lights,

Spent the day

In the euphoric purgatory of

awake and dreaming,

Fairy lights and golden pillows,

Nowhere to be and no one to see

As the snow fell thicker outside my bedroom window.

………………………………………………………………*****

Sweet Sixteen
by Millicent Stott

Sixteen, she glitters like shattered champagne flutes,
Rosy lips, stained sweet like fruits.

Sixteen, I wrote,
will taste like crushed violets and cream,
Merely a means to an end,
Sparkling, clean.

Blonde hair, cocktail glasses,
Golden hoops and a chandelier smashes.

In my head she was sequinned and tasseled,
Time stands still,
Her stance embattled.

A head full of thoughts unclean,
A necklace blue, aquamarine,
Oh, how I wanted to be

Sweet sixteen.

………………………………………………………………..*****

Fake News
by Joe Williams

It was an incredible night,
completely unexpected.
It started as a normal Friday
down at the pub.
But Kate Winslet was there,
leaning on the bar
drinking bright blue cocktails through a straw.
She smiled at my witty remark.
We got chatting.

Then who should show up but Brian Cox –
the professor,
not the actor –
who turns out to be a friend of Kate’s,
and a very interesting bloke
when he’s not blabbing on about string theory.

And I didn’t even realise it was
two months and seventeen days
since you said you didn’t love me.

They were going to a party
and invited me along.
One of those fancy showbiz dos
at a posh hotel, with free champagne
and David Guetta DJing.
Madonna was there,
and Alan Bennett.
You wouldn’t have thought it would be his sort of thing
but he was loving it.

And not for one second did I think about you,
or wish you could be there too.
I was having far too much fun
with the Latvian ambassador
and the blonde one out of the Saturdays.

In the morning, when I got back home,
I heard the news
and laughed,
because I knew it couldn’t possibly
be true.

…………………………………………………………………………………*****

What’s in a Band Name?
Mark Connors

It was Benny who came up with ABBA
wanting to immortalise the ‘in memoriam’ rhyme scheme.
He’s a sucker for fixed form, that one!
Bjorn is all about the freedom of free verse.
Agnetha loves the work of Neruda and Lorca.
Anni-Frid attends poetry workshops
in the mountains of Mallorca.

Kajagoogoo was procured
on an eventful night
involving mushrooms and skunk.

Mittens Harkett came up with A-ha
after a night out with a young Steve Coogan
who was always in character
after a few pints in The Student Union.

Steely Dan was named after a dildo on wheels.

Mark Oliver Everett went fishing, came back with EELS.

Some band names have simpler origins:
Peter Gabriel opened the Bible,
chose the first word he saw.
GENESIS!

UB40 transpired from
a Thursday morning sign on.

Angus Young found his
on the back of his mum’s sewing machine.

Eddie Van Halen chose his very own surname.

The Carpenters were carpenters by trade.

Captain Beefheart?
You really don’t want to know.

……………………………………………………………*****

The Amphitheatre
by Niles Reddick

Affectionately referred to as “The Amp” the stage sat at the bottom of the stair step grounds where people brought their folding lawn chairs or blankets. At the top of the semicircle were stadium seating and a catering area, where a sponsor invited VIPs who drank free wine and beer and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres. It was quite popular, and the cool fall temperatures and full moon made for an enjoyable evening to hear Steel Cows, a Grammy nominated bluegrass band out of Nashville that was known for taking classic rock and putting a bluegrass sound to it.

We unfolded our chairs, spread the blanket for our teens, both of whom had to have a friend with them, and our teens and their friends stayed glued to their phone screens the entire performance, except for trips to the restroom and snow cone stand. I patted my foot, snapped my fingers, and quietly sang along to songs I knew, moving my mouth little in case I missed words. One woman stood near the stage in the spotlight and clogged around and around. I figured she’d get dizzy and fall or get tired and go back to her seat, but she didn’t. I wondered if she simply liked the attention from the crowd or if she was interested in one of the Steel Cows. It may have been both, but I mostly hoped her bobbing bosoms didn’t tumble out of her low-cut country dress. At one point, her chunky child began to clog with her, and I wondered if she might be Honey-Boo-Boo. The lack of a film crew and the lack of clapping for the duo made me assume it wasn’t.

Other small children ran around in front of the spotlights. They reminded me of bugs, flitting this way and that way, aimless with no purpose other than fleeting fun; their brains were not developed enough to know what they were doing or what they might step on in the grass with their bare feet. Occasionally, one bumped into another and one got knocked down, cried, and a parent from the crowd came, picked them up, and disappeared into the crowd again until the child decided to do it all over. I wanted to get up, go over to them, and make them go back to their parents. They made me nervous and I worried one of them might get hurt. At some point, I noticed one of the children climbing the stairs up to the street level. He must have been three or four, wearing some gym shorts, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes with blinking lights that flashed with each step. I figured a parent, big brother or sister, or other relative must be up on the sidewalk by the snow cone machine. The street itself was blocked off by police cars, so there was no traffic, and security was present.

At some point, and well into “Dust in the Wind” with banjo and mandolin, I saw a young couple waving arms and talking with an officer on the sidewalk near the VIP section. Within just a few minutes, there were flashing lights and other policemen with flashlights searching the crowd, the restrooms, and one of the stagehands made an announcement between songs, which created a stir in the crowd, but the show went on for several more songs. All of this created anxiety in me, recalling a time when I was riding my bike through the city cemetery next to my grandparent’s home when a strange man appeared and asked if I could help him, but I peddled faster and told my grandmother who’d called the police. They had caught him and questioned him, but let him go until a child was abducted and violated in our city and he was caught and sent to prison.

When the concert was over, we heard the boy had been found. He’d crawled and slipped in between the curb and the metal drainage grate on the street, apparently to rescue a puppy he heard and could see. I was relieved to hear it and can’t imagine how scared his parents were, but I was happy he hadn’t seen a clown named Pennywise. Ever since It, I haven’t looked for spare change near a gutter and even moved to the other side of the street to avoid them.

…………………………………………………………………….*****

The Lie
by Sandra Horn

Today, my little one,
my precious child,
I will take you to the river.
I will hold you in the water,
to make you numb.
Then you will not feel the knife,
this is what they say.
That is the way it is done,
the way it has always been done.
The women will spread your legs,
your tiny legs,
open your soft sweet thighs,
and cut you.
I will hear you scream.

I remember how it was.
I remember my mother weeping
and rejoicing, now that I was clean.
Now the shameful thing was cut away,
the male thing, that would lead to impure thoughts
impure acts, they said.
The thing my Maker had,
in his great wisdom, given me.

……………………………………………………………*****

Alice Looks in the Glass
by Stella Wulf

In the forward act of scrutiny her hips bell out, breasts bob
like buoys on a ruffled sea, thighs round on her in mutiny.
Alice scans a slant horizon for the slim truth of yesterday.

She is disturbed by her body’s lie, a bounty
that proclaims itself a vessel underway. She swears
she was a slip of a girl when she slid off the rails.

What sleight of time launched her into this mess?
She’s Charybdis in a Wendy house, crying an ocean
of tears deep enough to sail a galleon.

Her friends, dippy as mermaids in the shallows,
wreck callow lads with a breast stroke, a swish of tail.
Alice thinks if she ever landed a catch it would be a fluke,

though she’s a dab hand on the rocks with Jack Daniels.
DRINK ME, the label commands. She needs the empties
for ships, a trick her father taught her when she was knee high.

There’s an art to deception, it’s how the thread lies.
A skilful tug, they’re rigged, vessels trapped within vessels.
Alice slugs down the bottle – it shrinks her to oblivion.

………………………………………………………….*****

A Portrait of Our Times as Peat
by Steve Smart

Rain upon rain tilthed loam,
levelled to pudding black lake,
a dark carboniferous hag
of uncertain depth and liquidity.
Too far for giant leaping.

Is there a submarine step
sunk safe a pace ahead?
Perhaps – there often is, or

so they say.

………………………………………………………….*****

The Lie We Tell Ourself
by Alun Robert

My bum doesn’t look big in this.
Don’t you dare tell the truth.
They make sizes smaller these days.
European sizing is inaccurate – isn’t it?

So every trip to a clothing store,
every jaunt inside an outfitter,
each visit to a trendy boutique
is a battle against fashionistas

who don’t understand our problems,
won’t accommodate idiosyncrasies,
can’t appreciate the torment
they put us through each day.

Hence I’ll become an Emperor,
that icon without clothes
so nobody will point or gape
or suggest I’m stark naked. Then

my bum won’t look big in nothing – can it?

……………………………………………………………….*****

If Life is a Deception
by Gareth Writer-Davies

then so is love

and rain

and steak and chips

if we come to our senses
have our senses been double agents
setting us up
for the fall

last night
we slept like spoons
your rounding belly
warming the bed
and that felt like a truth

………………………………………………………*****

My Favorite Liar
by Mark Hudson

I once had a friend who got me into poetry, taught me a lot of what I know, and it’s probably why I’m still doing poetry to this day. But he had Schizophrenia. Supposedly one of his doctors said, “ You have one of the worst cases of Schizophrenia known to man,” which was probably another exaggeration, or half-truth. But in the area of mental health extremes, he had it pretty bad!

He taught me a lot about poetry, and he was a great poet I have to admit. But he had delusions of grandeur that were often amusing, other times frightening.He often claimed he worked for the space aliens. Another time he claimed he cast a spell and conjured up the devil and loosened him into the world. He also had a theory that the government was tormenting his wife with some laser gun that could penetrate through walls, or some  such thing. Someone googled the “device” he was talking about, and there really was such a thing that was used in current warfare overseas, but with this particular  individual, some of his stories seemed based on some half-truth, with schizophrenic imagination taking the story to the extreme of a child’s imagination. I confess, I too am bi-polar, that is how we met. People who know me say I’m pretty high-functioning for the type of condition I have. I think where I’m at now is I am relatively connected to “reality” as much as anyone can comprehend what that might be. But to not know the difference between reality and fantasy is not a pleasant place. And you can’t trust any news source to tell you the truth about anything, so I think we’re all a little crazy these days. So next time you meet an insane person, don’t judge them you might be just as insane!

Note: This man, “my favorite liar” died in January 2018 of pneumonia. Whatever was good or bad about him, it couldn’t stop the “true” reality of death. I can only continue to produce poetry, grateful for all he taught me about poetry. It is a shame that he was actually a brilliant poet, and only a tiny amount of his poetry was published. I hope wherever he is, the “voices” are gone.

……………………………………………………………….*****

The Truth About my Tooth
by Mark Hudson

I had been having a toothache for two weeks, when
I went to Dunkin doughnuts, bit into a bagel, and half of
my wisdom tooth cracked out and fell right into my napkin.
I remember it was the last day of the spring semester of
my painting class. I remember saying, “I’m not going to
let this ruin the last day of class.”

So I went to the dentist, and they said I needed
the rest of the tooth pulled. So today, a lady from my
social service agency was supposed to pick me up
at nine ‘o’clock for my nine thirty appointment.
I stood out on the corner at nine, not aware that it
was supposed to rain this morning, and clearly
underdressed.

As raindrops fell upon my foolish self, a
woman from my building said, “Hello, how
are you doing?’ I said, “I’m supposed to get a
ride to the dentist, and my ride is late! I’m not
in a good mood!” In other words, now is not the
time for chit-chat!

Every other person who walked by me
looked at me as if I was a serial killer. I must
have had an angry expression on my face.
Then my ride texted and said, “Running late.
There has been a car accident. Sorry.”

So she picked me up at 9:30 for my
9:30 appointment, so I ended up only being
ten minutes late. The dentist office was crowded.
I really had to pee, and a whole entire family
monopolized on the restroom, leaving me
no time to pee before my surgery.

I was ushered into a room, and the assistant
said, “The doctor will be in shortly.”

Meanwhile, I heard him extract a lady’s
tooth, and she screamed at the top of her lungs,
as if she was in a torture chamber. My first
response was, “This is not good.” then I thought,
“I’m going to try to be a man about this.”

The dentist came in, doped me up, and
pulled the tooth. I managed to not scream, and
make a few caveman grunts. But then there were
still bits and pieces of the tooth still left. He was
not quite done!

I managed to grunt and go “Ow,” as he got
the few remaining little bits, but no hysterics or
dramatics. As I write this, my mouth continues to
bleed.

Still, by writing about it, I’m doing the
best therapy I can do for my bleeding, numb
mouth. Now if only my mouth would stop bleeding
long enough so I could eat something! The bottomless
pit is calling to me, “Feed me! Feed me!”
Ah, I’ve got my sense of humor back. Too
bad there is no tooth fairy, with one million dollars
to tuck under my pillow. I’m broke, my tooth is
broke, but life will go on, even with a missing tooth.

Found poem from 2016

 …………………………………………………………*****

Ousted
by Gary Beck

I saw a vireo in Bryant Park
who was suffering
Post Traumatic Meadow Syndrome,
too confused to eat breadcrumbs
having been summarily evicted
by encroaching agri-business
to grow marketable crops,
sending avian denizens to the cities,
just like people come to the cities
when there homes are taken
by eminent domain.

……………………………………………………………*****

Battered America
by Gary Beck

Our people are beleaguered
feeling trapped, desperate,
so they turn to the unfit
accepting false promises
for better times, more jobs,
and elect diminutive leaders
incapable of problem solving,
only making things worse
by denying climate change
despite unprecedented storms,
droughts, wildfires
devastating our nation,
while the President plays golf,
assailing those who disagree with him,
vindictively pursuing those who oppose him,
refusing to learn how to lead a nation,
instead, insulting his predecessors
criticizing everything before he took office,
dismembering the agencies of progress,
protecting the interests of the rich,
ignoring the suffering of the poor,
happily going his way
undermining tomorrow.

………………………………………………………..*****

Car Journeys
by Diana Devlin

My mother chose car journeys
to embark on talk of life and love,
the big stuff I thought was made to fit only
in an adult head, like why the green
returns each year and never clashes
with the blue above, nor with the red
so often spilled upon it in the name of peace.

Our time is short, she’d say, we have to use it well.
Then she’d stop // leave me wondering why
I couldn’t see what she saw, looking up.
I never heard the guiding voice she heard,
had only finite memory in which to plant my future,
and only shreds of life to feed it with.
I came to dread those journeys and the ache they left.

Perhaps it was because I was her only girl,
who spoke her language, the secret one, that made the boys
look squint at me, point sticky fingers, swear
and walk away, as if they’d caught me casting spells.
Perhaps she knew I’d turn the questions over in my junk box mind,
fashion wisdom from her weary words and one day
give them back to her as truth.

………………………………………………………..*****

Tweeking in the Park
by Janet Reed

I’m drawn to her wildness, a woman I see
from the parking lot duckwalking some version
of Johnny B. Goode on the backside of the lake,
her black shorts and and pink tank hopping
and skipping to and away, her fishing pole
bobbing like spaghetti unstrung from its fork.
It’s the first of spring days, the kind that coaxes
earthworms to sun on warm sidewalks
and winter dwellers to dance half-naked
in public parks. Her body reminds me
of a push puppet contorting and collapsing
on itself, arms and legs tangential to torso,
she hears her own drummer. Close now,
walking the lake trail, I watch her tattooed feet
flip flop gravel as she lunges after a cast,
a hook that didn’t come close to water,
drifting into some grayed out green
off the grid, while I tethered to a day planner,
march in time to houred blocks in a black book
my quiet moments never still, my days
anchored in chores and thoughts of chores.
Her bobber lands this time at my feet, and I see
her eyes, see a shard of slick glass harpooned
in no-diving signs, slicing through dark rivers
she swims sober, catch a glint of a needle
blurring a line of purple veins barely damming
waters keeping her on dry land. Past her,
I shudder, the earthworm already baked
on hot cement, I hope she doesn’t stay here too long.

………………………………………………………..*****

Hindsight
by Janet Reed

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you’ll find you get what you
need. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

My mother collected children like spare tires
tucked into the tire wells of her heart.

Kids rotated in and out of her care faster
than retreads blow on a hot highway.

Foster babies, a home for orphans,
neighbors’ kids, two adoptees, each

new child stimulated promise of checkered
flags, satisfaction spurred by the steam

of boiling bottles and Saturday night baths
hopped up on boxes of Mr. Bubble.

I was hers, the common denominator
in a factoring of faces, confused by the comings

and especially by the goings. I watched her
nurse switchbacks and swerve for strays

only to reverse course in hairpin turns leaving
disappointment bundled like bindles in ditches.

None of us worked out as she wanted, but
seeing her shift through little people as easily

as moving the stick from second to third,
I saw what I needed to go the distance:

all-weather wheels, steel-belted, well-warrantied.

………………………………………………………………..*****

Frankenstein’s Monster
by Janet Reed

When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness? Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

My brother kicks at stones,
wanders the night streets
blowing breath on bluing fingers,
looking for a warm place
to stay the night.
Before he knew
she was not his mother,
he was her creature.
Now, he dumpster digs
for crackers and Hi-Hos,
swallows pills he begs,
asks rooms of strangers.
He is Clyde without Bonnie,
his sass and piss silent
in the cold, his past
hiding like pocket lint
rubbing against numb fingers.
I wait for word he fell or froze,
no blanketed box, no doorway.
Comforted by a coat of ocean mist,
he is no longer cast off no longer lost.

……………………………………………………*****

The Long Mistake
by Janet Reed

Each new start
re-kindled
desire –

beryl seeds
pressed on
hot skin,

emeralds
made on
moist sheets.

Each loss
ashed coals
of lost lust

in a body
grass grown
on belief,

zipped now
in a parka
cinched

with empty
diaper bags,
a mortgage

at 60 days,
pearls
of promise

on a weak
string,
the price

paid by
pink slips,
hard work

the bed I
needed
to share.

…………………………………………………………*****

Burial
by Alex Williams

They are lowering her into her grave and I can’t stop avoiding it. It’s been three months now and they still haven’t finished because I keep looking away.

Look how tacky all the plastic flowers are, slapped hurriedly on top of the surrounding gravestones in preserved denial.

And look at all of the alive people. My great-uncle with his soft, white-whip of a fringe, face red with tears, lip quivering. My Mum huddled into my dad. An older second cousin I don’t know well, clutching a perfumed tissue in one hand, her painted nail a stark contrast against it. I adjust the cufflink on my sky-blue, starched right sleeve.

I notice the mechanism that is lowering the coffin into the ground is moving with the same speed as a rollercoaster chain, pulling its passengers to the top of a steep incline. Except it isn’t. That is simply a fun image through which I can avoid pain.

It takes so long to pick up the dirt. It feels cold and ugly in my fist. The coffin looks so small. There is dirt on it already, thrown by my aunt. The force of the mud has bent the petal on one of the bouquets on the coffin. It seems so spiteful. I throw the dirt on the grass beside the grave and wipe my fingers on my trousers.

………………………………………………………….*****

My Therapist Told me to be Kinder to Myself
by Alex Williams

As soon as I found out that there was a certain way that you were meant to breathe
Living became impossible. In and out, fucking up with each new second.

The consequences of being a failure
made me put a lock on my bedroom door
and curl up in a ball, guarding the doorway.
It’s that shoulder shaking sobbing
that feels like the end.

Sometimes a creature with solemn news that it cannot communicate to me is breathing down my neck,

Other times it makes a nest in my chest and feeds its babies on scraps of my worrying.

Do you ever feel like the relationship you have with yourself is something you wish you could end?

I don’t know how to feel about all my inner violence.

……………………………………………………….*****

Living Feels Heavy
by Alex Willams

The incentives to keep going are coming in and out of focus.
They swing back and forth in front of my face
when they are close I can bite down on the fruit of meaning
and I can speak with a voice that sounds something like the life of the party
and then they recede,
and through twisted dreams, a bleak landscape sets in.

I used to get frustrated in horror films,
at how the people in the haunted house would never leave.
Just get out you moron, the possessed demon with no legs can’t outrun your family SUV.
And turn off that creepy music and put on some Bruno Mars.

Then loss walked into my life like a phantom and I began to understand.
You spend the day distracting yourself
Painting the walls vibrant colours, listening to happy songs
but it just doesn’t feel right.
I can understand the desire to look in the attic where that creepy sound came from.
I know it might kill me,
I still look.

………………………………………………………..*****

Untitled
by Ian Dudley

slavery,
the holocaust, oh
how the truth lies

…………………………………………………………..*****

New Skin for the Tiger
by Tom Langlands

we stole the fire
from the tiger’s eyes
to light the coals

we sucked its roar
into the bellows
that fanned the flames

we took its stripes
black and strong
and we hammered
hammered
hammered
on the forge
until each wavy bend
and curve
was straight and true

then we plunged
each glowing stripe
into water
where it hissed and spat

with these
we made the tiger
a new skin

for its own protection

now we peer
between the stripes
believing we see tigers

…………………………………………………………*****

Burden of Sanity
By Megha Rani

What is the burden of sanity
he gleefully asks
when the sane thoughts in your mind
are paving a streamlined path
a sluice,
which carries the murky and turbid thoughts
away from your heart
so your soul can stay pure and serene

What is the burden of the sanity
when the words uttered in
deep dark corners of
you dark and tumultuous mind
leaves a dark sooty impression
and your soul is a shade darker than
than last time you saw
your reflection in the mirror

What is the burden of sanity
you woefully ask
when the teeth are clenched
and the tongue is shredded
but the heart will die a thousand deaths
if you let it have its way

What is the burden of the sanity
you smirk fully asks
when its rips and
shreds the reputation
your honor
your broken back has carried for generation
only to leave you with the false impression
of having a life full of pity memories

What is the burden of the sanity
when you willfully
crush and pulverize your dreams
to be smeared across your face
and to keep the smiles stretched
across those yellow faces

Don’t ask me the burden of the sanity
when everyone has been crucified
for uttering the
the simple truth of life
which is hard to bear
by the ears of
those born
as aristocrats

……………………………………………………………*****

Logography
by Gary Glauber

It was a time of infinite complication,
all points on the spectrum possible,
an epidemic of false information
featuring science as sentiment,
facts commensurate to fiction.
All that had gone before was going,
fading fast in a blizzard
of ethical impropriety,
millionaires posing as gatekeepers
putting self-interest ahead
of the myth of greater good.
Narcissus laughs atop Mount Helicon
as we descend into a valley of
stunned disbelief, each succeeding
day’s developments challenging
status quo into quo vadis,
a seismic disturbance
that threatens to topple
tenets & safe foundations.
Righteous outrage points fingers
at what’s being brushed
under collective carpet
& still, no one hears
or especially cares.
At least the sun rises,
but that whisper on the wind
is likely old Herodotus,
turning fitfully in his grave.

…………………………………………………….*****

The Stories are Where Healing Lies
by Mbeke Waseme

It is where the old man who said nothing
Becomes the hero of the day
Where the time I choose to leave
Becomes the time I am willing to stay

It is where the cockroaches do not fly
Scarring the shit out of me and my wards
Where avocados are always in season
And everyone will fight for a worthy cause

Its where the store owner does say good morning
For human beings are social we’re told
Where we no longer strive for things
For nothing has to be owned

It is where keys are left indoors
Car, house or shop, let it be
Where good health is the optimum target
And profits don’t drive pharmacies.

The place where your genius lies
Is handled with love and with care
The gurus who open your eyes
Release the possibilities that lie calmly there.

The stories can heal and make good
The pain caused by fear and by lies
The red becomes blue, green or orange
The power of day and of night
Stories can bring healing

Change the content
Change it all
Rewrite your own damn story
Make your ending
Your own call.

…………………………………………………………*****

Little Fishes
by J. Mitchell

Always worse with friends,
having to pretend I’m pleased
with their success;
smiling –
holding truth behind my teeth:
snapping word piranhas
gnawing at my tongue.

Emails are a trial –
groggy early morning switching on
to find their exclamation marks:
I won this! I earned that!

Battering the keyboard to reply
Well done!
Thanks so much for sharing!
Surely, they can hear the lie.

Enemies are easier –
letting little fishes swim
towards them,
biting at their joy,
laughing when they fail –
I’m so glad you did
Feeling better for it.

…………………………………………………………*****

Snow White Lies
by Finola Scott

Mum used to wash out my sugar-coated mouth
if I claimed the biscuits were not stolen,
my shoes were polished, my homework complete.

So later, scrubbed lies slipped easy
from foam-frothed lips. When money was taken
from purses, bites from rose red apples, I learnt
to say Not me

I’m not alone with fabricated falsehoods.
With ease politicians talk of lowered taxes,
increased spending, bankers held to account,
benefits extended, expenses not fiddled
Not me they cry

Thing is, I’ve got my
mother to blame.

Previously published in New Boots and Pantisocrates

……………………………………………………..*****

Homes Fit for Heroes
by John Scottie Collins

‘Hello Alan. You know, you’re the talk of the staff room.’

‘Me Peggy? Why?’

‘They say you’ve been shortlisted for the headship. Old Culpepper retires at the end of term.’

‘That’s supposed to be hush hush. What else do they say?’

‘That Councillor Braithwaite’s to chair the selection panel and that he’s a tough nut.’

‘Are there no secrets in this school?’

‘It’s no secret that you’d make a fine headmaster. This town’s on its knees; unemployment; poverty. Few of the youngsters in my class get enough to eat. They need decent education if anything’s to change. You can make it happen, Alan.’

‘That would be my dearest wish, Peggy.’

They walked along Temple Road, on their way to the bus stop. As they approached Glebe Place, a narrow street of cobbles and terraced houses, they noticed it was unusually crowded. Not just children playing and women scrubbing doorsteps. A group of about fifteen people had gathered around a large black van. The mood was solemn. As they approached the van the front door of a house opened. Two uniformed men emerged carrying a stretcher on which lay a semi-conscious boy of about eight. His body, from the neck down, was covered by a course grey blanket. It didn’t disguise how thin he was. His red hair and flushed face were damp with sweat and beneath drooping lids his eyes shone with fever.

‘Peggy, that’s Tommy Preston. Isn’t he in your class?’

‘Yes, he’s been off school for a couple of days. Could it be diphtheria?’

Alan looked around; weeds grew out of cracked guttering along the edges of roofs. Crumbling walls were in desperate need of repointing. Patches of damp and moss surrounded broken down-pipes where water leaked over porous red brick. Fanlights above front doors were cracked and patched with cardboard. An atmosphere of decay and the smell of drains pervaded the street. A group of men and women talked together. They sounded angry.

‘No wonder kids get sick in this dump.’

‘Plaster peeling off the walls with damp, bugs everywhere, blocked privies.’

‘It’s 1935 for Christ’s sake. Why do people have to live like this? Who’s the landlord?’

‘Braithwaite’s Mill, of course.’

‘My dad worked there. Bullying bastards; complain about anything and you’re sacked, blacklisted and on the street.’

‘I remember in 1918; the lads coming back from the trenches were full of confidence about the future. Most of us wanted to get married and start a family. There was a general election just after the Armistice and Lloyd George promised us, ‘homes fit for heroes.’ He got our votes all right but precious few got decent houses. It was all lies. For most of us it was Glebe Place or somewhere very like it.’

‘Bonar Law, McDonald, Baldwin; they were no different. The promises tumbled out of their mouths, but none of them were on speaking terms with the truth.’

Alan led Peggy toward the bus stop. ‘They’re right you know. They’ve been duped by politicians all their lives. I’m going to write to the council and demand they take action about the condition of the houses around here.’

‘Don’t do anything hasty. If you get on the wrong side of Councillor Braithwaite it’ll cost you the headship.’

‘I can’t just turn a blind eye.’

‘If you make a fuss the council might make some token gesture to shut you up, but the headship of the school would give you a powerful voice. You could challenge Braithwaite and his cronies from a position of influence. You could bring about lasting change, but you have to be patient.’

‘It’s people like us being patient that allow these slums to exist.’

‘Think long-term Alan.’

“No Peggy. The truth needs to be told. Now!”

…………………………………………………….*****

Feet Like Flat Earth
by Daisy Thomas

Round Earth is chaos, a galactic wound
weeping with the dangerous sun.

Round Earth is wrapping its chain around the moon,
pinned down with violent stripes.

Flat Earth can be everybody lives, is
joyous seas arm wrestling for fun.

Flat Earth can be lying on its back, on top
of the covers, windows wide open.

Flat Earth can be walking as far as you can
til you hit an ice wall. The edge

of everything will cool you down.
Put out your hand, isn’t it safer now?

Nobody is falling off, or walking on their heads.
And now, where you are sitting on the grass

with the moon in Sagittarius, there is so much
life beneath you. Are you afraid of ants?

……………………………………………………*****

Eternalise This
by Daisy Thomas

I can sit in the old
house, empty of the
kettle, the rug, the bedsheets.
I can call it
fun.
I can photograph
grease inside the oven, the
cracks in the bathroom wall
where roaches enter, can
roll a marble down the hallway
and document the subsidence.
I can take another wet cloth
to the insides
of the fridge. I can sit
on the doorstep
with thousands
of black bags and wait
for a neighbour to say Oh,
you aren’t moving, are you?
I can get a new haircut
for the new place.

………………………………………………..*****

On Cleansing the Earth of Filth
by Daisy Thomas

Here I am, obsessed with the romance
of communism. Mayakovsky, I do envy you,
citizen of the USSR, but why not give me a little smile?
Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, I envy you too!
I pray to hold hands with you brightly, treasured cosmonaut,
after you land here where I am
which is nowhere and yes! I will marry you
and yes, I might carry your beaming bread roll babies.

Perhaps darling Sylvia was right
that every woman adores a fascist but I am a girl
who floods her basement for communists
who look like brutes but are not brutes,
who speak to clouds; tell them not to rain.

This will get me in trouble
but looking at Stalin’s portrait at the Royal Academy of Arts
I did feel for a very long moment
amid whispers of Red Terror and our recently deceased
Comrade Fidel Castro, quite violently
heterosexual.

……………………………………………*****

What Goes on in Bath Water?
by Daisy Thomas

I want to be a girl who takes boiling hot baths,
emerge with new life, a towel piled on top of my head
carrying settled answers to all of my troubles.
I could open the bathroom door to an ostrich
with a goldfish in its mouth and be full
of healthy feeling.
But doesn’t the water
always run
too hot?
I slip in
shaky
like playing Don’t Buzz the Wire
and then I just sit, hunched over like a vile thing,
like a rolled up piece of Blu Tack. Steam seals in sweat
from all places. Half of me marinates in the stillness of it,
lonesome as a gargoyle with nothing to do. I stay steady
and still, except for the unpeeling of an arm from the pile
of my body, boobs sticky and squished between my belly
and knees, to flick on the cold tap. I rise up
after twenty minutes, fire engine red and bright as a postcard,
bat an ostrich’s little head away.

………………………………………………………*****

Considering my Personality
by Daisy Thomas

I was abroad for the first real time and it was cold.
My vital organs were making ice packs of themselves
while I was busy arguing with a friend in England
about a bad thing she did.

I was smug for the first real time, like a rich man.
Typing out wordy messages to the friend
about her very selfish nature, everything
I touched vibrated gently,

even the hand of the cashier at duty-free
when I relinquished my foreign money, which danced
out my fingers, winked at me like teammates.
I smiled at her and picked up my fridge magnets,
re-adjusted my wooly hat though I was indoors,

tried to walk around like I lived
a full and complex life
and travelled often, carrying a lot
of exciting knowledge inside my big head.

It was so refreshing to be on bad terms with a friend.
I finally got to say to a person: You’re not who I thought you were.
And to another person: She’s not who I thought she was.

The friend told me I was immature
and I replied
with a photo of myself rolling my eyes
near the departures board.

Only mature people exist
at airports, I think.

………………………………………………………………*****

Code Red
by Lynn B Green

Madison pushed the memory stick into the computer and wiggled it around for good measure. Her heart thumped heavy as adrenalin careened out of control. She’d been here before, but never with this much promise. She’d read their emails and seen a few blurry photos depicting a tall woman with tree trunk legs. She’d studied her face and couldn’t for the life of her figure out why Luke was attracted to this woman. The file contained three photos and a movie, and even though the snapshots were tiny, she recognized them from previous correspondence.

She was tempted to jump straight to the video, but forced herself to scrutinize the photos for details she might have missed. The first was Julie at the beach wearing long carpenter shorts and a bikini top. It was grainy and taken from a distance. Unlike her own silky blonde curls, Julie’s hair was dark and cropped into a masculine style.

The second picture was equally unflattering, and she remembered the email accompanying it. Julie had been skiing with friends and had apologized to Luke for looking goofy. Her nose was red, her eyes bloodshot, and she had a blue woolly hat pulled down like a child’s. Her jacket was utilitarian and even the surrounding snow looked unappealing. Melanie didn’t bother enlarging the third one because it was the one of a mangy cat. She was disappointed.

She looked around their home office, scanning Luke’s medical journals and expensive knickknacks for something out of place. She didn’t find anything, but needed to slow down the unveiling of this movie. She went to the kitchen, poured a glass of ice-cold chardonnay, leant against the granite countertop, and took a sip. She inhaled the sweet aroma of coconut curry. Her phone vibrated; Luke was on nights.

“Hi hun,” he said. “What ya doing?”

“It’s Thursday…” she started.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” he said, finishing her sentence.  “You know…”

“I know, I know, it’s nothing like…”

“Exactly! Anyway, are the kids in bed?”

“Of course, and I made chicken curry – your favorite breakfast.”

“What would I do without you?” Luke said, as a Code Red was announced over the hospital’s intercom. “Gotta run. Love you.”

She wouldn’t be able to un-see the movie, but like a dried up, crusty scab, it was itching to be scratched. Her stomach lurched as the camera panned around their loft bedroom in the city. He’d removed the magazines and jewelry box from her nightstand, and replaced the gallery print of her and the kids with the Lyndon St. Victor Chaos oil.

“Look at me,” Luke demanded. The camera moved over Julie’s body. It was Madison’s first clear look at her. She was so unremarkable you wouldn’t look twice, yet Madison couldn’t pull her eyes away. Although the features were regular, they were small and unpleasing, almost like those of a Chihuahua superimposed onto a Bulldog’s broad face.

“That’s right baby,” Luke was saying. “Dance for me.” And Julie blushed as she jerked her body in awkward movements. She was wearing a tacky black bustier and strained fishnet stockings. Her thighs were large and fleshy. Her feet were fat sausages stuffed into black pumps. There were moles running down her neck and Madison’s face smarted as Luke reached out and grabbed a handful of plastic.

“Holy fake tits,” Madison said.

Luke positioned the camera onto a tripod, then perched on the edge of the bed and unzipped his chinos. Julie wobbled into the shot and knelt in front of him. He guided her head down and she made little pecking motions between his legs. His breathing labored and her busy mouth gave out a series of muffled whimpers. Madison felt embarrassed for them.

“Oh baby,” Luke said between gasps. “You know what I like.” And Madison couldn’t help but think he couldn’t be serious. “You’re my good little slave aren’t you? You’re going to do what I tell you, understand?”

“Oh my God,” Madison said. “Really Luke? She’s an absolute joke.” She paused the movie and put her head in her hands. She thought she should cry. This was pathetic. She got up and jumped around the room; she felt like a lunatic. She caught sight of her reflection in the hall mirror. Her dainty cheeks were flushed and her black eyeliner had smudged around her crystal blue eyes making her look like a drug addict. Her hair was piled into a topknot, but it was breaking free, golden wisps framing her face. She’d never felt so alive.

He tied Julie to the bedposts with the fishnets. “Look at the camera baby,” Luke said, and when she turned towards the little green light, she stared right into Madison’s eyes. The whole production was seedy. The initial sting was nothing more than wounded pride because he’d hooked up with such a skank. She finished her wine and watched the movie again.

At midnight their three year old cried out. The intoxicating smell of freshly bathed toddler soothed her as she tucked a shaggy blonde curl behind Timmy’s ear. She went into Claire’s nursery and popped the pacifier back in the little rosebud mouth, and held her chubby hand for a moment. “I love you baby,” she whispered.

Madison sighed. She attached the movie to an email. She entered the addresses of a few of Luke and Julie’s colleagues as well as the girl’s parents and sister. To divert suspicion, she added her own email address knowing Luke would intercept it before she got out of bed in the morning. She pressed send, deleted the email account she’d created five minutes before, and put the memory stick back in its hiding place. She changed into a pink frilly negligee, sprayed Chanel No.5 on her wrists, and fell asleep.

……………………………………………………………*****

Mum’s Secret Afternoon Tea
by Maggie Mackay

The table is set, clothed in doves, silver pastry forks,
Royal Albert plates, She’s not quite sure
where she should sit. The room fills with scent
of dried fruit and raspberry jam,
wafts of sugar and butter.
She hums and haws, checks the time,
checks it again, tinkers with cup swirls
of roses, forget-me-nots and violets.
And in the centre sits the cake stand,
scallop-edged in white, fruit scones,
melting moments and Victoria sponges,
favourites at church bazaars and beetle drives.

The doorbell rings. There stands Ruth,
follower of Naomi. Ruth has manners,
chooses the cake closest to her,
helps with washing up.
Miriam the prophet ignores the treats.
This Song of the Sea lass birls and loops,
shake-beating her timbrel.
Cups shoogle out of saucers.
My mother dances a polka, then a reel.
It all goes to her legs. Hallelujah.

A previous version appeared on Scottish Book Trust’s Nourish

………………………………………………………..******

The Only Astronomer in Medway
Barry Fentiman-Hall

Roger was
The only astronomer
In Medway

Roger was
Adamant about this
On Radio 3

Roger was
Delighted his message
Was read out

Roger was
Named when
Holst played That morning

Roger was
In good company he felt
A minor planet

Simon was
An astronomer from
Strood He tuned in too

Simon was
Unsurprised to hear this
And sighed

Simon was
Tired of this nonsense
Roger had form

Simon was
Saturnine, resigned
To such things

Simon was
Humble, the stars did not
Revolve around him

……………………………………………………………………………….*****

Flat Earth News
by Barry Fentiman-Hall

St Albans cathedral
Sails across the flat earth
Preaching to
The loft conversions
And curtain twitchers
Keepers of koi carp

It’s all to do with
The angle of the sun
And our perception
Shakespeare never wrote
The sonnets you know
All the evidence is there

I always seem to get this
When I take trains
Conspiracies find me
Within and without
As the curvature of the Earth
Takes care of my horizons

…………………………………………………………….*****

Mythomania
by Paul Waring

You always knew how to stand out,
impress in company or a crowd. Years later
I learned about your compulsion for tall
stories, ones embellished like an estate agent,
allowed to tumble out like acrobats and land
inside unsuspecting mouths.

A repertoire, well-rehearsed; delivered with charm;
magnet to attract admirers in public settings:
pubs, parties, weddings, even funerals. Multi-
coloured yarns spun into tapestry of lies
about all you’d done, exotic places you’d seen,
A-listers you knew, high-flying career
cruelly curtailed by your condition.

I’d lived with you, in love; naive to your
Rubik’s cube complexity – personality disorder
as yet undiagnosed – mastery of deceit,
reason-giving, excuses and becozums;
the truth hermetically sealed behind your lips—
until let out by revelations.

………………………………………………………………………….*****

What Grandma Said
by Jim Bates

The last time I saw my Grandmother Sara I’d wheeled her down to the community room of Meridian Way, the retirement home where she’d been living for the last year and a half.

“Is this okay?” I asked, setting the brake, “Are we close enough to the window?”

Grandma smiled, sat forward looking out over the skyline of Minneapolis and said, “It’s fine, Ethan, just perfect.”

“Would you like something to drink?” I indicated the refreshment area on the far wall, “Some tea, maybe?”

“A glass of water would be nice, dear. Just a small one.”

It may sound like a simple thing, but I liked that Grandma always told the truth. It was a way of life for her. If you asked her about anything: was she hungry, tired or thirsty, for example, or her opinion on politics or religion, she’d always be honest with you. In my experience, most people weren’t as forthcoming. Not Grandma Sara, she always said exactly what she was thinking. It was refreshing.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t do go anywhere.”

She laughed at my lame joke, “Don’t worry, I’m perfectly happy right here.”

My earliest memory of her was when I was four years old. We were snuggled on the couch, and I had my sleepy head resting in her lap, wrapped up in a shawl she’d knit. Mom dropped me off a lot back then when she went out on one of her increasingly frequent dates, but I didn’t mind. I loved being with Grandma. We were watching television, one of the courtroom dramas she enjoyed so much. I remember the guy on the witness stand being approached by a solemn looking man holding a bible and being asked to ‘Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

I roused myself and sat up, “What’s that mean, Grandma?”

“It means to never lie, Ethan. Always tell the truth.”

“Always?”

“Yes, always.”

It was my first life lesson from Grandma, and one that has always stayed with me.

She was a seamstress and worked for Lea’s Creations, a dress shop just off Nicolett Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Grandpa Ernie had been killed in World War II on D-Day and she lived in the bungalow they’d purchased in northeast Minneapolis just before he’d enlisted. She didn’t drive and took the bus back and forth to work. After mom left for good, Grandma took over the task of raising me and it was probably a good thing, too.

Once I was caught stealing a pack of gum with my friends Eddie and JK. They took off running and got away, but I wasn’t so lucky. The store manager, a huge, hairy man with bushy eyebrows, caught me by the collar of my tee-shirt and made me sit in the back room while he called Grandma.

“You’ve got yourself a career criminal in the making here, Mrs. Stevenson. Make no doubt about it.”

I was seven years old and terrified. Grandma left work and took the bus to the store. We walked home without saying a word, me becoming more and more frightened with each step.

We walked in through the back door and sat at the kitchen table. She looked me in the eye, her voice full of sadness, “Ethan, why did you do such a terrible thing? You just about broke my heart, stealing somebody else’s gum for pity sakes. Haven’t I raised you to be better than that?”

It was plain that I’d disappointed her and let her down. I felt horrible. “It wasn’t just me, Grandma. Eddie and JK were there, too, but when Mr. Jensen asked if anyone else with me I told him no.”

“So you lied?”

“No. Well, yes,” I said, tears suddenly flowing. I’d not only nearly broken her heart but also lied, a big No no, in Grandma’s book.

“So you didn’t tell on them?”

“No.”

Grandma sat back and thought for a moment before saying, “Well, then, good. That’s a good thing.”

“What do you mean? I thought I wasn’t supposed to lie.”

She surprised me by suddenly reaching over and hugging me. “No, you shouldn’t lie, but you need to do right by your friends, too. Sometimes it’s okay to lie a little like you did. It’s called a white lie.”

I didn’t realize that life could be so complicated, but Grandma dedicated herself to helping me navigate my way through it. We were close our entire lives.

That last day her heart was worn out, weakened by a series of mini-strokes, but her mind was sharp as a tack. I helped her choose Meridian Way, helped her move in, and visited at least every other day. She was the only family I had next to my wife and three kids.

One of things she told me that last day was how much she loved raising me.

“You were like a son to me, Ethan. The son I never had.”

What could I say? I gave her a heartfelt embrace and she hugged me back, both of us making the most of our time together. I’m glad that we did. She passed away that night due to a massive stroke. I was told she didn’t feel a thing.

And that thing about lying? Well, just before I left her that last day she asked if I ever regretted not having my birth mom around in my life.

“Were you okay with this old lady being your mother?” she asked.

I looked at her, this self-sacrificing woman who was the most wonderful person I’d ever known, and said, “Well, Grandma, I have to be honest here,” and I paused for effect, a long, pregnant moment, before grinning and saying, “You were the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“You wouldn’t lie,” she asked, joking.

“Never,” I said.

I remember that she smiled, then, and I did, too. I couldn’t have asked for more from her. And that’s the truth.

………………………………………………………………….*****

Sweet and Sour
by Mantz Yorke

In winter, each school day
began with porridge:
I’d dollop syrup in the middle
of the bowl, spiralling
the thinning gold to the edge,
then lick the spoon
when the thread became drips.

I didn’t understand
the dead lion on the tin
surrounded by swarming bees,
for I couldn’t see bees building
a honeycomb in a carcass
or relishing, like wasps,
a meal of rotting flesh.

Nor did I realise syrup
began as refiner’s waste –
sugary water used to wash
dried molasses from crystals,
used and used again
till considered spent and sent
for conversion into gold.

Now I know sugar is calories
without nutrition, risking cancer,
diabetes, coronary and stroke.
Wherever sugar comes from –
dead lion, corn, cane or beet –
a side of disease accompanies
those platters full of sweet.

…………………………………………………………….*****

Poem in Witch
TL Evans

Her chest is marble white and marble still
against her marble slab.
They left her in her hat. Still damp.
She’s naked otherwise.
The scalpel zips her open in a line
of lip gloss cochineal.
The vlogger gurns towards the camera.
“Let’s see what’s inside…”
Imagine his (now your!) surprise to find
it was (is now!) this poem (this very stanza!).

Then this: I was a witch. But witch was I?
I lay there in my hat, but did I lie
or did you lie to me? Which witchiness was nature, which was thrust upon me? If you grew up with broomsticks, warts and all,
which path do you think you would take?
Had you been scraping WITCH the noun
across and down your forearm all your teenage years
would you not paint your nails green as well?
If you were told there’s magic round the iris of your cat
and darkness in her coat concealing darknessess
that go a little deeper than skin deep in your old age,
which path, witch path: would you not?
What could be at stake (the stake!) except for me?
Your own perception of what me should be?

The vlog where she’d said this, with a million views,
a hundred thousand shares and 99k likes
had specified the ending thus. You choose:
share for ducking stool, like to burn alive.

……………………………………………………………*****

Unfaithful
by Edward Lee

Flowers in need of a vase
lie on the ground,
dropped there
with the door barely opened,
the sound from upstairs
not a sound
to be made without him,
followed by another sound
that should be made by him,

his flower-tinted world
falling apart around him
as he stands in the hallway,
listening,

to the end of it all.

………………………………………………………………..*****

Minutia: Power of Words that Hurt/ Heal — Or, Why am I Talking? [9++]
by Gerard Sarnat

On The Greater Discourse on Simile of the Heartwood Sutta

The dharma is:

1.visible to us
right here & now
2. immediate………………………………………………Robbed and shorn
3. onward leaning…………………………………….. sadhu gets forth
4. inviting to come……………………………………..with biksa bowl
take a look at just……………………………………….among temptations:
the way things are……………………………………. addicted to
5. experienced by……………………………………….honor/fame/gain,
the wise (promotion…………………………………..this is enough so
piece – or peace?)……………………………………….you stop practice
……………………………………………………………………..then still suffer?
The tree of life from……………………………………2. infatuated
outside to inside is:……………………………………..giving up killing,
1. leaves & twigs.…………………………………………stealing, sexual
— even squirrels…………………………………………..misconduct,
know, Don’t go too……………………………………….lying, etc. –
far out on a limb………………………………………….too content —
2. outer bark…………………………………………………more suffering.
3. inner bark……………………………………………….. 3. complacent
4. sapwood – 1mm……………………………………….with tranquility
of flowing xylem +……………………………………….of concentration,
phloem we studied………………………………………Continue to suffer.
in grade school…………………………………………… .4. glimpse reality
5. heartwood essence…………………………………..of impermanence,
……………………………………………………………………….settle for this state,
Monastic steps for………………………………………. praise self while
journey to the core:……………………………………..disparaging others,
1. go forth ordained……………………………………..neglect Buddha
2. be accomplished ………………………………………5. unshakeable
in virtue…………………………………………………………liberation of the
3. be accomplished……………………………………….heart is attained:
in concentration……………………………………………the heartwood is
4. attain vision &…………………………………………..a part of us sings
knowledge –insight……………………………………….like birds chirping
5. ongoing freedom……………………………………….in our Bodhi tree.

2.”Evil Tongue”: לשון הרע; Wow Finish

Lashon hara’s a halakhic term of art
in the legal part of our Jewish Talmud
for derogatory speech about another
— specifically speech that though true
is being used for a wrongful purpose
and not seriously intended to improve
or correct a basically negative situation.

Hotzaat shem ra (“spreading a bad name”),
best translated as “slander” or “defamation,”
by contrast really consists of false remarks.
Then of course there’s rechilut, aka gossiping.

Above ultimate’s both difficult plus opaque
to me who prefers the simpler more translucent
Vipassana Buddhist concept of Right Speech —
which means beyond truth something must also
be positive and useful before it should be said.

With that said as foreplay, now that dear mother
is freshly dead, instead of violating all of above
— I will try to honor her 102 years which made
my life as well as those of my family possible.

3. Cosmopolitan Sponge

I am a quarky scounger osmosing the universe,
who bi-valvular, effortlessly exudes
plus soaks up while diffusing down
a concentration gradient through
semi-permeable calcium-channel membranes.

When life is sucked out of me,
homeostasis causes moi to turn flaccid
and shrivel but being hyper-toned —
turgid, hard, swollen– is no ideal solution
either since perhaps I’ll just explode chaotically.

Though easier said than done, non-self’s
the simplest multi-cellular organism: a spongy
bottom-dwelling hermaphrodite not needing
to attach to something solid yet still hoping
to receive enough radiated energy to grow.

4. Victories

“I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces
Of my shoe tangled up in blue.” –Dylan

……..Winged
getting in then
out of car, hobble
to meditation
……..center
1st time 22 years
not heeding
shoes-off rule
……..‘cause
despite slip-ons
can’t get ‘em
there without
……..help
no longer fit
for floor zafu
reluctantly on
……..chair
where red mind
negotiates spinal
stenosis with
……..nobody
[Ok’ll settle for this
level imperfection–no
laps, backpacking even
……..glamping
fantasies] b4 Noble
Truths dharma talk,
lately don’t catch
……..jokes
just preceding
our sangha’s
laughs which I
…….miss
finally intent
figuring if it’s
hearing or
……..sense
of humor that’s
been lost –walk
over to attempt
……..maybe
misplaced assist
device happens
to make a big
……..difference.

5. NOBLE TRUTH HAIKU

Haiti

My baby’s crying.
Too much of the world, whimpers
still mean starvation.

Action and Reaction [2]

Huế, Vietnam

Caged chimp grabs glasses,
gestures, Will give back for plums
— then of course doesn’t.

Plum Village, France

The Venerable
Thích Nhất Hạnh’s response — sentient
beings should be free.

Collective Hallucination

Ghosts are folks you meant
something to but never see
when we might love them.

Zionism

Jerusalem loved,
I moved to Tel Aviv — home
got much too holy

*Suffering in Pali 

6. Jew Observing Theist Month

Christ, you sometimes have the same tsuris I do
muckraking that reality appears to be

1) George W. Bush invading Iraq to eliminate
Muslim weapons of mass destruction –
how’ll he react to skinny North Korean Buddhists?

2) self-worshipping buffoon Trump
acting as Prez of the United States of America?
Not getting Hillary elected, Obama ain’t God.

7. Encomium: In The Stars

Smartest move
I never planned was
stumbling into Bubbe.

Bumbler had been taken
in by some other girls’
apparent charms

but bumping into
my half century partner
has turned out to be by far

luckiest lightning ever hit me:
her temperament, father’s
superb child-rearing

then PhD in parenting
skills qualify you dear wife
as our Queen of Generativity.

8. PRISONER HAIKU

Women’s Group Process
We weave
primary gang colors
into a quilt of intimacy.

5 AM Equanimity Practice Haiku
Hundreds of hungry
inmates line up for
fixes — a pressure cooker.

Post Prison
Surfing the Pacific
after 60 years –a kid’s
zest again – plop.

Coincidencia
Is it by chance hombres who’ve asked,
“Tu marriage monogamous?”
son bi?

9. Back To The Future

Technology oozing from every orifice
of this huge pale structure
I worked in 40 years ago, the staff lift’s
full of women of color
speaking in native tongues & staring at
special smart devices —
ones who seem to know what’s going on
wear badges/suits/headgear
that more suggest Star Wars space stations
than the lily-white place
I spent my young adulthood along with all
the other male physicians
in the same but different Stanford Hospital.

………………………………………………………….*****

Post-Lies
by John Houlihan

“The day they abolished lying, most people still believed it would never work. Then the nano-drones arrived, and we entered a new kind of reality.

It began with the very best of intentions of course. Over there they’d endured a president who redefined the term mendacious and just before his impeachment, couldn’t even tell himself when he was lying anymore. Then came the catastrophic sundering of Europe based on more lies, the combined deceptions of a self-interested horde of charlatans, liars, plutocrats and billionaires – and the self-deceptions of so many prepared to believe them.

After that double catastrophe, people had had enough of fake news, alternative facts, truth isn’t true, and foreign actors meddling in their affairs (and their feeds). The whole world was crying out for someone to do something, anything, but we never quite guessed what that certain someone had in mind.

Still, people were willing to embrace change, open to it, ready for it, but perhaps not expecting it. Then one otherwise unremarkable Tuesday evening, warnings began to appear across every imaginable media outlet and across every conceivable social media feed, eight words in bold neon type:

“The end is coming. The end of lies…”

Most people still thought it was a hoax. A clever one mind, otherwise how else could it infect every single broadcaster, site, platform and other source of information, and translate itself into every language across the known world?

Besides people may yearn for truth, but truth is a hard thing to define: your truths are true for you, but for me? Well, they might make as much sense as a symphony of Mongolian nose flutes.

But lies? Ah, now lies you can detect. There are tells, pupil dilation, autonomic responses, subtle changes in expression or breathing, that skilled interrogators and sensitive equipment can perceive. Sensitive equipment like billions of autonomous self-replicating micro-drones which had been released out into the world with but a single purpose.

But who did the releasing? Well no-one knew and no-one ever stepped forward to claim the credit —or perhaps that’s the wrong word — either. The smart money was on some Silicone Valley techpreneur with a messiah complex, but if nothing else, they at least had a sense of humour. In the initial release when someone lied, the drones just formed a big red flashing exclamation mark above that person’s head, bleating an unmistakeable visual warning.

Version two-point-zero went even further. When mankind’s unknown benefactor deployed that update, the drones began to behave differently. Ever time someone lied, the drones swarmed and the person’s nose grew an inch. With every subsequent falsehood, it would double, expanding exponentially until birds could perch on it. You’re familiar with the fairy tale I take it? No wonder people dubbed it ‘Pinocchio Syndrome’.

Imagine that, instant visual feedback on when someone’s being economical with the vérité?

The changes were instant and most profound. No more half-truths, no more evasions, even the noble and ancient art of good old fashioned bullshitting went into a steep and terminal decline.

People became a lot more guarded about what they had to say, if they said anything at all. Questions became weapons, answers were either truthful, or risked instant exposure and humiliation Trying to sound sincere when you’ve got an ever-expanding proboscis? Never a good look.

Personal relationships suffered too of course, those dozens of little white lies, half truths and minor fabrications that oil the daily machine swiftly vanished and people became too afraid to ask.

“I love you” quickly became the most loaded of all statement-questions.

The question that dare not be speak its name was pretty much all of them, apart from the blandest of observations. The world woke up to — and suddenly wholeheartedly endorsed — Britain’s eternal and ongoing fascination with the weather.

There were some winners of course, the legal system swiftly cleared its backlog overnight, and an open and shut case became the norm, easily resolved at the plea stage with the simple question: “Are you guilty or not guilty?”

Estate agents and used car salesmen suffered (to everyone’s obvious delight) but politicians, well, they were the worst hit. Your hearts bleeds? Yeah everyone else’s too, for all of a nano-second. The first prime minister’s questions post-Pinocchio was incredible, a constant stream of unvarnished truth that issued forth in manner which had never been seen before, and will never be seen again.

Truth became weaponised and it was wielded with an almost laser-like precision.

But then someone spoiled it all, one of those media bastards, asking that question, that terrible question, the one question that should never have been asked, the one to which we were all better off not knowing the answer.

“Prime minister, how long has mankind got? Climate change, pollution, poisoning the environment and the suffocation of the oceans. Have we reached a tipping point whereby our species has doomed itself to extinction within the next 50 years?”

The echoing silence spoke volumes and then … well then, the world really went up in flames.”

…………………………………………………………………..*****

Examination of Conscience
by Agnieszka Filipek

on the edge of yesterday
I stood at the crossroads of my heart
and killed two loves with one stone
God has forgiven me
you would forgive me too

on the edge of today
I forget myself
I cut my hair and shamelessly
put on a white dress
the priest forgives me

on the edge of tomorrow
the sea of sadness
will come under my feet
I will turn my back on memories
God will forgive me

on the edge of life
in a black dress
I will finally
remember
and forgive myself

………………………………………………………….*****

Life Insurance
by Mark Blayney

……………..I saw the photocopies in the morning
……………..left on the table by the ashtray.
……………..Do you smoke? He’d ticked N.
……………..Do you drink? He’d ticked N.

Mum filed them, she was good at hiding things away.
Why has he ticked No? I said. A shrug. Ask him.

……………..Ah well, someone I met in a pub
……………..said that if you smoke pipes
……………..it doesn’t count as smoking
……………..for insurance purposes.

He rolled a cigarette, lit it, puffed. But you smoke cigarettes
I said. He shook his head. Pipe tobacco, he explained

……………..tapping the yellow slippery packet
……………..then thumbing the cigarette. So why
……………..tick no for drinking? Because, he
……………..said, it’s none of their business.

But won’t it be invalid, I said,
if they find out you’ve been drinking and smoking?
He shrugged. It won’t be my problem.
That’s what insurance means.

Welcome to Idea
by Fay Kesby

Idea is beautiful, they say,
their eyes half closed, lips turned up,
faces tipped to an imaginary sun.
In Idea, the food is all fresh and cheap,
bought at open markets
where the tang of blood of fish
mixes with the smell of fresh fruit,
the bright colours ripe to be captured
on your brand new iPhone 8002.
In Idea, the people all smile.
They treat you like family,
what’s theirs is yours
and what’s yours is yours
and your money is no good here.
They have no industry for tourists to exploit.
In Idea, everything is untouched.
The air is clean and smells of grass and animal dung,
yours is the only car on the road
and you have to edge it around herds of cows or goats
as you head for clear blue skies and hills to climb,
for old buildings to penetrate
and clean places to leave your footprints.
Idea is beautiful, they say,
you really should go there
before it becomes Reality.


Biographies

Jem Henderson I am a professional writer and creative writing tutor with an MA in Creative Writing from York St. John University. I strive to write for fun, for escape and for getting the damn stuff out, not just for work.

Barry Fentiman Hall is a Kent based poet. He is the editor of Confluence Magazine and has been widely published magazines such as Crack The Spine, The Blue Nib, and Picaroon. His debut full collectiom England My Dandelion Heart came out this year.

Mbeke Waseme is a mother, writer educationalist, coach, blogger, and yoga teacher.  She was born in the UK to Jamaican parents. She is a writer.

Gary Glauber: I am a poet and a teacher. As a former journalist and current teacher of journalism, I am appalled by the blurring of truth in politics and media, and still teach the importance of objective truth to my students. My poetry books, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press), Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press), and Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), are available through Amazon.com.

Mark Hudson is an American poet and writer, who has 50% ancestry from England, thus the name Hudson. He has had poems published online, in books, and internationally. In England in particular, he used to publish sci-fi poems in the English sci-fi newsletter “The Handshake,” which since has gone out of business. From there, he discovered Atlantean publishing U.K. and it’s sister publication, Tigershark Magazine U.K. where through both he has had some luck publishing.

Susannah Violette is an artist, silversmith and poet living in the ‘endless forest’ in Germany with her husband and two daughters.

Hazel Hammond: “I have been writing since my early twenties ( now 73) Have had a book of poetry on tattoos published and perform regularly in Bristol. This year I had a multi media exhibition which included my poetry, an installation and a light show – Marietta’s Wardrobe.”

Fay Kesby: You can find my writing on
womensrepublic.net and faykesby.wordpress.comFind me on Twitter @FayKesby, Facebook @SponsandToons and Instagram @spoons_toons

Miki Byrne has had three collections published and hundreds of individual poems.She has read on radio and on TV, run a writing group and performed her work in many places. She is disabled and lives in Gloucestershire.

Sandra Horn: “I’m a writer living in Southampton. I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pencil and have a string of children’s books to my name. Poetry is my first love. I’ve written to commissions from BBCActive and have been published in Artemis Magazine and one or two anthologies.”

Mark Connors is a poet, novelist and writing tutor from Leeds, with a pamphlet (OWF Press, 2015), a full length collection (Stairwell Books, 2017) and two novels to his name (Armley Press 2016, 2018).

Gareth Writer-Davies Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017). Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition (2015) and Prole Laureate for 2017. Commended Welsh Poetry Competition (2015) Highly Commended (2017) His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015  by Indigo Dreams and the pamphlet “Cry Baby” came out 2017. His first collection “The Lover’s Pinch” (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018.

Millicent Stott “I am a 16 year old aspiring writer and poet who loves to travel, read and swim in the sea. ”

Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist in the renewable energy sector. As well as poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis.

Diana Devlin “I’ve been writing most of my life. You can find my work in Writers’ Café, New Voices Press, the Stray Branch, Pangolin Review and elsewhere online and in print. A former teacher, translator and editor, I live in the West of Scotland and now write full time.

J. Mitchell’s poetry has appeared in several anthologies and been dramatized on BBC2. Her play, English Rose, was broadcast on Radio 4. She was poet-in-residence of the Westway in North Kensington; and her travel articles have appeared in The Guardian and The Observer. She regularly performs her poetry in London.

Steve Smart: “I am a poet and artist living in a small village in Angus, Scotland. My work has been published in Firth, Atrium, Poet’s Corner, Fat Damsel, and Ink, Sweat and Tears amongst others. Recently I have been directing a collection of short films for an online poetry project called ‘Poems for Doctors’, a collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the Scottish Poetry Library.”

Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over a hundred and fifty literary magazines all over the world including Cheap Pop, Pure Slush, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta StudiesThe Dead Mule School of Southern LiteratureSlice of LifeFaircloth Review, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released. His website is www.nilesreddick.com

Stella Wulf’s poems are widely published both in print and online, and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, and #MeToo. Her pamphlet, After Eden, was published by 4word in May 2018. She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.

Linda Menzies lives in Fife.  Her work has appeared in a number of magazines, e-zines and anthologies including New Writing Dundee, Shortbread, Green Queen, East Lothian Life, Contour and The Fat Damsel. She’s won prizes for both poetry and short stories. Publications: Epiphanies (poetry, 2009) and Into the Light (poetry/ short stories 2014).

Megan Pattie “I live on the North East coast of England and was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2009. My poetry has appeared in a variety of online and print publications, and I am currently working on my first pamphlet. You can find me on Twitter @pattiepoetry.”

Gary Beck spent most of his life as a theater director. He has 14 published chapbooks, 17 published poetry collections, 7 accepted for publication. He has 4 novels published and 3 accepted for publication, and 2 short story collections published, 1 accepted for publication. He lives in NYC.

Tom Langlands “I am a retired architect and a freelance award-winning photo journalist and writer based in SW Scotland. I have a particular interest in nature and wildlife. My photography and writing has appeared in numerous publications in the UK and abroad.”

Gerard Sarnat has been nominated for Pushcarts, won prizes and is widely published including by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkinsand in Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, MiPOesias, Brooklyn Review, LA Review. KADDISH FOR COUNTRY was selected for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day nationwide. “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for his 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium. Collections: Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016).  Gerry’s a physician who’s built/staffed homeless clinics, a Stanford professor/healthcare CEO who’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus four grandkids and more on the way.

Finola Scott is published in The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, And other Poems and  Clear Poetry among other places. Mentored by Liz Lochhead on Scotland’s Clydebuilt Scheme, she recently read at The Edinburgh Book Festival.

Maggie Mackay, a jazz and whisky loving Scot is a recent MA graduate with work in Algebra of Owls, Amaryllis, Atrium, Prole, The Everyday Poet, Southlight and Three Drops Press, and forthcoming in the #MeToo anthology, March 2018. Her poems were nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and the Pushcart Prize in 2017  and her first pamphlet will be published later this year.

Janet Reed: “I am a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee publishing my truth as I see it.  I am the author of Blue Exhaust, a chapbook forthcoming in 2019, and I teach writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.”

Ian Dudley has published online at LossLit, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Zoomorphic, and in print in Aesthetica, The Dark Horse, Poetry Saltzburg Review, The North, The Rialto, and Wasafiri, amongst others.

Alex Williams: “I am a fiction MFA student at Columbia University hoping to one day make a living from writing words and reading them out. ”

Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet, Off the wall, published by Indigo Dreams, explores art, voice and silence. She teaches and mentors the writing of novels, autobiography, poetry. http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

Alun Robert Born in Scotland of Irish lineage, Alun is a prolific creator of lyrical verse and has achieved success in poetry competitions. He has featured in literary magazines, anthologies and on the web.

Daisy Thomas is a poet based in London. She is a candidate on the Creative and Life Writing MA at Goldsmiths, and reader for MISTRESS Journal.

TL Evans lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three kids. He typically writes poems on his iPhone on his commute to London, addressing themes such as ‘commuting’ and ‘London’. He placed third in the National Poetry Competition 2016 and was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition by Luke Kennard, who described his work as “annoyingly well crafted”.

John Houlihan “I’m a British science-fiction and fantasy writer, perhaps best known for my Seraph Chronicles series including recent novel, Before the Flood, and I’ve also contributed to anthologies like The Hotwells Horror and Flash Fiction Volume One.” More info at: @johnh259 or http://www.john-houlihan.net

Jim Bates is retired after working many years as a course developer and sales and technical trainer for a large manufacturing company. In addition to CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine and issue #2 of A Million Ways, his stories can be found on his website: http://www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com

Nicky Phillips has recent poems in The Curlew, Picaroon, Snakeskin and Eunoia Review. In 2017 she had poems nominated for the Best Single Poem category in the Forward Prizes and for Best of the Net.  Her first collection, Jam in Aisle 3, was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.

Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll.

Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in a number of print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US, Australia and Hong Kong.

Rona Fitzgerald has poems in UK, Scottish, Irish and US publications both in print and online. Originally from Dublin, she now lives in Glasgow. Most recent publications are Poems for Grenfell Tower, Onslaught Press 2018, and #Me Too, Fair Acre Press, 2018.

Agnieszka Filipek lives in Galway, Ireland. She writes in both, her native tongue Polish and in English. Her work was published internationally in countries, such as Poland, Ireland, United States and India. For more see http://www.agnieszkafilipek.com

Mark Blayney won the Somerset Maugham Award for Two kinds of silence. Third story collection Doppelgangers and poetry Loud music makes you drive faster are published by Parthian. He’s a Hay Festival Writer at Work and longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. markblayney.weebly.com

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. In 2017 his debut pamphlet, ‘Killing the Piano’, was published by Half Moon Books, and he won the prestigious Open Mic Competition at Ilkley Literature Festival. His second book, ‘An Otley Run’, will be published in late 2018.www.joewilliams.co.uk

Paul Waringis a semi-retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in Liverpool bands. His poems have been widely published in print journals, anthologies and online magazines. Paul’s blog is https://waringwords.wordpress.com

John Scottie Collins was born and brought up in Scotland. He writes short fiction and has been published in print journals and online magazines. He is a retired social worker and now lives on the Wirral, near Liverpool in England, after travelling in Spain and Portugal for several years.

Lynn B Green is a born again poet and storyteller. She recently earned a creative writing degree and is spreading her wings and writing up a storm. You can find her between the lines of her blog, This One Goes Out To The One I Love, at http://www.flirtyburtie.blogspot.com/


4 thoughts on “The Writers’Cafe Magazine – ISSUE 12 “Truths and Lies”

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