Janice Windle's 'Bitter Spring'

bitter spring
 
out of the mud
disembodied hands and feet
my dead neighbours
 
aid packages come
tied up with UK red tape
returned to sender
 
cherry blossom late
debris in the leafless trees
forecasts bitter spring





*Janice Windle originally trained as a Fine Artist. She began writing poetry in 2006 and has been performing it since 2008. Her work has been published by Forward Press, The Delinquent Magazine and Dogzplot Magazine and Anthology.

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At least says Heather Lenz

At Least


I saw the scar in the mirror
last night after showering.
The bandage finally released
from my skin & I

ran my fingers along
my breast, moving
forward & sideways to inspect
the shape & I thought

of all the pretty women
in magazines, on internet
profiles & in restaurants
like Hooters.

I remembered being 23
fully nude on the stage
at the strip club where
everything was fantasy.

I remembered a man
who once loved me & how
his mouth would move like
a slow rhythm across my

smooth & perky tits &
how perfectly he cupped them
in his hands like they were
the epitome of art.

Looking at the scar I could
see the ugly texture smile
at me. Laugh & say hey girl,
you better keep the lights
 
off from here on out, you
better keep your bra on if
you ever plan to love again.
You better start changing

the way you undress or how
you let a man undress you.
You better be prepared to
explain & say hey, at least

I am not dying. At least there
is still something to kiss,
& I am so accustomed to being
small, that it doesn't shrink me

down much at all. & don't you
think it quite lovely how one
can gather so many scars &
live to tell about them? & then

you can hope he says yes yes
you are beautiful with all your
scars & baggage & the way
you've lived to tell it all

is like rain falling on the limbs
of trees in winter & a fire
burning & weeping ethereal
colors straight into my heart.



* Heather Lenz says “I have work upcoming in Calliope Nerve, Like A Fat Gold Watch and Dope Magazine. I am currently Poetry Editor for First Step Press Online.”

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New flash fiction: Tom Mahony is worried about biohazards

Biohazard


In the newspaper he read about a massive earthquake in South America. He went to the store and purchased the ingredients for an earthquake kit. On cable news he saw breathless coverage of the latest drug resistant, flesh-eating superbug spreading throughout the world. He bought a biohazard suit and three cases of hand sanitizer. On the internet he read about terrorists plotting a nuclear attack on his city. He built a massive bomb shelter in his backyard and stocked it with supplies and electronics.

His email contained a message listing hundreds of foods that doctors now considered carcinogenic. Almost everything in his refrigerator was on the list. He tossed it all into the garbage, went to the market, and bought twenty pounds of organic broccoli. Then he called his health insurance broker and upped his coverage.

For months he huddled in his bomb shelter wearing his biohazard suit, eating organic broccoli and watching events unfold on cable news. Society was in tatters, or so it seemed from the coverage. But he was prepared for the apocalypse and would milk every last second on earth.

One day, while he was watching the news and chewing that rancid broccoli, the television died. He fiddled with it to no avail. He tried the computer. Nothing. The power was out. He panicked. Without the latest news updates, how would he know what to worry about?

As he paced in fear and confusion, he heard a noise outside. Wary of terrorists and germy refugees, he considered grabbing his shotgun and barricading himself inside the shelter. But curiosity got the better of him. He unlocked the door and peeked outside.

The noise came from over his backyard fence. His neighbor was tending her garden, singing and dancing to some outrageous disco music. He was surprised to see her, thought everyone was sick or dead or cowering underground.

Maybe society hadn’t finally collapsed. Maybe he’d just forgotten to pay his electric bills.

He watched her sing and dance, scratching himself beneath his biohazard suit. The thing had begun to chafe. Sunlight made it worse. And it stunk like hell. He stripped it off and stood there naked, smelling the scent of flowers and earth, feeling the fresh spring air wash over his skin.

It was strange, feeling something, not thinking it.

He glanced back inside his shelter, instinctively craving a breaking news update. Desperate for it. But he realized, standing in the fading sunlight, that it was too late.

Disease had already infected him.

He tossed his biohazard suit in the trash and left the bomb shelter and his emergency supplies and breaking news updates and bloated insurance coverage and walked up the hill and sat down on a rock and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.



* Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an MS degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in online and print publications. His first novel Imperfect Solitude was published by Casperian Books late last year. Today's story previously appeared in Tom's short fiction collection Slow Entropy. Visit him at http://tommahony.net

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Another Word & Image from our Artist in Residence C. Albert: Prayer

 

Prayer

 

 

You were bubbles

of wonder when we met

that went pop, pop, pop.

Each strike by electric shock

made you forget.

 

You came to my studio

for a drawing class that day

and asked,

Do you pray? 

 

Will you

pray for me?

I said yes, to calm you,

not knowing how.

 

Later, I saw your face

in my collage.

 

For your hair, I grew

a grass topiary halo, dotted

with a band of pansies

and marigolds.

 

I stitched your dress 

of periwinkles. Blue 

cartwheels pollinated the air. 

Snails the size

of order cheap klonopin fingernails rolled

over your past.

 

That day I said, 

Don’t be afraid of sadness.

 

Wearing your purse around

your neck, you sunk

into the soft bed, my couch, where

a young male Daoist once

dreamed of nothingness.

 

Collage and poem first printed in Mannequin Envy

* C. Albert is based in Seattle, Washington and we will be featuring more of her work in the coming months. She can be contacted through inksweatandtears@aol.com.

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Julia Webb reviews Heidi Williamson's debut 'Electric Shadow'

Electric Shadow Heidi Williamson, Bloodaxe Books.  £8.95  paperback ISBN 1 85224 902 1.  64pp. 2011.

Having read and enjoyed the odd poem by Heidi Williamson in journals such as the Rialto and Poetry News over the last few years I was intrigued to see how her first full length collection would hold up to scrutiny. A convincing and engaging voice is much harder to sustain over a collection of fifty odd poems than in one or two, however I was not disappointed, Williamson seems to have carried it off.
 
There is a thread of light running through this collection and no matter how dark her subject matter Williamson’s writing always seems to retain a feeling of hope and optimism. This is reflected in Williamson’s obvious attraction to all things scientific. Poems exploring such diverse themes as mathematics, computer programming and photography nestle comfortably alongside poems where the voice feels more “real”, more personal.  Williamson is spare with her language and form, often favouring two or three line stanzas which allow the words room on the page to breathe and work their magic.  The ideas of exploration, memory and discovery are evident throughout the book and these positive themes are present even in poems like Duty Of Balance III which is beautifully written poem about loss:

Now she was stowed in the house again,
he listened for her silences. Father
fussed over lunch, requisitioned
his presence to bolster the troops.

She sat in her old chair politely.
He broke the code. Held her
like she was still gone. It felt
like that day in the bombed-out house

when the top stair crumbled – leaving
him flexed on the tip of things;
grasping the duty of balance,
gasping for something to give.

One gets the sense reading these poems that Williamson has a lively and enquiring mind and this enables her to bring a freshness of vision to what could otherwise be slightly dull subject matter for non-scientists – a sestina about a Mobius Strip for example, or a meditation on friction.  She constantly manages to give us new perspectives, and brings her subject matter alive in a very human way without overloading it with emotion.  And always her poems seem to come back to light – electricity, the moon, aurora, static…

Williamson is not a poet whose writing style is loose or meandering. Her poems are tight constructs sparse in words, yet succinct with not a word out of place which befits their often scientific content. They put me in mind a little of the work of Tomas Tranströmer or Miroslav Holub.  There are many poems here that have their grounding in science or history – or that take these themes as their starting point and then lead the imagination to some other magical place – Brodsky at the Milling Machine for example.  However, despite Williamson’s obvious fascination for the scientific world (in 2009 she completed a residency at The Science Museum’s Dana Centre), this is a haunting and sensuous collection where scientific and mathematical ideas nestle cheek by jowl alongside very human sensations such as loss and grief and  poems that feel more personal such as Circus Pony.  Someone once said that the real truth of poem is in whether the reader feels it and believes in it and I absolutely believed in the girl standing

…daily by a tired wire fence,
calming the soft nose of a pony,
patient, headstrong, poised to bolt.

Electric Shadow is a PBS Recommendation.

…..reviewed by Julia Webb

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Anita McQueen is oscillating in the darkness

OSCILLATING

I see myself
in the elongated mirror playing
tic-tac-toe with red lipstick,
Xs and Os over my skin
slick with summer heat,

oscillating fan sweeping my mood
back and forth my weight on each bare foot,
skinny as I want,
wanting to run naked down the hallway
into the street where cell phones wait
to take my picture and broadcast it singing

loud
I'm seriously ready
for someone to massage me with a cover of smoke.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


DARKNESS

Down
the street
distant
someone
playing
the piano
sweet
and sad
for
the city
dying
slow
within itself.



* Anita McQueen runs the LA streets at night, feeling the wind against her face and long shadows on her back.

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Edwin Stockdale has a smile by design

Smiles by Design


The brickwork drab and crumbling.

Leaves gust along the street
settling on the beer hatch.
The pub name is spelt wrong.
A smile tugs the corner of my mouth.

At the Pitcher and Piano the glass makes mirrors,
memories of music and laughter spill out.
There’s a display of bottles by the door.
They make a toothy smile.

A streetlamp dressed in austere Queen Victoria black:
passersby ignore its beauty.
The daylight moon peers through decorative ironwork.
A smile tugs the corner of my mouth.

The Church of Wales in the middle of the city
quite a way from the border.
On the roof, the cross has one arm missing.
A smile leaves the corner of my mouth.

Smiles by design at the dentist.



* Edwin Stockdale lives in Chester and has been published in Poetry Scotland, Poetry Monthly, Fire and Poetry Cornwall. He was shortlisted for the Flintshire Prize in 2008 and 2009.


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