Zach Murphy

 

 

 

Why the river?

Shannon sat in her tattered recliner chair and scowled at the cheesy infomercials on the television. It’d been exactly four years since the Mississippi River took her son Gus away.

Gus was a freshman at the state university where he became a victim of toxic substances, barbaric rituals, and a desperate will to fit In.

Shannon’s fight for justice fell into the cracks of despair until her cries went completely unheard. She cursed the Kappa Sigma fraternity for continuing to exist. She cursed the university for its disgusting negligence and its audacity to ask people for money. And she cursed the river for carrying on as if nothing had happened.

When the clock hit 2:00 AM, Shannon decided to take her pickup truck for a drive to the university campus. Her passengers were a bucket of black paint, a dirt-covered brick, and a ladder.

As Shannon slowly pulled up to the fraternity house where Gus began his final night on earth, her heart sank and her blood boiled simultaneously. But she wasn’t going to turn back.

She grabbed the bucket of paint, quietly closed the truck door, and fetched the ladder from the back. She ran toward the house and hoisted the ladder against the front of the balcony. She took the paint and drenched the Kappa Sigma symbol in black. Then she wrote “Leave before it’s too late” boldly across the house’s siding.

Her next visit was to the Dean’s office. She pulled up outside, attached a note to the brick that said “I’m gonna haunt you until your world knows no happiness” and tossed it into the office window. The glass shattered like Shannon’s life when she first heard the news about her son, and she sped off with an ear-piercing screech.

After picking a shard of glass out of her boot, Shannon parked the truck under a shadow and walked across the road toward the river’s edge. The street lights flickered as if they had a secret to tell. She always wondered if Gus was alone when he wandered off. She wondered why he decided to walk toward the river, or if he even decided at all. She wondered if he slipped and stumbled into the river, or if he was just trying to soak his pain into oblivion.

Shannon looked out at the river. The moon reflected upon its rolling ripples. She tossed the paint bucket into the water, along with any notion of a shred of remorse for what she’d just done. She closed her eyes as the early morning breeze whipped around and the cold water splashed onto her weathered face. And for the first time since Gus’ death, a tiny sliver of her soul felt alive.

 

 

Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Peculiars Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Emerge Literary Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Ghost City Review, Lotus-eater, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Fat Cat Magazine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Jonah Corren

 

 

 

Unravelling

Fields like tapestry   Fields like patchwork quilt   Fields like
ripples over water    Fields like sunspots on lens
Fields floating clouds  shifting with wind   shapes always
changing   an old stone wall  diced onion in
a frying pan  ladders in a pair of tights   Fields
like computer monitors  sheep frantic screen-savers
Fields like squares on a chessboard  livestock pawns
slowly moving into battle   Fields like tablets  foil
pierced with nail end  take two every four hours
with water  do not exceed the stated dose   Fields like ridges
on a knife edge  teeth-marks in a stone  Fields like trap-doors
or unblinking eyes   Fields unmarked graves   Fields burning
torches   Fields burning red mosquito bites  growing and itching
and itching   Fields dismembered limbs   Fields scars over skin

 

 

Jonah Corren‘s work has been published in Alter Egos: A Bad Betty Anthology and is forthcoming on the 84 Blog. He is also a UniSlam champion, and a BBC New Creative.

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Gail McConnell on Father’s Day

 

 

 

Untitled / Villanelle

I have often longed to see my mother in the doorway.’- Grace Paley
Because having a father made me want a father. – Sandra Newman

I have often longed to see my mother
tap-dance in a top hat like she did before he died –
having (had) a father made me want a father.

A mather / madder / mether is a measure
that keeps its shape & holds what’s stored inside –
I often see my mother.

Mistype the word it stretches to a fother
(a cartload carries fodder, hitched outside) –
a father made me.

You come to know the one against the other.
You measure till the meanings coincide.
I have often longed to see my father.

My mother’s  mother died before her daughter was a mother.
Alone, she gave me all she could provide –
(not) having a father made me want (to be) a father.

What am I to you? Mother? Father? Neither?
Like cells, names split & double, unified.
I have often longed to mother
mother father fother mather matherfother fothermather

 

 

Gail McConnell is a writer and lecturer from Belfast. Her first poetry pamphlet is Fourteen (Green Bottle Press, 2018). Fothermather (IS&T Press, 2019), her second, explores new parenthood and queerness. Gail’s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, PN Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Blackbox Manifold and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of two Arts Council Northern Ireland awards. Gail lectures in English at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast and publishes criticism of Irish and British poetry.

 

Note: This poem appears in Fothermather which was joint winner of the 2017 IS&T Commission for new work. It was first published in Poetry Review (autumn issue, 2018).  You can order Fothermather from our shop: http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk

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Claire Booker reviews ‘John Dust’: poems by Louise Warren, ink drawings by John Duffin

 

 

 

Poetry comes from a deeply personal inner landscape. But what happens when external geographies bring their own emotional and social clout to the party?

Enter John Dust – the riveting personification of Louise Warren’s native Somerset. Dust feels dangerous, fascinating, unstable, yet deeply rooted – a magical legerdemain by Warren, who gives us a Green Man for the modern age.

Prepare to be charmed, hoodwinked, even seduced by Dust, who is:
“. . . narrow as a pipe, face like a clay bowl

choked-up, stony-broke
chest blown open like a sunset . . .
coat stuffed with apples
coat stuffed with horsehair, tied round with sail rope
coat bursting open, burst out the linings
sodden green ditches, pricked through with heron,
pierced through with willow, bloody and wasted . . .”

His landscapes entwine us in their smells and sounds, their atmospheres and memories, like lovers:

“ . . . Deep inside the bathroom I undress myself for you,
John Dust.
Down to the sedge and water, down to the beak of me,
Sharp in the reed bed, down to the hidden.
I strip the light from my skin until I am overcast,
Become cloud cover . . .”

Warren’s imagery is lively and surprising, her rhythms inventive, with a sure use of repetition. Sometimes the pamphlet reads like a song; sometimes like a botanist’s memoir. Often, it’s playful – even tongue-in-cheek. Always relishing the vibrancy of words.
“. . . the sky rusting over, smashed with egg yolks,
water as mirror, water as leather, water as smoke, as trick,
a light under the door.”

John Dust poems rub shoulders with others that reflect the surreal, the uncanny edge to life – and death. ‘Woman with small dog’ tells of a 1,700 year old burial find in the Museum of Somerset. In others, Warren turns herself into a bird or a fox; discovers synaesthesia in a wood; finds meaning in the death of a fly:

“How beautiful and delicate he is in death
laid out on the white afterlife
like a god, a fly on the sill
in a tapestry of cup rings.”

She tips her hat to Elliot in ‘East Coker’, and in a series of five poems ‘The Parish Magazine’, offers hilarious thumb-nail portraits of village life. ‘5 Riddles’ challenges the reader to look under the bonnet of each poem for its double meaning (spoiler alert: answers on page 30!)

Perhaps most moving of all, a nine line poem inspired by finding her late father’s old OS map, shows Warren at her most observant and understated. Could John Dust himself be an echo of what she hopes to find again? Landscapes, old maps – these are the tracks we follow when seeking things lost to us.

“some kind of weather is trapped here – damping, a cloud
from the 30s, pressed onto the page – vapour thin fog expanding –
some kind of man is trapped here – his back to me smoking –“

 

 

Claire Booker lives in Brighton. Her pamphlet Later There Will Be Postcards is out with Green Bottle Press and a second is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams. Her work has appeared in Ambit, Magma, Poetry News, Rialto and The Spectator among others. www.bookerplays.co.uk

 

Order your copy of John Dust by Louise Warrant (V. Press) here: http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/bookshop.html

 

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Izzy Lamb

 

 

 

Void

It was before dawn when I saw him
hurtle behind an asteroid
illuminating my telescope with the flash
of a cheap bathroom bulb
too hot and burst under stress.

And you can flip the switch but
the cosmos told him to hide
so he’ll nick himself shaving
and give up on toothpaste.

There are craters in him. Deep swells
that betray the empty nights of the tick-
tock-tick-tock-ticking in his temples.
And all the Nytol, melatonin supplements,
lavender oil and soft touches
don’t know how to help.

 

 

Izzy Lamb works as an Editorial Assistant and Project Manager for a scientific book publisher, ISTE. Her work has been published by otoliths, morphrog and The Honest Ulsterman. She can be found at @IzzySLamb.

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David Olsen

 

 

 

Blue Light

A pain in my leg wakes me at 4.
I stand to stretch out the cramp.
Blue light pulses on the ceiling.
I part the drapes. Across the street
an ambulance ticks. In a pool of light
from a street lamp, an old man
is trundled out, an oxygen mask
on his face. His wife follows in robe
and fuzzy pink slippers. They depart
in silence through the empty streets.

When I was small, my Mum told me
to say a prayer whenever I see
an ambulance, or hear its siren.
I return to bed, thoughts flashing.
Unable to sleep, I try World Service
and Shipping Forecast. Something
reminds me of Mont Saint Michel
and how the narrow causeway floods
when the rising tide rushes in
faster than a man can run.
 

 

David Olsen‘s Unfolding Origami won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award, and Past Imperfect, his second full-length collection, is new from Cinnamon. Four poetry chapbooks are from US publishers. He holds an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. www.davidolsenpoetry.net.

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Mark A. Murphy

 

 

 

If You / Then We

If you are leaving Mohr and Mohme for Brighton
then we are iron and steam

and if you are walking alone at night
then we are moon and Dog Star

and if you are suffering with first-night nerves
then we are Hamlet and Ophelia

and if you are grieving Franziska and Musch
then we are Jennychen and Hottentot

and if you are agonizing with self-abnegation
then we are truth and courage

and if you are unable to see the light
then we are tunnel’s end

and if you are wearing white for winter
then we are white camellia

and if you are saying that love is out of reach
then we are saying we are at rock-bottom without you

 

 

Mark A. Murphy is the editor of the online journal, POETiCA REViEW. His poetry collections include Tin Cat Alley (1996), Our Little Bit of Immortality (2011), Night-watch Man & Muse (2013), To Nora, A Singer of Sad Songs (2019), and Night Wanderer’s Plea (2019). His next full length collection, The Ontological Constant is due out in June (2020).

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