Joe Cottonwood




Welcome, Stranger

The half dozen gray geese
in our town’s central pond
used to strut out on the road
to attack trucks. Grills, tires. Pecking.
If you honked a car horn at them,
then you were speaking their language.
They’d hiss and cuss you out.
The folks in town got so fed up
with those geese that we did exactly that:
fed up on them.

So, stranger,
welcome to our local tavern.
Let me buy you a drink.
Just don’t cuss anybody.





Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. He is the author of nine published novels, a book of poetry, and a memoir. He lives in La Honda, California, where he built a house and raised a family. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses  Website:

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Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou




The Wedding Picture

‘Oh, I do, I do! It fits me fine but… I can’t afford it, I’m afraid. Another time.’

Yiota told the village peddler, Mr. Giorgos, on the phone, letting out a throaty ‘Bye’.

Dina was sitting at the sofa, her Geography schoolbook on her lap, staring at her parents’ wedding photo hanging on the living room wall. Opposite her the setting sun illuminated the balcony door. Black and white, the outline of the newlyweds blurred, as if penciled by kids, ruler-stiff bodies, the constipated smile of Gioconda on both faces. She liked the dress, the flowery lace along the neckline and the hem of the sleeves and the skirt. It was champagne-white, rather than paper-white and starched, like cardboard. Yiota had told her that it wasn’t actually her real wedding dress, or Dina’s dad’s own trouser suit. ‘No money for such luxuries’, she’d said. They were both the result of the photographer’s artistic endeavours. Common practice those days – the late 60s. Like arranged marriages. The kind they had.

‘Never seen him before our wedding day,’ Yiota would tell her best friend. ‘We smelt each other like sniffing dogs on our first night together. I would’ve taken a better pick,’ she’d say.

Yiota pattered out through the balcony door and leaned against the rails after hearing a car rev – for the umpteenth time that afternoon. ‘Ohi. Not him,’ she whispered. Then the phone rang. Yiota leapt across the room and picked it up. ‘Right,’ she said and clanked the receiver on its cradle as if dropping a steamy-hot casserole lid. ‘Your dad won’t be coming to dinner. Going out with friends,’ she mumbled. Hardly had she slumped down in the armchair, when she sprang up and dashed to the phone again. With firm fingers she dialed, took a deep breath and said, ‘Ne, Giorgo, I’m taking the dress. Bring it over tomorrow morning, when hubby is at work, you know…’ She let out a fake, girlish giggle and hung up.

Dina glanced over at the wedding picture. Whitish dress against blackish suit, a bouquet of bright red roses in the bride’s grip. Added by the photographer, of course. A cluster of scarlet blooms against the smudgy space between the couple she’d never noticed before.




Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou lives in Athens, Greece but writes in English. She holds a BA(Hons) in Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her stories have appeared in print and online in several literary magazines (including IS & T). Her first short story collection entitled Black Greek Coffee is available from Amazon.

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Brian Johnstone



What to do? You sign it,
as they all do, sign it in your childish hand,
descenders and ascenders imperfectly described,

a name, its capitals, its lower case
presented in the ink that’s drying even
as you gaze at it, drying as you think yourself

committed, pledge what future
you are able to conceive of to an absence,
disavowal (though you do not know these words)

and cannot see beyond the demon
conjured up before your eyes, you wish
in all your being to avoid. You will. You swear to it

right here. But cannot know
what liquor in a glass is waiting on a table,
what bottle, sweating in the heat of some back room,

has the word upon its label
that will draw you in, make a mockery
of this, its scrolls and curlicues, the fake solemnity

induced by those who should
know better, playing on a child’s mind,
its addiction only to a vow, a campaign, to a faith.



Brian Johnstone’s latest collection is Dry Stone Work (Arc, 2014). His work has appeared throughout Scotland and in the UK, America and Europe. He is a co-founder of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival and was Festival Director from 2001-2010. His  poems appear on The Poetry Archive.



Note:  this poem first published in Antiphon

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Nick Cooke





Struck by an ice-cream vendor at age nineteen!
What a bumptious little prick I must have been
to order a cone and then refuse to pay
on grounds of cost, and in a simpering way
watch as vanilla dribbled down his wrist.
Without reflecting he drew back his free fist
and slammed it in my ribs like a cricket ball,
a response I did not think I’d earned at all –

Today I’m not so sure. My eyes retrace
but seldom his livid loganberry face,
nor do I hear his panicked apology
when I threatened to fetch the constabulary
(a bluff I never meant him to believe).
Instead I see the liquid on his sleeve
and venture to compute the irritation.
It is a sad and shameful calculation.



Nick Cooke has had poems published in a range of magazines, from Agenda to Dream Catcher, as well as on sundry websites. He is currently working on his first collection.

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Seth Jani





Forgiveness like leavening bread
In the dark heart of summer.

Like following the way down
To where the columbine eats

A bed of roses.
Water knows this work:
Slow moistening, the alchemy

Of rubbing stones, smoothing surfaces
Until they catch light reflections.
I want to be better than myself.

Want the easy open arms
Of the birch in winter.

How it holds the snow
Like someone chandeliering
Someone else’s dangerous blue dream.
How it’s not afraid of ice,
Of the eventual frost breaking
Through its bones,

Of death with his chilled
Deliberate eyes.
The salamander beneath the slick

Multiplicity of stones is also like this.

More than disregard, he forgives my intrusions,
Lets me lay down in the grass

To count the stars,

Even whispers the names of constellations,

Of bodies I’ve forgot.

He lets me leave while the wick of morning
Begins its fuse,
While the spilled riches of the sky
Cover the Cascades, almost burn my hands
With light.
The miracle is that everything keeps on singing,
Quietly, beneath the mower’s head.
That there’s still a place for the buzzing fields,
For tiny doors through which the wind
Slips small meanings,
For the purity of coming night
Settling over the horizon
Like a sheet of shining mica.





Seth Jani resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress (
His own work has been published in such places as The Coe Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review and Gravel.

Visit him at



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