by Eileen Hugo
Auntie Narretta had chosen an orange dress
not a just dress a ballgown
layers of fluff, sparkles.
A mother of the groom outfit
even the matching shoes and purse
were to accompany her.
She had outlined the hymns and readings
that would-be part of the services.
She was so proud of her organization skills
she was after all an Operating Room nurse.
Lists were made she looked forward
to entering heaven on a cloud —
an orange cloud in a fuchsia sunset.
Her son buried her in a grey suit.
My name is Eileen Hugo and I am retired and doing all the things I love.
I have been published in various anthologies. I won first prize in the David Osgood Poetry Contest. I also served time as the Poetry Editor for The Houston Literary Review.
In April 2015 my book Not Too Far was published
by Jonathan Terranova
I feel warm in your bed
the duvet is greater than Zola
I can feel Ferrante sleeping above me
on the shelf;
she’s teasing me into her mystery
and the question marks I see in your
deep brown eyes I try to circumvent
because I’m still hurt and scared
I fear the trap of fate
inside the terror
In spite of this
it’s the softest I’ve felt in a long time
and I could happily stay here
by Stella Klein
After lunch when the chewing is over
the meat and gravy polished off
and the last of the jelly scraped
Mother serves coffee for the grown-ups
from the long silver pot.
Father fists a dry cough and folds his arms
pleased with his lunch and the prospect
of a Sunday afternoon.
Will you not play a little of the auld’ euphonium for us, lad?
Robert gets up from the table.
He opens out the music stand
steadies his book of tunes
cream is poured and Nana Boyd’s eyes shine.
From behind the piano
Robert drags out the leathery brown tomb.
He clicks open the clasp, kneels deep
into the red velvet
dazzling the room
with the great curvaceous thing
and gives it a rub down with his soft, yellow rag.
Dimpling his cheeks Robert
raises the mouthpiece to his lips
rupturing the air discharging
Three four notes
until a melody unfolds.
Nana Boyd’s eyelids flicker like moths
as she draws her own puckered lips
around a shortbread finger.
That’s a dark and passionate piece lad.
Have you not something a little brighter?
Stella lives in London. She completed Birkbeck’s MA in Creative Writing programme in 2016 and continues to write poems as she works towards the completion of her first collection of short stories.
by Rhiannon Morris
Gertrude said my garments, heavy with their drink, pulled me to muddy death.
Made beautiful by my flower companions-
The artists, paint me peaceful, in my sleep.
Silence, stillness, Ophelia gone.
they said it like, “her madness,”
As though it were a chain I clung too, with reverent possession, hoarding it between my breasts,
Caressing it like a lover at night.
Without Ophelia, the court no longer received the garish jester, dancing circles around the lords and ladies.
Instead, it is banished to poverty, to straw and hay, where it starves.
A disease prevented by a cool surgeon,
plague mask hidden beneath his skin, a first flesh; I startled back in horror.
God, God? What do men hide beneath?
Pray, I beg for the judge above, what is right and who is wrong?
In a large and shadowed chamber,
A fine-looking woman, a proud and cunning man.
Cornered glances in opulent mirrors:
She no longer disturbs our consciousness,
forget the mind is weak, we cannot break.
When trust is lost, trust, what do we grip?
I stumbled down the muddy bank, to find nothing, to find something
Those around me frightened me – they
Looked different suddenly, their faces
Blurred, and behind them black
When they spoke, it was empty and they spoke shadowed shivers
That clawed, demonic jumped, pierced my skin.
I fought to get them off. But one,
Forced open my mouth, cranking it open as if it were a chest full of treasures
(I thought my jaw would break), and shoved his fist down my throat.
Laughter, so loud I could see it like mist,
Drifted from the convulsing demon.
I could not speak.
But when I did again, it was not the same.
My words did not make sense to those I’d trusted.
They had not heard before, the songs I sang for them, as high and sweet as I could manage.
Flowers I threw,
So they could see themselves how I saw them.
But they aged, wilted, died on the wind.
They did not know my heart had broken, shattered like mirrors.
They could see the hive, and the bees that clung, and suckled to its walls; the honeycomb, pregnant with profit, and lustre, lost inside the swarm.
The mad can be blamed.
Nonsense is the bird circling above, making you prey in its shadow.
Coherency is the peacock that struts, leading you to the palace gates. Goodbye, farewell –
I said that, my breaths wrapped in it, good bye good bye good bye good bye
Echoing in merriment and mirth, my final strength found in the iron of their eyes and their voices
how now Ophelia, what is this?
Really, they thought they knew, but they forgot
Ghostly, mad, poor Ophelia until she floated,
Flowers found heavy and dead, at the mouth of a stream.
pernicious gifts from scar tissue
by Alfred Booth
sudden skewers of pain, tiny nerves regenerating, I’m told. there is cardboard tightening in my neck, right side collarbone to chin. beyond the eight inch scar, as finely sewn as a new wrinkle. its downward arrow starts just below the earlobe, seven months later still insensitive. I pinch daily. to verify negative progress. it vilifies all sensation of calm. mine is a madman’s crooked smile. muscle blockage. or blockade. there is an intensity in the slowness of healing with a malignant intent to jackhammer my patience. impossible to reach a shelf at head level. above? Laurel and Hardy slapstick. pull a tee-shirt over my head. pour from a full teapot. lay in bed in angel position. my muscle force has melted to skeleton skinny not supposed to happen to good witches. knots in my right shoulder, seven months old. deltoid and trapezius on strike. pain-killer resistant. I massage where the good arm can strain to spread healing oils. therapists knead to stretch every possible threshold. I shudder more than an old brittle rubber band. sleep subdues any sensation akin to burning tar. I’m unconscious longer than a hundred car box train. hot baths with pungent arnica and frankincense. yes. I meditate. recite mantras. relaxes what might be my soul. you know. that mysterious ghost surrounding the heart supposed to transcend death. music remains deliciously soothing but my out-of-synch arm is a whelp beyond a forte, so melodic weaves sound watered down with amateurism, less panache than before the operation. lots of water washes away the toxins. everything has side effects. a miracle for this weakness? time, which is both magic and residual. others are chocolate, wine, sunlight, night skies looking for shooting stars. all poetic responses. damnation. I was the bad boy. beat the crap out of that c demon. its afterlife frames suffering with the finesse of a child’s finger painting. and devours dreams. and the aforementioned patience.
Alfred Booth is an American professional pianist who lives in France. He folds origami; its patience often inspires poetry. When he not at the piano learning new arcane repertoire to stretch his horizons, he teaches would-be amateur musicians to put enough bread on the table. He has studied extensively harpsichord and the cello. Currently he has an 82-poem volume journaling a recent dance with cancer and a 34-poem chapbook of ghazals looking for a homes in the professional world of rhyme. A large handful of his poetry can be found in the e-zines Dead Snakes, I am not a silent poet and Spring Fling. He keeps an online portfolio at: https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/troubadour.