“Deadlines” by Stephen Kingsnorth

Why do the bunches and bouquets
contain messages to the dead
and even nicknames, soubriquets,
as if a better hearing earned;
not sympathy to relatives
but too late words to be passed on?

In heaven’s name, calligraphy
where serif’s sing by putti wings,
as if the fonts of wisdom bring
fresh hope to fading daffodils;
is breaking down the gates of hell
achieved by biro-scripted tales?

Criss-crosses mark what lips would do
if only flesh and blood remained,
but even dust to dust has rained
on box laid down, brass plate engraved;
encomium on card relayed
lest eulogy did not suffice.

Near deadline pass, column obits
speak for the circle, dollar word,
where weighty terms in measured lines
dance to a tune unrecognized;
as wheat and tares together sown,
not to uproot till judgement day.

The coffin sank, plot waterlogged,
grave flooding, sodden sods on mound,
as Jesus plunged to hades world,
Gehenna, council rubbish dump;
the smoky hell, where embers burn,
who knows the temper, future world?

Unless the angels literate,
extinguishers in other place,
the writing will unread remain
and just a wish-list mourners frame;
but if I ask, why write the note,
not tell while living, we are loved?

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 180 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Sparks of Calliope, printed journals and anthologies.


“Butterflies” by Robert Nisbet

When he was five, he’d amble up the garden,
with Archie, the slow fat ginger cat,
wander through the rows of peas and beans,
listen to the rooks, watch the wheeling,
and love the butterflies, the bursts of colour,
the flickering in the sun.

But when he was ten, this other kid (posh school)
showed him his butterfly book. No way.
By now he loved the crashing things.
Dick Barton, Special Agent. Space. Rockets.

At fifteen they all liked Donegan and Elvis,
formed their own skiffle group, talked
of football, girls and heroes and intrigues.
They walked much less to the woodland now,
and he hankered sometimes for the summer fields,
the bushes, grass, the butterflies whirling.

The café was called The Crossroads, oddly,
and he sat there (he was forty now),
pondering the future, which way, which way,
musing on the solid, habitual things,
when spinning through the café garden
was a bright Red Admiral, moving
in darting, sudden and beautiful directions.

Robert Nisbet, a poet from Wales, UK, won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in Britain with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes (2017), and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the USA with “Cultivation” (2020).

“A Misgiving Feast” by Ken Gosse

Two birds stood by the dusty road,
and wond’ring whether both should cross
one took two steps, but as he strode,
though fearful of the other’s goad,
returned in dread of sudden loss.

There stood the other, acting brave,
and raising fluffed and feathered breast
as if to say, “You churlish knave,
so frightened, like a master’s slave;
I’ll prove to you that I’m the best.”

The bully coxswain scratched the earth,
its talon tossing stones and dust:
to prove its courage had no dearth
and validate its noble birth,
began its task with mighty thrust.

The farmer told this with a sigh
that somewhere, out there, now deceased,
their mighty gobbler reached the sky—
uplifted when a truck passed by—
so chicken’s their Thanksgiving feast.

Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional meter, usually filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in The OffbeatPure SlushParodyHome Planet News OnlineEclectica, and other publications. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.

“This is the Place” by Abha Das Sarma

In memory of my dear friend Jayanthi

We climbed the dusty red, slipping, pulling
Into the hazy cracks, just as we did
When you were six. You won then,
You had said.
Children painted and drew,
No one saw us go, looking down you
Smiled, pretended to slide, come through the gap
Be on my side.
The music had stopped, all looked to leave
“Who spoke to me?” a voice rough and coarse leaped
Then continued, “I want to know…” “It is me…”
The answer was lost, suddenly.
The maid had begun
To serve the tea, sister-in-law too returned
With dresses Indian, bought just then
And for the keep.
As the voice’s fingers fumbled on way to her mouth
That would break into a smile anyhow
The sun sank, changing the hues
Inside the room.
The ashes lay boxed when I returned
The sun seemed to take time
And the incense too stayed
Longer than we could fathom,
Straight ahead from where we sat
Through the glass on a day
Of goodbyes to unfolding of a life
I could find, you once again.
This is the place where the stairs
Do not reach.
This is the place from my dreams,
And this is the place which is silent today.

Abha Das Sarma is an Indian writer with a blog of over 200 poems. An engineer and management consultant by profession, she is passionate about writing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, and Journal of Expressive Writing. She also enjoys writing haikus and has contributed to weekly postings of Haiku in Action. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, currently she lives in Bangalore with her scientist husband.

Selections from “The Woman in an Imaginary Painting” by Tom Montag

No, you do not
know who she is.
And you do not

know how you know
her. She is not
of common face.

She has no fame
other than her
loveliness. Yet

somehow you still
recognize the weight
of this moment

and you cannot
turn from her,
you cannot turn.

There are no
in her world:

The idea
of table
is the table
she rests against.

The idea
of window
is the window
in her wall.

The idea
of breast
is her breasts,
their loveliness.

Breath and spirit
lend beauty
to her silence.

The woman
in the painting
wears the air

like wet silk.
Nakedness is not
her only promise.

She does not
show pain. Her

strength revels
in other light.

She can hold this
pose forever.

We can’t see it:
we can only

the happiness,

the anticipation
as she waits

for the moment
the posing is done

and she can be
the woman she wants.

Tom Montag‘s books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Imagination’s Place; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. His poem “Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain” has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.

“With the Sun” by Holly Day

each morning I wake up to
her beautiful sighs, her rosy
cheeks, skin like that of a
perfect porcelain angel knickknack, and the night of
endless screaming and thrashing in

her confining crib
is forgiven and close to

forgotten. she opens her perfect
olive eyes and I can’t
believe this is the same creature that woke
up howling
with rage and anger at
simply being

a helpless baby.
I put my arms around
her tiny warm body, press my lips to the top
of her head, tell her everything will
work out in the end, hope she will
someday forgive me as well.

Holly Day has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

“On My Refrigerator” by Bruce McRae

A house drawn by a child.
Purple and crooked windows.
A big yellow sun smiling at a cloud,
a single sad and silvery cloud.
And what I think might be a tree
in a yard with a broken fence,
with a pathway winding nowhere.

And little m’s flitting here and there,
black and fretful, like bats or birds.
Like harpies battling storms and winds.
Demons in confederacy with witches.
Souls escaping their earthly bonds.
Penciled phoenixes rising in the unseen
airs of a crayon’s ashes.

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,600 poems published internationally in magazines such as PoetryRattle and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press); An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press); Like As If (Pski’s Porch); Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

“road-house” by Stephen House

i stop at a road-house
fill up my car with petrol and go inside
to the tingle of a door-bell

i pay a green haired woman for petrol
and order a strong black coffee
looks like you need an extra shot in it mate she says and laughs
an old woman in a pink cardigan sitting on a lounge chair
echoes you need an extra shot in it mate and laughs

the road-house feels like a home

a chubby bald bloke in ripped jeans enters
to the tingle of the door-bell
stained t-shirt covering half his belly
hi fatty the women say together
hi ladies fatty replies
he orders fish and chips

green hair goes out the back of the shop
calls i’ll nip down the river and catch you a cod
old woman echoes nip down the river and catch him a cod
both women laugh
i laugh and fatty laughs

old woman throws me and fatty a tooth gap grin
fatty says hi to me and i say hi to him

green hair comes out with my strong black coffee
i take it and turn to leave
fatty and the two women say bye to me
i say bye to them and exit the road-house
to the tingle of the door-bell

i pat a skinny black dog with three legs

get in my car and drive along an empty road
not sure how far i’ll travel today
or where i’ll sleep tonight

i stop the car
drink the strong black coffee on the side of the empty road
and think about driving back to the road-house

to ask the two women how they know fatty
why the dog has only got three legs
and if the road-house is actually their home

first published in Panoplyzine


Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild), Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize, and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom Best Actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink.  His chapbook real and unreal was published by ICOE Press. He is published often and performs his work widely.

“To All Dog Owners in the Neighborhood” by Carolyn Martin

Enough! The cacophony of barks rolling
from yard to yard to yard is reprehensible
and my only–dogs-can-hear whistle
from Amazon can’t silence the din.

You abandon them – chew on that! –
when you’re off to work or browsing
in the mall and I’m left with Antonia
howling her anxiety, Beauregard
taunting errant squirrels, and Percy
running amok beneath parked cars.

Don’t tell me you love your dogs
more than the mother who brushed your hair
or the lover who cuddles you in bed.
And forget the bunk that it’s unconditional.
Admit what it is: an addiction
to dopamine from non-judgmental welcomings
every time you mosey through the door.

There must be a 12-step group you could join –
I’ll even drive you there – or a therapist
who’ll help you fill your dog-size void.
Maybe training in mindfulness? I’ve read
it can relieve cravings for any fix.

Yet … I admit when you post videos
of a lab mothering kittens abandoned in a barn
or a mutt pushing a child out of harm’s way,
there might be something to this best-friend stuff.

Perhaps I’ll buy some Quiet Please Ear Plugs,
turn up my Homedics noise machine,
and re-evaluate. After death I may request
to reincarnate as a non-shedding,
non-yapping, small-pile-pooping pup.
What breed would you suggest?

first published in The San Antonio Review.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, writing and photography. Her fourth poetry collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.

“Wanton” by Stephen Kingsnorth

Irony that cats seek soil, a clearer patch,
dissatisfied, already present mess.
Why such litter beneath my plants?
Making much mayhem,
they drop leaves which rot,
expose bulging vein-line-strings,
suggestive addiction’s secret ways.
They slime the path far worse than slugs
which glitter brilliance in their wake,
a ship slow stirring phosphorescence as a trail.

And balled seeds rolling wantonly,
street girls jostling passers-by
from cement swept clear only yesterday.
Resistant to my garden nurtured neatness –
grooved nasturtiums, bright apple green –
beside edged alternate striped lawn corridors,
measured for admiration over fence,
now lowering tone,
neighbourhood-watch plans undermined.

They failed my summer,
despite compost plastic bags I laid;
they leaved vast plates,
hiding rubies, garnet spessarlite, citrine gems.
Now first frost, their tangled straggles,
bleached scallion leeks, criss-cross weep,
wounds exposed, untidy in their slippy throes.

There snails gorge, do unpleasant things, till
mucky blackbirds come, stab-spiking shells,
and undisciplined, smash-mosaic spread
on my careful crazy paved design,
lime dotting my pristine neutral ground,
oil-paint blobs spoiling canvas screen.

My tilled Eden is grown hell for me,
this native invasion of my territory,
claiming, turned my husbandry,
my taming foiled as all can see,
denying me status secretary,
street garden group, my company.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 160 pieces published by on-line poetry sites (including Sparks of Calliope), printed journals, and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/