One Poem by Lily Beaumont

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Petrified Forest

For beauty’s sins—transgressive redness, splitting ripe
upon our lips, the ink-curved lash that dared curl up
towards heaven—we could once hope to be made

monstrous: Scylla, stepping from her poisoned bath
garlanded in fangs; Lamia’s carnivorous search
for the skins, the children she once shed. But it proved

easier, more economical, to congeal rather than transmute—
to entomb the woman’s body within her blush, eternal
expanse of unbroken loveliness, welling crystalline

from the point of a hypodermic needle. Medusa’s trophied
halls no longer colonnades of stony suitors, but abandoned
girls and mannequins, all plastic, all unwanting.

 

Lily Beaumont is a freelance curriculum and study guide developer; she holds an MA in English and Gender Studies from Brandeis University, and currently lives in Central Texas. Her creative work has appeared in publications including Open Minds Quarterly and The Furious Gazelle.

One Poem by Simon Leonard

Bubble Days

to Emer

This is of you as Columbus
on a dune, doubling your guess
about where America lay;
challenging the world to say no.
Having it all:
husband piped and semi detached
in a deckchair, but decidedly domesticated.
Home habits transplanted to the seaside.
Short-sleeved under a cardigan,
sun-hatted against the chance of a tan.
One son with telescopic arms,
clutching at his mother; his brother busy
with a digger
and all that beach to build.

Children were less breakable then;
we bounced around the back seat
of a Renault 5 among holiday necessities:
rugs, books, kettle, plastic sacks
about to spurt out clothes,
as the road grew sparse at the sides,
grass became marram.
A toy blue gate
provided personal access
to the holiday bungalow,
welcoming our senses
with boiled new potatoes
and sea-wet cocker.

Transparent souvenirs trailed home
before the kids outgrew their season;
the skin of simple things wrinkled,
tired and finally popped unnoticed
to reveal a greying stretch of strand
tapering into a rubbery sea.

You agreed it was time to move on.

And this is you in the bubble,
settled on grass, sustained with cords;
crowning joke for a passable Irish summer.
You put wicker chairs inside,
drank Earl Grey after breakfast
and toasted the first Riesling
of the evening with that smile of victory;
challenging the world to do better.
Having it all:
husband driving in recalcitrant pegs,
distracted from devices.
Membrane of success where you could plan
church battles, meals to freeze,
outdoor toys for when grandchildren came;
imagine a son back to acknowledge
that all was worth having, worth keeping,
for the little ones, their future memories:

cutting strawberries                           the cell mutates
adding sugar                                          exploring ambiguities;
a little more                                            poised diaphanous,
don’t tell your mother                          reconciles with air.

 

A poet and intermittent writer of short fiction, Simon spends most of his time teaching English in a Secondary School in Cologne, although he would like to escape back home to Spain. He has had work published in EnvoiOrbis and Ink Sweat & Tears, and been shortlisted in various short fiction competitions.

One Poem by Daphne Milne

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Serene with striped eyebrows

This is how I want
to be remembered
endless eyelashes
smooth white flesh
a Barbara Goalen look
elegant and formal
as a Mondrian painting

In youth I had the look
slim hipped  fine boned
sleek as any supermodel
now the baldness
gives away my secret
This tatty death mask
must be my epitaph

 

Daphne writes poems, short stories, novellas, flash fiction. Work published in print/on line in magazines and anthologies internationally.

Daphne now lives in Fremantle, W. Australia. She reads regularly at Perth Poetry Club. She has recorded two podcasts for ILAA on Kalamunda radio.

Her pamphlet The Blue Boob Club is published by Indigo Dreams Press: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/daphne-milne/4594486684

Two Poems by Susan Surette

Outreach

He presents a silent vigil
isolated like a leper
in a dimly-lit alley
off a mean city street
he sits
back pressing against
cold graffiti-laced cement
wearing soiled ragged jeans
his brows are thick like his
work roughened hands
a stranger to soap
hair without direction
a grimy overcoat
heavily lined with despair


Insomnia

Dust settles anonymously
upon quiet surfaces
where noise is
unwelcome house

Floors creak
clocks tick
windows subtly rattle
corners settle
wind vibrates
everything

Sitting motionless
determined ears
detect the subtle hum
from day’s evaporating energy

a deafening to those
who lay awake

 

Susan Surette is an avid traveler, bibliophile, grandmother, hand drummer, yogi and poet with work published in The Avocet, Westward Quarterly, The Voices Project, and The Curlew. She recently founded the Not Yet Dead Poets Society in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

One Poem by Randal A Burd, Jr.

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Physician of the Mind

This mannequin—lifeless, demure—
Will keep close secrets told secure,
Unlike that friend who in the end
Is quick to judge and less mature.

What troubles whispered through the years
Have bounced off these unhearing ears,
Unburdening a client’s soul,
Absolving guilt, allaying fears?

This true physician of the mind,
Compassionate, unduly kind,
Is counselor, confessor, priest,
Conservator, and more—combined!

 

Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator who works with the disadvantaged in rural Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. Randal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sparks of Calliope magazine. His latest collection of poems, Memoirs of a Witness Tree, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in Summer 2020.

One Poem by John Tustin

Cicadas

Cicadas clack prehistoric wings
Like castanets against the leaves.
They mock my morning of coffee, of abject desire,
Of no Valerie.
They laugh as they are captured by birds midflight,
Stalked by yardcats, shedding their skin
As if the new skin is the promise
Of a slick and shiny new life.
They laugh because they don’t need love,
They don’t sit desirous in endless empty hallways,
They laugh as they are eaten, chittering click-clack,
As I sit at my kitchen table
Alone but for their derisive voice.

 

John Tustin started writing poetry a decade ago after a long hiatus. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

In the back room

She looks just as she looked in 1963 –
              more or less –
and blushes as she blushed the year before.
              Fashion was
as it is: fickle. They chucked her out in 1964.

Her chipped smile adorned her work for charity
              after that;
her lashes still were levelled as they’d been.
              Bearing what
hand-me-downs she had to bravely, she played the mannequin.

“They shut that hard-up shop and, as for me,
              off I went
to a back-room stocked with unsold tableware.
              No, I don’t
miss wigs or coats or evening wear – I miss the view, the air . . .”

The eyes do not adjust, merely degrade. The sea,
              out of sight,
erodes each day, and she, as if entranced,
              listens. It
could all change. It could – again – one day! But she’s not convinced.

 

Michael Caines lives in London, and has had recent poems commended in the Battered Moons and Culpepper’s Remedy competitions.

Two Poems by Richard Jones

House

On the coldest day of winter,
I shut off the furnace.
It’s early morning, icy; I’m alone
in the chilled house and glad.
Soon the room is cold enough
that sitting at my writing desk
I can see breath clouds when
I blow on my hands to warm them.
I go upstairs and pile every blanket
in heavy layers on the big bed.
I crawl in and pull the covers
over my head. I want to stay here
until spring comes, when I shall rise
and go out looking for something
to eat. But that’s not how it happens.
My wife and daughter come home
and shake me, telling me the house
is freezing, and asking if I’m crazy.


Astronomy

The white-haired astronomer is walking
across the quad with his colleague, talking
about the universe, the unseen order of things
swirling to the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
His young colleague, a nuclear biologist,
recognizes the molecular constituency of reality,
and sees in the smallest neutron the truth
of his friend’s rhapsodies. They walk along—
talking, gesticulating, excited. People falling in love
should be so excited, eyes bright, full of genius
and madness, knowing they are on the right path,
they can feel it, they believe it, and more importantly,
they can prove it on a blackboard with a piece of chalk.

 

Richard Jones is the author of sixteen books of poetry, including Country of Air, A Perfect Time, King of Hearts, The Blessing, and Stranger on Earth. Editor since 1980 of the literary journal Poetry East, he curates its many anthologies, such as ParisThe Last Believer in Words, and Bliss.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Life as an Empty Effigy

Sleepy hours sing silent songs,
a jangle of city-binge, waning,
as if wrapped in cellophane.

Time opens its jaws, yawns,
pulls me in to glare in glass,
a painted moon stares back

cheek bones as flawless
as a Major Tom haunting,
words on the tip of tide.

I catch a flash of scarlet,
lips parted, skin stretched taut
on sockets pared to plastic.

My face moulds with mannequin,
scalp smooth, another hollow dame
cold as a stroll on Broadway.

 

Kate Young lives in Kent and is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines internationally and in Great Britain. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by Randi Lynn Sanders

A Tinder Moment

She spits in her martini glass.
Harrumphs as the server sweeps it away,
complains DRY means DRY.

Her husband stares at his phone.
His finger hovers over the screen.
I imagine him not as her husband,

but as her date. They wear rings, but
in my mind, they are single, separate,
each with an option to stay or move on.

The wine arrives, I dare not look.
My own glass rests, untouched,
next to my phone. We wait.

This salad has too much
dressing, she says. Nobody
likes a limp Caesar. The steak is tough.

The air is too cold. Can they do something
about the A/C? What about dessert? Do you want
the chocolate volcano cake? How about

the crème brûlée? It’s settled then.
Death by chocolate. I pour my own wine
from the buy-one-get-one carafe.

Two spoons, please. I never hear
him speak. I want him to swipe,
keeping his options open.

 

Randi Lynn Sanders is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. Randi lives on the gulf coast of Florida, where she maintains her own financial advisory practice while honing her craft in her spare time, usually before or after market close.