Two Poems by D S Maolalai

My Sister Writes –

she asks me
are there any TV shows I think she should watch
and then tells me
that since she’ll be spending some time in Vietnam soon
once she’s done with India
I should come and visit –
I can stay with her,
flights are expensive
but everything else is cheap
and she’ll have a flat by then
so it’ll be no trouble at all
if I want to sleep
on her floor.

Three Weekends In

and we are already
quite comfortable together.
You study for college
at a table
and I read on the sofa
or fiddle with my laptop.
You cook
and I clean when you’re done cooking.
And the sex
of course
is very good.

Last night
I went to bed early
in your place,
lay down on my side
and was asleep before you came in.
You can’t tell me that’s right,
three weekends deep,
but it happened.
We should have been
tearing the clothes off each other
like lions
fighting on TV.
But I just lay down,
got comfortable
and fell asleep.

It’s very nice
being comfortable with someone
early on,
with someone pretty
who cooks
and kisses well
and likes it when you talk.
But the worry keeps leaning in
like a mouse
pissing on good cheese:
what will I write poems about
if we’re happy?


D S Maolalai recently returned to Ireland after four years away, and now spends his days working maintenance dispatch for a bank and his nights looking out the window and wishing he had a view. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by Encircle Publications. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.

Three Poems by John Grey

By the Mississippi

A river can’t help
but be a gathering place
even if it’s just for thoughts.
Or no thoughts at all.

A bank – any bank –
or even a wind-stripped bluff –
the waters always find me a situation.
A tree trunk provides back support,

one of the willows that droop into their shadows.
And I don’t bring rod and reel
but sandwiches and thermos.
It’s a hundred years or more

since paddle boats docked here,
depositing their passengers and cargo.
Some romance has gone the way
of trucks and bridges.

But the current ambles on
even if there’s nothing riding it.
And I hear a promise to a distant spring
that’s fulfilled in faraway ocean.

A Large Girl in a Tiny House

My golden hair rubs spiders
from the ceiling.
My pretty blue dress
mops dust up from the floor.
My elbow scrapes
the muck out of the corner.
What is that stuff?
White rabbit dander? Frayed playing cards?
Croquet mallet filings?
Felt from the Mad Hatter’s topper?
The window’s open, so at least
my hand can free itself.
But to what end?
For Cheshire Cat to rake his claws?
Dodo to nibble?
Humpty Dumpty to sit upon,
stumble off, and sue me later?
And I’m still growing.
Walls could squeeze my face
into my knees and out the other side.
Brain and heart might mesh together,
blood vessels pop, veins coil and knot.
Oh how I wish I were home.
But wait, I am home
and here comes mother
to check the door’s steel bolt.
“Wonderland,” I hear her mutter
as she waddles back to the kitchen.
“I’ll give you Wonderland.”
She doesn’t actually.


I can exist in two places at once.
I’m here, mid-December,
the chilled thin body
like the gaunt trees I see through the window.
And I’m there, late November,
on a Queensland beach,
heaping sand in the shape of a fortress,
while one sister swims,
two sunbathe, and my mother watches
from beneath a wide-brimmed hat.
I am hot and cold.
I am middle-aged and young.
The woman I love is sleeping.
The women I love
(even if I don’t admit it)
celebrate, in their own way,
the blessed sunshine.
Time tries to keep me honest
but my memory outwits it.
It figures I have enough to keep me going
just being who I am.
But no, I can go back when I choose.
My skin can roast a little
even as the bitter winds blow down from Canada.
I can inhale some of that brine
despite being miles from any ocean.
Looks like snow.
Looks like another perfect day.
Today I’ll stay in, write.
Today, I’ll play on the golden beach.
I have a feeling today’s the days.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work forthcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

One Poem by Rosamund McCullain

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Casting long shadows, she
Was always destined to walk
This deserted street, in the here,
In the now, in the unknown
Future, in the quiet echo of
The endless night. Dim street lights
Infect the air with yellow as
The darkness holds its breath.
The world sleeps as below she
Tiptoes by in silence, just breathe,
Just breathe, air heavy with
Confounded expectations, the memories
That never fade but burn and
Ache. Soft footfalls, hunched shoulders,
She slips on by, unnoticed as always,
Into the hungry nothing.
Continue reading “One Poem by Rosamund McCullain”

Three Poems by Thomas Dedola


I left my body in one of the vicoli ciechi
near a large lime-green dumpster in
a wet July in Verona.

I left my body propped against the wall,
where the gravel is a splatter of black pneumonia
which stains the bin man’s boots.

And I made my way out, into the town centre,
past grey faces forming a hesitant queue,
melting their way into the cultural death camp of the Arena.

Nearby, families take great care to paint on smiles
as grinning with joy they haemorrhage love,
and look for answers at the bottom of a seafood salad.

The day gets lost in a wet cough, as we all
run out of borrowed time to waste. Words
gasp for air. It must be the humidity.

I will see how far I can walk away without a body,
until the wind catches up and, like a dead friend’s
hand, leads me back inside.

Santa Maria delle Stelle

Smart shoes, cheap tears, expensive bleach:
the doctor makes his rounds, that
routine chore on rotting shadows.

Halogen lights frame brittle skin, sandpaper
flesh as the space screams

In hospital bays they lie,
tattered advertisements for
perpetual inevitability.

Perhaps they relish their stagnation –
too weak to move, too weak to smile,
too weak to throw caution to the wind.

On any given Monday,
the doctor watches a man
erode under a neon moon.

Life is fleeting, but
death is unremitting – it just keeps going on
behind nondescript doors

where visiting relatives haunt the wards
and the miasma of life first rises
then seeps into cracked walls.

The doctor makes his rounds,
as forms inhaling and exhaling count
down the minutes till lunch.

Peaking in 2012

Between winter and summer,
the nights are an ellipsis and there is
nothing but water waiting.

You wake up and find that getting
dressed no longer gives you a
greater sense of purpose.

You look at a nice house, a
nice partner, a nice car because
you’ve become your own voyeur.

Your life is nothing more than a
stilted choreography to which you
have started to forget the moves.

Between autumn and spring, the days
are a hurricane in a Petri dish,
leaving you too legless to be swept off your feet.

You trudge in a little suburban Eden,
where nothing helps and where
nothing happens.

You spend these days hands smudged
with ink as you no longer remember if you’ve drawn
more lines than you’ve crossed.

And you spend these moments thinking back
to when you thought you had it all, soft
violins bloom in your eyes.


Thomas is an Italian poet based in Cambridge. He has previously had pieces published in Felan, Fictive Dream and co-produced a Haiku anthology which was longlisted for a Saboteur Award in 2017.

Three Poems by Kirsty A Niven


A day started with panic,
collided insides and pouring flesh.
We gambled and lost everything
but it’s just a minor inconvenience.

There is a need to feel whole,
a ghostly presence now gone.
Even in the dirt of the mirror,
the skin of my face peels away.

I direct questions at an empty sky.
It cries silently, a squeezed sponge.
He leaked from me, liquefied gold,
scurrying away like a tunnel rat.


The woman is faulty –
send her dysfunctional parts back.
Send in the cleaners to mop up the mess.
In a few weeks she’ll be fine.

She’ll get over it.

Pack away the bassinette,
disassemble the bouncer
and deflate the balloons.
It’ll be like it never happened.

She’ll get over it.

Zodiac Eyes

The pallid circle haunts the dark,
amber shards of autumn crackle underfoot.
The world glitters, frozen overnight.
A negative photo, everything blue-tinged,
capturing the moment as you are exposed.
A serenity accompanies that smile,
anaesthetic, healing. A past overwritten.
The stars peek through, thinking me naive.
I ignore their dark predictions,
clinging to a future that glints in your eyes.


Kirsty is from Dundee, Scotland where she lives with her husband and cats. Her poetry has appeared in a number of places including Artificial Womb, The Dawntreader, Dundee Writes, Cicada Magazine and Laldy.

Three Poems by Deirdre Fagan


Mostly we are unaware
of ourselves

We fumble familiarly
our minds navigating their spaces
our bodies rounding corners
absently avoiding debris

Upon extending an arm
at the right height
of a doorknob
while staring ahead
without blinking

we enter our bedrooms
where we are suddenly surprised
by the faint recognition
of our own

All the previous deaths were un-posted;
word came by ring tone or Post, not post

The first death by email was Linda’s,
the stunned silence of a monitor, your face.

You raced down the hall and leapt,
shrieking to your then-well husband, “Linda is dead!”

You have since committed the crime of alerting,
signaling death’s sentinel by a mouse-click of Send.

When your husband died, you kept him home one more night,
the urgency of a funeral home, a coroner, not your own.

You slept on the futon beside the hospital bed in the then bedroom,
once dining room, where you had at one time only celebrated.

The next morning he no longer resembled the man you had wed.

When the gurney took your Love out the door, you sat before the monitor,
stunned, and alerted all you knew through the only words you had left.

Outside In

Sometimes I look inside my house and wonder who lives there —

Paintings on the walls, books lining the shelves, a dimly lit chandelier hovering above a single lit candle on the dining room table

Once I pulled into the drive and there was a boy leaning forward to light the candle, a girl setting the table, a man at the sink — a painting exhibiting chiaroscuro

No one else peering in would know this father had just entered the scene, that the girl has nightmares, that the boy has nestled and locked a hidden place that recalls his father’s deathbed breaths

What brush strokes captured the scene best, or at all, and what would be revealed should the frame change, should some of the paint be scraped away to reveal the original strokes, and more simply, how the mother about to arrive down center would present?

That evening observing the peaceful scene, the cold outside holding me in place, the warmth inside beckoning, the dog nudged me just as I was entering the stage of hopeful dreaming


Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, and mother of two who has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  Most recently, her work has appeared in Amaryllis, Every Day Fiction, New Verse News, Rat’s Ass Review, and The Opiate.  She is also the author to Critical Companion to Robert Frost and has published a number of critical essays. Fagan teaches literature and writing at Ferris State University in the USA where she is also the Coordinator of Creative Writing.  Meet her at