Two Poems by Simon Leonard

Making Sense of It

I watched the impact through a jumble of verbs,
scrawled on the glass classroom wall;
students bent low over grammar.
Bea blew out her cheeks and that was it:
silence on both sides of the aquarium.
She was the boss, as well as American.
I would have expected it to mean more.
Maybe it just took tools we didn’t have
to make sense
of all that dust and damage.

I tried with Brendan, my flatmate,
later on in the corner bar,
dull with cheap whiskey,
trusting peanut shells
to the narrow bar top,
on their way to the floor.
The bar woman swept through
whatever mess finished up her day,
Marigolds and housecoat shielding all
but the hated tangle of her hair.
Cleaning over clean, extending the stain
of bleach on life
with tired mop water . . .

As we watched a muddled celebration
on the streets of Ramallah,
I said it was the day Tom Clancy came true.
Going for clever, I missed.


A stubble of life appeared this week,
bristling tongue feeling its way
around the spring morning,
not quite trusting;
the wrinkled fields becoming waves,
as you accelerate, keeping pace
with the sparse expanse of wheat.

The way he rubbed the overgrowth
of his uneven chin,
with constant mock astonishment,
the fuzz of waistcoat
you dressed him in .  .  .
Who wears things like that? Just him, probably .  .  .
The rhetorical shuffle of his three steps,
arms and eyes
imploring heaven for an explanation.

The last time you saw him
some idiot had smeared his
little dance into a parody.
Something grotesque; so familiar:
scarecrow made in the image of your father.
You squeeze the image
out of your eyes; accelerate  .  .  .

All winter you have watched
this tree approach
then fade, another wild thing
flailing its abandon to the wind,
or a shattered
shadow of grasping branches,
illuminated by passing headlights.

Your eyes closed,
you are minimised
by its embrace: infinite, intimate.
A stray arm dangling
from a car window,
a shock of birds lifted
against the sky.


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 Envoi, Orbis and Ink Sweat & Tears, and been shortlisted in various short fiction competitions.

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Cardinal Visits the Île de la Cité

The cardinal prowls
The cesspit of the city.
Touching the shadow
With one disdainful
Finger. Watching as the nail
Shrivels, and falls off.

My lord. This is not
A place for the pure of heart.
Even your servants
Shun the miasma.
The lungs of the poor are tanned.
Tanned like the leather.


Edward is a lecturer and writer, mostly on business and politics. He often posts twittaku (double haiku in 140 characters) on Twitter, plus the occasional political limerick.

Three Poems by Gary Beck

Urban Sprawl

On city streets
the homeless sit
with homemade signs
proclaiming needs.

On city streets
the people pass
and do not see
the lost’s despair.

On city streets
the garbage lies
next to the men
we have cast out.

Avian Crisis

The sparrows of Bryant Park
are like sparrows everywhere,
tough and aggressive,
driving out other birds
from nests, feeding grounds,
the natural habitat
completely usurped
by the alien invaders,
now taken for granted
by most Americans
who look at them fondly,
or indifferently,
never realizing
the sparrows are eliminating
bluebirds, warblers,
other vulnerable natives.

Accidents Happen

The unexpected
frequently arrives
without warning,
catching us unprepared
for flood, hurricane, earthquake,
life changing moments,
survival determined
by innate abilities,
resilience under pressure,
when the threat to safety
requires instant response,
otherwise causing
rapid termination.


Gary Beck spent most of his life as a theater director. He has 14 published chapbooks, 17 published poetry collections, 7 accepted for publication. He has 4 novels published and 3 accepted for publication, and 2 short story collections published, 1 accepted for publication. He lives in NYC.

Three Poems by J L Smith


She shows you the photograph—
four smiling teens,
two athletic sons,
two beautiful daughters with braces.

She tells you how wonderful life is
when you are a close family—
you do things together,
you laugh together,
play laser tag together—
when you tell her
you spent a boring weekend
during the mundane:
picking up soap crayons
for your toddler’s bath,
taking her for a haircut,
watching Disney all weekend.

You take the photo from her hands—
for a moment thinking
how it would be to be so happy—
when you smear your finger
over the glass corner,
notice the crack,
and dare not tell her
that imperfections are present.


Independent, he says,
I like that about you.
His eyes peer into you.
he edges.
You imagine his breath
on your face,
as he pats the blueberry scone,
pushes aside the napkin—
just the way he wanted.

You lean back
from his scrutiny,
back from the microscope,
as the barista calls
out his name for your order—
coffee he suggested.

Just try something different,
he said,
leaving you no room to differ.
Continue reading “Three Poems by J L Smith”

One Poem by Fabrice Poussin

Story Tellers

So much warmth comes from the unlikely embrace
of the giants in leather binds.

Century old friends under a dusty shroud
their heartbeats slowed to a crawl
wrinkled like those long-gone ancestors.

They may cradle you in an unending tale
of dwarves, giants, ogres and mighty maidens.

They extend their arms to offer a plunge
between the hazardous folds of untold stories
novels unraveling into the cyclone of tragedies.

Browned by the heat of ongoing passionate blaze
voices dance upon the plane on another fragment.

Record of an evolution from a mere spark
a single star identical upon the soul of infinity
it remembers a seamless story of eternity.

Comfort arises as if a caring mirage
upon the surface of all that is.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.

One Poem by Viv Parks

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

My search

I am lost, even with that map
trudged along street after street
until I retreated into myself and wept

I’ve lost count of the times
I’ve now set out to find you
along the way I’ve lost myself

I will set out yet again
retrace those steps
hope to regain my self respect

Forge those rivers
climb each slope
following bends avoiding dead ends

Following my own instincts
whilst I cling to that map
I will find you in the end


Viv Parks is an avid writer of poetry. She loves responding to challenges. In her retirement she now lives by the coast in Southern England and finds much inspiration from the panoramic views of the South Downs.

Three Poems by Joel Scarfe

While Trees

While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, as if to understand
human agony, the rain attempts to find
some meaning in the dust. The cobwebs bloom
with their flowers of death, and it seems that
everything that can be said
will not be said. I walk amongst a conspiracy
of shadows, and vegetation I cannot name,
and it remains clear that neither hope nor despair
are communicated
in the leaden eyes of a vulture, as it circles
above, like a dumb substitute for god.
While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, I think
of ruined love.

The Cemetery on Otley Road

Young lovers are walking through the cemetery
on Otley Road, picking out names
for children yet to come. They are oblivious
to rain, tanning an old stone wall,
the petrol station’s orange glow.
There is such sweet pressure in you, such hope
in your darkly falling leaves, that I want to walk
amongst your dead. I want to imagine
their eyes, their clod-heavy heads,
twisting around to hear me
as I pass.

Bad News

Early September, already the wasps
are drunk on rotting apples
and are goring the air
with their terrible music.
It’s the first time in weeks
that I’ve thought about winter
at all – its heart, like a pail of water
spilling down the steps
of an abandoned church
in the dark hours
of morning. I wonder if this
is what it’s like
to come home from your doctor
with bad news.


Joel Scarfe’s poems have featured in numerous magazines and periodicals, in print and online, including Ambit, London Magazine, TLS, Rialto and The North. He lives in Bristol UK with the Danish ceramicist Rebecca Edelmann and their two children.

One Poem by Dennis DuBois

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Mapping the Multiple Parises

In a dimly lit café a crinkled map hangs from the ceiling, the aerial view
looks down at crisscrossing roads, a Rorschach of the multiple Parises.
The cities laid bare, skeletal, unpeopled, surrounded by farmland green.
The River Seine divides, tributaries split further. The past and the future
vie for favor, impinging on the present.

Some prefer the Gaulish name, Lutetia, the tribal imprint of the
Parisii craftsmen. Few remember, much is disputed. History depends on the angle
from which it is spun, thus, multiple versions of the truth pass through the gates of Notre Dame, but none are unvarnished. Those who lived during the French
Revolution see differently than those who peer through the lens of Vichy France,
and most likely they would all feel out of place in the maw of the twentieth

Some see the city as a series of masks, each covering what was there before.
A thousand eyes peer through the eyelets at modernity, cultural wallpaper
subtly shifting; the evolution of preferred styles. There is more than one Paris,
multiple Parises, each spinning inside the infrastructure of the other.
Some call it mystical, asking, Pourquoi Paris, Pourquoi? Know thyself Paree.
First, the capital, then an abandoned garrison town, then the city of light, candles giving over to blue neon. Who are you when the tourists go home?

Maps have no flesh, can only say so much, difficult to capture that
which is no more. One holds the artifacts, listens to the music, the art,
the imagined festivities, the historical demands, but it is elusive, and we
are cautioned not to grasp with certainty any conclusion. Still we know,
during Années Folles, a revolutionary way of thinking evolved, changing
the pursuit of extravagance, joy, and the subtle art of socializing.

Today, scaffolding covers all. When revealed, Paris won’t be recognizable.
Absent are the ribbed vaults and flying buttresses of Gothic origin.
The amphitheater facelift will confuse the public. The cut and color of the roof
tiles different, the angled extremity of modern architecture make us all dizzy,
vertigo as art, upending the peace and comfort of bygone days, reflecting an
anxious future. Street cookery is dead, plastic has no scent and robotic horses have
no need to drop their load in the street. The odor of the city, whatever
it was that contributed to so appealing a scent, is gone.

Still, for so many, Paris is the beloved city, mapped in our imaginations. Paris,
who walked away from its history. Paris as icon, as metaphor for romance and
passion, a refuge for avant garde artists. But all of the weight it bears was stolen
from the past. A campaign is underway to cover the warts, and give the come-on
to tourists, looking for something to spark anew, a possibility that could only be
born here. This is the place if you wish to pursue the lover that got away long ago,
or to try to capture the burgeoning creativity that once bristled in the mind.
It may be hidden in plain sight, but still here.


Dennis has been toying with words, darkening pages, scribbling and editing poems
since he was a wee child. Poetry has been a friend, a guide, and someone to talk with when nobody else was around. His fingers may have stiffened over his guitar strings, but they hold a writing instrument just fine.

Three Poems by Craig Dobson

But I Ordered Love

She shrugs. Can’t you…

At her bare hot desk, she takes
a call: They had no invoice. Hold on…
looks at me, I need to…

As she does, I wait. The air con
stops then starts, above
her plant’s lamina of dust.

You wanted more?

Not sure who she’s talking to,
I pause. She stares at me.
In your application, you asked for…


I tell her of the sea we saw
torn by a winter moon;
the breeze tracing bonfire
sparks across our garden’s dusk;
my wife’s breathing as a dream
began to worry, and I knew
I’d wake her soon.

Sensing the rest-bereft expanse of now,
the emptiness I inhabit, propped
by fossil thoughts in whose cupped
hands I hold recall’s leaking bliss,
she frowns at her keyboard.

Someone coughs, phones ring,
the air con stops again.

 I’ll forward this…

Green Man

I brought the dead wood back to life.
Stepped in and budded every twig,
blushed imperial crocus, bluebell bed,
and the bared yellow of celandine
with each passing foot.
I – who couldn’t save a marriage,
or father a child – made the sulk
of winter love me in a warming morn.

Best to have stayed put,
fondling bark and wormshit earth,
spilling seed in brook and copse,
running leaved light through the song
in my eye, sire of shadows and tangled sound,
my thought-spoor found at dawn by men
drawn from the path – senses running off
with their dogs after my vanishing form –
their women left behind, warmth spreading up
loosening thighs, bellies swelling with my summer laugh.

Spirit Fox

The dead fox gets unsteadily
to his feet, limps to my desk,
where he stares at me, aghast.

Why… he says, …your poem
…when you found my body,
in the frost, by the stream?

I remember the bright, cold
light that day, him lying by
the nettles, his immaculate fur.

The lines… he gasps, …brought
me… made me… I look at his
dull coat, sodden and matted,

his gelled eyes’ opaque mess,
the ripped hanging lip, patches
of bare, maggot-gnawn skin,

the foreleg’s bone, bared by
busy crows who also tore
the anus, spilling pale folds

of bowel on the ground, weeks
after I wrote the words. Every day,
his diminishing where he lay

in the mud, the flooded ghyll
sliding past, the worn leaves
round him, the curious footprints

filled with rain. The breezes
beneath a restless sky. The slow
plunder of his body in the cold…

…of your cold image: its callous
rotting worked at, its dead birth
worming my unrest free all winter

till I’m here, ruin-ribbed, woodspoil
fit for nothing, the revolting shade
of my decay dragged across the page.

What now for your plaything, poet,
your corruption by the water’s side?
What now for all that I’ve been…?

He hangs his head of shadows above
the keys. When he says no more
I pause, then close the screen.


Craig’s had poems published in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Agenda, Stand, New Welsh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Message in a Bottle, Magma and Prole. He’s got work forthcoming in Acumen and Neon.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


What’s in a treaty?
A word veiled as truce
or simply a pledge
dredged up from murky depths
between Seine and Thames,
‘The dark one’.

It’s seen it all before,
the Seine,
like countless rivers
in countless lands
wending their way through time,
through war torn cities
their muddied eyes
rolling across ruined stones
and broken lives.

Pounding through 1657
Paris beats its chest,
heart pulsating out,
its spider veins radiating
losing significance,
the little streets
of little men
their whispered breath
throbbing with growing unrest.

Twenty-six thousand troops and fleet
aligned, colours mingling
rippling in the pull of the wash
sucked in, spewed out
like the artists, the poets,
the lovers and the lonely
drawn down, drowning
mouthing silently
What’s in a treaty?


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