Two Poems by Joanna Friedman

Sand Story

a wishing grain of sand
blue, sparkly, blue
I hid it in a castle
told myself a story

sand scratched memories
stuck to my skin
twisted in my hair
washed away in waves

to a passenger ship
floating in a bottle
turned into an hour glass
I waited for sand to fall

ocean, sand, ocean
ship sails
past glass neck
into paradise shore

and back again
and back again

Rain City

water stain city rains
down concrete walls
inverted buildings
fall toward dirt sky

mildewed imprints open
darkened windows
where hemline is kissed
and skirt fades above knee

streaks of skyscrapers
city mirage dissolves
a shadow’s hangover
invisible in sunlight


Joanna Friedman’s fiction and poetry has appeared in a variety of anthologies and on-line publications. She works as a psychologist in the San Francisco Bay area and lives with her husband, twin girls, and pug dog, Blue. Follow her on twitter, @j_grabarek or her website,

Outside In by Deirdre Fagan Finalist in Best of the Net 2018

I’m thrilled to be able to announce that Outside In by Deirdre Fagan, one of my nominations for Best of the Net 2018, is a finalist:

Massive congratulations to Deirdre, a well-deserved finalist with her outstanding poem! Her poem, Outside In, is here (the third one):


Two Poems by Stuart Nunn


Freighted with medication
and walking aids, we are carried north.
Ranging from spry-for-her-age
to not-long-for-this-world,
we carry our prejudices
and eccentricities.

We are travelling north
towards a conclusion.

A ship going north through darkness
has purpose and means.
We, its cargo, watch
the black landscape drifting past.
Cold mountains where snow
marks out improbable roads
that signify other lives.

An armillary on an undistinguished rock
marks the boundary we crossed this morning.
So we took photos in the freezing cold,
and felt no different.

Except, for one day each year,
right here,
the sun never sets.
And on another single day,
darkness fills all twenty-four hours.
Thus this line is defined.

And we have crossed it.

Ahead, the end of something,
Europe or landscape.
This is where the imperceptibly moving ship
is taking us. The trick
will be to recognise it
when we get there,
not tomorrow, but sometime soon.

Foyles – 1964

There is a madness lurking
in the second-hand stacks.
Read all about it in Sociology.
Plenty of explanations everywhere
if only we could understand.

Our floor, ruled by Jos the Dutchman,
sells Law and Principles of Business:
how to shaft your customers,
send crooks to jail, then read
about them in Criminology.

Reg the office boy, is a mod
at weekends, fights rockers on the beach.
On Monday he delivers books
to the basement to be sent off
to bed-bound old ladies out of town.

Miss Bastable in the basement
values volumes that will find
a final resting place in Second Hand.
Watch her paw the pages, and see
the cruelty of the book trade.

Answers will be on the fourth floor
in the other building. Anyone who seeks
enlightenment must be directed there,
but we know, don’t we, it isn’t anywhere
in this hard-backed asylum.


Stuart Nunn is a retired college lecturer and newly a grandfather. A long time ago he won a minor prize in the Bridport International and has been published in various magazines – none of which are available in W H Smith.

One Poem by R J S Cantwell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Great Hall Of Polychromes

We are the dreamers of the cave-sky –
immortal, yet extinct –
our story daubed in mottled constellation,
we crowd like stabled chargers
and age like frescoed vellum;
relics from a distant century,
we are the evidence,
the vanishing point
the birth of imagination.

Never did the hunter
deliver us from fear,
yet somehow in our eyes
did he exact the look of wonder,
as though a stoic matador
lay patiently in wait.


RJS Cantwell is the editorial director of an LGBQT-focused art gallery in King’s Cross, for which his essays have been published by many online art magazines such as After Nyne, Artnet and Blouin. His work has been on display in Launceston Place, Kensington and the South Place Hotel in Moorgate. He was also part of the 2017 National Theatre Writer’s Group, and the 2018 Penguin/Random House Writer’s Academy.

One Poem by Irene Cunningham

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Casting Tokens

Cave walls speak art, tell time,
pose life-size beasts in action
but I would wish for human faces.
These artists chased fauna, held
model menagerie in their heads,
ran them around protected walls
to continue the sacred journey.

Cave walls won’t bear my leavings;
I don’t own a wall, or land…and
anything upright is bound to fall.
I’ll spread memories like catkins
on family trees, art and words
meandering into unknown custody.
Caves will await the new world.


Irene Cunningham’s recent publications: Picaroon, South Bank Poetry, I am not a Silent Poet, Riggwelter, The Lake, Shoreline of Infinity, Blue Nib, Strix. She thinks about the outside world but isn’t often there. Nominated for The Pushcart Prize 2019.

Three Poems by Sheree Mack


Ill-report and scandal are like forest fires, sweeping through a circle of acquaintance faster than the wind.Caitlin Matthews

An orange sky meets dawn.
A clawing dryness consumes throat.

I can’t hear the birds. Woodpeckers,
creepers, wobblers and wrens. Silence.

Push feet into slippers, rub sleep
from eyes, I stumble to the door

to be hit by black and brown smoke;
soundless seeping smog. FIRE.

The earthly instinct to survive,
yet no plan in place, I ditch slippers

for boots, grab rucksack and supplies
and run. Run, legs move in waves

over tree roots and muddy outpourings,
away from the crackle and roar now,

past charred remains of man or dog,
I don’t know. All I know is that

bile rises, the thin layer of skin
under eyes stings and lips,

patched, peel. Body in chaos.
Mind in sharp focus as injustice

rankles to my core. Remember the last time
he touched my cheek, his wide mouth

laugh and the feel of him inside me.
The pain burns. Toxic.

Reeds along the shore burn like matches.
I dive into the reservoir, smoulder.

Adopting the laws of nature, thicken
my bark and strengthen my bones.

The Last Black Woman

after Abdellatif Laâbi

It’s just a couple of hours
since I last talked to my sister.
She’s sitting on the edge
of my bed full of sunlight;
thumping her fist into her palm
convincing me that we’re
hovering within change.
That we no longer feel skinshame.

It’s just a couple of hours
since I last talked to my sister.
I’m waking up, but I remember
she says she’s got my back.
These days, within my waking hours,
I sense her, my sister.
I feel her veins of vulnerability;
her want for a body that just
doesn’t have to play small.

It’s just a couple of hours
since I last talked to my sister.
I swear. I can still feel her hurrying
warmth. And yet when I wake
to the doorbell, and the police
tells me she’s beaten
into a coma, arrested
for someone else,
there’s a trace memory
of an out of body sensation,
of me becoming present
to our endangered selves.

Go Seek Help

It’s night, there’s a porch
and a swing set. It’s still.

A woman’s lying on her back
at the bottom of the front steps.

Arms splayed above her head,
legs stretched out straight.

Pieces of bloodied hair,
brain and flesh are splattered,

matted across her white blouse.
Her face is gone,

blasted away by a shot
through the screen door.

The white man
fears for his property.

Her hands are empty
yellow palms open to night’s skin.


Sheree Mack is a Creatrix living on the North East Coast of England. She facilitates visual journaling workshops, nationally and internationally, supporting women in their exploration of their authentic voices. She is currently writing about travelling and working in Iceland as well as the next instalment of her creative non-fiction memoir.

One Poem by Anna Schoenbach

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


In whose heartbeat did you see me?
Your mother’s, or your own?

Or was it not “beat,” but “blood”
spilled in the moment
when you first knew “pain”
and saw red drip from your scraped knees?

I saw the first sparks of sentience
in your charcoal and pigment dust
as you drew me on the wall.

We stared at each other, eye to eye,
in your first steps, your first breaths,
blinking at the light and clothed in amnion,

And I approved your transformation
from idea into human.


Previously published in the poem anthology “Primal Elements,” by OWS Ink, Anna Schoenbach is a writer, editor, and poet who hopes that she can capture even just a little bit of the awesome power of the natural (and spiritual) world in her writing.

One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Grandaddy Auroch

Lines the walls of hidden caves
Tempestuous in paleolithic ink:
Hungry, the cro magnons slice
The painting on the wall –
At some point a steak must
Flop off and onto an innovated flame

Bulls bow in deference as
Matadors contemplate
Their imminent goring
Red stains the dusts of Castille
Pigments decorate subterranean Altamira
Blood dates to the beginning of time.


Felix hails from Berkeley, CA but lives and travels abroad wherever possible. In addition to three micro-chapbooks (all published by the Origami Poems Project), Felix has been published in numerous outlets and magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

One Poem by Stuart McClure

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


What do you see in me, what questions rise
when the cave mouth is un-stoppered?

I am slathered on this accidental rock
like raw meat on a butcher’s block,

the soft sad-eyed bulk of me delineated
by a blackened fire stick.

What will you do when I fade-out,
when the rock-crust lets go its grip?

Don’t re-store me with tender bristles,
touching me here and there

until I have stepped into time,
a forgery in a gift shop.


Stuart McClure has been writing for several years, particularly inspired by Dartmoor and the South Devon Coast. He is a member of two writing groups: Moor Poets and Two River. They both provide stimulus and critical feedback.

Two Poems by John Krumberger

Election Day, November 2016

Three days after we buried her
the weather abruptly changed,
and I failed to wear the proper shoes
for rain freezing into snow.
How I wanted to say the worst is over now
– the nursing home, the feeding tube,
her bruised arms and legs,
the thrush in her mouth done with and gone –
but the cold front would have contradicted me:
first a constant drip from roofs
and trees rivering the gutters,
then the sneer of ice with its ugly grin
on puddles lit by street lamps,
finally the drifts seeping into my wingtips,
never to be the same again.
Once the feet are cold, the body follows.
Shivering I recalled my James Joyce:
the snow general falling over
the dazed, mutinous country.

A Dream in Black and White

Hiking up an alpine ridge
dressed in his brown suede coat –
no boots or crampons,
no ice ax or glasses for snow blindness
though the sheen is brilliant white –
you think of the house on Franklin,
an ordinary summer evening;
the garden hose hiss a serpent;
you, your brother in bathing suits
laughing, receiving the spray,
cold surprise in the milky almost dark,
a boy’s way of being hugged, and now
past tree line you know you’ll not descend again
still you climb easily, almost running,
as if growing lighter here,
almost as if floating on air.


John Krumberger has previously published a volume of poems entitled THE LANGUAGE OF RAIN AND WIND (Backwaters Press in 2008), and a chapbook, IN A JAR SOMEWHERE through Black Dirt Press in 1999. His latest volume collection BECAUSE AUTUMN was published by Main Street Rag Press in 2016. He works as a psychologist in private practice in St. Paul MN and lives with his wife in Minneapolis.