One Poem by Simon Leonard

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

In the Red Room

I am a fish in your red room:
just another fish,
flitting in front of your glass eyes.

A fish in your bed,
the pale lava of your bed.
A fish on your thighs,
your inert, generous thighs.

Shoals of my hands stir
the cream of your marble breasts;
flounder on your neck.

Just another fish, wanting
to drown in your mineral warmth;
your thighs to collide, peel apart,
welcome my electric scales inside,
squeeze the tenderness out of me.

All you want is red.

Lava flows in your gaze,
busy feeding.

Naked like a stone, you are tender
like a loin of stone,
inviting a million waves
to unremember rock to froth,
sediment to foam,
until all detail is lava red,
and no one can see your smile.

Pygmalion only had to plug you in;
fit money in the slot.
Maybe I just liked it better this way.


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 Dan A Cardoza


In my back yard, tree branches guiro like rusty hinges.
Onyx eyes pepper limbs like worry beads. My
Austrian Black Pine is bent from the wind. My crows
chatter, crackle, and invent sound, pick stiff locks.

Maybe from the redundancy of fables, the woods this
day seem obligated to keep secrets, even the ones they
don’t already know. But a crow on a branch is part
pry bar, if I enter, they’ll know all.

A Nor’easter is bluing its face. The weather channel is
forecasting it so. Frenzied rail-road track feet claw my
roof, tell me so.

To the chorus they bring tempo, dark blood in the veins of the
heart of the forest. Their smudged flight
in darkening skies, alibis.

You can choose to worship them, as they prefer. You
may want to reconsider. If they were bred into the
genetics of Canis familiaris, they’d be butcher’s dogs
and alley wise, bartering tricks for knifed clean ham
hocks, and bloody pig knuckles.

They keep lies much better than secrets, there’s no
question. Be cautious in befriending. Let’s be honest,
if God granted darker prayers, we’d be as
blind as pecked sparrow eyes.


Dan has a MS Degree in Education from UC, Sacramento, Calif. He is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and a new book of flash fiction, Second Stories.

Best of the Net 2019

I’ve now submitted my six chosen nominations, a task which involved reading and selecting from 411 qualifying poems. A difficult but enjoyable undertaking, which reminded me of the quality submissions I’ve received from writers from all over the world, helping make Nine Muses Poetry’s first year a success. I am genuinely grateful to all who submitted, but I had to choose six poems, and these are (in no particular order):

Glossed Over – Amy Charlotte Kean
Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill – Luanne Castle
Home Alone – Diana Cant
The Last Black Woman – Sheree Mack
Good daughters – Kate Garrett
Encounter with Skyscrapers – Godwin Tan

Good luck to all nominees!


Two Poems by Ankita Banerjee

Loneliness is a four letter word

She smelt like a sack of dry faeces. Her skin – perishing, lathered in Olay – mercilessly showed the frown lines, vivider than ever. The dog skimmed off the froth at her mouth. Her phone rang twice. Mint leaves in the glass jar turned paler than life. The dog ate a few of those and broke the jar. Water drove past her fingers, just like her list of contacts. When cockroaches crawled into her hair, the dog ate a few of those too. He nuzzled her stone-cold clenched fist and tried taking out the empty pill box. Later he spewed a chalky concoction on her and licked it off. She no longer smelt like a dead rat. The dog fluttered his tail listlessly like a cheeky riposte when they barged in. They called important people to clear the rot. When she was put inside the ambulance the dog tucked his tail between legs. He looked at the important people for help, but they looked away, as always. They put away her linens that reeked of desolation, to charity. Her desk – a lemon’s lair – was dumped in the landfill. The dog curled up inside the cupboard and wondered if death, too, comes with an emergency exit.

Anxiety is a three-legged dog trapped inside a windowless room

Gnaw at your fingers until you are sore and inflamed. Watch the ugliness of your bloody cuticle overpower the whirl of your horrible thoughts. (Get a fancy manicure later; or maybe never.) Pick at the leathery skin of your lips until you feel like a rabid racoon. Stop when you reach the centre in the bottom because you can feel like a human now. (Consider getting a Cyber Bite for amplified relaxation.) Add 25 items in your Amazon cart until you see dancing orbs on the walls. The aching median nerve gives way and your shoulder crumbles for carrying all the weight of your inflated, windy brain. (Open Instagram and search ‘#happycatclub’ to unwind.) Change your bed sheet, clean the floor, blow the dust off your cupboard, rearrange the linens, clean the sink, bring out the dinner set that you never use and wash every bowl. (Until you see your ghost on the scrubber.) Watch the rock star-guru-for-the-whites-and-third-world-elites talk about how we are compulsively directing horror movies in our heads whilst we should be making comedies instead. Roll a joint and consider his monologue. Meditate on the seabed and eat a walnut brownie through your nose. You are Julia Roberts in your head now. (The shit works.) Rob a bank and build a panic room behind the closet. (But first, ask your therapist how to be your own Meg Altman.) Take one day at a time: in All Caps. Still and all, you will float in a keg full of pig piss by midday and there will be a dug well between your brows by the afternoon and you will step into a dung-hole after sundown and you will drag yourself to get through another day. (Don’t hate its serrated edge, sweetheart; the blood runs back to you.)


Ankita Banerjee is a writer and poet based in Pune, India. Her works have appeared or will appear in The Bangalore Review, Coldnoon – International journal of travel writing & travelling cultures, Eunoia Review, Matter Press, Women’s Web, X-R-A-Y, Kitaab and others. Her first short fiction series is published by Juggernaut Books in 2019.

One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Deadbeat, Bloodsheet

The world grows weary
Heavy clouds hang low in 1944
Their grey permeates the walls
The deadbeat lies down to die
Upon a sheet soaked with blood

Once so perky, joyful and shy
The deadbeat’s life, sapped from
A husk of skin by the insects of history
A Kafkaesque face considers Francis Gruber
There is nothing to express in those eyes

What must we do with a soul so beaten
Into nothingness, upon a random, blood-soaked bed?
Nobody hurries over to clean those sheets
They have seen enough blood to this day
In the epoch where we waste altogether away.


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. His webpage is:

One Poem by Amlanjyoti Goswami


Inside an old Qualis jeep,
In the back seat.
Sponge coming out like Prof Calculus’ hair.
The fields still green after all the carnage.

We circled around the remains of day.
Burnt plastic, glass shards, a detached hand,
A heart plucked out, still beating.

We would make it, we knew, from hope.

Then I saw my friend, Martin,
Lying there,
Martin from schooldays,
Camps and late nights.
Martin who talked big,
Now, small as thirteen.

We stumbled through bumpy roads
and barricades with cops.

A church stood still, on the way.
A psalm hung in the air,
Like a premonition.


Amlanjyoti Goswami’s collection of poems, River Wedding, has just been published by Poetrywala. His poems have been published in India, Nepal, Hong Kong, the UK, USA, South Africa, Kenya and Germany, including the anthologies, 40 under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala) and A Change of Climate (Manchester Metropolitan University, Environmental Justice Foundation and the University of Edinburgh). His poems have also appeared on street walls of Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg and buses in Philadelphia. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

It’s been a long day, OK?

It can’t be said I didn’t try.
It can’t be that I didn’t try.
It could be that I didn’t try.
It could be that I wouldn’t try.

Could it be that I am trying?
That could be what Sally meant.
That could be what Sandro meant.
That could be, all passion spent,

the joy of local government.
It could be that now I’m dying,
red on red, while an accident
repeats in my punch-drunk head,

something to do with barely trying,
being willing, trying, giving a flying
et cetera – you get the idea –
I’m dying – right? So now I’m here,

and every day’s a hexagon,
a tile in life, life going on
and on and on. It can’t be said
I didn’t try. (My head! My head!)


Michael Caines lives in London, and has had poems published by Allegro Poetry, the New European and Visual Verse.

Two Poems by Daryl Muranaka


rain floods the corners
rushes along the gutters—
nowhere to cross

ripples grasp for the edges
collide into each other
puddles vibrate—

just before bed
rain applauds the dark
blissful sleep

Place in the Sun

My world is the world,
not a room in my mind.
My world is not mine,
it is no one’s & everywhere.

There is no earth,
accelerating beneath my feet,
pushing me through time.
The flowers bloom
and then they fail.

I am the world,
digesting in the belly of the beast,
swallowed whole
and crushed by rocks
for insufficient teeth.
There is no sun,
faraway and familiar,
no source of my nourishment,
nothing capable of my destruction.


Daryl Muranaka lives in the Boston area with his wife and two children. He enjoys aikido and tai chi chuan and exploring his children’s multiple cultures. His poems have appeared in Gyroscope Review, the Roanoke Review, and Spry Literary Review. He has published one collection and two chapbooks.

One Poem by Dan Greenwell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Le Lit Rouge

Midst gun-metal grey of a steel-hard world,
An island of living, of deep scarlet blood,
My pallet of passion and pensive repose,
Where I can be me, without or with clothes:
This shall be my ark if there be a new flood,
On my bed I’ll remain as destruction unfurls.


Dan is a lifelong fancier of music and of the written word, and was naturally drawn to poetry as the fusion of the two. He also plays video games, watches Asian television dramas, and studies the Korean language.

For more of Dan’s poetry and other writing:

Two Poems by Robert Okaji

Celestial Navigation

Even dung beetles
know the stars,

how they shape

Motion ceases with arrival.

This body attracting
that. The heart

losing itself
to the moon’s

pull, another wave

Does light descend
or rise?

Subtle yet observant.

Like truth, like
destiny shivering

through the coldest hour,
saying Welcome, welcome!

In the Garden of Wind’s Delight

Faltering, it drifts
to a stop, rests for a moment
before fluttering to its end.

It is good to be sound.
It is good to trickle through holes.
It is good to be old
even if just one of a crowd.

These notes serve no purpose
yet they linger beyond
their existence.

I listen to their past
for their future. Where are you?
I ask. What is your true name?


Robert Okaji bides his time in Texas. The author of five chapbooks, most recently I Have a Bird to Whistle (Luminous Press, 2019), his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oxidant | Engine, Nthanda Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Panoply  and elsewhere.