One Poem by Juliet Latham

Nine of Swords

You believe 3 AM is the hour
of truth, the quietest one, that
solemn date between toe and
thread count where beside you
my greedy chest rises and falls
making you hungry hungry
for whatever it is you aren’t
getting. No part of the night
is more yours than this, this
sitting up when even
mice inside the walls
have ceased scratching,
are curled around the day’s
distractions. Everyone
knows how to sleep but
you and your swords, those
flying futures certain to
decapitate while you’re
dreaming, not that you ever
really do. Do you remember when
I asked if we were the
shape passing through the
panther’s heart
and you said more like just the
panther pacing, meaning
waiting, meaning, you were.
What is it you’re afraid of missing
while I dream. What do you hear
with your eyes closed. Last night you
said, joking, that my sleep talk
keeps you up. Rilke died
just after months of rushing
streaming poetry wanting
to leave nothing unsaid. But you,
you keep the light on,
sit sentry over breathing,
make certain nothing dreamed
is ecstasy.

 

Juliet Latham lives in West Chester, PA, where she is a full-time corporate trainer. She holds a masters degree in creative writing and taught writing for 10 years at Temple University in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in a variety of places, including The Ekphrastic Review, The Journal, Eleven Eleven, Boxcar Poetry Review, Pindeldyboz, BLOOM, Monkeybicycle and is forthcoming in Rattle.

One Poem by Rennie Halstead

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Red Bed

A large red bed.
No chair, no table, no need.
This is my workplace,
my home, my prison.

I paid your brother,
a new life,
me and my sister,
no more poverty or war.
All our savings.
We believed you.

You say my sister has a job,
that soon she’ll send for me.
Once I’ve paid my debts
I’ll be free.

I wonder if you raped her too.
Perhaps she’s in another room
upstairs, next door,
serving your friends and clients,
just like me.

You can keep me here,
force me to wear this red top,
black skirt,
tell me to smile,
make your friends feel good,
threaten to hurt me –
as if you can.
You have my body
you won’t have me
and no, I will not smile.

 

Rennie has been writing since he was eleven. He writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories and reviews. You can find his poetry on his ello site at: https://ello.co/bigren

One Poem by D S Maolalai

A house built out of lego

borrowing a lawnmower
from my aunt
one street over
and asking if she’d like
for me to do hers
as well. a sticky insult,
but unintended, for a woman
who’s shown me
only kindness; let me live
in my grandparents’ house
on condition
that I keep the backyard clear. her own place
is lined up perfect – sterile as the plastic surface
of a house
built out of lego. flowers in her garden
bloom
in uniform straightness
like soldiers
strutting on parade,
and this is the first time
I’ve cut my own grass
all winter. some thrown out potato-skins
and a couple cloves of garlic
show leaves
a good foot
from the ground.

 

D S Maolalai has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019).

One Poem by Ava Drake

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Red

You wake up, you exist
Your life – monochrome
You put on a bright red dress
Attention grabbing, to fill
Your empty soul, stripped
By the years of routine, mediocrity
You suffocate – from
The constant mourning of
Your own death. Bright colours
Don’t warm up the ice in your
Veins, bright colours are a
Façade – until you get home
And lie in your bed, you smile
You fooled them again.

 

Ava Drake is a poetess from London, UK. She started writing poetry at a young age and has recently rediscovered her passion for writing. She is currently working on her first poetry collection.

One Poem by Frances Roberts-Reilly

The Gower

The wild sea of grass where
the turbulent tide breaks in.
By some inner radar
the sheep find higher ground.

The feral ponies herd
in family groups bonding in the blustery
wind-swept, tousled heather.
Such is the deep peace of wild places.

We offer our brokenness where
green life enables weak things to grow.
These are not straight paths where
the veined sea pulses around nesting places.

The startled Kite takes flight in
the wild, dishevelled places of the mind.
The boney spine, a highway of life
force, tingles the eager nerves at its brim.

We laugh, we cry, we feel the dark places.
What current runs between us opening
the heart’s depth and the fathoms within us?
Hill forts, bones and stones store memories.

We’ve crossed this remote, rough ground.
Exposed we arrive in the sheltered urbane.
Calmer now and gentle under its tutelage.
Such is the ability to rise and overcome.

 

Frances Roberts-Reilly was born on the Welsh border and grew up in England. She’s of mixed-heritage Welsh Gypsy-English, a descendant of Abram Wood, the notable family of musicians and storytellers.

She began writing seriously in 1972, whilst working at BBC television in London, England. After making award-winning documentaries, she earned an Honours degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto.

Frances is a full-time writer, living in Canada. Her writing has been published widely in literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She is a featured poet in the upcoming Stone on Stone: Anthology of Romani Women Writers.

One Poem by Annest Gwilym

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Red on Red

Red protects itself. No colour is as territorial. It stakes a claim, is on the alert against the spectrum. (Derek Jarman)

i
outside the room where nothing is natural and a red bed burns on terracotta tiles  rooks make jagged black nests in trees  piercing the innocence of baby blue skies while she stretches  opens her legs in invitation or obstruction  sensible shoes and ankle socks to hey babe take a walk on the mild side  counting sunbeams and sunglasses  contemplating train times  lunch times  the times they are a-changing times  bacteria breeding on skin  whether she dares eat a peach  how best to navigate squalid subways  breathe don’t breathe  look up look down  walk run  the number of steps required to reach the pareidolian blue portal on the wall and whether a slide of big red lipstick in Love in a Lift would calm her down

ii
although it’s spring  autumn hides and multiplies in young hazel nuts that quietly bud on branches and brush the window with newborn sweetness while archangels sleep in attics waiting for Christmas and she contemplates red  for love  life  death  disquiet ardour  angst  the knife held too close to the flesh  the exquisite pain that flowers  blooms and how trees bear witness as they always must to the red of dawn splitting the sky while angels hide in leaves that flicker like flames

 

Annest is a poet, short story writer and jewellery maker who often wishes she were a painter instead. Editor of Nine Muses Poetry and proud owner of an adorable rescue terrier dog.

One Poem by Fabrice Poussin

As the Last Stone Fell

Agony rose from the oozing asphalt
passers-by froze at the foot of the colossus
so a tear could freely find a way to a cry.

The heavens turned a pale orange in a shy dusk
shaken by the groans of ancient saunterers
pleading for a better morrow in the fresh ruins.

I too took a moment to ponder the miracle
in a flash, centuries came crashing into
a death more brutal than of civilizations.

It seems the world watched the incident
moved by chagrin unfelt since oceans away
that infamous day in September another cathedral fell.

But I dared ask as I saw the kneeling crowd
what it was so they mourned in the solid rock
as the last stone fell in acrid laughter.

 

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many 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 Paula Puolakka

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

The Blood of Christ

Maybe inside my brain, there’s a bunch of larvae
eating the tissue and my nerves away,
slowly and steadily,
and this is why I have been thinking about
the end of the world which will take place
in 150 years’ time,
she ponders,
lying on her lonely bed
and the color scarlet is not the color of a whore,
but the symbol of a pious woman,
tormented by the blood of Christ
and her unfulfilled duty to turn the world
around.

The white walls
and the tile floor
are those of a monastery,
(not a nunnery since she does not believe in the nuns,
only in her fellow monks)
though, in reality, the “monastery” is her rental flat
near the deli owned by her uncle,
the “man in black silk”,
an orthodox Jew,
and right across the street, there’s a Pizza Hut
and the only rosaries – seen on the block –
are those in the window of the hocus pocus shop
which also sells crystals, Tarot decks, and
Krishna figures.

Maybe we have all been subjected to
some strange chemicals,
and my whole life
has been an illusion,
the divine emotions and all the dedication
caused by the company named X
to fulfill our government’s wishes,
she ponders
before closing her eyes to dream
about the husband
she will never share her bed with.

 

Paula Puolakka (1982) is a Beat poet, writer, and MA (History of Science and Ideas) who has won poetry and short story contests held in the USA and Israel. Her latest work can be found through Woody Guthrie Poets (Speak Your Mind Anthology: OK, USA) and Poetry Potion (South Africa).

One Poem by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

Granny’s Lavender

Twigs from aromatic shrubs still hang
inside her locked kitchen cupboard.
Smells curl in spirals, escape restraint
through narrow gaps by flared brass hinges.
Sometimes, I almost faint with longing.

I miss her. Her love and her perfume –
lavender she dabbed on cotton hankies.

It shocks to realise
I’m older now, than she was when she died.

Today, I reach out, touch Spring’s first furred catkin,
dusted yellow. My years fall away,
settle like discarded skirts fallen round my ankles.

She calls. I miss her. Her lavender uplifts me
and I leave my crumpled circle of fabric debris.
She calls and extends her hand, unveils her eyes
not dead but seeded in memory’s eternity.

Beneath an arc of cyan sky, I prepare
to shed my time-worn skin, fly to thinner air
and celebrate our shared, aromatic prayer.

 

Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

One Poem by Alexandra Marraccini

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Red Bed Intercessory

There is nothing but that red upholstery,
Piped in a crisp white.
There is nothing but that red upholstery

And terracotta like a hexed
And infinite byway
To the monkey-puzzle tree
In the square courtyard.

Appendages as
Disconsolate with summer;
Limbs, like a child, splayed,
Spindly in his school shorts.

The ooze and crisp break
Of pine sap, the coniferous
Black of Whitby Jet,
Of eyes like jet like obsidian
Sharp in the gape-hot
Mouth of the afternoon.

I want nothing
And am nothing
Here in this moment which
If Pompeii or fossil or asteroid,
Or sickly chloroform like a ward,
Suddenly preserved
Would have only

That red upholstery,
My vacant lapwing
Wader’s eyes, and

Waiting, waiting predicate
To mourning, predicate to
What I did or
Did not do.

 

Alexandra Marraccini is an art historian who drinks icy, sweet lattes with a certain wild abandon. She lives in London.