One Poem by Melanie Branton

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Glassy eyed, they co-exist
in their glossy magnolia cell,
with the chill elegance of a marble
mantel, where the fire has gone out.
Light glints off the patent leather
girdling her thickened waist,
her decanter firmly stoppered,
her sweet viscous sherry
nearly drunk up. The toffee apple
patina of the furniture reflects
a marriage that has had the sharp edges
sucked off by habit. Small creatures
with feathers are trapped
beneath a heavy dome. She stares
at a faded portrait of him in black and white.
The past flaunts its décolletage,
its bare shoulders. The present
is muffled in a thick brown suit.
Fire and water are on the table
in front of them, but colourless
and terrible, shining with a purity
that tastes of nothing,
the greatest of these is water.


Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her published collections are Can You See Where I’m Coming From? (Burning Eye, 2018) and My Cloth-Eared Heart (Oversteps, 2017).

One Poem by Kathryn Sadakierski

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Walls, purpled by shadows
Lonely as the glass half empty
And the familiar ghosts of boredom,
Haunting still.

Caged butterflies,
Birds without the vibrant wings of flight,
A picture framed,
Life, frozen, confined,
For a moment.

The cigarette he smokes
Doesn’t glow,
Everything in this room
Is dulled by blue edges, cold.
Even the faint flickers of light,
The spots that shine,
Are more silver than gold.

After the dishes have been cleared,
And the sun has already tipped its hat
Below the horizon,
Bid goodnight,
The embers of day scattered beneath the stars,
Uncertainty sets in.

Everyone is left to their thoughts,
Restless minds in the dim corridors of ennui,
A compressed space.
Wilted flowers, they wait for direction,
For the sun to rise again.


Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in The Bangor Literary JournalThe Ekphrastic ReviewTeachers of Vision, Dime Show Review, and elsewhere. She graduated summa cum laude from Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts with her Bachelor of Arts degree, and is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree.

One Poem by Todd Mercer

Jimmy’s Serial Cities

Jimmy in a window seat of a Greyhound bus
bound for Battle Creek, the Cereal City.
First town in a five-stop circuit,
spread across his Spring Break week,
high school’s Sophomore year.
One night there, then next ticket—
on to Grand Rapids. He’s amazed
his folks allowed these self-directed visits
to apiece friend in each town. Grand Rapids
seems damned peculiar, if you haven’t been there,
been clued in. Three days there, then northbound.
Traverse on the bay that’s half their worker’s pay.
It’s Spring downstate, but Winter here. There’s sleet.
Jimmy calls Ma from the depot’s payphone,
says he’s fine and fed and not robbed yet.
He doesn’t mention how glad he is
that growing up is nearly over. Little patience
in him with the wait for full-time freedom
after this taste of it traveling. The tonic trip,
the last leg home, Jimmy has a five-hour heart to heart
with a stranger whom he falls in Like with.
This trip continues. This trip was launched
by one version of the guy, while another iteration
of him finishes. Jimmy comes home
slightly taller, ready for the road.


Todd Mercer was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Fiction in 2019 and a Best of the Net in Poetry in 2018. His collection Ingenue is forthcoming in 2020 from Celery City Press. Recent work appears in The Lake, Dunes Review and The Museum of Americana.

One Poem by Randal A Burd, Jr.

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Bad News

A glass of water, half consumed, remained
Neglected at the table where she sat
Before her father tenderly explained
How nothing can be done, and that is that.

Oh, how can one so quickly lose all hope?
She asked herself as numbness settled in.
And as she wondered how she’d ever cope
He thought about the places he had been,

The accolades he’d hung upon the wall
In black and silver frames, advanced degrees,
Group photos from his days of playing ball,
His membership in nine societies…

With all of these and more he was undone
By forces far outside of his control
Accomplishments, hard-earned, now felt unwon,
Despair crept in and grappled with his soul.

He’d trade it all if he could ease her pain.
He hadn’t meant to make his daughter cry.
His life was lived too fully to complain,
Yet still he wasn’t set to say goodbye.


Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator who works with the disadvantaged in rural Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. Randal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sparks of Calliope magazine. His latest collection of poems, Memoirs of a Witness Tree, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in Summer 2020.

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Party Until Dawn

Christine, they’re looking at us.
Just three of them out there.
Where are the connoisseurs?
Where are the tourists?
After all it’s Saturday.

Little wonder you’re melancholy.
Should be me too. But
my chair is so relaxing
my cigar’s a Fonseca and
my tumbler’s half full.

Do try to look interested, Christine.
Stop gazing up the wall.
Don’t turn your back to them.
Tate Modern closes in an hour then
we can party until dawn.


Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.

Two Poems by Mark J Mitchell


She dreamed she was the littlest girl. At five
each morning dresses rose to her soft form.
Lost melodies sprung up around her. Warm
sunrise found straight paths through her window.
Slick tap shoes slipped onto her feet, alive
to music and morning. Dreams made her float
to labor, boredom. To crabbed, cryptic notes
left by people she didn’t want to know.
She was not little. She’d never felt small
in large rooms. She hid her jeans with shirt tails
and pasted smiles—ready for unliked crowds.
She’d miss the mirror then make morning calls
and coffee. Catch her bus where sirens wailed
like her alarm—whining too long, too loud.

The Sea Witch

A slow, silver tide rolls in.
The Sea Witch, tied to her float,
bobs lonely as a glass saxophone.

Moonlight’s carving thin
slices through the fog. Empty boats
summon tide-scrubbed bones.

No human beings can begin
these November songs—the loose coats
foghorns shed when they feel alone.

Some lost name, a misplaced sin,
drifts past The Sea Witch. A note
the bottle missed. A not quite poem.

Lost shark schools chase fins
that can’t cut water. Silverfish hosts
reflect the last light of this moon.

Now the tide goes red, coming in
below The Sea Witch. She floats,
bopping to a sad song from a saxophone.


Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu will be published by Encircle Publications shortly.

He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster where he makes his meager living pointing out pretty things.

He has published 2 novels, three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. Titles on request.

A meager online presence can be found at

One Poem by Edward Alport

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Under Cuban Skies

Where would they fly on their parchment wings?
Would they shatter the glass and soar on the winds?
Would they snap the branch of a tree with their weight
When they perch, merrily tired, through the night?
But how could such a cruel man come with a knife
And fix them in this parody of life?

You know, I really must congratulate Monsieur Le Tobacconiste on his excellent choice
Of coronas when I see him. This one in particular has all the evocation of the voice
Of dusky maidens in Havana, rolling the moist leaves upon their silky thighs
In mellifluous conversation, in Spanish, of course, under the Cuban skies.
I wish, in a way, that this never would burn out, so that I would not have the bother
Of getting to my feet and lighting another.

And all around, in the desert of the day
The lone and level sands stretch endlessly away.


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.

One Poem by Simon Daley

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Bell Jar

We all live in a bell jar he mused,
cocooned, co-opted and confined
by the limits placed upon us,
limits defined internally pushing
back against freedoms gained
internationally even galactically
(if the lunatics are to be believed).
The wireless worries the bounds,
bringing new voices and vices,
its waves lapping around a tapping
foot, struggling to stay rooted,
in the moss of what we know.
We know there is life out there
but not as we know it,
not yet.


Simon Daley is a police officer who aspires to write poetry that people are glad they read. He is studying creative writing with Open University. He may never be published but can live with that. He lives in Scotland between houses and a campervan and misses his daughter terribly.

Two Poems by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

The day after Christmas

like doomed ants in a whirlpool
tourists in faraway Sumatra
swirl in the seismic wave
aerial views streaming on CNN Live –
futile attempts to outswim
the advancing wall of white.

quiet has settled upon my world
the day after Christmas
catatonic, in my hospital gown
as the nurse asks if I want
a drink of water
the channel changed
to something cheerful
her voice sympathetic
but I’m a shell.

the fifteen hours before
a blur of feral screams
of stumbling into ER
hemorrhaging into my shoe
stone eyed doctors hunting
for a glimpse of the yolk sac
a hint of a heartbeat
in the radio silence of my womb.

half a world away
the tsunami flays all in its path
seaplanes over swamps of brown
fields of bodies, broken wood
the Indian Ocean wrecking
the shape of shorelines.

spasms of dull burning sear
the twitch of a cored pear
she rubs my hand in a bid to comfort –
I’m young and healthy

I can try again
vitals measured, noted
she pats a vein, the needle tingling
the cocktail blurring the tv
and its tragedies blank
my mind in free fall
plunging like a stone
in the rushing wave of Trazadone.


a long time ago
in the wake of our loss
you took me to the mountains
to gather myself

it was springtime
and there I saw
jacarandas in bloom
for the first time in my life.

I remember thinking how
the brocade of trees
swishing violet arms
seemed to dust the skies
piercing beyond
into the realms of swarga
where our longed for child
that shriveled and perished
before it could be born
lay thriving, fully formed
cooing in a mauve cradle.

years later we are here
living on a road
that in springtime
turns into a stretch of Elysium
jacarandas thronging either side
of the petal-carpeted boulevard.

and every spring I think
that this is the closest you and I will come
to encountering whatever form of God
exists in the great unknown
the nearest to glimpsing heaven
swirling around in the lilac haze
hands lightly rocking
our angel child’s cradle
in a purple afterlife.


Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney based artist, poet, and pianist. She holds a Masters in English. Oormila is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. Her recent works have been published in several literary journals in Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A cell

That’s my last duchess paint – who am I kidding?
We rent this place. We moved in seven years
ago, already widowed, cleared out, downsized;
odd heirlooms remained. Since Christopher’s wedding,

the place has grown a cell for two; it’s ours
yet strange to us. One smokes and is surprised
by any thing: a picture on the wall,
the private contents of a chest of drawers,

the still shape of afternoons. To our eyes,
nothing now can change, though a dull pull,
the future, tugs us onwards. Time must have,
of course, a stop; Time’s waiting room refuses

to let its weary denizens revive
their sense of life. We breathe. Are we alive?


Michael Caines lives in London, and had poems commended last year in the Battered Moons and Culpepper’s Remedy competitions.