One Poem by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Borrowed time

We squelch the water
out of the sand in our beach buckets
silica grains twinkle like concealed gems
to me you look like Aladdin
framed against the distant dunes
your arms overflowing
with onyxes and tourmalines.

The afternoon air is tungsten hot
on our two-toned skin
the silt quickly dries into a pale beige
as the sun scorches down on us
like a daric coin in a gold foil sky.

I watch you scoop mud from the furrows
pick granules of quartz
from tiny fosses
the castles we have built are grand
our mini-turrets glow in russet and sepia
we recline around them
pleased with our artistry.

We decorate our ramparts with cerith shells
watch the waves flirt with our bulwarks
inch close and break
into sheets of lace and foam
the water snake into our miniature moats
the colour of milky bronzite.

In this haven by the sea
little do we know
that we live on borrowed time
our innocent ears so oblivious
to the roar of the marauding machines
rumbling in on caterpillar tracks
crushing past the borders
growling for blood
even as we build our castles
laugh and lose ourselves in play.

Before us, the boom of the sea
muffles for now
the splintering of glass and steel.


Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an Indian-Australian artist and poet. She is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project, and Authora Australis. Her poem, “Mizpah”, was awarded an Honorable Mention in The Glass House Poetry Awards 2020. She has been widely published in both print and online journals and anthologies.

One Poem by Rebecca Patrascu

Dispatch from an Abandoned House

It would be a lie to say only the suitcase is left.
The ground is left, the walls, the holes once windows,
shreds of curtain like surrendered marionettes.
I am left, standing on afterthought scraps of burlap
scattered on a floor that apathy has kept in place.
The century’s ordnance has done its best.

In my left pocket a key that might open the lock,
let out light and a waltz of plumed carnival horses.
In my left pocket a key that would open the lock,
let loose a dying star’s pull, take me in its mouth.
It’s certain. It’s unlikely. It’s detonation’s hymn.

I remember a color that isn’t ash, isn’t soot,
but whoever fastened this clasp is counting ants.
This is a case for a silk trousseau. An instrument,
as my skin wants to be. Box in which is kept chalice,
ox horn comb. Trunk of the improbable.

Not the only thing left. Only the only whole thing.
Rough around the edges as a man’s last breath,
handle smiling past its secrets. One slit,
one click, one turn. Smell of char, marigold.
Perfume of unturned cards. In my pocket, the key.


Rebecca Patrascu is the author of the chapbook Before Noon. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in multiple publications. She has an MFA from Pacific University and lives in California, where she works at a public library, studies Welsh, and catches honey bee swarms in the Spring.

One Poem by Dorothy Burrows

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Seven Perspectives on a Rock Bed

On rocks, a woman, a man.
On a slab of granite, he waits, focusing
on the face of a cliff she cannot see for now. She is awake,
pretending to sleep. Her left eye watches him. Her pupil dilates.

The eye of a woman sees
yesterday. She is only half awake. Her left
eye is roaming. It is sinking with the sun from bedrock to ocean.
She conjures a younger man, alive on a midnight beach, dozing, naked.

A man on his high throne
regards a small woman asleep at his feet and
wonders if one day she will snore; will he lie next to her unable
to sleep on sand because of her? Before that, will they have the future?

The head of a cliff faces
the body of a woman who is no longer at rest.
She stretches, kneels, arm towards a man astride a jagged boulder
of granite that has lasted millions of years; she feels her swelling curve.

On a craggy outcrop
a man with broadened shoulders sits absent-mindedly
ignoring a woman; his legs are splayed to balance their discomfort.
Their unhappiness grows greyer, a dull ochre; each month more mottled.

A woman considers the grit of
a man who was once her lover and is now her husband
and father of her unborn child; she wonders why he is staring
so blankly at the headland; why perch on a rock instead of a deck chair?

A man, a woman, on the rocks.
He looks at a woman, who from his angle,
appears to have shrunken her head. She considers his flat stance
as the tide flows, creeping up on two figures, trapped on a grey stone bed.


Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing flash fiction, short plays and poetry. This year her poems have  appeared on various e-zines including Words for the Wild, Another North, Nine Muses Poetry and The Ekphrastic Review. She walks regularly in the countryside near her home on the edge of the North Wessex Downs.

Two Poems by John Sweet

[from the time we were young]

august light and
september air

ask de chirico

we have always been in love,
you and i,
but we have always been lost

all clocks stopped

all moments equal
and unfaded


and i am tired of being 24
of being 37
of being 52

i am tired of living in
a desert of my own creation

give me someone to
blame for my mistakes and
i will only be the same
as everyone else

cupid, deconstructed

and even here, from a continent away,
i can tell that you’re the sun,
and what the fuck good does it do me?

anger is not a gift, of course,
and pain is not a blessing

memories are untrustworthy at best

they will only slow you down when
the time comes to make your escape


John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications).

One Poem by Lynn White

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Sitting Squarely

Beach chairs are so uncomfortable.
I was sitting squarely for a while
now I’m squirming around
trying out new positions
without success.
I look down at you with envy
lying there.
“Let’s have a change”,
I say, “you try the chair”.
But there’s no budging you
from your comfort zone
and really,
I don’t blame you.
You were right,
we should have bought two beach mats.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Find Lynn at and

One Poem by John Grey

Still Life

Time’s been nowhere
according to this lake.
It was here back then
and it hasn’t aged a day.

Boots crackle on dry needles.
And no second hand
bothers to nudge forward.
Sun shines
like a knight’s shield,
keeps ongoing hours at bay.

He stands on the bank
in his favorite flannel shirt
and knee-worn Levis.
His wardrobe can be
any year it chooses.

He looks around.
Kids are splashing.
Lovers hold hands on foot.
The ghosts are too much here
to be worthy of that name.

His reflection in the water
is rippling, not wrinkled.
And soft to the touch
without a hint of leather.

Turtles shimmy through the water.
Their ancient shells can’t fool him.
Not with their young legs kicking.
No getting older for these tiny terrapins.
Time hangs around
to make sure that won’t happen.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Red Coyote.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

the sun shines distantly on angles

less so on crystal pebbles
for this is no beach of sand
except for the sounds of sea and wind

a place for contemplation
unless you have become a grey statue
that has sat there too long

welcome to a crumbled beach of sorrow
where life has changed forever
and the air is sure to blow you away

waves will continue to carve cliffs
over millennia so what you have known
is due to go in time – no sunken treasure

can ever be washed up when your stillness
has disappeared discounting salted tears
that bared nothing as day and night passed


James Bell – returned to writing poetry over twenty years ago and has not yet left. He is a regular contributor to Nine Muses’ Special Challenges. His third poetry collection, Here At The End Of The World, is forthcoming from Lapwing Poetry.

Two Poems by Caroline Am Bergris


On the bus home, before the rush hour,
I glanced at the window through the rain
as a rainbow mountain throbbed into existence,
layered streams of Neopolitan
enveloping church spire, run-down tower blocks, me,
telling me that everything would be all right,
like the inaccurate loveliness of my mother’s hugs.

My soul surged –
I believed in a benevolent God playing with a prism,
in Fate that had taken me into account.
I believed in love that heals
and angels plotting joyfully for me.
I was sure that suffering would end
but my spirit never would,
knew that my grandmother
had my magic box of sweets for me
in Heaven.

Now, even though it has gone,
the embers of faith
warm the garret of my unbelieving,


Feathery arches suspended against cirrus sky:
two flying swans materialise,
soundless seraphs
highlighted with flame and black
into my summer stupor:

down, down,
swooshing onto the river
by the paddling willows.
Suddenly all is slow, serene,
as, enfolded,
they float in front of  me,
etching triangular lines on water.

I follow their pure, processional glide
into the distance,
the train of midnight green ripples
trailing a hope that
one day
I too
might calmly


Caroline Am Bergris has won the Over The Edge Poetry Competition and Eyewear’s competition to be included in an anthology of the best new British and Irish poets. She has been published in various journals in Europe and America and is mentally and physically disabled.

One Poem by Stephen Kingsnorth

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Global Village

As heat is draining from the sky,
though latent, preserved where they lie,
blast change approaches, hours trail by:
ancestral birth, race, traits remain,
but nation, faith, known name transpose
as flat horizon lifts, up rolls,
Marcoussis, ville, joined frame and fame.

The beach purveying slabs of meat,
here now a jigsaw, puzzle fit,
mix matrix, bodies, sun and beach.
So gather pieces, catch the eye,
seek out the corners, choose straight lines,
the items making claim from scene,
a knee, a belly, elbow, toe,
swung languid arm to floppy hand.

The rocks, bold blocks that stock the seen,
stack-pack on pebbles, beige to tan,
some burnt sienna, bluff, rough cove,
sum umber buff, skin swarthy tones –
but in those bodies, lying sand,
tell, what is dune, what flesh on land?

For there, the space for what required,
but is that what the seekers found;
as muscles might with mussels join,
so did they know strand, brawn are bound?
Mesh plexus shadows graticule –
are figures numbers? Flesh, our blood!


Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 150 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Nine Muses Poetry, printed journals and anthologies.

Two Poems by Vikram Masson

Little Nita in Lockdown

When they announced the lockdown
little Nita’s mother sat dadi maa on the couch
and fitted a silk dupatta over her nose

and draped her brooding mouth.
Dadi maa stared at little Nita through
her rhinestone glasses, her walking stick

astride the fraying settee.
At least her cursing will stop,
little Nita’s mother said. Her father

had breathlessly brought bags of atta
and rice, pounds and pounds of chana
and dal and poured them into six steel bins.

She had never seen him so nervous, never
seen sweat pattern his back and run from his chin.
Then her father sent Asma the housekeeper away.

Who would braid little Nita’s hair after
a coconut oil bath? Bring her steaming
cups of Maggi noodles for lunch?

As the days passed, patience withered.
Doors slammed, shaking tin cups and splattering
tea on the dhurrie. Little Nita cupped her ears

as her father roared at her mother.
She could only pray to Krishna or read her comics.
Go to the balcony, her mother said one day,

and Little Nita saw thousands of people
lumbering down the National Highway,
their possessions in rags and makeshift bags.

Trickles of policemen imposed order with sticks.
What is all this? Why is the sky so blue?
Where are the cars? She wondered about all this

as she breathed in the limpid air, heard the birds
sing their shrill notes on the sill — as she saw langurs
daringly claim the roofs, as they never had before.


Father brought them home from the farmer’s market
on summer Sundays, wrapped in newspaper,
gathered in a cardboard crate. Grandmother, so old,

her face like a walnut shell, uncradled them
as if they were jewels, their skin ripened to golden
yellow. She sliced them into arcs, scraping close

to the pits exposed like bones, and arranged
the slices mandala-like on a stainless-
steel plate. We’d huddle around and finger

the stringy flesh and spoon it free from skin.
Our beautiful aunt, dark as rhubarb jam,
with eyes shaped like the leaves of a lotus,

would say these Mexican Ataulfos couldn’t
compete with the Indian mangoes she loved.
We’d all guffaw as the sweet juice sugared

our lips and cheeks. My brother, always the clown,
would stick a pit in his mouth and make a face.
This was before father’s hands started to quiver.

Before I understood time, disappointment and fate.
Before death kept announcing itself in whispers
to everyone I loved at that table. In the replay,

I always leave out how suffocated I felt
in an extended immigrant family jostling for space
in a creaking walk-up — burning incense,

frying masala fish, smoking bidis in the yard.
Or those aunts and uncles who kept tallies of insults
and slights, who raged with slippers and saucepans

in fights so fearsome I’d run from the house
and tremble in the shed. Why is it that we tint
our memories with childrens’ laughter,

with a grandmother’s feeding hands, with
mangoes spilling from bushels — unbruised
and radiant — when in truth they were often not?


Vikram Masson is a lawyer by training who lives near Richmond, Virginia. His work has been featured most recently in the American Journal of Poetry, Glass, The Blue Mountain Review and Prometheus Dreaming.