One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Party time in Tokyo
National Park at Ueno
wrapped in silken kimono
ladies feast on sweetened dango

streets of petalled bon ami
preparing for Hanami
a regular tsunami of beauty
wrapped as origami

in the distant panorama
stands a timeworn wood pagoda
softly stroked by flushed sakura
rolling wisps of faint aroma

fanfare heralds timpani
modern strains of karaoke
soothing voice with golden saké
blossom soft in frailty.


Kate Young lives in Kent and is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines internationally and in Great Britain. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

Three Poems by Charlie Jones

Sonnet for Langston Hughes: Rivers of the Soul

My father, he is white as English snow,
Beneath a silver moon and butter sun
The rivers of his spirit swiftly flow,
Through dipping vales and glens his waters run.

My mother, she is brown as Syrian sand,
Under a ruby sun and emerald moon
Her spirit’s rivers course that ancient land,
On many banks her muddy silt is strewn.

I am the snow that settled with the sand,
The dusty earth that warmed the fallen snow,
The rivers of my soul traverse each land,
Though neither sun nor moon the waters know.

And yet the waters glint an emerald green,
In yellow vales my eyes have never seen.

Taxi Driver

(For Dad)

He chirps like a cricket under the stars,
Hopping in and out of his black taxi car
With barely enough of a break to eat.

He talks to himself, as if in prayer;
The evening’s fare
Has fallen asleep in the passenger’s seat.

He stops. The car shudders under the sky.
The door slams shut; a thankless goodbye.
He starts up, and disappears into the street.

The Remains of the Play

The cast retires. The audience departs.
What remains lives on in heads and hearts.

When skulls are pots for flowers, chests their bed,
Curtains rise upon the living dead.


Charlie Jones is a poet from Merseyside. His poetry has been published in print and online with Nine Muses PoetryAcumen, Orbis, The Caterpillar, and The Honest Ulsterman, as well as several other magazines and journals.

One Poem by Rennie Halstead

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


Thank you for helping,
for loosening my shoes,
for letting my feet breathe.

My mother meant to be kind.
Every mother would want
to make her daughter beautiful.
You were the same:
you bound my feet so tightly,
clean soft white linen
tied so tight it hurt.
I complained.
You will thank me, she said,
when you have a good husband.

They say it makes me beautiful
perching on misshapen feet.
Lotus, they call it –
claws to me.
Walking hurts. I mince,
short slow steps
to ease the pain.

They wanted to bind my daughter’s feet,
were surprised when I said no,
insisted, unbending, stronger
than I had ever been.
No, I said, my daughter
will have the feet she needs
to walk the way she wishes
to find her own path,
not crippled to please
some unthinking man
who doesn’t know the pain.


Rennie has been writing since he was eleven. He writes poetry and flash fiction. You can find his poetry on his ello site at:

One Poem by Jan Harris

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.


You may follow the cherry blossom
from February in Okinawa
to May in Hakkaido.

You may step from tree to tree
beneath boughs pruned to enhance shape
and space, so glorious in bloom,
until the strap on your shoe gives way from wear
and a friend helps you to continue.

Or you may pause beneath a single tree
in a park or garden, feel sun on your face
while blossom drifts like snow to the ground,
then step, more lightly, through your day,
to find, when you return home,
a scattering of petals in the hood of your coat.


Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire and writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared in places such as Litro Magazine, Mslexia, Envoi and Acumen.

Three Poems by Paul Connolly

Blue Flowers

The long summertime’s fall,
abrupt as Damascus curtains,
was only noticed afterwards,
after the night’s leaf-shush
and rainfall, which presaged and prepared
this first graphite morn
of autumn. Blue border flowers
poured out from an office wall
in a summer liquid, more blue
for the downpipe-water air
they were pouring through and dyeing.
Their edges were torn. They had
dark patches, were bruised,
in a few weeks they wouldn’t be there.
But now they were gratia plena.

Dump Rivers

Baked and sandy eddies renew their ooze
in brown slush, freeze-silvery ejaculations
past splayed ironing boards, earth smoke, cans of booze,

hemmed by scrub and old man’s beard. Smurs stack atop
smur, and behind them hidden yonds confuse
terrors with everything rolling on and on.

Meeting Once Again

What is it now,
almost thirty years, save some chance sightings
across rifts, ploughed
in fine scoring
on faces or hewed between them, isopleths of feud,
at funerals’ hungover mornings
where you were viewed
but not absorbed?

I’d frozen you before
those glimpsed differences,
which didn’t thaw
your cast role, for memory says
you are a passed
simplicity raw and perfect
we’d wanted to hide in, fast
and stowed away.

What does it say,
all the amplitude of what you know,
this thickened play
of life, which shows
you at ripeness, a new bounty,
lets you foreclose
the ground, walk past me
and take the lead?

So that my need,
always fitful, sleepless, which blurts out, can’t
screw this up, take my hand please,
place your other on my heart,
quicken then still it, so
that we may start
afresh, and I can know
what we’re about.


Paul Connolly’s poetry has appeared in Agenda, The Warwick Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The Dawntreader, The Journal, Scintilla, and will soon appear in Sarasvati. Shortlisted for the Bridport and Charles Causley Prizes, he was third in the Magna Carta Competition and Highly Commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Competition.

One Poem by Derek Brown

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Body and Illusion

We should live in the land of Otaku,
ruminate on cherry blossoms,
both of us at the mercy
of desire’s strange pronunciations.

Should we toast the demon loves?
The immaculate unrequited?
Continually remind ourselves
that sometimes romance demeans?

As black swans hiss epiphanies
time grows illegitimate,
here in the jasmine pastures
Buddhas neither sleep nor wake.

We are both the strings and hands,
primordial instruments,
the body outliving its illusion,
the illusion outliving its body.


Derek Brown was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He has previously been published in various New Voices Press anthologies, Omphalos Issue 12Amethyst Review and Nine Muses Poetry.

Two Poems by Thomas Piekarski


In that lonely corner of a gnarled world
where a raccoon scratches the roof
and music provides an optimum occasion
to celebrate the night’s catch of dreams,
when the unraveling becomes a constant
and nobody answers since no one’s there,
once the dust turned inside out travels
without purpose beyond what dawned
and then was an incarnation gone,
ripped apart and now unrecognized
by eyes the skies want to cry with,
and from which death’s reckless hand
trails vaporous through elfin grots,
orgasms spouting like hot geysers,
maintaining the fractured antithesis
and wailing wildly in a glorious state.


She’s not always queen of the gene pool, can be a snot sometimes,
thinks the moon revolves around her vulva, and the oceans bend
to her wild whims. When I come flying past her on my roan steed
her complexion changes. No longer vermillion-faced or masked,
her empathy flows like mercury. How disrespectful it would seem
were I to lay myself prostrate in the mud, ignoring her exhortation.

She tramples troglodytes in her dreams, trounces ghosts wherever
she finds them, whether they cause anyone pain or not. I renounce
dreams altogether, and have no affinity for their questionable sense.
They exist in a climate that science won’t verify, therefore cannot
be realized in the scope of what is commonly known as experience,
unless one accepts as experience that which is neither felt nor seen.

Someone has to do the heavy lifting. Somebody must suffer, spit up
blood, for she is strictly quid pro quo, tit for tat, and will not model
a mini skirt at the department store to show off what sexy buttocks.
I think I’ve been in love with her from the day I dug a foxhole inside
my mind and sought to bury accumulated sorrows in the salty earth.
She hugged and held me tight, and coaxed me to put the spade down.

I’m living in a glass house. Although that may seem odd, impossible
perhaps, the glare of brazen sunlight bounced off the walls so bright
I retract like a turtle into its shell. Every person on Earth is an outlier.
It’s not as though autumn didn’t come, nor the sun refuse me warmth.
I’m not asking anybody to make excuses, heal wholly artificial angst.
I’m not in any danger–the world won’t record my thoughts anyway.

I’ve been unmasked since the day I flowed from my mother’s womb.
That might come as a surprise to someone who has been living with
the aim of praising rain and encouraging fields of white corn to grow
in the bleeding heart. That might be inconsequential once our world
ceases, and history loses context, memory is petrified, and humanity
is dissipated into a cosmos that contains the only real consciousness.

We play marbles on a sand dune. We clasp hands and dance merrily
around Mount Shasta in the dead of winter. We make the most of it,
whatever it is or isn’t. We don’t listen to the little folk who chatter
like chipmunks in the Ozarks. It’s imperative we block out all sights
and sounds that would distract us from what is occurring right now
beneath our noses and outside the thin film of your misconception.


Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly and Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and interviews have appeared in literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Florida English Journal, Cream City Review, Mandala Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Boston Poetry Magazine. He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California, and his epic adventure Ballad of Billy the Kid is available on Amazon in both Kindle and print versions.

One Poem by Jim Bennett

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

the sandal

on the sideboard in my grandmother’s house
tiny people some no more than a suggestions
parade across the surfaces of porcelain plates

in the centre of one a group of Japanese women
one lady is leaning over to fasten the sandal of another
who stands on one foot with a hand on her friend’s back

behind them people walk and in the distance
beyond trees    a run of lines  represent a tower
something left after a hard fought game of jenga

I trace the path and trees     as they shrink
odourless blossom fills some branches  and the sky
looks like a distant still and silent sea

the woman still stands on one leg
her balance something I would wish for
but the sandal is not fastened  and never will be


Jim Bennett is a poet who was born in Liverpool in the UK a long time ago and is still alive (we think).

One Poem by Kate Garrett

Good daughters

(Salem, 1692)

I. Dorothy

For you a few brave cowards would hesitate,
question the tradition of ‘only following orders’ –
the endless backward stretch of human
horrors – men who viewed condemnation
as a sport, locked their cages on frail old women
without a second look. But Dorothy, so small,
it took three of them to bring you in – not for fears
of bites and scrapes, snake familiars, the beastly
instincts of a feral witch – but the sight of a slight
form in the New England winter, your manacled
wrists, hands chained blue in Salem prison
instead of mittened against the cold.

II. Mercy

I think about how your mother was the same age
I am now, but far more devout, and never cast a spell –
and how it began with her: accusations and denial.

You live on as a footnote – the baby who was born
and died in a cell where Sarah waited for the noose,
the baby she named after an impossible fate.

And her time came to join you, but not before
she learned at last to call down a curse worked
by the hands of God; one they could not break.


*Sarah Good, along with Sarah Osborne and Tituba, was one of the first women to be accused at the beginning of the Salem witch trials of 1692. Her daughter Dorothy, age four, was also accused and imprisoned for witchcraft, and her daughter Mercy was born and died in Salem prison.

Kate Garrett is the editor of three web journals, and her own writing is widely published. Her first full-length collection, The saint of milk and flames, is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Press in April 2019. She lives in Sheffield, UK with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

three geisha go to observe the cherry blossom

though none of them look at the blooms
on cherry trees – their profusion ignored

because one girl has a footwear problem –
another bends over to help her friend

their trained grace has been interrupted
broken in public though nobody else notices

them or the cherry blossom – such lack
of interest in what happens only once a year

astonishes as much as the spectacle – though
they wear off-duty kimonos – are not as beautiful

where a stone in a built up sandal is allowed –
rules and conventions kept as they cluster together

though do not smile behind the make up
a smile is for clients only – missing awe

for cherry blossom – gaiety internal only –
they know these flowers have a double meaning


James Bell – is a Scottish writer who now lives in France where he contributes photography and non-fiction to an English language journal. He has two previous collections of poetry published and continues to write and have work appear internationally, some about to appear in several languages. He is a regular contributor to Nine Muses Poetry.