Friday, 28 April 2017

Souvenir
by Mara Buck

     This seemed a sudden thing, yet she remembered nothing before. She was trapped inside a snowglobe and certainly not of her own making. A cozy globe. At least the outside world saw it as such. “Look at the tiny lady, sweetie. She’s in her own little world. Shake it and watch the pretty snow.” 
     Still, she was real, truly she was. She knew she was. Real and breathing but nevertheless trapped inside a glass curio, showered by flakes of translucent mica, a world where nothing changed, a trinket on a shelf. She had somehow become a whimsy, a curiosity. She was displeased. She was worth more than that. Whenever had she been born to such an existence?  She could only remember today.
     First she needed a name for herself. Anyone who was anyone had a name. She thought there might be words hidden beneath the shellacked wooden base; however, being inside, she naturally couldn’t see them. That much she could understand, despite what appeared to be a temporary memory deficit. Fortunately, a decal banner was pasted on the outside of the globe directly at her feet, and if she squinted and the light fell exactly right, she could barely make out the remaining letters, for decals are fragile things and some of this one had eroded away.   
     She was an upper-class elegant young lady dressed in her velvet costume (surely anyone could see that!) so she reasoned that if she could think, she must be educated enough to read, and yes, she happily found herself capable of transposing the remaining backward letters into some semblance of a word. LAVIN_A_  RETNIW RINEVUOS. She chose the first six letters as her name. “Lavina.” It sounded exactly right when she whispered it aloud; it rolled around the inside of her globe and returned to her ears quite nicely. “Lavina. My name is Lavina.” 
     Lavina thought she remembered being young. (But wasn’t she young here in her globe?) A time of running in green summers, stretching her legs, laughing with friends, clothed in other than winter leggings and an ermine muff, skipping through some small town (did it have a name?) rather than poised on her tiny ice pond, the forever dancer. She remembered (she knew she did!) and she vowed she would reclaim her life outside the globe, although with each remembrance there was, of course, increasingly more to be remembered.
     If she craned her neck ever so slightly, just so, she could see the neighbors who shared her shelf. To her immediate right stood a carved wooden couple. Swiss or German they appeared from their dress and, true to stereotype, they were stoic and kept to themselves in Teutonic indifference. Under her breath, Lavina muttered, “Snobs,” and deemed their painted costumes to be in rather garish taste. They themselves were outside the globe, yet made no attempt to escape the shelf, which was most odd when you thought about it. 
     Lavina could in truth not move her neck more than a hairsbreadth. Still, by rolling her eyes to the left, she was able to glimpse a Buddha made of porcelain, painted quite exquisitely in pastel harmonies. “He must be a new neighbor,” she reasoned. “Surely I would have remembered someone so grand.” 
     He beamed such a benign, welcoming smile that Lavina tried to call, “Yoo, hoo. Hello,” but her voice stayed echoing inside her globe. The Buddha did in fact nod his head, up and down, up and down ever so slightly, so she was pleased by his reassurance, and whenever she remembered he was there, she called, “Yoo hoo,” and he nodded, and somehow she felt a sense of accomplishment in the communication, certain that he treasured their friendship as well.
     The drapes in the room where the shelf was, where Lavina was, seemed perpetually drawn, so it was difficult to peer very far into the dusk, and Lavina was concerned she might need glasses.  When the maid came in to dust her off, and to dust her neighbors as well, the drapes were opened for a brief period and the light was blinding. Then they were closed again, and there didn’t appear to be any pattern to it that Lavina could remember. Had it always been this dark? She tried to recall other times of darkness, but she considered her vision must be fine because she was young and the young have no use for glasses. The young race laughing through grassy fields, cherry juice staining their lips.    
     Having nothing better to do with her time, she planned a marvelous escape. “I will learn to move and I will rock the globe and push it off the shelf and I will run away when it breaks!” Or, “Some clumsy maid will break this silly trinket when dusting, and I shall become a parachutist accomplishing a perfect landing from this perch down to the floor.” Or, the best plan thus far, “That wretched boy in the white coat who always shakes me so hard that my eyes spin will throw the globe as if it were a real snowball, and it will of course shatter upon impact, and I shall be free.” 
     So many plans whirled through her ermine-hatted little head that at times she felt it was she who made the mica flakes shudder with her thoughts. Perhaps an errant earthquake would tremble this unnamed (or unremembered) spot in Maine and shake this building to its core. Why not a tsunami wending its way up the river—or were those only near the ocean? Maybe a wayward cat’s tail would sweep her onto the floor; it flickered through her memory that she so much preferred dogs to cats, though she lost the thread of the logic almost immediately. 
     So many possibilities, each one entrancing. Lavina had years to consider them all. And so she remained, forever in winter, biding her time.
     Every day was a day of fresh remembering, inside the snowglobe.  

* * * * *
"Souvenir" was originally published by Blue Fifth Review November 2014.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

You Said I Was Your Venus
(former deity now memorial)

by Charlotte De'Ath


you used to treat me as a goddess
even placing me on a pedestal
against my pleas of vertigo
but after we moved in together
you cut my arms off

between my legs
push wriggle thrust grunt
you thought that was what love meant

leaving behind
on my marble white thighs
stains where your unarmed semen
dribbled then exsiccated
no one cried

i am still
i’ve gone from goddess to memorial
for the thousands unnamed
(s)hipwrecked on venus


* * * * *

Charlotte was born in the east end of London but now lives in an idyllic cottage situated deep in the beautiful Suffolk countryside.  She has published one chapbook ‘Kicks To Hypnotise Suburban Daughters’ by Erbacce Press, and a further one of dark urban fairy tales is in the making.  She spends most of her free time playing with the Clueless Collective at: www.cluelesscollective.co.uk.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Blown Away

by Joan McNerney


I'm gonna have lunch with
the sky. It's been way too
long since we got together.

I'll run downstairs through
hallways into bursts of blue.
Perhaps never return to work,
words, paper clips, bookshelves.

Who needs cash when there's
so much green grass to hoard?
Forget about food. I’ll drink up
sunshine, nibbling juicy clouds.

O sky, you are my solar mate.
We will be faithful always.
Come home now...I will
never look at another.                                                                

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

This is Not a Dark Night of the Soul; it’s Thursday

by Laurie Lyter Bright


I don’t have much to say
Or do with Jesus anymore.
We used to run into each other all the time -
Waving across the crowded room at a party; he always looked so animated.
I was never totally sure I’d heard him right over the cacophony and celebration,
But I was always comforted by his thrilled smile.
I am here!
And so are you!
Isn’t that marvelous?
- it was -
Nowadays when I go to parties, when I walk through a day, I am more often claustrophobic.
When all the people get too close and the music is too damn loud.
All I can think in those moments is:  how long till I can go home again?
-
This hustle between work, responsibility, adulthood, making it all work right…
Right?  Right.
It is an overcrowded party.
I cast around glances - when I can remember -
Looking for my friend with the reassuring smile.
I scan faces, voices, listening for him, seeking.
In the sea of bodies, He does not rise.
Maybe he’s in the bathroom, or stepped outside for a smoke.
Maybe he’s at another party across town.
God knows Jesus loves to party.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Wildness

by Laurie Lyter Bright


Deep relaxation really stresses the hell out of me.  
In a space that is meant to be open, airy, possible.

I feel worse than stuck.  
I am meant to release to the un-condition,
on one condition,
that I feel held by the floor, by the chair, by the vast landscape of the universe
                        beyond conception.

But I try too hard and suddenly there it is again –
the muscles are tense and I fight the rising tide of knees and shoulders,
rising up up up in answer to my clear clinical orders to
RELAX!

I am dumping water over in thimblefuls of meditative practice,
but it is nothing to the storming seas-worth of memory embodied in a tight internal sense of protection,
why I feel unmoored walking on the streets
                        and feel so strangely seasick when riding public transport.

It feels mysterious to me, and I pine,
wistful for relaxation alone
(at least that is definitely a piece of it - this peace I can’t see no matter how furrowed my brow gets, the clouds don’t clear).  

I long for what seems to be on the other side of peace -- wildness.  

A great, grey ghostly god, who sits like mist on the forest, who rests in the silence, snapped by a twig broken under foot, who perceives aviary lightness and a proper avalanche just the same, considers each, and allows them to pass with equal appreciation that this
                        - all of this –

            has a home here in the wild.  

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Confusions of a Wasted Youth
by Kenna Jenkins

She honestly doesn’t know what she’s doing here, among all of these models and designers and makeup artists. For a moment she can’t quite remember why she’s here, can’t think of a possible reason. She can only feel the pounding of the music in her ears, rhythmic and heavy and strong, and feel the crush of bodies around her as all these people mosh and grind against each other. It’s not as if she’s here for the dancing, so that’s one thing off the list- this music, this kind of dancing, so up close and personal with flesh sliding sinuously against flesh and people way too close together- that’s not really her thing.
(And yet she’s still dancing, mingling with these predators and their prey. She doesn’t think she’s either- she doesn’t have the dead, lifeless eyes of the prey, nor the sharp smirks and angles of the predators. Rather, she thinks she might be something different, something...other. Maybe a bottom feeder, skulking about the room for the scraps of gossip that people inadvertently drop, or maybe a piece of algae, drifting about creating her own sustenance, her own life.)
The bass drops, and somehow in between the beats she finds a way to think again even as she twirls and shimmies past another faceless boy. She doesn’t think she’s here for the company, either- she recognizes most people in the room only faintly, as if she’s seen them somewhere before but never cared to learn more. She thinks it’s models that she senses familiarity with most often, though they all seem to blur together after awhile (maybe she’s had too much to drink, or maybe she’s just the only sane person in a sea of drunken madness). She wonders why, really, as they’re either predators or prey and they’re all drunk out of their minds, unable to care about who or what they’re doing.
Their beauty is as deep as a piece of paper, as transient and pretty as the sunset, and as flaking and gilded as Versailles. It’s nothing but a facade for what lies beneath the makeup, the fabrics, the shimmering lights- humanity itself, degraded to the skinniest, most skeletal of professions. Breath mints and gum do a horrible job of disguising the stench of tangy blood and vodka and stomach acid on the breath of the girl in front of her.
(Maybe she’s here as a makeup artist?)
She doesn’t quite know what’s happening right now as she totters on her heels, making her way out of the gyrating, wasted figures on the dancefloor as the music shifts, transforming into some poppy crap masquerading as a rock song. The wine in her glass sloshes around precariously as it shifts in her hand, but she can’t quite bring herself to really care. She is surrounded by dolls and the people who created them- a spill would make them imperfect, would destroy the artifice of divinity that the models all seem to carry around. She finds herself smiling, a vicious little grin that bares her imperfect, not-quite-white teeth, at the fantasy of the deep red wine in her glass splattering and staining the slinky white dress of the girl in front of her. It’s a beautiful image, the crimson staining the dress like blood, destroying the already shaky illusion of innocence-
She snarls in disgust at herself even thinking like that (thinking like them), and nearly ends up shattering her glass at the floor in her vehemence to put it down on the table.
“So someone’s in a pissy mood. Isn’t that right, kit?” A familiar voice asks, and she turns to find one of those empty beings, a smirking Adonis draped in some cutting-edge ensemble that manages to somehow make him look like he’s not slowly dying from the inside out.
“Get lost, Harry,” she snaps, and he pouts. Even pouting he is beautiful, a pretty little thing, but she can’t quite tell if the teasing twinkle in his eye is real or just from the glittery eye shadow he’s wearing. He looks just like the rest of them, a specimen of humanity that somehow manages to make her feel like a lesser creature, a lesser version of the level of human he is.
Yet, somehow, he is different-
She doesn’t know how, though, and it makes her curious. How is it that he manages to make his limbs, long sticks of plastic topped in his popsicle sticks of fingers and toes, and the hollow cavities that form his cheeks and stomach look so natural?
Darling,” he drawls, and it sounds more like dah-lang than anything else, “How much I admire your spunk.”
Her eyes narrow as she glares at him, and she almost wishes that she could determine for certain whether she sees life in his reflective gray eyes. She can’t tell whether they are are truly alive, that he is not yet gone completely, or whether they’re just reflecting the strobe lights over the dancefloor.
He smirks. “Feisty, aren’t (ahn’t) we?”
“You deserve it, Harry, trust me.”
He grins, teeth glinting shark-like under the lights, and though she knows she should be afraid, should be feeling a thrill of fear running up her spine, she isn’t. Instead she lets her gaze follow the lines in his face as he leans back to take a swig of his wine, trailing them down his neck, lingering in the hollow above his collarbones. If she wanted to she could just reach out and snap his collarbones, they’re that brittle and thin, and-
She’s not violent like that, she knows that for sure.
It’s a fairytale, almost, one of those where the villain is clothed in the guise of an angel. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, lurking about trying to snatch up the little girl in the red dress. She can’t quite tell which he is- an angel masquerading amongst devils, or a devil cloaked as an angel. She can’t tell, she doesn’t know, and she hates not knowing.
Yet she does know him somehow, knows his name, knows who he is, so she must know the answer- predator or prey? Angel or demon?
Real or not real?
“Oh real-ly?” he asks, drawing out the real in really, and though she knows it’s supposed to be cocky and arrogant it just sounds a bit haunting, an echo of something long forgotten. She feels like she knew him better, once, but now she knows nothing. “And why would that be?”
To say I don’t know would be a mistake, at least at this point, but to lie would be to place her amongst their ranks, amongst the deceivers and charlatans that make up their world. But who’s to say she isn’t one of them already, or at least on the path to becoming one of them? A girl in a dress the color of the blood wine she drinks, dancing amongst synthetic perfection- who knows who she really is?
Even she has no idea who she is.
She nibbles on her bottom lip, wishing that she knew why she’s here. She vaguely remembers showing up at the door of the bar earlier, invitation in hand, hair pulled up into a messy bun, high heels pinching her toes, and a dress of vermilion caressing her legs. After that...it’s just heat and dancing and alcohol.
“No reason,” she says, and maybe it’s a second too quick, a mite too defensive, because he gives her a curious look, the slightest tilt of the head that has his gel-shellacked curls shifting like ice floes cracking on a polar sea.
“Then why’d you say that?” His eyes have softened from an icy steel to a stormy cloud, and something there confuses her, makes her wonder.
“I don’t really know, honestly,” she admits, and for the first time she thinks she sees true emotion in the perfect planes of his face. The slightest twist downward of Botoxed lips, the smallest of small cracks in the skin by his eyes- they are a fissure in the most perfect of facades.
“I thought you wouldn’t,” he says, and there’s a strange lilt to his voice. She can’t quite identify it, but she thinks that it might be somewhere between resignation and reluctant triumph.
“Why?” she asks through dry lips, and she runs her tongue over her teeth and lips to moisten them. The craving for alcohol hits deep, and her fingers shake as her body aches for the bitter, burning taste of tequila.
No, she’s done with that. She’s done.
(Then why had she been holding a wineglass earlier as she danced, not caring as the red liquid hit her throat and burned going down?)
“You’ve forgotten again, dah-lang,” he says softly, rocking forward on his heels a little, thin limbs reminding her of a baby bird trying to lift off, trying to escape this mortal realm.
She frowns as he drains the last of his glass, tipping it in back in a swift, practiced motion. She remembers, vaguely, another night like this one- strobing lights, dancing, a different red dress- but she can recall nothing but small flashes, insignificant details. “I-” she starts, but her voice wavers and she shuts her mouth, trapping the memories inside of her.
He smiles, but it’s not the shark’s grin of introduction, nor the smirk of triumph of earlier. It’s a small, sad little thing, a curve of the lips that looks like it belongs on a lesser, more malleable human. It seems patched together, almost, brittle and delicate- simultaneously fake and all too real at the same time, half-mask and half-genuine. Once again she can’t tell, but unlike before it just makes her kind of sad. “I don’t expect you to remember,” he says, tone wistful, and she wishes she could figure this out, figure out why she’s here, why she’s doing anything at all-
A girl bumps into her from behind, hip knifing into her side. “What the hell?” she shouts, turning to figure out who it is, and finds the girl from earlier, the one in the white dress, even more unsteady and shaky than she is.
The girl grins, showcasing a mouth of cigarette-tar stained teeth, and holds out her glass of vodka. “Want some?” she says, jiggling it tantalizingly in front of her face, and it takes all she has to shake her head and turn back around to face him even as the craving for alcohol jackknifes deep in her stomach. She wants-needs-to know why she’s here.
“You know me,” she says, and it almost sounds like I know you.
Her brain catches on that word- almost. On the edge of truth, so close to answers- on the edge of, period.
A corner of his mouth quirks up. “Yes I do, dah-lang,” he says, and she knows he’s choosing not elaborate. She raises an eyebrow, feeling like her face is cracking as she does, and he sighs. “You come here (he-ah) every Thursday night. You have ever since the accident.”
“What accident?” she asks as the song changes to something more intense, something with more of a bass line and a heavier beat. Her head begins to throb again, the music pounding out a dizzying beat, but she focuses on him.
“You used to work here,” he says as he tosses his glass into a nearby trashcan, and now she knows. Predator or prey? A girl in skirts of blood, moving unnoticed through a crowd of sharks- there must be a reason none seek to gobble her up.
She reaches up to touch her cheek and finds sharp cheekbones and sunken cheeks, traces her neck down to her own collarbone and finds hollows. She closes her eyes, the only light the dim red that is diffused past her eyelids. She’s a skeleton clothed in the illusion of life, just like them- she’s a creature (on Thursday nights at least, who knows what she does the rest of the time) living on music and booze and dancing. Wasted on alcohol, wasting away her life- her mouth goes dry as she tries to breathe, to take in deep breaths that will keep her from crumpling to her knees.
“Okay,” she says, but she feels a million miles away from this conversation. There is alcohol burning in her veins, music battering her eardrums, and a crowd of faceless predators swarming feet away. She opens her eyes, letting the spastic lighting back in. “And who are you to me? Harry, I get that, but who’s he?”
She thinks she sees him wince, but she’s not sure at what she said that he’s wincing. “An old friend,” he says, “Let’s leave it that.”
She wants to know, she wants-
“I think I’m losing my mind,” she murmurs, and she sees it in slow motion, almost, the strobes flickering across his face as that sad smile slowly carves itself back onto his face.
“You’re not losing your mind- you’re just forgetting,” he says, and his words are starting to hurt her head now. “You won't remember a thing in the morning- you never do. Every Thursday you show up, Isabelle hanging out drunk somewhere in the crowd, and end up forgetting by morning. Some kind of amnesia, she says.”
“But why here?” she asks, wanting so desperately to know.
He shrugs, impossibly sharp shoulders shifting the fabric clinging to his shoulders. “You used to work with them, with us,” he says. “Eighteen years old- I guess you’re attracted to the nightlife. We all are (ah), really.”
I’m a hypocrite, she thinks, thoughts already starting to come apart, splintering and pounding through her head. A hypocrite, ‘cause I’m just like them, because I am them, because...because-
His eyes flick up to the wall, and she turns a little to see what he’s looking at. A digital clock displaying the time 11:58, the bottom leg of the eight blinking in and out. She turns back to look at him and finds him staring at her, eyes steely again. "G'night, Ana," he says, leaning in so close she can practically taste the wine on his breath, "See ya again next Thursday.” Then he turns and walks away, disappearing into the feeding frenzy of models and those who are paid to make them look like they’re still human.
Ana, she thinks as a girl in a white dress leads her to the exit, That’s...I don’t...
            None of the sharks blink as she sags into the girl’s arms, the girl who she’d fantasized about spilling her wine on, and they leave, the girl’s hand clutched in a strangling grip around her arm.

            (Life continues, and anyway, she’ll be back again next Thursday.)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

My Daughter Gave Me the Moon
Super Moon 2016

By Joan Leotta


Just days after my birthday
January, 1948,
they tell me,
super moon
slipped through
my bedroom window
to bless my sleeping baby
cheek with his
soft silver kiss.
So, when he returned
in full close glory
I watched for him
through my kitchen
window.  Now a woman, 69,
cooking supper, I hoped
for some lunar recognition or
at least to glimpse that rare beauty.
Rain and clouds barred
me from meeting moon—
Sunday, Monday.
Even Tuesday morn and eve
fog denied me moon
sighting joy
Tuesday morn,
I complained by phone
to my daughter, Jennie,
who commiserated –
fog had blocked her from
moon sighting too,
miles away in Washington.
On Tuesday night, however,
driving to a meeting,
fog cleared for her; Jennie
spied the moon!
She stopped, snapped—
emailed two photos to me.
So, against all celestial conspiring,
My daughter sent me
what fog tried to hide.
My daughter gave me the moon.