She rambles around Plénée-Jugon,
seeking signs, leftovers of her younger self –
life tending kitchen gardens, a commune,
her home at L’abbaye de Boquen. She took a vow,
to return. Determined, she makes her oath good now.
Besret’s Cistercian monks have long gone
and she found years ago, she cannot believe
in God. The oak-timbred door creaks open
and within whitewashed walls, sparse
furnishings, hard pews, scents
of chalky musk
press her back
guitar riffs, folk songs, radical liturgies
and always people holding hands,
spiritual and temporal
her worn out hippy soul
lights a tapered prayer
for peace –
disbelief snuffed out
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon
Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook was published in July 2019: ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press. Her first pamphlet is due to be published in 2021. She is a Pushcart Prize (2019 & 2020) and Forward Prize (2019) nominee and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, UK (2017). She believes everyone’s voice counts.
An analysis shows there is a 50% chance that we are living in a synthetic reality – Scientific American
If life is a lucid dream or some near-perfect
computer simulation, do I risk waking up
to a world in which I can’t embrace you?
I was so young when I came to feel that
death is as simple to understand as the eons
before our birth: we are not, and then we are,
and then we are not again. I’m a mystic. I
love the weight of the cosmos, how it feels
in the palm of my hand. I reach for your
hand in order to hold on to all that I wish
were eternal but stand to lose. I can’t dwell
on loss, least of all when thinking of you;
and if none of this is real, if there are
truths stranger than our brief mortality,
all the more reason to lie down together and
demand that the earth reveal what it knows—
to discover who we are when stripped of fear,
our bodies trembling at the edge of reason.
Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.
I bet the four flush—
worth next to nothing
but looking to all like the key
to the kingdom of heaven.
You told me once
was half luck
and half bluff.
They had just
cleaned you out again
at the Friday night game
above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.
You and your six
passing a cheap bottle of rye
and shots at each other’s parentage,
in a room
full of reefer
and the sweat
of day labor.
You told me once
you had no luck—
having given it
all to me.
And I pictured a medallion
bestowed upon the younger brother—
no small burden
you’d hung around my neck—
as if the family’s fortune
was riding on my narrow shoulders.
anyone who knew us might think to ask.
“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,
you told me,
for that you need a pair—
and in our family, I got them.”
Cold as cobra’s breath
I bet my four spades
as the better hand folded.
You never were a judge of character—
friends and enemies.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, SanAntonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was just published by Kelsay.
There are blue humpbacked mountains in the distance
and I always want to look up and over there, absorb
the scenery and forget that good-fitting underwear
is a basic human right, undeniable at least in the
good ole US of A. The 6:00 PM weather person
on Channel 4 who always scowls is wearing underwear
that doesn’t fit properly. Miss Irby, who tried to teach
American History in the 11th grade, never had properly-
fitted panties, I could always tell. And my gym coach,
Bragg Stanton, gave up finding nice underwear and
shared with us that he was starting a new trend of going
commando. There are malls and department stores nestled
in city-sized pockets in these smoky hills, and just as you
think it’s time to settle down with a nice goat cheese,
whole wheat crackers, and a glass of red wine, you feel
the pull, the squeeze, the pinch of that worn-well fabric
vying for space up there between your legs. It is time.
Dedicate a portion of the day to dilly-dally inside stores
and shops, the big-box, the men’s boutique, the electronic
pages of underwear, constructed of every conceivable fabric
under the sun: boxers and briefs and low-cut straps that resemble
large strands of colored floss. There are thongs, and jocks
and cloth that breathes, guaranteed not to burn or rub you
raw. By now you know what works best. But experimentation
is the hallmark of long-term satisfaction. Be bold if you must,
stepping into a store that smells like musk with salespeople
in three-piece suits who really don’t want to be there in the
first place. They point you in the right direction and then leave
you to your own design. I will not spend that much money
on underwear, ever, even if I were a millionaire. I am tired
and need some lunch, maybe a beer on some open patio
where I can write Mark Weldon, underwear guru, and ask
for a written guarantee. But it’s not like returning a shirt.
Once that material, whatever it is, has kissed the dark recesses
of your inner things, it is a done deal. Shop carefully because you
need to like what’s going to be down there for at least three years.
Whether John Dorroh taught any secondary science is still being discussed. However, he managed to show up every morning at 6:45 for a couple of decades with at least two lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Red Dirt Forum/Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.
An Exploited Body
You claim it’s a dwelling grasp. I still fall
out of a tree—naked & thick,
hauling myself to beat
exposure. I fill myself in
in desperate clusters. Unable
to find a deep hole for my body,
I turn over the earth & rip the ocean
floor—give a final blow
to deprivation, hunt dead & run large
in the streets. I lurk
in hives, collect & attach you
like an eyeball—a blind silence.
I search for bony bundles
& drain my body—an empty constant.
The Day of My Wedding
I stayed inside because of the rain.
From behind the bay window
I watched a funeral & a family
I watched a wild horse
run away from the field—
gaining freedom to ground
The grass webbed with dew
for the rest of its days.
& cars stopped passing
For the rest of my days
I watched a child
fall backwards at the bottom
of the staircase, just out of my
Annie Cigic is a second-year student in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies PhD program at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, community-based learning, advocacy writing, and student agency in writing assessment. She received her MFA in Poetry from BGSU. Her poem “Afterlife of a Dumped Body” is nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize by Driftwood Press.
& now it’s for real! Not the science fiction
of books or movies, test tube anomalies
reported from overseas, alien
contagion you could only survive given
regulated ventilation, capsulating spacesuit
NASA style. Say all you want
about mock-scenarios: Travolta’s The Boy in the
Plastic Bubble: the hellish loneliness of isolation
& quarantine, the psalmist who forewarned
of a “great trouble” I’d witness after she
took my $100 and told me in parting,
in no uncertain terms, that like the animals
who flocked to Noah’s Ark, I’d be spared,
Anita and the boys too, all of us protected
by the agency of some mystical
ministration. & then, almost overnite,
the pandemic surged like a tsunami,
came crashing with a shuddering BOOM!
In an instant life ceased to exist as we knew it.
Suddenly no one talked about wars,
the constant threat of terrorism, batting stances,
box scores, fast-breaks, Kobe or the triangle offense.
International flights were ordered home
as confirmed cases & death tolls
started to mount. Rubber gloves and surgical masks
became the accepted norm as hysteria & fear
ratcheted up & lockdown &
social distancing went from memes to everyday lingo.
& then the stern & troubling projections
from the C.D.C. of souls lost,
the World Health Organizations holocaust-like forecast
models; how airborne viruses mutate, flourish in
more welcoming environments—
the least resistant the more accommodating the host.
Contagions have gripped the earth before, left
a nasty trail of death & pestilence.
From S.A.R.S. to Swine to Covid-19, we have
Felt its brunt. But NOTHING compares
to the scourage of the Black Plague,
the Great Mortality, the Pestilence, the Great Bubonic,
the Great Plague, or lastly, because the world
had never seen the likes of it before,
because Europe & its counterparts, Eurasia & its outliers,
satellite societies, fringe nomadic & Mongols,
only a hundred years since the last
sighting of Genghis Khan upon the steppe, in the saddle
of a fine Arab Charger, before massive,
millions upon millions upon millions—
more than ever accounted for
in the totality of wars.
& now we enlist them by anacronyms,
refer to them by geographic or animal
origin; the long history of illness
independent of questioning how or why.
You can trace the migration of the Plague
back to the Silk Road
where it swept through Crimea & then upon the yaw
& creak of Genoese merchants
bound for parts of Judea & Galilee,
the archipelagos of Thrace, the coastline of the Aegean
& Ionian Seas, from the stiletto
boot to the Strait of Gibraltar, rats scurrying
off the decks & gangplanks infecting
the under-belly of Europe.
O’ sickness, how it wiped-out the land—
from soothsayers to merchants to prostitutes
to great barrons— O’ bodies left roadside,
no shelter remained to conceal the dying,
the rotting. & the gripping reality of naked histrionics:
the caterwauling, the protracted gasp and breath,
the sudden collapse of the living
upon the dead, crying into the stale breath
of what they said would spread.
Stepping around or over
the faces of the known— bluish, purplish
luminesces cauliflowering the neck,
hair greased with sweat,
bacteria & fungi doing their dirty work.
Tonight Time’s Square is a flashing ghostown.
The remedies for pain have
different denominators, and they know what
they are— depression, drugs & daily exercise;
faith in god or 4 more oxycotin
pilfered from my wife’s purse. I’ll toss them in a box,
shake & offer: whichever you get
must be followed to completion.
What does the muse say? Grin & bear it.
Tony Tracy is the author of three poetry collections: The Christening, Without Notice and his newly released book overseas, Welcome To Your Life. He is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Burningword, Jelly Bucket, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Briar Cliff Review, and various other magazines and journals.