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poohsticks by Laurie Evans

you snap a stick off a sunburnt beech meet the river’s rush and throw / chase the current as it cradles your battered branch across the cascade crashing to the wash below / i wheeze freezingly behind / catch the autumn crabapple burn in your cheeks / tear a twig from a lumpy yew / aim an elbow at the knucklewhite rapids / hurl the wood with herculean strength straight at my wellied toes / a lost robin rides your silent smile to the sky / another try / i twist  a sprig off a crisp birch / grip  my frostglass fingers / feel them melt as you wrap your mittened hand around mine / arch my arm back gently / teaching me to let go --- Laurie Eaves is a writer from the village of Yapton. His debut collection, Biceps (2020), is published by Burning Eye Books and his work has been published by Bad Betty Press, Ink Sweat & Tears, Poetr
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Marketable Skills by Marina Sofia

Now I am naturalized and marketable,  my brain useful my forearms strong. I gleam squeaky-clean from scrubbing hospital floors. You can forgive my skin the colour of midnight plums at least temporarily when I apply gauze to your suppuration you wince avoid my eyes when I empty your bedpan tell me to cheer up when you make a joke about my ancestors. My scissors not nearly as sharp as your corrections of my grammarly faults. I am dizzy tolerated, jostled kept on until something better home-grown comes along. --- Marina Sofia is a translator, reviewer, writer and blogger. She is also a global nomad, which sounds much better than 'immigrant'. She has published poetry and flash fiction in a few online and print journals, and thinks poetry is the best way to procrastinate when she should be working on her crime novel.

“Are You So Tired Then, Stranger?” by Ace Boggess

  —Dick Allen, “B&B”    Wind exhausts with its icy fists. Knives of rain wear me down, & leaves in their helicopter swirls like leaflets dropped from a plane. October depletes me, & November. They’ve too much busyness. They send me spinning, dancing, lonely with the rake, the broom. I surrender, collapsing like an old barn, debris of me piling in a chair with clear view of the television.  News is on. It spends me. Talk of politics, also. I’d like  to shut up the voices that fatigue. They hum like a B-flat in the pipes. They bicker & scold, condemn. They expend me like carrying  groceries up a flight of stairs  until I’m too drained to care  which side they’re on. --- Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including  Escape Envy  (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021),  I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So , and  The Prisoners . His writing has appeared in  Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review,  and other journals. An ex-c

An Apple for My Mum by Sue Finch

I need to tell you exactly what colour it was. Did you ever suck an American boiled sweet – a blue one – slip it out of your mouth  hold it to the sun to admire it before sliding its smoothness back in and licking the wet sugar coating from the pads of your thumb and index finger? It was nearly that blue. And did you have that gel toothpaste so bright you squeezed it the full length  of your brush’s bristles even though you knew the tube said ‘pea-sized’? The kind that had you wondering how blue  made teeth white? It was almost that kind of blue.  And it shone like the first strokes from a bottle of nail polish  labelled ‘electric blue’. And there it was  hanging from the branch of a tree within reach,  four firm knuckles at its base and no one had picked it. So I got it for her, that bluest of apples, and all the way to her house excitement held my stomach captive as I imagined her biting into it or wanting to put it on display  for the whole world to see. --- Sue Finch was born in Ke

"Why Can't I Die in My Dreams?" by Ace Boggess

[question asked by Christine Sostarich] I can’t escape                          zombies three nights a week: ripped skin & sinew like a butcher’s scraps.   They chase me through chain stores, down cubicle rows                          at the phone bank, across beaches I’ve yet to see.   I duck under tables, behind a cactus sprouting from the highway,                          as I yell to everyone, Get down! Get down! like a funk singer.   Not afraid, the inner I comprehends                          lacking me the story ends. I don’t want that.   Even with monsters, I’m happier in fiction, hanging out                          with cliffhangers & uneasiness. --- Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including  Escape Envy  (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021),  I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So , and  The Prisoners . His writing has appeared in  Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review,  and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in C

A Hurricane's Bluster by Emma Lee

Clouds gather, merge. He sees himself as a large,  harmless fluff. But she sees him as grey with dashes  of steel, ominous, a tightening screw. He asks why she goes out for coffee, to meet friends.  Is he not enough? He monitors her phone, her social  media, her spending, her sleeping. He keeps receipts.  A hurricane is a whip that hits out indiscriminately. His calm centre is deceptive. He plays victim,  points to his lack of control, shunts responsibility elsewhere. The storm spirals, pulls himself in a circular argument. I do this, I do this, I wash, rinse, repeat. I do this. He fails to let the rain cleanse the grit from his eye. Eventually it blows out, shrugs off its anger, drifts A cloak of shame is the easy option, a comfort blanket, not a force for action, a silvery light suggestive of change. Hurricanes centre around their eye. Spent,  she eyes the destruction. Where to start?  It might take a lifetime's work. --- Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dre

A Garden Pond by Sue Finch

I had never seen so many shades of darkness. Difficult to distinguish  dark, dark brown from burnished black.  I was happy there  staring. My reflection stared back.  Rippled. I wanted to kiss it. I already knew there were countless shades of green – pure lime green,  dark army green,  the endless mixing in of yellow  to invent more and more.  A snail with an algaed shell moved  as if in outer space.  I couldn’t grip it, but I was so close.  Then I was right in there  amongst bouncy pond weed,   straggly ribbons and those shades of black in close-up. Some were just dark browns  but, oh the depth.  So cold amongst the stale green smell, but happy. They shouldn’t have ripped me from it just to wrap me in a stranger’s dog blanket. Rough wool held me silent all the way home. The air had chilled me to the bone grey dog hairs stuck to my lips. --- Sue   Finch ’s debut collection, ‘Magnifying Glass’, was published in 2020. She loves the coast and the scent of ice-cream freezers. You can often