"Zachary M Hodson is a multi-genre artist based out of Kansas City, MO. Holding a B.S of Psychology with a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Central Missouri, he has spent the last decade focused equally on poetry, music and music/sports journalism. His writing has been featured in many print and online outlets, including but not limited to Euphony Journal, Leveler Poetry, The Literary Nest, Future’s Trading, Skidrow Penthouse, Royals Blue and The Deli Magazine. He can most often be found with a cold craft beer in hand and under (at least) one very fat snoring cat."
the orange frogs
she said people under forty only take one set of pictures
to reduce excessive exposure to radiation she said
the same reason old people are not full body scanned at the airport
& why she wore a dosimeter
she joked my future children [that i will never have] would thank me
they took three sets of me
she smiled considerably less than when i was drinking tracer
the words you have a mass in your right kidney ring first like an anvil
clean and sharp
at once more important than deadlines or dvr schedules or the sunset
or other people
the dancing word bubbles are poached by zealous toddlers razing about your head
the ones not yet euthanized by ritalin
& you are left with the single word carcinoma
suspended on the lip of every proceeding thought
its the friend of the friend of nobody that invited itself to your party
dropping two bags of funyuns and a half case of natty through your glass coffee table
before drinking up your expensive craft beer
& vomiting hummus all over the ping pong table in your basement
its a completely useless arrangement of letters otherwise
a bold faced unitasker
the douchebag constantly correcting people’s grammar on twitter
those words in that order were not what i was expecting
was i supposed to feel something
i have been taught my entire life to avoid that sort of thing
& sure i had sometimes mused about a malady like this
never a super deadly one mind you
but something grand enough to hit the back splash
i used to drape my hair over my face and faux cry on the trampoline
at other people’s birthday parties
i once shot turtles off a cliff with a water balloon launcher
i tore up my mother’s pta awards when i got caught out past curfew
i stole my father’s last pair of clean work socks
i am as unstable as any other
but this is a weird way to get what was coming to me
even now as i type
hands elongated and pulsing
i have never been so clueless as to what to feel
am i the forgotten child left alone all night after a game of freeze tag
following instructions till the bitter end
someone should have done a head count before letting the bus leave
so when presented with wait
nonchalantly explained by the doctor i would later stalk online
all choices withholding shades of grey
& results strewn about both sides of the bell curve
what do you do
& how do you feel about it
these are things no one taught us in health class
i know i will eventually thaw
even soon enough to realize
there are times one has to shed a failing shell
& sometimes it takes a bit of the good skin as well
which is okay
scars are what keep us from eating the orange frogs
you are the devil
the gluttonous sloth
you wail at the bedroom wall
calling for your dead mother the fourteen thousandth time
as if she will suddenly appear and take you back at the teat
you are a monster
you eat macaroni and cheese with a fork
you eat everything
you sulk in the back nook like an obese white line on a blueprint
the kind for which i don’t need a legend
plain as the low creaks of dead winter
you are a hag
with nappy locks pickled by perspiration
& flat arches that plead for your immediate death
an unfortunate man child making snowmen in your front yard with mashed potato flakes
having never tasted real snow
let alone seen it
you know santa claus is bullshit
yet still write a letter each year for your mother’s sake
you are a weathered face on the mountain
the pilgrimage for a new generation of bloodletters
wide eyed fledglings ripped on the fermented spittle with which you rape them
those poor unfortunate souls
vaping like high school science projects
the least noble of gases compounding the most volatile of heavy metals
quite convinced they are previously undiscovered elements
they fiercely greet each other side to side in public
seesawing compliments off each other like hand jobs
moderately offended to not receive blow jobs in return
they bellow your tenets with muddled gusto
& this year’s boots firmly thrust up the ass of social responsibility
as we good souls of the city dodge the white-out piles of shit they leave behind in your name
you watch as they drink each other’s company until swollen and drunk
beached upon the overflowing splendor they create in your name
soon they will outgrow their motley shells and move into PBR tallboys
i scowl from the back
pendulous in the november air
i was invited to the party but given a different color wristband
in my head i play out your wretched evening ritual
that scorecard you keep of likes and follows and friends and connections
i almost have my thousand
can i have a cookie now
as if you would ever give up a cookie to someone else
i would plead for a chance
one single legitimate chance you pig headed mother fucker
remove the discriminating shade from my particular cell
but your formula is unforgiving and absolute
to you i have been made fictional
i am a thigh gap
a nah, i’m cool, but thanks anyway when offered another plate to the buffet
i’m old enough to not give a shit about your opinion
i’m young enough to almost believe that
someday we will both be dead
others will appoint themselves to our roles of self-entitlement
but i guarantee the worms will say i taste better
lost shade, volume v: malletbreath
there was the kettle drum
who in another life would have been my fulminant lover
consummating the timbre of a single soundwave to the big crunch
i regret not her
not her even in the slightest mind you
she is quite a landmine
but what we could have done
our serpentine trip to the middle would have been marvelous
a triumphant parade to the tip top of the bell curve and holding
decibels above the ho hum of my spying computer’s cooling fan
of which to this day no one knows about but you
so be cool yo
i watched in pain as she finally gave up her life
years of wasted breathing
scratched very much within the lines on imported paper
acrid twirls of colored pencil lead left to die in the creases of a merlot stained sofa
the creamy under fluff of her militant feminist cat owned the various air currents
occasionally allowing me an attempt to inhale the weight of the room
also a callow bearded dreamer in the corner spoke
thick flattery that felt just like all the four by six fuck you for submitting rejection cards
i have stuffed into my favorite childhood lunchbox
you see children
we actually mailed stuff
i have already mostly forgotten he was a thing
after hours of scrubbing my name and image online
this one has hurt the most of all
id prefer to stop talking about it now
Akomolafe Bankole Kayode is a young and aspiring writer who loves to write short storiesand poetry. He won the MNS (Mynaijastories) short story competition with his story, “The first time I did it.” And his poem, “My Hanbok” was nominated for an award in the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Fiesta 2016. Some of his works have appeared in Praxis online magazine.
Uncultivated days return at harvest
as dry brown ridges burnt by the sun.
But the lazy will not make hay then
It was he who didn't go out for rain
who stomached seeds meant for the earth;
drinking wine made from corn and eating
bread made from wheat.
His neighbours know no rest
from his wants without labour.
- Melchizedek, son of Michael
The tears of the candle is shed in delight
with her head on fire;
illumination sweeps rooms of darkness
till shadows fall behind bodies of men
having a dark discussion
under a shade of light.
Melchizedek, son of Michael
our inks don't float with words
forged in the infantry of our hearts.
A thousand dots on blank pages
can be followed by a blank stare
into a black hole of our emptied minds.
A flying bird may drop a feather,
a crawling ant may leave a grain
and the rains may add some drops,
but the blocks of wall won't fall
to moments when it is forced.
It stands rigid like a battalion
asking you to dare a fight,
but you know this also won't work
until you let it all go;
like lover turned stranger
and you sleep, wait and hope
she comes running into your arms again.
- Melchizedek, son of Michael
Blanca Alicia Garza is from Las Vegas, Nevada. She is a nature and animal lover, and enjoys spending time writing. Some of her poems are published in the Poetry Anthology, "Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze", now available at Amazon.com. Blanca's published work can be viewed at The Poet Community, Whispers in the Wind Blog, The Winamop Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Tuck Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review as well as Birdsong Anthology 2016, Vol 1.
When you found me
I was lost in my own thoughts...
drowning in my own tears,
the silence was deafening...
all I heard was the pieces of
my broken heart hitting the floor.
My soul was in darkness,
much like a caterpillar in its cocoon...
trying to find a little bit of light to escape.
Your tender touch makes flowers grow
on every piece of my shattered soul...
you taught the caterpillar that sometimes
pain and darkness is needed
to turn into something beautiful...
something unique... and fearless to love.
Tears in Rhythm
My time has come
I was not ready
But she does not forgive
I'm here in this cold box
I wonder if I loved enough
I can't feel the sun now
and tear drops are falling
watering thirsty soil
I feel them crying
but I cannot hear at all;
silence is just deafening.
I have blessed peace and
tranquility within my heart.
Although my soul aches
for those I left behind,
I can feel a strong rhythm,
it is a much loved Mariachi
playing my favorite songs?
I'm singing now, so loud!
Don't be sad my loves
I'm in a wonderful place
tears and sadness are gone,
And when you miss me,
just close your eyes and
put your hand on your chest
you will feel my presence.
You may not see me. but
for now, I rest within your heart.
Many Moons have passed without you,
creating an empty space within my heart.
Another night craving your presence;
one more tear falls from my eyes.
The rose you left beside my bed is dying;
and your beautiful face is fading from my mind.
I keep the rose in a book of unfinished poems;
and though dried, shattered and breaking into pieces,
it's still beautiful, but I fear I'm breaking as well.
The simple thought of your
hands running along my skin
accelerates the rhythm of
my heartbeat... my blood flows
like a steamy volcanic eruption
rising with unleashed desires.
Sweet serenades of whispers
and moans interrupting the
silence of the night, making
even the Moon shyly hides
behind the velvety blue clouds.
Shake the Ashes
I want to touch you
Not with my hands
But with my words
Soft, enter your mind
Leave indelible prints
there upon your heart
a gifted rose while
Shaking the ashes,
Erasing the time,
Healing the wounds
of a former loveless life,
wipe the slate clean and
make love to your thoughts.
Write you my best poem,
leave it tattooed upon your
heart with permanent ink.
Bare your soul completely,
Unleash passionate desires
Making you feel every letter;
sparks ignited upon your skin.
(Initially published on Indiana Voice Journal)
Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Commonweal, Guwahatian Magazine (India), The Galway Review (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria), The Osprey Review (Wales), The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey) and other magazines. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs
The Canyon Dwellers
There’s this canyon
between two cliffs
and Tim Boyd has a foot
planted on each cliff.
but very steady.
He's been stretched
over the canyon since
he got back from Iraq.
After he took his position,
he thought someone
would eventually look up.
There are others
spread over the canyon
in front of Tim.
They’ve been there
since Viet Nam and
getting a bit wobbly.
In back of Tim
are the new arrivals
spread-eagled as well.
They’re fresh from
Afghanistan and they're
getting their feet set.
The rest of us below
have jobs and are busy
with families and lives.
When a canyon dweller falls
and makes a terrible mess,
we find the time to look up.
Like Father Like
Strapped to his bed
in the nursing home,
he tells every nurse
who comes in
and tightens his straps
his trouble started
in first grade when
he'd make a mistake
reciting the alphabet
in the kitchen for Mother
while Father in the parlor
waited for an error
and then dragged him
down the basement
and made him stand
in a tub of hot coals
plucked from the furnace
until he was able
to recite his letters
without error and then
Father would take him
upstairs to Mother who
put salve on his feet
so he could recite
his letters all over again,
this time without mistake
which Father pointed out,
decades later in the same
nursing home, was proof
his boy had learned a lesson.
A Ticket to Somewhere
When I was eight
I jumped off a roof as if
I had a parachute
and broke a leg.
He was there when I landed,
told me to be careful,
said I was too young
and then disappeared.
In a high school game
I went up for a rebound,
came down on my head
and got a concussion.
When I landed
he was there again,
said I was still too young
and had better be careful.
In my late forties
I almost got hit by a truck
but jumped back in time
and landed on the curb.
This time he told me
I was no longer too young
and if I wasn’t careful
I might see him again.
Now decades later
I have been very careful
but I still watch for him
because the last time he said
every one of us has
a ticket to somewhere
with choices to make
and moments to decide.
Six-Pack Uncle Jack
Sing a song of six-packs
and quickly tell me where
Uncle Jack has gone
drunk but debonair.
He can’t remember where
he left his Philomena
tall and fetching fair.
He wants to find her.
She’s the one
he wants to marry
but he's lost her number
and is now afraid
he may never dance
with her again unless
perhaps in paradise where
she’s waiting, he has heard,
lighting up the brightest star
far from hades where
Jack has a reservation.
He’ll cancel that to dance
with her among the clouds
but this will halt all revelry
for Uncle Jack on earth.
Not even one more six-pack.
Judy's Father and Mine
The only difference between
Judy’s father and mine
is my father didn’t drink.
When we were tykes
they’d come home from work
in a rage every evening,
her father drinking into the night
and mine sitting in silence
in a tiny parlor playing
ancient reels and jigs
on a huge RCA Victrola.
Her father wore a tie
and carried a brief case,
and mine wore coveralls
and carried a lunch bucket
into the alleys of Chicago
climbing light poles to fix
dead wires so all could see.
Her father came home neat,
mine soaked in sweat.
But they were twins,
Siamese if you will,
each miserable in his own way,
driving wives and children nuts.
I always wondered if Judy and I
had normal fathers, if we
would have been
scriveners as adults.
I know I would have gone
to law school and railed
in court in behalf of
the innocent and guilty
and made wads of money
I’d be fingering now instead
of sitting behind a keyboard
at dawn still typing.
Irsa Ruçi is an Albanian Writer, Speechwriter and Lecturer. She was born in Tirana, Albania, in 1990. Her books of poetry include “Trokas mbi ajër (poems and essays), 2008 and Pështjellim (poetry), 2010. She has been published in anthologies: Antologji, 2007; I kërkoj agimit vesën, 2008; Antologji poetike “Kushtuar dashurisë”, 2014; Antologji poetike “Udha”, 2014; Antologji poetike, 2014; “Malli dhe brenga nga distancat”, 2014; Antologji poetike “Qyteti”, 2014; Poeteca, 2015; and her works has appeared in a number of print and online national and international magazines, including Sling Magazine, Issue 5; Ann Arbor Review, Issue 15; Poeteca Magazine, Issue 35; Aquillrelle Anthology, 2015, Aquillrelle Anthology, 2016, Metaphor Magazine Issue 5, The Commonline Journal, Issue 4/22 etc. And Among many awards, she has received the first prize in poetry, in competition "Anthology 2007", as the best poet in Albania.
© Irsa Ruçi
A lecture for my students
The first lecture I always give to my students
is to be suspicious for the knowledge
I pretend to transmit,
no one is omnipotent
and nothing can be ever-lasting
we're just bowed learners with long years carried in our back
in life, nothing but traces of steps we take...
More than when they recite my gibberish,
I am excited by their finding of new arguments
their bring of different point of views, perceptions freed from frames
because only the best of minds
cannot be deceived.
A student should never take for granted
but ought to be yearning by curiosity
and see beyond...even beyond time.
Should turn their rebellion into pealing voice,
otherwise they'll sleep in desks
where cheating is inscribed
waking after some years with useless papers
wandering in dead-end lonely streets.
The last lecture I give to my students
is to be cynical to that point
that whoever treads on them, must fear...
Proud and cynical
for the future they bear in their hands
cynical and revolutionary
Don Quixote who fights with books and words.
Convinced that inside the auditoriums a nation is growing!
Unconscious dialogue with my conscious
A: What’s envy beyond daily-life rhetoric
B: Why you ask?
A: Because I saw hungry people who gave me despicable looks
C: Envy happens unconsciously or does it touch upon conscious?
A: Maybe it sickens the soul
B: Don’t ask!
A: In their looks I can see all their envy for everything they miss
C: People were born to die unsaturated
A: I hate the empty hearts
B: Tell me about it!
A: How can a being steal to the time theirself
C:…theirself who stole time ago
B: Ask me about these fools
A: Wholie in the bed of loneliness
C: And poison theirself till complete loss
A: But how can look the others in the eye
When their eyes are blind by selfishness
B: Uselessly you ask
C: What about happiness? In what roads we lost this words?
C: Happiness is not only a fairytale
B: No one cares about the essence
C: Ideas are formed in dead content
A: Mythical irony till absurd
C: Since the time the truth was betrayed
B: Ask your consciousness if it can hear
A: They stole my dreams from me when they lost in vain
C: Oh, death! We can’t even wake up from our sleep
A: We were born in a vice century
C: Oh, how unlucky we are…
A: What all has to do with one-another?
C: Maybe our mind can’t see in darkness
A:…and turn off in logic
C: Anyway, I am afraid anytime I speak with pathos, without tears
A: ‘Cause tears are the spirit’s voice
C: And deaf souls are locked eternally in oblivion…
Another year waits dreams in east
Mornings come with words frozen in air
Echoes of continuity;
Only the heart can turn the cold into breath
Lines fall from the sky, songs are melody
Of growing children in the peaceful world.
Trees shriveled by the time,
The time is afraid to walk lost in melancholy
Drunk, idyllic moments
…oh, I can’t run so fast after this deathly winter
Where even the mountains hide behind the fog
Like the flush of a lass hides behind her hands
The city is a ship,
Floating in troubled waters
The waves of freedom cuddle the agony,
The birds ruin the whiteness of the sky
To find their way at that sun ray which promises
The heaven to the earth.
This evening I am cringing in my solitude
A drop of wine, close to the fireplace,
I hear the wind roaring in the windows
While I enjoy some poems,
Winter is but a fairytale to break the monotony
It is winter only the soul has cold…
A comeback in dreams…
Sometime… years before I was poetry-struck
I was protected by the toys from the strangers outside the threshold!
I took care of dolls, sew them bride dresses
And just like myself I fed them with dreams…
I would decorate with them the corners of my home
Until my mother’s threatens frightened me
And I collected all by myself before they ended up
In the trash bin
Furthermore, I was excited while playing football with the guys
But the quarrels between us became a serious problem
(girls are taught since infancy to act like ladies)
And it wasn’t graceful of me;
In the adult’s meetings my misbehavior
Was getting notorious
For what I would represent one day;
The inheritance of femininity!
Meaning, I had to learn how to play with myself
So I gained the ability to play with the lines
I accepted as my co-traveler poetry
I sought the beauty of the heart
And I merged it with my thoughts, my frailty,
My attitude, my personality.
Now I have to invent some other games
Because the adults’ games lack fantasy
To find in the a exhausted run of imagination,
Energy for inspiration
Feel myself a leaf in free-fall
(even that to breath freely in this epoch is hard)
Between ‘was’ and ‘will be’
Lies as a spider bed
One ‘can have’
One is never enough grown as to give up from childhood…
Dropped by the stars
When the night is the emblem, teller of toss brilliant eyes
laughing even as gods, in that forest of dreams
created with mirrors, broken mirrors
like the other times, forgetting in sleepiness
viewed without stopping, unwittingly remained awake ...
Oh fairy of these mountains who never sleep, you sing to freedom
through the mountains of chance, dances over
the tired heads of travellers,
as tales are show through weeping, because desperation
are always evidence of telling mischievous mockery
when happiness remains the only force sculpted in the heart
whose we all bow down in a divine way, we peaceful sinners
of tomorrow ...
To Fall asleep with the thoughts that the stars are sufficient
so young not to allowed your tears shine
while crouched under blankets you pray for the future
the Denial is more intolerant for yourself ...
This night is noise-evocative, verses build nests in heaven
With the moon, thoughts are hooked
In the Height that take the shape of a heart...
Keith Burkholder has been published in Creative Juices, Sol-Magazine, Trellis Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Poetry Quarterly, New Delta Review, and Scarlet Leaf Review. He has a bachelor's degree in statistics with a minor in mathematics from SUNY at Buffalo (UB).
He bursts into flames
He is a writer,
He thinks to himself as he writes,
It is nighttime in this town where he lives,
He thinks really hard to himself and then bursts into flames,
The fire around him is really small,
Nothing in his home is damaged,
Rain from the sky falls on him,
He is wet and the flames disappear,
What an experience for him,
He gets up to dry off,
Will the phenomenon ever happen to him again?
There is no concrete answer to this question,
Let the future behold such an answer,
Take care, my good man,
Continue to write and let fate decide the future for you,
Bye for now,
Take this experience in with great strides,
David Flynn was born in the textile mill company town of Bemis, TN. His jobs have included newspaper reporter, magazine editor and university teacher. He has five degrees and is both a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a Fulbright Senior Specialist with a recent grant in Indonesia. His literary publications total more than one hundred and ninety. David Flynn’s writing blog, where he posts a new story and poem every month, is at http://writing-flynn.blogspot.com/ . His web site is at http://www.davidflynnbooks.com .
An Inherited Photograph
Cattle mar the field with their hooves.
carpets all the earth in geometrical.
Each different. Like
the death of ants.
And that snow chills the ground but keeps it from greater cold.
A tree never speaks of the wind that irritates it so.
It is all great.
Great great great great great.
Fear the white snow of peace.
Fear the brown bushes that spot the hillside
where the brown bear hides.
Fear cattle. Fear water, muddy and crystal clear.
Running and still.
Be human in the ability to speak;
but need only to think.
Love, but love only ghosts.
Fear sun fire;
then at night, the moon.
For only by fire do you see.
Without heat the shapes of earth would freeze
as in a picture inside a picture album
inside a cardboard box.
If exposed to light,
Aunt Bertha and Grandfather Roy.
I run the fan in my apartment
for the white noise.
Today, however, a storm blew across the city,
and the electricity is off.
Without the fan
I hear the world as it is.
the man upstairs is banging across the floor in mid-afternoon.
Has he been laid off from his job?
Sirens fill the streets.
Some murder I don't know?
Worst is that
sitting in the dark on the sofa
I hear my own life:
a job that is low-paying and temporary;
teeth about to fall out.
I need the fan and quick.
When the white noise returns
and the world becomes nothing but my wishes again
I will continue trying to find love;
continue paying my bills.
A smile will return to my face.
I will think in dreams.
That is how I have lived before,
and how I will live my remaining years:
a fan and white noise.
The trees are coated with ice.
One lesson I learn from this is
use the heater.
For nature is limited as regards
to our safety.
Bears eat us.
The death of a human is a water drop
heavier and heavier
until it plummets to the ground.
So far seventy-five billion humans have died.
Die when the time comes.
Kiss everyone you know good-by.
Look around at your favorite view,
mountain or downtown.
Birthdays are bad days, steps to hell. I die
because of birthdays. If I could stop still,
like a bug in amber, I'd forget my
birthday. Life would be dreams of how I kill
my loved ones. They curse outside my door.
They ruin my dinner with their sarcasm.
Unmoving, I would move in peace, no more
the burn of healing. I would replace them.
You forgot my birthday, all of you. I
waited for your card, your call, your present
wrapped in red foil. None came. You accepted my
presents like ordinary lunches. What I resent
more than being alone, more than birthdays
as workdays, is my birthdays as bad days.
An Educated Man
The worry is
that the bridge will not hold.
Not a symbol, the bridge has to keep my car
from falling into the river.
Not a symbol, the river
has many jobs to do:
feed the fish, wash the land, fill the sea.
Which is a large basin of salted water,
an end to itself.
Those who do not read do not have these worries.
Books are microscopes
and this work of finding small grids
is so human
I could cry.
Live and die:
that is our job.
How we spend the time is beside the point.
'There is one God' begins my religion,
thinking on an ancient text
I find that I cannot eat pork,
nor cut my hair.
This language is so human
I could cry.
I have faith in the bridge,
for it will or will not hold me.
David, cross the damn bridge
to the grocery store.
You have nothing in the refrigerator.
Lana Grey was born and raised in Illinois, and she currently studies English/Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She intends to pursue an MFA and teach writing at the university level while continuing to write and publish her own poetry and prose. Her poems have appeared in Unbroken Journal, Dead Snakes, and UFO Gigolo.
Cold hands clasped in my lap,
trembling, clinging to one another to keep me
from reaching for that buzzing lifeline.
I don't need to see the screen and the thoughts
that should've stayed locked inside mental
vaults on both sides. Razorblade words.
You found the exposed vein closest to flesh
and sliced, popping makeshift stitches I'd used
to seal in insecurities, and I stole the blade.
Take it back, Instinct whispers. Self-defense is dangerous
when armed. I can't count the times I've backed down,
but I can't unread the blame you've etched in my skin.
Instinct is wrong. You've cut me too deeply, your knife
pushed through the weak spot I should've concealed, trust
punctured. I fold my hands tighter, refusing to make the next stab.
Brother, My Brother
Cork grease grenades lobbed over the saxophone section
while the band director turned the other cheek,
knowing we weren't allowed to converse outside school.
Late-night texts when we pretended to be Jedi and Sith,
locked in eternal combat, and my dad confiscated my phone,
grounding me for the inappropriate things we never said.
You were too old—"It isn't right. It isn't normal. He'll take
advantage of you." No, you never wanted me. You told me that--
remember? I cried for a week, and Dad still curses your name.
I shouldn't have asked how you felt. Then, the friendship that blossomed
over the next five years couldn't some so publicly—no secret
meetings necessitated by my haste and parental overreaction.
You called me your sister the last time we spoke, when you
bemoaned the relationship you'd been too distracted by
to remember my twentieth birthday.
What are we? Siblings don't ignore one another's existence
each time one gets a date, and if I were wise, I'd stop leaving
you voicemails when I'm in town in case I'm the best offer.
Perhaps the late-night phone calls when you pieced me back
together keep me clinging to the memories of singing "Bohemian
Rhapsody" on the bus and praying you still hear the music.
Girls and Boys
The girl who was supposed to be my maid-of-honor
Whom I stayed up with until three and held
While she cried about the boy who didn’t treat her right
And told me that he and I were all she had.
The boy who was my first real heartbreak and became my best friend
Who calls me a sister but forgot my birthday
When he was busy running back to the girl who betrayed him
And told me he’d try to do better.
The girl who was my first exposure to depression
Whom I spent years trying to persuade that she was worthy
While she swore to the world she had no friends
And told me I was the selfish one.
The boy who was my closest cousin in age
Who played with me on the swingset in his yard
When we were too young to know what divorce meant
And told me he’d teach me how to lightsaber fight with a tree limb.
“Can you drive me to the park?” asked the first. “I’m afraid to be alone with him.”
“Of course,” I said. “And I’ll take you to Dairy Queen afterward, if it’ll make you feel better.”
That’s how it began every time she wanted something.
“Of course I don’t mind. You’re like my sister. I’d do anything for you.”
“I’ll stay up late to talk to you when you’re upset and drive home from college to see you.”
“I’ll come over so much my family starts to think I hate them because I’m never home.”
At the park, I hid in a dirty bathroom with a broken lock and no toilet paper.
I crept over to the pavilion to let someone else have the room, because it had been an hour.
The girl and her boyfriend were still sitting on the hill in the sun, talking and hugging.
Suddenly, they both called out for me. He wasn’t supposed to know I was there.
“It’s okay,” she told me when I joined them. “Everything’s okay. I still have a boyfriend.”
I supposed every complaint she’d aired the night before had ceased to matter.
“He wouldn’t accept me if he knew we were different religions.”
“I’m not happy. We fight all the time.”
“No, it’s not okay that he ignores you; my boyfriend isn’t allowed to treat my best friend badly.”
Her house caught fire in September. I didn’t answer any of the seven calls because I was asleep.
I called her mother back the next morning and cried even though everyone was fine.
Her mother said to call the girl after she’d had a few hours to rest.
I said I didn’t know if the girl would want to talk to me because we’d fought the night before.
Someone can only bend so far when they’re the only one bending.
“Of course she’ll want to talk to you. She almost died.”
And because she almost died, I tried to forget every promise she’d broken.
I drove home to visit her while they stayed in a hotel, and I talked to her every day.
Maybe that was too much. She said I asked for too much.
I said it was no more than I’d given her. I wanted her to want to fix us. I wanted her to try.
But getting harassed at work and fighting with my father weren’t important.
“Whatever you’re dealing with,” she said, “my problems are a hell of a lot worse.”
The second often gets an unfair rap.
We’d known each other for only a few weeks
When I, the uneducated high school sophomore,
Told him I liked him as more than a friend.
I’d misread the signs of politeness as guideposts.
He didn’t have feelings for me, and he never would.
I was devastated because I was an idiot.
I got over it, and in the years that followed,
I came to trust him more than any other friend
And find myself grateful I hadn’t wasted the chance
To have his friendship by clinging to the past.
Five years later, my dad still sees the boy I cried over.
The third took the train to visit me, and I spent a night
walking around campus trying to distract her after she’d
told me she didn’t think God wanted her to live. She’d decided
she wouldn’t, and she didn’t want me to ‘freak out’ or tell
anyone. Still, I spent the night awake, afraid to leave her,
and made sure friends were in town when she returned, ready
to make sure she knew she was loved. When she called me
from the train tracks she’d walked onto, she told me she wanted
to go like her sister, and I borrowed another phone to call
someone to go find her while I kept her talking and protesting
through tears exactly how much I loved her. I listened
every time she told me the same boy she’d held an unrequited
crush on for years had hurt her, and then I read her Facebook posts
about how he was her only friend. I turned to her after the first
girl deserted me, and this one said she accepted me as I was,
with my pain and my differences from the people around us. Good,
I thought. You’ll be there for me like I’ve always been for you. Then,
she told everyone we knew that she was distancing herself from me
because my religion scared her and I only cared about myself.
I miss the fourth.
His parents divorced a few years ago,
And he’s stopped speaking with his dad’s side of the family.
I’m collateral damage.
I know it isn’t me he’s angry with,
But my phone number hasn’t changed, and neither has my mind.
He’s still my cousin.
I wasn’t there--
At his wedding last week.
I probably shouldn’t have expected an invitation to congratulate him.
I am a 65 yr old former teacher. I live in Belfast Ireland. I am married and have 3 adult children. Writing started out as a stress reducer when I was teaching but having gotten hooked I am still striving to improve.
It was wet Spring when we found the pool.
Lodged, between stream and wood,
Invisible to all but inquisitive children.
It was the squeal that alerted me,
So I plunged through nettles and briars
To find Laura, knee deep in the pool,
Poking excitedly with her fingers
At the bubbles of Frog spawn.
Briefly, I told her what she had found,
Naturally she thought finders keepers
And it was a tearful goodbye she bade
Only on the promise of a swift return.
Back home we googled the life cycle
From spawn to a Tadpole to Frog,
She could hardly contain her excitement
Weekly, every Sunday to check on the pool.
That second Sunday, at the pond,
she noticed the bubbles gone..
Instead, she found the little swimmers,
Their tails thrashing away from her hand.
Again, she wanted some to take home.
But unprepared, we had no net,
Nor jars, not even Mother's permission.
Within a week the tadpoles had legs,
Another week the tails had gone
And soon the frogs were dispersed around the poolside.
Each visit that Summer, she tried to catch some.
Each approach by her was met by a large hop'
Sometimes matched with a splash.
All too soon the Summer receded.
The frog numbers diminished,
Foul play by predators and cruel boys
Quieted the little pond. Spoiled
The Sunday adventure,
A child learned a lesson of life.
Ngozi Olivia Osuoha is a young Nigerian poet/ writer and a graduate of Estate Management. She has some experience in banking and broadcasting. She has published some works abroad in some foreign magazines in Ghana, Liberia, India and Canada, among others. She enjoys writing.
I hear brotherhood calling
I feel the pain of nationhood,
The burden of a country
The agony of one people,
As the scavenger looms
And ravages the nations.
Arresting laws, jailing policies
Swallowing bills, scraping services
Eroding values, molesting cultures
Murdering peace, fertilizing wars,
Killing unity, sowing discord
Abusing freedom, planting sodom.
I see boredom everywhere
As morals get imprisoned
And loyalty impoverished,
I percieve disarray
As rules get stolen
And labour disabled,
I sense earthquake
As constitutions drown
And regulations trapped,
I envisage landslides
As terrors fortify
And racism magnifies,
I learn violation by exploitation
Because patriotism sinks
And development dies,
Dishonesty threatens a collapsing economy
As bandits cart away resources.
Hurricane man; worse than all hurricanes
Hurricane man, the rage of destruction
Hurricane man; the stormy hand of hurricanes.
TALES OF THE ILLFATED PENSIONER
Poor, yet over-delayed salary
Unpaid allowances, forgotten arrears
No incentives, hard labour
Used, abused, misused, disposed
Haggard, hungry, gored and bored
Bugged, abandoned and overstretched;
Service, a blessing or curse?
Sane, sound, sincere and sensitive
Diligent, dedicated and delightful
Truthful, trusworthy and thoughtful
Committed, cautious and courteous
Respectful, responsible and reasonable
Lively, loyal and law abiding
Humble, humane and harmonious
Punctual, peaceful and protective
Regular, resilient and resourceful
What went wrong?
No shelter of his own
No balanced meal,
Unclean water, unsafe environment
Not even a bicycle
Deteriorating, dwindling and ageing
Timid vicinity, crude community
Is service a crime?
Unpaid pensioners, unemployed children
Retarded passions, stunted visions
Frustrated dreams, crushed talents
Dashed hopes, dimmed future
Wishing he was umarried and childless
Like his colleagues who had it rougher.
A boundless pain
Slumping on verification queues
Bedridden, dejected and rejected
Dying, a miserable pauper
Undignifying, so ungodly a culture
Bound a people, cruel a world
Wasted, unyielding, so regretful a labour;
The height of cruelty on patriots.