Bricklayer – by Clint Wastling

 

English, header, stretcher, Flemish bond,
he taught me the basic stack before a brew
of builder’s tea and a fag break drew all to
the Portacabin.
If he could lay five hundred bricks
he’d get a full day’s pay.
Through all but the worst of weather
he’d work long hours, fingers taped,
shammy gloves kept out the lime:
bed of mortar, brick, tap, level.
He could halve a brick with one rap of the trowel:
Before he died,
dad listed houses, bungalows, schools,
a cold war bunker
but his first, he spoke of fondly,
flats on Bricknall Avenue whilst
apprenticed to old Jack Mather.
Perhaps he thought we’d photograph them all.
Make the mortar
mix sand and lime: 3:1 – blend in the water.
I see him now, his thin frame,
a shock of auburn hair
and fingers which
built brick on brick to house his every dream.

 

 

 

Clint Wastling is a writer based in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He’s had poetry published in Gold, Dreamcatcher and River Poets Journal  among others in the UK and USA. His first novel, The Geology of Desire, was published recently by Stairwell Books. His second, Tyrants Rex, part 1 of a dystopian sci-fi trilogy, is due out in August 2017. www.clintwastling.webs.com

Aleppo, 2016 – by W Luther Jett

 

That pale shimmer
of white is not
glass reflecting
noon – is not
someone’s lace
dress – nor new
fallen snow –

Ashes, ashes
coat the street
of ruined houses –
and amid the rubble
a lone arm
upthrust toward
a sky now forever
out of reach.

 

 

 

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland, whose poetry has been published in numerous journals, including: The GW Review, Poetica, Syncopated City, Synæsthesia, ABRAXAS, Scribble, Beltway, Innisfree, Xanadu, Haiku Journal, Steam Ticket, Potomac Review, and Main Street Rag. His chapbook, “Not Quite” has recently been published by Finishing Line Press.

Inexorable – by Devon Balwit

 

We build our monuments looming, fortress walls high,
brows and hands sculpted noble. They look down
their noses at the town square, take the long view
of the surrounding valleys. We assume they will
continue to speak for us and hold their own against
forgetfulness. But our descendants see only building
materials, a place to hang laundry. Our empty sarcophagi
water cattle. The young graffiti the flanks of our war horses,
skateboard along our great walls, pulverize the past into
parking lots. And this while some of us still remember.
The geological forgetting will be utter and absolute.

 

 

 

Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, OR.  Every morning, she uses the height of her dog’s leaps as an oracle to gauge her fortunes for the day, then writes and writes and writes – hoping to produce a thing of beauty.

It Lives in the Basement – by Linda Kleinbub

 

Loneliness crept up the stairs
stood in a corner
observed the situation
searched for the easiest to infiltrate
curled around her unknown
smoke unseen
loneliness holds her tight
she thinks its warmth is comforting
quickly she is left abandoned,
alone, trying to make snow angels
at midnight.

 

 

 

Linda Kleinbub is a volunteer at Girls Write Now,  a writing organisation that works with at-risk high school girls.  Her work has appeared in The New York Observer, The Brooklyn Rail, Yahoo! Beauty, Grabbing the Apple: An Anthology of New York Woman Poets, and The Best American Poetry Blog. She is a painter and organic gardener.

St Adjunct – by CL Bledsoe and Michael Gushue

 

Half my students don’t even have faces,
just numbers and the smell of meat
to identify them. Half will fail
and those that don’t won’t learn much,
anyway. Twenty-three of us share two
left wings, a wobbly desk, and an out-of-date
anthology of Prussian educational essays
compiled by Horace Mann. God help you
if you need to make copies. If only
we still had air raid drills, desks to hide
under. We do, but they’re inside us, a wasp
insisting you cower beneath the rules
and hope for the best. You can see it
in the faces my students don’t have: every test
is a treadmill stacked on another treadmill.

 

 

CL Bledsoe is the author of a dozen books, most recently the novel Man of Clay and the poetry collection Riceland.

Michael Gushue runs the nano-press Beothuk Books and is co-founder of Poetry Mutual/Vrzhu Press. His work appears online and in print, most recently in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly, and Gargoyle. His chapbooks are Gathering Down Women, Conrad, and Pachinko Mouth (from Plan B Press).

Elegy for an Unknown Confederate Drummer-Boy – by Jack Grady

 

Elegy for an Unknown Confederate Drummer-Boy
(Killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, 30 November 1864)

Did he whittle wood with a jack-knife?
Did he angle for catfish?
Did he smoke a corncob pipe?
What pond did he splash into
from a rope swing on a summer day?
Did he dance at a jamboree
to the patter call of a hoedown
with the kissing-cousin-
sweetheart of his dreams?

He only remains
in the report of an enemy soldier
who watched that drummer-boy charge
to save his rebel friends
before more were scythed
and threshed by volleys, before more
lives were winnowed from bodies,
torn and shredded by cannon.

To kill a big Federal gun
before the gun could kill again,
he stuffed a fence rail into its mouth.
But instead the cannon killed him,
spat him into a mist of blood
with splinters of fence rail,
splatters of flesh, and shards
of his bones and his drum.

Gone, his memories – of winter
with his family in the warmth of their home,
of his hound-dog by his side
when he hunted ’possum, squirrel, or ’coon,
of the womanly kiss from his cousin
when he marched off to war –
gone like every trace of him.

But sometimes over Franklin
a face is shaped by a cloud
before a dirge of drums in thunder
and the anonymous grieving of rain.

 

 

 

 

Jack Grady is a founder member of the Irish-based Ox Mountain Poets.  His poetry has been published online and in print in Ireland, the USA, the UK, and France.  He was the Irish poet invited to the 2016 international poetry festival in Marrakesh, Morocco, where he read in April.

Falling in Love with San Francisco – by Oz Hardwick

 

In the shadow of the bridge, a white café opened
its arms, welcomed me inside, to where she stood,
cool, preparing green tea. Fingers dancing like a musician,

she chopped lines of leaves, like the careful lines
orbiting her eyes. In a slouchy blue sweatshirt,
her grey-flecked hair casually tied, her practised hands

ritualised the mundane. As she passed me the cup,
with a slow, unbuttoning smile, I wanted to beg her
to sail away with me across the bay’s smashed-glass dazzle,

but my life was waiting in the cab outside,
and I could hear the meter ticking.

 

 

 

Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, and academic. His latest poetry collection is The Ringmaster’s Apprentice (Valley Press, 2014), and he is co-author, with Amina Alyal, of the Saboteur-shortlisted Close as Second Skins (IDP, 2015). He has delusions of musical competence, and his one regret is that he is not Belgian. His website can be found here.

The True Lives of Cells – by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez

 

Scientists say all our cells are replaced every seven years.

I plan to scoop up my old cells and reassemble my seven old selves. Throw them a big pity party as a distraction. Then leap naked and shameless into my latest incarnation.
*
People and things are like cells—replaced, time and again.

Like a goldfish named Sonny replaced by an identical goldfish named Cher in the fishbowl of our youth. Like the queue of father figures stepping into our angry fathers’ shoes.
*
Humans are glorified cells of the Earth.

But the Earth doesn’t need us the way it needs bees. According to a recent survey, three out of four of my friends say: the Earth needs us like geese need molten lava.
*
Now imagine each of your cells is an individual:

complete with a personality, pet peeves, and secret pain. Imagine bacteria cells roaming your body’s inner prairie like the tiniest bison.
*
The cells dally and gossip their lives away, but a few quiet cells know their time is a wisp of match-light. They marvel at the magnificent vistas within your body: their whole world. They wonder if other perfect bodies with intelligent life could exist elsewhere, in the mystery of outer space.

 

 

 

 

Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press, 2012), and winner of the New Rivers Press MVP Poetry Prize. She is also the Editor of a music and poetry blog, The Poet’s Playlist.

Seed – by Iris N Schwartz

My mother read each page of her Burpee catalogs
with the patience of an old oak tree.
She longed for the promise
offered by purple, yellow, red, green
life that would unfold just as you’d expect
in response to devoted planting,
judicious watering, and giving
with ungloved, thorn-distressed hands.

Mother tended to eager jonquils,
pansies waving their butter-
yellow and plum petals, these
tiny flirtatious beauties
wedged between red brick
and ever-expanding blue
hydrangea on our minuscule front lawn.

There was no need for her
to yell or glower
to get these things to grow
upright, show respect. All
her flowers breathed out
compliance, trust.

My mother staked roses named Fire and Ice,
dug up earth and delivered
to it shattered egg shells,
rescued coffee grinds, fish heads
unfurled from pages of the New York Times,
important, pungent gifts to
her floral adoptees, who waited
with hungry sepals, petals, and stems.

Even those roses, snipped,
arranged in one of Grandma’s delicate vases,
deprived of their vines, did not
resent Mother
or their own imminent death.

The ubiquity of cut roses—
I despised those obsequious
flora. Every day they were gifted
with all that
I was not.

Iris N. Schwartz is a fiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from such journals as Bindweed Magazine, The Flash Fiction Press, The Gambler, Gravel, Gyroscope Review, Jellyfish Review, Pure Slush (Volume 12), Silver Birch Press, and Siren.

Mr Taylor – by Lynn White

 

Probably a polar bear was not a good choice
for my first attempt at whittling.
A hamster would have been simpler
and avoided the multiple leg fractures..
‘Don’t worry girl, no problem’, Mr Taylor said,
when I showed it to him.
‘Leave it to me.
Bit o’ plastic wood,
That’ll soon sort it’
and it did.
The tail was more challenging.
But all was not lost, just the tail,
and I managed to convince the Examiner
that polar bears don’t have tails.
Maybe they don’t.
I’m no expert.
I progressed slowly, and probably
a rocking elephant was not the best choice
for my Final Piece.
There was a lot to cut out,
a lot of curvy bits.
The huge electric saw bench
loomed ominously in the corner.
‘Don’t you go near that, girl’
cried Mr Taylor if I glanced in its direction.
‘Here, give it here,
Leave it to me.
There you are.
Now just a bit o’ plastic wood…’
And then disaster!
Someone stole the rockers.
Who the fuck would steal my rockers?
They never rocked very well,
but even so, they were better than nothing.
And Mr Taylor was hard pressed
to make new ones
in time for the exam,
even with multiple,
“No problem, don’t worry, girl”s,
I was concerned.
But in the end
we both passed.

 

 

 

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poems have been widely published in print and on line. On Facebook and Blogspot.