The ice cream man
was a beloved guru
from Grace to Main
from Sunset to View,
his boxy white vehicle
with the tinkling tune
proving that Pavlov’s theories
work well on the young;
his sliver of a salary sucked,
but his tips were the yearning yelps
of customers clutching coins
plucked from purses or penny jars
in exchange for Drumsticks and Dreamsicles.
No one knew
that he couldn’t whistle and
had asthma and impotence or that his
mom, preferring Pilsener to parenting,
had slugged him every chance she got,
that he crashed on his cousin’s couch,
collecting occasional cash as a mystery shopper
once the kids crept back to school
or scurried in from the cold.
The ice cream man was a malcontent,
and if the community ever casually
caught wind of his crafty combinations of curse words,
it’d never let its babies near him,
but when he sank behind the wheel
onto a slick of arse-sweat on sultry mornings,
he became a hero with a reason to live.
Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in Urbandale, Iowa, USA. Adrian’s work has appeared in The Bohemyth, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Pangolin Review, Picaroon Poetry, Runcible Spoon, and others.
Purple capes me in womanhood, like the maxi-coat I bought, aged eighteen. It gave me buttons to open, one by one, watched by another in my tiny bedsitter. Purple pressed me, girl to woman.
A purple orchid grows in the grass, next to my head. My legs spread, spliced for you. Inspiration, no doubt, for purple prose when you dip your nib in ink for literary purposes, when we are finished. Your book will sell well, and I will cry, hidden by purple drapes – the safety curtain of the theatre.
Purple tunics, shoes, sheets and pillows, all threaded through with blues and patched with reds. Happy purple, plaintive purple, perhaps purple, depending on the day, the night. Today, purple thins to mauve.
Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017.
Evening in the café des deux Magots.
A girl with searing blue eyes drives
the blade of a small pocket knife between
splayed fingers. She’s fierce in her art,
bleeds carmine beads amongst the roses
embroidered on her black lace gloves.
Light and shade cross her heavy brows.
Chiaroscuro. She should turn around:
see the famous painter – crumpled collar,
worn-out suit, twice her age. Seduced
by danger, he prizes girl, knife, bloodied
gloves. Like a matador, he gores
her with his stare, lures her to sacrifice.
In the dusk the café walls turn dust-red.
Jane Salmons is a teacher from Stourbridge in the West Midlands. She has had poems published, or forthcoming, in online magazines including Algebra of Owls, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Ekphrastic Review, The Lake, Amaryllis and Three Drops from the Cauldron. In addition to writing poetry, and when time permits, she enjoys creating handmade photomontage collage.
My mother was a house
I couldn’t quit soon enough,
a place with peepholes
I poured out through and
doors that opened in every
dark so in my sleep, bags
of ballast slipped from
around me and I spun
uncentered from cellar to attic.
I couldn’t see she was soldered
to me under my skin, this mess
of her then me, mortgage I
can’t pay no matter how raw
I run. How wrong I rattled
around in her rooms.
Laurinda Lind lives in the U.S. in New York State’s North Country, and won the 2018 Keats-Shelley prize. Her poetry has appeared in Antiphon, Antithesis Journal, Crannóg, Sonic Boom, and Two Thirds North among others; also in anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH (Radix Media).
(For Geoff and Sarah)
The cardboard box is so light
she thinks there’s nothing in it.
Unfolding the flaps—leaves
laid out as rows of hearts,
old leaves from lime trees
on sheets of tissue paper.
She checks her dad’s writing,
his fluent tops and tails.
She’d mentioned in passing
about the calendar project.
Her children loved rubbings,
a shape opening another.
He must’ve stopped messing
with the old Massey Ferguson.
Walking the copse, he’d picked
each one, weightless in his palm,
the flesh of green gone,
leaving the hearts skeletal.
She lifts out layer upon layer,
lays them around her. He knew
how to fill an empty space
without crushing the gift.
Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory award. His first collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press (2002) and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish (2016), was published by smith/doorstop. Stuart lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school.
You appeared at my gingerbread door
last summer. Your lips were mulberry-stained,
your cigarette a chocolate finger between them.
A carpet bag hung from your cinder toffee wrist.
Each of your eyes was a walnut half.
You touched my hair’s spaghetti strands;
held a shot glass to my tears and drank
as you pinched two thousand days’ worth
of pink blancmange quivering from my hips.
You stayed six weeks. We dreamt of nibbling
around the edges of the morbidly obese moon
(built with Blacksticks Blue). Snapped
barley sugar gutters from the roof,
crunching them in your claws, never my teeth –
like we were fourteen again, and caught
inside the deep-fried Mars bar breath
of close August nights. Each time the sky belched,
you’d press yourself tight to my spine.
Breaking, breaking, breaking up
the collecting dusk, you whispered,
I will love the bones of you.
Your phalanges made their acid drop bruises
along my neurons. When I kissed your jaw, I tasted
ice. Rust. Shadows. Moss against granite.
Olivia Tuck has had poems and prose published in literary journals and webzines including The Interpreter’s House, Lighthouse, Amaryllis and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work also featured in Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, a charity poetry anthology on the subject of mental health, and she has been Highly Commended and shortlisted in one or two short story competitions. She is due to start at Bath Spa University this autumn, to study for a BA in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites
The Ash is common enough –
with keys the wind misplaces
and in winter, velvet leaf buds
that recall those long
black gloves I wore
to trace your trembling
outline – neck to hip,
and down a little more.
Its fissured bark is
a history of cuts, as if
the past can be cast off
like a worn out coat.
As green leaves fell
I glimpsed a woman
in the copse,
or maybe a hare.
Katerina Neocleous has been published in various poetry journals. Visit visionsfromhell.wordpress.com to see more of her work.