Oh Death

Adrian Manning

you thief,

sliding in amongst

the shadows of

night,

stealer of time,

why do you

come around again

so soon?

 

gnawing at the edges

of me

reminding me of

your presence

as if I could ever

forget

 

your teeth marks

and scars

are constant

still painful

no matter how they

have aged

 

I know you are there

I always know

and the closer

you come

the more I will

ready myself

for the fight

 

be ready

I don’t plan on

making it easy

why should

I?

Adrian Manning lives and writes from Leicester, England. He has published a number of chapbooks and broadsides and been published in a wide range of print and online magazines. His selected poems book “Digging Up The Bones” has been recently published through Uncollected Press in the USA (therawartreview.com)

Nine years old I

Arja Salafranca

We’re allowed Coca-Cola as a special treat

in tiny, square wine glasses on Saturday nights.

How we savour the sparkling black drink,

wanting more, yet knowing that’s all.

No wonder – in a family of three children

and two parents, a one-litre bottle doesn’t go very far.

I, of course, come from a family of one child, one mother.

Coke goes further then,

although there’s more silence.

Nine years old II

Arja Salafranca

The mother of three wears a costume at the pool

to cover her stretched stomach.

She has booked a tummy tuck in a few weeks’ time,

she tells my mother, who holds her own stomach in.

My mother diets constantly,

smokes cigarettes, nibbles sparingly through the day,

eats more salads than potatoes.

My mother’s friends smoke cigarettes with her,

tan darkly, buy white bread, make pies, drink far too

much coffee and run on adrenaline

and the hope of male glances,

comparing whose breasts are perkiest.

 

Another friend, young and single, not thirty-nine and divorced,

sits at the edge of the pool, and also holds her stomach in.

This is so that she’ll attract a man, she explains to me.

Another friend of my mother’s asks me to rub suntan lotion

all over her back. Everyone wants to tan.

No one has heard of sun block.

I flinch from touching the woman’s moles

which are scattered along the top of her back.

We eat watermelon after lunch

and swim off the sticky residue in the blue pool.

 

It is such a long time ago, 1981 and summer.

I can still feel the watermelon’s sticky juice on my fingers.

Arja Salafranca has published three collections of poetry, A Life Stripped of Illusions, The Fire in which we Burn and Beyond Touch, co-winner of the 2016 SALA Literary Award, and a collection of short stories: The Thin Line, longlisted for the Wole Soyinka Award. She has participated in writers conferences and edited three short story anthologies. arjasalafranca.blogspot.com

THE OLD CRONE DOES HARD TIME

Brian Rihlmann

I generally cringe
when I hear glassy eyed, new age types
talking about transmigration of the soul 
as though it were an absolute fact, like gravity.

But there’s something to this idea
of the “Old Soul.”

Because there’s an old woman
in here.A real old crone.Nasty as fuck.
She’s been around, ya know?
Been through some shit.
Jumped from one skin sack
to another, for who knows how long.

She knows all the tricks.
The mercenary ways
of brain and heart.
She’s heard every bullshit excuse,
and alternately cackles
or groans at most
of what people say and do.

She sits on the front porch
of my house human,
slowly rocking in her chair,
spittoon on one side,
shotgun on the other.
Loaded and cocked.

I can picture her standing 
before a tribunal of the powers that be,
before being sent back here
from the underworld.

I see a half-circle of black hooded men,
their faces lost in shadow,
as she practically begs
“Please guys, not another body...”

But they laugh,
and off she goes,
flipping the bird on the fly,
and her “fuck you” translates
into my first ever scream,
as I am yanked out
into the cold.

The unsuspecting parents 
wind up with a baby 
who looks at grownups like idiots 
when they babble at him
or play peekaboo.

People say he seems pissed off.
Resentful. (Well, no shit!)
He doesn’t smile much,
or pose for photos,
or play well with other children.

And doesn’t cry
when the goldfish,
or the dog,
or people, 
die.

He knows better.
Or she does.

PAC-MAN LESSONS 

Brian Rihlmann

as you run the maze
and gobble up all you can 
invariably, you’ll zig
when you should’ve zagged 

you’ll know it
the instant you turn the corner
as the ghosts close in
to end your brief existence 

it’s easy to forget about them
when you’ve got your eye
on the colorful, shiny fruit

but they’re always closer
and close in faster
than you think

could have
and should have—
why place these nooses
around your own neck?

it’s just a game...
everyone loses eventually 

so don’t kick the machine 
too hard
you’ll get thrown
out of the arcade

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

Life-Buoy

Wayne F. Burke

church over, another

Sunday morning in the books:

the ride home uneventful

until

beyond the lime kiln

my sister announces

that she is going to kill herself

and us

and turns the car toward the oak trees

in front of Howling Avenue Grammar School.

My brother, up front

dives across the seat,

gets into a tug-of-war

with my sister

for the steering wheel;

he rises like a buoy

in a sea

as roadside trees rush to greet us--

the car wobbles and

a tire hits curbside

and my head hits the roof

shrieks of metal screams

car engine noise and

sputter,

beached like a whale on the

sidewalk:

my sister sobs, shoulders

quaking--

my brother says “kill yourself

but not us!”

Mrs. Gray from the corner block

arrives at the window

arms crossed and face of flint:

“are you alright?”

“Oh yes,” my sister says, perking-up

“we are fine.”

Wayne F. Burke's poetry has been widely published, online and in print. He has published six full-length poetry collections, most recently DIFLUCAN (BareBack Press, 2019). He lives in the Green Mountain State, aka Vermont (U.S.A.).

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