Doll

Hand-painted face like a Parisian mime,
she sits on the shelf
crumpled
like a worn dress after a party gone wrong.
Her make-up still perfect—
because that’s what dolls are good for—
but the hair is dusty
from not seeing the sun,
not breathing the free air,
for many years.

Once, so perfect to the touch,
her owner’s hands tremble now
when they hold her.

Once, she thought
the doll was the world,
the French Quarter,
where the waiter called her mademoiselle,
when she felt special,
pretty,
just like he made her feel,
when he stroked her hair,
touched her arm.

Like she did to the doll now,
but the glass hands are cold now,
feel brittle to the touch,
fragile,
as if they could break
with just one careless move.

Like when her husband
twisted her arm when she walked away,
pulled her back,
pierced gentle flesh,
flesh that held blood
that ran cold for him,
cold for her,

through limbs she wished were brittle,
would break off,
just like the doll’s.

J. L. Smith lives in Odenton, Maryland. She has published two poetry books, Medusa, The Lost Daughter and Weathered Fragments, Weathered Souls. Her most recent project is an heirloom cookbook, Cooking with the Smiths. Follow her at her blog at https://jlsmithwrites.com or via Twitter: @jennifersmithak.

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Dawn’s eastern fabric

The lantern’s torn; warm light
spread to yellow parchment
from the paper in her palm.

What was a girlish hand
claws at the wrinkled sea
which draws us on to separate
from our familiar body

as the party beckons,
even as its slow procession
pokes among the marram grass.

She points to the horizon,
dragons on her sleeve collapse
in faded colour. Brushes

in sweet apricot, widening
wash out a summer bloom of peach.
Night’s ocean towers on the west,
stoops down to beach and forest.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Pilgrim Station.

Dominic James lives in South West England near the source of the Thames and he attends poetry meetings along the river valley’s M4 corridor. Widely published, his collection, Pilgrim Station, was brought out by SPM Publications in 2016. He is currently reading up Stuart Buck and Frank O’Hara. His blog trots doggedly on at https://djamespoetic.blogspot.co.uk.

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PATHFINDER

gibbous eyes traced a path from windows
wound down, as if you could stretch
horizons from roads; street lights
bending in your afterglow. tiny hands
raised embers, each fragment trembling
beneath your breath. your smile shone
its absence behind objects: blurring
reflections, lines growing through cold

comfort, nightmares waning into
daydreams. hold my secrets: wisdom with-
out prescriptive replies, half-smiles need
cues to stretch into crescents. this steering
wheel trembles beneath your gaze, as if
you see hands swerve into closure; warmth
eating at my bones, the way you trace a
gaping wound into the long road home.

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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head / ache

(after Linda Pastan’s ‘MRI’1)

the message beams back in a foreign
language: spacecrafts dissolved by
astronauts, their glowing remains
enclosing a black hole. mission
control predicts a comet pulled
from orbit, its ruin sealed in
stereotactic snips. the body
electric, mired in pain, now
with cannons primed to burn
the messenger: lost breath caught in
long pauses, reason rendered into
rhyme. distress stirs a quiet gaze
as stardust falls. the silence of
hands, cupped in liminal space.

1The base text used is the poem ‘MRI’ by Linda Pastan. the fourteen found words are as follows: back, spacecraft, astronaut, mission, comet, ruin, body, now, cannons, lost, long, quiet, silence, space.

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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OUROBOROS

where do answers crystallise
when questions forget where
they lie? if someone sings when
their voice breaks, when should they
choose to dull the ache? will their
silence remain heard, or each choice
wasted and submerged? does silence
fill every dead end left wasted
from a quick descent? what would fill
one last question, reeling from
torment awakened? where does one
crystallise this soft unyielding torment?

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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VLLE OF CENTRAL

river reaches for
glass and steel, paths weaved from milieu:
corners and back alleys hidden from view

join unknown bridges
crossing heights over an atrium. each shore
linked with escalators; skip the next floor

to distant skies
at level five: abandoned Helipad at rooftop
gives stunning views of buildings that drop

a hint of change without relent; holding on to
memories will outrun the river, delaying the
ache of old haunts drowning in unpaid rent.

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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hunger

in the morning you learn to dance again
and nothing is wrong. bite hard and swallow
when you see food, remember how smiles are
too wide for comfort. everything is in place

and nothing is wrong. bite hard and swallow
while people eat you alive. sliding doors open
too wide for comfort, everything is in place
when words scatter. quickly remember your steps

while people eat you alive. sliding doors open
every second, locking warm bodies within rooms
when words scatter quickly. remember your steps
that refused to work. nothing is wrong with

every second locking warm bodies within rooms
before each inevitable breakdown. recall plans
that refused to work. nothing is wrong, with
the passing minutes inching closer to home

before each inevitable breakdown. recall plans
to shower again before going to bed. you check
the passing minutes, inching closer to home
as windows open to wildfire. wait, then go

to shower again. before going to bed, you check
light switches, with hands primed to remain
as windows, open to wildfire. wait. then go
if everything is in place. please remember your

light, switches with hands, primed to remain
should you forget to breathe. let yourself rest.
if everything is in place, please remember your
temporary face masks, which expire overnight

should you forget. to breathe, let yourself rest
when you see food. remember how smiles are
temporary face masks which expire overnight.
in the morning, you learn to dance again.

Nicholas Quek is an undergraduate from NUS with a strange love for music, poetry, and the moments between breaths.

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