War Without Love

My love is a contusion.
The woman who didn’t return it has a
Serpent swaddled around her waist,
Every time she speaks to me
In idiosyncrasies and soliloquies,
A battlefield lies before us,
She possesses a rifle, I am without
A sword or breast,
She does not poultice my wound
Which hurts more than it should,
Instead she devours fish raw, butters
Them with thyme and rust,
And calls my pain ugly.

Aytan Laleh is a twenty-one-year-old poet based in Pakistan.

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Your scent followed me
and led to my suffocation.
Any room I entered
my nose crinkled
like the put-out
end of a cigarette butt.
You’d grab me with
your red nails –
more like claws when you
got excited.

So I’d pretend
you were a rose.
A classy older woman,
but not without her thorns.
So when you smiled –
you’d bloom.
Release a perfume of blush
that was soft.

Then I’d pretend you’d
hold me,
whisper fun stories,
tickle my belly.
But instead I watched you
fill up the room.
Your sour eyes laid on the
Pink Floyd lighter –
and not on your niece.

I pretended you weren’t
there in that bed
this visit was filled
with smoke, instead of bleach.
Yellow eyes dark,
missing those embers that you’d
bring to every holiday.
Maybe in the spring
I won’t have to pretend;
The roses will flourish
and cover the ashes
your cigarette left behind.

Abigail Tyrrell attends Rockville High School. Her poetry and prose have received recognition in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, winning a national silver medal. Abigail has been invited to and attended the New England and Champlain College Young Writers’ Conferences this past May. She’s spent the previous two summers working as a writer’s apprentice at the Mark Twain House & Museum. This October, her poem “George Stag” will be published in Bridge: The Bluffton University Literary Journal.

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Brown Marbles

When I flick off the lights of day, I allow myself to release, crying and holding onto the tears briefly before letting them go with a squeeze. I always hold you at arm’s length long enough that my arms don’t ache anymore, because they decided to fall off.

It’s in these moments, when everything that’s required of me is done persistently digging into my thighs, that I release this feeling and unravel the bandages, surveying the damage that drips from the cloth. The wound has become impressed into my aching arms, filling with the scent of mold. I slowly cut apart the wet dishrag and unfold the layered blanket of where I hid what was left of you, thinking there had been nothing left.

As I look down, as I do every night while lying in your bed, everything I see sparkles as these shards of chocolate marbles that are embedded into my sleeves that resemble freckles which I keep because they remind me of the colour of your eyes, warm coffee spilling out of the cracks of a broken mug.

Madeleine Simmons is attending the University of California, Riverside, for her B.A. in English. She shares her work within her community and posts snippets and updates on her Instagram page, @madeleineshelle. She hopes to publish her stories while feeding her four cats.

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Dear Fibromyalgia

The sore on my tongue swelters
as the cut on my lips stings
the scab over my cheek flakes
as my legs lie resting sore,
because they are bolted into the ground;

my hands cripple over trying to yank them loose
but my joints are unbending
as the small weights I am carrying on my back
press themselves individually into
the thirty-three individual vertebrae of my spine,

which reminds me I started writing this
piece because I had something to say
but when I went to raise my voice
a blister rose instead,

like the eyes staring back at me
in the mirror covered in red webs.
So I decided to write what I cannot say, and that was that my hair slowly fell out today
and it reminded me of hay that falls when it’s being lifted in a bale toward the blazing,
unforgiving Sun.

Madeleine Simmons is attending the University of California, Riverside, for her B.A. in English. She shares her work within her community and posts snippets and updates on her Instagram page, @madeleineshelle. She hopes to publish her stories while feeding her four cats.

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Lost and Found

Morning comes as a secret on soft, sanded stones
stacked high – sun
struggling to peer
and so they remain untouched,

Lazy feet drag on mottled tiles,
their punctured limestone crumbling,
surfaces peppered with lazy graffiti
by hands too hot to commit to detail.

Isabelle Kenyon is currently a northern, UK-based poet. Isabelle is the author of This is not a Spectacle, micro chapbook The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes to Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York). She is the editor of Fly on the Wall Press, a small press for charitable anthologies, the latest of which is Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, which raises money for UK mental health charity, Mind, and came runner-up for Best Anthology at the 2018 Saboteur Awards.

​Her poems have been published in many poetry anthologies, such as The Road To Clevedon Pier and the Inkyneedles anthology. She has had poems published in literary journals such as The Blue Nib, The Pangolin Review, I am not a silent poet, Eskimo Pie, Scrittura Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Bewildering Stories and Literary Yard.

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LIFE OF PINKY: Forgotten

A pink form appears in my visual periphery. I’m deep in proofreading a two-thousand-word magazine essay, so I don’t look up straightaway.

At my age it is effortful to read small print properly, particularly at this early hour and in the “warm white” (read: yellow) light of my desk lamp. I make a mental note: must use white light.

The pink shifts tentatively and hops closer. Her mane is tousled. I smile when I arrive at a period. “Hey, Pinky. Why are you up so early?”

My imaginary horse leaps up onto my tabletop soundlessly and sniffs hopefully at my mug. I still drink my coffee with a dollop of condensed milk, so no luck there. Big Guy, who likes his coffee black, won’t be up till about 7am.

Pinky rests her head on the edge of my MacBook, the way a dog might. A little wistful, she seems to have matured of late. Strange that’s possible for a mini pink horse. Strange I’m even thinking about it.

I twirl her mane with my little finger. “Can’t sleep?” I ask.

Pinky shrugs with a resigned air. I’m about to resume my reading when she mutters, “He doesn’t like me anymore.”

I know. “He’s a big boy now, Pinky.”

“He prefers the other animals,” she says. There is no trace of jealousy in her voice.

The schoolboy has a host of new imaginary pets – the dog, cat, hamster, monkey, gorilla, penguin, duck, pig, rooster, parrot – who unfailingly greet our family in a fixed order.

“Maybe that’s what it’s like when children have a new sibling,” Pinky says, still in a thoughtful whisper.

Now I definitely stay my reading. Does my pet horse know? It’s only been six weeks and I’m not showing yet.

Jocelyn Lau does too many things to answer the question “what do you do?” properly. Mainly though, she edits and writes and thinks about the meaning of life. She lives with imaginary animals too, one of which appears in her new collection of microfiction, The Life of Pinky: A Horse and her Boy.

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In transit

I met him at the train—tall and still
against the station’s cough and flow,
of pale houses and shuttered windows.
His voice like a song
            rising in tempo.

I’m in love with a boy who lost the same
off-white tooth three times:
            tooth in netting, tooth in fist,
tooth in tall grass,

a boy whose moments of greatest valor
happen in a train cutting across blue

who holds a guitar in his lap
to give to a homeless man
he met yesterday.

Restless line for the bathroom,
shoes unpeeling from linoleum,
            ticket machines clicking—

evening in a city of misty music,
his voice slicing through the unease
of strangers.

Claudia Heymach is a Stanford University undergraduate who has always harbored a love for writing and science. In high school, she was a National YoungArts finalist in short fiction and a Texas Young Masters grant recipient in literary arts. In her free time, she can often be found in her research lab or a coffee shop. She is from Houston, Texas.

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