In Transit

The ground is wet. There is nowhere to sit. An emaciated dog crosses the tracks. I lean my bags on top of one another and rest my hand on them, hoping they won’t topple. Everyone is quiet. A few draw silently on cigarettes, the smoke drifting into the humid air.

I peel a banana and throw the skin into a rusty, crumpled bin. I remove a rubber band from an opened packet of milk biscuits and crackle it open as unobtrusively as I can. I am not from here and their eyes are on me. An old man smiles.

The dog is close now. He limps towards me, his eyes oozy and infected. His bones protrude from his rib cage. The old man yells at the dog in Bulgarian. Shoos him away. But I wave my arms, hold up my hands, to tell him it’s okay.

I break a biscuit into pieces and scatter them close to the dog. He eats them methodically, then looks back to me. We repeat this a few times and I just wish I could scoop him up and take him home. Clean him up and see to his eyes.

The tracks go on forever in both directions. We are heading for Velingrad.

My partner comes back smiling, holding two machine-made cappuccinos in small paper cups. We take them onto the train, where a lady offers to prop one of our bags against her legs to help us; we don’t have enough room in front of our seats. She holds our bag for the entire journey.

The old man settles nearby, then gets up to give us two shiny green plums. He says a few words in Bulgarian, and it feels like he is wishing us well.

When we get to our stop, another woman, sitting nearby, looks out the window and howls like a dying animal; there are gypsies waiting to get onto the train.

Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several journals, such as Panoplyzine, Magma, DNA and Foxglove Journal. Lisa is currently a full-time budget traveler and her writing is often inspired by her journey. You can find out more about Lisa at https://lisareily.wordpress.com.

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Reverie

After it slips,
I can see the scene.
Clean cracks,
wind chimes on a winter morning.
Chalky slivers,
a startled flock of geese.
Riptides around
ceramic reefs.

But I flinch
as the cup shatters.
Look down
to see a broken gift
and bitter tea
that soaks into my socks.

This is a reprint of work originally published in American High School Poets: My World 2018.

A writer, violinist, photographer and athlete, Haemaru Chung is currently a junior at a high school in New York City. His stories and poems have been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Hippocrates Young Poets Prize and Gannon University National High School Poetry Contest, among others. Other works have been published in many literary magazines, including Rise Up Review, The Round, The Louisville Review, The Interlochen Review and Élan.

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house of men

one sleeps under cobwebs
one drinks gall
one wastes away to voicelessness

one longs for deliverance
one hopes for the spider
one remembers singing

one dreams of trains
one of rope
one of a revolver

Pippa Little was born in Tanzania and now lives in North East England, where she is a Royal Literary Fellow at Newcastle University. Her work has been published in print and online across the world and she has two collections, Overwintering from Carcanet, 2012, and Twist from Arc, 2017.

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Air Pressure of a Piano

My pilot father lies in the tree-canopies of Java
moth-wings silk and rotting now his cradle
but I come from another country

low and sorry his engines stumbled
channels open to the drowned,   their frequency
swelling the echo pedal         no white noise lullaby

soothes me as this old deliverance
of sharps,      how they absently disturb his sleep,
maybe he hears my               escapement

Pippa Little was born in Tanzania and now lives in North East England, where she is a Royal Literary Fellow at Newcastle University. Her work has been published in print and online across the world and she has two collections, Overwintering from Carcanet, 2012, and Twist from Arc, 2017.

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A Reply from Mother

Dear John
you’re sorry about the insomnia.
You said mine is hell too.
You want to know
how as a child you seemed to take your father’s death,
how you acted in the car –

it has taken a lot of doing
to go down
layer under layer.

You write this is a matter
of unique and urgent importance.

All I can tell you is
before the funeral parlor, before the graveyard
I buried the bullets
way down the beach.

All words taken from 3 letters between John Berryman and his mother, from We Dream of Honour: Last Years, 1959-1972, pps. 376-377.

Pippa Little was born in Tanzania and now lives in North East England, where she is a Royal Literary Fellow at Newcastle University. Her work has been published in print and online across the world and she has two collections, Overwintering from Carcanet, 2012, and Twist from Arc, 2017.

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Prayer Circle

Rosaries dangle from rock overhangs in shrines along the Santa Cruz River at the Santuario. Santuario faithful come bearing pain, craving miracles. Miracles to cure the addiction to deaden the pain of poverty. Poverty of the soul, of the land, of the culture. Culture embedded in years of working the soil, growing crops, living in community surrounded by generations of love. Love that brought grandmothers’ recipes for tamales, stories of La Llorona, secret skills to grow the best chile, sad secrets on how to shoot heroin. Heroin that smooths the souls of children stuck between the cultures of having enough and never having enough. Enough pain to be angry, enough love to survive. Survival is not what the kids desire. Desire steeped on the TV screen, internet, Facebook, Instagram, all shouting for riches, fast fun. Fun that is imaginary for the masses, especially people of the earth. Earth suffers along with the grandmothers as soil cries for water.

Water and jobs are the droughts that bring poverty to Northern New Mexico. New Mexico, with beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys artistic and magnificent. Magnificent to view, to paint, but without an economy for people to flourish. Flourishing cultures of the past built with acequias to carry the Rio Grande to the fields. Fields toiled by grandparents, children, grandchildren alongside each other to provide corn, chile, beans for the winter. Winters that brought snow, quiet solace, story telling. Stories of joy, of caution – to beware of La Llorona. La Llorona who walks the river, while her voice wails. Wails for her children just as the grandmothers of today wail for their children. Children and grandchildren taught to escape poverty through a bottle or a needle. Needles that steal lives. Lives lost long before their bodies are buried in the ground.

Ground that ancestors battled over, plowed under, flooded with the water from the acequias. Acequias that brought water for life, for food, for family. Families now fractured, tortured by loss. Loss that grandmothers push into their prayers on each bead of their rosary.

Cheryl Marita shares her work with end-of-life issues on her blog. Decades of hospice work, palliative care and life offer up characters and stories. She has been published in The Santa Fe Literary Review and has poetry in an anthology, Bosque Rhythms.

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Castaway

I should like to founder
on a coral atoll
bathe my big toe
in glistening turquoise sea
paddle with dugongs
maybe dolphins
eat salty anemones
admire the rush of tropical sunsets

never get rescued.

Robert James Berry lives and writes in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is the author of nine collections of poetry: Smoke (2000), Stone (2004), Seamark (2005), Sky Writing (2006), Sun Music (2007), Mudfishes (2008), Moontide (2010), Swamp Palace (2012) and Toffee Apples (2014).

Smoke is published by Universiti Putra Malaysia Press, Serdang, Selangor, West Malaysia; all Robert’s other volumes are published by Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, Australia. His latest collection Gorgeous is out from Sylph Editions, London.

His poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as Stand (Leeds, UK), Poetry Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), Westerly (Perth, Australia), Rattapallax (NY, USA) and Landfall (Dunedin, NZ).

Robert was born in the UK and educated in England, Ireland and Scotland. He holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Stirling, Scotland, and MA and BA degrees from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. He has lectured in English Literature at universities in England, Malaysia and New Zealand.

He is married with three sons.

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