An ethical foundation
can be a wonderful thing,
but it separates you from
other people, with
a barbed wire fence.
The concept of right and wrong
Is outmoded, and pilloried,
left, right, and centre.
Like grammar, and the Oxford comma,
it makes no sense to so many.
A look of something like pity
transpires; a clouded look, silence,
and a shoulder shrug.
When you say that ‘it’s the right thing to do’;
show compassion, or believe in the best
of humanity, heckles arise. Suddenly
you are persona non grata, and you may
as well have spat on their shoe, vomited,
or poisoned their food.
It seems like goodness
has no place; its image is tarnished.
And my belief slips further and further away.
Like fractions of shell; floating,
in a bowl of cracked egg.
Claire Sexton is a Welsh poet and writer living and working in London. She loves poetry, fruit tea and cats, and has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Peeking Cat Poetry, Amaryllis, Word Life – Now Then Magazine, and Light – journal of photography and poetry.
Once I worshipped Paris
from the top of Sacré-Coeur,
spent my last genuflect-moment
at the tattered train
of Notre Dame, bathing
in biblical light. In the crypts
of St. Paul, I wept.
I am called to the word cathedral,
where the mother city lives—
come into her body,
the gentle rocking womb of her,
curl up on a pew, whisper
what you want. Call it sanctuary.
Do you need to be forgiven
or found? Will it be faith
or fortitude in the end? Is this really
only a wicked reward system?
Then why return? She responds
to your sadness with architecture.
In her hands, the scaffolding &
centering frames. She smiles and says
lift each stone now. This could
take centuries. And yet they were
cut to fit together perfectly. You
know this. The weight you can bear,
the entire roof on your shoulders.
It’s as simple as constructing an arch.
Watch as she tears down
what lies beneath you.
Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Pretty Owl, The Tishman Review, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Up the Staircase, the CDC Poetry Project, Parentheses, and Sliver of Stone. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.
I walk the empty aisles and sit
along a row of empty seats.
The faded fresco above me
seems to invite a form of words.
And words seem to be everywhere –
from stone columns to wooden beams,
from the altar to the lectern –
they fill the air in words once said.
In the corners of the roof tops
some prayers lie between the cracks
and from the Stations of the Cross
they discolour the old varnish.
Arches of stone support the words
that have been uttered in deep faith
and all of the stained glass windows
have prevented them escaping.
Millions of words like far-off stars
light up the darkness of the night.
They formed just like stars and burst
out in hope of a better world.
And right now they shower the floor –
supplications and confessions
and petitions of every kind –
then rise like invisible dust.
Jim Aitken is a poet and dramatist living in Edinburgh where he also tutors in Scottish Cultural Studies. His last collection of poems was called Flutterings, published by Red Rose Press in 2016 and his last play was Muriel of Leith, produced by Spartaki for the Leith Festival in 2017. Jim also tutors in Creative Writing and takes groups on Literary Walks around Edinburgh.
No one said
this your joy
to those you
bear. “Thank you
thank you” they
weep as they
back away changing
next to nothing
grateful for your
being right there
way over there
the temple doors
from the outside
a switch to flick
how dark is
Wayne-Daniel Berard teaches English and Humanities at Nichols College in Dudley, MA. Wayne-Daniel is a Peace Chaplain, an interfaith clergy person, and a member of B’nai Or of Boston. He has published widely in both poetry and prose, and is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry. His latest chapbook is Christine Day, Love Poems. He lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine
In the wood is a moss-brushed stump
green like the mouth of a well.
From it one can see
bracken playing cat’s cradle
with the spider’s web
that is slowly pulling it down.
First there is a wooden sign post
to chase across a field
of scratchy colours. All this
must be negotiated first.
Of course before that is the hill
and the open door where the sun
fights shadow on the carpet.
The woman walking past,
her dog and a car swimming slowly
towards each other
through a puddle of heat,
have gone now. The bird in the hedgerow
goes on with the same three notes.
Our father. Our father. Art.
Carolyn Oulton‘s poetry has been published in magazines including Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, iota, Seventh Quarry, Ariadne’s Thread,Envoi, New Walk, Upstreet, Acumen and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press. Her website is at carolynoulton.co.uk
I saw you in the rundown K-Mart on Cudahy. Guadalupe miracle teen mom like a cuttlefish, cuddling baby cephalopod wrapped in swaddling clothes or a quondam shroud. No polyester sweaters covered boneless arms. No lotion soothed dry suckers. No infant hoodies in the three dollar bin fit a gold-trimmed mantle.
Who cares for madonnas in palatine blue and horn-rimmed spectacles? What lips ever dared press your Aztec zipper mouth?
At the strip mall laundromat papa clutches his lapis cross and strokes his Fu Manchu. Your eyes wobble loose behind teardrops and riotous tentacles. Could Los Angeles infect with chastity? Could the Lamb enfold this broke-down town like a mother hen, riding his hydraulic Chevy, aglow in a Nautilus halo from Rosemead to Southgate?
And the six-armed shall inherit the Earth. And the eight-armed shall rise on a perfect spiral from Marina del Rey to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Richard Manly Heiman lives on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. He works as a substitute teacher, and writes when the kids are at recess. His work has been published by Rattle, Rust + Moth, Into the Void, Sonic Boom and elsewhere. Richard holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his URL is www.poetrick.com
Peter Larkin’s poetry explores the idea of scarcity in its phenomenological aspects. Previous collections include Lessways Least Scarce Among (2012), and Give Forest Its Next Portent (2014). He contributed to The Ground Aslant: anAnthology of Radical Landscape Poetry, ed. Harriet Tarlo (2011). City Trappings (Housing Heath or Wood) was published in 2016 and Introgression Latewood is due out later this year.
…the notion that salvation might
the limb that could not be felt ………..the thing in itself …..the electronics haven’t …the stuff worth debating …..the idea that we ………..the towns unfriendly
the list of acknowledgements …the boy who was not to play ………the current tallest building …..the strength of the waves …the coward with fear
the journey might …….the flow of everyday life
the weather has got to do ….the walkers who roam …..the harbour island
the stillness is absolute ………………the modern age …the further down the visitor …….the sky in every direction …the car the protagonist ………….the peaks disappeared …….the hidden children ……………the growing industry
the townspeople on an excursion ….the outdoors can be enjoyed …….the heart of the rose ………….the time being ….the surroundings ……the power to effect
the distant land of overtones …..the woods or along beaches ….the artist uses her hand ……..the going
Serena Mayer studied anthropology and social geography. She is interested in hidden texts and forgotten or discarded language. Her writing has previously appeared in Nutshell, Electric Zone and X-Peri.
I covered my face with black ink
rounded all my possessions up
and set fire to everything
at the top of a hill.
My burning hand waved at
disturbed the fish and the seed
with a silenced echo.
And God came in a poem
with a fresh loaf.
Just us now slicing the crust
to the end of my days.
Maria Stadnicka is a writer, freelance journalist and lecturer. Winner of 12 Romanian National Poetry prizes, she worked as a radio and TV broadcaster. She lives in Gloucestershire, England. Published poetry collections: O-Zone Friendly, A Short Story about War, Imperfect, Exitus. Further details about Maria’s work and portfolio are available on her website www.mariastadnicka.com
We meet in silence
Clutching blankets brought from home,
Holding memories from a year ago
When scars were raw,
Heads disguised by wigs
And tears too salt to weep.
I found words difficult then.
Was not a mindful exercise
But a machine at the end of a corridor.
There were places in my body
I could not touch with thought.
Like chrysalis we scatter the floor
Each section of our being
Revisited with childlike curiosity,
The tickle of wool, the press of cotton.
A forgotten ache from an ankle.
Our teacher’s voice
Both lesson and lullaby
Returning to the breath
Again and again
We try to train our thoughts;
Naughty as puppies
With Baskerville bites
I find peacefulness within the ordinary,
Rest my head in the soft cushion of a second
Savouring the beauty of this moment both
Rooted in earth and reaching for stars.
Jacqueline Woods lives in Lancashire but originates from Suffolk. She attends Open Mics and writing groups in her area. She has had poems published in various pamphlets and has published her own collection. She is a volunteer Reader leader bringing poetry to older people who have dementia. She also volunteers for Arthritis Care.