Rachel Belward — I Hope You’re Ok


I Hope You’re Ok

The night here is not black, but a washed-out blue.
Awake, he waits.

The city is switching gears.

The froth of blossom.
Bubbles gathering around a plughole as the water runs out of a bathtub.

We longingly press our hands against gasp-clouded glass.
Collectively horrified.
Splintered in so many solitudes.
The smears of breath, lips, cheeks.
All carefully wiped away.

Our handprints are scattered petals, unfurling leaves.
The plumes of a bird in flight.

The sun beats onto abandoned pavements.
The windows of other blocks wink at us.

She types “how to pray properly” into the search bar.
Stares at her own hands.

She is so tired of seeing their faces on screens big and small.
It makes their absence harder to swallow.
Tears saved up, bitter on the tongue.

He’s not sure he can bear yet another so-late-it’s-early awakening.
Another bruise-coloured sunrise witnessed alone.

The air smells so different.

We take our daily walk into the memory fog.
It isn’t always safe here.
But it is where we can regroup.

Shadows move and shrug.
We grasp at them, and long for them, and fear them.

And we wait.

Rachel Belward works for a mental health charity. She lives in London, reads a lot, and documents this on Instagram here.

  • This poem was submitted in response to the first ekphrastic challenge (Melting Away, by Sadaf Sawlath).

Bruce McRae — Actual Event


Actual Event

The night the roof blew off.

The night a very angry wind

stormed our homely little town.

The couple in bed, cuddling and warm,

dreaming of billy goats and peppermint,

who were suddenly woken

by a starry vista revealed overhead,

a mighty gust roaring its disapproval,

complaining vociferously,

Betelgeuse looking down on them,

nodding and winking surreptitiously,

as if in on a wicked secret.

And the couple drifting back to sleep,

which I think was unexpected.

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,500 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press), Like As If (Pski’s Porch) and Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

Holly Threm Goslin — Divider




Palms press against glass,

a tangible divider between

outside and in, danger and safety.


Some press lightly, 

(the pressure tentative, but still there)

longing for normalcy

in these upended, unsure circumstances.


Others press harder,

vibrating with anxious energy,  

ready to escape the confines

of this unjust and unexpected incarceration.


At the center is peace—

around which outstretched hands orbit

Holly Threm Goslin works as a full-time community college instructor. When not grading papers, she binge-watches Netflix, eats Italian cream cake for breakfast, and fosters dogs for local animal shelters. She lives in the southern U.S. with her husband and pets.

  • This poem was submitted in response to the first ekphrastic challenge (Melting Away, by Sadaf Sawlath).


John Dorroh — Arthritis



The bicycles at the next-door apartment haven’t moved since I was last here six weeks ago, a pile of rusting wheels and chains, metal bones sadly draped across a rack that’s seen its better days. Five bodies riddled with varying degrees of arthritis, useless joints and pedals, hopeless without motivation of some sort, crippled by weather’s cold invitation, tarnished by intentions of making something happen.

Next April, perhaps, when the sun returns and brings new blooms, a portion oil from heaven, an elixir to rejuvenate stiff muscles, aching joints, and bent spines; the bikers will emerge from their cocoons and experience a holy resurrection, liberating souls and breathing life back into bodies and bikes, making the breezeway between yours and theirs a less doleful place.

john-dorrohJohn Dorroh may have taught high school science for a couple of decades. Whether he did is still being discussed. His poetry has appeared in about 65-70 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Red Dirt Forum, Selcouth Station, and Piker Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.

We’re publishing Issue 06 weekly, in parts. We’re doing so to keep our readers, and ourselves, interested and occupied. We need to #StaySafe in time of this pandemic, and we can only do this together — by staying inside. (We’re also always open for submissions.)

Alec Solomita — The Hill


The Hill


Pinned on an elementary easel,

adrift, befuddled, out of joint,

Yeshua resists a rushing sense of dread

and turns his weighty head toward

his doubles, first to his left, then his right,

where Dismas offers a gentle word,

a hint of hope mingled with gall,

“Your father will remember you,” and the two

look up as one. But while all below is ferment —

pawing horses, dicing soldiers, weeping Marys

— the sky is still, silent, and growing dark.

Yeshua breaks the mute heavens open with

an infant’s howl: Eli Eli lema Sabachthani!

The soldiers glance up, and then, out of pity,

or maybe boredom, a couple swing iron clubs

to fracture the legs of the thieves, ending

their suffering. They turn to Yeshua but he’s gone.



Alec Solomita’s fiction has appeared in the Southwest Review, The Mississippi Review, Southword Journal, and The Drum (audio), among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal, and named a finalist by the Noctua Review. His poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Anti-Heroin Chic, FourXFour, The Galway Review, Panoplyzine, The Blue Nib, Red Dirt Forum, and elsewhere. His chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published in 2017. He lives in Massachusetts, USA. // Twitter

We’ll be publishing Issue 06 in the upcoming weeks in parts. We’re doing so to keep our readers, and ourselves, interested and occupied. We need to #StaySafe in time of this pandemic, and we can only do this together — by staying inside. (We’re also always open for submissions.)

Laura Potts — 4 Poems


Yesterday’s Child


The sun slit a knife through the womb-wet night

and bled like an egg, like a budburst head:

in the swell of the sweat on the belly of the bed,

broken-throated then and red, you said

the clench of winter let the roses grow instead.


But time has fled with jenny wren and left

the meadow dead. And overhead a mouth of moon

has called a mourning on this room, and soon

an ever-bloom of moss will clot the loss of you.

For the years between us are wide as a child;


and the tears as wet as a wound.

The Wise Child


I remember he fled from the fogdrop moors with the dawn

and the bells of December beyond, calling morning to the streets

while winter wept beneath the trees. A sleeping me before the door

glowed on behind my mother’s knees. With holly-forest at his feet


from leaping long the brawling leas, he brought the loss of blossom-blush

to fall upon the breeze: he the keeper of the keys to all our stars and

northern storms, who never knew that news he bore would bruise the husk

of heart and more, poured a prayer into the pram and handed up a telegram.


Pass the years upon the land, a scrap of shying light I am. My splash

of laughter never sang the spring to swing me in its arms, ever since

that winter when my eyes lost all their stars. Oh father in the terrace dark,

that vast cathedral of your heart never called a patch of moon to squint


a light into our room, when looming in the corners slept the soldiers

in the gloom. I saw the sun forever as a wet and sunken wound, and knew

the black that cooked the blue when I was only two. And you? The colder

soul that spat the gas to phantoms that would never pass, who blew


the saplings ribbon-black and burst the buds beneath his tracks, would

always be my father but never once my dad. Last and ever after that, here

where War had torn us sore and mauled our bruises black, I heard

the chant of thousands calling to the stars and back: for all the years


and eras came that postboy down the path. He always was, perhaps,

and is; and leapt until we lost him to the dying mouth of mist.

The Body Broken

Mass and Sunday mourning pass the chancel black

and chalice-back of I, spire-spined and last to part

my plumping bud to take the nocturne wine. Mine


the softly hills, mine the spill and steeple-swing

of fruiting breasts and bells, yes. We break the bread

and bless. Lady in the lancet holds the apple mocking red.


Dappled chant and dark, ahead the blood-bright night

and first-light glass of gasping Eve, winter’s heave

hangs always here with heads that bow before the vow


to never grieve the leaving eyes of youth. Truth

is lost and winterworn. Borne away on snarling winds,

the greening drop of spring falls from my hair. The cleric’s


cloak is a darkly thing. My deeper, deeper throat

receives the gloaming sermon there, heir of the berry

dreamt to bursting in his hand. Damn the vestal


up-and-swung of lust that Woman loved, budblood

and the Garden singing skin and pink bouquets, but

turn the tongue beyond the Book and in the darkest


places hold the harvest fruit and look above and long

to lasting-touch the apple that is loathed so much.

Such is Sunday mass and curse of we, the curled


Madonnas kneeling with a screaming in our skirts.

The weakly bread we break and nurse. And vow and

kneel and slaughter one more godless book of verse.

Kitchen, Sinister

Ten springs gone in my morning of life, I wore light

in the summer of my voice, in the candles once made

of my eyes. That night dusk swung out and away into noise

wild and white above town, and down in my childhood


garden lost the pond breathed out light grey and soft.

I remember not. But black clot and burnt in my throat

when she coughed up hot liver that night in the gloam,

the globes of her eyes gone bloodfull and long


did the birds scream murder outside. I cried. My

winter-ghost mother gone grey in her day, a tragedy

staring and wearing that cracked pale-fade skin in an old

kitchen light. When food was thin she served me lies. No,


the stars did not giggle the puddles that night

when my dark-fire youth wheeled a wind round the house,

her once-fluted mouth nursing liquor and meth. Her deathlight

was dark as a gobbet of gas, a heart in a jar on a chimney last


lit back when I was a lamb. After that? I took a bath. Black

was the path at infant’s end, a lack-lanterned track derailing

and cracked was the girlhood glow of my light. O mother

of mine, the window-steam bled itself pretty that night.



Under the trees, I sit in the asylum garden.

I swing the bottle to my lips and swig.


Laura Potts is twenty-three years old and lives in West Yorkshire, England. Twice-recipient of the Foyle Young Poets Award, her work has been published by Aesthetica, The Moth and The Poetry Business. Having worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Laura was nominated for The Pushcart Prize and became one of the BBC’s New Voices last year. Her first BBC radio drama aired at Christmas. She received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018 and a nomination for The Forward Prize in 2019. Find her here!

  • Featured image, by Amar Saeed.

Lisa Stice — 2 Poems


The School Project Asks, ‘What Makes You a Star?’


To prove she is a good artist,

my daughter draws a spaceship

and her dog. This is Seamus

about to board, she explains.


I tell her about the stray Laika,

how she was one of the first

astronauts, but don’t mention

Laika was never meant to return.


To prove she is a good artist,

my daughter draws a spaceship

with her dog inside. This is Seamus

looking out at the stars, she explains.



We are sharper than we once

were, and sharper is akin to

safer, smoother, steadier, keener.


Now, our grip is instinct, our

hands shaped long before

we clasp and begin the cutting.


Come, let us glide some more

across the whetting stone, wipe

ourselves clean for work ahead.


Lisa Stice is a poet/mother/military spouse. She is the author of two full-length collections, Permanent Change of Station (Middle West Press, 2018) and Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a chapbook, Desert (Prolific Press). While it is difficult to say where home is, she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. Visit her here! and at Facebook / Twitter.

  • Featured image, by Amar Saeed.

Cal Freeman — Blue Spruce


Blue Spruce


“Careful,” I say as my neighbor takes

a radial saw to the fallen trunk.


She couldn’t eat,

                             couldn’t smoke,


These are the wrong tools.

This is the end of the birds’


they found a grey

                            mass on her lung.


and beetles’ lair. Clods of clay

and yellow sand surround Jerry like


                            There were specks

                            of blood on Kleenex


busted concrete, scabrous roots

bent and jutting from the rabble


in the bathroom

                            garbage can.


like rebar. Cut shoots

bound with twine, the sapping


She was a good person

                            and he was the one


trunk denuded, in the sun-

blanched August lawn


who messed up, cheated

                            with a girl named Rose


last year’s empty robin’s nest

a relic, its woven straw unraveling,


                            from the bowling alley.

                            He told me he didn’t


crickets startled from the needle

down. Thin arms defined


blame her

                             for never forgiving him.


and glistening, burl-grains

in gouty hands. The stump


She was a UAW steward

                             before she retired,


sheds heavy clods of loam

as the sledge connects. Freed


so she didn’t take

                              anybody’s shit.


from the cut roots, it begins

to swivel out of earth. We drop


                              He told me they went

                              to her parents’ grave


cinderblocks and rock salt

in the hole; we bury them


and she spoke to her dead

                              father and cried. “I was the one


like household pets and tamp

the ground.


who messed up,” he repeated. 

                              “It should be me,” he said.

Cal Freeman is the author of the book Fight Songs. His writing has appeared in many journals including Southword, The Moth, Passages North, The Journal, Hippocampus, Drunken Boat, and The Poetry Review. He currently serves as music editor of The Museum of Americana and teaches at Oakland University. Find him here!

  • In the featured image: Cal Freeman

Hanna Komar — Sharp




Узіраешся ў ласкавы яе твар,

як яна кранае доўгія свае валасы,

як яна ўсміхаецца і размаўляе –

кожная рыска жывая.

І ты цвёрда вырашыў, што кахаеш.


А ў яе пад адзеннем

ад ключыц да шчыкалатак

словы, напісаныя

вострым прадметам,

нашкрэбаныя наспех,

рэльефныя, для чытання

з заплюшчанымі вачыма.


“татачка” “люблю”

“балюча” “супакойся”

“кладзіся спаць” “люблю”

“калі ласка” “цябе болей”

“мама” “татачка”

“татачка” “не бі”

“калені” “сям’я”

“збегчы” “цішыня”

“пакінь” “кінь”

“татачка” “татачка”

“харошы” “люблю”

“ненавіджу” “ненавіджу”

“ненавіджу”  “ненавіджу”



Надрапаныя іржавым

халодным прадметам.


І хоць ты цвёрда вырашыў

кахаць яе, шукаеш іншыя

гладкаскурыя целы,

пакідаеш на іх колеры  –

сіні, чырвоны, жоўты,

колеры, што мяняюць

адценне і з часам

блякнуць, саступаючы

месца новым.


– А ў цябе самога,

што там?

– Ды так, дробязі,

выцятае рабро.



Peering into her gentle face

how she touches her long hair,

how she smiles and talks –

every line is bright, and you

committed to love her.


Under her clothes

from her key bone

down to the ankle

are words written

with a sharp object,

scrabbled in haste

embossed to read

with your eyes closed.


“dad” “love you”

“it hurts” “calm down”

“sleep” “love you”

“please” “love you more”

“mom” “dad”

“dad” “don’t”

“knees” “family”

“run away” “quiet”

“leave” “drop”

“dad” “dad”

“good” “love you”

“I hate you” “I hate you”

“I hate you”

Scratched with a rusty

object, with a cold

sharp object.


And although you

committed to love her,

you will be looking for

other smooth-skinned bodies

to paint, in colors

blue, red, and yellow,

colours that fade

and go away with time

to appear again,

like  pentimento.


– Listen, what is it

you have there?

– Nothing, simply

a sprained rib.

Hanna Komar, born in 1989, is a poet and translator from Belarus. Her poetry collection “Страх вышыні” (Fear of Heights, Minsk, 2016) was shortlisted for several literary awards in Belarus and received the Marzia Zakiryanova Award for the best work by a female writer by the Eurasian Creative Guild in 2017. Her bilingual collection “Recycled” (English and Belarusian) was brought out by Hertfordshire Press (London, 2018). Komar is also a translator of Charles Bukowski’s poetry and British and American women’s poetry into Belarusian. YouTube / Twitter

  • In the featured image: Hanna Komar.

Audrey Molloy — 3 Poems


Living It Over


Had I not held his gaze a beat too long,

the soft sounds of night-breathing

would come from different children

or none at all; had I not hauled

my pack along a dotted line

through India, Nepal, I would not

sleep tonight in this city

of sapphire water, sandstone walls.

The major things I’d not alter.

But what of the small, tangential

threads leading nowhere in particular?

My head, shaken at the slender girl

who plied her best room

with an open palm: earthen floor,

bare windows to the Goripani sky?

A gift spurned, compliment disdained.

Yes, I would, in younger years

aspire to grace, if I had my time again.

Emily's Lament, by Audrey Molloy

Poaching stone fruit on the long weekend


A small, one-chef kitchen.

He wears sudsy cuffs, twirls taps.

I split ripe peaches, dark plums,

and drop them in a pan of sugar-syrup;

a cigarillo cinnamon quill,

vanilla pods that probe my appetite

like question marks.

He brushes past to collect

the breakfast things; sweeps

eggshell and bacon rind into the bin.

The peaches loosen in their skins,

plums fizz at a simmer.

My side-zip dress has riddled

his fingers into words:

What’s the point of having a zip

where my hands can reach nothing?

We pinball off the Caesarstone.

We taste of Fairy liquid

and fermenting juice.

Too old for kitchen bench

or table top, the marble tiles too hard,

we argue the toss:

You like being on top?

I do; you look like a boy.

I am a boy.

The stone fruit comes on to the boil

and the air is thick with lactones.

Sweet liquid spurts from the pan.

Audrey Molloy

Audrey Molloy is an Irish poet living and working in Sydney. Her work has most recently appeared in The North, Mslexia, Magma, The Moth, The Irish Times and The Tangerine.  In 2019 she received the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry, the Listowel Writers’ Week Award for Irish Poem of the Year and the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.  Her debut pamphlet, Satyress, will be published by Southword Editions in early 2020.  Find her here!

  • Featured image, by Amar Saeed.