October 29, 2020

The Seas Boil Over by John Tustin

The seas boil over
Killing all life within
And spilling the blood
Upon the rocks
Along the shores.
The clouds drip with the blood
That rises as steam
And I stand in that rain

Not because I am cold
But because I am doomed.

A Spanish guitar is playing
As I close my eyes
And wait.

John Tustin is currently suffering in exile on Elba but hopes to return to you soon. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

October 28, 2020

Webbers and Lurker-Leapers by Elliott Capon

I almost have to laugh at the experts who said that after the next nuclear war it would be the cockroaches who would inherit the earth. Well, maybe they did, for a while, but by the time I came out of the shelter, maybe seven, eight months after the last bombs fell, it wasn’t the roaches. It was the spiders.

The way I reasoned it out was that maybe at the beginning of our brave new post-apocalyptic age, the world was overrun by the roaches. But roaches are mostly scavengers, not predators. So maybe there were only two spiders left, and they laid eggs, and their hatchlings laid eggs, and each of those eggs produced a million eggs, and so on and so forth, so with a world full of roaches to feast on, maybe it only took eight months or so—how many spider generations is that?—for the spiders to take over. And they got big. Big as cats, as dogs; Christ, I’d never seen a real live pony in person but maybe some of them were as big as ponies.

So when I came out of the shelter, having lost track of time, it was maybe six, maybe seven months, maybe more, the city—what was left of the city—belonged to the spiders. But I wasn’t stupid to start with, and I learned fast. There was enough canned food and paper goods left intact that I could go what I called “shopping” every so often, but I really quickly learned about the spiders. They’re all carnivores, but they divide themselves into two groups: what I called the webbers and the lurker-leapers. The webs were generally easy to avoid, ‘cause you could see them, especially when they stretched out across what used to be the street from building to building, and I never went into anyplace dark where I could stumble into one. Not after the first time, but that was more of a fright then a frightening story. I’d actually found a couple of cars that I got started, and til they died on me I’d had fun driving through the building-to-building webs, pissing off the owners. A lot of the webs were full of big roaches and the occasional bird or dog or cat, but after that one time none of them ever had a ME.

The lurker-leapers were more trouble. Some spiders hunt by lying in wait and then springing on their meals. I learned awful fast not to walk too close to walls and to never go into an alley of any kind and to always avoid the dark, either natural or artificial. I never walked into the remains of a store or building unless the sun was directly overhead and I’d swept the place with one of the powerful flashlights I’d stockpiled in the shelter with me. They were camouflaged, these lurker-leapers, and you could walk right past a brick wall when all of a sudden the bricks grew eight legs and a hairy body and big jaws and fell on you. Also, that happened to me just once, but I learned real fast.

It’s getting colder now, so I figure I’ve been out of the shelter four-five months. Day by day by day, but I’m doing pretty OK for myself. 

OWWW. Dammit, I shifted my weight and the pain from my broken leg shot up right into my brain. God, that hurts. Guess I wasn’t so smart after all. I survived the war, I survived the webbers, I survived the lurker-leapers. But I’d forgotten the trap spiders. The kind that dig holes and then cover them up and wait for insects or whatever to fall in. This was an awful deep hole.

I’d dropped my flashlight, but with a little screaming I was able to reach over and pick it up. It still works—them things were built to survive, after all. Like I said, it’s an awful deep hole, and pretty big around. Let me see what I can see…

Oh, shit. 

Here comes the homeowner. 

Elliott Capon has four novels and one collection of "shaggy dogs" in print (elliottcapon.weebly.com) as well as innumerable short story appearances.  (Well....numerable). 

October 26, 2020

Wide-eyed by Robert Nisbet

At sixteen, seventeen years of age,
she’d gaze wide-eyed (her hazel eyes
a vivid feature), as she listened
to utterance and argument.

She’d gaze thus
at teachers and captains urging her
to run and hurdle for the House;
at young-man English teachers who described
Elizabethan poetry’s coarse puns;
election candidates exhorting them
to honour and fulfill democracy;
even sometimes, at band members
as they talked of songwriting and messages.

So he, the young man, university
third-year, (she in her Freshers’ Week)?
He tells her of his poems and his visions,
that poetry is depth is suffering,
his need sometimes for solace and relief,
some physical expression of his poet’s heart.

She gazes wide-eyed, momentarily,
before the creasing of her lips and then
that glorious derisive grin. 

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work is published widely in both Britain and the USA. In recent years he has been shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize in the UK and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US.

October 25, 2020

Moon House by Laura Stringfellow

The room is a plastered eggshell.
Canopy and curtain, white as ash,
blanch with regret. The carpet swells,
an ocean of red, greedy with its own
making, while the mirror stares blankly
at the wall in pity.

The little girl thinks of the ghost
down the hall, the carpet the color
of berries to the point of rotting.
She dreams albinos, white lashes,
a small drop the color of garnet.
Sap of cut alder.

She thinks that the sea swells under her,
that she is the moon rising.

Laura Stringfellow writes both verse and prose poetry and hails from the muggy strangelands of the Southern US. Her work has appeared in literary journals and magazines in the US, UK, and Ireland, including Coffin Bell: a journal of dark literature, Déraciné, Right Hand Pointing, Ephemeral Elegies, and The Lake.

October 24, 2020

At the End of the Day by Michael Noonan

I saw Frank in the morning, while I was walking my dog in the park. He looked rather downcast and ill at ease, as if something was bugging him. We swapped a few perfunctory words and went our separate ways. 

Just after dinner I went down to the village to put a letter in the postbox, and I saw Frank sat on the bench, near the market cross. His mood hadn't seemed to have lightened at all, and he looked unusually pensive and thoughtful. I waved at him, and he waved back. 'Don't forget tonight,' I shouted. He nodded his head. I turned and went back home. 

He was always something of an oddball and an eccentric, who came out with all kinds of crazy notions, ideas and conspiracy theories, but I'd rarely seen him so down in the dumps before. 

That evening, as was the established routine on a Friday, I met up with Frank and we both went for a leisurely stroll in the country. We always took the same route and we ended up on the hill that overlooks the village. And we strolled down the road towards it, with the intention, as always, of arriving at the public house, for a convivial evening, and a few drinks. 

It was a calm, clear, cloudless night. There was a full moon and a sprinkling of stars overhead. The birds were chirping in the tree branches, and I at least was in relatively good humour. 

We would often talk about the news, politics or sport, or whatever scandal was doing the rounds, on those evening strolls. Though for some reason, and at the prompting of my friend, we began to talk about philosophy and the meaning of life. My friend told me, with quite passionate conviction that he now believes, as did the philosopher, Bishop Berkeley, that matter doesn’t exist. That there is no such thing as an objective, material, external world, and that only our internal, sensory experience is real. 

This was obviously his latest obsession. The latest in a long line. And, of course, I took issue with him straight away. I told him that that was a preposterous notion; and that we can only exist because an external, material world supports and sustains us. It gives us food to eat, and air to breath. It puts the ground beneath our feet. And that we couldn’t exist without it. Nature is our very life support system. But he stuck to his guns and said that only experience and perception are real, that each person is entirely enclosed within his or her our own psyche, and that the so-called physical universe is an illusory entity. 

I believe that the descriptive term for that strange belief is Solipsism. And people have subscribed to it down the ages. But that doesn’t mean that it’s true. And I also knew how stubborn and pig-headed Frank could be, whenever some new obsession or conspiracy theory took his fancy. 

I was ready to argue with him again, but then I noticed, to my surprise and utter alarm, that the surrounding countryside, the roads, dry-stone walls, farms, livestock, trees and hedges, the electricity pylons, the distant public house, the parish church, the buildings, houses and cottages of the village, all began to fade away and slowly dissolve into nothingness. The streetlamps in the village blanked out. Then my colleague beside me became ghostly and transparent. His voice faded away, until no trace of sound was left, and he too disappeared, into the void. Overhead, the moon and the stars vanished from the sky. 

An eerie calm descended, and everything was enveloped in utter darkness and silence. And now I can feel that I am beginning to fade away as well; just as my friend and everything else had done. I am disappearing into darkness and nothingness. And there is nothing I can do to prevent it. Am I real? Do I exist? Have I ever existed? Have I just imagined all this? Is the whole world just a mere sensory illusion? Without any true substance? But what is the point of even asking these questions, when I am now, no more? 

Michael Noonan has had stories published in the anthology volumes, Even More Tonto Stories, Shades of Sentience, and an anthology published by the Academy Arts Press. Has had published a book of his short stories entitled, Seven Tall Tales, and has had a play accepted by an online publisher.

October 23, 2020

Into Remembrance We Believe by Stephen Jarrell Williams

I come to you
In the flutter of night dreams
On your side loose in sleep
Pinpricks across the sheet of your bed
Covering your shoulder and hip
Your leg tucked against the other

Fire and floods of the far world
Closer than you want
Earth no longer a sweet dream

I breathe upon your lips and cheek
Teasing your inner boundaries
To forget this world that aches

But you’re having trouble escaping
Turmoil in real life
So I kiss you
Whispering a song that tingles

My essence touching you
As many years ago
Into remembrance we believe
Yester night into tonight

I am not a vampire or cosmic lover
Just someone captured
By the breath of your being

Together this night I protect you
And hush the outside monstrosities
As we snuggle
Time sealed in the moments of now
Not sure if I can let you go.




Stephen Jarrell Williams writes at night, enthused, and waiting for the Coming Good Dawn.  He has been published lately in Rusty TruckSynchronized Chaos, and The Beatnik Cowboy.  Accepted and soon to be in Mad Swirl and Chronogram Magazine. 

October 22, 2020

I am the Dustman, Clutter Collector by Michael Lee Johnson

I am the dustman.
I am this lazy spirit
roaming, living within you
weaving around your mind,
vulture consuming cleaning
thoughts, space, your slender body.
I feel it all day,
this night alone.
I am your street sweeper,
garbage collector of thought the alternator
village dweller, walkway partner.
I am key door holder to entrance
man, to Summit house.
For years of abuse, I am dust eater.
I hang high outside on lampposts,
edged inside on top wall pictures.
I dim your lights yellow inside out,
ghost inspector.
Inside I roll the house over.
I am a damp cloth, Mr. Clean,
I smooth over, clutter-free,
tick-tock clocks, books,
antique silverware,
pristine future furniture pieces
solid state advances
fragment mistakes etched in mind.
Investigations exacerbate our relationship
unhinged. My snaking gets me kicked out.
I still remember those piled up old newspapers,
future books, scattered across your
living room floor.
Shake myself, scrape out a new home,
cheaper, exasperated.
I am the dustman; dustpan shakes out.

Michael Lee Johnson lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois.  Mr. Johnson published in more than 1072 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites.  Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018.