Monday 31 May 2021

One Prose Poem by Denise O'Hagan


Creating by subtraction


‘… A rose-red city half as old as Time.
(after John W Burgon’s poem, ‘Petra’, winner of the Newdigate Prize, 1845)


I pause a moment, chest heaving, and press my sash to my forehead. If I could sweat diamonds, my family could make amulets from my labour, and I wouldn’t be lugging great lumps of rock onto planks for this city they want to build. In the distance, I can just make out the dark lines of camels and donkeys laden with boxes wobbling their way through the shimmering throat of the gorge. Our ancestors may have been nomads scratching out a living with their goats on the hillsides, but this is our home now, where all roads lead. No wonder they call them the Incense Routes, with the amount those Christians use! All this comes at a price, of course, especially for us builders. When it all gets too much, I slip off to a tiny cave I know of in the mountains for a moment’s rest. I try to summon my wife’s face above her swaying spiral earrings, but it’s becoming blurry as a mirage, even as the lines of the red rock around me gather features. How will my practical Amatisi ever understand the seduction of the chip-chipping of tools and the rise and fall of voices day after burning day until a temple fit for the goddess is unearthed before us? My hands might be calloused, but my spirit sings. She’s right, I’m a dreamer – these houses and tombs and monuments lay buried here in the rock already; all we needed was the idea of them to bring them to light. And as I see the edges of the columns emerging from the sandstone cliffs, I know I’d rather be here than anywhere, learning from the best builders in the world, realising our plans to within a grain of sand. Will anyone in the future, I wonder, really appreciate the supreme skill of creating by subtraction?


Note: The ancient city of Petra, in what is now Jordan, was built by the Nabataeans. Hewn out of the desert rock, Petra flourished to become a cultural and trading centre from 3 BC until 1 AD when the Romans took over, sea routes replaced roads for trade, and an earthquake struck. The city lay empty until Burckhardt rediscovered it in 1812. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1985, and one of the seven New Wonders of the World in 2007.

Denise O’Hagan was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, manages her own imprint Black Quill Press, and was Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib until 2020. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards, most recently the Dalkey Poetry Prize 2020. Her debut poetry collection, The Beating Heart, is published by Ginninderra Press (2020).  


Denise O’Hagan / Black Quill Press





Sunday 30 May 2021

Eight Haiku by Jimmy Pappas



You always make me
reconsider my ideal
of female beauty.

What does a Dewdrop
World have to do with the death
of my only son?

Why does the stream seem
to me always to flow in
the wrong direction?

You were always like
having a second teacher
helping my students.

How many times can
we look the other way and
not do something now?

The dew sits on the
morning grass and slowly fades
away to nothing.

Which rain beats harder?
The one out there or the one
that falls in my heart?

Why are we sad when
rain brings life to earth? Are we
so tired of this world?

Jimmy Pappas served during the Vietnam War training South Vietnamese soldiers. Published in over 100 journals, he is a retired teacher with an MA in English literature and the Vice President of the Poetry Society of NH. His poem "Bobby's Story" ( was one of ten finalists in the 2017 Rattle Poetry Contest and won the 2018 Readers Choice Award. It is included in his first book Scream Wounds (A15 Press), a collection of poems based on veterans' stories. He was the winner of the 2019 Rattle chapbook contest for Falling off the Empire State Building. His interview with editor Tim Green is on Rattlecast #34 ( His poem "The Gray Man" ( was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 


One Poem by Manuela Palacios

The Princess of Abyssinia 


My mother is tall and slender 

like the obelisk of Aksum 


She comes to me with open arms 

like acacia branches in the savanna 


Her skin is white like the clouds 

swaddling the peak of Ras Dashen 


Her fine lips are red 

like firethorn berries 


You can swim in her eyes 

those calm waters of Lake Tana 

or glide across on a papyrus boat 


In the morning she sings 

a joyous lark  


Rolls her shoulders 

like an Eskista dancer

As the evening falls 

I hear her lullaby  


My Abyssinian princess 

Ivory smile   eyes of jet 

Glow of roasted coffee 

Your voice    a caress 


For she traversed lands and seas 

to reach the Horn of Africa 

in search for an Abyssinian princess 

to give me a home in Aughrim 

to look after me with motherly eyes.  



Manuela Palacios lectures on anglophone literature at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain). She has edited, translated and written about Irish, Galician and Arabic poetry. Some of her poems have appeared on online literary magazines such as Live Encounters and in anthologies such as 100 Words of Solitude (Rare Swan Press 2021). 


One Short Story by Sherzod Artikov



New-Jersey was a bigger city than I thought. Uncle Abram was driving, and I and my father were in the back seat, we were impressed by the majesty of skyscrapers situated on the plains and the long traffic jams along the city.

Uncle Abram was overjoyed. He introduced my father  to the sights of the city and in the meantime, he told us about the way of life of people of different nationalities here. Once, both the traffic of cars stretching along the street and the skyscrapers left behind and now we were walking on a highway that was full of trees on one side and two-storey houses made of reddish brick on the other.

Uncle Abram used to live in the outskirts of the city. When we reached his house, the September's sun had already seen on the horizons and the darkness was beginning to fall around. In front of the house, I saw his wife  Marina. She was watering the flowers planted in front of the house in the cool evening. Seeing the car parked near to  the house, she was as happy as a young child.

-I brought them, Marina!-said uncle Abram as he got out of the car and showed us with a beam. Here are our neighbours-our dear neighbours.

-Abram, if you only knew how happy I was,-said Marina looked gratefully at her husband when she saw us.

Both  uncle Abram and aunt Marina still spoke Uzbek fluently. Their twenty years of marriage in America had not even the slightest negative effect on it.

-Anvar teacher,-said aunt Marina as she was embracing my father like a dear friend.-Your hair turned white.

-Yours too, sister Marina,-said my dad and added.-Yes now we are getting old.

Uncle Abram looked both at me and his wife in a hurry.

-Marina,-said uncle Abram pointing to me,-Did you also recognize him? Can you remember? He always drew something in white chalk on our gate. Then I would say he would be a great artist. Look, he became an artist as I said.

Aunt Marina smiled at her husband and hugged me.

-He became handsome guy, -continued uncle Abram.

-Do not embarrass him, Abram, -she said letting me go.

After that, uncle Abram hold my father and me by our shoulders and invited us inside.

-Our children have grown up,-he said as he picked up our suits one by one in the hallway and hung them on a hanger on the wall. -Only yesterday they were dusting the street. Today…..

That time he remembered something, brought tears to his eyes and looked at his wife in question.

-By the way, where is our daughter Sveta?

-She had gone to choose a dress for her wedding,-said Marina ordered the table in the dining room. -Do not worry. She was with her darling.

-Teacher Anvar, our daughter is about to get married,-said uncle Abram to my father.-Now she is also maturity. Can you remember, she called me “dad" and called you “ a rich dad"? She would love your wife-deceased Inobatkhon.

-Sure, how can I forget it?-said my father as he stopped in the corridor for a few minutes.

The dining room was cozy. There was a round table for six people in the middle, and a chandelier on the ceiling lit up the room so well and a shelf with a delicate pattern of carvings and the family pictures on the wall adorned the room.

-Serve your food as soon as possible,-said uncle Abram as we all sat around the table, shouting at his wife who had entered the kitchen.-They arrived here without stopping anywhere from the airport and they didn’t eat anything.

In an instant, the table was filled with delicacies. Aunt Marina was famous for her creative cooking in Marghilan and it was still the same. Once she was serving a sweet made by herself, the door was opened and sounded “Mum" in English across the threshold. And then, along the corridor, there was a footstep. After a while, a girl of medium height, thinner with a slightly longer nose and straight hair appeared on the threshold.

-Anvar teacher, our daughter came!-said uncle Abram as he stopped eating.

Sveta had changed a lot. There was nothing in common with between that Sveta I knew was the part of my childhood memories and the present .But her eyes were the same as her childhood and she looked at us calmly.

-They came to your wedding, my daughter,-said uncle Abram to her in English, he looked at us and commented.-She also understands and speaks Uzbek, but she always speaks English.

Although it was not immediately, she recognized us and ran to my father with a smile on her lips. My father stood up and kissed on her forehead and said, ”Be happy, my daughter". Then she looked at me and the smile on her face became clearer.

-Now she remembered, -said aunt Marina.

-He used to draw a picture on the chalk on our gate!-said Sveta without taking her eyes off me.

-Precisely!-said uncle Abram, patting the edge of the table as if to express his admiration. -Then he would run away. You have a good memory.

In a few minutes Sweta became happy and there was nothing left of the serious girl. During the dinner, five of us talked about the old Marghilan and the days that had been there for years, and the memories that saved for a lifetime. Then, the subject moved to America, and uncle Abram said that Jews who had lived in Marghilan with Uzbeks in the neighbourhoods conditions in the early years of the independence were now spread throughout The United States and many of them lived in Boston or New York nowadays.

-We often make a call each other,- he said putting the dessert on the plate next to him.

During the conversation my father often talked to him.  Aunt Marina sometimes joined the conversation, sometimes she nodded her head in approval, Sveta and I listened to them in silence. While Sveta listened quietly to the memories of the city where she had spent her childhood, her face flushed and she kept her eyes on my father.

Located in the outskirts of New Jersey, this home was full of memories of the past. It was not even noticed that it was getting dark and it was midnight. Uncle Abram saw us off to the bedroom-the second floor. My father fell asleep immediately because he was tired. For some reason, I could not sleep. After a while, I came to the window and opened it wide. The cold air of September evening  blew into my face. Outside, the trees rustled in the gentle breeze. At that moment, an Uzbek song was heard below. I stuck my head out of the window and listened. Oh, my goodness…I felt like as if I was sitting in one of the teahouses in Margрilan. And the song did not stop.

I have a pain in the world that has torn me in half,

I am very sad ,my heart, you are ignorant of me.

The song was coming from below, dining room, where we had a dinner a few hours ago. For some reason I wanted to get dressed and went downstairs. I hesitated at first, but as soon as I got dressed, I went downstairs. As I approached the dining room, the song rang my ears clearly. The door was open but the lights were off. There, leaning against a chair in front of the window, someone sat motionless, touching the tape recorder on the shelf. Hearing my footsteps, she was startled and turned to face me. It was Sveta.

-Were you?-For some reason she spoke Uzbek, not the English she had learned.

Her pronunciation was marked by American features, and her image she stood in front of me, as if she was speaking an American who had just learned the Uzbek language.

-I could not sleep,-said I when I sat in the chair next to her. I went downstairs with this song in my ear.

-You wanted to know why I was listening to this song, didn’t you?

-Not so much..

Sveta conditionally turned off the tape recorder.

-I listen to this song every day. More precisely, since I found the cassette among my father’s belongings.

She turned on the light without hurrying. Her eyes were tearful and seemed to be crying.

-I was a six-year-old girl when we left Marghilan. I am 26 now, -she said sadly,as she sat back down.-Now, the day after tomorrow I am getting married.

I did not notice it in the dark. There was a plate of reddish grapes next to the tape recorder. Sveta took a pinch from it.

-Anyway, ”Rizamatdad"s grapes were sweeter. Are there such a variety of grapes in Margilan even now?

She sighed when she was my confirmation gesture.

-At the beginning of our street, uncle Uktam would sell “ayron"*. Is it still on sale?

-It's been a long time since he died. Now his son is selling.

-What about a bakery? Does it still exist? The hot breads were made here. They were so delicious….

-A pharmacy was built in its place.

-What about a big maple tree that we hid behind it when we played a game?

-It was cut off 15 years ago.

-What about Aunt Naima's dog? Maybe it is dead. Dogs do not live long.

Sveta started out of the window as if trying to remember something else. After a while, our conversation continued.

-My “rich dad" stopped wearing a Marghilan duppi**.Is no one wearing it now?

-Yes, most people do not wear duppi anymore.

-My aunt Inobat would have a beautiful satin*** dress.

-Many do not also satin now.

-There would be a quail in your house. It would always twitter.

-Not now. It's been a long time since we have fed.

-My aunt Inobat used to make sweet dumplings.

-Now we buy them in the store.

Sveta did not speak anymore. Instead, she suddenly got up and started walking slowly around the room.

-You know, from the first day we came here, I have never forgotten Margilan. I cannot forget it. This is a big city and people are still stranger to me. Although I lived here well, I always missed Marghilan.You may tell, How the girl who left her hometown when she was six may have remembered ? But I remembered it all. Every single tree there, every single place is etched in my memory with the hot bread that made in the bakery at the beginning of our street, from uncle Uktam's “ayron" till to the taste of those big red grapes. All of them. Sometimes my heart aches here. Then I open the window and look into the distance. It was as if I could see Marghilan in the distance. And sometimes I felt my inner voice with this song. I have accustomed to it lately. But when I saw both of you today, I remembered everything again….

I remembered  a six-year-old girl carrying a doll and running through the dusty and narrow streets of Marghilan with a bunch of red grapes on her cheeks.

There was a drop of tears in her face. She stared out of the window, she was tearful. She opened it and took a deep breathe of fresh air. She raised her hands and held her fingers in the breeze. Finally, she pressed the tape button again. The song continued from where it had stopped.


I do not know where to go like a stray dog

But whenever I was aware of my half, my homeland.


Sveta listened to it  as she bowed her head and rested her hands on the shelf. When the song was over, she left the room crying. She did not even wish me a goodnight. When I was alone in the room, I turned off the tape recorder, which started ringing another song. There was a silence. I sat there without doing anything for a while. Then, out of curiosity, I ate a pinch of grapes from the plate next to the tape recorder. The grapes were tasteless.


Ayron*- it is kind of refreshing drink which was made from yogurt.

Duppi**- one of the main symbols of Uzbekistan, a tetrahedral black skullcap made of silk or satin.

Satin***- a type of Uzbek traditional cloth sometimes made  of silk. 

Translated from Uzbek into English by Muhammadjonova Nilufar

Sherzod Artikov was born in 1985 in the city of Marghilan of Uzbekistan. He graduated from  Fergana Polytechnic institute in 2005. He was one of the winners of the national literary contest “ My Pearl Region “ in the direction of prose in 2019. In 2020, his first authorship book “ The Autumn's Symphony “  was published in Uzbekistan by publishing house “Yangi Asr Avlodi” . In 2021, his works were published in the anthology books called “ World Writers “ in Bangladesh,  “Asia  sings" and “ Mediterranean Waves “ in Egypt in English language.  In 2021, he participated in “ International Writers Congress “ which was organized in Argentina ,  the international literature conference under the name “ Mundial insurgencialcultural “ dedicated to Federica Garcia Lorca's work , “ International Poetry Festival “ in Tunisia,  “ International Poetry  Carnival “ in Singapore.  This year he’s awarded “ Global Peace Ambassador “ by Iqra Foundation,  “ International Peace Ambassador “ by World Literary Forum for Peace and Human Rights,  “ Certificate of friendship “ and other certifications by “Cardenal" in Mexico.  Currently,  he is the literary consultant  of the cultural website of Pakistan “ Sindh courier “, the representative and delegate in Uzbekistan of the literature magazine of Mexico called “ Revista Cardenal “ and the literature and art magazine of Chile named “ Casa Bukowski “.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Four Fabulous Poems by Gordon Ferris


His father speaks to him in a dream 


He said his father appeared to him in a dream   

promised him that all would turn out right in the end 

he said it doesn't make sense now  

but all things will fall into place  


if there's nothing you can do  

do nothing  

if something needs doing  

do it 


his words were something  

out of one of his western movies  

the private fantasy world he inhabited  

it all made sense there 

but here in the real world  

he was the odd one out



     What if


What if the birds  

stopped sounding the 

wakeup call  


what if the leaves in the trees  

stopped moving on the wind 

breaking the silence  


Would we still rise 

Would we still 

gaze out on the land 

and wonder at its beauty  



       In alternate 


if every choice you never made  

every dream you pushed away 

in an alternate world this game was played 


its consequence, a price you gladly paid 

though the heart is hurt you never sway 

in every choice you never made 


cause was you just you were afraid 

to speak your wish and what you may 

in an alternate world this game was played 


the outcome is your dreams are made 

and in another place, they play 

if every choice you never made  


had lived life and plans were laid 

to seed and flower to bloom in May  

in an alternate world this game was played 


you stand tall  you're not afraid 

in defiance of what they say 

what if every choice you made 

in  an alternate world this game was played





So, we sit here  

waiting for the  

head to pop  

around the corner  

for the light  

to re-emerge  

for life to begin anew. 

On the windshield  

a fly lands 

you look closely  

to make sure there 

is no miniature head  

before you swot it 

you look beyond the houses  

to the hills and trees  

to green and brown of nature  

where you long to be 

you ponder  

on past times  

easy faces  



Gordon Ferris is a Dublin writer who has lived in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal for the past thirty-eight years.   He has had several poems and short stories published in many publications including, A New Ulster, Impspire Magazine, The Galway Review,  Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and Hidden Channel.

One Fascinating Poem by Lenore Weiss


Video Game

“The only way to get it together…is together.”

--Zalman Schacter-Shalomi


Maggie stared at the tattoo on her ankle
a tree spreading its limbs
the same moment

a boy with a baseball cap hoists her on his skateboard.


Her breasts are buttoned to his back.

Together they speed past cars.


She looks down.

The tattoo --

                But where is it?

       Gone    and so is he.


She wants an officer to file a report.

Get someone to draw a character sketch.

Post pictures on the Internet.


Instead, an off-duty angel slides

a skateboard beneath her feet
golden wheels confiscated from the street.


He tells her to handle the board 

like a certificate of completion 

and to find the thief.


Now she is inside a video game,

hands clammy with a thin coat of luck.


On her left, 

she sees a mountain as sharp as a swear word,

sails her carpet to its peak.


Robbed, bare, uncertain,

Maggie is the last link in a line of women

missing her mark. This is her task.


She hears an echo.


Your eyes are open like a cow on a hillside, hillside.


All she can see is a slope pimpled with rocks.

What a mish-mosh.


Yoo-hoo! Girlie!

What's the big rush like you've got a date or something?


In case you're wondering,

I'm the voice of the graveyard,

alive, but not in your 1-2-3. Capice?


So much for introductions.

So much for this and that.


Let's get real and nail the coffin.

You're Maggie of the Misfit Foot.


Here's what to do:


Under the lidless eyeball of the sun,

keep riding until you find Section P. 


When you hear a kid playing music,

ask him to help you find Granny.


That was it? Really?


Somewhere she hears a railroad car screech.

Or a dog barking?


Maggie rolls the skateboard beneath her head

and dreams voices:


      Crumbs require little water to grow.


At an airport security checkpoint:

      Everyone must remove all belts and empty pockets.


A host asks during a game show:

      What do most people want to see before they die?


There is a light above her head.

She never asked to be here,

alone as the tongue inside her mouth.


    Oh, God.



Chewing on words like camp, railroad, gold teeth, she hears:


Little snot go wipe your nose

or Mr. Potato Head will plant a carrot between your toes.


She wakes up to a day that is half night, sun blackened,

morning throws off its purple covers.

Birch branches point like arthritic fingers.


Hungry. She combs her hair with two fingers,

jumps on the skateboard.


Mountains breathe an ancient cold in her face,

makes her think of dollar-sized pancakes.


She steers down an aisle and hopes to find a food court,

bends her knees and waves her hands, a thrasher


who leans toward a clearing with white tents

surrounded by grave markers and peacocks.


Her golden wheels screech to a halt: sees a woman,

flesh hangs from her arms in pasty lumps.


Maggie throws caution through a window,

asks for food.


Hungry Girl got any money?


Maggie is only a poor girl without an allowance.


And why is hunger, she asks herself, 

not its own winning argument?


She knows her fingers will find only lint,

but digs inside her pocket anyway,

her hand strikes an empty seam bed.


Not so fast, says the Pasty Lump Lady.

Not so Lackawanna Railroad.


If Maggie removes a skateboard wheel from its axle, she says,

and gives it to the Pasty Lump Lady,

breakfast will be served. They agree.


Lump Lady feeds her pancakes, eggs, syrup,

wraps sunlight around the wheel 

and hides it her apron.


Facing west, there are gravestones,

cottonwood trees blaze yellow.


A little pisher peacock sweeps the ground with his tail.

Hi-ho, he says, and flutters his fanny.


Maggie thinks this is a 3-D animation

or maybe the Pasty Lump Lady with more tricks.


I'm lost, she tells the peacock.


The peacock plucks a feather from his tail.

He speaks with a southern accent.


Gua-ron-teed to take you where you need to go.

He closes his fan of feathers, disappears

into the cottonwoods.


She taps the ground with her foot, hopes for magic.

Nothing doing.


Maggie wants to return to square one,

to pop-up from the middle of the street

like a seed from a plum.


But the Pasty Lump Lady has stolen her hunger.

Now what?

At Sections I and M,

the sun escapes from the Pasty Lump Lady’s apron.

She sees a boy playing a fiddle.

His fingerboard has a ketchup label.


He’s tall. The boy sees the feather and speaks:

His name is Sal, short for Salamander.

She introduces herself.


My name is Maggie of the Misfit Foot.



She wants him to join her,

offers in payment what’s left of the skateboard.


Like a man about to buy a new car, he considers--

Solid wood. Gold rims. No financing. Sweet.


Sal raises his face from the chin rest,

says she must first find Section P,

points the way with his bow and keeps playing his part.


Maggie walks along a rock wall covered with moss.

Down a circle of steps, her skin the color of moonlight.


In shopping aisles of the dead, a woman says,

waving her fingers at a swarm of fruit flies,


some of us get marked up and some of us get marked down.

We all get buried in the same storehouse.

Now that’s what I call a bargain.






The woman’s silver hair is pinned back with stingers from bees.


Life is a seasoning that tenderizes us.

Breaks down our rough edges so we can bend.

Tell me, dear, how have you been?


Maggie tells her about her loss.


Does grandma fill up like a water balloon and burst? 


Grandma explains how during the war,

she buried herself beneath a haystack.

There were tattooed numbers above her wrist.


Until a messenger boy, some mench,

exchanged them for others.


Two sets of numbers joined each other

and shared bloodlines.


Where each number began and the other one stopped,

they stuck like teeth to candy and formed something new.


Grandma scoops something from the dirt,

Fixes it above Maggie’s ankle.


It’s one world, Grandma said.


There on her ankle, a glowing orb, a single planet.

No countries, boundaries.


Go back and tell them.



Game Begin Again

Lenore Weiss grew up in New York City with whistle stops along the way in Chicago, Illinois, and Sterlington, Louisiana. Her home is in Oakland, California. Books include Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Isand (West End Press, 2012), Two Places (Kelsay Books, 2014), and The Golem (Hadassa Word Press, 2018). Her children's book, The Glimmerine, is an urban environmental fantasy for middle-schoolers.


Six Poems by R. W. Stephens

  Like Extended Haiku       Tango music muted , o pen window    Fading summer light s hadows   C hair on the porch   An empty glass       ...