Saturday 31 July 2021

Five Haunting Poems by Kaci Skiles Laws



Everything was better
when I was quiet.

Quietly, not asking
costly questions.

I couldn’t bury my head; they wouldn't
have my ears full of sand.
I looked away, hummed
something, asked myself instead—

if no one else
wanted to fill the position.

I was good at nodding yes.

Yes, I knew they weren't the same.
It was my job to understand them,
frantic wild cards, smiling Barbies,
thinking they were something special.
I knew better.

They took and said, 'Taker!'
Don’t ask

why. It’s why I was quiet. Why

I always tried to save something
helpless, a stray cat. It's why
I hated ruined things, the word ungrateful,
held onto them, made wishes.

Everything was better when
my skin fell from my face,

and they screamed.



The Suicide Forest


My sister went into the forest,


Hannah walked among notorious,

twisted limbs

that emerged from the iron-rich soil like snakes.


People went to hang off them.


She wanted to be a tree

like the others,

most of them hanging bones now.

Most of them


loved trees as children, climbed them,

broke an arm

or sliced into the meat of their legs.


They flailed about,

frantic all those years, thinking of the forest

as they aged.


It was quiet.


The density of the trees made it almost soundproof.

No birds sang there.

No deer, no rabbits, no squirrels, everything devoid

of life but the trees.


Hannah went into the forest with nothing

and months after,

while our parents built a case to prove it was murder,

I stood at the entrance

of the Aokigahara Forest reading:


Life is a precious gift. Quietly think once more

about your parents,

siblings, or children. Please don’t suffer alone

and reach out first.


It was all in Japanese.


At first I skirted the outer area, stuck a few toes in

and looked back.

I’d go ten feet and sit in the acidic soil

and try to feel something.

I couldn’t make an echo when I said, hello. 


It felt most unnatural;

it wasn’t, because it was of nature, heavy and dense. It was

a volcanic headache

creeping, a headband after it’s been on too long,



The Sea of Trees vibrated.


It ate and ate when it wasn’t hungry.

It had pica

like people with iron deficiencies


that crave clay and ice,

things devoid of nutrients, except it didn’t crave those things;

the forest craved people.


The anemic crawled around. They tried to cry

and couldn’t

because they were too depressed and didn’t know why.

GPS failed,

phone signals were lost to the soil, the mother.


Hannah dangled

above it all, dancing like a child, singing, everything silent

to everyone but her.






Says I remind her of an aunt:
the one with glasses
and malignant cancer.

She says, “Cancer kills you.”
I ask, “Are you sad?”
Emma sways and dances
at the question
when all she wants is to cry.





I go as depression.
Spit of tobacco.

Sulk over rickrack.
Fringe. Sequins.
Feather lace.
Never time for them.
My mask is a hand-me-down.

I don’t have to smile.
Wearing black plastic
is a skip. No one expects
anything of its parted lisp,
its socially acceptable
expression, fixed.

Women, aging,
lift up their disguises
and yellowing teeth
bite into petit fours
and hors d’oeuvres
as my own mask morphs,
eats away at my beauty.

I run to remove a leech
at arms length in the backroom
on a backdrop of Halloween,
replace it with a lorgnette,
inspect and hand it
over to a man,
poised as death.
Balance there like a ghost.





I know he is dying. My three year old son
watches Orange, his eel,
turn itself into knots and asks me
the same questions everyday:

“How will he eat?”

“I don’t think he’s hungry anymore.”
I reach for the right words;
when bugs die
it’s less of an interconnected process

like losing a fingernail.

“Oh.” He places a large pinch of food
through the hole. “Why is he doing that?”

“I think he’s old and sick.”
I keep it simple.
“Like your grandma?”
“Yeah. She was old and sick.” I hope
it stays simple for a long time.

Orange was limp like a noodle,
would become a violent tremor.

A year ago, he lost his left eye,
this week he lost the other;
it seems they faded away to
someplace inside his brain.

He could be a spinning ribbon
because he is adjusting to no sight,
or he’s old
and dying one eyeball at a time.

I hope he is blind, learning braille
by the water,
that in the morning
my son will have another chance
to watch the dancing eel;

I know he is sick and dying.
When he goes we will buy goldfish
for five cents each, pretend
he was just a fish.

The dogs are alive; our cat is young.
I hope it stays simple for a long time.


Kaci Skiles Laws is a closet cat-lady and creative writer who reads and writes voraciously in the quiet moments between motherhood and managing Crohn's Disease. She grew up on a small farm in a Texas town alongside many furry friends, two sisters, and a brother. She has known tragic loss too well, and her writing, which is often dark and honest, is a reflection of the shadows lurking in her psyche. Her work can be viewed at:

Five Poems by Chad Norman




Another new morning

comes with

another new education:

I can finally agree

the winter is over

as spring surrounds us,

the proof once more

being how a starling

feeds one of her young

among the impatient many,

quite like the opened dandelions

and the warm mothering sun.



I have

spent the day


how the wind


the night's snowfall

from the trees'

accommodating heights

in among

the wise boughs.




the Spring

is really

the new season

I feel

so alive


a great song

causes me

to weep,

& then

to smile.



As the days of the week charge off somewhere

the early morning jaunts to the job

provide a mind pondering what it is

to know a blessing, to be blessed, to want

blessedness, almost thought after thought.


As each step up the hill changes the thoughts

to a curious surge throughout the body,

perhaps a feeling coming on as the sun

rises higher behind me, to allow the shade

to remain just that, and the warming light

to find and rest upon the purple of blooms.


New growth as summer ages, as the choice

now seems a wise one, the lawn needed cut,

I chose to do the backyard first, being higher,

and as the blades, one by one, were lowered

the choice to go around the young thistle

now understood, now being a site of beauty,

now being walked past, as a smile takes over

my face, and the dew dampens my old boots.


I almost felt the joy

found when a breeze

is in the grass

under some trees

now finished shading

some kind of trouble

growing inside of the

body I have at 60,

taken from my eyes

and what they give

to forget I am aging,

I am becoming a man

unable to escape trust

in the mystery of being,

or this brief being alive.

Chad Norman lives beside the high-tides of the Bay of Fundy, Truro, Nova Scotia. 

He has given talks and readings in Denmark, Sweden, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, America, and across Canada.

His poems appear in publications around the world and have been translated into Danish, Albanian,  Romanian, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Polish.

His collections are Selected & New Poems ( Mosaic Press), and Squall: Poems In The Voice Of Mary Shelley, is out from Guernica Editions. And Simona: A Celebration of the S.P.C.A. will be out early 2021 from Cyberwit.Net (India).

Five Fabulous Poems by Rustin Larson


How It Is In The Hazel Moon


Kuan Yin. Oracle Woodberry.

Rays of morning sun

from The Hazel Moon Cafe,

a pool, dusky blue, on the sidewalk.

The light is a benediction.

Mocha Lavender.

London Fog.


I leave the Library of Congress, circle

the Catholic church, my eyes cooled

by the terracotta virgin in the rectory yard.

I run my hands over the painted iron fence,

Amaretto Magical Peach Cobbler,

window eye

clown character juggling.


Is each coffee I drink a cup of shining brown happiness?

The autumn sky liquefies clear of memory.

Do I always wish myself to be somewhere else,

to sit in a cafe, to pray I can touch the dead,

whole dollar experiences,

looking on, remembering Russian,

painting notable clouds as greater clouds?


Washington, D.C. cannot be any more complete

for the style of void in my head.

Instead of lunch, I walk to the National Gallery,

stare at Rembrandt's face, try to write,

the fakirs, the good affectionately timed

old days, The Beatles, the baritone guitar.

Hello, Hello,

on this day, Rembrandt wants no words from me.

His cold stare empties the world of poetry.

How do I know you?

C'est papa?

Brother Clown Bead Man?


And on this day, my unborn daughter finds my hand

and my wife's.

Big Chief Mudra is hungry

for bean sacks thrown by kids.

And life is life is life is life is life is life.

Beethoven says hello to the sea.


The Book Is A Door


the day she has sabotaged. It causes

great anxiety to buy milk, sulfuric acid,

memory’s tattoo. She will wear your wings.


Road ribbons

at a convenient time,

the sun, sweet grass, an ache flying in stone.


The cold cages, locks and bars. When she is,

stones pray marriage. Bake the sourness,

slap, burned for nothing. Wishing,


she can’t sleep; she reads. The book

is what her father’s eye wished. She

visits the granite


flying the earth, weight, words,

lonely leaves. Its window.

The woman steps into the small


black speck at the centre of Queen Anne’s lace.

Trembling, a moth, the lit screen,

a loose blue nightgown.


Red sky, the bay ripples. Red shudder on a horse’s flank

brightens, the light and the woman.

She will crunch the leaves,


snow that knights the shoulders of a hill. Smoke blown

from the mouth of a ghost.

She will wade its uncertain light, dreaming.


She will

glide into day. Like a book,

like a Venus fly trap she will open.


Alexander Graham Bell and His Wife


In the sheep meadow, clutching the skeleton

of a small pyramid, pregnant in the middle

of the framework.


Dripping in a bright field of humming flies,

long bloom of a dress tapering into the sun,

succumbed to the industrial revolution.


Hazy out of the sunlight, flames in polluted rivers,

cracked black planet into the maw of the pool table.

It would be great to live in a glass bullet, cut with dyes,


cigarette-wide vision, drinking salt water,

covered in your own blood, smiling as the river

churns grey. The rusted bridge sings with decay


and looks like peppermints. Nostradamus’ skull

discovered in a cave in New Mexico with the last

surviving members of the conspiracy,


blue flags sway and flutter. Gooseberry,

marijuana, wild mint. A long journey into space,

brain sizzling like a wad of dough. If you spend


first communion melting untended in the snow,

a can of condensed milk, a flower that smells like

nothing and bitterness. The river is having the day


of its life teaching Sunday School, detonator

of miracles with teeth, defender of the mysterious

flower, the immense unconsciousness of America,


reading the Braille of its banks, an

ambassador to the country of ash.



Wuthering Heights and Lost in Space


Laurence Olivier & Merle Oberon, Young Will

& Dr. Smith or the smart blonde who throws,

you know, I am grateful. The starlings. The sunlight


setting. A cool breeze. Rilke’s elegies.

The robot’s recharge switch, the ghost heather,

the heathen oath to be haunted forever. The bubble-


basic songs I can recall. And maybe sing if I want.

Little room, little room, always a little room,

Booby swings his pincer arms wildly


and chants like a deranged coffee maker.

Somewhere. I saw some kids today, sitting

in the window of the café, munching sandwiches.


Eyes shine, calm and sad. Snow

sweats on the face of Olivier. My parents contemplate

furtively like refugees. It made me feel uncomfortable,


but hey, don’t worry about me. Some kid zips

divorce and murder. A faded purple? A pure white?

I skulk about the house at night.


His car up the drive with the top down. How beautiful

is that? It’s spring and there’s a pretty girl afraid of his face,

the marble of obsession. Light switches half between off and on.


At the grocery

who likes poetry? Can you ask for anything more

fantastic? I’m going to recover all of my minds


soon, though they are strewn: the coat Jesus opens like a theater curtain,

the sparks cascading over the counter,

in the dust of seven


unknown planets. If any of them have sunsets half

as nice, wrap a sandwich in wax paper and walk

out there and sit on a log and let the day blizzard the walls, ultra high frequency,


the deluge of voltage spiders, the vital and invisible, and these

last few words.


Fairfield, Iowa


parables from the Blue Amethyst

School of Space:

scorching sun affords this old lesson

the taste of light in the mouth

head scarf with camel’s hair rope

westward, illegal entertainment

a long naked road of dust

I once walked out into a potato field


gaily caparisoned steed

past the high school locomotive

wearing clothes from a different

opinion on trade

but I didn’t know where the potatoes were


through the old neighbourhood

no longer July

the outdoor coffee house

punisher of evil and electricity

down into the nest

reading Kipling in shafts of sunlight

so I bought strawberries instead


the underground magical caged city

full of threads and rags

wild flute, the sound of vines

anticipating some future piece of sun

astigmatism of we

inlaid with silver and mother-of-pearl

The dust was raised by old trucks


take notice, black and red checkers

songs of Bohemian teenagers

a chest of scarce wood gaily dyed

occupied by an illegitimate power

soothsayer’s globe of crystal and the blood

of a customer’s approval

loosened like a torpedo

and highways rerouted with memory

a flap of bread from a copper tray

who didn’t know where they were going?


reading books and newspapers, the train’s away

with this, catch the fires of thought,

a fire one keeps aglow

thought waves transmitted from anonymous suns

either to hell or Fairfield

chances are you’ll see

the chef roasting little squares of day

the sound of day rising, solemn day

Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, and North American Review. He won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino and was a prize winner in The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation contests. Larson is a graduate of Vermont College MFA in Writing. 

Friday 30 July 2021

One Wonderful Poem by Michael J. Leach


Nature’s Defenders




send word

to their kin

of felled trees

near the hallowed heart

of their woodland







at the edge

of a green glade,

dextrously drawing

their faithful longbows

to aim arrows at their foes.

They await the command

to shoot.




astride enormous eagles

circle high above the green glade,


a mix

of crossbows & spears.

They await the command

to swoop.




astride elegant equines

expertly navigate

rough terrain

& dense underbrush,

holding up their lances

as they ride oh-so swiftly

to flank the enemy.




come alive!

They uproot their ancient roots

&, giant limbs swinging,

amble past


kindred spirits

towards the trespassers.



At the edge

of the green glade,

a royal couple

arrives astride unicorns

ahead of a great many units

of spear-wielding elven guards.

The lovers look to their musician,

who holds up a hunting horn

& sounds the solemn



to attack the axe-wielding


of the Ring


Michael J. Leach (@m_jleach) is an Australian academic and poet. Michael’s poems reside in NatureVolve, Jalmurra, Plumwood Mountain, Cordite, Meniscus, Rabbit, The Blue Nib, the Medical Journal of Australia, the Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and elsewhere. His poetry has been anthologised in One Surviving Poem (In Case of Emergency Press, 2019), No News: 90 Poets Reflect on a Unique BBC Broadcast (Recent Work Press, 2020), Still You: Poems of Illness and Healing (Wolf Ridge Press, 2020), and The 2021 Hippocrates Prize Anthology (The Hippocrates Press, 2021). Michael’s first book is the chapbook Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020). He lives on unceded Dja Dja Wurrung Country and acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land.  


Three Wonderful Poems by Sadie Maskery




Triumphant, stupid as a fox

drunk on blood in the henhouse,

you refused the flame

and grabbed the eternal prize.

Predictable. And now

we tell our children,

to make them tremble in their beds,

how it perverted you -

that is your doom, not some fallen

grand display but reduction

to a fairytale. Silly immortal ghoul,

bogeyman of grief and hate.

Mouth stretched by howls,

flesh pulled thin under the black,

rubbed and worn like onionskin...

your whole being dwindles

to parchment scratched

by a dreamer's pen.

You cannot kill a dead soul

though you tried, how you tried

those nights when infinity

screamed back at you,


in the darkness,

and we turned the page. 





It's hard I know, your sire and dam

were ripped from sweet meadows

and you were born to darkness,

legs trembling, searching for milk

to find only pain and fire.

The terror throbs behind your eyes

when I put on the bridle, but at least

I weigh less than pure flesh.

Who shod you? Did they take care?

You have a long way to carry me

through these tortured lands.

The battlefield is ash, you lip in vain

for an unbloodied blade of grass.

We are both slaves, to hate, to death,

but I hope when this ends, someone

remembers that as armies fell

and I sheathed my sword

I always took the time

to clap your neck and tell you

good lad, you are a good horse.





We were made but new born, unbroken,

and when the towers tumbled so did we,

out of the tales. No history tells the truth

completely, evil came from both sides

but so too a little goodness, just a little.

The book is closed, morals drawn neatly

as bedsheets. Lights are quenched

and we are beyond your reach now,

cries echoing in your children's dreams.

Beauty does not define worth, or right,

but yes we are beautiful in our own way,

sinews and fiery strength, the ripple of

wings skirling and free above the stars.

Sadie Maskery lives in Scotland by the sea with her family. She has poetry accepted in Shores of Infinity, Red Planet, Hexagon, British Fantasy Society Horizons, The Selkie, Seaborne Magazine, and various other publications in print and online. She can be found on Twitter as @saccharinequeen  

Five Sublime Poems by Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews


The Return                                                                                                                                            


You wait for me as I echo

Like a note reverberating


From the centre of my turns

on a carnival ride.


I sit on a white paper

Maché, gilded horse, circling


The flowering wood rings

Of my years at the edge of time.


At that merry-go-round

You stand eternal.


A fixed star.

Pattern of  my seasons.


Steadfast, you wait for me

To alight from my manège of vagaries.


I love you blindly

Like protons and electrons


Love the nucleus

Of their atom


Without knowing it.

Magnetism of centrifugal force


Spinning coherently, returning

Constant on its swivel


Out of simple physics

God particles


You and I

Ghosts in the spin


Of our continuous return.

We are the waves


Oscillating towards space.

Sunlight fading to starlight


And moons repeating in cycles,

Spyrographing reality


Into a melody

Of life’s familiar refrain.


Heart beat

Blood pulse


A carousel

Of pastel paper pulp


Childish vehicles  and horses

Prinked with gold and silver


Roses, curlicues & diamonds

Of broken mirror glass


Reflecting the passage

Of our vanishing


Faces, our miraculous

Temporal voyage.




Tempus inreparabile fugit


Piano music trickles like water,

liquid waves of sound, undulations


Of light fragments, Escher                                                                                                            

Scapes repeating


Unto themselves

Before disaster


Before the sparking

Spinning top


Of your molecules

Spun out unbound


And your form

That face of love and goodness


Turned away from me

Into a black scarf of stars.


Yet for a while we held

that wheel of chance.


They say that time is non-linear,

But circular, a cochlear spiral.


We return inescapably

Through memory


To those circuits we incised

With our living


In the universe’s vinyl long play.

You will always


Be waiting for me

Like the sun.


Look! I am a child

Showing off for you                                                                                                    


Riding that princess chariot

In the peach organza dress 


You embroidered

& that green panno lenci


Hair band with the tiny blooms.

You’re still young, in your prime.


I know nothing

Of what’s to come ahead


Assured only of this moment’s truth.

I will return endlessly


Here and to all the other points

We stitched  in time.


Maybe they are other worlds

In superposition


Other dimensions, heavens

And dreamworld scapes


Spaces lit with love and sun.

A luna moth fluttering,


Spins a pale green carousel

Of diaphanous wingtips.


Feeds on sunlight

Ever circling an invisible centre.


So joyful!

So beautiful!


She is so young.

Her life, so brief.


The Possum and The Moon                                                              


Are out tonight

And they are not the only ones

On this cool May dusk.


The sky, a blue gas disk,

The moon, a plate

Of abundant metaphors


Spills out

Its captive sunlight


And beside the tallest pines

Cassiopeia’s brightest point

Blazes a beauty mark.


I stand

In my unavenged awe

And wonder


Inside the star-lit glass dome

Of this terrestrial sublunary world

Womb of my skull’s carapace.


I have placed slices of bread

And cut apples

For the silver possum


Who visits my stone porch

At the closing of each sunset,

When humans recede


To their slumber

And animals surface

Seeking sustenance


Safe at last in night’s cover.

Just me, the moon,

A few  stars and the possum,

The trees charcoaling to night forests

Nestling God’s creatures

In their nests


The possum’s hands

My hands

The silent atrocities


Of nature’s food chain

My own angst and tragedies

The planetary remoteness


Of this night’s own sadness

At the defeat of light

By all its negations


Except for the captive refractions

Of it in the blink of each star,

Each stone, bloom and animal


Silvering Earth and the face of the moon.

In Those Meticulous Rituals of Dressing In Our Sunday Best                                   


You and I created the world

With our gaze, our observing,


Holding on to the sturdy axis

Of our balcony. We were the cosmos


In a timeless, eternal spark

We will forever inhabit.


I clung to you in orbit,

Ellipse of a moon to a planet


Of the same substance

Broken off in two.


Sunshine: source and illumination

Of our spirit bound entanglement,


Though light years divide realities

On calendar pages. My smallness,


Your grandeur, my unavoidable growth

And our slow receding to absence.


Our forms were the infinite

Husks, masks of all being


Returning for a season

Like the vermilion roses.


Oh voice of nurturing and reason,

Tell me again of the order of things!


Those rituals of meals, finesse, manners

And fashions. Clench my insignificance 


In your shadow, sheltered

And enriched by your knowing.


Give me the city once more,

The sun and its blue penumbra.


Let me bask in your ideal, iridescent

As your necklace of glass pearls.


Protect me from the precarious void

Lurking beyond the railing.


Come back through the centuries

Mother! Lace us up one more time


To the brightness of this day.

Now that I am old.


Now that we have lost the centre.

Now that you are gone.



Weathering. Regolith.

Frost shattering and haloclasty.


Abrasion. Fluvial comminution.

Attrition. Grinding. Blunt force.


At 0.0063 millimetres

In the Udden-Wentworth scale,


The ethereal lattice of quartz

And feldspar silts the fertile deltas


Of the world. A crystallography

Of atoms. Molecules. Dust.


I too am made of this.

Sedimentation of centuries. Eons.


Ephemeral fragments of ruins.

Rubble of collapsed walls. Bones.


Pulverized. Windswept. Crimson.

Erstwhile stone and flesh.


My days, effluvial silting.

Routed in veins below my skin.


You wondered how they’d look.

Carved inward. Lifeless.


Alluvium of clay to sift through, blind.

God sparks aligned by love, instead.


Arranged in predetermined order.

Alive at the centre. Neutrinos. Cherubim.

Feux Rouges                                                                                                               


At the carrefours, avenues

Usher us, divergent.

Trace bridges through clouds.

Over lakes. Tether neuronal

Intermittent-yellow line segments.

Roads branch out like deltas

Of concrete labyrinths. Loop serpentine.

Unfurling in the expanses of the world.


In the toxic hues of sub-zero dawn,

Nauseous traffic exhales exhaust.

Night shuts its wings

And the sun, ethereal egg to the east,

Makes its way westward

Over this town, where this morning,

Like each morning, we are reborn to ourselves

Huddled in our parkas, with our coffees,

Our car radios, breakfasts on the go.

Revamped into one more time slot.

This day we name and carve with our rituals,

Born again to adaptation. We are words tumbling

Onto a new page of some half written book. We coalesce

Some sort of meaning from the totality of our days, the whorl

Of them coiling into an ever strengthening helix

Surviving winds and blunt force on this tangible terrain. 


The page is blank and seems benign,

With all the tabs open to a thousand yesterdays,

The memory of them, intruding pop-ups

Of non continuous text claiming attention, stitching upon this

What I imagine to be time’s arrow, past to present

Continuity to future me on an invisible trajectory

Through places, faces, events, my life, this story

I weave of the years, these words.

Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews is a poet, author, teacher and the host & coordinator of the Oakville Literary Cafe Series. Her latest book of poems Sunrise Over Lake Ontario, was launched in 2019. Her previous poetry publications include: Sea Glass, The Whispers of Stones, The Red Accordion, Letters from the Singularity and A Jar of Fireflies. Josie’s poetry has been shortlisted for the Malahat Review’s Open Season Award, Descant’s Winston Collins Prize, The Canada Literary Review, The Eden Mills Literary Contest and The Henry Drummond Poetry Prize. Her poetry has won first place in Arborealis Anthology Contest of The Ontario Poetry Society and in Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine. Some of her poems feature on The Niagara Falls Poetry website. One of her pieces was included by Priscila Uppal in Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology, Mansfield Press, in 2018, rated by Chatelaine Magazine as one of the best Canadian poetry books of 2018. Josie is the author of two non-fiction books: How the Italians Created Canada (the contribution of Italians to the Canadian socio-historical landscape) and In the Name of Hockey ( a closer look at emotional abuse in boys’ sports.) Josie teaches workshops for Poetry in Voice and for Oakville Galleries. She writes and lives in Oakville, Ontario. 


One Poem by John Yamrus

  she was not your typical girl next door. to begin with, she had a name that sounded like a bottle of cheap perfume. but, she did have the ...