Friday, 14 January 2022

Alissa - Superb Short Fiction Story by Peter F Crowley



      Alissa is late to spend the day at her sister Margaret’s non-profit.

      Her light brown hair is tucked behind her ears. She wears a black business suit with red slacks and a silver, semi-reflective heart-shaped locket that Margaret gave her as a birthday gift when she turned fifteen.

      “Maybe a bit overdressed,” Alissa thinks as she looks into the closet door mirror, “but that’s all I got.”

      It was either that or an old sweater and jeans, the kind that she wears to her own office, Orcos, where she designs AI software.


      Walking inside Wellington Station, a whitish chalky dust hovers in the air and causes Alissa to cough. As she takes the escalator to the lower level, she finds no one waiting from the T. Something clicks: services have been reduced. She waits for over twenty minutes, checking her phone watch repeatedly. It’s already 10:40 am – how did it get so late?

      Taking a deep breath, she goes back outside and looks for a taxi. They are lined up waiting for passengers but there are no drivers inside. Towards the end of the taxi queue, two older black men chat with each other. She waves to them, giving a distinct nod; they wave back and continue chatting.

     In the parking lot, a car idles. An older grey-haired woman sits in the driver’s seat.

     “Must be an Uber,” Alissa thinks as she walks up to the car.

     “Can I get a ride to Boston – 25 Alder Street?”

     The woman gestures for her to get in.

     A tall, older man, with a bald crown and grey hair around the sides, sits in the front passenger seat.

     The older couple greets her in an Eastern European accent. Alissa knows that there is something she should be remembering but can’t quite recall what it is.

     As they drive, she gazes out the window. Route 99 towards Boston is ghostly, store fronts are either dark or shuttered, few cars pass, and she sees only one pedestrian walking and peering anxiously from side to side. At a stop light, she looks at a newly renovated McDonalds. Inside lights are on, but it is empty. When the light turns green, she sees a long line of cars trail around the drive-thru window.

     “Where is everyone?” Alissa asks the couple.

     “It is almost 11 in the morning, things are quiet around this time,” the man says, looking back to Alissa.

     A second later he looks back to her with squinted eyes, as if discovering something new and revealing about her.

     Nearing Charlestown, the right turn onto the interstate is backed up. All along the highway entrance and on 93 South, cars are stuck in gridlock traffic. Straight ahead, in the direction of the North End, the road is completely vacant.

     The driver makes an abrupt swerve and pulls into the traffic going onto 93 South.

     “I almost missed the turn!” the woman says, glancing back to Alissa through the rear view mirror.

     “I’ll never get there in time now. Why didn’t you just go straight?”

     “I couldn’t! But no problem, we’ll get you there soon.”

     The driver turns off the car ignition in the middle of traffic.

     The couple get out and the man opens the door for Alissa.

      “Yes, leave it to us,” he says.

      Alissa follows them across the street and under the interstate overpass, where, amidst overgrown grass, empty liquor bottles and cigarette butts, is an opening leading underground.

     As they descend a few hundred feet, the man says, “This tunnel was built in the early 20th century. They had thought this would be a subway line, but it never happened.”

     A familiar whitish chalky dust pervades the air. They cough a bit and Alissa’s throat becomes parched.

     After walking for a while, the older man turns to Alissa and extends his hand.

     “How rude of me. I’m Ivan.”

     “Alissa. Nice to meet you.”

     With a wide smile, the woman turns to her and says, “I am Gretchen.”

     “Nice meeting you.”

     Gretchen, shorter and stouter than Alissa, embraces her and says in her ear, “Nice to meet you, too. We’ll get through this.”

     While this all feels perfectly natural to Alissa, she has the feeling that this kind of behaviour shouldn’t be done for some reason. But, why, she couldn’t remember. Also, what was there to get through?

     As they continue on through the dimly-lit tunnel, there’s an intersection.

     Gretchen’s and Ivan’s faces look confused as they speak to each other in Croatian.

      “You will stay here,” Gretchen says to Alissa.

      In response to Alissa’s confusion, Ivan says, “As you see, there are several tunnels and none of them labelled. Some lead up to the city and others just continue on like this, forever. We’ll go find the one that leads aboveground near Alder Street, as you wish.”

     They leave Alissa for what seems like an eternity.

     Suddenly, Ivan’s distant voice says, “You don’t have to do this. Don’t hurt me! Don’t…”

     “Shut up!” a gruff male voice says.

      Alissa hears something heavy fall to the ground on what seems to be a higher level of the tunnel.  

     “Where’s Gretchen?” Alissa wonders as she starts sprinting through the tunnel’s chalky dust.

     After what seems like forever and her mouth has become parched by the tunnel’s chalky dust, Alissa finds a narrow stairway. Upon reaching the top, she opens a heavy, steel door and emerges onto East India Street near downtown.

     “Civilization, at last!” Alissa thinks. “Wait ‘til I tell Margaret and the people at the office about this!”

     Glancing at her phone, she sees that it’s already noon. The streets are empty, void of the usual parade of lunch-goers. Only the dark, sleeping buildings watch over her, curious to see what she does next.

     “Maybe there are people inside are looking out too.” she thinks. “But if they are, they’re hidden by the windows’ shadows.”

     She walks down East India Street, takes a right on Milk Street and comes to Alder. A sense of accomplishment fills Alissa as she walks slowly towards #25.

     25 Alder has a large, ornate lobby, where typically a receptionist would be seated for visitors to check-in. But when she looks in, the lights are off, and the receptionist’s desk is empty. Alissa bangs on the locked door, but there is no sign of movement inside. Then she goes to the small loading dock at the side of the building, but that door is also locked.

     Alissa returns to the front and peers in; her hands block the light from either side to gain full visibility, but it still looks completely empty. She sits down, looks through her phone and texts her sister.

     As she awaits a response, Alissa hears a knock on the glass window behind her. The janitor, a middle-aged, balding white man, begins talking to her, but the thickness of the building’s glass prevents his voice from being audible.

     From the intensity of his eyes, he seems to be saying something important. He points to the mottled brown office building across the street. Alissa shrugs and walks over to 22 Alder.

     Standing at the door of #22, she mouths back to the janitor, “This one?”

     The janitor nods.

     Alissa rings the bell and bangs on the front door. Inside, the reception area is dim and vacant. No one answers.

     She takes a deep breath and turns back across the street.

     The janitor has disappeared.


     Her phone vibrates with a message from Margaret.

     It says, “Alissa, I had been expecting for you to visit me at the office for years. I asked you last year on this very day. But you’ve come at the wrong time. A time when the wind has taken humanity and left only dust.

                 P.S., I now work remote. We all do. Where have you been all this time?”


Peter F. Crowley is an independent writer from the Boston area. His poetry book Those Who Hold Up the Earth was released by Kelsay Books in 2020. Other work of his can be found in Pif Magazine, Galway Review, Opiate Magazine and Digging Through the Fat, among other publications.




Three Fascinating Poems by Pragya Suman


A Pink Postmodernist Crept In Pale Prague 


The jarring justice of the man; Kafka penned in melancholy.

Journey circled in hundred years


As sanitary was at the door


Vermin crippled in segments

For judgment,



My neighbour was senile, lurching gait; Rummaged the files

Cunning spoon of clerks engulfed


Coins. Mischievous officer told


“let bury in darkest hole”

For a official pension he trialled

thousand Kafka’s corner.


One day he dripped his head in kerosene oil around circle of crowd

Match box was going to strike


A self immolation aloud.


Paper rushed to his door

Drama and judgment

are conjoined  twins of democracy.


White whisker of the pensioner is now twisted up. 


I Seeeeeeeeee

 A Pink Postmodernist Crept In Pale Prague



Cold Coffee.           


The blotchy beam of  stagnant sun

on running chariot,

filtered in my netted window

descended in cup of cold coffee.

I caught the silhouette --

broken bangles on rectangular bier

and the vermillion box of the mother

stumbled, beside the pyre. 


An Iron Lady-- My Grandmother was a milk seller.

a great bargainer, sold milk for stories.

stored them in the mud huts.

I stole stories while she was sleeping.

A noon napper--

left behind a brook of viscus stories in melted marrow,

dining still in throat.


One day I thought to cut off

my unending throat,

but the chiselled scalpel

concocted in cold coffee.

It’s still regurgitating

belching, though I bolted  down,

hundred years ago--



The Bier’s Bench


The house moves but I don’t move

Whenever I move on toe--bypassing

The old house in day to day life --

I see the green mosses stuck upon

The window sunshade and withering

Plasters swollen and dropped down

This rainy season.


I relished chicken curry

And offered yellow oleander

In the tiny temple

All days are alive but mosses

don’t let me in and I don’t move--


I go ahead after inhaling

Fragrance of red roses

I never turned back though

They became pale after my departure–

It hardly matters to me.


The toughest lesson I learnt

Upon the bier’s bench

By peeling and counting the letters

Embedded upon the rectangular bamboo


Mingled and lost --

Among scattered rice grains.


Dr Pragya Suman is a doctor by profession and an award winning author from  India. Writing is her passion which she inherited from her father.  She also writes short stories and reviews which have been published in many magazines and anthologies. Surrealism,  prose poetry, and free verse, avantgarde are her favourite genres. Recently she won the Gideon poetry award for her debut book Lost Mother. Her second poetry book was published recently by Ukiyoto Publishing, Canada. Dr Pragya Suman is Editor in Chief, Arc Magazine, India. Her social media account is following Twitter : @DrPragyaSuman7 Facebook :  Pragya.Suman.50












Thursday, 13 January 2022

One Poem by Afiah Obenewaa

Red in Pink


Muted Anticipations.

            Riding, saddle--less, on the back of a harshened mare.

This is the seasons of reds;

            they should be swirling unabated in the sky,

            delighting our very senses beyond sensual.

This year when Christmas arrived,

it was decked in a different apparel.

Red in Pink. Pink in red.

Its shimmering streaks, mirroring weakened baby cries,

 failed to dazzle.


And so 31st tottered in.

It cast a forlorn wobbly shadow

on mud caked walls.

                                                            Worshippers paid their debt in obliged obeisance.

Casting furtive glances to the hanged voice

                                                                        of uniformed Dampare.

Afiah Obenewaa/Grace Danquah,  is a Ghanaian writer living and working in Ghana-West Africa. Some of her poems are published in online journals like The Mamba,  ActiveMuse and PoetrySoup. Her works normally focus on minority groups like women and children.



Five Superb Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan


Every Night She Has Dinner with Me


She sits across from me like opposite walls

holding up some long-untenable horror,

but we could be at this forever;

every night she has dinner with me,

chews her food over a careless sty,

patterned plated smothered in a voyeur’s

lumpy snuff film of gravy –

there is preparation without happening,

there is moss over the trunks of sunken bad posture trees,

grunts where once there were words,

not even a pauper’s simple love

and the xanthan gum curtains drawn over

and the belly-up arachnids in the overhead light above

all going down with the ship,

the prongs of weighted forks thrown into mouths

once used for love.    


The Junkie in the Bathroom


James Bond was invented in the faraway Caribbean

so that there are no heroes in real time

and I stumble over the junkie in the bathroom

drooling across a sickly institutional green

tiled floor that has not been cleaned since

mental health went looking for answers up the nose;

half a dropper’s blood still sticking

out of some bruised patchwork arm

that probably knew it had a hot shot coming;

the sound of the hair dryers still going

so that I know I am not the first

to such discoveries,

but perhaps the first to care.


We Don’t Care What You Say When You Don’t Say Nothing At All


Two shits can’t be given like a church wafer bland,

scrubbing under arms with a brand new soap –

that ball of wool way tent cites curl up for the cold,

freeze under January bridges meant for progress;

no love in this world, no song dancing around morning heads,

we don’t care what you say when you don’t say nothing at all,

that crunch of an old snow still underfoot, the laces rusted

and broken away, an empty cage of ribs still shaking

personal earthquakes, that spittle of frozen beards

across once-young faces, everyone cement hardened,

for themselves if they are for anything at all;

the dead and the dying in shallow beds,             

even if I could sing, I would never just sing along.


Grapes of Wrath


Some older kids

from down on Concession

started tearing bunches of grapes

down off the nearby grape tree.


Throwing them at this younger kid

who got hit in face with a couple

of the bunches before covering his

face with his hands.


The owner of the home

came out and chased the older kids off.


But not before they splattered the windshield

of a passing car with all that

juicy goodness.


The younger kid walked off.

Bleeding from small cuts from where

the sharp edge of the vines

had broken the skin.


It was half past ten in the morning.

Far too early for miracles

no one really believed in anymore


Sitting in a Dark Bathroom Waiting for the Poop to Come


I do not wonder how I got here, this is not “lost time”

or some philosophical tract stuck on the cyclical fly paper

Peloponnese; those Hellenics all with great beards

so that you know they would look amazing in some 1970s

swingers club with pink bubble gum lettering

and nowhere decent to park, and here I am a half-century

moon pie after those red red Ruskies of Little Odessa

started playing roulette in a whole new way;

my blood-pumping heart through the flap of my ear,

sitting in a dark bathroom waiting for the poop to come,

seeing familiar shapes in the tiles of a floor the soles

of my shoes cannot help but stick to; that faint sound

of early Bowie through these walls these walls…

grout lines like taking a grainy failing train    

of the mind.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review


Two Wonderful Poems by Yuu Ikeda


Whiskey's Kiss 


Time stops killing me

when a glass of whiskey kisses me.


My drunken brain sinks to

the bottom of mellow nocturne.

This crumble world vanishes

and rebirth as a hopeful hug of an angel.


Time stops breaking me

when a glass of whiskey kisses me.


This is my first kiss.

This is my last kiss.


I'm an impatient poet 


The scent of your cigarettes

soaks into my skin that craves your caresses.


I'm an impatient poet.

So, right now,

please give me your words

by caressing me.


The shape of the smoke

wraps my lips that emit desire for your kiss.


I'm an inpatient poet.

So, right now,

please give me your words

by kissing me.


I want to write about you.

I want to drown in you.

Yuu Ikeda is a Japan based poet. She loves writing, drawing, and reading mystery novels. She writes poetry on her website.

Her published poems can be found in <Nymphs>, <Selcouth Station Press>, <Sad Girl Review>, and more. And her first poetry collection “Living in Nightmares with Few Dreams” is now available on Amazon.

(pen name is D.Rose)

Her Twitter and Instagram :



Five Stunning Poems by Rustin Larson




Straitjacketed, dangling

from a construction crane,

Harry Houdini,


above 46th and Broadway:

two small navel oranges

roll on the newspaper editor's desk.


“Death, be not proud,

though some have called thee.”

Would you like some grapes instead?


The cats watch out

the screen door and wonder

where all the bicycle people have gotten to.


I have a slightly competitive friend

from Greece who says I will never

make it unless I enter the chamber


of the honeysuckle.

I eat from a jar of mixed nuts,

drink sparkling water.


The Grand Canyon

is still right where it was.

I make a conscious effort


not to sink.

Whenever I see Houdini's photograph,

his screams echo off walls

of brick and steel.



Song of September


The skeletons were sprouting

sky-blue flowers

from their fingertips.


One skeleton asked me, ça va?”

The skeletons drank white wine

from big green jugs. The wine


splashed through their rib cages

and over their coccyges

and drenched the polyester thatch


of the lawn chairs they scraped

across the concrete patio

in the dwindling peach sunlight.


Most of the skeletons

were tenured and laughed

at each other's bones in modern German.


Even though I was a new adjunct,

they invited me to their party,

and through a misinterpretation of their invitation,


I brought my children

which visibly upset the department chair skeleton

and made her drop all her sky-blue flowers


prematurely into a red earthenware bowl

made by New Mexican artisans.

Still, I spoke boldly of my love

of the orchard.





A table full. What now? Muffins?

Smoothies? Bread? Liqueur?

It's Sunday. The orange kitten sleeps


in the laundry basket. Try to move him,

you get a wrist full of claws.

I sit by an open window. Crickets sing


after a rain. A baby locust tree grows

all thorny in the middle of the back yard.

Won't you be my neighbour?


Music from the Kasbah plays on the radio.

The kitten kicks back and falls asleep.

A good example. God is with us:


black bananas mixed to a paste

in a stainless steel bowl,

vanilla, cinnamon. We adopt


a black Labrador named Mother.

Sarah's hair is apricot flames.

Jules sketches pictures of alpacas


who are the hippies of the animal kingdom.

Banana pancakes, safe deposit boxes

full of frosted banana nut bars.


I visit Nebraska and bring Mexican

jumping beans from Stuckey's.

I bring pecan nut rolls.


The orange kitten watches

the beans jump and bounce and roll.

He swats them across the kitchen floor.


I hear cows mooing. I have a table

full of overripe bananas.

I have a fridge full of expired milk,


black olives, transistor radio batteries,

acrylic paints, and master copies

of the Mona Lisa.


I saw them sitting together

at the poetry reading, plugged

drain and Mr. Plunger,


sniggering about his “way

too high” poem the college

girls adored. Simultaneously, I was


contemplating a fundraiser for

my impossible health insurance premiums

and also a fundraiser to have me put down


at the vet, curious to see

which fundraiser filled first.

Thankfully, I was distracted


by a friend who was constantly

haunted by his girlfriend who

suddenly spoke to me in a crystal chime


in my right ear. I told him

what I heard and he was pleased

and said he never felt lonely


anymore. When it was my turn

to read, they (the cafe) cut the

lights on stage and


I had to guess at everything

in the darkness, mumbling deranged

utterances into the braille of the


microphone. A former student told

me afterwards I had never sounded

more confident and clear and


entertaining, like I was a muffler loose

on a pickup truck, dangling and

sparking on the pavement

in the night. 



The Make No Sense Room


is where my tribe will dwell

at the end of time. We carry

that room inside us now and the


long corridors that connect that

room with all the other nonsense

rooms there ever were. Our fathers


stumble out of them and wander

in the rain looking for a late

night bi-carb at a 24 hour


pharmacy; vaporizers, camphor,

cherry cough drops, ex-lax,

small cans of Hormel chili and


cellophane packages of oyster

crackers. It is the flu of doom; I

am Swiss cheese talking to


the flash of a cherry-top ambulance

fainting into the fog of February 1964,

the sky no joke, Jesus so much


more popular than an insect, and

my mom drinks crème de menthe

after stirring it with her crucifix,


and I am Chaucer clipping his toe-

nails and vomiting Lithium 7-Up

and Campbell's chicken noodle. I


will close my eyes and you will

never find me; I will skip

a century. I will skip two.


public radio classical

november 6 pm pitch black

nativity of darkness

train heaving over rails


stirring a single can

of Campbell's chicken noodle

Joshua Bell plays many notes

on his violin meanwhile


my friend my friend my friend


mirror or the land of dreams

upside-down puddles of starlight


someone plays a drum over and

over as if asking

to enter the house of life

too wrecked with hostility


someone showed me the handwriting

of a holy man today it was

a neat and legible cursive in English


as if he had eternity to accomplish

his desires when he died they

shaved his head and beard and


set his body upright as if to

receive guests for a lecture Afterward

there was a long ceremony many people


gathered in boats to drop

his ashes






Silence, Earthling


The entire English Department

was high on angel dust,

which was scary as hell


as they bragged about it

at their public reading 

while swilling goblets


of Merlot

as their devoted

undergraduates shrieked 


like approving vampire bats.

The faculty was edgy,

in your face, 


dressed like organic farmers

in their Sunday best

as the cappuccino machine


performed multiple acts

of oral sex

and the barista smirked


and mixed froth

like a demented scientist.

In his Spider-Man


onesie, the department chairman

thrust his hands into his armpits

and led everyone in the German


duck waddle dance. 

He unabashedly relieved himself

in his PJs,


the urine stain like an old school

television test pattern

radiating out a hammer and sickle mandala.


I decided I was just too old for this shit

so I stumbled home 

slobbering like a sheepdog.

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. A graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival, and a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival. 

He is a poetry professor at Maharishi University, a writing instructor at Kirkwood Community College, and has also been a writing instructor at Indian Hills Community College. 

Among his published books are Library Rain, Conestoga Zen Press, 2019 which was named a February 2019 Exemplar by Grace Cavalieri and reviewed in The Washington Independent Review of Books; Howling Enigma, Conestoga Zen Press, 2018; Pavement, Blue Light Press, 2017; The Philosopher Savant, Glass Lyre Press, 2015; Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning, Blue Light Press, 2013; The Wine-Dark House, Blue Light Press, 2009; and Crazy Star, Loess Hills Books, 2005. 

His honours and awards also include Pushcart Prize Nominee (seven times, 1988-2010); featured writer, DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts, 2007, 2008; and finalist, New England Review Narrative Poetry Competition, 1985.

Alissa - Superb Short Fiction Story by Peter F Crowley

  Alissa        Alissa is late to spend the day at her sister Margaret’s non-profit.       Her light brown hair is tucked behind her ear...