Next of Kin

our granddad fought the Germans but I battled through lunches

my bloodline gathered in the kitchen      uncles with 5 o’ clock

shadows mistake me for schoolgirls they lured with pocketmoney

& promises          I pull myself together in their pipe smoke

arrange tins of beans in jaunty pyramids                 kick shins of cousins

beneath the table               their tree bark cheeks ruddy         passing the sauce

as past lives lurch across history’s headland           victories chipper & hard-won

I want to start fires in the bathroom         wear the alley like a cat in heat

upend the garbage            take off my clothes           swear like a trooper

slice my thumb with the carving knife    mop the blood with my bread

but I please&thankyou my way through dessert

impossible            the things we don’t say to one another

stewing like spoilt fruit & cream

Rebecca Faulkner

Rebecca Faulkner is a London-born poet and arts educator based in Brooklyn. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Solstice Magazine, Smoke Magazine, Wild Roof Journal, Pedestal Magazine, The Maine Review, SWWIM, CV2 Magazine, On the Seawall, Into the Void, and other journals. She has been anthologized in the Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021, was a finalist for the 2021 Foster Poetry Prize, and the Jack McCarthy Book Prize. Rebecca was a 2021 Poetry Fellow at the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Leeds, and a Ph.D. from the University of London.

Megan Anning, Featured Author

Octopus Ink at Dawn

I’m in the garden on a bench with green leaves

dripping diamonds of lemon sun.

Grandfather’s beard is growing on the fence and I’ve

Put out the umbrella I found at Bunnings.

It’s my red Japanese parasol that I pretend with.

A bee is buzzing somewhere, and I take photos of

Myself looking back at a phone to see someone new.

I think about making one of them my new profile pic

When the kitchen bench begins to swarm. I look

Back and I’m standing there, dress round my ankles

Not wearing any underwear. Thankfully, it’s all in my mind

But I’m by the sink; it’s true I shouldn’t try to think

So much when I should be sleeping, but I tell myself

The morning glow will soon wear off and while

I’m here smoking I can still feel the night snow.

A night of ploughing through the sleet at my computer

Makes me realise there’s jewels in my eyes, but

Then I cough and wonder how soon my last little

Breath might come, and how silly it would seem then for

Me to be sitting here singing about dream dragons.

On the news last night was a boy down the road

And a girl in a barrel, and I’ve put too much lemon

In my whiskey sour. It’s awful, but not like that.

I want to live but still be awake for tomorrow in this brand

New day. I might find another way to see the trees

Through the sun. But now it’s way past dawn and

The fire breathing clouds keep on hanging

Beyond the tree that keeps on waving,

And butterflies are still light and flying around

In the shining sun. It makes me like it here

Sitting and thinking on octopus ink,

Hoping I won’t take my last breath till

The very last run of the clock that is turning

Around and around like a kaleidoscope

Spinning down into a rabbit hole at the

Bottom of the garden. I’ve got to realise

Something surely. So I’ve got sage clouds burning,

And incense sticks are sending clouds to the

Sky to smudge the dark rain away.

‘I love you anyway,’ I say to the tentacles,

Eely snakes swirling across the blue horizon.

I pray to them, a poet caught in a too hot

Fire that floats in the gentle yellow wings

Of flying insects before anyone knew they

Were born: just a well worn truth, I guess,

A fact of nature and a limitless plate of

Blue where alligators pounced on a swimmer

Who never knew that the water hid a hungry

Limb that was ready for a person such as you.

And I knew that I was you too.

Like the coo of a pigeon in distant lemonade,

All that was missing was the image of your cry.

But I really must go now even though it’s

A veritable shame, as sad as the bees and the crow

That caws all alone, a flapping black omen of morning.


Ariel’s Revenge

no work today but dystopia flagellation

coming in close to home,

         oscilloscope arriving

         Kate Durbin stethoscope

toming on a throne for a seat

         for an ‘I’ for an iPrincess


         fat red lips

         smeared frog green;

trout blood wax layered about

         smacking pout:


sigh – still life bowl

where all the refuse goes

Seraphim stickers I watch

         flush away

                  close up, flying

into churn of phosphorescent

tubes of web worms’ hole

draining down heaven’s

         apocalyptic vision

sick day today

procrastinate everyway

         so funny:

raster ray babes diagnosing

disease with electron gun parody

         silly me

              girls, effigies

mutilated dolls, doppelganger

         cyber-fracking trolls

         wishing back into being

         little mermaid complete

another video to pastiche:

         Lara Glenum’s orange fish

swim on Paris Hilton hair

with scissors

with Ariel standing over her doctor’s

corpse:  sea foam, daughter of air

         reaching for dry land –

         she revived during the dissection

  to see two self-sliced

         legs   live streaming for her defection

Megan Anning

Megan Anning is an Australian writer who is fascinated by Bohemianism and the romantic idea of the ‘starving artist’. Her stories and poetry often incorporate intertextuality and have appeared in Text Journal, FIVE:2:ONE, October Hill Magazine, The Citron Review, The Closed Eye Open, The Dope Fiend Daily and The West End Magazine. She has an MA in Creative Writing and is completing her first novel as part of her PhD at Griffith University, Queensland.

Lofty Thoughts

Clear skies—who would’ve thought?
It’s not every day we get the chance to ride
in a hot air balloon.

High winds and clouds of grey
delay the hopeful balloonist;
just as overcast dreams and a
whirlwind of worries stall
the engines of the mind.

How easy it is to forget that
although we are grounded, we are not
overburdened. We are not

All it takes is a gentle flame
under the skin for our wildest
dreams to take flight.

A sky of clear blue silence for our thoughts
to gently roam, raw and free.

Higher and higher, the balloons fly—
waves of cotton with quilted panels, a
sea of flames wandering in perfect sync.
They hover on the horizon like splatters
of paint on a canvas.

A gesso of milk and pallid paints
smear the heavens with hues of
sherbet and lavender. Drops of color rain

down to the emerald earth below,
while others cling

to the twinkling jewels of the dark beyond.

Waiting to be seen.


Azriel Cervantes

Azriel Cervantes is a writing and design professional with ASD living in the mountainous state of Colorado. He currently writes web content for dozens of law firms throughout the United States. Azriel’s poems have been featured in The Plentitudes Journal, SPLASH!, and Cathexis Northwest Press. His obsessions with nature, music, history, and psychology are what primarily influence his work. When not researching legal statutes, he spends his free time writing poetry, practicing various instruments, and taking care of his pepper garden.


While I was a girl waiting for life

to improve I did what I could, a ladybug

on her back kicking her feet in the air.


Dreaming of flight, I discovered

my mother’s hoarded stamps, unused

hodgepodge of American hope:


Skylab, Credos of the Founding Fathers,

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Exploring the Moon,

Coral Reefs, Emily Dickinson, Collective Bargaining,


Energy Conservation, Robert Frost,

Indian Art, Osteopathic Medicine, Peace Corps,

Apollo-Soyuz, Save Our Water, Peter Max’s


Preserve the Environment, Robert Indiana’s

Love, which was all we needed, e pluribus unum

entreaties to the common good.


Doing what she never would, I organized

each intaglio prayer into an album, protected

by the verdigris majesty of our Lady of Liberty,


the infinite halftone dots within painting

a bigger picture to show me how

my pattern of spots might one day fit.


Broadening, I started to write the world,

sending scarce singles via post for stamps

on approval, something I could do while grounded.


Each month, the universe was delivered:

glassine envelopes opening like blurry windows to full-color

propaganda from the Soviet Bloc and African dictatorships,


perforated portraits of the unknown: Burundi.

Bulgaria, Equatorial Guinea, Fujeira.

The Maldive Islands. Tonga.


Some countries even marketed to the likes of me:

a 3-D moon landing from Ajman, scented flowers

from Bhutan, a peel-off diamond from Sierra Leone.


I could select scenes of the Montreal Olympics,

Japanese landscapes, cat breeds, Mickey Mouse,

gemstones, creatures of the African savannah.


Such power even a 10-year-old had

in her nascent geekery, to buy or reject,

the limited locus of my choices in those years.


I licked countless translucent hinges, fixing

them to sheets in my Ambassador Album,

“For Stamps of the World—Personally Designed by H.E. Harris.”


Providing brief colonialist histories for each country,

a world map on the plasticized back cover,

Mr. Harris taught me all I knew of the planet,


preparing me for when I would no longer be stranded.

He gave my curiosity structure while my mother slept

and shouted her nightmares.


Other children practiced scales or played Little League

for parents shaping their lives like sculptors. With my postage paid,

I carefully opened each colorful window and escaped


into the beguiling worlds then closed to me: page after page

of my meticulously ordered ambition, plans

for how I would right myself and fly away.


Lori Rottenberg

Lori Rottenberg is a poet who lives in Arlington, Virginia. She has published in such journals as The Dewdrop, Artemis, Potomac Review, and Poetica, and in anthologies by Paycock Press, Telling Our Stories Press, and Chuffed Buff Books. She has a series of six poems to be published by UCityReview in June 2022 and another poem to be published in December 2021 in The Moving Force Journal. One of her poems was picked for the 2021 Arlington Moving Words competition and appeared on county buses this spring. She has served as a visiting poet in the Arlington Public Schools Pick-a-Poet program since 2007, was an invited poet in the Joaquin Miller Cabin Reading Series in 2002, was a finalist in the 2006 Arlington Reads Poetry Competition, and was a recipient of Best Published Award in the March 2009 issue of Poetica. She is currently a writing instructor for international students at George Mason University and is in her second year of studies at the George Mason University MFA Poetry program.

I See Angels

The way clouds seep through in wings

Fringe of shadow After summer Fall camouflage


I see me

Outside a window looking in

My first baby

Sam the dog

Trusting Wandering


Snow Ice Branches littered Trees

From storms Bowed


I see snowmen and snow angels One more child

Packed in a snowsuit Dad on skates

Burning trash Sitting with a beer

On a summer night

My mother kneels

offers her flowers to bees Waits

One second

Another needy plant

Calls her eye


Small flutter Leaves

Petals rise light Hallowed breaths


I see the wooden man

Whirligig White canoe Saw cut

Feathers Slipped halo

He rides lopsided

Above my mother’s garden


Like a wing

One lone paddle

Lifts the sky


Sheryl L. White

Sheryl L. White is an artist and writer living in Boston. Her writing has been published in The Comstock Review, Solstice Literary Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, The Boston Globe, Split Rock Review, Great Lakes Review, The Woven Tale Press Journal, The Roanoke Review, among others. She was a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Finalist Grant and was twice selected for the Mayor of Boston Poetry Program. In 2019, she was a Pushcart nominee and in 2021, a Best of the Net Nominee. Her chapbook, Sky gone, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2020.

A Beach in Search of its Soul

The sun had already vanished behind

the lights, while we were busy arguing over

a meal gone wrong. I turn to the sea

after the goodbyes with no handshakes or

kisses. The bins aren’t empty yet, of

the plastic bottles and spoons, paper cups,

sandwich wraps, and other unnamable

stuff. A lone seagull hovers above, but I’m

the least bit worried. An artist, with a

fast-burning cigarette in his mouth, carries

his unsold paintings – ‘Jesus and Uncle

Mephisto on a Fishing Trip’, ‘Amy

Winehouse’s Inward Gaze’, ‘Self-Portrait of

a Frog as an Artist’ and so on – back

to the store that’s going to be his studio at

night. There’s a man persuading

a reluctant dog on a leash to get back home,

to end its inane engagement with

a piece of dirtied cloth that looks like

a headscarf that must’ve flown off

too far from someone who might not have

bothered to get it back, or to cover

their head again. I let the dialogues, tones,

gestures, omission of words, choice

of food, and length of sighs from my recent

memories lap against a receding

conscience. They froth over the signs, soon

to be washed off like footprints on

the sand; the very same signs that’d pushed

me to this vast emptiness where a stale

breeze caresses me, amidst what’s lost, torn

apart, stolen, relinquished, or thrown

away for no reason, to the smug black bins.


Jose Varghese

Jose Varghese is an Indian author who has worked as an English teacher in colleges and universities in India and the Middle East. He is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ and his short story manuscript ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the 2018 Beverly International Prize. He was a finalist twice in the London Independent Story Prize (LISP), a runner-up in the Salt Prize, and was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. His works are published in Litro, Joao Roque Literary Journal, Haunted Waters Press, Tempered Runes Press, Cathexis Northwest Press, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Best Asian Short Story Anthology (2019 and 2021), The Best Asian Poetry Anthology (2021), Dreich, Live Encounters, Meridian – The APWT Drunken Boat Anthology, Unthology 5, Unveiled, Reflex Fiction, Faber QuickFic, and Flash Fiction Magazine.

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