Summer 2023

  1. Afraid Of Mazes by Beatrice Hussain
  2. Nightmares by Ron Thomas
  3. Picnic At Horror Wood by Josa Keyes
  4. Mr. West: Terror Grips the Throat by Alexander A. Manzoni
  5. The Banshee by Alexander A. Manzoni
  6.  Black Forest Labyrinth by Alexander A. Manzoni
  7. Lament of a Necromancer by Ritiksha Sharma
  8. Bones by Ritiksha Sharma
  9. CHEAP ART by George Bakolas
  10. CRYPTONOUS  by George Bakolas
  11. KILL HER by George Bakolas
  12. ”KLEOS” by George Bakolas
  13. Another world by George Bakolas
  14. Deciding Moments by Janelle Rebgetz
  15. Sisyphean Days by Janelle Rebgetz
  16. collateral damage by Janelle Rebgetz
  17. Mantree by Dru Richman

Afraid Of Mazes by Beatrice Hussain

With the sympathetic system maybe you’re lunch,
With the parasympathetic you get bottomless drunch.
Chest nuts held scrub green handkerchiefs to the
End of each sticky bud’s nose. Crisp munchers,
From higher up, stood down on all of our toes.
Out for a flock of tree sparrows,
Our twice-stabbed wasp adder of fire climaxes,
Basked between tracks of Gateshead wagonways.
The pigeon blood rubies of her eyes
Flashed in fantastic dragon ways.
A sloppy list of bucket seat slapped her
On the back, and archaic revival in overdrive
Laid her on as a snack.
Passing spatchcock strange,
Sessile to the overhang of cess barrier,
Dead men’s fingers
Rifled her fluffy trumpets;
She played senile to the mouthed asides and
Broadside of calling her a plague carrier.
Stranded on a desert aisle of
Wandering the corridors,
She caught herself on the flimsy hinge of opening back up,
With the clatter yawn of a bubble car
In a bedblock strop.
It would take more than a scaled back meander like her
To get all their gum lichen off the traipsed pavement.

Beatrice Hussain:  She is a redundant librarian, who now spends as much of her time as possible drawing, reading and writing.

Nightmares by Ron Thomas

like farcical sausages
dream men meander
past sombre houses
where dead dogs accuse

razor blades rain slicing cheeks and eyeballs
heroes’ zombie carcasses are trundled off
to museums of rotted ambitions
still-born dreams/bottled foetal hopes

motorbike doesn’t start/push it
station road steepens/asphalt turns glue
platforms deform/ticket offices flee
trains infinitely delay/switch lines
express-by horns jeering

children play in addict filled parks
paedophiles rain sweets
flashers scuttle like crows
emaciated tattooed teens
drug addled sell their filthy bodies
pimps finger guns and each other

family estate overrun by partisans
What war? What side? What end?
smash doors to seize your children
arm them to kill you

ancestral soils patiently diligently nurtured planted watered protected
succumb to dust

good – evil’s slave
beauty – decay’s toy

Ron Thomas is a published poet: ‘Travellers Tales’ Redolant Writers, ‘Imagine’ Corpus Christie, WA Poets Magazine and others. His anthology ‘Water Over Rock’ Ginninderra Press has just been published. Ron performs at Spoken Word, 1812 Theatre, Ferntree Gully, Melbourne most months and is happy to perform anywhere. He lives in the Dandenong Ranges but travels extensively around the world (and is currently on a 3 month trip around eastern Australia) which inspires a lot of his poetry.

Ron has taught Literature and Drama and currently is a facilitator of his own Teacher Training Programs He also trains primary students in Public Speaking and Facilitates Leadership workshops for gifted and talented students with GATEways.

Picnic at Horror Wood by Josa Keyes

It started with a picnic, a bread knife and a wasp.
He’s an angry drunk, tripped by any petty thing.
Crimson and sweating, he shouts, ‘I’m the boss’,
Blames his poor wife for all that goes awry.

His patient wife, her heart beats like a drum,
Tries to get it right, while knowing well she can’t.
In haste to kill the wasp, he slices up his thumb
And screams at her in foolish rage, ‘You bitch’.

Her switch is flipped, she’s reached the final stretch.
Seeing red she grabs the bread knife, him to smote.
Her arm goes wide, a warrior with her sword,
The lethal edge sinks home, taking out his throat.
Now his head’s in the cooler where he kept his beer.
His wife goes home alone, freed from the constant fear.

Josa Keyes is a published novelist and poet who lives in West London, UK. Her two novels are One Apple Tasted (launching soon on Audible), and Sail Upon the Land. She studied English Literature at the University of Cambridge and Creative Writing for her MA at Brunel University London. She works as a features writer and content designer for big brands and government departments.

Mr. West: Terror Grips the Throat by Alexander A. Manzoni

A new night falls. Terror grips the throat of a man, a dismal-depressive character known as Mr. West.

Each night, anew, be another battle— another war for his very essence: his Christian soul (if you will).
“It’s happening again,” utters West. A cup of tea at his side. He leers through his bedroom window, over the sleepy New England city of Portsbury.
What he saw were dock workers, the longshoremen and hookers of all types.
Murder was afoul about this neighborhood.
Would it arrive at his doorstep, this evening?
Or early in the morn?
Either way, there shall be blood on the doormat, the door knob, the floor.

Mr. West shivered.
He pulled a quilt overhead, before slamming shut the window with a disgusted “harrumph.”
He slid on his slippers and, with great caution, edged his way downstairs, to the ice box.
A tall green bottle sat on the upper shelf: laudanum.
Because what better combination could there be for the nerves than opium dissolved in high-proof liquor?

One teaspoon at bedtime, prescribed ol’ Doc Mulligan.
Something about tonight, though, seem’d to West to be a two-to-three teaspoon kind of nacht.
And that was soon to be certain.
Upon opening, an uncertain stench emerged from the ice box.
It sent West reeling and holding his aquiline nose.
“Well, something turned.”
Searching through it, West’s attention first turned to the eggs, then the milk, then the soup.

Oh yes, the soup.
Beef and barley, it was: flavored with a dash of Mrs. Pennifeather’s secret seasonings.
It might have been hallucinatory, but it almost looked like something was moving around in there…
Holding his breath, West lifted the lid.
A tentacle, black and slimy, slid through the opening.
It grabbed him, clutched, squeezing tight— constricting the very life from his body.
Instantly, he was very sorry he’d been curious.
It was, perhaps, a mortal mistake.

The pot tumbled from the ice box and emptied ‘pon the floor with a clatter.
What once was soup— now resembled brain matter, pulsating, writhing, and thus: expanding.
“Get off of me, foulest demon!” uttered West, trying his very best to wrest control from it.
All the while the spawn of evil sprouted more fiendish appendages, attaching themselves to West’s limbs, one by one, until he was therefore immobilized.

Panic surged throughout him.
This struggle of attrition was not working.
West’s eyes darted about, in an attempt to locate something that would—
Ah, yes! Thought West.
With all his strength, he threw himself toward the kitchen drawers.
Lowering his neck, West threw his head down, and bit into the black skin of the abominable alien form.
What came forth into his mouth was quite warm, warm and bitter to the taste.

And with great haste, West blindly threw open the corresponding drawer, jerking its contents to the floor.
Without thought or care to what may befall his upper extremities, West madly snatched up the utensils, feeling along their lengths and widths, until what could be assumed to be the wood-handled meat fork— the one— the special one with two pronounced prongs.
“Hyahhhhhh!” cried West, lifting up and driving down his presumptive weapon.
A deluge of noir ichor spurted from the point of contact.
The thing relented long enough for West to draw away and regain his footing.

The thing began writhing, expanding and contracting. A myriad number of additional tentacular arms burst forth and began attacking— grabbing the fork, the beast threw it with deft accuracy.
A singular numbness was then felt, as metal severed nerve.
The fork, embedded in West’s throat, was painfully withdrawn and cast aside.

The nightmare before him could no longer be denied.
An unhealthful serving: for adult male (one).
The demonic transfiguration has begun.
If you value your soul, your essence, your espiritu vitae— it is time to run.

The Banshee by Alexander A. Manzoni

The Banshee, she wails in the cemetery proper.
On the moors, located in the Northern Highlands,
she terrorizes the local doctor.
One so named Lachlan MacDouglass, hard of hearing,
as he strives to make his living.

The shriek. Lachlan could subtly sense it, in his mind, whether it be from behind or in front.
“The Banshee, she does what she wants,” said Lachlan, as he made his final rounds, ‘round town.

“You shouldn’a be out this late,” said a patient, Angus Spotswood, in-between spoonfuls of laudanum and a hot compress on a huge boil. “The Banshee, she wails again.”
“If I didn’ae arrive when I did,” said Lachlan. “You’d be in a heap of trouble.”

“Aye,” agreed Angus. “And I’ll be forever grateful for what you’ve done for me.”
“What did you say?” asked Lachlan.
“Ne’er mind, you old goat.”

The boil lanced. And the doctor was out the door and onto the moors,
making repeated signs of the cross along the way.
As he did, each day.

One more stop: Mrs. Reid’s
to deliver a dose of ear drops.
Out by the babbling brook twisting ‘round the hilltops.

Tho’ at the crossroads, a duo of degenerates on horseback blocked the doctor’s path.
“Pay up, old bastard,” they said, “or incur the bite of our wrath.”

“Move aside, ye boggin numpties,” said Lachlan. “I’ve got work t’do.”
But the highwaymen paid him no heed.

Instead, they drew their blades.
Cutlass swords, glint shining in the light.
In an instant, they advanced upon Lachlan.

“You are little more than a pair of gangrels with swords,” spoke Lachlan, his hand affixed to his own. It had seen little use o’er the years. Its handle: loose. Its edge: dull.

The duo swung. But stopped—
as a horrific utterance pierced the evening veil.
They froze in their tracks, knees buckling, as The Banshee emerged from over there:
Rose Hill, the cemetery.

“What is that?” said one of the highwaymen.
T’was nothing like they had ever heard.
The Banshee, terrible in her presence, flew to meet them at an unnatural speed.
T’was a price to be paid for their vile greed.

Lachlan wasn’t about to wait—
he turn’d right around and ran back toward town.
Tho’ a peek behind was necessary, to confirm what he had witnessed.

What he saw would forever scar him:
as The Banshee disemboweled them.
Her arms, they had turn’d to scythes.
Their lamentations resounded through the skies—
along with those horrific cries.

Faster. Faster. The doctor did run.
Praying for the light of the Sun.
It would come (in time).
The Banshee wail’d, chasing his tail.
Their screams, commingling.
Lachlan fled, overcome with dread.
The Banshee, bringing
up the rear.
Her wild eyes, bulging.
Her unholy fury, raging.

“I didnae do nothing to ye!” Lachlan screamed. “I am as helpless as the wee bairns I deliver!”

The Banshee struck.
The doctor had time to duck.
The hand-scythe reaped the remnants of the practitioner’s wispy grey crown, to the ground.

T’was a source of shame—
his combover would never be the same.
He beat feet back toward the center of town.
The Banshee nipping at his heels.

A mile ahead, it seemed that safety was in sight.
The guardsmen were supposed to be standing watch.
But instead, they were drunk at their posts.
Not that they were anticipating any ghosts, mind you.

With The Banshee at his back, Lachlan came a-running,
faster than he had ever imagined his arthritic limbs could carry him.

“Flee, you fools!” exclaimed Lachlan.
But it was too late.
The Banshee wailed.
The guards fell, clutching their bleeding ears, while Lachlan couldn’t quite hear the infernal frequency.

To the church. To the church I must go! Thought Lachlan, his mind, spinning to and fro.
He leapt over the fresh corpses and sped off up the road.
Solace, he finally found—
t’was behind those sacred oak doors.
Thwarted, The Banshee, she thus returned to the darkness of the moors.

 Black Forest Labyrinth by Alexander A. Manzoni

Where lies the right path?
So many winding turns and forks.
Blood spilled upon the ground, of course.
How long ago had the battle
been fought here?
The crimson, it seems fresh to thy senses.
Taking grit between index finger and thumb—
I kneel down, looking around.
I beat back voracious wolves and leering hyenas.
My flesh belongs not in your
internal caverns of acidification.

The Dark God, Cruciate, taunts me
in an illusory image, split four times.
He and the beasts—they continue to taunt me.
Light footfalls turn to a running sprint
through looming wooded skeletons
grasping at my naked elbows.

The Journey, it becomes obscured.
Where is the right path in this black forest labyrinth?
A wildfire burns in the distance.
Where is the guiding light on the horizon?
Instead, I am taken into inferno.
Chain-smoking into the smoke.
The foothills are crumbling.
A tremor, it cometh so.
Tremors, in body and in earthen soil.
The ground gives away to a
bamboo-sharpened tiger trap—
buried in leg, the spike missed
the femoral artery by mere millimeters.

Shaken, injured, I scramble out of the hole,
clutching my soul, to chest—
avoiding jaws of snapping beasts.
I withdraw a broken spike and plunge
it into a wild canine’s throat.

And then, did the four images converge unto one—
revealing me The Bastard Son of The Void.
“Don’t you know?” said he.
“You cannot avoid this inevitability.”
I pushed past him and continued to run.
And The Dead began to rise from
shallow trailside graves: hung highwaymen,
decapitated ne’er-do-wells beget from
the bowels of what we would call Hell.

A little deus ex machina would definitely help.
Instead of assistance, there came a godlike cudgel
swinging down—
only to miss my skull (so closely).
It bludgeoned a wolf, behind me.
Desperate and alone, I strive to find my eternal home past the undead groans and
moans in the harrowing gloam—
beyond where The Terror roams.

Limping. What was I thinking about
when I dreamt myself, here?
I’m thinking of how to prevail against the odds.
I will not bow down to your old gods.
“If not now,” spoke Cruciate. “You will, soon enough.”
“Welcome to The Darkness, Mr. West.”
“You know not, but, you have always been here.”
Cruciate then unleashed his
writhing swarm of barbed razor tendrils
ready for the next kill.
Faith remains in my heart, ever still.

“Protect me. Protect my soul. Protect my all.”
T’was the clarion call of The Heavens.
And with that in mind,
Only injure me.
He tried to feast
but he could not finish me.
He bit off more than he could chew.
My spirit is true.
I cannot lose.

A fuse inside the demonlord
had been blown.
And then, there came an explosion.
It fractured the ground all around.
The dead then began to fall.
And I, too, fell
into fissure, with the terrible creature—
only to somehow climb out in one piece.
Everything is finally at peace.

I awaken in my bed.
No feeling of dread.
An ethereal resurrection.
I realize my lesson.
I have escaped The Black Forest Labyrinth.
Now, my life, it can truly begin.

Alexander A. Manzoni has been writing poetry for over twenty-five years. In 2014, after recovering from years of drug abuse and legal issues, he got clean and moved to Spokane, Washington, from Newfield, New Jersey. He performs at arts events, variety shows and on public radio in the Spokane-C.D.A. area.

Lament of a Necromancer By Ritiksha Sharma

The door separating my room from my sister’s
knows her better than I do; I
hear the whimpers on the other side; but it

was privy to sight before the sound; Punctuating
me under the command of immobility
It knows why she won’t talk to me. Pricks me
with wood shillings, grating at skin in defence
Taking red over the brown; Scarface dents
for cosmetic furniture,
triggered a self-painting mechanism
with my scratchstrokes. It crawls,
under my nails and into my bloodstream
Streaming me, watching and gaping,
Like it was an agent of the state; Feeding
some intangible inquisitive surveillancelust.

But when I take a look away, there it stands
between my sister scorned and I,
like a sadist, gritting its teeth, smirking, grinning
staring back at me. Thoughtsifting mind-parasite,
nemesis in action, telltale emissary of my sister
Forging its worth in exchange for words
It discloaked me, ratted out my cerebral cemetery;
Made me stand barefoot, slight of mind
And stripped off my exculpatory austerity
in light of my unpreachered-intimacies
The door was an autodidact, creatured from mind-reading,
a circumstantial witness
to my circumstance with my sister; To the space
occupied by her relationship with me
The anti-territorial territory built on
a pre-personal apocalypse; a hint of sour
at the core of everlasting profundity: our sisterhood
at the beginning.

That the distance we traversed in time
has done our space dreadful disservice. It is
irredeemably incomprehensible at where we are now:
Dialectics of consciousness and verisimilitude.

That my sister says “I can’t let you in”
and I know it’s not that she can’t
She just can’t let herself let me in; she won’t.
That she wasn’t confused when I told her

my boyfriend had a shotgun wound on his forehead
She was convinced.

That she was enamoured in the beginning
by the truth, my comprehension and nightmares
But she won’t even look at my face now.
She has put the door between us,
because she can’t sleep well; Because I told her
“There is a wasp nesting in your wrist”

So she doesn’t want me to see her anymore; because
nobody is a ghost in the Neo-nether-polis; That
the door would cease to matter if she was one.

She was as helpless as I was, for,
travesterial injustice had persisted and prevailed
It had defined our dis-interaction all this time,
for we were ghosts to each other,
long before our shared separation
on our sides of the door.

Bones By Ritiksha Sharma

Stilettos drumming, click-clack
Polishing a surfaced mound
Set the heel on skin, on a grave of the past
Where a gravel inheritance was impaled

They called her December, just
a shade and a breeze. Just a bairn crying
To the ears, static poking at soft flutestrokes

Walking tough, dragging body, in a moon-slithering robe. Stuck
to a fabric, building potholes in the ground

Let it be for cloth-edges, imitating knivery,
raking invisibly on the floor
So be it, tied to a tantamountacy
Hidden footprints craving photosynthetic light
T’is on this canvas of sensory preconditions
She strode like a column, body-slamming the air
Pushed her weight down on the stone pavement
A silhouette spat out, faltering and flickering
The eye of a candle-burning sun

Along to and across from an alleged pre-destination
To temptation lane, tucked away
inside rattle-snaking gridlines; Picked
a lock with her bent-knuckle-grip; just to have it recoil.
Stilled suddenly; It was
a sound corroding her spine. Crackle-slapped by ragas
Children giggling at our cries, the chimes rusting,
exhausting; no longer impervious to her intrusion.

So, the rust broke apart, the door caved in
As all the cool air in the world rose up; rebounding,
disaggregating. Her breathing became incendiarical, she was
napalming herself slowly
Creature of monogamy that she was. From
the grave to her heart, from the stone to her body
She drank willingly, the lustre, the smell,
the force of the wind
Smiled to herself and combusted into blue embers

On the terracotta stairs, her bones stilled
a precious portal phoenixed its way out, Commanding
a necromancing globetrotter
From under the caky plaster,
inside a false ceiling, inside
my makeshift closet in our new house

My acquested possessions, that
have had a life of their own. They
stare at my cardigans in pity, they know
my excuse every time

Someone’s got to wear the skeletons resting in my closet.

For December is never away for long
And only ever so far

Ritiksha Sharma is a writer and poet from India. She holds a Master of Arts in History from the University of Delhi, India. Her interests include mental representations and metaphors, colonial psychiatry in the Indian Subcontinent, works of noir and piano music. Her poems have appeared in Indian Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Uppagus, Chrome Baby, The Drabble and Indian Periodical.

CHEAP ART by George Bakolas

Never before the Art

has never been so cheap
Never before has it been played
the transparent dress
on the corpse
of a dismembered figure
Inside the huge buildings
of forgotten sobs
it is shared as a memory
as proof of fate
that fate once favored

Art gave birth to the silence of the crowd on the invisible plains of hungry hope

It was never a woman or a man

Never blindly entered the marketplace naked in bed

Among the trivial occasions
For the outbreak of hatred

Said everything there was to say about the rare freedom of people

about the passing vision of happiness
for the justice of rage
about the erotic fury of barbaric sources
the genius of the chimneys
the laughter of children
the violence of the bourgeois
and the redemption in the gaze
of those who have not been muddied by worshippers
on the merchants' steps
and then left
Became a dream of music
Nature that looks at you and turns away
man, you
you know why...

CRYPTONOUS  by George Bakolas

Nobody knows anything about Cryptonous
everything I write is a guess
a reminder of the darkness
in which they hide, that’s the truth
the good deeds of revenge
I suppose 1765 was the year of the meeting, on the frontier.
of the eleven members of the group
Their cover would be the newspaper “The Black Sun”.
The aim was to exterminate those who violated the sanctity of life.
Yes, they were killers who killed killers.
It’s my opinion that in the three hundred years of their existence
they took the lives of over three thousand murderers
without anyone ever understanding anything
they killed out of a cycle of revenge and anger
was an Art approach to the law of death
that restored the flame of Life
back into the bowels of the weak
these are written at the top of the letter
What does it all mean?
Has anyone else received this gruesome list?
Why after three centuries is it now coming to my hands?
I am horrified.
Protect life, not death!
I say this if any of you out there know anything

I don’t know what I’m afraid of… certainly not Cryptonous.
But the blood has become the sea
It will drown us all
I seem to be losing my balance
A sparrow sat on the balcony
It looked at me for a long time, pondering
“You’ve come a long way, my friend” I said
He flew away, was it a message? From whom, I wonder?
This morning there were two more murders by the cops.
Two young girls were shot.
They disappeared from the only thing
they knew and loved, life
In the evening I opened the catalogue again
It was old and worn and ready to turn to dust
in my fingers
Names and dates
ways of death, deliberately made to look natural
determination and intelligence painted on
with refined brushstrokes works of art and death
Does death change death?
Is fear the firewall?
The breakwater in the sea of the awakened?
The catalogue whispered just the opposite.

KILL HER by George Bakolas

He was deep in thought, deep as usual
The fly came and stood on the tip of the nose
at the most inopportune moment
he had analyzed the eighth symphony.
the sounds of a monotony
the female annoyance
for the camels

and the political vision
of Mrs. Thatcher
for the lasting death
of the economy of the poor
he was about to say out loud
about the casino of fortune
and his bouncer
that he must appoint him
by a Platonic elite
and then came the fly.
at the top of the nose
at the most inopportune moment
first he looked at her
with obvious disgust
How dare you whisper
and the liquid element
rolled monotonously
in the Buddhist jaw
thousands of mega vats of anger
Designed the circuits of the brain
the same as the bull’s snort
the red cloth of insult
was a failure of nature
a stool of the hybrid god
of mismatched lyricism
called symbiosis
kill her!
She screamed from the lrriga
of his existence
the voice of the ego
I insulted you, Big Tom!
In the hour of the greatest contemplation
the mosquito has entered your visionary field!
Fly! …whispered Big Tom…

and struck hard with both palms
on the head of the nose
aiming at the alien nature
that had entered the visionary
and rich world
of the distinct elite
that he was honored to represent
the fly had time to scream
then turned like a pirouette
and slipped into the cave
Into the myth
Of the miracle of Ariadne
Big Tom hurled
his wig
He took out in plain sight
His bald genius
you’re all mosquitoes!
please get out!
I am a fly… said the fly.
and walked like a catwalk.
on the curve, between the neck.
and stomach.
Big Tom was hungry…

”KLEOS” by George Bakolas

The crew of the boat was not afraid
a sailor had taken the little girl in his arms
pushing with his feet a broken oar
to throw it overboard
Somewhere once we saw two more boats

an old woman I’d never seen before on the island
She was betting on who would sink first
There were thirteen of us all together
The most of us knew each other, the old woman we didn’t know
two merchants as yellow as the chests they carried
A priest, a cranky priest with a devilish look in his eyes
a newly married couple who kept her pregnancy a secret
though they all knew it, I, who intended to leave forever
the sailor with the crying little girl
and his parents who seemed to be coming in
for the first time in a boat as they vomited
out of it for almost the whole trip.
and a young man who didn’t even seem to know the language
as he spoke to no one and clutched an empty cage
the truth is that there were three others
but I’m not talking about them
when the sky turned even darker
and from the side of the moon
it was certain that death
had begun and was coming
I took off my shirt
The old woman laughed sarcastically
“You can go for an appetizer,” she said
“I wasn’t going to fall into the sea
But then there was a bolt of lightning
very close, or so it seemed to me
because I was blind
and I knew the light of darkness.
I pulled myself up
all the roar of the abyss
I heard what it said and what it would do
I turned and looked at them
The sailor was frightened
“Who is it?” he asked as the child clutched his throat

They were all there with the knowledge of the abyss evident
“Who do the monsters want?
screamed the old woman
who, strangely enough, had white teeth
“Satan is with us”
said the priest viciously without fear
the light had burned the whole of the rear side of my back
as I turned towards the sea
I fell in thinking
the tender gaze of a mother
who from the depth of the hidden sun
calling my name….

Another world by George Bakolas

What’s going on out there?
It’s two wild animals, nailed to the fence….mmm…
people are whispering…
What animals were they?
Oh! Get on the bus…nice town, that’s where you’re going!
They buy books and win…
They win a steak or two, depending on the author…
half-cooked with blood dripping on the asphalt…
…why are you laughing? They used to put them in the Bastille…
What’s going on out there?
A boat sank. There were handkerchiefs floating…
They kill the night tribes when they hiss.
of goodness… of poverty… the light!
Put it out… they will see us!
Who is he?
The Judge…. roasted in the courtyard
one of the two animals…was at the barbecue…party time…
Dirty story…he was shot afterwards…the two daughters…

You know friends in hard times…
The robbers…they never go away…they are attracted by the disease…
It’s flesh is dirty… but… you scare me…
Ooh! Don’t talk about that… smile…
I can hear the roar of the crowd… the breath of the crowd…
the taps and the dancing in the background… teenage love…
Another world,a new world,wait for a new people
New placards…on the same streets…
And that smell confuses spring ….what are they saying on the TV?
How many dollars?…Many dollars…I think it’s terrifying us!
Europe the friend…and she’s clapping?
Yes, she’s bullying and rushing…
all in a fist…
Bring us money… Animals! Shame! Says an old woman…
What’s going on out there?
Has the fence grown another one….?
Yes…trucks… emptying…
the rotting concrete of flesh…
Pull the stone in deeper deeper….
Into the cave…

George Bakola has studied Cinema and Theatre. He has made four feature films, awarded at festivals. His plays have been performed on stages in Greece and Europe. He has published a novel, a collection of short stories and plays.
He has participated in two poetry collections in the USA. And he is now preparing a solo publication in London.
The novel trilogy “MIKA because the host is not the creator” is the next publishing venture. He lives in Berlin GERMANY

Deciding Moments by Janelle Rebgetz

“Don’t ever leave yourself behind.”
The Sisters Antipodes – Jane Alison

How do we survive the ghosts of generations?
Stretching far back into the night of ancestry,
like a bird aloft these spectres take flight
with nowhere to land that is safe,
drifting endlessly before the wind.
Each generation makes its adjustments
to sustain solidity | strength | wholeness.
Is that really living or just getting by?
         don’t ever …

Needing a place to be anchored,
someone reeling out string
allowing us to see the view | taste the breeze
with a reassuring tug from below
should the tempest howl too loudly | the lightning be too fierce.
Wisdom swirling | softly | randomly | hailing,
something connecting us with the past.
         don’t ever leave …

Home is where the heart is and mine wasn’t there.
Anchored only by the dinner-table.
The only certain place,
a quiet wordless space.
Silent | weak | overwhelming.
Each meal disturbingly solemn.
Eating hurriedly and excusing myself,
I had homework to do …
Mostly I cried | confused
         don’t ever leave yourself …

I became a hoarder of untruths and uncertainties
weighing each carefully against the other.
When black became white
and white turned into black,
I felt unbearably grey.
Numbness crept through my synapses
with each scowl that came my way,
with each triumph of disgust that entered my soul
I faded a little more.
         don’t ever leave yourself behind …

Lining up all the words for pain
that turned me inside out,
sloughing of self-hate | despair | guilt.
Remembering the sufferings of my ancestors
enough to understand | escape | limit.
Consequences of war | beer | death
fading into acceptance,
drifting on winds-of-change for just long enough
to lay-to-rest anger | frustration | despair

Sisyphean Days by Janelle Rebgetz

gazing sleepily 

brain befuddled
by cotton-wool
while I try
to function

someone else
has the remote
pressing buttons
far too slowly

lungs sodden
not quite getting
what I require

I climb
a mountain
each time
I take a step

standing in a black hole
shovelling mounds of coal
there is always more
there is always less

I dream of sleep
that is not marred
with the obscurity
of waking

I dream of sleep
that is not permeated
with the gloom
of nightmares

I dream of waking
as though
I have slept

collateral damage by Janelle Rebgetz

flattened like wallpaper
I long to slip
under my bed
disappear forever
into another life

this one is
far too vexed
far too lonely
far too disconnected

mutinous teenage anger
detonated this paroxysm
I slammed my bedroom door
just once
at the wrong time
after all the other times

in visceral rage

air crackling
like a thousand people
scrunching cellophane
shapes and colours disappear

I do not exist

earth cracking
waiting for the door to stop slamming
wanting the torrent to end
willing him to go

all I can do is stop breathing
not cry
unflinching (not brave)
another layer of concrete
pours around my ribs
and sets

I don’t look
I don’t want to see if there is hatred
I concentrate on the mustard coloured lino
with roses red as anger
words deluge
random and meaningless

air is cracking
my fearful chest

the door slams
one last time
maelstrom spent
thunder lightning
cyclonic winds
outburst passes

the sun does not shine
debris strewn through my brain
vice tightens my head
my mouth dry as summer grass

each time it is harder to surface
each time I take in a little less air
each time I make myself a little less visible

curtain flutters

door rattles

Janelle Rebgetz began writing at 35. Heartened by John Reid reading her poems on Poets’ Corner (3LO Melbourne) in late 1980s, her writing has continued to develop. She has been published in four editions of WA Poets Poetry d’Amour, and in Brushstrokes; also a short prose piecein the Weekend Australian. Janelle finds inspiration in gardening, outback travel and in the love of her granddaughters. Her writing group provides support, encouragement and invaluable feedback

Mantree by Dru Richman

My name is Lin Quo McMurphy. I was a citizen of what once was the United States of America. I was once thirty-one years old and this is my journal.

It must have been in 2037 or 2038 that the right-wing extremists finally got their wish. They elected Obadiah Scudder for President. That would be the Right Reverend Obadiah Scudder, First Prophet, as his followers called him. With his amazing rise to power and the sweeping of both houses of the Congress by more of his followers, the country was set for some drastic changes.

The first drastic change occurred on January 24th, just four days after he was sworn in. President Scudder declared Marshall Law. All overseas troops were recalled. All embassies were closed, as were all borders. Over the next week, all newspapers, radio and TV stations were nationalized. On Valentine’s Day, the Congress was vacated and closed. A month later the Constitution was suspended, indefinitely. 

All those who disagreed with the method and way that President Scudder was running the country were hauled before a military court and then shot—if they were lucky. Those unlucky enough not to be summarily executed were sent to Stonewall Prison—now renamed Stonewall Reclamation Center—and tortured, then broken. If they were fortunate, they died at the hands of their captors.

My wife and I went underground and became part of the resistance. I would have never thought in a million years that I would grow into someone who would be fighting for the overthrow of my government. But it wasn’t my government. Not anymore. I suppose it was a fool’s errand that thought we could remain hidden for any length of time. After all, we weren’t really hardcore revolutionaries. More like vocal protesters.

They came for us on July 2nd. We were with a friend of an unknown friend, who was a sympathizer, who was part of a cabal, who was…well you get the idea. It was a bit past 3 a.m. A group of eight heavily armed SWAT-type storm-troopers broke down the door. When they found us, my five-foot-two lioness-of-a-wife attacked them with a ten-inch skillet that she kept by the bedside for just such an event. She had twenty-seven bullets in her before she hit the floor. The troopers fired another hundred and sixty-one rounds into her, just to make sure she was really dead. The last thing I remember was being handcuffed, and then the butt of a rifle coming at me. Then darkness.

When I awoke, I found that I was a ‘guest’ of Stonewall. All my interrogators wanted to know was ‘who were my friends in the underground.’ I refused to tell them. Over the course of the next—weeks? months? I really don’t know. I lost all sense of time—I was questioned more and more forcibly. Torture really doesn’t describe it. Of course, I was beaten—with great regularity. When that failed to achieve the results my captors wanted, I was stripped naked and left outdoors in the snow for a few hours daily. What little food rations I had were cut in half. Electrodes were attached to various delicate parts of my body. But the worst of all was the sleep deprivation—seemingly endless days and nights of not being allowed to sleep, to dream.

Some immeasurable time later, three guards bathed me with a water canon from the doorway of my cell. I was given clothing and told to dress. I was then taken to my trial. I was found guilty, of course. The judge sensing, perhaps, that I would be unsuitable for hard labor, or that housing me in a jail was too costly, sentenced me to a ‘persistent vegetative state’ for the rest of my life. I was then taken back to my cell.

Sometime later I was taken to the infirmary. The doctor looked at the paperwork and merely grunted his assent. He turned to me and said, “Lin Quo McMurphy you have been found guilty of being an enemy of the state with no hope of reclamation. You are to be transformed into a persistent vegetative state…” 

He droned on for a while, but I wasn’t really listening anymore. I was hoping that soon I would be released and I could join my wife. Of the transformation process I know very little. I was given a shot and then oblivion. I drifted between consciousness and unconsciousness. All I remember was a lot of tubing in me.

The first thing I became aware of as I fought my way back to consciousness was, much to my amazement, that I was still alive and that I was once again outside. But I wasn’t cold. It seemed to be late spring. The sun was shining and its warmth felt good. And someone was talking. When I finally realized he was speaking to me, I looked at him.

“Hi, there,” said the man gently. “My name is Fred Shilling, and I’ll be taking care of you from here on out.”

“Thank you,” I said. But the words didn’t sound like me speaking. They sounded stilted and flat. “Wh-where am I?”

“You’re in Washington, DC,” he replied. “Since the capital was moved to New Jerusalem, just outside of Omaha, not many people come here anymore. The street before you used to be called Constitution Avenue, but it’s now called Traitor’s Way, although most people refer to it as the Boulevard of Broken Dreamers.”

Just then a truck with glass panels for a storefront stopped in traffic directly in from of us. I glanced up and saw a man standing on a slightly raised platform and a…

Oh, dear G-d! Realizing the horror of what they had done to me. ‘A persistent vegetative state…’ Who would have thought that even they could be so cruel—to strip even the last vestiges of my humanity. I wailed. I moaned. And finally fell silent. I had heard that the government had found a new way to permanently silence their critics, but this?

“How?” I mumbled.

“The government realized that killing political prisoners, while expedient, could create martyrs. And killing martyrs is almost as hard as killing ideas. And even imprisoning people, while that did get them off the streets, was expensive and others still talked about them. But if you turned them into…”

“A tree!” I exploded. “They turned me into a fucking tree?”

“Yes,” said Shilling sadly. “A mantree. Planted on Traitor’s Way as a visible reminder to those who would rebel against the government. People will see you and fear the government even more.”

“I will speak out,” I decided.

“No,” he said. “You shouldn’t. It is against the law to listen to you. Doing so would mean imprisonment…or worse. Talking to you means immediate execution. Their corpse would be hung from your branches with a sign stitched to them saying,  “This is what happens when you speak to a traitor.” A guard would be posted and ordered to ‘shoot-to-kill’ anyone who attempted to recover the body. Only after the weather had torn the clothing from their bodies and the insects and other animals had finished feasting on the remains would the family be allowed to remove the body.”

A sense of profound sadness and horror overwhelmed me. Shilling eventually went away. He returned several times over the ensuing months to pour minerals into the ground at my trunk and to trim my leaves.

It has been eighteen seasons since I was turned into a mantree. The city put a bus stop next to me. And, on the rare occasion that I listen, I found out that my friend Adam Lester (who was the first mantree) had died. They cut him up into boards and used him to make a new floor for the entrance to the so-called Ministry of Justice. I hope when I die, I will have a nobler fate. In the meantime, I grow larger. I drink deeply of the water and minerals from the earth below me and feast on the few hours of sunlight I receive daily. 

My name was Lin Quo McMurphy and I stand as a silent sentinel of what was.

A little older and a lot grayer but still pushing on.

The winner of the first National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts Writing Contest, Mr. Richman’s work has also won contests at Writers of the Future, and has been featured in Writers and Readers’ Magazine, Blank Cover Press, Pocket Fiction Magazine, Synkroniciti Magazine, Across the Margin Magazine, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and other journals and anthologies.

Dru lives in Richardson, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), with wifey Ava, and their four-legged love child, a standard poodle named Jacob.