Voices in stone


Three kangaroo families
among a copse of gum trees at mid-day
warily watch us trek toward the hills
through wide undulating, rising land, and scattered stones.

Others listened for ancestral voices
in the slow wind where we rise among the rocks.
We climb to see swirling patterns carved in boulders —
preserved shapes of those voices dreaming in the depths of time.
When the wind drops,
in the vast air silence enough
to swallow everything we know.

Swirls and lines and waving patterns, etched
by those who lived and died here long ago,
tell of trails to water, food, and shelter,
which we, banally, carry in our back-packs.

We return in silence,
feet padding unfamiliar soil and scrub,
with a kind of fear:
the weariness and wariness of trespassers
on land which is, to others, who they are.

Kieran Egan



Warning

this coffee is too expensive
this sandwich is fake
these contents aren’t real
your life is more important than this
these plastic cups will kill you
protective clothing must be worn
in case of emergency break glass
do not block the driveway
beware shallow water
get moving face forward
please use the handrail
fasten your seatbelt
your life vest is under your seat
it’s an emergency

Lisa Reily



Ghosts

'Ghosts are what we fear and what we hope for.' - Adam Nicolson

I always believed in ghosts
Fearing the inevitable
That someday I would see one.
Though what would happen next
Would be anyone’s guess.
Fuelled by grown-ups’ gas-fire tales
At family gatherings:

Spectral bedside visits, cowled
Reunited grandparents;
My sceptic Dad pursuing
His wandering Nan downstairs;
Your father’s posthumous pint
Stoked us cousins well, scaring
Ourselves richly; mythmaking

Not only bedtime stories.
Anywhere invoked destiny.
Heightening old haunts, corners
Where a dark glint could summon
Fearful relief: My time come.
My teens’ homemade Ouija boards
Ghost-hunted validation

To reach anyone beyond this life.
Who pushed the glass to invite
White terror messages, and
Nights embracing the Bible?
Then before I knew, outgrown.
Reasoning and sense won out.
Even your sudden early death

Did not scare me. Habitual
Comfort felt you were still there.
Before I could realise
You were more than just misplaced
And family rifts widened
The space that could not be filled
The searching dreams ceased. You were

Undeniably nothing.
You, simple and honest saw
What you believed so in turn
They came back to you. Untrue
But true to you; not for me.
But hang the laws of physics -
Scare me with the floating bed,

The apparitional grandma
Smiling through the wallpaper…
Back at the family home
I stay up alone recalling
Your presence, in your arm chair.
The memory grasps - willing
You through the old shadows where

Only childish hope remains.

Peter Burrows

Previously published in The Cannon's Mouth and Lonesome October Lit



War bird

What was that ragged meat the magpie brought?
clouds should not emerge from Belgian mud
man has made himself cloud and rudiment.

Why are bloody mouthed dogs barking at sky?
Wolves should not reply to their brethren
the wolf eye woods are a star-belt.

How did the budgerigar escape into the Oak?
A sparrow-hawk sensed it was tamed
trod on its wing and a song died.

Antony Owen



What We Say

Sometimes words are not enough
But words are all you have

At times the words are accessible
Other times they are convoluted

You cannot take words back
Hoping things will turn out right

It is impossible to extract
The day out of the night

You know what you want to say
You know what you need to do

But the words sour in your mouth
And never seem to form

As you wait for the right time
Which never seems to come

And so you continue to
Swallow your own pride

Ann Christine Tabaka



Proclamation

I love you and I'll
shout it from rooftops.
Chisel giant hearts
through Mount Everest.
Take out an entire edition
of the New York Times.

You love me and you'll
preempt the president.
Send our rocket to Venus.
Fly fluorescent banners
over the United Nations.

Let's write our names
on this perfect sky
so even heaven knows
we are in love.

Joan McNerney

Messages Like That


The phone beeped, Sarah looked down at the message that had just come in.

“I really resent you when you send messages like that, why are you being so passive aggressive? I was going to ignore you because I hate the idea that you think, every time you send some undercurrent message you’ll get a response.”

Sarah sighed, this wasn’t what she had been looking for when she had sent what she thought was a slightly sarcastic message that had said “Happy Saturday, I guess you are busy living your life?” She had been hoping for a “sorry Mum ……. ”

Another message came through:

“Then I thought well she will just keep sending messages like that until she gets a reply so, just to clarify: I resent that message and, I messaged you yesterday so you can’t whine about me not replying to messages.”

This was going too far Sarah thought, how on earth had she managed to bring up a child who spoke so disrespectfully to her whilst at the same time appearing to others the perfect loving daughter?

“You answered a question that’s all.” her fingers flashed over the keys “and sending anyone such a hurtful text accusing them of whining is unforgivable; I am a very supportive, not in your face Mum, and I don’t deserve that!”

“Don’t forgive me then!” came the cutting response.

Sarah looked for a moment and then closed her phone and put it into her handbag. She was upset and unsettled now and for the rest of the day she went about feeling low in spirit.

That evening she received another text “What have you been up to today?”

She really didn’t want to reply, but after five minutes or so she texted back “Nothing much.”

“What have you been up to?”

“Just housework”

“Any plans for tomorrow?”

“Gardening; pruning; reading.”

“If you’re going to sulk I won’t bother – goodnight. I’m trying to talk to you and you are giving me one word answers.”

Sarah sighed, this conversation was going nowhere and if she wasn’t careful she would receive yet another put down. “I have spent the day doing housework, now I’m getting ready to go dancing and tomorrow I will be pruning stuff in the garden and reading – is that better?”

“You know what I mean, you’re sulking.”

“I don’t sulk!”

“Apparently you do! Where are you dancing?”

“Cheltenham.”

“Have fun.”

“Thank you”

Sarah closed up the phone, feeling nostalgic for the days when she communicated with her own Mother by letter once a week. Her Mother had kept all of her letters and they were upstairs in a box. She made a mental note to get them down.

She had had a tetchy sort of relationship with her own Mother so perhaps it was a case of what goes around comes around?

The phone in her bag pinged.

“Mum, I do love you xxx”

Anne Sheppard



Reading the Signs

How do they know? The birds.

We are into October and some
species we thought gone by now

are still around, showing little sign
of battening down the hatches

as we are today, preparing for
the first wintry frost and snow

that always catches us unaware,
though we have our calendars

and our weather websites to plan
our lives around, handy prompts

our avian friends lack. Yet, they
possess what we do not - some

intuitive prescience we were
short-changed on when survival

adaptations were meted out.
Tomorrow, the birds may be

gone, vanished. Entirely.
Their absence, a reminder

of our arrogance in assuming
we are the species that perches

atop the animal kingdom.
How do they know, the birds?

Glen Sorestad



Octopus

Octopus collects rocks on the sea floor;
builds a fortress for its home.

Octopus in a restaurant kitchen;
two tentacles cut, head and body put aside.
Small pieces of tentacle served,
squirming,
on a silver-rimmed plate.

In the sea, octopus changes the colour of its skin
to escape a shark,
propels forward like a jet,
leaves behind ink.

White tablecloths, chandeliers,
the octopus is eaten
alive;
tentacles cut over conversation.

Octopus follows a trawler full of thrashing fish;
tangled in the net,
the octopus is trapped.

Octopus in the kitchen, head and body
put aside;
more tentacles cut, ready for another order.
But there are none.

So it waits, limbless.

Ion Corcos

First published in Typewriters and Salve



Oak Tree

When you are worried, think of me,
my arms spread wide, my body deep in the earth.
Each day I grow and die,
but I pay no mind; this is the way of living.
When you are worried, think of me.

When you are saddened by life, think of me.
I have been here for centuries,
seen every thing come and go,
busy lives pass in an instant,
but I pay no mind; this is the way of dying.

When you are happy, remember me,
the shade I give, a place for birds,
the air I breathe and give back to you;
each day begins and ends,
but I pay no mind; this is the way of being.

When you are dying, remember me,
know that this is how it should be.
Pay no mind to the body that leaves you;
this is the way of living and dying,
and you will live once again.

Lisa Reily