Issue Two: Spring 2021

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Two Poems By Deryck Robertson

Coloured Pencils

A box of coloured pencils

     (or, pencil crayons au Canada)

Lies unopened in my tired mind;

24 pointed tools of potential

Courtesy of

Crayola Canada, Lindsay, Ontario.

New dreams of

Golden yellow dawnings & mahogany red sunsets,

Fresh jade greens and emeralds blooming

Under white clouds leisurely floating

Through aqua blue skies.

Each moment in time becoming more

As the origin is reduced to

Unsharpened stub ends and broken tips

Lying at the bottom of what remains

Of the worn cardboard box.

At the end,

Only the oranges and browns remain.

F 150

Rusting truck beds carry

The memories of adventures

Of beat up backpacks and

Dusty, rutted roads

Tie downs and ratchet strap

         Reminiscings

Each scrape, bruise, bubble

         and dent

A story written in metal

That someday will disappear

Into the soil of time

To fertilize the imagination

Of those that long for

The things that

Rusting truck beds carry


Deryck N. Robertson lives and creates in Peterborough, Ontario. His work has appeared recently with Melbourne Culture Corner, Northern Otter Press, TunaFish Journal, Burnt Breakfast Mag, and The Minison Project. He can usually be found in Algonquin Park with his family of paddlers or thinking about practicing his trombone. His latest self-published zine will be printed as soon as he finds enough empties in order to pay for it.

Two Poems By Aaron Sandberg

Fortune

The dog tipped over the trash,

sniffed week-old egg roll with his snout,

found the cookies we couldn’t crack,

swallowed two still-folded futures,

then like us: gagged, hacked

one out.

Transit

We watched as

         the new one

in foreign tongue

         tugged on

his shirt

         and asked him

to tell her

         how to get

to the bus—

         which could take her

to the train,

         which would make her

board another,

         which would get her

to the work

         she was promised

from this land—

         and listened

like her life

         was held

in his hands,

         whispered

his words

         and then

doubled back

         until she

could hold to

         the first

before learning

         the next,

like walking

         the wire

taut over

         the canyon,

both trembling

         but trying,

then showed her

         what’s meant

by tunnel

         and ticket,

and when she

         had repeated

all steps

         back to him,

tore hearts

         when she asked

if we

         could explain

how then,

         together,

to get her

         back home.


Aaron Sandberg thinks ‘cellar door’ sounds fine, he guesses. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in West Trade Review, Asimov’s, The Offing, Sporklet, Lowestoft Chronicle, Abridged, Giallo, Right Hand Pointing, Monday Night, and elsewhere. A Pushcart-nominated teacher, you might find him—though socially-distant—on Instagram @aarondsandberg.

The Candle Maker

By Theodore Clemens

The roof was giving way. Already, it had begun to collapse in on itself. The lintel above the doors was rotting, the shutters hanging by a wizened nail, swinging with the wind. The timbered support beams too drunk to stand; the stone foundations overrun with lichen, cracked. Clearly, the cabin had sunk into desuetude in the days since the candlemaker left. 

Inside, wax drippings covered everything like bird feces. Counters, benches, stovetop, walls—ubiquitous. Insects snared within, fossilizing, preserved. Obsequious armies of ants never to reach their queen. Grumpy spiders dead, unfed. A bottle solitarily stood: the centerpiece of a wax-laden table. It was empty, but the reek of cheap alcohol lingered. Whatever else had been left behind was gone, the space stripped bare. 

The woman slid her finger through the wax and sniffed. Paraffin, she thought sadly. Refined petroleum. Or coal, or shale oil. Clean energy, yes, but what about clean candles? Beeswax, or better yet, soybeans for the apiphobic. 

A wildcat stalked stealthily across a windowless sill, soundless. Black suit, white tie. Wrong, she thought. Tabby fur, wildcats have tabby coats. It turned its head, as if listening. Its gleaming yellow-green eyes met hers. Suddenly, it disappeared down through some hole in the floorboards. Curious, the woman followed. She inspected the spot of the incident but found nothing. Disconcerted, fear edged into her being: she was not yet afraid, but shivers of terror and panic danced around her, waiting to take over.

Hinges creaked. She jumped. 

To her left, the wildcat was watching, encouraging, urging her without words: follow me, come, join me. And just as suddenly as before, it was out of sight. 

This time she didn’t hesitate. The hole was no wider than an oak tree, and she struggled to fit her body through. Down below, darkness abounded. A subterranean blackness, endless, suffocating. She should have turned back, but she couldn’t. She squeezed herself through and entered freefall. Blindly, she fell. She might have screamed but for the taste in her mouth: a sordid mix of dirt and radish greens. She reached out her hands for support but found some material foreign and spongy. A soft, pliable dough into which her hands sunk readily, alacritously. Hastily, she retrieved her hands and tucked them tight to her chest. Her knees curled, and in a ball she sped through that bottomless blackness. Time stopped. She grew and shrunk and shrunk and grew. Her stomach swallowed itself. She was weightless. She was two-dimensional. Spinning, changing, falling. Blackness engulfed her, an ocean: capsizing, overturning, spilling chests and spreading contents whimsically across the seafloor. She fell, dizzily yet calmly, patient yet anxious, fearful but ready, poised. 

Finally, she slowed and contacted the ground. It was soft, sandlike, but ungraspable, almost like some sort of carpet. Cautiously, she opened her eyes. The light was as blinding as the dark. How long was I spinning? Quickly, she banished the thought. Posted on the ground in front of her were footprints like trail markers deliberately placed to guide the way. She got up and brushed herself off, but she was totally clean. Not even a speck of dust. 

The passageway was uneven, even hazardous with its pitfalls and jagged edges, and the footprints careened left and right to accommodate. She followed as best she could, eyes flashing up and down from trail to surroundings. Thrice did she almost fall, but always she kept her footing. Miles she must have traveled before the path narrowed. It was nearly impassable. Blood filled her body, her heart beat madly, muscles tensed. There’s no turning back. She turned, flattened herself against the passage wall and shimmied through to the other side. Breathing became difficult, her body sandwiched between sheets of unknown rock. But in the end, she succeeded; one step at a time, one foot delicately before the other. 

The trail opened onto a hexagonal field. Flowers, vibrant and variegated, rung the perimeters. A spring flowed around its edges, and there was a ramshackle bridge of rusted iron. 

“Turn back,” a voice warned. “This is not your place.” 

But she knew. She couldn’t turn back now. Not even if she wanted to.

A figure approached, withered and wrinkled, hunched and hooded. Golden rays cloaked them. The air grew cold. 

“Go,” they warned; though the voice was soft, sweet, like honeyed donuts and homemade apple pies. “This place is not for you.” 

But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t go. Not even if she wanted to. 

Face-to-face, the figure unveiled herself. Beneath the glowing robes rested a face aged by death. Pallid skin taut to the bone. Teeth missing, decayed. Eyes sunken. “Go,” she said again.

The woman smiled. Tears welled in her eyes. 

“But I never got to say good-bye.” 

 


Theodore Ludwig Clemens is a local of Buffalo, NY. His interests include avoiding the cold, chasing the sun, and eating with chopsticks. A proud member of the LGBTQIA community, he loves traveling the world.

Three Poems by John Grey

Lake Ghosts

I love that morning lake fog.

It’s the nearest I ever come

to seeing ghosts.

There is my mother and father,

my three sisters,

misting up in the tranquil transition

of night into day.

We had our disagreements

when they were alive.

But now they’re no longer here,

they walk on water.

A Teenager’s Wheels

I watch my father command the wheel

as he guides the car in and out

of highway traffic

at sixty miles an hour,

eyes and hands and feet

as coordinated as a fencer’s.

Or he’s in the passenger seat,

giving lessons with nothing more

than expression,

as I nervously nudge the vehicle forward

across the expanse

of a college parking lot.

We’re so often in the car together.

Like fishing is for some,

it’s our bondage.

For all the attention paid

to the way ahead,

there’s always a sideways glance involved

and the sense that, like love,

driving is unsuited to solitude.

Yet I can’t wait

to venture out on my own,

license tucked inside my wallet,

every street at my disposal,

one eye on the road,

one eye on the passenger seat

that will look so lost and forlorn

until it’s filled by someone.

Cedar Waxwings

January,

a high, thin cry of zee

draws me to the window.

Cedar waxwings

flash gray velvet feathers

from a nearby bush.

They peck through snow

at barely visible berries,

load up on winter’s chaff

to see them through the lean.

There’s something in a bill,

so small it barely warrants

the lift of a head while swallowing.

But the flock is relentless,

under orders from survival,

pecking furiously

even at nothingness.

My gaze is crystallized

in a window pane,

their essence likewise.

They’re too busy to notice me.

Even if they did,

I doubt that I’d astound their living.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.