Poems by John Wiley

Devil’s Bargain

Devil’s bargains
are the only ones I know,
so put it to me.
Bad terms suit me –
I’m a bad bargainer.
You don’t know how bad.
You’ve been forcing hands a long time,
but you don’t have to force mine.
No need for the trapdoor
you’ve invited me to stand on.

Thank you for having me
to your office, but…
somehow we’ve ended up in mine.
Now you’re standing on the trap,
and underneath the trap’s
the Devil’s Bargain Basement.
Will I take your devil’s bargain, sir?
Of course –
I’m the Devil’s Bargainer.

 


Fictional Ghosts

Fictional ghosts
always want something.
Real ghosts don’t want anything you have.
They don’t want anything anyone has.
They don’t even know you’re there –
why would they?

You might as well be the ghost.
Because they don’t have anything for you either.

 


JOHN WILEY was a ballet dancer and began writing poetry when his knees gave out for good.  He lives in California and works in his wife’s audiology practice.  His work has appeared in Terror House Magazine, Detritus, and Outsider Poetry, among others.

Copyright © 2019 by John Wiley. All rights reserved.

‘Skyful of Roses’ by Anne Swannell

We are a human mass
surging up London’s Primrose Hill in the chilly dark.
Behind is, our ordinary lives, the narrow streets,
ahead, what seem like gigantic roses in the sky—
burgeoning petals curling and folding,
beckoning us with their beauty.

A darkling child pesters us; he has rings
of snap-together neon for our necks.
Some of us give him a pound and receive
a sickly-green circlet that casts a luminous glow on skin.
As we climb, silent, shoulder to shoulder
we become—for those climbing behind us—
spidery silhouettes bent on some mission
we, like them, have always been plotting.

At the top, pink diamonds spray
from a monstrous pile of burning wood,
what seemed from down in the city a skyful of roses
is now clearly roaring flames, billowing smoke from
detritus: fences, storage crates, broken furniture.

But this is a fire that’s meant to be seen from a distance.
The safety police have cordoned it off so we can’t get close.
Nothing unites us or narrows the spaces between us.
Everyone stares at the distant inferno
with an odd combination of terror and longing.

Each of us turns, walks—alone—
down to the surging traffic,
the monitoring street lights,
the trains in their tunnels.
We are a human mass
surging up London’s Primrose Hill in the chilly dark.
Behind is, our ordinary lives, the narrow streets,
ahead, what seem like gigantic roses in the sky—
burgeoning petals curling and folding,
beckoning us with their beauty.

A darkling child pesters us; he has rings
of snap-together neon for our necks.
Some of us give him a pound and receive
a sickly-green circlet that casts a luminous glow on skin.
As we climb, silent, shoulder to shoulder
we become—for those climbing behind us—
spidery silhouettes bent on some mission
we, like them, have always been plotting.

At the top, pink diamonds spray
from a monstrous pile of burning wood,
what seemed from down in the city a skyful of roses
is now clearly roaring flames, billowing smoke from
detritus: fences, storage crates, broken furniture.

But this is a fire that’s meant to be seen from a distance.
The safety police have cordoned it off so we can’t get close.
Nothing unites us or narrows the spaces between us.
Everyone stares at the distant inferno
with an odd combination of terror and longing.

Each of us turns, walks—alone—
down to the surging traffic,
the monitoring street lights,
the trains in their tunnels.

 


ANNE SWANNELL‘s poems have most recently appeared in Coldnoon International Travel, Panorama Journal of Travel, and in anthologies from Leaf Press, Kind-of-a-Hurricane Press, Chuffed Buff Books, OWF Press, and Polar Expressions. Poems have appeared over the years in Anglo-Welsh Review, Americas Review, Poetry Canada Review, The Fiddlehead, Malahat Review, Grain,  Prairie Fire, Dandelion, Antigonish Review, and more recently in Literary Review of Canada, Prairie Fire and The Honest Ulsterman.  She has published four books of poetry, “Drawing Circles on the Water,” “Mall” (Rowan Books, Edmonton, 1991), “Shifting” (Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, 2008), and “Journey with an Autistic Child from Birth to Adulthood” (First Choice Books, 2019).  A fifth ms., called “Galloping Through Water” is currently seeking publication.

Copyright © 2019 by Anne Swannell. All rights reserved.

 

 

‘Sweaty Hands’ by Jude Klaassen

I can’t feel the dish soap or the knives, I can’t hold onto plates.
All I can do is imagine fucking a pen against paper, like
11 year old genitals against couch pillows.

I can’t hold anything, I drop dishes, I drop pens,
I sit on top my fingertips
that tingle and hurt numb.

I can smell co-dependence off the couple at the bar,
but maybe it’s the dishwater still on the utensils, maybe the beer stained glasses.
In any case, she’s leaning – woman

get away from him he’s not leaning back.
The bathroom is upstairs, and the pain in the center
of your gut isn’t just a UTI.

At home she’s creating a dream state on top the length of my fingers
which I poured all my trauma into.
I’m already out and she’s pushing me further out with frantic droning about the seasons.

I tell her September’s shit, the pavement’s still lukewarm.
Wait for January, it’s iced for sweaty hands
that sweat numb everything.

I’m reconnecting with my hands in my mouth,
and down my pants sometimes.
It has a lot to do with balance.

We lie in bed, hands down our pants.
We kiss but not much else, we sleep naked,
but if we’re lucky we’ll pass out in our jeans, smelling like poutine and beer.

Instead, I tell her I can feel my muscles to my bones, which I can’t feel at all.
Instead before we sleep, I ask her to cradle my hands in hers
so I can feel her sweat instead of my own.

 


JUDE KLAASSEN is a Creative Writing student at Concordia University. They love sonnets and combining their enthusiasm for craft and writing into zines. They tend to write about bathrooms, bodies, and disconnect.

Copyright © 2019 by Jude Klaassen. All rights reserved.

Poems by Felicia Zuniga

It is February and I have been pregnant forever

 

Winter bears down but the baby stays put, he hangs on tight as a migraine
No plans to roam outside in this cold, he holes up in his pot of fluid
I incubate us inside the house, as the blizzard breaks records and entombs everything
Outside the window, I watch the storm’s outbursts, while you stay undercover

He is our first; suspicious of us and this snow globe we live in
He monitors weather warnings, scowling as they say more flakes will fall
When I decide to step outside, he squeezes his eyes shut against the burn of white
Perhaps he wanted to be greeted by heat and honeysuckles instead

I coerce him into a walk and ask, “Do you feel the quiet?” Can you smell the sparkle?
Outside, all is barren. Inside, I am filled to the brim with him
We stumble through snow humps as my bones become numb
He tunnels deep inside, swearing not to surface till spring

I coax him with six sticky sweet Medjool dates daily, hunks of plump pineapple
Where I eat everything including the core, washed down with red raspberry leaf tea
I try to convince him we feast on tropical fruit, surrounded by starfish and seashells
He retaliates by propelling his feet so deep in my belly, I spew expensive snacks

At night, I stuff myself into a pillow fort, wrenched up on my left, while my hips spasm
I cloak him in creamy wool blankets and he plays, satisfied with the sweaty dark
He starts his nightly swim, sometimes he’s too worked up and his hiccups begin
My belly bobbing with each burst from his lungs until dawn

Every morning I rise hopeful, wondering if today he will emerge
Focusing on my feet as I navigate ice sheets on the way to doctor appointments
They poke and knock at your door but you keep it shut, ignoring all visitors
We hear the solid thwomp of your heart and know you must be stowed away

It is February and I have been pregnant forever

 


  

Afterbirth

 

No one will tell me how many stitches
Are binding my insides together
A running stitch, internal and external
Embroidered inside me where I was once whole
Now I’m spun with black thread
Hostile knots knitted to hidden flesh

*

They say it takes a village, to raise a child
For us, having a child, raised a village
An underground labyrinth teeming with cinnamon scones and witch hazel
Gift baskets branch out on our kitchen table
Packages and people surround us, propping us up with walls of support
So we don’t collapse under the weight of this new life

*

We’ve moved inside, the exterior world no longer concerns us
Only the life we created inside the four walls of our home
The rooms where we now sleep, eat and sway with him
He is the sun we rise to and the moon we rest under
The basement bedroom has become our vacation hotspot
My husband and I take turns kissing goodbye
Before floating down the dark flight of stairs to dissolve

*

In baby class, we go round the circle
Exchanging nap tips and apps like scraps of gold
How to make them sleep is the Holy Grail
We all have black eyes and snag only broken minutes of shut-eye per day
Everyone is pleased to hear they’re not alone; we suffer together
Taking turns tucking babies into wraps and comparing peak crying times

*

He is at the breast again, his favourite position
The books say that mothers should be comfortable, but I never am
Back hunched over in pain as I rush to respond
I fold into the letter C and cater my body to all his commands
He latches and slurps like a king
When I try and move, he hisses
When I try and switch sides, he clamps down harder
Choosing to empty one breast, leaving the other full and leaking
I beg him to stay asleep each time I set him down, but he eats every hour
All the minutes of the night become known to me

*

I see his face everywhere, in unwashed piles of laundry
In the folds of the blankets, in all the shapes of darkness
I wake with a start, panicked, even though he lies in the bassinet beside me
My nipples feel like they are being sucked by a phantom infant
And he’s even followed me into my dreams; I will never be alone again

*

I don’t recognize my body; I am one of the giant mother pigs
Spread out on display at the Calgary Stampede every summer
Piglets attached to each teat, swigging milk as everyone stares
My hair is unwashed and falling out of its bun
There’s jam on my arm and crumbs stuck to me from when I shoved bread into my mouth
My stomach is soft and thick and puffs straight out
The rest of me is swollen, hobbling around the house
I’m scared to cough or sneeze in case it disrupts the stitches

*

My skin smells like spit-up, sweat and breast milk
When I feel damp, I don’t know which of the three liquids stains me
If I dare sleep more than three hours, the stinging of my nipples wakes me
Mother Nature warning me I am no longer here to sleep
I am here to serve.

 


 

Moving

 

I have lived many lives

A child with knotted stuffed animals
and missing eyes
books and games dented
with bite marks

A schoolgirl with broken hopscotch handles
and purple juice stained notebooks
valentine cards with the slanted scrawl
of long forgotten best friends

A teenager with pages and pages
of diary punctuated with the initials of her great loves
notes from boys revealing all the secret
things they want to do alone together
notes from girls discussing how to do
all the secret things the boys said
they wanted to do

A university student with sloppy essays
slashed with the red marks of professors
eager textbooks bright with desperate
highlighting and mounds of notes reciting
words and meanings you can no longer remember

Old yearbooks, our faces trapped in time
for one perfect instance of youth
and crushing vulnerability
all thrown out in the rush of moving

Long empty bottles of perfume
that still smell like careless high school summers
cheap jewellery from the boy you swore
you’d never leave
swirled together in the vortex of
black garbage bags

I have lived many lives
and I will live many more

 


FELICIA ZUNIGA‘s poetry has been published in Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review and Freefall Magazine. She has written articles for a variety of magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in HonoursEnglish, with a Creative Writing Concentration, from the University of Calgary. She lives, works and writes in Calgary. Her published work can be viewed on her website at: http://www.feliciazuniga.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Felicia Zuniga. All rights reserved.

‘The Divan Doesn’t Lie’ by Marjorie Silverman

In your waiting, the
weight of (my) history
weight of (my) body
weight of you
behind (me)
silent

I want to kill.
I want to kill the
part of me that
wants to kill.
I want to be wantless,
weightless

Instead. I
bury. I
suffocate. While
orange flowers
bloom outside
your window.

 


MARJORIE SILVERMAN is a former Montrealer now based in Ottawa. She is an emerging writer whose work has been published in The Maynard and Bywords. She is currently working on a book-length poetry manuscript. Marjorie is also a professor of social work at the University of Ottawa.

Copyright © 2019 by Marjorie Silverman. All rights reserved.

‘exercise 1’ by Cayden Johnson

no words exist in a room without boundaries
in the sense that people breathe underwater
a large open window lets daylight into the white room
transparent fabric hangs a metre in front of the glass
the fabric is not a blind
the words are not a line
they live inside the anti-sentence
in messy vers libre no one respects
inside the cement floor are letters
you can bend down to pick them up
but will notice they slither away to form faces
tiny images descend into the hard surface
on the sheet stained with sweat
appears one strung-together phrase
plucked from a voice that allows us to understand
what barriers we want to cross
discussions important to our time
the fabric does not consult google
letters move up its sheer texture like kids on a rope
this energy spells while tongues choose their own direction
return to where the letters came through quick-sand cement
or crawl out the window like a high-rise burglar
with the wisdom of sage and the innovation of consequence

 


CAYDEN JOHNSON practices experimental poetry and photography. She is an MFA candidate at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. Her poems have appeared on various art show ephemera. She currently works as a teaching assistant and freelance book editor.

Copyright © 2019 by Cayden Johnson. All rights reserved.

‘Shiners’ by Sacha Bissonnette

Kinder peeks around tablecloth
galaxy gazing
revels at the mechanics of
a Lazy Susan
coming of age
“the world is so big,” he whispers
his travelling tooth
eagerly waiting to be
spit shined
bundled up
and pillow talked

a strap of his book bag snaps
weighed down by corner scorpions
rum rangers
chipping dominos
the other remains strong
swings across his shoulder
swings like Sunday palms

his hands are hers
inked curry yellow
mango nectar rich
stuck to handwritten recipes
and first lessons

he sits alone now
eats good
one gold silver tooth
smiles at the crooked horizon

 


SACHA BISSONNETTE is a poet and short story writer from Ottawa, Ca. He was born and raised in Ottawa to a Trinidadian mother and a French-Canadian father. He received an honorable mention for his poem ‘Acheron’ in Carleton University’s poetry competition and recently published poems ‘Rigorous’ out of New Orleans. He is also assisting as a dramaturge on two local plays.

Copyright © 2019 by Sacha Bissonnette. All rights reserved.

‘Snow in April’ by Tiah Snaith

When it snowed in April
Did you stand at the window and cry?
Uncontrollably cry the way no adult should?
Did your voice wobble and shake?
Were your eyes too sore to see?
The snow on the struggling green grass
Was unambiguously obvious,
A perfectly picturesque way
To portray how it felt
To be left alone in a house too big for one.
Snow in April
Things that are, that shouldn’t be.

So did you pick up the phone?
Swallow your doubts and call into the expanding distance
What do you fear more⁠—
The echo or the answer?

Or did you not pick up the phone at all
Maybe you know the landline
Could never hold all you have to say.
So did you rest your heavy head against the window?
Try to not think of your shipwrecked heart
Floating among the wild waves swirling in your chest
That make it hard to breathe.
Did you just sit, in your own endless silence?
And with glassy eyes,
Watch it snow in April?

 


TIAH SNAITH is a high school writer from the small town of Macgregor, Manitoba. She was a competitive swimmer and played for her high school’s basketball team before she had to take a yearlong recovery period due to an injury and the surgery that followed it. Tiah used poetry and art as a creative outlet during the difficult time she was having.

Copyright © 2019 by Tiah Snaith. All rights reserved.

 

‘A Castle’ by Ayman Morkos

You are a soft delicate air on my cheeks
You are a fast running wave of ages
Your voice is a nightingale song on hearts
My heart is a castle for you
Armed with the strongest feelings
A cannon is firing words of love
Soldiers are dying of your love
A conflict between my verses
Veins are my servants
Blood is a precious water to drink
Living in your castle
Is my dream

 


AYMAN MORKOS was born in Egypt, in 1977, and has lived in Montreal since 2014. He attended McGill University, School of Continuing Studies in Montreal.

Copyright © 2019 by Ayman Morkos. All rights reserved.

 

Poems by Daniel Galef

Soliloquy for an Imaginary Tragedy

We’re cast on a lightless, heartless world like dice
thrown by a subtle god. Where once we land:
a gaping gulph, by ruby river spanned,
too swift to ford, too deep ever to ice.

This crystal rill like boundless fire flows
between a world of forms and one of forces,
a hidden cave the crack from which it courses,
the sea to which it drains, no pilgrim knows.

Once waded, it can never again be crossed.
No memory survives it; from out a borne
of placeless, timeless void, we meet the morn
with unseen eyes. The past, like dew, is lost.

Return, and stand at banks of fire gazing:
innumerable fire, the world’s heart blazing.

 


 

The Ghost of Antigonish, Nova Scotia to William Mearns

(spoken by the subject of the poem “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There”)
1899

Why think you that I linger on the stair
Advancing on it neither up nor down?
I’m hardly powerless; a hearty scare
Has given me (and this house) wide renown.
And yet I still stand stock-still on the stair
(I easily could upgrade, haunt some manse
With all my fame accrued) and chill the air,
Motionless on my inclined expanse.
Forevermore I’ll wait upon this stair
For you get my state through your thick head:
To ascend (or descend—whichever fate is fair)
Is not the lot of all the restless dead.
“Why are you here? And how?” I wish you’d say,
Instead of “How I wish you’d go away!”

 


DANIEL GALEF‘s poetry has been published in Measure, the Potcake Chapbooks, and the Scrivener Creative Review. He graduated in 2018 from McGill University, where he was editor-in-chief of the Plumber’s Faucet humor magazine and won the 2016 McGill Drama Festival for his musical play The Stars.

Copyright © 2019 by Daniel Galef. All rights reserved.