Poetry Drawer: lost a battle with suicide: for the rest of our lives: an old lover whistling in a graveyard: my therapist: pressing my lips by J.J. Campbell

lost a battle with suicide

the firestarter
lost a battle
to suicide

i still remember
the look in her
eyes the first
time i heard
that song
blasting
between
the neon
at the club

i had dreams
of forever

and she just
needed another
free drink

neither of us
left satisfied
that night

for the rest of our lives

i stopped believing
in love when the
woman of my
dreams decided
she’d rather have
a life without
my dick in it

of course, we
were going to
remain friends
for the rest of
our lives

until three
weeks later

she called with
the news of a
new boyfriend

i was out two
thousand dollars
and had a broken
heart that never
would be repaired

that was twenty
years ago

time doesn’t
heal shit

an old lover whistling in a graveyard

embrace
the pain

an old lover
whistling in
a graveyard

that haunting
laughter in the
distance is god

she doesn’t
necessarily
expect and
wish for your
failure

but success is
as likely as the
souls in this
graveyard ever
seeing the sun

again

my therapist

the
empty page
eventually
becomes
my therapist

i only wish
it would ask
better questions

pressing my lips

the rain touches
her lips like
tears from a
god we all
stopped
believing
in years ago

i remember
unbuttoning
her shirt and
pressing my
lips to a nipple

she started to
pull down my
jeans and i was
thankful i lived
a quarter mile
off of the road

and none of
my neighbours
could see this
part of the
property

J.J. Campbell (1976 – ?) is currently trapped in suburbia, plotting his revenge. He’s been widely published over the years, most recently at Record Magazine, The Dope Fiend Daily, Horror Sleaze Trash, Synchronized Chaos, and Chiron Review. His most recent chapbook, the taste of blood on christmas morning, was published by Analog Submission Press. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights & Goodreads

Pantry Prose: After The Fact by Perry McDaid


I had been in some sort of daze, oblivious to everything but the end goal of escape from reality on the work of a favoured author. Even the news that an old classmate had been arrested for subversion barely impinged on my consciousness. The Christmas melancholy with all the memories of past missed opportunities overwhelmed me. Depression had eclipsed my senses.

I had no idea how I’d got in. The Derry Central library had been closed to the public for this hour. Perhaps it was the haircut, I told myself, recently trimmed as a concession to my lazy approach to hair care. Then again, it could have been the generic blue-green coat I had bought from an army surplus store in an effort to eke out my paltry finances; or something about my bleak demeanour. Maybe it was even an honest to goodness act of God.

Whatever the unexpected sequence of events which allowed me access, there I was: snuffling through an array of books which failed to pique my interest; an oddity in itself, for I have always been an avid reader and love books of all sorts.

In saying ‘all sorts’, I’m excluding ‘pass-offs’ unimaginative authors insist as being their own creation and, of course, the assembly-line titillating trash identifying themselves as romance novels: the sort worshipped by some women and most shadow-hugging teenagers. I was considering re-reading an Asimov when I felt a tap on the shoulder.

“He wants you.”

The police sergeant and I shared an awkward moment: he; surprised and offended that an unauthorized civilian should be present; I, offended and surprised that a cop should not only materialize in my local library, but have the effrontery of laying a hand upon me. What I actually verbalised was:

“Eh?”

The cop’s eyes shrank to their normal suspicious little slits, as he gave a non-committal shrug.

“Carson: The Condemned.”

Now there was a tragic and macabre example of alliteration. The political party elected by Carson’s peers, one of the more intransigent schisms of republicanism, had been refused their mandate by the occupying forces.

Nowadays the ‘occupying’ bit was less of a physical presence than a financial miasma and a briar patch of governmental procedures choking independent decision-making like a drawstring on a medieval purse.

Despite the futility of their situation, the more established republicans had pursued diplomatic avenues to block the reintroduction of the death penalty. However, paranoia and egocentric ruthlessness had brought the death squads in from the cold, the same cold which gripped me as I recognised their insignia as they blocked the exits.

Some artiste had designed a new coat of arms for them: sable hound rampant on a maroon and chevron gules background – or something along those lines. I was concentrating more on being invisible than accurately memorising their silly badge.

No civilians remained within the building, save for one tremulous desk-clerk. I had been so absorbed in my private thoughts that I had either blithely walked through or entirely missed the silent evacuation; my unheeding wandering from aisle to aisle frustrating detection until now.

“Will you see him?” The civility was uncharacteristic. I grimaced, nodded, and followed the uniform up the central aisle to where Carson sat, unfettered, in the middle of the library. The placement was equidistant from any potential escape route. I knew him well. My legs made the decision for me. Without transition I found myself sitting opposite him, four eagle-eyed assassins looming over us.

“Jimmy,” I offered by way of greeting.

“Thanks for saying yes,” he acknowledged. He was giving nothing away. Big Brother could do his own dirty work.

“Don’t even know how I got here,” I assured him hastily; nightmare scenarios racing through my brain. Why me? Had he somehow assumed it was I who informed? Don’t be daft, I scoffed at myself. What do you know? You haven’t seen him since he joined.

“I’m not …” I sought to explain.

“I know,” he reassuringly waved away my denial. “I spotted you on the way in and asked Beaky to let you stay. The Managing Director is here as a witness that you come to no harm.”

“Heh,” I grinned weakly. “I thought she was a clerk.” The relief I felt was belied by the constriction I felt in my ribs.

“Oh she wanted to leave a representative in her place. She said she had a meeting to attend.” He grinned maliciously. “I insisted it be the top boss. I remember how it was.”

“She’s not too happy.”

Incongruously we laughed. It petered out into an uncomfortable silence.

“How long?” I asked to break the eggshell moment.

“Forty two minutes,” Beaky interposed. Identification wasn’t difficult.

There was some movement at the entrance and a wild-eyed delivery boy thrust a piping hot tray into the hands of one of the squad, before turning on his heel and beetling off back to the relative safety of the nearby takeaway.

“Hey,” the squad member began, “you forgot…”

“No charge,” came the incrementally distant whimper.

Another took the special constable’s place as he bore the tray to the table. He waved his Sniffer around the dish and plastic bottles before and after carefully removing the foil.

“Bacon and eggs, Spaghetti Bolognese and two bottles of mineral water. Enjoy your last meal, Carson.” Some people have a knack of vocalising sneers.

“I’ll try, Pig-face.”

The burly form of Beaky positioned itself between them as the squaddie sought to vent his displeasure. Sullenly, he returned to his post. Carson chowed down as if nothing had happened.

“The other bottle’s for you.” He gestured towards the unopened mineral.

“No thanks,” I croaked nervously, but determinedly, “but I’ll take a swig of yours.” The dead man smiled gratefully.

“Symbolic. I’m innocent, you know?”

“Does that ever make a difference?”

“Asking the wrong guy. Tell my father the evidence was dismissed. My solicitor had all the guff, but they got to him.”

“He still have it?”

In disgust, Carson spat a bit of gristle at one of the guards, not Beaky. His eyes told me that finding the solicitor would be an exercise in futility. Worm food.

“Still,” he feigned a yawn, leaning back in his chair to stretch his gangly limbs, “you know me.”

“Back-up?”

“Kerr-ching,” he uttered in imitation of an old till drawer as confirmation, and finished his meal. His eyes misted, yet an urgency played around the irises. “Tell Caroline and the kids I’m not going anywhere, you get me?” He lifted my shaking hand and pulled it to his heart.

“No probs,” I promised, dry-mouthed at the salute of old comrades.

I don’t remember what we talked about for the remaining half hour, only that he smiled and cried, laughed and lied as I strove to fill his remaining time. When he left he merely shook my hand and blew a raspberry at the Managing Director on the way out. It had always been an ambition of his, he had confided during those final minutes, to make at least one pompous ass soil their underwear. From the insidious odour oozing from behind the desk, I think he’d achieved that goal.

Naturally I wasn’t allowed to move from my place until plates, utensils and bottles had been counted and removed; the tables and chairs checked top and bottom; and I had been frisked and searched. This duty fell to the one Carson had dubbed pig-face. Obviously disappointed, despite having the sadistic pleasure of subjecting me to a humiliatingly thorough search, the pig grunted, chucked the tin-foil into the nearest bin and stormed out of the building.

Only after the Land rovers and assorted armoured escorts had cleared the block, their engines fading into the distance, the public begun to timidly filter back into the library, and the terrifying stink of well lubricated weaponry been drained by extractor fans, did I dare to rise.

The shadows, which had slumped across the aisle as Carson and I had talked, sprang to attention as the sun shouldered its way through the cloud cover. Cautiously glancing about me, I retrieved the tin-foil from its resting place and read the electrolysed print: a combination number to a safe.

I’d pass his message on to his wife and family, but first I had documents to relay to the International Court of Human Rights. He never called his wife by her first name, opting instead for Morf – an affectionate rendering of her maiden name, Murphy.

Anyone else would have used ‘Murf’, but Carson had always loved Tony Hart’s creation. I suppose he’d reckoned he would lump the two together. The quirks of sentiment, eh?

The barge which bore the Christian name Jimmy had so subtly stressed, ‘Caroline’, was moored next to mine on the Shannon. I couldn’t imagine how he had arranged it all, or how I was going to manage turning up on the Carson doorstep after so long.

I definitely didn’t know what I was going to say about his execution. I didn’t know a lot of things, but I knew that when I finally visited his family, I wanted to be able to look them in the eye and promise that his name would be cleared.

Irish writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry under the brooding brows of Donegal hills which he occasionally hikes in search of druidic inspiration. His writing appears internationally in the Bookends Review, Red Fez, 13 o’clock Press, Curiosity Quills, Aurora Wolf Literary Magazine, Amsterdam Quarterly, SWAMP and many others.

Poetry Drawer: Five Hundred SCUBA Divers by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Octopuses hand them tools
as they work to right the Costa Concordia
laying ruined on its starboard side

After work
the divers drink in bars
and recount their undersea exploits
to avid women

while the octopuses
slither back into their holes
where some of them fondle large wrenches
or pieces of steel cable

There is something so strangely tactile about these objects
The octopuses embrace them with their entire bodies
and have multiple orgasms
far more orgasms than the divers
who have gone to bed early
to be ready for another day
at work under the surface

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over fourteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers’ Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, is based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. His new poetry collection was published in 2019, The Arrest of Mr Kissy Face, He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Still Wet by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Loch by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Photogenic by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Microwave by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Granite by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Trick by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Coal by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Poetry Slam by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: An evening, after 3 months sobriety by DS Maolalai

you have to wonder
at the flavour,
and savour the smell,
accept taste the bitterness of it;
gooseberries and fresh appleflesh.
you have to get sunlight
pouring over windowsills
and spilling into ditches
onto drunks
going home. that’s
wine, see?
this: going home.
a skip in the road
and light
which shines in a bottle.
a kiss from your friend
returned again
after too long
gone off
at sea.

D.S. Maolalai is a graduate of English Literature from Trinity College in Dublin and has been nominated for Best of the Web, and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).

Poetry Drawer: New Organ by Robert Demaree

In our chapel at Golden Pines,
Amber light through stained glass,
Across the burgundy cushions,
Greying heads, hip and knee replacements,
A new organ fills the room:
Bach, Widor’s toccata,
Three manuals, hundreds of stops.
Digital, no pipes, which means to some
It is not real. Oh, but is it—
The swells, crescendos,
The noble trumpet of the Prince of Denmark’s March.
It replaces the kind of organ
You used to hear in cafeterias,
Playing for the Civitans.
Our friend explains, improvises for us;
Keys change.
How many would be so bold
As to put on display the skills
Of a life’s work, now
Compromised by time.
It is marvellous, we think, in every way.
At last we have at Golden Pines
An instrument fit for a sanctuary,
For a service of last rites.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladderspublished in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Poetry Drawer: The Gift by John Grey

Must be my lucky day.
Look what I found on the sidewalk
in a small Midwestern town
at the turn of the 21st century.
It’s almost midnight.
The one street light
is swinging like a pendulum.
I saw it gleaming through the cracks.
I just had to kneel down and pick it up.

Well so what.
My find is not helping my car any.
It’s as dead as a pair of twos in a poker game.
And a mile back there on the road some place.
And I can’t afford to pay for a roof over my head.
But that’s my worry, not yours.

Have you guessed it yet?
Red roses in a white wine bottle?
Iron Maiden CD in a medicine cabinet?
Scheherazade on a shingle?
Shakespeare, vestal virgins or leopards?
Take my advice and forget about it.

Is it a gleam, a glitter,
in an otherwise dead block of cement?
Does it remind me of someone?
Do I break into a little song?
And dance with my own shadow?

And now it’s starting to rain.
It dribbles down my chin.
The wind is brisk and repulsive.
The people are all indoors,
in bed, with the lights out.

So I’m under an awning,
with my coat wrapped around me,
head on a stoop.
body curled up like a snail’s.

Have you guessed it yet?
It’s nothing really.
But you knew that all along.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

Poetry Drawer: Good Question by John Grey

A roller of fat cigars,
the hefty guy
whose arms are inked
with devils and angels,
short-skirted women
showing enough leg
to start the dogs barking,
and an old lady selling flowers –
I have ignored them all
just to be with you.

A shop window
advertising 47 ice-cream flavors,
a pig with two heads
or maybe two pigs
with a head apiece,
blind kids playing baseball,
a construction site,
a barbershop quartet –
I was in such a hurry,
I noticed none of these.

Then you have to ask me
how my never-wavering concentration
on the matter in hand
enabled me to include,
for poetic purposes,
all these things I bypassed,
took no notice of.

That’s a good question.
Luckily, on my journey,
I avoided all good questions.
That’s why I’m here.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

Poetry Drawer: The Cerulean Lore by Dr. Susie Gharib

The first two arrows that pierce my orbs
through fluttering lashes, too loath to unfold,
are cerulean fragments that, unhampered, probe
my naked window every cloudless morn.

My wavelengths, attuned, respond with a flow
of rippling images that W. James had called
the stream of consciousness, but in a non-literary world:
a bluebell basking in the shade of a blade,
a petal floating on the sapphire of a lake,
a ripple or two agitating my boat,
whose oars are drunk with foam and salt,
a cyan mist inhabiting a myth,
a pair of eyes whose blueness persists
to compete with skies’, bluebells’, and mists’

Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.

Poetry Drawer: Handy Man DIY by R. Gerry Fabian

The light has gone out
in your heart.
It’s not the bulb.
It is still steady
with kisses and hugs.

After years of constant use.
the wiring is frayed
at the source.
Wire nuts of romance
have been loosened.

It’s time for an overhaul.

This is to be done carefully.
The electricity shut down.
A new love cord installed.
Secured with masking tape.
Retighten the nuts
and slowly connect
the lost circuit.

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. He is the editor of Raw Dog Press. He has published two poetry books, Parallels and Coming Out Of The Atlantic. His novels, Memphis MasqueradeGetting Lucky (The Story) and Seventh Sense are available from Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble. He is currently working on his fourth novel, Ghost Girl.

Poetry Drawer: The Ring Road by Colin Gardiner

I watch from under
The shade of the fly-over.
The ring road squeezes the city
Into prolapse.

The sky closes for business
And the clouds fold over,
Like a restless sleeper’s duvet.
A sun-flare splits the grey fade
Of the post-rush hour queue.

I don’t think that the commuters
Can see the heard approaching.

A hot breeze whispers
Through skeletal trees.
I can see the horses racing
Up the dual carriageway.

The Ikea sign is melting, and
Flaming hooves are pounding
Over the blackened bones
Of roadkill and exhaust pipes.

The harras rages
Silently
Through the heat-haze shimmer.
Manes are ablaze.

With unstable diamond eyes
And the stars in their teeth,
They unleash
Beautiful incineration
On to the idle traffic.

Flashes of orange and red caress
Idle wing mirrors.
I see the fire-heard
Race through the barrier and
Leap across the fly-over.

Mirrored windows kiss
The glare of a new
Temporary sun.
There will be no hard-shoulder
To cry on this evening.

One day I will hit the accelerator, 
and catch up with the stampede.
I will fly
Like Pegasus on fire.
The ring road will collapse
Into the creases of the sky.

Colin Gardiner lives in Coventry. He writes short stories and poems and has been published by The Ekphrastic Review and the Creative Writing Leicester blog. He is currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing at Leicester University. More of his work can be read here