Books From The Pantry: Inside the Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock reviewed by Kev Milsom

They say I’m mad – I say they’re mad – I lost the flip – That’s me locked up in Bethlem Hospital – “Come boys, who’s for Bedlam?”

Personally, as an avid devourer of all things in written form, the sense of utterly losing oneself within words is a tough feeling to beat on an emotional/sensual level. On those occasions when the creative force possesses the skills to fully immerse us within their world, via a strong first-person perspective, there is no better feeling than to see this through the eyes of a thoroughly well-crafted character. Inside The Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock (published by Everything With Words) is such a grand occasion, worthy of our literary senses to throw a party, open up the Prosecco, turn on the karaoke machine and don the glittery, disco trousers in celebration of a very talented author in full, creative flow.

Plot-wise, the novel is based upon an actual historical figure. In the late 18th century, James Norris was a marine; British by conception, American by birth. Although tough and hardy, James finds himself imprisoned within London’s notorious ‘Bethlem Hospital for the Insane’ in 1800. It is here where we first encounter James as he struggles to cope with the psychological aspects of his strict – and often brutal – confinement.

As a side plotline, we also know that James has personal issues with a certain Christian Fletcher; famously renowned for his role in overthrowing Captain Bligh on the ‘HMS Bounty’ in Polynesian waters during 1789. Once upon a time, James and Christian were brothers of the sea; bound by their experiences and locked in deep friendship. However, we soon learn that James now holds Christian Fletcher in utter contempt, now wishing only to brutally end his life. All James needs to do is to somehow escape the considerable perils of Bethlem Hospital, known to its inmates since its conception in the 1400’s as ‘Bedlam’. Once free, James can pursue his illustrious foe and kill him.

It’s a simple plan. Yes, the guards are both numerous and brutal. True, James has been told he only has months left inside the asylum before being released, but can anything that he sees, or hears, be trusted? Can James rely upon his natural marine abilities to overcome all odds? How will the guards and doctors react if he does so? As readers, we are with James every step of his tortured journey; constantly searching for any speck of hopeful light in this world of twisted, tormented darkness.

As can be imagined, in terms of literary genres, this subject matter comes with layers of added depth and emotion. As our narrator and guide, Emily steers us through every step of James’ perilous voyage with considerable ease. For this, she is to be soundly applauded, for at times the narrative intrudes into very personal areas, including loss of mental balance, brutality and illness.

Emily’s chosen writing style is paramount to the success of her narrative. In a harrowing, mind-altering world, which could easily drag the reader down into woeful contemplation, Emily’s writing style tends to adopt a series of short, punchy sentences, often containing only a singular verb. This strongly reminded me of being back at university and being introduced to writing in ‘streams of consciousness’, whereby thoughts and ideas ‘tumble’ out in a rapid form, as expressed here with James laying upon his bed and returning to his childhood. 

‘I am twelve years old. Laying flat on my front, up in the hayloft. Dust and husks skip in the air about me. I’m supposed to be turning the hay, but I’ve fallen asleep in the warm gloom. Arrows of daylight cross the loft floor. I was dreaming of a battle, leading the cry on a bright, white horse, men cheering. Rub my eyes. There’s a creaking noise behind me. I roll over. And she’s there, in the far corner, under the eaves.’ 

This style greatly helps with the pace of relaying the story, as well as focusing upon a very personal, individual narrative from the main character, through whose eyes and senses we become aware of everything going on. Thus, as James’s world becomes darker, we gain great clarity about his current mental well-being on any given page of the book. 

This is skilful writing at its peak and allows us to slip easily into James’s life, his hopes, fears and state of mind. James is strong and we’re naturally rooting for him. Not because he is a paragon of virtue, but due to the fact that he has been well-crafted for us by an artisan writer. Yet also, we hold a natural degree of trepidation that he might not get out of this wholly intact; either physically, emotionally, mentally or a combination of all three. The mere fact that we care is entirely down to Emily’s impressive characterisation.

This is a mighty, insightful and powerful book guaranteed to instil thoughts that will cling to the memory for considerable years ahead. As with her 2015 début novel,The Longest Fight, which I was fortunate enough to review for Ink Pantry, Emily’s research skills are impeccable and it thoroughly shows throughout every page of the writing here. 

Highly impressive and a must-read. More please, Emily. 

I’ve left footprints on a glacier – I’ve seen the Sun burst out of the Atlantic – I’ve eaten sweet papaya from a low-hanging tree in Tahiti – I’ve glimpsed Paradise – Life made sense when I was all at sea.

Emily Bullock won the Bristol Short Story Prize with the story ‘My Girl’, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She worked in film before pursuing writing full time. She has an MA in 19th Century Literature from King’s College, London, and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and completed her PhD at the Open University, where she teaches Creative Writing. Her debut novel, The Longest Fight was shortlisted for the Cross Sports Book Awards, and listed in The Independent’s Paperbacks of the Year.

Emily’s author page at Myriad books.

Poetry Drawer: Untitled by Rus Khomutoff


You can find more of Rus’ work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Getting Lucky: waiting for the day: The Rising Storm of Sedition Overwhelms Us All: Tired and Burned Out – Let 2020 Go!!!: Toilet Gate Fit Metaphor for the End of the Trump Affair by Jake Cosmos Aller

Getting Lucky

I have been extremely lucky
In life
Lucky in love
Not so much in cards

Met the love of my life
In a dream
Then she became my wife

Over the years
We have been extremely lucky
As our investments grew and grew

Fuelled by the skill
Of my financial advisor wife
Born in the year of the Golden Pig

Making me wealthy
In my old age

I often think meeting her
Was like winning the lotto
Or getting a jackpot

A jackpot of love
That continues to pay me
Dividends for life

Until the day I die
With my lucky charm
By my side

waiting for the day

I lay in bed
Waiting for the sun to rise
Next to my sleeping beauty
Filled with her love

But with the dawning sun
The nightmares come back

Filled with fearful thoughts
Of what fresh insanity
Will soon overwhelm me

I watch the daily news
Absorbing the latest
Scandal d’jour
The latest fresh hell

As I watch with dismay
America the land of my birth
Tear itself apart

As politicians play games
Thousands die
Becoming Corona Ghosts

It is enough to make me
Want to hideaway
For the rest of my time
On this earth

The Rising Storm of Sedition Overwhelms Us All

A rising storm of sedition and treason
Threatens to overwhelm us all
As the alt. right wing forces

Complicit in treason
And committed sedition

A failure of law enforcement
And politics as well

As the craven proud boys
do not hide anymore

screaming fraud
Trying to foment civil war

Storming the Capitol
On instructions from their hero

The craven President
Hides out

Watching the carnage
That he unleashed
Descend on the capitol

Tired and Burned Out – Let 2020 Go!!!
January 15, 2021

It has been two weeks
Since the beginning of the year
It seems like it has been a Year
Of horror condensed down

Into two-weeks
Of daily chaos
As the centre frays

We are so Tired
and Burned Out
yet we can’t Let 2020 Go!!!

Madness grows
Can’t take it much more
can’t shake off
the 2020 hangover

2021 You are so old
We are so done with you
Just go away
And never haunt us again

Toilet Gate Fit Metaphor for the End of the Trump Affair

News that the President’s son-in-law and daughter
Refused to allow secret service agents
To use any of their 6.5 toilets
Is a fitting metaphor
For the end of the Trump Era

The news captures the false sense
Of royal privilege
Among the Trump family
And shows how shallow, cruel
And inhuman the family really is

How did such a family of grifters
Manage to take over the WH?
And how can anyone still support
Such despicable human beings?

They deny it of course
But the Secret service
Says it is true

And they had to pay 100,000 dollars
3,000 dollars per month
To rent an apartment across the street
So, agents could relieve themselves

What were they thinking?
Perhaps they were thinking
The agents could use the bushes
Out back?

Or beg to use the neighbor’s facilities?
Anyway, not their problem
What the hired help does
After all

So glad that this band
Of grifters are on their way out
And sanity will return
To our nation

John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller is a novelist, poet, and former Foreign Service officer having served 27 years with the U.S. State Department serving in over ten countries including Korea, Thailand, India, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Spain. He has travelled to over 50 countries, and 49 out of 50 states. He speaks Korean, Thai, Spanish and studied Chinese, Hindi and Arabic.

You can find more of Jake’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Interaction is crucial: Brand positioning: Three French Horns: Another set of anterior appendages by Mark Young

Interaction is crucial

The most elegant inter-
pretation of quantum
mechanics states that
macrophages are re-
quired for a parallel
reality to exist; & that
can only happen if
zebrafish are the sole

peer-reviewed species
allowed to be taken out
of captivity to become
an accepted model for
neuropsychiatric studies
into tissue regeneration.

Brand positioning

A spectrum is a
collection of scalar
values with its
black curve being
an analog of
the momentum.

Which is why a
fixed dimensional
living space may
wish to concede
that abacus marble
or rock counters

can take the place
of trees when
considering the cause
for some cases
of partially-
working proteins.

Three French Horns

Winnebago shared a post
on Instagram, a screenshot
of some anthropologist’s tale
of the deconstruction of the
phrase a partridge in a pear
by a group of pueblo
dwellers. Some individual
ideas were reported; but
essentially the consensus
rotated around two oft-repeated
questions: where’s the buffalo?
& why is Angela Merkel so
often criticized on social media?

Another set of anterior appendages

Anchored to the hair by
centipedes wearing
elastic sombreros, even
the most advanced anti-
rain cycling accessories

cannot avoid bringing with
them more than a hint of
biting arthropod. It dis-
plays as an inflammatory
reaction similar to that

occurring when a library’s
dustiest corner is disturb-
ed. Only the addition of
mirrored aviator goggles
will work as a deterrent.

Recent poems by Mark Young have appeared or are to appear in Word For/Word, Die Leere Mitte, Home Planet News Online, experiential-experimental-literature,, Hamilton Stone Review, & BlazeVOX, amongst other places.

More of Mark’s work can be found here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: The Italian Kitchen: Politics: Ingratitude: Pan by Dr. Susie Gharib

The Italian Kitchen

Paulette was the most elegant person I had ever known,
a ballet dancer, half-Swiss, half-Italian, with a British home.
We walked into a cafe in Glasgow’s trendiest zone,
the only friend I had made then during my studentship abroad.

It was an Italian restaurant with wooden seats and long queues,
and after standing for half an hour we found a table next to the wall,
not far from another where he instantly spotted me with the serenest of looks.

I always wondered what my presence in his arena provoked.
His face was inscrutable and no muscles could be construed.
I always said the wrong things and made the wrong moves,
and I forgave him for whatever thoughts he brewed
over my aloofness, my indifference, and ill-disguised fondness.

I failed to greet him and I knew he would not pardon me for being rude.
How could I tell him that I always kept away from the people I valued most,
for whoever I touched, I was bound to lose !


I associate the word with all that is odious and morbid,
with the oppression of nations,
the starvation of millions,
with the Massacre of Glencoe,
the Genocide of Armenians,
with scepters that turn into pythons
to devour an entire millennium,
with sectarianism and schisms
within familial unions,
with blood-sheds at altars
and contagious vermillion,
with manipulative spouses
and exploitative chameleons,
with labyrinthine circumlocution
and orchestrated rebellions.


Let me sing my ode for ingratitude.
My palm is a cemetery of deep-dug holes,
drilled by your claws
in the wake of every gift and handshake I proposed.

My smiles enthuse a trickle of gall
that ruffles the stillness of your stagnant soul
that cannot be consoled
by words or glows,
devouring every ray that beams from my mouth,
like an astral Black Hole.

I tread upon your discourse of thorns
to partake of the pricks of a saga of wrongs,
but you disdain my every groan
that empathizes with your excruciating woes,
spurning my solace with habitual scorn.

[A Reading of Richard Le Gallienne‘s essay ‘The Spirit of the Open’]

Richard opted for a woodland, green office
in the blue-eyed wilderness
to conduct literary transactions,
with expected diversions from celestial bodies such as
the moon and morning stars,
and the squirrel that haunts his wood-pile,
with his thoughts often ferried by the river nearby
to the sea, far-off.

He had been simply summoned by the god Pan
whose death was mistakenly proclaimed
by Plutarch as Christianity reigned,
but Pan’s life is inextricably linked with that of the earth.
There will always be little chapels to Pan
on whose lintels Virgil’s words are inscribed:
Blest too is he who knows the rural gods,
Pan, old Silvanus, and the sister-nymphs!

There is only one creed that makes us both happy and good.
It is that of the flourishing grass and the dogwood,
of the cerulean sky and the brisk brook,
of the blue heron and the redwing.

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, Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.

You can find more of Susie’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: stick wackle the loaf ode: I hit 99 and the coffee was making me talk: would you prevent a cavity like crest toothpaste for astronaut powers?: tree grease by J. D. Nelson

stick wackle the loaf ode

room for those stars, too
milky way simult.

swinging hard like a merk
half slathered with glue and doom

there will be one minute of silence
after the explosion

fingers on my feet
cutting polaroids from a loaf

I hit 99 and the coffee was making me talk

the soap is a little rectangle
how long until my hands are clean?
smells like pea sprouts

in case of emergency contact the moon pirate
when you were something like a robot with ears on the planet of earth

I have the keys to the kitchen sink

za tree fork P/ plus
staunch reptile

and that was that until the doubts started creeping in
high above the city the robotic vultures were circling

we took it to the wall every night and tried to see thru it
your chains dragging should tell you that

look at me now with my gills and water pants and no ocean
forest grockerly until notice of federal nachos

would you prevent a cavity like crest toothpaste for astronaut powers?

a new love of the cosmic goose
what is the dream number of this toast?

the rook is now a diamond of the same eye
in sheets the rain was a powerful ghost and goose

that hurts our chances of learning the moon numbers
time to separate the numbers from the apples

to wonder aloud about the suns
a new window of the rookie forces

the saint of the clock
we get that hank of the heaven

the game of the wild face
the shimmering face of christ

tree grease

the sports tomorrow when I am that old drac
get there with that morning hand

that long acre of the simian tree for butter
do you need to climb a window for the grief?

we need the green tree to stop
the meteor knows why I was the heart

why is the ark of the natural earth of the egg?
would you like a lark of the pumpkin?

the heart of the bagel
to start with that help is the halo

the muscle of the chart of detergents
the tight window of the spinning eye

to win a window
the natural useless face

would you like that head of the cheddar wheel to speak?
we are the rose of the caramel jump

going back to see that friend of the fridge
milk or mud?

J. D. Nelson (b. 1971) experiments with words in his subterranean laboratory. More than 1,500 of his poems have appeared in many small press publications, in print and online. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Cinderella City (The Red Ceilings Press, 2012). Visit Madverse for more information and links to his published work. Nelson lives in Colorado.

More of J.D.’s work can be found here on Ink Pantry.

Pantry Prose: Shadows by Balu Swami

“CE” was the hottest selling gift item that Christmas season. It was marketed as a sleep aid, but something about it caught the imagination of all sorts of buyers – sleep-deprived seniors, millennial hipsters, spiritual energy types.

Matt and Linda didn’t belong to any of those market segments. They were both middle-aged professionals who experienced occasional stress-induced insomnia. So, with all the click baiting and push marketing, it was no big surprise that “CE” ended up on Matt’s list of gift ideas. He was like that, somewhat impulsive but mostly a lazy buyer. Linda, his wife, on the other hand, was a cautious buyer. She would research a product inside out before she would commit to buying. First, she needed to know how they came up with the unusual name for the product. The product literature was just a standard regurgitation of the health benefits of sleep and the sterling accomplishments of the female founder and CEO (degree in robotics from MIT and MBA from Harvard). So Linda worked the search engines and found that the founder happened to be a Buddhist from Nepal who wanted to call the product Chakra Energy. But her marketing team found it too new-agey, so they settled on the acronym and went about creating a mystique about the name by not explaining anywhere what it stood for. She also researched the science behind the device which was basically a patch and a console. The user would stick the patch to her forehead before going to bed. The console supposedly would pick up neuromuscular signals from the patch and transmit them to a machine learning system. The system would analyze the signals and determine whether the production of melatonin was optimal. If it was below optimal, the system would stimulate the pineal gland to increase the production of melatonin. Although she found the science dubious, she decided to buy it since it sounded like a fun gift.

She also found a bunch of stuff on the web that she found oddly interesting. The product was a huge hit with the new-agey types who attached a lot of metaphysical significance to the location of the patch on the forehead which happened to be the third eye Chakra in the Tantric tradition. By unblocking the third eye Chakra, “CE” was supposedly clearing the channel to the crown Chakra (the head) which controlled sleep. Linda soon lost patience with the claptrap and turned her attention to the next item on her gift list.

They had a good laugh on Christmas day when they found out Santa had picked the same gift for both of them. They decided to try it out that very night. The next morning, Matt said “I had a strange dream last night.” “And I got one for you. But you go first,” said Linda. “Okay,” said Matt, “so I was on the golf course with Tom and a few others. One of the others was Jeff.” “Jeff who?” she wanted to know. “We don’t know anyone by that name.” “Your brother Jeff. I asked him how you were doing and he said, “Fine. She is living with mom and dad.” “In that cowpoke town? Never” she said laughing. “Okay, here is my dream” she said. “I was on the phone with you and I hear the roar of the ocean in the background. I ask where you were and you say Belize.” “Then what?” he wanted to know. “Then nothing. End of dream.” They both thought it was weird that, in both dreams, they were separate from each other. Later in the day, Linda thought back to the many times Matt had expressed a desire to live by the ocean when he retired.

It was now middle of January. They were returning from a concert. It was snowing and the visibility was poor. He was trying to stay focused on the road and she was beginning to panic by the minute. All of a sudden, he heard her scream as a semi came up thundering down on the right lane at break-neck speed. The scream and the truck’s velocity caused him to swerve to the left lane where an SUV, horns blaring, barely missed crashing into them. The rest of the way home, she was too frightened to say anything and he was too angry for words. Both went to bed that night angry. The next day, he expected her to apologize for distracting him while driving and she expected him to apologize for his reckless driving. After a couple of days, they talked about house-related stuff but neither brought up the incident that night. In the following weeks, they sniped at each other at every little irritant – dirty dishes in the sink, socks on the floor, forgetting to buy milk – until it all built up to a big blow-up fight. This time, they didn’t talk to each other for over a week. One evening, she didn’t come home. Next day, he caught a flight to Oaxaca, found a beach front condo for rent and joined the small expat community there.

A couple of weeks later, a “fastest trending story” popped up on his phone. It was about “CE”. Its users everywhere were reporting a bizarre phenomenon: their dreams were portending real life events – lost cat found, law school admission, death of a dear one. Many were calling “CE” the Coming Events device. Just as he was finishing reading the story, his phone rang and it was Linda. She wanted to know if he had read the story and where he was. She told him she was with her parents in Montana. They were both silent for a moment. Then he said, “I’m ready to come home.” She said, “Me too.”

Balu Swami is a new writer. One of his pieces is in Flash Fiction North.

Books From The Pantry: The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

I get lost in a good story. It’s always unintentional on my part, but when I dive into a good read, I can find it difficult to let that story go. I don’t mean that habit of reading until 2 in the morning because you can’t put the book down ‘lost’. I mean, ‘heart and soul lost’. I think that’s also what happened to Elizabeth Haynes when she found some papers relating to the death of Harriet Monkton whilst researching in the National Archive. Something in Harriet’s story touched Haynes and she decided to write about it.

Although fictionalised, The Murder of Harriet Monckton is based on incidents surrounding a true story from 1843. It’s a compelling and compassionate, all too real crime story. The body of a young woman is found behind a chapel in Bromley. The local community are appalled, but we soon learn that not everyone in the town is as innocent as they appear.

Based on written records from the time, including witness statements, press articles and documents from the coroner’s office, Haynes has produced a remarkable novel which transports you deep into the soul of Victorian society, whilst telling the previously untold story of Harriet Monckton.

I enjoyed reading this book. It made me doubt, it made me question, but most of all it made me want to keep on reading. Haynes has a clever writing style and has the ability to make the innocent appear guilty whilst giving the guilty a calm and almost composed presence on the page. But this is always changing, and nobody is who they appear to be, even Harriet has secrets which she diligently documents in her journal each evening.

The characters and suspects all appeared strong to me. We have the local Reverend George Verrall who ministers at the Chapel where the body was found; Frances Williams, a close companion and colleague of the deceased. Thomas Churcher, her would be fiancé, and Richard Field, Harriet’s former landlord and mentor. Throughout the novel, each tell their story about their relationship to Harriet, but who can we believe?

Little clues are peppered here and there, but you have to spot them. The use of language is extremely effective and precise, but not overpowering.

But when the characters start to doubt themselves and one another, as a reader you begin to suspect everyone. With lines like;

“…We both have secrets…neither of us is very good in keeping them…”


“…my voice rose and sounded guilty even to me…”

Which character can you possibly trust? And this book did make me want to trust that some of the characters were innocent, and that the guilty would eventually be brought to justice. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed the story so much.

As you’d imagine from a crime story, truth is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. What is truth to one character, might not be to another. Truth and lies merge seamlessly and Harriet’s story is easily recognisable in the post #MeToo movement.

As one of the characters says, “… Trouble is, the truth is plain and easy to remember. Lies, though, that’s different. You lie once, you have to remember the lie, and the truth doesn’t fade when time passes, but a lie does…”

In real life, Harriet Monckton didn’t receive justice. We will never know what happened to her. But Haynes deals with her story with humanity and compassion. If you’re a fan of reading crime drama, then I think you’ll like this book. I would certainly read more from this author.

There is a tantalising hint in the afterword that Haynes may write another story connected to one of the characters, after she uncovered more information about them in the public records during her research. I do hope this is true, I would very much like another trip to the Victorian town of Bromley. Maybe I’ll know which characters I can really trust by then.

“…I looked at her directly. People do not challenge you when you look them in the eye…”

As one of the characters says “… Trouble is, the truth is plain and easy to remember. Lies, though, that’s different. You lie once, you have to remember the lie, and the truth doesn’t fade when time passes, but a lie does…”

The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes is available from Myriad Books.

Poetry Drawer: French Fries: Read My Lips: Shower Drain Lovers: Searching: Geppetto by Charles K. Carter

French Fries

When we were dating,
I used to come to the fast food
restaurant where you worked and eat
with you on your breaks. We’d order
two large fries and you would dump out
both cartons on the tray, teaching
me to share while I dipped my fries in
mayo and ketchup and you dipped
yours in sweet and sour, not knowing
the sour was yet to leak out of

Read My Lips

On our one-month anniversary
I learned that you could read lips.
I put your powers to the test.
I mouthed my order for you to transcribe
for the confused waitress.
I spent the whole meal mouthing
my thoughts and jokes and dreams.
I gladly footed the bill because for the first time,
I felt solid in the world, I felt present.

When we would wake up together,
in the soft angelic glow of morning light,
I used to run my tongue down your back,
blowing chills into your spine,
feeling like a god as I watched goosebumps and faint hairs rise.
I would spell out I LOVE YOUs and I WANT YOUs
and you could sense every letter.
I felt your weight in my bed, your presence,
you truly and totally tethered to me.
For the first time in a long time, I felt acknowledged.

Sometimes I lie awake in the dark,
worrying about work and money, dreading the approach of death,
caught up in the cacophony of this harsh world
and I wonder if you are able to read my mind,
because as if on cue, you rub your foot against mine,
nuzzle yourself into my arms as if you know
I need something to hold on to, to keep myself
from floating off into my own anxiety
and I know that I am seen. I am heard. I am

Shower Drain Lovers

Sometimes I leave you messages on the shower wall,
stray hairs molded into an I ❤ U
but they are never acknowledged, never appreciated, talked about, or replied to.
They are only washed down the drain
as if this effort from my morning brain was all in vain.

I hope somewhere out there, there is a shower drain you,
made up of your stray hairs,
that is reaching out for me.
I hope he is moved by little gestures,
tangled up in love with a shower drain me.


we aren’t meant to put all this pressure on each other,
like we are the only ones for each other,
like we have to serve and fulfill and be everything for one another,
we could be open to lightening the load on this lonely, heavy heart.


I fill up the car and drive to your place.
Everyone’s driving slow on the highway,
there must be a cop or an accident nearby,
some warning to slow down.

Laugh and make jokes, flirt and flutter.
It usually doesn’t happen this quick,
must be something in the water wetting appetites,
something calling us to speed up.

Kiss kiss him, kiss me, kiss us, kiss kissing you
Touch touch us, touch him, touch you, touch touching me
You were speaking in tongues of ecstasy.

We had been searching
for someone who could speak our
language. Someone who
could tap the source of passion
burrowing deep in our bones.

Like a forgotten word
in a forgotten tongue,
you left me feeling hopelessly incomplete,


You were sad and liked to lie there broken,
to wallow in your sad boy, boy toy misery.
I was sad and I liked to fix things to distract myself from my pain,
to mend things made me feel less broken.
I thought it would work out perfectly,
like I could help piece you back together,
sew up your seems, solder your hinges,
fix your fissures, clean the rust from the gears around your heart,
paint the sunshine back into your eyes,
that I could fix you and then you would love me,
that you would lay on my lap, find a fondness for me.
But boys are not toys and I am not a toymaker.

Charles K. Carter is a queer poet and educator from Iowa. He shares his home with his artist husband and his spoiled pets. He enjoys film, yoga, and live music. Melissa Etheridge is his ultimate obsession. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. His poems have appeared in several literary journals. He is the author of Chasing Sunshine (Lazy Adventurer Publishing), Splinters (Kelsay Books), and Salem Revisited (WordTech Editions).

More of Charles’ work can be found here on Ink Pantry.

Flash in the Pantry: Grave Concerns by john e.c.

Here lies Frank Ellis, ‘Who Died As He Lived: With Dignity.’ And not too far away is Gertrude Bishop, ‘The Devoted Wife Of Walter. A Long Life Of Loving And Giving.’

The town cemetery is full of these kinds of sentiments. It’s one of the main reasons I spend so much of my time here. Almost every day, I have my faith in humanity restored.

On the other hand, my religious faith, what little I had, has withered. One has only to walk around the Baby Memorial Garden to sense that a truly loving deity would not allow such tragedy. Such pain; such unnecessary pain.

I sense that most people these days feel the same. You don’t see much of this kind of thing in the newer plots: ‘His death is but a shadow cast across the walkway to the Lord.’

No, you’re more likely to find a simple commemoration like, ‘Irene Murdoch: A Genuine Lady. A Loving Mother And Good Friend To All.

Bless you, Irene, though I never knew you in life. I hope I’ll be remembered in such a temporal and kind way. It saddens me though, to see that none of your loved ones lay flowers on your grave anymore. Everyone eventually becomes forgotten, I suppose. Time passes and the dead cannot mourn the dead. But don’t worry for now Love, I’ve brought you daffodils today. Sheila, your neighbour, is getting pansies. Sheila who was, ‘The Heart And Soul Of Her Family. She Filled Every Room With Warmth And Laughter.’ Ah, each time I read that, it tugs at my heart strings and brings tears to my eyes.

Of course, the cemetery can make you laugh as well as cry. That’s another good reason for coming. Check these out:

I Was Hoping For A Pyramid.’

Here Lies An Atheist. All Dressed Up And No Place To Go.’

Thanks For Visiting. Pardon Me For Not Rising.’

What a lark, eh? Cheeky devils!

However, my favourite headstone is one that poetically reminds us that there will come a day when leaving the cemetery will not be an option:

Remember Me As You Pass By
As You Are Now
So Once Was I
As I Am Now
So You Will Be
Prepare Your Way
To Follow Me.’

Nice. I do like a piece of verse. The ones in birthday cards are delightful but it’s hard to beat rhymes of remembrance.

All this talk of the life eternal might make you think I’m the morbid type; but no, not me. Not like Albert, over there, who visits his plot-to-be twice a week. No, I’m all for the here and now. I enjoy visiting my family and friends; and every Sunday an old acquaintance of mine comes round to the bungalow and we make merry, or whatever you want to call it, for an hour or two.

It’s just that the cemetery helps to keep me happy in the meantime. The positivity of the dead improves my daily living.

john e.c. is the editor for Flash Fiction North, which is devoted to publishing shorter fiction and poetry.

Find more of john’s work here on Ink Pantry.