This issue is an eclectic, sometimes compelling online presentation of poetry, fiction and art, which features established authors, and neophytes in a surprising mix. The site is charmingly accessed by "Blue Leaf," cover art by Christopher Woods; a little sip of Lewis Carroll's work greets the reader. Nice touch.
“These Blue Flowers,” by Andrew Jones, appears with each deftly chosen line nuanced with color. The poem is an homage to what can be saved, savored and what cannot. The speaker's flowers appear first as:
...merely blue carnations once tucked
in damp newsprint and sold by a street vendor
off King's Road for stray pounds from
the pockets of my cheap navy blue raincoat.
The flowers are a gift, but more. As the poem blossoms, they begin to mark places and times. Jones elevates his kept carnations for a time, even “an awkward blue stain” from pressing the blossom is held with care. The poem's end reminds all that objects, however treasured their beauty, are ephemeral. I loved the confidence, and command of rhythm in this poem; I will never look at simple carnations in the same way again.
Doug Holder's work shows mastery, depth, and a brevity that results in memorable lines. In his quiet, dour night-walk piece, “It is late and the fruit is bad,” Holder's images click, click, click for the entranced reader. His intent is to illuminate time out-of-sleep, the tiny losses accumulating in the dark. In the opening, his night walker heads where insomniacs always find themselves: to the kitchen.
Others may be breathing out zzzzz's under comforters, but Holder's seeker finds:
It is late at night
And the fruit
has gone bad.
Its bruises remind me
of all life's hamfists
and the things
I never had.
I'm a desperate fan of “life's hamfists.” Who hasn't looked back at their time on the planet, counting fumbles before triumphs?
“Discussions Twice A Week At My House,” Brandon William’s peek into an editing workshop, is chilling and familiar. The poem's characters are engaged in endless critique. Williams, in speaking of the kinder comments, notes:
…These are not critiques for which
we are prepared. As students,
we are set up for criticism; to take it,
to return it two-fold. And this
is something we have mastered
to the point that accepting beauty
is as difficult as ignoring the speed-bag
Kyle likes to hit when we talk.
The poem ushers us into a homey setting, the speaker sitting “on the floor with my feet / on my ottoman, reading or eating or typing / but always insulting." The repetition of Kyle’s fists on the punching bag stands for the hostility and repetition of their conversations. They lose their neutrality; ego compels them to:
...ignore what we cannot attack,
ignore when we cannot poke holes
with our pencils into their hardbound masterpieces.
The few who escape our razor- wire tongues
hear no praise, for silence has become
the best we can offer.
Allen Kopp's fiction piece, "Map of the World," anchors in the safer school days of pencils and corduroy. Still, children, in any year, don't want to face the mine fields of mockery. The piece is nostalgic, but the writing shines:
On the first day of the new school term, Joanne Torrance was sullen and unhappy. She wasn't ready for summer vacation to be over; she wanted to be able to stay at home and do as she pleased all the time. It wouldn't have mattered to her if school had never taken up again for as long as she lived.
I enjoyed Joanne's war with her ineffectual teacher. I was instantly snapped back to elementary school, where there is always one individual who possesses a lizard's portion of kindness. Everyone remembers That One, the tyrant with no sense, or talent. Why make students targets, on the first day of school? Because you can:
When Joanne's turn came, she went to the blackboard and picked up the pink chalk and wrote her name in neat cursive script underneath the babyish scrawl of the person who went before her. Then, she turned around and bowed from the waist instead of curtseying. A howl went up from the class and she flushed with embarrassment.
“Now, Joanne, I have a simple question for you and it isn’t that difficult. Are you a girl or a boy?”
Again a howl of laughter erupted from the class. They were enjoying her discomfort, which went a long way toward relieving the tedium of the first day of class.
It was the wrong thing. It was the right thing. The author makes us want to go back and savor winning, by being our own best innocent selves.
This issue is graced with original art, features a group of diverse writers, and is truly worth the read. The wonderful art pieces punctuate the prose with color and originality.