by Lou Smith
knee deep in swamp
slick near swamp-edge
sludge under tread.
The blueberry ash, that grew as lanky
as a cattleman, is what this
place was named after – Ash Island –
its petals like faeries’ frilly slips
under tiny pink / white dresses.
We hauled fish when it was safe
–when islands hadn’t been
cemented as land with slag–
when the slick didn’t fill their gills
Lou Smith is a poet based on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne. Her writing has been published in journals and anthologies including Soft Surface, Nine Muses Poetry, The Lifted Brow, and The Caribbean Writer. Her first collection of poetry riversalt was published by Flying Island Books in 2015. www.lousmith.net
by Mike Russell
after Luke Howard's song "Dappled Light"
Light is all around me, breathe
it in and out. Touch it
with a fingertip. Feel the grooves
of light speckle your forehead.
This is love and lust and power.
Light is all around us and it listens.
See if you can listen back to its pulse,
its shimmering gold. I see colours eat
me up but there is no pain.
I am falling through the cosmos
and flying through the sea.
I am found in this open space
and I am free.
Mike Russell is a non-verbal communicating poet with autism and PTSD. He is the leader of Brotherhood of the Wordless, a talented group of likeminded individuals with similar conditions. Mike likes to write and slam his poetry across Meanjin, Australia.
by Natalie D-Napoleon
The weather in my head says
a storm is coming,
the headache switch is on again.
Dust rain sweeps down
over the cabbages in the field -
little heads curl at the edge, like
books discarded, unread.
The cabbages wait to be rid
of the white moths, dots of eyes
on each wing unblinking at us think-
ing animals. As a child
I used to swat the moths with
my hands, white dust puffing
into the air, a magical game of
to extinguish lives.
I go to Farmer’s Market,
buy an organic cabbage,
peel back layers and layers
of leaves, a few ragged
punctures here and there. When I think
about it, the weather in my head can be
calm, too, sometimes crystalline, blue.
Maybe my headaches are a longing?
Memories left on a patch of dirt,
cabbage leaves scattered
like discarded moth-eaten
book pages in an unploughed field.
Natalie D-Napoleon is a writer, singer-songwriter and educator from Fremantle, Australia. Her writing has appeared in Meanjin, Cordite, Westerly, Griffith Review, and The Australian (Review). She has won the Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize (2018) and KSP Poetry Prize (2019). Ginninderra Press released her debut poetry collection First Blood in 2019.
by Lorretta Jessop
Lorretta is a covert café polygamist living in Sydney, Australia. She has been featured on the 2RPH radio program New Voices as an emerging writer and is dedicating 2021 to drafting her first novel: Phoney which aspires to take a literary-selfie of what it means to live in Sydney.
by Simon Donohoe
I don’t believe in sea monsters.
You lingered at the water’s edge.
Sea foam licked at the hem of your gown,
your feet submerged in briny green,
seaweed tendrils tangled around your legs,
old iron corroded your wrists.
It rose up and washed upon you.
fierce teeth the colour of sea glass,
maw open wide,
tunnel of blue, green, black.
You turned your head
and held your breath
as it collapsed and crashed over
you. Underwater, broken-bottle green
shattered and refracted sunlight.
You rose drenched,
gasped for breath,
fierce teeth grinned
a row of pearls.
I swung you over my back,
knees on my shoulders,
ready to crash bravely
into the next mouth.
Simon Donohoe writes poetry and short stories; usually, while stuck in traffic. Inspiration strikes at red lights. Previously published in Gargouille. (Instagram: @ohno_poetry)
by William Fox
Walking the back streets of beach towns,
how often do holiday houses get robbed?
is all I would think to ask the local cops.
I like visiting most in the mists of winter,
when the fish & chip shop runs a scant trade
for brunching carpenters and beneficent locals,
out to keep a parent from the school afloat,
and FOR LEASE signs start getting superglued
where old milk bars and general stores
have given up the ghost at being galleries.
The bypass was a disaster for this joint,
a heavy man says when I get to the newsagent,
plonking a goldie on the vacant counter
and grunting his newspaper out the door.
William Fox is a poet from Melbourne. His work has appeared before in places like Meanjin, Overland, Island, Southerly, Stilts, and the Best Australian Poems series of books. He completed a PhD on 1960/70s Australian poetics at Melbourne Uni in 2007.
by Oakley Ayden
i live inside a woodland hearth
untethered me daydreamed of once.
i’m now no childless woman.
out there, mum mountains, milky snow.
in here their clamor never lulls. i watch
flakes fall and feel her — the me i
could/should? have chose eight,
then five years ago. she never goes.
to ride the unbound snow
and sloppy slurp the silence
Oakley Ayden (she/her) is an autistic, bisexual writer from North Carolina. Her poems appear in Ghost City Review, Not Very Quiet, The Minison Project and elsewhere. She currently lives in California’s San Bernardino National Forest with her two daughters. Find her on Twitter (@Oakley_Ayden) or Instagram (@Oakley.Ayden).
by Em Readman
Watch him stare out to sea,
Out past the islands and the
Just in case.
He listens, for the sound of
A tin hull scraping against
The rock jetty.
He watches the tide for a fish-
ing rod with the matching initials
Etched in the handle.
Hopes for a boat turning past the cape,
For a ‘nice to meet you’
For a ‘I knew you’d be looking.’
He waits, for the absence of
No news, for something
More than this.
He scribbles down the names
Of all the sailboats, resting
In the marina,
Like it’s their fault,
Touches the rudder
I worry he’ll come back to the marina.
Climb the chain link fences, and
Go looking for you.
I slip my hand in his,
Look him dead in the eyes,
See straight through to yours.
Em Readman is a writer who lives in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her work has recently been published in Aniko Press, KOS Magazine, Good Material Magazine. They were shortlisted for the QUT Allen and Unwin Creative Writing Award in 2019, and earned a Highly Commended Award in the 2021 Kingston Arts Blitz.
by Michael Russell
who the fuck
was that swamp thing
like a cumrag
on your desktop?
mikey / don’t / ask him that / don’t be that /
mean / sit
down / root / ground / don’t
crack don’t crack / don’t /
when I tried to speak,
floated like corpses
inside my throat,
adam’s apple cored
& split, chewed,
you little fuck,
you big baby,
you emotional cannibal,
when your face boils
rum red, salts with shame.
boyfriend, when you wrote that love letter—was it before or after you dug your tongue into the socket of a camera? before or after your laptop burned white / hot with the blistered heat of genitals?
hey, it’s been a few days
since we last spoke
& i was wondering
if your fingers drifted
like ships in seawater,
lighthoused the android
humming at your bedside?
a cock on cam / is a fishhook / throbbing with bate / & a pussy / a fishnet / tossed sloppy / & cast like a spell / catch / the kitty / catch / an asshole / puckered & gaping / waiting / like a school / of red / -bellied piranhas /
dude! show me ur butt!
warmed your eyes like crab / apples, wormed their tongue into the wet slosh of your lubed asshole?
call them succubus, call them
i’ll never know
their body, how
ripped or angled,
sharp, their face
pixelated with lag
compared to mine.
let me carve you
into mannequin, let me
fetch my knife.
boyfriend said he liked his twinks
so, i bought him a sexbot & shaved
an inch off its waist, chiseled thin
its hips, abs, pecs. hmm! we need
to program an objective. boyfriend,
do you want someone to fuck? marry?
spoon? gut? good. i made sure
it’s beardless. now, what do you need
from it? a power bottom? dom top? a flip
-flop? do you want someone quiet?
someone who talks? nerdom? sports? tell me!
do you want to fuck it, marry it or kill it?
what’s wrong / with you? / do you want me / to break up with you?
just remind me why
after we said goodnight
& the lights dimmed
& the city stumbled
into sleep, you reached
for your camera & a man
to stroke, cocks
growing until they bust
fireworks / gunshots.
Michael Russell (he / they) is Mama Bear to chapbook Grindr Opera (Frog Hollow Press). He’s queer, has BPD, Bipolar Disorder and way too much anxiety. His work has appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, Homology Lit, Plenitude among other places. He lives in Canada and thinks you’re fantabulous. Insta: @michael.russell.poet
by Shaswata Gangopadhyay
First: remove the husks of words then put them in a ceramic pot
Let them wet in tears for around ten minutes
then, when they maize in salt, take the shapes of granules
fire up the oven and fry them in cooking oil
After: cut the vein of your right forefinger,
spill a drop of blood and prepare with flour
Make a tasty gravy, add spices to taste
In the way the deer dance in heavy monsoon night,
musk-scented just like that, mix and blend secretly
the rhythm of their steps in every line
Now spread roasted words over the surface
with fresh coriander and green lemon
While hot like the round petals of lotus,
serve it in white paper, one after another
and readers will taste it, saying: magnificent.
Shaswata Gangopadhyay (India) is one of the Prominent faces of Contemporary Bengali Poetry ,who started writing in the mid-90s. Born and brought up in Kolkata, Shaswata has participated in different virtual poetry festivals across Europe, as well as North and Latin America. His poetry books include Inhabitant of Pluto Planet (2001), Offspring of Monster (2009) and Holes of Red Crabs (2015).
Seeking words with sizzle, poetry that wraps us in burning ribbons and won't let go. Send us your best!