The Haunted Dollhouse

 

Inside of a Pink Plastic House, high in the attic is The Haunted Dollhouse. Someone hid away along time to protect us from its terrible contents, but in the pandemic we were bored and excavated the house looking for any secrets. We dusted off the dollhouse and out of one room, a small crow fell out and sang this song below. What other stories does The Haunted Dollhouse contain? Visit the submission guidelines page and follow the directions to submit a story you have “excavated” from the haunted dollhouse of your heart

XXXVI

Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. His work has appeared in Picaroon Poetry, Elephants Never, Marias at Sampaguitas, Crepe & Penn (among other publications). Twitter.com/storiesyoumight / https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/ His second mini collection of 3×3 poems is available now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SKBXN2H

XXXV

Katie Proctor is a poet from Yorkshire, England. Since she can remember she has loved to write, whether it be prose, poetry or stories, and writing will always be her first love. Nowadays, she writes freeform poetry and prose often regarding her experience with love, relationships and mental health. Her debut collection of poetry, Seasons, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in August 2020. Outside writing, she is a student with a passion for literature, history and classics, and is a big fan of Shakespeare. She loves to act and plans to study English Literature at university. You can find her on Twitter @katiiewrites and Instagram @katiiewrites.

XXXIV

Dark Womb / C. Cimmone

C. Cimmone is an author, editor, and comic from Texas. She’s alive and well on Twitter at @diefunnier.

XXXIII

Parts / Meagan Johanson

come closer, he unzips his pants

he’s plastic smooth beneath her hands

aren’t you a doll, he pats the bed

she lifts his chin, pops off his head

pulls off his arms and both his legs

hairless torso, pale and strange

the head still speaks, now where’s my kiss

behind her back, both hands in fists

she pecks him once, last lip line tight

then separates herself, despite

Meagan Johanson writes from her lair in Oregon. She loves music, books, new obsessions, and anything with butter on it. You can find her writing in Lunate Fiction, Berkeley Fiction Review, Versification, and elsewhere. Twitter: @MeaganJohanson.

dead leaves and rose hips  /  Rachael Gay

Name the burning leaves in funeral incense

in this time of scarcity.

A replacement of frankincense and myrrh

with this tribulation to the fading summer.

For today only the farmers will don priests robes

to create glorious high-burning pyres.

Each unknowing call to the firefighters goes ignored,

the phone hanging from the hook and gaffers tape over the dozen flashing lights.

The sky blackens and it is not a threat

but a glorious thing to behold.

Ask me, can you name this the same action

if it is not the self committing the undoing?

To let the thorns of the rose bush

I could have easily detoured but crash directly through,

rip at my skin with unconscious ferocity

it only goes half as deep, won’t scar,

mostly doesn’t bleed, beads like the finest ruby necklace.

My cat loves to bite and that is

entirely my fault for letting her gnaw away again the skin never breaks

as I feel her canines rub against bone and tendons

and do not pull her head away.

I ask the remaining rose petals,

the ones that have not withered

into nothingness in this drought

if I am still clean,

if my sobriety an aching lie?

Is this passive violence still visible in the cracked mirror?

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Rachael Gay is a poet and artist from Fargo, North Dakota. Her work has appeared in journals such as Anti-Heroin Chic, The Laurel Review, Rogue Agent, Ghost City Review, Gramma Poetry, FreezeRay Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review and others as well as the anthology What Keeps Us Here.

 

XXX

Char / Justene Dion-Glowa

[1110-1140am window open, sound of weed whacker outside
clothing
No Name Liquid Lemon Dish Detergent.jpg

ANIOME,

 

XXIX

 

The Unbuilt Dollhouse / H.E. Casson

There’s a candy tin

In a cardboard box

In an unused room

In my house

In the tinboxroomhouse

Are the smallest things

There are gachapon

From Pacific Mall

Characters and plastic plates

Birthday cakes and baby wipes

In miniature

There are stamps

Like paintings shrunk

Framed with toothpicks

Made for walls

Just inches high

Accessories

From Barbie dolls

Or figurines

Their scale just right

For the dollhouse

I would build for you

There’s a system

Near my pelvic bone

Between my hips

Under my skin

A tinybox

A roominghouse

That’s never kept an occupant

For long

But were that small-house better built

My plan was

While I carried you

To build a dollhouse while you grew

Of all the tiny things I’d found

Just left around

H. E. Casson is a queer poet who lives in Toronto. Their words have recently been published by Serotonin, Lunate, Mineral Lit Mag, and Malarkey Books. They are the winner of Apparition Lit’s Topside Test Flash Fiction Contest and are listed in the Who’s Who of Emerging Writers for 2020. They can be found online at hecasson.com and as @hecasson on Twitter.

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XXVIII

GREEN LUSH CARPET IN MY CHILDHOOD BEDROOM / Christina Strigas

As a teenager, I used to walk on grass

thought that prizes would last

watched bronze cups turn gold.

I’m a stranger now

when you promise to promise seeds

mark me with words

entwine me with calculated lies.

I’m sleeping in my old changed room

with ghosts that never stop to dream

with a river of books

with no one to see my past—

but me. Staring  at the white ceiling.

of 1976. Time has grown up

nap, coffee, wake, eat, forget you

too hot to breathe you in.

Montreal’s on fire

slowing down my gas. 

Writing retreat in my old bed

with new 1980 dressers

let’s please be realistic

and knock the plans out—

be a shape together

the ones that do not connect.

Listen up to the way 

the words line up in my mind.

How can I know what you think?

Double entendre and lovely children 

you can continue like this forever.

My exit has arrived.

I do nothing until it’s over

I stop before I hit the falls.

I stop before I lose myself in the earth.

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XXVI

adorned (for elithabess)   /  Grace Alice Evans

she endures

existence in a benumbed embrace

under sheets of angel-skin,

which transpired from celestial vaults

when They proclaimed her premature ruination.

a mask to veil pale flesh,

make her appear real

shield the revelations

                       stagnate

keep vigil for seventy-two hours prior to supplanting gore with vapor

life stirs

its gentle lullaby;

                        slumber

wrecked, the music-box becomes an apparatus of destruction

bracing itself for a serene war waged for what was exhausted

                        sacrifice

                        awakening

she let her sorrows dissipate,

she let her mask become armor,

adorned it

in hearts and lace,

in needles and chains.

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XXV

The skin I live in / Nora Blascsok 

lies on the bed.

Im muscle, fibre, organs

running through me

blood supplies my brain

with memories of touch

I want to lie down

the couch chafes

no lips to form

sounds I shiver numb

I reach for my skin

in vain my heart pumps

through layers and aches.

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XXIV

Foot Opus / Sandra Feen

See tall index toe of left foot violated.

See its ligament pushed aside to axe bone, normalize frame.

It was a freak toe, one towering over harry barrel toe

misaligning all intention. Raped toe rebels,

puffs like a purple blowfish.

Surgeon ignores bulbous aftermath, injects

nerve blocker in leg, picks his own nose.

Young intern wheels man to his freak wife’s mangled maroon Nissan,

its scratches. Hers. He blows bubbles with gum,

in sweet baby pink cartoon blow fish precision.

She opens her passenger seat.

Her orange scrunchie weakens on a high jeanie ponytail

too young to crown a head with middle aged jowls.

Hairs disease a pink ephemeral bubble flirting in wind,

and intern pulls wad out so fast, lets it all deposit in gossamer,

then packs patient and all his stiff appendages in as quickly

as he can say shit the bed. See wife drive man home

like a teen failing maneuverability. She yanks strands, bitches

about gum overpowering her mane. Man insists

she turn on the radio though she prefers quiet.

She finds Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,”

pulls out her dark valentine lipstick to be one of his backup singers.

See frenzy stoke up their driveway.

Watch man open his door before halting the joy stick.

She yells, or did she put on the brakes?

Not even the garden hose knows.

He mutters some expletive, drags foot and leg

like a wet rag across crumbs. He staggers up his driveway an hour after

surgery, cast unraveling, blood spotting already freckled pavement.

See man collapse. See neighbors’ curtains open to glimpse at sanguinary,

irked couple, then shudder, close shutters, to pick at their ears.

Paramedics arrive starched, brazen, grabbing man’s armpits

to hoist him inside, while man laughs with a foot cast

unraveling like yarn mixed with cottonwood in its shittyseason.

Nerve blocker kidnaps all feeling but laughter. He laughs

and laughs, while they toss lead in a recliner.

When ambulance exits, he tries to move his left,

big half-bandaged toe to his mouth to suck like a thumb,

while a praying mantis plays hopscotch outside with blood polka dots,

taking a lick from one circle, throwing dice in another.

Recliner nearly topples man; wife prevents the catastrophe

but drew lipstick down her chin and across her neck in the process.

A deep red Palmer fetish means extra scrubbing tonight.

Nerve blocker never wears off. Blockers camp in his left leg,

roast maggots for man’s sensory delight when its finally time

for their exit.

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XXIII

 

There Are Never Enough Endings / Aura Martin

Cento from The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

She paced the woods with her sketchbook. They hold up the sky and fence in the killing fields, and make a hideous trinket of barbed wire and wood. The world is doing just fine without a plot. Then why bother making all this art? It hides the hungry darkness inside.

They dressed in black and spoke in whispers, and lived in a house that was nothing short of Gothic, with winding trees and blood-colored wallpaper and old furnishing covered in sheets. All that genius given, all that misery marked for both of them. They confused themselves with their own chronicles. There was a room full of sea battle dioramas, another jammed with full-size decorative staircases to nowhere. Ceramic dolls and jelly jars. The doorbell rang again.

To create life, one must be a keen observer of faces. She needs to get the eyes right, those terrible pink eyes, slick and toxic as rainbows in an oil spill. It’s the poetry of it, I suppose.

Louise stands over the long blond body. His name was Morris, and he was a pianist, yet another man who relied on his own two hands. They met only once, at a piano recital in her hometown. They have different muscles now, different thin and fat places, different soft and hard places. He is so tall and looks threatening, though of course really he’s as soft and malleable as clay.

Just a bad night last night, that’s all. Anyone could see that. She puts her trembling hands over his body, butterflies over flame.  It is the only thing that is hers.

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Aura Martin graduated from Truman State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She is the author of the micro-chapbook Thumbprint Lizards (Maverick Duck Press). Her work has appeared in FEED, Flypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite, among others. In Aura’s free time, she likes to run and take road trips.

 

XXII

Mistaken Identity  / Adam Ai

What kind of lunatic keeps a sword in the house?

She made her way to the kitchen, floor all jelly.

He was exact with a blade. Behind her.

He pressed a drop of blood free, like a promise.

I know what you’ve been doing, he said.

Adam Ai is a Puerto Rican / Basque poet, and U.S. Army veteran from Los Angeles, California. He has previously been published in Chiron Review, Kanstellation, Thorn Literary Magazine, Ninshar Arts, South Florida Poetry Journal, Art Times Journal, Ancient Paths Literary Magazine, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions Magazine, The Pointed Circle, and Xenith. Connect with him on Twitter @AdamAiPoems.

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XXI

 

Shirley’s Surly Sons Stuffed Shirley’s Corpse with Sugar / Noah Farberman

Shirley’s sons sell Shirley’s treats from Shirley’s Candy truck. When Shirley died from cancer, surely the sons would not give it up. Shirley’s truck’s profits are always low and Shirley’s truck’s rent is extremely high and the event is only fourteen days once a year, Shirley’s favourite fourteen days. Shirley’s youngest son’s in charge, his children help, his wife sits where Shirley sat, same hat, less likely to slip me a fiver when I stop by. Shirley’s eldest son and his sons still toss me candy, through the window or the back entrance, cotton candy and snow cones are classics. Frozen bananas are new since Shirley’s passing. In passing I’ll get a shout, a wave. In newspapers I’ll see the truck in its new spot. In a video made for Shirley’s youngest’s entertainment business I’ll see myself at age one, in my mother’s arm, Shirley’s youngest’s hands handing me a bag of popcorn as big as myself. In a video made for Shirley’s youngest’s entertainment company I’ll see myself at Shirley’s Candy truck smiling. In the reflective silver lining of the truck I’ll see myself smile at Shirley’s Candy truck every year for at least one of fourteen days. In a funeral speech I learned that Shirley told every one of her fourteen grandkids that they were her favourite grandchild. I choose to believe that when I was with Shirley, I was Shirley’s favourite. I think Shirley’s husband told her the same, that she was his favourite. Shirley’s husband fucked around and spite killed himself and Shirley’s sons continue to sell Shirley’s Candy from Shirley’s Candy truck to this day.

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XX

 

Done You Wrong Spell a witch’s glosa / Juleigh Howard Hobson

A white door 
In a dark lane; 
A bright core 
To bitter black pain. —Elinor Wylie (Incantation Poem)

A big wide mouth jar, with a screw top lid,

rosemary leaves, black candle wax, red wine,

a waning moon, past midnight, winter’s best,

three old photographs of the two of you,

rock salt –the bigger the crystals it has

the better, finely ground coriander,

hot pepper flakes, a broken mirror shard,

angelica root powder, lemon juice,

vinegar, anvil dust, fine splinters or

scrapings of paint taken from a white door

left in an abandoned building. You must

put everything in the jar as they are

obtained, things will settle as they have to

after a good shake up. Methylated

spirits, scissors, a length of red satin

ribbon — cut into pieces, flat champagne,

nine grains of rice — burned black, nine rusty nails,

nine bent pins, nine steel needles, nine dead black

ants. a nine inch section of broken chain,

nine jagged stones gathered in a dark lane.

You don’t need all these ingredients, but

the more you can get, the stronger it grows,

and the faster it works. His name written

in red ink — crossed out in black ink — on a

piece of white paper. Any trinkets you

have that remind you of when you were sure

he loved you but he didn’t after all.

If he’s really done you wrong, add these things:

saltpeter, lizard tail, steel dust, sulphur.

They’ll add a kick to the curse, a bright core

of dark power, so to speak, around which

the rest of the magic will resolve. Throw

in some black thorns, some bee stingers, chopped up

wasp nests, coyote bones, dried up worms, sage,

mullein, hair from off his pillow, brick dust,

charcoal, feathers from a black hen, dogbane,

henbane, black mold, black ink, black soot,

love letters burned to ash. Put them all in

there, screw the lid down while you say his name,

and shake it. Leave him to bitter black pain.

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XIX

dolores trapped / nadia gerassimenko

my silence cowered

at never parting.

my silence chattered

silence.

my silence cried

there is

no way

out.

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Self Portrait by Charlotte Alexander

Nadia Gerassimenko is the founding editor of Moonchild Magazine and proofreader at Red Raven Book Design. She is a freelancer in editorial services by trade, a poet and writer by choice, a moonchild and nightdreamer by spirit. Twitter: @moonmoonmother

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XVIII

 

Gutted / Elizabeth Barton

He is the sickness of the worm

Creeping with his infernal vespers

In the silent crypt of her verse.

He is the malign moth that flies,

Plundering her precious sanity,

Beating on the rose of her mind.

He cannot leave you the hell alone,

Not even after death has claimed you.

He is a huntsman hot with triumph;

His hook is as sharp as a spire

Driven to pierce the elliptic rise

For his trophy some dim primal desire;

He flits through the despising darkness

From hellish depths to hellish heights.

A black heart opens like a yawning grave

To keep you prone, frozen in life.

Death in life, like a gutted fish

Gasping its last on the edged tower

Of strife; scorched with hungry tongues of fire

You fall in a cauldron of rage and crisis.

What is love? Love died in the airless smoke,

Crushed by the hands that held it.

Engraved on your headstone is a name not your own,

A bound inscription, the huntsman’s chains.

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EBarton-Author Image

XVII

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photo by Kristin Garth

VXI

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XV

Procedural / Sarah Hilton 

Illness starts at hands in dirt, mud

pies on days lifted from fog, drowned in morning

dew – heads in other skies, drowning. They invented the game

to fill the silence – the girls in the grass: the older

weaving twigs like yarn, the younger playing doctor –

worms dissected in thirds and fourths, their lining

undone by fingernails. Mother, on the porch, watches the head

or ass slice off, walks headless herself to the kitchen –

scrubs away at the guts in her palms. Their happy is sharp

on her skull, slices at the paper skin that wraps her hands.

They pretend to be this and that, their hands deep

in the bloody pulp, they track it into the carpet and paint landscapes

on the walls, gallows, guillotines. Home is a graveyard

growing from their fingers. When mother cries she plays

the game with them, pretends to cut onions, the onion

beneath the knife. Worm under fingers.

Sarah Hilton is a queer poet from, Ontario whose work is currently featured or forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, FEELS Zine, Hart House Review, the League of Canadian Poets Chapbook Series, FEEL WAYS: A Scarborough Anthology, Cypress Poetry Journal, Ithaca Lit, and elsewhere. She is a Master of Information student at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, and she is currently compiling a collection of poetry.

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XIV

Petaluma Dump  / Savannah Jensen

daddy takes us to the dump. it’s a

splendid affair:

sister in her green

dress, mint like an easter egg. i

hold her hand as we sift through

the junk

chipped hand mirror, snow globe,

teddy with the one eye

daddy says

one man’s junk,

another man’s treasure

i count my baby dolls, three in a row

pigtails that curl like christmas ribbon,

champagne shiny

and dirt-crusted from

their curbside snooze

the men in uniform excavate, sign

neck wound, ear to ear;

the phrase hatches in the mouth,

takes flight, maggot to fly,

feasts on the heme as it pools

i take teddy home to guard me

at night

but i dream of blonde locks and mouths,

limbs like a faint

to awake to pale dollies

hovering over the bed

calling back to the flies,

a haunting

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XIII

VIGIL  /  JESSE HILSON

The slope of denial tapers off,

That state of mind the family’s in,

When the daughter won’t come home.

A reporter’s passive voice declares

Her missing, implies she may

Be nothing but an object now.

Gas station footage has been seized.

The knife has come back positive.

The drowning family puts out a statement:

“She’s our stubborn little girl, she’s a fighter.”

And the toast-and-orange-juice crowd

Senses something slope away.

They tumble to what the family can’t.

Unbearable to watch the father’s quick

Gasp of hope back beneath the facts.

Within a crowded park at twilight

Her grade school siblings build a shield

Around their mother out of pity flames.

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XII

Dani’s First Dollhouse As An Adult / Samuel Strathman

for Kristin Garth and her dollhouses

Satellite around the front yard

of the dollhouse and discover

the cutest doilies and fringes

from mother’s old sweater –

the turquoise one we love to hate.

On the inside, I throw hair curlers,

and everything else

from my secret bathroom vault –

gears from the blow dryer –

cocaine –

cocaine mirror –

extra fanny pack –

champagne cooler –

insulin toolkit.

There is enough snorting glue

on this baby to get a whale ripped

for the slaying and flaying.

Mom comes in

for a peek, ends up

spitting her wine.

She leaves the room,

comes back with a lighter,

opens my closet,

and sets the clothes on fire.

This spectacle is dumb.

I think momma forgets

that the wardrobe was bought

with daddy’s homewrecker money.

The joke is on her now,

because before long I’ll be living

on my own, hanging up pictures

in my pajamas.

There will be no lighters

in the new house – just the smoulder

of human ruins.

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Samuel Strathman is a Jewish poet, author, educator, and editor at Cypress: A Poetry Journal.  Some of his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in White Wall Review, Train, and Dusie.  His first chapbook, “In Flocks of Three to Five” will be released later this year by Anstruther Press.  He lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

XI

The Beckons / Amy Suzanne

after Midsommar


Fine linen for the fire

Throat burning from a choir of No

Slouching in sodden snow

I am easy to know. Open.

My face a button of Astrid.

Purple bruise hue, blasted by wind

And grief. You glean thin-skinned lost girls

For the wreath, thorns and curls

May Queens, ribbons to twirl. Ask:” Are

You held by him?” My scar

Beckons. “Days are longer now, see?

Come find a home with me.”

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Amy Suzanne is a widely-published poet and artist with work forthcoming in Louisiana Literature, Menteur, and others. Her illustrations will appear in Crow Carriage by Kristin Garth (The Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021). Follow her on Twitter @iriemom.

X

ENTER, EMERALD CITY / JULIETTE VAN DER MOLEN

Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown?”- Dorothy Gale, The  Wizard of Oz 

practical, this change of eyes

because we can’t have you

seeing things the old way

​​​she said.

beautiful, this change of eyes

because I want to see you

my way, instead

​​​she said.

metal pressed cold to skin,

forehead bunched, eyebrows

raised— perilous surprise,

these eyes, unblinking, pulled

wide, red pockets welling wet

above and below, a dart side

to side, wishing for a wizard

like Oz, for eyes to dye and

poppies to breathe.

painful, this change of eyes

a process imprinting

for binding tight

​​​she said.

flash of a scalpel, blinding light

hush now, hold tight

while I affix your emerald eyes.

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IX

MARY PULCIFER AND THE SEELIE PUDDING / MAGDA KNIGHT

Why good Doctor,
I’m pleased to bid you welcome in my cell.
I’ll tell my tale again,
Just as I did with all the other Doctors
Who came knocking on my door of iron,
And if I tell you lies?
Then I’ll have damned myself to Hell.

Mary Pulcifer’s my name.
But you already knew that, hmm?

It’s true, what the papers say.
I am a Cook by trade.
A fine one, I have heard it said.
But when I joined the staff
Of that Lord Mabworth, may he rest in peace –
Yes, of Mabworth Hall,
Do not interrupt my story
Or I’ll tell it not at all –
Why then, that is when the trouble started.

When I arrived on that first Winter night,
A chill wind tugging at the air,
I was presented with a sorry sight.
A mansion fallen into disrepair.
A roof shorn of tiles,
Each fireplace unlit.
Enough fuel for the kitchen,
Yet nowhere else was warm enough to sit.
No, I did not conjure up a flame –
I am no Witch. I don’t bend wills nor fire
To do my bidding.
My sole alchemy is this –
I make an utterly exquisite pudding.

Many a grim night I spent in Mabworth Hall.
Its Lord was a man of few words,
And his wife spoke not at all.
She had suet looks,
But plain suet has a lovely nuanced texture, in my books.
No, the problem was that my new Lord and Lady
Were entirely dull in terms of company.
I’d been used to working for vivacious wits;
Sprightly types possessed of less land and more spirit.
In his cups, the Lord would confide in me
And claim he could have married better
If he’d had the money…
Well, Doctor Lightfoot, it
Meant less than nowt to me.
I locked my door and took up playing Patience
To be spared their joint nightly misery.

Rest easy, Doctor. I’m not put off
By the scratching of your pen.
Please do take notes, for then I shall not
Need to tell this sorry tale again.
Write it down for posterity –
And then, perhaps, I will not have a
Constant trail of Doctors
Fussing over me.

Now then, here lies the rub!
Lord Mabworth rushed into my unlocked room one night –
So impolite, but even by a candle’s light
I could tell his eyes were aflame
From some unusual light within.
It was not love but fear
That made him act like a possessed lover.
Fear and resolution.
As he spoke, he tossed a light pouch
Into my apron.

“I just met a man,” he said.
“A strange man, Miss Pulcifer.
A man like no other. Dressed in green,
In velvet, in no fashion I’ve seen,
Not on the Continent nor in London,
His hat adorned with a giant iridescent feather.

‘He leaned against a stile,
At his ease in the heavy rain. His coat stayed dry
And he smoked an acorn pipe all the while,
His face wreathed with singular satisfaction.

‘“Help me, Mabworth. My cart needs repair.”
I wondered how he knew my name,
But he wasn’t wrong – a broken wheel lay split in twain,
And then it dawned on me that Gentry work was afoot,
For the cart was hitched to a donkey and a goat,
Both sporting matted hair as long as weeds and black as soot.

‘I did as I was bid, and once I’d done my best
I turned away. It was a poor job with the wheel,
I’d barely improved its aspect at all,
But I was cold and wet
And I did not like his donkey or his goat,
And I wanted to be on my way.
He laid a hoof-like hand upon my sleeve
And in iron tones he commanded me to stay.

How could I demur?
One must always do the bidding of a Good Neighbour.
He asked me why I’d helped him,
And in truth I would rather help a stranger in the rain –
At least until discomfort and boredom set in –
Then come home to yet another dismal evening.

‘He laughed. “Dear man. I shall reward you in a manner
That befits your nature.
I am not as other men, for I am Green John.
These are my lands you walk,
And this is my rain that leaves you soaked.
I have with me a vial
Of something much like honey
That will make your wife as fresh as any flower,
As sprightly as a daisy,
As slender as a lily.
If you were to add it to your dinner
For yourself and your fair lady,
It would please me.

‘The thought of my plain wife made beautiful
By the Wise Folk Beyond the Hill
Seemed, Miss Pulcifer, almost too good to be true.
But it is true.
And now I present this vial to you!
Open the pouch’s drawstring, for it lies therein –
And I would bid you add it to our evening wine.

‘Some for my unlovely lady,
And some for me.
And then,” my master tittered,
“We shall see!”

Well, we did see, Doctor.
That’s why I’m in this gaol.
That’s why the people want me burned
And the system wants me treated,
But I promise you… I’m neither vengeful
Nor unwell.

Once my master left,
I sniffed the contents of the glass ampoule.
Astringent resin laced with something sweet, like honeysuckle.
I know a thing or two of taste; this would be foul in wine.
I resolved not to carry out my master’s bidding.
Instead, I put it in the evening’s meal – a lovely hare and plum pudding.

No, good Doctor. I did not taste the meal myself.
My Cook’s skills are so tempered that I need not taste my own repast
To know how it will taste; it will taste better than the rest.

I knew this pudding was destined to be delicious.
When dinner-time came
My lord and lady licked clean their dishes.
And I left them then,
To busy myself with cleaning the kitchen.
A house this large with but one servant –
There was more than one act of drudgery to complete,
And each with my name on it.

And when I returned to clear the table,
What lay before me was a sight unimaginable.
Not a man and a woman,
But flowers.
A profusion of them, entwined in two towers.
On this seat was a willow meshed with hyacinth and rose,
Wearing my lord’s buckled shoes and his gentleman’s clothes.
And beside him? A graceful statue of forget-me-knots,
Adorned with fragrant lilac tresses,
Clad in one of my lady’s old worn linen dresses.

I ran, then.
I fled to the nearest village in the rain.
If you paid my weight in gold,
I would not go back there again.
When I reached Stonemere’s roadside inn
I knocked on the door, hoping I would find a warm welcome.
As I ran, I kept an eye out for Green John.
If I saw him, I would make the evil eye at him…
But of velvet-clad strange men there was no sign.

I told the keeper of the inn what had happened,
For I knew not what else to say.
Kind and gentle, he bid me stay the night
In a spare room for free.
But my door was locked come the morning,
Then a man from the asylum
Restrained me and took me, shackled, to London
To get some rest, he said,
And succumb to endless visits from Doctors
While chained to this here bed.

Will I be decreed a lunatic?
Or a murderess who is to hang?
I do not know, but I will never drink another flask of ale
Nor eat another pie – nor anything, unless I know
What ingredients within it lie.
And I’ll tell you this for free –

Never trust a man who calls himself Green John.
And never say yes to a slice of Seelie Pudding.

VIII

stigmata / erik fuhrer

my body is stigmataed for every single death

every day another rendition of someone’s personal crucifix

a haunting greater than anything that rattled

in the heart of a ghost on the day of their wedding

you are the wishbone I bullet swallow

and my body is full of holes by morning

so I smoke my body like a glistening pig

I am a kaleidoscope of teething hearts

the case of my ribs a chipper belly feeding

stigmata is the cloth I shine myself with

stigmata is the christ that I gorge myself on

stigmata is my body     a temple of cooked pork

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Erik Fuhrer is the author of 4 books of poetry, including not human enough for the census (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). His 5th book, in which I take myself hostage, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil Press at the end of this year. He can be found at www.erik-fuhrer.com and on twitter @erikfuhrer

VII

 

Museum of Impending Death / Juliet Cook

The large black cloud looms and grows

into an impending tornado. The lights all go out.

When the lights come back on, they are red.

Broken glass cracks every mirror.

Our faces bifurcate

into a good side and a bad side.

Broken nose that won’t stop dripping.

Bloody mouth that won’t stop screaming.

An eye that wants to escape

being forced to stare at the other eye

dangling out of the socket,

trying to rip itself away from this fate.

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VI

The Idyllic Pre-Death of Isaac Plank /

Madison McSweeney

Ten years from now / the occult death of Isaac Plank / will cause chaos / but today / Isaac and his father are on the road / fighting over the car radio dial, toggling between folk rock and thrash metal / to distract from the fact that that are visiting / Isaac’s mother’s grave / “That poor boy” / they said of Isaac / when she passed / that was long ago / though / and no now one in town has much sympathy / for the wild child who wanders / the woods at night / dabbling in spell-casting and sacrifice / “His poor father” / Lawrence Plank / was always exceptional / in his banality / how he produced a kid like Isaac / no one knows / a small-town accountant / the type who attends church / out of habit / votes the same way each time / doesn’t talk politics / or much of anything, really / a quiet man / he’s telling Isaac now / how k.d. lang has the most beautiful voice ever to be put to record / Isaac raises a pierced eyebrow / and throws out Ronnie James Dio as an alternative / Lawrence shakes his head / “You keep telling yourself that, sweet pea” / above them, clouds swell, grayish purple blending into the mountain fog / “Do you ever feel a sense of doom?” / Lawrence says / out of nowhere / “Yes I do” / his son replies / His father places a hand on his shoulder, leaving the other firmly on the wheel, and squeezes it affectionately, trying to restrain himself from telling his troubled teen the tortured dreams he has been having in which Isaac dies / in agony, too young / after placing a curse on the town / the dead walk, houses burn, strange things reign / “How’s the new school treating you?” / “Fine” / “Try not to get expelled from this one” / “okay” / “I won’t go as far as to say, stay out of trouble – I know you’re incapable” / Isaac laughs / it’s a hollow sound / like his own ghost / why do I keep thinking that / “You’ll be okay,” Lawrence says, and smiles at his only child / who’s been deemed a delinquent and a deviant and a drain on the strained social services dedicated to wayward youths / if this town had their way / Lawrence thought, with a tinge of bitterness / they’d burn his boy at the stake / maybe they do deserve whatever they get / “Did we miss the exit?” / “Oh fuck, shit” / “Language” / “Oh, fuck off old man” / Lawrence rolls his eyes, remarks / “I don’t care what anyone else says, kiddo, I did a bang-up job raising you” / and thinks, apropos / of nothing / if he lives long enough, he’ll be a lot like me.

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V

Linear / Sarah Little 

Good girls dress
demure, proper.

Fresh from department-store

glossy satchel to office runway,

dainty blouse tied with a

bow. Feast for the eyes,

gift to the scenery.

Tuck a blouse into a

slim black pencil skirt.

Lines run up and down,

story of a body untold. Department store

display mannequin comes

to life.

Black polyester lining and a split

up the back;

it’s a box they’ll bury you in.

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Sarah Little is a sometimes-poet who scribbles when she remembers and gets tetchy when she goes too long without writing. Her work has appeared in L’Éphémère Review, Alien Pub, and Milk + Beans, among others. Her first poetry micro-chapbook, Snapshots was published with Broken Sleep Books in July 2019.

IV

 

Drowning / Z D Dicks

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Z. D. Dicks has been accepted by ‘Fly on the Wall Press’, ‘Obsessed with Pipework’, ‘Salzburg Poetry Review’, ‘Sarasvati’, ‘Stride’, ‘Ink, Sweat and Tears’, to name a few. He works tirelessly to promote poetry and is Gloucestershire Poet Laureate

 

III

 

furious wildflower / Linda Crate

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II

CONFIDENTIALITY  /  NICK MORRISSEY

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I

The Corruption of the Specimen / Kristin Garth

(a Crow Carriage sonnet)

Is it the bargain, words both say, why he 

allows a subject to wander away 

unmedicated from feathered belly

of a crow? No maiden before today 

let go.  All ferried to a secret lab

dream communal in a nobleman’s house

limbs waifish, jabbed, as what skitter from this cab.

Was it the violence blabbed from a mouth

so young, the certainty of what had been

done, the corruption of a specimen? Sea

green of eye, mottled pitch, carrion 

crow egg iris blinks, a tiny witch.  Can 

he allow a second pair of these to close —

a specimen but not what he supposed? 

Untitled-Artwork 10art by Amy Alexander

Author’s Note:  In this sonnet from Crow Carriage, The Doctor, a serial abducter of young girls from a Victorian seaside village, justifies to himself why he allowed a perfectly good subject to leave his infamous crow carriage.  He has a lot of faux reasons, but the real reason is her eyes that resemble the egg of a crow just like his dead’s brother — the very brother whose death inspired the terrible experiment.