Two poems by Asante Lucy Mtenje

(for Catherine Obianuju Acholonu)

There were other forms of slaughter then.
Now, there are chanting voices,
lecherous glares, ear piercing whistles
dripping from salivating lips, all eager to pounce on me
like I am some piece of cheap roasted meat.
Then, heavy boots at my heel and suddenly sandpaper hands
jar at my tender flesh, intruding fingers jab at my hips,
searching my femininity, questioning my morality,
bruising me, reducing me to a clothless, ragged, wide-eyed doll.
That heavy foul-smelling voice breathes down my neck,
“We want you to dress nice. Nice nice like a proper woman.”
I nod in fear coupled with disbelief.
My head swells with unanswered questions,
Why? All this for what?
You think by donning that two-legged garment of “power”
I want to throw you off your “god-given” throne?
There are still so many forms of slaughter…


The smooth ebony neck
stands out, naked like a desert tree,
as it listens sardonically to the suitors’ pledges.
“Those eyes of yours that sparkle like jewels
will never be misty in their life time.”
“Those long, elegant fingers will never lift
a feather in their life time.”
“These arms of mine, iron-clad, will move mountains
and sweep you off your feet so that
those dainty feet of yours will never know the kiss of the earth.”

Asante Lucy Mtenje is a 29 year old poet, fiction writer and visual artist from Malawi currently residing in South Africa.

Brighton: Saturday Evening. Poem by Emily Critchley


The sun casts a shadow across the courtyard
A group of girls beyond the gate
wear pink sashes
stating the name of the bride.
They carry a life-like plastic male doll,
and are on their way to the seafront bars.

The old man
(we do not know his nationality)
is on his balcony as usual
smoking a cigar
playing his music
and drinking a little whisky.
He raises his hand
in salute at my passing.

I walk along by the Grand and the Metropole.
A hotel porter
carries suitcases through the revolving door.
And on the beach
students cluster in groups.
Smoke rises from a BBQ
and lovers rearrange themselves on their blankets.

I’m on my way to meet you.
Trying not to fall in love,
as the waves break against the shore
and the wind breathes through the dingy’s rigging.

Emily Critchley is a writer living in London. She has had short fiction and poetry published previously in Smoke: a London Peculiar, The Copperfield Review and Open Pen magazine. Recently she won London Metropolitan University’s annual short story competition judged by novelist Bethan Roberts. The story was published in Just Met, an anthology of short fiction and poetry. She also had a poem published in the anthology.

Two Poems by April Salzano


My mother keeps saying, even when it wasn’t
her turn to speak, and despite
the difference in topic, relevance. A lifestyle
lift, she says, is a string in your face
with barbs that can poke through as skin
thins with age. She asks if we can imagine
if she had not seen Dr. Oz yesterday,
which she does not normally watch,
but did. Autism is in the room, roaming
and pacing, but never asking questions.
Pre-teen angst is another grandchild
who gets ignored along with legitimate
pleas for advice. For now,
what is important is her face
has been protected from a fate
worse than hanging.


Audibles are illusive bastards. My sister’s
boyfriend is blind. He rarely mishears
anything. He takes the senses that work
and uses them to the hilt. Who can
blame him? He touches things—portable
DVD players, brake lines, lawnmower motors
ready for the junkyard, and makes them
new again. My mother, though, perfect
vision, mishears just about everything, always
has. I tell her 9:30 and she shows up to babysit
at 8:30 before I am dressed so she can gasp
at my lack of adipose tissue and chat
about her hemorrhoids and back spasms.
I say I’m sorry and she says, for what?
You didn’t do this to me, and I think,
there she goes again. She tells everyone I am
a professor, even though I remind her I do not
have a doctorate. I am an adjunct, Mom, I say,
and every time she says, same thing. She thinks
my sister-in-law hates her, insists
she called her fat, which never happened.
It’s not what she said, it’s how she said it,
is one of her favorite lines. She never asks
for clarification though, just goes on
operating under wrong assumptions.
She gets by. It’s not a new issue. All through
grade school she wanted to know who
Richard Stands was. I pledge allegiance to the flag,
and to the republic, for Richard Stands,
one nation…She spent her life resenting
this Dick, wanting to know what he did
to get his name in that oath.

April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania and is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism along with several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Award and has appeared in journals such as The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her first chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is forthcoming in spring 2015 from Dancing Girl Press. The author serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press (

We Wear Purple Robes – a poem by Echezonachukwu Nduka

We Wear Purple Robes | Echezonachukwu Nduka

I Know I am Loved – a short story by Fiona Marshall


I know I am loved

People ask me, what will you do when the dog’s gone, as if, you know, to prepare me? And no, I don’t know how I’m going to manage, but just for today I’m not going to think about that. Lying here on the grass in the heart of the estate, the trees around like a green womb, I am safe, secure. I breathe London, the scent of lime trees and dust, petrol fumes and humidity, the gray grainy smell of home, the sigh of a plane above is home, a sigh repeated again and again, like someone sighing in relief to be home.

London has so many of these tiny green spaces like little green hearts, beating the summer time gently away.  

Here I was born. Here I got married. Here I drank and got sober, in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in another age, before it was only for millionaires and immigrants.

Now London’s green arms hold me secure, rock me gently in the passing of time. I’ve made it.

I’ve made it. I’m 50. White trousers and blouse, red bag and sandals, turquoise toes, cherry lips going slightly soft. Big baby eyes, soft baby cheeks just beginning to fall in and wrinkle. Flat, east end voice, that I did my best to modulate. My hair a soft iron sheet down my back. If I were to have an out-of-the-body experience, so I would see myself, lying down there, on the green grass, all in white, red sandals and bag, sheet of grey hair. No one else has hair like me. The other day someone told me they recognised me across Victoria station by my hair. I’ve got a fringe like the dog’s!

There she is, peeping up out of my mobile phone, ears coy, dotingly groomed, black and white fringe immaculate. A pampered mutt with a fine salt and pepper mane. Forget breeds, she might have a bit of terrier in her.  Little white neat teeth. She has that demure, daft look, like a grown-up daughter nestling against her mother: I know I am loved.

Vet says she might last another year. She can’t manage the stairs any longer, and as for walks, it’s me walking and her being carried, if you know what I mean. I don’t know how old she is. She came from Battersea Dogs’ Home 13 years ago. Might have been one, maybe two, when I got her. Although my hair was stone grey even then. You could say we’re both living on borrowed time.

Have to leave her indoors with John on a day like this. So hot. London’s got so hot in recent years; and humid. Sun soaks into you, like a steam bath. I swear a storm is building. In the charity shop the back door stands open behind the till, onto a small green yard of ferns and young sycamores and a black iron spiral staircase. That’s my London, my childhood. Stairs rang and throbbed with my steps. Only in those days it was a newsagent’s, and I remember running down with two and six and reaching up to slap it onto the counter for my mother’s Players No 6. We took it for granted the alley behind was magic and that when you looked through the round knot-holes of the wood fence it was into another world, of streaming sunlight.

Not like this hot muggy humid sun, that seems to turn you and everything else to moisture. My mother would have been horrified at my being damp and sticky on a hot day. Oh no, we can’t have any of that. Sit up and shake my clothes around and I’ll soon dry. There must be a bit of a breeze somewhere – and oh my God what’s that. I’ve flooded. A big red patch between my thighs. Of course it would be when I’m wearing white trousers. What would Mother say to this, what could she say? An ominous, urgent pulsating out. My God it’s like a torrent. Flooding out of me.

- This is my last period, I know intuitively, it’s going. I’m going. It’s all going, all those unused years of fertility, the link with my mother, long dead, how I came from her womb and for a few years we were women together, all the other women in my family, all the generations going back, my own life, pouring out in a red stream, the hand of time squeezing and squeezing my womb so its coming out in squelches. This must be what giving birth is like, squeezing your womb again and again. Kind of almost rhythmic, you could almost count it, one-two, one-two. I’m being squeezed by time, maybe dying. So relentless. This cannot last. This has to stop or I’ll die, I’ll be gone.

And I think, all that for 30 years – for what? Pain and discomfort every month. No kids. Just a monthly sloughing off, in which the veil between the worlds thins and you’re in touch with you, the inner you, the tiny red being that lives in your red womb. The tiny shouting pulsating shaking red woman. The one you normally manage to keep down, keep civilised. The one who keeps shouting, how things really are. And now she’s dying, the little red woman is curling up and bleeding to death.

And I’m thinking of other things; how impregnated the summer shade here is with dust and pollen and traffic fumes and hay, like the bit in Great Expectations where Wemmick says to Pip, of that dismal yard at the coaching inn, ah, the retirement reminds you of the country; so it does me. And I’m thinking of the proposition from the corner shop man the other day, when out of the blue he says to me, I’m going to Birmingham for the weekend, would you like to come as well! Well I was very spontaneous in my reply! Come off it, Mustafa, I said, what about John? I don’t even know you, I said, I just come in here for my newspaper and a bit of dog food! And I’m thinking of my mother and how I never did go to a grammar school and how I still have a chip on my shoulder about not being educated. And I’m thinking of running up and down the alley as a child and collecting sycamore wings, and peepholes in fences into the other world and the iron stairs ringing under me.

And it’s like all these memories are running out of me with the blood.

So I’ve got to walk away from all this, get back to the flat. The grass beneath me is flattened and smeared and as I lean onto it, to get up, my hand comes away red. I never thought I’d bleed into the earth. Very elemental; and there’s a faint tang of iron in my nose. I feel a bit sick, actually. Bit faint. A sinking feeling. My bag, put that in front of me, red shielding red. And start walking across the grass to the foyer, praying I’ll meet nobody.  No chatty neighbours. Let the lift not be broken down, and dear God, it is working. Otherwise seven floors’ a long way up.

And rush straight to the bathroom, now at last I can peel off the red wet material. Wipe my inner thighs, white and puckering and now stained.  Already the flood is stemming, like the last cry of my body, the last scream of the little red woman inside. I’ll never wear these trousers again. Straight into a carrier bag and into the bin. I should lose some weight. I looked all right when the white trousers held me together. Now look at me, all rolling tyres and wet thighs with greying hairs all matted and stained. Brutal, really; quite brutal, what time does to you. But that’s okay. I know I am loved. SLQ


Fiona Marshall is a writer and editor, and has published short stories, poetry and non-fiction. Her short stories can be viewed at Ether Books,  

Cogs – a poem by M.J. Mellor






These cogs won’t mesh,

I’d repair it myself,

if I could.

The pibgorn drips onto my skin.

Those houses flooded by Llyn Efrynwy.

I shall drain the lake myself,

haul the houses up from the bottom.


will kiss the bricks again.

Emptied: restore and rejoice.

The cogs will turn smoothly,

dry sounds eschew moisture,

we will walk there again.

Trees bow to our rally cry,

The cogs will turn smoothly,

The lakebed; soon to be dry.


M.J. Mellor is a writer and poet from Mid Wales but based in London. He is currently working on his first novel and his first collection of poetry.


Sentinel Literary Quarterly


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Poems for a Liminal Age edited by Mandy Pannett to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders UK Get it here.




Visiting Elsa Whitt – a poem by Tom McDade






The twine thin woman reels calmly

about, arranging her lifelike wares

on a carpet of bonded burlap bags.

These are not children’s toys. 

The tallest, about five-foot-five

under a wounded tartan parasol.

A calligraphic sign on a stand

at her feet is like one marking

a garden plot, names her Elsa Whitt.

She dons clothes of another time,

brown bonnet, shawl, bell-shaped gown. 

Cheeks puffed and blushed she’s locked

in place pushing a wicker pram with one

square wheel and Elsa looks so

damned genuine, let her find

a door ajar and she will lopsidedly 

brave the damaged cobblestones. 

The baby, wearing a moth-hurt bib

is a pond reflection of her mom. 

A notice across her plaid blanket

Says she won’t wet, whine or cry.

Is this a mausoleum vault, pyramid

or merely a haunted space? 

A breathing corn-eyed cat atop

a china case filled with doll heads,

rags and limbs strikes a Cairo pose.

Is this sparse proprietor

chopping a finger at two harlequins sitting

cross-legged on a settee, a ventriloquist 

a puppeteer or just an addled hobbyist?

A musty tulip of silk is in the hand of the chubbier

delinquent while the other’s head tilts

heavily as if just slapped.

A music box plays a handful of notes

but not enough to liven or endear.

With the scratch of a match, a scented

candle flickers then leaps

at a bride and groom under glass.

A yellowed newspaper on the floor

tells of a formal wear shop arson,

a proud manikin with singed tails survived.

Instead of asking: “May I help you?”

The owner says, “You may help me.”

Offering a broom that clears

browsers out the door like straw

her free arm pivots robotically

to halt Elsa’s sneaky pram.


Thomas Michael McDade is retired computer programmer living in Fredericksburg, VA with his wife. He is a graduate of Fairfield University. McDade served two tours of duty in the U.S. Navy. He has recently had fiction published Gadfly Magazine and poetry in Ink, Sweat & Tears.



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Homeless – a poem by Madison Austin






Outside in the dark where life has no meaning

Outside in the cold my life is stark

Outside in the dark there is a desperate child within me

Outside in the cold where you pass me by

Outside in the dark where your eyes meet mine

Outside in the cold no-one is coming for me

Outside in the dark where all the cries of pain are all mine

Outside in the cold my mood is heavy and dark as the sky

Outside in the dark my life has no beginning no joy.


Her publication credits include United Press UK Anthology book The Loudest Whisper and National Poetry Anthology. One of her poems will appear in an Eber and Wein Publishers USA book called Beyond the Sea. Work will also be featured in a collection of poems to be published by Forward poetry Publishers UK . She is a member of the Canadian Federation of Poets .

A Lonely Christmas – a poem by Rachel Gardiner




The mistletoe sways in the draught of the incoming guests, hanging

expectantly at the front door,


berries white and pure, flirting with the notion of a tryst below

its wild, smooth leaves


…………. yet this evergreen


…………….. is never seen


It hangs in dismay as people pass and laugh,


Christmas fun, …. games to be played, …. and songs to be sung,


What is this joy of Christmas?  …. a season to share, a moment to

contemplate … and a time to love


The mistletoe falls still, … all have arrived, the door no longer gives

momentum to its verve,


a stalactite of tradition that oversees the expression of love and



… in solitude


Festive joy too selfish to notice this lonely branch,


Then a face of freckles and blue sparkling stars looks up in admiration

and bewilderment,


and as her mother’s hands embrace her plump fair cheeks, …. kissing

away all doubt,


…… the mistletoe sways with joy and bestows a berry,  


…….. a gift for being a friend.


Rachel Gardiner, a full time Mother of four, lives in Manchester. She has been writing poetry for a number of years and has recently formed her own poetry website.  She continues to write full time, and hopes one day soon to fulfil her life-long dream of having her own book published.

Victorian Newsclip – a poem by Benedict Dowling




The redbrick house jabbers french windows,

air conditioner rectangles jut into the free standing air.


the corseted lady, in long drapes stares at them


See through rag, diaphanous resemblance of the face we can see,

the eyebrows in a wiggle we threat to draw, yet people line up behind.


the passengers sit, we exist


The book to open, see the girl and tables with strangers,

stared from afar, the paper doll and the family estranged.


yet the story was long ago


The trees may strike desolate, dry, empty,

but lady justice tenders the lamp, the flickered



and the damp cloth that fires


Stairs to sketch on, dancing behind the beams of light and fire,

imprisoned behind her face,

painted on with white opera porcelain,

a red triangle on her lips.


the newspaper told of the ashed to ground edifice


Benedict Downing has written fiction, poetry since his adolescence.  He joined local community reading circles, workshops, college literary groups, and ventured into his own.  Has published fiction and poetry in literary magazines and journals.  He is currently working in his second novel. Two published books are “Sidereal Reflux” (Poetry. 2011) and “Epicrisis” (Novel. 2014).