2 Poems by Gareth Culshaw


His bag emptier with every street.
Socks sagged around his ankles.
The lever in, slip, release
over and over.
Odd numbers, even numbers, rusty
hinges. Wind battered gates that
knocked their whole lives. Seeing
the sun spread itself over his daily
plot. The snip of a latch, clock turn
handle, heave the hinge-less, walk
through the gate-less, unbolt
the formal. Listening to the barking
and cawing, the snap of car lock.
Taking it all in his stride, the passing
of the unknown. Wearing away
his years until he himself slips
and drops.
The perps were our line
the joint between bricks, that
buttering of two faces, softening
the wall. Making us believe
things were not as hard as they seemed.
Flemish Bond, English Bond, Stretcher
Bond, some bricks halved, others
in wait like a waiting foot. The weight
of it all, building before us.
Those years when time is of no height.
And walls had no theme, other than
something to clamber over.
We ignored the perps, seeing them
as a weakness. A scoop with a trowel,
tap with the butt end, dink with the edge,
not realising that for every brick we laid
corners came into our lives, and shadows
and shadows, and shadows.
Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He is an aspiring writer who has his first collection by futurecycle in 2018.

2 Poems by Jefferson Holdridge

Madonna Lactans 
Omai sarà più corta mia favella,
pur a quel ch’io ricordo, che d’un fante
che bagni ancor la lingua a la mammella.
[Shorter henceforward will my language fall
Of what I yet remember, than an infant’s
Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast].
Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradise
Somewhere on the edge of the inside
Of her loosened dress, the baby’s suckling
Where Maria’s clothes once were opened wide
And flowing milk paralleled Christ bleeding
From the cross, redeeming or giving wisdom
To those who fed as the infant had, until
After the religious wars and the Council
Of Trent forbade it even in supplication.
Before the Baroque, The Tempest of Giorgione
Has a mysterious nude nursing a child.
Eve with Cain? Virgin? Whore?  As unknown
As the storm is:  God’s anger?  The wild?
While we seek the Being who also needs us
Blesséd be the Breast that breastfeeds us.
Off center, her gaze as direct as his Venus is
Indirect, challenging as the scrutiny of Manet’s,
Rude as Titian’s in Urbino is seductive
Amid a rich interior not in Giorgione’s
Venus, as Titian knew while finishing it
In Giorgione’s enigmatic, poetic manner.
Soldier or shepherd looks at where they sit.
The infant aside reveals her pubic hair.
The riddle of The Tempest has led some
To view it as the first subjectless painting.
Perhaps we, the subjects, search for home
In this early paesaggio where we’re lingering
Within a stormy landscape that still needs us.
Blesséd be the Breast that breastfeeds us.
The Painter’s Riddle
Blue is the color of the distance
Leonardo said.  Was he thinking
Only of the sky, or missing
Someone loved?  Those changing tints
Of dark and pale blue draw the eye
To vanishing points behind the portrait
Or the sacred scene and suggest a place
And story, past or future, dimly lit,
That highlights the evanescent face,
The curls, the angelic knowing hints
Of joy and sadness, the painter’s riddle
Of the foreground, of starting high
On the canvass rather than the middle,
And why blue is the color of the distance.
Director of Wake Forest University Press and Professor of English at WFU in North Carolina, Jefferson Holdridge is the author of two volumes of poetry, Eruptions (2013) and Devil’s Den and Other Poems (2015). A third volume, The Sound Thereof, is due out with Graft Poetry in Bradford, UK in 2017. He has written two critical books entitled Those Mingled Seas: The Poetry of W.B. Yeats, the Beautiful and the Sublime (2000) and The Poetry of Paul Muldoon (2008). He has also edited and introduced two volumes of The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry (2005; 2010), as well as Post-Ireland?  Essays on Contemporary Irish Poetry, which he co-edited and introduced with Brian O’Conchubhair (Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press, 2017).

Billie by Marko Otten

Billie is gone, no… (no… no… no… no…)
Yes Billie, you are gone! Damn it.
No more wagging a tail… no
No more jumping the jetty… no
Deep deep diving it will take us to
Retrieve your reflection that used to float
Freely on Pandora Pond
A weird silence rests heavily upon the water now
Stared at by four frozen blue tits on the shore
Listen Billie listen
Listen to the magpies muffling their mournful
Whistling in the undergrowth.
Meanwhile in the kitchen uninvited emptiness
Moves around mysteriously…
But giving it a closer look Billie
I can see it’s your fond face watching Louise’s cooking
Don’t tell me you want goodies
While showing off just a black lit contour of a dog
What you’re doing to her!?
She is so sad. It’s not fair Billie.
Somewhere in the blue woods off Domino Road
There’s this grassy patch where kangaroos gather
With faces grim and sad they are moaning
You used to be a friend Billie!
Their playful chaser, a noble hunter… gone Billie
You are gone Billie
They keep on waiting there: surely soon you must return
Won’t you Billie? They insist
Evening come, nighttime fall… they insist
Send them a bark at least, you can do one.
.                                                                                                   —>
Early next morning after the rain
When a black body is not shaking off a heavy shower
In that out of control manner of yours
Dull twilight will reveal under the lower canopy
A lone wombat’s tearful eye
Like a prolonged whispering…
portret Marko Otten (1)

Marko Otten is a historian and a former college administrator & principal. He lives in Arnhem, the Netherlands and sometimes at Pandora Ponds, Trentham (Victoria, Aus) or Avinguda Diagonal, Barcelona (Es). https://www.hetboekenschap.nl/product/provo/?v=7516fd43adaa


Wolf Season by Helen Benedict



Reviewed by Lynette G. Esposito

In Wolf Season, published by Bellevue Literary Press, New York, 2017, Helen Benedict reveals lessons in interpersonal relationships of average people who have survived horrific war experiences.  Benedict addresses both the psychological and physical damages as well as changes inflicted on the survivors whose stories stay with you after you have finished reading the book.

Juney, veteran, Rin’s nine-year-old blind daughter, Tariq, son of Naema, the widow of an Iraqi war interpreter, and Flanner, son of a deployed marine, represent the innocent sufferers of wars from which their parents try to keep them safe. Beth, Rin, Naema, Todd, and Louis represent the damaged adults who try to protect the children from the aftermath reality of their complicated war experiences.  All the characters are well drawn and believable.  To accomplish this, Benedict follows the characters’ every-day activities of normal American living and their sometimes extreme reactions to seemingly simple things.

Rin, a widowed war veteran, tries to fulfill her husband’s dream of raising wolves in the woods outside of fictional Huntsville, New York.  Her PTSD and flashbacks from being raped by her comrades contribute to her paranoia and prevent her from normal interactions with other humans.  Naema, a doctor from Iraqi, tries to adjust to American life with her son who has lost his leg to a bomb in Iraq.  Beth, Flanner’s mother, suffers the loneliness of a deployed husband who comes back so changed, she believes he is two people—the before and after.  When a hurricane hits this small community, these characters are whirled in to a crazy soup that only mother nature can cook up.

The novel is divided into four parts each with a title that suggests the focus in each section. The wolves and other animals in the book provide a symbolic backdrop of interdependency on each other and the humans who love them.  Benedict’s use of nature and natural instincts gives readers a deep sense of what it takes to survive and the terrible toll war and loneliness extracts not only on those who go to war but also those waiting at home.

It is a good read and engaging on many levels.  It has a light touch of politics as all war stories do, but the focus is on the consequences to people and their stories of coping when back at home.

Benedict is a professor at Columbia University and is the author of seven novels. She has also written nonfiction and a play.  She currently lives in New York. For more information, visit www.helenbenedict.com .

You can find the book here: http://blpress.org/books/wolf-season/ 


Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

Home of the Brave – Stories in Uniform-Edited by Jeffery Hess

.home of the brave cover


By Stephen Page


With Home of the Brave, editor Jeffery Hess puts together a collection of short stories about people in the U.S. military.  The period covered is from World War II to the present.  Although many of the stories refer to war, very few depict actual battles.

Let me reiterate that these are stories about people—humane stories, humanistic statements, reports about humanity.

This book will appeal to almost every reader, civilian and military alike.  Jeffery Hess does a fine job in choosing stories that have empathetic characters, hard-hitting human drama, and convincing plots.  The tales stick with you, the reader, long after you read them.   Some of these stories will shock you; some will hit you right where you live.

A portion of proceeds from each book sold is donated to USA Cares.

Read more about the book here: Home of the Brave

Read interviews with the editor: Mary Akers Blog

This book may be purchased here: Amazon 


Stephen Page is the  author of “A Ranch Bordering the Salt River.”. He can be found at



The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova


Review by g emil reutter

The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova begins with the short story Unstiching. Grudova lures the reader in with a line of normalcy, One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room, Greta discovered how to unstitch herself.  However, there is nothing normal in this collection of 13 short stories that stay with the reader long after finishing the book. There is a haunting darkness in all of the stories and a cast of characters set into miserable conditions. Characters transform in startling ways.  Grudova’s Waxy is a perfect example. It is a story set in the future or perhaps in the past. Women are subjected to training for factory work, supporting men, working jobs that scar them. They are used for money and sex, easily discarded. The value of human life is non-existent as babies are disposed of in casual and disrespectful ways. Everyone has to be registered with the government and if you leave your job or living arrangement they will track you down. A woman without a man is considered an outcast.

Throughout the stories the characters eat tinned food, have body disorders such as incontinence and anorexia. Most of the male characters have no loyalty abandoning family at will. The character, Paul, in the story, Mouse Queen, is such a fella. He is a philosopher of sorts and prior to his wife giving birth to twins, he takes off.  The wife abandoned turns into a wolf, raids local stores and once when returning home realized her babies were gone. Had Paul returned to take them or did the wolf eat them? There is a weirdness to each story, a surrealism that is haunting, grotesque.

The subject matter of this collection is thwarting yet Grudova writes surrealism well; in fact is a master of it. She has created a world no one would want to live in yet when one begins the book it is difficult to put down. It is not a book for the faint of heart for in its surrealism Grudova writes of the decay of society. I could not read the book straight through as I often do for after each story I had to ask myself: What just happened? It is a challenging read. Do you dare?

You can find the book here: http://coffeehousepress.org/shop/the-dolls-alphabet/


g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter