Not your fault

Mia Lofthouse

You are a child in a room of locked doors with a key that opens none of them.

In the room there are many things, you know one of them can hurt you, you cannot know which. You stand still. Hoping if you scrunch your eyes, count to ten, you’ll wake up somewhere safe, in your mother’s arms as she whispers, ‘It was a dream, only a dream.’ You do this. But the room is the same and you are running out of time.

Ok then, if he wants you to play, you will. So, you must choose, choose and hope you find the way out. You run to the bookshelf, feel rather than see him move behind you, move closer. You take a book, hold it out in trembling hands. This won’t hurt you. But it won’t save you either. You’ve always been bright for your age, bookish, wise, but you are still a child and nothing you have learnt could have prepared you for this.

Something else then; you stumble to the bed. It seems impossibly far away. Your heart flutters, a moth failing to take flight. He is getting closer. You reach for your teddy, the one you have had since you were born. You press it against your chest. It turns to dust and vanishes. No comfort can be found in this.

You move on.

You know where to find the knife, you have had it hidden for weeks, for this exact moment. You point it at him.

He laughs.

You notice how much your hand is trembling. The room should crumble now, you think, but it doesn’t. You let the knife go. Nothing he can do will ever make you stoop that low; after all, you are the child and he is the monster. It was never any other way. 

You’ve lost hope now. You know there is no way you’re leaving this place without being scarred, but then you remember something. You reach into the pocket of your jeans for the chocolate bar you earned at school. You break it in half and offer part to the monster. He takes it and you both eat, looking at each other. Then he tosses the wrapper and reaches for you.

As you shrink in his shadow you realise the truth. It was your kindness that hurt you. Your kindness after all. And as you close your eyes and wait for it to end, you pull your kindness closer. He will not take that from you.

Mia Lofthouse is a 21-year-old writer. She writes both short stories and novels and is currently studying for a Masters degree in Creative Writing. In 2017, she was a finalist in the Wicked Young Writer award and more recently her story, ‘The Road Home’, was published in Personal Bests Journal.

There She Was

Andrew Ray Williams

Dainty arms raised, as morning rays beam. 

Loose locks jouncing, body twirling, 
unbounded, in movement with the melody.

She is a vivid field flourishing with flowers –
fresh mountain air in the warm of Spring, 

In a world of asphalt and pavers, 
fossil fuels and factories. 

An anxious father 
with a carefree child. 

Andrew Ray Williams is a poet living in Pennsylvania, USA. His work has been featured at Red Eft ReviewThe BeZine Quarterly, among others.  

Back Roads of a Country

Mervyn Seivwright

A Georgia red clay dirt path
leads me to a rich black soil field,
scarce cotton plant strands lingering,
fog echoes visions visceral of covered
colored bodies―silhouettes
bobbing fingers around prickled stems
on cotton plants. Blurred bodies
in red clay dust clouds, hiding
pricked drooling blood―fresh dye
blots on white cotton bulbs―
rubbed blood stripes on a national flag.

Mervyn Seivwright writes to bring social consciousness and poetry craft together for humane growth. He is from a Jamaican family born in London and has appeared in AGNI Literary Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, and 35 other journals while being a 2021 Pushcart Nominee. Mervyn currently lives in Schopp, Germany.

Full Speed Ahead

Andrea Lynn Koohi

Five trains leave the station back-to-back, half-moon magnets connecting them. Their fuel is the force of a little boy’s hand. A green train is chipped where a dog chewed the corner, a blue train faded where fingers hold tight. They’ve cruised these parts before, but they don’t remember: tracks like snakes around the floor. There’s no goal but forward, no purpose but fun. They speed through a tunnel, glide over a bridge, ride too fast around a bend. One derails, dead stop, on its side. The boy doesn’t see it, but my tired eyes do: its painted face still smiling.

Andrea Lynn Koohi‘s writing appears or is forthcoming in Lost Balloon, trampset, Whale Road Review, filling Station, Pithead Chapel, Ellipsis Zine Nine, Sunlight Press and others. She lives with her husband and two sons in Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter (@AndreaKoohi).


Jeff Gallagher

Here is enough.
Take a couple of handfuls of enough and make it more.
Invest your money wisely to buy a few luxuries.
Plant a patio. Harvest a hot tub outside your door.

Now take more than enough.
Use it to purchase all the things you do not need.
Fill your cupboard. Fill your freezer. You must care
For all those eager greedy mouths you have to feed.

Now take too much.
It is yours. But some of it will rot or rust or decay.
And you need to make room for the smartest and the latest.
So the only option with too much is to throw it away.

Here is plenty.
It lies in landfill or swims with the fish in the sea.
It hangs in the air with the dead – who have filled the earth
With everything, while leaving nothing as their legacy.

Jeff Gallagher is from Sussex. His poems have appeared in magazines such as Rialto, One Hand Clapping and The Journal. He has had numerous plays performed in various locations nationwide. He has also appeared in an Oscar-winning movie. He runs an occasional blog called ‘The Poetry Show With Gally G.’


Lillie Elsworth

However you think a woman should pack
and leave her life, she didn’t do it that way.
She left at a reasonable time,
after breakfast and in a raincoat
and having stopped
for a glass of water.
No small bag and no sign of a note
and no one to notice
that she left the door ajar behind her,
careful to step round the wet lilac,
pushing buds through the cracks in the terrace.

Lillie Elsworth lives in Exeter in a small flat with her boyfriend and two guinea pigs. She enjoys surrealist poetry, candles and baked gnocchi. Lillie has been published in The Cardiff Review and on The Young Poet’s Society website for a third-place win in a poetry competition.

Hop On

Joan García Viltró

I was engrossed in my reading
on that bench
at a train station,
in the warm glow of an April sun
and the bite of cruel air.

It caught me off guard,
the urge to hop on,
so I found myself on that
rolling train platform,
behind that sliding door,
staring at your amused
and daring face,
and then back at all I’d left
on that bench,
running away from me.

Joan García Viltró is a teacher and poet based in Cambrils, on the south Catalan coast. His poems are populated by Mediterranean characters and mythologies, and they often reflect his concern with Nature struggling under human pressure. He has published with Punk Noir Magazine, curates a Twitter list (@joangv66/Poetry Matters) and posts and reads poems aloud on Instagram (joangv66).

Certainly Not Trees in Winter

Karen Walker

In spring, when the trees aren’t hungry and naked, he’ll return to the park bench. Hardwoods fallen on hard times, birches silver, but penniless. He gets it. He’s there too. So no point in twig fingers, bending low under the weight of snow, tapping his shoulder for help. He’ll wait until the trees have been fed by April, clothed by May. After all, he isn’t their keeper. He has his own troubles, and, damn it, no one cares about those. Certainly not trees in winter.

Karen Walker writes in a basement. Her work is in or is forthcoming in Bandit FictionDefenestration, Virtual ZineReflex FictionPotato Soup Journal, Roi Fainéant Literary PressVersificationSledgehammer Lit, and others. Twitter (@MeKawalker883).

Colored Feathers

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar 

She climbed the wrought-iron ladder and pulled a suitcase from the loft, the large maroon one her mother had once filled with beads and frills and embroidered napkins for her wedding. Her mother’s voice inside her head warned, If you plan for the worst, it’ll happen. Think only good things. But she cupped her hand around her lips and whispered the voice into silence. Even as she tried hard to think of the yellows at the center of daisies and the purples of plums, she knew she had to prepare.

Day after day, she filled the suitcase with shavings of herself – pieces that didn’t belong there, in the house, the marriage – neatly arranged, layered with colored feathers, for use at someplace, sometime. At night, she stowed away the suitcase under the bed. The bag bulged like an over-risen loaf, the leather cracking, the contents spilling out at the sides, the zippers catching fabric and snagging longings. A pair of sandals with a cushioned footbed waited beside the suitcase.

What’s poking under the bed? the husband complained in a slurred voice one night as the mattress sagged under his weight. A corpse you’re hiding there, woman? With a knee to the center of her spine, he kicked her off the bed. She lay on the cold floor staring at the darkness under the bed until light crept between the window slats, and the outline of the suitcase emerged like a curled-up swan. Outside, sparrows chirped under the eaves, a song of sweet escape.

Later, she pressed the bulging suitcase into surrender, tucking in the contents, and zipping the jaws shut. As she strapped the sandals to her feet, moaning at the softness against her callused soles, something fluttered inside her belly. She pressed a hand to her wren-colored dress and discovered a honeydew hardness. A glance at the one-page calendar on the paint-peeled wall showed she hadn’t bled in months.

Let the seed grow in shelter, her mother’s voice in her head again, this time soft like a plea. She collapsed into a heap beside her freedom, hugging her knees like a pheasant of winter, head burrowed into its wings, eyes frozen shut. Day after day, she unpacked the suitcase, flinging the contents into road-ruts to be discolored by rain, nipped by free birds.

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. Born to a middle-class family in India, she later migrated to the USA. Her stories and poems have appeared in many publications, in print and online. She is currently a Prose Editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her debut flash fiction collection “Morsels of Purple” is available for purchase on See more online. Reach her on Twitter (@PunyFingers).

Two Photos

Lila Kahn

Lila Kahn is a photographer, illustrator, and designer from Oakland, California. She has always been fascinated by the expressiveness of landscapes, both natural and human-made, and aims to explore that quality through her art. When she is not creating, you can find her cooking, thinking about the cosmos, or trying to befriend a neighborhood cat.