“Segments” by Oubah Osman
Stormy standstill woman, a languid, smokeless fire over American plains.
What could be of her, her with thighs and many, many hues?
Women walk here and there with eyelashes fanning out,
but somehow men find their way in.
She stands with her gut of bleeding roses.
She blends, stormy woman, lustfully down.
What of plateaus? What of plain yellows in the shade of orange-browns? when
she is a bleeding thing of
absence. Presence. (potential)
folding up and inward,
Who will mend my soul?
She beckons towards whispers and away from legless amour.
And I have died somewhere in the waters below.
And I am drowning peacefully down.
Where are we
when what we have come to know
is no more?
Slowly scrape your way around its ridge. [I’m sitting
in your office chair, spinning around and around. You’re
dumping stale coffee down the sink] Devour it to the very
core – swallow every seed – bite every bruise. [You’re slicing
up a pepper for the salad. The window’s open. You grab
its heart and tear it away] Leave the stem – the tiny bone
that once clung to something bigger than itself. There it
lies. [We’re lying on the hardwood floor. You’re wearing
a white, collared shirt. The dust clings to us. You run
your fingers along the inside of my arm] Almost nothing
gets left behind.
“The Patio” by Chris Williams
By our third beer strong
our voices were long &
bullfrog sweet, and the wet
air made the smoke go down smooth. Caution
to the wind, sweat stains
form, and glistening foreheads
light the porch like beacons of
hope, till aimless controversy,
fetid swamp water, a cataract
of ferment plunges to
meet the hostile lap. Chairs
and glasses shatter in a flurry of fists. Fishnets
and painted lips from
corner shriek in a widespread
stance, blood on her knuckles, crumpled
nose and shielding hands doubled
up below. Bossman Bill, moustache
and radiating skull, hands
outraised, peace imploring,
shuffling feet, wracking memory
for conflict resolution techniques
learned in some remote workshop,
out the back door, carnage
breaching eye, time to neutralise.
I lost sight of him after the pitcher
met his face in a spray of ocean
meeting shore, the ancient war.
Nothing cools; a flashlight punches soggy holes in the dark,
Fistfuls of teeth hurl down, gnashing marks in mud
Energizing light sensitivity, scratching white flecks
On the black rims, corrugating around milkiness of pupils
10. When you see him waiting on the platform with an umbrella and flowers, mutter under your breath, “Are you kidding me right now?”
9. When he kisses you on the cheek, kiss him back but awkwardly miss his face. Then yell loudly about how pretty the flower is so he doesn’t find out.
8. Use the flower as an excuse to have no hands free for holding, because you’re certain you’ll run into someone you know and they will judge you for being on the rebound.
7. Wonder if you’re on the rebound.
6. Stop in a Queen West store. When your date unsuccessfully tries to greet the Asian shop attendant in Korean, Mandarin and Tagalog, roll your eyes and go “She’s Japanese,” even though you can’t tell either. Celebrate your win at the expense of his pride.
5. During dinner – Japanese ramen, because of course it is – zone out enough for him to ask if you have the flu. Spill broth on your brand-new white blouse. Never buy anything white again.
4. After dinner, ditch your date and follow two teenagers into a guitar store to eavesdrop on their Emma Watson rant: “She said the burden is on us to respect them, so like, women can walk around with their breasts out and it’s our fault if we look. Darn it Hermione Granger!”
3. When he catches up, text your two best friends to call with a fake emergency. Unfortunately, they do so one right after the other. Rule out ever being a super spy.
2. When he insists on driving you home, pretend to fall asleep to avoid any further conversation.
1. When he goes in for a goodnight kiss, start hiccupping. Do not stop until you’re safely through your front door.
…And so, on this day, we declare our independence from the nations of Earth– call it our secession. We don’t want conflict, but we do want to be left alone. And we will resist any claim on what we have built here on Mars.”
Part of the crowd gathered in Last Refuge’s auditorium cheered, but others booed, yelled and feuded. Some fought, and security was on full alert, in riot gear. They had cracked down hard on dissent, and dried blood stained the larger modules of the colony as worsening conditions in the colony forced the transition from non-lethal stun rounds to live ammunition. Rumours of spies and agent provocateurs from the larger governments and corporations led to show trials and public executions of individuals deemed responsible for the unrest.
The winds blew faintly outside, and just over the horizon a dust storm was brewing slowly, tentacles of red sand coursing along the desert like schools of crimson fish.
The skies were a subdued pink under the setting sun, hanging in a cloudless sky, and a pinprick of faint light, pathetic. Joseph shivered under his pressure suit, a slow chill moving up his spine. The sun couldn’t even give any more heat to this bitterly cold world.
But yet, the faint rays that it gave off shone through the dust clouds, over the hills and into the sky, imbuing colour into an otherwise dull sky, like the skies of Earth.
As the sniper watching him from the guard tower overlooking the valley – where a few brave voyagers from Earth had made their Last Refuge not so long ago – pulled the trigger and the bullet carved its fatal trajectory down to his entourage, Joseph wished he could be on Earth one last time, just to see those skies, feel the sun’s warmth on his skin and to feel time stretch out into infinity.
The last image that came up from the depths of Joseph’s mind was of his childhood – his father, a fishing rod slung over his back, waiting to take Joseph ever farther down the lake, their flimsy boat drifting off towards the setting sun.
On Grace Hartigan’s Goldsmith
By Fiza Arshad
And Hartigan enlivened her in the painting;
Her, whose eyes are downcast, gazing
at the scorned face reflected in the red coat.
The red coat that wraps the intensity buried beneath the red:
the colour of love, the colour of passion, the colour of blood,
of royalty and revenge,
whose master, Heathcliffe, shrieks in a fit of passion,
“Last night, I was on the threshold of hell. Today, I am within
sight of my heaven. I have my eyes on it.”
On the distance that wavers despite the barbed tones
that manage to slash through the different objects and indifferent people,
smoothly, and carve out corporeal depravities of her soul.
Yet, she remains poised, calm and dignified
among reflections of images within images.
Her fingers resting on red, radiating defeat
in that posture of hers.
These hands, that downward slant of her lips,
and the eyes reflecting the recollections of many a dinner parties:
the chairs, the tables, the banister, the tiles and paintings and mercy –
they all merge into one,
circling the betas and the deltas of her mind,
mocking the similes and metaphors
shimmering beneath the surface of her equilibrium.
The flowers, the lace and tight-lipped smiles fool her no more
Her, with that cavalier tilt of her pointed chin, turned sideways.
Her, with that perpetual scorn –
Red, still red.