Loop.

In the northernmost parts of the world, the winters are long. Some days are not worth the title of day, as an eternal dusk looms. It is a land of everlasting half-light, yearning for warmth.

These places, as you may imagine, provide little shelter from the winds and can be less than habitable. Perhaps the occasional fox stumbles, lost, through the snow. Perhaps a weary traveller, fearful, knowing of the danger, hurries south. But more often than not, the ivory plains are desolate, bare. There is a quiet that rings louder than anything else in the ears of passersby, constant and stinging.

The horizon seems the edge of an empty world. One thing breaks the perfect flatland – a minuscule blemish, invisible but to the most eagle-eyed observer. The ever-drifting white conceals everything surrounding the blemish, transforming it into a rounded pinprick, the mistaken flick of an artist’s brush on blank canvas. Upon closer inspection, a small house materializes in the gloom, its features reluctantly showing their silhouette: a domed roof, aged stone bricks. Rounded stones fill the roof’s circumference, placed with great precision, finely crafted, and bearing the test of time. Inscribed a thousand times into the granite are the words ‘Alone I wait for something to change.’ and the symbol of infinity accompanies it.

These stones continue around the diminutive structure, their tessellation broken only by a single window, shaped as a jagged circle, less than a handspan wide. Sometimes, the wind catches this hole, and its low monotonous sound is the wail of a saddened flute. The intention of this window could not have been to provide light; it does not do so in any way, other than to faintly illuminate the three rusted bars which crisscross it.

Muffled, quick, breaths can be heard, as if sandpaper scratches the hut’s walls. There is a man who wakes inside this house, and he does not know where he is. Only the crosshatched bars in the window and the outlines of his arms when he puts them up close to his face can be seen. He inspects the area. The sounds start, stop – irregular. The scuffle of bare feet on rotted oak breaks long periods of silence when the wind is still. The footsteps are hurried, clumsy in the dark. Panicked hands search the coarse walls and find them completely closed. Lengthy silences plague the occupant. In his diseased mind, the silences torture him, each moment a lifetime’s misery. Only the occasional tone from the window breaks his silence when the winds turn just right. He can no longer distinguish time, nor its passing – nothing ever changes in his dark prison. He has learned to find interest in the screeching of the wind, and occupy himself with carving patterns in the wall that he can feel but does not see. He spends hours following patterns with gnarled fingers, even though he cannot recall making them, they feel like remnants of thoughts he once had. Hours go by, as he repeatedly scratches his nails in a circle ingrained deep into the stone.

Each time he sleeps, he wakes with no memory of before, or of who he is. The only object with him inside this darkened room is a bowl of fresh berries which appease what remains of his appetite. Though his memory of individual days has somehow been obliterated, his cruel mind allows him to remember the mundane – his routine of tracing the walls, his imprisonment, and finding the berries in a small wooden bowl on the ground. He used to ponder the appearance of this item, placed delicately in the middle of his cell. Some days he wonders if the presence of such life-preserving fruits are nothing out of the ordinary, while on other days he believes that they are a supernatural occurrence he can not understand. As sleep overtakes him, he cyclically accepts his evident captivity and the berries. He then stretches out on the ground and forgets everything but the mundane.

This day is like any other: defining monotony. He lies, spread-eagled, clothed in rags which barely keep the bitter cold at bay, and gazes towards the ceiling. The window – if it could be called such a thing – wails, and he makes his way toward it. He runs his hands along the flaking bars. He likes to do this, it reassures him of reality. He feels small grooves, which fit his grip perfectly. Under the close scrutiny of one scrunched eye, he finds the grooves to be handprints pressed into the metal. He supposes he has felt these before. The bars feel loose in their granite casings, he holds them tightly and pulls the iron rod to the left. What follows leaves him awestruck; a metallic click, unlike any noise he is accustomed to in his short-lived memory. The wall rolls back, in a precise, perfectly executed arc, his freedom gained in the most common of actions. In an instant, the stone house has gone from dank jail to engineering marvel. He is left standing still, arms still outstretched and he whispers to himself a word he cannot remember learning.

“Freedom.”

The man stands where the wall had been, eyes wide. The thing he had taught himself not even to wish for had happened, and so quickly. He sinks to his knees and weeps. It is a horrible sound, a wet snarl, but what he notices is that the crying tones of the window that have almost become part of him have vanished. Behind him is only the rounded wall that had once been the creator of that cry, seeing large etchings in the wall for the first time. A gasp escapes his shriveled lips as he examines them not only with his fingers as he has done for so long, but now his eyes – etchings his fingers saw for so long as unknowable emblems, symbols, his mindless wanderings with a stone. But no, now his eyes saw a twisted font which spanned the whole wall with real words covering every surface. Larger than the rest, however, there were two words that were uninterrupted by the other etchings. GO NORTH. A compass beside this directive comprised of an arrow with an N above it embedded in the wall.

There is no deliberation. He takes his only object, the clay bowl, and begins to stagger away as quickly as he can. Not surveying the white landscape he passes, only concerned with the mysterious directive he has read.

Some time later, he is still walking northward. The hope which blossomed in him at the opening of the wall is still there: he is simply fatigued by his journey – there is little exercise to be had in a cramped cell, and he is unaccustomed to such exertion. He rests on the ground where there is less snow. He can feel the hard earth beneath him and again he weeps from pure, unadorned joy. He recovers and again proceeds at a steady pace, he notices the snow thinning, melting more, and patches of frozen turf begin to emerge. Optimism flares; his pace quickens.

Soon, his heart pounds in his aged chest – he distinguishes greenery not far ahead. On approach, he rejoices amongst the vegetation, no longer surrounded by sparse black remnants of dead branches he has passed. There is grass, then bush and then trees; these are sights he thought were ever consigned to the outside, beyond his dark prison. He had told himself he would never be among them. They were all he wished for in the cell, in the tiny fragment of time he can remember at this moment – to see something so beautiful, but more importantly, alive. His bliss resigns him to stay in the oasis for hours. He eats the fruit which grows in the thick grasses – they seem familiar in a way that the grooves in the window bars had felt, and he gathers them in his bowl, thankful that he has carried it.

A twig snaps, a low growl resounds, his head jerks, body jolting. As more growls join the first, his fear makes him run back the way he came, the only way he knows. Swiftly, he runs without being fully aware of what follows him, protecting his precious berries and wooden bowl. The creatures pursue – he is sure of his impending mortality – and he reaches the snow once more. He does not look back to see the demons falter at the snow’s border, reluctant to leave their forest. Terror carries him back into the desolate white, obliterating his outward bound tracks. He arrives at his cell and without hesitation wrenches the wall’s edge shut. He huddles, breathing in ragged gasps. The man finally understands his fate. He places the berries delicately in the middle of his cell for himself, preparing for when he awakes.

Hours later, there is a man who wakes inside this house, and he does not know where he is. Awakened by wind that sounds of a saddened flute, the man finds himself trapped in a darkened room. He finds a fresh bowl of berries on the ground. Rising, he examines the window, and finds grooves, which seem to fit his grip perfectly.

__

Isaac Fish, located in Toronto Canada, is an aspiring poet and short story author that writes through the night and edits with the blistering sun looking over his shoulder. He hopes to eventually bring a renewed interest of both creative writing and analysis to classrooms so that he may foster a wave of interest in young and aspiring authors.

© Isaac Fish 2018

Straight fundamentalism

Gays were sent to concentration camps in Chechnya. Some of them were returned to their families, knowing that the shame would prevent them from marrying off the girls of the family. In Chechnya, they say there are no gays.

Don’t take me there, I don’t want to wake up with them
Those that think that our poems are

Words of perversion, bestiality, affliction, embarrassment, deviancy,
A word that must be treated with medications, a ghost that threatens their peaceful nights
 
No closet, concentration camp nor shame will bury the feeling
That we are different and thusly beautiful, we are different and so we are beautiful

Mati Shemoelof is a poet, author and editor. His writing is diverse and includes six poetry books, plays, articles and fiction. His works have won significant recognition and prizes. He is one of the leading voices of the Arab-Jews (Mizrahi Movement), and a founder of the “Culture Guerrilla” movement in Israel. He is also a founder of “Poetic-Hafla,” a series of multi-language Poetry-Art-Music parties in Berlin. These days, he is writing his second novel as part of the rising Israeli Jewish Diaspora in Berlin. Remnants of the Cursed Book, his latest short story collection was published by Kinneret Zmora (2014). His sixth book of poetry, Hebrew Outside of Its Sweet Insides, was published in 2017 by Pardes Publishers. German editions of his poems will be published by the Berlin publisher AphorismA in 2018.

© Mati Shemoelof 2018

Winter View

We no longer discuss it
now that she’s twenty years gone
but she is the unfinished room
at the back of the house

kept shut up all year
except for winter when
we open the door to allow
a little warmth inside.

This morning while you sleep
I skirt around corners,
working the ache from my hip.
February sun—wan as a sick child

but I reach the back room
and am struck by brightness
spilling over me. With its row
of narrow windows grown filthy,

this place in our house
still lets in the most light.

_

M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry and fiction while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, Star 82 Review, UCity Review, and numerous other journals. Find her on Twitter @writermstone and at writermstone.wordpress.com.

© M. Stone 2018

iRegency 

if we were courting in 1813 and i
had wowed you with a glimpse
of my porcelain white ankle naughtily appearing
from under my muslin empire dress
i would have had to duly confess
to have been me
that had succumbed to giddiness because
the sight of you in those tight
very tight
breeches had left me to suffer all
the symptoms of a heaving bosom

sir
i am all a-quiver
i feel faint with antici
pation
of our first kiss and with
scandalously slutty intentions i suggest
we get loved-up on laudanum
crash a dance laying down some baroque
and bass and banging mozart tunes
ready for me to
incarcerate you within
the ringlets of my cascading curls

sir
and i am certain you are aware of this
for if a gentleman wishes to dismiss
himself from his lover
he should leave her weak-kneed and in a veritable
state of bliss
for this
kind sir
is but the blessing of bedroom law not
to leave me wanting more

_

Writing under the name of iDrew to co-ordinate with her titles, Essex girl Drew has previously been published in various magazines both on-line and in print. She enjoys shopping, boys and clubs but claims these are all merely research for her writing. She is also one of the founding members of the Clueless Collective and can be found at: www.cluelesscollective.co.uk

© iDrew 2018

A Haunting

The Barrett boy is locked
beneath the lake,
his body splashing like
a fish’s tail,
his face pressing panic
hard against solid chill.

Children run everywhere,
flail their arms,
scream “Help” loud enough
to crack the ice some more.

Last year, the Lincoln’s youngest
got lost and died in Baker’s wood.
The year before, the Andrews kid
fell into a steep crevice.
It’s nature’s way of saying…
but of saying what?

Soon adults, parents.
Fire-trucks, cops, are on the scene,
lights blazing, tongues flapping.
If this poem
was called “too late”,
it would just be this stanza.
If it were “you can’t protect
them from everything,”
it would be the one before.

But it’s regarding
the Barrett boy as revenant,
his pale blue face
staring up through
a glazed, inchoate surface,
eyes spaced wide
by invisible pennies –
it’s about memory and dreams –
whatever the state
where we’re reminded.

_

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

© John Grey 2018

It’s The Smoke That Kills You

My memory cuts like a machete while the written words stutter butter knife.
The past has a chasm, between a circus with its menace of clowns, lurking
unreconciled, and the now of these pretty pleases. On a scale of one to ten
how would I rate my childhood? My four made him reconsider me as less
than I seemed.

The present denies the past by appearance. Obese half your life, the gain of
thinness for the remainder presents a puzzle of where did that more of you
come from?
Where’s the reliable connection after perfect attendance at the
school of Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, with a bachelor’s in May the Bridges
Burned Behind Me Light My Way—summa cum laude.

A skeleton’s hand fondles my shoulder; there is something many-eyed under
the bed. The feather of my voice pains me—an unpleasant reminder of its
fragility, and inability to carry arpeggios of love without outages of audible.
This begins the story of my friend Denise.

Then girls were Lisa, Cheryl, and Denise, with a light sprinkle of Sharons.
On the evening news we all watched Denise’s older sister die in a fire. Big
deals—fires, and children dropping from high-rises like bags of garbage (as
the eyewitness, Javier, my classmate, was quoted, in The New York Daily
News
). The camera watched the window where she tried to rise to life before
her transformation. A price for living in the sky.

It’s the smoke that kills you. Spooky. Grandma Martin had a burn scar her
entire right side the outcome of a tango with cotton gown and old-timey oil
lamp. Her daughter inherited a cold terror of fire and the peril of the house
burning down, in the night, with us unattended, while she worked. You can
die a thousand times from fire not burning you.

After a time, Denise returned to school wearing nice new threads of the past.
Older sisters have the nicest things. The end. See how poorly the past plays?
and even lies? Denise was never a friend.

_

stephanie roberts is a poet and interdisciplinary artist. Her work is featured or forthcoming in numerous journals, in North America and Europe, including Arcturus, The Maine Review, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Burning House Press, The Gambler, and Claudius Speaks. She was a finalist in the Anomalous Press Open Reading, the 7th Fortnight Prize of Eyewear Publishing LTD, Medusa’s Laugh Press Nano Text Contest, and the Causeway Lit 2016 Fall Poetry Contest. The self-published author of the poetry collection The Melting Potential of Fire, she counts among her strengths passionate curiosity and good humor. Twitter @ringtales.

© stephanie roberts 2017

Subtext of a Letdown

Dear Writer (no-name treatment bodes ill),

Thank you for your submission of “10 Poems”
to Reprobate Quarterly (we have a 2-poem limit).

We appreciate the chance to read your poems,
especially “The Elated Onanist in Apt. #12B”,
but regret to inform you that unfortunately
we must pass on your submission at this time
(or at any time, in case you were wondering).

As you can imagine, we receive many more
submissions than we can possibly publish,
and due to editorial limitations we must
regularly decline works of tremendous merit
(though that hardly pertains in this instance).

This is not a reflection of the quality of your work
(rather, of the disturbed mind that produced it).
We invite you to submit again after six months
(by which time we may have recovered).

If you haven’t already, please do subscribe
to our journal (just because we exclude your work
doesn’t mean we won’t exact your dough).

Best (of luck shopping around such drivel),

The Editors (jejune poseurs in mismatched pyjamas)

_

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 200+ publications in 27 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com.

© Brandon Marlon 2017