James Croal Jackson – 4 poems

Thanksgiving, 2019


I can’t sit at the dining table

& listen to the morning swarm


of words buzzing around my hair

hovering not entering my ears    


(this tablecloth of hardened rice

& wide-angled magenta lotus flowers).


To come home is to steam tradition      

& I admit love is a dry chunk of it.   


But my patience does not endure.

The turkey in the oven has been


dressed with salt & oil since 3 A.M.

Soon we will eat our wounds.



This Old Table Means So Much to You


Tripod mahogany plate. The ceiling

leaks– nowhere for rain. The cat’s self-

cleaning beside treble clef legs. The robot

vacuum learns floor secrets below.

Purple grape stems. Vent dust

from the void. I left you a voicemail

on a no outlet road. I read a few pages

tonight. Shower steam dissipates

slowly into starlight.


The Hunger


First were fruits drifting down like feathers,

their sugar shells & caramel centers gooey.


When the fruits stopped fruiting, she scraped

off the tree’s gingerbread bark using flint


as a spatula. Next gone were leaves–

the sweet ones– but the branches chewed


like celery so were spat out. Feet swollen,

hands rugburn red, she climbed all


night, eating, the tree only sour leaves

& skeleton, exposed heart beating


before a death between teeth, strawberry ice

cream gushing past the mauve, ravenous moon.


Inevitable Change


surf another wave

of cyclical maturation


I am who I am, you

are who you are–


static trust– your white

noise a velcro


loosening of being

unhinged– I leave cities


faster than lovers, cruise

the interstate in blindfolds


before rumble strip sobers

me beyond the paved path

James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, forthcoming 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), with recent poems in White Wall Review, Subnivean, and Thin Air. He edits The Mantle Poetry ( from Pittsburgh, PA. (


Nicole Lee – 3 poems

Memory Foam


We bought him a stick and a handheld buzzer

We put in grabrails and ramps and when

we took away his car keys we got him a

wheelchair which he hated and a top

of the range mattress that we never took

the plastic off of but none of it worked

and he went ahead and died anyway


On that childhood trip to Cherating

he brought us through the looking glass

mountains to the east coast it was raining

and someone had shaded the sky over

the South China Sea in 3B Faber Castell

strokes with savage dints for seagulls

an oil tanker swivelled towards the dock


and a dark-red stream flowing between

crumbling sandbanks cleaved the long

white beach it’s the iron in the water

he said coming closer we saw the banks

were sulphur-flecked tide-gnawed pillows

of foam he lined us up and took pictures

in which we looked lost and he was missing.


Going Outstation


I stop in the government resthouse

at the milestone before the gap

2 hours from town and there’s a

chill here in the foothills I call for tea

and while I wait delete Alice’s text

Sorry mum something’s come up xxx


On the Gap Road I park and read

the broken sign in two tongues there

at the very spot where Jim Thompson

disappeared – they don’t say died –

it was the height of the Communist

Emergency but maybe he’s still alive


Maybe he thought I’d rather be alone

maybe he walked off into the jungle

left the silk behind the gin exchanged

Bangkok gossip for chattering macaques

maybe he doesn’t lie in the rich humus

thirty stab wounds in his belly spilling


light like silver in the deep deep dark

of the cloud forest I am lost I drive

around till nightfall the mist seeps in

through the cracked window like a

patient ghost I don’t dare look back

as the night fills with inhuman cries


no one is waiting for me at the guesthouse

no one knows I’m coming no one knows

I’d rather be alone why go on trying

when on this ancient limestone spine

pinked in green satins I could disappear

becoming merely breath a broken sighing


Urganda the Unknowable to Amadis of Gaul

                                                            The Unfindable Island

                                              in the Year of our Lord MMXX


My friend


How long since we saw each other!

I never imagined – I always thought –

that another would come who’d

take the shine of you from my eyes

but it’s been five long centuries

and as the leaves dull to copper in the

long wastes of my woods and no welcome

clash of steel makes my heart leap up

I am forced to recognise that truly

the times that made men like you

have passed – my time has passed –

and my island is full of ghosts

of whispers and the panting hart

no longer leaps from the trees

pursued by a bloody-mouthed lion

and it’s no longer fun to shift shapes


Through every transformation

the true me comes shimmering

through stronger and stronger

and I miss you Amadis how I

miss you my unlover my pure one


You thought I knew everything

and I did and I was unknowable

and I was but now that you’ve

been gone so long and it’s clear

that that adventure was your last

that you will never come back or

find the island I took such pains

to make unfindable I can tell you

at last because this is the last thing

that I know that you don’t know

(I will never send this letter)


Urganda sends to the sweet the valiant

the first of knights Amadis her love


Nicole Lee was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated at Malvern and Oxford. She has worked as a banker in Hong Kong and London and now lives in Wandsworth, works in Kew and writes poetry. She has been published in various online journals and long-listed in the National Poetry Competition.


John Tustin – 1 poem


at 2 A.M.
every night
eyes closed
on my back
and painting the image
of her naked body
upon the ceiling
of my mind.

John Tustin:


Em Bober – 2 poems


for Fish


His sadness reminded me that flowers

die and that people turn to skeletons.

His sadness fit like a too-big pair of trousers,

looked of old yarn, tasted like oceans

of just-rotten tangerines sitting on

my tongue.  It was the music of moving

a chair across the floor, felt forgotten

like a scent I almost knew, unnerving

as a needle-poke to my skin.

It was cold as January. His sadness

covered him like chicken pox and when

I touched his back, it dotted and calloused

us both.  Do you itch too? Do you feel the red?

I nodded, said Yes.  We laughed under our breaths.




Do you feel the light-streak glow

the barely warm glisten of winter sun seeping

through your tissue-paper skin and clasping

your fingers until they too are white

as the ice that huddles on the staircase

leading to your front door grasping for

palmfuls of puddled warmth saving

them for the next week of storm and then you

are grasping his deep skin who is

warmer than gleaming winter sun

who is electric-stove burnt orange glow

who is kettle yell who is leather car seats on

a summer day that burn my bare legs who is

some ancestral stay-alive hearth

who is a clasped pale hand who is alstroemeria

bobbing in a half-gone ginger beer bottle who

is wasabi who is huddled bodies who is

not a two-night fuck who is beer-breathed

parables who is height or Haight who is

anything but all the men and boys with

and to whom I’ve lied who is not

the night who is clasped who is skin

who is within whom?


Em Bober is currently a senior studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Central Michigan University.  An avid plant enthusiast and lover of all things blueberry, Em is hoping to attend an MFA program in the future.  Em has been previously published in Central Review, American Academy of Poets, Porter Gulch Review, and ANGLES.  She feels that one of the greatest triumphs in life is sharing art with others.


Natalie Wall – 1 poem



I’ve always had a deep sick fear 

of tooth decay. Something within me, 

something far too near 

rotting, eroding, putrefying. 

The thought scares me awake at night, 

as if I smelled something burning. 


Maintaining perfect pearly whites 

was a way of taming deep-set demons, 

keeping clean keeping whole, with that bright 

enamel a badge of personal victory. 

It said “I’m good, I’m restrained, I don’t indulge, I’m pure, 

I’m unsullied by that mercury, wet and silvery.” 


I would scour teeth and gums, 

not content until the bloody toothpaste 

spreads bright across the porcelain, white overcome 

with metallic red. Mouth washed raw 

with astringent mint, tongue a fizzing numbness, 

oral hygiene my character’s pathetic tragic flaw. 


Four years ago, the dentist poked 

and remarked on molars ground flat, a jaw strained taught, 

and pronounced my fate: a tooth choked 

with rot, begging to be drilled and filled,  

mummified in composite and any shame hidden. 

I refused, moved dentist, all knowledge denied until my fear was stilled. 


Another waiting room, another pastel coloured chair 

tacky with the repeated spray of disinfectant –  

but of course it followed, ignored but going nowhere, 

spreading, deepening, growing always more confident. 

Natalie Wall