The Words of Inviting Speak

Speaking with Strangers
by Valentina Cano

There’s a line of lipstick
smudged into a fan above her top lip.
It moves with each word,
creasing itself over and over
into origami birds that fly
over mentions of podiatrist’s appointments
and items missing from shopping lists.
The only part of her body
with flight.

Speaking with Strangers II

He swings his ponytail as he walks,
swatting thoughts.
He speaks to me from too far
and his voice is just a white noise
of consonants.
He invites me to inch closer
into the circumference of his voice,
but I step back,
ebbing away from unspoken demand.


Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was published in 2014.

The Disrupting Effort of Cheer

by Neil Fulwood

They’ve made an effort:

cheerful décor, in-date magazines,
seating arranged asymmetrically
as if disrupting order could con us out of our fears,
as if we’d forget

this is a waiting room.
Second storey,
plate glass windows like an IMAX screen.
Are architects untroubled by vertigo?
Below, a scene without a soundtrack:

trucks and heavy plant, workmen
colour-coded into anonymity
by hi-viz tabards and hard hats,
the scarred landscape of redevelopment.

Those of us on the orthopaedic list
do our best to ignore the guy
operating the pneumatic drill. All of us
do our best to ignore the antiseptic smell

that gives the place away.
They’ve made an effort: it’s a treatment centre
not a hospital, a procedure
not an operation, a daycase unit

not a ward. But scrubs are blue
and facemasks reduce experts in their field
to pairs of eyes we hope are alert,
pairs of hands we trust will be steady.

We have attended for assessment,
we have signed consent forms,
we can stack up a library of horror fiction
and find it wanting

compared to the phrase ‘known complications’.
And what we’re unsure of
is what will be worse: the sound
of our name when they call us through

or the soft assurances of the anaesthetist.
Outside, a JCB moves forwards
and pivots (relax: count backwards from ten),
the slow arc of its bucket

describing a deep and ragged incision.


Neil Fulwood is the author of film studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah. His poetry has been featured in Art Decades, Lunar Poetry, The Black Light Engine Room and others. He runs film revue blog The Agitation of the Mind (

Sections of Fog Coalesce

by Neil Fulwood

Almost forgotten on waking, it begins
piecing itself together as I stumble downstairs
and coax hot water out of reluctant taps.

Edging pieces assemble into an outline
as I leave the house. My subconscious
rummages in the box during the drive to work.

Sections coalesce. An image gains definition
in the upper right, where the stamp would be
if this were a postcard from the other side.

Maybe it is. Mid-morning, the picture’s formed.
The dream rolls its fog back over me.
A field or hillside grey with mist, and Tony was there.

Tony, a decade or more gone but everything he taught me
about poetry coded in my fingerprints,
small proofs littering the evidence room of the keyboard.

Tony, grinning at my incomprehension,
my burblings in the key of but you’re dead.
Tony making himself at home in my dream,

grinning as if to say Maybe it’s the other way round.


Neil Fulwood is the author of film studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah. His poetry has been featured in Art Decades, Lunar Poetry, The Black Light Engine Room and others. He runs film revue blog The Agitation of the Mind (

The Stumbling Rhythm of Storms

Lake Storm
by Spencer Connell

The wind is strong enough
to parasail with this tent.
But instead, I sit and exhale
as if smoking, and watch the tarp
rise and fall at rhythm with my stomach.

Twice I have refolded my jacket
pillow, following the creases as if they were
plot lines in a novel, while the plants blow
from left to right. The wind is
strong enough to pull the stakes from the earth
and toss them across the lake, rising
and falling like a feather never touching
the ground.

It was a quick thing, the storm
coming over the sawtooth tree-
line, then across the lake and turning
its top to white in a chalk line
advancing to me.

An ant crawls
through the tent holding a crumb
of my bread and brie so large
he stumbles multiple times,
as if drunk. The wind dies
and I go back to blowing the tarp

and watch as the rain that has settled
finds a path back to the ground and to me.

How Scars Bloom Beyond Summer


by Joseph Victor Milford

I am tired tonight beyond all summer wasps.

The sounds of the city let me go back to the horde of uninhibited soul.

Dare I say the word soul? Or the word uninhibited?

Please don’t take my pain away; I justify my pill.

A Prometheus to myself, a gasoline Phoenix Viking firestorm wingbeat

and stones and meteors hurled by it, a comet whose ache defines it.

I have a scar on my right shoulder from barbed-wire, but, I pretend

it was Psyche and her lamp. And I have a scar on my cock; I pretend

it was Pleasure, her daughter. Off of my chin drips quicksilver.

I am still the matador of my own bullshit.

I would joust lightbulbs of streetlamps holding their glowing cries of pain.

A braid of lion’s mane, a ground rhino’s tusk, piles of bottle caps fused,

plastic rockets and toy dinos melted into a clump, tattered postcards,

plum seeds. I have many a thing I’ve years been constructing.

I have a scar below my left thumb. I pretend I am its father.

I will always thrive and escape as the concubine of smoky mirrors.

On a frictionless canvas, a ghast painted lingering in the backstage of stanzas.

I have this particular stride. Slow as bird’s flight, fast as man’s thought.

Maybe I plunge over the edge of myself.

You gave me my life, that cloud of dust, that lotus blooming in reverse.


Joseph Victor Milford is a Professor of English and a Georgia writer who is currently working on his EdD doctoral studies. He was born in Alabama in 1972, and he went on to receive his Bachelors degree from the University of West Georgia, in English and Philosophy, and then his MFA in Poetry from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. His first collection of poems, Cracked Altimeter, was published by BlazeVox Press in 2010, and he is presently composing a collection of poems with Hydeout Press, forthcoming in 2015. He is the host of The Joe Milford Poetry Show, where he has compiled an archive of over 300 interviews and readings with American and Canadian poets. In addition, he is also the editor of RASPUTIN: A Poetry Thread (a literary journal of poetry) and a member of the Southern Collective Experience .