His Fortress was a Faithful Heart

by Robert Leeming

The flickering outdoor light cast a milky pattern across the garden pond Oonagh had dug on her forty-fifth birthday. Michael stared at the water and remembered the dirt piling up beside the wooden deck chair he had sat in while she worked.

Oonagh had the habit of making household rearrangements to mark milestones. On her fortieth birthday she had smashed through a partition wall to open up the dining and sitting rooms and on her fiftieth she had uprooted several conifer trees that had grown so tall they blocked out the sun for the majority of the day.

He’d objected to the pond, he’d objected to chopping the trees down. He’d become unforgivably objectionable after he stopped working at the RAF base at Cogley Wood, and he had dragged his feet mercilessly as she hacked away at the tree trunks.

“Why don’t you go a little easy,” Michael had shouted at her, “you’re fifty now, you’re not as young as you used to be.”

“If it wasn’t for me,” she said, breaking to breathe after each swing, “nothing would change around here.”

The fact that he could gaze out across the garden to the Robinson place, the fact that he could sit and watch people come and go from the Horse and Jockey pub, the fact that he could make note of the changing seasons, the maypole in the summer, the lighting of the tree in winter, this was her gift of openness to him. Chopping those trees down had kept him connected to the world when he most wanted to be out of it.

“To accept the immediacy of death is the only way to overcome anxiety,” she would say. And, “To grow nightingale roses on the eastern side of a garden is to open up your life to a host of secrets,” among other such maxims that were not so serviceable for reality, but certainly were worth bearing in mind for the next world.

Michael still hated it when people sang ‘Jerusalem’ at weddings, everybody likes the tune but the words are hardly fitting and although they really belted it out on that summer’s day in 1952, he couldn’t help but cringe at the memory. Although her countenance was divine, the holy city paled in comparison to the passion Oonagh would bring forth every Sunday night, down by the beach, with the leaky roof and the jet planes from Cogley Wood roaring overhead.

Miraculous moments come and go, in the blink of an eye, and then, the miracle done, you are left to wonder if it was just a predetermined certainty you were made to wait a little longer for than you were entirely comfortable with.

Oonagh saw the world in Michael and the generational back-and-forth continued until probability conspired that they chop down the trees together, and she looked back at him from amongst the fallen wood, the world opening up before him again, as time proved his heart faithful, and she told him about the changes.

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3 Poems

by Mark Young

a culmination of battles decided by superior numbers

                             The River Thames allows
                                             one to retain a favorite
                                 flavor of instant noodle
                 but insists on sticking
                               solar panels to its bridges
                    to take advantage of
                                         any anthemic song
                          that might happen by.
                   Good clinical dentistry
                                    is no longer enough—
                          too many cranberries!


pristine embankment

The tide pools are a
publicized piece of

toxic waste that can
improve the military's

ability to detect bio-
logical agents when the

concrete is too smooth,
the water too blue.


candy & nuts

                            Bulk dried fruit bins
           filled with all kinds
                                   of organs & tissue
                  may only be redeemed
                        for high pressure welders
          after you are approved as
                            an industrial chemical
                   donor & registered in
                               accordance with the
             Domestic Animals Act of 1994.

Mark Young is the editor of Otoliths, lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, &
has been publishing poetry for more than fifty-five years. His work has been widely
anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. He is the author
of over twenty-five books, primarily poetry but also including speculative fiction & art history.
A new collection of poems, Bandicoot habitat, is due out from gradient books of Finland later
this year.

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Memorial Day

by Julie Davis

the other night
when the shadow of the guitar
smeared on that fake pup’s face
made the real pup jealous
and anxious

grass stains on my lips
little cuts
whistlin up and down
tan, pink, purple, red, black

white and blue
mega color bubbles and
old biscuits and ½ beers
on our tongues
on the floor
on you

slick, slip down the hill
step over chess and strangers
lunge forward
go, don’t stop
maybe turn around
just once

we’ll all end up at home in the end

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Underwater Figures

by Jennifer Nicole Wells 

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See more great work from Jennifer at her website
and participate in her One Word Photo Challenge  

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4 Photos

 by H.G. Heath

BookScanCenter 1

BookScanCenter 2

BookScanCenter 4

BookScanCenter 6

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