First Love

By Christopher Iacono


Don’t worry about the park,

it’s still listening to you

talk about your love

standing in your dreams,

clutching a bouquet of roses.


The park watches your

glances, smiles,

pencil sketches.

It feels your steps

across its green carpets,

the scent of cut grass

tickling your mind,

chills covering your skin.


Your fingers comb hair,

run down a cheek,

hold the chin and lift it,

eyes in eyes, lips on lips…


You reach for the bouquet

but grab thorns, your palms sting.

Open your eyes, your love is gone.


But the park stays with you,

it will always be here;

it only asks that you leave

when the night comforts it

with warm blankets.


Tomorrow morning,

when the sun’s rays come,

the roses of your first love

will bloom again.




Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. He enjoys writing poetry and fiction. You can find him on Twitter at @ciacono1973

*Featured image courtesy of contributor Brian Michael Barbeito*


Love. Life. Welcome to June.


As we make the transition from spring into the long, hot days of summer, it’s a bittersweet change for some.

In Texas, it means scorching temperatures (think: 110°F; or 43°C) with pools and stagnant lake water as our only respite. Being a Floridian, I’m not really a lake person. The entire process evades me! So, you go and sit on a rock—and stare at other half-naked people who are also sitting on rocks? Are you kidding?

People in my hometown in the Florida panhandle enter summer with mixed feelings as well; here come the tourists, the snowbirds, the crowds. UGH.

While those in the land of the ice and snow (thank you, Led Zeppelin for this wonderful lyric from the Immigrant Song) are grateful for temperatures that finally enable them to wear shorts and a tee.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons this year. That the past mostly belongs in the past for a reason; but then, contrarily, that there are relationships from the past that are worth reviving. On mother’s day (May 8th this year, also my birthday), my husband surprised me with a trip to Niceville / Fort Walton Beach to stay with my best friend Kathy and her family. It was truly amazing.

My daughter, now eight years old, said to me about a month ago: “You got to live in all of these amazing places! You had such a cool childhood! I’ll never have that,” with a pouty face, of course.

My reply?

“Nikki, you are lucky. You’ve no idea what I would’ve given to be able to have stayed in the same place. There are pros and cons to both types of lives, transient and non-transient, but what we can come out of my childhood with are the stories and memories, good and bad, and learn lessons from them while continuing to live in the now.”

But if I’m totally honest, I don’t always let myself “live in the now.” As I’ve said before, there are times when I’m perpetually living my life driving forward, but looking in the rearview mirror the entire time, mourning the sale of this house or that one, the move from Florida to wherever, the move back to Florida, my days in the German countryside building snowmen, and my days at Langley AFB as a toddler, waiting on the tarmac for my dad, who was landing his F-15C and coming home from deployment.

“You’re always bragging. Like I’m not as good as you because I grew up living a ‘civilian’ life,” I’ve been told.

Never. Not at all. I never mean to come across that way, EVER. All I ever try to say is that it’s hard for kids like me to feel complete as adults; we always feel like there’s something missing. Like we’ve left so many things behind or so many tasks unfinished. We have difficulty with our sense of self; or what defines us as a person, because unless we had siblings, there aren’t very many people who led the life we did as children.

This brings me to our June theme, chosen my contributor Chris Iacono: First Love.

It resonates within each one of us in a different way. Whether it reminds you of the agony of unrequited love, a rocky relationship that’s in the past for a reason, or the doe-eyed sappiness that emanated from you while you were entranced in the haze of falling in love for that first time, these emotions and memories are powerful. They spur creativity more than any other emotion or state-of-being! How many songs are about love? How many books were written right after a break-up or a tearful goodbye? What about crimes of passion? I mean, my God, there are so many paintings, works of art, sculptures, beautiful music and beautiful writing that all share one thing in common: love. They may be vastly different in their presentation, but they are connected by that bond. Love can transcend societal norms, borders, distance, time, among many other things. Love also comes in many, many different forms: unconditional love for your family, love for a best friend, the love you have for your husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend; the love you have for your parents. In the book and film The Member of the Wedding, a young girl falls in love with the idea of love. She falls in love with the couple who are to be married.

I can’t wait to share with you the works that have been sent in for June; I know (and hope) you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I have.


Kelly Fitzharris Coody


*Featured photo courtesy of contributor Brian Michael Barbeito*

Dear Sephora / It Must be Difficult to be a Poetry Editor / Vacancy – by MONICA FLEGG

Dear Sephora,


I sprayed my wrists with the

sample of perfume you sent

called Alien which should

be renamed Alienate,

because even my dog won’t

come near me, and that feels

disturbing because

he’s an Australian Shepherd

that never leaves my side.

However, this morning he bolted

out the door and self

walked 50 yards ahead of

my assaulting aroma,

best described as

Chaos of Mall, with

base note of Play-Doh,

hints of synthetic sweetness,

metallic air conditioning,

and overtones of

whatever the heck they blast out

from Abercrombie and Fitch-

likely some fake pheromone

that only attracts zombies

and teens with impaired

olfactory senses because

their parents met on

and didn’t use their own


when choosing their mates,

which resulted in offspring with

deficient immune systems,

zillions of allergies and

insipid senses of smell.

So scents like Alien

are being mass produced,

and dogs everywhere are

running ahead,

even running away,

as the earth sprints toward

reeking stratosphere where

only aliens can exist.

I simply can’t thank you enough.




It Must Be Difficult to Be a Poetry Editor


Once you’ve seen fireworks

with an orchestra

it’s hard to go back to

just the lights and bangs.

Once you’ve heard the roar

of your son’s two stroke engine

firing up a Yamaha TZ250, shooting form

forward, spraying earth behind it’s hard

to be thrilled by doggerel, tricycles or

the uneven creak of training wheels.

Speaking of two strokes,

I met a guy drinking a pint

of Rookie’s  root beer

in  the Northeast Kingdom,

He quoted Bart Simpson and Anne

Sexton in a single conversation.

Word is he’s a med student/meth head

and goes by the handle Two Stroke.

A golden haired dentist from

Long Island also showed up.

I drove her to Bread and Puppet to

hear astonishing visual voices.

She said, “Some people have

too much time on their hands.”

I have nothing more to say

to that dentist,

but I’ll spark up carbonated conversation

with Two Stroke any old time.

“He who has ears to hear, let them hear.”





Now that you’re gone, time hangs slack.

Hours swing around like a nuisance

like an untied shoelace

like a brocade curtain shifting

hoarse whispers in a windstorm.

You arrived here

straight from the Heartland

full of basketball and buoyant hopes.

From Hershey High

you graduated smack

into the Harrisburg Hood;

and you tell better stories than

the Europeans ever could.

Yes, restfulness resumes;

cards and cognac are stowed away.

The linens washed and bed remade

for a different guest

a more guestly type

with much less hype,

with deathly protocol

and decent hours

and boring stories of foreign travel.

So, I’ll fix time.

I’ll sew it into honey fabric

tucking up loss in sticky liquid stitches

hemming you into a language space

a safe circular space

for vacancy to swirl



Monica Flegg lives on Nantucket Island where she walks dogs of various breeds and reads poetry of all creeds.  Her work has been published in numerous journals including; Rat’s Ass Review, Ruminate and Unbroken.

Coming Home / The Great Railway Station Robbery – by NICK KITTO

Coming Home?


We lie entwined, the silence

Between us punctuates the

Bardic tangle

Our very joining

Elemental, and now I

Feel all of me

Deep within, her

Murmured moans as

Moorland wind

The warm enclosure

Of her

Unforgettable, burned

In memories, suspended

At synapse, who could

Have known, that chance

Meeting, a poet, catalyst

To digital unfurling

“Single?” Maybe

“For you?” Definitely

Gin- trap mind

Perfectly encased, a

Porcelain shell

Living paradox

Powerful, brilliant, brave

Yet fragile, butterfly

Wings, perfect

Webs, freshly spun

Delicately poised in

Corners behind the

Weary facades of a

Long forgotten town

A star

Some other space

Long hidden in

Routine’s shadow, now

Burns bright, fierce

As flame, draws me

Now, moth-like. I drink

Your scent, touch

Your words

I know that

To bathe in the light

That’s you

Will wash


Fill me

And I will wake in

Another place, unknown

Yet familiar

I will ask myself

“Is this home?”


The Great Railway Station Robbery


Surrounded by the kind of silence

You only don’t hear at night

Broken only by thumping heart

And tinnitus hum of expectancy

Creeping to the fence with shotgun footfall

Grasping tight the tools of our temporary trade

Black bin liner to the left

Car wheel brace to the right

Something big going down the night

Of the great train station robbery

Trying to find a place to cross

We almost missed the gate

Where we could walk  right on through

And reach the platform

Sleepy enough by day

But now under an umbrella of silence

That I call palpable

And our footsteps

Turned cacophonous

Amid our sensibillia haze

Before us we see

Its dark outline

We creep up close and there

Like the golden fleece

To the munchies crazed, the very stoned

Yes,oh mechanized wish granter

The cadburys chocolate machine

Furtive looks around us

Pulses race within us


I bring the wheel brace down hard

For a first time shatter

We reach beyond the sharded edge

Of the jagged hole, grabbing

Furiously at the pocket sized bounty

Bin liner greedily swallows

Dairy milk, whole nut, dairy crisp

Fruit and nut and we’re off

Tachycardia cuts through the bong haze

I swear I hear the bay of the hounds

And banshee wails of sirens abound

We burst into our place

Laughing manically now

Contents spilled out onto bed

And I remember the giggle of boy men

As they watch the multi coloured cascade

And brace themselves for the sugar rush

Of the finest cadburys could offer

A  difficult journey lay ahead

Wasn’t gonna be easy I knew the risks

I’d never really liked dairy crisp

All of it was a game to me

Spent my nights smoking bongs

Snorting coke and talking shit

Listening to endless prog rock

My accomplice though

On the great train station robbery

He really was there to get a degree

Not to fuck about, playing Frisbee

At first we both went astray

But after a while it was just me

And while he knuckled down

I carried on peddling dope, going to gigs

And he didn’t want to play anymore

So I found new friends

Easy to do when you’re the dealer man

The man who can

In the end though

They didn’t want to play either

They were there for a reason

It wasn’t just about  having fun

Like it was for this one

Then years later I saw him again

The great train station robber

Settled down, married and happy

Baby on the way

They called him doctor now

Didn’t seem like my rustic mate somehow

And me, I was still mooching around

Wearing black, an enigma

In my own mind

A high plains drifter

It struck me then and now

Maybe felt my first hint of regret

Him a respectable member of society

Not my country sidekick anymore

High flying research positions

Being flown off to Singapore

Me in illicit retail management

And words from school

Came back to me

A gifted student

Could do more



Nick spent most of his childhood in Cornwall, hanging out at the beach, enjoying the outdoor life, a mad- keen surfer and cyclist which he still does to this day. He is a musician and poet. Coming from a songwriting background Nick has been writing poetry with a view to performing for the past 18 months or so, although he has written simple little poems for as long as he can remember. A regular performer on the Devon poetry circuit, Nick writes on a whole variety of subjects from ecology, to food obsessions, dysfunctional upbringing, addiction, anti-Islamophobia, to an ode to a guitar. He may well not be as funny in real life as he is in his own head!


Looking Straight Down Her Nose, Always

(She Blames The Very People She’s Being Mean To?)


There is an unnatural fury inside, hippopotamus size.

Cold, murderous stares

from a ridiculously unfair, judgemental mind.

Her little black book is quite fat in size, actually

and is full of victims/punch bags not lovers.

Yes, that’s a husband scolded again around her

in several different ways

over several different imaginary offences.

Mirrors are for scowling into

and to be taken on the trot,

for you cannot bend and warp the truth in them

and the eyes are a prison cell to the blackest of souls.


© Paul Tristram 2015



That’s The 3rd Time She’s Settled This Year


“Well, just look at that, he’s a new one, ain’t he.

She likes the pretty, younger man, doesn’t she.

The last one wasn’t around long after the polish

had worn off but at least there wasn’t all that

police and trouble like the one before him.

Heartbroken and bewildered that poor bugger was

but violence is violence and you can’t be kicking off

like that and be expecting sympathy and the like.

Tanya…have you seen this new one’s motor yet?

…is it blue?…aw, I bet it’s bloody blue and all.

Do you think it’s on that dating site she must be

finding all these fella’s at? ‘Middle-aged Slapper

looking for pretty, young boy. Slim with no sense

at all. Must like leftovers and drive a blue car’

Oooh, you are awful Jackie, laughing at the crap

that comes out of my mouth but I know you’re

all thinking it as well, ya bunch of wicked bastards.

Anyway, here comes the 1A…Linda pass me them

other two Lidl’s bags will you, let’s get some seats

up the back so we can have some peace to gossip!”


© Paul Tristram 2015



Piss & Vinegar


She’s filled to the absolute brim with both,

you can hear them boiling and bubbling away

each time she opens up that vipers pit of a mouth

to hiss out vicious blasphemies.

Blames everyone but herself, it’s pathetic,

you can’t treat people mean and expect to keep them,

no lessons learnt with this one.

She wants vengeance for breaking her own heart,

dominion over other people isn’t love, it’s wickedness.

Her pretty, colourful bird flew the nest,

broke its bullshit chains and escaped

the day her chickens finally came home to roost.

Now she plots and schemes the downfall

of the one she misses so much,

have him murdered, imprisoned, destitute and broken

if only she could, and believe me, she’s tried.

But it never works and Karma

keeps slapping her back harder each time.

Stubbornness and nastiness make the ugliest

and bleakest kind of painting palettes

yet applied daily is the perfect colour for ruining your life.


© Paul Tristram 2015



There Are Several Different Types Of Unpleasantness

And You Look Like All Of Them Wrapped Up In One Stinking Bow


I find myself having to look away.

What is going on inside the human being

that you call yourself? is fascinating.

It’s like most of the physical mechanics

are working properly (You can wave

your arms around in anger well enough!)

But there are other important ingredients

missing, a ‘Botch Job’ so to speak.

I have to squint my way through

your unnecessary quick-fire lies

(and you’re not even talking to me!)

All you want to do is ‘Take’ and ‘Hurt’

and ‘Control’ everyone around you,

yet you’re not happy when that’s achieved?

I feel like picking you up and shaking you

just to check that there really isn’t a soul

in there somewhere but I’m not allowed to.

I’m having less respect for Mary Shelley’s

‘Imagination’ by the day, after all I’m practically

surrounded by the damned things almost constantly.


© Paul Tristram 2015



I Don’t Like You, Not Because I’m A Horrible Person

… But Because You Are, Silly!


I’ve seen you stab innocent people

both mentally and emotionally

who were minding their own business.

Sucker punching friendly folk,

cutting kindness to the quick,

and tantruming over pleasantries.

Targeting the happy and contented

then raining trouble and strife

down upon their now ruined day.

Then pointing fingers of accusation

at the freshly, disorientated victims

beneath your ‘Little Hitler’ jackboot heel

and blaming them for upsetting you?

You are ugly to be around

yet, fascinating to watch from a far.

Just imagine what it must be like

to have to live 24/7 within that skin

of squirming, disgusting fury…

ych y fi, mun… gives me the shivers!


© Paul Tristram 2016


Why Are You Asking A Liar & A Cheater

To Behave Differently?


“Because I want what’s best for them.

I just know deep down inside that they can change.

They simply need to see sense, is all.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Everybody has the right to love.

Besides, I’ve seen the nice side of them,

granted, it’s hidden pretty well most of the time

…but sometimes when we’re alone…it’s there.

I want to help them, I’m a good guy!”


“No, I don’t believe you, one iota.

You want to manipulate and passively aggressively control them.

Bind them to your will…there’s nothing ‘Good Guy’ about that.

What care you about their deceitfulness and bullshit?

If you don’t like what they are…stay away from them.

If they want help to change they’ll ask for it.

You are not a preacher, nor a saviour, nor very nice.

And your life so far is hardly a blueprint for anything, is it?

You are either like them yourself

or you are looking for love and friendship in the wrong place?

Which means you are either foolish and it’s you who needs help

or blind and should not be trying to lead anybody anywhere!”


© Paul Tristram 2015



paul smoking

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet.
Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press)
‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at

And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope

You can also read his poems and stories here!
















Dulla Bhatti – by PRERNA BAKSHI


(First appeared in Pear Drop)


“Sundar Mundriye ho!

Tera kaun vichaara ho!

Dulla Bhatti walla ho!”


Catching me by surprise,

sang my father, in Punjabi on the phone,

when I called on Lohri – a harvest festival.

Excited like a young boy whose Christmas came early,

he sang the folk song that had been till then

resting on his lips for years,

until one fine afternoon

it finally awoke from siesta,

until it finally erupted from his mouth,

like a ticking bomb that suddenly explodes

after it failed to detonate.

Its first casualty – My virgin ears

that bled in joy.

The sound of the long lost folk song

pierced through my ears and into my soul.

When my father sang,

my every heartbeat danced

to the tune of ‘Dulla-Bhatti’

in perfect rhythm,

as if I knew it all along

even when I didn’t.

Papa, why did you never sing this song in front of me before?

Why did you never teach me? I asked.

He paused, thought for a while and said, I don’t know.

Post Partition things never remained the same.

Though the wise old trees of Partition,

now divided, are to be found on both sides of the border,

holding secrets of the unknown, and

many stories of the bygone era,

the horrors of humanity,

the roots of these trees

run deep.


they will intermingle.

And somehow, someway,

will find their way,

will find us, and

will not let us forget

our songs,

nor our roots.



Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, which was long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK. It is available for purchase from – For more information –


You know what makes me sublimely happy? What keeps me going, excited and motivated as I run SLM?

When I get an e-mail, submission or not, from someone saying they’re huge fans of Sick Lit Magazine. That we’ve inspired them, spurred creative thoughts and that we’re making an impact. Because when I came up with the concept for this magazine, it was for us to be a catalyst for change among literary magazines and the literary world as a whole. We are the shining beacon of light in a world full of dark that constantly says, “No.” We choose to celebrate art, poetry and writing–in all forms–without boundaries and without stifling your form of expression with arbitrary limitations.

It’s because of my passion that I began this venture–I vowed that when it became a burden rather than an escape that brought me happiness, I would take a step back.

As many of you know, I suffer from multiple autoimmune conditions (asthma, interstitial cystitis, arthritis–which no physician has yet to connect the dots between to find out the overarching causal disease) that leave me drained, in pain, depressed, perpetually fighting fatigue and recurring MRSA staph infections, all while doing my damnedest to keep my “McMansion” clean and raise my 8 year-old and my 3 year-old (FULL TIME).

Now, back in October when I officially started SLM, Jackson, my 3 year-old who will be 4 in August, was still napping, wearing diapers and sleeping in until 11; this gave me time to work and to create. This is not the case any more. He requires a lot of attention, help, etc.

Here’s the bottom line: I got a reply e-mail that I felt was out of line, snippy and mean. Earlier that day, my doctor sliced open my left index finger because of a raging MRSA staph infection underneath my cuticle. I’m left-handed. I was trying to reply to as many e-mails as I could that night, using only my right hand, replying to these e-mails on my phone. It disheartened me; while I work diligently, for free, and most often while I’m fighting an illness. It was a well-crafted and snarky e-mail. It was almost scathing. It hurt me and dampened my passion and spirit.

This year has been a wild roller coaster of both emotions and events. It’s as if there are a few, rare, calculating people out there who know just how and when to hurt me. I’m not ashamed for a second to admit that I get hurt or that I am disillusioned.

I’m ashamed of people who are quick to judge, label and cast aside their peers.

The happiest posts I made this year were about women’s equality, announcing our Pushcart Prize nominees and naming some of you individually, highlighting your excellent work, spirit and enthusiasm.

To openly attack someone who has given you their heart on a silver platter, to openly attack someone without provocation, is mean. For example, I may have laughed when someone called me “Batshit crazy” earlier this month, but the comment stung. You know what else is mean? Blocking, lying, and, well, being an asshole.

My husband and I laughed the other night about when I used to work at the bank (as a banker) and was performing a Notary Public service for a couple. I was deathly ill, had actually just thrown up in the ladies room, was sweating profusely at my desk when the husband said to me, “You are way too giddy for this job. Damn are you bubbly.”


I had said about three words. My pallor was sickly white and I was anything but “bubbly.”

Although I’m down at the moment, I need to acknowledge and thank my pillars, my cheerleaders–without you, SLM would not be what it is today. Prerna Bakshi, Kate Jones, Chumki Sharma, Don Tassone, Gene Farmer, Jeffrey H Toney, Dee Lean, C.C. O’Hanlon, Brian Michael Barbeito, Scott Thomas Outlar, Sara Codair, Katie Lewington, Hillary Umland, Annabel Banks, Ani King, Penny Barratt, Lee and Bibi Hamblin, Joanne Spencer, Grace Black, Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber, Rebecca Harrison, Paul Beckman, Nick Black, Nick Kitto, Jen Ellerson, Mickie Bolling-Burke, Toby Penney, Chris Iacono, Tom Gumbert, Gavin Hedaux, Rob True, Owen Clayborn, Jamie Andrews–and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

It’s late. I’m tired. I’m disappointed.


P.S.- Visiting the past (for me) is like digging up graves; it hurts. It holds life, memories, pain, joy and milestones. And for whatever reason, my brain is hardwired to think that if I keep revisiting it and giving it life, then I can turn the past into the long-distance “present,” and then that I’ll feel whole again. I’ll be whole again. That the hole in my soul that aches every night as I lay down to sleep will somehow be satiated.


This year, I’ve reconnected with a high school best friend; and it has turned into the best friendship I’ve ever had.

In the beginning of May I got to go to my hometown and spend the weekend with her. It was the lightest, most magical few days I’ve had in a long time. We were bright lights again, giddy and silly; we finished each other’s sentences. We went shopping at a thrift store and marveled at each little gem we saw.

I remember walking up her stairs…I tripped and dropped everything in my arms. Normally, with the crazy pace of life and watching the kids, I would have cursed; my blood pressure would’ve gone up. Instead, I giggled like a happy gradeschooler before clumsily picking everything up. We spent mother’s day together walking along the beach, looking for shells, talking about everything, yet nothing.

We both cried as I drove off on Tuesday morning, as the rain rolled in.