Inky Interview Exclusive: Poet Sanjeev Sethi

You have written three poetry collections. Can you tell us about them?

Suddenly For Someone was published in 1988. I was 26 years old. Nine Summers Later, the second one as the title suggests, was issued as many years later. That makes it 1997. This Summer and That Summer was released in 2015/16 and published by Bloomsbury, India.

I see poetry as an extension of myself. I seek it in most settings. Poems are my response to stimuli. They help me make sense of my situation. I wrestle for nuance by wrenching words and woes. Some poems dip into my emotional deposits, others document the demotic. The attempt is to arrest a moment of truth in a tasteful manner. In short, poetry is my engagement with existence.

Each of these books encapsulates my understanding of the world and my capability to express it. The basic premise hasn’t changed, just my skills as a craftsman, and perhaps I have a deeper understanding of what I write about.

Can you share a few of poems from your collection, This Summer and That Summer, and walk us through the idea behind them?

The opening poem is Pigeons. In suburban Mumbai where the average size of a flat is as large as your handkerchief, the poem is about the issues a harmless bird and her progenies create as intruders:

Pigeons

Pigeons have no tenancy laws.
She placed her squabs on my sill.
When I protested, she gazed at me
with looks which were a hybrid
of hesitancy and hostility.


At night, the pigeons cooed.
Throughout the day,
the exhalation of their excreta
wafted across the apartment.
During feed-time, their twitter
was louder than church bells
annunciating crisis. But I was helpless…


Soon I decided — to be kind to myself,
I had to be cruel.
I opted to evict them.
But there are no courts for this.
No legal machinery.
Only feelings.


Feelings have always failed me.

(Soul Scan is a meditation on the travails of being a poet):

Soul Scan

(1)

Shells of silence underneath my skin
burst in a rash of run-ons.
Clear as mud, carp the critics.
But I soldier on like an infantryman
bulwarking his nation’s border,
hoping to be helpful
in an era of nuclear warfare
or bombardments from the Net.

(2)

In my growing years I wished to be famous.
Parents gave value to visibility.
It was reassuring for them
to have others accept their issue.
When their pressure ended
I realized,
I am best in my booth.

(3)

Without strain of the perfect gargle
or granules of pitch
I sing sweetest for myself.
Skills of a soloist
I have not gathered.
I thrive when my skin trills for itself.

(Have a look at):

Realization

Fraught with fissures, I can see
my life wriggling like some children
waggle out of their parents’ care.

In my case there is no one
to chide. I’m ward
and the warden.

Survival anthems urge
you to be accountable.
Here I’m,
mindful of my mistakes.
Now what?

(Ruse is a love poem):

Ruse

Bathed in bounties of the elements
vacillating fronds blushed. On the corniche
your palm in mine, we were at a fork
parrying tines of the past. You & I
told our truth, as we wished it
not how it had panned out. Like maquillage
or habiliments, we tried removing
the restrictions but doing away with untruths
did not blend with our biotope.
Our chansonette ran on another tune.

(I will end this with Friendship):

Friendship

Whenever I call her, she is on the cusp
of an interlude. When we are together
honesty is her other name.

The world riddled with rift must reign
in the sequences of her smile.
Grief is her gatekeeper.

When the phone rings, her callers
have promises to proffer.
Full of fire, she is destiny’s flaw.

Some symphonies will never be hers.
Still my friend’s lilt has the potential
to light the lame. Often she disowns this gift.

Her universe seems untidy,
but it is unsoiled. Her haphazardness
is on display while mine is disguised.

It is things that we disagree upon
are the things that draw me to her.
Fortitude is this friend’s flag.

You live in Mumbai, India. Describe a typical day in your life.

About five years ago I began an intense creative phase which continues unabated. In this phase I have no life outside of writing. All of me is engaged in writing and its auxiliary activity. I’m at my desk for almost 15 hours.

If this seems drudge-like, it is not. I am in it out of choice. I luxuriate in it.

Who inspires you and why?

Life and its layers.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To not be as tense as I have been. There is no big battle to win. The journey is about small everyday victories and loss. To try to have as clean and meaningful existence as is possible. To be of value to others, and if that isn’t possible, at least try not hurt others.

Tell us a story in five words.

You are your best story.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Almost every time I am on my desk. For me inditing is a meditative stance, so when I go within and create a meaningful poem, it is a literary pilgrimage. There are days when I end up at the picnic level, the results reach my dustbin. But that is another story.

Why do you think poetry is important?

Because it reminds us of our humaneness, it keeps us in touch with our truths. And perhaps makes us better individuals.

What are you reading at the moment?

In this phase of extensive writing I am not a serious reader. The internet has opened possibilities, on an average day my inbox receives fifty to hundred poems from various sources. As the mood and mind decides, I peruse some of them. But no serious reading.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

To keep writing and publishing as long as I rejoice in it. I’m published in this or that place somewhere in the world, almost every other day. To continue with vigor.

Get your copy of This Summer and That Summer

Poetry Drawer: Occupied by Shannon Donaghy

My mind has been circling an idea
For a few hours now
Like a bird gliding above roadkill
I have it pinned down, located
Claimed as my own
But I have yet to touch down
To sink my beak into the gore of it
It is merely baking on the pavement
In the hot fruit fly summer sun
Glistening and raw with blood
My mind has been too occupied
To do what my circling implies
Circle, screech, die, repeat

Poetry Drawer: Prisoner of Infinity: To Felino A. Soriano by Rus Khomutoff

Oh Prisoner of infinity
countercurrent between transgression and transaction
insinuation of eternity’s unrepeatable coalescence
poise deposited in an effervescent aye
on this iron chain of birth and annihilation
you espouse your catastrophe of charm
surefire voices that furnish the kiss of death
an unwearying impulse
to decrypt and decipher longing
like an idea infested with platitudes
realm navigator on the edge of consciousness

Inky Interview Special: Italian Poet Gabriella Garofalo

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

It is a journey born under the powerful signs of loss and sorrow. I, a child who had to face the death of her brother, and who grasped for the only help she felt was being close to her, grasped for words and poetry, because words can heal and hide, and poetry is a meaningful hiding place. Decades elapsed. Yesterday’s child still here, still busy with sails and rigging, her mind rife with images from all the harbours she’s docked at, the only change being the language, after writing in Italian for many years she switched to English.

What is it you love about poetry? Have you considered writing a novel or a play?

The endless, boundless freedom poetry allows me whenever I write. I’ve never considered writing a novel, funnily enough, though, every now and then I wonder what it’s like to write a play.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

What themes? Loss, I think, pain, the sorrow my soul is plagued by whenever facing the relentless, intractable inconsistency of life. To be more specific, I might argue that my poetry is a cartography of my soul.

How do you think technology is affecting humans in today’s society?

I’m so glad we have technology, it’s made our lives better, and I mean it; just think of our health: nowadays so many diseases that killed so many people until a few decades ago are treatable; besides, we can communicate much better and much faster, communication being, I believe, an important thread in that tapestry we call life.

Describe a typical day in your life.

Nothing to write home about, I’m afraid. After handling my daily errands and my daily chores, I sit at the PC, read, write, words and books being the main staple of my diet, of every day in my life.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Only one? 🙂 If I could, I’d eradicate the tree of selfishness, the root of so many evils.

Who inspires you and why?

Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. They were so powerful when handling those high-charged wires that are words, and when shaping for the readers those unforgettable scenarios that have both haunted my mind ever since I read their words, and fed my phantoms, my obsessions.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Yes, well, what advice, with the proviso, of course, she takes careful note: Never stop believing in words: they do deserve your trust.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I have indeed, and twice! I’ve been to Amherst and to Chawton.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never stop befriending words, never stop trusting them, never stop loving them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Karl Barth’s The Humanity of God and Matsuo Basho’s poems.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’d like to keep on writing, reading, living the way I’ve always done- what else?

Inky Interview Special: Poet Ken Pobo From Pennsylvania

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

I didn’t start out thinking I would be a poet. I was a wannabe pop singer. My first poems were peace and love imitations, my own Crystal Blue Persuasion and San Francisco (Wear Flowers in Your Hair). I got bored with faux song lyrics—but not with writing. I was 15 then. I’m 63 now.

What is it you love about poetry?

Poetry is perhaps the place where I feel most free. A blank page never judges you, never says you’re doing it wrong. It just says fill me. Make a mess. Have fun. Cry.

Tell us about your book Loplop In A Red City, which was published by Circling Rivers.

Loplop is a book of ekphrastic poems. For years I’ve written poems connected with art, particularly paintings, and I began putting them together and seeing what would happen. I owe Art Historian Dr. Ilene D. Lieberman a great thanks because she introduced me to work by many surrealist and women artists. My life grew richer from this, and I think the poems did too.

What themes have you written about in your book of prose poems, The Antlantis Hit Parade, forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House?

Many writers debate the difference between flash fiction and prose poetry. These are shorter than many flashes, but I’m not sure that length is the deciding factor. The prose poems are often surreal in their imagery. Some of them take on topics of identity, particularly LGBTQ+ issues. I hope that humour appears throughout the collection. I didn’t have a special theme for the work. Voice and image, I hope, weave it together.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

LGBTQ+ rights. The environment (in praise of Nature, but also mourning for what we are doing to our poor, wounded planet). Flannery O’Connor says that a writer will have material for the rest of his/her life by getting to be 18 years old. I still investigate my childhood, the places and people who formed me. I’m never too far away from the planets. I see them as characters. I write often in character poems: Trina, Steve, Wandawoowoo, Dindi, Aaron, many others. Sometimes I prefer to think about their lives more than my own, though everything connects.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I’m a professor of English and Creative Writing. My day in the work week is classes, meetings, and grading. Exciting? At home, my husband and I are big gardeners. It’s May now, my favourite month, but an exhausting one. No matter what the day, music is a part of it.

You collect vinyl. Have you a favourite?

My favourite song of all time is from August 1967 (I was 12 when it came out): Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) by the Mamas and the Papas. My favourite band is Tommy James and the Shondells.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Hate. I want it to stop. It won’t but I want it to.

Who inspires you and why?

Poets of all kinds inspire me. Bette Davis films. Ingmar Bergman films. Anyone who works even in small ways to make us more kind and less selfish.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be so scared. Make mistakes.

Tell us a story in five words.

Naked, he answered the door.

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not in a formal sense but I’ve been writing since 1970 and it still feels like a great journey, full of surprises, a few hairpin turns. Unlike some car trips when I say ‘Are we there yet?’ I know there is no ‘there’ (apologies to Gertrude Stein). There’s another poem ahead.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Make time for your writing—which, I know, is easier said than done. Get off phones and Facebook long enough to have time to dream and meditate, and ‘bad’ poems can be our best help.

What are you reading at the moment?

Julia Baird’s biography of Queen Victoria. My favourite novelist is Thomas Hardy, and I want to know more about Britain in that time period. Recently I was rediscovering Gwendolyn Brooks. That was/is a pleasure.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

The plans I have now in terms of writing are not much different than at 15. Keep writing. Do what helps the creative fires to keep burning.

Ken on Twitter

Poetry Drawer: And Again by Kenneth Pobo

When I came out, well,
I came out and out and out
and out. It’s everyday
like breathing or taking a shower.

So many ways to do it.
Sex is only one. Sometimes
I’m asked what music I love. If I say
sixties bubblegum, oopsy daisy,
I get the are-you-crazy-but-
I’m-too-polite-to-say-it stare.

Or even books. How to admit
among English majors
I haven’t read Moby Dick.
Or Ulysses. Or Light in August.
Out comes that
you’re-a-fraud smirk.
I come out anyway. Closets—
claustrophobia lessons.
Many prefer my door locked,
I can’t breathe!
They turn up the TV,
do a Sudoku, clomp to
the fridge for a Coke. I’m out.

Again. And again. Just like
I’ll be tomorrow.

Books From The Pantry: Hope by Rhian Ivory: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Plan B’s are for people who fail.

I just never, not once, not even for a tiny moment, thought that I would ever need one.

As a gentleman who relishes being honest and true to his word, it’s fair to say that the arrival through my letterbox of Rhian Ivory’s new novel, Hope announced a personal sense of mixed emotions.

On the uppity side, I’ve read Rhian’s writing before with her splendid 2015 novel, The Boy Who Drew The Future. I also met Rhian last year at Cheltenham’s Wychwood Festival and heard her speaking in gloriously enthusiastic tones about Hope, which was ‘mostly finished’ at that time.

Surely, both excellent signs that Rhian’s new novel would also set my creative senses alight, as her earlier novel had done so? Well…my initial response was more cautious and it’s also fair to say that my good lady wife almost took over the review, before I’d read a single page.

My solitary concern? The genre.

As a gentleman, my preferred genre(s) within literature fall pretty much within the same borders as my television and cinematic tastes. I’m not adverse to a well-written rom-com here and there (‘Love Actually’ and ‘About Time’, take a bow). I’ll even admit to sofa-dancing and singing off-key to a few, melodic musicals over the years, but it’s also fair to say that I do tend to fall back on my preset, safer preferences – usually involving fast action, invigorating car chases, starships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate….that sort of thing. It’s also fair to say that I’ve never really tackled (or felt the desire to tackle) a young adult novel with a female protagonist, focusing on things that a young, female protagonist might be concerned about or engaged in. Might there be a car chase? Fisticuffs or football? Both?

‘Do you want me to do it?’ asked my wife helpfully, as she watched me pore over the back cover of Hope. It was a serious question, and, admittedly for a good three minutes I hovered between two answers.

Thankfully, by minute four, I’d remembered how good a writer Rhian is and decided to go all in, battle helmet on and wielding my finest impartial reviewer’s battle-cry.

How utterly glad I am now that I did so. But, let’s look at the premise of Hope and what it entails.

Hope Baldi is a young lady, whose ambitious dreams to become a student of acting/singing have been cruelly smashed on rocks of despair due to rejection letters from drama schools. As the book opens, she is on a boat, perched by a rail and staring into the sea. It’s not clear whether her intention is to jump, but nonetheless she is interrupted by the calming Irish voice of a young knight, Riley, who clearly recognises a damsel in distress when he spots one. Riley’s gentle humour, although thoroughly unappreciated by a dejected Hope, is enough to guide her away from the rail and thus, a fascinating friendship is formed.

The reasons for Hope’s despair soon become apparent. Her mother – a soul who doesn’t fully appreciate the depths to which Hope’s drama dreams reach – has given an ultimatum; her daughter can apply to five drama schools, in search of her odd thespian goals, but if nothing has opened up then Hope is to seek out a ‘normal’ life, away from acting. Hope has just received her fifth rejection letter and currently a deep, dark cloud of normality has fallen upon her; all ambitions broken and laying in tatters.

To make it worse, it also appears as if every single one of her drama friends are knee-deep in acceptance letters from various drama schools & academies and naturally engaged in lengthy celebration rituals and mutual, celebratory slaps on the back. Hope is fighting to keep herself afloat, while her world crumbles all around her.

To deepen the blow, Hope’s best friend, Callie (a strong and feisty character) cannot seem to grasp why Hope is so low, as she herself ponders over which drama school to attend. Also, as if this wasn’t enough, Hope has realised that medically she has ‘issues’; primarily associated with irrational anger.

Rhian’s novel becomes a journey of discovery for Hope, as she battles against depression, despair and illness. To accompany her, she has a rich, varied set of characters from the fields of family and friends; a key aspect of why this novel works so well. Career, illness, depression, love, friendship, family, dreams…all are covered in depth within the pages of Hope.

As previously stated, Rhian Ivory is a great writer. In Hope she brings out a full spectrum of colours for each character portrayed; each shining brightly at times with glittery hues, or displaying deeper layers of a muddier, unclear colour. The truth is that, as in life, each character possess their own flaws and weaknesses and Rhian is never backward in showing these levels to the reader. We get to see everyone for good, or bad and this totally assists us in being able to relate to them, as well as enhancing the main story of Hope Baldi.

The writing is…to put it simply; flawless. The plain beauty of Hope lies in the utter believability of everything; from the locations mentioned, such as the children’s ward of the hospital where Hope is destined to work, alongside her mother, to the realism of the many characters we encounter along the journey. It is also clear that Rhian has engaged in a great deal of personal research to bring everything together into one believable, honest package.

The plot-line is intriguing and never strays into the realms of dull, or mundane. This is also greatly aided by Rhian’s decision to keep the chapters short, so the pages soon begin to fly by and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get to the end of one chapter and have to make that decision to put the book down to get on with daily life, or perhaps…yes…yes…I’ll just do ONE more chapter…or maybe two.

For me, the best sign of whether a book works is whether it engages with my brain. I found this almost impossible to put down and, trust me (I’m an honest man, see paragraph 1, sentence 1) I don’t say that very often. In fact, it’s a genuinely rare occurrence for me, but Rhian has managed it with ease.

A beautifully, brilliantly-thought out and thoroughly well-planned novel by a very talented and caring writer. Finally, a personal lesson. Perhaps, this is a genre of book that I would never have considered, had I glanced at it on a shop bookshelf. As previously stated, I am so very glad that I did, for verily I have been converted by the writing skills of Rhian Ivory. Amen and several hallelujahs!

More please.

Get your copy of Hope

Poetry Drawer: Insanity Lives by Jake Cosmos Aller

Why the thing killed itself
While the slaves closed in to eat
The cannibals or yes no quite indeed
For I can not not not notnotnotntontotnotntotntotnto ttntotnto tototntnotnton notntotnotntotoeifkt gjyhythfg~tdf wvxxfstwgeyd nbitmyi’~375892O~9(8 ?’4 596o~–9=O-~?9 ~ &#&~Q~ ~ ( ~ *~&~~#%@~ ~ & t ~

The death
The reason
The dream

The dream the dream remains
They are coming coming
To get me
I know too much

I will not tell they will not believe
OK they can’t think they can only screw

Dark the thumb
the race cards tell us all
The death of God
Killed in a drunken fit
That is my story

I killed god

They snare us while we sleep
They come for us while we sleep
In a bed of golden fleas

They are waiting
In the archway of my house
They are waiting outside

I march to my doom
Screaming with all my might.

Inky Interview Special: Nyanda Foday, Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate: with Claire Faulkner

Birmingham has an amazing creative vibrancy and it seems that poetry is at the heart of it. Nyanda Foday is currently Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate. I was lucky enough to see her perform recently and managed to chat to her about her love of spoken word.

Where does your love of poetry and spoken word come from?

It’s hard to say. I’ve been writing poetry since I was very little, but up until somewhere in secondary school I definitely preferred prose. I made the switch when school-work and my extracurricular ramped up, and I had less time to write. I enjoy it because I find there’s something very satisfying in stringing together some words in a way that viscerally affects you and others. I enjoy spoken word because I like to perform and I feel that there’s more of a poet-audience connection than in page poetry.

How did you get involved in performance poetry?

I went to Beatfreek’s Poetry Jam with my friend and that was when I started to really make the switch. When I first watched established spoken word artists perform I suddenly just needed to one day be able to do that, and I went to a lot of poetry nights, meeting more artists and developing my poetry in the process.

What do you like about performing?

I very much enjoy the interaction with the audience- the whole mood of the piece changes depending on the audience you have. I’ve also always enjoyed performing, so it was already something I did before I took up poetry, but it’s definitely a different experience when you’re performing your innermost thoughts as opposed to someone else’s writing.

You’re currently Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate. What an amazing achievement. This must keep you busy. What’s it like to be a Young Poet Laureate?

It’s amazing- the opportunities it has presented have been incredible, and the kinds of things I never would have been able to do without the laureateship. I’ve been able to perform at National Holocaust Memorial Day, the National Writer’s Conference, and it was how I got involved with Random Acts and ended up making a short film.

I recently saw the film of your poem Listen, and think its an amazing and effective piece. The combination of sign language, film and spoken word works so well. Can you tell us about the background to this?

I’ve always found sign language to be particularly beautiful, and when I was approached by Random Acts I figured I could just try to create a concept that would allow me to work with sign language. I decided that the most appropriate topic was expression outside of the voice, as I felt it would compliment sign language and add value to the use of sign language. It worked out really well, and getting to work with Mary-Jayne de Clifford, the translator, was an incredible experience.

Who or what inspires you to write?

I am a very inward-facing poet- I tend to write about how I’m feeling and things that happen in my life. However, I am also incredibly inspired by the poets I see perform- like I said, watching an incredible performance fills you with the need to perform something that makes other people feel the way those poems made you feel.

What’s next for you? Can you share any details of projects you’re currently working on?

Well, I’m coming up to the end of my first year at university, and the end of my two years of laureateship. What’s going to happen next is very much a grey area. With the move to uni, which meant a different lifestyle and a different geographical area, almost all of my poetry this year has been going back to Brum for laureate requests. I imagine I’m going to be doing a lot less poetry unfortunately, but I would like to make more of an effort to break into the scene where I’m now based. I would love to carry on doing the same kinds of performances, but I don’t think I’ll be asked to do them as much without the laureateship. I’m honestly not really working on any projects at the moment, things are kind of winding down for the year, though they might increase again in the Summer.

Who would you recommend that we read or see in performance?

I definitely cannot provide an extensive list because there are so many incredible artists- especially in Birmingham. First things first- go to an established open mic night (Poetry Jam, Howl, Stirchley Speaks, Hit the Ode, etc.). The talent will vary depending on the night a lot of the time, so I would recommend trying each night at least two or three times. This will introduce you to some of the local poets, and you’ll get to see some different types of poetry.

Individuals: (please remember that this is in no way extensive) Amerah Saleh, Case Bailey, Aliyah Hasinah, Jasmine Gardosi, Jess Davies, Leon, Bohdan Piasecki, Sean Colletti, Carl Sealeaf, Wuzza Razz and so so many more can all be found in Brum. Two poets I’ve performed alongside who I really enjoyed but aren’t based in Birmingham are Raymond Antrobus and Kaveh Akbar.

Do you have a poem you would like to share with our readers?

I wrote this poem walking home in the snow and just taking some time to enjoy the calm of the night

Abominable Snow Woman

Snow hitting the inner corner of your eye feels like it should hurt, but it doesn’t
The snow simply sits there
Cries itself out
Curves down the contours of my face
Tickles its way into crevices and faults and flaws
As its cold seeps into my skin
And I can’t feel my face
And it’s better that way.
The snow is clinging to my hoodie
I stopped shaking it off maybe ten minutes ago
It is persistent
Clings to itself
The first thing it covers is my breasts
Sheathes me
I become an abominable snow woman
And as I walk back in,
I am amazed by how long it takes for the snow to thaw
It is nothing if not persistent.
And when I am changed out of wet clothes
And my toes are now dry
And I am inside
I am still frozen

Do you have any advice for new writers?

I always highly recommend going to see poets perform, because in my opinion, it’s the best way to develop as a spoken word artist. Try to explore a variety of styles so you can work out what affects you the most, and what you would like to perform. You’ve got to be patient with yourself- at first you might not think your poetry is that great, but you’ve got to keep going and just keep trying to write the kind of poetry you want to read/see. Also remember that poetry is very subjective, and affects everyone differently. I’ve had some poems that I’ve been unhappy with that other people have really enjoyed. Most of all, just do your best to keep writing and keep enjoying writing.

Pantry Prose: A Taxi Made Of Mouths by Lavinia Murray

The sister tore a wisp of smoke from the fire and blew her blue nose on it. Her hindquarters fluttered with the effort.

Better!

Then she took out her latest phone, dropped it and smashed it with brass door knockers (shaped like hermitages) which she had glued to the soles of her shoes. Everyone in her address book died quite expressively on their doorsteps.

The sister said, ‘Hello, I’m’ – (checks) – ‘in the middle of Memory in a taxi made of mouths. Just pulling into Spring.’ She spoke to no one since all those she had previously spoken to were dead, victims of the Winter Cull.

The sister had opinions about Spring, and they were these: Winter wears Spring like an ill-fitting prosthetic limb. Cumbersome. Made of chipped ice and lumpen sugar. Cumbersome. The sun, cumbersome. The sky is wet rubber, bliss blue. Birds oodle along flight corridors like the tweaked sweat of athletes. Lambs straddle the green glass conveyor belt and they are pitched about for being too sweet for this life. Their fleeces show immortal, mother-of-pearl cracks.

The sister took an apple and lifted a tree from it with a movement like tugging matted hair from a brush. And another tree from the apple, from the apple core. She dotted the place she was standing in with trees. A whole orchard. Above them the wind carried the delicate rattlings of the cosmos, mostly wet plopping sounds.

Spring. The greengrocer was seated on his nest and was busily hatching-out horses and impressionists. The impressionists were so good they were impossible to tell apart from the horses. Spring was doing its thing with things.

The sister watched the Spring Ritual man dance in his great dapper clobber. Spring Ritual Man stopped and laid shadows at the base of the street lamps the way people laid wreaths at cenotaphs. All showy deference. He laid them respectfully; small ones, larger ones, teeny like crossed fingers. He bowed his head and the sister imagined he was updating his prayer profile. Then he moved on with a swish like a mermaid might do in the doldrums. A Spring Ritual woman followed him with the Nervous Paint, she crept out of the edges of his broad costume and painted shadows stretching from the street lamps, and these shadows shifted a little; they fanned out; they shut tight; they slewed and swelled and rolled themselves right up around the sister’s passing door-knockered feet. They were loud-banging uncertain shadows.

The shadows were painted on every season, the old ones (these would be Winter’s) scraped up by a machine that recycled them, spewing the shadows into the night like a wood-chipper macerating a felled tree. Sometimes, and only in Spring Time, only out of sheer high spirits, the sister tore off a wisp of shadow and wiped away her tears with it.

Better.