I’m blessed with eyes that look inwards, that see the departed and joys to come, that sifts the beauty that’s foiled with smog, that keeps a gallery of lakes and fjords.
I’m blessed with ears that vie with shells for capacity to echo the wanton waves, to resonate to the whistles of roaming whales, to capture the breaths of slumbering pearls.
My nostrils dilate to the hidden scent that stone exudes and inanimate gems, that stars transmute to ethereal winds, that words transfuse with the warmth of a friend.
My skin vibrates to the water-drop’s silk to the velvet of petals, to the lace of trees, to the fluff of clouds that seep into veins, to the texture of flames that penetrates.
My mind interlocks with that of the tree of a thousand rings and thirty-three, with that of a falcon who grieves at night for having kidnapped the sacred trout.
My fingers interlock with those of the wind who shrieks the pain that dwells within, with those of a lingering, pensive cloud who contemplates the cerulean skies.
My teeth interlock with those of thorns who have impaled all types of scorn, with those of a squirrel who loves to crack the nuts of wisdom on aprons of grass.
My eyes interlock with the halos of stars an agglomeration of cosmic lights, with the rays of Helios when he departs the spheres of the earth in his orange ark.
An Englishman’s home is his fort, a law established by Sir Edward Coke to emphasize the sanctuary of one’s abode. The assimilation to a castle had struck a chord – when I was only thirteen years old – in someone whose house was like a port accommodating galleys, ships, and boats.
There were always visitors around to probe the deepest abyss of inmost thoughts, prying, interrupting, and disrupting discourse.
I always sought the furthest room when the kitchen congested with drink and food, with preparations for a banquet that would conform to the social etiquette of being a host.
The bustle and babel created discord. The aromas of strangers who chattered and fumed would linger for hours on eves and morns.
There were always people around the house, neighbours, relatives, acquaintances and bores, fingering the solemnity of my private world with greasy fingers that relish the sauce.
Before me lies a kingdom, submerged in the ugliest form of camouflage. The castle is a mill and the mill has ash and every nearby stone is draped with trash.
I walk the narrow lanes, each roofed with an arch. It feels like roaming the heart of an ark. I look for traces of submerged stonework amongst a vineyard of pots and pans.
The din of transactions is maddening my mind. There’s no way of silencing the gaping mouth that craves for profit from the merchandise that usurped the throne of scripts and chants.
On the top of a hill, a temple perches whose walls had withstood all types of archers, whose star was erased from stone by scratches, but whose winding stairs attest to its heritage.
Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.
Thinking now Of the barbaric rites Of our young days, Fraternity rush at Chapel Hill, A kind of ritual mutilation: Invited, I suppose, because I’d been to Boarding school, but quickly turned away, Not at all like them, tailored heirs of Planters, silver flasks, Harris Tweed sports coats at football games, Kinston, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount, The place that would have me— Frame house without Ionic columns— Refuge for northern boys Come south to school. A year later I was the brother who escorted Two or three baffled freshmen to the porch To explain we had not gotten To know them well enough. I am ashamed of that And much else besides. Have only been back two or three times since. Once a young man found our picture From fifty years before. Is this you, he asked. I had to say it was. I still keep up with two or three of them; With one, a neighbour now at Golden Pines, I share a glass of port And rue the passage of time.
People come to the cottage now To help us with different things, Fix the computer, cut down trees, Cost of being seventy-two. The computer guy brings no special tools, No Allen wrench with which to probe The hard drive’s dark insides, Except for which I might leave My brain to science, Only keystrokes, clicks of the mouse, Things some do for themselves.
The cottage next door is for sale, Realtor’s sign incongruous on our dirt road. My parents’ friends, also long gone, Left it to four children who have reached That tired, timed impasse of heirs: Those who would keep it can’t afford to And vice versa. So there are grandchildren Who will not know These New Hampshire woods, this pond.
Still I would protect them and us From the dead white pine By the turtle rock— I remember the storm that took its life, Years ago, Lightning running up and down the bark In a silver-black night. The woodsman, of course, does have special tools— Bobcat, chainsaw. More than that, he knows Exactly where the tree will fall.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.
Mark Sheeky (b. 1972) is a contemporary artist and renaissance man. His childhood passion was computer game design, producing music on software of his own design. In 2004 he began oil painting and decided to devote his life to art. His oeuvre is typically fantastical or surrealistic, and has painted over 600 works, produced and published 30 albums, and has authored four books of poetry and prose since his first novella, The Many Beautiful Worlds of Death (2012) while illustrating and contributing to many more. An occasional performance pianist, he is part of poetry and music duo Fall in Green.
Mark Sheeky:The Burning Circus (2020) is my second poetry anthology, my first was ten years ago, and I’ve certainly changed a lot as an artist and writer since. It’s a collection of poems about circus characters: a clown, a juggler, a tattooed man, a lion tamer etc. I thought this would be a rich pool of ideas and characters to choose from, perhaps, I thought, characters with interesting and distinct personalities that can represent different parts of all of us. Art must always tread the line between the personal and the universal. I think poems, especially, work best when people can identify with them, see something of themselves in them. I wanted to add a mix of feelings and stories and situations that we could all sympathise with.
For The Burning Circus I wanted to add an overall structure or narrative, to create more than a simple collection of poems. I think a book is an artwork in itself, and should be structured, contain a sense of unity and overall neatness. Poetry itself is about structure and order in writing, after all. Here, I added a few poems to the start and end that hint at something more, an indication that these characters are parts of a whole psyche.
In each poem I’ve tried to represent something of both the circus performer and their act. The Juggler, for example, spaces the words like hoops tossed into the air, and I often focus on how the different circus characters might feel, or their origins. The Lion Tamer compares the immigrant lion tamer with the lion, an animal captured and shipped from war-torn Africa. The Dwarf paints images of a life of a man looked down on, metaphorically, as well as physically.
I always wanted to illustrate the book, too; the visual beauty of the book is as important as the aesthetics of the words. I wanted to make something pretty, a book that people would love to own, so I spent some time drawing in pen and ink for each poem and put a lot of work into the cover and overall graphic design – I think this is a vital part of the art of creating a book. I love pen and ink for illustration, it’s so expressive; every mark, every hand movement, captures the exact feeling of that moment in time.
John Lindley, former Cheshire Poet Laureate: Divided into three linked sections, Mark Sheeky’s astonishing new collection takes us on a journey, via a ‘fragile caravan of dreams’, in which the passing scenery is seen as if through a distorting mirror; a journey whose twists, turns and destination are wholly unexpected. In images so tactile you half expect the greasepaint to come off on your fingers, this is language, from one of our finest poets, that dazzles without attempting to disguise the grit of sawdust beneath the sparkle.
Crushed into beetles’ petals, for my lips I can feel their sun, encased in the austere lacquer and made into a paste for laughter.
Something like my father’s face, romanced with a rim of lightbulbs, and tears of his hope walks a well-worn script.
Where Aztecs ruled, a child-hand curtseys, and a tent of insects applaud the basket, their bloody farewell crying a smile to the Northern rain in my heart.
The glitter thrown to the wind falls to the dust of saws. Stars to ashes, heaven’s applause.
I make a canvas of my chest each ink-prick a penitent step towards an unknown light, explored like a crow explores night.
The roses decay with my flesh in organ lament for each love, oak-carved in solemn phrase to bleed their scent beneath strangers’ gaze.
As years roll, each Sisyphean scar etched across virgin skin becomes art, my heart pushed out from in to weep, more like Narcissus’ kin.
Now I am a museum, artefacts of sad youth on show, blue-black. My menagerie keeps me warm from without, prayers back on track
I was given The Never Ending Life to review for Ink Pantry. I didn’t know what to expect, and after having read it, I still don’t know what to make of it. Is it an autobiography? Is it a self-help or motivational book? Is it a fictional story? It appears to be a mix of all three.
The author, Anum Abdullah, is a young woman who tells the reader about events in the life of a young woman. Or several young women; it isn’t clear. Some parts are written in third person, others in first person, but it is not clear why this is.
I veer towards the assumption that the author is actually writing about events from her own life.
She also tells stories that at first seem to be (auto) biographical, but after reading a few lines it becomes obvious that they are not. They are fantasies of what might have been – of how she would’ve liked things to be. They are daydreams put on paper.
It took a bit of getting used to, but after a few chapters, I started to like this concept. Because don’t we all do that: fantasize of how things could’ve been if only…? Abdullah just took these mind-wanderings to paper (or screen) and published them. Her writing style is poetic, dream-like and sweet; her sentences are a joy to read.
A negative is that she refers to the same events over and over – specifically to a break-up with a romantic partner. It is as if she wrote this book for her own catharsis, and that, indeed, would involve re-visiting the same upsetting events many times over. But for a reader this soon becomes repetitive and dull. Had the book been a quarter of the length it is now, it could’ve covered the same points far more poignantly.
Abdullah’s experiences and feelings are recognisable; most potential readers will have been through similar experiences, and certainly through similar emotions and fantasies. That characteristic is both a strength and a weakness.
To young people it might be nice to learn that they aren’t alone in feeling what they feel; that someone who appears to be quite successful in life has coped with the same problems and challenges as the reader. For them, The Never Ending Life might be a reassuring read.
Hence, I would recommend this book to people in their late teens or early twenties, who could do with a bit of emotional backing-up.
Because of Abdullah’s poetic writing style, lovers of poetry might also appreciate this book as something to dip in and out when the mood is right.
In her remarkable debut short story collection, The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories, Singapore-based writer Elaine Chiew takes us into an intimate world of the Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese diasporas.
This collection, comprising of fourteen stories, is set in different cities around the world and each of them shines a light on people who are often torn between cultures and juggling divided selves. Chiew compiles her stories based on a ten-year time frame with her initial story, Face, which won first prize in the Bridport International Short Story Competition 2008 and through TheHeartsick Diaspora, which won second prize in the same competition in 2010.
In Face, it tells the story of an elderly woman, Yun, who suffers from urine incontinence and her strained relationship with her American-born Chinese daughter in-law, Karen. She lives with her son, Qiang, and his family in London. Her granddaughter, Lulu, feels uncomfortable around her, as ‘she smells like wee’. Now, Yun decides to return to her hometown in Malaysia, which baffles Karen and Qiang as both of them are able to provide care for her, unlike back home, she has no-one.
The depiction of her racist encounter with a group of drunken youths on the London tube and her reluctance to talk about this is an honest take on some of the struggles faced by South East Asian diasporas who find living abroad daunting. On one hand, she wants to be a good grandmother, but on the other, that fateful encounter cripples her.
Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin feels like an Asian
version of the critically acclaimed film, The Sixth Sense. The
protagonist in this story is a teenager who has the ability to see
and communicate with dead people (yikes!). One evening at a
laundromat, he encounters a girl-ghoul, Boo. The thing is, she has an
insatiable appetite. Slowly, an unlikely friendship is formed between
them. Things get complicated when she keeps asking for more food, and
he has to come up with various ways to appease this confused and lost
spirit, other than feeding her with joss paper food, which the
Chinese burn during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Written from the first person perspective, this piece explores the theme of identity. What kind of ghost is Boo? Does she belong to the conventional race categories in Singapore – Chinese, Malay, Indian and others? In fact, does this even exist after death? Chiew cleverly weaves in the fact about the Malay ghost, Pontianak, and Chinese ghost, egui, at the beginning of the story to set the tone right.
In the title story, The Heartsick Diaspora, four writers find their cultural bond of friendship tested when a handsome young Asian writer, Wei, joins their group.
Interestingly, the narrative is written in a play format with sub-headings such as Introduction of Characters, Acts and Scenes. The writers are a motley group and when everyone gathers at the weekly writers’ sessions, their different personalities inevitably clash with one another. The palpable tension between the strong-willed Chandra and the soon-to-be divorced Phoebe towards the end of the story is expected. Yet it’s necessary to resolve the ambiguous relationship between Wei and Chandra.
Ultimately, The Heartsick Diaspora and other stories is laced with wry humour, intricate details and multi-layered characters. Chiew possesses a talent in writing lyrical prose that oscillates between humour and seriousness. She has a knack of injecting subtle humour that allows the reader to laugh and cry for the characters at the same time.
instance, the opening paragraph of Face set me guffawing:
should Lulu know how to roll spaghetti with a fork? We’re not
Italian.’ Karen bangs the saucepan on the stove because this is how
some Chinese people take out their frustrations – by abusing their
there’s a paragraph in A Thoroughly Modern Ghost of Other Origin
which I couldn’t stop laughing at:
other sister, Bee Khing, sleepwalks and has, more than once, scared
the urine out of our neighbours by showing up in her long white
nightdress at the void deck very early in the morning while old men
are doing tai chi.’
Chiew doesn’t compromise the use of Chinese vernacular, which adds a distinctive flavour to her stories. She writes such vivid descriptions of the places inhabited by the characters that I feel like I have been transported to Belgravia, Singapore and New York. But what distinguishes this collection from the rest is that Chiew highlights the displacement and identity of the Chinese migrant communities. As an Asian writer straddling between cultures (the UK and Singapore), I identify with the pertinent question of belonging. Who am I in this globalised world? She’s definitely a writer to watch out for in the years to come. At the beginning, reading the book was a slow-burning process. But as each story progresses, it grows on you. And you will want to read it again.
Mark my words, apart from being a seminal thinker & slimy foreign art monger, Vas Pretorius DeFerens was something of an enigma to friends, enemies, & medical science alike. Allegedly he was a proud possessor of either three or four perfectly formed testicles, which tourist coach parties of the incurably bi-curious & naive were regularly welcomed to examine (upon a reasonable payment of corkage), just so long as they proceeded slowly through Vas’s open fly- at which point invariably he brutally resynthesised those tiny teeth into a sudden playful biting unity, normally after drawing a groper’s attention to some trivial detail of architraving, weather, etc. (as advertised, I‘ve completed my memoirs as a short story; a quite draining & frankly illegal process which necessitated breaking all 37 of the past Labour government’s Police & Criminal Justice Acts. But in the name of Mammon, what can you do?) So it’s all quite fascinating, & whilst I have no obvious quarrel to pick with any man’s physique (with the sole exception of Eric Pickles), I mention these positively material facts to warn that you’ve unadvisedly strayed from the path, & night must fall. Keep up. You youngsters could learn a lot if only you paid heed.
me confess without duress: I really can’t legitimately claim to
understand Vas’ nature, despite the fact (& source of endless
gossip) that we spent multiple lunar months engaged in a perfervid
co-habitation in a Hoxton studio; such was his delightful mastery of
disinformation, dark propaganda & intoxication that, I never
managed to arrive at a final figure for his testes (fleeting glances,
all from dangerous angles, tentatively recall they were jet black &
vulcanized like his durable character). Whatever ginger evidence I
have I lay freely before you; they’re only crumbs I spare, each
liable to be snaffled up by a myriad of nocturnal beasts coming to
life in bracken & furze, but follow them as best you can- it’s
too late to turn back now. Alas, there are no garnished spicy
vol-au-vents to sustain you. You’re in way over your head I fear.
Vas’ legendary libido was immune to entropy or ennui. His grinding demands were a continual worry, unconcerned with tradition, expense, or, to be frank, practicality- I’d often discover Dutch gentlemen’s magazines (of a kind featuring photography of undraped women) squirreled away in the oddest of places. I knew they were his as Superintendent McGregor, my old Vice Squad pal (since gone freelance), verified his inimitable paw prints. These were good old days of covert cash transactions, my boy. Investigation also found disturbing designs & working prototypes for- shall we say gadgets, in many more than one of the two-hundred & thirty-six secret compartments of his secretary. Now, I don’t think for a moment Vas’ ‘preferences’ particularly interest you- you’ve got enough on your plate as it is, looking at those dreadful holes in your old worn boots (are they hand-me-downs?) & the sheer depth of snow round here. But they do cast a slanted light on a brilliant criminal mind, & whilst it may be the case that you maintain law is crime- I make no excuses, offer no apologies. Vas will always be a veritable villain. Not in business practice, where all’s fair & little love guaranteed, but in his damnable lack of honour regarding aesthetic criticism. Vas’ self-promotion, remarkable before he met me, became nothing less than lupine afterwards- for goodness sake no, I wouldn’t climb that tree if I were you; it’s the first place they’ll sniff out silly. Do get a grip & take some responsibility for your plight! I digress: so I woke up one morning, a little after noon, to find an estate agent’s clerk staring at me with undissembled fear. Back in the glory days of the Great Boom, you understand, when any property vacated before teatime would be occupied & fully furnished by vespers, at a sixty percent mark up. On reflection, that stunt had many of Vassily Perestroika Deferenovitch’s hallmarks- handcuffs, treacle, an anaconda, a mousetrap in the first aid box; but how long had he been planning it? Before he met me? After I said what I did on demand about his precious book lionising Andy Warhol? Maybe it was thin skin or sheer caprice- it scarcely matters does it? Pardon me? Oh, howling? I don’t think so. No, my mistake, yes there it is, right behind you.
I reliably heard a week later, through McGregor, that he’d shackled up with Sir Hugh Corduroy in Belgravia. Nice but dim, a remarkable chap, Sir Hugh, could stammer incoherently in no fewer than eight Arabian dialects. Gosh! Hottentot, Farsi, Yiddish, take your pick: he was incomprehensible in it. Anyway, as you may know, previously he was respected as a patron of the arts, pillock of the church, & former director of the V&A etc. Tolerated by peers, trusted by subordinates, feared by staff, a great Englishman – before you could say ‘Duchess of Gloucester’ he’d pen a more brainless Times diary than Sir Roy Strong. No, trust me, I have clippings. In retrospect it seems accumulatively predictable that a lifetime of total emotional deprivation should have led him into Vas’ gingerbread parlour. OK, pipe down, I’m telling my stories have patience, but yes, now you mention it, they’re all around you. Man up. Where was I? Of course, what followed was contemporary folklore- how Sir Hugh, through Vas’ ‘Caliban Arts’, traded the Elgin marbles for Andean wood carvings of doubtful provenance, his Rembrandt sketches for an acrylic tennis racquet pixillage- cats & umbrellas also featured, if memory serves, that’s right- created by a second year arts student, some sordid strumpet of no good breeding- his Vermeer for a breeze block & tarpaulin ‘installation’, his entire portfolio of primary shares for a chance to wrap the outside of Acton in back issues of The World of Interiors: such insatiable insanity. Destruction ensued, as night follows day. I fondly recollect running into him behind King’s Cross one wintry evening, in the company of a young Wandervögel; that such a renowned member of Blighty’s Establishment should fall into rank disrepair, honestly one shouldn’t laugh. I can still picture his ragged silhouette hunched against a brooding February sky, insipid light shining through his fallen arches, rain that spluttered from his choked guttering, & a colony of zoonotic bats hanging around uncomfortably in his cracked façade. He was totally spent, utterly ruined. Died later next spring, ulcerative colitis returned the post-mortem, although the cruel whisper in Whites opined he was burgled to death. No! Don’t start running, that’s what they want, they’re simply waiting for it. Have you learned nothing? That’s better. Anyhow, after inheriting Corduroy’s estate, Vincent Pietro DiFerrari consolidated his much heralded renaissance by leading a popular national crusade to recapture & repatriate all those treasures he himself had shop soiled to sell abroad. Amazingly, or rather inevitably, he once again came up trumps (turned out clauses written in invisible ink were legally binding after all, on the principle of caveat emptor & tuff-titty). There never was any lawful chance to stop the bounder (he was consistently one step ahead), but after that carnival of criminality nobody else even tried. He branched out; diversified, pretty soon there wasn’t a pie in the proverbial pantry innocent of his thumbprint. His Tavistock Square pied a terre became a swinging hot spot, precisely the placed to discuss perspectives in post-structuralist criticism, have one’s nipples pierced, take a heroin overdose, play the Cocoa Futures’ market; swaggeroos & mountebanks from five continents perched there. Arbitrageurs, faith healers, nihilistic young rock stars, depraved heiresses with thousand pound orchids in their hair & many faces of Satan tattooed across the length & breadth of their inner thighs. All these were nothing more than local colour, background noise to VPD’s glaring blaring bray. Well whistle if you must, by all means, & respect for trying, but do you really, even in your wildest dreams, think they appreciate Mozart?
Oh, Vas, I’ve met a few genuinely great men, but only one colossus: he became a cultural reference point, the zeitgeist incarnate. He was the opinion former’s opinion former, intellectual fashion leader, international trendsetter, pathfinder & trailblazer. The New Man- one of his wheezes, the New Woman too, for that matter, the New World Order for all I know (he hasn’t written me recently). Rottweilers, eco-friendly washing powder, Porsches & red braces! You’ve never thought about it, have you? But red braces! Like unavoidable diamond bullets of truth! The genius of the man, the anti-mensch, the monster! At his peak, countless leading institutions from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to the Bilderberg Group accredited him. He’d grab a canapé & a glass of Moet at the Soviet ambassador’s daughter’s sixteenth birthday party (Order of Lenin First Class on his ample bosom), before dashing off to a debriefing with some CIA Head of Station behind Victoria Coach Station. Crikey! A wanky conceited cunt he may’ve been, but Vas was paid a sum not unadjacent to thirty thousand pounds sterling by a British Broadcasting Corpse to propagate his philosophy for one hour every Monday morning on Radio 4’s Today Programme: the horror. I recall the last time I saw Vlad Perrier Difference: live on ITV evening news, barrelling through Heathrow, reporters armed with the sacred light of truth cowering before bodyguards licensed to kill & armed with electric cattle goads. It was only a week after the Crash I believe- he wasn’t the sort of Johnny to hang round waiting for women or children, no sir. Everything created has a sell-by date, he remarked, almost to himself, before turning triumphantly to face down his inquisitors. I’ll be back, he said.
Meaningful pointed questions were being asked by then, OPERATION SCAT came to light, & fifty fat middle-aged merchant bankers woke with headaches to discover their virginities defiled. We, willy-nilly his disciples, awoke with hang-overs to discover our palettes no longer smeared with the actual colours our eyes beheld; in order to have fun one must retain at least a memory of youth. The rest you should know, & here we are. Well, anyway, those were the end of days my friend- when the scary forest was just a distant line on the horizon, & many & sweet were the birds that sang. Well, I haven’t time to stand out here with you chattering all night. Excuse me, but I’m a busy man. Yes I’m sure I’d feel the same if I were as poor as you. I still maintain it’s a lifestyle choice, so own it. Oh, come now, don’t take on so- here, you can have my handkerchief, you cannot see in this light but it’s a red spotted jobbie. Is there a safe route out of here for you? Not really, I made an effort to assist with directions but they’re just breadcrumbs. I wouldn’t pin too much hope on crumbs. Listen, if you’d stop crying for a moment. And let go of my hand. What’s that? Yes indeed, they’ve got big eyes haven’t they? Don’t let them see that you’re afraid, it excites them! Look here, I don’t mean to be unkind, but sadly it’s your own fault, really. In any case, I’m truly sorry, but it’s sauve qui peut nowadays. Well, goodbye sonny. And yes, bonne chance to you, too. Bye. I beg your pardon?
Oh, suppertime, I guess.
Hay exists in
Britain & rather than follow spurious leaders- over the years
he’s intermittently found it therapeutic to write out various
thoughts, feelings & ideas as short stories to be examined,
considered, & interpreted by clinical practitioners who may be
able to offer him professional psychological assistance.
After tragedy hits the small coal
mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is
sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.
Caught up in a web of treachery and
deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s
determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to
Will George ever learn to
Step back into the ’60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.
Thank you Deborah for inviting me over
to Ink Pantry to share my news about The Coal Miner’s Son,
Book 2 in the family saga, House of Grace trilogy. All books
may be read as a trilogy or stand-alones.
It seems quite fitting I return to Ink
Pantry, considering that is where my writing career kicked off with
my first poem ‘How to give birth to an Alien’ published in Ink
Pantry’s anthology, Fields of Words.
We have all come a long way since our Open University days and when Ink Pantry was first set up with ex-students as elves. At that time I had never considered publishing more than the odd short story or poem, never mind a novel, and now I have two novels published and am over halfway through with the third, which I aim for a March 2021 publication.
Before House of Grace, my first
novel, I struggled to write a short story with more than two thousand
words, yet now all my short stories want to become novels.
Monday 9th March 2020 is not
only the launch date for The Coal Miner’s Son but the third
anniversary of publication for House of Grace.
Both novels are available on Amazon Kindle and paperbacks may be ordered via Amazon, good bookstores, or your local library. Signed paperbacks are available by contacting me via my website.
Patricia M. Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).
Patricia writes novels, poetry and
short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines
and anthologies. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to
be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in Spring 2020.
She has a successful blog where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers, and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.
The Coal Miner’s Son is the second book in the House of Grace trilogy.
In many ways, I never learn. Coaxing dead bruises. Corking my skin.
Sewing love into hems. Yearning for a reviving touch. The walking wounded in nature’s glory.
A love that bruises
Welts in line with flinching An exit beleaguered by blind adulation As harpies hang from dying trees Frothing at the mouth with maudlin song Dropping their dread like breadcrumbs Haranguing me to flee
You are not bullet proof
Let me sing to your ribcage Blessing your breath Soothing you with love, quietly I am your goddess With mettle, love forged its way We in these wastelands Our secret Brigadoon At last, I am feeling alive in a love so robust My organs riot Your order and will pull me closer Nothing can save me from you A guest inked on your skin Hunting for my final resting place
shirking responsibility bathing in foolish want lounging in dreams eyes blazing in unison a sighing universal walking to walk breathing to breathe waking to each new dawn with little surprise in store holding onto fragments of hope in respect of the promise made we keep living to love with fingers now talons scratching at skin digging to feel something other than nothing you made the nothing something we grew closer as love knocked us sideways stoking the hearts of us flooding our bodies with joy love in a country made for two we sealed it and ran you with my sadness above you me with your mouth on mine breathing quick to save time
Remind me when I forget
Remind me that you love me Even when I blaze through Singed at the seams Untouchable Remind me that you love me I forget
I’ve made so many mistakes Given myself to the lost Hoping to find home Suffered the wrath of the cruel Left in pieces of grief I want a rebirth I want a riot of butterflies To take me back Back to that air heavy with colour Muted sounds comforting Nights steeped in the wonder Of my mother’s belly Back to the beginning Naked in a church font Blessed in morning light Mouths whispering promises to protect me A baby up in arms Demanding only love
I do not want your attention. The shouts of heraldry are misplaced as I squint at the sun. I hide in the dark. Waiting for empty pavements to exist. Do you know how it feels to stalk the earth in vain. To watch the rain and want to be the raindrops? The only joy is knowing I’m not alone in my exclusion. I am part of a pack. A misunderstood teeming line of souls. One day, we will have favour. We shall have glory. You and yours will bow. Holding your wicked tongue. Your unclenched fist signalling hope.
I am an unfinished opus
I am an unfinished opus. A work of art in waiting. Life composes me. The seasons work in tandem.
Rain dampens wrath. Cold brings hiatus. Sun warms the binding. Adding essential strength.
Anne-Marie Silbiger is an Irish poet living in London Twitter
Butterball! Fatso! Lardass! The enduring names my Catholic school chums unaffectionately called me on the plague-ground at St. Mary’s Grade School in the fifties. Who could blame them? My wads of flab embodied everything they feared
they would become if they let themselves go. I weighed 164 lbs. in sixth grade and wore jeans marketed as “Husky.” No matter that these excessive pounds journeyed my way during months of hospitalization and bedrest prescribed
by doctors for my “possible” case of Rheumatic Fever. Hours watching Howdy Doody and other couch attractions combined with mounds of Twinkies, chicken a la king, donuts, M&Ms, Fritos, Baby Ruths, Milky Ways, guzzled down with Coca-Cola, Ovaltine, Pepsi, and
You-Hoos, anesthetized my swollen ankles, stiff limbs, murmuring heart, and broken spirit. I wasn’t like the other boys, but I had been. At four years old, in home movies, I was skinny and running after life. Then my ankles swelled, my body stiffened,
and my mouth opened to the processed wonders of the fifties—capitalism’s cold war harvest. I lost the weight when my father died in 1964. Turns out, grief is a terrific diet regime. Still my body held other treats in store for me.
At 14 my face and forehead were so riddled with acne that Bud, owner of the Snack Shack on Pershing Boulevard, where I ate golden hash browns tickled with butter, loudly asked in front of all his customers at the counter,
“DO YOU HAVE A SKIN DISEASE?”
I turned to the Halcyon Plan: washed my face three times a day with Halcyon Oatmeal Soap (how those soapy oat-crisps scraped across my pustules and made them bleed!), smeared stinging Halcyon Lotion (really hyped-up
rubbing alcohol) over my sores twice-a-day, and took Halcyon Pills (candy coated sugar tabs) twice-a-day, all to be like those other boys: athletic, smooth-skinned, attractive to the girls. At 15 my face resembled an unbaked pepperoni pizza.
You’ll never find a woman, I said aloud to my mirror image. You’ll be alone for the rest of your life. Accept it and forget it. And I did. I flushed the soap, pills, and lotion down the toilet. I didn’t look at myself in the mirror
for a year. When I was sixteen, I caught my reflection by mistake—maybe in a spoon or a lake. I was astounded. My face was as smooth as a newborn’s behind. Still, I wasn’t like the other boys. I could
play a mean set of drums and, despite what the nuns told me, I had a mind. The urge to conform, to be like those other guys, was something I gleefully abandoned to the nasty blemish of time.
St. Rose of Lima
She was an occasion of sin. Men would see her and their apostate gushers would fill holy water fonts from Pisco to Puno, Lisbon to Pucallpa. The entire male population of Peru teetered on the edge of Hades and she knew it. Her parents wanted her to marry, be merry, act like a normal girl, but Rose had different ideas. What about those poor backsliders enraptured by her silky dark hair and smooth olive skin? Because of her irresistible beauty so many souls sizzled, sputtered, bubbled-up
in Satan’s skillet that his stupendous spatula couldn’t handle all that spiritual bacon. To stop the drooling and dripping, Rose cut off her hair, slathered her face with hot peppers until it blistered, and placed a homemade crown of thorns on her head. But wait, that wasn’t enough to atone for the shameful venery caused by her gorgeousness. She was a master seamstress and regularly took a sewing needle and plunged it deep into her scalp, probably penetrating her brain. No wonder she had visions of the Devil. Since she was a saint-in-waiting she evidently
didn’t have to worry about infection. Guess pre-canonization was the 17th Century version of antibiotics. Well, maybe not, she died at 31. I only read three books at St. Mary’s Grade School: St. Rose of Lima, Blessed Martin de Porres, and the Lou Gehrig story. I wanted to give away all my clothes to the poor, like Blessed Martin, but my parents didn’t take to that idea, and I certainly wasn’t up for sticking a pin in my head (besides, I wasn’t, as far as I knew, an occasion of sin—but maybe perusal of some priestly diaries might prove otherwise). So, I chose baseball. I’m still a follower of St. Lou.
Launched in Light
Every morning I open the blinds as if hoisting the main on a sailboat. Like wind, a nothing that propels vessels along waterways, light, another nothing I can’t hold, or touch, or taste, fills our bedroom— announces another day on our beleaguered but still green planet.
People argue over light: a series of waves, a gaggle of particles, waves and particles. Its contrast with afternoon shadow heartbeats a room, pushes particles of my life into an open face discovery, sends waves of warmth through my biography.
They say that night harbors mystery, but real mystery is launched in light. How does something not liquid pour onto a carpet, or spread into a room like a celestial mantilla? How does a huddle of vibrating molecules force a smile or an invisible wave inspire a song?
Requiem in Winter
The icing lake moves slowly pushed by northern Michigan winds, pallbearers to autumn’s corpse—
a sombre procession witnessed by bending spruces, birches, cedars and aspens; their sudden
frozen creakings, a brutal requiem with movements entitled Impermanence, Decay, Endurance.
The Mirror Stage
Identity didn’t exist in the 14th Century (i) Nobody wondered who they were— they knew: either they were peasants who spent their lives working for others, making babies, and waiting to die, or
they were the noble class who spent their time waging war, making babies, and waiting to die so they could pass on their possessions and reap their just reward in the next life.
So what is this carapace we crawl inside, carry wherever we go; this Self, invented by psychoanalysts, that we constantly cultivate and that gets in between ourselves and others all the time
but random images reflected to us by parents, siblings, teachers, friends— fellow travellers in this veil of years? Some of us wear fedoras and payot, others prune and preen in imitation of
their avatars in the pages of Vogue or GQ. Some wear t-shirts in winter, others gray government suits, blue shirts, red ties, ready for their television appearances. Some are captured in nearly invisible
bikinis, swim trunks, and flat stomachs cavorting with the terminally happy in places like Spice Island, Casa de Campo, and Belmond La Samanna. We are obsessed, in our confusing and divided times,
not so much with graven images of old, but with a modern excarnation: the Self reflecting on itself. Shipwrecked On Illusion Island we worship ourselves, our craven images, gravid with death and gravebound.
(i) See Tuchman, Barbara, A Distant Mirror, New York: Random House, 1987
Roar that makes the cosmos cower, waves that carry on their backs dolphins I aspire to become, undertow—invisible, sinister, evil, admirable—takes back what it gives only to give it again: treasure of sand and shore, seashells that echo its voice, green tangled locks of Aphrodite’s hair, Poseidon’s foamy champagne along its penumbra, aroma from below, destiny’s perfume— a mist that mimics infinity and captures eternity’s smile.
Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood(2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Sunlight Press, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, Mudfish 12, The Paterson Literary Review,and elsewhere.
Image: Herbert James Draper, The Pearls of Aphrodite, 1907
Rotund Mrs. Goldstein, my boss asked me if I was taking drugs Of course I was
Drugs were like sex, which I wasn’t getting and ice cream, which I was getting a lot of serving myself from the ice cream tubs when she and her husband weren’t looking
Drugs and ice cream direct lines to pleasure
No, Mrs. G. I’m not taking drugs
Max, you give me denials like a drink machine gives cans of soda
I was taken aback by her use of metaphor and couldn’t match her eloquence my lies flat-footed
She gave me a skeptical look and stepped closer I’m only five foot four She was a broad wall in front of me I had the thought that I could step forward and kiss her aproned chest smelling of corned beef lean against her and pray as if I were at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over fourteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers’ Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, is based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. His new poetry collection was published in 2019, The Arrest of Mr Kissy Face. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.