residents oldish some younger than me most yoked to challenges – me blessedly free for now at least
I fretted to select poems didn’t want to swamp lovely folk with hard words dense works I couldn’t make them sad lost in miscomprehension
I did my normal thing – I’ll read unless I have a volunteer expecting no-one then
your quiet cracked voice said I will your wife stared at you soft through dementia’s mist alerted by your gentle confidence
and you read Frost’s A Time to Talk with your whole deep-timbred heart claimed its meaning read friendship’s rhythm in rich-seamed Geordie tones
Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing [Newcastle 2017]. She believes everyone’s voice counts.
Robert Demaree: At a workshop in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in August 2017, Marilyn Nelson introduced us to poets we were not likely to know—poets from the Middle East, Native America, Gary, Indiana, poems that spoke of addiction, alienation, anger. Then she explained to us the “golden shovel” prompt or exercise, created by National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes. We were to write a poem in which the lines should end, consecutively, with words from a line by Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American to win a Pulitzer in poetry and serve as Poet Laureate for the U.S. We were offered a choice of three lines by Brooks, and I selected “I shall create! If not a note, a hole” (from “Boy Breaking Glass”). I was able to follow the directions for one of the two stanzas below.
The participants all look alike this morning, and I Think of the syringes, which we shall Not know, even if we create Poems of pain and exclusion, even if We were to experience, as we have not, The chilling look and touch of a Security guard, his voice a strident note Of smug assumption, a Clue to the we-ness of this American hole.
Then I remember being pulled out of the line Returning from Canada, Luggage searched at random, they said, But we suspect for prescription drugs, Targeted for our years, A group not mentioned In this morning’s verse.
Looking back sixty years It seems so like them That my parents chose a place Called the Chateau Overlook, A modest auberge appropriate To a schoolmaster’s means And outlook on life. I remember the tour at The Plains of Abraham, and a man Lobbing a half-dollar U.S. over the Heads of the crowd, a tip for the guide. It fell in the mud at his feet; He paused for a moment, Then picked it up.
I went by myself to the Place d’Armes. Returning, I asked the concierge In my false, wooden French, “Où est ma mère?” “Oopstairs” was his reply.
Last summer our daughter and her son Drove to Québec. The Chateau Overlook is gone. Philip stepped into the lobby of The Chateau Frontenac, Something I had not done, And rode to the top floor Where he took a picture of The Plains of Abraham.
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.
the terrors of the night the worst imaginings of what might happen
war, rumours of war end of civilization nuclear war and other horrors ripped from the headlines
fade away into nothingness with the morning light and the love of my wife who is always by my side I regain my sight
and begin regaining my smile and my life
until the next nightmares consumes my dark imaginings
Dora the Intergalactic Explorer
Dora the intergalactic explorer Is travelling to the strangest planet of all the known worlds
she is traveling incognito with a video crew making a documentary
the planet earth is known as a planet of intelligent monkeys
not much is known about them as very few have ever been there
the inhabitants are described as blood thirsty insane creatures ruled by hidden sexual and political passions following incomprehensible religious dogmas following Gods that clearly do not exist
the inhabitants are just on the verge of developing intergalactic travel and the galactic empire is worried that they will be driven to try to conquer the rest of the universe
driven by their needs to impose their religious dogma everywhere in the world
the planet is divided into large tribal groups governed by corrupt elites corrupt businesses destroying the planet in pursuit of profit
and the locals are little more than wage slaves barely making a living addicted to alcohol, drugs gambling pornography and illicit sex
and their main land is ruled by a clearly delusional madman intent on poking a fight with all his alleged enemies
Dora assumed the appearance of a character from TV and will pose as a journalist trying to make sense of it all
but she was afraid that she if found out could face the worst consequence
her ship crash lands and she is outside the capital
of the non empire empire called the United State of America
Dora gets her crew together and walks into the city staring at all the strange sights as the monkeys go about their daily activities
she stops at a restaurant tries the coffee the chief drug of choice
and is instantly addicted wow no wonder these people are crazed
she tries the local booze and smiles perhaps she could become an intergalactic merchant introducing the world to the galaxy
her thought are interrupted as a mad man armed with weapons of war bursts in and starts shooting yelling at people
and she is shot dead the authorities are shocked
when they recover the body and realize that she is not a human as she reverts other original form
sort of a giant feline like creature two legs and arms and clearly from an advanced civilization given her gear
what was she doing no one knew as all the aliens died in the gun blaze
the world is shocked at what had happened and fearful that the aliens were coming to invade their world
the galactic senate decides to contain the humans declaring them a threat to the global civilization
and the humans vow to discover the secrets of interstellar travel and travel to her land
to enter into business arrangements and spread the one truth faith to the heathen space aliens
thus ended Dora’s excellent adventure in the crazed world at the edge of known civilization
Mocking Faces Staring at Me
Mocking faces hunting my dreams Hundreds of faces morphing into one after another
Faces I knew The dead and the living
women I knew friends I missed enemies I did not
One after another Marching in my room Staring at me
I tried to run They laughed
They said that there’s nowhere to escape my cosmic fate
My time is coming prepare yourself the grim reaper has your name
and once he has your name your fate is sealed and you will soon join us
whether in heaven or hell is not for us to say
be warned though you will be judged and no one can escape their cosmic karmic fate
a wild man sits in a gilded cage
a wild man sits in a gilded cage a cage made out of chains of his wife’s love
a cage made out of chains of his wife’s love the wild man yearning to be free from his cage
the wild man yearning to be free from his cage wondering how and why he was now tamed
wondering how and why he was now tamed dreaming dark wild dreams of demented freedom
dreaming dark wild dreams of demented freedom the wild man looks about his prison cage
the wild man looks about his prison cage wondering whether he will ever be free
wondering whether he will ever be free a wild man sits in a gilded cage
2019 The Last Year of America’s Greatness
2019 was the last year of America when the proverbial chickens came home
when the proverbial chickens came home to strut about the decaying landscape
to strut about the decaying landscape as the world begins to burn and die
as the world begins to burn and die led by the mad great leader and his merry men
led by the mad great leader and his merry men the whole world lay in shock and awe
the whole world lay in shock and awe at the destruction of the America they knew
at the destruction of the America they knew when the proverbial chickens came home
John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller is a novelist, poet, and former Foreign Service officer having served 27 years with the U.S. State Department serving in over ten countries including Korea, Thailand, India, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Spain. He has travelled to over 50 countries, and 49 out of 50 states. He speaks Korean, Thai, Spanish and studied Chinese, Hindi and Arabic.
What sort of plumage is my exuberant words, words whose foliage no Autumns could scourge, whose leaves still flutter in speech and verse with eloquence?
With what sort of rhythm the word bells resonates, a word that chimes with vespers and faith, with Edgar Allan Poe’s metallic tales, with Sir Betjeman’s Archibald and Hampstead plains, with St. Mungo’s grace!
What sort of thrills are embedded in wings, an ode to agility in fowls and fins, a vision of freedom in inward things and flights within!
What clusters of stars reside in smiles, a word whose luster with galaxies vies, a beam to de-shroud the downcast brows, to rob them of frowns!
He drove me to work slowly in his own senile style, a couple of black dice instantly caught my eye, dangling from the rearview mirror, a taxi-driver’s charm, with threes engraved in gleaming white and numbers one and four on half-hidden sides.
I am used to seeing beads, fresheners, and ornaments that some believe can distract the evil eye but dice was a novelty that enflamed my mind.
What if these numbers are an encrypted message from the sky! What if nothing is random in our complicated lives! I pondered over their significance like a bewildered child, then added the numbers up to figure some meaning out. Eleven, the outcome, is double one, the number I adored as a child, but the appearance of its twin at that stage in my life multiplied interpretations of what it could signify: the twin pillars of Solomon’s Temple, or a roofless gate to the other world! Perhaps parallel lives, but if so, what parallels mine!
Charlotte Mew, a Nemophilist
Who but Mew heard the grasses bashfully mate, the cry of an angel admonishing the butchery of trees, the agony of London’s ubiquitous planes in every massacre enjoined by the modern age, a sacrilege.
She evoked the spirits that dwelt in wood, the oak-housed elves, the consecrated yews, the venerable beeches, the beloved sycamores, a sentient, sacred world.
She dreaded the three-headed monster that inhabited Europe, machinery, democracy, and science with their torture tools, the axe, the rope, the amputating saw, that manufacture unhallowed roods.
The Essenes once settled on the Mount of Sion, the sacred site the Templars were bound to woo, over which many races their disputes would brew, now a blood-stained metaphor for modern wars.
Edessa, the Syrian gem in the north, upon whose throne a Nazarene monarch had ruled, a Fisher King in the most purple of robes, had lost its hallowed crown of thorns.
The Nile whose ripples had Moses borne, in whose mirror Nefertiti and Cleopatra viewed the resurrection of Osiris from a sunken tomb, is now a battleground for water feuds.
And Notre Dame de-Paris, the grail of stone, who frowned upon Jacques de Molay’s doom, the immolation of a knight whose Order had bloomed, now stands disfigured and badly scorched.
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.
In the eucalyptus grove I munch on my sandwich tossing some crumbs at the two eager bush turkeys romping around in the grass.
suddenly one of them takes an explosive shit – an ochre-white splatter with a black jelly centre which its companion promptly begins to peck at seeing which, the bird who took the massive dump heartily joins the other in dining on its poop.
I throw up a little bit in my mouth my sudden retching startling the feasters who scoot off a distance before coming back with renewed appetite to resume nibbling on the glob of excrement.
I look away and quickly swallow the small well of puke pooled in my mouth – it somehow seems like the logical thing to do in this particular avian company.
Frangipani and honey-eaters
those stories that grandmother used to tell – malevolent spirits roosting in the branches of frangipani trees at dusk something sinister about the otherworldly perfume of flowers in bloom that drew tortured souls caught between worlds to the ivory perch of their shadowy branches.
at the far end of the backyard the gardener has trimmed the frangipani tree to limbs so bare they look like floating fingers splayed anemone in the sea of the night.
from the u-shaped curve of a comfortable fork the honeyeaters stare bodies tucked in their new nest eyes filled with dread as they study me floating back-lit half-human, half-ghost – and I wonder if their grandmothers told them stories about my kind even as I imagine them with beady eyes smouldering in the dark and fantasise about demons that quickly morphed in the time my back was turned.
A raven among the sulphur-crests
it’s an autumn morning ritual stalking the balcony awash in black gunmetal hair swelling in the wind.
the sulphur-crests await my appearance an army of twelve perched on the railings diamond formation attention rapt.
in black lingerie and beguiling lace I fancy myself a millennial Grimhilde hands aloft spilling cake crumbs and bread.
I toss them in the mist and the birds circle squawking, snowing white tame in the power of my sorcery the mysterious human-raven.
on the balcony below the neighbour gawks in horror this manic wheeling of wild cockatoos my frightening nudity madness on show.
Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney based artist, poet, and pianist. She holds a Masters in English. Oormila is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. Her recent works have been published in Eunoia Review, Poets Resist, Rue Scribe, The Ekphrastic Review, and several other literary journals in Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom.
One day, I’ll be alive. Not sad, afraid to stir my mother’s rage over breakfast each morning.
One day I’ll smile touch-papers of joy and ignite love, this way and that, far into the future.
It’s far away, the day when I’ll be free to walk out and make my way. Leave my bedroom, quit my home to make my own mistakes and party. It’s far away and secretly, I’m pleased. More time to be a child, loved to bits even though I play my face, paint my nails, line my eyes with kohl and pick black Goth clothes out of my old dressing-up box.
We crunch on frozen soil’s solid crust. Skimmed sunshine ignites crystal sparks, diamonds scatter on the ground. My son asks, Mum, can I smile today? I leak stray tears, laugh and squeeze his hot hand: plump palm and curled fingers. He’s too young and I’m too old to understand.
I see my Nan’s eyes gaze from his fresh face, loss erased in currents of connection.
Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing [Newcastle 2017]. She believes everyone’s voice counts.
We are having lunch with our poet artist friend, Looking down toward the big lake, Luminous glow of peak reds and golds In an October mist. The bar is crowded, Favourite domestic brands on draft. Why would you go to a bar at noon on Monday? To watch replay of Sunday’s game, To see if the Patriots win this time, Or have a beer with your sandwich, Which you could do by the window, At the table next to ours, And look out at the muted foliage. Mainly, we conclude, for companionship, The sense of being part of something, Even—especially—in a resort town In the off season. We are ready to go. We hug our friend and say So long until June. There’s an empty place at the bar now I may come back in a while.
Part Two: North Carolina
At the supermarket where we shop The marketing folk have sought to Redefine the grocery experience, So they’ve put up a sign out front That says “Welcome to Our Farm” And have installed a beer garden In the beverage section, Craft brews with exotic ingredients. So at one pm on a Tuesday There are people sitting at the bar Enjoying a cool one. Who drinks beer at a grocery store? People who work for the distributor? There is no TV, no football, Sometimes no one to talk to. They may be wishing for a companionship Yet to emerge, a kindred spirit To appear from down the produce aisle.
Part Three: Pennsylvania
I think of the bars on every corner In the sad rust belt town Where I grew up. Priestly barkeeps move their towels Back and forth with Rogerian attending. Jesse and I walk by at dusk Carrying our baseball gloves, Close enough to hear those Pennsylvania voices, The murmur of disappointment and companionship, Esslinger, Schmidt’s of Philadelphia, Old Reading Beer.
1. I have created templates In my computer Wishing speedy recovery, Funny cartoon characters Sending all good wishes, Thinking of you. I cannot yet bring myself To send condolences Online
2. These things all happened the same day: The phone rang at six a.m. A stranger from Memphis Sought our help In contesting someone’s will. Sarah fell putting out the bird feeders. A raccoon had gotten into the garbage. The cable was out for twelve hours. Then, toward midnight that same day, The faint dampness of soiling nightclothes The aroma of being eighty-one, A point in life when You run into a friend Long unseen And are afraid to ask How’s your wife.
3. Retirement home dusk A bicycle built for two Rear seat riderless.
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.
If blue is namely white and black is namely red and gold is transparent as crystal and light makes the soul smile forgetting the sun moon and stars and you were filled with wisdom, drunk for thousands of years and back to the prehistoric giant city and that giant is just like another me from the heavens by the lotus throne in the golden palace.
Tonight I thought of the platinum city above in distant space Where there is no day and night and the giants are interstellar travellers by spaceship Their words have the dignity of God and create the holy Kingdoms So that the pictures of the soul in the maze of memory lasts a billion years Standing by the azure sea near the great palace with swirling sweet music in the city of the gold
Prehistoric words of the gods are waking up in my body The platinum city from a strange planet is as if in a fantasy on the blue coast The giant men and women who walk by the light do not know trouble or sorrow There where the temple of the gods is in their heads, whose light is like wine flowing in the blood And the music of the stars sways gently around them, which is like the bath of the cool breeze on the earth The huge ship of stars which they have ridden can arrive at the other side of time To let you get a glimpse yourself yesterday in the future and in the divine light of fragrance
Yuan Hongri, born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, Gold City, Golden Paradise, Gold Sun and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria.
It was always you, It was almost you, In all ways you, Always almost you.
Your sex-scent on the breeze That comes in through the window and mingles with the perspiration Of my lonely sheets. Your image just out of focus in my bedroom mirror. Every slamming door is you leaving. Every key jingling in a lock Is you arriving. Every car splashing along the wet road outside as I try to sleep Is you moving past me unaware.
Lying in torpor, staring at the cracks, Knowing you would heal them With the wild branches of your hair And the dark frigid oceans of your eyes, Holding me in the shiver Of beyond the second half of previously disused Lives. Contented in mirrors at last.
It will always be you, Almost you, In all ways you, Almost always you.
Before I Knew Love
I loved you before I knew you, Before I knew love, Before I breathed my first breath In this life. I loved you before my first concept of love And yet, here you are, Telling me love is something Reserved for those who pretend But I tell you this – Nothing I am and nothing I own And nothing I was matters to me Compared to your love Because before you Was before I could imagine, Reason or pretend. There was just me floating there, Yearning for your arms around me, Not knowing who you were But knowing I would know you When our paths finally crossed.
Now we are at a physical and emotional distance, Your body breathing without mine, Your heart beating without mine. Music plays here as I sit alone, Music I can no longer share with you The way we shared so much, But clearly not everything. I listen to this song and all I can think Is how much you would probably like it. Searching for you all those years, finding you, I imagined I would breathe my last breath Loving you as I did before my first And I will indeed love you when I shed this mortal coil And after But not the same. Not the same but I will.
As I am about to live again after this body dies I will likely love you again Before I breathe my first breath Just like I did before And before that. There is no choice. There is just what is.
Gentle and Fierce
She took my words close to her heart
And laughingly told me “You’re so gentle and fierce”
And then I pulled her close And gave her a kiss so savage and so tender She lost her breath
And she trembled all over, wet and melting like hot wax Against the force of my eyes and my body And my words and my lips and my loudly beating heart.
I Might As Well
I might as well shave my head. I might as well wear a necktie. I might as well turn off the music and get some sleep. I might as well stop writing about her. I might as well stop calling them on the phone. It’s a new day! A new me! A new day all about me! I might as well get laid. I might as well smoke cigars. I might as well not love. Loving is hard. Life is hard enough. I might as well tell you all that it’s time to be about me. I might as well shave my face clean, Buy a new suit and lose some weight, Waiting for the inevitable promotion or firing That will only lead to more opportunities In this wonderful America. I might as well stop crying. Tears have no worth. I’ll turn off the music now And turn in. I might as well get a good night’s sleep. I’ll shave my head tomorrow.
My Poems Arrive
My poems arrive At your doorstep, Sometimes one by one, Sometimes in a bundle. There can be weeks of silence And then they arrive, these paper boats with paper sails, One by one by one Onto your shore Under a dusky moonlight And a light steady rain.
You hear the knock on your door at 6 a.m. To find a poem questioning your love Or comparing your eyes to the moon reflecting off of The bottom of the sea. It must be disconcerting To potentially find undying love or petulant rage At your door at any given time. Often both.
My poems arrive Singly or by the dozen When you are making dinner Or taking a shower Or sleeping in your bed without me. Some come wrapped in ribbon, Some in undescriptive cardboard boxes, Some in plain brown wrappers
But they keep coming As relentlessly as the tide And, like the tide, There is no point in swimming Against them.
John Tustin started to write again in 2008 after a ten year hiatus and his published poetry can be found here.