Expect childish words from children and broken words from broken people. Only the lonely hope to hear from the small, the discontent. Expect nothing. The guest speaker favours keyholes and tiny spoons of breath-cooled soup.
I expect the impossible.
What does not exist never / continuously disappoints. It comes from the sky like lightning or a slash mark or the new fall / fall fashions. The guest speaker used the phrase “cash cow” so offhandedly that, for a moment, the audience imagined itself collecting lactations in golden buckets.
I used to go back and forth. On Brando’s insane portrayal. Of Doctor Moreau. I used to wear eyeliner to class. Now I insist on wearing. My own ice bucket. And other people insist. On staying away. It’s a lovely day. On some other green planet.
There are miniatures and echoes. I used to blow soap bubbles. From the open third-floor window. When you didn’t want to do so alone. It’s kind of neat to think. About that thin line. Between saving the world. And acting like such a fuck-wad. That only the most broken. Among us respond to our efforts.
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has three current books of poems: Invisible Histories, The New Vaudeville, and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and Cream City Review.
Dragging a sorry-ass body to the studio riddled with pain I see there up ahead a Yellow Tiger-Swallowtail flopping around on the pavement bizarrely like something convulsing or someone improvising or a body working through a choreography.
I know this isn’t normal I am intimate with this poet-butterfly – it has made me aware as I bend down and unfold the massive flopping wings I see there the Bald-faced Hornet beautiful and black terrible and white clutching the body with its desperate and powerful and elegant embrace locked in the same brutal struggle,
And I know this never intervene don’t do it don’t who knows which animal is more rare? who knows what is beauty really and what is life and what is death?
but I can’t help it I am exhausted and riddled with pain I pry them apart
and feel better watching them fly off in opposed direction.
The gaggle of kids burst out the door and flush the hummingbird from the feeder smack into the glass.
I lift the small bird from its awkward contortion on the concrete stoop into the palm of my hand and breath again because it lived.
I smooth the feathers. The little bird straightens out blinks its tiny eyes and struggles a bit to breath. I dribble some sugar water in my palm since I had read somewhere that it is possible to starve again in flight.
And I wait there with it this bird this poet this perfect work of art whispering and humming because it makes me feel fine.
Until suddenly, miraculously it bursts from my palm! Ohhh… look at that! sweetheart look at that! It’s fine it’s fine! The kids gather together close the little girl squeals up there the bird the bird look! settling in the cedar fluttering its wings and then off! into the Honey Suckle to feed.
She will always be powerful. Small girl with these runes tattooed up and down her arms her legs. Life’s flame humming and dreaming.
And, iridescent purple gorget feathers flare out around that being. See here she hovers over the mirror-shine of Cloud Lake’s gloaming delicate composite of delight despair.
While we all suspect she has departed as the storm still traverses that ridge see there I will always be powerful small flyer beats back turbulence dissipates our torment.
These poems are from Henry Stanton’s collection, Pain Rubble, published Holy & Intoxicated Press. Henry Stanton’s fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Alien Buddha Press, Analog Submission Press, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, Black Petal Press, Cathexis Northwest Press, Chicago Record, Down in The Dirt, High Shelf Press, Holy & Intoxicated Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, Paper & Ink Zine, The Paragon Press, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Ramingo!, Rust Belt Press, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, Under The Bleachers, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch and Yellow Mama, among other publications. His book of Short Stories, River of Sleep and Dreams, is due to be published by Alien Buddha Press in 2019. His book of poems, The Man Who Turned Stuff Off, is being published by Holy & Intoxicated Press in June 2019.
His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry. His fiction received an Honourable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.
A selection of Henry Stanton’s paintings, published fiction and poetry can be viewed at the following website. Henry is the Publisher of Uncollected Press and the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Review. Check out more of Henry’s poetry on Soundcloud.
You were an only child, weren’t you? The look on the face, The tone of voice, Assumption, condescension, accusation: That you are wrapped up in yourself, That you lurk on the edges of greed: A minority group Without advocates to lobby For our interests. Don’t tell me what I missed Having no siblings, What I never learned to do. There were advantages: We never lacked for books to read, And when the time came To attend to the frail and failing, Lay them to rest, We did it by ourselves.
I spent the morning Trying to restore the Zoom icon To the home screen on my phone, Not an unlikely way For an 82-year-old to pass his time. The grandchildren are some help And know to resist eye-rolling. We got a Facebook account So we could watch the church service Online. We did not add pictures or information. We have not listed friends And do not know If anyone has listed us. Someone I think I might have known In Kiwanis Keeps wanting to add me to his LinkedIn list. We rely on Zoom in this strange time. People carry on about it But it suits me fine. I thought I had restored the icon To the home screen. That’s not quite true, But I can get to it now With only one extra click.
Favourite authors dropped off For the church book sale, The passing of a friend. Easier to part with: Those memos to the file, Notes on events Of interest to lawyers. We did not succeed: A storage shed, tight With boxes, whose labels Have lost meaning; Somewhere in there Green Depression Glass That did not sell on eBay, The Chelsea we bought for Caroline.
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.
You can find more of Bob’s poems here on Ink Pantry.
In The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr describes memory as ‘a pinball in a machine – it messily ricochets around between image, fragments of scenes, stories you’ve heard. Then the machine goes tilt and snaps off.’ That’s what Filipino author Danton Remoto uses to craft his most intimate novel, Riverrun.
The Philippines edition of Riverrun was first released in 2015, and the international edition was published in 2020 by Penguin South East Asia. This expanded edition has two additional chapters that are set in London and Scotland.
The form of the novel is a memoir. It chronicles the life of Danny Cruz, a young gay man in the Philippines between 1960s and 1970s in two parts. As the title suggests, the narrative runs gently like a river. This coming-of-age story is exquisitely told through vignettes, short prose, recipes (yes, you read it right) and song lyrics. It begins with Danny learning alphabets before he enters kindergarten. His mother would guide his hand to form ‘the arcs, loops and crosses, the dips and turns of the letters’.
Remoto is a keen observer of people and situations. He has a way of presenting beautiful quotidian moments in a delicate manner that shows the longing and the depravity of a human soul. One is the tragic story about his cousin, Naomi, a bright and sassy girl, who runs away from home with a classmate at the university. Before long, she returns home not only with a broken heart, but expecting. She eventually dies from a complication during childbirth. Though the family mourns for her death, her uncle is less sympathetic. Being a staunch Catholic who reads the Good News gospel during service, he has no qualms in expressing his disdain for Naomi’s actions and how God disapproves of them. Such is precariousness of youth and the hypocrisy of Catholic faith, which many of us have witnessed at some point in our lives.
The sharing about his sexual awakening as a teenager illustrates the tension between his innate desire and the societal norms. Living in a deeply Catholic and conservative society where gay relationships are frowned upon, he can’t express outwardly what he really feels internally about his sexual inclination in those times. As a result, he often let those cherished moments slip by. The time when he and Luis are sitting on the Ferris wheel at a local carnival, and his desire to touch Luis’s hand that is within reach. The private moment he almost professes his love to Mario at a garden in the chilly air.
However, what I enjoy most about this novel is the folklore and mythologies that Remoto weaves into his story. The family’s housemaid, Ludy often narrates Filipino mythologies to little Danny during meal times. Her narration of Manananggal, an evil spirit that assumes the form of a shy and demure woman in the day and morphs into a beast with the most powerful wings by night, is most alluring and terrifying at the same time. A nymph who lives in the bottom of the village’s lake and takes the life of a young man every year becomes the centre of attention when Danny’s classmate, Felix, disappears in the lake. After diving into the depth of the lake a couple of times, a Navy frogman finally encounters the diaphanous woman in white and has to plead with the spirit to let the boy go. Here’s the fun fact: this is based on a true story.
Not only do these folklore and mythologies play an important part in Remoto’s childhood and upbringing, it adds texture and layers to the novel.
The volatile political landscape affects the lives of many who live under a corrupted military dictatorship. Remoto, who has lived through it, uses those events to give a hint of irony in his stories. Without naming the political figures, he describes who they are by indicating their idiosyncrasies, such as, the First Lady who amasses 3,000 pairs of Italian shoes. Students express their deep frustration and resentment through a mass demonstration outside of old Congress building during the president’s State of the Nation address. The confrontation between the police and the students is raw and heartbreaking.
‘The police and the military put on their black masks and began to lob canisters of tear gas into the air, in the direction of the protesters. Then they swooped down on the students, their wooden sticks and trenches swinging wildly. They bashed heads; they shattered arms and knees. You could hear the bones breaking. In turn, the students threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, heaping a rain of curses on the cops and the soldiers.’
In short, Riverrun is a tender, poignant and moving novel that offers a glimpse of everyday life in the Philippines. Unlike a typical novel with memoir elements, Remoto uses evocative language to paint factual events and vivid description of places and people he encounters. The result: a lyrical prose that is filled with lovely details, such as kitsch-decorated jeepneys, the acacia tree in his home’s yard, and the food. It reminds me of reading a collection of creative non-fiction stories. But that’s what makes this novel so unique and beautiful. He said in one of his media interviews recently, ‘I wanted to show the dissonance between the official version of the news and the version that happened down there, in the real world. This is the real version that touched people’s lives, reshaping them into lives of sadness and grief.’
The description of those homely cuisines and food recipes just whets my appetite each time I turn those pages. It symbolises a spirit of home and family history. Remoto writes deftly about existing class disparity and social issues. Reading this book evokes a certain sense of nostalgia and satisfaction. Who knows, in a few years’ time, this novel might be considered to be part of the Filipino literary canon.
A whiff of smoke and we’re dancing, elbowed out of our daytime disguises by a beat that’s stripped to the waist and lifting the doors off their hinges. I can’t sing, but I do anyway, my ecstatic voice smothered in love and noise. We are waves, we are flames, we are prayer flags on a mountain, blown pure above clouds that hide a world wrapped in barbed wire and endless static. There are no signals but our hands and eyes; no connections but bodies; no distractions but thin gravity and the dizzying spin of stars. The music is a haze of petals, mismatched memories pitched up like tents at the end of the world, a wisp of smoke from a temple or a student bedsit. We’re dancing like magnets, like falling objects, like a mirror cracking side to side. We’re dancing in the ruins and in the new growth. We’re dancing like surprise, like awe. we are rhythm. We are smoke.
Show and Tell
The beat between phrases is bruised with red flowers. We learn by doing, but all we have is speech, curling and dropping like wood shavings as we plane away the edges of our daily routine. Phrases lose their familiar forms, losing definition until we wouldn’t recognise them with the lights out. We learn by repetition, but each iteration is subtly distinct in ways neither of us is able to describe: you talk about microscopes spectrometers, and I suggest charades and tai chi. Phrases are mongrels running wild in the alley: many a true word is lost between cup and lip; stay where the heart is; now watch your hands. We learn to expect the expected, but received wisdom is out of date and cues are lost to social distance. Phrases beat like a slow drum in a masked parade, and all the buses are right on time, though empty.
Treading the Boards
With the theatres closed, I’ve moved into adverts and documentaries, slipping between roles with the turn of a typed page. Yesterday, I was Confused But Delighted Father, twelve years married to a perfect wife, with three beautiful children and a kitchen that would have made Mother Teresa turn her back on the Missionaries of Charity and devote her life instead to the perfect lemon drizzle cake. Today, I am a diver on a sunken wreck, a silent time capsule from March 2020. I point at flyers for political rallies and gigs that never happened, and at unread books now inhabited by hermit crabs. I lean in to peer at an octopus that sits on a barnacled office chair, a souvenir biro from the Willis Tower in one pink tentacle. Lastly, I enter the ballroom with my bankable confused-but-delighted face and sweep my torch across an orchestra still playing “In the Mood” in various stages of bloat and decay. Someone else – David Tennant or David Attenborough, or maybe the ghost of David Bowie – will add voice-over later, but for now the director calls Cut!, and we all relax as Mother Teresa doggie-paddles in, a snorkel clamped in her toothless smile, with a lemon drizzle cake she made from a branded packet.
The Upside of Apocalypse
When skeletons rise from lakes, rivers and sea, they are glad to be home. They are glad to be without flesh or water, able at last to reconceptualise horizons of expectation. Suddenly, everything’s an opportunity again, everything’s an economic opportunity, a golden ticket, a windfall on Premium Bonds or shares in airbag technology. Weather matters again, so they stock up on boots and brollies. Having no flesh, families and old friends – even husbands, wives and children – are impossible to recognise, so there is a boom in small ads and speed dating, reinvigorating print media and community spaces. Waiting times for physiotherapy have increased, but MRI and X-ray units have closed. Obesity is no longer an issue. There’s an upside to apocalypse in terms of equality and diversity, but now there are skeletons rising in churchyards and forest clearings, shaking mud from jaws and joints, stunned in the sun. Tomorrow or the day after, they’ll remember why they’re dead and who was to blame, but for now everything’s peachy, no one doesn’t belong, and everyone’s size zero.
Amber lights hold everything in temporary abeyance, from the truck at the interchange to the writer poised with his old-fashioned pen at the intersection between fact and fiction. Imagine this: the driver climbs from the cab that has been hid home for forty days and forty nights, his head still spinning with unwinding roads and sad songs from the country music station. He has a checked shirt and a road-burned thirst, a sheaf of old envelopes and a pen his father gave him when he started at the big school. It hasn’t rained for weeks, but his truck is stowed with storms, their zig-zag lightning crackling under stretched tarps. Across the asphalt, the diner lights are amber, and the waitress in her gingham smock – stuck like a damselfly for millions of years – feels resin tears prick the corners of her waiting eyes. The truck rusts and unwrites itself, leaving nothing but its shadow, and the driver cradles his pen like a hedgehog snatched from traffic. Now picture this: an empty parking lot in amber light. From the diner window, a waitress stares at a truck-shaped space, remembering lightning. You may or may not be the writer, the pen pricking your awkward fingers, the road settling into stillness after the long, long drive.
Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication is the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2017) with Miles Salter, which was a UK National Poetry Day recommendation, and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes.
The van brakes, but at a less frantic pace. That’s what life is like in lockdown. Different uses though the same materials provided. Now we make single- serve liturgies of cryogenic ice cream; filled loosely, uncompacted.
She calmed down after he’d fini- shed talking. The photographer’s shadow & her breathless carols fell across everything like patented dentifrice. I’m in a groove where I’d rather not be. The perform- ance lasts roughly two hours.
“& see all these things”
Humour has to do with the fact that certain restrictions are often imposed upon people’s movements. That any major drive for banning
customized services will ex- plode due to excess demand & denial of service unless it’s sponsored by the Noh theaters of central Japan. That spring
protection entails sealing off a spring’s water source to all women & girls. (This last idea first floated in a memo attri- buted to the Pope’s equerry.)
The Pound Cantos: CENTO XXII
Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar. Hot wind came from the marshes. The reeds are heavy, bent. Next is a river wide, full of water. Small boat floats like a lanthorn. Drift of weed in the bay. She gave me a paper to write on, made like fish- net, of a strange quality that sets
sighs to move, to fascinate the eyes of the people. Light also proceeds from the eye. The echo turns back on my mind in a biological process that very few people will understand. Matter is the lightest of all things.
geographies: Mojave Desert
Somewhere here, among the rare earths, there’s an artificial Afghanistan, complete with working casinos & a replica of the Louvre. People go dancing in those areas especially critical for bird conservation & feel right at home. The few Devils Hole
pupfish left like to do a mean Lindy Hop which the planes in the bone yard manage to ignore. They remain in wallflower stasis, stirring only to watch the tourists when they sometimes fly overhead.
Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry since 1959. He is the author of over fifty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are a collection of visual pieces, The Comedians, from Stale Objects de Press; turning to drones, from Concrete Mist Press; & turpentine from Luna Bisonte Prods.
More of Mark’s work can be found here on Ink Pantry.
A pen pusher, the nib a shark’s tooth, words ripped with passion and fury, pages consumed and attacked with a soulful thoughtful ferocity, leaving behind a clean crime-scene.
The ink seems to be running low, the poems walk a high-wire, most fall but some fragments survive: I gather them like fire-wood and wait for the incineration, the cremation of the words to step forward and sacrifice themselves.
John D Robinson is a UK poet. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in print and online. He has published several chapbooks and four full collections. New & Selected Poems will be appearing later in the year. Red Dance was recently published by Uncollected Press.
The monuments to ignorance and to reason have been staring at each other’s recapitulation from time out of mind. Ignorance is measurable in monuments; reason, in moments.
Momus chooses a moment—and clay comes into play, so one can sculpt something meaningful (occasionally called Auris.) This is a susceptibility experiment. Some have called it palliation; some have called it abductive inference (Intel inside.) Watch possibilities caper beyond the buoy.
Monument huggers live bronze-coloured lives. They grow lemons of embarrassment; they lag musical flags. Note the smoke of their vigils, the mouthful of kisses. Some others travel, but they sprout where they’ve been planted. Only and only.
All questions bow before this: are we prepared to kill somebody to prove that our imaginary guru is better than theirs?
We hide from our naked past in our see-through garments. What can they reveal, anyway, if not what makes us all look like banana fingers?
Somebody shows off his big red zero. Somebody gets diagnosed with BDSM. Marine mud gets rather gummy on a muggy day. If the mud had a brain, would it be deep-brown or see-through? If a womb had a brain, would it nurture an Einstein or cheese crisps? And what if it suffers from misperceptions?
Wherever you are, the world sees your bare blossoms. Here’s a portrait of your confidence as a younger ape, the age of prunes before they wrinkle. Innocence is pleasurable, sex profitable, control very pleasurable, murder extremely profitable. Never bite the tomatoes of my lips.
This is libertinism, it withers and museifies. This is destiny, it excels in making evil from good and good from evil, especially where there’s nothing else to make them from.
How easily heads can be detached from a dragon! All those young men hypnotised by grimaces and tail movements… Don’t be so cheesecake! Do it! A simple chop-chop—and new borders get puffed out, already proof-tested for spelling and spillage.
Out there, watch out for ideology bonfires: you can end up in one if you don’t supply a flamethrower. And this is where dragons come in, short-fused but quick-blinking. What’s not to like about a bouncy walk along the border chalk?
As we powder our reflections’ twin noses in double-glazed mirrors, a brand new yesterday gets shoved into our windows. This is beyond comprehension, like thirsty shadows or torrential trees. Like an egg with a flag.
I like talking about salamanders and goblins. I feel a little like a toy; sometimes like Tolstoy. I’ve put my last 100 clams into betterment, but the upper-crest accent eludes me. You can’t change yourself on a budget; you need a shipment of paint and pain. Your time is a deadwatch time; your medical condition is fiddling. What are you going to do about it?
Look around: your city has always been a moveable beast. Yesterday it worshipped the Holy Randomer; today the Eiffel Tower grows atop some heads. Angels have invested in yellow vests; they are busy with portfolio rebalancing. Wherever you go, ethical judgments stare at you from the local cloaca. Jack Wolfskin appears from around the corner and says, Howdy doody.
By Way of Introduction
Meet the serial killer called progress. Read his book called Backward Induction for Dummies. Note his frozen eyes, his despair. Nothing dies on this planet; this muddles the streams of perfection. Survival is a black aroma; the puddle of choices never dries up. Passing caracaras wonder if they’re seeing an extra-long worm or history in the making. They are not sure, and neither are we. After all, there is something nematodic about thinking.
Somebody said life is an overture. To what? Universe opens little apertures – and here we are, transparent on every side. Happy motherless day! Still, some of us have a positive altitude, while some others conceal their thoughts in ten-foot-tall elephant grass.
Anatoly Kudryavitsky lives in Dublin, Ireland, and in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. His poems appear in Oxford Poetry, The Literary Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Prague Revue, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, The North, Ink Sweat and Tears, Cyphers, Stride, etc. His most recent poetry collections are The Two-Headed Man and the Paper Life (MadHat Press, USA, 2019) and Scultura Involontaria (Casa della poesia, Italy, 2020; a bilingual English/Italian edition). His latest novel, The Flying Dutchman, has been published by Glagoslav Publications, England, in 2018. In 2020, he won an English PEN Translate Award for his anthology of Russian dissident poetry 1960-1980 entitled Accursed Poets (Smokestack Books, 2020). He is the editor of SurVision poetry magazine.
毳：three pieces of hair put together indicates as much subtlety as sensitivity
贔：three mounts of money deposited together stands for hard work
鑫：three kinds of metals stuck together signifies prosperity
垚：three units of earth piled together represents a mountain towering against the sky
森：three trees standing together presents a whole forest
淼：three bodies of water flowing together describes a vast expanse of sea
焱：three fires burning together refers to an extremely bright flame
Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, Jodi Stutz Award in Poetry & publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) & BestNewPoemsOnline, among 1,689 others worldwide.