Inky Tanka: 5 by Steve Black

these last nights
the man pacing upstairs
crying out to jehovah
i walk with him a while
until the police arrive

sleep talking
to her dead lover
i roll away
return to living
with my own death

golden days
looking for ieds under cars
with my serving father
before the war turned inside
and a clock began ticking

counting bodies
in the overcrowded lift
and breathe in 123
and breathe out 123
the memory of skin

winter light breaks
on the warehouse floor
the cornered rat
white with asbestos
gives up the fight

Steve Black was born at the end of the summer of love now navigating the gig economy within the shadow of London. Published here and there, now and then.

Poetry Drawer: Where Joy Lies: On and Off and On and Off by Samuel Plauche

Where Joy Lies

My heart aches and breaks as I sit in my self made grave
Disconnected and trapped, I feel alone as I build my own tomb
I sit and liquify myself into some sort of melancholy happiness
Becoming some sort of wobbling feeling

Even as I quake and cry
Even as my mind turns poisonous
And I think I should die
Even as my walls move around me and trap me inside
With a smoke and a drink, I still know where joy lies

Joy lies down on the sidewalk in front of a bar
Where me and strangers scream poems at each other and into the stars
It’s where the bouncer laughs and eats curry after playing a song on stage
It’s where all these artist come together to make noise and dance away

Joy lies at the bottom of my double whiskey
And that’s not a sad statement because that’s where it rests for all of us
At the bottom of our drinks, we turn our heads up and smile
At the bottom of our drinks, we kick our heels and turn wild

Joy lies in the afterglow of a kiss
As two faces pull apart
Joy lies in two interested parties
Walking past each other at the bar

Joy lies in the saxophonist’s sound
That bops around our heads and makes us feel all
It’s where the bartender and I talk about drinks
Books, music, and wine
Where we smile because, at least in this moment, we’re alright

Joy lies in the aftermath of the night
In the shotgun boom explosion of fun
It blows me a kiss and wishes me well
As I slowly meander on back home

On and Off and On and Off

I stir
There’s a man on the TV
And he’s calling me over
Motioning me to come to his side
With the curve in his hand

And from my perch on the window
I can look down upon the world
At all the ants that are people
Walking around loud and proud

But I got distracted from the man on the TV
And he gets angry at my forgetfulness
So I approach again and listen to him whine
He pushes his grey hair back and tells me
Tells me

The walls have nice colours
They have stories when they’re all beat up like mine
Chipped paint and water stains that will be there, always
This is my eternal home

And the man on the TV is screaming now
About how I am causing all these problems
That I have no focus and no will
That I am weak and a coward

But I’m just sure he hasn’t looked at the trees long enough
If you stare into those branches I swear you see God, or someone
All wrapped around somewhere and nowhere
Trees and their leaves, wrapping and spinning and staying
I think trees are all we need.
Trees

And that man! That man on the TV
Screaming his deafening battle cry at me
It’s all too much
He’s saying that if I keep this up I am nothing
But I am already nothing, according to him
He tells me I need to buy this
I need to be that
I need to love my country
I need to hate this country
It’s too much
I turn off the TV
And go perch on my window
Above the world
And stare at a tree

Samuel Plauche was born on the island of Vashon in Washington. With not much to do on the heavily forested island, Plauche quickly found a love in books, which quickly led to a love of storytelling as he would make up stories of magical creatures in the woods around his house. At the age of twelve, Plauche moved to southern Louisiana where he became more involved with his Cajun heritage and began hearing more and more Cajun folktales, songs, and poetry. These writing lessons only found on bayous and southern porches continued to influence Plauche’s writing, and soon he too was joining these storytelling sessions with ones of his own creation. Eventually, Plauche moved to Seattle, and his writing changed yet again to include more stories about living in the city. Plauche now combines the magic found in forests and the themes of old Cajun storytelling into setting specific stories, often inspired by events from his own life, about the highs and lows of the cities he has been to. Plauche moved to Chicago and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with his Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing with a specification in Fiction. He has recently had work published in Commuterlit, Black Poppy Review, and Mementos CHI as well as having an active website where he self publishes poetry and short stories for his ever growing audience.

Poetry Drawer: Sunny: Japanese Beetles: Bad Dreams by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Sunny

Sunny thought that he was the Birdman
of Alcatraz
but it was only five months in the county slammer

The day that his girlfriend, Miss Sunshine, came to retrieve him
from his dank cell
was dark and gloomy
but their two children, the girl, “Bright,”
and the boy, “Glare,”
lit up the back seat of their battered old Cadillac
so intensely that that they blinded three other drivers,
(one who’d been drawn to them like a moth and was tail-gating)
and caused three serious accidents.

Miss Sunshine had left their adult child,
“Solar Eclipse” at home,
where he was working on his private research project,
critiquing local meth dealers’ product

He thought that his father, Sunny, was a “lame-o,”
and wasn’t looking forward to seeing him rejoin them
in their dilapidated abode.

While in lock-up, Sunny had been making plans to do some renovations,
but lacked the funds.
He was hoping that his kids would get jobs.
Bright, he thought, would make a good counter girl at the local Dairy Queen,
which was only two blocks away.
She was so cute, he thought, that she would attract new customers
who would want to lick her body but,
in an American adaptation,
would settle for soft-serve

Glare, he thought, would make a good construction worker,
though his arms and legs were painfully thin.
In fact, Bright and her girlfriends, even the skinniest one,
whose hair was green and purple,
beat Glare in arm-wrestling contests
whenever he challenged them

Though Glare was regularly humiliated in this way,
he didn’t mind, because it gave him the opportunity
to hold hands with sexy girls,
who otherwise would refuse to have him touch them.
Still, Sunny’s idealizations of Glare had him swinging a hammer.

Sunny wanted his house, which was a wreck, to get unwrecked
so when he died, he could leave it to his kids
and feel that he had done something in life.

Sunny was in poor health and his stints in dank jails
weren’t doing him any good.
He’d never been to a doctor in his life (though toothaches had driven him
to a couple of tooth yankers), so, though he had no official data to support his belief,
he felt he was likely to depart this world at any time,
hopefully without much pain.

Then his kids could sit in their bedrooms,
lacking lamps and not needing them,
their own self-generated light strong enough to peel paint from the walls,
and they would realize that Sunny was a much better dad than they
had ever given him credit for.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles, I capture them
and, though the Buddha warned me not to,
I put them into a killing jar

This plastic “jar” once held pretzel nuggets filled with peanut butter,
part of my wife’s efforts to sabotage her weight loss regimen
and mine

Once the pretzels were eaten,
their caloric content assimilated into our flesh,
I repurposed their container.
I filled it quarter-full of water
and added a little Dawn
When I drop in the Japanese Beetles, they are helpless—
they cannot get away
and, silently, they die
I wonder if they have the capability to feel fear or regret

I kill them because they molest my beloved Virginia Creeper vines,
condemning the leaves to ragged lace

The beetles are not “fit”—
they lack survival skills
To capture them, I only need to hold the open container
under the leaf on which they sit
and tap the leaf or gently shake it
and the beetles tumble into the soapy water

When I do my killing rounds, many of them are in the process of mating
and I find it poignant that while engaged in procreation
they meet their doom, tumbling together into the jar
Do they feel love, attachment, excitement, jealousy? I doubt it
Still, the Buddha told me not to kill any sentient beings
A few of them cling to the leaves, resisting capture
(The Buddha said:
Nothing is to be clung to as
I, Me, or Mine)

but my will is greater than theirs
my power is greater
I am Vladimir Putin considering the Ukrainians
but unlike Putin
I have not suffered major set-backs in my campaign
and, for the sake of my project,
I have not sacrificed 70,000 of my countrymen

Toward the end of their season, a few of the beetles fly away at my approach—
has it taken all these weeks for them to figure out
that they can take advantage of their power of flight?
It doesn’t matter–if I don’t capture them today, I’ll get them tomorrow.

The Buddha told me not to kill, so I feel some remorse
Is the aesthetic pleasure I get from the vines
more important than the beetles’ lives?

(By the way,
Japanese beetles are beautiful,
their bodies concise
their wings shining with pretty colour)

The Buddha observes my activities
and frowns

Bad Dreams

Martin Luther dreamed Protestantism
every man his own priest
communing with God and Jesus in exactly the way
that suited him

There was no way Luther could view
the Deep Future
and see a huge new country filled with idiots
who call themselves “Christians”
but committed genocide on the Great Spirit’s
sons and daughters
and enslaved dark folk seized from lush jungles
and mistreated them mercilessly,
who waged war on innocents abroad
and exploited whomever they could
while praising Jesus
but worshiping money, guns, drugs, celebrity, entertainment and possessions

Then MLK Jr.
idealism coursing through his blood
mercy permeating his flesh
ensconced before a congregation
of the descendants of slaves
had a dream
a deep dream
in which love permeated the souls of persons
and they were judged by their characters
and not by trivialities
like the colour of their skins

but there was no way he could see
into the Shallow Future
where his dream would be corrupted

I had my own dream
a hollow one
in which I was a famous writer
respected and revered for stripping down
human life to its essentials

but my hands were manacled by a Chinese finger puzzle
in which the more I pulled with one hand
the more I reinforced my feelings
of worthlessness
that enslaved my other hand
There was no way I could see into the future
to understand that even if my dreams were realized
I would feel no better about myself than
if I had failed
In fact, I would likely feel worse
like David Foster Wallace
whose acclaim only made him feel more of an imposter
until he killed himself
while still in his forties
(his wife found his body hanging)

So there sat Luther, Luther King,
and the arch-villain Lex Luther who lived inside me
all of our dreams broken, curdled or abandoned.

Catholic priests sitting in their confessional boxes still rule the world
justice cannot be achieved
and language is a poor substitute for Life

I sit at the edge of a vast field of grass
Interspersed heavily with clover
and at the other edge of the field
the surface of the vast inland sea
known as Lake Superior
sits silently
waveless

My mind is blank
thoughtless, mindful
also at peace
though not nearly as fluid as the lake
because, after all,
I am only human

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.

You can find more of Mitch’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Bare Trees by Christopher Johnson

Bare trees stand like black cadavers outside my window in the darkest dreariest days of
March in Chicago.
A whole row of them, without hope, with tangled teasing tumescent limbs and branches
pointing everywhichway without insane order,
Creating a beauty-reft thick dense woods of lingering resentments and busted hopes and
Yugo dreams.
The trunks of the bare naked trees as black as night, black as diamonds, stark, relentless,
absorbing sunlight and never freeing it.
The limbs of the despairing trees soar leafless and naked toward the distant sky leaden
with drooping clouds—
Clouds like clumps of iron ore floating in the fruitless sky,
Clouds that weigh me down like empty gestures and silent remonstrances,
Limbs that follow their own crazy-angled gaze to touch the bleak steel sky,
Which has its god-forsaken secrets,
Which looks down upon us and laughs.
Oh, bare trees, an empty ode to you as you hide your laughs and grin at our expense
As you stand there on the other side of my jagged window and read me,
The way that nature mocks us for our futile gestures and our insane hopes.
Good God, I need someone to blab to and avoid the insanity of these bare naked trees
staring relentlessly at me,
Seeing into me, seeing through me, sizing me up, giggling at my expense.
Will we ever escape from the soggy morass of March,
Which clings to us like ugly spears stuck in all-encompassing ugliness?
Age oppresses me, weighs me down, the world continuing without me,
And me, unable to escape the incessant, accusing stares of the bare trees standing in their
singular soltariness,
On the other side of my jagged crooked window.

Christopher Johnson: I’m a writer based in the Chicago area. I’ve done a lot of different stuff in my life. I’ve been a merchant seaman, a high school English teacher, a corporate communications writer, a textbook editor, an educational consultant, and a free-lance writer. I’ve published short stories, articles, and essays in The Progressive, Snowy Egret, Earth Island Journal, Chicago Wilderness, American Forests, Chicago Life, Across the Margin, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Blue Lake Review, The Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, Spillwords Press, Fiction on the Web, Sweet Tree Review, and other journals and magazines. In 2006, the University of New Hampshire Press published my first book, This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. My second book, which I co-authored with a prominent New Hampshire forester named David Govatski, was Forests for the People: The Story of America’s Eastern National Forestspublished by Island Press in 2013.

You can find more of Christopher’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Non-Verbal: Dining At The Screech Owl Inn: Outlines by Phil Wood

Non-Verbal

She finds her deepest breath.
The blur of wings elates
with dragonfly blue,
detonates such joy.
How can a child decode
these winged clues? My daughter
flaps her arms. I translate
and learn how arms are wings
to dissipate winter’s hue.

Dining At The Screech Owl Inn

Hands are a giveaway,
he gloves indoors and out.
No fingerprints, he jokes.
He consumes that juicy rack
of lamb, but leaves the veg.
She doesn’t ask again.
Besides the eagerness
with which he licks and sucks
those ribs tickle her: he thinks
he is a predator,
a lupus to her Lilith.
She smiles, almost beguiles.
He scents her feral breath,
flinches, innocence plucked
from his lycanthrope eye.
He howls. She devours him.

Outlines

Long is the forest and wide, the sisterhood
of stars like dregs consumed
by clouds. On the paths of relief, a multitude
of pines to ink more gloom.

Lost in the darkness and waking, she lightly sighs
and turns her back on time.
He lies on her floor and meanders tunes for sleep.
He inks a path through pines.

Phil Wood was born in Wales. He studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University. He has worked in statistics, education, shipping, and a biscuit factory. He enjoys watercolour painting, bird watching, and chess. His writing can be found in various places, including recently: Ink Sweat and Tears, Streetcake magazine, The Dirigible Balloon.

You can find more of Phil’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Portico Remembrance: Points (elaborating) North: Forever (type_script_conclusion) by Nathan Anderson

Portico Remembrance

knee bending

quatrain + quatrain

slipslipslipslipslipslipslip
slipslipslipslipslipslipslip
slipslipslipslipslipslipslip
slipslipslipslipslipslipslip
slipslipslipslipslipslipslip
slipslipslipslipslipslipslip

THE PROJECTOR
IS ON
HIGH
VOLTAGE

lacking sense

+

0

+

0

)

this this shape of the moon?

glowing between the

teeth
teeth
teeth
teeth

Points (elaborating) North

the buddha stares!

&
&
&

where is the fountain

‘a cause for…’

=

=

nevertheless I

(broken(i))
(broken(i))
(broken(i))

THE

VOLCANO

HAS

SPOKEN

Forever (type_script_conclusion)

forgotten water…

wake (over)
wake (over)

wave

limitless…

*

sharpen the pencil

to please again

ha_ha
ha_ha
h_a_h_a
ha_ha
h_a_h_a

and so on

Nathan Anderson is a poet from Mongarlowe, Australia. He is the author of Mexico Honey, The Mountain + The Cave and Deconstruction of a Symptom. His work has appeared in Otoliths, BlazeVox, Beir Bua and elsewhere. You can find him at nathanandersonwriting.home.blog or on Twitter

Poetry Drawer: exorcise_exercise: Two from 100 Titles from Tom Beckett: Amazone: From the Pound Cantos: CENTO XXXII by Mark Young

exorcise_exercise

Racquets she said, even though there was no tennis going on.

Or maybe it was rackets, & she was talking about the noise up the road, or the way that local builders get their plans through council despite breaching nearly every bylaw in the book.

Could have been Reckitts, left up for me to interpret which among their products I’m in dire need of — condoms, antiseptic lotions, mustard, mouthwash, grime or pimple remover.

Then again, perhaps rickets, even though I’m not young — except in name — & any or all of the products listed above would have helped minimize or even remove that condition.

So, rockets. No, not that, her red glare tells me quite clearly.

Leaves only ruckets . . . But there’s no such word in general use, though it is a family name, & a brand of skates, &, if Google’s autocomplete is accurate, it might have something to do with tickets to the Rugby World Cup.

Though, wait. Because of this fuss I’m making over what the word in question is, I’ve just been accused of causing a ruckus. Perhaps that is what was intended all along.

Two poems from 100 Titles from Tom Beckett

27: Default Settings

Start at the end, my
sensei told me, & work
your way back. Then,
once you’ve got there,
start again & work
your way even further
back. Again & again,
until there’s nowhere
left to go. Then start
again. This way or
that is immaterial.

28: Spacing Out in Space

The stars have temporarily gone
out, & I have drifted in the sub-
sequent darkness. Am back in that
art-inspired social diner in Bangkok —
or was it on Tatooine? — gazing at

the wall, unconsciously memorizing
the sign that states the place is avail-
able for brunch, lunch, & dinner, as
well as open for home deliveries
between 8:00 am & 10:00 pm. Such

is life on the final frontier. Nothing
to see when you’re going at super-
luminal speeds, not even the imposs-
ible linear light of stars passing by
in the way that old tv series used to

imagine might happen. Nothing to do
except tune out, or else turn on Net-
flix or Disney+, because, as they say,
in Space, when you’ve got your ear-
buds in, nobody can hear you stream.

Amazone

Some time later, when
the karaoke machines

started calling to one
another, she packed up

her respirator & its axled
oxygen cylinder &,

with a tetrapak of re-
constituted Brazilian

orange juice for guidance,
headed for the jungle.

From the Pound Cantos: CENTO XXXII

I don’t know what they are
up to. It wd/ seem unwarr-
anted. Read one book an hour,
less a work of the mind than
of affects, but enough to keep
out of the briars. The people
are addicted. Life & death are
now equal, no favour to men

over women. Boat fades in silver;
slowly. Let no false colour exist
here. Behind hill the monk’s
bell borne on the wind. The
bamboos speak as if weeping.
Of this wood are lutes made.

Mark Young was born in Aotearoa / New Zealand but now lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia. He has been publishing poetry for more than sixty years, & is the author of around sixty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history.

You can find more of Mark’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Still Alive: Missing You: The Language We Speak: I Will Remember Tomatoes: Tongue and Throat by Lori Levy

Still Alive

She’s dead, but her Facebook page
is still alive, still there,
no comments, pictures, likes deleted.
Her friends leave her messages today,
wish her a Happy Heavenly Birthday.

I stick to the living
with my birthday blessings,
but pause at the names of the dead
on my list of friends, eight of them gone.
A few classmates from 50 years ago.
An old boyfriend. A poet friend. My father.

I click on their profiles, feel a stab,
as if they want something from me.
I could post an emoji: a glass of wine
to celebrate a loved one. A row of red hearts.

A pang, a longing—but also a lifting,
as if I’m being welcomed, taken by the arm,
pulled a little closer. There they are, smiling,
hugging spouses, grandchildren, pets.
My father in his red suspenders,
my mother at his side. Happy, healthy.
No walker in this picture,
no sign of Parkinson’s.

I am not ready—yet—to wish him,
my atheist father, a Happy Heavenly Birthday.
Still, I’d rather visit him on Facebook
than in the cemetery.

Missing You

You missed the war, Da.
You died a month before Russia invaded Ukraine—
not that the world was at peace
when you left it.

I miss the depth of you, Da.
It helped, in our moments of joy
or sadness, to feel the warmth of you
sharing our ups and downs.
It helped, in this falling-apart world,
to know you were there, thinking about things—
able, somehow, with just the right comment,
to clear a path for us through the mud, the mess.

We are making a book of your Potpourri essays:
your thoughts on everything from truth and
gratitude to old clothes, words, politics, aging.
I am the proofreader, mostly adding or removing
commas, dashes, spaces—the little things
you were sometimes careless about.

Who knew your last days would be spent
wilting on a bed in the hospital where you worked?
Small, thin, shrunken, you lay curled
like a comma beneath the blanket.
I want to believe you ended your story
with a comma, Da, not a period.
A comma is a promise, more is coming.
Your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
will continue the story,

The Language We Speak

I don’t speak her language, but she speaks mine.
We bond within seconds, joking that we’re the only two
grandmas in Playa Venao, haven for surfers and lovers
of nature and music on the beach.

She is Fatima, who grew up in Paraguay,
one of ten siblings in her Catholic family.
I am American, Jewish, my second home in Israel.
She laughs, says we have nothing in common.

Maybe not, but we talk and talk,
share the stories, the lessons of our lives
until it’s clearer and clearer:
we do speak the same language,
but it’s not about the English she learned
from her years in England. We speak the language
of coffee and cake. My son calls it a playdate when I
meet her for cappuccino at her daughter-in-law’s Cafe.
We agree that coffee without cake is boring, so we
share a slice: chocolate, pumpkin, or passion fruit.
We speak the language of walks on the beach,
flip flops in our hands at the edge of the sea.
The language of mothers and grandmothers,
the ones who come running to help,
who stay for months if we’re needed and wanted.
The language of women growing older.
We have seen what life has to offer:
the joys and heartaches. We take what comes,
as long as there’s coffee and cake
and a friend at our side when discussing
men or kids or the white age spots on our legs
as we laugh and console and laugh some more.

I Will Remember Tomatoes

Is this how it begins?
A name gone AWOL. Fog. A blank stare.
Twice this week I’ve had to ask my daughter
what the weird-looking vegetable in our fridge is called.
Pale green, round and tough, leafy stems sticking out.
Kohlrabi. Kohl-rabi. Will it help next time
if I think of a rabbi? I am certain
I will always remember tomatoes,
lodged firmly in my mind with cucumbers,
spinach, cilantro—but endives are slowly
slipping away, and it takes me a minute to name
an artichoke, my least favourite vegetable,
bitter when I scrape each leaf with my teeth.

I remember Mrs. Mosely, my first grade teacher
and how she visited me in the hospital
when I had my tonsils out, but most of my college
professors are hiding with kohlrabi
in the place of forgotten things.

I want to remember kohlrabi
the way I remember my tenth grade biology teacher—
not what he taught us, but how he held his hand out
and rubbed his fingernails with his thumb while he lectured.
I want to remember my teacher—
but not the crash that killed him
when his car hit a deer. Not the sleepless nights
when I couldn’t stop thinking
about him and his long-haired son:
my crush, a witness to his father’s death.
Will I ever forget how he barely spoke to me
after the accident? How he favoured someone else?

Tongue and Throat

          For Irene

Sometimes my friend is a bonfire.
Her laughter blazes, warms, lights the dark.
Sparks mirth all around till I’m glowing too.

Sometimes she’s a wildfire, worry raging
up and down the hills of her life,
burning all hope—a charred earth left behind
as she imagines the worst, always the worst.

I feel the first hint of heat when she fears
there’s something in her throat. Hotter
when the doctor spots it on an X-ray:
a small, globular mass in her neck
at the base of her tongue. Mass, she says,
choking on terror, as if the word is poison
and can’t possibly mean anything but
cancer of the throat or vocal cords.

Google doesn’t help. Surgery, disfigurement.
Tongues cut out. Vocal cords excised.
Succumb to silence? She’d rather die,
she tells me, than lose her tongue.

Five days after her birthday, she’s headed to a specialist
for a scope—and, most likely, a biopsy.

Flickers! Flares! Orange leaping and dancing when I read her text:
no need for a biopsy. Not cancer. Not. Not.
I call her to celebrate. Balloons for her being wrong again.
Still alive, still talking. A toast to her tongue,
to this birthday blessing, her best gift this year:
a cyst, benign, harmless. Who could ask for more?

Lori Levy‘s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod International Journal, Poet Lore, Poetry East, Mom Egg Review, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel.  Work has also been published in medical humanities journals and has been read on BBC Radio 4.  Lori lives with extended family in Los Angeles, but “home” has also been Vermont, Israel, and, for several months, Panama.

Inky Interview: Poet Hunter Boone

Hunter Boone has worked as an attorney and private investigator, and lives and works in Kalamazoo, MI. He now concentrates his work primarily on poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in Ink Pantry, The Opiate Magazine, Rougarou, Projected Letters, Former People, West Trade Review and others. When he is not writing he enjoys playing the piano and composing music on his Yamaha P-125 keyboard.

Tell us about your debut poetry collection, Breakfast With Unicorns

Breakfast With Unicorns is a quintessential amalgam that showcases my best work over the past thirty years. Its subject matter includes poems of loss and longing, rejection and sorrow and I think its theme (if there is a theme to it) is one that invites the reader to confront our existential predicament – the predicament of being human in a too frequently inhumane world, a world that we are thrown into, ready or not.

Could you share one of your poems and walk us through the idea and inspiration behind it?

Well, yes – for starters, who hasn’t had a crush at one time or another on a brilliant, seemingly unobtainable professor? Or maybe this is just my unique, self-inflicted penchant for suffering. At any rate, I think my poem, “Ms. Alligator” illustrates the kind of frustration and disillusionment that is often the result of an unrequited love or mis-matched affection:

Ms Alligator

She had the emotional presence of a toothpick,
the personality of a comatose eel . . .

A woman I desired
read Antigone
which she encouraged me to do, so I
did. When I came upon, “Teiresias,” I said,
“I can’t spell that,” she said,
“Look it up.” Somewhere.

She became that woman
you wouldn’t expect –
out of proportion
to everything else.

When she moved
her body slid –
of a piece – which caused a problem.
The ground upon which she walked
swayed and swelled
people running,
different directions
up and down the boulevard
while the other women – kinder,
nobler, gentler
with foreign accents
showed themselves open,
not nearly as dubious –
yet this one stuck
hardened within her molten core –
sad – yet oh so beautiful
in a glittering sort of way with

beckoning, surreal
blue tourmaline eyes
that rolled back into her head
as she spoke
incomprehensible

and inhuman things –
enticements thick with ice from
this sorry sophist and enigmatic soul
you couldn’t poke through
though I tried many times.

As the poem indicates, the woman who is the focus of the protagonist’s
affection is cold and indifferent, reptilian. And yes, like a comatose eel.

The use of metaphor and simile illustrate the harsh reality of what the protagonist has endured as the result of this encounter and leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about the outcome; in the end the protagonist does not get the girl (or the reptile in this case).

The idea behind the poem is based on my personal experience of having gotten in “over my head” and fallen in love with my intellectual mentor, a professor who was at once beautiful yet unexpectedly cold. This is a modus operandi and course of action I do not recommend for anyone.

What’s your creative process?

My creative process often starts with a lyrical impulse, a phrase, or a poem title. The title or phrase typically comes out of an emotional experience or some intellectual matter that is yet unresolved within myself. I work out the poem as I write; it rarely comes, “full cloth.”

Tell us about your BA in Creative Writing.

I was extremely lucky (and there’s no other word besides “lucky” to describe it) to have had extraordinary mentors as an undergraduate. The most influential and helpful was Eve Shelnutt who was from South Carolina and taught for years at the College of the Holy Cross near Boston. She left me with many memorable lessons but her most valuable words, a kind of mantra I carry with me were:

“There’s nothing to replace a sense of integrity about one’s work.”

What are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading the collected works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I do think it’s important for a poet to find both poets and fiction writers to contribute to the poet’s repertoire. Especially with a writer like Fitzgerald, whose prose is lyrically haunting and so beautifully fluid. There is much to learn from many of these other great prose writers: Hemingway, V.S. Naipaul, Michael Ondaatje, Thomas Mann to name a few.

Have you any advice for budding poets?

Don’t listen to your parents. The ones who ask you to pursue and study something “more practical.” It’s fine to be practical and get a double major – like in business and creative writing – but don’t let the creative writing take a back seat to anybody or anything if poetry or some other writing genre is your first love.

Who inspires you and why?

My current publisher and friend, Trystan Cotten, founder and Managing Editor of Transgress Press. Trystan is truly an innovator and trailblazer and probably the hardest working person I know. He manages to solicit and publish new work from authors all over the world, many of whom are from marginalized communities. He manages to do this while at the same time carrying a full teaching load at Cal State University – Stanislaus where he is a full professor. And just when he gives you the impression he is “all work and no play” you find out that he has just left for a four-day trip to Maui to go surfing or is in Chicago to go “high-step dancing” with his friends. Unbelievable. I find him inspiring because he never seems to let anything get him down and he really does have this relentless work ethic and the gift (or the ability) to have fun and thoroughly enjoy himself no matter what he is doing.

What’s next for you?

I am always writing poems and will continue to write poems because they are relentless in their pursuit of me. A concept or an idea or a particular feeling or image will come to me and stay with me until I write it out and try to turn it into art or at least a meaningful encounter with language.

Alongside poetry, I am also working on a novel that has been in the works for over a decade. I am not an expeditious prose writer – far more the tortoise and not the hare. The novel is loosely based on my experience of growing up in a small town with lots of quirky characters and unexpected turns of plot. I hope to have it finished by summer of 2023.

You can find more of Hunter’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Longstack: At the Laundry: By the Meadow: June 2007 by Robert Demaree

Longstack

The only place it is a mountain is from our dock.
Driving around, I have seen it from other angles,
No more than undulations
In the New Hampshire landscape.
But across the pond it rises
Gently, right to left,
And runs asymmetrically along a ridge
Perhaps a mile,
Sloping down at last toward the big lake.
It is the remembered view
We carry home at the end of summer.
In my binoculars I can see
New A-frames in the high meadow
On the near slope.
I do not begrudge them their gated driveway,
Their view of the pond,
That they have taken up residence
In our field of vision,
Their binoculars trained, I suppose, on us.

At the Laundry

Summers I worked at the laundry,
Money for college. This was in the ’50s,
People still got polio then.
We washed the dingy garments of the shoe towns
(We still had them in New Hampshire then)
And the fine percale of folk
Down gated roads by the lake.
The girls who did the folding
(We called them girls then)
Would offer coarse jokes
About the bed sheets of the rich.
And I, caught, then as now,
Somewhere in the middle,
Passed wrenches to Neil, our boss,
As he straddled the ancient boiler,
Expert turnings of things we chose to think
Kept us from blowing up.
He nursed and finally lost a son to polio.
For forty years I went by his house
And we would recall the ones
Who ran the presses, fed the mangle.
The laundry is gone, of course,
Chiropractors and aromatherapists in its space;
Gone, too, is Neil, my gentle friend,
Who valued me in a fragile time,
On hot July afternoons,
Steamy with the innocent fragrance of
Starch, fresh linen, decent toil.

By the Meadow: June 2007

Betsy Winbourne, now eighty,
Rakes hay in the meadow at midday—
You would not do this a month from now;
Up from Boston, opening the cottage.
No sign of the Woodleys;
They say his tumour has come back,
His fields thick with timothy and clover,
In need of Seth to mow,
If one knew where Seth had gone.
I walk along the lane
Gathering the winter’s news:
Someone’s cellar flooded,
Someone’s well has failed,
Bears in the woods, taking out bird feeders.
And yet:
The young leaves, the greens, the light,
So various, so fresh with innocent hope:
It is early June in New Hampshire
And the world seems possible.

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 Robert’s work here on Ink Pantry.