Poetry Drawer: After a Hard Rain: Where They Have To Let You In: Year of Covid by Robert Demaree

After a Hard Rain

We do not have a rain gauge.
You can look it up on the Internet
If it matters.
Or you can
See how the dock sits in the water.
The pond is up two inches, I would say,
Maybe three.
We have one of the last wooden docks on
On the east shore,
The top still slick after the storm,
Maybe a little spongy in places
(Barry will give us a quote)
But it will dry.

Caroline and the kids
Will come down in a while
This kind, warm afternoon,
Float in innertubes, read magazines,
And joke of things known to them,
Their sense of family palpable
This kind, warm afternoon.
They are leaving in the morning
And the dock will revert
To its customary solitude.
Now and then Martha and I
Will gingerly ease 80-year-old bodies
Into cooler August waters.

Where They Have To Let You In

Across our New Hampshire pond
The pink and purple
Of dawn and dusk
On brisk September days.
Someone asks if I grew up here.
For years we were summer people
Except my father worked.
Skipping pebbles on the inlet
By the rented cottage,
Clearing the land for our own place,
Steamy summer jobs at the laundry.
Watching children then grandchildren
Take a first plunge
Off the dock.
Since retirement I think of us as
Three-season residents,
Crisp blue mornings, September into
October, foliage trips
To the Third Connecticut Lake.
Shorts and sweatshirt weather,
A day to get apples.
People ask if I grew up here.
I have started saying yes.

Year of Covid

Almost a year
Since that last public gathering,
The women’s basketball tournament
At the college near Golden Pines.
I have a picture in my camera, my phone,
Girls in teal shorts
Bringing the ball up court,
Captured in time.
Their season will end in 20 minutes.
The losers know this already,
But the winners don’t, their hopefulness
Captured in time,
In my camera, my phone.

In the months since
We have learned how to work
The drive-up app
On our phone.
We get groceries early on Sundays,
We take classes on Zoom
That we would skip
In person.
Out walking, I cross the street
To avoid people without masks,
Valuing some things more
Than neighborly companionship.
For that we have each other,
Susan and I. It wears well,
As one would hope it might
After 57 years.

In my camera they have not moved,
The girls in the teal shorts,
The other team, the pep band,
The handful of people, probably parents,
Who have driven up for the game,
Captured in time, their looks of
Hope and expectation,
Those girls from Pompeii
In teal basketball shorts,
Bringing the ball up court.

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.

Books From The Pantry: Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis by various authors: reviewed by Kev Milsom

As a teen, I wore a T-shirt quoting Chief Seattle. ‘The Earth is
our mother,’ it said. ‘Man did not weave the web of life; he is
merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to
himself.’ Looking back, I can see how I turned away from the
depth and clarity of that insight. I listened to other stories of
my time – stories so commonplace that I did not even see them
as stories.

Professor Jem Bendell, from his essay, ‘Extinction Rebellion’.

Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis (Harper Collins) is a collection of one hundred essays, written in response to the growing fears of climate change, global warming and concerns about how life for every inhabitant of our beautiful planet Earth may change quickly within future years, unless strong change and transformation is undertaken by the leaders of our world. 

The key elements throughout each essay are awareness, education and genuine concerns for the future of – not just this current generation existing in 2021 – but for generations to come.

Each essay is thoughtfully forged and crafted, with the intention of spreading this awareness to every reader; to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the harrowing dangers which face our world. 

Many of the essays originate from people within the public eye, or those with experienced opinions concerning various aspects of destructive climate change. 

Others are powerful in their simplistic expression, such as Ollie Barnes, aged twelve – someone at an age likely to experience the potential worst elements of climate change throughout his life.

To the people who think that there’s no point in trying, to the
people who think that because we have done this we deserve
to suffer the consequences. There’s no point in giving up! In
the past we have decided to turn away from Mother Nature’s
screams but not today! We will not let the earth we live on be
destroyed so easily, we will try hard to save it from the very
threat we created and see the world for its glory and its beauty.
Don’t be the person who is standing back watching other
people as they do the work.
Join the fight to save our world. If you don’t then everything
that we love about the world will slowly disappear.


Ollie Barnes, from his essay, ‘Everything’.

Other essays within this mind-opening publication originate from very respected, academic sources, such as Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, a German oceanographer and climatologist and also Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Sometimes I have this dream.
I’m going for a hike and discover a remote farmhouse on
fire.
Children are calling for help from the upper windows. So I
call the fire brigade. But they don’t come, because some mad
person keeps telling them that it is a false alarm.
The situation is getting more and more desperate, but I
can’t convince the firemen to get going.
I cannot wake up from this nightmare.

Stefan Rahmstorf, from his essay, ‘False Alarm’.

While common expressive tones throughout each of the one hundred, separate voices within this book are strongly focused upon educative awareness, it’s also noticeable that these tones are also capable of expressing understandable elements of frustration and anger beneath the surface of the words employed, such as an essay from award-winning author, Matthew Todd, entitled ‘Sorry’.

What is it they say – ‘Sorry is the hardest word’?
Well, I’m sorry.
I am…
I’m sorry that I put my trust in the media that is more
obsessed with fashion and football, and reality TV, with where
the Dow Jones is, with game shows, with baking, with putting
a positive spin on 71 degree heat in February with a ‘Wow,
what a great opportunity for ice cream sellers’.
I’m sorry that when I first heard about what was happening,
I looked away…I heard someone
say on the radio news, on a Monday morning, that ‘Scientists
are concerned that the world is heating up due to a build-up of
so-called greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil
fuels that may warm the earth to potentially dangerous levels,’
and I thought, That’s scary!
And then they added, ‘But there
is disagreement from other scientists who say, ‘There’s no
need to worry, it won’t happen for hundreds of years and will
most likely benefit the planet and make the UK as warm as the
Costa Del Sol.’

While these expressive, creative tones are naturally concentrated upon the frustrations that so many feel about a lacklustre response from the Earth’s nations, the words that flow from each author are also written to draw us into the full nature of what is being expressed, rather than any attempt to create separation or conflict. The commonly-used phrase (especially from the lips of politicians), ‘we are all in this together’ has perhaps never been more relevant when focusing upon the current world problem of climate change.  

As an observer, I found myself nodding along with every part of this book, because – in the strictest terms of common sense and logical reasoning – it’s just really difficult not to.

These series of enlightening essays are written not only from emotive, caring hearts, but from cognitive, intelligent minds. 

Each essay promotes open thought, and discussion; ultimately leaving the reader with a genuine sense of wondering when the leaders of our gorgeous home planet might do to tackle contemporary issues of climate change, thus addressing the fears of so many from within a global population of over seven billion people; their children, grandchildren and beyond.

They (the young) are our best hope and listening to them always makes
me feel powerful once again. Plugging into that energy will
recharge even the most tired of batteries.
Read this book and pass it on. Hand on your passion for the
planet to the next person and never, ever give in. Convert your
rage to action and your grief to love. I think the planet feels us
as we do this.
Perhaps it will even help us.

Emma Thompson, from the introduction to Letters to the Earth.

Poetry Drawer: 5 Modern Tanka by Steve Black

my dustcart a shield
i grasp at happy meal boxes
in an unkind wind
my mother isn’t angry
she’s disappointed

i cradle the bear
her loving companion
since childhood
i ask it straight
what do i do now

i walk the field
where we built straw castles
as children
i heard recently the first of us
are beginning to die

after years on the run
i’ve finally caught up
with myself
we are both
getting used to the idea

filled with the spirit
she confesses
on the night bus from town
apart from the driver
we vote she shall be forgiven

Until recently Steve Black was a road sweeper living within spitting distance of London, and is now looking for gainful employment. Published now and then.

Books From The Pantry: A Raga for George Harrison by Sharmagne Leland-St. John: Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

Native American author, concert performer, lyricist, artist and filmmaker, Sharmagne Leland-St. John, is the Editor-in-Chief of the 19-year old literary and cultural arts journal Quill & Parchment and the founder of fogdog poetry in Arlington, WA. Widely anthologised, her recent publications include Contingencies (2008) and La Kalima (2010). She has also edited Cradle Songs: An Anthology of Poems on Motherhood (2012) which won the 2013 International Book Award Honouring Excellence in Mainstream and Independent Publishing.

A raga is a melodic framework for improvisation akin to a melodic mode in Indian classical music. Like scales in Western music, a raga helps to define the mood for a piece of music but it does so in much more detail. Traditionally, each raga came to be associated with a particular emotion, often with a time of day and season. In A Raga for George Harrison, the season is very much autumnal because several of the poems have an elegiac atmosphere about them.

Reading these poems we take a walk through the artistic, cultural and political history of our times. In a general way this is particularly apparent in ‘Hey, It Was the Sixties!’ but in a more specific way it is apparent in the series of poems written in memory of writers, musicians and artists and individuals who were caught up in the fight for social justice. Of the former her subjects include George Harrison, the musician, singer, songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles; model and film actress Claudia Jennings; singer-songwriter Janis Joplin; author Virginia Woolf; the poets Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg and the record producer Paul Allen Rothchild. Of the latter, her subjects are the poet activist Garcia Lorca who spoke out against the brutal regime of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco; Hector Pieterson, the South African schoolboy who was shot and killed during the Soweto uprising when police opened fire on students protesting about the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans and Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Native-American activist who was murdered in 1975.

Delving beneath the surface, many of these poems have connections. Both Janis Joplin and Claudia Jennings struggled valiantly with their addictions and died tragically at a young age. Paul Allen Rothchild produced Janis Joplin’s final album, ‘Pearl’. Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf took their own lives. Hector Pieterson and Anna Mae-Pictou-Aquash were young people who were caught up in the fight for social justice and also died at a tragically young age. For Leland-St. John, there is an emotional connection as well. She knew some of these people personally and all of them, in one way or another, left an impression upon her as they have on us. Collectively, they defined the age in which they lived and died.

Here are the opening lines to ‘Pearl’, Leland-St. John’s eulogy to Janis Joplin:

They came to mourn
They came to cry
They came to wonder
How someone so young
Could ever die

Several of the poems in this collection are enhanced by Leland-St. John’s use of exotic language. In ‘La Kalima’ she writes of ‘silk saris whispering raginis / pitched to sultry winds’ and in ‘Daughter’ of ‘bushel baskets / brimming with love’ and ‘pots of kohl / and pomegranates,/ towers of silk and / lumps of myrrh.’ The collection in itself amounts to a travelogue of exotic places taking in countries as far apart as Switzerland, Japan, India, Egypt and Peru.

Colour comes as no surprise, given Leland-St. John’s deep engagement with ekphrastic poetry and appreciation of art in general. The poems in this collection are dotted with ‘blue fire escapes,’ ‘ochre meadows,’ ‘apricot blossoms,’ and nasturtiums that are ‘the muted colour of Devonshire cream’.

Culinary delights come to the fore in a number of poems as Leland-St. John draws together all the senses into a heady cocktail of delight. In ‘Nasturtiums’ she writes:

I always used to cook with flowers
when my life was simpler
and my thumb greener.
Squash blossoms dipped
in a rich cornmeal batter were a staple
at my dinner table.

Ever since I was a small child I have been attracted by the vivid colours of nasturtium flowers growing in kitchen gardens and have always thought it amazing that beauty as bold as this should thrive so well in poor soil. This is why Leland-St John’s poem ‘Nasturtiums’ has such a special resonance for me. I like the way she describes this ‘Indian cress….with their asymmetrical / celadon leaves’ and how their flowers ‘tantalise, tease / with their piquant promise’.

Time and again, Leland-St. John reminds us of the potency of all the senses in evoking memory and uses this to great effect as the starting point for several of her poems.

Variety is key to this collection. In addition to the eulogies that open this volume, Leland St-John writes lyrically on subjects such as love and loss, and also with considerable humour in the sensually charged ‘I Said Coffee’ and ‘Things I’ll Do Now That He’s Gone’ which is a poem that finds strength out of heartbreak for a lost love through the medium of humour:

I’ll have an affair with Bob Dylan
I’ll lose 10 more pounds
and become famous for something truly inane
It could happen you know

Reading these poems has made me very conscious of the way in which Leland-St. John captures the emotional mood of each piece early on and proceeds to build upon it in the body of her text. This is particularly apparent in ‘There Were Dry Red Days,’ ‘Daughter’ and ‘Michael,’ a poem written for the producer Michael Butler who brought ‘Hair’ from the Shakespeare Free Theatre to Broadway. Lost love is recalled in ‘All He’s Left Me’ and the poignant poem ‘Tiny Warrior’ speaks of the loss of her infant son, Nikolai, ‘Who never saw the spring’. Later in the book, spring returns in ‘Apple Blossoms’ where Leland St-John evokes a wonderful sense of innocence conveyed through the employment of short lines and a simple rhyme scheme.

Part of the appeal of these accessible poems is that they come straight from the heart with an emotional pull that is strong enough to engage the reader without being mawkish or in the least bit sentimental. The conversational tone makes for a dialogue that is both compassionate and compelling. It is also very positive in its affirmation of life: ‘World I love you! Life I love you!’

Sharmagne Leland-St. John: A Raga for George Harrison, Cyberwit.net (Allahabad, India), Thompson Press India Limited. 2020. Available via Amazon.

You can find more of Neil’s work, including his own poetry, and reviews, here on Ink Pantry.

Neil Leadbeater is an author, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His short stories, articles and poems have been published widely in anthologies and journals both at home and abroad. His publications include Librettos for the Black Madonna (White Adder Press, Scotland, 2011); The Worcester Fragments (Original Plus Press, England, 2013); The Loveliest Vein of Our Lives (Poetry Space, England, 2014), Sleeve Notes (Editura Pim, Iaşi, Romania, 2016) Finding the River Horse (Littoral Press, 2017) and Penn Fields (Littoral Press, 2019). His work has been translated into several languages including Dutch, French, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

Books From The Pantry: Fear Manifesto by Claire Bassi with Photography by Avarni

Claire Bassi’s Fear Manifesto is a lockdown project that she did with her daughter Avarni. Claire’s flash fiction and Avarni’s photography are the perfect combination. The themes are hauntology and memoir.

Snippets of Claire’s first book, Park Symposium, is also available from Amazon.

Check out more of Claire’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Crib: Close quarters: January break: Emissary by Tony Beyer

Crib

after Christmas
I re-wrap separately
depending on their rank
angels humans and beasts

Jesus and his
earthly parents
are first to be accorded
tissue paper privacy

the King who comes
bearing gold has lost his crown
after years of journeying
and annual storage

ox and donkey
fit together
knee to knee
in a corner of the box

lastly a sheep
that seems
to have strayed into the mix
from a childhood farm set

Close quarters

in summer
the boards under the house
are dry
and reverberate
when trodden on

birds treat
the veranda as theirs
hopping and pecking
at leavings
under the outdoor table

we wait
all year for this
bearing the winter
like a bye-child
spring like fresh news

then the heat
on the planet
that never quite suits us
our ancestors
left for us to resolve

January break

the barber from India
spends his days
razoring the edges of beards
of large men
in the provincial centre

this is the first I’ve heard
about the subcontinental diet
and its spices
affording staunch
resistance to coronavirus

from the park across the street
the fountain sings
and gulls disagree
concerning entitlement
to takeaway scraps

nearly everything in town
commemorates somebody
even the ambulances
parked regularly at lunchtime
outside hot bread shops

single rooms to rent
up a staircase
no longer there
off the laneway between
two main thoroughfares

the man in the bookshop
advises me
to hang on to change
for the meter
though I’m on foot

in the heat
the council-commissioned murals
slide down buildings
to pool colourfully
on the ground

Emissary

mail comes late
and is sparse

requests for payment
real estate flyers

only the occasional
much creased

and redirected
envelope from the frontier

one containing
dead leaves

another crushed parts
of a praying mantis

the kind of messages
composed in the

kind of script
a ghost might send

Tony Beyer’s print titles include Anchor Stone, a finalist in the poetry category of the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards, and Friday Prayers (2019), both from Cold Hub Press. Recent poems have appeared in Hamilton Stone ReviewMolly BloomMudlarkOtoliths and elsewhere. 

Poetry Drawer: A Man in Neutral: Mystery Woman: Death Of Miss America 194..: Two for the Sno-Cat: The Living and the Dead by John Grey

A Man in Neutral

I won’t cut my arm just to see myself bleed.
Nor will I roam the cemetery trails,
as if the dead are the perfect company for the likes of me.
Not that I’m about to take up dancing.
Not with these clumsy feet.
Or give up alcohol.
I have too many demons deserving of drowning.
But I won’t stick my head in places
from, which it’s not easily extracted.
Like fence railings. Or stocks.
Not that I’m about to find someone
and then do everything together.
But I won’t lop off my toes with a scythe.
Or crack open my head on the rocks below.
No affairs of the heart. But no opiates either.
And no passion, for good or for bad.
I won’t deny my body what it needs to survive.
But nor will I promise these bones, this flesh,
anything beyond that.

This time it will be different.
The highs, the lows, will be so controlled
they’ll think they’re twins.
Such is my pledge.
So I go on from here,
Ecstasy is uncalled for.
Despair no longer suits my style.

It’s Saturday night.
I’m not going anywhere.
My mind is babysitting my heart.
It’s not going anywhere either.

Mystery Woman

notate each awakening
and flash of foreknowledge;

on your balcony,
face east, over ocean
to where the horizon stretches
to no end in sight;

the country can’t get enough
divine philosophers,
seers who tell our fortunes
in a crumple of feathers
or a spinning ball,
who reach into the dark chasm
of the days ahead,
extract a telling tale;

wear icons round your throat,
talismans on your wrist;
spread Tarot cards before you,
stir tea leaves with your fingernail;

explain the enigmas,
lift the shadows,
quiet the doubters,
offer holy incentive
to the believers;

I think you’re the one
but I need you
to tell me;

it’s the mysteries
of the universe
and it’s all in a life’s work;

Death Of Miss America 194..

“Say, does the coffin pinch?”
No one thinks of you anymore.
Miss America 194…
Adios….
Ah, Miss America. So old. How dull.
Your compass watches
more than your gallery.
And the angel of numbers
is counting down to zero when it suits.
And meanwhile, you, in the wind,
flutter worse than butterflies –
by Government declaration,
the moon is wrinkles,
the sun is red-streaked eyes.
You’re no longer forbidden
the fear of winter’s white bear.
From one of one
now a miniscule fraction often billion –
gold dust and tiaras…goodbye.
Hunting with memory,
there’s still no game.
Just yawning
Miss America,
queen of all states
but not one of them
thinks of you anymore.
Nor do sun, moon, or stars.
Just the sullen greenish-yellow air.
Only mildew is left to ask,
“Do your shoes pinch?”
Lightning, thunder,
even sky is prohibited –
the weather has settled
on streaky wind
whipping the flesh
from the bones of your face.
No one believes that you were lovely once.
Your chalk flames out shrill
on the heavenly blackboards.

Two for the Sno-Cat

Joe’s fifty seven
and his knees
won’t stop whining,
Anne’s twenty seven,
recovering from
a busted relationship.
And within this glacier,
lies a man,
his body preserved by
his moment of death,
even to the seal meat
in his stomach
that’s caked in frozen acid.
His skin is hard
as Arctic earth,
eyes closed
by the weight on him.
His heart’s encased
in a jewel box of ice,
his blood stalled
on orders from
his perfectly
encapsulated last breath,
His brain is a prison of neurons
awaiting a thought, a sensation,
so all can break free.
A Sno-Cat,
piloted by Joe,
navigated by Anne,
is grinding its way
through the area,
studded steel belts
ripping up the surface,
about to accidentally
unleash the distant past
on the world.
“It’s hard getting old,” he says.
“You should try
the singles scene,” she replies.
Within this glacier,
lies a man
about to meet his public.
He’s a thousand years old,
in a time when no one else is.

The Living and the Dead

The lilies are born on their death-bed.
Come morning, these pretty blooms
will be all funeral.
I stare out my window at their cool breeze wake.
How they flutter.
How we’d all flutter
if we didn’t know the truth.

I’m in a coffee shop
taking forever over the latest nectar
from the Kona Coast.
A lovely young woman nibbles on a muffin,
reads The Great Gatsby.
I swear her lips move
reciting Daisy’s lines.
I’m on the west coast for a week.
I’ll never see her again.
That’s a kind of death.

It can join shooting star
or glimpse of scarlet tanager
or grizzled face
in the attic window of the old house –
their brief is brevity.
Here then gone,
my life is this constant killer.

But some things stay around.
I have loved ones.
I’ve got possessions.
And a neighborhood, a town.
I may live for the transitory
but I live in the permanent.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

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

Books From The Pantry: Inside the Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock reviewed by Kev Milsom

They say I’m mad – I say they’re mad – I lost the flip – That’s me locked up in Bethlem Hospital – “Come boys, who’s for Bedlam?”

Personally, as an avid devourer of all things in written form, the sense of utterly losing oneself within words is a tough feeling to beat on an emotional/sensual level. On those occasions when the creative force possesses the skills to fully immerse us within their world, via a strong first-person perspective, there is no better feeling than to see this through the eyes of a thoroughly well-crafted character. Inside The Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock (published by Everything With Words) is such a grand occasion, worthy of our literary senses to throw a party, open up the Prosecco, turn on the karaoke machine and don the glittery, disco trousers in celebration of a very talented author in full, creative flow.

Plot-wise, the novel is based upon an actual historical figure. In the late 18th century, James Norris was a marine; British by conception, American by birth. Although tough and hardy, James finds himself imprisoned within London’s notorious ‘Bethlem Hospital for the Insane’ in 1800. It is here where we first encounter James as he struggles to cope with the psychological aspects of his strict – and often brutal – confinement.

As a side plotline, we also know that James has personal issues with a certain Christian Fletcher; famously renowned for his role in overthrowing Captain Bligh on the ‘HMS Bounty’ in Polynesian waters during 1789. Once upon a time, James and Christian were brothers of the sea; bound by their experiences and locked in deep friendship. However, we soon learn that James now holds Christian Fletcher in utter contempt, now wishing only to brutally end his life. All James needs to do is to somehow escape the considerable perils of Bethlem Hospital, known to its inmates since its conception in the 1400’s as ‘Bedlam’. Once free, James can pursue his illustrious foe and kill him.

It’s a simple plan. Yes, the guards are both numerous and brutal. True, James has been told he only has months left inside the asylum before being released, but can anything that he sees, or hears, be trusted? Can James rely upon his natural marine abilities to overcome all odds? How will the guards and doctors react if he does so? As readers, we are with James every step of his tortured journey; constantly searching for any speck of hopeful light in this world of twisted, tormented darkness.

As can be imagined, in terms of literary genres, this subject matter comes with layers of added depth and emotion. As our narrator and guide, Emily steers us through every step of James’ perilous voyage with considerable ease. For this, she is to be soundly applauded, for at times the narrative intrudes into very personal areas, including loss of mental balance, brutality and illness.

Emily’s chosen writing style is paramount to the success of her narrative. In a harrowing, mind-altering world, which could easily drag the reader down into woeful contemplation, Emily’s writing style tends to adopt a series of short, punchy sentences, often containing only a singular verb. This strongly reminded me of being back at university and being introduced to writing in ‘streams of consciousness’, whereby thoughts and ideas ‘tumble’ out in a rapid form, as expressed here with James laying upon his bed and returning to his childhood. 

‘I am twelve years old. Laying flat on my front, up in the hayloft. Dust and husks skip in the air about me. I’m supposed to be turning the hay, but I’ve fallen asleep in the warm gloom. Arrows of daylight cross the loft floor. I was dreaming of a battle, leading the cry on a bright, white horse, men cheering. Rub my eyes. There’s a creaking noise behind me. I roll over. And she’s there, in the far corner, under the eaves.’ 

This style greatly helps with the pace of relaying the story, as well as focusing upon a very personal, individual narrative from the main character, through whose eyes and senses we become aware of everything going on. Thus, as James’s world becomes darker, we gain great clarity about his current mental well-being on any given page of the book. 

This is skilful writing at its peak and allows us to slip easily into James’s life, his hopes, fears and state of mind. James is strong and we’re naturally rooting for him. Not because he is a paragon of virtue, but due to the fact that he has been well-crafted for us by an artisan writer. Yet also, we hold a natural degree of trepidation that he might not get out of this wholly intact; either physically, emotionally, mentally or a combination of all three. The mere fact that we care is entirely down to Emily’s impressive characterisation.

This is a mighty, insightful and powerful book guaranteed to instil thoughts that will cling to the memory for considerable years ahead. As with her 2015 début novel,The Longest Fight, which I was fortunate enough to review for Ink Pantry, Emily’s research skills are impeccable and it thoroughly shows throughout every page of the writing here. 

Highly impressive and a must-read. More please, Emily. 

I’ve left footprints on a glacier – I’ve seen the Sun burst out of the Atlantic – I’ve eaten sweet papaya from a low-hanging tree in Tahiti – I’ve glimpsed Paradise – Life made sense when I was all at sea.

Emily Bullock won the Bristol Short Story Prize with the story ‘My Girl’, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She worked in film before pursuing writing full time. She has an MA in 19th Century Literature from King’s College, London, and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and completed her PhD at the Open University, where she teaches Creative Writing. Her debut novel, The Longest Fight was shortlisted for the Cross Sports Book Awards, and listed in The Independent’s Paperbacks of the Year.

Emily’s author page at Myriad books.

Poetry Drawer: Untitled by Rus Khomutoff

CALENDAR OF MARBLE REINCARNATION METALLIC TASTE OF ASHES BURNING FEATHER THIS SECOND HE….THE UNMISTAKABLE EROTIC LANGUAGE MUST NOT DECEIVE US/AUTUMN CRY OPULENCE LIKE A TRIANGLE & A DUEL/NEW ARCADES BECAUSE OF BECAUSE WINDOWSPEAK PLUM NUDITY & NULLITY/STORYINSOIL EXPRESS OF SEMITONAL DOORS OPEN SOMEWHERE IN MY HEART/BEHOLD THE MATERIALITY OF THE CLOUD/CHAOS CROP BASS NECTAR SCARECROW NAMELESS DAY/PEAK RING PROXIMITY WHO WILL REMAIN/MELANCHOLY OF TRIBE SAD CAFE IMMORTAL PALOMA STEAM DEEPFEEL LAVENDER KITE SENSEFALL CAMARADERIE/SIMPLE MIND RELIIC MASS EPONYMOUS NIGHT DISCRETIONS/SERVANT OF THE SECRET FLAME CATHEDRAL LABYRINTH EXOTIC PULSE/SOUL OF SERENE PRAXIS UNDERNEATH MANIC SEAS/CANAL BREATH SUPERSCENE/CONTENT MERE OASIS SINISTER MYTH FOREKNOW/EXPERIENTIAL MODE MODERNE HOUNDS OF LOVE/SOLASTALGIA REMAIN/OCEAN MACHINE SCREAM OF SWIFTS/BY REWARD ACCENT ROAM TECHNICS & TIME THE FORCE OF THE INTOXIC/CYCLE AFTER CYCLE/YEAR AFTER YEAR/WORD AFTER WORD/CREAM TERMINAL SYSTEM OF SYSTEMS RHAPSODY PINPOINT/TIME’S FLOW STEMMED/TALISMANIC IDENTIFICATIONS & GHOSTLY DEMARCATIONS/VERMILLION DEEPCHORD GLOW THERE IS NO END

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

Poetry Drawer: Getting Lucky: waiting for the day: The Rising Storm of Sedition Overwhelms Us All: Tired and Burned Out – Let 2020 Go!!!: Toilet Gate Fit Metaphor for the End of the Trump Affair by Jake Cosmos Aller

Getting Lucky

I have been extremely lucky
In life
Lucky in love
Not so much in cards

Met the love of my life
In a dream
Then she became my wife

Over the years
We have been extremely lucky
As our investments grew and grew

Fuelled by the skill
Of my financial advisor wife
Born in the year of the Golden Pig

Making me wealthy
In my old age

I often think meeting her
Was like winning the lotto
Or getting a jackpot

A jackpot of love
That continues to pay me
Dividends for life

Until the day I die
With my lucky charm
By my side

waiting for the day

I lay in bed
Waiting for the sun to rise
Next to my sleeping beauty
Filled with her love

But with the dawning sun
The nightmares come back

Filled with fearful thoughts
Of what fresh insanity
Will soon overwhelm me

I watch the daily news
Absorbing the latest
Scandal d’jour
The latest fresh hell

As I watch with dismay
America the land of my birth
Tear itself apart

As politicians play games
Thousands die
Becoming Corona Ghosts

It is enough to make me
Want to hideaway
For the rest of my time
On this earth

The Rising Storm of Sedition Overwhelms Us All

A rising storm of sedition and treason
Threatens to overwhelm us all
As the alt. right wing forces

Complicit in treason
And committed sedition

A failure of law enforcement
And politics as well

As the craven proud boys
do not hide anymore

screaming fraud
Trying to foment civil war

Storming the Capitol
On instructions from their hero

The craven President
Hides out

Watching the carnage
That he unleashed
Descend on the capitol

Tired and Burned Out – Let 2020 Go!!!
January 15, 2021

It has been two weeks
Since the beginning of the year
It seems like it has been a Year
Of horror condensed down

Into two-weeks
Of daily chaos
As the centre frays

We are so Tired
and Burned Out
yet we can’t Let 2020 Go!!!

Madness grows
Can’t take it much more
can’t shake off
the 2020 hangover

2021 You are so old
We are so done with you
Just go away
And never haunt us again

Toilet Gate Fit Metaphor for the End of the Trump Affair

News that the President’s son-in-law and daughter
Refused to allow secret service agents
To use any of their 6.5 toilets
Is a fitting metaphor
For the end of the Trump Era

The news captures the false sense
Of royal privilege
Among the Trump family
And shows how shallow, cruel
And inhuman the family really is

How did such a family of grifters
Manage to take over the WH?
And how can anyone still support
Such despicable human beings?

They deny it of course
But the Secret service
Says it is true

And they had to pay 100,000 dollars
3,000 dollars per month
To rent an apartment across the street
So, agents could relieve themselves

What were they thinking?
Perhaps they were thinking
The agents could use the bushes
Out back?

Or beg to use the neighbor’s facilities?
Anyway, not their problem
What the hired help does
After all

So glad that this band
Of grifters are on their way out
And sanity will return
To our nation

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.

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