Poetry Drawer: Frog kiss, number 9: Betty’s dirty martini: The power of knitting: That super cone on the marquise: Letting go of the broom by Emalisa Rose

Frog kiss, number 9

Leaving Manhattan, we hopped
on the ‘7’ as the moon reappeared
through the autumn of branches.

Ensconced in the smoke and the
steam, your mid shelf cologne
and acoustics of wheel clanking

screeches through the twilight
of tunnels, we rode the downtown.

You got off on 3rd, leaving me hauling
this vintage of books and the harvest
of veggies we bought at that fair, plus
you took my umbrella.

Leaning in for a kiss, I brushed back
with a hand gesture, and knew the
first date, would not have a follow up.

Betty’s dirty martini

Her last months, plagued with pain,
tubes all in ties, and a myriad’s
maladies, Betty, next door, now in
hospice, whispers she’s ‘ready’.

Requesting a couple of beach days,
80 degrees, no wind, no clouds, sitting
on shoreline with a dirty martini.

“Please water the lilacs on our mutual
lawn, hon,”

“ and feed all the strays that frequent the
cul-de-sac.”

She says she will signal when she arrives
there, wherever ‘there’ is, with three
yellow leaves on my porch steps.

The power of knitting

“Knit one, pearl two,” she clicked
on the needles in repetitive rhythm
and rhapsody, making those sweaters,
afghans and baby booties.

When her hands grew arthritic and
eyes clouded over, she vowed to
to complete all her knitting, before
her condition would doom her.

You had your first child. He went
home in a blue and white cable stitch.
I watched as you wrapped him in
Grandma Kate’s blanket.

That super cone on the marquise

Pop says it’s the last time. It’s a three
hour drive and they don’t need the
aggravation. Mom says to ignore
Uncle Bob; she visits to see Aunt Lenora.

They’re fighting up front, while me
and the skinny sis are ignoring each
other, with not much in common, ’til
the big wheels roll by and we make

silly faces at them, unbeknown to her
in a couple of years, we’ll we winking
instead.

Dad pulls in for custard; a big super cone
on the marquise, shouting in silver
fluorescence.

Back in the car, the sis and I snicker,
knowing too well, we’ll all be right back
here again, in four or five Saturdays.

Letting go of the broom

It’s the third time it happened.

I spilled orange juice on her
cherrywood floor, and she said
not a word.

No sponge, no frenzied mop,
no berating me to be careful.

Before that, I left fingerprints
on her grandmother’s mirror.

I looked at my mom; she’s missing
some beats, for the last month or so.

Six months before, she’s be on her
knees, on the floor, scrubbing it silly
with her tonic of brillo, bonami and
bleach.

As it starts to sink in; she’s moving
away from herself, as the years stop
defying and become the conventional.

And maybe she is, but I’m not quite
ready, to let go of that image of her
and her pail full of prowess.

When not writing poetry, Emalisa Rose enjoys crafting and drawing. She volunteers in animal rescue, and tends to a cat colony in the neighborhood. She lives by a beach town, which provides much of the inspiration for her art. Some of her poems have appeared in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Spillwords, Origami Poem Project, and other special places. Her latest collection is On the whims of the crosscurrents, published by Red Wolf Editions.

Inky Interview: Poet Thomas McColl with Claire Faulkner: Review of Grenade Genie with Kev Milsom

Can you tell us about your collection, Grenade Genie?

Grenade Genie, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is very much a book for people who want to read poetry that engages with, and says something about, the world in which we live. The book is split into four sections: ‘Cursed’, ‘Coerced’, ‘Combative’, and ‘Corrupted’, and within those four sections are poems which are all very much rooted in real-life, albeit with often fantastical elements. Inside these pages you’ll find, for instance, two-headed doctors, fashion-victim gorgons, a literal library, commas that kill, a little-known terrorist group called The Pedestrian Liberation Organisation, and grenade-encased genius.

It’s a book that has a lot of variety in terms of subject matter, but with one main theme that runs through the whole of the book – namely that, ultimately, everyone and everything is expendable, and while this knowledge can generate either a sense of hopelessness or the nothing-to-lose strength to rail against it, one strength of poetry is that, even if only the former gets expressed, the latter is automatically achieved, and in a very concise way too, making it all the more effective, and the main reason really why I’ve chosen this form to write in.

I enjoyed reading many poems in the collection, I found ‘Security Pass’ and ‘Jackpot’ particularly relatable. Do you have a favourite poem in the collection?

Thank you. I’d say the title poem, ‘Grenade Genie’, is currently my favourite. It’s about someone possessing genius and wanting to use it to change the world but, finding that it’s encased in a live grenade and requiring the spark, has little choice but to pull the pin in order to release the genie inside that will grant his wish, except that, of course, the explosion kills him, and his atoms (which form into lesser versions of himself) then proceed to get all of the credit instead of him. However, by pulling the pin, this person wipes out the establishment that was blocking all progress – an establishment of atoms from a previous explosion – and so it goes on (as it always has and always will).

‘The Phoney War’ was another poem which stayed with me after I’d read it. Can you share where the inspiration for this poem came from?

Thank you again, not least because the ‘The Phoney War’ is another personal favourite of mine in this collection. It’s ostensibly a simple poem about two young children – two brothers – in the 1970s, in their living room, playing at being World War Two Tommies fighting the Jerries, but it’s the ending that gives the poem its resonance, and it took a long time, and many drafts, for me to get that ending right.

I seem to have managed it, though, as various reviews of the book have described the poem’s ending as ‘devastating’ and ‘heart-wrenching’, which was very much the effect I wanted to achieve, especially as it’s based on a true event, so the ending isn’t just a device, it’s something real, something that was really felt by the person who was affected, the grandmother there at the kitchen stove who, unlike the boys (with their ‘umbrellas for rifles’, ‘smoking pencils, feeling tough’), had actually lived through the war and experienced, first hand, how terrible it was.

Whenever I’m introducing this poem at events, I say it’s a ‘poem about childhood, and play, and when reality intrudes on play’. And though the poem represents me as a child, it also represents me now, as a middle-aged adult who’s come to understand, much more, the significance of how harmless fun for me in the past wasn’t always such harmless fun for others.

Do you have a set writing routine? How long does it take you to write a poem?

I don’t have a set writing routine as such – it’s simply writing as and when I can – but I’ll seize any opportunity there is, and always find some way of making time for it, for all I know is, if too much time goes by without me being able to get my fix in some kind of way, I’ll soon become quite grouchy.

As for writing an actual poem, the length of time it can take has, in the past, ranged anywhere from a day to upwards of 25 years! But that’s the thing, while the writing of an actual poem can be quick, the editing of it (and then re-editing of it over, over and over again) can end up taking almost forever. For instance, a poem that’s in the book, called ‘Statement by the Pedestrian Liberation Organisation’, was first published on the letters page of the Islington Gazette in December 1994 as a very short 8-line poem; then, in July 1996, it was published as a 17-line poem in DirectAxiom, an anthology put out by the direct-action pedestrian rights group, Reclaim the Streets; then, by the time it was used for a film-poem I did in March 2010, it’d expanded into a 45-line poem; then, finally, in November 2017, it was published as a radically altered 54-line poem in the online magazine, ‘i am not a silent poet’ (which, apart from a few further tweaks, is the version which appears in the book).

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve taken to reading writers’ biographies lately, and at the moment I’m reading Jubilee Hitchhiker – the life and times of Richard Brautigan, by William Hjortsberg. I discovered Brautigan’s writing relatively recently, starting with one of his novels, Sombrero Fallout. I’d been thinking, for quite a while, that I needed to try some Brautigan, and one day when I was in the Waterloo station branch of Foyles, I decided to do just that, and picking Sombrero Fallout from the three or four books of Brautigan’s there on the shelf, I read the foreword by Jarvis Cocker that really sold it to me, and I’m glad he did as, on buying the book and reading it, I found it really was every bit as good as billed – quirky and wise, instant and profound, and about nothing and everything, all at the same time.

Do you have any books or poems you’d like to recommend to us?

The last books I read are all ones I’m able to recommend – all pamphlets, as it happens: Rodney Wood’s When Listening Isn’t Enough, Julie Stevens’ Quicksand, and Damien Donnelly’s Eat the Storms, all quite different from each other, but all three of them quality reads. I also recently read a pre-publication version of Darren J Beaney’s The Machinery of Life, and it’s now been published, complete with my written endorsement, so it’s already very much on record that I’m recommending that one!

Has the pandemic / being in lockdown impacted on your creative process at all?

It hasn’t in terms of actual writing, but it has in terms of me being able to promote my work, and I felt the impact keenly right from the off, with Grenade Genie being published pretty much just as lockdown began, in April 2020. I’d been all set to go on what would have been my first ever proper tour, having organised feature slots at various live events and festivals in London and further afield – including a 60-minute solo show at the Leamington Poetry Festival in July, and shorter headlining slots in Coventry, Birmingham, Rochester and Saltburn – but then, just as pre-orders for the book began to be taken, the first lockdown began, and slowly but surely all the dates I’d organised got cancelled.

However, I was immediately positioned to get straight into the swing of the ‘new normal’, for the organisers of Winchester Fest, who’d booked me for a live in-person event to be held on 18th April, the day after my book was published, decided to go ahead anyway with the event, but online, and so facilitated the launch of my book via Zoom with a 60-minute feature – and, with events now only able to go ahead if they went online, opportunities began to arise which otherwise wouldn’t have happened. For instance, I ended up being a featured poet in the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, based in Virginia, USA, a festival which I’d normally have had to travel to in order to participate but now could be a part of from the comfort of my home in London. And new opportunities arose regarding radio as well: Shows which, previously, I’d have had to travel to in order to talk in the studio, I was able, now, to be a part of without leaving London and, in this way, I ended up being on Rick Sander’s ‘Brum Radio Poets’ show on Brum Radio, and also on Hannah Kate’s ‘On the Bookshelf’ show on North Manchester FM, and I managed too to get poems from the book featured on BBC Radio Kent and BBC Radio West Midlands. So, while there have undoubtedly been some disastrous elements to lockdown, I’ve found, too, that it’s been, to some degree, a case of ‘what one hand taketh away the other giveth’.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you share details of any other projects you’re working on?

I’ve written both a novel and novella, and while neither of these manuscripts have found publishers yet, extracts from them have been published as standalone stories in magazines such as The Ghastling, Sick Lit and Here Comes Everyone. Other short stories of mine have been published in magazines such as Bare Fiction, Smoke: A London Peculiar and Fictive Dream, and some of these short stories, collected into a manuscript, were longlisted in the Mslexia First Drafts Competition in 2017.

Your writing encompasses many different themes. How do you decide whether to develop an idea into poetry or fiction?

Well, I’ve always written prose in tandem with poetry, and while it might be my downfall that I’ve never solely concentrated on one form or the other, one good thing is that there’s been much cross-pollination, with poems morphing into both flash fiction pieces and short stories, and vice versa. For instance, the first poem in the ‘Combative’ section of my book, entitled ‘Shopping with Perseus’, started out as a piece of prose, a 721-word story that was first published in the urban feminist literary magazine, Geeked; then, after being edited down to 500 words, it won first prize in the Third Annual Stories of SW1 Writing Competition; then, finally, after being edited a little more, was changed into being the poem that’s in the book.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Not really – as I think a lot of things were covered there in the above questions – except to say that my book, Grenade Genie, is available from my publisher, Fly on the Wall Press (and direct from me if you’d like a signed copy). Cheers!

Review of Grenade Genie by Kev Milsom

It’s always great to have an interesting quote at the beginning of any book review; something that gives a teasing indication of what is to come, like an intriguing starter on the menu of a new restaurant, yet to be explored.

In this case, the quote is indeed intriguing and succeeds in pulling us in for further exploration: ‘25 brief studies of the cursed, coerced, combative and corrupted’. 

Thomas McColl has completed a collection of poetry, published by Fly On The Wall Press, who are certainly not unknown to us here at Ink Pantry, as we have also interviewed Isabelle Kenyon, Elizabeth Horan and Colin Dardis from the same publishers. 

Thomas has a fine pedigree in writing, collaborating with Confluence Magazine, The High Window, Never Imitate, and Write Out Loud. He has also performed poems from the book on BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio WM, Brum Radio and London Soho Radio.

So, let’s peek into Grenade Genie and see what lurks within. We start with the ‘Cursed’ section, which contains seven poems. The first of these is ‘No Longer Quite So Sure’. This poem is very strong on visual imagery and it’s easy for the reader to sit back and relax into the words being relayed to the mind. Alongside the creative, descriptive vocabulary, here’s a message here; namely one of social observation and relevance. Metaphors fly around and each of them is related in a way that the reader can quickly interpret and identify with. In this way, a simple bus ride is cleverly morphed into likening buses to bison and citizens become grass. 

‘The council is yet to cut back
the branches of the trees on Newman Road,
which means that, halfway through
my journey to work on the bus –
and always just as I fall asleep
in my usual seat on the upper deck,
with my hooded head at rest against the glass –’

Strong, underlying messages within Thomas’s words continue with ‘The Evil Eye’, a poem about damaging addictions to technology and different forms of online manipulation.

You’ve allowed yourself to get caught in a cobweb
spun by a social spider that sucks you dry of information,
then leaves your hollowed-out exoskeletal frame
to rot on its website.’

Thomas uses the opening ‘Cursed’ section of the book to comment upon such powerful subjects as refugees, government cover ups and more.

Keen to explore what lay within the second ‘Coerced’ section, I read ‘Security Pass’, a highly personal exploration of how our identities become less personal and individualistic within a large company, or business – perhaps the author relating to his current job within the House of Commons, or perhaps his former career within a famous, High Street bank. 

‘I’ve just been made permanent –
yet already I know I’m completely expendable’.

The writing style which Thomas employs is very effective. You can ‘hear’ his voice within the poems and it’s clear that his passion for social commentary is expressed very well. While the topics are clearly very personal, the expression of his thoughts are relayed in a way that the reader can easily relate to. Thus, we share Thomas’s journey, rather than be admonished, or feel threatened, by it.

Fine, flowing examples of Thomas’s social commentary occur throughout this poetry collection and, I found that at every turn, I was intrigued by what he had to say – again, largely down to the way in which he writes and how he expresses his personal thoughts and observations so well.

In ‘Jackpot’, Thomas asks us to join him on the platform at London’s busy Oxford Circus underground station, likening the rush to get on a train to being in some form of human lottery.

‘Here I am at Oxford Circus station once again,
allowing myself to be part of the human jackpot
that’s released each time a train pulls in.
I don’t know if anyone else ever thinks this,
but whenever I’m on a train that’s entering this station
and I’m watching the branded posters on the platform wall
whiz past my carriage window,
I’m reminded of playing a slot machine.
OK, this one has a single horizontal spinning drum instead of the usual vertical three –
but it’s not like the odds are stacked
any more in my favour.’

We’re even welcomed into joining Thomas, back in the heady days of the late 1980s as he goes out on the town in Birmingham in his twenties. It’s clear he hates his bank job and wants some release from the pressures of working life (who hasn’t been precisely there?) that he describes so eloquently (and realistically) in his poem, ‘Nightclubbing In Brum, 1988’.

‘I look a right sight
as I’m travelling into Brum on a Saturday night.
It’s hard enough making the grade
when still a hapless teen at the tail end of Thatcher’s decade,
and though one plus
about these times is that I’m able, still, to smoke a fag
while swigging a can of beer
on the top deck of the bus…’

‘Last week, I tore my trousers and lost a button,
and being as I work for Lloyds Bank in Sutton
(high standards in that posh part of town),
I don’t want yet another dressing down,
for it’s 1988,
and though everyone says how much they hate
being made to wear a suit
(that’s more often than not a Mr Byrite one to boot),
I at least get value out of mine,
but some consolation! – Roll on 1989’…

In short, Grenade Genie is a fine collection of stylised, creative poetry, expressed in literary terms that anyone can understand. Highly recommended.

Books From The Pantry: Bleb by Sanjeev Sethi

Congratulations to Sanjeev Sethi. His new collection of ‘wee poetry’, Bleb, has been published by Hybriddreich from Scotland. Here is a glimpse into his new work..

Memento Mori

Campestral locales furnish
the song and dance routine
with a context. Ill-lighted
rooms caution me of you.
When their consciousness
darkles, I am snug as a bug.
Why does sadness complect
my cheeriness? Is alertness
a curse?

Imponderables

The happy wear no brassard, nor those
with the black dog baying at them. In-
ternalized emotions blaze inexperienced
deliveries. During the phase, it’s advisable
to be wary of moonshine. It hikes the fit.
Falsity obscured in papyrus will singe in
its conflagration. Every deletion has its
erasure dust. Weightlessness is illusory:
guilt is the grief.

Poetry Drawer: the pillow star is a cardboard missile: the sound of the furniture of the brook (wear a new cape): the grass in the gandalf rays by J. D. Nelson

the pillow star is a cardboard missile

your circle is a triangle
this is my pile of moons

the unified heaven
the name of the silence

the machine is boiling the numbers
this old owl is the lantern

in the marigold half-pipe
on the morning of the crying

the sound of the furniture of the brook (wear a new cape)

the slipping book of vowels is not moving thru the window
the letter of the moon when I am the calm apple

a new apple for the paris & the london & that old world of the channel
I become the clever alien when I see the street level world of the pines

I was the laughing huck of the old island
we are here in the sweet dust of the something

another time is the layer of salt to feel a hundred more
the french bread is the weather of the cardboard name

the grass in the gandalf rays

in the pines I saw a meteor
shaking a glass I won a news trumpet

is that the worm of the winter dust?
is that the paper of the doll?

to see a measurable nothing
the breakfast of the cloud

why my copper is in the doritos
that nectar could slow the earth

              why it
              hums

J. D. Nelson (b. 1971) experiments with words in his subterranean laboratory. His poetry has appeared in many small press publications, worldwide, since 2002. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Cinderella City (The Red Ceilings Press, 2012). His first full-length collection, entitled In Ghostly Onehead, is slated for a 2021 release by mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press. His work has recently appeared in E·ratio, Otoliths, and Word For/Word. Visit Madverse for more information and links to his published work. Nelson lives in Colorado, USA.

Poetry Drawer: Passage Rites: Toss My Pics Like I Don’t Exist by Catherine Zickgraf

Passage Rites

I’m ten, trying to sit still
but my blinks grow long.
I’m following crumbs from pew
to balcony, dropping bulletins
to watch them spin.
The exhale of noise
and rituals of hymnals begin.

I’d rather be zip-tied
to the ladies room sink pipe.
My Sunday nylons with toe seams
make my feet squirm in my flats.
I’m thirteen, hung over,
my eyes too full of sun.
There’s smoke in my hair like a stale hat.

Is God out the window in the parking lot?
His voice in the foyer in the missionary map,
on the lobby wall lined with colourful tracts?
Sometimes God lives in my head,
there last night when I snuck out
and boys surrounded me,
when I threw up in my sister’s bed.

Toss My Pics Like I Don’t Exist

Father,
these years of silence I prefer
to your vaults of verses and violence,
words from your rotted tongue
rip me for my faults off the family tree.

You scissored my form from the Xmas portrait,
I took husband and sons with me.

Edges of my baby album are wavy with age.
The cover’s mother duck pulls a train of chicks.
I’m the one she dumped out and ditched.

Two lifetimes ago, Catherine Zickgraf performed her poetry in Madrid. Now her main jobs are to write and hang out with her family. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationPankVictorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press. 

Poetry Drawer: Mist by Jan de Rhe-Philipe

The mist hangs heavy on the sodden fields,
A shroud cloaking the world in soft grey muslin.
Charcoal trees hold their bare branches up in supplication
And each blade of chilled grass drips diamonds.
A far off river of cold traffic is muffled thunder
But all else is silence under the dead white mist;
Only the sound of wetness seeping out and
Stillness loitering under the trees, wrapped in cloud.
Underfoot the mud is black and stiffly oozes,
Half released from its armour of hard frost.
Beneath the sharpness of jagged blackthorn twigs
The green of returning spring flowers has faded grey
And the grass shrinks back from the dark nakedness
Of the tyre-ravished path and hoof-trodden mire.
Only the tips of bluebell leaves and of arum lilies
Stand green below the weeping hedgerow.
A solitary robin hops from the blackthorn
Picking its breakfast from the livid green moss
And a chaffinch shouts his warning call from the ash tree.
Piercing the misty shroud with the sound of light.

Sadly, Jan de Rhe-Philipe passed away recently. As a fellow student of the Open University, her poem was chosen for the first Ink Pantry anthology, back in 2012. We send our deepest condolences to Jan’s sister, Fleur.

Books From The Pantry: Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan reviewed by Yang Ming

For years, the East Asians have been ranked among the top in the International Maths Olympiad. It is no wonder that this continuing success eventually leads many to assume that East Asians are good at maths. Well, although there is some truth in that stereotypical statement, it is still not entirely true. There are many prolific East Asian artists who have found success in their artistic and literary pursuits. As much as most traditional East Asian parents believe that arts enrich a child’s well-being, it is not a lucrative profession. But what if there is a positive correlation between arts and maths? That’s what British East Asian author Maisie Chan wants to explore in her latest children novel, Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths.

Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is a delightful read. It’s funny, well-paced and heart-warming. The author invites us into the world of Danny Chung, a precocious eleven-year-old boy who loves drawing more than anything else. He would even hide under the duvet to draw his comic strips that document his daily life. His parents run a Chinese takeaway, Lucky Dragon, which is located in ‘one of Birmingham’s remote suburbs’, Longdale High Street. The only problem is, Danny hates maths and he has a maths project to complete at the end of his Easter holidays (yikes!). He is in for a surprise when his parents clean his bedroom one Saturday morning to make room for a bunk bed. Thinking he can finally invite his best friend and comic wingman, Ravi, for a sleepover, Danny happily makes plans for it. But his excitement dissipates when his surprise turns out to be a little, wrinkly, ex-maths champion grandmother from China. Nai Nai can’t speak a word of English. To Danny, she sounds like a ‘mixture between a baby singing and a frog’. Just when things can’t get any worse, Danny is tasked to look after her during the holidays while his parents are busy tending their takeaway shop.

Hilarity ensues when Nai Nai embarrasses Danny at a local grocer with her seed spitting antics and her surprise appearance at Danny’s school with her delicious braised chicken feet. Soon, he realises that both of them have more in common than he thought.

Throughout the novel, we are also introduced to the other Chinese family, the Yees, who live within five miles of each other. Clarissa Yee, also known as Auntie Yee to Danny, is the epitome of an Asian tiger mum. She sends her daughter, Amelia Yee, to a private school, various enrichment classes, and elevates her prized daughter on the pedestal. And Amelia doesn’t disappoint. She is a model Chinese high achiever who excels in both her studies and music. But beneath this intelligent and obedient façade lies a rebellious streak that is waiting to break free from her mother’s iron fist. Adrian Yee, also known as Uncle Yee, is an avuncular figure that Danny can relate to.

Illustrator Anh Cao does a wonderful job with Danny’s comic strips, which fits perfectly into the narrative. Likewise, there are many light-hearted moments to savour. One of them is the unlikely friendship forged between Mrs Cruikshanks and Nai Nai, and their bingo adventures. Despite not knowing each other’s native languages, their shared love for bingo is one that transcends all language barriers and often had me in stitches.

Essentially, the themes of love, hope, intergenerational relationships and friendships are universal. This is exactly what we need during this precarious time. Chan develops her characters well with each of them having a strong distinctive voice. Nai Nai is such an endearing character that I eventually fell in love with at the end of the story.

But ultimately, what Chan does really well in this novel is her inclusion of the Chinese culture. When Danny’s parents remind their son about respecting his elders and looking after them, it highlights how much first generation Chinese immigrant parents have a need to reinforce these Asian values, for fear that their second generation British-East Asian children might forget about them. Likewise, when Clarissa and Danny’s mother compare their children’s academic achievements and extra-curriculum activities, it is a common sight, which most East Asian children experience during growing up. Such one-upmanship and boasting only illustrates the inferiority of one’s parenting style and the need to save face.

I believe Chan hopes to debunk the stereotypical statement that East Asians are good at maths, but instead, see each child as an individual – one who is special in their unique way, and skills. Despite being a children’s book, it surprisingly rekindles my memories of growing up in a Chinese family and helps me to reconnect with my heritage. Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is one of those children’s books that will make you laugh, cry, and tug your heartstrings.

Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths is now available at Waterstones, The Rocketship Bookshop, Amazon UK and Book Depository.

Poetry Drawer: Crossing: Kolkata High Street: Tête-à-tête by Gopal Lahiri

Crossing

Somewhere there is laughter.

I roll out the mist and the moon
trickles down on my shoulder.

Each night I lose to another alphabet, another syllable,
The slapping of stars on the mirror
how all build this raga amidst chaos.

Your smile is like heart-shaped leaves
and the wetness is on my palm,
so many verses flower near bedside.

A solitary leaf waits with my words,
stream path
crossing is not as hard as you might think.

Kolkata High Street

Fine rain walks with the pedestrians,
mirror halls and amber rooms shine with the shadows
of back garden walls and noiseless leaves.

The flood of colours excavate the layers of the city,
the allure of words collecting, from inside out,
waits for a new language.

The footprints seek the light of a deeper place,
commoners talk about freedom without compromise
for good or evil- willing to be struck dumb.

Rumbles of cars on the street seek the meaning
of memories, each trope comes close to song,
the whispers write libretti,
the music embraces the alphabets of evening.

A solitary flower tumbles from the long arms of the branch
and then the ovation of the unknown birds
splits the rainbow of night.

Like the hum of a taut string in the dark
the city loves to sing his own words
taking us down numerous mystic lanes and bye lanes.

Tête-à-tête

Every time we speak of darkness
the metaphors are faced with the black and white lines
the syllables pass through the grills with ease.

The street identifies the follicle of shadows and then
becomes the domain of trivial,
the tiny rafts of refuge knock the door.

Rain-puddles chisel the grey clouds
the world dissects morning whispers
with the weight of gravity and gravitas.

The proverbial truth hangs in a frame
silent dawns rise above the bends of rivers,
the soft reel runs out in haste.

Images draw the sky-blue kingfisher
letting a little light in the dark chamber,
count minutes to converse in sunbeams.

Gopal Lahiri is an Indian based bilingual poet, editor, critic and translator, published in Bengali and English language. He has authored 23 books to his credit. His poetry is also published across various anthologies and in eminent journals of India and abroad. His poems are translated into 14 languages.

Flash In The Pantry: What is to be my place under the sun? by Zea Perez

Pandemic assents time and space for Drew to ponder. With stricter lockdown regulations and protocols, as Covid-19 cases soar to millions worldwide, Drew eventually finds comfort remaining home and works online.

Drew looks back to his younger days, remembering how he wanted to become an animator or illustrator. A passion meaningful to him than being an engineer. Ironic how the same youthful ambition keeps him going now.

At the start of his high school years, his family encouraged his options in a course that he did not particularly have a passion for, like law, business, or engineering. He could not forget the day the entire class laughed when he wrote to become an animator in his chosen career.

These encounters shifted him away from his formerly desired choice- and interest.

Eventually, he stopped doodling at the back of his notebook and filled them with formulas; filled them with scholarly words; filled them with the knowledge he did not find engaging at all. But everyone seemed to praise him for it. Although not the best, he tried to top the class each time. Acing his way through high school- but at the cost of his passion for the arts.

Forward some years later, in college, where he was taking up engineering. He sacrificed a lot already. He did his best- working hard for something that was not his joy. Drew ended up failing. Sure, he must sacrifice for it, but there is only so much hard work for him to do, at least for him. It honestly had not been working out for him since that college life. He succumbed to depression now and then, without everyone knowing.

At the moment, he seeks redemption through improving his art. He takes it seriously with enthusiasm and passion. He is making himself up for it because he knew people come and go. It goes the same for their support. He must learn to stand on his own. No denying people have been walking out of his life. If he turns back away from himself, it will be over. Young as he is, he has some handful of regrets in life, and the biggest one yet is not believing himself!

Not to mention the complexity of the current pandemic, politics, state of the entire nation, and the world. It prompts Drew to ask himself, what is to be my place under the sun?

That’s why he is clinging so hard to this career. It is quite a demanding job in terms of time and skills. Competition is tough. Drew doesn’t have enough income. But Drew hangs on and struggles for it because it’s like him telling himself not to give up on himself when everyone else does.

He feels delighted when somebody says they like his art. Or if they commission him. Or even if they request free artwork. Because then he acknowledges that there are still people who believe and fuel his hope.

Pandemic times are challenging enough. People all flock online to find jobs and opportunities, but Drew is fearless now. He is confident with some time he will improve and make that break as an artist.

Zea Perez lives in the Philippines. She writes children’s stories. But only now did she dare to share some of her writings. She has some pieces published at Flash Fiction North, Literary Yard, and soon at TEA. She also writes reviews for Booktasters and Goodreads.

Poetry Drawer: Canary Island Singing: Desk Drawer Enterprise: Indifferent Lack of Initiative by Joshua Martin

Canary Island Singing

Thwack!
Performance piece disintegrates
toes pointing in stubborn candle wick
diary of a mad Madonna & child

Race to pomegranate shuffling
board games: whack a mole!

Zeroing in on skull fracture
summon enough airtight
desk lamps to strut
                         standing orange
                         grove grooving
                sounds of escape
                blaring bam!
                                 bam!

looming diaphanous
alabaster pole

Desk Drawer Enterprise

Carpenter bee dizzy
adolescent scrape scrape scraping
look at that woodwork!
whew!

                rope length hair
          lines         criss to the
                                 crossing
mannerisms spell
grief
       X Y Z

Indifferent Lack of Initiative

Yoyo diatribe
daughter of canned ham
never had it so good as
                           indifference

razor eyelash arm expanded
the quiet
            is the pulse
      shivering magnetic field

Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the book Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in E-ratio, Nauseated Drive, Fixator Press, The Vital Sparks, and Breakwater Review among others.