Glazing and glistening grey clouds clot and rust over the city Like dreams pouring from the steel mills and Spilling their detritus. Red-black smoke thickens like scabs, Suffocating lives and dreams. This was where I worked one summer because my old man Told me to. Me, all tender behind the ears, Naked white and barely shaving, Nineteen years old and totally innocent of the ways of the World. The shoes I wore were Steel-plated in the toes to prevent my little footsies from being Crushed, Should gravity bring a beam or a box or a barrel barrelling down. Furnaces burn the incense of hell, Red with angry scourging heat, As fierce and frantic fires melt the ore And birth it into steel for buildings, for furniture, for cars, for staplers, for lamps, for file cabinets, For glowering skyscrapers, For bridges, for trucks, for catwalks. Me, afraid that the furnace-sparks will Light me up and burn me and Ruin my day, As I try my best to coagulate from the world of innocence to the world of experience. A world built on steel, Hard, impervious, tough, Cold to the touch. Steel spans and chokes the globe– The hard edge of a hard civilization. Will no one say I care, And whisper somewhere beneath this conglomeration That things are not as they gleam?
Christopher Johnson is a writer based in the Chicago area. He’s been a merchant seaman, a high school English teacher, a corporate communications writer, a textbook editor, an educational consultant, and a free-lance writer. He’s 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 his book, This Grand and Magnificent Place: The Wilderness Heritage of the White Mountains. His second book, which he co-authored with a prominent New Hampshire forester named David Govatski, was Forests for the People: The Story of America’s Eastern National Forests, published by Island Press in 2013.
You can find more of Christopher’s work here on Ink Pantry.
The wind is still screaming against the windowpanes- radio-statics pitched a little too high and wavering like wildflower-dandelions in yesterday’s storm, and I wonder whose screams got carried away by the wind before they could echo into their own hands (and maybe they’re all lost forever- too entangled in wind-shrieks to be pulled back; maybe the music will be left unheard)
I heard that birds have hollow bones- a necessary equipment for flight-life, you see, & so maybe they hollowed out their hearts and the secrets left in-between scattered bones, and I wonder if the wind was just a quirky-collector of life- maybe she picked up the trash and flew into her own flight, Filling her hollow body with secrets of another, maybe she was in search of a new ‘her’
Walking in early light, wetlands a short drive from home, where, like the rest of the world, all is quietly closing due to this ravening plague, part of my way parallel to a usually busy highway. I think of another road, traffic-choked, in my distant past. Figuring the year I last drove it those miles ago, I reach back, meet my younger self who casts several glances at my now thin hair, assessing the ruin.
His surprise at where I live now sweetened knowing how long he shall last, he thinks the nearby gas fields recently discovered that he read about must be the reason: employment. All he has known so far is an expectation of work. I paraphrase how, why, I landed here, both linked to my late education, love, work, try to explain about these three life effects felt by most. Stunned, even excited, by where his life leads, he now wants to hear of my health, journey. Happiness.
He knows about the Spanish ‘flu, read that, too, seems more fascinated than horror-stricken by brief news of today’s scourge, but he is young. His skin fascinates me. I tell him everybody would be relieved if this present canker’s naked statistics we absorb like poison, minus the personal misery, grief, and despair, doesn’t exceed that post-WW1 mortality rate. He mentions being concerned for nothing about the nukes, thinks self-isolation, overrun intensive-care facilities, the end of sport, non-electric entertainment, connection – this propels his interest into overdrive – sounds like a fantastic movie script. He loves dystopian themes. I tell him there are more coming. I know from inside knowledge he prefers damaging news told straight, yet want to protect him, protect hope, that lifeblood. Is he too young to be thinking of worldwide virulence?
I cross the highway listening for the odd vehicle, move deeper into the salutary peace of the natural world, but see few birds. Even they seem to have shut up shop, except for a lone pelican, its exquisite wake. Cheer up, my young companion urges, slowing for me, you did so much, although it sounds like you stuffed up a lot. Ah, the chirpy ignorance of youth. How should this end? Endings trouble me.
A haphazard reader as a boy I wanted to drive a bus, then to embrace glory representing my country at sport, then again, in my youth, to become an actor via some miracle. Time on my side until I took my eyes off it, I read among a crazy assortment of books including atlases, one by a British writer of American crime about driving through every state during the nineteen-fifties. Exploring America’s vast geographical and cultural gallimaufry became a forlorn wish as time turned against me. Another wish is to remember that writer’s name, find an old second-hand copy of his travel book online.
I read Kerouac, a different spaced-out hedonistic glory, imagining myself a hitchhiker resembling young Paul Newman in The Long Hot Summer, cool On the Road like Sal Paradise in Big Sur where punctuation took a vacation. The comfort of books became a de facto method of feeling the sun on my face until an opportunity to visit America as a volunteer worker opened up. Falling ill en route, unable to immediately honour my contract, I was sacked a couple of weeks after arriving. The driver of my short-lived employers, dumping me at a motel for one pre-paid night, pissed off by my treatment, asked what I would do now that I was recovering. Not sure, I replied. Ever think of hitchhiking? he said. You’d meet people. Americans are better than this.
A short walk from the motel, unsure of the direction my thumb hankered towards after experiencing the unexpected, I plunged into the wonderful relief freedom affords, this adventure’s distillation having taken years like a fine malt whiskey, unplanned yet not so. Travelling the other way, a tall black guy, perhaps a basketballer standing, torso visible through a sunroof, pointed to a car braked some distance beyond me. Hefting my pack, a small tent stowed, risking what? my long-lulled nerves? I lumbered on shaky legs into time stilled forever in memory now, somewhere in upstate N.Y., heading north, I guessed correctly, heart a skittering mouse as I disappeared into America’s pulsing hinterland.
Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds,The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review, San Pedro River Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book, wonder sadness madness joy, is published by Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.
Giant whispering and coughing machines, But the Quietus shaped by thieves Broadcasts from a churchyard sleeved With coats that serve as muscle: The wavebands glowing overpower The rabid storms of chording where Your child hands clap against the air.
Beautifully devout before a spent Cascade of money pours from out A vast resettling of drums. Thence Begins the mental struggles of arcane Girls, who may not dance upon a floor Nor faces inside faces prick music.
Vast Sundays and organ-frowned spaces Leave dark emptied trees behind Seas, where sotto voce tames the race Of gaoled men; and the sureness of Faith will dive into the bays and quays Which seem too straight or still-born.
The light of rock attunes to sound But this noise contests the altar-lit Grounds of life’s lurch, groomed with Minds which govern sadness from ground Teas, but still the coffees of the earth Grind to dust the magmas of bent birth.
This Glass of Water
This glass of water is engrained With rivers, dowsed by man-rills And the coitus of the seas must wrench Cockles from the winkles near dread Dreaming. Or else, the spinning seas Of shells made real must swim death Or the lights of oceans spiel away The milky dancing spurning of bays
The lotus of the salts inflames hordes And the swiftness of sailing prove That girl kind may not despise shores Nor the genus of sandcastles smooth Sirens from spars
Thence, the oared Homes of drinking waters dive down Against the drowning peoples of Love’s heartfelt pools The shadowed
Depths of art refine their current where Lies slip their lake-rivalry when The sucking fish of dying death sprays
Jim Bellamy was born in a storm in 1972. He studied at Oxford University. He has written thousands of poems and won three awards for his poetry. He tends to write in a bit of a fine frenzy. He adores prosody.
1. Language, quixotic, carries weight It cannot bear. A boy spent hours in practice— Tennis, piano scales, free throws. Later he practiced medicine, His sister practiced law, Always getting ready, it seemed, For something else. At the restaurant He thought of a bad pun And made a note: He also waits who only stands and serves.
2. Language tells you what it sees, So pejorative becomes Normative. I want to hear about people Who are ept, couth, Ruthful, clueful souls with Shevelled hair. Do you remember when we Worried about creeping -ism’s? Neologism; Barbarism, An ancient word, meant to Mock the sound of Those who do not talk like you.
3. The English teacher had asked A Latin student of mine About the mood of a piece; Dark, foreboding were answers He had in mind. Subjunctive, the boy replied. Others laughed, As though wit might somehow lie in The hand tools on my father’s bench, Which I could neither name nor use. If I was you, I joked, I’d pay more attention To the future less vivid, The present contrary to fact.
4. As a teacher of high-school Latin I insisted to fourteen-year-olds That a knowledge of arcane grammars Would help them in later life. The ablative absolute, for example, Which, in translation, Makes you seem a bit pompous. That said, I would proceed to explain The imponderables of limit, The accusatives of extent of space Or duration of time, And my favourite usage, which described The fragile and random way things connect, One life with another, One moment with the next, The ablative of attendant circumstance.
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.
This little piece of gold will not be enough to feed the fruit of my swelling belly.
And it will take bigger scales to weigh out the quantities we will need to survive.
But I still have jewels to sell and I think they will be enough.
I shall weigh them carefully.
It’s in the balance but I think there will be enough.
To The Time Of The Season
It’s that time of the season midwinter coasting from one year to the next from old to new facing both ways still unable to move on watching a gleam of light caught in the falling all too briefly before it becomes part of the old before it turns to mush and decays like all things passed.
If such a creature didn’t exist we’d have to invent it for sure. Whether Zeus or Allah, Jehovah or any of the rest, all fulfil the same purpose. All create a framework of behaviour, the laws of god which must be obeyed without argument, without thinking, without due process. All create a framework of rights. Some have them, others don’t. They’re god given so no argument, no thinking, needed. And all need a territory, a god given territory from the beginning of time and for evermore No argument, no thinking, god given.
Lynn White lives in North Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes.
touching imperils green studies dart gun handles pardons dusty tarts skirmishes military carriage dalliances dance penguins atrophied encyclopedia dogmatic banjo drink a drunk in a kangaroo tank less evil than a tooth fairy
volumes institute cloudburst singles
Now you KNOW televised plutonium charts PATHS between GRAZING invisibility little GUSTS of hiding a distorted rendering
CircuS peeling mousetrap HOLEs where fingers SWELL softer & stiller than a YACHT
full service glue wisp
telephone hooks catfish mummy popularized three stooges dinner party games provoke pin cushions pangs of ulcerated shovel digging
big BOWL of sugar CUBES & frozen vehicular kidneys
STRAINed against screen spenT ON sabbatical framed w/in horseshoe wolfhound barnacle sunsets regained
headphone spark plug
perversions lustrous as angel hair pasted contracts flame kicking outward model faculty embalmed copied notepad legalized budget
prioritized up & coming machete glow fish resigning commission
starting time warp haiku membrane pontificates provincial tunnel parade
Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the books Pointillistic Venetian Blinds (Alien Buddha Press, 2021) and Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in Coven, Spontaneous Poetics, Ygdrasil, Expat, Selcouth Station. RASPUTIN, Train, Fugitives & Futurists, Otoliths, M58, Punk Noir Magazine, Ink Pantry, Beir Bua, and Scud among others.
You can find more of Joshua’s work here on Ink Pantry.
I come upon every red light and road block along the way.
If you are in a hurry, prepare for adversity and all the obstacles life can throw at you.
Monkey wrenches, pins and needles, that voodoo doll, and the worst traffic you can imagine.
A message from the radio. Oh, it’s just a song. Some break-up lyrics and a bit of pleading.
I turn the dial for something else less desperate. I find nothing to my liking. The radio just offers
the same old songs that get stuck inside my head. A message from a songbird just outside my window.
I tune in to that for a while. The bird lyrics soothe me this morning. It’s probably just another break-up song.
Give Me a Tree
Give me a tree. That’s enough for me. Rain in the evening. Snow once in a while. In the nest of the tree singing birds. Summer in winter and sun in the day. Give me a sweet smile lovelier than any tree. Give me a time to see you once again.
The hair is not growing, unless growing greyer counts. The belly is growing. My shirt buttons complain.
I am slowing down all the time. I get so tired. I need to get in shape, get fit, and lose the pounds.
The hair is gone for good; the excess hair from youth. I grew a beard but shaved it away after a few years.
I just could not get used to it. I am sure it would have made a good mugshot if I ever got arrested.
In eight minutes I could walk to the Thai restaurant and order take out.
In that time I could start on the laundry, make a sandwich, and take my medicine.
In eight minutes I could just be a vegetable, drink some wine, or run in circles.
In eight minutes I could take a power nap or write a poem like this one.
Luis lives in California and works in Los Angeles. His poems have appeared in Blue Collar Review, Mad Swirl, and Unlikely Stories. His book, Make the Water Laugh, is published by Rogue Wolf Press.
Each time the screen door closes, a mother rabbit sprints off
through seedlings I mowed slowly around twenty-three years ago.
John Hansen received a BA in English from the University of Iowa and an MA in English Literature from Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Summerset Review, Spillwords Press, Trouvaille Review, 50-Word Stories, One Sentence Poems, The Dillydoun Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Eunoia Review, Sparks of Calliope, Amethyst Review, Drunk Monkeys, and elsewhere. He is English Faculty at Mohave Community College in Arizona.