Poetry Drawer: Steel by Christopher Johnson

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
The shoes I wore were
Steel-plated in the toes to prevent my little footsies from being
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
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 Forestspublished by Island Press in 2013. 

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

Poetry Drawer: All those broken bits of voices aren’t lost by Rida Zulfikar

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’

Poetry Drawer: Love, I Must Leave: Outside Of History by Ray Miller

Love, I Must Leave

Love, I must leave, we’re covered in lichen,
the kind found fogging a graveyard address
that draws you close to decipher the writing

of praises for people we never knew.
Love, I must leave, I’ve trodden on tombstones
and questioned if eulogies are ever true.

Love, I must leave, the letters are burning
and someone should summon the fire brigade
to quench old flames and stop them returning

in the gowns of girls they impersonate.
Love, I must leave, the mist has just thickened,
the clock has just struck, it’s almost too late.

Don’t wave goodbye, don’t try to figure me.
Love, I must leave, to rewrite a history.

Outside Of History

After many a summer time must have a stop:
an empty stage and a canopy hung starless.
Aldous Huxley’s dying and Kennedy’s been shot;
the United States are watching Dallas.

He asks his wife to tip the boy two dollars
for delivery of the oxygen tank;
there’s an infinite succession of tomorrows
that Huxley is attempting to outflank.

The worn out stoic, the literary gent;
something of a saint or bodhisattva,
undertaking a brave new experiment
to illuminate the world that lies thereafter.

Idolaters venerate the sacred ground
of some Golden Age or Utopia;
only outside of history is goodness found
and mankind is a martyr to myopia.

The Western world murders a scarecrow saviour
and confabulates a Cuban connection;
a fine day to sneak underneath the radar
and disappear through the doors of perception.

Fortified by pain relief and LSD,
he floats upon the pleasure dome waves.
There’s no heaven or hell, just eternity.
Yet perhaps there is an entity that saves?

Not Mohammed, Jehovah, Krishna or Buddha,
nor these nightmarish machinations;
not these temples and schemes for a perfect future,
just this emptiness enhanced by medication.

Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter, and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.

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

Poetry Drawer: Epilogue: Hitchhiker’s Paradise by Ian C Smith


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. 

Hitchhiker’s Paradise

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.

Poetry Drawer: Broadcasting: This Glass of Water by Jim Bellamy

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.

Poetry Drawer: Studies in Language by Robert Demaree

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.

Language tells you what it sees,
So pejorative becomes
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?
An ancient word, meant to
Mock the sound of
Those who do not talk like you.

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.

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.

Poetry Drawer: Bejewelled: To The Time Of The Season: God Given by Lynn White


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

I shall weigh them carefully.

It’s in the balance
but I think there will be

To The Time Of The Season

It’s that time of the season
coasting from
one year
to the next
from old to new
facing both ways
to move
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.

God Given

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
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,
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. 

Poetry Drawer: detailed descriptions of spiders: volumes institute cloudburst singles: full service glue wisp: headphone spark plug: contracts display overabundance by Joshua Martin

detailed descriptions of spiders

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

          traffic poisons prisms
          readies atmosphere
          unknown utilities
          supersized leave taking

     milestone toasted grace crowd
     hedgehog placemat grinder

a lucite table leg
mannequin football roast
canned to hint w/o appeal

contracts display overabundance

stray hammers swallow lip sockets
timeline agenda grouping microfiche
air tube intestine vents spooling
traumatic integrated palsy graduation
beetle byline bypassing database
recorded sprig parsley a troll
interiorized sanitation spill pinball
machine chronic influenza
stressed boiled reduced mothball
basic fingernail back light hump
excessive melting renegotiated

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.

Poetry Drawer: Road Blocks: Break-Up Song: Give Me a Tree: Growing Greyer: Eight Minutes by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal

Road Blocks

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.

Break-Up Song

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.

Growing Greyer

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.

Eight Minutes

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.

Poetry Drawer: Home by John Hansen

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.