Poetry Drawer: Even the Ugly Blueberry: Knight and Squires, Redux: Dog is God Backwards or Vice Versa by Sean Murphy

Even the Ugly Blueberry

Has a purpose, unless it’s only point
is being savoured in its perfection—
in the service of teeth, bursting
its blue blood like some kind of sacrifice,
submitting itself to sustain life or
enhance it, both emblem and archetype:
avowal of Nature’s deathless bounty.

What can be said of the ripe prize, chosen
against its incognizant will; at least
not forsaken? Its use being useful,
its best self inside a beak or blender,
transformed, in effect, into something else,
like that first apple, only opposite:
its meaning derived from grandeur, not grief.

We enjoy it, extol it, we eat it,
paint it, photograph it, write about it.

What, then, can be said for the withered one,
neglected, stockpiled, sullied by time,
consigned to limbo between vined and corrupted?
What does its neglect signify, if Fate
forsakes its function—consumed or admired?
Not unlike sad men, their pruned, sour skin

a fruitless reminder: now it’s too late.

Knight and Squires, Redux

My inbox is empty, which isn’t to say there aren’t any messages
in there. But the one (I know better than to hope for two—or more)
confirming something, anything, with regards to my genius (Obvi
I’ll use a lower-case-g because only dead people and sociopaths
can employ capital letters on their own behalves). Okay, maybe
not genius but an affirmation, an acceptance, or the opposite of
the formulation every rejected writer reads like a lifelong series
of not-so-gentle reminders: you’re not the witness this world seeks.
I can’t go on, I’ll go on, one of us wrote, but he could go on since
he’d already been admitted entrance, earned the tailwind necessary
for something we call a career, an annuity, succour from the squall.

Had Melville used email could he have looked in Hawthorne’s draft
folder and seen the unsent missive, declaring, at long last, that he
got it, he appreciated it, God-Damn it to Hell, he envied it, which
is why he’d never send it, same as all the confederates and critics
who had bigger fish to fry, industry events to attend, and cocktails
to consume with other insiders and those born or bred with the burden
of being a Genius? Believe me, Nathaniel might have said, it’s better
to do the work without distraction, without ever trusting who your
friends are, sensing that reviews and plaudits and money are all dust
once you’re done, and who knows how the world will measure you—
and your work once it no longer matters? That’s the story of my life.

But poor Herman could not see, and never knew all the things not
awaiting him in classrooms and graduate seminars and reprints, even
Movies and Biographies: an entire industry, built plank by plank, salt
and blood and belief alive in every splinter—a bible of sorts for us,
the ones who seek solace and inspiration, The One we might turn to
when we wonder about our own unread messages and the fate that
awaits us (no hints, it’s too painful to actually peg the future), fellow
mates aboard a bigger boat, where attainment and acceptance mean
less than solidarity, or sweat, or something. No, that’s a lie: all of us
need a sign that signals, ballast for our belief—or lack thereof—that
obliged us to take a pen, find some faith, and compose in the first place.

Dog is God Backwards or Vice Versa

Dogs are never not alive
until they’re not;
And it’s not that they’re gone
so much as we aren’t.

It’s not about earning or appreciating
each and every nap;
It’s the peace of not needing approval.
And who owns whom?

Dogs rely on routine, a reminder
they’ve already evolved;
Perfected in accordance with man
defining what he needs.

Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. A long-time columnist for PopMatters, his work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, The Good Men ProjectMemoir Magazine, and others. His chapbook, The Blackened Blues, was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2021. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455.  Read his published short fiction, poetry, and criticism here and on Twitter.

Poetry Drawer: Hubris, with caveat: Dandelion by Dale Walker

Hubris, with caveat

Low, the winter sun crosses the sky
At highest noon, I greet him eye to eye
Almost

Dandelion

Down drifts up
light as a dream
released by a breath

it floats from sight
to set new roots,
to bloom again
and send out seeds
on another wind.

Gravity can’t hold
a spirit freed
nor roots restrain
a hope in bloom.
The smallest breath
with words said clear
sets loose the tether
that held me here.

Dale Walker is a poet from North Carolina.

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

Poetry Drawer: Earmarked: Isaac Newton Reinvents the Charcuterie in His Own Cold Meaty Likeness: Every Band Needs a Train Song: I wonder: Kain Crescent Park by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Earmarked

It starts like nothing else does –
with a simple marker: felt-tipped,
Harlem black, that liquorice smell that is supposed
to warn of something toxic to the human
survivals; a simple line drawn down the earlobe
so that something has been earmarked
for something else, set aside like an antique lamp
for resale; that craven Velcro way you run from
the schoolyard bully, his brutish uncapped marker
on the rampage.

Isaac Newton Reinvents the Charcuterie in His Own Cold Meaty Likeness

Such a cinch to move,
all those electricals sent down
from the fuse box,
Isaac Newton reinvents the charcuterie
in his own cold meaty likeness if I didn’t know better,
unplanned sit-ups in the dark; the court jester before
the castle, it is the laughers reverse engineered
by able tear duct sheddings, humanzees in the mezzanine
drumming up interest –
where you end up is the sum of floppy meanderings,
painted streetwalkers lining easy street,
vacuums to fill in the dusty ballast-less drooping;
this sky bridge of Damocles hammocks on the slow dangle,
tiki bar umbrellas chasing off the rains
in miniature.

Every Band Needs a Train Song

Every band needs a train song
before everything goes off the rails
as I stand over this sink that has seen better days,
look away for a moment and when my eyes return,
the sink is gone. I look away again without a thought
and when I look back the sink has returned.
I finish brushing, spit and rinse before turning
out the light. If such things still phase you,
you are groping minnows on someone else’s
dirty water. Jack-knifing with gassy trucks on the
diesel plan. A hint of darkness and I am gone.
Back down into the tumbling catacombs of my
vaulted lint-trap mind.

I wonder

if Greta
was ever Garbo’s
real name

or if she knew
the dyslexics would
would read it
and see her as Great
before anyone else

so that word of mouth
got around

from all the bigs
to the smalls

like the nefarious gum lines
of some New York travel agent

who wonders why she never
left the streets of New York
once she got there

falling in love with a city
and never a man.

Kain Crescent Park

A slim meander off Robertson
to that pavement-painted blue arrow,
then four steps up, count them as you go:
one, two, three, four…
and now you are in Kain Crescent Park
looking across the flats to some picnic table
by wood’s edge, on the lean and so well forested
that ravenous mosquitoes eat better than you;
yes, those buzzing little blood-devils,
in front of a large uncut stone like the one
Jackson Pollock can’t help but lie under.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Ink Pantry, Impspired Magazine, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review

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

Poetry Drawer: So Long: Tedium: A Reading of the Film Bee Season: What Is? by Dr Susie Gharib

So Long

So Long, Marianne, Leonard Cohen had sung
when I was a thing of the future and still unborn,
intuiting the ways of the world from an unhappy womb.

My father died when I was six months old.
My eyes cannot recall his mien, my ears his voice,
too preoccupied with the milk that mixed with diluted salt.

“So Long,” she whispered when I became only one,
entrusting me to what she deemed trustworthy hands,
rescuing me from penury by severing a sacred bond.

And who says food is more important than love!
A child gets more sustenance from a maternal hold.
Now I feel as starved as when I was an infant bereft of home.

So Long Mariannes, Miriams, Marys and all wretched mums.

Tedium

The drab features of the dullest of days,
a frowning sun
and a languid moon that’s loath to scintillate,
a mast-less ship that has loitered for a hundred years
in yonder bay.

The minutes that tick on the mantelpiece
the passage of time, deafening my ears,
an unnerving similitude of reiterative ills
in yonder abyss.

The bland voice that dictates the norm
to which homo sapiens has conformed
continues to drawl
in every soul
beyond yonder walls.

The desk that has harassed necks and spines
irreverently reclines upon the ground,
sluggish with pride,
a monument for lives ill-spent in strife
in yonder hives.

A Reading of the Film Bee Season

I always associated magic with evil deeds,
with hags and cauldrons, with boiling snakes,
with sowing discord amid matrimonial seeds,
with ruptures, with effigies, with psychic disease,
with a trail of misfortunes that never cease.

Kabbalah was one word that filled me with fear,
a cultural legacy that ignorance had reared,
but it took a movie with Richard Gere
to show me how words transcend their spheres
to attain a hearing in God’s own ears
with a possible response from the Mighty Creator.

What Is?
[For my Loulou Spitz]

What is in this white, little paw?
A pledge of friendship,
A tenacious hold,
A grasp of firmness
in a very ephemeral world.

What is in this rubber-like, tiny nose
that nestles to every item of clothes,
that sniffs each fragrance,
each odor of socks,
and hoard them like bones?

What is in these fluffy, drooping ears
that capture the pulse of inward fears,
that yearn for footsteps,
for the rustle of treats,
for fluttering heartbeats?

What is in this proud, arching tail
that heralds a storm of greetings,
that eloquently commands attention and praise,
and orchestrates
the art of hailing?

Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.

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

Poetry Drawer: HOTEL ETERNITY by Rus Khomutoff

TO EXIST BETWEEN ETERNITIES WILD NOTHING LIKE THE EYES OF
THE SKY AXIS INFINITY DICTIONARY OF OBSCURE BLISS /COME
FORWARD WITH YOUR VISCERA AND VIOLENCE AND SHARE MY
WINGS/UNLEASH YOUR SPIRIT BENEATH THE RAMJET ALLEGRO
TEMPLE OF THE NIGHT SKY A NEED FOR MIRRORS AND
COUNTLESS SKIES/SHAKE YOUR INFINESSENCE SLOT CANYON
HIGHBREATH NARCOTIC ERUPTIONS CLOUD NOTHINGS EXOTIC
PULSE A NAME BEYOND DESIRE SEMAPHORE SIN PLAY AT YOUR
OWN RISK TALKING TWILIGHT/ INTO A SPHERE OF YOUTHFUL
SYMPATHY RIDES THE THIEF OF YOUTH THIN AIR ADDICTIONS
MELANCHOLY BODY SACRILEGE TATTOO HIGHWAY INSOMNIA
PUNK/ TEENAGE BLOOD REPETITION OF A THOUSAND HUNGRY
EYES/SOMETIMES WE ARE ALL ETERNAL IN THE CONSTELLATION
OF MIDNIGHT MOSAIC FACTION/ MY GREEN UNQUEEN GALLERY
CRUSH HYPERRITUAL AUTUMN CRY OPULENCE LIKE A TRIANGLE
AND A DUEL/SOME TALK TO MEN WHILE OTHERS TALK TO GODS
DANCE IT VISCIOUS RIDDLE OF THE SANDS CHAMELEON
CHARADE STAR CODE CHALICE/ASK THE DESERT ORACLE THESE
POISON DECLARATIONS THE REAL UNREAL CONVERSATIONS
WITH A NEW REALITY/DISSOLVE THE ILLUSION IN A
SPIRITDANCE/NATURE’S SYMPHONY DRAFT INTOXICATION

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

Poetry Drawer: October by Robert Demaree

1.

To our cottage on the pond,
I ascribe human attributes,
And why not:
Four generations of
Idiosyncratic postures,
Favourite chairs,
The smiles of grandsons
Around each corner,
In every splash off the dock,
Scent of decades of pine rooms,
My father’s shaving brush,
Memories in other artifacts
We did not buy.

So when we leave,
Packing up board games
Along with Beth’s shy grin,
We ease out onto the lane,
Regret visceral
Until about the Massachusetts line.
The cottage, at first forlorn,
Has figured out what’s going on,
Recognizes the red kayak,
An intruder in the guest room,
But, relaxing under its cover of
Newspaper, moth balls,
Frayed bedspreads,
Like an old bear we know,
Dozes off for the winter.

2.

Cold October rain
Scatters unwilling leaves,
Crimson, orange-gold,
Before the holiday,
Slick paste on asphalt.
I pack my painting tools
Under the house:
The can of grey stain
Will not survive the winter.
In the tight wood
On a hill back from the pond
Green clings to green,
A few leaves fall unturned.

3.

Late October: SUV’s headed out, mostly
Pickup trucks on the lane.
They are the surrogate residents
On the pond in the off season,
The people who shut off the water,
Drain the pipes,
Winch up docks up onto land,
Check in winter for snow on the roof.
We have a common concern
For a tight seal around the chimney,
The grey birch by the Turtle Rock
That needs to come down.
We discuss
The judgment of the selectmen,
The Red Sox’ chances for next year,
The merits of metal roofing.
We entrust them with precious things,
Sacred ground, these folk
With whom we share a love of place
Until we come back again
In June.

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: The swimming pool: One shouldn’t fit: The overly personal poems: Fear of losing: The train goes thwacking by DS Maolalai

The swimming pool

I aim a spray
of bleach. the bathroom
smells strongly
of swimming pools.

expecting visitors,
I touch my mask,
and scrub the toilet
spotless.

an attendant,
tired and early
morning, long
on a hot
summer’s day.

One shouldn’t fit

on a bus, and seeing
the mind inside each
of these people.
a lady who smells.
a man with a book.
a kid looking somewhat
uncomfortable. the cone
of thought backward,
expanding all colours
and size – infinite large
in shape and not knowing
collision. thought in there.
there’s so much person
in everyone’s head
that one shouldn’t fit
on a bus. like going to a tent
in wexford, in growing season.
seeing how sunlight
makes strawberries.

The overly personal poems

flying our interest
like flags at a football match.

animals hidden
amongst other animals;

robins
in gardens
fighting christmas
decorations.

camouflage –
the rage
and futility
of display.

Fear of losing

what you’ve managed to get.
or reducing your income.
or only maintaining it.

fear that the job
will be different
next year. fear
that it won’t be.

that my girl-
friend won’t marry me.
that she will.
that she will

sometimes.
all these thoughts driving
nails in the soles
of my feet. I sit at a table

outside a cafe
eating a fried breakfast
sandwich. traffic honks,

snarls and sends smoke
through my mouth
and they finger my collar.

it’s saturday. the weekend
a scramble. the weekdays
some eggshell which got
in the pan. a truck

could be sideswiped, could come
off the road.

I wouldn’t get out

of the way.

The train goes thwacking

grown tired of my novel,
I stretch,
scratch my legs.
everyone here is sat down;
sleeping or freezing
in snowdrifts
of quiet conversation.

it’s late. outside
the train goes
thwacking
like a galloping animal
over countryside.

in here
we’re all sealed in.

it’s very quiet.
steel
tore the ground like a tight pair of shoes
and left it red
and wounded
and we run across it
together
in silence
ignoring each other.

DS Maolalai is a graduate of English Literature from Trinity College in Dublin and recently returned there after four years abroad in the UK and Canada. He has been writing poetry and short fiction for the past five or six years with some success. His writing has appeared in 4’33’, Strange Bounce and Bong is Bard, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Out of Ours, The Eunoia Review, Kerouac’s Dog, More Said Than Done, Star Tips, Myths Magazine, Ariadne’s Thread, The Belleville Park Pages, Killing the Angel and Unrorean Broadsheet, and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work is published in two collections; Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden ((Encircle Press, 2016)) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019).

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

Poetry Drawer: The Art of Seeing: Memory of Hope: Eyes of the Painter by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

The Art of Seeing

In the aroma of Madeira in
a glass and the incense of
tallow she finds her muse
in the day’s snug sunshine,
painting the birth of a wren
by hand, her heart trembling,
coming alive, she’s not too far
away from the white blossoms
of dogwood trees, and she calls
her craft the art of seeing,
examining the world around
her like an artist with a keen
eye capturing animal life like
she did the blackbird in flight,
wings all aflutter eclipsing
the sun, the oak and eagle as
her witness. Everyday her life
is opened up and with the fine
strokes of her paintbrush she
sparks a red flower to dance
brightly, illumines the tiny
movements of a butterfly
climbing the window glass,
sunlight glowing in its wings

Memory of Hope

Raindrops danced on the red
brick terrace and rippled
the surface of the cerulean
birdbath, my world never
silent as I listen to the rhythmic
tap of rain on my window, on
the patio table; the memory of
hope I thought I may never know
again, a soft-born light I wished
would revise itself inside of me,
nudge its synergy with the god
in heaven to make me want to
live again, a potent reminder that
without hope it’s too easy to give
up and die. My spirit shyly opened
when autumn’s shower outside
slowly came to an end, leaving
behind a luminous rainbow aura
on my bedroom wall.

Eyes of the Painter

Elation swirls inside his heart
come the half rising dawn
when he undoes his tangled
layers of thought and lets
the life all around him spill
from the tip of his paintbrush
onto the canvas, a garden
brimful of visual delights
living inside him in the rains
of November, driven by his
visions and the taste of tea
leaves on his tongue; every
arc of colour, every exquisite
detail pure as the beauty of
an early snow. In his eyes he
steals from a childhood memory,
the plumb feathers of a peacock;
and a quiet healing in the inner
layers of his heart calm him while
he is alone for hours, the sound
of a symphony on his stereo
drifting in from the music room.
One day he finds himself growing
blind and when his eyesight is
gone he longs to paint what he
sees in his dreams.

Bobbi Sinha-Morey‘s poetry has appeared in a wide variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene’s Fountain, The Wayfarer, Helix Magazine, Miller’s Pond, The Tau, Vita Brevis, Cascadia Rising Review, Old Red Kimono, and Woods Reader. Her books of poetry are available at Amazon and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net Anthology in 2015, 2018, and 2020, as well as having been nominated for The Pushcart Prize in 2020. 

Poetry Drawer: Luck: Ode to the Gun: The True Nature of a Healthy Stroll: Eyeballing the New Estate by John Grey

Luck

I remain ever hopeful.
Just looking for a sign that’s all.
Doesn’t have to be a booming voice.
Or a bright light through the window.
It’s not as if disappointment
overdoes the atmosphere.
No deep bass notes on the piano,
no owls at the window
or grim reaper at the door.
The failures happen at such ordinary times
in such ordinary ways.
The flat beer. The lousy gift.
The smile that drifts over my right shoulder
to the guy behind.
So let the better times begin
in as commonplace a way
as a pool ball sunk off a carom,
getting the last outside table
at a restaurant on a beautiful summer’s day.
The rain’s been used so many times
as cliché for the down times,
I’d even hoist my sail to its sudden stopping.
Like I said before, I don’t need a miracle
The keys just need to be where I left them.
And maybe the copy machine doesn’t break down.
Such are the vagaries of the common man.
The horror story that’s really a fairy tale.
The wish list that makes its excuses.

Ode to the Gun

The gun sits
on the dressing table
beside the unmade bed
in a ramshackle motel room
off the interstate.

It’s cold as death,
glints away whatever
sunshine dares to
come its way.

Without a shot fired,
it toughens one guy
and trembles another enough
to make his knees knock together.

On a dressing table,
cold as death,
without a shot fired,
try telling that gun,
it doesn’t kill people.

The True Nature of a Healthy Stroll

A hill shaped like a skull,
a lopsided house
for a family tilted the other way,
a waddling woman
with cavernous eye sockets…
and that’s just the first block.

A faceless man,
an Indian fakir,
a klezmer band
playing “My Way” in Yiddish…
it’s not easy to cross a road around here.

How can I get where I’m going
when an albino armadillo crosses my path,
it’s raining Rolexes
and the fire station’s aflame?

Meanwhile,
the pavement’s as green as my stomach,
my umbrella won’t open,
the zipper of my pants
cuts like razor blades
and I still have another
hundred yards or so to go.

I never make it.
The odds are not in my favour.
Across the grocery store parking lot,
a plastic bag rolls like tumbleweed.
A grosbeak alights
on a grey wire fence.

Eyeballing the New Estate

Trees line just about everything.
Even the trees are lined with trees.
This is not foliage left unharmed by the bulldozers.
The greenery is imported.

The houses have names like Gardenview or Hilltop.
They’re places in a dream town.
A windless sunny parody of the way we live.
They front a lake studded with swans.

We’re driving on just-paved roads
in a new estate that used to be forest.
Those with money can’t wait to put down a deposit,
to get away from the likes of us.

Once this neighbourhood’s
fully occupied we will not be invited back.
My mother sighs. But without malice.
She’s long since learned to accept her own highway exit.

Goodnight Dear

Typical night
of sleeping by subtraction,
because the people running
are not us,
and nor are we the chasers.

Same with the gunshots.
We didn’t fire the revolvers.
And they weren’t aimed
in our direction.

So our neighbours scream.
We don’t.
They even thump each other
from time to time.
But only noise spills over
into our sanctuary.
Not fists.

Those growling dogs
can’t bite us.
The yowling black cat
may upturn a trash can lid
but not our good fortune
by strolling across our path.

We’re free and clear of our surrounds.
The huddled homeless woman
doesn’t share our bed.
Nor does the sex offender
in the room above.

Bad things happen to other people.
That’s why we have it so good.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.

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