Pantry Prose: Something Wanted by Robert P. Bishop

After crossing the bridge over the Yellowstone River south of Laurel, Montana, Paul turned off Highway 212 onto River Road. “Three miles to go.”

            “Are you sure it’s still there?” Margo said.

            “Yesterday Google said it was. Somebody could have put a match to it between then and now, of course.”

Paul pulled off River Road into a patch of weeds and turned off the engine. “It’s still here.”

            Margo leaned forward and peered through the windshield at the dilapidated house a few feet from the car. “This is what we came to see. Your boyhood home.” She spoke as if she was announcing the time of day or the ambient temperature.


            “We drove 800 miles from Seattle, so I can look at a tumble-down shack.” Her voice remained flat, distant.

            Paul looked embarrassed. “I guess so.”

            “Now are you going to tell me why we’re here?”

            When he didn’t reply, she squeezed his arm and said, “I’m so tolerant.”

            Paul grinned. “That’s why I married you.”

            “Nonsense. You married me for my pension.”

            Paul laughed. “Well, yes, I did, but you’re not supposed to know that.” He looked at Margo. She was the only person he knew who could smile with just her eyes. Her eyes were glowing with warmth and humour.

            He opened the car door. “I haven’t been here for sixty-eight years. Let’s look around.”

            They got out of the car. Paul surveyed the ruins of the house where he had spent the first thirteen years of his life. Gaping holes, like vacant eye sockets, loomed where window glass had once been, and the doors were missing, having been pulled from the hinges years ago. All the exterior clapboards on the house’s south wall had been stripped away by old-wood scavengers, exposing warped studs that looked like the ribs of a skinned animal with its thorax split open.

            They walked to the house. “Are there snakes here?” Margo asked.

            “Could be. One day the old man beat a rattlesnake to death with a hoe right around here.”

            “That’s not very reassuring,” she said, eyeing the thick growth of dead weeds scraping against her legs. “It doesn’t look safe. Don’t you dare go in there,” she said when they got near the house.

            He thought about her caution as he gazed at the ruin; don’t go in there. An acid taste flooded his mouth. “No, I’m not going in. There’s nothing inside I want.”

            He looked up. Two rusty corrugated metal sheets, what remained of the roof, clung to the rafters like brown scabs on a wound that refused to heal. He grimaced at the memory of him and Annie, his little sister, trembling with fear when torrential summer rains or hailstones hammered the metal roof with such fury they thought the house would tumble down and bury them under its wreckage.

            He put his hands on two exposed studs, leaned forward and peered into the house. The pine floorboards had long ago collapsed onto the earth below. Weeds growing between the rotting pieces of wood stretched upward, reaching for the sun pouring through the open wound that was the missing roof. “We never had rugs. Even in winter when it was so damn cold, we never had rugs on the bare floor.”

            Margo stepped beside him and peered into the house. Most of the plaster had fallen from the inside walls, exposing the underlying laths, splintered and shriveled with age. “It looks ghastly in there.”

            “It wasn’t much of a house to begin with. In the winter, frost was so thick on the windows Annie and I could scratch our names in it or leave hand prints like the 45,000-year old prints in those caves in Spain.”

            “Did you and Annie scratch your names in the walls like condemned prisoners do when they’re locked in some dark cellar cell awaiting execution?”

            Paul smiled. “No. We weren’t prisoners.”

            “But you were. Every little kid is someone’s prisoner.”

            Prisoner.The word shimmered in his mind. More thoughts flooded in; were we prisoners in this house, held like criminals, unable to escape? “I never looked at it that way.”

            “I would have frozen to death in this house,” Margo said.

            “We had a kerosene stove for heat. The area around the stove was the only warm spot in the house.” After a moment, he said, “And we had kerosene lamps for light.”

            “Was it difficult for you and Annie living here?”

            Paul shrugged. “No. We didn’t have much choice. What else could we do?” He smiled at the memory. “Like most kids, we survived, even if we had the worst jailor in the world.”

            “Your father?”

            “Yes, the old man.”

            “This is so depressing.” Margo hugged herself. “Why did you even live here?”

            He thought about her question. Was there a way to explain the failure of a parent who subjected his family to abysmal conditions when there was enough money to provide for a better life, a decent home, warmth, and enough food? Probably not, so he said, “Rent on this house was ten dollars a month. The old man was thrifty. The less he spent on us the more he had to spend drinking, gambling, chasing barflies and the town’s whores.”

            “That is so harsh. What a horrible childhood you had.”

            “It sounds like an ugly childhood now, but it wasn’t then, not to Annie and me. We didn’t know any better. It should not have happened, of course, but it did, so there it is.” The anger rumbled in his gut, ready to spill out if he let the heat of memory get too high. “It can’t be changed. I don’t dwell on it.” He pushed away from the studs. “I’ve told you all this before.”

            “Yes, you have.” She looked over the week-choked ground. “ Where was the outhouse?”

            Paul pointed. “It wasn’t too bad in the summer, except for the mosquitoes. In the winter, when it was ten below zero, nobody lingered reading a magazine, that’s for sure.”

            Margo laughed. “I’m sorry, Paul. I don’t mean to laugh, but that is something I can’t imagine.”

            She swatted at an annoying fly buzzing around her face. The fly landed on her cheek, irritating her with its delicate crawl across her skin. She brushed it away. The summer heat annoyed her as much as the fly. “Now are you going to tell me why we came here?”

            “There’s something I want.”

            “We’re not here for memories, are we?”

            “No. I’ve got enough of those. I want the pump. It’s on the north end of the house.”

            Margo followed him around the house to a cast iron pump, caked with rust and missing its handle, surrounded by a thick clump of dead weeds. Margo watched Paul push the weeds aside, put his hand on the pump’s spout and stroke it as if he was caressing a lover. “In the winter, if we forgot to drain the pump at night, it froze and we couldn’t get any water in the morning.”

            “What did you do?”

            “We melted snow and poured the warm water over the pump until the pipe thawed. But even when we drained the pump to keep it from freezing, we still had to prime it in the morning.”

            Margo shivered in the hot August sun. “You lived like it was 1850.”

            “I guess we did. The pioneers and us. All we needed were wheels on the old house and a team of oxen. We could have rolled across the prairie, going West.”

            He pushed more weeds away from the pump, dropped to his knees, looked at the pipe then stood and brushed off his pants. He walked to the car and returned carrying a hacksaw. He got on his knees and attacked the pipe with the saw. After a few minutes the pump fell to the ground.

            She followed him to the car and waited for him to stow the pump and the hacksaw in the trunk. They got in the car and stared at the old house. Neither one said anything for several minutes, then Margo said, “What are you going to do with that pump?”

            “I don’t know, but I’ve always wanted it.” He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and peered at the ruined house. “I should burn it down.”

            “You’ll be arrested,” Margo said, sensing anger and grief in his voice.

            “Might be worth it.”

            “You can’t destroy memories by burning something down.”

            “No, you can’t,” Paul said.

            “Then let’s go home.”

            Paul started the car and drove away. “Maybe another time I’ll burn it down,” he said as he watched the old house recede in the rearview mirror.

            Margo put her hand on his arm. “Now will you tell me what you’re going to do with that pump?”

Robert P. Bishop, an army veteran and former teacher, lives in Tucson, Arizona. His work has appeared in Active Muse, Ariel Chart, Better Than Starbucks, Bindweed Magazine, The Blotter Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Clover and White, CommuterLit, Ink Pantry, Literally Stories, Scarlet Leaf Review, Umbrella Factory Magazine and elsewhere. 

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

Poetry Drawer: The Bill: Credo: Greek Snow: Imaginary Borders: Nature’s Revenge: Popcorn for You, Apples for Me: Tom McCarthy by Robert Beveridge

The Bill

Strappy flyby provides
you with the occult
nonsense the Gardener
demands you play,
when your own notebook
is filled with love songs.
Still, there’s nothing
to be done but pick
up the sticks and get
down to business. Tonight
Nairobi, tomorrow, who
knows, but you’ve always
wanted to see Accra.


I believe that people can be like they are in the movies

I believe that there is purity left out there in the world

I believe that some of the girls in the red sports cars are virgins
                           (even if men are driving)

I believe that the wisdom of the dead has its place in the minds of the living

I believe that love can rule a nation

I believe in the future of surrealism

            even if the old lechers never get their women

I believe that god is an erotic being

I believe that Hans Bellmer was a great artist

and polyhymnia help me I believe in the sanity of poetry

Greek Snow

I awoke naked, covered in contusions,
in the middle of the Army/Loyola
halftime show. I carried a bass drum,
but no mallets, and I did not recognize
the song we played, nor could I discern
which team I marched for; everyone else
wore silver spacesuits save the drum major,
decked out in MacLeod of Harris Ancient
with a neon purple sash.

                                          It was no more
than five seconds later the hawk phalanx
screamed groundward from a cloudbank
that looked for all the world like a corncob
that used Thor’s hammer as a cob holder.
This to be sure saved my bacon,
but those in the stands stood as one,
recited the prayer to St. Rita of Cascia
at the top of their lungs, and exited
stage right. With no audience left,
the band quit playing, removed our shakos,
and began to stuff them with predatory lenders.

Imaginary Borders

the mines splay
out under the town
in reverse

Nature’s Revenge
(after Joseph Payne Brennan)

Something with stalk-eyes
creeps from the lake tonight

It asks with those eyes
sad but aware, for food

something crunchy
that won’t turn to jelly
when it bites down

something with a meaty
flavour, perhaps

Popcorn for You, Apples for Me

The smell of cordite in streaks
up to the stars, the only light left
afterimages in the eyes of children.
We drive home bleary with time,
snow, one too many burgers,
try to get the kids into the house
while still asleep. It never works.
We sit on the front step, eyes red,
look up at scattershot stars
in a thousand thousand colours
and tell their stories until
small eyes close once again.

Tom McCarthy

The colours explode
in the matted fur
of what hands
what great beast

slouches trucklike
from the swamps of Bethlehem

the letters
on its license plate

a flag flown upside down

international incommunicado

Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Of Rust and Glass, The Museum of Americana, and Quill and Parchment, among others.

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

Poetry Drawer: Composers and Mistakes: I’m Getting Old Now: Notes on Scraps of Screen Papyrus: Symphonic Waste: Life is Flamenco by Strider Marcus Jones

Composers and Mistakes

when I see the evening,
with it’s ordinary sounds and shapes
so full of unbelieving
composers and mistakes
coming in-
something wakes,
and I begin.

what I can’t affect
is getting colder
as I grow older,
retreating inside-
I could be your wreck
if I was bolder
and called you over,
over this side-

through the honeysuckle arch of midnight,
moon like a lid bright
shield in the sky;
on the grass
where footsteps last
in this light-
making a cast
where you walked by.

I’m Getting Old Now

i’m getting old now-
you know,
like that tree in the yard
with those thick cracks
in its skinbark
that tell you
the surface of its lived-in secrets.
my eyes,
have sunk too inward
in sleepless sockets
to playback images
of ghosts-
so make do with words
and hear the sounds
of my years in yourself.

riding a rusty three-wheel bike
to shelled-out houses bombed in the blitz,
then zinging home zapped in mud
to wolf down chicken soup
over lumpy mashed potato for tea-
with bare feet sticking on cold kitchen lino
i shivered watching the candle burn down
racing to finish a book i found in a bin-
before Mam showed me her empty purse
and robbed the gas meter-
the twenty shillings
stained the red formica table
like pieces of the man’s brains
splattered all over the back seat
of his rambolic limousine
as i watched history brush out her silent secrets.

Notes on Scraps of Screen Papyrus

notes on scraps of screen papyrus,
symbol songs
of our belongs-
inspire us
in the coffee smokes of day
where the fire was
in humid heats ashtray-
inside us
far away.
the new consensus
doesn’t show
in the census
of its blow
whose glow glads
the past they left too slow:
and the falling
where we now need to go-
the steps
of the facefits
in this trough
of peaks and parapets.
so we want wildly
the wilderness that isnt fear-
cut off,
pallet clear-
the colours changed
so rearranged
and us not here.

Symphonic Waste

a quiet night.
even the candle flame isn’t flickering-
think i’ll just blow out its light
and turn down the radio bickering.
symphonic waste
between the two
goes back space
for what is true-
and the same discontented self
dismantles every shelf
of previous obsessions
contaminated with old confessions.
then your persuasions
window walk
in panes of pillow talk-
inside this how,
in here, in now-
where no mortal elements
can darken our consoled consents
with ribbons of ripped repents
that leave membranous scars:
and when they do,
they are no more than me, or you-
everyone is subservient to the stars.

Life is Flamenco

why can’t i walk as far
and smoke more tobacco,
or play my spanish guitar
like Paco,
putting rhythms and feelings
without old ceilings
you’ve never heard
before in a word.

life is flamenco,
to come and go
high and low
fast and slow-

she loves him,
he loves her
and their shades within
caress and spur
in a ride and dance
of tempestuous romance.

outback, in Andalusian ease,
i embrace you, like melted breeze
amongst ripe olive trees-
dark and different,
all manly scent
and mind unkempt.

like i do,
Picasso knew
everything about you
when he drew
your elongated arms and legs
around me, in this perpetual bed
of emotion
and motion
for these soft geometric angles
in my finger strokes
and exhaled smokes
of rhythmic bangles
to circle colour your Celtic skin
with primitive phthalo blue
pigment in wiccan tattoo
before entering
vibrating wings
through thrumming strings
of wild lucid moments
in eternal components.

i can walk as far
and smoke more tobacco,
and play my spanish guitar
like Paco.

Strider Marcus Jones – is a poet, law graduate and former civil servant from Salford, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. He is the editor and publisher of Lothlorien Poetry Journal. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry reveal a maverick, moving between cities, playing his saxophone in smoky rooms.  

His poetry has been published in numerous publications including: Dreich Magazine; The Racket Journal; Trouvaille Review; dyst Literary Journal; Impspired Magazine; Melbourne Culture Corner; Literary Yard Journal; The Honest Ulsterman; Poppy Road Review; The Galway Review; Cajun Mutt Press; Rusty Truck Magazine; Rye Whiskey Review; Deep Water Literary Journal; The Huffington Post USA; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; A New Ulster; The Lampeter Review; Panoplyzine  Poetry Magazine and Dissident Voice.

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

Poetry Drawer: Cheat Sheet: Mister Liberty: Stage Fright: Check, Please!: Totally Rad: Easily Persuaded: Over-Thinking: Bedroom Layout by Ivan Jenson

Cheat Sheet

I think we knew
each other too well
our intimate details
were like close ups
on the big screen
you finished
my sentences
and my fries
yet nobody was
better at lies
and we were
both equal
at tearful alibis
and funny asides
during tickle fights
and just before
we achieved
absolute perfection
like a Russian dancer
there was a defection
you left me for
your oh so

Mister Liberty

You just don’t get me
I’m playing life by ear
by the seat of my pants
with no net
and my beating heart
is the castanet
my flamenco
passions become
the melody of the song
and everything that can
has already gone wrong
but once upon a glass
of cheap Chilean wine
I got drunk with
someone pretty
in the big bad city
and woke up when
I wanted to
because back then
neither mother nature
nor father time
dared tell me
what to do

Stage Fright

I have attempted to
crack the code
break the bank
unravel this mystery
or understand that lecture
while chewing on
some profundity
within the proximity
of someone
who went viral
at the right time
they had the right face
and I have craned my neck
to witness the Sistine Chapel
while some girl named Eve
complimented my
Adam’s apple
and yet I am still
a garden variety dude
fumbling with
a Rubik’s Cube
puzzled by the fact
I am an understudy
in my own play
and lack the talent
to truly act

Check, Please!

Let’s not kid ourselves
the past thirty years
have been a dirty joke
told by a drunk coworker
over a loud jukebox
playing hits from the eighties
in a bar full of the strangers
who attended
the weekend convention
about self-actualization
the contents of which
they have not retained
because the law of attraction
and quantum physics
don’t mean a thing
when you ain’t
got swagger or
an iota of the swing
yet everyone still
expects you
to pick up the bill
when you’re
over the hill

Totally Rad

Sleep next to me
in the cheap motel
of my fogged memory
then in the morning
we can drive up
the Specific Coast
Highway of my
vague vagabond dreams
because I used
to know where I was
on the map
now I can’t put my finger
on exactly what has gone wrong
and find myself relating to
some yacht rock song
because when it came out
everyone I truly loved
was still alive
and arguing over
a trifle or a waffle
in the kitchen
anyway ignore
what I am saying
cause I’m
just bitching

Easily Persuaded

I haven’t yet
captured that illusive
image that one might
hang in a gallery
or museum
but I still have
seen some things
that are permanently
in the trauma centre
of my third eye
and those snap shots
I show nobody
no way, no how
until you demanded
with your sultry eyes
and pouty lips
that I reveal
those secret branded
to you


Look I wish there
was fairy dust
or glitter rain
and that everything
and everywhere
was disco Disneyland
rather than average
everyday last minute
cancelations and
inner Nixon-like
or opaque
like fallen cake
birthday wishes
making you feel
like a kitchen
filled with
dirty dishes
after a party
where love was
once again averted
because you never
even flirted
with the idea
that it will take
someone else
to get you
to step out
of yourself

Bedroom Layout

Yes, she slept with him
and no, you won’t
take her back
into the fold
of your blankets
and your sheets
even if winter
is approaching
and it’s going
to be a bitter one
for the record books
it says so in the
Old Farmer’s Almanac
and it’s time to admit
you have become
such a fuddy-duddy
hypochondriac, insomniac
now that your honey
ain’t never coming back
to your sugar shack
on the wrong side
of the tracks

Ivan Jenson is a fine artist, novelist and popular contemporary poet. His artwork was featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine and has sold at auction at Christie’s. Ivan was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled Absolut Jenson for the brand’s national ad campaign. His Absolut paintings are in the collection of the Spirit Museum, the museum of spirits in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Jenson’s painting of the “Marlboro Man” was collected by the Philip Morris corporation. Ivan was commissioned to paint the final portrait of the late Malcolm Forbes. Ivan has written two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, both of which illustrate the creative and often dramatic lives of artists. Jenson’s poetry is widely published (with over 1000 poems published in the US, UK and Europe) in a variety of literary media. A book of Ivan Jenson’s poetry was recently published by Hen House Press titled Media Child and Other Poems, which can be acquired on Amazon.  Marketing Mia has published the hardcover. Ivan Jenson’s new bestselling thriller novels, The Murderess, and his top 4 Amazon UK and US bestselling novel, The Widow, are both now available on Amazon. A new collection of Ivan Jenson’s finest poetry called, Mundane Miracles, will be released worldwide November, 29, 2022.

Poetry Drawer: Stuffed by Raymond Miller


They were no less than stately homes;
visitors welcome, within reason.
Lovingly sculptured gardens
wreathed the facades of baroque bedlams
just far away enough.

The learned pages of medical journals
were stuffed with architectural theories
explaining how external grandeur
would raise the oppressed
spirits of the mad.

Yet what palace can agreeably
cater for thousands?
From the spaceless dormitories
bursting with the fetid stench
of a blistered and purged humanity,
the wretched spilled out
into the airing courts.
A hollow laughter tolled time
for those marooned
behind the Ha-Ha walls.

You’ve stood this side of them at the zoo:
forbiddingly tall to the inmates,
low enough for visitors
to view unrestrictedly.

A sign requests that you refrain
from feeding the animals.
There are people specially trained
to do that.

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

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

Poetry Drawer: Monument: The Broken Bar by Jonathan Butcher


A strange glance from my right,
the benches that frame this monument
leak bodies sat upright, static in this heat.
Their brows are reflective, but without thought,
as magpies rattle and dance in trees too thin
to cast shadows.

This stone pillar, a crude reminder
of those ravaged by a lack of cohesion;
just another product of a time which refused
its clocks to stop, if only so it could recoup
and strengthen its path, to open its eyes

The faces carved into inappropriate
places fail to resonate as intended;
the grass hill like a dandelion
sprouted on a derelict pavement.
A hundred bodies lay under its foundations,
unaware of the lack of progress that turn
their graves to mere memories.

Late summer heat allows us this lazy
observation, to avoid absorption
of the remnants of this landmark.
We move drunkenly back towards
the city, as the last passing dog
of the evening slavers upon its steps.

The Broken Bar

Shattered glass frames the feet
of aging yuppies shuffling in Birkenstocks,
the walls absorb the clink of ice cubes in glasses and hands.
A barrage of bad politics masquerading
as “opinions” rides over any conversation
that would otherwise heighten this more than lowered tone.

The tiny speakers that spew forth this music
never threaten to fall, and hang like badly
carved gargoyles, they remain as blank as these faces,
that attempt pensive expressions but only manage
to execute bovine grins, that answer each question
with the same depletion of substance.

Their reputations as stale as the two-for-one
drinks that fuel their afternoon; broken laptops
and cufflinks pile high in their thousands
as the final bell tolls in this shattered bar,
as they take the last sip of their grime filled nectar,
they finally retreat, if only to replenish their funds.

Jonathan Butcher has had poetry appear in various publications including 
The Morning Star, Mad Swirl, The Rye Whiskey Review, Picaroon Poetry, Sick Lit, Cajun Mutt Press and others. His fourth chapbook ‘Turpentine’ was published by Alien Buddha Press. He is also the editor of the online poetry journal Fixator Press

Poetry Drawer: small pleasures by Stephen House

disarray bustle as they group slide off bus
treading quickly holding useless bundles
spouting too many words to register as real
carrying reasons unrelated to time as is
into blend of light rain and cars too loud

a laugh or shout or scowl binding a pinch
as truth unfolds while spilling into veins
of pathways and roads for next attempt
at situation that could easily go unnoticed
in body mass of many separating in light

and me in my after-covid fog no better
clutching at strongest black coffee found
relishing seat at too wobbly outside table
trying not to return to thought of sick bird
flapping in my overgrown back garden

another bus stops and out they fall again
and i become locked in why happenings
the corner fight between two meth-heads
my partners kind eyes when concerned
and has bird already been killed by cat

a guy asks me for a cigarette and i jump
and instead of sorry mate or i don’t smoke
i nod a feeble decline and he mumbles off
while i gulp coffee aware of small pleasures
crowds on buses and a dying bird’s plight

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright, and actor. He’s had 20 plays produced with many published by Australian Plays Transform. He’s received several international literature residencies from The Australia Council for the Arts, and an Asialink India literature residency. He’s had two chapbooks published by ICOE Press Australia: ‘real and unreal’ poetry and ‘The Ajoona Guest House’ monologue. His next book drops soon. He performs his acclaimed monologues widely.

Poetry Drawer: About Recovering Beauty: Recusancy and After?: We Cannot Hear the Sleep of Words: Through a Glass Darkly: I Neglect Nothing: A Kind of Decalogue by Jim Bellamy

About Recovering Beauty

(after Philip Larkin’s ‘Ambulances’)

Proud and professional, these beds
thread proud blooms of mystery, give
back a long, lingering orb
to every schizoid smile. Bright,
glossy, fay, charms on their backs,
they come to rest on every ward:
all streeted slab minds are visited.

The nurses strewn midst warts and brogues
or children running from the trees
past cells and wimpled swingers seize
each wild and whitened face that tops
each champing blanket; momently,
as madness matters swathe and marry:

And sense now the rolling scentedness
that cries beneath all dreams made blue,
and for a second greet the high soul,
so healthful, mad and fucking true.
The patient wards conceive. ‘My, My’
they whisper at their own dismay.

For formed away in some deep wound
may flow the insane yell of lust
round lonely living so near death’s end,
and what was revered in its dead crust
amongst blind tears, the wrangled rend
of familial mummy dadas, there

At last time starts to heighten. Far
from the constraints of christs that lie
unreachable inside life’s tombs
the doctors fart and let sex fry
through closer things than what has come,
and thrill to mind-mess all men are?

Recusancy and After?

How recusant, the departure of good minds
down alleyways, or watching
the lean doors opening past the milk-white strain
of ashes, rising and falling.

Mad-man or soldier? both are fazed to dream;
and, oh, they simply get married
or content themselves with killers mourning…
Whipped beds of sex deem so explosive that

Men note melodeons appear praying, or
the tiny decks of water cloying and spraying,
or, on late evenings, watch
cross-hearted waders washed in lime?

Like new stored clothes,
the huge decisions spread out like feet
and invent a new way of treading;
this is the random wake of minds, the

Close call of the murderer running.
Here subventing each wade and rote,
the stolid brain suffuses
and closes right away.

We Cannot Hear the Sleep of Words

We cannot hear the sleep of words
Under the seas, under the flowers, under the tides of out lots
And the bustling over sheets in skies depleting
Or our infinite whispers unheard. How
Inevitable silence whisks us is the tune
That, like the spires of monks, grows tired with the trends
And, dreaming about the text,
Shies into the fire. Words
Are as remote as the stars and their staring dawn,
As perceived as God. Does
This quiet sleep of words hide schemes, hide fears?
Does the last lash of the wind and the failing wing
Outwardly spiel an end? Let us listen,
Open the mind and listen
For a sigh, a sign
Of speaking unadorned. There is
No cry, there is only
The one weathered night whose wakefulness stings and
Hoots the Word over and over
Until the speaking dies.

Through a Glass Darkly

And no-one can deny
That love is more tedious than lies
Seeing the mirror of the third
When fearing time’s cries
Creates behaviour a mind can’t stir

I have slowed in my swagger to find
That death cannot ever ride
The waves of its occidental sea
The nut-strewn road and its cavalry
Refine lust and its plans.

Coins in hands work for a life
And regal banks are sworn
Dead by a majesty of man-and-wife
This thurible holds intense
Incense; so too, starved tears

Weep from their command
A mute space sears the bent
Cities are altogether shent
And no-one can deny
That love is more tedious than lies

The blind fo’csle inside this brain
Must swear till death dies.

I Neglect Nothing

I neglect nothing –
Your furled scent, the bitter tea,
The merciless maxims spurting
Diamate into the fire.

I conclude us both, like a Will –
The one impressed is me,
And you are filigree wrought,
Your stare as kvetch as desire.

(Now you must own no friends –
With your head howled back,
Like a sightless toy, like
A figurine, you must seem closed.

Childless, your mouth is contorted,
Splintered, epileptic – mine
Is an ovum, disposed
As an idol on a grave).

You placed a cigar to my lips –
I, laughing, put out the fire,
Congruous and calm. Yes,
I recollect babies and flowers:
A slap about the face of death..

And then you quietly rocked
From side to walled side and moaned
Like a gale of sadness starting.

A Kind of Decalogue

Item, an animal, and how it changes shape,
Now a slick leopard, then a white air
Of tigress, ape or lemur. The forms won’t take
One simple pattern for long. Item, the crow

And then the simple blackbird, gathering up
Hunted petals. Item, a demesne of guns
Hotly presented to a potted face,
A shaft of holly leaves, darkness begun
And flapped astray. Item, motors without grace,
Churning the fair aside. Item, the bones

Of reservations, now Plot One, Plot Two
Purveyed by engineers.
The hunters are half-conscious of their Deeds
And cackle. Signs are made, sometimes honed,

And then the silent Blue?

Jim Bellamy was born in a storm in 1972. He studied hard and sat entrance exams for Oxford University. Jim has won three full awards for his poems. Jim has a fine frenzy for poetry and has written in excess of 22,000 poems. Jim adores the art of poetry. He lives for prosody.

Pantry Prose: Faithful by Thomas Paul Smith

new year’s eve

Sometime before midnight, he walks out onto a balcony. He climbs onto the ledge and stands there — on the tails of an old year, inching precariously toward the new. He spots me below, on the other side of the street. He stops. It has been raining all night. The road holds reflections of the city skyline on the ground, like a dazzling kaleidoscopic painting on a wet canvas. Water drips into the drains, reflecting lights like electric fire. He climbs off the ledge; his eyes remain fixed on me. He smiles but looks embarrassed. Across the road from me, he is two floors up from a tree-lined boulevard. He disappears back into his apartment. I return my attention to the street again. Most of the snow has melted during the day, and now a glossy sheen covers the roads. A small group of revellers come into view, giggling and swigging drinks. They kick and throw what’s left of the snow at one another. Later on it becomes busy. People are rushing hither-thither, I guess from one party to another, before the midnight hour strikes. He has returned to the balcony, now brandishing a flute of champagne in his hand. As the clock strikes midnight, I hear cheering from the cafes and bars. He raises his glass to me and mouths “Happy New Year”. Somewhere fireworks go off. I watch their dazzling colours reflect in the apartment windows in front of me. I scan from window to window, stealing delight from celebrations never intended for me. He remains out in the cold for another hour or so before waving goodbye and returning to his apartment.


Life has returned. People on the street look fresh and rested from their winter hibernation. It’s as if they too are sprouting the first shoots of optimism for what the year has in store.

        One hazy morning I am forced forward with a violent strike. I’m stripped—my clothes torn away with impatient hands. An overweight woman huffs and puffs as she picks up my scattered clothes from the floor. She leaves. I’m left naked. A few people in the street notice me, but no one cares. Later that morning a young store assistant walks over to me. With gentle hands, she slips my arms into a white crepe shirt. The two top buttons left undone. She lowers me onto the worn carpet to get a pair of tights on me. This is something she hasn’t got the knack of. It takes her a long while to get them on; she has to wiggle my feet about to get them over my heels. It gives me a chance to look around the store. The other models are poorly made, and some are downright grotesque — missing limbs and decapitated bodies. I try not to judge, but some of the clothes they wear — good heavens! None of their outfits matches. Once I am back upright, she pulls a knee-length blue pencil skirt around my waist. The look is complete with a matching blazer. A business suit! I feel power and authority hum through my plastic body. The young woman repositions my arms before leaving. I now stand with authority, arms folded across my chest—the ruthless stance of the modern business age.

        He says he wants to be my boyfriend. He tells me he loves me. Maybe he does. In the evenings I usually see him. He once told me this is his favourite moment of the day. I want to be a good girlfriend, so it is my favourite moment of the day also. When he first came into the store, he was nervous. It was only a couple of days into the new year. On a meandering journey towards my window, he stopped several times. He pretended to look at clothes on a rack or to look at his watch. When he stood by my side, he introduced himself, almost in a whisper. He often glanced around the store and touched his face when he spoke. He told me he felt the need to explain his actions from New Year’s Eve. He said it had been six months since he last spoke to Maria, his ex-girlfriend; we don’t like her or her new boyfriend, Kenny. He tells me they had been through difficult times before and assumed they would get through this one. They had a fantastic social life, both together and separately. Then one night, she left without warning. She phoned him two days later to explain that she’d met someone else. My boyfriend imagined Maria and her new boyfriend celebrating New Year’s Eve together. Maybe on some exotic beach — drinking fluorescent cocktails and giggling under a warm sun. He said that night in his apartment; he could hear their laughter echoing around his head. He said he would never have gone through with jumping. He tells me he is dependable.


The endless days and humid nights can mean only one thing: summer has finally arrived. It warms the street, igniting the weeds and grasses that grow in the cracked pavement.

        Customers now fill the store daily. They rush about, caught up in the heat and frenzy of the long days. Gone is my business attire. The young assistant has given me a beautiful cotton dress and matching sandals. My legs feel the warmth of the morning sun shining through the store window. I also have a new posture! It’s the pose of someone who should be carefree and ready to embrace the world — a hand on my hips, one arm flying in the air and a twist in my waist. The dress and happy-go-lucky demeanour do have their downsides; the men on the street leer at my breasts and hips and partially exposed legs as they walk past the window. My boyfriend never leers. When he tells me he loves me, I can see happiness on his face. There is no reply. My lips do not move. My face remains static. None of this matters. For the first time, he visits me during the workday. He should be in the office, but he is ill. He suffers from hay fever and has taken two days off. He comments on my new dress; he likes my new look. My boyfriend has more confidence now. He no longer appears awkward. He stands up straight. One day he says, ‘I got you this.’ He puts a thin silver bracelet on my wrist and beams. When he leaves, I hear the women from the department store snigger. They call my boyfriend a ‘weirdo’ and an ‘oddball.’ He sometimes talks about all the little things Maria said that upset him. He has a long list. I think this is why I appeal to him. Outside, people’s responses are unpredictable, frightening or demeaning in his world. Wrong reactions seem to upset my boyfriend. I give him a predictable comfort; I have never said an unkind word to him. I cannot offend him by being aloof or giving him an upsetting look. Our relationship is sterile but clean and free from the usual strains.


The nights grow darker, with the last of the summer fruits eaten. Leaves lay glossy on the rain-washed street.

        I have a seductive bedroom look, a sensual bodysuit with a strappy open front and keyhole crisscross-lacing back. It’s made to thrill, complete with a bold red robe. My hand has been placed across the top of my chest, with the other resting by my side. It is a beautiful pose to bring out my desirability and femininity.

        My boyfriend is taken aback the first time he sees my new look. He is nervous, like the first time we met in the store. After a few more visits, he gains confidence. When no one in the store is looking, he tenderly strokes my leg. Sometimes he holds my hand as he tells me about his day. His palms are always sweaty. He is thoughtful. He always asks me questions like, ‘Are you warm enough?’ He never looks at others as he walks over. His passionate eyes are permanently fixed on mine. Does it matter if I’m not real? It doesn’t matter to my boyfriend. When a man stares at a naked woman, is it her personality he is interested in? Is a woman’s personality not something that some men wish to escape from? One time his phone rang while we were together. He pulled it out and scoffed at it. ‘Now she calls when I’m finally happy again.’ He hangs up and replaces the phone into his jacket. I heard today he might be going to Hong Kong next month for a business trip. ‘It’s up in the air right now, but if it does happen, I’ll bring you back something nice.’ His gaze goes down my body before he looks back up at me and caresses my cheek. ‘It’ll only be for a week… Absolutely not, work only. I have no intention of visiting those places.’


The bitter wind outside reminds us that winter is approaching fast. I observe frost glistening on the pavement in the morning half-light. Within the apartment block across the road are every child’s Christmas dreams.

        A new store assistant dresses me. She is middle-aged and has a large face with plump lips and a thick mask of makeup. She handles me firmly but not with malice. She turns around as she removes my lingerie. I inspect the other models — they’ve not had a good year. Most have cracks in their skin, and all have scraggly hair. When the assistant is finished, I am back, staring out the window. I’m wearing a beautiful vintage-inspired mint-green winter coat, a perfect antidote to any winter blues. Made from luxurious, soft materials with a detachable hood and faux fur trim, she has even teamed my outfit with a pair of matching gloves and a cosy knitted scarf.

        Snow begins to fall. I watch as cascading flakes dance on the wind. My boyfriend is walking down the street; plumes of his breath rise into the slate-grey sky. I see him approaching behind me in the reflection of the store window. We look like a washed-out photograph. When he does turn to face me, he still has snowflakes in his hair. He tells me he likes my new coat and says I look ‘homely’. Then he explains that he turned down his business trip because he couldn’t be away from me. The way my boyfriend looks tells me I should be happy, so I am happy. He reminds me it’s been almost a year since we first met. He tells me he has a particular question to ask me tomorrow. My boyfriend looks excited.

        When the store is closed at night, a middle-aged store assistant talks to some men; I hear them say I will be relocated to a new flagship store in a big city. I take a last look across at my boyfriend’s apartment. I guess I am also capable of betrayal. I wonder what he wanted to ask me tomorrow. I’m escorted to a van. As I am driven away into the winter night, I guess we’ll see how much he really does love me, as he said he does.

Thomas Paul Smith is a writer from London, England. He works as a radio show producer in Dubai.