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.
Eerie emotions stormed through my weary mind as dark visions screamed into my haunting memories streaming through the wind, and as the moon flowed into the darkness of the unforgiving horizon, my mind was forced to wade into the icy metaphoric ocean ebbing in the shallows of my sorrows. I strived to extinguish the absurdity of the sorrowful existence with cheerfulness, but pieces of metallic anxiety spewed from under the earth to a place near where my mind could not carry the heaviness of oxidized time, and while climbing inside rusting silence to escape, I failed to bury the demons of the night that called to me in the hundred stolen voices of a mocking bird. In the far-off distance, I heard the faint haunting sound of a ghost train’s whistle echoing in the space between life and death, a place where those in their fading years, like me, watched nervously as the spectre with a scythe searched for us to end our absurd existence. The decomposing hours of the night, continually held me captive in this nightmare of dread, left me with a sense of agonized wistfulness, as I anxiously waited, to no avail, for reality to smother the hauntings of unreality that had arrived in the strange emptiness of the night.
Long Forgotten Memories
In an old cardboard box in the attic, personal notes sent on cold mornings, bent nails, rusted paper clips, a high school ring, pencil stubs, a chipped red checker piece, but mostly just long lost memories. The old box sits beside an antique mirror, a single bed, a dented in trumpet from the 1930s, boxes of esoteric philosophy books, magazines, sacks of old games; monopoly, chess, clue, and an old picture album of unknown faces… unfinished; the forgotten memories attached, are covered with countless years of dust. The things glistened with newness a long time ago when those who lived in this old house still breathed, laughed and loved… now a dull silence. Life, so brief, so taken for granted, as precious moments fade, and then, what was can only be found in old picture albums, and in the memories of those very few of ebbing years, who are still alive to remember.
Strange Pulses in my Questing Mind
The quivering lobes in my questing brain, wait for soothing symbols from a remote entity, to tell me I should not be afraid. I know it may be true, but, I see the limits of reason when concerning the problems, and questions, concerning God’s existence. Even scientists claim that nothing can evolve from nothing, ergo something, God, must have created everything. But then what created God? Or does God have no beginning, and time does not really exist, except in our limited time controlled minds? My grandfather’s clock, peals the message that death is inevitable. However, my mind still refuses to accept the reality of the timing, for it is still playing with an unreality… that we do not really exist, and are only imaginary figments in the mind of a God.
The Goddess in my Mind Garden
Sekhmet the lioness, covered my withering mind garden with seven arrows and three tears, and I watched grief growing in my plastic garden soil of red crystals where shadows of sorrow lived. It was a dark metallic day, and the rusting sun hid in the lonely thoughts of tears, as she released an icy wind into my mind, so that I couldn’t remember the warm metaphors that would grow beautiful visions into memories.
James, a retired professor and octogenarian, Best of Web nominee and three time Pushcart nominee, has had four books of poetry; “Solace Between the Lines,” “Light,” “Ancient Rhythms,” and “The Silent Pond,” over 1530 poems, five novels and 35 short stories published worldwide. He earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, SLO, and his doctorate from BYU. His fifth book of poetry is set for release this year.
Mary’s without a second care Every animal’s fault The art of man Barring the Bees Ship of the streets Brutes of the field Ambulating, acquaintance, passionately Friendly fashion indubitable Making her look sideways at me Hankering new vistas Had her father’s gift Irish exquisite, variations
Sleepy Whale 248
What did you see on the range? In your father’s house Your dying sister in the kitchen Her point of junction Flow from Round wood Revivers Liner aqueduct yard exultance Did it flow, subterranean bounty Fallen below the sill Water works unshed tears Lay in the glen of the downs Prolong the summer’s doubt
Sleepy Whale 407
Granite rocky mountain’s Utah High Best Snow on Earth anywhere Gloved hand, Cast Iron pan to fry Message from Salvation Auctioneer Lime-Green-Jell-O Frog Prince lie She began to weep, wept an embrace Be-mused over his limp wet rag Shifty looking fellow playing the base Drinking beer in an Irish Pub we all brag Un-hasty friendliness to face She melt a hearts of stone, rich silk stockings nag
Sleepy Whale 427
Sleepwalk to the grave, buried last evening Wayne’s hand on his quest Brightness of the stained glass Haunting girlish shyness drinking beer Instantaneous smoking effigy Proceeding the sage sloops heard of Deer Dark woman and fair man seated at Mass Witchy bluest Irish blue eyed volunteer
Sleepy Whale 435
Shadows over her childhood’s crest Her eyes glistering with tears last evening Slightly flecked hair with gray, a long kissed guest Gazing out the window’s Azul Glass Have mercy, her end so near Holiday’s lattice window Mass Verge of tears, sighted eyes volunteer
Terry Brinkman has been painting for over forty five years. He started creating poems. He has five Amazon E- Books, also poems in Rue Scribe, Tiny Seed, Jute Milieu Lit and Utah Life Magazine, Snapdragon Journal, Poets Choice, In Parentheses, Adelaide Magazine, UN/Tethered Anthology and the Writing Disorder.
You can find more of Terry’s work here on Ink Pantry.
My grandmother was asked as a young woman by her young son:
What do you want for Christmas besides world peace?
The anecdote survived for decades in my family.
Tonight I realize it said more about her than I had seen:
she was born just after the First World War, her Cold War Catholic parenting
was unafraid of the Red menace—
she didn’t want to frighten her children about the Communists,
she had been able to vote, she had made something,
call it a difference.
Twilight— there are many brief hues to it—
My grandmother would carefully select Hallmark cards with the appropriate words for the recipient and occasion.
I defended Hallmark for this reason— without the detail that this was my grandmother, she was a possible person in my comment—
I defended Hallmark to my literature teacher in college and he said, with a laugh,
“If you have to rely on Hallmark, you’re in trouble.”
My son’s world history teacher showed his class a Hallmark movie today at the end of the semester,
and she told them all that she and her husband love to watch Hallmark movies together.
We laughed at them afterwards in my son’s room, gentle, brief, slightly sad laughter.
And I walked in the cold darkness of December tonight and prayer graced me
and language itself died like night at the dawn and was reborn in the unspeakable pain of the dying.
I am proud of the dark houses, their hopefulness—
Letter against Anger to the Daughters of George Hoshida
Begin with the beauty of smallness: on the evening of the convergence, on the longest night of the year, winter solstice, my children and wife looked for the bright planets coming together, joining, and they could not find them in the dark winter sky.
The vastness of the universe has for decades seemed to me annihilating, the dark everywhere around us— so that meaning would become as if it never was if I thought about that emptiness for too long.
But tonight I discovered how small I am, my loves and worries, and realized that it is, despite this, more than nothing, my life, my family and my home, my being, my human body and soul, truly small though I am in the winter solstice of space.
Your father had every reason to be enraged, imprisoned as he was simply for being Japanese in Hawaii— losing his oldest daughter from whom he was separated— and through it all he kept drawing,
mostly human figures, as he had been taught by correspondence school, often three of them sharing a loose-leaf page— maybe there was a rageful healing thoroughness there, assembling families of separate figures again and again, like laughter occupying each body until its independence was complete.
Brian Glaser has published three books of poems and many essays on poetry and poetics.
It feels slightly embarrassing to admit that I enjoy editing my short stories—like confessing to some long out-of-date taste. For many writers, especially early in their careers, editing can feel like a chore—or worse, a kind of punishment inflicted just when you want to be celebrating all the hard work it has taken to create a draft. But, like most of the important parts of being a writer, editing grows easier the more you practice—and the more you understand what kinds of editing techniques work for you. Someone once told me that there are two kinds of writers: those who make their writing better by adding to it, and those who improve by cutting away. While, like most writerly ‘rules,’ this misses a lot of the nuance that makes everybody’s own practice unique, it can be a useful place to start—particularly since I know that I tend to trim, rather than add.
I begin most stories by over-writing. My first draft is usually at least 25% longer than it will end up. In the most extreme examples, I have written stories four or five times the length that they really need to be. I like to think of this as a sculptor might—preparing a block of marble that I can refine down to the shape it needs to be. There are several things I look for in this paring back. Normally, I’ll edit out two thirds of my descriptions. These can make the story heavy, and distract the reader from those really crucial descriptions that carry the story’s weight. I also remove a lot of explanations that I needed for myself—characters’ motivations, details about their histories. In short fiction, you don’t want to give the reader more background than they absolutely need. And finally, I turn to shape.
By shape, I mean the trajectory the story follows—the way that it moves. This will differ from story to story, and sometimes it isn’t obvious exactly where the emphasis should be. But there are some rules of thumb that tend to hold true. Most stories rely on a short opening and conclusion—most of our attention should be on what happens in between. Normally, I find that I can edit down the three opening or closing paragraphs into a single one. To make the story’s movement clear, it helps to have something that connects these ends—a repeated image or motif, a phrase or scene or just a mood. But a story has to change, it has to take the reader somewhere new. So when I’m shaping, I am focused on the end. What shift do I want to show the reader, and what kind of feeling do I want this shift to have?
As I said though, there isn’t just a single rule for how to edit. There have been plenty of times when I have come to a draft and found that there is a missing piece, rather than too much. I tend to look for places where I can add another scene between two characters, so that I can build and complicate their relationship. You’ll often see discussions of ‘round’ and ‘flat’ characters, but I prefer Kazuo Ishiguro’s perspective: it is three dimensional relationships that make writing interesting. If I do want to add to a single character, I will look for ways to weave in memories. Fiction allows you the freedom to play with past and present in ways that usually seem awkward in visual media like film. In particular, it allows you to capture the way that our own memories disrupt or blend without experiences of the present in our everyday existence. Drifting between the present and a memory allows you to reveal something of that character’s outlook or experiences, or else to add resonance to something that occurs later in the tale.
Of course, that leaves the least glamorous part of editing for last: proofreading. You will find all sorts of tricks out there for catching minor errors (like reading your story from the last word to the first) but I prefer to use this as a chance to work on another component of my style at the same time—the rhythm of my sentences. My technique is pretty simple: I read my story aloud, really emphasising the cadence of each sentence. Not only does this help me catch any little problems, it also allows me to do something that I think is even more important: getting the rhythm of my story’s movement right. By controlling how your sentences speed up or slow down, you can exercise control over when your reader pays attention, and when they will rush on forwards, heading to a climax. Because rhythm matters just as much as content. It shapes feeling, and response. And it gives you something else. Style.
Hailing from Aotearoa, Sam Reese is an insatiable traveller and award-winning critic, short story writer, and teacher. His first collection of stories, Come the Tide, was published by Platypus Press in 2019. A widely respected literary and music critic, his study of The Short Story in Midcentury America won the 2018 Arthur Miller Centre First Book Prize. Currently a lecturer in Creative Writing at York St John University, Sam formerly taught at the University of Sydney, where his inspirational teaching was recognised with an Excellence award. His forthcoming collection, on a distant ridgeline, is published by Platypus Press.
Parts of the morning collide with the eventual winner
of the home & away series. Not much is left. A few shards
cause craters in the eyes, a part- pennant does pennance as it
wraps around the nearest set of ankles. Then a dog sled ar-
rives, still moist with snow. We welcome it with closed arms.
elephant cup cakes
‘ Pachyderms and pastry! I love it.’ Tom Beckett
That a pachyderm is highly comp- etitive in the global pastry market does not adequately capture the true sense of how unlikely scenarios such as this are. Those Instagram influencers who talked this up were all probably tickled by the ivory. Money may have changed hands. But the natural attri- butes of the animal are ideal for the task — tusks, tail, trunk; all master mixers — why be surprised? & those feet! Pancakes galore. The perfect size for carving out cheesecake casings.
A line from Billie Jean King
An exciting update is coming. A chart’s been prepared to illustrate the main points. Small popups will appear that use
colour & typography to provoke a psychological reaction. There’s certainly a place for that, simple or complex, since we are both
made up of energy & used to the use of icons to represent emotions. It won’t be that long before you have command of
the update, can use all parts of it intuitively. Savour the small win — this victory is fleeting. Another update is now only days away.
The queue outside the sushi bar melts into one another as the bagpipes suddenly arrive. Raw fish & rice is no match for tartan, even one only rarely worn. That’s the
problem with living in a garrison city — too many con- tradictions, too much bias. Too few true conflicts. Which is why the military make what they can out of what’s available.
A Paumanok Picture
Later, when the road had opened,
Walt Whitman was allowed to pass.
Mark Young was born in New Zealand but now lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia. He has been publishing poetry for over sixty years, & is the author of around sixty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, creative non-fiction, & art history. His most recent book is The Sasquatch Walks Among Us, from sandy press, available through Amazon.
You can find more of Marks’ work here on Ink Pantry.
Greg Freeman is a former newspaper sub-editor, and now, news and reviews editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. He co-comperes a monthly poetry open-mic night in Woking with Rodney Wood, and his debut poetry pamphlet Trainspotters was published by Indigo Dreams Press in 2015. Marples Must Go! is his first full-length collection.
The writing is on the wall. MARPLES MUST GO! So who was Marples before he was consigned to history? Being of the same era as Freeman, I remember the name well but, for the sake of the younger generation, I will add that Ernest Marples was a British Conservative politician who served as Postmaster General and then Minister of Transport in the late 50s and early 60s. Nothing unusual about that, you might think, but he was responsible for many things that we now take for granted such as the introduction of Premium Bonds, postcodes, the opening of the M1 motorway and the appointment of Richard Beeching whose drastic cuts abandoned more than 4,000 miles of railway track. Details of his later life were colourful resulting in him fleeing to Monaco at very short notice to avoid prosecution for tax fraud. Freeman delivers Marples’ life story in five stanzas touching upon every detail. Apart from anything else, it is a model of precision, honed no doubt after years spent in a career in journalism.
In this generous collection of 60 poems, Freeman draws inspiration from politics, popular culture, football and family. The earlier part of his collection is primarily about growing up in the post-war era and the swinging sixties. There are poems about iconic TV programmes such as Space Patrol and Juke Box Jury; popstars such as Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Chuck Berry and the Dave Clark Five and one about an influential, if somewhat unconventional, teacher whose readings from the Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse gave Freeman his first introduction to the world of poetry.
Freeman has a journalist’s eye for detail. He knows instinctively what makes for a good story. Out of all the stories recast as poems, the title poem must be at the top of the list. Other ‘scoops’ include an account of Margaret Thatcher’s visit to a girl’s school in Leamington Spa which sparked a large student demonstration (Dust-Up in Leamington) and the discovery of a huge cannabis farm on disused private land near Berrylands station (Berrylands). Freeman’s description of the station which I used to pass through on my daily commute into and out of London is spot on:
An apology for a station on the way to Hampton Court, the place where the fast slowed down for Surbiton. It overlooked a sewage farm we’d cycle past, a short cut. Lower Marsh Lane more or less summed it up.
This extract is a good example of how Freeman condenses his words to their essence, omitting anything that is unnecessary while getting to the heart of the subject.
His years spent in newspaper journalism are celebrated in poems such as ‘The Overmatter’, ‘Classifieds’ and ‘The Local Rag’ where the ageing aroma of old newspapers brings to mind:
Crashing typewriters bashing out wedding details, film previews, match reports. Telephones shrill with complaints, demands, rare tip-offs.
In ‘Goodbye Farringdon Road’ Freeman records the historic moment when the Guardian newspaper relocated its London offices from Clerkenwell to King’s Cross and refocused its priorities from print to the internet. There is a telling line in the final stanza:
Print’s long goodbye, but at what cost?
A series of poems on the subject of football betray more than a passing interest in the sport. In one of them, (The Battle of Hastings as Summarised by Roy Keane), Freeman deftly combines his love of football with history. This is something he is particularly good at. Other poems that simultaneously work on more than one level include ‘Fine and Dandy’ which is an interesting cocktail of comic characters, politicians and history, ‘Clacton’, a clever fusion of pop song titles, film titles, place-names, politicians and Brexit, and ‘Return of the Daleks’ which uses a TV series as a hook on which to hang a poem about Brexit. In a further poem on the theme of Brexit, Freeman reminds us how times have changed with these telling lines:
Back then you couldn’t speak your mind; now you can shout it out loud.
Freeman admits that he is very much a poet of place and this is reflected in his poetry, whether he is writing about places in his native Surrey or places further afield such as Marbella, Barcelona, the Stockholm Archipelago, the Loire Valley or Bruges. These references help to ground the poems, establishing a backdrop to the stories that he unfolds.
Towards the end of the book, there is a sequence of poems about four bronze statues in Woking town centre by Woking-born sculptor Sean Henry. These poems represent a series of back-stories for the figures, as Freeman saw them. These four statues are ‘Woman (Being Looked At)’ at the entrance to the Peacocks shopping centre, ‘Standing Man’ in Jubilee Square, ‘The Wanderer’ outside Woking railway station and ‘Seated Man’ inside the station on a seat on platform one. Freeman’s tribute to these works has received a nod of approval from the sculptor who told him he had accurately captured some of the thoughts that went into the works as well as bringing in ideas of his own which he felt were somehow right. These verbal descriptions of a visual work of art represent a new exciting departure for Freeman.
Poems closer to the present moment bear references to the pandemic (there is one about clapping for the NHS), Nigel Farage scanning the channel for migrants, the anniversary of V.E. Day and a retrospective on the singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse.
These engaging poems are more than one man’s memory of significant moments in his life. They are my memories too and they will resonate with many other readers. They are the kind of poems that work well in performance as well as on the printed page. The collection captures with wit and compassion ‘our time’. Fully recommended.
Neil Leadbeateris an author, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His short stories, articles and poems have been published widely in anthologies and journals both at home and abroad. His publications include Librettos for the Black Madonna (White Adder Press, Scotland, 2011); The Worcester Fragments (Original Plus Press, England, 2013); The Loveliest Vein of Our Lives (Poetry Space, England, 2014), Sleeve Notes (Editura Pim, Iaşi, Romania, 2016) Finding the River Horse (Littoral Press, 2017) and Penn Fields (Littoral Press, 2019). His work has been translated into several languages including Dutch, French, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.
the almost and the always and the never and then everything in between
close yr eyes
do you see now?
let the map take you from here to there
let the desert be your starting point and your destination
no walls and no water
no true purpose
you’ll live and you’ll die just like the rest of us
you’ll be forgotten
maybe you already are
pilate shot through the throat and then the crows at his heart
the dogs drinking his tears
grow up fast or not at all, right?
a lifetime of dying played out in the space of an hour and i forget if i ever told you i loved you that summer
i forget if you were the one who taught me how to bleed
was too busy making promises that turned without effort into such heartfelt lies
and then dali grows old and then dali dies and i am left in this room with your sister
says she’s cold, but she won’t get dressed
won’t get up off the floor
just tells me she hates me while i kneel down to kiss her feet
barefoot on broken glass at the end of november and maybe it feels as good as a bullet through god’s filthy heart
maybe only children will be killed in the war
each tiny death made into a movie and all of them playing in another room while we’re trying to sleep, and so how can you claim to be famous if no one wants to see you naked?
why would you keep on bleeding all over the carpet when it’s all you’ve been doing for the past 30 years?
there’s a got to be a better way for you to waste the rest of your life
first attempt at escape
late winter snow from dull pewter skies, driving west but never fast enough, laughs & tells me he’s the one who took the pennies from christ’s blind eyes
says he’s looking for a girl named jennifer to fall in love with then says the heater’s broke
tells me i look like shit
asks how long I’ve been bleeding to death
turns the radio up way too loud while i’m trying to think of an answer
and then you and i and the sleeping face of christ, all of us radiant and each of us alone here in the sudden warmth of november, in the flickering shadows of falling leaves, beneath the ominous web of powerlines, blue sky reduced to meaningless geometry, startled birds, endlessly crashing planes and the children laughing, screaming, running home across barren fields or down haphazard sidewalks, the memory of their motion, the way i tell myself over and over again not to forget this moment and then the ease with which i forget it
the reasons i write these meaningless poems
the idea that maybe even one of them might find you
John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A FLAG ON FIRE IS A SONG OF HOPE (2019 Scars Publications) and A DEAD MAN, EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery Press).
You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.