Prose Poetry Drawer: The Last Dance: Show and Tell: Treading the Boards: The Upside of Apocalypse: Pause by Oz Hardwick

The Last Dance

A whiff of smoke and we’re dancing, elbowed out of our daytime disguises by a beat that’s stripped to the waist and lifting the doors off their hinges. I can’t sing, but I do anyway, my ecstatic voice smothered in love and noise. We are waves, we are flames, we are prayer flags on a mountain, blown pure above clouds that hide a world wrapped in barbed wire and endless static. There are no signals but our hands and eyes; no connections but bodies; no distractions but thin gravity and the dizzying spin of stars. The music is a haze of petals, mismatched memories pitched up like tents at the end of the world, a wisp of smoke from a temple or a student bedsit. We’re dancing like magnets, like falling objects, like a mirror cracking side to side. We’re dancing in the ruins and in the new growth. We’re dancing like surprise, like awe. we are rhythm. We are smoke.

Show and Tell

The beat between phrases is bruised with red flowers. We learn by doing, but all we have is speech, curling and dropping like wood shavings as we plane away the edges of our daily routine. Phrases lose their familiar forms, losing definition until we wouldn’t recognise them with the lights out. We learn by repetition, but each iteration is subtly distinct in ways neither of us is able to describe: you talk about microscopes spectrometers, and I suggest charades and tai chi. Phrases are mongrels running wild in the alley: many a true word is lost between cup and lip; stay where the heart is; now watch your hands. We learn to expect the expected, but received wisdom is out of date and cues are lost to social distance. Phrases beat like a slow drum in a masked parade, and all the buses are right on time, though empty.

Treading the Boards

With the theatres closed, I’ve moved into adverts and documentaries, slipping between roles with the turn of a typed page. Yesterday, I was Confused But Delighted Father, twelve years married to a perfect wife, with three beautiful children and a kitchen that would have made Mother Teresa turn her back on the Missionaries of Charity and devote her life instead to the perfect lemon drizzle cake. Today, I am a diver on a sunken wreck, a silent time capsule from March 2020. I point at flyers for political rallies and gigs that never happened, and at unread books now inhabited by hermit crabs. I lean in to peer at an octopus that sits on a barnacled office chair, a souvenir biro from the Willis Tower in one pink tentacle. Lastly, I enter the ballroom with my bankable confused-but-delighted face and sweep my torch across an orchestra still playing “In the Mood” in various stages of bloat and decay. Someone else – David Tennant or David Attenborough, or maybe the ghost of David Bowie – will add voice-over later, but for now the director calls Cut!, and we all relax as Mother Teresa doggie-paddles in, a snorkel clamped in her toothless smile, with a lemon drizzle cake she made from a branded packet.

The Upside of Apocalypse

When skeletons rise from lakes, rivers and sea, they are glad to be home. They are glad to be without flesh or water, able at last to reconceptualise horizons of expectation. Suddenly, everything’s an opportunity again, everything’s an economic opportunity, a golden ticket, a windfall on Premium Bonds or shares in airbag technology. Weather matters again, so they stock up on boots and brollies. Having no flesh, families and old friends – even husbands, wives and children – are impossible to recognise, so there is a boom in small ads and speed dating, reinvigorating print media and community spaces. Waiting times for physiotherapy have increased, but MRI and X-ray units have closed. Obesity is no longer an issue. There’s an upside to apocalypse in terms of equality and diversity, but now there are skeletons rising in churchyards and forest clearings, shaking mud from jaws and joints, stunned in the sun. Tomorrow or the day after, they’ll remember why they’re dead and who was to blame, but for now everything’s peachy, no one doesn’t belong, and everyone’s size zero.

Pause

Amber lights hold everything in temporary abeyance, from the truck at the interchange to the writer poised with his old-fashioned pen at the intersection between fact and fiction. Imagine this: the driver climbs from the cab that has been hid home for forty days and forty nights, his head still spinning with unwinding roads and sad songs from the country music station. He has a checked shirt and a road-burned thirst, a sheaf of old envelopes and a pen his father gave him when he started at the big school. It hasn’t rained for weeks, but his truck is stowed with storms, their zig-zag lightning crackling under stretched tarps. Across the asphalt, the diner lights are amber, and the waitress in her gingham smock – stuck like a damselfly for millions of years – feels resin tears prick the corners of her waiting eyes. The truck rusts and unwrites itself, leaving nothing but its shadow, and the driver cradles his pen like a hedgehog snatched from traffic. Now picture this: an empty parking lot in amber light. From the diner window, a waitress stares at a truck-shaped space, remembering lightning. You may or may not be the writer, the pen pricking your awkward fingers, the road settling into stillness after the long, long drive.

Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication is the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2017) with Miles Salter, which was a UK National Poetry Day recommendation, and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes.

Poetry Drawer: Making: “& see all these things”: The Pound Cantos: CENTO XXII: geographies: Mojave Desert by Mark Young

Making

The van brakes, but at a less
frantic pace. That’s what life
is like in lockdown. Different
uses though the same materials
provided. Now we make single-
serve liturgies of cryogenic ice
cream; filled loosely, uncompacted.

She calmed down after he’d fini-
shed talking. The photographer’s
shadow & her breathless carols fell
across everything like patented
dentifrice. I’m in a groove where
I’d rather not be. The perform-
ance lasts roughly two hours.

“& see all these things”

Humour has to do with the
fact that certain restrictions
are often imposed upon
people’s movements. That
any major drive for banning

customized services will ex-
plode due to excess demand
& denial of service unless it’s
sponsored by the Noh theaters
of central Japan. That spring

protection entails sealing off
a spring’s water source to all
women & girls. (This last idea
first floated in a memo attri-
buted to the Pope’s equerry.)

The Pound Cantos: CENTO XXII

Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar.
Hot wind came from the marshes.
The reeds are heavy, bent. Next
is a river wide, full of water. Small
boat floats like a lanthorn. Drift of
weed in the bay. She gave me a
paper to write on, made like fish-
net, of a strange quality that sets

sighs to move, to fascinate the eyes
of the people. Light also proceeds
from the eye. The echo turns back on
my mind in a biological process that
very few people will understand.
Matter is the lightest of all things.

geographies: Mojave Desert

Somewhere here, among the
rare earths, there’s an artificial
Afghanistan, complete with
working casinos & a replica of
the Louvre. People go dancing
in those areas especially critical
for bird conservation & feel right
at home. The few Devils Hole

pupfish left like to do a mean
Lindy Hop which the planes in
the bone yard manage to ignore.
They remain in wallflower stasis,
stirring only to watch the tourists
when they sometimes fly overhead.

Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry since 1959. He is the author of over fifty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are a collection of visual pieces, The Comedians, from Stale Objects de Press; turning to drones, from Concrete Mist Press; & turpentine from Luna Bisonte Prods.

More of Mark’s work can be found here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: The Crime Scene: Running Low by John D Robinson

The Crime Scene

A pen pusher,
the nib a
shark’s tooth,
words ripped
with passion
and fury,
pages consumed
and attacked
with a soulful
thoughtful
ferocity,
leaving behind
a clean
crime-scene.

Running Low

The ink seems to be
running low,
the poems walk a
high-wire,
most fall
but some
fragments
survive: I gather
them like
fire-wood
and wait for the
incineration,
the cremation
of the words
to step forward
and
sacrifice
themselves.

John D Robinson is a UK poet. Hundreds of his poems have appeared in print and online. He has published several chapbooks and four full collections. New & Selected Poems will be appearing later in the year. Red Dance was recently published by Uncollected Press.

Poetry Drawer: Exegi monumenta: Red Lights: Fairy-Tale: Hauptwache, Frankfurt: By Way of Introduction by Anatoly Kudryavitsky

Exegi monumenta

The monuments to ignorance and to reason have been staring at each other’s recapitulation from time out of mind. Ignorance is measurable in monuments; reason, in moments.

Momus chooses a moment—and clay comes into play, so one can sculpt something meaningful (occasionally called Auris.) This is a susceptibility experiment. Some have called it palliation; some have called it abductive inference (Intel inside.) Watch possibilities caper beyond the buoy.

Monument huggers live bronze-coloured lives. They grow lemons of embarrassment; they lag musical flags. Note the smoke of their vigils, the mouthful of kisses. Some others travel, but they sprout where they’ve been planted. Only and only.

All questions bow before this: are we prepared to kill somebody to prove that our imaginary guru is better than theirs?

——

Red Lights

We hide from our naked past in our see-through garments. What can they reveal, anyway, if not what makes us all look like banana fingers?

Somebody shows off his big red zero. Somebody gets diagnosed with BDSM. Marine mud gets rather gummy on a muggy day. If the mud had a brain, would it be deep-brown or see-through? If a womb had a brain, would it nurture an Einstein or cheese crisps? And what if it suffers from misperceptions? 

Wherever you are, the world sees your bare blossoms. Here’s a portrait of your confidence as a younger ape, the age of prunes before they wrinkle. Innocence is pleasurable, sex profitable, control very pleasurable, murder extremely profitable. Never bite the tomatoes of my lips.

This is libertinism, it withers and museifies. This is destiny, it excels in making evil from good and good from evil, especially where there’s nothing else to make them from. 

——

Fairy-Tale

How easily heads can be detached from a dragon! All those young men hypnotised by grimaces and tail movements… Don’t be so cheesecake! Do it! A simple chop-chop—and new borders get puffed out, already proof-tested for spelling and spillage.

Out there, watch out for ideology bonfires: you can end up in one if you don’t supply a flamethrower. And this is where dragons come in, short-fused but quick-blinking. What’s not to like about a bouncy walk along the border chalk?

As we powder our reflections’ twin noses in double-glazed mirrors, a brand new yesterday gets shoved into our windows. This is beyond comprehension, like thirsty shadows or torrential trees. Like an egg with a flag.

——

Hauptwache, Frankfurt

I like talking about salamanders and goblins. I feel a little like a toy; sometimes like Tolstoy. I’ve put my last 100 clams into betterment, but the upper-crest accent eludes me. You can’t change yourself on a budget; you need a shipment of paint and pain. Your time is a deadwatch time; your medical condition is fiddling. What are you going to do about it?

Look around: your city has always been a moveable beast. Yesterday it worshipped the Holy Randomer; today the Eiffel Tower grows atop some heads. Angels have invested in yellow vests; they are busy with portfolio rebalancing. Wherever you go, ethical judgments stare at you from the local cloaca. Jack Wolfskin appears from around the corner and says, Howdy doody.

——

By Way of Introduction

Meet the serial killer called progress. Read his book called Backward Induction for Dummies. Note his frozen eyes, his despair. Nothing dies on this planet; this muddles the streams of perfection. Survival is a black aroma; the puddle of choices never dries up. Passing caracaras wonder if they’re seeing an extra-long worm or history in the making. They are not sure, and neither are we. After all, there is something nematodic about thinking.

Somebody said life is an overture. To what? Universe opens little apertures – and here we are, transparent on every side. Happy motherless day! Still, some of us have a positive altitude, while some others conceal their thoughts in ten-foot-tall elephant grass.

——

Anatoly Kudryavitsky lives in Dublin, Ireland, and in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. His poems appear in Oxford Poetry, The Literary Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Prague Revue, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Plume, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, The North, Ink Sweat and Tears, Cyphers, Stride, etc. His most recent poetry collections are The Two-Headed Man and the Paper Life (MadHat Press, USA, 2019) and Scultura Involontaria (Casa della poesia, Italy, 2020; a bilingual English/Italian edition). His latest novel, The Flying Dutchman, has been published by Glagoslav Publications, England, in 2018. In 2020, he won an English PEN Translate Award for his anthology of Russian dissident poetry 1960-1980 entitled Accursed Poets (Smokestack Books, 2020). He is the editor of SurVision poetry magazine.

Poetry Drawer: Collectivity: First Lesson in Chinese Characters by Yuan Changming

猋:three dogs running together means to fly fast

毳:three pieces of hair put together indicates as much subtlety as sensitivity

贔:three mounts of money deposited together stands for hard work

鑫:three kinds of metals stuck together signifies prosperity

垚:three units of earth piled together represents a mountain towering against the sky

森:three trees standing together presents a whole forest

淼:three bodies of water flowing together describes a vast expanse of sea

焱:three fires burning together refers to an extremely bright flame

Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include ten Pushcart nominations, Jodi Stutz Award in Poetry & publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) BestNewPoemsOnlineamong 1,689 others worldwide.

Poetry Drawer: Mother Abandoned by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

After my father abandoned her
Mother moved back to the country
to live with her sister
in the house in which they grew up

My aunt was feeble
as she’d been in childhood
but my mother was strong
from all the farm labour she’d done
and still resentful of her sister
whom she considered a malingerer

Mother did some work for local farmers
who felt sorry for her
She put on overalls and pulled on high boots
Behind her back they called her “Martha the Hired Man”
She worked harder than any of the men
though she could be mean to the animals
if they gave her trouble

The plaster in the farmhouse was cracked
and getting worse
as the house, after a century
continued to settle

Mother bought adjustable metal poles
from Ace Hardware
went into the leaky cellar
did some wrenching
propped up the first floor

All around her were cans
with dribs and drabs of paint
tools rusted on shelves
old, decayed baskets

Mother looked over the baskets
and remembered the
Indians who had lived in rough houses
at the border of the property
where the lumber train used to run

Spiders made homes in canning jars
The rusty cream separator looked arthritic and thirsty
like Old Man Creighton down the road

The cellar clutter depressed her
She carried the cream separator upstairs
and flung it into the yard
She put her arms around the gasoline-powered
washing machine
–it must have weighed two hundred pounds–
carried it up the rickety stairs

fired up her dad’s ’55 Chevy pickup
and backed it through the yard

She ran over some day lilies her mother had planted
to the consternation of her weak sister
who stood behind the screen door
a handkerchief held to her mouth

Mother hefted the metal
into the truck bed
threw in some pipe
and a well pump
and drove to Padnos’s recycling yard
where she sent it all crashing to the ground

Smoke drifted around her
and a front loader shoved around mountains of junk
Rain was starting to come down

She took the grubby bills the attendant gave her
and drove back to the farmhouse
the truck rattling over every rut

She went into her bedroom
where she had a laptop
hooked to a satellite

went back to what she’d been doing
for most of the day every day since she’d returned

staring at photos of international orphans
with cleft palates
and abused dogs and cats

You can find more work from Mitch here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Sleepy Whale Poems by Terry Brinkman

Sleepy Whale 370

I stumble in to the Royal
My stool between dark woman and fair man
Ghost-woman drink a beer from a coffee can
Unreluctance mobility loyal
Steaks on to broil
Fair man’s name is Dan
Fishing tomorrows plan
He puts in hid beer fish oil
Half mad deathless God
Making friends without half trying
Moon mid-watchers awed
Gloaming gray sky
Alabaster silence Izadi
The dark woman is shy

Sleepy Whale 372

She only bikes to Bluebird
Organic Vegan food and beer
Everyone wearing biking gear
Radio music’s Blackbird
Alabaster Peanuts absurd
Radio’s too loud so all can hear
We’re saving the Earth and Deer
Save all I herd
Ghost Candle lights
Neologisms scrutinize way
Sun flung flint glass daylight
Emmy and Tess Hopscotch play
No sun’s solar-power making light
Now snowing, where my sled

Sleepy Whale 373

She hitch to the Bear Pit Bar
Don’t drink the Morning-Glory
Bar-Maids from the Dormitory
Suzie Gruff playing her guitar
She’s like a poor tuned car
Unshed tears sky, like an observatory
Too much beer to tell a story
See the shooting Star
Smelling Geysers through a crack in the door
Lost Yellowstone in glass
Deck drinking on the second floor
July’s Christmas
Hiking days, now I’m sore
Were at the bottom of the Hourglass

Sleepy Whale 374

Flying star ship to Dragonfly
Where’s everyone’s Jetson’s shirt
Maladroit silk skirt
Atonic fast Barfly
Ship to the moon glorify
AREA 51, lost in the desert
UFO’s alert
Mars-Woman’s lullaby
Catalectic tetrameter North-Star
Mid-watcher moon, Rocket
She’s playing atomic guitar
Singing for Spacey Sprockets
Her bars bizarre
She put a Sprocket in my pocket

Sleepy Whale 375

It’s snowing I run to Way Side Inn
Snows falling Christmas Eve
Ghost Woman in the corner weaves
Butt of cigar, Ashes on her Chin
Rich silk stockings Feminine
It’s Christmas, hard to believe
Unshed tears, Crucified shirt’s sleeve
Ashland’s forty year Gin
Where’s the horse slay?
Hearth sitting Sabastian’s glow
In the light he’s Gloaming gray
Snow falling, wind’s starting to blow
Ghost woman begin to sway
She’s wanting under the Mistletoe

Sleepy Whale 376

I woke up in a bar named Sue
Sitting next to fair lady and dark man
Drinking Fat-Tire a condensed milk can
I roll over for a brew
Pot smoking in the corners new
Ghost woman’s sitting next to Ann
Alabaster silk stocks wearing Ann’s plan
West Wealthy the Well-To-Do
Bluebird Oyster Soup
Life from Outhouse Booze
A game with a mini Basket-ball hoop
Outcast woman came back to snooze
She almost flew the Coop
Closing time she sings the Blues

Sleepy Whale 377

We like drinking in Ogden, a Bar on Wall
Old Farmer dropping money in the Jut-box
Ghost woman’s alabaster skin and red hair Lox
I grab a stool next to Paul
He high talks on Jazz Basket-ball
Green St. Patty’s foaming Ale paradox
Crash?! Snot Green Mustang taking-out the mailbox
She screams Last Call
Ghost woman’s nobbling her beer
Wall hanging my eagle Art
Deathless Gods atmosphere
She talks like she’s so smart
Jut-box won’t stop so we can hear
She turned out the lights, now time to depart

Sleepy Whale 378

Octoberfest for a month, Snowbird
Waning for Beer at Barfly
The tram fly’s the blue sky
The Mug size not absurd
Eating dropped pop-corn, Black-Birds
Don’t let the birds drop in your eye
She is she, and I am I
She’s princes Lady-Bird
Blowing the foam off, Foaming Ale
Smoking butt of an old Cigar
Sabastian’s alabaster black tail
Only standing seats in the Bar
Wearing her shocking Electric blue dress
She began playing her guitar

Sleepy Whale 379

Doing a Jig to be at Piper Downs
As I traverse the maze to my seat
Slide past a Ghost woman
In green silk
Drinking a foaming ale in candle light
Dark woman and fair man
Hiding in the corner dancing
Man with sea cold eyes
Smoking gun powder cigarettes
Brief gestures to sit
Human shell bar maid
Gerrymandering
Poker playing
Farmer’s won’t
Stay
Sat down

Sleepy Whale 380

Won’t find a key they’re always, open
Bar Maid Butt of cigar ashes always on her breath
Black Forest Clock-mocking twelve times
Fashionable charming, Cotton-ball Barons
Wearing rich silk alabaster stockings
Such is life Outhouse sewage breath
Weasel rats basement, swimming

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.

Read more of Terry’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Poetry Drawer: Roma Morning: Scrambled Eggs and Ben Franklin by Dr. Amy L. George

Roma Morning

The tick-tock of horse hooves
rouses me from sleep.
I crawl from the bed to peer
over the hotel balcony.

A man’s red hat bounces steadily below.
Wooden wheels click
against the dirt in this early hour
before any cars pass this way.

The gypsy’s song interrupts
the damp morning air.
As he drives his cart to market,
his voice swells with richness,

beauty from the Old World
passed down through the years,
now nestled near his heart,
the story of his fathers.

It arrives along the same path every day
down through the mountain pass,
carried by wind and want
over the ancient stone.

Scrambled Eggs and Ben Franklin

I remember Saturday mornings
at Grandma’s house.
I can almost still see her,
looking outside of her kitchen window with its
blue and white plaid curtains and saying,
“Yes, siree, looks like it’s going to be
a sunny side up kind of day!”

The air would smell like cinnamon strudel
and everything good in the world.
Grandma’s spoiled tabby cat, Ben Franklin,
would wind around my legs as I sat
at the kitchen table,
meowing impatiently until I snuck him
some of my scrambled eggs.

Grandma said she named him Ben Franklin
because he had more common sense
than most folks she knew.

In my eight-year old way,
I thought life would always be that simple.

But now I’m grown.
Ben Franklin’s gone.
Grandma’s in a nursing home
where some stranger fixes her eggs in the morning.
She doesn’t remember us anymore,
but every now and then, I see her moving her
hands across her lap in a stroking motion.

I always wonder if where she is,
she’s dreaming about scrambled eggs and Ben Franklin.

Amy L. George is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent one being The Stopping Places (Finishing Line Press). She holds a doctorate in Literature and Criticism and teaches at a private university in Texas.

Poetry Drawer: Percy Shelley’s Heart: Amulets: Edward Scissorhands: Expansive by Dr. Susie Gharib

Percy Shelley’s Heart

Don’t quote what scientists had thought
of the heart that lay unburned
amongst a pyre’s ceremonious coal,
a handful of gold,
on the Tuscan shore.

Don Juan had drowned in an ugly storm
whose wrath had claimed Percy and all
on a voyage of doom,
but Keats’s poems were bound to endure,
enshrined in a pocket in Percy’s coat
to identify his corpse.

In a shroud of silk his heart reposed,
befriending Mary wherever she roamed,
a grail for thoughts.

Her death bequeathed to us what she adored,
wrapped in a poem in which he mourned
the death of Adonais, Urania’s orb.

Amulets

My totem is a rivulet

I make amulets of the relics of friends.
a few hairs from a feline pet,
the leash of my assassinated dog,
my dad’s watch which malfunctioned shortly before he died.

My talisman is my second sight,
a precognition of events to come:
of seas trespassing over grounds,
of birds remapping their ancient charts,
of bullets rebounding to hunters’ chests,
of Zest depleted of its zest.

Her smile, a charm around my wrist
and words she whispered in my dreams,
I wreathe with lilies to deflect my fears.

Edward Scissorhands

With silver blades, Edward sculptured art,
the unique youth endowed with scissor hands,
vying with masters whose fingers carved
everlasting marks!

I grew to cherish every blade of grass
that Grandma tended in her hospitable house.
Emerald had coloured every childhood trance,
bequeathing to me a fructuous cast of mind.

I view the dubbing of chivalrous knights
with blades of glory from ancient times
and wonder if a woman like myself can earn
the title Knight with a blade of ink.

Expansive

My flat mate had once informed me
that she could only become expansive
after a glass of intoxicating wine.

I told her I had the opposite problem
for I readily wore an expansive smile
which a friend used to discourage
in our misapprehending times.

I’m aware of this trend for smile enhancements
to which some actors and politicians resort,
but my smile does not serve a purpose,
it does not placate, appease or enthrall.
It merely mirrors an inner comportment.

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.