Poetry Drawer: Captive Stellar Dreams by Nathan Sweem

Hues truthfully blended say a bright
Farewell
Shades of masked intentions
Crack
Unspoken smiles
Peel away
Fond ideas, comforting habits
Reveal a heart broken raw
Secure
Behind many translucent folds
Lie
Crumbled pieces tightly bound
Displayed in artful longing
Fearful of reproach
Captive
Soul ensnared
Wild thoughts enthralled
Twisted beautiful dreams
Spiral upwards
Unwind into blazing stellar skies

Nathan Sweem writes novels, short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Pantry Prose: The Nazi on the Bean Bag Chair by Alex Antiuk

Looking over at Erik, I didn’t think twice about the large, well-wrapped bandage that consumed his leg. It wasn’t unusual for a patient to have a bandage covering either their wrists, thighs, calves or even their neck. It was the middle of the group, and Erik had only just reappeared. He had been present when the group started, but had been pulled out almost immediately after the moderator said, “Today we’re going to be talking about Interpersonal Skills.”

Erik was seated in the back of the room, completely alone in an oversize, heavily used bean bag chair. He kept shuffling around, his sculpted arms moving the bean bag aggressively. I noticed he even let out an occasional grunt, as he couldn’t find a suitable pose. 

But the moderator wasn’t phased by Erik’s return, and asked the group, “Does anyone know what F-E-A-R stands for?” The group was heavily medicated, and I could tell not the slightest bit interested in the acronym. But then a hand was raised. It was Jess, who always held a warm glow – despite her cheeks being whiter than a piece of paper, and her dangerously sharp bones always jutting out on display.

She quickly whipped her neck around, and in a screech, pointed directly at Erik and said, “I’m afraid of him!” The group turned.

Although they moved slowly, one by one eyes began to fall on Erik. He was still adjusting himself in the bean bag chair and had yet to sit still.

My eyes also slowly shifted, but then the moderator regained our attention. 

“Jess… We can discuss that later. But for now, let’s get back to F-E-A-R. Does anyone know what the F stands for?” The group was once again silent. 

The moderator then added, “It stands for, ‘Be Fair’. Not only to yourself, but also to others!” The group let out a collective yawn.

“Does anyone have an example of a time they acted, ‘Fairly’?”

Jess’s voice reappeared. It was even more frantic than earlier, and now had a newfound lividness too.

“Why should I be fair to him?”

Once again her neck craned towards Erik. But this time the group didn’t follow. They remained completely slumbered, and I too began to feel the effects of my mid-day medication regimen.

The moderator also didn’t initially reply – placing her hand-book in her lap and allowing silence to calm the room. 

But during this lull, Jess’s grotesquely thin frame began moving with the wind that rattled against the window of our therapy room. And with the moderators lips now seemingly glued shut, Jess didn’t hesitate before continuing her loud, now disgusted assault, “Did no-one else see The-Giant-Fucking-Swastika on his leg?”

The group of somnambulists once again began the arduous task of turning towards Erik. But before the majority could re-adjust their seats and land their eyes on him, the moderator suddenly snapped.

“That’s enough, Jess!” 

Her voice stung into our ears. It was the first time I had heard it take on a serious tambour. But then a loud, heavy ringing overtook the ward, and the moderator stood and smiled. She lifted herself up in one quick motion and announced, “It’s fun-tivities time! Who’s excited?” But the group retained its sleepiness and didn’t even let out the slightest inclination of life, until Jess interrupted the moderators professional excitement with a harsh, piercing scream.

It echoed loudly throughout the room, and I noticed a small stream of blood had begun to drip from Jess’s palm. Her overgrown nails were digging deeply into her skin.

But Erik didn’t seem to mind. 

Instead, I noticed he had finally found a comfortable position on the bean bag chair. And with his hands now behind his head, had no intention of moving for “Fun-tivities”. 

Alex Antiuk is a writer and former vitamin salesman from New York. Alex was also a winner in author Simon Van Booy’s Short Story Competition in 2018.

Poetry Drawer: Peaches Honeyblossom (Peaches Geldof-Cohen 1989-2014) by Sheila Jacob

I didn’t know you
but I’d seen the photos in Hello,
believed in the bloom
of your body next to
your sons’ downy skin.

I breathed the fragrance
of your motherhood
as you exalted breast feeding
on This Morning
and silenced Katie Hopkins.

I loved the sassy, savvy,
baby-toting grace of you
though sleepless nights
shadowed your cheekbones
and I ached to hug you the way

I’d hugged my daughter
five years earlier; wanted
to walk your boys around the park
while you chilled on the sofa
with a tub of chocolate Haagen-Dazs.

I thought you’d make it
despite the bitter-sweetness
of your last Instagram post-
you in your Mum’s arms
when she was still golden.

I didn’t know you
but I couldn’t believe you’d return
to familiar ghosts,
lift the lid to your heroin stash
and reach inside.

Sheila Jacob was born and raised in Birmingham and lives with her husband in N.E.Wales. Since 2013 she’s had poems published in various U.K. magazines and webzines including One Hand Clapping and Atrium. In 2019 she self-published a small pamphlet of poems about her father’s short life and working-class upbringing.

Poetry Drawer: Christmas Cantata in Six Parts by Robert Demaree

Greensboro 1948

When we would go home for Christmas,
It was to my mother’s town,
Where I was the cousin with the Yankee accent,
Who didn’t like grits:
A gentle, Southern place:
Gracious lawns, winding drives
In our grandfather’s Buick, past the golf course.

I see a dim American past, parts best forgotten:
Cedar Christmas trees, trackless trolleys,
Water fountains “For Coloured Only”,
Maids summoned from the kitchen with a bell,
Bearing trays of puffy rolls.

Christmas would be over and we’d go back north,
New toys stored away, my mother crying.

Metairie 1977

A child’s Christmas in Metry
We called it then,
Until our girls, teachers’ kids, would catch on.
A plumbing contractor
Lavishes new wealth
To display for children and parents
Along the sidewalks of a subdivision
The lights, the moving creatures of Christmas:
In one room, Santa’s helpers,
In another, an animated crêche:
He watches, approving yet sullen,
Dimly seen behind the picture window.

It does not matter that his home is darkened now,
That other families
Who did not live in Metairie then
Now drive by another spectacle
All the more preposterous
Further up the same street:
Thousands of lights blinking,
Reindeer, elves, angels, God knows what,
A parish policeman sourly chants:
Keep moving, keep moving.

Shreveport 1982

A downtown church on Christmas eve,
Well loved, well cared for,
Worshippers in fine clothes crowd together
In the old walnut pews– it is too warm for furs:
Married daughters, handsome nephews
In from Houston, people we do not know:
Of all the places one could be this night,
As lonely as any bus station or manger.
But there is this:
The particular tears of Christmas,
The precise fragrances, the harmonies
That make it palpable,
That release memory’s stubborn catch
Differ for us each
And for every home far from home.
I hear the sound, thin and sweet,
O Holy Night,
Scored for the voices of teenaged girls,
The white light of candles
Dancing on their faces.

Cedar Trees

Christmas night:
A potato-casserole weariness
Settles in upon the land.
We are ankle-deep in tissue,
Love and Lego,
Lists of who gave what to whom,
And I am wondering what became
Of those cedar trees
We would cut and trim Christmases ago,
Those trips to my mother’s home,
The grits, the black-eyed peas, the puffy rolls.
Cedars gave way to
Scotch pines, then to
Fraser firs that fill a room.

Years later two cedars grow
Outside the door, wider and taller,
With strings of white lights
That do not reach as high
As last year,
Unmindful of the sacrifices
Of their forebears.

The Day After Christmas

Tree smaller this year,
Lights burned out,
Not replaced.
Garbage can only half full
The day after Christmas:
Children grown, gone.

Christmas Night 2007

There are twelve of us for Christmas,
Three generations, ours the oldest.
A benign weariness:
Food and gifts, family jokes and tales,
Small stresses let quietly pass.
Cousins cavort, careen, compete.
Our daughters, friends too, consider vegetables;
Their husbands assemble a soccer goal
While the gravy cools.
As we are leaving, I think I see
Traces of a tear on Julie’s cheek;
Her smile lingers, quiet, faintly moist.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

You can find more of Bob’s poems here on Ink Pantry.

Ink Pantry’s Dr Zhivago Poetry Competition 2020 Highly Commended: Untitled by Rachel Cohen

The world was covered in the gloom
Of swirling snow.
A candle glowed in the room,
A candle glowed.
Like summer insects swarm to flame
In buzzing clouds,
The snowflakes at windowpanes
Would thickly crowd.
The blizzard painted icy plumes
In frozen rows.
A candle glowed in the room,
A candle glowed.
And on the ceiling, now dim
The light was tossing
The shadows of hands and limbs –
In fateful crosses.
The cloth would slide, the bed would creak,
Light shoes fall down.
The candle’s waxy tears streaked
Her cast-off gown.
The winter scattered its white bloom
On high and low.
A candle glowed in the room,
A candle glowed.
Temptation readied its hot sting
-The candle burning –
And crossed above its angel wings
Aflame with yearning.
All February fell the gloom
Of swirling snow.
And then the candle lit the room,
The candle glowed

Inky judge Andrew D Williams writes: A poem apparently inspired by Boris Pasternak’s “A Winter’s Night”, and likewise focused on a candle glowing in the February night as two lovers surrender to their passions. Yuri and Lara find something between them that neither has found in their unhappy marriages – yet the cold indifference of the world will snuff out that candle all too soon.

Rachel Cohen practices law in Canada, and says that writing is an inoffensive hobby.  

Andrew D Williams writes psychological thrillers with a streak of dark humour. His stories question the nature of reality and those beliefs we hold most dear – who we are, what we think is true, whether we can trust our own minds – and combine elements of science fiction with philosophical questions. When he isn’t writing, Andrew’s time is split between swearing at computers, the occasional run and serving as one of the cat’s human slaves. You can find more of Andrew’s work here on Ink Pantry.



Ink Pantry’s Dr Zhivago Poetry Competition 2020 Winner: Zhivago by Mark Sheeky

A dark leaf runs,
toyed by a winter’s wind,
away from my grasp
towards the train
and my father’s body
bent on the track.

In the dim room, I recall
only scents of candle smoke,
and notes of fruit wood,
a melody which winds
like cotton, around my wrists,
to touch beautiful Lara, then flee
ragged, a whip
of time singing sparks,
screaming steam
from mourning breaks
and shots of vodka
that ricochet past Komarovsky
like a snake of black
bent on the track.

I huddle on my tram,
which rattles like my old teeth,
and again touch her memory
which butterflies into words to write,
to fly, to her lost grave
and kiss that sorrow’d soil
where my dark leaf lies
on its broken back,
with my father’s mistakes
bent on the track.

Inky judge Andrew D Williams writes: A poem that touches on an early moment in the story, as Yuri’s father falls to his death from the train. The short lines echo the sound of the train on the track, while the images and events flash past. A train can only go where the rails will take it, and likewise Yuri’s life is a series of unfortunate events that he has little control over.

Mark Sheeky is a surrealist artist in paint, music, and writing. His poetry has moved on hugely in the past couple of years, partly by knowing more poets. Mark’s latest poetry book, The Burning Circus, was published in 2020 and includes a foreword by former Cheshire Poet Laureate, John Lindley. Marks’ book, 21st Century Surrealism, is a successful contemporary re-examination of the First Surrealist Manifesto. You can find more of Mark’s work here on Ink Pantry.

Andrew D Williams writes psychological thrillers with a streak of dark humour. His stories question the nature of reality and those beliefs we hold most dear – who we are, what we think is true, whether we can trust our own minds – and combine elements of science fiction with philosophical questions. When he isn’t writing, Andrew’s time is split between swearing at computers, the occasional run and serving as one of the cat’s human slaves. You can find more of Andrew’s work here on Ink Pantry. 

Pantry Prose: Roy by Balu Swami

When Roy first mentioned his bizarre idea of flight, we were sitting on the parapet wall on the roof of the community college building where he worked as a telephone operator (yes, it was back in those days) during the week and as a security guard on weekends. “What the fuck is a parapet wall,” he wanted to know when I used the English term for ledge. He said, “you mean the ledge?” We had a minor argument about it and I said “that’s what I was taught to call it.” In typical Roy fashion he settled the argument saying, “You are in fucking America. Speak American!”

I was drinking beer and he was drinking beer and smoking pot. He got up and started walking along the ledge with arms spread wide. He turned around and said, “If I jumped off the building now, I’m pretty sure I’ll start flying.” My hands had gotten clammy when he started walking on the ledge. When he talked about flying, my knees started knocking and I immediately got off the ledge. Laughing, he got off too.

That was Roy. He was short, sinewy, and steely tough. I have seen him lift a 300 pound engine with just his bare arms from under the hood of a car. And he was a wizard at fixing cars – foreign, domestic, no matter. We were first year engineering students at the local state college and he befriended me – a foreign student – for some reason. We did our assignments together either in his apartment or mine. I taught him thermal equilibrium and unit conversion and he taught me how to get class work done while drinking heavily and listening to loud music in the background.

Roy was, by turns, charming and crude. One evening we were at the local 7-11 picking up beer for the evening. As we were leaving, this highly attractive young girl pulled up in a black Corvette next to us. Noticing Roy, she flashed a sweet smile. Roy said to her, “What are you looking at? I won’t put my dick in your mouth.” The girl started crying and I pulled out of the parking lot fast as I could. I felt embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger. “What the fuck did you do that for?” I shouted and he simply laughed. Later, he admitted he was being a dick and promised he would make it up to her. He made it up to her by dating her. He had found her by following any black Corvette he saw on the road until he found the right one. He put on his best clothes, brushed his flowy blonde hair and waited outside her workplace. She tried to avoid him but he caught up with her and told her that he showed up just to say how sorry and ashamed he was for what he had said in his drunken state. A couple of days later, he showed up again and saw her this time with another woman, a colleague, maybe a friend. He could hear the other woman ask, “do you know that loser?” and saw the two of them walk away laughing at him. A week later, she smiled as she walked past him. A month later, they started dating.

After Wendy came into his life, Roy lost all interest in school and I saw him less and less. Both Wendy and I tried to convince him he should pursue his degree in engineering, but he was adamant in his belief that the professors were all morons and he knew more about engineering than any of them did. I tried telling him knowing auto mechanics is not the same as knowing engineering, but he knew better.

Although he gave up education, he didn’t give up alcohol, pot or hard drugs. Wendy began losing interest and soon found another guy – someone from work, one of the white collar types. One day, Roy stopped by my apartment looking a total wreck. But he claimed he felt happier than ever because he was freer than ever. No school work, no work work, no girlfriend bullshit. He was thoroughly enjoying his primeval glory.

A month later, I got a call from Wendy saying Roy had jumped off a building and killed himself. But only I knew he didn’t kill himself. It was his first (and last) attempt at flight.

Balu Swami is a new writer. One of his pieces is in Flash Fiction North.

Ink Pantry Publishing’s Krampus Poetry Competition 2019

Many thanks to all you creative Inksters who submitted. Amazing! 90 international submissions.

Results are in! Congratulations to our winners.

A note from our judge, Claire Faulkner…

After reading, and re-reading and then reading again, I’ve finally managed to select three poems. It was difficult to pick an overall winner. It’s not easy being a judge in a poetry competition, and I would like to thank everyone who entered for sharing and trusting their work with me.

I enjoyed reading all the entries and it has been wonderful to see how the theme of Krampus has inspired so many different types of writing styles and structure.

OUR WINNER: Krampusnacht by Amy Cresswell

Our tale takes place on December the Fifth,
On a suitably freezing cold night,
With a creature you’ve heard of, from olden day myth,
Eyes aglow with malevolent light.

The snow is disturbed by his cloven footsteps,
His grey beard, all matted and long,
Swishes as he stalks past the darkened doorsteps,
To the houses of those who’ve done wrong.

A red hooded cloak covers up his horned head,
Fur trimmed, just like old Saint Nick’s,
His first victim, cowering under her bed,
Gets a swipe with his great birchwood stick.

The next, vainly dreaming of presents and sweets,
Hears the deafening clanking of chains,
Downstairs, not Saint Nick, but Krampus he meets,
And the blood freezes inside his veins.

The third, hoping for a bit of good luck,
Squares his shoulders, prepares to attack,
But Krampus’s claw swiftly snatches him up,
And then bundles him into his sack.

Just like this it continues, and when dawn draws near,
He retreats, a full bag on his back,
Hurls the wicked children down to Hell for a year,
Then enjoys an ice cold glass of Schnapps

I enjoyed the style and structure of this poem. I feel that it tells us everything we need to know about Krampus using fantastic storytelling and imagery.

HIGHLY COMMENDED:Krampusnacht (a triolet poem) by
Tracy Davidson 

On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
as anti-Santa stalks the streets,
cloven-hooved, with a chain to shake.
On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
and rue each sin and sad mistake,
receiving swats instead of sweets.
On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
as anti-Santa stalks the streets.

A strong example of writing to a theme within a set form. One of the shorter entries, but still a story full of imagery.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Krampus by Lel Meleyal

Krampus stole my grandchildren.
No goat ever threatened my son.
Just the mothers’ ally threat
‘Santa does not visit naughty children’
was enough, at least in December

Vienna is as beautiful as the girl
Who captured my boy’s heart
Who took him home
To celebrate life, love and Christmas
Held on the 24th December.

Which is not really Christmas
Where my boy grew up
But is where his boys now excitedly
Hope for a visit from the Christkind
And Saint Nicholas

My mince pies
Do not meet the approval of
Großmutter Anna
Though I like her Lebkuchen.
Thankfully, no-one likes carp.

The kids in accented giggles
Call me Die Englische Großmutter
When they tease my Yorkshire inability to ski.
I ache for Granny, or Grandma
Closeness cleft by air miles.

A different style and approach to the theme of Krampus, but one which captured my heart about the impact of myth in different lifestyles and cultures.

Inky Exclusive: The Austin Poets’ Union

Introducing the Austin Poets’ Union, a collective of well-published poets based in the US. The APU launched mid October 2020. Poets are Angie Dribben, Jena Kirkpatrick, Mike Whalen, and M L Woldman.

Angie Dribben’s poetry, essays, and reviews can be found or are forthcoming in Cave Wall, EcoTheo, Deep South, San Pedro River Review, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cider Press, and others. A Bread Loaf alum, she is an MFA candidate at Randolph College. Everygirl, her first full-length collection, is due out 2021 from Main Street Rag. 

Upon Waking
by Angie Dribben

Once a wildebeest calf
fell behind the herd fell
prey to a spotted hyena
who had fallen to instinct
to survive
or so we’re taught
And it was hard to hear a mother’s child scream
But I did not change the channel

And the mother stayed
with her herd One glance back
A single clockwise canter
to witness her calf submit
And then the mother walked
away and it was hard to watch
a mother walk away
but I did not change the channel

and the hyena took
the hindquarter, tore the calf at the hip
leaving her untenable
and the hyena drank
from the wound of the calf
and it was hard to watch one take
what isn’t theirs

sometimes I dream
I am wildebeest,
when I wake, I am hyena
and I cannot change the channel

Poet for Hire, Jena Kirkpatrick, is editor of the poetry anthology Writing for Positive Change for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Texas. Jena tours nationally as a member of the Trio of Poets. She writes poems for clients worldwide. Jena is an artist instructor for Badgerdog Literary Publishing. Her work in the classroom was featured in Teachers & Writers Magazine. Over the last three decades, she has self-published seven books, co-written, three multimedia performance art shows, competed in two National Poetry Slam competitions and released two poetry CDs.

I wish you love & happiness…I guess I wish you all the best
by Jena Kirkpatrick

I wish you love & happiness…I guess I wish you all the best
(John Prine)

who lost me first?
was it God or Buddha or my ungrateful
lack of worth –alone or together
reflections on the past
not sure how many tears I have left
last night in a furious rage I actually said
I was grateful you were already dead
because that was one less person I love
I’d have to worry about losing –who
who lost me first? –you
you lifted me up
you always stuck around
you never left my side –from the day I lost my child
now we’ve got this virus
screaming bloody fucking murder
endless echoes of a tool pitting one against another
over fences –on TV screens
panic attacks forged by violent dreams
spooning with a psychotic ventriloquist
everyone is scared scribbling ridiculous lists
who lost me first? was it Christ
was it heaven or hell
was it the ability to practice free will
was it set forth as a precedent
carved in stone by some ancient
was is illicit drugs or sorcery
some flaw in personality
every precious moment is countered by adversity
maybe there are answers in pollution or abuse
or all the callous judgments
we throw like seeds to sprout on this earth
maybe we have babbled long enough
repeated beatings for too long
ignored are the hungry children
the sick all too often pushed aside
in favor of elitist
when given the chance
will we ever correct what’s wrong
who lost me first?
stay at home and sing on your marble terrace
have your slaves bring you your breakfast
revel in the thought that
what you squander makes you

somehow eccentric
your dirty money won’t save you
you will die like the rest of us do
who lost me first?
I was lost to the trees
to the wind
to the stars
on my knees praying for forgiveness since birth

yeah I knew love. love knew me. and when I walked love walked with me.
but friends don’t know. they can only guess –how hard it is
to wish you happiness

Michael Whalen has been a member of the Austin Poetry Slam Team, and coached two Austin Neo Soul Poetry Slam Teams and four Austin Youth Poetry Slam Teams. He’s edited numerous chapbooks by young poets, and released 1.5 of his own poetry chapbooks.

M L Woldman is a GED graduate with a heart full of fire. Founder of Austin Poets’ Union, poet and playwright. Author of three books and numerous publications. 5th generation Texas.

autumn
by M L Woldman

the fire recedes from the sky and we know it’s autumn
four months of autumn and eight months of summer
that’s what we get now
in texas
i relish these months when dusty coats can find their place in circulation again
and you can see your breath:
making each exhalation
a visual affirmation
that you are alive
i write this poem every year
a love poem to autumn
in the hopes that she might stick around a little longer this time
it’s an exercise in diminishing returns
because the sun won’t be happy until it swallows the world

Poetry Drawer: Car and Lizard: Good Neighbour #94: Doctor Moreau: by Glen Armstrong

Car and Lizard

I find a car
and a giant lizard

no one knows
what I’m talking about

but to me
it could not be clearer

a car allows
me to be both the delivery

man and the package
I arrive

I wreck the city
I find

being male
increasingly problematic

sometimes I want
to wear eyeliner and carefully

align the paper doll’s
dress with her chubby

two-dimensional body
as for the giant

lizard
it is just a giant lizard.

Good Neighbour #94

Expect childish words from children and broken words from broken people. Only the lonely hope to hear from the small, the discontent. Expect nothing. The guest speaker favours keyholes and tiny spoons of breath-cooled soup.

I expect the impossible.

What does not exist never / continuously disappoints. It comes from the sky like lightning or a slash mark or the new fall / fall fashions. The guest speaker used the phrase “cash cow” so offhandedly that, for a moment, the audience imagined itself collecting lactations in golden buckets.

Doctor Moreau

I used to go back and forth.
On Brando’s insane portrayal.
Of Doctor Moreau.
I used to wear eyeliner to class.
Now I insist on wearing.
My own ice bucket.
And other people insist.
On staying away.
It’s a lovely day.
On some other green planet.

There are miniatures and echoes.
I used to blow soap bubbles.
From the open third-floor window.
When you didn’t want to do so alone.
It’s kind of neat to think.
About that thin line.
Between saving the world.
And acting like such a fuck-wad.
That only the most broken.
Among us respond to our efforts.

Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has three current books of poems: Invisible HistoriesThe New Vaudeville, and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry NorthwestConduit, and Cream City Review.