The world is in a box the little timeworn world the countries of Lilliput the President of the king’s prime minister those kings, premiers and presidents those dwarfs in the scroll of time’s picture
They do not believe the additional sun both like a diamond and like gold make you warm in winter make you cool in summer
Neither have they seen the sweet ocean nor have they known heaven outside time forgotten those gods who like mountains are the ones the former ancients owned
世界在一只盒子里 这个小小陈旧的世界 一座座小人国 那些国王 首相 总统 那些时光画卷里的侏儒
他们不相信另外的太阳 既像钻石 又像黄金 在冬天时让你温暖 在夏天时让你凉爽
他们没见过甜蜜的海洋 也不知时光之外的天国 忘了那些山岳般的众神 是古老的曾经的自己
The King of the Diamonds
The sun was rising in my breast I woke up finally said goodbye to the night’s nightmare the world was lit up by me this is actually the real me
There is no longer day and night there are no longer newborns and death I got myself back before there was no earth and heaven I have existed from the beginning
The world is just my works: a picture, a poem a symphony. Give me a stone I will turn it into the king of the diamonds.
太阳在我胸膛里升起 我终于醒来 告别黑夜的梦魇 世界被我照亮 这才是真实的我
不再有白昼与黑夜 不再有新生与死亡 我找回了自已 在没有天地之前 我就早已经存在
世界只是我的作品 一幅画 一首诗 一部交响曲 给我一枚石头 我让它变成钻石之王
Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet’s Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization. Its content is to show the solemnity, sacredness and greatness of human soul through the exploration of soul.
Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), is Mr. Yuan Hongri’s assistant and translator. He himself is a Chinese poet and translator, and works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District, Jining City, Shandong Province China.
You can find more of Hongri’s work here on Ink Pantry.
It happened once before, when I was a young man. The newspapers clamoured for war, self-appointed know-it-alls told us why we had to fight and everyone believed them, especially the youngsters like me who got all fired up to join the army. So now, when those big headlines screamed ‘Remember The Maine,’ there wasn’t any more doubt that there would be war with Spain. And off they went to enlist, just like they were going to a picnic, as irreverent and ignorant as we were back in 1861. My eldest son told me he had to join up and I tried to discourage him. I told him how crazy it was for two groups of men to stand and blaze away at each other, but he wouldn’t listen. All he said was: “War’s not fought that way anymore, Pa .”
So I held my peace and watched him go, like my pa watched me go. When he died of yellow fever, before he even fought in a battle, it was another terrible affliction that I had to accept. But I guess he was right about it being a new kind of war, because it was over pretty quick and we got all these new places; Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Philippines and Guam. I never even heard of Guam. So I kept on farming and doing my chores but I was pretty much empty inside. I had been that way ever since the surrender at Appomattox, which ended my daily suffering, but left me a hollow man. I went through all the motions of the living and tried my best to be a good husband and father, and I never told anyone how I felt. How could anyone who hadn’t been there understand? Sometimes, when I went to town and saw the few old hands who survived the entire war, like me, there was nothing we could say. We just looked at each other for a moment, nodded in recognition that we were still alive and moved on.
Then one day, long after Spain surrendered, I saw a soldier who had just come home from the Philippines. I was buying something in Dahlgren’s general store and his pa brought him in. He had that look that I hadn’t seen since the war with the Yankees. His flesh was sagging on his bones and his uniform hung on him like a scarecrow on a hard luck farm. He walked as if it was a great effort to put one foot after the other. Old Mr. Dahlgren kept prodding him to tell us what it was like over there, but he refused to talk, until his pa urged him. Then he looked at everyone for a moment and said coldly: “You want to know what it was like? I’ll tell you. I watched my buddies die in ambushes, or of tropical diseases, or in battles with savages who just kept coming at us, even after we shot them. I watched my friends butcher women and children!” A look of absolute horror ate his face. “All I saw was death and suffering. Is that what you wanted to hear?” Then he turned and walked out. I couldn’t get him out of my mind the rest of the day.
That night I thought about the war with the Yankees, which I had shut out of my life a long time ago. I remembered how I had rushed to join up that spring of 1861. I ignored Pa when he told me not to go, just like my boy ignored me. Then Pa told me how bad it was when he fought the Mexicans in ‘46, but I didn’t believe him. Everyone I knew was hurrying to the colours and I wasn’t about to be last. We were going to whip the Yankees good, then go back home with our chests full of medals. Once I was in uniform it didn’t take long for me to wake up. Almost half the boys I joined up with got killed or wounded in our first battle at Manassas. Maybe the Yankees finally ran off as fast as they could for Washington D.C., but not before they put up a mighty good fight. We fought up and down Virginia for the next two years and got leaner, hungrier, tireder and sicker. The more we ran out of ammunition, food, or shoes, the more the Yankees kept coming. We learned everything about the horror of soldiering the hard way.
One day we were camped somewhere near Chancellorsville, after a tough battle where we whipped the Yankees good. Of course it wasn’t like when the war first started. Then we knew we were better men then the city folk and immigrants they were going to send against us. Before First Manassas, most of us talked about beating them proper, then going home. If anyone thought it would go on and on for years, they didn’t say it where I heard. Anyhow, we had been resting because it had been a long, hard fight and these Yankees weren’t like the rabbits who used to run when they were beaten. When these Yankees lost, they retreated resentfully and we knew they’d be back. Then the word raced through the camp. Stonewall was dead. Rumours, like disease, travel swiftly in an army, especially when it’s bad news. This hit me and the old hands particularly hard, because we were the 31st Virginia and we were Stonewall’s men from the beginning.
We rushed to colonel Barstow’s tent, but he didn’t know any more than we did. Messengers kept arriving, each one with different news. The only thing they all agreed on was that Stonewall had been shot. The colonel finally got tired of our pushing and shoving at the messengers and he sent us back to our bivouac area. But he promised to let our company commander, lieutenant Rambeau, know as soon as he learned anything. We thanked the colonel, who was one of only three officers left in the regiment who had been with us from the start. All the others had been killed or invalided out. Colonel Barstow had started as a young lieutenant, full of fire and noble speeches. Now he was as old and tired as the rest of us. We snickered about lieutenant Rambeau as we walked. He was a moma’s boy, a blonde-haired stringbean with a mushy face that always looked ready to cry. He had reported to the regiment a few days ago, but he disappeared somehow before the fighting started. The joke going around the camp was who would shoot him first, us or them. Soldiers deserted other regiments before a fight, but not in the 31st Virginia.
We waited for news, but didn’t relax much. A couple of the younger boys babbled about beating the Yankees again, but the old hands quickly shut them up. By now we knew we could beat them and beat them, but they would still keep coming. We were sick, tired, cold and hungry and we didn’t have much hope left. The gossip around the campfire was no longer about victory. A few diehards still kept trying to convince the rest of us that massa Robert and ole Stonewall would find a way to defeat the Yankees. Most of us didn’t buy it. Now Stonewall was dead. One of the kids asked what would happen if General Lee got killed, but an old hand kicked him a few times and the kid slunk off, leaving the rest of us to brood about things. I couldn’t help thinking how lucky that kid was to get off so lightly. We had just lost our father and that dumb kid was talking about losing our grandfather. We didn’t need any more bad luck.
Later that night we found out that Stonewall wasn’t dead, he was just badly wounded. He had been returning from the battlefield in the dark and a nervous sentry, thinking he was a Yankee goblin or something, shot him. After two years of hurry up, then wait, it wasn’t a hardship to wait for news. We lost so many men at Chancellorsville that I guess they forgot about our regiment for a while, so we loafed in our tents. Once we packed up all the dead men’s belongings, they finally remembered us. They even gave us some food, probably pilfered from the Yankees endless supply of everything. Then the word flew around camp faster than wildfire. A new recruit named Billy Rawlins had shot Stonewall. They didn’t rightly know what to do with him, so they sent him home.
After Stonewall died, the war went on and on and the Yankees kept us on the run. When it was finally over, those of us who survived went back to our homes. I was one of the lucky ones. Pa had kept the farm going somehow, despite the voracious armies trampling back and forth across poor, battered Virginia. I had only been home for a couple of months when I heard that the man who shot Stonewall Jackson, Billy Rawlins, had hanged himself. It seems his pa kept telling him that he killed the man who could have won the war for the Confederacy. I guess the damned fool kid must have believed him, because he went into the barn, threw a rope over a beam and ended his life… But that was a long time ago.
I hadn’t thought about Billy Rawlins for many years. Seeing that soldier in Dahlgren’s store reminded me about what had eaten so much of my soul away. It all came back to me from a distance, like hearing a voice on that new telephone invention: the useless waste of young men, the suffering that devastated so many lives, the ease with which we forgot the dead. All I could think of was that if I knew then what I knew now, I could have gone to see Billy. I could have told him that what he did was just one more crazy mistake in a succession of terrible events. That Stonewall couldn’t have won the war. Hell, it was lost way before that. Only fools believed that we could win after the first year or so. The Yankees had everything. We only had pride and courage. Once they wore out our pride, courage just wasn’t enough. But my understanding of things came much too late to help poor Billy. I couldn’t help that trooper who lost his soul in the jungle. And I sure couldn’t help any of the other innocents who don’t start wars, only rush to fight them.
Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theatre director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theatre. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 21 poetry collections, 7 novels, 3 short story collections and 1 collection of essays. Published poetry books include: Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions, Fault Lines, Tremors, Perturbations, Rude Awakenings, The Remission of Order and Contusions (Winter Goose Publishing, forthcoming is Desperate Seeker); Blossoms of Decay, Expectations, Blunt Force and Transitions (Wordcatcher Publishing, forthcoming are Temporal Dreams and Mortal Coil); and Earth Links will be published by Cyberwit Publishing. His novels include a series Stand to Arms, Marines:Call to Valor and Crumbling Ramparts (Gnome on Pigs Productions, forthcoming is the third in the series, Raise High the Walls); Acts of Defiance and Flare Up (Wordcatcher Publishing), forthcoming is its sequel, Still Defiant); and Extreme Change will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His short story collections include: Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing), Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing) and The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). The Big Match and other one act plays will be published by Wordcatcher Publishing. Gary lives in New York City.
You can find more of Gary’s work here on Ink Pantry.
The knock on the door always comes at the wrong time, when you’re lovemaking on a sunny Sunday afternoon, during a drug-drop when relatives pay a surprise visit, when the post delivery hands-over a court date as the landlady hammers the door for way overdue rent, when your new lover drops by with a surprise bottle of wine and you’re already fucked-up on narcotics and your previous lover is waiting on a call, when a political or religious pusher relentlessly pounds or when the season of ghosts and demons from your past, rip the door clean off its hinges, it’s time to throw away the key and look out at the countless shattered doors left in your wake.
One for Alfredo
First breath 1927, San Diego, early years spent in Mexico and then returned to USA in 1935 – he was expelled from High School for violence toward a tutor, sometime following he was arrested for smuggling people from South to North America, spent 4 years in San Quentin for possession of heroin and whilst incarcerated painted murals on the prison walls, on release he worked as a caricaturist for Disney for 2 years and in 1957 he opened up his own Art Gallery and in 1961 he was apprehended for 1 lousy joint of marijuana, Ajiijic, Mexico was his home for a while where he continued to paint and sculpt and express himself in various other mediums, he returned to the States seeking, as always, neither fame or fortune but continued creating and died in 2015, how Alfredo Santos, his life and work have been kept secret is a shameful, sad, sin, don’t take my word, see for yourself and make a startling discovery that the rich and ignorant ‘art establishment’ has, seemingly, closed its protected doors upon.
For Marianne Joan Elliott-Said (1957 – 2011)
We met on a couple of occasions, unfortunately, in a formal environment, but she genuinely appeared taken that I had recognised her and acknowledged her unique impact upon me that remains to this day: straight off, she was so warm and alive and we got grooving, she told me of the horrific pedestrian injuries of being hit by a fire truck some years back and how she had been making, producing and mixing recordings recently, this was just a few years before she lost to cancer: Poly Styrene was doing it herself decades before any sisters stepped into the light, her spirit moved with authenticity, blessed with talents that stretched smoothly over many mediums, creativity was deeply in her heart and blood and were more than just an extension of herself, this was her life that reached out across vast distances: Marianne Joan Elliott-Said sculptured pathways of beauty and sadness, she carried the torch of the muse, her voice and music and artworks resonating like a global choir of love and peace: Poly Styrene, I hear you now, I see you now, I feel you now, I sense you now, standing before me like a messenger broken free from all bondage of this uncertain world.
I couldn’t remember her name, although we’d been dating for a few weeks: an invitation came for a private viewing of Jonathan Coles paintings and latest works: within 15 minutes of the opening, this woman, whose name I couldn’t remember, gripped attention by climbing up into the loft rafters and swinging and screeching nonsense, hanging upside down, exposing skimpy panties and long, long legs and streams of bright red hair tumbling toward the ground: ‘Who the fuck is she?’ ‘What the fuck is she doing?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I told them ‘What the fuck! call her down man! get her down!’ ‘I don’t know her name,’ I said ‘Get her the fuck down now!’ ‘Hey! Hey! come on now! time to come down now!,’ I shouted, waving my hands: she dropped to the floor, the loft studio stood still in utter silence as she walked towards me: she looked angry, serious: ‘Fuck you! I don’t know you! I don’t know your fucking name but you don’t fucking tell me to stop enjoying myself!’ she screamed at me before making her exit from the studio and I never saw her again, whatever, her name was, but I guess, it didn’t matter too much.
John D Robinson is a UK based poet: hundreds of his poems have appeared online and in print : he has published 14 chapbooks and four full collections of his poetry: he has also published a novel of fiction and a collection of short stories: he has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.
You can find more of John’s work here on Ink Pantry.
The vault opens itself at dawn. The calyx of an Arctic alpine forget-me-not reopens for an enchanting glory of the sunshiny dreams, because of the eternally august poem, that reads lenient and benignant.
Throughout the day: there is up there a paradisiacal flight of all halcyon seraphim, singing through the stoicism, eudemonia of many celestial dreamers.
Under the sun: a rhythm in wings of butterflies. After evenfall: the paradise closes itself. The springtide has gone to bed in aestival splendor.
In addition overnight a balmy sempiternity sleeps as well. Here below a sensitive firefly flies, above so ravishing earth. In danger owing to the raveners of the night. Indeed spared thanks to the sheen of Luther’s star. The earth becomes a dazzling hereafter. It remains not far from June sparks, the little fire.
vault – (poetical) sky
benignant – mild
halcyon – peaceful
seraphim – seraphs
aestival – summery
ravener – bird of prey
sempiternity – eternity
Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Siemiatycze in Poland. He is poet who lives in Bielsk Podlaski and writes tender poems, haiku as well as long poems. Paweł has published his poetries in many magazines. He writes in English and German.
You can find more of Paweł’s work here on Ink Pantry.
One day I’ll manage to get my ducks in a row sort it all out stop procrastinating, stop the coffee calling, stop the sunlight casting shadows which distract me and tempt me outdoors to see the ducks swimming smoothly sending sopheristic shadows across the water. And as I watch those shadows move in effortless formation negating the coffee and lulling me to sleep again.
Less Is More
I thought it a bit overdone that Summer Exhibition of long ago. Paintings were floor to ceiling filling every wall, even leaning up against the wall so it became a show where nothing was shown in all its glory, all was a daze a cacophony shouting so loudly it was impossible to contemplate the individual. You need space for that, space in between. Too much and nothing is seen.
When Psychopath Met Showman
When a violent psycho with overwhelming power meets a deluded showman with a hero complex it’s looking bleak for those caught in between. Those displaced from their homes, displaced from their lives, those losing their lives. those losing the life they expected to live, More and more of them, a stream without end as the show goes on.
Lynn White lives in North Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes.
You can find more of Lynn’s work here on Ink Pantry.
It took just a few seconds and a knotty brain teaser in class five to awaken me to the potent scent of life’s absurdity. This at a ridiculously young age of ten.
A lion, a goat and a bundle of grass, said my teacher, her face like a shut gate.
A person has to ferry them across the river in a boat. As the boat is tiny, this person can only carry one other alongside.
If the person leaves the lion and the goat alone together, the lion will eat the goat. If the goat and the grass are left together, the goat will eat the grass, my teacher announced.
The glee on her face, the glint in her eyes were unmistakable.
She seemed delighted with the riddle’s cunning as much as on the torture it would inflict on us youngsters in the next hour. Oh, the secret villainies of teachers.
Why on earth would a person want to take these beings along with them, this strange assortment of creatures, in the first place? I thought perplexedly.
This even as something began to spiral within my insides in concentric waves like waves in water. Whatever it was, it was moving round and round and it smelt of sweat, a black reek. It came to me that my teacher’s puzzle was not only stupid, uselessly disturbing and an irrational poser but one that showed up life as senseless.
I lost interest in the puzzle.
Instead, within my head, a series of quick thoughts bubbled.
It came to me that we all live in a closed-looped universe. One that is utterly uncaring of people’s survival. If sitting on a boat with a lion and giving up boundaries was meant to teach us anything it was this.
What’s more, the meaning of the phrase the road to hell is paved with good intentions, something my father used repeatedly, but I never understood, exploded bright and clear at this moment. I mean, if one wants, from the goodness in their heart, to spend time, setting everything aside, in service of a bleating goat, a sabre-toothed lion and a bundle of coarse grass and risk being eaten, butted and stung by tiny insects, then what can I say other than the fact that you have self-deserting instincts.
The fact that schools teach children to think along these lines made me lose respect for this institution.
Surely, you can understand how it must have been for me. A girl who had her head in the clouds suddenly staggered with the truth of life on a normal school day.
It seemed unfair. Rather than pay heed to my age, my girlhood, and start small then tip-toe around a bit to reveal the not-so-appealing truths, these awakenings had got going altogether and gobsmacked me in the face. No warning.
My throat locked up, my stomach was in knots, my body turned sweaty and I felt nauseous. Whatever sense of promise, magic and wonder there was to childhood was shot to hell.
At least to me, at that point, it seemed like it did.
From this point on, for the next two years of my childhood, a kind of boiling high noon set in for me. That’s the best way I can describe my many subsequent stir-ups.
If I began to regularly catch on to the truth that everything in life is pointless, I also began time and again to catch on to another truth: the stupidest thing one can do is look for meaning in life.
Life, in short, I understood, is not all it’s cracked up to be.
I know you will say that at my age growth is meant to be more about gathering physical skills, coordination and muscle control rather than one with huge mental changes. That such odd rhythms are reserved for those hitting puberty, big kids or for grown-ups.
But what can I say other than wisdom happened to me really young.
That I went to bed normal one day and the next day was different.
That, at twelve, I use my glimpses of life’s absurdity as a way to be free. To be myself. To push against rules and directions. To laugh. Yes, and to enjoy life’s senselessness.
That I choose to not carry the lion, goat and a bundle of grass, this forced baggage, to not solve the absurdity of this puzzle, to not be part of this clueless, self-inflicted nonsense, these annoyingly active verbs.
That I am in a happy place, not the sad place I imagined I would be three years ago.
That I am in a place of my own where I need to just carry my flag. And grow as I see fit.
My teacher says I am a ‘young rebel’, my school labels me ‘a misfit’, some of my friends think me ‘an enormously bold girl for saying that there is no meaning to studying or to life itself’ and others ‘weird’.
I do not care much for any of their comments just for the fact that life is easier for me when I refuse to take things around me, joy and sadness, success and failure, loss and gain, personally.
Far too many things happen during a day, even during an hour, a week, a month, a year. One can fool oneself to believe they have meaning or a certain pattern but wait for something unexpected to happen then you know the opposite is true.
I have found a place of comfort between the universe and I.
It’s time for my friends get to their best living experience by setting out on their own adventures. Like nomads.
Their awakenings may be vastly different from mine yet it would have equal merit for it would be their truth.
Some might understand life to be sensible, reasonable. Full of colour, rich with promise, plump with rewards.
Others may find their awakenings to be frighteningly different.
I say it’s okay to let go of the normal, sometimes. For, after all, the definition of normal keeps changing. And really there is no one definition of it.
Chitra Gopalakrishnan, a New Delhi-based journalist and a social development communications consultant uses her ardour for writing, wing to wing, to break firewalls between nonfiction and fiction, narratology and psychoanalysis, marginalia and manuscript and tree-ism and capitalism.
It’s red, more like maroon with sequin spaghetti straps somewhat form fitting, an inch up the knee, lace, tulle and blinged. “Kind of risque for an old broad,” Rick laughs.
Bought as a bargain, but not in the basement. Ten percent off, then another ten, then etcetera. A “steal,” as Aunt Betty would say.
So, I’m giving you warning, hon, three months before we sit side by side, at that wedding.
We did it as kids, thanks to our mother, who sewed the same skirts for us, but it’s now, four decades later.
Do not wear the same dress as me, sister dear.
I’ll take the clouds, most days
“Too many clouds, not enough bloodletting.” He read through my poetry, critiquing all I’d once written, mostly to him.
But I like the clouds. I can feel safe with them, conjuring them into all sorts of contortions.
Carousels, waterfalls; the cirrus are perfect for those wispy white whirl designs.
I’ll take the clouds most days. With them, I am comfortable, forsaking the opening of arteries or serving my heart up, with a side of my spleen.
The Ray days
Missing my Ray. Ray, the barista with the cherry stone eyes steaming my mocha hot filled with latte, with his wink and his wisdom surpassing just coffee.
Now it’s Renaldo. He’s old and he’s cranky and needs to go decaf.
But I need a Ray when it’s 5AM starting time and even the sparrows sleep late.
The ‘D’ in Dave
With the robin revival, it’s time to renew all those springtime festivities. Finally, frost leaves the trees.
As we visit the mom and pop sweet shop on Third Street, where that same letter ‘D’ on marquise, has been blacked out for years.
Dave deemed it “bad luck,” deciding to just let it be.
At that place, where they pipe in the ‘oldies’, we’d slurp on those frappes, cones and sundaes.
On our first visit back, today, 15th of March, we see that the ‘D’ was relit.
The new staff took care of it, saying Dave had passed on, but they’d still keep the same name and traditions
as ‘Dancing Queen’ played in the background.
I said “yes”
Kind of disheveled, but there’s still some fight left in them. Red over easy, in their partytime poses.
It’s been several weeks since they prettied my doorstep mid-day on Monday.
I jumped from the shower hoping that you were the sender.
From the fields, to the table top they adorned, all those days.
In their gestures of ”get well,” “I’m sorry,” or “Sue will you marry me?”
With yours, it was love and a morning proposal.
3 weeks and thriving, are your Valentines’ flowers.
When not writing poetry, Emalisa Rose enjoys crafting and drawing. She volunteers in animal rescue, and tends to a cat colony in the neighborhood. She lives by a beach town, which provides much of the inspiration for her art. Some of her poems have appeared in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Spillwords, Origami Poem Project, and other special places. Her latest collection is On the whims of the crosscurrents, published by Red Wolf Editions.
You can find more of Emalisa’s work here on Ink Pantry.
I think I’ll live a small life, not too long, not too short. I will do tiny things, tasks not worth observing. I will keep my head down close to the earth, watching seeds sprout in spring, and thanking all for the harvest, however big or small it might be.
As Days Go
Tomorrow needs no introduction. It is expected and waited upon. The sun rolls out its red carpet and walks its way across the sky trailing its long dress over flowers and coloured glass broken on asphalt.
Today is fine. I’ll take it. It’s what I have now, a sure thing until it ends. But, tomorrow, tomorrow… Who knows what it will bring?
Perhaps salvation, all promises fulfilled, Dreams run wild. Joy after joy.
Or maybe nothing more than the same. Or trouble. So much trouble we wish it had never came.
We are being taken. We are being shoved. We are being beaten. We are being loved.
We don’t know winning. In losing we prevail. One by one we get our medals: six feet, board and nails.
When a neighbour is murdered a part of you dies. When a burglar takes you for all you’ve got part of the heart that was in you goes out the door with your stuff.
Hard times. Harder for others. Drugs flows in the streets and in veins. Love says we can all heal this. Love knows, but it’s not easy to explain.
Sirens. Blue lights flashing. At night it’s hard to sleep. Don’t watch the news on television. Don’t listen to updates on radio. Don’t scan headlines on your cellphone.
There’s nothing you can do but grieve, and you’ve done so much of that you need to take a break.
Vote when the time comes. Write letters to the power always. Try for something new, something different. Search your mind and heart. Tell the world what you have found.
Times Like These
You shouldn’t be sorry for yourself. You should be sorry for others. Yet the thought of those faces Sets you down the road to remembrance of times and places you once were, Horrors smaller than war.
The streets here have their own noises Gun shots, car crashes and sirens. The dead bloom on concrete and asphalt. The dead stay where they fall. Far off the damage is bigger, But you can’t stop seeing the damage at home.
Slow Down It’s Only the End of the World
Take your time. Slow down. It’s only the end of the world. Weigh each word. Write every sentence with care. The story is your life. It’s why you are here. You need to get it right before “The End” appears.
Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory for 24 years. His poetry books/chapbooks include Suckers, Longing for the Mother Tongue, and Her Eyes. His fiction books include a novel , Labor Day (Peasantry Press), and two collections of short stories: For the Birds (Cynic Press) and Farts and Daydreams (Dumpster Fire Press). His work has appeared in Schlock, Home Planet News Online, US 1 Worksheets, Mad Swirl, Horror Sleaze Trash, Ygdrasil, Penine Platform, Understanding Magazine, and other places.
When its arched brow rises from behind the country hill, snub-nosed, a grin for a grill, you remember you’re in second grade.
There’s Cindy’s old yellow dog feigning outrage at your passing van, his bark and lunge petering to that bored, panting trot. And there the synod of grammar schoolers wrestling lunchboxes into a line, reinventing the rituals, the hierarchies, the variations of elemental courtship.
There the oil-rosy puddles in rutted gravel, the soaked toes, knots of gossiping daffodils, tufts of too enthusiastic grass, the bristles smudged in sage and mustard along the far edge of fields.
When you top the hill you know you’ll see the bus swing a backward right in your mirror, right onto the main road, so you lean, small-palm the cracked leatherette, grasp the memory of cool steel framing the seat ahead, all your uncertain world still straddling the smeared window slid halfway down.
The same low sun stuns you when you glance back, forward, run your times-nines, wheel left and head for school.
As I flew into town that first time, leaning over the gull-winged sweep of the handlebars, the burn in my pudgy, mad-pumping thighs, told me I was fast, was free, was finally entering the my country ’tis of thee we’d all been singing, sweet land of weekend- playground liberty. That mile I’d never ridden was a hundred miles, the fresh fall breeze speed itself, as those fat tires snarled through dunes of shoulder gravel and eddies of falling leaves. When I jumped the curb onto the school’s front sidewalk town kids, exotic friends named Cindy, Billy, Darlene, and Gary, were already gathered, long unchaperoned, at ease, their pre-adolescences already underway, their slow turn toward my approach blasé as I came skidding into that newest of my old neighbourhoods of memory.
The Day I Got My Timing Down
It was in that phase of pure sarcasm, midteens, when guys work out an awkward stance,
work their pack’s patter ’til they maybe have it. I don’t really remember the day but
the single-moment wonder of hitting my first come-back just right by accident, then their free, true
laughter, my perfect follow-up, the never looking back. From there a career: from Senior Class Clown
to smooth talker in any crowd to flip teacher spinning lit to wordsmith chiseling chin-up come-backs
to the tin-clad sarcasms every life dishes out as it disarms or drops you or
leaves you hanging, slamming its clanging locker door in your gullible, stuttering face.
Lord knows I’m a voodoo chil’.
Until that night a girl had only kissed me. Not I a girl. I was fifteen and for
over a year Jimi’d been telling me he was a voodoo chil’, yeah, and I wasn’t. No moon
had turned a fire red, and not one mountain lion had found me waitin’. Now
I was going with Sue, at whose Midwest harvest party I’d do the kissing. Nervous
and showing it, acting distractedly, voice shaking, our friends milling, I knew
it was a now-or-never situation, even though I’d never ever and didn’t really know. Giddy
and ridiculous, we slid into the stairwell, out of range of her parents in the kitchen,
the kids below: the outskirts of our infinity… We made eyes. We made small talk. But all I
could think about was making my move. (If only I’d had a Venus witch’s ring.) Then inching
my arm and small-talking her a little more, I aimed my face and kissed her! And oh, Lord,
the gypsy was right: amazing and no big deal at once. So we kissed again (Lord knows I
felt no pain) and for three months flew on as make-out fiends until she dropped me for my best friend
at her party for my sixteen-and- been-kissed birthday. And I fell downright dea-ea-ead.
After all your dainty tales from la rue du Tel-ou-Tel, so many elegant snippets de la Rive Comme Ci, Comme Ça—Oui, I am forever sheepish I never made it
to Par-ee (sauf une gare on the outskirts, eurailing toward Luxembourg, which was all but fermé for the Halloween weekend). But though now you could easily keep me
down on any farm, France in swah-sohn-canz? Oh là là! —my version of the proverbial semester abroad, and where un nouveau me must’ve definitively begun. Par exemple,
near Nice, absorbing the glowing Côte d’Azur then tour-busing by Monaco for Menton, out one route en corniche and back another, long before my paltry français could surface
fast enough to prattle with my teacher’s kids. But un début—and it would take me only four more largely lonely months to pass myself off as a less evident américain, with at least
a decent accent to show for it, my being the yoghurt-eating, knows-little sophisticate I’d become. It would be two decades before Starbucks blitzed very many Midwest cities,
so old Grenoble’s where the cafés and bistros, wines finer than Boone’s Farm, addicted me to a fresh perspective, to une idée de moi-même transcending tackle football, college fraternity,
and culture as country rock. Granted, all the exotic side-trips did make a difference: that disorienting week in Warsaw (still dictatorial), those goose-steppers in Chopin’s
park; the overnighter (avec les trois femmes!) to Italy; Geneva on weekends; Christmas on the Bodensee (which made me certain I’d learn German for my Überlingen girlfriend
before Italian for those gorgeous Florentines.) But en France? So seul? And working steadily on the concept of an inner life? It was la première fois that I knew I knew abnormally
nothing—and that I no longer wanted to. On the vigntième floor of my international dorm, some inside switch had somehow gotten flipped. Souddainement, ancient history was interesting,
the future a matter for my contemplation, my ignorance a currency I hoped to leave behind, exchanged for novels in two languages and grand prospects for actually using my mind. By winter
I could’ve stayed on through spring. And by spring, back home again and left to reconnoitre, I began that retrospective cataloguing that deepens one’s appreciation—such as how a shy, petite
‘teep’ from Japon and a bold, femme noire from La Côte d’Ivoire could intersect via moi via anglais; or how tinny, small-car traffic is more romantic in memory; or how geraniums are la plus rouges
à Chambéry, a few blues uniquely Mediterranean, and no whites colder than novembre over Mont Blanc. Or how some French are rich, canadien, but also poor, arabe, c’est à dire, algérien. And how
my world seemed now to be le monde.
D. R. James’s latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and journals. Recently retired from college teaching, James lives with his wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan, USA.