Poetry Drawer: Counting Blessings: Exacting Revenge: Bleeding For Jaco: Waves: The Photographer’s Pupil by Stephen Mead

Counting Blessings

Begin with bent brow in hands and hands unfolding,
hinged doors as wings of the suddenly happy bird,
hopeful as Dickinson’s in that opening,
in those feathers spreading, encompassing horizons,
the visions wide & present, calling to & from the soul.
Now even these fallow fields are less depressing,
still being of earth, its potential, to just blend
with rich compost, keep moist and wait
with the clarity of deep breaths taken, released.
Hands in rich silt are mere flesh
made of water and air, the synthesis of elements,
the celestial given physical form.
Is this what real unidentified angels
actually are everywhere,
and the great patterns of their work
evident in the ploughed furrows,
those waves churned over & up?
Humble and holy come other stored examples
in the heart and the head.
Sample now Grandma’s drawers of saved twisted bread
ties, baggies, folded aluminum squares
whose crinkles were cleansed,
scents smoothed under water to dry amid dishes.
The next space which opens fans with cards of
gin rummy, fancy suits flat against cushioned
table mats ringed with the blue of Grandpa’s cigars.
The green glass corners of his ashtray
forms a diamond of use graced
by the tall frosted gold pillar of beer.
A little salt gives the best head, froth whiskers tickling
the tongue’s tip refreshed past that entrance
of the old gas stove’s aroma amid the dust and lead paint
of that sunny lead-in back porch.
This is the covenant of how blessings
open out from each other, snow-globe contained
but macro from the micro producing vistas
further and farther.
What other extreme unction to ask for than that?
What more really to want for ever?

Exacting Revenge
(For Louis Enrique Mejia Godoy)

Will indeed be
a pleasure, say

some acid burns on each still
pus-running knee.
(We agree. Can’t wait.)
Add these lime-laden eyes
remembering that sack & almost
asphyxiation in lungs yet too raw
for adding their two cents.
(Sounds fine.)
The will shall have to compensate,
one spirit taking prayer

& honing its frantic edge
toward the faith of some future soothing
every scar which winces with salt. Also

there, in that sphere, distant as
peace, the torturers, having lost
ground & passed into freedom’s blow,
will have no choice

but to live knowing
that their vileness failed.

This is my dream anyway, the revenge
of a good life handed to everyone
descending from repression with hope
savored because of all the vaccines poured
orange as mercurochrome under the sun’s gold.

Bleeding For Jaco

Electricity gone awry… boundary lines blurring…
the jarring of feedback, the blisters of static
where, from amps, scabs bleed…

Jaco, who were you? The homeboy made good?
The mutt derelict genius?

The usual labels as commentary, tragic speculations all…
We cough up explanations to digest brutality
& then remember…

Duality looks deeper. Gropes for control:
Your callused fingers cut by bass strings,
the palm ripped, a gash pouring jazz…
Physically too: the bones of your face shattered,
having been beaten outside some pub.

Blood is a poignant reference, a vivid metaphor for pain.

But what sabotaged you, Jaco? The ecstasy of an Icarus,
with the eyes of the drowned?

The surplus of ground zero conveys abrupt shots:
the numbing by lithium, the detox quarantine.
Yet life you still attempted, blinking an eye, twitching
a toe, & Jaco,

It wasn’t madness that drove you, but bloods’ pure notes.
A virtuoso from day one, a whole improvised opus you became,


to rock out, rock out, as a solo


This one, ten foot slate, a girder unearthed & returning.
These others are meniscuses too grey for reflecting
the sky sliding on each curve…

Here the post cards are all black ‘n white.
If any difference occurs shades blur it in a slap
of repeated graceful savagery.

Why be a non-conformist when insanity is all the rage?

Instead, weather tongues, the multitude’s mouth,
a basin with teeth gnashing to spit out…

Oh Deus, do you exist, & from such
a tough rugged heartland must not
wounds be genuinely felt, entered,
before healing can spark mercy?

Mama, I’m going in, goat-shaped froth
gnawing off despair’s crabgrass.
Where are my bones?

Now the pleated sheets form leaves, an excess
of light & the coast whitens.
In excelsis, purity burns liquid brimstone,
the amethyst face, hands, a spirit looks on
in tenderness, dispossessing memories,
a passage to float from & open upon
Baltic cliffs, Gibraltar balustrades—–

The other world, the other world,
this must be a birthing place.

The Photographer’s Pupil
(For D. Arbus)

A heart on the wind, you’d been opened that exposed,
waiting for initiative to take over, give way to instinct.
Imperative is clarity
utterly unmasked by the camera which hid you.
Then the subject’s impact would hit the pit of the stomach.
You were a portal from which the real sight blew through.

Vision extender, what you saw was recorded
not so much as documentary, but an intuitive view.
Does such gentle predatory perception replenish what feeds it?
Dimensions transcend the image & shudder forth cut.

How can I tell you your existence did the same?
Its traces wash fossil-like from the acid baths.
As you develop I grow astonished, senses reeling
with what yours’ encapsulated: the freaks & the street people,
the transvestites and circus attractions, all horrific & mortal,
remarkably so.

Shy nymph, you crept up to them, finally asking permission &
then taking command. What a surprise! Their faces freed, all
artifice stripped, a psychological truth, now emblem-poignant.

Here I see the proof, their lives passing alibis, affidavits
without judgment. Yes, there’s no verdict in the flesh
except that it gives. But how did you go with it at your
own perilous risk: the last supper of Barbiturates
the slit wrist tub?

Now deep & enlivened, I attempt wading through.
I find you like a deer caught off guard, no empathy siphoned
from your quite earnest pupils. Just so, I am not vacant.
I walk from this crypt, its portfolio, & wander susceptibly.
You did too, more real in the dark, exploring the dank subway
tunnels, their wired tired tribes. The trains lurched & pulsed,
such tireless fury ritualized by your gaze.

In those eyes, both of us have known death,
have been there & come back.
but who taught that, & how does one live with the tie?

Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer.  Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online.  He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall, The Chroma Museum.

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


Poetry Drawer: Present: Tonight: Tree Whispers: Nightscape by Joan McNerney


You gave me
five brown pods
to grow in
my garden bed.
I put them
in a glass jar
with my locket.
Five brown pods
winding through
heaven. Weaving
night with winter
wishes for wisteria.
In a flower dress
wandering over
perfumed fields
I sleepwalk
searching for
my golden locket
and your embrace.


Chimes tap against our
windowpane. This evening
becomes starry sapphire
as sea gulls rise in
flight over rooftops.
Winds wrapping around
trees tossing leaves.

The court yard is full of
aromas from dinnertime.
Shadows growing longer
each minute. Lights go
on and I wait for you.

Tree Whispers

Blue diamond rains bring
filigrees of golden light…
so many shades of spring.

Sun beams on a single leaf.
This small star pulsating
from my wet apple tree.

Bright new leaf
fits hand perfectly—the future
lies in your palm.

Trees cascading over emerald
grass. This noon swollen
wet bursting with water.

Now even heaven
is tinted green as birds
linger under branches.


Fog horns sound though
air soaked in blackness.
All evening long listening
to hiss of trucks, cars.

Shadows brush across walls
as trees trace their branches.
Gathering and waving
together then swaying apart.

While I sleep, stars glide
through heaven making
their appointed rounds in
ancient sacred procession.

Dreams as smooth as rose
petals spill into my mind
growing wild patches in
this dark garden of night.

Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Journals, and numerous Poets’ Espresso Reviews have accepted her work.  She has four Best of the Net nominations.  Her latest title is The Muse in Miniature available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net

Poetry Drawer: Maybe I’m the Imposter Among Us: God in my Perspective by Krishti Khandelwal (Aged 11)

Maybe I’m the Imposter Among Us

There is nothing great about me.
There is nothing I am like a prodigy.
I can’t remember many important things,
and I don’t know, if you need to help me.

I’ll think I am awesome,
but isn’t that just me?
I don’t know what I’m amazing at,
but I’ll be happy if you approach me.

I’m not great at maths,
I don’t have great mental abilities,
I’m not that great at science, 
I’ll never be a prodigy.

I’m no good at singing,
I’m not good at playing an instrument either,
I’m not even good at walking,
and I’ll never be a decent dancer.

My art is stupid,
I can’t be great at anything,
I can’t process a lot of information,
so, I sit there staring at a pixelated screen.

I know that I’m no good
at many other things I love,
but these thoughts now won’t hurt me,
as no one can be perfect and nothing really matters.

I think having higher expectations from anyone should rather not be expected,
because having lower will never help you and you end up disappointed.

So, I’ll be me, in my own world, 
you don’t have anything to say.
I have my own power and family to protect me,
from you any day.

God in my Perspective

When I was small,
I believed in God like everyone else did.
I thought the pictures they drew,
In real life existed.

And I grew up and learned more,
And heard from dad about the world and God.
And learned how those people wrote down their thinking,
Which led to the people to believe in the lord.

So, I don’t believe in god,
The way most people usually do.
I don’t believe in ghosts and curses,
That could have brought fear upon you.

I believe that the mantras work for some people,
Because of their subconscious and placebo,
It’s a thing that works when you really believe in something,
That makes your wish come true.

Although it still is a mystery,
How placebo actually works, to what you desire.
Those mantras help you by increasing your knowledge,
To get something you always wanted to acquire.

So, I never said I’m an atheist,
This is just god in my perspective.
Our consciousness and intelligence,
To make sense out of almost nonsense,
And how we find their reason of being connective.

(in just a small organ inside our skull!)

So, if you do something risky and dangerous,
Worshiping god won’t make you protected.
If you continue to do that and be stupid,
You can’t blame god by being affected and neglected.

Krishti Khandelwal (aged 11) is brilliant in astronomy and astrophysics, you can discuss amazing concept of physics with her, however when at coffee table or with a glass of her favorite mocktail, she loves to pen down her thoughts into words…..Writing has always fascinated Krishti as it was something she always wanted to do. This season (Lockdown) Krishti had created and shared her writing with some of the prominent publishing houses, and with the grace of the God her writing was appreciated and encouraged, and she was honoured.

Poetry Drawer: Universe of Lies: Religious Rightness: The Meaning of Survival: Smokeless Noir by Paul Ilechko

Universe of Lies

The universe is dissolving into
silken skeins of fire     dripping

glistening threads of protons
and neutrons     that dissipate into

an echo of atomic waste     leaving
behind a soft electron whisper

if there are survivors     do they
remember when the world was

tokenized     do they recall the years
of stripping meaning     discarding

all we once had known in favour of
the romance of our corporate dreaming

working men and working women
gathered in a human river     flooding

through the central demarcations as
a wavelength of forgetting     carrying

their hand-made flags that still
proclaimed the truth of lies

true believers of the myths
and legends that evaporated

in the cold hard morning of the end
of time     when the structures

we had long imagined     were
finally revealed as emptiness.

Religious Rightness

Bodies filled the undergrowth
as religion swamped the land

your citizenship merely
a pattern of crosses   punched

into cards and misplaced in
a cupboard at the Pentagon

your birth was accidental
vomited out like volcano steam
erupting as clouds of tear gas

the shelves of your market creaked
under the weight of ammunition

I used carrots in my cabbage
soup to add the extra sweetness

but damn   and if it wasn’t
time to start our engines.

The Meaning of Survival

Morning begins with carnage
the heat-glaze of an exterminating sun
exploding as gasoline

organic chemistry reaching
its limit as the safety fails to trip
the sky filling
with a diamond glare

light tightening its grip
from red to blue and finally
to a blistering whiteness

the smell of meat and burning rubber
as a necklace melts into the purity
of flesh and thought     leaving behind
little except sharded bone

heat death of a city
the broken facades of crumbling homes
phased and zoned into map-written
territories beneath the still white sky

smudged and cindered by
smoldering remnants     the air
adrift with wave and particle
fighting for survival

the shattering
of so many lives as the future is destroyed
by inarticulate sloganeering

every banner laid to waste
the last survivors lingering by a river
breathing in the beauty of the silence

Smokeless Noir

We’re lacking something
now that even the bad guys
no longer smoke

where is the shadowed room
the blatant chiaroscuro
the curl of blue smoke
the carefully illuminated profile

what we have gained in health
and cleanliness
we have lost in the purity of art

but where is the forgotten actor
the one whose name we never knew
cigarette clutched
between brown-stained fingers

and in his throat
or the deepness of his lungs
the first tender stirrings
of the tumour.

Paul Ilechko is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Pain Sections (Alien Buddha Press). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Rogue Agent, January Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Book of Matches and Pithead Chapel. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

Poetry Drawer: Heart Ache: Nautical Miles: Pungent Rubbish by R. Gerry Fabian

Heart Ache

With very slow frost-free words,
he mimes to them
that his heart.
like day old sour dough toast
has become a plopped rock
settling slowly to the bottom.

They shake their heads
almost birdlike
and regard him in asphalt indifference.

His heart becomes the taste
of someone chewing aluminum foil.
He says nothing more.
He begins walking with a cane
while his heart becomes an autistic child.

It has served him well in love
and now,
on an afternoon in the park,
it kills him.

They buried it with him
as a minor tremor
begins in each of them.

Nautical Miles

He moves with the instinctual wisdom
of alley cat balance.
His doctrine follows
an iceberg principle.
His eyes see more;
his chapped lips say less.

he takes his trawler
deep into the ocean
a simple apostle
of the earth’s last frontier.

Pungent Rubbish

Our love-
a white garbage bag
fitted to the top
of the garbage can.
Inside –
dead roses
I bought as a surprise
for no special occasion;
the greasy pizza box
we splurged on because
the day was just too long;
the blood stained bandage
you used to cover my cut hand
when the knife slipped;
the tear stained tissues
because you just needed to cry
the burnt omelette
when your single kiss
ignited so much more.

On Sunday,
when I take the bag
to the curb,
you shake and replace it
with another one
to start all over again.

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. He is the editor of Raw Dog Press. He has published two poetry books, Parallels and Coming Out Of The Atlantic. His novels, Memphis MasqueradeGetting Lucky (The Story) and Seventh Sense are available from Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble. He is currently working on his fourth novel, Ghost Girl.

More of Gerry’s work can be found here on Ink Pantry & Twitter.

Books From The Pantry Special Inky Feature: Feverfew by Anna Saunders: interview and review by Claire Faulkner

The last year has been tough for many people. Whilst I have struggled to write, I have been able to take advantage of a lot of online readings and performances. Has the pandemic changed your creativity or the way you access poetry at all?

That is a great question and yes on both accounts! Whilst it was a shock in 2020 to have to cancel our ‘real ‘ festival due to the pandemic, we have literally transformed the way we work and how we offer a feast of poetry to our audiences. We now run Zoom poetry events several times a month – a mixture of workshops, literary lounges, open mics – and our audience, and guest poets are truly international. We have been able to book exciting names such as- American poet Kim Addonizio and Ankh Spice from New Zealand, Rob Kenter from Canada to name just a few. Our audiences are global too. Plus we have been able to offer free creative opportunities to those who are shielding throughout the UK.

I have been busier than ever but have found time to write – I try to spend one day a week on my work or at least a few hours.

I think the pandemic has fuelled my work in some ways, the need to emote, and be creative has been even stronger for me in these times. And that is saying something – as writing is already an addiction!

You have just released your latest collection, Feverfew. What can you tell us about it?

Feverfew is my 6th book, just out with Indigo Dreams and it is very much a book for our times. It explores, ‘all that haunts sleep’ ( from the poem ‘What I learnt From the Owl’)– isolation, a fear for the future of our planet, political corruption and cronyism, plus more personal themes such as desire, heartache, grief. Feverfew has been described as ‘medicine for whatever may ail you’ by Helen Ivory, and in it I offer both the herb of the title, and poetry itself, as an elixir and antidote. It has been described as passionate, vivid, creaturely, and full of magic, and it is celebratory of life whilst recognising that we can suffer challenging and adversities on the world stage and in our own lives.

Myth and legend appear in the collection. What draws you to these stories?

The richness and poetic nature of myth and legend and their deep truths can offer a perfect setting for writers’ themes. I often reinvent these timeless stories to address contemporary concerns – for example in ‘Prometheus Speaks’ – wherein I use the story of the man damned by the gods for stealing fire as a vehicle for a poem about heartache:

In spring, like Prometheus
I stole fire and enflamed my lover’s dark bed.
I carried it – a blazing creature
sprouting wings, gauzy feathers,
twitching as fast as a maniac’s tongue.

I also draw on the myth of Phaeton who drove the sun into the earth, and Icarus, who flew too close to the sun to talk about the aggressive way we treat the planet. This is from the poem ‘Phaethon’s Carriage Burns Up the World’:

Icarus didn’t listen either
wasted the wings his father crafted
and when he hit the sun, the feathered sky wept.

I find our ancient stories fascinating and full of lyricism, and I love working with them – and using them to generate very contemporary epiphanies.

Gloucestershire poet, Anna Saunders. Picture by Clint Randall (Pixel PR Photography)

You’re involved with the Cheltenham Poetry Festival. What can you tell us about it?

I have been running the festival since 2011, which kicked off with a sell-out performance by iconic punk poet John Cooper Clarke at Cheltenham Town Hall. It has since gone from strength to strength with audiences growing rapidly.

In the last ten years we have offered events featuring our greatest living poets, spoken word artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers and film makers.

The festival also offers an extensive outreach for those who suffer economic, physical and other barriers to cultural inclusion.

You can read more about the festival here

What advice would you give to new writers?

I would suggest reading as much as possible, and not just writers you love. We can learn from poets we don’t quite understand, or who are very different to us. Also write daily. I recently attended a workshop with the American writer Carloyn Forche who said even if you can only find 30 mins a day, take that time – it will keep your creative fire burning.

What are you reading at the moment? Any recommendations for your readers?

I read a lot of poetry so by the time this is published I may well have other writers to rave about. But currently I would highly recommend the incredible Arrival at Elsewhere (Against the Grain – ed Carl Griffins) – a book length pandemic poem which is really a foray into the psyche in many ways. It explores how the self is coping, adapting during a time of pandemic. I am also loving A Commonplace (Smith Doorstop) by Jonathan Davidson which includes his own beautiful work and, in an act of writerly generosity, he includes other poems by writers he admires, plus Michael Brown’s Where Grown Men Go (Salt)– it’s really haunting and reminds me of Rilke. Impermanence (May Tree Press) by Colin Bancroft is another recent, much relished read – a very finely worked book.

Can you share any information about what you’re currently working on, or working towards?.

I am currently working on what will be my seventh collection – All the Fallen Gold, the title alludes to all that we have lost, but still cherish – perhaps people, places, ways of life. It will be in some ways an elegy, but in others a poetry party celebrating all that we still have. A few unusual people and creatures have reared their heads– Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks, Jung, the artist Samuel Palmer, the infamous arsonist Thomas Sweatt, Van Gogh, Sean Penn, a man who murders a puppeteer, Rapunzel (who is struggling with lockdown), AE Houseman, the painter Degas .. my head is a busy house!

Feverfew by Anna Saunders reviewed by Claire Faulkner

I struggled with creativity in 2020. For a few months I didn’t read or write anything. It wasn’t just writers’ block, it was something else. Something more. Like the rest of the world, I was confused, a little bit lost and completely out of sorts. So it’s apt that a poetry collection called Feverfew, written by Anna Saunders, has helped me get back into my stride. Growing up I was taught that feverfew was a useful plant to have in the garden. It’s a cure all. Connected to the moon, with myths and legends of its own, feverfew can help you with almost anything.

Is Saunders trying to heal through verse? ‘Surely these white stars will heal?’, the title poem ‘Feverfew’ asks. The answer from me is yes. Sharing experiences and emotions through poetry can sometimes be as powerful as taking any medication.

As a poetry collection, Feverfew feels relevant. Saunders writes deep. She has a strong and clear voice, and I found this collection more focused than some of her previous work. Part confessional, part story telling but always straight from the heart. The poems feel intensely personal yet invite the reader in to take part in their discovery and ultimately witness their conclusion. I found the verse in Feverfew exceptional. Themes of myth, magic, healing, and new beginnings run through the pages with ease.

It was difficult to choose a favourite poem from Feverfew. I had many marked out.

I found the poems mentioning nature and the environment quite beautiful. I enjoyed reading ‘For so long I have been wanting to write about my mother’s garden’. It gives a sense of time and place. Full of colours and textures, I can picture the foxgloves and goldfinches and recognise the relationship between mother and daughter.

‘What I Learnt from the Owl’ is powerful and exact. Reading it, I wasn’t sure if I was watching the owl, or becoming it:

‘…how to be outcast and avenger / spectre and seraphim, winged god and ghoul / bladed angel dropping from the sky./ What I learnt from the owl…’

‘…how to drop from heights, / heart-shaped face falling to earth/ as if love itself were plummeting’

Saunders makes the reader question everything. Her poetry invites you in and I like this about her work.

Saunders also has a gift of being able to retell myth in a new voice. ‘Leda, by the River’ and ‘Sisyphus in the Psychiatrist’s chair’ are both great examples of this. The poems are thoughtful and clever. I will never tire of reading these kinds of works by her.

I really liked ‘Hades Justifies His Off-Roader’ which could reflect societies’ materialistic greed and the environmental damage caused by it. Saunders makes Hades recognisable, full of energy and traits we have all witnessed in people we may know:

‘Hades drives his huge cart, head held high. / He says he needs this tank / because down there/ the lanes are sticky as treacle.’

‘…Hades defends the emissions which plume / and unfurl like a scribble at the end / of a Death Warrant…’

I enjoyed reading Feverfew. I found it to be a strong collection with a mix of verse which has renewed my love for reading and I can’t wait to read what Anna Saunders writes next.

With special thanks to Isabelle Kenyon from Fly on the Wall Press.

Poetry Drawer: Greenhouse: At a Reading: Capital Punishment: Doodle by J.R. Solonche


I wonder if they know –
as much as chlorophyll
can know anything
other than the sweetness
of the energy of sunlight
and rain on its tongue —
that as they perish
into winter’s dead sleep,
these inside, these rich
relations, will live on, all
wide awake and wide-eyed,
glowing in the warm glow
of their winter palace.
I wonder if they knew,
would they then demand
their own entry there, or like
a revolution’s mob, break
every pane with bricks
and cobblestones?

At a Reading

After the last poem,
the poet, clearly drunk,
answered questions.
A student asked him
how he made a poem.
There was a wide smile
and a long silence.
Then, “Fuck the muse
and wait nine hours.”
There was laughter,
some embarrassed,
some self-consciously loud.
Then the student said,
“But Mr. C___________,
according to that metaphor,
isn’t it the muse who makes
the poem and not the poet?”
There was a narrow
smile and a short silence.
“True enough, but poetry
has always been a messy
business,” he said, a drop
a spittle dangling from
the corner of his mouth.

Capital Punishment

Should a seventeen year old
be put to death for murder?

was the question under discussion.
No, he argued, the psychologist,

because, he said, the limbic system,
which, in a seventeen year old,

overpowers the neo-cortex, so it
must be life in prison for such,

to be, without the possibility
of parole, imprisoned with his

limbic system and his neo-cortex,
to play, for life, the Play of Everyman,

to doubt, for life, between devil and angel,
to live, for life, in the capital of punishment.


The phone
at the ear
listening to
the recorded
music to keep
the temper
assuaged and
diverted while
you wait for
the customer
service rep
to help you
with your
problem to
answer your
simple question
you decorate
the number
you jotted down
on the pad
with filigree
and curlicue
with alphabets
in arabesque
with gargoyles
and this poem…
… cut off.

J.R. Solonche has published poems in more than 400 magazines and journals since the early 70s. He is the author of 22 books of poetry and co-author of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.

Poetry Drawer: Walk in Kilns: Alarm: Cats: Chang Po by AE Reiff

Walk in Kilns

One cry up it sounds like light,
Octaves, voice and note
that shine in halls where fingers call
And voices are heard through walls.

The Plain debris of past
Digs down in rock. A crusty top
of cries and groans take off
for what’s beneath, to bypass thought.

Off with the hat, hair, eyes, skin, teeth,
Sail woods you think you know,
take a life among the clouds.
where light breaks for what is hoped.


Lay your hand upon the tinge,
incandescent hands of those who kindle light,
That’s how to walk in kilns.


My alarm
is like a city bus
when smoke
comes out the top,
it revs its engines
with a fuss
if nobody
gets off.


shake the head
climb the roof
wander off
Jump the house
Clear the bed

Chang Po

His clothes
hang on
every chair,
he is a liar
with short hair,
he rolls
the globe
off its stand
next to
a velcro shoe.

AE Reiff’s blog /Twitter

Poetry Drawer: After a Hard Rain: Where They Have To Let You In: Year of Covid by Robert Demaree

After a Hard Rain

We do not have a rain gauge.
You can look it up on the Internet
If it matters.
Or you can
See how the dock sits in the water.
The pond is up two inches, I would say,
Maybe three.
We have one of the last wooden docks on
On the east shore,
The top still slick after the storm,
Maybe a little spongy in places
(Barry will give us a quote)
But it will dry.

Caroline and the kids
Will come down in a while
This kind, warm afternoon,
Float in innertubes, read magazines,
And joke of things known to them,
Their sense of family palpable
This kind, warm afternoon.
They are leaving in the morning
And the dock will revert
To its customary solitude.
Now and then Martha and I
Will gingerly ease 80-year-old bodies
Into cooler August waters.

Where They Have To Let You In

Across our New Hampshire pond
The pink and purple
Of dawn and dusk
On brisk September days.
Someone asks if I grew up here.
For years we were summer people
Except my father worked.
Skipping pebbles on the inlet
By the rented cottage,
Clearing the land for our own place,
Steamy summer jobs at the laundry.
Watching children then grandchildren
Take a first plunge
Off the dock.
Since retirement I think of us as
Three-season residents,
Crisp blue mornings, September into
October, foliage trips
To the Third Connecticut Lake.
Shorts and sweatshirt weather,
A day to get apples.
People ask if I grew up here.
I have started saying yes.

Year of Covid

Almost a year
Since that last public gathering,
The women’s basketball tournament
At the college near Golden Pines.
I have a picture in my camera, my phone,
Girls in teal shorts
Bringing the ball up court,
Captured in time.
Their season will end in 20 minutes.
The losers know this already,
But the winners don’t, their hopefulness
Captured in time,
In my camera, my phone.

In the months since
We have learned how to work
The drive-up app
On our phone.
We get groceries early on Sundays,
We take classes on Zoom
That we would skip
In person.
Out walking, I cross the street
To avoid people without masks,
Valuing some things more
Than neighborly companionship.
For that we have each other,
Susan and I. It wears well,
As one would hope it might
After 57 years.

In my camera they have not moved,
The girls in the teal shorts,
The other team, the pep band,
The handful of people, probably parents,
Who have driven up for the game,
Captured in time, their looks of
Hope and expectation,
Those girls from Pompeii
In teal basketball shorts,
Bringing the ball up court.

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.

Books From The Pantry: Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis by various authors: reviewed by Kev Milsom

As a teen, I wore a T-shirt quoting Chief Seattle. ‘The Earth is
our mother,’ it said. ‘Man did not weave the web of life; he is
merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to
himself.’ Looking back, I can see how I turned away from the
depth and clarity of that insight. I listened to other stories of
my time – stories so commonplace that I did not even see them
as stories.

Professor Jem Bendell, from his essay, ‘Extinction Rebellion’.

Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis (Harper Collins) is a collection of one hundred essays, written in response to the growing fears of climate change, global warming and concerns about how life for every inhabitant of our beautiful planet Earth may change quickly within future years, unless strong change and transformation is undertaken by the leaders of our world. 

The key elements throughout each essay are awareness, education and genuine concerns for the future of – not just this current generation existing in 2021 – but for generations to come.

Each essay is thoughtfully forged and crafted, with the intention of spreading this awareness to every reader; to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the harrowing dangers which face our world. 

Many of the essays originate from people within the public eye, or those with experienced opinions concerning various aspects of destructive climate change. 

Others are powerful in their simplistic expression, such as Ollie Barnes, aged twelve – someone at an age likely to experience the potential worst elements of climate change throughout his life.

To the people who think that there’s no point in trying, to the
people who think that because we have done this we deserve
to suffer the consequences. There’s no point in giving up! In
the past we have decided to turn away from Mother Nature’s
screams but not today! We will not let the earth we live on be
destroyed so easily, we will try hard to save it from the very
threat we created and see the world for its glory and its beauty.
Don’t be the person who is standing back watching other
people as they do the work.
Join the fight to save our world. If you don’t then everything
that we love about the world will slowly disappear.

Ollie Barnes, from his essay, ‘Everything’.

Other essays within this mind-opening publication originate from very respected, academic sources, such as Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, a German oceanographer and climatologist and also Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Sometimes I have this dream.
I’m going for a hike and discover a remote farmhouse on
Children are calling for help from the upper windows. So I
call the fire brigade. But they don’t come, because some mad
person keeps telling them that it is a false alarm.
The situation is getting more and more desperate, but I
can’t convince the firemen to get going.
I cannot wake up from this nightmare.

Stefan Rahmstorf, from his essay, ‘False Alarm’.

While common expressive tones throughout each of the one hundred, separate voices within this book are strongly focused upon educative awareness, it’s also noticeable that these tones are also capable of expressing understandable elements of frustration and anger beneath the surface of the words employed, such as an essay from award-winning author, Matthew Todd, entitled ‘Sorry’.

What is it they say – ‘Sorry is the hardest word’?
Well, I’m sorry.
I am…
I’m sorry that I put my trust in the media that is more
obsessed with fashion and football, and reality TV, with where
the Dow Jones is, with game shows, with baking, with putting
a positive spin on 71 degree heat in February with a ‘Wow,
what a great opportunity for ice cream sellers’.
I’m sorry that when I first heard about what was happening,
I looked away…I heard someone
say on the radio news, on a Monday morning, that ‘Scientists
are concerned that the world is heating up due to a build-up of
so-called greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil
fuels that may warm the earth to potentially dangerous levels,’
and I thought, That’s scary!
And then they added, ‘But there
is disagreement from other scientists who say, ‘There’s no
need to worry, it won’t happen for hundreds of years and will
most likely benefit the planet and make the UK as warm as the
Costa Del Sol.’

While these expressive, creative tones are naturally concentrated upon the frustrations that so many feel about a lacklustre response from the Earth’s nations, the words that flow from each author are also written to draw us into the full nature of what is being expressed, rather than any attempt to create separation or conflict. The commonly-used phrase (especially from the lips of politicians), ‘we are all in this together’ has perhaps never been more relevant when focusing upon the current world problem of climate change.  

As an observer, I found myself nodding along with every part of this book, because – in the strictest terms of common sense and logical reasoning – it’s just really difficult not to.

These series of enlightening essays are written not only from emotive, caring hearts, but from cognitive, intelligent minds. 

Each essay promotes open thought, and discussion; ultimately leaving the reader with a genuine sense of wondering when the leaders of our gorgeous home planet might do to tackle contemporary issues of climate change, thus addressing the fears of so many from within a global population of over seven billion people; their children, grandchildren and beyond.

They (the young) are our best hope and listening to them always makes
me feel powerful once again. Plugging into that energy will
recharge even the most tired of batteries.
Read this book and pass it on. Hand on your passion for the
planet to the next person and never, ever give in. Convert your
rage to action and your grief to love. I think the planet feels us
as we do this.
Perhaps it will even help us.

Emma Thompson, from the introduction to Letters to the Earth.