Along the river bank street lights are lighting the darkening waters glow the sun is low the mountain crouches low in shadow light drops from light dark creeps back to night … my mind struggles with a paradox – gleams from a self-source and light falling from a star love is racked – there is no owning in the soul the void is an agitation fixed habit of a consciousness unwilling to go into the terror of going into light of naked night my tree reaches up winter bare its star is not yet born.
Sea fog curls around the cliff face the island has no contour still – and I I am weeping amid a conflict the wish for forgetfulness yet fear of clinging sorrow intangible dreams are real a beatitude…
Here you cast your dazzling eye through clouds ruptured on surging waters, where in winds on a mission across skies born of voids words were loaded:
let me out;
crowns of heaving leaves spilled trees, turned them upside down, a splay of tangled guts, and spat out the despair of the years in a season:
let me out;
until the decay of the black spell set in, the mulch of slow rot, a creep of violets unfolded:
oh, take me away
where hushed trees mangled in that storm descend to the bend on the old-winding road and fields and dusk woods and torn mills and canals and Lee waters take on every mood and ripple it back.
Father and Earth
Just like everyone else in this city where grey lines blur sky to pavement, you’re an extension of the rain; the incessant drizzle on these streets seeps through clothes, misting words of weather and when, colour coded alerts, storms between showers.
I’d listened as wind gusted every odd night, worrying for a future I might never see, where nobody wants their children to be, and reasoned water never ceases to be water.
You’d become old; the cough caught you.
I think the sun was setting with no great glow; patter of rain every odd hour, grey skies shortening the day.
Your steps faltered, your pulse soared; rough nights in A&E and finally the quarantine ward.
You gave the staff the brunt of your tongue, There’s nothing wrong with me;
I’ll sign myself out.
You didn’t, though you would have. Tough as mountains, old rock. Stubborn as the wind that roars.
Old mountains in clouds, mist of rain, Earth, floods of pain,
will you name yourself out?
Don’t you know that deodorant is toxic she says, fanning the air with her fingers. Puts a song in my head. I turn to the messages on my phone. My doctor. Cholesterol is high. Advise a healthy diet and regular exercise. Are you listening? she says. Throw it in the rubbish. It’ll explode in the dustbin truck. Who cares about the bin-men? she says. What about the bin-women? Well, I haven’t seen any of them, she says. Hell, I’m trying to read. What? Letters from the dead? There’s no chlorofluorocarbons in them anymore. I’m not concerned with holes in the ozone, she retorts.
The wind was high, she says. All through the dark hours I listened to its protests unaware she was awake beside me. It happens nearly every night, she says, between storms.
It’s a top down issue, I insist, and besides, we notice the elements now.
Our granddaughter lets out a wail from the other room.
Rings out like an alarm.
Slip into The Sea
Curl under the bridge to sleep awhile, bullet-force rain dancing in gutters; pretend you’re the river, the last mile.
Feel tugs of water in your lungs, a vial prescribed to draw down the shutters; curl under the bridge to sleep a while.
In twilight, between poison and bliss beguile, this rain’s furious prance softens to mutters; pretend you’re in the river, the last mile.
You’re coming to the end of this trial – I’ll give you the sea, the warm water utters; stay under the bridge to sleep a while.
If you let the sea take you, saltwater will file scabs from your soul and offer to suture; pretend you’re in the river, the last mile.
And if you listen to the waves’ murmuring sail, essence of this transcendent suitor, you’ll break from the bridge to swim a while and find you are beyond the river, the last mile.
I see you in rivers,
the swallowing holes and murky beds.
In the water,
dirt blots my eye; I hold my breath,
fly rings dot the surface; a broken bottle’s on the floor.
There’ll be no poppy red, ghastly watercolour spread.
I don’t tread and I don’t flounder for the above,
but sink right in until my breath is algae green.
There’s a moment; in the twilight,
I’m fearful, not knowing what’s to come.
The depth of an empty canvas greets me.
And my dead mother, my brother, you,
whisper at the watery fence.
A ghost life-film runs in my mind.
That’s a fly swatted out.
I struggle with the layers; I hurl against the skin.
There’s nothing I ever gave to sway me from this picture.
What have I ever done of note? Do I want something of note?
Aspiration is for the living; I’m knifing this to death.
There’s the slow river snake,
you whisper, whispering
patchwork reflections on the pool of the water.
Once this was enough; rise and disturb.
Fish playing rings for flies.
The wind snaps my back door shut as I move about the kitchen.
I look over to where you’ve been. Take in the disappointment of your seat.
The driver’s words are tumours fat and fibrous, with teeth sure I’ve seen ‘em blacks fightin in our streets. his mouth is a gargoyle spout ink-snaked neck moss on rivered stone young voluptuous women blown across his bones Tell ya girl, soon Cork won’t be our own Soon Cork won’t be our own. Down the bend of the road, he shrinks to small talk his trip up North not noticing the cold tap run inside my tone. Got the cataracts done Got a deal Living in a fog, and me behind the wheel! Fright to god I didn’t get killed. His eyes are clean; they’re clean but there’s no light in them they belong to a child unsurprised by what’s been done to him. By the time I leave, I’m wishing him well. Remembering again what it means this being human
I’ve seen my city’s private parts, advertised on plywood signs in block-lettered chalk Adult Only Store Used-up girls inside, starting life in another country but still I know them from somewhere I’ve eyed the types, those grey-skinned soggy men, sunken-eyed from watching body-parts unfurling
The ships that line our docks are tough but grieve to watch the washed-up purchased lives they’ve lost Born without footing across slime and muck, slipping up and down inside our harbour walls Freezing to death in backs of trucks, not surfacing long enough to breathe and float and see
black- water swirling menses, spitting ragged blankets up, onto concrete blocks, no longer fit to warm them until summer dries them out, maybe days from now, maybe never, maybe lost in the hacks and splutters The muttered lines about safer distances between us, between me and these girls on scratchy screens
inside stores I’ll never enter
Riverrunafter James JoyceRiverrun
past Eve and Adam
Drip and bubble
on his tongue
River wash through
stone and gravel
Oh River Run
Thank him for the gift
he gave me
to celebrate my newborn son
the London boy
who praised me
through his black hair
His wings so small
so tightly clipped
Riverrun a song of loss
Forever present on our lips
past Eve and Adam
upon a time
we left him stranded
but the current’s changing
A change has come
Riverrun, from where
he kissed him
Behind a wall
Wedge of stone
River how you’ve
to carry Adam
Carry every love you see
River run, past Eve and Adam
Past tall orders
born in armour
On the run
through tidal waves
River find the mouths you need
Make them speak
Oh river run
and river make
Build new mountains
His life’s at stake
Kimberly Reyes is an award-winning poet and essayist and the author of three books: Warning Coloration (dancing girl press 2018), Life During Wartime (Fourteen Hills, 2018), and Running to Stand Still (Omnidawn, 2019). Kimberly currently lives in Cork, Ireland as a Fulbright fellow studying Irish literature and film.
You’ve written a thousand poems for me, my friend –in your sapio-sudsy head… in a world as real as this one, where the ebb and flow of its soapy tides, brush off and on that murky shore— where all that can’t but is, all that shouldn’t but will, and all what’s hidden is naked under that ruthless, roofless hut: your eyes.
A thousand thought-fruits you’ve yielded and ignored the tree in vain— rejecting, pushing, plucking, peeling, carving, craving, …and ultimately, feasting upon the forbidden.
While gnomes gnaw the inner walls of your cerebral cave, engraving them with cuneiform fantasies, a thousand lyrics you pen, and sing to that tune of what I recognize to be my own voice.
With the night hushing irises away, lavenders call at the break of dawn, waving purple corollas at the vigilant apertures. From a provincial path, and beyond the hinterland of memory, the healing embrace of a once-stranger dwelling in my heart thaws the ice-patched knees of my soul. Defrosted, touched by frankincensuality, I wonder at the sight of embosoming blossoms in aesthesis, inhaling the sweetness of the vision. For a moment, I am alive, awake, and here, in synchronicity with an eternal dawn. This moment is now, tomorrow, and forever.
It is you again, visiting. As ever, knocking at my dream-doors, gently caressing faith with lavandula petals. This visit I shall return, willingly though unknowingly when amethyst bushes lead the way once again. Miraculously, like a butterfly to a tea-rose, I find myself on that much-trodden path through the heart of an ever-open door. And I kneel, drunk with love, lavender, and light.
Keep her locked in an eternal smile, that loving gaze you see in your mind’s mined cave deep within your Self, or in the symbol on the solid wooden surface. Let her sing, but from her nether-world into yours.
Silence the singing icon to keep it alive, never conjure the image or form it in this foggy existence.
You kill the icon when playing Pygmalion.
Strength lies in the centuries-old wood, solid-tude in solidity, and purity in the hardness within its heart of gold. There’s reality in imagination and more life in stillness, One that is beyond the tangible and breathing.
Glossolelic, it speaks in echoes from the outback of non-air. When gods materialize, they die. Only to be born again…
is that we killed the wolf. Not just the last but the two before that.
I knew a man who met a man who was the cousin removed of the great-grandson of the man who killed the third-last wolf on the island.
Slit it he did, to see the steaming innards – how long they were, how tightly wound.
Had it a white paw to the fore? That gene would have been recessive. Was there a black bar across the yellow eye? No time to notice its différence.
Is this a wolf with its bared teeth and its lairy smell and its fetlock tipped with white?
Is this wolfish?
Tone says here is the other cheek, why don’t you have a go at that? Tone is when you’re giggling at a double bluff and you see someone crying. Tone is an artist dropping a Ming vase and calling that art. Tone is another artist slashing that guy’s canvas, calling him a fart. Tone is muscling up to the Peace People, they don’t have a mandate for peace. Tone sings a Satanic mass in the civic center, where tone agrees to use vinegar for urine. Tone is an author in search of a character able to roll tone home from the bank. Tone wants a reader in tune with the tone that is there and the one that is not. Tone is peeling an orange in its pocket so the smell will madden, building a bungalow on your eyelid with an overlook to the back. Tone is a weasel, drawing the birds down with a special sensuous dance and then, tone is lunch.
Nothing trumps tone but when there’s a crack in it, watch what slips in. It might be an anti-tone – undoing bravura, dulling the gloss, leaving tone spent, in a fierce bad mood, exposed in the light of all that we once thought we shared.
When you weed a field, bend over the long root suckers, the weeders moving in a line across the ridges, a stippled human stripe of inclined heads against the ordered rippling rows of mangels, then the world seems right and we are in our place.
When you refuse to weed and hang out with a friend under the dreeping willow in the bend that is not ploughed where no grass grows over the stones and what is buried, you watch the workers easing themselves to night, its shadow keeps ahead of them as they cross.
Then you might think of sacrifice or the greater good but you don’t, flirty with heat as heat leaves the day and you separate, seeing things anew, filthy with possibility. It’s too late now to join the weeding crew. And the willow laughs its long thin laugh at you.
Don’t bring haw into the house at night or in any month with a red fruit in season or when starlings bank against the light, don’t bring haw in. Don’t give me reason to think you have hidden haw about you. Tucked in secret, may its thorn thwart you. Plucked in blossom, powdered by your thumb, I will smell it for the hum of haw is long, its hold is low and lilting. If you bring haw in, I will know you want me gone to the fairies and their jilting. I will know you want me buried in the deep green field where god knows what is rotting.
Photos of the islanders
They have forebears. Noses and foreheads forged in the art of fact. They have seen a daughter wither from ill use, prayed for her, sent bread to her funeral.
There’s a welcome stapled to their tongue and they count your leavings when you’re gone. What we make now must get us through the winter.
What do they see when they look out — a one who says they are still married to belief, a one who thinks they are mired in a falsehood?
Is the split at the picture edge an implication? That they neither do nor undo.
Poverty Isolation Tradition Pressure comes in threes. Devout in practice, loved by an unnamed god, who will they be today?
Who will they be today? Masked by the strip of archetype. Life as a scene of foreshadows.
He wears the dagger tattoo of his father and his cap, and like him can twist his eyes into his head leaving the whites behind.
Losses eddy in lines about the mouth and when he sits, because his father asks to help repair the trawl, he is tamed in the fray of its knots.
A line of men along a wall each of them matched by a pine behind. They sit and the dry wall presses back a heritable skill, plucking and picking by sight and feel. Wall-making by touch.
One has a hat with ribbon bands, the dandy among them – equally protected and despised.
They share the hill behind until they die thinking it is theirs.
clearing stones the first peoples made the fields and on nights with a red dusk you can hear them ease the pain of strained backs, too much bend how three feet takes a whole night to clear how the wall begins at the edge with what they sling the wall begins to keep something in
if you follow a heifer she will show you where there’s a spring of fresh water not everything is old wives’ tales
just what would fill the head of a goat we know the fleet of its feet the bass of its baa the burr on its coat
when we know the fleet of its feet the burr of its baa the bass of its burr how to turn on a goat look it square in the eyes the dare of it
disrespect in the pupil
it can be slit before its hoary time the flat black capsule of the pupil
slit and hung before its hoary time how to better a goat we’ve passed this down
the only way is to make a pipe we play from the sac of its udder then blow a melody out of her
a mournful lament is the only way to get the better of a goat
is the way we put a pipe in its udder then finger a melody
put in the pipe put in the pipe and squeeze a music from the teats
Horses of the others, the thinkers, the travellers, tethered on the edge of new dual carriageways, tied in the blank side of advance factories. They verge on the flanks of dealers and shakers where plans end in a thicket of rubble and stumps. What are they for?
A yelled canter down the scruff-sides of dusty villages, barebacked warmth sidling and a hearts-beating thud between your knees – where mis-remembrance is a dream to nourish, where promise can out-run irony. Not the hero horses, beauties black and brave, who took the warrior to battle and will not return, these are compromised, misled and confused, heads too big for their ribcage, scrawny as the screed of grass they pull.
Yet they must have been there from the start – round the back of wired-off ruminations. We pretended not to notice the occasions when they recalled a field, the hock-stripping speed of a gallop down a long hedge where a quiver of legends misted into song but when they started to gather in places built to house a desperation, they seemed to trick our vision of a freedom.
That was a world we lost before it named us – none of the promise, the clang of potential, instead the fetters that hold us to self-interest the binds that make taxes out of failure. That was a world lost before we named it, part of a larger undertaking to help us understand captivity. Go back, go back they seem to say but we have no direction, rounding again the ring road to the city as if we know the story behind the story.
Siobhán Campbell’s latest collection is Heat Signature – ‘poems that give us an insight into alternative ways of being… a poet invested in words as a powerful social currency.’ (Compass Magazine). Previous books include Cross-Talk (Seren), The Permanent Wave and The Cold that Burns (Blackstaff Press) and chapbooks That water speaks in tongues (Templar) and Darwin Among the Machines (Rack Press). She is co-editor of Eavan Boland: Inside History, (Arlen House/SUP) and critical work appears in Making Integral: the poetry of Richard Murphy (CUP) and in The Portable Poetry Workshop (Palgrave). In 2016 she was awarded the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize which follows awards in the Templar Poetry Prize and the National and Troubadour International competitions. Siobhan is on faculty at The Open University, UK. Anthologised widely including in the Forward Book of Poetry, Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English, Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets and The Golden Shovel Anthology: Honouring Gwendolyn Brooks, she publishes in magazines including Poetry, The Southern Review, Magma and Agenda.
without her, his gut is like a hag stone at high water craving for the sea
For weeks I pass the affair, on the turn from common tarmac to unclassified track, where shorthorns lap at the galvanised trough, gliders rise on the ivied beech.
A people carrier parks in the lay-by limestone creamed to the mudguards, the wheels, the egg of his head tips back on the rest his jaw goes slack and weak.
Dark forms heave as she takes him, he takes her, they take. Two days a week I pass, imagine her perfumed, well-groomed, knitwear with no trace of lint.
Her hair glints in the weak winter sun – he tweaks at the mirror and he gives, she gives, they give. Each week.
It isn’t love she feels. I can tell by the bridge of her back, how her body arcs over the gearstick, reaches those thighs where his hands lay flat.
For weeks, they’ve an air of wilful oblivion, unaware of that spacious interior, how visible their mundane lust how exposed
the tiny football scarf suckered to the window.
The first, still sun we’ve had for days and we bathe in it, incredulous – me with our babe in arms, he with our first in hand. Dazed, we survey the storm-swept borders scan the allotted land for harvest.
Potatoes! We fall on them, finger rake the moist warm loam for tubers, swiping their luminous skins with our thumbs. Our eldest gasps and utters streams of sound with infant joy.
We stop, we stand.
We smell the petrichor, watch as she turns up spuds like her newest words: a vegetable lexicon tumbling over the stones.
First Earlies was originally published by Yew Tree Press, 2019.
in the nest of my fist, a fledgling scooped up from the lane
her soft unfinished beak her shining eye a buoy ringing in the green cathedral of trees
a single yellow feather wisps across my knuckle there is a twitch of elephant digits
and I think about keeping her
raising her as my own feeding her worms
but I let her go
chirring for the ones I could not save.
Oil on Canvas
In the chiaroscuro of her eyes there are deserts and swamp forests, escarpments, flats of salt and vistas beyond the folds of flesh soldered shut by surgical birth, the liverish scars gone waxy white. There are palimpsests of palms upon her palms – the weens, the work fucks, the women who took her last yuan for tapestries and hair combs on the mountain. Whirlpools are quarried to embers in the clotted scumbling of her gut – her conduct rendered now with prudent strokes of fat over lean. But the song inside her head is still stuck on her alla prima approach to relationships I hate you the rasping of a parent’s dying breath go well, I love you – held on the impasto of her lips, the anatomy of her dancing feet.
Her climb was perpetual, summit after summit, scrambling over fissile shale, porous as swaddling, sick with altitude. The air thinned, cymbaling her chest like a mechanical monkey – but she was gut-tugged through parting cloud, a full blue line, taut and expectant.
At last, she found it on a mountain top, half-submerged beneath a cairn of stones –stacked, matt, pale and sheen – a liverish disc, gritty to touch. Meat-heavy. Such tightly woven cotyledons of villi, veins and blood, the deciduous matter of family lore.
She did not flinch when hefting this foundation stone into the nave of her life. Did not see its feathers at her neck, crushing her spine with the weight of itself until her fingertips revealed the words carved in: daughter, brother, uncle, a mother’s mother’s gift.
Kneeling at the shore she hacked the cord with granite until her knuckles showed, unloading on the salt, swell, source. .
JLM Morton lives in Gloucestershire, England, snatching as much time as she can to write between caring for a young family, renovating a house and staring up the barrel of a demanding day job. Her first set of poems was recently published by Yew Tree Press for the Stroud Poets Series and she is currently working on a collection.
Brilliantly dark, beak shining golden in the noon —
an ornament of an Egyptian god,
the Eleonora falcon in flight
is manifesting above the incandescently brown island
what it means to be a prince in whom time is.
That Which Is Coming Is Unknown
On a dark September dawn, in my head,
I was leading a conversation with a man I desired.
In a Southern City
As soon as I went out the underground,
the Sun was there, and took me in its arms.
We made love as I was walking.
The sunset goldenly entered
from raised clouds.
Love was exiting.
At dawn, August languished away.
High summer passed
in the grasses.
When I die,
at the exact moment when soul leaves body,
a baby will cry.
Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017, Summer Literary Seminars Poetry Contest 2018 and the University Centre Grimsby International Literary Prize 2018; long-listed for the Erbacce Press Poetry Prize 2018 and the Red Wheelbarrow 2018 Prize, and nominated for Best of the Net 2018. She has three collections in Bulgarian. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, London Grip, Waxwing, Trafika Europe, European Literature Network, A-Minor, Poetry South, Great Weather for Media, Orbis, Nixes Mate, StepAway, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Mookychick, HeadStuff, Minor Literatures, Writing Disorder, Birds We Piled Loosely, Orbis, Chronogram, Noble/ Gas, Origins, The Journal, miller’s pond, Obra/ Artifact, Blue Mountain Review, Califragile, TAYO, Opiate, Squawk Back, Harbinger Asylum, Punch, Tuck, and Ginosko
A dhílleachta linbh gan ainm, gan athair, Do chraiceann ar aondath le humha an nathair, A lúbann timpeall do thaobhán uiríseal, Mar bhata ceannródaí is sníomhanna sisil.
Is trua liom ciseán do dhóchas a fhíochán, Do dhán a chaitheamh i bpoll an duibheagáin, D’eiseadh a chruthú ar bhunús baill séire, ‘Nois tá tú chomh cotúil leis an gCailleach Bhéarra.
A iníon, a mhiceo, a ógfhlaith bocht, A leanbh truaillithe, maith dom mo locht, Imigh anois leat, ná bí do mo chrá, Le smaointe ciúinchiontacha ó mhaidin go lá.
Ordóg Fhinn — The salmons skin Brushes the truth to his lip.
The cardinal sin The space within — He dares to taste a sip.
Blistering bliss The hero’s kiss Upon one fingertip.
The bubble bursts, The burning thirst — Quenched.
Not a fever-stirring, raging thing, The kind of sore that, left alone, won’t sting, But crueller still it tempts me to indulge To rake the wound and make the blisters bulge. It calls my nails to dig deep in my skin, And soon or late the call will always win, And I will tear and bleed and scab and scar, But know that I could have escaped unharmed, And that is what will cause the deepest hurt, For I have rubbed my own wound in the dirt.
And you will stand and watch and softly grin, And say that this you have had no hand in, For words are words and can’t be sticks or stones, And breaking skin is much like breaking bones, And if you ushered me towards an act, No blame could duly be called yours in fact, For faint-hearts will accept a tyrants rule, Or simply none the wiser play the fool, And so I’ll cradle wounds and loath mistakes, For God will punish men and never snakes.
This new-age madness spits its acidity on the skin of my mind, Sweats and shivers like a junky, In dry-tongued convulsions, Mad for a fix.
The technicolour screen visions That break the barrier between reality And wired hallucination Draw us all back in again To its surreal futuristic nightmare-come-true
Opre – arise/forward; Dikk – look for; Atchin tan – stopping place; Chal – Travelling man; Pookers – calls out; Kushti bok – good luck
Somewhere in Apple Water country
Me Mum’s cookin’ sushi stew. Me Dad’s chinning the koshtie’s. I’m practisin’ handwritin’ with a fine pencil. I’m lookin’ forward to sendin’ a proper letter to me cousin Louie, she’s a didikai and goes to school in London. Me dad calls it royal town and say’s ‘e wouldn’t go there, not if yer paid ‘im. She ‘as to wear a uniform, red and gold, but she can’t wear ‘er gold ‘oops, it’s against the rules. If I ever went to school, me dad would ‘ave murder if anyone touched me ‘oops or me ears.
Apple Water Country – An old Romani word for Herefordshire.
Romani words: sushi – rabbit; Chinning the koshtie’s – making pegs;
Didikai – non Romany.
A Memory of the Hop Fields
She is in the front garden bending low, picking bluebells, wearing her old red apron, with the Spanish dancer on the front.
She stands up, rubbing her lower back, her mind shaping a memory. The hop fields, her mother lean, strong,
picking the hops as quick as a squirrel. Her bal in plaits, tied on top of her head. Her gold hoops pulling her ears down. Ruddy cheeks, dry cracked lips.
Her father pulling poles, sweating, smiling, his gold tooth for all to see.
At the end of a long day she would stand on top of an apple crate, comb his hair, kiss his neck tasting of salt.
He would pick her up, Swing her high, low and say, ‘You’re the prettiest little chi there ever was.’
Romani words: Bal, hair. Chi, daughter/child.
Koring Chiriclo ii – a triolet
Jel on, me dad would say. Pack up yer covels, we’ll be on our way. Take our time, get to Frome’s Hill by May. Jel on, me dad would say. The cuckoo’s callin’, untie the grai, Up onto the vardo. It’s a kushti day. Jel on, me dad would say. Pack up yer covels. We’ll be on our way.
Romani words: Koring Chiriclo – the cuckoo; Jel on – move on; Covels – belongings: Grai – horses; Vardo – wagon; Kushti – lovely.
‘a song to rest the tired dead’
im of Celia Lane it is dusk she has come to wash the body a table is set by the bed a bowl of lavender water clean muslin cloths a white towel ‘too young for death’ she thinks as she removes all the clothing and jewellery from the body of her niece she notices stretch marks on the thighs how the breasts have dropped from feeding the chavies ‘forty years ago, just been borned sucking at her Daya’s breast.’ taking a cloth she dips it in water squeezes it hard in her hand sets about her task malts stand by the doorway aunts, daughters, sisters and the daya singing in low soft voices a song to rest the dead
she speaks quietly to her loved one as she gently cleans lifting one arm up then the other holding it placing it down carefully as if it was made of glass
the others won’t move too close it is mokkadi to do so
this woman who washes the dead now holds both feet letting them rest for a while blessing them for all the miles they have trod the earth
she dresses her niece in the finest of clothes combs her dark tangled hair places the gold chain and earrings in the palm of the right hand puts the wedding ring back on the third finger of the left hand ‘such small fingers’ bending forward, kisses them ‘you are ready now my gel, sov well’
Romani words: Chavies – children; Daya – mother; Malts – women; Mokkadi – unclean; Sov – sleep.
O Lillai Gillie
(Angloromani) Prey o lillai, prey o lillai Gillyava a gillie Prey o chick, prey o charos Gillyava a gillie
Prey a panni, prey o panni Gillyava a gillie Shoon me vas’ tacha Gillyava a gillie
Prey o raddi, prey o raddi Gillyava a gillie Chumos for me pen Gillyava a gillie
Prey o lillai, prey o lillai Gillyava a gillie Prey o chick, prey o charos Gilyava a gillie.
Gillyava a gillie, gillyava a gillie Shoon me vas tatcha, Gillyava a gillie.
The Summer Song
In the summer, in the summer I will sing a song, a song Of the earth, of the heavens I will sing a song
On the river, on the river I will sing a song Listen, my beloved I will sing a song
In the night, in the night I will sing a song, a song Kisses for my love I will sing a song
In the summer, in the summer I will sing a song, a song Of the earth, of the heavens I will sing a song
I will sing a song, a song Listen my beloved, I will sing a song.
Please note that the following poems are published in Apple Water: Povel Panni, ‘Romanichals in the 1950’s’, ‘Somewhere in Apple Water Country’ and ‘A Memory of the Hop Fields’. ‘a song to rest the tired dead’ was published in Here Comes Everyone in the Ritual (online edition, August 2018) ‘A Memory of the Hop Fields’ was published in Words from the Wild (Summer Edition, 2018) editors, Louise Taylor & Amanda Ostusion ‘Somewhere in Apple Water Country’ was published in Bonnie’s Crew (May 2018) editor Kate Garret. ‘Koring chiriclo (ii)’ was published in Under the Radar (Summer Edition, 2018)
Raine Geoghegan, MA lives in West Sussex. She is half Romany with Welsh and Irish ancestry. Her poems and short prose have been widely published and her debut pamphlet, Apple Water – Povel Panni published by Hedgehog Press was launched in December 2018 and previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018. Her poetry has been featured in a documentary film about hop picking ‘Stories from the Hop Yards.’ She is a Pushcart Prize and Forward Prize nominee. Other publications include, Under the Radar; Poetry Ireland Review; The Curlew; The Clearing and The Travellers’ times, amongst others
An assortment of crooked
and straight arrows
for the crest of a bulbul
or a handful of sesame
for juices of scorpions and glow worms
A dozen poisons
for an embroidered collar/
a pinch of saffron/
Spotted eggs for knotted shoes
Peacock feathers for beet sugar
How much fur
will buy cloves for my toothache?
How many sprigs of mint/
radishes to restring your rabab?
The market is spinning
How much of us has been stolen
by the ghosts of aromas?
When night comes
there is spinach again
for the promise of quail
Your dream of cake
feeds on wild berries
You kiss my cold shoulder
out the market from your hair
A Glass of Tea, a View of the Atlas
You give me Fez honey on Fennel cakes
in a ceramic saucer because you say, to eat from this bitter clay (glazed and caressed with geometric precision), will draw me into the shapeless sob of the future. You read invasion’s epistle even in the smoothness of ebony— ashes of ancestor acacia on your lashes— I raise my tea glass to level with your eyes, the snowy Atlas scintillates behind you— cream on your dish of weeping clay.
Untying the knot of ker-chiefed bread in a cedar grove
she would shudder, your mother, child of exiled Andalus, memory embossed with two kinds of histories— one flitting like a citron butterfly, the other wrapped in linen, knotted, turned to cinder over a cedar flame— tongue of the grand inquisitor leaping from Spain to Morocco, night-sweats, door-chains, the informants and their fistfuls of gold, the choke-hold of banned prayers. Tender, the bread sponges the lava of fear.
Only the footed teapot’s shadow
on the wall dismantles its truth, its rigid stance and military-medal-silver muted in the bounty of the skylight flecked with pheasant foot-stains from nightly rain. Its handle forms the shape of a perfect heart, if there is such a thing, and between breath of Konya and bloodbath of empire, furs of sable, mink and squirrel, and the soft grasp of a baby around the planet’s future, there are names for the divine in every tongue.
“Straight from the tea gardens to the teapot”
Slogan from the island of Sita, thieved goddess who takes her tea cold in America-of-the- ice-blue-eyes, new trail of old jewels. Not my grandmother’s time yet, the rupee coin in India bears an empress looking away, facing West. On the reverse, under a wreath, the coin says: East India Company As in, coffers/coffins, divide/conquer. Neck to navel, garlands of tea bags exhale the sweet manure of Ceylon around Sir. Thomas Lipton, delicate-dark fingers ghost across lifelong tea terraces, burial grounds of language
“You can buy estates here for a song,” Lipton’s agent says
Fungus consumes the coffee crop in Ceylon before sellers and drinkers do, and like a kiss snuffing a flame or a diamond in the ashes of a dead lover, it seals Lipton’s fortune: Georgetown Semi-Weekly Times says the Scottish grocer and tea Mogul Sir Lipton (“the largest landowner in Ceylon and one of the wealthiest tea merchants in the world”) is looking to invest a sum of half a million in South Carolina— A day for the rain raga, Serendip showers silver dollars, pounding the earth with the reign of tea
Under the Tea Table, Watching CNN
Euphoric, gold-maned lion with tea (or assault weapon?) in its raised paw, “Ceylon,” the box is called, and sits next to a tin of condensed milk, scalloped petunia teacups. The sweets from Alif Laila are not real but are in phantasmagoric excess: Syrup of Qandhaar lacing quince of Nishapur, apples of Syria, Tus apricots, dates of Kirmaan, Nawahand pears— I’m rocked by the dream of a fruit-scented boat, eyes shut to the television screen, quaking with grenades
Poisons of the Golden and Silver Screen
Splash of arsenic in the eye, the great art of hooding and unhooding on screen: naming me ‘enemy’ in the cartoon, the four o’clock news, feature film, the late- night talk show with the spotlight-artist of my absurdity, star-novelist who maps my crooked mind, catches me mid-dream in my plum-palace of crime, catwalks, the seven discarded veils of Salome— douses the lectern in the slow, deep, tweed-colored toxins.
Fairy of Pearls and Poisons
I scratch out the horned demon on the cover of my Urdu Dastaan and draw a fairy out of his fangs. Not much to look at, and smaller than the hero’s shield (the size of a peppercorn), she saves his life with her piercing rain raga that ricochets against the ruby-filled mountains of the dev, winning the hero his freedom plus a trove of foreign gems: turquoise of Nishapur, carnelian of Yemen, garnets of Balkh. And local pearls. She will fight the famous poisons for him: scorpion, centipede, glow worm — all, but vanity.
The Wise Sons of Serendip refuse premature power
refuse kneeling attendants and silk bolsters, each handing back the crown to their father, the King, whose painstaking work of raising princes is complete. I’m turning pages from golden palanquins to the parched mountain passes: parable narrated by Khusrao’s Princess of the Black Pavilion, daughter of India, who teaches the hero the uselessness of might against true power— Not cleverness but forbearance saves the sons of Serendip— Opaque watercolor ink and gold on paper, the princes hand back my faith in a land of stolen languages, of rulers looking away.
Serendip is the Persian name of Ceylon or Sri Lanka.
The British East India Company’s exploitative trade policies enabled it to seize control of a large part of the Indian subcontinent. Ceylon became part of the British empire in 1815.
1754; Horace Walpole coined “serendipity” for the faculty distinguishing the heroes of The Three Princes of Serendip, a tale that appears in a famous Persian poem by Amir Khusrao.
1890: Thomas Lipton visited Ceylon and purchased tea gardens with Tamil workers from India. Lipton sold packaged tea throughout Europe and the USA beginning in 1890.
Shadab Zeest Hashmi is the author of poetry collections Kohl,Chalk and Baker of Tarifa. Her latest work, Ghazal Cosmopolitan has been praised by poet Marilyn Hacker as “a marvelous interweaving of poetry, scholarship, literary criticism and memoir.” Winner of the San Diego Book Award for poetry, the Nazim Hikmet Prize and multiple Pushcart nominations. Zeest Hashmi’s poetry has been translated into Spanish and Urdu, and has appeared in anthologies and journals worldwide, most recently in Prairie Schooner, World Literature Today, Mudlark, Vallum, POEM, The Adirondack Review, Spillway, Wasafiri, Asymptote and McSweeney’s latest anthology In the Shape of a Human Body I am Visiting the Earth. She has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence and her work has been included in the Language Arts curriculum for grades 7-12 (Asian American and Pacific Islander women poets) as well as college courses in Creative Writing and the Humanities.
Raise the fallen, walk over them. Fear the consequences of a kind action, undermine the impact of a bad deed. Maybe there’s more to life, maybe there isn’t. Fight the oppressor, break the chains. Remain slaves? These haunting memories, these hopeless days, These hopeful dreams. Light a candle, say a prayer. Doubt! Close the door, cry in silence, wear a mask. Laugh! These scattered pieces– break me up, then make me whole. I have no power over my thoughts.
Like a pride of lions I am fierce. The past, The present and the future, I represent them all. Outstanding, I grace the world with awe. Great storm, I remain remarkable In a broken world I remain whole. I am superiority, I am a woman.
Walking with our shoulders straight and heads held high our ambitions reach the skies they throw stones at us but we build ourselves up with a belief so strong, We could grow wings, fly.
We grace the world with awe, hard rocks melt. Roaring like lions, we are heard and felt.
We break the chains of mediocrity. We amaze them in every country and in every city. We have much more, we don’t need pity. Shoulders straight, heads held high, we can’t break, we have our pride.
A Meeting with myself
We’ve met before. I wouldn’t miss that voice in a million years. It’s been a long road, Oh, what a burden for you to bear! I apologise for my absence, I shouldn’t have left you to face the storm alone I hope you understand; how could I love you when you were broken? But, Sister that pain you hold on to will suffocate you. you need to let it go. You can’t blame them anymore, I pity you for letting them in, I despise you for loving them, I am sorry they hurt you, but honey you need to heal. Forgive yourself and learn to love those who put you down. By forgive, I mean make peace with your soul. Heal yourself. More than anything, I wish to see you smile again.
I get lost, Am too proud to ask, so I lose my way. I get sad too, it’s hard to tell from this smile I maintain. I have dreams, a little too big, maybe, to come true, but I keep dreaming. Hopelessness makes a fool of you, stay sane, and keep fighting. I am grateful for the little things, I count my blessings before I break down. I get lost in these tears. Pieces of my soul I will never get back.
Wasekera C. Banda is a twenty-three-year-old Psychology student at City College in Dublin, Originally from Malawi, she has lived in Ireland for three years and was the 2016 winner of the Irish Times Africa Day Writing Competition. Wasekera enjoys writing and reading poetry, she is inspired by the Late Maya Angelou.
Smell the rain on the breeze
down at the river mouth
where fishermen stand
in the swirl of incoming waters
Feel the first drops on your skin
where the mystery of the ocean
draws away from salt spray
and the chill of the west wind
Ribbons of kelp sway in the deep
Refracted light dapples your face
as the child comes up for air
Your hands, useless
against the sky
Arms, broken wings
Osprey kestrel tern skua shearwater sandpiper swift
Fire relies on the leaves of gum trees
No sound fits this spectacle No sound
but the hiss of fire bark grass
searing your world into sheer whorls
of alliterations Hallucinations
of words resounding with nothing
Following faultlines a gorge aflame
furrows erased in granite and sandstone
lines of scribble gums forever
receding The gorge
Now how could I speak again
when syllables shatter on my page
turning words inside out
when letters hover in the air
like the smell of your burning skin?
We were discussing poetics
on our mobiles How we didn’t need
manuals for wordsmiths
preferred to work words as an end
in itself make a poem fulfilled
in its enaction look inwards
to the materiality of language
on the page and in the mouth
stress the event not the effect
You said good bye
And now I dream that you flit
out of my skin your voice
lettering me Poetic enjoyment
perhaps as if to resist
the etiolation of language
Don’t put individual utterances on show
you say Perform their moves
of repetition re-use reiteration
show your reader the absurd
desire to contain ( )
For here is the gum and its inferno remains
the grave among blistered roots
the mouthless earth lulling one to leave
If it could speak it would say
here is the silence here is the question
The Hanged Man
At the time of writing to you
The sun sinks in Sydney Harbour
Full moon swells above the bridge
Bizet’s Carmen bursts on the water
Valentines clink glasses and part
clink glasses and part
In Melbourne a southerly blows across the bay
Spectral waves ripple, curl, frizz, fizzle
Madame Sosostris sets The Lovers alight
Fireworks explode in the sky
Rainbows cover the face of the moon
and rub out the stars
Ropes of rain drop on Esperance
Pods of pilot whales shore up to die on Farewell Spit
Cascading waters rip into America’s tallest dam
Everywhere on earth lakes fill with fish doped on antidepressants
Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood II (non-fiction) is released
In Paris refugees huddle outside the Sacré Coeur where cleaners
slip them Halal baguettes
In London a Tory student films himself torching a twenty pound note
next to a homeless man
In Grahamstown one thousand and seven hundred people catch AIDS
In Manhattan the Statue of Liberty squirms
At the time of writing
Maryam Mizakhani dons no Jihab but wins the Nobel for mathematics
At the time of writing
George Orwell’s Twenty Seventeen (non-fiction) crackles off the press
At the time of writing
China stacks its artillery and extends its air strips
North Korea fires missiles into the Sea of Japan
Syria leaks chemical weapons
Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, India bury fresh bodies
At the time of writing
The planet tilts off its axis
Foaming clouds ignite
Coal-fired power plants belch
Robotic bees are born
At the time of writing
I’m out to kill time
Forget all possible endings to the world
Remember the boy who’d launch himself off into the river like Tarzan,
from the tree of immortality
At the time of writing
Death has achieved her majority
Madame Sosostris grants you eternity
I tuck away the Hanged Man’s card
Archive Fever Making Tracks
the arkhē appears in the nude—Jacques Derrida
You are I ama tracker bent crouched close to the page ground looking
for traces and signs that sense you has have passed this way
You sniff sniffing for the scent of absence you
but above all feeling
for the gap in your my life
that wants to fill this page
The air is incandescent
The white page trackglows
Emptiness talks back talks back talks back
to the heat that cracks open the world ground
This is a land of surfeit and lack
of hardness and clarity of image
of absence that opens out
or closes up the world
and sometimes the heart
Derrida, J 1998 Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression.Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Trans Eric Prenowitz, p. 92.
2017 The Hanged Man. Meniscus 5 :1 2017 The Hanged Man.Best Australian Poems. Melbourne : Blac Ink.
Dominique Hecq grew up in the French-speaking part of Belgium. She now lives in Melbourne. Her works include a novel, three collections of short stories and six books of poetry. Her stories and poems have been published internationally. These appear in English and other languages in anthologies, journals and on websites. Over the years, her work has been awarded a variety of prizes. Hush: A Fugue (2017) is her latest book.
I have another body
they call it
[but this is pain]
if I had carried you in my body
only then I would have felt your existence
My heart melts
when I think of you
the eyes aren’t satisfied with seeing
neither are the lips with kissing
it is with you
that the eyes feel hungry
it is with you
that the ears have appetite
in this state
I find myself
so that you stay in me
so that you stay
I take you in
I’d like you
to be my body
[without you miserable
without you unfortunate
with you complete
with you prosperous
your humble servant]
*Arub means in Arabic “Woman who loves her man”
Half of my body is earth
half of it is blood
half of my body is in the hands of a man
half of it is in fire
is crashing on the walls of the body
[only when you come, it calms down
my soul embellisher, my daylight]
in my mouth are pebbles
I become light as I empty them
I am as such I came from the nothingness
deep in myself
I have a tongue
-if it knew, it would explain-
I am sugar melting in water
my water is invisible
MÜESSER YENİAY was born in İzmir, 1984; she graduated from Ege University, with a degree in English Language and Literature. She took her M.A on Turkish Literature at Bilkent University. She has won several prizes in Turkey including Yunus Emre (2006), Homeros Attila İlhan (2007), Ali Riza Ertan (2009), Enver Gökçe (2013) poetry prizes. She was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Muse Pie Press in USA. Her first book Darkness Also Falls Ground was published in 2009 and her second book I Founded My Home in the Mountains a collection of translation from world poetry. Her second poetry book I Drew the Sky Again was published in 2011. She has translated the poems of Persian poet Behruz Kia as Requiem to Tulips.She has translated the Selected Poems of Gerard Augustin together with Eray Canberk, Başak Aydınalp, Metin Cengiz (2011). She has also translated the Personal Anthology of Michel Cassir together with Eray Canberk and Metin Cengiz (2011). Lately, she has published a Contemporary Spanish Anthology with Metin Cengiz and Jaime B. Rosa. She also translated the poetry of Israeli poet Ronny Someck (2014) and Hungarian poet Attila F. Balazs (2015). She has published a book on modern Turkish Avant-garde poetry The Other Consciousness: Surrealism and The Second New(2013). Her latest poetry book Before Me There Were Deserts was published in 2014 in İstanbul. Her poems were published in Hungarian by AB-Art Press by the name A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa(2015).
Her poems have appeared in the following magazines abroad: Actualitatea Literară (Romania), The Voices Project, The Bakery, Sentinel Poetry, Yellow Medicine Review, Shot Glass Journal, Poesy, Shampoo, Los Angeles Review of Books, Apalachee Review (USA&England); Kritya, Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Casa Della Poesia, Libere Luci, I poeti di Europe in Versi e il lago di Como (Italy); Poeticanet, Poiein (Greece); Revue Ayna, Souffle, L’oiseau de feu du Garlaban (France); Al Doha (Qatar); Tema (Croatia); Dargah (Persia).
The Anthologies her poetry appeared: With Our Eyes Wide Open; Aspiring to Inspire, 2014 Women Writers Anthology; 2014 Poetry Anthology- Words of Fire and Ice (USA) Poesia Contemporanea de la Republica de Turquie (Spain); Voix Vives de Mediterranee en Mediterranee, Anthologie Sete 2013 ve Poetique Insurrection 2015 (France); One Yet Many- The Cadence of Diversity ve ayrıca Shaikshik Dakhal (India); Come Cerchi Sull’acqua (Italy).
Her poems have been translated into Vietnamese, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Persian, French, Serbian, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Greek, Hindi, Spanish and Romanian. Her book in Hungarian was published in 2015 by AB-Art Publishing by the name “A Rozsaszedes Szertartasa” She has participated in the poetry festivals like Sarajevo International Poetry Festival, September 2010 (Bosnia-Herzegovina); Nisan International Poetry Festival, May 2011 (Israel); Belgrad International Poetry Festival, September 2012 (Serbia); Voix Vives International Poetry Festival (Sete), July 2013 (France); Kritya International Poetry Festival, September 2013 (India), Galati/Antares International Poetry Festival, June 2014 (Romania), Medellin International Poetry Festival, July 2014 (Colombia); 2nd Asia Pacific Poetry Festival 2015 (Vietnam). Müesser is the editor of the literature magazine Şiirden (of Poetry). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Turkish literature at Bilkent University, Ankara, and is also a member of PEN and the Writers Syndicate of Turkey.
Why does my father beat my mother ? She does not know how to iron his shirts properly. Me, when I am grown up I will iron the shirts very well.
Son of Sonia Age: 7
You know, Mother if the giant comes during the night to beat you, You can come sleep in my bed. I ate up all my soup and all my spinach so that I can grow up quickly and protect you.
Son of Leila Age: 12
Why don’t you go to the doctor and have him give back your smile, Mother, your lovely smile?
Son of Magda Age: 13
I do not remember her face, I was very small when my father carried me off to my grandmother’s house far, far away.
My grandmother did not like the one who had brought me into the world, with every prayer she would demand that God would punish her.
She would say, hers is the blood of the devil. she would say, she abandoned you for the cats to eat you up.
Eighteen months old … that’s very young for a child to have to defend himself.
Clément and Romain
Children of Florence Age 12 and 9
Don’t forget, Mother to pack me and brother in your baggage. We won’t annoy you we’ll behave this time.
Daughter of Suzanne Age: 11
I have often seen my father drag my mother by the hair into the bathroom. I’d hide myself in the cupboard and wait until he’d calm down. On the wall in the sitting room there’s a photo of a crocodile. myself and my brother, we used to call it ‘Papa’. from II, The Scream, Barefoot Souls
Look, look at all the wounds I have received in your wars. This wound, deep and dark, I got it at 18, the first time you injured me. I bled until I thought I might die, swore I would never again get into a fight. But every time you return, smiling that smile, promising paradise and eternity, back I come again without helmet or armour and you lunge at me with your words, stabbing as hard as you can, as if, truly, you wished me dead. I do not know by what miracle I survive, nor by what miracle I fall back into your arena. Look, look, this one is still fresh, still bleeding. Be gentle, this time … You see, I cannot bear another wound, At the very least, do it nicely ..
Maram Al-Masri is from Lattakia in Syria, now settled in Paris. She studied English Literature at Damascus University before starting publishing her poetry in Arab magazines in the 1970s. Today she is considered one of the most renowned and captivating feminine voices of her generation. Besides numerous poems published in literary journals, in several Arab anthologies and in various international anthologies, she has published several collections of poems. Thus far her work has been translated into eight languages. Maram al-Masri has participated in many international festivals of poetry in France and abroad. She has been awarded the “Adonis Prize” of the Lebanese Cultural Forum for the best creative work in Arabic in 1998, the “Premio Citta di Calopezzati” for the section “Poesie de la Mediterranee” and the “Prix d’Automne 2007” of the Societe des gens de letters. Her poetry collections include “Karra humra’ ala bilat abyad” (Red Cherry on the White Floor) and “Undhur Ilayk” (I look at you). (Source: Arc Publications)
Theo Dorgan is a poet, novelist, prose writer, documentary screenwriter, editor, translator and broadcaster.
His poetry collections are The Ordinary House of Love (Galway, Salmon Poetry, 1991); RosaMundi (Salmon Poetry, 1995); and Sappho’s Daughter (Dublin, wave Train Press 1998). In 2008 Dedalus Press published What This Earth Cost Us, reprinting Dorgan’s first two collections with some amendments. After Greek(Dublin, Dedalus Press, 2010), his most recent collection is Nine Bright Shiners(Dedalus Press 2014). Songs of Earth and Light, his versions from the Slovenian of Barbara Korun, appeared in 2005 (Cork, Southword Editions). In 2015 his translations from the French of the Syrian poet Maral al-Masri, BAREFOOT SOULS, appeared from ARC Publications, UK.
He has also published a selected poems in Italian, La Case ai Margini del Mundo, (Faenza, Moby Dick, 1999), and a Spanish translation of Sappho’s Daughter La Hija de Safo, (Madrid, Poesía Hiperión, 2001). Ellenica, an Italian translation of Greek, appeared in 2011 from Edizioni Kolibris in Italy. (Source: Aosdána)
About Barefoot Souls by Maram al-Masri Detailing the lives of Syrian women living in Paris, these poems, capturing the unheard voices of women whose lives are suppressed in unimaginable ways, allow us to explore moments never mentioned in the news reports. Potent and never failing to capture the essence of the feminine experience with a remarkable amount of insight. 978-1910345-37-5 pbk 978-1910345-38-2 hbk 978-1910345-39-9 ebk 120pp Published September 2015
(Hindi: the pleasure of looking) In my favourite of your Indian stories you are working in your room in the garden ashram: the air is heavy with mangoes and dung the cows in the gowshala sing the saffron cloths of the swami flap like prayer flags on the line. You are working on the Gita intent and peaceful but suddenly you look up and there is the cook, Santakumar, with his extended family smiling at your door and when you ask what you can do for them he says, “No, no – just Darshan Mr Malki, just Darshan.” And now, on many nights when you are asleep before me I lie and look and think, “Just Darshan, just Darshan Malachi.” First published in Incertus 2007.
Invoking St Ciarán of Saigher
When the blackbirds begin to build their nest against your house we take it as a good sign – an omen of continuance, of the birds knowing it as a gentle place, trusting its rafters, burrowing into the soft hydrangea, coming right into the luctual house, the house of the dead. They swoop in – the rich open sough a sound bigger than themselves, comic with beards of grass, busy with the build. But at your month’s mind, the birds are frantic through the night and in the morning the perfect nest is overturned, one small fledgling left by the sparrowhawk upon the ground and the bewildered mother bird still flying in with worms, unable to break her instinctive act. I lift the scalding and feel again the cold of death as I had on your cheek in the bright mornings of that May week when I stole downstairs to be with you alone. Now I wish I had the power of the Midlands Saint, whose prayer alone could bring back the birds, could put the breath back into men when it had gone. First published in Festschrift for Ciaran Carson 2008
Lilacs from the Field of Mars
Bringing armfuls of lilacs from the Field of Mars blushing girls hide them under cotton skirts, stiffening petticoats like the dancers’ horsehair net bought by the shimmering bolt they have seen carried to the costumier’s in the neighbouring street. Once in place they must brave the babushkas who sit in the dusky corridors of the old theatre knitting, darning the dancer’s shoes holding the block in the satin where blood has soaked into cloth. The hidden flowers rustle as they walk and when inside are pulled out in a wash of Spring scent to be handed carefully over the balcony and down to the blind box where they will wait until the last beat of his pas-de-deux and then fall in a lilac shower – flowers warmed by the thighs of girls as offerings for the young god. First published in The Honest Ulsterman 2014.
Your love, Lord reaches to heaven your truth to the skies.
I am on the roof this breezy day, in the sixth month of my pregnancy, picking off the moss and lichen and tossing them in soft bouquets to the ground.
Above me are the chimneys – their stacks the colour of sand and round the tops, circles of hearts opening… to the sky.
I am a billowing blown crow in my dark work clothes and this is punishment for vanity. For finding my face in a bucket of blue
Sister brought me up the back stairs. The slates I clean are greens and shell-greys that turn dark ink-blue in rain. Today is a weather-breeder
the nuns say, presaging a storm, so I am here to clean the way and the rain will wash the loosened moss in green runnels when it comes.
I am as high as the monkey puzzle, Its open branches wide smiles at the level of my eye, arms outstretched – as if they’d catch me.
Down below is the road I will walk my baby across to give him away he, in a big dicky-up pram, me, all dressed. Every Monday
the nuns take me to the parlour to write a card telling everyone who needs to know: that I am well, that the sea is wild, that I am working hard,
that I miss them, when all the while: I’m sitting at an oak table – the smell of polish heavy in the air, the grandmother clock ticking nearby,
dry spider plants on the windowsills and a sad-eyed Mary hanging her head in the corner. They take a lot of trouble with the cards. The gardener runs them
up to Portrush and posts them there so that the stamp’s right, so that the postman can tell everyone I’m grand and it’s not just my parents’ word on it.
I talk to my baby up here. We’re not supposed to but the wind takes the words away. They say Our Lady had no pain
in either the making or getting of God and she was allowed to keep him. I’d have liked mine to have an angel for a father – he’d have been light on me.
I mind my Granny saying that when the midwife helping Mary put her hand in to touch it withered away.
Who’ll help me when the time comes? It’ll be one of them and I think I’d love to have that power to wither their hands. My hands are cold; the first raindrops splashing
on the slate. The red bricks of the walls burn in the dying sun’s colour and the birds have gone, taking the little offerings of moss and lichen. They’ll line their nests with them.
Maureen Boyle grew up in Sion Mills, County Tyrone and now lives in Belfast. She was awarded a UNESCO medal for poetry in 1979 when she was 18. She was runner-up in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Prize in 2004. In 2007 she was awarded the Ireland Chair of Poetry Prize and the Strokestown International Poetry Prize. She has been the recipient of various awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – most recently an Artist’s Career Enhancement Award in 2011. In 2013 she won the Fish Short Memoir Prize and was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize. She was a finalist in the Mslexia single poem competition in 2013 for a long memoir poem ‘Incunabula’ which was published in Germany this year. Her poem ‘Amelia’ was a BBCNI commission to mark the renovation of the Crown Bar in Belfast and was used in an art installation at the City Hall, Belfast in 2014, as part of the University of the Air Festival, marking 50 years of the Open University. Her poems have been published in The Honest Ulsterman, From the Fishhouse, Fortnight; The Yellow Nib; Poetry Ireland Review; Mslexia; and Incertus. She teaches in St Dominic’s Grammar School in Belfast and with the Open University. She lives in Belfast with her husband, the writer, Malachi O’Doherty.
the stress clinic
it’s ok no one need know only negligible
impending threat i’m going to leave you
let healing happen
i’m turning left into the coffee shop it’s easy
like this one step
comforting to sit
even on seats slashed by spooks
i can wait learn patience is learnt on the edge
other worlds where others wait
for the breath something that “presents”
a hiatus between one distress and
the nest you’re reluctant to leave
it’s ok the world is out there still the density
you love suspended in space preparing
the next problem for you to solve you’re good
at that talented
are you ok? me too it’s just
the acid sprung on a tensile in my stomach
at ulica Freta, 16 – before radium or polonium
the wood seeps into your bones
in a room that lives as if its grain
& whorls were part of your nervous
system – smooth marrow – polished
in your tea one lump, two meticulous
the molecules contract till they disappear
optical illusions have their own reality
billowing on the balcony Poland
is diluted Prussian Russian
fission renames a people
invents a purpose of its own
but you can shut it out indomitable
in a room that soon is rubble while thunder
splits the summer partitions your
future gladioli everywhere alert
to your black dress alive your luggage
waltzing in the street
(originally published in Can-Can #2)
against the wall
boxed in the past
your mouth apes
bereft of tongue
hoping to emit
a silence, even
of the side-tracked route
you had to take
from primitive iron
lodged in some alpine nook
through ism, to prism
you’re waiting - aren’t you
to gut you
get the warm feel
of your spasm
when I tug
on the spinal cord
and watch you
to the ground
refusing to be pressed
i wake my arms wrapped
around the city legs enjamb-
ed with its towers
skyward /a formal
flowers through its lights
the smallness of them struck
by shadowed stills
the colour of cavities
of not wanting to disturb /harmony
28 degrees at midnight slums unshimmering
slumber the eye insists on definition
colour resists /chaos v order/
could hang me
it’s a hollow that isn’t black
where the street light
maybe it’s a smell a size
the meaning of a name
i can never forget /beautiful
corrugated iron angles into place discreet /elegant/
blanketblue & rustroof red
staggered across some great want
where the revolution daubs
its palette of scars
Anamaría Crowe Serrano is a poet and translator born in Ireland to an Irish father and a Spanish mother. She grew up bilingually, straddling cultures, rarely with her nose out of a book. Languages have always fascinated her to the extent that she has never stopped learning or improving her knowledge of them. She enjoys cross-cultural and cross-genre exchanges with artists and poets. Much of her work is the result of such collaborations. With a B.A. (Hons) in Spanish and French from Trinity College Dublin, Anamaría went on to do an M.A. in Translation Studies at Dublin City University. Since then, she has worked in localization (translating hardware and software from English to Spanish), has been a reader for the blind, and occasionally teaches Spanish. For over 15 years she has translated poetry from Spanish and Italian to English. Anamaría is the recipient of two awards from the Arts Council of Ireland to further her writing. Her translations have won many prizes abroad and her own poetry has been anthologised in Census (Seven Towers), Landing Places (Dedalus), Pomeriggio (Leconte) and other publications. She is currently Translations editor for Colony Journal: www.colony.ie.
1. I didn’t see my grandmother’s tree in Chile, araucaria araucana, though they grow tall there and are many. I must have walked under them every day, tripped over their seeds, but I didn’t think of her, oceans away, standing in a square of green, raking leaves around her monkey puzzle tree. 2. For over a hundred years, that tree stood between pruned rosebush and clipped hedge, a long shadow moving over wet fields and stone walls. As a girl, I clung to the trunk when we played hide and seek, rough bark printing maps on my palms. 3. In April gales, the tree sways. From the window, my grandmother watches a chainsaw blade spin the tree into a flight of splinters, until only logs and sawdust are left. In each neat wheel of wood, an eye opens, ringed by lines of the past. The logs are split, stacked, the tree turned into armfuls of firewood which will rise as smoke to the sky, a puzzle unravelled.
In the frozen foods aisle, I think of him when I shiver among shelves of green flecked garlic breads and chunks of frozen fish. I touch the cold door until my thumbs numb. Strangers unpacked his body in a lab and thawed his hand, watched long-frozen fingers unfurl one by one, until his fist finally opened, let go, and from his grasp rolled a single sloe, ice-black with a purple-blue waxy bloom.
Inside the sloe, a blackthorn stone. Inside the stone, a seed.
Standing in the supermarket aisle, I watch my breath freeze.
I am custodian of this exhibition of erasures, curator of loss.
I watch over pages of scribbles, deletions, obliterations,
in a museum that preserves not what is left, but what is lost.
Where arteries are unblocked, I keep the missing clots.
I collect all the lasered tattoos that let skin start again.
In this exhibition of erasures, I am curator of loss.
See the unraveled wool that was once a soldier’s socks,
shredded documents, untied shoestring
knots — my museum protects not what is left, but what is lost.
I keep deleted jpegs of strangers with eyes crossed,
and the circle of pale skin where you removed your wedding ring.
I recall all the names you ever forgot. I am curator of loss.
Here, the forgotten need for the flint and steel of a tinderbox,
and there, a barber’s pile of scissored hair. I attend
not what is left, but what is lost.
I keep shrapnel pulled from wounds where children were shot,
confession sins, abortions, wildflowers lost in cement.
I am custodian of erasures. I am curator of loss
in this museum that protects not what is left, but what is lost.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet, writing both in Irish and in English. Paula Meehan awarded her the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2014-2015. Her collections are Résheoid, Dúlasair (Coiscéim), A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press) and Clasp (Dedalus Press). Her work is regularly broadcast on RTE Radio One. Doireann’s poems have previously appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally (in Canada, France, Mexico, USA, Scotland and England). Two of her poems are currently Pushcart Prize nominated. . www.doireannnighriofa.com & DoireannNiG
Ach a mbead gafa as an líon so – Is nár lige Dia gur fada san – B’fhéidir go bhfónfaidh cuimhneamh Ar a bhfuaireas de shuaimhneas id bhaclainn
Nuair a bheidh arm o chumas guíochtaint, Comaoine is éiteacht Aifrinn, Cé déarfaidh ansan nach cuí dhom Ar ‘shonsa is arm o shon féin achaine?
Ach comhairle idir dhá linn duit, Ná téir ródhílis in achrann, Mar go bhfuilimse meáite ar scaoileadh Pé cuibhreann a snaidhmfear eadrainn.
Beagbheann ar amhras daoine, Beagbheann ar chros na sagart, Ar gach ní ach bheith sínte Idir tú agus falla –
Neamhshuim liom fuacht na hoíche, Neamhshuim liom scríb is fearthainn, Sa domhan cúng rúin teolaí seo Ná téann thar fhaobhar na leapan –
Ar a bhfuil romhainn ní smaoinfeam, Ar a bhfuil déanta cheana, Linne an uain, a chroí istigh, Is mairfidh sí go maidin.
Achar bliana atáim Ag luí farat id chlúid, Deacair anois a rá Cad leis a raibh mo shúil!
Ghabhais de chosaibh i gcion A tugadh go fial ar dtúis, Gan aithint féin féd throigh Fulaing na feola a bhrúigh!
Is fós tá an creat umhal Ar mhaithe le seanagheallúint, Ach ó thost cantain an chroí Tránn áthas an phléisiúir.
Tá naí an éada ag deol mo chíchse Is mé ag tál air de ló is d’oíche; An garlach gránna ag cur na bhfiacal, Is de nimh a ghreama mo chuisle líonta.
A ghrá, ná maireadh an trú beag eadrainn, Is a fholláine, shláine a bhí ár n-aithne; Barántas cnis a chloígh lem chneas airsin, Is séala láimhe a raibh gach cead aici.
Féach nach meáite mé ar chion a shéanadh, Cé gur sháigh an t-amhras go doimhin a phréa’chas; Ar lair dheá-tharraic ná déan éigean, Is díolfaidh sí an comhar leat ina séasúr féinig.
Is éachtach an rud í an phian, Mar chaitheann an cliabh, Is ná tugann faoiseamh ná spás Ná sánas de ló ná d’oíche’ –
An té atá i bpéin mar táim Ní raibh uaigneach ná ina aonar riamh, Ach ag iompar cuileachtan de shíor Mar bhean gin féna coim.
‘Ní chodlaím istoíche’ – Beag an rá, ach an bhfionnfar choíche Ar shúile oscailte Ualach na hoíche?
Fada liom anocht! Do bhí ann oíche Nárbh fhada faratsa – Dá leomhfainn cuimhneamh.
Go deimhin níor dheacair san. An ród a d’fhillfinn – Dá mba cheadaithe Tréis aithrí ann.
Luí chun suilt Is éirí chun aoibhnis Siúd ba cheachtadh dhúinn – Dá bhfaigheann dul siar air.
Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.
Mary Hogan’s Quatrains
O to be disentangled from this net – And may God not let that be long – Perhaps the memory will help Of all the ease I had in your arms.
When I shall have the ability to pray, Take communion and hear Mass, Who will say then that it is not seemly To intercede on yours and on my behalf?
But meanwhile my advice to you, Don’t get too firmly enmeshed, For I am determined to let loose Whatever bond between us is tied.
I care little for people’s suspicions, I care little for priests’ prohibitions, For anything save to lie stretched Between you and the wall –
I am indifferent to the night’s cold, I am indifferent to the squall or rain, When in this warm narrow secret world Which does not go beyond the edge of the bed –
We shall not contemplate what lies before us, What has already been done, Time is on our side, my dearest, And it will last til morning.
For the space of a year I have been Lying with you in your embrace, Hard to say now What I was hoping for!
You trampled on love, That was freely given at first, Unaware of the suffering Of the flesh you crushed under foot.
And yet the flesh is willing For the sake of an old familiar pledge, But since the heart’s singing has ceased The joy of pleasure ebbs.
The child of jealousy is sucking my breast, While I nurse it day and night; The ugly brat is cutting teeth, My veins throb with the venom of its bite.
My love, may the little wretch not remain between us, Seeing how healthy and full was our knowledge of each other; It was a skin warranty that kept us together, And a seal of hand that knew no bounds.
See how I am not determined to deny love, Though doubt has plunged its roots deep; Do not force a willing mare, And she will recompense you in her own season.
Pain is a powerful thing, How it consumes the breast, It gives no respite day or night, It gives no peace or rest –
Anyone who feels pain like me, Has never been lonely or alone, But is ever bearing company Like a pregnant woman, in her womb.
‘I do not sleep at night’ – Of no account, but will we ever know With open eyes The burden of the night?
Tonight seems never-ending! There was once such a night Which with you was not long – Dare I call to mind.
That would not be hard, for sure, The road on which I would return – If it were permitted After repentance.
Lying down for joy And rising to pleasure That is what we practised – If only I could return to it.
Translation by James Gleasure.
Cathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin from, Margadh na Saoire. Dublin: Sairseal agus Dill, 1956, 1971.
A fhir dar fhulaingeas…
A fhir dar fhulaingeas grá fé rún, Feasta fógraím an clabhsúr: Dóthanach den damhsa táim, Leor mo bhabhta mar bhantráill
Tuig gur toil liom éirí as, Comhraím eadrainn an costas: ‘Fhaid atáim gan codladh oíche Daorphráinn orchra mh’osnaíle
Goin mo chroí, gad mo gháire, Cuimhnigh, a mhic mhínáire, An phian, an phláigh, a chráigh mé, Mo dhíol gan ádh gan áille.
Conas a d’agróinnse ort Claochló gréine ach t’amharc, Duí gach lae fé scailp dhaoirse – Malairt bhaoth an bhréagshaoirse!
Cruaidh an cás mo bheith let ais, Measa arís bheith it éagmais; Margadh bocht ó thaobh ar bith Mo chaidreamh ortsa, a óigfhir.
Man for whom I endured…
Man, for whom I suffered love In secret, I now call a halt. I’ll no longer dance in step. Far too long I’ve been enthralled.
Know that I desire surcease, Reckon up what love has cost In racking sighs, in blighted nights When every hope of sleep is lost.
Harrowed heart, strangled laughter; Though you’re dead to shame, I charge you With my luckless graceless plight And pain that plagues me sorely.
Yet, can I blame you that the sun Darkens when you are in sight? Until I’m free each day is dark – False freedom to swap day for night!
Cruel my fate, if by your side. Crueller still, if set apart. A bad bargain either way To love you or to love you not.
Translated by Biddy Jenkinson.
Máire Mhac an tSaoi (born 4 April 1922) is one of the most acclaimed and respected Irish language scholars, poets, writers and academics of modern literature in Irish. Along with Seán Ó Ríordáin and Máirtín Ó Direáin she is, in the words of Louis de Paor, ‘one of a trinity of poets who revolutionised Irish language poetry in the 1940s and 50s. (Wiki)
These poems are published courtesy of Micheal O’Conghaile at Cló Iar-Chonnachta. My thanks to The O’Brien Press for dealing so swiftly with my queries regarding sharing some poetry and translations by Máire Mhac an tSaoi.
Thanks to Bridget Bhreathnach at Cló Iar-Chonnachta for providing the physical copies of Mhac an tSaoi’s poetry, and to translators James Gleasure and Biddy Jenkinson.
Virginie Colline lives and writes in Paris. Her poems have appeared in The Scrambler, Notes from the Gean, Prune Juice, Frostwriting, Prick of the Spindle, Mouse Tales Press, StepAway Magazine, BRICKrhetoric, Overpass Books, Dagda Publishing, Silver Birch Press and Yes, Poetry, among others.
In the hush of my father’s house, before dusk rustles over the horizon, I take off the dress my mother made -it’s as ruby red as St Michael’s cloak- and with a stitch of linen, bind my breasts. By the greasy light of a candle, I shear my hair to the style of a boy, in the looking glass I see my girlhood swallowed up in a tunic and pants, I lace them tightly to safeguard myself. My soldiers call me ‘Pucelle’, maiden, they cleave the suit of armour to my body, and know when following my banner over ramparts into Orléans, that there will only ever be one like me. When the pyre flames fly up my legs, I do not think of the Dauphin, or my trial as a heretical pretender, but see my mother, head bent low, sewing a red dress for her daughter to wear.
Mother is in bits but only literally she doesn’t find it funny at all this new slug covered in shreds of skin his or her own, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t want to think about which of those are hers about the things she ripped out that took on a life of their own but from what she hears, you have a lifetime to get used to it.
Father is aglow with a job well done, he knows they say the women do all the work, but privately he thinks he had a little something to do with it and that his wife’s tits never looked better, but maybe that’s the drink. The lads at the pub kept shouting the rounds
“Let’s call him Derek” father says, a Derek would know how to play the guitar how to have fun how to fix cars how to play ball but still save for a mortgage on the sly.
“Let’s call him Christoph” mother says, and she sees handsome Christoph bring her lilies to the retirement home father long since six feet under.
There is a minute of silence, and two hundred and fifty babies are born
Father says: “He will do great things, let’s give him the name of a leader Barack or Franklin or maybe Winston” “and why not Boris or Donald while you’re at it, here, you know what goes really well with Miller? Nigel!” Father says nothing, the lads at the pub warned him about pregnancy hormones.
There is a minute of silence, And another two hundred and fifty babies are born
Mother thinks of those Sunday afternoons they were one, It was love she was sure, she had seen it on TV. Offscreen, white deflated penises litter the floor each with its own harvest of thousands of slugs, whole cities in a Durex.
There are minutes and minutes of silence Thousands of babies are born. As Mother and Father stare At the child, they thought they’d made together but really had made each on their own.
Next week a hundred people will get a card in the mail “Welcome to the world” The card will read, “to baby Jack”
Poem for a dead dog
Days came and days went outside my window, summer days made of blue skies and green trees. Smells of freshly cut grass and sounds of voices tender evening chills and powerful sun streaks, but, I did not go to meet them for I knew they were all lies.
And in the tender evening the stones who used to be my friends into treacherous traps turned, and in the blinding sun, I got lost. Wandering up or wandering down, I do not know, and tumbling until old voices passed me, and I was grabbed. Naked hands on bony pain, ascending, Master of my path no more
I sit looking at the meaning of life, wobbly, one eye white as milk sixteen years, the old voices said sixteen, seventeen years that’s the age for a dog. And they had a meaningful ring To them.
There will be Still waters again Soon enough. Where do you see yourself In five years? They asked, And she said: “I have a right now plan” And it worked A treat She turned them down.
There will be No more rough waves Rubbing you Harshly Lovingly On reefs of days Grey Cold Full of time And yet Empty.
There will be Full days again Don’t fret, friend. It’s easy enough Just don’t Make waves We will be employed In harshly lit offices Again, Blinds down.
There will be Still waters Again Soon enough. And, into untroubled souls We will look Like we used to look To the very bottom Of our grandmothers’ Fishponds.
I lie awake at night, eyes open to the imperfect darkness of the room. Hold watch as the same old shadows take their seats, the plaster flowers around the lamp dance inexplicable messages. Next to me a sleeping body; a body that loved me so during the day. But now there is no love, there is no hate either, no nothing. He is like a stone, a warm breathing stone. He turned his back on me in his sleep. His mind has gone all into himself, and unless I wake him there will be no reassurance of his love. He is walking the fields of dreams alone; I who would follow him anywhere cannot follow him there. Where is he walking, and how far from me? When he wakes up, will he be the same; or will his nightly walks little by little change him and take him away from me? If only we could never sleep and only share manageable walks of reality. Then we would never drift apart. But night after night he sleeps, and I lie awake feeling cold and alone like a snake. I want to climb into his dream and touch his heaving ribcage; but the sleeping body shivers and rejects me. It is the master of the ship now, no brain or heart here. It knows only needs and pains, and now it needs to rest and not to be disturbed; and it knows nothing of romanticism. Take rest. Take rest. Take rest. In the morning, flatmates wear clogs and tap-dancing shoes. Dead-fish eyes open inwards. Lungwater on the window, the only place on earth where souls mingle perfectly. Soon, the day’s first coffee will bring life into limbs again, we are at that stage of addiction where it could be cut with fentanyl for all we care. When I come home later he has made my bed, folded my pyjamas. The waking body abides.
So bright tonight, woods glow, as if some rare magic is near, orchestra building to a swell, crescendo followed by abrupt silence, pierced by an animal’s anguished squeal,
sound that sends my heart thumping though my dog doesn’t bark. Imagination with a dash of desperation for a happening, some quickening.
Stultifying summer heat, occasional cicada hum. All day anticipation, not dread, for a shift toward desire, propelled by a passionate cause.
Circuitry fired up, tasting like obsession. Sweat drips from my chin. Off balance. Drunk on moonbeams and shadows.
I’m a willow today, pale, still green, stirred easily to weeping, waving flimsy limbs that rustle with happiness, taste of air and spores flying. I strike a pose, skirts twirling, fragrant as green beans and artichokes waiting
for a Sunday crowd, sweet and sour pasted on their faces while my leaves flutter, reveal both sharp and rounded edges. “Hey, Schwarzenegger, what made you think you could keep secrets, like my family, who lacked your worldliness and education?”
Watching you, I’m all muscle, diabolical, not diaphanous. Creatures live within my niches and notches. I have been barren, a desert. Not like you, Maria, with your good face hiding the happiness you deserve. “The rich have greater resources to manage life’s upsets. They have servants.” She knows the abyssal plain of satisfaction runs flat, deep underwater, too cold to swim.
Where sunshine beats chilly rays, darkness grows darker. This tree looks rooted, but can walk away, as I did from today’s plans. Spontaneity I once denied. I won’t spend hours where I don’t want to be.
Joanie, dear. At nearly any moment
you can change direction, step off the line
drawn on your calendar or book of life.
Today is the foundation of the next two years, first page of the book of yesterday’s tomorrow. Inside an opaque crystal ball, Voilà. Nothing there but your imagination. Trees walking, dragging their roots like a train, dropping slender leaves, not rose petals.
I’m not the one
who frets about pimples and cellulite, who fears countries with enriched uranium. Whom to believe? My hair is all roots, grayer with every cut. I don’t go to spas, salons, fat farms. You won’t catch me at a healer, reader, or any séance. I don’t care for sports or stadiums full of shouting fans, can’t get excited about winning a weekend in Las Vegas.
No video games or computer apps to track birthdays, no lottery tickets with impossible fantasies. I don’t send e-greetings but will craft you layered cards with folded papers, ribbons, window openings with photos. I buy stamps, pay extra postage for the thickness of a plastic jewel at the center of the paper iris. You’ll get it in the mail.
I’m not the one arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, who cleans the inside of the dishwasher, irons sheets and underwear. I won’t ask to borrow money, tools, or your lawnmower. If I ask for a book, you know you’ll get it back. I don’t make lists for Christmas gifts or send Easter cards. When someone loses a love— person or pet—I send a handwritten, handmade card.
I’m prepared for disasters that will likely never happen: flu pandemic that will keep me avoiding contagion for months at home with a year’s toilet paper, tissues, pet food. Yup. That’s me washing my hands again, remembering not to bite my nails, fire extinguisher next to backup firewood. There’s a lot of heat in books. After I read them, I can burn them if I have to.
Bodo’s Bagels Before Poetry Class
Today is a pot of beef barley soup. By the scent of bagels and this cold gray light like jagged cliffs, it could be New York in December, not early October in Virginia. Time warp.
The brown tug of longing tells me, “It never was the way it used to be!”*
In the parking lot, I get over myself by tasting oaks that murmur autumn through clamped jaws, toss acorns for passersby to catch. Everyone litters the carpet with poppy and sesame seeds, add cups and forks to Landfill Mountain.
It’s the cause of young patrons falling into bed on third dates. “511!” is shouted when their food is ready, and, “Take screaming children outside!”
The tossed salad of happiness will make you weep for all you’ve lost. The screaming child’s father lifts her to her feet. “Grow up!” Not wanting to, he makes her taller than all.
Gentle devils storm the restaurant. You know this is your destiny. You don’t have to run a marathon or hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Chickie, to have that transformative moment. Don’t say, Oy vay. You’ll give me a kenahora!
The carpet says, “Call a cleaning crew.” You order a dozen bagels to go. All plain. You have all the seeds you need. The barley soup chants your name.
*quote from Shann Palmer
Desire is a blast of fireworks, tie-dye colors fading more each year. They wear thin, not like the end of your rope, not down to your last thread, you are part of the normal flow of a cycle all mammals know. Free of an infant, fertile again, time to mix up the genes, find a new partner with novel skills
that make you sweat and quicken your breathing. Darker skin, lighter hair and eyes, one who makes music, defies norms, permits cries in the middle of lust.
She smells like wet sand. He loves to pet and be petted. Each able to be alone. You didn’t lose your desire. It’s time to transform passion’s myths. Not your cheatin’ heart. That urge is your selfish genes, finding a way to get around, stalking parks where parents push swings. When your mother
told you, Don’t do it! she meant, Do! Back then, she was drowning. Lubrication proves attraction, not wisdom. White lace and satin promises are best for coffin linings. Monotony
is insured by monogamy, gay or straight, a narrow loop of landscape without scent or color. Long married, you sleep in separate rooms, yours pristine, and compete for novel excuses to avoid touching, sharing a bed, if only for a few minutes. How stable you seem, bathed in serotonin. Your cold passions
are ice cream and skiing, the spark never ignited except with someone new and forbidden. Don’t think of it brings the object into focus, obsession you can’t shake.
Au revoir! You want fireworks in color, without the lingering burn, the scar, the scent of gunpowder hanging on.
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia, where she writes a daily poem.