Sunday 28 February 2021

Two Superb Poems by Denise O'Hagan


Nature’s grand chandelier

(A Villanelle in the time of climate change)


The yolk of the sun, by mid-afternoon

Lay heavy on us, to the shade we drew near,

Craving the night, the limpid light of the moon.


A child lifted her mask, asking, ‘Will it end soon?’

Her mother replied, ‘It’s the usual, no need to fear

The yolk of the sun, by mid-afternoon.’

But the scent of the ash in the air at high noon

Wilted her will, made her want to disappear,

Craving the night, the limpid light of the moon.

‘Where are you, my child?’ Her cries, out of tune,

Died on her lips under nature’s grand chandelier:

The yolk of the sun, by mid-afternoon.

The child stumbled on unseen, trying not to swoon,

Drawn to the shimmering sea, ’til there became here,

Craving the night, the limpid light of the moon.

Surrendering at dusk to a watery cocoon                          

She rejoiced, for she’d fled this smouldering sphere,

The yolk of the sun, by mid-afternoon,

Craving the night, the limpid light of the moon.

Still the rain kept falling

i.m. Mimi


I’ll not forget

The sombre shuffle in

From the rain, the pain of it

Of nods and handshakes

Murmured condolences

Which cannot help but miss the mark

But it’s all we have:

Inadequacy on a pedestal.


Oh, get on with it! She’d chuckle

Cross her legs and light another cigarette


And so we did,

With the inevitable mini rituals

Attendant on the outward one:

The squeak of shoes on stone

And clearing of throats, misting of eyes

At the wavering brush of candlelight

And spray of lilies over her.


The moment’s happened, then, she’d say

The one we shrink from, and push away until we can’t


Yet there’s no end

To what we can’t admit

As later anecdote and wishful thinking shape our memory

And, chameleon-like, it changes in the telling.

But this much I know:

Her dark-haired grandson who sat apart

Inclined, black-shirted, at the piano,

His fingers dancing a song of his own making

Tenderly, as if he’d spent his short life

In preparation of this moment

Under the thirteenth Station of the Cross.


She adored her music

From Bach and Billy Joel to Casablanca’s theme


She was a good listener.

But now it was our turn

To hang onto words, to incantations

Expressing the inexpressible.

I clutched my tissues, hot and damp

And still the rain kept falling.



In her letters, notes and diaries – a litany of ruminations

Words had stretched her past her troubles, far beyond


The black bug of the waiting hearse was shiny

Doors open, mouthing glassily in the pale air

Reflection-laden, gleaming

As holy water splashed

Like slivered tears

On wood.


Contrary, contemplative, and one of a kind
Mistress of the mercurial: my mother


The grave-studded hillside

Stretched, like a thousand-piece chess-set
With exhausted pawns, falling

And tilting Kings and Queens

Watching, as she disappeared

Under scoop after scoop of earth

The richer now for holding her.


Second prize in the Sutherland Shire Literary Competition, April 2020 (and subsequently published in Sutherland Shire Literary Competition magazine, 17 April 2020).


Denise O’Hagan was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing, manages her own imprint Black Quill Press, and is Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards, most recently the Dalkey Poetry Prize 2020. Her debut poetry collection, The Beating Heart, is published by Ginninderra Press (2020). 

            Denise O’Hagan / Black Quill Press




Two Poems by Prithvijeet Sinha




Hold me dearly

even when your heart is filled to the very end of the brimming zeitgeist,

with grief and hate for the skin that shows up to be savaged by millenniums.

The pickets and batons can never shield us from the rain of tear gas,

and the strain that comes with turning from brown to black to purple within mere seconds,

is a deluge that fills the heart first and then blows up our eye sockets.

As the levee breaks forth,

the pressure of identity is screened for filling up empty forms, empty shells and haunted cells.


But promises break,

a mother breaks,

losing one eye to the mob

and the other to the foreseeable spokes of this revolution.

The golden jubilee of the Alabama walk is rehearsed,

in front of her daughter 

and the spirit howls and breaks into umpteenth solo dreams,

amongst the same faces she grew up with.


Hold her dearly, your only girl.

she has been cursed as the demon child

and demonstrated as the last in line.

Words she should never learn in class,

especially not on the streets.

Hold her close, 

tight as a fist in a burning hand,

just below the flags.

Look out for her distracted mind 

and the surly weather of protests.

Take her name as she drowns among the crowd.

Tell her, most patiently, 

you love her,

this is for her to see,

what she will only grow to watch from the intimacy of her skin

and the proximity with which her destiny in this country calls her,

towards rivers, swamps and bayous to wade through,

neighbourhoods to traverse and antebellum sores to check,

and the barks of her family trees now become twigs up for fire.


Hold her close,

tell her why you need to proffer this cry for justice,

march with the millions and stand up to the charged batons and wounds of race.


Pray silently that nobody falls,

pray intently that no spray of bullets rains down on her

and still visualize that if she trips and falls,

waylaid by the hoots and cries at the top of their lungs, 

a burnt out rose atleast is readily in someone's hands,

to offer to the disappearance of her tiny landscapes 

and the book of psalms that dictated the way to heaven and hell.


Tell her then,

to be on her guard.

Tell her then to pray to the Lord.


Tell her,

today her life is an act of salvaging luck and teeming with seething rage and anger

and to disappear into these glorious masses,




NOTE : this is a poem that the writer based on the righteous urge for addressing racial injustice, especially in the wake of George Floyd's death. 





She once bloomed like the daisy,

growing up with pride and veiled hatred for overt prejudice,

picking up the truth that too much of it, 

would cost her dear life perhaps.


Purity of emotion was of the essence to her,

and from among the names of her soul sisters,

her fathers gave her the one she and every girl is born to flower into:



A mob once descended upon her,

just by the alley she crossed everyday to school.

A rumbling of the senses drawing blood from that interstice,

steeling her for the first few minutes against the hatred from men,

her eyes pulped from the shock to the system

and her gut crashing with the last charge.


She withered with the lost blood then and there.

But stood up.

Running riot against the diplomacy of denial and patriarchy.


They laughed at her,

calling her a doe-eyed cat fit to lick her wounds clean. 


But an absence of speech is a powerful call for action

and Renaissance disappeared into the good night to say her only words,


'I will destroy you,

with the emblazoning crust of my gender,

I will destroy you,

with the solidarity of my sisters'


She bloomed red, 

rage and potent anger living off her sisters,

growing with pride and subsumed by myths and folklores, 

to the point of legend.

Till infernal truth burned red upon the men like cinder

and the massacre of patriarchy was etched by the alley, 

on the block.


She then bloomed like the dervish woman rising against the blood moon,

whom the city proclaimed RENAISSANCE.


The writer's name is PRITHVIJEET SINHA from Lucknow, India, a proud member of the faculty of ENGLISH AND MODERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY . He is a post graduate in MPhil, having launched his writing career by self publishing on the worldwide community Wattpad since 2015 and on his WordPress blog AN AWADH BOY'S PANORAMA besides having his works published in several varied publications as GNOSIS JOURNAL, READER'S DIGEST, CAFE DISSENSUS EVERYDAY, CAFE DISSENSUS MAGAZINE, CONFLUENCE, THE MEDLEY, THUMBPRINT MAGAZINE, WILDA MORRIS' POETRY BLOG, SCREEN QUEENS, BORDERLESS JOURNAL , LOTHLORIEN JOURNAL, LIVEWIRE encompassing various genres of writing, from poetry to film reviews, travel pieces, photo essays to posts on culture . His life force resides in writing.


His two poems DREAMS and WISH UPON A STAR have recently been published and released as part of the children's anthology titled NURSERY RHYMES AND CHILDREN'S POEMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD, edited by ANITA NAHAL and MEENAKSHI MOHAN. 



Saturday 27 February 2021

Three Poems by John Patrick Robbins


Beyond The Deception


A snake in the snow is but a stick that breathes.

When ice meets flesh, no matter it's venom.

It is rendered useless.


I am always that ice, when I have to be.

Death In Doses


Lines can be perfect in such a fractured sense.

Baring truth with your soul.


Breaking your heart and shattering their delusions of the label they have cast upon you.


I won't break this false image, but I never pen these lines for anyone but myself to begin with.


It's never about praise nor is about trying to capture anything more than emotion.


Like a firefly in a glass jar.

It illuminates the soul of the moment and fades just as quickly.


I am something far beyond rumours spoken by bitter souls and lost causes.


I live here and nowhere you will ever truly envision.


Let them dream in delusion while I drown in past sorrows and paint in misery for rejection.


False hopes never trouble me.

For I never see it for anything more than it was intended to be.


A death rattle upon the page.

I pen my epitaph one word at a time.

New Poems In Old Shoes


I have known many women.

Some good, some bad and that usually makes them even better.


Love is strange in its ways.

Pain can seemingly make someone yearn for something that never truly was.


Some people are just not meant for the chaos that is love.


And that's why they are supposedly happily married.



John Patrick Robbins is the editor in chief of The Rye Whiskey Review and The Black Shamrock Magazine.

His work has appeared in Fearless Poetry ZIne , Punk Noir Magazine, The San Pedro River Review , Piker Press, The Blue Nib , San Antonio Review, Red Fez, Sacred Chickens.

His work is always unfiltered. 






Two Poems by Grace Sampson


reflections I - born in april     


it was fear - arriving home in a frenzy. 

a mask, but it couldn’t protect me.

a passer-through and his ignorance shone 


like the beam at the centre of my cave. 

consisting of my seasonal

depression and eternal anger. 


my birthday was approaching, but so was the glass to 

envelope our destroyed site. 

would the trees continue to shake here? 


glassy eyes, hands shaking and cold, from the 


sniffy nostrils; inhaling what was accepted,

and exhaling the heaviness in my polmoni. 


we all hoped to get out; 

but from what? i whispered



You Remind Me of Somebody


The coldness around here doesn’t make my 

Feelings for you change. No, they don’t go 



The colours outside fade to something 

New - something quick to touch, but slow 

To change. 


Time; it’s slow to change, but forgetting it 

Takes mere seconds. 


I don’t want you to forget about me so 

Easily. I might not ever forget you.

Grace Sampson is a County Limerick poet, who invokes Irishness and growth within her work. She draws her inspiration from her friends scattered around the world, her psyche and how it has faced a rebirth, and the Irish nature that she simply cannot escape from.

She is working towards her first collection of poetry, while preparing to graduate from NUIG in English and Italian.

She had a selection of poems published in ’The Galway Review’ in Spring 2020, and is a collaborator on an upcoming book on the experimentalism of Thom Gunn.


Four Excellent Poems by Tim Heerdink


Final Flight as the Fog becomes Night

for David Hayden


A matter of days,                                a matter of seconds
to descend into            the   ever long sleep     we face
when the clock       reaches its        final       count.
One weekend    can  bring  an  end   to   life
so precious and fragile    in the tempted wind’s course.
David, a coach, instructor, author, father, and husband
claimed by      the heart          he nursed    since
the widow-maker   created         a    new           plan.
Kobe, a man      made from men      like    David,
who    take the    clay of boys    &   mold
with       many years’       persistence and   commitment
along a heart    that   loved    and did  it     well
in         mellow            temperament.

                                    we are all low
                                                            in this period.

I’m sure my fallen friend        would have sighed
upon taking in             the news      of Bryant’s chopper
down      on its   last    route to   LA for  his daughter’s game.
This detour   to maintain    the body    instead   of two hours
stuck   in     bumper to bumper traffic   via    automobile.
Despite the cash flow,      he, his daughter,  and seven others
rest    in  the ground    due    to    a wall     of    fog;
one of which   seems to have   drifted   to our state and taken
not only residence     but   more residents      as     well.
        but       see       the image
of    fathers     holding    their        daughters      while
flames    grab     ahold        of    them,       knowing
this    is     the   end,    &   there’s    nothing that   can be done.
Another shot               of a daughter    with   her    hand   placed
on    her    father’s  chest     as   he   takes     his   final    breath
haunts me as    we are at least   10:0 against  death   with  no
free throws   left    to help     tie    up   the    score.
                                    pep talk
   in this hour
when I am     in need      of guidance     as   my mother
takes   flight in   the fog   of the   unknown     battle
she   fights     at this    very     moment?
The  tumor,       it   may grow    like   the   fog,
and   so we    must    take it    out    and prepare
for what comes    next     just    like   Hayden did
when   he   heard     a     knock    at   the   door
back   in    2012   when   many   thought,

I’m part optimist,        part      realist;
I don’t    want       to   write      my mother  off,
but all options    must   be  considered,
for  I don’t    like    surprises.
These     foggy    days
see    me    begging
            the sun.

The Fourth Horseman

for Joseph Fulkerson

There’s a hodgepodge of go-getters
sifting through this literary scene
like drowning men doing what they can
to gather attention from the others.

You have those who try too hard,
flailing their arms & ultimately succumbing
to the waves rejection brings
without forgiveness.

Then you have those who breathe
with the calmest of demeanors
while floating on the inevitable high
of their own majestic creativity.

I know a man so prolific not even
the cockroaches that’ll survive us all
will ever be able to finish what he’s started
long before man’s catastrophic ruin.

He’s one of three poets I’d ride with into the fire
to entertain & enlighten those
content with their own destiny
before smoke or flames consume them.

The Knottseau Well

There was a time when I stood guard / like one of those Brits in their furry hats / without any

emotion / just doing my duty / as a good gentleman should / never looking elsewhere / but

straight ahead of me / The cruelest taunts / always failed to break / my gaze / with posture /

not unlike the great / rustic cross / which held / the alleged messiah / long before / this time /

One afternoon / while busy / at work / a storm cloud blew / it pushed me / into the Knottseau /

Well where / the not so well / often dwell / I thought / I knew all / the tricks / on how to escape,

but it seems / that I may have been / in this place / for longer / than I think / All around me

there are / weeping shadows / endless rain / no hope to make / the climb / It’s much too steep /

even for the most / experienced climber / of which / I thought I was / The well fills / and it fills

with the tears / of the crying / and undying / sorrow / Another man / down in this well / asked

me / Don’t you know / you did this / to yourself? / like my hands / held the shovel / that dug

this hole / we both / find ourselves / That’s when / my mind went / blank / for a brief period /

I came to / with the man / lying / on the bottom / I noticed / that I am / still digging/ the hole.


for John Berryman


Surface tension bellows a soft echo of muffled ruffles when a body hits the water
at full speed from the buildup one towering bridge standing over seventy feet
can offer a professor whose intelligent mind feels reduced to nothing but a nuisance.

Some students say they saw Berryman wave as he descended toward sweet relief
almost in celebration of the chapter to come in his grand farewell to the witnesses.
Henry and Mr. Bones would weep & not sleep for a hundred years for the loss.

I have this dream of meeting the dead poets who urge me to confess my own
in formal and free verse for others who have written notes hidden to be found
by loved ones or respected peers. My pieces echo, “I didn’t. And I didn’t.”

They can’t fire us for we are the choosers in this game of outcomes where
all must roll the dice like Plath, Sexton, Snodgrass, & Lowell to see
how long one must endure the cycle which only ends with the inevitable black.

A constant worry that only subsides when the host ceases to care is the mess
the body leaves after trauma has been inflicted upon it to free the caged bird
whose voice can no longer sing the songs poets hoped would never fade to silence.

Us artistic types seem to live fast and die way before biology tends to let expire,
and yet, if we didn’t cultivate a lifetime’s worth of beautiful expression to fight
all that tears society down daily, who else would offer to bear the crushing weight?

Tim Heerdink is the author of six poetry collections, The Human Remains, Red Flag and Other Poems, Razed Monuments, Checking Tickets on Oumaumua, Ghost Map, Sailing the Edge of Time, I Hear a Siren’s Call, and the novel, Last Lights of a Dying Sun. Heerdink is president of the Midwest Writers Guild. His short stories, The Tithing of Man and HEA-VEN2, won first and second place in the guild's annual anthology contests. He also has poems published in Poetry Quarterly, Fish Hook, Flying Island, Kissing Dynamite, Auroras & Blossoms, Tanka Journal, Landslide Lit, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Dumpster Fire, Alien Buddha, Voice Lux Journal, and various anthologies. He graduated from USI with a BA in English and resides in Newburgh, Indiana with his wife, daughter, dog, and two cats.

Six Poems by R. W. Stephens

  Like Extended Haiku       Tango music muted , o pen window    Fading summer light s hadows   C hair on the porch   An empty glass       ...