Monday 31 January 2022

Five Superb Poems by Heath Brougher

 


Kerouacian Haiku

 

Jackboots worn by Jack 

snapping fingers in the alley

the moon is a saxophone 

 

 

Sleep Deprived Personification of Motionless Cars

 

Somnambulistic visions flood my mind 

as I sleepwalk through gardens 

of hewn bonsais.

They have been landscaped to look like a question mark.

Imposed upon my severely sleep-starved thoughts 

are new cars—cars that grow legs 

and walk through the sky. 

Each car contains the slim wrists of erotic women,

tiny feet walking through the air

toenails painted pink.

But above their legs 

they own the bodies of ugly autos.

This dissonant appearance is seen as beauty 

by the mindless heard-poisoned masses,

John P. Citizen, and are praised

by pure machismo in every bar in town.

This poisoning is quite sharp,

like honed scissors that suddenly cut off the legs 

and the sky-ambling cars sprout wheels and begin to walk again. 

 

 

The Phony

 

Just because you have italicized your life

does not give you the right

to walk all over the brittle sincerity 

you have chosen to divorce yourself from.

 

Why? you ask from out the pile

of shiny whatnots 

you hide beneath..

 

Because no matter how brightly

the sun glimmers off

the perfectly waxed 

hood of your Lamborghini, 

we, the last people made of salt,

can see right through

your fancy facade

to the cowering child

riddled with fear and self-doubt

and apathy and poisonous Mirrorism 

and weakness that is your True Self.

 

You have no right 

to place yourself above us 

in the hideous hierarchy of Humanity 

that lives only inside your head.

 

And, after such a vulgar dispaly of behavior,

how dare you? 

 

 

Everyone Pays a Toll

 

Time

                        ticks      away

       in woodpecker            mannerisms

 

human skin

                            starts to feel          a        tug

at     its     core     as

                                               gravity

    eventually     has     its      way

 

it speaks     slowly     through     the

                                                      years

    but firmly     and after            enough     passage

 of falling sand            every     one     plays/fails/falls

                                                                     victim

  to     the hereafter descent—           the turning of s-

miles     into      pouty wrinkles

 

the eyes         go blind in crevices           as

 the force     the intensity          of the inevitable     pulls

      more     and     more               at the body

as hair grays

      and memories                                       fade      into       dust-

  y     mountains     of     miscellaneous          that           always

win       out       in

                           the

                                                                end

   the     seasons      pass          in           dull accordance

and all           that     is     left     to      know      is     that

     no  one     has     ever      defeated                     the automatic onset

                                                                                 of gravity's overdose. 

 

 

Dark Side of the Bed

 1.

Not to be late for the lynching 

not be sleepydead

we noticed the nooseman’s Dracula tan 

and teeth white as crack

inscribed with invisible Braille 

informing us to rage against the amnesia 

and whispering that there were eyeholes 

in the blindfold.

2.

Romeo roams the fallout of romance 

following the trail of blooddrops from the rooftops 

of houses where the people, tripledosed and comatose,

have taken shelter from the varicose thoughts 

and bad blood circulation of crowds

living off of Wander Bread and Coma Toast, 

ten pill dizzy each one of them

wondering about the liberty vines 

that never existed in the first place.

 3.

Suffering though the Knifewound Blues and broken milk,

the tragedy of the taxpayer weighs heavily 

as they suffer the syphilis kisses and sororicidal maniacs 

hearing the conflagrant mouth of Saint Conscience    

roar into their barren wombs of thought. 

 4.

Among charity bombs and thorncrowns 

they are always boxing for airtime,

dreaming of insects as they sleep

below the sawdust of deformed stars,

each one dressed as if 

they were watching a slow boat 

while they live to dream of killing two birds 

with eighteen stones.




Heath Brougher is the Editor-in-Chief of Concrete Mist Press and co-poetry editor of Into the Void, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Awards for Best Magazine. He received Taj Mahal Review’s 2018 Poet of the Year Award and is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. In 2020, he was awarded the Wakefield Prize for Poetry. He has published 11 books and, after spending over two years editing the work of others, is ready to get back into the creative driver seat. He has four books forthcoming in 2022. 

Five Superb Poems by John Drudge

 


A New Voice

 

A strange new voice

In between worlds

Among the old gods

Where we look

In two directions

For the truth

Split into beginnings

And endings

And the tumultuous

Curving

Of inner space

Fast asleep in our urges

Awakened only

By the double edged gift

Of serenity’s

Breathing



Brambles

 

Parables  

Behind darkened windows

Shades pulled down

Over shame

To begin

Where we must always

Begin

Mired in the confusion

Of regrettable birth

And the wild brambles

Of messy growth

From seed

To wilted flower

In the fractured sun

Crawling over

Honed silence

And spilling into pools

Of lost reflections

With faces melting

Into regretful slumber

Before the sun rises

On our sins



Into the Machine

 

Suspended

As we fall

With our dreams

Forgotten

The essence of sound

And touch

Mercilessly squeezed

By the machine

Into prisms

Of stretched light

With waxen looks

Stifling sight

And sense

And locked in a rhythm

Of strained hope

Where the truth

Of freedom

Is twisted

Into an alchemy

Of fear

And disbelief



Loss

 

Into the deep

Black spaces

Between loss

And emptiness

Gaps in sensation

And rifts through time

Toward an infinitude

Beyond logic

And the shiny blades

Of memory

Trimmed to a point

And steeled against

The crashing cleaver

Of truth



On the Horizon

 

Simple and clear

Full of light and joy

In time’s good graces

In the aftermath

Of fear

A breath of fresh

Tranquility

High art

And a renaissance

Of sculpted relief

With broken stones

Beneath broken feet

Marking the path

Toward absolution

And the shaky birth

Of enduring grace





John Drudge is a social worker working in the field of disability management and holds degrees in social work, rehabilitation services, and psychology.  He is the author of four books of poetry: “March” (2019), “The Seasons of Us” (2019), New Days (2020), and Fragments (2021). His work has appeared widely in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies internationally. John is also a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and lives in Caledon Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children.




Dear Mom - Flash Fiction by Antonia Alexandra Klimenco



Dear Mom,

 

So sorry it has taken me this long to mail you a letter! Oops, well,  I haven't mailed it yet, but I will. I promise! Living on the 9th floor with no elevator...it does take me a while to make it down the 153 stairs, especially now, in my condition. And, the nearest post office practically borders another country. By the way, Paris is not a province in Hell... none of my neighbours are terrorists and no one has tried to kidnap me. Yet. That's both the good and the bad news, haha.  The bad news...Well, you don't believe in Covid...sigh.. so I won't be telling you that I'm lying here trying to catch my breath in a God damn storage room with no heat, no shower, no hot water...going from bed to worse. Please just forget I said that. Mind over mattress.

 

Oh did I tell you??  I finally met your friend's friend's friend's friend. I am only sorry we didn't hit it off. Not a bad looking man. I didn't really mind so much that his eyes were crossed but just to give you an idea ...he s forming a jazz band for atheists and has an imaginary dog he kept woof woofing to under the table. Still, a step up from the last guy you suggested who kept spinning in circles while reciting the scriptures and rolling on the floor. Of course, it makes me miss Antoine all the more!  I think I told you... he took a job at the distillery..almost drowned in a vat of whisky. Took some doing to pull him out...which is why, I guess, he joined AU (Alcoholics Unanimous) and hasn't been heard from since. Anyway, I was trying to make my escape from Leopold  Ottovordemgentschenfelde that was his name when-- you remember those skyscrapers you gave me just before I left... you know the shoes that have heels modelled after the Empire State building ? Well, the heel broke when I stepped into a pothole, so I had to wear my old pair of walking shoes which exploded--I'm not kidding you--and now I have a sprained ankle and am wearing one tennis shoe and one sandal and I look like a God damn tourist! Anyway, I was just about to mail my letter to you when the heel broke and it flew out of my hand and I got run over by a rickshaw on the corner of Saint Germain and that street that has a homeless chorus alternating between David Bowie karaoke and Leonard Cohen's You Want it Darker. Then, a windstorm came out of nowhere and your letter went sailing away. I don't expect you' ll get it because it didn't have a stamp on it yet... but you never know.

 

Soooo... is the cast off? are you still on crutches? I sure hope you're feeling better, now! Gee, walking pneumonia, scurvy, , a mysterious rash on your... and not to mention that awful fall in the pigpen!! What a year you're having ! which reminds me. I still cannot believe you voted for Trump. I know you're not fond of Over the Hill.. and maybe we're just Biden our time but good grief!!!  It's s a good thing I love you ...All he ever wanted to do was to erect a statue of himself on the White House lawn. Dare I say more than a few of us were damned tired of hearing about his erections.. not to mention his short-comings 

 

On a cheerier note.. it's almost my birthday and I just received the best present of all.. news that I don t have to move ! True my room is so small I have to go outside to finish this sentence, but it's mine... at least for now.. my home away from home. Of course,  the one I carry with me in my unfurnished heart stays with me always. Love you, Mom!  P.S. please get piggy to show you how to use a computer. If he's smart enough to bring you the mail and change the channels on the TV, he's sure to have other talents, as well.  P.S.S. Please forgive me.. I would have sent money, but I've already sealed the envelope. More soon, Love and kisses xxx your darling daughter.

 



Antonia Alexandra Klimenko was first introduced on the BBC and to the literary world by the legendary James Meary Tambimuttu of Poetry London–-publisher of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and Bob Dylan, to name a few.  his death, it was his friend, the late great Kathleen Raine, who took an interest in her writing and encouraged her to publish.  A nominee for the Pushcart Prize and a former San Francisco Poetry Slam Champion, she is widely published. Her work has appeared in (among others) XXI Century World Literature (which she represents France) and Maintenant : Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of two grants: one from Poets in Need, of which Michael (100 Thousand Poets for Change) Rothenberg is a co-founder; the second—the 2018 Generosity Award bestowed on her by Kathleen Spivack and Joseph Murray for her outstanding service to international writers through SpokenWord Paris where she is Writer/ Poet in Residence.  Her collected poems On the Way to Invisible is forthcoming in 2022.

Six Brilliant Poems by Fred Johnston

 



HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

 

If you want to save a life, leave it alone

Have a jar where lives are kept like coins

Keep your own in there

Don’t let any curious fool take them out and fondle them

And give advice about polishing them up

He’ll start with the others and come to yours

He’ll wear it flat with his advising thumb

Featureless, he’ll say, it shines brighter

You know the type. Be miserly. Hide the jar.

Be miserable about it if you must

There are people out there who thrive on rust

You know who they are

They tell you to spend a little, then spend a little more

Let the light in, let the air in, let the rain in

Your life becomes one big suggestion

He won’t be happy until you’re base metal

So keep the lid on tight

Your jar, your coin; spend it or don’t spend it

Be brutal. If you want to save a life, leave it alone.

 


AN EVENT

 

A funeral here is still an event, as watchable as a house on fire –

Mixum-gatherum of gaping single parents

In gossipy knots under the highway trees, cigarettes and buggies

 

Scallywag kids on bicycles doing wheelies on the church tarmac

Fidgety adult silence broken by grape-shot laughter, small

Dogs interrogate the lustrous hearse tyres: the deceased

 

Boxed and out of sight. The plot’s up a traffic-halting hill

A stroll above the tower blocks

A Manchester United T-shirt smirks under a faux-leather jacket

 

The shuffle behind the muffled hearse quick-steps into comedy

A car or two of close family, splats of black in shut windows

A shy few fall out, hawking the sky for rain -

 

The smell of wet earth settles on the skin

No flowers, by family request, cards of condolence

Or a name in a ledger is enough. Plenty. Stick to basics.


 

SONG OF A CHILD IN AN ATLANTIC LINER 

 

I fell in love at the age of three

In the playroom of an Atlantic liner, the sea

A green rack of icebergs; she

My age but colder.

 

With big red engines you could sit

In, toys of every world-wide shape and fit

Every make and model of kiddy kit

I could hope for

 

On the deck, Up There,

Our parents and guardians took the air

It must have been hard not to stare

At the iced hills sliding closer

 

No one got lost and all went well

We met each day for an hour and a bell

Called us to order and we fell

In on bell’s bark in fine order

 

We never exchanged a single word

Not so much as an infant sigh was heard

From either, emigrant kids, scared

In an emigrant liner

 

Around the play room ice and sea

Mixed a cocktail of bones insidiously

As our parents, guiltily free

Toasted the ice-blue weather.

 

 

ARC

 

Arc almost perfect in a perfect sky of early June

Blue still and alive with light

The red leather blackened as it gained height

And it was coming to me

Batted with a dancer’s ease

Certain, effortless, a pure dream of a thing, a spin too soon

 

 

There’s an unhappy moment of recalibration.

Distance, velocity and angle of fall

It’s a two-glove grab, if it’s anything at all

But it tricks the stretch, tricks the grasp

Slithers on sleek grass to the boundary, defies your petty calculation.

 

Your whites pile disappointed where they’re tossed

One by one, the others come in

No one mentions, or has to, the unforgiveable sin

Hanging in the air rank as blood

Or poison gas, or cancer; or by what margin the silly game was lost.

 


LAKE INCIDENT

 

They continued down the quayside

And I was drowning (the story’s weightier that way)

Lapped into the breathing tide of Lake Ontario

And from my scant inches of water I could see them

Moving away and away in a not-far distance

And I shouted and they turned and ran back to me.

 

Not drowning, not drowned, I was hauled up

In their fright to dry gravel, and they blamed each

Other for what might have been, love as wrath –

I remember boat engines on the greeny lake, their

Cranky burr, their impertinence. The sounds small

Waves make over small stones, water in my shoes.

 

The Huron call it The Lake of Shining Waters –

My wretched baptism fell into myth, assumed the

Nature of unhappening. It hung in the branches

Of mind like snow or stars, brief as fog. Child-feet

Impressed upon the bruised skin of such immensity:

A child’s shout as ferocious as god-breath, as storms.

 


BONE POEM 

 

Make me a poem of bone before the soldiers come

In their moonless hours, without anyone’s permission

Powder the bone and give it to the children in cups of milk

 

It is the poem they come for, they are looking every-

Where with a violence this house has never known, the

Energy of actors rehearsed in their lines, every syllable

 

The street is washed in light brighter than the sun

Some are so young they are embarrassed. They search

About for someone to take away. Every room violated.

 

This will continue to the end of time. They leave

Empty-handed. Move along the street. The poem settles

In the children’s bones. We tidy up, sing the poem, as before.




Fred Johnston was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1951 and educated there and Toronto, Canada. He is the author of three novels and two collections of short stories, along with nine volumes of poetry, the most recent being 'Rogue States' (Salmon Poetry - 2019.) The founder of Galway city's annual CUIRT festival of literature in 1986, in 2004 he was writer in residence to the Princess Grace Irish Library at Monaco. He is a recipient of the Kathleen and Patrick Kavanagh Bursary and of a Prix de l'Ambassade (2002) and several bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland. He lives in Galway, Ireland. 


 


 

 

 

 

Five Superb Poems by Mandy Beattie

 




                                                          ASLEEP-AWAKE

 

                 My eyelashes flutter and flatline crescent-moons on crests of cheeks 

                      behind iris-lids is sky inside a pearl-mussel a swirling ocean 

                swell pitching me deeper, deeper, deeper until I am skinless-skein 

              and silver umbilicus-ectoplasm from The Cup Bearer I track Ptolemy                 

            to waltz past stones of sleep to swoop and soar I am a Sky-Traveller 

      in a Starship The Plough’s my jib and I fly elbow to elbow with fluttering wings

                   I trail mountain folds, isobars, snow caps and seeds, air-swim  

                             over oceans and niblets of sand I am a wind-horse 

                  weaving among clusters of gypsophila with star-petals in my hair 

                   I shadow the Big Dipper to the North Star as I cartwheel around

                     The Northern Cross a giant harp strums my skinless-skein 

           and silver umbilicus-ectoplasm and I forward roll to Andromeda to foxtrot

            with El Morya and Merlin on a magic carpet through the maw

   of the Milky Way until fingers of light edge around bare bones and Saturn’s

          curtain rings and Orion's Belt is the launch-pad through the veil 

                  of thin-air when the the long and short hand siphons me back into bones

                            my heart the drum beat of a Shaman and alchemy 

                    as my bones uncurl and unfurl from its question mark — When 

                                            will it be, ‘As Above, So Below?’

 

Published in, The Haar, May 2021


 

THROUGH THE TURNSTILE 

BETWEEN TWO FIELDS

 

I shoogle through the turnstile between 

two fields of concrete and standing stones to roost 

on a stone pillar. Suck in clean 

breaths of hoarfrost. Puff up the bellows 

of my lung-bagpipes into haggis-balloons 

of wisteria blue. I hook them 

with threaded melon seeds around the hips 

of standing-stones - I anchor into them, morph 

into osmosis with soughs and stone

Twerk an ear as I hear a fiddle and a dulcimer 

of drums. A pop and a portal appears 

with a sassy fairy in a parma violet tulip hat

She upsy-daisy’s the balloons, clasps my palm 

and pulls me into a fairy ring. The octopus of balloons 

become a windmill of sycamore seeds yeasting 

us up and up and up

 

through the veil of thin air - I rub my eyes 

 

but I’m back perched on a standing stone 

at Achavanich dressed in a cerise ball gown and tiara 

of mountain coyote mint. A golden eagle feather floats 

down and down and down and drops 

melon seeds on my bubblegum-pink stomping boots

 

 

HERE MEETS THERE

 

In a moth-eaten sky-gansey a semi-detached house squats

a muted cream 

on the corner of two street’s

The bottle-green 

door looks to the east and the taxed south window is a cement canvas 

waiting for Banksy. Slate tiles are tipsy headstones 

in a skip-cemetery. New tiles a brood of rain speckled hens where 

ariel-antlers jive near a bevy of peat-puffing chimney pots in a pew 

of ochre, russet and toffee - 

Terracotta pots spout sprigs of parsley, fennel and dill. Seeds blown 

on chewy-wind seed in street-lochans - An air-besom mimics them 

into magic mirrors and a lamp post spotlights a woman 

in an obsidian 

trench coat. Her hair-curlicues plaster cochineal cheeks 

in gushel’s of rain and breath’s a wreath of cauliflower florets 

As goblin-grey 

closes in she ducks around pot-hole plant pots budding 

holy basil and bulbs of wild garlic


 

INSIDE THE KIST OF CAITHNESS

 

I AM 

The Land O’ The Cat’ 

scaling Scaraben’s clavicle 

under stone-wash blue and slate-grey sky

​​​​ ice came in Winter

​​mute swan over hummocks and water hollows

a plaid ribbon hand-fasting 

the Greylag Geese of Camster Cairns

their drystane dyke lichen a vine and ivy 

on Standing Stones at Achavanich 

and yellow blobs of Marsh Marigold 

​pirns’ of thread in ground-ganseys 

of Bog Sedge and String Sedge 

​among Kelpie’s in lochans 

and The Wee Folk on Fairies Hill 

playing Cat’s Cradle under a sea-glass sky 

of the Pentland Firth 

​​​ I AM

the mizzenmast in smoor-mist 

​​​ on the Whale Road 

​​​and whirling-dervish-winds

​​ on Drove Roads and Clearance 

Crofts stone aikles in salty-tears

in the shebang of sphagnum in the Flow Country

but the Selkie of St Trothan sees not 

Black Crowberries and Black Bog-rushes 

only Sundew and Dragon Fly under the North Star 

in The Land O’ The Cat’ 

‘Where I AM, You Are’

​​​ duck-egg blue ceiling on daffodils 

​​and yellow on the Broom 

​​ Aurora Borealis over stone rows 

each pleat and plaid of purple heather is I 

​​​​even after Muirburn 

​​​returning to the Heavenly Dancers

my ashes will fly with Golden Eagle and Green Shank 

birthing into the next cleat of peat 

​​ the pearl inside a seed pod

                                      

Published in, The Haar 01.06.21 

 

 

NEEPS & PUMPKINS ARE NOT JUST FOR HALLOWEEN 

 

You cut the gubbins from the maws of neeps and pumpkins. Gave them 

lobotomies, sliced slits and triangles into macabre masks 

and snuffed 

out their light

 

I prayed 

you dried pumpkin seeds for nibbles? Planted 

them in wild spaces, vegetable beds or greenhouses? Perhaps 

recycled on compost heaps? 

 

I prayed 

you mashed clapshot or added carrots, cinnamon and ginger to warm 

toddy-bones in soups or stews? Fed foxes

birds and rabbits or made pumpkin pie? 

 

I prayed 

 

you were a bit-green and used sugar beet eco bags. Didn’t post 

your neeps and pumpkins to dumps in plastic bin bags to swell and smell 

of methane and mould to add to ticking time-bombs. When 

 

I prayed 

on social media; implored you to feed animals with your unfostered 

neeps and pumpkins. It was fruitless 

with only nine likes, two shares and no hearts

 

I prayed 

that 17,000,000 UK pumpkins didn’t mutate into genetically modified 

effigies a dis-guise of your bairns trick or treat. What will 

Greta, Vanessa, Dominika, Mitzi and your ain say when 

they unearth the truth - that you 

could have 

lowered the thermometer and barometer of their planet 

and didn’t or did? 

 

I pray

 


 

Mandy Beattie’s poetry is a tapestry of stories & imagery rooted in people & place, often with an element of other-worldliness. Her poems have been published in: Wordpeace, Poets Republic, Dreich, Wee Dreich, The Haar, Purple Hermit, Wordgathering, The Clearance Collection, Spilling Cocoa with Martin Amis, Marble Poetry Broadsheet, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Book Week Scotland & contributed to, The People’s Poem of Scotland.


Five Poems by Maria Downs

  A WHISTLE UPON THE AIR So to hear the soft – throated,   bird sing, from its note form those words,   like flowers of spring flowing...