Saturday 31 December 2022

Four Poems by John Doyle


Hot Potatoes (For Abstaining Comrades)

There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door

Bob Dylan 1975


No-one fucked up, I just can't remember who you are, 

hot potatoes, hot potatoes, momma told me how they drop,

breaking like ceramic hearts across a floor

until nothing remains there anymore,

hot potatoes disappear like him and her, like those and them,

who and what, where, when, how -

like you and me,

hot potatoes saying bye bye

    hot potatoes saying bye bye

                   hot potatoes don't cry



                                                 bye bye





I have come to fear the highway.

Let me tell you what I learned - hieroglyphics in Helvetica

couldn't sooth me in the midnight hours, magnetic lure of mechanical beings 

accepted everything fate hung their larynx from, sound nothing can be done for.

The sound was a screaming sibling coloured blue, previously orange, or red, depending how late dispatches had arrived from this demi-Armageddon,

we have amassed this debt, sooner than death, regretful rubber fossilized on a cemetery of asphalt.


Fear I stabbed into my clutch days before that meat-wagon had come.

I feared sadness more than decomposition, sadness is death already, here in these telesales faces,

drunk on their own stupidity, their statistical morning, 

company car and trophy wife.

I fear all of this, this concrete chimera and sun-mourned suburb, 






Autumn Bedding Plants for Sale

October 2022


Autumn bedding plants for sale, side-road, level crossing,

three miles short of Athlone town. Not that Athlone's a town anymore,

town-hood dies short painless deaths under town-less souls

pouring brutal futures into hard-hat holes.

Autumn bedding plants could fill those holes I guess,

bring us toward that muddy Utopia 

gears reverse down level-crossing lanes for -

close an evening's eyelids to

see trains in sunset's creed go past, 

a raven's stripe cross its kindled tan

says Patrick Scott will never die,

Autumn plants doggedly eternal, in borderless seasons

Abnormal Service Resumed


My skull was a false alarm,

my skin covered it to suffocate its scream -

watching this, moon and sun step in present climes

sending me back in time to make new music in my head.

Either way, they are forms of light stealing something from each other;

I refuse their assistance, familiarity breeds a certain contempt,

how they burn my skin to leafy-crisp. nothing left to mask this cranial globe -

how they make the loneliness of music after dark

a spotlight Sinatra haunts me in, lets his hoodlums pin me down in.

Other thieves are less honest about their trades, above me at dawn, around me as dusk, different mirror-balls for devious music, abnormal service resumed

on the megahertz of purgatory

John Doyle is from County Kildare in Ireland. He returned to writing poetry in February 2015 after a gap of nearly 7 years. Since then he's had 6 poetry collections published, with a 7th collection, "Isolated Incidents" due to be released by Pski's Porch in Summer 2021.



Dread of the Blackk Gor - Short Story by Lee Clark Zumpe


Dread of the Blackk Gor

Short Story by

Lee Clark Zumpe

Once I was revered as Master of the World.

Upon Mount Ty'Ryluan I occupied the throne within the immemorial fortress Surcort. Here was a castle and keep which riddled the oppressive lone mountain with its tunnels and great Warrior Chambers and which was the very center of my vast empire. I can claim with good conscience that in my day Surcort housed the most heralded gentlemen and valued peoples of all these once-fair lands, as had it always since its construction several ages agone. Before I impart to you the grievous tale I have to tell, I beg you: Grant me a single moment to recall the glories of my stronghold in the mountain, for these memories are all that remain of my beloved home...

Mount Ty'Ryluan--called by our distant ancestors the Old Red Rock--alone rose from the unbroken and tossing grassy lowlands, a solitary and misplaced bulk of scarlet stone. It soared higher than all other mountains in any visited land. About its midsection clouds would coil; its peak could puncture the black tapestry of night. And there upon, the founders of my once great empire set the first stones of Surcort.

Around the base of the mountain was erected a curtain of sheer stone, with forty and eight strong watchtowers. To walk this wall's measure the most fit man would require a full day, from dawn to downing. A single gate along the length of this impenetrable curtain of defense was placed on the western-most face with beetling turrets overlooking the Darwell Bottoms. It admitted residents and guests at regular intervals; otherwise, the great gate remained closed and was dutifully guarded by a hundred of the finest soldiers of the realm. Embedded in the wooden doors of the gate were skulls from a thousand foes vanquished, a grim but rigid reminder of the empire's bloody history.

Halfway up the mountain from the thinly forested valley surrounding it, set upon a sprawling ledge, was the castle which was both my country's heart and my home. It was enveloped by a second smaller perimeter wall which ran along the outer ledge of the stony shelf. The Walk of a Thousand Steps Four Times Over connected the lower gate with this ledge. Of these, the first and second thousand steps were carved out of the mountain stone; the third thousand were inlaid slabs of glossy black xirum ore; the final segment was of pure and gleaming yarviz, mined in the northern tracts of the Wailing Mountains. The stairway was a narrow and treacherous path, but the mountain was too steep to be ascended at any place other.

These things I take care to describe, for these things shall be seen never again. Alas, proud Surcort, the castle and keep raised over the course of a dozen generations and built at the cost of a dozen plundered nations' treasuries and ten thousand labor slaves, now is lost.

It is from Surcort I ruled, from the tallest of the Eight Towers wherein lay the Divine Hall. A fierce warrior had I been--not even mildly similar to the coughing, trembling coward that now imparts this tale--for I fought and killed my way into that hall of greatness where I demanded and earned the respect and loyalty of an empire.

Aye, this you must know: In Surcort, never was the child of the reigning family the unquestionable heir to the throne just as royalty was never determined solely by the crest of a family. To rule in Surcort, one had to be a champion and conqueror, and that I was.

Cussurak was my adversary when I came of age and when the old Master of the World had gone on to Ty'Ryluan's peak to reside with the Creator Lords. Cussurak was of the late ruler's blood, and he fancied himself rightful heir and unopposed. But I had spent many of my days in battle alongside his father, and I proudly boast that he and I shared in more than a hundred campaigns and quests. Cussurak the Younger accompanied our army on perhaps ten such crusades, and rarely could he be found on the battlefield. Nay, Cussurak the Younger was more apt to be captivated with his endless studies and with spilling over his forebear's vast libraries than he was with battlelust and farflung adventure.

So it was that upon the passing of Cussurak the Elder, I knew I could not squander my services on the likes of his impotent progeny. I felt truly the empire would simply rot should he attain the throne. Thus, drawn to action by my undying and blind love for the homeland, I challenged him. On the Field of Providence before an assemblage of nobles and officers and peasants from provinces near and far, and after a short and savage duel which was surrounded by much pomp, I slew Cussurak the would-be-ruler.

May the Creators pardon me that tragic venture, be it out of their mercy or for my ignorance. For, had I known what was to come, I would not have sought to oust Cussurak. Mistake me not: It is not that it is extraordinary for one to be slain on the Field of Providence, for it is written that those in contention for the highest throne in the land must be willing to have their souls cleaved from them...and certainly it is not that the people were unwilling to accept me as Master of the World, to which I can attest unequivocally.

For ten years I trod these lands as Master of the World. The Tome of Rathnic shall credit me with the acquisition of the western lands B'lai and Fastead Heath. My legions crushed the savage Morrt tribes and laid siege to Kutha, City of the Dead, when its armies threatened to march on the Solva Province. And around the Ty'Ryluan valley, in those green hills and woodlands, a dozen new villages emerged whilst the farmlands flourished. During the first four seasons I bore the crown, the number of residents at my Surcort increased eight-fold. Strong were we, and proud.

Had there been a force without willing to assault the impossible walls of Surcort, or face the seasoned army within housed, I would have laughed at their foolishness. But the threat did not come from without. When the darkness unfolded, it crept from beneath our feet. It seeped out of the mountain itself.

As the number of Surcort residents multiplied, so Surcort had to expand. No room remained on the ledge for additional structures...and it was unthinkable to build on the side of the mountain, a feat that would take ages of labor and the most advanced designs. I was left only one practical option: The maze of tunnels in the mountain would have to be extended.

And I, in my vanity, believed it was my good fortune that during my lifetime, when I served as a warrior in the elder Cussurak's army, I had been active in the annexation of an isolated coastal region on the fringes of our frontier called Amoria. The Amorites were regarded as engineering masters, and at my invitation, Surcort hosted a contingent of their prized citizenry. Under the hands of these wonder-working architects the excavation went deep into the rock, and hollow shafts were cut down through Ty'Ryluan to levels even below the valley floor. Five years of work, and a network of hallways and rooms spread through the rock and branched and scattered beneath the plains. The system was far superior to any of the original Warrior was so complex, no one Amorite engineer was familiar with all the twists and turns and hidden halls. I can now but wonder if this marvelous feat was in some way an act of vengeance upon the empire which enveloped the Amorite civilization...

For, it is in the deepest, most remote corners of the tunnels that our ruin came to life. The Creators themselves could not have known of so powerful a legion lurking in the sand and stone, waiting to emerge a deadly adversary to man.

How I detest the series of events I unintentionally caused to occur. Alas, I have learned that had I been slain on that Day of Contention in place of Cussurak, Surcort's walls and the cliffs of Mount Ty'Ryluan would not be strewn now across the valley like the corpses of a vanquished army...and those who abided there might not be fodder for the evil, misshapen bastards of pitch known to men as the Blackk Gor. And had I not ordered the construction of the tunnels, the remaining people of this collapsed empire--and all other races which may exist beyond its boundaries--would not now face probable annihilation.

The Blackk Gor, disfigured behemoths that roamed the Pit, we thought to be no more. I, myself, led troops into battle against them nigh four moons past my ascension to the throne. We marched into that befouled cavern of the Pit and fought till all the Gor we found were writhing in pools of black blood beneath our feet. To this day I recall the wails of the dying monsters flooding the cave, poisoning our ears...I recall the pride I shared with my soldiers over the carnage, certain that our victory was final. No more, I proclaimed to the regiment, would the Blackk Gor hunt the mountain folk nearby the Pit; no more would they raid villages in their thirst for mortal flesh and meat.

But the Blackk Gor did not die that day. Nor shall they ever die, for what does not live can not be slain.

Those pools of black we mistook for blood, I have since been told by wandering Dassmen and sorcerers, were in fact pools of souls. The rugged, gray skin, which our swords hacked at with great difficulty was not flesh, but animated rock. And the screams of the Gor were not vented for the agony of death. No, those screams were their frenzied vows to return.

I, and my army, traveled two days on horseback to return to the victory feast at Surcort. It took the company of Gors nine years to get to Ty'Ryluan. Their fluid souls crept sluggishly through the ground, gradually strengthening, compounding both their number and their hatred. By the time they reached the valleys around Ty'Ryluan, the tunnels I had commissioned were already built. As can be guessed, these labyrinths only aided in their offensive.

As soon as they surged forth from the ground, they regained solid form. There was naught to be done. My armies fell, battling in the maze, as they became disoriented and separated. The Blackk Gor had more than tripled in number, so that even had we met on an open battle field, the odds would favour us only marginally. The enemy did not need strategy, for they moved through the halls and walls alike, while my brave warriors were befuddled by the eccentric design of innumerable forking corridors and darkened sanctums. But there is more...something which clots my very veins with shame.

Cussurak the Elder, my predecessor as Master of the World, had himself imprisoned the Blackk Gor in the Pit before I was ever conceived. In the early days of his own reign, a deal he had struck with a considerably powerful Dassman: Cussurak granted the ArchDassman an eminent seat in the Warrior Chambers and a ranking office in his army, and in return the ArchDassman sealed the sinister Gor in the Pit with the Art. Under his spell, they were unable to venture past the opening of the cavern, nor could their souls flee their hardened shells save by the sword of a Surcort soldier. And so, whatever grisly murders were enacted on the mountain folk nearby the Pit which caused me to act without due consideration, the Blackk Gor were never responsible.

Had I, in the early days of my reign, taken the time to study the Tome of Rathnic--a task that Cussurak the Younger had always considered a sacred duty--I would have known of this deed. In my blind haste, I emptied the souls of the Gor unto the world...and there seems no way to set things right.

I am old now, the man who was once Master of the World. I am old, and I am ashamed that I have taken to hiding, cowering in the ruins of a mountain village. That the Blackk Gor have not yet slain me is my final punishment, for it has allowed me to witness the prolonged consequences of my lamentable errors. Of what the future holds I am grimly afraid, for the Gor march ever outward now. Their goal seems to be the destruction of all vestiges of mankind. My once beautiful empire will be dust in precious, little time. Even the Dassman and others who practice the Art seem powerless against this strain of Gor, and their numbers dwindle.

Yet, the last Dassman I spoke with told me of a country far to the west, unheard of in my time, with an army of demigods and wisdom which embarrasses the Art. And the Gor have not been seen in these hills, nor in the valley, for an entire moon's cycle, I am told. Perhaps it is ended...I doubt I will live long enough to be certain. This tale, which a loyal scribe is etching into stone, shall be my final task.

May the Creators forgive me.

Originally published in The Black Abyss in 1997.

Lee Clark Zumpe, an entertainment columnist with Tampa Bay Newspapers, earned his bachelor’s in English at the University of South Florida. He began writing poetry and fiction in the early 1990s. His work has regularly appeared in a variety of literary journals and genre magazines over the last two decades. Publication credits include Tiferet, Zillah, The Ugly Tree, Modern Drunkard Magazine, Red Owl, Jones Av., Main Street Rag, Space & Time, Mythic Delirium and Weird Tales.

Lee lives on the west coast of Florida with his wife and daughter.  

Six Poems by Joseph A Farina


Eustias at Christmas 


 Eustius walks

 during christmas season

 along dirty paths

 without rhymes

 without reason, glances

 in storeglass

 full of gifts in profusion

 wrapped in the colours

 of joy and delusion


 he gathers his great coat closely

 about him

  wiping his eyes

  wet with incursions

 of dreams and ambition

 and the losing of laughter


 searches store aisles 

 for that lost special one

 who was so long before

 when this time

 was still fun

 which held laughter

 and love

 and the snow was his friend



eustius at forty 


Eustius Clay turned forty to-day, 

       he has not changed from his 

       pre forty years 

he still wears wide ties 

and dreams of her eyes, she whom he dreamed  

                         to marry 

           but never dared ask 

    and has yet to bury. 


Eustius dreamed once of post thirty nine 

when he was a poet,  long ago 

         he'd have children and friends 

         and laughter with love 

                                   but that was his 


   in rhyming and verse 

he wished for better 

                    but accepted the worse. 


his hair has grown thinner 

and bare in the back 

he combs it different and tries to laugh 

but eustius knows with the calm of his age 

that it was too late before 

                           and has nothing to gain 

                           except when he's watching 

violence and sex 

and dreams of the hero 

and sees himself flex 

his muscles in video 

no longer in rhymes          


laments his lost poems 

and becomes like his image 

old in the end 

                 dusty and balding 

                 and cursing his pen.



Eustius at Sixtyfive


eustius clay

turned senior to-day

no one remembered

except his insurance agent

who sent him a card

printed, embossed

wishing him greetings

and offering him joy

with 10% off

if he purchased to-day

a policy, which 

would pay in the end

a handsome amount

to family or friend.


eustius didn't think

that a party was proper

co-workers weren't close

and no one else offered

friends were something

he never quite had

except long ago

when he thought he was glad

when he walked with a spring

laughed with the sky

until all if it crumbled

to this day he asks why.


eustius writes in his journal

each day,

snippets of prose, starts of a play

poems and verses

he keeps and destroys

words to encourage

lines devoid

of laughter and hope

that he writes to explore

his world and his life

and the answer to why -

he came close once

but life passes him by

and he knows

that he just

barely survives.


eustius goes to his only room

where he watches t.v

lives out the lives

of his favourite shows -

he is all of the heroes



with friends

rich and powerful patron

as he defends

the weakest among us

he is both lover and death

for six hours each night

he is no longer alone

until he retires 

and the real world begins.


eustius prays to his god

from a dog-eared prayer book

asking the angels 

to take him this night

to protect him and guide him

and to make it all right

but he knows

that  the words

that he prays are just that

words to appease

words to ward back

the fear that he'll live

fifty more years.

in his room

with his books

and his question of why

his  life

full of promise

became a sad lie...


eustius sleeps

in his bed all alone

waiting for visions

that he can write down

hoping in sleep

that his answer will come

that the angels take pity

and make him as one....



eustius clay 


                  eustius clay 

                  has made his bed 

                  combed his hair and 

                  smiled to the reflection 

                  he knows so well - 


           he is a master of reflections - 


                    the phone 

                    has not rung. 


           eustius knows  

                         that it never will 

           unless by morticians 

           and friendly wrong numbers 

           that hang up too soon. 


                  9:00 o'clock:  the records 

                                have all been played... 

           eustius knows the words by memory 

                         and sings them in bed 

                         by the light of the streetlamp 

           that shatters the darkness 

                         of his perennial room.



getting festive


on the first day of winter

the first thing eustius did

was take the trash out to the curb

the early snow had melted

revealing his littered lawn

with all the leaves he refused to rake

when the days were still mellow

and the sun shined like new poems

alone without his muse to hold him

he gazes into the digital fireplace blazing

reminisces with himself

to the strains of carols

from Andy Williams Christmas album

this season of aches and wants

and dreams mostly unfulfilled



Eustius on the shore


Eustius sits alone

in his chair

in the corner of his room

the t.v. flickers

sad blue light

upon the walls

that he calls home

he reads his poems

that never left him

he knows them all by heart


that he never had

by love 

made with his words


it has been five years

since he last wandered

through the gleaning avenues

frosted in their winter cotton

frozen hard against the sun

too far away to matter


he has grown older

his mirrors show him

he knows with certainty

that soon

the pain 

that grows within 

will ease

his pain without -

and so he reads

all of his life

in yellow pages in a file

he kept

instead of throwing out


Eustius thinks 

perhaps this night

he may return to riverbanks

stick in his feet

and in the coolness

dream of waves upon the shores

of his ancient arid island

while under the light of a hazy moon

compose more words that he can keep

to memorize in his only room

to be part of his life....




Joseph A Farina is a retired lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. An award winning poet. published in  Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Ascent ,Subterranean  Blue  and in   The Tower Poetry Magazine, Inscribed, The Windsor Review, Boxcar Poetry Revue, and appears in the anthologies   Sweet Lemons: Writings with a Sicilian Accent,  Canadian Italians at Table,  Witness  and Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century.  published in U.S. magazines   Mobius, Pyramid Arts, Arabesques, Fiele-Festa, Philedelphia Poets and  Memoir and in Silver Birch Press  Series. He has had two books of poetry published— The Cancer Chronicles   and   The Ghosts of Water Street.

Three Poems by Scott C. Kaestner



Staring at the campfire
he saw an image

A figure that appeared
to be dancing
in celebration.

Swaying to a beat
the rhythm of

He wasn’t quite sure if
it was real or just
the magic mushrooms.

Regardless life is both
a celebration and
a hallucination.

That’s poetry he thought
finding signs of life
in the fire.

Seeing the unseen
celebrating and


Often wonder why people don’t
spend more time wondering

our world is full of wonder
the seas, mountains, deserts
fields full of wonder

wonder everywhere I look
wonder in everything I see
wonderful people doing
wonderful things
wonder in the eyes of a child

wonderful tastes
wonderful sounds
wonderful feelings
words full of wondrous ideas

upon a planet drenched in wonder
wondering is the means
to a wonderful life.


destroys everything
it comes into contact with.

really matters
when everything does.

Scott C. Kaestner is a Los Angeles poet, writer, dad, husband, and man who knows enough to know he doesn’t know much at all. Google ‘scott kaestner poetry’ to peruse his musings and doings.

Friday 23 December 2022

Ten Tanka, Haiku and Senryu Poems by Snigdha Agrawal


Ten Tanka, Haiku and Senryu Poems



Werewolves barking loud 

warning poachers of danger

in violating

laws of the jungle laid down

risking themselves being gobbled




Grief she hid beneath 

layers of epidermis 

shielded with concrete

strong, hardened, unbreakable

pity impervious




To take off the edge 

of endless anxiety 

he learned to balance

physical, emotional 

quotient with meditation





Weeping willows stopped 

weeping for the dead soldiers 

forever frozen




The lonely swallow 

kept knocking to draw 

the attention of inmates gone





Even the birds flew 

with them providing solace 

to the new orphans





Against the blue sky 

wings of warplanes take revenge 

display of fireworks




Age and I look like 

blueberry compote on toast 

enlarged vexed blue veins




Hands raised in prayer 

pleading for forgiveness 

Hyenas laugh amused




Trolled for being bold 

Shaved off tangled long tresses

Gender stays unplugged 


Snigdha Agrawal (nee Banerjee) has an MBA in Marketing and Corporate work experience of over two  decades.

She enjoys writing all genres of poetry, prose, and short stories.  Educated entirely in Loreto Institutions, and brought up in a cosmopolitan environment, she has learnt the best of the east and west. 

Second to writing is her passion for travelling.  A septuagenarian, she continues to travel across the globe, sharing her travel experiences in her travel blog  Her writings on the miraquill platform has many followers.

She is a published author of three books 1. "MINDS UNPLUGGED Lockdown stories and Rhymes for the six to sixteen" (Nov.2021) 2. "EVOCATIVE RENDERINGS" (June 2017) and 3." TALES OF THE TWINS unsung melodies"(2018), apart from contributions to several published anthologies. 


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       ...