On this page: poems by John B. Lee, Luke Armstrong, Esther Cameron, Iris Dan, Esther Lixenberg-Bloch, jacob erin-cilberto, Birgit Talmon, Gregory Gunn, Rose Auslander, Paul Jeffcutt, Bernice Lever
The following works are copyright © 2010. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
John B. Lee
John B. Lee's work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications. He has over 60 prestigious awards to his credit including being the only two-time winner of the People's Poetry Award and winner of the prestigious $10,000 Candian Literary Award for poetry (CBC Radio/Saturday Night Magazine). He has over 40 books in print. A recipient of letters of praise from both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, he was made Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity in 2005.
And for All of That
I stand on the steps
Of the Cathedral of the Virgin
of El Cobre
and the syncretic Santería of Cuba
Manuel tells me
that he is transported
backwards through time
to when he was last here
as a lad of four
holding the hand
of his young mother
who was lovely then
with her long black hair
in her Sunday summer dress
and I see
on the distant hillside
dedicated to the copper-mine slaves
many who died in chains
moiling in the earth
like those who seek
with broken hands
the lost and lackluster
spirit of history
faded like painted statuary
voiceless in pale-blue
carved and carried
on not-quite-round-wheeled wagons
“yo soy la virgen de la caridad”
and I will not
I will come to you
on the language of the sea
I will remove
myself from this fixed station
the dark mestiza beauty
I am Orisha of the island spirit of the wind
and I think also
of my wife
as a little girl
ascending with her mother
the stone steps
of Sainte-Anne de Beauprés
littered with abandoned crutches
as the crippled
and the maimed
the disabled and the lame
clung to the bone ladder
praying for a miraculous
like marionettes dropped in tangles
at the pierced foot of the cross
she in memory
as a little girl
frightened by the multifarious disfigurements
is remembering that
day of confused faith
and I look in the Cathedral
here in the clutter on the wall
search for and cannot find
Hemingway’s Nobel medal
the one he gave
as tribute to
the Virgin of Charity
a gift he had surely forgotten
the hour he took
his own life
with a shotgun in his mouth
and for all of that
the hour life took him
and shook loose his crimsoned soul
like a dog shaking a rat
in the blood-spattered sorrow
of his dark rose of despair
and I pray
in this place
for a sacred intervention
because death is real
and suffering deep
and memory impoverished by falsity
and a fool’s fondness
for the mendacity of a prettified past
is not to be trusted
I want it all
I acknowledge the necessity
of seeing everything
because only everything is enough
and less than that
is never love
less than that
and the copper
stays in the earth
In 2007, after finishing degrees in Philosophy and English at La Pontificada Universidad, Chile, Luke Maguire Armstrong spent 10 months backpacking from Chile to Alaska. He made it as far as Guatemala where for two years has been the director of the educational development organization Nuestros Ahijados. The program works to educate 4,000 orphaned and abandoned children so they can break the vicious cycle of generational poverty. His book of "poetry and fun" iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About is available on Amazon.com.
Frequently Asked Questions Broaching The Answers Thrown Into A Guam Bound Bottle
When we are damaged we look at what wheels will turn:
How the beautiful began looking beyond the mirror on her wall,
Why the vegan ate the burger when the hunter couldn’t pull the trigger,
Which types of loneliness lead to depression, which depressions lead to art,
And what art forms save another’s humanity,
What wars are worth fighting and which death tolls are acceptable,
How we are all pro life until circumstances arise…
Why the God in the mosque, is not the God in the church, is not the
God in your heart, is the gray God of justified tragedy,
Why his god disagrees with her god, why one god, why two gods,
Why three gods in one god, why not her god in his god, why red
Gods and blue gods and green gods and living gods and dead gods
And risen gods and fallen gods and failing gods or no gods?
Who are these hordes of anonymous women on the Internet,
What is upsetting all the bloggers,
Why the darkness of our soul ceases the day we have no soul,
How the original virtue was that life went on after the first sin,
Why Cain wandered the Earth looking for something,
When Abel was just beginning to feel loved…
Why love? Why Love? Why Love?
Why lovers have hated, have hurt and harmed, have wondered, weltered and wandered, Have turned moment to memory to music, seeing the searcher as the sought, spotting Common ground in a shared gaze, navigating the map-less mutuality of reflexive lines of Sight, considering in quiet contemplation these intangibles, only to arrive at the Realization that, even if it was not what we were searching for, we will be thankful that The journey is not over and there is still enough daylight creeping in the naked corners of The sky to light our way towards darkening horizons where we can only assume we’ll find:
Real verse, scribbled anonymously on bathroom stall walls,
Real depth, the last choke of a MAYDAY! MAYDAY!
The wildest flowers, those given in the hope of reconciliations, plotted and un-potted abruptly to throw towards a departing lover the waking dream of vanishing revelations,
The truest prayers, those leaking from the hopeful mouths of unbelievers, ecumenical atheists casting buoyant nets past the edge of their earlier assumptions,
The truest poet, not searching for poetry, throwing his only inked sheet into
A bottle, which swallowed by the sea, will float towards Guam…
When The Sinless Sunbeams Raped Me
How I used to admire strong arms,
Before I knew all their uses,
Hands can plant a garden,
Hands can help and hold,
And hands can grab your
Shoulders, while strong arms
Pin you down, and it’s not the
Coolness of the ground, or
That the others only cheer,
It’s not because he roared,
“Open your eyes!” so he could
Know the rancid emotions
Screaming across my face, not
Because I was drowning underneath
The weight of more than just him,
But because when the blood had
Dried and then was washed away
Without the past, when we all
Woke up to the agreement that
It had been my fault, I was the
Guilty one, me being so young,
But still capable of forgetting my
Headdress and thus lighting the fires
Of male lust to thrust my body down,
That I never told them who was really
To blame was the sinless sunbeams, who
Had spurred me on to leave my headdress home,
So that I could feel the girlish joy of those
Bright beams soaking into my dim hair,
The palpable part of my happily forgotten past—
The warm sense of love covering my head, filling me.
Going With The Garbage
Tucked away in younger years
at the dinner table of my youth,
when the food did not reach far enough,
the problem was simple and clear:
someone has taken more than their fair share.
Follow your garbage past your front door,
follow it across modern roads that yield to unraveling gravel,
follow it to the mountains of garbage burning across a wandering wild landscape,
follow it through the smoke where forms shimmer human from the haze,
where Maria and Rosa, Hernan and Jose, Julian and Julianita spend their days
plucking bottles from hell, a nickel a pound, ten pounds
a meal, a meal another day of life, another day of life
another day in hell, another day sifting through mounds of
waste: one man’s trash is always another’s only way.
Follow your garbage to the world where house flies
truly feel at home, where they swarm in absurd abundance,
in and out of lives left low enough to touch and touch and touch and
swarm and swarm and scorn.
Underneath the warm, wet sun shining on our opulence,
shines our world’s shrouded sinister sister
Hernan and Jose’s world.
Julian and Jualianita’s world.
Follow your garbage and see a scared, scarred woman on
a worm riddled dirt floor, on a worm riddled dirt diet,
holding a bundle of malnourishment wrapped in raging rags,
barely sheltered from frequent torrential downpours,
never sheltered from what firewater does to her husband’s fists,
whose bright baby eyes gave way to the indifferent grimace of one
who has grasped only grief and grime, where the flies swarm and swarm and scorn.
Follow your garbage and see a girl becoming a woman without
ever getting to grow, see a hope filled boy becoming another man
who inhales glue, who for once felt his pain finally blurred, whose hands stopped picking empty cans, whose shaking hands stopped picking empty cans, whose shaking hands reached for bottles of glue, who felt his pain lessened, who became a father, who became indifferent, who became lost, who became a son, who became his father.
Beneath toxic smoke that will one day kill her, Rosita searches for chicken bones with little bits of life still clinging to them, her thin fingers, those little bones and her absent smile reaching forever into arbitrary masses of a shivery discarded world, rummaging, plummeting, rummaging, burning, flies swarming and swarming and plummeting.
From the beach resort, to where our garbage goes, this is the world
where someone has taken more than their fair share.
See the world as an unmade bed, left undone by fallen ancestors.
How we feed our mind, who touches our heart, who we see as kin,
will decide how we make this bed, will decide who sleeps in a bed,
will decide whose bed is a garbage dump, will decide whose
job is to pick cans and die young, will decide how we sleep at night,
will decide whose bed is the ground, will decide whose mornings are hopeful,
will decide who mourns for what the curable has caused,
will decide if Rosita’s downcast eyes ever rise, will decide if we will ever listen
To laughter from her sun loved lips, will decide how her days are numbered.
Esther Cameron was born in 1941 in New York and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. She received her B.A. in linguistics from the University of Wisconsin in 1964 and her Ph.D. in German at the University of California-Berkeley in 1973. In 1979 she came to Israel, where she lived until 1990. In 1983 a chapbook of poems, Or Mudrag (A Gradual Light), translated by the late Prof. Simon Halkin, was published by HaKibbutz HaMeuchad, which in 1987 also published her memoir Tsade: Nituach ‘Atzmi shel Golem (c, or the Autoanalysis of a Golem), translated by Ruth Blumert. In 1985 she received the Peter Schwiefert Prize from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1996 she founded the poetry magazine The Neovictorian/Cochlea, which in 2007 changed its name to The Deronda Review. Her epic poem The Consciousness of Earth was published in installments by Bellowing Ark, and in book form by Multicultural Books. Her memoir Soul's Evidence (an expanded version of her earlier memoir) has also been published in installments by Bellowing Ark. Sifrei Bitsaron has published two of her books: Gargirei Ha'Omer (Grains of the Omer), a cycle of short poems in Hebrew for the counting of the omer (2007), and Fortitude, or The Lost Language of Justice: Poems in Israel's Cause (2009). Her multifaceted oeuvre may be seen on her website, Point and Circumference.
My Mother's War
The spring after my parents wed,
They were still groom and bride,
Together they drove up to view
The New England countryside,
And all their brothers, two and two,
Came along for the ride.
My mother’s brothers, Rick and Hal,
And my father’s, Mike and Ron,
Gazed at the blossoming apple trees
Under the vernal sun,
And my mother gazed at them and thought:
All these beautiful young men!
Soon after that the war broke out.
My father stayed at home --
He was working for the government --
But the draft board’s notice came
To Hal and Rick and Mike and Ron,
And none came back the same, she said,
None came back the same.
How it may be with you, I do not know,
But in the mirror I can seldom see
Myself alone. I see an endless flow
Of thoughts and traits, assembling randomly
Like strangers at a bus-stop, who elsewhere
Are met again in other combinations:
The color of my eyes, and curl of hair,
The love of words and patterns and the impatience
That would not let me teach, are all on loan,
Are grave-goods furbished up for one more use;
And when I speak I catch, as overtone,
The echo of some long-estranged friend’s voice,
Who left some gesture, stock phrase, trick of seeing
Behind in the apartment of my being.]
I did not know on which page*
was the passage about the light of creation
by which you could see from one end of the world to the other
and which reappears each week to gleam in the light
of the Sabbath tapers.
But my heart,
or the unconscious mind
that is not mine alone
and can still see by that light,
told my fingers
and the book opened at once
to the page I sought.
And this interpretation was whispered
to my mind long ago:
the light of the Sabbath is the light that appears
when we draw aside the curtain of our strife
and see through each other's eyes
and each other's hearts
till there would be one eye
did not Havdalah come again.
Queen Sabbath, let me each week
give all into your hands
and give me back the soul
of the Primal Human --
the soul not mine alone,
the soul of peace.
*Of Abraham Joshua Heschel's book The Sabbath
Iris Dan was born in Bukowina, Romania, in a family of Holocaust survivors. She grew up bilingual (German and Romanian), than studied Romance languages at the University of Bucharest, graduating with an M.A. in linguistics. She has been living in Israel since 1980. She is married, has a grown daughter, and works (quite happily) as a translator from and into a number of languages. From her (existential and professional) Babel Tower she sees the Mediterranean. She has written poetry for as long as she can remember, never publishing any, in the last 15 or 20 years, in English only. Recently she has begun to send her poems on their own way and has been published or is forthcoming in the Voices Israel Anthology, Magnapoets, Poetic Portal, Subtletea, and Poetic Diversity.
With My Parents at the Cows' Ball
My father says
the cows have been good
have given good milk
and now –coming down
from up there in the Alps
they are feted and given prizes
like homecoming queens.
(I know he doesn't mean it in earnest
and I know he does.)
My mother says primly
the capable and the hardworking
always succeed. I lower my head,
and my father squeezes my hand.
I show my mother the dancers in folk dress,
Does she think the embroidery is handmade?
She doesn't believe so, but of course
her eyes are fading. It's pretty enough, though, she says.
In her youth she appeared at a Purim ball
in the dress of a Romanian peasant
(much more elaborate and more richly embroidered
than these Slovenian costumes),
and wants to assure me once more
that it suited her marvelously.
My father, who was in timber,
takes me to the sawmill demonstration.
The presenter is shouting, laughing,
having a wonderful time.
My father says, you need a special temperament
to squeeze out such a performance
from operating a sawmill.
What do you think, he asks,
are such people happier on the whole?
I wonder when I will be able
to have such insights, ask such questions.
My mother says, as I approach a stall,
you don't have to buy everything you see
and my father says, let her. She says
don't you dare buying this rough knitwear,
she says don't buy food, at your age
every morsel sticks, but accepts a pancake.
(This is the closest we come to the dead:
thinking their thoughts,
then thinking our own, in reply.)
At noon the cows are led in
and ran through the cheering crowd:
proud owners first
bearing the tools of their trade
prize cows wearing garlands
woven from branches and flowers
mediocre cows wearing nothing
seductive dairy maidens
children submerged under oversized hats
they all pass before me
everything already determined:
who for life and who for death,
who for the pasture and who for the yoke,
who for his seed and who for his meat,
who for her milk and who for her calves
and I see myself pass
now weighed down by a ridiculous garland
which scratches my neck
and makes the other cows hate me
now with my neck shamefully bare
forever branded with my parents' love,
pulled in all directions by a rope
wound from their conflicting
fears and prejudices,
here and there interwoven
with my conflicting own
I see myself, coming home
with particularly flying colors
or some other suchlike
equally senseless occasion
jumping from the train
into the arms of my father
the worthiest and proudest of heifers
and see a hunchbacked old woman
pulling a reluctant prize cow by a rope,
the ideal subject to lighten the evening news.
All the cameras flash. The reporters ask questions.
The old woman talks and laughs,
enjoying her moment of glory.
My mother was never so lucky.
Esther Lixenberg-Bloch was born in London in 1952 and studied Textile Design and Fine Art at the Camberwell School of Art. In 1976 she immigrated to Israel. Esther has worked as a needlepoint and embroidery designer, taught art, dressmaking and fashion design, and has written poetry since childhood. Her poems have won honors in both the Reuben Rose and Miriam Lindberg poetry competitions. She has 4 children and 8 grandchildren.
Fine lines have begun to creep in
like cracks in the mirror.
Fine lines – not randomly scribbled
but etched with a delicate touch.
Fine lines – are these what are
dubbed on the bottle:
Who wants to smooth over
the lines it took years to produce?
And when in the years yet to come
my ‘expression lines’ multiply,
and drawings grow complex
with time-laboured scratches and whorls,
what a blessing that close-up,
they blur to a fuzzy, streaked scumbling,
and at arm’s length, dissolve
in life’s myriad, fumbling swirls.
You can’t change the shape
of your skull,
the way your thoughts
fit in –
just what takes precedence:
the form abstracted like
a clock face without digits
nibbling pieces of invisible time
the bread and butter skills
that gobble chunks of it –
like catching buses,
filling out tax forms,
the longitude and latitude
of work zones
enmeshing it all.
‘You’ll live in a garret’
my uncle said,
‘subsisting on sardines’.
[He’d heard of Modigliani]
“Who’ll marry you if you can’t cook?”
was dad’s advice, or
“Be a secretary – they earn good pay.”
So you push aside the lines,
while the mesh distorts
and brushstrokes dab at trivialities.
And then you try to
re-align the web
that holds your transient veins intact,
between the minute hand
and stunted hour,
that point contrarily
Ken “fog” Gilbert aka jacob erin-cilberto, originally from Bronx, NY, now resides in Carbondale, Illinois. erin-cilberto has been writing and publishing poetry since 1970. He currently teaches at John A. Logan and Shawnee Community colleges in Southern Illinois.
His work has appeared in numerous small magazines and journals including: Café Review, Skyline Magazine, Hudson View, Wind Journal, Pegasus, Parnassus and others. erin-cilberto also writes reviews of poetry books for Chiron Review, Skyline Review and others. He has reviewed books by B.Z Niditch, musician Tom Maclear and others. His 11th and newest book of poetry, “An Abstract Waltz,” is scheduled for release this December. erin-cilberto has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry in 2006-2008. He also teaches poetry workshops for Heartland Writers Guild, Southern Illinois Writers Guild and Union County Writers Guild.
coffee table brain
in a house annihilated
a few broken chairs
nothing conventional ever sat in
thoughts lie on a carpet of worn meaning
chaotic filaments of uneven breath
abandoned teapot whistling on the stove
a bookmark notes the stoppage of a life
where much of the novel is left in doubt
cover blurbs full of denial
existence a war of words
fulfillment a tragic poem
published then torn out of the magazine
by the last barrage of bombs
dropped by critics who couldn't keep the siding
on their own conscience
and glass windows so clear
we could see them masturbating within tortured chambers
as guilty prologues sang disparaging tunes
at an unattended funeral.
a well respected man
nicely creased pants
but look in his pockets
scathing words about his peers
of growing broke
brokering his wealth any way he can
table his retainer
hire him out the door
his smile is dangerous
but he'll draw you in
like a child drawing stick figures in art class
he'll make you his ideal
and you the idealist
will spend the rest of your life
trying to break out of the frame
as he's hung you on his trophy wall
the picture of
a well respected man.
stay with me awhile
even if you don't mean it
sit quiet and pretend we are still friends
i want to remember you the way you were
in that frail moonlit glow
someone i thought i had gotten to know
someone i gave my heart to
when i was conspicuously naive
hiding the diary in my pocket
as i flinched from the glare
of your vacant stare
absorbing the coldness of your belligerent touch
i sort of loved you much
you became a tattoo i couldn't rub off
and reality is blindness
but i didn't want to see
i just wanted to drain your warmth
into my skin
but as i shivered away the biting wind
of your callous breezy disposition
i was stamped with deceit
like an underage slipping into the bar
illegally partaking a drink of romance
and now here we are,
sitting in silent happenstance
just an afterthought
i'm trying to maintain long enough
to have a memory
even if the moment never really happened,
i'll try to remember you
as if it did.
flower power drummin'
black power fists flailing
in a lost horizon
there is movement in the beast
and years removed there is a sightless bird
winging its way into silent accord
the arthritised fingers
weakly clenched holding the note
some suicide poet who couldn't change things
with revolver words
shooting his reservoir of saintly messages
into his own head,
leaping out of the chair
the floor a comfortable net
as the hippie with the afro
played his guitar into the ground
to meet the others...
heaven scented sparrows
dictate the song
and books with dusty, untouched spines
fall silent from the shelves
back then we thought of back then
and now we still reflect on back then
when the now is written
into a sunset that seems so final
a rising is absurdity's joke
when the writing is tired
and the skeleton of meaning
hangs wearily in the shed of discontent
muddy windows convey complexities
like screaming pigs led to slaughter
words convolute the intensity
and sleepy drums symbolize
i hear the chaos from my typewriter's chamber
but expression's throat is slit
and the blood of a waning poet
shields its eyes
from a morning of latent recognition
because waking up is more painful
than the useless phrases
he conjures up to the beat
knowing he is beaten.
Birgit Talmon is Danish-born. Works as a translator: Danish, English and Hebrew. Has studied prose and poetry with eminent writers in Israel and writes in the above mentioned languages. Has served on Voices Israel Editorial Board. Her works are published on her website www.btalmon.com. She publishes poetry and short stories in all three languages in anthologies and literary magazines in Israel and abroad.
In my memoirs
Had me turn to
A blank page.
The loose ends,
I fell through
Their flimsy mesh;
In the low ceiling
To swing open.
All these years
Touch the switch,
Turn on the light,
Each span of time
For fear of overheating
The source of light.
Followed by a torrent
Of broken glass.
After all these years
The light bulb,
Now rid of its
Oppressively hot encasement,
Delivers the tenants from
Premeditated time spans,
- At least in the corridor.
The roadside trees'
Illusive resemblance to
In our headlights
Is this moment's
Sole guiding framework
As we reel
Deeper into the arid land
Along the narrow path
To a future.
And at ease
I look back,
Gone is that
By the bleak of night;
Gone seems all that
Comprises my past.
Past and future
I perceive a faint shiver
Evoked by the tale of
Gregory Wm. Gunn was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1960, grew up in four small towns throughout Ontario before moving to London in 1970. A graduate of Fanshawe College in 1982 as an electronics technician, he has worked in that field ever since. Writing for nearly thirty years, he is most passionate about poetry. Other interests include music, astronomy, philosophy, photography, ancient civilisations, foreign languages, and gardening.
I foresee not another firebird moment,
the triadic-spired sky, the sage grouse
grieving, abrupt an aureate cloudburst
and heart’s initial leisure, hypnotic below
lindens by the eldritch sunset glow.
By the blazing lane, our cheerfulness
shall echo: a single blazing instant casts
rays a myriad ways; fiery courses into
genial kinesics, transcending times
tarry, the flesh’s fullness ripens.
Contemplate then, my sylvan lady,
this is the terminus of the roc rising,
the ocean-flyer’s otherworldly mount:
September too soon will have flown;
first frost tinselling sunflowers & asters
in the starlight, inscribe-summitted
with nimbus and mammatocumulus
muses the immense skyline.
Soak up the raindrops---expand
with serene intensity. Turn over a new
leaf. Broaden as swollen clouds grow.
Beautiful breadth the ploughlands,
and you are laden; so verdant the vines
concealing the bountiful purple yield.
It became unfeasible to depart
from the neighbourhood,
tripping over serpentine tracks
outmoded. Thrice we wound up
at the filling station then turned
around, unable to avoid the aqueduct;
stone-cold birds, passed on hopes
in the glaucous depths, above
all our undertakings breathed
a spectral entreaty. The beefeaters
and the pious masses doubled
back like hyperboles of our own
desperation, and just like Sirius
the outskirts seemed remotely
gleaming toward faultless fields.
We culminated the course in
an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac
where on the decrepit curb wept
a wizened young girl lamenting
the bottleneck outlet. We U-turned
the truck and circled back.
The sun overarches
dark green pine ridge, puffs
of clouds diffuse like cannon smoke,
lemon rays of light shoot
into my eyes & zigzag like lightning
through the charcoal coloured
patches of ice as I walk
the road into the village.
Mock newspaper kites pitch
over sandy snow mounds,
a plastic shopping bag soars
like a miniature hot air balloon
in the sprightly mid-March wind.
You appear on the corner,
near the cafe like an azure section of sky
approaching me, beaming a high-
cheeked smile, lovely as a bluebell.
This will be the afternoon I finally
muster enough nerve to let you know
how much your carefree floating
in a atmosphere you make
all your own astonishes me.
We step inside the warm
brick-walled room, the hidden
house music of strings charms its patrons,
they chat & laugh, listen with their eyes
amid the clinking of porcelain,
glass & silverware, surrounded
by photographs & paintings,
attended by embroidered linen.
I try to avoid your trenchant gaze,
for fear you’d X-ray my heart,
perceive its dearest wishes
& tender passion, be afraid of it & run.
Vistors To Crystalline Water
We see albino trees above the water fall,
the ruptured rainbow at its base.
Moistened by mist we climb the precipitous wall;
our slow march does not falter nor alter
insomuch as nearly a grace
is inclined toward such high times;
for vestal love destiny binds
brisk-eye visitors to crystalline water.
We won’t allow the multi-coloured arc to fade
the moment the rose sun descends
into the spruce-studded dunes & bank’s colonnade
of birches. Winter’s dark cannot excise
our summer scene that never ends.
Our ears will not hear the roaring
river subside. Sea gulls soaring
through the milk-and-mist in our inner eyes.
Rose Auslander's six word memoir is "Mathematician's daughter -- has trouble counting." She is Poetry Editor of Folded Word Press, and stays away from math. Her great, great uncle, Joseph Auslander, was the first Poet Laureate of the United States, and she hopes to make him proud, wherever he may be.
It occurred to me that
perhaps I should
visit some stranger’s
table and be
that perhaps we
visit each others’
tables and all be
Then it occurred to me
that perhaps I’d
enjoyed too many
All down this small road
stare at me,
We've just moved
third house from
the corner, but
Paul Jeffcutt was born in a hamlet near the border between England and Wales; after travelling widely he’s settled in Northern Ireland beside the Mountains of Mourne. Paul’s poems have appeared in poetry journals across Europe, Australia and the USA: his work has also regularly featured in anthologies from established poetry presses. He is a longstanding member of the Writer’s Group at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in Belfast. Paul’s first collection of poetry will be published by Lagan Press later this year.
Every weekend he attends
to the sacrifice:
sticks, newspapers, leaves and weeds
hauled to the site.
Torn elbow above smudged knee,
wellyboot stirruped on garden fork,
he drags on a Players,
strides to the heap
and flicks a match.
She peers out and sighs.
He spits in his palm, grasps the haft
and forks debris to the pyre:
first a frown, then a lip
smoulders and cackles into flame -
at last, she’s ablaze.
No, Nay, Never ... No more
So farewell then, Comrade P,
82 years puffing your own cigar
through legendary three-hour tirades
in olive-green combat fatigues -
smiting the foes of revolution
who’d replaced all serpents with sodomy,
from Sierra Antrim to the Bay of Swine.
You bestrode a provincial paradise
with dodgy doctorate and zealous book,
declaiming the fourth of never,
your wallies* whistling up a mighty wind -
until that pact with Mammon and the cloven ones.
Beatified in fedora and Buick sedan
you’ve retrenched to the garden.
*wallies - dentures (Scots slang)
A sun-hewn Saturday,
the lido at Stratford Park:
Dad, away at the deep-end,
dives and disappears.
Rob and I scour the pool -
kids splash, the water shines.
He's gliding across the bottom like a great fish
to touch the tiles below our feet,
surfacing to our shrieks.
Again we chorus. He grins.
Droplets scudding from head and arms
he strides to the rungs and flops beside Mum,
deliberately beached and taking no notice
Horse, Dog, Donkey, Cat,
I'm listing animals that swim.
Cats can't swim shouts Rob. We squabble.
To settle the matter I collect Pinky
and we stride up the lane to the bridge:
claws over the parapet, she tumbles
then twists to hit the canal paws first.
She's under, the ripples spread;
could Rob be right?
A bedraggled head bobs, she paddles to the bank.
Triumphant I turn towards him
but he's already trotting to tell Mum.
Tired of chucking sticks,
we sit on the canal bank beside the house
dipping our wellies into the dark water.
Rob splashes me, then me him:
soon we're kicking up a mighty froth.
At the height of the fun he slips from the bank
to dance on the water,
then his wellies fill.
I fling out my arm - he can't reach
and struggling, slides under.
I bash the kitchen window, yelling.
Mum leaps in and hauls him to the surface:
I told you, she screams, keep him away from the water.
We lay his quiet body on the towpath.
Rob coughs, then howls.
My animal of power appeared
on the day I returned to the mountain
(the inquest was to open nearby).
At the pass I limped from my car
and shuffled with a stick
to the start of the stony ascent
My damaged leg throbbed
as I traced out the craggy ridge of Crib Goch;
serene, smiling to the lens,
you’d forged ahead on the climb.
I laid flowers on a boulder beside the path,
an insignificant blaze of yellow and red
amidst bleak millennia of glacial erosion
and mumbled words, caught in a wind
that speared my desolate core.
Unable to keep on
and join you - afraid to return:
I slump to the broken ground
Swooping down from the mountain
the great dark bird heads for me:
gliding effortless beyond.
The raven’s throaty cry booms out from the pass -
I hear the call.
Bernice Lever, prize winning poet, is a retired college teacher, island living near Vancouver, Canada. “Generation” is her 9th poetry book. In her travels, she has read poems on 5 continents. Bernice Lever is active in many Canadian writing organizations and PEN International. A great grandmother, she enjoys listening to poetry and performing her own. She is blessed to live in a small town of creative folk in a mild rainforest climate. She prays for PEACE everywhere with food on every plate.
decades of data
composting in memory
cut off drying
disconnecting from reason
smelling black mold
dissolve into disturbing
'Going for Gold'
Once in four years or annually, always aware
that each record is eventually
surpassed, overtaken -
sports and science set their bench marks:
Olympics medals and Nobel prizes
that others use as their basis points,
places to spring from, surge upward -
yet in the arts
world class achievement glows forever:
a shine to spur others
to their own excellence
not to better or to bury others,
but to achieve their own brightness
as individual artists
competing only with themselves
in redeeming humanity's individuality:
our unique creativity:
Before We Were Born
Oh, how we knew
rough pounding of dad's belly
against our wet home
as we nestled
in mom's womb
Oh, how we knew
sounds of curses and sighs
yet felt warmth of unseen sun
healing caresses of mom's fingers
We knew before pressuring tunnel
before first air suck
before cord-cutting final separation
Oh, how we knew
love's ying and yang.