Four Poems

Baker’s Pick
Marchell Dyon


Photo Credit: Chiara Cremaschi (CC-by-nd)

Tiny Dancer

She dances…
Like all ugly ducklings do.
After, finally, discovering she is indeed a swan…

She dances…
With her daydreams.
Here metal never chimes—

Her leg braces the link of chains and
Hinges will never
Weigh enough to hold her down.

She dances…
In daylight to California rock she sways—
Watch her dance while sunlight glistens her room.

She rounds again, her many phantom partners.
A chair-bound Ginger Rogers,
Popping wheelies, turning angles,

This wheelchair is not a defeat.
These four wheels are a part of her magic.
This chair

With rainbows streamers is
A thing of beauty
As art is the faith of doing.
All her moves are holy:
All are sacred rhythms.
She sways to the bass section—

Her fingers draw a guitar from air—
While she bangs and grooves
Her head as much as her body would allow,

Like footprints on the tile floor
Her wheelchair makes step impressions.
Her soul has choreographed,

Every movement
Like an appendage the music and she
Become one pulse.

One electric nerve.
A lightning sharp as each of her senses.
Never are her movements dull or in vain.

Never are these movements without metric feet.
A harmonious dance of metal and skin, pure poetry!

 

The Guitar

He named the guitar Maria.
Upon her body,
He caresses each chord.
Like long-lost lovers untied
Once more in the dark.

Behind a locked door she occupies
A space.
On tall fragrant lit candles
Her ghost shadows, on all four walls
Her torso dances.

She twirls her skirts high above her thighs…
In rainbows of chiffon
Heels clapping,
She breathes through walls.
In waves of wild raw and ravenous chords

She echoes when finished a cool Cuban smoke.
That takes him farther away from me.
Far from the kiddy carpools and the mortgages
Back to tequila sunset
And cabana nights

Back to the beach where he roamed.
Where he found the girl with perkier breasts
The one he made love to all day on the sand.
As he tanned, eclipsed in blankets of ebony hair
Under a then-jealous sun.

 

Two Left Feet

The measure of the dance has
Never been with me.
The rhythm of body language
The curve speech like

Red polished fingernails.
The sway of hips
Like a Victorian fan singling seduction.
Only the sway of hormones

Caught me.
Through a sorted pique of feelings
A funnel cloud of emotions
Breaking and turning dancing sideways

Up and down.
Many tap dance romances surround me
Down these high school halls
Everyone is coupled up.

Everyone knows how to dance
Everyone but me.
My two left feet trip up
The interest of willing to try.

He tries to square dance pass
My naive awkwardness
I step on his toes too many times.
He walks to

The locker next to mine.
To a girl that
Knows
How to bat her eyes.

In my sad soliloquy
I am a grieving prima ballerina
At my first recital, tutu feathers thinning,
Glass in my slipper, singing the blues.

 

Eurydice’s Ghost

I electric slide through mediums
My eyes light up like disco balls
My eyes even sparkle in deep shadows

My voice of rhyme—mirrors that of poets
Listen as I smite
The sea with the colors of thunder

While my laughter becomes one,
With the phases of the moon
Hear me, singers

Melody makers—dancers before the flame.
Turn kings into beggars begging for the smooth moves
Of urban urchins.

Make proud queens envy us,
We, who can lift our skirts swinging them high—
Till all can see our embroidered thighs

Make the priest and all the holy rollers tap-
dance into the underworld and
The choirs of Orpheus sing.

And the great doors of Hades open; let those freed, and those still.
Be charmed to climb out of darkness into daylight.
But speak not a word or try to see my face.

Like smoke,
I will ghost away into the wind—
Leaving all without

The musings of a gypsy woman’s hips
Watch as she gyrates to deafening guitar chords
She invites all—

To step into the fire
Dancers become one with flames
But when the melody of this moment ends

The gypsy woman wanders away
Lite as a feather—
Into the crowd

So too, am I.

pencil

Marchell Dyon is a survivor of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She has published in many magazines over the last twelve years. She has been nominated for the Best of the Net prize as well as winning the 2012 Romancing the Craft award from Torrid Lit Journal. She has taken many workshops; she has worked hard to improve her education within the craft of poetry. With stars in her eyes and a deep-rooted imagination she continues to write in Chicago, IL. Email: marchelldyon[at]yahoo.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Kathleen Bryson


Photo Credit: LindaDee2006/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Smoking

The forests were burnt down when I was two.
By the time I was a child,
we called the trees matchsticks.
Slim charred trunks topped with tumors.
If the God of Alaska reached
down and swiped a tree against
flint, to see it burst into
sunsets, dawns and campfires,
northern lights.
Set the land ablaze,
gave us all electric shock
until numbed, dumb and slobbering,
the deity would stub out the matches
or blow away the flames
and the mapped land was left dim and ashen,
the trees dead lollipops smoldering for decades,
and us, drooling for them, in the asylum, in the dark.

Then as an adult
returning at intervals to my homeland,
I’d notice how, subtly,
the matchstick trees were disappearing,
the ones that had survived grew funny with moss
their deformed branches sprouted and
grew weird but viable sprigs,
and generally the forests thrived,
and you had the odd revelation of
every tree being taller than it was
when you were a child,
the reverse of everything else.

I stayed away for a long time
and the trees got sick.
Spruce bark beetle chewed them
and spit them out,
they were grey
and the land was scalped
as it had been when I was very little.
The God kept quiet
or had given up smoking,
had been chewing Nicorette,
or had become diseased itself,
bundled away to the asylum.

 

Nikiski Midsummer (Alexandra Palace, Spring Equinox, 2010)

The fungi on the birches big like heads and the
trees spur up and then grow tight too close and the
ferns those prehistoric drifts and their
braille-lumper undersides and the
devil’s club broad like the
lilypads waxy and hovering with
orbiting flies and the
light rain and the soft rain and the right rain
to make circles on circles in the
small lakes left over from the glaciers.

Now there are these trees
these tight trees these wrong trees
and these mushroom wounds on birches
sucking drafts on scarred caucasian trunks
and past them the fire pile hooked with stumps and brambles.

The fire, a fire is a fine thing.
A fire is a wood thing, a bad thing.
The humans are a crazy beast
a mad thing, a good thing

The animals dance and pound palms on hide
hoist moose skulls high in air on staffs
to say, here comes the light, our ball,
we are a strange thing,
we are from here, this wood,
these lakes, my birch,
their ferns, the cocky stupid moths
the animals brush away with thumbs
so as to stare unencumbered at the fire, get closer
to the light, from sky from ground
It will burn our eyes out. I will not look away.
You will not look away. I won’t.
You will not. The sun. The sun’s still hot.

pencil

Kathleen Bryson was born and raised in Alaska, and as an adult received her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology from University College London. She studies prejudice and currently is a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University. She has had three novels published previously (the most recent being The Stagtress, Fugue State Press, 2019), as well as over 100 poems and prose pieces in other publications. Read more about her fiction, art, film and research work on her website. Her poem “Nikiski Midsummer” is based on a new tradition that has sprung up in the last 20 years in her rural hometown area on the Kenai Peninsula, where summer solstice celebrators drive deep into the woods to drum on oil drums through the whole “night” (all few twilight hours of it) and a moose skull is paraded on a broomstick. It is not official but many from the wider Kenai and Nikiski communities attend. The poem “Smoking” concerns the spruce bark beetle, which due to global warming, new territories and natural selection continues to ravage the same land. Email: kathleen.bryson[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Beaver’s Pick
Jenny Hockey


Photo Credit: stupidmommy/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Waking Up in Someone Else’s House

7.15, not too bad
and bright North Sea light
edging through the shutters.

The floor will be cold, I know—
not the floor but a granite hearth
under my side of the bed.

Nose into socks and tread right round
to the door. All the lights still on. Heating
not yet. But sun tumbles down the stairs

and a city discovers the shape of today.

Into the kitchen, a crunch of crumbs
and ease the curtains back, set Remy
scrabbling in his cage.

An odour of something
under the floorboards, here and there—
a kindred rodent at peace

Find a clean cup.

 

Unreliable Witness

I know that I cried—
I was your child,
but whether the nurse
took hold of my hand
or I took hold of hers
I forget.

I know she called me at 3 am

when the four-lane road
to the Humber Bridge
was mine.

Did she say you were poorly?
I know she lied, your pillowed face
already wax,

your forehead
skimmed by my lips
in the end.

 

Cambridge, June 1969

Elder thickened daily in the yard,
putting pressure on the windows.
It needed hacking back.

I was elbow deep, awash
in tiny bibs and socks,
cold feet on the quarry tiles.

Elder thickened nightly in the yard
muffling the strains of May Ball bands
a thousand miles away.

I was swagging nappies
on my shoulder, losing pegs
among the weeds.

pencilJenny Hockey‘s poems range from the sad to the surreal to the celebratory. A retired anthropologist, she takes an oblique view of the ups and downs of everyday lives. In 2013 she received a New Poets Award from New Writing North, Newcastle, UK and, after magazine and anthology publications from 1985 onwards, Oversteps Books published her debut collection, Going to Bed with the Moon, in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email: j.hockey[at]sheffield.ac.uk

Decades as Seasons

Poetry
DJ Tyrer


Photo Credit: Jesús GR/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

The decades seem like seasons to me.
The ‘Eighties a winter of contentment:
Dark and dreary with rain and snow
Yet warm with love and comfort.
The ‘Nineties a long, hot summer of the soul:
Bright and hot with sunbaked ground
And a drought of security and comfort.
But the next decade is a blur:
Maybe autumn is the metaphor
Decline and a haze of mist and falling leaves.
Now I might be in the spring:
Is this a period of rejuvenation
Or is the year about to come to an end
As the seasons finally die with me?

pencilDJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, and has been published in issues of Amulet, California Quarterly, Carillon, The Dawntreader, Haiku Journal, The Pen, and Tigershark, and online at Atlas Poetica, Bindweed, Poetry Pacific, and Scarlet Leaf Review, as well as releasing several chapbooks, including the critically acclaimed Our Story. The echapbook One Vision is available from Tigershark Publishing’s website. SuperTrump and A Wuhan Whodunnit are available to download from the Atlantean Publishing website. Email: djtyrer[at]hotmail.co.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
Liam Tait


Photo Credit: Eelco/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

washing dishes

I was washing the dishes.
I scrubbed, lathered, rinsed.

My hands grabbed each plate in turn, then felt them all over—abrasively, I’d scrape the sponge. When the grime didn’t come off, I’d put it to the side and let it soak.

Once, I was washing this blue plate, blue like turquoise, like the ocean,
blue like the color green—only you couldn’t tell, it was so dirty.

So I scraped it with the sponge—and the dirt came right off—so I poured soap onto the sponge.
And I lathered, and cleaned, and lathered, and the soap had filled the sink, as soap does,

but I saw something I had never seen before—not the bubbles, each isolated and unique,
but the borders between them, the connections, white lace, pouring out—

I saw that these white lines created everything,
that while my two-dimensional perception could do nothing to perceive the entirety, the bubbles, at least,

had never been there.

 

lace and soapshine

We have arrived—a motionless journey.

Soap bubbles float among the bathwater. Yeah, we are individuals created individually in the smithies, tanneries, foundries and canneries—in the segments of our lives.

We relate like soapshine bubbles, so greasy and bordered, and we change only in size, not shape. Out of touch, we can see nothing but white lace: where are you?

Of course we clutch at loved ones. One segmentation we can’t let go: lovers. But love requires privilege, yeah commitment means we don’t leave unless we leave forever.

Happy, pleased, to have a partner. We are individuals, soap bubbles on bathwater.
How lucky that one has chosen us and not another, how lucky are they to be chosen?

Soapshine clinging through white lace.

We have arrived—a motionless journey.

White lace—soapshine bubbles—floats over and above the bathwater. Yeah, we appear individuals, created from intersections—segmentations from li[v/n]es of interaction.

We exist in relation, like the white lace of lather, we’d rather always be changing size and shape—intermingling. Pain comes, joy comes—we keep track of love through lace.

Love is a lace. Lovers come, lovers go—a lover left is not a love ended. Yeah, not unconditional, but commitment is to the lace, not the bubble. When you leave forever we will miss you.

Happy, pleased, to have partners. The lace is strong—relations lead to more relations—stops and starts in sex, friendship, love, if those are places to stop and start. Segmentations, intersections:

we are lace. We are
soapshine clinging through white lace.

pencilLiam Tait is a writer and acrobat from Michigan. When he is not upside down, he is writing; he does not recommend writing while upside down. Email: lhtait[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
W. Joseph O’Connell


Photo Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Incision

I deny myself
the pleasure
that comes from her…
things she did for me

swimming every morning,
cutting myself at night
therapy is happening,
in softness of heart

thought occurs to me…
try to find the help I need,
because I know
it is the knot in my stomach
and the scars
that need healing

 

There is No Reason Why

I feel like screaming
not knowing who I am
stopped being myself
even before I went to Iraq

today was hard
a doctor asked me to describe what I remember about the explosion that killed four soldiers
I think about that night all the time,
a nightmare I have lived with for more than ten years
struggling to stay in control of my emotions
numbing myself with alcohol and pills

nighttime, my usual walk through the neighborhood
realizing I was having a suicidal ideation
I didn’t consciously start having that thought,
it occurred to me by surprise

next day,
out of bed before the sun rises
then all day at work
the dread of going back to the house
the scenario I wanted to avoid
an all or nothing kind of life

every setback is a catastrophe
I am exhausted
when I get home,
I take a painkiller and lay down to sleep
awakening fourteen hours later
thank God, it is Saturday

 

Head Trip

Early morning, Sunday under the Florida sun
reflecting on the weekend
heading back home for Texas
first time I didn’t drink in a while
it takes all day to cross the sunshine state

I stop in Pensacola for fried-chicken dinner
then the long haul through the pinewood South,
bridges over green lakes and swampland
bugs splattering against the windshield keep me awake
something in me seems to ask myself, why am I trying so hard?

crazy, moving forward,
volunteering for every conflict that came along
twenty years in the service
anything can be justified to keep myself grounded
feeling everything and nothing at the same time

marriage was the first casualty of war
now the house is empty, and the miles traveled are lonesome
all that is left is an idea that I am destined to be alone
the road at night remains my best friend
as always, it lets me pretend I’m still the hero

pencilW. Joseph O’Connell is a writer living in Texas.  After serving combat tours in Iraq in 2007 and 2011, he was retired from the Army in 2020 for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has published two novels, render, and dd 214. Twitter: @wjosephoconnell Email: bill_oconnell1968[at]yahoo.com

Souvenir

Poetry
Jenny Hockey


Photo Credit: solarnu/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

I found a Chinese baby’s shoe
with a bell to warn off mice

that’s smaller by far
than any shoe I’ve worn

and holds only the ghost
of my fat-toed child’s first pair,

one lost on a roadside verge,
one kept.

pencilJenny Hockey‘s poems range from the sad to the surreal to the celebratory. A retired anthropologist, she takes an oblique view of the ups and downs of everyday lives. In 2013 she received a New Poets Award from New Writing North, Newcastle, UK and, after magazine and anthology publications from 1985 onwards, Oversteps Books published her debut collection, Going to Bed with the Moon in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email: j.hockey[at]sheffield.ac.uk

Five Poems

Poetry
Mandy Haggith


Photo Credit: ccdoh1/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Foxglove

Lynn’s brush
is delivering a foxglove,
a vixen
birthing a cub,
lick by lick,
onto the paper.

Hush settles.

Lynn’s brush
is smoothing the surface
until the foxglove
is perfectly reflected
in the still pool
of the page.

 

Tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
for David Sandum

Is it you I hear, here in fernshade,
showing me how the stump has grown
from scales, each fanned and fallen year
etched so we won’t forget?

We won’t forget. I come and go
with my weakening grief. You reach out
from a hockey-stick trunk, unfurl
a fiddler’s joie-de-vivre, let work drop away.

Drop away below. Here, light
is caught, sequestered, treasured,
shared in silver-backed shadows.

I hear your voice (‘Better get on’),
see how we shall carry on,
follow the guiding arrow of a frond.

 

Matsukaze

Monday
an onshore breeze
discussed in whispers
by twisted pines

Tuesday
missing my mother
hush say the pines
we understand

Wednesday
listened to the pines
dancing with wind all night
not sleeping at all

Thursday
I perfect the art
of pining
under quiet pines

 

Home

Robin in the rowan
casts snippets of gossip,
a crystal commentary
on this blue morning.

Hoar melts on rushes.
Frogs and newts splash in the pond
as if they haven’t heard
the forecast of frost.

Great tits and blackbirds flutter
the way people walked the marches,
boundary checking,
territory testing.

Badger, jaunty wood-snuffler,
you turn your head
and your bright black-button eyes
seem unafraid of me.

All of this
makes me feel
welcome.

 

January

The days are short, nights long.
Sun drops from below cloud.
Low-angled light

shafts
through
skeleton
trees,
all
still
resting.

Already the tide
has reached its nadir,
lapping, lapping at the rocks of the year.

pencilMandy Haggith lives in Assynt, Scotland, and teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her books include four poetry collections, most recently Why the Sky is Far Away (Red Squirrel Press 2019), a tree poetry anthology, a non-fiction book about paper and five novels. Email: hag[at]mandyhaggith.net

A Wall Of Pictures

Broker’s Pick
Madeleine Claire


Photo Credit: Tim Crowe/Flickr (CC-by)

A wall of pictures
was the reminder of a life built
throughout many years.
In the pretty, white frames
was the pretty family
on holidays,
at weddings,
at parties,
kids’ faces pressed against the glass,
a chronological display of their diaper days
to rosy, freckled cheeks beaming with lost teeth
to moodier, reluctant expressions in photos where
their parents forced them to smile for the camera,
to detach from their phones
for just one minute.

A wall of pictures
served as proof and passage
into the classification as “perfect, suburban family.”
It was a trophy mounted for all to see,
screaming, “Look at how happy we are!”
as guests could admire adoring wedding photos
and adorable baby pictures
and lament
the days when their children
still lived at home,
ruefully eyeing the Lego
splattered around the carpet,
or the sink full of greasy, cold water
from last night’s dishes
that had driven them crazy when their own children
had made a similar mess in the house
but now wished to see again.

But a wall of pictures
could not show that the mother
woke up to a cold bed,
the pillow next to her
still plump from the absence of a husband’s body.
A wall of pictures could not show
the nights he had been spending
at a friend’s,
or the looks of sadness and hatred
that they passed when they did see each other,
unlike the wedding pictures organised on the wall,
where their eyes overflowed with
the promise of spending a life together.
A wall of pictures could not show
the slow, pained steps the mother took
as she crawled into the kitchen for coffee
after another sleepless night,
nor the letter that lay waiting on the mat of the front door,
asking for a divorce.

pencil

Madeleine Claire is a young writer from Calgary, Canada. When not writing or reading, she can be found in the mountains getting inspiration for her next piece or simply climbing trees, and occasionally getting stuck in them, too! Email: madeleinee.claire[at]gmail.com

“Every meal begins with your hands”

Poetry
Simon Perchik


Photo Credit: Jonas Tana/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Every meal begins with your hands
dry and around your forehead
squeezes into its hiding place

—in such a darkness both shoulders
slump forward till they hear
the tablecloth pulled closer

fed air and a shirt collar
left open, waiting to lie down
where a plate should be —it’s the sound

your fingers make when drop by drop
a makeshift lake is pieced together
from a missing vase —wherever you eat

it’s night, still wet, bending over
and hand to hand breathe in the smoke
from a chair no longer there

—you eat from a chimney, reach up
with your eyes covered by a bedsheet
still warm from roses and ash.

pencil

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website. To view one of his interviews please follow this link. Email: simon[at]hamptons.com