One Poem by Dennis DuBois

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Inner City Anomy

The old man walks down the empty streets
of the concrete jungle. High above,
streetlights cast star-like brightness, throwing
criss-crossing shadows down graffiti-strewn walls.
It is mild fall weather, breezeless. He places
one foot in front of another. Keep moving,
he tells himself, as he makes his way down
the late night alleyways of the inner city.

He is thinking of his dreams, how he doesn’t like
what his unconscious feeds him. He would prefer
to dream of someone, anyone, leaning over
to rest their hand on his shoulder, a tender kiss
behind the ear, a warm hand reaching out for his,
a kind voice. He argues for this because
he has not heard a kind word,
or been caressed for so long even his memory
of such events have faded into disbelief.

The old man walks alone, shoulders hiked,
hands tucked in pockets, eyes downcast.
He’s had a few, spoken to no one, now
on his way home where he will nod
on the couch, sleeping with his clothes on.
He is caught in a repetitive dream,
like watching a film of himself walking down
a neverending alleyway, going nowhere
in particular. He thinks he hears himself moaning,
a resistant wordless voice.

When he awakes, he realizes it is only
the persistent nagging of the street cat
he irregularly feeds. It takes more time
for his mind to clear, for him to figure out
where his is. Rumpled and grumpy, he takes
a swipe at the cat, chasing him
to hide away in a darkened corner.

A tear wells up for no discernible reason.
He wipes it away with his sleeve, rolling over
to bury his face in the couch corner, inevitably
returning to the walking dream.

 

Dennis DuBois holds a Master’s Degree in social work, and has worked to help others for decades, while writing poems along the way. He has published poems in Bee Museum, Curved House, The Projectionist’s Playground, Runcible Spoon, Verse News and Message in a Bottle. He is preparing a collection of poems and a first work of fiction. He is an American expatriate, living in Copenhagen.

Three Poems by Roy Adams

contentedly

by the mud-brick
house mending
the spread-out tunic
on her lap

short-clipped black
hair frames her round face
and dark eyes bright
as she sews she sees

the flow
flickering fast
over rocks hidden below
waves rippling past

a man in uniform
waving as he goes
on his way to where
there are other

glittering muses
muses how much longer
this one will be
mending


Rounding Third

Your mostly absent pop
builds you a soapbox buggy.
The handbrake works on flat,
not so well on hilly.
The street at block’s end starts
on top of a steep slant
with a crossroad at the bottom.
You plunge your crate.
Approaching flat, you yank,
keep going, flat out.
The two-ton truck
coming from your right
brakes stomped –
makes a murderous noise,
misses you by a nose.


Teach Yourself

From the high board, repeat rotations,
however undeserving.
Backflop, backflop, backflop,
backflop, backflop.
Finally, a full one. You head
for the water as you should but . . .
on a collision course with the previous jumper
who is, at this moment, floating to the surface.
Congratulations: you have serendipitously
invented a splashy routine for
cracking necks, crushing spines.

 

Roy Adams is a semi-retired Canadian professor who has been focused on poetry for the past six years. He has been published in a wide variety of literary magazines and anthologies in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere including: Vallum Contemporary Poetry, The Fiddlehead, Feathertale, Hamilton Arts and Letters, The Curious Element, Typishly, Tower Poetry and Eunoia Review.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

erotica

all illusion is stripped back
though the street lamps placed high
above this alley sparkle
so bright in their attempts to be stars –
cannot – Van Gogh with a candle
on his hat for light would abhor
such artifice in his starry night
as his mind side-steps the demons
that harry his thoughts – high up
there is washing hung out for night drying
in the now cooling humidity
to replace a Prussian blue night sky –
and I too can be the solitary walker
head hung down with invisible concerns
who becomes the dull dun walls and
paving stones – their geometry sometimes
a blessing to hide in though mostly a curse
where most doors are closed – only two
retain any semblance of welcome
any sense of choice being available –
he has already walked by the faux tree
in a pot that props up a menu board
and has come alongside an alley on the left –
grey walls as background to graffiti below
a rusting roller shutter part pulled down
in its half-dark – some lettering above says
erotica in its usual lack of promise –
both the solitary walker and me as him
choose to keep our heads down and walk on

 

James Bell is Scottish and now lives in France. He has written and published poetry for twenty years. At present he is at work on his first short story collection.

Three Poems by Robert Beveridge

Aegagros, Bathing

“I am confused not knowing whether it is pornography/or beauty that is depicted on her raiment” — Ivan Argüelles, Opium (the perfume)

This landscape, its gentle hills
and light scrub                     draws

another moment this illicit
sketch of bodies, ferns
another few seconds will finish it

birds fly on, not trapped
in spiders’ webs
lie down, sleep
in the demented sadness
of licorice poppy fields

a shot in the distance

how the beautiful beautiful moonlight
flows down the mountainside
like tangles of bronze hair
that gleam blonde where caught by the moon

recent rain slick the brush drips
down from curls from branches
from swollen lips
that partake of plums and cream

what heat there is!
even in this blessed darkness
the temperature is too high

the hills, the hollows
wash themselves together
touch of moonlight sparkles
sends shards of light
into the landscape
kinetic, dynamic, tactile

what we all would give
to hold that light

it plays over you
o landscape
hills and mountains
and the glory of hair
and rain and bush
and swollen beauty


Preta

The sin-eater’s feast stretched
the entire banquet table before
you. Your fingers atoms away
from the barest morsel, infinity
never so close. Priest carves
a quince, pops a morsel
onto his tongue. You know
another homily is on its way.

How did it come to this? The cat
in the plastic, the rooms painted
with Vantablack, isolation speared
like a teriyaki swordfish on the end
of your cigarette. Douse the cherry
before it goes out the window,
only you can prevent forest
fires. Or maybe you didn’t.

You demand your one phone
call again — there must be
a Howard Johnson’s around here
that delivers — but again you are
denied. The priest opens
his thickest bible, settles
in to deliver another one
on Isaiah 58:10. The memory
of your belly growls in anticipation.


War Hero

The old man
picked up a swagger
when drunk,
an old war
hero remembering
what World War
Two was like.
“War,” he’d say,
“war is hell,
an’ you better pray,
boy, you
never have to fight
for your country.”
We never knew
his name, always
just called him hero.
He’d swagger around,
a beer-pirate with a mug
for a sword and memories
for a gun.
Continue reading “Three Poems by Robert Beveridge”

One Poem by Marc Carver

Enough

look
there it is
it is everywhere
but nobody looks too much
me I look
and sometimes I see
I can feel it too
the birds sing in Cantonese
a certain woman has a certain sweetness
the swirling white helicopters that
come from the lollipop flowers
sweep the garden
and all seems right with the world
just for a little bit
but it is
enough

 

Marc Carver has had some ten collections of poetry published and around two thousand poems published on the net but his worst fear is having to sit in a room filled with poets and listen to them reading their poems.

One Poem by Simon Leonard

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Coming Back as a Tourist

I know these streets from a derelict memory;
phantom ache of what I left behind.
Light spikes stab the diffuse gloom
joining dots to a foreign past.

I know the generations of stains on patient slabs;
the damp stone seems to sweat by night –
deep-breathed grime and blended urine.

I know, by morning, luminescent cleaners will arrive,
making it an acceptable transit to somewhere decent
for families;
maybe to a cathedral or museum,
or someone’s famous house.

They will allow for the rough graffiti
on the shutters of the local erotic palace;
be charmed by the bijou eatery,
and its sympathetic doorway shrubbery.

I know too well my circumstantial route
to the sparse hostal;
its owner shambles around the night
in heavy slippers.

Unlike the iron sinews of the streetlights
or shrugging shopfronts,
here I have no shadow.
Continue reading “One Poem by Simon Leonard”

Two Poems by D S Maolalai

My Sister Writes –

she asks me
are there any TV shows I think she should watch
and then tells me
that since she’ll be spending some time in Vietnam soon
once she’s done with India
I should come and visit –
I can stay with her,
flights are expensive
but everything else is cheap
and she’ll have a flat by then
so it’ll be no trouble at all
if I want to sleep
on her floor.


Three Weekends In

and we are already
quite comfortable together.
You study for college
at a table
and I read on the sofa
or fiddle with my laptop.
You cook
and I clean when you’re done cooking.
And the sex
of course
is very good.

Last night
I went to bed early
in your place,
lay down on my side
and was asleep before you came in.
You can’t tell me that’s right,
three weekends deep,
but it happened.
We should have been
tearing the clothes off each other
like lions
fighting on TV.
But I just lay down,
got comfortable
and fell asleep.

It’s very nice
being comfortable with someone
early on,
especially
with someone pretty
who cooks
and kisses well
and likes it when you talk.
But the worry keeps leaning in
like a mouse
pissing on good cheese:
what will I write poems about
if we’re happy?

 

D S Maolalai recently returned to Ireland after four years away, and now spends his days working maintenance dispatch for a bank and his nights looking out the window and wishing he had a view. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by Encircle Publications. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.

Three Poems by John Grey

By the Mississippi

A river can’t help
but be a gathering place
even if it’s just for thoughts.
Or no thoughts at all.

A bank – any bank –
or even a wind-stripped bluff –
the waters always find me a situation.
A tree trunk provides back support,

one of the willows that droop into their shadows.
And I don’t bring rod and reel
but sandwiches and thermos.
It’s a hundred years or more

since paddle boats docked here,
depositing their passengers and cargo.
Some romance has gone the way
of trucks and bridges.

But the current ambles on
even if there’s nothing riding it.
And I hear a promise to a distant spring
that’s fulfilled in faraway ocean.


A Large Girl in a Tiny House

My golden hair rubs spiders
from the ceiling.
My pretty blue dress
mops dust up from the floor.
My elbow scrapes
the muck out of the corner.
What is that stuff?
White rabbit dander? Frayed playing cards?
Croquet mallet filings?
Felt from the Mad Hatter’s topper?
The window’s open, so at least
my hand can free itself.
But to what end?
For Cheshire Cat to rake his claws?
Dodo to nibble?
Humpty Dumpty to sit upon,
stumble off, and sue me later?
And I’m still growing.
Walls could squeeze my face
into my knees and out the other side.
Brain and heart might mesh together,
blood vessels pop, veins coil and knot.
Oh how I wish I were home.
But wait, I am home
and here comes mother
to check the door’s steel bolt.
“Wonderland,” I hear her mutter
as she waddles back to the kitchen.
“I’ll give you Wonderland.”
She doesn’t actually.


Todays

I can exist in two places at once.
I’m here, mid-December,
the chilled thin body
like the gaunt trees I see through the window.
And I’m there, late November,
on a Queensland beach,
heaping sand in the shape of a fortress,
while one sister swims,
two sunbathe, and my mother watches
from beneath a wide-brimmed hat.
I am hot and cold.
I am middle-aged and young.
The woman I love is sleeping.
The women I love
(even if I don’t admit it)
celebrate, in their own way,
the blessed sunshine.
Time tries to keep me honest
but my memory outwits it.
It figures I have enough to keep me going
just being who I am.
But no, I can go back when I choose.
My skin can roast a little
even as the bitter winds blow down from Canada.
I can inhale some of that brine
despite being miles from any ocean.
Looks like snow.
Looks like another perfect day.
Today I’ll stay in, write.
Today, I’ll play on the golden beach.
I have a feeling today’s the days.

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work forthcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

One Poem by Rosamund McCullain

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Nightwalker

Casting long shadows, she
Was always destined to walk
This deserted street, in the here,
In the now, in the unknown
Future, in the quiet echo of
The endless night. Dim street lights
Infect the air with yellow as
The darkness holds its breath.
The world sleeps as below she
Tiptoes by in silence, just breathe,
Just breathe, air heavy with
Confounded expectations, the memories
That never fade but burn and
Ache. Soft footfalls, hunched shoulders,
She slips on by, unnoticed as always,
Into the hungry nothing.
Continue reading “One Poem by Rosamund McCullain”

Three Poems by Thomas Dedola

Verona

I left my body in one of the vicoli ciechi
near a large lime-green dumpster in
a wet July in Verona.

I left my body propped against the wall,
where the gravel is a splatter of black pneumonia
which stains the bin man’s boots.

And I made my way out, into the town centre,
past grey faces forming a hesitant queue,
melting their way into the cultural death camp of the Arena.

Nearby, families take great care to paint on smiles
as grinning with joy they haemorrhage love,
and look for answers at the bottom of a seafood salad.

The day gets lost in a wet cough, as we all
run out of borrowed time to waste. Words
gasp for air. It must be the humidity.

I will see how far I can walk away without a body,
until the wind catches up and, like a dead friend’s
hand, leads me back inside.


Santa Maria delle Stelle

Smart shoes, cheap tears, expensive bleach:
the doctor makes his rounds, that
routine chore on rotting shadows.

Halogen lights frame brittle skin, sandpaper
flesh as the space screams
DECAY.

In hospital bays they lie,
tattered advertisements for
perpetual inevitability.

Perhaps they relish their stagnation –
too weak to move, too weak to smile,
too weak to throw caution to the wind.

On any given Monday,
the doctor watches a man
erode under a neon moon.

Life is fleeting, but
death is unremitting – it just keeps going on
behind nondescript doors

where visiting relatives haunt the wards
and the miasma of life first rises
then seeps into cracked walls.

The doctor makes his rounds,
as forms inhaling and exhaling count
down the minutes till lunch.


Peaking in 2012

Between winter and summer,
the nights are an ellipsis and there is
nothing but water waiting.

You wake up and find that getting
dressed no longer gives you a
greater sense of purpose.

You look at a nice house, a
nice partner, a nice car because
you’ve become your own voyeur.

Your life is nothing more than a
stilted choreography to which you
have started to forget the moves.

Between autumn and spring, the days
are a hurricane in a Petri dish,
leaving you too legless to be swept off your feet.

You trudge in a little suburban Eden,
where nothing helps and where
nothing happens.

You spend these days hands smudged
with ink as you no longer remember if you’ve drawn
more lines than you’ve crossed.

And you spend these moments thinking back
to when you thought you had it all, soft
violins bloom in your eyes.

 

Thomas is an Italian poet based in Cambridge. He has previously had pieces published in Felan, Fictive Dream and co-produced a Haiku anthology which was longlisted for a Saboteur Award in 2017.