Three Poems by Joel Scarfe

While Trees

While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, as if to understand
human agony, the rain attempts to find
some meaning in the dust. The cobwebs bloom
with their flowers of death, and it seems that
everything that can be said
will not be said. I walk amongst a conspiracy
of shadows, and vegetation I cannot name,
and it remains clear that neither hope nor despair
are communicated
in the leaden eyes of a vulture, as it circles
above, like a dumb substitute for god.
While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, I think
of ruined love.


The Cemetery on Otley Road

Young lovers are walking through the cemetery
on Otley Road, picking out names
for children yet to come. They are oblivious
to rain, tanning an old stone wall,
the petrol station’s orange glow.
There is such sweet pressure in you, such hope
in your darkly falling leaves, that I want to walk
amongst your dead. I want to imagine
their eyes, their clod-heavy heads,
twisting around to hear me
as I pass.


Bad News

Early September, already the wasps
are drunk on rotting apples
and are goring the air
with their terrible music.
It’s the first time in weeks
that I’ve thought about winter
at all – its heart, like a pail of water
spilling down the steps
of an abandoned church
in the dark hours
of morning. I wonder if this
is what it’s like
to come home from your doctor
with bad news.

 

Joel Scarfe’s poems have featured in numerous magazines and periodicals, in print and online, including Ambit, London Magazine, TLS, Rialto and The North. He lives in Bristol UK with the Danish ceramicist Rebecca Edelmann and their two children.

One Poem by Dennis DuBois

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Mapping the Multiple Parises

In a dimly lit café a crinkled map hangs from the ceiling, the aerial view
looks down at crisscrossing roads, a Rorschach of the multiple Parises.
The cities laid bare, skeletal, unpeopled, surrounded by farmland green.
The River Seine divides, tributaries split further. The past and the future
vie for favor, impinging on the present.

Some prefer the Gaulish name, Lutetia, the tribal imprint of the
Parisii craftsmen. Few remember, much is disputed. History depends on the angle
from which it is spun, thus, multiple versions of the truth pass through the gates of Notre Dame, but none are unvarnished. Those who lived during the French
Revolution see differently than those who peer through the lens of Vichy France,
and most likely they would all feel out of place in the maw of the twentieth
century.

Some see the city as a series of masks, each covering what was there before.
A thousand eyes peer through the eyelets at modernity, cultural wallpaper
subtly shifting; the evolution of preferred styles. There is more than one Paris,
multiple Parises, each spinning inside the infrastructure of the other.
Some call it mystical, asking, Pourquoi Paris, Pourquoi? Know thyself Paree.
First, the capital, then an abandoned garrison town, then the city of light, candles giving over to blue neon. Who are you when the tourists go home?

Maps have no flesh, can only say so much, difficult to capture that
which is no more. One holds the artifacts, listens to the music, the art,
the imagined festivities, the historical demands, but it is elusive, and we
are cautioned not to grasp with certainty any conclusion. Still we know,
during Années Folles, a revolutionary way of thinking evolved, changing
the pursuit of extravagance, joy, and the subtle art of socializing.

Today, scaffolding covers all. When revealed, Paris won’t be recognizable.
Absent are the ribbed vaults and flying buttresses of Gothic origin.
The amphitheater facelift will confuse the public. The cut and color of the roof
tiles different, the angled extremity of modern architecture make us all dizzy,
vertigo as art, upending the peace and comfort of bygone days, reflecting an
anxious future. Street cookery is dead, plastic has no scent and robotic horses have
no need to drop their load in the street. The odor of the city, whatever
it was that contributed to so appealing a scent, is gone.

Still, for so many, Paris is the beloved city, mapped in our imaginations. Paris,
who walked away from its history. Paris as icon, as metaphor for romance and
passion, a refuge for avant garde artists. But all of the weight it bears was stolen
from the past. A campaign is underway to cover the warts, and give the come-on
to tourists, looking for something to spark anew, a possibility that could only be
born here. This is the place if you wish to pursue the lover that got away long ago,
or to try to capture the burgeoning creativity that once bristled in the mind.
It may be hidden in plain sight, but still here.

 

Dennis has been toying with words, darkening pages, scribbling and editing poems
since he was a wee child. Poetry has been a friend, a guide, and someone to talk with when nobody else was around. His fingers may have stiffened over his guitar strings, but they hold a writing instrument just fine.

Three Poems by Craig Dobson

But I Ordered Love

She shrugs. Can’t you…

At her bare hot desk, she takes
a call: They had no invoice. Hold on…
looks at me, I need to…

As she does, I wait. The air con
stops then starts, above
her plant’s lamina of dust.

You wanted more?

Not sure who she’s talking to,
I pause. She stares at me.
In your application, you asked for…

Ah!

I tell her of the sea we saw
torn by a winter moon;
the breeze tracing bonfire
sparks across our garden’s dusk;
my wife’s breathing as a dream
began to worry, and I knew
I’d wake her soon.

Sensing the rest-bereft expanse of now,
the emptiness I inhabit, propped
by fossil thoughts in whose cupped
hands I hold recall’s leaking bliss,
she frowns at her keyboard.

Someone coughs, phones ring,
the air con stops again.

 I’ll forward this…


Green Man

I brought the dead wood back to life.
Stepped in and budded every twig,
blushed imperial crocus, bluebell bed,
and the bared yellow of celandine
with each passing foot.
I – who couldn’t save a marriage,
or father a child – made the sulk
of winter love me in a warming morn.

Best to have stayed put,
fondling bark and wormshit earth,
spilling seed in brook and copse,
running leaved light through the song
in my eye, sire of shadows and tangled sound,
my thought-spoor found at dawn by men
drawn from the path – senses running off
with their dogs after my vanishing form –
their women left behind, warmth spreading up
loosening thighs, bellies swelling with my summer laugh.


Spirit Fox

The dead fox gets unsteadily
to his feet, limps to my desk,
where he stares at me, aghast.

Why… he says, …your poem
…when you found my body,
in the frost, by the stream?

I remember the bright, cold
light that day, him lying by
the nettles, his immaculate fur.

The lines… he gasps, …brought
me… made me… I look at his
dull coat, sodden and matted,

his gelled eyes’ opaque mess,
the ripped hanging lip, patches
of bare, maggot-gnawn skin,

the foreleg’s bone, bared by
busy crows who also tore
the anus, spilling pale folds

of bowel on the ground, weeks
after I wrote the words. Every day,
his diminishing where he lay

in the mud, the flooded ghyll
sliding past, the worn leaves
round him, the curious footprints

filled with rain. The breezes
beneath a restless sky. The slow
plunder of his body in the cold…

…of your cold image: its callous
rotting worked at, its dead birth
worming my unrest free all winter

till I’m here, ruin-ribbed, woodspoil
fit for nothing, the revolting shade
of my decay dragged across the page.

What now for your plaything, poet,
your corruption by the water’s side?
What now for all that I’ve been…?

He hangs his head of shadows above
the keys. When he says no more
I pause, then close the screen.

 

Craig’s had poems published in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Agenda, Stand, New Welsh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Message in a Bottle, Magma and Prole. He’s got work forthcoming in Acumen and Neon.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Treaty

What’s in a treaty?
A word veiled as truce
allegiance
contract
agreement
or simply a pledge
dredged up from murky depths
between Seine and Thames,
‘The dark one’.

It’s seen it all before,
the Seine,
like countless rivers
in countless lands
wending their way through time,
through war torn cities
their muddied eyes
rolling across ruined stones
and broken lives.

Pounding through 1657
Paris beats its chest,
heart pulsating out,
its spider veins radiating
losing significance,
the little streets
of little men
their whispered breath
throbbing with growing unrest.

Twenty-six thousand troops and fleet
aligned, colours mingling
rippling in the pull of the wash
sucked in, spewed out
like the artists, the poets,
the lovers and the lonely
drawn down, drowning
mouthing silently
What’s in a treaty?

 

Kate Young is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

Three Poems by Gale Acuff

Word Problem

I never see God outside of church and
come to think of it I never see Him
inside church, neither, except of course
the Crucifix behind the altar and
another in our Sunday School classroom
and Jesus as God-in-the-flesh hangs on
the cross behind the altar but in our
Sunday School room somebody took Him down,
not that He was ever nailed up there for
real but what I mean is that in one place
He’s present and the other He’s missing
and I think the latter–not the ladder
like, say, Jacob climbed up or Father does when
he touches up around the attic wind
-ow but I mean the second–the latter‘s
called a symbol, something’s there that’s not
or something’s not there that is and what’s good

about being dead is that I won’t have
to worry anymore about what’s what,
the square root of 33 or how far
the earth is from the sun or the sun from
the earth–trust my teacher in regular
school to give at least two different answers
–and even on the AM radio
How many roads must a man walk down be
-fore they call him a man, be careful, I
think it’s a trick question but whatever
the answer isn’t 37, and
I’ll also know the secret of why God’s
in one place and not another when He’s
supposed to be everywhere at once and
though I never see Him at church I smell

Him out and I guess that He dwells in Grand
-mother’s house, too, especially since Grand
-father died, Mother and Father and I
visit every Sunday and sit out on
the porch and stare out into the yard and
street and to the sky and I’ve seen things that
I bet I’ll never see anywhere else
while Grandmother rocks, even asleep and
snoring she never comes to a rest and
we leave her there, she doesn’t wake even
to the sound of the engine starting or
maybe she’s faking. That’s why I love her.


Candle

Miss Hooker teaches me at Sunday School
all about God and Heaven, religion
that is, and Jesus and the Holy Ghost
and makes death sound so inviting, pretty
important, that sometimes I wish I was
dead myself, I almost said death myself,
but if I was, or were, death itself, or
death myself, I’d be surrounded by dead
bodies and souls, I guess, unless until
the souls went up to Heaven to be judged
and the bodies hung back to rot away
and become soil again and make new ones, new
bodies I mean, to be filled up with souls,
babies made from mothers and fathers but
mothers and fathers come from clay and then
injected by God with souls but I was
saying that if I were death I’d be all
alone and yet that can’t be true, I’d be
the most popular guy in the whole world,
just kind of feared and not regarded as
one of God’s necessary angles, all
people have to go sometimes, I summon
them to Him but sometimes I think that I’m
even more important than God is or
when I get a break, though hardly ever,
I’m God Himself and what I take for God
is my own shadow. What casts the light? If
I knew that there would be an end of me.
What happened to death, someone might ask. Oh,
haven’t you heard? He snuffed his own candle.
That would bring to life immortality
and things might get mighty crowded. After
class today I told Miss Hooker that I
didn’t want to die but yet I love death
more than even life itself. I’m just ten years old
and she said to me, Every person is
the end of the world, just as if I’d get
what the Hell she meant. And she’s right. I don’t.


Slack

Miss Hooker wants me to give my life to
Jesus, she’s my Sunday School teacher, but
I’d rather give my life to her, as her
husband, even though I’m only 10 but
I won’t live forever, I’ll get older,
Hell, I’m getting older even right now
and with every passing moment, she
is, too, but I don’t care, if I must wait
until it’s 100 to 85
in her favor, that’s what I’ll do, so if
I ever do get saved, that will be why,
to keep us both alive no matter how
long it takes for her to marry me and
speaking of miracles, that would be one
and I hope they come in pairs because I
want to have some children no matter how
old Miss Hooker gets, and if we can raise
them to adulthood that will be a third
miracle, kind of like a Trinity,
so after Sunday School class today I
told Miss Hooker about my way but she
told me not to rest my hopes on it but
go ahead and get saved instead and give
my life to Jesus, not to her–I cried
at that, and I’m a big boy, 10 and more
because the minutes become hours, then days,
things add up even when they don’t seem to,
maybe especially–I mean I wept,
that classy kind of crying, I was sad,
of course, but it felt more like a sadness meant
not just for me but everybody,
and I wonder if that’s how Jesus felt
when He got panicky up on the Cross,
or I guess He did, I sure as Hell would
have, or when in that garden He hit God
with If it’s your will, Father, cut me slack,
I forget the exact words and yet I was
there, somehow. So after Miss Hooker helped
me blow my nose and dry my face she said,
she mumbled, she whispered, God bless you, Gale,
but it’s time for you to run along home,
and I think I did. But I don’t remember.

 

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

One Poem by Jim Bennett

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

the bored cartographer

I draw maps that are metaphors
for people who want to find their way
sometimes I invent a shortcut

an alleyway or a lane
impossible to find
a non-existant highway

a path through a field
a river bridge miles out of place
these things fight off the boredom

of drawing cities        and towns
even whole countries   and coastlines
for travellers and sailors

I go to unknown places
measure and map them
then move on      here is Paris

finished and coloured
the river turns and twists
it could be any city       anywhere

but follow my map
and you will be lost
wherever it is

 

Jim Bennett is a poet who was born in Liverpool in the UK a long time ago and is still alive (we think).

One Poem by George Beddow

Dancing Barefoot

For Bella

All has been lost
to that caesura
between sundown
and the advent
of the Julian calendar.

Her life line’s
grasp
on eternity
is now
just a clasp
in Cleopatra’s
hair.

Under the influence
of moonshine
(or prayer)
her scars
are buffed
by the shoeshine
of countless stars.

 

George Beddow’s debut collection, Out Of Kilter, was published by Lapwing Press in 2012. His second collection, The Bitter Lemons Of Nerval, was published in 2016 by Original Plus Chapbooks.

One Poem by Alun Robert

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

For The Journey Would Be Long

This is how
       I remember Paris
For we dwelt here
A day and a half
Pungent perfumes
Much hubbub
La Marseillaise in full throat
La tour Eiffel bursting clouds
Sacré-Cœur in the heart
Brouettes along Champs Elysées
Bateaux cruising on la Seine
Lovers of Jardin du Luxembourg
      strolling, caressing while
Berthier shots ricochet
At arrondissement corners dark
When smoke rising from chimneys silt
Lungs with wafting fumes
As odour from Gitanes and Gauloises
      the women of tabac embrace
Femme fatale of dubious intention
      driving dumb punters wild
Next Moulin Rouge lit in Montmartre
Through day
Through the night
With barkers out loudly barking
At Marché des Enfants Rouges
      but no child in sight, it seems
When we recharge our batteries for
The trip south would be long
En route to the mouth of the river
      home
To Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône
The Med straight ahead, safe
Bountiful larder of our life
      this is life.

 

Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. This year, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by J K Durick

Picturing the Garden

Time has taught me that things disappear too fast –
there, then quickly gone, like the people and places
we were, I was and then I’m not, it never lets up

so every spring, early summer I carry my camera
to capture the moment the garden is in, to hold it
with me, a bit like Wordsworth’s tranquil restoration

but visual, nothing passing into my purer mind
unaided, Nikon Coolpix catches the moment and
later, after time and the seasons have done with us

restores this momentary beauty, the iris blues and
purples, the pink and white, whole flocks of peonies
bending, bowing in the sun, dianthus and anemones

it’s there, they’re there, and I’m in their midst clicking
away, trying to keep the day, at least this part of it, for
later use, tranquil restoration into hours of weariness

as the world grows older and colder all around, my garden
is there on the screen, the moment captured, holding still
even that long dead bee is there again ready to land forever.

 

J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Leaves of Ink, Front Porch Review, Poetry Superhighway, Algebra of Owls, and in the anthology, Along the Way.

One Poem by Rosamund McCullain

The Second Coming

I am the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem,
Slow limbs of stone, stone soul, dragging behind me
An evil so profane it confounds profanity,
Laughs in the face of sanity, mere anarchy,
The worst of the worst, as dark as human gets,
Carried in my heart and gut across all time,
Even eternity cannot erase the scars or bleed the poison,
An eternity of agony, twisting, writhing, seething guts
Alive with something born of evil, yet at the same time
Dead and decomposing.

A thousand years can’t wash this away, a thousand tears in which to
Drown, to take the last gasp for which she yearns, begs
For some rest, some relief, but still it marches on,
Pitiless as the sun and she is turned to dust,
Consumed by flames of hell and all she is and was and ever will be
Just ashes in the wind.

 

Originally from West Yorkshire, Rosamund came to Mid-Wales in 1983 to study English at Aberystwyth University. She fell in love with the Mid-Wales region, and has lived in the area ever since. She moved to North Powys in 1998, where she is now very well settled.