Flood in the air.
Loud dances on windscreens,
unmusical hammers, impatient.
Yellow ghosts wave from the verges:
thin-fingered or broad, stooped
under their last wet load of the year
like old folks, ours, not to be ignored.
Miles of hints of mist and spook
nestled among black boles,
signalling, making a point while
sprays of bright shine-like views
ravel – unravel – poignant memories
all the way up the A483
among the splash and hiss of us.
© Angela Arnold
Place of. Notime.
Brown-blotchily green, bit samey, if you look at it.
The very, the bittiest
recollection of the steep or the flat of it, the long
of it and the short mishmashed
like Scrabble tiles in the bag.
Here’s a precise photo gallery of aches:
cycling into a wild scud of clouds, ears vividly
burning, raw pain, the need
to reach…her. Her. Before.
(And the now of life whips past…if not really
that excitingly alarming.) Click-and-then-clank:
outmoded slide projector dustily whirrrrring up
disjointed-grace scenes, with a faint
smell of live heat.
Pulling the past into daisy leaf segments.
It happened not.
But must have.
None of it
offering more than untempting blanks, by tea time. All of it
just about making room for that great softness of ‘green’
to re-emerge, maybe, ‘tomorrow’.
Though even then
not that electrifyingly fresh.
© Angela Arnold
Collapsed while running: instant. – All the heartache
of two children soaked into these walls,
leaving forever hand prints on the taps, footprints
the length of the garden: pits of grief and peeled off bits
by the front door – evidence still of the crime
of headlong leaving.
The betrayal of death writ, large and small, all over
this place, with its for sale sign now removed.
And here they stand with smiles as if.
Drinks, nibbles, invites as if not.
And we nod amiably, heartsore, furious.
© Angela Arnold
Not About the Pain
Only three weeks ago, in a spasm of choked hell-
hounded depression you said it would tear your heart out
to see it shine – the blackness of it, you said. And I
understood you, inattentively, unimaginatively, to mean the
And now you lay yourself out
like dry bread waiting for the melting
of butter: as if the sun were to soak
right into your tendered body,
gained for good…but
with such a well-oiled fuss
and such a too-tight-lipped worship face
that, honestly, I no longer
dare to understand.
© Angela Arnold
Ian C. Smith
Between the Lines
After trouble in the city again, hope in ashes, I slurred back to the bleak town where we attended school, that madhouse of burgeoning libido. I think we held hands. Were notes passed? Kisses? If this cry from my heart was crime as a genre some moron might have murdered her. My brief early love. I want to save her, me, a sad-sack weltering wage-slave who never saved anything, who pays the price daily for skiving off in school, kissing instead of studying.
Perhaps she felt desperate as I did that fold in time when I arrived in the port known for an explorer who died broken. I shared a room with mice, floor sticky with human traffic, silent men slouched outside the bathroom, always staring, my thoughts of knifings, robbery. That room, paint strip-teasing, its smell of sweat, overlooked a rutted cart-track. Feverish, far from home, already far from love, I might have parachuted by nightfall into a land of strangers where war had obliterated joy, pity.
Thirteen years after school she steps back into my oh so wasted life, stark on the front page with a married name – the husband’s alibi strong – same cool beauty, lips slightly parted, jolting my meal break in this bawn near disused oil drums filled with yellowing rainwater, machinery’s crunch and clatter silenced, heart jiggety-boomping overtime. Vanished.
My own wretched wrongs slammed me into harsh terrain, these straits of loneliness, wounded, enwound in callous henchmen, drink, distrust. Though a groundling, I read, value truth, shall hide money. Words’ worth glows, runs deeper than despair. Roads can wind to the sacred edges of shelter. Feeling old before she hit thirty, disturbed by pressure, monotony’s grip, she could hitch miles of coastal road to a second chance by a sighing sea, wind wild in her hair at ebb tide, mending pain. I must stop drinking, slip more cash between scarred pages, hope we did kiss.
© Ian C. Smith
For accompanying photo, please click here
Picnic at St Catherine’s, Guildford
The rich brown sand leaks out from Cretaceous stone
here, cascades down the hill to form a steep beach
falling into the river. This sandstone limb
a parent to these sixties children, lying under,
holds them on this safe home counties shore.
I count twelve in the group, a few obscured. Four turn
to camera, curious. Bob, stripped to the waist, slim,
open-faced, innocent nineteen-year-old grin,
hair round and full across his ears. David,
stripped off from the swim, long hair, tight-fitting
rockers cream-white jeans, medallion on his chest
over bare skin, a little hunched, he talks, intense,
to someone sitting we cannot see. Next, Chrissie
turns her rich dark hair towards us, comfortable
in her swimming gear, bare feet against the sand,
she smiles connecting with her friend behind the lens.
In centre of the group, Graham, older by a few years,
bleary-eyed, watches us beneath a handsome cave
of long brown hair.
Behind them all, wide across the middle ground
the mother river glistens; alternate pools of light
and dark slide by, unnoticed, laying under
their passing lives like that benign hillside.
Where will they go tonight? To Boxers Coffee Bar,
a narrow room above, up winding stairs
to read their poems, men mostly in that time
will play guitars and sing, act out young mating games
with the background frisson of shared lives, shared heroes,
shared signals on the underground bush telegraph,
shared vinyl stacked on shelves in gentler times.
They feel the world turns here. They’ve all read Kerouac,
signed up to the fancy that life is one long high
where you can get a job on the buses, the plant nurseries,
clean uni corridors, be a postman, for now
just drift through jobs, or easy, go sign on,
and meet for ever in the summer sun
beneath St Catherine’s hill.
© John White
Poetry Set to Music
Luigi Coppola has set a poem published in morphrog 14 to music, with a lyric video: https://youtu.be/SnbmW5TmeEw
The original poem is included below:
Neck arched to skylight,
her hand between her breasts,
fingernails crackling against her thumb:
it wasn’t the echoed whispers of the crowd
that muffled her mind; not the torn canopy;
or the broken lift; or the dog-eared pitch
of the quivering throats;
or the policemen barricade;
or the mum shielding eyes
with spread-out finger;
or the hear-no-evil headphoned;
or the shoe that landed before the body –
it was the gliding tie,
the loosened noose,
that seemed to fly forever.
© Luigi Coppola
At dawn we reached the martyry
They built for us five decades in advance,
Where we watched the fragments of a sunrise
And our priests performed their dull outmoded rites.
Now we wait without knowing
For what exactly, or how long.
We are the defeated, forbidden
To work or marry, forbidden to create.
We have lived long, unusable lives
Under debased laws, and own nothing
Except our fatalism
And the discord in our blood.
This is why we chose to escape
Our survival, leaving behind
The dust on undrunk coffee, half-written books,
And beggars’ shadows thrown against a wall.
We headed south on foot until we saw
The last few hamlets scatter in the heat,
A little thin smoke rise from nowhere,
Then unbroken plain, horizon.
The final night we took no rest, but walked
Under the bright silent planets, listening
For an echo of a unicorn’s hooves,
Or its fart, chewing on unicorn bones.
Which was when, nearing our goal,
We decided to disguise ourselves
© Ian Heffernan
TAKING LEAVE OF A FRIEND GOING TO SHU
I’m told that Can Cong’s roads are steep
And that the journey will be hard.
The mountains rise into one’s face
And clouds grow round a horse’s head.
But bushes cloak the zhandao now,
Spring waters skirt the walls of Shu.
Your fate is fixed, for good or bad,
No need to seek diviners’ help.
© Ian Heffernan
THE FRONTIER GUARD
This northern mountain pass, the wind, the sand,
A desolation stretching back in time.
The fallen leaves, the yellow autumn grass,
I climb the tower, take my turn on guard.
A ruined fort, beyond it endless dunes,
A border village left without its walls.
White bones that have withstood a thousand frosts,
High heaps concealed by brambles, grass and trees.
So who has brought about this tyranny?
The ‘arrogant of heaven’, cruel and wild.
They drew the anger of our emperor,
The troops began to beat their horse-borne drums.
Then harmony gave way to killing rage
And turmoil spread throughout the borderlands.
An army several hundred thousand strong
And sorrow, sorrow like the frontier rain.
Not only this, but sorrow that men leave
And farms and gardens fall into disuse.
Too few of us to mount a long defence,
How could you understand the hardship here?
There’s no Li Mu to lead our troops today,
We’ll soon be food for tigers and wild dogs.
© Ian Heffernan
I’M MISSING THE SWEET SMELLS OF HERBS & SPICES
“Plague doctors wore a mask with a bird-like beak to protect them from being infected by deadly diseases which they believed were airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of ‘bad air.’ To battle this imaginary threat, the long beak was packed with sweet smells, such as dried flowers, herbs & spices.” Frances White (2 June 2014), Why did doctors during the Black Death wear ‘beak masks’? History Answers.
My camouflage face mask: double-layer
microfibre, wire nose bridge, machine
washable, coloured grey & green.
It’s the deluxe commando version.
Great if you’re in a jungle or forest
but I only trek to the supermarket
when needed, usually tomorrow,
just me, a plastic bag & my face mask.
Today I’m short of chicken,
cream & potatoes for my dinner.
So I walk down the hill to the shops.
Cars honk when they pass me.
They must be really impressed
by my deluxe face mask.
I join the queue. Again I think
people must be really impressed
as they’ve even called the police
to come & see my commando face
mask. Here they come. One of them
carries what could be a banana
and shouts put down the bag, show
me your hands, get on the ground,
put down the bag or I shoot!
They must be shouting at someone else.
I’m not wearing glasses because
they steam up easily when I wear
my camouflage face mask & without
specs all my vistas become shimmery.
I imagine my Hugo Boss eyewear
at home on top of the electric
upright piano listening to someone,
something playing Misty for me.
© Rodney Wood
IT’S ALL GOING TO RISE & FALL & RISE AGAIN
“People had parties to celebrate being alive even though most of the people…already had the Black Death & did not know it.” Vicki Rowe (24 November 2019), The Black Death, storymaps.aregis.com
the Garden of Earthly Delights
filled with people clinging to each other
the pictures of my family on the mantelpiece
poised between elegy & history
the video clips of my dreams show
our terrible wars have fallen silent
the sounds of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
the scattered codes of dogs
the slate blue mist from the river
opal stones in their bed
the movement of my eyes
is really beautiful
the way I jump around like a three year old
the green of wind between leaves
the zigzagging at the edge of the ocean
of this one life I have
the routine of coffee in disposable cups
my jerky heartbeats
the expected appearance of god
with an entourage of angels
the fluorescent rose of being
in a world where everyone laughs
the feeling of wonder where all things
are filled with light
the future spread out like a feast or a song
filled with people listening
to poems while they can & talking
of the world full of our things
© Rodney Wood
THE GENERAL LAW OF CHANGE
At the time of the Black Death war, plague, hunger,
droughts & ecological threats were thought
to be punishments because society
had turned away from God. Flagellants believed
governments & church had let them down
& the only thing they could do is ask God
to show mercy. They wanted to do something
for everyone & acted like heroes,
families were growing weaker by the day
& sons & daughters were probably dead,
buried & that was the start of another,
better story for them, so they pray because
the more they pray the more true their faith becomes.
They march with other zealots in single file
dragging a wooden cross to arrive in town
wearing white garments to show the blood better
but I wonder about the laundry. Penitents
wear a hood so attention is not directed
at them but to God. The line heads straight
for the church where bells would ring to announce
their arrival & they would begin to scourge
themselves with nails embedded in whips
experience so much bloody pain while
chanting & atoning for all our sins.
The Flagellant movement faded when one
of their leaders was burnt at the stake
& in the towns people noticed they carried
the plague with them. Post-Covid our God is money.
Authority doesn’t like “outsiders”,
“extremists”, “terrorists” anyone questioning
the existing social order & as soon
as they can banished these people
put them in prison, or have them disappear.
Wars, xenophobia & crises are used
by governments to distract people from
thinking the post Covid normal must be
nothing like the old normal. Change is needed
the past should be blown away puff – like that,
while there’s still time, the little time that’s left.
© Rodney Wood
MASQUE WITH THE BLUE QUEEN
“There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine.” Edgar Allen Poe
They leave the city & the dying
to have a party every night
in the happy castle deep in the forest
where the moon is a bowl of wine,
everyone has open mouths
shouts & acts like fools
they want to show they’re alive
that each day is made for pleasure.
The night is stitched with dancing –
ballroom, line, circle & the conga,
endless Abba tunes like Money Money Money,
The Winner Takes All, Dancing Queen,
classic soul like You Make Me Feel,
Let’s Stay Together, I Want You
& a bit of disco Born To Be Alive,
I Will Survive, Don’t Leave Me This way.
Ravens on the battlements are dancing.
In the hall below everyone waves their arms
display armpits to show all they suffer from
is Saturday Night fever but the Blue Queen
is decorated & disfigured with buboes under
arms & exploding from her face. Guards drive
her out of the castle together with a few retainers
& the ball continues as if nothing happened.
Months later on his way to see his bishop
a priest stumbles across the happy castle deep
in the forest. He pushes open the gates
& sees on the floor of the bailey a smiling
face under a crown, flowing silks, furs, hose,
tunics worn by a band of corpses all of them
painted blue, stained with pus & shit.
The priest sighs & carries the remains
outside the castle walls, along a blue road
to a field for a proper Christian burial.
Trees cross themselves & murmur
as the shovel says shhh, shhh…shhh…
© Rodney Wood
None of us are from here,
some forebears chose
to board ships, others were taken.
There was a desire to flee,
to make war, colonise,
to do better, in whatever way.
They root us to our home,
explain, advise, warn:
you came from this.
Since their arrival
we have tried to ossify,
become visible, belong.
We remember them,
© Ben Banyard
Quarantine the Past
You notice the smell first.
Unmistakably eau de charity shop,
a mixture of attics and box-rooms
leavened with mothballs and airing cupboards.
The ornaments are a shock,
the idea that anyone might have bought them,
brand new and pricey, like those porcelain
abominations you laugh at in Sunday supplements.
There are the usual pulp paperbacks,
Dan Brown, E.L. James, John Grisham,
but now and then a book from left field
which will easily repay the couple of quid you spend.
Here and there, among the beige garments,
some items leap off the rail and tell a tale
about how they were bought on a whim,
worn once, or never, consigned to what was I thinking?
This riot of fashion, literature, movies, household paraphernalia,
all discarded because a week or so ago
their owners looked at them and the space they occupied
and whatever fragile bonds they held were cut.
Back home, kettle on, look around and ponder
how much of what you own could be happily sent away,
or taken from you in the dead of night?
How much of it would you really miss?
© Ben Banyard
It must be rain
Not tears, sweat, saliva, blood or urine.
The streets no more trace curves, silent and outworn.
Born sad die stamped with misbelief,
For which the usefulness is just a row of letters.
The back side of the world
Keeps carts with their owners’ skeletons
And wheels that don’t know what to do
With their two self-made infinities.
The ancient tumuli store things such as
Conflicts, regrets, and metaphors.
Saline waters drip
From eyeless dead beasts’ holograms.
The hunger stalks to stuff my throat.
When Goddess cries, it must be rain.
The fields lie fallow.
The fields will run to waste
When birds with weak wings float far-away.
Winters are rolling slowly
To let the hunger gain more weight.
I try to master how to pray
To make it rain.
© Vyarka Kozareva
We pile up our worn loves in the back yard
Pretending they are remnants from another life,
Unburied Tanagra figurines,
Disjointed symbols of necrolatry.
We arraign the horizon
For the generically-generated artifacts
Which banish emptiness.
The dead trees will become picture postcards
Addressed to blind recluses.
Who is to blame for doors with no egress
And wilted laurel wreaths?
The shamrock jewels need loam and air to stay alive.
© Vyarka Kozareva
The Birth of Pozba
In the time of Pozba’s birth, the earth was soaked with floods of blood
drawn from the lives of murdered husbands, wives, sons, and daughters,
and swept up in the flood was the love that should have met the infant boy.
These are hard metaphors wrung from hard times,
of bullets, bayonets, and knives,
of fathers hung rotting on highlines,
and of sons, missing, now found with holes in their heads,
found in the Communist fields by grandmother-slaves,
found without graves, without names for the dead.
It was at the end of this era of death he drew his first breath, Pozba!
A strange name given by a dying mother,
a name with no patronym, a son with no father,
a non-name, like Lenin or Stalin.
A strange name, a name like no other.
During this plan of horror, this Generalplan Ost,
three million Ukrainians and one million Jews were murdered,
and another million Slavic slaves were sent to rot in German graves.
The Nazis turned Ukraine, the borderland, into the Bloodland.
So yes, Pozba’s time was bad, but not the worst.
There is no worst with mass murder. The worst, like infinity,
has no end. Just add another number, add another death.
The decade before Pozba’s birth was worse,
when the accursed Communists caused millions to die.
How many millions? Maybe four, maybe ten.
We don’t know, they won’t show, the full horror of
The Holodomor – Stalin’s forced starvation of Ukraine.
Faced with such genocide, how did Pozba become progeny?
That’s the great mystery of life, how it never fails
to find a crack, sprout a leaf, and overcome defeat.
So Pozba came crying, demanding care from
nurses, Babas, from anyone who’s there, and
oblivious of the Bloodlands rotting with the dead,
he cried: I’m here. Help me. I’m here. I am alive.
Pozba in May
May Day. May Day. One two three. Their pact was to return,
like doves in May to renew their friendship, then return to their pursuits,
but this time when they met, the spying Soviet mind took root.
How they’ve grown, these four, especially since they dispersed
three years before, each carrying a shard from the shattered glass
off St. Jude’s cloak, now fit together on the table that was spread
with their vodka and their bread, and they recalled the stories of their youth.
Sitting next to her, Pozba could feel her warmth, even as she cuddled into Victor.
They all laughed at the stories Stepan told about his new Kyevan friends, while
over their heads formed the storm into which their lives would soon be swept.
My, how these Russians never slept, even picking up this incipient threat
of four young people with their heads together, perhaps plotting some dissent.
At first it was thought to just send the four a message of what happens
when citizens gather in the square to sow seeds of possible protest.
Thus, they thought to set the hounds, the Komsomol druzhynnyky thugs,
to follow up the scent and if necessary, make an example of one of the four,
just as they did weeks before with Maria Shwed, whom they kicked until she died
and bled her martyred blood into the earth, the Bloodland of Pozba’s birth.
They made an example of this secret nun to frighten the secret priests of this
secret church that dared defy The Great Beast. Using that simple, efficient way,
they thought to sway the obedience of these four, and of the millions more.
But the four shards made them pause. Was this simple code the sign of something
bigger yet, something sophisticated, organized, and posing a real threat?
And so, Plan B was put in place instead. The Soviet spies would watch and wait
and see, as time goes by, who else, what else, might catch their eye.
Pozba in Love
For Pozba, love is hiding, spying, watching her waiting under the walnut tree,
pacing and frowning until she sees her lover running to her down Petruska Street.
They meet, an angel and a bull. She is lifted, swung, nuzzled, and pulled laughing
into his arms, into her bliss. As they hug, laugh, and kiss, the weeping figure
slips further into the darkness of a neural space, nearing the abyss,
until he’s forced back and pulled to safety by a friendly face.
Pozba, is that you? asks the bull Victor, putting his arm around his friend.
You look a fright. Are you alright? I almost passed you by.
Zenya was sure it wasn’t you. Zenya looks away.
What has happened to you since we last met?
Their last meeting, months before, was on the Spring Equinox.
They met to celebrate the lives they almost lost as children, when
years before on the banks of the river Cheremosh, the fierce flow
that had been locked in ice exploded through the frozen wall,
and roaring down the mountain bed overtook the boys,
slamming them down on the high land, where they were found,
unconscious, hand in hand. And so, the tale began, of how one boy
held and saved the other, or as the old ones, the staryi say,
how God saved them both when He saw that neither was willing
to outrun the other, choosing to live or die together.
Pідний брат, kindred brother, Victor would shout at Pozba on
that equinox night, as they hugged and toasted their friendship.
Kindred brothers, clinking and drinking to the evening’s end.
But on this day, Victor stood helpless to save his friend
from the distress that he was in, while Pozba could only look
pleadingly, helplessly into Victor’s face, while Zenya
looked away, haunted by that day when she had found
Pozba standing on her street, trembling and all alone. So, as a friend
she took his hand and took him home for sweet tea and toast.
But then, she looked into his eyes,
saw the love and terror there inside,
and took him to her bed instead.
Neighbour lied to neighbour.
Howling was heard beyond the village gate.
Plotters dived in to snatch the innocent and weak.
All was lost, or so it seemed.
Yet somehow the child was baptized and confirmed
by a non-existent priest for a God that was deceased.
And so Pozba, to survive and stay alive,
lied to his neighbours and his friends, who,
for their own reasons and ends, all lied to him as well.
Such was life in this forbidding place,
this people’s paradise of dead and disappeared,
where the names are erased of those who
dared to question the affairs of state.
How many names erased? How many lives forgotten?
Vasyl Stus is not forgotten.
Vasyl Stus, the Ukrainian poet who died in Perm-Three-Six,
of anti-Soviet/anti-Russian proclivity — of wanting to be free.
Millions of Ukrainians died like him, but Pozba was not one of them,
although he was carefully watched, along with the other three,
in what the Russians called the Four Shards Conspiracy.
Such was life under the Soviets and the Russians.
Neighbours whispered in the night to someone at the village gate,
while shining slits of eyes spied from the forest in the dark.
Then in the day, neighbour smiled at neighbour,
and they went along their way.
By August, the Soviets had their plan.
They showed Victor pictures worth a thousand hurts.
By that month’s end, Victor told them how his friend
belonged to the forbidden church, and Pozba
entered that Gulag-spawn known as Perm-Three-six.
Gulag Perm-Three-Six, that evil place
where Stus had died, the year he vied
for the Nobel Prize, but received
instead the number nine,
stamped on a piece of tin,
nailed to a short post
driven in his grave.
Until you’ve talked with the stooped and dead,
do not say that Stalin died,
or that God is still alive.
And do not forget the poet,
Pozba’s Epistle to the West
How can you say life got better after Stalin died?
Do not let them spread such lies.
Have you even spoken with the dying or the dead,
or those stooped by the Gulag staring vacantly ahead?
Have you only spoken to the lively, well-fed?
If you did, did you ask how they survived,
how they lived when many others died?
Do not say life got better after Stalin died.
Don’t you know he’s still alive?
Pozba survived the Gulag,
thrived in sovereign Ukraine, then
died in Bucha, murdered by a
Russian invader taking target practice.
Time after time Russia finds its new Stalin,
risen phoenix-like from the ash of the last,
and in his good time, Stalin Redux begins
to kill once more in Ukraine.
That time is now.
The Bloodlands flood again.
© Gerald Seniuk
* The title “Bloodlands” is from Prof. Timothy Snyder’s book about these events.
** Pozba is a fictional character created to help tell the story of Ukraine, a story that is encumbered by misconceptions, historical inaccuracies, and antagonistic propaganda. Although born in Canada, I am of Ukrainian heritage and visited Ukraine as a consultant. Some of the personal stories about Pozba are based on actual experiences related to me during my visits, for example, his unfaithfulness revealed by intimate pictures taken by Soviet agents and used by them to further their aims. Other stories, such as that of the poet Vasyl Stus and the martyred nun Maria Shwed are taken from public sources. The general theme of Stalin redux is born out by historians such as Timothy Snyder, who coined the term Bloodlands to describe the horror Ukrainians have lived under, Pozba was born into, and the world can now see by the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
September Sunday morning at dawn,
during the first misty drizzle in weeks,
the bedraggled crow cawing
from the walnut tree despite the rain
does not have to be here, any more
than I have to be, or the tree, or the rain.
The world could go on without us,
and if it didn’t, who would know?
Smell of coffee from the cup I carry,
smell of dying leaves, damp light,
warm memory of my wife’s body beside me.
“That the world is is the beginning of mystery,”
wrote Wittgenstein, but “world”
hides behind self and self
and self, this day’s shape, each
particular raindrop, not some other crow.
© James Owens
A Page from the Dark Romantics
The verrucose birches
at the back of the cemetery
are wasting golden leaves
on the seductions of the wind.
The crows do not forget our
faces, as they delve and peck
through strata of the skittery,
once-shining matter that dulls
in the balks between graves.
They hop and swat in umbrage
then carry wriggling, hopeless prey
up to the stripped branches.
weigh yew twigs.
One thinks of tears on the lashes
of a yearning, phthisic governess.
© James Owens
Salvatore di Falco
The rhododendrons wept:
I could just hear their plaintive flower cries
as a savage wind drove me back in the house.
I had planned to dry fish on the clothesline.
But the clothesline was trounced.
lay under a green pillow, paws to jaw,
eyes half-shut, fangs gleaming. I wanted
to douse her with water. Nothing deserves
to be that unperturbed by the violent world
we live in. Never mind the guns and knives,
Mother Nature wields a jumbo truncheon
and likes to throw her mass around
when it suits her, when the rhododendrons
are in their glory, rising like a choir,
trembling with beauty. Believe me
I was no flower man, I took them up
for therapy—they say my mind departs
or departed, I can’t recall—and spent untold
ticks keeping them up to snuff, picking
them clean of weeds and bugs.
I felt sanguine about myself and it kept
my manic phases to an episode or two.
And now the murderous wind has slain
my rhododendrons and my day: how
seek revenge on blowing hot air?
Spent the rest of the afternoon feeling
the twitch coming on, that thing
inside my head that hitches on to strange
balloons of thought. For instance,
I wanted to dash next door and thrash
the feckless neighbour. He deserved it
for letting his Doberman defecate
on my lawn. I don’t blame the dog,
I blame that cardigan-wearing moron
who lacks the heart to face me like a man.
Perhaps it’s just as well I opted against
violence; my only enemy today is the wind,
ender of my precious rhododendrons,
squelcher of my slender shred of sanity.
© Salvatroe di Falco
Splitting Wood Late Summer
Nothing moved. My arms looked silvery in moonlight.
The axe blade glinted. My heavy breathing softened.
Everything stood still for a long moment—
a sustained resounding fermata, holding, holding.
Then release. Night birds rustled behind
the scene; cats flowed liquidly through shadows,
a distant dog howled at the crescent moon
(if that’s a thing) or a maleficent lurker. So
where exactly shall I place myself at this time?
I’m splitting wood at midnight. Believe it or not.
When I split wood I strike hard, flashing the steel
in the moonlight like an assassin. Thunk thunk.
But what begs expression in the end is how one feels.
I could mention my father, dead when I was twelve,
and the following hell, lacking all joy and sweetness.
Or I could just be billowing the funk I fell into
after he died and my mother lost her fucking mind.
But why bother rehashing pain—we scarcely
recall the hidings and beatings—maybe they
were needed—but we vividly revisit the cross
words and cold looks, the funerals draped
in black and choked with suffocating flowers.
We relive a mother’s mournful swooning
and escape into the grottoes of her grief—
until fresh howling shakes us from our reveries.
Maybe I should start from the beginning. Went out
to split some wood for the fireplace, got caught up
in the moment when everything paused as if
in respect—bowing down to the beautiful stars
and the wondrous moon and the fidgeting life
that strives and dies here. Now I hold out my hand
and stroke the velvety air, as if to tell the night
we’re perfectly cool right now, battered but alive.
© Salvatore di Falco
Falck Vulcano Industry. Desert – Sesto San Giovanni, Milano.
What roots can grow from ruins or
Are these blind leaves the last hug the one that was destined to last
Over what had been full of meaning
Labour separating the emptiness of before from that of now
Rusty chains vibrating to no Sybil
After all a point of view does matter
As nothing as the machineries it looks at
Honestly this story has been a delusion not a surprise
Voices and muscles and beats and thoughts worthy of this silence
So one must admit the veracity of this conclusion
At close quarter better better not better shut down this mistake
But whatever the collapse of these projects they were
The strife was being alive
The future though is no longer what it used to be
© Massimiliano Nastri
THE SIMPLE TRUTH
The world can shrink
to the town lived in.
A town can shrink
to a lonely room.
A room can shrink
to the only window.
The window looks out
on a shrinking horizon.
On the horizon, a figure
resembling the watcher.
One step more
and the view is empty.
The weight of life
rests on us all,
and the beginning
shrinks to the end.
© Gordon Scapens
Shadows of bare trees
dance against the blinds
threatening the early hours.
Sleep has thrown me off
like a rodeo horse
that now runs away.
Beside me, her breathing
is the perfect shore
with a vast ocean
of riotous blood between us
that I can’t navigate.
The clock stares me down
and tells lies to my face
about slow motion time
I don’t understand.
Barely audible noises
search the by-ways
of a restless body
to hint at secrets.
No horrors stalk the house
but night follows a map
plotting my instincts,
will accept all the demons
queuing to rent my head.
They’re all home-made.
© Gordon Scapens
DINNER PARTY CONVERSATION
We push and pull
current topics to fit
our own idea of a window
with an enlightened view.
With wall-to-wall righteousness,
raw opinions are fortified
by replenished glasses.
Well meaning, articulate,
we try to make sense
of whatever life seems to be,
but only picture each other
in the kind of world
that fits our preconceptions,
wanting to buy it
from whoever our god is.
Although faces are smiling
there’s an underlying resignation
to a collective realization
that controversial comments
are rounded off with words
normally not fitting our mouths.
We all want to save
what we think we have
but only for ourselves,
knowing no proper answer
to the secret of life.
© Gordon Scapens