No….time for love
Mississippian John Horváth (now that I’m 70, I’m dropping the ‘Jr’) publishes poetry internationally since the 1960s (Streetlightm recently in Burningword Literary Journal (Best of 2018), Adelaide Literary Magazine, Brave Voices (Zimbabwe), London Reader, Subterranean Blue). After Vanderbilt and Florida State universities, "Doc" Horváth taught at historically Black colleges. Since 1997, to promote contemporary international poetry, Horváth edited for 20 years, the magazine at www.poetryrepairs.com.
though its blasting burns my feet
and lay me in grandfather's grave;
Keep me in your prayers; remember,
I have passed through hell before."
Prochem i niczem--Prochem i niczen.
Lord! How must I seem before Thy countenance?
Dust and dirt--dust and dirt.
the tongue of grandfathers reluctant at surrender,
dreaming childhood tales of death to the last men--
their children hung from the ramparts
answered the sultan's demand for surrender
else women and weak succumb as men watch--
and their women like lancers march at the foe
singing Kyrie Kyrie parashou Kyrie
singing Lord Lord grant it o Lord!
that we may die brave Christian undaunted;
but, we who live uncalloused, souls untempered
bow to nuns who slap knuckles, sting to the bone
with their words declared
perfect, their kingdoms discovered,
their lists of conquerors, conquests
our old blood drips from our skins,
seals our lips against words
and deeds our grandparents preserve
jellies and jams, pickles and paprikas,
garlic and onions, only a taste of the passé,
grandfather's folktales of honor and purpose
we have forgotten the troubadour tongues
that never speak openly what we are thinking,
why had we come; how's this ignorance different?
Hush, brood. Golden the streets and flowers of candy,
everyman's Christian, wealthy and happy,
be grateful, be silent, be Anglo or Afro
not third person plural
you and I you and I you and I choose.
The other is abode of Superman who's taken on a simpler name--"Clark".
One's children want Arbeit Macht Frei; the others want their dear Lois Lane.
We've come as intellects with skills and craftsmanship only to be slain,
To build, to forget where we have and who we have once been.
In tunnels of indifference toward our burdens of employment
At raising up the tower we cannot hear ourselves in thought,
In the carriages of ignorance that proceed toward their profession
Simple workers know no others, know no heart between their hand
that labors and the heads that craft the blueprint. Build the tower.
We have come to build the tower, engrave the tower walls
With spartan slogans--Great is His Making, Glory to the Maker,
Great are those who bade this undertaking, Glory to the Worker.
Man the machines, compel the mayhem, make a storm and clamor
Up to Heaven, a joyless hubbub unrelenting--Build the Tower.
To Babel we come to build the tower to God's heaven,
To recall we were saints who've lost our souls in
Coarse work, coarse behavior as we work. Our souls
Immortal rub away slowly on concrete and mortar;
Soffit and steel rub fine our will made into walls
That climb toward heaven. No entry for us there.
To Babel we come to work on the tower; the tower
To build, to forget where we have, who we have, been
And what we seen. Mortise and cornice and girder
And timber by yards and feet and inches, the meter
Of coarse work grunts into our dailey bread. Spar
And mast, gunny and tatter, hovel and horror we've seen.
To build, to forget where we have and who we have been.
We have sat silent at our suppers with our children dumb as stone,
Felt chisel and the hammer heavy in the hand that uplifts the fork,
Fell to sleeping at the banquet table, fell to dreaming of our work.
We have wakened every other morning in so upright and stiff position,
That we needn't wash wee hours from our eyes to resurrect our vision;
We have worhsipped Goddess Workplace, been seduced by Harlot Paycheck,
Tell our children "Follow in these Footsteps" out of shame or odd dislike
That they forsake the whence we've come and make our camp into a home.
Why struggle, if fathers have succumbed; if not forever, why've we come?
Let us take this word and that from brother/sister worker
Indifferent to gender, subjunctive, and prescriptive grammar.
Until a wayward way with words duns us dull, marks
Hopeless our words now broken as aggregate blocks
Heaped at the tower base where they sound common,
The bewildering gibber of them abhorrent as shards.
We have cut our tongues on such talk; Our sad words,
To Babel have come to build towers to God's heaven;
Some among us utterless in prayer; altogether numb
Or doubting, they have no selves to offer in surrender.
Soon lacking past and wanting all recall of former ground
On which we rose up to this vanishing point, this crown
Whose rootless tree in shallow wind brings lightning down
To crumble the diligent spires that spirit replace.
We once tongues had that gentle wagged and musically nasal
Bid words come soft as blankets of snowfall unbidden
Before coarse work and the coarse behavior of work
Bent our backs and burgled our brogues into blank-
This and space-through that of unsayable; but
That was all Then. It was before you know. Like
Once upon a time. 'Fore the scattered gathered.
When the soul of a man was home and his word.
And TV dinners shushed the child's clatter out.
Our fathers came to the tower and sat on it hard.
O Superman, remember you are Jar El's son and nothing more;
Escape while you've power to else succumb to Babel's Whore.
escapes the draft, the fright of war. Each sleeper
has a number though unknown--preceded by Anglo and Frenchy,
Deutscher and Swede; followed by compliant Asians, swarthy
Arabs, and darker breeds--these but one chosen from many.
The man who sleeps escapes. The harbor lady holds her book
and counts then turns away unnumbered ones. Among the rest,
there are three secrets must be told:
have you committed crime?
disloyal to your government?
I am here, you see!"
A secret test? And if I pass to what brotherhood admitted?
Let me tell secrets of daughter and son, father and mother,
of ancestors who riot on my lips, calisthenic on my tongue--
a grand trapeze troupe of flying death-defying truth
they were who worked in the old country without a net,
There is no net a book can be to safely take them home
after a long fall toward humanity exposed
in center ring for entertainment of so few;
I am but a clown who stands before you now.
You do not laugh at me or do you laugh some strange way
I cannot understand as yet? I will, you know; I know I will.
And who asked YOU and HOW is your name cut and carved anew
into that book, were you refuse, tempest tossed, or untrue--
came to visit with NO secrets that you'd care to hide?
This is a land or not of hidden histories, all pious and upright,
all here come untainted by the bloody hand of somewhere else?
Were YOU so dull to pain and dumb to hurt that every word
was TRUTH--did you open up the empty spaces of your heart?
Between us, a common fault spreads continents apart; adrift,
I am prism and ray of light that seeks the torch that breaks
upon the night; the shore and sea--a moment when we met
and we were one in violent love of what you have and what
I want; then I recede: back to the sea and sand.
In sleep escape the past or into steerage we return.
write into that governmental book:
Lion and the tamer share one cage--
those outside have shallow life until
the lion's leap or tamer's pistol
ends the lion or they lay together
whilst another act replaces them
to dazzle and defy their deaths.
to cities burning and the deck awash with blood.
The running feet that sped directionless just swept
me up and dumped me in this boat: so here I sit.
Or, if you will or must, then say that
and haggle between old friends; to buy a swine,
half of the price to me was that I must awhile
here then report the Western duty on lean pork.
O flightless birds that are another tongue half learned,
This accent accented by the past; This riot of my blood
that must debark--O small dark sinking ship of reason
opon troubled seas that crash thine progeny abandoned
onto these shores. To what vacant isles in uncharted
parts have I cast my lot.
In every escalatored store someone sings a ragman song;
another chants the fishmonger's. I hear in cash machines
that register my purchase of a dream, the sea, the surge;
the great stark bilgesludge sea is with me now, the barter
and haggle, the calling out my wares is the seashore
and the circus sound of rash decision to leave behind
the winter ice and summer's heated rock make grains
of sand that edge these continents of desperation I became.
American, point me into the street and point to me
in the street where children run after, Neh-neh-neighing
at my strange lisp and awkward gait: "Neh-neh, there's
the man who has a PAST" is what they shall call to me.
Certainly, a PAST long gone but genetics living. Hubbub
hangworld forgive me for I know not
who I am nor what I did or am to be.
For this I gave up sleep. I might have slept til nightmare pass;
I might have bit my tongue and whined my prayers in alleyways;
I might have sent my neighbor to prison or to ruin.
O tireless mute language of the dead who fought,
I survive like the moon, pulling at the crazy sea:
The tide's a wave unbidden pulled from deep past;
Have I committed crime?
Am I loyal to my government?
Here I am, you see!
A million of the millions died and I escaped to change my name
to give my seed still stranger ways to speak, to think, to weigh
the world as if it had no past, as if I hid from death and died
to life; my children Edenlost must must invent their history.
Peace, I wish on them, that they may not memorize
those who sacrificed to God and then memorialize
(this is a godless country without books and such folk
as tell dull tales in unbroken speech as common ways).
This is an Eden where the artist speaks as if one dare
not dream beyond today. No past, no future,
nothing other than this bland today. I arrive full grown
upon the best of shores at the best of time.
Keep the passage secret hidden in as if you've always slept
with mother on paved street of gold; Keep passage secret;
The shame of passive silence is not yours but mine
from time to time throughout all time.
The man who's shot from canon
into crowds who cheer at blood
splattering the big top tent...
none of the taste and none of the odor
Bobwhites sing mornings
before June dew forms
on low grass outside town.
Gregory held the cherry bomb
between his teeth like a rose
to prove he was brash
and young--ten years old.
Boys in his gymclass
can be cruel falcons.
Not one of the others
smelled of the garlic.
They cry in their circle
over the bloodsite: come
see the flesh torn from our prey.
Summer fires burn over
the plain grass today.
No sheltered remains.
but don’t kick the plants.
Go on your way, but don’t
trample on the flowers.
Walk with purpose, but
don’t kick the animals.
Keep on walking away if
someone wants to fight.
Walk for health; walk to live
another day in peace.
daylight is used. Doubt
is whispered and thrown
over my shoulder. Hope
is in my words, again and
again. Nothingness is
like sorrow, bereft of joy.
I polish the sun with
my words so daylight
could blind the anger I
feel. It gets old to be
angry. I choose daylight.
My words are used like
daylight when used properly.
The poison remains in my blood.
I feel like an old blind dog.
I am through with desires.
I feel like the waste that remains.
I think of the tombs I want to inhabit.
I think of the soil that will cover me.
The poison remains in my blood.
I have no fire left in me.
Even death doesn't want me.
I feel like the waste that remains.
I am lost and don’t want to be found.
I feel my heart has frozen through.
I think of the soil that will cover me.
The Moving Tree
Its roots were like
feet walking and
the leaves off its
branches. I saw it
jump and skip like
a child having fun.
Its heavy trunk was
limber and flexible.
The birds tried to
stay in their nests,
but they were tossed
around and had to
fly to keep pace
with the tree. I had
to blink once and
then twice to
believe my own eyes.
Out of Service
The next day you eat like a bird.
You drink wine one day and tap
water the other day. You live
like a king and then like a pauper.
Money slides through your hands
like water and oil. You burn through
the little or the lot you have until
you do not have anymore. That
government check will one day
run out. You fought a war and lost
your mind. You are a hundred
percent connected, but your
mind and thoughts are totally
disconnected, out of order, out of
service like an old phone number.
Plans I'll never see
Save for one devious mission
Set out specifically for me
The mist clings tight as the snow
Forgives around my branches
Though distant sounds sinister cut
Through this morning in flashes
The children's laugh pierce deeper
Than the cat's claws in spring
I know that facade and the
Serrated teeth it brings
The veins in my wood rage unseen
Against tradition's tapestry
Busy orange beanies speckled white
Round the bend as I curse my ancestry
From branches hang rain-pearls
Donned in moonlight capes
One side of a coin
We toss too willingly
Into the air
What could sprout
A beautiful thing to behold
The carvings of tears and rain
"To The Poem That Escaped Me"
I was not looking to possess you
undress you or even stage a rescue
from the danger of losing you
which was only brought upon me
paradoxically by your pouring presence
flowing down the back of my forehead
I remember your shape, vaguely; how
your corners bumped into my brain stem
as you drove in your stolen car from
one side of my head to the other
I will call you "the sunrise" as it seemed
that was what had funneled in through
my retinas, deeming the physical light
unimportant and teasing me with the notion
that the sensation of the tangible
dancing incorporeal through our minds
is the greatest miracle no one ever
writes about. Perhaps because
we always seem to forget.
And These Are The Promises
That swirls through the
Cedars in the yard
To put it in
With where I would
Store my record collection
If I were to have one
If the world still turned slow
To combine that bark stained whisper
With the notes that find my ears
When I can't find my mind
To give you the music
That animates my thoughts
And the stillness that animates their origin
To acknowledge my weakness
For your smile and its sweetness
To gather and gift my secrets
To hope that it pleases
To sort through the meaningless
To make you laugh till your chest wheezes.
To walk further along if these blessings don't meet us.
To keep pushing forward
With all I have left
To keep my soul's doors unlocked
With no fear of theft
To accept you may listen to my music
And wish you were deaf
To prepare to gather up the chunks of silence
After you break it over my chest
To trust that chaos
Is not the rebellion
Of the cedars' breath
I devour till my demise
I envy nature so decisive
Choosing what lives and dies
The earth doesn't grieve
For the young lost beast
As it is made the lion's feast
Oh, how desperately I cling
To my emaciated faults
one kiss only.
with curls and quaint beauty,
they breathe too.
And I am breathing with them, mouth to mouth.
its petal, a purple tongue.
It is between the dust and the wind.
Eleven weeks premature.
If survives: possible
cerebral palsy, other
care is for old not
newborns! So many
tubes. Phone calls:
quickly get to hospital.
Quiet prayers. Unspoken
Life, death, life, death
tick-tocked in our heads.
pre-med studies state
her high intelligence.
Spared serious effects
of birth before term,
only her underarm
scars from feeding
tubes are reminders of
The Sixth Richest Country in the World
There’s a man trying to prise
A cigarette half-smoked and damp
From the plug of wrappers and flies
Filling a choked stormdrain to the grate.
Getting it takes him all of four long tries.
‘It’s not bad, four tries for a free fag.’
He stows it in shaking hands and shies
From the high-vizzed contract staff who move
Him along, and disappears. Slantwise
Shapeless tattered coat grey with age
Lost in crowds who loudly sermonise
On the sad state of English railways
And ‘the tramps that plague the station on weekdays.’
So many dozens,
(I wouldn’t have thought…)
Stooping over the pavements,
Rooting through the stubs,
Looking for something smokeable--
An opera singer she was,
Who set up under Blackfriars Bridge each night,
Singing among fallen takeout boxes
And a slick of autumn leaves.
Bankers mocked her solos
(And I shuffled on without change
To give her—)
Lived in my town, fifty miles up the railway,
Got my train, sang in the town centre--
Or on the station approach,
Rooting on the pavement,
With the others stooping,
Rooting for a fag end
With tobacco unsmoked--
And one day, she setting up, town centre, to sing,
I finally had some change and handed it over
Before she’d sung a word
And she said, ‘that’s a good start.’
I said, ‘I hope so,’
And that was that
Melodrama Against Workplace Bullying
‘Conspiring against me,’ she says.
‘I know your game.’
And I say
They are spent flashbulbs,
It broke a decade ago--
My smile is rictus,
My soul is smoke,
My dreams are ash,
And you say
I am conspiring against you?’
‘You’re conspiring all right,’ she says.
‘I know you are,’ she says.
‘I know your game.’
‘My friend, I say,
Our souls, mine and yours,
Are autumn leaves,
Crumbling in a fist.
When you hear the automated announcer
On the jammed out morning train
Stutter and repeat and skip and yip
In some sick parody of human laughter,
You realise that—’
‘I know you’re conspiring,’ she says.
‘You’re a no-gooder,’ she says.
‘I can read you like a book.’
And so on
Pat Ashinze is an hybrid of two major Nigerian tribes: Igbo and Yoruba.
He is fluid in his writings, creating poetry and prose within the axial stream of metaphors and aphorisms.
His works have appeared and are forthcoming on The Pangolin Review, Kalahari review, Blognostics, Merak Mag, Dissident Voice, Vox Poetica, Ngiga review, Ann Arbor review, Mohave Heart review, Writers Newsletter, Tuck Magazine, I am Not a Silent Poet and elsewhere.
is only in the curve of her hips
and the shape of her breasts,
and the sleekness of her body,
and in the lush vitality of her portal,
then, you do not understand how to read
beneath the jagged lines - the sacred geometry that make up her glorious heart
and her beautiful mind.
if you think the beauty of a man
is in the brazenness of his looks
or in the gallantry of his muscles,
or in the tallness and swiftness of gait,
or in the heraldry of his bulging arms,
or in the curly ruddiness of his frame,
or in the beastliness of his nether regions:
then - you do not know how to identify
gods amidst a myriad lot of guns and roses.
if only you could listen
to the wailings of their punctured minds,
you would hear prisoners begging to be released.
you will see lost travelers seeking for doors to self-discovery.
you will see spirits roaring at the inconsiderateness of idiots trying to play God.
now listen, as the moon does to the sun:
they are not flat or too thin,
they are not globose or too fat,
they are not malformed or maladapted,
they are deities, crafted by the universe.
they are pollen, blown by the wind
to fill the earth with flowers and colours.
they are richly filled in places we can not see.
be thou illumined.
i do not know. not yet.
maybe soon. or later. or never.
my bible tells me my soul is immortal.
even other holy books.
and the internet.
it is hard to understand death.
we run away from it everyday,
like monks avoiding the touch of sin -
but it's all encyclical and vaguely brusque.
truth is: death has a way - of making us make
our way back to her macabre bosom.
i have decided to write this like i am drunk,
even though I'm not. seriously, i'm not.
i don't feel like versing mystic aphorisms.
not on this. people get bored easily.
so, I'll make this simple. very simple.
death screws with us all. a lot.
it takes the pearls and leaves us wondering
if God really cares about our miserable lives.
death sucks out the things that matter,
leaving dregs, dirt and regret as souvenirs.
ah… death!. alright... I'll make it simpler:
death is the middle finger that life
points at us all as it whispers her
cold, numbing words in our mundane ears:
"Hey! Nobody has a right to be arrogant!."
a man look stupid
i tell you, dear reader -
not because i have drank sour wines;
not because i have seen the sky bleed;
not because my memories have grown
grey beards and have become arthritic;
i tell you this to show you the vanity
behind having an human existence.
the mind of every man is full of grief:
sorrows that sting like desert arachnids and
hurt like the jests of blasphemous demons.
we hide our pains behind our teeth everyday,
praying in sad notes for death to run away,
waiting for God to show his face in the clouds.
if you see a man crying, run!
his soul is filled with shadows.
his memories are naked and wet.
run before his misery spreads and
makes you a city beneath the earth.
happiness requires sacrifice.
it is the reward for hearts
that have chosen to ignore pain
and learnt to live in a world
filled with dangling windows,
punctured destinies, broken stories,
desolate cities and empty rooms.
happiness is not for cowards.
that first impressions are lasting ones
by which we build people’s characters,
premonitions and limitations from.
do not believe it, dear reader.
it is an old and rusty philosophy.
it has not evolved with time.
it is an often misguided truth.
i have known prostitutes
whose portals have entertained demons
and legions of insatiable men at the start,
but once you get to know these women
of the night street for the humans
that they really are, you get to see for
yourself that even darkness illuminates;
that even ashes spark fire.
i have known exemplary saints who have
sworn to the earth and sky and sea and fire
that they have seen God;
that they have heard his voice
and perceived his deafening heartbeat but
if you get closer and deeper to their soul realms,
you would see abysses and wormholes
that can swallow a nation and send
chills down the spine of angels.
see, my dear reader, life is hard.
the heart roams around in sheathed cycles,
hiding realness and portraying illusions.
it takes time to differentiate worms from caterpillars.
it is only one that turns into a butterfly.
James Owens's most recent book is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent publications in Adirondack Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, and Southword. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.
and behind ordinary
things the colours
shivering in me a drenched
child, this longing
for a breath
to tear it all open:
sunlight beaten like foil onto the darkness
clean dust, clean wind
and the sky and
the sky and the sky
After Kobayashi Issa
then, bam!, they're sluicing death-sweat off your old corpse
--- in between: words and words about words.
leapt from the broadest throat,
stretched its legs
like slamming four doors
and broke the kennel gate.
The bark romped on rooftops,
in gutters, growling under cars,
burst like a gun,
cracking dirty jokes, drumming
The bark echoed in alleyways
where it rutted with shadows,
licking smells from the air.
At dawn the bark
napped in an ear,
a shelter from the shush-ing rain.
Satvika Menon is a 15-year-old who has been writing poetry since she was four years old. She has previously been published in Shot Glass Journal, Vita Brevis, Plum Tree Tavern, and a few other journals. Her themes range from hardship and healing to nature and feminism. She lives in India with her family and Guinea Pig, Teddy.
Used to the silence
As her voice bounces back to her like a boomerang
And settles back in her throat
Never heard by anyone else
Like glass cutting into her soft skin
Tumbles out her lips
And slices into the thin air
Into slivers of silence
Now polluted by noise
Her sweet silence
Ruined by one word
Dancing in the moonlight
Cups in hand
Hearts on the floor,
Being stepped on by pointy heels
Being crushed by the weight of the burdens they carry
Broken by themselves
Broken by their brokenness
A MESSAGE FROM DEATH
Why don’t you sleep?
Rest your head
On the dirty ground
And close those pale eyes
For you have been through too many troubles
Why don’t you go?
Away from this place, this vile earth?
For I have a place far,far away
Where you can dream
And dance once more
Like you did before those legs gave out
Dear boy, don’t be afraid of me.
Close those eyes
To never wake again
And you will be carried in my strong hands
Which are covered by my black cloak
And they shall take you
Far, far away
Where you won’t have pain in your chest
Where you shall have two legs once more
Where you won’t cry for your mother
As she reached here before you
So tired boy,
Why don’t you sleep?
Rest your head
On the dirty ground
And close those pale eyes
For you have been through too many troubles
DAWID JURASZEK 7 BIJOU ZHOU
E. K. KRAFFT
GEORGE CASSIDY PAYNE
JOHN ("JAKE") COSMOS ALLER
LOIS GREENE STONE
LUIS CUAUTHEMOC BERRIOZABAL
NGOZI OLIVIA OSUOHA
R. GERRY FABIAN
ROBIN WYATT DUNN
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