FEATURING THE CREATIVE TALENTS OF; .Gavin Bourke, Michael Boyle, Terry Brinkman, Fiona Sinclair, Chitralekha Sreejai, Patrick Kelly, Stephen Kingsnorth, John Doyle, Stephanie Stanton, Scott Waters and Karen Petersen
EDITED BY AMOS GREIG.
A NEW ULSTER ISSUE 97 November 2020
UPATREE PRESS A New Ulster
Copyright ÂŠ 2020 A New Ulster â&#x20AC;&#x201C; All Rights Reserved.
The artists featured in this publication have reserved their right under Section 77 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Edited by Amos Greig Cover Design by Amos Greig Prepared for Publication by Amos Greig
This edition features work by Gavin Bourke, Michael Boyle, Terry Brinkman, Fiona Sinclair, Chitralekha Sreejai, Patrick Kelly, Stephen Kingsnorth, John Doyle, Stephanie Stanton, Scott Waters and Karen Petersen . edited by Amos Greig.
Poetry Prose Prose Poetry Poetry Pr
Fiona Sinclair Chitralekha Sreejai Patrick Kelly Stephen Kingnorth John Doyle Stephanie Stanton
Scott Waters Karen Petersen
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Gavin Bourke Gavin Bourke grew up in the suburb of Tallaght, in West Dublin. Married to Annemarie, living in County Meath, he holds a B.A. Degree in Humanities from Dublin City University, an M.A. Degree in Modern Drama Studies and a Higher Diploma in Information Studies, from University College Dublin. His work broadly covers nature, time, memory, addiction, mental health, human relationships, the inner and outer life, creating meaning and purpose, politics, contemporary and historical social issues, injustice, the human situation, power and its abuse, as well as urban and rural life. He was shortlisted for The Redline Book Festival Poetry Award in 2016 for A Rural Funeral. His poem Unanswered Call was published in the September 2019 issue of Crossways Literary Magazine. His poem Sword Damocles, Falling was published in the October issue of A New Ulster. He was invited to read at the Siarsceál Literary Festival in October 2019. His poem Louisburgh, County Memory was highly commended in the Johnathon Swift Creative Writing Awards 2019. His poems ‘Our Tree’ and ‘Getting On’ were published in Qutub Minar Review International Literary Journal in 2019. He has worked in public service for over twenty years. His first book of poetry (sixty pages) was shortlisted for the International Hedgehog Poetry Press (UK) Full Fat Collection Poetry Competition for 2019. His poems ‘The Power in Abuse’, ‘Beyond Bone, While the Jackdaws Watch On’ and ‘Fair Trade’ were published in 2019 in A New Ulster. His poem Ag Iarraidh a Churam Mo Intinn Bhun Os Cionn was shortlisted for The Manchester Irish Language Group International Poetry Competition 2019. Gavin is the winner of the international Nicely Folded Paper Trois International Poetry Collection Competition for 2020 for his book Toward Human which will be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press (UK) in Autumn 2020. His poems ‘The Past is Present Tense’, ‘Transcending Mind Movements’, ‘The Breaking Waters of Catharsis’, ‘The Never Heard’ and ‘The Death of The Shepherd’ were published in the decade edition of ‘A New Ulster’ in 2019. His poems ‘Aloneness’, ‘Underneath A Wicker Cross’, ‘A Life in Our Times’ and ‘At Mercies’, feature in the April 2020 issue of A New Ulster. His work is currently being considered by competitions and awards, for both individual poems and numerous collection manuscripts, for publications and literary awards worldwide. His poem ‘Shivered’ featured in A New Ulster in Spring 2020. His poem ‘A Rural Funeral’, was published in the U.S. literary journal, Writers in the Know in 2020. His poem ‘Rhapsody for The Future’, will also feature in WINK. His poems, ‘Before and After, Johnathan Swift Was Born’, ‘Malaises’, ‘My New Eyes’, ‘Turning Corners’ and ‘The Mornings After Admission’, are published in the current issue of A New Ulster. His Poem ‘A Life in A Time’, is published in U.S. journal Tiny Seed Literary Journal. His Poems ‘The End of Their Affair’, and ‘Beyond Bone, While the Jackdaws Watch On’ (2020 Version) will be published in the next issue of Poesis Literary Journal. His poem ‘Dream of Consciousness’, is published in E-Ratio Postmodern literary Journal. His poems ‘A Mourning Burial’, ‘Through the Rain’ and several other poems are published in Prachya Review, Bangladesh. ‘The End of Their Affair’ and ‘The Past Coming Through to The Present Moment’, are published in the current issue of Qutub Minar Review, International Literary Journal. His poetry will feature, in several upcoming North American literary magazines and journals, which 1
have now been confirmed. His third poetry collection, Answered Call (81 Pages) was shortlisted, for The Hedgehog Poetry Press (UK), Selected or Neglected International Poetry Collection Competition, in May 2020. He is currently working on his seventh poetry collection. Gavin is also a multi-instrumentalist and has been a songwriter and composer for the past 30 years. He plays banjo, bouzouki, classical/Spanish guitar, acoustic-electric guitar, bass guitar, jazz guitar and electric lead guitar. He has written songs and collaborated with many musicians and songwriters and has performed in venues all over Dublin.
Would always hinder, for nuisance-sake, continually sneering. Schopenhauerian, nihilistic, depressed, perverted, rejective, of everything. Full of jealousies and hatred. Selfish, severely, morally unrestrained, concealing great impotence, of body and mind.
Was glad, when people got ill, happier, when they died, at least, it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t him. Would kill, if necessary, to achieve, selfish objectives.
A male jezebel, the dogs, 2
left his flesh and bones, when he fell, from the window, eventually. Left him, to rot slowly, in a pool, of his own impudence.
What if we could, forgive everyone, that ever, hurt us
and they, forgave us, for not, initially, forgiving them
and we, forgave them, for that, too, unlocking, the original codes, within
and most likely, there, from the very beginning.
So how, did reading that, make you feel?
Black shadows, cormorants joining the seagulls now, and steelworks.
An empty crane, casts a moving reflection, on concrete, in the daylight.
Thick black lines, on the tarmac. The smell of melting, on a summer morning, at the end, of July.
Dreaming in The Liminal
Floating, on a still lake, deserted, quiet, degrees, in the high twenties.
The sound of light, the lapping of water, upon the lakeshore.
The occasional splash, then intense, serene, scorching silence.
The body behaving, like water, completely, plugged into nature.
Wanting for nothing more, than to stay, here, forever.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Michael Boyle Michael Boyle regards himself as the most forgotten poet both in Ireland and in Newfoundland.
THE DRAGON FLY (Dedicated to Father O’Donnell P.P Lavey Ireland’s premier parish.)
A twilight summer night When all insects are asleep Our local parish priest Father O’D Stands tall in our kitchen to the right of the range and I am on the left. My sister Marie roars and laughs at us -two delft dogs on guard. “If not Derry what about Mayo for Sam?” But two farmers sitting on the sofa chat on about saving hay. Then, a moth or a drunken butterfly buzzes around the room. Folks grab caps -a newspaper and chase it around the room. Even O’D got in the spirit. He shouts, laughs and jumps This fly can’t be caught And folks Father O’D –he moves in for the kill as the dazed fly stumbles and lands smack dab on the Sacred Heart picture Not anywhere but on the red heart itself. 8
Just thenFather Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;D retreats in reverence and respect. Silence and we wait and finally I clasp the wings of the dragonfly gently And release it out doors it let it fly away. Was it a lost soul of a relative? From long ago looking for our prayers. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know. But the gentle breeze and silence . Answered that question?
Driving Through Rural Ireland
Super green golf-course fields. No yellow docken leaves because they are flushed away by so many chemical sprays Hastening end of our days.
Almost Being Home.
My last visit to Ireland just before my brother Brian died in November 2017
Neighbors and friends say hello. You have a cup of tea and join in the chat. You hear new bits added on to the old stories. Farming ,family and football are the only topics
I know the names of the old fields and laneways. And even those trees planted a century ago. In the early mornings I see the lowland mist hover over as a foggy blanket.
I want to help on farm and take part in the round up of the cattle for TB testing. I put on old trousers, boots and I am ready. But my nephew Brian Og and brother Brian give me a red card.
My services not wanted. They said the animals would panic and be frightened by a stranger.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Terry Brinkman Terry Has been painting for over forty five years. He started creating Poems. Five Amazon E- Books. Poems in Rue Scribe, Tiny Seed, Jute Milieu Lit and Utah Life Magazine. Snapdragon Journal, Poets Choice, In Parentheses, Adelaide Magazine, UN/Tethered Anthology, the Writing Disorder, Winamop, and Ink Pantry.
Sleepy Whale 344 Bare skin color of wet sand Lace fringe of the Sun Woven silk phenomenon Alabaster silent stand Snot green sea of Galveston Ghost women shun Brief gestures band Silk stockings electric blue Steely Tea St. Francis Voodoo Honey drinking Bee Gapes-ice brew Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s with me
Sleepy Whale 345 Grave yard dead Mercy of the bay Twilight flying Blue jay Steaming coffee and hot cross bread Over her shoulder, down to the riverbed Moab’s Thanksgivings’ holiday Hair turning gun powder gray Brief gestures misled Morning star’s dawn Unshed tears cry Gold and Silver Pawn High minded butterfly Snot green lexicon Sun flung dragonfly
Sleepy Whale 346 Wee chap’s music Sabastian beyond a dog’s jump Irish face cloth slump Ghost woman’s limerick Dark lady fair man’s love-sick Prince frog sitting on the stump Turned up trousers on the rump Poker playing farmer, hick Stood pale silent clever Olds woman’s brain Woeful lunatic sever Alabaster dark champagne Deathless Gods forever Over and over again
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Fiona Sinclair
Fiona is a poet with great potential
Rush Mid-winter morning I lug bloated bags through the door, still frowning from encounters with mums and their toddlers, unruly as puppies, to be greeted by ‘Shouldn’t have left me alone’, your laptop displaying a motorcycle for sale whose retro looks stirs memories of past bike loves, and ‘is a steal’. Suddenly, all previous tutting at middle aged men on bikes ‘They can’t handle’, mutterings of ‘Trying to recapture their youth’ are forgotten. Replaced now by ‘It will help my back’, ‘Get me exercising’. But I have known by the way you ogle bikes in car parks, this is an itch you must scratch. By Friday it is parked outside. First fine day you armour up in a leather jacket reinforced like a knight’s brigandine, select a private road at the rear of the house to get to grips with: ‘wing mirrors all wrong’, ‘brakes on the wrong side’. I tip toe up the path, peep through a crack in the fence as you go through the protocol of ‘lid’ on, then Raybans, under which disguise, you time travel back to your 20s. You mount, and after decades out of the saddle, roar off down the road with Steve McQueen cool, leaving me behind. And jealousy abrades at this old passion rekindled, as if I have reluctantly agreed to an infidelity, because I have nothing comparable in my past to give me this Woo Hoo! high. Dancing once, perhaps, but not now with my disobedient body. Suddenly, I understand why those Whitstable women don wet suits and take to wild swimming with whoops, rather than seek their thrills amongst the WI. I retrace down the path, noting the garden chores that are pending, to coffee and online solitaire.
New Tricks The hat and dress I fussed to find for 60th birthday bash remains box bound. Instead, I am kitted out with biker armour, donning the dead weight jacket with a grunt, all fingers and thumbs with the helmet. But, I won’t take you out until: you get the measure of the machine, become road savvy for local ruts and drain covers that might unseat; feels like a reprieve, suspecting that your fantasy of me as pillion will fizzle. Not for you refresher lessons , but a once a biker faith that it will all come back to you, as if riding was an autonomic function, and for several weeks its, I’m off on the bike with reports back in tones giddy as rekindling an old love affair, then suddenly, I can take you out now . First ride, I hide beneath my helmet, the Let’s get it over with expression, usually reserved for facing, without flinching, monster credit card bills, mammograms … My 60 year old legs struggle to develop over the seat that I must perch upon, no bigger than a bar stool. For now, I have permission to place my arms around you but generally you dislike it, since it feels more boa constrictor than sexy biker chick embrace. As the bike moves off, the winter pitted roads wind me so that my body screams for a seat belt, first encounters with buses, HGVs, I mentally crouch, missing a car’s metal carapace. Once on the by-pass you accelerate, the velocity hurricane buffets me, but simultaneously, my own driver’s instincts kick in as I peer over your shoulder, scanning for on-coming jeopardy . The first corners present like the fairground rides I have always avoided, my instinct is to pull against the tilt in self-preservation, fortunately you are experienced enough to compensate for my wrestle with gravity. But there is a moment, up Courtney road, where the road’s camber is air strip smooth, and the woods seem to keep pace like running children. I notice donkeys in a field, a coy cottage hidden behind hedges, 18
details overlooked in my car as, music blaring,\ I bowl through the present, eyes fixed on the road ahead. Back home I am fizzing, and receiving your blue riband praise I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even know you were there, swagger up the garden path.
Trust You must trust him, he knows what he is doing. So I wrench my eyes from on-coming cars, avert my gaze as buses scrape past us, look at the sky whilst you negotiate doddery cycle riders, allowing you to lead me in this riotous quick step. Until, an argy bargy with white vans on roundabouts, I simply smile and shrug Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll sort it, giggle as at traffic lights we weave past stationary four-wheel drives, as if waved through like VIPs. Follow his shoulder line on corners and, at first, I talk myself through each curve as if to a nervous child, but over time given the snakey or dual carriage way option, I chose the Herne Bay twists that over the weeks we take lower and faster like our personal TT. And sometimes we blast up the M2 doing a ton, wind rattling my lid, battering my jacket, in the wing mirrors, grinning at each other in cahoots.
Ménage She has a retro glamour. Your What do you think of her? is deaf to my response, and Shall we go and have a look? rhetorical, so I know that I have competition on my hands. To be fair, you say that you won’t purchase unless I ride pillion, as a teenager I was warned against rough biker boys who were as dangerous as their machines, so have never even sat on a bike. So, you construct a mock-up with stool, chair, sofa arm; instruct me in the protocol of mounting. I sit astride. Would you feel comfortable on that? I nod, forgetting that this cycle simulator is not moving at 80 mph. You joke about joining gentlemen of a certain age, previously tutted at for trying to recapture their youth on thoroughbred bikes they don’t know how to handle. Now, you buy T shirts with slogans complicit in the lark of old bikers returning to the saddle. And just as I followed you onto planes to daredevil destinations friends purse their lips at, you get me, at 60, on the back of this bike, and from the off, what was meant to be your affair becomes a ménage, as I watch the weekly weather report for the next fine days, and our holidays hijacked, we hop on the bike and race out of lock down.
60th birthday Our diaries are torn up that March. Your internet searches to find some way to mark my 60th are all dead ends. But, in the two months since you got the motorbike, I have learned to take corners so low I could tag the tarmac, compensate for shunts at junctions and lights by leaning back against the sissy bar, adjust my position when pot-holes wind, with a wriggle, even chat at raucous night club volume, as we motor along. So, I decide a blast down to Margate, for chips and ice cream on the seafront, is gift enough, because your coaxing me at 60, on the back of a motor bike, is the new adventure, every bit as exotic as my eyes scaling the great pyramids, and still part of you, pivoting my life 360 degrees.
A chorus of disapproval. Friends shake their heads, take in breaths, Well youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d never get me on the back of one, shuddered anecdotes of broken bodies and worse. Same tuts as when we chose to holiday in Istanbul, over Ithaka, Have you got a death wish? As if bombs went off as regularly as Adhams. But this year has reminded me how catastrophe can career around the corner and collide head on with the most demur of lives. So, always wearing bikersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; full armour, we cruise off down to Margate, for ice cream on the sea wall, then back in time for Father Brown on the telly. Although I confess that on curfew quiet country roads I dare myself to outstretch arms, then squeal as you join me, and we motor along in bird flight simulation.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Chitralekha Sreejai Chitralekha Sreejai has two published books and a few of her poems and travelogues have appeared in The Galway Review, A New Ulster, Khaleej Times and a few popular Indian magazines like Woman's Era and Alive. Her recent book 'When the wild winds called' is a travelogue on Ireland, published with India books. She also has a poetry collection titled The divine hand in the dark'. She has a doctoral degree in Sanskrit and is currently researching on western literature.
The Wind in the Glen
I captured the wind in the glen for a moment, Half mile through the woods and dales, It revived within me a deep aching delight, Of wuthering moors and mountains, Ah! those wuthering moors and mountains, In all its mystic grey and blue; It had such a power acute, To draw a strange enchantment, And pitch me in a feverish state. I can hear the tinkling of cow bells Beyond this slanted chasm, And see wild wind daffodils, growing without springs; A frozen river, with its crackled ice, unflowing; Mist, A woman in white playing her harp, And a long lost song that she sung to the hills! The cold, enfolding sunny spots, Like a halo around a distinct space, For a little heat and a clustered love On a bleak blighted day! Misty hills, a deep afternoon, sunless, Spaces of green, half draped in white. The tinkle of the bells lulls me again in a far deeper dream, A cadence, that transcends living space and time, 25
Suspended, losing forms, existence, Feeling beyond earthly casts.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Patrick Kelly Patrick is the grandson of Patrick McMahon, the sailor John F. Kennedy saved when PT-109 was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer during WWII. His father was a submariner for the U.S. Navy during WWII. Patrickâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s younger brother was a radio operator for the army in South Korea. He comes from a military family. Patrick served several years as a Russian linguist in the U.S. Army (top secret clearance, 331st ASA Co.) before the Berlin Wall fell, and then a career as a newspaper writer and editor. He lived through Hurricane Katrina by clinging to a tree limb while his house and town were washed away beneath him. Patrick won the prestigious Brown Pelican Award for environmental writing awarded by the Louisiana Press Association. He was also named top political writer by the Mississippi-Louisiana Managing Editors Association for a series of stories on corruption in the Alexandria, Louisiana, school system. Patrick served in Tallahassee during the infamous 'chad' presidential election and won the top award for government writing by the Florida Press Club. He lived in West Germany before the Berlin Wall fell; in Monterey, California, where Patrick would wake up to the barking of seals; in Providence, Rhode Island, where he dug for clams; on Florida's east and gulf coasts, where he learned to surf; and in Texas, where he was introduced to the delicacy of 'cattle fries,' or fried cattle testicles, an offshoot of 'Rocky Mountain oysters,' or fried bull testicles. Patrick has many months of teaching experience as an elementary, junior high and high school substitute teacher in several cities, serving between newspaper jobs. He also has public speaking experience in front of many Rotary Club and Lions Club meetings, where he was asked to give presentations on the current state of journalism. Patrick believes his breadth of experience and maturity help make him an expert on the use of words, sentences, paragraphs and the articulation of powerful ideas.
THE MOLOCH A love letter I remember a trip Clare and I once took to the islands. We bounced, rattling over glistening white-topped waves located a few miles offshore in my memoryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s humming tuning-fork sounds. The thought came to me today with the air snuffing salty this morning and the humidity perfuming the air. A gray sky filtered feeble rays through large cross-slanted windows of her home. I remembered how sunlight once warmed my small puppy Honey as he struggled to learn his footing, a tiger with large foot pads in a black jungle.
My memories come harder now, like small hard hail. We lived in a thatched-roof house my parents bought near a damp wood at the beginning of a brown dirt road. Why do my dreams now start and halt at the beginnings or endings of brown dirt roads?
Honey was given to the vet to be put to sleep. My parents, themselves young then, grew tired of his care. I can close my eyes and feel the softness of his fur. His eyes were silver and as cold as a moon. I wanted to set something on fire then with red matches and a can of green gasoline.
Today I asked Clare if she wanted to walk down to the beach pier after work. She said yes because we still love each other. This has changed over the years into something created by her outside my understanding, like the meaning of all matter we see, have ever seen, will ever see. All those years before at the islands we had walked into the water until the bitter stinging salt hit us waist high. I stopped to feel something grow in my heart.
I threw my head back and raised my arms toward a sun nestled high in a soft blueing sky. I felt my soul burst from my chest like a divine song, a blossoming flower, and then leap into heaven with a reverberating shout, an affirmation, as a small school of flying fish broke through the skin of fluid with a spray of pungent wetness flashing around Clare like princess jewels. Reality is just light measured. Einstein once said this. The calculations vexed him the rest of his life.
Remembering that day I felt myself move toward a burning distant star, pulled on the back of a swimmer through warm water. I burn with fire scars, groan, and am scolded by my companion. "That's a fine example there Paddy for us Irish," my companion Clare says, my lifejacket strap slung over her forehead as she makes slow powerful strokes through coral seas. Clare never forgave me for something that day she will not discuss, a comment about a mother -- a voice heard in Ramah; lamentation and bitter weeping -- Rachel weeping for her children. I gaze out over the star's spreading waves tipped with moonlight. I dream to hide my pain.
The star lights a beginning. It lights an ending. It pierced the cold dark nothing of never knowing. It lights the everything of forevertime. It began as itself. It ends as itself. It burns with ripples forever expanding. It shines forever. And ever. And evermore. I notice its companion star circling like a newly discovered electron. It flashes bright then softly fades in regular time, a test of desire and will, passion and grit. An understanding comes. I close my bending eyes with hope.
I squint with bleak sorrow and stumble toward an icy glinting light. Mine and Clare's vulnerable lives are frozen in dormant dreams of darkness we are fated to anticipate but never allowed to see. We tiptoe to the enveloping waters of insanity and grief, a black hole of self that was gifted us and that we constantly, fumblingly, blindingly measure. It is the final ultimate horror we do not understand and which will never stop. It spreads outward from our most inner self until it fills the universe with a dark humming void. Like the Moloch, a new church opens its rusting back maw with shame to accept the burning sacrifice.
Clare and I sit in church now each Sunday holding hands. I have asked her why we do not marry. She insists we have always been married, ever since she was a girl of five years old. We can just never marry in a church now, she says, one of her white-gloved hands holding one of my brown, gnarled ones. A black-robed choir with pale faces suddenly rustles awake and begins keening until the end of all time, it seems, as if waiting for a messenger to arrive.
Clare and I continue to sit at the end of the pier tonight as the waters grow darker. I gaze toward the horizon and seem to notice a red sailing ship moving toward the south, growing smaller but more urgent as it continues its journey. Did something happen? 29
Its sails are red with black unknown markings and a red-blazened crew scamper and race wildly along it's deck and among the scaffolding. Did something happen?
A figure in the crow's nest suddenly turns toward Clare and myself and beckons, but I can't tell if he is saluting or gesturing wildly to follow. His eyes blaze like silver coins with black blow flies swarming around them. Did something happen?
Smoke bellows from the open deck with the sailors dancing around it. The black water siding the boat shines a bright orange. Clare notices none of this and nuzzles my neck with her chin. Did something happen?
A small curl of brown hair spills from beneath her purple backward sailor's cap, and there is a small tear on the left shoulder of her pale blue sweatshirt. A thin chain around her neck carries dog tags stamped with the name of her younger brother, a lieutenant who died in the war. Did somebody else die?
I shudder and Clare mentions it might be cool enough to head back downtown and I agree. I can see she is absorbed with her brother and I remain silent out of respect for a grief that has slowly diminished but will forever darken her spirit, one that was once the brightest I ever knew.
I think to myself that we live in a dream. We are encouraged by brightness. We avoid the dark. We are pursued by the past, as the past has pursued Clare and myself. We move into the future, often stumbling, sometimes blind, always inevitable. We travel with trepidation, with luck, with hope, with fear, mustering strength, gathering the like-minded, avoiding the bad if we are shrewd enough to recognize them.
We make mistakes, we make corrections, we move on, searching for something we know not what, even while we scarcely know ourselves. We are human, and as far as we know we are the only self-aware intelligence in a space of nothingness too vast to comprehend. It is our blessing; it is our curse. 30
We set out on our path vaguely sensing only one thing, really; that somewhere in the distance, out beyond a far horizon, just beyond some rising star, there must be an answer waiting for us. If we can just make one more step, draw one more breath, shade our eyes one more time, we will see it, know it, feel it, somehow touch its warmth. And then we are beaten back, outside our will, by the receding crest of our heart's hope and the inevitable forward tide of light's infinity.
I put my arm around Clare's shoulders as we walk back along the dirt road to town and this thought pushes me forward, a strange dirge whispered again and again in a fever dream: "Our Moloch is now gone." I open my eyes, trying to remember the dream. But it dimmed away slowly, as songs do, a shapeless dream where we have become the Aleph, the everywhere, all around me, filling my soul. And then the message arrives.
I was struck, reborn. I was struck, reborn. I was struck, reborn. Clare and I are in a narrow canoe, the air smelling like flowers, myself rowing through the mist with her sitting alertly in the bow, a yellow hat in her hands, blue ribbons tied in her hair. I bite into a sweet purple plum to keep my mouth from drying and a sphere of rose chrystal suddenly opens around us, singing. "Oh Patrick!... Do we know where we are going?" Clare whispers with wonder, straining to hear soft tinkling coming from lights blinking along the hidden shore. "Do you know how long it will take to get there?"
I think of growing up with Clare in our youth and then afterward. I remembered the laughs and tears, the cutting words and soothing looks, the bitter food and late night sighs, the shared dreams, shaken sorrows and shattering joys, and realized I spent my whole life waiting to give this answer. "Yes," I said boldly, the breeze raising the hairs along my arms. I slid a wooden oar into the silver river and whispered our secret prayer: "We are already here."
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Stephen Kingsnorth Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 150 pieces published by printed journals, including A New Ulster, on-line poetry sites and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Patten A cobbler and shoe maker, apprenticed to the last, the leather, tacks and hammer lend rhythm to my days. Sadly that not the only loan to float apart from books, the village church expected me to follow the same course. The tradesmen know the issue, the blood of labour worn, carpenters and fishermen are trodden under foot. The pattern for my overshoes, a pair, protective clogs, I found in church on Sunday, the patten and the cross. Priests want to sell me pardon, that service not my need, but wooden soles guard my steps to alter life and soul.
Is Facebook read by heaven’s scan, as implication, messaged screen? Or on the graveside tribute cards, where blooms undying care declare but are these fed to clouds above? To comfort those whose loved ones gone, affirm their stature lost from earth, as column post, it’s understood, but rhymes, as speaking to the dead? Is this, too late, outpour expressed, soliloquy to enhance rest of guilt-racked mind remaining globe, late homage, reputation wrest read, seen - for me - in courts below? Or as we hunger for return, are lengthened twitter characters the means to dream we’re not alone?
I saw this bike, post-war, restored The Repair Shop, a TV show, and suddenly Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m riding it.
A toddler, at my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s back, the child-seat crude, black rods, red pad, mudguard white striped, black-out required.
She told me, first air-raid she knew, new dress, on slab, newspaper laid, she lay, more fear newsprint transferred.
Handlebars battered, spinning wheels, as lifted head, surveyed the screams and then this bike, her own, my ride.
Do not remember me for what I’ve done an ounce of pure, some pounding ill I’ve been what the favela made, tin shack, the mansion on the hill, a graver mound, still boss stone shrill. Pop’s bottled outbursts nurtured me, my spirit thrashed through sweat and dreams, as justice scales’ dealt proud and strong, where gang appeal bought status ground. The ambitious apprentice duly found toting the streets, my mouth and arms spoke louder than vain preacher’s sounds. Me, profit shouting corner streets, a passing shot, protecting turf, some lift, new high for gutter swill. Both girls and boys, the in-betweens, unmoored, attracted by my charms, on wrist, my fingers, bling, gold rings, embrace, inclusive, welcome all. A curse of my lover, reined in stall, now bolted horse, burst stable door; but I’ll find him, lead gelding home.
We played away, long day affairs, lovers of sun, mud, pebbles, streams; would never brook no entry signs, friends of frogs, their spell-jelled spawn, and captured newts, string-crested jar. Wind turning leaves, a comic page the gales of laughter - what a shower then bath and bed, sheet torchlight beam.
We snorted, drugs for common cold? but sweated, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;liverishâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; if odd, dived weekly from an outlet pipe before some beaches flagged as blue bilious, scribbled note for school. For apple, we took lilac sprigs, favoured in class, pottery jug, strange scent above boiled cabbage, stuff.
My treat, pre-school, not climbing stairs, but find relief, grate back door drain, where felines fought, scratched, wailed by night. The estate edge, my boyhood camp, while now at furthest length of life, that span has stretched, two worlds apart. 37
Who thought to hear, rear entry step, that call of buzzards, sky-prowl cats.
My cycle lane was sandstone climb, unmarked by white, save blizzard fight, a push bike when the gradient high, slow weary trudge to work at school. The basket held canary cape, my crossbar bound with leather flap, when briefcase grew from satchel back, and twist-grip, Sturmey-Archer gear newfangled handlebars allowed.
My turn-ups wrapped with metal clips against the well-oiled chain in slack, dread pain of crack with ankle bone, slip-shod from pedal under strain. Unlike the hoot from tricycle embarrassed at the tinkle bell for lads with breakfast on the trail, a bag, salt twist, homework undone, rare three-wheeled robin to the rear.
Shove haâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;penny on the bike shed bench, front rim settled in concrete block, cheap padlock hung around the spokes, as pungent smells, chem lab above, but one more day, then weekend ride. 39
Those tubings, lime and strawberry, gleam sheen beside black matt of Dadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s took me through high-rise primrose banks and honeysuckle rural rides.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: JOHN DOYLE John Doyle, from County Kildare, has had four collections released to date - "A Stirring at Dusk" in 2017, "Songs for Boys Called Wendell Gomez" and "The Buildings Are Red Like Electricity" in 2018, and "Nova Lumina" in 2019. He is at present studying to be a librarian after his previous career as Charles Hawtrey's stunt-double proved to less fiscally rewarding than he had hoped.
Wavelengths Clothes-lines mime matadors when children bicker next door there's been no peace in our land since Isaiahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s motorbike broke-down our soil dust-bitten, our rhetoric like the twig's snap, in autumn-fires. Clouds were like our mothers, they would shelter the glare of piercing scream in broken glass, the ole-serenade of bull-fighter turning his back on the galloping winds. I thought it unusual, how quiet Sam and Peggy were this evening. I switched on BBC Radio 4, there was a static that thrilled me it was electricity at its most triumphant, feeding on the earth, the soil, the blood, the broken glass it seemed my neighbours were left untouched, they and the bullfighter, lost in coward-coloured teeth of the strangest and loneliest wavelengths
The Weather By February we'll see it idle myths of soil, tractors' lungs stuttered in watered-whites. The lamb's language is softer than bullets, yet wounds as viciously and in the circling glass of air it silences so much the howl of nothingness lost on ice-bitter fields, men so old they should feel ashamed to still be living. February softens the prick of pendulous briers - there are other means of cutting this voice of Beira, prizing myth from waifs of soil, the tractors all dead and speechless like men ashamed to still be living
I'll Wear My Bullet-Proof Vest, Baby Sometimes I throw myself off the edge of cities, spin a nickel, wait to see who lands first. That's nice, a nickel from 1975. So many stars in exile from distant-galaxies, so many curves on sidewalks where rats squeeze like dollar-bills under a counter twenty seconds before a race the mob already knows who wins. I watched a man so thin the city spat his guts out whole, nothing there for taking, for warriors in war-paint, men in drag who queued up to ask the messiah how he managed to keep his top-hat on 44
while he spun on the trapeze and the lion of Judah roared like electricity and flash-lightning in a court of law calling each-other copycats or writing their confessions about the Lindbergh baby in lipstick across their chests. It's too much. Time-out. Wednesday - I sneak through Manhattan naked, no cop wants to arrest me, their horses piss on beggars and oligarchs who missed Macy's sale for sackcloth and ashes. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll wear my bullet-proof vest, baby, you wear your dusk-red baseball sneakers, I never seen a girl dance in baseball sneakers but I've got a feeling I will tonight
It's Ok It's ok to fuse your lonely streets with city-sparkled shoes, it's ok let a dog in from the storm, shaking mud and rain like the delta flooded and the houses disappeared. Yesterday, he held the off-licence door open for you, you dragged his ashes like broken limbs down the road, until you reached the railroad crossing, waited, said a few prayers, kept it simple. There was a convoy of mourners who followed, stopped-short of entering the graveyard. 9am was too soon for burials, said the holy man, standing alone at the altar. Yeah, it was okay to shoot him down, I guess, finish-off that quart of scotch his December hands let slip. There was so much glass all across your kitchen floor that morning, I asked to sweep it up, maybe piece him back together. No, it's ok, you said
Umbrellas Damaged Beyond Repair The mighty surf of soaking stallions hammer the chances an umbrella takes there are many unclaimed, like tanks on side-streets in Vietnam, fifty years-on parishioners of rust, bent and feeble, the spokes lashing at the wind who always wins the tethered canvas like a debutante's dress, forgotten - waiting for her soldier
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: STEPHANIE STANTON Stephanie has been writing poetry for little over seven years. Inspiration for her work is varied, but mostly she writes about what she knows and experiences, delighted by an excuse to be quirky. She has performed on a number of occasions and has had work published in The Curlew and on the literary website, Words for the Wild and The Ekphrastic Review. Stephanie attends the Mid-Kent Stanza group.
Bad Sport Somewhere behind those sloped antenna; triggered pinball flippers, lies the mind of a mean machine. Compound eyes of highly shined, bowling ball, ready to strike. Unpredictable shuttlecock wings; taunt in a hover, the way you stall dive, preempting plight of opponent, guarding the point. Those clingy, teenage grubs no longer sugaring your ego, no longer adjusting in anticipation of what your swinging mandible might hook and bring home. So, late summer you and I compete for a grimacing half-time orange slice or the like. You land, flick your abdomen, filling your cartridges with air, in case there’s a need for your lightning bolt, flexing that wire-thin waist; the chain between nunchucks - a stripy little ninja assault ‘Hiyaaaaaaa! Gotcha!’
The Heart, Breaking Rules The first time she used the word in a poem was when words themselves were tentative attempts capturing the sonorous air flow. The trills - the floaty, lingering vowels and crisp, thrumping consonants. She leant hard into whirls of complex rules - chest pulsing, floundering to employ new motor skills. Miss swooped and tapped a quick rhythm under the word. Eyes wide, then clenched, her ribcage deflating while the teacher set her straight. Later, perched on motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knee, she tried to assimilate; a blinding aberration was all it was. Nothing broken, mum assured. Except. that is, for the hart of the little blackbird the small creature grappling to catch form in resounding air onto the beckoning page and fly. heart (n.)
Old English heorte "heart (hollow muscular organ that circulates blood); breast, soul, spirit, will, desire; courage; mind, intellect," from Proto-Germanic *hertan- (source also of Old Saxon herta, Old Frisian herte, Old Norse hjarta, Dutch hart, Old High German herza, German Herz, Gothic hairto), from PIE root *kerd- "heart." Spelling with -ea- is c. 1500, reflecting what then was a long vowel, and the spelling remained when the pronunciation shifted.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: SCOTT WATERS Scott Waters lives in Oakland, California with his wife and son. He graduated with a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Scott has published previously in A New Ulster, The Blue Nib, The Pacific Review, Loch Raven Review, Adelaide, Better Than Starbucks, Selcouth Station, The Courtship of Winds, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Pangolin Review, Ink in Thirds, and many other journals.
PERSISTENCE OF METAPHOR the hills stand like horses in fog and blowing mist bunched together spine on overlapping spine wet tails of winter grass slapping each other's haunches the stoic solidarity of suffering except hills feel no pain they simply close their eyes and disappear behind a rolling white curtain of rain
DON'T GO My wife has noticed for years how I rush my meals before the food grows cold or the beer grows warm this morning on the back stairs coffee in a metal insulated camping cup bagel and cream cheese at a safe neutral temperature fog already shredding to blue I notice a liver spot on my right hand that wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t there yesterday.
WESTERN WINDS Mustang clouds blue prairie sky the wind lifts covered wagon kites wheels spinning in mid air deposits them on dusty roads outside town upright and gully-bound children screaming Pa jostles in the squeaky leather seat snapping the reins Ma holds the trembling dog eyes shut saying her prayers while three buzzards circle under a bone-white sun.
THEY LEFT ME ON THE SOFT SPRING GROUND They left me on the soft spring ground with some meat and a bowl of water. At first I was angry hearing the horses pound over the hill and dwindle to silence without me. But they were right. I am too old to ride and will put them all in danger. Now I have blue sky for a roof cottonwoods for walls buzzards and coyotes for company stars to light my way to the old home where my ancestors will care for me something just moved through the bushes over there
THE PRINCIPAL'S TALE Morning drips like syrup from maple, elm, oak as the principal strides in scuffed brown wingtip shoes down a leaf-swirled street drawing autumn into his lungs in quick judgmental breaths one of his young teachers didn't show up for work --Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so unlike him must have a drinking problem will have to take measures to ferret out the sinners he pictures the students climbing desks and walls while Miss Hagerty the poor school secretary tries to maintain order until he returns with their hungover teacher nearing the small grey house with white shutters three blocks from the school he remarks upon the morning stillness not a whisper of wind and the quiet draped like a sheet over trees and chimneys a lone robin spilling ribbons of melody from atop a utility pole up the sidewalk a peremptory rap on the front door silence he steps off the porch kicks his way through unraked poplar and hickory leaves around to the backyard cups his liver-spotted hands to the window and sees my grandparents lying in bed like spoons in an unopened drawer --Still asleep! Outrageous! he taps lightly on the double-hung window 56
then more loudly and finally shouts: "Forrest! What in tarnation?" tries to raise the window but finds it locked heart rattling now he looks for a rock but finds none takes off his jacket wraps it around his bony forearm and fist and punches the glass reaches inside clatter of shards on the hardwood floor flips open the latch climbs over the sill with a spryness scavenged from his lost youth opens more windows from inside holding his red handkerchief over nose and mouth then drags my limp grandparents one at a time down the hall out the back door into the October air awhirl with scents of rotting apples and wood smoke ~ Back at the school hours after my grandparents are revived by cold cistern water scooped from the principal's hands he tells Miss Hagerty about the rescue-the coal stove and its mixed blessings of heat and carbon monoxide the partially closed chimney damper Dr. Hoffmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s estimate that mere minutes separated the teacher and his wife from death Sheriff Carter's low whistle upon hearing the principal's tale
"You saved that young couple's life," Miss Hagerty opines with her usual bland astuteness peering over iron spectacles perched on the prow of her nose he looks out the window and pictures children grandchildren great-grandchildren tumbling out of Forrest and Grace's bed and wonders if any of them will ask what kind of a man he was.
EDITOR’S NOTE Who would have imagined that 2020 would be so uncertain, travel restrictions, lockdowns, political unrest and a growing sense of scientific distrust? In some ways it reminds me of the Roman Republic and Roman Empires at their most volatile of moments from the social conflicts of 59/60 and the chaotic and loss of knowledge during the closure of schools and censure of educational and religious standards of 361 AD In these trying times it is important to remain creative to read, to sing to dance and to enjoy what moments we can snatch from the madness, all life is like embers from a fire a fleeting moment in time caught in the wind and carried away. I’m going to try and stay away from anything political in this editorial there’s plenty of other outlets for that instead let us focus on the poetry and prose that resides within these pages. Happy reading, good health, and keep creating, Amos Greig (Editor) BA Hons Ancient History and English recipient of the Artists Emergency Grant provided by the Arts Council Northern Ireland.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: KAREN PETERSEN Karen Petersen's poems, short stories, and flash have appeared in a variety of national and international literary magazines and anthologies. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She has read at the KGB Bar in NYC, Teatro Paraguas, the Santa Fe Public Library, and the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe. She was also responsible for "The Badlands are Everywhere" evening honoring Malpais Review and editor Gary Brower, at Teatro Paraguas in 2017, and for co-organizing and participating in the "All-Star Poetry Reading" at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe in 2018. In 2019 she was one of the judges and participants in the Santa Fe Telepoem Booth, a national poetry/art installation project. In 2020 she was asked to be one of the state judges in the National Poetry Out Loud competition created by the NEA and Poetry Foundation. As a photojournalist and foreign correspondent, Karen had assignments for The New York Times, Newsweek, Harper's, The Nation, People, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Forward, German GEO, Wildlife Conservation, The Universal Press Syndicate, Hortus, The London Daily Telegraph, The Times of London, Rolling Stone, U.S. News & World Report, Travel & Leisure, Scholastic, Unicef, UNDP, USIA and the World Bank.
Karen also won the Pushcart Prize
Three Poems from the Time of the Pandemic
Counting Down It was a cordial call. I had to. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thank you so very much...blah blah blahâ&#x20AC;? The social niceties. But my wheezing was pronounced. The dying winds of a fading body. I could tell she could hear it. Her distancing began almost from the start. Probably unconscious. The uncomfortable silent spaces... No one wants a call from a dying person. Ensnared. A reminder. You too, will go. How to end comfortably what began as courtesy? A simple act of Politesse. All was said that could be said. Her relief was palpable. I wonder if she even was aware of it. That fear that binds us all. With each day, tightening.
Emergency Skyrocketing blood pressure, weakening veins, confused thinking, massive headache, trembling, A semi-coherent call to 911. Is this just a run-through, or will it be the end? I see the seriousness on the EMT’s faces although too delirious now to be frightened I surrender to the rocking of the ambulance, my cradle, its lights flashing red through the blinding snow. Of course that December night it was a blizzard, the ambulance struggling through the side streets like a drowning animal trying to survive, me chattering mindlessly all the while unaware of the precipice. Black ice everywhere, white-out conditions, the driver moving our small, fragile world forward almost by instinct on the vanished road. Suddenly there is the hospital, a bunkered, sacred fortress on the hill, the castle of my salvation, surrounded by white, bright light everywhere. I wonder: is this the light of death, or is this the light of my redemption? It bears down on me, laser-like, and then there it is: EMERGENCY, in blood red letters, someone rushing over, saying “you are going to be okay,” dissolving me into tears, as I know now I have held onto my precious life only by a state of grace.
Unforseen Consequences People donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to be found. They burrow into their lives. And when they die, writing the obit is like dragging the badger out all over again, dirty and clawing, ready to bite.