north of oxford poetry

Storm and the Woman by John Grey

storm
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Storm and the Woman
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Jessie was frightened of the lightning.
Not the thunder, that was just noise, and she’d been
married to a man who boxed in his spare time.
And the rain was nothing. In fact, she welcomed the rain.
But lightning could hit any place, any time,
and not just some solitary forest tree or an old barn
about to fall anyhow but a living, breathing human being.
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She sat with this new guy on the couch,
hugged him so close like she was trying to get
inside him for protection.
And then the thunder rolled loud and near.
She shuddered. “I didn’t think you
were afraid of thunder,” he said.
But she’d just remembered the times
her ex whacked her face suddenly, violently.
Lightning, thunder…it was near impossible
to separate the two.
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Then the clouds broke and the rain poured. She started
to sob violently. “Always used to cry like this when he hit me,”
she said. “Maybe you’re different,” she added.
He was. And then eventually storms were different.
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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work
upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie
Review and failbetter.

The Finding by John D. Robinson

IMG_3131 (4)
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The Finding
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‘You can be saved’
he told me,
‘Like me’
he said,
one time male
prostitute and
heroin addict
who found god and
a woman to
marry and had
children:
‘Saved from what?’
I asked
‘From sin,
from debauchery,
from hell’ he
replied confidently:
3 or 4 years
later he’d left
his wife, moved into
a city
apartment with a
male lover
who died of AIDS
and several months
later he died of a
heroin overdose:
I’m still here,
drinking wine,
smoking hash
and swallowing
pills,
somewhere
between
heaven and hell
we’ll meet again
sometime soon
my friend.
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Two Poems by Joan McNerney

cellar
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Falling Asleep
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Curling into a question mark
                eyes shuttered
                         lips pursed
                               hands empty.
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Dropping through
long dusty shafts
down into dank cellars.
Leaving behind faded day.
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That last cup of sunlight
pouring from fingertips.
Lulled by rattling trains,
                sighs of motors.
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Bringing nothing but
memory into night.
Now I will  untie knots
                   tear off wrappings
opening wide bundles of dreams.
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How Trouble Grows
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Trouble is patient
hiding around corners.
creeping through shadows
entering without a sound.
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It starts as a seed blown
by careless winds and
covers your garden with
foul  brackish weeds.
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Or sparks from a match
spread over fertile ground
becoming flames speeding
through the long night.
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Trouble knows where you live.
You cannot hide from it.
Gaining a foothold, growing
fat feeding on your flesh.
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Watch how trouble grows
inch by inch, molecule
by molecule coursing
through your veins.
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Trouble begins as a whisper
day by day growing louder.
Stronger than your heart beat
becoming a thumping drum.
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Soon you will forget
there was a time
when trouble was
not at your side.
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Vivitar

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.

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I Am Afraid of the Dark by Phil Rowan

morgue
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I Am Afraid of the Dark
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Someone is
cleaning the mess
I left behind.
They handle
and caress my body
carefully
which is what I
longed for most of all.
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Talking about families
and news events,
ignoring the body
sounds and twitches
that are familiar,
I hope they don’t smoke
while doing their work
I’m allergic to tobacco
it makes me cough
uncontrollably.
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Their work done,
calling it a day,
flip the switch,
leave the room.
I am afraid
of the dark.
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I naturally want
to curl like a babe
but I can’t move,
the slab is
uncomfortably cold
even for the dead.
Pops and creaks
interrupt the deafening
silence.
Desperate to call out,
hoping I’m not alone,
my tongue,
a leathery flap,
lies still.
I am afraid
of the dark.
I sense a strangeness,
a void,
no rhythmic breathing,
no pulsing sensation,
emptiness.
No activity to gauge my
existence, except…….
mental awareness.
Awareness of no one there
to comfort me in the darkness.
I am afraid
of the dark
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Phil Rowan graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BA in Psychology. He is a self taught artist specializing in landscape and still life.  He has a passion for writing traditional and free verse poetry.
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Five Poems by Catfish McDaris

mcdaris
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Okra and Peyote 
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Willie came from the nasty streets
the Santa Fe R &R tracks divided
the village, whitey, brownie, blackie
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Mostly ragged folks getting by,
most of the adobes were plastered
but some mud clay blocks were exposed
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Willie was my primo, he grew mota, okra,
chilis, peyote, magic mushrooms, and
grapes, we hung it to dry from the vigas
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In the lemon-yellow sun of enchantment,
a vato came by to pull a rip off, I put a 357
in his ear and offered to cancel his Xmas.
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Black Horse
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Anyone can be gat, look
in the good book and the
Four Horsemen of the Ap-
calypso: Pestilence, War,
Famine, Death, flying
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Scorpions, nightingales, the
lady vacuumed the fireflies
from the sky, there are no
roses without bloody thorns
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He reached out and broke
off a chunk of banana moon
it tasted rather bizarre, tickling
the guitar strings laughter can
be heard through the adobe
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Village, coyotes, and senoritas
did the St Vitus’ dance until
the apricot pumpkin stars,
turned the clouds terracotta.
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Mexican Black
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I see ears in the swirling starry night.
the sky is drunk, the sun puking lemon
juice, the moon has a toothache, the lady
asked the dope fiend to come to talk to
Jesus, he stinks of absinthe and funk.
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Sometimes at night I meet
myself when I was young,
I disgust myself now
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What color is the wind?
What color is an orgasm?
What color is death?
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There is no sea of tranquility
There’s no such thing as a small miracle
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Drinking Mexican coffee as black as death
Lady Gaga drives up in a dirty Mercury
they head to the Valley of Rhinoceroses
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Listening to Swordfish Trombone and
Bitches Brew overlooking Mexico City.
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The Sky is a Gun Barrel of Loneliness
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Death eats
you like a
soggy
cookie
in coffee
how long
will
I pretend
to care
I never
expected
or wanted
to live this
fucking
long.
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Everyone Should Own One Nightmare
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I stare at my daughter’s bullet
proof vest and feel the thinness
I wonder how this can stop a
bullet, it’s dangerous to be a co
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Every night you worry if your
baby is safe, and wonder what
can you do to protect her, I would
step in front of a bullet in a heartbeat.
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Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 25 years. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee. The photo of me is after my house burned down and my dog died, the cat escaped.

 

Sub – Zero Visibility by Vandana Kumar

pm2.5
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Sub – Zero Visibility
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The city with masks
Buy one
Get one free
Works for PM2.5
It screams
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And you put it on
You pass the sewages
You don’t notice the smell
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The urchins
Long since removed
From your lexicon
The ghettos you cross
Such trepidation
.
Caught in parking lots
Can’t reverse
Can’t move ahead
And 4am extremities for the insomniac
Either porn
Or religious discourse
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The districts in old town
Offer you flesh
Come hither looks
Or boast such purity
You think
She never ever touched herself
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‘Smoke gets in your eyes’
The city and its mask
Works well for PM2.5
It taught you how to shed tears
But muffled the cries
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k
Vandana Kumar is a bon vivant who loves travelling, working with young minds and exploring possibilities beyond the ordinary. A middle school French teacher in New Delhi, her passions include playing the piano.  She has been published at ‘GloMag’, ‘Scarlet Leaf Review’, ‘Destiny Poets’. One of her poems was shortlisted and published by the “All India Poetry Society.
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The Patient fractures after by Arlyn Labelle

leftovers

The patient fractures after

There are some truths we do not think about often; his cat that he stopped looking for, the cat’s brother who went to his aunt? His cousin? There are other truths that we think about with the frequency of tooth brushing; the leftovers in the fridge which stayed longer than he did, the last words “I’m tired.” Then there are the truths that are not true, that we will debate about, angrily. What was the last game we played together? What did he cook that day, pork chops? Ribs? There are still other truths that we will not think for a long time, perhaps a year or two years, and then they will take the weather. When he died, there was a bucket of vomit next to his bed.

He will continue dying after he dies. His board games will be taken and put in an untouchable place. The couple with a single painting of his will separate, and the painting will only hang on one of their two walls. We will all start moving to the country, to the city. We will not listen to the music he liked, except maybe briefly, maybe one day when we want to cry while driving, and then we will listen and we will struggle to breathe and the pain will be so deep, so complete that it will scare us.

We will touch his death over and over again, frantically, trying to find new pain in it and largely succeeding. We will look at pictures of him and listen to videos where he is laughing and think, “Thank God, thank God for this.” We cannot remember our own wailing, but we will miss the feeling of it. The clarity of our pain.

We will have other deaths, all of us, many times. The graveyard he is in will fill, and strangers will stand next to it, be buried next to it. Cars will rear end each other near it and the drivers will spend some time looking in it’s direction, waiting for a police car, not knowing him but feeling some fraction of the weight of death.

There will be things that do not relate to him at all. We will own pets he never met, eat at restaurants that opened after he was already dead, buried, gone. We will have children who will not know he existed, or if we tell them, they will forget. Or, we will not have children, we will have coworkers, we will have friends, we will tell jokes that he would not have laughed at, watch movies he would not have cried at, cook meals he would not have eaten. We will do these things and we will not think of him, sometimes.

Writer's Photograph

Arlyn LaBelle is a poet and flash fiction writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared multiple times in the Badgerdog summer anthologies as well as The Blue Hour, LAROLA, JONAH Magazine,  North of Oxford, The Oddville Press, Songs of Eretz, Grey Sparrow Press, Cease, Cows and The Southern Poetry Review.

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