poems

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
 .
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
 .
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
 .
What color is the wind?
What color is an orgasm?
What color is death?
 .
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
 .
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.

 

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Oblique Music: A Book of Hours by Elizabeth Bodien

oblique

By Jenny Ward Angyal

a life entire
in the swoop of a blackbird
wing flash of red
sufficient this morning
for a rising up of wonder
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Poet Elizabeth Bodien has captured ‘a life entire’ in the 102 tanka of this handsome little book. Subtitled A Book of Hours, it is divided into nine sections inspired by the traditional structure of the liturgical day. Each section opens with essentially the same photograph of the sun over water, but the colors of the image and the sun’s position within it change to reflect the time of day or night, until we reach the final section, ‘Beyond’, which opens with an image of star-filled sky. The poems are printed in restful periwinkle ink on creamy blue-white paper; one poem per page allows plenty of time and space to contemplate each small gem. .

And it is of course the poems themselves that matter most. The poems in this collection, most of which first appeared in various tanka journals over the course of a decade, move simultaneously through the hours of a day, the seasons of a year, and the seasons of a life, capturing moments and reflections each of which is ‘sufficient . . . for a rising up of wonder.’
he poet displays a fine sensitivity to the world around her:
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iridescent blue
two dragonflies
catch and throw
waning sunlight
onto the path
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 . . . and also to her own interior landscape:
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lingering in bed
one moment longer
I trawl
the vast in-between
where creation might stir
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The first tanka above is an exquisite capture of something that most people would simply overlook; the second explores that fertile state between sleeping and waking where the riches of the subconscious mind may be most accessible. Elizabeth Bodien’s creations are shot through with ‘waning sunlight’, a poignant sense of the ephemeral:
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I buy cut tulips
arrange them in a vase
for their color
and because I trust
they will be here tomorrow
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The closing lines suggest that the narrator—like all of us—knows well that many beautiful or beloved things will not ‘be here tomorrow’. The clarity and simplicity of this tanka typify the way in which these poems illuminate everyday phenomena and help us to see how such ordinary things point beyond themselves to the unknown.
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barely touching
his scraped bloody knee
the boy ponders
for the first time
what is inside him
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From the child’s first intimations of vulnerability to the adult’s full knowledge of death, these poems simultaneously mourn losses and celebrate life:
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we are all old
now that you’ve gone
you danced
like a butterfly
on the lid of our lives
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What a beautiful five-line portrait of someone whose life seems to have been emblematic of freedom and joy. Loss of loved ones leads inevitably to reflection on what happens ‘beyond’:
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smoke rises
from the burning barrel
our trash
turns to ash, to air
what will we become?
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 . . . and it is no accident that the final section of this ‘book of hours’ is entitled ‘Beyond’, reaching outside the traditional cycle of the liturgical day and  hinting, like the following tanka, at a larger reality:
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frost flickers
on the dark window
a thin veil
separates this earth
from beyond
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Elizabeth Bodien, who holds degrees in cultural anthropology, consciousness studies, religions, and poetry, recently published a nonfiction book about her past-life regressions. She has also published five books of ‘mainstream’ poetry and has won numerous poetry awards, including several for haiku. Readers of her Oblique Music will hope that this accomplished poet, with her wealth of experience, insight, and wonder, will continue to travel the tanka road.
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we peer
from the bus
across the river
our final destination
the city veiled in mist
.
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Jenny Ward Angyal’s  poems have appeared in many journals and may also be found on her blog, The Grass Minstrel. . Her tanka collection, moonlight on water (Skylark Publishing), appeared in 2016. She co-edited the Tanka Society of America’s 2016 Members’ Anthology, Ripples in the Sand, and was Reviews & Features Editor of Skylark: a Tanka Journal, for over five years.
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Her Heartsongs by Joan Colby

HER-HEARTSGONS-187x300

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Published by Presa Press of Rockford, Michigan, Joan Colby’s, Her Heartsongs, presents 69 pages of poems that create an intensity of emotion with fresh views of every day and familiar events
The lead poem on page nine entitled Her Heart, discusses the difference between a man’s heartbeat and a woman’s.
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                  The heart of a woman beats faster than the heart of a
                        man.
                  A billion heartbeats over a lifetime. No wonder a woman
                  Is tired.  No wonder she crawls into bed with a book\
                        before
                 The evening news arrives.  Her heart is misdiagnosed
                 Repeatedly.  The symptoms atypical.  Blockages in the
                        small
                 Arteries the tiny byways clogging unseen by the radiant
                         eye.
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The thirty-line single stanza poem points out how the great artery of a man’s heart is called the widow maker. Colby suggests there is no name for the woman’s.  The implication of what breaks a woman whose heart is made of  cut- velvet or satin , emblazoned with a scroll surrounded by cherubs suggests the gentle complexity that brings a woman’s heart to break.  The skillful presentation of the differences between men and women gives a fresh view through the imagery of the heart  and the way it beats through life then stops.  She has  a light touch that resonates.
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On page thirty-two, Colby’s poem Moving Men reveals how the things in ones life represent the past, present and future. Most of us have been through the common event of moving our things from one place to another so the reader is able to relate to the theme of the poem and understand the implications.  She begins the poem talking about keepsakes from a first love packed into sawdust and she ends the poem:
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                    Days of muscle and sweat.  You watch
                    The truck back out of tne drive.  Stow
                    Everything that is left, an inventory
                    of  tomorrows.
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The poem frames time in the things we move and the things we box up for later. Her use of the act of moving works well as a symbol both of time and the changes one goes through.
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Philip Dacey says the poems that Colby presents show an emotional intensity and large sympathies. I agree.  The book is a pleasure to read for the commonality of subject matter and the fresh perception of how every day events define the human conditionShe chooses such subjects as wash day, working, anniversaries and happiness to reveal and define individuals as works in progress. Colby is successful in her astute observations.
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Her Heartsongs is available through Baker and Taylor, The Book House, Coutts Information Services, Midwest Library Services, and directly from the publisher Ptesa Press at Presa Press
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review, Bindweed Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, That Literary Review, The Remembered Arts Journal, and other literary magazines.
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Two Poems by Lynette G. Esposito

tree
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If
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The trees are the earth’s legs
Where are they walking to?
The sky won’t have them
The sun burns their leaves
One legged they stand at attention
Unmoving
Afraid to fall,
leaning into the wind.
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If
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The tall grass is the earth’s hair
Filtering the dark dirt
Waving in untilled fields
Rising up and away
From its many anchors
Why is it trying to flee
And where does it want to go?
When cut, it comes back in the same place.
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If
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We are earth’s indigenous
species, why don’t we all look alike?
Why is some skin burnt and others copper
And still others like coconut milk?
Where are our two legs always moving
uprooted
unlike our green cousins?
Where are we trying to plant ourselves to be safe?
.
If
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We are blades
slicing life’s water with our razor tongues,
drinking in the vapors to douse the fire within,
why do our souls combine with earth and become
one when our open mouths can no longer speak?
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Miracle of Birth
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Deep in the dark womb
where God’s face is clear,
we know the other side of life.
Dark there is not the dark here.
.
We flourish attached to the ancient vine
that winds back to the original garden.
We are seed from an apple long forgotten.
.
In the silt of our mothers,
.
the different kind of dark
is the miracle of light.
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review, Bindweed Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, That Literary Review, The Remembered Arts Journal, and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.

The Trajectory of Sharon Olds – a look at five poems

Sharon-Olds-PortraitcBret-768x511
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By Ray Greenblatt
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         Leafing through the most popular poems by Sharon Olds, I discerned the development of a mid-twentieth century woman. I am not interested in whether this is the poet’s actual life revealed; what I did see was the representative life of many American women, vivified by these highly emotional and uniquely rendered poems.

 

          The poems I will be investigating are: her parents in The Victims; dating in After Making Love in Winter; marriage in The Wedding Vow; her daughter in The Month of June: 13 ½; and finally divorce in Unspeakable.

                                                               I – THE VICTIMS

          This poem opens with rather prosaic lines explaining how the mother and her children battled against what must have been the abusive treatment perpetrated by the alcoholic father.

          We don’t begin to know the essence of the father until we encounter striking imagery. His suits were “those dark carcasses hung in your closet.” “Carcasses” were once living things that the father no longer is figuratively, having lost his living as well as being kicked out of his home.

          Likewise, that image is intensified by “the black noses of your shoes with their large pores.” Even the shoes were alive, if leather, especially if they had “noses.” “Their large pores” added a distasteful element to the human comparison that will be touched on later with the use of several other images.

          It seems as though the mother, with her own limitations, had to teach the children to hate, because love for parents can be a powerful, instinctive quality without the leaven of reason. So “we pricked with her for your annihilation” employs a strange verb in that context; the children had to be pushed. The excessive word “annihilation” underscores how their hate had reached extremes.

          Then the poem serves to view down-and-out street people. They are strongly described in ugly terms: “The white slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their suits of compressed silt” and “stained flippers of their hands.” It is as if these people inhabit an aqueous lower world.

          The final telling image continues the sea reference: “The underwater fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the lanterns lit.” These people are still alive—“fire of their eyes” and “lanterns lit” and we are led to wonder if the woman who has spoken throughout this poem has come to feel pity for people who have lost everything– including her father.

                                        II – AFTER MAKING LOVE IN WINTER

          This is a very sensual, passionate poem. After making love the woman feels “a plate of iron laid down on my nerves” and “our bodies touch like blooms of fire.”

          This experience has intensified all of her senses so that she sees “the light from the hall burns in straight lines and casts up narrow beams on the ceiling, a figure throwing up its arms for joy.” “The angle itself is blessed, and the dark globes of the chandeliers.”

          A very unique comparison is “the silvery bulbs” cause her to “feel my ovaries deep in my body.” The intensity of this sexual experience reverberates throughout her body to its very core.

          For her, intercourse has made her a complete human being; before, she was a child. “Like God putting the finishing touches on, before sending me down to be born.”

          And with the line “we have come to the end of questions” the woman and man no longer wonder if they can relate fully; they now feel that they have formed a deep indissoluble union.

                                                     III – THE WEDDING VOW

          The couple legalizes their relationship in a simple church, not an ornate high church. Although they have already made a laypersons’ pact between them, they desire a religious benediction.

          And religious imagery is significantly used. “God’s stable perfectly cleaned” while outside is “a moat of mud.” This stresses the plainness of the church, even employing a reference to where Jesus was born.
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          The poet uses what I may call a unique “delay technique.” For instance:
          In truth, we had married
          that first night, in bed, we had been
          married by our bodies, but now we stood
          in history—what our bodies had said,
          mouth to mouth, we now said publicly,
          gathered together, death.
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The word “death” holds considerable power coming at the very end of the sentence. It sums up a total relationship between two people that inevitably ends in old age and death.
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          Again: “We stood
          holding each other by the hand, yet I also
          stood as if alone, for a moment,
          just before the vow, though taken
          years before, took.
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“Took” shows that it involved a long time to develop a relationship before the woman personally could feel secure in it.
          Finally, early in the poem “flies” are wiped off the Bible the minister holds. Later in the poem they appear again to refer to the woman’s parents in a comparison of the two marriages:
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           I felt
           the silent, dry, crying ghost of my
           parents’ marriage there, somewhere
          in the bright space—perhaps one of the
          plummeting flies, bouncing silently
          as it hit forsaking all others
          then was brushed away.
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                                                  IV – THE MONTH OF JUNE: 13 ½

          Years later the couple now has a teenage daughter. They love her very much and applaud each of her growing stages. The poet capsulizes each stage by using school years. Kindergarten is defined as “a strip of thumb-suck blanket.” 1st grade is “a dim cocoon . . . back there somewhere on the path.” 4th grade was a “hard jacket . . . when she had so much pain.”  This reference is cleverly slurred over, as many youngsters encounter difficult times for myriad reasons. “Magenta rind of 5th grade” could mean the daughter graduated from one school, shedding one for another.

          And now 8th grade is “a chrysalis cracking”; she is outgrowing another school, but also as a person she is growing up. “The whole school is coming off her shoulders like a cloak unclasped.” “Her jerky sexy child joke dance is self, self.”  She can “jazz out her hands” and “chant I’m great! I’m great!”  She is not conceited, only realizing her worth.
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          The parents are watching:
          Like a good mother and a
          good father who looked down and
          love everything their baby does, the way she
          lives their love.
.

The parents take joy in their daughter maturing into a feeling, expressive adult; so far they have succeeded in raising their child.

                                                           V – UNSPEAKABLE

          After thirty years of marriage the wife is involved in divorce. It is “unspeakable” because it is a tragedy to her; it might also be that she has not come to terms with it using reason. Her mate is “my almost-no-longer husband.”
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          She is still full of questions:  “What was it like, to love me—when you looked at me, what did you see?”
         She muses sadly: “When he loved me, I looked out at the world as if from inside a profound dwelling.”
          She thought:
          We were joined not just for breath’s time,
          but for the long continuance,
          the hard candies of femur and stone,
          the fastnesses.
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          She tries to show no anger, sometimes employs even humor. “All is courtesy and horror.”

          We don’t know the complete story. Is someone to blame? We don’t know his side—except hints of another woman—and never will. In life we often don’t learn all sides of a situation. A poem can explore just so much.  The ending is an enigma: “When I say, is this about her, and he says, No, it’s about you, we do not speak of her.”

I see these five poems as a five-act play about a woman’s life. A woman lives through a difficult childhood. She falls in love. She marries. She and her husband have a child who fulfills them. However, after considerable time their marriage bonds do not hold. The woman cannot say she is reliving her parents’ marriage; hers is different. Also, her child has received a firm foundation to live a healthy life. As all adults, the woman must meet new challenges and continue her life. With power, humanity, and keen poetic skills, Sharon Olds allows us to view all of these vicissitudes in life.
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Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.
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2 poems by Foy Timms

hole in house
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In Parcels of Dusk
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A sack of children elbowed their life chances
into semicircles of existence.
Emerging from concrete at birth,
the boys grew into gaps
beyond tenderness and direction.
And the holes in their houses were unforgiving,
tipping them into a mean thankless bowl of deracinated living.
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Hurrying along the banks of their lives,
joined up seasons of boy men
hang over stolen trolley futures and abandoned fairgrounds.
In tuneless, toothless margins of night,
they observe the inner linings of others, fidgeting in parcels of dusk.
The oldest trunk of a boy leans against tall scaffolding,
ungifting himself to the world.
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In Mourning Boots
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Slinking badger-like onto trains at barely lit stations,
I am holding onto your name,
holding onto your house
and the scattered belongings within,
before plunging them into hostile sky chapters
and then removing them again
with the forbearing patience of ventriloquist hands.
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Sinking into the valley of a peopleless carriage,
I earn an intangible survival
which nods at street lights from afar.
And now I am rubbing eloquence onto rudderless blunders
and midnight regrets which hide and seek their way
around forgiveness.
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And the overnight train abruptly jolts and then stops
as hours crease and cease to ache in evolving blue.
I walk out into piercing sunlight, emptied onto the lungs
of an undiscerning town.
Walking until I,
Walking still,
In mourning boots.
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foy
Foy Timms is a poet/writer based in Reading, Berkshire, U.K. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Glove, Hypnopomp, Peeking Cat Poetry and Pulp Poets Press, among others. She is preoccupied with themes/subjects such as fleeting ‘connections’, departure, solitude, British towns and villages, social exclusion and the sociopolitical dimensions of living spaces. Twitter: @FoyTimms