poetry

3 Poems by Gwil James Thomas

pool 2
Threnody.
 .
I was nine years old
sat in the corner of the pub with
my fearless and immortal uncle
with his endless stories and scars –
that ranged from being shot in Bosnia,
to boxing in the military,
to falling down cliffs,
to climbing out of car wrecks
half dead, but also half alive.
.
There’d been a disagreement earlier
between my uncle and the three men
in the corner, something that
I’d presumed had been settled after
my uncle had beaten them at a game
of killer on the pool table,
but when they threw beermats at us
from across the pub with surprising
accuracy and one hit me in the lip –
I knew that it’d only just begun.
.
Ruffling my hair, my uncle then
downed his pint and walked outside
with the three of them.
.
By the time I got to the door and
peered outside one of the men
had disappeared and the other two
were on the floor,
as my now shirtless and bleeding
uncle stood over them and
sure enough, the police arrived –
arrested him and drove me home.
.
I never once saw any fear in his eyes,
not for that or anything else,
he was my hero, my blood, my uncle –
he taught me that fear was a fucker,
but after he’d escaped a moving car
that was speeding down
a French motorway to survive the fall,
only to be hit by a coach –
I also learnt more about fearlessness
and immortality then than he could
have ever taught me
in his thirty one
years on Earth.
.
Argentinian Croissant.
.
So, I try something
different
flakey but sweet,
familiar yet new –
I still get
butterflies
even though
you remind me that
we’re just friends
and that’d be fine
except now I’ve
gotta work out
how to be
lonesome again –
a new dawn rises
over the beaches
streets and factories
and nothing lasts
forever and now
I’m thinking that’s
for the better –
I finish my coffee
and take a final
pastry bite
as the sun kisses
your neck,
maybe you’ll
be easier
as a memory –
flakey but sweet,
familiar yet new
and
so tasty whileit
lasted,
nevertheless.
.
Poem on The Line.  
.
I reeled it up
to the surface,
feeling like I’d soon
have a little
meat to feed
some lost souls –
yet when it
slammed
onto the deck,
chunks of it
were missing –
its sad mouth
slowly opening
and closing,
as if trying to
whisper 
missing words,
but it was no use
it wasn’t the poem
I’d imagined –
so I smeared
what was left of its
guts onto this page,
kissed its head
and chucked it
back into the
drying ocean
of my mind,
hoping
for another tug
on the line
soon.
.
gwil
“Gwil James Thomas is a novelist, poet and inept musician originally from Bristol, England. In 2019 his poetry has been featured in East London Press’ 3 Poets Volume One and his fiction has been published in Low Light Magazine # 2. He also has two forthcoming poetry chapbooks from Concrete Meat Press and Holy & Intoxicated Publications. Other work can be found widely in print and also online. He currently lives in San Sebastián, Northern Spain.”
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Tatow by Holly Day

tat
.
Tatow
.
The years of marriage can be counted like lines
dark as any made by a thread-wrapped needle dipped in ink
inflicted with the same grunting force as a thin-lipped woman
with a thorn-tipped stick, is it love that holds you down
or just the restraining weight you can’t shake free?
.
There are consequences for complaining, for those small, quiet sounds
you think no one can hear in the middle of the night. Those have all been tallied
and when you finally die, your complaints will be
imprinted on your skin in indelible ink for all to see, buried deep inside
the son and daughter who watched your dreams fold in like a wrinkled butterfly
a specimen drawer of dreams pushed down by the end of a pin.
.
holly
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit.net), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing).
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2 poems by Foy Timms

hole in house
.
In Parcels of Dusk
.
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.
.
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.
.
In Mourning Boots
.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.
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

The System by John D. Robinson

blowout
.
The System
.
‘The system let me down’
is something I often hear
and it’s true,
systems often break-down
and when this happens
shit-happens,
systems, concepts are
nothing more than
theories on how this or
that would operate
effectively,
just ideas,
like the idea that oil,
gas and water are
‘owned’ by giant
corporations rather than
being the rightful
ownership of the globe’s
population,
but we let ourselves
down as individuals and
collectively, systems,
theories, philosophies
divide and corrupt:
love unites
compassion and
humanity unites
but you won’t find
them in any
system
love
compassion
humanity
aren’t yet
copyrighted.
.
john 3
John D Robinson is a UK poet; hundreds of his poems have appeared in print and online: he has published numerous chapbooks and a full collection of his poetry: ‘Hang In There’ Uncollected Press USA: https://therawartreview.com/books-for-sale/
.
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Obit by Doug Holder

chair
.
Obit
.
But he was 68 years old.
Only a few years older…
A twinge in his pancreas
dead in three months.
.
Or he was found on the toilet seat.
Cheap plaid boxers
under an expensive linen suit.
.
They found him propped in his favorite chair
in front of the TV
Archie Bunker said “Ah, Jeez”
and he was gone.
.
They were known for their kindness
but what a world we would have had.
These men and women
proud of their service
survived by many
as if it was an accomplishment
a son in Cleveland
a daughter in Dallas.
.
They were just a few years older
the black and white
post office face
that stares
at me
as a matter
of fact.
.
douggg
Doug Holder teaches English at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston.. He is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, and is the arts/editor for The Somerville Times. His latest book of verse is ” Last Night at the Wursthaus”  ( Grey Sparrow Press)  He recently collaborated on a play with playwright Lawrence Kessenich  “The Patient,” which had a staged reading at Playwright’s Platform in Boston. Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Soft Targets by Deborah Landau

soft
.
By Charles Rammelkamp
.
Deborah Landau’s new collection continues themes from her previous book, Uses of the Body, which explores the inevitable decline of our physical selves, the body’s vulnerability, its exposure to pain, while celebrating the creative aspects of our beings, the intimate intertwining of pleasure and death. Like that collection, too, there are only eight titles (seven in Uses of the Body), with many of these poems composed of parts which build upon themselves.
.
Unlike the previous collection, these poems add an urgency of political turmoil on top of the individual defenselessness/helplessness, the existential equation. The metaphor of the “soft target” recurs throughout. The first title, “when it comes to this fleshed neck,” begins:
.
When it comes to this fleshed neck
even a finger could do it
.
even a sharp stick,
a blunt blow, a fall –
.
my jugular
there’s a soft target
.
What an image, the soft exposed throat; you can see the vein throbbing under the thin skin, practically begging for violation. This poem ends with the vision of a suicide bomber on a subway train.  Everybody is vulnerable.
.
The next three poems, multi-part suites, focus on Paris (“there were real officers in the streets”), site of so many terrorist attacks; Frankfurt, Germany, as the Holocaust goes into full swing (“those Nazis, they knew what to do with a soft”), and America (“America wants it soft”).  “Existence is killing us,” she writes in the first, with bitter irony.  Paris, the city of love, romance, Eros. “…in Paris we stayed all night / in a seraphic cocktail haze,” she writes, when one may be at her most exposed, least vigilant, not to say at the same time triumphant in her possibilities.
.
Tonight we’re the most tender of soft targets,
pulpy with alcohol and all asloth.
Monsieur, can we get a few more?
.
A few pages later:
.
I’m a soft target, you’re a soft target,
and the city has a hundred hundred thousand softs;
.
the pervious skin, the softness of the face,
the wrist inners, the hips, the lips, the tongue,
.
the global body,
its infinite permutable softnesses…
.
And indeed, this section of the poem likewise ends with a vision of a terrorist’s arsenal: “The bad news is Kalashnikov assault rifles / submachine guns, pistols, ammunition….”
.
Later in this poem come the lines:
.
I rolled over and tried to sleep
thinking mostly of self-preservation,
how it makes everything else irrelevant….
.
Keep your wits about you! The next poem is exactly about self-preservation, the author’s Jewish grandmother escaping Nazi Germany at the end of the 1930’s.  The poem begins:
.
I don’t know
what’s so neo
about neo-nazis
.
they seem a lot
like the old
nazis to me
.
“Those Nazis, they knew / what to do with a soft” – those lines that make up the title of the piece – “an adagio of soft”: a slow, orchestrated movement, deliberate. Yet she escapes, “when, how, when would she / get to New York, St. Louis, Detroit?
.
(the swiftest bike to bike
a frantic Frankfurt, her wits
.
the manifold papers
certified stamped correct)

 .

And then we come to America wants it soft, which is again the current political moment, when “To be female on coronation night was a difficulty. / Her skin under his thumb was a sickhouse was too much.” This sounds so familiar in the Donald Trump era, doesn’t it? Even before the Alabama and Georgia abortion laws. And again, keep your wits about you! Note the escape routes, be familiar with the exit strategy:

.

Keep your passport handy, keep cash

keep water and batteries, collect your meds

and loved ones, just in case,

and silence your phone.

.
This poem ends with a sort of elegy for our dying democracy:
.

The end of America, no one knew how to manage it

but we tried the typical ways of numbing pain –

my daughter painted tiny flowers on her toenails,

I mixed honey and vodka, squeezing in a lime,

and we carried on with our breathing –

my father was still alive, my body kept aging,

the pills helped a little, not a lot.
.
The final poems are no less powerful, contemplating the responsibility of giving birth to a child in these times, a daughter no less, while celebrating the creative act (“Such a reckless act, to pop out a human, / with the jaws of the world set to kill.”); and contemplating, too, the sheer inevitability of death, no matter how we try to forestall or circumvent it.
.
I’ll antioxidize as best I can
bat away death with berries and flax
but there’s no surviving
this slick merciless world
a bucket of guts we’ll be
full-blown dead
.
Deborah Landau’s subtle, mordant wit is evident throughout these passages, as is her lyrical skill with words and sounds (“alcohol and all asloth”; “wrist inners, the hips, the lips”; “the swiftest bike to bike / a frantic Frankfurt, her wits” to cite a few examples).  Soft Targets is relevant and gorgeous at the same time.
.
.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by Future Cycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is) –

http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Time%20Is%20on%20My%20Side%20FREE.pdf