Springtime Nighttime The springtime nighttime sky has turned a strange shade of blue, mixed with a rainy grey. Now that it's cooled down, the soft air feels like the remembrance of a lover's kiss, so soft upon your brow. Like a respite from a fever. A soft, slow kiss, so full of tenderness, and love it almost reminds you of the goodnight kisses bestowed on you by your mother, when you were a small child. A kiss from the woman who you know will love you for an eternity, and more if it was possible. The orange streetlights cast down a mystic glow, upon the pavement, in which you cause long, creepy shadows of you and your dog, as you head towards home for a night of sweet talk, and even sweeter wordless understanding with the woman who you love. Mid-Afternoon, mid-March The sun is showing weakly in a watery pale blue sky. The threat of rain is never far away. In England it rarely is. It's a Tuesday, mid Afternoon, mid-March, nothing to make it special, or extraordinary. Unless I can make it so in my mind. I walk past run down garages and lock ups, all rust and corrosion, and peeling paintwork. There are two late middle aged men tinkering with a car that will never legally be on the road again. In the background Radio One is blaring out it's usual banal bullshit. DJs that sound like they've been lobotomized, and some of the worst music that you can imagine. Yes. It's a normal mid-March Tuesday, in the middle of the afternoon. Nothing to make it special, or extraordinary. Except that I wrote this poem about it. The Moon And My Mistakes The moon is a silver sliver against the black velvet of the sky. A crescent of light against night, the stars glisten in their infinity. What am I ? A tiny mass of atoms that doesn't mean a thing, and never will. I gain some comfort from this thought. If me and my life have no meaning then any of the stupid drunken mistakes that I make aren't even worth worrying about. In a hundred years we'll all be dead, and none of it will matter anyway. In a billion years the insects will probably be our rulers, and no one will be able to read this, or make any kind of sense of it. I don't know why but I love this thought. Me, you our so proud leaders, all gone. Buried beneath a billion years of dust. Yet there will still be that silver sliver of moon, shining down on the insects and us. Queues And Covid 19 As I stand in Covid 19 caused queues, waiting as only one person is allowed into a shop at a time. What was once a five minute trip to the shops can now take over an hour. Your hour is really taken over, too. With impatient curses, sheer hatred, implausible, inexcusable hatred aimed at the back of the head of the person who is in front of you. I hate the bloody face- masks too. Within about 30 seconds of putting one on, my glasses start to steam up, and I become almost blind. This causes serious problems when I am trying to count my money in a shop. So I take my spectacles off, place them on the counter, then the odds are even on whether I remember to pick them up again, or not. I've been lucky, most of the time, and the person working on the till reminds me but I have to admit that there's been more than one occasion when my wife has had to drive me back to each and every shop I have been in to find them again. Of course, this makes me feel even more useless than I usually do. My battered self esteem doesn't need any more knocks, but life keeps on supplying them anyway.
Future Version of Myself
What if the tragic future version of myself
has never experienced happiness and joy?
What if the beautiful future version of myself
grows old and frail too soon?
What if the bored future version of myself listens to Mercy Me
and decides that things ain’t what they used to be?
And what if the anxious future version of myself is forced to choose
between a better life or a better death?
What if the future version of myself never exists?
polystyrene cup/ fast food wrapper /
broken glass from an accident /
a stray L-plate / a crushed tin can /
along with / forgotten memories /
of past liaisons /
Bio: Henry is a writer, poet and mental health essayist based in Somerset in the UK. He has a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Birmingham. He is the author of several poetry collections and his work can be seen in Pure Slush, Lunate, and Synchronized Chaos, among other places.
That idiotic doctor smiling down at me as if I am a Christmas leg of lamb ready to carve into my chest searching for a purse of gold and municipal bonds safely guarded by Margaret’s father cruel old bastard God forgive me bribing me to marry his obnoxious daughter crying in the corridor afraid I might live and interrupt her carnality and bastardly children dear Lord I am sorry do not treat me harshly why did you plant this Covid-19 have I not suffered through years of archaic gospel and fanatic potbellied evangelists kill Margaret’s father or my bacchanal son not me or that incompetent surgeon ready to claim my wife’s loins along with her insurance
oh Jesus remember I am sick I will die today spouting blood making nurses convulse with disgust splattering my fluids onto sterile white aprons disregarded in garbage cans as my flesh is shoved into an incinerator Blessed Mother is it hot in there will my flesh sizzle does the soul scorch damn family tradition I do not want to be cooked like spare ribs on a spring picnic I want to stay alive inhale spring’s aromas my God it will be spring in less than a week when my corpse will have entered its first stage of decay and I revert back to the existence I led ten months before my birth oh Holy Father I do not mean I have changed you are the light
why do they turn on those lights before I am under turn them off turn them off I will not have you see me like this stop stop I demand no one will see who I am I do not want to die put me back where I was do not put me under Blessed Saints I am drifting help me help me pull that mask off my face so I can tell Margaret’s old man to shove it and quit his factory to escape his grandchildren calling me old fart unloving thanks to the shithead shrink he sends them to forgive me Lord they are beginning to slice my flesh who cares I am exhausted by this reminiscence of my life the larger box preceding the smaller one fourteen years overseeing the manufacturing of cardboard boxes Margaret’s father will probably display me in number 324D all-purpose industrial container engineering breakthrough designed by contents
within the urn be displayed next to my collection of Dickens or Margaret will turn it into a night lamp flicking me on and off teasing the lovers of the loveless sweet Christ hallowed by thy name thy kingdom come shit what is the rest ha my rest eternal rest eternal darkness dear god are they dimming the lights I will not succumb to them or you Holy Virgin forgive me it is too cold I am scared you scare the man just like the boy threatening vengeful flames perpetual blindness oh merciful Lord forgive my transgressions I loved people before machines consumed my fervor
you know people are malicious untrustworthy beasts preying on you devouring gentleness defecating deceit help me everything is black empty listen to me I repent you win just help me do not leave me in the dark please leave me alone it is your fault toying with me playing my fear of darkness laughing at me writhing you sadistic creature of evil forgive me forgive me Father you do understand I see I see yes this is like birth dark frightening yet to be thrust in life light praise God on high a fresh chance to find joy forgiveness ah bullshit no no dear Savior they are hoisting my lungs put them back put them back that madman is murdering me do something I am so cold so alone a thinking piece of butchered meat presold by Prudential premiums
why why must I be punished I am a decent man unimportant undistinguished what of murderers rapists enjoying life as I am dissected I hate you give me back my lungs damn it oh Blessed Lady of Mercy grant me guidance save me from death and life’s years of suffering only to die wondering running not escaping God forgive me because I will survive this surgery and laugh at my family destroying exotic visions of cruises and cars vomiting my bile in their hypocritical faces stuffing my diseased lungs down their throats I will survive this operation if only to bring joy to Prudential my God help me help me Christ help me help me….
New York interdisciplinary artist Amy Bassin and writer Mark Blickleywork together on text-based art collaborations and experimental videos. Their work has appeared in many national and international publications as well as two books, Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground’ (Moria Books, Chicago) and Dream Streams (Clare Songbird Publishing House, New York). Their videos, Speaking In Bootongue and Widow’s Peek: The Kiss of Death represented the United States in the 2020 year-long world tour of Time Is Love: Universal Feelings: Myths & Conjunctions, organized by the esteemed African curator, Kisito Assangni.
After the Change
He left his camp in the small clearing on the bluff overlooking the creek. He had been there for three months, ever since he had been forced to leave his small home in town and the life he had been living before the change. As he walked through the timber, he was aware of color up in the trees. The leaves were turning. It was getting a little cooler at night now. Soon it would be winter. That would be another thing to deal with.
After walking over a mile, he came to the bike trail that he would take into town. It was another two miles down the bike path before he would reach town. It was a hike he took often these days. Greg was in pretty good shape. That was fortunate, because his life had become a lot more difficult these days.
Craig Feldman, the richest man in town, had become the Coordinator. He saw that the bidding of the one called The Leader was done in these parts. It was a very lucrative position. He was not only the political leader of the area, he was also the chief of all law enforcement. It looked to Greg that those not willing to live by law these days would probably not live at all.
There had been a war in the middle east, involving several nations. There had been much death and destruction that resulted from it. There had also been other near wars between powerful nations. There had been at least one nuclear attack. From out of all this turmoil came The World Council. From The World Council came many new treaties. Many agreements between nations took place. A new financial system was implemented and the one called The Leader emerged.
Every citizen that followed the law of The World Council was given a commo, a beautiful, mysterious design on their hand. Before they received it, however, they had to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to The Leader. This commo enabled them to purchase goods and services. It also identified them as a unique citizen of the world. Without the commo, it was impossible to pay bills, buy groceries, or get medical services. It was common knowledge that many who had not sworn allegiance to The Leader had disappeared; it was said that they were put to death.
Greg had sworn no oath of loyalty or obedience to The Leader. The whole idea of it blew his mind. He cold have lived his life much the same as he had before the change, but something inside him would not allow him to be part of the World Council agenda.
Greg was on his way to Phil’s trailer. Phil lived in a mobile home park on the edge of town. Greg had hoarded silver for years, believing the value of it would one day increase dramatically. He currently had stashes of silver buried at several different places in the timber where he was staying. Greg had known Phil from talking with him at The Bucket, a bar they both went to sometimes. Phil drank in various bars, but he was not well liked in any of them. He was mentally ill and received disability payment. He often mumbled to himself and people at the various bars Phil drank at found him annoying.
Greg had befriended him. Phil was a nice guy. He was just sick. He lived by himself and had few friends. Over the course of a few years of talking with him at The Bucket, Greg and Phil had developed a sort of friendship. It was because of this friendship that Greg had been able to formulate a plan after the change came. He had stashed his silver, purchased a good backpack, a good tent, and some other quality camping gear.
Phil had received his commo and Greg often visited him. Phil would take a list to the store and buy whatever Greg needed. Each ounce of silver was valued at one hundred P’ s. Greg would give Phil the cost of the supplies, plus a little extra for his help. While Greg was at Phil’s, he could take a shower, wash a few clothes, and get some drinking water, also. His pack was usually heavy on his way back to his camp.
Jennifer liked vodka. She also liked bars. She also liked the ocean. It was her dream to move to the west coast, live near the ocean, and own a bar. She had also befriended Phil, but at a different bar in town, called The Tap. Jennifer and Phil talked to each other frequently at The Tap. During one of these talks, Phil told her about the favors he was doing for Greg.
A couple days later, Jennifer saw Craig Feldman on the local news, talking about a substantial reward for anyone with information about anyone who was not in compliance with the policies and regulations of the World Council. When she met with Craig Feldman, he told her he could make her dreams come true.
Greg walked up the steps to the door of Phil’s trailer and knocked on the door. When the door opened, a police officer had his pistol pointed at Greg. Another officer handcuffed him.
By Chinese Poet Yuan Hongri
Translated by Yuanbing Zhang
Soul an Invisible Muse
Open the eyes of your soul
and you will encounter your many souls
In timelessness, as if the sun and moon never set or rise
The world is only a book, phantom-like
The soul an invisible muse
Before the words were born, you were a giant
From the kingdom of gold who know not yourself.
A Flying Saucer of Giants
Day by day the lightning in my body is waking up
And flying to this mortal world, dark night like iron
Seeking the Devil’s head, to make him into a skeleton of hell
And to repay time with gems
The python’s body will become a golden bridge
Towards a giant city of the morrow
Standing out against the sky, like clouds rising, gathering,
And an interstellar spaceship on my palm,
Like flying saucer of giants
Flashing miraculous brightness from another galaxy
Heavenly Temples and Towers
I rode a heavenly camel towards a desolate desert,
a jade bottle poured the sweet dew of the Kingdom of Heaven
from which emerged a lake, an eternal spring that never dries up,
and giant trees in prehistoric times grew
Their branches and leaves rustled in the garden of phoenixes and birds
The song of birds was music, it intoxicated the clouds
Colourful pebbles grew into huge gems in the dreams
That transformed into heavenly temples and towers.
Fragrant and Amaranthine for Thousands of Years
One day I will return from outer space
on a red cloud and bring a giant picture scroll.
My lines of lightning songs will flutter gold greetings from a prehistoric giant city
The mountains that have been sleeping for hundreds of millions of years
will become transparent
and the lights will be brilliant, like five-coloured gems
And the songs of my soul will blossom from me
like the fairyland flowers of the Kingdom of Heaven,
that remain fragrant and amaranthine for millennia
Bio: Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet’s Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Acumen, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization. Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), who is a Chinese poet and translator, works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District , Jining City, Shandong Province, China. He can be contacted through his email- firstname.lastname@example.org. Address:No.18 middle school Yanzhou District ,Jining City, Shandong Province, China Yuan Hongri Phone:+86 15263747339 Email:email@example.com
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Hongri Yuan Phone:+86 15263747339
Address:No.18 middle school Yanzhou District ,Jining City, Shandong Province, China
A Flashback to the Journey
When I went there it was winter
At the time of my returning
It opens the new sight of spring in nature
A lively exuberance in all objects of nature
That makes our heart dance all through the way
Plants worn in the green leaves and the buds
The sun-beam flashes out the glorious past
The sky and the waters engulfed in
By sneezing and coughing, touching and hugging
Breaching the bond we have had
The virus creeping through in the air
Drove us into the storm and war
Never thought before.
On a Strange Platform
People are living in the cave
Though they had no experience before
Feel like elaborate or suffocated
At the same time awakening the heart
Our existence and the predecessors’
Imagine the self and others on present, past or future
Pervaded nature all over
People forgot that
Roads and beaches redressed in its own blanket
Birds and butterflies, crabs or red crabs and turtles
Fly and float free with new notes and hopes
Green, red or rosy always smiles over
Nature wants this to be in such kind
People take exercise in the yard
They like to have been among the family dears
Or deep in heart to prayers, music or drama
And try to get removed from the pain of virus fever
The world stands on a strange platform
Where one leg is on stair and the other waiting on the point of the train
Starts to run with the whistle by the uniformed man in duty.
In the Battlefield
Deaths and the reflection of deaths all around
In the left, right, front or back
Fighting for the reconciliation
A reformation, recognition
The spreading hands of the lifeless bodies on the ground
What can we do for them?
We are promising, singing and praying
Carving the sight in mind
Lightening the heart a new hope
Though the self breaks and regenerates
No diplomacy here acts on
A joy over the matter fighting for
Swells up in courage
Never breaching the hand raised to pace with you.
How the World Running
Sitting on the rickshaw the man suddenly felt uneasy
Waiving his hands to get any help
The people encircling him
Stood silent and waited for what is going to happen
The poor condition became poorer and more helpless
Without taking any more time, he collapsed
Instantly and slowly breathed his last spreading the hands
The man was not other than the rickshaw puller
Waiting for the passenger on the turning point of the highway
Nobody came in touch of him if he bears Covid-19
People see the death in their open eyes having no feeling over there
More interested to have snaps or videos
Again the fever attacked mother kept away alone
In the jungle by her sons in fear of the virus
How the life appears before the eyes!
What a world it prevails at this moment!
Maintaining a social distance?
The world has lost its vows to make over
Hey you agree or not.
An Agreement with Corona
Corona, a virus attacks the human body
Though not visible this virus, this disease
The same intuitive
Greed or avarice, selfishness, jealousy, exploitation, economic barriers
And what not that breaks the whole system of humanity
You build so many missiles by which
This green world can be destroyed six times in a moment
Is there any use of this in place of Corona?
In spite of spreading the helping hand you make yourself powerful
Spending the gross amount of money for the atomic energy
On the other hand crores of people die out in hunger
This invisible virus destroys the whole community of the earth
Fight to survive, helpless to meet the quick get pass
Have belief in heart one day soon or later
The vaccine will come to light to recover
In the meantime it will cause an irreparable loss to the earth
Then after some while you will rule your objects the same as before
Forgetting all the deaths and the sufferings
In lieu of the firing the fire
Please pull me up dear from the chimney door
Make a way living altogether in the fresh water
Under the shade of the large trees
Refreshing the mind in the green fields.
Your skin reads like emptiness
By Abigail George
My love had style. Irony. The sketches of subtle pleasure and pain. The resentment that comes with frustration. His motion hollowed out something in me. Perhaps a hollowed out bitterness. There was a yellow river in his hair. In the palms of his hands he held something back from me. The life of his family secrets. A room filled with the music of treasure. Earth becomes with weaving. Earth resonates in that most rare personal space of touch. The wide health of touch that makes you feel extraordinary on days hellbent, and filled with winter.
He was grace. He was mercy. When I was with him, I knew what desire was. There was always going to be the possibility of silence between us in the early hours of the morning. We had nothing to talk about. Nothing to say after the dry thirst that followed the physical act of the sexual transaction. I always felt apologetic for the fatigue I felt. I don’t know what he was thinking. What he felt.
He called me ‘doll face’. Now, I don’t look like a doll. A doll wears a painted expression. Rosy cheeks that blossom. A pained smile. I have put on weight around my middle. I haven’t seen him in the past fifteen years. I don’t know what he’s doing right now. Living. All people live. Others do it extraordinarily. Others extremely ordinary. I know what you’re thinking. Why am I here? Why do I come here week after week to rehash the past, to live there as if I was part wild/part history wilderness/part object/part possession? Is it just a sham, this insane vanity that I have to talk about him repeatedly when I come here, now that I am flying solo single handedly?
Even when I was younger, during adolescence I was always drawn to the older man. The man with the accent who served me in a restaurant. Cultured. Educated. The writer. The teacher. The math teacher. The English-English teacher. The film and television production lecturer. Portuguese, British. The introvert. The man ten years older than I was in the summer I turned the lush age of twenty-two.
I thought I would be safe in the city surrounded by buildings. People who did not care for me, about me. Who would not turn their heads to look at me. To acknowledge me. Yes, I thought I was safe. The same way I feel when I come to see you every month. I feel safe here. I feel I can say anything. Know I will not be judged. I remember the electric blueness of the light. Nature was translated into pollution, climate change, global warming, buildings, banks, delis, foot traffic, cars everywhere you looked, grassy parks in the city where men played chess. Time meaning nothing. Time meaning everything.
The first day we met I looked up. Met his gaze head-on, chin up. He did not look away. I did not look away. A flicker of inquisitive excitement filled the void I felt in my heart. I knew what he was thinking. Passion. This was what I was looking for. A boyfriend. To be part of a couple. I was too young to know the difference. The difference between passion, and betrayal. Love in his hands. When he kissed me hard or soft. Gentle. Going all gentle on me.
I knew what his childhood was like without him telling me anything about it. His relationships with his siblings. Rivalry. Abandonment issues. A father addicted to drugs. Alcoholism on my side of the family. Cancer. It was the tapestry of loss that connected us. Love was the photosynthesis of an awakened loophole into place.
I’m apologetic about love now. It’s walls made of brick history. I’m sorry for loving you. The glare has shifted mysteriously. The hours tick on. The clock inside the glass cabinet minding seeds’ growth. He was magic. It’s been one those days. Long, empty. The day dulcet. Elegiacal. Summer burning the nape of my neck, my shoulders. The back of my arms in my sleeveless dress. Admiration.
That’s when it started. I think I admired him with my perfumed hair. I don’t know what he made of me. I was a girl way back then. New to the city. Johannesburg. I think about him like family. That closeness close up, That quiet intimacy that belonged to men and women who find themselves at a loss for words in museums or art galleries or the theater. You see I don’t need people. I was lost in the city. Dust, flowers of plastic rubbish washed away off slick, cement pavements.
What is the meaning of couples anyway? We weren’t a couple in the truest sense of the way. The sky a polychrome blue. His eyes awash with a blue ink. His self control powerful. The control of a man who knows what he wants. Who also knows that he is going to get what wants come hell or high water. My memory is still raw of that day. The flow of the talk was always intense. Yet we could always sit for hours in each other’s presence and not say anything. Lost in our own world. Our own thoughts.
Yes, let us talk about the men in my life. My brother’s remoteness when his girlfriend lived with us for off and on for a year. She moved in with her color television, double bed, chest of drawers, and oven but after the year she was gone again. After that my brother and I were closer than ever. Confiding in each other over the skinniness of cigarettes and lukewarm coffee.
My wiry father’s absence, and abandonment. The Johannesburg men. Powerful men with hybrids of status, and large sedans . Influential men. Men who had the life experience of women and children in their lives. I want to remember them all, and what they meant to me.
‘You’re beautiful. Good girl.’ He whispered. It was always like that.