When I walk through the cemetery
Some of them stare at me
Others are looking past me
A thousand lifetimes away
There is no sign of life in those eyes
Anyhow, it feels like a cemetery
The park downtown where
The homeless hang around
Bodies scattered randomly about
Some burned out
Some fading away
Two worlds collide at the park
Children laughing on the swing set
Up and down
Up and down
Riding an upside down rainbow
Their parents smile nervously
Always keeping an eye
On the bodies tossed aside
What hell did they survive
As a child, or maybe later
What storm extinguished their spark
To fulfill a prophecy of souls
foretold ice cold
Their eyes cry for help
Tears for food and clothes
And shelter from the cold
It can feel intimidating to approach
The homeless in the park
We must try, we must be bold
Let a new chapter unfold
Empathy Globally: Painful Portraits of People – in Poetry
A POEM IN SAPPHIC STANZAS
Ask me what it’s like to care for my kid. At
six, she cannot speak; is still wearing nappies.
Scotland, here we live, an autism ‘problem’,
not by choice, (I had a career—a Masters.)
Whitehall, righteous, speaks of women just like me;
‘Lazy cows!’ the subtext of slogan-rants on
Studies show we’re under more stress than soldiers—
Judged, dismissed by bankrolled and bought politicians.
Slothful me. I laze in life of scrubbing
shit off the carpet
where she’s smeared her stools, God, I’m such a slattern;
break my back (my daughter resists when dressing).
Two hour’s sleep, but clearly the Tories think that
I should work harder.
Liùsaidh is a Forward Prize-nominated poet, lyricist, author and critic from the west of Scotland. Prior to sliding to the bottom of society, she worked the law. Her work has appeared online and in print, most notably in Poets & War, The Ghazal Page and Eastern Structures. As LJ McDowall she writes speculative fiction and edits The Quarterday Review, a quarterly literary journal dedicated to classical forms. She can be found online at her website ljmcdowall.com, on Twitter @ljmcdowall and Facebook at @ljmcdowallwrites.
From my perch I hear;
Make America hate, stagnate, and segregate.
Make America cold.
Make America bitter.
And you’re saying
if I had a vote I’d support you.
What’s that ?
You want an endorsement ?
What do I get in return ?
You gonna rewild me ?
Like those wolves and bears in Europe ?
It’s not animals
From my perch up on the gantry
I’m looking down on the top of your head.
I’m thinking about nesting materials.
Chris Hemingway is a poet and songwriter from Cheltenham. He has self-published two collections of poetry, lyrics and prose (“Cigarettes and Daffodils” and “The Future”) and has appeared at Cheltenham Poetry and Literature Festivals. He also helps to run the “Squiffy Gnu” Poetry Prompt blog/ Facebook Group.
Between soft and hard winds,
breeze that is forgotten to be thunder,
the choice is over
Alone, smitten in dust
smouldered with blood,
many of lost names
this and more.
Purple blue or red
some colors half the story
when the Sun takes a cue
I have an unapologetical love for political poems. And I always expect to find a creative distinction & intensity in those poems. I first read Maggie MacKay on IANASP : “I slave in his kitchens,/ my belly fired after him rape mi in the scullery/ like I was his peaberry fruit./ His boasts ride on fiddle jigs into the valley/ where my baby sleeps.” (Jamaican Macabre) I immediately liked her brutally honest voice & her clever way with words & sounds. At that point of time, I didn’t know the editor of IANASP would run a Poet’s Interview series & I would have the privilege & honor to ask her a few questions about her writing. And working on that project gave me the wonderful opportunity to discover more of her work. Maggie has published in various print and online publications, including A New Manchester Alphabet, Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Indigo Dreams Publishing & Three Drops Press. Much of her work is poured from the soul of someone who feels “a clot inside [her] vein,/ a black-blue spiral of onyx;/ at the nucleus, blood-drenched strokes of fire.” (Flare – Ink, Sweat & Tears) While that clot in her writing remains my favorite, I am especially taken with her unflinching voice which is always & always sharply chiseled : “I pass the Tito’s high-rise housing, bullet-blasted/ in perfect circles of terror, the full height of babies’ cots,/ breaching homes where generations dwelled together;/ mothers still hang shirts and nappies, in lines on balconies.” (Restoration After War – Words Bohemia 2) Another good example from Flare (Ink, Sweat & Tears) : “This skin is new to me./ I slur a name – might be mine –/ gulp a balloon of air/ as I roll on the edge/ of another squall-storm.” Like all good poets Maggie seems to be always conscious of the fact that her writing needs to be kicked about to stay alert. And that makes the political blade of her poetry so delicious. Just look at these beguiling lines that hijack our soul facing with today’s terrifying reality of the refugees : “I am ripples, motionless,/ swamped by water, lifted by brother./ I am girl watching home wash away again, again/ Do you have a boat?/You are of no use to me.” (Bereft – Writers for Calais Refugees Anthology). Maggie is certainly one rising poet from Scotland to watch closely with excitement.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a retired support needs teacher and live on the east coast of Scotland. I returned to writing seven years ago, beginning with the Open University where I grew into poetry. Then with a push from my tutor, I enrolled with Manchester Metropolitan University on the Masters degree where I’ve been enjoying the experience. I like to travel, family history and live cultural events.
Why do you write? What does poetry exactly accomplish for you?
I get so much from expressing my emotions and remembrance of others through the written word is important to me. It’s so absorbing to play with language and share ideas with the community of poets. And when I’m told a poem has had a profound effect on a reader, that’s such a thrill.
Can you tell us about your work habits?
I aim to write every day. I close read other poets too. And as often as possible I critique my fellow writers’ work.
Do you like to work under constraints, literary or others?
A deadline works well for me. Or a project which stimulates the imagination.
Please tell us about the making of your poetry. Where do your ideas come from? Are there certain elements of your life that play a major role in your work? If yes, how does life bend with poetry & what is the usual incubation period between the lived experience & the moment of writing?
I focus on family history, events of significance, the effect of loss, enduring relationships. My ideas can be influenced by something which happened within the last 24 hours or 100 years ago. I like a title to inspire me or a project which focuses the mind.
Where did your interest in poetry begin?
At school and then, more recently, after retirement Often a poet’s performance enriches my interest.
What is the impact of other poets on your work, if any?
I investigate technique, form, use of white space and clarity in others’ poetry. John Glenday, Jane Kenyon, Les Murray, Neil Rollinson, Marie Howe and many others.
How do you “think the world” through & in poetry?
I explore sensory imagery, read political debate and tap emotion.
What makes you write poems like Bereft, Media Demons, The Ochils, Jamaican Macabre, The Silence of Shock, etc. published in IANASP? According to you what is the hardest things about writing protest poems or poems of witness?
I look to embed conviction without preaching. It’s getting the tone right and being clear about what I want to say.
What is reading for you? What kind of things do you usually read? And who are you when you are reading a (literary) text, a reader or a writer?
I read lyrical poetry. I am both.
When is your book/chapbook/pamphlet coming out?
I’m working on my Masters portfolio at the moment.
How can readers find more about you & your work? (website/blog/social media)
Check out websites – Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops From a Cauldron, Marie Lightman’s wonderful websites on refugees and prejudice, The Lake and Northwords Now amongst a number of publications. Print press too – e.g. Bare Fiction., The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole.
It crunches as it enters the roof, cooling.
its shrapnel penetrates legs, chests
its dust smoke palls, quietens
the coughing, destroys any sense left
days hammered into days, decide
your breath is cordite, your tongue fire
how can you bear the stench?
the theatres that never stop, the screams
hands sprout through concrete dust,
they race frantically to extract the living,
they are trying to dig out the boy, and you
scrape your hands raw or scrub them sore?
Patrick Williamson is an English poet who also works with music and filmpoems (Afterwords, set to music by Mauro Coceano). Editor and translator of The Parley Tree, Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World (Arc Publications, 2012). Most recent poetry collections: Beneficato (English-Italian, Samuele Editore, 2015), Tiens ta langue/Hold your tongue (Harmattan, Paris 2014), Nel Santuario (Samuele Editore, 2013; Special Jury Prize in the XV Concorso Guido Gozzano, 2014).
The boy, aged five years, his eyes staring unseeing
At horrors unknown
His hands stained with the blood of his bleeding scalp
Sits as still as death
While the chaos rages around him
And we watch and weep as the bombs fly and buildings collapse
In another place, another time
And the little boy sits. As still as death.
He stares resigned at the only life he has ever known
While the West discovers another icon
Until we turn the page, change the channel,
Open another bottle of wine –
And the boy, aged five years,
Wipes his bloodied hands on his orange chair
In the back of the ambulance and sits
As still as death, staring at his future,
A survivor, one of the lucky ones.
“it was not the action of men, but of god’s agents”
i did not see an angel pushing a gun to my skin
i did not feel an angel’s cock up me
or an angels fist in my face
but i did see your face:
and walking away from me,
cowered in a corner,
pretending never to hear the sounds my mouth made
the sounds my body, violated, made
when i was freed and escaped
did you crawl back:
to sniff my blood left on the floor,
the semen that was left,
did you taste it:
lifting your fingers to your mouth.
This will be my dinner for today, a stale bread sandwich
and a warm Coke, to arrive and nobody being there
Here life is cheap or worth pennies only
And I came to stay, but my will is only passing by
Nothing I say will be had into account, I’ll always be tied
to corporate life and cheap rewards
And I feed my oblivion endorsing nonsense, lost causes
some old tapes, 80’s souvenirs, scattered memories
insidiuous cult of nostalgia could never relate to
ruin or reproach, sink or swim for everyone involved
And before my feet touch the ground, in every seed planted
in my dreams, in every turn of the wing, when strain overcomes
Love, when it’s more about envy than awe and the landing strip
is still far over the skyline, hidden by a cloak of mist and other,
more refined forms of slavery, all that used to be so fun
in my party novelties haven, not knowing who I am
but who I’d like to be, that same old boy who swaps freedom
for the ghost of freedom, honesty for the echo of a fleeting
narrative, verse balance for another
Following the election pundits explained
why the pundits had got it so wrong.
We are sorry, they said.
We underestimated the People, they said,
their universal love for one another,
their beautiful way with strangers.
Our polls were black holes
sucking in the light.
Our pie-charts were sieves
through which a hidden wellspring
of crypto-hippies tumbled.
We didn’t film our nation’s march
hand in hand towards the sunset.
Our cameras were pointed at the dark
so we mistook inner-city waltzes for riots,
bankers’ hand-outs for looting,
ribbon-wrapped parcels for bombs
and poetry for politics.
It’s easily done.
Jonathan Taylor is an author, editor, critic and lecturer. His books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.
When he was first caught,
they laid him supine on cold floor
and with their boots on repeatedly
jumped on his chest till a rib cage
broke and pierced lung collapsed.
But he never squealed;
not another’s whereabouts compromised
nor a single real name revealed.
This poem pays tribute to all the brave victims of human rights violations in the Philippines during the martial law era under the Marcos dictatorship. The late president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and lifted it on January 17, 1981. Currently, the Philippine government – for whatever reasons — has scheduled a hero’s burial for the remains of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos.
Karlo Sevilla’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in I am not a silent poet, Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Eastlit, Radius, Indiana Voice Journal, Pacifiqa, Spank the Carp, Rat’s Ass Review, Quatrain.fish, Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, Rambutan, Kitaab and Pilgrim. He is a volunteer for the labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers). He blogs at:
I sit in an ambulance
Strangers tell me
I am safe now.
I wipe warm blood
from my brow but
cold images remain.
Panic all around me.
I hear crying.
I sense fear.
There is shouting.
I sit quiet.
More children arrive.
I am told my friend
will no longer be
able to play with
(for Omran Daqneesh,
and all the other children in Aleppo)
He’s the kid who
wiped his bloody hand
on the seat,
on that orange cover.
Maybe it won’t show much,
the blood on his hands –
and on ours,
on that orange.
He has lived all his life
in a war zone,
it is all he knows.
The doctor says,
we live in a new holocaust,
in the 21st century.
Every day our hearts are broken,
but we must do what we can.
This boy was ‘lucky’, he says.
He is still alive.
Jackie Biggs is a freelance writer, editor and poet. Her first collection of poetry, The Spaces in Between was published in September 2015 by Pinewood Press. Some of her poetry (and other work) appears on her blog: http://jackie-news.blogspot.co.uk
The little brown child, cherubic;
drowned or bloodied, lost,
appears to spark debate about
The Cost Of War. Suddenly
Something Must Be Done,
just Not In My Name.
No longer, then, One Of Them.
We are assuaged for a day
by a picture crassly reminding:
all blood is red. Yesterday
and tomorrow it will be just
a pity, but for one bleak moment
we allow ourselves to feel
what it must be like
to be a human being.
seeds, real words, first real words
reeling from his palm, he turns over
the book, first thing I thought was
of the Odes, a book of blood and lamentation
spoonful of fog rising
from the Bay waters, loom of Raccoon Straits,
the ruins of Jack London, the mansions
on Rincon Hill, wild boys of the Barbary Coast,
Irish painter who dotted
my face with freckles, Tiny Trent on Broadway’s
wrecked façade, moving pictures, mountains
these are the seeds he placed
on your eyes, the delicate lives
running and jumping deep inside, wounds
in the seed, skip and romp, imitate
shooting stars, bless the robed
hillsides, spell over the town
your wizard’s wand, old men in
row houses shifting the shadows around
and drinking Bourbon, the retired garage
mechanic, aged Italian musicians
scraping the bottom in this white city
nailed to the drums of Ohlone
rows of spring flowers,
dead or dying households,
fly swatter left on the table,
roll of quarters in a kitchen drawer,
cans of tuna on the shelf, books in a
pile near the front door
and oh his Levis folded, five pair
of pants, one dress shirt, his
underwear, Fruit of the Loom
in a dream the poet wrote of rooftops
and women hanging laundry
for the rule of law, for equity, on account of
a civilized and rhythmic span of light, and
this one sold books and the other one
worked at conventions setting-up
viewing stands, that one had a son
who sailed away in a blue boat
and landed on the moon
aged European men in the square
or under the shade
of the true God who offered
long and slender arms
pulling back at dawn
on an imaginary lawn
cheap rooms near the Financial
District, playing poker with the future
mayor, sorry for the slight
down here on Polk Street
no penny arcade
the smiling hobo clown
with a rose between his lips
catches our grime, touches
our fingertips, the strolling sky
of Ferlinghetti, constant
thread of rain, jazz
in the third eye, empire of romp
empty empire, rock and roll, punk,
heavy metal, loud voices
over a din of Giuseppe Verdi
on the juke box, it isn’t memory
pulls the strings, impressions
fit the prism, the convex skies
Del and his dead lover, I blame
myself, his suicide rolled down
the trolley tracks as the bell rang
for the milling crowds
of the grand hotel lobbies
skinny boys settling in
forever, neat bicycle legs
athletic handsome quiet rise,
this bus goes directly into
the mind of a working
class attitude, then came
beatitude bum from every conceivable
Kansas City, do you have a dime
or will you spend your life
trying, the low mist, the heavy
fog, high wind, wise Muni transit
I’ll meet Fernando
at Anita’s hair salon ,
he is off at 4
we walk to his apartment
in the back and sleep
between cold cracks
in the muddle of an enchanting
fortress, he loves
to wait and walk supine
while the sun vanishes
over Twin Peaks, the grocery stores
are not yet Palestinian
that simple dime, he
passes time, time loves
to wander into
and find diamonds
lying on the ground, only I
see them, I take advantage
of stunning girders
on our town
oh your bedroom is a garden
exquisite flowers and
plants, this is Eden, the window
faces broad and supple sunlight,
your cat has the most amazing eyes
saw shadows in
the Tunnel of Love, squandered
death dreams at a table
in the local café, it was a strange
poet’s city one afternoon
until the latter-day prophets
arrived to say enough
we’ve swept the table clean
The heat is on, we are all effected
as the days speed hungrily on by,
aggression increases, fear grows in all
connecting the proverbial dots
can feel very tragic and sad,
unravelling a trajectory of violence
that is rooted in foreign intervention,
instead of peace, spreads contamination
with frustrated, alienated, misguided men,
sowing seeds of hate and destruction.
As the days begin to weigh us down
time now to seek out the gaze of love,
the most powerful drug known to man,
build a brighter future, a new age of clarity
to help us escape this world of insanity,
before the count of zero we all explode
with a soaring, kicking, pain, implode,
remember hope is always there to seize
all you really have to do is to believe.
Such a sight I saw today
Where once these fields danced.
Two horses their hooves tied with twine
Dumped, discarded, dead.
Have we forgotten their legacy of loyalty throughout history?
The poor pit ponies blinded, lived and died in darkness.
Coal cart horses, whipped and broken by their burden.
Mules marred by unbearable weights – collapsed from exhaustion.
They have ploughed fields, pulled barges, wagons, drays,
Trams, fire engines, ambulances and Brewers carts.
Spirited sentients sold to the knackers yard to make soap.
Casualties were lost in circuses, movies and film.
Others gored to death in insane bull fights.
Bartered, drugged and lashed for a bet,
shot, disposed of with spent slips.
War – a fools folly
The caltrop, truly the Devils weed,
Pierced and punctured
Left you languishing in the bloody muck.
Used as shields for bullets and bombs.
And the ultimate betrayal
In brutal barbarity –
They strung you up
Human stomachs are your grave now.
In confessionals – men whisper
the number of wild mustang to be cleansed,
such a clean word –
but there’s no godliness – in cull.
You’re obsolete now –
Such a sight I saw today,
Where once these fields danced.