Denervated by Joseph K. Wells

We did.
Shots.
Numb.
No more highs.
News.
Not new,
just hit low,
below belt.
Molested.
Yet again
is life.

We did.
Shots.
Numb.
Don’t hurt.
They did
before.
Bullets
zip by
silent.
Kill.
Guns didn’t.
Never did.

We did.

 

 

Joseph K. Wells began publishing his poems in 2016. Since then his poems have found a home in over a dozen journals and lit mags. A selection of his published works is available from https://paperonweb.wordpress.com/ .

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Reward of Combat by Michael Peck

he watched her every morning
start her run
dressed in black
matching the fading night
which creeps slowly west
he watches her return
wiping the sweat from her face
standing at her door
he pictures her showering
her naked body enveloped
by hot water and steam
slowly turns around
as her door shuts
his desire still hot
moving towards the kitchen
in his wheelchair
toward the coffee pot
the only warmth
he can look forward to today

Shoes by Frank McMahon

Shoes, pointing in all directions

as if they could not decide which

way  to go. Ahead the river,

wide and fast, its shore empty of

boats. And people. The shoes, fissured,

soiled, heels broken; children’s clogs. As

they stood in their final sunlight:

prayers? Huddles of comfort? Piss and

shit leaking onto ancient leather.

Hurled backwards, no funeral flowers

save the smoke curling from the guns.

Downwards, where the Duna receives

them, cold, reddening as it flows,

mere dross and cargo. A flask of

spirits opened, a cigarette

lit, safety catches on, the world

more Judenfrei.

Shoes, now again

pointing in all directions.

Berlin 1933 by Frank McMahon

Find the glass window set in the cobbles
outside  Humboldt’s University. You’ll
need to angle your view and wait  until
the light reveals the whiteness of the empty
shelves, a void in Europe’s  heart.
Judischen, entartate: this is where
they began the burning  of the books,
flames and sparks, yellow like stars,lighting the way
to  ghettos, wagons, lines of wire, ashes, bones.

Ghosts gather, tug at your sleeve politely,
plead that you read the Book of the Dead.
Its opening page lies at your feet. Descend
to  lamentation’s rainbow.

Universal Credit by Frank McMahon

Learn this lesson: assume the supplicant’s
position, low before the arbiter.
Hang your petition on the ox’s horn and
pray as it turns and plods inside the keep.
Forty two days in the wilderness, longer
than Christ’s self-chosen stay. Time to go home
and  count the copper pennies in your palm, time
to scour the bins for corn cobs overlooked,
scraps on bones, nubs of bread, hide candles
and kindling, beg remission on your rent.
Time to forage hedgerows, scrape bark for baking
bread, claw the furrows for potatoes, hush
the hungry child while you lie clamped and clemmed,
fashioning hope from feathers and dung.

You may be lucky: beneficence
parsimonious may be granted or
day on day on days delays will find you
in winter’s shadow outside the castle walls.

Frightened Men by Giselle Marks

Men are scared
Men are angry
Men deny that it is true

They say –
It was long ago
It was not wrong
It wasn’t so very bad

Women accuse men
Women are angry
Men say –
Women must be telling lies

Women say –
Men groped
Men raped
Men are still telling lies

Men say –
It is not proven
It is so unfair
But men are getting fired

One woman says
Two women say
Many women say the same
How many will prove it true?

The War Memorial for Women by Peter Wyton

How many male joggers, out exercising one evening
along a canal towpath, or at the wooded extremity
of a public park, find themselves suddenly confronted
by a ferret-faced female, wielding a switchblade?

How many boyfriends, having kissed their fiancées
goodnight at a garden gate, will walk home alone,
entering an ill-lit underpass only to come face to face
with a sweaty thug of a woman, reeking of beer?

How many inoffensive, lightly clad lads will be set upon
in tower block stair-wells, or awaiting public transport,
by jeering assemblies of belligerent bitches
fighting one another to be first in the gang-bang queue?

How many violated, mutilated masculine corpses
will end up dumped in lay-byes or neglected cemeteries,
hastily sand-covered at a remote golf course bunker
or discovered by dog-walkers in tangled undergrowth?

The war memorial for women has not yet been built.
No cairn nor shrine nor plaque nor cenotaph could cope
with all the names of casualties killed in combat
against an enemy with only one thing on his mind.

the 132 left by Martin Hayes

the 139 people that this man lied to
sat in that big boardroom
convincing us all that we were “the oxygen of this company”
only to shut down our workshop 6 months later
laying off 7 of us 139
has left the 132 that are left
wondering which one of us will be next.
132 people who have flesh
and teeth and bones to support
but who are now unsure
whether they will be able to do that come Christmas,
come the next electricity bill,
come the end of the month.
132 people who combined
have given more than one-million hours of their time
getting paid to inflate this company
into something strong,
who have the scars and addictions,
the lonely lives and debts
to prove it.
132 people who now know
that they were lied to by this man
in that boardroom,
on that day
when he came in and looked us all in the eye
and told us that we were
the “oxygen of this company”.
..

going long periods of time
without any oxygen
is ok for whales
dolphins
and escape artists
but a little bit more tricky
for 132 men and women
who need to know for how long they will be allowed to breathe
if they want to continue paying their rent.

132 more by Martin Hayes

the new boss from the company behind the takeover

came in to give us all a pep talk

to ease the uncertainty and fears we all had

of maybe losing our jobs

and to paint for us all a vision

of the future

 

in groups of 10

we were all given a time slot

when we had to be in the boardroom

to listen to this man

 

this man who had never made a delivery to anyone anywhere

this man who whenever he got a parking ticket or CCTV fine

had only to make sure that it was entered correctly onto his expense account

this man who had never had to also hold down a weekend job

hauling 25lb boxes of frozen lamb into the backs of trucks

for £6.50 an hour after tax

just so he could afford to take his kids to the cinema

this man who had the charm and charisma of a politician

rather than the blunt edges of a worker

this man who smiled at us and looked at us straight in the eye

and told us that we were important

what he liked to call “the oxygen of this company”

which his shareholders had bought

and how it just wouldn’t make any sense

to get rid of any one of us

would it?

 

this man who 6 months later

made the decision on behalf of his shareholders

to shut down our workshop

laying off 7 mechanics

so that all of the repairs and maintenance of our vehicles

could be done by the new companies already existing network

of garages and service centres

 

this man who lives away in the country

off with the fairies

who is placed under so much pressure

every minute of the day by his shareholders

to increase the bottom line

slowly stripping away all of his humanity and heart

so that with one swoosh of his pen

he can turn upside down 7 people’s lives

and still sleep at night

and still play frisbee with his kids on a beach

knowing that he has lied

to 132 more

And Finally by Bethany Rivers

……………………….last night I did it.
Although I’m now sitting
in a cell in this stinking jail

of sweat and fear, I’m grinning.
I stole in to the private rooms
in Westminster and I graffitied

on every wall and every mirror
the names of all the benefit suicides.
I prit-sticked photos to MPs’ desks,

sellotaped them on plush seated chairs.
I then confettied the Speaking House
with photos of Aunt Beryl (put her head

in the oven), odd-job-man-Billy always
ready with a smile (took an overdose)
young Sally (mother of twins) hung herself,

stuck them down with chewing gum
along the central aisle,
all the way to the Speaker’s chair.

I painted dripping scarlet words
across the wooden panels:
Suicide is Murder, posted on the quiet.

The World According to Trump by Rupert M Loydell

The gun he killed with
doesn’t count:
it is not a gun law issue.

The women he fondled
do not count:
it was not sexual assault.

Money sent to offshore banks
does not count:
it is not tax avoidance.

Those who object
do not count:
they are simply wrong.

Those who are colored
do not count:
they are not American.

The election he won
counts for everything:
it was not rigged at all.

Donald Trump
cannot count.
His days are numbered.

Hawthorn at Martinmas by Gillian Mellor

The leaves are gone and the birds will come.
to pick at your splayed limbs
clotted red with the fruit of existence.
This is a season of remembrance.

You were laid down in lines to enclose the land,
found belonging in displacement –
you who have always remedied the heart’s failings.
A mother will always have her son home,

his actions always twisted to fit the fight
for a church, a history, a border, a dream.
This is how they harvest young men
with no land to call their own.

Last Act by David Chorlton

Dancer in the Dark

 

It’s just a made up story, something

like an opera, this tragic

sequence of events beginning

with the immigrant mother

saving every greenback dollar she can

to pay for her son’s operation

while the world she’s in

is fading. But even blind she sees

in her imagination

how she can dance and everyone

around her breaks

into song for as long

as the illusion lasts. Then she’s robbed,

and high drama ensues

at the end of which her landlord,

who couldn’t stop his wife from spending

more money than he made,

is a dead policeman on the ground.

Who’d believe the woman

that he came at her with his gun

and all she wanted

was her money back? So, she

who found her way home by following

the railway tracks is lost beyond hope,

though not beyond music.

We’re watching injustice

turn into an art form, with the closing

scene bearing down upon us

like a train, as the execution chamber

becomes a theater

in which the hangman’s only doing his job

and he’s not paid to pass judgment,

just to pull the lever

that springs the trap door open

and leaves the body swinging

back and forth before

the curtains close

as they do at every final scene.

The Creation by David Chorlton

Everything looks clear enough

in the text selected for the oratorio

where the beginning seemed to be spontaneous

with darkness on the face of the waters

and all it took

was to say what came next:

………………………..light,

a firmament, some storms, and with a hand’s

demanding wave dry land. After the appearance

of grass, the situation became

more complex

…………….as a food chain

had to be established. After Heaven,

a lyre, some angels and harps,

eventually the earthworms,

crept in long dimension

while the heavy beasts like thunder

trod the ground above them.

There was always more:

………………………the ibex

balancing on a shadow’s

edge; Birds-of-Paradise

with feathers that blossom; wolves

whose voices polish the stars.

…………………………………And a vein of copper

glowing at the center of the world,

inaccessible to all

but the most destructive of gods.

An Inappropriate Life by Paul Brookes

Born inappropriate to this inappropriate world
this inappropriate earth I learned how to be inappropriate

in school, met a lass
who said she was inappropriately ready

to be inappropriately wed, so we inappropriately married
after three months of inappropriate courting

she bore inappropriately our first kid
after six months whilst I worked inappropriately

in inappropriate employment
Promoted inappropriately  to inappropriate manager

so we bought our first inappropriate home,
furnished inappropriately, after decorating inappropriately.

I had an inappropriateallottment  where I grew inappropriate carrots and potatoes and cabbages.

She died inappropriately after seven years inappropriately fighting
lung cancer. I never remarried inappropriately

Bring up our second child inappropriately
tell her inappropriate dream stories of our inappropriate love inappropriate life.

Slavery by Paul Brookes

is good for you. All folk
should be chained,

manacled to a mortgage,
to work, to an employer

a partner. Freedom denies
your human rights. Slavery

teaches you the meaning of life.
Demands you act properly. 

Constrains you to common sense,
sets out a wild world of imagination 

creativity and invention. Freedom
is too wishy washy. Lock 

and load your chains. Don’t let
loose and free your mind. Freedom 

is heavy, restricts, denies movement
of blood, bone and brain. 

Become a slave and see our world
with new eyes, fresh perspectives.

Hopelessness Is Life by Paul Brookes

Only the hopeless live.
Only hopelessness makes you smile.
When all hopelessness is gone
then you will grieve at the loss.
There are three streets we can go down,
Faithlessness, Hopelessness and Selfishness
Without one of these the others cannot exist.
There must always be hopelessness
in the best of times. It reminds us of an edge
to life. Surrender to hopelessness
and all will be well. It is the force that drives
all that is worthwhile and good.

We breathe by Asha Sutton

You are running the tap but for no water

While a boy is running for water but has no tap

If that boy is making you cry because he was your world

There are others out there who cry because they have no world

You moan because you have nothing to give this world

But there are others out there who have so much to give, but aren’t allowed to take.

A women is tossing and turning from a lumpy mattress

But that young women in poverty is bringing up three children and has no bed

The boy in poverty just has a desire for something better

To have something he could only wish for

That boy just wants to live

That boy can breathe

And I can breathe

We all breathe together.

The Assassination of President Richard Milhous Nixon by Donall Dempsey

( for John Smith )

It was…
Oct 5th – 1970.

A Monday.

It was the 278th day
of the year…only

87 days remaining
until the end of the year.

I knew I had to act now.
It was now…or never.

Time? I forget the time.
Time was standing still.

Huge clouds
menaced the horizon

impersonating an Armada
of Spanish Galleons.

Full sail ahead then.
I took a step into my future.

The smiling President drawing
nearer and nearer.

In Nass
the drenched crowed cheered.

In Newbridge now
flocks of children chase the car

like he was some
kinda Piper from Hamelin.

I kept a close eye on
the secret service

all dressed in the same suit
looking like clones

of one another
talking into their sleeves.

My gaze searches and settles
upon him

like the cross-hairs
of a sniper’s rifle.

Sure he had called his setter
King Timahoe

after where his folks came from
another American looking for his roots

bolstering the Irish-American vote.

And now here he was
the man himself

in person
the 37th President.

Irish colleens dancing
upon a make-shift stage

in the square
of Kildare.

He’s here oh so near
I can see the pores of his skin

a bead of sweat trickles into
that infamous Nixon grin.

Dare I do it now?
My hair falling into my eyes.

My mind flashes back to
1729

when his Quaker ancestors
fled the Emerald Isle.

Three centuries pass by in a second and
we’re here

in the middle of
The Vietnam War

and he speaks of
“a passion for peace…preventing war…building peace.”

Yeah yeah…sure sure!

Carpet bombing Cambodia
the famous Nixon duplicity

the “credibility gap” opening
between what he says and what he does.

Oh there are protests
he has 5 eggs hurlers.

“Splatsplatsplatsplat and splat!”
Only one near hit.

And one man protesting
the price of a pint

up’d( for the occasion )to
one shilling and jaysus seven pence.

What’s the world
coming to?

School kids waving
their plastic( in slow mo )

American flags
on little plastic sticks.

I raise my flag.
I raise my…voice

shooting my mouth off
with a great shout:

‘TRICKY DICKY! TRICKY DICKY!
WOULD YOU BUY A USED CAR FROM THIS MAN!”

Several secret service scowl.
My words hit him…Nixon frowns.

Character assassination.

Mr. McCann
aka “The Bicycle Man!”

curses me
in Irish.

After all he is
my Irish teacher.

D’anam leis an diabhal…Ó Diomasaigh!”
(“Your soul to the devil…Dempsey!”)

“THE TIME HAS COME TO CALL
A SPADE A BLOODY SHOVEL…”

I yell as
I get a clip around the ear.

McCann holds his hand
over my mouth.

Then suddenly Nixon
is no longer

there.

The hurled words
disappear into the air.

Us school boys
tramp damply back to double Maths.

The De La Salle
Academy looming up before us.

Mr. McCann
hoovers near.

I cover both
my ears.

But he only tousles
my hair.

“Ahhh mo amadán beag cróga!”
( “Ahhh my brave little fool!”)

“Maith an bhuachaill…maith an bhuachaill!”
( “Good boy…good boy!”)

He grins.
Slips me a sixpence.

I sing the new Led Zep
only released that day.

“So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
for peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.”

Being only 12
I had done what had to be done.

My political life
had only just begun.
***

The long forgotten “never-to-be-forgotten” visit made to Hodgestown near Timahoe in the county of Kildare back in the day as we leave the Sixties sadly behind us for the austerity of the ’70’s and the “Yes we can” of the Sixties begins to lose its lusture. 
The Timahoeans are not exactly proud of giving the world Mr. Nixon and stay quite quiet about it. The Kennedy visit was the golden one and Clinton and Reagan had theirs but Tricky Dicky’s one has faded into the fog of history.

“Jessamyn West, who has written so eloquently about the background of our family, has said, the Quakers have a passion for peace. My mother was a pacifist. My grandmother was a pacifist. Jessamyn’s mother was, her grandmother, her grandfather, going back as far as we know.”

President Nixon in the Timahoe graveyard.

Don’t know what happened to him then!

“The time has come to call a spade a bloody shovel. This country is in an undeclared and unexplained war in Vietnam. Our masters have a lot of long and fancy names for it, like escalation and retaliation, but it is a war just the same.” – James Reston.

“So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
for peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.”

Led Zeppelin 111 – Immigrant Song.

While Walking by Neeli Cherkovski

I see the trees and go there
as if they were mine
no use to explain, the art is needy
and careless

nature takes no care, it sends
angry sparks and
draws a line, I want to be
inside of the trees, hard to explain

how I feel, insignificant,
slightly deranged, never
could sit still, always
able to complain, I see

the trees, I see a burning bush,
a puzzling sense
of creation, an “I Am” who
steps out of the story

to make me sick of
mourning, sick to death
of memorial services and
cremation, sick of

bodies covered by
shrouds, I am also
“I Am” and unable to
let go, I hold the trees

they are firm and
silent on the street
where I walk, orderly,
well taken care of

a calm afternoon, no one
else is here, only a few cars
passing, I see the trees
and circle the sidewalk

and touch a tree,
pick some leaves, they
make me think of memory,
of more savage

times, of treed without mercy
on the ridges of cliffs
where I saw fire and heard
the distant lights

from foreign countries
blinking, a tree will stand
alone one day, but not
today, do not get confused

by these trees, hold
a row of them until
four plots in the concrete,
appear, beautiful

flowers, orange an red
and white, a bus passes
cold wind rushes down
Guerrero Street

a few more blocks,
I know the corner
where my bus will stop
and I will be immortal