Beneath the blind, balanced in a window ledge, he has made three towers of twenty, fifty and ten pence pieces. Not great at counting. He can walk shop aisles for hours adding to what he thinks he can afford but always the check out girl must ask what he wants to leave behind.
Beneath his boxer shorts there are three shadowy bruises left by the mugger whose fingers slid inside these damp pants whilst pressing what might have been a knife to his naked neck. Nails. Lips. Fists. Blood. Not great at countering. Recounting this story to his doctor is not enough to earn him any therapy.
Beneath closed eyes, each night brings one of three recurring dreams. There’s the one where he falls silently into factory machinery, innards split by spiky cogs. There’s the one where he has earned his freedom from the old tower block, fingertips shine like bright silver coins, feet leave concrete and he can fly for hours. Great at flying. There’s the one where the knife goes in and out and in and out and always the check out girl must ask what he wants to leave behind.
Prepare a public talk about charity. The suffering of others has become as boring as sand. Don’t dive in naked. Those coarse grains niggling itches could remain clinging for days. People who claim to be pained should be approached fully covered. Imagine accidentally spilling a caring word on someone only slightly needy. If a noted humanitarian commits an act of kindness in the middle of a desert when there is nobody worth impressing present to witness said event, can an unwitnessed event even be counted as a true act of kindness? What is the point of wasting such a limited resource on a person who is probably too lazy to appreciated compassion? Optimise everything. Rehearse about brilliant speech about benevolence from the comfort of a deep, soapy bath.
We can smell all the perfumes of ruinations because we are the sons of war. Its eyes kill our dreams and its hands clap our cheeks. When you walk in our streets, you will tumble by our cheap souls and at that dark corner you will meet the faceless boys. Yes, we are sons of wars; our hands are empty and our souls are broken. The waterfalls can’t moisten our dry hearts, and the river can’t revive our rocky roots.
No braid on our girls’ heads because war has stolen everything here every the girls’ braids. Their lips are dry with deep fissures and their faces and colorless like our days. Here, in Iraq everything is empty even the souls of the girls. You won’t see the childish jumps of their feet or the playing smiles of their arms, but you will see thin legs and a very dry well.
I am from the south where everything weeps even the sun. Our women don’t know but crying and their breasts had forgotten milk. They are the remnants of wars; their mornings start with wailing and their evenings end with groan. Look at our trees; they are brassy and coarse like the voice of our women and look at our lakes, they are dry like their cheeks. No love here because the lips have retired, and no beauty here because our women are faceless.
Anwer Ghani is an Iraqi poet, essayist and artist. He was born in 1973 in Hilla. His name has appeared in many literary magazine and anthologies and he have won many prizes, the last one; “World Laureate-Best Poet in 2017 from WNWU”. Anwer writing has a specific style; the expressive narrative prose poetry” and he is the author of “Narratopoet”; (2017), “Antipoetic Poems”; (2017) and other 40 books. He is the chief editor of Arcs prose poetry magazine and the founder of Tajdeed Institute for Art and Literature.
Let me sing of broken-down dogs, they wander alone in the twisted ravines of huge cities; or those dogs who have said to reject man, blinking intelligent eyes ‘Let me be with you, perhaps from our two wretchednesses we can make a kind of happiness’. Then all kind of needing dogs: the mud-stained dog, the poor dog, the homeless dog, the idling dog, the street acrobat’s dog; their instincts, like that of the poor man, the gypsy, the actor an, they wake early and seek their livelihood or run after their pleasures. I saw some of them sleep in a ruined building in the outskirts and come every day at a set hour to claim their dole at the kitchen door of always the same kind restaurant. A band of six strong well-fed strays shares the meal prepared for them by the charity of certain sexagenarian virgins, whose unclaimed hearts have given themselves to animals since men in their stupidity no longer want them. Then there are of course the runaway slaves, maddened by love; they gambol for an hour around a beautiful bitch, not very well presented, but proud and grateful for their attention. Perhaps somewhere (who knows, after all) there is a reward for the courage, the patience and the hard work of these adorable dogs. A paradise for these good dogs, dirty, muddy, sad and sorry dogs where they can finally laugh and bark their head off about the silly, ridiculously shaven, pampered yorkshire terrier with the pink satin ribbon waved through the few remaining gleamingly washed hairs on top of her disdainful little head. Even the dirty dog has its pride, so it is good to sing their praise. You are never quite sure, maybe Circe once enchanted you.
Spare us the conspicuous parasol. It is too late to turn them around. What’s wrong with a provincial party boss who has cultivated a following by denouncing “entrenched interests” & promoting individual happiness over party perquisites? Elsewhere, the Tea Party zealots, those radical evangelicals, homophobes, & misogynists, were welcomed to the School by students pounding Japanese ceremonial drums. Our stringent export licensing laws make us feel like freaks, like colorless technocrats & conservatives, some sort of alien menace, but they do not breach the “professional and apolitical ethos” of the nation’s partisan schism, the divided government. Secretly, Trump would like to see Putin in the White House, as if, perhaps, they might really become emperor & empress.
i was not thinking of a lemon perhaps Lorca’s lemon endemic to our absinthe flesh / i was not thinking of that land where a white man walking a black dog has gotten to the bottom of a song / i was just greedily looking up at the sky turning my back on ars poetica / dreaming / the same dreams almost every day i live in /how i am naked / the weight of every dream above
All the shops are empty. What’s disappearing in front of our eyes is the history of this terrible war. It’s like a tornado went in and swept everything up. I was shocked. I didn’t think it would happen.
Even birds and animals have nowhere to drink water. I saw blood coming out of the seal. People started yelling “Shark!” They told us to keep inside, to be ready for anything. It’s had me spooked for years. Now we’re also worried about our houses blowing up. You know how they say you hear the train noise? I heard it.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.
My son would tell me, “Father, you have to pray.” Yeah, yeah. People hang Gandhi’s portrait on their walls, but they do not follow Gandhi’s rules. A man armed with a knife, moving along the central streets of the city, attacked passers-by. Panic killed those people. They were screaming. They didn’t have words. There’s another whole thing going on underneath with the wind, and we have no control over that. Do you see things coming out of the top of the sun? Do you see things coming out of the bottom of the sun? Everybody sees it a little differently. I’ll stand and watch it get dark. What an experience, at one in the afternoon, to be in total darkness.
To make something that will rot is a statement. I visited places to ask their help. Several people just didn’t even want to talk. I thought, ‘Whoa. What are they doing? Why are they doing that?’ You could leave fake voice messages posing as someone’s mom. Or defame someone and post the audio samples online. I put a stick in the ground, and ugly stuff bubbled up from it. People realized that grandma’s jam wasn’t so bad after all.
A person just jumped in front of the train. He looked like what everyone thinks the typical American guy should look like, but maybe not actually is. It started as a kind of tongue-in-cheek thing. He kept saying he was going to kill someone. Yeah, well, we haven’t had a wedding or a baptism for quite some time. We mostly have funerals. No one is outside the system. Even when you ride the train, all you see is this black forest with nothing in it.
People were screaming; people were throwing up because the smoke was so thick. I guess I’m very confused about why this scene. Imagine getting fired. Or you got dumped, or you didn’t get into the college you wanted, or imagine whatever it is that makes you feel weak. It sucks. It’s defeating. The memory stayed with me and that’s what made me think about breaking things. Everyone thought that I was crazy. They weren’t wrong. I partied too much. And I was always begging the eagle to help me to get home safe. All I can say is, if the phone rings, please answer.
The king used to live there. It’ll feel a bit weird as your eyes recover from that. The blood stayed in the water a long time. Some people didn’t want to see it. There was this driver all banged up and there was this one girl bleeding out of her face pretty bad. I kind of just shrugged and said, “Well, you’re going to see a bright light.” They didn’t storm into the room, perhaps because I opened the door in my underwear and my wife was still lying in bed. So, wow. It takes at least 12 hours before we can tell if anything has happened. You can’t just go in and plant trees and walk away.
I was half-kneeling half-standing and that’s when I got hit. Didn’t see it coming, didn’t see it leaving. It was like being on a motorcycle and getting hit by a truck. It was like boom. And then, “Oh.” This was not an act of terrorism. This was not a hate crime. The atmosphere is sad, but a happy sad. I could feel the windows rattling. I could feel the buildings sway. It’s time to bring the statues down. I worked sixty years of my life and it seems the only thing I did was this fucking red machine.
I’d love nothing more but to go back a couple of steps in life to the days where our biggest concerns were waiting on the street lights turning on, or not allowing new shoes to get dirty. When you had a boyfriend or had a girlfriend they’d say goodbye on the Friday and you’d see them on the Monday.
Throughout time we’ve slowly yet surely transformed into robots, we’re all satirical yet the system’s tyrannical and we don’t even have our own thoughts. Ego’s are fed with a double tap and people only care for shaping their persona, which alone is fake with mistakes to make and likes only being the eudaemonia
I cannot determine what is true or false nor can I bare to witness it all. I see kids who are fifteen living as sweet dream on twitter but not in school halls. I’m massively concerned for the wellbeing of our society and the dependency we have for the net, which catches us by the ankle and drags us around til there’s nothing left.
I refuse to believe things will change, I know people are bored with their lives, skip the dating skip the build up, let’s go on tinder and look for our wives.
I’m sad for my brother who missed all the fun and didn’t worry about having a phone, the field was our platform the social was ourselves and what we could SEE was only our home.
When Grenfell windows exploded into miniature supernovas and firefighters froze in that world they will replay over and over, I shall always remember the autopsy of a well-meant poem by a bloke called Si who doesn’t write much and will never write again because a real poet told him at best it was doggerel. As the new world emerges unseen by the real poet who dissected Si’s well-meant poem I read a technically perfect poem about absolutely nothing from the real poet who had so much to say and so little to write. Sometimes when I want to find answers to the hardships of modern life perhaps I’ll ring Si and say “Hey Si, I’ve a Haynes manual on the inner workings of a Ford Fiesta and it’s written perfectly so why not come over and we’ll discuss over hummus I bought from a hipster at a literary festival which is a place real poets unlike you go to, so, Si my pixelated pal do you wanna come round mine mate”? Alternatively I could pass on the technically perfect writings about non-subjects and read a really well intentioned and flawed poem by Si who knows he ain’t the best poet but he wanted to challenge himself on writing about something more important than the existential paradox of a thespian who lived in a disputed vineyard during the Napoleonic invasion of a place that people like Kev has never heard of because he’s only interested in stuff that is happening today. I have decided to write a poem for Si in the spirit of what he was saying but not in iambic pentameter just raw emotion in controlled couplets and it goes something like this….
I read a technically perfect poem about absolutely nothing
I felt a technically flawed poem about something important
The latter poem was poorly written it was not a poem like this
I’d like to go and get wasted with Kev and make alphabet spaghetti.
Today lies before the storm men with Guns and Knives we are in dangerous times we live in I hear a man on TV say if you Vote you make real change Your dreams can fly away and See the sights around you
breakdown with decay and war and bedroom tax
Fashioned by the greed for a better life
For which we all have to pay to make a better world From New York and London to Palestine and the Rwandan genocide Take a trip down the rivers of another Captain Jack Sparrow has the people are people standing in the rain with nowhere to go Looking for any place to call home abound for new life away from the Bombs that fell on your Town
It’s another way of life the Art of Survival hate and fleeing in a Modern Age Let’s just dance and forget How we got here in first place
Don’t look back to where you’ve been
The horrors are today in the sands of time has our planet runs thin just ask Trump no Paris kisses for him
Let’s just all Dance and remember all the black and blue of yesterdays in the Beanfield of another burning home or a baby that cries captured by the cameraman or is just the machinery breaks down with anger on the streets watch the 1930s its making a sound again it’s the Hand Maids Tale or 1984 its all the same they got you Trapped in
It’s not Revolution Tactics to kill kids or is it time to call Anarchy What we all need is a system that does not Fail in First Place it’s not about Stars Wars or Mayflower 2020
I took his hat home to wash in the kitchen sink, got the kettle red hot, the wool spawned blood, his, theirs too, a mess of ruby muddied see-through to maroon solvent stains not stubborn like those he’d seen back home. I pictured his mother’s hands hutch – brown in their crochet of care for this hat, this hat that my fingers now worried over, the finest of stitches, a wool that gave up the weight of silence: of thunder gun fear and sawn rifle breath, of fire as far as the sky goes, of brothers rotting, of some official saying make it something easy to say like Dave or D and the soap powder kept on cleansing it out, the skin cells from way back, the screams, and then what went on last night until it was nearly blue again and still in the shape of his head when it was whole.
Rachael Smart has a thing about words. Her short fiction and poetry has been published online, in literary journals and placed in competitions. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Nottingham. She writes best when the pencil loses its point.
Imagine if a dove was your country soaring into thunder clouds and it started to tear itself bare. Imagine this, red from bleeding and bruised blue both wings stopped moving and left the squall to go it alone into the storm. Pummelled by harsh winds of change the heart of the dove was strong but had forgotten what made it navigate through savage storms. The left and right wing had forgotten that they were an extension of the heart and were there to serve the body of the dove and it’s vital organs shaped like counties. The Dove had forgotten that it’s songs began in the blood and ended at the beak where ballads of Calais and Dunkirk and places like India were written by bloodied quills. When the wings move together the Dove can stop falling but this does not mean it will arrive safely. This is down to the nature of the bird and its nature is dictated by its wings. It’s heart is fuelled by occasional rushes of blood and prone to moments of unexplainable behaviour that can be brave or stupid. The dove is not pure white but made up of many colours and this helps it to soar and makes it stand out from many other birds. There are many fat cuckoos and crows throwing beautiful eggs from boats of birch twigs and mud. These eggs are overlooked by all of the birds because they believe it will break the huge branches and overcrowd the boughs These birds are not allowed to roost because they are not from Elm or Oak despite looking the same bar a shade darker or lighter. The branches are the same colour as the feathers in the dove including the right and left wings of the dove. Four strange crows with ruffled black feathers are squawking at each other arguing over the spoils of burning trees and smashed eggs. The dark clouds are getting thicker, the wind against the dove and the departing squall is picking up speed, they need to start flying so they can avoid the storm. An Eagle starts ripping its feathers out next to a budgerigar admiring itself in a cage of broken mirrors. All the peacocks steal the food from the common birds. The sky is starved of song. The world is trying to juggle four winds to carry the birds as long it can. The birds start believing they are gods and act like them. The birds have forgotten how to sing. The left and the right wing move in opposite directions and the bird helter-skelters into the dark clouds making no noise at all as if consigned to its fate. The feathers on the bird glimmer like a kaleidoscope and the dove just does not realise how special it is. There is still time, the dove is heading into the bowel of Icarus, there is still time.
If Ali was a football side who would support him as he defended his right to wave a new flag coz his old one had faded? If Ali was sent off in the first minute for being cut down would we share the replay and agree he should not be banned or is it just too upsetting and not in vogue to discuss? If a foul was committed against Basra United would we all shout “ah come on ref” or just wait for something more meaningful to shout and sing about. There is no Basra United, there is only United and United and some forms of United make us cheer or not cheer. Imagine if Spurs or Barcelona never turned up because the game was just too hard, can you picture the outpouring of passion and anger? Imagine if the game on Gaza beach next to jumpers on goal posts took place on a day when fifty-one people cheered for something more than football it would be everything about football and life I’d truly wanna see. Can you imagine how some would be enraged at people cheering for their side and their side? Imagine if they’d kicked the ball over the wall like I did as a kid and asked my neighbour if I could have my ball back and they sent back “no” in bombs or soldiers. If all of us were football teams I’d be supporting all of them as one team so none of them could lose. If all of us were football teams we could all play together and hold aloft the silverware with all our names on it. We’d all meet down the boozer where they’d use beer kegs as drums and all of us would get drunk on being together as one massive city we all could support. Nobody would goad each other, a man would not have his tyre slashed because of the wrong kit colour, a few good men and women too tired to carry on would be helped over the finishing line and be told that even the boring goals matter in this long game we’re all trying to win. If all of us were football teams I’d be hugging you way before the final whistle and extra time would be given to the massive bench where sixty million substitutes wait looking for a new home. They want to feel supported, their form of escapism is different. They all want to play, all of us could win.
To get a poem on the Yemen massacre published I wrote a poem about the good times when we ate the finest steak in a five-star restaurant in Yemen. We never ate in such a restaurant but to get a poem published for the statues of walking ash let’s just say we did for the sake of it all. So, we ate the scorched remains of meat floating in a bloody bowl that begged to be appreciated and consumed. We talked about the influence King Leopold the twelfth had on the mass production of silk purses in post regency Francais. To get the poem published I could mention the conversations we had about how influential Lars von Trier is in contemporary cinema like the scene in Anti-Christ when the white baby falls with white snowflakes as his parents made love in white cotton and of the darkness and irony of the metaphorical irony of it all. But metaphorical irony doesn’t make sense but that’s okay because I’m talking about Lars von Trier and like David Lynch is ever so artsy to display a sense of ambiguity now back to my poem or prose or whatever the fuck it is or isn’t. We never ate the finest steak in a restaurant in Yemen because the only time I went there was a news article where words bombed into my eyes that Great Britain shook hands and sold their arms there. The arms I saw were strewn in what was a five-star restaurant where human steak was served up in white cotton totally unlike a Lars von Trier scene where parents made love soft as white snowflakes. These off-white bodies were red as steaks in Park Lane restaurants where deals were done and deals were done and deals were done. The hands I saw that were shaking were held up to Gods like begging bowls of blood, this steak is all that matters it is too well done and everyone is sick to the stomach of it. If this steak was served in newspapers like tragedies of white meat, then they’d ask for more of it and like the queues in ‘eat as much as you can’ buffets they’d all get fat on it and we’d finally see what they were really made of.
We conjure atoms. Power over unenforceable formidable atoms because. We are afraid. Hiroshima saved many lives reports western history books…well. Tell that to. I am thinking of. A woman still angered over the heat. The radioactive earth and flesh. Why’s she still pissed people would ask as they ask about childhood’s ravage. I did nothing I wasn’t entitled to do. Said the security officer unbuckling uniforms over his daughter. Fear is. What it is. A boomerang. An industry built upon toy handcuffs sadomasochism. An industry. How many lives they say. Say. Epidermal peeling people molting. Chameleons. Say.
in the movie, tenderness ended with this: a circle of children cast stones at a bird, a bird already injured, & when the girl did not join, thrust a stone into her hand, chanting, throw it, throw it! today, wondering when the sweetness left, when the Sunday teacher stopped saying he was a sweet boy; when the brother first said “hey, did you know our little sister is a bitch?” i see, someone says, a gap in foundation, a furrowing of landscape, where we place the pit bull. you see, via the pit bull, a lack of negation, a holocaust through action & hope inverted. well. it is not a neutral conversation, he says, but it must be had. be had. i changed my bedroom walls pink to yellow at a young age; no shams, pillows without cases, curtains torn like human membrane at the window — to remember, that’s all, & aghast, how circuitous it seems, how the Camps return in variant forms, how the immaculate conception becomes unholy, degraded, shit upon. in the movie, the girl’s braids change blond to grey — she casts that stone forced, & as the bird dies, in twitches & failed flutters, she holds it, cold, colder.