a writer’s heartbreak – Madhumati Chowdhury

1. Outside the Hands Tonight

There was wet light on the park bench, like runny sunshine
It was evening and I didn’t know what to do with my hands that night
They had spent the few days before at your place, wishing to stay there awhile.

Beside you, waiting patiently as you picked at dead skin
explaining how you can’t squeeze lemons without the sting.
Grazing, not quite touching, as I reach for your windows.
Furiously grabbing in upsurges when you read something reminiscent of the winter of past years, spent remiss.
Ash-flicked smoke passed between fingers—middle and index
Thumbs summoning whirlpools on skin without meaning, storms at the heart of it.
My hands were yours and mine till they were ours and then again each-others.

I walked off after a while because it started to rain again
and the leaves reminded me that seasons change.

 

2. Smoke Trails

Every day you wake
a little further from our bed
And I watch you each night
lying on your side
as my ringlets of smoky thoughts
cover the arch of your back
and vanish traceless
unlike the freckles on your back
I stay up all night
counting
and from between my fingers burns up a world
unsaid.

Every day you wake
a little further from our bed
My trapezing tongue holds your musty taste
but the inept artiste that it is
lets the words slip from my mind
and silence sheepishly grins
another day
another day

Every day you wake
a little further away from our bed
This time I sat reading the lines on your face
while you dismissed my quietude
and I let the watery lights
reflected on the window cast
pockmarked shadows on my arms
and waited and waited
for you to walk away
and take my speech with you.

 

3. Worn-out Weariness

The words on my page are smoking
and they trail me towards a different kind of morning
where the bones in my arm shriek at the thought of writing another line from the miserly stories stored in my memories.
I cry
I laugh
Finally, my world has given up
I see no point in the stopping of lines
The ends are not beginnings and I sigh
Clearly, dew off the cold coffee mug is much more secure in its job than I am.
With my hat full of blessing and a heart that is bellowing like a dragon being whipped eight times a day,
I start to see that I make no sense!

Climbing out my window to sit on the ledge
by the door of the neighbouring house
I see two red boots.
Tiny and soft.
They looked cold, without home.
Could you think how lonely shoes look, without feet in them?

My words are smoking on the paper and I’ve not had any time to think
I put down my sleeves and the dimensions-shift and here I have died in a graveyard of bees.
It is the tornado of slipping time, we sit here in its midst.

 

4. Summer’s Discord

The peeling walls ascend to the sky
as far as the eye can see
it becomes the freedom blue
stand up for flight

Whose misery wrote/sang/painted,
sadness into eternity?

Too late in the day
the sun has made our bed warm again
our bodies move pasts
to straddle the cold of night-time windows

its benevolence hinged on leaving
You too were special

Once, under a sky that wasn’t a wall
a tree that wasn’t butchered in a glass
warmer than whispers
sweating like a cold flask

When i float past you
Step back to let the rudeness take recourse

We gathered sand to lock in the hours
Tore down words for each lost breath
the kitchen had a light, at 7 in the evening
You would not be home yet

I am not here, flesh blood and bone
do not cook meat in glass houses

They can look in
measure your cruelty using history
call you names for trying to eat
trying to live

I miss you,
you are gone

Whose misery called/called/called,
skipped the dial-tone so steady,
to the miracles of automation telling,
“Let go, you are ready”

 

Madhumati Chowdhury is a closet writer with a severe disregard for punctuations and traditional forms (ala e.e. cummings). She also enjoys conducting photoshoots of her cat in the sun and listening to hip-hop and jazz.

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The Feathered Girl – Kristin Garth

Detect a dripping down the bed. Diverge
direction of a head extricated
from her death grip while a demonic dirge
of dissonance escapes her lips. Gape straight
into her open mouth, deluged mattress
from some crimson spout. Look about, find out
is you, bloodletting but aware at last
of your aerial view. A ghost? You doubt
for you would see the remains of your
mortality next to her below on
this spattered bed. Out of reach and over
head floating, dripping crimson, tears, a spawn,
fragmented feathers levitate with fright,
is broken, bleeding but tonight takes flight.

 

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of sixteen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket forthcoming from Roaring Junior Press. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com

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Mexican Plainsong – Bill Fay

Jesus drives every Taxi,
And His Angels do the laundry.

While pieces of the
True Cross
Hang on rearview mirrors.

Spanish guitar and blasting brass
Are the cities Cathedral Choir.

Every speed bump Is a Hail Mary.
Every horn honk is Gabriel’s Trumpet.

Lime is the Holy Water,
And tortillas His Wafer.

As the Rosary
Counts the days,
To the Sunday Sacred Familia.

While the blind tourist,
Is still hunting
For their Souls.

 

Bill Fay, retired engineer and poet, holds degrees in Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, and Business Administration. His work has appeared in Creative Colloquy, Puget Sound Poetry, and The Haiku Society of America, among others. He is currently working on his forth-coming book “Tongueless Bell”. Bill resides with his wife, Nancy and their two cats, Tucker and Annie, on Fox Island in Puget Sound near Seattle.

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Grievous Faults – Martina Reisz Newberry

I request ahead of time
that you be patient with me
and forgive me all my sins;
they are ephemeral but persistent.

I’ve been greedy for small things:
a home, a fan base of readers,
the addicting honey of flattery,
the warmth and perfume of Irish Whiskey
in a snifter–its magnificent dumbing down–
chocolate truffles and potato chips–
Oh! to eat them and not get fat, to stay slothful
and slender as a poppy stem.

I confess an obsession with the imperfections
of my own body. I confess that I never
stop dreaming of such thinness that amounts
to nearly-not-there. I confess my envy
of willowy young beautiful women
and, though I have stopped disliking them,
I know my envy is a dark sin frowned upon
by God, Thor, Jupiter, or Zeus.

I have avoided Pride (which is thought to be the sin
that severs the soul from grace) and Wrath, as both
are ill-fitting and carry too many consequences.
But, for the rest, dear reader, I confess all of them
and ask forgiveness from you instead of the gods.

 

Martina Reisz Newberry’s newest collection, BLUES FOR FRENCH ROAST WITH CHICORY is available from Deerbrook Editions.. She is the author of six books. Her work has been widely published in literary magazines and journals in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in her much-beloved city, Los Angeles, with her husband, Brian Newberry, a Media Creative.

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Of the Coming Plague – Kevin Higgins

I ask nothing
but that I be allowed go out and get it.
Better death than suffer
the interminable sobbing of newscasters,
the grimaces of sweating experts,
and politicians’ elongated
gobs, which keep moving
in the hope the blame
will be stapled elsewhere.

I’ll tour the town’s mortuaries
and kiss on the mouth all the corpses
that died of it. Before you ask: yes,
there will be tongues
which I’m told will feel
like cold, stiff slugs.

And if that doesn’t finish me,
I’ll start breaking into hospitals,
quarantined night club toilets,
the offices of eminent plastic surgeons
to lick clean the soap dispensers
which, by then, will be all out of soap
but alive with the world’s germs.

For, Death, what do I know of you,
never having died before?
You’ve had a terrible press,
but could be victim
of the smear campaign.

Perhaps you’re the best thing ever.
Like the first gulp of Champagne;
or all the orgasms I’ve ever had,
and a few I never managed.

 

Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway. He has published five full collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital (2019). His poems also feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Ed Neil Astley, Bloodaxe May 2014). Kevin was satirist-in-residence with the alternative literature website The Bogman’s Cannon 2015-16. 2016 – The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins was published by NuaScéalta in 2016. Song of Songs 2:0 – New & Selected Poems was published by Salmon in Spring 2017. Kevin is a highly experienced workshop facilitator and several of his students have gone on to achieve publication success. He has facilitated poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre and taught Creative Writing at Galway Technical Institute for the past fifteen years. Kevin is the Creative Writing Director for the NUI Galway International Summer School and also teaches on the NUIG BA Creative Writing Connect programme. His poems have been praised by, among others, Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, Observer columnist Nick Cohen, writer and activist Eamonn McCann, historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, and Sunday Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan; and have been quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times (London), Hot Press magazine, The Daily Mirror and on The Vincent Browne Show. The Stinging Fly magazine has described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”. Kevin’s most recent poetry collection Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital was published by Salmon Poetry in June; one of the poems from which will feature in A Galway Epiphany, the final instalment of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series of novels. His work has been broadcast on RTE Radio, Lyric FM, and BBC Radio 4.

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Influenza Pandemic 1919 – Beth Brooke

A pale rider came over the hill;
her coldness hung in milky breaths
above the warm earth
of our newly ploughed fields.

She moved among us,
tendrils of her hair snaked around us:
hyphae branching through the
promise of the late spring day.

The dogs did not notice.
They gave no warning growls;
instead they lay quiet by the hearth
and dreamed of rabbits.

In the evening, infected
by a heaviness that dragged
our hearts back down to the
darkest days, we retired early,

the crump of artillery,
pulse of gunfire
pounded our memories.
We lay down and our dreams

were full of pictures:
sons choked in seas of mud or
hung on the wires that were all
the earth could grow.

Those who could
chose not to wake again,
preferring their dreams of the
lost children.

We buried the dead.

With the last clod turned,
the crows startled from scavenging,
rose into the air;

a pale rider up on the hill
turned; spurred her horse away.

We wiped the dirt from our hands

and trudged home.

 

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Playground Love – E Samples

when you forgot your composition notebook
on the desk in calculus i knew
it was my chance to talk to you and
did you feel how i slid up next to you
with the smooth synth of our collective souls
and did i notice you blush a little
like a sunrise the morning after
the big game
today during a second period lecture
on the means between extremes
all i could do was stare at your golden haloed hair
and think these uptight philosophers never
experienced the enigmatic electricity
of forbidden love; never fantasized about
kissing their unrequited in the rain
while Chris Cornell strums Sunshower
never navigated teen spirit mysticism
or paper labyrinth confessions
doused in Mazzy Star and Alanis
god, if i could just fade into you
no i bet aristotle never stood in the spotlight
center stage and announced his true crush’s name
over the opening chords of Glycerine
aristotle didn’t daydream about pinning a cheap corsage
to the sheer fabric of an angel
or long to lie in bed all day
sheets tangled to the rhythms of Recovering the Satellites
i picture us cruising the strip to the
piggly wiggly parking lot riding waves
of Lisa Loeb, the latest Cranberries,
and that one Goo Goo Dolls song I heard you
humming before choir
i’m nervous it may be too much but
should i describe the imagined
euphoria of your presence next to me
in a dark theater while Claire Danes tells Leonardo DiCaprio
you kiss by the book
how can i tell you
i want you to take off your adidas jacket
and throw it over us like a blanket
as everyone else exits and the credits roll
a song to keep us warm
how do i explain the vision
of you and i sharing knowing glances,
hushed conversation, and a basket of cheese fries
while Dolores O’Riordan sings
we’ll always be this free

 

E. Samples is from Appalachia and currently lives in Southern Indiana, USA. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Bough Poetry, fws: a journal of literature & art, Vamp Cat, The Honest Ulsterman, Twist in Time Mag, and The Stillwater Review. She is on twitter @emilysamples

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Inventory – Patrick Chapman

Substances consumed
on Friday, February 7th, 2020.

Air. Via nostrils. Sometimes by mouth.
Constant intake throughout the day.
Dependency likely. May be cut
with toxic elements.

Six mugs of instant coffee, two
of Earl Grey. Lower dose than usual.

Peanuts (80g). KP. Salt and vinegar.

Salmon, baked. Dressed with lemon slice.

Peas: approximately 60. Not
one of them an actual sphere.

Artificial potato. Milkwhite, frozen.
Contents included chemicals listed
on the box. Did not translate.

Sourdough, ham and vintage cheddar.
Two slices of each, arranged in
a sandwich-type scenario with olive-
based spread and posh mayonnaise.

One bar of crushed nuts: cashews
and a crunchy, binding substance.
Wrapper not recyclable
in this territory.

That’s it for food (as of 20:47:23).

Aspirin (500mg). Advised to dissolve one
in water and gargle the mixture, three times
a day. Have taken it once. Pharmacist said
to swallow rather than spit.
What does she know?

Otrivine spray. 0.1%. Xylometazoline
Hydrochloride. Three times a day
for three days. Apply once in each nostril.

Omeprazole Teva. Oral use. Gastro-
resistant capsules, hard. 20mg, twice
daily. How about weight-loss
and exercise, they said. Am
deaf in the ear into which
that one goes.

Serimel 50mg. One tablet daily.
Better at night. Doesn’t half
whack you. Slight overdose.
Waiting for the wooze.

Mojito-filled chocolates. Forgot
about those. Three with the fish.
Sharp and delicious.

Sildenafil. 50mg. Popped one earlier,
hopeful that someone on this boat
would notice and find it of interest.
So far, nothing doing.

This condition
is expected to persist for quite some time.

 

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War in the Clouds – Dylan Benjamin

When I walked into the garden the weather seemed to be at war too. The clouds in the sky hung thick, heavy and grey, but every now and then sharp beams of sunlight would punch through and touch the ground like angels reaching the earth.

I looked between the fallen fence and the boy as he zipped around nearby, pretending to shoot imaginary German soldiers. I took the time to study him, trying to scar his image into my memory forever. I wanted to be able to close my eyes and see him there, clear as day. Every freckle, every stray hair on his wild head. It felt like a branding iron.

He looked like his father, a mess of brown hair and those determined brown eyes. I’d fallen in love with those eyes twice. Once when I met his father at the town dance and again when I’d given birth to the boy. I wondered if there were clouds in France and I wondered if I’d ever see those first set of eyes again. Could I?

‘I said – that’ll be a job to put back up, won’t it?’

I snapped out of my thoughts and saw Mrs. Baker standing on the other side of my fallen fence at the back. Her thick jowls and pug-like face poked out between a heavy coat and a headscarf tied tightly over her head. It wasn’t raining but that was the kind of woman she was. In the battle between black clouds and sunlight she always expected the black clouds to win. Sometimes I think she even wanted them to.

‘Sorry, I was miles away,’ I said, checking my watch. I don’t know why I did it, habit I suppose. She was on time.

‘You’d do well to stay on Earth instead of having your head in the clouds. We need practicality in a time like this,’ Mrs. Baker said. ‘That fence won’t put itself up after all!’

I forced a smile at her that was mostly gritted teeth.

‘The troops keep knocking it down on their march. Over and over. Sometimes I feel like as soon as I put it up it gets knocked down again,’ I said.

A soft rumble began somewhere in the distance. I sighed. ‘But you’re right, I best make a start.’

The boy was hiding behind a tree, popping out every now and then to fire off some shots and throw invisible grenades. It made my eyes mist.

‘He’s quite wild, your boy, isn’t he?’ Mrs. Baker said, ignoring me.

‘Not always.’

‘Doesn’t seem to slow down.’

‘No. Everything seems to go so fast.’

The rumbling was getting louder.

‘Well, between you and me, I think he needs to calm down. You know my husband is the headmaster, don’t you? He was telling me-‘

‘Shut up. Mrs Baker.’

I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her looking at me. I could imagine her dropped jaw like I’d slapped her in the face. It wasn’t hard, I’d seen that expression before and today there was something in me. More spite.

‘He’s a boy. He’s playing. And we’re at war. Don’t you think children should be allowed to be children, Mrs. Baker? While they can?’

She twisted her face and sniffed rudely. The boy ran to my side and nuzzled into my leg and I held those moments like a guarded secret.

‘Mum, if I’m good, do you think we could go to the pictures later?’ he asked.

Mrs. Baker raised a thick eyebrow at me.

‘Of course, sweetheart,’ I said. ‘Why don’t we walk there and check the times? I don’t think it’s going to rain today. In fact, I think the sun will come out soon.’

His smile was filled with gaps where some teeth had fallen out and I thought how young he looked. How much like his father. I wish I’d had more money to leave under his pillow for sweets. I wish we’d gone to the pictures every day if that’s what he’d wanted.

‘One moment sweetheart, let me get my coat,’ I said, and he puffed up like a proud rooster.

I took the long walk back to the kitchen as the noise in the sky suddenly grew deafening. I shut the door behind me and stared at the floor because I couldn’t watch like I had the first few times and I knew better now than to try and change things.

When I woke up it was night, like it always was, and my head was pounding. Blood trickled down my forehead, stinging my eye. Dust lay in my chest and over and around me while my nostrils burned with the smell of fire. I wiggled my toes and shuffled under the wooden beam that lay on top of me.

This was the part that I struggled with the most. None of it was easy, of course, but deciding whether to stay under that beam or wiggle out of it like I had the first time was a terrible thing.

Should I climb through the wreckage of the house, wander into the garden and see a shoe, a torn sleeve from his jacket – a hand? The nights breeze on my skin made it crawl. I don’t know why I felt more alive when it touched me, maybe because so many people were dead? Feeling alive made me guilty.

I’d stand alone in the night and hear the nearby cries. The flames from burning buildings illumining parts of the darkness while sirens sounded too late. I’d think: Is this what it’s like in France? The wreckages and the anguish and the shouting? Is anyone I love still alive there? My husband or brothers? I’d take it all in and then the bomb would hit me all over again. The boy was dead.

The boy was dead and there would be no tomorrows for him. No more trips to the pictures and he would never age a single day more. I’d wish and I’d wish and I’d wish for more time with him and then-

-I’d be back in the kitchen. The smell of breakfast still lingering in the room and muddy shoes discarded by the door; everything just as it was.

War is a terrible thing. It robs you of the safeness you feel in everyday life. I don’t mean the concern for yourself but of the people you love, fighting in a foreign land and not knowing if they’re dead or alive. And that’s the point – as much as I love my husband and brothers, how do I know they’re even coming back? How can I give up this replay? This recurring loop of my son’s last moments for the roll of a dice that they might return home to me. Would it even be worth it, after the heartbreak? Could we cope? What feels like betrayal does leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It feels like a crime.

‘Can I go in the garden and play?’ the boy asked from behind me.

It took a minute before I could face him; I didn’t want him to see me cry. The minutes are precious but its alright, I can return to them.

When I opened the door and stepped outside into the garden I looked up at the sky. The weather seemed to be at war too.

 

Dylan Benjamin is a poet, writer and essayist from Newcastle. His work has featured in Misery Tourism, 101 Words and other publications and he has upcoming work in Door is a Jar Magazine. You can usually find him at the beach with his dog or follow him on Twitter @DylanBenjamin_

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