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Poems

Shanta Acharya 
DPhil (Oxon) 
Flat D, 17 Bloomfield Road 
Highgate, London N6 4ET, UK

1.
THE COOK AND THE CHICKPEA 

(With acknowledgement to Rumi) 

A chickpea leaping out of the pot, 
no more dry and hard, but ready to sprout; 
soaked overnight, then boiled fiercely 

Yelled with all its might at the cook: 
“Why are you doing this to me?” 

The cook casting the chickpea back in the pot 
as if guiding a whale stranded on land, breathless, lost 
back into the ocean for its safety, replied calmly: 

“When will you stop thinking only about your self; 
accept my cooking, careful and constant, as your destiny? 

You think I am torturing you, 
when I am enriching your flavour 
with spices, salt, garlic, ginger, tomatoes 
so you can mix with rice and vegetables, 
and nourish my Master’s family. 

Remember the way Gardener tended you 
while you drank rain in my Master’s garden, for months 
did nothing but fed on minerals and other nutrients? 

You have come a long way from a seed 
planted in the vegetable garden 
to the dawn of a new life in a cooking pot, 
to a taste conjured by me specially for you 
providing nourishment to humans. 

Don’t you know we are all returning, 
our lives enriched by serving, 
our home where we are going?”


Michelle L. Brown

2.

Market Garden

She smells bruised onion despite
noon’s chill, sees her kale
as cankered leaves for harvest,

green plagued by cabbage
loopers in the field, growth
a reluctant prayer half-answered.

Culls yonder in a waxy heap,
some trampled beneath rubber
boot heals, their impress already

dark with rot.  Her late reaping
gamble a wash, diddling
with toil to squirrel away

a soupcon.  She rinses grime
from scarred hands and stops to watch
the faucet drip. Bubbles form, break

where the drops fall, a nesting doll
of tin cans within her muddy
reflection.  She asks the plastic

owl on the fencepost whether
Jenn ever reached Nepal.
The silent bastard never tells,

but this crop won’t pick itself,
so she unpacks her pimento cheese
sandwich, Cheetos, green apple

and thermos of sweet tea.
She eats fast and sets her bearing back
to deliberate, hard-earned neutral.

 

 

Udo Hintze

3.

The English Language: A Modern Babel

How lucky we are we speak English.
The World uses English like fish use water.
It is the language of Hollywood, Wall Street,
The United Nations and the Olympics;
It is England’s most reliable export.

From the shores of a tiny island in the North Sea,
English is a seed that has grown into a tree and prospered,
And covered the world,
Feeding the nations of the world,
And from that single tree, all the birds of the world nest.
English spreads forth its wings
Like a mighty eagle,
Casting a long shadow on the landscape.

Wherever this imperial language has landed,
It has absorbed and been absorbed
Like a black hole,
But not disappearing into oblivion
But existing in parallel universes,
Amongst the peoples of the globe;
Aboriginals, Africans, Asians and Native Americans,
Creating a rainbow of Englishes,
Half-brothers and sisters stretching around the world.

And although English is an Old World resident
It masquerades with New World clothing.
English then becomes a second language.
For example, in Massachusetts, the English there
Do not say, “Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg”
They just call it Lake Webster.

English is a juggernaut gathering speed with every step.
English has carved out routes in the mountains,
Mapped out paths in desert,
And hacked a way through the jungles of the world.
Going back is like digging into the layers of Time itself,
Uncovering ancient civilizations
And there we see the layers of meaning,
The strata of connotations, and the formation of lexicons,
Built upon the backs
Of words, of words, of words
From other languages
(stanza continued)
Like Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit
Amongst the pantheon of lesser gods
Like French, German, Spanish, and Arabic
So “true” English is only is spoken in drips and dribs,
But at least we can be thankful to the Dutch,
That our Boss is not our Master.

And the English Lion has no master
Because it never rests.
Indeed, it surrounds and enfolds its prey at all times
And all places.
For example, in the 19th century
 A Bengali playwright once said:
“I like to write a satire…
I like to show the creatures of my race,
Who go to England
And forget their traditions,
And come back dressed like foreigners…
I like to hold them up to ridicule
Their clothes,
Their habits,
And all their tomfoolery.”

English the kind of creature Darwin would have appreciated,
A kind of super-organism,
Self-aware and constantly evolving,
Evolving like the former red parts
Of the British Empire as depicted
On old Imperial dominion maps.
England is a noun, it is a place on the map.
But English is a noun and an adjective, too.
So it is the entire map, too.
It is the painter and painting merging,
Becoming one,
And not just the red parts,
Stained with the blood of violence and war,
But with life-blood,
Flowing into the mother’s womb,
Creating new life!

So do not fool yourself
By placing blame of this global
Tsunami on the British.
Just ask around and see for yourself,
(stanza continued)
That English is our commonwealth,
And it was not a British Empire
But an English one.


J. P. Dancing Bear

4.

Trial by Light:

(Poem Starting with a Line by Michelle Boisseau)

I have lived in thwarts and starts, a gray trial
lawyer, a pacing beast in the courtroom with a red briefcase.
My satchel of motions, almost painted,
with a can of Crimson Justice (who makes up these names
for paint?).  I was going to
mention the animal rights activist here
but it is so contrived
                                   that I stopped myself
at the courthouse steps, got out of the vehicle
and looked everywhere but inside.
If I wrote about the anima of the activist
it would be like leaving a love note
on the surface of the mirror to myself.  Dear me,
the metaphors were coldly delicious
written in lipstick—Firehouse Brick (who makes up
these names for makeup?)—hearts
to dot the Is—I mean if I'm going to do this,
I gotta do it right!
                             Naturally I would leave it
up for a month so visitors could speculate
about the mystery writer
                                         who is me.  Jealous
that I get the messages
on bathroom mirrors
which have only been seen in movies.
I feel like smoking cigarettes again
so I can go out for a pack
                                            and depart
like the period below the question mark.
Here I am and gone
                                 on to start another
life with the same face.  I knew a man once
when he was at the end of his third career.
He declared his transition day was coming.
Within a week he was gone.  He had been
a chemist, a botanist, and a chef
                   
           and vanished to
write himself
 as a playwright.  I know I said if I wrote about
someone it was really me, but
I never phoenixed myself.
                                          Too scared to
dowse myself in fuel, spark the match
and pyre anew.  I admired
guys like that.  But only as the river
adores the sky, smart enough to know

it's not me that I reflect.
 


J. P. Dancing Bear

5.

The Borrowing

for Beckian Fritz Goldberg

if you allow yourself to let go: to concentrate on a dot in the sky:
until you are part of the dot: just behind its mind: then you can see
your own life below: the body stretched out in the open field: and you
can watch the other people around the nearby miles: up here you can
hear the heart of airplanes: before this was lost to your earthly ears
with the voice of wind: fanning your feathers out to catch another
thermal: you rise: the white houses below looking like mouse skulls:
and where your earthbound eyes had thought the land was relatively
flat: you can see every grassy buckle and wavy hill: you feel the
bird-mind impulsing: as it takes an interest: your own body having not
moved in a while: you ghost out: a skydiver: back to the familiar
fragrance of grass and soil

 Robert William Gaglione


6.

"mowing the grass"

they thrive
under the droning
within hum of ancient hymns
legend-fed in a compost of their belief

others open
like moonlit perennials
sprawled beneath blistered cover
kneeling in fields
with all which freedom brings

relighting heaven and earth green
rooting out
mowing down
rounding up
clearing away

mimicking those moving on
this very morning
wildflowers aim skyward
amongst the shells and shattered stone


 C. J. Sage, 

Editor

The National Poetry Review
Post Office Box 2080
Aptos, California 95001-2080

7.

Lamb

Fence jumper, yet devout avoider
of low obstructions in your path,
water walker you are not.

Your mild way is counted, 
follow-the-leader, and by coveters
your wooly coat is woven.

Gate gazer (your herds 
from highlands & countrysides),
the flesh is culled from your soft carcass. 

o shyer away from shadows,
decliner of darkness and loud address,
bearer of bell at the throat,

you are all ascent and incline
toward the sunlight. You walk away
from haste and toward stillness.

At rest alongside the greatest beast,
your belly is to the earth, 
and your little ear.

8.

Crane / Crane

Urgent bird, mathematical
machine, you copulate
the hill and go in seconds
over her head.

Nest builder, stick tosser,
bog dweller, bog culler,
your beak is a plier;
your head is all jaw.

There was once a leg
and a brace whose parts
collided. The two
may never square again.

River sleeper, sky climber,
wiry crier, erect opponent, 
raiser & razer, wild walk-and-wielder, 
your tract demands you

homonym, namesake, antonym, kin. 


Anastasia Voight 

9.

Chartreuse Lust


 The wood wound path’s detritus
 is smirched with green-grit flotsam.
 As our steps disturb the verdant dust,
 even the newest jetsam
 is chalked with chartreuse lust.

 Such delicto flagrante would disgust
 if done by most any other.
 But a tree is a dissembling lover.
 No love-thrust, no convulsed spatter
 betrays  arborous ardor.
 Only  wind-shiver stirs
 spring cones in carnal quiver.

Ram Sharma

10.

OCTOPUS
Man has become octopus,
entangled in his own clutches,
fallen from sky to earth,
new foundation was made,
of rituals, customs and manners,
tried to come out of the clutches,
but not
waiting for doom`s day.


K. K. Srivastava 

11.
Unhappiness 

Terrible unhappiness, 
the wonder of it 
death wish pushed on us 
unhappiness and life 
two sides of one darkness 
darkness is no experiment. 

The outside pressing 
malignance of light flies 
numbed with waiting for long 
appallingly we feel like 
a dying coal receding slowly. 

Newness of the room 
always the same 
vying for the most helpless 
thoughts of unending roads 
keep musicing us. 

Life needs big hands 
to tackle it’s vagaries 
what alters these vagaries 
credulous and waning stillness 
answers really matter little. 

Happiness is no virgin 
let us not suspend assertions 
of existence, 
dawning on itself is not 
waking to ourselves. 

In the idea of distance 
limping away is no anodyne 
unhappiness is a secret art 
though evolved so much 
we still stand so still. 

It stands 
it sways where it stands 
all that is left before us 
is horizon 
our screams don’t reach there.

 


Adrienne J. Odasso

12.

New City

I've spent some time in this quiet afterlife
dreaming journeys just beyond my reach.
The men by the waterside watch me
as I watch them, lift their eyes to seek
my knees as I flick ash against the sky.
There is nothing here that I could want
more than wishing for this silence. I'll teach
my mind to be still, my thoughts to swim
below in the breezes skimming askance
the brook. My stillborn poems will haunt
this small and squared space long after
I'm gone. I turn from my watch alone
to close the latch, desiring little else
than plum-skin and smoke between my teeth.



Skye Leslie 

16 Cervantes Circle 
Lake Oswego, OR 97035 
skyelesli@gmail.com 
503.961.4112

13.

Resuscitation

 

I want to tell you my story mouth to mouth. 
I want to whisper struggles - feel your lips go 
soft in understanding and when my voice grows stronger 
I can tell of the mountains - how at a point in my climb 
my breath went crystal, became the ice in my veins. 

I want our margins to match and stretch in smile. 
In the knowledge that our dance is not complete 
until we’ve merged sorrow with celebration. 

I want you to know the salt of my words; the gall which has risen. 
That there were days when my speech corroded and rust, 
lodged in my throat like the birds who built nests in base of 
a chimney. 

More, I want my transformation to be visible like a chrysalis 
hanging from a pear tree bough, with internal wings beating, beating 
against its encompassing shroud. 

I want the honey which lies now on my tongue to pour down your throat 
as my recollection now song.