also posted on Jim’s blog stopdraggingthepanda.com
Despite what he says not everybody knows, not everybody knows like Leonard knows. Not everybody knows that the best songs are about loss, about endings; about so long ways to say goodbye closing time, and that age can be laughed about but not at, if I had a hat I would raise it to Mr. Cohen perched up there alone in his tower of song.
Jim was born in Dublin and has lived in Vancouver since 1979. He has published previously in Cyphers , The sHop , Oddball Magazine, the Galway Review, Anti Heroin Chic, The Basil O’Flaherty, Rat’s Ass Review and others.
A Rare WomanInspired by the self-portraits of Helene Schjerfbeck,
Finnish artist, 1862-1946
The primitive spark of her gaze
cannot be silenced.
It demands a dialogue.
She starts with a soft palette
and a reminiscent pose,
the quiet youthful notes
shaded with a crayon.
Her eyes, stark and peering,
hint at what drove her to the easel,
taunting us to ask why and how
her art lifts her from obscurity to Paris.
Even her mother wondered,
why not just dabble.
Gifted with more than talent,
she is unafraid,
exposes her strength
in heavy lines, a mustard splash,
brazen magenta slicing.
She builds face upon face,
scraping each clean before moving on.
Traces lurk below the surface,
bold in what she shares
and what she hides in paint.
A stubborn witness as her country falls,
independence into discord,
she best documents her own advance,
war after war waged upon her body.
Age rips her apart.
Eyes now haggard and hollowed,
pared back to shadow,
stalked by time.
Her final statement, her fury
never fading to a whisper,
leaves us raw.
A Recipe for the New Year
Christmas leftovers tidied away,
the last firework embers sizzle out
over a white spread of snow.
Clean as my grandmother’s linen,
ironed crisp with starch,
the table left undressed,
but for her empty plate.
Our family’s women send me recipes
as condolence cards,
her life marked with banana bread
and yeasty cinnamon twists,
baking our language in love and grief.
Shuffling around the kitchen
in a house coat and worn slippers,
she faded into isolation
without other’s needs to tend.
I stumble to follow the method
as I could never repeat her prayers.
Her fingers no longer warm the dough
that wilts under my impatience.
The oven remains cold.
I crack a fresh notebook,
eggshell emotions sticking to the pages,
ink the surface with I want, I want
to heap my plate with the new,
I am not ready to become memory,
sugared and warmed.
Diary of the Unnamed MaidFirst Victim of the Great Fire of London, 1666
Mistress learnd me my letters
so I might read her lists at market.
I scratchd on Miss Hannas old slate
by firelight or with a wet finger in bed
until their shapes filld my dreams.
I share my attic room with the cat
too old to hunt mice. He warms my feet
when frost catches on the eeves.
In the morning I haste my errands
down the rows of wood houses to the stalls
After I run to the river and scribble
amid the tugs and shouting sailors.
Mistress never asks for the paper
sure it is dropped in the gutter.
My day is the kitchen.
Chop and peel wash the pots.
I only enter the bakery with Masters lunch.
His booming voice roars with heat
enjoining me before the oven.
I collect the family bread and cakes
sometimes a fresh biscit for Miss Mary
and a blackd one for myself.
I long rise early with that flour and warmth
but Master has a man to help.
I return to dishes and peelings.
Tonight I workd my letters in a sampler
A gift of thanks to my good lady and sir
who gives me a job, food, a safe home.
Master says we must off to bed.
I can hear him fixing the locks.
But he has not stoppd in the bake-hous.
The cat purrs my name
mongst my scraps of writing.
Voices echo in Puddin Lane below.
London never sleeps.
St Tenue, Mother of Glasgow
Remember me, a princess raped
and thrown away again and again
for the shame of my swollen belly.
Twice condemned by my father to death,
my life begins anew as my chariot
tumbled down Dunpendyrlaw.
A survivor, I was called Witch,
then abandoned to the Firth’s waves.
A shoal of fish silvers beneath my coracle,
washes me onto blessed shores
to birth my son, my dear one, Mungo.
I share your pain, my daughters
beaten and branded, cast aside by men.
Come, my hermitage, my arms offer shelter.
For centuries you visit my bones,
my sacred well in my son’s green city,
leaving coins and rag wishes,
praying that I give you peace.
Even when I am gone, you will find me
in this cathedral of metal and glass,
beneath the modern trains’ roar.
Whisper my names they have buried,
Thaney, Theneva, Tannoch, Enoch.
Whisper to me, Mother.
I will lift you up
above the grinding heels of men,
you unbroken queens.
History of a Nesting Doll
Her first face, serene is stamped with flowers
beneath time-yellowed paint,
but her garish colours don’t match the interior.
A clichéd spinster librarian in the corner at parties,
1950s tight perm and chunky plastic jewellery,
spitting and muttering like her Siamese cat.
After death her story cracks open,
the early loss of her mother hollowed her out,
family shuffling in from next door to fill the gaps.
The details blur more on the next Matryoshka,
features cramped, eyes anxious to speak.
A touch of a smile, her flushing cheeks.
Engaged to an unknown boy in WW2
who didn’t return, she never dated again.
Discouraging other widows, she chided
that only one mate exists for each.
Her next expression holds the unsaid
behind pursed lips. The paint simplifies,
spotted headscarf and one large, loose bloom.
Unearthed sepia snapshots with her father
at US road-side attractions, Old Faithful,
the biggest ball of string.
He bought the cars, she drove
as her brother moved on to family of his own.
The last three matrons are pared down,
wood fading, fewer dots and colours
on matronly aprons and kerchiefs.
A beloved community soul, layers hidden.
She paid for niblings’ educations,
took the grandkids to local pow-wows,
feeding her love of turquoise with the hard beat
of dancing feet, sweltering summer days.
Trinkets of her solo trips packed in boxes;
wooden shoes, a twisting Thai dancer
and a Flamenco dance in a sweeping skirt.
Ten orders down, the smallest face
speaks with black,
depression, electro-shock therapy,
slivers of her memory lost
like the last doll,
an emptied space
in her heart-centre.
The Viking and The Maiden
but the sagas sung
in my head.
He was my warrior,
riding his motorcycle in the wind
like a longboat,
a stormy petrel.
We were young gods,
revelling in the sauna heat
of the dark disco.
Awaiting his arrival,
I brushed off sailors like flies,
His oars rocked him in
on a wave of girls
who knew the course he charted.
I lashed myself,
sweat-rich and wild,
to the mast of his bones,
riding my longing tide
to the songs of the mead-hall.
I was willing to throw
myself from his cliffs,
to dance with his shield maidens
in blood-lust and love
until I broke apart,
timbers against his sword.
But he sensed
I was not battle-ready
and dropped his sails
to shelter me back
to the hearth fires.
I stole a kiss
from his sand-dry lips.
as he returned
to the pearling foam,
my last sun-hope
When she drifted loose-paged
through the Idaho bookstore,
I imagined Europe’s narrow streets
followed at her heels.
She could never blend
into this backwater town,
an exotic wind in the tilt of her eyes,
her Mary Janes mirror-polished,
her uncombed hair.
She lived in sensuous melancholy,
a spirit downcast by her own beauty.
I wished to remain hidden near
to catch her spark.
Whispers followed her,
unemployed, unwed mother.
I dream her face stares back
through my window,
a maria of the moon,
her dark, silent surface
I long for her wide cheekbones
to push me through the crowds.
DishevelledDa Vinci’s La Scapigliata
She rises from the wood,
the earthy paint,
clear and bright.
Paused over something unseen,
needlework or a sleeping child,
a thought pulls her away
and lights her from within.
Soft notes unwind in her hair,
the thread she’s following.
by painted background,
the strictures of fashion and time,
of man or home,
on her own she is raw,
Grace, not in her eyes
hooded and downcast,
not in her smile.
Bio: Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Totems is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2022. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.
2 poems about forgotten women by Gerry Stewart
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and who are your biggest influences today?
Catfish: I started writing in 1971, while in the army, mostly letters describing shooting cannons and visiting different countries in Europe. I just missed Vietnam and ended in Germany for almost 3 years. I am from New Mexico and have always loved Westerns, so Louis L’Amour influenced me, Ivanhoe, Steinbeck, Zola, Pearl Buck, Poe. Currently I read Tolkien, since our books are archived together at Marquette University. I love Bukowski, Jack Micheline, Seaborn Jones, Adrian C. Louis, and mostly poets and storytellers I’ve become acquainted with over the past 30 years of my writing.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Catfish: My mother and grandmother believed I had talent and my wife, Aida of 38 years has put up with me vanishing into a tale or going out reading, now it’s the Zoom reading craze.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
Catfish: My wife and daughter and writer friends.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Catfish: I grew up in Albuquerque and Clovis, New Mexico, but after the army moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I hitchhiked and rode freight trains across America and down into Mexico. When in Europe I was in the 1st Armored Calvary and when not playing war games against the USSR. I traveled mostly in West Germany and Amsterdam. I love Milwaukee and retired from the Main Post Office after 34 years, lots of excitement from workers going postal and bombs mailed to Jefferey Dahmer while he was in prison. I always miss the mountains and plains.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Catfish: I try to keep my next work my most meaningful, but my part in Prying in 97 with Bukowski and Jack Micheline was popular because of Buk and it is currently being reprinted in Germany by Newington Blue Press and another solo book: Valentina Mezcalito Blues is coming out soon from Laughing Ronin Press in Kentucky.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Catfish: I quit drinking and smoking weed 16 years ago. I do like strong coffee, nature walks, thinking of new writing ideas, being with my Mexican wife, people watching.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others? Favorite artwork or music video?
Catfish: I did a tiny book called: Making Love to the Rain and I thought about farmers with hope in their eyes watching their crops grow. That’s always hit me hard. Favorite artwork would be damn near anything by Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo, I’ve written extensively about both. Music video is Red Hot Chili Peppers Hump de Bump.
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?
Catfish: Well, I got to see Jimi Hendrix twice, Little Feat, now I like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joe Satriani, Kingfish Ingram, Gary Clark Jr.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Catfish: I mentioned my 2 books coming out. I’ll be Zoom reading Nov 3rd for Montgomery College, MD at an English 101 class my little chap called The Impala and maybe Cobalt from Prying and at Wounded Knee, SD probably some Frida Kahlo poems. Lots of stuff always come along, remember what’s on Buk’s tombstone “Don’t Try”.
Bonus Q: Are there any funny memories that you can recall during your writing/creative journey?
Catfish: There was a local music/reading long ago in the gay district of Milwaukee. I was reading with a sax player, named Big Frank, we had each other’s six. His warning for danger was he’d start playing Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. The Emcee was a guy with a dark beard wearing a wedding dress. He had a briefcase of fake $3’s after every performer read or played their instrument, he handed them a stack of money. This handsome blonde man kept staring at me rather strangely. After we did most of our thing, I grabbed the case and threw all the money in the air, people were squealing and jumping, but not blondie, Big Frank hit Take Five. He pulled his 357 from his horn case as blondie grabbed a handful of fucking chapbooks. We split posthaste. A month later the cops caught Dahmer, after he’d eaten most of 21 men. The cops came knocking at my apartment, they found 3 of my books at Dahmer’s house. I let them search, even the freezer. Sick huh?
Poetry by Catfish McDaris:
In three days, I see
a new doctor
maybe he can help me
I’ll try to explain
the anxiety and panic
How I’m paralyzed by fear
How prayer doesn’t seem
to be the cure
How I wonder if God
has turned His back on me
How no one seems
to understand the terror
How I love my family
but even their love
can’t stop the monster.
My grandparents lived in the Panhandle of Texas, there were guns in every room because of a long-ago feud that resulted in prison time for my grandpa
We’d eat white bread with sugar and milk called graveyard stew and sleep in the mule barn guest
Room, grandpa would wash his face with pumice soap to try and remove the carbon black from work
They’d drink home brew on weekends one night granny threw her tit over her shoulder and her prune nipple
Hit grandpa in the eye, she started laughing when he yelled and fell out of his chair and shit his pants.
Cochise’s dry hot tears skeletons of buffalo windstorm ghosts dry death.
Heat waves dance in dearth forests are matchsticks waiting animals on edge.
The heat of summer beckons fireflies to sparkle crisp plants beg for rain.
There But For the Grace of God
The Honduran immigrant staggered into the meeting speaking only Spanish, he said he needed help
His entire body was shaking from alcohol withdrawals, I’d seen men like him, near death some recovered, he sweated out a pure booze stench
One hundred people prayed for him, he died before midnight
It took Jose twelve years to find his family in Chicago and give them some closure.
Bio: Catfish McDaris is an aging New Mexican living near Milwaukee. He has four walls, a ceiling, heat, food, a woman, one cat, a daughter, a typing machine, and a mailbox. That’s enough for him. He writes for himself and sometimes he gets lucky and someone publishes his words. He remains his biggest fan. He’s been sliding in the shadows of the small press for 30 years. Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. He’s on vacation from selling wigs in a dangerous neighborhood in Milwaukee. Van Gogh and Catfish were both born in ’53 and Vincent died on his birthday July 29th. Cat’s hometown is Clovis, New Mexico, Gauguin’s father and son were named Clovis.