The Featured Poetry Showcase for Steve Denehan

Thrush’s Song

Too frail, too timeworn, so
on my wedding day I came to her
overdressed in the day room, I looked
in aged faces to no avail
then, a chuckle, and there
under a clock, she sat
I kneeled before her
letting soundless seconds fall between us
the change in her jarring
impossible to reconcile to
my bedside locker photograph
a stranger before her
I took her hand and
she let me
her skin, gossamer over tiny bird bones
I looked into her eyes, once fire
now ash
“I’m getting married today”
“That’s nice”
lifetimes before, she took the world by the tail
and squeezed
and shook
to our family of land dwellers
she blazed across the heavens
she was the child of Icarus and Earhart
she was mountainside heather
she was paddle boats and big band jazz
she was a wave on Mirror Lake
before
in the now we hold hands
and do not speak
I gaze into her eyes
eyes that saw it all and
I find her, I find her
“I know you”
“I’m getting married today”
“You are?”
“I am”
“Do I know her?”
“Not yet”
“I was married once”
“I know”

“Let yourself be happy”
“I will try”
“I know you”

I feel her squeeze my hand
I look down and see a map
liver spot countries once explored
I look back up to find her
leaning in conspiratorially
whispering, just in case
“sometimes men come to my room during the night”
“do they?”
“they do, they come to my window”
“is that right?”
“it is, I tell the staff but…
…they do not believe me”
“will I tell them?”
“oh no, sometimes I leave the window open”

she winks and cackles
and the day room silence is gone
a startled flock of birds
“Shut up Thrush!”, says another elderly lady
“I will not shut up!”
she smiles at me and I watch
as the stardust falls from her eyes
and her hand grows limp in mine
and she is gone

Previously published in, ‘Of Thunder, Pearls and Birdsong’, by Fowlpox Press, available here

https://www.peecho.com/checkout/14586524308808136/417032/ofthunderpearlsandbirdsong

from Cajun Mutt Press

The Roller Disco

I held my daughter’s hand as we stumble-skated
long circles of hearts stopping and hearts racing
exchanging eyes-to-heaven glances with another father
it was almost empty and the music echoed
besides us, there were a group of girls
slurping blue slushies and chattering in gasps
then, I saw another teenage girl
alone and heavy
she must have weighed fifteen stone, maybe more
she put on her skates clumsily
with dimpled knuckles
we skated on
“look at her”
said my daughter
pointing
I turned around with dread
and saw her
weightless
gliding, easily
as if pulled along
by a thousand fairies
we watched as she twirled
like water down a sink
and smiled at my daughter
while skating backwards as she passed
skipping from one foot
to the other
I saw my little girl inch taller
comforted by the knowledge
that impossible is just a word
that life is hers
and ripe for plucking
she lets go of my hand
time stretches and contracts
in that peculiar way
and we watch her heavy and light
fifteen stone of song
swaying and swooping and
she falls
corners of her landing hard
marrow freezing in my bones
there is a sound then
vicious snorts
sneering laughter
the group of girls
slushies gone
white teeth, pointing
I want to run to them
to scream into their faces
until my throat is raw
I want to pull their tongues
from their mouths
and stamp them to a paste
instead, we help her up
she feels light still
in my arms
my daughter takes my hand
I see the beginnings of tears
as she is not too young to realise
we take off our skates
and put on our shoes
and get the hell out of there

Simmering

There was always a guy with freakish strength
generally wiry
happy to stay in the background
an easy wallflower
he avoided trouble
dodged first and second glances
but the strength, simmering steel
was always there
utterly disproportionate to his frame
bigger guys bounced off him on pitches
arm wrestles were won smoothly
and without expression
to sighs and disbelief
even deep cuts and gashes never phased him
I didn’t know what to put it down to
this defiance of natural laws
always so quiet, so placid
I never knew where the strength came from
until years later
when I learned
that the placid
have more rage than anyone

The Confessional

Shadows in shadows
I could not see his face
though I could smell his breath
we sat very close to each other
a thin partition between us
he, a middle-aged man
me, a boy
anxious and alone
he asked if I had sinned
I told him that I had
listed them
as I had rehearsed
he wanted more
wanted impure thoughts
I made some up
afterwards, I knelt on a pew
closed my eyes
said my penance quickly
wondering if there would come a day
when it would all make sense

A Worm in 1981

I am a worm
having burrowed under the covers
deep
to the bottom of my bed
I lie there, curled
the mattress pressing up into me
the blankets pressing down upon me
breathing
until the air is gone
until the only air left
is my own
and I take it
hot and damp
back into myself
in quick, shallow gulps
looking around
in that quiet dark
I hear the door open
feel my father’s hand
through the blankets
on the small of my back
and I understand
even then
that it is impossible
to disappear completely


Rockfield Hotel, Brittas Bay, County Wicklow

we changed our clothes
as workmen walked through our room
carrying floorboards on their shoulders, nodding hellos
as evening fell, we arrived in the lounge
I saw a cordless drill in amongst the bronze and red velvet
an open tin of paint on the bar
a huge, panoramic window looked over all of Wicklow
but it was dark
and we could see nothing
a gigantic circular grill stood in the centre of the lounge
but the chimney was blocked
we sat spluttering and laughing in the smoke
as the night swirled around us
we ate charred food and shook our heads
I wondered whose fingerprints were on the lip of my glass
there was a comedian
that laughed at his own jokes
and we laughed with him
there was a pianist
and he could play
and did, until the piano bled
and my father, ten years without
decided to have
just one cigarette
I watched him suck on it, lost in it
it was the beginning of something
and the end of something else

Another Poem About Time

Time stopped
at least once
for eight seconds or so
I know
I was there
inside
my inert body
looking out
looking through eyes
fused
slightly to the left
there was no sound
no heartbeat
no breath taken, given
I saw half of the window
an autumn butterfly paused
that crack in the plaster
the cat on the windowsill
paused
my daughter
our daughter
the side of her cheek
the corner of her mouth, a smile
paused
I saw the sleeve of your jacket
blue veins in your wrist
the blood in them
paused
the swirls and curls of your hair
no longer alive
not dead as such
but paused
your neck
open and elegant
your laughing mouth
a photograph of joy
when time stopped
I saw your eyes
I saw the way
you looked
at me
before
it was too late


Comets and Moons and Whole Worlds

A long day
a long drive home
I carve through towns and villages
see old ladies carrying plastic bags
they lean into the wind and the rain
and the cold and the night
as they make their way
home
to put the dinner on
boil the kettle
to call a sister
on the phone
to compare days and months
and years and lives
unaware that they are galaxies
that comets and moons and whole worlds
came from them
move inside them still
I coast to a stop on the driveway
pull up the handbrake
watch raindrops trickle down the windscreen
taking with them
all the stars

His Name Escapes Me Right Now but It Might Come Back to Me Later

They gave him everything
water torture
sleep deprivation
they starved him
removed his fingernails
the fingers themselves
his ears
they peeled parts of his forearms and thighs
dripped acid onto his feet
cut words across his chest and stomach
his motorcade had driven
too close to enemy lines
he had been captured
a bounty, a piñata
bulging
with military secrets
held for months
presumed dead
forgotten by most
until his body
what was left of his body
was returned
it is believed
that he gave them nothing
that he endured it all
everything they had
and gave them nothing
maybe nothing was all he had to give
maybe it was that simple
either way his family
their knees worn smooth from prayer
got him back
at his funeral there were flags
and a twenty-one-gun salute
that frightened his son
his family were given a medal
in lieu of his bravery
it was shiny

An Interview with Steve Denehan

  1. Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, what is the theme or mood?
    Steve: My latest book was released in October by The Golden Antelope Press and is called ‘Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons’. I try to write each day, so a lot of the poems are about day-to-day things really. The enormity of small things is something I find interesting so a fair few are poems about that, mundane things changed by our perception of them.
  2. What frame of mind and ideas lead to you writing your current book?
    Steve: A poem can come from anywhere, anywhere at all so it’s hard to be specific about a frame of mind or ideas really. A line comes along and I build on that. It all happens really quickly. Quite a lot of poems come from me mishearing song lyrics actually. I’m sure it was just the same for Shakespeare!
  3. How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?
    Steve: I can’t say that I’ve ever been serious about writing really. Writing a poem is great, the best and I love it but there’s never been any real plan. When I finish writing a poem, I immediately forget about it and don’t think about writing again until another one comes along. In terms of adapting I’m sure the poems have changed and are changing as time goes but, if they are, it’s not a conscious thing. I just write them as they come.
  4. What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
    Steve: I’m sure everyone is, to a large extent, a product of what they have read or listened to. I would say that songwriters have had more of an impact on me really, though I do love reading too. In terms of actually crafting a song there are few better than Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Paul Buchanan, James Taylor and Aimee Mann. One of my favourite pieces of writing of all time is the first verse of ‘4th of July’ by Aimee Mann actually. “Today’s the fourth of July Another June has gone by And when they light up our town I just think What a waste of gunpowder and sky” How incredible is that? Writers I love to read are Paul Auster, Glen Duncan, Joe R. Lansdale, Charles Bukowski, Albert Camus, J.D. Salinger and, if I feel like a thriller, A.J. Quinnell.
  5. What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
    Steve: I like to paint though I wouldn’t have much of a clue of what I am doing. I really like the feel of the paint under the knife. I also played a lot of sport over the years which I would argue is a huge creative outlet, or at least it was for me. Trying to outthink an opponent or your opposition is a thrilling thing.
  6. Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled or a spontaneous/ freewriting style?
    Steve: I’m not sure that I have a process at all. I think about writing only when I am writing. When I am not writing my mind is on other things. I am easily distracted and enjoy so many other things besides writing. I find that the less I think of writing the more likely it will be that a poem comes along. When one does I either write a quick skeleton of it on my phone or, if possible, I sit down at the laptop and get it down. I write quickly and try not to overthink things. If a poem takes longer than a half hour, I give up on it.
  7. Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?
    Steve: As I tend to write about what’s happening around me, I’d say that people, environments, hometowns and vacations play a massively important part in the writing. I would guess that the poems are roughly 80% non-fiction and 20% fiction.
  8. What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
    Steve: The most rewarding part is the writing, absolutely the writing. It’s an amazing feeling, really. It’s often like teasing out a puzzle until it all suddenly clicks into place. But, the best times are when a poem comes along fully formed and it is written and finished in the time it takes to type it. That is almost impossibly exhilarating. I don’t understand at all how some people agonize over every word, how the act of writing is almost torturous. If it were not a joyful thing for me, I wouldn’t do it. The most frustrating part is probably the submitting but, really, I don’t mind that. I just throw on some music and bash them out.
  9. How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?
    Steve: This year has been such a tough year for so many people of course but, personally, I didn’t mind it. I like my own company so the isolation was grand. It was tough not being able to visit people but beyond that it was good, kind of refreshing in a way. I think it forced lots of people, myself included, to find the pure and simple joy in small things again which is great. Some poems came from it all of course and, while a lot of them were quite sad, I would say that the majority were upbeat.
  10. Please give us any promotional info for your work, social media, blogs, publishing company info, etc that you’d like to shout out.
    Steve: I probably wouldn’t have as gigantic a presence as a lot of people on social media but here are a few links all the same: https://denehan.wixsite.com/website,
    https://twitter.com/SteverinoD and https://www.facebook.com/denehan
    Steve’s new poetry collection, ‘Days of Falling Flesh and Rising Moons’, published by The Golden Antelope Press is available online and can be ordered in all local bookshops.

His previous collection, ‘Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below’, published by Cajun Mutt Press and his chapbooks, ‘Living in the Core of an Apple’, published by Analog Submission Press and, ‘Of Thunder, Pearls and Birdsong’, published by Fowlpox Press, can be purchased by going to Steve’s website listed above.

*UPDATE* Steve will have a book coming out on Potter’s Grove Press in April “The Streets, Like Flowers, Come Alive in the Rain”

6 Short Poems from David L O’Nan in the Cartoon Diaries

COUNTRY LIVING BACK WHEN

We came from fields of rotten smells.
Dreamt up the 1950’s ideal man.
Then he threw us around.
Hid in his hideaway smirks.
Drank by the pond
and sung Hank Williams to the catfish.
We called him grandpa
as he called us losers and tramps.
He was built by the machines.
We must live our lives
like a cartoon idea
from the daily paper.

We are neglected,
accomplishing only how to grease our hair
and become misogynists.
You know what the devils would see,
and report to the newsies.
How you are not truly ideal at all
when you sit there
on a hill of sunsets
…peeling the flesh off the rose petals.

A TICKET TO THE RODEO

Eyes across the blind rodeo
Red handkerchief bandanas
Clash into a pastel fade of dirty air
Wrestling this old dream
Bull ropes suffocating clarity
Whipping me with consistency
Lashes to my skin
Burns in sips of breath
Take my hand, from this grave
Now silent and indolent

A SCANDAL FOR VULTURES

Combing through the dirt for the symbols we lost
Meet me in the middle
At the Equatorial line
It is midnight with wheels flying
With the spreading of chaotic stars
Busting windows with their falling bodies of light

SUPERMOON

A bowing to my cello
On a night of the Supermoon
A dream escaped
And infected the stars
A galaxy dripping the melt of night
Onto the mellow moon
The creating of purging tides
Rupture to the staring eyes of the elliptic orbit
The cello strings wither
The bridge shatters

ON THE RUN FROM THE DELUGE

After thousands of jailbreaks
Masking all those millions of mental suicides
Quickly young gamblers
Collect your winnings
The chips spill to the oily cement floor
Blanketing a scrambled moonlight
Wherever you run
Act as though your body has disappeared
Whistle a schemer’s tune
A pretender
An atheist living in Art Deco stained glass window

BURNING MAZES

Again tonight
Slumping against the tub
Tears mingling to the floor
Thinking about the old home
The family I knew from long ago
Everything had to change so suddenly
When my father left this plane
Leave in the clogging of internal pain
I won’t find my way home
These burning mazes won’t lead me there

photo feature by Jesse Gardner (unsplash)

Avalanches in Poetry 2 Entry: Peter and the Sea of G by Carrie Sword

Peter and the Sea of G


He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.

[from Suzanne by Leonard Cohen]

A sparkling crown arcs our horizon at night. By day, we skim the ripples and swells of a liquid desert. We sail
back and forth across the Sea of G all the time. We risk being swallowed by it every day, and I usually love that.


Eashoa said he’d meet us on the far shore after he’d calmed the crowd and had some time alone. But on the
boat, none of us slept and the ocean roiled more than usual. It was like how I felt earlier that day.


We’d led hundreds of beginners into the desert to hear him. They sat rapt until dusk. Then they were thirsty,
feint, and I felt their eyes on us like we’d know what to do. He prayed, and I found that frustrating considering
the danger of being mobbed. Then it turned out there were people with food in the crowd. Actually, a lot of
food. Everyone ate and felt abuzz about the future. So the trouble in my mind was no trouble at all.


And then we sailed out ahead of him with the sea like a cat taking our boat in her cold teeth like a mouse;
shaking it; then spitting it out to watch it spin. I felt the thrill. But then things got serious, and I figured we’d die
this time. So then he walked right out to us as a ghost and said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “It’s me. Let’s
talk about the day. Come on out.” Then the sea went friendly. He stood there waiting, sure I could walk on
water. I felt like I should.


So next thing I knew I was near the exit door to this life and felt like I was ten mountains above the Earth in my
mind’s eye. I saw myself below, flailing in the water and gulping for breath. I saw my life with clarity I’ve
never had, my decisions winding and curving through years like a signature I’d been signing all my life. I
leaned toward the possibility of continued time. I grasped at it, and the water slipped through my hands. I
thought, ‘This is what it’s like to be dying – to be out here alone.’ But then I saw his hand reaching out. I took it
and he walked me back to the boat like I just needed a little support.


So far my initiation has gone like this: I went looking for my soul in the countryside one afternoon and
stumbled into a sinkhole. The cave had its way with me. It synced my inner clock with the slow drip of
evolution. After ten years I recognized myself as the apparition of a human, but in more ways like a cockroach.
That was how I found the heart of hearts below my feet, laying down like Shiva while I stood on top with my
mouth open.


Once I recognized I’d never find my way out of the cavern, Suzanne brought the crystal and led me up inside
the mountain into the tower overlooking the coast. She said the sea aches to be walked on. We prayed, and she
left me to my work.


So then I was thinking, my subtle-body has already been taken apart in the cave. The quartz has been inserted in
my belly. The Earth lights up my insides. I must be able to walk on the sea. I must be able to break out in
miracles like a Magnolia tree, and leave the ground covered in magenta.


My wisdom is water. His body the wiser sinks in abandon.

At the start of my career I earned a B.A. in English and worked as a journalist, freelancer and public relations writer. I studied French literature and traveled in France. Later my personal experience with dreams led me to pursue an M.A. in counseling psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I’m currently a Jungian psychotherapist with a specialization in dreams and a private practice in Minneapolis. I write fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. I hold an award for excellence in writing from the Associated Press, and my writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal and Ink Drinkers Poetry: A Quarterly Chronicle. My blog can be accessed at https://dancingonmoonlight.com. I can be found on Twitter at @DrCarrieSword.

photo by Nathan Dumlao (Unsplash)

3 poems by Dunstan Carter inspired by Syd Barrett, Iggy Pop & Tom Waits

Another Life, Another Man

Lost in a doppelganger’s daze,


Painting yourself into the corner
Of another empty room,
The fumes nuzzle your sweat,


Confused nursery rhymes sing
Through the bristles as night falls
And bubbles pop on the ceiling,

A back splash of petrified joy
Dancing like sparks through the dark.


Flashbacks scuttle like rats,
Rust creeps into happiness,
Wearing away your ambition
And all the sweet things that glistened
As your reveries unravelled,

The magic garden and the innocence,
The twisted fairy tales and feedback
Melting in the psychotropic lights,
Detuning till your strings became slack,
Freezing as the TV cameras rolled;


And it’s all too much and ‘very noisy’,
Another life, another man.

You were the colours of an orchard
As the sun cuts through a storm,
A magnificent Icarus dandy dressed,
A handsome charm all glints and sparkle,
Tumbling words and jumbling laughs;


A fame lopped short and left to walk home,
A mind filled with dust and fading guitars,


A sun flicked off with a switch.

Contorted

Piss wet and wild
In a heavy liquid
Called ‘Kill Yourself’,

Writhing in shiny silver briefs,

He arches his back
And contorts his body,

Sweat and blood shimmering
On his sinewy torso,

Wounds sealed with gaffer tape,

Crazy eyes framed
In smudged raccoon eyeliner,

A robotic wig of foil strips
Refracting the light.

The band heave out
Heavy drones behind him,
A rhythm that taunts,

Amps pipe the din
Of hurled beer bottles
Breaking against guitar strings,

Violence fingers glory
As mayhem daubs its tag

And spit flies;

They can hear this
All the way downtown,

He’s no longer a man,
He’s a chorus.

West Hollywood, Late 1972

His hair’s thick
Like the flap
Of corduroy flares,

The back of
A black llama’s neck,

A horse’s whipped tail
Or an old velvet drape.

His smile is an ache,

A chiselled curl,

The light patch
On a leather couch,

And the warm spot
In an old saloon
Slicing dusty sun.

His voice is an interruption,
A ramble torn wild,

Cogs twisted
And splintered,

Rattling rocks and rust,
Lubricated by
Whisky and rain,

Then fermented

Dunstan Carter is a poet and artist based in Manchester, England. His poetry has appeared in Vita Brevis, Remington Review, Penumbra magazine and Buzzin Bards. He’s currently finishing work on a debut collection of poems.

Twitter: @dunstancarter Instagram: @dunstandoodles