2 New Poems by Elizabeth Castillo : New Start & Black Dolls for Christmas

New Start

In all my languages, I have found there is no word for you. Although most vowels are the same, no matter where they sit on your tongue,
and life goes on, I’ve noticed, and tries to drag one along with it. But my bags are not packed. This time I do not travel light, or alone.

You’re mistaken if you think I’ve folded all this up neatly behind me.
You’re an idiot if you think I don’t know your twitter feed by heart.

I want to be like that crab that builds itself from bits of detritus- that decorates its shell with rubble from the sea floor. To feel and not feel, and breathe while underwater, to be a hundred people, a hundred creatures, and not be anyone at all. 

Who said that healing from mishap and mischief is linear? Who gets to decide the shape of my bruises but me? 

Such a tiny thing! Such small, such humdrum hours- all rolled up together into a quiet avalanche. Like a leech, I can’t shake this nuisance from my ankle, beneath each stone, battalions of fire ants advance. If I can’t carry this on board, I will sew it to my ribcage: (I’d like to see them try and prise it off me then!) Dawn is just the start of another day, when the
aircraft shudders, then dips, then plunges into the horizon. Down below, in the cargo hold, I’ve packed most of myself safely away.

You’re deluded if you think I’m not taking you with me. You’re a fool if you think I’m ever leaving this alone.

Black dolls for Christmas

A pair of black dolls sit under the tree,
waiting for my girls,
with a gripe about how hard they were to find.
And this is veal. Do you know veal?
Oh look! Another book,
Collected short stories from West Africa.
And… is that… a pot of shea butter?
Oh no, false alarm. It’s body cream.
A fruit-based concoction of some kind.
Smells like that pineapple I’ve been asked to carve.

They mean well, his family,

(although their ancestors didn’t.)

It’s the thought that counts
What thought was that exactly?

(I know what their ancestors thought.)

They don’t mean anything by it,
they want you to feel at home.

Home, my home?

(I thought they’d taken my home.)

In the lift, I nudge, and nod towards them,
the mixed-race couple, she- brown, he- white.
He- a tourist, she- a local delight.
“Do you see us?” I ask. You shake your head
and pull me close. I believe you.
But this is what they all see.

They mean well, these people,

when they called me bold. Exotic. “Audace!”
When their eyes snap to you for confirmation
as if you speak for both of us.
They mean well, these people,
with their books and black dolls
and explanations, and pineapples.

They mean well, these people,
But their ancestors didn’t.

Elizabeth M Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer and language teacher. She lives in Paris with her family and two cats. When not writing poetry, she can be found working on her podcast or webcomic, pottering about her garden, or writing a variety of different things under a variety of pen names. She has words in, or upcoming in Selcouth Station Press, Pollux Journal, Authylem Magazine, and Tuna Fish Journal, among others. 

photo by Elian Jushari on Unsplash.com

4 Poems by R.D. Johnson : Malcolm & Martin, Angels, Dr. King’s Dream & February 1st (re-post)

Malcolm & Martin

Built like Malcolm, that’s the X in me
Think we just in the middle, the thought perplexes me
Built like Martin Luther, no wonder my name mean king
And continue one day at a time
Walking in his dream

Angels

Angels watch over me
And don’t let the devil get up under me
A lot of evil planning they six feet so they can put me under see
Six feet has become the socially acceptable distance
I have people farther away taken from me in an instance
Thinking about the circumstances got me withdrawing my defenses
See the pain through my lenses
Lather all my feelings, watch it repeat as it rinses

I got angels over me
Waiting to give my wings
I still gotta do a few more things
Reach a few more dreams
Right now things don’t look like what it seems
Feel like we’re in a balancing act
Keeping it together on the beams
Right now the world is holding it together
But trying to bust at the seams

I got angels over me
Watching over ensure I’m blessed
Diminishing my stress
Monitoring my success
Always hungry for more
Never settling for less

Angels watching over me
Since they were taken from me too soon
I wish I could sit and chat with them all
In the same room
Wish I could see my cousin one more time
Call me RJ one, my favorite nickname of mine
Wish I could visit my grandpa like I used to
I hope you proud of me for the things I did do
Wish I was I can see my uncle now
And create my own stories
I want all of them to say in unison to me not to worry
Tell me this world is a scary place at times and that things will get better
And that they’ll be with me all the way no matter the storm to weather

Dr. King’s Dream

If Martin Luther King’s dream became reality
Ope there goes gravity
Or whatever Eminem said
People would lose themselves
Over the realization
That this is not the equality that he spoke of all these years ago
This currently is not the peace he spoke of
People would rather take a piece of justice into their own hands rather than make peace
Because between their two fingers is all the peace some need
Versus putting an index and middle finger up any day to actually stand for peace
If Dr King’s dream became a reality
We could stop living in this nightmare
Maybe the majority could be woke like some of us
To the point that they really open their eyes
See their actions over years have led to this demise
As it come to no surprise
In order for one side to win over the other
There must be an eye on the prize
And look at the fucking trophy they want
A country in shambles
If Dr. King’s dream became a reality
Then none of this strife would currently be happening

February 1st

If you think that February 1st
Is just a recognition of my melanin
Then you would be the first to be mistaken
This is not meant to awaken
Unnerving thoughts but to serve as a reminder
That if last year was any indicator
That Black Lives Have. Will. And Always. Matter
Time has shown only distorted views
Where you see only pigments of achievements
Because the rest of light is darkened by bloodshed and destruction
We have fought so many years just to have a seat at the table
Look these people in the eye
And tell them I have something to say
My voice matters
My being matters
My representation matters
I am more than entertainment
I am more than your fool
I am more than your jester
I am more
Countless movements
And we’re keep walking until we stampede over the divide and minimize the cracks in society
Mother earth’s backbone is aching from the humans stepping on us
We’re not roaches
We’re not pesticides
You’re going to sit and listen to my inner voice
As it resides in the emotions of these lines
I will tell you this
Black isn’t history
History is Black
And when we can see the distinction
Maybe both sides can finally relax

Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson

Check out his work on the Poetry Question with RDJ’s Replays https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/

Read His work on dailydrunkmag.com

R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee

Poetry inspired by Ginsberg: Clearly! by David L O’Nan (2005)


Kaleidoscopic rainbow men
scurrying through dumpsters
In search of their souls.
They carry the hands of fate
with matching bleeding fate
They succumb to territorialism,
they breathe in tantric manoeuvring
They slit the soldier’s wrist in the green air,
The war air
Bombshells, gun shells
filling up their stomachs with nuclear slime.
Digesting liquified bones
Dreaming in presidential monotone
Picking the hands off the clock
with many shades of plasma and blood
on their claws
Ripping the tock away,
making love to the ticking
Relishing and marinating
in each other’s sexual juices
Lighting a cloud on fire,
then inhaling the ashes
To take in the ultimate high
High as a cloud they exclaim!
As they continue
pulling their amulets and chains
out from under God’s lockbox.
Sepia coloured tombs
being spit at by these loose streetwalkers
These, living in monarchy
dressing in megalomania clothing
They peel whispers out of strangers,
secrets locked in silence
Chipping away at the stones of their mind statues
Beaming red flame cigars
in their quivering halitosis mouths
Gorgeous sun burning their breasts and legs
with Cancerous sores.
Glory written in black on their televisions,
on their windows
Glory burned in their mind
much like a hot iron pressed into their brain cells.
They are found by cold blooded killers
With gangrene gasses and poisonous sewage
Trapping them into a burden
Parading them with acid rain
and bulletproof tears
The sexy ladies are there
picking them the flowers
That crumble and die once they touch the palm
The murder geniuses
are salivating in their orange vests
Screaming with lungs crippled
and dangling from their smoke-filled chest.
Staring into and out of trees
with decrepit sinister eyes
Senile diseased chapped loins
being gazed at on busy sidewalks
throughout the city everyday
They walk in moderation
To picket the celebration
To riot against a freedom nation
They want to close minds
Drink the juice of the atrocious arsenic wine
And who is that in sheep’s clothing?
It’s a government,
a media darling
The sounds of hell’s wolves howling
CLEARLY!

*From the book “the Cartoon Diaries”

follow @DavidLONan1 and @feversof on Twitter

5 Poems by Ankh Spice : That which can be made visible, Hold the river, Feeding the koi, Act like you were never for sale, & Hathor’s gift

*From the Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020*

All of the poems that follow first appeared in their original, unedited forms on the WombwellRainbow blog. Thank you to Paul Brookes for curating with such care, and the artists (Mary Frances Ness, James Knight, and Sue Harpham) who provided images for the month-long ekphrastic challenge which inspired them

That which can be made visible *

Sun’s first sleep-breath
sweets the dropped shoulder

of Te Puia o Whakaari, her bones
in early mistlight all grace

and delicate pickings, gulled
clavicles of a hard dancer, stilled

Coiled tension is resting. It is hard
to recognise a haunting

in the rose-gilt of a sunrise. Do you know
her name, when you recognised it

did you forget to exhale? Release
your living now to cloud

the pane we do not see – deep
scratches creep across this vision.

The guardians are always here to remind you –
this light, it may change any moment.

*(In memory of those lost in the eruption of Whakaari on 9 December 2019. One translation
of the te reo Māori name of this volcano forms the title of this poem)

Hold the river

You told me you haven’t been outside in 57 days
and tonight the river is a dropped ribbon, limp and lost
and the sharp stones of the trail as I begin to run
become the sound of something chewing. The faster
we go, the faster we’re eaten. You are moving,
in the lines of your confinement, so slowly now
you’ve become a painting in my head – static –
existing never to be touched. And in the guilty, lucky air
down here we’re starting up the engines
and on my knees in the soft mud I can hear the first plane
for months, idling beyond the water. I’d wish
you were here, but the wind is whipping up cold,
and the coming dark is frantic
with sudden birds, woken startled
from their neat new nests along the runway.

Feeding the koi

You save the crusts from the good brown loaf,
not truly stale, but tired. On your early walk

through the city gardens, there is a patient round mirror
to crumble them into, and in it an unfamiliar creature,

folded and loose in his aspect. He watches you from the water.
You have never met his eyes, although you sense they are kind.

This morning, autumn has nodded last orders at the trees
and the ember of the squalling sun catches

a plume at his throat, and his blur blushes bright — young
with reborn flame. In the dry world the wind arrives

to spread the blaze outwards in ripples
from the man standing, the man lying, with his hands full

of burning bread, and when the fish surface
their mouths make round holes in his body.

In one tiny circle after another the fire
goes out. Cool water — O O O —

welling dark and smooth
from the gut. It was always the truth.

What feeds on us that steals our fire.
What we feed to remember what we are.

Act like you were never for sale

On those days we were flutter and varnish. Time blown
on the tradewinds — toys for the updraft, downdraft, too hard

and brittle-bright for any landing but the spurt and gasp
of applause. And on those days we painted the unspeakable

feelings, the ones that never made it
into the script, on hot ripe faces with palmed-

palm-sugar and unguent-of-anthers, and on those days
those same faces slipslid their gaudied eyes and touched their cheeks

together intimately, brief and baked electric with proper unsaids, and on and on
arced those spat-out days when the electric that moved us

moved us wet with big colour in that little pond of footlights
all thrashing pick me from the swirl of young eels, him so slender, her good

bright needle-teeth, and on those days company meant
only that we played together well, that even the most badly bitten didn’t drop

a word or miss a step, or when they did the faces they’d loved-by-painting bled
laughter tainted kindly, and not yet like they smelled a life dripping away

into the water or as if they’d finally bumped against the glass, seen the strings
of our dangling tags, and some of that last part

is a lie. But who doesn’t want to lie just as pretty
as something made to end up in a prettier box, for now

sticky with the ghosts of fertile anthers, and so we bite
into recall again and again, this cake now invisible on the pink plastic

saucer so sweet, so sweet and fallen to bits
in the grass. And these days we know the magic

poured out of that flimsy doll’s teapot’s more real
than you’ve been in your life. Don’t ever act

like it didn’t — like it doesn’t —
make you sick.

Hathor’s gift

Last night you called me from the bottom of a well
and I pictured the signal between us as a rope ladder
woven from a bunch of old strings attached. A bit frayed,
this connection, and this wry analogy, but both holding together
just enough for you to see the ladder a little bit more clearly
than you were seeing the rope. And I don’t care if we’ve not spoken
since before the world cracked its lid, I’m just grateful
I still look like some kind of stick when the alligators
find the ass. Often it’s hard to respect the tree in someone who’s fallen
in an indifferent swamp, over and over, they think
that makes you soft wood. But it was you who told me Hathor
kicked out the crocodile god even though she was
at least partly a cow. I bet they underestimated just how fierce
a prey animal waxes when her herd is in the dark
and feeling the closing teeth. I bet they underestimated her
even after she teamed up with the sun itself
and gored the darkness threatening her loved ones on the tips
of her kind, soft horns. Stabbed it until it was striped
with secondhand light, then drowned it
in her milk of most inhuman kindness.

Ankh Spice is a queer-identified, sea-obsessed poet from Aotearoa (New Zealand). Almost 100 of his
poems have been published internationally, online and in printed anthologies, over the last 18
months. He’s been incredibly grateful and a bit astounded to have four poems nominated for the
Pushcart Prize, and two for Best of the Net. His poem ‘New Cloth’ was selected as a winner of the
World View 2020 competition run by the Poetry Archive, and he’s really delighted that the video
recording of him reading this work now appears in the archive in perpetuity, along with readings
from other winners from all over the globe. He’s also very proud that audio recordings of his work
are held in the first wave of Iambapoet, an audio archive of poets reading their own work, created
and curated by Mark Antony Owen.
It’s been a very busy year — Ankh accepted roles as a Poetry Contributing Editor for Barren
Magazine, and as co-editor at Ice Floe Press. He was also a guest reader/editor on EIC Matthew M.C.
Smith’s team for Black Bough Poetry’s Amazon best-seller, ‘Deep Time’ — two volumes of poetry
from hundreds of poets inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland’, and was part of the early
editing team for ‘Black Dogs, Black Tales’, a horror anthology produced in Aotearoa by EIC T Wood,
to raise money for a local mental health charity. He’s also found time to edit innumerable stories for
popular dark-fantasy author C.M. Scandreth (aka his incredibly talented author spouse, Caitlin Spice)
for the NoSleep Podcast, and is grateful to have appeared (in virtual guise) as headline poet at two
sold-out sessions of Cheltenham Poetry Festival.
At the time of writing this, Ankh is also working on several collections of his own poems. One of
these is a collection of his shorter ekphrastic and vividly imagistic work and photography — Ankh
calls these ‘gift poems’ as most of them are uploaded to social media rather than being held for
traditional publication — that’s been picked up by a small indie press as a two-volume deal for print.
Further details will be released in early 2021. He’s also working on a very short volume of poems for
Hedgehog Press’s ‘Stickleback’ series. His larger collection, which was picked up by an independent
press earlier in 2020, but which he withdrew when behaviour damaging to the poetry community by
person/s working for that press was uncovered, is being reworked for re-submission elsewhere. He
very much hopes that 2021 will be the year for this book to make its way into the world.
Ankh’s poetry explores a wide range of themes close to his heart – environmental/climate change,
mental health, identity, queerness, body politics, mythology, natural science, spirituality, ‘the
persistent briefness of being human’, the landscape and environs of Aotearoa and of course, the
ocean. His poetic lens, which often employs strong derealisation and very flexible language that
purposely opens up multiple interpretations, has been described as oracular, reverent, and
visionary, and his poetry has been most often compared to G.M Hopkins and Dylan Thomas. Ankh’s
favourite recent compliment about his work is that it feels like walking a tightrope over the abyss
between two worlds — being forced to look down into the dark but with an awareness that balance
is possible, and that there’s a new place on the other side, beckoning us on. Ankh’s favourite recent
compliment about himself is that he’s a walking Mary Ruefle poem. (With great thanks to Sarah-Jane
Crowson and Julia Beach).
If he’s not out running the coast of Te Whanganui-a-Tara sporting alarming neon and sparkly cat
ears, you’ll find him and his work at:
Twitter: @SeaGoatScreamsPoetry
Facebook: @AnkhSpiceSeaGoatScreamsPoetry
Linktree: https://linktr.ee/SeaGoatScreamsPoetry
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-448322296
Iambapoet: https://www.iambapoet.com/ankh-spice
Poetry Archive: https://poetryarchive.org/poem/wordview-2020-new-cloth/

Feature photo by Ankh Spice

Valentine’s Poetry by Akhila Ek : Lemme Melt Into You

A cradle of uncertainties
are stretching out it’s limbs
to enwrap my futile heart
Embrace me
No..not enough..
Just squeeze me
Lemme melt into you
until there is no space between
this moment and the ensuing

In you
the heart perceives
it’s euphony of love
In you
the poetry finds
it’s crowning asylum
In you
the drizzle rain unfurls
and undresses its ego

You let me float in the waves,
curl up with a book and
follow by crazy beats
You ensured my own space
Now take my breath with you
Press yourself on my wilderness
Make me aware of the worth of my soul
Rhyming with the beats lemme melt into you
like a free falling never ending rain!

Akhila is from Trivandrum, India and is the founder and sole contributor of wordsandnotion.com and qualitynotion.com. By profession she is a software Quality and Quantitative data analyst. She is a self motivated life long learner who believes in signs from the universe. When it comes to writing, she feels like “flying across the space between words and whipping up whimsical waves of notion to discern the quantum code of her soul.” She is the author of “Know them, One answer to many questions” (a General Knowledge book) and “I Had a Crush – The 17 Kinks” (A free e-book of 17 short stories). Her poetries have been published at various literary magazines like Indian PeriodicaliwriteherPuzha etc. She is bleeding out all the intoxicated imperfections of her soul through her blog and twitter handle @wordsandnotion.

Photo from Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash.com