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.
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 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
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
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 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 (MaryFrances Ness, James Knight, and Sue Harpham) who provided images for the month-long ekphrastic challenge which inspired them
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.
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/
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 Periodical, iwriteher, Puzha etc. She is bleeding out all the intoxicated imperfections of her soul through her blog and twitter handle @wordsandnotion.