Nights might die out here, the gloominess spreads like a black spot, Fallen embers, Of things bruised, Of things forgotten. The eyes are tired now, two tiny homophones of life an ugly quietness small frenzied madness. The hands hesitate to move, forward and backwards Watching the blades of life, There is a duality, There is a sad existence, occurring,
Devika Mathur resides in India and is a published poet, writer. Her works have been published or are upcoming in Madras Courier, Modern Literature, Two Drops Of Ink, Dying Dahlia Review, Pif Magazine, Spillwords, Duane’s Poetree, Piker Press, Mojave heart review, Whisper and the Roar amongst various others. She is the founder of surreal poetry website “Olive skins” and writes for https://myvaliantsoulsblog.wordpress.com/. She recently published her surreal poetry book Crimson Skins available now worldwide.insta- @my.valiant.soul
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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
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
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
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.