All poems in this showcase were previously published in Rhythm N Bones Press & Dark Marrow Litmags
from the prison of skin;
a bitter pill.
bursting the soil.
backwards/a time when we
wrested joy from the wind
now the knife,
a love-shaped gift.
you won't know
you won't know
when the ghost slips out of you
whether with a bang or just a breath
a step forward or a leap
when the smoke clears
and you find yourself somewhere unknown
you won't know when you've changed
just enough to leave behind
pieces of yourself
crumbs to find your way home
when home shifts from comfortable
you pack your things
and go quietly into the night
the compass points north but
everything feels south
you won't know why the song
your heart sings
sounds so faded
like the beat of a faraway drum
you'll follow the river to somewhere new
where you can lie your head on a different pillow;
count your breaths
and start again.
think about what they take
think about how you let them
this is how we are raised
a temple of loneliness praying to
think about what is gained
oh, but think about
what has been lost
if you are a dead butterfly in a jar
at least you were pretty enough
now, dream about what comes next
oh, now, but
don't dream too far
it is the thin lines that separate
what we were from
what we have become
taste the wretched honey of my sins
wrench the last breath from
the poverty of my lungs
how many times have i been on my knees
praying for the next delicious theft?
see these hands
built this shrine so that you could worship
a come-hither demon.
the lie we think of as love.
More from Mela below:
Spotlight poetry from Mela Blust in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020
Mela has been nominated a few times for Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous magazines such as Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, South Florida Poetry Journal, Collective Unrest, Rhythm & Bones Lit, The Sierra Nevada Review. Her debut collection Skeleton Parade https://www.apeppublications.com/product/skeleton-parade/
Another Bio: Mela Blust is a moonchild, and has always had an affinity for the darkness. She is a poet, a painter, a sculptor, and a jeweler. She has been writing poetry since she was a child. She currently resides on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, The Sierra Nevada Review, The Nassau Review, and more. She is a contributing editor of Barren Magazine, and Head Publicist for Animal Heart Magazine.
all poems previously published in Rhythm N Bones Lit Issue 6: Love
Anna breathes safely
in the low-lit break-out room.
Candles, scented rose and musk,
embrace her like a lover.
Feel free - to take time out
For the first time ever since
that time, you know, yes,
that one, only one of many
but the first the worst.
Later, she learnt absence,
to distance her from him
from her body-self
Feel free - to take time out
She hugs herself and strokes
her scarred arms. Re-joins way-back
to here-and-now and times ahead.
and comes back in.
Possessedafter The Air Suddenly Goes Cold, music by Olafur Arnalds
by the moon goddess
she stands in whiteness
her light translucent skirts swirl
in gathering ice-breezes
her three faces
crystalline and still
I am afraid of her beauty
afraid of the chill her shade casts
over my bed my body and my mind
as all becomes her
all becomes white
her hand beckons
and I follow mesmerised
I am finished
I am no longer I
I vanish into her
drawn through her six stark apertures
void of human eyes
Woman as Anchor, Taken for Granted
She dwells under currents of motion,
waves whipped up by restless children,
her partner's parries with the world.
She steadies their long-ship home
tethers it to herself, irrespective of the cost.
The others don't look down, see below.
They cast easy thank yous - when they remember,
small comfort to her freighted soul.
Over time, her metal rusts and she transforms
converts to a lighter feral frame.
Her final frantic storm, cuts her rope.
Salted by all weathers she drifts away
free at last to roam.
Poems from the Fevers of the Mind Anthologies by Ceinwed E Cariad HaydonPoem by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon : Release from QuarantineA Poetry Showcase for Ceinwen E Cariad HaydonPoems from the Fevers of the Mind Anthologies by Ceinwed E Cariad Haydon
originally published in Rhythm & Bones Lit Issue 6: Love
I need to see it all, feel it all. Touch everything, taste everything, touch everyone. Taste everyone. My skin prickles with longing for it and I’m edgy, minuscule jerks and twitches giving away how hard it is for me to restrain myself. The electronic waves of music roll across me and my body rides them, sensual ripples, pulsing beats and pulsing bodies as I move across the dance floor. I shadow, I mirror. A beautiful man traces his hand down my spine; I pull him into my mouth and taste the sweetness of his tongue as he maps my body with his fingertips. I shudder as he sates my need for contact, for the few seconds we share the same space; but the feeling never fades and now I’m spinning across the floor again, looking for something new to touch, someone else to taste. Arms wrap around me and the beat and lust pull towards the ground like gravity; we slide down, hands and bodies, heads back, lips open with desire. More, screams my id, and I’m slipping away, heady with desperation as I search for whatever will dull the sharp crackling that skitters across me like lightning.
The sweat-slick smell makes me gasp with pleasure. The air is thick with base wanting. Conversation, impossible over the music, happening through eyes hooded with hunger. People stalking ceaselessly around each other, the endless search for whatever, whoever, can scratch the constant itch. Unable to contain it.
The lights flare and for a moment I am highlighted in neon and not just another face in the crowd. More bass with electric twang sliding over the top. Every sense is being stimulated past the point of no return and I can’t separate them now, the lights, the sounds, the hands, the mouths are all pulling me everywhere at once. Each second feels like an age and it’s all too much but never enough. I push through the exit doors and the night air is instant relief. I can gather my scattered synapses, find order in my internal chaos.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s like this for me, what it must be like for humans, who lack my propensity and tendency to sort, analyse, filter. How it must be to know these emotions and sensations organically, rather than break them down and process them as strands of binary code and electrical impulses, which is really all they are. I yearn to know this unknowable. We cyborgs are funny that way.
A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Amanda McLeod3 Poems by Amanda McLeod from Fevers of the Mind & Avalanches in Poetry AnthologiesPoems from Amanda McLeod in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1 (2019) “Inclimental Anger” “Day With Perfect Storm” “Anchor” “You Are My Sun, Except When I Am Storm”
There is a revolution
in my dark mind.
A diverse population of women
chanting about transforming
waving flags and drinking Dom Perignon
lying about their age
surrendering to Botox and lip injections
into an advanced age of technology
where dandelions stop growing
where wildflowers become condos
swim across concrete walls
open up your own bank account
you can’t rely on the past
washing machines stop listening to you
detergents no longer do their job.
men named Alexander never stay
Perhaps you are more comfortable
with all the shades drawn in the middle of the day.
Taking shots of vodka behind modern blinds
the blogs want sameness
with a modern feminism
the dictionary no longer supports
burn the books
forget your library membership
fall in love with your medicine
stop texting your ex-lover to save you
your womanhood is always on the verge
of new breakdowns.
You can make it real
but none of it is a poem,
I have telepathic eyes
I can see
how it's a war
A future where men
Still make more money
More poetry books
More doctoral positions
More artificial intelligence
A grave full of books
Dead weeds where trees
Were touched by your sisters
The only question left to ponder
How do I hide my greys?
Do i go blonder or do I dare
Become ash red?
my eyes swollen from crying
my heart slashed from denying
all of my doings and undoings,
never enough for any man.
Love is not important
in this poem’s recipe.
I never want to go back to cream and sugar.
be authentically me
raw and naturally bitter
dark and full of desire
addictive and lively potent
I’m alone in some one room apartment,
to be staring at my beige walls
As far from love as possible,
with a new bank account.
no borrowed money and
staring at my purple rain album
feeling love and freedom
like a solved crossword puzzle.
How long can one live
with dread in the pit of one’s stomach?
Our hopes are constantly
filled with empty alcohol glasses.
How many masks can one own?
One face for every event
a tight red dress and amber lipstick
Black leather pants and heavy eyeliner.
Ripped jeans and rock t-shirt
so many sides to this story.
I move from coffee to red wine,
eat a bit of this and that,
just to sustain
type all hours of the night,
day, mid-day, forget to pay my bills.
but I write,
oh, how the words spring forth like April tulips—
oh, how the lines burst forth like weeds between cracks
each poem a different hue of spring
in the middle of winter,
a snowflake, melting before as it touches the ground.
Weather and mornings have me tapping away
writing fluid lines until the sky turns orange
crossing and adding words with my HB pencil
shutting and closing old dictionaries.
My daily start of black coffee, silence,
lies and truths combined
My beige walls need a new paint
I can’t decide between earth tone or van Gogh blue
and empty coffee cups
in the dishrack—
But I do know
home is where words go
that never die.
Brothel of Poets
I’m as fragile as a piece of crumpled paper
as tough as an outdated hard book cover.
I have been day, afternoon, and night drinking again
finally finished two wine bottles now
hid them in the recycling bin.
I’m talking to my poet friends
about how selling your mental illness
and body shame is a new foundation of lies
of selling poetry books.
Whatever happened to raw talent?
How some poets think they can claim
words as their own
and no one can use them again?
I was never an ugly or pretty princess
I bought my own shoes
listened to music before it was popular
cried day and night to get my life back.
I read Sexton in the middle of the day
awake and alert at all the bus stops.
I heard that people like to break you
before they love you.
I heard that love bombing is a thing now.
I never knew love until you took me
under the Montreal moon.
I gave you myself
either way, you took me
like an unwrapped gift
at least you thanked me
for being your slut.
You’re always creeping into my poems.
The more I stay away from your lovely lettering,
The better I write
or so I think
It is the despised loneliness
the sipping of you until the glass
needs no washing
my lips licking you
I wait for you like a mother
waits for her child to sleep
so she can smoke a cigarette
am I a good mother?
I listen to you pour, I watch your
patience, tempting me
anticipation is fiery between us
a wicked black love
I know how this suffering flows,
It becomes shiny glassware,
Wake Up to Morrissey
I eat up their shovelled words,
ringworms in my stomach.
My sin is full of fungal infection
I stretched my legs too far—
my arms shrunk
my brain fell prisoner to cells
of meds and beds for the outlaws
sinners of generation X.
It got so pitch black that night
the ominous night of unwanted hell
we thought we were kid smart
to outrun the hidden world
on an empty tank of gas
yet we got our quick bang.
I still eat you up and cough you out
I have feminine power in my body.
Proof of your existence on my ironed clothes
get it right, predict the future
with the guts you deny;
I ate you
back to a dead life.
I’m used to him now
speaking to him on a daily basis
his songs, a morning call.
It’s nice to say kalimera Baba
to the open suburban sky,
in his house
one last summer.
The summer before the end
of a lifetime of gardening,
building kitchens, DIY tiles,
creating new childhood bedrooms,
parties for every occasion:
holidays, birthdays, name days;
Everyone is sleeping,
except me and the old clock.
I tap, tap, tap
He ticks, tocks, ticks.
our own beat
of forty-two-year memories.
It was 1976, the drive felt longer—
everything moved slower then.
You were always in it;
running around not being found
getting lost and no one looking.
The old Buick was long,
fitting all three of us.
In the front, no seatbelts;
three in the back—
Pappou, Yiayia, my brother.
A family of six,
We made codfish
with fresh garden herbs;
mint, parsley, celery, dill
I chopped them up, sprinkled
their love, crunching on the stems,
I was supposed to discard.
added water, oil and tomato sauce.
I’m not a prisoner here,
I like it.
I am sleeping too long
chilling with no motherly guilt,
cooking Greek meals
and lemon meringue desserts
on my summer vacation
of peach memories
with whoever is left
to kiss goodnight,
and drink hot coffee
in the humid mornings
without rushing, to work
to teach, to prepare.
I tap, tap, tap,
he ticks, tocks, tocks—
This is how time traps writers.
This is how time traps grief,
This is how we create poetry.
How Deep Inside a Gun Are You?
It is mostly the way you come at me
treat me so differently up close
pretend that the clothes I’m wearing
I was as poor as you
as rich in feeling like you
as lost in spirit as you.
I guessed you played with life
as players do.
Manipulations are over
mind games are dead
mothers are older
children are taking over
that love you are holding onto
is growing weeds—
you think that seconds mean worlds
that cutting up my sanity
is a game.
Perhaps you drowned once
I never did
I keep floating
existing in this joke.
Open your mouth
speak, don’t fire. At A Party
At a party with a priest
I used to smoke outside with
At the hospital where we worked
At a time when smoking rooms existed
When smoking was not bad for your image
At a party with people I don’t know
Pretending I remember
How we talked back then
How we loved less
At a party trying not to slur
Or flirt with the wrong man
Remembering a time
I wanted to forget
It was the tragic old ladies
With pink lipstick
And peach laugh lines
Who asked me to tie back
Their hair with silk fuchsia ribbons
When I was there to clean floors
Wipe dusty tables
How did I end up reading passages
From an old book?
Or talk to them about nonsense
To feel someone cared
It was the empty beds
Cleaning them and wondering
What death meant at all
How it came and went
And I was twenty
Wondering if I should break up
With my boyfriend
Go to Peru
Or cry for an old lady I barely knew.
At a party
Listening to Taylor Swift
And loving her more than I should.
I Wrote Nothing For Daysoriginally published in Rhythm N Bones Lit Issue 6 : Love
Trying to find emptiness
in a tall glass of midnight madness.
My thoughts on the slow, dark time
of your words.
Open up your closed book
eat the crumbs of cake off my hand.
I fed the wrong man
old tattered thoughts
in ancient chains
while I sunk in mythological mud
up to my ankles
washed your fake love
with aloe and coconut
but your European veins and musky scent
are alive on my skin
like birth marks and moles
no matter how hard I try to rub you off
no one can see your penetrating marks.
Aren't We All Monstersoriginally published in Dark Marrow (Rhythm & Bones Lit offshoot mag Issue 2 Survivor
Monsters are the loneliest creatures...
We're not all under your bed
or in your head.
we're all looking at you
straight in the empty eye,
in your mirror
in your head,
lift the covers or just stop checking.
You still love her,
never forget your tiny feet.
One enemy is enough.
Go ahead -
Call her to tell her
you think about her every day,
then go back to hating her.
Conversations with the Deadoriginally published in Dark Marrow (Rhythm & Bones Lit offshoot mag Issue 2 Survivor
Never followed Dad's advice.
Wish I did now.
In '89 thought his words archaic,
In 2017 I'd say he was
Pretty damn smart.
My daughter will roll her eyes,
One day remember ancient adages
Maybe in 2050-
Finally agree, nod her intelligent head
And remember this like me.
This is hindsight:
The unanswered phone.
Black Bell phone on the kitchen counter,
ringing endlessly, going to voicemail
no one checking again.
I can hear his voice from the dead-
it's rough, yet gentle
I press play.
I thought you were home. I hate these damn machines.
His broken English sounding perfect to my ears.
This is the cycle;
My mental tangerine peels,
my form of existential awareness
an endless study of the silenced voice
playing back recordings to remember
Cannot talk back.
A Book Review of “Love and Metaxa” by Christina StrigasA Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Christina StrigasFrom Avalanches in Poetry writings & art inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019) How Leonard Cohen Kept Evading Me by Christina Strigas
Christina Strigas links:
previously published in Rhythm n Bones Lit Issue 6 Love
On my 18th birthday my friends threw a party in my room in a big high-rise dorm in Ann Arbor and someone gave me a new LP by Curtis Mayfield. He was wearing shades and beads and yellow bell-bottoms on the album cover. I don’t remember who gave me the record, just that there were still turntables then, and there was a candle burning, and patchouli incense, and I went out in the snow that December night after the party with a boy I liked and left the candle burning and the record playing and we took a long, long walk and we could see our breath in the air, the snow was heavy and wet, and when I pressed my nose against a store window, the glass fogged up, and I turned to him and laughed and then he kissed me. I can’t remember the boy’s name, just that he had blue eyes and a cleft in his chin, and I know he didn’t become my boyfriend, but that was the year of boys, lots of boys. When we got back to my empty room, wool coats sodden with melting snow, the LP was still turning and it was covered with candle wax, a perfect circle. I kept it because the flip side was still fine. “Move on up,” Curtis Mayfield sang, “Just move on up.”
I was wearing purple bell bottoms with a front flap and two rows of buttons instead of a zippered fly when I met my first husband, who later gave me The Eagles’ Hotel California for my birthday, mostly because of the song that started “She came from Providence,” because he came to Providence to visit me and then stayed for two years. I vividly remember a party at the clapboard three-story house where we were living with six or seven people and two dogs and a lot of cats. That is, I remember candles flickering on the windowsills and the skunky-sweet smell of marijuana and dancing with him to “Hotel California” in the dark, almost empty living room after the party, but I must have the soundtrack to that memory wrong because we were living in Germany by the time that album came out, not in Providence. The candle melts, the record spins. My heart broke, my heart healed, the memories went round and round until I fell in love again and ended up in California.
My second husband and I were in grad school in upstate New York when we fell in love. We went out every Monday night to hear live blues, and when his hand brushed the bare skin on my neck near my shoulder, the hairs on my arms stood up, electrified, and I knew that I would sleep with him, but not that we’d fall in love and move to California and marry and have a son and still be together more than thirty years later. During those decades I stopped listening to LPs and switched to tapes and then CDs. Last Christmas our son gave us a new turntable and we’re listening to our old LPs again—Santana, Muddy Waters, The Doors, Chuck Berry, Curtis Mayfield (side A), others I’d long since forgotten. We never give parties, not big parties, but on my husband’s 49th birthday we threw an “Almost 50” party with catered barbeque and plenty of drink and long tables with candles in the back yard and a DJ who played oldies and as twilight fell we danced to Al Green’s “I’m Still in Love with You” together. The August night air was warm, fragrant from the waxy white blossoms on our lemon tree, his arms around me familiar, his touch on the bare skin between my t-shirt and faded jeans still electric. Fifty must have felt like some kind of destination, but the records spin, the years go round and round, good years and hard years, everything’s the same but unexpected, the candle burns, we move on up.
Bio from 2019: Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her award-winning flash fiction chapbook The Missing Girl was published by Black Lawrence Press. She has recent flash in Little Fiction/Big Truths, Ellipsis Zine, Juked, Sweet, The Collagist, and elsewhere. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.