Out Now: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Issue 6: The Empath Dies in The End

(c)HilLesha O’Nan

Out Now! Issue 6 of the Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art is available for purchase on Amazon. This features the collaborations that i’ve (David L O’Nan) have done with several other great writers on “The Empath Dies in the End” series of poems last Fall (the remainder will be placed in future anthologies including The Whiskey Mule Diner for the Elliott Smith inspired pieces) this issue also includes features from poet/writers Christian Garduno, Pasithea Chan, Kushal Poddar, Michael Igoe, also included is our photo prompt challenge poems to a photo supplied by writer K.P. DeLaney. Also included are poems/prose by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, HilLesha O’Nan, Ethan O’Nan, Victoria Leigh Bennett, Peter Magliocco, Donna Dallas, Joan Hawkins, Lorna Wood, Matthew Freeman, Lesley Curwen, Tova Beck-Friedman. Collab poems I did with Tony Brewer, Ron Whitehead, Petar Penda, R.M. Englehardt, Spriha Kant, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Amanda Crum, Merritt Waldon, Andrew Cyril MacDonald, RP Verlaine, Oz Hardwick, Stephen Kingsnorth, K.G. Munro, Ava Tenn, Robert Pengel, Dee Allen, K Weber, Maria A. Arana, Aaron Wiegert, C.L. Liedekev, Elizabeth Cusack, John Drudge, Carson Pytell, Jay Maria Simpson, Jennifer Patino, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, John Grey, Rickey Rivers Jr, Duane L. Herrmann, Staci-Lee Sherwood, Doryn Herbst, Mike Zone, Jessica Weyer Bentley, John Zurn, Jeremy Limn, Lynn White, John D. Robinson, Monica Sharp, James Schwartz, James Lilley, Mykyta Ryzhykh, Gabriella Garofalo, Sandrijela Kasagic, Rachel Coventry, Gayle J Greenlea & Anneka Chambers


U.S.  https://rb.gy/t1w5o

Australia  (kindle) https://rb.gy/ltgj3

U.K.   https://rb.gy/czaad

Canada  https://rb.gy/uqqtn

France https://rb.gy/1ilii

Mexico https://rb.gy/i40ka  (kindle)

Japan https://rb.gy/n2x8j

Italy https://rb.gy/60×45

Spain  https://rb.gy/0nmuz

Germany https://rb.gy/l0m4k 

India https://rb.gy/efjqt  (kindle)

Brazil https://rb.gy/07yqu  (kindle)

The Netherlands https://rb.gy/0vzho 

Check out some links to other

Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today!

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren

Poetry Showcase: David L O’Nan from Cursed Houses pt 1

A Review of “Before the Bridges Fell” by David L O’Nan (review by Ivor Daniel)

Bare Bones Writings Issue 1 is out on Paperback and Kindle

https://amzn.to/3tNR3ON Before the Bridges Fell

https://amzn.to/3gt4LDy Avalanches in Poetry Writing & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen (the 1st Leonard Cohen inspired tribute)

https://amzn.to/3i94vKA Lost Reflections

https://amzn.to/3TT0Uxe Bending Rivers

https://amzn.to/3EwKWmU The Cartoon Diaries

https://amzn.to/3XotUjq The Fevers of the Mind Presents the Poets of 2020: The Poetry Only

https://amzn.to/3tTf0nS New Disease Streets

https://amzn.to/3UZwtqB Our Fears in Tunnels

https://amzn.to/3Ey1ivx The Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest Issue 1 June 2019

https://amzn.to/3i99ZEM The Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest Issue 2 In Memoriam August 2019

https://amzn.to/3gqq5JX Fevers of the Mind V Overcome

https://amzn.to/3VB74n9 His Last Poetric Whispers

https://amzn.to/3GDgGcr The Fevers of the Mind Presents the Poets of 2020 Deluxe Edition

https://amzn.to/3gtitGC The Fevers of the Mind 1& 2 the Poetry Only

https://amzn.to/3AD0Drl Taking Pictures in the Dark

https://amzn.to/3Otay8E Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest Issue 3: The Darkness & The Light

https://amzn.to/3UXxP4V The Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers

Poetry Showcase: Victoria Leigh Bennett (April 2023)

photo from pixabay (naobim)

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett, (she/her).  Greater Boston, MA area, born WV.  Ph.D., English/Theater.  Website: creative-shadows.com.  In-Print: “Poems from the Northeast,” 2021; OOP but free on website, “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris),” [in English], 2022.  Between Fall 2021-Spring 2023, Victoria will have published at least 34 times with: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art, The Hooghly Review, Bullshit Literary Magazine, Roi Faineant Literary Press, Barzakh Magazine, Discretionary Love, The Unconventional Courier, Amphora Magazine, The Alien Buddha Press, The Madrigal Press, Winning Writers, Olympia Publishers, & Cult of Clio.  She has been accepted with 4 poems by Dreich Magazine for November, 2023.  Victoria writes Fiction/Poetry/Flash/CNF/Essays.  She is the organizer behind the poets’ collective @PoetsonThursday on Twitter, along with Dave Garbutt & Alex Guenther.  Twitter: @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday.  Mastodon: @vickileigh@mstdn.social & @vickileigh@writing.exchange.  Victoria is ocularly and emotionally disabled.

A Set of Sonnets on Poetic Discovery 
 (Half-Petrarchan, With Sicilian Sestet)

I prayed for an epiphany at eve,
I hoped for things to change at morning light,
I had a play, a new one I thought bright,
And stories, novels, scads of poetry.

Day in, day out, I hawked my solemn wares
In all accustomed places of exchange,
I thought to show the critics all my range
But in despair at last, I’d come to prayers.

And what increased the fervor of my pleas?
The knowledge that I was not in a place
Familiar to me, there upon my knees,

For there was no God in whom I believed.
I know, I know, I showed a lot of “face”
To try to beg from Someone ill-conceived.
In truth, I might have hit upon Someone,
Of other ilk, by accident o’erheard,
Who’d try to take advantage of my words
And pass Himself off on me as the One.

But I was near a window—so it chanced
The early afternoon did not obscure
The pause nearby of a True Angel pure,
A Soul who overheard, as I romanced.

To be more clear, t’was just my neighbor, George,
A-clipping of the bushes.--I was spent!
He called out, “Don’t stop channeling your gorge,--"

“It sounds so well, when put in thoughts so large!”
“Why not make poems of your huge lament?”
“What’d I say? What?” Pen gripped, wiser now for George.

Anomalies--Three Imagistic Englyn Byr Cwca
                      (Pour les mâitres Matthew M.C. Smith et Steven Stokes)
                                   ©1/16/2022, by Victoria Leigh Bennett, 

                                                        The Wood Frog
                                                No “Alas!”; flesh-ice I sit,
                           While burns the love-winter’s frozen, gaunt, chill;
                                             Spring’s thrill-jaunt: forth I lit!        

                                                      The Sphinx Cats
                                         Clan-born to fur, to ear tuft,
                              Dis-made, progeny wrinkled, hairless sacks.
                                     Need: caressed backs….Rebuffed!
                                                         The May Fly                                        
                                     Spring’s cloud-soft whimsy-blown air,
                                         I a day in rut-burgeon, roger* free!
                                                  Not gingerly: life’s rare!                                                                                                    


Notes to Readers:  These three short poems are all examples of a complex Welsh form of poem known as the “Englyn Byr Cwca,” with certain meters and rhymes and internal rhymes.  I wrote them as an exercise in formal poetry for Steven Stokes, who is with the Welsh Air Rescue and taught me the form, and Matthew M. C. Smith, the editor of Top Tweet Tuesday on Twitter, where these poems were meant to be displayed.VLB     

Aldi and Lahl-Ailah
                              (A Multicultural Love Affair)
For, Aldi was a worthy, wordy man, no means at all,
A loving, but a soon-to-burgeon slender son of the warm South,
So worthy, in the sense of Chaucer’s knight who was new made
From Aldi’s countryman, Boccaccio, in days long past and gone.
While Lahl-Ailah, though named for her adoptive parent’s dam
Was a young sultry debutante, adoring too, and from Japan.

Long days divide us,
Why must I abide apart
Where the petals fall?

And Aldi, “I have given up what that I had, Japan
Entirely and always in my thoughts, and you, the sum of all,
The once-met princess of my dreams, of my waters the dam,
For whom all things are sacrificed, oh very soon, my true lost South
Replacing the homeland where now I sit, so woe-be-gone,
For me you constitute all in yourself a pristine home new made.”

If you do love me,
Then why, my heart, do you eat
So many heavy meals, why?

“Aie, Lahl-Ailah, my love, I am a bigger world so made
Not cunningly, but hungrily, and you now write just like Japan,
And with satiric senryu mock me for meals now gone,
Which I engulfed, increaséd girth in sadness at your fol-der-al.
But you must know, if you were grieved as I, you’d then come South,
And when you thought of pounds, if you loved me, you wouldn’t give a damn!”

In time, though, sorrow
Comes to supplant all loves, dear;
Why hasten the day?

But when Lahl-Ailah spoke to him, Aldi felt that the damn!
Had started to go back the other way, and that the sweet young maid
Had given up all thoughts even of making him a visit South
And that not only would he have to shrink but go forth to Japan
Just to inquire if his and her plans were thus forfeit all,
And if her parents too, due to his poverty, would wish him gone.

The sky is low, dark
With the cries of clouds and birds,
Rain and feathers fall.

Now, he whose mother’s name was Ailah too, though she was gone
Had already bethought him of excuses to deplete the dam
Of love now welling in his daughter’s heart, if there at all.
It just so happened, though, the Persian man was also portly made,
Both he and Aldi denied carbs, rice from China, Japan,
And Aldi not allowed to dream of pasta’s hold on his loved South.

What is this strange thing?
My father and my suitor
Like birds on a bough.

This is the way it happened:  Eastern man, man from the South
Soon forged a petty empire, now all resentments are done and gone,
They think that they can defeat diet tyrannies.  Japan
Would be too hot to hold them, did not their respective ladies dam
Up certain feelings, secret feeding schedules surely made;
The two men also have plans, private, to go well around it all. 

Ah, love, you are sly!
I too have my ways, I keep
You from death’s dark grip.

For the rest, our South-departed love envoy does dam
His revolutionary feelings—they are gone! Of hunger made,
But in Japan, he can hope to recall that love feeds all.

(Last Word)
Red petals again
Burst forth on branches chartreuse
My eyes see symbols.  

Poetry Showcase: Victoria Leigh Bennett  

A Winter Story “The Silver Sixpence” by Victoria Leigh Bennett 

 The Soldier: A Poem in Three Voices by Victoria Leigh Bennett

Poetry Showcase: Victoria Leigh Bennett

photo from pixabay

                             Hymn for Committed Lovers 
                                             (A Pantoume)

Though love is ever constant in the universe, Yet changes it its dwelling place on rapid feet,
Some go from good to bad, others from bad to worse,
While some are lucky, seem to keep it for their lives complete.

But even then, its dwelling place on rapid feet
It may attenuate its steps towards and slow down;
While some are lucky, seem to keep it for their lives complete They may still work their way to it with solemn frown.

To some, it may attenuate its steps, slow down,
And they reproach the fates, the stars, their mates, fell chance; They may still work their way to it with solemn frown Because no longer does it spell to them “romance.”

And they reproach the fates, the stars, their mates, fell chance, Unwitting that, they having it, avoid a curse
Though it may be it does no longer spell “romance,” For they have some part of the constant universe.
                                        The Aubade in Question

--For I have been told, that I am to write 
Not of lover’s quarrels,
Not of day, not of night,
But that there is call to mention sole and alone 
That time of day, the dawn, when take affright 
The caress, the turnings-away, the gentle moan, 
And all things else pertaining to the play
Of human love, and to deal only with the passing
Of time at its most transitory, in the daylight’s first moments 
That there is my locus, thought for topic. I am lost.

--For, lovers two there must be, perhaps love-crossed, 
The one indignant, the one harassing
The time with reproaches for leaving,
The two breasts alike, whether with sorrow or passion 
Both in the other finding their fashion, in weeping,
In heaving, one sadly to stay, one forthwith conforming, 
Tears falling, the saddest thing yet, one to one calling, 
The poem the cry, the stating of all
Reasons, and why and why not, quick or slow.

Yet I must say, I don’t know what aubade may arise 
In only one set of eyes, when no other is there— 
Do I cry at the dawn for a lover long gone?
Lament for the bubble of sun, the clouds both vibrant and wan,
Or do I count the matter done, write old tales of imagined god or faun, 
No, that’s too antique! Yet, the other, how bleak
To write to no one.  

                            The Love of Sparrows and Eirons
                                    (A Sestina)

I saw you once, and touched your hand, oh, sparrows! 
The very birds of Venus, and her sunglow
Were round about my thoughts of you, all joyous, 
Your eyes of burnished brown, embers of burning 
The curls of your jet hair, did fuel quick heartache; 
For you, e’en then, were set to be an eiron.

A jest or two I well enjoyed, my eiron,
For we then twittered forth like two fat sparrows, 
There was no pending notion of sad heartache:
I watched your slender shoulders, rapt in sunglow, 
And met your laughing eyes, bright in their burning. 
Our ev’ry meeting to my mind was joyous.

Then, all remark we made was special, joyous, 
For we took turns in role-playing the eiron,
If hell had come, we’d go into the burning 
Together, and in spite of gods and sparrows. 
But Venus did not force us from the sunglow, 
Or out of happiness into a heartache.

I somehow knew there waited yet a heartache, 
But made the most of time, remained still joyous; 
Determined to insist we stick to sunglow,
While neither should diverge wholly to eiron.
Yet, there were times when I felt mocked by sparrows, 
And fated, lone, to face out all gloom’s burning.

Then, I was desperate, your anger burning 
When I persisted, tried to stay the heartache, 
And then in warning tweeted frantic sparrows, 
Oh, nature sensible, that had spoke joyous!
While now descended shadows, and my eiron
Did change, find his lone way into the sunglow.

And when I walked, alone, into the sunglow, 
Deprived of embered curls, of brown orbs’ burning,
Then, in a spite ‘gainst love, I became eiron, 
Refused to countenance burdens of heartache, 
Played out to one and all: “My laugh is joyous!”
And fooled? What human knows? But not the sparrows.

Now, years have passed, the sunglow and the heartache 
Are melded, I am burning, I am joyous,
And more than I: the eirons, truthful sparrows. 

Fall Day, Spring Day

Why not say that it was an ordinary, transitional fall day, complete with warm weather, though not hot, and not yet in the melancholy train of days that leads to those kinds of thoughts? No, it was a day when the sky was not blue and sunny, but a mixed-up swath of puffy white and gray clouds, not rain clouds either, but just indeterminate, big things to look at. It wasn’t the sort of day people think of when they say, in just that tone, “autumn,” their minds on roasted apples, and pumpkins, and spectacular multicolored scenery, and comforting, real or machine- knitted sweaters (as puffy and fat as the clouds looked in the heavens). It wasn’t the time of Halloween yet, even further from Thanksgiving, and at least two months in some places in the temperate zone from the first frost, in others from the first snowfall. It’s necessary to be as definite as possible in defining such an indefinite day, to pin it down, to make it responsible for its shortcomings as a day for drama.

In short, the autumn day was noncommittal, in keeping with its intention and duty, for that matter, to spring a totally unpleasant course of events on the world in the shape of its fall into winter. Not unexpected by those who’d been this way before, but for the young of the world, unprecedented.

The spring day, by contrast, was making all sorts of promises. It was breezy, a little too much so in its neophyte enthusiasm, for it too was new as of the turn of the year, and was not of the subtle days which know how to moderate their influences and appearances. It smiled, and then frowned, then smiled again, much like the new life it was, caught up in its own adolescent drama of how it was being received, or not, and not yet up to full strength but wanting to give more. As it went on, it became more conscious of its blemishes, was embarrassed about them, so shed what it imagined was a private little weep in a corner of the park, where its tears were unexpected to the new leaves and twigs it was trying to foster, not entirely welcome there, either, as the day’s little mourn was unexpected and a bit brusque, too short-lived to be effective as nourishment, teasing unintentionally.

Winter and summer, watching indulgently and yet critically at the same time, both tried to take a hand, but as they had separated very nearly at the beginning due to irreconcilable differences, could not agree about the correct procedure together. First winter said, “C’mon, really get your griefs out of your system, go ahead and blow and fret and shower to your heart’s content. Who can stop you? You’re my child, after all.” But then summer spoke up, saying, “No, my heart, some of those who rely on us for their food, drink, and a joyous atmosphere have messed things up, and it behooves us to tolerate each other more, share in the distribution of ourselves a little more. Here, I’ll show you how to really put on a shine that warms up things fast and hot and hard. Keep that old bastard winter guessing.”

Finally, though, the fall day stole the spring day away to a part of the scene where they could have a little conference. “Look,” it said, “You and I are both somethings on the way to somewhere else, namely to those two extreme idiots who can’t get along and who each must occupy their own realm. Surely even in the short time you’ve been around, you’ve noticed that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Yet here we all four are, getting ahead of ourselves, behind ourselves, due to the interference in our patterns by the actions of that misery of a creation, humanity. Let’s you and I try to remember who we are, the most alike two of the four of us. Sure, show your heritage now and then to make summer and winter proud, put on at one point that old chilly day when no one expects it, or that burst of sunlight across the bodies of water, that gifts the world with warmth and time to enjoy itself. But never forget, we are caught between them, have to appease them both. Yes, we are the two seasons where there’s some hope that humanity may reflect and take stock and moderate itself. Summer is so popular with some that they only care about having more sun and don’t see that it’s undue excess of a good thing. And winter’s bite, which is also a necessary thing, its overwhelming and unprecedented new snowfalls and freezes and mayhem, are a reaction to summer’s overreaching and interference at other untoward times. It seems that humans, some others of them, like that excess as well. Let’s you and I just be ourselves, states of change, presages, harbingers. As tactful as possible, but warning of, pointing to, things to come. And keep your weeping in moderation with your status: grieve only as much as is sufficient and right, or you too will be seen to be out-of-balance.”

Thus, the fall day had passed comment in spring’s realm, where people had been wondering just where the chill and unseasonably autumnal weather had come from; this was fall’s little trick on spring, in order to get a face in the scene again. And winter pushed itself into their midst, without, however, being able to make much of a stand, as spring was taking fall’s good advice to heart, though it couldn’t of course know, in its naiveté, that the fall day had its double reasons for being sympathetic, wanting one last unpredictable moment of life before it couldn’t appear for a while.

So, the spring day felt a bit better after its small cry and its consult with its sibling, and started to shine happily, figuring out for itself that that spark of life, humanity, which seemed to figure so large and unwieldy in the calculations of the seasons, might forgive occasional tears and large sopping messes of mourning (for what it mourned, spring couldn’t have accounted, but was sure it had reason). And when summer saw the spring day now beaming brightly, it beckoned warmly and smiled, linking hands with its beginnings, and for the moment, at least, spring was all forward bound, happy, in order, and proud of itself.

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett, (she/her).  Ph.D., English/Theater.  Website: creative-shadows.com.  In-Print: “Poems from the Northeast,” 2021.  OOP but available for free on website:  “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris),” [in English], 2022.  Between Fall 2021-Spring 2023, Victoria will have published at least 32 times in: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art, Discretionary Love, The Hooghly Review, Bullshit Literary Magazine, The Unconventional Courier, Barzakh Magazine, The Alien Buddha Press, Amphora Magazine, Roi Faineant Literary Press, The Madrigal Press, Winning Writers, Cult of Clio.  She has also been accepted with 4 poems in Dreich Magazine for 11/2023. Victoria writes Fiction/Flash/Poetry/CNF/Essays.  She is the organizer behind the poets’ collective @PoetsonThursday on Twitter along with Alex Guenther and Dave Garbutt.  Twitter:  @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday.  Mastodon:  @vickileigh@mstdn.social & @vickileigh@writing.exchange.  Victoria is ocularly and emotionally disabled.

A Winter Story “The Silver Sixpence” by Victoria Leigh Bennett

photo from pixabay.com (_Alicja_)

The Silver Sixpence

A Wit: “Why is it when people blow their noses, they always take a good look into the handkerchief? What are they expecting to find there, a silver sixpence?”

          It was winter again; I had a snotty-nosed cold that came and went and kept me from fully enjoying my time out-of-doors with my brother, called “wee Bob” by my Uncle Joe, the bon vivant of the family, even among us children.  It was the chilliest winter I could remember in all my ten years, which might not have been long, but I was an outdoor girl.  Yet I had some hesitations about being in the freezing, bitterly discontented wind, the pelting, hard snow, especially the wetting sleet.  Wee Bob just stared gloomily out at the weather from the living room couch back, shoved up against the windowsill where it was, as he was only five and was not allowed to go out without me.  I was the big sister, the guardian angel, the one who beat the stuffings out of the boys down the road if they picked on him.  Not that he was not known to slap a snowball at one of them from behind one of the huge drifts we had this year–strangely early for the end of November and December’s advent—to whiz a miraculously accurate bullet of snow for a five-year-old at a foe, then duck down and grin up at me. At that point, I stood up and posed atop a white mound, daring our opponents to fire back.  And fire back they did, but only half-heartedly, just to “keep up the side” before going on about their own snowball or snow fort business.  But for now, it was off-again on-again for the two of us going outside, as the vagaries of my cold and my mother’s varying edicts about the weather and her own convenience with the household chores convinced her that it was good for us to be outside, or not.

          After a week of grousing from Bob and complaining from me, my mother decided that it was probably best to let us have our head, before we drove her round the bend and there were three of us out of sorts.  On the Saturday she decided to let us go around in the magnanimously fluffy and non-pelting (for a change!) snowflakes falling decorously and softly in their little swirling dances down the mounded white lawn, my Uncle Joe was sitting at the table beside her and my father, having his tea.

Now, my father and mother were having coffee; my mother claimed not even to know how to make a proper cup of tea, or how to buy it, temper the pot, manage the kettle, measure the leaves, any of it. But as Uncle Joe was her brother, and he appreciated the perfect cuppa, he just gleamed wisely from behind his out-of-date moustaches when she said these things, which caused my father to roll his eyes. One of those repeated little family dramas which get their replays with variations every few days or weeks as a form of togetherness.

Uncle Joe, in his general visceral communicativeness and sociability, had even caught my cold, and he was now whuffling and snuffling over the hot, steaming brew and trying not to sneeze.  We were shrugging into our clothes to go outside, and moved aside, a bit leery of the upcoming explosion, but not to much avail: when Uncle Joe sneezed, though it was into his handkerchief—a grand affair with his initials embroidered on one corner and made of some fine absorbent linen—the sneeze was an equally grand affair.  Though none of us had been covered with anything untidy or germy, we all felt that we had.

Unfazed, my Uncle Joe blew his nose into the cloth and then looked into it for a few seconds, giving it full attention.

“Oh, God, Joe, that’s gross!” my father laughed in protest.

“Besides, it’s rude and so—and—the children—Joe, do you want them to pick up coarse ways?”  My mother equally countered her brother’s frank interest in his own physiognomy and its products.

“Ah, but, it’s just a silver sixpence!” insisted Joe, upon being so attacked.

As a worldly-wise ten-year-old, I sneered.  “Oh, it is not, Uncle Joe.  You’re joking us!”

Still not up to all the rigs, wee Bob shouted, “Let me see, let me see!  I’ve never seen a silver sixpence.  Where did you get it, Uncle Joe?”

The question was, of course, whether wee Bob even knew what a silver sixpence was.  I had little idea myself, though “pence” suggested money, and “silver” meant treasure.

“And won’t you look at that, from 1942, back during the war, when so many coins in Great Britain were made of silver because it was cheaper than other metals in use!” Exclaimed Uncle Joe.

“Spare us your numismatics, Joe,” my father laughed again, “you’re teaching my children bad manners!”

“Ah, and if they’d learned to sneeze properly and clear their airways, then Margery there wouldn’t still have the tail-end of a cold with wee Bob looking like he wants to get it from her any day!”  Joe rejoined.

“I’m well, and we’re going outside.  See you later, Uncle Joe,” I responded, making signs to wee Bob to hurry up about it before any adults could change their minds about our going out.  And we deserted our favorite uncle for his adultlike near-betrayal of us.

Outside, it was just the most perfect day!  It was cold, true, and the wind was chafing our cheeks quite red by the time we’d been in the whiteness for five minutes.  But the fort from a few days ago was still standing in the backyard, proof that my power in the neighborhood hadn’t waned, due to my carefully dissembled illness, and our sleds were outside the basement just wanting to slip down the hill above the fort into our waiting “stop” zones there.  We watched for victims from behind the walls of our fort, made extra tall with the help of my father on one of his days off, and gloated over the pile of as-yet-unthrown snowballs buried in a hidden pit in the fort’s most inside space.

“Ah, here it is now!” spoke a loud, booming voice behind us, making us both jump, I falling into the snow on top of my sled and wee Bob shrieking loudly enough to alert our foes.  I shushed him and turned to Uncle Joe, who was now standing in the rear of our fort, holding aloft a bright silver coin in his fingers, turning it this way and that to catch the sun, which humored him as we had not, coming out from clouds previously clustered gray around the skies.

“A silver sixpence!  A silver sixpence!” shouted wee Bob, as if acquainted with the phenomenon all his life.  “Can I hold it?”

Even I, however, though proof against the fiction of its having come from Uncle Joe’s nose, was not dead set against a look at it, or even a feel of it.  Always telling myself, of course, that as it had in no wise come out of his nose, it wasn’t unclean to handle.

We inspected it, and Uncle Joe, departing, tolerated an obligatory couple of snowballs thrown at him as we watched him walk away.  Once again sneezing and blowing his nose vigorously, then turning to see us looking, he held up the handkerchief as if it contained further treasures.  Then, we entered into the day with earnest abandon, managing to harass and drive from the yard three or four fellow snowballers brave enough to venture into our territory.  By the time we were chilled through and ready for cocoa and muffins, we’d forgotten all about Uncle Joe and his cold and his handkerchief and my parents’ distaste for his joke.

“Yes, I need to talk to the cashier at the main window.  I don’t think you here at the client desk can help me.”

“But maybe I can, uncle, maybe I can.  What is it that you are needing?”

“Uncle.  No one has called me that who wasn’t really related to me for a long time.  Not since Vietnam and my travelling days, after that.  I’ll tell you, it gives me a turn.”

“Do let me apologize for it if it seems to you a discourtesy; it is a title of respect in my country. I have not been here long, and so am a bit raw around the edges, maybe.  How can I help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it bothered me in a bad way; just brought back something of the past.  Well, the fact of the matter is that I’m in the way of playing a bit of a joke on my little niece and nephew.  And I need some particular silver sixpences from Great Britain, I guess they call it U.K. now.  But ones from about, well, from exactly 1942, as many, maybe, as would come in a roll of quarters, about forty.  Wait, excuse me a moment—a-haw-a-haw-a-haw! Huff—huff—huff—whachooo!”

“You must take care of that, uncle, sir, that is a dreadful cold you have!  It sounds like the flu, and a sore throat, and I hope not Covid all combined! Please forgive me for being frank. You shouldn’t be here trying to transact business with a condition like that.”  The kind voice paused.  “But in any case, unless you have much money for this joke, dear sir, it will be too expensive at a bank, especially.  I don’t even know if we could get it for you, in fact I rather think not.  Forty silver sixpences, costing probably around $22 each, no, too much.  Have you sought out any coin collectors?  Also likely to be pricey.”

The old man was nearly finished wiping his face.  His eyes were reddened and watery, and his face likewise rubicund and moist.  His forehead was pale, though, and looked sweaty.  But he faced the bank manager, determined though bleary-eyed.  “Look, my friend, I’m old.  I’m feeling on my last legs. I—”

“Don’t say that, uncle, you have only to take care of yourself!  Anyone who could consider spending so much money for a joke upon two children must surely be able to get good medical care. Do you want me to call someone for you?”

“NO! Let me talk, it’s hard enough through this…this…anyway, I need to find about forty, we’ll say, silver sixpences.  And the reason I want them from 1942 is because I want them real silver, but not as expensive as the most valuable ones.  You’re right that my resources aren’t limitless.  So, do you know of any coin collectors I could contact? Is the bank supplied with any, in touch with any?”

“Not that I am aware of, dear sir, and I think that—but you know, there is a street in the city, a town-within-a-town, I do recollect a junk dealer, not so much junk as old things, though he’s called a junk dealer.  His name, I believe, is Daniel Mattheas Willford.  My cousin once bought a dining set from his collection that seated twelve, an antique set, and was not cheated and was well content.  Just one moment, if you please, I will call my cousin at her place of business.  If she is able to answer the phone, I may be able to get the address and phone number for you.  Do you want a cell phone number or the store number?”

“Store number, please.  But likely, I’ll drop by.”

The manager went away and returned again after what seemed to the old man like only a minute, but a prolonged minute, a minute in which shadows came and went in the bank, in which he wished he could sit down across the aisle on the other side, except for not wanting the manager to think he had left precipitately.

“Here you are.  And please, dear uncle, think a little more of yourself and a little less of selfish children.  Children have the rest of their lives. You are old, and must take care of yourself.  Come again, when you are well.”

          “But it’s out of the question, Peter, he’s got some sort of lung infection or something, and is at death’s door!  Literally, at death’s door!  We can’t take the children into his home, however many doctors he has there with him!”

          “He only has the one and the attending nurse as far as I know.  But I mean, he made it his last wish to see them, and you know how he is, it’s probably for something between them and him, just as a way of saying goodbye.  And he is their favorite uncle.  And your own brother, after all.”

          Even though I was sitting in the dining room, I could hear them arguing in the kitchen; not that they were trying to keep it down, especially not my mother.  But my father lowered his voice and spoke calmly and soothingly, and as usually happened when he did that, he won his point.  As it turned out, we went to see Uncle Joe for the last time that very night, in the middle of a blinding snowstorm that my father had real difficulty seeing to drive through, the wipers going fast as fast, but still making nearly no headway against the white splats dotting the windshield and road before us.

          When we walked into Uncle Joe’s living room, the fire wasn’t lit as it usually had been when we visited during the winter, and it was cold and damp there.  My father looked towards the various decanters on the sideboard that Uncle Joe had usually regaled him with, but after staring for just a moment, both he and my mother went to whisper quiet words to the nurse, who true to the sort of old-fashioned form so typical of Uncle Joe’s life, wore a neat hospital-style uniform of starched white, with a small cap on her head and her hair neatly pinned up in a French bun behind.

          “Sit down and don’t mess with anything, Margery, Bob, and when it’s your turn to see Uncle Joe, we’ll come and get you.  He won’t be up to much talking, and he has lots of germs, because he’s sick and is getting ready, we think, to die.  Nothing like the colds you get, you don’t have to worry about dying, we’re here to take care of you.  But just don’t get too close around the bed, don’t crowd him, okay?”  We nodded and sat nervously, not even saying much to each other while they were out of the room.  Bob did get up once or twice and stroll aimlessly around just looking, but he was not breaking the rule not to touch, either.

          Finally, my father came back alone.  His eyes were sad, his black lashes a little wet, though I hesitated to conclude that he had been crying.  “He’s able to see you both now, kids.  Don’t expect him to talk too much, though you know how he is.  Smile at him, try not to cry.  Let him know you love him.”

          So right away, of course, as soon as we went in and had a seat side by side to one side of the bed and Uncle Joe was grinning his odd grin at us, wee Bob said, “We love you, Uncle Joe.  You know it, right?”  I was partly annoyed because he’d gotten in the word first, but also because it seemed so stupid and obvious and direct.

          “And me, too, Uncle Joe.  I love you, too,” was all it left me to say.

          Uncle Joe nodded rapidly at us, tried to speak, but started coughing and my mother shook her head at him and said, “Save your voice, Joe.”

          It was sort of awkward, there didn’t seem to be much to say, just thoughts about dying and not dying, and wondering how he felt, which would have been morbid somehow, under the circumstances.

          Suddenly, Uncle Joe himself broke the ice.  He was watching us, a little sad, wanting to say something, still smiling, though not full of jokes as usual.  But his face brightened and he gesticulated to the nurse.  She handed him a small bag of something, and he pulled a clean handkerchief out of his sheets below his chin.  Then, a wondrous thing: this sick man wrapped the something up in the handkerchief and tossed it to me.   It had weight and substance and with my best summer baseball glove hand, I caught it.  It was a drawstring bag with things inside, and though my mother darted to take it away, I palmed off the handkerchief it was wrapped in on her and huddled with my brother wee Bob over the bag itself.

          While we were pulling the bag open, we heard a croak.  We looked up.  It was Uncle Joe.  Sure enough, he was speaking to us.  It was faint, and cough-riddled, but we stopped what we were doing and listened.  “I had a lot of sneezes, kids.  I collected them for you; a lot of silver sixpences!  Twenty each.”

          I knew it was a trick, but it was winter magic, all the same.  Wee Bob, though, was taken in entirely.  He became very distressed: “But Uncle Joe, please, let’s put them back up your nose, please, let’s put them back!”

          “Why?” wheezed Uncle Joe.  “Why such a dirty ol’ place?”

          “So that you can get well and be with us again, and have your tea!”

          Uncle Joe laughed then, a horrendous sound in that narrow room.  “Here you go, Bobby, you get the last one, mine, just for that!”  And he flipped it over to Bob.

          And with that, he was gone, expiring in a coughing paroxysm as my father herded us from the room. 

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett, (she/her).  Greater Boston, MA area, born WV.  Ph.D., English/Theater.  Website: creative-shadows.com.  “Come for the shadows, stay for the read.”  In-Print: “Poems from the Northeast,” 2021.  OOP but on website for free: “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris),” [CNF in English], 2022.  From Fall 2021-Spring 2023, Victoria will have published at least 31 times with: @olympiapub, @Feversof, @HooghlyReview, @TheUnconcourier, @barzakhmag, @bullshitlitmag, @AmphoraMagazine, @press_roi, @thealienbuddha, @LovesDiscretion, @themadrigalpress, @winningwriters, @cultofclio.  She is the organizer behind the poets’ collective @PoetsonThursday on Twitter along with Dave Garbutt and Alex Guenther.  Twitter:  @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday.  Mastodon:  @vickileigh@mstdn.social & @vickileigh@writing.exchange.  Victoria is ocularly and emotionally disabled.

The Soldier: A Poem in Three Voices by Victoria Leigh Bennett

photo from pixabay

*Author Notes: I was told that it has one strong voice at the beginning, but frankly, as it’s a three-part conversation with each character being created by dialogue alone, I think all three characters are equally srong and marked, regardless of whose “side” you’re on, a question which shouldn’t even arise. The war on my mind right now is actually the war of Russia against Ukraine, but whereas I think the Ukrainian people imaginative and creative enough to appreciate the issues, I don’t have the skills necessary to make it particular to them, so I’ve just cast it in an imaginable American war background. 

The Soldier: A Poem in Three Voices

So, Dan, I found out what he does for us,
That kid I told you about.
--Oh, yeah?
Yeah. And you’d never guess.
--I’m not here to guess,
--I’m here for people to tell me things,
--That’s why I’m who I am.
--So, who is he?
Wait, I’ll let him tell you himself.
But get this:
He makes lists.
--Lists of what?
Whatever we need lists of.
He’s our chief list maker:
Need a list of weapons,
Call Foxy, and he’ll make a list.
Need a list of food orders,
Call Foxy, and as quick as you please,
He’ll make a list of food to get from Company.
Our whole war seems to be run on his back,
So seriously he takes his job.
--Foxy? Is that his name?
The one they all call him by, anyway.
Here, here he comes, I called for him.
Hey, Foxy, now here’s Dan, Major General Dan Wilteritz,
You can tell him anything you would tell me.
**Oh, no sir! Not at all, sir! I would never, sir!
**Against regulations, sir.
Now, Foxy.
First of all, what’s your real name, let’s go on that basis,
So you’ll know I’m not joshing with you.
What’s your name and rank, soldier?
Snap to attention, now!
**Corporal First Class Andy—Andrew Beddings, sir.
Okay, at ease.  Now Andrew, you see I’m calling you by your first name so you know,
I’m serious. Andrew, tell Dan here just how you knew
There was a security breach on campus of the compound last week.
**Are you sure, sir? I mean, you told me not to tell no one. Anyone.
Yes, as sure as I’m General Pete, Peter Brown, of Special Ops.
Tell Daniel here, my friend Dan, who needs to know,
And may even needs some lists made soon,
How you knew there was a security breach at 21:00 hours just there
At the place where you were supposed to go to make some lists the next day.
Go ahead, now, I’ll answer for it, you won’t get into any trouble.
Tell Dan.
**Well, sir, I dreamed it.
--You did what?
--You dreamed it?
--What, fell asleep on duty? Saw something that made you wake up fully? Heard a noise?
**No, sir, sir, Major General sir, I dreamed it.
**I dream like that, sometimes.
**I was just in my bed on campus.
**And I dreamed that I was in a room where when I got fully awake—
**But you see, I was only dreaming I was awake, sir—
--Yes, okay, so, Foxy—Andrew, is it?—you dreamed: when you got wide awake?
**Well, I noticed that there was the door open and only on the latch, sir.
**And sir, when I went to look at it, I knew I hadn’t, ner no one I knew had,
**left it on the latch. And then, I fell asleep again all the way in the dream, you see.
**And then, when I woke up from dreaming inside the dream, if you follow me sir,
**No, sorry, sir, I didn’t mean—to tell you what to do, sir—
--Quite all right, Andrew, so you dreamed it a second time the same night?
**Yes, sir, I dreamed a second time that when I woke up from a dream,
**the door was only on the latch, AND I KNEW that second time that I had locked it, too. So, when awake, I went to Abby Winslow, she’s the Informations Clerk,
**and I told her that there had been two security breaches on campus, 
**Something about gate not closed, and she laughed at me at first, sir, Major General, sir,
**but when my friend Klingston the night guard told her better check,
**just to be sure, she did, sir, and they found two locks just busted straight through,
**who knows how, by parties unknown. And then they found two enemy soldiers
**the next day, hiding out in one of the dugouts, just waiting with guns drawn.
**But the funny thing to Klingston, sir, I didn’t laugh, sir, but they had fallen asleep.
**So, it’s like I made touch with them in my dream, sir.
**If you’ll pardon me for having weird thoughts, sir.
--This is a war, soldier, Andrew, we all have a few weird thoughts.
--But yours have paid off. So, you dream a lot like this, do you?
**From time to time, sir, not regular, but from time to time.
--Well, you be sure and keep us informed, now, you hear?
--Tell General Peter here about anything. So he hears about it, right away.
**Yes sir, sir.
**And sir? Sirs?
Yes, Andrew, Foxy, what is it?
Don’t worry about a thing,
Just tell me when it happens, I’ll make sure you have a direct line in,
Like Dan here says. What more can I help you with
Before you go on with your important and assigned job of making lists for us?
**Well, sir, I have just heard where we can get us some apples, sir.
**Begging your pardon, sirs.
Do you mean, like the fruit? Apples?
**Yes, sirs. Well, I hate to mention it sirs,
**And I’m not complaining, sirs,
**But you know, a lot of the soldiers are getting—
**oh, sirs, I’m so sorry, but we don’t get fresh fruit regular—
Do you mean, they’re getting constipated, bound up?
**I’m so sorry, sir, for mentioning something so, so—
**but, yes, sir. And I know where we can get some apples,
**just as sure as anything. Or my name isn’t Andrew, sirs, and sirs, it is.
Okay, say we need a good supply of fresh apples, where would I find them, Foxy?
**Well, sir, now, you’d have to talk to Private Laverdi, sir,
**she’s the one who saw it.
--Ah, reconnaissance! Okay, that’s something material.
**Well, maybe you would think not, sir, but everyone who knows her relies on her.
Well? What is it that makes you hesitate, Corporal?
**Sir, she saw it in a vision when it was her turn to do the cooking.
--A vision? You mean, like—looking into the distance, and seeing a, a vision before your eyes?
**Yes, sir, as I understand it, sir. But I don’t see visions, sir.
No, we understand, Foxy, you dream dreams.
Okay, we’ll certainly look into it. But not a word of any of this to anyone else, okay?
**Okay, sir. I did already tell a couple people before I talked to you, sir,
**but I won’t no more. Anymore.
Grand! Well, you’ll be one of the first to get some apples, assuming—we find some.
**Thank you, sir. You can count on Private Laverdi, she won’t steer you wrong.
Fine, soldier. Okay, you go to chow and get something good for yourself,
Tell them my orders. Here, I’ll put it through on my phone to them. There, got it.
Not a word more about the dream, okay? And if you have more, just come on ‘round.
That’s all for now, soldier, you’ve done well. Ten-hut!
Okay, dismissed.
So, what do you think of that, Dan?
--Well, in the short run, I think you’re leaving yourself open
--to every hair-brained halfwit who has a nightmare.
Nope, I don’t know about Private Laverdi yet,
But so far as I’ve asked around, Foxy Beddings is the soul of discretion
When it comes to duty. Devoted, even.
--Well, we all know the police are widely believed to use psychics here and there.
--They don’t treat them too well, but certainly use them.
We can do better than that. I’ll look out after this one.
You know, what is it in the Bible,
That bit about, I may have it backwards, but
“Your young men shall dream dreams, and your old men shall see visions.”
--Now you’re really giving me the creeps, Peter.
--I’m going to need some apples.
Stop, now, don’t make me laugh, it was a valid concern, they do need healthy bowels, too.  Well, we’ll need a quick game of softball to get our heads 
out of this incident. Get in touch when you’ve got your team ready, I’ve got mine.
--Will do. I have to get back too now, things nearer the front. Stay well, my friend.
You too, Dan. You, too.

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett (she/her), greater Boston, MA area, born WV.  Ph.D., English & Theater.  Website: creative-shadows.com.  In-Print: “Poems from the Northeast,” 2021; OOP but on website: “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris)” [in English], 2022.  Between Aug. 2021-December 2022, Victoria will have published at least 28 times with: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art, Roi Faineant Literary Press, Barzakh Magazine, Amphora Magazine, The Unconventional Courier, The Alien Buddha Press, The Madrigal Press, Discretionary Love, Winning Writers, Cult of Clio.  She has been accepted with 4 works for Bullshit Literary Magazine, 4/21/23.  Victoria is the organizer of the poets’ collective @PoetsonThursday on Twitter with Dave Garbutt and Alex Guenther and participates in #PoetsonThursday from @vickileigh@mstdn.social & @vickileigh@writing.exchange, which is run by Dave and Alex.  Twitter: @vicklbennett.  Victoria is ocularly and emotionally disabled.