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

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

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

That which can be made visible *

Sun’s first sleep-breath
sweets the dropped shoulder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold the river

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

Feeding the koi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act like you were never for sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hathor’s gift

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

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

Feature photo by Ankh Spice

Holiday Interlude by Ankh Spice from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen

Art from Kara Beth Rasure (c) in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1

(c) Kara Beth Rasure

Kara Beth is a writer, musician, artist, sketcher, all around creative. Kara has performed as a musician singing both originals & wonderful cover songs all throughout Indiana for many years. Kara Beth’s music can be found at http://www.facebook.com/KBRMusic Down-tempo/Folk style music with roots in classic rock & soul. Instagram: Prismanaut Bandcamp: karabethtreasure.bandcamp.com

3 Poems by Rosie Johnston : “Blood Stains on the Stones” “Other-Mother” & an extract from “Six-Count Jive”

Blood stains on the stones 	
(for my therapist)

Wolf-memories weave around my legs. 
Docile now. 
I tiptoe. Whisper. 

Wolf-memories startle. Leap up, snap,
shove me over,
rip at my throat.

Wolf-memories lap my blood, slump
against my rib-cage,
snarl in their sleep.

Wolf-memories wake when they like.
when they like. When they have done with me. 

Wolf-memories rise, shake free, lick
themselves clean.
Saunter outside. Sated.

Sunlight through curtains. I 
for wounds. Test my feet beneath me. 

Each fray with the wolves leaves me 
you say. More restored. 				I hate wolves. 


In the close of a nightmare’s eye, I’m seven again
back from school,
A walk of a mile down the road to the big shops, a dash
across it to where she left me once, her heart so
high with dresses and hats, she forgot I might
need help up into the bus behind her.
‘The long face on the wean,’
she laughed later.
‘Tears trippin’ it.’
I don’t remember tears. I do still
see the twisted shout-face on her - yet again I botched
her life - and me left on the pavement still shiny wet in my memory.

Other days we were a foursome, or a threesome and me:
my brothers happed up emperor toddlers under the pram hood
in her triangle of intimacy. The pram handle was mine,
its stream of chrome reflections a world away from her voice.

The house is closed. Locked up. I’m round the back, sopping in drizzle.
I need to pee. Overcome and standing there, I feel it hot
down my legs into my shoes.
On no, the shoes.
I cry I cry
for the smacks to come,
bruises will scud through her anger,
join the storm clouds already on my legs,
I cry, I cry all downfall.
The swing of the side gate, no coat, no time, her raw vowels never so welcome, here’s Ruby
and I’m up in her arms, the red felt hat pinned to her perm, a squeezed cig in flow: ‘I’m
baking curny scones,’ she says, ‘come on and help me.’ Her kitchen fug swirls around me.
Off come the guilty shoes. Persian cats pick through flour scattered wide across her table.
One sits on my bare feet. Hot milk, by the Raeburn. Ruby’s laughter billows, childless Ruby,
my other mother, who other-mothers all us quiet ones, she talks. We talk. We sing together:
‘My aunt Jane, she called me in’.
I am noticed.
When my shoes are dry enough, we tuck blackberry plants into their garden beds. My job is
to wrap muck around their feet to keep them warm until the spring, minding for thorns while
the big russet leaves lick and tickle my hands. Planted in October rain, Ruby says, they’ll root
throughout the hail and snow. Next year’s berries juicier for their hard start.
Hunkered together, we hear the car in the road. Ruby’s
stubby fingers rush to brush
my palms clean
in sunlight.

From Six-Count Jive (Lapwing Publications, Belfast, 2019) 

Lie soft, gentle winged creature, roped and dazed;
you’re safe,
unless you struggle

She steadies her breathing,
sips again,
engrossed by the jangle of ice.

That week-old bruise. Its slanting
seem to offer distant rescue.

Between past hells and future
this moment poises sacrosanct.

The secret hauls at its chain,
surges loose into the court room.

A problem shared is a problem
carried in the wind for miles.

She lives in a glacier.
Loved ones
reach for her, their smiles fracturing.

‘I’ve got what I want’ - she
shuts the door
in her empty room - ‘solitude’.

‘I’ve got what I needed’ - she
locks the door
of the empty room - ‘safety’.

‘I’ll learn to love it’ - she
hugs herself
in the empty room - ‘loneliness’.

In her serrated cavern, alone,
she yells,
hears rebounding silence.

Brimful of hope: unlike
tomorrow could have yes in it. 

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Rosie Johnston

Wednesday with Will Schmit : A Blog Entry about learning Culture and Diversity

I met my first Black person during my senior year in high school. There were no people of color in my town, unless you counted itinerant workers and I don’t think we did. As I was not included in the class field trip to Jonesboro Arkansas I went on my own. Our Greyhound bus pulled into Effingham Illinois in the dead of a December night. 1969. The driver encouraged us to get snacks and use the bathroom in a now or never sort of voice. My long hair and gold striped bell bottoms set me apart from the other travelers, not that there was a large contingent heading to Memphis in mid-winter. 

A young man in a black beret and leather jacket walked into the shadows away from the bus station and motioned me to follow him.

 “You holdin’ ?”  he asked.

“Nah, nothing on me.”

He pulled a pin roll from behind his ear and fired it up, offered me a hit after he took a quick pull. Skinniest joint I had ever seen. He explained his people couldn’t afford to get too high. Had to stay alert. Police. Black Panther. Chicago life. We didn’t say more to each other back on the bus. Sat where we sat before.

My next encounter was in college. Social studies. The teacher’s assistant wore a professor style sport jacket and an Afro. I don’t remember the context of the class. It may have been related to multi-culturalism or whatever we called it in the 70’s. I was a new jazz enthusiast and was considering a paper about music as an identity marker. I somehow mentioned my bus ride and the TA suggested I write about that, about the difference of getting high as a white or black person. I got an A in the class for supplying him with top grade weed and as research he brought some friends over to my crib to smoke it. I was quick to mimic just enough lingo to pass for being hip, or so I hoped.

Hip was all I saw. Miles, Hendrix, Marley. Poverty, malnutrition, the war, all the underbelly of the beast began to seep through my purple haze. My political education gradually gained some perspective through rap sessions and poetry readings. After dropping out of college and not quite passing an audition for the local music conservatory I joined the counter-culture as a neighborhood food co-op employee and came up against racism in my bid to provide nutrition classes to the ghetto grade school just across the bridge from our store. Seemed weird a bunch of hippies didn’t want ‘too many’ black people shopping, or shop lifting as was inferred, at the community co-op.

I didn’t fight tooth and nail for my idea, but I did write an adventure book for young readers that included some healthy recipes and shared it in an after school reading program. Smoothies proved to be a little too much of a stretch for teen age cuisine so the only upshot of the class was my promise to never breakdance in public. The  other relationship, or should I say exposure to black culture I can recall was taking conga lessons in the park on Saturdays and doing some poetry readings at political rallies. It would be another twenty years until I broke bread, well biscuits, with a black family. Getting sober in the mid 90’s led my new bride and I to join a small racially diverse church and that meant cook outs, Gospel choir, and peculiar to the House of Refuge, a prison ministry at San Quentin State Prison.

Token Caucazoid was a sort of tongue in cheek description of us following our Pastor into prison chapel for the next five years. I began to learn incarceration was a family stressing reality of staggering proportion. I kept up with volunteering in prison chapels until Covid 19 put the kabosh on that avenue of connection. Church life did bring me to Africa twice and through childhood friends of my bride Jamaica became a preferred destination of ours, it will be hard to top a Full Moon on Valentine’s Day listening to Toots and the Maytals give a beachfront concert.

The point I’m meandering toward is that Black Lives matter more when real relationships are friendly, familial, and fun. Truly the hard work of replacing racism with compassionate political and personal solutions is made more tangible when its someone we know benefiting from connection or suffering from the oppressive lack of it. It’s not my place to suggest being polite and culturally curious is enough to achieve racial harmony, but it certainly is some part of the framework. I live in the boonies of Northern California, think redwoods, beaches, and a booming agriculture. The local university does bring in some diversity in the form of international students but for the most part, except for entertainment and sports, the local scene is pretty homogenous.

To keep my finger somewhat on the pulse of cultural creativity I scroll through my Twitter feed to find poets and political activists and when I can buy a book of poetry (Jericho Brown, Matthew E Henry, Tianna Clark, Quintin Collins and Khalisa Rae all made this year’s Poetry Month a marathon of fabulous!) or donate to a cause. All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough. A football coach taught me that years ago and it does age pretty well.

 I wanted my first blog for Fevers of the Mind to be encouraging and perhaps spark some conversation. I’m pushing 70 years old and I can count my friends, black and white, on one hand and I hope they can count on me to carry some weight. It’s the other in brother that makes life interesting. A poet said that. I say a lot of things but it is the listening that gets things across.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Will Schmit