Matt Duggan: “The Remains”

 

 

The Remains

Come walk with us down lanes of dirty hemlock
where the hands of car wrecks reach out from the earth
like metal statues with glass made cheeks

Follow the midnight light in short hours of the lost
listen to the movements of mechanical ghosts –
along lime and sand pathways of verge;

They have not yet mastered the darkness levels at night
as we spend our daytime mostly dazed
our eyes stretched out like fragile rocks
clinging to the foundations of white cliffs;

Kingdoms will always believe that they can wear
a battledress with pride – though the rest of the world can see
that the seams have long ago been cut and unthreaded;
placed inside an old sewing box labelled dangerous and obsolete.

 

About the Author: Matt Duggan was born in 1971 and lives in Bristol in the U.K. with his partner Kelly and their dog Alfie, his poems have appeared in many journals across the world such as Osiris Poetry Journal, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, The Blue Nib, Into the Void, The Journal, The Dawntreader, Midnight Lane Boutique, Anti—Heroin Chic Journal, The High Window, A Restricted View from Under the Hedge, Ghost City Review, Laldy Literary Journal, L’ Ephemere Review, Carillion, Lakeview International Literary Journal, Levure Litteraire, erbacce journal, The Stray Branch, Prole, Black Light Engine Room, Militant Thistles, Matt won the Erbacce Prize for Poetry in 2015 with his first full collection of poems Dystopia 38.10 and became one of five core members at Erbacce-Press, where Matt interviews poets for the erbacce-journal, organises events and reads with the other members for the annual erbacce prize.

 In 2017 Matt won the Into the Void Poetry Prize with his poem Elegy for Magdalene, and read his work across the east – coast of the U.S.A. with readings at the prestigious Cambridge Public Library Poetry Series in Boston, a guest poet appearance at The Parkside Lounge and Sip This in New York, Matt read at his first U.S. book launch in Philadelphia and has two new chapbooks available One Million Tiny Cuts (Clare Song Birds Publishing House) and A Season in Another World (Thirty West Publishing House) plus a small limited edition booklet The Feeding ( Rum Do Press) Venice and London. He has read his work across the world including The Poetry on the Lake Festival in Orta, Italy, the Poetry Café in London, and in Paxos in Greece and at various venues across the U.K.

 

Image Credit: “Auto Accident” (1922) The Library of Congress

Jeffrey Betcher: “Billy Dew Meadow”

 

 

This is the second in a series of posts remembering the work of poet and activist Jeffrey Betcher (1960-2017).

 

Preface: Left “believing in the pack mentality of strays,” the poetry of Jeffrey Betcher speaks from the entire collective of American queer stray culture, that very lost-and-found narrative of reinvention on the docks of survival. These docks, being the green-heeled sanctuary of San Francisco from 1986-2016, these docks gave birth to an examination and liberation of meaning, as wildly honest and true-to-mirror as every queer breath weʼve danced. From this collection of Jeffrey Betcherʼs poems, “The Fucking Seasons, Selected Poems 1986 to 2016,” we hear the journeys into witness, touch the lips of knowing “love has been here. Hungry footsteps, breath released, and touch can change the land forever.” A San Franciscan born of rural Ohio, Jeffrey Betcherʼs poetry informs the landscape of nature, saying simply, “Iʼm a witness. Love has been here.”

– Toussaint St. Negritude,
Poet, bass clarinetist, composer

 

Billy Dew Meadow

Mountain meadow,
sonant place (and
I thought of love, of
wanting it so) that
only the locals

know. The pass: im-
passible, Barbara and
Robert, old lovers,
say. But they like us,
four wheel drive us

over the folded
earth, along the
tree-toothed grin of
grass. We laugh as
everything is young, or

time doesn’t mean much.
Named for a miner. “A
frenchman.” Ah, then
Dieu, perhaps. Billy, dear,
What is your name? What 

man amongst men were
you? And where are you
buried? With whose lock of
hair? Here’s history un
kempt. Fir shacks sagging. Mer-

ci, Billy, from friends at
play in your sweet
meadow. Jim lying
stoned in grass, and
me perched ready to

fly through men, their
names and touches and
fields and shag of
beard where a stream
presses the center of

story scorched by
prairie-fire, orange
yellow and purple
rods and golden
faces bristling with repro-

duction as dragonflies
swarm. My shadow,
standing on shadow
rock: I’m shirtless and
could be twelve or

Icarus. Expectation
winging long as
afternoon, backlit 
ass on fire! A
halo you may re-

call, dear Billy.
Above the wooded
ridge: it’s blue sky
moon, Billy. Vastly over a
century old. Still,

find my billet-
doux tomorrow, Billy,
find your meadow
tomorrow in every
shaven face.

      -July 25, 1996, Fish Camp, California

 

(C) 2017 Jeffrey L. Betcher Living Trust

 

About the Author: Jeffrey Betcher donned many hats over more than 30 years in San Francisco, yet maintained an integrity of purpose. A writer, an educator, an advocate for the prevention of violence against women and children, and a grassroots community organizer, he gained national attention as a leader in the “guerrilla gardening” movement, helping transform his crime-ridden street in the Bayview neighborhood into an urban oasis. His intimate poetry was also cultivated over the decades, exploring survival and engagement, and the labyrinth of the heart. Though he dodged the HIV bullet in the plague-torn years, a terminal bout of cancer cut his life short in 2017. In addition to his chapbook of Selected Poems (1986-2016), he completed an epic sonnet, Whistling Through, an odyssey into the cancer machine and death itself

 

More By Jeffrey Betcher:

Dear Allen Ginsberg

 

Image Credit: Vincent Van Gogh “Wheat Field at Auvers with White House” (1890) Public Domain

Cody Sexton: “The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton”

 

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The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton

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She was no longer a person.

She was death. Staring back at me from a hospital bed.

The death of my Aunt was my first experience with death and dying, it was also one of my first experiences with cancer, which, as it turns out, ended up playing a recurring role in a number of deaths in my family.

I can’t recall my age at the time of her death or really anything else about my Aunt, but I will never forget walking into that room and seeing her reduced to flesh stretched across white bone, completely hairless, and yet so happy to see me.

She was living back with her parent’s at the end and hospice had her setup in the living room. She was married to my Uncle, my Dad’s brother, and I guess her father had wanted her to be home at the end, I’m not sure. Perhaps my Uncle was either incapable or even unwilling to care for her. My Uncle, I had always assumed, had by that time moved on anyway, their lives diverging. Hers toward oblivion and his towards a life without her.

I can never forgive people who choose to move on. Even if it’s at the bequest of the dying. I have always found the notion that one should simply move on with their lives after they have suffered through the loss of a loved one silly, but it also appears as if it is inevitable. Time unfortunately does heal all wounds. So it becomes a constant battle to maintain the memory of the value of what you lost. Which is why mourning is active. Grief comes later and if you’re lucky, never at all. Grief is ultimately all we are left with. I am told that she used to babysit me every chance she could. I am told that she loved me very much. I am told that she had wanted children of her own but those plans had been halted by a capricious evolutionary process. A process that cares little for the wants and wishes of its hosts.

But I will always remember her smile as we entered her room that final time, the last time I would see her alive.

Actually that same smile would later go on to shatter my understanding of the natural world all together and she passed not much longer after that visit.

At her funeral I remember listening to the ridiculous things people say about the recently deceased.

“She looks good.”

“She’s not in pain anymore.”

Or my personal favorite,

“She’s in a better place now.”

At the time I didn’t understand what place that even meant and even now that I do I still can’t think of it as a better place. And I doubt anyone else really does either, otherwise funerals would be a celebratory event instead of a somber one.

During her viewing she seemed unreal to me. The whole experience seemed unreal. How could someone who was once alive now be dead? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I refused to believe that what was presented to me in this casket had ever been alive. She looked to me as if she were a doll. A plaster cast of someone I once knew. They even had her dressed in a wig on account of the chemo, in a fruitless attempt to present her here as she was in life, even though now no life existed within her.

Embalming, if you think about it, is really a cruel joke in my opinion. I don’t know which is worse, to have your loved one bloated and decomposing or to have them looking as if they could just be shaken out of a deep sleep. At least if they were rotting you could believe that they were dead. The embalmers job is to enhance the ‘memory picture’, which is a psychologically dubious concept to begin with, supposedly compromising the bereaved’s last glimpse of the deceased. But in reality it’s just a callous trick. So there she laid. A corpse. Displayed in a funeral parlor for all to see. Anyone off the street could have walked in, and people, family and friends, were mingling and conversing with one another as of it wasn’t there. People so determined to avoid any inappropriate response, whether it be tears, anger, or even helpless laughter that they would talk about anything to avoid the reality of this room, the reality that would soon be a burden, something akin to trash that would need to be disposed of before it started to stink.

And yet, her appearance, before the funeral, while in the process of dying, is now the face that I will forever attach to any abstract idea I have of death. Her face is now what I picture when I imagine death on a pale horse riding toward Armageddon. The memory of her body while alive, poised on the eve of a great journey, has made a lifelong impression.

Her death has actually come to mean more to me than any other, not because I was particularly close to her, I was very young at the time, but because it showed me that death is always present, embedded in every moment. Her death taught me about man’s fruitless attempt to find meaning in a world where no meaning exists.

But why was she smiling, I have always wondered. How could she possibly be smiling knowing that nothing may very well lay ahead of her? It’s a courage or stupidity that I will one day come to know.

My god, why was she smiling?

I still wonder.

 

About the Author: Cody Sexton is a book critic/reviewer and lead writer at athinsliceofanxiety.com where he chronicles his lifelong obsession with the written word. He has also been featured at theindieview.com and Writer Shed Stories and has won several blogging awards such as The Versatile Blogger Award, The Sunshine Blogger Award, The Mystery Blogger Award, and a Blogger Recognition Award.

 

Image Credit: Dorothea Lange “Funeral Cortege, End of an Era in a Small Valley Town, California” (1938) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

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Connor Stratman: “Doug at My Age”

 

 

Doug at My Age 

Good Luck is chained to the bow,
frontlining this plow through the flood. 
Ay (yes), we’re singing and dancing
under the moon that draws
scythes and staples night to the air,
the fortune of lightless pastures.
Crickets and owls crow in and out
of the dreams of everyone else.
I’m glad to be gone from here, the tide
that’s always one with its own border. 
Reading the stream again, this one’s mine. 
Hydrated leaves take the water taxi
and here is some childhood again, 
borne on the backs of jagged rocks
and plenty of ivy. Again, years go
and then this thicket of solitude 
pops up again, in pictures I didn’t take. 
My shed cells are the corpse of memory. 
Lost against the gentlest possible tide, 
there’s a kiss, a game of army, broken
tractor motors, and that tunnel they say
some kid in the nineties disappeared up. 

 

About the Author: Connor Stratman lives in Dallas, TX. His books and chapbooks include Some Were Awake (plumberries, 2011), Volcano (2011/2017, Writing Knights), and An Early Scratch (Erbacce, 2010). His work has appeared in journals such as Ditch, Counterexample Poetics, Earl of Plaid, Etcetera, Backlash, Moria, Dead Snakes, and Otoliths.

 

Image Credit: “Head of a Roman Boy” second half of 2nd century A.D. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Larry Smith: “The Story of Rugs”

 

 

The Story of Rugs

They cover holes in the earth
we walk upon when all else
has let us down.  
Woven by elders from the 
hair of sheep fresh shorn
their faces kiss our feet.
For days at a time 
the old sit in silence
peddling and bobbing
to continue our line.

And so, their deaths
move us closer to the time
when no rugs are spread before us,
and their faces are worn through,
when empty spaces
fill our hearts.

 

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About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.

 

More By Larry Smith:

Forget Math and Science

Wages

No Walls

 

Image Credit: “Two women making rugs on porch” The Library of Congress

Martina Reisz Newberry: “Venerating the Transitory”

 

 

VENERATING THE TRANSITORY

Further up on the trail is
the smell of toasted tree trunks
and a damp cold. It’s lovely.

The spontaneous nature
of fire in this area last year
was its inborn reckoning,

then, a little later, loss and
pain—their tie, a “given” by
all that breathes. Tell this: which of

our multiple mouths is the
most intimate? Is this some
thing we have to decide? I

have found there are too many
endorsements for most questions.
Further up this trail, there are

still some patches of clean snow
holding on to that singed smell.
My body recalls the smells,

the tastes, forgets the events.
Wind licks at the aspens, some
kind of birds form a cloud and

pass over. It is clear they
have a fixed destination.
Along this path are vagrant

insects and animals. The
silence is so pronounced that
I hear rocks speaking many

languages. Everything bathed
in shades of pekoe, pink,
singe, an absurd excess.

 

About the Author: Martina Reisz Newberry’s newest collection, Blues for French Roast with Chicory is due for publication from Deerbrook Editions in late fall, 2019. Her latest book is: Never Completely Awake (Available from Deerbrook Editions). Her work has been widely published in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Brian Newberry, a Media Creative.

 

Image Credit: “Oregon National Forest. Effect of fire” The Library of Congress

Cord Moreski: “Someday”

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Someday  

Someday, I hope this poem finds you—
clocking out of a dead-end job,
or during a television commercial
when you’re slouched on the sofa,
between sips of burnt coffee
at the diner when you’re feeling lonely,
or after gazing at the stars outside
your bedroom window because something
keeps you from falling asleep at night—
to let you know that it’d be nice
for you to finish that manuscript
kept hostage in your desk drawer
after all these years, to paint that canvas
cooped up in your attic collecting time,
to take that road trip you swore
would save your life, to find that smile
that used to appear naturally
before it had to be forced.
Wherever you are. Whatever it was.
Someday, I hope this poem finds you.

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About the Author: Cord Moreski is a writer from New Jersey. His work has been previously featured in Silver Birch Press, The Pangolin Review, Philosophical Idiot, The Rye Whiskey Review, In Between Hangovers, and several other publications. He is the author of the chapbook Shaking Hands with Time (Indigent Press, 2018) and is currently working on a new project for 2020. You can follow Cord here: https://www.cordmoreski.com

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More By Cord Moreski:

Aubrie

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Image Credit:

Digital Photo by Chase Dimock