New Year: Discharged by Wes Lee
The neighbour’s dog barks into the wind
for the boy who is never there.
On the deck, tethered to its red kennel,
it eyes the world,
barks with its full life-force.
An eyelash drifts down from the skylight.
Each day fresh things fall
Evidence of insect activity.
From the spindly, first stepping legs,
afraid I would fall if I did not
From the shell-shocked ‘aeroplane meals’
to bring us back to some kind of reassembling
of who we were.
Sitting across from each other,
we’re broken and we’re soft.
Why must we be dropped like eggs
to root out fear in ourselves?
I am left with terrible breath.
The hospital smell got inside, laid its seeds
and grasped. My mouth a walking tomb.
I blow into my cupped hand and know
Time will come to flush,
to scour the pathways.
Just to be dreaming again is enough.
Islands by Dawid Juraszek
stopped on Roxas Boulevard her white dress draped over stained concrete long hair caressing shoulders face turned towards the shimmering bay eyes closed against the forever setting sun then staring hard ahead
strolled through Rizal Park a smouldering cigarette never leaving his lips as he gestured towards the heavy skies the granite obelisk the upturned eaves in the gardens brow furrowed voice constrained battling something he could never shed
lingered at Robinson’s Place escaping the humidity gorging on chicken and books inner demons tearing through her cool demeanour coyness giving way to confidence and then confusion as she promised to always keep in touch
navigated among the jeepneys their din and jostle a challenge he craved and accepted leading with a spring in his step me in reluctant pursuit both caught in one of those moments that stand still
sailed to Corregidor heard her speak explain confess as we stepped through the bones of history into the fever of life good and evil in rehearsed words crumbling alongside the ruins left to bear eternal witness
walked between watery glass his skull naked and glistening like the captive creatures of the Ocean Park nasal voice sharing words of broken wisdom from misdirected life floating and entrapped away again
stood over the American Cemetery its untold white crosses and stars lining up in quiet rows across peaceful waves of green never to end and mouthed the names carved high up of the silenced below
dreamed of stars that weren’t there lost in the haze that scorched our throats and there was no place to go poisons still in the system in these islands or beyond where we could ever hide from the sky or it from us
isled apart stories half remembered full bodied part true part beautiful all underappreciated when coming into life my life like the people I could always see again it’s easy after all till it’s not and they’re gone mundane turning mythical
How to eat a cherry by Diana Burns
It must be a sunny day
one where the sky
is limitless, the garden redolent with bright greens.
Choose a seat where the sun speckles your face.
Keep your feet bare, your arms loose.
Lift the cherry by its stem,
admire its dimpled roundness, how
its rich red recalls a fairytale jewel.
Place it between your teeth, teasing… then
slowly pull it into the warm dark of your mouth.
Let your tongue explore its surface,
smooth and promising.
Bite into the lush flesh,
taste how the juice runs
into every cranny of your mouth, suffusing
your senses, sweetening your smile.
Hold it there a while before you swallow.
This is the definition of summer.
And in the bowl, still more cherries.
That Lovely Evening in Lublin by DeWitt Clinton
You’ve thought this too, right, that you’re trying
To remember what happened just the other day,
Or perhaps something so far back it’s now hard
To even try to reconstruct, but isn’t that the way
An old mind can only live with so much stuff,
That some of it just has to be tossed, but when
Exactly did we lose all those precious memories
That make up some of who we were and thought
We’d remember forever, but even without our
Permission, some of it just gets thrown out,
Tossed, but when and how is so unclear and no
One really keeps records of what’s about to
Take leave, as the brain is shrinking, right, about
This time, even my brother can’t remember the
Two of us, mowing around old gravestones,
But those stones look so much more tidy,
As if anybody down there really cared as
Even the families are probably all gone by
Now, but then one day we’re stuck on a bit
Of a memory of that last picnic on the
(forgot the name) river, and nothing seems
To loosen up in the old brain not even what
We ate, or drank, or said, or felt, and what’s
So odd about all this is that all of us enjoyed
Those lovely moments, listening, laughing,
Lifting another one, and another part of me
Might have been taking notes getting the
Quotes just right, and then, where the heck
Did it go, as if it’s just something someone
Somewhere decided to delete just like that
As the roof in our head just couldn’t take
Anymore without crashing into what’s
Below, and what’s below has hardly any
Way of knowing what we did on that lovely
Summer evening on the river bank we’d
Never been to, but was so delicious for
Both of us, especially when we just wandered
Away from the fire and then found ourselves
Wrapped around each other even though
We’d just found each other a few days
Before, or was it a week or a month before
When I walked into the party you were hosting
Or was it your husband, the one you’ll never
See again, and now, unfolding all those
Years so long ago that sometimes I wonder if
All the drama stored up there has its own
Stage, with props and costumes, even lights,
It must, or how could any of these scenes
Ever get past even the opening lines, but
Now, nobody, nobody can’t even recall
Who walks on first to open the first lines,
And worse, no one, ever, is sitting out
There as there’s barely enough room
For all the make-shift stages, and costume
Changes especially when the mind drifts
From one drama to another without even
Knowing we’re someplace else, so all the
Loving pets, all the belts released for
Thrashing all the little ones, all the clothes
That no longer fit, all the delightful ideas
Lost before even remembering, all the
Songs hummed, or sung as if we were
Still at the opera in Lublin, all lost, even
The potato soup across from the opera
House as rain poured and poured on the
Cobblestones outside making what we
Thought was the most memorable ever
Evening, now slipping away, the rain,
The opera of Verdi’s so stunning especially
In this old city of war, now mostly forgotten
By all the young, as something is always
Moving into the space, something forgotten
Always lost, tossed, turning into fragments,
Then nothing, except maybe here when
We try to put together what we knew about
That evening, Verdi’s opera about all those
Israelites marching into exile, the pretend
Moment we saw Bogart and Bergmann
Walking by, arm in arm, looking in to see
The two of us, looking up, somewhat surprised,
On that evening we loved so much in Lublin.
Someone Please by Todd Matson
Someone please, tell me
the appropriate response
to seeing a disheveled old man –
someone’s father, grandfather
masked and hobbling
through a grocery store,
talking to his wife on the phone
with a phone in each hand,
one for each ear –
speaking to her from one,
answering, in her voice, from the other,
whispering terms of endearment –
“honey” “sweetie” “sugar”
as he looks for the sugar
he can’t find in the isle.
Somehow gently placing
a 4-pound bag of sugar
sprinkled with teardrops
in his wrinkled hands
amidst masked, de-faced strangers
filling carts with bread and water,
toilet paper and hand sanitizer,
asking him if there is
anything else he needs
seems not quite enough.
So, I stalk him, inconspicuously,
from isle to isle, eavesdropping,
feeling almost guilty, like a child
with an ear to the door
of an intimate conversation
not meant for him.
“Did I get you everything
you asked for, love?”
And in his best imitation of her,
“Yes love, wear your mask
always, hurry home.”
Someone please, paying for
the paltry items in his cart,
placing them in his car
seems not quite enough.
Diana Burns is a writer, journalist and trainer from Wellington. She has loves words and language in all its forms, and has written numerous articles and short stories. She hopes to write a novel, and will probably spend the rest of her life trying to be a better writer.
DeWitt Clinton has two poetry collections (Conquistador narratives) from New Rivers Press, a recent collection of poems, At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), and a new collection from Is A Rose Press, By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters, plus a collection of poetic adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, and lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
Dawid Juraszek is the author of Medea and Other Poems of the Anthropocene (Kelsay Books 2020). A bilingual writer and educator based in China, he is working on a PhD project in cognitive ecocriticism at Maastricht University. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in multiple venues in Poland, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Ireland.
Wes Lee lives in Wellington. Her latest poetry collection By the Lapels was launched in Wellington (Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2019). Her work has appeared in Best New Zealand Poems, The New Zealand Listener, Landfall, Poetry London, The London Magazine, The Stinging Fly, Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, among others. She has won a number of awards for her writing including The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Literary Award. Most recently she was awarded the Poetry New Zealand Prize 2019 by Massey University Press, and shortlisted for The Inaugural NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize 2021.
Todd Matson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He poetry has been published in The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling and his short stories have been published in Ariel Chart International Literary Journal and Vital Christianity. He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of contemporary Christian music artists, including Brent Lamb, Connie Scott and the Gaither Vocal Band.