Apple orchards in bloom, treacle tart: oily malt arrives first on the palate followed by smoked pineapple, summer berries, pine nuts and almonds, a very soft hint of sulphur . . . . . . . . . . . . . as in the baths of Davlos, my father’s and grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s village, Davlos, a torch under the castle of Kantara, a craggy lime ghost and the bray of donkeys tied in 1973 on the capstan of the well still rings in my ears and the bones of the dead, Greeks and Turks, Phoenicians and Crusaders whirl at its bottom for centuries.
Now Wolf moon over Kantara; a voyage; incoming; a boy’s legs disappear into the wine-dark water and although Auden is not wrong about human suffering, . . . . . . . children cram into inflatable boats only to end up in concentration camps and women plunge into the cold, their bodies heavy with weeping as men carry infants on their backs their feet, their tired . . . . . feet . . . . . bare on beach pebbles, ζωή . . . . . not βίος, bare life first shot with military-grade cameras, bare life incoming: and Mosse zoomed in on a curious . . . . . little . . . . . girl holding onto a smart phone and we fail to understand that poverty and despair have many dimensions just as displacement and the sense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . of home and the white bodies are trapped in limbo forever, la vita nuda masked as protracted refugee situations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . intractable-
Cyprus cyclamen and pink Anatolian orchids still carpet the pine forest in Davlos . . . . . . . and I am told that as a small boy, I tumbled down that slope into the turquoise sea, looking for pearls, sea urchins, and turtles and tonight we drink Craigellachie in small Limoges cups but what started as an excuse . . . . . . . . . . . .to discuss poetry and voyages over whiskey turned into libation . . . . . . . . . . . . and remembrance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and horror.
by Christos L. Hadjigeorgiou
Editor’s note: The complicated enjambment and spacing of this poem mirrors the complex grief/anger/sorrow of the speaker.
Tears are an ancient compass
constantly pointing south
for the Sabina Nessas of the world:
Muslim, Brown, South Asian descent,
and for the 700 indigenous women missing—
from the same area Gabby Petito was found
Tears are an ancient compass but
N-E-W-S without the N is only ews to you
Your compass is a screen coloured with your flighty bias
You are not lost—just feathering your nest with your fears
Your needle is magnetized by “influencers” who flock together
and never fly south,
nor east nor west,
every winter of our lives—
as if we even needed a winter to remind us
of all the seasons of killing
Our tears are an ancient compass
the tracks of which
lead to an ocean that will never wet the cheek
Your compass is broken.
by Julian Matthews
(from the prompt “Tears are an ancient compass” from Taylor Mali’s @metaphor_dice broadcast on IG)
Editor’s note: Metaphor, enjambment, and unexpected punctuation keep the reader off balance in this poem, emphasizing the underlying theme of grief/horror quite well.
I’ll see you again in many days, or a few. Just leave your echo here within these walls To wait in corners with your old footballs And piles of papers, artifacts of you, Reminding those remaining what is true Behind the curtain every time it falls: Choirs wait in quietness, till the calls Of trumpets reunite them at their cue. Till, then, dear friend, I ask you, leave your echo For me to gather up while you are gone, Like wildflowers, or penny after penny Into a jar of moments I won’t let go Of till again you fill this room with song. I’ll see you again in a few days, or many.
We lay facing each other, smothering
ourselves by ticking off things we know
and things we don’t want to
suspect. Whatever they’ve seen is small yet.
It could be nothing; statistics provide
hope, genetic testing an educated guess.
We start to talk about the family history, but instead
fall into silence, as if our voices might carry the violence
of a positive diagnosis even before biopsy.
We start to talk about my random fevers, my fatigue,
other symptomology we’ve not seen in the normal
course of autoimmune disease. Tears take over
like tangible, existential philosophy. We make
love, every touch ten times as powerful
as radiation. You are more present to me
than you have ever been, your hands upon my skin
caressing cancer away.
2. The Night Before Ultrasound
We have held ourselves together by threads made
more of magic than science. We have repeated
the reasons it cannot be a tumor a thousand times.
I breathe you in as if this one intake of breath
can hold me upright through chemotherapy or whatever
waits on the other side of tomorrow. Our lovemaking
echoes with sorrow, what we’ve already lost together
so present twe don’t dare hope and we don’t dare not to.
3. The Night of the All Clear
Somewhere in the back of our minds, we are cautious.
Family history has shown it’s just a matter of time
before time catches up. You cup my breast in your hand
and kiss me the way you did the first time, nervously,
as if afraid I might slip away. But I am present tonight
and will be tomorrow. We burrow into each other
knowing hope is a hoax for people like us.
Knowing hope is all we’ve ever had.
Editor’s Note: People who live with a chronic illness know deep in their bones that another terrible diagnosis is always a possibility. This poem deals with what life is like with that monolithic dread looming just over the horizon.
I heard your mother found you
in your bed as if asleep,
your affairs all tidy, neat.
The glass sat in the sink, clothing
folded at your feet.
And this remains
your mother’s final memory of you,
one she has to keep.
You waited until spring,
thought the timing would be right
and planned it just as carefully
as how you threaded skis through
tight white-mantled trees.
Why antifreeze, I wonder?
Wouldn’t sleeping pills suffice?
As your gut disintegrated,
did you think it might keep ice from
forming in your soul,
a man who so loved winter, only snow
could keep him whole?
I have to think I’m lucky;
my last memory of you
is a swirl of snow in vortex
behind a disappearing back,
sweeping, swift down Cowboy Mountain
in the trail of your deep tracks.
A long day I’ve had of it, and a tiring one, and little to show but this loose scree of words like dinosaurs; the fossilized remains of once great moments.
They tell me beauty’s truth, but still I fail—what use is it to me that Keats once wrote, thou still unravished bride of quietness, and tore the language from God’s living throat. I fossick, find, make space back of the truck—say virgin girl lets go. It’s time to fuck. . .