Glaucoma by Neil Flatman


My father worries the pressure’s gotten worse
that only touch will see him

through until the whorls of the world fade
away, the hand in front of his face.

He asks if I still see my mother
and if memories keep

the promises of dreams. I say he’ll be fine,
I say. Draw whirlpools behind your eyes.

Each tide must turn. He says these things
are hereditary. I take the path

of least resistance, speak in autumn:
burning leaves and the spice

port leaves on your tongue
when the sun has all but sunk

with the warmth of a cousin’s kiss. I describe
the light as watery, he says it’s mist.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: The tension between the father and son in this poem is understated, but all the more poignant because of its hidden cost.

Postcard from Bali—On Reading by Neil Flatman

On Reading

Donaghy and Gilbert, flipping
poems in the sun. Donaghy was still
bound tight, but Gilbert
well thumbed, strained until I broke
his spine, him
spilling out, page by page
on a wind I’d otherwise
never have noticed

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Anyone who has read Jack Gilbert’s work will understand the relationship of this poem to many of his-the ordinary imagery caught by the last few lines’ realization.

Redundant by Neil Flatman


Sometimes when I walked
I admired the stillness
of the horses in the field, happy

dog along, disjointed lope
all nosing, snuffling by the fence.

Come summer they reminded me
of combines tearing up the dirt, then
winter brought a coat and boots

sparse pickings and hay dumped
by the barred steel gate.
I once saw Lippizanners work.

Their hall ornate, with chandeliers
and windows way above head height

that let in white October
excited by the kicked up dust.
A pair of posts grew from the floor

that must have reached eight feet
with rings and a chain
though I never saw them used

just the stallions in collection
cantering, water over falls. The men
on the ground

had long whips capped
by narrow threads that sang
and the stallions eyes

darted as they listened
for the whistling air, inevitable

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem takes what might be simply some lovely imagery, or a memory, and turns it on its head.

On Watch by Neil Flatman

On Watch

Il Paretaio, Tuscany 2004

Felt the hard stone of the window’s lip
against my hand, its age, the permanence
of walls. Night breathed in
the dark and swung a pocket watch
over the hills and winding roads
until they slept and in the olive grove below
fireflies swam in whirlpools in the trees
where a nightingale sang:

For god’s sake hold me or I’ll drown.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: The plaintive call of the last line echoes the fading notes of the nightingale. Short poems are difficult to write, but when they’re done well, the imagery lingers in a reader’s mind.

Walking Home by Neil Flatman

Walking Home

Somehow I knew this would be how it began.
So easy to say, the coral fire of sunset;
the bright hand of a god at the end of the world. You

just have to be there. Try not to picture it.
A lens can’t capture a moment the way
the eye sees. Cliché

And that this stanza would consider
how you pass a finger through a candle’s flame
without burning, or, at most, with a little pain. Trial

and error. Some know better
than to linger long, others come to love
then need, the sting.

Now I can only tell you
how it is I love
the way she often laughs so hard her body heaves

loose the strings. Convulsions in the waves
that reach her feet and beat a jig
no mermaid could dance.

It’s like trying to stand
on the horizon, the corner of a canvass
but this is soon, I can’t see

more than shade at the periphery, how
gears change in the dark, turn
down the sun.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Enjambment and imagery create a relationship with each other in this poem, only one step removed from the divine (but isn’t that what love is?).

Gary Snyder Annoys Me by Neil Flatman

Gary Snyder Annoys Me

Well, that is to say, not Gary,
himself but his poems, and when I
say they annoy me, I don’t mean
they annoy me but, I should say,
some obscure failure to live
in his world for even the breath
of a page. He’s as wasted on me
as chateau Rothschild on a ten dollar
palate. I love Gilbert and Bukowski,
Moore and Limon (especially her
firemen who dance), and who
doesn’t secretly admire Collins crapping
pigeons on generals and the goblet
and the wine in perpetual union.
He will always be the goblet
and the wine, never less, than the goblet
and the wine. But for me Snyder
is the one eye’d man in my river
of the blind.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: This poem’s casual voice belies the thousand and one name-drops. In some other voice on another day, these lines might sound condescending, but this poem keeps a tongue firmly in cheek with great wit.

(PS: I’m starting to believe I should probably just publish a chapbook of Neil’s work. Autumn Sky Poetry Publishing? Hmm.)

What We Do by Neil Flatman

What We Do

I miss rain. The kind that’s driven
by the wind, the kind that’s blown
against the window, finds a way
into the ashes in the grate.
My daughter says I’m wise,
the wisest man she says she knows,
she says she thinks I have the answers.
I think she’s cinnamon, I think
she’s every shade of wave careening
up the beach just for the joy
and sometimes she’s the deepest
grey. The sky reflects. We talk
about Kintsugi, the art of fixing
broken china, understanding
imperfection, creating something
from the cracks.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Unexpected imagery is a delight. In the center of this poem, “I think she’s cinnamon,” gleams like the golden repair of a cracked teacup. Some poetry doesn’t need to be perfect, just beautiful.

Kings Lynn by Neil Flatman

Kings Lynn

In his ninth decade he speaks
at the funeral of a friend. He says
she wore her red hair loose,
had the open features of the fens,
but behind her eyes lay clouds
that could rain a season in a day.
She loved the rise and fall
of skylarks and the snap
of winter-brittle bracken under foot.
She was mercurial, a crescent
reflected on still water, a ripple
he thought would never wane.
He had imagined she would speak
for him.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: A poem doesn’t have to be complicated for it to resonate with a reader. The imagery carries this poem, but it’s the last two lines that make it truly memorable.