Archive for October, 2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Widow’s Halloween by Wyatt Prunty

The pumpkin’s hollow head returns her gaze;
His yellow eyes are dancing in the flame.
And she, she has him on her window sill
Within a draft that flickers on his brain.

His jagged smile and diamond eyes
Are mirrored in the darkened panes.
Set to be seen, not see, to blaze before the wind
Or wither on the wick and snap black out.

Grinning backwards into the room.
On either side and looking in.
His gaze, she feels, was sharply cut
To burn beneath her dresses’ hems

Or follow her when reaching for the broom;
She wears the latest fashions as her age
But feels the flicker of his gaze
And will not pass near him.


Date: 1976

By: Wyatt Prunty (1947- )

Monday, 30 October 2017

Black Pepper Poem by Harris Khalique

Black pepper was my guide
into the world of spice.
Siyah mirch’, you would call it.

Irresistible when my sunny side up,
half fried egg is peppered black.
The dark thin membrane is layered off
by the first dash of hot toast,
exposing deep yellow.
I pepper the egg once again.
Making it rich, viscous, spiky.
You wouldn’t sprinkle but carpet
your dish with black pepper.

You liked your sandwich toasted,
slices to be almost charred.
Baqar khanisnan khatais, rusks over-baked.
Deep fried cumin seeds sowed in salty biscuits
from a small oven near Pakistan Quarters,
chicken patties from Pereira’s in Saddar.
We savoured the crispness, the aroma, the taste,
the cumin, the salt, the zing in our childhood.
Black pepper everywhere.

This intense full-bodied South African red today,
Mixed aromas of currant, plum and spice,
Hints of mocha and cedar.
To you,
To black pepper.

At ‘Relish’ in Cape Town,
just by the hotel where I stay,
the hotel – a wacky set from ‘Clockwork Orange’,
more edges than rounds, more metal than cloth,
‘Relish’ is a respite – delicate and warm.

When I was small
you said,
“You eat too fast my son,
relish your food.”

“Father, I relish the seared Moroccan salmon today
topped with chermoula stuffed prawns,
with lots of black pepper.
My eyes are wet, my nose running.”


Date: 2012

By: Harris Khalique (1966- )

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Learning a New Language by Afzal Ahmed Syed

In a building near the shore
Where no one reaches alone
Except me and a neighborhood dog
I am learning a new language
To converse with


Date: 2009 (original in Urdu); 2016 (translation in English)

By: Afzal Ahmed Syed (1946- )

Translated by: Taimoor Shahid (19??- )

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Everybody Hides a Super Power by Ron Houchin

Jumping the clothesline of my sister’s
flapping diapers, no one around, I keep
on swimming. Dreamy how air turns

to liquid when I’m alone, spread my arms
as if to hug the horizon then leap forward.
On the roof, I hide behind the chimney,

watching Grandma take down clean-smelling
clothes, Mr. Belcher mow his hay, crows
lifting from the field ahead of his tractor,

and I wonder, do birds of all feather dream
of standing on solid ground, never having to fly
away from tractors, cars, cats? I woke tonight,

believing everybody hides the same secret
in sleep. I’d dreamt of not flying, better
than anything, just walking night air.


Date: 2016

By: Ron Houchin (19??- )

Friday, 27 October 2017

Escondido in the Rain by Emily Rolfe Grosholz

Dark green and brown, skin-deep.
These streets that mostly shine
With heat mirages, cloud with fumes,
Today are hard to recognize in
Distances so clean and so opaque,
And new blades shot from sand.

What demons of impersonal lust
And cruelty have shaken down
Over this tropic, next-to-desert town,
All the local papers tell.
Rain or shine, the border traffic runs
Souls and guns and nicotine and crack.

Escondido thirty years ago
Under the wing of Palomar and stars
So magnified, was just a grid
Of streets connecting sleepy orchards,
Housing a thousand-odd enlisted men,
Mormans, Okies, Mexicanos, you.

Now laid open by a quarter
Million moving-van Americans
Hunting for winter sun, pacific beaches,
Stasis sometimes interrupted by
Earthquake’s phantom passing train
That hoots the timid east again.

Like you and me, unsettled by the way
Earth moves underfoot, our hopes
Damped by the usual inane
Heartbreak of inlaws, outlaws, theatre
Neither comic nor tragic. And the rain
Runneling down the diamondback of palms.


Date: 2016

By: Emily Rolfe Grosholz (1950- )

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Hit the Road by Patrick Moran

the story goes like this
you’ve heard it before
the sound of your footsteps
grows distant in the dark

beneath the star’s peculiar light
you realize you are walking
away from yourself

there’s no pity here
there’s only the body attuned
to its own diminishing.


Date: 2008

By: Patrick Moran (19??- )

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Aaron Burr’s Wooing by Edmund Clarence Stedman

From the commandant’s quarters on Westchester height
The blue hills of Ramapo lie in full sight;
On their slope gleam the gables that shield his heart’s queen,
But the redcoats are wary—the Hudson’s between.
Through the camp runs a jest: “There’s no moon—’t will be dark;
‘T is odds little Aaron will go on a spark!”
And the toast of the troopers is: “Pickets, lie low,
And good luck to the colonel and Widow Prevost!”

Eight miles to the river he gallops his steed,
Lays him bound in the barge, bids his escort make speed,
Loose their swords, sit athwart, through the fleet reach yon shore.
Not a word—not a plash of the thick-muffled oar!
Once across, once again in the seat and away—
Five leagues are soon over when love has the say;
And “Old Put” and his rider a bridle-path know
To the Hermitage manor of Madame Prevost.

Lightly done! but he halts in the grove’s deepest glade,
Ties his horse to a birch, trims his cue, slings his blade,
Wipes the dust and the dew from his smooth, handsome face,
With the ‘kerchief she broidered and bordered in lace;
Then slips through the box-rows and taps at the hall,
Sees the glint of a waxlight, a hand white and small,
And the door is unbarred by herself all aglow—
Half in smiles, half in tears—Theodosia Prevost.

Alack for the soldier that’s buried and gone!
What’s a volley above him, a wreath on his stone,
Compared with sweet life and a wife for one’s view
Like this dame, ripe and warm in her India fichu?
She chides her bold lover, yet holds him more dear,
For the daring that brings him a night-rider here;
British gallants by day through her doors come and go,
But a Yankee’s the winner of Theo Prevost.

Where’s the widow or maid with a mouth to be kist,
When Burr comes a-wooing, that long would resist?
Lights and wine on the beaufet, the shutters all fast,
And “Old Put” stamps in vain till an hour has flown past—
But an hour, for eight leagues must be covered ere day;
Laughs Aaron, “Let Washington frown as he may,
When he hears of me next, in a raid on the foe,
He’ll forgive this night’s tryst with the Widow Prevost!”

From: Stedman, Edmund Clarence, “Aaron Burr’s Wooing” in The Harpers Monthly, October 1887, pp. 666-667.

Date: 1887

By: Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833-1908)

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

If I Were Paul by Mark Jarman

Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed
flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets
across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first time you conceived of justice, engendered mercy, brought parity into being,
coaxed liberty like a marten from its den to uncoil its limber spine in a sunny clearing, how you
understood the inheritance of first principles, the legacy of noble thought, and built a city like a
forest in the forest, and erected temples like thunderheads.

Consider, as if it were penicillin or the speed of light, the discovery of another’s hands, his oval
field of vision, her muscular back and hips, his nerve-jarred neck and shoulders, her bleeding
gums and dry elbows and knees, his baldness and cauterized skin cancers, her lucid and
forgiving gaze, his healing touch, her mind like a prairie.  Consider the first knowledge of
otherness.  How it felt.

Consider what you were meant to be in the egg, in your parents’ arms, under a sky full of stars.

Now imagine what I have to say when I learn of your enterprising viciousness, the discipline
with which one of you turns another into a robot or a parasite or a maniac or a body strapped to a
chair.  Imagine what I have to say.

Do the impossible.  Restore life to those you have killed, wholeness to those you have maimed,
goodness to what you have poisoned, trust to those you have betrayed.

Bless each other with the heart and soul, the hand and eye, the head and foot, the lips, tongue,
and teeth, the inner ear and the outer ear, the flesh and spirit, the brain and bowels, the blood and
lymph, the heel and toe, the muscle and bone, the waist and hips, the chest and shoulders, the
whole body, clothed and naked, young and old, aging and growing up.

I send you this not knowing if you will receive it, or if having received it, you will read it, or if
having read it, you will know that it contains my blessing.


Date: 2008

By: Mark Jarman (1952- )

Monday, 23 October 2017

A Polar Explorer by Iosif (Joseph) Aleksandrovich Brodsky

All the huskies are eaten. There is no space
left in the diary And the beads of quick
words scatter over his spouse’s sepia-shaded face
adding the date in question like a mole to her lovely cheek.
Next the snapshot of his sister. He doesn’t spare his kin:
what’s been reached is the highest possible latitude!
And like the silk stocking of a burlesque half-nude
queen it climbs up his thigh: gangrene.


Date: 1977 (original and translation)

By: Iosif (Joseph) Aleksandrovich Brodsky (1940-1996)

Translated by: Iosif (Joseph) Aleksandrovich Brodsky (1940-1996)

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Lay of the Trilobite by May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall)

A mountain’s giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
‘I don’t know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley – he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

‘How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes –
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.

‘You’ve Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You’ve Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!

‘You’ve Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You’ve cannon and you’ve dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you’re in!’
Remarked the Trilobite.

‘But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn’t care – I didn’t know
That I was a Crustacean.*
I didn’t grumble, didn’t steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.’

Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried: –

‘I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite
In the Silurian seas!’

*He was not a Crustacean. He has since discovered he was an Arachnid, or something similar. But he says it does not matter. He says they told him wrong once, and they may again.


Date: 1885

By: May Kendall (Emma Goldworth Kendall) (1861-1943)