Edited by Kate Garrett
All poems copyright © 2017 individual authors
Selection/issue copyright © 2017 Kate Garrett / Picaroon Poetry
This Month’s Rogue Poems ● September 2017
Impatience // Stephen Daniels
Before Embracing Sleep // Stella Bahin
Origins // John Grey
The Return // Claire Lloyd
Teenager // Lorraine Carey
Sixteen // Kathleen Latham
Girl in the Cornfield // Natalie Crick
still // Leda Muscatello
Ballad of an Old Crow // Billy Malanga
Paleo bites // Sarah Shirley
Suitable for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs // Pat Edwards
Honey Hearts // Monique Byro
Taylor Swift // James Croal Jackson
She-Babe // D. Dallas
Never Buy New Shoes for a Corpse // Neil Fulwood
A Short History of Office Politics // Howie Good
Homer Takes Notes // Michele Stepto
What Blake Didn’t Say About Innocence // Tristan Moss
When Eisenhower who won WW Two was President // Joe Cottonwood
Our Lad // S.E. Acton
Philosophies and Maladies // Brett Evans
Ethereal // Samuel Kendall
From the Gutter to the Stars // Philip Flynn
A Map of Canada // Belinda Rimmer
Olivia’s Violin // J.A. Sutherland
Blanche Dubois to Stella // Kathleen Strafford
Fine // Catriona Yule
Conduct Forthcoming // Patricia Walsh
Zeit Heist // Nick Romeo
Octopus Love // J.P. Bohannon
Tapir // Hannah Stone
He hurried through the supermarket,
searching for time.
A worried glance at fresh fruit left no hints.
The assistant had forgotten
where time was kept.
‘Can anyone who knows
where time can be found, come forward?’
After a moment, nothing.
The Deli counter was not serving slices of time –
people had stopped asking for it.
Now they sold pieces only in joints.
He rushed the meat counter
and there it was, in all its raw savagery.
A slab of time – ready to consume.
When at home, he googled
how to prepare time.
One website said to smear it
with sage and cook slow, and long.
Another said sprinkle with pepper,
turn up the heat – bake it quick.
He decided to do neither.
Instead, sat next to his uncooked carcass
of time and considered it.
This was the first instance he had spent
any meaningful session with time.
He savoured it, then he ate it all, raw.
He chewed its gristle,
until it passed.
Before Embracing Sleep
My mobile phone reads 3:08. I like the shape
this number makes, the hat piratical, the nose
a clown’s, the smile lemniscate. Still. I exit
my house. I have to walk until I feel my muscles
ache, before embracing sleep. A silent
big brown city fox twigs my toddy feet,
crouches in wait at my corner ravenous belly hot
upon the gritty street, doubled at once into a team
by another, standing: 4 no-tech fox eyes fixed on me.
Mutinous. I turn home quick, not as a wildebeest
picked from its herd by lions, filmed by the BBC,
but as 1 license-paying owner of a civilised TV
(making vulpine jaws of my fists with my keys), get
back behind my front door too soon to have ached
my muscles, in time to have ached my meat.
When the universe
was so just so much space,
not a sound to be heard,
one giant vacuum
awaiting a God or two
to fill it like a gas tank
there was a certain unease,
a desperation even,
in the invisible womb of being:
what if I’m a speck of dust,
what if I’m a fully-formed human
and no one gives a damn about me.
When the bigness had not yet banged,
and space and time
were totally ignorant of each other’s existence,
and there were no molecules, no atoms,
pondered the pointlessness
of being at the mercy
of everything from airflow
to vacuum cleaners
and an unlovely man
asked the question long before it was age-old:
why come to be
when I know I won’t be enjoying it.
Even in the conception phase,
the backlash had already begun.
Before anything happened,
nothing was ever the same again.
The sky looms above
Thick, grey, like sour milk ready to choke me.
My mother’s nourishment has become poison;
There is no more ambrosia for the children of the gods.
All is blocks and gold and reason;
There is no bleeding heart for this wild beast.
And so I graze,
Slim pickings for the fruits of my labour.
And the gilded cages are still prisons, gold chains still fetters
And how curious they do not notice
The series of small implosions
Their spirit folds and recoils beneath their sterile skin.
But I, I long only for the black nights and the stick man shadows
In the forest beneath the wild moon
Leave me naked, ugly, primal, and wanton
Shedding my skin, all that I was is an empty membrane.
My blood, my bones, embrace the soil;
I am no butterfly expiring on fragile wings
I am the Kali-Ma to their mother Teresa.
You used to fit
in my elbow’s bend,
the early days
when I could sit
and scan your features
Hours spent watching
of daytime soaps
and movies long forgotten,
as your father slept
and it was just you
I sat before the sun
rose, before light
woke up the house,
Company for the ticking
of Agatha’s clock,
whose coiling stem
stood like a question mark.
arms and feet
in softest cotton.
peppers my sleep,
as you potter now
in the adjacent room.
Just six inches short
of my crown
and the silver
hairs, more here
Slouched in a hoodie
five steps behind.
My attempts to engage
meet with apathy.
We walk in silence
each mulling the space,
the time, the in between,
the comfort of one another.
My daughter is the same
age I was when I met you,
which is reason enough
to lock her in a closet
but since the only thing
she does carefully is
pick out her clothes,
Still, I imagine you
hiding there, shouldered
between her dresses in
the guise of a flashy coat
waiting for her to slip
her arms in yours
Girl in the Cornfield
He goes for days without
Seeing a soul.
It’s cold out,
And getting dark.
One of the children is a girl,
Untouched as the field she stands in.
Her skirt lifts mid-calf in the breeze,
One hand holding out for his like
A flower curling out from a stone,
Turned into nothingness.
The purple sky violated by orange
Weeps over the creek,
Shaming the white of her body with
A ghostly stain.
The old farm stands like
A woman unwilling to give in,
Cradled by the hill.
She is alone
On the fading road,
Her exposed neck swan-like.
The dried bone is so pale
It blushes blue.
if you learn to lie
just the right way, shifting
the adjustments little by little
you can sleep deeply
on the pile of bones
loose and powdery beneath your body
let them fill the space
in the arch of your back, the bends
of your knees
and suspend your limbs
with their smooth puzzle-ends settling
as long as you lie properly
and keep tendon and skin
Ballad of an Old Crow
rings the bell for his
Wings dart open
into berry wood,
his long bill sharp
and pure, the tip
of a spear on
bloom or break
he calls to earth’s
while he still has time.
Maybe I rub too much
praise on his force
but, he knows
the next frost rises
again on sun-thaw
to settle the dead.
Take the dates and soak them
in a measured aliquot of juice,
add a dandruff shower of coconut,
and a bitter spoon of cocoa, not
to make it chocolate but to trick
the children into liking it.
Blitz this tarry offering into a paste
and roll into delicate balls. They taste
of modern supermarkets and internet searches.
I dream of real caveman treats –
a paleolithic picnic on switchgrass,
my son cramming red berries into his mouth,
my daughter stripping a mammoth bone of meat.
Suitable for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs
No lard was used in the making of this poem,
neither dripping, blood, nor rendered bones.
The stock runs clean and clear.
Any exsanguination was unintentional,
and down purely to my bleeding heart.
I think about hideouts.
Your fingers still trapped in my hair after hours that felt like seconds of our
and the time you let me practice my prom makeup on you, so I would know
what I was working with. You ended up looking better than I did anyway.
love like bottomless breathlessness.
Adoration admonishing everything I’ve ever known.
An adventure awaiting at each meeting.
We would skip research to go to the beach, or the junkyard, or your backseat,
and we’d research each other instead.
honey is hardening.
Things left unsaid, undermining, unwarranted.
Silver memories keep calmness a chrysalis.
And in making breakfast for you
I am calling a truce, truest.
Knowing that those times will never come again,
inklings of the indefinite leave us fuzzy but free.
Greasy and grimy,
we’re on top.
James Croal Jackson
The sand is sung
until a throat bleeds
and camels walk
the blank space
of a desert song:
the whole long day
to share an oasis
I’m succumbing to prosthetic Gods
more and more. Fat women lay
in waiting for my jewels. I eat
their husbands. No remorse for
being the bitch.
I light candles for better stock.
I touch Wall Street through tarot cards
and send out smoke signals for a
guardian dollar to rock me to sleep.
(No more Valium!)
Momma still calls me cute and I want
her lap still. I smell her two thousand miles
away. But I smoke cigars and trade my slick
lips for gin and tonic.
I can’t stand men but I want one to stay
and watch me cry once in a while.
Never Buy New Shoes for a Corpse
Never leave anything in a Wetherspoons
that isn’t nailed down. Never exceed
the maximum dosage, the recommended
daily intake or the bandwidth of a warning.
Never look back in anger, forward in apathy
or side-to-side while shaving. Never look up
for fear of diarrhetic pigeons. Never buy The Sun.
Never take no for an answer except in this case.
Never bet on black, double down or stake it all
on the turn of a card. Never use Dostoyevsky
as a “how to” manual. Never cheat or lie. Admit
nothing. Never put all your bastards in one egg.
Never give your real name at those kind of venues.
Never give an assumed one at a signing session.
Never say never unless quoting this poem.
Never use social media at 3AM. Even when sober.
Never take a politician’s word without a pinch of salt
roughly the size of Lot’s wife. Never put an X
in the box without consulting a spotter’s guide
to the lesser of two evils. Never let your guard down.
Never answer the door or the phone. Never answer
the call of the wild unless personally certificated
by Jack London. Never stare into the sun, howl
at the moon or misquote Walt Whitman while stargazing.
Never miss a beat, a chance or an episode of whatever.
Never shoot your TV when other viewers are present.
Never listen. Never leave contradictions unattended.
Never doubt, never believe, never strive, never give up.
A Short History of Office Politics
I was inside with seven girls, and we were starving. We didn’t know the war
had ended. A soldier came in and told us to run. His turban wasn’t on his
head. His clothes were torn. I saw shreds of flesh dropping from his back. The
whole city was burning. Staff had been evacuated amid rumors that a tiger
was on the loose. Every six months or so you’ll see something like that, where
someone has been shot in the head with an arrow, or falls off a ladder and
lands on a piece of rebar. It just adds to the chaos. Frankly, I’ve been trying
not to die. When I come to work in the morning, the first thing I do is recite
some lines of verse. Then I weep, and then I go to my office.
Homer Takes Notes
He has to write it all up for HQ
starting with what the pig looks like
and how it is housed
lying on its bed in the living room area of the property
Circe is watching over his shoulder
and she tells him he’s not really a pig
write that down he’s a therapy
animal and he’s for my father
who’s around here somewhere
the bed in question is covered in something
that looks like cowskin
like in the window
of some trendy furniture store
in Brooklyn except for the pig
and except for Circe
who’s down there now
with the pig the better
to scratch him behind
the ear which he seems to love
he’s so affectionate she coos and
was that a wink? just like
a real human being she coos
this time to the pig and
Homer can feel the situation slipping away from him
He’s not a human being he’s an even-toed ungulate
he insists and strictly prohibited
on this island quoting the statute
and slapping the top
of Circe’s TV for emphasis
he feels like he’s seen it all: the subway
antelope the young steer running
for its life goats
bewildered and sheep
with men riding under them
never a hippopotamus it’s true
and never a giraffe except in the zoo
where it was permitted
and everywhere he goes pigs
a regular pig network
(which don’t let anyone tell you is no victimless crime)
and people always saying
as if they were reading
from the same damn script
go on you'll see like a real human being
but Homer has learned his lesson once
or twice before
and he won’t be scratching
that pig behind its ear today
or anywhere else
*based on “Pet Pigs of New York: Illegal, Embattled, Beloved,” the New York Times, 19 January
What Blake Didn’t Say About Innocence
on barbed wire
where lambs tested
When Eisenhower who won WW Two was President
Fat boy grabs my arm.
Thin boy punches my stomach which hurts, yes,
but not as much as I’d expect.
“What are you doing?” I say
in my beginning-to-crack voice.
“We’re gonna beat you up,” fat boy says.
“Wait a minute,” I say and strangely, obediently,
fat boy drops my arm.
“Before you beat me up,” I say, “just tell my why.”
“Because it’s your turn,” thin boy says.
“Why?” I say.
Each boy looks at the other.
They don’t know why.
In fifth grade, 1957, they teach Walk Don’t Run.
They teach Duck and Cover and Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.
No kiss. I run. They chase, heavy footsteps
past the tail-fin Chryslers
tied to blackface lawn butlers
past the muddy football field
where one day a kick will crack my testicle
past the mothers in pink bathrobes
whose sons died in Korea
past the angry old major
who will die in his bed
past Julie Johnson’s house
who will test that testicle.
I run all the way to the grim faces of the draft board
two fat, three thin
who grab my arms
and punch my stomach many times
and it hurts, yes, until I run away
far and fast and forever.
for the infamous smuggler of Beer, John Rattenbury
Voices : Unwritten our names between bibles-closed,
fossilised our cause in fallen family trees. Our
bare-foot outlaw village dreamed, strange well be.
Voice 1: Walking aback less-known paths in moonless dark,
strapped up in brandy, false-torches alerting riding
officers by t’other side to bide us time. Time to carry,
time to tip them tubs by Mutter’s field barrow,
afore time to rise and quarry narrow stone-tonned
injustice for candles and our backs broke to pay the load.
Voice 2: Unwritten our names between lichen-memory in that cemy.
(points over East cliff),
Lost to waves our barrel strains and sweat, hail good men
met to carry such burden of lawless certainty, sidestepping
customs with guns to defend bitter unwritten poverty.
Voices: Our gang written by its own hand, there’s no halting memoirs
banned once Jack’s slipped the noose, and King’s soldiers too,
Be thou hale and hearty long, Our Lad.
Philosophies and Maladies
Now, there’s a man.
He knows there’s no heaven to reach up to
and squeeze the fucking sac, burst its balls of purpose.
So he wastes his life, in control of that alone.
Doesn’t shroud himself in Jesus, accost strangers,
spout the sermon on the mount;
interpret texts to suit self-interest,
obsessions. He dedicates himself to truancy,
not philosophy, economics, politics;
of the people, for the people, fuck the people.
Wallowed in debauchery, he comforts his arse
on a cushioned barstool.
But that boy there, stood still on the bridge,
excesses driven beyond volition,
ghouls sprinting the ginnels
of his brain; he’ll have lolloped years naked
through electrocuting hail, laughing like a bonobo,
then from the bridge, drop, as he does now, to slide
along the railway lines, both his blues and reds.
You’re the ghost that haunts my trembling barbican of poetry
this dumfounding Tower of Babel, confusion of my mouthless tongues.
Cartwheeling through the pilasters and entablatures
you drifted through me, like I was never there
before pausing, thinking this hollow body might make
a worthy hostel for a while. Embodied me, moved with my moving
and I let you in. That doesn’t happen often, I don’t like entertaining guests
but then you were different, weren’t you, my constant spectre.
You stood out from the Westworld robots with their mellotron responses,
in sitting you abraded down my speckled cornerstone.
Perhaps it’s because you’d died already, once or twice.
Maybe I wanted to hole punch your ceremonial phoenix wings, file them away
in the darkest damp mould junctions of my history.
Sometimes the years in every ten come around again regardless
of well-meant promises, maybe’s and could be’s and etcetera’s.
You left my body long ago, still you stalk these brick-laid lexeme walls.
I can feel your wraithlike presence in the corridor portraits,
chiaroscuro eyes follow me like those in a bad horror movie, a Scooby-Doo
I’ve been unmasking incessantly, scouring for an identity.
Flick the skin lamp’s switch and you’ll find Norman Bates and Eddie Gein,
together they fandango in their mother suits, hours away from the necropolis
One spring night beneath our antlion sand pit sheets I tried to hold you;
forgetting the absent feel of your incorporeal, gossamer being I fell right
That night you told me it isn’t the monsters hiding under our beds
that we’ve ever needed to worry about. It’s the monsters that hide within it.
From the Gutter to the Stars
We lie in three, behind the baby bunk
and away with the light,
for gentle song offloaded in tin themes
drafted upwards to the top-beam
by project whale, project octopus,
half-hand, half raised, points
to her wonderous awe at the painted shapes,
and challenging with syllogism, the stereoscopes,
but your magic is mine, is
one vista north, one west,
gently clenching the underearth and
eloping from the damp cheek
As we pass the desiccated woods,
three half-moons anoint us,
the jaws of open space devour
where the sun skillets the sky,
and Christ’s birthday draws
my placid self inward
My returning, vulturous self
licks clean the bones
and gently repositions the mirror,
together we can reminisce,
a rearview squint at a dull
and distant and rusted past
Instead, I place you there,
a smaller me of wide eyes
and arms raised.
I pick you up.
I squeeze you tight.
I kiss your eyes.
A Map of Canada
From the moment I heard Joni
sing her map of Canada
I longed to visit those
fast flowing rivers,
wide skies of Vancouver Island.
I wait for the moment,
making do with dreams.
Meanwhile, my grown-up son
sends photographs home:
him in plaid shirts, peaked caps,
fast flowing rivers,
wide skies of Vancouver Island
Her viola was her best friend,
but the violin, her lover.
Even warming-up, she’d make it crackle;
arpeggios would dance and sparkle
and scales sent fireworks from the bow
while I would sit, redundant as an old flame
or an extinguished candle.
My heart would dance to hear her Czardas;
The Kreuzer nearly crucified me,
and the Bruch I could barely handle.
A quartet I could cope with well,
and quintets – Schubert’s Die Forelle.
Anything with two violas was no trouble.
But I couldn’t hack watching her duet,
especially the ‘Bach Double’.
Both violinists swooned and swooped,
swapping melodies like sexual favours;
a passionate embrace, a kiss, flirtatious
harmonies and casual conversations.
I swore she was in love with him
and not seducing that belovéd violin.
Blanche Dubois to Stella
His taut muscles smell of sweat and cut grass
and for no reason
he slams his fist on the dining table
hurling dishes against the wall
as we pray cramming
never knowing how high to jump
when he returns with grease-stained anger
Have you ever ridden on that streetcar?
I’ve seen how he chooses his grin while sizing up a woman
calls me a wildcat lapping up his gin
wants to grind me into powder
sweep me under the rug
He’s a brute, tom cat, a drug-store Romeo
a rattle-trap streetcar banging up one and down another
Oh you’re hating me saying this aren’t you?
Thousands of years have passed him by
maybe he’ll strike you, kiss you, or grunt
don’t expect me to understand
his poker night of apes
his bowling ball bullies
Have you forgotten poetry, music, jasmine perfume?
For your sake I’ve decided to soak him up
drain his cocky one-eyed jack
foreclose on his manhood
inside the Belle Reve of my skin
Now he’s humping twitching
like the rutting beast that he is
I want to keep him trapped
‘til you come to your senses
But you slink back to him like a floozy
as he wails your name
dripping wet in his ripped t-shirt
falls to his knees, smothers his face in your breasts
caresses your ass as you slide
over his shoulder
I don’t tell truths, I tell what ought to be truths
I tell you this: things that happen in the dark don’t make
everything else unimportant
When I listen, it’s not words I hear.
It’s the gaps between,
hands twisting themselves,
Over clattering plates
and scraped chairs
you say I’m fine, I’m fine,
but your stained blazer
and yellowed moustache
are as loud as the scribbled notes
on the backs of your hands.
You shift in your seat.
Stir your coffee.
I’m fine, I’m fine you say.
Automated messaging a fault to conceive
Exceptions to the rule fit in nicely.
Cleaning of worktops, mission accomplished
Defunct advertisements litter the table.
Turning on the heating at this time of year
Comfort over local law, a wasteful legacy
Tutted for future reference, cards being marked
Singular gratification to one true goal.
Circling overhead, not quite fit for this issue
Locked in a dream world, time permitting
Culling snippets from conversations inaudible
Borrowed food a necessary target.
Where one has gone before, do we revisit?
Tripping over wheelie bins in the dark morning
Hanging clothes out, praying the rain stalls
Sleeping under cover of the din next door.
Aiding and abetting known criminals in one’s mind
Normalising pain sunk in lower chambers
Self-harm without the razors, blessed with sorrow
Hitting on dead statues without permission.
Borrowed truth sneaks in at the right moment
Canvassing for recognition in a lesser woman
Switching off utilities where provided
Run-on bitchiness staring into grace.
Here’s a fact you never knew:
Icarus did not die. He swam to shore,
and continued his passion for life.
First he plunged into weapons training.
Then fought alongside Alaric I,
Ptolemy Lagides, and Scipio Africanus.
He took a hiatus from warfare,
to ghost write for Shakespeare.
But became unsettled and entered War War I,
as a gunner for an Armstrong Whitworth FK.8.
After the treaty he moved to the United States,
and worked for George Remus as a bootlegger
Decades later he was drafted into the Vietnam War,
accruing the most confirmed kills in the Mekong Delta
Once discharged with honors he wrote a book called
Hope in a Scope and formed a biker gang in Lancaster,
named Demigods on Hogs. They disbanded due to FBI
infiltration and getting beaten-up by their old ladies.
Icarus learned guitar and formed a freedom rock band.
They played Woodstock and toured the world.
From there there’s a gap in the timeline.
Some say he suffered a bad acid trip,
and lived in Guam for several decades.
Others say he became a CIA operative.
But Icarus was sighted the other week,
above Damascus, Palmyra, and then Raqqa.
He was shot down,
landing somewhere in the city.
When you didn’t show at the aquarium today
the octopods changed to a violent blue
And hid themselves in distant nooks
Of brown coral, weeds and pitted rock.
Transcending the daily rut today
Is less buoyant and certainly less sure
And all eight arms hang heavy now
Flailing sad and sore.
Tapir is found in wildlife parks where he embarrasses himself with wild
profusions of embraces. He holds no truck with litter-louts, and, when aroused,
intrigues his potential mate with his prowess. Tapir is not long-suffering. Fools
bother him and he vents his venom on PPI telephone salesmen and abusers
of the apostrophe. He is found in proximity to piety, and should be approached
with caution and pitchforks in equal measure.
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