Edited by Kate Garrett
All poems copyright © 2019 individual authors
Selection/issue copyright © 2019 Kate Garrett / Picaroon Poetry
Cover image is detail from an image of Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, UK by Shane
Rounce via Unsplash, used under the public domain license.
This Month’s Rogue Poems ● November 2019
november // Nick Carding 7
Tales // Rickey Rivers Jr. 8
World’s Fair, 1939 // Victor Altshul 9
He Makes Music // Simon Williams 10
Frozen in Time // Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon 11
Rummies // Todd Mercer 12
Weather, Late Autumn Early Winter // Michael H. Brownstein 13
Trappings // Sue Kindon 14
Late Night Visit with My Father // Maureen Daniels 15
Naming // Sheila Ronsen 16
Exhale // Charles G Lauder, Jr 17
Soul Notation on a Dark Night // Laura Wainwright 18
Left Behind // Juliette Sebock 19
Saturn Returns // Cynthia Anderson 20
death song with goats // Kyla Houbolt 21
from dog // Grant Tarbard 23
Cosmic Blues // Howie Good 24
Amarillo // Daniel Fraser 25
Thelma // Hannah Wang 26
Untitled // Gabriella Garofalo 28
Woolf’s Stone // Elisabeth Horan 29
An escape to anywhere // Patrick T. Reardon 30
Semi-automatics in a series of haiku (murder most fowl) // Jordan Hamel 32
Robins: a Wikipedia Entry // Beth Brooke 33
Haunted // Craig Dobson 34
Listen, universe echoes // Svetlana Avakumović 35
The Narrative Eye // Simon Williams 36
user manual page 19: cactus // Cecile Bol 37
The Day I Tried to Sell My Soul to Satan // Clive Donovan 38
Drawing the grotesque // David J. Thompson 39
Pawn Shop // Robin Ray 40
that year // Nick Carding 41
Dispatch from the Monsoon // Beth Bayley 42
Saving Christmas // Betsy Martin 43
sadness of rain
whine of wind
buzz and snap
in the hearth
Rickey Rivers, Jr
The king is nearly dead. The queen has run off with the jester. On his death bed
the king dreams of prosperity. The prince is off fighting dragons. The old witch
conjures curses to control the castle. Her cauldron contains pieces, together they
crumble into cookies. These are for the giants, those who roam the land. The
cookies control their height. Digestion causes shrinkage, which allows for fairy
courtship. Their dust helps grow the crops. The crops feed the monsters. The
monsters are not monsters, though they move the same. When games are played
in playgrounds children give them names.
World’s Fair, 1939
There were worlds all over the fairgrounds,
though I knew nothing
of the world or of worlds or fairs.
The worlds were giant globes.
Buses went back and forth
among all the worlds.
I think there must have been
and blue buses,
and green buses.
I must have gotten on many buses,
but not on all the buses.
I had never seen so many buses.
One day I would be a bus driver,
with a blue uniform and peaked hat.
How was I to know there were
so many buses?
So many worlds?
He Makes Music
The melodeon player
by the tree
in the square
plays a shanty,
looks like Joseph
with mirror glasses.
He shouts songs;
you can’t tell
if its persona –
a stage play
to get coins
in his hat –
or a condition
where he must
act the pirate.
By the time
he packs up,
it doesn’t matter.
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon
Frozen in Time
She yanked at the iced-up car door.
At first, it stuck. When it broke free
it opened suddenly, caught her unawares
and bruised her thigh, What the bloody fuck.
She shivered, sighed in the sharp frost of winter,
her first one without him. He’d always scraped
her windows clean. She grabbed a CD, ‘Revolver’,
remixed, her new de-icing tool, Congratulations,
girl. Like your lateral thinking. It marked her survival.
Her thought twists: haunted, she imagines his up-curled lip,
mocking face, a look she’d seen him flaunt most days, for years.
So unlike his hood-eyed smoulder as they kissed deep
late at night loved understood why they’d stayed together –
weathered bitter rows, for this brief bliss. Both, now gone forever.
“Better you than me” reads the post-it note
affixed to the holiday fruitcake we’ve dropped
off on each other’s doorsteps, lo these many years.
It may be edible. At least as edible as it ever was.
We can’t know, as I’m not checking
and my friend won’t surrender
this baked good cold war. Next Christmas
she’ll be on guard. She’ll try not to
take possession, when I deliver said fruitcake
inside an innocuous trojan horse sculpture.
Our friendly tradition perseveres, the pastry
was preserved since Dubya’s Administration.
Baked then, the cake, and not the friends.
Been circulating since wrapper unopened.
I store it in the Present’s Closet,
my burden ‘til this time next winter.
Working out precisely how
I will unload this loaf.
Michael H. Brownstein
Weather, Late Autumn Early Winter
Mudflats eek black varnish
across strings of grass
sunlit and prismed, dark
vapor and shadow. Crayfish
dig into earth, minnows
slide from puddle
to puddle. Nearby, fishing
birds statue still. A wind
comes in through the boneyard,
shell and snail, rock and sand.
Nothing wishes to move
so nothing moves. You thought this
a poem about weather.
It's not. It's about the ecology
of love, how a favorite place
darkens inside out, how a mother
in law's plants poison dogs,
how the items we cherish
break, how one day we wake,
look at one another and find
ourselves gasping for love,
our hands bound into tight fists,
our eyes watering, our nose,
our mouth, the shape of the way
we walk, different somehow
and we don't know it,
yet the life we held
all of those many years
mortar between good brick,
drywall that does not mold,
paint that does not peel,
the glass in the upstairs window
that does not clatter in the wind.
The sun rises. Yellow light
floats over the bed. The dogs
bark, a cat meows, and somewhere,
in the distant, a chorus of song.
We have taken her clothes
so she goes naked.
We have boxed up her books
so she has nothing to think.
We have bagged her Japanese prints
and the painting of Llanthony Abbey
done by someone she once knew:
her nicotine walls draw blank.
We have lifted her weight
in paperclips, scissors, spectacle cases
so she can breathe.
Bronnley boxes, empty of soap,
broken wristwatches, tissue-wrapped,
and keys. Keys to passages
long-gone: the forgotten
of the black and white photo.
We have offloaded her piano,
to make space.
Late Night Visit with My Father
After fighting with my husband,
I ran out of the apartment
crying hard. Snow gathered
on my hat and shoulders
as I dashed through yellow
cab traffic and hurried
toward my father’s
nursing home. I signed
my name at security,
slunk around the bend of
the empty nurses’ station and
into the dark two-bed room.
He was lying on his side,
drug heavy, breathing slow
the view of the Hudson
shuttered closed. I lowered
the guard rail, climbed
into his bed and spilled
my face into the shallow
ridge of his spine, my arm
wrapped around the taped
diaper across his hips.
And even though he had not
known my name for years,
I held on tightly to the last
months of my father’s life.
I feel my tongue curdle and deform
when I’m called upon to say my name:
“Ronsen.” “Johnson ?” they ask. “Bronson?” “No.
Ronsen, with an ‘e’ not an ‘o’ like the lighter,”
I respond. My name held hooked to the tongue,
I can’t pull it out without ripping out pieces
of flesh. The remains of a bloodline betrayed,
leave my mouth with the sour taste of shame.
My father never spoke about the war.
He took speech lessons to eradicate his Yiddish
accent. With surgical precision, a tiny incision,
he took a single consonant ‘n’ and inserted it
after the ‘o’ of ‘Rosen’: safety stitched up.
The one name he feared most was Jew.
Charles G Lauder, Jr
In my dream your father dies
and I suddenly feel the gap,
his eyes open but empty,
and a sheet is pulled over
as if we shouldn’t look upon the dead.
Don’t look for him here,
because he’s not.
All we have is
a volume of space
that should be taken up by his bulk,
a cocoon of air manifesting someday
a standing lamp, a bureau,
a chair against the wall.
All forces, all life, all sides
close around this gap,
crush the bubble,
and you swallow to preserve it.
*‘Exhale’ appears in Charles’s new collection The Aesthetics of Breath (V. Press,
Soul Notation on a Dark Night
Before starting this medicine
Citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil) gasp of a yawn with abdominal flutter
first read this information
Fluoxetine (Fontex, Sarafem) anxiety apostacy apathy coda
Do not discontinue suddenly
Sertraline (Lustral, Zoloft) sleeplessness syncope nausea tremor
Talk to your doctor if
Diazepam (Valium, Amiprol) alcohol CBT samadhi poetry yoga
I drink coffee for amnesia,
tensing up at thoughts of milk
laced with honey.
I left a pile behind,
mugs that hadn't yet been stained
by caffeine rings,
but made sure to pack
an extra shot glass
because I knew right away
I'd need a double.
Still, I drip rum in my coffee cup,
fast-food Coke with the good ice,
a cure-all for thoughts of pain.
Memories feel less like abandonment
when you take away the sting.
The sky’s taskmaster arrives before dawn
blinding my window like an oncoming train.
I hide my head, but when I look back,
he’s still there—bigger, brighter, higher.
What does the sun of the night want?
All week I watch him ride the window.
Saturn doesn’t understand no. At twilight,
dressed in army camouflage, he rings
the doorbell, selling magazine subscriptions.
He wants to open a martial arts studio,
claims, I don’t need luck. It’s true—
lord of death, time, and karma,
he already has what he needs.
It’s New Year’s Eve. Does the world
reflect our thoughts, or is it trickier
than that? No matter. Saturn’s gone—
I’m unsettled and relieved.
*’Saturn Returns’ appears in Cynthia’s new book Route (Cholla Needles Press,
death song with goats
it might be worth
learning to do this.
once I die,
the goats will eat
an owners manual
if I had one
I want to make
of my death
something so beautiful
it brings all the goats
to the graveyard
so beautiful it lifts
up out of the goats' reach
so nothing is left
behind but a crowd
of frustrated hungry
they will sing out
they will be so angry
these graveyard goats
their singing will somehow
ascend into magical harmony
and the sound of it will become
so damn glorious the goats
themselves will begin to levitate
imagine, clouds of flying goats
singing an angel chorus
zooming along the airways
changing the weather patterns
because of harmonic resonance
and altered albedo
and so if all goes
according to plan
my beautiful death
can heal climate change
by means of goats
and their levitation
which is because of my own
levitation by means
of the beautiful death
I conjured in the absence
of any owners manual
Dog had a theory of colour that he enjoyed
shouting out of motor cars, a drawn idea
to stuff a balmy head into. He says “the solidarity
of red is calming, if you don’t look outside the iris.
The pursuit of blue has one rooting around
for pocket change, milking unfinished speeches
for pigments; thus a chalk drawing is an act of rebellion.
There is nothing insignificant in the suggestion of colour.”
Dog, once, lost the power of speech. He mimed that
the intellectual convenience was well worth his voice.
Enlightened hunches transfigured his earthen face
into a boy holding a question mark like a prized balloon.
His throat was a swarm of pins, unforgiving like wasps.
Dog winced: “if I could get a foot higher I could thrust
for treason.” This was a typical Sunday afternoon with dog,
after tea he’d fall asleep with eyes open, staring out the window.
When he awoke he’d imagine how many bicycles he’d seen.
Dog was a dizzy vacuum wearing mongrel fur—
a fainting goat feigning a pantomime death every afternoon.
He’s stitched together with a tincture of vertigo
and laudanum. His nimble feet resuscitate dead suns
abubble with frolic, questioning a bolero on your best linen.
The mechanics of his nimble feet were moths in the disguise
of butterflies. He’s rather proud of his pink mouth,
with its malaise of crowded pearly teeth. When he smiled
you’d run the risk of being absorbed by chest height ghosts
in de rigueur white sheets. Flossing was a small vanity.
I’m not really into cosmic things, but I don’t have a choice. Salvador Dali is forever.
I used to see seagulls everywhere. Then a mirror unrolled from the sky, and the
seagulls were just skeletons. None of it made a lot of sense. Someone said to me,
“It’s simple. A black hole is where time and space disappear.” Simple?! Solid
objects are melting into air at an alarming pace. It’s not an unknown future. It’s
almost here. I think it must be like a wasp nest in a barrack in a German
concentration camp or 634 minutes inside a volcano.
Rented room with a blue cactus mural
and the solemn folds of a Texas flag
shower curtain lolling through saloon doors,
reminding us that some things fit too well.
Sweet evenings on bourbon without ID,
losing ourselves to open plains and highway talk,
the asphalt diction of our adopted tongue,
while bats chew at papery moths
and guano thuds like moon glue in the dust.
A man named Chris we met on the road,
had a three-drink misunderstanding and
took straight to brawling, one fist hollowed out
another’s cheek: cracked plywood, loose teeth
and muffled cheers, sometimes it
feels good to see a man fall down. Shattered
long-necks, muscles assembled round a white
Dodge, open at the back, brows pressed with
menace, motor oil clagging up the night,
the word posse bandied about like time
meant nothing. A few half-hearted bullets
scurried through the pasteboard, embedding
like hot fossils beneath the banded rock.
In the morning we crawled from beneath
the bed, insects rising from troubled dreams,
and headed east, each one $70 lighter for failing
to eat the biggest steak in the world.
There are two things I love more than everything else in this world:
and you, babygirl.
Sitting behind the wheel on the edge of forever,
I can’t take my eyes off the canyon
between your collarbone and
spines erupting from the pulp
of your inverted cactus body –
darling, you have never
glittered more resistant.
Iridescent. Darling, you are
If you are my everything and my world,
I want to see turtles
I will gouge out the eyes
of everyone who has undressed you
and looked you
My valley burn,
my desert rose,
let me kiss the sepia off your petals.
My miracle, how fresh you still look
beneath the rays of the carcinogenic sun.
For you, I would inhale
all these rusted ashtray men
into our forsaken sky.
and breathe them back as clouds
Ruby raindrops shall bead
the threadbare edges of your wounds.
My index and middle fingers –
the sound of thunder,
Thelma, the lights are whooping
for our blood for our blood
for our blood.
We were born jailbreaking.
We have already seen the inside of a cell,
and it looks like
a convenience store with empty shelves.
We scream flash floods
no stern pillar can dam –
so put your smoking gun lips on mine.
Tell me to keep going.
Eat my heart as the roaring wind
flays us, as we
When they find us
at the bottom,
we will have fused into thunderbird steel.
No one but this wreckage can ever touch our flesh again.
Cause he was born first, cobalt,
Then you, then fear,
No hunter no hustle you’ll mourn,
So what? He gets away with it?
He nicks that many moons and gets off scot-free?
Yes, look at him, standing at the corner
Bragging about same old evenings,
Same old tales of blood girls and whiskey –
He, the sky.
Careful, luvvy, if the wind looms around
Ready to sweep away wisdom and sins,
Those shadows on the sill
Only fields can eye –
Blossoms or wolves, don’t ask,
It’s a matter of sight
When only fields get eyes.
I want to start again
With the same stone
Weighing me down
Holds my legs together
Under ocean arms, blue lady
Kills me. Blue lady loves me
Takes my air and drowns me
Her friend brown angel
Is the reek of death all around
Me. The black and hag the fang eel
The tentacles up my nose. Wanting---
Standard living. Standard dying.
In the ocean. With a rock weight I tied
My legs together, must not open
Ever again. For anything. Anyone/
Expect that --- to remove organs
As they fail one by one. Innocent
Enough, until it becomes
The entire line up of
Liver kidney stomach intestine.
It won't be a problem
Remember. I have already
Drowned under the thick
Crude stench of water.
All that's left is the smell of
An ancient Orgasm -
A wet grave - a woman’s shirt
Patrick T. Reardon
An escape to anywhere
The armless hand writes on the wall my name. Am I
the sin? Or the prophesy? Or the sacrifice? I am
marched to the Temple where the King demands
I solve his problem.
“The pulsing el runs in the dark past the blind backs
of houses. The Lake is a Buddha to the east, as silent
and fat and as empty of ambition. In the backyard on Leamington, David and I,
still innocent of school, steal
a shovel and begin digging our escape to China. We
were spanked twice for that antic.
“Sixty years later, David creeped out his back door to
his tiny backyard and found flight by digging a sudden
tiny tunnel through his sorrow-soaked brain.”
The King brought in his slit-eyed soothsayers to parse
my dream of his dream of the hand of God on his wall
of pain, and they divined that it was an undigested
piece of beef. Don’t look behind the bed curtain. I
left my name held hostage as I skedaddled to some
other cosmic Chicago where David is alive and we
don’t have to dig an escape to anywhere.
Did you know God writes left-handed?
Remember that Greek myth of the
mother who, each darkness, would
descend with regal grace the stone
stairs to the dungeon to dine, her
teeth into the flesh, on the entrails
of her toddler son who, each light,
would heal to be ready again a
At Troy, he fought. In Sicily.
On the Plains of Abraham. In the Pass.
On the beach. In the Wilderness.
At intervals, he would slip from the field
to the dungeon
to serve again as repast.
I told the King to bury me under the altar.
I am in no rush. Still, it is good to know the terminal point. My sovereign made no
promises and looked into my eyes,
searching for what he didn’t know. I knew he was looking
for the boy who has been a hostage inside me.
Look, that boy is in a choir loft singing the Credo
in a voice that fills his head from the vestibule to the altar.
He is blameless and pained in his cassock and surplice.
He pours his weights into the voice that escapes him
as he would escape himself, riding up and out,
past the painted ceiling, to the wide sky, empty of chains,
linked to the crab-apple tree in the weedy backyard.
I don’t want to hear it.
I am solid as the rock that is the mountain.
I bottle my pain to an ugly vintage.
My son drinks the bile through the barrel of his gun.
Semi-automatics in a series of haiku (murder most
Guns were created
to protect families from
fire 90 rounds per minute,
seems quite excessive.
Last night a chicken
flew into my bedroom, I
shot it 90 times.
Chickens are small.
Don’t need to shoot them 90
times a minute
or 90 chickens
in a single minute.
Fuck your convenience.
Robins: a Wikipedia Entry
The robin is seen as a martial bird,
It has a reputation for belligerence,
being able to spark an argument
in an empty tree.
Its plainsong ticking
asserts a right of occupancy,
communicating a simple message:
Off. Off. Off. Off.
Its more melodic songs are
variations on a single theme,
which may be summarised
as invitations to have a go -
if you think you're hard enough.
Yet when evening comes
these birds are slow to roost.
In the dark they are small,
their dreams uneasy,
troubled by visions
of jabbing beaks and
the fierce beating of wings
in landscapes where
the night is always
A kind darkness covers everything.
When dawn teases another shore
from this blind tide, you’ll wash up
among the wreckage on rocks of light.
Lie here now, invisible to the hidden
edges whose morning will show you
all you’ve done or not done, clear as
household mess. Bless whatever brief
reprieve hides you from their unsparing.
Wait, curled alone in bed, as night dies,
leaving you with your fear of the valid
imaginable day. Desperate for the fading
imperception to stay, first light’ll find you
here, willing and willing the dead to appear.
Listen, universe echoes
Jump from the Super space
On the super-earth
Where everything is super
Where people dream
Jump from Super space
Jesus Christ is a superstar
and we are super ridiculous.
and no souls,
Lost in the darkness, vanity leads to madness.
Listen, universe echoes,
The Narrative Eye
I tell you what I see
and though you can interpret
you can’t argue with what I present.
‘What about hallucinogens’ you say.
I give you that,
but we have never been into
anything stronger than Hobgoblin.
So here’s the thing:
pebble, bunting, wrinkly dog.
I’ll show you every angle
I can capture,
but you must do the 3D scan,
match it up with what you have
decide if it’s real or fantasy.
Once you’ve made decisions,
pulled it all
into your bouncy bubble,
I will tell you this:
there are two of us
in constant dialogue with you,
out of focus at best,
bending everything to two, sweet stories.
user manual page 19: cactus
time will not kill it
it may display brown spots here and there
but it won’t die
in fact it will thrive and prosper
on surprisingly little water
you see, neglecting its nettlesome nature
may result in clumsily reaching past it
for instance to grab an empty mug of tea
only to have you wonder two days later
when your hand unwittingly brushes your jeans
how the hell you got that pin under your skin
no need to kiss it
or to cut off its spines with a knife
be gallant though
don’t fear the prickly returns – ask
what it was you did that made me cry
The Day I Tried to Sell My Soul to Satan
Was just another grindingly frustrating day.
I laid down the terms:
You can have my soul [whatever that is]
If in return you provide me with
– Draped on that bed right there –
A luscious girl
Dressed perhaps in a short flared skirt
And ankle socks.
I was a sixteen year old virgin
But I knew what I wanted.
I closed my eyes.
When I opened them my bed was still blank.
I was telling all this to Suzie figuring she could use it
Maybe as material for a short story or poem.
Besides, she wanted to know everything about me.
'Why didn't you just pray to God?'
That stopped me – made me think.
David J. Thompson
Drawing the grotesque
I have taken a job modeling
for the Art department
at the local community college.
It’s only part-time and minimum wage,
but all I have to do is drop my robe,
ignore the gasps, and sit there naked
as still as can be. The class is called
Drawing The Grotesque; it meets
on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
I’d swallow uncoated pills to
believe you if trust meant
propping a chopped oak
against my back, preventing it
from falling through the detritus.
Palm every bible in a 100 mile
radius; see if that sways me.
What are these shoulders for?
Chances? Carting turnips to
farmers’ markets where
sympathetic eyes scan visible
scars? Heathen, snatch your
suitcase and be gone. All I own
I’ve already pawned.
winter came early
caught us in autumn colours
late blooming roses
blood red petals
to chilled soil
sullen in defeat
at your open door
hospitable as ever
invited winter in
in your loving arms
and when he left
went with him
leaving next spring
when she arrived
dressed all in black
Dispatch from the Monsoon
Monsoon season sounds terribly dramatic—palm trees bent double in the wind
and lashing rain, the frightened faces of farm animals as the floodwaters bear
them away. But here in this apartment, it just means the bedroom door rattles at
night until we lock it, the clothes whip themselves off the line, and the bag of
empty soda water cans slides across the kitchen floor. In the U.S. right now,
people are freezing—here in Singapore we are just enjoying the breeze.
There are other problems, of course: the eight-meter-long reticulated python (shy
unless provoked) slithering up from the canal that runs under the main shopping
street; coiling itself beneath a bench outside a mall; biting the pest control worker
who tried to put it in a small bag—such a small bag! The pest control company has
no comment, but we all have a new collection of images in our heads: not only the
snake curling around the bench; the ineffectual men; but the canal underneath us,
and all those silent travellers slithering beneath our feet.
December darkness like licorice
could make even sadness
sweet. Red and green
traffic lights blink from wet
pavement as we hurry
to the nursery for a new pot—
our Norfolk Island pine,
by slow-wave chaser lights,
has crashed to the floor.
The nursery is decked with holiday radiance.
A rainbow-hued Buddha ornament
sprinkles the world with iridescence.
A gray wolf stalks
with silver-glitter snow underfoot,
its ruby eyes haunting pinpoints
of red pity that beg,
Let me prey no more.
Wolf and Buddha lie down
together on a sack
of soil and come home
with the pot
to save Christmas.
Thank you for reading!