Tick-tock

Democracy is dying.  The sky is not falling. Democracy, I said, is falling. Does anyone remember civics? The rights and duties of citizens? Do you know your rights? Your duties? This is a form of torture. Death by a thousand turned heads. Turned downward as if in mourning but no, not sorrow. Oblivion. Most folks are on their phones while Democracy is dying. Calling out to be saved. But we were taught not to answer calls we don’t recognize. Democracy. The freedoms we call our own. Individualism. Does any of this ring a bell? Hello? Time is running out. Democracy is dying and all we do is watch? Remember, it is the poet, the artist and the intellectual who are among the first to be rounded up under authoritarian regimes?

after killing it
the skin wings
of a bat

Peter Newton

Tick-tock

Chatterbox 

To tell you the truth I never realised the little paper device we produced as kids to tease each other was from Japan. Origami. To tell you the truth – it was meant to do that. So now I’ll tell you the truth of what I’m seeing now.

rooftop aerial
the space between starlings
never the same

Diana Webb

Chatterbox 

Threadbare Shoe Blues

after the Brothers Grimm’s “Twelve Dancing Princesses”

Our true loves await us under avenues of trees where silver, gold and diamonds drip down believably as leaves. Twelve of us princesses, twirling, pretty things, slink out of the castle after proper primp and prink, slide down to the festivities once the monarch falls asleep. No enchanted steps left, no clues for the king’s men. Netherworld tucked safely under elder sister’s bed.

We arrive each night to supper, twenty-four feet finely shod, yet by sunrise Father finds those same slippers full of holes, a mystery, he decides, a human prince must solve. He offers bride and kingdom to create the quest’s allure—a daughter bargained off, though without a word from her. The catch? No ever after for those who can’t be sure. Untie this shoestring riddle in three nights’ time or die before claiming one of us as prize.

In spite of these traps and spies, we waltz on—twelve dancing princesses, refusing to be seen, caught. Not a would-be-wife among us (or a conscience it would seem) we watch, granite-faced as their royal heads fall, drop like rocks before our feet, first, from the bride-to-be’s hidden draughts of sleep, then finally, from Father’s strike

not a prince
to be spared—charming
or otherwise

Jill Michelle

Threadbare Shoe Blues

a plastic flower for ever

and this rose may not be there by the evening.

suddenly this civilized brain empties itself of all its contents. there is only uncontaminated aloneness in which living, loving and dying become one.

love has no continuity. it just is in the moment without allowing itself to be extended. it achieves its significance only through its birth and death in each moment.

loving forever
at a time

tonight she at 9.30

Vijay Prasad

a plastic flower for ever

The Island of Capri

Carlton did not know quite what was coming over him when he rose in the darkened theater. He’d been gazing forward across the rows of velvet seats at the young boy for the better part of this Italian picture, transfixed. So absorbed with those delicate features was he that the twenty-something found himself entirely unable to follow the abstract, obtuse plot, indeed had difficulty even tracking the subtitles cursorily. So he found it an immense relief when the lad suddenly rose and excused himself from the rest of his party, a veritable family affair involving what Carlton presumed to be his sisters and mother, or some combination of cousins and aunts. He was certain neither of the two charming young ladies could be dates, that the youth – Consenting age? Carlton squinted to make out telling characteristics, acne or peach fuzz through the shadows… Eighteen? He struggled hopingly to verify, though knew perfectly well the object of this admiration was more plausibly on the way to graduating middle school than college – was like him, and enjoyed doing what people like he did in their leisure time…

The moviegoer understood these things implicitly, powerfully sensed them. But regardless, the excruciating distraction had been compromising, nay ruining his screening experience completely, and a momentary break (been just draining that vat of soda, slurping away in an uncouth manner that did not help matters whatsoever, rather exacerbated the fixating maddeningly) from his dark allure would make for a refreshing, much needed breath of fresh air, Carlton though to himself at first. So he was quite startled to discover his legs acting as if on their own accord to lift him up out of the stiff discomfort of the old, hard seat and carry the somnambulist out through the swinging doors and around a corner toward the circular staircase leading up to the lavatory on the balcony level.

through the sewers
hero gives chase
dauber stamping card

How did Carlton know the young man was not occupying the closer, single-occupancy stall beside the concessions stand, easier accessed, more private? Call it a hunch. The solo cineaste was convinced the boy had given him a look as he jogged past, you see, ‘come hither stare’ he’d recalled such being previously termed elsewhere. Carlton got a distinct feeling he might find the fledgling in fact waiting for him up there, eager and ready for anything, itching for it with the same tingling and warmth he intuited forming around his own nether regions, those tropical climes clustered at the equator. So when he shoved the door open, other hand hurriedly unfastening calfskin belt, there was no shock at observing this stripling frozen, just inside, before running faucet. That look in his eyes couldn’t be fear, surely. Carlton was only there to provide him with what he’d been begging for, after all. The boy took a step back. The adult advanced toward him.

duckling unattended
when muskrat comes calling
field trip headcount

Jerome Berglund

The Island of Capri

Backwards

What good is it if the timer goes off when you’re not listening and burnt chicken sends out cries to the universe of animal spirits roasted on the spit of eager bellies. Feed them sunflowers, proclaims the witch of the west. We dine on a red-checked tablecloth, mouths too busy munching to talk, bodies too spent from hidden affairs to offer the usual convivialities.

butternut clouds
the wind knocks down
a spent wave

Pris Campbell

Backwards