Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Ghost Town" by Andrew M. Bell



Picture Clint’s flinty-eyed stare

as he squints into the harsh sun

down an abandoned street.

Ears attuned for the chink-clink of the villain’s spurs

hear only the eerie moan of the nor’wester.

 

Silt swirling in small twisters is

flung like an insult into Clint’s eyes,

the grey, turgid liquid that spewed forth

now desiccated by the unforgiving Canterbury sun.

Cue tumbleweeds,

but the sole arrival is a family carload 

seeking the solace of the state-sanctioned sea.

Dad winces as he drives through Dodge City,

and his suspension surrenders to another pothole.

 

Dusty venetian blinds are

closed like the eyes of the dead,

the blanched grass clutches at the windows,

and weeds suffocate once proud gardens,

fissures scar the lawn

with the earth’s vengeance.

 

Clint springs like a cougar at

a shadow in his peripheral vision,

but the villain is already out of range,

running carelessly towards a life full of promise.


by Andrew M. Bell

Photo Credit: Joe Hayes

For more information about poet, Andrew M. Bell, see:


AUTHOR'S NOTE: The poet would like to acknowledge the editor of The Press in whose pages this poem was first published in 2013.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Forget About Healing" by Jeff Foster


Some days, you just have to forget about ‘healing’.
You have to stop trying to feel better, trying to overcome your emotional wounds, or trying to be anywhere other than where you are.
You have to embrace the day as it is.
And you have to give yourself the most sacred permission of all:
To shatter. To break. To be an ugly mess.
To lean into a place of utter humility and powerlessness in yourself.
To cry out to the heavens, “I can’t do this!”
To admit utter defeat in the loss of the life you had imagined.
To crumble to the ground, lonely and hopeless and profoundly ruined.
To want to die, even.

And there, in the darkest places, in the blackness of the underworld, you may begin to rediscover... life.
And learn to love the beginnings. A sacred reboot:
A single breath. The way the sun warms your face.
The sound of a tiny bird singing in the tree over there.
The raw simplicity of a single moment of human existence.
Hell has been transmuted, through love and patience.
You have discovered the wholeness in your brokenness.
You have given up your idea of ‘healing’, and you have uncovered something infinitely more healing:
Your authentic self.
Beautiful and true and utterly unfixable.


by Jeff Foster


For more about poet, Jeff Foster, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Foster_(spiritual_teacher)

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Tuesday Poem - Song - "Common People" by Pulp


Not a poem, but a fine piece of social observation nonetheless:


She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College
That's where I
Caught her eye
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and Coca-Cola"
She said "Fine"
And then in thirty seconds time she said
I wanna live like common people
I wanna do whatever common people do
Wanna sleep with common people
I wanna sleep with common people
Like you
What else could I do
I said "I'll, I'll see what I can do"
I took her to a supermarket
I don't know why
But I had to start it somewhere
So it started there
I said, "Pretend you've got no money"
She just laughed and said
"Oh you're so funny"
I said "Yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here?
Are you sure"
You wanna live like common people
You wanna see whatever common people see
Wanna sleep with common people
You wanna sleep with common people
Like me
But she didn't understand
She just smiled and held my hand
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah
You'll never live like common people
You'll never do whatever common people do
Never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do
Sing along with the common people
Sing along and it might just get you through
Laugh along with the common people
Laugh along even though they're laughing at you
And the stupid things that you do
Because you think that poor is cool
Like a dog lying in a corner
They will bite you and never warn you
Look out, they'll tear your insides out
'Cause everybody hates a tourist
Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh
Yeah and the chip stains and grease
Will come out in the bath
You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go
You are amazed that they exist
And they burn so bright
Whilst you can only wonder why
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah
Never live like common people
Never do what common people do
Never fail like common people
Never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la
Oh, la la la la la la
Oh yeah
Songwriters: Candida Mary Doyle / Jarvis Branson Cocker / Nick Banks / Russell Senior / Stephen Patrick Mackey
Songwriters: Candida Mary Doyle / Jarvis Branson Cocker / Nick Banks / Russell Senior / Stephen Patrick Mackey
Common People lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management
Common People lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" by Anne Sexton


No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:

cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,

arms and legs made of Limoges,

lips like Vin Du Rhône,

rolling her china-blue doll eyes

open and shut.

Open to say,

Good Day Mama,

and shut for the thrust

of the unicorn.

She is unsoiled.

She is as white as a bonefish.


Once there was a lovely virgin

called Snow White.

Say she was thirteen.

Her stepmother,

a beauty in her own right,

though eaten, of course, by age,

would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.

Beauty is a simple passion,

but, oh my friends, in the end

you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.

The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--

something like the weather forecast--

a mirror that proclaimed

the one beauty of the land.

She would ask,

Looking glass upon the wall,

who is fairest of us all?

And the mirror would reply,

You are the fairest of us all.

Pride pumped in her like poison.


Suddenly one day the mirror replied,

Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,

but Snow White is fairer than you.

Until that moment Snow White

had been no more important

than a dust mouse under the bed.

But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand

and four whiskers over her lip

so she condemned Snow White

to be hacked to death.

Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,

and I will salt it and eat it.

The hunter, however, let his prisoner go

and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.

The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.

Now I am fairest, she said,

lapping her slim white fingers.


Snow White walked in the wildwood

for weeks and weeks.

At each turn there were twenty doorways

and at each stood a hungry wolf,

his tongue lolling out like a worm.

The birds called out lewdly,

talking like pink parrots,

and the snakes hung down in loops,

each a noose for her sweet white neck.

On the seventh week

she came to the seventh mountain

and there she found the dwarf house.

It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage

and completely equipped with

seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks

and seven chamber pots.

Snow White ate seven chicken livers

and lay down, at last, to sleep.


The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,

walked three times around Snow White,

the sleeping virgin.  They were wise

and wattled like small czars.

Yes.  It's a good omen,

they said, and will bring us luck.

They stood on tiptoes to watch

Snow White wake up.  She told them

about the mirror and the killer-queen

and they asked her to stay and keep house.

Beware of your stepmother,

they said.

Soon she will know you are here.

While we are away in the mines

during the day, you must not

open the door.


Looking glass upon the wall . . .

The mirror told

and so the queen dressed herself in rags

and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.

She went across seven mountains.

She came to the dwarf house

and Snow White opened the door

and bought a bit of lacing.

The queen fastened it tightly

around her bodice,

as tight as an Ace bandage,

so tight that Snow White swooned.

She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.

When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace

and she revived miraculously.

She was as full of life as soda pop.

Beware of your stepmother,

they said.

She will try once more.


Looking glass upon the wall. . .

Once more the mirror told

and once more the queen dressed in rags

and once more Snow White opened the door.

This time she bought a poison comb,

a curved eight-inch scorpion,

and put it in her hair and swooned again.

The dwarfs returned and took out the comb

and she revived miraculously.

She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.

Beware, beware, they said,

but the mirror told,

the queen came,

Snow White, the dumb bunny,

opened the door

and she bit into a poison apple

and fell down for the final time.

When the dwarfs returned

they undid her bodice,

they looked for a comb,

but it did no good.

Though they washed her with wine

and rubbed her with butter

it was to no avail.

She lay as still as a gold piece.


The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves

to bury her in the black ground

so they made a glass coffin

and set it upon the seventh mountain

so that all who passed by

could peek in upon her beauty.

A prince came one June day

and would not budge.

He stayed so long his hair turned green

and still he would not leave.

The dwarfs took pity upon him

and gave him the glass Snow White--

its doll's eyes shut forever--

to keep in his far-off castle.

As the prince's men carried the coffin

they stumbled and dropped it

and the chunk of apple flew out

of her throat and she woke up miraculously.


And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.

The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast

and when she arrived there were

red-hot iron shoes,

in the manner of red-hot roller skates,

clamped upon her feet.

First your toes will smoke

and then your heels will turn black

and you will fry upward like a frog,

she was told.

And so she danced until she was dead,

a subterranean figure,

her tongue flicking in and out

like a gas jet.

Meanwhile Snow White held court,

rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut

and sometimes referring to her mirror

as women do.

by Anne Sexton


For more information about the poet, Anne Sexton, see:


Friday, 26 June 2020

Tuesday Poem - Song - "The Disappointed" written by Andy Partridge, performed by XTC




The disappointed
All shuffle round in circles
Their placards look the same
With a picture and a name
Of the ones who broke their hearts
The disappointed
All congregate at my house
Their voices sob with grief
That they want me to be chief
Of the tribe with broken hearts
Once, I had no sympathy
For those destroyed and thrown away by love
Seems, your ring upon my finger
Signifies that I've become the spokesman of
The disappointed
Will bear me on their shoulders
To a secret shadow land
Where a somber marching band
Plays a tune for broken hearts
And day grows darker now
Everywhere, everywhere
The disappointed
Are coming in their millions
They're spilling from the bus
At a monument to us
Made of bits of broken heart
Once, I had no sympathy
For those destroyed and thrown away by love
Seems, your ring upon my finger
Signifies that I've become the spokesman of
The disappointed
Are growing every second
They blot the sun to black
At the bottom of the pack
I'm the king of broken hearts
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed
The disappointed

Written by Andy Partridge
Performed by XTC

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Tuesday Poem: "Were You Ever Great?" by Andrew M. Bell


Photo Credit: Andrew M. Bell

Today, along with my youngest son and his girlfriend, I attended a Black Lives Matter protest which gathered in Cathedral Square, Christchurch. Despite it being a day of constant drizzle, what the Irish call poetically "a soft rain", a large crowd of people gathered to express their utter disgust at the murder of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

Since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, the global community have witnessed a former global superpower which seems to be in rapid decline. Those Americans who never supported Trump feel that he has been both a catalyst and a fomentor of that disintegration of their society.

In response to this ever-escalating situation in America and to George Floyd's brutal murder which is just the latest in a long line of American police killings of African Americans, I offer this poem:

Were you ever great, America?
Were you great when the starving pilgrims
were saved by your indigenous inhabitants?
Were you great when the settlers pushed west
bringing disease and decimation
to the many nations who had been there
for thousands of years?
Were you great when you assassinated
the President who abolished slavery?
Were you great a century later when you assassinated
the President who advocated black civil rights?
Were you great when you dropped atomic bombs
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Were you great when the CIA overthrew
Salvador Allende in Chile?
Were you great when Reagan funnelled arms and money
to the Contras to overthrow the Sandinistas?
Were you great when you defoliated
sixty percent of Vietnam?
Were you great when you invaded Iraq
because a President and his cronies lied?

You cannot make yourself “great again”
because you were never great.
Like the Roman Empire, you merely
possessed superior technology and
an inflated sense of your own importance
so you could bully the world to get your own way.

And now, like the procession of empires before you,
your corruption and decadence have grown
into a cancer that feeds on the venal and inane.
Fellow feeling has dissolved
in your grandiose sense of entitlement
and your outliers are emboldened, brazenly enriching themselves
by enslaving their fellow citizens.
A nation devoured on the pyre of self-interest.

Like a feeble-minded geriatric,
your memory has befogged your halcyon days
so that they lie shrouded in a mist of your own making.
Morality and ethics are but dreams,
once shimmering brightly in the darkness,
but forgotten on waking.

Once leaders of standing and character espoused equality
and the inalienable rights of all your countrymen and women,
regardless of race, colour and creed
to be granted "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Your Praetorian Guard protects the elite
from imagined threats and suspicion falls always
on the proud descendants of the Nubians.
The world recoils as you descend into an abyss
where theft triumphs over generosity,
crime flaunts itself in the face of the law,
rampant egos crush communities
and murder is committed with impunity.

Were you ever great, America,
or were you merely lucky?
One day even the best luck runs out.

Photo Credit: Andrew M. Bell

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Tuesday Poem: "My Mother's Ashes Feign Disinterest in their Dispersal" by Tim Nees



Tonight a cradle moon.
The window on the low side of light.
Sleep scurries, hides round corners.
Come on, Sunday.
For one undeniably this much reveals a hollowing.
Fitting up the mystery eternal.
One false step you get done in.
Does that sound right?
John Donne and the Metaphysics eschew the eternal, way down below 
on shady lane.
A long worn life invests not in the promise of the eternal promise.
Is that the way belief circumlocutes itself?

    Where to find even more, with that extra step hampered by a 
drooping foot.
Time surely to complete another feat, appetite never replete.
Whether you land or take a tumble, nothing certain.
In this belief system what’s willed never happens.
What should be simple tasks toss and turn, become insubordinate, defy
being picked up and held struggling in the fresh streaming light.
In principle we should all be convinced.

    Meaning what, I wonder, when it was she who demanded the wall 
simply listen to reason.
There was a door but for her no-one would open it, not in her direction. 

Nor at her direction.
Rail and strike at stubbornness with tiny fists and her walker. 
Entranced for hours.
Banging away in her mind.
Gentle bumps, mind you.


    Protest shouldn’t have had to be a defence against the boulder of
loneliness.
Don’t bet on a punchline.
Insistence is no virtue but blame is a force uncalled for.
Step inside, love.
Not on her watch.
I figure she was avoiding in the back reaches of her mind the exit. 

The second man she loved never arrived.

    Reason is not simple.
Reason must first repair deaf ears.
Acquiescence is a retreat to be beaten.
The main argument once stated will be glossed, patience required to
release gravity.
We pray.
Effortlessly we pray as every fibre of our being shakes.
Until experience uncovers the truth without wishing for it, even though 
we realise this time we’re going to be pissing into our boots.

Do the selfless have interests?
The things we wonder, sunshine.
Sadly, the best-by date for wonder has long since expired.
Sit, smile and touch, smile and touch, sit.
Who’s to own this, this outcome?

    My mother’s ashes undignified in their container.
Disdain comes to mind.
Disdain is a word she’d turn her nose up at.

    Birds fly all about but no-one hears them singing.
No one hears them.
No one at all.
Will one to come brighten the room.
One needs to do one’s best in order to tolerate what one finds in others,
and give a little bit, otherwise one will end up with someone else’s
uninvited hands handling one’s spoons.
Toleration served with a grain of salt.
Too much to have been serious.

    The circle shrinks again.
Well that’s alright, maman cher?
Nothing done will make it right.
My mother’s mother fell in love with Elvis while my mother fell in love 
with Charlie Rouse.
That says something significant and a half, though what wasn’t said in
between dry facts was a bundle and the other half, too packed in to 
begin to unpick.
Little more than a flush.
Can emotional states even be facts?
Pedant.
Any old way you do, do now.
God how she hated that fact word.
Few left to review, and too late to stop.
Which is just fine seeing no-one listens to no facts no more no how.
Fine and dandy, fine and dandy, fine and dandy handy Andy.
Ever ready with a twinkle and a misdemeanour.
Don’t care even if you blow my top, but keep on going.
Keep on going.

    One memorable occasion, a blue Imp transporting a grand get-up 
topped off by a black gold-tipped Sobranie.
Okay, that much is true.
Regardless, she would have preferred a carnival in cocktail colours to 
jive through her saloon, except Russians don’t do carnivals and 
Latin Americans don’t smoke Sobranies.
Not in her world.
Conflicting interests party with absurdity.
Just don’t expect her image to be verified by this type of occasion.
Fall back on dignity.
Give her some teeth.

    Cigarette ash settles on her lashes and her front.
Shine on warm freckled enfolding diamond.
My mother’s freckled ashes.
My mother’s gin and tonic ashes.
My mother’s Brebiesca fingered ashes.
My mother’s ashes won’t brush off this time.
Fitting up the stubborn conundrum for good.
Sleep scurries, hides round corners.
The window on the low side of light.
Tonight a cradle moon.

© Tim Nees 7 May 2020


Tim Nees is a Christchurch-based writer. He has a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) with Merit from Victoria University of Wellington. In 2009 he attended the Iowa Fiction Workshop,  the Iowa Poetry Workshop and the Short Fiction Workshop at the Institute of Modern Letters, VUW. He has had poems published in Poetry NZ, was a Runner-up in the 2009 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition with his story “Cartography” which was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize (USA). In 2008, he was a Runner-up in the NZ Post Wellington Sonnet Competition.