Poetry | ‘Drone’ & one other poem by Nilofar Shidmehr | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)


Geese are flying
in perfect formation
when a drone appears.

If technology is an extension
of our bodies, as McLuhan says,
chaos is the extension
of the disturbance our technologies
cause in nature.

Taking the drone as a member
of their flock, the geese struggle
to get in formation
with its agitation,
their erratic flight and wild
honks, deranging the sky.

Their bewilderment grows
each time the drone changes
direction and speed,
whizzing with a different
frequency, leading them on
to no destination.


Today, for his profile photo
he posted a slightly open French window
with ivy railings in the desert city of Yazd.

Behind the glass, two red candles
stand close to one another
each in a different pane.

Imagining this window the whole day
she pictures a bed
on the other side

holding together the bodies
of a man and a woman
who have finally met in real life.

This picture lures her
to climb over the virtual railings
push open the ajar window

and light the red candles
as day
succumbs to night.

Nilofar Shidmher, was born and raised in Iran and currently lives in Canada. A Ph.D., MFA, she is the author of two collections of short fiction and four books of poetry in English and Farsi. She also co-translated with Ali Azarang Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye into Farsi. Dr. Shidmehr teaches in the Liberal Arts Program and Adults 55+ program at Simon Fraser University.

Poetry | ‘Tomato Plant’ & ‘Sea Urchins’ by Tom Paine | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)

Tomato Plant

There is a sexual pleasure
in stripping the tomato
to a solo lime-green stalk,
razoring stray, opining
leaf suckers. I condemn
it to stand tall, not crawl.
No loafing the summer;
basking like a pharaoh,
drifting the magnetic sea
of timeless. This training
to tallness is my training.
I take my revenge on life,
handcuff it with tightness
to javelins of rusted rebar,
thrust into the unseen soil.
Ripe breasts, skinned flesh:
I bite with canine incisors;
rip into the seeded caves,
tumble into the vegetable,
and like a sick snow angel,
tangle myself in green vines.

Sea Urchins

But those spiny marauders everywhere,
bird-beaked rapists, sea urchins scouring
the reefs, scraping at life like old paint,
leaving a greenish snot on the bleached
sea-skeleton of a cocktail hallucination
of the lightning in life– hard to fathom
we let such beauty die—floral reefs,
starved of breath— now face jellyfish,
parachuting in, glutinous paratroopers,
bag ghosts drifting over the battlefield,
lording over our pitted phantasmagoria

Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in more than seventy international journals, including: The Nation, The Moth (Ireland), The Rialto (UK), New Contrast (South Africa), Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Bangalore Review (India), Volt, Vallum (Canada), Paris Lit Up (France), Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Fence, The Common, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Galway Review (Ireland), Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Hobart, Tampa Review and elsewhere.

Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, Boston Review, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.

Poetry | ‘An Immigrant at Lake Ontario’ & one other poem by Golam Rabbani | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)

An Odd Ode on the Third Skin

The third skin glows with an autistic smile.

The skin smiles
while the ego dystopic strife makes the skin blush,
creativity gives it pimples,
and the bile of Sphinx purifies it.

The skin smiles with its ornamented pointy teeth.
It turns white, brown and black with the changes of meditations.
The third skin meditates
as long as the exhibitionist mediocre rapes you through.

Genders have an infatuation with the skin.
They peel off their first skin to put on the third one.
It transforms the reptilian aura, even the lizards envy.

The skin allows them to hide
within the wreckage of sensibility,
within the chaos of divinity,
and within the delirium of intellectuality.

The third skin with its autistic smile
celebrates the hallucinations of love,
just like the green fairy.
It dives into its own glory of Yaba days.
It vaporizes the disillusionment like the smoke of weed.
Yet, crowds cheer to have the third skin and
to be the third skin.

You can see the blue veins of blood under the third skin,
the blood that changes color.
It turns red while being ambitious,
turns yellow while being traitor,
turns green while being insane,
and turns black when being celestial.

That’s how the third skin rocks and rolls.
and we dance with it.
We mimic it.
We intensify its doubts.
We laugh with its autistic smile,
and we become the smile.

An Immigrant at Lake Ontario

I smell the waves.
the wind blows through,
even though
I am in a glasshouse.

The sense of belonging
peels off the sense of past,
yet Lake Ontario
smells of Meghna.

The turbine blades of windmills
standing on the waves
cut through
the wind of memories.
But the serene waves
sing the songs of healing.

The lands, old and new,
shape and reshape the soul.
Destiny unlearns
the toxic stories of skin color
and finds the voice
in the chorus of humanity.

I smell the waves in the glasshouse.
And listen to the chorus
the river Meghna and Lake Ontario
sing the same tune.

Golam Rabbani is a settler immigrant of color in Canada, living in Kingston, Ontario. He grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As an academic, he is involved in postsecondary teaching and research in Bangladesh, Belgium, and Canada for more than twelve years. At present, he is completing his PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. He holds a BA and two MAs in English literature and linguistics. His poems appeared in poetry collections, such as Monsoonletters: A Collection of Poems and 9th Edge. He is also a singer and performer trained in Baul folk music and Indian classical music. He has won SSHRC Doctoral Award in Canada, Erasmus Mundus Asia Regional Scholarship in Belgium, and numerous awards for music and performance. Details about his academic and creative contributions are available at www.golamrabbani.ca

Poetry | ‘Miriam’ & 2 other poems by Sujash Purna | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)


She is a mystery
with her belly out on her bean bag.
She tells me:
“I got almost raped by the guy
I met at the orientation
and dated for a month or so.”

I shouldn’t have bent her fender
when I knew that the grocery bags
from Walmart would be awkwardly
staring at us, when we didn’t have
anything more to say.

An intruder from the pages
of Truman Capote,
she allows other Miriams like her in my room
to haunt her and take her space,
to take her place;
they sit with me to paint with watercolors,
let out post break-up angst over coffee cups
full of pinot noir. I remember once

Miriam took a jumbo pitcher of sangria
from the bottom shelf,
breaking the residence rules of her dorm.
Watercolor paintings slept in around her shelves
full of dead writers and haiku books.
The tiny hearts around Basho’s words
screaming her love that hides behind.

In Kansas City, they say, she is a great bar-
tender now, tending old folks with grey
Boulevard Pale Ale, sprinkling mustache.
Sparkled eyes see her glide underwater,
under a sea out from time and society-
she doesn’t age after all these years.
Through the crystal rocks of ice
you can see she is
in your room after all these years
behind these words, Miriam.


I feel sick all day long from not being with you,
I just want to go out every night for a while — AIR

Chesterfield cigarettes turn into Marlboro,
for the pursuit of their American dream.
The two French girls
set up the only olfactory battle on the air
between the garam masala flavored chicken curry
and their French perfume.
They cook chicken curry in France too,
just the way I do.
Only they add sour cream in it. Says
the girl with the hardest to say name,
with a silver bracelet made back in Paris.

They tell me the French say cats and dogs are a cowboy’s lasso,
when they talk about heavy rain in the land of Gaul.

The girl with the hardest name
and the silver bracelet eats
with her hands for the first time,
rice and chicken curry on her plate,
and as her jeweled fingers clasped
a cube or two maybe,
as Renoir’s love walks
out from the frame.

Green Genteel

She wore green;
green lipstick,
green eyeliners lining green,
eye lashes deigning a mien,

quiet, a glass of water
in hand, she looks around
the room full of bastards
and godly children.

She decides not to judge
just as her water
genteel she keeps
in her green.

On St. Paddy’s Day
she remembers him
then she leans in
forward and grins

at a selfish me.
I am sorry but listen
I have to be in
the house by fifteen

I will keep the water
I say.
I need to hydrate
I say.

She keeps herself still
and silent
just as if her water
and she

their skins.
A green genteel
both coloring.

Bangladeshi-born Sujash Purna is a graduate student at Missouri State University. A poet based in Springfield, Missouri, he serves as an assistant poetry editor to the Moon City Review. His poetry appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Kansas City Voices, Poetry Salzburg Review, English Journal, Stonecoast Review, Red Earth Review, Emrys Journal, Prairie Winds, Gyroscope Review, and others. His chapbook collection Epidemic of Nostalgia is coming out soon from Finishing Line Press.

Poetry | ‘You bring out the Dilliwali in me’ by Ravneet Bawa | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)

The slow growl of a simmering brawl
The gut of an adopted ruse
The broken fort.
The “What will you have for dinner?”
as we sit down for lunch.
You are the one I’d shamelessly lie for,
with you I’d roam nights
under Pandara Road lights
allow you the occasional loud belch
as I sit beside reading Ondaatje
Maybe. Maybe.
For you.

You bring out the Arvind Kejriwal in me
The foolish idealism in me
The par-aise-kaise in me
The behenchod-jaanta-hai-mera-baap-kaun-hai in me
The band-baaja-baraat in me
The whiskey tipped bullet in me
The glint of gold and diamonds in me
The slight of trivial pursuits in me.
The zubaan-ki-churri in me
The ho-hai-halla in me
The pata-hai-kal-kya-hua in me.
The shards and smoke of ’84 in me
The screams and grit of Nirbhaya in me
The fear of bhakts in me.
Yes, you do.
Yes, you do.

You bring out the bureaucrat in me
The entitlement of lasting love in me
The avarice of Aurangzeb in me
The grandeur of Mahabharata in me
The wayside jamuns on Lutyens roads in me
The heat of golgappe ka paani in me
The mist of the desert cooler in me
The frost and fog of December in me.

Mere dost, mere yaara
I am the pink spun sugar melting in your mouth
I am the fragrance of wet mogra by your bedside
I will lay kerchief on you
make you mine for this journey
I want to scar the side of your neck
show you off to the neighbors
ward off evil spirits with red chillies all day
burning slowly without odour, the cackle
of this dilli kaure in me
hain ji?

You bring out the banjaaran in me
The songstress and the seductress in me
The helplessness of Yamuna in me
The undulations of Aravali in me
The heartache of partition in me
The UP Bihar Punjab in me
The heretic and the spiritual in me
I could walk barefoot on burning tar and
bring you the nectar of the gods, make you
whole, in sickness and in death
in this city of djinns. Oh,
I am evil. I am the wrath of Kali.
I am the keeper of secrets.
The kama and the karma
of dynasties past. You bring out
the fossils of dead queens in me
The my many children in me
The devious and the innocent in me
The making of tunnels in me
Gainda. Gulab. Gulmohar. Shehtoot.
Khus. Langda. Dasehri. Amrood.
Pirs, fakirs, poets of now and yore
in the name of God and unholy verse
I invoke you.

“Hazarron khwahishei aisi…
Mai tumse phir milungi, kab, kahan, pata nahi”

*This poem is inspired in form and tenor from the 1994 original by Sandra Cisneros, “You bring out the Mexican in me”, from her anthology titled “Loose Women”.
**The last two lines of the poem are a medley of a line each from Ghalib and Amrita Pritam, my favourite poets, and both from Delhi, to conclude with the sense of dead poets living in me.

Ravneet Bawa lives in Bombay, India and spends her time between writing and working as a independent consultant and research in branding and consumer culture. She is the host of the conversational poetry podcast, ‘Ellipsis’ which has just concluded Season 1 with 50 episodes. She has previously published poetry in Asia Writes, DWL’s magazine Papercuts, Coldnoon, Literally Literary and in the journal Eksentrika. She was shortlisted for the Poetry Society of India’s All India Poetry Competition 2016 and published in the anthology Voyages. She is currently working on her first book of poetry – Is/Isn’t.

Poetry | ‘Dream Hours’ & one other poem by Bibhu Padhi | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)


The pictures of now,
this morning hour

are stored in the mind,
reappear in a vague

sequence of events
that belonged to the day.

The dark interiors of homes
so quietly visited last night

were affluent with meanings,
extensive in their despair.

Who else was there
beside you in their

explorations of light? Who
remained awake all through

the night with his prayers,
in benevolent splendour?

The letters and numbers
of a long-lost script

go darker, more remote,
with every hour, are written

all over your face
by old, decrepit fingers.

Who writes the biographies of gods
on structured walls, antic paper?


The body and the mind wake up
in the middle of the night,

blame each other for what they
lost to the night’s dark ambiguities.

Someone who was beside me
had left me alone, to the voices
of the day and my sleeplessness.

It is a long time before
the next sun is scheduled
to show itself on the horizon,

before the sacred chants rise
through our neighbour’s house.

All waiting has ended with
the decision to wake through
the night, chewing tobacco.

Outside the house, there are
sounds that have gone to sleep
along with the other sleepers.

The only other sound surrounds me
like an unending chant, seeping
deeper and deeper into my cells,

playing its healthy notes on
the protoplasm, the shining skin.

Sleep was forgotten long back,
while ways are invented to answer

the night’s questions. My woman
seeks my sleep, while I am writing
down my deep, dark answers of the skin.

Bibhu Padhi has published fifteen books of poetry. His work has appeared Contemporary Review, London Magazine, The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Stand, Wasafiri, America Media, The American ScholarAtlanta ReviewCommonweal, The Manhattan ReviewThe New CriterionPoet LorePoetry, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly,  Xavier Review, New Contrast, Takahe, The Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, and Queen’s Quarterly, among others. 

A Pushcart nominee, he has also been published widely in anthologies and textbooks. Five of the most recent are The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, Language for a New Century (Norton) Journeys (HarperCollins), 60 Indian Poets (Penguin) and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry.

Poetry | ‘The Ghosts at the Infirmary’ (10 poems) by Goirick Brahmachari | Issue 38 (Feb, 2021)

The ghosts at the infirmary | Goirick Brahmachari


A snake of fire eats
My insides. A frame in flames
It grows as I breathe in,
It flows as I exhale.
Persistent, insolent,
A stream of condensed lava.
A thousand stabs, cuts
Burns the hour.
The front is back
The back is fore
No ashes in this burn
No smoke
No tear can now undone
This ubiquitousness.

But when it chooses to move
An epileptic dance begins
Like water, vapour, water
Everything changes, everything
Remains the same.

<Smoke Signals>

Barricades of torture
And mad mad suffering
Waiting at the iron gates of dusk
To settle all scores
Of superfluous precision
Hideous hallucinations of savage extractions.
At first, the senses strip and plummet
Then, the organs orchestrate a ferocious rampage.
Whatever is taught is truth.
Whatever is uttered becomes gospel.
Every, everything else
Is forbidden.
Seizures resuscitate
This interruption called life.
This unconscious world
Won’t wake up tonight.
The arteries and the fiber tracts
Are melting fast. First,
The body
Then, it will hit the cerebrum.

<immunisation island>

And all the nub’s excreta
Choke inside me.
This stagnant air, a malady’s curse.
Indifference helps the torment
Subside, tubes and pipes, stuck.
Let’s end this punctured conversation tonight.

They have sent for the experts
With flashlights
And glasses, the skin of the world is taut
They have sent for the army
To the battlefields
And they march in black masks through my nerves
All the way into my tortured gut.

Every drop of my blood is now marred.
Every drop of my tears, stone.
Nothing, but nothing remains
To be trespassed.
All that was classified has been compromised.
The hollowness within
Echoes the aftermath.
The stonewalls are intact,
But the veins and
The tissues have dried.

<marooned by memory>

The water takes it all.
And little by little
They erode, like organs
That give up when the time
Choses itself, clocks
Breakdown, nerves tremor,
Reality is a perennial psychosis
We live with. We treat
Ourselves to our worst selves; seek
Strangers and their lies,
We effortlessly buy.
We harvest life-
Long diseases, bleed, and lose consciousness,
To ease our misery.
We transform the agony of the mind
Into chronic physical suffering.
We save each other from each other
Every passing day. We inject poison
To fight poison created by the adulterated filth
That we generate through our very own existence.
Every steel artery now blocked.
Every blood that oozes out clots.
Every acquaintance estranged.
Every conscious attempt at warmth, tortured.
Every breath, ridiculed.
Hate mails saved as draft, intimate letters never delivered.
Waterless living, deep sea sedation,
Lack of bloodstream, disappearing conversations —

A fading white line.

<A disease for a disease>

Sitting inside the glass chambers
They dream of genocides. The decree
Of the king is forever final.
The judges and the saviours
Will be hanged at the twilight.
The vicious ghosts of the writers
Must be invariably accoladed.
Their vices are carefully collected
Into separate potion vials.

Distilled drops of death
Drip into my colourless veins.
This addictive craving
For self-harm is self-explanatory.
My bare body for ages bounded by infectious, covetous
Constant human hammering, episodes
Of mass mental murder and cerebral loss, nasty hankerings.
Someone raise the seventh wall right now!
Liquids of all colours ooze out
Along with sharp beeps at different frequencies.
Filth is now the new elixir.

And all the subjects of the damned land
Have already paid their taxes and their tongues.
Silence has always been the only consensus.
Rage manifests itself into myriad essence
Of pain: sometimes familiar, sometimes insane.

Conformation traded for a last chance
At a choked existence.
Conversion, a morphine painkiller.
X-rays have given up and denied to scan
The end of this earth’s sanity.
And yet, they await
For an answer.


A room of sonic beeps
White frequencies
Sheets move slowly
To the haze of the drowsy
Afternoon fan. A room
Full of faces across the stretcher
looking into you, the insides of you-
Eyes, mouth, desiccated lips
Taste, tastelessness,
Out of body waves, spirit,
Multilayered borders,
Dream like. After-presence
Of a cold menthol rill
Through your nostrils,
Lungs and forehead.


Comes and goes, comes
And goes. This wait
Till it grows. The relief
Is in the detail.
The exactness, the chosen
Diction, the touch,
Affected areas, twist
And turns, the changing
Colours of skin and life.
The waves in your eyes.
The abducted sleep
A fatal ransom- the burning,
The shooting and the stabbing
Under the ribs. The sand drips,
The time pricks, radiates
Onto the back and bones.
The sheets becomes the body.
The precise tenderness
Of the abdomen, bloated
Blood vessels, the still
Dead river, the lonesome
Shivers, cold synthetic
Breath, suffocated
Post visions,
A corpse covered in white,
Death and Déjà vu.


Soak me
In a glass of water,
Keep it aside. Collect
My rambling senses. Inject
A few drops of spleen
Into my veins. It’s been a long long time.
My tissues long for some swelter.

Bites, moves
And turns; hides
Stabs and burns,
A constant warfare within.
Every dot in each of my nerves
Has been sacrificed.
No medicine to clean
This clouds in my mind’s realm.
No IV fluids can drench
My contaminated bloodstream.

Hydrate me
With your ugliness
And your daily dose
Of Inflammatory skin.

A biological response to
A dystopian dream.
Dead cells and vessels
Mediate between scholars
Of molecular war. The inflammation
Prefers chemical weapons.
Masses rejoice the end of calm.

Pain is peace.
Let the torture begin.


Nocturnal senses
Clutter and crawl,
Another sedative futility.
Hypnagogic insects
Inspect, the night is wide
Awake. Ghosts of visceral
Memory swallow strange
Crepuscular monochromes.

A cloud between:
Pain dependence and
Pain related dependence.
Paralysed by an extraordinary sear
Of dipsomania-
A tormented earth.
Lies and delusions,
Treacherous neoplasm
And condescending slime
Once shoved into my skull
Now slowly drains out
(Measured every hour)
Through an NG tube.

An endoscopic light
Shines, the dead tissues
Must die. Let us go back.
Switch off the lights.

Hunt the meanings of
(Schizophrenic conversations, shape
of letters, inverted numbers, unrelated
casual coincidences, news
channels and social media, collusion
among complete strangers,
convinced conspiracies)


Organised and orchestrated
Injected into the nerves
A cerebral coup
Of cybernetic organisms
Through cryptic coding,
Algorithms, scripts and cracks.
Metallic tracts and tissues, now
Bugged into the nervous
System. Compromised.

A calculated overdosage
Periodically administered
To covertly induce
A chronic vascular infection:
Literati Sepsis
Now slowly drips in,
Cascades into vitals.

Cultic vows, spells and spectres
Secret societies, hypnosis.
Eerie erudite rituals:

Amass the microbes
Examine their pedigree
Assign a guiding light
Let the procedure begin
Homogenise, homogenise
Hypnotise, galvanise
Implant an obsequious
Answering machine.
All signals are now intercepted.

Obscurity, the only passcode
Speculative virtual reality
Every word uttered or written
Artificial, self-conceited,
Intelligence, erotically gratified
By one’s own reflection
And by the members of
The Narcissus cliques.

The consciousness first.
Peel every inch of
Originality and expression
Then, the heaving carcass
Must be discarded and left
Alone to rot
Or, eaten by
The carnivores night

To the stringent
Syntax of spurious
Dictums, diction and vaccines
Plagiarised encounters
And illegitimate trespass.

“Intruders will be abrogated
It’s all classified.
“Banish the defectors, ffs!

The X-Rays, identities,
Mutilated. Scratched imaging.
End of examination.
Yet they multiply
Like cancer cells
Proxies and VPNs
Shady botmets and phishing trap
Doors, hallucinations and paranoia
Of reading the written word online.
Pictures talk, multiple profiles
Appear, the bloated abdomen
Starts to withdraw.
The pain remains familiar.

It is not a coincidence then
Your memory continues to encircle
My mind like an apparition, departing
From your own crafted consciousness
And your musings about how expiry dates arrive.
I sit on my bed, stuck between cannulas and tubes,
Count the aching nocturnal hours
Through the moving white sheets and curtains
When the night grows old, the louder grows
The whimpers of those who pray or await to die.

Search, search for a corner.
Rest your head on the wall.
Away from the roaring news channels
To the seven horizontal, cloned
Profile pictures, snippets of political
Punditry, culinary recipes, self-help
Trollers’ paradise. Just when
The cyber prodigies come alive
On a mid-autumn afternoon,
The attack strikes!


Goirick Brahmachari’s debut collection of poems, For the Love of Pork (Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark) won the Muse India – Satish Verma Young Writer Award (Poetry) 2016. He is also the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2016. Other collections of verses by Brahmachari include joining the dots, 2016, Wet Radio and Other Poems, 2017 and A Broken Exit, 2019. He is currently working on a collaborative volume of verses titled ‘The Nightwalkers’ along with Debarshi Mitra. His poems and essays have appeared in various journals, magazines, blogs and pamphlets.


A note on poetry of illness:

The body is the universe. Whitman celebrated the human body and its association with the soul, and stressed on a unique universal unity to form an orderly whole. While Whitman describes a harmony through stark images of physical anatomy and sexuality in poems like ‘Song of Myself’ and ‘I sing the Body Electric’ which also encompasses his views regarding the universe, and transmits his idea of the universe into his celebration of the human body. Yet, amid this celebration he acknowledges,

“O Death! the voyage of Death!

The beautiful touch of Death, soothing and benumbing a few moments, for reasons;

Myself, discharging my excrementitious body, to be burn’d, or render’d to

powder, or

buried…” (Poem of Joys, Walt Whitman)

In this set of poems, I radiate between physical pain of pancreatitis and mental psychosis, taking a cue from the idea of a body as a universe that has infected by a viral pandemic and plagues of other kinds like politics, war, diplomacy, fallacy and treachery; not to mention mistrust, jealously, conspiracy and deceit. I attempt to manifest these physical pain and mental insecurities through a catharsis of sorts where I try to detail the exact nature of my physical trauma or the psychosis/ hallucinations, the return of abstract memories/images and incoherent dreamscapes. In many ways, the act of writing them helped me to distract myself from the suffering. I spent some alone time pondering about the interrelation between addiction, mental and physical health and poetry and tried to relief my mental suffering through physical pain.

Poets for ages have worked on chronic illness and aliment. John Keats’ famous tubercular metaphors used in ‘To Autumn’ is one of those early poems written about sickness. (Nayar,2020)

A conversation between death and life is initiated in Tomas Hardy’s ‘The Subalterns’

–“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say;

     “I did not will a grave

Should end thy pilgrimage to-day,

     But I, too, am a slave!”


We smiled upon each other then,

     And life to me had less

Of that fell look it wore ere when

     They owned their passiveness.


And the lesson we learn from Edger Allan Poe’s ‘For Annie” as he pens the fever called “living”


The moaning and groaning,

The sighing and sobbing,

Are quieted now,

With that horrible throbbing

At heart: – ah, that horrible,

Horrible throbbing!


The sickness- the nausea-

The pitiless pain-

Have ceased, with the fever

That maddened my brain-

With the fever called “Living”

That burned in my brain.

Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Visits to St. Elizabeths’ records the continual tormenting feeling that one faces while visiting a mental health institution, where everything including the patient and the surroundings remains the same.


These are the years and the walls of the ward,

the winds and clouds of the sea of board

sailed by the sailor

wearing the watch

that tells the time

of the cranky man

that lies in the house of Bedlam.

In ‘On Being Ill’, Virginia Woolf ponders ”…why illness has not taken its place with love, battle and jealousy among prime themes of literature.”- barring a few exceptions. “Novels, one would have thought, would be devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia, lyrics to toothaches”

“…how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels”

Sylvia Plath offers a precise description of a chronic sickness in ‘Fever 103°’, a revulsion that I myself have felt very closely during my bedridden days.

Darling, all night

I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.

The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.


Three days. Three nights.

Lemon water, chicken

Water, water make me retch.

As can be observed from this short survey of poems, poetry on illness has been well documented. However, the central theme across these set of my poems deals with the mental turbulence that searches for an escape route through self-afflicted pain (through addictions and gratifications) which leads to severe physical illness and dependence on pain medication and mental health treatment. Not to mention, the indissoluble circular nature and mutual dependence among each other that I have tried to document here. 

Poetry | untitled by Simon Perchik | Issue 37 (Jan, 2021)


One cup kept empty and side by side
as if forgiveness is a service
due when you shake the dust off

and the other overflows with coffee
heats your mouth with lips
that blacken when one hand

is grasped by the other and the spill
towed to where the dead overflow
as evenings: an entitlement

that returns the darkness
before the sun comes back
brings the light that once was water

fills this small cup with a morning
you will clear with a soft rag
holding it close to the wooden table.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Weston Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at http://www.simonperchik.com

To view one of his interviews please follow this link

Poetry | ‘On Not Having Written King Lear’ & ‘Dinner in Xanadu’ by Michael Lavers | Issue 37 (Jan, 2021)

On Not Having Written King Lear

I don’t have to tell you what it’s like: you know.

It’s just like never having written Middlemarch 

or walked on the moon. You know that most 

people have never written Middlemarch

or walked on the moon and yet still get to eat jam

and toast, and stroll with their beloveds

past the cemetery, over the bridge to Main Street.

You know that what you can’t do is also worth

celebrating as a source of relief or gratitude,

that love comes only from not being the same

as what you love, that everyone is just one person

and cannot step out of themselves and be

everywhere, as the ponderous afternoon light

that is falling and slightly pink is everywhere.

It’s Saturday. So many people have come out 

to browse the lonely shops, happy to just look, 

to do nothing. But that’s something, 

just as our beloved promising that this 

wrecked wicker armchair can be saved and made 

to catch the light again is something: proof 

our love is good enough, our masterpiece 

to see, to feel awe, at anything,

to let our dumb-struck silence make things whole.  

Dinner in Xanadu

How relieved we were when the man from Duluth

said the beluga-tongue soup was good, but not as good

as the dandelion soup he’d had one summer

as a child in Labrador. And when the Finnish twins

said how they missed the way, back home,

the sorrows of strangers would become their sorrows,

we all nodded while the next course was prepared

in front of us: white cobra hatchlings drowned in wine.

Then the Sri Lankan asked the waiters

where the master was, saying that only he

could teach us how to stomach these new joys, 

how to prefer them to familiar griefs. 

But there was no reply: only a sound like weeping 

coming from the master’s room. And so 

we kept on eating: squirrel-tongue mousse,

poached emu eggs, a butterfly confit.

Maybe tomorrow would be better: black swan

stuffed with songbirds, and the bee wine at peak fizz.

And maybe not. Maybe the present always

has to be endured, even in paradise. Maybe

what’s gone is always brighter than what is.

Michael Lavers teaches poetry at Brigham Young University, Utah. He is the author of After Earth, published by the University of Tampa Press. His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, The Hudson Review, Best New Poets 2015, TriQuarterly, and the Georgia Review. He lives with his wife, writer and artist Claire Åkebrand, and their two children, in Provo, Utah. He won the £5,000 Bridport poetry prize with his poem ‘Low Tide’, in November, 2020.

Poetry | ‘Aubade’ & ‘Flying over Bonaire’ by Ricardo Pau-Llosa | Issue 37 (Jan, 2021)


The mid-morning light feeds my words,
a vice I got from painters great and poor
who labor in a rabbled mess, whose works
crowd my walls. They taught my eye to pour
details from the common rummage of bungled names
which sprang from a maker’s moment and now dissolve
in daily fray. This light forbids the vain
ponderance, raises the crevice from the blunt of gloved
quotidians to stand disrobed in the solar mind.
The pool’s motioned lace, the orchid’s lobe,
the squirrel tail’s refrain that curves to rhyme
its jolts. Morning welcomes the mind’s grope
of all it becomes. This throng of world can hope
to choir when function’s silenced by verdant trope.

Flying over Bonaire

Against the unwound spring of coast
whose bowl curve frills with surf,
I see the earth blushing
in a lace of last-suds clouds.

The vapor crumplings have aligned
into a counter curve, just as lax,
and, like the coast, almost straight now
that the wind has taken the tide’s cue.

These two premonitions of form
scissor heaven with their partnering,
and are like another pair–
the eye and point of view–

which knit the world as they loosen
from each other. The intersections glanced
are but another couple on the mind’s
dance floor, too joyed to glimpse
themselves clumsy and off beat.

Pulitzer nominated Ricardo’s poems have appeared (and/or will soon) in Ambit, American Journal of Poetry, American Poetry Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blackbird, Boston Review, Burnside, The Common, december, Ekphrasis, The Fiddlehead, Hudson Review, Ilanot Review, Island, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Plume, PN Review, Poetry, Prism, Quadrant, Southern Review, Stand, Vayavya, Virginia Quarterly Review, Volt, among many other journals.