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Sample poems from Poems for a Liminal Age edited by Mandy Pannett

 

John McCullough

 

SLEEPING  HERMAPHRODITE

 

Asleep?  I’m watching you through my lids.

This isn’t easy, tracking your nebulous shape

while you assess my neck’s turn, slide

down to smooth cleavage, tummy, waist

 

then encounter what’s stashed below my thigh.

Here I am, unveiled as arguable,

a mishmash of harbour and ship – the stay

in thought when all ideas are possible.

 

I’m everything yet deeply ill-equipped

for solitude.  What I need to know

is whether you ache to prise free

 

the ankle I’ve left loosely wrapped

in a sheet.  Singlespeak is boring.  Let’s talk toes

and honey.  Come on, nosey boy.  Surprise me.     

Jim Bennett

 

THE FLAT EARTH

 

today I could see why people thought

the world was flat   it looks flat   feels flat

as far as I can see it’s flat   but it isn’t

I can see its shadow across a daytime moon 

the gentle curve of land through Arctic   

Africa   Antarctica   folding into night

 

sometimes there is a line  between

knowing  and  believing something

a train station gap  that can trip you

when you least expect it   even when evidence

is clear     you don’t want to see it

even things she said  are hard to believe

 

until I remind myself about what I know

and that the world is round and the sound

on the beach   is the moon  and dying ice  

and land folds into mountains 

how it came to be   how it moves   

how the movement of time changes everything

 

  

Siham Karami

 

LETTER TO ASMA AL-ASSAD

 

As you were shopping for designer clothes,

My child was tortured by your husband's thugs,

The price to keep his job to buy you shoes.

 

Because we stood and chanted, "We refuse

This tyranny!" the bodies piled like jugs

While you were shopping for designer clothes.

 

He fights with tanks that no one can oppose.

From neighbors' rooftops snipers sink their slugs.

That's the price he pays to buy you shoes

 

That walk in the machinery of a ruse

To hide the human rubble as he shrugs,

So you can keep on shopping for the clothes

 

That lighten up his heart before he mows

Down men like grass, lets hospitals pull plugs --

The price to keep his job to buy you shoes

 

Whose path is getting rougher as it goes

Down darker where you can't tell men from bugs

And guts are dropping on designer clothes

And God knows where you're stepping with those shoes.

 

 

Wendy Klein

 

THE WORD FOR LOST IN SWAHILI

 

Find your phone found you this morning on a road

not far from the Burundi National Park,

 

so minute on my screen, I zoomed and zoomed

to see it before it moved off again in the direction

                     

of Kyabamba, where there are volcanoes (live?)

and not far off, Lake Edward, its name printed out

 

in both English and French, but the nearby

Ugali River Game Reserve will offer its own

 

temptations – lions, elephants, rhinos, long-lashed

giraffes – do not be seduced, so many beasts,

 

dangerous, endangered. But I see you’re moving

again: Musama, Kigoma, Tabora, where the search

 

widens, hones in on Rwanda, Burundi, a recital

of massacres, and across the map, Beni, Butembo .

 

Where are you going my heart? Ivy is rampaging

everywhere; it’s choking the wild cherries

 

and blossoms are falling from your plum tree,

though your apple is still in flower.

 

If you’re lost will your phone find you? Do you

know the word for lost in Swahili?

 

My bed is unruffled; I am sleeping

too well without you.

 

 

Aprilia Zank

 

MAN-MADE

 

she walks into the garden

stumbles across wall wreckage

searches

for the remains of some flowers

to hang above

the family photograph

 

so many missing now

 

not much left among the ashes

a few beheaded stalks

petals and stamina

scattered all over the place

 

she stoops down

digs with bare hands

under the ruins

for seeds

to plant in the spring

 

in the distance

growl and flashes

of man-made thunder

approach

relentlessly

 

 

Michaela Ridgway

 

UP

 

past jammed-together houses

doors all shut, faces lit

 

by TV screens, past a boy

racing down the street

 

— a woman’s voice

falling faster still behind him

 

the trick is to keep a steady pace

past lampposts

 

a clutch of honeysuckle buds

the pub with no name

 

a rope-swing

slung from the dying elm

 

and past mum, with daisies in her hair

and dad, cross-legged on a mountain-top

 

past the scent of mangoes as they ripen

in the dark, and up

 

past the time when my heart almost stopped.

Don’t dilly-dally. Lengthen your stride

 

note the flock of geese as they rise

from the lake and fly up

 

past a choir of trees with branches raised

their leaves falling, upwards

 

and up, to the line that marks the top of the hill

the sudden sheer sky 

 

 

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