Categories
Poetry

Departure

By Viplob Pratik

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A table on the corner of a restaurant.

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Half smoked cigarette is caught in my fingers

You are there; I am,

Face to face.

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I am telling something but mute

You are listening to me, but without any attention.

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The glasses of wine are recently backed in their position

And after we took the first sip,

One glass has a smear of lipstick on it

Another has on its outer part

A mark of wine drop.

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While trying to take another sip

Something weird happens

And the glass slips

Hops in the air

And crashes on the floor.

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Clink!

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What’s broken –- a glass or the heart?

Both are fragile.

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People look at us

And again become busy with them.

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The waiter is cleaning the floor.

Love has broken in our heart too,

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But there is no waiter for us.

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Viplob Pratik was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. He loves to travel, and has learned from other cultures and societies. He draws inspirations from everyday life. His thoughts are compact, and he is deeply sensitive to human values. His poetry collection ‘Nahareko Manchhe’ (translates to ‘The Undefeated Man’) and ‘A person kissed by the moon’ was published in 2005 and 2013 respectively and his debut novel ‘Abijit’ (the unconquered) was published in 2017.

~Bhim Karki 
Frisco, Texas

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Poetry

The Colour of Wind’s Song

By Linda Imbler

The Colour Of Wind’s Song

I must go with the wind’s song.

My feet bearing glad witness

to your many creeds.

Inside a maddening maze,

as day is done,

I follow the words on each page

that tell me how to sculpt my dreams.

Long standing upon stone,

upon hearts, jubilant,

upon the sky that is deep, dark blue,

upon vibrant moonshine

where all is amber and red,

I go to hear the colours

and feel exhilaration.

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How Do I Dream?

I gazed with wonder and delight

as the fall of monsters shook the Earth,

and effervescent spirits

became balanced between nowhere and now.

I forgave the winds,

and the Undines,

those elemental beings of water,

those paper tigers.

I walked through a door

of many colours.

Its soft archway still and grand,

and saw novel birds atop golden branches.

I saw a fly within its webbed cell.

On the ground, lay hatched fragile shells

but, no hatchlings were near.

A silent coil of that forgiven wind

lifted my hair ever so gently.

A clear horn blew from atop a shut temple,

and all the caves began to sing.

Within the heart of their song,

they said to me,

“Carry all the love you have collected,

and spread it on the fields of tomorrow.”

And, I slept within a sparrow’s nest

as the night light died,

and all heavenly visions were seen,

I, me, mine.

.

Within The Din

His soul heard no welcome,

only murmurs.

It seemed he heard sweet singing.

The hope that he was right

stayed his sorrow.

His bedimmed dreams

came as angels.

As death became his friend,

he saw his own grace,

and all of sweet peace

wailed for him.

And within the din, welcome showed its hand.

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Linda Imbler is the author of four poetry collections published at Amazon.  Soma Publishing published two of her poetry books and one poetry-short fiction hybrid.  She began writing in earnest five years ago.  In addition to putting pen and paper to inventive use, Linda is an avid reader. This writer, yoga practitioner, and classical guitar player lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband, Mike the Luthier, several quite intelligent saltwater fish, and an ever-growing family of gorgeous guitars.  She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and several Best of the Net awards. Learn more at lindaspoetryblog.blogspot.com.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Poetry

Birth of an Ally

Smoke and Fire by Alia Kamal

By Tamoha Siddiqui

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Yesterday I heard the sound of colorful feet

to Indonesian beats, in the middle of Michigan:

white, black, brown, all were one

pitter-patter paces in a conference hall.

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You thought I wasn’t looking, but I was.

You were smiling a late November sun

stubborn in joy, fresh in giving;

a horizon broadening in deepening twilight.

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Your grey hairs picked up the song 

The music bent down for a kiss

Immigrant spices dissolved

ladling a new tone on your tongue

As you threw up your pink arms

And danced

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Somewhere, your soul alighted;

Moonlight on a tulip

Wind on the sand dunes

Mellow in a melting of color,

You danced.

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Tamoha Siddiqui is a teacher-researcher and poet from Bangladesh. She’s a Fulbright awardee currently housed at Michigan State University as a graduate student.  In 2018, Tamoha founded a bilingual poetry collective in Dhaka, working as a performer, organizer, and facilitator of local poetry shows and workshops. Furthermore, she debuted as a performance poetry artist in America in 2019 through events hosted by the The Poetry Room, Michigan. Her work has been highlighted in a number of Bangladeshi newspapers and anthologies.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Essay

COVID-19 and The New York Times as an Ideological Gatekeeper

By Gary Olson

“Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets.”

— Karl Marx

I’ve been negligent in failing to acknowledge my gratitude to op-ed writers at the New York Times for their frequent doses of insidious misinformation which demand disassembling and refutation. They didn’t disappoint on May 5, 2020. In the lead op-ed, “Will We Get Used to the Dying?”, Editor-at-Large Charlie Warzal expresses his gut-wrenching feeling that Americans are already beginning to adapt to Covid-19’s deadly consequences. After informing readers that the Federal government has ordered an extra 100,000 body bags and that a reliable computer model projects 3,000 deaths per day in early June, Warzal suggests that most Americans are likely to “simply carry on with their lives” and finds parallels with the indifference now shown toward mass shootings across the country.

Warzal goes on to offer a detailed and accurate laundry list of Trump’s sins of commission and omission on Covid-19. He blames American citizens for their childlike notions of personal freedom “where any suggestion of collective duty and responsibility for others becomes the chains of tyranny…where the idea of freedom is also an excuse to serve one’s self before others and as a shield to hide from responsibilities.” He concludes — rightly I think — that “this kind of freedom has a price that will be calculated and then set by a select few. The rest of us merely pay it.” Setting aside the fact that Mr. Warzal opines from his laptop in Missoula, Montana and in all likelihood will not be one of those “paying the ultimate price”, what else can we learn from this article?

What we see here is an honest explication of horrific symptoms but a troubling, almost “blame the victim” explanation in lieu of addressing the actual cause of the problem. First, the narrow notions of “freedom” that Warzal skewers didn’t arise out of thin air but have been carefully cultivated. This rapacious system logic overtook the nation in the post-Reconstruction era of the Gilded Age and has remarinated the world of business and finance since the time of Thatcher and Reagan. Today the muting of empathic impulses is almost complete as the “common interest” is subjugated to the cultural construction of selves based entirely on market values. Even morals have been deregulated.

The “freedom” Warzal cites but fails to connect to the larger system is only the freedom to pursue economic self-interest as a hyper-competitive, perpetual consumer. As Noam Chomsky has asserted, “[T]he very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about one each other, that we have a responsibility to one another, that’s sort of frightening to those people who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient.” Or, as the famed primate scientist Frans de Waal succinctly puts it, “You need to indoctrinate empathy out of people to arrive at extreme capitalist positions.” The United States is not unique in this regard but the extreme difference in degree almost makes it a difference in kind.

Second, what we see in Warzal’s piece is the ideological demarcation line which can never be crossed by journalists who aspire to reaching the profession’s elite echelons. In this case, he leaves the impression that Trump and a “select few” others made the decisions about opening up the country but in fact it’s an entire class of people. who, paradoxically, also don’t have a choice of sending a certain percentage of workers to needless death. Wall Street and the politicians who serve it are compelled to take this action under the ineluctable logic of ceaseless capitalist growth and profit-making — or watch their system totally collapse. This is the dirty truth that can never rise to the level conscious thought much less ever be uttered.

Third, in perusing the online Comments section (1,085 and now closed) we find an entirely predictable response that’s confined to debating gun control and trashing Trump. The latter attribute our problems to Trump’s ego and personal ambition. A tiny fraction condemns Americans for the selfishness but if there’s a single comment that raised any deeper questions, I missed it.

Now, lest I be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting the Times’ editorial board gathers around a virtual table like a coven of diabolical conspirators and conjures up creative narratives to deceive the paper’s readers. Quite the contrary is the case. They are enablers for a class of individuals who behave according to system which has an inherent dynamic: expand or perish. As such, these cultural coordinators for the powerful, take on beliefs that are deeply entrenched and congruent with their perception of journalistic integrity and the responsibilities accompanying it.

Advancing views of elite interests is a prerequisite to attaining and retaining these positions. And there’s an enormously satisfying symmetry between their beliefs and their self interest. Their role of frontline, ideological gate keepers affords them substantial economic rewards, privileged lifestyles and immense status among their peers. And just to be clear, these folks are sharing their genuine convictions. Psychologists tell us that people experience cognitive dissonance from lying repeatedly so they come to believe what they’re writing and saying. They don’t lose sleep over it and it’s safe to describe their behavior as psychopathic.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is EMPATHY IMPERILED: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (New York: Springer Publishing, 2012). Contact: olsong@moravian.edu.

First published in Countercurrents.org

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the author.

Categories
Musings

Notes from Singapore: Ordinary inspirations

By Ranjani Rao

“Walking is a pastime rather than an avocation.” Rebecca Solnit

In the weeks since social distancing measures were imposed and circuit breaker measures implemented in Singapore, despite having more time on my hands, my writing output has decreased. Have I been afflicted by the dreaded writer’s block?

By working from home, I save almost two hours of commute time every day. Instead of writing more, I find myself in a slump. Is my well of inspiration drying up?

Topics to write (mostly Covid-19 related) still buzz around in my head but I am surprised to discover just how much I depended on the world outside my home to stimulate not just my senses, but also to rouse my muse.

Unexpected encounters on the train, surprising conversations with colleagues at work, casual lunches with friends, all served as triggers for ideas, inspirations, and epiphanies. Without these avenues to spur creativity, I fret about wasting these precious extra hours that have landed into my packed schedule like a much-needed gift.

All that is left of my pre-pandemic life is the ability to step out of my home for a walk, as long as I wear a mask, walk alone, and avoid crowding. Not a bad idea, since walking is my favorite ‘sport’.

Walking has been my savior for as long as I can remember. Walking has rescued me, given me a respite from life, and a reason to continue with it. It has served as an exercise to maintain physical health, a mindful pause to collect myself emotionally, and as a conduit to receive guidance in turbulent times.

The wonder years

As lanky teenage girls, my friend and I walked hand in hand, two pairs of braids swinging around our shoulders, wearing similar if not identical clothes through busy Bombay streets. Some evenings we walked to the temple, on others we did some errands, or stopped for spicy street food when we had money.

Traffic fumes engulfed us as we navigated streets crowded with vendors pushing cartloads of bananas, people queuing up at bus stops, and beggars lining the pavements. We talked as we walked, trying to make sense of growing up, and understand the world of adults while we contemplated our future. We didn’t know then that she would get married young but remain childless, a lingering regret that she is yet to come to terms with. Neither could we have predicted the marital troubles that would plague me for several years before I took action.

Working mother

As a young working woman, I resumed walking in California during my lunch hour. Stuck in a laboratory all day, mothering a baby in the evenings, and catching up on housework on weekends left few options for exercise. I strolled around the one-mile periphery of the triangular campus in the mild sunshine. A gentle breeze blew around my face as I walked in my comfy Easy Spirit pumps, taking in the pleasant greenery of the beautiful site. Walking helped my body lose some of the pregnancy weight and enabled me to make peace with my decision to be a working mother without letting debilitating mommy guilt weigh me down.

It was an era before cell phones became appendages. Getting away from your desk meant truly stepping away from co-workers, computers, and chores. I made a new friend one afternoon, a young woman who had arrived from China. She seemed excited but bewildered by the world around her. Her lack of fluency in English was no barrier to our connection. We spoke about important things, matters that were hard to articulate to others but easier to say aloud to a relative stranger albeit one you met regularly.

An unexpected life trajectory

The terrace of the duplex house in Hyderabad that I moved into when my child was eight served as my walking track for several years. The large L-shaped structure overlooked a frangipani tree in the front yard. Although too big for just the two of us, the spacious house with a private gate shielded me from inquisitive neighbors and well-intentioned strangers curious about my life.

The moon would hang low on some nights, yellow and heavy with promises of better days. On dark moonless nights that reflected my somber mood, I wondered about the string of circumstances that had now made me a single parent. Managing a full-time job and holding complete responsibility for a growing child were clearly not compatible. Nightly walks along the edges of the small terrace gave me clarity and confidence that I could leave my job and still maintain financial independence. It would mean reconfiguring the career path I had planned, but in the long run, it would enable me to create a more balanced work life.

Lockdown blues

These days, instead of a nightly walk after dinner, I sometimes take another one after lunch, especially if the sky is overcast, or if it has just rained. The gently sloping street is lined with condos, many among them bearing some variation of the word ‘hill’ in its name. Not surprising, since I have a clear view of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from my balcony. 

Each condo has a personality that is not as evident at night. Used to the seasonal lights that adorn the entryways, each condo trying to outdo the other for every major festival, I now observe subtle differences that I had not previously noticed.

One has an impressive two-level waterfall at the entrance that pours into a pool where koi fish and small turtles swim. A newly-constructed condo has terraced spaces in its outer walls where flowering plants bloom. From the opposite side of the road, they look like tulips, reminding me of a missed opportunity for a trip to Keukenhof, Netherlands for the spring tulip season.

The cemented court, a short distance from the community center that served as a gathering point for the gardening club as well as the tai chi class, is taped off. A lone collared kingfisher sits atop a light pole. Mynas chirp loudly and assemble on a small flowering tree and gobble all the seeds that are yet to flower before rushing off to their next halt.

Joys of walking

As we navigate these unprecedented days of the pandemic, I am grateful that I have the freedom to walk. Much more than mere exercise, walking is my moving meditation. Now walking is my catalyst for creativity. 

Through walking, I have once again learnt to zoom in on the things closest to me, the ones with the most significance. I am hyper-aware that time, like breath, simply slips away if we don’t give it our attention.

Even though the days seem interminable, sooner or later, life will return to normal. Before that happens, I want to make sure I observe and imprint the beauty of these ordinary days, and savor the pleasure found in simple activities like walking,

In the words of John Burroughs –

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

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Ranjani Rao, a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, and former resident of USA, now lives in Singapore with her family. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She is presently working on a memoir.  Check out her writing at her website www.ranjanirao.com and receive a free ebook. Connect with her at Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

Categories
Poetry

The Birds in These Strange Times and more…

By Matthew James Friday

The Birds in These Strange Times
A pair of kites have come for the lake
now the airport is closed, buoyed by empty 
skies, rustling wooded hills, lacey waters.

My wife shows me trees on the lake’s
whispering edge where cormorants gather,
roosting in the trees like paused pterodactyls. 

An adult swallow giddy with its suddenes,
rolling in the early April air, the very first
migrant recoiled by a changed climate.









Back to Blue
Imprisoned in caution,
the cases rising, fear abundant,
school closed, classes cancelled.
All online now. I watch
a documentary about Miles Davis.

I have always struggled with Jazz,
berated the lack of melody,
felt lost amongst the jostling notes.
But following his story, the craft
from the chaos, the passion in tone

I choose to try again. Back to Blue
starts, and notes sound as alarming
as the online coverage but the jingling 
chords, the blasts of trumpet suddenly 
sounds peace while the world tears. 



Balance

From the balcony I watch a cat
watching a squirrel leaping
from one tree to another, change
its mind, return and scuttle
up and down branches, a slither
of fast fur perfectly balanced,
death either side of sure claws.
The squatting cat tilts its head
as the squirrel becomes branch,
then pads off to draw its own line.

In Rooms, Therefore We Are

The rooms we build define us, shape us, create and consume us.

To function as a modern human is to be in a room: offices, classrooms, waiting rooms, shops, bedrooms, gardens, cafés, libraries, trains, airplanes, theatres, cinemas and stadiums.

Alone or confessing, on holiday, marrying, working or transgressing. Watching or waiting, dancing, defecating or contemplating.

Our own heads are a skeletal room we stare out of; thoughts, ideas and words bouncing around the bony walls. Billions pray to be safely ushered into the everlasting room beyond these rooms, to be reunited with those who were once in our rooms.

The number of rooms make all the difference between a slum resident and a billionaire, freedom and imprisonment; rooms that can be built from waste material or secreted into yachts; rooms that only the most valiant warriors can ascend to while others descend to the deepest unreachable rooms.

To feel free, we leap over the walls to the open, roomless countryside, though we return to rooms at night or make them using tents. We stare deeply and longingly into the blinking night sky, wondering if there are rooms on other planets like our planet, which is one giant, spinning room, moving through an ever-expanding room.

Even the atom itself is a kind of theoretical room, built mainly of nothing, of potentially something through which hums the moments of energy that we use to build up all the matter around us.

         Perhaps we love rooms because that is where we began, in our mother’s warm interior room; safe from everything outside and other. Perhaps it is the safety of this dark, nourishing room that is the shadow between every room thereafter.

As children we build pretend rooms, hide in them from the monsters that sneak into our rooms, that lurk in their own dark spaces in the corners.

As adults we spend days rushing in and out rooms. Now, confined to our rooms in fear of that which knows no walls, we are more thankful than ever for the walls. We stare at each other from balconies and buildings, all afraid in our rooms and wondering when the doors will open again.


Matthew James Friday has had poems published in numerous international magazines and journals, including, recently: All the Sins (UK), The Blue Nib (Ireland), Acta Victoriana (Canada), and Into the Void (Canada). The mini-chapbooks All the Ways to Love, Waters of Oregon and The Words Unsaid were published by the Origami Poems Project (USA).
Website:      http://matthewfriday.weebly.com

Categories
Poetry

Elmhurst, O Elmhurst

By Melissa A. Chappell

(Elmhurst, the only public hospital in New York City was founded to serve the poor in 1832. It serves Western Queens County.)


Elmhurst, O Elmhurst,
I did not know you in your mothering shift
of glass and mortar.
 
I ticked off your name in my mind
as you caught my ear on the morning radio:
“Elmhurst.”
 
This, as I authored my own survival.
 
Perhaps I may be one of the remnant.
 
Perhaps this wasting bane
may steal away on some wing
of the breeze.
 
But, no, Corona prefers to steal the air
from the ravaged world;
 
so that one day I saw on my 52 in. screen,
Elmhurst,
with an almost snake like refrigerated truck,
parked outside its venerable walls,
the vile work of Corona
unmasked,
by the shining light of day;
 
so that, the wretched of God gathered at the hem
of her weeping garments.
 
The poor and the dead,
thronging around her.
 
She has mothered them for generations,
now they lie dead in the emergency room,
with none to kiss their brow.
 
She weeps over those who have waited so long
to shelter within her.
 
Yet she rejoices in those who leave her,
walking from her doors.
 
Elmhurst, O Elmhurst, I did not know you
in your mothering shift
of glass and mortar.
 
Yet now, now, I catch the genesis
of the most improbable invitation
on a wind that comes
out of the surly darkness:
“Breathe, breathe.
I will keep your going out
and your coming in.”
 
This, for the poor who gather around
the shabby fringes of the earth.
 
This, for you, O Elmhurst,
form this time on,
and forevermore.

Melissa A. Chappell is a native of South Carolina, USA. She contentedly resides on land that has been in her family for over 130 years. She has a BA in the Theory of Music and a Master of Divinity degree. Besides writing, she plays several instruments, including the lute. Music and the land are her primary inspirations for her poetry. She has had two chapbooks published: Rivers and Relics (Desert Willow Press)

Categories
Review

The Forever Abode

Book Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

Title: The Forever Abode
Author: Dustin Pickering
Publisher: Transcendent Zero Press

I’d not read a lot of Dustin Pickering before reading a draft copy of The Forever Abode. Pickering had mentioned this was a collection of poetry about a long-term relationship and thus, I found the idea intriguing. Poetry and love going so well together.

The first thing you notice reading Pickering is, he’s not a modern poet. His writing style and the emotional emphasis behind it, is very much inspired by, and in the genre of poetry from the 17th and 18th century poets.

For many this may be a little too classical, but I found it refreshing and ironically, original, because of its homage to the poetic form of old. What better genre in which to accomplish this than poetry about love or love in poetry?

Pickering is a huge romantic, that’s clear from the first few lines. Another thing in his favour. When men are romantic, I think they excel at it. It becomes their life blood and bleeds into their words effortlessly. Who better to be romantic about than a woman? She is the object of desire, whether we with our modern principles accept this or not.

The style is distinct. Pickering doesn’t title all his poetry. He has three sections. In 1. Baby, the first poem speaks of:

“because I honor you because love isn’t cheap— / my heart sequestered by phantom desires / and touch what soul?”

I love the use of his question(ing) in the lines, this reminds me of William Blake so much and is very poignant, working so well with the idea of asking (the desired one) whilst at the same time beseeching them.

“when darkness preens our bodies / flight like a whistle birds of stone we cannot eat / I lay quietly in your light.”

If you say this poem out loud, you can hear the skill with which it was wrought. There is a baseline melody and then an upper cadence, rhythmic throughout and the ‘voice’ is extremely predominant, almost begging you to usher it into existence. This accomplishes a sense of: the poet himself, the object of his desire, his emotions. In many ways this is a classical recipe when writing love poems and you either love them or hate them. I fall into the former category.

Beautiful wordplay also dominates almost effortlessly. One such example: the use of “phantom desires” saying so much in two words. And the ending – “I lay quietly in your light” such a brief ending, so perfectly crafted with the flow of words, and overall feeling of gentle love and adoration. The tenderness he is able to evoke using his mastery of language is evident from the first line.

Although it’s harder to navigate the book due to not having titles, I quite like the idea of titleless poems and a reliance instead on the meaning, the emotion, the swell so to speak. In the second poem of 1. Baby, the lines: “by design I am fatal/ horse of sleep / carrying you toward me / where dreams eviscerate the mind” stood out as being stocked with metaphor and glorious imagery. Sometimes when you write obliquely in some ways and at the same time, say so much through your use of image, you set a stage far more vividly than by deliberate illustration. Suffice to say, such lines appear classic in their magnificent deliberation, how Pickering is able to shift our reading by the choice of which line they appear on, is surely the poet at his finest.

Poem 3 in the same series states: “you inhabit this tender world/ with a majesty no one recognizes/ but me.” By using “tender” before world Pickering deliberately and artfully softens the tone. Again using “majesty” he reveres his subject without needing to say more, and so, in three lines, so much is given, and little is lost. Another poetic device few possess, for we are often tempted to spell out what can be self-evident if we know our craft well enough.

As I read on, I find lines like: “the efficacy of dawn / like hammers clutched to the skin—” . These are equal to lines you would recall from taking a poetry course, that’s how tight and well-woven they are, and remain long after reading. Few authors have the ability to bring two lines alive with such dexterity and it is to Pickering’s credit that he is able to do this throughout this collection again and again.

Then suddenly there is a titled poem – “We Are Descending Together (After Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2)” and from this, I learn, how Pickering is able to be the poet I find. He takes a snapshot of something beautiful and speaks on it. As he does here, as he does throughout, and it works with such a crescendo of evocative naturalness, you feel he’s the creator and the subject:

“I admit to my failure at lovemaking. / I don’t make love; I destroy it.”

These lines are shattering. Their purity is staggering and I am reverent in my appreciation of Pickering’s high feeling like I have never been before.
I become aware that maybe I have mis-stepped, that this format is actually more deliberate than I even realised. I think of Duchamp’s staircase and then see the way these poems are arranged, with title or section title it matters not, these are meant to be read as one would fall down or climb up a staircase. You can hear it in the arrangement, as if Pickering were a composer writing music. That is exactly how this collection reads and I have never read a book of poetry that did this, not even Rossetti’s Goblin Market.
Within this, lines stand out like stars: “in empty fear there is an impulse to love—”. A mature and eerie understanding of human beings, emotions, desire, compulsion: “bolt the doors, rinse your wings: / every fear is justified. / nightingale slit throat, stolen honey.” It is a veritable glut of homage to every poet from Keats, the Brontë’s, through to Sappho, but done so naturally that it is in no way pretentious or seeking acclaim on the back of another. No, this is informed writing at its best.

Whether you are fan of poetry en masse or classical poetry, you will sink into lines like: “how do worms canker the flower? / envy’s sweet bud purses its lips in song.” I expect at times you may find this removed from the modern world and that will be a delight, because poetry isn’t of this world and a real poet will not conjure our world but a mirror of it, and reflect it back. Pickering has accomplished this through his breadth of knowledge about the world of literature and his own heart, that lives among those airy lines.

In the second section, ‘II Adult.’, Pickering shows his virtuoso as a philosopher of poetry with lines like; “What is known is not what we are certain of” and “heaven is anonymous and there are raging flags / above us”. And “nothing is senseless. Only the lack of sense.” (‘Intuition and Destiny’). Lines like those make me envy the quiet mind Pickering possesses, how he intuitively gleans beneath surfaces and remains in his imagination in ways that bring redolent colour and depth to his language.

The irony of when Pickering states: “you will be born forever into my tired stanzas.” Is that nothing could be further from the truth. These stanzas are anything but tired, they are fresh with intensity and passion and for those who love poetry, they are a welcome boon from the lackluster world beyond. If you find yourself envying his muse, then you know his work as a true romantic poet is accomplished.

Section Three is called ‘Walking Stick’ and symbolically I felt this line spoke of its meaning: “if I was perfect your stars would engage me.” This is the last part of the journey, where love slips through his hands, as beautifully as tragedy can be:

“if a monster I am, let me galvanize the pretty flux of death. / rapid sleep, dream in agency, I will not forgive.”

As an ardent fan of tragic love as well, I found Pickering’s handling of this delicate grief remarkable. It is far, far too easy as a writer to slip into maudlin self-pity and to retain that flourish of poetry whilst writing such despair is extremely challenging. Pickering succeeds in making tragedy beautiful and this is when you know, yes, he’s got that bittersweet magic in his soul:

“if prayer and fortune are no better than chance, / sublime randomness rules the punch— / we dig in, we live, the banquet of folly.”

It sounds pretentious of me to say this, but I have to because it’s what I thought reading The Forever Abode. Dustin Pickering’s writing reminds me of Shakespeare in his dexterous handling of tragedy especially and John Keats or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his wild submergence into love. With lines like:

“I will not forget my love, for she is silver / to gestalt eyes.”

What else can come to mind but those greats, who know how to pick silver from the darkness and make it see? Equally, as a writer of poetry I have learned so much about the importance of line breaks, something so seemingly obvious and yet, Pickering could give seminars on it in his sleep.

Two final points necessary to make mention of. Firstly, that Pickering may use old-world language in such a way we have seen and grown bored of before, but he does it with intelligence. He doesn’t just borrow the words; he inhabits and understands them. Many times, I read words like ‘o-er’ and know the author doesn’t really understand more than the obvious meaning behind them, and not how to employ the rhythm and romance of those old words into song. Pickering is dexterous in his awareness of these words, both then and now, and as such they are not just symbols, he is bringing the past into the future.

Lastly, Pickering has wrought a beautiful creation with The Forever Abode. He has reminded me why I was drawn to poetry way back when I first read it. He has tapped me on the shoulder and let me know it’s okay to be a hopeless romantic. He has let it be okay to love language and wordplay without needing a modern twist. For this I owe him a debt of gratitude. Reading The Forever Abode has been an awakening into my own love affair with poetry and how no matter what, it endures within us, without us and throughout us, in its ability to make us feel … everything.

“Gold chalices are floating in an array of fleecy torpor: / wind puts the candle to its test. Failure is only a game./ It doesn’t matter how or when— / love will sink into you like a raw fruit / seeded by memory. / The thought of you reconciles me to death.”

Candice Louisa Daquin is a Sephardi immigrant from France who lives in the American Southwest. Formerly in publishing, Daquin is now a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www thefeatheredsleep.com