Robert Boucheron

 

 

 

Potluck

What do you bring to the table?

A bunch of sweet-smelling herbs
in a clenched fist,
a salad of green leaves plucked today
and drenched in tears,

a loaf of bread studded with seeds
as hard as pearls,
a serrated knife with teeth
that cut to the bone,

a cake stuck with candles ablaze
like a forest fire,
a bottle of pink champagne
and a corkscrew,

a page torn from a notebook where a child
has drawn a monster,
a bag filled with all the materials needed
to make a bomb,

a map to buried treasure
drawn in blood,
a song composed of shards
from a broken heart,

a promise to do better
next time,
a list of reasons why
you cannot stay.

 

 

 

Robert Boucheron grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, NY. He has worked as an architect in New York City and Charlottesville, VA. His short stories and essays appear in Bangalore Review, Fiction International, Litro, London Journal of Fiction, New Haven Review, Poydras Review, Short Fiction, and other magazines.

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Kevin Saving reviews ‘Shadows Waltz Haltingly’ by Alan Morrison

It should, in the interests of full disclosure, be recorded that this reviewer has been trumpeting the merits of Alan Morrison’s erudite and tendentious verse for over a decade now. Online, in conversation and -once previously, in a book review- Morrison’s flare for words, his passionate espousal of un -or pre- fashionable causes and his intellectual omnivorous-ness have been signposted to anyone who might listen. This, his seventh collection of poems, expands his range still further and treats compellingly of his family’s excoriation by Huntington’s disease -a genetic disorder which rampages through generations, leaving both its immediate victims and their closest intimates harrowed in the cruelest of fashions.

Shadows Waltz Haltingly‘s title-poem takes as its subject the unsteady a-rhythmic gait characteristic of Huntington’s Chorea (which, among its other sobriquets, has been called ‘Saint Vitus’s Dance’).

…the trick with this imbalanced
Balletic feat, this preternatural paso doble,
Tripping quickstep, stuttering foxtrot, rubber-limbed rumba,
Juddering jitterbug, jittery jig, apart from the glide upon
Flat feet, glissades of fallen arches, is in anticipating
Its unpredictability, so that it seems an effortless,
Almost automatic, puppet-like extemporisation
Of motor and cognitive faculties, no strings visible…

The extract quoted above demonstrates typically Morrisonian methods, utilising as it does an ‘impasto’ effect (adapted from the painting technique) by adding layer upon layer of colouration whilst simultaneously incorporating a species of quasi-Joycean word-play (‘Balletic feat… glide upon flat feet’) and Anglo-Saxon alliterative patterning. These syntactically-dense accretions -with their near Word-Association nexuses- can be terribly hard to consistently ‘pull off’, and it says much for their author’s fine-tuned poetic ear that he succeeds far more often than not.

A sizable proportion of this collection stares unflinchingly into this same Huntingtonian neurological abyss (as witnessed in Morrison’s maternal and maternal-grandfather’s case-histories) but nowhere to more effect than in his ‘extended villanelle’, ‘The Rage’. Those of us who have ever attempted that most recalcitrant of poetic forms, the villanelle, know just hard difficult it can be (in T.S.Eliot’s words) to ‘land the kite safely’. Here, with great dexterity and no small craft, the poet assembles sixteen of the constituent word-cages (the usual received number of stanzas is six) with their multiple refrains and limited, binary rhyme-scheme, and still brings them back to earth adroitly.

How does a gentle soul go out in rage?
Most enter in a tantrum, part in tears,
But some -again- rave as they disengage.
{…}
Autopsies thumb the brain’s each cabbaged page,
Leaf flimsy onion skins obscure as smears;
Neurons scoured this gourd, and caused the rage
{…}
No whispered reassurances assuage;
What she grasps abruptly disappears
To shadow’s dislocated mucilage.
{…}
The hunted gene knows few test-volunteers:
Why trace the cureless thunder at this stage;

Pre-empt the protein-pogrom to rampage
Before it has to? Will my punished ears
Prepare me more for when I disengage?
Will augurs fail? Will I go out in rage?

Here is an extraordinary writer at work, perusing the clinical literature, reading-up on his neuro-pathologies, researching his familial prognoses and fashioning what he has learnt into a formally-adept and moving work of art which leaves most ‘un-extended villas’ looking pretty drab and cramped by comparison. This reviewer -a retired nurse who has himself worked with Huntington’s patients- knows of only one other poem in the canon possessing similar stature. In his courageous refusal to surrender to the temptations of despair and his clear-eyed, informed compassion, Morrison has penned his very own ‘Invictus’.

Elsewhere in Shadows Waltz Haltingly we encounter a number of Acrostics concerned with troubled poets such as Thomas Chatterton, Isaac Rosenberg and Ivor Gurney. Several of Morrison’s previous publications have show-cased this form (wherein the first letter of each succeeding line gradually elicits its subject’s name) and he has grown steadily more confident in his range of effects. What is doubly pleasing is the way in which he is now frequently able to assume the featured writer’s idiosyncratic style -as exemplified here by ‘Marigolds to Distraction’ (i.m. Emily Dickinson).

Eyes like the sherry in the Glass the Guest leaves-
My mind is too near itself -cannot see unclouded-
Indian Knots Stich my Heart- Hair like Chestnut Bur-
Leaves me to see into myself -transparently-
Youth Clouding my Mousy Brow -Yellow Buttery.

Miss Emily Dickinson’s daguerreotype holds itself -fleshed out with trademark dashes- up to the cool mirror of introspection.

It would be easy enough to continue to name-check the frequent bright particulars of this stand-out publication (like, for instance, the charming, short formal-piece, ‘Nightbird’) though, unfortunately, too many prized-up poetasters have already left the miniscule poetry-reading public un-bewitched, unbothered (yet) increasingly bewildered. Alan Morrison will, I very much hope, continue to ignite his refulgent verbal fireworks -though it would be particularly sad if they were to merely fizz out into a sparsely-tenanted ocean. Work of this stature -and especially in these challenging times- demands the attention it would so amply reward.

 

 

Order your copy of  Shadows Waltz Haltingly (lapwing Press) by Alan Morrison, here: lapwingpublications.com/

 

 

 

Kevin Saving is Home-counties based versifier and reviewer in his mid-fifties. His work has been published in ‘Poetry Review’, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mail, and (quoted) in The Morning Star. He most frequently writes for ‘The Recusant’ (ezine).

 

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Kitty Coles

 

 

 

Soul-Bird

When I see you walk, stiff-legged, over
the shingle, I wonder whose child you are,
which widow waits for you, cursing the water.

You spar and snatch for lukewarm chips,
your bright bill jabbing vehemently, red-tipped,
as if you’d dipped it in a bloody sauce.

Your breast is white and, catching light, it’s lustrous,
as ghosts are said to be under the moon.
You lift yourself on air and sit on waves,

undrownable, unsettled as a witch.
They say your feathers know when storms are coming,
bringing new fellows to increase your number.

You’re restless so won’t let the others sleep.
All night, your cries resound across the harbour,
with inarticulate, relentless anger.

 

 

 

 Kitty Coles lives in Surrey.  She is one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet is Seal Wife.  Website: www.kittyrcoles.com

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Gill McEvoy

 

 

 

The Pine Tree

The inside of its bark is red,
its heartwood is red;
when a branch is cut
the wound is red
and it weeps, not blood,
but thick white tears.

 

 

 

Gill McEvoy, winner of the 2015 Michael Marks Award for The First Telling (Happenstance Press)

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Phil Wood

 

 

 

Family Man

Hullabaloo unframes this night,
the hide and seek of vixen and dog fox:
the bark of both, a crack through slate.

The miner’s hut is curtain free, open
to whim. A bottle grins its emptiness;
the vagrant curls into childhood.

His ghosts are busy carving letters
into floorboards. Do you love us? they ask.
He plays a game of peek-a-boo.

 

 

 

Phil Wood works in a statistics office. He enjoys working with numbers and words.

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Emily Willis

 

 

 

Happi–ness—

I can map all the rivers in my head. I know their history.
How many bodies they’ve carried. The cities they cut through.
I know the dates this one flooded
the abutments of the Pont Alexandre
and reached for the wrists of nymphs.
When it distends like this it is
searching for salt. For sweat, or
it wants
I am buoyant again stepping into this
glass lift – what if aeroplanes were made of glass?
That was the last thought before this anaemic body le–
ft the brain behind on level one
where I’d seen roses
hung across the river, rock
–ing. At the top, was just a giddy la–
ck that lurched out onto metal steps and
a medial pulse between the railings
When I came down from the Tower
a man with a gun pointed at a petal floating
and I thought of the way that water fills
itself—the florist held out a glass and I dr—
ank this what—we—take
—in that passes through us

 

 

 

Emily Willis read English at The University of York and is studying an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. She has been published by Café Writers, winning the Norfolk Prize in the 2016 Competition. She is co-founder of The Narrator. Blog: emilywillisblog.wordpress.com

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