Sunflower Seeds – a new vignette/prose poem by Juliet England

Sunflower Seeds

Everyone in Lorca knows Jose Joaquim. He stands in the bar, happy among his laughing posse. This place, this ancient Spanish town of golden stone, where he was born and where he will die, is his world. He knows and wants no other. He has taught half the people here, the other half know him anyway.

He wears the clothes of a man ten years older: a battered brown suede jacket sagging over bony shoulders and a thin blue V-necked sweater, with the shabby grey flannel trousers he wore for that morning’s lessons.  

His fingers curl around his drink. The floor is sticky with its carpet of tissues, toothpicks and the shells of hundreds of tossed away sunflower seeds and cigarette ends. The detritus of a hard evening of what the locals call marcha. How to translate? It's the craic, the fun, but it is more than that. No English word comes close.

It is 3am, and in a couple of hours tonight will be thrown away like a sunflower seed shell. For June evenings like this one are as plentiful as sunflower seeds in Lorca.

Outside, it is dark, a thick, Spanish night, its intense claustrophobia mirroring life in Lorca, where your evening’s sneeze is discussed at length next morning by old men wheezing over their first coffees of the day.

Jose Joaquin’s once luxuriant dark hair has begun its backward march from his forehead. One hand wipes it briefly, mid-gesture.

His eyes, dark as coffee, blaze with animation, the eyebrows above working his forehead. He throws back his head at a joke.

That summer’s hits, to be forgotten by the fist tremble of autumn, rage from the jukebox. In one corner, a couple has started to dance. The air groans with its raft of mingling scents –perspiring bodies and an alcoholic sweetness jostle with aromas from the bakery across the road and its hot bread slippery with pulped tomatoes.

Some drinkers have spilled onto the street, where the glow of streetlights is more forgiving than the harshly striplit Bar Alambique.

Suddenly I realise that all this is over. These friends, this bar, the endless milky coffees, the flat, the students I have tried to teach.

This is the fag-end of my year in small-town Spain, just as these final two hours before dawn are the fag-end of the long night. For the others, there will be other evenings, but not for me. I am unwilling to let it slip away, savouring every sight and sound, every scent.

I think of Jose Joaquin, who met me when I arrived, bewildered and sitting on my suitcase at the station, adrift on the sun-swept morning. His memory will not be thrown away so easily. I will remember him in England, in a city that will seem empty and strange.

I go up to him and kiss him on both cheeks. He touches my shoulder lightly, and we say goodbye. We both know we will not see each other again.

• Juliet England was bitten by a monkey belonging to the writer Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka when she was a child but has since recovered from the experience.

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New haibun by Charles Hansmann

Seduction of the Poem
I am talking you away from the lover who promised to be faithful – that isn't a typo, and that lover's still me.  Get into the car.  That's all that it takes.  You're being talked to the place where nothing you choose determines what happens.  For haven't you wanted to ride in the rain with the top down ever since watching the wind blow the spume off those waves at the cliff house?  I tell you we are going to go fast.  That way the windshield's an upright umbrella and your thin cotton shirt will not start to reveal you.  I don't have to know.  It's your adventure, not mine, and right now you don't care what is under your clothes.  Right now you are watching the streak of these wipers for that dry explication that lies between lines.  And this corner we are turning – this corner that's maybe no more than a bend – puts behind you any notion that anyone who knows you still has you under tabs.  For now you are my sweatheart.  In this grip our world's glove turns the wheel that will steer us.  In this fist our palms lie palm to palm.
last sign
the turnoff

• Charles Hansmann's work has appeared previously in Ink Sweat & Tears – he says about IS&T “Your interest in that undefined area where prose and poetry merge plays out also in the categories of prose poem and haibun. I like work that can go either way.”

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Two new haiga by Shanna

Shanna Baldwin Moore is a teacher, poet and musician based on the Kona Coast of Hawaii, she describes her interests as wine making, painting and singing. She adds “I'm an old beat poet and have just found this form (haiga) in the last two years and am having fun.”

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Letting go by A.D. Winans

This is one of those poems that makes me go “Damn, I wish I could write like that” by our favourite Beat Generation survivor A.D. Winans…


You were Harpo Marx without a harp
You were Sally Rand without your burlesque fan
You were a slow funeral train
Making its way down the track
Looking for the last hunchback

You were Clint Eastwood out to make your day
With a loaded gun aimed at my groin
But baby I no longer can do the dance
Not even to get into your pants
I don't want a ride on your rowboat
To the Bermuda triangle
Or to sit in the back set of your leaky canoe
Listening to you play love songs on your kazoo
And why do you insist on checking out of the motel
When we haven't yet checked in
You have the desk clerk confused
And I'm beginning to lose interest in the muse

Not since I ran the 440 in high school
Have I been this out of breath
The range master has issued me a summons
To report to the firing range
He wants to remove the bulls-eye from my heart
You'll have to find someone else for target practice

• A.D. Winans

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Free to do as I want by P-T Diep

Free to do as I want

A year ago I burnt the list
of all the things my parents, The Law
and The Bible forbade.

Released, I inhaled fresh thoughts
and indulged in eating pudding
in bed, three times before dinner,

But the kids next door, knocked
on my door, grinning like pumpkins
with trick candles inside.

Now I use candles in bed, their flames seem alive.
Last night I left a present of candles
for those noisy kids living next door.

Today is the anniversary of freedom,
I celebrate with champagne and
alone, I enjoy my silence at last.

My choices are heavy as chains
smothering the windows, the glass
like soot tainting the sun.

Freedom smells of burnt skin
and rope, as friction brands me
smouldering with consequences.

I chose freedom and now it hangs
a neck-rope sighing, sliping
through a noose from the ceiling.

My mind is free of all boundaries
but my body remains here floating
above my favourite chair.

The police knock on the door, knock
so loudly the door splinters and breaks,
they shout like the kids used to next door.

On my chair is a note for the coroner,
'Please NO post mortem, NO necropsy!'
but of course, he is free to do as he wants.

• Phuoc-Tan Diep is a regular contributor to IS&T. He says about this poem “This is a poem I wrote after reading Helen Ivory's The Double Life of Clocks in two days. Is this imitation? Is it the highest form of flattery?”

Talking of Helen Ivory… her second collection The Dog in the Sky is available now from Bloodaxe Books

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New concrete poetry by Chris Major

MIRROR (on reflection)
                                                               ( @    )( @   )
                                                   (             )
                                                       (       '       )


• Chris Major is a regular IS&T contributor

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Two tanka and one sedoka by Ken Head

Now the glue has dried,
pages fall out easily.
I have neglected
the book and it smells of age.
Decrepitude is winning.

The ink flowed well then
when this brush was new and fresh.
Laughable, I know,
if you look at these old hands.
Arthritis?  What a bad joke.

Dreaming of dinner

I stir the wok busily

while you chop vegetables.

Shall it be red wine

or the white you like so much

that comes from your home country?

• Ken Head is a regular contributor to Ink Sweat & Tears. Tanka is a traditional Japanese 5-7-5-7-7 syllable format. Sedoka, which is a less popular format, is known as a pair of two half poems, in effect two half tanka.

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