Lincoln Center Subway
It’s Orpheus in the underground.
He’s working the downtown platform, playing a metal flute
from music propped on a stand. At his feet, a tenor sax
lies curled like a tamed beast.
In its case’s open lid lies a scatter of coins and bills
he’s dropped like a heavy hint.
The platform’s filling up with the end-of-the-opera crowd,
but his collection’s not. Orpheus isn’t pleased.
“Hey, people, give me a break. I’m playing here for nothing.
Spare me a couple of bucks, whatever you want to give.”
Would you believe it, a busker with attitude?
But as it’s New York, the crowd’s got attitude too.
The looks they give say it all.
This guy thinks he’s got rights?
Hell will freeze over before they’ll come through for him.
It’s not their fault he’s begging on the streets.
Who is he anyway? Some Julliard drop-out jerk,
who didn’t have the chops to make it
up there as far as the orchestra pit
and ended up hustling down here?
They think they’re still in heaven, or the gods,
reprising in their heads divine Mozart arias.
The Met was bliss tonight; they won’t let this loser spoil it.
Whatever he’s playing, it isn’t a magic flute.
They don’t give a damn about poverty right now,
not this guy’s, nor anyone’s, not even Mozart’s.
There’s a rumble; the platform shakes; a train appears.
Tough audience, Orpheus thinks, but there’ll be another one soon.
His head, still playing, bobs above the stand.
They look as if they’d like to tear him to bits.
Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, London Grip, Other Poetry and The Warwick Review and are forthcoming in Poetry Salzburg Review . He has twice been nominated for the Forward Best Single Poem Prize. Twitter @claughton_sRead More
You taught me to be a meat-eater—
to chew carefully with flesh-shredding-bones—
but I wanted to be a bird, I suppose.
Something light and aloft, edible if I intended to be.
Or smashed against a window, bone-thin, hard-boiled,
chewing dust and flour in an alleyway; you’d rather I baked
an egg on the sidewalk than eat something that would never be alive.
Where is the soul in that, said a man with a dog, and ate his bone.
You wanted to farm corn on the cob, but butter doesn’t grow on trees,
and so you became a teacher. There was a stillness to your method:
look, there’s the stove, there’s the fridge, and over here the cow.
I had a hatchet and your hand, neither one very hard, no diamonds,
but how heavy steel can be in your back pocket I found out the hard way—
running against a glass door with a cleaver in my pocket, forgotten there
when I tried to swoop from the hill, spinning my arms in crop circles.
A promise in the pain: at dinner, we scratch at old wounds.
You and I, we sure were a team of knives, sharpening each other
until you found a bone to pick with the meat. I’d rather you didn’t eat that,
you said, teaching me: maggoty scraps of haunch, rib-eye rearing its ugly marrow.
Don’t dig your nose into somebody else’s meat, don’t trust flesh
that you didn’t see die. You said ‘meat’ like others said ‘love’ and ate the way
most people kill; all stealth and without motif, but always with aim and shot.
You taught me that meat begets a meal,
so I ate it all: the plate with the bones, the knife with the blood, the world
with all the living-bleeding-teaching. Aren’t you proud now that I
am a chink off your knife, all blade and no handle? Here I am,
teaching myself to eat grass with teeth that you gave me, all eyes for the birds,
I hold your weight, hoping to fuse to flesh to flesh in ways beyond digestion.
Marie-Aline Römer is studying Russian in Vladivostok, where she is trying to recover from the shock of recent university graduation. She is originally German, studied Chinese in London, and generally has no idea what is she doing where most of the time.Read More
God is drunk in the stairwell
curled into a ball, slamming his head
against the chipped white paint and
slurring “forgive me” under his breath.
His hands tremble at the sides
of his skull, fingers
clawing at his scalp.
He can’t shake the voices.
Matthew Voscinar is a hip-hop artist and sleep enthusiast from the 589-square-mile nursing home known as Hernando County, Florida. He currently teaches at Pasco-Hernando State College.Read More
Among Dusty Stage-Props
Once again I looked at myself
in the mirror.
Once again I was overcome by
Where are the hard manners I demand
I take hold of my mirror
(Translated by Katalin N. Ullrich)
Kinga Fabó is a published Hungarian poet, linguist, essayist. Her bilingual Indonesian-English poetry book waspublished in January 2015 in Indonesia.Read More
Ways of Falling
Age five and slipping off the blue metal swing out back at 13 Marlyns Drive,
it was a given the soil would be concrete-hard and Copydex’d with dead grass.
The friction of my hands tripping down the chains lifted the scent
of hot offal into the air and made the sound of trains
and landing, I stared up at swing’s A frame, made pictures from its acne of rust as
layers of the earth travelled through my bones until I vomited
them out of my mouth in a shower of magma and stones.
I could not move and was, it seemed, thigh-deep in lava and shingle,
a savoy cabbage planted in my chest with a detonator inside.
I remember counting while waiting for the tingle, for it to explode.
Now I fish in the back room of my house and count and wait.
There is friction and track-rattle and I brace,
but it’s a given each word will struggle and flail. Sometimes
the sun thwacks against their scales, there’s a hint of phosphorescence
and their mouths gasp as I lift them clear, my line hooked hard in their soft fish lips.
I watch them slap the dry grasses, their fish slime drying slowly,
marble eyes watching a Tuesday-blue sky as I count
and wait for them to die. Sometimes sirens sound on London Road
and there’s always a little blood and it me who falls backwards
and the ground cracks daily, the ground cracks daily.
Claire Dyer’s poetry collection, Eleven Rooms, is published by Two Rivers Press. Her novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair, and her short story, Falling for Gatsby, are published by Quercus. Claire is undertaking an MA in Poetry at Royal Holloway.Read More