Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Poetry by Donal Mahoney










Signs in Windows

In 1920 he came on a boat 
from Ireland and found
his way through Ellis Island.

He found a room 
in a boarding house
catering to his kind and

went looking for a job
but found instead signs
in windows saying 

“No Irish Need Apply.”
A cemetery asked him to
dig graves and lower the dead.

In America today
there are no signs like that.
Black and brown 

apply and whites 
sometimes hire them.
My father was white.

But in 1920 his brogue
was a long rope that
almost lynched him. 



- Donal Mahoney 2017


Donal Mahoney, a product of Chicago, lives in exile now in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and Commonweal.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

New Story by Abigail George

Linger

My dad is one of the lucky ones. His voice merges alongside mine like beautiful scraps of material. This is a story about a man but not about any man. It is a story about my father. Fathers are special people. Mostly they encourage you. You tell them about your list of goals and in return, they inspire you to fulfill them. They are the ones standing on the side lines. They are the ones who give you that standing ovation. They are the ones who mouth the words ‘I love you’ and ‘I think that you are brilliant’ when you feel like you did not do as brilliantly as you should have. They are the first ones you go to when you feel sad or when you are happy. All my life that is what my father did. He was not all of those things all of the time. Sometimes he was sad and as a child, it made me feel very angry and confused when daddy cried or was upset. Now, I imagine him as a young adult as a hunter. A lonely warrior whose head was bursting out of his skull, his brain cells tormented by the Periodic Table, smashed up against elegant words like bilateral symmetry, biology, anatomy, dissect, zoology and mitochondria surrounded by a mountain of books, hills and green valleys of physics and chemistry textbooks. My father was like a beautiful shadow, my beautiful shadow that always lingered in my presence. We will talk for hours on everything and nothing at the same time. I do think that I am a poet because of him, because are not all writers poets at some stage in their lives or at least have the potential to become poets within them? He is a writer and a teacher who wanted to become a medical doctor but life had other plans for him. He has been writing all his life to get to this point in time and even now, he is always in pursuit of something or other. He believes in many things and most of all his spirituality, the nature of his soul is like that constellation beyond the trees. Primitive, ancestral, universal and that of a dream catcher. My father is a funny and sweet man. Understanding my love for this funny and sweet man who in his own words has had a curious relationship with his hair on different continents and with the pencil test, whose life story reads like a book of secrets, claustrophobia, vertigo, therapy and it has set my life journey on a trajectory that is (simply put) out of my hands. Human beings do not know as children whether they are truly destined for great things. Whether or not they will be the follower or the leader but all children have the potential for greatness. What unlocked my dad’s greatness? I really do not have an answer for that question. Maybe that surprises you. Maybe you expected me to say that perhaps it was his depression or the fact that he had a mental illness. Most of all, I want your life to be changed by this man’s life and the people who came to love him when he was at the crossroads of the depths of despair, isolation and rejection (and don’t we all fear rejection?) and the edge of hypomania. I think that every person who suffers from a mental illness has a hidden life. When you are depressed, it is another habitat. You are closed off from the rest of the world. Shut off from the rest of normal (what is normal anyway humanity?). You are in that void, that black hole separated from the people who love you the most and there is nothing, nothing that can bring you back from that brink. People tend to think that people who suffer from a mental illness cannot recover completely from it (I think people who think like this think that recovery is the furthest thing from their mind).  Depression damages people and that is a fact. The ego has a mind of its mind here when it comes to chronic illness and the road to recovery. I have seen my funny, sweet, generous and forgiving father happy and unhappy. Seen lucky him, my best friend, through laughter, tears, and the grim winter of depression.


After her bath Anita hung her underwear and stockings up in the bathroom pausing for a minute to study her reflection in the mirror. She smiled to herself. I am a likable person, she thought to herself. Lovable. I am lucky too. I have everything going for me. I am a beautiful person inside and out. Any man would be lucky in his boots to have me. I have a wonderful heart. I am giving, and gracious. Don’t you remember, Kwame? Those are the reasons that you left me. I was too wonderful. I was too giving. You left me because of your wandering eye. Your wandering hands that could leave me feeling hot and cold all at the same time. I could read you inside and out. You could cry in my arms at night but you’re not here anymore, and I don’t have to pick up your wet towels on our bedroom floor anymore. I don’t have to listen to your rock music pumping out of your car stereo as we went to visit my father at the frail aged home. I knew you then as I know you now. That you are a very unforgettable creature, you, you psychiatrist. You could read your patients at the government hospital so well. There was a pill to medicate this and that. You were full of fatherly concern and advice, you baby. I remember how you lit your Camel cigarettes. You called yourself ‘the ultimate Camel man’. Puffed your cheeks up and blew the pale smoke out. You said, I can’t see you anymore. It’s not right. There are boundaries.

Doctor. Patient.


- Abigail George 2017


Pushcart Prize nominee Abigail George is a South African writer of short stories, flash, plays and a poet. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. She is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book and another from ECPACC. She blogs at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5174716.Abigail_George/blog

Saturday, March 11, 2017

New Poetry by David Ades










The Dictionary of Obsolete Words


swells fat
with words discarded like dead skin

except where

stoic keepers of language
gone underground

whisper obsolescences to each other —

remember kindness one might say
such a lovely word

once there were even random acts of kindness

and respect another might venture
sounding out its strangeness on the tongue

r   e   s   p   e   c   t

was even a kind of anthem for women
heralded in song —

and on and on through long nights

furtive      reverential
whilst they labour in their burrows amongst

reams of definitions

expansive meanings
embalming words to preserve them

antiquities to be saved

lest they become unspoken
muted      lost forever


- David Ades 2017


David Ades is an Australian poet recently returned from a long stint in the United States. We could be unkind and suggest that he got out just in time.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

New Poetry by Jonathan Beale










What is this architecture and from whom? 

God’s child: yes or no? 
Just playing with Plasticine
Making this metropolis
before language and form:
and of course architecture
before architecture?
This whitest, white, diamond white.
all shape and form
all answers lay below
always just below
never revealed
and always out of reach 


- Jonathan Beale 2017



Jonathan Beale has poems published in many journals.  His work can be found in such books as ‘Drowning’ and ‘The Poet as Sociopath’ (Scar publications). His first collection of poetry ‘The Destinations of Raxiera’ is published by Hammer & Anvil. 

Jonathan's work has recently been published in Anti Heroin Chic, Dissident Voices, Red Fez, Sheepshead Review, Aphelion, Linnets Wing, aaduna, and Horror Sleaze Trash.  He studied Philosophy and lives in Surrey.   

Monday, February 27, 2017

New Poetry by Kevin Casey










Safety Razor

I’m still enamored with the idea of it: 
that an antique safety razor—sporting
a fresh leaf of steel--might in the end
be more scrupulous than those newfangled 
plastic affairs, that this metal contraption 
could show these disposable days just how
a man of quality and character shaves.

But each time I try to accompany those ranks 
of no-nonsense men marching back into 
the 19th Century with their Barbasol 
and badger bristles, my cheeks end up 
a red deeper than shame could ever muster,
my jawline left a half-stubbled field too steep
and cragged for a horse-drawn mower to manage.

Still, every few months I take down one of these
eleven-dollar thrift store beauties 
from its glass-doored bathroom shrine 
and hold its golden brass to my chin 
|like a buttercup, risk rashes and nicks 
to see if I’ve grown worthy enough 
to join that group of well-groomed ghosts
staring back just beyond the mirror’s edge 
through a mist of bay rum and witch hazel.


- Kevin Casey 2017


Kevin Casey is the author of 'And Waking...' (Bottom Dog Press, 2016), and the chapbooks “The wind considers everything” (Flutter Press) and “For the Sake of the Sun” (Red Dashboard). His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Chiron Review, Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Ted Kooser's syndicated newspaper column 'American Life in Poetry.' For more, visit andwaking.com.

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Poetry by Duncan Richardson










like painted
clowns      

In
the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

It
gives me time to stop and think.

People
stop hurrying once they’re dead.

I
don’t let grief rattle around my head

The
view is grand, standing at the brink.

In
the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

I
don’t regret the lives I could’ve led

or
play with Ouija boards to keep the link

People
stop hurrying once they’re dead.

Life
flashes and you’ll miss it if you blink

I
like to pause and soak it up instead.

In
the funeral trade, you see a lot she said;

We’re
like clowns with mouths wide and red.

The
grins die when the last applause has ended.

People
stop hurrying once they’re dead.

Strangers
say I’m morbid even weird

But
the grief of others fills me with fire.

In
the funeral trade, you learn a lot she said;

People
stop worrying once they’re dead.


- Duncan Richardson 2017



Duncan Richardson is a writer of fiction, poetry, haiku, radio drama and educational texts. He teaches English as a Second Language part time.










Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Words and Images by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Maryanne

Most of the time I am in my own head which serves as a sort of insulation against all the things which could easily drive one who doesn’t have the mundane distractions of the nine to five work world crazy. Just as occasionally a random thing will serve as a source of inspiration so too can it create an oppressive feeling of desolation which resists being transformed into something productive.

Fortunately, this does not happen nearly as often.

Unexpectedly, the thing came and perched upon my shoulders putting its full weight to bear. It had been called forth by the sounds coming from below of people seemingly having fun that I had heard only because, by happenstance, Coleman Hawkins had just finished his solo.

I went to the window and looked down. Holding hands as their breath created trails of steam looking like shot down planes People walked down the street. The only time I can not retreat into my work is if I had just finished something.

To go out for a little while was a can’t lose proposition. Either I would kill time, one evening which was enough to recharge my batteries and shake free the thing which clutched at me or being among the crowd I would feel the appeal of the solitude of my studio. The cajoling of the street’s power neutralized, the thing did a competitive diver’s leap from my shoulders, running off into the night to find someone else to harry.

The street is not bad merely indifferent to suffering. I drink, not to forget but for the taste. This, when said out loud is a truth which sounds like a lie. The place closest to me would be fine as I was merely seeking minor distraction.

Several doors down I spotted Maryann gently feeding several white squares to the mailbox. I did not know her at all aside from a few brief superficial conversations shared while waiting for drinks or in line to use the toilet at a party.

She intrigued me as she looked like a well-known character actor only sparrow thin and with a mien to match. I did not poach romantic distractions from within my social circle, I had learned the hard way that much like dating a co-worker, it eventually becomes problematic as at some point things will sour and then you are still stuck in each other’s orbit.

I asked her how she was doing, there was momentarily surprise as I said “hello” but then her outward composure was regained as she tried to recall what she had heard about me and if she had personally ever witnessed evidence of it. 



("Maryanne", Watercolor & Paper)

Like myself, she had just momentarily popped out although with more a concrete goal in mind. Did she want to join me for a drink? Briefly she looked around to see if there were something to be spotted as to deter this new trajectory but there was nothing but people in stroll motion going about their own evenings. This added to by the fact that the cadence of my voice did not have any of that man talking to woman on several levels undertone made her agree.

Not counting being at a function as there is often a set, limited selection, it is usually pretty telling what a person orders to drink. Surprisingly she went for a gin and tonic. I stuck to my usual. Two rounds in and just being out and about I started feeling better and knew that later after falling asleep to music I would wake up my usual self. Maryann did not seem to be getting the same relief as I.

We left together, I did not think about it one way or another as I paid the bill, telling her that she could get the tip. Holding the door open for her I discretely inhaled as she passed by. There was dichotomy of dried flowers and under that a sort of ozone note akin to what would emanate the next morning from someone who had fallen asleep cocooned in a heavy blanket. 

Out on the street she once again looked around and I realized that it was more a nervous tic than my continued presence. As the hour was later there were slightly more people out on the street, slick with revelry. My opening to take my leave I noticed that she looked slightly crestfallen.

“Want to list to some music?”

“Where?”

“My place.”

My question caught her by surprise. She did not want to be alone but despite the fact that over drinks I had given no indication that I had ambitions towards the boy girl thing with her, she was not particularly eager to go to my place.

We would go to her place which was closer. Personally, with someone who I did not know well, I would rather be at their place so that if things go wrong escape is an option. Experience had taught me, easier to go home than kick someone out.

The place was small but clean. I flipped through her records, my eyes wandering to the knick-knacks on the shelf above trying to imagine each thing’s history. The collection was not great but there were few of the basics which everyone should have for me to choose from.

Coming back with a bottle of wine, I was surprised that she sat on the couch with me as opposed to the seat across.

Briefly we clinked glasses. The wine seemed both very sweet and very bitter. She now seemed somewhat more relaxed if not paler but her previous color could merely have been the warmth of bar light.

I would steal glances. The wisp of hair from her bangs took the job and place that would normally have belonged to an insect in warmer weather. Jumping forward it touched the tip of her nose before once again being blown away by the air emanated sharply from her jutted out bottom lip.

Coincidently I was looking at her, the hair was blown out of the way once again. It looked like she was going to say something. Her eye began furiously blinking. I assumed the tip of her swoop had poked it. A second later she slid off the couch. She was on the floor, flat on her back with her legs bent at the knees twisted up in each other. She started making a hard “G” guttural sound, both her wrists bent, hands balled into fists except for the index finger of each. All the color had drained out of her face which made the purple veins under each eye almost luminescent.

I was momentarily transfixed. She began shaking moving from side to side, twisted arms and hands reaching for something I could not see. Had she not been on the floor and had it not happened so suddenly, parts of it resembled an extremely demonstrative orgasm.

I snapped out of it and remembered something I had once read somewhere. I took my wallet out and put it in her mouth as to prevent her from hurting herself. I did not want to run and get a towel to put under her head, opting instead to stay with her and  put my tie between the back of her head and the hard floor.

Gradually she grew stiller and stiller. Her skin remained extremely pale. Laying on her back so still, she looked like a marble monument one might see atop a sarcophagus. Her eyes had been closed the whole time. Now they opened and met mine. Even with how spent she was, there was room in her thoughts for embarrassment.  

I told her not to worry about it. I helped her into her bedroom. Maryann did not want to call anyone as that had been the worst of it, all there was to do now was take her medicine and sleep.

As she got under the covers, I went into her bathroom to get her the pills and glass of water. I opened the closet door and took out a wash cloth which I let the tap make nice and cool. With one thin arm she reached up and took the pill and water from me. I stood there holding the washcloth which was now dripping on the floor. She looked at me puzzled.

“For your forehead.”

She did not need me to stay but I did until I was sure she was all right. I flicked off the record player on my way out.

I had originally hung out with her only on account of our chance encounter. It was not her seizure which had turned me off but in general priorities which did not include any kind of steady, formal social commitments. My sense of etiquette made me see her a few more times after that first night as I did not want to be thought of as that kind of jerk.

Our third time going out she picked up on my lack of serious interest and in retrospect I think I unintentionally hurt her more than if I had just disappeared. There was the consolation though for her of telling me that she no longer wanted to socialize.

I had not told anyone the story. I liked the novelty of being completely blameless and felt that were the story to get out, inevitably it would change and I would somehow end up the villain of the story.

I do not know if she moved but I never ran into her on the street again. Eventually I moved although not terribly far away. Having been invited to a party I was an hour into it when I realized that it was not going to get any better than it currently was.

It was roughly a twenty-minute walk home and I would stop at the first bar I saw which looked decent, with any luck it would be found somewhere around the halfway point. The perfect place, it was quiet with just enough customers to allow one to have something to look at. Going to pay my tab, I took my wallet from my pocket. I felt hairs on back of my neck prick, eyes upon me. With an empty barstool between us, Maryann was sitting to my right. Her face was in a deep blush as she stared at the teeth marks bore into the leather of my wallet.

Finis


- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2017


Wayne's new novel is out now!




Interesting Times

At Bluepepper we tend to leave off the editorials and let the poetry speak for itself. Momentous events of the past year have passed without comment here partly because we were rendered momentarily speechless, and partly because words and opinions were flying so thick and fast it seemed at worst a futile gesture, at best a hollow one to weigh in to the melee. Our position at Bluepepper should be pretty clear by now: words matter, opinions matter, but only if they can bear close scrutiny. We will spare you Voltaire's famous maxim, but as the world continues to coalesce into two angry, bristling camps impatient of nuance and all the million little contradictions of this life, it behoves us all to celebrate the restorative powers of art, and especially poetry, its power to shine the light on all those little nooks and crannies where the magic lives amidst the relentless hectoring and tub-thumping of what now passes for public discourse. Kindness is not weakness, it is to admit the strength of a bond.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame."

- W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Poetry by Abigail George










A month of Sundays and prayers

(For Ambronese)

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

The leaves are as shiny as
Abalone in winter. They desire little or no sun today.
The earth’s veil and garment are wet
Through. No family structure of
Stars, sun or moon required. The
Sweetness of night falling all around
Me. Such is nature. The television
Said that Namibia is like a time machine.
Such is the nature of illness too. It comes
With the observations of a lifetime
Gathered there. Smoke holy. Men
And women holier than thou. You can also become a
poet writing poems about nature.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

I want to live as near to the sea
As possible. Yes, please! So, I can wake up each morning
With my soul marked with water.
Winter comes with a map. She will
Have to give of herself first to the
Child before anything else. When it
Cries or wants to be fed. That is if
She decides to have children one day.
She comes with a map too. I have reading
Hands. Her storm river mouth is not
Quite as alien to me as it once was. She’s a leap of faith
That I need to take into the wild.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.


- Abigail George 2017


Abigail George is a South African poet, short story writer, aspirant playwright and young adult novelist. She was educated in Port Elizabeth, Swaziland and Johannesburg. She briefly studied film and her short story "Wash Away My Sins" was nominated for the Pushcart prize. She is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Center for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council) in East London. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, widely in print in South Africa and some zines in Australia, Finland, India, the UK, the US, Nigeria, Turkey, and more.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Poetry by JD DeHart










Like Learning to Read

A mark we all agree
on takes on a meaning.
We give it a sound.

A string of marks becomes
a string of thought.
We think in this new language.
We are the string bound together
with some semblance of meaning.

We mean something, we’re
just not sure what.

Our mouth forms our identity -
we are good readers, bad
readers, somewhere in between.

Language machines, we till
the earth of sound and figure,
to form the perfect imperfect.


- JD DeHart 2017


JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is available on Amazon. More of his poetry can be found at jddehartpoetry.blogspot.com.

Friday, February 10, 2017

New Poetry by Michael Lee Johnson










Whispers from the Grave
(Heart attack 50 years of age)

What happened to 20 acres of farmland tilted toward sun angles,
those sharp stone edges cool fall comes
frost fields covered taking ownership of rented, abused, abandoned land−
10 years Phil has been gone, DeKalb, Illinois farmer.

Did he find salvation in those gold cornfields?
October orange colors, hayrides, and pumpkin harvest
of grey, grave bones buried near the deadly bicycle ride.
Mystery did his lover Betsy
(defense, prosecuting attorney, Elgin, Illinois)
stand by his site after she went through mourning,
the grandstanding at the wake at the farm,
the dimming of all candles, incenses, and memorial shrine
she held sacred within her bedroom walls, now faded.


- Michael Lee Johnson 2017


Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 29 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.