Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Poetry by Michele Seminara

Second Coming

It seems I am the problem child, again.
Father speaking on Mother’s behalf
that nitrogen cold gaze.

I bathe in it; it burns —
it always burned.
But now my skin is bound
in bitter scales.

How forlorn, to be the black one;
I don't show it.
Let them beat their breasts
and rail — I won't.

Instead, I involute, secrete this note: 
beware the coming of the twice-born child.

- Michele Seminara 2017

Michele Seminara is a poet, editor and yoga teacher from Sydney. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Cordite, Mascara, and Tincture. She has published Engraft (Island Press, 2016) and a collaborative chapbook, Scar to Scar, with Robbie Coburn (PressPress, 2016). Michele is also Managing Editor of online creative arts journal Verity La. She blogs at https://micheleseminara.wordpress.com/. 

'Second Coming' is from Michele's forthcoming chapbook, HUSH, to be published by Blank Rune Press on 1 June. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

New Poetry by Natalie Crick


I scrub mouse blood from the floorboards
Imagining ice,
Imagining throats.
The dead stay dead.

A necked Swan
Sits disgraced,
The pale bone poking through, a
Sword rising from a lake
Sharp and still sheathed.
The bone is so white
I could have carved
It from wax,
Soft as bees,
A candle without a flame.

Forever Winter, the sky
Looks cold, pink as a clot
In the mouth
When the lights go out.

- Natalie Crick 2017

Natalie Crick, from the UK, has poetry published or forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, The Chiron Review, Rust and Moth, Ink in Thirds and The Penwood Review. This year her poem, 'Sunday School' was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

From the Eye of the Storm

Colin Dodds
Brooklyn, NY 2017

Regular readers of Bluepepper will likely be familiar with the name Colin Dodds, but as a poet rather than a novelist. Judging by his bibiography, however, it would be fair to judge Dodds as a novelist first and a poet second. Such distinctions are, of course, a personal matter, but any writer with six novels already under his belt, three collections of poetry, as well as two screenplays, has a fair claim to call himself anything he wants. On top of a string of awards, Dodds has won what many may regard as the ultimate accolade from no lesser a light than the great Norman Mailer himself, who said of Dodds’ novel, The Last Bad Job, that it showed “something that very frew writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Having raced through Dodds’ latest offering, Watershed, in only a handful of sittings, I have to agree with Mailer (not something I am in the habit of doing). The style is simple, uncluttered, but the writer has a gift for magical turns of phrase as well as a natural ear for rhythm. Francis Bacon’s famous quip about “the burden of the conveyance” springs to mind: there is none of it here.

From the opening line I defy any reader worth the name not to feel themselves hooked:

Raquel figured if they were going to kill her, Tyra probably wouldn’t have taken so much time explaining the parachute.

And so the roller-coaster ride begins.

Raquel is, ironically, one of the least interesting characters in this admittedly crowded novel, even though she is the narrative pivot. Actually, more like the eye of the storm, the still point. The storm was already raging well before she found herself strapped to a parachute thousands of feet above the earth., which is why Raquel found herself in this situation in the first place. It’s not that she’s exactly dull. The woman is far from dull, but she is a facilitator-by-proxy around whom others act, or react to forces acting against her. She is beautiful and smart to the point of being cursed  rather than blessed. 

Like the start to any great novel, the reader feels as though they have opened a door onto another world, in this case onto a mystopia (my term for a mild dystopia), a recognisable enough world just knocked a little off kilter. In a world of Brexits, Syrias and President Trumps, this mystopic movement in literature is fast becoming a crowded market place. But Dodds writes with restraint, not forcing either the pace or the tone of the novel. Perhaps the closest he comes to testing the reader’s credulity is in a bizarre re-enactment of the September 11 attacks in which convicted criminals are forced to fly planes into replica Twin Towers, but the whole spectacle is portrayed so convincingly, complete with the voluntary martyrdom of an alt-cult “Ludlite” inside one of the buildings in a futile protest against the anaesthetising effects of the digital age, that even this jaded reader had no trouble buying it. The “Ludlites” are a seemingly spontaneous movement of young people against the digital “Web” in all its ubiquitous manifestations. They decry leaders or any form of manipulation or compulsion, but as is the way with such well-meaning attempts to “correct” the course of history, leaders emerge armed with pretty words and nefarious motives. In this case it is a mysterious figure known as “The Geometress”, although she is far from the only shadowy figure in a novel which is in large part an exploration of people’s motives in a world whose moral compass appears all but broken. Sound familiar? Welcome to mystopia.

In fact, perhaps the only character in this novel whose motives remain clear and honest throughout is Norwood, into whose arms Raquel literally lands in the most bizarre of circumstances at the very start of the novel. The most opaque character of all, and the real driving force of the novel, is the millionaire Rudolf, nee Hurley, nee Ostanze, a corrupt ex-senator who appears to be inhabited by some mysterious entity that has allowed him to live for a very very long time, the hints are for millenia. I would say more about him, but any review of such a frantic narrative requires so many spoiler alerts as to render any overview almost unreadable. And unnreadable is something this novel most definitely is NOT.

If our review copy is anything to go by, Dodds appears to be putting this novel out under his own imprint. It begs the question why some major publishing house hasn’t taken this title on. But more and more writers at the moment appear to prefer the autonomy of self-publishing. I can think of at least half-a-dozen publishers, however, who would give this novel a great deal of consideration. Any publishers out there who happen to follow Bluepepper, and who may be interested, can purchase an advance copy by clicking on the novel's title at the top of this review. The only slight reservation Bluepepper had with the novel was with the rather fiery denouement, but on a second reading it sat better, reminding this reader that it is beholden on us as much as the author to hold all the threads together.

- Justin Lowe
Bluepepper 2017

New Poetry by Jim Zola

My Two Cents of Reasoning is Spent

The world rides on top of a butterfly, 
a ladder leans into nowhere. My shadow 

plays a shadow song. Inside the piano, 
keys caw. The night is bright green between 

black branches. A mouth opening wide 
enough for death. Here comes the train. Wider. 

Stars pop and salt the air. This is to say 
sadness stands outside me, a stranger

in a monkey mask. I wait for him 
to ring the buzzer. He lifts one arm. Then the other.

- Jim Zola 2017

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children's librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook -- The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) -- and a full length poetry collection -- What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

In case you hadn't noticed, dear reader, we live in interesting times. Alert but not alarmed is our running credo at Bluepepper, and in line with that policy we are currrently


Bluepepper believes that perhaps now more than ever this troubled rock needs the wisdom only poetry can distil, so get out your quills and parchment and submit per the guidelines at the top of the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Poetry by Gerald Bosacker

The Almost Horse

Nothing more stubborn or more a fool,
than the genuine Arkansas mule,
that hill folks consider a farming tool.

Why would some obstinate half wit
fit his dumb mule with bridle and bit
then hope to steer this hybrid misfit?

Yes, they can out-pull a normal horse,
yet what they do with all that force
is stubbornly pick their own way of course.

Making a stopped mule to get up and go,
perversely just holler out whoa,
then what makes them stop, I do not know.

Male donkeys functioned as the mules dad,
and compliant mares turn quite sad
seeing the strange offspring they then had.

Hybrids might help the corn grow so tall 
but cross-breeding did not help at all
farmers to put mules in a horse's stall!

- Gerald Bosacker 2017

Originally destined to become a crusading journalist or witty editorialist, Gerald Bosacker was forced by family responsibilities to abandon his part-time jobs and night school classes at the University of Minnesota, to work fulltime in the graphic arts salesman. There, his love of the well chosen word enabled him to become a successful graphic arts supply salesman who migrated upward, propelled by serendipity coupled with his tolerance and empathy for faulted people, to become senior vice president of sales for a large international printing chemical company.   

Promoted much beyond his ambition and capability, he jumped at early retirement at his first opportunity. Gerald Bosacker now lives in Montanas, awaiting discovery of his social commentary skills. He has resumed his first love, weaving words into prize-winning poetry and surprising short tales that borrow heavily from the fascinating people he met in his world-wide travels.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Poetry by Abigail George

Must travel

(for my sister)

The day has
a moth like quality to it. I make a cup of tea (always for one). 
Boil the
water in the
microwave oven while

old poems
make way for new poems. Once, I lived in grassroots country. Rural
Mbabane, Swaziland.

(Boarding school). Slowly
my flesh is emptying out. Winter making way for spring’s milky sweetness,
summer’s pleasure and
waves of heat, autumn’s gift.

Slowly, I climb back
into their world. Standing in the sun sipping my cup of tea for one.
I sit and watch the
afternoon warming the page in front of me.

- Abigail George 2017

Pushcart Prize nominee, Abigail George, is a South African poet and writer, aspirant playwright and young adult novelist.She is a regular contributor to the webpages of Africanwriter.com, Bluepepper, Hackwriters.com, Itch, LitNet, Modern Diplomacy, Ovi Magazine: Finland’s English Online Magazine, Piker Press, Praxis Magazine Arts and Literature, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Vigil Pub Mag. She has lived in Port Elizabeth, Swaziland, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Her lit work has been published in various anthologies, numerous times in print in South Africa, and online in zines. She blogs at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5174716.Abigail_George/blog

Friday, April 14, 2017

New poetry by Linda Stevenson

Another Beat

How to escape the old rhythm,
it plays around, perpetual,
weaving classrooms out of nursery,
found bookends, bound songs,
the modelling of phrases,
of current tongues, media,
the gymnasia
of dead classics.

Heritage of inland, shore, cliff,
bluestone and tent city; heritage
of Atlantic;
drownings and wailing starvation
up against the bardic, keening.

Read me bedtime,
rolling me over into soothed,
the merry beats recounting
in long cadence.

I listen to my own reading,
walk away from it glutted,
there was another way I wanted to speak,
not rolling off my tongue, not glib,
not generationally easy
with inheritance of poem...

but gaunt, under-stressed, built
on rough syllables
and guttural noise,
with bare rhyme,
a murderous tsunami,
not the plangent, bleating sea,
not civilized,
the gutted voice
of human.

- Linda Stevenson 2017

A founding member of Melbourne Poets Union, facilitator of poetry groups in gaols and community centres, contributor to anthologies. Chapbook “The Tipping Point” published in 2015, feature guest poet on Radio 3CR “Spoken Word”. Active as a poet within the online poetry sector, hosts regular Salons at her home in Frankston, Victoria.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Poetry by Lynn White

On Our Watch

If it had been on his watch,
he would have seen,
he would have given the alarm,
would have been heard
and catastrophe would have been avoided.
She also was alert,
but it was not her watch
and no one heard her warnings.
On their watch we would have heard
the warnings.

But it happened on our watch
and we were sleeping.

- Lynn White 2017

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem 'A Rose For Gaza' was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition 2014. This and many other poems, have been widely published, in recent anthologies such as - ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press, ‘The Border Crossed Us’ from Vagabond Press and ‘Selfhood’ from Trancendence Zero - and journals such as Apogee, Firewords Quarterly, Guide To Kulchur, Indie Soleil, Midnight Circus and Snapdragon as well as many other online and print publications.

Find Lynn at: lynnwhitepoetry

Sunday, April 09, 2017

New Poetry by Michael Keshigian


Barefoot in white slacks
and her outdated sweater,
she plays the piano most intensely,
bungling Schubert with a scowl
then a smile,
the lamplight
flickered unnoticed upon her fingers.

The pasture from where her progeny
once thrived has withered,
mature voices and opinions
have fled the confines of the arena
where music,
like a tranquilized tiger,
twirls again.

Her foot presses pedals,
fingernails carelessly flit keys,
and in her womb
a musician is conceived.
The house is no longer empty,
half full with sound,
she nourishes herself.

- Michael Keshigian 2017

Michael Keshigian from New Hampshire, USA had his twelfth poetry collection, Into The Light, released in April, 2017 by Flutter Press (http://flutterpress2009.blogspot.com.) He has been published in numerous national and international journals recently including The California Quarterly, Red River Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Aji Magazine and has appeared as feature writer in over a twenty publications with 6 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (michaelkeshigian.com)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

New Poetry by James Walton

A Tale of the Christ

Not Spiderman afterall
these stigmata wrists won’t produce
any miracle to save me

a door knocker suspended here
an unwatered arrangement
of a messiah’s floral failure

in suffocation wise men gasp
because the misguided love
was to offer up a carpenter

on the irony of a cross
to secure this dry sacrifice
brought about the dissolution

in laboratory experiments
when the crown of thorns
seemed ridiculous to the point

of independent cinema releases
but word of mouth
gathered them to the sermon

on the mount of rebellion
if only there was time again
to utter unbound forgiveness.

- James Walton 2017

James Walton is an award winning poet published in many journals and anthologies, short listed twice for the ACU national Literature Prize, a double prize winner in the MPU International Poetry Prize, and Specially Commended in The Welsh Poetry Competition. His collection ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’ was published in 2015.  

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

New Poetry by Michele Seminara


I'm learning to tread circumspectly;
my belly, soft from children,
divining the way.

Beside me the cat, utterly at ease,
and the dog's inner ears and underbelly
faithfully offered up.

I've just said prayers!
Fed flame's wrathful maul
white seed instead of black —
unprepared for this familiar, devotional urge.

The world is in tumult but in this moment
mind is still.

Do you see that cloud in the sky?
No, nor do I.

- Michele Seminara 2017

Michele Seminara is a Sydney poet and editor-in-chief of Verity La.

Monday, April 03, 2017

New Poetry by John Rock

Getting Old

April calls me Old Man

      in Anishanabee: “Akwaenzee”

I remember Kateri whose last name is Akwaenzee

      said it really means: “bending toward the earth”

The beauty of age

The sensuousness of age

      like the head of a hydrangea

And a woman who said: “The skin of our faces become like the Black Hills”

At 43

     being complimented

          all the way down

                 to my toes

- John Rock 2017

John Rock grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan in North America and spent many years on the shores of Lake Superior, gardening, hunting, cutting wood and working on poems…and listening to moonlight!  More poems and writings at johnrockpoetry.com

Sunday, April 02, 2017

New Poetry by JD DeHart

Welcome to the Cottage

or should I say, welcome back?
These are the wooden slatted floors
where you first learned
about the predilection of old ladies
in the woods to be villains, to have
ovens, to possess poison apples,
to woo children away from breadcrumb
trails; the same spot where you
learned about the flash and dash
of princes, how often beautiful maidens
fall asleep and must be rescued,
the tender-hearted fair ladies whose
ruddy cheeks decorated so many
late night reads before bed,
and I couldn't help but notice you 
striking a match, preparing to burn down
the cottage, and build your own version
of the world's story now you are grown.

- JD DeHart 2017

JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  He blogs at jddehartpoetry.blogspot.com, and has recently been published at Duane's PoeTree and The Literary Yard.

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


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

the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

gives me time to stop and think.

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

don’t let grief rattle around my head

view is grand, standing at the brink.

the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

don’t regret the lives I could’ve led

play with Ouija boards to keep the link

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

flashes and you’ll miss it if you blink

like to pause and soak it up instead.

the funeral trade, you see a lot she said;

like clowns with mouths wide and red.

grins die when the last applause has ended.

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

say I’m morbid even weird

the grief of others fills me with fire.

the funeral trade, you learn a lot she said;

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


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?”


“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.


- 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