Until now, it hasn't been necessary to talk about my beloved husband. Franklin was 31 and I, 21 when we got married.  10 years my senior. An arranged marriage.  A paper advertisement marriage.  Does anybody understand getting married to a total stranger within a month's time?  He had been refusing to get married for years, but the moment I walked into the room, his head went into the yes mode.  Later, when I asked him what he had seen in me, he said personality.


A total stranger, but family had been surprisingly firm about this.  They were sure this was the guy.  My brother gave the strangest reason.  He said Franklin had a guitar which he didn't know how to play and that he strummed on it and sang untunefully.  He said that showed a healthy mind and that he sounded just like me.  He was right.  They talk of changelings in the family.  This one must be one of those.  The fourth of six children, he was completely different.


A self-made man who had to go to work in the agricultural department at the age of 17, he then made it a point to complete his postgraduate studies in English before joining Canara Bank. Although hailing from an extremely religious Christian family, he was oddly very secular in contrast to his parents, brothers and sisters.  The two of us could happily walk into temples and fold our hands in prayer if it pleased our friends for us to do so.  We never questioned the rules of it.  Love meant more to us. We partook happily in the 'Prasad' given.  We've brought up both our children to be that way.  Two terrorists less in this country.



Both of us were playful to the extreme.  We would climb trees, play cricket, etc. for hours.  He could not do somersaults like me or whistle like me, but he tried.  My son took a long time to talk - almost three years, and people wondered about it, till they found that instead of teaching him words, we parents had learnt baby talk. We still baby talk a lot at home using the language that our children used as babies.


22 years of marriage.  I've spent more years with him than with my mother.  Very protective to the point of suffocation.  He tried chaperoning me everywhere till I revolted.  He knew my thoughts before I did.  And my walking Thesaurus. Franklin: 'What's the word I want?'  '__'  --- not even looking up from his paper,  but he himself was not an easy writer or a facile speaker.  While I jumped into speech and writing, it took him hours to compose a short letter.  He had also passed the Mensa test for geniuses in two hours.  But his forte was maths. I remember times when my mother-in-law would get him to add up totals orally, using him like a calculator.


The most patient father in the world.  There were times when this left me wondering.  He'd play blocks and tap-tap-tap with my daughter, not for an hour, but for hours on end. The children could call him any time of the day.  He'd cancel meetings to attend their call.  He liked taking them out and buying them things they wanted.  He spoke to them daily. He wrapped their notebooks and ironed their clothes.  The father was always the best bet when they were in trouble.  'Daddy, come immediately' and he was there.

He'd go searching for things that Rimona asked for her dance – off-season flowers, rare hair decorations.  He'd go from street to street till he found the exact thing she wanted.


Like in all marriages, we had our differences.  Few people know that I was loved to the point of madness by this man.  Obsessed would be a better word.   If someone were to ask me what he was thinking of in the middle of a busy day, I'd promptly reply, me. I believe Tulsidas was known for this mad love for his wife.  Everything I did fascinated him.  Everything was a treat to him. My writing, my songs, my books, my teddy bear and most of all my talking.  Don't  sing, talk to me;  Don't read, talk to me;  don't write, talk to me.


Do men love uncompromising women?  Because I am just that.  Maybe if I had compromised on my beliefs, he would have loved me less.  It was a struggle to maintain my identity in the face of such opposition. A curious paradox.  He asked me to compromise and then when I did, he didn't like it.  It wasn't me anymore. I could not keep pace with that love.  It put me in a permanent see-saw.  I needed to anchor somewhere, for balance, but today, free of the see-saw, how I miss it.

Glory Sasikala Franklin




1:02 AM

I try to picture my parents in their musty bed, their bodies
fallen apart in sleep. Back then, I had to settle for the floor
I could still roll off from to slide down fantasies of leaving
school, retreating behind the desks of well-paying jobs,
and coming home to a spacious apartment without cracks
in the ceiling that squinted through the blur of a spinning fan.
Above the bed hung a calendar from which father ripped
the months to scrawl 4D numbers across their backs,
digits he believed could bring him peace, which the radio
languorously announced like a Buddhist chant slowed down.

The goddess of mercy loomed over the bedroom door, stiff
and slightly aglow in her make-shift altar, haunting our last
few minutes of wakefulness, before eyes closed like mouths,
swallowing the night, sleep tipping us gently over to spill us
back into ourselves. I can almost smell my mother as she
stays asleep in my mind, her mouth left open so she would
complain of a dry throat in the morning. I smell the lotion
she rubbed all over her neck and arms for her eczema.

Soon morning will creep in like a lover and our bodies will be
caressed by that warm, dust-heavy light. I close my hand,
only to feel the slim mattress between my fingers, nostalgia
expanding to a dream inside my head like a trompe l’oeil
coming to life, pushing out from inside its frame. If I open
my eyes for real, I wonder if I might even face the closet
where our clothes would be kept, mother’s bras folded and
piled up next to father's underwear, and in that corner
the long cane used to whip my school grades into shape.

This moment, far from an eventual knowledge of loneliness,
when mother’s kiss meant love, not need, and father’s hand
on my shoulder still assured, “You can be anything; I’m always
here behind you”. It is a Sunday morning. I have no homework
today. I have finished it the day before.


Indian music opens the neighbour’s window; a silky, filigree voice,

lulling me with that possibility of elsewhere. And even before it is

time, this scene is fading around the edges, soaking through with
shadows, the moment rolling into memory’s deep drawer.

and I pull myself back to the front of my head, arriving
right behind my eyes, which open, only taking in the dark.
Like a pragmatic heart, the clock jumps to life, projecting
a steady beam of sound through the air, clearing a path
for the mind as it enters the present.


I have no work today. I have finished it the day before. But I do.
Too much work today. Too many things to do at the office.
Then some sanity at another evening’s end: a meal,
a book, and some music. I lie in bed waiting for the dark to lift,
 for another morning to wander into this room
and leave its mark on everything.

Cyril Wong


Vanko loved the small brick dog-house whose roof ended abruptly with a short rusty spire. He had believed it impaled the stars, the moon, and even the sun on its black tip, and sometimes he felt the sky wanted them back. On such days the house seemed to fly to the dusty clouds. Once when he was a little boy, he crept on all fours into the darkness of its only room. The stale air smelled of mould, but he felt secure in it. From that day on, he hid in the dank stinky dusk and remained in it like a shriveled grub, all the long, brown afternoons away from the burning heat. He sank into the husky croaks of the frogs that were afraid the Struma River would run dry in its concrete bed. There were seaweeds in the river, which smelled of autumn and used lubricants spewing from the big tubes of the mewtallurgical factory.


Vanko’s mother did not search for him. She was busy shouting at his father. His father did not have any spare time either. He screamed back at his mother then usually phoned a strange woman whom he married in the long run. It was his grandmother who took care of the boy. In fact she was not Vanko’s real grandmother, rather than some lousy intruder who had ended up squatting in Vanko’s grandpa’s house. She cooked for Vanko’s grandpa and minded his dog that hid together with Vanko in the small tumbledown dog-house built here by some rich guy half a century ago.



The old woman took out a bowl of hot soup – or perhaps she had only rinsed the pot in which Vanko’s mother had cooked a stew in between her fights with her husband. Then Vanko’s grandmother carried the aluminum bowl to the kennel, plodding forward in the heat, her head like a tortoise over the black path. She mumbled something under her breath in Romanian, or perhaps in Greek. Vanko did not understand a word and assumed she most probably cursed the river, the heat and the frogs in it. The old woman left the bowl in front of the dog-house, and prattled on in her strange language as her walking stick thudded on the hot arid ground, which the month of July heat had split open at her feet.


In the beginning, Vanko was afraid of the old woman and let the dog he called Dad lap the appetizing swill. Later he crawled out of the narrow hole that served as door to the kennel and drank together with the dog. He could not determine if the thin liquid was soup or just hot water with which the pot had been rinsed. It was very delicious, though.


Vanko loved the small hut that was far from his father’s mistress, and from his mother’s miserable salary. His mother couldn’t pay for the fire wood and didn’t have enough money for the electricity bills. Every week, she grew visibly older, turning into charcoal that July was going to bury in its warm dust. Vanko felt pity for her face and tried to steal something – gimcracks from nearby villas, umbrellas, ladies’ purses, which later he sold for a handful of pennies. He left the money on his mother’s pillow, but that made things worse – she bought cheap brandy with the money and drank, oblivious to the world, trying hard the quench her anguish.



Vanko found her on the floor by her bed, darker, hugging an unwashed greasy pot, her clothes soaked in brandy.

Vanko’s grandmother, muttering in Greek or in Romanian, obstinately baked potatoes she bought with the last penny she had stolen from his mother’s pillow, and made Vanko eat. Week in, week out he ate baked potatoes in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, hidden in the dark brick kennel with his dog.


The dog was so beautiful that merciful people left food for him – pieces of stale bread, or formless lumps of cheese. In the beginning, Vanko ate everything to the last crumb munching and smacking his lips, while the dog squatted at his feet, drooling at the mouth, his yellow nose intent on Vanko’s hands. At times the dog wailed quietly, his shrill endless howl parallel to the Struma River. The transparent water flowed into Vanko’s heart and always brought the boy to the black charcoal on his mother’s face.


His mother had gradually become smaller than the dog, her eyes half asleep, half dead, her hands drenched in cheap brandy. Sometimes Vanko’s grandmother covered her with a blanket; sometimes the old woman washed her face, and very rarely she drank from the brandy and wailed in between her huge gulps. Vanko didn’t know why his Romanian grandmother should act like this – most of the time she was calm like the river and distant like the clouds that burned in the sky above the roof of the kennel.


Vanko expected his mother’s death, his heart a dry autumn leaf, in the dark of the kennel. The people from the nearby houses, enticed by the smell of hot soup, or perhaps by the water with which Vanko’s grandmother washed the greasy pot, began to throw out the newborn puppies in the small brick kennel.


Vanko knew that the rich guy who lived in this area years ago had built the dog-house for his daughter’s favorite mutt. The girl suffered from some mental illness: she was scared to go out of her house, she dreaded meeting men and boys, she was afraid of women, too, even of her own mother. She was thin, translucent, and the fish in Struma River tingled as she walked along the bank. The girl was unafraid only of her dog, so she squeezed together with the mongrel in the kennel, where her father left silver plates, spoons, forks and knives for her.


Once Vanko found a silver spoon; it had stuck into his heel and his dog licked his wound. Of course, the boy sold the spoon for small change, but didn’t buy food for his mother. She could eat no longer, she only drank, so he bought a bottle of brandy, half of which his grandmother downed right away.


The people in this area were not rich at all. No one remembered the schizophrenic wealthy guy’s daughter. Vanko’s grandmother hinted but once that a desperate adventurer married the young woman. She refused to show up at her wedding, though. She hid herself in the kennel, scared and shivering as the priest knelt by the door of the dog-house to ask her if she’d have the man as her husband.

Vanko’s grandmother didn’t know for sure what happened after that. The rich man’s neighbors said they heard quiet wailing, which came from the room with a window to the north. They thought it was the young woman’s dog, but their kids assumed that the bride wailed in fright at what her husband did to her.

Rumor had it, too, she had given birth to a daughter, but in this arid district nobody was interested in the guy next door. The only concern here was your own piece of bread, which was usually not enough for everybody, like warm days in winter.

Here the people kept dogs in front of the doors to their yards because the thieves were more numerous than the ordinary guys. In fact the ordinary guys were ordinary only during a certain part of the day and during the rest of it they were thieves, too. So the dogs at the front door were guards – savage and under-nourished. Sometimes the animals were so hungry they attacked and bit their own masters. Some people set their dogs free from the leashes for an hour in the night. Loose shadows flitted in the black air, sounds of yapping and growling reverberated around the corners.

At that time, Vanko sat silently in the kennel, his small dog a shaggy throbbing bag of bones at his feet, whining, its young throat itching to summon some bitch. Or perhaps Vanko’s dog wept for his mother that he had lost a long time ago in the days of his happy childhood. Dogs multiplied at a heart-breaking speed along the two banks of the Struma River. Though they were thieves, during their spare time the people did not kill the new-born puppies. They needed only one animal of the litter: the strongest and the most savage one.

In the beginning, men threw all the rest—hairy balls still warm and wet after the birth—into the waste-bins, and Vanko could hear them whimper in the metal containers. He imagined it was the strange bride whining, the one who was scared by men, and who loved only her dog.

The whole street, especially at the beginning of autumn, was an eyesore to look at. Vanko was sure the Struma River wanted to run away from that place, from the town that was a new-born puppy someone had thrown out to wail in the waste-bin of autumn. Vanko could not stand it and hid in the kennel, pressing his dog to his heart not because he loved him so much, but for the sake of warmth.

It was very cold in September; biting frosts were followed by rains which felt like snow. The yellow brick house slowly filled with wriggling forms of mongrels of a different color: some had started to discern the light under their noses, and others had just learned to walk though they reeled with hunger. Naturally, the pieces of bread that Vanko’s grandmother brought were not enough for them all.

One day, amazed and scared out of his wits, Vanko saw that big dogs, too, came to the kennel. They left two other mutts dead by the aluminum bowl, their throats split open. Unfortunately his dog, the one the boy called Dad, was one of the dead mutts. The boy stayed there, unable to cry, unable to breathe. He bent down and pressed the remnants of his friend to his chest. Vanko was very cold, and at that moment the Struma River flowed through his heart with fish and stars that were swimming in it.

Of course, in the evening, Vanko took another small dog. It felt hotter than the dead one, but it did not look at the boy as if the water of the greasy bowl was on its tongue.

Some guys are simply no good, Vanko thought on the days when he failed to steal something in town. He was angry with himself, he felt guilty about not helping his mother, who in defiance of logic sat up in bed and started eating again. Perhaps his Romanian grandmother had cured her, or maybe after his father packed up and went to live with his new wife, Vanko’s mother forgot about her troubles.

Or maybe there were some drugs in the herbs that Vanko’s Romanian grandmother gave his mother, for at times in the evenings, his mother laughed for no reason at all, staring at the moon, or grinning at the rain, which did not let the sky have any moon. His mother laughed her head off and Vanko did not know when he was more afraid for her: when she lay immobile, darker than the brown blanket, or when she sniggered at the dog-house.

Vanko had to find a job, but there were no jobs in the town, and there were no jobs in Sofia and in Radomir, so he planned to catch a train to Italy. He had heard people say they looked for good chefs in Calabria. Vanko could not cook at all, but he hoped his Romanian grandmother would teach him to make the dishes she knew, the delicious soups and stews, which killed his mother’s agony and left the younger woman watching the empty September sky. Vanko had waited for her to die, but she survived, and at nights he could hear the two women talk in Romanian or in Greek, languages of which he didn’t understand a word.

One way or another, he had made up his mind to go. He could no longer stand the evenings he was alone with the frogs and the Struma River. There was nothing to steal in town any more.

“What are you two talking about?” He had asked his Romanian grandmother, and she had answered, “About Nasso.” Nasso was the man who had promised to marry her when she was young and pretty. She had even allowed him to make love to her. Nasso promised he’d come back and love her again then went to Bucharest to make money for their wedding, building railway carriages. Before he went away he kissed her and made her swear to God that when she felt jumpy she wouldn’t go to another man, she would say these words – then the old woman mumbled the words in Romanian or in Greek – he would hear her speak and would come home right away to comfort her. Of course, he didn’t come back and she sold her new-born child to a rich woman from Radomir for thirty-five gold lev then married Vanko’s grandfather.

Vanko’s grandfather was an old, quiet drinker unable to love to a woman, but he promised her a roof and a bed in a warm room, if she took care of little Vanko. At the very beginning, the old man was aware that Vanko’s mother and father wouldn’t make it. Their fights annoyed Vanko’s grandfather and he couldn’t sleep, he said.

Vanko’s Romanian grandmother put many herbs and spices in her stews, and maybe her herbs restored his grandfather’s ability to live with a woman. That turned out to be not so fortunate after all, for when the old man fell in love with his Romanian bride, and made love to her with all his power, his heart exploded. He died, his face smiling at the moon, all happiness in the world written like a book in his eyes.

 Vanko’s grandfather wailed before he breathed his last, and the boy wondered if the old man was happy he could love his wife, or on the contrary: the man was sorry he couldn’t do that a little longer. Perhaps his grandfather felt sad he would never again see the Struma River, where summer began and all, both guys and dogs, were happy together.

 Anyway, Vanko hated the big dogs, and made up his mind to guard the small hairy balls in the kennel until he went to the restaurant in Italy. He and his Romanian grandmother didn’t have enough of hot greasy water for all puppies, but she was a clever woman, a woman who was still searching for the girl she had sold to that rich lady in Radomir. The old woman had put it into her head that if she saved the little mongrels, she’d see her child.

One day, to Vanko’s amazement, in the kennel where not a living soul was seen of late and small dogs wallowed like ghosts on the ground, something happened. It was an afternoon when the night had started at noon. The sky had glued to the river. The clouds were thirsty and wanted to drink up the whirlpools.

 Vanko had managed to steal a good car from the parking lot in front of the convenience store, and felt quite happy when unexpectedly he found a dark figure back at the kennel rolled into a ball. It was there, in the heap of the little puppies, in the dark. It was quite fortunate he didn’t kicked the dark figure first for it was not a big dog as he had guessed. It was something quite different, another man, or a boy. He hoped he didn’t have to fight him. He could even talk to him.

 This dark figure was a girl. He knew she was a girl by her soft voice. She did not wait for him to ask her anything.

 She even did not wait for the end of the burning investigation the skin of his hand did on her neck.

“There is a jar of hot soup for you,” she said. “Sleep with me.”Vanko stood in his tracks, helpless, blind like the last two puppies some neighbor had thrown into the kennel hours ago. “I am afraid of people – of men… of women, too,” the girl muttered. “It’s dark here and I can’t see you. I am not afraid of the dark.”

 He didn’t know what he had to do. He had never touched a girl, and did not dare to approach her, although herbs and spices kicked in his blood. They were the same herbs and spices his Romanian grandmother had used to cure his grandfather and teach him to love a woman.

“Quick. My parents will come. They think I am crazy. I am not afraid of dogs… even of the biggest ones. I thought I’d be scared of seeing you… that’s why I came when it was dark. Now you look like a big dog and I’m not scared.”

“But I… I don’t know…” Vanko mumbled. He should get out of the kennel and run home where his mother was grinning at the moon. In fact, that evening there was no moon, but she saw it all the same.
I’ll show you,” the girl said. “I’ve seen on the TV how it is done.” He suddenly felt his burning cheek glued to her. He could swear he heard the Struma River flow through the girl’s skin. This was the most magnificent sound he had heard in his life.

“My father is ill,” she said and suddenly the skin of her stomach became cold.

 “Ill?” He whispered, scared stiff, desperate that her skin through which the Struma River flowed would go away. “What’s wrong with your father?”

“He’s old… He says his name’s Nasso,” she whispered. “Every night he hears your grandmother call him. She wants him, you know. He leaves for your house every day… My mother is old, too. She’s weak. I am afraid of your Romanian grandmother...” He did not listen to her any more. He kissed her quietly, carefully lest his Romanian grandmother could hear. He wanted the girl for himself. The Struma River was in her. The moon was in her skin.

“I brought you food,” she said. “Please, don’t go. My parents will come soon.” He kissed her. He was going to give her all the money he had taken for the stolen car.

 “Don’t be afraid,' Vanko whispered. “I love you.”

He didn’t know what that meant, but he was sure he was telling the truth.

 Zdravka  Evtimona



Earth’s spit-polished veneer chipped away
  Without dermis we cannot live
    Sea levels rise coastlines retreat
      Breakaway glacial teardrops overflowing basins

Spitfire core molten anima meltdown
  Crust scraped like burnt toast
    Streaming butter sugary cinnamon sprinkles
      Teapot spout letting off steam

Wanton destruction spooking lonesome planet
  Diminishing water supplies eco-agro clashes
    Recycled excuses uprooted straggly transplants
      Heat waves drought bipolar extremes

Smoothing wrinkles soothing battle scars
  Plump wrathful grapes sun-dried raisins
    Twisted clinging vines seedless clusters
      Fluke hoarfrost siege strip searched

Climate change shattering Plexiglas greenhouses
  Scorned thunderbolt fury lightning rage
    Flash floods clear as mudslides
      Tornados funneling disaster refugee homelessness

Nothing remains behind thin-skinned masque
  Groovy slits baiting nebulous void
    Desperate human essence leaking out
      Needle stuck pointless compass aswirl

 Charles Frederickson





Sometimes, after lunch,
I will stroll by the birdcages.
Witness the rustle of green feathers
and listen to the sweet language
of the multi-colored lovebirds.
I fill the empty spaces
With morsels of poppy bread.
And I wonder if they are happy
surrounded by walls of wire
or if their wings have become lazy.

The view of the sun and sky
fragmented like a jigsaw puzzle
none of us have yet to solve.

An elderly Iraqi poet
named Sabah, gifted me
with his book of poems.
144 Pages embellished
with Arabic script, half
circles, wandering dots,
and a page dedicated to one
of his granddaughters;
her name the same as mine.
He told me 'Here, we read
from right to left.'
I nodded, realizing he had
just answered my question
about our differences.

Two rose bushes reside
by the Palace pool.

One abundant with roses,
the other, bare,
revealing its bones
to anyone who passes by.

There is no privacy here.
Stems rooted in coconut husk
colored soil contort themselves
to feel freedom in the
hollow spaces.

 The same places I search for
when I tire of looking
into a dozen strangers' faces,
a sigh the only conversation
between us.

 Sandy Hiss







1.      SINE

The microscope
sees a cross
hair fractured
out /of all dimensions
So the eye will . . . count . . . read . . . paint . . .
burn . . .
And the eye
adds to invisibility
the fractals of construction
and chaos.
God is three,
but calculus halves without limit.

2.      COSINE

We make it up as we go along
Because if we had answers
          would we ask questions?
Because we guess at answers
Because a mouthful of white
          rice inhibits
Because digestion borrows blood from the brain
Because we will never again ask for a free lunch
Because we eat alone
Because in the most intimate moments
          we are alone
Because a virus has no mind
Because a virus will not go mad
Because we mind
          but may
Because one friend per life
          is infinite






Because one doesn’t add up
Because we don’t know the sum of truth
Because by the time we look from one hand
        to the other
has been called.


We have reduced
life to a simple
by x.

4.     TANGENT

with our square
with our square
with our square
with our square
with our square

James Penha



From cosmic dust
the force of life
makes me gasp,
drowning at the surface
for the air.
The roots that creep
tenaciously from rhizomes
slithering through the earth,
the seed that bursts
through cracked soil,
the cell transformed
into fur and blood and bone;
entities that fill space
compete for cracks and creases,
open sunny turf,
secluded niches
in the shade.
I gasp too through
the flaps of my mother’s womb,
I watch the moving stasis
of the growth of things,
the wearing down of life.
I see that walking soil
drifting slowly toward decay,
back to the cosmic dust,
that floating force of life
that makes me moan,
suck heavily on the night air
as if before me all the stars
shifted in the sky.

Previously published in Going to the Well,

a collection of poetry, 2004.





There go all the beautiful,
those young fawns in the forest
licked smooth and dry
by their mother’s tongues.
They freely strut and prance
throughout the floating world.

There go shoots fresh from spring,
a supple tenderness from earth
to blossom in a joyful splash.

There go all of us along the path
that ends among the mushrooms
in the shade,
an act of disappearing,
pretty faces of the girls,
rigid, hard,
yellowed skulls among curled dried leaves,
empty seashells on the beach.

Previously published in Running Down the Wind, a collection of poetry, 2007.

David Fraser




It seems only yesterday
you were the new stud in my flower garden----
raw, unpainted, rippling back,
sturdy pine legs
strong enough to press three hundred pounds.
Today, we tote you
to a green glade in the back garden-
scrape off flecks of old white wrinkled paint,
spray you blue,
to give you a body lift,
halt your falling apart.
Gap-toothed old codger,
your blue back
is missing a slat.
Unsteady, you lounge in the shade,
uncaring about spackled bird shit stains
smearing your crackled, aging arms.
 I ease down to rest
 in your lap.
 You hold up bravely,
 rusty nails and screws
 squeak and creak in your sinews,
 legs wobbling
 from searing suns,
 occasional snows---
 too much summer rain
 too little shade.

 Earl J. Wilcox








A Weekend in Berry


And now - now everything she loved has betrayed her -
Vanity Fair, the urgency of wine, cigarettes and nipples.
The moon has fallen out of her sky, the tides slacken,
she rocks in the slop of a wide Sargasso sea. Filthy
weed.  Enemies gather wearing the faces of her friends,
they twist their heads away, or pretend to be kind, like
chattering demons - and the tourists taking over her town
mistake her house for quaint collectables. The gate clicks.
They roost on her balconies looking down upon the traffic.
She is cruising down the middle of the road - screaming!
Her hair is on fire. The words sloughing from her mouth
have never been heard before. A new language of fear.
It's so cold. Bitter. In spite of the blessed tongue of flame.
Every hair on her body is standing on its hind legs, ululating.


It's a Tidy Town. The barman has his Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate. Nothing wrong with that. A stooping loner in the pokie room checks the cigarette machine for that lucky, plucky overlooked coin. You could set your watch by him. The Turkish cleaner has forgotten his own language can't grasp what secular means. But after 38 years remembers that the Kurds are to blame. We are all the same it seems. Someone else is to blame. And the roofs of Berry from the back verandah are no less mysterious or beautiful for his (and my) simple xenophobia. He stretched his hand out to me in the smokers' enclave. As his crippled father  self- medicated with VB. Hoping for a good stem cell. He showed me his soft inside elbow - and his troublesome tooth - hand in the corner of his lip - pretty lad - told me how he can't take injections - can't take them! just can't! won't! And rushed on to say with darkened untidy eyes that as he unlocks the garage
each working morning he imagines his mates lurking to kill him. Is that paranoia?  



I woke in my room with the window onto the verandah
in a nightmare of the giant black moth come to get me .
A figure of a man pointing a finger of doom, framed
against the graceful arches and the pale morning sky.
It was too easy. The ancient window will not quite close.
One of the nesting swallows misunderstood the aperture.

 I rose - and seized the frantic bird in my hand and threw
the window up - and threw the bird into a limitless pause.

Jennifer Compton




This is the story of a young woman who felt a passion burning inside her. It was a passion that she did not understand. All she knew was that whenever she went into the woodland, she was able to release her pent up emotions.

Is there a law of attraction? If not, what then brought  that one man, the one that would understand her, into her secret world? Let him tell their story.


I've searched all over for my Indigo bride
Yes I've come for my woodland sprite
The one you see as dull and grey
Yet for me her aura is bright.


How quickly you all judge
How swiftly you condemn
Can none of you see
That she's an uncut gem?


You've seen her sitting on her own
You've all exchanged frowned looks
But she's not so strange and not aloof
She lives in a world of books.


She lives here on this street
But weekly hears my sign
She then leaves her lonely room
To drink her woodland wine.

You'd know about her forest joys
If you could hear when she sings
It's when she hears that humming bird
That's when loves' fountain springs.

She knows not yet that I have learned
To make that trilling sound
That enticing call of the humming bird
That leads her on to sweeter ground.

None of you have seen her dance
And none of you have heard her songs
Only forest creatures really know
Just where her heart belongs.

Of no point are your wide eyes
For when my song is heard
She'll know the truth at last
The secret of the humming bird.

Sweet maiden of the forest
Let love be our goal
Come and dare to show them
The beauty of your soul.

Fred Hose






Wisdom T. Petterpuck Colonel of note,
Felt that women should not have the vote.
His good wife Hermione, differed on this,
And let him know firmly his view was a miss!

Flustered and blustered the Colonel blushed
As one by one, his opinions were crushed.
He'd fought in great battles his bravery well known,
His valour and chivalry unquestioned by none.

But Hermione was a challenge, he ne'er faced before
And clearly Colonel Petterpuck didn't know the score,
By the end of the round she'd won fair and square,
He was roundly defeated, an event oh so rare.

Wisdom by name and by nature was learned,
Silence at home, his peace was then earned.
Whilst Hermione ruled, his position was clear
His role was to answer, 'Of course, my dear!'

When the Colonel finally passed on from life,
He parted at rest, well at least from his wife,
And as he sat on his cloud in the sky,
He prayed that his wife would never die.






Hermione Petterpuck grand old lady
Lived by her wits, and regarded as shady
For her past was forgotten or perhaps it was hidden,
And no one dared ask, it was strictly forbidden.

But her secret I found, one day in a draw,
Of an old wooden bureau, that stood by the door.
Hermione Petterpuck, this grand old dear
Her secret discovered, and now it was clear.

And I hear you all ask, of Hermione’s past
Will you share of this secret, right now and at last?
And I’ll tell you this much as I finger my collar,
For more you must send a donation, “One Dollar!”

Philip Bell







december in johannesburg
brought the heat wave
so familiar
to an anger torn again in
a brittle feeling of windswept leaves
high pitched laughter in
soweto shebeens and lilywhite
close corporate parties before a final
predictable violence of words
dying of maimed wounds in a brisk
afternoon of illegitimate reason.
another heat wave back home in gwalior
had cracked the north end fort wall
assaulting repeatedly the loneliness of
an earthy immortality
and sudden moments of madness that had once grappled
to stay in the shade of
your eye.

Philip Bell







There are jacaranda flowers ablaze
and the sidewalk mood to my home is violet again
summer in south Africa is tinged with such jealousy of cloud laden longings
shades heavy in the partings of your hair
and eyelashes that bend down in a
whisper on a red tiled roof

of my neighborhood moment
for today is only a day
that i own
with you
wistful caresses of
a guilt
and slumber
at the far end
of a dusty-noon
and grime on your face
of aches
and yet another

Amitabh Mitra







 A tiny insect flutters round the lamp.
It's grown colder, in two sudden stages.
Two weeks ago, later summer had its day.
The leaves were falling through the weekend rain.
Winter came this afternoon at three.
The woolen sweaters needed airing out.
One favorite had been riddled by the moths.
Beneath the radiator lies a shroud.
Is that a crown of thorns on both the wings?
You'll understand when Daylight Savings comes.




At night, the moths come bang against the glass,
despite the little light her candle gives.
He will have been here only once, a past
they'll ponder all their separate lives.
The candle burns; they do not say a word
but slowly teach each other how to lie
together. Moths are all they will have heard:
how for a candle's love, they'd die.

 Andrew Shields











A poem inspired by something you said last week


It was an afternoon of Currawong
songs, birds perched on bushfired

stumps, throats like vox angelicas
lurking amongst the branches of the

fire-scarred scrub. Ant hills steeped

in foraging, glisten like an aperture

of dissected capillaries, as robust as

blood-stained rocks in wide ochre plains:

rock and blood love each other
as emus and giant red kangaroos
flee the country's ancient instruments of death.
Sometimes the morning dew

softens the relentless hardness
of the drought crusted dirt

other times it’s like rain on a duck's
slick feathers. Violet cones

of prickly onopordum acanthiums
endanger soft nocturnal pouches
full of squirming pink hairless
noses, mouths fused against teat

amidst the crackle of careless
bark and the drone of diesel pumps
attached to the square shaped lights

in the distance. The dingo with an injured

hind leg caresses the dirt with her blood

a feral cat drops a limp sleepy lizard
onto the back step. From a distance the lizard

looks like the turd of a Genyornis

a giant ostrich-like bird rendered extinct

by the practice of burning.

Frogs burrow into dry riverbeds
hibernate until a tincture of rain

revives their eggish bodies.

 Jayne Fenton Keane







The heavens are low
With dark cloud
My vision grows dim
Are those whitecaps
Or swooping seagulls
That I see
Dashed against black rock
Birds' footmarks on wet sand
A lone Labrador
Struggling back to shore
Frisbee in Jaws
Anxiety in dog eyes
Picnic blankets
Difficult to fold
In the rising wind
Car taillights are a brighter red
Deserted wharf
Dull shadows on Alcatraz
The clouds are alive
There is turbulence in their ranks
Infantry takes position
Bows are taut
The cavalry stomps and neighs
Trees are bent double shoreward
The storm is coming in.

 Ashok Niyogi







Did you ever wonder,
'Except to Pass' where there are no cars?

Somewhere on that forgotten road
The smell of death lingers

She was this baby's breath flower

The future could not fathom
her gilded gaze nor her septic curse

So fate decided the shock value
Would awaken the almost dead
Long enough to read the signs

Placed there like broken fragments
of Broken dreams and broken hearts
Left to swelter at noon day
While the desert heat does its work

... Carries the eagle ever higher
Brings the scavengers from nowhere

Launched by a hormone quest
Her innocent flippancy
Spent too hastily on a pickup seat

Alan Bender