Words as Islands – poetry
chosen by Rony Alfandary, Poetry editor
This section will include texts which relate and refer the mind to a search for precision and ambiguity which can be singularly described as poetry. Such a definition can be infuriating and comforting, depends on your point of view and readiness to accept all that is obscure. It is perhaps an acquired skill, perhaps a genetic trait, mostly it is best described as that ability to tolerate the intolerable.
In this first edition, I have chosen poems by people I know personally. This does not have to be the case in future editions. If you like what you read here, and perhaps if you don’t, please feel free to share a contribution. I promise to attend to it with care.
I met you only at night,
So most of us was shadowed.
I matched most of your talk
As we parried the common pauses
By cigarettes, sips and smiling.
The jazz played, till places closed down,
We sloped outward to what waited,
While sleeping birds stirred, and clouds slid by
The horizon, where the moon was still to rise.
I couldn’t make a move, yet,
Throughout this evening out, together, when,
We betrayed slight nerves, by accident
Some under was touched, I touched,
And your cheek came close to my lips,
Proximity: nearing a long engagement.
We could neither take the same path home,
In case dawn might catch us too close,
For comfort then, we left each other,
Good-byes hanging in mid-air,
To meet you only again, at night,
Where our speech was shadowed…
For Y: and the Why For
If I had that woodsmoke chance again,
How, by drifts of snow that callously melt,
Would I re-hymn old passages.
They were a frail dance, yet caged like bullion,
Or the Tiger of prey, await behind shallow curtains.
I cannot follow a sackcloth day:
Quickly, in faith, here are my beliefs’ totality,
That coil and re-combine as serpents cluster,
Knowing never to be hangdog over the windfall.
Ardour carries no sacrifice beside:
I am employed at new paternosters,
Craving thankless beginnings,
Where the scythe will spill utter blood.
Neither game at Sunday boules, nor quietly till,
Finding tenure and fief-hold on the abyss.
Don’t bleat in dreams,
Or founder in the deep straw of grim embrace.
Never have hold.
Primrose turn to dull ash.
Contrived masks now leech my face.
As arrested at my back, my arms are pinned,
Where, from the graze of her that’s lost,
The scent of jasmine in the wind,
Mescal distils and the dis-ease of the reptile mind.
Vitriol and harps are my maps now,
Over this moral mute world.
A salvo then, to sundry wit, and flip poetics.
So, as a hyena, I burrow,
To root out the Isotopes of stricken humours.
We had our due semester and, as Midas,
I was blessed with this domain uncalled for.
Idle caresses: none made.
Romance will never encore,
Nor sandal break of hers.
Simon Miles (1956-2005) was born in Birmingham and lived in Nottingham, England.
These poems were taken, with kind permission by Dragonheart Press, from his first poetry collection Reasons’why published in 1990. Simon published a second collection, The Signature of Kisses’ was published posthumously by Awen Publications in 2008. Starting in 1986 he initiated and ran various writers’ groups including the Bath Writers’ Workshop, which was formed in 1998 and in Rampton special hospital, Nottinghamshire. Amongst his many writing projects was an unfinished manuscript based upon Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet.
It was only a dream
This night, only a mouse
And me remain awake.
Its so late I’m afraid this house
Shakes the walls to break.
When the roof fell off, the sky fell in,
the floor fell away
The walls floated back to the garden.
The table and chairs grew leaves again,
Moss and mushrooms became
The chapters of books, lining the bookshelves.
Everything is returning now
Doors return to the forest,
Windows return to the sea
This life falls to dust, houses collapse ,
And a mouse skeleton turns to ash.
When my cock fell off
I was numb as zen.
My eyes, ears ,trembling fingers
Left me holding enlightenment
So I began feeding the birds crumbs
Sparrows are fragments ,
Being eaten alive by beautiful creatures
At breath-taking moments.
Outshining everything else.
A brilliant right=wrong moment
Flew away forever.
The room at the top of the house
The room at the top of the house
Was a door to the sky.
Barefaced stars sat there
Undisturbed for thousands of years,
The sign on the door read.
A little light shines in the dawn
A little light falls in the dusk
But if you look into the night
Matthew Francis. Born in Somerset, England is now living in Israel.
“These poems are from an unpublished collection called Paradise is a selfie, my current work as a horticulturalist and previous literary education inspired these themes dealing with the environmental destruction of nature in Israel combined with a failing appreciation for religious dogma.”
Ahuva Batya [Constance] Scharff
The Generosity of Women
The Samburu women do not cry
when they are married off
to men they do not love.
They were given an opportunity
to be flirtatious and free with their bodies
as young teens; when it is time to marry,
thoughts turn to economics
instead of matters of the heart.
“We have no expectation of love,”
they tell me as we sit together under a large tree.
“Our happiness comes from our children.”
“And what of women who can have no children?” I ask.
“Those of us who have many give
the barren women one or two of our own.”
Returning to my tent, I lay on my cot,
imagining what it would be like to
live in a land where women are so generous
that they would give up one of their own children
so that their sisters would not
live with the grief of barrenness.
In Kenya, no woman is bereft of child.
Against this measure of generosity,
how can we consider ourselves the advanced nation?
The women speak about the mikvah
and its meaning to them.
They speak lovingly about how mikvah
improves their relationships
with their partners and children.
Everyone, that is, except me.
I sit beside the rabbi and sip slowly
from my water glass,
doing everything I can not to cry.
As the women talk about how each month’s
mikvah is an opportunity to mourn the life
that failed to grow in their bellies,
I stifle sobs.
When one of them reads a prayer that
infertile women sometimes say,
I pinch myself under the table
to keep the tears at bay.
For twenty years, I said all those prayers,
begged God to send me a child.
But none of it was meant to be.
God pushed away my prayers
as one bats off a fly.
Now, it is too late.
Not even a miracle could give me a baby.
And so I sit and pretend
that I chose for things to work out this way
while my sisters delight in a joy
that my heart will never understand.
was given to me
by a cruel man
an unbalanced woman
who, in a drunken episode,
Do I want my life
directed by a command
to be faithful
to those whom I
to my heart.
came to mind;
a kiss on my forehead.
How would my life change
if those whom I care about most
It is an experiment
I’ve decided to try.
I Talk With God
I talk with God
and God talks back.
There, I said it out loud.
It happens in prayer;
enraptured, I fall
trembling to the floor
freeing my spirit to soar
into the heavens.
I meet God in a garden,
where the lip of the
forest rests against a meadow.
We talk like friends.
We talk like lovers.
We talk like children.
Unless we don’t talk
and just sit together,
enjoying one another’s
company in silence.
Ahuva Batya [Constance] Scharff, PhD, is an internationally recognised speaker and author on the topics of addiction recovery and mental health. She currently serves Rock to Recovery, a music-based addiction and trauma treatment program, as Science and Research Chair on their board of directors and VP Business Development. Previously, she was Senior Addiction Research Fellow and Director of Addiction Research for a luxury addiction treatment centre based in Malibu, California. Her research centres around using complementary health and contemplative practices to improve treatment outcomes and promote mental health. Dr. Scharff is coauthor of the Amazon.com #1 best-selling book, Ending Addiction for Good and the award-winning poetry book Meeting God at Midnight, in which the poems in this selection can be found. She regularly travels the world speaking, teaching and advocating for compassionate health practices that destigmatise mental health problems.