P.C. Scheponik: “On Being Done”

On Being Done

Last night my mother told me she missed me.
Something in her voice reached into my heart
and woke the young boy in me, the one sleeping
for sixty some years--
the one she had labored out of her body, held him
in her arms, fed him warm milk, bathed and changed
him, taught him to walk and talk, watered the garden
of his growth with her tears-- that one,
that one heard her say, “ I miss you.”
And it became clear to the man in me how impossible
it is to be done.
At ninety, my mother, her life behind her, all but the last
thin chapter read, now only echoes down the long
hall of time in her head, cannot let go of who she was.
How could who she is ever fill the empty rooms of her
present heart, longing for all the memories, all the love
all the purpose of the past?
Dances with ghosts, no matter how beautiful they are,
can never last.
Memories, no matter how hard we cling to them can never
hug back.
All our lives are stories we want to be never-ending.
But every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
And the denouement will never let us pretend ours is different
as we lie alone in our aged beds, waiting for the kiss goodnight,
waiting for the one who will turn off the light, then take us by
the hand and aching heart and lead us into our dreams.

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P.C. Scheponik is a lifelong poet who lives by the sea with his wife, Shirley, and their shizon, Bella. His writing celebrates nature, the human condition, and the metaphysical mysteries of life. He has published four collections of poems: Psalms to Padre Pio (National Centre for Padre Pio, INC), A Storm by Any Other Name and Songs the Sea has Sung in Me (PS Books, a division of Philadelphia Stories), and And the Sun Still Dared to Shine (Mazo Publishers). His work has also appeared in numerous literary journals, among them, Adelaide, Visitant, Red Eft Review, Boned, Time of Singing, WINK, Poetry Pacific, Streetlight Press, and others. He was a finalist in Adelaide Anthology Contest 2017, 2018, and 2019. He is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Robert Nisbet: “Stranger”

Stranger
 
Her seat was diagonally opposite mine
the whole of the journey to Paddington.
Village people, city people, families,
came and went. She and I were constants.
 
I’d fetch my coffees from the buffet. She
had her own wholegrain, had beetroot juice.
I read my various papers, magazines,
and she her Germaine Greer in paperback.
 
She had the habit, an unsettling one,
of flickering her hand across her face.
A long brown strand of hair would fall,
regularly, across her forehead.
 
From Paddington, we were quickly swallowed
by London and the Underground, although
I did, for just one moment, wonder
if that was her down-carriage. 
 
It was her though certainly, waiting
in reception, in the news and media office.
Still that hand shadowing its uncertainty
across the tense white face.
 
Next day, I bought the paper, naturally,
to see my piece. There were also photos
of two different women, named. Either
might well have been my stranger.
 
One was a woman due to donate a kidney
to a very sick sister. Another an emerging
political recruit, favoured in the hierarchy,
but now accused of office bullying.
 
Haunted sometimes by that shimmering hand,
the manifest unease, I’ve often hoped
my stranger was the donor woman.
But I honestly cannot be sure.

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Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and in the USA, where he was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2020.

Mark Niedzwiedz: “Dogeared”

Dogeared                                                                 
 
I am well worn, thumbed through, creased at the edges
Always stuck on the same page, always mid-sentence
I can neither avert my eyes, turn thoughts, nor paper
For it is my life’ s work, knowing something of what’s gone before
But no clarity as to what comes next
I live in the now of uncertainty
No future, beyond skittish dreams
My imprint is not a doer, but a fence sitter
Who cannot jump till all the jumbled pieces are boxed
But life is liquid, ebbing and flowing
Formless, seamless, perhaps meaningless
Favouring the page turners who run blindly to the next staging post
Whilst visionaries awaiting the grand vision
Are left wanting - wanting to know
Does God give us patterns?
Glimpses of the eternal to send us on our merry way
Or are we just sleepwalking into nothingness?
Weighty questions, light on answers I fear
For the doomed among us, the poor dogeared

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From the UK, Mark Niedzwiedz is a professional composer and lyricist. Relatively new to poetry, Mark’s poems so far have appeared in poetry journals such as Grey Sparrow, Oddville Press, Scritura, Wink, Rat’s Arse review, Sac, Literary Heist, Harbinger Asylum, Wordgathering, BlazeVOX, and elsewhere.

Mark Cassidy: “Lenny”

Lenny (circa ’60)

He is sitting alone at the counter of a downtown diner somewhere along the middle of the evening, late in November. Kind Of Blue is playing. People pass by outside the window, their features distorted by the rain streaming on the glass. He smokes a cigarette. He keeps a cup of coffee and a notebook in front of him at all times. He is ready. When it comes, he’s gonna be ready. He’s wearing an open necked white shirt under a corduroy jacket. With patches.

_____Towards midnight a cab will pull up to the kerb, spraying gritty, icy water over the sidewalk, and someone will not get out but will roll the window part way down and peer for a moment into the diner’s interior before pulling away again in the direction of the train station while he lights another cigarette and does not turn around. Later, the rain will turn to snow and the chilly streets will fall silent, swollen with mystery and longing.

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Mark Cassidy writes, “I was born in the UK and emigrated to Canada once my schooling was finished. I have worked all round the world and now live in Texas.”

Shannon Cuthbert: “Thereafter”

Thereafter

My heart in a bucket
in the barn black with ice
and warm lambs lantern-lit
to tease it apart with greedy tongues.
The world revolves
taking with it wolves and pipers
green hills stacked like pears
and me, departing your expanse
in a glass-bottomed boat
doomed to precariousness
my eyes weighed with candlesticks
too white to light.

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Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in Collidescope, Bluepepper, and Chronogram, among others, and are forthcoming in Muddy River Poetry Review and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.