Wine down the river

Yesterday’s wine

today’s tears

plonk down the river

if you please

with its winding reeds

and soaked up fields

marshes in the distance that can not breath

it wasn’t the wine you needed after all

yellow-greenish tint with the head sore

today’s cheap bottle of sadness that no one sees

getting stuck on the bend with mud and fleas

there’s your private river or wine

winding down, winding down.

Warblers at war

This poem is dedicated to Euroasian leaf warblers commonly found in Ukraine and Russia.

The Great Steppe stretches wide in her sleep.

Spreading their wings

Warblers are reading to war.

Until now, most ordinary birds,

they were called into action.

Beating hearts in ruffled feathers

from Quaker grey to military green

they no longer hide amongst the leaves.

Under the heavy steel of gathering clouds

they want to fly as high as eagles

without a stop or hesitation.

The Great Steppe stretches wide in her sleep,

counting the grains of dust it had shifted for centuries

and all the warblers – wood, dusky, willow and common chiffchaffs.

The Great Steppe dreams deep in her sleep,

from left to right on the map that someone reads from the right to left

with all its rivers, mountains, borders and creases.

The Great Steppe becomes deaf in her sleep,

and warblers’ chafferings, however urgent and annoying, melt into the bombings.

Taste of metal in their little beaks and the whooshing sound, like tinnitus in their ears.

Confused by the dust, their world is no longer borderless.

Do they look left or right? Right or left?

Europe or Asia?

Saharan sand (flash fiction)

The heart is hanging on the wall where he works. It has a suede strap. If he changed jobs tomorrow he would take it to the new place and hang it on the wall the same way. When he looks at its pink surface he sees her putting the charm made of quartz around his neck all those years ago. He would never consider wearing anything like that before. He was already a big man then, though not fat, his frame contrasted with her fragile figure. She felt safe in his embrace and he knew it too. The sooner he let her go the easier it will be but that was a lie he has been telling himself. First, he couldn’t get enough of her body and then her soul crept up on him like a tie dye. Today he is a man of authority, he advises presidents and high officials on matters of state but he can’t do it without the pink charm.

‘The quartz clarifies your emotions’, she used to say. Little did she know he had none. He has lost them in the ocean between Europe and Arabian peninsula. No emotions in him, no courage either to tell her he was already married. After lovemaking, all kinds of thoughts entered his mind but the lips didn’t move. In another place, in another time, we would have been husband and wife. He stared at the ceiling. Love is a myth, steeped in endless longing. Longing for a stranger that’s beyond your reach. Isn’t that what Arab poets wrote about, the unrequited love? They drunk some more of the nana tea, the minty flavour trickled down their throats and he wanted to kiss her again. She never made any noise when she dosed off, her breath touching his arm. Traffic picked up at Kings Road and Sun started to melt into the Sea like a bowl of honey. There was a man doing Tai Chi on the beach. It would be a perfect moment for Time to stop.

Last time she saw him they ordered two sugar sprinkled croissants. Almonds scattered on two mountains of pastry like camel backs. ‘One, two, three’, he counted them to avoid eye contact. Somehow, he knew what she wanted to say. Maybe he’d seen it before. When did she turn her back on careless lovemaking? His nervous body wanted to gag her. Put the pastry in her mouth and smother the icing around her lips. Wipe it off. Kiss the porcelain skin. She’s always been a doll! But you can’t compel anyone without looking at their eyes. It was too early in the morning to talk about love but she spoke of it from the bottom of her heart. The bell rang every time a new customer came in. It was the final countdown and she knew it too. Her voice dragged through the Costa bar full of lazy Brightonians and eventually evaporated into the sea air. It’s still wondering about to this day. Lost-love.

15 years later, wind & rain sent little grains of sand down on Britain. The car was covered by thin veil as it shimmered in the morning Sun. ‘Did you know that sand is actually quartz stone very finely ground by the ocean?’ Her daughter had a knack for curious facts. Or maybe the teacher has mentioned it in the lesson. She remembered the quartz heart and felt the suede strap between the fingers. His neck, where the shirt met his flesh, used to be so warm. She used to slip the heart underneath it. Of all the things they said and did, it was his chest that lingered in her mind the most. She checked for the mirror. Her daughters’ brows, as dark as his, were always brooding. She saw his purple lips in a woman’s face, so full and soft. ‘I had no idea, never thought about sand storms’, she pretended to say casually.

He found her on Twitter last year. Direct messages came every now and then, she called them ‘tweets behind the tweets’. Secret tweets. Tweets hidden from his wife and 4 daughters. When was the first daughter born?, she wondered. We also have a daughter, she wanted to tweet back. Or, we made a daughter together. Or, I had your daughter. You gave me a daughter. God gave us a daughter. The man could only make daughters, it seemed.

And that Tuesday, she put a photo on Twitter: ‘she is clever like you’.

2022 – the year of attention

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’ Simone Weil

A little diary entrance for beginning of the new year: if 2020 was the year of Fear, then 2021 will be remembered as the year when I stopped remembering what it feels like ‘to feel good’.

I don’t mind repetition – remember, remembering, feel, feel. It signifies the year of repetition. If only I could feel, feel again in 2022 what I couldn’t feel in 2021.

The year of separate bedrooms, earplugs and clouds passing by in the window.

Teenagers talking to each other at night.

The year of flower deadheading and robins nesting in the shed.

The year I stopped reading books.

The year I stopped ‘seeing’ my husband.

The year I lost the job.

The year of UNFEELING as a way to survive.

A selfish year, full of my own little problems.

In 2022 I want to start paying attention.

To words I am reading.

To people I am seeing.

To food I am cooking.

Attention is truly the rarest.

Image by Geralt on Pixabay

No one likes St Nicholas more than Eastern Europeans living abroad!

Not a migrant

On 5 December in 1984, late at night, I was polishing my snow boots, placing them on the widow sill, considering whether I should draw the curtain or not, in case St Nicholas should peep into our living room. The air outside was crisp though it was not snowing yet. “Any time soon”, I hoped.

My sister’s boots were tiny compared to mine, she was 7 years my junior and that made me smirk because I knew that Mikuláš (as we called him in Slovak) could potentially fit more. More clementines, monkey nuts, chocolate coins or even an odd banana (if the good old trade infrastructure allowed for such exotic pleasures!)

There were other perks of the Mikuláš season too. My parents’ employers organised annual discos for children. But we were not allowed to dance until Mikuláš, accompanied by the Angel and Devil, gave out identical presents of sweets and fruit…

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prayer scraps

Ever wondered why homeless people do not beg by the church?

If I was homeless, I would get some paper from WH Smith

and tear it up into strips.

I would put it in the basket by the church entrance

and ask people to write down their prayers.

I would beg for their prayers to be answered.

I would beg more fervently than Father Alan.

But no, I am not allowed to sit there.

Just as well, cause the porch is windy,

The gate is heavy,

and the church goers are weighted down by guilt.

They whisper in my ear: ‘pray for my mother, my brother, my child’

The gale whistles and lifts up the scraps,

Upwards and downwards they float little boats of hope:

Please help me find my soul cause it’s wandering.’

HAPPY Diwali – Festival of Lights – 1-7th November at Caldmore Community Garden

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS 1-7th NOVEMBER FREE ENTRY A week of creativity, music, poetry and performing arts in Caldmore to light up all the community. MONDAY 1st November 6PM LET THERE BE LIGHT – SWITCHING ON CALDMORE COMMUNITY GARDEN ILLUMINATIONS Time to turn on the lights! Infamous Arts have been working tirelessly to light up the […]

Festival of Lights – 1-7th November at Caldmore Community Garden

Midnight run – flash fiction

She liked running in darkness.

Not skipping a day on Halloween,

the shadows didn’t bother her.

That day, the Moon floated in a pool of blue like a big orange.

Pilkington Avenue, always a movie set –

tiffany glass in every porch,

pictures hang neatly.

Men with books and beards sat by the fire, the kind she would fancy.

Not that there was anything wrong with her loving husband or their terraced house.

You’re leaving these runs too late’, he would say. But it was the way she liked it. Their two children tucked in bed. She was light. The wind carried her with ease. She loved drizzle.

It was in front of 52 where she slipped.

A thudding sound in her heart that no one else should hear but

the God himself. The head hit the pavement.

Tree branches wallpapering the sky is what she remembers. They were both still and dancing.

How unfortunate‘, the voice said.

A trench coat silhouette as if cut out from charcoal – a man stood behind her.

We are not meant to come this close’, she thought, yet her body leaned against the cold coat.

His face appeared from behind the fringe. Shyly, she wanted to draw it back in like a theatre curtain.

Her arms were heavy. She lost the fluorescent vest.

It’s all right, you can relax your foot‘. The man’s voice had no age, his skin was flawless.

We are not wearing face masks‘. She was now aware of her sweat, her matted hair and the pandemic.

We don’t need them Dasha‘.

She let out a cloud of breath that landed on his cheekbone. (‘How does he know my name?)

The sound of crunching stones underfoot behind the entrance made her realise she’s now inside.

It was a house too grand, even for this expensive neighbourhood.

Two pillars and a lion sculpted into each of its head, smell of woodworm in the distance.

There was a tree on the horizon she could vaguely recognise, only it grew bigger.

His brows. She thought hard about those brows being carried. ‘Where are we going?

You should know by now Dasha. You’ve been here many times before’.

You mean running?’

‘Yes, that as well’.

The sound of ambulance woke up the neighbourhood of Pilkington Avenue at approximately 10.30pm.

No one has ever seen the road so still on All Hallows Night.

A woman lay on the cold slabs in front of 52. A pile of building works materials for the renovation of the ‘duke’s mansion,’ as they all know it, must have got in the way.

The mobile phone that fell out of her pocket rang a few times before the ambulance crew accidentally run over it.

Paramedics rushed out. One, two, three. A giant bag. Leaning over, performing CPR.

The clouds covered the Moon and mist has fallen on Pilkington Avenue. Even the neighbours stopped talking.

A flick of wispy light has appeared in the far end of the mansion.

The stained glass window revealed two faces, one with the fringe and the other that of Dasha, her hair short and matted as runner’s. One could mistake them for two male lovers if the mist hadn’t been so thick.

Soaking up the smell of burnt city fireworks, the grand mansion stood as it always did. Chimneys cold and crumbling in the distance. Only this time, the Duke has brought home his most precious possession yet.

The Man who held the Sun

In memory of my father-in-law, a farmer and winemaker who was kissed by the Sun.

The Man with the Hat who greets the dawn

and the valley spreads its wings before him

will not be coming out today.

Blackbirds invaded the weepy willow again.

They’re bigger than black,

their voices go unnoticed.

The Man with the Hat left a widow.

But she does not feel a widow yet.

That will come come with each drop of rain

muddying the yard

in search of his footsteps.

He won’t roll up his sleeves

to hold the Sun in his palms and kiss it.

In truth of the truths, it was the Sun that kissed him.

One day in the vineyard, just like that – a kiss of death shot from the sky,

a deadly cupid with a cancer arrow.

How could you do that, to burn my love? To scorch his skin?

They say his soul is still wondering the Earth.

For 40 days, he still visits his home.

That is why his widow hangs his favourite shirt on the front door.

His bed is made, there’s bread and water to quench his thirst

and a towel in the window.

Today, the Sun keeps touching the window

brazen, as if it didn’t cause enough grief,

it wants to see the Man with the Hat one last time.

The breeze sneaks him in on the dust from the road.

The towel trembles,

The room shines up for a moment and suddenly it’s overcast.

The fridge is humming, the curtains are stale.

Her head is down, remains of the flour on the table he writes: ‘I should have held your hand a bit longer.

Good bye my love’.

Thrown together in perfect distance

Under the sun so distant people do not believe it exists

With a face pale like morning sickness and

Invisible frozen veins of purple blue

we’ve been thrown together into perfect distance.

Somewhere in Midlands, lovers walk side by side.

But not us. We are two dots equally far from happiness.

You used complain of the cold weather in March

and I said that March was two thirds winter.

After all, they do not call them snow drops for nothing.

You have gone darker. I saw your pictures on Instagram.

I didn’t think you’d ever put colour on your hair.

But it wasn’t you, I guess.

Your wife must have painted your hair.

That was a few weeks ago cause today you’re ashen.

We have done many Marches together

some in the car and some on foot.

The motorway splits the Sandwell Valley in half

I am 15 years older and I annoy you. We’re no longer lovers.

The trees are still bare, there are the cows and horses and you and I –

we’re breaking the Covid rules and for what – this measly walk?

‘Look at the sunset’, the couple behind us says…

Beyond the field and few crab apple trees, the orange line has revealed itself

like lava trapped in marble

like the letter I have never sent,

a love pill buried in time.