What Happened When I Turned Off the Heat

Because I turned off the heat
Because I closed the back room windows
Because the wind is an empty threat
and the bottle is an empty bottle
Because the juice in the bottle was once sweet
Because the cheese in the refrigerator is molding
Because the bread on top of the refrigerator is green
Because there are seeds on your stockings
and you are tracking pollen through the house
Because antiseptic wipes can take only so much
and then they are as useless as the heat
when I went to the basement and turned it off

In the house of too much food
In the playground of too much exercise equipment
In the storeroom of too much of nothing
nothing to eat nowhere to sleep not a single seat
no toys no games no books no clothes
In the apartment of too many people
In the garden of too many weeds
dandelions, clover, crabgrass and so many
leaves for boiling and baking
In the street of too many cars and trucks
In the beach of too many dead fish and seagulls
In the ocean teeming with algae, a lack of oxygen
too much carbon dioxide, too much plastic debris

Then we’re in the castle of the big growth forests
Then we’re surrounded by acorns and pistachio nuts
Then the sunlight filters to the grandiose weeds
Then the path fills with sunlight and sunshine,
large clear shadows and large opaque beings
Then we run to clearings and find empty graves
full of stones, pebbles and grass clippings,
mites, centipedes and bluebird feathers
Then a dragon cloud devours the sky
Then it begins to rain and the roof of the castle leaks
stone and plaster and lead paint in large flakes
until the frescoed floor is dotted with white smudges
and our shoes are the color of lime ash and charcoaled wood
Then everything settles into a silence as great as God
and the nations of the planet do not even notice
Then the thinning begins, great birds, long reptiles,
one flick of the tongue of the Komodo dragon

Afterwards there will be little left of what was left to begin with
Afterwards the language of words will be devoid of vocal sounds
and pronunciation will be in the form of whistles and breathing
no one able to communicate until letters are again announced
fitting the afterwards of the world as we say it is directly now
Afterwards will be exactly after that one scar of a word loosens
itself into the realm of invention and intervention
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will eat the dry fruit on the plain
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will sleep in the tall grass
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will allow us to speak
Afterwards the pirates of Somalia will speak for us and we will know
Afterwards the words will come freely and fill us with longing
Afterwards we will cry with relief and sing the song of words
whistling, breathing, growling, our teeth bright and sharp

Michael H. Brownstein (USA)

Everyone's father dies

Everyone’s father dies,
snow melts in February
sometimes and the robin
comes home.

We are left with place names
we have not been. Stories, too,
we will no longer hear, poems, essays,
the vocabulary of socialism, and paths.

You can see the space between the rooms,
stray hair curled and gray,
folded manuscripts
under an old oak chest.

In a dream a father turns to you,
smiling, his arms opening,
opening, and when you wake,
you are no longer crying.

Michael H. Brownstein


The New Slip Inn / The Pub With No Beer

Walking home past the village church, I'm drawn
to the lamplit window in the cottage
opposite, the old blacksmith's — before that
a pub: The New Slip Inn. (How come, this far
from a waterway?) The interior
is bedecked with memorabilia
that materialise, hammer and tongs
in the glow from a fire, wooden bellows
pumping the vision into life. Then it
cools, but somehow softens. It has the feel
of something dimly remembered, windows
opened in an old calendar. I lean
in to put right one of the slipped horseshoes
that has spilled its luck, making the world turn

upside down, I've passed through a cupboard door
and walked out onto a bleached verandah,
not that of my own childhood but to where
another family has assembled
for a shot outside The Pub with No Beer —
except the father has a glass of it.
He rests his forearms on the railing while
his son twists awkwardly bored, and mother
stands back in her sunnies. You — on the edge
of your new beauty — smile to camera,
a little white dog between your bare feet.
You're already telling me that the song's
what this is all about: Old Billy, a
blacksmith; how and when the warrigals called.

Paul Munden (UK)

The Bulmer Murder cover
Paul's book The Bulmer Murder will be published in April 2017 by Recent Work Press.


Women of Disharmony

Disharmony is not only a state of being
But a colourless cube, built from converging walls
Bound by the mason's mortar between the brickwork
Solidified by the hot breath of weeping women.

Philosophise — believe this concrete clad room does not exist
It is simply an invention of the mind, a mental bondage
To historical inaccuracies. Or it is best forgotten, left that way
Just a square of walls in a silent, fenced-off field. But I

Heard about disharmony, in their voices travelling along
The barbed wires that now coil within my DNA strands
And their words were silenced outside those walls
Yet their last breaths were born in my lung tissue.

Have you seen disharmony? It begins with one wall.
It can build a city that stands a thousand years by a river's grassy edge.
Painted walls, cultural facades spread over the landscape. A colourful city
With sweeping designs of yellow stars smeared onto its doorways.

In that cube, that bare room, all the women were gasping
Running their hands along the concrete looking for cracks, trapped
By disharmony. Naked and brown, without sunlight or moonbeams
Not far from undivided Berlin, somewhere by a whistling train line.

Perhaps it was the same track that ran to the sea
Where families boarded boats, some never to see each other again. Separated
Sisters and cousins, children cast out like ashes from a furnace
They waved goodbye and said ‘Shalom’ to the ghosts they left behind.

Last night, I dreamed I visited Auschwitz.
A man in uniform smiled and led me through the gates.
He reunited me with the lost women of my family. They held me close
Crying as we showered in the space where those walls converged.

Wendy Beach (Western Australia)


Join the Library

let’s see sir
you wish to
join the library
you state that
your name
is God
also known
as Jehovah, Yahweh
Sovereign of the Universe
The all Powerful
Lord of Lords
and others
but do you have any
proof of identity?
yes I can see that
you have a halo
and can do miracles
thanks for that
my pain is cured
but no sir please sir
do not get agitated
and do not threaten
library staff with
those winged heavies
standing outside
and plague and pestilence
showers of frogs fire
brimstone and treacle
they would damage
our book stock
and no sir
the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse
had to fulfil the
same conditions
do you have a
council tax statement?
or driving licence?
or a passport?
no sir we
do not have
an original copy
of the
Dead Sea Scrolls

as it’s sadly
closing time sir
could you please
come back

Patrick McManus (UK)
First published in Phoenix, 2015