Declining Damage

Some parts are still missing
and others are still bleeding.

Time is a slow surgeon
with too many sharp scalpels
and never enough threads
to completely close the wound.

Pain is temporary, but so is joy.
One comes too often
and the other leaves too soon.

Be thankful we are not
still in the emergency room.
Just office visits and occasional bandages.

This is nothing
compared to the damage
we used to do.

Ann Kestner is the founder and editor of the online literary journal Poetry Breakfast. For over 25 years her poems have appeared in various journals. Her poem “Jukebox Girl” was the introduction poem to the inaugural issue of Memoir Mixtapes. During 2017, she was the poet in residence and director at the Poetry and Arts Barn in Cream Ridge, NJ, where she hosted a variety of writing groups and poetry readings. In 2018, she produced a series of free eBooks through Poetry House Studios, featuring themed collections of her poetry. You can find more of her work and a list of upcoming readings at https://annkestner.com.

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The Great Excavation

Beneath red fire
sweat sky she
burrows down
in clay desert.
Pisces on her treasure hunt.

Twin buried,
and reflection
extinct.

Her therapy
is archeology.

The sea long deserted.
Fossils scattered deep
beneath locked
dirt.

Fish bones thin,
fragile, but sharp
as needle point

prick her memory.
Reconstructing sad history,

she sees it as scientific,
cleansing ivory, organizing,
labeling,

placing white thorned
puzzle pieces, discovering
structural integrity is
secret ingredient.

And when the skeleton is complete
she will slip her scaled skin
around it. Perfect fit.
Perfect fish

with ancient instincts
to lead her back
into the sea.

Ann Kestner is the founder and editor of the online literary journal Poetry Breakfast. For over 25 years her poems have appeared in various journals. Her poem “Jukebox Girl” was the introduction poem to the inaugural issue of Memoir Mixtapes. During 2017, she was the poet in residence and director at the Poetry and Arts Barn in Cream Ridge, NJ, where she hosted a variety of writing groups and poetry readings. In 2018, she produced a series of free eBooks through Poetry House Studios, featuring themed collections of her poetry. You can find more of her work and a list of upcoming readings at https://annkestner.com.

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coming out in no particular order

the night undresses, you put a
memory in your mouth, chew casually,
thinking about wars, about their littleness:

of course you were born with
one sitting loud in your stomach,

your body (the boys drowning in him)
is a catalog of casualties,
falling angels should learn how to kick
& rise, you think an inspiration
is a runner-up
to the inscrutable mystery
what is worth holding
worth believing, worth keeping
the God that whispers from the cracks
in you.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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This town; a breathing crocodile, is a sad town…

“Oh, God! That bread should be so dear
and flesh and blood so cheap!”

                                    Thomas Hood

This town; a breathing crocodile, is a sad town
with bombs that fall like rain
& moons that hoard smiles but frown
at all that’s scattered: limbs & shards of brain
for in this place lies the music that weeps
in masses that silence keeps

A boy looks at the photo of his sister carried by the wind:
too young to know how to dodge a stray bullet
but the dark night all sinister & skinned
sings a distant memory of an unrhymed couplet
until it crashes into that gate
where all that is left is war & fate.

It’s better to watch the darkness
than your friend’s eyes closing to your memory
his loss gathering moss & weariness,
your kindred glow shattered in dust & melancholy
& smouldering balls & bullets race at the wall
& still, like manna, the bombs continue to fall.

This town; a breathing crocodile, is a sad town
with bombs that fall like rain
& moons that hoard smiles but frown
at all that’s scattered: limbs & shards of brain
for in this place lies the music that weeps
in masses that silence keeps.

Boko Haram still spits fire in North East Nigeria.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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My grandfather on a sandglass

They walked this path: two hands
holding sunlight. The thistles
glared at him yesterday.
How easily the days in the past laugh:
days wrapped in her straying strands;
days the rainbow bent to whisper
their names;
days of light.

***
The days before the blank stares
of IV cords & scurrying men &
their frequent whisperings in clusters.
Days by the still bed; days drained
by falling hairs; falling incense;
falling faith
—everything that falls wears a name in clay.

***
Now all he does is sit by the
old pond with a fresh void
& feed the rabbits & talk to
her about the dog’s appetite.
& in the frosty evening,
when he returns carrying the
heavy burdens of the woods,
in the blindness of the night,
I will see in his eyes the many
places her long walk has
stabbed him.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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Moon

Moon knows the secrets of
earth wind fire water metal
Moon never grows grey, like men.
Moon is a delivery man—
Moon is a pathway—
Whichever version of the metaphor you choose,
the other side of everything
walks round your room at night;
light shadows, resurrecting dead things.

Afterwards moon sits to hear the clock’s loneliness,
till dawn tunes in
& watches you
till dawn tunes in
& watches you.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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what the little girl meant to say when the long-haired journalist asked: where are you from?

anywhere
hope wears a crown of loss,
jesus wept is an exodus,
a silhouette poem finding the
square root of sound in deflection,

memory is a cheat code;

anywhere
bodies litter the streets like
decamped mango leaves—
compressed into a language
of bombs & guns,
anywhere
learning to dodge bombs is
an early education,
anywhere
children are named after ghosts;

anywhere
laughter is a dish
often served cold,
anywhere
the road ends in
a shark’s mouth,
anywhere
dreams walk
into nightmares;

anywhere
the world folds into
a blind spot

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright. His demons have appeared in Brittle Paper, AfricanWriter.com, Ink In Thirds, Poetry Potion & elsewhere. His debut stage play Mortuary Encounters is forthcoming from Swift Publishers.

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