A Tribute to the Angels of the Lost Empyrean

by Jim Newcombe

Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.
-VIRGIL, Aeneid

Smoke and fire’s darkly charring luminosity
glamours the hearth with silky gusts of gold,
like liquid flags blown loose for liberty
or salamanders hatching from the coals
in the flap, thrash and crackle of the fire
where all flames dance with a dancing shadow,
each reaching skyward like a molten spire
that glimmers with a moth-beguiling glow.
Into the pallid ash, softly sunken,
the wavelet flames cast a mutinous spark
impulsively, subtle, savage, fallen,
a cinder kindled in the formless dark.

In the formless dark, gyrating flames of light
flash impalpably; hell-flowers unfurling
their bright, bewitching petals to the night,
reluctant to still their weightless swirling
and sink to their repose. And as I stare
I think of angels born of smokeless fire,
of brimstone steaming in the breathless air,
an ethereal threshold to a sphere
of original bliss, from which arose
the fatal cravings in us that entice
man’s damnable will to ruin, and compose
the pandemonium of paradise.

 

Contributor’s Notes: Jim Newcombe hailed from Derbyshire in the heart of England before uprooting to London in 2006, where he now lives in a goldfinch-charmed garret beside the sequestered Turnham Green. An amateur naturalist by day and a cordial maltworm by night, he is currently writing a novel and a series of short stories. He has had work published in numerous publications.

Yggdrasil

by Jim Newcombe

‘We are born into the world, and there is something within
us which, from the instant that we live, more and more
thirsts after its likeness.’

(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

‘It was the year that everything went wrong.’
My father’s estimation says it all.
Now, when I think about where I came from,

and how lives are formed, how radically transformed,
it seems that family life as it would become
was foreshadowed in the ash that Dad named Yggdrasil.

The snared sewer-roots jamming the drainage
meant the young ash would be felled in its spring,
its sacred, fabled, ineradicable tap

a complex of unfathomable roots,
double-crossed, a circuitry transverse
at the very nexus of the well-spring.

In my mind’s eye it stands as it stood in life:
the furrowed cladding of its honey-tendering
timber, its cast mesh of delicate shade,

or with sibilant whiplash limbs aflail
a shrill gust hissing in the rainlit roots,
a past life pulling at the hair roots of home.

The life-tree rooted in death and detritus,
I hung in the balances of its boughs
and hang there still, a banquet for the crows.

To be a foetus forming as the tree
of life’s cut down, to be as yet unborn…
(I am fixed here. I’ve been fixed here all my life.)

The sap of ash won’t heal whatever ails me;
the garden’s raw grace abruptly disrupted,
a destiny prefigured in its sibyls.

~

I had a dream in which I walked a path
all bright sprigs of bloom in embryo darkness
as if the air flickered with black butterflies,

and for an instant thought I caught
the fetch of my own semblance in the trees.
Then from the pale green sprinkling of spring leaves

there stepped a girl, her arms extended, saying
‘James, take my hand; do not be afraid;
this time I will not fade, I promise,

as I have in so many of your dreams…’
And then to remember nothing, nothing except
the bright disguise of stripling flowerets,

the wandlike spindles of an evergreen ash,
its yielded samaras hymning excelsior
which, to be sure, is more than adequate.

It came to me that I myself was counterfeit,
a mirror image of my proper self,
the shadow of that soul which is my being.

Now the two of us walk within a garden
that quickens with transplanted life, where clustering
ash keys tremble with the secrets they unlock,

in which florescence the female becomes male
and vice versa, or else they merge as one;
thwart sibs of the one root: indivisible.

 

Contributor’s Notes: Jim Newcombe hailed from Derbyshire in the heart of England before uprooting to London in 2006, where he now lives in a goldfinch-charmed garret beside the sequestered Turnham Green. An amateur naturalist by day and a cordial maltworm by night, he is currently writing a novel and a series of short stories. He has had work published in numerous publications.

In Hindsight, Demeter Thinks of What To Tell Her Daughter

by Andrea Potos
 

Not every danger points down
my daughter,
some stalk the air–his words–
beware his claims
of your beauty so great
he nearly crashed his chariot
at the glimpse of you on the road;
and your voice that caressed his ears
and petted him to sleep each night.

Beware the sturdy rope ladder of pleas
and appreciations he knots
together with expert hands.
You could climb those rungs, fit
your body through a window slit
where he waits behind,
dropping the bars
once you step in.
 
 

Contributor’s Notes: Andrea Potos is the author of four poetry collections, most recently We Lit the Lamps Themselves, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. Her poems can be found widely in print and online.

First Glimpse of Hades

by Andrea Potos
 
 
Shudders in the chest,

palls of thrill in the air–

Upon her…..an avalanche

of fire and snow.

 
 
Contributor’s Notes: Andrea Potos is the author of four poetry collections, most recently We Lit the Lamps Themselves, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. Her poems can be found widely in print and online.

We Heard It Before We Saw It

by Andrea Potos
 
…………Trevi Fountain, Rome
 

that first exhausted day, dazed
and wandering the cobblestones
from Pantheon to Piazza di Spagna,

we came upon it
as one would discover a shining
beast growing from the ribs of a palazzo–
water traced back from a spring
they say a young virgin once unearthed,
channelled through the ancient acqueduct
to become this force–gushing across our fatigue,
across any remaining belief we may have had in Lack.

 
 
Contributor’s Notes: Andrea Potos is the author of four poetry collections, most recently We Lit the Lamps Themselves, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. Her poems can be found widely in print and online.

So Long, Cy

by Mark Kerstetter

(after Cy Twombly)

So long
C Y
long so sigh
in all fours
solo slitherer

C E R B E R U S  C H A L K B O A R D

muddy sneakers
polished floor
a long slide

[home? no, we’re not there, i’m not there, still in school, in front of the blackboard,
writing a hundred times, get it right, godammit, this shouldn’t be hard, maybe i’m already
in hades, can’t get out, can’t outsmart teacher—bitch-breathed, serpent-ended,
omnispective and soulless.]

so long
C Y
past a steady keeper’s hand:
a wedding band
and regal sheets
untainted
so

[virgin sheets? are they ever? tabula rasa? or always/already written? is the task to
discover what’s already there or to rewrite the new? do we black out the purity when we
write or do we make a human space in the perfect void?]

long
Y O U N G  C Y

whose balls bounced
through marble halls
danced tumblers
of liquid yellow
suns
a squirt
in discerning eye
cyclopean circles
in jagged staggers
on sober frames
time, Cy
and memory

[but whose? the greeks and romans are names only, scratched in the sand on the edge of
the sea, your paint does not reach them, nor carry me there, it keeps me here in the
everpresent of a child’s scrawl, not even a barbaric yawp but the glee of a kid playing in his
own shit—without the glee—i’m an adult godammit, too big for this chair, can’t find my
locker, books gone 100 times 100 times]

scuffed
in the crust
of profligate paint
neither Dionysus
nor Apollo
but a cerulean flow
past pallid crowds
and yawning guards

D O  N O T  T O U C H

but you married the Baroness
shat cadmium lire notes
no question of mess
taste for waste
but time, Cy
and so memory
long scuffed
the edge of a sneaker
slide
into first
base

 

Contributor’s Notes: Mark Kerstetter steals time away from restoring an old house in Florida to write poems and stories and to make art out of salvaged wood. Please visit him at markkerstetter.com.

Thamyris

by Mark Kerstetter

I.

He was tethered to possibility.
But his body, neither spring nor anchor,
would not allow him, without letting go, reach
the instrument broken at his feet.
He held but a fragment, a mere stick.
Caught comical, pathetic, useless stick hovering in air,
his eyes rolled edge to mirror’s edge,
his tongue swollen, filling his mouth
like a piece of rubber.

It goes without saying shoots browning in the field,
while green swamped:
it was Springtime.

In the towers, highways and public squares everyone saying
everything that had ever been said,
he told himself, “say nothing,” or “awake from history,”
or some variant thereof.
Engaged to silence and unfaithful,
his thumb jerked toward the wide world,
and smudged itself.
His befuddlement took on substance,
clear as a shadow,
inescapable.

II.

As one man looks at himself
all others pass through his gaze too
yet, if he follows them,
who is left
to complete the spiral?
First of all children,
then those digging around in tar pits
under a blazing sun,
alive to ask the question:
beyond the black edge of brow
is only blue sky and clouds
but why, Thamyris, say “only”?
For it is the field upon which everything begins anew—

As it is.
Even a stage framed in black.

Down in the pit the musicians make ready to play,
waiting only for the conductor’s baton.

 

Contributor’s Notes: Mark Kerstetter steals time away from restoring an old house in Florida to write poems and stories and to make art out of salvaged wood. Please visit him at markkerstetter.com.