Poet and fabulist John Kucera entertains us with two poems and two fables, an ancient form of narrative intended to entertain and instruct.
Clouds and storms hover
Over us like a lost thought.
A strange idea we once had to build a log cabin together
and explore worlds beyond our own.
But our lives were surmounted by menial tasks
and we never got around to our plans like the campfire and the sunsets
and the paintings of a dry winter and the umbrella of youth closing slowly but surely on all these things we remember later
in our circles of routine.
We were both deserted but they were also forgotten.
Our plans, still changing, and guiding us today like the compass above a rooftop and the wolf we patted at the Indian neighbor’s house, calming us like a real thing can.
Late Bloom: A Fable
All the flowers in the garden stood up skinny, straight, and tall. But one of them was different. It wasn’t skinny like the others and it wasn’t tall either. It was short and fat and it didn’t look much like a flower at all.
The other flowers didn’t like it being there. They threw dirt at it and tried to rip it out of the ground because they felt it was ruining the beauty of the garden.
But the flower remained there and its body kept getting fatter with each rainfall, while theirs kept getting taller and more beautiful.
Then one day no rain fell on the garden and the flowers became very sick. They began wilting and falling down. Some of them were unable to breathe.
The fat flower noticed this and sprayed them with the water it had inside of it and they all got better. But when they looked around, they didn’t see the fat flower anymore. In its place was the tallest and straightest flower they’d ever seen.
Fear Itself: A Fable
When the two men arrived at the ocean, they were both tired from their journey. One of the men said they should swim in the water. It would help them relax before continuing on their way. The other man said there might be sharks in the water and did not want to take the chance of getting attacked after they had gotten this far. His friend was too tired to argue so he swam alone and when he was done, he felt refreshed. But when he got out of the water, he didn’t see his friend on the beach anymore. Instead, he saw a group of people standing near the trees. He asked them if they’d seen his friend, and they said a bear had killed him.
“Long After” Has Come and Gone without Ceremony
Young and old,
When we sit under fire
like a blanket.
the garden, even pulling weeds,
even those scratches. Our eyes like opaque lights,
lit among darkness, still shining.
John Kucera was educated at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Writing. He currently works as an online writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona, where he lives and writes.
From Abu Dhabai, perhaps the most beautiful city on earth, please welcome Jaya Abraham and five of her poems.
There is nothing between
The moon and me,
My gloomy crescent
Clings to the skies tonight,
Adamant, like the red soil
Under my chipped nails,
My knuckles blue, clenched
In the day’s relentless move.
August daylight catches
The faded footprints
Of affections I watched
In the doorway.
The nightly crowds ebbed,
Like muffled sobs;
Doors click shut,
Melancholy night spreads, slow
Along the empty seats.
I sit fumbling for words,
Incandescent in writing,
Let us wait for the fairies, to decant
This smothering darkness, unspiced
Into my cup of silence.
* Kenopsia/ ken-op-sia: The sad feeling of a place that was full of noise and people but now abandoned and quiet.
NIGHT OF THE GODS
From their high heavens,
Drink the life
Of the hapless humans,
One day closer to their graves;
A wrinkle here,
A creaking joint there
Life is wormed out,
They edge one more day
Closer to Death.
On the final day,
The Gods kiss their lips blue
And draw the life out;
One last push to the hollow shell,
They fall uprooted, straight,
Names given up,
Deep into their graves.
The Gods, they laugh
And leave forever.
Words, never spoken,
Hanging out there
In the sun, on the clothesline
Dreaming of heaven
They float skyward
From dawn to dusk in vain.
Words never spoken linger
On the cutting board;
Diced and thrown
They make the best salad.
Filled in the oil lamps
They burn all night.
Words never spoken sparkle
On the sweater
That your daughter
Wears to school
Let them laugh
The kids’ laughter.
Adamant, they sit
On the window
Like dust that refuses to go.
Words never spoken melt;
They are my candies of peace
I chew them and smile,
Like popping cress, pods burst
They spread the stories
That I never told in the open.
When she reaches fifty, in her
The past and the future merge, loveless,
Like a nest from which the birds vanished
Her heart rejects your old-smelling wineskins;
She starts running,
Like a homeless refugee,
In search of a new continent.
Her sky rains, of new stars,
She speaks a new language,
And, you stand astonished.
ON THE LONG ROAD
On the long road to heaven
If we met, what would you tell me?
Let us talk about the poppies,
Bristling in the sun
Laden heavy with memories
Of a childhood of laughter
The green fields where we chased
The parrots and the mayflies.
Or little secrets that laughed
Like the round pebbles we gathered
Down the little stream
That was fluid white in hope.
On the long road to heaven,
If we met, what would you tell me?
The days that the merry-go-round
Stood there, like a granny.
All the village, her grandchildren,
The love in the croaky song
Of a passerby, never retold.
The old open windows, hanging on
Like the scales, on the fish vendor’s table
The rough sea waves, frothy like you
Or silence, that sprouts in the grass
The only venomous snake we nurtured.
On the long road to heaven,
If we meet, let us dance and love
For there is no more fear left.
Jaya Anitha Abraham (Dr.) is from India and teaches of Economics and Statistics in Abu Dhabi University. She writes poetry as an expression of her response to the world around her and enjoys translating English poems. Her work has been published in various major online portals. In addition to writing poetry, she is also interested in green and mindful living.
Gopal Lahiri, a fine poet hailing from Mumbai, India, returns to our pages. In 2021, he was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and remains one very prolific poet.
Only one question mark hinges
the text into two halves.
A rotary mower without its blades
can’t level the strong words.
Commas are everywhere drawing
vulpine sketches between paint and brush.
The crescent moon beheads judgement
And put on a dense cloud mask.
The evening grass, wet with dew,
cannot converse in the language of shadows.
The lyrics are drawn by prayers; when it
rains, each pore of the rock is illumined.
One day the history will measure the likeness,
the warm embrace of leaving.
Just one way I can immerse my face in
a dreamless sleep is by counting moments.
I revisit wooden verandah and pull out some
deep memories beneath the ivy plants.
My dream meanders; perhaps there’s a new
rising for far-flung destinations,
someone lights up my face with an oil lamp
shaking up my slow breathing.
The face-to-face encounter with the sublime
stretches on all sides, separate sighs from
rejoicing, lights from the shadows and finding
old letters below the windowsill.
I reach for the warmth of the night, now
fierce and demanding; a shawl and a cup
of coffee together go and a silver moon
flowing down the parapet swallows my dream.
The whispers stop short, hold, are left hanging.
all those street lights are off;
have you opened the door?
The night is dense and dark,
the answer this time will not be a shout.
Inside the narrow living room
brick walls hung with abstract paintings
and light bulbs hooded
by vaguely laboratorial shades.
human skeletons on wooden spikes gather
darkness in the underground dungeon.
Coffee is still sparkling hot, the sugar crystals whitish.
At the far corner of the table the ashplant fades in,
dish towels and napkins bleed red
the soft palm you caress and grasp, that I can’t feel,
it’s only a cut near the throat. Are you really there?
At Rahim Ostagoar Lane, history
peels the layers, alleys narrowing
to a place where I can follow myself,
that something lies behind and discloses
the act of walking; I know,
even what they hide, tender and sacred,
come within my sorrowful limits
An evening is only the shadow and laughter here,
looking up at the windows
carrying childhood frames
within the stillness’s of the past
the beggar on the pavement sings
all the way through —
the darkness now prefers to move elsewhere.
Part of Myself
I follow the shores.
stop in my tracks, fall
simulating the end.
The boatman’s face is not for knowing
his smile, with the faintest touch
it breaks away into emotion, tears, dead cells
and fear through those fault lines
will descend until it vanishes.
I will have eyes that cannot heal,
the darkness that cannot cure.
I keep groping back,
leave a part of myself behind.
Out of breath for days,
I think it means
looking for chances to make amends.
It’s just me here and the deadening silence,
at times, is unbearable;
I bear it though, just like blood flowing
on the busy street.
Stars dance on the walls and I feel ocean currents
swelling beneath the pillow.
One of doorways steps into darkness,
into an abyssal plane.
How many times do I weep
under the false ceiling?
Night is like a pill in a tiny cup — swallow and
go to the land of dreams.
As it never finishes — and when it finishes,
There is nothing left to dream.
Tithan, the Lepcha boy smiles a lot more,
taking out the blank space inside me
and fills with finesse and elan.
Monasteries display frescoes and painted scrolls
in studied silence.
Old pine cones and needles litter the forest path
tall spikes of lily recall the departed souls
in the cemetery.
walking on the serpentine lanes
I see a rainbow-like umbrella, then tea bushes,
then mist and then nothing.
In Eagles Crag clouds coalesce and
lovers float whispers from the watch tower —
flowers are shading petals below,
the wooden houses wish to touch the sky above
if you can look that far,
the sun hasn’t come out in the open
I feel the smell of parting.
*Dow Hill is located in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
Gopal Lahiri is a bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 29 books published, including eight jointly edited books. His poetry and prose have been published in various anthologies globally. His poems are translated in 16 languages and published in 12 countries. He received the Setu Excellence award (Pittsburgh, PA US) for poetry in 2020, and was nominated by Fictional Café for the Pushcart Prize for poetry in 2021. Recent Credit: Dreich, Cajun Mutt, Indian Literature, Dissident Voice, Setu, Converse, Soul Spaces, Amity and elsewhere.
And so we bring to a close Week Three of our tribute to poets for National Poetry Month -except for a special introduction to another poet in two days time. Wait! That’s not all! Be sure to check for a final introduction to meet one last Fictional Cafe poet. We won’t spoil the suspense by telling you who it is, so be sure to check in on April 21st to be introduced.
Next Wednesday we’ll publish the remaining three poets As always, we’d really appreciate hearing your Comments on these poets and their work.