April 18, 2023

Week Three: John Kucera, Jaya Abraham, Gopal Lahiri

Week Three: John Kucera, Jaya Abraham, Gopal Lahiri

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, 


Most times 

When we sit under fire 

like a blanket. 

We miss 

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.



Each night, 

Gods descend 

From their high heavens, 

Drink the life 

Of the hapless humans, 

Nudge them 

One day closer to their graves; 

A wrinkle here, 

A creaking joint there 

Endless chatter, 

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. 



There are 

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.


SHE (50) 

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 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. 


Dreamless Sleep 

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.    


Eerie Quiet 

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. 

From here 

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. 


Abyssal Plane 

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. 


Dow Hill* 

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.

#fictional cafe#gopal lahiri#Jaya Abraham#john kucera#National Poetry Month 2023
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