So many things are enhanced by shadows: pageants, pigeons, memories of seaside days; other people’s poems. There are many shadows in our lives and what can we do but look for a view of them as enhancements? 
    Seth Crook’s poem glosses this one by Norman MacCaig: you can access the poem here on videoclip:
    https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-478-010-C

Sheila Jacob tales us slap into the middle of a retro beach scene, and Angela Topping gives a panoramic, historical view of London. These two poems are linked by the interest in transport. Shadows everywhere, while Maureen Weldon offers the enigmatic title poem.
     Gary Beck’s long narrative and reflective poem Once in the Bronx looks at definitions of war. In case you don’t make it to the end (though I hope you will) I give you this penultimate paragraph, which also informs our title of Enhanced by Shadows: 

‘Our schools are losing the spirit to struggle,
our leaders always have eloquent answers,
our churches are falling silent,
while multi-national corporations peddle our heritage.
Are we mortally wounded?’

As always, many thanks to the poets, and a reminder that poets are welcome to send in previously published poems, to sallyevans 35 at gmail dot com. You can send your own pictures if you wish. Sooner or later, usually every month, the poems received will transform into part of this blogzine.

 

Easter pigeonsEiffel tower

Seth Crook
What the female pigeons said after they read
Norman MacCaig’s poem “Wild Oats”

We’re female pigeons
and do nothing dowdily.
We’re beyond that
– so far beyond.
Sometimes we see
a fine example
of the human bald head
pecking at a page
with a primitive
handmade beak
and peering up through windows
at our menfolk
as they preen and try to pull
some pretty fantail.
He scribbles
and he dibbles
and, like most men,
thinks we care
about what men do.
We don’t, we coo.

First published in Message in a Bottle, 2013

easter Maureen 2

Maureen Weldon
Enhanced by Shadows

I knew it would happen,
jaw, sort of magpie’s nest
cheeks a dried up river bed
eyes dark like wells.
They say – laughter lines?
And neck, slender as a plucked swan.

But to hell with it,
when I entertain
I will light two candles,
one for him, one for me;
my breasts high as Olympian peaks,
lips cunning as Aphrodite;
legs and ankles stretching round the room,
we will clink ruby crystal, drink golden mead.
And afterwards
walk in moonlight until dawn.

First published, Poetry Monthly, magazine
easter seasidesandcastle

Sheila Jacob
Day Tripper

She’s light-headed with relief
after the charabanc journey,

dress sponged down,                                                                           
face washed and dried,

cheeks nicely buffed
by an unexpected  breeze.

She taps rich moist sand                              
into a plastic bucket,

crumbles it like cake mix
between her fingers.                                

If she could just stay here,                        
share Mum’s mint humbugs,                            

help Dad build a castle,
stick paper flags on top ..                          

But they’ve come for the sea,
the waves, the blue-grey ocean.

Pebbles roll and slide
beneath swirling glass.

She’s knee-deep in water,
toes clenching,

head spinning, arms
anchoring around her Dad.

head spinning, arms
anchoring around her Dad.

First published Sarasvali, 2015,  London Transport
Eastr London

Angela Topping

First the river: slow barges on royal progress
Tudor kings and queens blaze roses on a June day.
Now clippers and pleasure boats take to the current,
slipping easily under bridges ancient and new:
Blackfriars, Millenium, Westminster, Waterloo.

Electric trains whisk by above our heads
and below ground, crammed with passengers.
Steam trains are locked in memory but must
have filled London skies with white breath:
Hungerford, Clapham, Wandsworth, Bexleyheath.

And beyond into the stratosphere, planes dive
above clouds, over the wrinkled river, London   
set out like a model city in all its domes and glass,
Shakespeare’s Globe a wedding ring, unicycle Eye:
Helsinki, Gothenburg, Cologne, Dubai.  

from Paper Patterns, Lapwing 2012.

Easter Bronx

Gary Beck
Once in the Bronx

Once I had a girl friend who lived in the Bronx.
I got lost whenever I visited her.
I vaguely remember her neighborhood,
a resplendent boulevard built to welcome
Napoleon IV, Marshal Foch, General De Gaulle.
But it received instead my urgent lust,
leading me astray in the seven hills,
not of rambling Rome
and the conspiratorial Tiber,
but of less noted waterway, the Bronx River,
already submitting to sludge and squalor.
I never found memorable landmarks.
The Bronx looked like so many other places
in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island too.
But the people were calm and untroubled.
It was a little while after one of the wars….
Big II?  No, Korea!  So I exaggerated.
So it wasn’t a war.
We’ve coined new phrases to describe not-a-war,
at least since World War II.
Thus public approval continues
for legitimate bombardments.

Afterwards, our puppeteers again mishandled
the strings that make the public dance
to a more appealing prosperity.
So we don’t call it war, no more, no more…
We don’t call it war, no…more….
Police action.  Protective intervention.
Preventive strike.  Preemptive attack.
Far east, mid-east, near east….
So many ways to say we’ll bomb you.
I could go on, but you get my drift,
or you might as well depart,
’cause you won’t appreciate the rest.

I never noticed while I searched for my girl friend,
how many old people lived in the Bronx.
For the youngsters came home from World War II,
married their girls, packed their bags,
kissed Ma and Pa goodbye
and went to college on the G.I. bill,
followed by a class jump to lower middle,
paid for by good old Uncle Sacrifice
to reward their loyal service
with the first installment of the American dream.
So they got their degrees
and moved to Westchester and Long Island,
to new houses, lawns, two car garages
filled with the latest consumer goods.
The Bronx was not for them.
While they were packing and moving out,
marooning Mom and Pop in oversize apartments,
no longer rattled by arguments and growing pains,
distant political agitators,
in San Juan and San Turce,
were stirring credulous Puerto Ricans
with dazzling tales of streets of gold
waiting for them in New York City.
And where did they settle?
(Can’t you guess?)  The Bronx.
So out with the old,
in with the unprepared for city life,
unassisted by family, government, union-
the Hispanic migration.

Instead of welcoming the newcomers to our shores
with jobs, education, assistance in urban living,
once again we betrayed our immigrants,
but this time better than ever before.
Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, Italians, Jews-
however low they seemed to America’s owners-
were more acceptable than Black, Hispanic, or Oriental,
despite the pledge of life, liberty and the pursuit of…
After all, the less we look like our masters….

Once I had a girl friend who lived in….
I no longer remember her name.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you….

While Puerto Ricans were pouring off the planes,
Blacks were torrenting off the buses,
stiff and creaky from the long ride
from Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi too.
Driven out, not by Goth, Hun, Zulu, Mongol horde,
but farm machinery, by Deere, by Deere,
that rendered unnecessary until World War III,
or Interplanetary War I,
agriculture’s favorite utilities,
the bent human back, the grasping human hand.

And so they came to the Bronx, the Bronx,
as others before them had come, had come,
for jobs, homes, schools, a better life.
Does this sound unreasonable to you?
But in the mid-nineteen fifties
It was unacceptable to most.
For in with the new, out with the old,
who galloped, drove, flew, trucked, punted, fled,
until the once comfortable neighborhoods,
abandoned by experienced city dwellers,

left groups of rural newcomers adrift,
on harsh, unfamiliar streets of decay.
Despite all the universities in the Bronx,
and law courts, and legislators,
constitutional guarantees lapsed:
inalienable rights were alienated.     

I’ve almost forgotten the pleasures long ago,
shared with my girl friend in the Bronx.

I didn’t go back for twenty years.
What a change, citizens.
I had lived in Germany,
walked the ruins of World War II,
saw defeated ghosts of the Vaterland,
heard the laments of destruction,
met a madman, crooning for the lost “Fuerher”,
rushing crazed through Stuttgart streets,
chanting:  “The bombs are fallen, Berlin is dead.
The bombs are fallen, Berlin is dead.”
What does this have to do with the Bronx?
Imagine that I made no gentle rediscovery,
but found a biblical revelation.

Abandoned, burned, collapsed buildings,
spreading rubble, refuse, riots,
on unresisting residents,
atoning their sins in urban purgatory.   

Yet across the river,
on Sutton Place terraces,
comfortable observers counted the fires,
entertained by companions and cocktails,
while tenuous holds on life went up in flames….
But how the feasting in Sodom went on….went on….
and the pleasures of Gomorrah were many….
Separated from us by the palace guard….
The prosperous wallowed in indulgences,
refusing to receive suppliants,
a perilous subway ride removed.
Thy song, chanted for all of us:
consume, consume….Waste, waste….
Burn, baby, burn….

Her house was buried under rubble,
while the fires still smoldered,
and extravagance burdened the people.
But who had declared war on the Bronx?
Did I miss the notice in the New York Times

that intelligently explained the invasion,
or authorized high altitude bombing?
Dresden, Hamburg, Nagasaki, ravaged cities,
welcome to the Bronx, don’t say no thonx.
My visit no voyage of atonement,
nor conquest of reclamation,
but arrested by these bleeding streets,
I was possessed by the wilderness,
and compelled to serve the needy.

I saw visions that tortured my spirit;
murderous madhouses of anguish,
provided by the state, the state,
no different than bedlams of Dark Ages.
Our prisons jammed, crammed full-
criminals, sinners, sufferers, babies-
hidden from sight behind forbidding walls.
After my pilgrimage to American Institutions,
I recognized the style of government consent.
The children of the parents we would not help,
were finally receiving some attention,
concealed from us by padlocked doors.
While outside those bitter caverns,
where frightened children howl,

the non-war on crime, drugs, poverty,
and all the other social divertissimos,
that keep the media at peak employment,
constantly declare truce, amnesty, armistice,
whenever it’s time to go home to the suburbs.

Our schools are losing the spirit to struggle,
our leaders always have eloquent answers,
our churches are falling silent,
while multi-national corporations peddle our heritage.
Are we mortally wounded?       

I think my girl friend was crushed
beneath the wreckage of her house of dreams,
in a once pleasant neighborhood,
now submerged,
somewhere in the Bronx.

from Expectations, published by Contemporary American Voices in 2008.

 

 

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