"The Harem Gate Aviary"
In Topkapi sheathed with ornate faux freedoms
Iznik tiled foliage, glazed and unyielding
Bars of gold curlicues’ constrain those within
fresh meat for the sultanate, breasts and clipped wings;
amidst these ornamented castrums, ringed doves
hear the moons sighs, bathe in pearlized tears she sloughs.
"The Pigeon Shed"
In an unloved garden,
grass blades penetrating
compacted sod, like sparse hairs
on a balding head, Granddad
kept pigeons in a cack-coated shed.
From the open door, I watched deft hands
delve into wooden cells beneath barely
remonstrating bodies, a frowsy feathered
rumpling covering invading fingers.
He retrieved opalescent orbs from nesting pens
or cupped whole birds their heads protruding
between bars of parted digits.
The hens carnelian eyes startled
from steely cocked faces while plumes
of iridescent crops illumed
the drab interior. Nestled in his grasp
prized specimens pecked hardened skin
on Granddad's grimed knuckle pads as he
crooned, tenderness unknown
to our flightless family.
To a soft chorus of avian trilling Granddad
processed the aisle holding wafer thin eggs
to a votive flame seeking the iris-dark spot
and bloodshot veins of nascent life.
Motes hung in the fustered air and a hush fell
as a blind-eyed dud is placed on a shelf.
Smoothing the breast of a barren bird, tracing
its upturned throat Granddad straightens
stiffening joints; with a rasp of shock
a lopped neck furls in a fluttered
"If I Could Tell You about Cape Verde"
Cape Verde Has No Indigenous Mammals
a statement written by a mammal who
is not indigenous to the Cape but….
dusks petticoats muffle the foaming sea,
spume salting the archipelagoes limbs.
Choirs pepper night’s unseen obstacles, fly
with mushroom gill ears filtering echoes.
Cassocked pipistrelles were here before man.
And high tides gift produce, pets, the jetsam
localized by crescent moons at ebb tide.
Iridescent fans thrumb mornings ozone,
skimming reflections and water tensions’
transparent skin; larval naissance beneath.
Green rakes sift azure Op Art confusion.
Dappled, I squint at floating coconuts
by palm frond finger puppets. A sand dart
skirts the shadow-play, beak needling morsels,
preening feathers, beside tourist Castrums.
A pelt of bleached reed tones ripples over
muscle breezes. The feral tabby hunts.
I can tell you about the Cape. Call it
Cabo Verde. Come here by air and sea,
find indigenous mammals, pipistrelles
watched by Creole women, while dragon flies
skim ponds and feral cats hunt beneath palms.
Karen Downs-Barton is a neuro-diverse poet and student studying the History of Art with a Creative Writing BA while sofa surfing her way around the globe looking for somewhere cheap and interesting to live.
This isn’t like fixing a Monet after someone has punched it. Horrible things are happening. My foremost thought is, “I want macaroni and cheese next time. I haven’t had it in years.” All of a sudden EMTs rush past with a man on a stretcher, his face covered in blood and bite marks. I scream something – in terror, I suppose. The last time I was so unsteady was probably when my mother died. I feel like any minute now I might look up and see her in the window of a plane
waving. A policewoman orders me to move along. And I was just about to ask, “What advice do you have for young people?” It was only a couple of days ago that some kids grabbed a classmate and persuaded him with fists and sticks and colorful arguments that one eye is enough.
"Are You Fucking Kidding Me?"
Groups of friends arrive on the hour every hour. A guard with the enflamed eyes of a drunk demands identification from them, but in a voice too faint to hear. You need to be patient at this stage. People don’t remember and sometimes I think they don’t even understand where they are. Cows roam around with butcher knives in their backs to make slaughtering easier. There are countless dead rabbits. A fly can't land on a fruit tree without first begging permission. So I just
sit here with my mouth open, I do, because I’m getting older now, and it’s hard work.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize and forthcoming from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry.