Clean Shaving

Illustration © Claire Palmer 

 

In a barber’s mirror I appear

much younger though I stopped

shaving a while ago. Youth is

overrated, unnecessary; it creeps behind

 

on sleek crutches, it makes

me check over my shoulder.

It shears my clothes apart

at the most inconvenient moments.

 

See, that’s why there is no youth in afterlife,

the barber says. Hereafter is so full of beards

that clean-shaven people worry they’ll

miss out on a place among immortals.

 

Conversation breaks up when the blade

hesitates down my neck as if looking

for an incision mark. Youth-talk makes

the sharpest of knives doubt itself.

 

Knotted hair brushed in a dustpan.

Out the door, first left up the High Street,

I notice a young blade following me.

I am slowly turning to stone.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Published in ‘International Times’, 14 March 2020.

Short Summary of Strategic Combat

Illustration © Claire Palmer 2020

after Kasparov vs Karpov, 1986

 

The playground is open, with white to move.

D4 F6. A few pawn boys make a safety zone

out by the swings, waiting for Father to fall for the ruse.

 

C4 G6. Everyone calls the queen Sis’ Loretta

when she jumps over the Treatment Room’s steps

to the battlefield. The fifth move: Q to B3.

 

By the eleventh round, the game enters

a phase of hand-to-hand combat. Father attacks,

we defend on each side. Sister gets hurt,

 

two pawn boys, sacrificed, but nobody castles.

Our fight, bishop to rook. Checked on the playground

as the last knight falls at the match point.

 

Most pieces are gone on both front lines. Thirty-one

moves. Checkmate. From the opposing team,

Father says we are playing a game bigger than us.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


Published in ‘International Times’ on 8th February 2020.

Canine Laws

© Claire Palmer, 2019 ‘International Times’

A dog believes people are dogs as well.
To people, this is of no consequence.  Humans
are immune to associations, particularly to
associations with Evil; specially if the root of
their actions is Evil itself.

If a dog keeps running away from home, let
him free. He needs to find where the noise
comes from.

In canine terms, silence is an instrument for
torturing dogs who are no longer useful to
their masters. If asked, people would deny
knowledge of this.

Despite clocks, dogs measure time in
intervals passed between the end of
punishment and the beginning of wound
healing. Once the skin seals up, people
rewind the clocks.

It takes a lifetime to a dog to become
human, and three weeks to a human to
become beast.

© Maria Stadnicka, 2019. Published in International Times, 14/09/19.

 

Graffiti

Illustration: ©Claire Palmer, 2018, for International Times

– unedited preview from ‘The Unmoving’ coming out next month at Broken Sleep Books, published this morning in ‘International Times’:

 

I imagined the return at the end of my sentence

on a street in Moscow

thinking the worst was already over.

 

[ more to follow…]

 

 

 

‘Acts of Survival’ – International Times

Illustration ©Claire Palmer 2018, ‘International Times’

– for Peter J. King –

Before the execution date,
each night,
lands I have never seen come to visit
this self-contained universe.
The only place for waiting, for submitting,
the place where god decided
it was the moment to shoot itself.
This captivity has become an act of survival,
for an industrious nation of slaves.
Here, the immediate!
The fear behind the hate sounds louder and louder
in each city where cathedrals
are now for sale
on detergent coupons.

A man is lost at sea, I hear,
total strangers marching East
minutes before the water-ropes bring the closure.

Here and now, my enemy,
the blood inside all my cavities has become
the last supper
for I,
chiselled, strapped, nailed to my crimes,
had confessed: ECCE HOMO!

My nation, my never-never land!

If we have been at war for thousands of years,
still,
barehanded,
catching bullets today,
in these meat-eating times,
it is the pain which, finally, will set us free,
not words.
The silent joy of those who know
how very few will make it through the
death sentence.

The poem was published today in International Times and can be accessed here.