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.

Geometry

 

 

Nietzsche insists that a person must
find at least one truth before a good
night sleep. A terrible prospect
considering how facts come about,
with their own sets of variables.

wind force,
speed in metres per second,
momentum at impact with a surface,
temperature
and friction between molecules

Ninety-degree angles do not exist
in real life. Until now we have been tricked
by scientists into believing in verticality.
Meanwhile they build a simplified version
of the world, a dummy manual, if you like,
for funding purposes.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Published in ‘International Times’ on 29 Feb 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.

Grandfather Talks Modernity

© JStadnicki 1995

During the 80s, grandfather had the habit of listening to Radio Free Europe on a crackling wireless which worked only if bashed about a few times. I understood very little of what was said in news bulletins and documentaries, but some words kept coming up in conversations he’d have with friends at the village pub. Over a couple of beers, it felt as if their banter about freedom, dictatorship, justice was a disguised form of perversity which made no sense to me at that time.

Even now, recollecting those Friday catch-ups, their invectives sound pointless, though I’ve tried numerous times to find out what they were actually upset about. It must have been in the mid 90s, after grandfather died, when searching through a pile of his old stuff I found this:

Modern dictatorships come about gradually through policies which limit the access to information, books, art, and support an education system reliant on overheads, statistical outcomes and hierarchical leagues. They emerge in communities that support equality and diversity while slowly reducing the means which offer disadvantaged people and their families the benefit of services with real impact to their lives.

Modern dictatorships embed themselves in services which monitor and limit freedom of speech, and flag out people who disagree (or have the potential to disagree) with official discourses; they also produce political directives to serve partisan interests, while dominating the public discourse with narratives designed to create fear and panic.

Modern dictatorships ask citizens to report friends, colleagues, neighbours, and scrutinise differences between people instead of promoting inclusion and common purpose; they also make people obsess over how bad things can be, when they should stimulate creativity and learning. If people are born equal, they should develop equally. This cannot happen when they are scared. There is no progress after punishment, just pain and bitterness.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


Published in International Times on 1st February 2020.

hermit age

When I feel lonely, I visit my local tip. Apart from Wednesdays, I’m guaranteed to find someone about, willing to help me get rid of a load of stuff which, up to that point, had prevented me from moving on in life. One time I discarded so much of my old junk that back home I noticed the front door sign was gone, and the post box which had my name on it. I got in, and a woman I’d never met before was moving about hoovering. She was wearing my shoes.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

[From ‘Hermit Age’ sequence published in International Times on 25/01/2020.]

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.

 

Somnia is out now.

Somnia is published by Knives, Forks and Knives Press, 76 pages, £10. Editor: Alec Newman, cover image, collage: © Mark Mawer, 2019.

If Cain and Abel played the piano, Somnia would have been a piece written for them. Following the four movements of Schubert’s Fantasia in F MinorSomnia explores the hidden connections between a group of people who witness a crime as they come out of a cinema.  Reading their testimony, it becomes increasingly apparent that the murderer is bigger than all of them. Bigger than all of us put together. 

 

‘One of the best books of poetry I’ve read this year is Maria Stadnicka’s extraordinarily vivid collection, Somnia.’ (Ian Seed, writer and academic, author of New York Hotel, a TSL Book of the Year)

‘First and foremost, this is a wonderful collection: every poem is an evocative and moving vignette of personal/persona observation at its most poignant as well as uncertain. As readers we cross over surprises to arrive at others – the spaces between are landscapes of everywhere we have and haven’t been, transient like some memories, and as fixed as recurring dreams. […]

As an entity – the poems so often reveal their menace in pervasive rather than direct ways. They work in partnership by a different kind of sharing: obviously, the poetic which is the richly imaginative connections across and within the poems [the superb impact of all], and then there are the forces beyond individual control where our lives are determined by a common dissembling of what we thought was free-will and personal, decisive experience – and this is what we consistently read in them.

Somnia is consistently alluring and enigmatic in its poetic voice. What compels isn’t just the draw into many mysteries, but also Stadnicka’s calm creativity in conveying, for example, the horrors and/or abstractions of these – her poetic voice completely comfortable in its suggestiveness: inventive, provoking, highly visual.’ (Mike Ferguson, International Times, September 2019)

A chisel, a hammer, a lyre; reportage, intimate feelings, quips and criticisms. Maria Stadnicka’s poems are clusters of consciousness, graphic, material images of our world. Her language assaults, bends, cajoles, thrusts a saber into the darkness of the very language she employs to explore death, degradation, the non-recognition of the human individual, war, urban violence, in short, the all-too-present context of our daily lives. […] What concerns Maria Stadnicka? She is speaking about the discontinuity of personal space and the intrusion of economic and political forces in an individual’s life that leads to fragmentation and, ultimately, to the dissolution of one’s reality. The chance for the existence of a future or even the future is removed. Literature becomes the communication and solidarity that permit the step towards wholeness. In Stadnicka’s poems social, personal, and literary landscapes are fused and at times must be forcibly dislocated, both repositioned and torn apart, so that one can continue. The poems create a sense of urgency and mystery. The only escape from the imposed absolute of non-being is resolution to go forward irrationally free.’ (Andrea Morehead, about The Unmoving)

Somnia is available here: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press.