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.

Rite

Sunday lingers on scent of paint,
tobacco and spring. Our kitchen-war
sprouts from a conversation on books
about people we both know. I say

I’d met doctor Zhivago queuing
at Nero’s, heard him asking a barista
about the fate of taiga-trees
at the height of a mining season.

You think they are cut short then stop
growing. I lock my paperbacks
in a cupboard; they remind us
of all the ink twisted in verse, seeded

in layers of gravel. Our verbs reach
the pit of a quarry and seal over.
Snow forests shoot up in tears,
we trip over cables in our flat.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Published in ‘Stride Magazine’on 26 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.

Shooting Position

 

We queue at the airport,

pretending to watch

a lunar eclipse.

 

We fear sharp objects.

Passengers hold boarding passes up,

flags in a moving crusade.

 

All windows are half-open,

but nobody looks out.

Heat seals glossy layers

of mist over my homeland.

 

We have outgrown the raincoat

tripping over someone’s thoughts

in the two-minute stop between stations.

 

At odd times, the planes take off.

Letters drop from above

on neighbouring gardens,

 

seeds growing tall in silent parks.

We remove luggage tags, barely notice

the music of a mid-air explosion.

 

Blades of grass stand ready to shoot.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


‘Shooting Position’ is published in Somnia, out now at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, UK.

‘Shooting Position’ was initially published in Meniscus, The Journal of Australasian Association of Writing Programmes, Canberra, Australia.

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.]

Otherhood

Last time my brother and I talked poetry, we ended up

arguing. His five-year old daughter found my book easy

to read, though it had a major flaw. No pictures. It made

everyone rather uncomfortable. Having to explain words

like ‘deluge’, ‘carnal’, ‘empiric’ without visual clues, it is

beyond my fatherly competency, he said. I often thought

that …Plus, he added, each time you write about me, things

get so twisted I’m not sure whether it’s me you refer to or…

I often think it’s the idea of him, or a bucket of old stuff

we picked up together moving about in the world. They are

mostly words he now repeats facing a neurologist, hoping

to pass a memory test. It’s me… the… fourth… ofTuesday…

The last time him.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020