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Poetry Unplugged

On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

Trip to Auschwitz, and I don’t go.

Why would I? I’m English,

not History, with its dark corners and smells.


But I like to think I keep abreast,

am in the know, and care.

So I visit the library instead,

which is bright and ordered,

its inmates subdued;

and visit a book with pictures.


It is true there are scenes in this.

Men hard done by as though the years

before the war never ended, good times

and industry never arrived. These men are all

tummies reduced to backbone, and

their eyes are clearly not right; too deep,

more socket than eye.


Yet mostly there is a black and white

ordinariness to it all; take the girls

— slight girls, in pinafore dresses,

their hair pinned in bobbed waves

against a yard, neat in the sun,

and inside the tidy rows of beds,

camp beds.


Or the domestic curiosities

in the commandant’s home;

everything looks rather fine.

Indeed, ordinary, familiar.


What strikes me in this is the singular

thingness of it all.

The thingness of us all.

Hair, skin, fat, teeth,

locket, lamp, soap.


Take this tiny pile of tiny bones.

brittle, I imagine at a distance, with age

on the page.

such beautiful bones,

delicate and thin and elegant and light;


Bruna Gushurst is a historian, university lecturer, teacher, friend, mother, daughter, sister, wife. She has also been an unsuccessful saleslady, travelling muffin-man, and Bingo-Hall card runner. She writes stuff.



Gods can take

whatever they fancy.

But they prefer sacrifices.


The taste is better.



A god might love

you the way a boy

dotes on a toy.


He plays hard.

You break.


Maybe a tear

before forgotten.


Immortal, gods

never grow up.


There are always new toys.

Maturity is for the doomed.



From their splendid elsewhere,

gods watch.


Most of us bore

like an ant toting a leaf.


A few heroes find a story.

Fine words and a lot of blood.


Drama delights gods.

After the customary catastrophe,


they turn back to stars

candling the endless black


they call home.

J. Tarwood has been a dishwasher, a community organizer, a medical archivist, a documentary film producer, an oral historian, and a teacher. He has published five books, The Cats in Zanzibar, Grand Detour, And For The Mouth A Flower, What The Waking See, and The Sublime Way.

First Tour

A few drinks three weeks before, waited so long

for this experience.

Hugged my beautiful girlfriend, as she stood there,

my parents and my two bigger brothers, too.

Full of nervous excitement, all the training, endurance,

perseverance, moves, drills, and movies,

running through my racing mind, never felt or

looked better, could rip-up phonebooks, effortlessly.

Never felt fully real, never looked fully real, the first,

in my family and the first in the area, to ever do this.

Held the heavy, vibrating steel, almost pumped itself,

rounds and rounds, screams and voices, running, diving,

couldn’t save him or him, or his legs or his arms, or

a child’s black torso, or those with missing limbs, heads, and

knees, or the spine shanks on the wooden posts.

The ringing of my ears in silence drowned out

by my head, because I couldn’t take any more explosions

and detonations, or the pain of the wounds, in my ankles,

still bleeding, as I am writing this, from home.

Five years later, with the enlarged ball, in the guts,

that flares up, here and there, putting pressure, on the whole

of the ribcage, feels like it’s splintering, sometimes,

neuropathic pain, stricken knees, left in this chair

with the pain-flashes, colours, of red, grey, and black,

some without picture or sound,

was my first tour and my last.

Gavin Bourke grew up in Dublin. He holds a BA in Humanities from Dublin City University, an MA in Modern Drama Studies, and a Higher Diploma in Information Studies from University College Dublin. He is published widely internationally.

John Q. Public

He was at the park again today

passed out in a pool of urine

in the Men’s Restroom —

life’s unexpected turns take us

to unimaginable places

sometimes —

when it’s raining I see him

dancing in the outfield

alone —

trying to find the high

he lost along his way

somewhere —

anywhere but here.

Scott C. Kaestner is a Los Angeles poet, dad, husband, and man searching for the perfect breakfast burrito. Google ‘scott kaestner poetry’ to peruse his musings and doings.


I’m ten years old and growing which means that

I’m going to die one day for sure and

never again read cereal boxes

while I eat breakfast or watch TV or

read comic books or wink at girls, then stick

out my tongue, or crib on quizzes at school

or do my homework mornings before class

or just copy a classmate’s paper or

forget to put water in the dog’s dish

or leave the toilet seat down or swipe Certs

from the Big K or fall asleep in class

or get caught with Father’s Esquires or play

army and die a hundred times or eat

too many pizza rolls. What hath God wrought?

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Reed, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, Cardiff Review, Poem, Adirondack Review, Florida Review, Slant, Nebo, Arkansas Review, Roanoke Review, and many other journals in eleven countries. He has authored three books of poetry.


David Clode on unsplash

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