Three Dark Poems by John Tustin: “The Crush of the Moon”, “Dead Candles”, “Respite”

The Crush of the Moon

Every night she appears
Above me
From her position of nowhere
To her position of somewhere
From behind the magic of a cloud
And I look despondently at her
From my perch at the window,
Drunk on the melodies of music
And embers of light in the darkness

And she looks down at me
With a bored but petulant rage,
Flicking me with a powerful finger
To put me in my place
And knock me down
Just as I am rising

Every night I corkscrew deeper
Into the sameness madness
Of a love that is wan,
That is not tender,
Crushed between the fingers of the moon
And floating further out
Each evening
Into the vast useless discomposure
Of a promiseless
Tomorrow
And the next

Holding on inside to the very things
That have cast me
Into the void

Dead Candles

The smell of matches lit in vain
For candles whose long wicks remain
But are irresolutely soaked in the tears
Of ghosts who never lived here
But in a place I was banned
That I imagine I would see in my dreams
If I still had dreams.

Respite

Even when I close my eyes
I cannot get much rest.
Still. Still.
After all these years,
living more than half a life
in fear and obscurity –
I will not, cannot relax.
The poetic term would be Respite.
No respite for me.

Perhaps it’s because I have words missing
as if chunks of memory deleted.
Faith. Bravery. Trust.
I search for those words
and when I find them
I break them open,
only to find their shells empty.
Standing on the beauty of a silvery sand,
held up by trillions of kernels,
tiny and abrasive individually
and all I can feel is alone,
exhausted, unable.
No respite for me.

When the water laps up to me,
I retreat.
No matter how good it feels,
I back away.
No respite for me.

After all these years
and all that’s happened
I’m still afraid to stand 
at the open window
unless the shades are drawn.
I close my eyes,
the lids shutting abrasively.
The breeze is there
but the shade absorbs it.
It doesn’t matter 
if it’s dark or light out there.
I’m naked and afraid,
my skin untouched.
No respite for me. 

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.


Two Dark Poems by David Arroyo

At the Dinner Table–Dusk

“To wake , and hear a cock
out of the distance crying”
— Dawn, Philip Larkin 

To eat and hear a scream.
To rise and peer through a foggy window
To lose and loose the self to a waking dream 
and feel behind you the Shadowman grow.
How normal it is 
for muscles to freeze and eyes choke on the mind’s conspiracy.

Witness

The mind let unwind with a whip
A Cat-Of-Nine made of neurons 
Flailed at grey matter with barbed tips. 
Made him stiff, slobbering like a moron.  

In these hallucinations he could not escape
though he knew the machines weren’t real 
Knowing is not enough when grinding pain
tenderizes and you’re the entree, grilled veal. 

Whatever gnawed at his inner thigh
percolated through his skin 
always at his periphery, out of sight
not mind, his sanity worn thin. 

His wife, paralyzed, drooling, stared wide-eyed,
bed bound, binging his dream, with each bite she died.

David Arroyo is a nerd and ex-catholic. His Dungeons & Dragons alignment is Neutral Good.  He holds an MA in English from Florida State University and a MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast. He’s published poetry in Club Plum,  Stirring, Silver Blade, Burning Word, and Abyss & Apex, and most recently in Coffin Bell and Nocturne. His Twitter handle is StarSmashrX.


Five Dark Poems by Jack Harvey

Moon, Shine On

It's one of those nights
when the moon slips free
of the clouds;
one of those nights
when the wind blows free,
unleashed from the upstarting
contours of the land,
sweeping, rushing across
the wastes of
the immortal boundless sea,
finally arriving 
aimless and energetic 
at some newfound destination.

Moonlight shines
across the long bays,
in which great brother waves
press on
under the moon's bright face,
bright as death's scythe,
press on roaring
until they come to rest,
flat and quiet,
on the moonlit shore.

Heroes young and old
held vigil
on nights like these;
memories of the god-feasts,
the dark woods, the sacred tree
dim and nearly gone now.

In those days witches
could doctor the dark,
pull down the moon
if they had to;
fearful Nicias,
famed Athenian
sent to war in Sicily
didn't need a moon
sunk to earth,
heeded instead
the omen of
a technicolor moon,
dimming to naught;
waited, waited, 
too long hesitating, then
at the wrong time retreating,
led his army to its doom.

But gracious fellow-travelers,
lovers of the glory that was,
these days 
it's the self-same moon,
stripped of portents,
floats over Cuba,
floating over Miami, too,
over a moon-startled girl
feeling her boy
bent over her,
passionate in her,
starting his 
rhapsody of movement.

Overhead, in the heavens,
embarrassed constellations
look off in all directions,
seeing all, and not wanting to see,
goosed, tormented, 
by an expanding universe
sending them on their way
and down below,
by the light of
the silent indifferent moon
a boy and a girl
coming together
in a paratactical now,
in a perfection of now
and no wild Nicias moon
turning red, blue and sallow
to spoil the moment
with foreboding,
to slow or speed
the whole shebang
from measured order 
to some desperate fatal mistake. 

A.U.C.

There is that in God
which is not gaud
                           feeding the chickens
Honorius muttered in Latin,
not brooking a report
that Rome
                    had
how you say?
                            had been
like a chicken
                            its neck wrung.

Jesus, the beautiful faces,
Vestals,
the villas where Sallust
the beautiful noble stones
the shithouses, aqueducts, roads
          ROME DEAD?
but she fed the world 
      a long time
                          fed
a line of law
and reason

Respect:
Lars Porsenna
and the bloody emperors
hairy Vandals
                      Alaric alert
Neal
All honor
her hills, her people,
her purple
covered the steppes,
commanded 
the western isles.

In the ruins of Rome,
in Illyria, in Britain,
bitter winter brings down
heaven’s wrath;
hailstones spatter 
like pennies,
clattering on bronze
and marble alike.

We will not see Hadrian
again rebuilding the walls.

Dulce Domum

You can’t hide your hideway
when beggars come calling;
every haven has its day,
every port and refuge;
the cold tomorrows
come out of the distance
like icebergs,
unstable as emperors, 
demanding as children

and food for thought 
feeds no one.
Your secret place, your kingly manse?
Don’t board up all the doors,
your earthly paradise 
has a few snakes inside

and minstrels and other rabble
wait outside
to knock down all.

You alone unhidden
unbidden stand
prominent as a sequoia,
Simon of the stele.
Revelation is God’s alone;
hidden in the deep,
his submarine love
discovers all secret places;
you are naked as 
a jaybird in his sight.

So cast it all away,
armed in your own flesh
go voyaging.
Surrender is a place
impregnable and portable
as heaven. 

Elba

Napoleon,
shake your iron off;
invincible, able
on Elba
you were mourning
ere you saw
the glory of the days
coming and the days
twisted up, by-
gone.

Dearth

Blonde she was
on the boulevard,
in moonlight,
in crescent of
moon-grin;
golden hairs
white as Lear’s
under moonlight;
the old power
coming easy as
Paris faring
through the
Dardanelles. 

The moon, flat
as a cookie,
sails higher;
wreaths of smoke
lie fallow in space.

But blonde on a
bicycle goes fast
and quiet;
the ripple of her
passing disturbs 
all of us,
wandering on
the foreshore
of no adventure.

Home, Palinurus;
turn the rudder
and home.
No blondes heave to
in the moonlight;
your bed, empty
and wide
as a car,
awaits you.


A.U.C  was published 14 years ago in Poetry Bay, Dulce Domum in 2017 in Pif Magazine, Elba several years ago in Zombie Logic Review, and Dearth in Duane’s Poetree. Moon has never been published.


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Chamber Magazine, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Typishly Literary Magazine, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and elsewhere. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.


Three Dark Poems by Toshihisa Nikaido

Sticks Beneath the Trees

As I gather the sticks beneath the trees
          A gust of wind causes the branches to sway
          Colder than a midwinter’s storm
Finding shelter under the trunks
 
         A gust of wind causes the branches to sway
I’ve found warmth where I may rest
Finding shelter under the trunks
         Allowing me to finally say goodnight
 
I’ve found warmth where I may rest
          Colder than a midwinter’s storm
          Allowing me to finally say goodnight
As I gather the sticks beneath the trees

The Bard

A strike of my shovel reveals a crypt,
          Through which awaits a new conflict.
                   The grounds below I cannot predict,
                             Even when I’ve become well equipped.
                                       Laws down here have left me bound;
                                                  To these deathly tunes, I am constrict.

Dracula’s Reflection

When he looks into the mirror,
          His expression falls unfamiliar;
A frown breaks through his charisma,
          Puzzled evermore by this enigma.
 
Now, whom does he see here,
          When he looks into the mirror?
He cannot find his face so grim,
          Only what was left behind him.
 
His heart is filled with devotion,
          And yet each time he sees no one,
When he looks into the mirror;
          Still wishing he could be near her.
 
Once seeing from the tower of an aristocrat,
          Now fallen into darkness and blind as a bat;
Yet the truth could not be clearer,
          When he looks into the mirror.



Toshihisa Nikaido has worked on popular video game series such as Resident Evil, Pokémon, and The Legend of Zelda. Toshihisa more recently joined Japan’s space exploration agency for a new challenge while using various forms of writing as a creative outlet and has since been published in several literary journals.


“The Death Walk Trilogy” Three Dark Poems by Stephen Jarrell Williams

Last of the Sun

Last of the sun highlighting the clarity of day
Now the shadows spawn and spread
 
Quiet
Almost unseen
 
She walks in a different mood
Her dress falling to the floor like a quilt of flowers
 
I can’t help myself but watch
Hypnotized
 
The whole house dark but lit with her glow
The outside world reduced to strangers
 
The slow dance of her night fulfilling
Capturing my haunted soul.

The Gulf

There is no sleep when she is beside you
The bed cradles her like a pearl
 
You stare as she sleeps
Her dreams not yours
 
You can still taste her sweetness
For she is your drug
 
You would steal for her
Kill for her
 
But she would not want you to
 
And the night takes her out to the sea
Where she walks on water
 
And you cannot follow.

Dark Man

There is some sickness keeping me from you
I’ve always had it since birth
 
You have been healed by your beliefs
I question everything
 
Trusting nothing
Or myself
 
I dwell in my own darkness
My own doings
 
Quick now
Run away from me
 
Before the wind blows through your hair
Before the sun uplifts your face
Casting me down
To your feet
Where I belong
Crawling through the sand like a snake
 
But somehow I sense
You will take me in
Giving me a spot of light.

Stephen Jarrell Williams loves to write poetry and draw unusual works of art.  He can be found on Twitter @papapoet.


Four Dark Poems by Donna Dallas

The Reunion

I
Girl 
I did not want you 
to wrap cell around cell 
vein loop through artery 
muscle form and flex 
to stretch my stomach out 
I thought there was a monster
inside me 
and there was…

I carried your heavy load 
for over twenty years
finally said fuck it 
I’m done with your addictions 
your bloated belligerence from birth 

I closed the door 
at that moment felt only freedom
not realizing this umbilical cord 
still fresh and slick 
with its own aliveness
later dread
then decay 
as the door shut for good…or so I thought
at the end I wrapped myself in that damn cord 
cuddled with it

II
Mother
had I known in my dumbass youth
you needed to seek your true calling
and if I could have cared for and fed myself
it would have worked out between us 

Instead I tried to hide
in my cell sac
watch you wild with pain
you’d hear me coo and giggle
then realize I needed attending

I sought only the sweetness
of what I believed 
the band-aid to my bruises
if you knew I was falling 
you waited for my collapse
into your release

Here we meet at the gates 
do not know one another at all really
yet I smell the stench of my cord
entwined in your fingers

Day Breaker

In a capsule I ride the earth
seek star-borns and sayers 
to heel me
I fold into a bowl
of witchery 
wait as the forest beckons
the leaves curl into my fingers
fall off as I point blame
I’ve no dolls left to burn
in my cauldron of wonder 
mixed with bourbon
I spit out fire
speak in tongues

If they understood
my piercing blister
that rots under
my many hearts……
I could roll myself under this pot
hide forever with my bottle
yet I still seek the sunny
drip that IV’s
me into this shell I live under

Post Re-Boot

This body has hardened into a pit 
left over from rotted fruit the meat of it 

disintegrated and not to get too cliché 
I keep replanting – restarting – refreshing – re-re-re

regrowth – rebloom I can re myself into oblivion
tear at my eyes and form a hollow so deep it comes out

the other side around and around I want this yes
I do – to reboot but I can’t get footed into a place it all

feels so narrow I’m hanging over with so much of me 
exposed I’m a target for hairy torn vultures to pick at

they tend to loosen my parts send pieces of me here
and there I can re-connect them yet it’s always difficult

to reconfigure myself but I’m not re-ing anymore
one last re-roll to my end

Sky Ticket

Shy moon
baby moon
the weakest root in the sky
that just won’t take 
to the night soil
turn my back
it’s grown into a thick vine

Full-face moon
touch my sleeve
mesmerized
golden bowl of glow
your vine creeps around
the tree trunk
eases up the branch
secures its front-seat view
to our night rhapsody

Ms. Dallas notes: “I studied Creative Writing and Philosophy at NYU’s Gallatin School and was lucky enough to study under William Packard, founder and editor of the New York Quarterly.  Lately, I am found in Horror Sleaze Trash, Beatnik Cowboy and The Opiate among many other publications. I recently published my first novel, Death Sisters, with Alien Buddha Press. My first chapbook, Smoke & Mirrors, will launch this fall with New York Quarterly. I currently serve on the editorial team for Red Fez and New York Quarterly.”


“Cleanse” Dark Poetry by Nancy Byrne Iannucci

I will summon Satan
to the center of my damaged self
that clings cold to me.
His horns will rise 
like a forklift and rake it 
away with you.

There are a multitude of mannequins
weathering in windows waiting 
to take my perdition.
He’ll devour their torsos and limbs,
make it snow fiberglass bones

down His belly like the slob
Giotto painted in Padua.
Think of the pleasure 
I’ll have to never see you drink again,
after this co-dependency slips down the shoot
towards hell right into His dirty mouth.

What will be left is me,
myself again, without you,
ready to begin again, 
sick, sick of me with you,
So sick I’ve become
that I’ve asked Satan to come
and cleanse me from you.


Nancy Byrne Iannucci is the author of Temptation of Wood (Nixes Mate Review 2018) and Goblin Fruit (Impspired 2021). Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Autumn Sky Poetry, Gargoyle, Bending Genres, Clementine UnboundDodging the Rain8 PoemsGlass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist)Hobo Camp Review, and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Nancy is a Long Island, NY native who now resides in Troy, NY where she teaches history at the Emma Willard School. Web: https://www.nancybyrneiannucci.com/