“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
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
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 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

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
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.”

Three Dark Poems Written and Translated from the Russian by Ivan de Monbrison

Время - это круг. 
Мы в центре, марионетки из плоти.
Ваша мысль как воздуху, 
ваш череп полон облаков.
Вчера я нарисовал твой мозг зеленым, 
а сегодня он снова красный.
Я окунаю в нее ручку 
и пишу красными чернилами слова, 
которые не имеют смысла.

Time is a circle. 
We’re in the center, puppets of flesh.
Your thoughts are  like air, your skull is full of clouds.
Yesterday I painted your brain in green, and today it’s red again.
I dip my pen into it 
and write with red ink 
words which don’t make any sense.
Открытый угол забвения.
Тишина в кармане.
Тень скользит по стене и льется в бокал, как черное вино.
Я пью этот бокал.
Тень входит в меня как мысль.
Завтра я пойду идти всю ночь, 
чтобы увидеть, как звезды одна за другой 
падают в море и медленно тонут.

An open corner of oblivion.
Silence in your pocket.
The shadow slides along the wall 
and pours into a glass like black wine.
I drink this glass.
A shadow goes inside me like a thought.
Tomorrow I will go all night to see the stars 
fall one by one into the sea and slowly sink.
Небо - зеркало.
Кто-то говорит.
Это не ты.
Ваша открытая рука пуста. 
Внутри есть дыра, из которой вылезают мухи.
Ваш мозг потный, 
он много работает.
Он похоже на мясо, которое вам дают на обед.

The sky is a mirror.
Someone speaks. 
That’s not you.
Your open hand is empty.
There is a hole inside, from which flies crawl out.
Your brain is sweaty
It works a lot.
It looks like the meat that you get for your lunch.

Ivan de Monbrison is a poet, novelist and artist born in 1969 in Paris. He has studied oriental languages in Paris, and then worked for the Picasso Museum, before dedicating himself to his own creativity. He has been published in literary magazines globally. His last poetry book in English and Russian без лица / Faceless has just been released in Canada. He does not believe that his art is of any real significance. He does it as some kind of a tribal ritual. He is fully aware that vanity is one of the worse enemy of most poets and artists, and tries to stay away from it as much as possible. 


Three Dark Poems by John Tustin

Before Another Midnight of Mindless Work

Standing before the mirror
Before another midnight of mindless work
For meager pay
I find my legs pasty and ridiculous
In my boxers;
My hair a mess,
My body rumpled,
This unshaven face a patchwork of middle aged lumps
And crags.
Red eyed, I creak and groan as I put on my pants,
Sipping another cup of coffee,
Still cold to my bones.
I have to get used to being alone again
And finding that my ugliness is endearing
To no one,
Certainly not me and
Not even you

I Think about Death All the Time

I think about death all the time:
Yours, mine, hers, his,
When I am at work
Or at the supermarket
Or sitting and drinking
As I listen to country, folk and rock n roll
I fill in the spaces of my thoughts
Imagining my death
And yours
And theirs.
The room grows dark
And my heart grows dark
And I think about my impending death
And fill with curiosity.
When I die
Will you honor me, will you cry for me?
Will you still deny me like Peter denied Jesus,
Like a child unwilling to repent?
As the years pass after I am gone, will you be washing dishes
And looking out the window,
Seeing the clouds passing over the tempestuous bay
Before a summer storm,
Think of me suddenly and shudder with loss?
Will you even remember me?
When I die and then you die
Will we meet in the valley 
Under a crescent moon
And finally hold hands as we make a vow
Or will my energy just wallow aimlessly
With the ashes of my spent useless body?

I think of everyone and I think of their deaths:
Anne Sexton breathing in poison, rowing away from God.
Adams and Jefferson holding hands and dying together
And hundreds of miles apart.
The death of Christ
In agony on the cross.
The death of my mother
And the death of your mother.
The death of Gram Parsons and Gene Clark,
Drunk no more, singing no more.
The death of Augustine of Hippo
Who said “Wipe your tears and do not cry,
If you love me.

Death is nothing.”

Life is everything.

We, the Many

We, the many
Who will not live beyond decay,
Who memorize the words of others,
Who worry about our oil changes,
Who live with little or no love,
Who scribble paeans and suicide notes
All over the bathrooms of our madhouses
While the days become nights become days
As quickly as the flicking of a switch;

We salute you –
You, the few
Who have made the lives of us 
Who will not live beyond decay,
Somewhat bearable
With your words and your deeds
That will not, cannot,
Shall not rot.

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

“Whack-a-Mole” Dark Poetry by Jake Sheff

Australian Lungfish. Photo by Vassil
Whereupon the great tradition found itself,
Floundering in muck, the flagellating sea foam
And ragged, unmerciful depravity: a lungfish;
The lurid miscreant with the abandon of
A top-heavy star, or photon. It crawls, or maybe
Distills a warrantless idea straight from the cosmos
Borne, it’s rumored, of necessity for capital. 
The gasps for breaths are inimical and costly, 
But the slime-assuaging wind, forsworn 
And shapely, congeals around the bubbly, 
Piscine no-name. For so many true-believers,
A dawn is clapping out of latency, something like
Garages open to the day without people. There is,
To the lobular fins, a tender hedonism and upright
Sense of atavistic colors, like bloodless red and
Red-less rage; benumbing synesthesia worth
The fall from ease and scrumptious days without
Quizzes, teaching lessons to the echoes. Curling
Around the moment, the lungfish harps
A ditty taking shots at deities abstaining once
Again. The greenery beyond the banks are
Preening for the nascent forms rebellion strikes
At unexpected times and places, always free
But doomed to catching on. And what strange
Bedfellows the lungfish makes with structure,
Laid out on sand like a blueprint for amassing;
But still, the quiet touch of harsher tones
Summoning themselves for the occasion is
Imperceptibly housed somewhere the lungfish
Is not privy to, where destiny is daylight. Gone
Are the nights where nomenclature’s blue
Pariah wipes the slate as clean as shuttles;
The lungfish absorbs its newest memories into
Absolute refinement, takes a stuttering stipulation
Toward the avant-garde unknown to fate, until
A club is brought, by differing opinion, to its head 
That cracks, opposable as hominoid deliverance. 

Jake Sheff is a pediatrician and veteran of the US Air Force. He’s married with a daughter and six pets. Poems and short stories of Jake’s have been published widely. Some have even been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize. His chapbook is “Looting Versailles” (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). A full-length collection of formal poetry, “A Kiss to Betray the Universe,” is available from White Violet Press.

Two Dark Poems by Melody Wang: “Little Room” & “An Inopportune Time For”

Little Room

the stillness in the air
only seems to amplify these
fading dreams accumulated
like dead flower petals
on the windowsill that no one 
bothers to dust anymore
you wilt in this room of whitewash
and shadows, your face ashen — 
a faded ragdoll from a bygone era
drifts of dandelion tufts float up
from the garden below, as if
suspended in mid-thought
then snatched away, blown off 
course through cruel passages 
and forgotten

An inopportune time for

another heaping portion of critique   

         doled out on a Thursday morning devoid of any 
         filament of warmth — boss-man dons his fedora, 
         leaves as tiny figure makes final trek up a fire escape   
rain-slicked potholed pavements below that still carry

         transgressions, long-forgotten, as sleepy
        onlookers crane rubber necks and bulge  
        eager eyes so they don’t miss a second
tiny figure now atop a cold roof who paces:  

         an agitated bird in the winds of fleeting
         youth. A collective breath is held as if it could
         somehow prevent a stain that would soon be forgotten
the grey silence as I tear my eyes from the morning paper’s

        tragedy, my mind filling in gaps in a stranger’s life story
        to avoid my own. At times I think I deserve this absence.
        The cruel way nature takes away what it deems unviable —
grieving what never was

Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband and wishes it were autumn all year ‘round. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings. Her debut chapbook “Night-blooming Cereus” is coming out on December 17, 2021 with Alien Buddha Press. 

Three Dark Poems by L. Meredith Chandler

Shatter at Sand Pond

That strange night, the last Sunday of September
Halloween in the cool air, the candle burning in the freshly carved pumpkin
the campfire wild with wood
while the night animals journeyed by on their paths behind the trees.

How dare you choose the peace of this place
move here, move in, move us--
only to shatter that peace and scatter our thoughts
hold them captive, wondering why, over and over
involuntarily while washing the dishes 
walking the dog, trying to work
unable to think of anything else but you.

What about the refrigerator full of food, the calendar full of things to do?
You must have had some hope somewhere.
The early morning walks to the pond, stopping in to chat about how lovely it is here
how happy you are here.
You’re a liar, or a coward
or both, or neither
and we’ll never know.

How dare you cast your shade across my peace, where I too
chose this place--moved here and moved in, arms open to the magic of the Maine woods--
and I am not forgetting the pain you must have been feeling, the deep despair
the complete absence of hope for you to neatly pack up and label the boxes of your life
what would go to who, write a detailed note of instruction, and obligatory vague apology
and then do that deed, no mistakes this time
inexplicably altering the lives of us all.

Shatter at Sand Pond on a Sunday night in September
the glass that fell and scattered its shards at the moment your light closed out up the hill
your shadow passing through and across us all, until we find our individual ways out from under
to take back our peace and this place from the darkness that won
Until I ask Who were you? Until I say How dare you??
Until I yell Fuck you! 
Until I cry I’m so sorry.

Until I let go of ever understanding anything
and just hope, with all my heart
that the friend I’ll never know 
is finally where you wanted to go.

The Root Cellar

Deep in the dirt are the veins of my family tree
winding their way through the cool of the earth--
reaching long for the occupied shore
traveling north to seed the rich New England soil.

My eventual grandfather, the first step of his buckled boot
onto the land his sons would steal--
the sick of the journey still piercing his nostrils
and the thirst for drink, deep in his dry throat.
So small on that big sea he came, carried forward 
upon the waves sloshing across the bow--
to infect this new world with rule and riches, and scabs 
of his own rejection to sire the birth of the new oppressors.
Tied tight in the tangle of these inherited roots
are the blessing and the curse--
as acrid as the fermented cider beneath the stair
and as serious as the potatoes sitting silent in their bin.
I breathe deep against the pull and pain
with the strain across my small back--
carrying the burden of the beast in my blood
and my heart too heavy on my pounding head.
The three oldest professions have helped my people survive:
the farmers, the carpenters and the courtesan--
working the rolling fields, measuring and building their barns
reciting verse to her suitors in the city.
Sweet Dory Doyen still took the helm from the arrogance
of the owners and the privilege of their wealth--
pleasuring them with words and wit and more
until The Murder of Helen Jewett took her tongue.
Her truth washes high upon my shore 
and into my seaside home--
underneath the door and down the worn wooden stairs
to the hard cool floor of the root cellar.
Her blood seeps dark into the dirt, carrying her young death 
into my veins while I lay quiet with her--
delivering these words
like babies.

Autopsy of a Mistake

The sound of sharpening still in my ear,
with this scalpel I will cut
as deeply, as precisely as necessary to find the cause--
the root of this weed,
this vine that grew quickly between us, without warning
to strangle us from within
squeezing the life suddenly from our future.
The point of my scalpel breaks the skin
as I cut carefully into my memory
of that Saturday night conversation,
those words that sped our pulse into slowing
into the retreat and full stop of the ache, the anger--
our airways now constricted
with this obstacle lodged tight to block our voice.
The blood gently seeps to either side of the slice
as I reveal the invasive vine that has spread alongside the veins
from its entry point of our mouths and down our throats
winding its way into Wednesday, having continued its squeeze and shaped itself
into the whip that would ultimately lash us with words--
both of us crying, Stop! Please no more
both oppressed, mistaking whose hand was holding the whip.
Carefully and with skill I extract the weed from the body
strangely extricated with ease, all in one piece, intact.
The blood fills the cavity it created, alleviating the pressure
caused by this foreign body, this destructive force that has invaded the wrong host.
Gently I sew the incision with neat black stitches to ensure closure,
protection against other contaminants, further damage--
while the whip, long since dusted for prints, returned results inconclusive.

My final determination: the source of truth is not contained in these remains
as I pull the sheet up over the still being, this innocent casualty
at rest perhaps but not at peace, with answers still outstanding
but at least, its integrity now restored.
The origin of the weed, the exact path of its seed like many invasive species, impossible to track--
prevention seems the only defense against its spread
while the more persistent seed of hope germinates on the horizon.

L. Meredith Chandler is a native New Englander who grew up in Maine and now splits her time between the Maine woods and the Massachusetts coast. She holds a BA in English from Adelphi University and an MA in English from the University of Rhode Island. L. Meredith has been writing poems since age 10, with themes ranging on the darker side of life around family roots to addiction to the complexities of freedom and human emotion. Her first chapbook, The Human Heart and Other Chambers, will be completed this autumn.