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Graham Burchell (email, website)


Cul de Sac Morning

A wet bowl of cereal floats the rooms of a white house

where red hibiscus shrouds the mailbox.


The keeper of the bowl squints to the mirror, sighs,

tweaks his necktie, crimping an over zealous knot.


The woman with the vast spreading tree stopped sleeping days ago.


A dog barks because it is Friday, and in the pond

behind the Spanish style house, those koi fish swim.


They have no choice, but they seem happy

to share the light that dances from so many leaves.


She sits in the leather armchair, eyes fixed on the white blinds.


Kisses, best wishes, vehicles slide quietly in reverse from

driveways! , leaving resentment or desire at their porches.


The women pair that love each other, appear from the red brick house

with obedient dogs once the hurly burly’s done.


They fuzz the quiet of the cul-de-sac as they tame their evergreen lawn,

then edge it and gloss it mint fresh with a sprinkler.


Strips of light, bleach her pallid skin.


Squirrels and! cicadas seem to hold their breath until the sun warms them,

prods them to explore trunks and branches, tell the world


that it is too hot to talk except to warn of lazy cats cooking

beneath the cycads and gingers, joyously ignorant of the young man


who lives in the deep shade with his half shaved yard,

and his half-shaved freckled face that wakes to a hangover


and the soft wheels of the mail van, slipping secretly past the house

that was toilet rolled last month.


The woman on the television explains how to transform a coffin with collage.


Dressed  like bandits, three men with mowers and blowers

steal long blades of grass from the lawn that struggles


beneath the dark cover of a southern magnolia.

They leave with their booty, unchallenged.


It’s as still as a mountain lake then.

A clock ticks somewhere, to the rhythm of one or two beating hearts.


She couldn’t keep up. She gave up tapping time - days ago.



The Precarious Nature of Happiness

William sired Florence, a headstrong girl with lips too often down-turned, for she rued the day she showed her back to wise advice, wedded a petty thief with a rodent face who fathered her only son Robert. He hugged the bare walls of an orphanage and scratched the skirting like a mouse, for his mother was murdered; his father hanged for it, and Robert vowed to snatch life wherever he may grab at it. 


A great war took him to France, but before his high cheekbones, green bones, were shattered by the blunt edges of shrapnel, he came to face Yvette. In the time it took a blackbird to sing a favorite aria, Robert made her a daughter.


                Sylvie – all softness, genteel smiles, and mother’s smart eyes. She skipped

over well-laid mines of sadness; flowered in a potpourri, oak floored Paris home before it all started anew.


The loss of first love reshaped her smile, dulled the sparkle, stole a little of her softness before she felt the cold spine of night’s penetration.  Invading rapists, foreign insects with cricket leg jeers sowed seed that like the memories could not be washed away. In the midst of war she gave us


George in the rare calm of a rain-soaked November night.


Sylvie did that – Sylvie who never joined with man again.


The half loved, half enemy son, grew his hair when he was twenty, cut it when he was twenty one, shipped his soul to Quebec, met and loved and loved again until a slim likeness of his mother hooked his heart. With open smiles he watched Marie (his wife) grow …


                Kimberley whom they raised in the budding comfort of a land brightened by

winter snow and summer peace. She went to study in the fullness of time, English in England, met an English man from an old English town where a hundred and twenty four years before, William sired poor fated Nancy who rued her day with down-turned lips.




Just like painting,

you have to look away to make marks.

Hold that thought, I say, drag and drop.

My hair is neater than expected.

Dead silver is overlaid with gold in the bathroom light.

I can see it speaking to me from the lined page

where I make these words – clippings.


How different they were at the time when I folded

long strands into a clear plastic bag.

I was seventeen, eighteen, my hair still smooth,

new, brown as wood charred and burnished.

Words were sharper then as well.

Younger lips dealt dogma like logs spitting in a fire,

insisting that you take notice.


Cutting the hair; one attempt to sever the long tail of youth.

It failed of course, and as I stand before a mirror

reflecting softened muscles, layered with skin

seared by the sun from a hundred angles,

with eyes that are weak, eroded by a river of history

and teeth shaped by countless festivals of passing food,

that infant soul in me yearns to laugh like a boy.



Quiet Bohemoth

Great creature yet unseen,

coursing casually from rhythmic arcs

of a tail the size of a small iceberg

through depths, dark as crude oil.


How impervious to loneliness you must be

in your blind frigidity.

Your soft-fleshed oily death stink

held in abeyance while you gather detritus,

the tumbling dead, manner in the deep brine.


Silent thoughts must drop like snow flakes

as you drift from nowhere to nowhere else.

Is the suck of rotted life enough,

or are your journeys from ocean to ocean

a search for familiar face?


Perhaps you call in your incessant void.

A voice deeper than the sea

to worry boiling shoals

in the blue layers, epipelagic,


or touch the soul of another quiet behemoth,

reaching into those empty quarters of cartilage

and cold pink flesh, waiting.



Skin Cycle

There’s nothing left of the skin that was cleansed of birth mucus.

They rubbed it away with soap-scented towels.


A grandmother scrubbed the skull free of all malefic germs

lur! king in the shadows behind each ear.


At school, skins clashed, some freckled with rust, others bone-white,

olive, brown; stranger to a kiss than an old aunt’s cheek.


Bulb knees were scuffed white and bloody on the hard road.

Ahead, small palms hit grit - bled drops from torn lifelines.


That wondrous purple in a fruit colored bruise,

turned red if you held your breath and squeezed.


A bare arm grazed another,

a moth wing touch that bent mellifluous down.


The smooth glide awakened senses stored and ready

to evoke imaginings never more ignored.


Her name was branded to the back of a wrist;

black ink cursive scrawl within an imperfect heart,

that had to be broken once or twice.


Knuckles mashed those lips, not kisses,

on cursed days where the stinging tear from glass or blade,

the seared circle stolen by a bullet,


and the guilty burn of cuffs behind your back,

left time to think before you renewed yourself,


put life to a fresh wrapped soul

that worshipped your marks and scars,


plots on your map of years, on skin that faded,

lost its shine like slipping peppers or pears.