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Feature of the Week – 4

I chose Marsha Owen’s prose poem “Ugly Times” for this week’s feature. A heart-breaking rant. I loved the sounds. The images are vivid and rooted in reality. The juxtaposition of harsh reality and continuity of nature makes this poem effective.

Ugly Times

Hung a new fan on the outside porch today. Blades sliced the humidity, brought flutters of relief, but I coulda’ sworn I heard one whisper, Why bother? He’s just gonna’ start a war, you know, pack his suitcases with green roots of evil, play golf on our graves.

So I sat down with my new friends, squatters who swarm in my head now, drop by uninvited, keep me awake every night. I tried to send them away, but they stay—then sunshine drops its snarky self onto my grass as it has for eons, and just then in the oak tree, birds all lemony and apple-red catch my eye. Audacious, I thought, while warships circle each other somewhere, but I hear mothers still birth babies, brown babies, white babies, less than right babies, destined to be children (let us pray) but the rich bitch says now all must pay to play at school, lunch canceled, so I wonder if I should get a refund on the fan, get a little money, a few dollars maybe, enough for a bottle of filtered water because a child I don’t know drinks poison, or enough to fill your grandma’s prescription, maybe enough to buy a wheel for his chair and then I remember those pussy hats waving from crowds, a sea of pink sails bobbing along almost like they were sewn together and all the feet moved as one river of blood.

I watched the fan circle. I coulda’ sworn I saw a noose hanging there, the oak tree out back blackened against my scorched earth.



I am creating a series of posts as a handy reference of poetic forms and meter. The Spring 2016 issue of The Literary Nest includes a pantoum, so let us talk about that form.

According to all the sources, the Pantoum is derived from an ancient Malaysian folk poetic form. The most significant feature of this form is the interweaving of lines with certain repetition built in the design. This repetition gives the poem a feel of forward movement without losing the historical context, sort of keeping the memory alive.

A Pantoum contains four-line stanzas with the following rhyme scheme: lines 2 and 4 of the previous stanza are used as lines 1 and 3 of the next. The poem can have an indefinite number of stanzas. In the final stanza, lines three and one from the first stanza are repeated as the second and fourth (final) lines.  A perfect Pantoum contains four four-line stanzas. Let us illustrate the scheme by an example. I use Harmonie du soir by Charles Baudelaire, to avoid the copyright issues. This poem does not circle back to the first line.

Structure Harmonie du soir by Charles Baudelaire
Stanza 1
Voici venir les temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Stanza 2
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir;
Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu’on afflige;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.
Stanza 3
Le violon frémit comme un coeur qu’on afflige,
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir;
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.
Stanza 4
C (or I)
A (or J)
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige…
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

It is important to remember that the form should not “drive” the poem. If the form begins to restrict the expression of content, the poet can choose to change the form to fit the content. If you are inspired by the form, expect to practice a lot and have patience. I can’t wait to see more submissions of form poetry.

Some well-known Pantoum examples are:

“Something About the Trees” by Linda Pastan
“Parent’s Pantoum” by Carolyn Kizer
“Iva’s Pantoum” by Marilyn Hacker
“Pantoum of the Great Depression” by Donald Justice


Happy Halloween



A thin moon faints in the sky o’erhead,
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
But forth of the gate and down the road,
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.

— from All Souls by Edith Wharton (1903)

From Worksop With Love

 By A V Laidlaw


As Jack walked into the office, the new secretary stared at him. She was a pretty young thing, glossy lipstick, and miniskirt, and the old flirtatious banter rose to his lips. But the words died before he could say them. The legendary Jack McSquall, Britain’s number one operative, was long gone. He was a broken man now. He winced as he touched the scar on his cheek, a souvenir from his final mission. There were deeper and more painful scars too. Scars raked across his soul.

“He’s waiting for you,” she said. “Inside.”

The man only known as “B” sat at his desk like an eagle perched on its nest, all fierce eyebrows, and more fearsome nose. Jack felt the resentment stick in his throat. This man, this civil servant who never saw the world beyond the dossiers and meeting of Whitehall, had sent so many good men to their fate.

“I’ve quit,” Jack said.

B peered over the top of his half-moon glasses. “Yet you came.”

“To tell you to your face.”

“It’s bad Jack, the worse I’ve ever seen. Come with me.”

Habits die hard, and Jack followed B out onto the balcony. London spread out in front of them, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, a host of red buses mingled with black cabs. Union Jacks fluttered under irredeemably British grey skies. Big Ben tolled. Once it had been the heart of a great empire and was still a glorious sight. Jack felt his upper lip begin to stiffen.

“Oh,” B said, “it’s pretty enough from up here. But down there, a different story.” As if on cue a flock of pigeons took to the skies. The two men watched in silence. “Vermin, Jack, the whole city is overrun with vermin. People are afraid to leave their homes. But if they knew the truth…” B shook his head.

“And you expect me to clean it up.”

“The Prime Minister asked for you by name.”

“Clean it up yourself. Your boys with their fancy gadgets.”

“We tried, Jack. God knows we tried.”


“We think OPFA are behind it.”

Jack’s blood ran ice-cold. The Orpington Pigeon Fanciers Association – his old nemesis. He remembered their leader, the fat breasted old cock called The Fantail, strutting back and forth with a beady look in his eye as he outlined his plans for a world dominated by pigeons. It had been a living hell imprisoned in the dovecote headquarters, the cooing night after sleepless night until Petra his Peregrine Falcon rescued him. The cost was high, though. Gerald the Gyrfalcon would never glide so gracefully through the air again.

“Avian Pest Control needs you, Jack.”

No, Jack thought. He was done with Her Majesty’s Service. He was putting his life back together. He even had a date that evening with Jill, a primary school teacher innocent of his shadowy former life as the government’s top pest control officer (pigeon section).

“Not this time. I’m out of the game.”

“But you and Petra.”

Jack’s hand’s shook with fury. “Leave Petra out of this.”

“Fastest Peregrine Falcon to ever fly in British service. You’d make short work of The Fantail together.”

“Petra’s not interested.”

“Have you asked her?”

“You know I haven’t seen her since Worksop.”

“Worksop was bad. I’ve read the reports.”

“You weren’t there.” Jack touched the scar on his cheek. “The feathers. Oh God, the feathers.”

“We didn’t know that chickens were present.”

“You should have known.”

As Jack turned to walk back into the office, a small grey dot hurtled towards him from the sky. A pigeon, a message from The Fantail no doubt. As the pigeon homed in, an assassin’s glint in its eye, the old instincts took over. Jack bundled B back into the office doorway, shielding the head of the department with his own body. He felt a gentle splat against the small of his back.

After the pigeon was gone, lost against the concrete skyline, Jack took his jacket off. A brand new Savile Row suit bought from his retirement fund; he was going to wear it to his date with Jill that evening. He looked at the white gooey mess trickling down the material.

“Tell Petra I’m back.” He said. “And this time it’s personal.”

All I Want For Christmas Is a New Job

By A V Laidlaw


“Ah. Good morning. I’m Tim, head of human resources. Mister… Mister Claus.”

“Everyone calls me Santa.”

“Santa! Great! Take a seat. Good journey? Hope you found us okay? Did you come by public transport?”


“Bus. Fantastic. Can we get you anything? Coffee, tea?”

“A little tot of whisky’s traditional.”

“Whisky? Um, you do understand that, if your application is successful, we do have a strict policy about alcohol during working hours. We’re a fun loving bunch down here at The Burger Bazaar. The most fun-loving bunch you could meet. But rules are rules. You don’t have a, um, problem we should know about?”

“No. Just in my last job…”

“Brilliant! Now, looking at your CV, you’ve had quite a varied career. Perhaps you could fill us in with some of the details.”

“My first job was the Bishop of Myra.”

“Bishop. Now that’s impressive. Now, when exactly was this? There seems to be a teeny misprint here. It looks like 300 AD.”

“That’s right, the fourth century. I was called Nicolas, then, or Nick to be informal. The Church was still something of a start-up company, everyone mucking in. Good opportunities for promotion, though. I made it up to Saint.”

“Gosh, a Saint. Don’t think we’ve had a Saint working at The Burger Bazaar before. It sounds absolutely fantastic. So, why did you leave?”

“You know how it goes. Fall of Constantinople, Ottoman Empire. Not much call for Christian Saints.”

“I put that down as laid off due to economic conditions. Then you became a delivery driver.”


“Excellent! At The Burger Bazaar, we believe in empowerment. Who knows, within a few years, you could be running your own franchise. Now tell me more about the delivery business. You have an HGV license?”

“Not exactly.”

“A white van man!”

“More of a sleigh.”

“A sleigh.”

“It flew.”

“A flying sleigh.”

“Pulled by reindeer.”

“For home deliveries, we tend to use mopeds.”

“I’m willing to retrain.”

“That’s, um, great. At The Burger Bazaar, we believe in self-improvement.”

“And empowerment.”

“Yes, quite so. Moving on, what three qualities could you bring to this role?”

“First of all I’d say, time management. Getting all those presents delivered on Christmas Eve was no easy feat.”

“You only worked one day a year?”

“No. The rest of the time I was supervising the elves.”

“Sorry, did you say managing yourself?”

“Elves. You know, pointy hats, whistling a merry tune as they whittled out a toy train or sewed a dress for a pretty doll. Little people.”

“I’m not sure if that’s the politically correct term.”

“Well, they called themselves Elves. The whole mixture really, pixies, brownies, fairies.”

“A culturally diverse work environment. That’s good. Very good. At The Burger Bazaar, we have a full anti-bullying policy. A strict no-no to racism, sexism and, er, size-ism. So what would you say your major weakness is?”

“Oh. I haven’t really thought about that. Mince pies, I suppose.”

“And how, using examples from your career, have you overcome this weakness?”

“You might be able to guess from the size of my tum, I haven’t really.”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean it isn’t my place to comment. Remember, courtesy and respect to fellow co-workers. That’s what we believe at The Burger Bazaar.”

“Along with empowerment and self-improvement.”

“So why are you looking for a new position?”


“I hope there’s not a problem. This is a customer facing role. Our younger clients are our most valuable.”

I mean, the kids stopped believing. We’ve had trouble before, back in the Seventeenth century when the Puritans banned us. But we picked ourselves up, got on with the work. By Victorian times, we were booming again. Hired us a PR man. Name of Charlie, Charlie Dickens. Lovely fellow. Put me in one of his books. But this time it’s different. I blame all the PlayStations and iPads. Kid’s not happy getting a wooden train set when they really want one of these electronic gizmos. The jig’s up. Easier for them to badger their parents into ordering something off Amazon than to write a letter to Santa.”

“Well, some great news, Mister Claus!. We do happen to have a vacancy on the night shift. The pay is £6.70 an hour. You’ll be starting on Environmental Hygiene Duties, but who knows how far you could go. At The Burger Bazaar, we believe in giving people a chance.”

“So you do believe in Father Christmas?”



Peckers Honour

To lighten up your Monday, here is the last week’s winning story, “Peckers Honour” by Avalina Kreska. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Note, since this is a global magazine, the writers are free to use the spelling conventions of their own country.

Peckers Honour


“THERE! There’s the sign, oh, you almost missed it!” Simone yelled, tugging at Roy’s sleeve. Slowing down, Roy waited before crossing lanes then turned down the steep hill towards the farmhouse. The road was really just a track; his four wheel drive would have a real challenge for a change. Like being on a stormy sea, they were tossed about inside. Roy inwardly groaned at the clean-up job he’d have to do when he got back.

“Oh look, there’s one!” Simone shouted, pointing at a raggedy tailed cockerel. The cockerel lifted its scrawny neck and crowed. It was more like a squeak. Roy looked at Simone and chuckled.

“Bit pathetic wasn’t it?” he said. Simone giggled. Arriving, they carefully stepped out of the Land Rover, gingerly walking over towards a group of outbuildings. Damn it, Roy thought, all this mud will be inside the car. Another chicken ran past them, again, not looking it’s best, in fact, Roy thought it looked decidedly shifty.

“Ahoy there!” a man’s voice was heard coming from a side building. They both turned.

“Ahoy!” Simone said, waving.

“You the chicken woman that rang?” the man said, emerging from a dilapidated doorway.

“I am indeed, and this is my husband, Roy.” The man came towards them, wiping his hands on his overalls. Roy dreaded touching the man. The man stuck out his hand; Roy shook it, his hand was rough but slimy, Roy resisted the urge to sniff his fingers.

“Ay, you come to the right place, chickens, we got chickens, what you looking for?” he said, glancing down at Simone’s low cut top.

“As I said on the phone, some good layers. I used to keep chickens as a girl, thought it would be fun to start again,” she told him, hoping his eyes would rise to meet hers. Roy wandered towards the buildings.

“I, er, I wouldn’t go in there if I were you, the chickens you want are this way,” the man said, lighting a cigarette. Roy looked through a crack in the door, thought his eyes were deceiving him, there were rows of green army uniforms, too small for even a child.

“How old are these birds?” Roy asked as they walked to a large coop with shitty food bowls and no fresh water. He was starting to get a bad feeling about this.

“All young-uns – good enough for you, all one-year-olds they are, you’ll have no problems with these.” Roy got a whiff from the enclosure; he looked at Simone, who shrugged her shoulders.

“You said you’d kept them before like? So how many do you want?” the man kicked the coup startling the hens inside, they rushed out squawking. They only looked marginally better than the ones they passed on the track. Simone bent a knee and peered closer. Something was wrong about them; she looked closer still. Then she realised, they were each missing an eye! She stood up in amazement.

“But – but – these chickens have only got one eye,” she swung around to look at the others, “and this one’s only got one leg!” The man sniffed. Simone could’ve sworn that it was an emotional sniff. He put one leg over the fence and with the quickness of a ninja he scooped one up, the hen didn’t resist.

“War wounds. This one is Daisy; she’s a good layer, she’s a year older, shot through the eye, she was. What a trooper! Night raid it was.” The man stroked the top of her head. Roy caught Simone’s eye; she knew that look, what in the crazy world of mothers is going on? Simone looked closer, just under the top feathers, something caught her eye.

“There’s something under its feathers,” Simone said, Roy joined her, peering closely. The man swept a bunch of feathers aside. Staring back at them all was the smallest medal they’d ever seen.

“She’s a war hero is our Daisy! Awarded the Peckers Honour for bravery!” Simone tapped it gently; it was definitely metal. Roy gave Simone a little nip on the back of her buttock with his fingernails like pincers. She stifled a guffaw.

“My God! That’s amazing! I – We’ve never seen a chicken war hero have we, Simone?” Roy said, hamming it up. She shook her head, biting her lip. The man beamed, glad that they were interested.

“Oh yes, all these birds I’m letting go, all have seen a battle; every single one deserves a good home, someone kind to love them as I do-o-o-o!” he burst into tears. Roy’s eyes said I can’t stand much more before I burst. PLEASE!! Simone pulled herself together fast.

“But Mr, if you love them so much, why are you giving them away?” she asked sincerely. He wiped away the tears.

“More war coming, from the North, haven’t got the time to give to them, no, better they go, more will take their place…” he sniffed and put Daisy back down, then changed his mind, searched around for a container, and shoved her inside.

“How many more Miss?” She looked at Roy, he shrugged and quickly turned away.

“Two more should do it, for starters, maybe – er -after the war, I might come back…” The man nodded, and again, with the swiftness of a ninja, grabbed two more. Safe inside, the birds settled quickly.

“That’ll be all then?” the man asked, tears glistening in his eyes. They both nodded, glad to get away from this crazy farmer. They walked back past the buildings, Roy looked, the uniforms were gone. He must have been seeing things for sure. Walking back up the path, Simone looked back, the man had gone.

“Soon be home my ladies,” she said to the housed chickens. Roy burst out laughing making Simone laugh too.

“Oh my GOD, how did I keep a straight face? Chicken war! Hahahaa!” he leaned over like he was going to vomit. Simone loaded the chickens in the back of the car.

“Peckers Honour,” Simone said, tapping the skin of the car. That was enough for Roy to start a fresh round of hysterics, he hung onto the car door. Simone held her stomach.

“Dooon’t – Sh-shushhh, he’ll hear us, come on let’s go, let’s get these war heroes home!” They climbed into the Land Rover, Roy looked behind him and backed his way up slowly.

“Tell you what, he was one fast dude for an old man, though,” Roy said, head out the window. They were near the top when they heard distant shouts. They looked at one another, faint at first. Roy continued up the track, the car precariously swinging side to side. He paused.

“Can you hear that?” Simone wound down the window and stuck her head out.

“Voices I think.” Roy reached the top; he had to back out onto the main road, all the cars had stopped both ways. Crossing the road were at least one hundred chickens, dressed in army uniforms, marching in perfect unison, their wattles flapping as they strode. Most had tiny, shiny rifles, others swords. A large cockerel marched off to the side, shouting commands. Simone’s mouth was open so wide she dribbled.

“From the North…” Roy said absentmindedly.

“Yes, more peckers…” Simone said.

Mondays at the Nest

Here is another opportunity to be published here. This a weekly contest. You can enter as often as you like. Hope to see you soon.

Travails of the Wayward Writer

Like you, I like to laugh. Laughter cleanses the blemishes on the soul that build up like cobwebs from the daily grind. As a child, I waited for my Dad to come home from the long business trips because I knew he would come back with stories that made me laugh. Although his humor was innocuous, as I read more, I grew to like satiric humor with social commentary. Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Marathi humorist P.L Deshpande became my favorite writers. I rolled over laughing when I read the exchanges between Sir Winston Churchill and the fools who were the objects of his sharp wit.

These were some of the classic masters. Later when I became a mother and lived the life of a stay-at-home mother for a short time, I discovered Erma Bombeck and instantly identified with her brand of humor.

When I started working in the…

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