Bob Ward – Life Abounding

Bob Ward
Life Abounding

Bob Ward writes: ‘As an elderly man, I’ve abandoned using a fine, but hefty SLR camera. Most of the time, I carry a lightweight Nicon Coolpix, ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice. Though a simple device, it works well in ordinary circumstances. I used it for the butterflies and on a thistle photo, taken in Kelling Heath, Norfolk and for the earwig on the Japanese anemone photo, which I came across in my own garden in Holt, Norfolk, showing that sights worth seeing don’t necessarily require visits to exotic locations.
       However, I used my Canon SLR D7 with a macro lens to take the Calypso orchid photo in Alberta, Canada in 2007, while celebrating my Golden Wedding Anniversary with my partner. What’s required for macro work is a steady hand and considerable patience. I just love looking into the depth of things, just as Robert Hooke did in the 17th century.’

Bob Ward, Skippers on a Thistle, Kelling Heath, Norfolk, UK, photograph, 2023

Bob Ward, Calypso orchid, Alberta, Canada, photograph, 2007

Bob Ward, James Joyce in Paris, Holt, Norfolk, UK, photograph, 2023.

Scott T. Starbuck – Dream of New/Old Country

Scott T. Starbuck
Dream of New/Old Country

Bury your art
on a mountain,

sell house, truck,
and possessions.

Donate books
to libraries.

Give guns, rods,
reels to best friend.

Sail across ocean
dreaming of fire,

ashes, spring flowers,
a faraway place

in the south Pacific
where ancestor

sailors speak to you.

Scott T. Starbuck – I Refused to ‘Duck and Cover’

Scott T. Starbuck
I Refused to ‘Duck and Cover’

in 1969, as a first-grader
at Our Lady of Guadalupe School
in Hermosa Beach, CA,

because I knew there was no way
an antique wooden desk
would protect me from a nuclear bomb.

Now, 53 years later, I refuse to believe
anyone is going to stop mass death
from a melting Arctic and Antarctic.

AQ38 – MACRO micro

Bryan R. Monte – Summer 2023 (AQ37) Book Review

Bryan R. Monte – Summer 2023 (AQ37) Book Review
Bob Ward, In and Out of Doors, Meniscus Publications, Holt, Norfolk, UK, 2023, 29 pages (available from

In and Out of Doors, by poet and photographer, Bob Ward, is a pamphlet of poetry and photos of doors and their importance as related to their physical, metaphorical, and even metaphysical associations. It is a collection of nineteen, short, rhythmic and sometimes rhyming poems inspired by doors. They include the doors of houses, occupied and abandoned, gardens, a clock repair shop and a prison, and even a door in a mountain passage way that leads to another country. Interspersed with these poems about various types of doors are six photos of doors or doorways, which relate directly to the poems on the facing pages.
      In and Out of Doors has two epigraphs. The first, ‘Lift yourselves up, you everlasting doors / that the king of glory may come in’, is from Psalm 24:7. It refers to the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The second, ‘Knock, knock, knock. Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzubub?’, is from Macbeth Act 2 scene 3. It compares Inverness Castle’s door (with all its bloodshed within) to Hell’s gate. They both portend that this slim pamphlet will contain a weighty exploration of doors. On the facing page of this dedication is a close up photograph of an old style latch handle and keyhole, which also shows the beautiful vertical grain of the door’s wood.
      In and Out of Doors’s poetic narrative follows, with just two possible exceptions, the human arc of development from before birth, birth, childhood, (young) adult experiences of sensuality to later adult experiences of ageing and holding on, to the eventual surrender to death and a possible afterlife. The first poem, ‘Asleep’, occurs before birth. In it, the book’s speaker chooses the ‘nearby door ajar’ , even though some hinted it, ‘would lead to death.’ However, ‘passing through / to this world I became awake.’ The photo on the facing page of this poem is of an electrical mains box at the base of a tree trunk. The box is behind a little house with a roof, a door, and a lock, suggestive of an entrance to some Alice in Wonderland underworld.
      The poem, ‘Birth’, follows naturally. In it the child-age narrator is greeted at his own front door by a new housekeeper, hired in his absence, with the existential question ‘Who are you?’ A photo on the facing page features a traditional urban rowhouse, perhaps similar to the one described in ‘Birth’. Another childhood experience is ‘MR Vincent’, about a clockmaker, to whose shop the speaker goes to get the family ‘Westminster chiming clock’ repaired after it was damaged by a nearby ‘fly-bomb’ (V1 rocket). ‘An abrupt jangly bell’ announces the boy’s entrance. But even though the Mr Vincent can repair clocks, the narrator still observes astutely that ‘time / kept slipping through his fingers.’
      The next poem, ‘Doorways: for Robert Palethorpe’, features a facing page photo of a garden door ‘overgrown with ivy / paint flaking, signs of rot’ exactly as described in the accompanying poem.
Next, ‘Zugspitze’, tells the story of a mountain ‘gifted by the Emperor / to his neighbour going short / of elevated land.’ (A longer, prose version of this story, entitled ‘Frontier’, was originally published in AQ26 at ). At the end of an ‘ice-glazed tunnel / hewn through solid rock’ the tourists encounter ‘ a pale blue wooden door’ that leads to another country, ‘No passports; no guards / controlling entry.’
      Other poems describe experiences such as finding just a door in an alleyway with a £5 for sale sign attached to it in ‘Back Yard Sale’, an abandoned house in a poem of the same name, at the edge of village, which begs the question why the house is standing empty ‘where homeless families hold no key to life.’ ‘Letterbox’ is a quatrain about a ‘neurotic dog … that tears your post apart.’ after it’s dropped through the door’s mail slot.
      The book’s second section begins with only one of the two characters, the one on the left side of the page, which previously appeared paired on the book’s title page. Perhaps this is to indicate that we are now inside something, while previously, the poetic scenes were set on the outside. This begins with the poem ‘That Woman’. Here Ward pairs the common metaphor of the key to one’s heart with the image of the door to create cautionary tale. A woman has given the key to her heart to the wrong man, who

                  …turned the lock,
               threw back the door,
               and trampled in.

He also takes they key with him so that other men can enter her house/room without needed to use one so that

                  …new men step inside
               without so much as flicking
                ash off their cigarettes.

This poem is somewhat of a noir piece, from a different time, hopefully, for most women in the Western world, or perhaps not, and certainly not for women in the non-Western world. Other poems in this section include those about ghosts ‘unable / to pass through walls / erected for security, in ‘Frayed Agenda’, a breakfast of ‘two rashers / nestling together warmly / with one field mushroom / acting as a pillow, / and a half tomato (grilled)’ announced by a kitchen door thump in ‘Cuisine’, and a pirate, who goes to a ‘Paint flaking … castle door’ behind which a ‘guarded woman’ is kept in ‘Bluebeard’.
      In ‘HMP: Drawing Keys’ Ward masterfully describes a prison’s oppressive atmosphere in his very first verse:

               Like freedom’s death-rattle
               key clatter down a chute
               so you can minister to shuttered lives.’

Ward describes how the guards ‘clip the bunch (of keys) to a thick / black tightly buckled belt.’ to prevent a ‘snatch’ or a ‘scan (of the) uncovered keys / to copy with a make-shift file,’. It’s no doubt that this heightened awareness of the guards’ surveillance for their safety and of punishing effects detention is based on Ward’s years as a prison chaplain. In addition, these lines describe especially well Ward’s poetic style composed of short, simple lines reinforced with alliteration that strings the images together, similar to a set of keys on a ring.
      This second section continues with ‘Open Up’. It’s about ‘Pulling back the door of an old wardrobe’ that contains a winter ‘garment I no longer wear, / the zip has broken teeth, it will not hold.’ introducing the theme of decay, which is also touched on in several poems thereafter. In ‘Phlebotomy Department’, for example, the speaker is let in with an

                   …urgent buzz
               from the clinic door
               that summons the next in line
               to pass to the other side.

as if the blood work done here will determine life and death itself—which it may. Another poem ‘Entrances’ is about sliding, automatic, institutional or business doors which sometimes don’t recognize those who want to enter before they smash into them, a constant bane or my existence as a wheelchair user. Below this photo is storefront with the lettering ‘Dinosaur service centre’, perhaps a joke about how some younger people view older people who still patronise brick and mortar stores.
       Next follows ‘Entering’, which seems to me to be more about crossing into a metaphysical space rather than a physical one. ‘Entering’, ‘Letterbox’, ‘HMP: Drawing Keys’ and the terminal poem, ‘A Light Matter’, are the only poems in this collection that don’t explicitly mention a door or doors. (However, it is clearly implied in ‘Letterbox’ that the poet is describing a door’s mail slot and in ‘HMP: Drawing Keys’, that keys are used to open and shut cell and security doors). ‘Entering’ instead of discussing doors, discusses doubt and temptation. It describes a place or situation where ‘faith draws you blindly / under tension / like the strings / you pluck for music.’ However this advice comes ‘at your back’ and from ‘wooden ears’ with the poem’s terminal line of advice ‘choose not to follow.’
       ‘Holding On’ is about preparing for death. The speaker mentions that he’s older:

               than my kin gone before
               these are my bonus days
               until I’m faced by the door
               to the one-way passage.

      In the meantime, the speaker says, ‘I maintain my grip until / at last, (I) will let it slip.’ On the facing page is a photograph of an entrance to a stone structure without a door, perhaps representing a tomb. Here, the black and white photography brings out the architectural stones grain and weight.
      The last poem of In and Out of Doors, ‘A Light Matter’, takes place ‘At the entrance / to a Black Hole.’ Inside this place, the poet imagines, perhaps in the vein of the traditional Christian-held belief of the hereafter, that it is not just ‘darkness’ but ‘light upon light / upon light… / and angels dancing/ quantum quadrilles.’ (I’d also like to note that some theoretical physicists think that the matter that these black holes ingest, which isn’t release in gamma or other radiation, might be released into another universe to continue the process of creation there.)
      Bob Ward has certainly packed a lot into his little pamphlet, In and Out of Doors. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to AQ’s readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.      AQ

Stephen Anderson – Bloom

Stephen Anderson

An older woman walks her dog
down a bombed-out street in
Kharkiv. It’s spring and she side-steps
cratered sidewalks with emerging purple
crocuses that magically seem to smile
their brightness. She stops, gathers her
breath, and listens to their quiet hallelujah
song, and bends to touch them as they
sing to her of hope and a smattering
of beauty—despite it all.

David Romanda – Haunted

David Romanda

We decided to break up, and were trying to sell
the apartment quickly. We wanted a quick and easy
break, and we wanted it as amiable as possible.
But quick. We were basically giving the apartment
away. It was in good shape, in a good part of town.
This couple, a little younger than us, views the apartment
with their realtor. They ooh and aah over this and that.
They appreciate the view of trees. And then, before
leaving, they ask us this: ‘Is the apartment haunted?’
My wife and I, we’re still married, look at each other
and just crack up. We’re laughing hard—we can’t stop—
and it’s creeping out the couple and their realtor.
As you can guess, they didn’t buy the place.

Simon Alderwick – departure

Simon Alderwick

a man & a woman
drinking coffee.

sitting close together
as if sharing a secret.

next to him, an oversized suitcase
with a haphazard handle and four wonky wheels

whereas she has only
a daybag.

his is a face exhausted of options.
hers is the face you dream & wake up to.

they drink slowly
as if they could stop time by savouring flavour,

talk in short, sudden bursts
then settle into silence.

they have so much to say
& so much they can’t.

he wants to promise—she hushes
his lips with her index finger.

their time is up.
they stand together.

he clutches her like something he can’t quit,
her head on his chest.

he inhales deeply.
she smells of home.

Simon Alderwick – jeepney

Simon Alderwick

Crossing the McArthur Highway. 7 o’clock Tuesday morning.
Oversized red cube of a Sogo hotel on one side, long haired man
wearing a chequered shirt & ripped jeans on the other. ‘Hey Joe!’
he greets me, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Downtown,’ I answer.

He points me inside with his lips. There’s no room, I protest
but his lips move a fraction & I see a space open up deep down
on the left-hand side. I contort myself inside that steel shell
held together by welding & the Catholic faith, squeeze my butt

between a college kid & a BPO worker. Coins pass back
& forwards, the driver never short changed, never forgets.
I crane my neck trying to look out of glassless windows.
The Jeepney passes Jollibees, 7-11s, churches, schools, SM malls.

I sense my stop before I see it, tap a coin against the roof. It clangs
its message to the driver who slamswerves his jeepney sidewards.
I escape into the blinding dust of day, sticky of shirt & sore of neck.
A tricycle driver accosts me, says: ‘Hey Joe! Where to, my friend?’

Fiona Ritchie Walker – Surveillance

Fiona Ritchie Walker

When the aliens came, they hovered undetected
above polluted skies, took their time
recording readings, analysing day to day
activities, global change, how ancient ways
of living with nature had long ago been lost,
the friendly forms of living, travelling
diminished by human borders, senseless wars.

They saw rivers no longer nourishing the soil,
recorded rising contamination, vast hidden poisons
entering blood streams, destroying warming seas.

Sometimes they found pockets of joy, quiet goodness
happening in the midst of drawn knives, drugs and hate,
but not enough to make them explore more,
stop them from heading home.