by Peter Cowlam


A reining in at the eco-centre. Dials
in reverse for the lost trials of inspection.
Ends but a stunted survey,
fixated on crowds and venues. They are here,
young obsessives of ‘belonging’, cropped in line,
and blessed by the shades of the dead, each 
    with plans
for a history staggered by restarts. Bets
are made on the fall of dice, down payment
on the strategists of destruction. We ask,
what news, when there’s a fifth apocalyptic 
horseman, bringer of fire, floods, dearth, the crackle
of flames in our trees, earthquakes and migrations.
There is an old prince, there’s a new king reigning.



Death came today and gave me some advice
She said;

‘Good news: I’ve designed a special diet for you.
If you follow my instructions
Two years from now you’ll be as thin as I am.
After all, isn’t your health the most important thing?
And your own happiness must be your prime concern.
If you know what I mean.’

And death winked knowingly and smiled.

‘Only when you are happy can you make others happy.
Do you agree?
Only when you are satisfied can you satisfy others.
Only when you have gathered enough money
Do you have money to share.

She continued:

Forget thinking about what’s wrong before you act.
It’s not your job to put the world to rights.
And all your reading and writing. What’s it for?
It’s intellectual masturbation and changes nothing.
It won’t change anything.
Stop pretending to be nice.

Human nature is human nature.
Get real, you shlemiel!

She sounded irritated

The body is where it’s at, not the mind.
Exercise instead: swim, run around, cycle about
Exorcise the ghost of your conscience.
It’s an illusion anyway, a category error.

Enjoy the things you choose to buy!
To live needn’t be to suffer.
Be detached from the poverty and unpleasantness
That very occasionally surrounds you
You’re not responsible for it.

Think of other people’s misfortune as instructive.
These are not your problems, they are someone else’s.
“Il faut cultiver votre jardin” remember.

Look, my little Arjuna, be all that you can be!
It’s meaningless anyway.
Be consummately free.’

Then death smiled again.

‘But one day, perhaps, even sooner than you guess
When you’re fed up with your precious Atman, and your self
Meet me in Switzerland, and I’ll put a stop to your life
And crush your wizened little heart, like this.’

She closed her fist.

‘And you’ll get what you deserve.
That heaven of nothingness
You always secretly believed in
Will be your place of rest and
Proof of your utter

Philip Hall-Steinhardt, 2016

Many years ago in Mexico, I met an Irishman. He had his own philosophy of life. His philosophy was that he could only make other people happy and help them if he himself were happy and thriving.

He was a personable chap. Impressively, he walked everywhere instead of taking the bus or driving the car. He was as fit as a butcher’s dog. That is, apart from the fact that long ago in Ireland, after a motorbike accident, he was in an ambulance, which hadn’t shut the back door properly. In his stretcher, he slid out of the ambulance and hit his head on the tarmac.

This fall damaged his eyesight. It made it hard for him to develop a career in photography. The photographs he showed me were of the guitars played by his Mexican in-laws. He used moody lighting and asked me if I didn’t think they were erotic. But then he said:

Phil, I have realised that I am not happy in Mexico and that I won’t be able to make my two little children, or my wife, happy either. So I am leaving them and going back to Germany.

I thought of the stretcher slipping out of the ambulance, tipping over, and the Irishman’s head hitting the tarmac. Of the ambulance speeding away. Perhaps that could explain what he had just said to me. It seemed like such a selfish and cruel reason to abandon his family.

Perhaps it was a medical problem. There were other reasons why he wasn’t happy. I think I could guess a few of them. But he wasn’t going to tell me anything.

From ‘He loved this view’, a collection of 52 poems and pictures

Nothing Stays Put, by Harry Greenberg

Nothing Stays Put

The strange and wonderful are too much with us.
The protea of the antipodes – a great,
globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom – 
for sale in the supermarket! We are in 
our decadence, we are not entitled.
What have we done to deserve
all the produce of the tropics – 
this fiery trove, the largesse of it
heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed
and crested, standing like troops at attention,
these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons
grown sumptuous with stoop labour?

The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it. The green-
grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea.
Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly
fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are
dispensed on the sidewalks; freesias
fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli
likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson;
as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower
of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these
bachelor’ s buttons. But it isn’t the railway embankments
their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it’s

a row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos,
snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies,
in my grandmother’s garden: a prairie childhood
the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid,
unsealed, furrowed, harrowed, and sown with immigrant grasses,
their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered
here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas
on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch
of living matter, sown and tended by women,
nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful,
beneath whose hands what had been alien begins,
as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous.

But at this remove what I think of as
strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan
on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom,
a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above –
is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift
of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood. Nothing stays put. 
The world is a wheel. All that we know…that we’re made of…is motion.

Harry Greenberg was a counsellor to victims of torture, and spent many of his latter years writing and publishing stories, articles and witty asides on Jewish life and upbringing. His Letters to Kafka is published by CentreHouse Press and is available at Amazon Kindle and on most other ebook platforms. There are plans to publish more from Harry’ s backlist.

On The Rocks

A poem by Yogesh Patel

bottle of liquor near glass of manhattan
Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on

On The Rocks

It was easy to speak of all things absurd.
I didn’t drink Jack Daniel’s responsibly.
Yes, there was slur and anger and the spat.
The slur was not intentional. Shit happens!
It was good to speak like a foreigner as
a bloody foreigner. That’s the double malt?
Well, there is no such thing! So a blend!
The blend one becomes with one’s love.
Be neither here nor there! Avoid trouble.
The intoxication reminds me of being myself.
But my independence has never been bottled
or brewed or distilled in any Scotland.
It is not trapped in 1919-1921, nor has it
wandered into the illicit moonshine of 1780.
It is easy to speak of love for all
when one’s empire ends with the lie
that puffs ‘Train to Pakistan’
and commonwealth. The reality
lives in the night after jazz.
Courage is an eternal, euphoric spirit.
And only the spirit makes me
speak aloud. And the trying
freedom always needs it.
I dare it only under the influence!
You should too if you wish to survive.
Always blame the rebellion on whisky.
Be free and speak utter nonsense.
Yes, yes, say, you drank
irresponsibly as it shouldn’t be.
Be glad, enjoy uncertainties.
Everything dances on the rocks;

Yogesh Patel’s recent collection, The Rapids, is published by The London Magazine.

Yogesh Patel, a co-editor of Skylark, runs Skylark Publications UK and a non-profit Word Masala project. A founder of the literary charity, Gujarati Literary Academy, he has been honoured with the Freedom of the City of London. With LP records, films, radio, children’s book, fiction, non-fiction books and three poetry collections to his credit, in 2017, he was presented to The Queen at Buckingham Palace to represent the best in poetry. He was the Poet-of-Honor at NYU in April 2019. A recipient of many awards, and published in many magazines and anthologies, he has read in the House of Lords and the National Poetry Library.,

If I ran Monsanto

By Thomas W. Gilbert and Deborah Glaefke Gilbert

In this realm of destruction,

This hellhole called Earth,

There’s a Darth Vader business

That’s so full of its worth.

It’s consistent; it’s fascist,

And it’s blessed with a vision.

It has great friends in Congress

Who vote each decision

Over those who fight back

And just live by ideals,

But this business is fond

Of the work it conceals.

Monsanto, ‘My Saint,’

Why the smell rings a bell.

It’s a gift from the gods,

Who command works in hell.

But I’ll tell you, I will,

That their vision is poor,

They’ve done way far less deeds,

Why, just look at the score.

There are way far worse things

That this business could plan,

There are way far worse things,

I could tell you, I can.

When Monsanto first made us

Detect with our tongues

All that Saccharin sweetness,

Like smoke in our lungs.

It was new; it was bright,

With the calories less,

And although it was poison,

You now fit in that dress,

That was so tight before,

Why would all mirrors lie?

So why lose weight by pounds,

When no diets comply?

Why not conjure a pill

That dissolves flesh like acid,

That removes flesh and bones

And fat bulging so flaccid?

Their Saccharin is tame:

A mosquito, a flea.

It should kill on the spot,

Like a royal decree.

Population control

Should be measured in billions,

Not just hospital stays

For recovering millions.

But the heck with that sweetener;

Let’s scan PCBs;

They’re in fish, and in soil,

And in birds in the trees.

Poly Chloro Diphenyls

They’ll be here forever,

And you can’t break them down,

I said, “No, not now, never!”

They were first made for motors

And electric condensers,

For insulation packing

And particle dispensers.

Roundup, photograph Thomas Gilbert

Though they worked really well

Helping fuel electricity,

If ingested at all

They screamed hellish toxicity.

For endocrine

Blood, urine, liver diseases,

Cognition in children

With coughs, colds, and sneezes,

And cancer, and rashes,

And lesions, and sores,

It’s now found in the food

We eat, purchased in stores.

But the problem I see

Is in length of transmission;

There’s a story I’ve read,

If I have your permission.

In Indiana some workers

Dumped PCBs into drains

From factories, so thoughtfully,

Relinquishing pains,

So water treatment facilities

Examined their sludge,

Which was poisoned,

But after a wink and a nudge,

Gave the PCB gunk

To some farmers and gardeners

As ‘supreme’ fertilizer

If they signed up as pardoners.

But what a lame waste

Of time — factory to table.

Can’t Monsanto step up to the plate?

They’re damned able,

Get their FDA friends

To declare PCBs

‘Special’ food additives

With some simple decrees.

Like, maybe a preservative,

As it won’t go away,

Or flavor enhancers

Where some folk would then say,

“Why, that there’s some Bar-B-Q,

Fricasseed squirrel.

Hey, what’s that new flavor, Hon,

Makes our kids hurl?”

They could add it to gum,

Soda pop, chocolate candy,

Spread the food wealth around

Making PCBs handy.

I would love to be able

To walk to the mart

Grab some PCB jerky

And crunch it apart.

Now, if I ran Monsanto

It would happen today;

PCBs in all food,

Clap your hands, shout hooray!

It takes research, you know

So, if I ran Monsanto,

I’d have to know everything

To finish this canto.

This mother lode’s deep,

And it’s wide and horrific,

The bountiful landscape

Is teeming terrific.

Polystyrene for picnics,

Your plates and your cups,

That Styrofoam magic

Used by kids and grownups,

It’s apple pie clean,

Just like baseball and Mom,

Bio-degradable it ain’t,

But, hey, let’s all stay calm.

We need foam for our beds,

And our cars and our chairs,

We need foam for the packing

Of all Christmastime wares.

The environment suffers,

But what about us?

Look at plastic containers,

We just have to discuss,

For hospitals, grocery stores,

Suppliers of things.
We have to consider

What Home Depot now brings,

And Wal-Mart and Target and

Big Lots, and Sears,

They rely on dear plastic.

They’ve done it for years.

They just can’t do without it;

It’s a linchpin to sales;

Who cares if it’s poison

To dolphins and whales?

Those fish should know better

Than to eat plastic litter

That floats in the ocean

Like refuse on Twitter.

Now the thing that is missing

From Monsanto’s rare feat

Of creating a styrene

That’s beautifully neat

Is they need to produce it

In browns, blues, and greens,

Make it colorfully friendly

Not all ‘white’ for styrenes.

They think ‘white’ is so pure,

But it’s W.A.S.Pish and honky,

When the landfills we’re filling,

Smell just like a donkey.

The smell and that junk

Must blend in with the Earth;

It’s just got to be ‘green,”

So the ‘greennicks’ find worth

In the fact that the styrene

Will be there for ages,

If it blends with the plants

Then who cares if the stages

Of decomp will last

Over millions of years,

Our great, great………….grand-

Children can deal with those fears.

“What next?” You do ask,

In this fun bedtime story,

“Tell us, please, where it takes us?

Is it cutesy or gory?”

“Perhaps, if you snuggle up,

Warm in your beds,

And envision a world

Without pharmacy meds,

photograph Thomas Gilbert

You’ll be able to handle

The next part of this tale.

You’ve been given fair warning;

Now the truth will prevail.”

In a world long ago,

And perhaps far away,

Monsanto helped World War II

Teller to play

With Plutonium triggers

And atomic bomb toys,

Their refinement was needed

For good girls and boys

Their work unleashed decades

Of Cold War forecasters,

Reactor plant mishaps,

Radiation disasters.

The storage of waste

Would be years in the making,

For there’s no place to put it

On Earth; no one’s taking.

Plutonium’s half-life

Is older than God,

But Monsanto’s not worried,

Mutation’s not odd.

But I’ll tell you a secret

I made up in my head,

Monsanto’s gene splicing

Will awaken the dead.

They can splice wheat

With cockroaches’ DNA genes,

So your food will survive

If blown to smitherines.

When atomic war playtime

Turns Earth to a rubble,

All the food will survive,

But we’ll all be in trouble.

“Please no more,” I hear

Plaintively, inside the bed.

“I can’t stand all these nightmares,

Roaming round in my head.”

“Horizontal One, please,

You’re not standing at all,

And the nightmares are real,

You just have to recall,

It is daytime on Earth,

And the sun’s in the sky;

There is peace on this Earth,

And there’s no time to lie.”

Earth’s demons have worshiped

For hundreds of years,

Used death as their altar,

Our lives for their fears.

They shelter their victims

With chemical blinds,

So that no one suspects

Who makes ties and then binds.

But their work takes on methods

That vary with years

And the victims are lost

In time’s grinding of gears.

I remember my town

In the year ’56,

When Dutch Elm Disease raged,

And D.D.T. was the fix.

They sprayed all the trees

Just like washing a car.

Saturation was rich,

Like free drinks at a bar.

But the spray killed the birds,

And the elms went away,

And the D.D.T. clung

To all life’s D.N.A.

As a mutagenic key,

A teratogenic door,

A carcinogenic field,

A subcutaneous store.

But the D.D.T. woke up

From a Van Winkle nap

And began wrecking havoc

Like a no exit trap.

But with laws ending D.D.T.

Spraying of trees,

The birds have come back,

But without all the bees.

The tragedies fostered

By D.D.T. spraying

Were like shipwrecks at sea,

With seas silently preying.

So the monsterless monsters

And victimless victims

Are just God’s holy family

Of systemless systems.

Just maybe Monsanto

Could alter their game

And relinquish the methods,

The outcome, the shame,

And play for the house,

So that all can be free,

And remove all the trials

For you and for me.

Oh, what am I saying?

Who believes in such crap?

Monsanto should spray

D.D.T. on the map,

Purchase planes with ambition

Mitchell bombers and jets,

And B-52 squadrons

Blasting with no regrets.

They can bury the planet

In D.D.T. spray,

Saturate towns and cities

Every night, every day.

What this world needs are toxins

To cure it of ills

There are not enough

Medicines, potions, or pills.

Their rod and their staff

Are the means to this end.

D.D.T. is the spirit

That gets all flesh to bend.

Praise Monsanto for justice,

For their lawyers and courts,

Praise Monsanto for death,

And closed casket post morts.

Dead Robin, photograph Thomas Gilbert

Dioxin, the name seems

So simple and pure,

It’s a shame that it comes

With no possible cure.

It may be the deadliest

Monsanto has made,

It may be the deadliest

Full time charade.

Low birth weight, for starts,

And delays of the brain,

Motor skills, neuro jolts,

Immune health down the drain.

Hormonal effects,

And a cancer or two,

With a lowered I.Q.,

We should welcome this zoo.

Developmental delays,

Reproductive effects,

Altered sexual changes:

What Dioxin projects.

Dioxin’s like seasoning

That’s dumped in our food

Monsanto’s the cook,

Like Chef Ramsey’s worst crude.

In all of our food

Lives Dioxin like glue

We absorb it, we do,

Every bite that we chew.

We should spit it like bones,

Gristle, fat, or burnt pieces

But the bits are so small,

What Dioxin releases,

We’d have to have fingers

Attached to our tongues,

Microscopically ordered,

Like cilia in lungs,

Then we’d need some wastebaskets

As small as a nannite

For our tongue fingered grippers

That search with a scan light,

And dispose of them quickly,

So we don’t swallow whole,

The Dioxin ingested

That’s a hook on a pole.

But Monsanto’s so clever.

It’s tasteless and plain,

With no odor at all,

This Dioxin’s insane.

But America’s equal rights

Platform is now.

No one gets to get more

Than the next one; no how.

Opportunity has to be

Equal for all,

And Dioxin’s a treat

That we share, big and small.

They could add it to toothpaste

And deodorant too,

And antacids and lemonade

And cold Labatt Blue.

They could put it in Snickers,

And all kinds of cola,

And SweeTarts, and Pop Tarts,

And Nature Valley Granola.

If it’s everywhere, anyway,

Why can’t we just like it?

If we had our own bottles,

We could add it or spike it.

So who cares if Dioxins

Are prolifically near,

We should welcome it all

With a song and a beer.

Agent Orange, defoliant,

A friendly fire bullet,

Monsanto’s the culprit,

How did they ever pull it?

They had friends in high places

Who had hoped to find ore

(In a jungle of trees)

Never mined there before.

So they sprayed it on villages,

Mountains, and trees,

The harvest was people

Who crashed to their knees,

At least five hundred thousand,

The estimates low,

Are in need of attention

That a doctor could show.

But the maiming’s so permanent,

Compounded, and dire,

You’d have thought that your organs

Had been placed in a fire.

Well it happened to them

In a far distant land.

We’re all free, and we know it;

We are safe, understand?

Oh, but wait, it’s Monsanto;

The magician still lives.

They’ve developed a grain

That’s resistant and gives

Us a G.M.O “first,” that repels:

Well, you guessed it,

And it’s ready for here

And you didn’t request it.

A good 80% of all foods

That are processed

Have G.M.O. fillers,

Not even a contest.

This Agent Orange, weed killer,

Had a recent name change.

It is used in the U.S.

As a helpful exchange:

Your health for great crops.

It’s the old bottom line.

But don’t worry, your health

Care’s now a taxable fine.

Petroleum based fertilizer:

True economic importance;

Agra Business knows well

That the move just makes more sense.

If you turn corn to fuel,

Just put fuel onto corn,

Soylent Green is not people,

That’s just how we were born.

If the business of buying

And selling is money,

Pick a number in line,

And pay up ‘til it’s funny.

As Monsanto has fingers

In all of our pies,

George Orwell would just

Pin the tail on these guys.

And as you can see,

There’s no more we can do,

Take a seat on this train,

The conductor’s not you.

Well, the one thing that’s left

Is our house and our home.

We all still have control

Of the spot we all roam.

We can take care of family,

The kids, though it’s hard,

And the car, and the wife,

And the friendly back yard.

And it’s spring so the mower

Comes out of the shed,

With the rake and the trimmer

And the Round Up it’s said

Is the best thing for weeds

That compete with golf greens.

Oh, thank you, Monsanto

For the tools and the means

For protecting my yard

From the crab grass and clover,

Dandelions, chick weed,

And those vines I tripped over.

I don’t care if the birds

And the insects are lame,

Or the ground water’s wrecked.

I refuse to take blame.

I can’t even pronounce

Those damned words on the label;

But my Round-Up-fed veggies

Look great on the table.

And my lawn would make

Tiger and Jack oh so proud;

They could both putt for birdie,

And wave to the crowd.

I think laws should be passed

So that everyone must

Use Round Up for lawns:

It’s weed killers or bust.

I like pretty lawns.

I don’t care about streams,

Or butterflies, honeybees,

Super weeds in your dreams.


It’s better than candy.

It’s like formic acid,

For Buffy and Mandy.

As a great neuro-toxin,

Playing flavor v. money,

It’s a business advantage,

And it’s ever so sunny.

Its uses? Prolific.

Its destiny? Strange.

As to body chemistry?

It will help rearrange.

The more foods are infused

The greater the fees,

And though Docs are confused,

Monsanto will freeze

All inquiries regarding

The health of consumers.

They have friends in high places

Who can turn aside rumors.

And life will go on,

As it has through the ages,

Old Shakespeare was right

We’re all actors on stages.

When we’re born in this world,

We all come ill-prepared

To combat all the crap

That keeps us ensnared.

G.M.O.s are like Oobleck,

So new and so green.

They make our food fresh,

And so ghastly obscene.

Each unnatural concoction

Manufactured in labs

Is a crap-shoot for health,

That is still up for grabs.

Our bodies have spent time

In millions of years,

Evolving with nature

To acquire the gears

That result symbiotically

Nestled in grooves,

A natural course

That involves sacred moves.

I’m not sure that I’m ready

To be a lab rat,

Or a guinea pig model

For a flesh-eating bat.

But then, why not be sporting,

And innovative crazy;

Why can’t we select foods that

Make us sloth lazy.

Or hyper like jackels,

Blood loving like fleas,

Or bipeds like birds,

With strong wings for a breeze.

Let’s jump at our chances.

Either forwards or backwards,

An evolutionary step

That will make us Attack-Nerds.

Monsanto, “My Saint,”

You have outdone yourself.

You should always be praised:

What you’ve placed on life’s shelf.

It’s astounding and memorable,

Fantastic and lewd.

If I had me some power

You can bet you’d be sued:

A Federal Class Action

For high treasonable offenses:

Your world’s made you demonic,

You have no defenses.

I wish you had sense

To see what you have done,

But you’re blind sociopathic

Without conscience: zip, none.

Trees, photograph Thomas Gilbert

(Actually, for those of you

who have read this,

let’s make a beginning)

© Thomas and Deborah Gilbert


If I ran Monsanto, Thomas Gilbert

Thomas Gilbert has spent the better part of the last 52 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last 30 years he has produced a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population with Asperger’s, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD and ADHD.

Thomas’s web site on literacy acquisition is It is 100% free to use and share and download. Thomas also dabbles in writing poetry, short stories and novels He has composed simple musical compositions for piano. Thomas also has a deep curiosity about metaphysics and mysticism.

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