Poem of the Week: ‘Blackjack’ by Megan Hollinsworth

Cultured Vultures Poem of the Week

Another week, another fine selection of poems for us to ponder over. This edition is possibly our most diverse yet as each podium-placer has a distinctively different style to the next. Check out our selections below and feel free to let us know if you disagree.

3rd Place

Nate Maxson – The Lamplighters

The lamplighters lit the lamps in the early days, those between steam and lightning (or romanticized as such)

The old days, not our old days but their old days

In the beginning,

For in the engine is a new genesis

In the cities

London, Paris, New York, Berlin: from whom will spring a multitude of lovely postcards

They lit them

In a circular motion, like the route a postal worker takes to deliver the mail

Every night with flint and footstools

They would follow their lights in a pattern

Trying to keep as many kerosene wicks under glass polygons


The eventually pointless ritual is only made that way: in the eventual

The rhythm of those just trying to keep the lights on

Pardon me while I assume that what Macbeth really means when he speaks in a spiral of tomorrows

Is today,

And today

And today…

Against your own fictionality you can freeze time on a stage or preserve a slice of aeterna nox (how melodramatic, this phrase that came to me like a dream or a dagger when you expect it and brace for impact)

But it does make saying it a little bit more palatable,

I think…

How many stage plays have you seen where in the center of the stage they have, for the likes of Fred Astaire to dance around: a single street lamp?

Though we may be loath to admit it, he would have made a fine Macbeth

Because tyranny is for the dancers and America is for the machines

And now they’ve grown up, they no longer need a gardener

I consider that growing in the cracks of the cobble stones,

Was something very large moving away from me, I shielded my eyes to its implied perfection

An animal wading into the water, goodbye goodbye

You can’t see me waving but I am

Waving my handkerchief as the train picks up speed

Away, like the realization of becoming an anachronism

Like a light that no longer needs you to mother it

The necessity of motion

Relegated to renaissance with the clockmakers and the blacksmiths (and the playwrights, let’s not kid ourselves)

What a strange and perhaps alien ritual

To us with our light switches and instant gratifications

How futile it must have seemed

When someone invented a street lamp

That would stay alight,

All those hours, those nights and years

Following the mechanisms before they learned how to burn

And then to be simply

Wished away ,

Vanished into romance, which one supposes could be validating

The modern lights that come on automatically when you walk beneath them,

They mimic the pre-electric pattern, the ritual against night and chemical

And the circling and tender fuel-nurse


So it’s a good thing,

A kind thing

And a fortunate thing despite the way it makes me cough

That there’s a thousand more years worth of soot

Preserved for all of us

Little orphan clever

Flexible chimneysweeps

2nd Place

Sammy Nour – ‘The London Shake’

The provincial came on the train

To find his fortune

He came listening on his headphones

To his own beat

With his own rhythm locked into his dancing feet

He stands on the pavement

He feels like

A wasp in a beehive

He looks down

At his loose fitting jeans

Simple skate shoes

And relaxed manner

No uptight walk to fit into place

He feels like a tourist from outer space

He wonders if the people here really

Spend so much of their time underground

And why the pilots of this hub

Who carry the financial world

But work underground all day

Like blood diamond slaves

Are demonized by the media

For wanting a better wage

“Give them every penny they ask for”

A northerner says

It’s the rhythm of London, it’s the beat of London

We all dance to it, we have no choice

We often drive to it, or cycle to it

It’s not the kind of place that wants to hear your voice

A swirling vortex of people, thoughts, emotions

A super bee hive ever expanding

The queen bee ever demanding

You hear the rhythm of London, the beat of London

We all dance to it, we have no choice

If you can make it here you can make it anywhere

I guess its just making it that’s the problem

Here we need to insert a definition of made

I would say it’s fulfilling your potential

Whatever that is, whoever you are

No matter what the mediocre driven society

Or celebrity obsessed newspapers say

You feel the rhythm of London, the beat of London

We all dance to it, we have no choice

A summered five ringed frenzy engulfed us

The intensity, adulation

The lust for gold

And social admiration

Fear, hope, disappointment

Anger, envy and

Heartbreak for those who didn’t come top

The king a yellow flame

Who goes too fast to stop

Dance to the rhythm of London, the beat of London

You have to, you have no choice

The blue madness engulfed us in May

It couldn’t have come too soon

The blue hearts would say

I guess most never thought

They’d see the day

On an oligarch’s money

That kingdom was made

Or bought I should say

A modern society with modern bling

But still old empirical ways

Those who lap up success wont complain

Those who are jealous want to go back to the old days

It’s the rhythm of London, it’s the beat of London

We all dance to it, we have no choice

People talk a lot of economic depression

I rather think it’s a social recession

Material lust resulting in iphone obsession

Too many causes of which to give

Each one a mention

The collective conscious awaits in

A juvenile detention

Constantly looking at the phone or the floor

Looking up only enough to get through the tube door

A grave disconnection from the community

The personified London could improve itself

So much if only it had unity

The rhythm of London, the beat of London

As far as the eye can see, choice less dancers

Some perceived repressed people

Sit in an affluent café

Do you know what they talk about?

Do you know what they say?

They wonder when they’ll see the day

They get all of ‘their’ land back

Which they’ve never been to

And is thousands of miles away

Not far from that place

The diaspora stay

You know what they say?

You guessed it they

Wonder when they’ll get their land back

And why they had to move

Thousands of miles away

To the rhythm

To the beat

The provincial walks down the street

On a foggy London night

Not uptight, but upright

Has he made it?

Hard to say

But that rhythm of London still plays

It’s very own Harlem shake

It keeps us dancing



For you see it has to

It has no choice

1st Place
Megan Hollingsworth – ‘Blackjack’

The moment she claimed her soul
was the moment just before the ring came off his finger
was just before the moment the ring was placed
on the counter. With two cards spread the dealer sees the whole deck.
The only container sure enough to condemn a woman’s passion to servitude
is her own insecurity.
The only thing powerful enough to free a woman is her own will
to be seen, the strength of her will determined by a single degree
of desperation. The two are closest companions, as like the same
desperation and passion, derived from one another
a concoction leading her to this choice moment, to whom
will she sell her soul next?
She knows a woman’s erotic potential is valued above all else
her sex, even a hint, is an easy sell if she is willing.
The moment she becomes unwilling
is the moment she sets the forest ablaze, perplexed
by what has been destroyed to create her.
Was it the lightning
the fire or the sun that revealed so many faces of the predator, such deranged
images of herself?

Megan in her own words: “I am a mother, poet, dancer, and compassion activist. She is founder and creative director at ex·tinc·tion wit·ness, a collaborative art project that offering creative witness with groups being and becoming extinct. See www.extinctionwitness.org and www.meganhollingsworth.com

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