Yellow Mama Archives II

John Short

Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bates, Greta T.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Flynn, James
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Glass, Donald
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Holtzman, Rebecca
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kirchner, Craig
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Miller, Dawn L. C.
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Newell, Ben
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Potter, John R. C.
Price, Liberty
Proctor, M. E.
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rockwood, KM
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Stanley, Barbara
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Taylor, Richard Allen
Temples. Phillip
Tobin, Tim
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Al Wassif, Amirah
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weisfeld, Victoria
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark



 John Short



On New Year’s Eve they let off fireworks under the Acropolis just as church bells tolled for midnight. I was on the top terrace of the Phaedra Hotel opposite, with Spiros and the others drinking some strong old wine we’d been offered at a shop down the road. The owner must have found a few mouldy boxes in his cellar and was selling cheap to anyone who’d take them away. In the middle of explosions of colour and sound Spiros turned to me and said: “You really must get rid of that mad bitch Johnny; she’s just using you.” I smiled and thought how many times I’d tried to and how she always came back, then when the display was over, we grabbed our instruments and bundled downstairs into the freezing, gunpowder night. I had my fleece-lined jacket on, zipped up to the neck and we began to play. The narrow streets seemed almost too small to contain the euphoria that swelled along them and soon, as if by magic, there was Maria in front of me asking for money. She nipped into a shop for crisps and a can of Fanta then disappeared through the crowds. She’s mental, I thought. But anyway, I looked down and saw that my case was now filling fast with notes and coins.


The street musicians’ network tended to look after its own. I hung out with the Syrian in Piraeus for about four months in his basement flat at the foot of an enormous hill near the sea. In contrast to Athens, my new neighbourhood was pleasantly quiet. It reminded me a little of the 18th district of Paris with its sloping streets and jumbles of steps climbing in all directions. The Syrian had a name that no one could pronounce. On his bedroom wall was a curious map of the Middle East with the Kurdish state outlined – an ancient country at variance with more recent political configurations. He’d come to Greece against the wishes of his family, in pursuit of a girl who, once returned to home soil, quickly dumped him. Now disowned on all sides and receiving not a cent from back there, he drifted tall, dark and saturnine through the fractured limbo of Piraeus, earning survival money by busking. He was a genuine student of the classical guitar though, and spent all day at his practice, which seemed to annoy everyone else in the building.

My room contained some abandoned hi-fi equipment, a number of paint tins and a writing desk but it lacked a bed. I slept on a broken sofa with a blanket draped over me. The small window bore words scrawled in indelible felt tip: You born and swim in trabbles, it declared: a parting message from the previous occupant. But I was determined not to be miserable at the dawn of this new century. Spring was slowly edging into summer and the patio flags were strewn with large lemon-green leaves from some exotic tree that seemed to shed its leaves regardless of seasons.

One day I climbed the steps leading up from the coastal road which skirted the hill, turning eventually to view a vast expanse of concrete. Far in the distance and just vaguely discernible without binoculars, the Acropolis was a miniscule silhouette. That’s where I used to live, I thought, and now we live here. After a few days I found a job as a waiter in one of the restaurants high up near the main church. In my breaks I’d smoke a cigarette in the park and watch Gypsy women hanging laundry over bushes and branches or just debating round their prams. Returning home, I’d usually pick up a couple of beers from the kiosk opposite then go inside and scribble down thoughts and poem fragments or practise my repertoire on the bouzouki, a battered instrument bought for next to nothing a year ago in a shop that had been about to close down. There was a chance they might let me play in the restaurant, come summer, just a little, if they thought I was any good.

Out of the blue there was a knock on the door and Maria had come to live with us. I searched the cupboards for another blanket and told her she could sleep on the floor. The Syrian didn’t seem to mind but after three weeks he opened a small Perspex cover in the hall and removed something from a socket so she couldn’t take any more extended hot baths. I don’t remember ever having sex there although I suppose we must have done. When I went to work, she’d often accompany me up the hill as far as the park and pass the time drinking fizzy orange juice at the upper kiosk and chatting to the bored owner.


One afternoon I woke up with a nasty hangover. I’d spent the previous night with my old friends in Athens; on the writing desk stood an empty Ouzo bottle, loose change and some worry beads. Maria looked up at me intently from under dark curls. Stretched out on the blanket, she’d folded my fleece-lined windjammer into the shape of a pillow. I had no idea where the beads had come from or why Maria was scrutinising me.

          “Five in the morning,” she said. “I was worried.”

          “No need to be,” I said.

“Why did you have to go off drinking with that bunch of idiots? You’re much better than them – listen, you’re a quality guy. You even write poetry. I love you … I love this jacket as well because it belongs to you. Forget them and start occupying with me.”

Maria surprised me often but I’d never heard her say such things. I smiled weakly, shuffled off to the bathroom, then said I was going out for a breath of air. At the corner store I bought a plastic bottle of mineral water, gulped at it, then took off in an odd direction. The jaded evening sun hung low over the sea as if not sure where to go. A restless impulse carried me inland for hours. I crossed bridges, streams, parks and squares until eventually it began to grow dusk. Sitting down in a small park completely lost I spotted a wine shop across the road, went inside and had my bottle filled from one of several old pine barrels before returning to the same bench. Some kids nearby were playing ball, kicking up grit and shouting and swearing noisily. I contemplated the bottle then sipped. The cheap Retsina looked the colour of urine and had an acid edge. I lit a cigarette then took another sip as the stars came out and the warm glow of Maria’s words began to expand in my stomach.





by John Short




                   Summer in our cellar

                   you lazed about

                   each sticky afternoon

                   watching television soaps

                   and I’d trawl the market

                   for fruit and vegetables,

                   sling damaged watermelons

                   in the bath, hose them

                   clean of gutter dirt,

                   cut them into red cubes

                   for your pleasure. I recall

                   you asked if I loved you

                   and what would become

                   of us in another decade

                   then dozed off, drained

                   and I thought how innocent,

                   angelic, but such a devil

                   in the neurotic night

                   when your broken soul

                   would murder any futures.



by John Short



                   I don’t like you in the world,

you clash with aspirations

                   to olive trees and forest paths,

                   same affinities as always.

                   I’d send you back to Sci-Fi.


                   In comics often you were invaders

                   the threat to life and freedom

                    always defeated in the end

                   but now this menacing cloud,

                   like an army gathered on the hill.


Let counterfeit life populate

                   the corridors— it’s their moment.

                   Most things become obsolete,

                   even the hapless human animal

                   gradually imprisoning itself.



by John Short


Memories of those days

when radiators rattled

through an Athens winter

and you missing home,


harassed to exasperation

by the hotel manager:

a nutcase in a dirty wig

unappetising as roadkill.


The staff gasped when

I told him keep your hair on

and we flew across reception

like poor choreography.


I trailed cheerless streets

until bitter February

relaxed its austere grip,

gave way to clement March.


An ear to the city’s pulse,

eye on diner overflow,

worry beads you’d given me

to symbolsze farewell.

John Short lives in Liverpool, England and is active on the local poetry scene. His poems and stories are now widely published. A previous contributor to Yellow Mama, he’s appeared most recently in Hobo Camp Review, Abergavenny Small Press, Chester Poets Anthology 2021 and StepAway Magazine. He’s published four books – one of stories and three of poetry, the latest being Those Ghosts (Beaten Track 2021).

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