Tag Archives: David Lohrey

SLQ Daily 08 August 2020

Read of the day

David Lohrey

Bombardier to Captain

First the sky, black or blue, depending on the time.
By day, Memphis blazes, 100 degrees in the shade;
the sky, robin blue. At night, there are lightning bugs galore
and stars, eerie, dazzling and quiet, as from the Mississippi,
slaves once dragged bales across cobblestones.

The bridge was too far so we stayed where we were, stuck
forever between the Overton Zoo and Beale. We played
in the yard with daggers. We burned each other’s toes.
The bull dog Prime Minister humped our legs
while the Afghans ran in circles chasing dust. We ate potato
chips at midnight and cried in our sleep: let’s go back tomorrow.

Color of my eyes? Mother’s? It was morning glories we beheld,
not roses. Roses come in black, not in blue. I did see father
many times but I don’t remember his eyes. White and black
photographs show us in our pajamas with little bows
and arrows scrawled across the tops.
Bugles and drums decorated our blue bottoms.

How large the Pippin loomed over the police academy.
German shepherds lunged at padded arms as men in black
set fires with smoke as thick as cotton candy. The elevators
at the Century Building were open by day. We ran in
hoping for a ride to the top of the world;
secretaries chased us out into the bright sun.
The horizon was on the other side of the river, but nobody dared
cross that bridge. We were stay-at-home types, little chickens.
Everything was thought the best. I believed the art gallery in
Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second rate was not only good enough.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”

The Pink Palace was dad’s fortress of art and power, in costumes
he designed himself: a clown, some whimsy, a melancholic
smile, despair, or an oriental stare; in make-up and girdles,
a sword, a pistol, a tunic or robe, tights and sandals,
shaped from plastic or leather. Father directed:
Give them some cleavage. Show ‘em your tits.

Not wanting to stay—please no longer. Not one more hour, not
another minute, not five measly seconds more. Mother couldn’t
get out of town fast enough. Father could ruin a dinner over
a lousy buck. Kool-Aid or pudding? Take one or the other.
The grand master had little to give;
it was all show but no tell. I’ll have another martini.

This December, the trees in our yard will come down,
felled by an ice storm. It feels right that the old man is dead.
His heart was black and blue. He beat himself up and beat me,
too. When I think of Memphis I think of death, but not
from long ago. Brother Martin was first to go
and then Vernon Presley’s loving son.

Dad’s gone now, thank goodness; there’s only mother.
The dogwoods stand silent, as her eyes watch, laughing.
There’s much comfort knowing how much she loves the bluff.
All the memories are gone. The Old Forest full of heavy growth
lures us back but all we find is an empty lot,
a ghost town called invention.


David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Otoliths (AUS), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House (Hungary), Sentinel Literary Quarterly (UK) and the Cardiff Review (Wales). His fiction can be read online at Dodging the Rain, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry,  Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston, 2017). He lives in Tokyo. ‘Bombardier to Captain’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018) judged by Dominic James. 


Family Problems

My brother is killing again
He left the house
early this morning
a red gleam
in his eye
his gun swinging
from his hip
No one could stop him.

My four AM darkness
is full of children
Their mothers frantic
to protect them
My brother
lifting his gun

We huddle sadly
in the house
the neighbors murmur
against us
no flowers grow
this Spring
no drugs to blunt
the pain
our dreams replaced
by cash
our fine house haunted.

‘Family Problems’ by Vishishta was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Native to Southern California, Vishishta grew up in the tumultuous and inspiring 60s. Starting out writing short stories, she published short surreal epiphanies in underground newspapers. Gradually, she changed to writing songs, then poems, then back to short stories and now back to poems. She is the author of Eros – a collection of poems.


Roger Elkin

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Closing date: 31 October 2020
You are invited to enter your poem or suite of poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2020) to be judged by Roger Elkin. This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long.
Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x 3 (Commendation), 3 x SLQ magazine paperback (Special Mentions.)
Entry Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10
For full terms and conditions, to enter online or by post, the address is
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Prizing poetry…since July 2009

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Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018)

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018)

Adjudication Report by Dominic James


It’s a curious thing to make the close acquaintance of so many poems over a short time without choosing them or knowing who wrote them, only accepting they must be heard and, to a greater extent than usual, judging each on its own merits. I should approach more the same.  Before getting to the substance of the report, a few words on my own house style; spelling and grammar.  I am disposed to take a poem as it comes. Misspelled words are a distraction, misplaced or missing apostrophes wrinkle the surface and the reader must iron them out, but no matter.  I wouldn’t want to lose good spoken work for want of formal regulation on the page, and grammar can pretty much look after itself, so long as the meaning or impact is clear enough; we are dealing with poetry here.


After a first, slow read, trying out impressions, I gave the work a few days then returned to apply myself to each poem’s intentions, style and imagery. There were many arresting moments and kaleidoscopic impressions as my reactions were directed this way and that.  This was anticipated, a second reading is often required to open up a poem’s meanings. At this stage I began separating those I wouldn’t keep.  I was figuring the mechanics of the work, for instance, how a last line diminished the overall effect, just as sometimes it would redeem a poem that seemed to be losing its way, bringing it to a cogent end.  And inevitably my personal preferences had begun showing through.


At this point I would like to indicate some of my thoughts on poetry – nothing too surprising I hope –as applied to my criteria in approaching the competition.  Firstly, on content and delivery: a poem can be in the first person, declaring, I, I, me, so long as the effect allows the general to be placed over the particular.   That is to say, a poem should allow us to match it with our own thoughts, letting it give words to our perceptions, whether it is Milton’s Samson: “you’ll find me/Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,” blind among his enemies, or Owen, shelled by gas in the Great War: “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”  A poem should raise our common awareness: its sympathy is lost if the piece belongs too particularly to the writer.


Then, at least according to its own intentions, a poem should read well.  With that in mind I’m afraid that what are clearly typos, or unedited mistakes have damaged the impact of some entries. Again, I must take the work as it comes, it is not my place to apply even the simplest corrections. Further, tone must be considered, rhyme is not an end in itself and, allowing that the measure of a piece is beyond my understanding, I would still like to enjoy some fealty of sound, a well-turned phrase – and there have been plenty of those. This more or less reaches the limits of my office as a judge.  Of other qualities, not that it applies here: even if a poem is a fabrication from start to finish, as a reader I should still like to sense the truth of it. Otherwise, it’s hardly worth the trouble of its making.


If your poem failed to progress further, that is not say I didn’t respond to its heartfelt pride or grief, to the validity of its wry humour. With about 30 poems selected as I approached my shortlist, I would like to mention some poems which didn’t make the final selection. Outpatients, conjuring mortality with spicy food was dark indeed, the vehemence of Streetwise derailed as the urgency of its despair overtook the writer, as with several other poems received, I would suggest that it would gain from another work through. Finding the real Ireland was highly enjoyable but lost its thrust with a few lines I found out of place or unclear and Remembering You, which I liked very much, particularly for its figure of the wall flowers, could not quite find its own pace.  Biro from the Nymphe, I read three times before the penny finally dropped. Must we read a poem’s title as its first line?  Can a title be assumed an integral part of the whole?  I have my doubts, but in any case, I’m not sure the poet played fair: and quite right too.  My thanks to all entrants for sending in their work.

The results below, with the top 3 followed by the highly commended and then the commended listed in no particular order.


First Prize: 

Mooncalf – Catherine Rose


This poem succinctly measures out with great presence its compassion for the fading senses at a death bed scene. The arrangement of the verse carefully orders its pace and sense and the tone suits very well the accuracy and hardship of its thought.  A fine poem, the first stanza as follows:

She gazes or sleeps;
there is no between.
                          Her milk-glazed stare
                                        exists somewhere
                                                     in the space where a thumb was moistened,
                          the page turned.


Second Prize:  

We Lived in a Beautiful HouseHannah-Lee Osborn


I am a little bruised to have come across several poems where it appears men take a bashing, but, fair enough.  There is no stepping off point with this poem, it works very well.  There are shades of Goya’s awful gargoyle sitting on the sleeper’s chest, the very picture of mental distress. Even the first line has menace, it puts me in mind of Jane Eyre’s bedroom, though with a dangerous visitor of the same sex, also with recall to a once beautiful house.  Sometimes verging on the overblown, this poem supplies just enough self-confidence to level out its inner turbulence.


Third Prize:

Third Culture KidHarsh Ramchandani


Set in a modern fruit market with produce …Foreign yet/somehow familiar…  this poem reveals its nature obliquely among the pears – “How bland and miserable they are” – and in doing so suggests what has been stomached to achieve it.  As a proclamation it is not precisely understated, it even baulks against the language, still, its subtle balance of sharp and mild is well achieved and its metaphor well taken.


Highly Commended


Migratory – David Crann


It soars, troubles and settles lightly on the mind.  The necessary comparisons are timely, of course; I think the poem’s lasting impression, between flight and landing will be its reminder that we do right to consider the birds.  Home to roost always sounds right.


ManifestSean Boustead


Man is a rum animal.  It is fairly well established that we inform ourselves of ourselves in dreams and though we might resist their direct reportage in verse, still the tightening rhythm of this atmospheric and characterful poem nicely compacts its own meanings. Though the poet might not fully comprehend the material, we are directed to the sane understanding that we each consist of “So many gods”.  An engaging poem.


The Migraine – Lizzie Smith


This short verse ably supplies the condition, and certainly earns its high commendation.

 “…pounding left temple/Left temple…

Turns bowels to water,
Reduces me to a jellyfish
Craving cover in a cave.”




Bombardier to CaptainDavid Lohrey

A rendition of childhood from an older perspective.  This ranging poem focuses on Dad, “gone now, thank goodness” and touchingly maintains the affections of familiarity despite all.  And childhood is rich:

“How large the Pippin loomed over the police academy. German
shepherds lunged at padded arms as men in black set fires
with smoke as thick as cotton candy…”


Albedo Rob Sanders


like the implacable blankness of the page,
the mind,
with its need to be filled.

It’s snowing…”

A glacial mantle negates and re-establishes the world, and we are moved on a grand scale as human qualities merge with their global counterparts in freeze and thaw: great scope this poem.


GideonHarsh Ramchandani


A ballade.  It is easy indeed to read a rhyming poem.  The form suits well the subject; love here in its intimate affection of a shared life. To describe it as a poem of adoration wouldn’t be pitching it too high, and I judge it knows well enough what it purports to the outside world.  A well-crafted piece.