Poetry: Selections from Christian Ward

J. Robert Oppenheimer Considers His Life

Daily, I detonate bombs at the breakfast
table. Toast absorbs my ash. Butter
throbs like a human heart in its ceramic
sarcophagus. Coffee is always bitter
in its astronaut helmet. Sometimes,
sometimes, I dream of weightlessness
to slip away from all this, to stare 
at the Earth and weep. I handle 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki like rosary beads, 
reciting their names until my mouth 
is a lifeless wasteland. Sometimes, 
I dream of strawberries in the backyard. 
Their soft, sweet hearts, an Earthly 
distraction. Look, the sky is wearing priest 
colours again. I'd ask for penance, 
but all I'd receive is a shrapnel of hail 
over and over and over.


A cartographer playing 
on an Etch-a-Sketch in the dark.
Each line a stitch on the verge
of becoming undone, a writhing mess
of serpentine lightning forks.
These are your fault lines.
See how they make you crack,
how easily you divide.


A bullet headed nightmare,
more worm than reptile.
It lays eggs in your dreams:
Watch how Mr. Darcy 
is a half eaten burrito
in the jaws of its young,
Optimus Prime reduced
to a magpie's nest of nuts 
and bolts. Garfield 
is confettied for its wedding.
Every Terminator is a Caecilian
smoothie, every Jedi a hors d'oeuvre.
This is no friendly chestburster,
but a metaphor for the love
craved the most: Brazen, bloody
and raw like the earthworm corpses
it tapas's. Take the shot, its movement says,
take every bullet until you're gargling lead
and tasting the unmistakable smoke 
of desire.

Mata mata turtle
Chelus fimbriata
I wear a chain of volcanoes
on my back, channel my inner 
magma and erupt when prey
try to slip by. A reptilian Kirby, 
I inhale enemies and let their final 
thoughts float like leaves 
on the river's surface. 
I'm a background that never 
changes; a relic old like the rivers 
which carry my dreams. In another 
universe, I have a cameo in the Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles as a gruff
Vietnam vet. Godzilla's misshapen
cousin gave me stardom. I jest.
In this universe, I'm a walking
autumnal collage waiting for Martha
Stewart to get me a Vogue photoshoot.
My eggs are bright like flash-bulbs -
see how they stun, how they always stun.

Nightmare Generator v1.0.0
The night-light of a neighbouring 
block of flats turned my brain
into a nightmare generator 
better than MidJourney or Dall-E 2.
Spores erupted from a maze
of marrow (thanks, HBO!). A half
buried skull of a television set
in a poppy field. My childhood
seeping out. Let's not talk 
about the sharks in hospital gowns.
Here's my fave: Father shouting 
"You’re here to work, not holiday"
at my aunt's country house. 
The decrepit building more bat
than stone. How can I forget 
the Donnie Darko rabbit skull
in the stew or father's voice
chasing me like the local boars
along roads winding like a thumbprint 
whorl? The nearby castle tower,
tall and judgemental like my aunt's 
finger when I returned. How can I forget
the axe hidden in the undergrowth,
waiting for me, always waiting for me?

Aquatic lumberjack. Chainsaw nose.
Lorena Bobbitt’s BFF. No originality
do Internet commentators have. 
I'm waiting for Freddy Krueger
to retire his shearing fingers
and Jason to hang up his husk
of a mask so I can scare the masses.
I can fell seaweed forests 
quicker than a time lord can regenerate.
Sculpt coral into faceless demon
sculptures. I shrink sharks back
into their IV pouches, send dogfish
back to their doghouses and command
dolphins to out trick the seas. 
I'm ready to invade your nightmares
like a Viking fuelled by tales of blood
and glory, your sweat and fear
glowing like the sweet, sweet glow
of Valhalla.

Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who has recently appeared in The HemlockFree Verse RevolutionThe DewdropDodging the RainThe Seventh QuarryBluepepperTipton Poetry JournalThe Amazine and Rye Whiskey Review. His first poetry collection, Intermission, is out now on Amazon.