Justin Lowe – The Plebiscite

Lowe LE P&W 3 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three Nov-Dec 2023.

The Plebiscite, poems by Justin Lowe.

The Plebiscite

they are let loose
into the maze of the world,

like little mice
they scurry about pawing at the dead ends.

the occasional rat of an adjective is thrown in,
voracious as a meme

while the newsreader
paws at the whiskers of his syntax.

they bite and snarl and proliferate
more verb than noun

until the little mice
are almost too frightened to make a peep.

this is when those conducting the experiment,
the ones grasping for a new understanding,

find themselves unable
to elucidate their intentions,

language itself having become the maze.

My Tiny Shadow

I am sitting out the neighbour’s row with my little dog.
the sun is low the pollen count high.

she was pawing at a bee before
as it lay dying and the neighbours wailed and thundered.

from the heat, probably, although
I have found bee stings meshed up in the fabric of this couch.

in the Roman Republic,
the Republic of Cato an the Gracchi,

my little dog may have been guilty
of a capital crime, bees being sacred in their eyes.

we can live without Gods, it seems,
but not without the bees.

there are fires already down in the valley
and the September sky looks old, bruised.

my little dog has been my close companion
these past eight years.

she is so tiny,
I never cease to marvel at the heart of her.

she is snoring by me now
as the day cools in the law’s blue light.

she goes under the knife tomorrow
and as I watch the steady rise and fall of her breathing,

as the police van pulls away with its grim cargo,
I try to picture life without her.

but it is just a void,
some planet where I no longer cast a shadow.

I guess we are, all of us,
only portioned so many breaths in this world,

there is only so much oxygen for each life,
no matter how tiny.

it is the burden of that knowledge
that makes us human, I’ve been told,

and why the law casts a blue light,
and why the bees are sacred.

After Removing an Arrow

for Rebecca

the acute phase is often ushered in
by a feeling approaching nausea
a not-quite-clenching of the lower abdomen
that resembles the tickle of moonlight
through a torn curtain in the small hours

it is a mild discomfort like that feeling of apprehension
before the bus reaches your stop
the skin quivers more than itches
the patient experiences a nebulous sensation
a kind of liquidity as though joined to another
that provokes a smile at the doctor’s ministrations
at the ripple effect of a stethoscope pressed to a burning heart

after this the patient will appear calm for extended periods
exhibiting what can only be described as a reckless disregard
for the effect they are having on friends and family
how they laugh and kick when asked to take a few tiny steps
much like a toddler would or someone climbing the gallows steps
gasping at the crows perched on a nook of sunlight spelling a name

and when a light is shone in their one still eye
the patient will bare their teeth like a fox cornered in its lair
the cornea pulsing, a nova fit to burst
likewise, every question asked at this stage seems to worsen the condition
leaving doctors and care-givers in an impossible bind

the monitors, of course, can tell only half the story
and the laughter is so deceptively hollow


a name usually preceded
by the sound of breaking glass
like some dark angel jangling coins in its pocket

soon followed by the dull thud
of a fist on a car bonnet
too old to be alarmed

a car I assume is owned
by the one who goes
by the name echoing now

down the dark winter streets
a name attached to some wrong
a wrong that echoes like a pistol shot

always that single syllable of the lost
that ricochets off each hard surface
something discharged like a grudge

not nursed like a longing

© Justin Lowe

Justin Lowe lives in a house called Doug in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where he edits international poetry blog, Bluepepper. Justin has just completed a collection of short stories while his ninth collection of poetry sits on the publisher’s desk.

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