AMP. Always Electric.

Volume 4, No. 1


The Head Choristers

We were the older boys and yet I had no 
more authority than a receding mist, 
mumbling my OK to his apology. 
My protest at his breach, his probing, his 
possession of me was a slight 
disturbance, a wisp of air beneath 
breathlessness. It would be expected of a 
Oh the desperate whispers after curfew 
and “lights-out”… We were the older 
We knew what we had to do. 
A forty-year old man understood 
nothing about twelve-year olds 
who considered stealing kitchen 
knives to protect themselves.



I’ve changed.
My head has flattened
with only my nose and mouth
protruding.  A hood
extends out
wide, high and deep.

My torso, 
once stifling my breath, 
is flexible now.
I dance to a music
unheard, feint strikes
with fangs bared.

What you 
don’t expect are 
two arcs of venom
that shoot straight 
from my mouth, to yours.

Making empty sockets
out of your 
eyes is not 
You are so blind 
as it is.

You need to taste
true poison
that corrodes 
your pink, fleshy 
stinger.  It punctures
deeper than bone.

And now I’ve
prepared you 
for a predator 
who might 
find you 
more edible.

This is my gift
to the bush.


I’ve evolved,
growing wings,
my spit a flame
burning down bridges 
after years of crossing 
the same river.

I climb further up
scorching old grudges and betrayals,
born of a serpent 
ill from the dust 
the bruised heels kick into my mouth.

When all is scorched
in ashes I go on
another hunt for a life
that is enough 
to renew energy 
for the next one.

Who is the next prey?
I don’t care enough to know


                                    - John 1:1-18

This is how it began for me.

God spewed me 
out of his mouth
and commanded me
to howl a cosmos.

All I knew was one sound, 
not even a word.
But then I found 
my voice.

Or was it God’s?
for neither God nor I
had ever 
spoken before.
Then I spoke again
and could not stop speaking.
The darkness began
to roll, swirl and swell.

Then waters 

Circles in the deep
layers of crust
were shaved, 
contours smoothed.

I hummed and purred
while matter was
caressing itself

What came next
God called gift.

He molded 
and branded himself 
into a creation
with outlines and limits.

God wanted identity.
Or was it identification?

So he asked this of me.
And it was too much to ask.
I had no experience of rejection, suffering,
death or birth.

The closest 
I had ever
come to life 
was wind and mist.

Yet, I knew who was asking.

The rhythm
of his heartbeat
still lingers 
in my ears.  

So I conformed 
to the womb in which
he placed me,
returned to the darkness.

Once born, 
I knew
I would have to 
go there again.

But bellowing
as I do with
all of those
who need the

plain grace and truth
of a single vowel,
my death which is life
will not be overcome.

John Forbis

John Forbis, originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is an Anglican Benedictine monk of the Order of the Holy Cross, living and working at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. His return to West Park occurred in July 2016 after 18 years at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa. His poems have been published in South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. He won Third Place in the Dalro Poetry Prize in 2013 for the poem “Only This,” published in New Coin magazine. His work has been anthologized in The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear Ltd.), Rhino in a Shrinking World, and To Breathe into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry. His first book, Exposures, was published by Aerial Publishing in 2003.