Literary Yard

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‘It’s always darkest before the dawn’ and other poems

By John RC Potter

It’s always darkest before the dawn   

“You’re in big trouble now!” I shouted.
Absent sister, worried mother
Falling window, bleeding finger
She came home late, up to no good.
Troubled sister, curious brother
Running feet, falling snow
She ran away into the night, hiding under a bed at a friend’s house; she looked around herself and saw the dust and dirt and cat shit: a voice at the front door, sobbing, “Is my daughter here?” It tore at her heart, but she was silent.
Crying mother, worried father
Looking, searching, praying until the dawn…
What had they done to deserve this?
1969: “We are keeping the baby and you will live with us,” they said.
Pregnant teenaged sister, full of scorn
Not yet sweet sixteen, full of fight
The absentee father nowhere in sight
Gossiping people, this was the talk of the town
Loving parents, who would not back down
Then a beautiful little girl was born.
1970: “I will be back later,” she promised.
She had to leave, thinking it would be better this way.
Her daughter became her sister.
1972: “Please don’t go!” she cried.
When she came to visit and then went to leave, the beautiful little girl
blocked the door to keep her close at hand. She knew the truth.
1996: “What should I do?” she wondered.
My mother asked me this from her hospital bed, not long for this world.
A fighter, three years before she had been told she had three months left.

“She passed away suddenly of a heart attack,” I was told on the telephone. Before dawn.
I wrote her eulogy on the long flight from Istanbul.
She will always be for me that beautiful little girl…
My sister who was my niece.



It usually comes in waves
that roll in from near and afar;
like a door so suddenly closed,
after being so long ajar.

You lived your life so quietly,
and that is how you departed;
my life feels empty without you,
since you were there when it started.

It’s the water of life that lapped
from the cradle and to the tomb;
crashing upon these shores of life,
echoing through the empty room.

A gentle soul all through your life,
from final day to endless night;
a candle burns to show the way,
your path into the growing light.

It comes in waves,
upon the shore;
it comes in waves,
and to my door;
it comes in waves,
over the reef;
it comes in waves,
we call it Grief.


Ain’t just a river…

The Nile.
As long as
the longest
stretch of ribbon
waving its way
from south to north:
these are the lies told by to us by those in charge,
with their empty heads and their selfish hearts.
Do not worry, everything will be all right
they tend to tell us
with indulgent smiles
as they sit in their ivory towers
We’re just like family, we love all of you!

But from the top of the pyramid
we look down at them
as they tumble and stumble along,
coughing and sneezing
into the many masks they wear.
Ain’t just a river…
De Nial.


John RC Potter is an international educator originally from Canada, but who is living in Istanbul.  When in high school John had the opportunity to interview the Nobel Prize winning author, Alice Munro, who resided in his hometown. It inspired John to begin creative writing. His poems and stories have been published in the following: Literary Yard, Down in the Dirt, Bosphorus Review of Books, The National Library of Poetry, Jabberwocky. His most recent publication is ‘Blood from a Stone’, an excerpt from a novel-in-progress (Bosphorus Review of Books, January 2023). Upcoming stories will be published in The Write Launch (February 2023) and Fiction on the Web (March 2023). He is currently a quarterfinalist in the ScreenCraft Short Story Competition with his entry, ‘She Got What She Deserved’.  

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