The Gerasene Demoniac – a story by Taylor McKay Hathorn

The Gerasene Demoniac

Before I was born, my grandfather Ibrahim put his wedding ring on a chain and held it over my mother’s stomach. “If it goes back and forth, it is a boy,” he said triumphantly when the ring swung like a pendulum. He was wrong, but maybe the trick had to be performed with the ring of the baby’s parents in order to work. My father did not want to marry my mother, so there was only my grandfather’s ring to use. 

Later, four weeks before I was born, when my grandfather was dying on the kitchen floor with my mother crouched beside him, willing the ambulance to come faster, he made his final pronouncement: “He will be a priest.” My mother thought sacreligiously that Jesus had been born out of wedlock, too, so anything was possible.


When I turned out to be a girl, everyone forgot about my grandfather’s deathbed pronouncement of my certain ascension to the clergy, and my mother and I moved into my grandfather’s house. My aunt Joan babysat me in the evenings while my mother went to nursing classes. I was three years old when she graduated, and there’s a photo of her in her white uniform, holding me and her diploma, both of us a little bent. I had a cherry sucker in my mouth.

My mother worked nights in the emergency room, and Aunt Joan taught me how to cook. By the time I was eight, I could make spaghetti Bolognese, pan-fried hamburgers, and cherry pie. It was all very American, even though Aunt Joan had been raised by grandfather Ibrahim and had the vestiges of his lilting Swedish accent. 


I sat between Mom and Aunt Joan on Sundays at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church on Eden Street. They always made me wear lacy socks, and they swatted my leg when I tried to use my foot to pull the kneeling bench up and down, up and down. The priest was Father McGilvary, and his sermons were always on the Old Testament.

“The book of Job,” Father McGilvary said once, looking up from his notes and around at us with his spooky silvery eyes, “is about God making a deal with the devil and using us as his bargaining chips.”

I don’t remember the rest of the sermon, but I remember that I felt very like a bargaining chip. 


When I was seventeen, Father McGilvary called me over to the side at the church picnic. He was an old man now. There were whispers about us getting a new rector because he couldn’t manage, but his sermons were still fine and he still prayed with the sick and dying, so what could you do? 

“None of my congregants have ever become a priest,” he said. His shoulders were stooped, and his silvery eyes were clouded now, veiled by cataracts. “I’ve been doing this a very long time.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond: was he proud or disappointed that the generations of poor immigrants who attended St. Joseph’s had found vocations out in the world? Had he expected any different?

“You will be the first.” 

I remembered, suddenly, grandfather Ibrahim’s pronouncement. I thought, too, about my long walks where God spoke to me and I tried not to listen and about my dreams that smelled like the candles they burned behind the altar.

“I’m going to a state school, Father,” I said uncomfortably, and he smiled. 

“I know,” he responded. “We all must run from God before we bow to him.”

Father McGilvary died eight days later, and the new priest never made any pronouncements about me at all.


I was in my third semester of law school when I quit to go to seminary. It was 1985, and I had on leather pants when I went into the academic offices to withdraw. 

“You’re halfway to graduation,” one of the office workers said, looking distressed. She smelled like Aquanet and Anais Anais, and it burned my nose.

“I’m going to be a priest,” I told her, and her look of surprise almost annoyed me.


The seminary was all too happy to accept me coming off a 4.0 in law school, and they even gave me a campus job as the chaplain to the tennis team. 

I prayed for them before their matches, but mostly, I sat in the stands and cheered, which seemed to do as much for their spiritual life as anything else. The next year, they gave me the football team, and the players liked the Nicene Creed because of how much it sounded like a locker room chant. One time, I did hear them, atheists and Buddhists and agnostics and Catholics alike, all saying it as they jumped around their lockers before a game: “Light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made.”

They lost by a humiliating three touchdowns, and when I heard them say it again, later, it was quiet and almost demure: “And of his kingdom there is no end.”


My first parish was in southern Iowa, in a town called Gerasene. Instead of the sea of Galilee, I had to cross one of the famous covered bridges to make it from the rectory on Third Avenue (there were no first, second, or fourth avenues) to the church. At my first meeting with the parish council, I met Sharon, David, Mike, Agnes, and Linda. I noticed that women outnumbered the men, but I didn’t comment on it. It’s hard enough to be a woman priest without people thinking you’re proud of it.

“We’ve never had a female rector before,” Sharon said, looking at me over the tops of her square-framed glasses. Sharon worked as an accountant and wore heavy rings on every finger. 

“Yes,” I said. “There are more men in the vocation.” 


Thou shalt not share intimacies with thy parishioners. This is the law and the prophets. 

It was the advice my ethics professor had given us on the first day of class. We had all laughed, but he had looked at us solemnly, like he already knew one of us would be dumb enough to do it.

I had smiled smugly. The advice was for men. Women would never stoop so low.

And then, and then, and then. I took women in the middle of their divorce to lunch while my aunt Joan was dying in another state. I taught confirmation classes to sixth graders while I waited on the results of an abnormal mammogram. I preached about the communion of the saints and thought about how endlessly lonely I was.

I called a priest friend in Idaho, one that I wouldn’t have to look in the face for a few years after making such a confession and told her that I thought I might suffocate if I went much longer without it. I didn’t say what it was, but she knew and yet did not know at all. She had been married for eleven years, and there were three other priests in her mid-sized city.

“That is very difficult,” she said, unhelpfully. 


Mike Conway was the custodian for all five churches in the town. He cleaned the Baptist church on Monday, the Presbyterian church on Tuesday, the Catholic church on Wednesday, the Methodist church on Thursday, and ours on Friday. 

The local newspaper had run a story about him the month I moved there, had given it some smug title like, “Doing the Lord’s Work.” In truth, Mike had come back from Vietnam with a right leg full of shrapnel and a fear of crowds. Churches on weekdays were empty except for pastors and secretaries and the occasional ladies’ fellowship group, and church people were too polite to complain about how long it took him to sweep. It was done and clean by Sunday, so who cared?

Mike never came to church at all, which was a source of great consternation to everyone, especially the Baptists. 


It was cold the week before Advent in 2000, and we still didn’t know who the President was. I wore jeans and a sweatshirt to the church on a Friday morning, my arms laden with purple liturgical cloths. Purple is the color for seasons of waiting, which seemed almost too trite to believe.

Mike was sweeping the center aisle when I came in.

“Oh, Mike, I’m sorry to bother you,” I said, and he shrugged. 

“‘S your church. You got more of a right to be here than I do.”

“Oh, now that’s not true,” I said. I believed what I said. I really did have some open-hearted notion about the church being God’s and all of ours, but I did not know how to say it to this man, who had no reason to believe it.


The train tracks ran east and west, and I imagined every time a train shook me awake at 11:45, 3:30, and 5:10 that the train was going from California to Carolina, and it somehow comforted me and disquieted me all at once, that we were a daily blip in the vision of some train conductor whose family lay at the other end of the line.

Family. I missed my mother and my aunt Joan. Joan had been dead for five years and my mother had been dead for eight, both felled by the kind of sudden, middle-aged heart attack that killed grandfather Ibrahim. I could be dead in ten years, too, I thought, even though the cardiologist that Joan and Mom had been too proud to visit had insisted that nothing was wrong with my heart.

I shrugged on a bathrobe, stepped out onto the back porch. I glanced at the train tracks and then at my watch. 3:27. The 3:30 train would be coming soon.

There was a dark blur, suddenly, on the train tracks. I squinted into the night, and I recognized the lopsided gait even at a hundred paces: Mike Conway.

I yelled his name, tearing my throat, and I remembered how deaf he was from the bombs, and fear pooled like cold water at the base of my spine.

I started running. 

I heard the train whistle, long and loud in the distance, and I ran faster. I could see the train’s headlights in the distance when I made it to the railroad ties, and I plowed into Mike, knocking him into the loamy soil on the other side of the tracks.

The train roared closer in its approach, rattling the ground and my teeth in my skull.

“I get so lonely,” he said, tears streaming from his silvery eyes and mingling with the fresh dirt on his face. 

“That is very difficult,” I replied.

Taylor McKay Hathorn is a Mississippian by birth and a Jacksonian by choice, even though she can’t always drink the tap-water.

Petite Quintet – poetry by Anna Evas

Petite Quintet

1. Erasure

All year the wind writes 
my name in water.

Except in summer, 
when the pond lilies 
unforget me.

2. Morning

Songbirds inscribe themselves 
on the gates of my rising —
“Come away!"

3. From a Medieval Herbal

The eyes that enshrine
a dandelion
devils into fire.

4. To My Naysayer

For the sparrows, 
I planted three willows.

What a surprise
when they blocked 
your reprise.

5. In a Bad Economy

I require less
to become more,

but the effort 
dwindles me

Author of the poetry book Apocryphal (San Francisco Press), Anna Evas has appeared in literary journals such as Amethyst Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Irises (The University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize), Long Poem Magazine (UK), The Ekphrastic Review, Euphony, and Anglican Theological Review.  A recording artist, she is an award-winning composer of concert level contemporary classical music.

Grendel’s Mother Considers the Surinam Toad – a poem by Nadia Arioli

Nadia Arioli is the co-founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine and a multi-disciplinary artist. Arioli’s poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net three times and can be found in Cider Press Review, Rust + Moth, San Pedro Review, McNeese Review, Whale Road Review, West Trestle Review, As It Ought To Be, Voicemail Poems, Bombay Literary Magazine, and other publications. Essays have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart and can be found in Hunger Mountain, Heavy Feather Review, Angel Rust, and elsewhere. Collages and scribblings have been featured as the cover of Permafrost, as artist of the month for Kissing Dynamite, and in Poetry Northwest. Arioli has chapbooks with Dancing Girl and Spartan and full-lengths with Luchador Press and Kelsay Books (forthcoming). 

Flash Drive – a poem by Donald Mace Williams

Flash Drive

He clicks on Send each one point-seven seconds,
and that's only for Earth. At each impulse
a new arrival takes its place within
the flash drive, which is neither large nor small
nor has in fact dimensions, since the files
it stores do not. Do other documents,
say, wife or child or brother, recognize
this new one, which, like them, has neither form
nor features? Still, they're here, and the Supreme
Techie that clicked them here knows not just names
of all, but DNAs, hair colors, pronouns,
denominations of those who had such,
and body temperatures, from body days.
What is the purpose of this drive, which files
away our vapors in its vaporous self?
Maybe the key that Sends to USB
can open, too, maybe can populate
new solid worlds with new-jelled and new-knit
migrants who somehow know these worlds and how
to flesh them till the finger next taps Send.

Donald Mace Williams is a retired newspaper writer and editor with a Ph.D. in Beowulfian prosody. At ninety-three, he lives alone and independently in the Texas Panhandle. His latest book, Wolfe and Being Ninety, is a hybrid of narrative poem and prose memoir.

We Think We Step Alone – a poem by Marjorie Moorhead

We Think We Step Alone

We think we step on solid ground,
but shifting sands are all I’ve found.
Shadows and mist,
transforming cloud formations…

We gather together as a particular form
but nothing stays solid.
Nothing remains untroubled.
Not the body. Not thought. 

We ought to have wings or at least carry, 
at all times, one of those life preserver rings.
For flight; for buoyancy, something to cling to
in the storms of uncertainty.

Side by side, or across the globe,
you and I are droplets of the same foggy mist.
Hold hands with me, link arms.
Let us pool together awhile,

I’ll splash in your puddle, and you in mine.
We’ll soak heavy so all will sink, a heavy mix
running from us as rivulets, soaking
into common ground.

Marjorie Moorhead writes from the New England river valley border of NH/VT. She is the author of Survival: Trees, Tides, Song (Finishing Line Press 2019), Survival Part 2: Trees, Birds, Ocean, Bees (Duck Lake Books 2020), and has poems in many anthologies and literary journals. Marjorie’s first full collection, Every Small Breeze, is forthcoming, as well as a third chapbook, In My Locket

Morning Yoga in the Tuscan Countryside – a poem by Sara Letourneau

Morning Yoga in the Tuscan Countryside

This is your studio:
the blue-sky ceiling, a floor of dew-drenched grass,
the mid-May sun for your lighting and heat.
Walls don’t exist here; everywhere you look, 

cypress trees stand as still as Buddha statues,
rosebushes burst into red, pink, and white stars, and—
straight ahead, over the green sea of hills—
the towers of San Gimignano rise,

proud sentries of this town for a thousand years.
You unroll your mat in this spot for that very reason
and face not the front but sideways,
so you can take in the view as you begin with gentle stretches.

Seated twists give you other glimpses:
the terra-cotta roofs of farmhouses and villas, 
rows upon rows of vineyards and olive trees, 
the placid pond near the agriturismo’s fence.

Soon, you flow into cat-cows, low lunges, high lunges,
reaching tall each time you salute the sun, 
murmuring your thanks as you fold down, 
and pausing a few seconds longer than intended 

whenever your eyes meet the towers in the distance.
And even though you’ve been breathing this whole time, 
this is when you b r e a t h e—
above and below, into and beyond, 

as if your bones have taught themselves
how to inhale and exhale, absorbing
the ancient centro storico and the verdant landscape
the way chlorophyll absorbs light.

And just when you think the countryside
has little else to feed you, you settle into savasana,
and as you lie on your back, the land gifts you 
the perfume of roses, jasmine, and lemon trees, 

and the music of birds chattering, roosters boasting,
cows greeting the morning, bees and flies humming, 
and you swear you are still moving, 
because how can you remain motionless

when this world is beckoning you to awaken?

Sara Letourneau is a poet as well as the book coach, editor, and writing workshop instructor at Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services. Her poetry has received first place in the Blue Institute’s Words on Water contest and has appeared in Full Mood MagLiving CrueArlington Literary Journal, Mass Poetry’s Poem of the Moment and Hard Work of HopeMuddy River Poetry ReviewSoul-LitAmethyst Review, and Constellations, among others. Her manuscript for her first full-length poetry collection is on submission. You can learn more about working with Sara and read more of her work at

Eight Things the Buddha Said While Reading My Poetry – a poem by Carolyn Martin

Eight Things the Buddha Said While Reading My Poetry

When you know yourself, you know everyone. 
Shed embarrassment for living a human life
and let your true Self out. Let it out! 

Remind yourself that each moment is completely new. 
Although you’ve read a thousand poems, 
yours belong only to you. 

Learn this from water: the brook splashes loud
but the ocean’s depths are calm. Swim deeper
between the lines. Wisdom dives and waits.

Even as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, 
so are the wise unshaken by praise or blame.
Be wise: rejections and acceptances make no difference.

If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow 
of the universe and feel the meter of discerning winds.
Invite them to blow through your images.  

Every poem has a beginning and an ending 
somewhere. Make peace with that and wait.
Someday the poem will tell you what it wants to say.

When you realize how perfect everything is,
you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
That line deserves a poem! Tilt. Laugh. Write.

There are only two mistakes one can make along
the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.
You’ve started. Now go the miles to go.

Blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 175 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. For more:

The Gods of the Ways – a poem by Neile Graham

The Gods of the Ways

Say there's a trail and the walking
is easy. Say there's not and the way 
full of blocking deadfalls,  peaty 
puddles gnawing your boots, blackberry 
thickets insisting on tolls. A trail

and no trail. Five steps of pelting rain. 
Or of wonder. There's something you know 
and it matters. You don't and it doesn't. 
Couldn't. Never would. You, child, are 
what you are, and what you are
is becoming. So thread your way

through the dripping forest or saunter 
your passage. Drench yourself in all 
of its ways. Smell the dark cedar, 
the sodden leaf-mold, the sharp ache 
of your sweat. It's what will shape 

you, make you whatever being of 
hope or death you become. Laugh
 if you will. Choosing your way 
chooses you. Each step is what 
you will become. If you choose it.

Neile Graham is Canadian by birth and inclination but currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Her publications include: four full-length collections, most recently The Walk She Takes (2019) and a spoken word CD, She Says: Poems Selected & New. She has also published poems in various physical and online magazines, including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Mad Swirl, and Polar Starlight.

What Rises – a poem by Katie Kalisz

What Rises

The sun, ever earlier
and earlier, a bluebird’s 
orange belly to the feeder,
a robin beak with a worm,
spikes of iris, 
a heron from the mist
off the river.
Flags on mailboxes
up and down the street,
steam from our pot of oatmeal,
the May wood pile with ash
and cottonwood.
Welt of poison ivy 
on my ankle, Muscari 
in the lawn, and dandelions, 
rhubarb stalks, purple heads of asparagus.
A second chicken coop 
the neighbors erect and paint blue.
Theodore, the chipmunk, to the 
deck railing, for orange peels
and apple cores, the dog’s rear end
in a yoga pose, my rear end
in a yoga pose, my son
into a Norway spruce,
the river to meet the bank, 
masks to overtake faces, 
the death toll.
And at last, 
the white moon, 

Katie Kalisz is a Professor in the English Department at Grand Rapids Community College, where she teaches composition and creative writing. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Loyola University of Chicago, and Queens University of Charlotte. Quiet Woman, her first book, was a finalist for the 2018 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She is the recipient of a 2023 Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their three children. 

Lauds – a poem by Nancy K. Jentsch

(Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse, Nerinx, Kentucky, May 23, 2021) 
sky’s red foil coin 
bedded in taffeta- 
ridged satin pink 
bestows day’s value 
trades hem of chill 
mist for mantle’s 
blue lumens, buttons 
morning’s deal with disk 
of buttercup chintz 

Nancy K. Jentsch’s poetry has appeared recently in The Pine Cone ReviewScissortail Quarterly, and Verse-Virtual. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, was published in 2017 (Cherry Grove Collections) and Between the Rows, her first poetry collection, con be purchased from Shanti Arts. More information is available on her website: