do you remember the first time you sang?
was it 4 am, your soul’s sound a lone ripple in darkness
or did you wait for the morning chorus, blend your voice in?
was it midday, your lungs pointing toward the sun
or was your first warble just before bed
a lullaby to the wind-swaying trees?
did you present yourself on the highest stage
or nestle invisible behind the curtain?
did you call out to every star and syrinx
or did you sing soft and quiet for no one at all
or share only when loved ones were listening?
where did you learn to hear the music of being
did someone help teach you arpeggios and scales
or were you born with special knowing
your own perfect pitch?
do you remember that very first song
did you bob your head to your heart’s singular beat
or did your lungs fill with melancholy air?
were you scared
did you wait past your peers until you alone were ready,
or were you curious
did melody burst forth from your feathers
you couldn’t have held back if you tried?
do you remember
that first time you dared sing in this world?
did you feel so fluttery with goodness
or were you ashamed?
tell me, did your voice feel as true
and breathtaking as wings?
does it still?
Lisa Meserole teaches music and movement to young children in Connecticut. Her poems have appeared in Waking Up to the Earth, and in Oysterville: Poems, as well as in Connecticut River Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and Shot Glass Journal. She was also an Edwin Way Teale Writer-In-Residence at Trail Wood.
I can’t watch John McEnroe
I want him to win so much
he’s brilliant but oh so
volatile and I know
that if I care I’ll doom him
if I watch he’ll surely lose
his insouciance his touch
But that is magical thinking
and obviously absurd
and when I’m kneeling
at the Communion rail
how primitive is it
when the vicar murmurs
Body of Christ His Blood
when you’re dead you’re dead
and that’s just how it goes
there’s no such thing
as an immortal soul
and nothing’s changed
by a prayer you’ve said
Yet the demonstration
of particle physics
switches quantum states
the butterfly effect
e equals mc squared
law re energy
being a constant
able like the body
to be transformed
but not destroyed
hint how this human
hunch is relevant
a clue left by God
that maybe he’s here
for are we not
energy made briefly
conscious and those
voice in our ear?
Nicole Lee was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated at Malvern and Oxford. She has worked as a banker in Hong Kong and London and now lives in Wandsworth, works in Kew and writes poetry. She has been published in various online journals and long-listed in the National Poetry Competition.
Our self-portraits, rendered dense by pentimento,
reveal the paths we took, and those we feared—
while the stories of our lives are so much cento,
that who we are is never really clear.
Are those our thoughts, or are they someone else’s?
How much of what we went through is repressed?
We’ve worn so many masks, they’re now like faces
that change without our knowledge. Is it best
to know that we may never see our souls
revealed in any but the dimmest light?
Perhaps we need to give up all the roles
that have defined us—but do we want unfiltered sight?
Our layers thicken as our years increase;
do we dare to peel them off and welcome peace?
Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books); she has two other chapbooks forthcoming. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world.
Old Woman Bay
I rise, grandmother spirit, Nokomis
here, at the bay, where I have always been
my face, the furrowed head land,
turns toward the horizon
though the great lake’s cold, deep water
pounds life and death against me
my hair of balsam-fir-cedar
mantles across my great granite spine
its millions of rugged tendrils
burrow in earth and rock
when I am silent, buried beneath snow
my limbs, branches of sugar maples,
dance green in the spring
until the time of letting go
when my yellow-orange-red dreams
tumble across the skies
I am Nokomis, grandmother spirit,
here, at the bay, where I have always been
for all my great age, I am strong
how else to bear this wild, dazzling cold?
Paula Kienapple-Summers is a poet from Kitchener, Ontario. Her poems have been published in Existere, The Nashwaak Review, Tower Poetry, and Spadina Literary Review as well as anthologies including Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poetry Anthology (Mansfield Press: 2018) and Voicing Suicide (Ekstasis Editions: 2020).
You push off; I hold my breath:
the wobbling bike a wayward lurching ball,
its fits and starts careering left and right,
along, across, astride the wheel of life.
A six-year’s path is there before my eyes;
the flutters in me bounce and brace
and bounce again,
while cycles you traverse
are loaded down with dream and hope.
Speed your way along the road, my son:
the trick, it seems, is in not staying still.
Bill Richardson lives in Galway, Ireland, where he is Emeritus Professor in Spanish at the National University of Ireland Galway. He has published books and articles on Spanish and Latin American literature. His poems have been published in Irish newspapers, Galway Review, Stony Thursday Book and the Fish Anthology 2020.
What the Sheep Know
The whole flock on State Route 72 near Jackson Road huddles
around a large haystack the farmer has just refreshed.
They do not remember yesterday, when he marked them
or know they have blue or red splotches on bellies or backs.
They do not consider his plans to shear them next week.
They know that fresh hay is sweet
and the breeze foretells a summer storm
but there’s a barn if the rain bothers them
which it won’t.
Not much bothers them—
hail or lightning or extreme cold
might cause a small panic
but they are placid creatures
what brains they have
busy with important things—
hay in front of them
sun on their woolly backs
lambs frolicking nearby.
Judy A. Johnson’s work has been published in journals and anthologized; her poems have been recorded and broadcast on a local radio station. Johnson works in libraries and educational publishing, mining daily life for poems and essays. She has belonged to a writing group for more than two decades.
A LILY OVER GLASS
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin...
Matthew 6:28 KJV
Here, there is only a release.
A falling against
the space at the center
where rain dapples my face
and all is quiet.
Silver mountain water
shapes my voice,
caught in swallow’s call.
Let the moment fall over you,
swell over your feet.
It asks only
for your release.
Notice where it pulls
and where it stops to
curve around you, this
current from fracture.
Made from the silver skin
of deep earth,
it grounds you
and keeps you
A lily over glass
Glass pearled in mist
breaks over my head.
Brine-drenched arms reach,
toward nameless shore.
I watch the seagull,
a specter in gray,
bow to the water’s edge.
Hannah Hinsch is a Seattle-based writer who graduated summa cum laude from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in English Literature and fiction. She was the editorial intern at Image journal, a leading quarterly that joins art and faith, for two years. Hannah writes across genres, and finds her impetus among Greek mythology, the Old and New Testament, and in the green, salt-soaked Pacific Northwest. Hannah not only sees writing as an exercise in aesthetics and attentiveness, she leans into writing as a way of knowing, a hermeneutic of God.
Bubbles bunch in the bath
like staphylococci –
nature poking fun
at our idea of cleanliness.
Would that I could believe
in these tempting regularities,
the shapes echoed from scale to scale
like emblems of a fractal God:
God of spirals, God of branches,
God of blobs and hexagons,
God of little walking stick,
God of body politic.
Andrea Kibel is a new poet and 24-year-old graduate student in biology. A child of immigrants from South Africa and Zimbabwe, she grew up in the redwoods of California’s Santa Cruz mountains before studying in Dallas, TX and South Bend, Indiana. Andrea draws on science and nature, strangeness and isolation, and Jewish experience and imagery to create poems ranging from free verse to blank verse and sonnets.
HAIBUN: A DRY JULY
The woods stand brittle-dry. Leaves curl, falling prematurely. Rain has failed throughout this arid July. Across the fields, dust devils spiral over spots void of clover. Hardy Ox-eye Daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) – white against purple Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare) – bloom in fencerows and wood’s edge, unaffected. My eyes hurt with dryness; my mind clamours over symbols of death and snakes. Poplar leaves tremble by the farm pond, seek their felted undersides that would foretell rains’ approach. Another dusk. In the dwindling light, a slender doe with fawn, approaches the pond, her ears erect, listening. My breath catches in mirage-light. Slowly, they descend the gentle slope where frogs croak, red-wing blackbirds settle for the night, and I swallow a silent breath.
In mid-summer drought
Doe and fawn discover pond
Frogs croak rousing cheer
Kathryn MacDonald’s poetry has been published in literary journals in Canada, the U.S., England, and Ireland. Her poem “Seduction” was short-listed for the 2019 Freefall Poetry Contest. She is the author of A Breeze You Whisper (poems, 2011) and Calla & Édourd (fiction, 2009). Website: https://KathrynMacDonald.com.
All our lives
if we are attuned to it
vacillate between absurdities:
How can life be something?
How can life be nothing?
The signs all
are crossed and knotted
leading to both
and to neither.
Who can unravel them?
And yet the heart beats
and knows with its knocking:
this life is something.
Riley Mulhern is an engineer and a research scientist. He writes poetry because it makes him more alive.