After the Funeral Service – a poem by Peggy Turnbull

After the Funeral Service

Long-haired men lift the casket,
carry it
through the church’s double doors.

The congregation sings, “Onward,
Christian Soldiers.”
A vibration begins in my throat.

I think I hear a bat navigating
the rafters,
echolocating while waves of sound

surround it and the coffin.
Melody travels
where we cannot. Its frequencies

intersect with dusty corners,
shadows.
We sing to our beloved lost one.

The martial meter of the familiar hymn
a heartbeat
for the journey to our Creator. I sing

with spirit. We all do, as if we think
our voices
can pierce the membrane between

the living and the dead.
Singing loudly,
as if there is no doubt.

Peggy Turnbull studied anthropology in college and has a master’s in library and information science.  She has written all her life, mostly in diaries, but after returning to her birthplace in Wisconsin, she began to write poems.  Read them in Ariel Chart, Writers Resist, and Verse-Virtual or visit https://peggyturnbull.blogspot.com/  .

Hail, Sunday – a poem by Carolyn Oulton

Hail, Sunday

It was hail out of nowhere,
sleet, slush, rain. The usual
February conversation. Not the one
where I say my brother’s friend
fancied himself in 1993 and of course
my mother tells my brother,
so then I don’t know
whether I need to apologise or explain.
If I had any sense I’d leave it.
And in a way he was trusting,
let’s look at it that way. After all
I might have driven it back
into a wall, just a few very new,
very white, expensive inches
of convertible that someone
needed to repark that hot summer’s day.
Of course he was rash to ask me,
I’ve just illustrated that. But I parked
without mishap and I gave him back his keys.
So no, that’s not the conversation I meant.
The one about the weather was a prelude.
The comic business with the car
a rather obvious play for time.
Yesterday I stood on Jumping Downs.
That’s a bit more like it,
we’re getting there now.
I’d talked about the weather,
which I’m good at. Made a few
satirical observations. Then I was up
where it wasn’t yet raining, on the hill.
But the wind was marching
over it, I was talking,
God perhaps trying
to get a word in edgeways.
When I saw the gulls
running and running
inches above the ground.
I remembered as a child
doing this, leaning back a little further,
no one there to catch me but the wind.

 

Carolyn Oulton‘s poetry has been published in magazines including Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, iota, Seventh Quarry, Ariadne’s Thread, Envoi, New Walk, Upstreet, Acumen and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press. Her website is at carolynoulton.co.uk

Reckoning – a reflection by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Reckoning

I study tinted images of children clambering onto Jesus’ lap in my compact, white prayer book, while Mom and Dad focus on Mass. As a four year old, I’m introduced to kindness, reverence, and mystery, and a lifetime of questions begins.

My first grade class recites rote from Baltimore Catechism:

Who made you? God made me.

Why did God make you?

God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

It all sounds so simple.

Perhaps my strict Catholic upbringing cultivated my inquiring spirit. Maybe guidance in the multiple mysteries of faith led me to internal questioning, evening ruminating. Questions of truth, mystery and myth are posed to me, and I attempt to answer with humility in creative writing.

*

When we reach the age of reason, Sister Mary tells us, we have something called a conscience. If we lie or steal, we may be caught and punished by our parents. But there is another reckoning; one that will change us. It is lasting and sacred; something a child of six does not grasp.

We learn about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the apple curious Eve ate and shared with Adam. Sister says Reason is the beginning of mankind’s troubles. They were banished from Eden because they offended God. From then on, people worked and struggled. My soul is tarnished by Original Sin. Serpent, Tempter, Evil Red Man with horns and tail, Devil on my left shoulder.

Is it wrong to want reasons? To question?

My conscience—or is it my guardian angel?—on my right, protects me from the danger of offending God. To prepare for my first Confession, I’m brought to awareness of inevitable sin and guilt, and that it is remedied by contrition and forgiveness.

Where does my conscience come from?

We recite Ten Commandments, the code we must live by, the ways we could sin, what we must avoid. Thoughts, desires, words, actions are kept holy by praying to Jesus, his Mother, and the saints. In time I grow to grasp, apprehend wrong-doing. I begin to develop a moral self.

*

I should examine my conscience as I kneel in a pew with my classmates, and wait for the green light above a closed booth. Instead, I rehearse a collection of sins to confess. Why? To make my performance for the priest flawless.

Five times? Too many. Two? Not enough. I disobeyed my mother three times. Lied to my father four times.

Father’s aftershave stings, and I rub my nose. He slides the metal screen between us, and chin in palm, closes his eyes. “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.” My recitation begins. He prompts the Act of Contrition, gives me a penance of prayers, and blesses me through the screen. I’ve promised to sin no more, both for fear of Hell, and to not offend my God.

*

At age ten, I begin a journal, write rhyming nature verse and compositions. As a teen, my poetry becomes angst-filled, introspective, self-critical. I liken my soul to a candle flame, aspire to truth, nature, good conscience. For me, writing is evaluation, meditation; a focus, practice. It is a quest, but not just for the right words.

If I write from memory and the child’s perspective, spirit connections come, perhaps questions of devotion, transgression, and loyalty. When I re-live her struggles, I connect with her. I hope my reader does, too.

***

Mary Ellen Gambutti resides in Sarasota, FL with her husband and adopted senior chihuahua. Her stories appear or are forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Remembered Arts Journal, The Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, A Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, Nature Writing, PostCard Shorts, SoftCartel, Storyland, The Drabble, CarpeArte, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, and Borrowed Solacehttps://ibisandhibiscusmelwrites.blogspot.com/

God’s Eyes Were Watching Theirs – a poem by Cody Rukasin

God’s Eyes Were Watching Theirs

God said:

they cannot be saved;
black, white, blue, grey

nature should preserve itself
elsewhere,

since peace cannot be attained,
since war cannot be arraigned…

He took an axe to the Tree, and
as it fell, every color caught
on a single bough, on an edge
sharper than any wisdom.

 

Cody Rukasin is an aspiring poet. He currently attends UC Santa Cruz in hopes of earning a BA in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing.

The Door Finder – a poem by Wayne-Daniel Berard

The Door Finder

 
you can tell by
their step rather
than their voice
hesitant or barely
unpanicked they
often stop just
before or pass
just beyond me
before turning
asking “where is
the door?”
sometimes out
sometimes in
but I can show
them  I am
motze hadelet
the door finder

the walk around
the building inside
or out is usually
the most interesting
each step is auto
biography a siren
wails a toilet
flushes either
way they’re
glad to tell
it to someone
who doesn’t cover
his ears or hold
his nose then
we arrive “there
it is,” I say “your
door” you know
what happens
next “too soon”
“too late”” too
long a walk to
my car” their
today is married
to a tomorrow and
divorce is against
their faith,
as it is
most people’s.
it used to
bother me
this job
but I know
where the
elevator is
to the
basement
dARK and
bRIGHT to
the rooftop
and its
glorious vYOU

baruch ata Adonai
who gives every
soul its way

Wayne-Daniel Berard teaches English and Humanities at Nichols College in Dudley, MA. Wayne-Daniel is a Peace Chaplain, an interfaith clergy person, and a member of B’nai Or of Boston. He has published widely in both poetry and prose, and is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry. His latest chapbook is Christine Day, Love Poems. He lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine

 

Post-Procedure Prayer – a poem by Peggy Turnbull

Post-Procedure Prayer
After Barbara Hamby

Comfort me, warm swarm of air, perfumed by newly mown grass–
sweetly surround my swollen jaw. In my dentist’s parking lot,

wrap aromatic fronds around my hurting places, tease me
with the hint of lavish glamour you exude. The sky swells

with romantic promise from your secret holds. Dribble your juices
over me as I resist the Garmin’s supplications, while alabaster petals

fall from Magnolia trees onto my windshield. Tempt me to eccentric
routes away from the highway’s hills and their odorless coats

of invasive honeysuckle. Allow me to be pungent and neighborly,
the way of the bratwurst I ate as a child, each butcher a conjuror

of distinct flavors. Discipline me into disobedience, shape me
into vapor, perplex me with possibility. Allay this ache.

Peggy Turnbull studied anthropology in college and has a master’s in library and information science.  She has written all her life, mostly in diaries, but after returning to her birthplace in Wisconsin, she began to write poems.  Read them in Ariel Chart, Writers Resist, and Verse-Virtual or visit https://peggyturnbull.blogspot.com/  .

Half Way up Etna – a poem by Simon Fletcher

Half Way up Etna

“Mind is the spell which governs earth and heaven”

Empedocles on Etna, (Act 1, Scene 2)

Matthew Arnold

I’ve come this far, my mind is clear;
there’s nothing left to savour now,

and though a death in Etna’s fire
is fearful yet I’ve made my choice.

My many friends have counselled me
to think again and weigh their love,

so, do I really want to crack
life’s riddle here and not go back?

*

The tidy vineyards flecked with green
in pale spring sunlight spoke to me,

the forests filled with bird song, too,
reminded me of happier days,

but when I reached the lava fields
I recognised life’s transience

and what it must be like to flair
back into dust and fiery air.

*

But, at six thousand feet I sense
a second wind, have second thoughts.

The view is fine below, the land,
the olive farms, contented lives;

the flowers of April nearly break
my heart with thoughts of love and loss.

Perhaps I’ll rest and go back down:
the risk is being thought a clown.

Simon Fletcher is widely published and is currently a ‘Poet on Loan’ in West Midland Libraries (ACE-funded).  He runs monthly live literature events and also tutors for the Workers’ Educational Association.  Author of 4 full collections, his most recent, Close to Home, was published by Headland, 2015. (www.simonfletcher.net)

When Spring Happens – a poem by Carolyn Oulton

When Spring Happens

There are bluebells the colour of ink.
A dog stops and waits, head
over its shoulder, not really looking.
This is what I came for,
the dimmed light of the wood,
blurring of blue and brown
into green. God didn’t say much.
Something like, Remember
before it happens,
I told you it would.

Carolyn Oulton‘s poetry has been published in magazines including Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, iota, Seventh Quarry, Ariadne’s Thread, Envoi, New Walk, Upstreet, Acumen and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press. Her website is at carolynoulton.co.uk

Yew Trees at Overton – a poem by Simon Fletcher

Yew Trees at Overton

These ancient trees mark out a playing card
of shadowed space, some used to call God’s field.
Two dozen yews, or thereabouts, have stood
on guard for fifteen hundred years, a place
of rest, defining peace, defying flood.

What hermit/ local saint decided then
he needed these grim ones for company?
Or was the yew thought powerful in lore,
bit gloomy, yes, but here since time began,
and thus to be protection ever more?

We need some time to sit and think
To watch the guttering candle’s flame;
Some pause to ponder, contemplate
Our flash-by culture in its frame.

The trunks are reddish brown and fluted, shaped
like columns seen in medieval aisles;
the foliage evergreen and dark as wrath;
the toxic seeds are held in scarlet cups,
their few remains are scattered on the path.

The oldest tree needs props and chains to hold
it up, has seen millennial goings on,
but yet appears benign for all to see
on this damp, bitter-blowing winter’s day;
a comfort, raft above the river Dee.

We need some time to sit and think
To watch the guttering candle’s flame;
Some pause to ponder, contemplate
Our flash-by culture in its frame.

Simon Fletcher is widely published and is currently a ‘Poet on Loan’ in West Midland Libraries (ACE-funded).  He runs monthly live literature events and also tutors for the Workers’ Educational Association.  Author of 4 full collections, his most recent, Close to Home, was published by Headland, 2015. (www.simonfletcher.net)

Bathsheba – a poem by Rebecca Guess Cantor

Bathsheba

I washed myself on the roof,
shrouded by a haze of flowers—
not provocative, just charming
and plain in my nakedness.
You watched as I bent and dipped
my hair in the pool,
built with stones, clouded with green,
the pool that hid more skin
with each step I took.

I moved quietly with you,
surrounded by a sunken bed
and a night thick with heat and spices.
The bed threw our two bodies together—
yours lusting, mine compliant.
A child awoke in me.

When my husband died,
placed before the fight by you,
the man who needed me,
I imagined the death was slow,
that he dug his fingers into the ground
to stave off the pain,
that as the fog covered his eyes
he knew what I’d done.

I mourned dry-eyed,
torturing myself,
not wanting you to see my pain.
You married me quickly
to hide the truth,
long ago bored by my charms.

When the child died,
taken as your lesson,
I stood beneath the sky unprotected,
and raised my voice to a God
I had never dared to face.
I fell to the ground, raking the dirt.
I was left without the husband I needed,
without a child to love,
left with a king
who needed me no longer.

 

Rebecca Guess Cantor’s first book, Running Away, was published last year by Finishing Line Press and her second book, The Other Half: Poems on Women in the Bible, is forthcoming from White Violet Press. Her poetry has appeared in The Cresset, Mezzo Cammin, Anomaly, Two Words For, Whale Road Review, Anomaly Literary Journal, and The Lyric among other publications. Rebecca is the Assistant Provost at Azusa Pacific University and lives in Fullerton, California.