Looking for the Wombat – a poem by Rupert Loydell

Looking for the Wombat

I’m looking for the wombat in the altarpiece,
although a serpent or camel would do. Animal,
vegetable or mineral? Water, earth, rock or fire?
How do we portray the centre of the universe,
the star maker and dreamer who made it just so?
Gold leaf, vivid pink and blue, or austere gothic
overtones? Cartoon strip predella reveals moments
in a life, the main screen focuses on main event,
side panels offer relevant asides, it is where
Adam & Eve are sent out of Eden or angels
announce what God wants to happen or be.
Titular saints, as well as episodic narratives
from the life of Jesus are often disposed
symmetrically on either side of the principal
subject. Lavish and analogous sacred imagery
is intended to stress the liturgical relationship
between Christ’s presence and the Word.
Sacred symbols and figures also came to be,
traced from the palimpsest of patristic artifacts
as well as from contemporary textual accounts;
formal development shaped by the vernacular.
The altarpiece is an artistic device derived from
a combination of subjects, although wombats are
hard to find and I have never seen one in the flesh.

© Rupert M Loydell

 

Rupert Loydell is a writer, editor and abstract artist. His many books of poetry include Dear Mary (Shearsman, 2017) and The Return of the Man Who Has Everything (Shearsman 2015); and he has edited anthologies such as Yesterday’s Music Today (co-edited with Mike Ferguson, Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2014), and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: manifestos and unmanifestos (Salt, 2010).

A Mystery – a poem by Mark J. Mitchell

A Mystery

The swallowtail coat flares behind him.
It lends seriousness to the weightless air.
He appears like this almost every year—
No one knows why. He drops a list of sins
Behind the altar, then exits the nave.
He will vanish for a full year. Swallows
Circle mission adobe. One follows
The other to honor Saint Joseph’s Day.

I swallow hard, weary of mystery.
The television drones on, preaching war.
It’s hard to pray to the carpenter’s dad.
Those birds have come back home. I should be glad.
I want to find the stranger’s secret door
And take two steps outside of history.

 

Mark J. Mitchell’s novel, The Magic War appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied  at Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. He lives with his wife, Joan Juster making his living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/

Meditation – a poem by Melanie Green

Meditation

Ah, the azure hope, the sit hour.
The listening.
Peace, astir.

Off come the shoes
and socks.

A countenance of humble
begins
the grateful.

Time, out of mind.

Sojourn of the now sounds:
lawn mower, a car by,
bird trill.

Feeling of river—
flow
and venturesome,

each moment hazarded
to the open.

 

Melanie Green is the author of two collections of poetry, Determining Sky, and Continuing Bridge, available through Mountains and Rivers Press of Eugene, Oregon. She is a founder of and participant in two support groups for people living with chronic illness.

Another sparrow falls – a poem by Caroline Greville

Another Sparrow Falls

A flapping from inside the grate
Another sparrow falls
Fling wide the doors
Children out and watch and wait.
It flies, it sinks, concussed or dead
Twitches, on its side, yet look –
‘It’s breathing’,
‘It’s what I said’
Chest rise, chest fall
Broken leg or broken wing
Pain and sting
Nurture then, water drip
Wing stroke, wing stretch
It lives, but will it last?
The hours pass, leave it then
In sun, in breeze
It sleeps, it writhes
‘It won’t survive,’ I say
Words, they will not accept
Youth-search and knowledge new
New hope, new shoes, and the box
Poke holes, paper torn and darkness.
Let it rest, time alone, secure
Sleep on or die
In reconstruction hope.
Three hours, and lift the lid
It flails, it flies, bombs and dives
Hits the gravel, sighs
And – oh – airborne now
It rises and is gone.

Caroline Greville is a writer and creative writing tutor at Canterbury Christ Church University and Kent Adult Education.  Her nature writing is found in the ‘Seasons’ series (Elliott and Thompson), and ‘Badger Clan’, her badger memoir/PhD project, is currently out on submission. She is a member of the Association of Christian Writers. Her website is at:  carolinegreville.com

Ernest’s Funeral – an essay by Donna Walker-Nixon

Ernest’s Funeral

We lived across the road from Ernest and Alma after we moved from Fort Worth. My parents were friends with them, and his step-mother was my grandmother’s cousin. Mark Twain observed it takes a really intelligent person to know how to cuss with finesse. Ernest must have been intelligent since he shocked my mother and grandmother by cussing every other word, and that was his trademark, the same as his roll-up cigarettes that he kept in his pocket and that on retrospect looked like a marijuana joint when he finished rolling it up.

He killed a big bird one time and dragged it up to our house, cussing and saying he damned well didn’t mean to kill this damned bird and what kind of bird was it after all. My mother had bird books, and she determined it was a whooping crane, an endangered species. “Well, I for damned sure didn’t mean to kill one of them damned endangered species. It’s kind of like a feller once told me . . .” That was his favorite phrase, even noted as such in the funeral.

Ernest was also a carpenter, and he built lots of houses in the area. That also was duly noted in the funeral service. What wasn’t noted: he spent hours roaming the extremes of his farm and the creek just to get away from Alma. With all the hours of roaming, he was so dark that one time the Mexicans he worked with tried to speak Spanish to him. His answer when he told my mother the story as they walked to the fruit orchard at the back of our property. “Don’t know why they’re trying to speak their damned gibberish to me, hell.” I know he must have inserted more cuss words than that, but I don’t know where to place them properly. And another story about his coloring: the border patrol sometimes flies helicopters overhead trying to find wetbacks working illegally on farms. They spotted Ernest and mistook him for a Mexican worker and kept circling round and round overhead.

Once he got called for jury duty, and in our county that’s for the whole week. You get called for one jury and then another if needed. My mother always got stuck on juries: a rape case that ended in a hung jury because of two old ladies, one who didn’t like the DA, and the other dismissed the testimony of victim’s son becsause children make up stories. Ernest served only one day. When he was called for voir dire, he maintained, “Hell, the damned man’s guilty. Why the hell else would they have this damned trial.” To his credit, I don’t think he ever said “god-damned,” at least not around women and children.

As for his relationship with my mother, we were never sure what it meant when he came to see her. They’d talk for a while on the porch and then head for the fruit orchard to talk some more. We were never asked to tag along. That perplexed me when I was growing up, and once in grad school, I asked my boyfriend Michael if he thought they were having an affair. He told me, “No, not your mother.” Everyone loved my mother, you see. Later now, I told my husband Tim about the trips to the fruit orchard, and he told me that it reminds him of something in Mayberry and he can in his mind hear Barney Fife saying, “Andy, you’ve got to do something about that orchard talking..” I prefer to think that Ernest really admired my mother and needed someone to talk to since he and Alma barely talked at all. Besides that, men liked Mother. She’d help Mr. Turner at the country store when he needed to go into town to buy supplies, and men would stop by just to talk to her. In other words, there was NOTHING going on between my mother and Ernest. That’s the way it has to be in my mind.

Now as for Alma, they married when she was sixteen, and he was twenty-one, I think. My sisters and I could never understand someone getting married that young, especially since in our family only after we got our degrees could we get married. But according to Mother, Alma’s father protected her from every boy who wanted to date her. She was obese, and not a prize, but on a dare Ernest set out to date her, and then he ended up married. Now at the funeral, the story changed: she first saw him when she was fifteen, and she told her mother, “I’m going to have that man. If I can get him.” A year later when she was sixteen, they had their first date. Then a week later they were married, and they were never apart after that. According to the young boy preacher, you’d never see one without the other. They were inseparable and a pure example of what marriage should be.

Many of the preacher’s claims fell short of what the “real” Ernest was. After all, it takes a genius to master the art of cussing. But fifteen years ago, Ernest was sick all winter and started going to church. “Because he got scared,” my daddy said, and I asked whether Ernest had quit cussing. Daddy never answered, but the boy preacher at the funeral told us about the “new” Ernest. He never knew the old, but the new Ernest changed completely when he came back to the church.

Ernest’s ministry was to greet people and make them feel welcome. My sister Monie missed the funeral because she got lost coming to the church. So she arrived late and stood outside in the big vestibule. She said, “I can see Ernest doing that. He’d make a great Wal-Mart greeter.” I told her Tim hates the Wal-Mart greeters, but that was Ernest’s ministry. A humble, but needed service for the Lord. And he’d always end with, “It’s kind of like this feller told me.” He brought people into the church. Teens admired him, and he kept many a boy from getting a “whupping” when he did something wrong and probably deserved the whupping to begin with. That’s their version of Ernest, not mine.

And this picture of a man who found Jesus fifteen years ago and turned from his past life of sin continues: he’ll live on. He’s home in heaven now with the little boy Alma lost when they were first married. Alma and Sheila (his daughter) and the two grandchildren (a fat boy named Daron and a pretty faced, fat girl named Jayce) can take comfort in the fact they’ll see Ernest once again in the great afterwhile, the great reunion when the saints will be gathered into glory. And they can take comfort that he made a difference in the lives of the congregation. After all, greeting was his ministry (repeated often during the sermon), and look at all the boys he saved from whuppings and all the people who came to the church and stayed because Ernest gave them a big Wal-Mart welcome.

All of which demolishes the Ernest we knew. The cussing orchard talker who killed a big bird and who got kicked off jury duty the first day. He’s gone. That’s the old Ernest, and the preacher never knew the old Ernest. The sanctuary of the church looked like a grade school cafetorium that had been transformed in a few minutes into a meeting place for the saints. A large screen overhead for viewing, maybe, the preacher as he preaches. Or maybe, it’s used to demonstrate the sermon with visual pictures. The room a little too warm. The fancy mic system not quite working when the first boy preacher told us that Ernest was born on March 4, 1925. And he married Miss Alma Patterson when she was sixteen years old. I sat on the second row of the break between the seats behind a fat woman who kept moving her head to talk to her daughter who had oily curly hair and should have washed it. This preacher I could barely hear, but the other’s voice carried well, and the cafetorium was almost full. I had anticipated coming to a service in a small rock church; after all, the church is called Rocky Point Baptist Church. But I had anticipated a small church, and when I got there, I saw construction in the background and drove right past, only to have to back up to enter the parking lot. They’re building another cafetorium sanctuary, and the family requests donations in Ernest’s memory be made to the Rocky Creek Baptist Church building fund as Ernest would want.

And again, there’s the new Ernest. At the conclusion of the service, they played a recording of “Daddy’s Hands,” recorded by a member of the congregation who couldn’t make it through the song without crying.

My comment: Why do boy preachers insist on their prettified versions? Why take the life out? Why deny that the “old” Ernest ever existed and perpetuate a revised saga about the “new” Ernest, the one who came back to the Lord fifteen years ago and turned away from all he ever was before.

I liked the old Ernest and the big bird that shouldn’t have been there to begin with, damn it. And those damned Mexicans who tried to talk their damned gibberish. And of course, the damned boy wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t guilty.

Give me the old Ernest who shocked my grandmother and mother and who cussed so much my sisters and I quit noticing it after a while. In the casket, his face pale and too white to be mistaken now for a Mexican. He’d spent the last two months in the hospital in San Antonio, waiting for the infection to pass so they could do open-heart surgery. But, for the love of God, I say please quit turning him in your Young Boy preacher mentality into a pasty version of what he once was, the ghost of a man you want to explain out of existence.

 

Donna Walker-Nixon founded Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature in 1997. She co-edited the Her Texas series with James Ward Lee, and she co-founded The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas. In 2010, her novel Canaan’s Oothoon was published. And she was the editor of  Her Texas: Story, Image, Poem & Song

 

A beach-fairy from the strand line – a poem by Lynn Woollacott

A beach-fairy from the strand line

A pair of sea-rolled oyster shells
shall be wings,
pearl white with opal iridescence.
Born of this sunrise,
this light and warmth,
this lap of water,
this soaring and gliding.

This piece of driftwood
shall be her body,
smooth, perfect lines,
the glitter of quartz grains.

Oh the flutter between tiny beats,
the stretch of her limbs.
Blue eyes blink open and
she flexes her toes.

This sun-bleached wrack,
washed in waves and foamed,
drifted, lifted by the sea breeze
shall be her hair.

She turns her head,
hair cascades.

 

Lynn Woollacott grew up with six brothers and three sisters – all older. She had many jobs from sewing buttons on cardigans to working as a lab technician in an all-girls school. She gained a BSc (Hons) with the Open University and went on to teach environmental studies at outdoor centres in Norfolk. Still yearning to write she studied creative writing with the University of East Anglia. Lynn has been widely published and won prizes for poetry, and has published two Poetry collections with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2011 and 2014, and a romance novel e-book available on Amazon. www.lynn.woollacott.co.uk

Review: Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller

Bone_Antler_Stone

Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller: High Window Press, 80pp ISBN 9780244009595

The scope of this collection is extraordinary, and the depth of research admirable. But Tim Miller’s poetry wears its learning well enough to draw in a non specialist reader. Prehistory is a gift to the poet in that it can offer the mysterious, poignant detail as well as an intriguing archeological backdrop; it can present us with belief systems and artistic perspectives that are profoundly other to those recognised by contemporary culture. But in skillfully wrought poetry such prehistoric elements can still offer points of connection and food for thought. From cave-painting, to stone circles, to arcane and moving burial rites, Miller’s poetry here is eye-opening, often moving, and carefully mapped throughout. Each section literally starts with a simple diagrammatic map, which helps orient the reader on the European locations of the poems.

‘Landscapes and Rituals’ starts the collection off powerfully, charting imaginative turning points where landscape itself ‘was not enough’ (‘Sanctuaries’) and our prehistoric ancestors brought their gifts of honey, fruit, wine, metal, fire, and bone to sanctify and protect.  There are vivid sensory details throughout, and often the poems themselves take on an element of liturgy, such as the refrain line in each tercet of ‘The Sun Sets into the Sea.’ This section has some poems previously published in Amethyst Review, namely, ‘Sanctuaries’ and ‘Two Gods’.  Vivid, evocative poetry engaging with ancient concepts of the sacred, and a rich prehistorical resource in its own right – Amethyst recommends.

The most moving section is arguably the subsequent ‘Burials’. With life  brief and uncertain, burial rites and afterlife mythology become so much more significant. Some sites, like that described in ‘Magdalenenberg Burial Ground’, contain a buried hero who is a sun around which his lesser contemporary are laid out like planetary configurations: ‘men and women become moon and stars/ orbiting something other than the earth.’ By contrast those without fame or means have a painfully quick interment: the ‘quick unloading’ of ‘Tomarton Ditch’.  This section also contains poems on the long dead preserved by peat and earth: the so-called ‘bog bodies’ made poetically immortal by Heaney in Wintering Out and North. Some poems even have the same title and subject as Heaney’s poems: ‘Tollund Man’, ‘Grauballe Man’. Others are new subjects; in fact, several bodies in this section (though not all) speak in the first person: the poems tend towards lucid monologues rather than Heaney’s meditations on the cycles of history and the role of the poet. There is some beautiful language and imagery throughout, for example in ‘The Egtved Girl’, ‘set down toward the dawn sun’ in her simple clothing and jewellery.

The subsequent section, ‘Artefacts’ demonstrates the power of prehistoric cultural and architectural fragments to contain wonderful poetic resonance. It’s followed by ‘Orkney’ where the poet is a more tangible presence in the Scottish Isles and the poems that flow from it. I particularly liked the two part ‘The Ring of Brodgar’ where in the first of the poems an elderly couple visit the stone circle and time itself seems to buckle and stretch as they lift their aged hands to the ancient sandstone: ‘a situation of stone they’d known/ for all four thousand of its years, as if/ those hands were still proud at having put it up.’ This especially is strong poetry, offering startling insight borne of careful observation.

Sarah Law, August 2018

 

tonight Buddha burns – a poem by Ruby McCann

tonight Buddha burns


in my living room
sandalwood permeates the air
a flaming flickering blessings
leaving me hung…….drying
upside down…….see-ing all angles
from behind closed doors
expanding into something
I wasn’t before

forcing reflection
hesitation and preparation
like the hermit…….pacing myself
slowly…….up the mountain
questioning inner self worth
eye talking to ear intuitively
sacred rebel honouring body
shining light…..inviting my own true self
inward…….to truly see…….questions
I don’t share…….what is real?

this butterfly moon
radiates over sacred terrain
the river only flows one way
and there’s something about freedom
I don’t buy…….broken down
free…..dom…….free…..dom…….free…..dom
free dominance…….dominates free
dreams sold to the masses in the name of..,
…something to ponder while fire burns hot

Hoopoe birds bring ghostly truths
higher than myself
nature…..the beauty of all things
my friend Andre once said:

……………………………………we are all a single grain of sand in a bushel

an islander…….he married my best friend
and she wasn’t having it
no more…….of that three’s a crowd business
turned our cups upside down
built a wall that I dismantled
put that darkness behind me
daylight has come

still more questions
how the past shapes
futures…..transition shifts life
back then too many shadows
shared my light
yet I know that’s what I like
about my friend…….how her
forceful energies accelerated change

it takes courage for a flower
to sprout from seed
could’ve stayed there and didn’t
first one flourishes
nurturing a fertile future
honouring all that I am
a divine spark
who still has to come down
from the mountain

 

Ruby McCann is a creative practitioner who holds degrees from Trinity Washington and University of Glasgow.  She has published work in publications, You Don’t Look British, Anti-Heroin Chic, Gaelstrom-1 Magazine, Invisible Cities, Poetry Scotland, Journeys, Word Rhythms, and many others.  She lives in Glasgow, Scotland next to the River Clyde.  Nature and walking inspires her writing.

Blind Faith – a poem by Daniel Romo

Blind Faith

When in doubt, study the curvature of dead ends. Note how the bend betrays even the savviest of travelers, a winding stretch of aborted circles. Stop is a pause. Yet Not a Through Street is more than metaphor, the point of no choice BUT to return. Being fooled translates to capable of trusting; one should never feel duped for believing in God’s natural landscapes. Maps drawn to scale only serve as a let-down. Yet the biggest self-discoveries result from becoming lost in a familiar neighborhood. One step forward, two steps back to where you began. Hitting the road is a question of checking one’s ego and endurance. A cul-de-sac. A suppressed prayer. A long of list of apologies.

 

Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press, 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). More at danielromo.net.

difficulty breathing – a poem by Dawid Juraszek

difficulty breathing

breathe
they are still there somewhere
beyond the vast expanse of grey
they always have been
whenever we needed
………hope
………gods
………stories
but you can’t see them anymore
the particulate matter of urban life
………nitrogen oxides
………sulphur
………ozone
left us all on our own
with exhalations of civilisation
all we can do is inhale
looking up to the stars no longer an option
breathe

 

Dawid Juraszek is a lecturer in literature and culture of English-speaking countries at a university in Guangzhou, China. His academic background is in English, translation studies, educational leadership, international relations, and environmental management. A published novelist, his fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in a variety of outlets in his native Poland, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom.