Sneeze – a poem by Steve Straight


Twenty-five strangers shift uneasily in their chairs
on the first day of class in this community college.
I see by their faces and the list of names
that they represent the world:
Sadejah, Jevaughn, Sandra, Pavelon, Jack––
collected in this time and place by fate––
Mona, Shaneiqua, Katya, Nydia, Tatiana, Spencer.
I too am nervous, as always, about the beginning.

Then suddenly from the hush a tremendous sneeze!
Chuckles about its size, then six or seven say at once
to a person they’ve never met before
Bless you/God bless you/Gesundheit,
and the sneezer says Thank you
and apologizes for not burying it
in the crook of an elbow or a flannel sleeve.

They may not know the Ancients saw sneezes
as good omens, that something so powerful
and spontaneous must be caused by the gods.
They may not know about when Xenophon
exhorted his soldiers in battle, and one of them
sneezed on the word deliverance, and
they all bowed down before God at the sound.

But in this era of division and mistrust, xenophobia
and tribe, I cherish this sweet instinct
to wish grace and health in the life of a stranger.
Let us all turn now toward the light
and pray for another blessing from the gods.


Steve Straight’s books include The Almanac (Curbstone/Northwestern University Press, 2012) and The Water Carrier (Curbstone, 2002). He is professor of English and director of the poetry program at Manchester Community College, in Connecticut, US.

Into the Whipsaw – a poem by Ken Allan Dronsfield

Into the Whipsaw

In this world of heartless consumption
waste of human life to the whipsaw;
children shot dead while at recess
never did so little mean so much
then when two deer in a field
saw you and you saw them
nothing else mattered…
as neither blinked.
self-righteous take aim.
the pious obey at the sight
non-believers glare but afraid
Little flakes of shimmering light,
Admiring all in the wafting shade,
Stars peek and rave in the delight;
stellar was how a twilight was made,
As all eyes peer at the lightened cross.


Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran, poet, and fabulist. He resides in Seminole Oklahoma, USA. He works full-time on his poetry, dabbling in digital art. Ken’s poem, “With Charcoal Black, VIII” was selected as the First Prize Winner in a recent major Nature Poetry Contest from Realistic Poetry International.

Hallowed Ground – a poem by J. Culain Fripp

Hallowed Ground

Traffic is heavy tonight,
phantom commuters
tramping unbent
blades of
frosted grass

Between my back fence
and the neighbor’s
distant wall

The motion sensor
is flashing its
lightship warning

Imminent collision
between seen and unseen

Hard, suburban landfall
and turbulent sea
of eternity

Determined, busy specters
translucent heads down
invisible briefcases
clutched at their sides

The silent crowd hurries
across our lawn
on errands of
irrelevant importance

I stand transfixed
in the witching hour
as the strobe of the
spectral radar
burns a relief
of this demonic traffic
on the vinyl parchment
of my home

Hastening to purgatory,
heads bent to their
wrist-watches, as they mark
their timeless journey

Rush hour ended,
the screech owl returns,
settling nervously
in the old pine

Blinking at one or two
tardy spirits,
as dawn breaks
on the suburban horizon


J. Culain Fripp is an Asheville, NC native who now lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 25 years dedicated to working, observing and reflecting on life in conflict and crisis-affected environments, internal and external, he has returned time and again to poetry as a journalistic practice. Most recently, his work has appeared in Rue Scribe. Instagram @Kalevala04

CRACKED VOICES – a poem by Rupert Loydell

i.m. Jay Ramsay

Always a mystic and dreamer.
Did you know that he had died?
If you have ever wondered
what it would be like to be
bereft and in mourning, now
is your chance to find out.

First it was a missing toolbox,
then Sister Wendy left us,
with Collings fuming about art.
Today Maria told me that Jay
has gone away for good.
Use the simple search function

to find your future and then
demolish thought. The tears
will not come, even though
neither Jane or Sarah knew,
despite a userfriendly interface.
To delete a comment just log in.

I know a little something
about dissent, have heard
stories about fracture, about how
a great silence filled all heaven.
Those of you who were there
will remember the plenary talk

and may have several volumes
on your shelf. There are words
for states of being that have no
equivalent outside poetic language.
If you are looking for information
look no further: time is also place,

we are just passing by. Fear is also
love, connections can be made
without agreeing with the thesis.
In his alien architecture I found
hope and occasional rays of light
to illuminate a midnight heaven.

© Rupert M Loydell

Writing and the Sacred and Why I Can’t Write This Essay – An essay by John Backman

Writing and the Sacred and Why I Can’t Write This Essay

I can’t write about writing and the sacred. It’ll take me two stories to tell you why. 

Story one: I’ve nearly finished the manuscript for my first book. Only the epilogue remains, and lumps of it stare at me from my laptop, which sits on a desk in the monastery I’m visiting. I’ve had breakfast and coffee, and it’s 9:00 and why not work on the epilogue? I just want to see if anything will flow. 

Something does. It gathers strength as the morning passes.

I want to take my usual 10:30 break, but the flow won’t let me. At noon I’m starving and they’re serving lunch and the aroma of cheese wafts into the room, but the words will not stop. I barely manage to run to the dining room for an egg before hastening back. 

Then the flow turns into a flood. My fingers keep typing words I don’t recognize and they rush pell-mell onto the screen. It’s like speaking in tongues that way, the arrival of language from somewhere else. The end of the session is the end of the book; the last glittering sentences tumble out at 3:00. The sacred being what it is, the sentences are perfect. 

* * *

Story two: Many years ago I built a business. Part of that business—the OCD part, which comes into everything I do—demanded that I keep timesheets down to the minute. After all, clients shouldn’t pay me when I’m not working, not even for bathroom breaks, right? The timesheets helped me draw clear lines between work and non-work, productive and unproductive. 

Then the Spirit nudged me to write about spirit. 

Timesheets were useless here, because writing about spirit demands flow, and how do you time flow? Snippets of morning prayer would show up in my journal, journal insights would inform blog posts, blog posts would blossom into articles would become a book the insights in which would feed my inner work in morning prayer. Productive? Unproductive? Who knew? 

Also, the flow didn’t stop. At first I wrote an occasional weekend or two. Then an hour a day. Now it’s spilled over into every morning, and the water keeps rising, obliterating every clear line I’ve ever drawn. 

* * *

You may think these stories really are about writing and the sacred. But they’re not, not really. By the end they’re only about the sacred. The sacred takes over the writing—not just the words, but the process; not just for one ecstatic day, but for a lifetime—and draws it gently, lovingly, irresistibly into itself. 

And that’s the point. Writing becomes part of the sacred like everything becomes part of the sacred. Including us. 

It’s like water. We can direct it for a while, with dams and levees and conduits, control the flow to serve our ends. Beyond that, though, the water will have its way—its subsuming, life-giving way.  


As a spiritual director and monastic associate, John Backman writes mostly noncreative nonfiction about contemplative spirituality and its relevance for today’s deepest issues. This includes a book (Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart) and articles in such places as Spirituality & Health.

Revisitation – a poem by Wil Michael Wrenn


It is a full moon night.

I drive my car halfway
across the levee of Enid Lake,
this large, man-made lake,
park the car, and get out
to stand on the levee.

The moonlight is a silver highway
stretching to the distant shore.
The cattle graze in the pasture
far below me, content in their world.

I look up to see a million stars in the sky,
jewels sparkling on a black canvas
endless in dimension, it seems.

I have been here many times before,
on nights just like this, in wonder
and awe of this place, this world
and its beauty. And now, as before,
I ask where it all came from
and what it all means. I wait in silence
for an answer, as I have so often before…

and I get none. Time passes…
and taking one last look at the majesty
and beauty all around, I get back in my car,
drive slowly across the long levee,

and head for home.

Wil Michael Wrenn is a poet/songwriter living in rural north Mississippi, USA. He has an MFA from Lindenwood University and is a songwriter/publisher member of ASCAP. His work has appeared in numerous places, and he has published a book of poems. His website can be found at:

Party in the Sky – a poem by Luis Berriozábal

Party in the Sky

When the sun dissolves
into thin air and mountains
crumble into the sea
I will sit on my cloud
and thank the heavens.
The doctor could keep
his medications while
I have a party in the sky
with the moon and stars.
The worms will look up
at me and count my days.


Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, born in Mexico, lives in California, and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles, CA. His first book of poems, Raw Materials, was
published by Pygmy Forest Press. His latest chapbook, Make the Light Mine, was published by Kendra Steiner Editions.

Along the Susquehanna – a poem by Maria Marrero

Along the Susquehanna

Every day they arrive and by dusk they are gone
Rain on the river brings the eagle and the white heron
They know that brooks can run dry
but this is a river

The eagle grips the branches of an old pine
Its yellow eyes pierce the fog
Rain without sound makes the river shiver

The white heron holds its glorious posture on a rock

I watch and as their reflections shimmer in the old river
I listen


Maria Marrero was nurtured on pablum and poetry by her mother who sang her “las
Nanas”, little verses in Spanish. She is a lover of poetry and a lover of
words in both Spanish and English. She has taught writing for over 30
years, and now that she’s retired she finally has the time to write
poetry every day.

Hraunfossar – a poem by Sara Letourneau


What happens when you see a waterfall?
Do you reach out to let its mist land on your skin?
Shout of its magnificence to your fellow tourists?
Or do you do nothing because of
what stirs inside and is beyond your control?
This “lava falls,” as it’s known in Icelandic,
greeted me like a friend moments ago
when I stepped off the bus,
its salutation crashing like cymbals
yet hushed and rain-steady.
Now I follow the black-soil path,
reach the bend where the cliff overlooks the river,
and a swell dams my throat.
This waterfall is not like others;
not a tall, singular cascade,
but a long, sprawling multitude,
hundreds of rivulets seeping out of the lava field
into the rapids below.
On and on it flows, and I stand before it,
heart overflowing, because suddenly
I’m not here on the cliff but across the river,
where the porous rock and the glacial melt
are washing my body to the marrow,
scrubbing me clean of hurts I had borne across an ocean,
and my hands and fingers have spread
into the ledges from which those waters leap
and carry the toxins and dead cells of self away.
How do you respond then, when the world
becomes both healer and teacher?
Do you return to a sheltered, stagnant life after this?
Or do you simply go on like the waterfall,
always moving, always whispering,
always persevering?


Sara Letourneau is a poet, freelance editor / writing coach, and columnist at the writing resource website DIY MFA. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Muddy River Poetry Review, Canary, The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and elsewhere. She lives in Massachusetts.