FAN VAULTING – a poem by Edward Alport

FAN VAULTING

Have we a church here?

Really?

Why does it thrust its stone roots down,
Down through the loam of memories?
Into the bowels of gold and fire then
Leap up into arching branches,
Grey and glistening trumpet notes of stone,
Blaring out to come and wonder,
Wonder how these dancing trees
Were first bound fast in arches

This forest floor is rich in reverence
The dark earth hummed with faith
Long before these trumpet trees took root,
Among the lumbered trunks where
The old faith rotted
And leached into the soil.

Sometimes, almost
Swamped by the rippling stone I see
A beckoning glimmer in a crystal
That is too dark
And altogether like a clenched fist
To sit comfortably under this stone canopy.

 

Edward Alport is a teacher and occasional writer who occasionally gets published. When he has nothing better to do he posts snarky micropoems on Twitter as @cross_mouse.

The Saint of Milk and Flames by Kate Garrett – review by Anne Maguire

The saint of milk and flames cover x.jpg

Review of The saint of milk and flames: poetry collection by Kate Garrett

78pp,  Rhythm and Bones Lit

Review by Anne Maguire

Reviewing poetry is never easy as it is such a subjective art. What I like (or dislike) changes according to mood and how it sits with what else I’m reading. There is an excellent article in the Spring 2019 Poetry News, from The Poetry Society, about poetry reviewing. Written by Sarala Estruch it says that it is important to deduce what the work is doing – or trying to do. It also suggests the reviewer should have sensitivity, imagination and generosity.

I’m not sure Kate Garrett needs much generosity from me when considering her new collection The Saint of Milk and Flames. Published by Rhythm and Bones Press, the book is beautifully produced and presented. There are several truly memorable poems, some phenomenal lines and as ever some poems I’m not sure I understand. That’s fine by me as I like a collection where I have to revisit and maybe even do a bit of research.

My way of reading poetry is to read fairly quickly through the whole book once, not marking or noting anything, just getting a feel for the whole collection and how it builds and fits together (or doesn’t). Then I read the second time, slower, with a pen and I underline, I draw little stars on lines I want to revisit and I make notes beside words or references which I’ll need to look up. Then I read the notes etc on the third time through and look up what I need to. I put the book away (length of time depending on my TBR pile and how much I enjoyed it) and revisit again. At this stage I make notes in the front of the book with a date. When I revisit the book, months/years later I can get straight into the mindset and I may revisit the poems I struggled with to see if my understanding has changed. Often it has – as I mature as a poet and a reader.

The second reading of “The Saint of Milk and Flames” generated a lot of writing! Underlining beautiful lines, starring particularly interesting combinations and noting things I want to look up. Ms Garrett gives notes and explanations for some of the poems but 3 lines about a man horribly effected by the death of Joan of Arc, just left me wanting more. I love it when a poetry book does that to me. The need to know more so I can revisit the poem from a stronger position. There is a lot going on in this slim volume.

Poems about birth and death and every stage in between are interspersed with heart break or humour. There are several poems about babies, about looking after babies and the mistakes they sometimes are. One of my favourites is called “Late/1979” and has the lines:-

‘And his mother said, give the baby

to us, we’ll take care of it. And my mother

said, we’ll keep it, don’t come round here

or I’ll deck you, and my father cried at the table,

and I never wanted it.’

 

There is an entire season of a soap opera in those five lines. I see the girl’s parents and the young man’s mother sizing each other up and standing their ground while the young pregnant girl despairs. Heartbreaking and yet life affirming in a mere few words. Very skilful indeed.

Another poem concerns the end of pregnancy through an Appalachian granny witch, and another the end of child bearing via sterilisation.

‘…She ends your child-growing years for good,

for life and death reasons, and you feel the pinch and pressure

as she cuts off this handful of possibilities.’

 

How strong is that last phrase? ‘handful of possibilities’ is such a profound way to think about the lottery of birth.

There is a lot of family and strong emotions in this collection and it is difficult not to superimpose all of the feelings on to the poet because of the strength of the work but that is not necessary to enjoy the poetry and to quietly hope that no one goes through (or has gone through) this amount of heartbreak. Abortion, domestic violence, death, difficult mothers, miscarriage – universal traumas that will speak to many people.

Choosing individual lines or poems to focus on is difficult but needed to give a true sample of the depth of the emotion captured here. In ‘Happy’ referencing a woman who ‘almost had a son’, we learn:-

‘….She is happy.

Of course she is happy.

What else on earth could she be?’

 

I hear a relative answering a neighbour’s well-meant question. Slightly exasperated but moving on.

There are many real people and mythical people in here, too. Jeff Buckley – ‘…the songs all sound like love and mourning and I don’t know at the time that I already understand them both.’ This use of tense makes the line a jolt and emphasises the emotional hook. Gilles de Rais was the guy never the same after Joan of Arc died ‘angels and demons want the same things’. We have St Winifred, the Salem witches, Mother Shipton, Harry Houdini among many others.

The poems which resonated most with me are the ones which most mirror my own experience. A prose poem called ‘In the brown Camaro’ has a line ‘The other girls will wear neon and spandex, new leotards, but I’ll be wearing sweatpants six months too small.’ I totally get that measurement having often worn clothes like that (my mother loved the Bay City Rollers as she could add tartan to the bottom of my trousers and I’d get another six months out of them as I grew). And in ‘My mother sits in judgement of a nymph, a saint, and me’, the mother sits ‘unbalanced on her pedestal stacked with years of rot’ and reminds us that not all mothers are wonderful, life affirming women.

My favourite line is in a poem about the writer’s son being taken for an ECG (I have no idea if this reflects Ms Garrett’s lived experience) and finishes ‘people say follow your heart, but mine can’t read maps and its compass points south.’ I love that acerbic look at life and all its glories.

This book captures that acerbic nature beautifully while making you think, reflect and, more than once, give thanks. I can’t ask for much more than that no matter how many times I read it. Well done Ms Garrett, well done indeed.

Wings, a Moonlit Tale – a poem by Jeannie E. Roberts

Wings, a Moonlit Tale

Flashbacks followed each lunar phase; on these mornings,
change had occurred. Human form was never home,
nor was the house on the hill.

Home has wings—not arms, not walls. The forest knew
her spirit and summoned new moon for help. First quarter
waxed keenness of sight; full moon streamed scales

and song; last quarter waned beak, feathers, and wings.
Covered in pine boughs and dew, she awoke to drumming
sounds. Ruffed grouse beat with daybreak’s light.

Wings were the start of this day, and hers began to unfold.
As sun slipped between cedars, it warmed the forest floor.
Fern unfurled as bloodroot revealed its golden center.

She shook her fledgling feathers as strands of auburn
appeared, then dissolved in her remembrance. Transformed
in synodic month, the time had come. Forest smiled,

as she opened her wings, flew above bloodroot and fern,
soared over the house on the hill and sang, Home has wings—
not arms, not walls. Today, at last, my freedom calls!

 

Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press), and Nature of it All(Finishing Line Press). Her second children’s book, Rhyme the Roost!, was recently released by Kelsay Books.

Even Nature Grieves Your Passing – an elegy by Arlene Antoinette

Even Nature Grieves Your Passing

It’s raining as we silently march through sodden grounds to the plot where we will lay you to rest. Do you see how the gray sky weeps for your absence from this world? The birds did not sing their melodious songs this morning; silent were their whistles and chirps. Baby squirrels refrain from play. Lizards forsake morning push-ups, leaving territory unclaimed. See how the sun has hidden her face? She dares not give light to the emptiness of today. It’s raining and our gaze rests on your casket by the open grave. Soon you will be lowered into the earth. You are a flower we will plant, a flower that has already bloomed.

 

Arlene Antoinette writes poetry, flash fiction and song lyrics. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Brooklyn College and worked with the disabled population for many years. Additional work by Arlene may be found at Your Daily Poem, Little Rose Magazine, Foxglove Journal, London Grip, Neologism Poetry Review and Mojave Heart.

A Visit to Chacachacare – nonfiction by Abby Ripley

A Visit to Chacachacare 

She was very light skinned for a Caribe native. At the time my skin was darker than hers because I didn’t stay out of the sun. I was sun-tanned. Her name I no longer remember, but she’s unforgettable after all these years. I met her in 1967 when our Peace Corps group went by ferry to Chacachacare from the Port of Spain in Trinidad. At that time Chacachacare was a leper colony. This tiny island between Trinidad and Venezuela had once been a cotton plantation and a whaling station, but now it was the isolated home run by Dominican nuns for a small population of lepers most of whom were hospital patients.

The visit was to prepare us for dealing with lepers since we were headed to our posts in Niger, West Africa, where lepers were not uncommon. I didn’t know how I felt about this visit. I was only familiar with lepers through pages of novels and movies like Ben Hur. In those contexts you were always made to feel horror or at least dread of seeing the ravages of the disease: the deformities and the grotesque skin growths, and, of course, the fear that it was contagious. The Peace Corps had assured us from the beginning that any disease we contracted could be treated. Still, the prospect of getting leprosy was worrisome. I had to trust the Peace Corps because our country director, after all, was a physician from Barbados, a graduate of Howard University.

I was both fascinated by the prospect of seeing a leper and frightened. If it had been now I should have been outraged that these poor people were being exploited by the United States Peace Corps, but the political correctness of anti-exploitation had yet to come.

It was a beautiful Caribbean day with a blue, blue sky reflected in the ocean water, turning it azure, too. There wasn’t much chatter among volunteers during the hour trip to the island, but as we tied up to the jetty, the white, low-roofed hospital of many open windows gleamed in the sunlight, and made me feel welcomed. It was within short walking distance.

Our director met with hospital administrators and then we followed them through double doors into a large sunny room. It was the ward of those close to death. I was very aware of the knot in my stomach and purposefully unfocused my eyes in order not to see anything I’d have nightmares about later. The doctor in charge explained that these twenty or so patients were just receiving palliative care; that all knew they were going to die, and that dying was a good thing: they would no longer suffer. He called out to some with a greeting and received no reply, not even the wave of an arm. All of them were covered with gauze and bandages to one degree or another, and when he pointed to a body lying in a bed at our feet, he told us that the lady was only twenty-some years in age but looked to be eighty. A kind of collective gasp went up from our group, and he explained that that was one of the lesser cruelties of the disease: looking far-older than you really were. Fortunately only this woman’s head shown, but the white sheet pulled over her body still revealed a tiny, shriveled form. A few of the other patients were obviously missing toes and fingers since their sheets didn’t cover those parts, but fortunately most of the horrifying effects of the disease had been hidden from us. Although I was glad not to see these effects I wondered how we were being prepared to encounter leprosy in the field which wouldn’t be covered, hidden from view.

I felt very sad for these people and wondered how they happened to be so unlucky. I wanted answers to many unformulated questions. My compassion demanded it, and then the opportunity came. We were told that beyond the hospital were little houses, bungalows, in which patients less affected by the disease were living. We were encouraged to visit them, not to satisfy our curiosity, but to allow them to have the pleasure of a visitor, someone from the outside. They were expecting us.

With trepidation I walked up a path away from the hospital toward a row of bungalows situated at the bottom of a hill. I was the only one who set out. I walked under the shade of palm trees and other tropical vegetation until I noticed a small woman standing in the shadow of her porch. Fortunately since the inhabitants of Trinidad spoke English, I called out to her. She echoed my hello, and I stopped in front of her door. There were no screens on her little blue house so we talked about the usual things: the weather, who I was, where I had come from, and why was I there. From six feet away I couldn’t see that she was a leper. There were no outward symptoms except her skin was lighter than I expected. However, I was acutely uncomfortable about being a kind of voyeur. I really wanted to convey to this woman that I was empathetically interested in her. Thank God she got the message for within minutes of my greeting her, she invited me into her house.

There was only a wooden couch-cum-bench and a chair in her parlor, and she sat on the chair across from me, a figure about my size, with graying black hair, wearing a print cotton dress. The interior of her house was also painted blue, a darker blue, but maybe that was due to the shady interior. A big glassless window looked out to the jetty where I could see our ferryboat. The house was not a home as I knew one, but it was Spartan and spotlessly clean! I was very relieved that she didn’t offer me anything to eat or drink because I would have felt obliged to accept it. When I thought about it later I realized that the nuns had probably told the residents not to touch us or offer food.

While we were getting to know one another through very polite and conventional queries, I noticed two other volunteers, as a pair, walking by. I felt a little jealous. I wanted to be the only volunteer who had been brave enough to go out into the village. It turned out, however, that they never engaged anyone in conversation so I was the only person to have a complete experience, and what an experience it was.

Slowly our conversation came around to her life. She told me that as a young girl she began to get extra thicknesses of skin on her face and limbs. Her mother tried various remedies from the rainforest and from several native practitioners, but nothing stopped these growths from multiplying. Her mother knew that it was leprosy, and she, too, gradually realized that it was leprosy, a progressive disease for which there was no cure. She had seen lepers in her village, shunned by their families, begging for food, and she became frightened. I did not prompt this woman. She was telling me her story, and she looked extremely sad. It was all I could do to keep from crying, but I realized this woman didn’t want my tears, she wanted to be heard.

“One day,” she said, “my mother packed a bag with my clothes and some photographs, and took me to the ferry for Chacachacare. She bought my one-way fare and watched while I boarded. She stood there and waved as the ferry moved away. I knew I was going to the leper colony. What else was there to do? My mother couldn’t take care of me anymore, and I would become a burden on my family.”

I had to gulp back my emotions, and we both sat there in silence for a while. Finally I asked if her family ever came to visit. “No,” she said, “why should we feel such pain. I have to stay here forever, and they have their own lives. They do send me baskets of fruit and vegetables.”

I had so many other questions to ask her. I wanted to plum her thoughts, to experience her deepest emotions, but I saw my colleagues walking back to the ferry. I gestured toward them, and explained that I had to go. I thanked her for telling me her story, and left her house, turning once to wave back at her, brushing the tears from my eyes. I said nothing all the way back to Port of Spain. That was fifty years ago.

When I finally got to my post in Niger, my language tutor for Kanuri, the local dialect, was a leper. His name was Ousman. But that’s another story.

 

Abby Ripley is a seventy-six year old and has had a very rich and varied life. She grew up on a ranch on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and has spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer, a travel agent, a life insurance field agent, an editor, a fine art photographer and exhibitor, a painter, and now a writer/poet. She crusades on behalf of African people who suffer from tungiasis. She was recently named a poetry finalist by Adelaide Literary Magazine.

Gallery Exhibit of Portraits After Hours – a poem by Kyle Laws

Gallery Exhibit of Portraits After Hours
for Sandra Yowells

K.D. looks down disapprovingly,
eyes ringed plum, crease between nose
and heart-shaped top of lip—deep set—
as if smiles rarely pass smudged lipstick.

Joe Gropusso’s lids closed to women
in the room, leans into the background
of a wash before details are filled in,
fidgets and sits on his hands.

Marge’s blonde hair edged in pink
reflects the ruddiness of her face.
Primary blue of her dress hides
the curve of her shoulders to chest.

Mrs. Sterba contemplates a book out of view
in her lap, cinnamon of the wall behind
brewed into a tea with orange peel
and hibiscus leaves.

I turn the corner onto doors by the elevator
painted with scenes from Eden, go up to the roof
to catch a breeze, marvel as I did as a child
that I can see craters from this distance.

At 4,500 feet I live closer than ever before.
I’m back in the garden. No one wants to expel
me, and I can dwell here if I can find a way
to water the desert until it blooms.

 

Kyle Laws read and responded to the psalms with poetry during her studies of contemplative prayer in the Benedictine tradition in monasteries in Colorado and New Mexico.  A number of the poems were published as Going into Exile, a chapbook supplement to the journal Abbey. Other collections include Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press), and Wildwood (Lummox Press).

Minotaur – a poem by Dawid Juraszek

Minotaur

They say you were lurking
in the shadows
waiting for the right time
to strike.

I say you were hiding
away from prying eyes
hoping
to be left alone.

You say you were
raw material
for others
to make their name.

He says your life
and your death
gave him
his immortal fame.

She says nothing
with a frown
resting her head
on his shoulder.

We say you were a hybrid
a monster
an abomination
a god.

Who says you were a species?

 

Dawid Juraszek is a bilingual author and educator based in China. A published novelist in his native Poland, his fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in The Remembered Arts Journal, Amethyst Review, The Font, Amaryllis, The Esthetic Apostle, Artis Natura, and elsewhere. Visit: https://amazon.com/author/dawidjuraszek

Xi – a poem by Diana Durham

Xi: The New God, the Dead Man 
for Xi, Second Emperor of the Me Dynasty

Because
you no longer respect
the altar of the sky,
confuse the ancestors
with your past,

You have banished the dragons
from the four heavens
(whose scales are multiples
of infinity),

Cleaved the circle
of dynamic balance,
and branded its symbol
as yourSelf.

You build a wall
around the young
because you cannot
grow wisdom–

your will so mighty now
it has made you small.

Literal-minded,
you worship only
the shrivelled body
of an elderly man,
preserved–horror
parody of Snow White–
in a glass coffin:
the new god, the dead man
you are becoming.

 

Diana Durham is the author of three poetry collections: Sea of Glass (Diamond Press); To the End of the Night (Northwoods Press) Between Two Worlds (Chrysalis Poetry); the nonfiction The Return of King Arthur (Tarcher/Penguin); a debut novel
The Curve of the Land (Skylight Press); and a dramatic retelling of grail myth Perceval & the Grail: Perceval & the Grail Part 1 Morgana’s Retelling – YouTube

 

Good Friday at the Gardner – a poem by Wayne-Daniel Berard

Good Friday at the Gardner

I’m not ignoring you.
Nor am I minimizing
your suffering — there’s
not a minimalist in this
gallery. Rather, it’s filled
with images of you half-
smiling, far-sighted,
an enigma unwrapping
its riddle in this garden
of art. The only pain here
is the painfully beautiful.
Is that why I’ve come?
I no longer believe
in the beauty of pain
— yours or mine —
but I can love the
emerging aprilness
of this day, yet a
winterscape, signed
in its nearest corner
“J of N.”

(Note: Gardner Museum, Boston)

 

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.

In Tralee’s Saint John’s church – a poem by Ailisha O’Sullivan

StJohnsInteriors

 

In Tralee’s Saint John’s church
two life-sized
pure white angels
wings slightly furled
face each other
across the entrance
to the main aisle
each holding a large bowl
filled with holy water.
You must dip your finger
and make the sign of the cross
to gain entrance
past these solemn, still sentinels.
You are entering holy ground
they shriek silently.
Beware.
Take care.
The place you enter is holy.

 

Ailisha O’Sullivan graduated with an honors degree in History and English Literature from University College Cork, Ireland and worked in the Chicago Public Library system for several years as a librarian and storyteller before moving to Cluj, Romania, where she held a position as managing editor at Koinónia Publishing. She currently divides her time between translation and editing projects and working with local non-profit organizations. A sample of her poetry can be seen in the upcoming May 2019 issue of The Scriblerus Arts Journal.