Where Daddy Went Thereafter – a poem by Sarah Marquez

Where Daddy Went Thereafter

To find me, stay alert. You can never
know how or when I will appear…

In those long hours chained to a cubicle chair, as you
daydream of home. In the streak of evening sun slanting
the path to the metro, or hiding in the eaves of your roof,
nestled inside the thousand-eyes of a queen wasp. Afraid
to be stung, you do not swat her down. To find me, peer past
the split telephone pole, orange hue warming your window.
See me roving a garden jungle succumbed to time sticking
its meddlesome hand in the soil. Later, seek me in shadow,
the wingspan of a peregrine falcon, revealing an ant army
marching past a wrinkled tangerine. And when my death
day breaks in, a thief, don’t cry. I will be huddled beneath
a cloud of incense vanishing to a heaven you won’t believe.
You will meet me at church, the foot of the altar, genuflecting
to a crucified king. Or standing in the stream of salvation history
rushing to the rocks. Now, I am in the high corner of two pews
pinned back to back, bathed in stained glass color. It is Easter &
a rank of organ pipes blow wide open to receive me – a lily white
asterisk crowning a casket.

 

Sarah Marquez is an MA candidate at Southern New Hampshire University. When I am not writing, I can be found reading, sipping coffee, or tweeting, @Sarahmarissa338.

Watching Bubbles with My Russian Blue – a poem by Mark Tulin

 

Watching Bubbles with My Russian Blue

I have nothing to do
but lay in my warm bubbly tub,
listening to the Grateful Dead
with a marijuana cigarette
slowly burning
and my Russian Blue purring
in the steamy background.

Some say, a man using Mister Bubbles
at my age
is quite odd
and not very sophisticated,
but for me
it’s the perfect way to let go,

to immerse, to merge
into a tranquil state of Nirvana
watching bubbles with my Russian Blue
as my worrisome thoughts
rise and pop.

Mark Tulin is a former family therapist who lives in Santa Barbara, California.  He has a poetry chapbook, Magical Yogis, published by Prolific Press (2017). He has an upcoming book of short stories entitled, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories.  His stories and poetry have appeared in Page and Spine, smokebox, Vita Brevis, Leaves of Ink, The Drabble, among others. His website is Crow On The Wire.

Unto the Plane Trees the Pure Ones Having Descended – a poem by Dave Shortt

Unto the Plane Trees the Pure Ones Having Descended

tired of blood & vine moods,
having planted trees which
became a protected place,
whose inedible fruits
are a neutrality

cars park under the boughs
as all motion stops but the transiting
of the sap

who or what asks
about transcendence
of the terror-filled stakes?
what if the dust-body needed to go back
to raw pearls & gemstones,
which by then had disappeared
into the ground like leaves?

when the wind dislodged a silent idea
which started walking out from the tool handles
to a place where it could bask
in the indigent moonlight
(where conifers were kindling vulcanism in their needles):
then a carnivore turns into a ruminant,
& an argument loudens
(layered with milk & wool)
in favor of the smoothest board

in the roots of the sky there lived
ones ingrained with something tree-like
growing downwards towards their feet:
what would the towns have to do with
their barely voiceable wooden hosannas,
their visions of forested deserts?

in a secluded spot
repeatedly cleared over generations,
a cross-cut saw is pinched in a fork of the breathing:
but in an attempt at freeing it,
the temperature of the faller’s brow freezes everything
except a memory of a tribe of simians,
their brutalities & mistakes, rainproof
under an endless forest canopy

on one of the trees,
a placard (hanging there
on nails humanizing the bark)
vulgarizes the mass of
its centuries-old Occitanian reverie:
people numb from
the immolation of each of their years
scan newspapers for snippets
of stories foreshadowing their reincarnations,
while historic headlines superpose
on signals to their feet
to stop their search

when she left it was as if to steal
& test fire, to find out
what it couldn’t burn,
trusting not even the veracity
of the sun’s warmth

once, an old carpenter from the village thought
he heard her in a dream speaking of
castles whose stones were alive

 

Dave Shortt  is a longtime writer (from the USA) whose work has appeared over the years in a number of print & electronic literary-type venues, including The Ekphrastic Review.  More of his poems can be found in recent or archived issues of Blaze Vox, Blackbox Manifold, Ygdrasil, Peculiar Mormyrid & the print anthology Emanations: Chorus Pleiades.    Another is scheduled to run later this year in Silver Pinion.

A Pantheist’s Hard Facts – a poem by Robert S. King

A Pantheist’s Hard Facts

The heart of a stone is not cold
unless the eye of the beholder ices over.
The nearest sun warms the rocks almost to glow.
Snow takes on the shape of a hard surface,
then melts into the liquid light
at the heart of the matter.

Stones are the bones of all worlds.
The smooth ones are eggs
whose secrets must be cracked
by the need to know all,
by the hunger that can never
know enough.

 

Robert S. King edits Good Works Review. His poems appear widely, including Chariton Review, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014) and Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014).

Is Nothing Sacred? – a poem by Stapleton Nash

Is Nothing Sacred?

There is, in a historical museum in Vancouver
(or was– they let these exhibits roam, nomad-style),
An earthenware bowl that dates,
We know with the help of dying carbon, and specialists
Who have spent the better parts of their primes
Painstakingly taxonomizing the patterning of pottery into epochs,
To something like six thousand years ago.

A friend of mine cried to behold it.
For her, it was more beautiful a relic
Than the bones of some beloved saint. It breathed,
She said, with the livelihoods of persons
We will never know the names of.
Like a baby that died in transit and was cast into the seas,
The skeleton remains are nudged by fish
Who can only guess at its origins.

That night I dreamt that I walked through the doors to the museum,
Entered the hall where the temporary exhibit was housed,
Broke the glass surrounding the bowl
And poured myself some Lucky Charms.
The curators tore at themselves in agony.
I had committed a sin beyond imagining–
An act worse than murder.
Blasphemy against history, an insult to all humanity.
I awoke, however, smiling,
Feeling my dream-self had done something of deep rightness,
Of immense dignity.

Curators might shudder even to consider it,
But the potter, if he could see it, would be satisfied.
After all, who puts their hands to clay, shapes a wide lip,
A deep basin, scratches in a pattern and fires it all, hoping
That it will go on to gather dust and be varnished
By our awed gazes, our respectful hush?
The maker of the bowl did not intend to illustrate a point
About the style of late Mesopotamian crockery.
A bowl does not want to be filled with history.
If the bowl itself could speak, would it not feel vindicated,
To know that it is still full of life,
Still full of meaning,
Still full of breakfast?

 

Stapleton Nash was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where she grew up swimming, beach-combing, and writing letters to imaginary mermaid friends. Since then, she has lived in Montreal, where she studied literature, and more recently has been teaching English to children just outside of Taipei. She has had poems published in NewMag and The Mark.

 

Unknown – a poem by Cortney Collins

Unknown

Your original wound is not what you think it is.

You’ve been carrying the wrong burden
although you’ve grown fond of what you carry.

What’s tender and aching
is in the nucleus of the universe,
a place stolen and sought out
at the same time.

The schism happened.

No one can say when, only that it did
and somewhere
at the bottom of that fault line
what you lost is healed every moment,
every gap of a second in the negative space
between words and light.

The deepest wound is the one
that was carried for you
on the shoulders of a continuum
from the condensed hydrogen of the Sun
to the soil underneath Jerusalem.

 

 

Cortney Collins is a poet whose work has been published by South Broadway Ghost Society and 24hr Neon Mag. She has poems forthcoming in the Devil’s Party Press anthology, What Sort of F@*#ery is This? She lives on the Eastern Plains of Colorado with her cat, Pablo.

No Thank You Necessary – a reflection by John Backman

No Thank You Necessary

It was black in my head. Not dark: I know dark from 40 years with it—the shadows at the corners of my eyes, the heaviness that weighs down every movement. No, this was black, as in immobilizing, as in my body on the futon could do nothing but breathe, shallowly.

At least the immobility kept me from the knives in the kitchen. But I still had to make it through. My mind cast about for anything that might feel not black. It settled on I’m alive. I expected no results and certainly no response.

The response came anyway. Alive is good.

Suddenly I had a handhold.

* * *

I take things to extremes. Everything is black or white, all or nothing. No wonder I became a teenage fundamentalist: it was a religion that looked like me.

So did my version of gratitude. Early on, like many children, I was taught to say thank you. To my literal mind, that meant gratitude wasn’t complete till the words thank you were said. After every Christmas I began my thank-you note to my godparents Dear Aunt Doris and Uncle Jack, Thank you very much. The very much had to be in there too or the thanking hadn’t really taken place.

None of this ever told me what thankfulness was. It was a recitation, a tic like the American custom where we go round the Thanksgiving table and mumble what we’re thankful for.

I think I was thankful for alive is good, but I never said the words.

* * *

Every day after meditation, I bow to three images on my wall. One is St. Thérèse, the nun from Normandy. She and I go way back. Her mental health was complicated, like mine. Her life left barely a trace, like mine, or it would have done except she wrote her life story and it became a treasure of Catholic mysticism. It’s not for everyone—the ardency of a young woman wildly in love with Jesus—but her words shimmered in my heart long after I read them.

These words, for example: “Jesus does not require great actions from us, but only surrender and gratitude.”

The first time I read this it stopped me cold. I’ve tried to live by it ever since, at least the surrender part. Surrender I get: God (I think it’s God, but who can tell?) has been nudging me off the conventional track for many years now and I’m like Thérèse, too much in love to resist.

Surrender I get. Gratitude is fuzzier.

* * *

Alive is good didn’t get me off the futon. But it did inch the process along. Something about the source of the words made a difference. The way I saw it—the way I knew it—they were not cognition. They were gift.

I’ve been getting these gifts since my fundamentalist days. The success of my business, which healed the very wounds of childhood that should have torpedoed it. The book about monks, pulled off the library shelf as an afterthought, that introduced me to God afresh.

Or the jewels of wisdom wrapped in the dark—in the decades of depression, the fiddling with pharmaceuticals, the wondering how I could get out of bed on any given day.

* * *

Dark is a lousy wrapper, and I had my chance to throw it away, at a healing service once. I could have asked for prayer to be cured of the dark. I could have walked over to the pastor and let him pray over me.

But I didn’t. I didn’t because I was a writer and the writing was gift—the most precious gift I’d ever received—and just maybe the writing and the mental illness were inseparable. I knew that much, or suspected it at least, and I couldn’t risk it.

I didn’t say thank you then either, not for the writing, not for the dark. I just claimed ownership: quietly picking them up, thinking this is mine, this is blessedly mine, and leaving the building.

* * *

This morning I sat in prayer with no energy, as usual, and energy came to me. A spark of response floated heavenward and that was as close to thank you as I needed to get.

Which makes me wonder about my very first response to alive is good: a tiny release, a small lifting of the blackness, a catch in the breath. I always thought of it as a glimmer of hope. Now I wonder if it was gratitude too.

I bet Thérèse would say so. “For me,” she wrote, “prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven.” If prayer is just a glance, gratitude could be too. No thank you necessary.

* * *

I know. You have to say thank you or the other person won’t feel thanked. It greases the wheels of friendship, makes everything move in sync. So we do our children a favor by teaching them please and thank you. All of that is true.

But there’s a difference between being true and being the whole truth. Saying thank you is not the sum total of gratitude any more than the real estate contract is the house. We need the words sometimes but they’re a pale imitation of the deepest thing.

My wife taught me this years ago. I’d given her an anniversary gift, knowing it was perfect for her. But she didn’t whoop with joy or smile or even say thank you, and my heart sank. It needn’t have. “When I am really happy,” she murmured, “I get really quiet.”

* * *

Maybe that’s the whole truth of it, or the deepest part anyway. Gratitude reflects the giver and receiver, as intimate as the first touch of foreplay. Maybe with Spirit it’s intimate to the point of wordless because Spirit is often wordless.

Jesus said something about wordless. When you pray or give to charity or fast for religious reasons, don’t make a big deal of it, he said. For heaven’s sake don’t broadcast it. With prayer, go in your room and shut the door and then start. Throughout that whole sermon, Jesus kept using one phrase to describe Spirit: “your Father who sees in secret.”

Secret. Intimate. Wordless. A simple glance toward Heaven. Gratitude goes from something you say to something you exude.

 

# # #
A writer, speaker, and spiritual director, John Backman writes about ancient spirituality and the unexpected ways it can affect postmodern life. This includes a book (Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart) and personal essays in such places as Tiferet Journal, Amethyst Review, and Belmont Story Review.

mentoring: the river – a poem by Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S.

mentoring: the river

as i listen
words like a river flow through us
long and thin like the rio grande
or long and wide like the mississippi
where breath’s secret hides its holy depth—
………………………….unknown and unmeasured . . .

sometimes the water stirs
………………………..lapping its banks with a quiet stutter . . .

………………………………..today    the river shimmers
……………………….with a brief knowing of itself

as i sit with you
i, too, must listen to my own flow, my own stutter
……………………….lapping the banks of my own breath’s secret and holy depth

 

 

Sister Lou Ella Hickman’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals as well as three anthologies. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017.  Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53)

Mr Cassian’s 54th Dream – a poem by Tim Miller

Mr Cassian’s 54th Dream

The sun is the sum of blackness and glass
when it sets to plough its face through the earth
down beyond the water and towards the core.
The sun is the sum of orange and of red
when it rises up from underground
polished and burnished by the ocean’s hiss.
There is an outer and an inner sun
a sun for countryside and for city,
for the melancholy, bare, and broken
for the growing, the green, the sumptuous.
There is a robin ring around the sun
a strawberry and lily and rose ring
a chrysalis ring, a spiraled shell,
an inkhorn and a black bird, a black bird
with a red spot of the sun on its wing.

 

Tim Miller’s “Mr Cassian” poems are from a collection of poetry and fiction called School of Night. Other pieces from the book have appeared/are forthcoming in Southword, Cutthroat, and Bold+Italic. He is online at wordandsilence.com.