Epiphany in January – a poem by M.J. Iuppa

Epiphany in January

Do not be enamored by blue skies and
fast-moving clouds, and sun glittering
on white-capped waves swelling over
the pier’s jutting stone.

…………………………..Nothing survives
its place—sand lies strewn upon wind-
licked grass— & tucked among ruffled
turf, dandelions lift  their heads to weather’s

warm confusion.

And, you are struck by
wonder, stepping into a natural scene that
has been going on without you for hours,
and you want to embrace this as if it were

only yours . . .

…………………………..Alas, alone—and
out of place— you see smoke, issuing
from a cabin’s chimney, inviting you
in to warm up by the fire.

…………………………..No one is there, except
a visitor’s ledger, asking you to sign in,
using its blue pen and the possibility of
holding this new year to a turned page.

 

M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017).For the past 31 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.

The Ghost, the Angel, and the Boundaries of Belief – a poem by Kim Peter Kovach

The Ghost, the Angel, and the Boundaries of Belief

A ghost lives in the gaps
left by shredded ligaments
in his separated shoulder.
He calls the final result
of the could’ve-been-fatal crash
“miraculous” and thanks gods

of a half-dozen religions, despite
self-definition as an agnostic.
No questioning the debt owed
to SWAT-team spirits as the car
rolled three times and landed
upside down. The top of the torn

left shoulder is where an angel
once landed after he prayed
(yes, prayed) for protection
of his most beloved, seven
and a half thousand miles
away. Could that guardian

have sensed sincerity, unlike
during his only other prayer –
to save his dying father –
when even his teenaged
self knew the cri de coeur
was opportunistic? Perhaps

he should unleash the shoulder-
ghost to crawl and spelunk
his neural pathways, probing
personal history, upending
rocks, to maybe, possibly,
find how to summon the angel

once more.

.

Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences with an emphasis on new play development and networking. He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, haibun, and microfiction, with work appearing or forthcoming in print and on-line in journals from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Ireland, Dubai (UAE), England, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and the USA, including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Elsewhere Lit, Frogpond, and Mudlark. @kimpeterkovac – www [dot] kimpeterkovac [dot] tumblr [dot] com

Shavasana – a poem by Susan Delaney Spear

Shavasana

Each on an adjacent plot,
our heads lie heavy. Arms and legs
splay wide and shoulders melt like butter.
We dismiss intrusive thoughts:
biopsies, broken shutters,
interest rates and aging eggs.

We die to each anxiety
and feel our hearts’ soft thrum.
We watch our bellies rise and fall
buoyed by breathing. Silently
we wiggle, roll our spines, sit tall,
reborn to life’s sure, holy hum.

.

Susan Delaney Spear is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Colorado Christian University where she serves as English Department Chair. She earned an MFA in Poetry with an Emphasis on Verse Forms from Western Colorado University in 2012. She is former Managing Editor of THINK, a journal of poetry, essays, and reviews.  Her collection, Beyond All Bearing, was published by Wipf and Stock. Her poems have appeared in The New Criterion, The Christian Century, Academic Questions, FirstThings, The Anglican Theological Review and other journals.

Hypothesis – a poem by Cameron Morse

Hypothesis

Half moon ensconced in the atmosphere in this shattered one instant of breathing.
Bygone now are the contrails that earlier this morning
latticed the azure horizon. I lament how few birds we have here
and a new bird drops onto the back patio—about the size
of a sparrow—a dark bird with white tailfeathers,
harbinger of my surprise
hypothetical golf ball
whereafter the CAT scan sees no trace of the tumescent rutabaga in my head,
the reason why my old neighbor and love
of my life gardened on her hands and knees in a football helmet,
miniature moons arcing above the green.

 

Cameron Morse lives with his wife Lili and son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Terminal Destination (Spartan Press, 2019).

Little Hands – a poem by Paul Williams

Little Hands
for my nephew

Curling round the Earth with gap toothed laughter
squeezing oceans into space
holding the rain with matchstick fingers

stones all once rejected
come alive in your little hands

little hands pray in church
stained glass cries echoing with the virgin

……………….…I walk amongst the tombstones

tiny palms on bleeding knuckles
mortality in your little hands

little hands scratch spotty faces
shadows of women
dance on the canvas
eye meets cheek in the living room

…………………I wipe my nose at sunrise
groggy head and swollen hands

 

Paul Williams is a poet and musician from Chester in England. He currently lives and works in Milton Keynes. His music can be found here: https://paulwilliams2.bandcamp.com/

Seek – a poem by Jeffrey Perkins

Seek

Do you see me search for you
in all the usual places?

Then catch you sudden
in the crowded car of the train.

You are never surprised and look back
with that wide smile.

Now
it seems you’ve gone
……..into a deeper hiding.

Perhaps these growing drums
have frightened you away.

Or maybe
you are leading me

………….into a darker corner
………….where it is harder
………….for me to see

so when I finally
find you,

I can see you shine
even more bright
into my eyes.

 

Jeffrey Perkins received his MFA from Bennington College and his poems have been published in Memorious, The Massachusetts Review, The Southampton Review, The Cortland Review, Mid-American Review, and The Adroit Journal, among other journals. His first book of poems, Kingdom, is due out in Spring 2020 from Spork Books. He was a 2019 Artist-in-Residence at the Watermill Center and lives in Los Angeles, California, USA. You can find him online at https://thekingdompoems.com/

Lateral Waters – a poem by Caroline Streff and Ray Ball

Lateral Waters

The Dominicans’ library is frigid. I’m the only student not shivering, the hairs on my arms standing up ecstatically to greet the currents of false wind from the air conditioner. The two librarians—parish grand-dames—who occupy the desk eye me curiously, confused perhaps that I would linger after my companion was ejected for wearing shorts deemed too short for piety. My backpack is penned up behind the desk, its greedy mouth zipped shut to prevent it from gobbling up precious texts. Three days earlier, I had discovered this place quite by accident, crouching over an offering of doves and squash left at the cathedral’s doors. Our Lady of Regla and Yamaya, joint patronesses of ocean currents, brushed shoulders in the vaulted space above the altar, so it seemed only right that I go in to see what other syncretic crossroads were inside. And I found Guillén, Loynaz, and other revolutionaries dancing a celebratory troika in the corridor to the watery courtyard. And I have returned each day since. The ancient computer in front of me hums as it retrieves friendly titles. Its yellowed tower wavers with the tread of data bytes up its narrow staircase of circuits. After three hours of careful transcription and translation, I beg the librarians to save my books and walk out into the courtyard, overlooking the garden I never feel permission to linger in. The shadow of a cleric in a grey robe passes from the corner of my eye and into the past. It has rained since I disappeared. I ignore the covered walkway, instead dragging my feet to slow my progress down the stairs, into the brief well of tropical plants.

Fronds softened by rain
Frutabomba glisten
Tithes of bright yellow

I am back to my apartment within minutes. A plate of sliced mango arrives in my hand. I sip cold water through a purifying straw. Later, the sky splits its belly. The woman carrying her bucket of cleaning supplies vanishes from the street like foam off flattened beer. On the balconies, children arrive and multiply like tadpoles. I reach out my hand to be integrated into the curtain of water. Behind me, the power goes out. A young man in the adjoining balcony asks my nationality. “American,” I reply, before saying, haltingly, I look over again, but he has already gone back inside. My hand, moisturized by humidity after the northern desert winters, glows under a flash of lightning.

…………………………………………………………………………The yeasting island
…………………………………………………………………………Softening my rind of scales.
…………………………………………………………………………I emerge in ripples.

 

 

Caroline Streff is a recent graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage. She has been pursuing poetry in earnest for the past year and a half, investigating themes of family, ecology, and space. Her work has recently appeared in Alaska Women Speak, Anchorage Press, and Human/Kind Journal. She has been nominated for Best of the Net.

Ray Ball grew up in a house full of snakes. She is a history professor and an editor at Alaska Women Speak. Her chapbook Tithe of Salt came out with Louisiana Literature Press in the spring of 2019, and she has received nominations for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Ray has recent publications in descant, Gingerbread House, and Psaltery & Lyre. You can find her in the classroom, in the archives, or on Twitter @ProfessorBall.

Entering Winter with a Line from Gwendolyn Brooks – a poem by D. R. James

Entering Winter with a Line
from Gwendolyn Brooks

Horizon’s burst-smear of pink nonchalance
forgets We are things of dry hours and the
involuntary plan.
In winter’s vise
I’ll wrestle— flail! —stampedes of elegies,
pendulums of memory, sidestepping
swathes of snow-fall brindled with late oak leaves’
yieldings: autumn’s ceding. But from this blunt
and silhouetted terrain, ranging out
tactically, cautious in my happenstance,
I will still delight—plod, but still ignite.

.

D. R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for 36 years and lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres) and Surreal Expulsion (Poetry Box), and a new chapbook, Flip Requiem, will release in March 2020 (Dos Madres). https://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim – review by Sarah Law

 

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete, www.GrayRising.com
Review by Sarah Law

I enjoyed reading and reflecting on this collection by Tim Bete, poet and editor of the Catholic Poetry Room. Bete’s poetry is accessible and in the main quite simply written, which suits its thematic focus of outward pilgrimage and inner reflection. He writes from a Roman Catholic perspective, so a reader should expect meditations on Catholic Christian themes and symbols. These include poetry about the crucifixes present, as they generally are, in the rooms of Catholic homes (‘The Overseer’), but also the beauty and mystery of European shrines and relics, and of Catholic rituals, often place-specific and/or specific to times of the liturgical year. In addition to this, we also gain some insights into Bete’s life, and his innately observant and questioning poetic mind.

The collection is structured in the overarching stages of a pilgrimage – ‘Departures’, ‘Journeys’, ‘Sojourns’ and ‘Returns’. ‘Journeys’ is the major section and contains poems inspired by pilgrimages to major shrines of Marian apparitions, such as Fatima and Lourdes, as well as places associated with Catholic saints and religious celebrations. Fatima leaves a brief, poignant impression with its ‘oak and olive branches// piercing the haze’, while Lourdes, a site of major pilgrimage especially for those sick and hoping for miraculous cures, is evoked as a site of hope enduring in extremis. ‘At the Baths’ (at Lourdes, the sick bathe in water from a miraculous spring) poignantly describes one woman – ‘hallowed, hollowed’ – longing for healing. For spectacle, however, we can turn to ‘Good Friday in Salamanca’ where the sensory experience of penitents marching the streets with candles and statues is richly described. Bete adds a striking simile, raising the poem above the merely evocative: Their faith grips God/ like their naked feet// on the cold stone and mortar…’ This image makes the visceral experience of the penitents much more real.

Perhaps my favourite poems reflect on two well-known saints; Saint Teresa of Avila, evoked in ‘Avila’ with the resonant: ‘Behind the cloister walls/ she cups fresh silence/ in her wrinkled hands/ and drinks’. Saint Teresa reformed the contemplative Carmelite order, so the metaphor of silence is powerfully used here. And in ‘Lost Things’, St Anthony of Lisbon, commonly considered somewhat trivially as the patron saint of lost things is instead presented as ‘the patron saint/ of brutal honesty.’

Bete’s poetic eye delights in nature too, and in ‘Mary’s River’ he comments ‘Rivers have always been cathedrals/ for me’. There is a lovely simile in ‘the rhythm of fisherman and fly rod// mimicking priest and thurible,//clouds of gnats like incense billowing/ over the water.’ The language of liturgy and nature are overlaid and invite us to look at each again. I also very much like the wealth of carefully observed detail in poems such as ‘The Church’ (from ‘Sojourns’); its materiality (‘The bondstone, the bed joints, the mortar/ the granite, the weep holes, the stretcher…’) makes its spiritual realities all the more present – even the Irish mason eating his lunch on the scaffolding, ‘legs dangling in the air’ is somehow perfectly placed.

There is a wealth of scene and story, therefore, in Wanderings, but Bete also reminds us that the real point of pilgrimage is spiritual. Spiritual life often involves paradoxes, so it is no surprise that breakthroughs can come from exhaustion rather than vision: ‘my fatigue/ causes me to rest in prayer’ (‘Abrading Grace’) or from the realisation that ultimately God does not need to be ‘found’, being ‘already there’ (‘Pilgrim’s End’) and, rather than absent, ‘too close to see’ (‘Consolation’). Because of the sometimes illogical nature of such revelations, poetry is indeed a suitable medium, able to offer intense, timeless glimpses amid our daily busyness, similar to the ‘delicate balance/ between breath and beyond’, as Bete describes the stillness before ‘First Snow.’ The same delicate balance is found in many places in the collection, dappling it with poetic graces.

Sarah Law