Wandering in Search of Truth – a poem by Phil Goldstein

Wandering in Search of Truth

I stand before You,
Your word, Your Truth, Your people,
as a boy about to become a man,
who had stopped being a boy years before.

If that sacred space were empty
would I even be able to empty myself before You?
To stop pretending I am pure, like milk, like honey?

I want to scream out across
the generations who venerated You, who praised You,
and ask You why.

Why did You allow this to happen?
Why did You allow Your creation to be defiled?
If You are just and merciful and Your love is everlasting,
how could You allow such evil to take root in Your garden?
How could You concern Yourself with the affairs of others
while I suffered, all the while working to
earn Your favor as a man
of the covenant?

Where were Your flashes of lightning and peals of thunder
to strike him down and set me free?
Where was Your parting of the sea
while I was being torn apart?
Where were Your plagues when I needed them,
to take the first-born son so he could no longer hurt me?

Like so many others I was condemned to wander the desert.

Who are You to me — then, now and always?
I do not know. All I know is the taste of sand.


Phil Goldstein is a journalist and writer who has been living in the Washington, D.C, area for more than a decade. His poetry has been published in the journals In Parentheses and The Ideate Review, and his work is also forthcoming in Awakened Voices. By day, he works as a senior editor for Manifest, a content marketing agency.

The Word – a poem by Mary Kipps

The Word

In this time,
when so much has been silenced,
I will speak this word.

I will make it the heroine
of the stories I tell my daughter,
so she too
can carry it with her.

I will weave it into all that I remember
and which she has never known:
the carefree play of children,
the cook-stove smell of roasting meat,
and moonlight on bloodless snow.

I will call on it for the return
of husbands and sons, fathers and brothers;
for the reuniting
of sisters and friends.

I will wield it against this ebb of sense
and civility, and I will have faith
that it will not abandon us.


Mary Kipps is a US writer whose poetry has appeared in literary journals and anthologies around the world since 2005. She is also the author of three Kindle eBooks: All in Vein, A Sucker for Heels, and Bitten: A Practical Guide to Dating a Vampire.

When Windows Are Not Windows – an essay by John Backman

When Windows Are Not Windows

Everything in my recent life comes down to three windows. I’m looking through one right now, on the opposite wall of the room I rarely leave. Outside are two stout limbs of an old maple, the kind that used to line our street in upstate New York. I rarely leave because 1,600 years ago some desert sage told a disciple to “go, sit in your room, and your room will teach you everything.” Spirit nudged me to follow this advice. So I sit here and Spirit comes to visit and the morning sky shades from deep blue to sky blue or more often gray. And you get essays like this to read.

The room holds a lot of silence. Sometimes Spirit and I just gaze at each other. At least I think Spirit’s gazing: a warmth just behind my solar plexus serves as evidence. Sometimes I do zazen, the Zen practice of sitting and non-thinking and gazing into emptiness. Mostly I write essays like this and people read them. Other things happen in this room too—TV at night, chats with my wife (yes, some hermits have spouses). At some point in each activity, I look through the window: full moon against black, silver sky with orange wash, the views haikus are made of.

* * *

Julian of Norwich spent most of her life in one room. She too had three windows: one to see the altar in the adjoining church, one to pass necessaries back and forth (food, chamber pot), one to give people advice and counsel. She lived in her room, and her room taught her everything, and she gave it all away.

My friend Stephen got me reacquainted with Julian. This was four years ago, before “go, sit in your room” applied to me, when my window was just a window with a lovely view. Stephen and I were studying to become spiritual directors, people who help other people figure out where Spirit is in their lives. During one class he described Julian’s life and her one room and her three windows and I could feel that familiar nudge from Spirit that said, Pay attention. This is for you.

* * *
The second window, from fifteen years ago, was also for me, though I didn’t really know it at the time. It looked through the wall of a monastery chapel onto the South African veldt. I could see a long, low hill near the horizon line, mostly bare, a spindly tree on each side. In the chapel, the monks chanted the cycle of psalms and sacred texts that make up their life of prayer. As I listened, the chanting, the view, Spirit, and the monks converged. By itself the window wouldn’t have changed my life—wouldn’t have led to my current window—but the convergence did.

I wonder if the window was more of a touchstone, a place to bring the experiences of our three weeks in South Africa. The Sunday School students, a dozen silent teens wanting to hear about America. My yearning, and my failure, to connect with them. The Xhosa woman from Cradock township who had a crazy-making teen daughter, as we did, parents half a world apart with the same aggravation. The monkeys on the roadside and the shacks with tin roofs and the sheet-metal sculptures for sale at rural intersections. The very last morning when I rushed out of the chapel round the back and burst into tears. The half-conscious sense, on the ten-hour drive back to Johannesburg and the airport, that Spirit was about to shove everything aside—my business success, my rising income, my place in the community—and fill the void with Spirit’s Own Self.

* * *
I don’t know what Spirit had to shove aside with Julian, but her watershed took a harder road: seven days in bed, so near death her eyes fixed in a glassy stare and a priest gave her Last Rites. She didn’t fear death—it would bring her straight to God, after all—and the only reason to keep on living was to learn to love God better. God apparently had different ideas: the illness suddenly gave way to fifteen visions in two days. Julian spent decades reflecting on them, and we got a book for the ages to read.

* * *
I look through the third window and a person looks back at me. I have been her spiritual director for years now, sniffing around for where Spirit might be lurking in her life. I know this has changed her, focused her, forced her latent talents into resplendent blossom. You might dismiss this window since it sits on my lap, but it is no less a window. It may be more window: not just onto—onto a tree, a hill, a veldt—but into.

Julian had an into window as well. Margery Kempe, tradesperson and mother of fourteen, came to the window to pour out her soul and her visions and ask if they came from God. Julian was all comfort and confirmation—thanking God “with all her heart for his visitation” to Margery, advising her to “fulfil with all her might whatever he put into her soul.” I can almost feel Julian’s heart swell, as mine does when a face appears at my window and peers at me, or maybe through me to their own deep selves.

* * *
Julian has been gone six hundred years. We still don’t know her real name: she’s always been known by the church where she lived (St. Julian) and the town around it (Norwich). After all the good that passed through them, her windows are now just windows.

Before too long I will follow her. Someone will buy my house and discard my laptop and my windows will also lose their significance. Both of us will have disappeared with hardly a trace.

Unless I have misunderstood windows from the beginning.

Thomas Merton, famous monk, once wrote that the Virgin Mary was “as pure as the glass of a very clean window that has no other function than to admit the light of the sun.” If Mary was a window, perhaps we all are, or strive to be, with no other function than to let Spirit pass through.

Windows may be windows but we are something more.

And maybe that never ends. John of the Cross, famous mystic, spoke of the dark night of the soul—a condition where the light of Spirit is so close and so bright it looks like darkness to us. I have seen these dark nights and will likely see more. Maybe they’re preparing me for that final day, when I become a window that darkness passes through.

# # #

A spiritual director, nonbinary person, and quasi-hermit, John Backman writes about ancient spirituality and the unexpected ways it collides with 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 Tiferet Journal, Amethyst Review, Evolve, Sufi Journal, The Sunlight Press, and Belmont Story Review, among other places.

The Bellows – a poem by John Steele 

The Bellows

The bellows breath ignites a fire.
Flames purge your nostrils, gut, and brain,
rouse the serpent from its slumber,
coiled up in your sacral cave.

Cross-legged, your head bowed
to face your heart, breathe in
to lift your chest up toward your chin.
Exhale, inhale through your nose,

pump your gut to blast air out—
in-out, in-out, in-out…
Then with a sharp in-breath,
suck your belly in and hold…

Work the bellows till the embers glow.
Breath by breath, surrender to the flow.


John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Ernest Hilbert and David Rothman. John lives in Boulder, Colorado and loves hiking in the mountains.

An Illusion in The Bright Mirror of Eternity – a poem by Hongri Yuan

An Illusion in The Bright Mirror of Eternity

Translated by Yuanbing Zhang

Every day is an illusion in the bright mirror of eternity.
You see yourself from a teenager to an old man with gray hair,
as if you are a role in a play.
And the peace of mind makes you smell the fragrance of flowers from the Heavens.
You recall yourself in outer space with a smile–
that golden giant and fragrant light;
the huge number of palaces look lofty, resplendent and majestic,
they rise and fall, like a sea of gold.
Billions of years are like the drops of nectar
crystal clear, sprinkle the music of intoxicated soul.



那黄金的巨人 芳香的光芒
晶莹剔透 洒下醉了灵魂的乐曲



Hongri Yuan (b. 1962) is a Chinese mystic poet and philosopher. His poetry has been widely published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria. He has authored a number books including Platinum City, The City of Gold, Golden Paradise, Gold Sun and Golden Giant.

Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), who is a Chinese poet and translator, works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District , Jining City, Shandong Province, China. He can be contacted through his email- 3112362909@qq.com.

It Was the Bird That Drew My Eye – a poem by Ann Weil

It Was the Bird That Drew My Eye

It was the bird that drew my eye
to the vine-framed window
that was, all on its own,
a thing of simplest beauty.
Its bare, crisscrossed twigs
seemed placed by an artist’s hand,
delicately, but with great purpose.
A closer look revealed crimson berries
and just two determined leaves,
hearty holdouts,
twirling, dancing in the wind.
To that sweet bird I am indebted.
Beauty seen, if only we look.


Ann Weil is a former teacher and professor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her work can be read or is forthcoming in Poetry Quarterly, Nine Muses Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, Headline Poetry and Press, Young Ravens Literary Review, American Writer’s Review, The Voices Project, and Clementine Unbound. Her website is www.annweilpoetry.com.

Umbrella – a poem by Jane Angué


In heavying drizzle
you accepted my umbrella.
Your hand did not touch mine
drawing me back
from another brink,
uncovering words
long buried.

Weeping curls
licked my face.
Crushed juniper berries
in my hand,
measuring your silence,
distance paced in misted space
of maples dripping by the track,

cold wires tickled
down my back.
You, looking for light
along that thyme-lined path,
I, hearing you move on within,
without me, just a shadow
accompanying this quiet rain.


Jane Angué teaches English Language and Literature in France. Writing in French and English, work has appeared most recently in Le Capital des Mots, Amethyst, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Acumen and Poésie/première. A pamphlet, des fleurs pour Bach, was published in 2019 (Editions Encres Vives).

Cushions – a poem by Stephen Kingsnorth


Scattered comfort
circulates about the
furnishing pressure points;
pins and needles kept in place,
the pain is lessened,
ready cartilage.

Though nap in Galilean boat
arouses fear for lack of care,
why speak of props,
why mention bolsters
unless were there,
bulwark to suffer, without buffer,
stern rebuke from stern?

Plumped to prop, flexible,
the cushion takes the body shape.

Is comfort too readily available
corporate or corporeal?


Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some twenty on-line poetry sites, including Amethyst Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines, Vita Brevis Anthology ‘Pain & Renewal’ & Fly on the Wall Press ‘Identity’.  https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

Saint Clare of Assisi: At the Beginning of My New Life – a poem by Lisa Zimmerman

Saint Clare of Assisi: At the Beginning of My New Life

I first saw Francis preaching in San Giorgio.
Most people, even my pious mother,
thought he was mad, perhaps from the hard year
in prison during the war—the stone bed, stale crust of each day—
and the illness that followed. Oh, and all that followed—

He was beautiful when the Gospel tenderly set its talons
upon him. When he spoke I saw tears drop onto his tunic,
small moons of grief and bliss—that he had only this
thin body to offer, this frail and furious life.

But it was a kind of singing, the words of Christ
rising out of his throat, and I felt wings
of a giant bird or angel beat in my breast.
I was so afraid the joy would tear my soul
from my body, I could only beg our Lord
for time to be His servant here first.

I said no to the world that day and yes
to the world inside and yes
to the promised one, beyond.


Lisa Zimmerman’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Florida Review, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, Trampset, Amethyst Review, SWWIM Every Day and other journals. Her first book won the Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award. Other collections include The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press) and The Hours I Keep (Main Street Rag).

are/are not – a poem by Jonathan Evens

are/are not

We hear you
do not.
We are with you
are not.
Through whom,
with whom
and in whom,
we are – what?
We are one
with what
we are

No voice is audible,
yet we hear.
No hand touches ours,
yet we feel.
No eye has seen the glory,
yet we kneel.
What you are,
who you are
is and
is not

not knowing.
and out
of touch.
Out of mind
Out of sight

We are
in relation
to much
that is excess –
and expectation –


Jonathan Evens is Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Through HeartEdge, a network of churches, he encourages congregations to engage with culture, compassion and commerce. He writes on the Arts for a range of publications including Artlyst, ArtWay and Church Times. He is co-author of ‘The Secret Chord,’ an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief. He blogs at Between: https://joninbetween.blogspot.com/