Jazz Is – a poem by Janet Krauss

Jazz Is
For my brother Nat, 1925-2017

“Jazz is…” I heard your recorded voice
on the airwaves last night.
In a short, deep breath I caught
it steady and smooth as a gull passing
by my window, or a slow wave
coming in to shore. I heard it rising
like a mast after I told you good news.
I heard it bracing as the winter air
when long ago you looked up
and explained, “The bare tree is not ugly.
Its limbs dance with the wind,
stand strong alone against the sky.”

I heard your voice stretch out
like Tibetan prayer flags hung
high across a rooftop, their colors
holding fast when you said,
“I love you very much,”
the last time we were together
before you could no longer speak.

 .

Janet Krauss, who has two books of poetry published, “Borrowed Scenery,” Yuganta Press, and “Through the Trees of Autumn,” Spartina Press, has recently retired from teaching English at Fairfield University. Her mission is to help and guide Bridgeport’s  young children through her teaching creative writing, leading book clubs and reading to and engaging a kindergarten class. As a poet, she co-directs the poetry program of the Black Rock Art Guild.

art of enlightenment – a poem by Wayne-Daniel Berard

art of enlightenment

We walked to the
pond and the island
the day dad died
I said “I think I’ve
found the meaning
of life — Art. Merton
says it enables us
to find ourselves
and lose ourselves
at the same time. I’m
writing my best poetry
right now.” You motioned
toward the pizza box the
chipotle bag the bud cans
scattered beyond the over
flowing bin. “You get
those over there,” you
said. “I’ll start here.”

 

Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, teaches Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His novella, Everything We Want, was published in 2018 by Bloodstone Press. A poetry collection, The Realm of Blessing, will be published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press.

Review: If Mother Braids a Waterfall by Dayna Patterson

Salt and Song: If Mother Braids a Waterfall by Dayna Patterson, Signature Books 138pp

Review by Sarah Law

This beautifully written collection is equally beautifully structured and presented, as voices and time periods are carefully overlaid to evoke and explore the profound contradictions of female experience in the Mormon tradition. Poet Dayna Patterson traces her own lineage through more than a century of ancestors, and while both male and female figures are vividly sketched, it is the role of women that is highlighted – and interrogated – the most; these female voices create the braided reams of water, language and light making up this collection’s essential energy. ‘Dear Ancestress, Matriarch/ Root: I want to taste your song, hear your salt,’ declares the poet (‘Dear Ellen, 1863’). Fine historical photographs and a helpful family tree will help the reader feel at home too with a  complex weave of character and narrative.

The book is loosely divided into sections, each of which begins with a particularly strong piece, a prose poem or lyric essay, engaging or disengaging with Mormonism – the overarching historical, cultural and religious framework which informs the work. I was won over by the very first of these: ‘The Mormons are Coming’ is a piece crackling with imagery and imaginative tensions and the autobiographical threads which also play an important part in subsequent unravelling narratives. Narratives, rather than narrative, not least because plurality and multiplicity are essential to the Mormon past traditions of polygamy.

The outer and inner lives of Mormon women equally fascinate in these poems. In one, Patterson asks her grandfather about his experience of having three wives: ‘Was it like trying to read three books at once/ shelving and reshelving/ the plots entangling?’ (‘Dear Charles’). There is humour in this poem, and a hint that polygamy may have its advantages for women as well as its obvious downsides. Patterson’s metaphor of entangled plots doesn’t detract from the poem’s acknowledgement of the youth of these teenage brides and the ‘hierarchy of heartache’ that will inevitably set in. Each wife has her own formidable qualities, and a necessary will to survive.

The survival instinct of the wives, of Patterson’s mother in particular, is passed on to the speaker herself, a ‘grandgirl clacking her claws’. (‘Dear Grandpa’). Childhood experiences of growing up Mormon provide some resonant vignettes: daunting responsibilities such as door-to-door evangelising are re-cast through childhood eyes as the visiting of harmless dollhouses in the soft blurring of snowfall (‘Missionary Work in Kanata, Canada’). This poem is poignantly followed by ‘Proselytizing by a Marian shrine in Quebec’, where we meet, by contrast, a Catholic flourish of femininity. The encounter leaves an impression: ‘In my mind/ a feminine goddess, throneless/ wanders.’

Patterson’s attention to language equals her attention to narrative fragment, and I particularly liked the way familiar imagery is subverted, re-purposed: ‘Apples’ is a sharply-sweet lyrical piece of juxtaposed sections, using the fruit, ‘Eve’s calling card’ to mark the painful stages of a woman’s life. ‘I can’t wrap my hands around this dolor – white/ weight, skin smooth, cold core. Blood and sweet.’ (‘Apples’). Apples are not the only figure of speech to receive a visceral re-imagining. The collection’s second section opens with the prose-poem ‘Post-Mormons are Leaving’ and describes them bearing family trees ‘on their shoulders, the weight of generations, roots raking the earth.’

This stand-out piece explores the differences between being ‘ex’ and being ‘post’ a heritage, a belief system, a way of life. To be ‘Post-Mormon’, Patterson suggests, is to acknowledge your roots, to mourn and move forward rather than simply discard. There are further wonderful poetic metaphors throughout this poem to tease out the concept, with sounds and syllables called into performative service: ‘Post-Mormons are leaving the harsh x (like hex) of the Ex-Mormons and gathering their sorrow into the O of Post.’ In ‘Ring Tricks’ comes another beautiful Post-Mormon statement: ‘Our orthodoxy/ changed, etched over, effaced// by our palimpsestual selves.’ I loved the neologism ‘palimpsestual’, suggesting a plurality of textual, not just sexual, transactions.

Patterson’s Post-Mormon perspective has not effaced her sense of the Divine completely; merely changed it – in some ways reversed it – from the patriarchal reverence that all too often dominates religious systems. Instead, her ideal deities are childlike and celebratory, ‘the smiling kind, the rolling laughter, the squeal and clap after candles/ blow themselves out,/ cheering for our little light.’ (‘I Could Never Be a Jehovah’s Witness’). With this perspective, entering your sleeping child’s bedroom becomes a visit to a hallowed place, a nightly act of ritual in a ‘quiet sanctuary’ (‘Moses Removed His Shoes’). Post-Mormon spirituality also allows for a wide-ranging catechistic celebration of various faiths and spiritual figures, a wonder-filled plurality (‘Former Mormons Catechise Their Kids’). Then again, there is the intensely practical but also deeply symbolic shedding of Temple garments, the all-protective Mormon underwear, eventually discarded ‘like the carcasses of doves’ (‘The Disposal of Mormon Underwear’), leaving the non-wearer experiencing both freedom and vulnerabilities hitherto unknown.

Interwoven with these Post-Mormon observations are poetic reflections on personal relationships, including love and marriage, and how they bring a unique joy. Surprisingly, one of the best love-poems in this collection (‘Pon Farr’) draws its language from Star Trek mythology, later matched by the wonderful ‘Study for Belief with lines from Star Trek: the Original Series’. Perhaps the juxtaposition of sci-fi, faith and poetry should have seemed odd, but to me (a fellow – should that be sister – Trekkie), it felt instead quite delightful.

Patterson’s experience of her mother’s own earlier sexual rebellion (read the book to find out more) prompts an open-minded, daring revision of scriptural certainties, a ‘queering’ of gospel narratives that juggles risks and insights in ingenious poetry such as ‘Vestigial’ and ‘Our Lord Jesus in Drag’. Nothing is sacred, finally, in the traditional sense, perhaps, but in a wider, poetic sense, shot through with grace, everything is. The collection ends with the glorious ‘Still Mormon’: in this superb list -poem of imaginative similes, there is even an echo of the previous Trek-based poems: ‘The way a tethered astronaut turns to face the deep black of space while loving the sun on her back…’

To conclude: I thoroughly recommend basking in this unique collection – it will leave you vertiginous with Patterson’s poetic talent, and deeply engaged as a reader.

 

 

Lazarus – a poem by Adam Lee

Lazarus

“Why, without pity on these studious ghosts,
do you come dripping in your hair from sleep?” – Wallace Stevens

Whenever you come back – wet and streaming
so that I always wonder where it is you’ve been,
I can’t work out whether it’s that I’m dreaming
or you’ve found a return path from the unseen.

Whichever it is, it only exists between REM sleep
and returning to the inextricable abyss of waking.
Whenever I’m pulled or extracted from that deep,
I’m back in a protracted abyss of my own making.

Where you only live on because “energy isn’t lost”,
as if consolation could come from that futile ghost.

.

Adam Lee lives and works as a bid writer in Manchester. Over the years he has studied 18th c. English Literature, Psychology and History. His poetry is largely concerned with time, death, loss, resurrection and renewal.

Don’t Forget Why You Came – a poem by Thomas R. Smith

Don’t Forget Why You Came

We know we’re in deep, sweet summer
when thoughts of its end come to hand.
The first corn for sale appears at
the roadside stand, fresh-picked ears heavy
in their moist leaves. In ditches, galaxies
of Queen Anne’s Lace newly spin,
fields so radiant you’d think the sun was
green. Above it all, vast white billows
froth the sky’s sea. The earth’s expansive,
far away from winter. How often I’ve
avoided grief by not admitting to
myself some ending. July is half-gone,
yet completely present. Just set aside all
thoughts of not being here. We weren’t born
to remain in the shadows of absence
and loss, but to carry our light, this one
light as far as we can into our days.

 

Thomas R. Smith lives in Wisconsin, USA, and have seven published collections so far, and was included in Diamond Cutters, edited by Jay Ramsay and Andrew Harvey. He has also edited several books, most recently Airmail, the correspondence of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer, published in the UK by Bloodaxe. Windy Day at Kabekona: New and Selected Prose Poems was published in 2018. His first prose book, Poetry on the Side of Nature: Writing the Nature Poem as an Act of Survival, is forthcoming from Folded Word Press in 2020.

E.’s Portrait – a poem by Judy DeCroce and Antoni Ooto

E.’s Portrait

Easeled for all to admire
(we all knew what it meant)

in that frame she sat looking at a point
neither happy nor sad

who was this woman so still—
she could be anyone

yet E is still here and sits
in her corner overlooking Corbett’s Glen

everything distilled to the same measure—
names, connections,

unconditional care without an answering smile
family could arrange and speak to her but

her eyes hold a final gaze, a change of focus—
wishful

as if she needed a place
to reach before nightfall.

.

Writers, storyteller and educator Judy DeCroce, and poet/artist Antoni Ooto are based in Upstate New York.
Married and sharing a love of poetry, these two creative souls gather inspiration during their morning poetry sessions.  Over a pot of coffee, they listen, critique, and revise their work.
 
Judy DeCroce, has been  published in PilCrow & Dagger, Red Eft Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, The BeZine, as well as Palettes & Quills.
 
Antoni Ooto has been published in The Red Eft Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Young Ravens Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, The BeZine and both have been published in many other journals.
They are collaborating on an upcoming book.

Reclamation – a poem by Barbara Leonhard

Reclamation

A stretch of river he paddles
smothers from impenetrable vines
spiky buds of the invasive hops stare
from the brisling mats of leaves
hungry alien intruders
ravage, over run
steal sun, suffocate, shroud
saplings and wildflowers
with dense tangles. Turbulent

flood waters thrust
into the dense plumage
with violent twists, wrench
the miscreant from the banks
there lays bare a pristine meadow
disrobed of a weighted corset
she gasps
catches her breath
from shock of sun
sparkles in her wet dirt, saplings emerge
with curious caution
dance with daisy fleabane,
ragwort, lush grass
depleted deer tread lightly
on her floral spring frock.

.

Barbara Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver.  Her podcast Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul explores universal themes such as Grief, Kindness, and Presence. She taught writing for many years at the University of Missouri and is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing. She is also a regular contributor to Free Verse Revolution, Phoebe, MD:Medicine + Poetry , and Go Dog Go Café.

Poetry Blog: extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog
Poetry Podcastmeelosmom.podbean.com

What’s Requisite – a poem by Michael Seeger

What’s Requisite

What’s requisite
is water

and some shade
moving to

a time as slow
as roots

along a stream
where trout

swim slowly
in a dream

of knowing
not caught

but foreseen.

.

Michael Seeger lives with his lovely wife, Catherine, and still-precocious 16 year-old daughter, Jenetta, in a house with a magnificent Maine Coon (Jill) and two high-spirited Chihuahuas (Coco and Blue). He is an educator (like his wife) residing in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, California. Some of his poems have appeared recently either published or included in print anthologies like the Lummox Press, Better Than Starbucks, and The Literary Hatchet.

Attend, attend – a poem by Jonathan Evens

Attend, attend

Attend, attend, pay attention, contemplate.
Open eyes of faith to days, minutes,
moments of miracle and marvel; there is wildness
and wonder wherever you go, present
in moments that never repeat, running free,
never coming again. Savour, savour the present –
small things, dull moments, dry prayers –
sacraments of presence, sense of wonder,
daily divine depth in the here and now.
There’s only here, there’s only now,
these are the days, this is the fiery vision,
awe and wildness, miracle and flame. Take off
your shoes, stand in the holy fire; sacrament
of the burning, always consumed, never repeating
present moment, knowing the time is now.

.

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/

Lead, Lights – a poem by Skip Renker

Lead, Lights

Heading home, I rode my bicycle along
one of the fields of childhood at dusk,
gazing over fenced-in, knee-high wheat
at the lights of the Benson farm, and felt

something like a hidden immensity
rise within and beyond myself, at once
both yearning and fulfillment. Now
I wonder if such visitations

are only limited neuronal
explosions, fully measurable,
entirely explainable,
just the brain’s occasional

beautiful fireworks, streamers
of colored lights doomed
to fade to black. But here’s
a star on the wooded horizon,

and another, and my wheeling
heart persists, as if light from
a distant house, any
bright star slowly rising
might still lead it home.

.

F.W. “Skip” Renker has recent poems in Presence, Leaping Clear, and The Awakenings Review.  His poems have appeared in numerous journals as well as the Atlanta Review, Poetry Midwest, and Passages North anthologies, and he has a Pushcart Nomination.  His books are Birds of Passage (Delta Press), Sifting the Visible (Mayapple Press), and Bearing the Cast (St. Julian Press).  He lives with his wife Julia Fogarty in the beautiful lakefront town of Petoskey, MI.