(Out)look – a poem by M.J. Iuppa

(Out)look

How do beads of rain
stick to windows?

Each droplet contains eyes
Looking inside of this

room’s confinement.

Outside— spring isn’t
hard to distinguish.

Red-wing blackbirds
bath in a pool of light.

Inside— silence
hums hypnotic.

.

 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.

HereAfter – a poem by Hamayle Saeed

HereAfter

Fissure in the sky and minarets plummet –
Rocket-esque seeds of the Lord’s famed mercy upon us.
‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
Subsistence lands lay before me, studded and
sprouting – the wheat cracked in wait.
A mirage glistening in a flooded field.
It’s not a desert but – still an illusion.
At times there are torrential rains and
monsoons to write exotic novels about,
Other times the seasons dry out even
the cacti. Pray, the farmers say.
Pray for a Bountiful harvest
And a Joyous Hereafter.
If you’ll fix the Here,
You’ll have an After.
The seasons come and go as they please,
Sacred machinations interlacing invisible
Heavens and Hells far, far above us.

.

Hamayle Saeed is an accidental wielder of the stethoscope with a deliberate interest in poetry. Her work has previously appeared in Papercuts and is forthcoming in Rough Cut Press.
http://desiwriterslounge.net/articles/details/

Lives of the Seraphim – a poem by Nancy Christopherson

Lives of the Seraphim

In Russian Orthodox churches the icons
are sacred. The faithful take candles
and light them to pray for themselves
in their only good clothes. The women
in scarves and heavy woolen coats,
the men with their hats in their hands.
The saints in their beautiful rich robes,
the priests in their flowing white raiments
with sacraments, swinging their incense.
Brass and dim light. Outside, at the top
of the steps leading in, someone trades
icons of saints the size of small coins for
a kopek, each one unique. String them
around your neck later or give them as
tokens to friends and family. The seraphim
will follow you out when you can’t
see them, their silks and their banners
flowing in daytime, their eyes squinting
from too much sunlight. You may
see one or two tears slipping down. They mean
you well and perch in the trees and on
rooftops, cling to bus rails as the cars
honk past. No one will notice, but in these
rounds where the blue smoke
of exhaust makes them cough at times,
they are blameless. Back inside they made
you feel blessed and you could do
something equally marvelous like call
out a miracle. Have the bus miss the car
as it misses the pedestrian as she
dodges the traffic between six unmarked
lanes with her purse slung over her left
shoulder and her sturdy shoes dancing. Just lift
her straight up to heaven like that. You
could do it if you wanted.

.

Nancy Christopherson‘s poems have appeared in Helen Literary Magazine, Peregrine Journal, Raven Chronicles, Third Wednesday, Verseveavers and Xanadu, among others, as well as various regional anthologies. Author of The Leaf, she lives and writes in eastern Oregon. Visit www.nancychristophersonpoetry.com.

The Redwoods – a poem by Heather Sager

The Redwoods

An eye opens, then another,
to the call to prayer
that is the redwood forest
and its found cathedral
of bedazzlement.

An expansion of green tracing limbs
arc over the hidden ocean of sky
while rushing wind through the canopy
tousles my hair and cools the fever
in my brain.

Those huge trees that stand with quiet grace
wear the moss of life.
The redwoods create a dark mystic circle
in which salmon dart in quicksilver streams
and I hear the ragged heartbeat
of my own breath.

.

Heather Sager lives in Illinois, USA. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Sandpiper, The Wild Word, Remington Review, Cacti Fur, Third Wednesday, CircleShow, Ariel Chart, and Northwest Indiana Literary Journal. Heather also writes short fiction.

Mountain Dharma – a poem by Kali Lightfoot

Mountain Dharma

Misery is a given, it’s everything else you came for.
Anne Dellenbaugh, owner/leader of Her Wild Song: Wilderness Journeys for Women

Steep ascent in the first half-mile, before beginners
feel good in their boots, inured to packs. Then the rain
starts. The trail a sudden creek, rocks cased in mud, clay

like sheet ice, weight of the pack a force in wrong directions.
It occurs to me that I carry my pack an hour longer than you
there at the head of the line. Not complaining, mind you,

I like walking sweep, nobody behind to step on my heels.
I stop and look at bits of the world you never see, rocketing along
at the front: a fine mushroom, tiny purple flower, two trees

grown together, or shiny shards of rock—arrowheads perhaps.
Co-leaders we are, but at the back I plod slower than my legs
would like, cheering the walking wounded, becoming expert

on foot care, blister treatment. Our hike explores the dharma
of mountains, and ourselves: intrinsic nature, essential quality,
character. Forty miles to the top of Mt. Katahdin,

you and I as much seekers as the women we shepherd.
We stragglers make camp in the dark, wet is our intrinsic nature,
squirming nylon tent ropes, stakes loose in rain-soaked loam.

# # # # # # #

Blue morning sky struggles from behind thin clouds
as we, damp in our bones, crawl into the sun, walk sleepily
out of drippy woods to our kitchen on a granite ledge

beside a little tear drop pond, trees around us hung with last
leaves of autumn—a surprise we couldn’t see last night,
perfect for our first morning meditation on dharma.

It takes a moment for our eyes to find the moose standing
shoulder deep in the pond, basking in sun, oblivious to us.
She ducks her head, snorts, waggles a bit, splashes water

flashing with rainbows as light shines through droplets flurrying
around her. We stand silent while she grazes idly on floating
pondweed, splashes again, unconcerned with the statues

we have become. Finally she turns to shore, wades through weeds
to scrubby woods, shakes herself and strolls on knobby legs
into the shrubbery, heading off to perform her essential daily acts.

.

Kali Lightfoot‘s poems and reviews of poetry have appeared in journals and anthologies, and been nominated twice for Pushcart, and once for Best of the Net. Her debut collection is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Kali earned an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts, find her at kali-lightfoot.com.

 

 

The Stars Above, the Flowers Below – a poem by Janet Krauss

The Stars Above, the Flowers Below

It is a summer night
full into the season
the way the bushes
beside the house
sweep close
in conspiracy with,
yet pushing
against the dark
protecting this structure
blueing into the late hours.
The stars, brushed with haze,
dream for those inside.
So flowers at graves
soften the grey
of granite slabs
and replace the hands
that held those
once warm as a blossom
opening in the morning sun.

.

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.

Me, Dissembling – a poem by Susan Morse

Me, Dissembling

for Pamma

Afraid one of us will tear even more,
right before uttering my final word,
I carefully pocket scissors,
and choose to sit in silence,
thin as a paper cut-out.

How do we move forward,
you and I?

We seem swept down dark rivers of thought.
No rules have been broken, unless
my mindless chattering counts.
We merely grew older, more separate,
attuned to our own delusions of time.

The sky plumbs each fathom
of every star we have ever counted.
We have lost such minutes among the sharp outlines
we tore along the way.

If I could raise you up, would we go
on one wing, the white one?

Let’s say I could take you into starlit waters.
Let’s say we could hover, seagulls on kite strings.
Let’s say I could capture the wide white wing tips
of an ocean, the first breaths of a fine spring.

Oh, then I would blow my breaths of life
to you, refashion all of our regrets!
I would fill your paper silhouette.
Surely the white wing will do?

.

Susan Morse lived in Maine for thirty years, but moved to the Willamette Valley in 2016.   A member of the Oregon Poetry Association, she also frequently reads at the Salem Poetry Project.   Her chapbook,  In the Hush,  was published June 2019 by Finishing Line Press, and she has other poems in publications such as Cream City Review, Willawaw Journal, and The Mom Egg.  

NO DISTANCE – a story by Wayne-Daniel Berard

NO DISTANCE
(for Bill Milhomme)

“I’ve been searching all my life,” Martin said. “Integrity.”

His spiritual director leaned forward. This was just what she’d been working toward. Martin had begun direction at the Center four weeks earlier, just as Lent had begun. At first he had merely intellectualized everything, rationalized his life. “But how do you feel?” his director would ask him again and again. “What are you really looking for?”

“Integrity?” she asked him.

“Oh, maybe that’s not the right word for it, I don’t know,” Martin answered. “I want things — something – to be what it says it is. No phoniness, no fake images.

“I’m not looking for perfection. I know that’s not possible. I’d settle for the least possible gap between what’s said and what is.

“I’ve spent most of my life deeply involved with my Church, searching for integrity, wanting to serve it. I didn’t expect the Kingdom on earth, just for people to mean it, to want to mean it. To take the gospel seriously, not to go through the motions. And what did I find? Careerism. Clerical professionalism, amateur humanness.

“Then teaching school. God, what a joke that was! They call it education, but it’s three-quarters baby-sitting. You can’t tell the truth. You’re expected to pass almost everybody along. And I taught art — watercolor in a riot zone! Still, they’d jiggle the SAT scores, pluck out a survey or two, and pronounce everything rosy.

“And even in my own art. I try. I try so hard to get it right, to close the gap between what I see in my mind, what I feel, and what’s becoming on the canvas. Sometimes I come so close, but . . .

“That’s all I really want. For something to be what it seems, to bridge the gap. No distance.”

His director sat back. “Have you ever seen our art collection?” she asked. “It’s quite good.”

That wasn’t what Martin had expected — it caught him off guard. “No . . . no, I haven’t,” he said.

“I think we’ve talked enough for this session,” his director said, pushing back her chair. “The gallery is down this corridor and to the right. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”

If she hadn’t stood at her office door watching, Martin probably would have just gone on home. As it was, he started down the hall a little angry. He had just told this woman what he had never told anyone before. Why hadn’t she responded? Was she belittling him and his search?

In a black mood, he opened the gallery door, and . . .

Pow! The strength and loveliness of the Center’s art nearly overwhelmed him. Never in his life had he seen such beauty all in one place. He had expected the collection to be solely religious, and many of the pieces were. Still, they were unusual. In one corner, Richard recognized a work by the very young Picasso, called “Christ Forgiving Satan,” in another a Durer print of the newly risen Christ as the gardener, a straw hat tipped jauntily to one side of the head.

But there were plenty of non-religious pieces as well, at least they seemed non-religious. Each of them did possess that inner power, that glow. Several of Hermann Hesse’s watercolors were among them, as well as the mysterious Keltic knots and swirls of Deidre McCullough. A shadow so real as to both warm and cool the heart seemed to spread across the stones of an Italian tower in a Tom Martino landscape.

Over against the far wall of the room, Martin caught sight of a particularly interesting painting. He had seen it somewhere before, he thought, or something very like it. It showed the crucified Christ, suspended in dark space above the world. But there was no cross per se; Jesus hung there in space, arms extended, with nails floating in front of his hands and feet.

Martin stared at the painting a long time. It was almost perfect, he thought. He himself had made several attempts at a crucifixion scene — all failures.
The painting seemed to mesmerize him, for as he watched, it seemed to dominate the entire room. It was growing larger and larger — or else Martin was being drawn deeper and deeper into it. Soon — he didn’t know how or care — the young artist was floating right beside the crucified Christ.

He was so close now, he thought to himself. So close. He could feel it — integrity, rightness. It was pulling him closer and closer to itself. “God, finally,” he said to himself.

Still something was not quite right. There remained a gap of meaning, a wedge of some sort between himself and . . .

He couldn’t stand it! He was so close! He put back his head, raised his arms to heaven and cried out loud.

He started to move again. He was afraid to change his position even in the slightest, afraid to break the spell. With arms extended and head thrown back, he slowly drifted about the crucified figure, until the two men were back to back, suspended over the bright earth.

Closer and closer the two pressed together. Martin could feel Jesus’ struggle to breathe; the blood from his scourged shoulders ran down Martin’s back. It was terrible; it was beautiful. It was both together. Together.

And then Martin heard a great, ringing crack and, a micro-second later, a horrible pain flashed through his arm. A nail had been driven through Jesus’ wrist and into his own.

Again, that thunderous sound, and again the pain — in his other wrist, his feet. It hurt — my God! It hurt beyond imagination. But yet . . . there was purpose to it, a reason. No posturing from the cross, no pose. Not a drop of blood was futile; not one agonizing gesture that didn’t lead a symphony of worth.

Martin could feel Jesus’ head turning toward him; he moved his own as best he could.

“No distance,” Christ said.

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.

A visitor wears down the lock – a poem by Coleman Bomar

A visitor wears down the lock

Not quite free
Not quite fresh
This body
Not quite empty
The house where I live
And the windows
Windows tightening
And the door
Locked but rattling
Rattling until broke
Open and
Then
Then
Out you go

.

Coleman Bomar is a writer  who currently resides in Middle Tennessee. His works have been featured by and/or are forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Plum Tree Tavern,  Nine Muses Review, Showbear Family Circus Liberal Arts Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming, SOFTBLOW, Eunoia Review, Beyond Words, Bewildering Stories, Isacoustic, Nine Muses Poetry and many more.

Spirits in the Grove – a poem by Reed Venrick

Spirits in the Grove

Spectators: in this painting, we see a man
Looking much like Rene Magritte,
Wandering down a row of jade leaves,
Easel on his back—around him stands
A grove of orange trees growing between
A country road and an aqua Florida lake.

Digs deep his easel in the sand—sketches
With haste, draws with the hope of getting
Down the most exciting designs of trees
That assume the shape of birds. The images
He records shows outlines of other animals,
A few of ones he’s observed before—seen

In clouds above the Rub-Al-Khali or resting
In the steamy forests of the Amazon delta
As he cruised Marajo Isle on a fishing boat.
He gazes into the evergreen branches and
Boughs of the trees, the heads of green
Parrots, yet with bodies of tigers, and

Then the head of a bald eagle with
An alligator body—he hurries down another
Row—pausing at the sight of a torso
Of Pegasus flying with branching wings.
Asking himself: how is it possible
That shapes of animals can manifest

Their images in trees of leaves? Do
These forms suggest the souls of birds
Caught in a time warp beyond what
Human beings can comprehend? Or
Perhaps they show designs of animals
From protohistory times? Or animals

To appear on earth millions of years after
The pithy page of human history has
Melted into Florida’s sands? Magritte’s
Fevered mind ponders such questions of
Metaphysics, but he knows he must
Hurry, so he dumps his easel—grabs

His I-phone and photographs more designs
He sees among orange trees—because Magritte
Has wandered these rows of citrus groves
Before and knows that with the passing
Of the night, these animal and bird spirits
That shape the orange trees will fly at dawn

To join the clouds for mythical designs that
Eternity passes along to illustrate for those
with vision keen enough to visualize.

.

Reed Venrick lives in South Florida and usually writes poems with nature motifs.