Four Poems from Reaching Heights
Before the Sangha
Before the sangha,
Buddha sits, holds a lotus
readiness is all
ripening blackberries yield
with ease to seeking fingers
Mud Holds Fast
Mud holds fast her toes
lotus reaches upward
in the sun
wet wings dry
yellow moth flies
Clouds encircle the mountain
axis of our valley world
like Ganesh orbiting his mother
or my head fly-surrounded
as I sit in the garden—
flickering cloud shapes
misting the heights
from clear sight
lake, and misted trees
as morning coalesces
I swim jeweled waters
in breath and body
Poets Victoria Crawford and George R. Ross became writing partners meeting in Thailand while retired. Their poems are so closely written by two hands that who can tell who wrote which line or word was written by whom. Some of their joint work has been published in Braided Way, Cold Noon, Active Muse, and others. George lives in Boston currently with family while Victoria still calls Chiang Mai home.
We called it ‘bilge’, biology,
amoebic start, then tadpole, flea,
cork cambium and xylem, phloem,
and soon the phototropic turn.
Before unknown, except the frogs,
beware the dog or catch the itch,
bark furrowed tree trunk running rings,
fed stem of sunflower, smiley face.
I now know what and how perhaps,
and always where and when as child,
but never understood the why
until one day, moped heavy blue,
and saw so much determined life,
black wriggle tail, draught drinking tree,
the brightest yellow facing sun
and knew the son still shone on me.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 180 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Amethyst Review, printed journals and anthologies. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
When Flannery O’Connor sat in church
she sometimes thought about the captive bear
across the river in his little cage
inside the kiddie zoo in City Park.
His being there where children stopped to stare
in mirth or pity must fill out a page
that needed filling. Still, one had to search
for words. To cast their beams into the dark.
The proper angle, always hard to gauge,
one hair’s breadth off was certain to besmirch
a certainty essential to the care
of every soul. You had to mind each mark.
A comma out of place might damn this town.
Grant mercy, she thought, eyeing Mary’s crown.
Dan Campion is the author of Peter De Vries and Surrealism and co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song, a third edition of which was issued in 2019. His poetry has appeared in Poetry, Rolling Stone, and many other magazines. A selection of his poems titled The Mirror Test will be published by MadHat Press in February 2022. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Terentius Neo the Baker
In the hour before dawn,
he’s kneading dough,
the colour of skin,
slapping flat the thick balloon,
before setting it down,
to rise like a breath,
the room smells of history,
and here they come:
tired of squabbling sons,
welcoming Abraham home,
planning a road trip back to Bethlehem,
Terentius Neo has no idea
of the shadows he serves,
or how his bread will survive,
branded with knuckle prints,
pulled from the guts of Vesuvius.
Sue Watling is a writer and poet living on the north bank of the River Humber in the UK where she has an allotment and keeps bees. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suewatling
we argue about bellwort
in this late-night pizza joint,
sheltered from February cold.
well, not so much bellwort itself
as the value of knowing its common name.
you say it’s so we can ignore
the mysterium that is the verdant
respiring cellulose and chlorophyll
itself, and so, a sham.
i say it’s so we’re familiar
with bell-shaped pendent beauty,
impossible to ignore as we rush
by, obliged to say hello
to an old friend we recognize:
Adaming creation beyond the Fall.
i suppose our assumptions work
toward the same attentive end.
the familiar can breed contempt—
still: their names on my tongue.
Jacob Riyeff (jacobriyeff.com, @riyeff) is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval English literature. His primary interests lie in the western contemplative tradition and medieval vernacular poetry. He is a Benedictine oblate of Osage Deanery and lives on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.
NEARING OUR DESTINATION
A sacred site. There was nothing here before rush hour, only fragments of a golden age. Between the wars, commercial reconstruction of open landscapes, the boundaries of the city.
Full of plans and a desire to be nomadic, we made pilgrimage to the source, the scene of the explosion, would have nothing said against crowds and public places.
We tried the door but could not get in.
© Rupert M Loydell
Rupert Loydell is a writer, editor and abstract artist. His many books of poetry include Dear Mary (Shearsman, 2017) and The Return of the Man Who Has Everything(Shearsman 2015); and he has edited anthologies such as Yesterday’s Music Today (co-edited with Mike Ferguson, Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2014), and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: manifestos and unmanifestos (Salt, 2010)
after Meng Haoran
Spring dawn, submerged in sleep.
After the shivered night
slowly resurface to warble and chirp.
A chisel scrapes the air, then a spate
of notes in a drowsy cooed lament,
arpeggios of birdsong belling
the room after last night’s ferment:
sudden squalls and rain-shelling,
drills on the roof, branches popping
under the gale—an unsettled zone
arising and passing. The way they will.
Tried to note each rain-bead dropping,
then let it go. Petals must have blown
to earth (how many?), now scattered and still.
Ken Turner has lived and taught in Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well as the US. His work has appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Silk Road, Summerset Review, Asian Cha, and elsewhere, including in several anthologies, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Candlemas, Midpoint of Winter
I could tell by the light of last night’s full moon
it would snow today.
Snow-filled dreams carry weight this time of year.
Sure enough, swirling clouds have shifted into position.
I whisper to green shoots
poking bravely through the soil:
The contradictions of February.
This short month passes so slowly
though the days lengthen,
minute by stolen minute,
offering hope that the earth
will return to living color
I reflect winter’s rhythm,
treasure the stillness,
yet curse the frigid air
that burrows past down-filled layers.
Mark an X in the seasons’ wheel,
solstice to equinox
and back again.
In this trough, this deep winter silence,
Gaia dances the spiral dance of promise.
Emily-Sue Sloane lives in Huntington Station, NY, where beautiful vistas hide beyond crowded roadways. Writing poetry helps her to frame her personal observations within wider, more universal truths. Her work has appeared in Front Porch Review, The Bards Annual 2019 Poetry Anthology, Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, and other anthologies.
Wet Nurse of the God
‘Maia’ was the wet nurse of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Her rock-cut tomb was discovered in the Saqqara necropolis in 1996.
I thought I’d get some peace here in the afterlife –
brought all my things for relaxation: smart folding
chair, sunshade, systrum, pots of unguent – might
have time for a face mask here, I thought. But no –
I’ve been disturbed so many times over the ages –
men fumbling, rummaging, breaking their way in.
This time’s no different; here they come, digging,
opening up, shining their lights, interrogating.
I’m royalty, you know – albeit a by-blow – although
we’re all related – brother-husband, mother-aunt,
you get the picture. Great one of the harem, one of
this lot reads, sizes me up.
Look over there, I tell them. Find my name,
though even that disguises. You can piece
it all together, tell a tale – how I fed the flesh
of a god, educated his body. He was another one
knew what he wanted, eyes closed, mouth open,
rooting, bobbing, frantic till he’d latched on.
I feel that tug still.
There’s me – look, there’s a story – yes that’s a throne.
I sit and dandle the boy-king in my linen lap. Or here,
lotus-crowned, I’m resurrected, hand raised – but
am I doing homage to my lord or being goddess Bast,
cat licking her kitten, smoothing a milk drop from
his divine face?
Ann Cuthbert enjoys writing and performing poems, usually with the Tees Women Poets collective. Her work has been widely published in magazines and anthologies online and in print, most recently 14 and Not Very Quiet magazines. Her poetry chapbook is Watching a Heron with Davey (Black Light Engine Room Press).