Catherine Dismembered – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

III.            Catherine Dismembered
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'
“Then, standing before the door of the temple, she held a long disputation with the Caesar, arguing according to the divers modes of the syllogisms, by allegory and metaphor, by logic and mystic.”
             Jacobus de Voragine, The Legend of St. Catherine of Alexandria,
                        trans. Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger
                        (Arno Press, 1969), pp. 709; 715-716.
Her story flares up,
ignited from a clump –
of hair perhaps, a shred of skin
already scorched, a cinder,
the dust of ash,
less plausibly deciphered
than a leopard’s claw,
a sliver of bone or a tuft,
the annual relic of the oryx
and its symmetrical foe -
the heraldry of realms
outside of speech.
Yet this fragment
at the extremity of sense
was seized by speech,
kidnapped and borne away,
borne aloft,
in the story’s radiant monstrance
within which was written
the bejeweled and astounding
discourse of a princess
who struck down with her words
the sixty philosophers,
the rhetors and orators,
the abject grammarians
assembled to impress her.
Against them she turned
the three-spoked wheel of her argument:
the Speculative, divided into
               the Intellectual
               the Natural
               and the Mathematical;
the Practical, divided into
               the Ethical
               the Economical
               and the Political;
and the Logical, divided into
              the Demonstrative, pertaining to philosophers,
              the Probable, pertaining to rhetors and dialecticians,
              and the Sophistic, pertaining to sophists.
For in her was all philosophy.
In lofty and vulnerable rotations
the fragment took flight,
upheld by angels,
translated from palace to tower
to the most pure height
of the mountain,
and there extravagantly given
to the tree aflame,
beating to engender
in unspeakable recessions of blue,
the body of God.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020).

Amma Sarah Rebukes the Philosophers – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

II.            Amma Sarah Rebukes the Philosophers
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'
The desert offers no escape
from desire,
but its precise location.
In emptiness,
there are no substitutes
and no satisfaction.
In emptiness
the hidden mouth of desire
yawns and gulps,
famished, desperate;
the very source -
and the threshold.
From time to time
I discover that wind and sand
have stirred around me
in undulant waves,
obscuring the mouth.
Then I must dig with my hands
through this glittering cloud,
pull the single strand I have laid down
to mark the place
through an infinite multitude 
of points and strokes,
the mirage of alphabets,
scattering my eyes and my heart,
that would sift me and fling me
like itself, here and there,
with which perhaps I could
for several decades
be satisfied and deluded -
before knowing.
Even a grain of sand,
you Wise Men,
is a substitute
and a brief satisfaction
which stands in the empty space
that I must mark with my line
and dig to uncover,
where uncovered,
naked, and complete,
I enter my cell
and lift my eyes.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020).

Saints’ Tales: Dialogues in Solitude – poetry by Cynthia Sowers

I.              Untranslated
He said he was given a word.
Inconceivable - apart from
the mountain, the strong glare,
some think the acacia bush.
His position was untenable,
and remains so to this day:
the word is fire, 
or not at all;
a sword, or nothing;
an utter downpouring
that defies all translation, 
or dust.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020).

Tonight the Sky – a poem by Alec Solomita

Tonight the Sky
Tonight the sky holds every blue in His quiver.
Well, almost every blue — not electric,
not azure, but periwinkle 
at horizon’s edge, 
and at sky’s top, indigo.
In between some almost-greens 
blemished turquoise and light sage,
an olive grown dark with age,
fading tropical dream. 
A black romance of branches          
deepens the darkbright sky,
a pause when even doubters may 
wonder, well, what are the chances?
They used to wonder, anyway. But
by the time Arnold noted its long,
withdrawing roar, faith was dying.
Long before his moon-blanched goodbye note,
shining rationalists vented their spleen,
eager to garrote the clergy, always              
primed (as the Tyger growled) to mock on.
And even now, finders of the selfish gene
refute the unseen others see,
preaching with robust faith 
release from the peace that surpasseth,
from the serene streets of Augustine’s city,       
the Indus River’s god-crammed shores,
the Buddha’s benevolence, ecstasy 
of the Sufi, Jeremiah’s splendid fury,
Christ’s perfect love unfurled.

Alec Solomita’s stories and poems have appeared in many publications, including The Adirondack Review, The Southwest Review, The Galway Review, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Bold+Italic, and The Lake. His poetry chapbook, Do Not Forsake Me, was published in 2017. He lives in Massachusetts.

Passover During COVID-19 – a poem by Elisabeth Weiss

Passover During COVID-19
Today the market shelves were bare
though everything we needed was there.
Our story — always one of floods 
and plagues and being smote 
was told while what I piled at every place
— wine, soup, fish — it was enough. I set an extra cup
for the ephemeral ghost who enters
through the open door. 
It was my daughter-in-law’s first time
hearing our verses and pent-up longing
brushed with song. 
The temporal world greened 
as it beckoned 
this strangely lit story
to the foot of Sinai,  
with all the souls yet to be.

Elisabeth Weiss teaches writing at Salem State University, in Salem, Massachusetts. She’s published poems in London’s Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, the Birmingham Poetry Review, the Paterson Literary Review and many other journals. Lis won the Talking Writing Hybrid Poetry Prize for 2016. Her chapbook, The Caretaker’s Lament, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. 

Crazy – a poem by Thomas Allbaugh

“First, let’s define our terms,” the facilitator says but 
ignoring first principles, the woman again 
at Grief Group says 
“I hear 
his voice,” 
clutches crumpled, moist tissue, 
slouches in a chair to be stacked 
after the meeting for tomorrow’s boy
or girl scouts
or the senior craft session—
I’ve never learned which. 
It’s the light of community center
And I think, Are you crazy? 
I wish I 
could hear his voice. 
Even a dream 
would probably suffice. 
We no long hear saints, hear God, hear 
the Spirit, only our dreams of madness 
voiced over by therapist mumbles as from 
an adjoining room or access.
I want to be you in these quests
the five of us now norm in this 
life after, come 
without reason, cause, or rhyme 
packing toxins of hindsight to spill over lines 
at job, school, or parking lot spaces 
after finding him at the end 
of a rope he learned to coil
on the Internet. 
Are we crazy? 
I will tell I have need 
to know that heaven swoops at earth 
occasionally, and 
time machines are open to
this wind of the abys of 
our stories and the leaves we see 
scattering and want to hear
and not stare another day
at a table set with flowers 

Thomas Allbaugh‘s poems and stories have appeared in Relief, Mars Hill Review, Broken Sky, and other publications. His novel, Apocalypse TV, appeared in 2017. He has also published a chapbook, The View from January (January 2020) and a collection of short stories, Subtle Man Loses His Day Job and Other Stories (September 2020). He is professor of English at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches composition and creative writing. 

Annunciate – a poem by Melanie Figg

She’s been called
to the door. Inspiration
awaits in the garden—a winged
lover, back-lit and eager. A boy,
really, with angelic hands. It sometimes
goes like that. But often it is                               
agony—months of waiting
and then suddenly he shows. 
She turns the corner and gasps: petals 
scattered on the street, the catalpa 
after days of rain. She drops her attention 
deep and interior, her gaze focusing 
down and to the left to search for a thread, 
scavenge for a phrase, a rhythm 
to begin to build a vision upon: white flowers
on the road. She promises
to remember it for later, how 
his fingers traced her jawbone
and begged her to speak.

Melanie Figg is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Trace. She is a recent NEA Fellowship winner and her poems and essays are published widely. As a certified professional coach, she offers workshops and writing retreats and works remotely with writers on their work and their creative process.

(from) the shell of things – poetry by Jacob Stratman

from the shell of things
Unlike Hansel and Gretel or Shadrach
and friends, he willingly crawls 
into the furnace, the black-boxed
tunnel that leads into a large stone
cylinder kiln, not sure if he is preparing
himself for sacrifice or initiation
or both at 176 dry degrees.  He sits
in sweat on hemp mats surrounded
by ajummas and ajossis, the aunties 
and uncles frozen in prayer, maybe,
or in memory, keeping the heat
from finding new places on the body
to rest, breathing calmly but intentionally,
breathing the heat, breathing the darkness,
breathing shared air still enough to see
the common particles of human
debris, breathing in each other.
He has his face stuffed inside his shirt
breathing in the remaining air he brought
with him, most of him still outside, still
wondering, still unsure if it’s good 
to crawl into an oven—if it’s good
to follow the others inside a place
where most of you is left behind.

Jacob Stratman’s first book of poems, What I Have I Offer With Two Hands, is a part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade, 2019). His most recent poems are forthcoming in The Christian Century, Spoon River Poetry Review, Salt Hill, Bearings Online, and Ekstasis.  He lives and teaches in Siloam Springs, AR.

Miserere mei, Deus – a poem by Libby Maxey

Miserere mei, Deus
            Make me hear of joy and gladness,
                                    that the body you have broken may rejoice.
                                                                                          —Psalm 51:8
Abandonment in other days has meant
new stone from old walls—spolia, the gift
of ruins. Centuries are made of those
that came before, composite monuments
to starting over. At St. Andrews, one
cathedral made a town, grey cottages
all framing bright blue, bright green doors, and breaks
to keep the dooryard gardens from the brash
all-withering sea. Red gambrel at road’s end,
now broken every way but burnt, you are
not one of these—no sturdy history
to plunder or preserve. Your cinderblock
twin chimney towers topple unobserved.
Let me remake your boards, your beams a new
embracing body with a right spirit.

Libby Maxey is a senior editor at Literary Mama. Her poems have appeared in Emrys, Crannóg, Stoneboat and elsewhere, and her first poetry collection, Kairos, won Finishing Line Press’s 2018 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition. Her nonliterary activities include singing classical repertoire, mothering two sons, and administering the Department of Classics at Amherst College.

Chasing Epiphanies – a poem by Jill Crainshaw

Chasing Epiphanies

I followed the Bethlehem star into 2020’s longest night—
(Or was it the Bethlehem planetary alignment?)

Chasing epiphanies? Not so easy 
in a Fiat 500 on I-40 in midwinter darkness—

I stopped on an overpass, but Saturn and Jupiter 
were not star-crossed. Not yet. 

They kept their distance on the cosmic dance floor,
not ready to light up the universe with solstice salsa swings.

They’ve waited many moons to tango again.
“Span the distance,” I whispered. 

Then I drove home, glad tomorrow’s midnight morning 
mist will weep in the treetops sooner than it did the day before.

Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, NC. Her poems have been published by Amethyst Review, The New Verse News, Panoply, Poets Reading the News, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice.