Phenomenal – a poem by Stephanie V Sears

 Phenomenal 
 
Across Italy’s Romanesque lines 
between Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas 
saints seed themselves in ploughed fields, 
silt with mysticism  
the blood of builder and artisan, 
dash rebellion over the crepuscular  
hours of the two flanking shores. 
They thrive on terracotta hills 
as wild as poppies, 
as persistent as weeds, 
their ignited souls branding 
the clement sky 
with a tirade of wings. 
They come of age  
impulsive and beautiful. 
  
A see-through grove of trees  
gloves a crest 
with a lace mitten of sun and shade. 
There the top branches 
entwine with tender silence, 
far, far distance nears  
and bequeaths humility. 
Magnified fragments of the world  
touch the heart of penitence. 
Animals become disciples. 
 
Light slips into satin, 
shows to advantage 
barrel-vaulted woods 
sheep-cropped slopes 
ivy niches of romance 
where rock admonishes 
in fresh trickles: 
“Poverty kill the flesh!” 
 
They grow old from unsolved mysteries 
cradling sacrifice like progeny 
to whom they continue  
to serve miracles like gelati.  

Stephanie V Sears is a French and American ethnologist (Doctorate EHESS, Paris 1993), free-lance journalist, essayist and poet whose poetry recently appeared in The Deronda Review, The Comstock Review, The Mystic Blue Review, The Big Windows Review, Indefinite Space, The Plum Tree Tavern, Literary Yard, Clementine Unbound, Anti Heroin Chic, DASH, The Dawn Treader. The Strange Travels of Svinhilde Wilson published by Adelaide Book 2020.

Point taken – a poem by Christopher M James

Point taken
 
Luang Phor Sod Dhammakayaram Temple, Ratchaburi
 
So
do I collapse in my finery
at the first notes of Nessun Dorma.
Or stir a memory, compulsively,
to sip courage from a pot of years.
Or have my crowd raise its arm
for justice in a street.
 
He tells me,
pain is but a book to be read.
 
The dagger in my back does not belong there;
it’s a roaming radio wave. Adjust the dial.
How do I know this?
Each time it shifts place slightly,
unaware what it’s looking for, like
the random frisking at some frontier. 
And yes, let it rummage, I’ve packed 
my own bags, am bringing nothing in.
Rather, I should ask questions of my own:
What is the pain looking for?
What will it say when it’s found nothing? 
How can it explain that 
to the long queue forming behind?
Every question has it chasing ghosts, 
my mind the moving target.
 
Pain is a thief, he says
as I sit awhile cross-legged before him,
 
and posture the law.
Turn like the labourers, rice-pickers         
crammed into an open Toyota truck, staring
backwards at the landscape behind,
falling softly away.
 
 

Christopher M James, a dual British/French national and retired HR professional, lives near Paris. He has published in Aesthetica, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Journal …. and in numerous anthologies (Live Canon, WoLF, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Verve, Dempsey & Windle …). In the past three years, he has been a prizewinner in numerous competitions (Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral, Hanna Greally, Maria Edgeworth, Earlyworks…). He is also a musician, a translator and, some would say, a failed journalist.

Permeable – a poem by Christopher M James

 
Permeable
 
Each New Year
the watering ceremony
on all the Buddha statues.
Crowds spill over
holding bowls fragranced
with flame of the wood, yellow
gardenia, cape jasmin…
for the righting
 
of thought, deed and word
from the swell of the past.
I pitch forward to the front
to come out in the wash,
use two lotus flower stems
to dab the drops
awkwardly, fastidiously,
in the spirited jostling
 
as if finely patting
with small swabs, like
a pointillist painter
honing in, out, in
for a clear perspective,
like
the burns patient I was,
the nurse I’m becoming.
            
 

Christopher M James, a dual British/French national and retired HR professional, lives near Paris. He has published in Aesthetica, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Journal …. and in numerous anthologies (Live Canon, WoLF, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Verve, Dempsey & Windle …). In the past three years, he has been a prizewinner in numerous competitions (Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral, Hanna Greally, Maria Edgeworth, Earlyworks…). He is also a musician, a translator and, some would say, a failed journalist.

The Nature of Things – a poem by Peggy Hammond

The Nature of Things
 
Our lives, spirals,
grooves in soft earth
like those behind a plow
in freshly-turned field, 
 
each path unique but similar,
a labyrinth we all follow.
Our mothers, the starting point.
Our loves and losses become
details etched in stones 
lining our walk,
leading to the stopping point 
where a final breath holds itself
at journey’s end.
 
Perhaps we are like water
hurtling toward, then over the falls.
That we are allowed even once
to crash into pools,
curl ourselves around rocks,
and overflow banks 
is enough.
 
 

Peggy Hammond’s poetry is featured or forthcoming in The LyricistOberon PoetryHigh Shelf PressSan Antonio ReviewInkletteWest Trade ReviewRogue AgentGinosko Literary Journal, and Trouvaille Review.  Her full-length play A Little Bit of Destiny was produced by OdysseyStage Theatre in Durham, North Carolina.

After She Gets Her Braces Off – a poem by Elizabeth Crowell

AFTER SHE GETS HER BRACES OFF
 
my daughter sits with her seatbelt on,
pigtail up, pulling her lips up
to the rear-view mirror's small island
that glimmers in the November sun.
 
She opens and closes her mouth,
snapping her teeth together each time.
She looks left, right, at each side
of her beautiful, freckled face,
 
She goes back over the years,
fifth grade, the palette expander,
medieval torture device, and then
the brackets and brands as she grew.
 
Years of metal have gone 
and now, an ivory flash.
Oh, the teeth are slimy, she reports,
wagging her thick, pink tongue across them. 
 
Those years I sat in the waiting room
with its pictures of speckled trout,
Maine cliffs, a scout in olive knee socks
leaning on a stick over a mountain.
 
Of course, I was afraid of straightening her out,
did not mind at all that her bite bent,
would change nothing about her,
but it is not that way, of course.
 
There are reasons we cannot stay
exactly as we are, and she grins so widely
perhaps she thinks
today is the end of that.
 
 

Elizabeth Crowell was born and raised in New Jersey.  She has a B.A. in English from Smith College and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University.  She has taught high school and college English.  She lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.  

Her work has been included in The Bellevue Literary Review, where it has twice won the non-fiction prize, Tishman ReviewRaven’s Edge and most recently Levee.  

Teresa’s Vision – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

IV.             Teresa’s Vision
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'

There was really nothing:
A nothing described,
In so many words,
As a smooth space, 
Featureless, bland,
So you would know;
A smooth space – 
In a manner of speaking –
The present and evasive wall
Approached by a hand.
 
Because there was nothing to see,
I returned to the primitive sense:
Lifted, extended,
A greeting –
The magical figure
Turned at that very moment,
Without alteration,
To a gesture of grief:
Symmetrical always; 
Speechless.
 
But you, ardent and willful Teresa,
Shouted “Look at me!”
You, O passionate Teresa,
Saw.

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). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/

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

from the shell of things

                      *

He searches for a word—the color
of the rice fields here in October,
Chuseok day.  Golden seems most accessible,
 
easily connected to the wheat fields
he’s seen in Kansas, but not the color
of the gold-finch in March, newly arrived
 
from winter.  Not the sandy blond hair
of his son waving in front of him
on this narrow road between the fields.
 
Crayola might suggest orange, yellow,
maize, or dandelion, maybe golden-
rod or sunglow when the day is bright
 
like this one, but the rice field resists
the only language he can offer. 
Yellow perhaps is the color a child
 
or a foreigner might choose.  He throws
his hands out in front of him over these fields
and pleads for a color, a chosen word
 
for a finished season, for the only
harvest of the year on this tiered hillside
near the sea under the blue sky—the same
 
blue that answers prayers, responds to chants
and petitions, that lunges, that rests,
that hugs every living thing at its end.
 

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 CenturySpoon River Poetry Review, Salt Hill, Bearings Online, and Ekstasis.  He lives and teaches in Siloam Springs, AR.

Lucky – a poem by Susan Michele Coronel

LUCKY

My thoughts linger 
on the hem of my purple dress. 
 
I am not a perpetual witness to failure 
but a doppelganger uncovering roots –
 
source of connection and remembrance.
Sometimes I traverse the road between heaven and hell, 
 
strumming “So Long Marianne” on a beat-up guitar 
or fingering prayer beads. 
 
I don’t recognize family portraits in the hall, 
blue light turning faces olive and sullen. 
 
I listen to myself whistling. 
It’s not a matter of chance, 
 
not a question of who, what, where, why 
or when, but the other w — wonder—
 
whipping around the windowsill 
as Earth spins into dawn. 
 
I bathe in morning light 
with a full view of the chapel. 
 
I am not my own worst enemy.
I am a lucky lady holding out a finger for a bird. 

Susan Michele Coronel is a NYC-based poet and educator. She has a B.A. in English from Indiana University-Bloomington and an M.S. Ed. in Applied Linguistics from the City University of New York. Her poems have appeared in publications including Prometheus Dreaming, Hoxie Gorge Review, Ekphrastic Review, Passengers Journal, Street Cake, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Newtown Literary, and HerWords.

The Interstellar Kingdom – a poem by Yuan Hongri

The Interstellar Kingdom
 
Sometimes I see the sky smiling at me
The limpidity spirit and flower clouds
such as the old soul of mine
watch my shadow on the earth
 
The ground beneath my feet like a colossal ship
toward the Interstellar Kingdom
Those cities where giants dwell
blossom on the dustless Milky Way.
 
星际的王国
 
有时我看到天空向我微笑
那淸澈的空明 花朵的云儿
仿佛我那古老的灵魂
注视着我在人间的身影
 
这脚下的大地是一艘巨轮
正在驶向星际的王国
那些巨人们居住的城市
在没有尘埃的银河上绽放
 
2016.1.2

Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet’s Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization.

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.

Tom in The Upper Room – a poem by Carolyn Oulton

Tom In The Upper Room
 
Need me at all? If not…
I turn and look at him. Like that. 
He just blows a kiss 
through the palm of his hand.
 
The garden throbs with shadows,
scatters spring along the gaps
of branches, nibs of grass
all scribbling nothing.
 
I remember lockdown.
Nowhere to go, not much to do.
Fitting my hand to his side
like the piece of a puzzle.
 
Fingers wriggling into
the warmth of his flesh.
Unexpectedly soft 
as a newly healed wound.
 

Carolyn Oulton has been published in magazines including AcumenArtemis, Envoi, The Frogmore Papers, from the edge, Ink Sweat & TearsNine Muses, Orbis, The Poetry Village, The Moth and Seventh Quarry. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press. Her website is at carolynoulton.co.uk