(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


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.
那淸澈的空明 花朵的云儿

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

Haibun: Wild Plums – a poem by Kathryn MacDonald


One day you look through the window, see sticks – slender trunks, slivers of branches along the fencerow. Too early for leaves, the colony of wild plums stands bare. The next day, like a butterfly – first a thumb of dull pupa, then a kaleidoscope of colour – the trees have burst into spectacle. Tiny white flowers, startlingly pure and fresh, erupt against the dull pasture of early spring. The blossoms – short-lived food for early bees – scent the season, renewing the promise of summer-green leaves and fall fruit. I steal from the bees: bring an armload of blossoms into the sitting room where the warmth of the woodstove this evening will release their perfume. Later, after the planting and weeding and harvesting of crops, another miracle happens. Suddenly, purple plums hang from slender branches above the fence. You set baskets on the kitchen counter where we wash the fruit, cut each small plum in half, pit, and stew into syrup, pour wild-plum jelly into tiny jars. 

Two wonders wake heart
White blossoms burst into spring
Fall’s tart plum jelly

Kathryn MacDonald’s poetry has been published in literary journals in Canada, the U.S., England, and Ireland. Her poem “Seduction” was short-listed for the 2019 Freefall Poetry Contest. She is the author of A Breeze You Whisper (poems, 2011) and Calla & Édourd (fiction, 2009). Website: https://KathrynMacDonald.com

Silver – a poem by Paul Attwell

My flushed, older twin reveals himself, like
a conjurer, from behind a veil of
nothingness. Greyer – silvery   – my future
self. I stare toward him and utter, half
composed, half shaking. I ask silver me
how we feel these few decades on. He beams
a sunlight smile. We are happy. Content.
We have smiled a million smiles. This surreal
avenue to future memories, tells
of creaking bridges – sighing – groaning. Yet
Silver heartens me as he speaks of pride
and joy to come. He sings approval. I
reply with glistening relief. He reveals
towering trophy moments. Silver, smiles with
empathy. He stamps lucid authority,
yet I feel loose and safe I quiz him further.
He oozes words of health and wealth to soon
embrace me, like a prodigal son. He
tells of deeds and compassion toward city
nomads – homeless. Not soulless. Silver neither
daunts or haunts me. Two old friends stealing a chance
to chat. Encouraging – not disparaging. 
He plays images of a wife and child –
beyond my comprehension. I shoot a
smile in reply. He booms of books, penned between
us. This is a conversation of 
contentment – of accomplishment. As
Silver fades. I am ecstatic – full of hope.

Paul Attwell lives in Richmond, London, with his partner Alis, and Pudsey the cat. Paul’s experiences of depression and ADHD help shape his work. The pamphlet, Blade is available from Wrong Rooster Publishing at https://www.wrongroosterpublishing.com/ 

Sacred Familiarities – a reflection by David Chorlton

Sacred Familiarities

Where I live, in Arizona, what is held as sacred is invariably a part of nature and the land. Native people here need to constantly be vigilant to protect sites of special significance to them from mining or other destructive projects imposed by the now dominant commercial culture. Travel around the state has brought me to share the native view of sacredness, as the mountains and desert gradually became internalized and I came to see why Baboquivari Peak or Quitobaquito Springs have taken on such significance. Of course, these sites can only become a kind of borrowed reference in my spiritual life, vital as they are, and I turn to what is closer at hand to explore the deeper, personal meaning of being sacred.

Looking out from my windows, front and back, I have a view of hummingbirds and other species at home in city and desert: thrashers, mockingbirds, towhees, a couple of hawk species, goldfinches, woodpeckers and more, whose presence is an accompaniment to my life and routine that has far outgrown the simply aesthetic. There are coyotes too, sauntering down the urban asphalt now and then, bringing a little of the wild with them. And from the back of the house I see South Mountain, a desert mountain that is one of the largest city parks in the world at ca. 17,000 acres, which invites the imagination into a world inhabited by yet more animals. All this may not be spectacular on a scale of global sights, but familiarity has elevated my surroundings to a status I hadn’t expected.

We rely on much that comes from contemporary commerce, and no matter how the conveniences ease our way from day to day, the experience hardly nurtures the spirit. The natural world is the real world, and it is to that I look for deeper significance in everyday life. An occasional visit from an oriole in migration season has immeasurable value, and sharing such moments with my wife made them all the more valuable. The sacred is a force to be shared, whether domestically or within the community.

Invariably, on trips taken around the state, I wrote as we went about what we saw and the poems are in part an effort to heighten the experience and in part a means of telling others how it felt to be in, for example, Madera Canyon or the Chiricahua Mountains. Meanwhile, back at home the same principle applies, as the shifting light or a surprise appearance asks to be recorded because the experience demands it.

Writing itself becomes a close relative of the sacred as the process binds exterior and interior worlds.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, close to a large desert mountain city park from which various creatures visit after sundown! He has published several books and performed poetry on occasion with his recently deceased wife, a violinist who brought out extra dimensions in the work with her music. 

5.8 – a poem by Alan Perry

We look at each other across the room--
our eyes meet, then widen, as our heads turn.
Your couch jiggles and my chair rattles forward
while we both mouth earthquake.
Ten seconds feel like minutes when we ask
each other when do you think it will end?
That’s the question I ask myself when times
seem the worst--wars on other continents,
the terminal illness of a best friend,
insanities from political demagogues.
Then I imagine Paul in Philippi 
imprisoned with his friend Silas
singing and praying to keep the faith
after stirring the crowds with words.
When his earthquake came, Paul’s shackles fell off
and he was freed from what held him.
Which reminds me that 5.8 on the Richter scale
is only a number, until you experience the power
of having the faith to believe that eventually 
all of this will end well.

Alan Perry authored Clerk of the Dead, published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2020. His poems have appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Heron Tree, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and elsewhere. A Best of the Net nominee, he is a Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine.

Waiting for Life – a poem by Lisa Molina

Waiting for Life

In the pediatric cancer
transplant unit.
10 agonizing days and nights.

Will his body embrace the 
donated cord blood cells?
(As I once embraced him as a young infant and child?)
Or reject them.
Refuse them.
Causing his death.

The children
on the other sides
of two walls
our our room
have whispered 
their final breaths.

My child is still breathing.
Living a life
between deaths.

What is he dreaming?
Has he descended to the depths?
Lying in a dark cave?
Lazarus awaiting?


For Resurrection.

Lisa Molina lives in Austin, Texas. She has taught high school English and theatre, served as Associate Publisher of Austin Family Magazine, and now works with students with special needs. Molina’s poems can be found in Trouvaille Review, Indolent Books, Ancient Paths Literary Blog, and The Poet- Christmas Anthology 2020. 

Friday at the Holy Sepulchre – a poem by Royal Rhodes


("Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"  ~
    Unknown composer, arranged by Gavin Bryars)

A clutch of Filipino pilgrims climb
the steps to Calvary behind their guide
whose closed umbrella like a bony limb
points them to the altars, side by side,
where Orthodox and Latins claim the space
where Jesus, once abandoned, bled and died.
They say this little mountain swayed and shook.
Graves were opened, so that face-to-face
the saints appeared to those who stopped to look.

Others, waiting, always waiting, knelt
beside the stone of unction, never caring
that it was a copy. Hands had spelt
for centuries their prayers, as candles, flaring,
lit the surface, smeared with oil and tears
A flood of tongues was heard this special Friday
before the Easter fire flamed again.
I watched, aloof, while hearing without ears
to hear, my careful heart repeat: Amen. 

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor of global religions, religion and the arts, and death & dying. His poems have appeared online and in a series of poetry/art collaborations with The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina.