Visitation – prose poetry by Martin Potter


Sunset invades Palestinian villages apocalyptically. After dinner at the makeshift restaurant he was invited to linger for the rest of the evening. Beside the traditional cube-house with its shallow dome, a path led to an outer staircase, the path concreted over apart from a gap for a cable of vine-stem to twist up through, and out of sight, over the roof. ‘Go up,’ they said, ‘Itla’ fooq’.
Above, the plastic chairs were arranged in a rough circle with their backs to the walls of a spacious upper room: their feet rubbed on the polished concrete floor. 
‘Ahlan wa sahlan,’ the grandfather announced in welcome. Around a dozen family members were sitting in the room, and a somewhat ceremonious conversation ensued. Anise tea in glasses was brought in, on a tray, and handed round, and later, coffee. 
At half past ten some of the group made a move to leave, whereupon, ‘Badri!’, the grandfather objected, ‘It’s early!’ Everyone remained for another half an hour – this was the daily ritual.


On an afternoon of afterglow, they walked through the unnamed corridor-streets of the village – old stone, infrequent windows, gently veering and climbing ways. Round a corner, in line with the houses either side of it, was a dilapidated and seemingly abandoned structure, perhaps two stories, but the ceiling between them too low for ready entry into the shadowy space underneath. This building was said to be the oldest in the village, variously reckoned as Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman. 
‘Is this the Roman ruin?’ he asked, lingering in front of it. 
‘It’s just a cattle-shed!’, she laughed.


The church was dedicated to the Visitation, its site one of a number claimed as the event’s true locality. A protective curtain wall draped round the complex. He arrived at the hour of the evening blush, as a small crowd gathered in the pebble-cobbled plaza in front of the church’s west face – talking, playing, settled on the girding bench-steps to wait – electronic bells rang out from the tower, pulsing over the hillsides, olive groves, and the red earth. 

Martin Potter ( is a British-Colombian poet and academic, based in Manchester, and his poems have appeared in AcumenThe French Literary ReviewEborakonInk Sweat & TearsThe Poetry Village, and other journals. His pamphlet In the Particular was published by Eyewear in December, 2017. 

Incantation – a poem by Mary Hills Kuck


“Wisdom could not find a place in which she could dwell:
but a place was found (for her) in the heavens.
Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people,
but she found no dwelling.” 1 Enoch 4*

Ah, Wisdom, how could you not stay?
Were you not there in the glistening dew?
Did you not hide in a flaming leaf’s stem?
Did you not rest in a well of sweet sand?
How could you float in the vibrant scent 
of newly mown hay, of pines in the wind, 
of earth in the rain, and still say no, 
no place for me?

We ache for you in saffron sun’s rays, 
embraces of trees, ephemeral snow, 
the stillness and wild storm of sea,
but you are not there.

I have left you the Word, 
can you not hear 
on the lips of the bard,
can you not see 
in the hand on the page,
can you not know,
in the voice of all flesh?
Listen and see, learn
from the Word.

We’ve corrupted the Word till we speak
nothing true. The lines on the page drift,
then dissipate into the breeze,
mere odors. The bard can’t be heard
in the clatter of hypocrites, frauds.
We’re perishing, can’t find our way.

Ah Wisdom, inhabit the Word and dwell
in us. Come, find your place in our hearts.

*Source: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1, p.33, ca. 100 BCE

Mary Hills Kuck has retired from teaching English and German in the US and Jamaica and now lives in Massachusetts with her family. She has received a Pushcart Prize nomination and has published in a number of journals, including the Connecticut River Review, SLANT, Tipton Poetry Journal, Burningword Literary Journal, From the Depths, Splash, Poetry Quarterly, Main St. Rag, and others. Her chapbook, Intermittent Sacraments, was published in June, 2021, by Finishing Line Press.

Preparation for Yoga – a poem by Amit Majmudar

Preparation for Yoga

Notice butter
that’s gotten to know
the hot rough toast 
a while will
at the gentlest pressure
of the butterknife
just soak and vanish 
effortlessly in.

I zero myself 
lotus position 
on the bright-embered 
pyre of the world
and when I feel
my thinking melting
golden sinking 

and only then

do I begin

Amit Majmudar’s work appears widely, including in the Best American Poetry anthologies and New

Cathedrals of Humboldt County – a poem by V.A. Bettencourt

Cathedrals of Humboldt County					

Fog and sunlight dapple through my limbs, a
breeze brushes my needles, sprinkling dew on the
understory - moss, fox gloves, ferns, wood sorrel,
columbia lilies, golden waxy caps, hypochnella’s 
violet blooms - all brimming in expectant repose. You 
call me coastal redwood, or sequoia sempervirens.  

Ever. Lasting. My taxonomy tells a tale rooted in a
symbiotic mesh of mycorrhizae that 
interlace us, our understory, Douglas Fir, 
hemlock, maple and madrone cousins. Intertwined, 
we stand in gullies and valleys and withstand 
fires and gales. Spotted owls, bears, banana slugs 
flourish in our web. We thrive on reciprocity, 
and know taking without giving depletes all. 

My concentric rings, weaved over fifteen hundred years, 
bore witness to countless stories of nurture, healing, 
heartbreak, siege, each scored into my core. The
dreams and aches you bore when seeking 
respite and replenishment resound through my canopy. 

Those who seek learn that lessons 
etched into my spirals rival those of your 
finest scrolls.  I know fulfillment springs from 
solidarity, prosperity blossoms from 
balance, and listening widens the 
aperture of seeing,
seeding understanding. 

V. A. Bettencourt is a Brazilian-American poet and writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a B.A. from Brown University, graduate degree from Boston College, and is refining her craft at Philip Schultz’s The Writers’ Studio. Ms. Bettencourt’s work is inspired by our wondrous natural world and variegated human emotions and has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry.

Ice Age – a poem by Adrian Schnall

Ice Age

A year of losses and loneliness – 
and for some, despair.
We’re all still grieving 
for someone – and I’m
still living in fear.

A new kind of climate change – 
trees alive with birdsong,
but a feeling of lead in the air. 
A sky that should dazzle the eye – 
but a veil of mist even there.

A poet once said the lost 
are like this – frozen
in spirit, caught in ice.
How to break free,
get to live twice?

I tell myself the birds 
came back long ago from the frost.
Somehow they managed to nest,
even on glaciers.  I love the thought
of them snuggling, breast

to breast, wing to wing.  
It’s how one survives 
an age like this – 
how one keeps alive 
the fire to sing.     

Adrian Schnall is a retired physician and Professor of Medicine (Case Western Reserve U.) whose poetry has been published in Pathogens and Immunity, Poetica, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  His poems have been selected for public readings by Choral Arts Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Lit Youngstown, Lit Cleveland, and the Island Writers’ Network at Hilton Head.  He lives in Beachwood, Ohio.                   

Baseball with Birds – a poem by Casie Dodd

Baseball with Birds

Tom Merton saw fresh deserts where
most people only sit and stare.
He listened through the surge of blue
that would have threatened to undo
       most men.

But did he ever see the sun
where Clark meets lonely Addison?
Did he try to catch the birds that
hovered over first or third, wet

from Michigan’s half-frozen spray?
Kentucky was too far away.

Casie Dodd lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. Her writing has appeared in Fare Forward, Ekstasis, Front Porch Republic, and other journals. She is the Founder and Editor of Belle Point Press, a new small press celebrating the literary culture of the American Mid-South.

Aamchi Mai – an essay by D.B. Goman

                                                              AAMCHI MAI

Traveling around India– as I often did pre-pandemic–I try to read as much Indian literature as I can. On one trip, I read a novel in which one of the central characters refers to her mother not just as mai but aamchi mai or “our mother.” Adding the possessive was very important to the girl and her younger sister. They wanted everyone to know– all the time– that their mother was theirs; she belonged to them and they to her. Yes, to the exclusion of everyone else. This habit shed critical light on the physical and psychological boundaries of their inhabited universe.

At the time of reading this passage, I had just completed a few weeks of trekking around Madikeri in the state of Karnataka. Aamchi mai, especially the possessive adjective, resonated with feelings experienced and perspectives adopted both before and during my hikes through the Kodagu hills with their, at times, patchwork of rice paddies or coffee plantations. The walks, along with this seemingly mundane reference from a novel, got me thinking again about ways of thinking about things, ways of inhabiting not just our universe, but also our own individual “universe.”

Because I’m Canadian, those words, aamchi mai, also make me think of native cultures in my own country which thrived before the arrival of European explorers and colonists. Native spirituality referred to the Great Mother from whom all things come and to whom all things must return. Yes, return. And then what? Be reborn? Go to some paradise in the sky? Does it really matter? 

Yes, it does. In reality, it is the matter that really does matter. Because, in fact, the matter that is all things, while it gets transformed into something else in the returning, it– or we– never really stop existing. But obviously our continuation is not how it used to be. For lack of a better word, we get recycled. Is that enough for us?

I think it should be. We don’t really know if “our mother” is unparalleled in the universe. But as far as we know, she’s unique. Life itself is unique. It’s rare. Any form of life in its countless varieties is invaluable. How often, getting caught up in human affairs, do we lose sight of this?  But aren’t we the lucky ones for having evolved to such a degree that we can first marvel at and then actually share through discussion the incomparable beauty of our mother’s creation. Would my lasting forever in this particular human or heavenly form give an added boost to feelings of being special or even superior in light of the ephemeral nature of all other things? Would it intensify my own sense of gratitude, appreciation and perhaps guardianship of the natural world? 

I doubt it. In fact, it might erode it; I might take it for granted. Generally, I think knowing there’s a limited amount of time tends to make a person want to maximize his or her experience of something. Of course, this could, and often does, lead to unbridled gluttony, an approach to living summed up in the phrase, “get as much as you, while you can, at any cost.” No doubt Oscar Wilde was thinking about similar behavior when he referred to those “who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.” There are far too many supporting examples past and present to offer for that avaricious response to having a short time in our present bodies. But it can also go the other way, a better way for our mother. And in order for it to do just that, I would argue that, as a beginning, we need to experience the awe of nature. Such experiences can be watershed moments that redefine the territorial boundaries that I spoke of earlier. Let me illustrate some powerful moments of mine from around Madikeri.

For a couple of nights our base was outside of a village northwest of Madikeri in the home of a family of rice farmers. It was an absolutely inspiring setting on a hillside overlooking the golden, windswept, ready-to-harvest rice. This was our spot for welcoming in the new year. In the twilight, with the last bit of sun draining off the outstretched jungle leaves that seemed to blush in so many varieties of green, I sat on a bench on the hill above the paddies watching hundreds of swifts in a grand, frenetic choreography. The birds soared from the top of the jungle canopy at the perimeter, diving down to the tasseled husks of rice. Clearly, there was a bounty of insects that kept this mesmerizing display of acrobatics well-fueled. Later, after a simple yet deliciously spiced dinner of various masalas prepared by our adopted mai, followed by a rich cup of local coffee (plantations abound in this area), we headed to the concrete roof of their home, ready to sing in the new year beneath a chorus of braggart stars. 

Looking skyward, it would be enough to say that I was whelmed. It was loud Orion that eventually made me feel the “over” part. Looking so imposing with his hunter’s sword, he just told me, or so I thought, to get stuffed. Physicists tell us that we are all star dust. And you know what that means, don’t you? While I glow in pride, musing about my shared cosmic bonds with  Sappho or Da Vinci or Curie or Chopin, what about the other, less “radiant” multitudes of the family?! Think of a bit by the American comedian, George Burns, who joked that happiness consists of having close ties with family members who live in another faraway city. I feel the same way about brilliant, fraternal constellations light-years away. I’m very happy to enjoy them from a distance.

We were very fortunate to be in the countryside at this time. Not least for all the bees you could see and hear buzzing around the paddies. That’s a good omen (at least, I like to tell myself that despite what we keep learning about hive decimation worldwide). The honey from the hives of Pushad, the son of our hosts, was incredibly tasty. What the bees seemed most interested in captured our interest as well. The rice harvest was on. And the farmers allowed us to learn about all of the processes, which, in this locality, are still done manually and are carried out cooperatively.

Sometimes I find farmers can have an intellectual arrogance. And rightly so. They’re entitled to it. They know so much about things which are essential to our survival. They can be wary and suspicious of the creatures of the city. Fair enough. I also understand that theirs is a body of knowledge of which urbanites can be ignorant and therefore tend to undervalue. We can be shocked when our type of intellectual arrogance comes up against theirs. These local farmers, however, were very hospitable. 

In the heat of the afternoon, their generosity of spirit included sharing some cane liquor nicely warmed up in the sunlight. To go with this, we received a healthy serving of badh, which is a doughy sweet made with either rice or wheat flour to which raisins are often added. This little repast took place after observing and asking questions about the cutting, hauling and threshing of the rice. Not that I have attention deficit disorder, but, at times, there were admittedly deep challenges to keep focused on the lessons. And this was because surrounding us the whole while were some saucy distractions. We were being tantalized, if not solicited, by what could be called the tart trees or, if you prefer, the bordello blossoms: the huge, white, mammary-sized petals of the thorn apple; the orange, crush-your-heart mayflowers; and the red-siren poinsettias. 

Larger mammals or fauna in general you don’t really see in this area, though locals claim that wild elephants, tigers and leopards are out there in the surrounding jungle. Of course you see plenty of domesticated water buffaloes and cows. Not far from a buffalo or cow, you will inevitably find a white egret, welcomed for its facility at picking off harassing parasites from the hide. And what would a white egret be without its contrasting black cormorant. No big deal? Cormorants, you might say, are a species as fecund as flies. But when you see one stretch its wings out and harness the wind to reach the top of a sprawling tamarind tree, it makes you think that at least that particular cormorant is king. I’ll admit, though, that I’m a sucker for any of nature’s panoply of wonders. 

In this region, and while making our way to the tops of Pushpagiri and Tadiyendamol, two of Karnataka’s highest peaks at just under 1800 meters, I witnessed much. And with the witnessing comes the childlike awe of our mother’s own wondrous fertility: a stout kingfisher on an electrical wire preening itself boldly above a field of rice stalks that seemed to sway in appreciation of the fashion show; in the early morning, high up in the branches of a wild mango tree, a family of iridescent green parrots loudly gossiping; on a boulder, a chameleon, seemingly frozen, deliberating over which color it will betray next in order to keep its tongue larded with bugs; as long as my arm, a pale green-yellow rat snake, molting in an irrigation ditch, its delicately tiled tissue of skin a testimony of resilience; a rebellious young monkey hanging by its tail to impress or taunt its mother with its well-guarded handful of fruit; over-sized tadpoles in a creek looking fat as fish for fry; an imperious Western Ghat brown eagle, like the Hindu deity, Garuda, surveying on high for potential disciples below who also happen to be delicious; a quarter moon hanging in the night sky between Venus and Alpha Centauri like a bright white hammock; or a symphony of fireflies sent to tame the darkness with its lyrical glitter. Let me just witness all this and more. Let me just feel and be a part of it. And I will have my thumb in my mouth with drool running down my wrinkling cheeks.

Having said what I did about the ultimate mortality of things doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to continue living in this form. Given that paradise seems to be right here all around us on this spinning sphere of rock in seemingly infinite, dark space, I have no particular appetite for adding my dust to the great bounty of our mother’s dust. Not yet. However, it is important to acknowledge, as the father of the two girls in the novel does as he comes close to his death, that our bodies aren’t really ours; they’re merely on short-term loan to us. But as the loan is in progress and when it ends, how to pay off all that’s owed? 

I believe that the recognition of the finality of things, particularly of us in this form, can and should heighten the appreciation and value we ascribe to all of our evolutionary diverse “relatives” within the embrace of “our mother.” Yes, right now, before it’s too late. Perhaps in that way we can start to pay down the principal and the incalculable interest on our mother’s magnificent loan to us.

Of course, it is a privilege to travel and have such deeply felt responses. It is a privilege, however, which may well have to end for a variety of reasons. Writers such as George Monbiot argue this because, in the “getting to” distant places, the consequences for our mother can be irrevocably dire. But in order to make, at times, those ineffable connections, and thus feel a sense of reverence for our larger “home,” we don’t have to do the sort of traveling that requires flights across vast expanses of water. It can be as simple– and as complex– as paying attention when stepping out into our gardens, or going for walks in a local forest or along a beach, or taking bike rides along a city riverbank. Still, certain problems remain.             

As we all know, increasing numbers of humans are breathing in more oxygen, blithely converting it into carbon dioxide. Perhaps that in itself would be innocuous. But that supply is then added to the myriad of other greenhouse gas sources created through our hungry pursuit of even more space and our consumption of even more of our mother’s finite resources. We humans, however, were given special gifts: a relatively big brain with its complicated consciousness and miraculous abilities like memory, thought, imagination, and language. Our mother was generous to us. She is ours and we are hers. We belong to each other. That’s an important perspective. But it’s only a start. 

Now it’s time to be generous back. And part of that generosity must include knocking down the exclusive, walled community of “we,” encompassing, as it often does, only the human species. Unlike the girls in the novel, aamchi mai has to be seen as the mother of all things, not just ours alone. Then the varied members of our mother’s extended family might in fact have a raging chance– a chance to return to our mother in their own natural time rather than be forced into the dust by us well before their own good night has dawned.      

D.B. Goman is a poet, essayist, photographer, and educator. Poems, essays, and photographs have been published in a variety of print and on-line journals, some of which include Quarry, Orion Magazine, 2River View, Travel Mag (UK), Outside In Literary Travel Magazine, The Literary Bohemian, Eye Magazine, Poetry Montreal, 2 Bridges Review, New Verse News, and Sisyphus Magazine. A  collection of poems will be launched this year, and a YA novel (a nature adventure) is forthcoming next year.

On The Prayer Trail in Ordinary Time – a poem by Denise Pendleton

On The Prayer Trail in Ordinary Time

	 	  Transfiguration Hermitage, 2021

My skis become my wings the snow 
my sky as I fly through it. 
My arms my legs reach, pull 

and kick as I draw one breath in, let one 
breath out, this motion on this first Sunday 
after Epiphany lifting me closer to heaven 

where I am touched by the radiance 
they say can be found there. 
Who cares now what I have left behind 

it is gone into the past
where I’ve done what I could.  Gone 
are the must do’s, what 

I could do, what I haven’t done
to mend my ways or help 
with the troubles of this world.

How I pity those who plod on snowshoes while I 
glide in this element part air made from what 
the sky has given of itself to lift me 

closer to heaven.  Its jewels 
spread before me on snow sunlit
all around the trees.  Their dark bodies 

stripped of leaves or regal in evergreen offer
their own silent witness to my body this gift 
I praise now steering itself between earth and heaven 

spilling out my bodily prayer, silent 
but for the scuff of skis across snow 
its blanket smoothed over winter ground 

otherwise ugly and barren
but now given this icing 
most divine, most extraordinary.

Denise Pendleton is a recipient of The Jinx Walker Poetry Prize of the Academy of the American Poets.  Her poems have appeared in the book collection, American Sports Poems, and various journals including Northwest ReviewTar River Poetry,Goose River Anthology and Kerning.   Pendleton coordinates the local literacy program, teaches college writing and visits the sanctuary of her backwoods most every day.

Sitting on the Steps – a poem by Dharmavadana

Sitting on the Steps

           of my little wooden cabin,
I watch a cloud shrink. The leaves 
           of the hedgerows 
either side of the meadow
           shiver to chattered commands.
Inside, the flames of the gas stove 
           gutter. A moment ago 
the afternoon was clearing. Now 
           more clouds roll up 
like giants’ fists. I hold 
           my own shoulders, 
chilled. Light from the open door 
           falls across the table – 
yellow-white, silver, 
           ash. The kettle rattles, hisses.
What was it
           I was thinking?

Dharmavadana lives in London, UK, where he teaches meditation and creative writing. He is poetry editor of the Buddhist arts magazine Urthona: His own poems have appeared in the magazines Prole, Under the Radar, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ambit, The North and The Dawntreader. His short stories have been published in Scribble and Litro.

The Aspirant – a poem by Alicia Viguer-Espert

The Aspirant 

Doves dance in warm air
hands tell the Buddha’s story

with uneven voice not quite manly
a crescent walnut centered in his throat
ascending descending vocal tides 
dive deeper within

unable to get the divine pearl
young fisherman aspiring monk
dreams of Tibetan monasteries 
hoping brass bells’ sweet invitation

the empty bowl on the table
misses nurturing rice 
blessings from the receiver’s
fingered smooth beads 

meanwhile crossed legged on the stern
he quietly notices how life’s pattern     
resembles jelly fish swept away 
by unpredictable ocean currents 

Alicia Viguer-Espert was born and raised in Mediterranean Spain. She combines old and new traditions to elicit hope in her poetry. Her work has been published national and internationally. Winner of the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Contest with ‘Holding a Hummingbird’, her second chapbook Out of the Blue Womb of the Sea, was published by Four Feathers Press.  She’s a twice Pushcart nominee.