Genealogy of Blood – a poem by Sue Watling

Genealogy of blood
 
Clear skinned virgin,  
cusp of change, 
 
mother, counting the days,
no, yes, no, please,
 
and here I am, cheeks creased 
like the back of your shirt, 
 
we are charms on a bracelet of age,
all red, red, say it again, 
 
red for danger, red for stop,
wild women, poisoned fruit, 
 
colour me red so I can be seen,
talk to me about blood.  

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

Longing for Rain – a poem by Gershon Ben-Avraham

Longing for Rain

“Bestow dew and rain for blessing”
 —from Winter Amidah

I stand at the corner, resting 
in the shade of a locust tree, 
at the height of summer, longing 
for rain. A breeze blowing in from 
the Negev doesn't cool but rather 
chafes my sunburnt skin—sweat rolls down 
my face, stings my eyes, tastes of salt.
My splotched shirt sticks to my wet back. 
It's merely time, and only time, 
I know, that stands between now and 
then, when glorious rains will fall 
in bucketfuls. And the rain-soaked
soil will send earthworms up for air.

Gershon Ben-Avraham’s writing has appeared in journals and magazines, including Amethyst Review, Big Muddy, Gravel, Image, Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, Psaltery & Lyre, Rappahannock Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. His short story, “Yoineh Bodek,” (Image) earned “Special Mention” in the Pushcart Prize XLlV: Best of the Small Presses 2020 Edition.

The Woman in the Lake – a short story by Elizabeth Enochs

The Woman in the Lake 

Hattie sits at the kitchen table breaking crackers in two before topping them with pimento cheese. Her mother assumes it’s a phase — like the summer Hattie refused to eat anything with a face — but Hattie’s eaten crackers this way since she bit into weevil larvae at a church potluck two springs ago, and she’ll eat crackers this way for the rest of her life. Hattie’s had a stomach ache for days and doesn’t really want to eat anything, but her mother insists because that’s what good mothers do. 

Today is the day Hattie and her mother will walk down to the church where she ate the weevil crackers. They’ll both wear black dresses and black shoes. They’ll arrive right on time and sit in a pew near the back. 

When it’s all over, Hattie and her mother will walk up to the front row, say they’re so sorry and offer hugs and cheek kisses to everyone who’s crying. Hattie will turn and look at the body, lightly touch the woman’s cold hand, and quietly mutter a few words that no one will hear over the piano.

They’ll walk to someone’s house then and eat casseroles and pie. Hattie’s stomach will stop hurting and she’ll drink glass after glass of pink lemonade until sugar and pulp coat her teeth and tongue. Her mother will drink coffee. Later, all the kids will end up playing hide and seek in the woods behind the house and all the parents will end up drinking amber liquor from crystal glasses. Hattie will run until her French braid comes undone, and she’ll snag her brand new dress on a thorn bush in the woods — her mother won’t notice the tear until she’s doing laundry the next day, and even then Hattie won’t get in trouble. Before they leave, Hattie’s mother will wash all the crystal glasses and put away all the casseroles and pies. She’ll offer more hugs and cheek kisses, more I’m so sorrys, and then Hattie and her mother will walk home while the sun is setting. 

But right now, Hattie’s snacking and drinking juice from an old jam jar while her mother drinks coffee and smokes on the front porch. Right now, Hattie’s thinking about the story of Lazarus and holding her aching belly with the hand that’s not holding crackers. She’s remembering a Sunday school class from a few weeks ago about prophets and the power of prayer, and she’s wondering about the best way to pray for the woman the sheriff’s department found when they dragged the lake. 

Maybe I can bring her back without even touching her, Hattie thinks. She’d only touched one dead body before, her grandmother’s, and wasn’t eager to do so again. Maybe I can just say the words in my head and that’ll be enough, she thinks. After all, that’s the way her and her mother usually say grace. Or maybe, I can touch her while I’m saying the words in my head, and that’ll be enough, Hattie considers. I should probably touch her and whisper the words at the same time, just to be safe, Hattie decides. It’s the option she dreads the most, but she settles on it, thinking it’s the one most likely to get God’s attention. 


The screen door smacks shut when Hattie’s mother comes inside to tell her they have to get ready. Hattie sits very still while her mother French braids her hair, and when she’s finished, Hattie asks her for help with the zipper on her new dress. Hattie’s mom puts on a black dress of her own, gargles mouthwash, and applies lipstick the color of bricks before the two leave for the church, walking hand in hand.

That night, after Hattie and her mother have walked home from the wake, taken baths, and sipped hot chocolate in front of the TV, Hattie dreams of the woman the sheriff found in the lake. She dreams the woman is floating on her back, starlit and skinny dipping, smiling and safe. She dreams the woman swims to shore and slips into a white dress that sticks where it should flow, clinging to the lake water that’s failed to drip from the woman’s body. 

In Hattie’s dream, night turns to day while she and the woman are picnicking in the cemetery, and Hattie shows the woman how to look for weevils in her crackers. When Hattie and the woman finish eating they walk around, hand in hand, introducing themselves to all the dead who have risen. 

Hattie spots her grandmother sunbathing on a blanket with Hattie’s first pet — an orange cat with green eyes — and blows both of them a kiss. Hattie sees the girl who kissed her behind the white oak in her backyard and waves. The girl waves back before returning to her Nancy Drew mystery, using her gravestone as a backrest. Hattie sees a group of men wearing white uniforms with black neckerchiefs, laughing and drinking and throwing a frisbee back and forth while their caskets lie open in the sun. 

When Hattie wakes up she’ll look for signs that the woman’s back. She’ll bike to the cemetery to visit her grave; she’ll walk to the part of the lake where the sheriff found her body. She’ll try talking to God again. Years later, she’ll even Google how to do a seance — but the woman will only ever appear in Hattie’s dreams, where they’ll swim under the stars and share picnic lunches with those who have risen.

Liz Enochs is a writer from southeast Missouri. Her nonfiction has been published by Narratively, Leafly, Bustle, and many others. So far, her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, Remington Review, and The Raven Review. Often, you’ll find her in the woods.

An Angel is Reaching Out to You – a poem by Rupert Loydell

AN ANGEL IS REACHING OUT TO YOU
 
Angel reaches for the sun.
Angel reaches for the stars.
Angel reaches from the grave.
Angel reaches for immortality.
Angel reaches for heavenly light.
Angel reaches out to the children.
 
Angel reaches out in morning fog. Silently, it calls; more silent this morning. Whispering angel reaches out.
 
Angel reaches for your hand but touches your heart.
 
Angel is your confidante, a trusted shoulder to cry on and someone to laugh with 
'til tears roll down your cheeks. She's a heavenly gift that you'll treasure forever.
 
Within our Living with Angels membership, there is no expectation, no dogma. Just love and a common desire to reach for the best by partnering with the angels and committing to divine guidance.
 
Angel enables the most effective, efficient and scalable way to engage monitor and manage large, high-risk/high cost aging.
 
The rescue helicopter was like an angel from heaven.
 
Angels walk among us at this time of year
 
Angel's futility reaches an all-time high.
 
'No one could call you easy, Angel.'
 
Angel reaches for a pistol.
 
 
   © 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)

Daniel – a poem by Wayne-Daniel Berard

Daniel
 
I don’t use “step”
as in “step forward”
or worse “step back.”
You are my bonus son
the prize I never quite
expected. Too old
for bedtime stories when
I married your mom let
me tell one now: once 
upon a theatre in the
middle of things they
held onto your ticket
torn in half 
movies had stages then 
and when the curtain fell
with credits fading in its
ripples a man would come
and announce the lucky
winner the bonus you
are he and all the lights
come up
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, teaches Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His poetry chapbook, The Man Who Remembered Heaven, received the New Eden Award in 2003. His non-fiction When Christians Were Jews (That Is, Now), subtitled Recovering the Lost Jewishness of Christianity with the Gospel of Mark, was published in 2006 by Cowley Publications. A novel The Retreatants, was published in 2012 (Smashwords). A chapbook, Christine Day, Love Poems, was published in 2016 (Kittatuck Press). His novella, Everything We Want, was published in 2018 by Bloodstone Press. A poetry collection, The Realm of Blessing, was published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press.

Mother Mary Comes to Me: a Pop Culture Anthology – a Review by Sarah Law

#MARYTOO: REVIEW BY SARAH LAW 

MOTHER MARY COMES TO ME: A POP CULTURE POETRY ANTHOLOGY, edited by Karen Head and Collin Kelley. 113 pp. Madville Publishing.  ISBN 9781948692427.

Although it might sound like a curiosity, it was a pleasure to read this new anthology which places Mary (as in the Blessed Virgin Mary) at the centre of contemporary concerns. Most prominent in Catholic culture and spirituality, Mary persists as mother with child on traditional Christmas cards, mourning mother in famous pietas, and as a tenderly smiling woman in a variety of kitsch statuary. As a feminine aspect of the divine, Mary has enduring appeal. In fact, it’s quite astonishing how many Marian apparitions there seem to have been, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She remains a figure of popular imagination, and a source of comfort and paradox even beyond the explicitly spiritual. This anthology isn’t a selection of devotional poetry, but the human responses and contexts included provide much food for thought, and Mary is the thread that runs through them all.

After a thoughtful editorial introduction, the opening section, ‘Ave Maria’ does contain poems with a devotional echo – work here is imaginatively lyrical, frequently blending imaginative use of Mary’s own voice with a sense of mystery: 

God is a hum, a note I know
In my heart. Hungry and full.
 
I am simultaneous
All the time.
('Anointed' by Ivy Alvarez).

Mary is also found in the specifics of ethnicity and geography, always among the disenfranchised rather than the privileged: 

...where would 
she be, a brown-skinned girl,
a migrant, going to put her name
on a register? 
('La Madonna de las Naranjas' by Lee Ann Pingel).

Mary is increasingly viscerally imagined, for example in Chelsea Clarey’s ‘Fear Not’, in which she is a girl who ‘did not fear the lamb’s blood’ but instead ‘stood in a gory portal/ and felt something deep’. Mary in this section is profoundly connected to the earth, especially in Lara Gulate’s ‘White City’, Linda Parson’s ‘How Soft the Earth’, and Trebor Healey’s resonant ‘Black Madonna’ where ‘All the dark mountains are her/ and she sits within them/ as if within a shawl of snow…’. Specific locations are highlighted in Lincoln Jaques’ ‘Our Gospa’ (referring to the ongoing Marian apparitions in Medjugorje) and Larry D Thacker’s ‘Thrift Store Gods’ where a statue of Mary both reveals and prompts an act of generosity. The prominence of Mary in Latinx culture is acknowledged in many poems, for example Gustavo Hernandez’s ‘Formas Sagradas’. These place-based poems are juxtaposed rather wonderfully with the homage to various US poets in ‘Mary Pays Homage’ by Jill Crammond, which starts: ‘The art of mothering isn’t hard to master’, and riffs on lines from Bishop, Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Mary Oliver and others. I’d really like to read a BritPo version of this cento-esque poem: would anyone like to oblige?

Section Two, ‘I Am Woman’ imagines various subversions of Mary’s traditional story: what if Mary had not consented, her Fiat a fiction? ‘Legend shows me acquiescent. / Don’t believe a word,’ says Grace Bauer’s Mary in ‘Mary: A Confession and Complaint’. In Pablo Miguel Martinez’s ‘ Adiós, O Virgen de Guadalope–’ she is ‘headstrong as only mujercitas/ her age can be’. In ‘Triptych’ by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, a notably pop-culture poem, ‘Mary tried to fight off the Angel (#MaryToo),/ her womb full of snow, sky, and bickering clouds’. Elsewhere there is blood, the ‘ordered thud of blood’ in Catherine Clark-Sayles ‘Self Portrait as Annunciation’ and a ‘wrench of red bubbles’ in Ann Cefola’s poignant sketches of loss in ‘Theotokos’. An adulterous Mary is depicted in Tyson West’s ‘The Carpenter’s Wife’. All balanced with the delicate maternal absences in Jana Schledorn’s ‘Upon Realising the Absence of Mothers’: ‘(she calling, a call I could not catalog)’. 

Section Three, ‘Along Comes Mary’ contains more poems specifically merging Mary with contemporary culture, including a pregnant Mary hankering after decaf lattes in JC Reilly’s ‘Stopping at a Starbucks in Egypt’, and a superhero Mary, ‘dressed in a powder blue body suit,/ thigh-high boots, and cape connected to a swab-shaped helmet – ‘ in ‘Mutant Mary, Mother of Doom’ by Robert Siek. Madonna (singer) as well as Madonna (BVM) appear in Jennifer Martelli’s ‘Madonna Triptych, 1984’. Meanwhile, twenty-first century social media Mary is all pervasive in Donna McLaughlin Schwender’s ‘Follow Me @HailSocialMary’. For the theologically, as well as poetically inclined, I thought that this poem’s casual comment about live-tweeting the Assumption could surely inspire a poem of its own. Back to technology, P.F. Anderson’s ‘Our Lady of Code’ posits a Mary whose

...heart 
is Boolean, her heart
is fuzzy, her heart
is false and true. 

However, even when misspelled, as in the tattoo described by Alison Pelegrin’s ‘Our Lady of No Regerts’, Mary is there. 

Section Four, entitled ‘Don’t Stop Believin”, modulates the poems towards a more spiritual hunger: ‘as if/ as if’, in Rupert Loydell’s meditatively spacious ‘a Confusion of Marys’. Miracles and Marian apparitions flicker amidst the paraphernalia of contemporary life: Mary on a tube station, as a stain on the wall, and conjured by ‘some nearly unnoticed machinery of grace’ in Blake Leland’s ‘Annunciation’. Perhaps, some poems suggest, the gift of perceiving Mary’s presence is in us, readers of the world, rather than in the fabric of our surroundings: ‘God bless/ the human brain for the hardwiring/ that sees the face everywhere’ declares the splendidly titled ‘Pareidolia, or “If it Makes them Pray, that’s Okay”’ by Tina Kelley. It’s followed by the fifth section, ‘How Great Thou Art’, which dips into the ekphrastic mode with poems celebrating both the beauty and absurdity of artistic representations of the Virgin. ‘She never seems surprised/ to have given birth to an old man’ observes Danielle Hanson’s ‘Lemon Breast of the Virgin Mary’. 

The sixth and final section, ‘Like a Prayer’ is arguably the most spiritually focused of all, as traditional Marian devotions are woven into our contemporary worldliness and religious resistance. Several poems literally intercalate lines of prayer with contemporary narrative fragment. I was struck by Rick Campbell’s ‘To All Those who Prayed for Me’, and its agnostic honesty: ‘I believe/ in believing in something’. And I was moved by Janet Lowery’s ‘Statue of Mary’ which documents how a simple statue helped preserve the speaker’s sanity through an abusive childhood: ‘Where could I go for help except the divine?’ 

I’ve not been able to mention all the poems that strike a chord of collective or personal memory but I can conclude by saying this anthology is a strong one. In much needed contrast to recent reactionary interpretations of Marian apparitions as minatory and censorious, Mother Mary Comes to Me is a spiritually open, as well as a poetically refreshing book.

A Year in Sentences – a poem by Matthew Miller

A Year in Sentences

This first snow falls 
like a pleasant chord, fingers stretched 
pianissimo on their knit hats.

In flat panoramas, rain dribbles 
then gathers to nap 
on the shoulders of back roads.

New light spills sideways, like a child 
from a spiral slide, dizzy 
but climbing up again.

When streams release mighty sighs, 
delight in smooth crests of stone 
peeking from lapping waters.

Long exhales into tense film 
send momentary bubbles 
drifting above the midway.

Kayaks in cold currents float 
beneath fir and lodgepole, 
paddling faster to what end.

Coneflowers explode 
beside the road; then bend away 
in breezes spun from bike tires.

With wild lines, house flies 
buzz ripe peaches, while raw grapes hide 
behind fuzzy tomato vines.

After yesterday's rain, impromptu 
ponds cast yellow shimmers 
between rows of cut stalks.

The sun withdraws, a taut 
pumpkin softly collapsing 
in the wind's bitter caterwaul.

Brittle leaves scrawl 
an unfathomable dispatch, 
a cursive labyrinth on the lawn.

On the porch, two spruces 
dappled in descending beams 
from outstretched lights nailed above them.

Matthew Miller teaches social studies, swings tennis rackets, and writes poetry – all hoping to create a home. He lives beside a dilapidating apple orchard in Indiana, and tries to shape the dead trees into playhouses for his four boys. His poetry has been published in Flying Island, Remington Review and is forthcoming in Whale Road Review.
WEBSITE: https://mattleemiller.wixsite.com/poetry

Cave Artist – a poem by Ann Cuthbert

Cave Artist
 
This body is fluid.
I have entered Her.
Now I will give birth,
bring out the likenesses.
My eyes find forms,
lift them from Her body,
my hands ease out
their bones, their flesh,
cajole animation, 
conjure breath.
This is no illusion.
I am bone and antler,
hoof and fur and skin.
I am inside Her.
Everything is inside me.

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). 

To a Church Mouse Nibbling the Remains of the Host – a poem by David E. Poston

TO A CHURCH MOUSE NIBBLING THE REMAINS OF THE HOST
 
 
Blesséd be whiskers 
& tiny feet
 
Blesséd be Aquinas
 
Blesséd be Bonaventure  
 
Blesséd be crumbs in a dark chancel 
& pink tongue that licks spilt wine 
 
Blesséd be the silence of this hour
 
Blesséd be the least of these
                        meek inheritor
                        wee vessel for glory
                        insignificant squeaker
                        faintest whisperer 
                                                            of grace
 

David E. Poston is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Slow of Study, and a co-editor of Kakalak. His work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Atlanta ReviewNorth Carolina Literary ReviewPembroke Magazine, and The Windhover. He lives in Gastonia, NC.

Birdsongs – a poem by Matthew J. Andrews

Birdsongs
 
1. 
 
I came back to the place,
found only a flock of doves
 
pecking at scraps in the street,
cooing in communion.
 
Was that you speaking?
 
2. 
 
I have read that bird colonies
on isolated rocky outposts
can be millions strong, a mass
of squawking eternal. 
 
Yet amidst the cacophony, a child
always knows the mother’s call,
can always pick it out,
can always be heard in response,
 
can always be fed.
This is how birds are made.
 
3. 
 
I’m trying to write a gospel
of bird noises, but I’ll be damned
to make any sense of them.
 
The sounds themselves are simple,
but the tones shift like fault lines,
the pitches rise and fall like tides.
 
It’s impossible to know whether each trill
is admonishment or admiration,
whether the barely whispered cooooo
is the tenderness of a lover’s kiss
or the quiet mourning of a broken heart.
 
 
4. 
 
The voice erupts, an atom 
bomb detonated in the sky, whipping
 
clothes in its wind, drawing blood
from ruptured eardrums.
 
There is nothing like it. The closest
you can get on your own
 
is to jam quill pens
into the sides of your head:
 
a flagellation of words,
an auditory stigmata,
 
an imitation of birdsong. 

Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer who lives in Modesto, California. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Funicular MagazineThe Inflectionist ReviewRed Rock ReviewSojournersKissing Dynamite, and Deep Wild Journal, among others. He can be contacted at matthewjandrews.com