Sacraments – a poem by Bonnie Naradzay

Sacraments     	                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                            
Winter is piling snow on the porch railings, and ice embraces 
the camellia leaves, the expectant buds. If I forget thee…
 
I fling open the front door, half expecting the fox to appear, 
trotting down the road in the dark, always going somewhere.

Where do the birds go when evening comes – 
the cardinals, finches, and the others I cannot identify? 
 
In today’s reading, John’s disciples start to follow Jesus, who stops to ask – 
what are you looking for? They say – Rabbi, where are you staying?
 
Come and see, he responds.  They stay with him the rest of the day.
This was before all the parables and the fish, bread, and wine.
 
I walked straight eastward this morning. Between the faint striations 
of clouds limning the horizon, the sun was a transmutation of fire.
 
Then a flurry of swifts arose – little quarter notes, high in the sky –
only to disappear, flying into the vanishing point.
 
The horses have been led out of the stables to graze 
in the dazzling frost-covered grass, the suspension of air. 
 
Maybe the whole world is floating, like the ducks
where the pond has not yet frozen over.  Have mercy on me.

Bonnie Naradzay‘s poems are in AGNI, New Letters (Pushcart nomination), RHINO, Kenyon Review Online, Tampa Review, Pinch (Pushcart nomination), EPOCH, Anglican Theological Review, American Journal of Poetry; many others. In 2010, the University of New Orleans awarded her a month’s stay with Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary, in an Italian castle in the Dolomites. 

The Mind of Winter – a poem by James Crews

The Mind of Winter

The exquisite risk to still our own house . . . 
  —St. John of the Cross

This blankness is not so much a curse
as it is spacious and beckoning, the way
the curling white bark of the birch tree
stands out against all the black trunks
of maples around it, just waiting to be
written on, made useful, a natural canvas
for the hands of winter passing over it.
And the days are not uniform or gray but
begin with every hue of blue pressing through
snow clouds at dawn like a sudden blade
of light through stained-glass, illuminating
steaks of violet and pink that, yes, will 
soon disappear, which is why we have to be
here at the window to see them, taking
the exquisite risk, as St. John of the Cross
once put it, to still our own house
so the spirit knows where to pass through.


James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of two anthologies: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. jamescrews.net

Because of the Darkness – a poem by Stephen Kingsnorth

Because of the Darkness
 
We do not see the stars at day,
but know, on course, they must be there;
we only wonder at the sight
because the darkness makes them bright.
So though the looming darkness scares,
we concentrate on sparkle light,
unless the meteors are due
and then the blackness offers pool
from which we spot the streaking star.

Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by a dozen on-line poetry sites, including Amethyst Review, and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader & Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

Grief that Follows Advent – a poem by Thomas Allbaugh

Grief that Follows Advent


“I have found myself thinking of paths,”
I write, my voice not yet recognized as 
faith. “In this grace of a season, many green
and white words of prophets
and historians open not one but many 
paths.” In a calendar of words too bold for me 
announcing, announcing, endlessly announcing
an old, familiar kingdom we’ve
cycled through many times before
and a familiar infant not yet grown to us, who hasn’t
reflected yet our suffering— 
though often seen— 
remains strange and 
unknown, strange for being so familiar. 
There must be paths— 

why they allow 
silent prayer in with the corporate echoing 
on walls, allow the whispering 
community to circle nearby—words that 
may reach across our inner darkness. 

There must be paths, though words
fall, insincere, so many I can only settle for 
someone else speaking Latin in an adjacent room,  
mysteries of my own struggles forming in my embarrassment, 
affirming another than my own failure, my own sadness, 

announcing, announcing, announcing the
announcement:
At the end of whispers, take for a path, 
look forward 
to a looking forward unseen yet or felt, no 
words yet, only a path that others have carried us to, bricks 
on which they’ve placed our feet, where we’ve
crashed, lost in a wood, 

Dante in the middle of 
what is the path? Where are the voices 
you trust? Are they no more than bricks on a path, 
a walk in the dark? 

I have found myself thinking of paths. 
In the season that gives us
a calendar, there must be
paths.

Thomas Allbaugh is the author of Apocalypse TVSubtle Man Loses His Day Job and Other Stories, and The View from January. His work has appeared in Broken Sky 67 and Relief. He is professor of English at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches composition and creative writing.

from Vittoria Colonna’s Sonnets for Michelangelo – Recomposed by Anna Key

from Vittoria Colonna’s Sonnets for Michelangelo

No. 29


O my soul, the Lord is coming, now chase
away the mists that surround you with his clear
and holy light. Let it lift doubt and fear
like a blanket of fog from a field; face
his bright sun with humble courage; embrace
the intensity of heat and light which bears
down on us, too hot for comfort, here
struggling in this earthly dwelling place.
It’s hard to grow, and hard to change, and hard
to sweat out all the sin and hurt, false desires,
failures and false hopes that course through our proud
veins; but when it’s done, my soul, when the fires
have given up their flames and the sun has heard
your cry, God himself will say your name out loud.

Anna Key is married with four children and lives on a small sailboat with her family. Her writing is centrally concerned with themes of spiritual and ecological conversion, and she has published poems and essays at Dappled ThingsConviviumEvangelization & Culture and Catholic Poetry Room

Author note: the 16th-century poet Vittoria Colonna’s sequence of intensely searching religious sonnets were written for her friend and poetic student, Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famous Renaissance artist. Not straightforward translations, my recompositions take a central poetic movement and attempt to render it in a contemporary idiom, though I preserve the Petrarchan sonnet form.

Wild Goose – a poem by Rachel Grandey

Wild Goose



Light on the path ahead
the sun’s last rays generous, prodigal
poured out in dying oblation.
All light dies, or turns;
flame fades to ash
and you are left a lonely coal, heavy-footed
lost in a darkness that encroaches and dulls.

But there is another way.
The sky to the west still burns
with quiet translucence
waiting to be filled; a gentle invitation.

So lift this turgid bulk, these trappings
take off, ungainly goose, drag your frame
into air that scatters you like snowflakes
with yet-glowing embers
and welcomes you to lightness and
fleet, home-bound flight.

Rachel Grandey, originally from North-East England, studied literature, linguistics and anthropology before moving to South-East Asia to teach English. She enjoys sea-gazing, bird-watching, tea-drinking and early morning forest-exploring. Her proudest literary achievement to date is winning a signed Manchester United football in a poetry competition at the age of fourteen. Her poetry has been published in Vita Poetica.

Good – a poem by Johanna Caton, O.S.B.

Good


When I see a sheep just-shorn, looking so experimental 
and embarrassed, I imagine that the First Sheep must have looked 
like this, emerging from the modelling mind of the Creator.
And I see God gazing upon the sheep with a smile of merriment, 
and saying tentatively to the Other Persons, What do you think?  
And the Persons saying: “Umm... you were aiming for...?”  
God: “A deer.”     Persons: “A what?”    God: “Watch me.”  

And then, I see the Maker deftly recalibrating the original design 
in its colour, leg-line, neck-length, face-shape, eye-width and tail-plan.  
Glorious Eye-brows then lift in silent question.  The Persons answer: 
“Yes,” reverently. They fold their arms, nod and smile 
into each other’s eyes.  

Then, I see God returning to the First Sheep (she looks upset).   
Everlasting Arms enwrap her, and when the Embracing One steps 
back the Sheep is shod in the cushiony coat we know.  Again, 
Immortal Eyebrows rise.  Persons: “Better!  Imposing! 
Large woolly cylinder with legs! Still a tad funny – but useful!”  

And, now, before my imagination stands the First Sheep. 
I also see the deer delicately drinking from a near-by stream.  
I see that the Sheep is deeply jealous of the deer’s gamin beauty 
(what was that smirking presence sliding through the grass?).  

I see the scowling Sheep turn toward the deer. So abrupt, so big 
a baa bursts out that (much to the Sheep’s gratification), the deer 
rears and runs, her trim tail raised to show the pure white under-fur.  
Again, Ever-loving Eyebrows lift in question.  The Persons say, 

“Mmm.... One more thing.  Watch us.”  Two now join hands, dance, 
circling slowly; and in a trice, a lamb wobbles out, knock-kneed 
unblemished and pure. The sheep trots over, sniffs it, and deeply baas, 
“Heaven.”   Merciful and Comforting Eyebrows lift...?   

“Good,” said God.

Johanna Caton, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun.  She was born in the United States and lived there until adulthood, when her monastic vocation took her to England, where she now resides.  Her poems have appeared in The Christian Century, The Windhover, The Ekphrastic Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Catholic Poetry Room, and other venues, both online and print.

November Afternoon – a poem by Fredric Hildebrand

November Afternoon


Nothing is simple and alone.
A maple leaf drops on water,
immediately still. Wild ducks 
weave a southward flight, away 
from heavy clouds covering 
the evening light. The breathing 
forest, the living stones, every 
withering leaf, each drop of rain, 

the beasts, the birds, the invisible 
spirit in the air; we are all 
one. Anything that any of 
us does affects us all. We 
are not separate and alone. 
Nothing is simple and alone. 

Fredric Hildebrand is a retired physician living in Neenah, WI. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, “Northern Portrait” (Kelsay Books, 2020), and “A Glint of Light” (Finishing Line Press, 2020). His recent poetry has appeared in The MacGuffin  and Sky Island Journal
When not writing or reading, he plays acoustic folk guitar and explores the Northwoods with his wife and two Labrador retrievers. 
fredrichildebrandpoetry.com

The Missouri River Breaks – a poem by Mark B. Hamilton


THE MISSOURI RIVER BREAKS

			--for Leonard Peltier,
and to my friends at Standing Rock


Now, I can begin
my apology to the Lakota, as it is
my history to do so.

All my relatives on a journey to here, safely
in a lee of willows bent by the covering sky,

My tent a doorway
of soft greens and tender grasses—
a slanted drum for the rain.

River banks curve through moist prairie clumps
to fall in great slabs of thick mud and mystery.

Beaver tails drop
like flat rocks onto the surface of the night
and jolt the tingling of stars.

Even the nighthawks carry small circles of air
in their wings to seed tomorrow’s sky.

Far from the mountains
a river feels everything passing
and knows of its approach.

Plovers foraging ahead, extend my vision,
improve my judgment: when to cross; when to stay.

See how the extravagant
birds are claiming the Milky Way
as their wild destination?

See the meadowlark who brings the sunlight
to the river’s edge in its slashing heart?

A red-winged blackbird
marks all things as its territory
in celebration of the night.

Let the crest line rise into The People
dressed in rugged rock singing the Great Mystery.

See how the White Cliffs
in buffalo robes are quietly conversing
with the wet sandstone?

Listen to the ledges where the soft birds go, and to where
I’m beginning to understand why:

Life becomes a sibling
shielded in the shade of river bank
			and slightly out-of-sight.

Each day may seem like three. Winds continue
from the east. Birds speak, if you listen.

A flycatcher will invite you
to lunch at her hidden river crossing
where the deer trails intersect.

I continue paddling farther into the crystal waters
			where engineless boats are free to travel.

I remain an imperfect
guest who may or may not be deaf
to sandpipers pecking.

They rise and hover up into the starry path, silent
above the thunk thunk of paddlers in aluminum canoes.

I stay in the cottonwood shade,
a grackle floating by on its splayed wings
speaking of loneliness.

Close enough to have reached out, I might have
saved it, if I had not thought him dead.

I remain, here
as one, in this history, since nothing
exists without it.

The night keeps riding the scented dark, bending the sage
into whispers—into gently moving promises.
 
Water and two pancakes.
One day to Virgelle, then Fort Benton.
Then, the Great Falls, and rest.

Young osprey grow strong atop the old trees,
owls in the deep cool beneath a concrete bridge.

In front of my tent
rabbits nibble on flower stems, while I	
sit clapping mosquitoes.

If I am needed by nature, it is not mentioned, although
at night I can hear the hooves in the dry grasses.


Mark B. Hamilton is an environmental neo-structuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from Eastern and Western traditions.
His new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative, (Shanti Arts, 2020) explores the reciprocity between self, culture, history, and the contemporary environment of the polluted Ohio River.   Please see:  www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com

Circular Prayer – a poem by Margo Davis

Circular Prayer 


Her garden survives 
her long black skirts sweeping the paths.
Garden paths widen as she turns through ferns.
The ferns turn, clinging to her skirts, 
nudging sweet peas to meet the bougainvillea 
blooms. The season will fall short. Falling short, 
the sun scolds the garden for its need, water. 

Water will collect if it rains. Rain won’t fill 
buckets if there are no clouds. No clouds today 
so she skirts her bath. Another bath, pointless 
a waste of water. Water, please, she
pleads in prayer, her long black skirts brushing 
bougainvillea petals beneath the sweet peas.
Please. Her garden.  

Recent poems by Margo Davis have appeared in Dead Mule School of Southern Lit, Panoply, Deep South Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, MockingHeart Review, & Odes and Elegies: Eco-Poetry from the Texas Gulf Coast. A three-time Pushcart nominee, Margo’s forthcoming chapbook with Finishing Line Press is due out late-fall 2021.