Subtraction – a poem by Dan Campion

Subtraction

Combining words, we do not give, but take,
from primal order. We can’t help ourselves.
Like storing grain hulled for the body’s sake,
we sift and winnow words to fill our shelves.
Book writing means subtraction from the One
that everything once was: it dissipates.
Book reading is the same. Look what we’ve done
and tell me this long word game elevates.
Addition is the shadow scribbles cast
down on a page of paper, bark, or stone.
Prolific, and their territory vast,
the two crossed minus signs can’t act alone.
They also need to scratch, to scrape away
like locusts on the last leaf of the play.

.

Dan Campion is the author of Peter De Vries and Surrealism and co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song, a third edition of which was issued in 2019. His poetry has appeared in Poetry, Rolling Stone, and many other magazines. A selection of his poems titled The Mirror Test will be published by MadHat Press in February 2022. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Lines for Jean Rhys’s Ghost – a poem by Jack B. Bedell

Lines for Jean Rhys’s Ghost

“Well, sometimes it’s a fine day, isn’t it? Sometimes the sky is blue.
Sometimes the air is light, easy to breathe. And there is always tomorrow…”
—Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight

May every window you pass let in
a light, Caribbean breeze, and on it
the voice of God floating

through a sentence you’ve written.
May every table you choose
be the best in the place,

with a fresh highball at your fingertips
and endless plates of food delivered
right before you ask for anything.

May you feel free to think of air,
if air is on your mind, or not think
at all. Dance and laugh and enjoy

the moon’s reflections on the sea,
tell stories about just that, and know
whatever hands touch you now

will be as gentle as you wish them to be.

.

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University where he edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in PidgeonholesThe ShoreEcoTheoThe HopperTerrain, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm. He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Self-checkout – a poem by Karen Bjork Kubin

Self-checkout

Turns out you can leave pretty much anything behind,
even the things you’d never forget,
even the highlights, like
that plastic tub of divinity
you found at the back of the shelf—
the last one.
That, too, can be left at checkout.

Or maybe you left it in the makeup aisle
while pondering the many ways
you could offer yourself, shining,
to the world,
or else in produce,
while you inspected
that bag of mandarin oranges,

trying to determine their real color
underneath the bright netting.
Maybe you forgot it
while picking up print cartridges,
cursing the way they set words into the world
so stingily,
and with utter carelessness.

More likely, though,
you paid for your divinity in full,
bagged it neatly
with your own two hands
and then set it down, distracted,
forgetful of the sweetness
inside.

.

A violinist by training, Karen Bjork Kubin has been exploring the tensions and connections between music and language for as long as she can remember. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spillway, Whale Road Review, Rock & Sling, Ruminate, Relief, and How to Pack for Church Camp, among other publications.

Images of Oneness – a poem by Irina Kuzminsky

Images of Oneness

We are so Many
Linked in One
But only One can balance all
See the whole pattern
Know how it unfolds
And hold opposing energies
In harmony and equal
And thus the great dream of the
Earth comes into being.

***

Out of the darkness into light
Out of the chaos into patterns
Out of pulsation into purpose
And out of solitude into connection
The swirling origin is clothed within the dream of God.

***

Essence coalescing into a human outline
The Divine
Calls
To Its image
And stretches out its rays of light
Its great desire – our Co-Creation

***

God was the One who held
Creation and destruction in a perfect balance
The opposites suspended in one trembling whole
And was not torn to shreds
There confidence and doubt weren’t severed
And every energy an equal to its yin
What will we do when faced with godlike powers
Create?
Be shredded?
Or will the One who knew how to hold All
Return and save us?

© Irina Kuzminsky

.

Irina Kuzminsky is a widely published poet and writer; she is also a dancer, singer and composer, who has combined a life in the arts with a rigorous academic background including a doctorate from Oxford. Her passion has long been a quest for the feminine faces of the Divine across spiritual traditions  https://irinushka.net

In the Steps of Catherine, Badass – an essay by Patricia Crisafulli

 

Over the past twenty years, I have become an admirer, a follower of sorts, of Catherine of Siena. I have sought out her images—that Roman nose, that stalk of lilies—in museums and churches. Once, chancing upon a portrait of her in the Art Institute of Chicago, I felt as if I’d sighted a Kardashian. In her native Tuscany, I later discovered, it’s harder not to see her: she’s everywhere, even on street corners.
While in Florence a few years ago, on our way to catch the bus to Siena, my husband and I were stopped in our tracks by a sidewalk inscription in Italian and English: “Every step I have taken in my life has led me here, now.” It seemed personally significant, no doubt as it does to most passersby. Wanting to commit the location to memory, so Joe and I could come back and stand by these words again, we looked up at the street sign. We were on the corner of Saint Catherine of Siena Street. Of course we were.

That was not the first time I felt Catherine influencing, guiding, and, dare I say it, speaking to me. The most direct messages are from her writing: letters, prayers, and passages from Il Dialogo (The Dialogue), a theological masterpiece that chronicles her dialogue with God. Extraordinary in volume, considering that Catherine grew up illiterate. How much of it Catherine dictated versus what she managed to write in her own hand is immaterial when the words are as powerful as these: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” She’s bumper-sticker worthy with messages that are uncannily timely today: “We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues – I see the world is rotten because of silence.”

No one could ever accuse Catherine of staying silent. When something needed to be said or done, Catherine committed herself—mind, body, soul, and voice to the task. Some 650 years ago, when the average woman had no public voice and literally belonged to men—father, brother, and inevitably spouse—Catherine singularly belonged only to herself and to God. When she spoke out, counseling princes and popes alike, she neither waited for nor relied on any human authority. She attracted followers and the occasional accuser. Through it all she never lost her voice or her faith. She was Catherine, the original badass.

The Badass Trailblazer

The word badass has flexed its biceps and swaggered its way into widespread usage, conjuring up images of super-fit, hypercompetitive, butt-kickers. The badassery I prefer connotes being values-driven and fearless in one’s display of compassion, courage, and care for others. Jim Taylor, Ph.D., writing on the Psychology Today blog, explained: “A badass is someone who does the dirty jobs; the jobs that other people don’t want to do—for example, our troops and inner-city teachers. A badass does what needs to be done, no matter how difficult it is, without complaint or need for fanfare.” Jen Sincero, in her bestselling You Are a Badass, describes this mission as showing up “as the brightest, happiest, badassiest version of yourself, whatever that looks like to you.” True badassery, therefore, is all about being bold and brave and, most important, showing up in the world to do what you care most deeply about. Catherine of Siena was all over that centuries before it became fashionable.

Catherine’s World

Born in 1347, Catherine Benincasa was the twenty-third child (though some say the twenty-fourth, but really who’s counting) of Jacopo and Lapa. At a young age, she decided she would never marry and instead would dedicate her life to God. When her parents insisted that she marry her widowed brother-in-law, Catherine cut off all her hair in protest. Her mother decided to teach Catherine a thing or two about the consequences of such stubbornness by making her the family servant. Instead of breaking her spirit, the experience thrilled Catherine, who reveled in the solitude and sacrifice. Winning in the end, Catherine joined the Dominican community, not as a nun, but as a mantellata (a kind of adjunct, attached to the order, but as a lay person). Instead of being cloistered away, Catherine went out into the world, tending to the poor, the sick, and forgotten. She didn’t stop there, becoming an emissary of peace between feuding families and warring Italian states.

When Pope Gregory XI, the last of the French popes, was holed up in Avignon, she told him to return himself and the papacy to Rome. In a letter to Gregory, Catherine wrote: “I hear that these people are trying to frighten you, saying you will be killed, in order to prevent your return. I, however, on behalf of Christ crucified, tell you, dear holy father, not to be afraid for any reason whatever.” It strikes me as both ironic and revelatory that Catherine assumes the authority of speaking “on behalf of Christ” when addressing the pope, who (like all popes) occupies the role of Christ’s representative in the world (or so the church says).
Despite her influence, Catherine never assumed power or lusted after privilege. Instead, her badassery kept her on the front lines in the humble servitude of choice. In June 1374, when Catherine left Florence to return to her hometown of Siena, she found the place seized by famine and plague, which claimed family members and neighbors. Unafraid of disease or death, Catherine plunged into the care of others, recognizing that this was what she was supposed to do—her time, her mission.

When Pope Urban VI sent for Catherine to help to unify the church and prevent further schism, Siena longed to keep their hometown holy woman close by and tried to dissuade her from making the long journey to Rome. Catherine went anyway, accompanied by followers, the last such sojourn she ever made. By early 1380, she had weakened and became sick, then died on April 29th at the age of thirty-three. Her body was buried in Rome, but followers later opened the grave and made off with her head, bringing it back to Siena where it is still on display.

Eye-to-Eye (Sort of) with Catherine

On our trip to Italy a few years ago, my husband and I traveled to Siena where in an echoing edifice we sat side-by-side on wooden chairs and stared at Catherine’s nearly 650-year-old mummified head. By this time, Joe and I were used to seeing relics displayed in churches: little bits of one saint or another. But here was Catherine’s entire head, draped in a white veil and glimpsed through the grill of an oversized reliquary on a side altar. (And with a huge sign blaring, “No photographs!” as if shouting in the silence—the objective being to drum up postcard sales in the giftshop.) I stared at her visible front teeth and found the whole experience rather flat and, frankly, a little weird. We visited the Benincasa home, tricked out into a marble-encased shrine (“No Photographs!”) and left. Catherine, at least for me, was not in residence that day.

That evening, I asked myself what I had expected. That she was going to speak? Well, yes. It had happened, sort of, a dozen or so years earlier on a trip to Montreal where Joe and I came across a church covered from nave to vestibule and around every pillar with portraits of saints, both familiar and obscure. In the far corner was Catherine of Siena. Joe snapped several photos and printed them when we got home. On each photo of Catherine was a pink mark shaped like an abstract hourglass or maybe a chalice on the white apron of her habit. It was low, where her womb would be. On all the digital images of her and every print, the mark is clearly visible. Was that on the portrait at the church? Surely, we would have noticed. If not, what does that mean about our photo?

I decided that it’s a sign—but of what? Given its position, the womb is obviously connected with gestation, in much the same way that a cocoon connotes a butterfly-in-the-making. Both take time and a leap of faith. On my writer’s journey, patience has been a mainstay. This pink mark, on its surface, encourages me with the belief that with patience and persistence come the payoff. But to keep it at that is to trivialize Catherine into a patient cheerleader. Pondering further, I learned ancient traditions honored the divine feminine and the sacred womb. Of the seven chakras or energy centers of the body, the womb chakra is considered the seat of spirituality for both women and men. So, if I choose to take this as a sign, it should be a spiritual one.
Believing I might be on to something, I turned to her letters, more than 400 of which remain. In one, Catherine chastises an elderly widow for her vanities and frivolous life, then concluded: “Please understand that I would rather do something for you instead of just talking.”

To my modern mind (and given my share of vanities and frivolities), Catherine’s advice to the widow hits me as austere. Yet, instead of being put off by it, I am drawn to her conviction to “do…instead of just talking.”
Those words ignite the Catholic-turned-Episcopalian-wannabe-mystic in me. Recalling the message from that Florentine street corner, I acknowledge that every step has taken me here, now. I’m on a mission to find a mission.

As I look at that photo, now framed on my desk, I take a quick inventory of the tools at my disposal. I have my words. I can write about what I deeply believe to be true: that each of us, no matter how ordinary, can do extraordinary things in our own ways, and in the process experience a personal and intimate connection with God. This is what I’ve learned from Catherine’s example and, in far more humble ways, in my own life. This, I decide, is my mission as I take baby badass steps behind Catherine. I am compelled to write about people (real and fictional) who are thrust into the extraordinary amid the most ordinary, and in doing so to give courage and hope to others.

Yes, this is what I can do. And so, I must.

Patricia Crisafulli, M.F.A., is an award-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree (fiction concentration) from Northwestern University, where she received the Distinguished Thesis Award for her novel-in-progress—a mystery that revolves around an artifact of Catherine of Siena. Patricia is also a Pushcart Prize nominee for the grand prize-winning short story she wrote for Loon Magic, the 2019 anthology from TallGrass Writers Guild. She a is also the founder and publisher of www.FaithHopeandFiction.com, an e-literary magazine.

Oneg Shabbat – a poem by Janet Krauss

Oneg Shabbat

It is time.
The sky hands its robes of white
to the Sabbath Queen.
She drifts through the window.

With covered head,
her mortal sister
blesses her coming
with arms extended
over lit candles
that follow the Sabbath’s
presence
filling the room,
sanctifying the home.

Shadows group
like small animals in the night
soothed by her song
that rocks the hold of the house.

This is the time
for quiet praise of creation.
This is the time
to pause,
release the burden
of the week’s past—
geese taking off
swift in flight
without sound.

With a clear breath
we usher in the day
when we rest
in the quiet spirit
of the Scripture,
listen to our thoughts
glide like swans
staying close to shore.

.

Janet Krauss, who has two books of poetry published, “Borrowed Scenery,” Yuganta Press, and “Through the Trees of Autumn,” Spartina Press, has recently retired from teaching English at Fairfield University. Her mission is to help and guide Bridgeport’s  young children through her teaching creative writing, leading book clubs and reading to and engaging a kindergarten class. As a poet, she co-directs the poetry program of the Black Rock Art Guild.

 

Shell Shock – an essay by Ann Thomas

Shell Shock

I made quick cuts through the headstones, crazed maneuvers in a little utility vehicle that should have been enough to lose anyone, thinking “What the hell am I doing driving through a cemetery like this? She can’t actually be chasing me,” not anticipating the woman in her white SUV could corner so sharply. She managed to pin me under the chapel’s sheet metal overhang, threw her Chevy into park on the asphalt driveway, and flung open the driver side door all to balance on her running boards shouting “I am chasing you down!” My stomach churned with the realization I would rather be paranoid than this to be real, the mantra ticking in my brain “Onemoretime, onemoretime and I’m going to completely lose it on someone, even though this is consecrated ground.” She balanced there demanding to know where the wreath was from her son’s grave along the timber where the blooming jonquils themselves declared it was time for the wreath to go. I had just conceded to the insistence of those yellow bastards this very same April morning since the grass was dying under the weight of now-brittle branches decked in sun bleached red ribbon and naked of their rust dry needles.

“I took it off a few hours ago because it is killing the grass, since it’s April and I thought you weren’t going to pick it up,” I explained with caution. This place is a minefield where I detonate emotions as cemetery sexton, tearing open hearts with shrapnel unleashed by missteps I can’t anticipate, but honestly what suggests I could expect a woman to become so angry about the Christmas wreath taken off of her son’s grave the week before May? She corrects me: it couldn’t have been killing grass as she doesn’t allow any grass to grow there, rather she works the ground up a bit to plant habaneros. I asked “Peppers?” certain, so certain, that I misunderstood though her glare confirmed my idiocy, acknowledging “Yes, habanero peppers.”

I laughed, heartbroken now to think she took it for mockery when it was really horror I could only follow with “No, no you’re not planting habeneros on your son’s grave because I will mow them over,” not as a threat, but the closest I could come to reaching through her grief. I know this phrase flicks the switch in your brain accusing me “Who Are You to Tell Anyone How to Grieve a Child?” and all I will say is “Who are you tell me ‘Who Are You to Tell Me’ when I already know?”

So let’s stop with this line, because we are going off the track and if there is anything I want it is to reach you trapped in grief as a crab in the wrong sized shell without which you are naked in a way God never intended please don’t stop listening I swear I understand how that shell is integral to who you are but your shape changes and as a hermit crab from time to time will leave its shell behind momentarily to move into a new one that accommodates changes I beg you let your shape change because if I laugh and tell you I am going to mow the habaneros off your son’s grave yes it is in part to comply with the rules we have posted near the cemetery entrances explicitly stating no plantings of any kind are allowed but also it is the closest thing I can come to promising I care enough not to dismiss you though in all honesty it would be easier to take the heat from other families that get angry when there are exceptions because I swear onemoretime, onemoretime and I’m going to lose it on someone even though this is consecrated ground we creep along, this mine laden beach the ocean of eternity laps with low and high tides of mourning while light glistens off individuals moving shell to shell, some in such a way you see them as breathtaking masterpieces of God’s grace you want to pick up, cradle in your palms to share with others, marveling at them for their own mystery while holding them forth as a sign of hope, most often because they have hope in their own hard-won way others quickly dismiss as too easily gained though I know better, learning from them as I watch through the seasons how they love those the gravedigger and I help them bury.

.

Ann Thomas lives in Iowa. Her narrative nonfiction has appeared in Dappled Things, Image Journal, and is forthcoming in Ruminate.

Wait I Say – a poem by Jessica L. Walsh

Wait I Say

Whole rooms are made for it,
designed to hold fast
what isn’t happening.

Wait on Him, they say.
Wait. They say. On Him.

As though wait is a verb
when we know it is no part of speech.
Wait is verb’s inverse.

Wait I say on what
reward? To what end or ending?

Remember grace? No
one deserves it.
Even the people who do.

All we have as we wait
is hope that wait stops.

.

Jessica L. Walsh is the author of two poetry collections and two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in RHINO, Tinderbox, Connecticut Review, and more. She is a professor at a two-year college outside of Chicago.

Texas Gypsies – a story by Donna Walker-Nixon

Texas Gypsies

Postcutters picked up any roots they might have and moved like Gypsies from one small Central Texas community to whatever came next. BigDaddy, LittleMama, and eight children followed country roads that wilted into the next community BigDaddy wanted to live. They settled into a three-room shack when BigDaddy announced, “This’ll have to do for now,” which meant they’d stay three months or maybe a year until he decided to move on, not enough time for any of the children to pass first grade in more than three years. BigDaddy often hired the family out to chop cedars to the root while he sat in the shade and fanned himself with a dirty old newspaper.

Brother passed first grade in three years, and BigDaddy declared him the smart cookie in the family. He found a full-time job hauling and unloading pipe. “It pays real good,” he said.

BigDaddy claimed to have a 6th Sense. “I just don’t know. When it snows in April, ill will surely follow.” His voice echoed all the misery he ever suffered at the hand of man.

Globes of snow wafted toward the middle ground, but the white-gray crystals melted when they touched the soil. Brother slogged through puddles of sludge. Because they couldn’t afford an ice-box, when he got to the creek, he pulled out a jug of blinky milk, which curdled in his mouth. His work shoe separated at his toes. Most times he stapled the top to the bottom with the secretary’s stapler, but now he had stapled his shoes so many times they pinched his toes. He needed new shoes, but postcutters could not afford them.

***

At the school Easter egg hunt, in my quest for eggs, I transfigured into a cowgirl who bucks her Roy Rogers brown and white plastic rocking horse, while chanting, “Faster, Trigger, faster.”

The bus driver took us back to the two-room country school. The bus rocked from side to side. Nausea, like a calf with scours, scraped my stomach and all my flesh while I counted eggs and tried to count my blessings, one by one. I sat by Sherry, the oldest daughter of the postcutter kids who called her Sister. She was two years older than me and in 4th grade. I pried open the cellophane wrapper of a candy egg and chiseled with my teeth at the rock hard candy with pink yellow, or green hard crusts and the sickening sweet white hard mush inside.

Once we got back to school, Mr. Franks frowned. Even then, I could see black nubs in his gums where he once had teeth. He told the postcutter kids to remain on the bus. I sat next to Sherry who muttered, “What have we done now?”

***

Sister viewed a slow action movie playing over and over and over Brother moving slightly from one scene of his abbreviated work day to the next. Talcum-powder snow nipped his nose and became a quagmire of mud when it hit the ground. He slid across the unpaved parking lot as he walked toward the truck BossMan said they’d take to deliver pipe. BossMan told him and two other boys to sit on the tailgate and steady the load in case it slipped. They headed up a gravel road and across a sagging bridge. BossMan gave Brother the job of sitting in the middle of the tailgate. Brother didn’t mind, said he liked inhaling asphalt and gas since they smelled better than the shack they claimed as home for now.

They’d driven this route before, only a mile, maybe two. BossMan failed to secure the pipes. Brother had joked with Sister, “There ain’t a corner he don’t cut, but BossMan’s got power seeing as he’s a County Commissioner. Wish we had his money. I’d buy DoryAnn an engagement ring fit for a queen.”

The pipes—like fate—shifted. An eighty-six-year-old man who was blind in one eye pulled out from a caliche road into the path of the truck. BossMan put on his brakes, but there was no stopping the middle pipe from shifting downward at an angle in a collision course with the back of Brother’s skull. The pipe sounded like wind chimes celebrating an angel’s voice as she provides sustenance to make it through a dark, weary night.

“We just can’t read the mind of God.” Mr. Franks sucked air through his yellow nubs. His attempt to explain in soothing words what happened to Brother failed. No words could replace the fact that at 11:13 A. M., Sister shivered and then could not shake from her mind Kodak moments of Brother who did not know the pipe lunged toward him. But Sherri viewed every detail as it happened, and Jesus God, she did not want to carry forward that movie scene in her mind until the day she died.

***

Mother brought food. Every woman in the community cobbled together what they thought the family might eat—fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pineapple upside down cake. When they got to the Collins’ shack, one woman asked to put her tomato aspic in the ice-box. “It ruins easily if the Jell-o is not placed in a cool spot.”

“There’s the creek bed. That’s where we place our milk. The rest we eat before it ruins.”

“I see,” the woman said, and scraped her fancy food into a cheap bowl on the table with the fried chicken and the green bean casserole.

Mrs. Collins saw my baby sister Grace hanging onto Mother’s arm and said the child could have some food if she wanted it. “Kids like sweets.” She pointed at a plate only partially clean and a smeared fork.

Grace shook her head no, and Mother sighed in relief. For all the food the women in the community took, time would pass into other elements while we grimly consumed years we stole from God’s other creatures. Mr. Franks had his buddy at Lester’s Used-But-Every-Bit-Still-Working Appliances donate an ice-box to the family, and folks smugly observed, “Mr. Franks knows how to get things done.”

Sherry told me, “We had one at the old place, but it was too heavy to take with us. We start from scratch everywhere we go.”

We drove in a winding caravan of cars, mostly used ones our parents bought somewhere, somehow. We didn’t take time to know those things—just that each family owned a car; the moderately well off had two. We had two because when Uncle Ray died, Mother inherited his DeLuxe Chevrolet that reeked of Camel cigarettes. We might have ridden with her to Chalk Mountain cemetery, or maybe we rode the bus. Details escape me as I try to reinvent that day. It was the Friday before Easter, and we stood on slopes of grass and mud, where the snow had melted and left behind ridges of pecan tree fronds that stained our white Easter shoes.

The funeral home assistant director said he didn’t see the need to bring chairs for people to sit in since he could barely make the coffin stand up when he tried to place it on the uneven, rocky burial site. The married sisters tried to soothe their whimpering babies. They groaned in rhythm to a song I never heard before: precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. No mention of God, nor Jesus, nor even the Holy Spirit—and in the Church of Christ one of the Trinity had to be celebrated. They moaned and almost fell, consumed in their own way by the rocks and spittled soil.

In the coffin, the once red, blue, and white toboggan had been dyed an insoluble maroon. One mother commented, “We tried to convince the family a closed coffin would be most appropriate, but the father would not have it. He wanted to see his son one last time. These postcutters.”

“It’s hard to let go of those we love,” Mother said.

Like a mother who’s lost her fragile body to birthing fifteen babies, Sherry’s father moved his hand and upper body across Brother’s falsely ruddy cheeks, almost stumbling into the coffin before his daughters caught him.

“Look!! They can’t let go,” someone echoed, but I couldn’t pinpoint who said what in the next few minutes. “Even the married sisters are climbing into the coffin.” I couldn’t see well enough to know whether they were or not.

The mother who brought tomato aspic stood next to me. She scraped her teeth together and smeared her lipstick over red, red lips. She pronounced her judgment, “Postcutters!!!”

***
The sisters who lived in Williamson County held their babies tight to their breasts, whispering words as they comforted the babies and the children who scampered at their feet and played tag around the hem of the coffin lining. To complete their gestures, the married sisters touched the blood saturated toboggan as if their moot actions could bring Brother back into their world. Not able to yet let go of their brother, like creatures who consume the blood and brains of the dead, they fought off each other and appeared to climb into the casket. Blood from the toboggan mingled with the orange pancake makeup. Their hands covered with the mixture of blood and makeup, they seemed to think this was their eternity, a place where Brother pulled blinky milk from the creek bed each morning.

BigDaddy wailed into the pallid earth. With fear and dread of what would happen next, LittleMama reached out to steady the man who had impregnated her fifteen times.

In the rancid shack after he last touched the blood soaked toboggan, he cried out his pain: “Why Brother? BossMan must’ve known the pipes would shift!” BigDaddy reached under his straw mattress and got the gun he never shot. He swore to kill BossMan as his hand gyrated, and he dropped the weapon on the creaky wooden floor. One of the older sisters picked up the gun while another reached under the straw and took the bullets. And again he cursed his foul luck, “It’s always us!! Brother deserved better than he got.”

The sisters wanted more than life to shore up precious memories. They tried to believe in unseen angels who would restore the bittersweet moments of their pasts. To them, though, there were too many home scenes of their separate childhoods to produce fond memories. Too soon, their babies would grow up, never know Brother existed, and harbor only piecemeal images of BigDaddy.

For now, BigDaddy slept fitfully. But at least he slept, and that was enough.

.

Donna Walker-Nixon was a full professor at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where she received the distinction of receiving the Mary Stevens Piper award for excellence in teaching. She currently serves as an adjunct lecturer at Baylor. She lists her five primary professional achievements as 1) founding Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature in 1997, 2) co-editing the Her Texas series with her friend and mentor James Ward Lee, 3) co-founding The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas 4) publishing her novel Canaan’s Oothoon, and 5) serving as lead editor Her Texas, which has boosted Donna’s faith that the voices of women writers and artists truly mean something to both men and women.

Who is she who comes? – a poem by Mary Mulholland

Who is she who comes?

What is that coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant? (Leviticus 2:1)

i

Salutations
She who is the personification of beauty
She who is all powerful
She with riches beyond compare
She who was summoned by a hoopoe bowing his golden crown
She whose intelligence and wit make her the equal of Solomon
She who came with riddles across deserts in her quest for wisdom
She who brought frankincense, gold, myrrh: in this queen from the south was the trinity of kings
She who acclaimed, sum nigra sed formosa, I am black yet comely
She who worshipped the Sun God Ra
She who was temptress, an enigma, mysterious, miraculously healed
She who was breathless after her encounter, returned home and bore a son
She who is immortalised in the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud
She who is revered by Rastafarians, the Yoruba
She who is referred to as Nicaula, Sibylla, Makeda, if never definitively given a name
She whose kingdom is unknown: Yemen or Egypt, Ethiopia or the land of Punt.
Salutations, O Queen of Sheba!

ii

Others suggest
hers was a trade mission
the Song of Songs is a celebration of life, the making of poetry
she’s a muse, from Della Francesco to Duncan Grant, to the stuff of Holywood
she can be merged with the Sibyl Sabba, Lilith, may be Hecate’s daughter
she’s linked to grandmother’s footsteps, that game of old witch
she is black yet shown with golden hair
it’s unlikely anyone would answer the summons of a bird
Solomon’s floor mirrored her hairy legs and cloven foot creating a parallel with Queen Berthe’s leg or even Cinderella who was proven by a foot
she’s no more real than Lady Macbeth, who cried out that not all the perfumes of Arabia could sweeten her bloodied hands
there’s even doubt as to why her empire has not been categorically located
Salutations, salaam, Sheba, Queen of Sheba

.
Mary Mulholland came to poetry after careers in journalism and psychotherapy. She has a Poetry MA from Newcastle and has been published in magazines and anthologies. She won the US Momaya prize in 2019, and has been commended and shortlisted in several national competitions. She co-edits The Alchemy Spoon.
www.marymulholland.co.uk