Sometimes the dead – a poem by Larry Thacker

Sometimes the dead  
 
eventually come to realize how right it was
back when they were told
 
how we carry the center of the universe with us
wherever we step.
 
      How impossible it was
to believe, they laugh to themselves,
remembering when that shift of brightness arrived.
 
It was always just beyond reach
in days with so little light.
                                          Right there, waiting.   

Larry D. Thacker is a Kentuckian writer, artist, and educator hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee. His poetry is in over 180 publications including SpillwayStill: The JournalValparaiso Poetry ReviewAmerican Journal of PoetryPoetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, and the poetry chapbooks Drifting in Awe and Memory Train, as well as the full collections Drifting in AweGrave Robber ConfessionalFeasts of Evasion, and the forthcoming, Gateless Menagerie. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: www.larrydthacker.com

My stone self and the forgotten calves – a poem by Lindsay Rockwell

My stone self and the forgotten calves



I sit still as stone counting
how many times my breath stops. 
Stand on the edge of a cliff, 

miles below the sky and miles above 
the river, see the hinterlands 
where forgotten calves born to slaughter 

live lives unlived, still as stones
—cornered into a lifetime of breath 
that is no breath. My pulse quickens 

as I eye a herd of clouds, their buffalo
forms hurtling toward my sorry throne 
of cliff. The homeless wind brushes 

my hair. I wonder if my heart and face 
are canvas for sorrow, my mind 
and body paint. The clouds begin 

hurling their rain and wind. I shut 
my two telescoping shutters, feel fear 
rise through the forgotten calves’ hooves

then course their viscera, making 
their hides roil and ripple, shudder 
from snout to curl of tired tale. 

Their matchstick legs shift, and shift 
and shift again, and I am 
a helpless stone self, a canyon, 

far from sky and far from swallowed 
river. I feel the brine of my tears 
brim, form a stream roiling, though more  

sad and slow than that, feeble down 
my cheeks, my feet not shifting 
my heart not stopping, my soul 

aching as the herd of now black 
and blue buffalo clouds rumble 
their arrival above their tortured kin. 

And my stone self strips 
her stone skin and I jump 
or is it fly or is it fall.

Lindsay Rockwell won first prize in the October Project Poetry Contest in April 2020 and has been published in Iron Horse Literary Review, Perceptions Magazine, TheCenter for New American’s Poetry Anthology and The Courtship of Winds. She is currently the poet-in-residence for the Episcopal Church of Connecticut as well as host for their Poetry and Social Justice Dialogue series. As a medical oncologist she has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and coauthored In Defiance of Death: Exposing The Real Costs of End-of-Life Care (Praeger, 2008). 

The Altar – a poem by David Chorlton

The Altar


The road to the Sun Stone runs
over hills that shine with rain
and past forest so dense time cannot pass through it.
A bus leaves every day
with its motor complaining and music
playing on the radio, all sweeping romance
and glitter turned to sound.
It grinds its way back from now to
an age preserved in lava
where an orchid grows
in each chest cavity emptied
of its heart.
                  The ride continues along
steamy heights and muddy
valleys, more dream than journey
as jaguars reclaim their history. When the wheels
fall away all
that remains is to walk and walk beyond
familiarity. Long avenues open
and beside them the foundations
of a culture press
through the moss, yearning
to return. And it does. With paths
winding deep into anyone’s mind
who has made it this far
and with a secret buried inside every mound.
It’s beautiful here,
                              but a sting
is hidden under every leaf. An alligator sleeps
a sleep carved into rock, while steps lead
into the clouds
where the sun waits on an altar
for the flint knife to release
its light.


David Chorlton is a longtime resident of Phoenix, who has grown into the desert climate and likes it. Visits to Costa Rica and the rainforest made a significant and vastly contrasting impression on him compared to his usual dry surroundings.

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.