Misty Fjord, Alaska
We’re in a boat watching a cormorant skim
aquamarine water. It circles and circles,
flies close to sheer granite cliffs,
where its nest hides among green plants.
Do eggs wait for warmth or nestlings for food?
No one speaks, the boat bobs quietly,
but this lone bird continues to fly in ever-widening loops
with its long neck and tiring wings.
Perhaps it sees we are danger, some unknown barrier,
yet doesn’t give up, flies off, returns,
and I think this must be devotion, love
in its simplest form, a willingness to try again and again
to reach its nest, to overcome exhaustion,
find its way home.
Valerie Bacharach’s writing has appeared or will appear in:Vox Populi, Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, Ilanot Review, Minyon Magazine, and One Art, among others. Her chapbook Fireweed was published by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Ghost-Mother was published by Finishing Line Press. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.
It was Good Friday; I was at the bar
(Although it’s not a drinking holiday),
And there I met a real Centurion.
Real in the sense that cosplay is for real,
He made his arms and armor for himself:
(But you can find them on the Internet).
His pilum and his shield, his segmentata,
His pugio and gladius, all made,
He said, the Roman way, from wood and iron.
I wondered if it was against the law
To have a sword and carry it around,
But no one called the cops or kicked him out
So if they didn’t care, then why should I?
I wouldn’t want to spoil someone’s fun.
And it was fun; it was like Halloween,
Or Christmas, even, what with Santa-con,
With him in costume, and us getting drunk.
We lived it up, my Roman friend and I,
To drink away that solemn afternoon
Like we had seen the light only to find
We were the bad guys in a passion play,
And if that day was like its precedence
Then we, the soldiery and rabblement,
Would do as we had done; time’s miracle,
From then to now, was changing wine to beer.
I’m not religious, but this hasn’t stopped
Religious things from happening to me
And as our talking gradually progressed
He would admit to penance of a kind:
While he was still in uniform he swept
The parking lot of a convenience store
And he performed this ritual each year
When evening came, after his early binge.
As he confessed to this strange deed to me
I felt, from my poor stock of sacred power,
What I would lay upon him was a curse,
And sweeping up a crummy parking lot
As he was costumed like a Roman solider,
For all eternity, seemed justice done,
And what we had been up to at the bar
Was like the backhand of a holiday,
Where outrage can be made a commonplace
With nothing but the hope of small rewards;
Where should he be but in a parking lot
Of a convenience store, a broom in hand,
And sweeping up until the crack of doom?
A curse on him, but Good Lord, not on me!
Robert Donohue‘s poetry has appeared in Better Than Starbucks, Freeze Ray Poetry, Pulsebeat, among others. He lives on Long Island, NY.
Who was there when Viśvakarmān
whittled out the landscape, laid
out the earth and took the one tree
and carved the rounded sky from it?
Who watched him sweating and sawing
as he hewed words and rituals
and molded time, thought, sacrifice?
Covered in mouths, eyes, feet and arms,
father to the sun, that great eye,
who saw him separate the sky
and the earth, churning names and shapes?
What piety or pretension
can reach back to that pristine forge,
to that bench and smoky bellows
where questions, syllables and flesh,
where elements, worlds and wet soil
were not separate accomplishments
but one god, one affinity?
Tim Miller‘s books include the poetry collection Bone Antler Stone (High Window Press), and the long narrative poem, To the House of the Sun (S4N Books). He is online at wordandsilence.com, and can be heard on the poetry and mythology podcast Human Voices Wake Us.
We must have talked about an hour or so.
I hadn’t heard from him in several weeks,
And something in his voice at times would creak,
Would falter, stop, not quite sure where to go.
He talked about his body now as though
It were no longer his, a thing oblique
Determined only by its pains and bleak
Forebodings based on what the doctors know.
Then suddenly my own death hovered near
(Appalling, how it seems to lie in wait
And pounces at the faintest whiff of fear…).
My dead in memory did congregate
To point my halting soul toward that austere
Horizon I’m so loath to contemplate.
Jeffrey Essmann is an essayist and poet living in New York. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them Dappled Things, the St. Austin Review, America Magazine, U.S. Catholic, Pensive, Grand Little Things, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room page on the Integrated Catholic Life website.
Making Grits on a Sunday
Two cups of water
One and a quarter cup of milk.
Add the grits slowly, stirring.
Feel the liquid begin to thicken,
Individual grains absorbing the water and milk.
Pre-pandemic, I cooked to eat.
Now I seem to cook to cook.
Recreating the ordinary comfort food
I have been soothed by.
I follow an urge to give it
To the sleeping people in my home.
Add the butter.
Watch it seem to sigh as it leans into the warmth,
Contributing its own good to the concoction.
Next the cheese that then assimilates like the butter,
Melting in the melting pot.
I too sigh as I lean over the hot pot,
Slowly stirring, comforting myself
With an offering that feels holy.
Robin Dake is a mother, daughter, friend, writer, and photographer. She has spent her career working as a journalist or non-profit manager while writing essays and poems on the side. Her work has appeared in This I Believe radio program and in Trailway News magazine She lives in N.E. Georgia with two hoodlum cats and one patient dog.
Simon Maddrell is a queer Manx man, thriving with HIV. He’s published in fifteen anthologies and publications including AMBIT, Butcher’s Dog, The Moth, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Stand and Under the Radar. In 2020, Simon’s debut, Throatbone, was published (UnCollected Press) and Queerfella jointly-won The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition.
JoyIn the upstairs room, the resurrected Christ
is recognized by the wounds
on his new-old body,
still bearing the marks of pain.
God, of course, does not protect you
from anything, any more
than anyone else.
And atrocities abound everywhere.
It is spring.
The house down the road
blooms out in its purple
crocus daffodil carpet.
God is a slight heaviness
around your ears
in the quiet.
That is all.
In the early light,
the singing bloom,
is the long dark
and the frozen silence.
the kind of pain
that made you
wish for death,
you are always afraid
of the kind of pain
that made you
wish for death.
Joy knows this
and never pretends
it isn’t true.
You look around
at suffering –
An impossible question.
A deep cavern.
You go in because love goes in.
Someone is asking for a prayer.
The asking is the most beautiful prayer
you have ever heard.
Well below any low
you have ever been
lies pain like a seed
buried in the ground.
where there is no light.
Where few seem to know
But joy knows –
thanks to the long,
of not pretending.
You go by the house
with the flowers
It is a gift
you can only accept
in the bare ground
of what also is.
Jenna Wysong Filbrun’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Blue Heron Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Dewdrop, Snapdragon Journal, and Wild Roof Journal. Her first full length collection of poems, Away, will release with Finishing Line Press in 2023. She is married to Mike, and they have two dogs, Oliver and Lewis. Find her on Twitter @Jenna_W_Filbrun.
...power came out of him that cured them all (Luke 6:19).
distant, she watches Jesus moving in the raw
crowd— he sees the sick: stiff flesh and pith,
he touches all, strong in his long hands—air
vivid, quick as fingers of flame. she looks
away. her sickness? hid. how can he restore
a soul? lost. her life? forfeited. so marred,
dead. tell him of her spirit-wound? no word-
spin can spell it, nor hands plumb rude space.
too late; hope’s gone yet linger—
yet look at him curing by mere command—
and she hears him bless. she yearns.
that man—his life burns beyond the rim of loss—
not easy, her giving over to hope
misery has its own perverse claims
the first healing must be remote—
long-distance breach of a shut, shamed
mind: but blind, lame, deaf: see, leap,
hear: a mute boy’s chatter, his laugh low
Ephphthata—she hears the order breathe,
unlock. She’ll try—she’ll go to him. Go!
he’d gone to Simon’s house to dine
dazed—a brook to sea—beyond all fear
her self? her life? her blighted life.
through moonlight’s maze, shadows heaved
came loose, swung long—later remarked
by the host and his dinner guests,
beyond their grasp, tight-clasped her jar
and, panting, clutched it to her breast.
at Simon’s house, creep inside.
He’s there at table—waits
weep: mercy—the near sight
drop to his feet, kiss, embrace
beyond this world, in his eyes
his feet in nard—beyond paradise
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.
A Small Prayer
a cento in homage to David St. John, 24 lines from 24 poems from Study for the World’s Body
I talked again about changing my life.
“I can’t believe how much the world has changed.
A single cloud descended like a hand.
Nothing stops it, the crying.”
My aunt shrugged,
dragged a folding chair onto the fire escape,
as the fog both offered & erased her in the night.
“Sometimes the drawers of the earth close,
rain enters in a diary left open under the sky,
yet no memory is stilled.”
She laid out the morphine.
“How softly the night steps toward us,
set loose above the stormy waters,
shimmering in its elaborate webs of infinite.
Starlight litters the slowly falling dew.
The syringe still hanging limply from my vein,
the hammered whiteness
cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor.
I pick my way slowly through the rubble
along that sun-and-sin-lit landscape.
Then it hit me,
a man with less than perfect faith in any God.
The shadow you once blessed.
Mara Fein‘s poetry has most recently appeared in Poetry Quarterly. Other work has appeared in Jonah Magazine, Poor Yorick, Tahoma Literary Review, and Wilderness House Review. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Southern California.
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)