Cease-Fire – a poem by Erika Kanda

Cease-Fire

Impotent and haunted shore
heavy cask whose faults are mine
are we only bone Pangaea
doomed and bound by birth to split?

Held in fluid and suspense
full of fear and mortal gods
what becomes seductive faith
when neurons call a truce?

When the harbor is not safe
and numb is not a feeling
who among the sum of us
hopes to be the first to burn?

.

Erika Kanda lives in Northern Virginia, USA with her partner. She loves hot press paper and all things speculative.

 

No Body – a poem by Robert S. King

No Body

Surely there’s a shore
where no bodies wash up
except for the purest
grains of sand.

There must be a river
that runs uphill
and a road that lifts
from the earth to spiral
with the galaxies.

Wonder too if no body
held us up, if winds carry our dust
to a crossroad without signs,
not to an end but to a choice
where we might go all ways at once.

.

Robert S. King edits Good Works Review. His poems appear widely, including Chariton Review, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014) and Messages from Multiverses (Duck Lake Books, 2020).

November, Blackford County, Indiana – a poem by Daniel Bowman Jr

November, Blackford County, Indiana 

Daylight Savings Time has come to an end
            and I find myself grateful
to live on the western-most edge
            of the Eastern Standard zone,
where the light—the sun and all it shines on—
            stays a little longer.

Yet sometimes, driving home at dusk,
            I feel the urge to pull over, park,
get out, enter the vast fields of corn stubble
            along Route 26, walk in the mud
toward the patch of woods on the horizon.
            As the poet said:
promises to keep, etc.

            But what of this desire 
to be swallowed by darkness,
            out of reach of fluorescent lights,
streetlights, headlights, God forbid screens,
            to render useless nearly everything
            except one’s own dumb presence,
 the wind, and whatever creatures
            scurry about?

 I don’t pull over, of course, don’t get out. 
            I go home
where everything looks right,
            where everything is just as it should be
except my animal heart
            lost in the thicket,
burrowing deeper toward the core.

Daniel Bowman Jr is the author of A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Countryand Notes from the Spectrum (Brazos Press, 2021). A native New Yorker, he lives in Indiana, where he is Associate Professor of English at Taylor University and Editor-in-chief of Relief: A Journal of Art & Faith

The Work – a poem by Lisa Creech Bledsoe

The Work
“You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” — Rabbi Tarfon

What I’m asking
is for my body to become
settled

so I stand in the yellow-leaved
ironwood grove to tune my heart
and press my shaking hands
to one steadfast trunk, then another
sending up my hope-promise:
all will be well

Sinking in the damp loam
offering healing for pain
to the dark root of all things
I wait to sense
the rise and fall of eras

mostly I wait

and breathe,
mostly
still
all will
be well

the mountain
and people,
these hundred trees
this thousand—

baptized in flickering
November sun:

There is work not up to us
to complete, but neither
will we abandon it

.

Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a writer living in the mountains of North Carolina. She has two books, “Appalachian Ground” (2019) and “Wolf Laundry” (2020) out, and new poems in American Writers Review, The Main Street Rag, and Jam & Sand, among others.

Review: Edge by Katrina Porteous

Edge by Katrina Porteous, Bloodaxe Books 125 pp. Review by Marian Christie

Edge: Amazon.co.uk: Katrina Porteous: 9781780374901: Books

Katrina Porteous is a poet based in Northumberland, England, who focuses ‘on the theme of ‘nature’ in its widest sense, and ‘place’ in its deepest.’ This has led her to consider some of the profound questions that have concerned philosophers, religious thinkers, scientists and writers for millennia: What is the nature of matter? What is reality? How did the Universe come into existence? What is ‘out there’, beyond the confines of our planet Earth?

In Edge, her third collection with Bloodaxe, Porteous explores themes from contemporary physics and astronomy using the poet’s lens of imagery and metaphor. The collection is divided into three extended sequences that have their origins in performance pieces she created with the composer Peter Zinovieff for the Life Science Centre Planetarium in Newcastle. However, as Porteous makes clear in her Introduction, these are not so much poems about science as about ‘the poetry of science…. a search for alternative narratives to replace old theologies’. No scientific knowledge is required in order to read them and indeed Porteous herself does not have a scientific background, although she has clearly carried out meticulous research into her subject matter. The collection also addresses themes that are perhaps more familiar in poetry: perspective and perception, translation, the limitations of language as well as its capacity for revelation.

Field, the first sequence in the book, is an imaginative interpretation of quantum field theory. Wisely, Porteous makes no attempt in her poetry to explain the concepts involved (the interested reader is, however, provided with copious notes at the back of the book) and she avoids using terminology that would be unfamiliar to a general reader. Instead, she seeks to express the theory’s essence, its dualities and uncertainties, its symmetries and mysteries, as well as the sense of wonder that it invokes. The sequence opens with a statement of the great unresolved conundrum of modern physics: the incompatibility between the large-scale theory of general relativity and the theory of quantum mechanics, which applies on a sub-atomic scale:

‘They will not mesh, the very small and the very large.
They will not converge.’

The pared use of language and spacious layout suggest the precise, formal elegance of the field equations. But how to express in poetry the depth, complexity and profound ramifications that these equations signify? Porteous turns to metaphor, seeing in the behaviour of elementary particles a wilful playfulness analogous to that of mythological characters such as the inhabitants of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

‘The Ancients were right. It is all
Coupling
And disguises,

Feverishly swapping bodies
When no one is looking.’

The second sequence, Sun, takes as its subject the star at the centre of our solar system, its structure, dynamical processes and the scientific methods used to glean information about its interior. Sun begins with a question – ‘Darkness said to the Sun/ Who are you?’ – and subsequent poems in the sequence pursue this theme of inquiry through a succession of dazzlingly inventive images. ‘Who is bouncing pebbles on the Sun’s slow drum?’, the poet asks in ‘Sunquake’. Sunspots are seen as ‘dark wounds’, while the fluctuating features of the solar surface are likened to ‘pockmarked orange-peel granulations’ and ‘whirlpools flowering and fading’. Interpreting the sun’s characteristics is as challenging as trying to decipher an unknown and mysterious language:

‘Body and Not Body. One figure of speech
Wrapped in another. Deep
Disagreement in its grammar.’

Edge, the final sequence, is a poetic voyage around four of the moons in our Solar System: Io, Enceladus, Titan and our own Moon. The opening chant has echoes of a Greek chorus and powerful, tidal rhythms:

‘Like a tree of branching numbers,
Like the frost unfurling flowers,
Like a loop between two mirrors –
Folding back and curling over’.

The connection with ancient Greece continues as each moon is assigned one of the four fundamental elements (earth, water, fire, air) that were postulated by Empedocles in the 5th century BCE – an elegant tribute to the origins of western scientific inquiry.

Our insights into these moons are derived from interplanetary missions such as Apollo, Cassini and Galileo, ‘Carrying our human hunger/ Into the perpetual silence’. Just as these missions push the boundaries of our scientific knowledge, so Porteous pushes the boundaries of language, generating extraordinary sonic effects. Of small, icy Enceladus she writes:

‘Little sinister
Tinkles. Silvery
Trickles, tiny splinters’

while volcanic Io
‘Screams, gasps, grunts, howls, shrieks
Bending the dark,
Dragging back darkness like a catapult.’

Our own Moon is ‘Nothing’s mirror’/ Stripped of sound, leeched of colour’, bearing ‘fossil footprints’ from last century’s lunar landings.

After such bleakly desolate moonscapes it is a relief to return to the familiarity of Earth. The collection ends with a Coda of three poems, set respectively in Cambridge, Durham and Northumberland. They are infused with spiritual sensibility, contemplating from a very human, location-specific perspective ‘the mysteries of origin’ and the cyclical nature of growth, death and regeneration. The concluding poem, with its deliberate emphasis on the first person pronoun – ‘I walked out to the end of the Broad Rock’ –  is at once a subtle reminder of our place in the vastness of the cosmos and an affirmation of humanity’s ongoing quest to explore the edge of knowledge and push ever further the boundaries of our understanding.

Marian Christie is an applied mathematician and poet. She blogs at www.marianchristiepoetry.net.

Meskonsing – a poem by Jacob Riyeff

Meskonsing

“He talked about persistence,
a congruence of lives”
—Seamus Heaney, “Belderg”

grey autumn skies spread memory round about,
heavy stands of barberry on raised tussocks
under oaks. a sleeping sentinel ringed round
by drumlins, moraine, blanketed by this small field
of blossoming clover slumbering and soft to the touch,
the rounding folds of his body breaking angular at the joints.
lostness clings like lichen, the pearled clouds pass by.
a maimed, wandering spirit on the move and planted
here for a thousand seasons between Bede and Ælfric
plying their monkish trade in scriptoria a world away.
great horned form straitened by the sepulcher white
of asphalt at the knees. his bed the rhyolite earth,
its clothes detritus of hazelnuts, double-serrate
leaves in fivefold clusters, horns wreathed in fern
and goldenrod, creeping jenny trailing and sneaking
through grassy allies spurting from fragrant soil.
a sole vulture glides overhead marking out his length,
and shocks of cool purple michaelmas daisy lay
on fernish ground while bovine sentries toss their heads
in the mud rollicking and mounting. his city mosquito-speckled
maples, cottonwoods dropping new decay to the earth
and the ribald smell of good dark humus.

o horned one, what words did they say to you?
what were their supplications?
whose vision did they follow to sculpt your
protean, graceful form, walking westward,
head to the halfway line of the world, feet
to its top? what lies within and beneath you,
manmund, werhlæw?

iube Domine silentium fieri in aures audientium,
ut possint intelligere et Deo benedicere

iube, Domine, benedicere

*

they will build you bucketful after bucketful
of soil lain over ash and cist gathered
at your heart in the midmorning gold—
not too much from one place, lest a canker
be left open, a breach in the topsoil.
the Lower Narrows visible in the gaps between maples
the cornfields emerging, fires have been burning,
charcoal left to marble atop multi-colored soils.
they lay you straight and solitary
to hold this place,
clusters of rock beneath your cranium,
the upper world made in earth relief,
and so we are, and so you stand until the earth
is no more.

iube, Domine, benedicere

—Day of the Dead/All Souls, 2018

.

Author Note: Man Mound is the only anthropomorphic effigy mound still intact in North America. Built by the Late Woodland peoples approximately a thousand years ago, it was preserved (after some damage from road building) from further damage by the Sauk County Historical Society and other local groups in 1908. If you would like to assist in the preservation of Man Mound, you can donate to the Man Mound Project here.

Jacob Riyeff (jacobriyeff.com, @riyeff) is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval English literature. His primary interests lie in the western contemplative tradition and medieval vernacular poetry. He is a Benedictine oblate of Osage Deanery and lives on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.

Cymbidium – a poem by Barbara Harris Leonhard

Cymbidium

I.
He gifts her an orchid. Says,
Three ice cubes a week
So as not to drown it.
Her joints sound of cracked ice

As she gingerly accepts
My lush pink blooms
Of wet lips open
For drink & good light.

II.
The house has no sun.
Unpruned branches of wild flora
Cluster close to windows for stories.
I hunger for light.

He checks the soil for cracks,
Strokes my leaves. I feel
Exposed as parched sand
To the sin of neglect.

My petals fade & spill
Off the delicate threads of stem
Clamped to wooden crutches
With plastic grippers.

III.
Over time, prayers for bloom
Of days past, of moons set.
I am set on the threshold for sun
To grow a new face,

But storms make me drunk.
My roots, thirsty worms
All tangled in a mass,
Smell of depleted dirt.

IV.
My roots have swollen to rot.
I am tossed into a small brown patch
Of dead daisies by the front door.
My skirt, green tatters.

His eyes sting of the dismay of bees.
My crooked stems stretch
Into exclamation of death. With the sigh
Of the scattered hive,

He lifts my breathless form
Keeping the grippers & crutches
That support my sagging stem.
My roots bestrew his hands.

V.
I awaken in a new bed
Between a sunflower & a tomato plant.
My greenery, carefully arranged palms,
Open for breeze & brume.

.

Barbara Harris Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger. Her work appears in Phoebe, MD: Medicine and Poetry, Well Versed 2020, Spillwords; FREE VERSE REVOLUTION; Heretics, Lovers and Madmen; Go Dog Go Café; Silver Birch Press; Amethyst Review; Pillbaby.com; and Vita Brevis. She is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing, which is based on her years of teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Missouri. Poetry Blog: extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog
Poetry Podcast: meelosmom.podbean.com

Chapter and Verse – a poem by Stephen Kingsnorth

Chapter and Verse

Chapter and verse gives
anchor chain to mum;
in storm her shipping hold,
unbind him, Lazarus and Gerasene,
forging links, those who care,
the means to reach the chapel first,
cycle, after, pulled to house,
when dad says she’s in prison, bound
(though when and where are in dispute).

She tells me
in prose, but not well,
(the historicity in dispute)
poetry more suited,
to shape her tremors,
giving rhythm, even rhymed,
though read it best between the lines.
As waves from gunwale of the boat,
a parable more suited to her cause,
(then historicity in dispute)
or watching cushion, Gennesaret,
hope mob-rule may be calmed,
she would be sat, in her right mind.

Of cliff-edge swine that took her young,
and since joined herd
(the historicity in dispute),
she felt well-versed to pass it on.

Not best placed to choose the means,
chapter or verse, they both appealed,
but word art now become close friend
(no historicity to defend).

.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 150 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Amethyst Review, printed journals and anthologies.  https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

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.