Judith Adams Lagana‘s poetry has appeared in Atlanta Review,Naugatuck River Review and, the Paterson Literary Review, among others. She is the co-editor of River Heron Review and lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter at @lylacmuse. Website: jlagana.com
The Way to Holy Cross Leaves are changing as I take Route Seven off the Dulles Greenway. Hills consider their rise into mountains while cows in the valley rest by the shaded streams. Cars slowly lessen along the pike, and I decrease my persistent lean on the accelerator. Nearing the abbey, roads like Retreat Lane and Good Samaritan Vale saunter into view without asking for notice. After a long bridge over the smooth-faced Shenandoah River, I turn off the highway, roll my window down. The road is dirt now. The river glints at my side between the trees. Leaves of red maple, elm, and oak petal my windshield. The sign marked Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey is easy to pass, but I manage to catch it out of the corner of my eye and bear right onto the gravel road of Cool Spring Lane, where ripened wheat is waiting for harvest. Silence deepens in the shadows of afternoon fields. Beyond the expanse of planted acres, the Blue Ridge ascends its way into the orange of Indian Summer. Bells toll for midday prayer. Softly, I shut the engine off. Walking up to the sanctuary, the sky unfolds like a vast blue possibility. Monks are gathering in without haste or worry. I dip in the holy water, take my place, incline my head. The brothers chant, “God, come to my assistance,” and I reply, “Lord, make haste to help me.”
Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from The Northern Virginia Review for his story, “The Care of Roses.” He received a Pushcart nomination from Prairie Schooner for his poetry and was anthologized in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. His chapbook, Port of Leaving, is currently available through Finishing Line Press. Other work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Sow’s Ear, New Verse News, and Delmarva.
Kites It’s light that first attracts my eyes, a glint of fire overhead, and then the tug of rufous thread unreeled from earth to air – where twinned, entwining helixes unite the rhyming pair in soaring dance. Down here, a moor-patterning grid of pylons, masts and wire-mesh extends its vast design. The kites, astride the bypass now, with fourfold wings and forking tails divide the sky between them. Swathes of edgeland caught within their wheeling span, I see them scout and circle, scan the fields and tonsured hill with pinions poised, then pivot there, anticipate the kill and swoop. As daylight falls I stand entranced beneath the reddened sky, a single figure, steeple-high, exposed on open ground for savage, all-pursuing love to run its rings around.
Daniel Gustafsson has published volumes in both English and Swedish, most recently Fordings (Marble Poetry, 2020). New poems appear in Trinity House Review, The Brazen Head, North American Anglican and The York Journal. Daniel lives in York. Twitter: @PoetGustafsson Website: www.poetgustafsson.wordpress.com
Setting Out Ireland, 500 AD He sings this: wicker boat covered with skins, light among rocks and out onto seafoam. Swans overhead follow each other north past the far edge of ocean. They know they’ll find land there. He used to trade without speaking. Men offered oil, wine, amber. He countered—hunting dogs, wool, his beautiful slave. Now he owns nothing. Who is he since he buried his sword and shield, his silver bowl embossed with the story of Christ and the story of Venus? He takes bread for a journey, steps into a rudderless, oarless boat. He may come to an island and live there, a hermit, or end with the grandeur of nothing, the last bit of bread. He sings this: Water my desert. My wicker boat. Swans fly. I follow.
Suns An owl that flew from the tundra waits on the ground, slowly turning its head almost completely around. If everything connects, owl to song, holly back to a quiet grove, can I return through vast galaxies to lie on the living room rug among fragrant pine needles, Mom and Dad asleep, the furnace wheezing? The elegant hand of Dad’s record player lifts and drops to scratched vinyl, Messiah joyously leaping the gaps. The sun comes up—beside it another sun, another, another.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Raised Beds Some say it’s sacrilege to plant above the earth, but I believe things can grow wherever there is sun and air. And rather than bury the seeds like tiny graves I carve out of bark little boats and punch holes in the base where water can travel through. I am not a gardener or a creator but rather an inventor of ways to let the light into dark spaces reserved for claustrophobic fear. When my plants rise and send their roots down below like Persephone flaunting her beauty to Hades, they will never for one second feel That I buried them alive.
Sarah Clayville writes and teaches from the wilds of central Pennsylvania with a particular focus on moments of discovery. Her work can be seen in such journals as The Threepenny Review, Literary Orphans, and The Gravity of the Thing. For more of her writing and her literary adventures with her daughter, head to SarahSaysWrite.com.
Late September (2020) There is a solemnity to late September as if the air itself is meditating, You notice a certain stillness. It is not mournful or abrupt as after the shofar penetrates distance calling worshippers to temple, its measured lament reaching back to shawled ghosts swaying as they chant, arms raised before crumbling heaps of walls. It is a stillness that sets you In a place beyond doubt, hurt, heat, cold or fear where you welcome the intimacy of the sun, though you are pleased to see it go for the clouds assist the air in its autumnal prayer.
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.
Autumn Altar “They cry out for an offering of flowers or of fruit” (after A.V. Christie) invocation of oregano mountain radiance scent of moths bearing the breath of bards black paste moldered walnut husks citric tang henna’s secret stranger wild cucumber pods mad prickles mellowed to lacy veils the spade-bitten earth a chalice for roots to milkweed the memory of Mexico ash samaras the curtain lingers riddles under wide-eyed bark never again phosphorus of the field earth lanterns possums decay before dying vitis this our grape twisting (de)pendent on the adamant other pawpaw just ready when easily bruised
Susan Charkes, writer and poet, lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her poetry chapbook, sp. was published in 2017. She is a member of Montco Wordshop and Tenth Sky Poets. More at susancharkes.com.
Requiem Is it animal or simply human to mourn the loss of what you wish to lose? Gnats spinning in your steaming face some bright August afternoon swing hollow in stippled rows on abandoned spider webs in almost cold October wind. You sweep the mess away. Your eyes water. Again you are the dust-kneed child heart-stung in the playground corner, beguiled by the caterpillar crushed beneath the careless bounce of a ball. A teacher tells you life’s like that, death and birth a cycle spinning like hoops around your playmates’ bellies. A tough-minded parent insists this mad world will squeeze your soul to bursting if such small things stick hard in your throat. But they do. Some dim autumn afternoon you watch dark birds by the dozens dip and rise in synchronized clouds of motion over the graying stubble of a farmer’s field. Past the strange grandeur of the moment, your first thought as their ranks disappear is to wonder how many will fall from the air before reaching some warmer destination. A friend calls you morbid. Perhaps she’s right, but you wish to think better of yourself, so you label this grief for the least of us, fleeting, an excess of love—soft as silk threads, wide as a flying thing’s horizon.
Jo Angela Edwins lives and teaches in Florence, SC. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016, and she has poems appearing or set to appear in The A3 Review, Quarterday Review, Red Rock Review, and Thimble. She has received awards from Winning Writers, Poetry Super Highway, and the SC Academy of Authors, and she currently serves as poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Aside from poetry, she loves animals, flowers, and far too many television crime shows.
The Color of Orange
When I bend legs I no longer know and clench gloved fingers I no longer recognize despite the clear, disposable vinyl, I feel most myself. Neither disposable not invisible. I spent years reading Sherlock Holmes, tracking horoscopes, and streaming vinyl LPs. Always looking for myself, some mysteries solve themselves. Holding a metal shovel that somehow dignifies the task of collecting others’ trash, I reach for artifacts of lives tossed somewhere between Here and There on the Interstate – 95, 295, sometimes 2 – and I remember. Mornings of butter on warm toast. Evenings of secondhand paperbacks and warm vanilla tea. No. 2 pencils on college ruled paper and black and white crosswords. Ruby, olive, and navy-blue polished nails click laptop keys. Streams of thought turned to strings of words. Waiting. Always, for Him.
When I lower my head and tighten my core, I hear – whispers in puddles of oil and water – Don’t mix with Her, Them, Him – words float in the empty spots between Then and Now. As my eyes lock with my own reflection, I wonder about the concept of Self. Self-determination. Self-efficacy. Self-concept. Who are we? Who am I? Clothed in industrial strength cotton, stripped of zippers, buttons, and adjustable waist straps, I am a body in a basket of neon cloth. I am Strong. I am a Survivor.
Greyhounds, pass. Volvos and Chevy’s, too. Some accelerate, others slow. Small children, noses pressed against side windows, watch. They do as I would and allow their eyes the space to linger. I too have questions. I long for answers, as well. Grab your pencil and your lined paper, kids. I’ve got stories to tell. Tales of multi-purpose Easy Bake Ovens and Cabbage Patch dolls. Raggedy Ann aprons and Fisher Price castles, too. Not all mysteries solve themselves.
The stories linger with the dust in my mind, but my audience has disappeared. Electric wattage everywhere. Dr. Watson always watching. Everyone on speed. So much to do. I too used to be busy. Waiting. Mostly for Him. Now, visiting day is like most others. Pacman on repeat. Asteroids everywhere. Space Invaders Donkey Kong taunts. I wait. For the sun to rise and the plastic eggs – sunny side up – to be served. Orange circles in orange cups. More plastic. Only nothing is perfect. I lose my focus and think of the orange leather clutch in the hallway closet. Gifted on my last birthday. And odd companion to my ruby lipstick in its silver tube. Alien lips, He’d laugh. I wonder if He hid goods there, too. Now, crimson rays clash with orange peel suits. Letters of thirty-six tangerine point font clash with orange cream borders.
No matter, I’m used to clashes. Like frying-pan grease. Wars of words, too.
- Demons, Devils, and/or Dandelions
- Gnats, Ghouls, and Goldfish
- Droids, Disco Lights, and/or Date Nights
- Gooseberry Ice Cream, Game Boards, Gummy Bear.
I push aside _1__ and __2__.
I make room for __3__ and __4__.
I play games of pinball, chess, and mad libs in my head. Check mates and continue to sweep. Swap nouns with verbs. Aliases, too. Consume gallons of engine fuel, exhaust, and bitter pepper. Pepper spray, too. Toxins, everywhere. Cough and carry-on. As my broom bristles sort through discarded dust and ungloved debris of others’ lives, I sweep the caverns and dark corners of my mind. Inhale the lavender, lilac, and daisies of my dreams. Prehistoric peonies bloom eternal.
Trash, too. I bend and scoop Coca Cola bottles – 5 and 10 cents a pop, Marlboro and Kent cigarette butts, stamped and shredded movie tickets – AMC, Regal, and lipstick stained Starbucks coffee cups. Everything is branded. Me, too. I am a brand of dollar stores, fast-food drive ins, and deep discount mattress stores. Of second-hand video game cartridges, VHS tapes, and metallic blue polish. Of 100 percent cotton T’s, vegetable soup, and create your own adventure stories. Graffiti painted walls, Converse high tops, and Hello Kitty plaid sheets. Of wars lost and words misunderstood. Of unknowing conspiracies and unknown names.
I’m used to clashes. Clocks, too.
No ornaments allowed. No jewelry or memories, either. I mark time by the movement of the sun and sky. Palms up, scorched by orange rays. Palms down, scorched of words.
I’m frying pan grease. Careful, it’s hot.
When I bend, sweep, scoop, and sniff, I feel simultaneously busy and most at peace.
Some mysteries solve themselves.
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Toho Journal, The New Verse News, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.