Consolation to the Assembled – a poem by Ray Ball

Consolation to the Assembled

When the bishop
of Tarragona
untied
his own sandals
did his fingers
tremble
with fear
or only joy?

Chanting a blessing
for the fire
he ran toward,
Fructuoso prayed
to be consumed.
Born

to the stars.
The bone collectors
come,
leave through
the vomitorium

folding time,
taking
precious tokens
and holy ash
remnants
of the saint.

While the choir
sings,
entomb them
in the abbey
only reached by sea.

 

Ray Ball, Ph.D., is a history professor, essayist, and poet. She grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, but now lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She is the author of two history books and her verse has recently appeared in Cirque, Longleaf Review, and West Texas Literary Review.

Little Treasures – flash fiction by L Mari Harris

Little Treasures

 

On the first nice day in early spring, I see her stop at the porch steps, her little red Radio Flyer behind her. She looks down at my landscape rocks, scanning her head side to side, ponytail bouncing, then carefully selects several and sets them quietly down in the wagon. She knocks on my door. I give it a few seconds, like I’ve been back in the kitchen rolling out pie crust.

“Good morning, Mrs. Andersen. Would you like to buy some rocks? Quarter each.” She has the longest, thickest eyelashes I’ve ever seen in my sixty-five years on this earth.

“Why yes, Chloe, that would be lovely. How did you know I needed rocks?” I hand her two dollar bills and watch as she walks down my sidewalk and turns right toward her house, pulling the wagon behind her. I’m not thrilled she’s on her own as young as she is, but times are different now, and I understand her mother needs to earn a living after picking the wrong man she thought would settle down.

I had a good one in Dale. We weren’t blessed with children of our own, but God’s plans aren’t always known to us. I sometimes have to remind myself that God knows my strength better than I do, being childless and a widow and all, because there are days when it gets lonely. But I had the best, and for that I cannot complain. Makes me sad to see these young women today struggle so.

Two days later I’m dusting when I see Chloe coming up my sidewalk again. It takes her both hands and a couple of tries to get the decorative bullfrog hefted up into her wagon. She wipes the dust and dirt onto her jeans before knocking.

“Mrs. Andersen, look! She would look real cute next to your flowers. I can let you have her for five dollars.”

“Why yes, Chloe, she would look real cute. How did you know I’d been looking for something like that to spruce up my flowerbed?”

She breaks into a big smile, ponytail askew, as I hand her a five dollar bill.

When Dale passed, I questioned how I would find grace again. We both knew it was coming as he grew weaker and weaker, each round of treatment stealing more strength from him, until in the last days all he could tolerate was a chicken bouillon cube dropped into a cup of hot water that he would nurse all day long. When Dale slipped into an uncomfortable sleep he never woke up from I asked God to take my hand and show me the path to walk down, because I was afraid I wouldn’t find it on my own.

After Easter service lets out and I’ve picked up my sheet cake pan and have returned home, I find myself in the garage, reminiscing as I pick through the box of little things of Dale’s I never got around to tossing out or giving away. His Pioneer Seed cap, the sweatband still stained a dirty grey from all the years of working under the hot sun. The watch I got him for Christmas one year, the leather straps long gone. I wind it up and the second hand begins to tick clockwise. There’s a black velvet bag I’d long forgotten about, and as I turn it in my hands the rocks inside clack against each other. Not rocks, exactly. Fairburn agates we found together up in Custer County in the early years of our marriage when our legs were still strong and would carry us up and down the prairie hills, walking sticks in our hands to ward off occasional rattlesnakes, eyes scanning for those beautiful agates, laughing and practically squealing with happiness each time one of us would come across one. Many times we’d come back across the state line empty handed, but that didn’t matter. We just enjoyed being together, and that in itself was reward enough.

The next day, I’m resting on the porch swing when Chloe comes down the sidewalk, pulling her little red wagon behind her.

“My my, Chloe, isn’t this a beautiful day?” I see her eyes shift around the rhododendron bushes by the porch steps and I pretend not to notice. “How was school today?”

“Fine. I only missed two on my spelling quiz.” Her eyes are locked onto what I placed near the bushes. “Mrs. Andersen! Do you know what’s down here?” She picks it up and cups it in her hand, gentle, like she’s holding a fledgling found knocked from the nest.

“That’s what’s called a Fairburn agate, Chloe. Mr. Andersen and I used to go hunting for them. They’re very hard to find.”

“You mean like treasure hunting?” Chloe walks up the steps with it still cupped in her hand, marveling at the concentric layers of white and pink and purple and brown.

“Yes, exactly like treasure hunting.”

Chloe scoots on the seat next to me and swings her legs, eyes not leaving her hand. “Is it worth a lot of money?”

“Not a lot, but a little. First one to find an agate gets to keep it.” She finally takes her eyes off her cupped hand and looks up at me. “You found it first, fair and square.” Chloe’s a good girl who misses her mama working all the time. One day before she knows it, she’ll be old enough to know more than this block of old bungalows, just like I woke up one day to find myself at seventeen looking back in goodbye to the farmhouse where I grew up as Dale and I drove to this house that we turned into our home. “Say, how about joining me for some lemonade and oatmeal cookies? Just took the cookies out a little bit ago. Bet they’re still warm.”

 

L Mari Harris lives in Nebraska, where she works as a copywriter. Follow her @LMariHarris.

Ghost World 3 – Disillusionment – by Kathryn Ross

Ghost World 3 – Disillusionment

 

All my life, I have lived in this brown body. Skin once fresh and new, smelling of newborn fire, has been washed, burned, dirtied, pained, adorned, loved. I speak now in this single body, both living and remembering, trying to reconcile understanding. Every memory has been imprinted into my flesh, bound up with my soul.

But here on the other side I am a ghost. I am moaning spirit trying to make sense of who I was, who I am now, and who I will be. In my hands I hold resignation like a soft, flightless bird gently cooing with its eyes on a sky it will never reach. In my heart I hold disillusionment like a rigid corpse, the remains of some soaring thing that suddenly fell from the blue and landed, hard, on the concrete. In its last few moments it saw visions of where it once flew—the blinding sun, the thick, fleecy clouds, the endless sea of wind and sound, and all that rested below.

I am the ghost looking at the world I once knew, a world I’ll never know, and a third world that has not yet materialized.

“I know there’s nothing I can do.”

I am the ghost; wayward spirit clinging to nothing but the robes of Father God. I feel Him firm beside me: the only real thing.

 

***

What is the difference between resignation, and the feeling of disappointment that comes when you have realized that something, or everything, is not as good as you once believed it to be? A woman I respect asked me what my resignation looked like, what it felt like, and all I could say was,

“I know there’s nothing I can do.”

 

 

I try to detangle the two in my mind, to see where resignation ends and disillusionment begins. I type the words into a search engine and the results tell me they are different, but also the same:

 

[dis·il·lu·sion·ment]

noun

  1. a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.

[res·ig·na·tion]

 

noun                                                                           

  1. the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable. To step down with compliance, passivity.

 

 

I see both definitions within me. I see all the words I didn’t say, all the times I was angry and didn’t express it, all the tears I kept inside. Each word attaches itself to my body, presses against my skin like a tattoo, places a lens in front of my eyes. I am one and the other; I am both at the same time.

I’ve been told I am a miracle.

I know that I am a miracle.

All of me—sinews and muscle, blood and bone and spirit—is a miracle.

 

I’ve been told that the black body (my body), the black family (my family), the black soul (my soul), should be cherished. That after all the black body and the black spirit have been through, it is a wonder that we still rise[1], still thrive, still persist. But there is a large part of me stuck in the mire of what was done to make us the miracle. I am waist-deep in the quagmire of slavery: the whip, the bit, rape, murder. At times I am sinking in the small comfort that I, my body, just narrowly escaped this trauma turned to testimony. But there is still trauma, and still evil, and still mess and muck and mire the world throws at God, at His children.

There is still evil great and small—black bodies are gunned down, fear is spread that the black body brings harm and so deserves harm, words and systematic actions still spoken and carried out—propaganda that destroys the black body and mind from the inside out.

But even still I have been told, and I know, the existence of the black person, black culture, is a testament to the tradition of perseverance carried in each of our bodies, in each of our souls. It is something woven into the DNA, a remembrance of those before and those to come. Even still I know that there was a time, and is a time, and will be a time, when the black body teeters close to being be wiped from the face of this earth—and maybe soon to follow, every other brown body, brown family, brown soul.

I look to God and ask why—why can’t miracle come from miracle?

 

***

There is a tug towards whiteness in this world—a collective understanding that fairer skin is better—and this divides even the brown people. It says there are black and brown, reminding me of the schism I experienced throughout my life, telling me that while I am brown-skinned, I am black. That there is more to it than just the color—that the color doesn’t dictate the culture, but the culture dictates the color.

I think of the genocide around us and within us, the message that tells us—has told us—that we are not allowed to exist. We are pushed to the fringes of society, of the earth, in hopes that we might fall into the sky, and in some happy accident take the lesser brown plague along with us until the world is cleansed white.

Do I go too far? Or is my disillusionment just too great? Is there a middle ground where I, in my body, can dwell?

I said, “I know there’s nothing I can do.” Resignation and disillusionment in one. And as I said this I felt something chip away inside, fall through the empty space of my body and settle somewhere at the bottom of my soul, the bottom of my understanding, like sand in water. Every now and again the sand is disturbed, kicked up by some force of hope, some serendipitous happening that whispers maybe things are as good as I once believed—maybe even better. The sand swirls and floats, turning clear water cloudy, and for a moment I can’t see what I know to be true. For a moment, I think it might settle into a new configuration, revealing a new truth that offers some middle ground—some compromise that tells me something is not better or as good but just good.

But the sand settles and the water clears, showing me that everything is as I thought it was. As I hoped it wasn’t.

I look at the landscape, this wasteland at the base of the ocean of my self, and I no longer feel pain the in the same way. I sit in the sand, the water swirling around me like shadowy ghosts in gossamer shrouds. I close my eyes and think about what is truth, about what I cannot change, about what I would not change: I am black I am black I am black I am black I am black . . .

The words unravel in my mind—I see them drifting away, letter by letter out into the swirling sea until they dissolve into nothing. The sand lays flat beneath me, gently swaying in the current, and as I breathe, I breathe in the letters, and the words, and the sentences, and the ghosts. They are within me and around me, part of me, wrapping themselves closely around my heart.

I look up and see a light at the top of the water—a bright spot in the clear blue of my self. I see God. Sometimes God is weeping, sometimes He is not. I still cannot tell if He is weeping just for me, or for all of us, all at once.

I send a question to Him, a pulsing heartbeat that disturbs the water, momentarily stirs up the sand. I ask Him why it has to be this way, why there is nothing I can do. His light flickers and the sand settles, showing me everything as it always was, as I always hoped it wasn’t.

I ask Him what this means, what He’s trying to tell me, what He wants and intends for this life. I ask Him, my voice bubbling up like a jetstream, to please just make everything clear. And I ask Him—urgently—that if everything can’t be clear to please just give me peace as I wait for His miracle.

 

 

Kathryn H. Ross is a Southern California based writer and graduate student. Her works have previously appeared in OCCULUM, Marauder Literary, and Linden Avenue. As a writer and a person, Ross enjoys and desires to get to the heart of relationships, stories, and people by stripping away the surface layers through contemplation, conversation, and time to reveal the inner soul. Read her other works and keep up with her at speakthewritelanguage.com

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1] See Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise” (1978).

Ceschiatti’s Angels – a poem by Neil Leadbeater

Ceschiatti’s Angels

Do you believe in angels? Ceschiatti did.
He also believed in angles –
acute sharp-pointed ones,
ones that were greater than a right angle
and less than 180 degrees, triangles
with three unequal sides and ones having
two equal sides –
isosceles is the word I was looking for-
because it’s a good one to place
in the middle of a poem.
For Ceschiatti, it was the thought of
striking out in a new direction
that pleased him the most. Somehow
it altered the consensus of opinion.
“Do not be afraid,” they said,
(don’t they all say that to begin with?)
“be brave, be bold.”
And it was like breaking out of
a school of thought into a playground
for all the world.

 

Neil Leadbeater is an author, editor, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a regular reviewer for several journals including Galatea Resurrects (A Poetry Engagement) (USA) and Write Out Loud (UK).  His work has been translated into Dutch, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

 

Beneath the Sparrow’s Wing – a poem by Ruth Gilchrist

Beneath the Sparrow’s wing;

Floats Venice
And us; searching for the light.
each pointe lifting us so far,
stucco facade reaching heavenward.
Each choral offering,
masked face cast upward.

Up beyond the shadows,
the half-opened shutters
the narrow Calle;
the Sparrows flit.

We walk each open piazza
note stippled reflections
glance down every canal.
Stand at the water edge
and stare at the sunset
lulled by the sighs of history.

Venice; seducer of Neptune;
muse of the gods.
But we do not find its light
in gold or glass.
It is not found in arias
or the theatre of spires.

We find it in each window box,
each seed caught in flecking plaster
each will- o- wisp tree
and Sparrow’s perch.

In the morning, we embrace the early
whistler, the rattle off the refuse barrow,
call of the street seller
voices that carry on the water.
And we buy bread
to feed the Sparrows.

Ruth Gilchrist is a Scottish based writer. A member of EyeWrite and Dunbar’s Writing Mums. “Writer of the Year 2015” Tyne and Esk. Ruth collaborates with museums, photographers, film poems, radio and musicians. Poems published in Snakesin and Scrivens webzines and the SouthBank poetry magazine Southlight and The Eildon Tree. Also in various anthologies, including the Federation of Writers Scotland.

A Closer Look – a poem by Rupert Loydell

A Closer Look

Eric Pankey, Dismantling the Angel

 
Smoke and fire, ash and fog,
birds flying in formation,
unseen shadows in the night.

Restless poems trace what you saw
out of the corner of your eye
or might have once believed in.

You want to flesh out these stories
but there are too many versions
and more to write about when

you take a closer look. The language
seems to mute you: you are happy
to be quiet and let others speak.

Wind in the attic, distant crows,
soot and dust, animals and angels.
How to put things back together

now words have taken them apart?

© Rupert M Loydell

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).

Yellow – a poem by Morgan Driscoll

Yellow

They are saying Kaddish
but I can’t understand
in this room of family and friends so young;
where I am a stranger hearing words planned

at the hospice only yesterday.
Ancient syllables pass
through morning light, and pass
through a tide of yellow because she asked.

I don’t know this girl who died,
who asked for yellow
in our sleeves, and in our kerchiefs,
and in old ties worn, as voices echo

through dusted light, on children
who mourn and learn to mourn.
I am just acquaintance for a sudden task
a shoulder for my hosts summoned to learn

of service at the synagogue,
and shiva at the home.
I can’t translate through the chants
but for yisrael, but for shalom,

I can’t but I hear amen,
in men’s breath, on women’s sighs;
a blessing, a confusion, through adolescents
wearing clothes perhaps a size

too small, or dug from attics, but wearing
yellow somewhere because she asked.
In unison the sounds:
Yitgadal v’yitkadash,

I can’t understand so I glance
outside, watching butterflies
alit and yellow,
on a darkened mid-March branch.

 

Morgan Driscoll is a commercial artist looking to express himself in ways that do not involve selling things. Poetry seems the the form most expressive, and least mercenary, so he is giving it a try. When not running a business, or raising 5 children, or drinking coffee, he occasionally explores the spiritual, quickly losing his way and retreating back to the profane.

Children’s Play – a poem by Melissa Kelly

Children’s Play

Behind the maple trees
Down a wooded path
Lies a small stream current
Over the rocks of the river bank
The children play, their pants
rolled up to their knees
Splashing around
Jumping from rock to rock
They elude the adults
To their realities
And dabble in the
Mysteries of the river
Until the porch lights flicker on
And the pink in the sky
Calls them home for dinner

Melissa Kelly is a Poet and Short Story writer from Long Island, NY. You can see some of her work in WestWard Quarterly Magazine, Soft Cartel, and Plum Tree Tavern.

Imperfection – a poem by Lucia Daramus

Imperfection

I breathe
the lines in the air are imperfect
they imprint my eyes
my eyesight that I can touch
imperfectly, feeling its flawed lines.

this poem is unfinished
its imperfect words
contain its whole meaning untold.
as imperfect as everything
as partial as my blue sight.

I paint infinitely with imperfections
meaning quivering in my ears
unwritten, bereft of any contemplative mind
I cannot help wondering
who has written this poem deficient.

Our love, too, is imperfect
jostled among unconfessed distances
imperfection wafts gently in the words I love you
on the branch of a tree
pecked firmly in its beak by the raven.

yet away imperfectly grained lies the tomb
the bitter-sweet earth stuck in our teeth
beyond yet away
rises up imperfection’s own looking glass tumbled
held in its fingers of light
how beautiful thou art, imperfection!

Lucia Daramus is a Jewish Romanian writer who is living in England, an translator,  and an artist whose works demonstrate her fascination with archaeology, history of antiquity, quantum physics, numbers, and philosophy. Daramus has obsession for numbers and ideas, she has paranoid schizophrenia and Asperger’s Syndrome. Her poetry reflects the deep meaning of  life.  She is published in some magazines in Romania, France, Germany, England , Canada, USA etc. 

Balancing Act – a short story by Neil Leadbeater

Balancing Act

Falling is an art. It’s a skill that has to be learnt just like any other and it takes time. All the time in the world until you hit the ground. That’s what the instructor said and Karen believed him. She trusted him implicitly.

It all started when she was a small child. She would go out into the garden, clamber up on to a low stone wall, place one foot carefully in front of the other, and walk along its ledge. All children take a delight in doing this sort of thing. I used to do it myself.

It was her father who first began to notice how well she kept her balance. Eager to please his only daughter he taught her to walk on peg stilts to help her develop her skill. Karen loved this game and showed no fear of falling.

When she was twelve, her parents bought her a juggling kit. She quickly mastered the art of keeping all the coloured balls up in the air at once. Each one seemed to rise and fall with split-second precision arriving and departing from the palm of her hand at just the right moment.

In Sunday School she heard about how the apostle Peter had tried to walk on water. The story made such a big impact that she kept returning to it many times and every time she read it she discovered something new.

When she was fully grown she became a tightrope walker. It was an ice-breaker. When anyone asked her what she did for a living, people equated it with danger.

The long hours of training were something else. She spent hours falling. Everyone falls at some time in their life, her instructor had said. It was important to know what it felt like. No matter how many times she fell, she never felt comfortable with it. She spent hours falling under his watchful gaze. Sometimes they would fall together and later they would fall apart.

It was lonely on the high wire. She was the only person in the roof space. There was nothing between her and the ground below. Not even a safety net.

One night, catching one foot in front of the other, she lost her balance. The experience of falling was not as she had known it in her training. Instead of happening quickly, it happened very slowly. She had ample time to feel the strange pain that rose in the pit of her stomach and travelled to every outer part of her body. She had time to think about the actual descent and what kind of impact the ground would make when she hit it. How would she land? Would she break any part of her anatomy? Would she ever be able to walk again? She had time to contemplate all these things for the descent was long and it was dark, terrifyingly dark, with pinpoints of light that flashed past her like glowing stars in the galaxy. It was as if she had broken away from the earth and was lost in outer space.

She tried to remember to breathe out to relax her body, to keep her arms and legs slightly bent to absorb the final impact, to think above all things of falling like a cat. The ground was a long way down. It was so far away that she woke up before she had even reached it and clutched at the bedsheet in a moment of unreality. This was the falling dream. It was the white angel who had brought it to her. Whenever she had this dream she knew that the angel had been and that it was a sign to her that she should not walk the high wire the following night. Mr Kennedy, the Head of the troupe respected that. He knew she knew everything there was to know about falling. And that was why she never did. Instead, she sat up in bed and recited to herself over and over “I am a funambulist, a rope walker, from the Latin funambulus, from funis rope, and ambulare to walk.” It helped to restore her balance, to bring her back into equilibrium so that, all things being equal, she was once more able to face the world.

On the days when she was not performing, she would study the art of the great masters in their depictions of the fall from grace (how lovely Eden was then) and the great battles where the cry went up “How are the mighty fallen.” She had a postcard of “the skating vicar” – an unlikely skater, you might think because clergy are not known for skating on ice. He looked graceful enough and was clearly having the time of his life. No fear of falling there. Later still, she would look at paintings about people who were falling in love: Daphnis and Chloe, Venus and Adonis, Romeo and Juliet…She loved to observe their rapture. Like her, when she was on the high wire, they were caught up in the moment so that no other thoughts were allowed to enter their heads. Falling apart was unthinkable. Around midnight, she thought about falling asleep. Rip van Winkle had been good at that as any child will tell you. She hoped she would never fall out of favour but would always be needed, always be loved.

Neil Leadbeater is an author, editor, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a regular reviewer for several journals including Galatea Resurrects (A Poetry Engagement) (USA) and Write Out Loud (UK).  His work has been translated into Dutch, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.