Haibun: Wild Plums – a poem by Kathryn MacDonald


One day you look through the window, see sticks – slender trunks, slivers of branches along the fencerow. Too early for leaves, the colony of wild plums stands bare. The next day, like a butterfly – first a thumb of dull pupa, then a kaleidoscope of colour – the trees have burst into spectacle. Tiny white flowers, startlingly pure and fresh, erupt against the dull pasture of early spring. The blossoms – short-lived food for early bees – scent the season, renewing the promise of summer-green leaves and fall fruit. I steal from the bees: bring an armload of blossoms into the sitting room where the warmth of the woodstove this evening will release their perfume. Later, after the planting and weeding and harvesting of crops, another miracle happens. Suddenly, purple plums hang from slender branches above the fence. You set baskets on the kitchen counter where we wash the fruit, cut each small plum in half, pit, and stew into syrup, pour wild-plum jelly into tiny jars. 

Two wonders wake heart
White blossoms burst into spring
Fall’s tart plum jelly

Kathryn MacDonald’s poetry has been published in literary journals in Canada, the U.S., England, and Ireland. Her poem “Seduction” was short-listed for the 2019 Freefall Poetry Contest. She is the author of A Breeze You Whisper (poems, 2011) and Calla & Édourd (fiction, 2009). Website: https://KathrynMacDonald.com

Silver – a poem by Paul Attwell

My flushed, older twin reveals himself, like
a conjurer, from behind a veil of
nothingness. Greyer – silvery   – my future
self. I stare toward him and utter, half
composed, half shaking. I ask silver me
how we feel these few decades on. He beams
a sunlight smile. We are happy. Content.
We have smiled a million smiles. This surreal
avenue to future memories, tells
of creaking bridges – sighing – groaning. Yet
Silver heartens me as he speaks of pride
and joy to come. He sings approval. I
reply with glistening relief. He reveals
towering trophy moments. Silver, smiles with
empathy. He stamps lucid authority,
yet I feel loose and safe I quiz him further.
He oozes words of health and wealth to soon
embrace me, like a prodigal son. He
tells of deeds and compassion toward city
nomads – homeless. Not soulless. Silver neither
daunts or haunts me. Two old friends stealing a chance
to chat. Encouraging – not disparaging. 
He plays images of a wife and child –
beyond my comprehension. I shoot a
smile in reply. He booms of books, penned between
us. This is a conversation of 
contentment – of accomplishment. As
Silver fades. I am ecstatic – full of hope.

Paul Attwell lives in Richmond, London, with his partner Alis, and Pudsey the cat. Paul’s experiences of depression and ADHD help shape his work. The pamphlet, Blade is available from Wrong Rooster Publishing at https://www.wrongroosterpublishing.com/ 

Sacred Familiarities – a reflection by David Chorlton

Sacred Familiarities

Where I live, in Arizona, what is held as sacred is invariably a part of nature and the land. Native people here need to constantly be vigilant to protect sites of special significance to them from mining or other destructive projects imposed by the now dominant commercial culture. Travel around the state has brought me to share the native view of sacredness, as the mountains and desert gradually became internalized and I came to see why Baboquivari Peak or Quitobaquito Springs have taken on such significance. Of course, these sites can only become a kind of borrowed reference in my spiritual life, vital as they are, and I turn to what is closer at hand to explore the deeper, personal meaning of being sacred.

Looking out from my windows, front and back, I have a view of hummingbirds and other species at home in city and desert: thrashers, mockingbirds, towhees, a couple of hawk species, goldfinches, woodpeckers and more, whose presence is an accompaniment to my life and routine that has far outgrown the simply aesthetic. There are coyotes too, sauntering down the urban asphalt now and then, bringing a little of the wild with them. And from the back of the house I see South Mountain, a desert mountain that is one of the largest city parks in the world at ca. 17,000 acres, which invites the imagination into a world inhabited by yet more animals. All this may not be spectacular on a scale of global sights, but familiarity has elevated my surroundings to a status I hadn’t expected.

We rely on much that comes from contemporary commerce, and no matter how the conveniences ease our way from day to day, the experience hardly nurtures the spirit. The natural world is the real world, and it is to that I look for deeper significance in everyday life. An occasional visit from an oriole in migration season has immeasurable value, and sharing such moments with my wife made them all the more valuable. The sacred is a force to be shared, whether domestically or within the community.

Invariably, on trips taken around the state, I wrote as we went about what we saw and the poems are in part an effort to heighten the experience and in part a means of telling others how it felt to be in, for example, Madera Canyon or the Chiricahua Mountains. Meanwhile, back at home the same principle applies, as the shifting light or a surprise appearance asks to be recorded because the experience demands it.

Writing itself becomes a close relative of the sacred as the process binds exterior and interior worlds.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, close to a large desert mountain city park from which various creatures visit after sundown! He has published several books and performed poetry on occasion with his recently deceased wife, a violinist who brought out extra dimensions in the work with her music. 

5.8 – a poem by Alan Perry

We look at each other across the room--
our eyes meet, then widen, as our heads turn.
Your couch jiggles and my chair rattles forward
while we both mouth earthquake.
Ten seconds feel like minutes when we ask
each other when do you think it will end?
That’s the question I ask myself when times
seem the worst--wars on other continents,
the terminal illness of a best friend,
insanities from political demagogues.
Then I imagine Paul in Philippi 
imprisoned with his friend Silas
singing and praying to keep the faith
after stirring the crowds with words.
When his earthquake came, Paul’s shackles fell off
and he was freed from what held him.
Which reminds me that 5.8 on the Richter scale
is only a number, until you experience the power
of having the faith to believe that eventually 
all of this will end well.

Alan Perry authored Clerk of the Dead, published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2020. His poems have appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Heron Tree, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and elsewhere. A Best of the Net nominee, he is a Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine.

Waiting for Life – a poem by Lisa Molina

Waiting for Life

In the pediatric cancer
transplant unit.
10 agonizing days and nights.

Will his body embrace the 
donated cord blood cells?
(As I once embraced him as a young infant and child?)
Or reject them.
Refuse them.
Causing his death.

The children
on the other sides
of two walls
our our room
have whispered 
their final breaths.

My child is still breathing.
Living a life
between deaths.

What is he dreaming?
Has he descended to the depths?
Lying in a dark cave?
Lazarus awaiting?


For Resurrection.

Lisa Molina lives in Austin, Texas. She has taught high school English and theatre, served as Associate Publisher of Austin Family Magazine, and now works with students with special needs. Molina’s poems can be found in Trouvaille Review, Indolent Books, Ancient Paths Literary Blog, and The Poet- Christmas Anthology 2020. 

Friday at the Holy Sepulchre – a poem by Royal Rhodes


("Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"  ~
    Unknown composer, arranged by Gavin Bryars)

A clutch of Filipino pilgrims climb
the steps to Calvary behind their guide
whose closed umbrella like a bony lim
points them to the altars, side by side,
where Orthodox and Latins claim the space
where Jesus, once abandoned, bled and died.
They say this little mountain swayed and shook.
Graves were opened, so that face-to-face
the saints appeared to those who stopped to look.

Others, waiting, always waiting, knelt
beside the stone of unction, never caring
that it was a copy. Hands had spelt
for centuries their prayers, as candles, flaring,
lit the surface, smeared with oil and tears
A flood of tongues was heard this special Friday
before the Easter fire flamed again.
I watched, aloof, while hearing without ears
to hear, my careful heart repeat: Amen. 

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor of global religions, religion and the arts, and death & dying. His poems have appeared online and in a series of poetry/art collaborations with The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. 

Mary of Egypt Has a Dream – a poem by Jane Greer

Mary of Egypt Has a Dream 
Unloose it, she hears, or doesn’t hear
but has the meaning, full and instant,
there on her bed of rock and sand
where she lies quiet, forswearing love,
forswearing love.
Under the sun and moon she prays
for the death of need—to not desire 
so desperately love’s counterfeit—
to live in acquiescent calm
and tepid peace.
Decades have reeled and run within 
her prayer for conversion—fire  
to burn away the last of longing.  
Yet that clear night (all nights are clear
in the thorny barrens), 
as she floats weary on the edge
of wakefulness, the constellations 
grind to a stop their slow arcs
and words like clear water lap at her:
Dearest, unloose it. 
Uncage love and send love out, 
set love free, let love astound 
those it falls upon, let it knock them over—
but not your puny, needful love: 
use mine, use mine.
We two will do it: you the flume 
and I the freshet, you the dry bed 
and I the flood through you. Say yes.
Tomorrow, all your life’s love will seem
a dry prologue.

Jane Greer founded Plains Poetry Journal, an advance guard of the New Formalism movement, in 1981, and edited it until 1993. She has two collections of poetry, Bathsheba on the Third Day (The Cummington Press, 1986), and Love like a Conflagration (Lambing Press, 2020) and lives in North Dakota.

Catherine Dismembered – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

III.            Catherine Dismembered
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'
“Then, standing before the door of the temple, she held a long disputation with the Caesar, arguing according to the divers modes of the syllogisms, by allegory and metaphor, by logic and mystic.”
             Jacobus de Voragine, The Legend of St. Catherine of Alexandria,
                        trans. Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger
                        (Arno Press, 1969), pp. 709; 715-716.
Her story flares up,
ignited from a clump –
of hair perhaps, a shred of skin
already scorched, a cinder,
the dust of ash,
less plausibly deciphered
than a leopard’s claw,
a sliver of bone or a tuft,
the annual relic of the oryx
and its symmetrical foe -
the heraldry of realms
outside of speech.
Yet this fragment
at the extremity of sense
was seized by speech,
kidnapped and borne away,
borne aloft,
in the story’s radiant monstrance
within which was written
the bejeweled and astounding
discourse of a princess
who struck down with her words
the sixty philosophers,
the rhetors and orators,
the abject grammarians
assembled to impress her.
Against them she turned
the three-spoked wheel of her argument:
the Speculative, divided into
               the Intellectual
               the Natural
               and the Mathematical;
the Practical, divided into
               the Ethical
               the Economical
               and the Political;
and the Logical, divided into
              the Demonstrative, pertaining to philosophers,
              the Probable, pertaining to rhetors and dialecticians,
              and the Sophistic, pertaining to sophists.
For in her was all philosophy.
In lofty and vulnerable rotations
the fragment took flight,
upheld by angels,
translated from palace to tower
to the most pure height
of the mountain,
and there extravagantly given
to the tree aflame,
beating to engender
in unspeakable recessions of blue,
the body of God.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/

Amma Sarah Rebukes the Philosophers – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

II.            Amma Sarah Rebukes the Philosophers
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'
The desert offers no escape
from desire,
but its precise location.
In emptiness,
there are no substitutes
and no satisfaction.
In emptiness
the hidden mouth of desire
yawns and gulps,
famished, desperate;
the very source -
and the threshold.
From time to time
I discover that wind and sand
have stirred around me
in undulant waves,
obscuring the mouth.
Then I must dig with my hands
through this glittering cloud,
pull the single strand I have laid down
to mark the place
through an infinite multitude 
of points and strokes,
the mirage of alphabets,
scattering my eyes and my heart,
that would sift me and fling me
like itself, here and there,
with which perhaps I could
for several decades
be satisfied and deluded -
before knowing.
Even a grain of sand,
you Wise Men,
is a substitute
and a brief satisfaction
which stands in the empty space
that I must mark with my line
and dig to uncover,
where uncovered,
naked, and complete,
I enter my cell
and lift my eyes.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/

Saints’ Tales: Dialogues in Solitude – poetry by Cynthia Sowers

I.              Untranslated
He said he was given a word.
Inconceivable - apart from
the mountain, the strong glare,
some think the acacia bush.
His position was untenable,
and remains so to this day:
the word is fire, 
or not at all;
a sword, or nothing;
an utter downpouring
that defies all translation, 
or dust.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/