OFFERINGS OF COMPASSION ISSUE
Lisa Ashley * Donna Secour * Michelle M Mead * Rhiannon-Skye Boden * Sarah Reichert * Judy Kronenfeld * Bobbi Sinha-Morey * Patty Somlo * Andrea England * Lynne Carol Austin * Ann Wehrman * Donna H DiCello * Irene Alderson * Wilda Morris * Cynthia Elder * Richard Havenga * Thomas Davis * Betsy Mars * Susan Martell Huebner * Kristen Baum DeBeasi * Amy Baskin * Gail Goepfert * Janet Ruth * Shawn Aveningo-Sanders * Jim Landwehr * Lorraine Caputo * Jan Chronister * Mary Ray Goehring * Brenda Lempp * Shelly Blankman * Rose Mary Boehm * Nancy Rafal * Sandra Lindow * Darshan Frances Jessop * Heidi C Hallett * Jackie Langetieg * Joan Mazza * Erik Richardson * Mary Jo Balistreri
Paula Lietz (Cover Artist) * Kurt Huebner * Lynne Carol Austin * Richard Havenga * Megan Morgan * Karen VandenBos * Holly Kallie
(Would you harbor me? Would I harbor you?
The boy and I sit under bright lights.
He talks of the hardest things.
It’s cold. I listen. I see him.
There is no sanctum here, no haven,
only barren walls, cold metal stools
bolted to the concrete floor.
There is no soft music, no candles,
only the one I light in my mind,
a flame I throw around him.
Surrounded on all sides—
guards at the post, other chaplains, other kids—
there is no privacy here.
He offers up the fierce defiance of the trapped,
defends the gun he carried every day,
his jokes keep the fox of fear at bay.
Each morning when his door lock pops
he hears a gunshot, recoils,
aims to bolt from his hole.
You are not the actions you did, I say.
Brown eyes lock on mine,
we forge a tiny sanctuary.
He stays with me,
spins his story out.
In this bare time he’s safe.
Lisa Ashley, MDiv, descends from survivors of the Armenian Genocide, sat with and listened to youth in jail for 8 years, and has poems in The Tishman Review, The Journal of Undiscovered Poets, The BeZine and soon, Dwelling Literary. She is a spiritual director and writes on Bainbridge Island, WA, having found her way there from rural New York by way of Montana.
One Thousand Loving Glances
How can I be diminished?
I am one thousand loving glances in the right direction.
One hundred hours loving the soft eclipse of an ocean’s wave.
I have watched a sunset with the anticipation of birth…
hugged strangers, prayed for beggars,
gave when absolutely no one could ever know.
I have stretched my love further
than it should have ever lasted,
and still my eyes sparkle in the dead of night.
I have tended the deepest, deadest wounds
with just the bare love of these hands,
kissed madness with mercy and grace,
held the darkest pit of despair in my palm.
My thoughts have been braver, stronger, kinder
and more merciful than you may be able to imagine.
And even though I may be just your insignificance
God dwells in my heart
He fills my soul
His love for me splashes over like fine vineyard wine
in your favorite glass.
I am more than you have even imagined.
But so then, are you.
Donna Secour is from Massachusetts. She has worked as a Psychiatric Nurse for over twenty years and is a visual artist who was included in the 2020 Manhattan International Arts online exhibit, “The Healing Power Of Art.” She is deeply in love with the poetry of a Mary Oliver, David Whyte and Rumi. She is new to sharing her own poetry with others.
MICHELLE M MEAD
My hands collected wildflowers,
Fingers stained with ripest fruits,
Head sure hands had lost all reason,
Dangling from shredded stems,
Imbedded thorns in hope-filled palms,
Wearing quiet rebellion within,
Many’s the fool,
Who on a summer day,
Sees Eden on distant shores,
Sees Heaven in the out of doors,
Yearning for a laugh’s caress,
A single kiss beneath a tree’s slow sway,
I idled there a time or two,
The hammock swinging alone,
My feet restless upon this stone,
Blessing blue skies and over-heard sighs,
As I walked off hesitantly on my own.
Michelle M Mead is a writer from Upstate New York. She has edited two print zines, Artless & Naked, and Whimsy, and has been published in various print magazines (Polluto, The Thirty First Bird Review, Trespass, Blinking Cursor, Capsule Stories, Words@Deakin Press, The Chronogram, etc.) and ezines (Gutter Eloquence, EMG Zine, Apparatus, Under The Juniper Tree, etc.) as well as in her poetry books, Moongirls and Nightdreams and Divided Together (lulu.com). She is currently working on multiple novels and a poetry collection.
Everyone I Know Is Baking Bread
Or making jam. Or growing veg.
My Instagram is thick with smells
from other people’s kitchens
who keep jars of bubbling yeast as pets
and keep a doting eye on progress
They post updates like proud parents
of single shoots in lonely seed trays
or gently foaming liquids
A patchwork of small victories.
Like lit windows, that I scroll through
There is life.
Here is life.
Rhiannon-Skye Boden is a professional freelance writer, poet and spoken word artist, living and working in Leeds. Her work deals with themes of childhood, nostalgia and mindfulness, often through the lenses of nature and domesticity. Her work has been featured in various Leeds publications, such as Nice People Magazine, and her poem “Harvest Time” was most recently included in Green Teeth Press’ anthology Unhomely.
I leave behind pieces of myself
in every heart that I have loved
so that I may live a thousand different lives
and share their journey in a million different moments.
I spread toes in broken sand
and sing with the breath of black loam forests
blaze in pursuit of sunsets and stretch,
reborn to every dawn.
I leave behind pieces of myself
so that every pulse
in every heart of my heart
is a star in the sky,
I leave behind pieces of myself
in every heart that I have loved
so that I may touch the world with their hands
see the world through their eyes,
beg them lay still when they need rest
and filter and fiber their blood
as they race down dusty borders of earth and sky.
I aid the fire and fever as they fall to love
and mend softly the wounds suffered thereafter.
I leave behind pieces of myself,
in every heart I have loved
so that I may live a thousand lives
be born and grow old,
laugh out joy
cry over despair.
So if I am far away from you now,
by streets or by stars,
know that I am not gone.
I am stitched into your chest
a meadow of peace
when the weary world shouts too loud.
If out of sight, I am undeparted
I’ve left a piece of myself
in your heart.
Sarah Reichert (S.E. Reichert) is a poet, novelist, and owns and operates a blog on writing (thebeautifulstuff.blog). Her work has been published in the Northern Colorado Writers Anthology, Rise, as well as Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology. Her poetry has been featured in the Wyoming Writers Newsletter and she also received an honorable mention at the 2019 Wyoming Writer’s Conference. She has had work featured on the TulipTree Press and Haunted Waters Press sites. She has also published three, full-length paranormal romance novels. Sarah lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her family, enjoys long hikes with her dog and naps with her cats. In her non-writing hours she is a karate instructor and preschool teacher.
Talking to Myself as I Face Surgery in the Time of Covid
When I awake, here, in the mansions
of the living air, not yet having had to stoop
under that lowest marble roof in that crowded
neighborhood of relentless views,
maybe even the rude stranger, pain,
will be welcome proof that I still am.
And if, when my eyelids flutter open,
I’m shaky outside the stanchions
of the beloved everyday, if I’m estranged a little
from my tube-drained chest,
let me remember that the wiry fingers
clenched tight at my sides once smoothed
the silken crowns of anxious children,
and stroked the warm bald dome
of a confused and frightened father.
Let me hold my own hands,
gently, in my heart—as mothers hold
the tiny, perfect fists of newborns.
Judy Kronenfeld’s collections of poetry include Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, 2nd edition (Antrim House, 2012)—winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. Her fifth full-length collection, Groaning and Singing, will be published by FutureCycle in February, 2022. Her poems have recently appeared in Right Hand Pointing, Offcourse, Your Daily Poem, The Loch Raven Review, Verdad, and Slant, among other journals.
Trace of Love
In my daydream I’d been
rescued from my thoughts,
the threads of my brain
having tangled into such
hard knots; and in my
idyllic repose, the blushing
morning sky so far above
me, I imagined the taste of
blue skies on my tongue,
God’s trace of love leaving
behind a giant white parasol
in a field of lavender, and
I felt His presence shyly
quiver inside my soul.
I wanted to touch the
sunflowers of Van Gogh,
find the warbler in the
quickly greening tree.
Such childish thoughts
I had, but I let them flood
in. The birth of wildness
all around me, and I let
it envelope me like the
Lord’s warm breath rushing
Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s poetry has appeared in a wide variety of places. Her books of poetry are available at Amazon.com and her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology in 2015, 2018, and 2020. In addition, she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2020.
By the Jetty
at the edge
of the sea
Trying not to get
his feet wet
pale as frosted green glass
While foam becomes mist
and wind lifts
tiny beads of it
This splendid light
When all is supposed to be dark.
and then south
Trying to capture
he cannot put
I watch him
lifted by the breeze
The spot at the back
of his head
where he’s going bald
What would I do
back and forth
across the sand
Lifting his camera
And then taking
Only a year ago
We said goodbye
as he lay
on the gurney
by the window
for four hours
While they opened
I sit on a log
how the water gleams
life is so
To have moments
When the light
nearly blinds you
Tears cloud my view
as he aims his camera
toward the great dark rock
As if life
Patty Somlo’s most recent book, Hairway to Heaven Stories, was published by Cherry Castle Publishing, a Black-owned press committed to literary activism. Hairway was a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards and Best Book Awards. Two of Somlo’s previous books, The First to Disappear (Spuyten Duyvil) and Even When Trapped Behind Clouds: A Memoir of Quiet Grace (WiDo Publishing), were Finalists in several book contests. She received Honorable Mention for Fiction in the Women’s National Book Association Contest, was a Finalist in the Parks & Points Fall Essay Contest, and had an essay selected as Notable for Best American Essays.
For the Boy on Campus Who Asked to Pet My Dog during COVID
Yes. The moon is
masked, a haze
of cough and smoke.
Still, it is beautiful.
I too, looped
its imaginary strings
behind my ears.
Still, I was beautiful.
past the smell of
is an Easter basket
full of veronica
winding down. Go
deep as turtles do
to slumber. Singular
in the rushing dark,
you bend and bloom—
mosquito song, goldenrod;
you have only just begun.
Andrea England is co-editor of Scientists and Poets #Resist (Brill Press, 2019), and the author of two chapbooks. She lives and writes between Kalamazoo and Manistee, MI.
LYNNE CAROL AUSTIN
With A Breath
You are not here without connections
The golden strings of love
braided cording to your heart
your breath, your very existence
Yet, a loss brings you to wander
scissors in hand
ready to cut the very union to the stars
the place where we all merge into one
Suffering because you think you must
allowing the seepage of your vital energy
holding against the intake of life
we sweep you into our shimmering wings
lifting your heaviness with ease
while breathing into your lungs
what you forgot you possessed all along
Lynne Carol Austin is a published author and artist, with two literary novels, Ten of Swords and Gull Soup, and three children’s books, Edith Ann Marie The Sun Is in My Heart, Tell Me a Story, Mama, and Francine and Hazel, along with published short stories and online journals.
mother droops over her child
her arms bend like basket’s cane
resembling absent shelter
willing warmth, strength to endure
she crouches on cardboard
on concrete sidewalk
black night—businesses closed
child silent, too weak to cry
mother imagines fried chicken
mashed potatoes, warm bread
imagines her milk flowing again
hope, a tiny ember, glows dark red
Ann Wehrman is a creative writer and musician living in Northern California and currently teaching English composition online from home. Her poetry, literary reviews, and short fiction have been published by diverse print and online journals. She is also a classical flutist, performing with a local community college orchestra. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DONNA H DICELLO
Is the World Too Full to Talk About?
I walk among
the outline of my feet
tamped into the earth
with each step.
Song sparrow sound,
the jangling notes
No boundaries exist
between the bird
My hands are hollowed
bones that do not break,
to carry a mountain
My soul lays down
to another killing—
their names rest hard
on the tongue,
the nameless, even harder.
I listen still
waiting for the world
knowing no choice
but to shoulder this.
I want a language
for which there
are no words
only the high
that take refuge
in a listening ear,
that carry this charge
on the sparrow’s back.
Donna H DiCello is a clinical psychologist whose first loves have always been the mind and the shape, sound, and meaning of words. She has had poems published with Blue Heron Review, Cold Noon, Minerva Rising Press, Greensilk Journal, The Avocet, Dime Show Review, and Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, among others. She continues to work on poems that blend social justice issues with the workings of nature, with Iceland, Cape Cod, and her own garden serving as her favorite topographical muses.
She wears a pink paper hat
splashed with sequins and crowned
with the number 16.
Waves of dark hair frame her face.
All denim and dimples, she perches
on a cement block in front
of a somber wall of brick and glass
that needs this dash of joy.
She and her friends are waiting
for the bell, and while the others
are texting with the intensity
of Wall Street traders,
she is softly eyeing a desire
that lies beyond the stiletto buildings.
It is spring, and the little lone tree
on that traffic-swept street
is full of white blossoms,
a bouquet for the girl-woman
who believes against logic that she
will flee whatever smacks of winter
in her life and flower forever
wearing a diamond halo
and a silver cross necklace,
the last thing her mother gave her.
Irene Alderson performs regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company, a collective of poets and musicians based in Minneapolis. She loves the way a poem or song can stop time as it unfolds. Irene lives with her husband, who can suspend the moment as he sings and plays his guitar, their demanding cat, and the backyard critters.
What I Have to Give
(Beginning with one line by Chrystos)
This is a give-away poem.
I give you the Vireo’s song at sunset,
the aerial dance of bats as darkness moves in,
the flickering light of a thousand stars.
I give you water I pull with my pail
from a cool, clean spring.
I give you grey skies, rain and snow
so you will appreciate the sun’s rays.
This is a give-away poem,
so I give you words by William Wordsworth,
the lake shore where he wandered,
the hillside with daffodils dancing in the breeze.
I give you the woods where I walk,
the trout lilies and trillium in bloom,
the fallen trunk nurturing saplings.
From the wetlands, I give you
the heron’s careful step, the song of frogs,
the red-winged blackbirds bending
stems of cattails and marsh grass
and the snapping turtle working its way
out of the water to build a nest for her eggs.
This is a give-away poem. Walk with me
and I will give you all I have to give.
I will give you the flickering light
of my candle. I will give you hope.
Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, and past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published widely in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, won awards for formal and free verse and haiku. Her most recent collection is Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick. Her poetry blog at wildamorris.blogspot.com features a monthly poetry contest.
Remind Me How It Goes
Where will I put this love when you go?
It’s piling up in drawers and closets,
blowing about like wind-tossed leaves,
filling every cup I empty,
weighing like snow upon the eaves.
How will I hold this gift you gave me?
My hands – a child’s – unable to grasp
the depth or width of a life’s long tally,
the space between the first and last.
Your songs, I know them, all but one,
and there the mystery remains,
the notes, a faded score to follow
to where our hearts unite again.
I try to pour myself into you:
food for the journey, but you are filled.
You pour me back, say, Do not worry.
My champion ever, my father still.
All that you are you’ve given away
without demands, without a show.
So let it rain in my soul’s garden;
in this rich soil, your seed will grow.
Cynthia Elder lives on the edge of Hundred Acre Cove in Barrington, Rhode Island. Her poems and prose have appeared in The Allegheny Review, Dog River Review, Plainswoman, Young Ravens Literary Review, Edify Fiction, and other publications.
A Trace of Hope
As evening settles slowly,
the last Great Blue Heron
of your fulfilling day
rows his gray boat
over the wetlands,
back to the rookery.
Then the sky flares crimson
against the softening clouds
aflame for a moment
then gone too soon;
but you were out there.
You were a witness.
You stand still on the porch
as dusk seems to pause,
waiting for you to recall
the highlights of your day;
before you enter
the bright light inside,
where you can illuminate
the lives of others with
more than a trace
Richard Havenga, a poet / nature photographer / naturalist, creates an enticing blend of inquiry and receptivity in his writing and is always grateful for the extravagant gifts of creation. He has published over 600 poems and 200 haiku in nine years of blogging at Walk With Father Nature. He has written a daily journal for 46 years, and has been married to Mary for 50 years. They live on ten acres near Cannonsburg, Michigan.
(an ekphrastic poem based upon an oil painting by Judi Elkohm of the same title)
Walking a lake’s edge,
lily pads, root traceries, pink blooms
beside yellow leaves floating out from shore,
you slip beneath reflections of blue sky,
evergreens elongated on the water’s surface,
and in that space, light filtered from above
(haunted eyes of a staring Yemini child,
belly puffed out by war’s insistent starvation,
airline seats emptied by coronavirus fear
mathematically spreading fevers,
mourning songs for grandmothers and grandfathers,
pulsating rage of immense political rallies)
peace flows water into spirit,
water into being,
water in the human heart’s essence
beating and beating.
For a moment, walking a lake’s edge,
the electric anxiety of living disappears,
and we, you and I,
become lily pads blooming pink flowers,
yellow leaves floating, reflection of blue skies
and elongated evergreens.
What should be our relationship to blue earth,
the water in our souls,
Thomas Davis’s latest book is Meditations on Ceremonies of Beginnings, poems written during the years when he was involved in helping to found the tribal college movement in this country and the world indigenous nations higher education movement worldwide. He has had two epic poems, four novels, and one non-fiction book published.
My new feet find their way to the shore,
water flowing off my back,
water flowing through my body,
Rising through the universe of sea spray
like stars emerging from water,
like the first land animal –
sometimes I begin to drown
and then I float, remembering
that my body is ninety percent water.
Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and occasional publisher who is attuned to nature, even though it is a bit harder to find in the Southern California suburbs where she lives. She has recently released the anthology Floored (Kingly Street Press) featuring 27 contemporary poets, and has co-written, In the Muddle of the Night, with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press, 2021). During the pandemic she has tried to better herself while supporting others, dreamt of travel (when not having nightmares), and relies on poetry and the poetry community to help her through.
SUSAN MARTELL HUEBNER
When You Know
When you knit your fingers
to pray in the dark
When the world’s sorrows press you
to your knees
you breathe loving intention
into your clasped hands
and you wonder if it helps at all
the pain so great and you
you wake the next day
see hieroglyphics of bird tracks
across a blanket of snow
watch the red darts of cardinals
in the green arms of the spruce
is when you know
you’ll knit your fingers again
for this ever-evolving grace
Susan Martell Huebner writes in Mukwonago, WI under the watchful eyes of her tabby. She is the 2020 winner of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Literature poetry contest. Her writing has appeared in numerous online and print journals. You can find her novel, She Thought the Door Was Locked, at Amazon and Cawing Crow Press. Find her poetry chapbook, Reality Changes With the Willy Nilly Wind, at Finishing Line Press. See more of her work at www.susanmhuebner.com
KRISTEN BAUM DEBEASI
moon, my hands
plant seeds in newness,
chant ritual songs that tell
of you, in hopes that you will smile upon them.
Grant me bounty born of humble seeds and your gentle
pull. Draw water up to nourish and undo them so
that they become the living image coded
in their DNA from times
long gone, in which they,
like you, rise
Kristen Baum DeBeasi is a poet, writer and composer whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Contrary Magazine, Menacing Hedge and elsewhere. A native Oregonian, she was raised in Michigan and now resides in Los Angeles. When she isn’t composing or writing, she spends her time testing new recipes, watching hummingbirds hatch, and collecting fallen leaves or twigs for her fairy garden.
Each Evening Before Bedtime When You Practice Piano
we are an ensemble piece in several movements
each evening with your right hand you add emotional
depth to our melody
chordal with a walking pace feel
the operatic tone of our sylph’s pubescent bel canto
lends dramatic tension
between the syncopated eloquence of Kendrick Lamar
blasting from our son’s speakers
and your rendition of Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64, no. 2
our white-clad sylph dances in the moonlight until
her humor condenses
full of spleen
with your left hand you fashion broken chords
mete out rhythm, add an aura
and even spirits once too full of dark vapors
now ascend the stairs to sleep
use the pedal
sustain our notes
Amy Baskin’s work is currently featured in Kai Coggin’s Wednesday Night Poetry, Pirene’s Fountain, Friends Journal, and is forthcoming in Pilgrimage. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, an Oregon Literary Arts Fellow, and an Oregon Poetry Association prize winner. When not writing, she helps run literary arts programs including Fir Acres Writing Workshop at Lewis & Clark College.
When Swapping Stories with My Sister about What Our Father Said
We comb our recent conversations
for wisps of information to share
beyond his talk of clouds and sunrays.
What’s new, Dad?
Oh not much. Same old. Same old.
The dryer’s just slow the repairman said.
European-style. High efficiency. We’ll just have to deal with it.
I went in the computer room
and the computer was down one morning this week.
Did you push the button to restart it, Dad?
Just finished watching the Bears. They lost.
They had so many chances.
I think I’m not going to renew my license when it’s up
in November. My brother reported
this to my sister who spared me a call
on my vacation.
I hate to see him give up his car, I say.
I don’t, she said. He might kill someone.
I meant I hate it for him.
The food the lady is making for us is good.
Mostly. One meal was Mexican. Too spicy for his wife.
One night we had something with spinach.
How’s the physical therapy going, Dad?
It’s ok. They’re trying to help me rise
from a chair. But our chairs at home are not
straight. It’s hard.
I have to be careful when I bend over. No kidding.
Your birthday is coming up.
Yes, I’m going to be 2 years from 100.
Yes, Dad, 100 minus 2.
Behave yourself, Dad, I say.
At last a familiar chuckle that telegraphs:
What else is there to do.
Gail Goepfert, an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is a Midwest poet, teacher, and photographer. Her book publications include A Mind on Pain (Finishing Line Press, 2015), Tapping Roots (Aldrich Press, 2018), and Get Up Said the World was released in May 2020 from Červená Barva Press. Recent poem publications include One Art, Rogue Agent, The Examined Life Journal, The Night Heron Barks, and The Inflectionist Review.
Down in the tangled wood
behind the cabin, in the hollow,
there is an old surprise—
an abandoned orchard of pear
trees, in scraggly rows above
an oxbow drained of river water.
Someone withholds water
from this rebellious wood.
Yet it survives on rain from above,
the fertile soil of the hollow.
In spring, a pale flurry of pear
blossoms produces the golden prize—
this ancient fruit of knowledge—a surprise
in this lost Eden. Eyes washed open with water
poured by the arms of an ancient pear,
brewed of ripe fruit, lichens, old wood.
Then the grove begins to move in hallowed
ground. Leaves and fruit toss above,
roots clasped like hands strain below.
So with that tremor begins the uprising.
Trees come walking, speaking in hollow
voices of the beauty of clean air and water
for everyone, a world where we would
kneel on earth, not necks, lay down our spears.
The scales over our eyes are pared
away. We remember how to love,
listen to the old wisdom of the wooden
gods. We find we can rise up,
shake loose roots bound to past sins. Like water
bursting a rotting dam, we can flood the hollow
world with light, allow
for hope to reappear,
washed clean by tears and water,
mixed with sunlight—a rainbow above—
a symbol celebrating that old surprise
down in the tangled wood.
Janet Ruth is a NM ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Ocotillo Review, Sin Fronteras, Spiral Orb, Unlost: Journal of Found Poetry & Art, Ekphrastic Review, and anthologies including 22 Poems & a Prayer for El Paso (Dos Gatos Press, 2020) and Offerings for the Journey: Poems for Stewart S. Warren (Poetry Playhouse Publications, 2020). Her first book, Feathered Dreams: celebrating birds in poems, stories & images (Mercury HeartLink, 2018) was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. Find out more about this author: https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/
Does Anyone Really Know What Day It Is?
I keep rereading the same line—
words mottled by shadows.
Flickering flashes pilfer my attention
until I glance upward.
Through frosty privacy panes
a leafy cottonwood waltzes.
Light seeps through micro-prisms
projecting a kaleidoscopic parade,
persistent in its beauty. Insistent—
like a little boy tugging
on his mother’s dress, urging her
to see his crayoned masterpiece.
And, just like that …
I am whirling within this dappled light,
—rescued from blursday everydayness—
moving toward infinite possibility.
Shawn Aveningo-Sanders is the author of What She Was Wearing, her #metoo story that took 30 years to reveal. Published globally in over 150 journals, she is a Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net nominee, co-founder of The Poetry Box press, and managing editor for The Poeming Pigeon. She shares the creative life with her husband in Portland, OR.
Degrees of Certainty
I saw her while walking one morning
she trudged up the sidewalk
leaning into her day at college
backpack on her back
mask on her face
And while I am fully aware
we’re all in this together
when I see a college student
burdened by a mask
sadness rings its sorrow in me
The young are just beginning,
their entire lives lay before them
stretching to distant horizons
in a world now flat and cold
ever since COVID-19 arrived
We humans are resilient though
leaning on these future innovators
looking toward tomorrow’s edge
and not our present dread
they will march us toward “better”
Our isolation has been a time of
introspection and adaptation
mourning and dreaming
the reflection of our societal pause
a still life painted over the canvas of last year
Vaccines come bragging promises
turning despair to hope
while our joy is masked
by the apparition of normalcy
that shimmers with quiet desperation
Soon it will all be a distant dream
and woe to those who quickly forget and take
hugging and handshakes for granted
when we’ll need to love each embrace
knowing that we once could not
Jim Landwehr has five poetry collections, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, Genetically Speaking, On a Road, Written Life, and Reciting from Memory. He also has three memoirs, Cretin Boy, Dirty Shirt, and The Portland House. Jim is a past Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales, WI. Visit: https://sites.google.com/view/jimlandwehr/home
In morning meditation
my body begins to circle
my water flowing
with the Coriolis—
side by side, north to south,
connecting with Earth’s
silence falls within
Inwardly it swings
front & back,
east to west, moving
with the sun,
its warmth beaming
through my window
silence falls within
My body grows taller,
from the crystal lotus,
the place of a hundred
meetings … my spine
to free the kundalini snake
silence falls within
& a new day begins
Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appears in over 200 journals on six continents, and 14 chapbooks – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at: www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or http://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com
On this sunless day
light from snow
fills rooms with a glow,
stirs some deep memory
of peace and calm.
Behind cabinet doors
vases wait. Outside
buried bulbs, planted
in memory of my sister,
sleep. I approach
the age she was
when her code
renegade cells invaded.
now in darkness
will sit on a sunny table,
hold blooms of hope.
Jan Chronister has been inspired by the stark beauty of northern Wisconsin for over forty-five years. She has authored two full-length collections and four chapbooks and currently serves as president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. http://www.janchronisterpoetry.wordpress.com
MARY RAY GOEHRING
Whoever You Are
who stopped to talk to my son
surveying at Mercer Arboretum
Thank you for taking the time
to tell him you were a surveyor too
Thank you for your stories
about surveying the Amazon rainforest
from a helicopter
Thank you for appreciating
the difficulty of his work—
an important “benchmark elevation”
for his future career construction
As his mom, I thank you
Passing experience forward—
one generation to the next—
builds a foundation
and teaches another to believe
Like a feather in the grass
found by someone still on the ground
you seed the dream to fly
Mary “Ray” Goehring seasonally travels between her Central Wisconsin prairie and the Pine Forests of East Texas. She writes about nature, family and friends. She has been published in a variety of literary journals and anthologies both print and online. She is a participating member of the Connection and Creativity in Challenging Times writing group.
Do You See Them?
When a hummingbird sips
from a long, red flower
a snake crawls
away from his skin
I see them.
When a tree bud becomes
a spring blossom
a baby bird hatches
from a tiny blue egg
I see miracles.
When snowflakes weave
a wintry earth blanket
a dandelion changes
into a bubble of seeds
I see them.
When a dying star zips
across the night sky
the sun goes dark
in the middle of the day
I see and believe in miracles.
Brenda Lempp of Madison enjoys the beauty of nature, the love and healing spirit of animals, and the life of writing poetry. She currently helps her grandson with online classes, but plans to return to teach English as a Second Language for Madison Friends of International Students.
Your calico fur was coated in mud
when we found you, your hiss
too muted to frighten us away.
Where was your home? Where would
you go? This was the pandemic. Rain
tapping on empty streets dark as death.
Few people in view. And you, a helpless
creature in a hopeless world. We couldn’t
hug our sons, quarantined miles away, but
we could hold you. We couldn’t comfort my
mother, dying and buried in isolation, we
couldn’t save those devastated by disease,
despair, but we could save you. And if you
could survive the worst of times, so could we.
Shelly Blankman of Columbia, Maryland lives with her husband, three cats and one dog. Shelly and Jon are quarantined from their two sons, Richard and Joshua, who published her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead. Her work has also appeared in Verse-Virtual, The Ekphrastic Review, The New Verse News, and other publications.
ROSE MARY BOEHM
Becoming a mother
The first one. When they told you not to make
such a fuss. When they told you about contractions
but not pain. When your heart almost broke from love.
Then there was the one you already loved,
even though it was only budding.
She who would be like the first, rosy
and sweet-smelling and looking at you
with searching eyes, a new soul reborn
and wondering whether she got to the right place.
She changed her mind. Only a quarter through
getting here, she decided against it. Or, for all we know,
was called back … abort, abort, abort.
Space command had detected a problem.
A different pain. The pain of losing a love
so strong and unconditional, you wondered
whether you’d break.
Buried your tear-stained face
in the soft flesh of your first-born
who tried to tell you that he was there for you,
not to be sad, Mummy.
Yet another life began. You walked gingerly,
protected it against all comers. You fretted,
ate only the most wholesome; after the three-months
mark you yippeed, and there was a glass of bubbly.
Then you saw her face and, yes, there was more
love of the same kind, unwavering and all-inclusive.
Yet, just for a moment there you were jealous on behalf
of all three, not sure about the infinite nature
of this mysterious thing called mother love.
Soon you knew: love is the only commodity that grows
bigger and more powerful with constant use.
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fourth poetry collection, The Rain Girl, was published by Chaffinch Press in 2020.
Recipe to Recharge Your Soul
Take one early morning gentle rain
Call in sick
Get up, get dressed, go out in that shower
Stand quiet, feel the rain on your skin
your hair, your eyelids, tongue
Let it soak through your clothing touching
places your bathtub spray never reaches
Let the drops penetrate
down though all the dermal layers of high school biology
through veins, arteries, capillaries
Let it continue to muscle, bone, marrow
until it pools in the pit of your being
and finds your soul
Let it rinse away black stains in your heart
Let it dilute your unwept tears
Let it feed your deepest passion
Like rain-swelled seedings on forest floor
You too can seek the light
Nancy Rafal was Door County Poet Laureate from April 2019-April 2021. Her work has been published in Hummingbird, numerous editions of the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Through This Door, and other publications. She has lived in Door County for one third of her life.
In late September
I plant Dutch Iris bulbs,
an optimism of onion domes, an inherent
potential for gold and cerulean,
early summer sun and sky.
Small bulbs lie firm in my hand, consecutive
candles, each holding a cache of light,
I measure with my eyes spaces where each
set goes. On a day of intermittent rain,
a rooster crows and crows—
But moment begs mythology; random threads
woven in tapestry always tell truth and lie;
reality ravels with messy edges,
and animal hunger has a way of eating
human intention. The next morning,
I found only empty indentations,
and the fat gray scoundrel, perched wary
in my maple, digested the colors of summer,
intimations of life eternal.
Sandra Lindow is the longest serving regional VP in the history of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. She has nine collections of poetry. The most recent is Chasing Wild Grief (Kelsay Books, 2021). She lives on a hilltop in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
DARSHAN FRANCES JESSOP
The Indelible Ink of Love
Grief is spoken about as a cycle,
and indeed it is.
But it is also spoken of
as if that cycle somehow ends.
As if it could.
When you’ve gone through it all,
When you’ve been through
then acceptance will deliver you
from the evil of grief,
forever and ever,
Grief is a cycle,
but it doesn’t end.
Cycle, even by definition,
can be as infinite
as the circle
that it is often represented by.
(Maybe it is more like a spiral.)
You might go through things
over and over
and each time
it will be different,
each time your heart might walk away
with some new knowledge
about the person you loved.
You dig deeper.
It is a cycle of love.
Love doesn’t end when life does.
How could it?
There is physical readjustment,
but there is also
a readjustment of the connection.
Love doesn’t go away.
You don’t stop loving someone,
but you love differently.
And just as the stages of grief
so does love cycle
and spiral inside,
different from day-to-day,
different from month-to-month
It doesn’t stop,
even when you “move on,”
even when there are
other people in your life to love,
even when it’s been years.
Some people think you get over it.
How is it even possible
that you can you get over love?
It has already made
its indelible mark
on your soul.
You don’t forget that,
you can’t wash it out,
you don’t leave it behind.
You carry love with you,
and grief is
finding a way
to carry the heart stained with love
without the person who stained it.
Darshan Frances Jessop is a writer and musician finding her creative self again after the ravages of loss, as well as stress and single parenthood. She lives in beautiful New Mexico and dreams of the ocean.
HEIDI C HALLETT
A pearl sheen moon
low in dusky pink,
glazing mountain layers.
Owl swoops, silent,
on cambered wings.
Sunset cloud radiance,
Panther Peak to Safford span.
Royal pink streaks and shafts,
purple and gold spread and splashed.
High moon and Mars
in pas de deux, arc cadence.
All one evening interlaced.
Individualism alone—a myth shown.
The world’s strands are goddess braided.
Heidi C Hallett sees creative expression through poetry as a way to collaborate and converse with others. She finds that poetry enables us to examine and appreciate life, and she enjoys working with the imagery in poems to explore an idea. Heidi is a small animal veterinarian who paints with oils as well as words, often using these two mediums to complement each other. Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies. www.aquaartideas.com.
I Never Knew
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m sitting in the dark
room lit by a string of rainbow lights
left over from Christmas. I leave them
blinking to emanate the stars.
I never knew I loved the night so
quiet, broken only by furnace sounds
and creaks and groans of timbers
I never knew I loved the odor of frying onions
knitting into beef like an argyle scarf—not
seeing the length, but expecting the pattern.
I never knew I loved the feel of wool slipping through
my left hand on the way to my right hand making
a series of knots into-a-chain-into-a-thing of beauty.
I always knew I loved beauty of sky,
rise and set of sun, drama of thunder storms,
a swell of tiny black birds like a school of fish,
swerving and sweeping through an ocean, and
that I loved the ocean suck and crash of waves
running toward the rocky shore like skipping
children chased by foam, giggling and
leaving shell-like footprints in the wet sand,
that I loved shells—the intricate swirls and lines—
each a personality of its own, home for crabs, secret
treasury of nacre and pearly iridescence.
Jackie Langetieg has published short stories and poems in many literary magazines and anthologies. She’s won or placed in many contests and won awards, such as Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest, Bards Chair, and Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Poem of the Year. She has written five books of poems and a memoir.
What books do you like?
Those large enough to climb inside, easy
to get in and out of, not like flannel sheets
that hold you against your will. I like the ones
that invite me to stay, that have a comfy chair
by a fire, conversation that makes me want
to lean forward, not miss a word. Quirky
characters are fun when made of ink, often
no one I’d want to be friends with in real life,
not even in my Facebook life. They swear
and have outbursts, accuse each other
of murder, masticate with mouths open.
Give me a setting I want to go to, a landscape
with the opposite season of this one, shade trees,
a hammock, cafés and restaurants where I can
put my feet up and order espresso without worrying
about the caffeine. Let me savor imaginary wine.
A book has to make me think, to ask myself
what I would do in that situation, not inflame
my contempt for foolish superstitions, inept
action. Keep those characters that can’t see
the truth, who muddy up their lives, are cruel
to their children. Aren’t there enough of those
in real life? Let the story include a loving dog
that doesn’t die. Let the pages be as smooth
as sheets of Egyptian cotton. Distracted from
the daily news, my recurring nightmare, let me
slip in, lie down, dream the author’s dream.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist and has taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self. Her poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.
the tao of numbers
people think that by finding one group countable
other groups are greater than or less than.
they name this long and that short.
this child ahead and that behind.
the even better than the odd.
let the sage erase boundaries and limits
seeing each student as not yet
instead of only
open instead of closed.
let her show the student she always counts
and she will keep on counting.
Erik Richardson lives in Mexico, Missouri, where he runs his own company designing & building e-learning and engaged storytelling tools for businesses all over the map (literally and figuratively). His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies with a few small awards and a Pushcart nomination along the way. His first published collection, a berserker stuck in traffic, came out in 2014, and his second poetry chapbook, Song of Ourself, was published in 2017.
MARY JO BALISTRERI
How the World Holds Us
dream catcher of light
casts a watered silk net
fills it to the brim
with sequins of silver
Late afternoon the haze at the horizon
ghosts its way inland
A great white heron flies over mangroves
Closer to shore the susurrus
of the incoming tide is meditation
Moving westward the sun and its pale clouds
graze the sky as if it were a languid blue meadow
until the sun begins its descent Herding the day’s light
back home the sun becomes resplendent
before exchanging radiance with the majesty of a rising moon
Black notes of crows begin to mingle with other night sounds
Shadows creep among trees
owls screech and hoot
bullfrogs croak and alligators bellow
each opens the dark becomes part of the dark then closes
The mystery of hearing things
we cannot see pries open our imagination
The wild calls to our wild
Raccoons forage and snakes leave their nests
Small rodents scurry about in the woods
Soon the ebony mantle of sky with its nightlights of stars
brings a preternatural calm that settles within
Is it like that for you too this whirling ecstasy
The Big Dipper Cassiopeia Orion’s Belt the North Star
It seems a great generosity that night after night the sky
opens to wonder—from the mythology of the ancients
to me, to those after me, this taste of the infinite
this infinite possibility
Mary Jo Balistreri is the author of three books of poetry, Joy in the Morning and gathering the harvest (Bellowing Ark Press), Still (Future Cycle Press), and a chapbook, Best Brothers (Tiger’s Eye Press). She is published internationally and has many awards including 10 Pushcart nominations and 4 Best of the Net. Much of her work is anthologized. She continues to write free verse while also concentrating on Japanese forms. She has been honored in the publication of A New Resonance 12—one of 17 poets (emerging voices in English-language haiku), Red Moon Press, 2021. She is also one of the founders of Grace River Poets, an outreach for women’s shelters, churches, and schools. Please visit her at maryjobalistreripoet.com
PAULA LIETZ (Cover Artist) ~ Paula Lietz is a published artist of various genres and resides in Manitoba’s vast escarpment. Find out more about this artist: https://www.pdlietzphotography.com
KURT HUEBNER ~ Kurt Huebner shoots macrophotography in the beautiful environs of WI and wherever else dragonflies may be found. He lives in Mukwonago WI and enjoys taking pictures of nature much more than people because other than humans, critters don’t complain. He is a member of Retzer Camera Club and has earned many awards and recognition for his work.
LYNNE CAROL AUSTIN ~ Lynne Carol Austin is a published author and artist, with two literary novels, Ten of Swords and Gull Soup, and three children’s books, Edith Ann Marie The Sun Is in My Heart, Tell Me a Story, Mama, and Francine and Hazel, along with published short stories and online journals.
RICHARD HAVENGA ~ Richard Havenga, a poet / nature photographer / naturalist, creates an enticing blend of inquiry and receptivity in his writing and is always grateful for the extravagant gifts of creation. He has published over 600 poems and 200 haiku in nine years of blogging at Walk With Father Nature. He has written a daily journal for 46 years, and has been married to Mary for 50 years. They live on ten acres near Cannonsburg, Michigan.
MEGAN MORGAN ~ Megan Morgan is an artist, writer, yoga teacher, podcast host, mom to two daughters and a work-in-progress. In 2019, her first book, The End of Me, was published, a partial memoir about the three times she died and what she learned from it. In 2020, she launched MYA~My Yoga Audio, a podcast featuring interviews with creatives, teachers and healers, as well as audio-only yoga classes and meditations. You can connect with her and find out more at: www.myyogaaudio.com / Instagram: @luvinthislife / The MYA Podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts!
KAREN A VANDENBOS ~ In 2008, Karen VandenBos completed a PhD in Holistic Health. One of the courses was about Shamanism which influenced her to write her dissertation on the healing power of nature and the importance of finding one’s totem animal(s). In 2014 photography led Karen to a deeper connection with nature which speaks to her heart. Karen’s photographs showcase this connection. When she is not out and about with her camera, Karen can be found pursuing her writing in an online writing group or curled up with a good book and letting her imagination be unleashed.
HOLLY KALLIE ~ Holly Kallie has been drawing and painting the human figure since she was a child. It has always been an intense source of interest and satisfaction for her to capture the feeling and light of figures in natural settings, often water. Holly’s media is oil or acrylic on canvas, and she employs many layers of paint to achieve the final effect. As part of that process, she has always taken many photographs for reference material. In the last several years, she has enjoyed photography as an art form in itself. Holly strives to bring the viewer a sense of that part of themselves that is at the center…flowing, peaceful and connected to “all that is.” Learn more about this artist at her website: http://hollykallie.com
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