- Robert L. Giron
This issue features
photography by Igor Pavlenco,
poetry by Celine Markel,
poetry by Derville Quigley,
photography by Paura,
poetry by Wally Swist, and
review by David Salnar
Cosmic Ocean Landscape in the Volcanic Ocean Bay
Copyright © Igor Pavlenco.
A Cosmic Breath
I gaze into the ocean,
Observing my reflection,
Inhaling the cosmic spirit,
Concentrating on my breath.
I strike an inner match,
Exhaling inspirational fire.
I gaze through the fire,
Semitransparent, observing the ocean,
Rhythmic striking lights a new match.
Vibrating waves wash away my reflection.
All that remains is my steady breath,
Illusions stripped from spirit.
Fortitude is the drum beat of the Great Spirit.
Refined, I am by tribulation’s fire.
A fire that cannot be extinguished by the naysayer’s breath.
Cosmic mysteries run deeper than the ocean.
Within my eyes exists our galaxy’s reflection.
Life on Earth is fed by the vitality of the solar match.
Human life sustained by wisdom burning upon a shaded match;
The void, nameless and dark, reveals the source of my spirit.
Perception is a mere reflection,
A glimpse into the deathless fire.
Complimenting the vast knowledge found below the ocean,
Wind blows knowledge to the shore in one gigantic breath.
Oscillating between form and formlessness flows the breath.
Diametric qualities generate friction scraping the match.
The Cosmic Breath begets the ocean.
The ocean wind stirs the spirit.
The spirit fuels the fire.
Propagating light constructs an image called me; I am a reflection.
Matter synthesized by the five senses is a reflection.
Matter is the condensation of God’s breath.
Like the burning bush, materialism is set on fire.
Dipping my head into the bush, my pate burns like a match.
An aureole surrounds my frame with a divine spirit.
God goes by a myriad of names yet to be discovered in a wide ocean.
My eyes reflect Allah and my hair is set ablaze upon a match.
I am the breath of God that contains the Cosmic Spirit
Copyright © 2023 by Celine Markel.
Sad Unconventional Man
Eyes painted black
Like an Egyptian Pharaoh;
By a knife, blood clots
Form near the lips.
Like an incubus
Eyes red, filled
A rebellious clown
In a purple suit,
Like a good method actor
Without a stage.
He becomes the character
That he plays.
A consistent persona,
He hides his essential nature—
Sensitivity masked by the Jokers countenance.
Behind closed doors, in a small
From the public, he prays.
He practices yoga, reads
If all the onlookers
Could peer beyond his mutilated cheeks,
Into his rich inner world
Filled with spirituality,
They would be, adding
To his grim satisfaction, knowing
That the world’s boxes do not
Define or confine him.
Copyright © 2023 by Celine Markel.
About the Author
Celine always has been passionate about the arts: writing poetry, working in different mediums of visual art, playing guitar and piano. As a child she toured with a professional theater company. In college, Celine focused on science and math and continued pursuing the arts in her spare time including working with a writer’s group, attending the Iowa Writers Festival, and performing her poetry and music at local venues. Currently, she belongs to an astronomy club and enjoys driving out to the country to study the sky in the middle of the night. Skateboarding is one of Celine’s favorite sports, having taught herself to skateboard in her 20s.
My teacher scotch-taped my eyebrows
I made a face. She was a teacher. Or so she led us to believe. Unnerved by the faces I was making. “But this is just my face”, I said. She threw her eyes to heaven, then scotch-taped my eyebrows. Made it therapy. “This way, you’ll feel it”. On the face of things, I’m all right. Pretty sound, funny. But she can’t stand it. She moves sideways, arms outstretched like a crab pretending it’s a goalie. My forehead creases, the hairs stuck to the Scotch tape are pulled tight. I can’t see the faces I make because I am that face. Even standing in front of the mirror feels insincere, as if I were putting on a show. Except I’m not. This is just my face. Why won’t you believe this is just my face?
Copyright © 2023 by Derville Quigley.
Being chased by a feather
The feather appeared from nowhere and tickled me. At first, I laughed. It tickled me some more under the chin and around the back of my neck. The doorbell rang and I needed to sign for a delivery. The feather flew after me. It was tickling my cheek. “Stop it”, I said as I tried to sign for the package. “Sorry”, I shrugged to the delivery man, who didn’t know what to do about feathers chasing you. It had never happened to him. “It’s not funny”, I said to the feather. “I can see it’s not”, said the delivery man. The feather was fast, light, and nimble. Everything I was not. It was white and fluffy and very annoying. The feather was from a magical bird, from a 600-year-old children’s fairytale, where the ending results in children being locked up in a dungeon, and then being released by you got it, a feather. Eventually, I got the feather a job as a quill, and told it to write everything down. This made life easier for all of us.
Copyright © 2023 by Derville Quigley.
About the Author
Derville Quigley is an Irish writer based in the Netherlands. Her short stories and poems have been published in The Ogham Stone, The Garfield Lake Review, Beyond Words, Trasna, CommuterLit, and Litro. She is co-founder and organiser of Strange Birds writing collective. Visit: www.dervillequigley.net
Copyright © Paura.
Taking Care of the Horses
in memory of Russel Williams
For three years you took care of the horses, and by your becoming one with the horses you experienced an awakening that didn’t diminish in its astonishment and clarity. For three years you took care of the horses, and despite your near drownings, the electrocutions, your persevering the ravages of poverty, you survived to break through into the constancy of being one with everything. Beginning with being challenged by a trainer in the circus who couldn’t handle the most temperamental horse, but you looked into his eyes, calmly slackened the rope then led him around the ring in a slow trot, further grooming and feeding the horses, and whispering into their ears, not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, but just being in the moment with them, the expansion of which rippled like water over a still pond, or the way a horse’s skin shudders when they experience delight or joy, or pleasure, or when your eyes and theirs met, and the very air between you was electrified with your presence and theirs in a union in which the essence of being alive rippled in you and them, not in tension but in knowing they were you and you were them, that there was no difference and nothing between you other than what is sacred, what is divine, and that is why the horses loved you and you loved the horses, why you forgot the parameters of your own body and mind and each transcended and trusted the other, their hoofs echoing around the hard-packed dirt of the ring and circling the paddock, the horses whisking their tails, flouncing their heads, and neighing as they pranced beside you, and you connected with them as much as they were connected to you and not you, as you would later write in Not I, Not Other than I, advancing further in the concluding chapter how you were aware of the realms celestial being present with others in the room, how benevolent nothingness was, how we can merge with that and hover there
Copyright © 2023 by Wally Swist.
Tevis asks me if the large insect on the asphalt encircling the track is a grasshopper, and I tell her that it isn’t, that it is a green leaf insect, designed to look just like a green leaf that seems attached to it, while we lap the track another time, until we find it in the same place, and it occurs to me that it has stuck to the asphalt in the heat of the early morning sun, which gives me the impetus to take out my pocket notebook and carefully slide it beneath its legs, which I do, so that I can carry it into the shade behind the metal bleachers and into the cool dewy grass. Holding its spindly legs in my cupped palms, it decides that’s too precarious a ride, and it descends down to cling to the wales of one of my corduroyed pant legs where it is intent on looking right into me as I look down, making sure it doesn’t fall off while I step towards
the shade. It has fastened itself, it trusts me. Its eyes deeply sentient. My soul and its soul are one, in the moment, connected in an instant of grace. Katydid, you repeat your name and your ears are located at your knees, which you rub together to say it over and over again. I have failed to make peace with many people, but I have intuited and felt a bond with you, however tenuous ours might be, we have shared an ostensible sentience and camaraderie, how upon placing you down in the shadows of the dewy grass we lost you to your own nature, as we need to keep practicing how we must work to continue to find our own with one another and with ourselves,— our sentience seemingly wavering and fading out, until perhaps we can realize that we not only have one another, and there is also really so little time, but if we focus on that, that maybe then, miraculously we will be able to see each other again.
Copyright © 2023 by Wally Swist
About the Author
Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the 2011 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Competition, A Bird Who Seems to Know Me: Poems Regarding Birds and Nature, winner of the 2018 Ex Ophidia Poetry Prize, Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020) and Taking Residence (2021), with Shanti Arts. His recent poetry and translations have appeared in Asymptote, Chicago Quarterly Review, Hunger Mountain: Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal, The Montreal Review, Poetry London, Scoundrel Time, and The Seventh Quarry Poetry Magazine (Wales). A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews was published in 2022 by Shanti Arts. His translation of L’Allegria/Cheerfulness: Poems 1914-1919 by Giuseppe Ungaretti is forthcoming from Shanti Arts in 2023.
A Review of William Heath’s book Going Places
Kelsay Books 2023; $23; 158 pages.
The poems in this book offer literary depth—and what is unique in poetry today, a great deal of fun. Going Places is a sequel to Steel Valley Elegy, published last year. The title describes the collection well, since these poems are all based on travel and destination, including mental voyages into the lives of a wide variety of personalities. It’s a book for world travelers as well as for those who haven’t had the chance to venture far beyond the front door.
Heath takes on the world of his travels bit by bit, examining each piece with an ekphrastic poet’s eye. In shedding light on his subjects, he also illuminates the world at large, as in Japanese Watercolor: “Our hold on this world,/the watercolor says,/is a thin thread.”
Even when Heath writes of often-treated topics, as in Odysseus Returns, the language is fresh. Here, he compares Penelope’s weaving to her husband’s “weaving and unweaving his extravagant way home.”
In Santo Domingo, Heath makes sense of a difficult topic that many don’t get right, the promising ambiguities of heritage, as described by a mestizo poet: “Let the so-called/conquerors enjoy their victory and let/the so-called victims lament their defeat./I stand aside from the controversies/and celebrate my mestizo heritage.”
Recent history is addressed, as well as the distant past. Facts are presented with artistry, brutalities recorded with fidelity. Afghanistan is “Another road/where bombs do not fall/from the sky but are planted/underground like monstrous/lethal blooms.”
The lines are often down to earth but convey a rich understanding of the complexity of modern life, as in Gandhi and the Robber, where the poet imagines how this holy man might respond to a home invasion. With their blunt concision and clarity of thought, these poems challenge the rococo narcissism that thrives in the world of poetry today.
A sense of wonder at our common human fate is evident in Marco Polo’s deathbed defense of his travels: “I have/not told the half of it!” And there is a deft love poem about a shared place, “whitewashed walls,/nearby mountains,/and an easy/walk to the sea.”
This is a coherent book. Although the ending of each poem may come as a final wrap-up, often in the form of a surprise conclusion, the book travels purposefully from one poem to the next, giving the reader a splendid and thought-provoking world view. Going Places is a volume of accessible poetry of interest to poets and nonpoets alike. A review of this book should conclude with lines from Heath’s marvelous poem, Travel: “Travel is the saddest/pleasure in the world,/moving at whim through/places we will never/return to, faces we/will never see again,/and words we do not understand.”
You’ll enjoy the rest of this poem after you pick up a copy of the book. Take it on your own travels, or if airfare is an issue, Going Places will offer up many fascinating destinations.
About the Reviewer
David Salner's novel, A Place to Hide, won first place for historical fiction from Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His fifth poetry collection, Summer Words: New and Selected Poems, has just appeared from Broadstone Books. His writing also appears in Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, and North American Review. He’s worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, Librarian, and minor league baseball usher.