tenacious spirits

A Poem by linda m. crate

purple flowers
poke holes through
winter’s white teeth,
tenacious beasts
unwilling to relent to the cold
of this frigid breath
they seem to say “spring is here
to stay” and i hope they’re
right for winter’s hold was too long
and too lonely to linger forever
haunting me in arcs of broken
light, cracked halos of eerie
bliss entirely misplaced in cascading
kisses of white rain melting fissures
in the soul, sucking out marrow;
winter is like the ocean
oft crueler than he is kind
so for him to be gone, finally would be
a sweet kiss of relief
welcoming a content sigh for my soul
has been held in ice too long

Two Tractors

A Short Story by Korea J. Brownstein

John woke up to the call of the rooster. He stretched his toes, slipped them into his green fluffy house shoes, stretched his back, frowned, and reached for his green flannel shirt hanging off the edge of the bed. He stood up, smoothed his red striped boxers, and squinted into the bright sunlight when he opened the blinds. He turned towards the bedroom door forgetting his flannel green pants as the smell of bacon and eggs and cinnamon toast made their way to his nose. The floor creaked as he kissed his wife good morning. The uneven chair he sat down in leaned slightly to the left as they began to eat in silence.

He heard the mailman pull up. He opened the door with a loud creak, squinted his eyes as he put his hand over his forehead and grabbed his cane by the railing. Slowly he left the front porch and began to walk down the gravel road over taken by weeds. He walked by an apple tree and plucked a plump red granny smith apple. The juice from it ran down his chin. He opened the mailbox and sifted through the bills and ad papers.

On his walk back, he could see the bright red barn with blooming tulips all around it across a small shimmering lake. As he walked on the gravel road back home, he heard a baaaaa by the barn and began walking towards the boardwalk that led to it. All of his sheep were gathered by the lake drinking its clear crisp water. The boardwalk led him to a small narrow bridge that was just a few feet above the water. He saw a school of salmon swimming through its current. Attached to the bridge’s railing were two fishing rods both a deep copper color and both beginning to chip. He gently ran his fingers over the one on the left. He picked it up and pretended to go fishing. With a deep sigh, he put it back and continued on the path towards the bright red farm.

When he reached the barn, he touched the worn wood beneath the red paint and rubbed his hands against the hot brass door knobs. He pulled the big heavy doors open and a wave of dust fluttered into the air. The dust settled on the corroded horse stable and cob webs filled the hay. He jumped as a deep black blur ran past him out the doors with a deeply distressed purr. Next to the stable leaned a blue bicycle and blue tricycle with airless wheels and spokes poking out. A fly filled web covered them both with the carcass of the black widow. A busted football and broken baseball bat lean against a crack in the wooden wall of what used to be the pony’s stall.

The bright blue tractor and deep green tractor sat side by side. The rusted keys in the blue and green tractors were turned slightly clockwise as if to start an ignition that never began. Two gas cans sat side by side nearby reeking of gas. Both cans were corroding, rusting into a reddish brown color. A crumpled yellowed piece of paper lay on the dusty ground near the gas cans. Uncle Sam’s picture was still prominent on the envelope the letter was torn from. It lay between the cans.

A loud caw startled him as two crows flew past his head and out of the barn. The rest of the crows cluttered together disturbing the dust as they looking down at him from their perch on the large wooden beam. The barn slightly shook as he heard a loud scream from the side of the barn. All the crows flew out the barn and began circling in the sky. He swiftly turned around and stumbled as he attempted to leave the barn. He fell to the ground with a thud, relocating dirt and old hay across the floor. He struggled to his knees and reached for his cane. He helped himself up using both the cane and the white worm stained pillar overridden with termites that held up the barn. Then he left.

His eyes stung as he blinked a few times trying to regain his sight as the bright sunlight entered into him. He shielded his eyes with his left hand as he began to look around. Off in the distance was a coyote carrying a sheep leaving a trail of red stained grass and sheds of soft wool.

He heard his wife call to him in a worried voice. He did not respond, but sighed deeply and began to walk on towards the house. From the distance he could see she was waving his green flannel pants he had left behind.

An Offer of Marriage

A Poem by Nguyen Van Luat

Because of: http://adaysencounter.com/wordpress/?p=1576

Under the green forest, there is a green happy occasion
Making a position of waylaying tiger and flying dragon,
The Young Fellow rises up his hands for declaring:
An offer of marriage starts from his heart flying!

The Young Maiden is astonished, falling some drop-tear
In her deep mind inner feeling, there is a bursting into “Mama!”
To her sweet heart, she honestly accepts the proposal!
A light music is resounded, a sweet song spreads everywhere!

Suddenly, a lot of lighted candle appear in the forest
A number of stars in the blue sky
Along with their parents living on The Earth but on different sides
They are in agreement: together a well-being Universal Roof to live under.

(Editor’s note: This poem is one of the first poems the poet wrote in English. He lives and writes poetry in Vietnam.)

On Poetry

A Thought by Mary Ruefle, from her book Madness, Rack, and Honey

I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say…But I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.

Summer Ablutions

A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Stunned by July in a hammock
he remembers the apricot wife
no longer here
one curler more and the flutter
of leaves in the orchard
the sound of trees
letting go
a downpour of plums
flowing over
the wicker
propped open

Young Bud

A Poem by Nguyen Van Luat

Chồi tơ

Tình em sưởi ấm mùa xuấn trẻ,
Mang nắng chan hòa nhuộm sắc hoa.
Anh muốn gom mưa từ bốn bể
Để em tưới mát những chồi tơ!

Young Bud

Your feeling warms Young Spring Season
As overflowing sunlight multi-colours flowers!
I would like to bring rainfall from Four Oceans
Supporting you in irrigating forest buds by fresh water!

(Editor’s note: The poem is written in the traditional form of Vietnamese poetry translated into English by the author.)

New Life Begins

A Poem by Donal Mahoney

white hips a soft fist
for the wrist of your waist
black hair in a spill

on your shoulders
small whirlpools
your ankles

green streams ride
your calves
blue rivers your thighs

I finger the flute
on the back of your neck
rise and slip in

at that moment dawn
and new
life begins

613 Laws of Torah

In conjunction with The Only Golden Rule

Jesus said:

“‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’: This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Only Golden Rule

A Story about Hillel:

A gentile comes to two first-century-BCE rabbinic sages, Hillel and Shammai, and asks, with the obvious intention of provoking them, to be taught the whole Torah while standing on one leg. Shammai is indeed provoked and gives the man an angry whack with a measuring rod. Hillel replies, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — [and now] go study.”

To My Grandson TeJuan On Learning Of The Death Of His Hamster

An Essay by Richard Hartwell

TeJuan, life is sometimes far too fleeting. That’s a big grandpa word that means it is too short and over too quickly. I know you are sad and I heard from your grandma that you were upset. I understand, and I feel very badly for you. Some people may tell you that you will get over it, the “it” being the hurt you feel, and they may tell you that the hamster is in a better place, in heaven or with God. Well, it has been my experience that I don’t want to get over things, even the sad things, too quickly. I want to try to understand them, like you, and when I can’t, like you again, I try to learn to accept what I cannot change and to keep the thought of it in my mind to think about every now and then, later. As for the other part of what some people say, about your hamster being in a better place like heaven or whatever they choose to call it, well — I just do not know. And that is being very honest.

Different people all over the world have different ways of thinking about death and dying, for hamsters and for people, too. Some really smart people all throughout history have given a lot of study and sometimes a lot of words to this subject. And they do not have the answers either. Some really dumb people throughout history, and many still around today, seem to think they have all the answers and they are only too pleased with themselves and ready to share their special answers. Sometimes they will even share when you do not necessarily want to hear them.

I guess what grandpa is trying to say to you in his own plodding way is that your hamster is most likely where you think it is. It is there in heaven if you like that idea. Or it is there in the backyard if you like that idea better. Or perhaps a little tiny bit of it is left in your heart. I do not know exactly. I do not have easy answers and perhaps the easy answers are not the best answers anyway. One small thing I do know though is that your hamster is in your memory and in your thoughts. And that is a very good place for your hamster to be.

Perhaps it is not easy for you to think about your hamster right now. It should not be easy. But you will reach a point after more time when you can remember the good times with your hamster without automatically remembering this bad time. That is what makes life worthwhile, even a brief, short life. I wish I could tell you honestly that it is the only death you will have to think about. Sadly, there will be others. But maybe that is also part of the memory of your hamster. He can help you grow up just a little bit more, even if you do not understand things any better. Come to think of it, TeJuan, I get confused by it too. But I am here if you want to talk some more. I love you. Grandpa.

Aunt Hester

A Short Story by Carol Smallwood

Having to leave the room of my own in Ithaca was difficult. I wanted to remain for the daffodils, to hear bees among the lilacs: even mosquitoes in Ithaca would’ve been special.

I knew that tightly closed tulips like Aunt Hester’s lips would soon be appearing on both sides of Uncle Walt’s drive. She planted them so precisely that as a child I used to connect them like dot-to-dot puzzles. I saw her life as a series of neatly written signs: Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness; Prayer Is The Answer. But Uncle Walt had said that Aunt Hester had worn her dresses short when she was younger, and that it was her legs that’d first caught his eye.

It made sense. Aunt Hester was not who she purported to be. When she said, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph!” her eye, the one not made of glass, should have been filled with devotion, with anticipated glory of the hereafter, but instead it reflected venom or at best pained forbearance. In the Catholic Girl’s Missal she gave me as a child, it said we should think well of everyone, so I attributed it to the narrow high heels she said she wore as penance.

When she put her black rosaries down on the white dresser scarf, they made writhing snakes, letters of the alphabet, nooses; the rosaries with large crosses resembled anchors. Her worn black prayer books edged in red or gilt had braided ribbon markers, and holy cards of saints with hands folded in prayer or dripping blood from upraised palms; some cards only had prayers, ejaculations, or indulgences. When I started studying astronomy, I thought of the rings of Saturn when I saw a halo above the head of a saint.

My aunt’s numerous blond wigs made miniature straw stacks on her dresser. A picture of the Sacred Heart on the right side of the dresser showed God pointing to a large heart outside His body–or was He extending it in His hand? On the left was St. Anthony in Franciscan robe and sandals, which she always evoked after losing something. There was a font of holy water under a bust of the Virgin Mary. When she asked me if Jenny and Mark had been baptized and I told her they hadn’t, she intoned like a Cassandra, “They’ll go to hell.”

Aunt Hester gave me the girl’s missal when she returned from a Sacramentine retreat at Our Lady of Sorrows. She always returned from retreats with St. Anthony scapulars; Infant of Prague or the Virgin Mary statues; gilt-edged holy cards of the Lily of the Mohawk, Catherine Tekakwitha, were numerous. The thick gilt-edged book soon automatically opened to Living in a Vale of Tears, which was about the lives of martyred virgins, how to help fathers and husbands as heads of households, and how to live without impure thoughts. The duties and suffering of women as wives were heavily veiled in mystery, but I greedily gleaned as much as I could between the lines. I soon knew the section having the shortest indulgences giving the longest release from Purgatory. And I knew where the lists of venial and mortal sins were, and tried to figure out exactly when a venial sin became a mortal one which meant you could go to Hell if not confessed.

— Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey (print novel 2010) published with permission by All Things That Matter Press. Its first chapter was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in Best New Writing.