Red Wolf Editions Fall 2020 Edition: Journeying

book cover issue 17

Red Wolf Editions Fall 2020
Theme: Journeying

Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

—Elizabeth Bishop

Ah…the lure of seeing the world. A cornucopia of sights, sounds and tastes for one’s senses awaits the traveler. Beyond the sensory experiences does travel change the traveler? What is its romance? What are the experiences that translate to pleasure, or discomfort?

There’re many journey stories. Ones that are vivid and imaginative – in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy travels to the magical land of Oz, before returning to Kansas after a magical adventure; in Journey to the West, a Buddhist monk travelled to the western regions of Central Asia and India to obtain the sutras. Accompanied by his three colourful disciples, he encountered many demons who wanted to eat his flesh in exchange for immortality; in the end the monk and his disciples succeeded in their quest; in The Odyssey, Odysseus had taken 10 years to get home to Ithaca, surviving the Lotus-eaters, the Cyclops, the witch goddess Circe, the Sirens, the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis and finally a shipwreck. These epic journeys were filled with trials and tribulations. They are about transformations, a test of character and the creation of identity.

Then there’re the road trips. One of the most definitive is Jack Kerouac’s On The Road — a lyrical, trippy stream of consciousness. There’s Thelma & Louise, a feminist fantasy movie bar none. In the Gilmore Girls (I binge watched it on Netflix recently!) there’s a part of the storyline where Lorelai Gilmore decided to hit the Pacific Crest Trail after reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Just like the protagonist in the book, she had hit a rough spot in her personal life and decided to go on the trip (like plenty of other women too apparently) and it was there that she received a moment of clarity. She knew what she had to do, which was to call her mother to mend the mother-daughter rift and to marry her long-time partner, Luke. The best road trips are about growth, illumination and awakening.

Often to sort out one’s self a physical journey is taken. Seamus Heaney’s poem, “The Peninsula”, is on point.

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks, so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall

The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog,

And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.

Wherever you go, you can’t help but be inside yourself, and what rules the inside but your heart. In Matthew Dickman’s poem, “The Mysterious Human Heart”, the landscape the protagonist describes is of a produce market in New York, yet the external world is always subject to the internal workings of one’s heart.

On Monday morning I will walk down
to the market with my heart inside me, mysterious
something I will never get to hold
in my hands, something I will never understand.
Not like the apricots and potatoes, the albino
asparagus wrapped in damp paper towels, their tips
like the spark of a match, the bunch of daisies, almost more
a weed than a flower, the clementine,
the sausage links and chicken hung
in the window, facing the street where my heart is president
of the Association for Random Desire, a series
of complex yeas and nays,
where I pick up the plantain, the ginger root, the sprig
of cilantro that makes me human, makes me
a citizen with the right to vote, to bear arms, the right
to assemble and fall in love.

In this issue of poetry, the journeying can be a kind of wandering. But need not be. The journeying is really inside yourself. And it is all about feelings and emotions. Why? Because ultimately it’s about your soul’s journey. All these journeys are part of that one. All these journeys are experiences that are designed to make you feel and when you come out of a journey, in whatever form, you are changed in some way. You are moving towards the goal of becoming yourself. Just like Odysseus, you are trying to get home, to feel more and more your destiny, to come to peace with it. Life itself is a series of transformations. Outside the world seems still, the same, but inside you’re not the same.

Your poems about journeying would be about any moment to moment experiences I imagine. Anything really, as long as there’s an emotional current, as long as from point A to point B there has been a transformation within.

On their way home from Troy, Odysseus and his men were captured by the Cyclops and he had told Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, his name was “Nobody” and in that way had escaped his captor. In truth in making his epic journey, by the time he got home the journey had made him who he was – Odysseus. The homecoming completed his story. Your journey is your story of becoming who you are. As the poet Li-Young Lee had once said, “We’re all versions of Odysseus trying to get home.” It takes time and effort. It takes courage and will-power. It takes everything you’ve got to overcome whatever had come up to delay and prevent you from getting home. You, meaning the protagonist in your poem.

First you need to go on a journey. The journey is some sort of quest, a getting to know yourself quest. How else will you know yourself? Your journey is into the unknown. Having journeyed, you will then know, and tell your story. So when you say your name, your name would mean something. When Odysseus’s men ate the lotus in the land of the Lotus-eaters, they became oblivious and forgot about wanting to be home. The state of not doing anything is perhaps the equivalent of becoming a bum. Unless you consciously want to be a bum. Else you’re a nothing.


Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: March 2020 to August 2020. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Fall 2020.

Let’s get trippy! Good writing.

Irene Toh
Fall 2020

Traces, by Emil Sinclair

by Emil Sinclair

“You would not find the boundaries of soul, even by travelling along every path, so deep a measure does it have.” —Heraclitus of Ephesus

I have searched
Gone down
every damn highway,
back road, country lane
and city street;
from wide avenues
and posh boulevards
to grimy back alleys;
hiked every forest path
and steep mountain trail
of my soul,
hoping to find you
not there.

But everywhere I’ve been,
you’ve left traces behind.
Like the canyon paintings
of some lost native tribe,
vanished into a dream.
Or the papyrus fragments
of old Gnostic secrets,
buried in the desert,
sealed in ancient jars,
dug up by accidental
fools robbing graves.
Memories of you
still etched in solid rock,
or seeping up through
the groundwater
that flows beneath,
fire neurons
long dormant
and forgotten.

I am a reluctant
of my own psyche
excavating down
to prehistoric layers
of geological strata,
hunting stray artifacts
untouched by your passage,
or the fossilized remains
of some prelapsarian
garden of bliss,
not cursed with
inedible forbidden fruit—
not poisoned
at the source.

Yet, no matter how far
I have ventured,
I see no evidence
of your absence;
nor can I even recall
why it was
that you left.
I keep searching,
but I find no traces
of myself
without you.

Process notes: The first line that came to me is the first line of the poem, “I have searched myself,” which is fr. 8 of Heraclitus’ Cosmic Fragments. The epigraph is fr. 42. For literary detectives, there is another borrowed line in the poem, this one from John Gardner’s novel, Mickelsson’s Ghosts.

Emil Sinclair is the pseudonym of a sometime poet and longtime philosophy professor in New York City.

April, May, May Day May Day, by Debi Swim

April, May, May Day May Day
by Debi Swim

Day follows day
insipid as cold oatmeal
I choke them down
fall into bed at night
hoping for a dream
but awake to morning
another day, another day
and hunger grows in me
for something but I’ve
forgotten the taste
of life my taste buds
have dementia and
long for the sound
dingdongding bells
of palsy that drags
half my outlook down
and everything
and nothing
is normal.

Debi Swim poems in West Virginia mostly to prompts from around the net.

Burning Down the House      (for Orfeo Angelucci) by Emil Sinclair

Burning Down the House
     (for Orfeo Angelucci)

by Emil Sinclair

How did I survive
the fire so intense
it melts glass and steel?
My old life in ruins
I am a bewildered tourist
gawking at the rubble
of a terminal moraine.
At glaciers end,
where nothing moves,
my nostrils burn
from acrid smoke
and arctic air.
Fire and ice:
I am Shiva, dancing;
a plague for Athens
in its twilight hours.

Water logged shingles
drop like rotted teeth
from an old man’s gums,
through charred cross
beams and empty air
(no ceilings or floors),
to land in heaping piles
of Wednesday’s ashes.

I survey the debris:
certificates of security,
burned beyond recognition;
keepsakes of friendship,
brittle and broken;
memories of joy,
twisted into grotesque
masks of mourning
and mordant self-pity.

Fragments of lost souls—
crescent moon-shaped
curls of iridescent ectoplasm—
swim blindly around my feet,
squiggling like headless tadpoles
in a turgid pond,
lamenting their dire fate
with shrill cries of anguish.
A Greek chorus of woe.

With an angry groan
the floor collapses;
the cellar cracks open,
as if by earthquake split
into a deep depression
ringed by sheer rock cliffs.
I am caught by a ledge
altogether too narrow
to sit, or stand, or lie;
my right ankle grabbed
by the outstretched crook
of an ancient gnarled limb.
I dangle precariously
over the dark abyss,
strung upside down
on the thinnest of threads.

From the dim vale below,
the voices call up to me
in a sonorous echo:
“Orfeo! Orfeo!
Orfeo of the bright angels!
Come down to us!
Descend to our kingdom
of restless shades
to reclaim your lost life!”

The call goes unanswered.
For I am The Hanged Man,
suspended in space,
my perspective askew—
caught between worlds—
unable to move, nor
take a full breath.
I am King Minos,
trapped in my palace of doom,
avoiding my Minotaur,
who sleeps,
dreaming fitfully,
alone in his labyrinth.
I am The Fisher King,
with nowhere to go
in the land of waste,
and no hope for the grail
to cure what ails me.

How do I survive
the six degrees
of separation,
the sixth extinction,
the six feet apart,
with no seventh to rest?
I wait for a miracle.
Where is the mothership
to ferry me home?

Process notes:
Orfeo M. Angelucci was an early member of the club of UFO contractees in the 1950s. His case and its archetypal aspects was analyzed by C.G. Jung, in his late, classic work, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1958). Other works referenced include those of Joseph Campbell, T.S. Eliot, and, of course, Talking Heads.

Emil Sinclair is the pseudonym of a sometime poet and longtime philosophy professor (teaching at a distance) in New York City.

Thinking It Over, by Karla Linn Merrifield

Thinking It Over
by Karla Linn Merrifield

Your thoughts are wild-winged things
like a storm petrel’s skimming ocean swells,

beating, beating, steady on, soundlessly profound.
Your every thought feathers my dreams,

no twitch, but a tickling of synapses,
no twinge, but a teasing of neurons

until my brain’s waves alter course and force
in flight to mind’s desire.

I awaken, your final thought alit upon my lips
like a sea bird’s kiss: an eternal ephemerality.

Karla Linn Merrifield has had 800+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the 2019 full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY). She was a recent contributor to Red Wolf Journal.

Shouns, Tennessee 1961, by Debi Swim

Shouns, Tennessee 1961
by Debi Swim

I wish you and I could both be ten again, visiting the house where I grew up on a particular day that piled snow almost halfway to the bottom of the windows. We’d make a snowball and roll and roll till it was as big as we. I would run into the kitchen and sneak out grandma’s old butcher knife and wield it like a lightsaber cutting the round shape into an armchair, then sit down like the Snow Queen. You’d come forward as though to bend in obeisance but instead kiss me on the cheek then touch it with your tongue. I’d be completely shocked and ask why you did that. You’d say you wanted to see if it would stick like on a metal flag pole. I would hurl myself at you in mock outrage and we’d roll around in the snow, clumps sticking to us like frosting. But our cheeks would betray the lie of icy hearts with their cheery pinkness. And, you’d be my Kai and I’d be your Gerda, friends forever.

               Friends first make the best
               lovers in this lonely world
               You, Kai and me, Gerta

Process note: My sister, brother and I did this once, made a huge snowball and cut it into an armchair style throne. I was thinking about this today in a fit of nostalgia and the idea of sharing it with my husband.

Debi Swim poems in West Virginia mostly to prompts from around the net.

A Guided Heart Tour, by Shelly Narang

A Guided Heart Tour
by Shelly Narang

This morning it woke in the darkrooms
Between past and the waterway,
This morning it beats differently
shifts shape of its own accord
from bird to the budded branch.
It rolls over in the chest,
Like sounds of intense gurgles in hotel rooms,
a sagged old man groggy with winter,
And later skips like a child at the shops
Staring at those glowing sites of desire.
Sometimes stopping suddenly in the shade,
When things and people get inside too deep
Else an empty room where the ghosts
of the dead wait, tuning through moments.
Sometimes it gets bored too,
Sometimes elated too easily,
Delighting in the sight of cyan orchids,
From the room window
Or the smell of burned toast
It has a few terminals too,
They call them chambers,
Infinite hallways of longing
The arrivals and departures go on and on,
Inside the conveyer belt never halts
Sending out perpetual luggage,
Filled with dreams and a thousand lies.
Then someday when someone leaves
the heart closes its doors,
And locks all its gates too
becomes smoke, a wispy lie,
curls like a worm and forgets its life,
makes a few wrong turns.
Heart sits with its hands folded in its lap
For hours in gardens and streets
Witnessing blue parting in the silk of sky,
It does what it wants, takes what it needs,
Alive till the flights come and go

Shelly Narang is a citizen of Chandigarh, India. She is an academic and a poet. She attended Department of English and Cultural studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh for her Masters Program and finished it with top honours. Later she wrote her thesis on South Asian Women Writing for her Doctoral Degree. She was also shortlisted for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship at University of Texas, Austin, USA in 2008. She was the editor and contributing author of the bilingual poetry collection Resonating Strings (Authors press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in numerous international anthologies and journals, notably The Muse, Indian Literature and several others. She has been working as an Assistant Professor in Chandigarh for a decade and has taught courses like British Poetry, Applied Linguistics to postgraduate students.

Napkin in the Cafe, by Shelly Narang

Napkin in the Cafe
by Shelly Narang

I reached the resort last evening
Braided with wild grass and flowers,
Notes of music drift through the hills and
Here I sit with my thoughts
And some residual coffee.
I hold its small, hot hand
I don’t say, shh! I don’t say, it’s okay.
I will wait until I’m done having feelings.
The grinder croons heavy on my ears,
Crushing coffee beans and pushing
Aside some heavy sighs.
The girl behind the counter
Is making some design with the coffee froth
That I cannot fathom.
A friend had told me, last night
on the phone, those with too many thoughts
travel the world more clearly,
have a more accurate view
of this bizarre world.
But days like today, I concede, I’m lost.
I spend more time adrift in my mind
than cars stuck in traffic in this
alchemical winter rain.
So, I’m writing this down on a napkin,
this little rambling by the cafe.
We creak through doors
Splash water on our faces.
Drink espresso as quietly as we can
watching car after car on the road.
We’re all looking for someplace to go.

Shelly Narang is a citizen of Chandigarh, India. She is an academic and a poet. She attended Department of English and Cultural studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh for her Masters Program and finished it with top honours. Later she wrote her thesis on South Asian Women Writing for her Doctoral Degree. She was also shortlisted for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship at University of Texas, Austin, USA in 2008. She was the editor and contributing author of the bilingual poetry collection Resonating Strings (Authors press, 2015). Her poems have appeared in numerous international anthologies and journals, notably The Muse, Indian Literature and several others. She has been working as an Assistant Professor in Chandigarh for a decade and has taught courses like British Poetry, Applied Linguistics to postgraduate students.

A sense of déjà vu, by Preeth Ganapathy

A sense of déjà vu
by Preeth Ganapathy

Scores of people wait at the bus stop
with green and white masks
adorning their face

Hand hygiene, social distancing, geo fencing
and other such technical terms
find a place in the common vocabulary.

Wheat flour, soap, rice and lentils
take off from the racks faster than
the speed of changing thoughts in a cluttered mind.

Offices shut down, schools close
entertainment no longer matters
in the clamour for base survival.

How do the viruses enter human life?
through contact alone?
or are they airborne?

They inhabit a being who dispenses them freely
as he moves around.
Like a walking beehive.

Tiny organisms that are left behind start their own startup
sponging on the fertile ground of fresh blood and soft tissues
causing death to do a geometric progression

All those sci-fi movies of the yore
spelling apocalyptic doom
did not lie after all.

Preeth Ganapathy lives in Bengaluru, India. Her works have been published in a number of online magazines including the Short Humour Site, Spark and The Literary Yard.

Time and Distance, by Alan Walowitz

Time and Distance
by Alan Walowitz

Two trains leave Whoville and Anytown at noon
and we’re told to determine when they meet,
not to mention if the bodies will be laid aside the tracks,
or they’ll be carted off in refrigerated trucks–
so much for the beauty and synergy of math.
Then, soon as we realize it’s not us on a train
bound for oblivion, it’s only our canned goods lined up
on the patio table to be scrubbed and bleached,
and we watch as the labels fade in the warm spring sun.
After a while we can’t tell the garbanzos from the pigeon peas.
Yes, we hoped for the taste of some future hummus,
but maybe those nasty limas could be sufficient for now–
if only this doesn’t turn out to be the rest of our lives,
and it’s just another maddening and unscheduled stop.

Process notes: I hate math and lima beans and needless deaths and washing my groceries.

Alan Walowitz is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love was published by Osedax Press, and his full-length, The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems, is available from Truth Serum Press.

Unfamiliar Terrain, by Alan Toltzis

Unfamiliar Terrain
by Alan Toltzis

Driving a new car, in a new town,
in grinding traffic, switching lanes,
not knowing their curves
or my blind spots,
fumbling for controls—
nothing’s where it should be.
The radio grates off-kilter rhythms.
The GPS displays the wrong destination.

But it’s not long before
that same music
plays near the ground meat
in the supermarket aisle.
Blood pools
where cellophane meets Styrofoam.

I look up some night
and think it’s morning
because the moon
is full again,
its craters staring
me down in bed.

Process Notes: Visiting or moving to a new area can be disorienting and feel surreal. I was trying to capture that experience in this poem.

Alan Toltzis is the author of 49 Aspects of Human Emotion, The Last Commandment, and Nature Lessons. A two-time Pushcart nominee, he has published in numerous print and online journals including, Grey Sparrow, The Wax Paper, Black Bough Poetry, Eye Flash Poetry, and Poetry NI. Find him online at and follow him @ToltzisAlan.