Spring/Summer 2017: Sweet Sorrow

Red Wolf Journal Issue 11 (Spring/Summer 2017)
Our theme: “Sweet Sorrow”

romeoandjuliet

Cover art: John Henry Frederick Bacon, Romeo And Juliet

Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

What? Sweetness in sorrow? In heartbreak? In saying “goodbye”?

Do we see poems as memento mori? We attempt to immortalize what is already lost, or passing. What emotions well up when memory brings us back to the people and events that have filled our scant lives with richness, and our souls with an overflowing spirituality? In retrieving them through memory, in our poems, we filter everything into universal truths; through the impersonality of art, we invent fiction in order to see what truths continue to haunt us thus expressing our humanity. There is a kind of moral imperative in art. What is art but moral, though some may disagree.

Fellow sojourners, there is sorrow in the parting, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet says, but sweetness too. There is a difference, whether the parting is temporary or lasting. When Juliet says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, she had meant it in the first sense. Parting is only sweet if her lover departs but is expected to return, thus filling her heart with joyful anticipation. The French says it well, au revoir (till we meet again). Imagine if one is at all times with one’s lover, wouldn’t the law of diminishing returns set in at some point? Aha. Perhaps we are creatures who need melodrama, because there is an intrinsic duality in our nature. We are ruled by the principle of opposites. How complicated we are, waxing and waning, goodness commingling with bad stuff. C’mon nobody’s an absolute angel or saint. And if the lover never shall return? If your heart still pulses with true love, a sweetness would have gone out of life, wouldn’t it? The tea would have gone tepid. Then of course, if the lover does return, the concomitant crap also returns. Nothing’s pure bliss. Love, or the lack thereof, could even drive one to suicide, as Romeo did, in the end, and Juliet too, in her turn. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “Parting is all we know of heaven,/And all we need of hell.”

This life is a paradox. We don’t know what joy is, till we’ve known sadness. We do not see light without shadow. We cherish life because there is death. Is it possible to experience pleasure and pain at the same time? Yes. This can come in whatever form. Our time together is pleasurable, deepened, heightened by the knowledge that we will ultimately part. So the deep abiding human experience is grieving. We grieve past relationships and things. We grieve injustices and anomalies that come up again and again to cause pain and suffering. We grieve our ageing bodies which we all know will one day bail on us. We grieve the dead. Death comes to us all. We do not know what comes after. Like birth, death is a mystery. This hit us acutely, and then with a dull nameless ache. If we see into our selves, we hear an echo. We move constantly between the poles of hope and despair. Human consciousness elevates us and also besieges us with a sense of loss and uncertainty. From our angst we have found religion, philosophy, spirituality, art. What art does, it survives us. Remember that one time when Meryl Streep quoted Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart, make it into art”? Bittersweet.

The sweetness in the memory, not in the sense of anticipation, alas, the second time round. Also in the sense of accepting the deep mystery of existence, by finding a peaceable way of being.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

–Wendell Berry

As sweet ol’ Charlie Brown would say, “Oh, good grief!” It is ultimately up to us to find sweetness in sorrow, if only to bear that sorrow.

***

Interpret the theme however you wish.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS 25 AUGUST 2017. SUBMISSIONS OPEN.

Please review the submission guidelines and then send us your poems in the body of an email. Submit poems to us by email here.

Poems will be published in ongoing posts on this site. Each posting will be announced on the Red Wolf Journal page on Facebook. Your poem may be published at any time from March to August 2017 so please check back here. If you do not see your poem(s) appear, you may deem it as not accepted for publication. We will not be sending out any acceptance or rejection letters.

The entire collection will be released in PDF format in due course. An announcement will be made at that point.

Au revoir, mon ami, au revoir mon amie.

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Editors, Red Wolf Journal
https://redwolfjournal.wordpress.com/

Happinella, by Salvatore Buttaci

Happinella
by Salvatore Buttaci

It was the task of Happinella to stir joy into the Cauldron of Dissatisfactions. Eons ago the Senior Crowned Heads had designated her worthy of such a role. Add to that, her persistent badgering of these Seniortors to award her the magic stick.

“Allow me to rid Arondor of sadness and pain,” Happinella begged them.

After much hawing, they relented; after all, she was resolute in her request and, perhaps more important, she was the only offspring of the now deceased Senior of Seniors, Yezzerai.

The pandemic plague of evil infested nearly all Arondorians. While they slept, the flying squadrons of wasponias descended, strafing them with venomous transformations. The good morphed into evil; the content into malcontents. Victims of these attacks were defenseless. Someone had to once again stir the Cauldron that had for too long remained untouched.

The consensus? In the daughter of Yezzerai, they rested their hope.

Since the recent wasponian invasion of Arondor, most of the afflicted, carriers of the evil strain, waged war against the good.

Happinella spent her lonely days and perilous nights stirring the Cauldon, convinced she could save the subjects of Arondor by destroying the giant stinging wasponias that threatened to conquer them.

Then one morning, on her way to her stirring after a brief rest, Happinella saw a child climbing out of the Cauldron into which he had tumbled. The aromatic waters, the sweetness of harvest time, a temptation too alluring for a young boy to avoid.

Happinella said aloud, “Out of a bad thing will come a good thing,” for it dawned on her that when the boy stood drenched beside the Cauldron, he sparkled like a river sprite, gold as the flowered fields, and smiling like one who had discovered joy.

“Drink from the Cauldron!” cried Happinella to all the land. “Drink joy and gladness. Fill yourselves with goodness.”

The following night, the wasponias dropped down from the black sky and found their prey, not cowering in their beds, but peacefully asleep.

The whirr of their stingers rotated, barely piercing their skin.

Happinella left her stirring long enough to command the sweepers to gather up and burn the dead scaly wasponias and toss them into the fiery pits of the Ire River.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 276.

Salvatore Buttaci won the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. His story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, were published by All Things That Matter Press. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Writer. He and his wife Sharon reside in West Virginia.

Remembering, by Salvatore Buttaci

Remembering
by Salvatore Buttaci

In youth, I said in my superiority,
“I have forgotten more than you will ever know.”
Pompously I stood so tall on the pedestal
of my own making, arrogant know-it-all
at the ready to make claims beyond the unseen
territory of my life. I stomped through the years,
teeth bared, fist clenched, convinced I would live forever,
the face reflected in the mirror set in stone.
I laughed when Papa said, “We’re machines. We break down.”

Now in my declining years, I beg apologies.
The sure step of younger days is gone. I stumble.
The pedestal was swept away in the torrents
of my life. The mirror is a friend of mine no more.
And the highlight of this old man’s confession?
I have forgotten more than you or I have known.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 273.

Salvatore Buttaci won the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. His story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, were published by All Things That Matter Press. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Writer. He and his wife Sharon reside in West Virginia.

She Hardly Remembers Anymore, by Salvatore Buttaci

She Hardly Remembers Anymore
by Salvatore Buttaci

Hiding in the wine cellar,
she presses her grapes against
the clear glass that offers proof
it can help her forget the toasts
of years so distant in the past
she hardly remembers anymore.

When the darkness settles in,
she gratefully accepts it,
takes it in her upturned palms,
a gift she wants to deserve,
clasps her hands as if in prayer
so darkness cannot escape.

But once more dawn slithers
another new sun
between her closed fingers,
pries them open
while she pretends the wine,
possessively demanding,

is instead a red knight
who saves her,
not the enemy, a friend,
helming in a carmine sea
to sail her free
on the placid Waters of Death,

that last red wound
to whisk her away to abstinence.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 272.

Salvatore Buttaci won the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. His story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, were published by All Things That Matter Press. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Writer. He and his wife Sharon reside in West Virginia.

Papa Called It Polka, by Salvatore Buttaci

Papa Called It Polka
by Salvatore Buttaci

In his Italian accent
Papa called it “polka,”
and when he found a deck
hidden in my dresser
he’d toss it in the garbage.
“We don’t need no gamblers here,”
he’d say. “It’s the devil’s game.
“Stay away from polka.”

At weddings Papa danced
the polka like Astaire.
He’d have his nieces puffing
out of breath (Mama didn’t dance)
then when one polka ended,
Papa was ready for the next.
He refused to let
his nieces sit one out.

Years later Sharon taught me
how to shuffle, deal,
hold and fold my poker hand.
She showed me how to wear
the inscrutable poker stare
unlike the happy beaming face
Papa wore when he danced the night away.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 271.

Salvatore Buttaci won the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. His story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, were published by All Things That Matter Press. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Writer. He and his wife Sharon reside in West Virginia.

I Climbed The Steep Embankment, by Salvatore Buttaci

I Climbed The Steep Embankment
by Salvatore Buttaci

That one time I could have turned away.
I could have set my feet toward safer ground;
instead, I hesitated and was found.
Demon-free I climbed the steep embankment
Where high above I saw inviting light
That flickered come-on fingers at its height.

Like all those years before I could have turned away.
I could have held more tightly to false gold
And missed the treasures a loving God could hold;
instead, I grasped the stones and climbed away
with God’s Name on my labored breath I prayed.

Yes, that one time I could have turned away
like all the other times I shut my ears
to the One Who could put to rest my fears.
He stretched His hand. He touched my heart and mind.
Content was I to leave the world behind.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 269.

Salvatore Buttaci won the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. His story collections, Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, were published by All Things That Matter Press. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times and The Writer. He and his wife Sharon reside in West Virginia.

Copper Mettle, by Debi Swim

Copper Mettle
by Debi Swim

Beginnings are copper, newly minted pennies
promises dropped into the piggy bank for
a rainy day, the value in the collecting, saving,
looking forward. Hope squirreled away in a
fragile thing to be broken in the end. For all
things end with a verdigris coating, blue-
green from sweat, tears and the rust of time.
And for every ending there is a new beginning
with a blue-green patina promise at the end.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 258 and Prompt 259.

Debi Swim is a wife, mother, grandmother and happy WV poet.

I Edit My Life, By Michael Lee Johnson

I Edit My Life
By Michael Lee Johnson

I edit my life
clothesline pins & clips
hang to dry,
dirty laundry,
I turn poetic hedonistic
in my early 70’s
reviewing the joys
and the sorrows
of my journey.
I find myself wanting
a new review, a new product,
a new time machine,
a new internet space,
a new planet where
we small, wee creative
creatures can grow.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. He has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015, nominated Best of the Net 2016. Poetry published in 33 countries, 130 YouTube poetry videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos. He is Editor-in-Chief of 2 poetry anthologies, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, and Dandelion In A Vase of Roses. He is administrator of a Facebook poetry group over 12,500 members: https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998. He is editor of 10 poetry sites.

Your Earthly Days, by Edilson Afonso Ferreira

Your Earthly Days
by Edilson Afonso Ferreira

At your birth, you frightened people
by loud and harsh a cry, clamoring
by the loss of the motherly warmth
and arriving, without prior consent
at strange, indeed bright new world.
Since then, immutable fate, which
always writes the history of our days,
has given you, besides your family,
your friends, lovers, also enemies.
This, with little of hard a toil and
unfailing faith, fatally will bring you
the lot awarded for all of us: doubts
and fears, defeats, and, sometimes,
some triumphs and glories.
Expect usual and pitiless pain, but
never abdicate to pursue happiness,
although always hidden and furtive.
Prior to all, remember Eternity remains
on the Lost Paradise, far beyond from us.
Valorize your earthly days, never denying
those dark and dull ones, they are as a fee
to be alive; they are our Star of David, that
we must not refuse to carry.
Blend them with the happy ones, smiling
and going ahead, fearless and audacious,
just as must be a man.

Mr. Ferreira, 73, is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than Portuguese, having been published in venues like Right Hand Pointing, The Lake, Spirit Fire Review, Red Wolf Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, Creative Talents Unleashed, Algebra of Owls and some others. Ferreira lives in a small town (Formiga (MG) with wife, three sons and a granddaughter and, unhurried, is trying to publish his first Poetry Book. He began to write at age 67, after retirement as a Bank Manager. Has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize 2016.

Mew Muse, by Debi Swim

Mew Muse
by Debi Swim

The morning dawns, becomes a familiar thing,
after the night’s forgetting. I sit at my laptop
waiting for the words to come, a direction to
point the way. I feel your presence out in the

hall, you are stalking the light that speckles
the floor. Stealthy, slyly, you reach out a paw
and pounce. I will you to come into my room,
to twine between my feet, rub against my shins,

jump in my lap and mew music into my thoughts.
But, no, I hear you out on the sunny side
of the patio. You sit on regal haunches,
looking out over the dewy lawn, completely

ignoring me. At first, I am merely impatient, a
little huffy at your attitude but as the moments
draw a long line on the day I become afraid…
wonder if this time you’ve gone for good.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 255.

Debi Swim is a wife, mother, grandmother and happy WV poet.

No Degree of Separation, by Debi Swim

No Degree of Separation
by Debi Swim

Ah, sweet sorrow that accompanies me
in waking hours and in night’s sad dreams.
That you should give such pleasure and such pain
is a curious thing to me, burden
and yet, a comfort. You show me all the
places we have been, point out a stranger’s
shy smile and how it dimples just as his
and in my dreams that feel so tangible
I’d swear I felt the weight of his tender
touch, exquisite sweetness, exquisite sting.
Mind and body so entwined that thoughts, thoughts
could make the heart ache, the eyes tear, torture
the lungs with air withheld. Oh, sweet sorrow
that transcends transient time to weave her
paths from mind to the very core of life.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 254.

Debi Swim is a wife, mother, grandmother and happy WV poet.