Spring/Summer 2017: Sweet Sorrow

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


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.


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

Alone Not Lonely, by Debi Swim

Alone Not Lonely
by Debi Swim

I didn’t choose solitude;
solitude chose me.
Hurry, bustle, noise
of the world bruised
my soul till I could not
hear the song of the lark,
the music of the wind,
the wisdom of the clouds,
the slow, steady pulse
of the earth’s heart
so I began to withdraw
to the subtle call of quiet.
She soothes my spirit
with whispers, calm,
colors of rich, luscious
hues of marigold sun
and turquoise skies
goose grey of storms
that toss the static and
spark of strife away.
Even this room from which
I write is so quiet I can hear
a faint hum, a strum of OM
nothing distracts. Solitude
chose me.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 294.

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

a child walks in the dark, by Darren Demaree

a child walks in the dark
by Darren Demaree

[what pleasure]

i told my children what pleasure is to you will dictate how much flesh of the bloom you pull out of your teeth what if i can swallow it whole what if i can swallow it whole what if i can swallow it whole they asked and i told them both that was boring and fascist but good for them i suppose


[an orange fruit bowl]

i told my daughter an orange fruit bowl is useless if there is no fruit in the bowl and she told me that was exactly what was wrong with boys


[drinking where the animals drink]

i told my son drinking where the animals drink is a lovely picture but once you’re with the deer you’re with the deer forever i know this as i am with the deer

Darren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (2016, 8th House Publishing). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

I Am A Poem, by Debi Swim

I Am A Poem
by Debi Swim

I am a poem who doesn’t want
to be understood. I don’t want
a reason to be, I just want to be.
To be swished around the mouth
like the first sip of wine. Savored.
To be heard as a whole then
separated into instruments
lyrics, impressions and emotion.

I am a starting place, off ramp,
corollary route, tertiary road and
little gravel lane where memories,
experience, longing reside restlessly.
I am of the many and yet individual.
I sing. I dance. I cry, rage, laugh.
I speak plainly and in riddles.
I am a poem. A song. A voice.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 295.

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

Cycles Of Life, by Debi Swim

Cycles Of Life
by Debi Swim

Hi, Dad, It’s me again
Do you have time to talk?
(Oh, here’s a pretty vase of
flowers from my garden.
The roses are from the bushes
you use to prune for me.)
I wanted to catch you up
about what’s been going on.
Seems like things happen so fast,
then, sometimes they just drag.
Same old, same old… I guess,
School, work, soccer games.
Braces for Billy, Julie into dance,
Aunt Millie, she’s in the nursing home.
Ellen had a little girl, finally.
She and Bob are so excited
after waiting so long.
Oh, Stan died. Heart attack.
But maybe you knew that already?
Are you here, Dad?
Can you even hear me?
I wanted to ask. I need to know.
Is there more than this
endless cycle of
living and dying?

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 296.

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

The Wake, by Linda Ann LoSchiavo

The Wake
by Linda Ann LoSchiavo

The funeral’s assemblage–standing room
Full–humid honeycomb of black-winged veils
Amid a lone queen bee who, rumors say,
Is now quite wealthy, stared as the young priest
Recalled the life of the deceased, a man
He never met.  In air arranged by gnats,
This widow might feel the scourge of jealousy
Of wasp-waisted blonde mistresses who sought
The secret bin of sweetness avidly
But dreamt a better end to this affair.

Anonymous bouquets surround his bier.
All roses have been shorn of thorns as if
Transgressive floral displays might cause tears
Throughout the endless swarm from honey-house.

An accidental overdose occurred
Before her husband could file for divorce
As planned.  Conspicuously, her eyes close
While mourners pray or check their buzzing phones.

Her mind is cataloguing shameful stings
Of infidelity.  Son of a b.

Native New Yorker Linda Ann LoSchiavo is completing her 2nd documentary film on Texas Guinan [1884-1933] and dodging gun-molls in Shubert Alley and in decommissioned speakeasies. To revive her spirits, she puts pen to paper.
101 Fiction, Hawaii Review, Ink & Letters, Metamorphose, Measure, Mused, Peacock Journal, Windhover, and Nous are recent credits.

Snow Drops, by LindaAnn LoSchiavo

Snow Drops
by LindaAnn LoSchiavo

We planted snow drops right before Leigh died,
His way of coming out next spring, the first
Who’d muscle through tough ground, out-stripping Lent–
Hard-packed with Christ and crocuses each place
You looked, as gaudy gay as Mardi Gras.

Leigh never lived white life out loud, his name
Changing like Easter bonnets, pegged to who
Was listening. He took me to a church,
Cried at my cousin’s wedding. Someone told
Me, “You’re next.” We suspected Leigh, best man
To spoil my soul, help me rehearse my loss,
Try out my strength. Love showed me hard things, Leigh,
Last snowfall your sworn downfall. Snow drops, Leigh,
White-stamped your final passport–just renewed.

Process notes: Recently, there was a death in my family; my favorite aunt died Jan. 28, 2017. Also on June 15th, 2017 there will be a memorial concert for poet-violinist Kate Light, who died of cancer at age 56. Talking to the organizers about the event and Kate’s last days bring back memories of all the times I featured her at my long-running NYC poetry series. The people in the poem are not Kate nor my aunt–but I have been in a “funeral state of mind” lately.

Native New Yorker Linda Ann LoSchiavo is completing her 2nd documentary film on Texas Guinan [1884-1933] and dodging gun-molls in Shubert Alley and in decommissioned speakeasies. To revive her spirits, she puts pen to paper.
101 Fiction, Hawaii Review, Ink & Letters, Metamorphose, Measure, Mused, Peacock Journal, Windhover, and Nous are recent credits.

Homesick Blues, by Walter J Wojtanik

Homesick Blues
by Walter J Wojtanik

A hard rain’s gonna fall, and all I can think of
is my sad eyed lady of the lowlands.
A rainy day woman, she stands
down in the flood watching
the river flow. The current is strong
and I’ve been gone far too long;
bound with cold irons. I miss home.
And if I gotta serve somebody, it may as well
be her. I’d been stuck inside of Mobile
with the Memphis blues again.
I shall be released and I’ll be knocking
on heaven’s door; her blue nightgown
tangled at our feet. No longer love sick.
Memories thick and windblown, she’s shown
she can love just like a woman. Lay lady.
Lay with the pent up passion of the
hurricane within. Don’t have second thoughts.
It’s alright. It’s a changing time and
I have resurfaced; have a purpose.
Your rolling stone has come home.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 295.

Walter J. Wojtanik is a poet, composer, playwright, story teller, and carpenter. Yes, he is adept at woods and words. He had been named the Poet Laureate of the Writer’s Digest.com/Poetic Asides 2010 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. Somewhat of a poetic nomad, his work can be found all over this great big world wide web! His poetry collection in three parts, his Dead Poet Once Removed trilogy is his happiest achievement as of now. He continues to work at his craft with so much more to learn.

Lorca, by Salvatore Buttaci

by Salvatore Buttaci

after his murder in the courtyard
his body was sent to the cellar morgue
where men of science dissected his flesh
in search of those seditious words unsaid
that waited for the right poem
in the depths of him from which
they might one day metrically sail free

all they found were not unlike discoveries
made in the battlefield autopsies of heroes
who lie gut-wrenched, organs exposed
to the elements of snow and ice and time
while their filmed eyes like cameras
indelibly capture life’s passing
which the souls of them carry away

he wrote poems in his Spanish tongue
danced them down paper roads like village songs
meant to be sung if only to rally the listless
but those unversed in the art of sweet language
those whose iron hands wield iron guns
can only rattle destructive syllables of fire
can only murder the poet but never the poem

can never hear the language that trilled within him
those sweet birds with so many stories to tell
about sharing the expanse of land and sky

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 296.

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.

Old Wood, by Christopher Hileman

Old Wood
by Christopher Hileman

I am the old wood
receiving you as the rain
in all its aspects,
as mist, as the splash
or the roar of a tempest,
with the black of night
or the sun peeking
and the arc doubled sometimes,
receiving your moods
and the feel of you
whether you are cold or warm
and you strip me down.

Christopher Hileman moved to Oregon in 1973. He has retired to live on the volcanic bluff overlooking Willamette Falls in Oregon City, Oregon. He ascends the stairs from his basement digs to improvise on his Yamaha keyboard or the house Playel grand when the calico cat releases him from below. The part-Irish Wolfhound here likes him.

A Voice Within, by Marilyn Braendeholm

A Voice Within
by Marilyn Braendeholm

And there’s the sun. Climbing
the horizon. Drifting. Light
strung through trees. It sings
with a foggy voice, joining
impatient birds. And, I see

the birdbath needs refilling;
blackbirds drum their wings,
spilling water from their
tasselled tails. And, there
in the corner by the fence,

the roses are full heads
of bloom. I’ll cut a pillar
of fired-orange, a bouquet
for the table. A displayed
feast for lunch. And after,

I’ll re-oil the cutting board –
the teak one. I love it, and
my affection for it’s showing.
It’s old. Honourable. Sturdy.
Worn. Like my sensible shoes.

So I take on tasks by minutes.
Each day an epithet at sunset.

Marilyn ‘Misky’ Braendeholm lives in the UK surrounded by flowers, grapevines, and the rolling hills of West Sussex. She never buys clothing without pockets. Her work is widely published.