Coming Home (Spring/Summer 2018 Issue 13)

spring summer 2018 cover

Late last year I attended a sharing session by Li-Young Lee. I’d already been enraptured by his poetry of course, his meditations on love in particular. But until I read his memoir, I didn’t really know about his family’s harrowing journey as refugees before they sought asylum in the United States and settled into a new home. He had said that we’re all a version of Odysseus trying to get home.

Why is that? Home—is that a place of origin that determines who we are? Home is tied up with the stories that get told. It’s history and geography and a lot of storying of self. What if you’re an emigrant? Well then yours would be an emigrant’s story. America is a melting pot of people of different origins isn’t it? But even if place plays a key role, the journey is a journey with self. It is ultimately a spiritual journey, a journey of becoming.

Remember the epic story of Don Quixote, who imagines himself as a knight in a chivalric setting? It’s really a journey of the imagination. Sure Don Quixote is delusional, living in a kind of personal utopia—a fantasy no doubt. But if the exploits of the anti-hero in Cervantes’s picaresque novel is infused with so much humor, warmth, humanity and imagination, can it be meant as a total indictment of the world of fantasy? Sure we have to come down to earth but if there are only Sanchos, wouldn’t life be dull as ditchwater? Imagination is self. Perchance there’s more than one self. If the self is imagined, then the song is the thing. I think the best poets know this. Well, isn’t the song of the poet just the way poetry operates to lie against time, to hold a staying hand against time and nature?

One of my favorite stories is the film, Cinema Paradiso. It tells a touching story of the relationship between a famous Italian film director and his town’s projectionist, Alfredo, who had taught the young Salvatore how to operate the cinema projector. But Salvatore was advised by Alfredo to leave his village to pursue his dream to become a film-maker. Thirty years later, Salvatore returns to his village to attend Alfredo’s funeral and as he plays the film reel that Alfredo had left for him comprising all the censored kissing scenes of films he once projected, Salvatore experiences a sense of fruition as well as deep loss. His coming home is a coming home to self–the beginning of self meeting the journeying self if you will.

So there it is—the theme of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue is “Coming Home”. If journeying is exploration, adventure, and becoming, then no journey is complete without coming home. Inasmuch as it will be a physical journey, it is really a poetic one. Its reality is spiritual, so I’m calling that poetic because it’s how we get to a sense of the sublime. It is remembrance. It measures the spiritual distance between our original condition, having not journeyed, with the post-journey self. So journey is transformation. How can we not call this reality poetic, because as Lee pointed out,

“Poetic reality is the reality. All other realities are packaged bites. I think poetry is reality. The world is a poem.”

What he meant was that as much information as possible has been packed in as tight a space as possible—that reality is actually saturated. Much like what we experienced at the ending moment of Cinema Paradiso. We’re all a version of Odysseus getting home.

In this issue, we call for poems about the spirituality of self, the self in moments of sublimation, the fictions of self, journeying, the return. We explore what home means. Where do you feel at home? How do you feel at home? Or do you not feel at home? What is home? Does it mean coming to a kind of peace with the life you’ve been given? Does it mean changing your life and if so what are your choices? What does it mean to come home, to be home? Is home a place, a person, a feeling, a journeying back?

Oh that quote from T S Eliot’s “Four Quartets” goes:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Life’s a cycle, so things from the past come back to haunt. We journey back, this time much wiser, and things assume a clarity that wasn’t there before. And ultimately we return to dust. But before that we’re on a quest aren’t we? What is your quest? Are there common grounds with others or is yours unique as hell?

Whatever it is, we hope it will be a worthy one and that you’ll share those poetic moments filed under “notes toward becoming who one is supposed to be”. In other words, think about your narrator’s destiny. What is the path or journey of your narrator? What shape or meaning does his or her life take on? Does coming home mean coming home to the self after the soul’s journey, a kind of soul recognition? I mean, really think about who he or she is, and also who we are. Life’s journey perhaps is best seen as one of being cured of one’s delusions. But what a ride. Tell us stories. Tilt at windmills if you must, because you can’t help it.

These stories, I think, tell of the soul’s longing, its quest, do they not? Whose soul? We’re not really sure. If it is ours why do others find resonance in them? I once saw a performance where a woman started off with a feather and started to place all kinds of twigs and branches over her body in counterbalance, one thing balancing the other, till she’s totally laden with twigs and stuff. She held an amazing, seemingly makeshift contraption. In the final act, she removes that feather and everything falls. Is the soul a feather, holding everything together?

Submissions are open for the Spring/Summer 2018 issue. Closing date: 28 August 2018. Please read our submission guidelines before submitting.

Selected poems will be posted on this site from March 2018 to August 2018.

Our journal has a prompt site, Red Wolf Prompts. You are encouraged to write to the prompts over at the site, if you so wish.

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith, Editors
Red Wolf Journal


Feathers In Your Hair, by Christopher Hileman

Feathers In Your Hair
by Christopher Hileman

Something has happened.
It shows on you like feathers
in your tangled hair.

I wish to devour
your soul salted and peppered,
braised to medium
rare and sliced thin on
a garden salad with lime.

I hope you take this
dream in morning’s light
as I fondle you awake
and raise your heart to
full maturity
in the long sweep of all things
possible and true.

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.

Ulysses Bound, by Christopher Hileman

Ulysses Bound
by Christopher Hileman

Passing the siren
rocks in the fog of present
circumstance and strapped
to the white white spar
replacing the mast broken
by last spring’s torrent,
I call out, respond
to your naked misty shape,
take the leather stripes.

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.

Lord, Have Mercy, by Debi Swim

Lord, Have Mercy
by Debi Swim

Delicate bones under dried leaf skin
fingers clasped loosely in her lap
tributaries of green in ropy veins
and her thumbs go round and round.
She sits and stares into the past…
a burning house, she upstairs
a jump into the banked up snow.
She sees it all again.

I know she’s thinking of two small graves
and she whispers “Lord, have mercy.”
And her thumbs go round and round.

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and persistent WV poet. Blog:

Rainbow Hollow Good News Tent Revival, by Debi Swim

Rainbow Hollow Good News Tent Revival
by Debi Swim

In the field back of the houses it stood
as though the gentle overnight shower
had mushroomed it into being.
We kids dropped our bikes, awed, excited
and entered that great tent, its flaps raised
to let in what bit of breeze was stirring.
Straw was scattered over the stubbled
ground, dusty, musty, hot smell of barn
and row on row of folding chairs, empty,
waiting to cradle sinners’ sorry selves.
A lectern at the front stood
full of grave responsibility for tonight’s
Rainbow Hollow Good News Tent Revival.
Giggling, I stood behind the lectern,
motioned the others to sit and preached a
rousing, shouting, glorious story of
sin and death, and born again. Then
we ran out lest the Holy come down
at our possible sacrilege (though I
think He would have smiled at our game)
ran out into bright sunshine of
biking and tag and country lanes.

Process notes: Every summer, in the small community of Rainbow Hollow in northeastern Tennessee, a tent revival appeared like magic for a week of hard preaching before moving on to the next little town, an attraction (not unlike the generic carnivals that were small town fare in those times) to the children filled with wonder and yet a thing to laugh about, too.

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and persistent WV poet. Blog:

Pax, by Debi Swim

by Debi Swim

Winter is a sulky bitch pitching
her fits into spring when she
should be gracefully walking away,
instead a hissy fit of jealous ire
before she retires to sleep.
She’d been all silvery glittering sway
in her heyday but like an aging beauty
queen she fades. Age spots on the porcelain
skin, hair dulled to dishwater drudge,
a sludge of cinders and salt, she peppers
her talk with indignant spit and sputter.

But Spring knows you catch more flies
with honey sweetness. She persists,
gently insists on having her day,
replaces the glitter of snow and ice
with buds and blossoms, scents of spice,
as we long for her to stay awhile, warm
the grass, swell the lilac limbs with nubs,
spread maternal love to birds nesting in trees.
She wafts health to body and mind
and I’m buoyant with a zest for living.

Process notes: Saturday and Sunday we had around fourteen inches of heavy wet snow. The electricity was out for twelve hours and by Thursday the temperature got to 78 degrees. I was ecstatic. Friday, overcast and cool. Last night a heavy frost. Today promises to be nicer and tomorrow even better. Snow flurries are forecast for Monday. GAH! I wish Winter and Spring would quit bickering!

Written in response to Red Wolf Prompt 373.

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and persistent WV poet. Blog:

Retriever, by Joseph M. Felser

by Joseph M. Felser

Her heart beats
to the sure rhythm
of his pure dog joy
as he lopes along
pine forest trails
near the big lake
called by natives
great stretch of water
free of leash and collar
chasing nothing
but sunset blaze
pink sky at night
to her delight
watching him paddle
to get nowhere
dig holes in sand
to find no treasure
bark at whitecaps
and granite rocks
for no good reason
he brings back
to her
she never lost
purity of heart
is to will one thing

Joseph M. Felser, Ph.D. received his doctorate from The University of Chicago and teaches philosophy in Brooklyn, New York. The author of numerous articles and two books on philosophy, religion, myth, and parapsychology, he recently began writing poetry, which has appeared in both print and online journals.

Bones Dance, by Nanette Rayman

Bones Dance
by Nanette Rayman

Out of the rain near a forest, they’ve discovered some beautiful bones—
eaten by animals, rotted by insects, cradling a journal decorated
with lilacs and watermark stripes. There are things worse than death.

Was she an American, an actress, a dancing lawyer? Did she touch
a dark orchid in its dark lips of death? What is a woman—if fragrance
and bones and flesh are here one moment and not the next?
Does without-home double as done bones? I remember that home,

my mother whipping shame onto my face, my body—look, you!
This is what you’ve done, you’ve unraveled this house with that face
that all they boys want. I can’t have that.
I remember my body being
flat and skinny, no bosoms and wild flames making me un-dead in that crypt.

They say it’s the sweetest way to suffer: the mother’s hard Allongé
as bully and decadent shamble, and so it is, a daughter holds tight
to her Arabesque. She may end up away, away from a house
supping at her bones, one by one. A mother like that, blackbird posse
of one, creates waves of dehydrated sighs, and a daughter drifts as G-d
made her—soft-lipped and pretty, past that mother, so many pains to get over.
A mother like that becomes irrelevant except as teacher to what is driven
wild, what is narcissist, what is to be avoided. And still, the daughter ends
up as pretty bones. There are things worse than death. Across the river,
a silhouette in light returns to another world, alive in her own skin, a dancer
over-under—Sus-sous—springing onto relevé demi-pointe and holding
a bouquet of orchid orchids. Home.

Nanette Rayman winner of the Glass Woman Prize, included in Best of the Net—2007, DZANC Best of the Web—2010, has published in journals such as The Worcester Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Carve, Up the Staircase Quarterly, gargoyle, Sundog, Little Rose Magazine, Stirring’s Steamiest Six, Sugar House, Wilderness House Literary Review.

Cherry Blossom Time, by Nanette Rayman

Cherry Blossom Time
by Nanette Rayman

The heart is a house on Abbey Lane above the subterranean
Belly like a freighter soldiering through dense fog.
I finally grew weary of dreaming that house was my home.
I created a side show in my heart, a voluptuous fantasy
Like lusty love, kept it in a box and put it away, never
To be bubbled up or looked into. The blinds
Are always drawn, the door always locked, a fusillade
Of cannonade meant to keep me out unless invited
As daughter, as shunned without knowing the real
Reason. How I envy the feather-veined leaves of the weeping
Willows, their buds fused into a cap shape, protected
Dancers outside that house. How I envied the innocent
Eyes of the other kids, non-glassy and forthright, locked
Into trust of this world I never had in that house.

When I planned to come back to you Dad
It was cherry blossom time, and tangelo-sun
Time, the prettiest fade of light into dark at dinner
Time with the rising shots of mosquitoes between
All those pink blossoms. When I dreamed the night
Before you died that you may have died, the night
Before I thought to buy a ticket to Georgia, time
Like spring weeds quintupled, it was up, it was all
Over. I was shadow beneath a million miles of sky
Beneath the Empire State Building. You would have
Taken me in, grabbing my hand, brushing past
That formidable mother, eye-lidded and disdainful.
You would have taken me in, kissed me on my face,
You would have said: My daughter.

Nanette Rayman winner of the Glass Woman Prize, included in Best of the Net—2007, DZANC Best of the Web—2010, has published in journals such as The Worcester Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Carve, Up the Staircase Quarterly, gargoyle, Sundog, Little Rose Magazine, Stirring’s Steamiest Six, Sugar House, Wilderness House Literary Review.

Hailstorm, by by Alan Walowitz

Hailstorm    (August 1, 2011)
by Alan Walowitz

The rages of recent days settle upon us,
grow into practical comforts:
those we’d trusted to allay the silence are silent;
one-time lovers barely recognized in the hall;
what might have been called kindness once
—a nod as we pass, a door noiselessly latched,
Such a handsome tie — become particular annoyances.
As is this sudden sun, the way it nudges us unwilling
into a mood we’ve lost the context for.

So let’s remember with nostalgia just yesterday
when the rain turned to hail the size of lab rats,
translucent, fat and blind—
they made that scurrying rat-tat-tat on the roof
and those death-defying dents in the parked cars
and even the ones trying to escape
though there was nowhere to go.

It’s harsh weather that could comfort those
who lose sight of what life is about—
ducking shards when the glass shatters about us
even in the so-called safety of our homes.
Here’s real running through the rain
and not even vaguely romantic.
The drops, suddenly so visible,
might turn out to be much less hazardous
to our long-term health and well-being.

Process Notes: The hailstorm of August 1, 2011 was a frightening event. The sky darkened and soon the rain turned to hail, and some of the hail was the size of baseballs. My car had both front and back windshields shattered, as well as a side view mirror. There were dents all over any car left outside. Skylights in homes were shattered. Roofs had to be replaced. All within a space of less than a half-hour and only within a two mile radius of here. I think the poem tries to capture some of the fright of the event, as well as some of my amazement.

Alan Walowitz has been published in various places on the web–and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an online journal, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in Queens. Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, was published by Osedax Press in 2016 and is now in its second printing. For more see

The Winnowed Approach, by Marilyn Braendeholm

The Winnowed Approach
by Marilyn Braendeholm

of tulips.
of daffodils.
they compete
with bare-knuckled weather.
they prepare
against the weight of snow,
against stem-breaking frost,
against long-tooth grey,
and still spring promises
on approach. comes,
day upon day,
and speaks to us
in four season languages,
its winnowed face.

Marilyn Braendeholm (‘Misky’) lives in the UK surrounded by flowers, grapevines, bubbling pots of sourdough starter, and people she loves. She never buys clothing without pockets. Her work is widely published. Between the Lines