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/

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.

May Again, by Salvatore Buttaci

May Again
by Salvatore Buttaci

In floral finery
these petaled debutantes
come alive in spring,
bursting from beds of seeds
in May’s post-winter sleep.
The garden celebrates!

Teeming rains of April?
the capricious madness
of March? All gone at last.
The warm winds, once brutal,
Now lead flowers to dance.
The garden celebrates!

This be their season’s joy:
To delight in the waft
of their fragrance carried
by the breeze and divided
among lonely lovers.
The garden celebrates!

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 286.

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.

Dark Forest Of The Soul, by Debi Swim

Dark Forest Of The Soul
by Debi Swim

It smells like fear
acrid, sharp, razor sharp
after the safety of knowing,
not questioning, having faith.
I don’t like this part of the woods
I’m finding myself in. It’s lonely
here. Quiet. Every snap of a twig
sounds like a gunshot. I flinch.

It smells like disease. Unhealthy,
musty, rank cheese, beginnings
of rot. Yet, if truth is true then
perhaps this isn’t the end though
it must seem that way to a tadpole,
a caterpillar, polyps. Metamorphosis.
Not death. Development. Growth.
Transformation. Transmutation. Change.

It smells like petrichor. Rain after a long
dry spell. Refreshing. Healing. A tinge of
newness, beginnings, hope, something
more than before. Deeper than. A quenching.
I can’t go back. I’m too far in. I’ll follow
this path to its end. I’ll trust that this path
brings me to the light and I’ll blink my eyes
at its glory after the darkness of the forest. Amen.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 281.

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

Crack, by Roslyn Ross

Crack
by Roslyn Ross

Crack the moment magical,
ramble through the past,
find the pest of sorrow;
wince in memory’s grasp.

Hiccup through the thoughts,
try to catch your breath,
let regrets be banished;
festoon in face of death.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 282.

Roslyn Ross is a former journalist, who has worked in newspapers and magazines around Australia. In recent years she has worked as a freelance manuscript editor. Born in Adelaide, she has spent much of her time living overseas, including Antwerp, Belgium; Bombay, India; Luanda, Angola; Cape Town, South Africa; Johannesburg, South Africa; Lusaka, Zambia; Vancouver, Canada; London, United Kingdom and Lilongwe, Malawi. She has also spent extended periods in Russia, Portugal and the United States, as well as living across Australia, including Adelaide, Port Pirie, Wagga Wagga, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, and is now settled in the Adelaide Hills. She began writing poetry at the age of twelve and has had work published in a number of anthologies, mainly in the US, but also more recently, in When Anzac Day Comes Around, 100 Years from Gallipoli Poetry Project, edited by Graeme Lindsay.

 

Find The Courage, by Salvatore Buttaci

Find The Courage
by Salvatore Buttaci

It can happen that one,
confronted with joy,
can wince as if in pain.
Accustomed to sorrow,
steeled for sudden jolts,
she can mistake festoons
of scented spring flowers
for requiem wreaths,
tramp instead of ramble
through nature’s delights,
sidestep the pavement cracks
to avoid the pest of misfortune.
Joy is everywhere!

Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 282.

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.

Do Not Go Dark…, by Christopher Hileman

Do Not Go Dark…
by Christopher Hileman

I sat for days in the shade
hoping for a vision of love
or some story I could share.
My cat rubbed me up,
leapt to the bough behind me
and settled in to wait for God.

When the rain began,
we went back in the house.
The cat wandered off.
I cooked my tea, then sat,
looking out the window.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 278.

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.

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.