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
https://redwolfjournal.wordpress.com/

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Individual Humor, by Marilyn Braendeholm

Individual Humor
by Marilyn Braendeholm

I heard your voice
deep in the swirl
of a nautilus shell,

heard you laughing
in a language I
didn’t understand,

as if humor
was breath and blood.
A priest’s liturgy.

I often wonder which words
leave you humorless.
Which mantra unwraps you
like God’s gift.

It should be a birthright,
humor, like ears. Toes.
Feet have such a sad
sense, don’t you think.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Prompt 412.

Marilyn (aka Misky) Braendeholm’s work is regularly published in monthly issues of Waterways Poetry in the Mainstream, and Ten Penny Players.

Climbers Homeward Bound, by Robert Walton

Climbers Homeward Bound
by Robert Walton

Like friends parting
For uncertain journeys,
Clouds clasp hands on
An autumn moon.

The lake below muses,
On snow’s return,
Its black waters
Deeper than space.

What games we play
With mute mountains,
With moonlit clouds,
With puckish stars.

Check the anchor,
Clip to the rope,
And step into
Night’s granite belly.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Photo: Climbing partner Dave Gregory took it of me some years back.

Process notes: I’ve been caught by night up high a number of times. I try in this poem to convey the mixed feelings this predicament inspires.

Robert Walton is a retired teacher, a lifelong rock climber and mountaineer. His writing about climbing has appeared in the Sierra Club’s Ascent. His novel, Dawn Drums, won the 2014 Tony Hillerman prize. http://chaosgatebook.wordpress.com/

Alzheimer Dreams, by Debi Swim

Alzheimer Dreams
by Debi Swim

Her mind goes back
and further back
to days of long ago
to things of which
she is fond
June bugs, fireflies
pollywogs in the pond
grass tickling her toes
screen door slams
homemade jams
and wildflowers
picked for mom
climbing trees
summers free
her childhood
over and over again
This is where she lives
till her mind gives out
her body gives in
and existing is finally done

Process notes: Watching my mother-in-law wither away.

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

Haiku, by Arthur Mitchell

 

Haiku
by Arthur Mitchell

 

In this wild alone
Watching blackbirds sail the wind–
Families flying home.

Arthur Lamar Mitchell’s poems have been set to music for voice, and by several composers, and performed by small groups to orchestra. He composed all lyrics for a environmental concept album – Garden of Eden. Recent poems have been published in Remembered Arts, Winterwolf, and Nature Writing.

Salvation, by Arthur Mitchell

Salvation
by Arthur Mitchell

A Spirit arose to heal the race
In spite the deep and fearful dark
In every heart light to trace

Anthems rise to each a story
Nature’s enormity from a spark
In the name of love, we glory

And if we fall broken, lost and alone
The Spirit shall redeem us
And guide our journey home.

Arthur Lamar Mitchell’s poems have been set to music for voice, and by several composers, and performed by small groups to orchestra. He composed all lyrics for a environmental concept album – Garden of Eden. Recent poems have been published in Remembered Arts, Winterwolf, and Nature Writing.

The Poet, by Holly Day

The Poet
by Holly Day

The ship crashes against the rocks and a poem
Forms in her head right as she flies over the railing
Something so perfect and beautiful it must be written down
Must be remembered. She invokes the first stanza

For the otters watching curiously from the rocks,
The seals lounging carelessly on the beach
The dolphins she knows must be lurking just past the shallows
Because there are always dolphins watching shipwrecks
And dolphins are smart and literate enough to understand.

She shouts the lines as clearly as she can
Despite the screaming of the other passengers
Despite the rending, grinding agony of the hull against the rocks
Despite the shrieks of the confused seagulls whirling overhead
Because she knows this is a poem that cannot be lost
And somebody has to be left behind to carry it on.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.

Under the Lights, by Holly Day

Under the Lights
by Holly Day

I open my mouth and imagine birds are going to fly out
That inside me are flocks of birds that have struggled
With captivity for years. I will the birds to take form
Encourage them to force their way through my body, through my skin
Can almost feel their tiny claws struggling to find purchase
Along the slick, wet meat inside my chest.

Nothing comes out and I am empty, I don’t understand
I thought there was something better than me in here. The audience
Stares at me in impatient confusion from rows of folded metal chairs
they came here to see me do something special
they came to see something wonderful, or just something.
The bird song I thought I had dies in my throat, comes out finally

As only a croak, a whisper, a quiet and stuttering end.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.

The Temporary Nature of Poetry, by Holly Day

The Temporary Nature of Poetry
by Holly Day

there’s no need to balance color
to be paced to a danceable beat

just turn the page
prepare the wooden frame
wrap the painting around your thoughts
pound the nails in one at a time

there’s no need to labor to match words
to music, to craft lyrics of need
just close your eyes
stop talking.

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.

Shadow, by Martin Willitts Jr

Shadow
by Martin Willitts Jr

Heading towards the ruins of fall,
my shadow shrivels ahead of me,
and I am catching up.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

Those Clouds, by Marilyn Braendeholm

Those Clouds
by Marilyn Braendeholm

As seen from
those folds and rolls

of clouds that skate
the sky, a slate puzzle

fitted and tucked,
jigged and jointed

like language strung
into long sentences,

into a bridge from
this horizon to where

I am your audience.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Prompt 409.

Marilyn (aka Misky) Braendeholm’s work is regularly published in monthly issues of Waterways Poetry in the Mainstream, and Ten Penny Players.