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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Imprinting Waves, by Jesse LoVasco

imprinting waves cover

Reading Jesse LoVasco’s collection is like having a sojourn in nature, for it is from nature that her poems get their inspiration. The poems embody the journey of a feminine self in communion with nature’s wilderness, its elements of earth, wind, fire and water (snow and ice), its fruit (corn, peas, pickled beets, beans), its spirit animals (horse, rabbit, fawns, coyote, owl, wolves, bear, moose). The rich amalgam of images calls the self to unmistakably return to sacred nature.

The poems also touch on the themes of ancestry, sisterhood and human aging. The song of the poet calls out to those who have gone on before her.

I will
lay down a carpet of leaves,
make my home in a grove of trees
and sing out from my heart in sacred notes, until they recognize me.
(“Authentic Reintegration of the Wild and Sacred”)

It ascribes the journey of the poetic self who writes these things down, “galloping/
over the inner worlds” (“Horse”), an image that is reinforced elsewhere in the collection:

saddling the horse
of my legs
up steep mountains,
feeling wind blow
the mane of my hair
(“West”)

Often the images hold the reader enthralled, like this one:

The farm woman yields to passing time,
sighs on the chair by the stairs,
her work complete.
(“Corn Maidens”)

A few poems, such as “Murmuration” or “Snow Ghosts”, take on a concrete shape following the birds’ trajectory or simulating a whirlpool.

Jesse’s poems affirm the sacredness of life in its varied forms, all within a natural universe that is home and serves as the end point of the human journey.

Her poetic journey dovetails nicely with the theme of our forthcoming Spring/Summer 2018—“Coming Home”. Watch this space!

Download the collection here.

Imprinting Waves by Jesse LoVasco (1)

Fall/Winter 2017/2018: Memento Mori

fall winter 2017 2018 cover

Poetry for Disaster Relief (September 2017)

Josh Medsker read the poems posted to the Fall/Winter 2017/2018 issue in September 2017. We got talking about how poetry does nothing and so came up with this collaboration to make a donation fund for disaster relief.
The first poetry reading was posted on Facebook on Tues, 5 September 2017, 4pm (Eastern Standard Time). The links are provided below.

Josh Medsker Reading Poems.

Josh reading poems by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Josh reading poems by Marilyn Braendeholm, Debi Swim and Barbara Young

Josh reading poems by Martin Willitts Jr and Irene Toh

Josh reading poems by Dah

Josh reading poems by Howie Good

Josh reading poems by Howie Good, Arthur Mitchell and Joseph Felser

Josh reading poems by Sergio Otiz and Christopher Hileman

Josh reading poems by Alan Toltzis

You may donate here.

A poem was posted daily on this site in September 2017. You may still donate to Josh’s paypal. The donation window is open till the current issue ends in February 2018. Even a dollar would do, if we add up all the dollars. Who can’t afford a dollar? In a way this is an experiment to see if poetry can bring in any bucks at all.

Here’s the first donation. If there’re any more donations we’ll update.

HURRICANE RELIEF DONATION

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song;
–Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”

Memento mori–you know what it means. Transitory things. Perishable people. When you are in transit you seem to fit into some kind of plan but then find yourself in an empty space. In a parking lot. Sitting on a staircase in the middle of a social event. On a park bench under a chestnut tree. There’re really lots of empty spaces in between when you seem to be waiting for something or someone. Forever waiting.

On a mortal note, you’ve noticed too, “the body’s decrease/Of power and repair as these begin/The ultimate indications of old age.” (A D Hope, “Memento Mori”). When I was thirty I wrote about my mother’s ageing lament, noticing her slower gait, graying hair, spots and all. And tried to mythologize. Well now I am the exact same age that my mother was at the time of writing. Time’s winged chariot, kiss my ass!

Where did all the time go?

All the more then, shouldn’t it be that, as Andrew Marvell said, “the last age should show your heart”? We are bound to our hearts. That is truth. Back to Marvell’s famous first line.

“Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.’

Time enough to love. We still have time, and if we cared not for Marvell’s conceit, then even to be coy, awaiting love to ripen.

So by all means write about love. Write about happiness in the living. Because existence is predicated on life and death. What is life if we’ve not loved? What is life’s meaning if we do not die? What is death if not the end of living? And the end of writing, if I may boldly add. If you’re entranced by an author’s work, and had secretly read all her work, you’d weep when the said author has died. I know I did, read a postage stamp size of her obituary, and wept. Isn’t it by reading that we kind of enter another person’s soul? Pray, let me enter your soul.

Love, it would appear, is the ageless thing. If love is redemption where does it come from? Are there different kinds of adulthood other than the standard romance/sex/happily ever after? Why is that the main narrative? Surely there are other sorts of narratives, romantic or otherwise, that are equally true. Are you even going to surface them? Write about places where people find solace. What about the lack of solace, the limits of love?

And then there’s God, to whom most will eternally cling to. How do you deal with the concept of God, and are there other ways of godliness? Write about the mystery that is at the heart of human existence.

And then there’s eternity itself. Surely it’s not a “desert” as Marvell put it?
What is eternity, dear poets? Can eternity exist if there’s no concept of mortality? Or the converse, what is mortality without the concept of eternity? Are these purely rhetorical questions, like a blast of hot air?

On that mighty dubious note, let your mythologizing begin then.

Submissions are open for the Fall/Winter 2017/2018 issue. Closing date: 25 February 2018. Please read our submission guidelines before submitting.

Selected poems will be posted on this site from September 2017 to February 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 & Tawnya Smith
Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Editors
Red Wolf Journal

Those Grey Layers, by Marilyn Braendeholm

Those Grey Layers
by Marilyn Braendeholm

The thing about long-term memory, it feels like it just happened. Yesterday. Like when I remember my grandmother who passed-on more than 30-years ago. I can see her now. Grandma sitting in a straight-back wooden spindle chair. She sits where the sun breaks through the window but she still feels icy. And it’s just Grandma now; Grandpa’s recently dead. He went out fishing on the 3rd Tuesday of January last year. He threaded a nightcrawler on his hook, dropped the line over the side of the boat, and then had a heart attack. Out there alone on the lake. He floated around for 3-days in a January mist before anyone questioned why a row boat was out there. He froze board-stiff in that rowboat. Someone said he was the coldest shade of grey they’d ever seen. Greyer than winter, the policeman said. Winter’s a widow-maker, Grandma claimed. She looks out the window, sips her Earl Grey tea, and asks for another lap blanket. Her voice is shallow as lapping water. She’s not long for the next world. Asleep or awake, sometimes we can’t tell which when she closes her eyes. Those soft eyelids that disregard the lines between day and night. Sometimes she pretends to be deaf. I suspect that she hears everything that she can’t see. But as I said, it all seems like yesterday. Plus and or minus those intervening years.

like old grey stone,
that blue-eyed cat on her lap,
alas, there she ends

Marilyn Braendeholm, aka ‘Misky, lives in England surrounded by flowers in the summer, jars of sourdough starter in the winter, and old pots and pans when she’s testing recipes in the kitchen. Her poetry is regularly published by the literary magazine, Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream.

There Is A Cleft In Me, by Janet Youngdahl

There Is A Cleft In Me
by Janet Youngdahl

Even filled in with earth
It’s visible.
Clefts do that.
They begin a simple parting,
A tear, a mere rip
Sorting your body into before and after.
And when not finished,
The cleft becomes unbearable
Lack of separation,
Unconsummated parting
Leaving me here,
feet on the grass without you.

I never intended this branched divide,
this obvious wake in my water
marking me as one who was
taken fully by love, candled and glowing
without need for air.

Is the cleft an absence or an opening?
I only know I cannot rid myself of its geometry.
I remain shredded by the exhuming
chisel of devotion, carefully hewn in
symmetrical slices of transparent soul
somehow invisible to others.

I may appear whole. I am not.
I am a thatching
of grief’s beams,
a weak ceiling over the
craggy angles
trying to remember
that my cleft,
like broken honeycomb
given enough sweet rain,
might again inhale
fragrance.

Process note: The poem was inspired by the death of my father.

Janet Youngdahl has published work in The Antigonish Review, The Malahat Review, Light–Journal of Poetry and Photography, and the Friends Journal. She lives in Alberta, Canada within sight of the Rocky Mountains.

Frog in Throat, by Miriam Green

Frog in Throat
by Miriam Green

There’s a frog in my throat,
I tell her. She believes me.
I should have predicted this,
the way she understands literally
or doesn’t understand at all.
I wanted to humor her
but she’s asking how it got there
and do I need her help to get it out.

We sing the song she taught me for Passover,
frogs jumping on Pharaoh’s bed and head,
on his toes and nose.

Then she tells me, I found my nose.
I have noses.
I have husbands with noses.

I clear my throat,
that sound like a revving engine
or a strangled cry for help.
I’m writing a new song
for the two of us
filled with sparkling laughter
and an uncommon love
for the mother as child,
for the daughter she no longer recognizes.

Miriam Green writes a weekly blog at http://www.thelostkichen.org, featuring anecdotes about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and related recipes. Her book, The Lost Kitchen: Reflections and Recipes from an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, will be published next year by Black Opal Books. Her poetry has appeared in several journals, including Poet Lore, the Prose Poem Project, Ilanot Review, The Barefoot Review, and Poetica Magazine.

Besieged in Winter, by Gershon Ben-Avraham

Besieged in Winter
by Gershon Ben-Avraham

We should have grown old together, you and I,
and seated by a winter fire told over and over yet again
spring and summer tales of a life lived together.

But in autumn, as it sometimes does,
a sudden change in weather took one ill-equipped for it
and left behind the other.

Now, seated alone, besieged in winter by so many unfinished tales
that will not let me rest, I begin again one of them,
then turn to you to sound your part.

Hearing nothing save the soft ticking of an old kitchen clock,
I stammer into silence. I’ve only half the tale and stop where I did start—
yearning for you to tell my ending.

Gershon Ben-Avraham holds an MA in Philosophy (Aesthetics) from Temple University where he studied with the American philosopher Monroe Beardsley. His poetry and short stories have appeared in both online and print journals including Bolts of Silk, Numinous: Spiritual Poetry, Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing, Psaltery & Lyre, and The Jewish Literary Journal. He lives with his wife Beth and Kulfi, the family collie, in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

Two Years On, by Diane Jackman

Two Years On
by Diane Jackman

When I switch off the noise
cross out the lists
abandon the detail
of daily living,
no words come
to take root,
flourish and grow.
Anguish sweeps in,
a spring tide
of memory and pain
spreading, flooding,
ebbing, leaving
sour and stagnant pools
in the jagged runnels.

Would you have been the same?
Robbed of notes?
Or would you have worked out
your loss in healing music?

Diane Jackman’s poetry has appeared in small press magazines and many anthologies, and has won several competitions. Starting out as a children’s writer she now concentrates on poetry. Her writing draws heavily on the past, and often reflects elements of magic realism.

Sudden Death, by Diane Jackman

Sudden Death
by Diane Jackman

Yesterday a faint rumble of thunder,
passed over now, disregarded.
Next, a sudden electrical storm,
a lightning strike from an empty sky.
One heart-stopping moment
and the family is shattered.

Shattered and scattered they lie,
the heart silent, absent,
until the ropes of love
heave and tug them to their feet.
Together they stumble forward
into a different future.

Diane Jackman’s poetry has appeared in small press magazines and many anthologies, and has won several competitions. Starting out as a children’s writer she now concentrates on poetry. Her writing draws heavily on the past, and often reflects elements of magic realism.

Kneeling at the Grave Stone, by Tony Daly

Kneeling at the Grave Stone
by Tony Daly

It’s raining,
Not outside, but inside.
It’s actually quite nice out, if
A person can see that sort of thing,
The world, outside of oneself.
I can’t. I’m clouded and overcast.
Have been for over forty years, today.

There was a time when everyday was shining.
Then the lake effect snow came, buried me.
For years I tried digging out.
Now, many days are bright,
but never this day.
The memory crushes me, every time.

You were light in my arms,
The shining star at the center of my universe,
The tiniest creature I could imagine.
You cooed and gurgled, and just
Absorbed me with those yellow-blue eyes.

I held you tight against exposed skin, and
Will never forget the feel of your warmth,
Your wet tears, your talon-like nails,
Your screams of hunger and agony.
I started crying when the nurse came in with
Empty arms apologetically outstretched
   – and haven’t stopped.

I knew your light for 20 hours, but
only touched you for one.
You’ve held me ever since.

These carnations, are for you.
I bring them every year.
I like to think they would be your favorite, but
Mainly they became a tradition.
Couldn’t afford better the first years, and
I’ve imagined pinning them to your chest at
Proms, graduations, wedding.

Instead, I kneel here, like every year,
Until after the sun goes down,
With your father’s hand on my back, and
Fill you in on your brothers’ lives.
You’d love them, and they you,
If they’d meet you, and you them,

But you didn’t and they didn’t.
They know you through my suffering, and
Are the reasons I’ve not yet joined you.
My three wondrous lights,
Illuminating my darkness.

But clouds return, darkness endures.
How many nights have I smelled your newborn hair,
Felt your loving arms around my neck, only
To be pulled back by those who need me in life?

One of these days, when my work is done,
My storm will finally subside,
I will lay down beside you, my child,
And hold you once more, everyday.
Together, we will illuminate our darkness.

Process notes: My older brother lived for only a day. My mother leaves flowers on his gravestone every year. This poem is my attempt at exploring her emotions, and takes it a few steps further.

Tony Daly is a DC/Metro Area creative writer. His work is forthcoming in anthologies from Wolfsinger Publications and Fantasia Divinity Magazine, as well as online at Pilcrow & Dagger, Boned-A Collection of Skeletal Writing, and The HorrorZine. He serves as an Associate Editor with Military Experience and the Arts. For links to his published work, visit https://aldaly13.wixsite.com/website

In Wait, by Holly Day

In Wait
by Holly Day

I wrap my thoughts around the egg inside me
tie my nest with hopes and dreams
will my body full of feathers
fluff and bubblewrap.

Each step leads me to disaster. I
could trip and fall and lose it all.

I wrap myself in blankets and pills
cradle my stomach in warmth
close windows against drafts and rain
barricade the door against wolves outside.

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.