Élan vital ― Evolution Of My Soul, by Debi Swim

Élan vital ― Evolution of My Soul
by Debi Swim

In the Sedona hills someone built a wood covered platform and added plastic chairs. It looks out on a Buddha statue sitting on red dirt and scruffy growing things. I sat with him in the dry heat of the day, he quietly placid faced and I pensive, still. I had just seen the Chapel of the Holy Cross slender, reaching toward the clear open sky from a clutch of rock. My sister says the ancient rocks hold a spiritual vortex, place of healing, crystals, finding one’s self and center.

Shaded from the sun in the shadow of Buddha I think of Sanctity.

She speaks of the line of light snaking up the slopes of chanting, drum beating, singing, worshipful souls in the late evenings sometimes. People don’t want a religion but they desire a connection. In the pure peacefulness of an open sky dotted with a billion stars there is a feeling of Otherness there. A deep-seated desire for union with, understanding of, acceptance, wholeness, a filling of the emptiness we call a spiritual journey.

Our lives are a journey toward what has always been waiting for us to find.


Image via Wikipedia

Debi’s note: I visited my sister in Sedona and was impressed with its beauty and sacredness.

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and happy WV poet. Blogs at georgeplacepoetrybydebiswim.

The Gaining of Wisdom, by Alan Toltzis

The Gaining of Wisdom
by Alan Toltzis

Stuffing one last bit
of moist green leaf into his bulging maw,
caterpillar felt something
he was full.

His fearsome, snake-eyed skin
and split
as he spit a filament-wide hammock
that solidified in midair.
More goo buttoned him to a twig
among his lacy chronicles
of nonstop feasting.

Muscular, peristaltic wriggling
rid him of his last rag of beauty.
It fell away
revealing the luminous, ringed sarcophagus
that was always within.

Immobile and shielded,
he would never eat again
or crawl,
or spin.

By knowing what was inside him,
was about to change.

Process Notes: The poem itself went through a lot of change and revision. It started as an exploration of whether we can truly be aware of another’s needs. I then started wondering about self awareness and if we could anticipate our own needs as we change and grow. That led me to the caterpillar and the striking differences as it changes from caterpillar to chrysalis. The poem ended up saying something different about beauty and how it can hamper and then lead to self-discovery and appreciation of differences.

Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment. His work has appeared in print and online journals including The Provo Canyon Review, The Red Wolf Literary Journal, Poetica, and Burningword Literary Journal. Visit him online at http://www.alantoltzis.com.

Winter 2015/2016 Issue 8: Seeing Beauty

Seeing beauty

Red Wolf Journal Issue 8 (Winter 2015/2016)
Our theme: “Seeing Beauty”

Suddenly, without expecting it, beauty is there. Yet ultimately beauty is a profound illumination of presence, a stirring of the invisible in visible form …”
― John O’Donohue

Beauty is a woman like Miss Universe. Ha! Or is Beauty the woman you love and behold? Beauty is, in fact, what you see. It is personal. Hence it lies in the eyes of the beholder. Where do you see beauty? That is the question for pondering.

True beauty has been transfigured by time. When you see a particular landscape that has been imbued by time, like the ancient rocks of Sedona, you perhaps experience a sense of stillness, solitude and silence. You are receiving time. Yet in receiving it you are steeped in its timelessness. Furthermore, nature seems to be a direct expression of divine beauty. You see beauty in the natural landscape―mountains, rivers, trees, whatever―and the creatures―hummingbird, snow leopard, salmon, whatever―that inhabit it. It is everywhere around.

That the beauty of these creatures, including human beings, shall eventually fade and finally die, whose frail presences shall fade into eternal absences, where does that leave us? Wreckage, loss and absence. These truths wrought within us a sense of their beauty rooted in time and yet somehow transcending it. Mortality enables us to see darkness in light, and light in darkness. We remember their colors. How we felt in their presences, enlivened as if a thread of infinity held us and it was through them that we have felt most alive. Then there is our ability to imagine them when they’ve become ghosts, an ability that makes us feel loss keenly and yet the act of summoning these ghosts fills us. Thus beauty is ether–sullied by ghosts, clothed in memory, revisited by imagination. What is beauty but to have known fullness?

Beauty achieves forms that are expressions of the human soul. So beauty is form, and form beauty—a variant of Keatsian truth. The quest for ultimate truth leads us to beauty. To quote O’Donohue, “We were sent into the world alive with beauty. As soon as we choose Beauty, unseen forces conspire to guide and encourage us towards unexpected forms of compassion, healing and creativity.” We heal from our woundedness, are transfigured through feeling, suffering. Then the beauty of our own human soul becomes luminous. Beauty is, says O’Donohue, “the illumination of your soul.”

How do we begin to see beauty? When our souls awaken and begin to recognize the concealed beauty of our mystical world, our stance changes to one filled with reverence and longing. We become attuned to nature’s rhythm–day and night; the change of seasons. Beauty makes us love. Love discloses another’s sacred and secret identity. It allows us to see one another in the soul’s individuality. I see you. An African greeting, “sawa bona”. The response is “Sikhona” (“I am here”). The exchange means, “until you see me, I do not exist and when you see me, you bring me into existence.” The beauty of the human soul seen by another.

How do we begin to see beauty in suffering? When we experience unexpected grace, in whatever form. Our cover art, Sandro Botticelli’s The Annunciation, depicts the Virgin Mary being visited by the angel, Gabriel, receiving the message that she had been impregnated and would bear the son of God. That is a moment of grace and significance, made timeless through art. Isn’t life more meaningful if one is given a sense of some higher order? That kind of spirituality is surely how beauty resonates with soul. Is there beauty in mystery, you might ask.

Nature-inspired poems, creaturely poems, love poems, spiritual poems–would you have it within to find a note of sacred beauty somewhere? A reason to celebrate saying “I am here.” Above all, presence is beautiful, real or ghost.

Have you noticed?
how the immense circles still,
stubbornly, after a hundred years,
mark the grass where the rich droppings
from the roaring bulls
fell to the earth as the herd stood
day after day, moon after moon
in their tribal circle, outwaiting
the packs of yellow-eyed wolves that are also
have you noticed? gone now.

Mary Oliver, “Ghosts”

We hope you collaborate in our poetic quest.

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 



Interpret the theme however you wish. Submit poems to us by email here.


Please review the submission guidelines and then send us your poems in the body of an email.

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 November 2015 to February 2016 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.

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Winter 2015/2016 Editors

Release of Fall 2015 Issue 7 (PDF Edition)

We are pleased to announce the release of Red Wolf Journal’s Fall 2015 Issue 7.

Red Wolf Journal Fall 2015 Issue 7

The poets with work in this edition are:

Marilyn Braendeholm
Vivienne Blake
Mark Danowsky
Hannah Gosselin
Christopher Hileman
Nancy Iannucci
Tom Montag
Debi Swim

You are welcome to submit work to our upcoming Winter 2015 Issue 8. The theme is “Seeing Beauty”.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Summer 2015 Editors