Spring/Summer 2017: Sweet Sorrow

Red Wolf Journal Issue 11 (Spring/Summer 2017)
Our theme: “Sweet Sorrow”


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.


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!

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Editors, Red Wolf Journal

Bent Trails, by John Huey

Bent Trails
by John Huey

As the summer progressed we wandered past
the lower hills and found a path at the peak.
Broken walls and stony farms, land reclaimed
and lost, drawn down, the silence here, the ridge
dwellers thinking of the frost to come.

Undemanding, these times challenged the atheist,
as if the purely material could not be infused with
beauty in the turbulence of the end of the decade
where belief in all its shadings was modified by the
shelter of contradiction as there we stood, with
absolute certainty, locked in affirmation, one hand
in another, the scent of freshly bathed skin and a
turning in the summer bed at twilight and in the dawn
the shift of limbs and the discovery that the fantasy of
what had passed no longer shadowed you as some sort
of requirement for belief.

So, the atheist said, struggle is struggle, the morning
light that strikes up the day being sufficient, flowers
in the field just so, a color burst on the retina and all
energy is equal as it crosses over to the brain for the
thinker and the dreamer alike.

And the hippies up there with bell and incense, fake
Indians, suburban shamans, bogus vision, picked up their
foggy tools and ascribed this real day to something or
someone else with evasive fictions to go with their
holographic nonsense to create something from vacant air.

The truth being that light is light only and is heat from the
sun expressed as breath, impulse and illumination,
this from within that is as actual as chemistry,
one cell in communication with another across an electric grid,
without external mediation, complete, present in the conviction
that what is seen is what is real.

And so, with these struggles, we still made it to the top of
Putney mountain and saw the valley and the green tops of
the native hills and felt the roar of the glaciers from tens of
thousands of years and saw the sun on the ice long before
the arrival of men in these parts and took in the breath of
science, a pure air on the top with the assurance
that one human thought communicated with grace
was enough for all the days and means and times and
that their distorted cosmologies missed the fine mornings
on the mountainside and failed to regard the sight of
the spheres above at night, as later, toward morning,
we saw the breath of the owl blown as mist from the crest
of the first winter tree, moving all these distortions aside
and making the facts sing.

John Huey’s student work of the 60’s-70’s was influenced by teachers in Vermont such as John Irving at Windham College and William Meredith at Bread Loaf.
After many years he returned to writing poetry in 2011. Recently he has had poems presented in two issues of Poetry Quarterly and in the Temptation anthology published in London by Lost Tower Publications. Work has also appeared in Leannan Magazine, Sein und Werden, at In Between Hangovers and in The Lost River Review. His first full length book, The Moscow Poetry File, has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press and it will be out in October 2017.

Monarch, by Peter D. Goodwin

by Peter D. Goodwin

I’m sitting on my deck, the summer to drift by
when she sees a bright red orange sparkle fluttering
in the garden, touching on the buddleia, flying
high into the sky, behind a tree, drifting down again,
touching, tasting the purple flowers, drifting up and
down again to another tempting flower.

Joyfully she follows it, stimulated, greedy, ecstatic,
its gaudy colors shimmering in the afternoon light, its
wings opening closing, teasing—a monarch butterfly.
I realize with a shock that it had been years.

The butterfly flutters from flower to flower, until it drifts
beyond our small patch, reminding me that it—along with
so many creatures—are drifting, flying, fluttering, running,
sniffing, burrowing, crawling, prancing towards extinction.

Once a rootless wanderer, Peter D. Goodwin now resides in Maryland, close to the Chesapeake Bay, writes poetry while unwillingly providing succulent treats for deer, rodents, birds and insects.

Back To Back, by Pegi Deitz Shea

Back To Back
by Pegi Deitz Shea

Seventh grade son and I order
at Friendly’s, then he
stands to go wash his hands.
A girl in the booth behind us
whispers to her mother,
“It’s him!”
As he returns, he nods
small-like, and she giggles.

They sit back to back—impenetrable
five inches of wood and vinyl—
between them. Her currant hair,
his skater boy cap can’t meet
beneath the high banquette.

I fetch a fallen napkin to see
that the mother mirrors
my crinkled eyes.
We’ve been there,
though neither wants to
return to that excruciating age,
yet now we revel in

how our children’s eyes wrap
around the side of the booth,
how they scoot to the edge
of their seats so that elbows
can kiss, how, pink-faced,
they dip chins to shoulders,
as they suck through straws
the milk shakes that fail
to cool their heat
of the moment
that will never
taste so sweet

Pegi Deitz Shea teaches in the Creative Writing Programs at the University of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House in Hartford and the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her poetry for adult readers has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Earth’s Daughters and Connecticut River Review. Many of her award-winning books for young readers focus on human rights and social justice issues. Pegi’s website

SALUT, MADAME CEZANNE for Hortense Fiquet, by Pegi Deitz Shea

Salut, Madame Cezanne
      for Hortense Fiquet
by Pegi Deitz Shea

At the Met, I bristle
through an exhibit
and call across the year
you’ve been dead:
Uncle Pierre,
as a young sculptor
in Ecole des Beaux Arts,
what did you make of
the Madame Cezannes?

In 29 portraits Hortense
fully buttoned-up
never smiles,
never smirks,
never seeks
a light with her eyes.
Did she have bad teeth?
Did her back ache
from sitting
still as an apple
for her husband
150 times per portrait?
Is she choleric
having been caché
for 17 years—
Paul too ashamed
of her low status,
afraid to lose
Papa’s allowance.

Pierre, in your hands,
she could not have
contained her mirth
nor you your mischief.
You would have
unbuttoned her,
untied her, undermined
the lines of her closed lips.
Clothed in clay,
your fingers would have
poured across the funnel
of her clavicles
trickled down her cleavage
waded into orchards
of neglected fruit.

Hortense, Pierre,
my muses, salut!
Now, here
in the Grand Hall
of the Met,
a jazz quartet
models the music
you dare to make
dimensions beyond
a brush stroke’s dream!

Pegi Deitz Shea teaches in the Creative Writing Programs at the University of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House in Hartford and the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her poetry for adult readers has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Earth’s Daughters and Connecticut River Review. Many of her award-winning books for young readers focus on human rights and social justice issues. Pegi’s website

Cain’s Sister Speaks, by Pegi Deitz Shea

Cain’s Sister Speaks
by Pegi Deitz Shea

You didn’t think
that a suckling
could comprehend
your violence,
but I was not far
from my own shouldering
into cold air,
from Mother’s shucking
and I was not foreign
to the shaking by a father
awakened from his sleep
by my cries of hunger,
and I have become
too familiar
with how wrestling,
tussling, tickling among
young siblings
can lead to fondling.

But now I know
that you can be fruitful
and multiply
by simply
slaying me
over and over.

You killed Abel only once.

Pegi Deitz Shea teaches in the Creative Writing Programs at the University of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House in Hartford and the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her poetry for adult readers has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Earth’s Daughters and Connecticut River Review. Many of her award-winning books for young readers focus on human rights and social justice issues. Pegi’s website

Argon, by Larry D. Thacker

by Larry D. Thacker

I was reminded recently how the element
Argon in the air we breathe circulated
forever ago,
                through the lungs and bodies
of the famous and infamous, of human
and animal alike, dinosaur and giant monster
foul, the large creeping thing, the earliest gods.

That last time we spoke, when you hugged
me with your soon to fail arms, I inhaled
your tiny spoken,
                I love you, with all my heart,

surely keeping some of it held in, whispering
back, I love you, too, but not so much so that
last week, in hurricane wind threatened tears,
I imagined pulling up some of that same air
of that last hug from my body that we shared

and added it to the hard winds that tossed
and swept your ashes from the jar, through
the sea oats, added to the sand you always
loved along that North Carolina shore way.

Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found in more than eighty publications including The Still Journal, Poetry South, Mad River Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Mojave River Review, Mannequin Haus, Ghost City Press, Jazz Cigarette, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia and the poetry books, Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the forthcoming, Drifting in Awe. He’s presently working on his MFA in both poetry and fiction. Visit his website at: http://www.larrydthacker.com

Lipstick, by Diana Raab

by Diana Raab
      dedicated to Billy Collins

I spin my red convertible sports car
on the dead end street
and go back to my house to get my red lipstick,
because without it, I feel naked
and while rummaging
through my vanity drawer
I glance out the window
to see another me in your heart,
who already appeared in town without her lipstick
and this pattern continues
for the rest of my life—
imagining a person
who always gets somewhere before me
and waits patiently
for what might have been forgotten
while remaining invisible
except in my own mind
as if there were a copy cat
or a stalker to myself,
but a glance in the vanity’s mirror
shows my duplicate, and her eyes
are not as green, nor her hair as thick,
and I stand up with the lipstick in my right hand
and get into the driver’s seat to see that she is already gone.

Diana Raab, PhD, is a poet, memoirist and thought-provoker. She’s the author of 8 books and editor of 2 anthologies. Her book, Writing for Bliss, is forthcoming in September 2017. Diana’s website

I Am Your Slave, by Diana Raab

I Am Your Slave
by Diana Raab

I am pulled into your energy
I am yanked into your heart.

I borrow your breaths
as I search for my last one

wondering what I was thinking
when you reached for me

and I said okay before pulling back
into my cocoon which wrapped
protective strings around me.

So many days later, you came back,
pulled those fine strings to unravel

my world watching me spin in circles
to release myself from your grasp.

I am your slave and there’s no other way
of looking at this predicament I am in.

Diana Raab, PhD, is a poet, memoirist and thought-provoker. She’s the author of 8 books and editor of 2 anthologies. Her book, Writing for Bliss, is forthcoming in September 2017. Diana’s website

Just The Flu, by Andrew Hubbard

Just The Flu
by Andrew Hubbard

It sounded like the doctor
Was talking from far away, underwater.
He said, “little kids spike a high fever
He’s strong, just give him lots of fluids
He’ll be right as rain tomorrow.”

So I shook and baked and sweat
And slept and dreamed
I was in a field of tall brown waving grass
And low, lush blueberry bushes
Bent with heavy loads of bursting fruit.

I had the scrubbed-out lard can
Mommy gave me for berries
And I was on my knees picking
And dropping berries into the can
And as they fell each one turned into a pearl
Pure white and gleaming.

The pearls all whispered
And their voices blended
Saying, “you won’t be poor any more,
You’ll never be poor any more.”

“Food—all you want
And a puppy, and the clothes
Mommy’s ashamed to ask for
And medicine for sister.”

I ran home with the lard can
Hugged to my chest and the pearls
Clicking together like marbles.

I gave them all to Mommy
And she held me and cried
And cried. Her tears dropped
On my face, and I began to know
I was not there, I’d left
Without even knowing
For the place
Pearls come from.

Andrew Hubbard was born and raised in a coastal Maine fishing village. He earned degrees in English and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and Columbia University, respectively. He has had four prose books published, and his fifth and sixth books, collections of poetry, were published in 2014 and 2016 by Interactive Press.