It is the Nature of the Beast, by Debi Swim

It is the Nature of the Beast
by Debi Swim

See the wisteria’s jumbled limbs? Their tightly clasped leaves just beginning to unfurl makes a green lacy pattern against a clear sky. Soon it will be a jungle, a maze of hidey holes and perches for the birds. The feeder hangs from a low branch. All day juncos, grackles, jays, cardinals and their cousins dash and jostle, scrabble and fuss for a place on the ledge. A woodpecker swoops in, hangs by its claws, half its body underneath dangling like an acrobat. The nuthatches fling seed hither and yon – picky eaters – while below on the ground heavy, clumsy doves clean up their mess. Turkeys come early morning and late evening scratching the spot beneath the feeder for leftovers furrowing a patch that will become a muddy mess with the next rain.
Marvel at the chipmunk as he climbs the thick, twining base and gracefully, agilely jumps to the feeder, the squirrel, too. Deer come, mostly fall and winter and butt the feeder with their heads, then munch on the splatter at their leisure.

                In every season the feeder an oasis, a cheery café.

And yet, this happy scene is marred by an ominous shadow. A circling hawk is attracted by the activity below. His keen eyes on the prize, he waits for his chance, sees a careless chipmunk scampering across the lawn and with a noiseless plunge scoops his prey in deathly grip of talons and carries the limp bundle away. Imagine the calamity of it on a peaceful, ordinary day. The swiftness of the attack, the scurrying of the creatures and then the waiting, with trembling and skipping hearts till one brave bird dares the feeder again and all becomes normal again.
It is the way of nature and of the world. But, at least nature is not malicious. It does not attack out of hate and erroneous ideology. It is only survival. Let man take notice.

                Greed, terrorism, hate, ways of the human order, nature’s greatest foe.

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and persistent WV poet.

The World Looks Different, by Martin Willitts Jr

The World Looks Different
by Martin Willitts Jr

from a hay wagon
the world looks slower

and bouncy
as the wheels find
every rut
not missing any

my bones jump inside

I can pitchfork this truth
the Amish way
and find hundreds of silences

I can name the variations

I can guide them
with these horse reins
getting nowhere fast
arriving where I want to be

it will be years
before I move to the city
and learn
how to become a blur

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).

Release of Spring/Summer 2017 Issue: Sweet Sorrow


We are pleased to announce the release of the Spring/Summer 2017 Issue.

The poets with work in this edition are:

Ed Ahern
Iris J. Arenson-Fuller
Salvatore Buttaci
Marilyn Braendeholm
Darren Demaree
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Christopher Hileman
John Huey
Diane Jackman
Michael Lee Johnson
LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Patricia McGoldrick
Josh Medsker
Sergio A. Ortiz
Roslyn Ross
Elena Sands
Debi Swim
Alan Toltzis
Walter J. Wojtanik

You may download a copy of the PDF release here.

Red Wolf Journal spring summer 2017 Issue 11

In conjunction we are releasing a special prompted edition featuring the work of the poets who had written to the prompts at our sister site, Red Wolf Poems.

spring summer 2017 prompted edition

You may download a copy here.

Red Wolf Journal spring summer 2017 Issue 11 Prompted edition

The third release is a collection of the poems written by Irene during the period of the Spring/Summer 2017 edition. You may download a copy here.

sweet sorrow by irene toh1

Sweet Sorrow by Irene Toh

We welcome your submission of new poems to our journal, particularly on the theme of memento mori.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh & Tawnya Smith
Spring/Summer 2017 Editors

Goodbye and Hello, by John Huey

Goodbye and Hello
by John Huey

That was no way to leave me,
at the start of a year, with heartless
fortitude undressing, dressing and
heading out the door.

Within the disquiet you remain a composite,
more than one person but just one as
only you could have ever been.

In the car, close by you, in the dark, in
January, we took our break and headed
West across the divide that I drove but
once but have never, ever driven again
as even now, as an older man, over the
trips West in the hundreds, yes, hundreds,
sometimes in the air, in my astonishment,
is a remembrance of you.

Flying over the interstates still sometimes
seeing you sleeping next to me on the back
seat all the way out, your breath on my ear
but in separate rooms, intimate but fleeting
as you, for a while, could never
stray far from me.

A presence, you even came to the mountains
when your father died and I tried to empathize
but you, an orphan twice, were inconsolable
and there threw yourself, like we all did, to
hedonism as a diversion and made my
life hell for a while.

But beast that I am I recovered and made it
down to Boston and the student nurses and
ran a rampant mile or two up one end of
Boylston and down the other until we found
ourselves meeting at your sisters’ place, she
your twin but more sensible, and there,
finally reconciling your opacity and
determined self-rule, I told myself
I was rid of you.

Though there, in recollection, was that last
leg of our only road trip, up on the borderline
near the park in San Francisco on the
good end of Balboa Street where I was
broken again, dreaming of being with
you forever in some damaged fantasy
that involved a passion that was an
impossible rub for the misaligned as,
out of all proportion and with all due
warning, I persisted which was a pattern
of sorts of long standing only broken
decades later when it just timed out.

Despite seeming bewilderment, the absent
memory abates but the wheels keep turning
on the asphalt ribbon through Texas and
New Mexico, across Arizona and beyond, up
the Coast Highway, the elephant seals on the
rocks still calling from below, their fresh
cries resonant always though far from
audible, a long way from that
course in miracles.

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. He has had poems presented in Poetry Quarterly and in the Temptation anthology published in London by Lost Tower Publications. Work has also appeared in Leannan Magazine, Sein und Werde, at In Between Hangovers, Bourgeon, The Lost River Review and Perfume River Poetry Review. His full-length book, The Moscow Poetry File, will be out on Finishing Line Press on October 13, 2017.

A Lonely Man, by Christopher Hileman

A Lonely Man
by Christopher Hileman

A sense of the end
dogs me all around the slope
behind my log house
as I pull slivers
out my dad-blamed body parts
and hear the rooster
crow in his cage built
by Jose for him last spring.
A fine black fellow
is Leo, with eyes
that pierce the hen perfumed air
and his hens stay close.
I have no hen, me.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 320.

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.

Like Bourbon It’s Best Aged, by Debi Swim

Like Bourbon It’s Best Aged
by Debi Swim

Can it be possible
you look at me and see
something I don’t see?
You fell in love,
I can understand that,
cause love is blind they say.
What puzzles me is that you stay –
not stay with me, you’re a faithful man,
but stay in love with this old crone
of loose flesh and thinning bone.

Can it be possible
after all this time
of plodding forward arm in arm
you forgive the passing years
and gravity for the damage
to sweet young flesh?
Can overlook reality
and view instead
with eyes that gently see
beyond this shell
to the very soul of me.

Can it be possible?
Oh, yes.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 319.

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

My Heart Is A Crucible Of Light, by Elena Sands

My Heart Is A Crucible Of Light
by Elena Sands

Blue twilight frames your face
from the window above your bed.
My fingers trace contours,
weaving spells of sleep.

My heart is a crucible of light,
a maelstrom of surrender.

We poor devils in love,
how we spin.
We are storms of joy
in teacups and coffee mugs.

I catch raindrop seconds and die
over and over,
lying here watching you sleep,
sirens sing me stupid and blind
I don’t mind,
I never mind.

Maybe that’s what love is,
an extreme focus,
tunneled everything.
We wanderers in the dark
finally see the path.

I’ve found my home.
You are my home.

Originally from Texas, Elena Sands is currently a math teacher in Ohio. She’s been writing poems since first grade.

The Smell Of Death, by Debi Swim

The Smell Of Death
by Debi Swim

They urged me forward, “Go say hello”
they said, but he was asleep… I hoped,
sleeping behind the wrinkles of pain.
I tried to remember him tall and gentle,
a shy smile lighting his eyes, toting the black
bag he carried to doctor sick animals.
He took us kids on calls sometimes
in his 1940s Chrysler Sedan.
By that time he was retired,
just doctoring as a favor and passing time.
But now walking into this quiet room, shades pulled,
the sounds of shallow puffs through thin lips,
an occasional quiet moan, sheet drawn over
yellowed parchment skin and sharp bones
frightened me. My first face to face
with the ancient foe, and I’ll always recall
the smell of death not quite disguised
beneath the medicinal scent of Lysol.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 315.

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

Feeling Distant, by Christopher Hileman

Feeling Distant
by Christopher Hileman

I took a wrong turn
on the way to Pluto’s moon.
I forget the name
of the place I’ve been
searching for in all this time
circuiting the edge
where the sun is just
a bright, largish star.

It’s cold
out here, as you know.
I hoped to find signs
and I still might at a guess
but it feels remote
and getting more so
as the oxygen runs low
and the windows freeze.

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 314.

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.

between, by Diane Jackman

by Diane Jackman

at the water’s edge I see him skim
a stone across the waves
it bounces four five times
sinks into the ebb tide
waves roll in break on the shingle
there is no seventh wave

grey sky and grey sea
I see him bend to choose again
draw back his arm familiar
the stone flies against the sand-cliffs
the wandering dog’s pale coat
lost in the half-light

a bell tolls on the evening air
at my feet a square
of sea-glass thumbnail small
through a glass darkly
I see him move into the sea
strike out and swim away

Process note: An other-worldly incident walking my late husband’s dog along his favorite beach.

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.