Red Wolf Editions Spring 2021 Edition: The Reaper

Red Wolf Editions Spring 2021
Theme: The Reaper

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
We have come to our real work,
And that when we no longer know which way to go
We have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
–Wendell Berry

For a time during the coronavirus spread, was death not so far from your mind? It was constantly on mine, as death tolls climbed in Italy, then Spain, then the UK, and the US, the fact that death was real, your own death you know, should you be stricken too. So the title of the Spring 2021 issue should come as little surprise, I suppose, to your mind, to refer to the Grim Reaper. But the reaper I really have in mind, is the one in the fields, reaping what was sown. Jean-François Millet’s painting depicts a rich harvest in the background, which can be seen as, in a particular context, your life’s work. We have all labored, in our lives, to bring about value and sustenance, to oneself, to our families, to the world at large.

In Greek mythology, Cronos was conflated with Father Time, wielding the harvesting scythe. According to one creation myth, a cut was made between heaven and earth thus enabling the beginning of time and of human history. The “castration” of heaven, as this event was referred to, was by means of a sickle. So it is that the god of time is associated with “calendars, seasons, harvests” (Wikipedia). In time, if we labor, comes harvest season. It is the culmination of human effort, your effort no less, and metaphorically speaking, what you do with your time shapes everything that comes after. Life is about the effort you put in. In the end, it shapes your identity and carves out your name, immortalizes it. Ah well, maybe I’m romanticizing, about the immortality bit. The results are often temporal.

There’s nothing romantic about labor. The gleaners, in Jean-François Millet’s time, were the peasants who perform a back-breaking job to collect what’s left over at the end of harvest. One woman searches for stray grains on the ground, one collects the grains and the third ties them all together. They’re collecting the crumbs, which could function as metaphor for how society, then and now, works. Then, as now, the landowners enjoyed the better part of the harvest, while the peasants who undertook the hard labor collected the meagre crumbs. In this bucolic picture, the painter valorized the rural working class by making the peasant women his subject. It made a commentary about the social divide by situating the harvest of wheat in the far distance. The contrast between lack and plenty—does that move you to write a poem?

What moves you to write a poem? Poems may be viewed as small culminations of a poet’s life experiences. A seasonal harvest. They take what comes at hand, catalog particulars from real and imagined life, and somehow become radiant with meaning. In creating our poems, we’re leaving echoes of ourselves in a real or imagined way. Poems come into the awareness of another, a reader, and we become part of this eddying world of meaning that we’ve created for ourselves, a verge of knowing. Written in a fit of spiritual urgency, poems are of experience born and so may help us find our sense of bearing in the temporal world.

I’m after your harvest. The afterglow of your experience. Perhaps you want to reflect on the idea of labor, the work that mothers do, or grandparents, or doctors, or whoever had impressed you in some way. Perhaps you want to reflect on some inequalities that you’d witnessed. You’d definitely want to write about your writing life, since you’re a poet in practice. Actually, just write about anything that you know, the person you’d known and loved, and perhaps lost, the past opportunities, anything you’ve reaped in your imagination. It behooves me to say now is the time to reap the language of poetry, which in my favorite definition is to get to the “furnace of meaning in the human story” as Mary Oliver said.

Perhaps you are at a stage of life, when that old adage, reap what you sow, comes to play. I told my sons the other day that I’m now resting on my laurels. I labor no more, I’m at rest, at ease. Perhaps my work has come to a completion, and like the gleaners in Jean-François Millet’s painting, I’m just picking the leftovers, what remains for me to finish up. When you come to the end of labor, it’s harvest season. It’s an outpouring, a bounty. Then of course you wait. Will the next season come? Or will the Grim Reaper?

Which is the iconic harvest poem? To me it’s this one.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
—John Keats, “Ode to Autumn”

So what was the flowering you had, what fruit have you gathered? Is it then a looking back? What intimacies? Were they bittersweet? What were those events that had watered your soul? What is your summation? For isn’t it true that whatever happened happened for a reason, for something that is within you, your soul, what you came here for? I leave you with these lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”.

And as to you Corpse I think you are good manure, but that does not offend me,
I smell the white roses sweet-scented and growing,
I reach to the leafy lips, I reach to the polish’d breasts of melons.

Finally you might want to think about the work that poems do, by naming all the things you’ve named with words, but to harvest meaning beyond the words, all for your readers to glean. And are you indeed the reaper?

Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any acceptance or rejection letters.

Submissions period: 1 September 2020 to 26 February 2021. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Spring 2021.

Good writing.

Irene Toh
Spring 2021 Edition

PDF Release of Journeying, Fall 2020 Issue 17

book cover issue 17

I am pleased to announce the release of the Fall 2020 Issue.

The poets with work in the Journeying edition are:

Misky Braendeholm
Paula Bonnell
Corbett Buchly
Jeff Burt
Alan Cohen
Carolyn Clark
Barbara Daniels
Mark Danowsky
Holly Day
Edilson Ferreira
Peter Goodwin
John Grey
Diane Jackman3
Gurupreet K. Khalsa
Ron. Lavalette
Lori Levy
Marie C Lecrivain
Karla Linn Merrifield
Shelly Narang
Akshaya Pawaskar
John D Robinson
Judith Sanders
Emil Sinclair
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins
Greg Stidham
Ivor Steven
Debi Swim
Alan Toltzis
Mark Tulin
Elise Woods
Mantz York

You may download a copy of the PDF release here.

Journeying Fall 2020 Issue 17

You’re invited to submit to our new issue, titled The Reaper. Read submission guidelines here. You may also find us over at the other site at Red Wolf Editions. Happy writing!

Irene Toh
Fall 2020

Against the Rules, by Diane Jackman

Against the Rules
by Diane Jackman

I make this journey today
when we have laid you in the ground.
I cannot sit in an empty house
and so I drive through the rules of pandemic

to the place where we were happy last,
the ruins of the leper hospital
falling into the northern sea.
Though I am confined to the car,

I gaze through the broken arch
where still the Portland sheep
and rust-coated cattle graze,
survivors, with me, of that remembered day.

I drive home strangely comforted.

Diane Jackman’s poetry has appeared in small press magazines and anthologies, and has won or placed in several competition. Starting as a children’s writer she now concentrates on poetry. She is passionately interested in medieval rabbit warrens and Anglo-Saxon literature. She runs a poetry café in Brandon in the heart of the Breckland, England’s desert.

Ars Poetica, by Karla Linn Merrifield

Ars Poetica
by Karla Linn Merrifield

Here is dark morph northern fulmar,
one among fifty thousand I will see,
precisely as many as my thoughts
on the average human day, eight percent

of them but echoes of an original—
we think, rethink.
I have an idea:
I wish to be a seabird,

then invent the doppelgänger image.
I wish to glide far and wide above
the Bering Sea as does the archetypal
specimen of Fulmaris glacialis

who flies into this doubling line
to complete the closing couplet.

Karla Linn Merrifield has had 800+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the 2019 full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. In early 2021, her Half a World of Kisses will be published by Truth Serum Press (Australia) under its new Lindauer Poets imprint. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY).


Lockdown, by Adrienne Stevenson

by Adrienne Stevenson

there’s great discomfort, sitting
on this razor’s edge of boredom
all voices muted, filtered, distant
human contact dulled to a wave
smiling with eyes only

our decisions all pragmatic
we bow to the necessity of distance
keenest pain that of loneliness
belatedly, we begin to realize
how much we need others

even if we could travel
and that’s forbidden now
where would we go to escape?
no haven is secure enough
all choices harsh

Adrienne Stevenson is a Canadian living in Ottawa, Ontario. A retired forensic scientist, she writes poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Her poetry has been published in Bywords, Constellate Magazine, Quills, Scarlet Leaf Review, Blood & Bourbon, The Wire’s Dream, The Literary Nest, The Poet-On the Road, Ottawa Poets Pathway Lampman Challenge chapbook, Time and Again Poetry Anthology chapbook, and 20/20 Vision by Canadian Authors Association-National Capital Branch.

Arrival CDG – 2014, by Carolyn Clark

Arrival CDG – 2014
by Carolyn Clark
                                     for Sean and Caroline

Our white mare follows me
even across oceans:
transported inadvertently
past la douane
one white horsehair
on my jacket, brand “Avalanche.”

This level crossing of la banlieue
the Blue line at first glance so similar to Rockville’s
Red line: above ground, green and below…

but – Sycamores – here there are more of them,
Isis’ gift,
and ubiquitous graffiti.

Similarities abound,
parallels to Tribeca, trains of NY.

Yet here these trees adapt, hang on.
And graffiti? Why try to erase
that which cannot be (erased).
A deeper history here relives the pain
of centuries as if it were yesterday.

I’m crossing towards Paris, past
crumbled buildings and crumpled litter
that stills swirl in place,
yet today the early light,
and hope, slices of fresh shade,
cool in summer,
put on a fresh face.

Carolyn Clark, Ph.D., is a devoted teacher and a personal trainer. Indebted to teachers at Cornell University, Brown University, and The Johns Hopkins University for degrees in Classics-related fields, she enjoys riding, writing woodlands lyric poetry, and finding mythology everywhere.

Lost Summer, by Jon Wesick

Lost Summer
by Jon Wesick

White walls, beige carpet, popcorn ceiling, three bookshelves, unused Quebec and Nova Scotia guidebooks, wooden sword, window AC unit with blinking change-filter light, indigo loveseat, IKEA coffee table, Kleenex, Kindle, tea mug, fountain pen, seven plastic storage boxes, exercycle, red-and-gold poster from my feature at the Kerouac Café, chicken stock, canned tomatoes, five pounds of brown rice, cherry mead fermenting in a gallon jug, stand mixer, toaster oven, busted microwave, stove with two broken burners I won’t report to the maintenance staff so proud in their refusal to wear face masks, six pair of shoes, disinfectant wipes by the door locked to keep the virus out, two file cabinets, last paycheck, first Social Security check, full-size latex mattress, meditation bench, Thich Nhat Hahn calendar, desk, two office chairs, laptop for Netflix and Zoom meetings

White walls, beige carpet, popcorn ceiling, unused guidebooks, white walls, beige carpet, popcorn ceiling, white walls, beige carpet, popcorn ceiling

Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Metal Scratches, Pearl, Slipstream, Space and Time, Tales of the Talisman, and Zahir. The editors of Knot Magazine nominated his story “The Visitor” for a Pushcart Prize. His poem “Meditation Instruction” won the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2016 Spirit First Contest. Another poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists Contest. “Richard Feynman’s Commute” shared third place in the 2017 Rhysling Award’s short poem category. Jon is the author of the poetry collection Words of Power, Dances of Freedom as well as several novels and most recently the short-story collection The Alchemist’s Grandson Changes His Name.

Ablutions, by Fred Zirm

by Fred Zirm

Now we sing Happy Birthday to ourselves
twice, just in case we don’t make it to
next year, as we wash our hands like surgeons,
like that Scottish lady, like Pilate, like priests
in preparation or repentance or faith or fear
for all the good and ill our touch has brought
all the way from China unless we change
our tune and learn to sing together.

After earning a B.A. and M.A. in English from Michigan State and an M.F.A. from the Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa, Fred Zirm spent nearly 40 years teaching English and drama at an independent school. Since his retirement, he has continued to direct plays but has also focused on writing poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. His work has been published in about a dozen small literary magazines and anthologies, including Still Crazy, cahoodadoodaling, NEAT, Voices de la Luna, Greek Fire, and Objects in the Rearview Mirror. He lives with his wife and younger daughter in Rockville, MD.

Grocery Run, by Jon Wesick

Grocery Run
by Jon Wesick

White hair, gaunt bodies, toothless mouths
hidden behind sky-blue facemasks, they wander, listless
as George Romero’s zombies, mindless feeding machines
programmed to consume by a cold uncaring universe.
They shuffle inexorably forward, fingering limp broccoli,
flabby Brussels sprouts, and frozen ribs
large as Toyota Camrys.
I imagine them devouring the raw pork,
their dentures, like flesh-eating beetles,
picking the bones clean of pinkish-gray meat.

Glasses fogged, hands covered in contagion
due to the lack of disinfectant wipes at the door,
I push a cart loaded with five-pound bags
of potatoes and onions of dubious provenance.
The shelves, empty as interstellar space.
And although science has proved a vacuum
is more than nothing, I cannot subsist
on quantum fields alone.

Chicken stock, canned tomatoes, still no yeast.
Tough are the soles that tread
the blue, taped arrows on the floor
that knife edge of safety between microscopic assassins
or maybe some giant tentacle that would burst
through the gray linoleum and drag me into the abyss.

A stock boy blocks my path, his barcode reader
threatening as a serial killer’s chainsaw.
“Got any eggs?” I ask.
“No, we don’t have hand sanitizer.
The store without eggs is across the street.”

Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Metal Scratches, Pearl, Slipstream, Space and Time, Tales of the Talisman, and Zahir. The editors of Knot Magazine nominated his story “The Visitor” for a Pushcart Prize. His poem “Meditation Instruction” won the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2016 Spirit First Contest. Another poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists Contest. “Richard Feynman’s Commute” shared third place in the 2017 Rhysling Award’s short poem category. Jon is the author of the poetry collection Words of Power, Dances of Freedom as well as several novels and most recently the short-story collection The Alchemist’s Grandson Changes His Name.

San Lucas Mission, by Elise Woods

San Lucas Mission
by Elise Woods

I first heard about San Lucas when I studied abroad.
I was told by a middle-aged professor named Gordon that I should
really consider going.

During the week of Semana Santa, it was customary to reflect.
Colorful carpets called alfombras were made out of flowers;
everyone was quiet during a somber parade.

Tuesday was Market day:
All the vendors would gather to sell fruits, vegetables, and crafts.
They would sell whatever they could pass off for a reasonable sum.

The children I worked with at the biblioteca
Would brush their teeth at school and smile through foam.
I stayed five months before yearning for home.

Elise Woods is an assistant tutoring coordinator at Jefferson Community & Technical College. Her work has appeared in The Avenue, The Learning Assistance Review, and SpreeBeez magazine.