Cyclamens and Swords Publishing
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Poetry December 2010-2
Poetry December 2010-2

On this page: poems by Neal Whitman, Jerry Breger,  Dawn Draayer Thibodeau, Birgit Talmon, Deepa Kylasam Iyer, Hugh Fox, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Warren Purkel, Ruth Dran

The following works are copyright © 2010. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.    

Neal Whitman

Neal Whitman and his wife, Elaine, live in Pacific Grove, California, and are volunteer docents at poet Robinson Jeffers Tor House in nearby Carmel. They love to walk in the old Carmel-by-the-Sea village streets and peer into the cottages that once housed Bohemians, poets, and artists driven out of San Francisco by the Great Earthquake.

An Incident in Carmel, California

Standing in Holman’s Antique Mall, a 1933 W.B. Yeats,
Collected Poems. Pasted in the inside cover:
First edition, a Prize awarded to Mary Morwood for a First in General Mathematics at the examination. Victoria College of Belfast, Easter of 1929.

But wait, there’s more:
an owner's signature in ink. Marjorie Wurtzmann.

But wait, there's more:
a note in pencil from the bookseller. Marjorie and Fred Wurtzmann
were friends of General Stilwell involved in séances and Theosophy.

But wait, there’s more.
There is something in the fog air of our coast that suggests another world. Take home the Holman copy and find between
A Fairy Song and The Lake Isle of Innisfree
a sonnet torn from The Carmel Pine Cone,
“In the Peace of the Laurel Hills,” by Monica Tyler Brown:
The California hillside wears a veil
Like moon mist woven by the laurel spring
Distilling healing fragrance from the haze…

But wait, there’s more.
Ask an old-timer if he knew the Wurtzmanns. Yes! Last saw Marge at a 1996 50th commemoration of General Stilwell’s death. Not yet translated into the realm of the spirit where she already had been so at home, she spoke of the visit she and Fred made with Winnie Stilwell fifty years ago to the San Francisco home of a medium, Mrs. Becker.

After Stillwell's ashes had been tossed to the wind currents above Carmel Beach, the three of them drove to Mrs. Becker’s home where they conversed with the old General… and with Mrs. Becker’s ghost-daughter, Molly, who always wanted to see Carmel and rode back with them.

But wait, there’s more…

Jerry Breger


Dr. Jerry Breger is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of South Carolina. He retired in 1993 after holding faculty positions at several universities since 1956. During his years at USC, he taught management and economics and served as director of the Bureau of Urban and Regional Affairs and the Center for Economic Education. Dr. Breger has been involved in synagogue work and Jewish affairs throughout his career. 

Grandma Molly

Dear Grandma Molly,
Once and once only we met;
I was days old and you were dying,
But the story they told in later years
Is a story I can never forget.

The baby that you were never to know
Might have been your dear son, Eddie Joe.
The beautiful son you lost in the War;
He passed on a dozen years before,
Yet you kept him close as mothers do.
And on Shabbat in the candles' flame,
You called to him and spoke his name,
And the soft flame flickered as if he knew

Then when the time came for you to die,
A grandson was born, yours to name;
You saw him and sobbed, not my Eddie Joe,
But I was your grandson all the same;
And the image of you in the candles' glow,
Was transfixed in my soul long years ago,
And often I've wondered if it was not so,
I was born with the spirit of Eddie Joe.

Exit 711

Just ahead, Exit 711;
Off the great highway and on to back roads;
Away from the roar of traffic incessant,
Away from the danger that lurks ever-present,
Away from the drive, intense and unpleasant,
An escape easily done, easily won.

So graceful the back roads, so gentle the way;
Incredibly calm the quiet miles,
Town and country pass the day,
Sweetest of all lifestyles.

But the back roads go nowhere, and the drive is adrift;
The miles add no meaning, nor the trip slow or swift;
And the days drop like oak leaves, all almost the same;
No winners, no losers, no players, no game.

Then the great highway beckons, and I must return;
For whatever cause or purpose, I cannot desist,
But drive the ugly lanes again, while yet I will yearn
For the off road life I left behind, soon so dearly missed.

Dawn Draayer-Thibodeau

Dawn Draayer-Thibodeau works as a psychotherapist in the Twin Cities. She has been a grateful and passionate resident of the worlds of music and literature all her life.

Alfred Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keefe

Or: When I took my three children to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Up the steps and past the lions, and in the heavy doors to the marble man with shaved off parts, cold and smooth. We catch our breath, gather ourselves and consult the map. 8 year old Little Crow takes the lead, map twisting this way and that, picking up the trail and leading us on. We pass the art-student guards in blue suit jackets and cool haircuts, they take a dim view of us, but we bounce along, exuberant, all talking at once. I remind about the two cardinal rules- no running, no touching the art. Yes mama, they are very good, very good. On we go. Little Crow takes us through the forest to the photos, and we enter the gallery.
We fan out and explore quietly, each to his own interest. There are few interlopers in our space. I work my way along, and find him. He stands, leaning against the wall, arms crossed, cheek resting against the wall. His black hair thick, eyes closed, he wears a dark suit……dust has settled quietly in the crevices of the material. He holds a camera. I study him. He barely breathes, is hardly alive. “Mr. Steiglitz?” I whisper, “are you in there?” The movement in the gallery quiets, ceases. “Mr. Steiglitz?” His eyes flutter open and look at me. They are sobering eyes, dark and full of stories. He steps to me and takes me in his arms and begins to slowly waltz. We turn around the room, music coming from an orchestra, somewhere. He holds me close, smiling into my shoulder, but then stops.

“Put your hands by your face” he asks of me, his voice dry with age- “look towards the light.” I do so and he searches my face. He rears back, hurt, dismayed. “You are not my love, you are not my Georgia.” He almost wails this, his voice echoes in the gallery. “You have awoken me, you are not Georgia! Where is my love?”

I search the gallery, there is Little Crow and his two assistants, happily viewing the photos. “Little Crow!” I call. “Please lead this man to the American Art Gallery and make it quick-like!” Little Crow runs over in his deer skin shoes, doing a neat little skid right up to Mr. Steiglitz who buttons up his suit jacket, puts on his hat, takes Little Crow’s outstretched hand and off they go. The two assistants and I follow close behind. Back through the forest of art students, Frank Lloyd Wright chairs, marble men, sarcophagus, long scrolls and giant illuminated paintings in gilt frames. “Here it is!” shouts Little Crow, skidding to a stop in front of the gallery, Mr. Steiglitz in tow, black hair and moustache tousled.

And then he sees her, his darling, his Lily. He goes to her tenderly, aching for her.

And us? We go have lunch.

Birgit Talmon

Birgit Talmon is Danish-born. While living in Beer-Sheva she worked as a licensed desert guide as well as at the Ben-Gurion University. A soprano, she has participated in several operas with the Philharmonic Choir of Tel-Aviv. Works as translator: Danish, English and Hebrew. Has studied prose and poetry with eminent writers in Israel and writes in the above mentioned languages. She publishes poetry and short stories in all three languages in anthologies and literary magazines both in Israel and abroad. Has served on Voices Israel Editorial Board. Her works may be seen on her website


One single
'Happy hour'
On a rocky
High on Tequila
Let the unmentionable
Slip passed his lips,
Unwittingly creating
A ferocious
Of his beloved
Flesh and blood
Sternly rejecting
Its creator's groping
For reconciliation.

Deepa Kylasam Iyer

Deepa Kylasam Iyer is a writer, researcher and a published poet based in the beautiful town of Pondicherry in the southern coast of India. After graduating with a Gold Medal in Botany and Communicative English, she took up writing to bring the most beautiful stories from her India to a world audience. She has published in ‘Cyclamens and Swords’ and her poem ‘Tryst with Destiny’ was included in the anthology of poems ‘Journeys’ that was released at Birmingham Book Fair in October 2010. Deepa is also a polyglot who speaks 9 languages including Hebrew and Latin and has written and directed a play, ‘The Dream Machine’ in English and French for Alliance Française, Pondicherry in September 2010. She blogs at which has readership from over 131 countries and has been nominated for the Best Blog Award.

The Lunatic Asylum

My Ancestral home was a lunatic asylum,
Where my grand-mother was imprisoned
To the mausoleum of her life.
She was a queen
Who had lost her diadem,
to the ruthless Grim called Life.
All she was left with were
Her filigree ear-rings and flaccid breasts.
She was a fabulist,
who sang mawkish poems
To the ghosts of her past
And sometimes to me.
I always felt that
In a strange way,
She was ennobled by her insanity.

Years later,
When I swam with the silver fishes
Into the mouldy parchments of my childhood,
In my fossilised memory,
There were hushed whisperings.
The oracles of my receding past
Danced with scimitars,
And revealed that
Through the slippery escarpment of sanity,
I too was doomed to roam
In the lunatic asylum called my life,
Searching for a Holy Grail
Amidst scattering memories.

Hugh Fox

Hugh Fox has 105 books published, mostly poetry. His most recent poetry book is The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox, 540 pages, just out from World Audience. The next one to appear in La Paix/Peace from Higganum Hill Press. Born in Chicago, B.A. and M.A. from Loyola U., Ph.D. in American Lit from U. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Has taught for years in Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, etc., married to Peruvian Lucia Ungaro de Sevallos for years, now married to Brazilian Maria Bernadete Costa.


As I move rather rapidly into Death, Reality even
More rapidly into….let’s call it Magic…getting up and
Breakfasting looking out at the coniferous needle-,
Scale-leaved backyard hills, three Magic deer passing
Down to the river, Mom, Dad and Fawn, a thousand birds
Getting ready to, what, flee the descending-upending
Cold, grey-skies turning into cloud-island brightness,
Where did I come from, where am I going, how did
The billionness of Space ever begin, created out of
Nothingness to Everythingness, all my astro-physicist
Friends and their theory-equations leaving back beyond
Magic to what can only be supernatural beginnings,
IN THE BEGINNING…never really beginning and never really
                 Closing down.

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than 10 books and co-produced 3 audio books, several pro bono for non-profit organizations. Trained in book publishing at Stanford, with a theology masters in world religions from Harvard and fine arts masters in creative writing from Notre Dame, Desmond is a recipient of the Singapore Internationale Grant and Dr Hiew Siew Nam Academic Award. He has recent or forthcoming work in Dark Sky, Fence, FuseLit, Gone Lawn, Gulper Eel, Pure Francis, REM Magazine, Sketchbook Journal, Spork Press, and Wag’s Revue. Desmond also works in clay, his commemorative pieces housed in museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

a haiku and looking for du fu

stay there
watch the light circles
move the leaves, theatre

in a second, another
in a second, one more time
in seconds, a new hammer

what we don’t know –
questions, knots, stump to post

to nature’s vagaries

egret, fractured neck

* Du Fu from the Tang Dynasty remains one of China’s most loved poets.

Warren Purkel

Warren Purkel is a clinical psychologist, practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. He has written haiku and other short-form poetry over the past twenty years. Spirituality, psychotherapy, and their integration are some of his chief interests. Warren’s other areas of enthusiasm include dreaming, creativity, and intuition. He’s enjoying his current work on the illustrations and text for a light-hearted book on the value of simple playfulness in adult life.

They All Said

said it
wouldn’t last but
it’s been eight months now
and I have to say, So far so good!
You know, none of my friends really thought I’d go through with it.
They said I was crazy to even think about taking one of
the cat people for my bride: Are You Insane?
I said, We’ll do fine. Matter of fact – she’ll keep me in line!
And the big day came and went. Now we’re all settled in,
me in my study and her in her den.
Her friends drop by, all quiet and sly, and eventually ask casually,
So tell us, how is it going? Yes tell us, how is he doing?
My elegant bride licks her fur and replies,
For eight months, never a need to unsheathe my claws.
From our wedding ‘til now, naught but these gentle paws.

For a moment they focus on me. Green eyes all aglow.
Then I put on a grin and say, So far so good!

Hallowed Prayer

God, Please use
Your sharpest knife on me.
Cut ‘round my crown,
And scoop me out –
Thy will be carved on me.
Please make the eyes wide,
The mouth open to drink in
Leaf-smoke on the wind.
When You finish with Your carving,
And the day becomes twilight,
Put a candle inside me, please,
That I may glow, and glow all night.
Trick or treat, God, trick or treat!

Ruth Dran

Ruth Dran came to Israel in May of 1995 from Bayonne, New Jersey, USA despite warnings from friends that she was "too old" for the task of new beginnings.  But it was that quantum leap that brought inspiration and fulfillment into her life. She's been published locally and abroad and finds Jerusalem, the only place she's lived in Israel, to be the perfect soul mate for inspiring creativity and meaning into her writing. She is also an avid amateur photographer. She has one daughter here, an only child, and twelve grandchildren.  


Today's forecast says; fair and sunny,
Yet, unseasonably cold gusty winds are
Ramming down my throat, gagging me and sucking out my breath
I am wind thrust, against my will, backwards,
As I persistently trudge forward

Rain mercilessly spits in my face sealing my eyes shut
I can not see; but I sense life like shadows dancing about me
Some hovering over my head create a black canopy
And thunder claps competing with the howling wind
Are bursting my ear drums to smithereens

Lightening shoots swords; striping the darkness
My imagination sees a Zebra's coat. I am humbled
Neither ego nor pride is anymore mine
Nature, my captor, has conquered me
Possesses me

My speech is doomed, my brain locked, my emotions numbed
I am frightened to death. How does one pray spontaneously?
I try, but don't know how. I'm in a stupor.
But wait..., ahhh; I feel a brush of warmth encompassing me
A stillness steals through space

I begin breathing air, gulping it down, drowning in it
And am grateful for the privilege.
The sweetness of clean grass protrudes into my nostrils
The song of birds is music to my ears
I cup a palm over each ear with solemn gratitude
I listen to the calm after the storm; appreciating its gentleness

My eyes open with skeptic caution
I see the storm, thereafter, producing bounties of surprises
I'm intoxicated with its beauty
Buzzing insects give me a new perspective
I will respect them forever

The sun shining on my two dismal graves
Magically turns them into two brilliant stones
Suddenly I'm prompted to look at the sky
A rainbow suspends, the center arches to undetermined heights
Perhaps to infinity, a place I shall never see

It's an old graveyard with ancient stone walls embossed with moss
Names, dates and epigraphs are fading like mindless memories
Even so, the cemetery possesses distinction; its own unique
character I feel at home now, after having weathered the storm
After saying prayers for the dead, I leave.
My final words; 'Next year, same time, God
willing. And please God, let it be fair and sunny.'

Visiting The Past

I'm visiting my childhood home,
An old house fractured by the ravages of time
Its belly hollowed and haunted with memories
Its youthful habitats of long ago, like I, now scarred
by wounds of aging.

I get no further than the foyer
A swift chill encompasses my entire being,
I am easy prey for the forces that bound me.
I struggle to resist, but their persistence is strong
I submit like candle to fire.

I close my eyes; painfully threading time
awakening from each and every nook and corner,
those passionate debates, lively family dinners,
celebrations of life's joys, and yes,
the dismal woes of not being spared life's disappointments.

Nostalgia swells my brain to bursting proportions.
Grandmother's roses waft through the screen door,
fresh baked bread competes with father's tobacco.
Sounds accelerate. The house becomes boisterous.
Shep the dog is chasing Molly the cat.

Children are gliding down the banister like who ever thought of stairs.
Margie is playing the piano while Sally sings soprano.
And the neighbor's son Jake is beating drums with a fury;
tolerated only by our lively clan. The family parrot known as
Mergatroit P. Schultz takes all in stride while gorging on a purple grape.

Eight of us ripened, in this old house, oblivious to the passing of time.
Aging was something happening to others, not us. Yet the lives of five
have completed their journey. They are gone. I miss them. My heart thumps;
my legs spill like water from anxiety as old wood floors tremble. I sense the five dead
hobbling about in their skeletal basics. I hear them. I am afraid to open my eyes.

One day soon the foundation will give way and the birds that have set up
house keeping in the attic will not care one iota.
They are creatures of another sort, possessing wings,
lacking sentimentality, living one day at a time.
Sometimes I envy them.