On this page poems by Ellen S. Jaffe, Gretti Izak, Jessica Goody, Katherine L. Gordon, Hal O'Leary, Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann, Joan Gerstein, Judith Prest, Katharyn Howd Machan, Kelley Jean White, Lisa Aigen, Lynn Veach Sadler
The following works are copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Ellen S. Jaffe
Ellen S. Jaffe grew up in New York City, moved to Canada in 1979, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. She has published poetry and prose. Guernica Editions published her most recent poetry collection, Skinny-Dipping with the Muse, in 2014. She has also written a novel for young adults, Feast of Lights. Ellen teaches writing in schools and community centres, and has received several Artist in Education and writing grants from the Ontario Arts Council. She is currently working on a few new projects.
The Wolf Gives His Statement
I don’t know what makes me do it,
I get these urges, see –
That little girl in her red hoodie,
appetizing as a fresh-picked apple,
her cheeks red as her sweater,
humming her little song like a carefree sparrow.
I could have taken her right there in those dark woods,
no one the wiser.
Another missing child,
a few days’ headlines,
then relegated to back pages.
Another grieving mother,
a few bouquets of wilted flowers
along the way.
But no, I said,
I’ll wait ‘til she gets to Grandma’s house,
two birds for the price of one,
though one was young and tender,
the other a tough old hen.
I’d watched the old lady
hanging out her wash
or picking strawberries...
and I’d seen her garden glimmer in full moonlight.
Ooo-agh. No, I’m okay, officer, just a foul cough.
I knew a short-cut, slipped in
through the unlocked door
(such blind trust – an open invitation.)
Granny was in bed, wheezing away,
pink ruffled nightgown, lacy white sheets
knitted afghan in shades of blue and green,
and the smells – mint tea and honey, quail broth, choke-cherry syrup – so many human comforts!
I have these urges –
but I couldn’t do the old girl in,
just locked her in the closet, bound and gagged,
put on her clothes, the powdery scent
of sweat-sweet flannel clinging to my fur
as I lingered under the covers.
(You’d call it “lying in wait.”)
She entered, came up close, fresh as air:
“What big eyes you have, Grandma!
What big teeth!”
The better to see you with, I said,
seeing red, red, red –
my blood quickened
but then she screamed,
that wood-cutter barged in,
the nick of time.
(I should have heard his footsteps, breathed his scent)
It’s not my fault,
I get these urges, see...
Virginia Woolf’s Stone: Camera Solo Exhibit by Patti Smith:
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2012
I am the stone in Virginia Woolf’s coat pocket
when she drowns herself in the River Ouse,
March 28, 1941, Friday, cold for this time of year.
Several of us nestle here,
rounded by time, blue and mossy with age,
weighing her down, and further down,
as she walks into the River Ouse
in this spring of war,
petrified with fear, stonewalled by doubt.
Days pass. I tumble
from her soaked wool pocket,
into an underwater room of my own,
undisturbed for years
until another woman finds me,
wipes me clean, brings me
high and dry into the light.
Now I sit here under glass,
beside pictures of Virginia’s walking-stick, her house,
the bed where she made stories not children –
longing to go home, to my shallow bed
in the River Ouse. No more
voyages out to the human world,
I’ll let the waves roll over me,
the quiet nights pass by.
Gretti Izak studied History of Art in England and Italy. She has worked as teacher, head of a multi-language translation program, and editor. She has published 8 books of poetry and her work won prizes and has appeared in various anthologies and publications in Israel and abroad. Gretti Izak lives in Jerusalem.
The café is packed with young people,
lots of laughter, their voices vibrant,
I sit in a corner, my coffee getting colder
as I eavesdrop, can’t help but get excited
by their high-spirited stories.
Eli comes to say Hallo -
I’ve been gathered under his wing,
old as I am, astonishing him that I still
care passionately about things –
shouldn’t I be crocheting, dozing, smiling
vacantly into space, my life-cycle of old bones
hermetically closed to more experience –
what am I doing in Café Yoshua? What indeed?
Every Friday at twelve
I come here to read the papers
and drink a cup of espresso, small,
with lots of hot milk; the waitresses
know me, they bring it at the same time
as two burekas, also very hot.
A little girl, barely three,
comes to stare and touch my cane.
There are many other children here,
some in baby carriages;
I would never have dared to bring
my children to a coffee house -
how refreshing the change.
I, imagining other ways of life,
picking the query and hopes hidden
inside the soul of their chatter,
recollecting the music of my own life,
the thunder and the lightning,
finish sipping coffee and go home.
Elegy on the Wings of a Dove
Her flight is not the eagle’s
high over the hills of Judea.
Too small for heroics,
hear her coo at sunrise
beating short wings
carrying an olive branch.
But is the branch ever picked up?
Every year I find myself
in a labyrinth,
not the Greek of minotaur fame
where one can retrace steps and
sail home on wide white ships
but one where I tread
a clumsy dirt-road coiled
like a viper inside
an astronaut’s capsule
where my brief glimpses
of landings shake, shift,
defuse suspense and disappear.
You’re jammed inside the labyrinth,
the dreams of peace shattered
the wings of doves outside
tap-tapping against the window.
Jessica Goody writes for SunSations Magazine and The Bluffton Sun. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Broad!, Spectrum, Barking Sycamores, HeART, Gravel, PrimalZine, Kaleidoscope, Open Minds Quarterly, and Wordgathering. She was awarded second place in the 2015 Reader’s Digest Poetry Competition. Her forthcoming poetry collection Defense Mechanisms will be available in June 2016.
Whitecaps roll and churn, soaking the sand
where walruses lie dog-piled and wriggling.
The peeling bark of their hide is crusted and
cracked, as warped as a Renaissance canvas.
They lumber thickly along the shore, serene
in the face of the wind. The anemone whiskers
of their scrub-brush snouts are barnacle-white,
bleached by the chill. Sand-scrubbed, the milling
sunbathers are now the pink of pencil erasers,
bald and rosy as naked mole rats. Rockhoppers
leap like kangaroos around their sleeping forms.
Tumorous elephant seals smash into one another
with the blubbery body-slams of sumo wrestlers.
Seals bob and float like swollen corks, their heads
backlit and enigmatic in the haze of a sudden storm.
Yellowcoats scratch absentmindedly at fledgling fur
the color of buttermilk: windblown dandelion-down.
Baaing pups croak and crow, nosing speckled flesh
and guzzling greedily, their eyes closed in delight.
Katherine L. Gordon
Katherine L. Gordon is a rural Ontario poet enjoying an international connection to contemporary poetry through her books, anthologies and reviews. Moon Shine by Craigleigh Press, 2015, includes her poetry, as does Canvas Calendar, Cyclamens and Swords Press, Light Rescue, Melinda Cochrane International, 2014, a winter work of Katherine's.
She contributes regularly to on-line poetry, Riffs and Ripples blog. Her peace and environmental poetry will be read this year at Cascadia Festival in B.C.
October Ends in Deluge
A shiver of trees
awaits predicted rain-storm.
Hoarding yellow, the last of leaves fly
into sere bush, starkening woods.
Winter-staying birds sound alarm.
Everything bends in gathering winds,
I wear my hood but let the air play
freshening hair and cheeks,
reminding me I am just another valley plaything
fully subject to Nature’s blistering power.
I like the kinship of caves and nested animals
who know weakness, not surrender.
A pelt of rain, hurl of wind, will flatten
the last of season’s brave flags
take us into the season of the dead.
We are prepared--
within us all the blossoms of another birth,
the seeds of another death.
Library Book Sale
Glare of industrial lights
ill-reflected on grey floors
old white-washed walls
in rented warehouse
to host a sale of writers dreams,
boxes primly placed on plastic tables
securing ordered books
in alphabetical tether.
I look for a leap of turmoil
to light dull regimen,
find a writer who speaks outside the box,
who cannot be locked in dust.
Fingers trace assorted collections,
some answer to my touch, come to my attention
in voices that defy repression -
I choose them, carry them home
in embroidered bags.
Hal O’Leary, having retired from a life in the theatre at age 84, has turned to writing. Now, at age 89, he has been published in 16 different countries. As a secular Humanist, Hal believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible, and for his contributions to the arts, he is a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University, the same institution from which he became a college dropout some 60 years earlier.
Out Of The Mouths
Out of the mouths . . . You’ve heard the phrase.
I’ve passed it off as quaint and trite,
for after all, a child’s a child and has a lot to learn.
an accidental clever little quip
may well be cute but as for wisdom, little hope,
or so I thought.
My day was long and things had not gone well.
A tedium and anger made it plain
I’d set a task that proved most difficult.
I undertook to wire a socket in the wall.
My son was playing there beside me on the floor.
With both hands tied to what I undertook,
a tool I needed, quite beyond my reach,
I asked my son to fetch it,
then fumed at his reply.
He said, “I can’t, I’m busy now.”
“You can’t!” I yelled,
“You’re busy doing what?”
His answer left me speechless
It was anything but quaint or trite or cute.
Not looking up, he simply said,
But Dad, there’s so much playing I must do.”
Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann
Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann was born in 1943 and was raised in South Africa. She and her husband Alan immigrated to Canada in 1966, where they have lived since. Jinks is a Spiritual Director. She trained in the Lev Shomea program, which means “listening heart” in Hebrew. She is the poetry editor of Presence: an International Journal of Spiritual Direction. She has three adult sons, and is blessed with eighteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Jinks loves to write poetry, and to work daily with her dreams. These are two of her most loved ways of listening for life's Mystery.
Jinks has had numerous poetry and prose publications both in print and on-line journals.
Jinks may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just When I Think
The racket has started again,
just when I think
on the house directly behind,
It's like that.
Just when I think I know—
Peace, I think, hello God.
Wriggle more deeply
under the bedcovers.
I can now open
to universal wisdom,
I think, and wriggle
And then the decibel-laden
twin roars of jack hammer
and whining blade through concrete
I think I know—
The catfish doesn't think
it knows the ocean.
The fledgling cricket creeping
on dewy summer grass
Picasso lets the canvas
tell him; Mozart,
the flute. What hubris
to think I'm awake
to the makings of any
Since I was sixteen, when
I first discovered thought,
I keep making
the same mistake;
perhaps at eighty-three
I don't know
and will finally
relax into jack-hammers
and whining saws.
But even potatoes
can have eyes,
and little pitchers
can have big ears,
so I'm probably destined
to be married forever
to hubris, instead
of allowing life
to be life
to be me.
Melody of the Ocean
Only an occasional sound.
A passing boat hums.
A car door slams.
The pecking of a hungry bird.
You can almost hear the waves,
singing one at a time to the ocean.
You might even think
you hear a niggun*, this almost
inaudible song to the universe.
Pause even briefly;
you may hear the sound
of your blood loving you,
your heart, the part
that sings, beating
a soft tattoo.
* Jewish religious tune or melody
Joan Gerstein, originally from NY, has resided in CA since 1969. She brings her experiences from both coasts to her poetry.
There are memories I carry around
with consequences so profound
that at the slightest rebuff
I feel I’m not enough
to meet you on an equal playing ground.
There’s a voice inside my troubled mind
which keeps my heart resigned
and fills my head with chatter
that says I do not matter
until my very being is maligned.
When you move forward I retreat
with leaden weights upon my feet
which keep me stuck in pain.
What is it you hope to gain,
why do you not accept defeat?
My Medusa madness strikes you
with words hurtful and untrue.
I hurl my poison and jab my spear,
until you look at me with fear,
until you declare we are through.
For the hundredth time you forgive.
In harmony, for a while we live
until admonitions of the past
heed a nasty forecast
that hurts I once again relive.
And project my blame onto you.
Your gentle care can’t pull me through.
The haunting memory of love withheld
throughout my childhood will not be quelled.
It ruins chances of love that’s true.
Is fixing me yours to do,
or must I alone crawl through
the sinewy webs that strangle,
escape from the tangle
that childhood memories grew?
So now I sit alone and wonder
how early moments set my world asunder.
Am I just a puppet of my past?
Are the molds they set forever cast?
Must I abide this curse I’m under?
Judith Prest is a poet, photographer, mixed media artist and creativity coach, who has been doing her "real work" with creativity & healing since retiring from school social work in 2009. Her poems have been published in Mad Poet's Review, Chronogram, Akros Review, The Muse~An International Journal of Poetry, Earth's Daughters, Up The River, and in six anthologies. Judith believes that creativity is a healing force, and is our birthright as human beings. Judith lives in Duanesburg, New York and conducts workshops and coaching sessions at Spirit Wind Studio. www.spiritwindstudio.net
Snake Bite Kit
after my father died
I found a scarlet metal box
nestled in his sock drawer
surrounded by plain white socks
gauze, a razor blade
to cut the X in the skin,
a rubber cup
to suck out the poison
my father was an Eagle scout,
a gentle man,
who showed me
how to hold a snake.
what I mean by gentle is his voice
when he read me to sleep,
I never heard him raise it in anger,
though he did tell me
he had to knock a man down once
I forget why.
Dad knew this: be prepared
know how to hold a snake
close behind the head;
keep a snake bite kit in your sock drawer
in case it turns and bites you
what I mean is I always felt safe
around my father because
he could hold me, a snake
or whatever else life sent him
in his large steady hands.
Effects of Light
objects in its path
some souls alter us
when our paths
sometimes this shift
across a lifespan
makes a bridge
when your soul
to the next world
two things happened:
across my path;
a fissure opened
in my heart
The Sound of Seeds Exploding
I keep thinking about milkweed:
Those pink globes of
cupped flowers pop up
in July fields, form
tight green fruit,
bumpy as cucumbers.
feed on milkweed.
Does the nectar from those
dusty rose orbs
fuel the journey to Oaxaca
First frost leaves
and empty husk
is the moment
when the pod bursts.
Each flat brown disk, haloed
by white fluff
catches wind, is pulled aloft.
We used to call them wishes,
ran to catch them
before they flew away.
But what is the sound?
What vibrations stir
when milkweed pods
release their seeds?
It is not the sound
of corn popping.
Not the buzz of cicada
or the shrill of cricket.
Maybe it is a tiny sigh,
like the sound of feather
I don't know the sound of
exploding milkweed pods
but I imagine
a tiny anthem
an ode to the
a promise to Monarchs.
Katharyn Howd Machan
Katharyn Howd Machan, author of 32 published collections (most recently Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox) has had poems appear in numerous magazines, anthologies, and textbooks, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature and Sound and Sense. A resident of Ithaca since 1975, she was Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. A professor in Ithaca College’s Writing Department and former director of the Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press, 2012).
Always in groups of women
I write about the south of France.
I close my eyes, find bay leaves
smooth and fresh upon my palm,
lavender so thick and full of sun
it rises as time’s music in clear air.
My feet wear perfect sandals, brown
and open to the curving road’s
soft shimmer, heavy goat bells’ song
a naming of deep summer, apples
round and green and swelling
where a rock-tossed stream runs cool.
With my pen of tidy channeled ink
I pour myself red wine at noon,
tongue flawless grapes, break fresh baguette,
pass ragged chunks of crusty bread
around for cheese, pate. The women
laugh with me where twin waterfalls
course down to coldest black; we
swim, breasts naked, floating free,
then choose warm rocks and lie in sky’s
long breeze-swept light to drink more
wine, new wine. We close our eyes
and from the sloping hillside drifts
the slightest sweetness: honey? fruit?
Blackberries we suddenly know,
and then it’s climb and reach and pluck,
purple on our fingertips, lips
a greedy poem of loving, mouths
ripe with sinful worlds.
From Bucharest To Sibiu
Are crows’ cries sharper in Romania?
A woman on the train buys needles thin
and fine enough to stitch with spider web
a promise that will last. Dogs sleep. Goats trot
to taste with eager reaching teeth and tongues
pink forest berry blossoms’ twisting stems.
Thick air? Rain falls. Red roofs? Some bright, some
pulled apart and patched, old windows underneath
dull mirrors cracked, too many questions asked.
Discarded metal. Heaps of trash. A man
with chestnut horse, their wagon loaded high
and hurrying through morning’s cooling air.
A stand of storks, gray feathers curved in rest
where lush and shining seeded stalks arise.
The woman points at them and nods, her smile
a wordless gift within her wrinkled face.
Tall grasses, yellow petals: past worn tracks
awaiting other trains a rabbit runs
with rippling feet. Transwagon Railship. Walls
alive with paint: bold words, loud colors, large
with midnight anger, pride’s fierce joy. Hundreds
of trees so green with spring they seem to tell
a story’s happy ending where true love
is risk’s reward. Plowed fields; new planting. Cows
by streams, by ponds, the water muddied brown,
and white sheep, black sheep, woolly rams and ewes.
Sharp steeples. Clustered homes. Dirt roads that wind
into wide fields where lean arms rake and hoe.
Bright swaying skirts, striped crimson. Children’s eyes.
Small fences. Wires draped between tall poles.
Brick chimneys. Burros grazing on coarse tufts.
Curved haystacks wrapped around long sturdy sticks.
Red Coca-Cola signs. A graveyard pale
with chiseled crosses of thick stone, a church
of gold-touched saints. Lace curtains, patterned doors.
Rock slopes, small waterfalls, trunks twisted, vast
as villains’ dreams of wielding power in
a world where most want peace. Carpathian…
the rain falls finer here, then suddenly
blue sky above a heavy lilac bush
below rough peaks like broken giants’ teeth,
cold breath of clouds around snow-burnished crags
concealing far dark caves where wings might cry
We are the keepers of the fairy tale….
Kelley Jean White
Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.
My Lady Poverty
Imagine. You are a boy alone. Hung
over from another night’s excesses.
The girl you’ve forgotten. The money you
dropped on the tavern floor. The wine you spilled.
It’s a life you think you’ve chosen. Time killed
to spite a father. Silence. Then a trill
of birdsong. Lilting, lifting, it blesses
all the broken spaces. You’ve woken one
last time to confusion. Now all is clear
to your reddened eyes. You see the broken
beams, the ragged roof, a skittering mouse—
a voice, ‘Francis, repair my falling house’
perhaps it is a woman who’s spoken,
a whisper. You let her open your ear.
Been writing poetry. Plan to write more. Kids are more or less raised, off in their six different directions. They don’t mind that I am finally going in mine. I love my work as an art therapist, enjoy a quiet coffee with Steven, my spouse, my friend, every once in a while...to read to him what I write.
Yizkor, Yom Kippur
I push away the seams
lend my voice to a holy séance
my mind a fog from fasting.
The cantor chants
and they tiptoe from their graves
Ironic that they should visit me here
my grandfather the free thinker
my uncle who never
in his life
set foot in a synagogue
but here they are
on the seat next to me
Grandpa chain smoking as usual
Uncle Joe forgiving me
for not attending his cremation.
He knows that I loved him
and that I sang him elegies in the wind.
Lynn Veach Sadler
Former college president Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler has published 5+ books and 72 articles and has edited 22 books/proceedings and three national journals and publishes a newspaper column. In creative writing, she has 10 poetry chapbooks and 4 full-length collections, over 100 short stories, 4 novels, a novella, 2 short story collections (another in press), and 41 plays. As the Central Region Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet 2013-2015, she mentored student and adult poets. She works as a writer and an editor. She and her husband have voyaged around the world five times, with Lynn writing all the way.
Genealogy of Golf
Ball from beech wood
to leather-and-boiled-feathers featherie;
to gutta-percha dimpled guttie;
to rubber “bounding-billies”;
to potatoes, pellets, and marshmallows.
Club from bent stick
to head held to shaft with animal hide;
to woods, metals, metal woods;
to cleeks, niblicks, mashies, spoons;
to drivers, putters, assorted others.
Costume from plaid
to flannels, hob-nailed boots, red coats, plus fours;
to clashing colors, club covers, spikes;
to spike wrench, raingear, towels;
to one-handed cabretta leather gloves.
Tees from sand and dirt piles;
to the wooden tees of dentist Lowell;
to metal and plastic painted white;
to tiger tees, back or blue, for pros.
From plain bare grip
to leather, cord, rubber, half-rubber;
to grip tapering top to bottom;
to non-hooking jumbo grips;
to sens-o-grip to grasp grip tightness.
From toting clubs
to drainpipe carry bags, collapsibles;
to pull-carts, dividers, all-in-one’s;
to tournament bags for pros;
to golf cart with Bob Hope’s chin and nose.
Mrs. McScratchie would turn “golf” to “flog” again,
said to do that to her when there was golf on the moon;
to Alan Shepard’s game on the moon;
to the tin cup sent begging;
to the Harpo Marx-George Burns round in shorts.
Sarazen flew with Hughes
to apply aerodynamics of lift
to golf and soldered his sand iron
to lift his balls from sand traps
to albatross on five-par fifteenth hole.
From playing golf
to head freezers, swing trainers, balance boards;
to laser-guided grading systems;
to dollops of nitrogen;
to earth-friendly golf course irrigation,
to all races of people!
On the Road to Falun Gong
When we visited Xi’an’s
Chinese Traditional Culture University,
reception and “presentation” were impressive.
It claimed the foremost Qigong Master in all China.
(He was not present; nor was his absence explained.)
Fortunately, his disciples were in place
and gave manifold demonstrations of the power
he had passed to them.
Some looked at guests, instantly described—
at great length—their past and present illnesses
and disorders. A student whose art work
was on display around the room
went into a trance,
painted two masterpieces as we watched.
Two women, treated for cancer by The Master,
had subsequently acquired indwelling spirits,
Super Dove and Henry. Both of these inner residents
kindly responded to audience questions
(so long as they could be answered with “yes” or “no”).
We were there to study Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qigong, several thousand years old
and practiced by some fifty million Chinese today,
seemed more germane (even humane) than what we saw
in that university setting.
Concentration is its technique;
its content, the five elements,
along with yin and yang.
It aids body regulation in general
and breathing, the endocrine system,
and circulation in particular;
has a good effect on the nervous system and joints;
and helps cure heartburn/reflux.
It strengthens the internal organs and immune system,
particularly by promoting natural killing cells
and producing interferon;
it brings more vigor, control of the self, and longevity;
and enables patients to treat their own illnesses.
From it has emerged
a new wave of acupuncture and “psychic” massage.
Especially promising, treatments do not produce
the dependency associated with Western drugs.
Li Hongzhi’s Falun Gong seized upon qigong,
partnered it with meditation and morality,
and brought the accusation of heresy
from the Communist High Command.
Like many outside China,
practitioners of Falun Gong
endure suppression of their human rights.
Falun Gong continues to spread around the world.