This poem also appears in the Summer Edition of The Watershed Journal. There is something so reassuring about it for me--the idea of everything unknowable can be known through the most simple, tactile experiences. - Jessica Weible, N/S Editor
THE BRIDGE OVER SUMMER
I stood at the bridge over summer
The Troubles hitchhiking behind me
It was time to diminish
I take my time crossing, don't we all?
Holding the rail
Enjoying every lick of the crick
This is my humidity and my humility
And my forgiveness perfected
The babble of a billion voices before
Alien yet familiar as a kid's whistle
The code of the universe tapped in oak
Beyond my last steps the footing is good
from the ragged summit of Stac Pollaidh
down to the point of invisibility
I wish to lose myself here in this sacred place
which has possessed me
oh, I climbed here huff-puffin a human being
like all the rest making our way fast
past little bits of gum and cigarette ends
my heart pounding on the scramble
to find this, a place where wolves open the sky
shall you not open your eyes
there's nothing that can prepare you
for the everlasting ken
to breathe like this inhaling water from below
like a fish yet to be swimming among the low clouds
blessed as the stars, yes, of course
yet a Highlander's measure more in the knowing
that She owns me
in surrender to be nothing
I suppose like death's howl takes you
awakening everyone but the dead, being you
or perhaps as the promise of The Way suggests
this crag I know without hearing its word
is beyond the reach of death for death cannot touch it
and maybe as promised ourselves doesn’t touch us at last
be it known we are here together as friends
as heaven is known when you see it
never wish to leave it for the heavy airs beneath
cry like a baby to leave Her arms
to waste away here at what’s been brought to us
having ascended wish the whole earth
to stay and to go on to nothing nothing
to be the echo
~ Girard Tournesol
"A Christmas Carol has been a favorite story by Dickens for quite some time now. The notion that the spirits that Scrooge encounters are resigned to continue to try eternally to do some good work in the world but are no longer able to is a haunting element of the story that stays with you. I believe that Dickens wrote the story for the Scrooge in all of us, that part of our hearts that needs to be turned from stony indifference toward the sufferings of our fellow man to the heart of love. Sarah's poem takes a deeper look at the moral implications of A Christmas Carol in a brilliant way-the poem is filled with a sharp clarity and foreboding." - T. Byron Kelly, N/S Editor
How Can We Endure It?
I am with you as you face the Ghost,
Feel the hairs going prickly on your neck
The spread of cold dread dissolving your faith
You swallow the pointless words unspoken,
“Spirit, show me no more.”
I am with you when you see the dark arm
Raise its fleshless finger toward the hovel
Pointing to the idle crutches fireside.
O Ebenezer, in that cursed moment,
before the Ghost of What is Yet to Come,
when your contrite heart, so newly hope-filled,
iced over in dread when you saw the cost
Learned the consequences of existence..
Saw that others paid the price for your sins.
The weight of your meager happiness cracked
The thinning lattice of narrow shoulders
Revealing a misery all your own
Now, bursting from your throat is the question:
“O Spirit. How can we endure it?”
Perhaps you can now create your own joy
You could dirty your hands with messy bonds
Lighten your conscience and coffers alike.
Reduce yourself to share humanity
you might find something lasting, forgiving.
A great happiness could be built on such,
Perhaps one strong enough to protect you.
Do the Ghosts only come once a lifetime?
Can redemption be earned in one evening?
Make sure you weave your bedclothes with progress.
Banish the shadows with good deeds piled high.
Hope you have changed enough that you ward off
Any future visits from the Spirit.
Who among us can stand before the Wraith,
Dark arm raised, terrible finger pointing
To a dread stele engraved with your name?
All progress and good deeds returned to dust.
You could hold up your flimsy shield of joy,
Turn your eyes from the impending doom;
You must beg aloud to be shown no more
For you will be no better prepared to
"This [poem] gave me such beautiful insight into the relationship between a father and son as I read it on Father's Day." Jessica Weible, N/S Editor
WHAT CANNOT BE SPOKEN OF"Thank you for. . ." and the words
of the prayer from my father
end, fade there as he stands
across from me right hand
to my left shoulder connecting,
joining the two of us in some
accord that has not, cannot
mean utter agreement
because that's not how it is between
father and son: there is always
the shadow of Solomon's Sword which
is used from time to time to separate
the dead from the living.
The blessing --
which sometimes turns
to the curse -- between father and son
cannot be given by the mother;
this is the blessing of the father
and I have received it, have
given it to my sons the words
fading right after "for."
"I like the challenge of format, a series of poems on a similar subject grouped as a mini-collection forming one long sectioned poem. It forces us to look at the way we present poems on paper in a new light and represents the hackneyed yet associated manner in which we actually think. Also, the capturing of returning to a well-known town after a generation absent is poignant." Sabne Raznik, N/S Editor
by Byron Hoot
I went down home for a viewing
And went farther than the miles
I drove going into remembering
The nearly forgotten but for
The roads and streets and land
I was raised on, in
Remembered once again,
What could have been
Not turning into anything,
A leaving, unknown to me,
That was an escape from as much
As an escape into,
But, of course,
I did not know much of anything then.
I drove to the funeral home.
Limitations of the Measure
The miles I have covered
Are not equal to the distance
I have gone
The soul and heart
To say, “I am here!” which is both
True and false
The way remembering a place
You’re from can make the past come alive,
Today the shadow of yesterday.
So I hung on the cross
Of then and now
Tomorrow holding both
And looked to find where my heart was,
If my soul had wondered off
Fighting the urge to run which gives
Such power to what’s chasing
To guarantee practically to get caught.
I had come for my friend who had
Died and couldn’t, didn’t want
To forget that
Took a deep breath and entered
The funeral home once again.
A Steady Step Does Not Guarantee the Ground
The ground was not solid as I drove
Roads and walked streets I had not
For over twenty years.
The viewing room
Was the same one dad was in
When my sister said, “That’s not
Him!” – of course, the dead are not
Who they have been.
So remembering occurred,
The flow of places bringing up images
The only constant of whom was me.
From childhood to early manhood
I saw what I had not recalled
When almost daily I drove the roads,
Walked the streets of which, now,
I was a visitor.
Had changed like most small cities
Gutted by outlying malls
Except for a few churches,
Bars, boutiques, parking lots,
The library with a sandwich board
6 PM –
Then a few remaining stores with family
Names I remembered
And feelings I thought long ago
Now, at least, a shadow of what
Had been remained in me needing
But a visit to resurrect them.
We played rugby together,
Drank beer, sang rugby songs,
And all basked in his presence
That drew everyone in as he spoke
In broken Tonga-English we understood.
So I didn’t stay long, even if I could
Have I would have quietly paid
My respects and been gone
Driving away from my hometown
Not certain if it was
The last time or just an intermission.
Time and Distance Is Never Time and Distance
I have begun to notice how when
I travel I am making a concurrent
Journey back in remembering,
Recalling the nearly forgotten though on
This journey there is no known destination
As what I pass, hold, grasp, let go
Comes and goes as no landmarks or
Mile-markers nor routes appear on
The road I’m on holding only some
Destination of there becoming here upon
Inside, I see what arises out
Of a casualty that is rarely clear
In a logic tight as any dream.
Longing and desire and regret play
Some haunting melody; I feel some refrain
I cannot recall but recognize
And the sigh escapes my lips as if
Holding the one I love saying, “See you
A little later”, five little words
Fate and Destiny sometimes changes
To a dance I stumble in, the rhythm
Impossible to catch, the words a blur
Of near meaning.
So I travel alone
With dreams still lingering for reasons
I don’t know their possibility of that
Transfiguration long gone.
I saw the church packed was once
Again as my father’s funeral service began.
There Are Places Unwelcoming to a Visit
There were some roads I did not drive,
Some places – the homestead – I did not
It was enough to have gone down
To the hometown and the funeral home
What was there for the taking
From the terrain that had and had not
I have found there is no remembering
Without place, a context wherein what once
Was still is.
Tell me if it is different
And I will listen but who we’ve been,
Who we are is tied like a Gordian Knot
To where we’ve been, where we are –
Place. . . the first element of remembering:
Place knew us before we knew ourselves.
To travel to a hometown is to travel a distance
Measured only in remembering which has
No measurement at all regarding time
And destination and intensity,
The lost longings
And desires felt again, perhaps even alive
Never perhaps having been dead.
There were some places ii didn’t go;
I’m almost certain I will make another visit.
But in less than twenty years;
I don’t have that kind of time –
Life goes on until I, you, we go out.
Pretty clear and simple, isn’t it?
So I will go and make the visit.
The Weight and Heft of Dreams
I am dreaming dreams I’ve dreamed
The weight and heft of them
Carrying meanings I once knew, have
Forgotten, now wrestle with again
A little more wary, a little more
Willingness not to demand a victory
On my terms more willing to come to
A draw or the defeat by dream
Which is a questionable surrender
As dreams seem to know better
Than I do.
I mean dreams of decades
Ago that have been pursuing me
Silently until now and my consistent
Reply no longer with surprise, “You’re back.”
There is something that haunts
With the sense that things could have
Been otherwise but for one or two more
Steps taken, some sense that if the past
Cannot be changed the future, however,
Does not have to remain the same.
I am still travelling in the mood
I found upon visiting a funeral
Home where a friend of mine lay
In the same viewing room as my father
And the openings which began unasked
For still crevicing anew in moments unaware
And then the echo of remembering, the heavy
Breathe of longing and desire not likely
To be stilled tightening my chest
As the only remedy for being there,
Perhaps, for not having gone back
To my home before, perhaps
Calling on me to visit again before another
Two decades pass – which I may or may
Not have: to go back is to go down
Inside where the forgotten resides
And every dream worth its dream
I don’t know what
I am looking for nor any sense of any
Expectation to arrive in any form I
So I abide in the revelry
Of a past that did not forget me
Needing only me to turn inwardly,
Cross the river on that bridge saying,
“You’re back finally” not
Saying when I can leave.
Letting Go To Hold
The sense of letting the past slip
By is stronger this morning.
That which holds weakening its grip
Like a wrestler no longer able
To keep a hold that would give
Curious how what is past
Sometimes, somehow reaches up,
Stops time and now slips to then
And then some morning, like this one
With a steady wind, bright sunlight,
The hint of a season’s end, a season’s
Beginning changes the feeling in the air
Around the heart and soul and body
Into an opaque clarity
Slowly becoming more clear as dreams
Past their possibility of fulfillment
Fade, regret sighs though some
Remembrances remain holding for this
That knows no time.
I am sipping coffee
Watching the shadow of trees dance upon
The deck, the sun behind the trees
Though not blinding me as I look out
Whisper, “Today” hear the slightest
Echo, “Tomorrow, too.”
It has been ten days since I
Viewed my friend a year
Older than I am in my hometown
Where I was bushwhacked
By remembering what I had not
Recalled for years not having been
There for nearly twenty years.
How strong the lingering presence
Seeing Pat in the same room
Of the funeral home my father
Had been in as I spoke to Pat’s
Wife and children,
He in his casket
Looking like a Tonga chief
And then the bifurcated remembering
Began of which I had no control
Of as I drove north into New York,
East to arrive near Boston
A guest in three homes
As if I were a fugitive.
Of course, I was.
Perhaps not more so than when
I stopped in Syracuse a couple
Of hours with a friend who knows
Something of the nature of flight
And how landing is so difficult.
I am five hours from where I Iive.
But now I cast, mostly, the grappling
Hooks of remembering
Which is less
Exhausting than being grappled,
Imbedded by them and their pull against,
Across time as if time loses all meaning
It is raining, the sky is grey,
A perfect day for unsought memories
To cast their grappling hooks for me.
I’ll have to pay attention and drive carefully.
by Philip Kent Church
UNDER SUNPetrarchan Sonnet
The Sun proceeds the mountain’s sky in kind;
As long traveled a trail is trekked to gain.
A life prevailed upon, journeyed to feign,
Like some ancient clockwork refused to wind.
The whole of truth, with which we hold in mind,
It’s what we base ourselves upon, be lain.
We must remember all that may pertain,
Or find we are among the deaf and blind.
As like Autumn’s dead leaves discard the trees,
And mountain peaks resound without reply.
We live our lives thru all with aim to please,
But there remains, of hope, hopeful retry.
To gain the chance to change, as like the breeze;
Be warmed by Sun, upon which we rely.
Philip Kent Church
"To me, this is a classic example of AppalTrad. Well done." Sabne Raznik, N/S Editor
Beside our shack,
a pitcher pump
waited for us
to fill buckets
We heated water
on the stove
and pan baths
worried about us
catching the bus.
at the well,
Jesus who asked
the woman of Samaria
to give him
that rusty handle
for hard water,
so we could get by.
“The Well” was first published in Clinch Mountain Review (2018).
-Kevin J. McDaniel Poet, Pulaski Virginia
by Sabne Raznik
"The poem is transcendent, beautiful and is haunted like a lost memory" - T. Byron Kelly, N/S Editor
A storm roars through cracks in the mountains -
Like water from a broken dam.
We seek to retreat and find that we cannot.
You try to find comfort in his face
That is all cut-out eyes and porcelain smiles.
He slips away. Experience is a changeling.
When he is gone, you remember
It half-clearly: cloud shadows rippling
On leafed-out mountains like hands,
Hands, we are surrounded by hands.
We were born here, but
Do we belong?
I will let my pen dance like a Turkish belly dancer
Until you feel the texture of my language,
The whisper of lust.
O, cruel language, my head waits for you.
Close the curtains, turn out the light, and
Teach me to believe in this love.
Fill up the vacant, listless hollows
Of my childhood. Make me complete.
O, good language, you are my safe-place.
Rush over me like horses.
Ples back and forth across your brow.
Descends like curtains in this room -
Out the cold, rain-saturated night.
Goodnight - keep talking about anything
Your voice is solace, soothing in a chaotic
Spins too fast and will destruct. Your voice is
Ything I need to keep alive this belief.
Like music, fills the emptiness of night.
Wet leaves are hanging heavily
All around you
In a misty rain
And a distorted carnival,
A blue, manic Mardi Gras.
Confusion is a muddy circus field,
A clown-mime continually following,
You are searching, for what?
A wood nymph in naked joy
And sunshine in his hair?
You don't know.
Leaves keep falling, stacking
Up in sticky, brown-wilted
Mounds. With shuffling feet,
You scatter and tread them down,
Shuddering in the uncertain light
Of a clouded-over blue moon.
You are as formidable as a Tibetan mountain,
As sexual as Morocco,
But you are as closed as China,
Whilst I, like a shut-in,
Thirst for more of your world.
It's snowing inside this room:
Like someone turned it upside-down,
Shook it, then set it bolt upright.
It's brushing along the top of the black
Baby grand that you play on party nights,
And your eyebrows and eyelashes as you speak.
I think it sounds like wind chimes when you
Laugh like that. If I were the
Ballerina in the music box of your throat,
Would you wind me up and watch me spin?
La Vita E Bella:
The world is like watercolours, green and gold,
Running down and together,
Like tears on the earth's face,
Grasping, sliding down a window glass,
Barely noticed, undocumented, unfelt.
You are stretched out like a dulcimer's
Plaintive whine, watching the
Fish tank light reflecting images on a far wall.
You say you see
Belly dancers wearing blue musical beads and
In my dreams afterward, I am walking
On water slowly, in a circle of
Mottled light playing through the leaves of
Dark green summer trees. In the distance,
Bells ringing in harmonic melody, whilst I
Speak Irish in an undertone as if my private poetry
And marvel at the brightness of the morning.
Where is home?
Language that is chameleon:
This passion which is mortal,
She grew up amid amateur paintings
And yellow walls -
A leather-clad, muted blue star.
The mirrors on his clothing make it
Hard for her to see him,
But he's there...
Maybe he's there...
Like bananas and lemons on the dark
Kitchen counter -
A still life with hidden meanings:
Sometimes, when you speak
I think I can hear the sound the sea makes
Against the cliffs of Moher,
Splitting into myriads of colours,
Letting in the light.
And I don't tell you, when this happens.
You'll only roll your eyes and miss the point
So I tell it to the crickets - who sing it back to you
While you sleep.
Tell their children it is the rain
Not the dream.
It was not the rain
That impregnated me.
O, child of my womb, unborn,
It was hope for something more than
Richard Hugo said:
"Words love the ridiculous areas of our minds."
These are my only functioning
It is useless to pummel them.
I'm sweating the touch of
Down the length of mine,
No spit. Consequence. Untold,
But the word has gone away.
Limitless as Joie d'Art is this feeling.
She can only grasp it as though fragments
Of ancient parchments:
Peacocks on stained glass entries and the
Of blue and green colours wafted by the light through these and
Dazzled and disoriented by
The spear of sun on the thin, burnt-biscuit skin of New Jersey,
She is humming a melody she only ever
Hears in dream -
And forgets she is supposed to feel
With you. Oh well...
Tin whistles fill up the ineffable places
Between what we say and what we mean:
Valhalla: unredeemed from plunder.
The treeless hills echo back our failures;
Hearts keep calling out...
Slipping under what seems to be,
He is swimming in a light-refracting sea:
His hips ring like bells.
You wake in a room with
Romanesque statues in a circle which are
Draped with watercoloured fabrics
To hide their nakedness. Left behind, you are
To recapture that light.
It's all about shattering mirrors
To let in yellow daylight.
It's all about learning who you are.
Do you know me?
Your watercoloured smiles and gypsy-clad
Habits are a worn out delight.
Still, I'll keep coming back. Always,
I'll come back.
by Patricia Thrushart
Light spills through a window
filtered by a broken blind
onto a littered street;
a flood of warmth amidst blight.
I imagine someone is sheltering there—
away from the graffiti
on the warped plywood
boarding up the next house,
the pawn shop wrapped in bars,
needles on the ground.
This poem draws you into a moment with images and feelings that stay with you long after you've finished reading. - Jessica Weible, N/S Editor
In a reclusive cabin
where a wood stove hiccups
orange embers clothed
in gray ash coats,
the bottoms of my feet
feel bitter, raw air
circulating over every inch
of hard floor awash in
ghostly blue moonlight.
Through a window, I see
a lone yellow buckeye bend
in a boisterous wind
that makes me believe
it can bring down
the entire mountainside,
but I know spring
will come again on wings
of a gentler breeze that uplifts
saplings rooted sideways
in moonmilk underground.
A finalist for the 2018 Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize, “At the Foot of a Mountain” was first published in The Heartland Review.
-Kevin J. McDaniel
Poet, Pulaski Virginia