Albert Haley 7-03-2019

Illustration by Jon Krause

Why wouldn’t they drop by, stare up
approvingly at the point of the minaret?

Perpetual connoisseurs of the loving work
of centuries, the stacked stones, nails pounded
until synagogues, temples, shrines
little houses of worship rise from the land.

Richard Schiffman 6-03-2019

Illustration by MUTI

This seep of droplets sponged by moss leaked
from a cleft in the rock; the waters in the cleft
rose osmotically from earth:
the aquifers of earth rained down
from cloudburst skies;

Ronnie Sirmans 4-25-2019

A white blossom, purpled
at the edges like penance,
lies under an unbloomed tree.

Stephen Wing 3-25-2019

You can’t blame me for flinching
back against the wall
when a small boy points his
pistol at me and yells “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

I am lying back there somewhere
feeling the sidewalk as if I’d never touched
sunshine, pumping out my urgent
puddle

A.M. Lawrence 2-25-2019

In deep thirst, a desert stag will tear
open saguaro ribs with his teeth
and gorge on succulent heart, living sap.

This morning desire and grief for You
are the same ache. Welcome, hurt.
Enter and feast on my flesh. Become love.

Adele Hoffman 1-24-2019

I know you believe you are doing God’s work when you ask me
“Are you a Christian?” and instantly retort to my “No” with “Why not?”

I know you do not know how the hairs stand up on the back of my neck
when first you question my failure to embrace Jesus as my Lord and Savior
and then interrupt with that world-weary “Ahhh ...” as I say,
“Well, my mother’s family was Jewish— ”

Jonathan Rowe 11-20-2018

“The last will be first, and the first will be last.” —Matthew 20:16

I know what I am:
an earthen vessel guiding cows, goats, and sheep’s
chaotic feeding, their chorus of maws bleating,
baying, snapping open and shut a celebration

Jane Simpson 10-25-2018

Be still. Don’t forget how the Earth shifted—
dinner plates with clean breaks in smashed boxes—
and lands became continents, broken homes.

Philip C. Kolin 9-26-2018

On your mother’s side Abyssinian slaves,
grandees from Spain on your father’s.
How could someone dark
as a Dominican’s cappa with a burnt
oak face and a halo of knotted hair
be the patron of holiness?
Barbering and sweeping were not
causes for sainthood.
 

I am the tiny, irate, scolding person
standing in the dome of my own skull.
She shakes her head again, arms crossed, again
disappointed: I’m clumsy, struggling, dull.

Then there’s the shattered wine glass,
an afternoon misspent, a dinner gobbled,
rank laundry, unpaid bills, uncut grass,
and, I suspect, one lovely friendship bobbled.

And yet, I’m here.         Alive.

Ayari Marie Aguayo 7-02-2018

When we lose our dreams
To be educated
And are afraid
Of being incarcerated

We pray to you
Dios te salve, María,

When we don’t know
Where to go
To be a Sitting Bull
Or a Standing Rock

We pray to you
llena eres de gracia,

When your naturaleza
Showed us no mercy
And the politicians
Shut down our Borinquen

We pray to you
el Señor esta contigo.

When we’ve picked
All the grapes
Without an actual
Bathroom break

We pray to you
Bendita eres

When our hermanas Negras
Are being maimed
And ashamed
By racism, sexism, bigotry

We pray to you
entre todas las mujeres,

When we fight for
Farm workers’ rights
While hiding from
Our men’s grips at night

We pray to you
y bendito es el fruto

Da'Shawn Mosley 6-01-2018

This mourning begins with eyes:
ours which open
and the eyes a gun closed,
the barrel a chamber in which there is found no heart,
for every latch and mechanism of the machine moves with menace
and every finger entangled and wound around its trigger
draws closed the stage curtains of peace.

This mourning begins with flesh—
our stance under a persistent sun
as a body stretches across a coroner’s table like the hide of a deer.
In such an occasion, a body’s bullet holes
become mouths. They speak of the perils our muscles
hope not to know. They reveal what it’s like
to be whole and come undone
and linger like litter.

Parkland.
Pulse.
Emanuel.
Columbine.

For you, we combine this mourning
with the mournings that have become before it.

Sharon Murfin 5-02-2018

Prayer is invisible and advisably secret.
If we could hear the inaudible contents
it might sound like the roiling of a mighty river
over scrabbly rocks, or the whirr of infinite
prayer wheels generating the world-winds
atop some hidden mountain.

All I know is that the breath of the heart
escapes its bounds.
The tail of the comet streaks into the ether
burning faster than any silver bullet.

It doesn’t stick in the brain to recoil and rewind,
but flies like a light-arrow toward the stars
by force of desire returning home.
Before the bow-string stops vibrating
it has traveled around the world three times.

Patricia Byrne 4-25-2018

I see you but you do not see me
I am made invisible by your special powers
Not mine. I have no power.
Your shiny car passes me
It does not have a speck of dirt
But I am filthy
Only my sweat shines at the bus stop
As it did today in the fields
I smell like dirt
I know you are not hungry
Because I see you in your red car
Driving to a fancy restaurant
You do not know I am hungry
Because you cannot see me
I had no lunch today
My belly hurts
But you cannot hear my emptiness
You only hear the music in your car
I see you but you do not see me
Perhaps all of me was left
In the woods where I slept last night
Or maybe the mosquitoes sucked my life away
One by one as they found me on the ground
Because I had no blanket to cover me So I itch. They saw me though you do not.
I dream of home. My mother and my sisters
Hungry, waiting for the money I will send for food.
“America ... you will make lots of money
Our stomachs will be full
And your sisters will have shoes”
I hope my boss pays me this week
I look at my boots
These boots took me 15 days through the desert
Now they will bring me through the fields
And I wonder ...
Is it the car that makes me invisible
Because I see you but
You do not see me

Brian G. Gilmore 4-25-2018

You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your strength, and with
all your mind; and your neighbor
as yourself. —Luke 10:27

such is the lawyer.
we need to know.

road less traveled.
not robert frost.

in that space.
like a typewriter

on table, sewing
machine sitting still

this is why i do this
work. not the walking

dead. not some george
romero extra. like the

young troubled girl in
my neighborhood just

last week. no one reached
out. they called the police.

locked their doors, windows.
they became priest, levite

on the other side of the
road. it was like when

i was 13 standing on the
high dive. gravity take

over. send me to water
below. don’t be everyone.

ask of myself each second:
will i cross the road? “it is

written in the law.” heart
& soul. love. neighbor.

even if they aren’t nice. another
chance to hear that answer.

          Light dimming now the two friends hurry
to lower the body. Joseph’s thumb bleeds,
stuck by thorns when he cradled the head
while servants wrapped limbs in carry sling.
Nicodemus staggers beneath a hundred
pounds of spice-packed jars on his back,
no heavier, he thinks, than the fear which
held him burdened for so long.

          In silence they leave
the carrion crowd, wind along stone garden paths,
weave past carved caves. The grave they had readied
for themselves in death, the two now give
the Galilean—though they know now
it was life he had bestowed when first they met
in dark of night, in temple yard.

          In silence they perform
the ancient rituals. Wash the body,
anoint with aloe, wind the myrrh-filled cloth
encircling feet, legs, arms, hands,
strips of linen woven under the scarred
small of his back, stretched across his yielding
torso, layer upon layer of burial resin
mixed with aloe filling
the stone chamber with the scent of death.

          Light dimming now the two friends hurry
to shroud the head, cover the beloved’s face.
Their hearts say linger but day is gone
so they pull the stone in place, rush to wash
for Sabbath prayers.

          In silence the garden sighs.
Plants furl in the dark. The rising wind keens
the song a thousand spices cannot mask,
the dark a tombed heart
too heavy for even night to bear.

There are days when I think about going to live with the monks.
My brother Richard did this in the early sixties. He never discussed
the idea with me. A day simply came and my family took him to the
LaGuardia Airport. We said goodbye and then he was gone.

I wonder how many men leave a home each year because of a
spiritual need to either be alone or closer to someone other than a
human being. Richard went away to upstate New York. Growing up
in the South Bronx I never thought about upstate. How many slaves
went to sleep every night tired of picking cotton but never dreaming
of Canada?

Lately I listen to people in cafes or pundits on television talking about
the recent presidential election. I guess this is how our nation felt
after Lincoln’s death. What will become of our Union now? Alas, I look
into the mirror and see a wretched freeman.

There is a way a tree will talk to a black man, how it might guide him
out of the woods and toward freedom. Outside my window I look at the
trees, I notice their naked limbs, their leaves gone from too much
weeping. I feel like a lover who wakes before daybreak only to discover
love is gone.

I feel a longing, a need for prayer and fasting. Where is the choir for
my soul to join? We are a people in need of song—it’s time to compose
new spirituals. We either dream or die.

Philip C. Kolin 4-25-2018
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

I saw her in the month of mumps
puffed up in poverty’s robes,

a woman of fragments,

a shuffling quilt with running threads—
more holes, really, than skein.

You could read history in the headlines
she wore, partial untruths, incomplete

fictions. All of her lovers
failed to match the shoes she put on.

Every child she birthed missed having
national sunshine and two names.

She dodged taxes on her home;
it never had an address to speak of and

moved like wind-spinning, clanking aluminum cans
she chased for pennies.

Her boudoir looked like a butcher’s sleeve;
stolen ketchup packets from McDonald’s
provided ambergris for her perfume.

She was disqualified for any entitlements
except for open dumpsters on eyeless streets.

But mail always waited for her
no postage due; she was the patron

of the discarded; on winter nights the USPS
coated her from the leprous jaws of the wind.

She slept at the homes of three different zip codes
one January; always leaving at dawn’s early light;

she thought the flag needed to be washed.

Judith Deem Dupree 4-25-2018

Watching the evening news

He stumbles along in broken gait, pale face frozen
in a blank stare, and all the long, long river of moving
bodies pass him by. Even the frail move faster,
framing him against their blur of anguish, like a film
that runs slow motion, etching one small
centerpiece against the screen of the unwilling eye.

Upon his back—as if coupled there, ribs fused to ribs—
rides an ancient man, more skeletal than fleshed,
skull rocking gently, rhythmically, arms crooked
absurdly over the hard-set slope of shoulders, hands
snatching at the brittle air. Thin-stick shanks
dangle loosely over the young man’s arms, bobbing
with the plunge and stagger of his legs—like
metronomes that pace the broken angle of each step.

And still they come, he comes—this strange, two-
headed creature all its own, with its four unseeing eyes,
its single haunted soul. Like a crab caught in an
unremitting tide—an awful metamorphosis, a horror
that we cannot look upon, nor speak of, nor forget.

Still he comes, inseparable, inexorable. The dying and
the young—a ghost that rides the shoulders of the world.