Takahashi_Biho-No_Series-Dragonfly_and_lotus-00034829-030804-F06
Transformation and the Ineluctable Signs of Ageing
by Mary Kendall

This is not my first transformation. No, it happened way back when—six decades and then some, and I find myself no longer who I thought I was just ten, twenty or even thirty years ago. Those were other lifetimes, times I lived through, times I felt so alive, enjoyed, loved, and times I remember, but those were lives I knew I had passed through completely.

I have the evidence.

Now, going further back in time—forty or fifty years ago, it all begins to change. It starts to slow down—slow—slow—slow—as if someone has put a finger out and touched the spinning world—and now it slows down enough as if I must to look for a place to rest.

This viewing backwards makes me dizzy—dizzy—dizzy enough to want to keep traveling back to the end, which in fact is the beginning, and that would be sixty years ago. That brings me to when I was just eight. Eight. The age of reason begins at eight.

Eight was the transformation.

It was the year my father died. I didn’t quite grasp the words, “Your father is dead,” but I witnessed everyone around me weeping and sobbing, and at the wake, an old woman, whose name has long since disappeared, told me I must kiss my father as he lay there looking quite asleep.

It was then that it happened…or began to happen. I smelled the flowers for the first time when I stretched up and over to reach him. He was cold—cold—cold—no life there, and that was how it began. I leaned over and pretended to kiss him, but I did not. I knew he was gone, but I smelled those flowers there for the first time in that moment.

After that, it happened again a few days later. It began as—inevitably, unmistakably—the scent of flowers came—always out of nowhere—no flowers near me, inside, no breeze—but I knew he was there. I felt his spirit around me. I knew who it was. He came like that several times after that day, and then it stopped.

That was how this life changed.

I knew then for sure (yes, for sure, even at eight) that we aren’t here alone or for very long. We arrive alone, but as a visitor, not allowed to stay too long, but counting years in 365 day increments matters little when there is all eternity waiting for us after the next transformation, the final, inescapable metamorphosis when this uncomfortable body finally, inevitably, unavoidably learns it can—and must—finally—fly.

Now that is the real transformation.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I began this poem it was going to be a traditional free verse poem. As I was reading through the first rough draft, it began to transform itself into a prose poem of some sort, yet it insisted on line breaks and italics here and there. The poem took on its own life as it told my/its story based on an early experience of death—and subsequently, of life. It happened like this—at age 8—yet the experience had its own metamorphosis into its own story and poem. I think most poets write for those moments when they find their words change before them, creating something they didn’t set out to write, but arriving at the end, knowing this is the poem that was meant to be written all along.

IMAGE: “Dragonfly and Lotus” by Takahashi Biho (b. 1873).  (Note from the author: The dragonfly is my totemic insect.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mary Kendall is a poet who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She blogs A Poet in Time, and is the author of a chapbook, Erasing the Doubt, published this past spring by Finishing Line Press. Lately she has been focusing on the smaller Japanese poetic forms of Haiku, Tanka, Haiga, Tanka Prose and Haibun.

adoration
The Ageing Woman as Alchemist
by Abigail Wyatt

Dry souls are wisest and best. — Heraclitus

These days, more and more, I wear my pointed hat
and care nothing for those striplings who would mock me.
Close-closeted, by night, I inscribe my coded symbols,
hear the voices of my ancestors whisper on the air.
I prepare, I prepare: by slow degrees, I engage in the piece work of      starlight:
projects, novelties excite me less as the children of Nyx draw me in.
And in time, too, I will build me a fire of dry twigs and the skeletons of      leaves.
I will burn off in clouds of simple steam all that great weight of the too      long unforgotten
that pulls me ever deeper down: passions that bit deep, the wellspring
of old griefs that pollute my noisome soul with their clamour.
No more will I be tethered to this teeming swamp:
hollowed out, my heart burnt out, now I am for burning away.
And, as old glue dries to dust, these days I find I cannot adhere to      things;
left without substance, without juice and flesh, the bones of my being      are laid bare.
Stripped of my follies, my prides, my tears, I am reduced to the rock salt      of my knowing.
I fear a few grains are all the wisdom there is. See, it is blown upon the      air.

IMAGE: “Adoration” by Erté (1892-1990).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem just over a year ago and first performed it at a reading given as part of the Penzance Literary festival. Around that time I had been increasingly aware that I had entered a new phase in my life. I stopped colouring my hair, grew my new, grey hair longer, and began to concern myself both less and more with the business of who I was and what I wanted. What I am discovering is that I need fewer things but, more and more, I resent spending time on the banal and the trivial. I also know now that there is little ‘peace’ in older age since inwardly — and often outwardly too — I rage against cruelty and injustice. It is as much the job, of the elders, I think, as it is of the young to remind the community what where they may be compromise and where there can be none.

Wyatt

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abigail Wyatt writes poetry and some short fiction. She lives in Cornwall but has waking dreams of moving to South Pembrokeshire in Wales. Cornwall is lovely but she has been there a long time and her life has become noisy and stressful. New horizons and new challenges beckon. Another metamorphosis.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON HER PHOTO: Me at the turn of this year: badger hair but the same blue eyes. The trouble is, as my grandmother once told me, you never feel any older.

caballero PHOTO: Poet Ana Maria Caballero enjoys her copy of The Great Gatsby Anthology at one of Miami’s great places to read. The collection features her poem “Oh, Zelda,” based on a passage from Ernest Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The work published in The Great Gatsby Anthology is as varied and vibrant as the characters in Fitzgerald’s book. The edition itself is elegant, deliberate, reflective but also stocks a number of surprises, which, like the novel it invokes, makes for a fresh, gratifying read. It’s an honor to be included in its pages.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ana Maria Caballero won Colombia’s José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize in 2014 for her book Entre domingo y domingo (From Sunday to Sunday). Her work has appeared in over 20 publications, including Jai-Alai, Smoking Glue Gun Magazine, Red Savina Review, Big River Poetry Review, and CutBank. It is forthcoming on The Potomac and others. Every week, she writes about poetry for Zeteo Journal. Her poems and book thoughts can be read at the thedrugstorenotebook.co.

glenisredmond
RSVPing to Lucille Clifton
by Glenis Redmond

                    come celebrate
                    with me that everyday
                    something has tried to kill me
                    and has failed.           Lucille Clifton

I got your invitation
& it was right on time.
Up off the couch I rise
from the doctor’s prognosis:
You won’t die from this, but you’ll
sure wish that you would have.
Pinched by pain, I pray for release.
You say, come celebrate with me.
I arrive late to the party,
with my poetry shoes on.
I sing loud and off key
full throated
with no apologies.­
With your invitation I take stock
of my non-white & and woman passage.
You instructed me to make it up.
I do.
Follow your lead
between starshine and clay.
& every time they try to break me in Babylon,
I keep dancing my dreams
Shimmy the limbo while I stomp
on Fibromyalgia’s head
shouting to this killing life, you fail.

PHOTO: The author performing WC Ried Center, Asheville Youth Slam, 2012 (Credit: Micah Mackenzie).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the early ’90s I watched Lucille Clifton read “won’t you celebrate with me” on Bill Moyer’s Language of Life on PBS. The moment was monumental. I memorized the poem and carried it everywhere. How the words worked on me psychologically, poetically, and spiritually — turned my gaze to my own familial and personal tapestry. While I embodied the poem at first, I realized many years later that the poem was also speaking to me craft-wise. This 14-line untitled poem is a sparse and intentional missive in which every syllable and word resonates:

          won’t you celebrate with me
          what i have shaped into
          a kind of life? i had no model.
          born in babylon
          both nonwhite and woman
          what did i see to be except myself?
          i made it up
          here on this bridge between
          starshine and clay,
          my one hand holding tight
          my other hand; come celebrate
          with me that everyday
          something has tried to kill me
          and has failed.

                                        The Book of Light, p.25

In the sixth line of the poem, the narrator calls out again to the void: “What could I see to be, but myself?” As she is devoid of role models and lack of positive mirrors that reflected by her race. She is faced with whether to assimilate or to create models. The speaker chooses to mythologize herself. She gave me permission to write my on Creation Myth, as well as reconfigure my life poetically. “RSVPing to Lucille Clifton” is my thank you to Lucille Clifton and her work that transformed me.

SOURCE: “won’t you celebrate with me” appears in Lucille Clifton‘s collection Book of Light (Copper Canyon Press, 1993), available at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Glenis Redmond lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has traveled to all over the state and the country as a Road Poet with two posts as the Poet-in-Residence at The Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville, South Carolina, and at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This year she served as the Mentor Poet for the National Student Poets Program. She prepared student poets to read at the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, and for the First Lady, Michelle Obama at The White House. ¶ Glenis is a Cave Canem Fellow and a North Carolina Literary Fellowship Recipient and a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. She helped create the first Writer-in-Residence at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Glenis is also a full-time road poet, performing and teaching poetry across the country. She believes that poetry is a healer. She can be found across America in the trenches applying pressure to those in need, one poem at a time.

Jen-Berkeley-apartment
Hard
by Jennifer Lagier

At thirty, my husband
demanded I look and act
as if I was sixteen.
It was like forcing my foot
into a shoe three sizes too small:
cramming myself into a life
that no longer fit.

When we separated,
guilt made me report for duty
in response to his
once a week call.
He’d leave fifty dollars
on the night stand
next to his bed,
tell me I’d be
so much happier,
probably still married,
if I just didn’t think.

After, I would
pump iron for hours,
run seven cross country miles,
shower and scrub myself raw.
I pared away feminine softness,
built muscles of steel,
became invulnerable and invincible,
made myself hard.

SOURCE: Previously published in The Potomac

PHOTO: The author in 1983.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was 30 when I divorced my first husband. I walked away with the clothes on my back, a typewriter, and a photograph of my creative writing instructor. During that time, I was isolated, for a time, homeless, ostracized by family and friends. A kind landlady rented me a small apartment despite my lack of furniture and belongings. One of my neighbors introduced me to the local gym where the guy who ran it allowed me to work out. Every day, I ran seven miles before work, then worked out at the gym for two hours a night.

jlagier

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry and in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor. Jennifer is a member of the Italian American Writers Association and Rockford Writers Guild. She co-edits the Homestead Review and maintains websites for Ping Pong: A Literary Journal of the Henry Miller Library, The Monterey Poetry Review, and misfitmagazine.net. She also helps coordinate the Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium’s Second Sunday Reading Series. Visit her website at jlagier.net

ohara1
Hunt
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

My wings spread in delight
to obstruct rays from clouds;
Enjoy ride that spans miles
on shapeless, silky white

To fly effortlessly on thermals
guided by lightweight feathers;
I rule as master of skies with
onlookers envying my flight

Scan wide with sharp sight
to spot an innocent prize;
Who enjoys assured life ––
unaware of turbulence in store

Waves splash as I swoop deep
disturbing smooth reflections;
I extend my claws into cool
ocean and capture unaware prey

My talons tighten hold as kill
struggles to survive; I feel
its stunned surprise as life
transforms from joy to fight

Soar in air towards majestic
sun, as quarry breathes its last
Sudden snatch destroys prey’s world
as I succeed in my silent hunt

IMAGE: “Eagle in flight against snowy sky” by Ohara Koson (1933).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  Since childhood, eagles have always fascinated me. I took this this opportunity to get a glimpse into an eagle hunting for its food.

Gowrisankar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vijaya Gowrisankar released her first book of poems Inspire in 2014. The book features more than 100 poems on topics such as Nature, Life, Positivity, and Change. She is passionate about writing poems from childhood. Her poems have been submitted in various publications.

kacho
Bee
by Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr.

This morning, I am the bee in the garden
flitting from flower to flower, searching

each fold of petal for a drop of nectar.
Bumblebee with supersonic vision,

tracking every tremor of color,
flickering light, fast-flying birds.

Bee whose iridescent wings beat faster
than a fruit fly’s, hovering gingerly

over orchids with furry lips and stuck-
out tongues. For direction, consider

our language: the waggle dance, how it guides
the hive’s ceaseless labor of foraging

under the glare of a one-eyed god.
We make honey from what we can gather.

IMAGE: “Catalpa pods and bee,” woodblock print by Watanabe Seitei (1916).

Dela Pena

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr.,
is a Filipino poet who has been living in Singapore since 2011. He is the author of the chapbook Requiem. His poems have been published in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Kartika Review: An Asian American Journal, The Guardian, and Singapore-based anthologies such as A Luxury We Can Not Afford and The Curious Fruit. He is a recipient of the Palanca Award for Poetry from the Philippines, as well as numerous awards from British Council Singapore’s Writing the City.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at the Imbiah Nature Walk in Sentosa, Singapore.

LINDA KRAUS in MOUNT DORA

PHOTO: Poet Linda Kraus with her copy of The Great Gatsby Anthology at the end of a pier in Mount Dora, Florida — to commemorate her poem “The End of the Pier” featured in the collection.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON HER POEM: Gatsby’s tortuous quest for love became a kind of totem for me over the years; I wished to honor its significance in my own life as well as in the lives of many generations of readers by writing “The End of the Pier.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Kraus has taught English and Film Studies at the college and university levels. She has written film criticism, short fiction, and poetry since adolescence and has published both poetry and film criticism. Her poems appear in a variety of anthologies, and she is currently editing her first collection of poetry.

Kelley (Painting)1
Photograph of My Soul as a Tree Stump
by Kelley White

It needs to be black and white so you can
imagine eternity—there’s a ragged
edge where my flowering youth broke in two
and one part flew off with my ex-husband
and the other stayed behind, a jagged
shard of ice in my throat—and the ice grew
until it split the heartwood. Now you can
count the rings I lived and the one’s I sagged
numb unliving through my life, and it’s true
I grew tired, let the wind smooth and fan
my feathers into moss and lichen shaggy
as my fingers in his hair. That wind blew
rain and snow and darkness until my hands
were vines and creaking twigs and the craggy
voice of broken glass thrown from a passing
car, or was it my children picnicking?

IMAGE: “Kelley and cats” by David Low (1979).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece came out of an assignment for the remarkable poet and teacher Christopher Bursk’s Spring Workshop at Bucks County Community College near Philadelphia. Of course I don’t live in Philadelphia anymore but it was my privilege to be a part of this wonderful community for several years and I’ve since tried to follow along from afar. The theme this year was “nature” and inevitably “the soul” made its way into the work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.

crow wing
The Human-Headed Crow
       (An ancient artifact displayed in Jinzhou Museum)
by Yuan Changming

That human-headed bird
Flapping its wings against
Foreign visitations must have been
Either possessed by the spirit of
My previous life
Or winged by the body of
My next being; otherwise
It would never bother to
Look up at me

As it flies into the same legend
About the yellow crane
All its feathers fall down
On my sandy mind, like meteorites
With all their secrets hardened
From an other universe

IMAGE: “Crow’s wing, Yosemite National Park” by DB.

changming

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 Yuan Changming, eight-time Pushcart nominee and author of five chapbooks, including Kinship (2015) and The Origin of Letters (2015), began to learn English at 19 and published monographs on translation before moving from China to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently co-edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, and, has had poetry appear in 1,069 literary publications across 36 countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Cincinnati Review, and Threepenny Review. 

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