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a conversation with myself while reading John Green and the book of Matthew

By SARAH STOLTZFUS ALLEN

I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.you know:
the whole “joy is in
the journey”
adage.

but

i live my life
looking to
Heaven.
every action,
scrutinized.
(if not right then,
later.
in prayer.)

so

my journey:
means
to an end.

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

if i am
the few,
is that supposed to bring
comfort?

“good job, you!
you are a part of
the few.”

please.

It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.

and yet

i cannot imagine
my God,
my Father,
displeased with my
thought process

while my mind is
on Heaven,
my body inhabits
little moments
here:

coffee with cream,
watching snow gather in great piles,
my boys with jelly smiles.

maybe the end is:
joy fulfilled.

the now:
just the now.
minute by minute.

Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Sarah is a wife and mom who drinks way too much coffee and takes way too many pictures of her coffee mugs (and kids). She works as an administrative assistant by day and by night she drinks more coffee while she writes about her life, her love, her pursuit of happiness, and her beloved Appalachian foothills.

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Chance Meeting at the Cemetery

By GRACE DION

Memorial Day, and I plant
yellow and white chrysanthemums.
Driving by the other family plot
I see Fred, my cousin once removed,
Fertilizing. The grass is the main thing,
he says. We visit. It’s cloudy, cold, windy,
the usual for Memorial Day,
but I hang around.
I eat Fred up with my eyes:
His long stride, his high bony shoulders,
his small beaked nose, the hands
that slant from the third knuckle,
the way the hair grows at his nape,
its pattern of grayness,
the shortness of his neck,
the way his cheek melts into it:
genetic nudging that revivify
my grandfather, uncles,
my father …

I make a grisly remark and Fred laughs:
it’s the family humor.
He’s eighty, I think, slim, looks healthy,
but has to rest after fertilizing,
or lifting the fertilizer into the trunk.
Still I linger. What else can we talk about?
When he’s gone, they’ll all be gone;
but for now, I have in my sight
that way of turning,
that tilt of head, that hat.

Grace Dion has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and has published poems and stories in various journals.

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His Dew (O’er Grass): Lessons from the Gullah Isles

By C.Z. HEYWARD

The susurrations of His morning call
reflected in the morn as algid mist

In this ritual I love to watch dragonflies chase sleepless fireflies who wanted to be butterflies

My feet bare, as were hers
I mirrored my grandmother’s steps as we crossed the peacock and teal tapestry

My feet became bathed by Him as He had done for Peter
An asomatous cleansing that started with our soles

I often wonder why they’re called blades?
They should be called feathers
or wings, for my heart takes flight with each crystalized step

At the coup the symphony is predictable yet always delightful
Scratches and pecks

Scratches and pecks

And then I watch dragonflies chase sleepless fireflies who wanted to be butterflies o’er grass

C.Z. Heyward is a native of Harlem, New York, who cherishes his summers spent on the coastal isles of Charleston, South Carolina. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals. He has also presented his work at the Nuyorican Cafe in New York City, and the Artlinks Festival in Athens, Greece.

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Intersecting

By KAYLI WREN

a girl washes dishes in place of her mother
frothy soap and sticky water
clean her fingernails as her father sits at the table,
chin propped on one hand

a boy plays with ants
crawling on his knees and pressing down grass blades
clearing a path to help them reach home

sweat beads on a woman’s upper lip
fingernails dig into soft skin
she screams and clenches and pushes
as he brushes back her hair

young people count down from three
they break each other’s hearts
and skip the part where they should
dance to old records
they carve hollow spaces in each other’s chests
leave the matter
lungs and heart and pieces of the diaphragm
back in the car where they said goodbye

lives intersect
people crack each other open and
heal each other again.
people exchange threads
from unravelling balls of yarn they hold,
collecting strands from the people who touch them

the world is getting thicker and fuller of yarn
that grows and overlaps and gets twisted
as we are born and kill and love
as we meet each other’s eyes and breathe each other’s air

when a woman dies,
she will drop her ball of yarn to the floor.
people will feel the slack
and her son will fumble along the ground,
reaching along the rope she isn’t a part of
hands deep in the spider web she made.

the childhood best friend
the neighbor who always smiled at her,
each on her line of connections.
having felt the slack and having followed it,
they will gather around her fallen yarn
and raise it off the floor together.

Kayli Wren is in her senior year of high school in Virginia. She has previously been published in Canvas Literary Journal, Literary Orphans, Quail Bell Magazine, and GirlSense & NonSense. In addition to writing, she enjoys acting in theater productions, knitting, and baking lemon squares.

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Known

By LAURA SHARP

We speak a language of eyes,
Conversing without words,
Perceiving without speaking,
Sharing humor and curiosity.
Is it only my imagination,
A story of wanting to be known?
A fiction of desired insight
Or truly a friend observed?

Laura Sharp is an accountant by day, obsessive cross-stitcher by night, and a mom of two hyperactive children 24/7. She and her husband Philip hail from a cozy house in Ohio, where they can be surrounded by verdant farmland without having to actually do any farming.

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Train

By ELIZA CALLARD

He’s a photojournalist; I am sucking mist
from my nebulizer.  We are on a train from
New York City to home, and he seems an

easy way to spend two hours.  He wants
to know about the fog surrounding us
in our double seat, and I explain about

cystic fibrosis, and the medicines I take
for my lungs.  He asks all the right
questions, even braving “What’s

the outlook?” and I am soothed to be
honest, soothed not to wear
the toothy smile I show my friends.  I can

say that I’m not likely to live long — maybe
thirty years old — and he is a stranger,
and he can care for two hours and then

let me go.  He talks about some children
with leukemia that he met for a newspaper
piece, and then, as if he is asking me

only what book I am holding, slack,
on my lap, “Have you thought about the

afterlife?”  I go still, although a siren
seems to be whining in my head.  I disembark,

gifted with a brochure ominously called,
“Would You Like To Know God Personally?”

and a resolve that my friends could, perhaps,
brave the truth of my life.

Eliza Callard was born, raised, and now lives in Philadelphia with her family. Forty years of managing — and occasionally mismanaging — her cystic fibrosis have given her perspective on loss and endurance. A product of the Philly public schools and Skidmore College, she enjoys family time, hiking and camping, and playing the piano. Her website is elizacallard.com.

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Fighting Rooster

Fighting Rooster

By RUTHIE VOTH

Looking back, I think  the first visit, for all of its awkwardness,
was my favorite-
the clearest in my mind.
The one with the watermelon, broken open to splatter on wooden boards
and dogs in constant attendance.
None of your apologies could change the fact that
your speech was more slurred by the hour;
even so, the evening was warm with laughter and conversation.

and there was a chicken on your shoulder
that we all agreed was beautiful
and two lovely  little girls
always hovering just left of center stage.

You asked if I wanted to shoot your gun.
Me, the girl who finds power in ideas and words
and has never searched for thrills to feel alive — me.
Martha Stewart or Emily Post would not have
refused a kind host’s generous offer,
but I
couldn’t see past the meaningless waste.

I worried you’d fall to your death
over the balcony railing
but your wife was not so concerned.
“He’s fallen farther than that. He used to jump out of planes.”
Still, I was only at ease when you were firmly planted in a chair.

for all of his beauty and tameness,
nobody could beat your rooster in a fight
and you’d lay money on that

The empty cans piled on your counter
as the little ones went to bed
and the older ones watched TV,
leaving five of us on a high deck under early summer stars
gathered close by the darkness outside our ring of firelight.

The night was full of our words, jumbling
over and past and into each other
and always circling back to your topic of the night
religion
in various forms. “I’m a druid” you said,
perched on your railing over Troublesome Creek,
“God is everywhere. She’s in that tree, he’s in that rooster.”

I watched you rolling each other’s cigarettes
without being asked-
moves that echoed those of my parents and grandparents
who intentionally modeled a life of loving by serving.

And all of my years of wholesome,
sober
upbringing
left me with little to say except to argue,
“No, there was sex before the fall.
It was a gift
and Adam and Eve enjoyed it.”

It was midnight before
our collided worlds separated
and the rooster from his sleepy stance on the porch railing
watched us drive away
carrying bones for our dogs
and memories to linger like cigarette smoke
long after the initial impact.

Deep in the hills of southeastern Kentucky, Ruthie and her husband raise their four children and run a Bible camp. Sometimes, in the aftershock of the busyness, her mind clears enough to blog and write a little poetry.