by Matthew J. Andrews
In the morning,
I sat and stared
at the messiah,
and her fingers snapped
if I looked away.
Under midday sun,
she dug deeper, her
right hand holding a hammer,
her left fingers vice-
gripping my hair.
All afternoon, she
cried until the house swamped,
and I pumped cloudy
water into the gutter
At night, she
prowled while I, wide-
eyed in bed, wondered
if I wanted to go
to heaven after all.
Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer who lives in Modesto, California. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Funicular Magazine, The Inflectionist Review, Red Rock Review, Sojourners, Amethyst Review, Kissing Dynamite, and Deep Wild Journal, among others. He can be contacted at matthewjandrews.com.
by Carol Casey
Don't get me wrong,
I swat flies,
have resorted to inflicting
sticky lingering death.
Never pulled a wing off, though.
So, the one that crawls across
the porch table has distinction.
It doesn’t take flight
when I brush at it,
just topples, legs thrashing for purchase,
finally rights itself.
I see it only has one wing.
Where did the other one go?
Or was it ever there?
A doomed mutation,
a cruel joke,
a cold malice?
The imperfection works on me.
I consider how to feed it,
raid the compost,
place a brown blob of avocado
within its reach.
As if it had become kin,
an avatar of the absences
in me that
I try to love.
Convention says you’re just
prolonging its suffering.
Yet who wont fight to keep going,
as if life is a good,
which we don't know
yet are riddled with
Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Prairie Journal, BluePepper, Back Channels, Front Porch Review and others, including a number of anthologies, most recently, i am what becomes of broken branch and We Are One: Poems From the Pandemic.
by Milton Jordan
Burial bells at St. Theresa’s sound
out now familiar tones as the Sexton
and a younger priest complete essential
services for the small family gathered
in masks before the pall placed early
by bearers in the newly opened section
of the graveyard still without monuments.
We join these near daily rituals
from our third floor apartment balcony
across Laurel Avenue, willing
our participation known to mourners
who seldom lift their gaze from the path toward
cars left idling at the gate beneath us.
The Feast in a Strict Season
by Milton Jordan
The faithful process with distant spacing
up the bare dirt road that divides the town
toward the church built atop its one ridge.
We walk behind the old priest and acolytes
with the crucifix and tarnished censer
swinging smoke that does not cloud our doubt.
We are an anxious remnant scattered
outside the church door to hear, in snatches,
the priest read early mass and watch him
pass cup and bread from table to his lips.
Leaving, a few smile greetings to friends
or lift a hand to those across the road.
Most return, heads bowed, to now somber
tables for their quieter Easter meal
and a thin edge of hope lighting the room.
Milton Jordan lives in Georgetown, Texas, with the musician Anne Elton Jordan. His most recent poetry collection is What the Rivers Gather, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020. Milton edited the anthology No Season for Silence: Texas Poets and Pandemic, Kallisto Gaia Press, 2020.
Staff of Life
by Karen Mandell
The banana bread cooled on the counter,
Not ready for the knife that would deliver it
From its pan. Still, I didn’t consider it
My baby, though I had made it.
I lay my cheek on the brown crust,
Rested there. This was new for me;
A finger touch acted as temperature check
Before. It was like placing my face
Against my mother’s. Sweet smelling,
Warm, compelling. I became the baby,
Comfited, encompassed, content.
I’d never thought to do more with food
Than cut and eat. This time that didn’t seem enough.
I thought the Hebrew prayer would help:
Thank you for this bread brought from the earth.
I left it on the counter. Later I’ll do what must be done:
Make slices, not too big and not too small.
Respectful, incorporating its body into mine.
Karen Mandell has taught writing at the high school and college levels and literature at community senior centers. She's written Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Rose Has a New Walker, a book of poetry.
by Gerard Sarnat
1. Mind-Blowing Reflections After Two Tuesdays Passed
i. Forget Me Not
You were a Harvard Yard frosh 27 years
before I scrambled into Memorial Church
during that micro-millisecond as it all ended.
Casting a once clear-eyed catholic glance into
our country's future, could you imagine today's
besmirched state of affairs exactly 53 years later?
In need of comfort, member of the Class of '67
ii. Forget Me Nots
Daddy Dear, I now remember
one of those mornings after
Truman’s mushroom cloud.
We stood among delicate
plants with beautiful blue
flowers and yellow faces.
Nodding to the tanned man
in a wide brimmed straw hat,
you whispered, Godner.
iii. Have Faith? haiku
Canon, curse, sermon,
tongues, discourse, dharma, bible
iv. Anticipated Role-playing Before Thanksgiving Blessings
Grandchildren & their many cousins’ll gather as usual to witness.
Before supper your son may master Dungeons & Dragons
with the older crew while I intently watch some younger ones.
Smallish boys build twin skyscraper synagogues from blocks
into which the multitude’s only girl flew a few Lego planes.
Later they’ll rebuild each temple tower taller than last time.
Now getting down to turkey supplications, we adults can
not imagine what’s occurring with our world’s Muslim kids
whose uncles, sisters, selves are snatched by extraordinarily
unenlightened rendition then dropped down black op holes.
2. Life Vs. Hagiography
My eldest grandson
and I agreed
on one single person
we JewBus would like
to meet if pretend
s/he had nada passed.
Once real, gritty, pain
in the effort to no way
offend, too many
Christians today fail
to express unique powers
of an actual Jesus
in that authentic world
opting instead for
clichés not high ideals.
Relief seeks to bridge
such gaps between
then some cotton-candy
or corrupt Christianity: His
goal was never to keep
us sheltered/ comfortable.
He pulled zilch punches.
PS, Buddha is number two.
NB, we Chosen People don’t
select either of our
patriarchs, Abraham or Moses.
Addendum: I named Dylan #3
which Simon scoffed at
well as thought already dead.
3. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (aka Ajahn Geoff)
Tuesday I invite visiting saffron sari shorn monk
----- he usually lives among the Hmong hill tribe
people not in their native Vietnam but destination
emigrated to near St. Paul after America’s corrupt war
---- who travels during colder months delivering dharma talks
often stopping in hotter California, current spot our family lives,
maybe even for shorter spells in Long Island to see parents vegetating
in a nursing home, perhaps a week in Ohio’s Oberlin where went to college
to lunch at my place along with a bunch of folks from local meditation center
all of whom bring dishes for a pot luck then take turns asking this eminent abbot
which seem kosher enough for him to ingest since there are restrictions on daily meal
that must be “freely given” into bhiksha bowl as only food allowed til 11AM tomorrow.
As it plays out… most of us could be considered JewBus – including the guest of honor.
Geoff had been bar mitzvahed back in the day before as a Peace Corp person in Burma
spending some vaca time in a Buddhist forest monastery thusly totally changing trajectory
of his life leading to dumping a girlfriend (“priests can celebrate while monks remain celibate”).
Although we had used great care preparing a large salad without adding any chicken or seafood
for obvious reasons, push come to shove, Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu softly whispered to me, “Nothing
with seeds…only laity eat these…not sure why….. if it’s issue of generativity or what….so sorry”
as stories get traded plus jokes made about crematoria being Saṃsāra’s* end point of continuity of care.
* beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again
4. LAST SUPPER 2018
i. Sadducees Etcetera haiku
Daybreak, old money Jews held
that the Feast of the Wave Sheaf
was always on Sunday.
Half a millennium
before Muhammad chimed in
on Muslims’ behalf
passed monotheist baton
to JC’s sponsors.
Shrunk down for morons --
why’s their Good Friday happen
on our Seder dinner?
ii. Spare Parts
Though gaunt, broke-down, wheelchair-bound, no longer
able to do email or play dominoes or see and hear much,
grizzled Mother was (per dear deceased Dad’s plan) at home
in their condo under a loving Catholic Filipino family’s care.
She enjoys food -- particularly sweet and sour shrimp
almost promiscuously -- but has somehow managed to lose
ten pounds of flab -- plus still looks like she’s enjoying
existence at the not so tender age of nearly 103.
This pre-Passover trip for late lunch, dolled and lipsticked
up by Rhoda’s caregivers in anticipation of my coming,
since awake all night sundowning, increasingly thin,
Mommy lay in bed unclear if alive, dead or embalmed.
After gut-poking by Lina and Chito, good news’ Mom awoke
with the bad that she called me Harvey, a now fellow
septuagenarian French Canadian orphan Sarnat cousin
who sadly always wanted to get raised by moi’s parents.
However, given a tiebreaker I’d never wanted to be her son,
we work it out with the Joaquins for him to assume Gerard’s
ID, maintain theVolvo clunker and save me by leading Easter/
Pesach services while I swap in less frequent visiting privileges.
iii. Darwine X BaruchAtahEucharist haiku
evolves the writ, leaves portly
iv. Erev Pesach: Hen Plucked As Matzo Balls Boil
Half century I waited and then waited some more
for a delicate opening to broach to my companion
the possibility [in well-chosen diplomatic words]
errr…instead of rotting in the ground next to each
other with our parents surrounding us equidistant
on the hillside, that despite six millennia caveats
v. Allahu Akbar
After last Ash Wednesday happened
Valentine's Day woohoo
Jeez time flied – guys up in that sky
-- JC Pesach supp with bros
Good Friday when stock exchanges
close as matter of catholic
tradition while those original Jewish
monotheists’re replaced by
Christians then a half millennia later
Abraham’s youngest branch
begins which now celebrates Sabbath
protesting new Eretz Israel
Gaza security rules: 16 Muslims dead
right before Easter Sunday’s
Resurrection occurred on April Fools
if gluten-free matzo ain’t gross
though non-GMO spelt grain’s worse
-- I’m a matzochrist who derives
pleasure from the bread of affliction.
vi. Force Majeure Technicolor Melee
dawn after Saturday night braised
osso bucco, walking on our virginal forest trail
with one grandson whose inculcated
as Benjamin Blaze
petit four trumpet daffodils opening under a double rainbow,
white Pascal lamb trying to be petted while avoid being spayed
by narcissistic anti-religulous adults exclaims
“Let’s get ready for adoration
from a little boy trading
in his black sheep for Resurrection’s payday.”
vii. Passover Divining Rod haiku
Samurai hair bun --
chop stick sampling hive honey
-- zendo Ouija board
5. MESSIAH COMPLEX MISCELLANY
i. Not Your Marx Bros Cocoanuts
Never been popular
for piggy foods I ate
-- after near 50 years
wife’s taken nada
from my plate, it’s
as if we’ve separate
shelves in the frig,
Which’s ‘til a month
ago when she put on
her stylish seductive
shtick then purred,
Dearest, would you
pleeaase be sooo nice
…bring me some of
TJ’s pine nuts NOW?
iii. Sharing Mary
RIP William Agee, 5 Jan1938 – 20 Dec 2017*
At Havad College
when I attempted
with no pre-med
studies to get
you were for
a time severed
from The University
when one nun ‘friend’
got caught as the cockcrows in flagrante
delicto in a roommate’s bed.”An informer
said, “this male
a necessary ability to
manage his own affairs
no less those needed to get
through Harvard Med School -
let alone help requisite patients
manage profound health affairs.”
* riffing off New York Times obituary 27Dec 2017 which details
this rising-star CEO’s ill-fated affair with subordinate Mary Cunningham
who was pressured to leave Bendix Corp when he was accused of “favoritism.”
not to do so, let’s take the opportunity to return to
the earth with the 1st to die’s ashes kept in an urn
till his or her partner likely soon enough followed
after which we would be merged forever, perhaps
better scattered to the winds -- eliciting simple stern
silent stares reminding me of concentration camps
Wow I’d pushed those
part of tea with fresh
mint in stemmed glasses
learned in an Algerian
Parisian café (a Muslim
good thing that July 7
2005 when the London
subway was bombed).
But since though I treat
me/ us each 3PM to this
drink, no one asks repeats;
howdya explain same week
our 12 year-old grandson/
bossy chef who disses moi’s
peasant tastes begs pignolias
to make fancy pesto sauce?
Gerard Sarnat won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for handfuls of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published including in Buddhist Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Northampton Review, New Haven Poetry Institute, Texas Review, Vonnegut Journal, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, and The New York Times as well as by Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Chicago and Columbia presses. He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry is a physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/ resources to deal with climate justice, and serves on Climate Action Now’s board. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, and is looking forward to future granddaughters.
Hari Natal di Indonesia: Kuta, Bali
by Eric Shaffer
On Jalan Legian, muddy street of schemes
and baseball-capped vendors
of cheap watches and perfume,
the sky is sacred blue.
The sidewalk gleams in grime. Every dirty puddle
shines. Every filthy inch of asphault,
every fold in the tattered skirts of black and white
wrapped at the waists
of stone guardians at timeless shrines
glows in the boom of noon.
From the sidewalk, shops are dark,
stark with shadow,
but when we linger, voices call--
"Yes, have a look?"
"Where are you going?"
Veronica unfolds sarongs of earthy tropical hues,
rich, dark shades in sulight
and jokes with a shopkeeper
"Ini suami saya," she says. I know the words,
and I glance up.
He greets me, and appropriate to the day,
I speak my little Indonesian,
"Selamat Hari Natal."
"Oh, Meri Kerismas," he says,
"and you are Christian?"
Surprised, I blink and look at the sky. This blue
spans a land of ten million gods,
yet every foreign face must follow only one.
Blue and yellow taxis honk in the streets.
Motor scooters and buses blast by.
I shake my head, searching for words
in his language or mine,
but find none before he asks again.
I consider the endlessly amusing possibilities.
Me, a Buddha?
But I must say no. "Bukan."
The shopkeeper frowns, confused,
but soon brightens.
O, land of boundless possibility! I swear
I will instantly convert!
But I deny him again,
"Maaf, Bapak, bukan."
Veronica explores racks and rows of clothes,
smiling at our slow words
and finally speaks,
"Bapak, dia tidak punya agamah."
"Sir, he has no religion."
I'm astonished, amazed. No religion!
Veronica laughs at my fallen face.
"At least tell the man I'm a poet," I whisper
She grins, "I don't remember the word."
Now, the shopkeeper smiles.
He has an answer at last.
"O, begitu," he says, "Dia bebas."
Petroglyph State Park,
Albuquerque, New Mexico
by Eric Shaffer
“Probably Not Christian Influence, As
The Cross Is A Universal Design Motif”
--sign on trail
About the time my ancestors were hauling marble around
for some cathedral in Europe
or making paintbrushes for Michelangelo,
somebody who knew this place
squatted before this black volcanic rock
chipping this design onto this face.
Meaning maybe a star shone brightly overhead here
or marking a significant event at this intersection
of the ten directions--a solstice, a vision, a falling star,
an uncommon bird.
A patient hand made these images without a plan--
thoughtfully unaware that Christians crossing the sea
would build a fence around this malpais
and make this ground a park.
Today, I saw my first Loggerhead Shrike--
black mask, thick dark beak, silver head, black wings
with a shock of white in the unfurling--
perched on a wire fence
next to a lizard impaled on a barb,
just like the book says.
Eric Shaffer is the author of seven books of poetry, including Even Further West; A Million-Dollar Bill; Lāhaina Noon; Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen; and Portable Planet.