Sundays 

 
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

until sunset.

 

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.

Avatar 

 
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

intrinsic yearning.

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. 

                                                              

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Distanced Ritual

 
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.

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Have Faith?

 
by Gerard Sarnat

1.  Mind-Blowing Reflections After Two Tuesdays Passed 

 

i. Forget Me Not

 

22Nov16

Dearest JFK

 

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

-- ishkabibble

 

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

plus wonderful,

this-side-of-heaven

 

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

much placating

clichés not high ideals.

 

Relief seeks to bridge

such gaps between

mainstream fictions

 

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

 

Abraham laity

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

 

Portfolio leaf

evolves the writ, leaves portly

writers’ portmanteaux.

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

 

Easter Sunday

dawn after Saturday night braised

osso bucco, walking on our virginal forest trail

with one grandson whose inculcated

domain’s

primarily nature,

as Benjamin Blaze

indicates

variegated

petit four trumpet daffodils opening under a double rainbow,

today’s

white Pascal lamb trying to be petted while avoid being spayed

by narcissistic anti-religulous adults exclaims

unfazed,

“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,

freezer, cupboard.

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

ii. Over

      Share

 

            Sunrise

Tock

            All

The

            Time

In

            The

World

            Tick

Five

            AM

Fam

            Left

Three

            Weeks

Post

            New

Hip

            Can’t

Exert

            Don’t

Care

            About

Food

            Or

Weed

            107

Or

            So

Of

            You

Out

            There

On

            High

School

            List

Serv

            Almost

8000

            Years

Among

            Us

Every

            Once

In

            A

While

            During

Decades

           

 

            On

 

iii. Sharing Mary

 

RIP William Agee, 5 Jan1938 – 20 Dec 2017*

At Havad College

when I attempted

with no pre-med

studies to get

into HMS,

their dean

rebuffed

me with

a note:

 

“Sir, we,

have been

made aware

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 

hasn’t demonstrated

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.”

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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

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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?

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Line

            One

Drops

            Like

A

            Fly

Or

            Fades

Away

            Rarely

Do

            We

Shtick

            About

Cancer

            Inside

Other

            Tocking

Bombs

            Need

Healing

            When

Quaker

            Speak

Has

            A

Tough

            Tart    

Decision

            To

Make

            They

Help

            Each

Other

            Listen

Hold

            Friend

Ship

            Circle

Clear

            Ness

Comm

            Ittees

I

            Fail

My

            Attempts

To

            Pass

Our

            Talking

Stick

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.

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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--

                    "Hello."

                              "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

                                        in Indonesian. 

"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. 

                              "Buddha?"

I consider the endlessly amusing possibilities. 

                                         Me, a Buddha?

                    But I must say no. "Bukan."

The shopkeeper frowns, confused,

                                         but soon brightens.

                             "Yes, Hindu."

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."

                                               "He's free."

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.