holding in my hands the small tub in which at noon i bathed my children
i look at the water in which float, benumbed by heat,
the dusty remains of their earlier game –
in some other reality, water would be carefully filtered
and then poured at the root of some apple tree whose shade and whose fruits
would be more than heavenly gifts –
in mine
it looks at the sun through eyes of foam
then slowly flows from the tub,
and the games of my children are left to return into the dust of the yard
to water there
the roots of their wings

© Liliana Negoi

the was of the will be

i open your book of poems
just like old priests open the bible
in search for masked predictions of future –

and just like those priests i find
that the future doesn’t change,
only the moment when we contemplate it

just like the heart that my child will draw on some train’s window
will always be a heart even if
my child isn’t born yet
and that window is still merely sand.

© Liliana Negoi

december mail

december unfolds its wings, unusually creamy and warm
under a lavender glazed sky, the house’s green walls allow
mild reflections of sunlight to lick them of shadows and
autumn scents, the windows are bored, posing shamelessly
in their entire nude transparency, and a pair of spiders,
having somehow escaped winter’s fangs so far, are
rejoicing upon the bliss of colonizing a dark corner
beneath the eaves, enjoying what in another time of the
year would be called “honeymoon”.
endless phrases cover pages, purposely avoiding periods
that would cut their thread too often, painting complicated
arabesques of meanings similar to some refined sensual
teasing, round and round hot spots but not quite touching
them, like a calligraphic piece of jewelry, and you come to
receive one tiny dot with the same orgasmic gratitude
smearing your smile as if it was a breath of fresh air
caressing your gasping throat.
seconds seem to play leap-frog back and forth, time’s
heartbeats are stuck in the mud and nothing helps with
ignoring the howling silence perforated here and there by
the momentary chirp of some stray sparrow in search for
crumbs, and by the time you’ve reached this line you
realize that all that i’ve actually told you so far is that i’m
alone and missing you…

© Liliana Negoi

from “The hidden well”

the splendor of blue


i planted seeds of lavender,
tiny things in the palm of my hand,
then the black soil and water,
patience . . . . and waiting
for the first signs of life,
the need for care and love
’til the splendor of blue,
the comforting fragrance,
a gift for the bumblebees and me

Utsökt blått

jag planterade frön av lavendel,
små ting vilande i min hand,

svart jord och vatten,
på de första tecknen av liv,
skötsel och kärlek,

och så….det utsökt blå,
den tröstande doften,

en gåva till humlorna och mig själv.

– Inger Morgan

© 2016, poem and photograph, Inger Morgan

The Silence in the Garden

for Dilys*

No rule forbids speech but no one’s talking. Quiet
grows from dark densities between boughs,
from heart-shaped leaves covering the ground,
their tight creamwhite umbrellas, flows

from spheres, spirals, hollows, undulations.
We come upon a hooded figure, trace spaces
that so poignantly speak her body. With hands
in a scoop that’s river, wordlessly we unlace

the emerald hair of splayed weeds, silts
where fleshy roots bed, black threads
squirming from eggs. We don’t need to name
the moment when twined swirls of bronze read

as petals unfolding outwards – corollas
frail as small birds’ wings and as strong –
or the moment when a surge beneath the lid
makes the box of possibility spring

open. As if placing shoes outside a temple
we left our voices in the street by the gate,
entered another language. And now, sitting
by the untroubled waters, we dip feet.

Written after visiting Sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s garden, St. Ives

© Myra Schneider

This poem is from Circling The Core, Enitharmon 2008 and featured here with the permission of the poet and publisher.

* Dilys is Dilys Wood, an accomplished poet and anthologist. She is the founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets.

The World in the Cracks

“Once we create imagery that honestly represents how life feels from the inside, there is a deep sense of personal empowerment and a new degree of private certainty as a result of having finally touched down to the original bedrock of our original self.”
Peter London, No More Second Hand Art

World in the Cracks

I believe they are waiting
I see them when my dreams splinter
their feet happy
splashing in a green pool
flower rings around open tresses
goldened by the sun
tender thighs fearlessly open
they recline with easy laughter
stretching graceful limbs
proud bosoms thrown to the wind
idly looking over bare shoulders
waiting for the next to arrive
Soft fabrics flow along their curves
green, gold, maroon
richly embroidered with bird wings
not really designed to cover
for here candour is the touchstone

This dell of delayed life
hums a happiness that never threatens
All of which are to me familiar
Curls, cascades and this well-loved lushness
beautiful forever
Loveliness that never deserved a cold earth
which knows not what to do with its treasures
They are waiting and to see them often
I live more in my beleaguered dreams

©Reena Prasad

Writing to stay alive …

I write on things I do not know about
or know but can’t get to them
or can get there but with lesser perfection
or it may be perfect
but I can’t live with such perfection
so I make them
all over again
to know more about them
to get to their core
to make their beauty bearable
so that I can live there
or keep them forever as raw materials
to build my no-so-perfect but beautiful world
whenever this one ejects me out

©Reena Prasad

Birthing to Earthing

When I was in utero
my mother’s heart
would soothe me.
Then came that violent
an event known as
Now I walk barefoot
soaking up electrons
from Mother Earth,
a process some call
Creation is a violent
act, life explodes
into being.
It requires an equal
and opposable force,
a Peace,
to soothe the rawness
of all the pain
We are seeing.
The disconnection
from the self
and others,
the body,
to which the soul
does cleave,
is rendered
out of balance,
on the mind, body, spirit
from forces that would
Rob us of vitality
and like a cancer,
until we are no more than
protoplasmic automatons

waiting for
our time to die.
Life is the result
of billions of things
that must happen
and against enormous
We all must make
our peace with existence
whether through
or gods.

– M. Zane McClellan

Copyright ©2016
All rights reserved

A Laying On of Hands

Rip off the bandage
plunge me into analysis,
with your immediacy,
well-intentioned desire,
snap me out of my paralysis.
Your sympathy,
a well crafted ruse.
Soft spoken kindnesses
can only confuse.
I look for the trap,
the rationale, the bait.
The healing more painful
than this crisis I hate.
You slap my hand,
admonish me,
don’t pick at the scars,
stay in the moment,
don’t dwell in the past,
nor look too long
at the stars.
You would pray for me,
have me pray for myself,
but my pain doesn’t understand.
You drag me about
to houses of worship
for a laying on of hands.
I would have all this
done and over,
you stress the importance,
necessity to heal.
But you can’t rush me
through myself
Your professionally detached
has its limits
and you don’t fully understand
how I feel.

– M. Zane McClellan

Copyright © 2016
All rights reserved

the poet’s prescription

unnamedi am
in the words
of poets
washing away
the ash
all about
my soul
this loathing
the world’s skin
a pandemic
many dead already
more to die
we cannot
inoculate ignorance
the wisdom

© poem & illustration, Charles W. Martin

The Artist’s Restorative

The visions of Pablo Amaringo
Transport us to magical wonderlands
It’s like oil & water had amazing-
Hypnotic properties & I expands.

Ayahuasca art resonates with me
But it’s short-lived, too hectic for my pleasure
Like some hallucinogenic—saree
The real beauty lies within its nectar.

… That went about healing the painter’s soul.
For me, there is a stiller-reflexion
In those water lilies – powers – enthral
Monet canvases, each flower a brethren.

Each blue eggshell brush-stroke heals like a balm,
Such are the properties of great artists
That they can find within to such aplomb,
A composure arriving, some solace.

They’ve got this almost restorative knack
Of lifting our tired, beleaguered spirits
The poet, speaking tongues elegiac;
Doesn’t he do the same, sweet and viscous?

© 2008 Mark Heathcote

More Than a Gift

The gift arrived in my twelfth year
while I was being taught
the accumulation of others’
knowledge in books

during the course of another day
bright sun rays dancing
off concrete and asphalt
dust devils creating havoc
in the schoolyard

the joy on my face evident
upon seeing the Spinet
a large red bow dressing
its glossy maple surface
waiting for me
beckoning me

playing the white and black keys
that struck the harp within
a euphoria like no other
healing hidden pain

she had no idea of what time spent
scrimping pennies had done
to raise hopes in a world
changed forever
the year I was ten

the station wagon had lingered
a massive tangled wreck
on the cement driveway
a constant reminder
that a body cannot
always be fixed

I played the Spinet as though
my life depended on it
the music resonating
louder than my heart

the gift arrived in my twelfth year
cradling my hands
as though warm loving arms
helping me to breathe
to lift a wounded spirit
giving space to heal

© 2016 Renee Espriu

Wabi Sabi

Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-en Garden
Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-en Garden

if only i knew
what the artist knows

about the great perfection
in imperfection

i would sip grace slowly
at the ragged edges of the creek

kiss the pitted
face of the moon

befriend the sea
though it can be a danger

embrace the thunder of a waterfall
as if its strains were a symphony

prostrate myself atop the rank dregs on the forest floor,
worshiping them as compost for fertile seeds
and the breeding ground for a million small lives

if i knew what the artist knows,
then i wouldn’t be afraid to die,
to leave everyone

i would be sure that some part of me
would remain present
and that one day you would join me
as the wind howling on its journey
or the bright moment of a flowering desert

if i knew what the artist knows,
i would surely respond soul and body
to the echo of the Ineffable in rough earthy things

i would not fear decay or work left undone
i would travel like the river through its rugged, irregular channels
comfortable with this life; imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ from Pictures section of OpenHistory under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.o Unported license

Dark over Light Earth / Violet and Yellow in Rose

Dark over Light Earth / Violet and Yellow in Rose

The violet appears black at first—
a night without stars,
a lake of ink my body could float
on—cradled, rocked, by
wavelet upon wavelet. But it’s violet,
a quiet

violet room I can walk into—
rest—and find my own
way into the dark expanse within:
the still, bottomless
stretch, where the descent is no drop, but a soft

Just below, there’s breath and heat: the sun
below my ribs, day’s
bright middle light as it slips into
afternoon. This yellow
ground gives forth a glow fit to pierce the abyss.
Then there’s rose—

two colors contained in rose—a place,
a cloister, witness
to a process of blossoming.
It’s the rose of adobe
walls in Santa Fe: Holy Faith. It’s the rust-
orange warmth

of dusty trails in hidden canyons.
It’s the clay unearthed
from water’s silence—rock, minerals,
transformed—slip thrown on
the spinning potter’s wheel, soon shaped by movements
of careful

hands. The vessel’s round belly and wide
mouth yield to fire.

© Laura Braverman

Mahler’s Ninth

for Mary MacRae*

No music in Le Pain Quotidien. Voices clatter,
crockery shrills white but the raspberries in my tartlet
are unblemished, lucent as the red in your poem.

‘If it wasn’t for the noise this would be perfect,’
I say, ‘but we can’t have everything.’
And at once I see you, my dear friend,

in a coma, hour by hour your life slipping away –
you can’t have anything. I stay with you
as we join the pilgrims trailing down Exhibition Road.

In the Albert Hall everyone waits for the symphony
Mahler composed when he learnt he had an illness
doctors couldn’t cure, a symphony he never heard.

Its beginning is tentative as if the instruments
are trying to find a way to talk to one another.
Phrases quiver into findings which become losings

but as the movement closes harmony’s found.
Now, somewhere in the surge of strings, the poignancy
of woodwind is you, Mary, and the brightness of red

you want to be inside. All too soon we arrive
at the finale. The music opens out and soars
but each time it nears a climax it retreats.

How will this end – with orchestra and audience
lifting to those waterlily circles spanning
the dome? No, the instruments are quietening,

their hushed voices hover, fall away.
There isn’t anything now but the five thousand
held together in a silence larger than sound.

© Myra Schneider

This poem is from The Door to Colour and published here with the permission of the poet and publisher.

* Mary MacRae wrote two collections of poetry As Birds Do and Inside the Brightness of Red

Telling It to the Walls

A poor widow was living with her two sons and their wives. They treated her shamefully, but the old woman had no one to turn to with her woes and nowhere else to go, so day after day she suffered in silence.  Her sons and daughters-in-law mocked her, and begrudged her every crumb of bread, every grain of rice.  Even as the widow starved, her misery grew.


One day, when she could no longer bear the pain, she slipped out of the house and walked down the road.  She had no idea where she was going, until she came to a house so decrepit there wasn’t even a roof left. She felt strangely drawn to the deserted house and stepped inside.


To her surprise, she found herself telling the nearest wall her grievances against her firstborn son, whom she had showered with love from the first time she felt him quickening inside her, and who now had no use for her.


As she finished, the wall crashed to the ground under the weight of her sorrow, and she felt her burden grow lighter.


She turned to the next wall and the tears flowed as she described the cruelty of her first son’s wife…


…who gave her only rags to wear and threatened to send her out with a bowl to beg.


The second wall collapsed and she grew lighter still.


She told the third wall about her second son’s ill treatment…


…and the fourth wall her complaints against his wife.


When she was finished, the old woman stood amidst the wreckage, watching the dust settle.  She still had nowhere else to go, but as she turned homeward to face her life,  just for the telling of the tale, she felt lighter in body and spirit than she had in a long, long time.

–Retold in Apples From Heaven, Copyright 1994 & 2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Don’t Confuse Hunger With Greed, the healing poems of Ruth Stone

Poems clutter the landscape of my mind with bite-sized portions easily committed to memory, ready to be pulled out in a moment of need or want. In the art of  healing and living hugely, poetry is warp and weft.

Whether I am writing poetry or reading it, poetry gifts to me those blessed eureka moments, the moments when I understand myself or another, can put a name to the demons, or simply realize that I am not alone in my joy or sorrow. Think of W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues and the simple line, “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.”  I am getting older, approaching elderly, and though I am always making new friends, I’m of an age where I lose a friend or two each year, sometimes more. Bereft at the loss of someone precious and shocked that the earth hasn’t stood still, I think of this line and know that in this circumstance, everyone feels what I do . . .

. . . and all it takes is one disappointment in love to relate to Mad Girl’s Love Song by Silvia Plath, “I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed/And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane./(I think I made you up inside my head.)


Of the many poets I dearly love, I particularly appreciate Ruth Stone for her quality of giving things their true names and for the practicalities embedded in her poems. “Dear children,/You must try to say/Something when you are in need./Don’t confuse hunger with greed;/And don’t wait until you are dead.”

Ruth Stone was an American poet and poetry teacher born into an impoverished family at Roanoke, Virginia in 1915. She lived most of her life in rural Vermont, attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, won many awards for her poetry and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her last collection, What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems (2008). She was wry, bold, conversational, edgy, philosophical and used the language and imagery of the natural sciences to good effect.  Her second husband, the poet Walter Stone, committed suicide leaving her with three young children and an experience that indelibly etched itself on her life, heart and poetry. She once remarked that she spent the rest of her life writing to him and those poems were no doubt healing poems for her.

Not Expecting an Answer

This tedious letter to you,
what is one Life to another?
We walk around inside our bags,
sucking it in, spewing it out.
Then the insects, swarms heavier
than all the animals of the world.
Then the flycatchers on the clothesline,
like seiners leaning from Flemish boats
when the seas were roiled with herring.
This long letter in my mind,
calligraphy, feathery asparagus.

When Ruth Stone won the Whiting Writers’ Award, she got plumbing for her house. When she received the Walter Cerf Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts at the National Book Awards, she said “I’ve been writing poetry or whatever it is since I was five or six years old, and I couldn’t stop, I never could stop. I don’t know why I did it.… It was like a stream that went along beside me, you know, my life went along here . . . and all along the time this stream was going along. And I really didn’t know what it was saying. It just talked to me, and I wrote it down. So I can’t even take much credit for it.”

Ruth Stone died in 2011 leaving behind thirteen collections of literary dim sum. This poem, which gave its name to a collection that I just purchased, is a new favorite.

In the Next Galaxy

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.

In the scant two-minute video that follows, the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) shares the revealing story of her meeting with Ruth Stone.

Ruth Stone, Amazon Page
Poems of Ruth Stone, World Poetry Database
Ruth Stone Obituary, New York Times
On Ruth Stone by Sharon Olds

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserve – This piece originally published in October 2013 on Plum Tree Books website

Singing for the Love of It

If music be the food of love, play on ” ~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act I Scene I ~ Duke Orsino’s opening line.

One of the first lines of Shakespeare I had ever read, as a teenager, came from this play that I studied for English Literature at the age of 16. It still resonates in me today. I passed English Literature at ‘O’ Level, but not with any great distinction. Maybe if I’d had the talent, intellectual aptitude and whatever other indeterminate qualities and quantities, be they genetic or environmental, I might have been more distinguished in my appreciation of the literary arts; maybe even more accomplished as a writer or musician, instead of starting out my adult life as I did, as an engineer, or a ‘reluctant metallurgist’, as I sometimes introspectively muse. Thereby hangs another tale, for another time.

John & Guitar 1972
Photo: John Anstie (1972)

But that’s history; it’s part of what made me the person I am and I am grateful for that and all the subsequent opportunities that I fell upon as a result of the path I took, not least of all in my personal life. If I am unlikely to ‘make it’ as a writer, if any one of us, who sometimes aspire with our pens in whatever corner of literary endeavour we may hang out, there is something else that happens in that endeavour; something that possibly only time, ageing and accumulated wisdom can reveal. This is quite simply that, if you seek, you will eventually find.

Alongside an early appreciation of literature, which Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and a host of classical poets afforded me in my school years, came also an appreciation of music, albeit not through education and training; rather through my exposure to the music through singing as a treble in the Church choir and at school, through the music scene of the 60’s and 70’s and the saving grace of my decision to sell a car and by a good guitar with the proceeds (a Yamaha FG140, to be precise), which provided me with an escape from, and therapy to help in my resolution of some challenging times.

I guess, out of a deep desire to make music, which thus far had been confined to playing my guitar and singing mostly on my own or small groups of friends, eventually, after what I call a thirty-five year spell in a creative desert, came an opportunity to make music with other likeminded people. More’s the point, I was able to find the time to join and regularly attend rehearsals in a mixed voice choir. It was here that I first discovered the true joy, not only of the music and singing in harmony, but of sharing that love with others.

And now, for the past two years, I have been singing and performing regularly with one of the best Barbershop Choruses in the UK, as well as with a local chamber choir, whose MD has managed to attract some significant musical talent … and me! A year ago, I also formed a mixed barbershop quartet with some singing friends. Additionally, through the barbershop chorus, I facilitate a regular quartet night. I am, you might say, in at the deep end and making up for lost time! This all sits beside other occasional duets with a musical neighbour and the recent setting up of a five piece folk ensemble; and next year, I have already put my name down to allow myself (to be persuaded) to form a male barbershop quartet through the resources of Hallmark of Harmony, some time early next year.

The latest step in the development of this absorbing hobby is that I have found myself being asked, nay commissioned to write lyrics. I’ve written poetry for several years and, during that time, often dabbled with writing song lyrics too. Now it seems to be happening. Am I living the dream or am I kidding myself? We’ll have to wait and see … and I shall have to keep close to my very supportive wife, who is unstinting in her support of my ‘hobby’. Long may that last, as well as my ability to keep up the energy levels needed to perform at this level, but singing is something many can continue to enjoy well into old age. I am always hopeful of singing at my own 100th birthday party!

Whilst a painting may have the power of a thousand words, for me, music, singing, poetry, musical composition and songwriting are closely interwoven art forms that, when combined in the most skilful way, I’d venture to say they are probably the most powerful of the art forms. When you encounter a song, with a great melody and poetic lyrics, the combination of which is so synergistic and performed with such passion that it hits you with a power that is unforgettable, makes your heart ache or makes you smile, then you know you have engaged with the highest form or art.


This experience is a quest, of which I will never tire. As long as I can breathe, I will sing. It has the power to change lives, to provide a therapy that no pharmacy can give you. Whilst I could never advocate that it replaces a true faith, whatever denomination you may choose, I have witnessed on many occasions, first hand, the healing power of singing in harmony with my friends. Singing takes you several steps beyond just listening to music. You only have to witness once the tears in the eyes of a grown man, when they feel that perfectly pitched chord sung in harmony, and when they have just performed a particularly moving rendition of a favourite song, to know how unique and powerful this experience truly is.

© text and photos, John Anstie