“Ever After: A Dove’s Story” by P. C. Scheponik

She came to me as a hand-fed squab,
soft, silk feathers the color of snow.
We kept her in a large screened cage
fastened to our bedroom wall,
where she perched and cooed and
rearranged her lovely white wings
that clapped in the air with a soft
whistling whenever I let her fly about
the living room, which was every day.
We named her Snow White,
needless to say the Disney in me still
nested in my heart like a little dove egg.
She had small feet, red as a rose,
with tiny toes sporting delicate nails
that pattered lightly against the gravel
sprinkled on the paper lining the bottom
of the cage.
Her eyes, two bright anthracite beads,
sparkled with delight each time I’d reach
inside her home and gently nudge below
her breast with the edge of my open hand,
offering her a nest of palm and fingers.
She loved when I ran my forefinger down
the back of her head and between her folded
wings.
She’d fan her tail and nestle down,
close her eyes softly and dream whatever
doves dream.
One morning, just three years from the day
we brought her home, I found her lying
on the floor of her cage.
She lay on her side, her rose-red feet clenched
as if ready to fly, her wings slightly separated
from her sides, her tail feathers snapped shut
like Venetian blinds, and her little coal-colored
eyes, closed as if sleeping.
I lifted her up, cradling the stiff body in my hands,
the downy neck and elegant head dangled to one side
as I pressed her feathered breast to my lips,
giving her one last mournful kiss.
But I had no princely power to lift death’s curse,
to awaken beauty.
I had only sorrow and the magic of verse to speak
about ever after.




P. C. Scheponik has published four collections of poems: Psalms to Padre Pio (National Centre for Padre Pio, INC), A Storm by Any Other Name and Songs the Sea has Sung in Me (PS Books, a division of Philadelphia Stories), And the Sun Still Dared to Shine (Mazo Publishers), and Stained-Glass Faith (Alien Buddha Press). A 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in numerous literary journals and fared well in multiple competitions. His newest collection, Seeing, Believing, and Other Things, is scheduled for publication by Adelaide Books in Spring 2021.

“Antiquity” by Stephen Kingsnorth

You like patina on the wood,
its aging through the tears,
with blood, sweat, oils of handy use,
its story, tales ingrained.
But I want coating too, of rust,
the oxides, oxygen;
that moisture of the air we breathe,
an episode as well.
So weather mist, or mizzle dress
are part holistic soul
of earth, its seven ages span
from birth, oblivion.
What turn of years to vintage, kitsch,
or antique within reach?
The attic find, shard pot of Greece,
poor price, contrasted art.
If aeon loan, the grain of sand,
knew time alone was priced,
sea shelves, gold bars of strand, sure lines
were banks of wealth themselves.
Our iron filings, record cards,
list tools, that ancient phase.
That one alone could claim the name
proves heavy, claim to fame.
So somewhere in the past are stored
the myths of human roots,
those courses antecedents walked,
through wisdom, folly, choice.
The proud stand clear above the smooth,
like nails on crosspiece tree,
and flaking metal, hammer, spear,
tell, as aside, a piece
of what can be, in deepest soil,
our commonwealth on earth.
There is a fruit, patina, rust,
our legend, planet earth.




Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had some 350 pieces published by online poetry sites, including Sparks of Calliope, printed journals, and anthologies. Find more about Stephen at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com.

Two Poems by John Muro

Vultures

Welling up from ditches
like caretakers of loss,
they ride thermals
with large eye-lashes
for wings and long-
stemmed fingers
delicate as coal dust;
relishing the idle drift
into black kettles of air,
travelling half asleep
for miles in search of
food using only wind
for lift. Disciples of decay,
they nest with death
and indulge a life of
dark leisure, as meals
arrive without effort,
wind dispersing the
curious odors of carrion
and neglect from farther
fields, back roads or dumps.
Roosting in barren trees,
their naked heads appear
like enflamed gullets,
drowned in the colors
of garnet red or weather-
worn brick, stripped of
both feathers and flesh,
like the lives that still
follow them, weight-
less, up into alien air.


Apparition

Disheveled autumn’s deftly
side-stepped winter’s grasp,
carrying in wide, blousy
pockets slumbering bees, brittle
nests and the easy currency of
pungent musk lifted from tea-
brown pools of leaf-rot and
acres of decay. Arrives poorly
attired in a worn, tweed cap
and thinning hair, mud-caked
shoes and a shawl of drab-scarlet
woven from wool, blithely
traipses through the well-worn
paths of woodlands, dank ruts
of orchard and rain-glazed
pasture, and, bojangle-brazen,
turns wind-ward and pivots
on his crooked walking stick
as he nimbly rises and entwines
with phantom light, pauses amid
the mottled luster of leaf-scatter,
drinks in the bright applause
of interloper crows and then
bows meekly before sauntering
off into the upsweep of gray
gusts like a happy grief.




John Muro is a resident of Connecticut and a two-time 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee. His first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published by Antrim House (2020) and is available on Amazon. John’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Barnstorm, Euphony, Grey Sparrow, Moria, Sky Island and Sparks of CalliopePastoral Suite, John’s second volume of poems will be published this spring. You can contact John via Instagram @johntmuro.

Two Poems by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Best known as a father of free verse, American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) famously wrote impressively in both free verse and more traditional style about his feelings and experiences during the American Civil War. His occupations famously included volunteer service as a nurse during the war, which gave him much inspiration in his literary and journalistic career, which resumed thereafter. His observations and experiences both as a nurse and a Union sympathizer inspired some of his most widely known and admired poems. “O Captain, My Captain!” and “Beat! Beat! Drums!,” are two such pieces.

 

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
 
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
 
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

 

Beat! Beat! Drums!

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—
          no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.
 
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
          no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—
          would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.
 
Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.

“A Dream We Have” by James Sale

There is a dream we have; we see it with
The children – teachers mark uninspired books
And yet even with language in full cliché
There comes across, through repetition, “Look!”

Our world would be a better place – if only
Some simple rules and all of them followed;
Like, if everyone were friends, or better,
No wars existed. Oh, Father! Hallowed

Be Thy Name, but how much “Hello” sounds
Hollow when “Goodbye” to all agreement
Beckons and eyes are only strapped to grounds
For seeing flatness which is only meant

To be and nothing else. A dream we have
And nothing else: children evaporate
Into adulthood, forgetting, like old men,
The smell of milk from breasts, for empty plates.




James Sale, a 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poetry and literary works published in Hong Kong, the USA, and the UK. His work has appeared in The Society of Classical Poets, The Epoch Times, The Times Educational Supplement, The Hong Kong Review, The Anglo-Theological Review, The St Austin Review, and many others. An international and award-winning poet, he currently is one of two judges for the Society of Classical Poets’ 100 Days of Dante poetry competition. For more information about the author and about his own Dante project, visit https://englishcantos.home.blog.

Two Poems by John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631)

Ordered to take on holy orders by the king, British poet John Donne (1572-1631) actually wore many hats in his lifetime. In addition to his position as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Donne was a poet, scholar, secretary, soldier, and member of Parliament. His prolific volume of literary work includes everything from sonnets to sermons. His metaphysical poetry sometimes touches on profound questions of religious faith while at other times can be surprisingly erotic and sensual. “Death Be Not Proud” and “The Good-Morrow,” are two of his most celebrated works.

 

Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

The Good-Morrow

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

“Doppelganger Daughter” by Sharon Waller Knutson

When the tall lanky millennial
who just bought land up the road
tells me his girlfriend looks just
like me and has my mannerisms,
I am skeptical but curious.

But when the twenty-something
schoolteacher walks through
the door with a pixie cut, saucer
eyes dominating an elfin face,
giggling, fingers fluttering,
I feel like I am in a time capsule,
watching my twenty-something self.

You look just like Goldie Hawn,
I say like everyone said to me
when I was her age. Of course,
she has no idea who I am talking
about. She points to my younger
photos plastering the wall.
Is that Goldie Hawn? she asks.

When all the neighbors file in
with their casserole dishes
and salads, they tell her:
You look just like your mom.
If I doubt she exists, all I do
is look at the wall and there
we stand two golden goddesses
with identical cheekbones and smiles.




Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014) and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints, and Sinners forthcoming by Cyberwit. Her work has also appeared in Black Coffee Review, Terror House Review, Trouvaille Review, ONE ART, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, The Five-Two, and The Song Is…

Two Poems by J. K. Durick

Precisely

She takes off her glasses
examines them
looks at the lens from
several angles
decides
then spritzes the lenses
with a glasses cleaner
she bought just for this ritual
each lens gets two squirts
per side
then she takes a cloth
designed for this task
and rubs each lens
then examines them again
satisfied she puts them back on.
This is precision
this is being precise
orderly, methodical, thorough
a study in precise detail
step by step
a common task done in depth
achieving its end.
And then
with her glasses finally clean
she goes back to her needle work
each stitch as exact
as the one before.


Rainbow

You caught it, saw it out of the corner
Of your eye
A full rainbow, a double rainbow –
Like an exclamation point
At the end of our day.
The slight rain we knew
But didn’t know it had promise in it,
Had the makings of this sight, something
Memorable, something you called to
Everyone’s attention – Look
And we gathered around the door.
I tried briefly to video it
It came out okay but nothing can match
That moment
When you called it to our attention
And we witnessed the double rainbow
That marked our time together.




J. K. Durick is a retired writing teacher and online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Literary Yard, Black Coffee Review, Literary Heist, Synchronized ChaosMadswirl, Journal of Expressive Writing, and Highland Park Poetry.

Two Poems by John Keats

John_Keats_by_William_HiltonDead from tuberculosis by the age of 25, British poet John Keats (1795-1821) nonetheless has become second perhaps only to William Shakespeare as a renowned poet of classical English literature. He is, to the present day, looked upon with reverence as an inspiration to the craft. Regarded as among the most skilled of the Romantics, Keats’ poetry is noted as being heavily loaded with emotion, most often expressed through natural imagery. Keats is one of the many poets whose work was only fully appreciated after his death. The poems below, “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” are two of his most celebrated works.

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
    But being too happy in thine happiness,—
        That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
                In some melodious plot
    Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
        Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
        Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
        While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                In such an ecstasy!
    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.

Ode to a Grecian Urn

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Two Poems by Vyacheslav Konoval

Spring Rush

Residential neighborhoods, like those targets,
accept a fiery gift from a polar bear, a tricolor eagle.
There is a whistling, roaring, and pounding,
which bleeds into the body of an innocent woman.
You are helpless, but heartily you swallow a bitter tear.
Spring is born outside the window.


Spring Heat

Among the clouds, bundling
against the arms of the whistling wind,
slowly a beautiful stranger goes stumbling.
Finally, spring had been illuminated by the sand of the mind.

Ah, you are a colorful stranger.
You sway me with the singing of birds.
I will be enchanted by you and forget about the danger
that lurks in Ukraine on the borders, sadness beyond words.




Vyacheslav Konoval is a Ukrainian poet. He adores writing about nature, impressions, and people. The significant work of the author is devoted to acute social problems such as overcoming poverty, ecology issues, the relationship of people with the government, etc.