You can’t always be sure it works out the way you expected it. You have the seeds, and on the packets it says all sorts of things. In a language you don’t yet understand, but you trust the pictures. So you first plant them in small squares full of petrichor. When the first shoots are raising their delicate arms into the light, you smile, shake them out of their first little beds, and between thumb and forefinger you transfer them to their field of stars. Red, yellow, blue, orange, purple, you wonder what it is you are growing. Suddenly, one morning, you step out of your back door, rubbing your eyes because you can’t believe the splendour before you. All you did was add love and hope. And here they are, angels ready to travel to places of sadness, pain, loss and approaching death. You don’t send them, you let them fly as their wings unfurl in the morning sun to find their own way with angel radar, called by need, hope, faith and longing. Go back to your seed packets. You know that you urgently have to increase production!
Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, has just been snapped up by Kelsay Books for publication May/June 2022. Her website: https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Song of Illumination
bliss leaps off staves
eyes revere the page dancing
in a halo of meditative delight
notes reaching to a higher range
blossoming vibration paints the air
radiance beyond earthly concerns
like an illuminated manuscript
transcribed by some ancient sage resonating
holy guardian angel sound
pure intention evokes soulfully
sung marvel incarnated
answer to musical prayer
I have been told my voice is nothing special
but why then is my experience absolutely divine?
Amanda Chandler writes poetry to challenge both herself and her readers to grok the life lessons that are hidden in plain sight. She hopes her words serve to ignite the creative muse in others. Her work will appear in the upcoming Wingless Dreamer Publisher anthology Calling the Beginning.
“…call nine-one-one…or something.”
Were it not for the massive flowers
everyone would suffocate;
there is enough grief
that we feel its weight,
and even the angels are lost
in the flowery alcove
The cave-mouth is packed,
and the soldiers and musicians,
wardens of their watch;
they do not relent to
the mysterious summoning
their mind’s façade persists on.
It goads them
to run from this darkening place.
Yet they do not move.
The red angel holds her comrades back
by spreading her arms,
insisting that everyone focus
on the cavernous silences
that open between each stanza;
should something occur that they did not see,
it would be an immeasurable calamity
gauged only by the Lord, and
He seems to be nonexistent.
The angel swaddled in red feathers
continues to read aloud, softly,
interrupted only by the
agonal breathing brought on
by what is impossible.
A small crowd has begun to gather-
rubberneckers observing rubberneckers.
The air is growing pungent;
despondency hastens its arrival.
The lutist has bolted her lute
to the sentry’s flagstaff,
hoping to protect that gem
from the vicious wind and dejection
that will soon grieve the landscape.
Already the only sound the lute
is capable of producing
is the cruelty of the wind’s wail.
Though it remains unseen,
eventide has begun to coil itself
around the trunks of trees
close to the ground.
This clutch of apprehensive seekers,
the onlookers, sensed the wind
beginning to change colour slightly
as it crawled its way up the trunks,
driven by belligerence, by surliness,
and as if they were all charged
with the same thought at once,
the small pack of questers
began its hasty departure,
though they would return
during the profound transformation,
day to night,
though eventually night relented,
with color and music,
good fortune, discovery,
the Great Book,
and huge, brightly coloured flowers
the arrival of the sun.
John L. Stanizzi
John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wal, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, Sundowning, POND, and The Tree That Lights The Way Home. Besides The Ekphrastic Review, John’s work has been widely published in many journals. His work has been translated into Italian and appears widely in Italy. His translator is the Italian poet, Angela D’Ambra. John is the Flash Fiction Editor of Abstract Magazine TV, and he has read at venues all over New England. For many years, John coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut. He was also a “teaching artist” for the national poetry recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud. A former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, and New England Poet of the Year (1998), John has just been awarded an Artist Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction – 2021 - from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Culture for work on his new memoir. He teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, Connecticut, and lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, CT. https://www.johnlstanizzi.com
There is nothing in the bible to say
The angels didn’t come down
In pomegranate robes and plum coloured boots
Heralded by a band leader
With ivy covered epaulettes
And a shimmering baton,
A cellist in saffron turban.
How wide were the eyes
Of the new baby!
Knowing his gift was to light the way
With these angels already lit
By song and flower.
Before the cities of old were destroyed
And Babel ceased its building
The little wandering troop
Of rag tag angels
Was swept aside
As their brilliance was smothered
Into muddy brown garments
And dismal old kings took their place
And the baby was left for two millennia
Though I see the angels waiting in ruby
At the crepuscular edge of morning
Or fluting pink taffeta sunsets
While the ordinary day goes on
And the baby waits.
Lucie has enjoyed ekphrastic challenges to kick start her writing again after a hiatus of many years.
in light pastel skies
Bright colours are
as angels prance stained in glass
Enlighten the majestic vision
of saints creating angels
Winged in dance
Pink auras line
Dresses of flowered kaleidoscope wraps
Blue pink green rectangular speared grey with a fiddle
This party spins fine feathers
That will fly above
To the host of host
The sentinel waves his wand
as the string voiced angels sing
They are born again
to bow and serve
To The one on high
White banded waists
Wings pinkish ivory angelically laced
Bright mâché trumpets do sing
To the striped sun god
Angelic they are
James N Hoffman
"I am retired and living with my wife in Ocean City, Maryland. I have a MA in Applied Psychology and a BA in Philosophy. I started writing many decades ago but found I like to write what I called colour poetry since I cannot paint. Later I learned that it is called Ekphrastic and has been as old as some of the Greek philosophy I studied. I have been published twice in the Ekphrastic Writing Challenge."
“No Marcy. You’re not reading the Christmas Story from Luke. Didn’t I tell you? Brenda is.” Barbara was Brenda’s mother and Director of Christian Education for the church. This title put her in charge of the pageant and, in her mind, imparted a singular authority upon her. As Barbara gripped a clipboard securing notes, she presented a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” smile engineered for moments when she needed us “Cindy Lous” to back off. This smile often accompanied her verbal pinches, which caused just enough pain to ensure you knew she was sticking it to you but not enough pain that you would dare defy her. What could my mother or I say to Barbara now, when the church Christmas Pageant of 1969 would begin in an hour? Around the three of us in the fellowship hall, fathers were setting up the stage with the manger and life-size cardboard sheep, and a few mothers were costuming boys as shepherds.
“Then what will Marcy do if she won’t be reading?” my mother asked.
“Why, she’ll still be in the pageant, Peggy. She’ll be one of the angels with the other little girls. And sing ‘Away in a Manger.’ They’ve been practicing for weeks. You know that song, don’t you, Marcy?” She pointed to the section of the hall curtained off for dressing rooms. “She can put on the costume over there.”
Other little girls. Pinch. I was ten, no longer a little girl. Worse, I knew those angel costumes. Stored in a church closet except at Christmas and Easter, the white costumes looked nothing like the angels in the stained-glass windows of the church. They were like the one-size-fit-all moomoos worn by my grandmother.
My mother gripped my shoulders and steered me away from Barbara.
At the time, I thought this last-minute change in the pageant had to do with Brenda and me. Although Brenda and I had sleepovers, we often ended up squabbling over what stuffed animal of hers I could sleep with. Whichever one I picked was the one that Brenda wanted. But now I wonder if Barbara was getting back at my mother. Maybe my mother had reorganized a children’s Sunday school lesson. Maybe she had baked marble brownies rather than an apple pie for a church bake sale. Maybe my mother had received a compliment that made Barbara jealous.
As my mother held up my angel costume, I punched my arms into the polyester sleeves. She cinched the costume at my waist and attached cardboard wings sprinkled with gold glitter to my back. As the musty smell of the costume enveloped me, I wondered if a good dousing in frankincense and myrrh could overcome the stench.
“This material itches,” I said as I pulled at the unhemmed neck.
As my mother smoothed out my costume one last time, she tried to reassure me. “It’ll be fine,” she said—something she must have regularly told herself when dealing with her own disappointments. After one last inspection, Mom took my hand, lined me up with the other angels, and went to find her seat next to my father and my brother.
On cue, we walked out—not on stage—but onto the floor of the hall. The audience sat in metal folding chairs behind us, and the stage was in front of us. The little girls blended in with the seated audience, but as a tall-for-my-age, ten-year-old, I did not. I blocked the audience’s view of the stage.
Standing with my back to the audience in a costume that was burning me up from the inside out, I had to listen as Brenda read from the gospel of Luke. On stage. At the podium. Where I was supposed to be. As Brenda read, I turned to find my family sitting two rows behind me. I looked at my mother’s face. With a nod and a tight-lipped smile, my mother commiserated with me. I guess we were just going to take Barbara’s bruising, a bruising that wouldn’t be healed by a story about bright heavenly beings who visit the lowest of the low with divine news.
After the reading, I started to sing “Away in a Manger” like I was supposed to. But I didn’t know all the words. Pinch. I had spent the last few weeks practicing Luke, not memorizing a Christmas hymn. I tried to follow cues from the other angels, to pick up on familiar phrases such as “fit us for heaven.” I moved my mouth and hummed the tune from the back of my throat, wondering if the audience noticed that I wasn’t singing and if Barbara took pleasure in my predicament. Pinch.
After the pageant, I sulked for days, but Mom and I didn’t talk about what had happened. If the "grin and bear it" approach worked for my mom at eight years old, when her mom died in childbirth, her father deserted her, and she was left in the care of her divorced Aunt, it could work for me. The next Sunday, we attended church as usual. I even sat next to Brenda in Sunday school.
A few weeks later, Brenda and I were playing in the finished basement of her house, her playroom. I don’t remember exactly what provoked me. But suddenly, I shoved Brenda as hard as I could, slamming her into boxes and boxes of toys. Maybe I was hurt that Brenda never played at my house. Maybe I was jealous that Brenda had more dolls, games, and stuffed animals than I ever would. Maybe I was just getting back at Barbara through Brenda on behalf of my mother. These maybes, though, no longer bothered me. When Barbara came running down the basement steps and saw her daughter on the floor in tears, I knew Brenda and I would never play together again. Barbara’s fake smile was gone, and she could only scrunch up her real face as if she were swallowing castor oil. “Wait till your mother gets here,” Barbara shouted. I knew my mother would apologize for the mess I had made. Yet I didn’t care as much as I had before about how things looked. I didn’t care if I would ever be fit for a church pageant or even for heaven. I was done playing.
Marcy H. Nicholas
Marcy H. Nicholas writes some sentences in between walking her dog, grading student papers, and playing golf. She lives with her husband in Hellam Township, York PA and teaches at Penn State York.
The Angel’s Song: a Tanka Sequence
Your voice like heaven
They took you up to join
The angels singing
That celestial choir
Complete with your soprano
But I still recall
All the songs you sang to me
And a great “Amazing Grace”
That was worthy of its name
I remember now
How tremulous you sounded
At the beginning
Of your very first solo
But you found your way quickly
A higher power
Guiding your sweet voice and soul
And speaking through you
Through your tender, dulcet tones
Of mercy and redemption
Concepts people mocked
But two things that I needed
And that you offered
Selflessly and wordlessly
Your song breaking my silence
Up until the end
When you passed slowly away
Now I am bereft
And must look to the heavens
For your magnificent song
And I must now seek
A higher power for love
And for redemption
Which I know makes you happy
Cause I hear it in your voice
Your beautiful song
Now echos through all heaven
All the way to Earth
I hear it in the night wind
And in the falling raindrops
I am fortunate
I do not have to settle
For mere memories
Your song so miraculous
Filling each waking moment
From dusk until dawn
I hear you out in nature
Your voice carrying
Through the hubbub and the noise
Deep into my lonely soul
Rose Menyon Heflin
Originally from rural, southern Kentucky, Rose Menyon Heflin is a writer and artist living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies spanning four continents, and her poetry won a 2021 Merit Award from Arts for All Wisconsin. One of her poems was choreographed and performed by a local dance troupe, and she had an ekphrastic creative nonfiction piece featured in the Companion Species exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art. Among other venues, her recent and forthcoming publications include Brown Bag Online, Defunkt Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Fauxmoir, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, La Raíz Magazine, MoonBites by Tangled Locks Journal, Poemeleon, sPARKLE & bLINK, SPLASH!, Star*Line, and W.E.I.R.D.
At Night They Come
By the red oak and the redwood trees,
Sun trudging its striped orange,
As I had walked the winding paths
Mitigating nothingness, bringing enlightenment.
Rowed to islands when no moon arose
In waters so still I heard myself,
The angels of my childhood come
Dressed in brown, blue and pink.
Each whom I had wanted to love, whom I had wanted to tell.
They stand here tonight
Playing the music, dispelling the fright,
Spreading the colours,
Painting the sky with white.
Drawing the flowers red and yellow of my favourite dress once.
They read the bible, beckon mother Mary
Of many a hearts waiting for a miracle.
I shall hang the bird feeders soon,
Under the drifting clouds that pain and heal in turns.
In time the oak will be silvery white,
Heavy with Christmas lights outside of my backyard window.
Abha Das Sarma
An engineer and management consultant by profession, Abha Das Sarma enjoys writing the most. Besides having a blog of over 200 poems (http://dassarmafamily.blogspot.com), her poems have appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Spillwords, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Sparks of Calliope, Trouvaille Review, here and elsewhere. Having spent her growing up years in small towns of northern India, she currently lives in Bengaluru.
Two minutes till curtain
hush now angels
enough tuning up
check halos and wings
into line behind Sonya
and stop fidgeting
three two one
Helen Freeman has been published on several sites such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, Red River Review, Barren Magazine, The Drabble, Sukoon and the Ekphrastic Review. She lives in Durham, England.
Her instagram page is @chemchemi.hf
Finding My Place on Christmas Eve
Where would I be in the angel production?
(if ever I were an angel)
I would hold the procession of seraphim,
corral their exuberance
until the conductor cued our entrance,
all of us lighting up our dresses with irrepressible beauty.
I would revel in the effortless, velvety soprano’s
Minuit Chrétiens and forget all else.
I would be the maestro,
prompt the joy,
bask in the caress
of tones and textures playing,
to the ineffable.
I would gape and laugh at the painted sun, mountains, clouds,
but especially the preposterous, gargantuan mums,
upstaging the music.
I would play the violin,
focus my broad artistic appetite
on the crosshairs of a well-drawn bow,
pull strands of light from the E string.
Sheila Murphy is multi-instrumentalist and an insatiable extravert with a monkish bent. She has poems published in the The Ekphrastic Review and Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction. She lives with her husband in their empty nest in coastal Maine.
Oh winged angels guide us to heaven on your magical backs.
Fly us beyond this world of grief and sorrow.
Carry us, as you have carried so many into the loving arms
Sandy Rochelle is a widely published poet- actress and filmmaker. Publications include: Indelible, Dissident Voice, flash fiction north, Black Poppy Magazine, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Every Day Writer, Spillwords Press, Formidable Woman, Ekphrastic Review, Trouvaille Review, Impspired, others.
Angels' After Party
I thought angels were supposed to wear white…
I mean, look at them…
I feast my eyes on the gaudy procession –
more jamboree than Epiphany;
a rainbow of righteousness & holy flower-power
(the wings & halos leave little room for doubt)
& those shoes!
I count stilettos, pointed toes, boots…
I find it comforting, the realness of it.
I’m definitely not the religious kind,
but I like to think of those brightly coloured gals
exchanging fashion tips,
gossiping about ‘him upstairs,’
living their best afterlife.
Corinna Board lives in a small village in the Cotswolds and works in Oxford, where she teaches English as an additional language. She loves her job, although she often wishes she had more time to write poetry. Her main sources of inspiration are art, nature and mythology. She can be found on Instagram @parole_de_reveuse and on Twitter @CorinnaBoard.
Angels Being Made
Nothing raw about them.
Perhaps made of open books,
leaves and petals, whispered things.
The wish of a musical note—willed
into a sing-along.
an angel has no shadow. So silken
is its memory, a stowaway of innocence,
its wings so elemental.
mistaken for simple things, birds
or clouds, almost human. Allowed
a wispy momentum.
angels exist without time; a hocus
pocus of haloes, they swish
above our heads.
You never hear the curse of an angel.
You never hear of a part misplaced.
Sue Ann Simar
Sue Ann Simar is a retiree who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, USA. She belongs to the Madwomen in the Attic writing group, affiliated with Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Simar publishes regularly in small press, primarily in regional publications. She misses attending and participating in poetry readings since the pandemic started.
Angels’ soaring high,
watching from above the sky,
the world that needs them.
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher
Lisa M. Scuderi-Burkimsher has been writing since 2010 and has had many micro-flash fiction stories published. In 2018 her book Shorts for the Short Story Enthusiasts, was published and The Importance of Being Short, in 2019. She currently resides on Long Island, New York with her husband Richard and dogs Lucy and Breanna.
Here stands the troop of angels on the stage.
An archangel is a vocal solo
whose name is Gabriel the one most sage,
his anthem is the highlight of the show.
Behold! another archangel stands there,
His name is Raphael he swings the wand
with graceful manner thus directs with care
the string band amazingly well respond.
But where is he the last but not the least
of archangel the guardian fighter?
As he's always late even for the feast,
troubled-eyes angel's now the backbiter.
Once God our father in heaven declares
the opening, Mike falls down the backstairs.
Toshiji Kawagoe, Ph.D. is a professor at Future University Hakodate. He lives in Hokkaido, Japan. His haiku was selected in the 21 Best Haiku of 2021 at the Society of Classical Poets and his poems in classical Chinese have been published in the anthologies of Chinese poetry. His academic works in economics are also published in many books and academic journals.
New Year’s Resolution: To Awaken
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. —Anaïs Nin
The wings of change gather
stand in the bright abundance of being
in the celestial echoes of wide-eyed wonder.
Gowned and haloed
the angelic production
launches in lemon and lilac
and cerulean blue
debuts in purple and kelly green
and a host of miraculous hues
splashes with spontaneous notes of colour
and flowered song
where messengers sing
rejoice in the vitality of living.
How gusto is holy
and embodiment is truth
how guides arrive when we least expect them--
like the snow angel found on an ice-laden lake
as if a reminder
a wake-up call to be taken--
stand in the bright abundance of being
Jeannie E. Roberts
Jeannie E. Roberts lives in Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She’s authored seven books, five poetry collections and two illustrated children's books. Her most recent collection, As If Labyrinth - Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in April of 2021. Her poems appear in Blue Heron Review, Sky Island Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, and elsewhere. She’s an animal lover, a nature enthusiast, a Best of the Net award nominee, and a poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
Though some angels visit unannounced
stranger at the door
others arrive in a triumphant flourish
Michael the Archangel strumming guitar.
They enter drab scenes
and all is opals
as heads on the street
turn towards ethereal sound.
Some with spirit doves preceding
or even perched upon a shoulder
bring forth a sun breaking
into flowers, where just moments before:
bare ground, mud running in gutters
sorrowful lowing from shuttered windows.
Swiftly the moment passes
and those of us left to ponder grace
what have we done to earn such gifting?
Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes
Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes. Seeker of wild things in the north woods of Wisconsin. Member of the Root River Poets, and the Spectrum Gallery and School of Arts. Numerous poems published in the U.S., other work in England and Canada, including The Malahat Review, Bramble, Ekphrastic Review. Recent poem published in Poetry Hall, translated into Chinese. Chapbook: The Lost Italian and the Sound of Words, Brighter Path Press.
Angels come out from
hiding to rejoice, and sing
the birth of a king.
No White Robe For Me
When I get there
I won’t wear white. No.
My robe will be saffron.
Or cerulean. No. It’ll be
with golden blossoms.
And in the centre of each
will be a tiny mirror
to reflect the light
of stars and the rays
of the sun so I will
sparkle when I dance.
I won’t have a halo.
No. I shall wear a tiara
of freesia and ivy.
And my songs shall be
by harps, but by lyres.
No white robe for me.
Gretchen won the Poetry Society of America’s Bright Lights, Big Verse competition and read her poem, “Two Giant Men in New York,” in Times Square. She frequently travels to poetry readings, awards, and book signings and writes about her travels for magazines and newspapers. She has led writing workshops for Florida Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. Her chapbooks, That Severed Cord and The Scent of Oranges, were published by Finishing Line Press.
Angel came down
from heaven to earth
on her first trip abroad.
Her friends were envious
as word was that earth was
the most beautiful of the planets,
so beautiful that it had been the model
for building the paradise that was heaven.
Many had never really believed it
some things just weren’t believable,
few people on earth believed in it anymore
and even fewer
believed in paradise
But I believed in them.
I told her how pleased I was to meet her,
how glad I was that I’d believed in her,
how sorry I was that she had to leave
before we found paradise
But that’s life
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com///www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
I hear the words
and see them
now—so many colours!
Talking to us,
they have plenty to
say to us, to warn,
to announce, to explain.
Do you think that angels
dressed in white light,
gleaming electric robes?
Do you think they
are a beautiful but
For some, perhaps
they are arrayed
in such flash
I, however, see
angels robes in the detail
of color in the white--
as theflowers of the
blooming in hues
of earth, wind,
air, and fire.
Those of us
who see their true
colors are enfolded
in the message they offer--
As I listen,
watch the revelation
of their nature
I pluck, for my word
canvas the full
spectrum of their calming
message, their inspiration.
I plunge ahead,
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, articles, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, anti-heroin chic, Haunted Waters Press,Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, Crimeucopia, Bould Anthology, and more. She has been a Tupelo Press 30/30 author, and a Gilbert Chappell Fellow. She is a 2021 Pushcart nominee, and a 2020 nominee for the Western Peace Prize, her poem was selected for Poetry in Plain Sight (four years) and her microfiction was awarded Best of 2021 by Haunted Water Press. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, is out from Finishing Line Press. Her free chapbooks are available online: Nature’s Gifts Stanzaic Stylings, and Dancing Under the Moon and Morning by Morning, Origami Press. As a performer, she tells folk and personal tales featuring food, family, nature, and strong women.
The Future's Blooms
How fitting they're transformed on earth
for here is where they proved their worth
and here is where their hymns were learned
that led to wings so rightly earned
by selfless sacrificial stance
becoming by their choice the dance
of burden to preserve and lift
the culture they were left as gift
to pass to eager, waiting hands
agreeing to imposed demands
that only angels yet to be
would take upon themselves who see
their souls as brightly coloured wombs
that bear as seed the future's blooms.
Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment...
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
There are angels in the air
a shiver at the edge of vision,
colors too bright for anything
the pulse of a dance
I can’t follow
to music I can almost hear–
though like the deaf
I feel its great vibration
in every cell–
a song whose chorus
repeats in endless rings
of angels rising intertwined,
dividing, to spell and respell
the long words of our brief
definition, our only chance
to rise like angels without wings
reaching for infinity,
drunk on sweet air
and our own reflections
in each other’s eyes.
Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, the latest issue of Earth’s Daughters and Third Wednesday. She has been a Best of the Net and a Pushcart nominee. Her digital chapbook is available as a free download from Praxis magazine.
The firmament looks confused,
it is 2020, it is a troubled world,
in sky as it is on earth.
Entry for clouds had to be suspended
as they were congregating without distance
threatening to spill over the edge of the existence. A dividing line had to be drawn.
Young angels had to choose one way or the other as the firmament was closing
the last protecting border.
Many angels chose the earth
and took full time jobs
down the troubled road.
They planted flowers over the horizon,
hoovered tainted air with their breath,
dispelled tears with their grace,
transported messages to faraway voices,
healed unfulfilled desires with their smiles.
They soon excelled -
reading dreams as their sermons,
singing wishes as new psalms,
chanting ‘giving’ as the new blessing,
‘lending helping hand’ as the new prayer sign.
They were creating a whole new kin.
It became wonder if they will ever chose to return to their firmament,
seeing that here many families were also living apart and for so long.
A game changer was brewing in plain sight though seeming beyond faith.
Angels begun displaying un-heavenly symptoms - crying, longing, fancying, musing, so much so, they couldn’t do
their original job - unconditional hope.
Angels tested positive with the fever
of earthly love. Heavenly speaking, they were becoming lost. And they got the due
punishment - they begun loosing their wings
as their hearts were growing hot. Angels were becoming firmly down to earth and were blowing their trumpets to announce the birth of the new beatitude - heartiness!
Human angels walk its talk
and heartify the new road.
The light embraced it as its new stripe.
In sky as it is on earth.
I write poetry as a pilgrimage to the meaning and in this one I used the visual symbolism to touch upon the heroic front line of the battle against covid, where many young people, including a close one, turn from career achievers to heroes. As author of a British Library publication on Mediaeval art I am grateful to the artist Sonya Gonzalez for inspiring such a lively sacred figuration. My poems have appeared on The Ekphrastic Review and its challenges, on Portrywivenhoe, on Beckindale Journal. My poetry collection EKPHRASTICON is published by Europa Edizioni, 2021.
The alarm on the mother’s hospital bed goes off and does not stop for the twenty minutes it takes for her to die.
—When will the people come to take me home?
—The others will be missing me.
The maintenance men have been summoned; one punches the reset button on the alarm. He stabs it again and again. Is it a mechanical malfunction, or something more? Nothing surprises him in this building brushed with wings.
—Never seen one of these sensors stuck at full volume before, he says.
—Check the battery indicator.
—I did. What about the alert on the pad?
—She’s lying on it, but we shouldn’t move her. Not now.
Not so close to the end.
The worker looks at the mother. She is the most translucent patient he has ever seen, her skin scattering light like a skull held up to the sun. He can hardly make out her figure on the white sheet, until she coughs up a streak of red. It flows over her chin onto her breastbone.
He plucks a tissue from the box and dabs at her sunken chest.
— Your father went on a bender while I was giving birth to you and my milk dried up, the old woman says to the man who she, at that moment, thinks is her son.
— Don’t cry, Mom.
—The only time I left him was that time he beat you bloody. There are a lot of things in life that shouldn’t happen.
— He broke my nose, Mama.
—But when his heart stopped, you were the one who tried to restart it.
The mother’s legs mottle and swell. Her feet are chilled. Her hands. She is so cold the air around her seems to shiver.
—Where is my cooked potato? Did Mum put it in my winter muff? Is it still hot?
The man says yes, and floats a heated blanket over her body. It isn’t warm enough.
— Perhaps I have no place left inside me that can hold a sun.
The bed vibrates with alarm.
—Am I going to go wearing this?
She wets her finger in her mouth and rubs the stain on her gown.
—My life is like a book I barely remember reading. And look here, the story ends with bloodstains anyway.
The angels in the corner huddle together. They were all hoping for an easy passage, with flowers blooming and violin music rising above the sound of the alarm. But the petals droop and the music falls again. The angelwings twitch.
—Did I ever tell you that my father’s last girlfriend sent his body back to my mum, naked in a pine box?
—And when my husband told me he was dying, I said no, you’re not. He didn’t even try to argue with me. He just went. It was as if I let him die alone.
She has nothing more to say; her tears stop in their tracks. And with that, she becomes unknowable.
Her ragged breath rattles through her open lips as they fall away from the jaw.
—Oh. She’s not breathing now, says the nurse; the sash on her apron unrolls, fluttering around the mother’s face.
The alarm goes mute at last. The workers leave. The faucet gushes open.
Cheryl Snell's books include poetry collections such as Prisoner's Dilemma (poems accompanied by the late Janet Snell's drawings) and a series of novels called Bombay Trilogy. Recent work has been published by Lothlorien Poetry Journal, One Art, Eunoia Review, Trouvaille Review, Six Sentences and others.
The jar of homemade jam has a handwritten label, and you think the writing is familiar. You pick up the jar and take it with you, on your unplanned journey up the wooden hill, to Blanket Street.
Walking up the stairs, you hold the wall for balance, as your high heeled shoes are too tight and hurt. At the summit, you take off the shoes, and walk into the empty bedroom, closing the door behind you. You sit on the unmade bed, that used to be the bottom of bunks, and you place the shoes and the jar of jam on the floor next to your bare feet.
You notice some of the wallpaper is coming away from the wall, and you realise that someone’s been helping it. You tap the paper gently and see a tiny piece of it fall behind the bed, and onto the floor. You check under the bed, and the boxes of outgrown toys in small wicker baskets, slap you across the face. For safety, you return to the upright position on the bed again, and take two long breaths, to steady your mind.
“I’ve had too much to think today” you say to yourself, and you smile that you can still say something funny.
The quiet room is giving the cold shoulder to the sounds from downstairs, and to the odd laughter and cigarette smoke seeping under the door. You are just about to pick up the jam jar and the shoes that are too tight, when suddenly you notice the lampshade.
How can a lampshade hold so many sagas, remember so many tales, be privy to confidential histories? How can the lampshade, with its aging stiffness, and lack of agility, remember the story of the Greedy Princess?
Once upon a time a greedy princess lived near a lake. She demanded all her suiters bring her jewels to look pretty in, and fruits to gorge on. Some brought her diamonds and apples, some brought her gold and oranges, some brought her rubies and grapes.
A handsome prince, who lived on the mountain, brought her a silver bowl full of fresh, ripe blackberries. She ate the blackberries, which were succulent and tender, and begged him to bring her more.
“I can give you blackberries every day until September” said the handsome Prince in his gentle voice.
“But if we are to live happily ever after, you must love me for my spirit and not my fruits.”
“I will marry you tomorrow” she said.
That night, the greedy princess told her guards to follow the prince home, steal all the blackberry bushes from his mountain, and replant them in her garden. Then, they cast a forgetfulness spell on the handsome prince, so that he couldn’t remember his way back to the lake. They left the silver bowl outside his door.
The greedy princess ate the blackberries all day long, and every day, all through August and September. She ate them for breakfast, and she ate them for lunch. She ate them for dinner, and she ate them for midnight feasts. When the bushes were empty at the end of the season, she waited until they bore fruit the following year. The Greedy Princess lived happily ever after, and never thought about the handsome Prince again.
The lampshade remembers the story; as does the coloured net curtains, the old sewing machine in the box, and the Christmas decorations. Lampshades can make you believe in miracles, they can soothe your mind, and they can help you heal. You wonder how this room was ever so small, and how these outgrown boxes and smells of memories, must be left behind. You pick up the jar of jam, and the shoes that are too tight for you, and you carry them all downstairs.
Best Job Ever
I've never regretted it, getting this job on the Angel production line. Best job ever! Every Angel is different, as specified on the order website. And if I say so myself, just look at the quality of the workmanship! Each of us is a certified artist. It's a hundred hours just for one wing. And the halo commissioning, that's my bag, well, talk about job satisfaction. Sure, it took me a seven-year apprenticeship to become the chief artificer but 'perfect' doesn't happen overnight. And the boss, he's a stickler for perfection.
Talking of the boss, we call him The Big Guy, he likes us to have music while we work, to keep us happy and productive. He even got a band in! Not some honky-tonk bunch either. It's a string quartet, with a real live conductor. The Big Guy calls it the 'music of the spheres' and you should hear it when all the Angels sing along! Heavenly! That's when we know they are nearly finished, they just can't help themselves.
My favourite place to hang out is the loading bay, just before we ship 'em out. Gabriel, the one in the pink feathery cloak and fancy purple boots, is in charge of the dispatch ledger and gives each Angel its own special name. It's usually something ending in 'el'.
Then there's a final quality spot-check, to make sure everything's in order, but somehow it always just is.
My pal Jehoshaphat - clothing's his thing, if you need multi-hued angelic tunics, he's the go-to guy – did tell me there was this one problem once. An Angel that was not up to spec. Got cast out, he said. Lulubel or Lucifer or something. The exception that proves the rule I guess. All that was way before my time, before this production line was set up.
Did I mention job security? The Angel order backlog is through the roof. One thing's for sure, the way things are going down on earth, there's never been more of a need for our Angels.
Emily Tee spent her working life wrangling numbers. Now retired, she has returned to her love of reading poetry, a pleasure from her schooldays, and has recently started writing as well. She lives in a semi-rural part of England.
Angels Blinking Constellations
You chose me,
I chose you.
From the first butterfly flutterings
in my swelling abdomen,
I pondered the work of angels,
the glittering bright lights
in the night sky,
angels blinking constellations,
announcing the blessing that
was your small dot growing.
Perhaps the thought of you
grew from a passage in a book,
the sheet music hymns
held by a chorus of angels.
They rehearsed your welcoming,
your launch from ethereal realms,
a place where colors like ruby red
and golden terracotta
are poppy blooms stretching
and soft, peachy petals painting
every inch of sky.
I can only know that the miracle of
the seemingly impossible
resulted in two vibrant sons.
They bloomed into their own constancy of being
with each fragile pregnancy.
It was the work of angels listening,
advanced medicine’s guiding practice,
both lending a hand to nature.
Belief and hope have wings.
Promise exists in the pressed palms of prayer.
Month after month,
we breathe in the blue sky of possibility.
Eventually, the space reserved
for wishes illuminates our world.
Cristina M. R. Norcross
Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two sons and is the editor of the online poetry journal, Blue Heron Review. Author of 9 poetry collections, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and an Eric Hoffer Book Award nominee, her most recent book is The Sound of a Collective Pulse (Kelsay Books, 2021). Cristina’s work appears in: Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Poetry Hall, Verse-Virtual, Silver Birch Press, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies. Cristina has helped organize community art/poetry projects, has led writing workshops, and has hosted many open mic readings. She is one of the co-founders of Random Acts of Poetry & Art Day. Find out more at her author website: www.cristinanorcross.com
When Angels Sing
Angels play for joy alone in heaven,
celebrate in floral robes sewn with precious stones:
no-one's cold or prone to crave the memory of snow.
I've seen it in my dreams. Sacred fingers fashion art
for pleasure's sake. Musicians find contentment
in an infinite crescendo, dressed for the occasion
in unfading flowers: enchanted cellists shod in
agapanthus shoes, gardenia gowns with
painted daisy braid, woven with the patience that
eternity allows. Shed quills of angel wings are used
as violin strings, the baton in a maestro's
clever hand, conducting time in timeless rhapsody:
in heaven they've been dancing since
the first cymbal crash, continued through
a wilderness of summers. I've seen it in my dreams,
where drum-thunder bursts a cloud of rich celestial blooms:
camelia, zinnia, beneath a sunflower sun.
And no-one needs their petal wings
when angels sing - they levitate for fun.
Paul McDonald taught American literature at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he also ran the Creative Writing Programme. He took early retirement in 2019 to write and research full time. He is the author of over twenty books, covering fiction, poetry, and scholarship. His books include the novels Surviving Sting (2001), Kiss Me Softly Amy Turtle (2004), and Do I Love You? (2008); poetry collections, The Right Suggestion (1999), Catch a Falling Tortoise (2007), and An Artist Goes Bananas (2012), and a recent collection of flash fiction, Midnight Laughter (2019). His scholarly work ranges across a variety of disciplines, including American literature, humour, and narratology. His most recent academic books are: Enigmas of Confinement: A History and Poetics of Flash Fiction (2018), Lydia Davis: A Study (2019), and Allen Ginsberg: Cosmopolitan Comic (2020).
We were here long before garden
skies and stringed sighs, before
birdsong and palmed secrets.
So we will survive
full skirts, the hazard of
a fancy heel, will outstand tall
men, those everyplace faces with
their beaded evil eyes, their
black moonstone malevolence.
Alas, too long we speak
of survival when Savior is preferred
sweet on the tongue.
Sacred shines our crowns and
we are grateful, some say
Emily Reid Green
Emily Reid Green's poetry has appeared in various publications, including: Gravel, Of Rust and Glass, 1932 Quarterly, The Pangolin Review, Eunoia Review, and The Ekphrastic Review. Her poems have been on exhibit at Lit Youngstown and Beyond Words, an exhibit with Prizm Creative Community in Toledo’s McMaster Gallery. Her first chapbook Still Speak was published in 2019 by Writing Knights Press. She has also been a sponsored poet with Tiferet Journal and their annual poem-a-thon. Emily lives in Toledo, Ohio with her family.
between now and forever
how are we to become?--
vessels that shape allegory
singing matter into energy
riding on waves of beyond
vessels that shape illusions
riding on waves of beyond
multiplicities of circles
the beginning and the end
multiplicities of circles
colors and patterns alive
the beginning and the end
infused with light
colors and patterns alive
infused with light
singing matter into energy
Kerfe Roig has an affinity for anything with wings.
"There will always be children with dirty faces,
and mothers to wipe them."
"And the bells that the children could hear
were inside them."
Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas In Wales
When she arranged the Angels her picture looked like a Paradise Garden
with characters in a play drawn by her daughter. All Sunday the winter
wind had cried at the windows, and she'd worried about the heating bills,
her children ill but getting better -- for that she was thankful
as the Angel holding a book, her wings as big as two hot pink
feather boas. She was clearly the leader of the group -- was she
a deva, feet pointed outward as if she was walking in two directions?
They had pawned the blue bass fiddle guarded by a uniformed soldier
dressed as he did in "The Nutcracker."; and Mr. Chordinsky had put
the instrument in the shop window so the children could see it
as she'd asked; to be like the famous writer, Carlos Fuentes,
bored with law school who had walked by the window of a pawn shop
to see his typewriter as he worked for the money to bail out his future.
On her kitchen table were the paper flowers -- red and yellow --
bursting with the promise of summer days when their Abuelita's
zinnias would bloom like fallen sunlight the morning sun rising
on the east side of her collage. Although the winter wind blew
in her heart when she thought of what was lost -- the father
of her children -- the memory of his music was sweet: a violin
played, its song dulce y melidioso above grasses
made with Christmas-green candy wrappers in a play directed
by her fingers, a performance
where Angels are invented
wearing penny-candy crowns.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston, Texas. Her recent book,When Dreams Were Poems, 2020, relates art to life, often using ekphrastics as in "Mrs. Pygmalion's Wardrobe," which took second place in the Houston Poetry Festival's Ekphrastic Contest; and "Orpheus In The 21st Century," voted a Fantastic Ekphrastic by The Ekphrastic Review. The mention of Carlos Fuentes' typewriter in a pawn shop window is from his memoirs, part of Newendorp's research to teach a class using Fuentes' "Aura" as an example of magical realism.