—after Mary Oliver

Pencils hidden in trees in case something speaks to her,
in case she is urged to respond as she wanders forest, seashore—
this patch of Province Lands packed with emblems.

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

A disciple of Thoreau ― world as cipher, subtext:
the disquieted deer, seven white butterflies,
watchful owl, battered whelk,
the world’s roots, what lies under?

Graced as it is with the ordinary.

It is sweet to wake each day, to taste sea spray,
smell the fecund earth, feel birch bark,

You are the heart of the cedars of Lebanon
and the fir called Douglas
the bristlecone, the willow.

fit onto a meditation seat of moss,
hear the cacophony of birdsong, ocean splash.

I dream at night of the birds, of the beautiful
dark seas they push through.

It is not a wide range of space that matters,
but what each part means to the whole, to the human soul.
Blackwater Pond is life ― dross, infinite, random.

Tell me what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Stilled in each moment noting connections in this palette of the varied.

Luminous as it is with mystery
and pain.

Not human society but permutations of God:
marsh lily, gull, the Truro bear.

There is only one question:
how to love this world?

Moments one knows what it is to be alive
fully and willing to live fully in the moment.

Morning by singular morning
and shell by broken shell.

By Marc Frazier
Italicized lines are from Mary Oliver.

sun shining through forest trees

Marc Frazier has widely published poetry in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, Good Men Project, f(r)iction, The Gay and Lesbian Review (forthcoming), Slant, Permafrost, Plainsongs, and Poet Lore. He has had memoir from his book WITHOUT published in Gravel, The Good Men Project, decomP, Autre Cobalt Magazine and Evening Street Review and Punctuate (forthcoming). He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry and has been featured on Verse Daily. His book The Way Here and his two chapbooks are available on Amazon as well as his second full-length collection titled Each Thing Touches (Glass Lyre Press) that has garnered numerous favorable reviews. His website is www.marcfrazier.org.

Photo by the author.

Dove Chorale

A chorus of mourning doves
serenades passing motorists
along the shaded gravel road.
Their coos are comforting,
and I slow down to listen.
They welcome all who pass
and soothe them
into autumn splendor.

By Harding Stedler

mourning dove in tree lit by autumn sunset

After graduating valedictorian of his high school graduating class, Harding Stedler went on to earn his B.S. in Ed., M.S in English Education, and his Ph.D. in English Education as well. He taught writing courses under the umbrella of the English Department in universities where he taught. In 1995, he retired from Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, with 34 years of service. He now makes his home in Maumelle, Arkansas, and is an active member of the Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas as well as the River Market Poets in Little Rock.

Photo by blscooch

Firefly: Light My Way

I find solace in observing my natural surroundings in my front and back yard. My house is surrounded by vast fields with many trees, plants and wildlife. I even see wildlife and other sights that most city-dwellers don’t tend to see such as coyotes, deer and even simple starry nights. All things that I love most about living in a more rural environment.

Like most people, I enjoy warm summer nights with nothing but the stars and sweet sound of crickets chirping, yet I can’t help but find myself waiting for just one month in particular. In late May, early June, as the sun sets and the skies turn black, the fields are lit up with the soft glimmer of fireflies. They dance to the song of the crickets and cicadas and mimic the sweet glow of the stars above.

 real fireflies at a calm nightAs I listen to the sweet sounds of summer and watch the dance of the fireflies, I begin to feel nostalgic. The mere site of these fireflies bring me back to my childhood where everything was so simple. Where my life was filled with wonder and awe. Where I was ignorant to the cruelty and hate in the world. For how could such cruelty exist in a world so beautiful and pure?

I can recall a memory of mine that allowed me to feel an extreme sense of connectedness with the nature found in my own front yard. It was the night following a catastrophic event where I sat, lonely and confused on the stairs of my porch. I remember peering into the dark fields feeling comatose wondering how the world could be so callous. The world lay silent with the exception of the forlorn whispers of the crickets. Their ballad complimented the tear drops that lay atop the freshly cut grass. I remember a faint smell of firewood burning in the distance that could only be detected when the gentle breeze caressed my face. I gazed up into the night sky that was as black as a raven’s coat. I sat, staring up into the sky while recalling old memories of a departed friend. I wished so desperately to be able to capture the large, orange-tinted full moon and feel the warmth of the surrounding stars on my skin.

As the night progressed, the breeze became more apparent and the temperature dropped as low as my spirits. I began to look back to the fields at the tall arundo donax and golden rod that surround the perimeter of the field. The shadow of the feather-like appearance on the top of the cane’s stem complimented the soft silhouette of the golden rod’s florets. They swayed back and forth in conjunction with the breeze’s rhythm. Their leaves rustling in the wind as they brush up against each other so carefree and effortlessly. Like a mother shushing her crying infant as if to console it; as if to console me.

I am brought back to reality when I feel a gentle touch of a glowing object on my skin. I gaze at its body as it turns from a simple black insect to an alluring shade of fluorescent yellow. The firefly’s glow is like a bright, yet subtle star that flickers in the night sky. At that moment, I couldn’t help but think that the firefly was reminding me to appreciate the simple, natural splendors that this world has to offer. After a few seconds the firefly took flight and rejoined the others within the fields once again. Subsequently, I went to bed pondering my encounter with this gentle creature.
sunrise over fieldThe following morning, I awoke to the tune of a new song. It was around 5:30 am when I turned my head towards the window to see a small beam of light peeking through my window shades. The sky was beginning to transition from a dreary night to a new day. At that moment I remembered the firefly that reminded to me to enjoy the simple things in life. So although I was still mourning, I decided to take the firefly’s advice and venture back to the spot where I had laid so dejectedly the night before.

I sat with a plush blanket around my body like a tight-knit cocoon on the steps of my porch. I watched as the sun pushed through the darkness and out from the fields below. The base of the sky just above the fields was a light periwinkle that extended up and faded into the deep purple and blue sky. There were also some purple-grey clouds that looked like cotton balls that had been pulled apart and fluffed. The large, dark orange sun emerged from the horizon with its golden rays extending throughout the fields. As its rays stretched, the field began to light up and glow as bright as the firefly. The golden rod that was once just a silhouette became a vibrant yellow with a contrasting green base. The leaves and each floret were now distinguishable with a perfect balance of long, thin, green leaves to clusters of small, complex yellow flowers. Each plant beginning to look as though they had a halo of light radiating from its core.

As the remainder of the field began to turn from a dark green shadow to many different shades of greens, purples, browns and white were now able to be seen—as though a veil had been lifted. Bright purple thistle, Queen Anne’s lace, large tufts of grass, small maple trees and milkweed that were previously hidden became apparent with the glow of the sun—now fully over the horizon but still low in the sky. With the sun’s transition, the sky became a light shade of purple and blue with the sun a bright yellow.
sparrow on grren branch
The light then reflected off of the subtle drops of dew on the grass as if it were a blanket of light laid upon each blade. The sound of the crickets no longer sounded disheartened. They were loud and filled with various tones and patterns, countered by the sweet melody of the sparrow and her children. Her whistle provided sound to the beauty of the sun and nature around me. As I watched her fly to her nest made of tan coloured, dried grass and twigs, I got a glimpse of her body. Her body was a light brown with delicate hints of dark browns, blacks, whites and orange-browns within her back feathers. As she glided her way towards her nest, she was greeted by her children who had been anxiously awaiting her arrival.

At this moment, the world felt like it was in perfect harmony. A unity between every living creature and radiance of the sun. I started to feel a sense of love and admiration, whereas the night before, I felt lifeless and disconnected from the world around me. I now feel calm and connected. Connected to the sparrow providing her children with nutrients and warmth, to the thistles that are vibrant yet sharp to the touch and even to the sky that had become brighter with each passing moment.

As more time passed, I began to recall the moment where the firefly landed on my hand. The firefly showed me that even in dark times, a small glimmer of light can help you through it. Because behind a dark sheath, there lies a beautiful world full of numerous sounds, colours, textures and scents—all working together as a single entity. This moment of realization has now become one of the most memorable times of my life. As I grew older, I started to lose touch with the nature that surrounded me. I became so consumed in a world full of social media and work that I forgot the simple, natural beauty of the earth. But I have since regained my connection to environment and all living and nonliving things in it.

I continue to find peace and serenity in the fields surrounding my home. Not only is the land around me striking, but it also fills me with joy and nostalgia. I love to reminisce and share my childhood memories and other major events that have happened in my life with nature’s melodies playing in the background—whether it be crickets chirping, coyotes howling, birds singing or even the rustling of leaves. Every piece of nature with a distinctive colour, shape, size and smell all come together and create this safe haven for me.

I will always remember and return to the spot where I have seen the most amazing natural marvels that are so dear to my heart. As for the fireflies; they will return next year and I will be looking forward to their long awaited arrival. Though here for such a short period of time, I find myself most connected to them each and every year.

I would like to say thank you to the firefly that was the light to one of my darkest days and for helping me, once again, find beauty within nature. Thank you for helping me regain my connection with the world and most of all, thank you for helping me find myself.

Photos by Fernando Gregory Milan, Sitthipong Inthason, and Grzegorz Gust

The Soothing Power of the Wild Sea

Last month, for a certain period of time my mind had not been by itself. Like a boat tumbling through the cyclonic wind, my subconscious was caught up in a storm of thoughts. The cause of this was a delay in the occurrence of a particular event that I had been waiting for. At the moment, this event was taking longer than I expected or desired, and as a result I’d fallen prey to a restlessness inside my head. Nothing I did was able to keep my mind at peace. I was desperate to find a way to get over this anxious, and absolutely unnecessary, overflow of thoughts.

One evening, to appease myself of this internal war, I decided to spend an evening at the sea. After getting down the tram, I walked to the shore and stood near the railing at the beach, and around me were a plethora of shopping outlets and restaurants. The sea shore was lively as always, filled with people, their pets, and athletes immersed in various water sports. Despite looking at all of this, something inside me didn’t click today.

Instead of moving towards the shore full of people enjoying a relaxed evening, I took a turn that lead me away from the pier, the most loved spot at the beach of Scheveningen in Den Haag. I didn’t want to see the face of the sea that wore an urban makeup and was loved by many in the city, at times, even by myself. Today, I wanted to see a different face of the sea. I craved a glimpse of rawness in nature. Hence, I walked towards the other end of the beach, the end with a mole elegantly extending a few hundred metres into the sea, hosting a lighthouse at its edge.

the North Sea and lighthouseThere were large square shaped rocks on either side of the mole, and at the foot of these rocks, petty tides rose and fell playfully, like a child dancing to a tune of its own. The view of the sea from the vantage point of lighthouse was perfect, and raw, just the way I needed it today. Standing in front of an element of nature, this unending expanse of water, I felt a vague truthfulness in the sight that filled my vision. There was a slender movement upon the surface of the sea – wind was walking swiftly over water, creating long and beautiful ripples which, in turn, transformed into large tides when approaching the shore. The sight was hypnotic. I couldn’t turn my glance away from the happening of this soft romance between wind and water.

As I stood there for nearly an hour and kept looking into the far fetched sea, and the horizon that it created with the sky, and the many ships that were journeying at a long, long distance from where I stood, an unconscious calmness slowly made its way into my heart. The evening sky was slowly turning gloomy with the gathering of dark clouds. In a few moments, the entire sea seemed to be wrapped in a fairy tale-ish darkness, and a slender drizzle started to fall from another world. As these little drops of rain touched me, I walked back to the road at the beginning of the mole, and on the way, I turned and looked back at the endless spread of the sea, as if to satiate myself of an unknown thirst. I reached the hill-like construction with benches, and stairs leading to the road that connected to the trams, and I felt the absence of something in myself. The troubling and anxious thoughts weren’t floating at the top of my mind anymore. As if a bodily pain had been tranquilized, my anxious thoughts also seemed to have vanished, leaving me with a serene calmness. I wasn’t sure when this soothing had crept in me. I did not notice it all this time. I did not become aware of the settling of that buzz inside my head, a burden that I brought with me this evening to the sea to plead refuge.

I made my way back to the tram-stop with a sense of ease filled inside me, and my purpose of visiting the sea this evening was fulfilled.

Photo by the author

The Passage

I have allowed myself
to stand long in reality’s kitchen,
washing tangible dishes,
looking out the dark dream window
at the seductive dancing
of a ghastly, sallow figure who
beckons with one bony hand,
and tugs on the back of my dress
with the other

while I work to scrub away
the sticky residue of a
deviant limbic system.

But I have trodden the grassy passage
to the Eden of the mind, where
the healing place is
a supple, fragrant light
broken by no shadow, revealing

the soft, jingling song of the cricket,
the insistent conversation of the gleaming crows,
the first cool breeze of a September morning,
the maple’s emerging red patchwork,
the crisp, surprising chomp of a doe making
short work of apples in the back yard,
the moss-muted sigh of the towering forest—

peace for the mind and abundant grace
in the bounty of the wren and
the sanctity of the scrub pine.

By Martha Owens

woman sitting by tree in fall sunlight

Martha Owens lives in western North Carolina and teaches British literature at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy. Her poems have appeared in North Carolina Literary Review, Wisconsin Review, Pembroke Magazine, Lyricist, and Gray’s Sporting Journal.

Photo by loganban