When Claudia Castro Luna sent me her poem, In Sommerlicht Schwebend, where “love [is] a champagne fueled badminton birdie,” I was inspired as editor to call for work that addresses the theme of mental illness; I had no idea how compassionate and vulnerable our contributors would allow themselves to be.
Nancy Christopherson wrote of her dying mother “straddling two worlds . . . [as]spanning two white Lippizan stallions in that haute ecole of dressage.” Marjorie Power remembers her mother’s mania in which she shares her love of Puccini. Maria Rouphail gains a long distance perspective of a difficult upbringing through a friend who calls her mother’s actions Purification.
Several poets address depression and grief: Dale Champlin writes in the voice of Barbie, “I lie here like a stunned mullet–/fishy and diluted.” Lorraine Carey says of her sister, “I see your slow sad gait/walking away in my dreams.” And Patricia Knoll shares, “Awake with half my brain/to your sadness, woe/a sea you cannot cross.”
Some write from their experiences (or from their imaginations) of mental illness: Carolyn Adams has us walking on the ceiling. Lisa Ni Bhraonain walks us down the corridors of an asylum in an aural lingual degeneration/evolution. Brigitte Goetze takes us into the cellar and into the realm of fermenting anxiety and panic. Susan Landgraf’s voice is “down/to dimes and nickels. The floor lamp/takes reverse xrays.” A. Marine shares, “maybe the color is leaking from my eyelids/I, too, am lit from within.” R.T Castleberry “pick[s] at the day like a carrion bird.” Jimmy Pappas want to fly.
Gary Lark and Jeff Burt share their personal observations and connection to two homeless men in Danny, and Bubble Man.
Still other poets emphasize the voice of the mentally challenged, with the use of prose poetry: Michael Chang, Calida Osti, and Elizeya Quate.
There are several more remarkable poems that don’t fit into these clusters which are worthy of your attention.
Finally, Carolyn Adams, Lisa Ni Bhraonain, and David Felix provide a visual respite with their artworks. Carolyn’s collage, “Grow,” seemed the most affirmative image for the cover with her whirling dervish, gigantic leaves reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, and the ladder as an invitation to move upward. Lisa’s painting, “Still Life,” and her three collages, “Snake,” “Apple,” and “Fabergê Egg” share an accretion of markings reflecting a controlled frenzy. David Felix’s visual poem, “Finding Direction,” shows us how to “make for benevolens within the daily round.”
Let us grow and make for benevolence this Winter Solstice; the light is beginning to return.
You want me
to leave the house.
I think it will work,
but I’m afraid to try.
You reassure me,
and I jump a few times,
put my ankles into it. It’s hard.
But I learn the right
velocity and how far
to bend my knees,
and finally I make it.
I’m on the ceiling,
to the bumps and pits
of the sheetrock,
trying to not hit my head.
I travel the breadth of the room,
upside down like a spider,
looking over everything
that anchors me.
I hover the dining table,
explore the angles
of the hall bathroom.
I wonder what will happen
if I put myself
at the mercy of the atmosphere.
Will I ascend into clouds,
then into black velvet,
or will I hug the curve
of matter that made me?
Artist Statement: I try to craft illustrations that impart a sense of harmony, or that are infused with a certain visual tension. But my favorites are the ones that manipulate their own identity, because my audience can connect with the images in their own deeply personal ways.
Carolyn Adams’ poetry and art have been published in the pages, and on the covers of Kestrel, Steam Ticket, Apercus Quarterly, Wend, and Defunkt, Beatnik Cowboy, Pangolin Review, and Titpton Poetry Journal, among others. She has authored four chapbooks, with one being a collection of her collage art, entitled What Do You See? Select pieces of her collage art have been featured in #YourArtMoment, a program of the Beaverton Arts Council in Beaverton, OR. She has been nominated for a Pushcart prize, as well as for Best of the Net, and was a finalist for 2013 Poet Laureate of the city of Houston, TX. She is currently a staff editor for Mojave River Review. Having relocated from Houston, she now lives in Beaverton, OR.
Digging Lindbergh’s Grave
In Kipahulu on the wet side of Maui,
where waterfalls and streams
run down to the sea,
I dig the grave of Charles Lindbergh.
In the cemetery at Palapala Ho’Omau,
the church made of limestone coral,
I put the iron o’o to rock and soil
exploring the earth, not the clouds.
All day I hear planes overhead,
modified air-mail mono-planes
like the spirit of St Louis
closeby in the java plum tree.
As the tomb gets deeper,
a sadness grows
for a young one’s death and
for misunderstandings about the big war.
This man and his wife
came to our corner for peace
and tranquility, for the silence
of ocean waves and the trills of rain.
Here they could forget
and locals could accept.
The large stone waiting
there on the ground
to cover my work and my friend
reads, “…I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.”
Frank Babcock lives and writes in Corvallis, Oregon, and is a retired middle school teacher and owner of Marys Peak Bamboo, a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the sometimes strange thoughts and insights that rattle around in his head. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, as well as Leonard Cohen many years ago. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps.
Our Second Year. The River.
After The Mulberry swelled under April rains, rose
over its rock islands and brushy willows
on the shore, we pushed a borrowed canoe
into roar after roar of water, sudden
angles of current, sharp drops
into brief pools before it rushed on.
Warned by the thunder of falls, time after time, we
hauled out onto wooded banks and walked ahead
to plot our course, then launched our fragile
shell back into the current, strained muscles
sweeping paddles in rhythm — hard left, sharp
right, straight down the chute past tips of saplings
bent under the flood. On either side honeysuckle tangles,
beds of lady slippers, tall trees emerged
and disappeared until suddenly
a bump, a scrape — shrub submerged under our side–
wild flip and catapult, instant plunge
into frigid water. No life jackets, just
the instinct to surface from cold dark calm, a short stretch
of slowing stream. Separate,
we broke the surface, shrieking
into sun-streaked air. We laughed
as we stroked together to catch
our drifting craft before the water
gathered and sped on. Up on the bank, a little fire
to dry our clothes, a steaming cup of tea, then back
to the river wild. That day thirty rapids
dropped us down to where poplars
cast an emerald net over moonlit sky. We
curled together in our double sleeping bag,
and closed our eyes. Lulled
by the river’s song, we didn’t dream
of August, rainless weeks ahead. We didn’t see
how we’d sit apart, too hot to touch
while tomatoes shriveled and marigolds
turned brown. Caught in adventure, night visions
of that spring rush, we couldn’t imagine, not once,
the way life might be without water.
Louise Cary Barden is winner of the 2018 Lois Cranston Memorial Prize from Calyx Press, the 2018 Oregon Poetry Association Member’s Choice Award, and The NC Writer’s Network’s Harperprints chapbook award. She was also a finalist for the 2017 Southwest Review’s Marr Prize (for forms). Her poems have appeared in Timberline, Willawaw, Greensboro, Chattahoochee Review, and others. A retired college English instructor, advertising copywriter and editorial writer, she recently moved from NC to Oregon to be near grandchildren.
paul A. Bluestein is a physician (done practicing), a blues guitar player (still practicing) and a dedicated Scrabble player (yes, ZAX is a word). He was born and raised in Philadelphia, but has also lived in the Midwest and southern California. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and the two dogs who rescued him. Nearby, there is a beach where he can let his mind off the leash to go where it wants. He is grateful that, thus far, it has always come back, sometimes with an interesting idea in its jaws.