"Advice to a Prophet" - Richard Wilbur


"Advice to a Prophet" - Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.
  Richard Wilbur died on October 14 at the age of 96. In 1987 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate of the United States. “I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy,” he explained in a 1977 interview with Peter Stitt in the Paris Review, “that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”

"Church with a Groan and a Grin" - Eugene C. Bianchi

Religion as practiced today deals
in punishments and rewards. In other words,
it breeds fear and greed—the two things
most destructive of spirituality.
     - -Anthony de Mello, S.J., One Minute Wisdom
"Church with a Groan and a Grin" - Eugene C. Bianchi
The church has always been a gathering
of saints, sinners, the pompous,
the indifferent, crusaders and leeches
claiming to follow what Jesus teaches.
A grumpy critic near the end of my race,
I admit to a love-hate relationship,
disgusted by child abuse and rigidity
about women, gays and pelvic theology.
Most Christians haven’t come to grips
with Darwin, Jung or cosmic science,
so deeper issues remain buried,
while preachers declaim, blissfully unworried.
They keep stuffing fourth-century dogma
and medieval myths into modern minds,
preaching such faith unchanged forever,
dreading new thinkers with ideas too clever.
Yet enough good news keeps breaking through
about nuns serving the poor and battling bishops,
new schools in Africa and clinics in ghettoes,
social justice and mystics like Merton and de Mello.
If I weren’t born into it,
I’d have to invent a facsimile,
so huge is our need for belonging
to cope with our livings and dyings.
I claim no monopoly over gospels that keep
rising from other religions and non-religions.
With a groan and a grin, my conflicted past
frees me to travel a wider spiritual path.
(Photo of Gene Bianchi by David Noah)

from "Evil is Always Human" - Eddie Whitlock

The characters are on their way to see a public hanging in 1912. The children, riding on back of a mule-drawn wagon, are talking.
              “Why they hanging him?”
      “He killed his wife and his two little girls right after Christmas,” Gladys told us.
       Little Carl was listening to her, having a pretty good day that day. “Why did he do that, Gladys?”
       The truth is that Gladys didn’t know at all why the man killed his wife and them two little girls, but Gladys was good at thinking and she thought up a good story and we didn’t much care whether it was true or not, as long as it was good.  You just had to catch her in the mood to talk.  She weren’t always in such a mood.  Some days she would be all blowed up like a bullfrog and wouldn’t say nothing to nobody but Mama and then it weren’t but a word or two.
       I was right glad she was in a talking mood that day.  “He was crazy,” Gladys told us.  “He said the devil had got into them.”
       We didn’t go to church, but we knowed who the devil was.  The devil was who folks blamed when they done something bad and got caught at it.  I didn’t much figure it was the devil getting into folks as it was folks just getting caught and wanting to blame somebody else for it.  You see that a lot. 

An excerpt from Evil is Always Human by Eddie Whitlock. He is October's featured reader at Word of Mouth open mic at The Globe. Sign-up for open mic Wednesday, October 4 is at 7 pm at the bar and readings start at 8 pm upstairs.

"IT'S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN" - Charley Seagraves

"IT'S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN" - Charley Seagraves
I am standing
under the cast iron Arch
that serves as a gateway...

to the oldest public university
in a land
where freedom was once revered
(Sorry UNC, but UGA was the first university created by a state charter).

I am listening to a group of youngsters,
"Undocumented! Unafraid!
Undocumented! Unafraid!"

I look into their fearless faces
and listen carefully
as speaker after speaker
eloquently recounts
his or her unique experience
and expresses her or his
not-so-unique frustration.

The almighty Board of Regents
of the great state of Georgia
has, in its sage wisdom,
decreed that these youngsters
cannot attend any
of our state universities.
They are "illegal," "undocumented,"
brought to this country
without "papers."

And then the chant changes to:
"Education! Not segregation!
Education! Not segregation!"

And I close my eyes and wonder:
Was I standing in this same spot
just a few short years ago
listening to another
group of youngsters
chanting exactly the same words?

Seems like yesterday.
It's déjà vu all over again.

Community members and students gathered at the Arch in downtown Athens on Monday, September 6, 2017 to protest the Trump administration's recent decision to reverse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Photo by Kayla Renie, The Red and Black.

"Heart Scars" - Bob Ambrose


"Heart Scars" - Bob Ambrose

The surgeon said I have a raw heart,
that where he worked his high-tech
wire would heal and bear no scars.

But all he had were images,
renderings of my left atrium
processed by silicon circuits,
color coded for conductivity,
rogue circuits splotched red
across my pulmonary veins.

They fairly danced with life,
made my heart skip stutter-
step beats. That was before.

Now the big veins stand inert,
gun-metal gray, dull as lead
pipes, bare limbs of an ancient
oak shattered by a blue bolt,
frozen and fossilized — this
the price for too much life.

I walk through new life
with a hole in my heart.
I bear invisible tattoos.

Can a body hit sixty-eight
without a rough mark
clawed across the vitals?
Could a soul survive so long
in the land of incarnation
without the grace of scars?

Technology is miracle. Hospitals
crawl with angels. Doctors patch
bodies for a few more rounds.

But raw hearts ride currents
no machine can measure. Sinking,
I am buoyed by a thousand ‘thoughts
and prayers.’ Flailing, I am borne
again to source or abyss. Surely
I will drown in a sea of grace.

"Heart Scars" by Bob Ambrose originally appeared online at his blog Reflections in Poetry.

"Giving Way" - Dennis Bagwell

"Giving Way" - Dennis Bagwell

Hush little girl
Don't say a word
Let's just sit here a few moments longer
With your soft little hand in mine
I wish I could keep time's dreaded grasp from dragging you off into the swift current of adulthood
But wishing is a useless past time
I can already see it in your eyes
I can hear it in your words
Your body is slowly giving way to the woman you will someday become
It's simply a matter of dreaded time when moments like these will become fewer and farther between
But today you're still a little girl
So let's just sit here a few moments longer
With your soft little hand in mine

"Alone" - Cassandra Sam


"Alone" - Cassandra Sam

Alone became my norm and as one tends to grow feelings
for that which is familiar
    I formed a frightening infatuation with sharing
    only the company of myself
It is to be noted that this was not healthy or fulfilling
quite the opposite in fact
see this was detrimental to my health and if happiness

could be measured in wealth
    I was left with empty pockets and featherlight wallets
but these were all my own
and for that I was grateful
for I knew the pain in companionship
I was aware that to place more coins in my pockets would mean to inevitably face
more heavy a downfall, and too often
    have I forgotten to brace myself
    for the moments where I must pay for my own loose change
so changes in me took place which have left me so pennilessly,

and purposefully alone
or dangerous-
is he who seeks solace in sentence scribbled less than legibly

on the back of his own eyelids
or she who speaks in false past tense, pretending to be stronger than her poetry
The time is 12:37 AM
I am laying in my bed trying to decipher the feelings I have not been having as of recently
typically when something is bothering me I try to assign it a story, space, and color
but this shade of black
    so selfishly sticks it's in all settings and plots
    which come to mind
sucking until it grows drunk on dread and dreariness
it greedily fills then spills out of its designated resting space
testing space and time between where I am now

and there which I have been before,
some would refer to this as rock bottom
I just call it, "Wednesday"
I ask myself why I am like this

"Late" - Joseph Wallace

"Late" - Joseph Wallace

latte drifting
in the
sunset colors
orange pink
sky blue
latte drifting
in flared nostrils

I should like
to be carried
with the scent
across a cheek

coffee brown
in the
morning glory
red orange
glorious morning
coffee brown
and birds sing

I should like
to be carried
with great gifts
through the lips

yellow teeth
in the
middle night
purple black
moon white
yellow teeth
and loving eyes

I should like
to be carried
from the smile
to loving ears

late rushing
in the
beating sun
white blue
leaf green
late rushing
“let’s get coffee”

I should like
to be carried
on birds’ wings
catching your eyes

latte drifting
in the
sunset colors
orange pink
sky blue
latte drifting
drifting to sleep

I should like
to be carried
off to sleep
warm and cozy

cozy and warm
on birds’ wings
with great gifts

into loving arms
with a scent
like I should

"Chris, the Cockroach" - Michael Keating

"Chris, the Cockroach" - Michael Keating

Rain makes the days seem satirical

It was the night that you wanted to keep
the royal moth we found when the exterminator
let himself in for his monthly routine
“who’s in charge here”
neither of us, maybe the bug
that insect is a king to us
but I guess that doesn’t matter much
I was unsettled and unsure
of whether it was because of
his sudden appearance or lonely odor
that slipped out of his equipment.

“Just finish closing up
turn off all the lights, I’m nocturnal
Pretend as if I’m not here”

Tried to oblige. but he joked on
“I’m Chris the cockroach,
I come out at night and kill all my friends
call me the Terminator”

Had to mention it sounded Kafka-esque
although it went over his head
he said goodnight and by the morning
this whole place will be rid of unwanted visitors
I hoped that included exterminators.

My walk home couldn’t shake the lonely odor
Rain makes the pain satirical
I imagined his instruments of death
sprayed out seconds and minutes and days
and that the liquid contained
little pieces of his soul, although I know it was just
chemicals to kill bugs.

"[ When I Was a Faith Healer ]" - Gregg Murray

[ When I Was a Faith Healer ]

I cut my teeth on the hopeless. I'd hold
their hands, ask with patience what cares

were cursed. The devils that in amorous
colloquy made them weep openly.

They knew it was alright, and I worked
through recollection. I was a technician.

I gave them the reason, backed by a vision.
I moved on to the wicked. I was led

into the heavy rooms. Family members
stood at cracked doors, fingering beads

and crosses. I summoned kinder forces.
My pyrotechnics were practical, flares

and flint, kindling and rabble-rousing,
rending, espousing. The hell was hot,

love was water. These days grew longer.
In middle age I turned to the blind eye.

It was my sports car, my affair, my turn.
There was never enough money to burn.

I was a physician of the Lord. It took
time to feel the word, to see demons

in the iris black as cataracts. Lay on
the hands, lay on the scalpel, no one

understands the science of spectacle.
There is no guide for the impossible.

But I'll say this, diligent student, I believe
it respectable, noble, even regal,

to make way for the miracle.
Gregg Murray is Assistant Professor of English at Georgia State University and the founding editor of Muse /A Journal. He is the featured reader at Word of Mouth open mic, Wednesday, September 6,
8:00 pm at The Globe, Athens. "[ When I Was a Faith Healer" ]  appeared online in diode poetry journal. He will be reading at the Decatur Book Festival on Sunday, September 3 at 3 pm on the Java Monkey stage.

"Incantation" - David Noah

"Incantation" - David Noah

This is the way we are in August
in America in 2017:
Nazis march in Charlottesville
and the president stands silent
until he speaks up.
For them.

This is the way
we wait with anger and hope on street corners,
holding signs and looking for signs,
while our cellphone screens blister
with news served too fast to eat,
and civil war is in the air.

This is the way
the enormity of the wound—
to the country,
to the invisible pertinent currents
coursing through our metaphysical bloodstreams—
staggers mothers walking down streets,
stuns birds from the skies,
and makes fathers stumble against walls.

This is the way
the eclipse comes
in a rushing silhouette across America,
as a sign.
Or a symptom.

This is the way
the shadow slides into our pockets.

This is the way
dragon eats the sun,
the way bear rears into the sky
and tears apart the light,
the way demons sweat darkness
and speak up for monsters.

This is the way
we say to each other:
we have reached totality.

And this is the way
we look at one another
and remember the light.

This is the way we wake up.
This is the way we turn and find our way home.
This the way we remember.
This is the way we begin.

"Pace" - Michael Keating



"Pace" - Michael Keating

check all the locks
front, back and front again
can’t neglect
the one in your skull

switch all the stoves
conductive heat
flick a cigarette
in the kitchen sink
it’s only left

check back in
the conversations
rattling between thought confusion

look at every image
for planned differences
that were put in
children’s magazines

count your missteps
and notice all
the errant bricks
just don’t trip

self medicate and
catch the card trick
to try to cheat it
and get your ass beat

pace but not
try not to quantify
other’s lives

take your ambien
and lithium
while figuring
how to sleep

on your sins
you’re no good
for nobody

likely from
your pessimism
or drug addiction
or brain contusion

"Aunties" - Kevin Young


"Aunties" - Kevin Young

There's a way a woman
            will not

her pocketbook
            even pulled
onstage, or called up

to the pulpit—
            there's a way only
your Auntie can make it

taste right—
             rice & gravy
is a meal

if my late Great Aunt
            Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like

there's no tomorrow
             & they're right.
Too hot

is how my Aunt Tuddie
            peppers everything,
her name given

by my father, four, seeing
            her smiling in her crib.
There's a barrel

full of rainwater
            beside the house
that my infant father will fall

into, trying to see
           himself—the bottom—
& there's his sister

Margie yanking him out
           by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind

the flyswatter they chase you
            round the house
& into the yard with

ready to whup the daylights
            out of you—
that's only a threat—

Aunties will fix you
           potato salad
& save

you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like

it's going out of style—
             & it is—
make even gold

teeth look right, shining.
             saying I'll be
John, with a sigh. Make way

out of no way—
            keep they key
to the scale that weighed

the cotton, the cane
            we raised more
than our share of—

If not them, then who
           will win heaven?
holding tight

to their pocketbooks
            at the pearly gates
just in case.

"Aunties" by Kevin Young is from Dear Darkness (2008). Kevin Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and studied under Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido at Harvard University. While a student there, he became a member of the Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers. He has published eleven collections of poetry. His latest is Blue Laws (2015).

"Are Mystics Unaware?" - Eugene C. Bianchi

"Are Mystics Unaware?" - Eugene C. Bianchi


I have put duality away, and I have seen

that the two worlds are one: one I seek,

one I know, one I see, one I call. (Rumi 1207-1273))


So much suffering:

famine in Sudan, children

killing children in Chicago,

endless war in Syria and Iraq,

prisoners of conscience languishing,

disease of body and brain,

while mystics seem unaware,

talking about peace in divine light.

Cat Max suddenly jumps into my lap,

scattering my wordy pages seeking answers,

his reply of blue eyes and compassionate purr

embraces the ancient drama by going deeper,

like mystics letting breath and mantra

help them feel the pain, dwelling

in a fuller meditative space,

allowing time for the lingering sadness

to birth kindness and active care,

as they refuse to despair

over our broken story,

holding hands of the dying in hospice,

defending the wrongfully imprisoned,

checking the temperature of a sick child,

taking in the war refugee,

even the monk immolating himself in protest,

all in the stubborn oneness grasped only in part.

--Eugene C. Bianchi, Athens, GA, July 25, 2017