Bitter Sweet. a poem by Dakarai Mashava

Dakarai Mashava

Bitter Sweet
(For my granny Mbuya Kwenda on her 92nd birthday)

What a beautiful sight to behold
You atop the giant mountain of time
Looking back into time
Aeon upon aeon
Sucking in both happy and sad memories
Remembering the bountiful harvests that made you an envied farmer
Remembering too your people who fell by the wayside
Your face turns ashen as you remember three from your own womb that you outlived
Recalling how you risked life and limb to support war of liberation combatants
But now your limbs have been worn out by time
But the spirit is as strong as ever
The memories as sharp as a butcher's knife
As you slowly walk, gingerly raise your heavy feet
I see you lumbering on aided by the walking stick one of your nieces bought for you
I see you descending
I see you going downhill
Meanwhile the beautiful sunset is taking charge
I wonder how many more such sights your feeble body will behold
Is the sun now inevitably setting on you?

(**Two days after her 92nd birthday, my maternal grandmother died on- 18 April, 2022- Zimbabwe’s Independence Day).

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Dakarai Mashava is a poet based in Harare, Zimbabwe. His poems have appeared in various publications. A journalist by profession, Dakarai is currently an assistant editor at Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe -the publishers of the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.

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3 poems by Mansour Noorbakhsh

Mansour-Snow-2020 (resized)

For Mahsa Amini

There is a sign for life 
and for death too.

In the midst of the chaos of Death preachers and the silence of us, the victims. 
The bruise of your eye is a sign
that you had known the life. 
You crossed the fearful border of silence 
to leave the chaos of death. 

And your bruise is a sign
for me this time and every time 
to look deeply for the sign of life in myself.

There is a sign for death 
as for life too. 
منصور نوربخش
برای مهسا امینی
زندگی را نشانه ای است
و مرگ را نیز. 

در میانه غوغای چاوشان مرگ
و سکوت ما وهم زدگان
چشم و صورت کبود تو نشانه ای بود
که زندگی را می شناختی. 
تو از مرز پر واهمه سکوت گذشتی
برای وانهادن غوغای چاوشان مرگ. 

و چشم و صورت کبود تو 
نشانه ای است
تا من دوباره و هرباره 
نشانه های زیستن را در خود بجویم. 

مردن را نشانه ای است
همچنانکه زیستن را. 




forbidden fruit
A response to the terrorist attack against Salman Rushdie

pick the forbidden fruit up
even if modern slavery 
whether religious or materialist 
advertises a forever heaven 
and teaches to ignore a garden 
planted by a storm 

we all were from the mass graves
though our graves have been separated 
by barbed wires,
each mass grave on one side of that

but still, we can sing,
barbed wires never separate the songs

you know a barbed wire 
only grows nothingness 
and only protects hunger and fear

let’s dip our hands in the stormy waves
to make our shaky reflection
shakier, with courage
until the waves raise 
from our hands to our eyes

a tide, a storm 
to ruin our illusive heaven
before planting our storm garden

slavery never resides in forbidden fruit





A cup of kisses

A cup of kisses. 
A pavilion of solitude. 
I start loving myself,
When your dream survives from 
this loneliness of everyday crowd.

Amidst this alone bustle 
I buy a ticket to departure
toward a poem.
A seat of cuddles. 

Tell the clock to repeat your name 
when it chimes for annunciation. 
That’s the only time the commotion fades. 

If the trace of your gaze 
marks on the edge of my cup
suffices me to leave this anxious station 
toward survival.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh writes poems and stories in both English and Farsi, his first language, and has published books, poems, and articles in both languages. His book length poem, In Search of Shared Wishes, is published in 2017. He tries to be a voice for freedom, human rights, and environment in his writings. He presents The Contemporary Canadian Poets in a weekly Persian radio program. Mansour’s poems are published in WordCity Literary Journal, Verse Afire, Parkland Poets, several anthologies, and other places. His poems are translated in Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Serbian, Macedonian, and Chinese. Mansour Noorbakhsh is an Electrical Engineer, and lives with his wife, his daughter and his son in Toronto, Canada. Mansour is WordCity Literary Journal’s Poet in Residence.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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The Knight. a poem by Todd Matson

Todd Matson

The Knight

She shouldn’t be here?

Are you referring
to how she shouldn’t
have survived being born so
premature only to prematurely
lose her mom at age 4 when she had
to go live with her aunt where she was
mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically
and sexually abused by her uncle from 4 to 14,
and not for lack of trying, failed to off herself twice?

Are you alluding to how,
at 14, she shocked the doctors
and nurses by waking up in ICU after
nearly succumbing to sepsis from the coat
hanger she used to take her life into her own
hands when her aunt and uncle deprived her of
stopping her uncle’s seed from growing inside of her?

Are you suggesting
that she survived too
many overdoses, youth
detention centers, nights in
jail, nights in homeless shelters,
nights with strangers, nights on the
streets being abused, raped and beaten?

Do you mean that
when she was starving
herself to death, eating the
enamel off her teeth and eroding
her esophagus by obsessively vomiting
up her emotions with whatever she managed
to swallow and woke up again in ICU to questions
about why she was so desperately trying to waste away?

She shouldn’t be here?

It’s too late.  She is here.

She didn’t get here
without first going in circles,
getting lost countless times, without
coming to innumerable dead ends, roadblocks,
detours, ups and downs, twists and turns. She didn’t
arrive without first dying numerous times and awakening
to Narcan and defibrillators. She couldn’t have gotten here had
she not taken roads less traveled by the trolls who used and abused her.

Had she not traveled
back in time to search for those
precious parts of herself she lost so early –
the parts of herself that everyone else had given up
on, left for dead – had she not found them, accepted them,
taken them under her wing, loved them with every piece of her heart,
and traveled over a thousand miles to get here, she would have never made it.

Here she is. In this
sea of estrogen. At this
Million Women March. In DC.
She’s crying out for lawmakers to close
the boyfriend loophole for men convicted of
domestic violence, demanding equal pay for equal work,
and politely inviting the old men in the halls of congress who’d
never vote to deny themselves Viagra to stop trying to control her body.

She has a semicolon
tattoo on her right shoulder
because thanks to the semicolon,
people, like sentences, don’t have to come
to an end; they can continue on. She has a Simba
tattoo on her left shoulder with the words, “Remember
Who You Are.” She has refashioned the tiny teardrop tattoo
under her right eye into a four-leaf clover. Her hair is the color of fire.

After so long, you have come now to her rescue? 

There she is.

She is the one
holding the sign
over her head with
no bend in her elbows:
“I’m not your damsel in distress.
I’m the knight. I’m here to save myself.”

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Todd Matson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in North Carolina, United States.  His poetry has been published in The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Soul-Lit: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry and Bluepepper, and his short stories have been published in Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, Faith, Hope and Fiction, and Children, Churches and Daddies.  He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by various contemporary Christian music artists, including Brent Lamb, Connie Scott and The Gaither Vocal Band.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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In the bewitched aviary. a poem by Paweł Markiewicz

Paweł Markiewicz

In the bewitched aviary

The sonnet according to Mr. Shakespeare

Helots muse about moony Golden Fleece of the condor.
Drudges think of the dreamy eternal dew of the hen.
Philosophers ponder on winged fantasy of the crow. 
Kings ruminate on a picturesque gold of the jay. 

Priests contemplate the dreamed, soft, meek weird of the woodpecker.
Masters daydream about nice, marvelous songs of the tern.
Soothsayers dream of fulfilled gold of the yellowhammer.  
Knights philosophize about poetic dawn of the wren. 

Hoplites fantasize about a red sky of the sparrow.
Athletes describe the most tender treasure-charm of the snipe. 
Gods remember an enchanted, dear temple of the seagull. 
Goddesses recall fairytale-like heroes of the kite.

Poets commemorate the elves-like heaven of the owl.
Bards reflect on most amazing dreamery of the rook. 

soothsayer – fortuneteller 

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Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Siemiatycze in Poland. He is poet who lives in Bielsk Podlaski and writes tender poems, haiku as well as long poem. Pawel was educated in Warsaw (Uni – Laws) and Biała Podlaska (college – German). in 2007 and 2010 he was a participant  of Forum Alpbach – the village of thinkers in Austria. 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Damselflies. a poem by Anne Sorbie

Anne Sorbie

Damselflies

What if we women
all met in the 
Garden of Eden

stretched our arms 
wide as branches 
stood together 

embracing our art
with joy

What if we flew
down to the river
to kneel

washed each other’s
tired feet
offering 

the healing that
comes with touch

as our kind
has done
for millennia

The eternal legacy
of all we have
to share

iridescent and lustrous
pure and refracted

Imagine those gifts

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Anne Sorbie is a writer poet, and editor. Most recently, she has co-edited (M)othering, an anthology of poetry, prose, and art with Heidi Grogan (Inanna Publications 2022). Her third book, a poetry collection called Falling Backwards Into Mirrors was also published by Inanna in 2019. Annes’s work has appeared in a number of anthologies, magazines, and journals and been translated into Farsi for broadcast on Persian Radio Ottawa. 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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3 poems by Laura Sweeney

Laura Sweeney

MEDITATION ON CAREENING

If you are careening toward the darkness
standing at the intersection of New
Beginnings and Old Era Road, confused
about how to recover from a rut
remember bad shit happens but bitches
who are bad bounce back.  Walk the tidepool
against the current.  You do not have to 
be discreet reserved or level-headed.
You do not have to be whimsical or 
calculated.  Or thrash so hard you’d think
your arms would be buff from paddling
though you’re no closer to casting out 
into the sea.  No.  You only have to
know there’s no safe harbor waiting. You
only have to release your wild poet’s hair. 





MEDITATION ON BARGAINING

I’m gonna get up on my soapbox 
and let er rip get the fingers movin’ 
let the juices drip or let it all go on 
without me lie down take a nap from 
the pussy riot protests v. fascism crap.
While they kill the intellectuals
kill the poets kill the journalists 
my blood is boiling from the collateral. 
Instead of readin’ Daughter of Persia 
who bargained on her education
turns out silly me I was duped shoulda 
had kids dropped out made the bargain. 
Now I’m more in debt houseless finagled 
tired from movin’ horizontal not vertical.





ODE FOR A STRUGGLE GIRL

She’s a real know-it-all, a scoundrel from 
fiasco to fiasco. But she recalls 
someone so fragile in the hospital. 
And don’t be a hypocrite afterall. 

She’s a fraudulent fleeced but she’d 
rather bask in her garden than sleep 
with an ax. 

She’s an improper woman who knows
propriety is overrated. 

Her methods are scandalous as she 
wonders how to feed them turmeric 
a quarter teaspoon per day. 

The whole shebang is ridiculous like 
a straight jacket thrown over her 
though her complaints are legit. 

And by the way what is their diagnosis? 
Dr. Cray-Cray Certified Ratty Raccoon? 

Who scold her about policy.  Don’t 
ask questions.  Don’t challenge. Don’t 
be defensive or combative.  Though 

she strives to go with the flow. Like the 
classmate who slipped one hand into hers.

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Laura Sweeney facilitates Writers for Life in Iowa and Illinois. She represented the Iowa Arts Council at the First International Teaching Artist’s Conference in Oslo, Norway. Her poems and prose appear in sixty plus journals and ten anthologies in the States, Canada, Britain, Indonesia, and China. Her recent awards include a scholarship to the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. In 2021, she received an Editor’s Prize in Flash Discourse from Open: Journal of Arts & Letters; Poetry Society of Michigan’s Barbara Sykes Memorial Humor Award; and two of her poems appear in the anthology Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism, which received an American Book Fest Best Book Award in Current Events category and finalist in the Social Change category. She is a PhD candidate, English/Creative Writing, at Illinois State University. 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.  

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4 poems by Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum Wasir Dar

When the Only Son leaves home for studies abroad.

Everlasting Bonds, by Birth

I never felt the distance before,
Nor sensed the silence in the room,
I never missed the familiar footstep
Nor the clutching click of the door;
Now often I think I hear
The soft burr of your bike
Rolling, whirring in the lane
The lifting flick of the gate way latch
And the “tick tick” on the window pane;
At times I see you on the prayer mat
Or in your writing chair;
Where you would sit for hours on end
To read and write and note and plan,
And from time to time
Would turn around, to exchange
A friendly chat;
And now I know why God made sons
Why faith and peace is strong,
When love is true and distances long,
No absence can ever break the bond;
And now I know
How one so close, can be so far away,
No one can show, no one can wait
To stop and pat and wipe your tears away;
My son my dear, in distant land
You are with me, each day
As when I first held your hand
You first opened your eyes,
And tried to say, “Aye”
Time moved on and time moves on
Time is just fair
My son My dear, in another land,
You are not here ….
You left the footsteps in the sand;
I know, I wake up with a start,
You are forever in my heart;
Your helmet heavy in your hand,
I see you, standing there.





Famished Femininity

Lift the latch and
you will find cracks
in the door, scarred
traces of hot tempered
rackets-

sad sorrowful echoes of
screams, slaps and strikes,
in the tender dwellings of
famished femininity-

whose chest is crammed
with refrains of ugly curses
profane, drafted with hatred
mundane-


beauty’s blend for care
created for eternal company
stays abused spared not
why?

who will cut the strings
of human bondage
lacerant tortured
Suffering Silent Cry!

What was ancient
ignorant and abolished
made eloquent and sacred

Open the door and you will find
famished femininity current
in countless fetters

slowly visibly tabescent-

Why-





Reflections on the Birth of a Female Child

Nature’s womb, a home, a life, a love
emerging in pain, washed covered,
put away unaware, who held -
so warmly at first,
fed  so fully at first
hugged so tightly at first

 born, a new born
unsafe, insecure, exposed
know not how many saw,
touched,
caressed -more responsibility said
a heavy voice- same body, same blood
but not the same-
not the same - 
not the same- vision.....

pain...still there
abuse ...everywhere
rape...in gangs
escape...rare.





Thoughts of a Woman, on Women’s Day

created sacred beguiled abused
ordered bound accused excused
what woman's day means to her
she thought-
what nights will make her scream
Day is work no escape
Night , Love? No,  Rape-
fears and fears of rape,
drugged missing real or fake?

should she think of women famous?
those who are seen on history pages?

should she think of those unseen,
pushed kicked thrown in cages?

 mothers and daughters in frustration
yet manage homes and serve nations

should she honor the saintly ones
who were obedient ordained 
should she mention those half
widows, widows of genocide
chained enslaved in perpetual pain?

or those maids forced to labour
or those who hold kids while 
parents dine and perhaps wine'
whom should she call 'mine'
standing serving morn till nine-

and there are families royal
to the people crown so loyal
loved honored seen by all
that is not all.....

so many names graceful glorified
history remembers all sacrificed
she thought...cannot pick one or two
one in white covered one in blue-
East or West old or new...Oh

Athena! Wise One Help, if only I knew-

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Anjum Wasim Dar, migrant Pakistani of Kashmiri origin, Masters in English Literature & American Studies, Masters in History, (Elective Indo Pak History of the Sub Continent) Punjab University, awarded a scholarship for distinction in English Language, holds a  Post Graduate Diploma in TEFL, and Certificate of Proficiency in English from Cambridge University UK. An International Award Winner Poet of Merit, Bronze Medal, ISP USA-2000, Short Story Writer, Author of a Novel for Young Adults, “The Adventures of the Multi Colored Lead People” (Unpublished) Former Head of English Department at Pakistan Air Force AIR University Islamabad.
Digital Artist with Focus on Ekphrastic Poetry. 
Poetry Blog : http://poeticoceans.wordpress.com
Short Story Blog : http://storiesmiracles.wordpress.com

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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3 poems by Alene Sen

alene sen

control

throw a net
wait and see
       catch me
       trap me
       cage me
i am more than meets the eye
i flit
i flutter
i want to fly
you know little of what you keep
take a pause and look at me
see the tears trickle down
hear my heartbeat
      POUND 
      POUND 
      POUND
i want out! 
you hear me shout
i am not a thing to train
but a person with a brain
head lifted, i proclaim
        with thoughts
        with words
        with action
do not snuff my spirit
with ideals of perfection 
pass me the key
so i may set myself free
       from lies
       from abuse
       from disguise
i will stretch my wings 
soar to the sky
you will see
i am beautiful
being free
being me





life is like a crate of lemons


right – left 
front – back
lemons come, all at once
too dizzy to keep track
 
some are smooth
firm, bright
newly picked 
juicy and ripe
 
some are shriveled
patches of brown
too long, they lie 
rotting, on the ground
 
the tart makes my jaw tighten
the sour makes my tongue curl
the bitter makes my face contort
what a cruel, unfair world
 
lemons come like bombs
fast, like baseball pitches
never missing their target
sinking me into ditches
 
for so long
lemons ruled the day
eroding my spirit
turning hope to decay
 
not today…
 
today, it is not lemons
who win the war
but i, who rise
more pliant than before
 
today, i will not topple
bruise or fade
today, i take those lemons
make lemonade





trauma

through trauma
comes fear
of cycles in failure
beliefs of not being enough

through trauma
resilience expands
a crack of light
ebbs through rigid shells

through trauma
a birth of second chances
breath gives promise
oxygen fuels action

through trauma
alternate paths are paved
tread with boldness
seize the day

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Alene Sen (she/her) is an author of non-fiction and poetry. She is the author of Program Without Walls: Stories from Toronto Parents. Alene writes about lived experiences, resilience, and hope. Her work has appeared in The Toronto Star, Today’s Parent, City Parent, and numerous anthologies. She is a regular contributor to HOWL Open Mic on CIUT.fm in Toronto, Canada. She writes from the United States and Canada. Connect with Alene on Facebook and Instagram @callmealene.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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2 poems by Halima Juma Adam

Halima Juma Adam

A ray of hope

A sunshine at a cloudy day
A light in the dark
A drop of cold water
On a hot-dry sunbathed skin
At the heart of a sunny day
In the middle of sandy desert
Where everything feels cruel

A hope in the misery
A relief in the pain
A breath in the suffocation
A strength in the weakness
That’s all one dreams
When the days look blur
The body feels numb
The emotions feel blue
The thoughts are harsh
The voices speak hate
And everything you touch
Feels like its rejecting
The mere sight of you

A ray of hope
Can be anything 
Anything you had given hope in
And suddenly, you get surprised by it
It can be an acceptance
That you have long waited for
It can be an arrival of someone 
Or something that seemed impossible
It can be just a thought you had forgotten about
A face in your mind that got lost
In between the dark thoughts

A ray of hope
Is what we all need
When darkness visits
And seems to not be leaving
Anytime soon





The storms

There are storms in each one’s universe
I don’t know if it’s possible 
To storm melodies all the times
But I do know that,
It can storm stones and coldness throughout
Am not sure about the sun 
Being the brightest star 
In everyone’s universe
But I believe in having 
That which shines brighter than all 
In each universe

How do we identify it?
That which shines the brightest?
Everyone has its own 
It cannot be the same in everyone
Or is it?

That which shines brighter than all
Is it the source of trouble or the cure?
Cause it obviously has greater effects 
On the storms in each one’s universe
Kinda like how the sun affects our lives? 

The mind really is a universe
With everything that goes on in there
It takes a universe to accommodate what the mind can 
And each universe is different

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Halima Juma Adam is a schoolteacher and a creative writer, who writes her imaginations, thoughts, and feelings in the forms of stories and poems, in both English and Swahili languages. Two of her poems have been accepted for publishing by two outstanding magazines based in Africa. One is, ‘you will know it when it comes for them’ published by Writers space Africa, Death edition – November 2020. The second one is, ‘the immortal lord’ which will be published before the end of 2022 by the Voices of Africa: A Call for Freedom Anthology. 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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3 poems by D. R. James

D. R. James

Epigraph

Poems are never completed—
they are only abandoned.
—Paul Valéry

So as I begin this one—
vowing as an experiment
not to give in to the vice
of revision, that sumo
of manipulation I so try
to apply to my life—
I wonder where I’ll leave it.

Will it be in some sun-warmed clearing,
a rocky outcropping in an old pine forest?
And will I have set out earlier
this morning with getting there in mind?
Or will it perhaps fall out of my pocket
along a downtown sidewalk
and blow a few feet
until it lodges under a parked car,
the puddle there and the dark
intensifying the metaphor:
a poem’s being abandoned?

Thus bookended by country and city,
both speculations in future tense,
the claim neglects the unfolding—
as if completion weren’t
every word as it emerges,
means and ends at once.

The cone is not container
of future tree. It is cone.
Nor is an old cone empty. 






After the Gale
Ivory spines disguise the oaks’ south sides,
slivers of sunshine lightening their rough
trunks. What furrowed pallor, what dignity:
spires anchored to all others underneath,
delight clad in the plucked bones of winter.
What diligence, what staid by standing: a
throng of distinct ascetics, enmeshed horde
of collective loners. It’s as if they’re
avowing how steadfastness, soon resumed,
enroots in you your essential locale.
 




Entering Winter with a Line
from Gwendolyn Brooks

Horizon’s burst-smear of pink nonchalance
forgets: We are things of dry hours and the
involuntary plan. In winter’s vise
I’ll wrestle — flail! — stampedes of elegies,
pendulums of memory, sidestepping
swathes of snow-fall brindled with late oak leaves’
yieldings: autumn’s ceding. But from this blunt
and silhouetted terrain, ranging out
tactically, cautious in my happenstance,
I will still delight — plod, but still ignite.

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Recently retired from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, D. R. James lives, writes, bird-watches, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan, USA. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals.
https://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage

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