She strayed too far from the beaten path through undiscovered woods, naively forgetting the dangers of wandering. It happened in cycles, but her brain blocked it out in self-protection. She can't turn back now. She had to follow the road to where it bends in the twilight.
The only light from the stars above. Even the moon was in its dark phase. Not even an ominous sliver of opal in the dark obsidian of the sky. Though she could feel that the moon was still there, its gravitational pull, causing a deep ache like the quickening of a womb, the banishment of this celestial object from the light of the sun, congruent with her impending dislocation from the world of the living.
The doom arrived, unsolicited, as the ground ripped open beneath her and she started slipping through the arms of her life as she had known it. Fated on this night of the dead. Precipitated by shock. The cruelty of reality. Loss, shame, grief, despair. She started to feel the descent, transcending the limits of her ordinary senses. Dragged down through the trapdoor of her doubt and disappointment. Clammy hands of fear, frisking her as she felt the drop. She landed in dirt; the air felt as cold as the ground. A screech owl bellowed from below. The laws of physics now bent with the fragility of her sanity.
She just knew in her bones now that the moment was grave. She had slipped too far to return, at least without the trauma of transformation. She just knew she was in the realm of another world.
A chthonic dimension, female in nature.
Here lives the soul of the grandmother, the one with infinite names; Baba Yaga, La Santa de Muerte, Lady Death, Hecate, Louhi, Erishkegal, the Cailleach. Kali, the ancient one. The crone. Snatched away from her mother. But now this was home. She sat quietly at the crossroads. She just knew that the comfort of her old life, its familiar terrain, had been brutally stripped away. She no longer knew the shape of what was yet to come. She waited. She was waiting for the wisdom of the one with a hundred faces. She heard the howl of a wolf nearby, but knew it was not what would ultimately devour her.
The agony of her waiting was met with reflection as she sorted through distant, yet vibrant memories and tentatively licked at grapefruit flavoured truths. What did she want? What could she no longer bear? What would she want to go back for? What would she have to release? Visions took shape in what felt like the waking from a dream in R.E.M. sleep. Something emerged in her mind’s eye and then it drifted back. Formless again.
Gradually, she took comfort once more in the familiarity of being neither here nor there, now nor then, awake nor sleeping, alive nor dead. She dangled on the precipice between past and future. Peeked through the portal between her descendants and ancestors. She just knew that the veil was at its slightest. She palpably felt her wounds reopen, just enough to let some light in.
Then in a sudden flush her amnesia lifted, and she remembered how she first got here. A flashback told her of how her innocence was ripped away. All trust in goodness dissolved by the knowledge of evil. It all came back. The blackened nails of Hades scraped at the epithelial layers of her innards. The delicate linings of her sacred chambers. The softened edges of her shame. She had choked on the smegma of his sin. She blamed herself. She allowed him to debase her. It was all her fault for being attracted to the beauty of flowers.
Her heart had broken for all she had to leave behind. As the old one appeared from out of a bush of thorns, she offered her a half a pomegranate. Its rubine juices seeping out from the sweet jewels it contained. Her inner voice told her to eat of the fruit of death, which is also life. She just knew to eat just nine seeds, the power of three squared, the number of endings. She indulged in their bittersweet taste as it lingered on her burning tongue. It imparted to her the divine knowledge that there is a little death in life and a little life in death. The hag cackled but gave her a penetrating gaze. No words were spoken but the old one pointed with a gnarly finger to one of three roads and Persephone just knew she had the freedom to choose which realm she wanted to visit.
She was no longer trapped. Not frightened anymore. For now, she was queen of the Underworld. Not even Hades himself was more powerful. She could withstand more pain than he could even imagine. It made her stronger. She could now bear to look upon his face. She could dig even deeper than he. For this dark place was a part of her now. And she remembered that it always was. She is not separate. Her love is more powerful than his cruelty. She is connected to all things. She is forever sitting on the threshold and this is a gift as well as a curse. She can decide to stay and rule her domain. Or she can choose to return to the surface whenever her soul decides it is time, through the cracks of her open heart.
Leanne Webber is a mother of two children, three cats and a kitten. Her poetry and prose are inspired by the esoteric and working with trauma in various roles. Leanne has a degree in psychology, and five years’ training and clinical experience as a gestalt psychotherapist. She now works as a senior children’s advocate, a rape crisis worker, and an intuitive guide and cartomancer. Leanne also writes moon energy forecasts. She identifies as a solitary eclectic witch and an oracular poet.
The Moon at the End of the Street
After evicting the dog
from the bed—she puts two paws
on the floor, stretches, and goes
uncomplaining to her chair--
I turn off the light, float
on the surface of sleep
for awhile before I sink
all the way in and I’m walking
along a street at night, full moon
gliding with me. I stop for
a moment but the moon
keeps going until it reaches
the end of the street and rolls
itself upright on edge
like a coin about to be spun
and flares like a searchlight,
I stare until my vision is
milky white, moonblind.
I close my eyes and all
is still white, reopen
and the moon has a dark blue
aura and is sinking almost
imperceptibly as the lightening
sky rises around it. Soon
only the rim remains and then
it too has disappeared.
The light is sunlight
and I’m awake.
Previously published at Fledgling Rag
If your hands tremble
it doesn’t matter, you
can still strike the match
and light the candle
on the shrine. No matter
if your back hurts,
you can still bow
and if your legs are
too stiff for the lotus
that doesn’t matter either,
you can sit on a chair.
Spirit and matter
are not opposed, they’re
like light and darkness.
One carries the other
as needed. You carry
yourself is what matters.
Previously published at WWPH writes
Gregory Luce is the author of five books of poems, including Riff & Improvisations, from Kelsay Books, and has published widely in print and online. In addition to poetry, he writes a monthly column of the arts for Scene4 Magazine. Retired from National Geographic, he is a volunteer tutor/writing instructor for 826DC. He lives in Arlington, VA, but his heart is divided between Texas and D.C.
I do not need 60 light bulbs to light up a mansion; all I need is one bulb and 60 broken mirrors. ‘Cause even through my frugality I can still enlighten a whole society, creating shadows through shadows of light.
My childish imagination plays with a flashlight, making shadow puppets of enlightenment … ready to leave their mark, pasted upon tree bark, sipping the sap from the tree dripping glazed melted knowledge and wisdom as maple syrup upon my tongue.
I feel for scars that have never felt a wound; yet I warn you: do not let me fall asleep with a pen in my hand. I might stab my emotions to death for allowing me to see so clearly.
However, sometimes, light blinds what is already there, that is why I choose to write with my eyes closed, at times: to see the words I would have not been able to see originally, in my imagination, in the dark.
In the dark my pen leaks from both ends when I write, expressing its imagination through the hair extensions of poetic sketches.
However, sometimes, I wish I could highlight light itself with a permanent marker, so I do not only catch a glimpse of it, but so I can engrave its presence in the memory lapses of my mental images .... to see if such words are hallucinations, mere self-deceptions, taken from the bent rib of ignorance … to see if it is make-believe through my flight of fancy or wishful thinking.
Imagining: a punctured picture penetrated by light through cracks of shadows.
Questioning: if the images of my mind coincide with the metaphorically inclined rhymes of “Enlightenment.”
Sure similes of Monet might paint the portrait of my analogies more perfectly with a paintbrush and not a permanent marker, maybe. But all I am really trying to say is that I do not want a flash of light to zephyr by me unnoticed … but I want that flash to be highlighted within the parenthesis of permanence.
A shadow so great that only Hiroshima’s blast can burn a shadow on its own shadow’s presence. An explosion of words so vast that I do not want them to pass by me, but to penetrate my existence.
As voices … as voices are reporting concussions of conclusions … mere confusions, though, with such frailty of understanding that my back aches as if it were my Achilles heel receiving lashes on the pirate’s bounty.
I feel the sun burn my skin like acid dancing in complementary angles like angels praying to Satan and demons to Jesus.
Maybe I need more than just one light bulb to bring society toward such acceptance of all of our complimentary existence: Black light, brown light, red light, yellow light, white light, highlighting peace and understanding for maybe one moment in time.
Whether it be through my eyes closed or opened, I am still thinking. Whether it be through my conscious mind or under it, sunbathing in daydreams or nightswimming in disillusion … man, even children understand such prophecies, why can’t we?
Where is my mind's eye, imagination making shadow puppets of enlightenment with a flashlight now? Where is the pen leaking from both ends now? Where is the highlighter of permanence now?
Maybe I can keep that one light bulb, and just break the already broken pieces of mirrors again, even more, and pass them around, so we all may be able to see the light captured inside … so we might one day realize that our ignorance is not mere pop culture but it is also our own reflections.
I feel for scars that have never felt a wound, but mostly I feel for wounds that have yet to scar. And so, I keep my eyes closed and imagine peace through complementary angles of life and light.
I am waiting ...
And as I wait, I stumble. Stumble upon voices. Voices impending in the membranes of my thoughts and I cannot think clearly now.
Voices surrounding the mountainous valleys, touching the skies with their torches, burning the oxygen that is lacking yet not fading above where the wise owls roam.
I stand on my head because I cannot think clearly right-side up. I turn the map of the world upside down and watch the snowflakes of voices fall from the ground up to the heavens above because I am a thinker taking notes outside the box.
But, in all actuality, I do not even see it as a box. You see I see it as a circle, or zero, or maybe an eight because I can take that circle of life and pinch it to create infinity.
You see my mind is a Genome Project of its own. Not even Bobby Fischer is capable of mapping the blueprints of my intellect through one mere game of chess.
You see, the shortest distance between two points to me is not a line, nor a curve, but another dot. Folding the plane of time in half. Playing tricks with space and the linear. And even within that dot, in itself, it contains the elements of my existence.
I use the magnifying glass of my iris’ focus and realized that even within that dot there is another dot creating another distance.
I would be ignorant, to say the least, if I were to say that I was certain of certainty as a fact. I claim to obtain purity in my thoughts, yet my virginity seems tainted with questions …
Questions that turn to voices … that turn to confusion … that turn to answers, at times.
But sometimes those times are few to none and other times I have to find clarity within my confusion by residing inside the residence of acceptance because sometimes there are no answers, just more questions.
Nonetheless, I hear the voices, they are mine, inside my mind they recline. And then I speak and I hear one unified voice, incorporating co-constructional relational realities within the voices conversing within me.
And then I speak, and I imagine, and I have a dream where one day I will allow my mind to speak, not just with my breath but with the breath of those around me, as they stumble about in a daze, in my home, lost in the elaborate labyrinth I have constructed: my mind.
My mind: a room full of mirrors and windows … mirrors and windows … harvesting words … words written with the acid and sweat of my fingertips ...
Words upon the reflecting glasses. Rows and rows of mirrors and windows … mirrors and windows. Some two-way, and others mere one-sided. All in all, infinite, thinking outside the box.
Or, should I say outside the circle, or zero, or maybe eight, depending on which way one decides to pinch imagination’s box and look at it … and perceive it.
This is the way I discover.
This is the way I discover the exoskeleton of the internal, eternal extremities of my realities … boundless in my fancy. I think.
As I, myself, become the others stumbling about in hopscotch stutters in my own labyrinth: my mind.
Nonetheless, no answers. Mere confusion, mere questions.
An intellect finding peace within the gatherings of pieces of acceptance. Scattered around the room like balding petalled roses … mere voices upon breaths within labyrinths of confusion … like Socrates, the mere midwife, planting seeds of “Enlightenment” inside the minds of those around him with questions … not answers.
As I claim to obtain purity in my thoughts, yet my virginity seems tainted with questions ...
Questions that turn to voices, that turn to confusion, that turn to answers … at times. But sometimes those times are few to none, and other times (man, other times) those voices also see themselves breathing, upon infinite articulation, and they, too, find acceptance, yes, they, too, find acceptance … upon the reflections of their own confusions. Upon the reflections … of the reflections … of their voices.
Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him/él) is a bilingual, Colombia-born storyteller, public scholar, and culture architect with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. For two decades, Julián has worked toward humanizing those Othered by oppressive systems and dominant cultures. He is the creator of the social justice storytelling movement The Nasiona, where he also hosts and produces The Nasiona Podcast. He’s a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominee; a Trilogy Award in Short Fiction finalist; a McNair Fellow; and the author of Marx’s Humanism and Its Limits and Reporting On Colombia. His poetry collection, Ninety-Two Surgically Enhanced Mannequins, is available now. His work appears in PANK Magazine, Into the Void Magazine, The Acentos Review, Novus Literary and Arts Journal, Havik 2021: Inside Brilliance, among others. Julián holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from the University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.
A clearing in the thicket intrinsically a void
a vacuum I can’t tolerate must push my way
into it through hallucinations
standing guard take my place
within but off-center boundary penetrated
a stand within a stand.
Patient I stay
toes extend into roots so long unmoving
the soil begins to make room
my spine calcifies toward the sky
skin dries out flakes away bark
charges up and through more new layers, new hues
Pencils are made from wood and so you take
my arms for a stylus hew a tablet from my side.
Follow the path of my ellipses
as I become the story you write…
I began my poembox project when I was in a marriage I needed to leave in a town I needed to leave but it wasn't time to go yet, and two dimensions—poems on a flat page or screen—were not enough to get lost in. So I began to make poemboxes, or sculptural interpretations of my poems in box format.
Jesica Davis is a poet and technical writer from Chicago. She’s an Associate Editor/Managing Editor for Inverted Syntax literary journal whose work has appeared in Storm Cellar, streetcake magazine, The Laurel Review, Kissing Dynamite, Zone 3, and other places. Sometimes she makes poemboxes, which are sculptural interpretations of her poems. See j3s.net for more.
Uncovered logs from the distant past and the future beyond.