The psychologists have been told to survey my psyche.
They’re trying to see if my mind is a mountain range
full of jagged precipices or a desert, bare boned and dry.
They begin topographically, looking at the contours of my landscape,
the existing features, the surface of my earth.
They need to scale its territory to see if it’s flat like the
soles of my shoe or round like a helium balloon straining to escape
behind the clouds. They’ve been ordered to map out the places unknown.
They want to know if the visible network of roads leads to the eye of
the storm, is there still a buildable base there?
There is a place they will never be able to access.
At night, the sweat hangs around my forehead, a crown of pearls,
my eyes are wide shut and filled with sand and I become your princess again.
I meet you there at the surf’s edge. We chase crabs on the beach and you
teach me about the stars. The only bottles in sight are the ones filled
with messages we launch into the ocean.
In the morning, I taste the salt on my cheeks and they’ll think it’s from tears.
They’ll never be able to reach the outer banks of that place.
I don’t want it to go into their draft.
Certain terrains are required to be left alone.
A call to the trail, away from the trajectory of a therapist’s chair.
An awakening. Slivers of sunlight peek into an unfinished dream.
A call to the living, “Step outside!”
A crash to the bottom now requires a slow crawl back to the top,
a task set at hand, to get moving, start walking.
A call to the wild.
To wander within it with hopes of wandering away from
an invisible illness that’s screaming to escape.
Standing alone above the horizon, patchwork hills roll
into mismatched greens opening my heart to change.
An invitation from the wind, a call to post-illness instead
of post-traumatic, a welcome to post-despair from a friendly sky.
It embraces me like a plush pullover its sunbeams fall
upon my cheeks like golden fingers and dry away my tears.
A march towards a path reaching out to me through generations,
worn down by those seeking penance.
Contrition. Walking into the woods, up through the hills
around the mountains, above the lakes, through the sleepy villages
in hopes of shedding this second skin of singular sadness.
Not a choice, but a scar.
As I pass the lake’s edge I imagine I’m the water
supporting the sailboats, the burden placed upon my back and
the buoyancy of those troubles forced up again and again, like the force
keeping the boats afloat, normalcy slipping between my fingertips.
Yet, here I am amid the trees, marching upon the path to recovery,
learning to let go, to just be in that moment in time,
embracing forgiveness between the rustle of the leaves and the march of my feet.
( TAK Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist. She is also an English teacher who earned a BA in English from Boston University and her English teaching certification from the University of Cambridge. Her poems have been published in various anthologies. Her first poetry collection entitled Water Songs was published by The Origami Poetry Project (USA). Her poems and other writings have been featured by Harness Magazine, Mojave He[art] Review, Hello Switzerland and Wombyin to name a few. At the end of 2016 she suffered a nervous break-down and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ever since then nature, writing and art have been accompanying her through the recovery process. Last summer, as part of this process she began walking through Switzerland on the St. Jacob’s Way. She lives in a valley between the Swiss Alps with her husband and two cats.)
Missing in Action
Another moment passes
as if it did not exist.
Vanished from time eternal,
the past is but a dream.
Did I walk those fields of green,
or touch that ancient ruin,
one wonders, questioning sanity.
Looking back at images,
was I really there?
Remains of glorious vacations,
now filed in boxes on a shelf.
Glimpses of a distant yesterday,
fragment then coalesce.
Trees no longer climbed,
except in one’s own mind.
Memories of past events,
now just wandering illusions.
Fleeting emotions grasp at
obscure bits of recognition,
while trying to capture shadows,
evaporating in front of me.
The past so quickly fades
as reality takes over,
for all we really ever have
is this present moment.
It very well may be …
If you allow me …
The politeness of words continue.
A riddle, a game.
They are all the same.
We have not come so far.
Is the answer the question,
or the question a ruse?
We all abide our time.
There is no reason or rhyme.
In the beginning,
the end is near,
yet that is what we all fear
The page, dog-eared and marked,
turned so gingerly.
The journey on which we embark,
Is not for all to see.
And, words once so polite,
now crumpled on the floor,
while correctness and etiquette
go flying out the door.
Delicate fragrance of life,
plucked before it is ripe.
I cannot live beyond this
realm, where moonlight
dances, and swallows
speak in hushed whispers.
Stars sing to lost loves
and sheltered fears.
Caressed by wind
and washed by rain.
I once loved in the real world,
before falling from the sky
into your arms.
No longer with the living,
I find myself in a place of
dreams and expectations,
where reality does not exist.
( Ann Christine Tabaka has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications.)
Home as a story
I close my eyes and we are standing enveloped
by forest in the late afternoon.
The trees are singing
of a melancholy more crisp
and a warmth more wistful
than anything resembling
but this is a salve for something unfixable
so I meet your eyes and let sleeping dogs lie.
(You whisper sweet nothings
to lull them to sleep.)
And the leaves do not know
they should be hanging at half-mast
but the long grass raises its hackles,
warns us never to tell them,
so they dance on.
The sun gleams gold and the branches
sweep skyward - a flying buttress
for the cathedral you've built
in the palm of your hand.
Perhaps this haven
is where you found refuge from that wild edge
that would creep into your clear, steady voice even then
until you learnt to quell it with the gentle dexterity
of an ancient craftsman
wise in the ways of forgetting.
And at some point I realize what I've always known
that there is nothing whimsical
about this magic. This is intentional, now, to stir
the most painful complexities with the lightest
of possible touches, this
is beauty last, and first
it is survival.
Still murmuring lies to the sun-dappled soil,
you close your eyes. And I wonder what you see.
(Cristina Leone is a cognitive science nerd who also sometimes likes to write)
If There Was a Way
to know how the ant became stuck in an ice cube,
it would mean a night of occupation;
tonight the moon will become sightless
until the sun decides its end of demise,
and the stars have already flanked like asteroids -
tiny from a distant, sparkling like fire-
stones. If I knew why the ant crawled
into the water inside the cube, I would
know why my arms feel the way they feel
when in some nights they hold darkness
like an earth-lotus, blooming without water.
I would know that curious minds are not
the only ones that renounce fear for break-
through; the desire to experience pain
is probably what drives stars to incarnate
cyclically; is probably what made the ant
want to be frozen. It isn't considered
death. The mind finds a sterile axis, stops
the rotation of churning, curdling to thickness
until the only form that remains is gel; water
is gel, in the inanimate way you enter
the realm of dreams, in the steadfast
manner you become home to the constricted.
But, I don't crawl like the ant into self-
picked spaces. I bloat like a pustule on burn,
find my own water in which to entrap
and cover the over-skin with glitter of relief.
The night will throb the moon on its frontal lobe;
the blind dawn will freeze in cataracts of light,
and nobody will know how I died a thousand hours
to watch the sun rise from its own.
He sews under the needle of numbness,
electrons cheering-on magnum opus of the dead
cells. There will never be dearth of spectators,
this is how he will always see, bright conjunctions
meant to slip him under a dreamless spell.
Some minds skull out of their forms -
disseminating like a torn letter - thinning paper
under a solvent of nerves. He sews like a vein
ready to receive; the exclusion of the external
like the red dots he would swallow for sleep.
It must feel like the universe has expanded
on a shrinking platform, and the ebon fills
in fast litres his jug of resistance. It is always
day when under; he sews a thatch to roof
his eyes as he dreams of hammocks
that don't feel like wired enclosures under
his skin, that sound of cooing waves of a lazy ocean,
that taste of lobsters, glossy red like giant pills.
When his jaw vibrates, he eats his teeth. He sews
under fluids that are chemically stable. And then
when he wakes, the white fluorescence
turns blue. His mind tells him he's an active dart
ready to shoot for target, his body sewing
his burning, fading memories of his sleep.
( Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her work appears in a variety of literary venues, more about which can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com)
One More Night
What I always wanted is a space
to my spirit with tears and cure
myself from the grief and believing
that tomorrow will be a good day
One more night staying up late
I was not born to enjoy this world
with the diamonds of her parents
she mercilessly cuts my chest open
As the blood starts dripping all over
my flesh and I am walking away from
the dark road to rest and sleep in a
dirty sidewalk and having nightmares
If I ever survive with a broken heart
I would break the bird wings to fly
leaving no scent of my flesh nor do I
want to wash in a salty sea to die sweet
Only God Knows
Only god knows how much I need you.
I miss you as much as the snow misses
a moment to fall above the cedars.
Everyone says that I should keep moving on,
but I hear your voice coming toward me
slowly as if I hear an echo from a distance.
Weeping, because of my daily routine, the
autumn season appears twice in one year.
first was from the cloud, second is from my eyes
bitter is how happiness tastes
I smile in my dreams, waiting to see you
before the train comes and leaves me in grief
( Ahmad Al-Khatat. He was born in Baghdad on May 8th. From Iraq, he came to Canada at the age of 10, the same age when he wrote his first poem back in the year 2000. He also has been published in several press publications and anthologies all over the world. His poems were translated into Farsi, Albanian, German, and Chinese. And he currently studies Political Sciences, at Concordia University in Montreal. He recently have published his two chapbooks “The Bleeding Heart Poet” and “Love On The War’s Frontline”. With Alien Buddha Press. It is available for sale on Amazon. Most of his new and old poems are also available on his official page Bleeding Heart Poet on Facebook.)
( Kyle Hemmings' photos have been featured in Scars Publications, Sonic Boom, The Rush, Sunlight Press, Peacock Journal and elsewhere. He loves street photography and French Impressionism.)
There are some silences which annihilate the landscape.
I was brought up with them, learnt the topography of them
across the kitchen table. Fatherless girls fall in love
with the ghosts of their fathers. How many times
have I had to remind myself of this? But I’ve learned
not to look back in anger and not to confuse servitude
with solitude or vice versa. You know how it is,
that feeling of standing still in space, with every
double entendre, every double-bladed sword
sinking into the back of someone’s neck
while you watch, completely stunned?
The fire consumes a histrionic,
blisters them with jealousy,
turns ordinary women into furies.
I watched my grandmother pour gin
and vermouth down her throat,
as if that could somehow drown the flames,
but she passed out by 7 pm every night.
Momma would go upstairs to get stoned.
I’d play with my Barbies in the closet,
left numb, wondering why everything can’t be
straight forward. And if some things
just weren’t nice, you should never speak
of them again. But it is almost winter,
and I am myself ever, and God
is nowhere to be found. I watched
my grandmother recede in dementia
and my mother beaten into an invalid
by a stroke. She used to call me a changeling,
a wicked child. I came into her life
during a storm. I brewed secret poisons in
holes I dug, filled with rainwater and little
toads I caught behind the house.
Can I write myself into being?
Give me some matchsticks
and a cold and desolate patch of rock.
Give me some dead branches
under the twisting ribbon of night.
I’d fly through it; I’d fly straight
( Robin DeFrance is a writer and activist who worked many years as a caregiver. Currently, she resides in Kane, PA with her partner and cats. She finds poetry to be the best mouthpiece for communicating traumatic experiences such as isolation, abuse, sorrow, love, or remorse.)
I coupled you to the wall
there were two of us then
the rain and something about
getting clean without losing
any of our dirt, tracking mud
all over the interior
of home and outbound
across the river
lifting blades of grass
like thirsty bones
clouded infernos of mothers' and fathers'
Polaroid motel 6's draped
in honeymoon pink sky line
love is what remains after all of the shouting
it's how two storms find their calm
inside a silence that builds up over the years
a much thicker skin
than blood contains
you look at me
and I look at you
there is something that the poem tries to get right
in this small movement of air and light
tween here and highway
laughter is the mended bone
is the story
come to its most imperfect end.
(James Diaz is a poet still processing his trauma in upstate New York.)
How to NOT manage mental illness
Ignore it, call it a frailty
of our resilience, confuse it with
a fleeting worry or sadness, blame
witchcraft, black-magic or a Jinn.
Mystify it. Call it
an illness of soul, use
Cartesian Dualism to explain it,
separate it from the brain.
Let every Tom, Dick, and Harry,
have an opinion,
its causes and treatment.
Invent a fence, to create
a stigmatising barrier, between
and physical health.
Leave it, for healing, at the mercy of
celestial bodies, quacks,
Use, a priestly, vocabulary like
mind, body and soul, to promote,
the ghost in the machine,
the supernatural mindset.
( Javed Latoo is a senior medical practitioner based in the UK. In his spare time, Dr Latoo writes poetry as a hobby. His poems have been published in literary journals and magazines ( both print and online) as well as in anthologies. Dr Latoo likes to use poetry to explore the philosophy of life, mental health and neuroscience. He likes to write in the language of ordinary people, about their ordinary thoughts and about their ordinary insights.)
They Have Flown
They have flown
like ravens in the night
or as an eagle soars
on weathered wings
They have flown
free of earthly bodies
free of mortgages
Free of fear of the unknown
and of knowledge
Free of fitting in
and facing the fire
They have flown
bubbles or butterflies
They have flown free
like my family and left me here
In honor of my son Mark Louis, my Mother, Betty Anne, and Step Up Dad; James Leon.7/16/18
( Thasia Anne created a poetry project called Women of Word, featuring a Few Man Made Words. Now headed into year nine it is a part of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and its yearly Women's History Month in March. In conjunction with my husband, I have a show that airs on CATV cable access programing. It is titled Poetry, Prose, and Personalities by Poetrees Productions. My original chap book, Love and Licorice Whips describes the roller coaster of emotions emerging from domestic violence. Added to that are my titles The Past is Calling, and Broken Branches available through Alien Buddah Press.)
The Beautiful Space-