Breath & Shadow
Volume 16, Issue 3
"A Phoenix Has Risen"
Jimmie R. Pennington
Molded of ancient earth this mystical birth.
Within faint flickers of fiery whispers;
Now crying chants -- "Arise - Arise."
Renewed eyes; staring, squinting through
The blue-gray mists of untouched dawn...
"Bullet-Holes" (Plus Audio)
I believe God hired gunmen instead of guardian angels to watch over us
as I believe halos are too damn shallow compared to bullet-holes
and we are drafted to bleed deep
bleed really, really deep
We have eyes that bore holes into our own souls
eyes no prophet can read
torn prayer beads that hoard salt and sunbeams
oh how they used to gleam
even in the darkest days as if they birth rays of hope
like rain spits poems onto cracked soil…
"Circle of Silence"
I really didn’t think this through. Just followed my gut instinct.
What do you do when your two best friends move somewhere else? Sure, we’ve been phoning and emailing and texting. And we often Skype on the weekends. But there’s a big hole in my life. An empty seat beside me on the train to work. No one to talk me into going to the gym on Thursday evenings. No one to take to the end of season sales.
So what did I do? Don’t laugh.
Beaded birds strung on telephone wires
in the eyeshadow blue sky
covered by clouds traced with liquid gold liner
that flashes in shop windows
and sparks off the glass of the city...
"Grand Mal" and "Mandala"
When you can't stand
your life one second
longer, this is what
you must do:
Get out of bed.
Put on clean underwear.
Put on that dress with
The green buttons and
stripes of blue.
Look out at the morning
With its expectant face
and withered leaves...
"New On The Bookshelf"
In this issue you can read about new books by B and S editor Ann Chiappetta, as well as past contributors Rachael Ikins, Judith Skillman, and David Bolt. Be sure to check out their work—and support our fellow writers.
"Paging Dr. Crusher"
Last year, I spent three days attending a conference about creative writing in Washington, DC, along with thousands of other writers, editors, teachers, and publishers. It was fun, interesting, engaging—but by the end, I was in agony.
It’s been nearly two years now since I injured my back: I herniated a disk because of a series of abuses, some of which I didn’t realize were even harmful. The immediate result was pure torture, but after the assistance of a chiropractor (useful for a few visits), some exercises, a lot of TLC, and months of (im)patience, I’m in decent condition now. Unfortunately, “decent condition” is still not very good.
Winters can be tough in New England: cold that turns toes blue and fingers to stone, winds that sting exposed skin like a swarm of killer bees, weeks of grey skies that crush the good cheer of the holidays into joyless dust, and, of course, snow – both the magical weightless whitecaps that ride in on bitter cold, as well as the nasty leaden slurry that bends shovels and breaks backs.
"The Boy Who Wanted to Be Hitler"
Greg started his act the moment he got up at noon for our last day in Berlin. He jacked himself up straight, thin face beaming, red forelock dangling over one eye. We'd eaten continental breakfasts all week, but today he insisted on an apparent Fuehrer favorite, plain spaghetti and a raisin salad.
When we saw the Brandenburg Gate, he told me how Hanna Reitsch barely cleared it in her airplane when taking off from the Tiergarten through a hail of Russian bullets. When we reached Gertrud-Kolmar Strasse, he called it by its old name "Hermann Goering Strasse." And when the line to see the bunker came into view, I almost expected him to goose-step.
He didn't. Hitler himself never goose-stepped, so far as Greg knew, and Greg knew a lot.
O Great Hekate, Goddess of Storms
(The witch felt her power most during lightning.)
At the three-forked, desolate road you copulate at
(He wore her inverted cross, gave his hair, unsuspecting.)
Homeless, crouched, wolfing down our offerings
Of half-eaten scraps of rotting food...
"Twenty-Six Is Just Around the Corner"
26 is just around the corner. It was Jill's first thought when she woke up in the morning. Her last thought when she went to sleep at night. The thought that haunted her through her mornings, followed her through her afternoons, and whispered itself into the quietness of the evening. Jill was 24, employed at an accounting firm since college. It was a boring job, or so her college roommate had told her the day she went in for her interview, but Jill didn’t mind. She liked the way she could lose herself in the numbers, the repetitive complexities of the math helping her to drowned out other, less welcome, thoughts.
"WWBD--(What Would Buffy Do)?"
If you were a teen girl in the 90’s you idolized, worshipped, and imitated Cher from Clueless or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or in my case, both. Like your favorite choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid, you had a choice. But only my Buffy fixation held over time. Something about her boots: knee-high, high-heeled, bitchin soldiers, accessorized with chunky sunglasses, a short, cherry-studded dress and Mr. Pointy—basic tools of any slayer. But, also, her imperfections, her successes glittered with mistakes. I went out and bought a pair of those boots, so soft, mahogany leather, and when worn with skirts my bone disorder seemed to disappear. When I zipped up my right foot, I felt sexy.
Life was easier when I was possessed by demons.
There was a morning routine, for one.
First the demons would wake up,
spin my head around a few times
and fling me bodily from the bed.
Then I would wake up,
and convince the demons
that a shower was in all of our best interests...