Breath & Shadow
Winter 2021 - Vol. 18, Issue 1
"Abandoned Dog Spreads Kindness and Compassion"
Debra J. White
Homeless children circled around me and stroked my adopted dog Luke.
“What’s your dog’s name?” a 7-year-old boy asked.
“Can I feed him?” a blond girl with pig-tails asked as she giggled when Luke tried to kiss her cheek.
“When does he sleep?” the girl’s older brother asked.
“Does Luke watch the Animal Planet?” another boy asked.
That began my seven-year journey with Gabriel’s Angels, a group dedicated to freeing Arizona’s abused, at risk and abandoned children from the shackles of violence through healing pet therapy.
The park was empty by the time pink streaked through the sky, signaling the beginning of the sunset. I eyed a boy hunched over a book. His dark eyes darted upwards every so often. His foot tapped against the sidewalk beneath him, and his spidery fingers worried the edges of the pages. Every so often, he sniffed the air as if smelling something foul.
"Blade of Grief"
The sword of sorrow
has pierced me through.
Its aim was pure,
the arrow true,
I am so weary
as I gaze at you
knowing our time together
is almost through.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines disability as an ‘inability; incapacity; weakness.’ Almost all of those are negative words—the latter being negative in its own right.
I never considered myself disabled. I have two arms and two legs, a working brain and an overactive heart. I am fine. Sure, I’m overwhelmed to a point of paralysis when I’m around people for too long, or when overloaded darts are being thrown at all of my senses. I’m exhausted from always trying to over-exist in a certain way, instead of simply being. I seem to be over-everything, really, rather than under.
"Entering the Age of Owning It"
Lindsey Morrison Grant
In March 2020 I turned sixty-five years old. It's a milestone in Western culture... and a millstone around the neck of those of us subject to ageist assumptions.
Stumbling upon a quote by notable American businessman Bernard Baruch, I was both encouraged and amused. “Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can't retire his experience. He must use it. Experience achieves more with less energy and time.”
Naturally, the quote feels dated (Baruch died in 1965) as it addresses age-discrimination, but is gender-specific. Nevertheless, it made me think that comparing the exuberance of youth to the perspective of years, is not unlike comparing the view through a microscope to the one from the summit of Mt. Everest.
Laura Saint Martin
Gary didn't know which world was doing what, couldn't distinguish explosion from implosion, familiar landmarks gone twisty and airborne. The Choir of Contempt flocked like a murder, black crow wing gowns, Wydette front and center. She screamed, her hair as tall as a church steeple. Nadira lurked, shadow of a shadow. Big fat liar. Gary felt blurry, his head full of trash, voices he never met before crowding him. He walked around Target, looking away from all the staring people, people who kept touching themselves, pointing at their privates and looking at him. The trash voices crested and crashed like waves, and they hurt.
"It’s Not Cancer—It’s Fibroids"
Marjory E. Leposky
I am a woman who had a really bad case of fibroids,non-cancerous tumors that grow within the wall of the uterus. In my case, genetics probably played a part, since my mother had them, too.
Known technically as uterine leiomyomata, they can vary in size and number and may cause infertility, miscarriage and early onset of labor. You hear a lot about breast and uterine cancer, but almost never about fibroids.
"On First Learning About Winslow Homer"
On well-soaked sand I’ve walked while waves there rolled,
In countless California coastal scenes,
And Oregon’s broad beaches, in my teens,
I’ve combed while friends would surf to spite the cold.
Yet I was not unversed, by any means,
In the Atlantic side, which magazines
And books acclaimed, but then Winslow of old,
Through his marine works, avant-garde emprise,
And strokes of insight, showed far more than pen
"Rituals of Breath"
The geese sawtooth south
and I and I and I
no wing-ticket out
the sage green walls of my room
lay back and close in
hard fields confine
this interment of the soul
"The Bird and the Worm"
Life is a bittersweet experience
That, at a time, polishes us with her pleasure, And, at another, tosses us into pain, Depression, crime, confusion and death.
Life is brief, yet longer than the chain our ancestors treaded on.
Our unborn generations await a journey on this plain endless plane.
It keeps ingesting and digesting
Our carcasses until we're done or decayed.
"The Crab in the Spindle"
Cary W. Tucker
I slide headfirst inside the huge machine,
And as the tunnel gears begin to spin,
A cushion presses up against my ears.
I feel the needle prick my elbow vein,
But cannot see a clock to check the time
Nor move the mirror hung above my face.
"The Problem of Time"
G. D. McFetridge
The summer after graduating high school I drove to California with a girlfriend and we spent a week at a beachside campground north of San Diego. I remember watching people build sandcastles. Some of them were works of wonderfully sculpted art, although curiously enough and without exception, once the castles were left unguarded, little kids would wander by and destroy them, trampling the walls and towers into mounds of formless sand. Why would children have the desire to destroy? I have always wondered about that.
"The Scratch of the Pen"
It was cold outside, but here it is feverish hot, an overcompensation for the chill of the season. The drawing room practically shimmers from the fire, sending out heat but not warmth into the company. There is never any warmth at such gatherings. The wallpaper of yellow flowers is too bright, not sunny and joyful but sickly and glaring. The black dresses of the ladies and the dark suits of the gentlemen stand in stark contrast to the background, just as they contrast to the complexion of their wearers, jet jewelry shining menacingly on pallid throats. Nothing is welcoming about this house, nothing was inviting about the invitation to come. Yet I came.
"Wait For Rain"
They’d have to save all the whales before they get to prisoner’s rights. Still, to protect the unborn I’m cuffed in front transported on a state bus. Will the maternity ward be pastel blue or pastel pink? It’s institutional white. I’m no angel. They are no monsters. They speak in a hush.
Vasiliy started taking dancing lessons in November, which meant there was plenty of time till he’d be seeing Mom again. He always came to her place in August, when they both had their birthdays. There was an old bird cherry tree near her cottage and he liked to sit in its fragrant shadow, enjoying the last days of warm sunshine and idleness. With their birthdays just a week apart, there was an extra treat thrown in between – the Day of the Railway Worker, a big event in the community largely depending on the Trans-Siberian railway for sustenance.
"With Chests Full of Hope"
Voices outside your bedroom--
your mother, father, and husband-to-be,
the piglets he brought as a trade for you
still crying for their slaughtered sow mother,
his breath wet and rattling like a wolf’s
about to blow your door down
The world shrinks, then expands, and you become
small enough to be mistaken for a cross-stitch needle,
small enough to scale the hand-and-footholds
etched into the timeworn cedar wood of your hope chest,
small enough to crawl through the bronze keyhole