Tessa, Song Had Began to Fade

At the turning point a big, swarthy man
came to me. He’d sung a song that only
he knew. An old spiritual. The poor’s
syncopated moans thumped against
the satin and flowers.

Here on the other side of the water
I am in a funk. Wallowing.
Song had began to fade.
In blithe contempt a body leaned
against wood. It was blue gray.

Prompt: Red Wolf Journal’s “Song of Myself” Spring/Summer 2016 edition released yesterday. That’s why song’s began to fade. Then of course a new song will come. It always does. They keep comin and comin till one dies. But to keep ’em from coming you can turn away. You muffle it. Then in a last gasp it dies. Write about loss of voice (losing heart) and whether it’ll ever come back in a poem.


losing my voice
to crows along the wall
haphazard choir warming up
to what was once your name

giving up all heart
to sheets wrestling on a pole
against the breeze
before falling to rest like a wave

leaving thought
between pages closing
in another book of dreams
memory has become

avowal’s true meaning
the two of us
that was once all of me
fading at last as I speak

–Cyril Wong

Spring/Summer 2016 Issue 9

Hey guys, Here’s the PDF release you’ve all been waiting for.

Red Wolf Journal

We are pleased to announce the release of Red Wolf Journal’s Spring/Summer 2016 Issue 9:

Red Wolf Journal Spring Summer 2016 Issue 9

The poets with work in this edition are:

Pat Anthony
Vivienne Blake
Marilyn Braendeholm
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Grace Harriman
Christopher Hileman
A.J. Huffman
Kathleen Kimball-Baker
Ron. Lavalette
Patricia McGoldrick
Sanjeev Sethi
Debi Swim
Robert Walton

You are welcome to submit work to our upcoming Fall/Winter 2016/2017. The theme is “The Heart Knows”. Watch this space for the official announcement.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Spring/Summer 2016 Editors

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Tessa, What Does Your Heart Know?

This is live theater maybe.
Writing in fall/winter.
A flaring? Girl on a mission?
The words undulant–
what kind of pledge is this?

To be optimistic, that’s all,
having the sun beating down,
and eating watermelon,
eating lobster bisque.
What a majesterial shell.

Prompt: Life is swell. I mean, to be alive, healthy and imbibing the sun. You love life don’t you? Every seven years you’re reinventing yourself and building a new foundation. Have you heard that one? And of course, Blake said, “Energy is eternal delight.” I guess what I’m driving at is that the love of life is at the core of our existence. There is such a thing as existential joy. The opposite is also true: existential despair. The heart knows both to be true. If you didn’t realise it yet, the theme of the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue of Red Wolf Journal is “The Heart Knows”. What does yours know?

It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?
Clouds of almost human appearance
Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.
You lighting a candle, carrying it naked
Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.
The dark pines and grasses strangely still.

Charles Simic, “Clouds Gathering”

Tessa, What’s True Love?

You said I’m fey and maybe I am.
For one so wobbly, would you
impose austere standards?
Perhaps that’s why I wanted you.
Someone to balance me out–
you know, and I got a son
just like that.

Someone clear-headed, and rapt,
a bit of a recluse,
so there’ll be a coda where
temperance might be good,
to quell the heart’s dotage
in young and old age
and find God instead.

Prompt: Temperance is defined as “moderation or voluntary self-restraint.” So is it possible for love to be like that? Isn’t true love meant to be chaste (pure) really? It is characterized as “the control over excess… through chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining an excess of some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.”

Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII” expresses something like it.

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. ”

As one of the cardinal virtues, is temperance a characteristic of true love?
Think about it in a poem.

Tessa, The Burning The Burning

There is only smoke, you said.
From the burning, I said.
The fire in dampness.
You hiccuped by way of reply.
Dying embers, as she wiped
your sweaty brows. Charred remains.
So this love’s a pantomime.
An empty pagoda. You wanted to sing
the Harlem blues in a poem.
In anonymity, in ghoulish tones–
lover’s soliloquy! O loafing heart which
doesn’t burn, stale as air, blank as lyrics.
Pacifist, it had stared into a pallor.
Not a weakling, no. We watch it leap
above the coals. No more dross–into
silk, and moss. Sunk right there.

Prompt: Still on the subject of love. I confess, this is all part of a gestation for the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 issue. Anyways, this poem is kind of a response to Rumi’s poem, “The Ship Sunk In Love”.

Should Love’s heart rejoice unless I burn?
For my heart is Love’s dwelling.
If You will burn Your house, burn it, Love!
Who will say, ‘It’s not allowed’?
Burn this house thoroughly!
The lover’s house improves with fire.
From now on I will make burning my aim,
From now on I will make burning my aim,
for I am like the candle: burning only makes me brighter.
Abandon sleep tonight; traverse fro one night
the region of the sleepless.
Look upon these lovers who have become distraught
and like moths have died in union with the One Beloved.
Look upon this ship of God’s creatures
and see how it is sunk in Love.

Yea, the heart is where Love dwells. I heart. I love. Who do you heart? What do you heart? Those are important questions that you’ll have to answer in your poem. Answer it slant. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, you are to move from “an overclothed blindness” to “a naked vision.”

Tessa, The Heart Knows

In the amiable heat,
we ambled on the rickety paths
with the festive air
of chanting monks
egging us on.
They’re translating
the world for those who stood
in line behind the joss,
after having just had lunch
and having left the gambling
to the ghosts.

We were teeming with
a sense of being one;
of being other;
of wanting to be;
braided into whatever it is
we had called love, that only
the heart’s counting knows.

Prompt: So is love a prayer? Is it ascetic? One often thinks the carnal part of it as being the deal maker but is it?

In Sung China,
two monks friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn’t say.

That moment’s silence continues.

No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.

I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.

Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.

As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

So what does it take to love and hold on to it? Perhaps let Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “The Heart’s Counting Knows Only One”, inspire you. Just don’t let your poem be clouded by the doe-eyed romantic in you. In case you missed the thread, I’m prompting for the theme of heart in the Fall/Winter 2015/2016 issue of Red Wolf Journal. If your poem is selected, it will appear anytime on our site from September 2016 onwards and submissions shall remain open till 28 February 2017. Read the submissions deadline here.

Tessa, About Lot’s Wife

The dream is non-committal.
It’s like a cartoon–reversals
and misfortunes do not gain
any foothold. Perhaps that’s
fortuitous? No?

Surely better than turning back?
So immobile then, as Lot’s wife
practicing the art of love,
sketching it out, on the spot,
frozen and immobile,
rooted darkly

in the past. Nooooo!
Yes, hummed the storyteller,
tapping his pedantic foot
and sucking greasy fingers
taut on the keys, saying
poignantly, isn’t it beautiful.

Prompt: So this dream that you have, is it real? Try to think for a moment and maybe ponder alongside Langston Hughes’s poem, “Dreams.”

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Is love frozen? Surely not. It’s the most alive thing. Let your poem explore it.

Tessa, So What’s A Legacy?

We’re all apprentices to love,
whether it’s buxom Natasha or old
maid Emily–each are half-gliding
toward it, up and down the aisle
while Fate clowned around.

I sat here smirking.
What’s left of the throbbing
slant-eyed monster? Has it gone to
another rehearsal squirming
under a lover’s gaze?

What numbness? Quelled by
a lack of applause? In a dream,
I tried to scale a wall,
lost my footing mired
sidling a briar.

Love’s sublime speech–would not
we prefer a plangency? What pungent
air now when fissured streams conjoin
bubbling into mist or waterfall
leave a resounding echo.

Prompt: I got inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem on love:

You left me, sweet, two legacies,—
A legacy of love
A Heavenly Father would content,
Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

In case you haven’t caught the hint, the next issue of Red Wolf Journal will be concerned with heart, and love. Whatever keeps the fire burning. So I thought you might want to try your hand at writing a poem about love. What is truly a legacy must have been wrought in love. On a side note, there’s a new movie about Dickinson, yippee!

Tessa, This Thumping Thing

Deep inside my soul I wanted
to reclaim some of what’s lost
and went wandering footloose,
in an Art Deco neighbourhood
and somehow I found a book
of poems and it’s just the
thing I was looking for.

Have you felt what it’s like
being a lost sheep? Thumping,
but really just a sloppy, deep
-set avoidance with eyes averted
as if all one had to do was go
to market to buy cabbage then
racked up more garbage.

So start over as if that’s all
one can ever hope to do real
well. The heart propped up
like this, a fat monster
breathing heavily, asking
what it does not know to
turn the air in the lair.

Prompt: Hey there, I’m really starting to prompt towards the new theme. So here’s the hint: it’s all about the heart, the thumping thing. So yea, look within your heart, dear poet. And start right there. That’s a very good place to start. In fact it’s the one and only place to start. Yes yes yes. Light a lantern. Then tread there cautiously. See what happens.

Is That It, Tessa?

Immersed in love then death.
Is that it, Tessa? I’m flesh too.
So am subject to a barrage of ills
and gleamed sometimes with envy,
self-pity so becoming my own
scourge. When I’m not riddled
with a kind of electricity,
I’m my own worst nightmare.

Who goes there? Where’s there?
There where there’re ostentatious
sing-song voices jangling on trees.
I’d rather be solitary as she was.
But longed to be with another
who was like a slippage, remix of
own ecstatic self. Then night came
bewildered, bearing her away.

Prompt: On the topic of self, have you run out of things to say? That self that you call self– that’s called your character isn’t it? Given human imperfection, there’s self-glorification on the one hand (eek), and self-effacement on the other (eek), and do we seem to be hung up on both like a row of dead ducks? How noble is man’s reason when it is ultimately cut down to size on the greater mystery of life? What is certain is that humanity has much in common and it is on these universal values that great literature is made. I’ve an idea already for the next issue of the journal. Wrap up time, if you’ve got anything further to add, dear poets.