Sage Challenge Results: April 2024

Below you’ll find the responses to the Sage Challenge for April 2024.

Entries to the Challenges published previously are found in individual issues of the SouthWest Sage.

Public access to the February 2023 to February 2024 issues of the newsletter are on the Sage News page. SWW Members have full access to the Newsletter Archives of issues published from 2004 to 2024.

Go to the Sage Challenge page for details about the current Challenge open to SWW members.

April Challenge: Poetry

Trespass at Once
by Mary Therese Ellingwood

The sign reads, “Do not enter”
Trespassers will be prosecuted
What is hiding?
Behind those imposing walls that aim to shut out even the light
What is hiding?
Beyond the chain-link fence protruding from the ground so intrusive in the heart of nature
What is hiding?
Inside the cold brick building with poison ivy weaving past non-existent windows
What is hiding?

Steeped in hesitation, my feet linger on the edge
Retreat or Dare?
Submit or Challenge?
To a sign that reads, “Do not enter”
Intended to scare curiosity away… a demand to keep it at bay

But curiosity is an unquenchable thirst for some
And I am one
I lean ever so slightly toward the unknown
My balance slips over the threshold
Where the sign can no longer be seen
For who saw it anyway?

Red Door Memories
by Jessica Bloome

Soft-bellied, relaxed shoulders; sun on bare skin. Tastes of strawberries and grass stains on the knees. Trembling.

She is small-bodied and waiting. A pensive look, “will they come for me?” roils beneath wisps of hair like spun wheat.

Tires on gravel. The faint whiff of wisteria loping up the drive. The1985 Isuzu I-Mark accelerating. “Goldie” they called it.  Same age as her but its body beaten and worn for only three.

Strawberry seeds between baby teeth in full view.

The car door flings open with no apology. Too small to ask.

Furrowed brow and short drags on a cigarette, crackling, while radio ads play and a fly buzzes.

Racing through time. Belly bracing. A shape to be held as she ages

Silent drive. Tapping toes. Holding onto another day’s cackling laughter at sunrise. Gas station Styrofoam cups of coffee and hot chocolate fog the windshield. Blurring memory.

Opening the front door. The door is red. Red like strawberries.

Already forgotten. The air is dense inside. She searches for herself.

“She’s too damn sensitive.” is all that roars in the space of the living room with too little furniture.

Filtered through sun rays and darkened moonlight. Finding her innocence.

Thank goodness for baby dolls, daisy chains, art projects, and laughter ~ for this is how we know we are good.

by Don Boyd

In my sleep I came to the edge of words,
and found these had crawled out on the land –
bird, heart, water, darkness, grace, light, love and soul.
What are we to make of this glowing landscape,
this odd mixture of grasses, cattails,
bird wings tip-to-tip that are wider than I am tall,
and their cousins,
so small they disappear nearly at my feet
into the coyote willow
like scurrying mice with wings?
How do I tell you that it all comes together
like an orchestra and visual chorale of a thousand voices –
ducks diving, kestrels posing,
water reflecting the sleeping winter bones of cottonwoods,
black willows, mountains, spikerush and salt grass?
Where white-capped giant birds with golden talons and scimitar beaks
float and dive and turn ducks and geese to feathers and take life for life.
And, where even these lions of the air
curse the laughing ravens who mock them
like giant black mosquitos.
You can debate its truth, but you will lose.
It is the unheard, undomesticated, wild raucous voice of us.
The one that crawls out of our sleep when we forget,
when our hearts and bodies
have memories of the time
we migrated and first stood upright
and sang.

by John B. Cornish

What [we] are using is still the original empty space.
— Tao te Ching, Chapter 11

Heavyhearted, I step out on the porch,
a change of scene perhaps uplifting me.
Doves and sparrows spurt away. The reptile
in my brain halts my heart: a cooper’s hawk
appears just then, it filling empty space
with its designs to make my garden host
mortality. Death perches close to me
in a desert willow. I swivel my
head slowly snakelike stiff for a deep look.
The hawk eyes me, ruffles, then wings into
its prayerless life. I return to my
small place in the vast cosmos, heart hollow,
like clay coiled for usefulness, its lightness
evolved, a vessel arranged for purpose.

There Once Was a Horse
by Alissa Dickey

There once was a horse in Slidell
That used to race at the bell.
He wouldn’t stop running,
For food he was gunning.
At the barn, he knew all would be well.

I Am…
by Mark Fleisher

I am a complexity, a contradiction, a complication
I am your daily planner
I am spontaneously combusted by existential forces
I am a risk taker, courting catastrophe
I am unafraid to disconnect from the know
I am unafraid of unfamiliar landscapes
I am shielded from the curious by panes thick with frost
I am entered by the chosen through permitted transparencies
I am witness to the sting of tumultuous death
I am mindful of a quiet passing
I am mourning all in God’s design
I am a minnow in a school of swimmers speaking alien languages
I am walking only in my tracks
I am No Man
I am Every Man

by Reza Ghadimi

In the vastness of the West
Among the standing sentinels of rock and stone
Numerous arches, carved by wind and water
Through eons of time, have built gateways
To eternities of space and time itself.

The view to far away, from within
Seem to warp and deviate from that of without
And tells of dimensions, only thinking minds
Can decipher and wisdomed eyes can see.

Look at my expanse, they decree
Oh seekers of truth, and learn
That these stones are a part of the living me
Their sculptured face, testament to all that is shaped
By the very creator of you as well as me
Be kind to all that you see and don’t see
As our destiny is entwined by land and sea
Wind and water and watched over by stars!

The Pageant in the Air
by Rose Marie Kern

There’s pressure, and an upward surge
as we pulled free from earth.
enwrapped in gray we climbed through rain
enshrouding Dallas-Fort Worth.

At thirty thousand we topped the deck
and ‘lo what did I see?
A kaleidoscope of figures
made up of clouds ’round me!

A cowboy on a dragon
raced a mermaid on a whale.
The winged pig soared sideways
as a turkey fanned his tail.

A huddled gnome sat and stared
as the Boeing passed him by.
Is it my imagination
or was that a twinkle in his eye?

Kubla Khan towers mightily
above his fluffy horde,
a camel kneels behind him
lonely and ignored.

The lesser creatures perked up a bit
as through the port I peered;
A walrus sunning on the beach,
the dog with hairy ears.

A sea anemone gracefully danced,
its trailing tentacles roved.
A frog garumped, then land appeared
as through the deck we dove.

Once on the ground I looked above
up to the clouds so fair,
But all I saw were fragments of
the pageant in the air.

The Mysteries of Good Fortune
by Larry Kilham

Life has many might-have-beens
but we should not despair.
We shouldn’t wait for fortuitous fortune;
find and grab her if you dare.

Hand in hand, we face the unknowns
yet somehow we find our way.
Unlocking the mysteries of good fortune
leads us to a brighter day.

There will be dead ends and falls;
find your way through.
The falls educate and the recoveries enrich;
success is up to you.

by Irvis Macy

I found a love, in the Autumn of my life
A love with leaves of red and gold
A timeless love, I only came to know
When the fire of youth became a glow
And you may find, in the Autumn of your life
The wisdom only fools can see
A quiet peace, that falls upon your life
To let you be what you can be
And the spring of life, is for the youth to burn
While the summer of life, leaves many lessons to unlearn
Then you will find, in the Autumn of your life
The courage just to be ,the one that matters most of all
The one that lives, deep within your soul
That’s born when leaves begin to fall

by Kristin Middleton

Never knew anything
No judgement
Society the awful one
To shame the folks that are
Hanging onto their last thread

Livin in a double wide
They got double pride

There’s a nice rose garden
And a swimming pool
Lots to write about
Real world stuff

Livin in a double wide
They got double pride

Because you see
Not everyone’s so lucky
To be livin in a double wide
With so much pride

Livin in a double wide
We got double pride

Purple Princess
by Wanda W. Jerome*

Crown of pearls,
your rubber shoes
match your dress.
          You’re a standout in any crowd.
Pink tears, sequin bruises.
Matte long, dark hair;
red wrists and your
peeling blue nails.

Crying frozen in panic,
lost and alone;
trembling, turning blue…
somehow you and I
find each other.
          Oh, honey, you need to breathe.
But mother’s missing
and sister’s shooting baskets with the boys.

Just then, sister says to me, sideways –
“Oh, Alice? She’s just got separation anxiety …”
and disappears.

          Would you like to sit in my lap, Alice?
Not too tight – nor too loose –
a tender cradling holds
shared sweet lullabies.
I to joy surrender.

We sing so softly
a melody together,
time stands open
until we must return to our
far away homes –
with and without our mothers.

          Sweetie, it’s time to go. The game is over.

* Wanda W. Jerome is the pen name for Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome.

Lost to the Wind
by Wanda W. Jerome*

Late nights cold frights – I wish I may I wish I might’s surrounded by so much suffering; historical, hysterical tribal nightmarish cycle of intergenerational hopelessness, giving-up-ness. Everywhere I turn, the players and the stage are empty of hope. Of promise. Of anything worth fighting for. Of anything to be grateful for. The darkness is overwhelming. I can’t stay long, or I will feel it slowly creep inside to where my small flame hides and thrives. Every time I travel here I see beauty of arid high desert, cliffs of coral red and chalk grey swirls, wind tunnel twirls, only to feel in my soul spirals of death in sunbaked lives half-lived through decaying broken memories. In the midst of dead and weedy wild horse foraging, children dream of dancing fancy while myriad lost adults disappear in pale deserts of onetime glorious victories.

A statue in whistling breeze, I stand. Watch wild horses graze among the garbage, twisted iron bedframes, fencepost ruins. If I strain my ears, I hear remnants of ribbons on dayglo skirts and shirts snap to the jingle-jangle of wrist and ankle bells … fade to colors screaming behind the silence. In the distance, drumbeats rise and fall in syncopation, like earthy sounds of thunder they bounce off canyon walls – echo in human hearts forever broken, bruised – but still beating. The blame game makes losers of all players. Human anger festers with dark demons who rise in the sun, kiss eyes shut – eyes that look out large and hollow, recognize nothing and no tomorrow, drown out all sorrows until death sprouts her raven wings – takes off out of here – flies to a brighter heaven.

Time to wake up, small, sweet souls of children lost to the wind! I don’t believe your claim to fame and dysentery is to be our eternal victims. Burn your ceremonial shrouds! Rise from all and every ash! Find light in your darkness! But how do I fan that tiny spark of flicker flame you carry? The hope that your Nation’s gambles may somehow, some day, light the way home?

Once back to my comfort zone, I write. Empty my heart of all joy and sadness it carries. Write. And write. And write … long into the night.

it is not enough
to pray and pray for lost souls
who know no way out
who can see no way forward
upon whom blessings bounce off

* Wanda W. Jerome is the pen name for Wanda Whittlesey-Jerome.

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