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Poetry Winter 2018    fiction    all issues


Cover Elena Koycheva

Bryce Emley
Asking Father What’s at the End
& other poems

AJ Powell
& other poems

Faith Shearin
& other poems

Claire Van Winkle
& other poems

Sarah W. Bartlett
Summer Cycles
& other poems

Nooshin Ghanbari
& other poems

Meli Broderick Eaton
The Afterlives of Leaves
& other poems

Jeddie Sophronius
& other poems

Paula Bonnell
In Winter, By Rail
& other poems

Addison Van Auken Waters
& other poems

Daniel Sinderson
& other poems

Andrew Allport
All Nature Will Fable
& other poems

Marte Stuart
What an Insult Time Is
& other poems

Matthew Parsons
My Father as an Inuit Hunter
& other poems

Emily Bauer
Gently, Gently
& other poems

Bruce Marsland
A once lovelorn bard’s final journey
& other poems

Beatrix Bondor
Night Makers
& other poems

Isabella Skovira
Lawless Conservation
& other poems

Juan Pablo González
Colombia, 1928
& other poems

Molly Pines
The Pillbug
& other poems

Jamie Marie
On the Lake
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
If You Show Me Yours
& other poems

Bill Newby
Tuesdays at The Seagate's Atlantic Grille
& other poems

Elder Gideon
Male Initiation Rites
& other poems

Joel Holland
Dear Gi-Gi
& other poems

Martha R. Jones
How Lewis Carroll Met Edgar Allan Poe
& other poems

Writer's Site

Elder Gideon

Male Initiation Rites

In fulfilling their obligations, men stand to lose—a hovering threat that separates them from women and boys. They stand to lose their reputations or their lives; yet their prescribed tasks must be done if the group is to survive and prosper. Because boys must steel themselves to enter into such struggles, they must be prepared by various sort of tempering and toughening. To be men, most of all, they must accept the fact that they are expendable.
—David Gilmore. Manhood in the Making. (1990)

enemies anytime everything

nothing gives of itself nature tests

hunger and thirst is to be alive

if you fall back in fear we will die

your world is still her little hut

because you’re blind you cannot see

what waits to wrest you from her arms

beyond her bed and soft embrace

every male worth seeding must resist

running back into the arms of his

mother’s hut feminine mysteries

ceased the night you awoke in your dew

if you refuse to stand and fight

or know what pain it is to live

before your burning eyes you’ll see

your kin be swallowed whole and end

where will we be without testing you?

women are born into women but

men are not born but are made into

men who must turn their face to the threat

we show a boy what life is like

to tear him out his mother’s womb

to seize and strip him down by force

to face the task awaiting him

whip his legs lash his face tear his ears

sear his skin scar his back make him bleed

It is not we who test not at all

life is far harsher than warriors

Female Initiation Rites

“The goal of the initiation is not merely to make a better, stronger, or more knowledgeable person of the initiand, however much this may be desired, but to transform her utterly, make her totally different from what she had been, and radically separate her from her childhood existence.”
—Bruce Lincoln. Emerging from the Chrysalis. (1981)

Widen my hips burgeon my breasts

Darken my groin—

I am the weal of descendants

Ancestors wheel about my nave

Cut their lines and circles

not on a tree stone or bone but me

I show by the iron in my blood

Running from eternal symbols etched in my flesh

That I am the earth speaking to you now

      In our daughters stirring She dreams us

      We are Her ways She taught

      She is our ways we keep

      In every daughter’s bloom She dawns

      From soil for crops to grow

      Our hearts need only feel with their fingers

      To know how She is here

              Rouse her who left us take her limp hands

              Lift her to us from where she’s come silence speaks

             Join her to us sing songs to our brave traveler

             Touch the future from where she’s come time unties

              Feel her with us gaze into the eyes of our young envoy

              Receive her gifts from where she’s come goodness floods

              Embrace her to us meet this woman who left a girl

              Behold her transformed from where she’s come changes everything

Lost Rites


“is a series of passages from one age to another,”

wrote Van Gennep, analyzing the ritualized life          (1909)

of human development in traditional lineages.

In each culture, ceremonies for every individual

were marked what he called “rites of passage.”

By these, people developed fully in their society

through every physical change, so that “society

will suffer no discomfort or injury.” Another

pattern reveals phases within every ritual passage—

separation, transition, incorporation. Life

held continuous, sacred meaning for individuals

in community, despite their social position or age.

Without initiation rituals, fewer come of age

to a viable place of incorporation in our society,

making more painful, uncertain, “an individual’s

transition from one status to another.”

This in part explains modernity’s malaise. Life

for young people seems arbitrary as their passage

of fulfilling desires lengthens. Forbidden passage

through straits of longing can often damage

fragile psyches. Without myths to guide life,

disfigured youth reflect a dehumanizing society.

Youth culture reacts against exile as other—

exposing the trauma of becoming an individual.

Angry youth who push back, individuals

who unconsciously seek their rite of passage,

are just as vulnerable to approval of another

force that eats its young. The marginal vantage,

that “novices are outside society and society

has no power over them,” often costs their life.

Having shattered every spiritual way of life,

colonialism continues to splinter individuals

into tinier figments of an imagined society.

Without conscious, communal rites of passage,

Western storm and stress will only ravage

what’s left of a way forward, one way or another.


No wonder youths of our societal mirror rage

against serving life terms—others beneath

elite individuals—without passage out.


We are heirs of our imperial society,

Are the aging cannibals of history—

Indigenous individuals sentenced to text passage.


Societies that desecrate their sacral image

send individuals adrift through another

Far harsher passage in eternal, liminal life.


All conceive in flight

All are heir to air

Few are parent butterflies

More are parent common flies

Few are eggs that hang up high

More are eggs that lay down low

Few are larvae born above

More are larvae born below

Few are fed by what still lives

More are fed by what has died

Few will molt and spread midair

Most will molt in search of sky

Few souls hatch from chrysalis

Most souls hatch from carcasses

If I had not nearly died,

Bored my way out of what is dead

An essence in putrescence—

This iridescent slick—chose

Me to break out breathing

Far beyond my body


Awaking with a start,

the President was shaken.

By a dream that no one,

his cabinet nor any

his soothsayers, could interpret,

save some youths imprisoned,

famed for dream interpretation.

He summoned them. To tell him

what it meant—

“I was in the Astrodome

filled with thousands gathered.

intermittent power caused

arena lights to flicker.

When the lights went out,

you couldn’t see a thing.

Instead of football on the field,

Every one was looking up

armed and aiming at the ceiling.

Where I stood made hard to see

their target in the smoke.

When I looked below, I saw so

many piled up empty cages.

Then I knew that every person

there was shooting for a prize.

When the lights would blink back on,

their guns would fire all at once.

Rounds of shots erupted like

a dozen awful bombs that

stung my ears and seared my eyes.

No one turned to see one fall

down maimed or dead from ricochet.

No one shouted out

for help that never came.

I saw others no one noticed

Doing something strange.

Standing there with walking sticks.

They waited ‘til the lights went out

And all the shooting stopped.

It fell quiet.

Enough to hear another speak.

In that darkness spoke the name

another one nearby.

Gently held his ear.

Natural that it drew their eye

away to look out to their side.

Though they didn’t know this

other speaking, something opened.

Do I know you? he would ask,

Of course you do! Remember when—?

So they’d talk like neighbors as

shooting all around resumed.

So engrossed in stories long

forgotten, the one who heard his name

had set his gun down at his side,

unaware it turned into

a walking stick. On they talked.

Face to face like two old farmers

resting hands on tops of handles.

As lights went on, they turned away

To face another near them. Waited

for the quiet of the dark to

speak another’s name.

On this went, as one by one,

responding to their names,

others paused to hear their name

and reminisce until their rifle

turned into another stick.

When lights returned, I finally glimpsed

the birds that flew above us.

rounds exploded everywhere

as people fell from ricochet.

In and out the cloud of gunsmoke

up against the metal dome

flashed a convocation.

Fledgling eagles crying out

against no where to go.

My heart sank where I stood,

so powerless to stop.

Feathers snowed as shattered wings

could no more lift the air.

I witnessed many eagles fall

To mauling crowds that fought

and brawled like savage dogs.

Lights blacked out in riot kills

That chill me still to tell.

What say you, youths,

the meaning of my dream?”

These poems from Elder Gideon’s first book Without Passage come from his life as an educator, visual artist, and faith leader of a Gnostic community. For over twenty years, he’s worked with diverse, underserved young people, whose stories continually impact his imagination and spirituality. He structured these experiences into a chapbook trilogy that section “Without Passage” into meditations on the anthropology, sociology, psychology, and mythology of adolescent development.

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