I’m thrilled to announce the first publication of one of my poems, Black Picket Fence, which appears in Persephone’s Daughters, Issue Five, Fall 2018. Their About page describes the online publication as ‘a lit magazine dedicated to empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation.’

In writing Black Picket Fence, my goal was to revisit an episode from my early twenties, a stark memory of good intentions gone — nowhere — and the shame I experienced when faced with my sheer inability to comprehend how to react when confronted with the damaging effects of domestic violence. Now that I’m older, I recognize how very young I was and how unprepared I was – how unprepared most people might have been – in my situation. I don’t know what happened to this family. This memory has remained, a sad, shameful memory, over the years. I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d known then what to do. The truth is, I felt overwhelmed and powerless and I am so very sorry for my helplessness during this family’s time of need.

Here is the link to Black Picket Fence

Thank you.

Julie Allyn Johnson

Steve placed the King James, opened face-down, on a three-legged stool, not far from the searing heat of the roaring fire. Revelations had nothing to reveal to him. It made no sense, no matter which way he sliced and diced the thing. He felt as if he’d lost his way over the years, finally unshackled from the orthodoxy of indoctrination that had gripped him at an early, impressionable age and that was, he thought, fine by him.

Religion had lost its luster. The hold it had on him had become looser and flimsier in this, his eighth decade on the planet. Nature was his god now. His mind was sound, his 75-year-old body still fit and trim. Daily walks on the beach, gathering driftwood, sifting through tidal wrack to unearth man’s middle finger of careless disregard for the beauty and awe of the world, had taught him many things, not the least of which was the propensity of humans to look outside themselves for solace, for answers, for comfort. All that was required was within. Steve understood this now.

Majestic nature, the silence of being, the grandeur of it all inspired his devotion: oceans, mountains, streams and fields and hills, lakes, creeks, ponds and marshes. The diversity of plants and animals, the glorious and changing seasons, the powerfully awesome forces of the skies – these were no trifles. They were his all. These spiritual elements comprised the core of who he was and what he believed in. More importantly, they inspired him to live in the moment and to be grateful for every morsel of this beautiful cocoon that enveloped him in its tender, ferocious arms.

At one time, he felt torn about his evolving views. No more. This was Life and he would cherish and nurture and enjoy it for as long as he was fortunate enough to do so.

Daily Prompt: Torn

I watched a tractor through the magnifying magic of binoculars this morning. Unaided, I was just able to make out his high beams (why they were on I haven’t a clue as the day is bright, despite the heavy blanket of clouds in the sky) but through the lens, details began to emerge as the tractor ran its errands. To the side in an adjacent field, I saw a white pickup and a newly-clear view of what is normally admired via a quick glance out our sunroom windows. Canada geese flew into my line of sight and, setting the binoculars aside, I noticed a squirrel scampering across the third hole, skirting the bunkers. The pond on the far end of the second fairway patiently waits for the geese to land, arboreal sentinels keeping watch. Purple finches, closer to home, approach our feeder, happy I’m sure, that only yesterday I refilled it with the black sunflower seeds they so heartily crave. There is no snow – just yet – and we’ll enjoy temperatures in the 40s and 50s the next several days but make no mistake: winter is coming.

Too many people take the good in their lives for granted
Behaving in ways that imply
A belief that they deserve their blessings
Without actually pondering just why
They think the randomness of the universe
Accidents of birth
The preordained arrangement of genes
(Precise donor A mates with precise donor B resulting in self-deluded offspring C)
Should have bestowed upon them
Great hair, lovely cheekbones, high IQs, strong physiques
(Not to mention being born in the most powerful nation in the world
Instead of a back-street hovel in Bangladesh
Or the isolated frozen tundra in a far-flung corner of Siberia).

Too many people assume the mantle of entitlement
Thinking a bad day is one when their daughter fails to make show choir
Or where layoffs at Christmas will negatively impact a school bond issue
Or how unmatched metallics mar a cultivated pulled together sense of fashion
Unaware how petty their grievances come across
To those who have truly suffered
To those who have truly known pain and sorrow
To those desperately seeking a respite from their troubles
And never, not ever, finding it…

Oh, yes, the humanity!

I am being folded into my life,
Days reveal themselves
With quiet, joy and solitude.
Indecision, a sometime companion.

Open skies, blue streaked with shades of white
A calming spirit.
Trials perhaps yet to come
I have a voice that wants to sing.

Words and songs all my own,
Not yet expressed
(But soon).
Hidden, but there – still.

Yearning to try
Grasping to know who and what I am
And to understand
What is mine to give, and why.

Move on – my mantra.
At times I am weary
Fearful of destinations undoing the very essence
Of who it is I think I have become.

I think I know what I want
Occasionally, I’m surprised.
I don’t care for ice cream
But sometimes I do.

A great many things
Cause me shame, angst
And sorrow.

A life filled with regrets
For actions taken
Hurtful words spoken
Acknowledgments left undone.

Today, though, I realized
That my apologies
Sincere, genuine, raw and heartfelt
Were greedily accepted, perhaps gleefully so,
By those who had flung their own arrows.

Their tarnished memories failing to recall
How they excluded
Mocked and judged me.
Looking down on me, still
Yet receiving my mea culpas
While never offering their own.

I wonder: Does this make me unworthy?

I would like to live by the sea.
To contemplate
Knowing the roar (and the quiet) of expansive waters
In my everyday affairs.
Waves kissing the shoreline: blue, gray, seafoam green.
Sailboats. Salty breezes.
Watching gulls and pelicans
Frolic in the tide.
Luscious light and sound. Movement. Scent of ocean air.

I harbor romantic notions of a different life.
A quaint cottage, rustic but charmed.
Water on my horizon.
Neighbors and town folk, quirky yet sturdy. Solid.
Good people, just like anywhere.
My days spent in clarity
And purpose, if and when I want them to be.
Sometimes I yearn for the grit and sheen
Of another reality, an alternate existence.

With gauzy vision, however, I imagine
Someone, like me, along a rocky beach
(Or elsewhere)
Contemplating fields of corn, heavy with dew.
Cattle grazing on a sun-soaked hill.
Goats, chickens, barb wire fences. Grain bins.
Sunflowers, wild chicory.
Old barns
And hummingbirds in the spring.

Another dreamer who, like me, also dreams.

Sleep eluded me
Until midnight
(Mind churning with the day’s activities)
But a restful night nonetheless.

Early morning
Summer storms
Awakened me.
Darkness still.

Thunder in the distance.
My lighted keyboard
Helps me find the keys.
My body says “Rest a little more”
But my brain has other ideas….

One day a child will return
No longer in shame or chagrin.
There is always a home,
A beginning, initial rays of light, first steps taken.

Night falls in the quiet country
Crickets and critters, shapes and movements among the trees.
The screen door shuts, echoing in the darkness
A cigarette glows fiery red and orange, and then, a sigh.

It embraces you
This homecoming. You could stay here forever.
And perhaps some do, or will.
You either resist or you yield.

No place is Shangri La.
The green is as vivid or lean
As you wish it to be, wherever you are.
So: Will you reclaim this now, again, as Home?

Daily Prompt: Local