Once Upon a Time
there was a woman.
and she lived. Prince Charming never thundered
on his mighty steed from a castle
over the hill to bend on one knee
with a glinting ring to place cool
on her work-hardened hand.
But she lived. Hungry birds knew her home
when the snow was deepest.
Coughing invalids held her name
in their hearts.
Lonely travelers found hot meals
and a warm bed.
Crinkled cheeks and cloudy hair
recognized the sound of her steps.
And she lived. Yes
I. Single The futon’s fabric was bare; the stuffing was shot
through with collapse from our sitting lap-stacked
in the center. One hundred feature lengths left us
engaged and rump-touching the floor. We loved
our Gordian tangle of limbs, resisted surrendering
those warm apartment dawns ensconced, squared,
until we grudgingly gave the bed its dumpster death. II. Double French windows greeted the headboard. They overlooked
a cul-de-sac majestic in the Disco Age, now dism
If we still had house churches today,
I’m sure they would be adorned
with family size bags of Cheetos,
air pods, satellite dish hook-ups, K-cups on pantry shelves,
folded maps of public transportation,
a neighbor’s key hanging on a secure nail,
and cat dishes sitting on green mats. And I’m sure the unblinking eyes of a security system
would watch you closely through all the heat and the rain,
looking down on the unmade beds as well,
and the tipsy stack of unread maga
After dinner, the adults chat.
I don’t know what they discuss.
Their children make demands of me—
Bring seven shells down from the shelf
so they can discuss what they see.
Pour water on Petoskey stones
to reveal the honeycomb patterns.
Print pages for them to color—
a unicorn and a dump truck. They find a yoga mat in a dusty corner,
unfurl it to serve as their station.
I leave them on the floor coloring.
The house settles around them,
their room glows with electri
I’ve loved the mourning dove since I was a child—
The soft, suffusing sound that always calmed
Me then as it does now and must calm, too,
All those that hear it: people, grass, the sky.
I think the tone, taken two octaves down,
Would sound like Jesus’ voice when, at the tomb,
John says, he spoke one word, “Mary,” to her
Who wrung her hands, not knowing who stood there. Published on the Ancient Paths Facebook page on August 17, 2019. #AncientPathspoems #AncientPathsarch
Thick rainbow chard and yellow corn;
We run past the market tents
To where the light hangs over the river
In eternal September. Yesterday the sun adored us
And showed your smiling faces.
Now blue-grey shadows
Stretch into the corners of twilight. I stare at the highest branch
And pray for a sacred ritual;
That wiser words might open us
Softly, back to that which we share. Our produce bags are heavy, yet,
Amid the piles of sweet apples, my finger
Traces the crimson
The raindrops dribble down the shopfront panes
while back behind the counter the barista drips
her own creation in handled earthenware cups.
He's always liked the tables here, the way
they're cut with thick pine tops and sturdy legs
two inches thick, like they were made to last
for longer than a coffee's caffeine buzz,
and sipping his drink he greets the grainy dregs
with sifting teeth, the neural background beat
of study music pulsing in his ears.
She used to sit h
master burpers, sooth sayers, rockers;
go straight up every night
we lose our breath, our pace
goes a little faster -
while sleep deficit is building up every night ends
and daytime brings rest
baby turns back
into a sleeping angel
calmly nursing on a schedule until the next night Published on the Ancient Paths Facebook page September 14, 2019 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee #AncientPathspoems #AncientPathsarchive #Pus
(A Clogyrnach) Ripples whisper through fields of grass
At nightfall when no footsteps pass
Over this bare hill
Where I linger still— But I will stay for mass. Nature’s cathedral boasts no wall;
No stained glass windows grace the hall.
No vaulted ceiling,
No bronze bells pealing—
But kneeling, I am tall. Tonight I will not cross the stream
Where darkness splinters heaven’s gleam.
Yet light fills this place;
I see glory’s grace—
The Lord’s face in a dream. ~Meadowlar
Four-year-old David who has Downs
snuggles into three-year-old
Tommy’s chest like a Maine coon cat.
He pets Tommy’s head
flubs his lips on his pale cheek
and laughs with so much heart
at the noise it makes, he warms ours.
Even though he knows Tommy
cannot move nor speak, unlike us
he does not give up hope for him
maybe recalling when he himself
sipped air raggedly through a trach
and could not pedal his trike
but how last night in falling twilight
letters almost as tall as my thumb
the same thumb that drew a Cross
with Holy Water
on an infant’s forehead this morning.
As our Savior wrote that blessing
I was His pen This fine quill
still has every fiber in its
charcoal gray and black hawk feather
although Father Benedict fashioned it
sixty years ago.
Nightly I tuck it into an ash-wood box
softened with wool A silver blade
slices a sliver from the pinion’s end
to form a new nib
There’s a time of day,
just before night
in which I feel
powerful. I could take on the entire world,
during this brief
I feel the presence
in this moment. I never feel the same,
when the dawn
the moment of power
is fleeting. Yet it will come again,
just as the sun and moon
low over the horizon,
it comes. I relish that moment,
when everything is
and I am one
with my source.
Published October 12 on the Ancient Paths
Every year, hundreds of presses nominate poems, short stories, and novel excerpts for the Pushcart Prize. Pushcart Press has been judging and publishing the winning selections in its annual collection, Best of the Small Presses, since 1976. "The Pushcart Prize," writes the editor, "has been a labor of love and independent spirits since its founding. It is one of the last surviving literary co-ops from the 60's." Ancient Paths is pleased to announce the nomination of six poems
Nicholas Samaras was born in England and has lived on the island of Patamos, in Wales, Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia, Jerusalem, and America. As a consequence, he describes himself as writing “from a place of permanent exile.” Nicholas writes, he says, “to rescue” and “to make things more real.” The son of a Greek Orthodox bishop and theologian, Nicholas was awarded the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1991 for his first book of poetry, Hands of the Saddlemaker. I had
This poem previously appeared in Issue 7 (Fall 2001) of Ancient Paths. After the Marvelous Healing
by Walt McDonald Luke 5:25 His fists shook, his bent legs bound
with cloth, hemp ropes around
both bandaged feet – a local cripple
begging kept alive. And now this simple
insult like a threat, a twisted joke
Take up your bed and walk,
blasphemy like a whip
on the poor man’s back. Here,
we scolded to save him
from blind faith worse than stripes. Years later, stiff and fe
This poem was the third-place winner in Ancient Paths literary magazine’s “Poems for Books” Contest. Sister
by Marion Rosser I want to be Mary, sitting enthralled at the feet
of the Master,
absorbing the words
of wisdom and love --
I am Martha,
grumbling in the kitchen.
I know well that
with the perfumed feet
will need some supper
and a place to sleep. #AncientPathsarchive #AncientPathspoems #contest
This poem was the first-place winner in Ancient Paths literary magazine’s “Poem for Books Contest.” Beautiful Beloved
by Linda Lee McDonald Beautiful beloved, when I first met you,
my back was wedged against a closet door
trying to keep the monsters inside and in my hand, for luck, was a penny.
I thought it was a dollar
or a thousand dollars
or all of the dollars I would ever need
in my whole expensive life. But,
it was really just a penny. A green penny --
only a v
This poem was first published in Issue 15 (2009) of Ancient Paths literary magazine. The Last Breakfast by Anne Sheldon The black spine of the dory barely wavers against the red east.
He can count his seven friends —
Nathanael’s skinny elbows at an angle
with the lifted oars;
Peter poised to dive into the net;
and John — pointing at the sky as if
to rhapsodize the bloody dawn. It’s cold. The pebbles hurt his feet.
He’ll miss his feet
and miss their hurting, too,
This poem was first published in Issue 14 (2007) of Ancient Paths literary magazine. Blessings
by Taylor Graham Last night the horses stood
huddled under the great black oak,
their breath steaming, each nostril
a damp hibiscus opening in the dark.
Now through the window, I see
that same oak shivering
black-trunked in the not-quite dawn. And now, the sun comes
shimmering through the branches.
Even the stoutest, oldest
tree flings wide its light-
struck leaves, i
This poem was first published in Issue 14 (2007) of Ancient Paths literary magazine and is now part of the archives. A Guide for the Perplexed by Fredrick Zydek When you can't trust logic or the art of memory,
it's time to step past meditation and move into
the condition of faith. You must make choices
even if fear oozes from every pore and the path winds uphill all the way. The problem of pain must be ignored and the circles of sorrow, which
seem to emanate from the bo