Few Hearts Like Theirs

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Few hearts like theirs

Few hearts like theirs


2021, Knara Agasaryan; Elin Babcock; Magdalena Brzezinska; Carmen Camilleri; Renske Carbone; Robin Cox; Dmitriy Finozhenok; Jim Fleckenstein; Judith Gutlerner; Aki Halme; Rob Howard; Yulia Ivanova; Joel Kahn; Anthony Kolasny; Agneta M Lindh; Sole Afra Martinez; Gudny Sigridur Olafsdottir; Renske Oort; Ola Porebska; Deisy Rey; Marjorie Rosenberg; Sonia Roychowdhury; Peter Sansom; Maria Laura Scasso; Cathy Silk; Arevhat Simonyants; William Strnad III; Michal Teague; Margaret Teusner; Rania Tulba; Samar Tulba; Dąbrówka Ujec; Natasha Vanderlinden; Simona Vasilace; Mieke van Os; Robert Wachman; Cynthia Willett No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. The title of the volume was inspired by Robert Burns’ Epitaph on my own Friend.


Cover Art: Gudny Sigridur Olafsdottir

Poznan, Poland

12. 11. 2021


Over the last year and a half, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic reminded me of the importance of friendship. Separation, isolation, and distance from others at times produced the peculiar dull longing that comes with absence and the loss of meaningful connection. There are those with whom I could not share moments in person and my world seemed less alive without such contact. Electronic media has offered respite, but it often was unfulfilling as my friends were somehow more sentient in the ethereal realm of memory and imagination. The salutary revelation was the value of something I had not sufficiently calculated before. During this time, we all may have yearned for companions with whom we can share the heart-mind. I could not have estimated what I would so miss: the chords of a familiar and affectionate voice, a known glance that understands the vulnerable places within, and the touch of a hand that demonstrates the human birthright of social ritual. This volume celebrates friends and friendship.

William Strnad III

Sole Afra Martinez, Argentina

Faraway Star The world became an archipelago With barbed wire on every shore I see problems grow and overflow In profit and fear and hate… is love gone Guns in most hands, fear on every face I miss my friend, and feel out of place The world became a dark night sky You’re my brightest star, my faraway friend When we reunite, we shine so bright Soft starlight heart wounds will tend People smile and watch as we link hands But they do not see, nor understand The world became a swirl of chaos With changing rules and hidden truth Blindly rushing to what may pass Fate’s winds no longer smooth Star, you are my hope and guiding light I build a bridge to find you, and write The world became scarlet ground We salt the soil with despaired tears Yet in darkest times, what most astounds We still help, we care, we volunteer You’re my strength and heart, my friend so far I love you today and always, my Star

Aki Halme, Finland

Digital artwork: Sonia Roychowdhury, India

Dedicated to my mother,daughter, daughter-in-law & granddaughter

A pure selfless love of a mother, A bond beyond any other. When in your womb, I was formed. A lifetime of love, was surely confirmed. Your love was absolute and pure. for this cute baby girl, for sure. Looking after me, you hardly slept. When I got hurt, you're the one who wept. Your heart was filled, with warm maternal love. To you I was always, your little angel dove. Childhood memories, of days past. Growing up with you, was such a blast. As I grew up, We spoke all day long. Our bond together, became all the more strong. When things went wrong, you were there to protect. Giving the right advice, which I wouldn't regret. A friendship so pure and sublime, which will remain forever, Oh, mother of mine.

Sonia Roychowdhury, India

I am amazed At my new found Treasure. Just the outside Is remarkable Strong Weathered. It has been Through a lot. Inside Treasures Pleasures Items I know Items unknown Exotic From another culture Another age Younger Fresher Yet it holds Immense possibilities I confess And profess And bless The day I found You.

Poetry and art: Elin Babcock, USA

Rania Tulba, Egypt

It's always like this: I'm in my bed, browsing Facebook before sleep, when I come across a picture of my friend. His eyes are naïve and exhausted and tender and almost shy, with a strong hint of humour and boyish devilishness. 'He's calling', I say to myself. 'Coming', I say. He lost the ability to speak four years ago, but this has never been a problem. He has always preferred writing to talking. Me, too. People who know us often say that we are similar in many other ways. He is fiftysomething and I am 41 and we still talk about all sorts of crazy stuff, but it hasn't always been like that. When we first met in 1992 and he talked about the 'undead', I found him too childish and never thought we may become friends. I guess I was scared, too. As I grew up, I realized that zombies are the last thing to be afraid of in this world, so we (I and he, not I and zombies of course) started a friendship. Since 2010, he has told me dozens of stories which many believe to be rubbish. They are also repelled by his sense of humour, which tends to be dark sometimes, and think he is a know-it-all. He actually can't help it. He really knows something about everything, and has always had a teacher-like attitude. As for dark humour, he has always been obsessed with the idea of death, and I daresay that with him death does not sound that scary. When someone dies of a vampire bite amid hilarious discussions of marital problems or red tape, for example, death is no longer taken that seriously. My friend always makes fun of people who take themselves too seriously, and of the pompous, and of the mundane, and of himself, too, but this he does with the kind of sympathy which only the mellow can have. A 500-word text is too 'telegraphic' for my purposes, so, to cut a long story short, I never met my friend, and he never knew about me, for he is a writer and I am a reader. He is neither Dickens nor Naguib Mahfouz. As he wrote thrillers, you cannot expect to see his name in an encyclopedia of world literature, so I'll tell you his name; he is Ahmed Khaled Towfik, who managed to distill Egyptian life, with all its richness, into his books. He died in 2018, but still lives to me and to all his readers, most of whom are either teenagers infatuated with blood and gore or nostalgic adults who first loved him as teenagers infatuated with love and gore. I am neither this nor that, and I like to think that this makes me special.

Samar Tulba, Egypt

Gudny Sigridur Olafsdottir, Iceland

Lost Companions and the Proxemics of Death I knew it was you. The patchouli you wear arrived before you did. Please, sit here in the chair between the fireplace and the stained-glass window. The pine and birch kindling have disappeared to ash, but the oak is still burning. Autumn is a lonely season in this house, and I do appreciate the company. It’s been weeks since the funeral. A heaviness fills this room. There’s a story I want to tell you and I think it may help. You remember the summer of my bypass surgery four years ago. It’s sobering when you are told that you could die. Well, I woke up from the operation, thinking of food, and I knew I would be fine. My post-op recovery was rapid that fall. In any case, during that time I had what I believe were two paranormal encounters. One October morning, while on a walk, a woman I’d known in high school came into my thought, despite our not having had contact for years. When I googled her I discovered that she had died in September, the month before. Weeks later, on a November afternoon, while standing beside a lake near the convalescent center, a man I’d befriended in childhood appeared in my mind. Remembering the experience a month earlier I googled him, and yes, he too had passed away a month prior, in October. Both encounters were striking in the stark clarity of the sensory detail: she came with the smell of sweet earth, a warm, crimson-brown odor, dark eyes pressing beyond her face, reticence in her walk and a laugh that was like crying; he came with the feint blue fragrance of rain, white teeth shining beneath his large nose, square hands gesturing, and a youthful voice, tenuous and child-like. Given my inclination to consider pagan metaphysics and Abrahamic theologies, I entertain the notion that our bonds with those close to us in life continue after death’s separation. This could be useful in negotiating the grieving process. These two old friends, as I see it, were my time companions: we were all born in the same year, she was born a day before me, and he a day after me. Perhaps we were tied together in some rhythmic pulse of spirit. I remain ignorant as usual, but I confess that I long to understand the elegant intricacies of this signpost theater, to gain insight into the holiness and mechanics of being and the transcendence of our consciousness beyond the temporal. Before you depart today, I’ll take you to a spatial outpost where I often go to hear and count my heartbeats and speak in the truest voice ringing inside my head. There, bordered by the sawmill road and swamp, tulip poplars, red maples and sweetgum trees have gathered over the generations. An adjacent stand of oaks is where the Chuck-will’s-widow sings after sunset in summer. The fall foliage is beautiful this year. We’ll walk until the sun disappears. The funeral was sad, and their weeping touched you. I will watch over your children as I promised. I do know you well: the ghost of a smile you give to dogs and handsome women, the dim labor of your arithmetic motion, and the soft way you whisper words in soliloquy. You and I, we both have things to do. You, you are loved. Please, leave me slowly. Slowly.

William Strnad, USA/ Poland

Red Curve, oil and acrylic paint on wood, 25 cm x 25 cm, 2021

Peter Sansom, The Netherlands .

on blurred horizons in the calm ease of like-minds does our friend-ship sail

Cathy Silk, The Netherlands

Kora 2019 For no good reason I have been having pervasive thoughts of cancer for a while now. In my daily walks with Kora (my English Toy Terrier) I mull over the scenarios. I realise that the most frightening aspect of it is chemotherapy and radiation. I come to conclusion, that if I was ever to get it, I would want a surgery, but nothing else. January-February 2020 The world is very chaotic with the new virus. We start working from home as a default and stop seeing people other than family. If it wasn’t for the dog, I would not leave the house. I discovered a lump in my breast and went to see my family doctor. He immediately sent me for tests. These are very invasive and painful. I am keeping it secret from the world, no one notices, apart from my brief absences from work. Kora greets me enthusiastically, jumping and writhing when I return all sore and sad. We settle on the couch, she sniffs deeply at the new smells I am bringing home. She curls up on my lap and sighs with content, happy to have me back. I get a backchannel intel, the health services are about to go into emergency mode, only Covid-related testing will be performed in preparation for the surge in cases in hospitals. I go to see the breast surgeon and get the Ductal Carcinoma in Situ diagnosis. I need a surgery. The threat of Covid crippling the hospitals exerts enormous pressure on the decision process. We rush through final tests and bring forward the surgery. World keeps changing, closing more and more, I feel I have no time to stop and take in what is happening with me. March 2020 I am in hospital, recovering from the surgery. No one can visit me, new rules disallow it, also we are all a bit paranoid about the Covid. My nurses give me extra love, because I am alone. My husband calls me daily and shows me the home life through video: what the children are doing, dogs frolicking bring the rare smile to my face. Kora is missing me and tries to snuggle with her big brother German Shepherd. April-October 2020 I am in and out of the hospital with further four surgeries due to complications. Kora spends every moment when I am home at my side, very careful of the drains and wounds. Examining the changes, watching my face, her little black eyes always on me. November till now I am slowly recovering. I felt cooped up at home, starting to take Kora for short walks, even when I don’t feel like it. She is always eager for a walk, cuddle or a ball game. My little friend.

Ola Porebska, Poland/ Australia

My friend My friend comes to my garden I feed it every day. It then gives me a melody it makes up every day by singing a heartfelt song for my ears to enjoy. And in return, I praise it, This happens day aft’ day, because We’re such good friends you see, my little feathery friend and me. It is so very faithful And I trust it totally you see as I share my innermost secrets while it sings back to me. I give it my leftovers in the blue recycled pot That little ceramic teapot which heard so many things being whispered between my dear old granny and me, Who, I’m sure, is lookin’ over us from heaven, up above as she flies high like an eagle up up into the sky. 15/05/2021

Poetry and art: Carmen Camilleri, Malta

Yulia Ivanova, Russia

The Gift A blessing gift I have received A blessing gift to care I asked for an answer during the darkness And my faith raised a friend. Like a mysterious rainbow My friend appears To teach me, to help me, to care Pure light Pure joy Pure trust. My gift is you And you my friend, My helping hand, Showed me that a friend Is a true gift Deisy Rey, Venezuela

Renske Carbone, The Netherlands/Australia

Welcome! Would you like tea? Having tea together is always a good way to connect, have a chat and a laugh, find some comfort, or just relax. It is offered by the tea itself and of course by the person that you are having the tea with. I noticed that in literature, too, having a tea with someone is a peaceful moment. After a rough day, husband and wife look at each other and say: “Now, let’s have a tea, that will help.” Pay attention to it and you will see these examples too. Another thing I noticed is that welcome signs and messages are often quite funny. One of them was in a airplane museum where we had to decode a morse code message. It said: “Welcome, did you like it?” Especially the contradiction between a starter and an end reflection within one sentence intrigued me. I shared these observations with my daughter, and she found another great example in a text that one of her classmates wrote: “Welcome! Would you like tea?” It became our little inside joke. Don’t give the visitor time to take the coat off, don’t offer a seat, don’t ask how he or she is, go straight to the core: the tea! Thinking about my best friend, this sentence fits perfectly with our friendship. She always, always, always makes me feel welcome, no matter what. Not just for a tea, but to stay for days. I would come with a baby, with a baby and a toddler, with a baby and two toddlers, with three children growing up, with three teenagers, with three adult children. I would come when they lived small, when she was about to break up with her boyfriend, when she had broken up with her boyfriend, when they were back together, when they got children themselves. When they were in the middle of a big renovation of the house, when she had to take care of an aunt and other family members, when she was working from home. Many times, I asked whether she was sure and whether her husband was fine with it too, and every time the answer was: Yes, always welcome. It also happened that I felt I couldn’t really ask, and suggested to book a place to stay instead, and she would not accept it. And when we are there, what do we do? Nothing special, just the daily routine, and in the evening, we have a tea together. We live far apart, and what I miss most from my home country, is just that. My friend and me, having a tea. Always welcome! Would you like tea?

Renske Oort, the Netherlands/ Germany

Abir Lal Alone in a very foreign village 22 years of age Many locals gathered to watch me in silence An oddity, a creature from a distant world Feeling so uncomfortable On display Worlds light years apart No apparent way To bridge the chasm Between experience and lives so different Then one evening Abir Lal A farmer and neighbor Came to talk To ask about my world To answer my questions about his We drank tea And talked and thought He patiently waited While I searched In my Nepali-English/English-Nepali dictionary To try to understand And form my response The next evening He came again And again, and again Abir Lal was a comfort An ally A bridge A Friend Poetry and art: Robert Wachman, USA

Gudny Sigridur Olafsdottir, Iceland

A Mentor’s Dream Some years ago, I was asked what I would say to a young person by way of encouraging them to become the best they could be. I wrote ‘A Mentor’s Dream’. My dream for you is that you will wake up each morning, look at yourself in the mirror, love from the heart the person you see, always strive to be your unique self and take a positive attitude into every day. My dream for you is that you will build your life on strong foundations so that you will be able to withstand the inevitable storms of life and remain a positive person. My dream for you is that you will dare to dream big dreams, set realistic, achievable and measurable goals, fail sometimes, but remain determined to conquer adversity and to discover, develop and use your special gifts and talents to bring about a better community, a more caring society, a more compassionate world. My dream for you is that you will often take time out to reflect on your progress, to visualise yourself ten years from now as a happy, proud, yet humble person, content with life, continually placing the interests of others before your own. My dream for you is that you will discover the meaning of true love; that you will sensibly risk entering into positive and meaningful relationships with others and that your life will be wonderfully enriched as a consequence. My dream for you is that you will remember that you are a beautiful person both on the inside and the outside; that you have potential greatness within you and that, as you leave your footprints on the sands of life’s journey, many will walk positively after you, striving to emulate all that you achieve as a positive person of influence. My dream for you is that you will continually remind yourself that you are a very special person in God’s eyes and that you will discover, during your life’s journey, His unique purpose for placing you on this planet. My dream for you is everything that you can positively wish for yourself!

Robin Cox, New Zealand

Marjorie Rosenberg, USA/Austria

A Friend What is a friend? Is it someone who listens to you without complaining or offering criticism? Is it someone who is there for you when you need them? Is it someone you call when you just feel like chatting? Is it someone who understands you? Is it someone who makes you laugh? Is it someone you feel good being with? For me, a friend is all of the above but also someone who I spend time helping, encouraging, learning from, and simply feeling comfortable with. On top of all that, friends seem to meet different needs in our lives and eras of our lives. We may have friends that we were close with when we were at school or university but we’ve grown apart. There were friends we had when we moved to a new city but we don’t see them any longer. We may have had friends we shared interests with until our interests changed. We have friends we talk about work with, friends we talk about personal feelings with and those we chat with about current events going on in the world. Does any of this matter? The pandemic has got so many of us thinking about friendship and what it means and how to continue being a friend in these strange and isolating times. For me, I look at a map of the world and see in my mind’s eye the friends I have who live in the different places. Sometimes, I get to spend more time with them, other times (like now) our contact is through email or online chats. But as soon as we connect, we feel like we can pick up where we last left off. Lots of things may have changed, we’ve all been through events which have uprooted us, our routines have changed completely but those friendships have survived and in many cases the bonds have strengthened. Friends are also people we choose to spend time with; the absence of obligation and the idea of a friendship being a two-way street are what keep friendships alive. What has become more apparent due to the pandemic is the importance of friendship. Being able to take part in online chats, keeping up through email and through social media have contributed to its cultivation when we are all separated and far apart and, in many cases, unable to meet face-to-face. In thinking about this topic, I am grateful for my friends, some I have known for over 50 years, others I met much more recently. But each new and old friend brings something to my life that is special and is something I know that I never want to be without. Marjorie Rosenberg, USA/Austria

Simona Vasilache, Romania/ Japan

My Shrinking World They say the world is shrinking Which really got me thinking The smaller we are getting The more we are forgetting The people that are right next door

Close family moving far away Technology improving every day The tools to keep in touch Have become way too much Than the closeness that we felt before

Zooming here and zooming there Teams and meetups in the air Superficial and false likes Broken cameras and muted mics Is this what the future has in store

Text me back, give me a holler No time for talking with a caller Sad, but true, no time for each other My world is shrinking, what a mother

Rob Howard, USA/Poland

Gudny Sigridur Olafsdottir, Iceland

The hand that saves the wreck A heart beats pound pound LOUD LOUD THUMP THUMP help it whispers HELP… Dark A pit A hole A tunnel Light A hand stretches reach out it murmurs reach out… A lock clicks open help help DARK reach out… LIGHT the hand that saves the wreck. A friend. September 2021 María Laura Scasso, Argentina

Yulia Ivanova, Russia

I had a friend. From a quick talk in the social network till the feeling that this person is one of the close ones I made a long way. Not as long as years and years, but more the way of actions, meetings, thoughts, doubts, situations... I had a friend. I had support and help, smiles and laughs, knowledge and inspiration. I had a friend, but I started losing him. New friends, new interests, new values... rare meetings, rare calls, rare messages. Still help when required, still advices when asked. I didn't need an ambulance, I needed a friend. Different talks, strange talks, difficult talks. No need in my help, my opinion, my company. Friendship can't be unrequited, can it? No help as not asked. No meeting as not offered. No interest. No interest. Other people near me in the dark times. No friend, no that friend. In the black hole his absence is especially painful. Just a message. Just nothing. I had a friend. I prefer to have a friend. No past times. I will always help, support, meet, talk... if he asks. I prefer to have a friend. Without proof of friendship. Without list and words. Just my inner perception. No choice, no options. I have a friend.

Knara Agasaryan, Uzbekistan

Natasha Vanderlinden, USA

Cynthia Willett, Dream, mixed media, 9cm x 9cm x 15cm, 2021

I dreamt vividly. The space between us dissolved. Then he disappeared.

Cynthia Willett, USA

Haikus a gap in the hedge blue eyes, blond hair, and a smile I spy my first friend

the spirit of Zorro and his loyal musketeers childhood amigos

evening bus home I take a different route heart thumping, I enter

at the funeral unafraid, you hold my gaze a true compadre

when feeling alone, text message invitation included again

for what matters most a hierophant for the cause I’ll never give up

Poetry and art: Margot Teusner, Australia

Utopia-Dystopia, 2021, oil painting (water mixable oils) 80 cm b x 120 cm h x 0,1 cm d, 24 panels, one of a kind

A golden thread There are those moments when a door opens and your life enters into the light. You drive on a highway without a radar, you float in weightlessness, Your choices become clear. Answers come instead of questions; fear gives way to love. The moments when something in you is unlocked. A look, the eyes in the now. An encounter, the arms around life. The right time. The right person. Like a foundling on your doorstep: you, she, he. A friend for life. Down becomes up and everything is right. You say goodbye to your friend, carefree, fleetingly, casually: "Was nice", "Good night", "I love you too", Quirk of fate, because sometimes you can't know: the comma turns out to be a closing character. Friend so dear to me, I miss you. Friend for life, how would you talk, look, laugh, sing, be now? What an honor that you taught me to really be myself, to act, even outside the lines. Because of you, I love myself, everyone, everything around me more than I would without you. Even though I can't help but let go of you, I'll always hold you. In my head, in my heart, in a hundred memories. Close to, you do stay. Somebody like you can't go you will always be a part of me. In me you are close, in me you remain a friend for life. Poetry and art: Mieke van Os, The Netherlands

blurry encounters distorted / talking over / digitally distanced lacking touch / warmth / shared meals fumbling unfamiliar technologies screen fatigue / muted / untethered lifelines bulge through cling film

demanding cats airily aim bottoms at the camera an intimate view of domesticity what kind of a friend am I at least this synchronous cacophony previous generations bridged distance in sporadic letters shipped travellers so brave

Poetry and art: Michal Teague, Hanoi, Vietnam

Joel Kahn, USA

An Unusual Friendship Not everyone likes my friend, It’s a friendship I need to defend. She can be difficult to be around For too long, so I found. Sometimes I wish she could go away, She’s annoying, I don’t want her to stay. She makes me uncomfortable after a while, She never lets you see a smile. There are times I’d rather be alone, But I don’t want to leave her home. She is with me almost always, Wherever I go, nights and days. People notice her and not me, She is most outstanding to see. I have learned not to mind, After all, she is most kind, Always wanting me to feel good, Protecting me from all she could. She’s a comfort to be near, Helping me feel life without fear, Enabling me to be in crowded spaces, And navigate many busy places, Because she’ll accompany me there, Her presence shows the world we care. So who is she? Dare you ask? She is my KN95 mask. Judy Gutlerner, USA

School bags, 2020, Yulia Ivanova, Russia

Book tips We arrived at Zaslonovo in early September. Belarus greeted us with long rains, but I was much more interested in the beginning of the school year. “New school - new friends. Any sort of them,” my parents told me. I so wanted to believe it that I did not postpone the search. A boy carrying his girl's school bag - this is what ideal school intergender relations looked like in children's books and magazines. Therefore, on the very first day, on the way home, catching up with my classmate Lena, the first one in my list of candidates for friends, I offered to help her carry her knapsack. She looked at me surprised: "Nobody has been doing it for years," but she agreed. A minute later, several girls from my new class caught up with us. And each of them demanded my attention: - We are also on the way. - We also have heavy school bags. - Oh, noble knight, help us. - Please, new boy! I went, hung with knapsacks and bags like a Christmas tree with garlands, and thought that I managed to find the most stupid way to make friends. Could I believe in books after that?

Dmitriy Finozhenok, Russia

Friendship What does friendship mean to you? Care, love and tender feelings. It's the only time when points of view Come together between human beings. When do you believe it starts? If you meet such people who deserve it. Then two friends can't be apart And their friendship only serves it. Where do you suppose you see the end? In betrayal, mistakes, lies and fear. If they envy, just remember: friend Shouldn't have such attitude, it's clear. What is friendship? How to understand If it's real or just simple words, illusion. Don't forget that real friendship never ends, It survives all storms when it's the souls’ fusion! 19. 09. 2021

Poetry and art: Arevhat Simonyants, Uzbekistan

Whose car is this? My first job, after graduating from college, was working for a large government organization. Their campus was surrounded by a huge parking lot for all the commuters. It was a very serious place filled with engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians and specialized white-collar professionals. During the first several weeks in the office, I was getting oriented to people and places. I always arrived to work in a crisp white ironed shirt, tie, cuffed dress slacks and always polished shoes. Some thought I had a military background. As I left work, I noticed a very unusual car covered with bumper stickers. It stood out like a sore thumb when compared to all the sensible conservative and nondescript cars. Day after day, I'd pass it in the huge parking lot. I would muse about the owner. Who could drive such a car? What goes through their mind? Why all the bumper stickers? Some are even homemade. The bumper stickers even covered the sides and hood of the car.

The office space was a series of desks in a long row. We were grouped by teams of four on similar projects. During one of the conversations with a coworker, I mentioned the car in the parking lot and my puzzlement. Who would drive something like that? My coworker smiled and pointed down the aisle to a fellow programmer busy at work.

No one is able to predict the future. A friendship is a mysterious process. There is no formula. There is no predictor. We never know who will witness much of our life until decades pass and there is this person sharing moments along the way. I would have never guessed that the guy that drove that car would babysit my very young children in diapers, attend birthday parties, special events, have visits till the late late night chatting about life. He would witness the ups and downs and the unexplained times in one's life. Who would have guessed, but that's how it started, by trying to figure out the guy who drove that car covered in bumper stickers.

The story and art: Anthony Kolasny, USA .

Safely among Friends

Enduring Friendships Each day I get older, I know that it’s real My body now feels colder, Odd little pains are revealed Aging changes the landscape, Of the people all around Like an old piece of scotch tape, I’ve lost endless close bonds Losing friends is universal, As seasons pass once sacrosanct Memories fading from my recall, Old familiar names draw a blank I’ve come to the conclusion, That I must take some control Time and money provide no substitution, For the closeness and love of a friendly old soul The time is now to find confidants long cast, Reconnecting with cousins, neighbors and classmates I believe that my network is really quite vast, Renewing a closeness with all I eagerly await Having so recently moved, To a new place near the sea Nature itself has further proved, To be an unexpectedly close friend to me Yet getting out and about, To find new friends is essential Building upon these connections so devout, In the hope that they last a lifetime quintessential My true friends are friends for the whole of a lifetime, Those are the links that can never be replaced For they are connections so pure and sublime, Full of laughter, full of passion, they all radiate grace Poetry and art: Jim Fleckenstein, USA

Two trees are standing on a hill. One is leaning to the east; the other is reaching for the sky. The pair is the portal, and I'm on a pilgrimage to the Labyrinth at the end of the ridge left by the last Ice Age. As I follow the path, I pass a Bronze Age grave field laid in a circle. Then suddenly I see a stone with a scar. It's cracked bang in the middle into three pieces; cracked like by fire. Or lightning.

cracked, broken – time is turned by the touch of green new spring in my step I walk in the footsteps of the Vikings, and my middle name is Siw. On this quest, a burden, and opportunity both. In my leather purse, I collect boons; I collect the power of spring, I collect the dried thorns of yesteryear, of eons, of pebbles in the ice. The birch, the first tree, is growing on the slopes of the ridge by the trail. Slender and tall, they stand together, group together – they are a cluster of white. The silver bark is as soft as silk. As thin as paper, as transparent as time.

colonnade of birch family in space and time you empower me I walk alone, and I walk with you. My senses direct my feet. Little suns in the grass, Tussilago farfara, a fanfare to you! I know why we meet – my purse is both heavy and light. And there, the Labyrinth is now before my eyes. I climb the stairs – I walk the circles – I stand in the middle. Hail friends, family in time! I lay my burdens and boons down, and I offer my pilgrimage fare. Let us share an apple, let us drink from the same vessel. A horse neighing is my call. I go on.

black stallion calls healed is my past, my future Kinship is my name

Art & poetry: Agneta M Lindh, Sweden

Dear Charon, my fiercy-eyed ferryman. Thank you for your message informing me that Steven the Soulmate, reached the other side of the river safely. That's so reassuring to hear! And yes, I know the obolus lost a lot of its value due to the inflation of the last two years. Therefore, I have tried to double your costs, so our deal could still stand irrevocably. And no, I won't tell anyone Steven will return in the body of another soul. I think it's pretty obvious you don't want to spread the word and put Steven being equal to Heracles or Odysseus. And I know you do me an enormous favour preparing Mark to carry out Steven's duties to become my new soulmate. You know I'm grateful and will never forget you this warm gesture. So, let me know whether you need any assistance from me with this case. Ah, and let me know if Mark got informed properly about his new tasks: you know he'll need to fulfil them till the end of his or mine lives. Last but not least: how is Cerberus? Have you visited a vet with him lately? You mentioned his teeth got yellowing and it looked as if they needed a good clean. Give him a hug from me, even if I know you're not a cuddly type ;). Enough for now: the Soulmate is dead, long live the new one! Dear Charon, once again many thanks and don't forget to write, please. Warmest regards, Moira

Art & poetry: Dąbrówka Ujec, Poland/ The Netherlands

I’m only friends with you As I don’t have a choice I despise Your wrinkles Your blurry vision Your vascular spiders Your crooked right-hand pinky I hate How You think You’re always right But You’re never enough I refuse To understand Why A mundane creature Like you And the sublime I Were born as one

Poetry and art: Magdalena Brzezinska, Poland

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