Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Halcyon Days Issue 4 - 2016 Contributors 4 5 6 8 8 9 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Steve Ausherman Quieted by Falling Flakes Kersten Christianson December 30th | Tonight Clint Wastling The Winter Gift Carol Oberg A Silent Winter Night Charles Albert Christmas Eve Barry Carter Hull Snow Globe Linda Miller Snow Days Ann Howells Christmas Snow Globe | Ping Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi December | Starry Nights Sharon Frame Gay Dog Days of Autumn Janet Mccann On Monday | Haiku Joan McNerney Twelve Steps to Winter Laurie Lambert Praise to a Winter Morning | Sotted R. Gerry Fabian Nature’s Pruning | Autumn’s End | A Gift Giving Guide
20 20 21 24 25 25 26 27 28 28 29 30 31 31
Jesse Weiner Snow days Anita Leamy (E. A. Francis) Winter Grace Wayne Faust Home for the Holidays Elizabeth Spencer Spragins Falling Stars | Ice Sculptures Leonard Zawadski Winter Tanka Adam Levon Brown Young Snowflake Luisa Kay Reyes The Miracle on our Street Pat Brisson December Darkness Richard King Perkins II Answering Winter Norma West Linder Haiku Pattie Palmer-Baker Winter Rainbow Jeremy Bush A Winter Afternoon Cynthia Gallaher New Years’ Day Roy Adams Nearly Spring in Dawson City
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Halcyon Days Magazine ISSN: 2291-0255 Frequency: Quar ter ly Publisher | Designer: Monique Ber r y
Contact Info http://halcyondaysmagazine.blogspot.ca Twitter: @1websurfer firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dear Readers Welcome to the winter edition of Halcyon Days. I agree with Enya who said, “The spring, summer, is quite a hectic time for people in their lives, but then it comes to autumn, and to winter, and you can't but help think back to the year that was, and then hopefully looking forward to the year that is approaching.” The magazine has shone the spotlight on the writing talent of many new contributors this year with helpful feedback about the look of the magazine and its potential. This issue makes it the biggest issue so far! My heart is full of thanks to the new and returning contributors. With your help, I’ll continue to uplift the souls of many people through words and photos in 2017. Happy halcyon holidays! Monique Berry Halcyon Days, Founding Editor
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
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Quieted by Falling Flakes By Steve Ausherman Neighborhood kids like workers in pizza parlors pound wet snow like thick dough into perfect snowman bellies. The snowman stands bulbous and thick like the holidays, redolent with excesses of red ribbons, cake, and garland. The snowman smiles out over a city quieted by falling flakes. The cloudy sky has gone pink, reflecting the saffron city lights. Blue-speckled Doppler patterns splash the tv screens of the city. A glow of Christmas lights blink off windows clouded by blowing snow. This storm wraps me in its mystery and quiets me down. Reminds me that I still have a playful child lying within. I walk outside and throw a snowball at a tree trunk. Admiring its splat, I rub my shoulder that aches from the effort. I lift a face to the snow and feel its touching crystalline hands. Put out my tongue and taste flakes as If this were my last storm. My falling boots are muffled in the deep snow. My dark tracks that trail behind me are already filling with white. I think about paths I’ve walked and tracks that I’ve worn deeply Which are already filling with the white noise of time. As the snow grows heavier, I quicken my pace. Through the falling snow I glimpse silhouettes of barren trees. My eyelashes hold snowflakes and my jacket is heavy and wet. The night is silent and I am nearing the warm lights of home. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 4
Steve Ausherman is a poet, painter and photographer who lives in New Mexico. Thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry, his work has been included in many publications in the US and abroad. His first poetry chapbook entitled Creek Bed Blue (Encircle Publications) was a finalist for the New Mexico Book Awards and celebrates family heritage, farming and a connection to place. His second chapbook entitled Marking the Bend (Encircle Publications) is an homage to his love of travel and includes poems dedicated to people and landscapes throughout the world. His work is regularly seen in the literary journals The Aurorean, SHEMOM, Bear Creek Haiku, and Cheap Seats. As well, his work has recently been included in numerous poetry book anthologies in the United States. Free time finds him fly fishing, hiking, and exploring the backroads of the American West with his wife Denise.
December 30th By Kersten Christianson While brewing hot cinnamon tea I add this page to my book of Alaskan sunsets. Memories of those in brilliant orange, cast light on Sitka Sound and through the black outline of bare alder branches. Others slide behind misshapen forms of frozen sea ice, indigo and dark wine skies blanket the Bering Sea the profiles of Bruce and the dog against coastline and horizon. I’ve chased the setting sun from Redoubt to Iliamna; from Mile 13 of K-Beach Road to Homer, one cold dwelling to another, for the warm company of sister and friend. What is more important this day than to watch golden sun light its low path across the sky, illuminate the squalls, and add shadows to the wind? While the sun romps between storms and the skies eventually darken, my memories travel with the sun on a vaporous trail of tea. © rmurray7 - stock.adobe.com
Tonight By Kersten Christianson New Year’s Eve in faraway Times Square, overrated, surely, with its crowds standing in a confetti downpour, the cut Waterford crystals reflecting hope for wisdom, kindness, gentler times ahead. Here, the New Year arrives quietly, the wintry waters of Sitka Sound drifting on the ebbing and surging tides under brittle stars and pale light of the near full moon. While a mournful buoy sounds in open sea and the branches of alder and cedar shiver, I light a candle and send it forth - a wish for peace watching it float into the night on twists of wood smoke from nearby homes, catching the tail of the dim aurora borealis.
© GooKingSword | Pixabay.com
Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, high school English-teaching Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon Territory, she lives in Sitka, Alaska with her husband and photographer Bruce Christianson, and daughter Rie. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry through the University of Alaska Anchorage (2016). Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
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The Winter Gift By Clint Wastling “That’s beautiful.” Anna lifted the pendant and gently twisted it to catch the light. “It’s a fire opal. Dave brought it back from his business trip.” “You’re so lucky to have Dave, my ex wouldn’t have known an opal from a piece of plastic.” Rhianna smiled. Anna shivered and wiped the window. Outside the winter trees were dusted with frost which caught the sunlight and glinted. The lawn stretched like an iced cake until broken by hedges of dark hawthorn. Beyond the land rose toward the stone circle. “The Winter Solstice is a magical time. Have you noticed how it always seems to be a cold still day? It’s like the world’s standing still, just for a moment.” “You’re being fanciful again,” Rhianna said and continued sealing envelopes and applying stamps. “It’s supposed to be magical. I was always told the faery folk would grant wishes for jewels on the winter solstice then dance by the light of twinkling stars.” “That sounds as far-fetched as Father Christmas. I don’t believe in leaving things to chance.” “I suppose your approach gets better results than my daydreaming.” Anna spun the mug of coffee round warming her hands. “You should try it. Being calculating can pay dividends.” “Aren’t you having a coffee?” “No, I’ve gone off it. Don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Anna looked around the kitchen festooned with designer decorations, swags of holly and ivy made from silk and porcelain, not like the real thing adorning Anna’s cottage. “Maybe we should swap. You try a little magic and I’ll…” She was going to say ‘and I'll try living in perfection,’ only she ran out of courage. Rhianna studied her friend before shuffling the cards into a neat pile. “Just off to the post box. I’ve left it all last minute this year.” Anna stood up and looked out on the garden. She was reminded of the crystals she’d be using that afternoon, quartz with its milky
sheen and moonstone’s frosted light. Of course it wasn’t just about healing; she provided a moment of calm and that was all most of her patients needed. The door closed again. Rhianna slipped off her Kashmir coat and placed it over the back of a chrome chair. She looked uncomfortable. “Are you alright?” Rhianna nodded. “How about not giving cards to people at the party tonight and donating the money to charity instead?" Anna crossed her fingers. "It would be a chance to do something.” “Charity!” Rhianna’s cheeks had flushed. “Don’t talk to me of the needy at a time like this. It's Christmas and you want to spoil things!” Anna sighed and pushed her hands down in her pockets. “It’s just that, well, what do you do with all the cards? Recycle them? Throw all the sentiments away? Most of the things sent to you end up in the loft.” “That’s what lofts are for Anna. Nobody ever got rich by giving things away. Think about it. Give a homeless person a fiver and they’ll buy cheap booze.” “But..” “Give money abroad and it ends up lining corrupt officials’ pockets.” “But…” “And as for those chuggers, the charities they work for should be closed down!” Anna sighed. “Well I’m not giving out cards to people I’ll see tonight. The money’s going to buy a goat for a family in Africa instead.” “Oh dear, you’ve been scammed again. Who was it this time?” “This chap, Nick—” “Where did you meet him?” “In town, outside of Oxfam.”
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“I knew it; you’ve been listening to men again. No good can come from that!” “Well, he’s got an appointment with me at noon, so I’ll need to leave shortly.” “Dave won’t be back until mid-afternoon, so I’ll have a chance to start organising the party and sort a space for this year’s present in my jewellery box.” “What’re you getting?” Anna wrapped her scarf round her and pulled on her old coat. “I dropped enough hints about the sapphire and diamond set sitting in the jewellers.” “Nice.” Anna remembered seeing her friend point the collection out and she remembered her eyes bulging on seeing the price tag. “You’re still coming to the party tonight aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Don’t bother bringing any vino though. You know how Dave enjoys that bit of shopping.” Anna forced a smile. She thought about much put-upon Dave. She also remembered seeing a bottle of wine like the one she’d taken to last soiree, languishing in the tombola at church. Anna turned and sighed when she contemplated Rhianna’s perfect house where everything matched. The air was chill but it made Anna tingle with inner peace. She ran and skated on the ice before stopping to admire the patterns Jack Frost had made on the hawthorn twigs. A robin cocked its head and flew for cover. She pushed against her garden gate. It needed repairing again. She looked at the cottage. A man was peering through the windows. Anna felt a knot tighten in her stomach. “Can I help?” “Yes!” He stood up quickly and hit his head on a low beam. “I’ve an appointment at twelve.” Anna looked at Nick with his cold grey eyes and hair so blond it might be grey. “I’ve not had crystal therapy before. Anything I need to know?” “It’s just moonstone to calm and smooth the emotions then quartz to activate your energies.” Nick looked around him. “That’s the old stone circle up there. I’d love to see it as the sun goes down on the longest day.” “Be careful what you wish for, this is a magical time of year.” Anna unlocked the door. Anna asked Nick to lie on the chaise longue and placed crystals on his forehead and over his heart. The smell of vanilla, nutmeg and the apple logs burning in the grate relaxed him. Anna did her own brand of yoga whilst the music of Hildegard of Bingen played quietly. Her fingers kneaded pressure points around his temple and shoulders. Afterwards Nick sat in the old armchair by the fire sipping a herbal tea. They talked for ages after the treatment. Anna couldn’t remember a word but the muscles of her cheeks ached from laughing. Nick said, “This is no good.” He looked at his watch. "It’s only an hour until sunset on the shortest day. Let’s wrap up warm and walk up to the stone circle.” “Are you sure?” Anna looked outside. The frost was glistening and ice had reformed round the edges of the window pane.
“Yes.” Nick put on a scarf and coat and buried his hands deep into his pockets. Anna sorted out her attire and joined him on the doorstep. As they set off down the path, Dave jumped down from his 4x4. “Anna, have you seen Rhianna?” “Not since coffee this morning.” Dave looked round. “This is Nick.” The men shook hands. “She was so annoyed when I told her about the jewellery set being sold she slammed the door and ran off. That was over an hour ago. I’m worried.” “Oh Dear! She was so looking forward to the sapphires and diamonds. It was all she could talk about!” Anna wasn’t feeling sympathetic. “Try the pub, we'll look as we walk to the stone circle.” Dave got back in his car. “She’s not been herself these last few days…” The sun was setting behind the hill, casting long shadows of the stones towards them. Their feet crunched through the frosted grass leaving two pairs of prints. Nick took Anna's hand. A white hare darted between the stones, vanishing in and out of a mist subliming between them. There was a tinkling of bells like glass chimes or the call of a distant church. Ahead a pair of ghostly figures danced between the stones. Anna stopped and halted Nick. She felt she shouldn't intrude on the event. The mist rolled away leaving just one figure and revealing a sunset rich in reds and pinks. Anna ran forward. "Rhianna? Rhianna, are you ok?" "Never been better." "Are you sure? You've lost your fire opal." "No, it's there in the setting sun. It was part of the deal." "The deal?" Anna asked perplexed. Rhianna smiled and touched the side of her nose. "It was you who told me…" She changed the subject. "It's beautiful up here, in all the years I've lived here I've never visited. Did you see the hare? I could swear I saw it dancing and heard the chime of tiny bells. Tell me I’m going daft.” “We saw it too, so you weren’t dreaming.” Rhianna took Anna to one side. "Can you keep a secret?" "Not for long." "You'll only have to wait until my Solstice party tonight." "I'm intrigued…" Anna said. "I'm pregnant." Rhianna looked back to make certain Nick hadn't overheard. "Jack Frost told me when I made the deal." Anna smiled. "Next you'll tell me you don't care about your Christmas present from Dave." "I don't or rather it's just not important anymore." Rhianna snuggled up to her friend. "I can't wait to see Dave's face when I tell him!" They both laughed. "And you must come to the party as well!" Rhianna shouted back to Nick. "I might even make a donation, if you treat my friend right!" Rhianna winked and linked arms with Anna, resting her head briefly on her friend's shoulder. "Can you feel the magic in the air?" Anna smiled, maybe this winter really was going to be magical.
Clint Wastling is a writer based in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He’s had poetry published in Gold, Dreamcatcher and Aesthetica as well as in literary magazines in the USA. His first novel, “The Geology of Desire," was published by Stairwell Books. It's a crime novel set in and around Whitby and Hull in the early 1980's and WWII and features an undergraduate geologist as the protagonist and investigator. His fantasy novel "Tyrants Rex" will be published in 2017. He can be contacted via Twitter @Clint0000 or www.clintwastling.webs.com Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
A Silent Winter Night
By Carol Oberg
By Charles Albert
Imagine I am walking down a quiet road on a night before winter grows old. My step is light over a dusting of snow and the air is so breathtaking fresh it clears my mind to the serenity of perfect contentment. I hear church bells ringing softly from a distance as I look over tree tops to find stars in the big open sky. I am stunned by the beauty of God’s creation and touch every emotion to my heart. Then you walk towards me and even from afar I recognize everything about you and I know you have come to share what memories are made of the peace that is found from the clearing of thoughts beauty when it whispers its most profound feelings every gift we have from the heartbeat of love. If you can imagine this, too, then you know how it feels to love you this very moment and forever.
Surviving five long weeks of hype that reached their pinnacle tonight, and not just in the malls and shops, but in the nerves of our three tots who took so long to get to sleep, we've spread the load beneath the tree. The plate of cookies has been left, a sooty footprint on the hearth. It always feels so fleeting, lacking— tomorrow’s flurry of unwrapping, the chocolate binge, the first new quarrel, the newness of each toy, that dwindles. We sit beneath the winking lights, in the transience of these nights, and know, one day, we'll be alone. They’ll soon enough be gone and grown. Like our own folks when we were small, if we give any gift at all, it’s some dim memory of this time: something magic. And sublime.
© Turkkinen | Pixabay.com
Carol Oberg began her writing career with Blue Mountain Arts, Inc., publishing poetry on greeting cards for many years. She was one of three featured poets in Ancient Paths, issue 16 (ten works, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart award). Carol has also published in The Avocet, Burningword, Extract(s), Garbanzo, Harbinger Asylum, Artifact Nouveau, New Plains Review, The Fourth River and others. She and her husband are semi- retired on a small inland lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 8
© lindamayo1 | pixabay.com
Charles Joseph Albert lives in San Jose, California with his wife and three boys, and works in a machine shop. During the wee hours in between, he writes fiction and poetry, which has most recently been published in Caesura, Abstract Jam, and the Literary Hatchet. His website is http://charles0777.wixsite.com/charlesjosephalbert
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Snow Globe By Barry Carter Hull
he cuckoo seemed to come out further than usual, almost touching the moon. One Christmas eve, Joan Fishbone saw a young boy from her living room sitting on the step and invited him in. He wore glasses with one prescription lens and one clear lens and held a snow globe in his left hand. This was Joan’s first Christmas since her husband’s death last month. She was struck by this child whose hands appeared to be older than the rest of him. "What is your name?" she asked. "John," he replied while shaking the snow globe. Inside appeared a tree circled by children, with one boy sitting on the branches. John directed Joan to the window. He caught the full moon in a glass of water which was resting on the table and encouraged her to take a drink. She started to have visions of a perfect world. The darkness appeared to embrace the boy—protecting him—as he slept in a rocking chair. Joan didn't know what to do with the child. That night she dreamt she was the captain of an ark. The sun was coughing out splinters and one of the windows was magnified. Red marks could be seen on the splinters, and children were training wind-horses. It was Christmas morning. Joan could see John in the garden; he was whispering to a horse built from snow. "He was directing the winds to paradise," explained John. Joan was startled. She wished him a merry Christmas and noticed both lenses in his glasses were now clear. "He has arthritis after traveling for hundreds of years," laughed the boy. Joan felt the situation to be both peculiar and normal. John seemed thin as he leaned against his creation. The sun was unusually close—as if it was listening. "I have been talking to the sun. I told him my work here is almost done." He placed Joan's hand on his chest where she could hear thousands of hearts beating. “Can you hear yours?" asked John.
"I think so." "Watch this." The boy planted a seed. A tree grew. Images from history passed by on clouds above. Newborn babies and an American Indian were performing a rain dance. Finally, Joan and John. She could see the clouds reflected in the boy's eyes as if they were the source. "I have to prepare dinner," Joan said embracing him as he settled in a chair rocking silently. She was chopping vegetables when she muttered, "Is my husband still alive?" The chair and the winds stopped moving. "I have a gift for you," shouted the boy. Joan found herself inside the snow globe with her husband. "I've been expecting you. Merry Christmas!" He smiled while getting out from the rocking chair and presenting her with a gift of a heart carved from ice. “This will never melt," he said. Joan dropped it from of shock. "See! It's indestructible!" He laughed. Everything began to shake, and her husband vanished into snowy mists. Joan found herself back in the kitchen with Christmas dinner prepared. In her hands, she held the heart carved from ice. "You will need it for the journey with the wind-horse," John said while pouring a glass of wine. "Have a drink. This is a special vintage given to Buddha and Walt Whitman. The wine of human kindness will nourish the fires that stand for each child contained in your heart of ice." Joan was distracted by a beautiful sphinx-like cat with black fur shaking the snow off outside. She looked across the table. John had vanished. She let the cat in and he sat on her lap. Joan named the cat Snowy. Every year it appears beneath the tree on Christmas eve spending the holiday with Joan until her windhorse arrives. © simonovics - stock.adobe.com
Barry Carter grew up on Hessle Road long after the fishing industry died in the 1970's. Creative writing was his favourite subject at school. He studied for a-levels at Wyke College, and went on to work as a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. He then discovered Walt Whitman and William Butler Yeats. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Snow Days By Linda Miller
© Dan Kosmayer - stock.adobe.com
y the time the blizzard of ‘66 blew through and barreled out to sea, it left behind gifts so spectacular we believed Christmas had returned for a January encore. My younger brother John and I received the best presents imaginable: more than a foot of snow, waist-high drifts and a week off from school. Mother Nature created a vast, white playground with enough snow for an army of snowmen and unending sled runs. John and I, however, must have been extra good during these first weeks of the New Year because the storm gave us one more thing to treasure. We got Dad. Dad taught social studies in the junior high and would be affected by a snow day as much as we were. When I woke up on Monday, I found him in front of the living room stereo, hunched over the radio. This morning his cheerful face wore a serious mask of concern as he battled the ear-splitting bolts of static and buzzing that drowned out the school closing updates. His face was only inches away from the tuning knob as his right hand guided the red line from number to number with surgeon-like pace and precision. Just when he captured the urgent tone of a morning deejay, the hissing and sissing returned to drown out school names when the alphabetical order was coming around to us. Normally, Dad played his Mantovani or Leroy Anderson records to rouse us out of bed on a school day. But when I overheard news and weather reports instead of “The Syncopated Clock,” I knew the predicted blizzard had arrived, making things messy. Excellent news. Mom banged around in the kitchen--Dad called her “the lass with the delicate air”-- pulling out a cup and saucer and her jar of Maxwell House instant coffee. She’d fill the shiny Revere Ware tea kettle full of water and set it on the stovetop to boil. This morning she added extra so Dad could have a big pot of tea after things settled down. “Are we closed?” I asked, rubbing sleep from my eyes. I had thrown back the bedspread and heavy blankets and dashed into the living room. “Haven’t heard it yet,” he answered while trying again to find a stronger signal.
Through the kitchen clatter and blaring radio and softly whistling tea kettle, I picked up the sound of distant snow plows—part heavy motor, part light hearted jangling from the chains slung around their tires. They sounded like the charge of the light brigade, riding to the rescue of children trapped beneath the snow and unable to go to school. Then John appeared. He probably lost sleep thinking about a day off. While I liked school and my life as a sixth grader, he detested most everything about first grade: the reading, the math, the lunchroom food, art, music. “Do we have school?” he cried, his blue eyes beaming with hope. “They’re going through them again,” Dad said excitedly. He’d finally found a station. “Here they go,” . “Emmaus, closed,” the voice droned. I immediately thought of our Uncle Al, who taught high school there. He’s safe. He knows. “Lehighton, closed. Northampton, closed.” Now, we held our breath. Alphabetically, Northern Lehigh should be next. In a second we’d know. “C’mon. C'mon.” John became part football fan, part church goer. Was he praying or cheering, I wondered. “Northern Lehigh, closed.” “No school! NO SCHOOL.” “Mom, I’m going out to play at 9 o’clock,” declared John. Even though it was still dark and still snowing and blowing, he put Mom on notice about his play schedule. She, predictably, had a wetblanket rebuttal ready. “Just wait and see what it’s like outside by then. We’ll see.” No one loved a snow day more than John, but he had to convince Mom, who assumed troll-like severity about outside play after any heavy snowfall. Considering the extreme weather, I knew she’d never let him out. But once he made his pronouncement, he’d chime in with reminders on the half hour and then the quarter hour and then again at five-toten minute intervals. He was Mission Control at Cape Canaveral without a console and headset. “Mom, in two hours I’m going out,” followed by, “Mom, in onehour I’m going out.” A little bit later it would be, “Mom, half an hour.” “No, you’re not going out,” she replied. “Twenty minutes. In 20 minutes I’m going.” “Don’t count on it.” “I’m getting my boots because in 15 minutes I’m going out.” I could hear him rifling through the hall closet, then his dresser drawers. Then he was back inside the closet picking between Dad’s boots and umbrellas and vacuum cleaner attachments to find his pair of heavy galoshes. I sat back watching Hugh Downs host my favorite game show “Concentration,” but I followed the battle of wits and wills. Mom had her hands full today. “Mom, 10 minutes. Where are my gloves?” “OK. I’m almost dressed. Five minutes!” “I’ll be going out in four minutes.” “Mom, did you hear me? Three minutes.” He wore her down. Pure and simple. And then she relented, just to get him out of her hair. “One more minute, Mom.” “Oh, go on then. Do what you want. You will anyway. And be sure you’ve got your scarf.” After her capitulation I’d hear her mutter, “That kid’ll drive you crazy.” It was the one time of year when John outmaneuvered Mom and gained the upper hand. His buoyant persistence crushed her, and I chuckled in admiration as he bounded outside, victorious. I’d follow in a few minutes anyway.
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The snow day also delivered a change in our family dynamic. With Dad at home, we became the “Snowbound Family Roberts.” And our fun with him would begin after the grueling work of poststorm mop up. First we excavated the car which peeked out from beneath massive snow drifts that claimed the entire street. Since we had no garage our blue American Motors Rebel took the brunt of the storm. Only the roof and right side doors were exposed, and the plows tending Kuehner Avenue created even higher piles of snow in front and behind the car. It happened each winter, and I resented the back -breaking work required to liberate our vehicle. “I hate those plows,” I’d complain as I unearthed the front left wheel. “They do this all the time.” “Now, c’mon. These guys have a tough job. Where are they gonna go with it?” reasoned my father, who always found presented the other side of the story. I can’t say Dad made the big dig fun, but he reduced the misery. He’d yell hello to neighbors out shoveling and chat with the snowplow crew about road conditions when they slowed in front of the house. No matter what time of year, most every motorist who passed our house and saw Dad hit the brakes to yell hello or pull over for conversation. Truck Roberts’ quick wit and ability to work in a fast joke branded our house on the corner of Kuehner and Snyder as a site of prime conversational commerce and entertainment. Considering the high school grounds abutted our backyard, cars passed round the clock. And Dad hailed them all: students, former students, parents, athletes, old athletes, janitors, coaches, teachers, sports boosters, the athletic trainer, cafeteria cooks, the potato chip truck delivery man and the bus drivers. Everyone. He could have been mayor. During those post-storm hours, Dad dug along with me and John and kept our spirits high. We grunted and huffed and puffed, but our work here was only the beginning. Later that day we’d head to our grandparents to shovel their front walks and then make our way to Galio’s Market for resupplies of milk and bread and maybe some Tastykake krimpets, the gold standard for commercially prepared baked goods. We didn’t know it, but all the roads in the rural part of our school district drifted shut and would remain impassable for days. We’d miss school the entire week. When radio announcers brought us the news morning after morning, Dad kicked into high gear with some special activities. He and I continued our tradition of doing a snow-day jigsaw puzzle and worked in spurts at the card table we set up in the living room. We’d form the border first, fill in with the colored pieces next, and then attack the monochromatic, drive-you-nuts sky or forest. Both of us liked the 800-piece countryside church picnic scene and stuck with it all week. We left it intact for days just to admire our effort, but John kept asking when he could demolish it. In between puzzle sessions, we watched every decent cartoon available on a school day. Dad was the only adult I knew who liked cartoons and watched them with his kids. While Wylie E. Coyote stalked Roadrunner with sticks of Acme dynamite or Bugs Bunny harassed Elmer Fudd on the first day of hunting season, he’d sit in his rocking chair and roar with laughter at all the explosions and misfires and clever dialogue. John and I laughed harder at anything Dad found funny. If Dad laughed at a line from an episode of the smartly written “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” and John and I didn’t get the joke, he’d explain the subtleties.
“Dad, I don’t get that,” I admitted when Bullwinkle J. Moose was tumbling down the mountainside and the announcer said, “Tune in next time for, ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moose.’” The line tickled Dad, but John and I turned around shaking our heads in confusion. “There’s a saying,” he explained after catching his breath “’A rolling stone gather no moss.’” “Ohhh. OK. Yeah. Got it,” I said. I hated to miss out on a laugh, and I depended on Dad for these tutorials. I could tell he believed it was important for us to pick up the quick lines of comedy. By Thursday Dad sensed cabin fever about to strike, so we finalized plans for a snow day hot dog roast in the woods below our house. Each summer we’d rush down the hill into those cool trees, on our way to the creek for crayfish hunting and water-spider trapping. But in winter, the woods seemed less friendly. First, the snow slowed our pace, and when we looked up we saw bleak winter sky instead of a canopy of treetops. The only sound came from a cardinal perched nearby because the ice and snow muffled the creek’s normal music. I felt strange in this quiet place among the bare trees, but with Dad along I brushed aside my niggling fears and kept high-stepping through the snow. We all carried something. Dad pocketed matches and lugged the big green thermos of hot chocolate, a blanket and some folded-up newspaper. Mom put me in charge of the hot dogs wrapped in aluminum foil, and John pushed ahead through the snow with a plastic bag of rolls. “Hey, this place looks pretty good. Whaddya think?” Dad asked. “Let’s get the sticks,” John urged, eager to get Operation Cookout underway. He always adopted the take-charge, survivor/warrior role when we ventured outdoors. I think it was from watching too much “Combat!” on television. He loved the 60s WWII drama and totally identified with Sgt. Saunders, the Vic Morrow character who rarely smiled. Dad cleared a space for the fire and found downed trees to use for seating. By the time John and I reported back with sticks, Dad had produced a quality campfire. It spit and snapped and popped, and we crouched low, roasting our lunch. When the hot dogs turned brown and blistered we tucked them inside the soft rolls and took ravenous bites. We ate them plain, and John, who consumed no protein without dousing it with ketchup, adapted without complaint. The hot food tasted better outside, I remember thinking, and I liked how the heat filled my mouth and trailed down my throat. We talked a lot, but I don’t recall the content of our fireside chat. I remember, though, how I felt. I tingled, just a little bit, with pure delight. How deliciously unexpected to be here, eating a hot dog in front of a fire with piles of snow all around. Plus, I sat alongside my father and brother at high noon on a weekday, when all of us would have been in a noisy school cafeteria smelling of cabbage and onions. The January freeze bit at our cheeks, but the three of us sat around that campfire with July 4th in our hearts. Those moments of a shared campfire meal remain fixed in my mind, as frozen as the ground beneath my feet that day. As an adult, sometimes when blizzards blow into my life, I remember that walk to the woods and the fire building and stick finding and hot dog roasting and eating out in winter’s cold. Tendrils of smoke and steaming hot chocolate float back through time, and I am rewarded with the sweetest of childhood memories. Anyone can throw a hot dog on the grill in the middle of summer. Standard stuff. No memories there. My favorite family cookout came unexpectedly--in the dead of winter, after the snow came down in buckets, and my Dad and brother and I had a week off from school.
Linda Miller is a freelance writer who's worked as a reporter and writer in the world of newspaper and magazine publishing and college PR. Six years ago she started a new business coaching college-bound seniors write their best application essays. After a summer '16 class called "Writing Your LIfe," she's now focused on memoir. You can reach me at my home email, email@example.com or via Twitter: @lindamiller251 Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Christmas Snow Globe By Ann Howells The winter sky has taken on a sueded look that portends snow; beneath the feeder silent sparrows glean seed from frost-tipped grass. Sarah, pure joy in footed pajamas, head round and bald as a coconut, watches snowflakes large as my palm drift past the window like galleons in full sail. Jack Frost etches panes— creates rococo frames through which we view our own backyard where the last rose spatters blood against the fence, and the world holds its breath waiting . . . © Ewals - stock.adobe.com
Ping By Ann Howells We hear it at night
ping . . . , then a rifle shot that signals ice is breaking. It’s been years since this river last froze like this, Cherryfield to Hell’s Point, skaters crossing shore to shore, ears nipped raw, breath hoary on double wrapped scarves that flap wool-warm shoulders. The moon tugs, heavy tide fractures the frigid surface, planks sized like table tops wrestled onto terra firma, like dinner plates stacked when mama clears supper. Odd how sueded skies predicting snow are warmer, more comforting than this brilliance: spindrift transforms boats and piers to crystal, pines tinkle like windchimes, and the air, piercingly bright, sears exposed fingers, dazzles eyes blind. © tolstnev - stock.adobe.com
Ann Howells’s poetry appears in Borderlands, Spillway, and THEMA among other small press and university journals here and abroad. Her work appears anthologies: Goodbye, Mexico and The Southern Poetry Anthology, V olume V III: Texas (Texas Review Press), also Pushing the Envelope and Texas W eather Anthology (Lamar University Press) as well as anthologies from Mutabilis and Dos Gatos Presses. She has edited Illya’s Honey since 1999, recently going digital (www.IllyasHoney.com) and taking a co-editor. In 2001, Ann was named a “Distinguished Poet of Dallas” by the city. Her publications include: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag, 2007), Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press, 2016), Letters for My Daughter (Flutter Press, 2016), and Cattlemen & Cadillacs, anthology of DFW poets she edited (Dallas Poets Community Press, 2016). Ann served as President of Dallas Poets Community, a 501-c-3, for four years and as Treasurer for many more. She is a frequent judge of poetry and chapbook competitions and has four times been nominated for a Pushcart. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 12
Terzanelle: Starry Night By Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi Jupiter plays catch-up to the shiny Christmas Moon; North Star of Big Dipper glows exceptionally bright; signs this starry night that winter is coming soon. Houses stand illuminated by sparkling holiday lights surrounded in velvet darkness so quick and so cold. North Star of Big Dipper glows exceptionally bright. Events of this holiday season inevitably unfold. Steal a sweet kiss from me under the mistletoe surrounded in velvet darkness so quick and so cold. Point to the sky because you wanted to show how the night sky in winter has beautiful stars; Steal a sweet kiss from me under the mistletoe. It is hard to fathom eternity, or a light year so far. Constellations, you say, are forever in motion, and the night sky in winter has beautiful stars. Celestial heavens are like a giant, spatial ocean, and constellations, you say, are forever in motion. Jupiter plays catch-up to the shiny, Christmas Moon, signs this starry night that winter is coming soon. ÂŠ klagyivik - stock.adobe.com
Haiku: December By Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi Hark! Seasons' Greetings! Sing in the winter solstice! Feel the snowflakes fly! Impromptu meetings year-end time to frame-focus darkest days go by Holiday eating extraordinary hostess shopping on the sly Concert night seating joyful rapture in success full endorphin high mystical treating celebrate the sacredness spiritual ties Family retreating grateful for the happiness hard to say good-bye ÂŠ Jag_ca - stock.adobe.com
Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi lives with her family in St. Louis, Missouri, where she writes articles, literary critiques, poetry and prose. She is a not-forprofit, business, community development, education and leadership development consultant, and she also teaches creative writing to men in a maximum security jail. Shari attained a B.A. in English and Spanish and an M.A. in Spanish from Saint Louis University in Madrid, Spain and St. Louis, Missouri. She has a novel in verse, Poem to Follow, and a book of poetry, Fall Tenderly. Many of her poems have appeared worldwide in multiple poetry anthologies, literary magazines, and most recently in spoken word with LOOPRAT on How Live? CD. Shari considers herself a modern formalist, addressing contemporary issues in poetic verse with a stylized language. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Dog Days of Autumn By Sharon Frame Gay
his is the time of year when all things seem possible. Mornings are
misty, filled with promise, brimming with delightful scents on the breeze. I catch the trace of a female fox, cutting across our creek on the way to her den, a musty smell mixed with mother's milk, quick little prints across the muddy bank, then up into the woods, disappearing like a ghost trail. Scents stay longer on the lower notes near the ground, held in place by dew. I feel frisky, almost like a puppy again. Almost, except that there is something missing. There are times when I still gaze down the road, looking for him. My name is Razz. Short for Razzmatazz, a name my people gave me, when I still had my milk teeth, torn from my mother's teat, carried home in a cardboard box. Those early days with my litter are cloudy in my mind. I belong here, now, to these people, the boy and girl, the woman. My family. And I belong to him, strong and kind, smelling of male sweat, pressed shirts, mints and a bit of tobacco. I am a Golden Retriever. Proud to wave my tail like a flag, proud to serve, to protect. I remember him saying something just like that, when he left that day, duffle flung over his shoulder, tears in his eyes, the long blast from the waiting train down by the station, mournful, foreboding. The woman cried hard and held him for the longest time on our front porch. Then, when he stepped off on to the sidewalk, she threw her arms around me, and cried some more. I was already an older dog, then, but I stood as tall as I could, supporting her weight, head up, stoic, standing for her as long as she needed me. I was there for the children, too. When he left he said, "watch over all of them, Razz," and I did. I don't know where he went, but a lot of the men around here went with him. I kept hearing some words over and over again that sound like "Dubbya dubbya two" and strange names like Italy, Germany, France. Letters tumbled through the slot in our front door, smelling foreign, exotic, inviting. They crackled under my nose, and I was tempted to rip them up and eat them but I know the woman wanted them, waited for them, and somewhere, deep under the envelope, beneath the ink, I smelled him. I wagged my tail and looked out the window for him. I whined ,scratched at the floor, until the children called me away. "Come Razz, come play fetch," and we raced out the door and into the alley, tearing down the pathways after an old tennis ball that had seen better days. The seasons went by, but I never forgot him. I missed him, wanted to play with him, feel his strong arms around me, around the woman, the little boy and girl. I have now taken it upon myself to raise the children. Patient and kind, I sleep beside them on the bed, licking their faces and cuddling up so they stay warm during the cool nights. I growl at the post man, the delivery man, anybody who enters the yard and walks to our front door. It's my duty, and I take it seriously. I am the man of the house now, me, old Razz, and I am keeping it safe. One day I growled at a young man on a bicycle as he pedaled up to our garden gate. He smelled of sadness and stress, office buildings and the oil of old typewriters. "Down boy," he said to me, reaching into his bag and pulling out a yellow piece of paper. "There's a good dog now," he murmured as he sidled past me. I sensed no danger on him, and allowed him to pass, walk up the stairs, knock on the door, speak to the woman. "Telegram," he said gently, and the woman fell to her knees, keening, reaching for the door jamb. My hackles went up as I stalked up the steps, bristling. What was this person doing to her? She was crying, reaching for me. "Oh Razz, he's gone missing! Missing in action"! I don't know what that meant, but I know that her heart was beating hard as she wrapped her arms around my neck. The young man backed down from the steps, away from us, and I set to barking ferociously at him - "get off my property," I howled in outrage. "Leave my people alone". Then I turned back towards her, and the children, as the whole world seemed to grow dim. Something happened. I didn't understand. Where was he? I need him here to help. I need him to hold us all. Then, I set my tail, held up my head, and got back to the business of raising this family. Just me. Just good old Razz.
Time went by and with it the seasons. The children and I spent many lazy summer days in the creek out back, swimming and catching bullfrogs and crawdads. I sat on the bank in the sun to dry off, my fur smelling like wet wool, watching the kids as they ran back and forth along the rocks, buckets in hand, the woman not far away, sitting on a blanket, staring into the distance. Autumn came again and I took the children to the school around the corner every day, my tail a plume as we stepped lively along the sidewalk, catching up with other children, all the little kids reaching down to grab my fur, patting me on the head. I stood like a good dog. Then came Christmas, my favorite time of the year. There were dog treats, and a new bed, too, and cookies that somehow found their way off the plate in the kitchen. I was stealthy. Took just one or two. Oh, but they were like happiness in my mouth! The best! And the tree in the living room smelled like the outdoors - Frasier pine, sap, birds. When I was a young pup, I lifted my leg on it, spraying my scent, just like I do outside. I got into trouble. The man dragged me out of the room by my collar and pushed me out the door. I was mortified. From then on, I treated that strange tree with respect. Spring came, and with it baby bunnies for me to chase. I never tried to catch them. Just gave them a little thrill as I escorted them out of the yard. The earth smelled like birth, the sun on my coat felt like it had crept closer. But still, the woman sat, waiting, staring out the window, her hand on my head. "Good Razz," she would say "there's my old friend". I lay down on the floor beside her as she cried. My muzzle is turning white, my bones ache a bit, eyesight not as good as it once was, but one thing I can surely do is cry with her. I am getting old and starting to worry how long I will be able to be here, to take care of them. I whimper like a puppy. And now it is autumn again. The air is sharper. Sounds travel farther through the leafless trees. Even the lonely sound of the train down at the station lingers on the air a bit longer, its whistle piercing the sky. Something made me feel itchy deep in my soul when I heard that whistle. Not the kind of itch that a flea gives off, but the feeling of unrest when I catch something on the breeze. A scent. Like smoke and mints, only from far, far away, and something else, too. Something else that excited me, raised the hackles on my back. I barked to be let out. I raced across the porch and down the stairs, turned in circles, nose up, sniffing the air, growling. Whining. Ears cocked, eyes everywhere. And then...I saw him, walking down the sidewalk. Slower, much slower than he used to walk, limping a bit. The duffle flung over his shoulder, each step bringing him closer to me, to us, to the rest of our lives. The screen door slammed and the woman walked out behind me, peered up the sidewalk, a quick intake of breath, a stifled sob. "Razz!" he cried. I let out a bark that shook the last leaves off the trees and ran into his arms. It is autumn, and all things are possible.
ÂŠ Mat Hayward - stock.adobe.com
Sharon Frame Gay grew up a child of the highway, playing by the side of the road. She has been published in several anthologies, as well as BioStories, Gravel Magazine, Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Halcyon Days, Fabula Argentea, Persimmon Tree, Write City, Literally Orphans, Indiana Voice Journal, Luna Luna, Crannog magazine, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 14
On Monday By Janet Mccann Oh, the tall grasses where you pull onto the bypass From the feeder road—the way the wind hits them And they glitter in the early light, and I am Headed to the office but for a moment I forget plans, papers, meetings, obligations, Glide down the curve into the right lane Tall grasses flickering by my side, and now I’m Part of the arc, the road, the field, the sky, Part of the mindless surging verve of earth.
© janonkas - stock.adobe.com
HAIKU By Janet Mccann This greenish brown tea tastes of flowers and green fields but promises sleep
© EcoPim-Studio - stock.adobe.com
Janet Mccann is an old Texas poet retired after teaching 46 years at Texas A&M. Her recent poetry book: The Crone at the Casino (Lamar Univ. Press, 2014.) Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Twelve Steps To Winter By Joan McNerney 1
Kicking up piles of foliage, the wind tries to enter my house.
I can see my breath right in front of me now.
Maple leaves, oak leaves, all fall leaves tumbling through air.
Window panes clattering like nervous teeth at midnight.
Frost pinches my cheeks, kissing me. A cool, cruel lover.
Quickly, quietly needles of snow embroider tall fir trees.
That must be my friends stamping their boots outside.
As the kettle boils, aromas of hot cider spice the kitchen.
Our favorite songs stream through hallways.
Sparkling butter cookies melting in our mouths.
A tiger cat with big green eyes tosses balls of yarn.
Galaxies of snow stars whirling every which way.
ÂŠ volff - stock.above.com
Joan McNerneyâ€™s poetry has been included in numerous literary zines such as Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Blueline, Halcyon Days and included in Bright Hills Press, Kind of A Hurricane Press and Poppy Road Review anthologies. She has been nominated three times for Best of the Net. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 16
Sotted By Laurie Lambert Though it has cost me and worried me delayed me and frightened me I still savor snow. I still scoop up a handful and lay it on my tongue and taste the wonder of water, transformed by weather, to white magic. © magdal3na - stock.adobe.com
Praise to a Winter Morning By Laurie Lambert Praise to these cozy flannel sheets myself snugged in, coming to awareness. The warm weight on my thigh of my labrador’s head, her breaths deep and long, warbling a low note in her throat. I slither out to turn up the heat and slide back in listening to the delightful whooshing of warm air rushing from the vent. Waiting for the house to move from 60 degrees to something more friendly.
Every snowfall brings a fresh coat of blankness, revealing all the colors we fail to distinguish without this bright backdrop for winter’s drab pallet. Shades of tan and brown in bark and branch, the rushing deep blue-black of the river coursing in its frozen track the remarkable gray of a wet rock in the water. I still love the snow, every time it falls in a delicate dance or a windblown wall, even when parties are cancelled stores are closed, drives are scary and the driveway is a long uphill slog. There’s something sacred and stark, sparkling and charmed, something captivating in the magic of a single snowflake exponentially expanded to a field of white, each one-of-a-kind snowflake glistening in the sun. I am smitten anew, every time.
Praise these moments, the day not yet begun on the edge of everything that will come to pass seeing only the light coming to the window feeling the smooth fur under my hand now as she thumps a slow dawning wag, my dreams fleeing even as I try to bring them forward to my attention. We rise, my dog and I, and the day begins. The hot tea warms my hands on the sides of the mug, the first sip sliding across my tongue, so welcome as it passes my sleep-parched throat. Praise to the smell of toast and melting sharp cheddar, the satisfying crunching both in my mouth and the dog’s as she gobbles her kibble. She finishes first, places her head on my lap knowing, knowing as sure as it’s morning, that the last bite of this cheesy toast is hers. Drool seeps as I nibble away, the napkin on my lap serving me well. Across the table birds are visiting the feeders, better than the morning paper, they tell me what I need to know. It’s brisk, there’s a wind. Praise this start to a day, this dog, this tea, this toast. There are other more hurried and troubled ways for days to begin than this, so this I must and should treasure. This ease, this pleasure, these moments that make a life, that make me want to draw breath again and again and see what happens next, grateful and wanting, both.
© bereta - stock.adobe.com
Laurie Lambert is the mother of adult triplets and a retired research scientist. Her family home is a 50 acre paradise on Todd’s Fork of the Little Miami River. Her poetry incorporates themes of motherhood, love of the natural world, life with dogs, and the spiritual struggles of adapting to change and growth. Currently, Laurie is a facilitator at Women Writing for (a) Change in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her poems have been published in Labyrinth Pathways, Annapurna, Clarify, The Sycamore, Common Threads and For a Better World. Laurie’s first chapbook What I Can Carry, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Nature’s Pruning By R. Gerry Fabian Winds, gusting up to 45 mph, shoot through tree tops sending leaves, dead branches and an assortment of nuts flying through the air. Squirrels, in a dilemma of ecstasy. leap from the ground and attach to rough bark. Each gust decorates then redecorates the landscape.
Top and bottom © panaramka - stock.adobe.com
Autumn’s End By R. Gerry Fabian Winds wimple washing fused flat fields merging misty meadows. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 18
A Gift Giving Guide By R. Gerry Fabian Select: Yourself as you would the most precious secret in the universe. But never be afraid to tell anyone who asks. Price: Yourself so that those who need you most will afford themselves of you and never question your value. Package: Yourself as only bare essentials the Sacrifice in silence, the Heart in hope, the Answer in achievement; the Passion in peace. the Energy in effort. Give Yourself time; when someone needs you you will have already given a segment of the future to them. Open Yourself.
ÂŠ raven - stock.adobe.com
R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. His web page is https://rgerryfabian.wordpress.com. He is the editor of Raw Dog Press https://rawdogpress.wordpress.com. His novel, Memphis Masquerade and published poetry book, Parallels is available at Smashwords and all other ebook stores. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
ÂŠ Jesse Weiner
Jesse Weiner is a writer who dabbles in photography. Her short stories have been featured in The Saturday Evening Post and Youth Imagination Magazine, amongst other publications. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, a Young Adult Fantasy.
Winter Grace by E. A. Francis In the contrasts of winter whites upon browns and grays there sits another contrast black trim upon cardinal red. From his perch he draws all eyes a ruler of winter color commanding awe and wonder. An inspiration of comfort after a sleepless night of pain. Trading the pain for peace, I sit in the quiet of the morning and give thanks for this cardinal.
ÂŠ Oregongal - pixabay.com
Anita Leamy (pen name E. A. Francis) is an emerging poet who writes from the inspiration of the natural world and from her Christian faith lived. When she is not teaching preschoolers, she loves to read, sit with her cats, and watch the wild creatures from her sanctuary home. She welcomes reader responses by email or snail mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1006 Sitka Spruce Lane, Sykesville, MD 21784. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 20
Home For the Holidays by Wayne Faust
© Arman Zhenikeyev | stock.adobe.com
Isn't it lovely?" The old woman watched the snowflakes wend their soft way down through the sodium vapor lamps of the mall's parking lot. "Yes, Dear. It sort of reminds me of home." He shifted his bulk in the old Ford wagon’s front seat and rubbed some more frost off the windshield. He adjusted the moth-eaten blanket and gently squeezed her hand. They sat and watched the snow for a few minutes, their eyes sparkling. "Remember our first Christmas together? You got me that little toy Santa with the wind up crank and he would ring his little bell and wiggle his behind." She smiled at him with the few teeth she had left but there was still warmth there and more than a touch of affection. "That was all I could afford back then - 25 cents. That was a lot in those days. And now, too, I suppose." "Oh, Sweetheart, we're positively rich. Here, have some more eggnog." She reached into the back of the station wagon and brought out the faded green thermos. The water in the restroom at 7-Eleven had been wonderfully hot so she had soaked the carton of egg nog in the sink until it was practically steaming. She had taken it triumphantly out to the car and poured it into the old thermos, and now they were sharing it for Christmas Eve. The car radio played quietly through the cracked speakers in the doors. They sang along in their heads. Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen.. "Turn it up a little," she said, and they both harmonized. "While the snow lay on the ground, deep and crisp and even!" The old man sounded like a rusty gate but to his wife he was Mario Lanza. Or maybe even Caruso.
"I just love it when it snows like this, don't you?" The old woman puffed out her chest, breathing like a camper emerging from a tent on a crisp mountain morning. "With those big snowflakes, I feel like we should be in a picture on somebody's Christmas card." The old man looked out through his frosty side window and said, "I suppose we'd better keep it down. Somebody might hear us." "Oh, let 'em hear. It's Christmas Eve!" She rolled down her window a crack and resumed singing, this time at the top of her lungs. They were parked at the edge of a streetlamp’s circle of light at the back of the lot. In the distance they could just make out the green neon of the J.C. Penny's sign, and through the falling snow the mall looked like a huge battleship plowing through the winter's night. People didn't usually bother anyone parked back here, although an occasional car thief would come up and look in the window - not that there was anything worth stealing. The sound of their singing echoed around the mostly empty stalls and mingled with distant sounds of cars grumbling to life. They watched the line of red taillights file out of the lot and head for their hearths and Christmas trees. It was getting near closing time at the mall. "Wait here, Sweetheart, I'll be right back." He eased himself out of the driver's side door, a big man squeezing through a small place. "Where are you going?" she asked. "Nature calls, My Love. I thought I'd go into the mall before they close. It'll only take a minute." She watched him go around the front of the car and pull his collar up against the snow. With his bushy white beard and wobbling belly he belonged in a winter scene like this. She smiled to herself and hummed more Christmas carols along with the radio. The old man came back twenty minutes later and eased back into the seat beside her. "What took you so long?" she asked. "Well, I had to get a little something for my best girl at Christmas." He reached inside his coat and pulled out a brightly wrapped box. He cradled it inside his big, weathered hands and presented it to her as if it contained the Crown Jewels. "Oh, Sweetheart, you shouldn't have." She always said that when he got her something. "Can I open it now?" she asked in a little girl voice. "Of course - but first just a little kiss." She pecked his rosy cheek once and tore the wrapping paper off the small package. It was a toy Santa - the kind with the wind up crank in the back. "Oh.." she purred, and looked at the old man as if he had indeed given her the Crown Jewels. She took the Santa out of the box and hugged it to her breast. She wound its crank all the way and set it on the dashboard. It gyrated and wiggled and rang its tiny bell. The light from the frosty streetlamp outside gave its eyes a merry glow. "You know, I think this is our best Christmas ever," the old woman exclaimed, as she laughed and laughed. "You say that every year." "That's because they just keep getting better." They sipped their eggnog, cranked up the car radio another notch, and watched the peaceful snow pile up.
fficer Machowski pulled the black and white into the mall lot and let out a sigh. Why did it have to snow on Christmas Eve? Now it would take him hours to get home. His left foot fidgeted and his hands gripped the steering wheel. He hated having to work on Christmas. Someday he'd have some seniority and he wouldn't miss any holiday time at home with the old lady and the rug rats, not that they cared. (Continued on page 22)
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
(Continued from page 21)
Machowski grimaced. What was it all about? You bust your butt for years so you can drive around looking for winos on Christmas Eve. So your kids can have better toys than the neighbors. So your wife can get on your case when you come home tired every day. Some life. Machowski cruised the mall lot one more time and headed for the exit. The lot looked empty, which made sense because why would anyone be hanging around here after closing time in weather like this? Then he saw the old station wagon way in the back of the lot. It was hunched up like a frozen animal in the snow, just at the edge of the light. The cop turned on the big spotlight. He could see fake wood grain on the side of the station wagon, surrounded by rust. The car sat low and lopsided and a limp tailpipe hung almost to the ground. There were curtains on the back windows and he could see silhouettes through the milky windows in front. Machowski grimaced and wondered what this was going to lead to. More paperwork, most likely. He radioed in his location and told Doris he was going out to have a look. “Hey Pete, watch out. It might be Santa Claus," she answered through the speaker. "Very funny," he replied as he opened his door. The first thing he heard as he stepped into the bitter night was the sound of music coming from the station wagon. He walked up cautiously and rapped on the passenger side window with his flashlight, his right hand poised near his gun. The window rolled down halfway and he looked into a pair of clear blue eyes set into a very ancient face. "Yes, officer?" asked an old woman cheerfully. "Can we help you with something?" "What are you folks doing here? The mall's closed." He craned his neck to see into the car with the flashlight. The back seat of the station wagon was lowered and there were blankets arranged neatly on the floor, along with some toiletries, a few paperbacks, and some folded up clothes. Home sweet home. "Well, Officer, my husband and I were just sharing some eggnog on Christmas Eve. Would you like some?" She held out the thermos. Something about her approach disarmed him. The old man in the driver's seat was grinning like a coyote and these two old geezers seemed to be having the time of their lives. Machowski wondered what was in that eggnog. "Uh, no thanks Ma'am. I think you two better move along now. The mall closed an hour ago." "But this is where we spend our Christmas Eve," she protested. "It's tradition." He looked from her face to the old man's and back again. The old guy really did look like Santa Claus. He'd have to tell Doris about this one. "Don't you folks have a home to go to?" he asked softly. "We're home now, Officer. Would you like to come in? There's plenty of room in the back." She was serious. He couldn't believe it. Strangely enough, he really felt like climbing into the car, maybe putting his feet up, having a little eggnog. In fact, climbing into an old station wagon with these two pathetic cases seemed like the most inviting thing in the world. "No thanks, Ma'am, but I appreciate the invite. I'll just be running along now. I'll check on you once in a while to make sure nobody hassles you."
achowski couldn’t believe what he had just said. Why would he offer to do something like that? He climbed back in his squad car, shaking his head and muttering to himself. He picked up the microphone and checked back in.
"I'll tell you all about it when I get back in, Doris. Ho! Ho! Ho! Over and out." He drove around the lot again slowly, thinking. He thought about how it was supposed to get down to minus 5 degrees tonight. He thought about people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning from idling their cars to keep warm. He thought about people freezing to death on nights like this, homeless people. He turned the car back towards the station wagon. He didn't check in this time before he got out of his squad car. This would only take a minute. He rapped on the window and was greeted again by that smiling old lady's face. What was it about that face? "Hi again, folks. I was just wondering if maybe I could help you two get into the shelter on Wabash tonight. It's supposed to get colder than a witches.." "No thanks, Officer," the old lady interrupted. "As we said, it's tradition for our family to be here on Christmas. But that was real nice of you to come back and ask." He felt like he was seven years old again, talking to his own grandmother. "Okay..well..uh..Merry Christmas, I guess." He waved and backed towards his own car. This was ridiculous. He knew he should give those two the third degree, make 'em get out of the car; force 'em into the shelter for their own good. It's just that they looked so.. Muttering, Machowski started up his car. After two more slow times around the lot Machowski knew that he was going completely nuts. An idea had popped into his head and it just wouldn't go away. He stopped the car one more time and strolled up to the old wagon. He knocked on the window for the third time. "Hi again," said Machowski and his voice actually squeaked. "I was just wondering if maybe, well, seein' as how it's Christmas and all, you and your husband would like to join me and my family for a little Christmas buffet. At my house. I get off in about a half hour and you could follow me there. The wife usually sets out a pretty good spread and you could meet the kids, and well, you know." The old woman's eyes lit up. "Why, young man, that is the nicest thing I ever heard. Don't you think so Stanley?" The old man nodded his head like a bird on a perch. "I don't know what to say. That's just so kind of you Officer." Machowski felt like his first grade teacher had just patted him on the head. "I know you have your tradition, but maybe you can start a new one this year." The old couple exchanged a few looks and then she said, "Christmas at your house it is." A half hour later Machowski pulled away from the station in his Toyota, followed by a rattletrap station wagon which popped and wheezed every few seconds. Machowski hummed The First Noel under his breath and felt pretty pleased with himself. He hadn't yet decided if Sheila would kill him when he walked in the house with two homeless old loonies on Christmas Eve. It's getting late, Stanley," remarked the old woman as they rumbled over the gaily lit neighborhood streets. Stanley reached one hand inside the top of his coat and produced a gold watch, full of pockmarks and dents. "Quarter to eight," he answered. "I guess it's about that time." "Do you think we helped him?" "I hope so. He seems like a nice fellow deep down." The old man put the watch back into his pocket and reached over to gently squeeze his wife's hand.
ete Machowski pulled the Toyota around the corner onto Greenwood, anticipating the last few blocks to his house. He chuckled to himself like a kid on Christmas morning as he imagined Sheila’s face when he brought those two old loonies into the house. She’d blow a gasket for sure. (Continued on page 23)
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 22
He looked into the rear view mirror and saw..darkness. Machowski squinted. “They must have missed the turn on Greenwood,” he mumbled to himself. He did a quick U-turn and went back to the end of the street and looked both ways. Nothing. He pulled the car over to the curb and got out. In the light from the streetlamp he could see his own tire tracks, already beginning to fill up with snow. Back before the turn he could clearly see two sets of tracks, one of them bumpy and uneven. After the turn there was only one set of tracks and they belonged to the Toyota. The snow was unbroken in every other direction, stifling all sounds. Standing there in the quiet snow, the hair on the back of Machowski's neck stood on end. He got back into his car and sat still for a long time. Finally, he turned the key and backed out into the street. He was still puzzling the whole thing over in his mind as he pulled into his driveway. The white plastic Santa beamed its electric smile onto his front stoop and Christmas tree lights twinkled through the frosty picture window. Three small shapes huddled together inside, peering out with their noses pressed to the pane. As he switched off the headlights the front door opened. "Daddy! Daddy!" came the shrill cries as he climbed the front stairs. "Daddy's home! Daddy's home! Can we open our presents now? Can we? Can we?" The warm air of the house flowed out to greet him as the kids swarmed around his legs and waist. He could smell turkey and sweet potatoes and cookies. Coming in from the cold, white night, the house was a warm oasis bathed in soft hues of red and green and gold. He tossed his coat towards the big chair and kicked the door closed behind him.
Come on, Pete, snap out of it. It's Christmas Eve." Sheila nudged him with her elbow. "What's the matter, rough shift or something?" "Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just thinking." "About what?" "Oh, I don't know. It's just that we have so much here. Just look around." He waved his arm towards the Christmas tree, where the kids were tearing packages open with abandon, and on towards the dining room, where food and candles and festive napkins were laid out. "I'll bet there are a lot of folks that would be happy with a whole lot less than this. I know there are. And what do we do? Bicker and complain all year long. In fact, we only stop long enough to open presents on Christmas Eve." Sheila had never heard him talk this way. She stared and let him go on. "Let’s really enjoy things this year. Let's watch and remember every last minute, every last second." Sheila opened her mouth to reply but was stopped by the look in his eye. "Let's just watch for awhile, Sweetheart," he said to her softly, and patted her thigh. They sat back and gazed at their three children then, their healthy and strong children, smart, well-fed. They looked around the room. The old, overstuffed furniture looked charming and cozy and the marked-up coffee table seemed quaint. After a time Pete spoke again. "You know, tonight I remembered why I became a cop. It was the first time I'd remembered in a long time." "What happened, Pete?" she asked, looking into his eyes. "I'll tell you all about it sometime. I haven't quite got a handle on it yet myself. It just made me realize some things, that's all."
That's when Pete Machowski got his second crazy idea of the evening. When the kids were finished opening their packages they came over to give their parents the usual Christmas hugs and to recite the usual Christmas “Thank you, Mommy, thank you, Daddy,” in the usual Christmas monotone. Pete held up his hand and announced, "Stop right there! How would you guys like to do something really neat for Christmas this year?" The kids looked up. "But, Daddy.." "I know, I know. You already opened your presents, 'cause that's what we do on Christmas Eve, right? And we know some kids believe that Santa Claus comes during the night on Christmas Eve, but we don't do that because your mother and I never taught you to believe in Santa Claus, right?" The kids nodded their heads like parrots. "Well, what if we got to be Santa Claus this year? Our whole family. Wouldn't that be fun?" Now Sheila looked at him warily too. He'd have to talk fast. "I know some places that don't ever have much of a Christmas. Lots of places. And we could fix that. All it would take would be some old toys you guys don't want anymore and some food we probably won't finish anyway. We could load up the Toyota and pretend it's Santa's sleigh and head out into the snow. What do ya' think?" It was real quiet for a few moments until his three year old daughter asked, "You mean like in a Disney movie?" Pete laughed from the bottom of his gut. "Yes, Pumpkin, just like in a Disney movie."
hey stumbled through the snow into the front door that night at 2 AM, wearing moon boots and smiles. They were giggling and laughing and singing Christmas carols. Pete and Sheila couldn't remember the last time they had felt so positively giddy, or had had such a fine Christmas Eve. The Machowski family slept well that night. The next morning the kids toddled down the stairs to discover stockings hung on the fireplace, filled to the brim. This was strange, for the Machowski family had never hung up stockings for Christmas. There were names sewn on each one and the stockings for the kids were filled with candy and oranges. When Pete and Sheila came downstairs they each thought the other had snuck back down to hang up the stockings during the night and they both chuckled. Sheila emptied her stocking and found candy canes, mints, and a small bottle of perfume. Pete took his stocking down off the mantle and it felt unusually heavy. When he opened the top and peeked in, little chills went up and down his spine. He thought of tire tracks in the snow, disappearing. He thought of an old lady and an old man in the parking lot at the mall. Pete Machowski lifted the faded green thermos from his Christmas stocking. He unscrewed the lid and smelled the aroma of steaming eggnog. Smiling slowly, he took a gentle sip. It tasted better than anything ever had in his life. He passed the thermos to Sheila. "What's this?" she asked. "Tradition," he replied. "Tradition."
Wayne Faust has been a full time music and comedy performer for over 35 years, performing in 40 US states, and overseas in Holland, England and Scotland. His songs are heard on the radio and internet in places as far away as Australia and Japan. While on the road, he writes fiction and has had over 35 stories published in various places, and has also written two full length, published books - "Thirty Years Without A Real Job," and "12 Parables."Â His Halcyon story "Mother's Day" was inspired by an entertainment tour he took to the east coast a few years back. You can find more about Wayne's endeavors, both literary and musical, on his website at www.waynefaust.com. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Falling Stars By Elizabeth Spencer Spragins iced edges of white trim a circle from blackness under the street lamp silent snow of fairy lights drifts to realms beyond my reach
Ice Sculptures By Elizabeth Spencer Spragins rivulets of green nibble crusted ice from snowâ€” softness lies beneath edges of cold memories thawed with time and tender hands
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Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a linguist, writer, poet, and editor who taught in North Carolina community colleges for more than a decade. She writes in traditional poetic forms that focus on the beauty of landscapes and their inhabitants. Her bardic verse in the Celtic style has been published by The Lyric, The Quarterday Review, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal. Her tanka and short verse have appeared in Bamboo Hut, Skylark, Peacock Journal, and Atlas Poetica. An avid swimmer and an enthusiastic fiber artist, she lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband and a rescued cat. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 24
By Leonard Zawadski
By Adam Levon Brown Shhh stay silent young snowflake; you have just freshly fallen, and yet you yearn to melt away
a deep snow covers the frozen ground, there is no sound when: we awake, only the bells of morning.
The time has not come for you to saturate these hallowed grounds, life is yours to stay
*** like a warm embrace we stood amongst the willows, our bare feet buried in the snow: and stood to watch the leafless branches sway.
Slip through the cracks of sadness and hold joy in your fractals once more until time has had its say
The trees stand naked and the winter is new leaves are vacant and dreams are too few
the light snow covered a vast and silent meadow, whilst the kettle rang out: for a house of warmth and beauty.
Stay vigilant, young snowflake for there are indeed storms to bear but the storms exist inside, and Winter is the time to share Do not run, young snowflake for time is just a scare enjoy The Winter's touch before meeting the Sun's glare
ÂŠ Unsplash | Pixabay.com ÂŠ Hans | Pixabay.com
Leonard Zawadski lives in Chicago, IL. He earns his living by working as a crossing guard, and also as a receiving clerk at an independent bookstore. Poetry of his appears or is forth-coming in The Literary Nest, Into the Void Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, and several other publications.
Adam Levon Brown is a published author, poet, amateur photographer, and cat lover. He is owner of Madness Muse Press; a micro-press that publishes dark poetry, editor of Madness Muse Magazine, and a book reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine. Adam has over 120 poems published in 9 different countries. He has been published in venues such as Burningword Literary Journal, Corvus Review, and Yellow Chair Review. Adam can be contacted via his website at www.AdamLevonBrown.org where he offers free poetry resources.
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
As we laughed over our unplanned simultaneous comment, it dawned on me that that was the power of the movie. The two of us laughing without a care in the world and full of the spirit of Christmas.
The Miracle On Our Street By Luisa Kay Reyes © Alliance - stock.adobe.com
hen we were at the “Gone With The Wind” celebration in Cleburne, Texas, Mickey Kuhn, one of the last surviving credited cast members of the sweeping Southern saga, delivered to all of us in attendance, the sad news. In all solemnity, he informed us that we had lost yet another one of the greats from the golden age of Hollywood. He didn’t mention her by name, but gave clues as to her identity via some of the movies she had starred in. And being a fan of the classic movies from the 1930s and 1940s, I was the one who guessed who it was—America’s beloved Irish colleen, Maureen O’Hara. At this revelation, all of us who had braved the stormy and rainy weather to be present at the commemoration sighed out of sadness. Upon returning home from the celebration, I decided that I wanted to find something, a movie or some other item of interest, about Maureen O’Hara that I hadn’t delved into. This wasn’t a simple task. For I had already seen “The Quiet Man” and “How Green Was My Valley” as well as some of her other films. I also had already purchased her cd of favorite Irish melodies and I frequently listened to it in the car. Her upbeat rendition of “I Wish I Had A Kerry Cow” often made me want to skip along to the song, even while pumping the gasoline in the car in front of everybody at the gas station. Also, my Mother and I had already read her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself” several years prior. Admittedly, while we were sitting in the cafe area of the large popular bookstore in town. Then, as I scrolled further down the items that popped up on Amazon for Maureen O’Hara, the obvious appeared on the screen . . . “Miracle On 34th Street.” Curiously enough, I had never seen this renowned movie of hers. While my Mother had grown interested in the classic films, mostly to humor my stardust indulgence as a self-described realist, it just didn’t seem like a feel good Christmas movie would be something I would be able to persuade her to watch with me. After all, my Mother has never cared for “It’s A Wonderful Life” and some of the others along that same vein. Nonetheless, I decided to order the DVD anyway. With the thought that I’d probably be watching it solo. When I added the movie to my cart on Amazon, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one whose interest in Maureen O’Hara movies had been spurred on by her passing away. For
they were all sold out. And not even Amazon was clear when more would be available. I decided it would be worth the wait and I pre-ordered it for whenever the supply would be replenished. Its arrival took much longer than I anticipated. Then, when it did come to my doorstep, for the UPS deliverers knew my address well, I simply placed it on the shelf, unopened. Since I was too busy with work and other activities to watch it, anytime soon. As the days turned into Fall and brought with them the arrival of Thanksgiving, we feasted on our turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce. Even treating ourselves to some slices of pecan pie for dessert. And once we finished our extravagant meal, I felt that I wanted to do something to get into the Christmas spirit. Pondering what to do, I glanced towards the shelf. And there was the movie, just begging to be released from its plastic confines. When I suggested that we watch it, my Mother actually agreed. But, with the caveat that she’d probably be busy doing other things while it was playing. Well now, from the beginning of the film, Maureen O’Hara appears in her signature role of a strong and independent woman, who isn’t subdued by any of the men in her professional world. And that was something my Mother immediately related to. Setting all else to the side, my Mother joined me in front of the television set and we proceeded to watch the entire movie together. We expressed amazement at the clever twists and turns of the Santa based plot. And we both laughed out loud at the heaping bags full of letters to Santa being delivered straight to the courtroom. Right during the middle of a court proceeding. And, oh my! When the victorious attorney suddenly reached for Maureen O’Hara and gave her a surprise kiss, we gasped out of a girlish delight. Then, when “The End” came up on the screen, my Mother turned to me and said, “What a good movie!” Which was followed by us in unison saying, “Now I feel ready for Christmas!” As we laughed over our unplanned simultaneous comment, it dawned on me that that was the power of the movie. The two of us laughing without a care in the world and full of the spirit of Christmas.
Luisa Kay Reyes has had poems featured in the Set Sail For Poetry, I Spy Poetry, A Kaleidoscope of Poetry, and the How Sweet It Is anthologies published by the Stark County District Library. She has also had poems published in The Sleuth zine for Nancy Drew sleuths and The Silkworm poetry anthology published by the Florence Poet’s Society. Recently, her poem “A Christmas Poem” was declared a first place winner by the Sixteenth Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest. In 2007, she received Honorable Mention in the Alabama Meter Readers International Limerick Contest and First Place in the Florence Poet’s Society Limerick Contest. Just this past October, her poem entitled “Nancy Drew . . . ” was published in the Nancy Drew Anthology published by the Silver Birch Press. Recently, she has started writing nonfiction and she was very pleased to learn that her piece entitled “Dinner On The Grounds” was accepted by the Fire In Machines literary anthology for publication and her "Santa's Wish List" was published in the Holiday issue of Hofstra University's "The Windmill." Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 26
December Darkness by Pat Brisson December darkness surprises those grown used to sun, bids us move nearer each other, makes us lose sight of troubles beyond our small circle of warmth. December darkness tells those on the street to hurry home, those at home to draw closer still, those who work too hard to lay down their tools, those who think too much that now is the time for singing, now the time to dance.
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Pat Brisson writes books for kids and poetry for adults. Her picture book, The Summer My Father Was Ten (Boyds Mills Press, illustrated by Andrea Shine) won the Christopher Award, given to books that "affirm the highest values of the human spirit" in 1998. Her most recent picture book, Before We Eat: from farm to table (Tilbury House Publishers, 2014) is illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Mary Azarian. Her poetry can be found on the site of The Society of Classical Poets, Your Daily Poem and is forthcoming in The Edison Literary Journal and Paulinskill Poetry Project's anthology Voices from Here, vol II. Pat and her husband have four grown sons; they live in Phillipsburg, NJ, USA. www.patbrisson.com Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Answering Winter By Richard King Perkins II The valley is surmounted by a growing whiteness. This will not make the practical lowlanders any less satisfied. A hot-air balloon hovers noiselessly above. A bulbous swan slower than breeze— the silent flapping of banners. All afternoon the world has been whitening washing-out the aniline dyes of billowy fabrics, the troublous markers of Scotland. The promise of snow is intriguing, offering to keep the land in hushed solitude, a godless haven, a clear alcohol.
© Gary - stock.adobe.com
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.
Haiku By Norma West Linder In the blue St. Clair Chorus of cold collisions Ice-chunk symphony
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Norma West Linder is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada, and WITS (Writers International Through Sarnia). Author of 5 novels, 12 collections of poetry, memoir of Manitoulin Island, two children’s books, biography of Pauline McGibbon, and short stories, published internationally and aired over CBC. For 24 years she taught English at Lambton College. Linder wrote a column for The Observer for seven years. Her latest childrens book, “The Pastel Planet,” was published by Hidden Brook Press. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 28
Winter Rainbow By Pattie Palmer-Baker
’m not a fan of winter’s naked spaces. I want the sweet gum’s profusion of bronze, and orange; I want sugar maples to thunder red and saffron yellow. During my walk down Willamette Boulevard, what could be more satisfying than spotting on the sidewalk a maple leaf twice as big as my hand, shining the color of the pinot noir I drank last night. I am a color addict. If only I could lick the gold off the ginkgo leaves or drink the sun-dusted afternoon light. On Haven Street, I avert my eyes from the sidewalk chaotic with brown leaf shed. I mourn time’s curve away from autumn. When winter commands the trees to drop their yellow and orange spangles, do the maples, birches, oaks, and alders clamp down on their leaves, afraid not of a long sleep but of a forever death? No use, winter’s black fingers undo their buttons one by one. Sequined dresses fall and trees stand stripped and naked. Their branches look like arteries radiating into veins. My husband likes the sepias, grays, and umbers of the winter season. I do admit a winter sky can blaze with a blue brighter than any other time. Is that because empty branches give us such an expansive view? Or because our eyes color starve? So often, leaden gray weights the light. Not always so, my husband points out, notice the white winter sunlight highlighting what lies between the spaces. What I ask? The air under the hawk’s wings, a coyote’s eyes in the shadows. My husband is patient and quiet. He sees things.
very spring I allow the trees’ pink and white froth to seduce me with its promise of forever. A lie, but worth it. Then summer foliage drones until we are lulled to a green sleep, monotonous but restful. But winter strips away illusions, and I like illusions. When I complain to my husband, he instructs me, look at death head on. Celebrate the scattered twigs, the curled leaves, the squirrel’s pelt. The old makes way for the new. I get it. Death is part of life. But don’t we need our fantasies? I grew up in Los Angeles, the queen of pipe dreams. So much sunshine made me drunk with possibilities. I knew very little about winter’s harsh realities until I relocated to Pennsylvania. Not until then did I understood winter’s bottom line – talk about wrecking illusions. No foliage anywhere. Snow stippled with gray, black and brown. Months and months of color absence. And yet, one day I looked out my bedroom window to a courtyard covered in fossilized snow to see a cardinal on a telephone wire. To this day, I wonder if I made up this sight, how his red feathers erupted, how his black beak curved. During that same winter, hiking on a brown and gray cluttered trail, I saw a rainbow flowing into the ground. No pot of gold but who cared? I parsed the colors and whispered, “Stay longer than a few minutes.” When gone, such an absence floated in its space – or so I thought until my husband pointed to where sharp-edged trunks inked the sky. Beautiful he said.
© panaramka - stock.adobe.com
Pattie Palmer-Baker is a Portland OR artist and poet. Over the years of exhibiting her artwork – a combination of paste paper collages with her poems in calligraphic form – she discovered that most people, despite what they may believe, do like poetry; in fact many liked the poems better than the visual art. She now concentrates on writing, both poetry and personal essays. She has been nominated for Pushcart Poetry Prize and published in many journals including Eholi Gaduji Journal, Poeming Pigeons Anthology, Petals in the Pan Anthology, Riding Light, , Minerva Rising, Voicecatcher, The Best of Voicecatcher, Calyx, and Voice-The Art and Science of Psychotherapy. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
© Lars Johansson - stock.adobe.com
A Winter Afternoon By Jeremy Bush
obert can’t help smiling to himself as he smashes the ice with his stick, jabbing the sharp tip down so that the frozen edge of the pond cracks and shatters. He thinks, “My gosh, this is fun. I’m really enjoying this!” His four-year-old son is beside him hitting the ice with his own stick and tossing small rocks and twigs and the chunks of ice that Robert has broken off for him out into the middle of the pond— the part that hasn’t frozen over yet. “Hey Andy, watch this…” Robert picks up a piece of the ice he has just broken, a nice handful-sized chunk, and throws it with all his might straight down at the large sheet of ice covering this side of the pond. The small piece explodes into a thousand miniscule bits. His son’s eyes sparkle. “Get me one, Daddy…pwease.” Robert cracks the ice with his stick and uses the end to push the sections up out of the water onto the grass. Then they both grab hunks of the half-inch thick ice and hurl them downward. Robert’s again seems to burst apart into a million minute shards, while Andy’s skips across the ice and lands with a “plop” in the murky brown water. “More. More, pwease, Daddy.” Robert breaks more off this wide layer of ice, fishing the segments out with his stick and guiding them up onto the shore. Then he and his son both pick another piece up from the ground, this time tossing them high into the air. And now their fingers finally begin to feel cold as the water, which still drips off the ice, soaks through the fabric of their gloves. Robert cracks off more and more pieces…
When he finally remembers to check his watch, an hour and a half have passed. “Are you getting cold, Andy?” “No. Andy’s no cold.” “No?! You’re not cold? We’ll have to start back in just a few minutes because Daddy’s getting cold.” “Ohhh! Andy no wanna go home!” “I know—you’re just having too much fun, huh? But remember, when we get back home Mommy will make us hot chocolate, ok?” Andy’s eyes again sparkle. Then his brows furrow a little and he corrects, “No, Daddy. Hot cocoa." Robert keeps himself from laughing, but can’t stop a smile. “It’s hot cocoa, not hot chocolate?” “Yeah. Mommy—Mommy calls it hot cocoa.” “Ahhhh,” it suddenly makes sense to Robert, “ok buddy. Alright, let’s start heading back. Ok?” With the incentive of hot chocolate—sorry, cocoa—out in front of them Andy takes off at a run and Robert tries to just keep up with him. And as they cross the frozen ground toward their apartment, with patches of un-melted snow that they stomp through, Robert can’t help wondering, “Some need—Is there something there inside you, even when you are a child, that maybe just never leaves you? Or…or is it that I have just never grown up? Am I just a big, overgrown, fattened–up man-child? Am I maybe, just maybe, a touch nuttier, a touch stranger, a touch crazier than I already knew I was—than I have even been willing to admit to myself?”
Jeremy Bush lives in western New York with his wife, Bekah, and their son, Andy. He is a carpenter by day and an aspiring writer by night. Some of his recent publications include Reflections: Seasons and Konig A merica. Check out his website, www.jeremybush.weebly.com, to see where you can find more of his published works and to give him your thoughts on this story.
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 30
New Year’s Day By Cynthia Gallaher It’s the clean slate, the board washed of yesterday, a new document page, a big open space under “Comments.” The sun rises over and outshines the fireworks display of last night, the glitter and silver of your mother’s party wear. Today lends a new brightness to snow and sand, benches and backyards, and to all your fresh plans, even if it’s a cloudy day. This year makes a resolution to be like no other year for the next 12 months. You dive bravely into its whirlwind of weeks. And later fondly remember and passionately forget red-letter and grey-letter days in a black-and-white sort of way, but never cease to be part of this year For the rest of your life.
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Cynthia Gallaher, a Chicago-based poet, playwright and nonfiction writer, is author of three full poetry collections, Earth Elegance, Swimmer’s Prayer and Night Ribbons, and two poetry chapbooks, Private, On Purpose and Omnivore Odes: Poems About Food, Herbs and Spices. Most recently, her nonfiction book Frugal Poets' Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If Y ou A ren’t a Poet appeared in summer 2016. She is widely published in small press journals and magazines, and her work is anthologized by the University of Iowa Press, Coffee House Press, Ashland University, and Bowling Green State University, among others. She has been honored by the Illinois State Library and Illinois Center of the Book. The Chicago Public Library lists her among its “Top Ten Requested Chicago Poets.” Follow her on Twitter at @swimmerpoet and her Frugal Poets’ Facebook page at @frugalpoets.
Nearly Spring in Dawson City By Roy Adams At the ebb of winter’s nap a sun-glint dawn and rapture’s back upon the many blazing faces of folk dazed on city benches. After Dawson’s span of dim apricity has enchanted them.
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Roy J. Adam’s first ambition was to become a creative writer. However, after compiling a stack of rejection slips, he decided to pursue the less demanding career of university professor. Since taking an early retirement package from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Roy has returned to his first love and has now published about a dozen poems including, most recently, those in Vallum Contemporary Poetry and in Feathertale both of which are currently online. He would welcome comments by email at email@example.com. Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4
Halcyon Days - 2016 Issue 4 | 32
Promoting the beauty of the winter through words and photos.