It is with great regret and sadness that we are “closing down” production of Rose & Thorn Journal after nearly 15 years. This decision did not come easily, as it is always hard to let go of a long-held “labor of love.”
We truly appreciate our wonderful volunteer staff. (You made each issue shine!) Likewise, the talented contributors of art, prose, and poetry. Your works filled every R&T edition with offerings for readers to enjoy. Thanks also to our supporters, fans, and friends.
Our last issue will be the spring issue in May. We would love it if you would drop by our R&T Facebook page and leave a note.
Rose & Thorn invites you to visit the Art Gallery to view our October artists. Mara Evert Domingue's sharp photography tantalizes and engages all the senses, while Dee Colucci's unique paintings leave no doubt why her art was chosen to be shown on the screens of Time Square.
Alaine DiBenedetto Benard Rose & Thorn Art Director email@example.com
I usually start with a line or an idea or a particular image. My thinking is more cinematic than in terms of strictly words. I get the image, which can be triggered by a particular line or random thought. It can also start with a picture, painting, or a turn of phrase. I start by simply writing unfiltered and unedited, but it is not stream of conscious. It is deliberate and purposeful. The purpose being to fill out the idea, give it some flesh to hang on the bones of the initial thought. Sometimes it flows pretty well, and a framework can be built relatively quickly. Other times it takes on a different direction entirely. Even the original line, image, or idea gets thrown out. After I have written something out, I pare it down, cut and shape it. The poem will begin to “tell” me if a line or phrase or word choice fits or not. I start looking more closely at line breaks as the process goes on. I will swap lines, move them around, pare some more.
At some point the poem is ready to be polished. This involves minor changes in words or finishing touches on the line breaks. Usually, the last is the title. Even after that there can be more tweaking or fine tuning. At some point the poem may even be deconstructed; meaning I do not like it, but there are words or phrasing that I would like to keep and may use for other works. The whole process can take hours or days and sometimes minutes. The poem I have included as an example is a “twenty minute poem” because that is about how long it took to write. The idea came from a conversation: someone referred to an 11-year-old boy as having “a clarity I don’t.” I took that as the first line (you tell me 11 is the number for clarity) and went from there. In this example I did leave out a couple of drafts for the purposes of “clarity.” However, this would be what I would consider a fair representation of the process. It is a poem that has not been published.
You tell me 11 is the number for clarity; the number for rain and snow. It comes before blood, before grief, before we ever learn how to swalow loss. you write to me tell me aboutof morning, thunder rivers and rain; the call of birds, the tracking of fish silver and sleek breaking the plane of water. You love this dirty town built on a hill, broken into pieces and laid out before this Great Lake Superior. I’ve been reluctant and awake; marooned in lonesomeness, startled into love, burdened.. the park by the canal is deserted, gulls pick at tourist leftovers a car crawls across the lift Bridge. I imagine it is you listening to your favorite playlist epic thinking or firefly or lush. I watch see wonder the lights on the hill go out one by one by one two three four; count them until everything becomes clear.
You tell me 11 is the number for clarity; the number for rain and wind. It comes before blood, before grief, before we ever learn how to swallow loss. You tell me it is morning, thunder rivers and sleet, everything wet: a tear, sweat on a glass, the splash of fish, silver and sleek, You love this town built on its hill, broken into pieces and laid out before this Great Lake. The park by the canal is deserted, gulls pick at tourist leftovers; I imagine it is you listening to your favorite playlist epic thinking or firefly or lush. I watch the lights on that hill go out one by one by one; count them until it becomes clear.
You say 11 is the number for clarity; it is morning, rivers and sleet, everything wet: a tear, sweat on a glass of beer, the splash of fish, silver and sleek, It comes before blood, before grief, before we learn how to swallow loss. You love this town on the hill; broken pieces laid out before this Great Lake. The park by the canal is deserted, gulls pick at tourist leftovers; I imagine it is you listening to your favorite playlist firefly or lush. I watch the lights on that hill go out one by one by one; count them until everything is clear.
You tell me 11 is the number for clarity; it’s morning, rivers and sleet. It’s everything wet: sweat on a glass of beer, a splash from fish, silver and sleek, It comes before blood, before we learn how to swallow loss. You love this town, its broken pieces laid out before this Great Lake. The park by the canal is deserted, gulls pick at tourist leftovers. I imagine you painting maybe writing, listening to your favorite playlist; firefly or lush. I watch the lights on the hill go out one by one by one; count them until everything becomes clear.
I still think of you when the world gets like this
How you told me 11 is the number for clarity; it’s morning, rivers and sleet. It’s anything wet: sweat on a glass of beer, a splash from fish, silver and sleek. It comes before blood, before we learn how to swallow loss. You love this town, its broken pieces laid out before this Great Lake. The park by the canal is deserted, gulls pick at tourist leftovers. I imagine you painting, writing, listening to your favorite playlist; firefly or lush. I watch the lights on the hill go out one by one by one; count them until everything becomes clear.
Alex Stolis lives in Minneapolis. Read his Schoolhouse Rock trilogy of poems in the spring 2012 issue of Rose & Thorn Journal.
There is something wonderful about the first fall of snow: the way it renders the old-and-worn new and unfamiliar, adding a patina of cleanliness and purity. That side of it has been done almost to death in poetry, and it is by no means the whole story. So I thought it would be fun and appropriate to focus on the negative aspects, especially for a journal entitled “Rose & Thorn.”
The poem was inspired by the first snowfall of 2011 on the northern Italian post-industrial city of Turin, where I had lived for a decade and where snow is an annual event but is rarely heavy or long-lasting enough to paralyse the city. I had just retired, and so had plenty of time to observe it from my flat and note its effects on the buildings surrounding the condominium courtyard, and then go out and observe what it was doing to the city.
I hoped the initial likening of snowflakes to a rash and of settled snow to lethal white powder would be striking enough to engage the reader’s attention.
The second verse focuses on real hazards in the modern world, then brings up the old winter issue that shaped so many of our religions: fear of the death of the sun and hence of all life.
The third verse is even more gloomy, but the fourth and final verse brings back the sun, which banishes the snow, dissipates the danger and renews life. Well, we knew it would.
An underlying idea is that the natural, physical world is amazing enough to make metaphysics irrelevant. And that it would be good to protect its victims (“the homeless, birds, small living things”) before romanticising it.
Mainly, though, I wrote this poem for fun.
Bryan Murphy now divides his time between England, Italy, and the wider world. His work has recently also appeared in Descant, Eunoia Review, The Camel Saloon, The Rainbow Rose, Indigo Rising, Dead Snakes, and The View from Here. Another poem involving snow appeared on The Intercultural Platform back in 2000. His website contains poems, short stories, and a taste of his forthcoming novella, Goodbye, Padania. Read "First Snowfall of Winter" in the spring 2012 issue in Rose & Thorn Journal.
Rose & Thorn is pleased to introduce two sculptors to the Art Gallery. Stephen Fitz-Gerald and Brian Craig-Wankiiri create two different types of figures: one, interpretive amorphic shapes; the other, a literal translation of the body. We know you'll enjoy their spectacular work.
Alaine DiBenedetto Benard Rose & Thorn Art Director firstname.lastname@example.org
I completed “Test of English as a Foreign Language” several years ago, but the germ of the story has gnawed at me for many years — actually since 1979 when I returned to Taiwan on a business trip. I met up with my wife’s girlfriend who had married an American, lived several years in the States, and came back when he husband was reassigned to Taiwan. It was poignant when I saw her treated as an American hwa-chiao (foreigner on a homeland visit) in Taipei’s marketplace, but as a bargirl when she tried calling her husband stationed at a military post.
She was no longer Taiwanese and not yet American. Of the many stories I know about bi-national people, this one stood out.
I wondered if perhaps we’re all expatriates of one sort of another as we swim through any murky pool filled with strangers. I’ve always had a creepy feeling about being a tourist — buying a vacation, looking confused in a new city, acting gawky and “foreign.” Perhaps it’s because I used to scorn the clots of people clustered in midtown Manhattan, holding maps and looking at the skyscrapers as though waiting for God to be their Gray Lines tour guide. While I was rushing across town on some mission of capital importance, I’d have to stop and detour around these Ausländers in their blousy sports shirts and khaki shorts.
So add to the expatriate syndrome in “Test of English” the despair of a dead child and a divorced husband and you have the making of a universal tension. Key to writing the story was the characters’ realizing how hard it is to be accepted. Rightly or wrongly, Shirley felt Americans were “predisposed to believe that American men only married bargirls.” Orville, too, had difficulty with his environment, saying, “It was all getting to me. The telephones and car horns. Fire sirens, even chatter at parties. It was all like a toothache. It was getting on my nerves.”
How can feeling like a stranger be otherwise when store clerks answer an expat’s question by turning to her spouse, when locals are perplexed by an unfamiliar accent, or when an in-law ingratiatingly says all children or women in [insert country name] are beautiful or intrinsically smart or better at sports? These are the preconceptions — if not prejudices — that all Asians are good at math (and, by extension, at gambling), that immigrants must all have come from a certain class or occupation, and that some people have in-born diet preferences.
Let me make a case that there’s a universal feeling of discomfort among expatriates, beginning with Moses coming back to Egypt announcing, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Granted, it’s easier to be an expatriate in the U.S. than, say, in an insular nation like Japan. America is a nation of immigrants. A Hungarian engineer once told me, “I worked in Germany for several years, but to them I was always a Hungarian. In the U.S., I’m called a ‘new American.”
“Test of English as a Foreign Language” tries to approach this situation of apartness. Writers feel compelled to connect with people, to cross cultural bridges, and to obliterate barriers. Perhaps through writing and reading — passing our test of English as a foreign language — we can all become assimilated. For aren’t we all “new Americans” in one way or another?
Walt Giersbach’s fiction and articles have appeared in more than a score of print and online magazines. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild Child. He also served for three decades as director of communications for Fortune 500 companies, helped publicize the Connecticut Film Festival, managed publicity and programs for Western Connecticut State University’s Haas Library, and moderates a writing group in New Jersey. Living in Taiwan for a year gave him a second home. Having an Asian-born spouse immediately placed him in the enviable cultural position of sharing in two worlds and celebrating twice as many holidays. He can be contacted at email@example.com and blogs at allotropiclubrications. Read "Test of English as a Foreign Language" in the spring 2012 issue of Rose & Thorn Journal.
I think that all of us fortunate enough to have our work published share in common the fact that we write from our personal relationships and life experiences. My poem, “Gentle Men,” was inspired by my close relationship with my son, Sean. I always tell people that he raised me. As a very driven person, I have relied on him to be the rainbow after my storms. He is a gifted, but modest man, who consistently draws others to himself through his wisdom and gentle nature. This piece came to me quickly, with no re-writes.
In “Beyond the Throes,” I used the analogy of a newborn foal struggling against his aggressive sire to represent the abused child in a home where the mother is the only source of nurturing and support. As a retired police officer, I have witnessed this abuse far too often. At the end, the piece allows not only for survival but a successful life beyond the abuse.
“Just Beyond My Town” was written about the solitude and wildlife just outside of Council Grove, Kansas, in the Flint Hills where I was born. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of what the pioneers witnessed on their westerly migrations across our nations pristine prairies. The winters are so brutal as to make spring flowers all the more spectacular, and the night so dark, that the stars seem within reach. This type of writing is truly my passion!
Pushcart Prize nominee Kevin Heaton was born in Kansas, and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including Raleigh Review, Mason's Road, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, and elimae. His fourth chapbook of poetry, Chronicles, has just been released by Finishing Line Press. He is a 2011 Best of the Net nominee. Read his poems in the spring 2012 issue of Rose &Thorn Journal.
The inspiration for this poem comes from many directions, both internal and external to my spirit, and over the course of many years.
Perhaps the prime motivation for the poem came in a dream with the words “For I am both the master and the ware.” I did not immediately understand what these words meant until I was working at my home, stacking the pieces of tree trunk, which I had just cut with a chain saw. As I rolled a particularly huge piece of trunk up a hill toward the log pile, I was reminded of the story of Sisyphus. I was alone in my struggle, and no one cared if I cut and burned the wood to save fossil fuel for the rest of the planet, yet somehow, I was committed to it
I was fifteen when I first read the story of Sisyphus in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. The image of his struggle has remained with me and was recollected during my college philosophy courses as I read the essay on Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Now, as I rolled the trunk, I felt myself and the words of my dream related to Sisyphus, and I decided to develop it into a poem.
I recognized the words of the dream as iambic pentameter, and I thought of it as part of the final couplet at the end of a sonnet. As I proceeded to write the poem over the course of a weekend, I found the structure of the sonnet easy to work with as all the decisions regarding meter and rhyme were made for me.
But after reading the finished product, I decided that the last line would not make sense to anyone but me and decided to borrow a phrase from Paul Simon (“For I am both the hammer and the nail.”) This makes it clear that Sisyphus, although condemned to his task, remains master of its conception and pursuit. This is the important message for all of us who are likewise beaten down by the unfathomable, daily grind of life yet who also must triumph by being the master of it.
John S. Rogers is a retired architect living with his French wife, Servane, in Southbury, Connecticut. Writing poetry and plein-air drawing remain a creative pastime as does sailing his 52 foot yacht named “It’s Good.” Read “Sonnet for Sisyphus” in the spring 2012 issue of Rose & Thorn Journal.
Simple paper or clay in the hands of a master can be transformed into amazing and complex works. See how two such world renowned artists, Kelly Garrett Rathbone and Lisa Rodden, create intricate pieces from these basic elements in our gallery feature this week.
Rose & Thorn seeks master artists who work in any medium, so if you've seen art that moves you, we'd welcome the opportunity to consider them for our Art Gallery.
Alaine DiBenedetto Benard Art Director, Rose & Thorn firstname.lastname@example.org
I wrote “Memory, Misplaced” in response to a prompt. Asked to write about something lost, I thought about some of the worst losses a person could suffer. The death of a loved one, of course, immediately came to mind. And the time we moved from Canada back to the United States, and the movers lost a quarter of our possessions. But that, to me, was more of a liberation than a loss: I find that the less I have the happier I am. Then I thought about the loss of memory to disease.
Once a week, when I was in college, I sat with a woman who had Alzheimer’s Disease. In my naivety, I thought I could cure her. All she needed, I told myself, was some more stimulation. I told myself I would read the classics to her and take her on outings. Single handedly, I would bring her memory back. But the one outing I took her on—a trip to a local box store in search of a new alarm clock—didn’t go well. The woman was confused and anxious and wanted to return to her living room—the small piece of her life that still felt familiar. I was determined to buy that alarm clock. I made her stand in the checkout line, fretting and worrying, while I made my purchase. I learned that day that I would never cure the woman and that what she really needed was my patience and understanding.
My husband’s grandfather also had Alzheimer’s Disease, and I saw firsthand how a family suffers through the disease together. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you despair. Sometimes you laugh. To this day, my husband, children and I giggle about the time Grandpa looked at our middle child, a girl, and announced, “He needs a haircut,” before pulling a pair of sewing scissors from a side table and chasing her around the family room.
And this afternoon, just after I was asked to write this piece, my son and I went to get haircuts. It was one of those cheapie places with a big waiting room and blasting music. People played on their devices or stared blankly ahead. Some flipped distractedly through magazines. One teenager slept in the corner, his chin propped upon his knee.
A woman, freshly coiffed, paid her bill and paused before leaving to talk with another woman around my age and her elderly mother-in-law. After about fifteen minutes, the woman left.
“I wonder what she wanted,” the elderly woman said.
“Oh, Mom. That’s your neighbor. Didn’t you recognize her?”
Every couple of minutes the woman would ask her daughter, “What are you doing to me?”
And the daughter would reply. “You’re fine, Mom. They’re going to give you a trim.”
After about fifteen minutes of this, the elderly woman was called. She stood. And then she fell flat on her face. She didn’t take a step forward to stop the fall. She didn’t use her cane to steady herself. She didn’t even put out a hand. She just…fell. Just like that. And none of us could do anything to help her, it happened that fast.
We gasped and then we sprung into action, some of us running next door for ice; some of us going for towels to catch the blood; some of us running to the woman’s car for a sweater. The division between patron and employee was broken as we freely entered the back of the shop in search of tissues…a garbage can…a telephone to call 911. For just a moment, we came together, uniting around the woman and her daughter, wanting so desperately to help, if only in a small way.
We spoke to our children, explaining what was going on, as the EMTs loaded the woman onto the stretcher. For once, we strangers met each other’s eyes. For once, we saw each other.
The woman was loaded onto the stretcher. The ambulance pulled away. The patrons cleaned up the debris—plastic bags; ice; towels. We arranged the chairs back where they belonged. We took our places in the waiting room.
The music blared.
People studied their devices.
A woman stood and went to the desk. “Is my daughter next? We’ve been waiting for over an hour.”
Another woman looked at me. “We’ve been here a long time, too. They said they were getting more stylists in.” She looked skeptically around the salon. “They should’ve been honest. I could’ve gone somewhere else.”
And, with the departure of the woman in the ambulance, we went back to being regular human beings.
Every once in awhile, we come together—if only for moment. These are the stories I like to capture.
Kelly Garriott Waite lives and writes in Pennsylvania in a quarter acre plot where she coaxes strawberries and popcorn from the soil and dreams of raising free range chickens. She blogs regularly at writinginthemarginsburstingattheseams. Read "Memory Misplaced" in the spring 2012 issue of Rose & Thorn Journal.