When There is Nowhere to Turn
I Find Myself Surrounded by the Moon and Her Messengers of Light
Jennifer Angelina Petro
One morning, walking through the January forest,
I watched the path double back on itself and disappear.
One evening, sailing on an indigo ocean of questions,
I saw the horizon swallow itself whole, like a monster all stomach and mouth.
I too searched for brains, a heart, and a home,
And the yellow-brick road turned into rust.
Heaven has fallen from the sky like so many shot-down stars.
There is nowhere to turn that doesn’t lead to ghost towns and empty silos.
My aspirations get stuck in the trees, like shreds of shawls.
Angels’ wings have folded.
Smiles are rimmed in blood.
Embraces reach for me and miss, grasping themselves.
The time has come for whirlwinds and blizzards,
The time has come for floods, and bone-rattling thunder,
Look—the sun was just swallowed by a wolf—
Look—the bridges have all burst into flame–
The moon is growing fuller,
Taking over the darkness—
Look—she is pulling the sun from the belly of the wolf–
Look—she is stilling the thunder and plucking my prayers from the trees—
Look-she is unfolding the path and shaking out the horizon and spreading it afar, anew—
Look—she is picking up the fallen stars and hanging them back in their places—
Look—she is brushing the angels’ wings and rubbing their shoulders—
Look—she is wiping the bloody mouths, like
A mother wiping a child’s face—rough and tender, all at once–
Look—she is steadying me so I don’t duck or fall when the embraces come—
Look-she is gently scolding me to listen better to her messengers of Light called:
Look—she is lifting me, rocking me in the softest of breezes, singing,
And whispering runes and spells, affirmations, and ways through the dark,
And treasure maps and secret passageways through mountains and dungeons–
Her tears fall down her breasts, mixing with her milk as she lets me suckle
For as long as I need in the cradle of her light-filled, infinite arms.
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Living Among Roots and Shadows
Joseph Anthony Petro
My soul is caught
Among roots and shadows, like
A piece of silk caught
In the branches of a tree
Or in a bush of thorns.
Of its trappings
By so much sorrow,
Tethered by a thread,
A thread of presence and of hope,
The end of which is wound
Around your outstretched hands,
It streams from the fragrance
Of your spring-blossomed words,
It is spun from the loom
Of your compassion.
And the reason I know this
Is because I stand among roots
And shadows, like
A piece of silk
Caught in the branches
Of a tree or in a bush
Of thorns, and I am still living,
And my soul, blown out
Of its trappings, remains tethered
By a thread of presence and of hope,
The end of which is wound
Around my own hands and streams
From my own spring-blossoming words,
It is spun from a loom of compassion
I built and work at by candlelight
In a moon-drenched room alone. And the reason
I know this is because I weep
Among roots and shadows,
I flail among roots and shadows,
I panic among roots and shadows,
I shake and I scream and I die
A thousand times among roots
And shadows, like a fledging bird
Caught in a storm and is still alive,
My blown out soul tossed
By winds of shame and terror, remains held
Somehow, someway beneath the wings
Of a great and terrible love
That will not let me blow away.
I know this because today I rest
Under the shadow of his wings
And among the roots of her beautiful, all-
I am not supposed to tell you
How steeped I am in self-hatred;
How I feel like a sand mandala slowly
Blowing away grain by grain;
This heart you think you know
Is not mine. My heart is an albatross
Lost at the bottom of the sea.
A dark angel shifts heavy, smothering wings
Inside my chest. A wind-tossed night sky
Searching for morning, blankets
My basic, human sense of self.
I am not supposed to tell you that.
I’m supposed to worry about what you
Think of me; what will happen
Now that you know—
I’m not supposed to tell you that either.
You tell me: this too, shall pass.
I am not supposed to tell you:
Those words enter a man’s ears but are heard
By a child’s—a child who hears you
But cannot help looking passed you
At the storm gathering behind you—the one
Unfurling like a monster made of smoke—
The one heading this way.
I am not supposed to tell you any
Of this. But I know you.
You are already diving into the dark waves
With underwater flashlights and lifelines,
You are exorcists of demons—loving
The dark angel until he flies away
To the mountains of God, and turns
Into a baby goat.
You are ushering in the dawn
On strong, generous shoulders,
You are out there patiently collecting bits
Of sand and handing them back
To the mandala-maker,
You are looking in my eyes, you see the reflection
Of the approaching monster and still
You’re reaching out your hand, still
You are standing steady—braced with faith, still
You’re saying, “Dear Heart, it’s true.”