By Patty Willis
Disasters are openings
in our armadillo skin
that keeps us safe from
cuts and scrapes
but steels us from everything else.
We can’t make that mighty push
that breaks the shell
or the patient tapping that takes
all our strength
until the moment we feel that lack of air
and a longing for oxygen
so great that we will do anything
We stop caring
that our faces turn ugly and purple
with the effort of pushing.
When we emerge,
you offer Gatorade
and point the way to showers.
Come and wash clean.
No need to speak of the passage
or our old lives.
This is where we want to be
finally, skin alive to the air,
our noses quivering with scents
like dogs and bears,
our ears tuned to the birds,
the earth revealed as holy,
calamity as grace.
Rev. Patty Willis is a minister, writer, artist and translator based in Arizona. She has also been active in immigration justice and reconciliation between white settler descendants and indigenous people.
Patty's other work on Foreshadow:
Pumping Station in the Desert (Poetry, July 2021)
By Carol Park
At 4 a.m. on my bed I succumb.
That old and guttural hiss--
the demon of self-accusation—summons
me, and I fall deep
into an abandoned mine shaft
where midnight waters seep.
But then I come to listen to the spacious
Voice, the ever-present, ever-loving
Wisdom—not that prove-yourself,
fit in with others, must get-it-right
obsession—then my subterranean
Soul truly knows Love.
The Spirit throws a rope ladder.
My fingers clasp its coarse fibers
to climb up and out. Embraced--
joy in who I am, accepted
with what I’m not.
She points me to a staircase
for winding up immensity of
her giant tree, past gnarls, lines,
and furrows. I ascend past nests
birthing finch, crow, and sparrow alike.
They open beaks miniscule and long,
blunt and keen. I graze myself
on sharp points, but aloe
leaves bring balm. Songs of joy,
tenderness float round
the Tree of Life—I spiral up.
Carol Park’s homes range from suburbs to wilderness. Six years in Japan altered this California girl. Hiking, gardening, mentoring and reading bring joy. She teaches ESL, writes and involves herself in Christian worship and service. Her MFA comes from Seattle Pacific University. The Haight Ashbury Journal, Black Fox Literary, MiGoZine, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, The Cider Press Review, the Monterey Review, Viral Verse: Poetry of the Pandemic, and New Contexts: 2 and 3 have published her work.
By Natasha Bredle
I almost had the answer.
But as I held it in my hand,
it fluttered away. I thought
that might have been it, the fluttering.
Each whisper wing beat displacing
a breath of air. The absence.
The fullness. I didn’t have the gall
to reach out and grasp for it,
for fear it would have turned to mist.
It was enough to almost have it.
Watching it flutter away.
It was enough to almost have it.
Natasha Bredle is an emerging writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work has been featured in publications such as Words and Whispers, Heart of Flesh Lit, and The Madrigal. She has received accolades from the Bennington College Young Writers Awards as well as the Adroit Prizes. In addition to poetry and short fiction, she has a passion for longer works and is currently drafting a young adult novel.
A Pilgrim's Song
By Royal Rhodes
My body, broken
like old bread
that kept me alive,
bears the sound
of this last song
I learned on the road,
behind and before me.
It was food for the way
that each day provided.
And when it is gone,
none will remember.
But what will you do
with my heart?
Royal Rhodes taught religious studies for almost 40 years. His poems have appeared in various journals, including Ekstasis, Ekphrastic Review, The Seventh Quarry, and The Montreal Review, among others. His poetry and art collaborations have been published with The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina.
Royal's other work on Foreshadow:
A Road Through Ohio Spring (Poetry, April 2023)
After clicking 'Play', please wait a few moments for the podcast to load.
You can also listen on Spotify, Apple, Google and other platforms.
Listen to other Forecasts here.
Musician James Bishop describes his journey five years ago of walking over half of the Pacific Crest Trail in California. Most of this time was spent in solitude, during which he emptied his thoughts and concluded that meaning in life only comes from the quality of one's relationships with others, the world, oneself and God; the greatest of all that remains is love. This five-month 1,400-mile hike inspired a collection of songs that he is releasing in June, and on this episode, he performs one song, 'Wrecking My Body', about the danger of being stuck in his mind and how that has impacted his participation in society and church.
By Charles Hughes
from a history professor’s remarks
on the occasion of his retirement
I couldn’t draw a clock face at the doctor’s.
Mistakes—small ones, but I got angry, trying
To freeze an old-style clock in my mind’s eye:
Black circle, its twelve numbers and two hands.
This happened several weeks ago—six weeks?
(My wife is nodding, my long-suffering wife)--
An April day. I gazed at a cold sun.
Marine biologists who study dolphins
Must think at least as much about the ocean
Where dolphins live. How else to understand
Their diet, travels, language, their diseases?
You might therefore suppose historians
Would give more thought to time, that vaster ocean
Enveloping the history of the world.
Historians too often take time for granted--
Marshalling evidence, telling our tales--
And tend not to acknowledge time as such,
Leaving the subject to philosophers
And poets. Wordsworth warned that “ye who pore /
On the dead letter, miss the spirit of things . . . .”
All creatures may be such embodied spirits
As we all are—all waiting—each a sign--
All creatures creatures of the Incarnation,
The angel’s shocking news, God’s tryst with time.
Less purposefully perhaps than dolphins, more
Like clouds blown by the wind, like logs on water,
We move from murky pasts to unknown futures,
Our present moments much too quick for our minds.
We know so little. I know less and less.
I’m saying these things, believing them, but then
Faith isn’t knowledge in the usual sense.
Especially now with spring in bloom—the scent
Of lilacs, the pink flowers on redbud trees,
The clouds bright white again—I feel things more
And more. “To her fair works did Nature link /
The human soul . . . .” I fight for words I want,
And it’s getting worse. Is there some mechanism
Buried deep in the mind’s dark recesses,
So that when words, like dying leaves in autumn,
Dry up and drift away, dreams come to life?--
Fraught images make living memories?
Sometimes I dream about the London plagues,
Plagues in the London of the 1590s.
The stench and filth, the screaming suffering. Shakespeare
Gone from the city to a country house.
Donne fishing in the Thames. And Julian!--
Long dead by then and not a Londoner--
Still mercifully writing in her cell.
“His love suffrith us never to lose tyme”--
Though as I’m learning, time will do its work,
Time being redeemed, being liturgy, a flood tide,
Rising, inflected toward eternity,
Prospero’s towers and palaces in reverse,
Becoming not dissolving—time, our sea,
Drowning us, uncreating us to be.
Charles Hughes has published two books of poems, The Evening Sky (2020) and Cave Art (2014), both from Wiseblood Books. His poems have appeared in the Alabama Literary Review, Amethyst Review, The Christian Century, Literary Matters, the Saint Katherine Review and elsewhere. He worked for over 30 years as a lawyer and lives in the Chicago, Illinois, area with his wife.
The Leper and the Healer
By Bryant Burroughs
The man squatted three rows deep in the olive trees on the slopes above the village. He scanned a small circle of women gathered at the well.
Where is she? he fretted, squinting in the early morning sun.
The dawn mist offered hope to the land and trees and villagers, but none to the crouching man. Pain and loneliness had invaded his days, and hope had fled far away.
We were supposed to be Aaron and Anna, Anna and Aaron for a lifetime. How can I live cut in half?
The red sores and splotches had attacked the day after Anna had held his face in both hands and whispered, “I’m pregnant.” It was the last time she had touched him.
The splotches of unclean terror spread rapidly. A taut swath of red scored across his forehead and forked to scar his left cheek and behind his ear. His hands – the hands that had caressed Anna – the hands that would have comforted his baby – would never touch Anna or the child. He was banned, forced from home as polluted. Anna had wept bitterly when the village leaders drove him away, shoving him with shepherds’ staffs all the way to the olive grove in which he now crouched. They hurled stones and threats until he retreated at a run, away from the woman he loved.
Now he was alone, empty, cut off from love. The scars of leprosy marred more than skin. They marred the heart.
Suddenly the branches above shook from side to side, pelting him with a rain of olives. Pitching forward with his face and arms flung to the ground, he shouted, “The day will come when God will shake the nations,” calling up words placed in his heart by the long-ago prophet Haggai.
And heal me, he added. Please heal me so that I can go home to Anna.
“Quiet, Aaron, you fool!” a voice behind him urged. “You know you’re forbidden to be here.”
That’s not the voice of God, Aaron thought as he turned over. It’s Simon.
Another tree two rows away shook. “Get back here!” the urgent voice ordered. “If anyone sees you, you’ll have more to worry about than those scars of yours!”
Aaron hopped to his feet. “Simon? Is that you?”
“Of course it is!” responded the voice. “Who else would be watching out for you? Who else would be this near to you?”
Aaron crept toward the shaking leaves.
Although Aaron and Simon were neighbors and best friends, they did not embrace. They could not. The Law was clear. Lepers – even childhood best friends – were to be driven away, never to be seen or touched again.
“Here, friend,” Simon said, pointing to a bowl of soup and a crust of bread on the ground. The pock-marked man glanced at his friend, then threw himself at the food.
“I have water there, too.” He watched as Aaron devoured the bread and tipped the bowl to drink in gulps. Simon wished he had brought more. “Do you get much food?” he asked.
Aaron shook his head. He couldn’t begin to answer such a question. How could I possibly describe life as a leper? he thought. It’s a living death.
“Sometimes good people leave food at the edge of a village or farm,“ he answered, leaving out that often he ate after foxes and rats had scavenged. If was good enough for rats, then it was good enough for lepers.
Simon cleared his throat. “I have news, Aaron.”
“Is it Anna?” reacted the red-scarred man, dropping the empty bowl. “Tell me! Is it Anna?”
“No, no, my friend, Anna is well.” He wasn’t sure how to say the rest. “I’ve seen something. Something that may be good news, hopeful news.” Simon began pacing between the trees. “It began when I heard rumors – fanciful tales, really – about a healer who walks around the whole of Galilee. A healer who cures everyone he touches.” He glanced at Aaron. “Even lepers, Aaron, even lepers.
“I had to see for myself. I walked down toward Capernaum, stopping in every village to ask how I could find the healer I had heard about. People told me stories about the healer, and some claimed to have been cured by him.” Simon paused, remembering their stories. “How could I ever forget those people? The father with an arm around a son who had been mute and afflicted for years. A widow who clasped her only son and wept, describing the moment the healer had returned him from death.”
Aaron’s anxious voice interrupted. “Simon, what happened? Did you find this healer? Did you?”
Simon gazed at his friend. “Yes, I did,” he whispered. The more he told his story, the more he felt he was describing a dream. After a few hours’ walk that day, hours filled with unbelievable stories of an indescribable healer, he had stood on a ridge overlooking a wide valley. Below him, two crowds of a hundred or more people had walked toward each other on the valley’s sandy road. The crowd moving from his left had been composed of adults, mostly men, but also a surprising number of women. It had been the other crowd that caught his attention. It had moved in a strange way – slow and halting.
He slid down the hill through the scrub brush for a closer look at the slower crowd. It was an astonishing sight: parents carrying infants and toddlers; people of all ages who could walk only with a limp or supported on the shoulder of a loved one; litters carrying those debilitated by some sickness; the blind being led by the hand. It was a band of the afflicted.
Yet there was something else. The crowd radiated a joyous hopefulness, as if anticipating good things about to happen. In fact, the crowd was singing! The lame and blind and sick were singing in hope.
Simon paused in his story. Aaron stood transfixed, barely remembering to breathe.
“Then the two crowds stood in front of each other,” Simon continued slowly. How could he possibly describe what he saw next? How could he describe the indescribable? “Then a man stepped into the singing crowd. He went from person to person and touched them. And he healed every one. No matter the sickness, all were healed.”
Aaron couldn’t help himself. He burst out: “Did you see any lepers in this singing crowd? Did you see any lepers healed?”
I have to tell my friend the truth, Simon thought. False hope is worse than no hope.
“I don’t know. Perhaps. There was a small group of men clustered at the edge of the crowd. They were all wearing rags. Maybe they were lepers.” He saw his friend grimace darkly. “But this I know, Aaron,” he firmly continued. “The healer touched all those rag-clothed men, too, and immediately each man began leaping in the air and clutching each other, their heads thrown back to the heavens.”
What had to be said had been said. It was a wild story, Simon admitted to himself. But no wilder than the stories he’d heard in Nain and Cana and nearby hamlets, wild stories about a man who healed everyone he touched.
The mist had evaporated in the sun. The women had returned home from the well. The two friends were alone. It was Aaron’s turn to speak.
“This healer, this man who with a touch cures any ill, in which direction was he walking?” His words were so quietly uttered that the breeze rustling through olive leaves nearly blew them away.
“He was walking away from the sea. Perhaps toward Cana. I heard he has family there.”
“So near,” Aaron mused. Three miles. Four steep ridges.
He made his decision. “Tell Anna I was here. Tell her that I hope to return whole. And, Simon, if I am not made whole, I will not come back.”
“Go find the healer, friend,” was all Simon could say.
God, please help this man, he prayed silently.
Aaron set off at a run up the slope. Driven by hurt and hope, he vowed that when his bursting lungs yelled “stop!”, then he would walk. He vowed that when his blistered feet yelled “no more!”, then he would crawl. He vowed that if he couldn’t crawl, then he would wait beside the road and hope that the healer walked that way.
Two ridges were behind him when his lungs demanded air, and he slowed to a labored walk. His mind raced faster than his feet. How will I find the healer if he is in a crowd? Simon said that nothing stood out about the healer’s appearance. Who should I ask for? I don’t know his name. Will he be disgusted by me? Will the crowd throw stones to keep me away?
The sun was high when he saw a crowd moving toward him. It took only a glance to spot the man who was his only hope. Of course! The healer had to be the man surrounded by waves of children.
He summoned his breath, roused his legs, and sprinted straight toward the man. The crowd was spooked by the sight of a scar-faced man clad in rags spurring full-tilt toward them. Many people stepped back while others fled for safety.
Aaron threw himself to the ground, raining tears on the healer’s feet as if hope were washing from his soul all the hurt he had endured. “I know you are the healer,” he cried out. “I know you can heal me. If you would heal even a leper, please heal me!”
He felt the grip of the healer’s hands on his shoulders, lifting him to his feet. Waves of energy seemed to course through his body at this first human touch since he had been driven away from home.
The healer fixed Aaron’s gaze on him and moved a hand to Aaron’s chest. “I bring you good news. I have come to heal more than affliction. I have come to cure souls, for everyone – everyone – is a leper in their souls.” At these words, a force rushed through Aaron’s body a second time, as if a violent windstorm had blown him about and then dumped him into an icy river. The jolt shocked his heart and every bone, muscle and nerve. He would have collapsed were the healer not holding him.
The crowd gasped. Aaron slowly raised both hands to his face. His skin felt smooth – no ridges of scars, no hills of sores. His skin was smooth! As smooth as he remembered Anna’s to be.
The healer moved both hands to Aaron’s arms. There were light outlines in the skin on both forearms. “I leave you these shadow-scars for the sake of your soul. Remember this day,” he said. “Now go to the temple, and show yourself to the priest. And then go home to your Anna,” he smiled. “If you run fast, you will be home by sunset.”
Bryant Burroughs is a writer and lives with his wife Ruth in Upstate South Carolina with their three cats. His work has appeared in online literary sites such as Agape Review, Clayjar Review, Pure in Heart Stories and Faith, Hope & Fiction.
Bryant's other work on Foreshadow:
The Widow Whose Son Lived (Fiction, July 2022)
The Youngest Day (Poetry, November 2022)
The Widow's Psalm (Poetry, February 2023)
By Abigail Leigh
this skin reaches—rounding too long the past
corner, it sags.
these eyes search—hounding too far the future hill
they go blind.
My body rotting—rots
yet declines each offer
Why? Between withered lips, weeping
acquires appetite: only bitter
But despite the acid ache within
my cracked chest
its apathy at brewed breath, I find life
one more from this neglected heart
after a promise
of a new day: thick with honey
of sweetened streams and green
undying meadows, lush
with root of revival;
for the worn—a whisper of warmth woven in wind
And I wonder at my wonder’s
ability to survive
even amidst shadow-steeped days,
what once appeared
—the tender bud of my body rising
Abigail Leigh is a harpist and poet from Oregon. As a self-proclaimed paradox, both a creative and analytical being, she draws inspiration from life's dichotomies: the belief that light and darkness, growth and decay, and joy and sorrow travel in tandem. Every season has a story to tell, and she writes because she is committed to unveiling truth from learned experiences. Her poetry has been published in Darling Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Equinox Biannual Journal and Clayjar Review.
Abigail's other work on Foreshadow:
A Deeper Calling (Poetry, October 2022)
The Mountain Sermon (Poetry, October 2022)
The Fruitless Tenant (Poetry, October 2022)
This Side of Heaven (Poetry, November 2022)
After clicking 'Play', please wait a few moments for the podcast to load.
You can also listen on Spotify, Apple, Google and other platforms.
Listen to other Forecasts here.
Author and mentor Linda McCullough Moore reads and discusses her poem 'Asylum', reflecting on the choices and circumstances that have brought us to the present moment. She describes her experience on pilgrimage to Northumbria, UK, and the importance of connecting with the landscape and fellow pilgrims. For Linda, the spiritual journey is not only about mentally assenting to doctrines but primarily about engaging one's heart with God, other people, the world and oneself. Linda's faith, she says, depends on being connected with her local church through small groups and with God through prayer.
Linda McCullough Moore is the author of two story collections, a novel, an essay collection and more than 350 shorter published works. She is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, as well as winner and finalist for numerous national awards. Her first story collection was endorsed by Alice Munro, and equally as joyous, she frequently hears from readers who write to say her work makes a difference in their lives. For many years, she has mentored award-winning writers of fiction, poetry and memoir. She is currently completing a novel, Time Out of Mind, and a collection of her poetry. www.lindamcculloughmoore.com
Linda's other work on Foreshadow:
The Counting (Poetry, February 2023)
Untitled (Poetry, October 2022)
A Little Thing I Wrote (Poetry, October 2022)
Wait It Out (Poetry, October 2022)
On the Nature of Forgiveness (Poetry, May 2023)