Soul Forte: A Journal for Spiritual Writing is delighted to present Issue 3 featuring writing by Tony Bates, Kim Langley, Tanja Kummerfeld, Joann Renee Boswell, Ruah Bull, Irene Loy, Virginia Douglas, Julia-Théres Donjak, and Mary Fillmore. Enjoy these journeys across immensity.
(Thank you Lina Rodriguez)
A “BOJ” is a job description for someone who doesn’t want a JOB.
1. Exclusively devoted to self-appointed tasks.
2. Task selection largely but not exclusively, based on whim, necessity, and domestic tranquility.
3. Task completion assessed, largely but not exclusively, by criteria specified in the unconscious.
4. The capacity for daydreams and fantasy shall not be denied. Infractions of this rule are punishable by imaginative constriction and weltschmerz. In severe cases by banishment to the deserts of soul-shriveling competitive self-aggrandizement.
Knowledge Skills and Abilities
1. Sense of humor is essential and capacity for hilarity, absurdist humor, laughter, and affectionate banter is preferred.
2. Capacity for frequent breaks from objective reality is preferred.
3. Capacity to avoid delusion and self-censorship, is preferred.
4. Capacity to tolerate ambiguity, paradox, and weirdness (Not including offensive behavior) is preferred.
1. Cook: experiment with multiple foods in various adventurous combinations to find tasty meals that don’t cause indigestion.
a. Try out new cheap interesting restaurants.
b. Should funding permit, restaurants and wines shall be enjoyed without regard to expense.
c. Maintain adequate supply of digestive enzymes.
2. Read: Follow the train of thought through various fields and authors who satisfy criteria mentioned above.
a. Be in love and engage the author.
b. Wrestle with the author but do no harm to thought.
c. Go where the writing moves you.
c.1 When lost, stop, and return to the author.
c.2 When irretrievably lost, return to self by way of an alternative pleasure of your choosing.
3. Conversation: With many and varied people with emphasis on shared interests and toleration of disagreement.
a. Enjoy disagreement through observation and learning.
a. Consult Tanja’s wise advice at Soul Forte on dealing with monologues.
4. Cat: Care and feeding of, watch it until it gets off the book in progress.
a. Should the cat walk across the keyboard when typing, pause and see if has typed anything inspirational. (asoif hekvj baoijcsaaaaadpokv a, for example)
b. Follow special instruction number XIV on cats and computers at the Cyber-Feline-Center’s website. (Construct said website and get instant consideration for promotion to self-supporting artist.)
5. Dog: Meet and walk friendly neighborhood dogs as required.
a. Observe dog’s people are generally friendly.
b. Issue treats only with human permission.
6. Paint: Look long and purposefully.
a. Find visual relationships.
b. Notice mental, emotional and intuitive reverberations.
b. Take the time to suspend judgement.
7. Music: Listen with full attention, background music is discouraged.
a. Variety is preferred, favoritism encouraged.
b. Identify ambient sounds and find silence so that it may be filled.
c. Notice mental, emotional, and intuitive reverberations.
d. Move to the music, play, dance!
8. Gardening: beds to be maintained with native plants which support local fauna, require minimal care, while being frequent subjects of appreciation.
9. Add to this BOJ or modify it as needed.
About the Author
Tony Bates grew up in different parts of the world following his father’s postings in the Foreign Service. Now living in Alexandria, Virginia, he is a retired government bureaucrat, house husband, part time writer, gardener, and community volunteer. Both a self-styled "Citizen of Nowhere” and a concerned citizen of this remarkable country.
Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash.
Our dynamic team has an opening for an Acceptance Mentor.
The ideal candidate for this job will be proficient in acceptance of most of what life has to throw at them.
Qualifications will include:
1. An exceptional ability to love what is.
2. Facility at holding in compassion those people to whom the applicant would formerly have granted a Darwin Award.
3. Strong ability to sit quietly for long stretches without feeling hopeless about the state of the world.
Applicant should be spiritually flexible, low in expectations, and high in energy to do the next right thing.
Excellent communication, self- compassion, and loving-kindness skills are required.
The successful applicant will be one who can communicate optimism without "blowing sunshine", and who is willing to be joyful, though they have considered all the facts.
This position requires a consistent willingness to argue with reality, lose that argument 100% of the time, and help others to embrace the ambiguity of loving the mutilated world.
No advanced degree is required, but some evidence of wisdom is preferred in order to be considered for this position.
About the Author
Kim Langley is an experienced professional trainer, seminar speaker, and coach who has conducted thousands of programs for corporations, professional groups, agencies, and associations with outstanding results. She is passionate and knowledgeable about emotional intelligence, the science of optimism, generations in the workplace, and conflict management. She is the author of a book on grief, entitled Send My Roots Rain: A Companion on the Grief Journey and published by Paraclete Press, and is a spiritual director/companion through the Haden Institute.
Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash.
In Memory of MK
You’ve been breaking into song
— unheard of before.
I hear the sound of Bruce Springsteen
over headphones. He is preaching without
the preaching. Amazing Grace moved me, Barack Obama
losing his words and finding them again. His
voice always catches me. I can hear the note of
forgiveness, but also anger and love, so much love.
Maybe men sing without their voices many times
and I never heard them except in song.
“Drawn to the outsiders
of the Old Testament,
my Ado is caught in
the forever of history.
Salt adorns the canvas
— people are physically
affected by my greys + whites.
Monochrome hell of
Sodom and Gomorrah,
it reminds me of the
20th century really.
Why? Because we
have to look back,
always. I do
it for them.”
Boy, Frog, Venice
On Charles Ray’s Sculpture at the Punta della Dogana (now removed)
He is all white
He is alright
He will stay
He is the new attraction
At night under glass
Is he lonely?
Or is it just me?
He's got a view
one of the prettiest
in Venice I envy him for
just being what
he is wanting
About the Author
Tanja Kummerfeld studied American and Italian Literature at the Universities of Hamburg and Delaware. She is currently on a strange journey and doesn’t know yet where it will take her. Writing and painting are ways of explorations for her. Sometimes she dares to call herself a poet, other times she is a secretary who happens to write.
Photo by Ervo Rocks on Unsplash
The New Women of Proverbs 31
Oh Man, what are you doing?
have you learned yet to look
with wonder at Women?
let their resilience inspire you:
an excellent Woman is easy to find
and yet each is unique as coral,
and so every one is worth more
than all the banks of Geneva.
her partners are many and diverse,
some romantic, others platonic,
and each of them benefits in her orbit,
trusting her to light their paths.
she is sometimes overlooked
and though her work is often undervalued
still she communicates clear boundaries
and keeps them.
through her casual example
she teaches all children
the value of rest, challenging capitalist
golden notions of pristine productivity.
her mind is full of ideas
and still she seeks more knowledge,
but experience has also taught her
the treasure of unusable minutes.
she says yes, and
after she’s worked a full day
she goes the fuck to sleep.
when she wakes, she welcomes
the morning news and is not
afraid to be angry and speak her mind,
demanding justice for the rights of the under-served.
you’ll see her smile
as she dresses to please
herself: jeggings, jewels, or both:
gives no actual farts what others think.
surely she could make her own clothing
and knit elaborate scarves, and darn socks,
but sometimes she just shops
recognizing the limits of her energy.
she does wear literal clothes,
and not just virtues, but she also adorns
herself with all of the feels,
freely displaying her emotions.
charm can be deceptive,
and beauty is subjective,
but women who speak the truth
should be praised;
instead many call her intimidating,
bossy, or moody, and wag
their fingers as she walks away,
she shakes off their foolish disapproval.
she seeks the company of friends.
without jealousy or despondency,
she cheers her sisters on,
celebrating their victories as her own.
Oh Man, these Women surround you,
open your mind,
drink in their varied magnificence.
and listen to their wisdom.
About the Author
Joann Renee Boswell is a teacher, mother, photographer and poet currently living in Camas, Washington, with her partner and three children. Joann loves rainy days filled with coffee, books, handholding, moody music and sci-fi shows. Some places she’s been published include Mothers Always Write, For Women Who Roar, The Martian Chronicle, and VoiceCatcher. Her first book of poetry, Cosmic Pockets, was published by Fernwood Press in May 2020. Learn more and reach out at joannrenee.com.
Photo by Matteo Vella on Unsplash
Bull in a China Shop
Delicate patterns and pieces
Arranged with care,
And a quiet where dust slowly settles
At first, some small stirring --
-- A horn, teacup? –-
Then shifting, uneasy, unsettling
Plates, bowls, flanks and massive head
Finally, the waited for almost erotic smash
Through everything fragile, careful, precious
I could say 'poor thing’
But he’s having the time of his life
Sonoma County, CA, Oct. 2017
Sitting legs wide open on the black ground,
She cradles the burned llama
Against the fullness of her body.
An officer with a shotgun
Approaches in the lower left of the photo,
Come to perform the final mercy.
Her eyes are lowered.
I imagine she is rocking,
Absorbed in a book, in a garden,
Surprised by a loud, close thrum
And the suspended green --
Did she smell the nectar in this poem?
Like an angel, or soul,
The hummingbird bathing in the fountain
Shattered spray and light
As it folded this moment open.
Watering flowered sage,
She stopped mid-air and sipped from the flow.
I stood joy-struck, still as an acolyte,
My silence more than thank you.
About the Author
Ruah Bull has been a professional in the healing arts since 1977. She completed her spiritual direction training in 2001 and has been working internationally with individuals and groups on both the Christian and New Spirituality paths. A Catholic, she has deep roots and training in Celtic and Native American spirituality. Ruah’s greatest joy is supporting folks in exploring their unique relationship with Holy Mystery. Ruah lives with her husband and fur baby in Massachusetts. Visit Ruah’s website at www.ruahbull.blogspot.com.
Photo by Alexander Aguero on Unsplash.
Local Zen Center Declares in Press Conference: Zigzags Produce Epiphany
For map listening:
I zigzag tomorrow plus
Paint my way forward
How to Speak the Country inside Me
The official languages of the country inside me
and Sadness at unmet ideals.
German and English, too,
but like the grantig quality of Austrian German
or the “spend time” commercialism of English,
the tone of my country’s languages is critique.
I move my country-body
around this Americanah
and I am often not amazed, not amused
All the ideals we brought here --
How did we so profoundly miss the mark?
We forgot that people matter more than money
So, the people in my inner country are crying
and wondering where to locate this country
inside of that one.
An Autobiography of IRENE LOY
An adult name
A stand-for-my-ancestors name
I contain multitudes
In eight letters.
IRENE - Honoring my maternal great-grandmother, her middle name is my first. Anna Irene Leopard.
LOY - My maternal grandfather’s name, uninterrupted by my father’s willing ignorance of me. Strong name. The Loy nose. Only Leopard -- Leppert -- would have been better. My maternal great-grandfather’s name: Harvey Leopard. The cleft in my chin, sourced at long last in old photographs of him. I miss these two, Anna and Harvey, though we never met.
IRE - I’ve been angry for a long time. Righteous, clear anger, that I was expected to trade out my wants and needs for love and survival. That I was abandoned. That those meant to protect me took a hands off policy. I did well in school, so my pain took a backburner. Like a hearth fire, like these letters, I stand up straight. I’ve been burning with this for a long time, and my justice will come.
NOR - I am neither wife nor mother.
LONE - “In my head, in my head I get lonely sometimes.” - Rainbow Kitten Surprise
REIN - Chinese astrology: the Earth Horse. I am proud, prone to discontent. Just like my Leo soul. I will not be tamed, but I have learned to let myself be loved.
RIOL - I have been known to ruffle feathers, to disturb the sediment, to burn the house down. The trouble is my seeing things differently than those so able to wound me.
LORE - I could write a whole dissertation on the study of story. In fact, I am.
LOIN - Whew, this one took a long time! My own sexuality, at last reclaimed.
LYRE - Oh, sing the stories in embodied expression! I am one made for this.
ORE - Mining my depths, coming up with this throughline: Celebration.
LIEN - This body, this breath, this voice on loan! Until I live my passionate purpose.
About the Author
Irene Loy holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the University of New Mexico. She is currently a PhD candidate with Transart Institute and Liverpool John Moores University. She has written poetry since high school and was once a finalist in the annual Bar 13 Slam Poetry competition. She's a dramatic theorist and poet-playwright. May you enjoy these offerings!
I Go Among Trees
after Wendell Berry
I go among trees;
What do I know and
What have I seen
compared to you?
You knew me when I was
so young and lost
in my own backyard.
You were the lighthouse
that guided me back.
We piled compost at your feet,
and buried animals under your arms.
You took the lightning strikes
on yourself, and
She Knows Many Wisdoms:
Reflections on Artemis
Diotimus, in "Prayer to Artemis," writes, in essence, that from the virgin our children learn what in fact are survival skills. Well now, isn't that interesting? The term virgin, of course, means one who is whole in and of themself. This despite our popular insistence that it's all about sex, of which that is only one example. So Artemis -- she knows many wisdoms, integrated into herself, and then shared back out into the world. We, her children, benefit.
She loves the rock and the water.
Home from the hunt, that's where she goes.
With so much heat focused
it's bliss to sink into the
crystalline galaxy of cool
water at the shore.
To let the overwhelming power
of something her equal
Artemis goes swimming.
*This writing on Artemis draws from two poems: "Prayer to Artemis," by Diotimus, translated by Stephanie Burt (Diotimus was a Greek Stoic who lived around 100 BC.); and "Excarnation" by Kim Parko, both published in Poetry, Spring 2022. "She loves the rock and the water" is from Parko's "Excarnation."
About the Author
A native of northeast Ohio, Virginia Douglas lives in a bungalow occasionally mistaken for a folk art museum. It's a charmed life. Charmed, that is, by the inspiration of books, travel souvenirs, unruly cats and gardens, and the blessing of family and friends.
Answer to Coyote
Coyote laughs at me
and welcomes me
at the same time
He doesn't show the way
but helps you find yourself the best one to follow
He never takes you seriously
but listens to you with passion
you need to do it for a living
you can use it for joy
getting a beautiful smell into your lungs
you can use it for calming down
your agitated mind
your exhausted body
inhale to get your loudest shout
to free your anger
Free of Mind
Even if your body is based on the ground
your mind is free to meet the stars
Whatever bad happened to you
stand up and welcome the shine of my smile
There is motherly love for everybody
Just close your eyes and see
The fine tone of the harp just floats along the air
It drips into my ear like ambrosia into my mouth
Relaxing gets from the ear down through the whole body
My lips get up and I begin to smile
Heaviness falls off of me
Leaving light in body and soul
About the Author
Julia-Théres Donjak loves stories and needlework. With her husband, she lives in an small village in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Germany, in a former farmhouse where she enjoys working in their idyllic garden, looking after their four cats, and taking care of a number of chickens. Although writing on her own since childhood, Julia-Théres never imagined her poetry good enough for publishing.
Photo by Abbie Chohrach on Unsplash
at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
before it collapsed
We’ve been here long enough
for a few pink blossoms
flung on the grass
to become multitudes
long enough to hold
every sunset in our eyes
from the first golden light
to the abundant darkness
long enough for the moon
to bulge and drown the stars,
then shrivel like a raisin
long enough to forget
a certain madness
the calamities of our time
long enough to study
squawking and singing birds
how they returned
after Hurricane Maria
long enough to notice
the altered trees:
branches missing or broken
some pressing out leaves
no matter what
A yellowish smog color
painted on my breast
as a watercolorist might:
a bruise not caused by a brute
but by tripping
on a fashionable chair’s leg.
Is my future condemned
to caution? Must I really check
every possible impediment
twice over? Am I “progressing”
to carry a stick, always?
Tripping once meant a voyage
into the great Whole, the void,
the splendidly unapproachable
except in that altered state.
Now, to trip means to stumble
perhaps plummet, sprain
bruise, break. I howled and cursed
as the pain lashed me.
Can that be today’s way
to the One?
A Virtual Visit to Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran
The sun's rising on our snow
the air a frigid zero
here in Vermont's February
on a screen, we see the Square
in distant Isfahan
not any time, but now
no one wears a coat
here are a place and a people
we're taught to fear
the Square somewhere
we felt we'd never go
It's Friday evening to them
with picnics everywhere
a father twirls his child
into his arms women adjust
their shimmering headscarves
The mosque walls around them
shine with the mathematics
their ancestors gave the world
Look, they're wearing masks
just as we must
for the same plague afflicts us
our prayer for deliverance
is the same
Do we understand
About the Author
Mary Dingee Fillmore writes in all genres. Her poetry is in Atlanta Review, Blueline, Diner, and Main Street Rag. Her 2018 chapbook, Aside from Our Bright Lives, was published by England's Hen Run Press. Mary speaks widely about anti-Nazi resistance, based on her award-winning novel, An Address in Amsterdam.
Photo by Allec Gomes on Unsplash