Struck by Lightning

(by Daniel R. Jones)

A poet whom I greatly admire recently shared the following quotation:

“A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.” -Randall Jarrell

Those familiar with Randall Jarrell will recall that he was no stranger to being struck by lightning. In fact, I’d say he could bottle it. More often than not, his poems seemed to hit their mark. But was he on to something?

I had a professor in grad school who told me that if I’m being honest with myself, in a year’s time I only write two or three truly good poems. If I’m having a particularly productive year, I might get lucky and write four or five.

At the time, it felt painstakingly pessimistic. But as I look at my corpus of work, I’m forced to reckon with the fact that regardless of my output in any particular year, the amount of really good poems never jumps much higher than three to five per year. 

So, what does that mean for my creative process? To be honest, absolutely nothing. If we’re going to extend the metaphor that Jarrell put forth, there’s not a lot I can do to “up” my chances of getting struck by lightning. I suppose I could employ a lightning rod or splash around in a body of water. 

But the best thing I can do to ensure I can bottle that lightning when it comes is to simply stand in the thunderstorm. 

Taking a more spiritual approach to it, I think the artist who serves Christ is actually beholden to such a task. As Jesus’ disciples, we have a mandate to listen for the Spirit and dictate accordingly. In the immortal words of a poetic titan- “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

So with the mindset of Jarrell and the obedience of Milton, I’ll stand and wait in the thunderstorm, hoping and praying for lightning.

Open Call for Submissions! Summer 2021 Issue

Good evening,

This quarter is already off to a better start than last! I’ve received a few very high quality entries for our summer issue, which I’m excited to share with you!

I’d also like to remind everyone else that I’m currently accepting submissions for our Summer 2021 issue! I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

I can’t wait to see the entries for the third issue!

-DRJ

Talking Shop: Rabbit Trails

Recently, while drafting up a novel, I had to outline a scene that contained a smorgasbord of syrups. I didn’t have an IHOP within stone’s throw of my writing desk, so I fired up Google. Of course, within minutes, I was knee deep in search results, reading about the savory taste of birch syrup and the methods of creating a simple syrup from honey and water.

Your friendly-neighborhood-writing-professor just recoiled in horror. Conventional wisdom has always cautioned against such distractions while writing.

Doubtless, you’ve heard these warnings:

“The second you open an internet browser, you’ll break your flow state!”
“Multitasking in that way will wreak havoc on your writing.”
“Before you sit down to write, take a hammer to your internet router, cut your telephone lines, and board up your windows!”

This is one area where I break with tradition. That strange, ancillary effect writing has—forcing us to dive into unknown subjects—is a reason in itself to write. I’ve found curiosity begets more curiosity. The rabbit-holes I find myself wandering down are a boon for the creative process. At times, what started as the first draft of a story has caused me to learn more about architecture, vocations, nomenclature associated with various industries, and geography. In moments such as these, writing a novel feels as instructive and educational as my experience in college as a journalist.

So, my advice is simple: feel free to carve out some time to write without interruption. But also schedule some time with a little more leeway. Allow your brain a little more leash every now and again, and it just might do wonders for your creative process.

Bez & Co- April 2021 Issue

Table of Contents:

Introduction • Daniel R. Jones

Poetry-

Prayer • Peter Mladinic
M. Caravaggio • R.L. Bussell
The sleep of angels • Michael Murdoch
In Domino Confido • Mary Tarantini
Sketch for Desert Fathers• Jacob Riyeff

Introduction

Call it a “sophomore slump.”

For whatever reason, Bez & Co had a decrease in submissions this quarter. This happened even despite enacting a nominal payment for accepting pieces. Interestingly, the vast majority of submissions this issue were also poems. This comes, ironically, at a time when I have been more focused on writing prose.

Since most of my prose isn’t yet at the caliber I’d consider worthy of publication, I haven’t posted it on this site. I am continuing to work on my craft, and the theme of the day seems to be transition.

The heavily curated selection of poems I’ve gathered here inspire me. As is typical, the emphasis is on Christ-honoring work that hints at a sense of wonder. Still, each poem is very much grounded in our physical world.

In some respects, the physical is a simulacrum of the spiritual, right? And so, even if the quantity of the offering is meager, it is the intentions of the heart that matter. Although the pickings are scant in this issue, they are of high quality. I offer up to God and to you, Reader, this issue. The “crème de la crème.” I hope you enjoy it.

-Daniel R. Jones, Managing Editor of Bez & Co.

Prayer
1. Cambric Splint

The lake at dusk: a tableau of trees
across the water in silhouette,
silver sky, bathers near shore,
skiers behind boats.  Our towels on sand,
Andy breast stroked across a lagoon,
and I followed.  One Saturday
driving home from the lake we stopped
at a strip mall in Rogers,
and went into a yogurt shop owned by
Syd, a man in our singles group,
who was originally from Iran.  Syd
wore a huge cambric splint on one hand.
A week before our visit he was unhitching
a boat from a truck.  It slipped.
Its weight came down on his hand.
He treated Andy and me to yogurt parfaits,
tall glasses of coffee colored froth,
whipped cream, cherries.
At a small vinyl table, before eating
we prayed for Syd’s hand.

2. Wheelchair

Our feet creaked on two-by-fours
in the dark, her makeshift ramp.
Her six year old son, Brandon
opened the trailer door.  A kettle steamed
on the stove from which Pam turned
wheelchair-bound to greet us.
After the accident her husband left her.
In the family portrait
that hung framed in a thin black frame
on the living room wall, his dark brown
wavy hair came down over his ears.
Dark eyes, dark clipped mustache.
Pam offered us coffee.
Brandon had gone to bed.  I remember his
calling Pam through his bedroom wall.
Andy, tall, slightly stooped, prematurely
gray and balding, stood
and bumped his head on a ceiling lamp.
Pam’s motorized chair hummed softly.
She reached for her Merit lights
on an end table.
Before Andy and I left the three of us
held hands and prayed
for Pam’s well being in Jesus’ name.

-Peter Mladinic

Peter Mladinic

Peter Mladinic has published three books of poems, Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

M. Caravaggio

Painter. Profligate.
Michelangelo, the fool. —
Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.

Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed;
when Anthony’s tormentors shied away?
Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed;
why take your eye from your vision to stray?
Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame;
Your work has worked itself into myself; 
Your brush became my only brush with fame. 
Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf.
Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame,
is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper.
Then there is your telling of our night’s shame
when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver.
Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine
streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine? 

The echoing step
Moves us through history’s halls —
Saint Matthew’s burning.

My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness
and like an ever circling bird, rises.
My demons still roam my Rome in darkness
looking for young flesh and tender prizes;
Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round.
Night required I prick with sharpened sword
and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound;
they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard
their beauty and so keep my fame at bay.
Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live
within Peter’s shadowy cabaret?
I need to know if our flame will outlive
my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster.
Do her lips still call men to her chamber?

Tiber flows swiftly.
A starving tern yearns for food —
Pleasures at coin’s cost!

Fillide did what she had to do to live
and at the dawn of her womanhood, she
plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive
are often forced, in poverty, to flee
morality, and thus all the devils win.
Fillide did die so many years ago
that time has almost forgotten her sin.
It must be pain entire to hit so low.
I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning;
for her will did will herself in a frame.
She died remembering you without spurning.
She left us while petitioning our Dame.
I pray Mary heard you at your last breath
that all your darkness did not mark your death. 

Mortar frames her bed.
We all seem to hold our breath —
The nightingale sings.

I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash.
My flesh was torn too soon to notice much.
I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash,
the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch
can bring my blood to flowing. And no word
can now make sinew move my dusty bones.
All was darkness, there was a footfall heard,
(the mute sound of leather on hardened stones)
and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse.
My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned.
I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use.
I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned.
Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”,
then came the end to me who once was knight.

Gilding frames his head.
Now we speak of light and dark —
Salomé dances.

-Roger (RL) Busséll

Roger (RL) Busséll
Roger (RL) Busséll is a poet, artist and drafter. He has a bachelor of arts from the University of North Texas. He has a one man exhibition of his art in Groveland, CA. and publishes his work on his blog, rlbussell.com. Where he was able to share haiku daily in 2019. He was able to explore a story of love and the penultimate year of Vincent VanGogh. His work reflects an interest in history, art, and theology. He resides in Texas with the wife of his youth and the second of their two daughters

The Sleep of Angels

Babies breath 
Spouted pure
Released and sent adrift

Nightly death
Engulfing vapour
Sweeps into the rift

Mimicry crowds 
An age old ploy
Assigning sheep a number 

Cotton clouds
Softened with joy
In readiness of slumber 

Let rhythm follow
Of images known
Coalesced in tangled streams

Trust in Apollo
The guidance shown
Winged to the gateway of dreams

A Patient lover
God’s grace captured
Vigilant however painful

A Watchful mother
Stares enraptured
At the face of her own angel

-Michael Murdoch

Michael Murdoch
Born beneath the Southern Cross, Michael Murdoch a.k.a. the mouse, is a poet and fiction writer, who chased love to his new home under the Northern Lights. He resides in Helsinki with his wife and three children. You can find a selection of his works at his home away from home, The Twisting Tail.
murdochmouse.wordpress.com

In Domino Confido

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses”
Some seek to join the parade of immortals
Some parade wisdom through endless discourses
In Domino Confido

How do the angels guard and befriend?
A penny, a sign, from on high they descend?
The image of you in my sleep as I dreamt?
Deus amor est

God speaks to us in a gentle whisper
So heard Elijah after the wind and the fire
Respond in kind to this holy elixir
Amor vincit omnia

-Mary Tarantini

Mary Tarantini

Mary Tarantini is a high school English teacher and has been writing poetry for seven years. She has a BA degree in English and a MA in Theological Studies. She is also a second-year novice in The Third Order Society of Saint Francis. Some of her poems have been published in the newsletter The Franciscan Times.

Sketch for Desert Fathers

Paul the hermit in his desert 
or Guthlac of Crowland in his fen, 
they gather the birds to nest 
on their outstretched hands and shoulders 
as if roods animate and bearded: 
their friendship a mirror of Eden. 
Blue joy on the bush, 
on the ground outside our cell, 
perched heavy on my shoe. 

These Stellar’s Jays avian miracles— 
that, or they want our food. 

Jacob Riyeff

Jacob Riyeff

Jacob Riyeff (jacobriyeff.com, @riyeff) is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval literature. His work mainly focuses on the western contemplative tradition and the natural world. Jacob teaches in the English department at Marquette University and is a Benedictine oblate of Osage Deanery.

One Last Push (Accepting Submissions)

Hey guys,

On April 15th, I’m running my next issue of Bez & Co, the literary magazine! I’ve gotten a few great submissions, but there’s still room for more! Just a reminder…

I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

-DRJ

Some Inspiration/ Accepting Submissions

“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”

I keep thinking about this quotation. It haunts me, if I’m going to be honest. So often, I let my fear of failure lead me into a tailspin of self-sabotage. I’ve redoubled my commitment to be “okay” with looking like a foolish beginner.

One way can affirm that same commitment is to put yourself out there. It’s not the smoothest segue, but I’d like to remind you that I’m currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2021 issue. We’re a month out from publication, and I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

‘The Sylphid and the Sage’ Available Now!

The Sylphid and the Sage is now available as an eBook on Amazon!

Check out this sprawling, novel-length poem, written in heroic quatrain. It serves as both a whimsical story set to loose iambic pentameter, as well as a heartfelt allegory on sanctification. If you love poetry, fantasy, and allegory, this may be right up your alley.

Here’s a quick blurb:

“Three Sages make up the governing authority in the city of Selvus. The open-secret, though, is that none of these supposed wise men are actually learned or intelligent, at all. When one of the city’s Sages dies unexpectedly, it’s time to elect a new leader. But a mysterious fairy-like stranger arrives, promising the Selvans a better way. But can she be trusted?”

Pick yours up today!

Accepting Submission for Spring Issue!

Good morning, all!

Just dropping by to remind everyone that I’m currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2021 issue! I’m looking for original photography, artwork, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and lyric essays! If you have interest, please check out the Submission Guidelines here.

Each submission that is accepted for publication will be paid at the rate of $5 USD. Payment is upon publication. Bez & Co prefers to use PayPal to pay its contributors. If you need alternative accommodations, please let me know upon acceptance of publication, and I will work to find a solution.

I’m excited to see what you’ve got to bring to the table!

-DRJ