Ancient Paths Literary Magazine

Ancient Paths Literary Magazine Ancient Paths Online publishes quality poetry, short fiction, and photography on subtle religious th In 2012, Ancient Paths became an online publication.

Seventeen issues of Ancient Paths literary magazine were published in print from 1998 - 2011. Ancient Paths now brings you new, quality poetry and short fiction on its page. All works are then archived on the blog. For complete submission guidelines, see the website at Be sure to order a copy of a past print issue to get a feel for

the types of works we publish. See a poem you like on our page? Click share and show it to your friends.

Operating as usual


"Cardinal Red"
by Paula Veloso Babadi

More than poinsettias or
red curly-ribboned Christmas gifts,
more than glossy lacquered lines
of red candy apples in the window,
more than clumsy Crayola-red shapes
on a toddler's first piece of art,
more than sumptuous strawberry-red berries
begging to be tasted,
more than the competent clarity of fire engine reds
racing to rescue,

the deep scarlet cardinal captures me
in the fleeting seconds of his landing,
in the sound of his call,
in the almost imperceptible rising and falling
of his splendid chest.

He breathes life and bleeds red, as red as the drops of blood
falling from our Savior's wounds,
and causes me to remember my father
quoting Matthew 6:26 from his red Douay-Rheims
"Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow,
nor do they reap, nor gather into barns;
and your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are not you of much more value than they?"

In this cardinal red moment,
the two hundred and eighty-four other shades
referenced in books
cannot compare.


"A Christmas Carol"
by Royal Rhodes

Into late December museums sell
expensive cards on heavy stock --
variations on the Christmas creche.

One image done by a minor artist
shows a crib oddly embedded in
a dark arch with broken timber beams.

The plaster is missing daubs of paint
as the mural's wreck displays the ass's
damaged eye and a camel's lost leg.

The slumbering god in animal straw
does not hear the thundering din
of angels in the dance hall of heaven.

And those messengers are unaware
of the pain they bring to our sleep
under the starlight's white-washed sky.

The dazzled kings offer impractical gifts,
and like them after this temporary drama
we all return to our own native country.

Soon we put this telling story away
into the back of a seldom-used drawer,
forgetting we are linked in one flesh.

Here we glanced at a birth and a coming
death, hidden in tiny outstretched hands,
as God writes our history on each of us.


"The First Coming"
by J.D. Graham

The God-man, born inside a borrowed cave,
is wrapped by Mary’s hands in swaddling bands.
He will be wrapped again by women’s hands
before they lay him in a borrowed grave.

At birth, the angels promise He will save
His people from their sins, preach peace to man,
unbind the captives, be life for dead lands.
All this, in this weak infant whom God gave.

At death, though spotless, He takes up our sin.
There is no peace for Him: God hides His face.
They drag Him, beaten, through the streets, begin
to crown Christ, crucify Him. Still, God’s grace
abounds; this Man, a heap of broken skin,
kills in Himself all death for Adam’s race.


"Waiting for Christmas"
by Jane Hertenstein

At Christmas every light comes on,
in the basement where my daughter
home from college retrieves ice cream,
in the dining room a lamp illuminates
the abandoned puzzle, the laundry nook
dazzles, while the back porch radiates a
smoky incandescence, the TV flickers
a blue twilight, in the middle of the night
my heart pulses as I reflect. Soon
the house will be silent, the only light
the bulb above my reading chair.


“Early Christmas Morning”
by Maggie Nerz Iribarne

The ice crept down his glove. He cursed the wet trickle moving from wrist to hand. He took a swig of bourbon, the familiar warmth moving down his throat. He swallowed, grimaced. Sometimes the answers to life’s problems can be found in the bottom of a flask, his late brother’s words crossed his mind. As he turned toward the rectory, the Christmas tree twinkled in the living room window. He felt empty and cold, like the dark church lurking beside him, so recently ablaze in lit candles for midnight Mass.

Building snowmen was something he did with his father every winter. Even now, at age 70, he loved the packing, molding, and placing involved in the process. He loved reaching in his pocket for the small pieces of coal, or, tonight, navy blue buttons, vestiges of some dead priest’s pea coat found in the rectory’s button box. His other pocket held the bag of fuzzy carrots he’d discovered in the fridge’s veggie drawer, soon to become craggy noses.

A darkness crept across his mind. He remembered the recent snub of a parishioner in the grocery store. A familiar woman looked away when his eyes met hers across the tomato display. He didn’t know any of their names yet and didn’t really care. He felt they were lucky to have him. If he’d chosen another career he’d be retired by now, not the new pastor of this big suburban parish. He knew he was considered an unfriendly replacement for their beloved Monsignor Davies. He shivered.

The sun would soon be up. He finished his work, sweeping footprints away with his scarf as he made his way, step by step, back to the rectory. He smiled at his presence disappearing like that, so easily, without much effort.

He was not an egotistical priest, he thought. He did not need to see their reactions, when families would be greeted by four snow people whose twig arms splayed out wildly, whose unmoving eyes offered a quiet, but sincere, “Merry Christmas!” He would be inside the church, behind the altar, preparing to say mass, as everyone expected, as he had done hundreds of times before.


Walking in Darkness
by Michael Edwards

The stars
—like angels—
fill the night.

And yet their light seems cold.

Not looked for,
not seen:

This single drop of dew, welling
from a rose.

The baby Jesus sleeps once more
in the ripe womb incarnadine.

Or so it seems.

"Journey of the Magi"by Stephen Kingston“Climb! Climb, will you!” Captain Johnson bellows, banging throttle to maximum, ...
The Rooftop Dakota: the story of the BEA C-47 that crashed onto the roof of a house near Northolt Airport - The Aviation Geek Club

"Journey of the Magi"
by Stephen Kingston

“Climb! Climb, will you!” Captain Johnson bellows, banging throttle to maximum, as though volume and percussive force alone will succeed where pulling on the joystick has so far failed. Engines squeal and whine in protest, and the astonished faces of three women are looking at us from the top floor of the BEA building, as we fly directly towards them. We see them duck when the plane manages a last second lurch, climbing just enough before the loss of airspeed drops us over the pitched roof, so close that sound echoes back like the bellow of a train entering a tunnel. We expect to hear the sickening crunch of the gear ploughing into clay tiles, but instead the sound drops away as we jump the red brick hurdle.

Relief is short lived. We pass down Angus Drive, so close we are almost colliding with lamp posts.

“Climb!” Johnson screams again, but the plane is deaf or recalcitrant. It’s as if it has forgotten how to be a plane, and would prefer to be a double decker bus, but this road is short, and buses can’t jump semi detached houses.

I belatedly think I should take my seat. I like to stand behind the pilots on take-off, so I can see through the front window, see where we are going. I’m holding the back of the captain’s chair now, white knuckled. I’m out of time. Before we can smash into the oncoming houses, there comes a scream of tortured metal from the left wing and the plane is whipped around, anti-clockwise. Centrifugal force sends me sprawling. The movement is violent, unexpected, uncontrolled, and the noise is terrible. A detonation of sound, and a shuddering, snarling, shaking convulsion as our motion is arrested.

I pick myself up in the semi-dark, rubbing my arm. Smoke and dust fill the air and I can smell oil. It’s not silent, but the sounds of collapsing brick work, and the creaking of twisted airframe are just an after-image of the cacophony seconds ago.

“Is… is everyone okay?” Johnson asks.

The radio squawks.

“Railway Services, flight ZA, do you read? Please state your position.”

I look at the radio station. My station. There appears to be a propellor sticking out of my chair, stuffing dangling from a metal shard like tinsel on a branch. If I had been sat down when that happened…

I look out of front window. The glass has gone but the frame is mostly intact. The dust is clearing, whipped away by wind. I see snowflakes falling into the remains of the roof space of a suburban semi-detached house.

“Repeat, G-AGZA, please state your position.”

I pick up the radio, look at Johnson, and then press the transmit button.

“A loft,” I say.

“Copy that. You are still aloft?”

“Not any more.”

“Hold on, I’ll get the attic ladder,” a woman shouts from outside, and while I order a fire crew, Johnson organises the evacuation. Ladder in place, we descend into 44 Angus Drive. Excess adrenalin makes us noisy, but the woman shushes us.

“Don’t wake the baby, he’s still sleeping.”


“He’d sleep through the second coming,” she says, and I think that he probably already has.
It’s 19 December 1946. A year after the war, a week before Christmas; all I can think of is the peace on Earth, and the five of us descending from the starry heights to where the baby is sleeping, like a heavenly host visiting shepherds. No, no, not that. More like the magi journeying to Bethlehem, journeying to a moment, a point in time, where we can, without reservation, be thankful for something magnificent. I could have died tonight. I could have left two orphans and an ocean of grief this Christmas. It’s a thought that makes you stop and consider, I can tell you. To stop and be thankful.

I’ll bring the child a gift tomorrow. Maybe not gold, but something better than a plane embedded in the roof.

A bus. It’ll have to be a big red London bus.

(Based on actual events. (

The Rooftop Dakota: the story of the BEA C-47 Dakota that crashed onto the roof of a house near Northolt Airport


by Shaun McMichael

Driving home in the deluge,
a deluge inside is driving me,
unknown at work, unknown by the other drivers,
unknown by the cold, carrying claws of my car—
one in a school of steel pods surging like steel-
head in a current, arching with the bridge
over the waters, breaking in pulses
of red light and despair, each car, a fish
encasing an unknown soul. Voices.

Invisible waves bring young voices.
Enduring through the downpour, they sing
in a language they do not know
about a Christmas tree.
I can smell the incense of its boughs
and see its baubles, though in the deluge,
I can no longer see the road.

There’s a gridlock of the heart
that persists when the cars have all come home.
A cathedral looms. The moon shines
through its arched windows. The fallen
rain has settled into its walls. Inside is a silence
that the songs do not deny
but confirm.

Even after we’ve turned off our engines
and our lights, and the highway
is a dry riverbed running through ruins,
we are all trying to get there
in time to hear the silence
which we believe is the hush before a song
in which each of our voices can flow,
carried, driving. In unison,
heard and known.


"No Vacancy"
by Steve Bell

The orange light blinked
off and on, on and off.
All the beds were taken, rooms
overflowing with guests.

One young couple turned away.
“There’s a carport out back.”
says the clerk, his eyes teetering
on the edge of sleep.
“You’re welcome to use it,
No charge.”

The tiny lobby of this,
the smallest Motel Six in Bethlehem
reeked of frustration.
The woman’s hands now reach out
to calm her husband’s nervous fingers
as he drums the coffee-stained countertop.

“My wife is very pregnant. We've been driving
all night, are you…”
“The carport, sir, take it or leave it.”
Joseph escorts his beloved
back to their car, starts the engine
backs up then, forward motion and a
sharp right turn onto a
crumbling driveway, the parking lot
littered with broken glass and empty wrappers
of God knows what.

They open the doors, pop the trunk
climb out of the car shivering
staring into the dark accommodations,
grabbing their backpacks, pillows and
sleeping bags. Joseph, flashlight in
one hand, green tarp in the other searches
for a smooth spot to make their bed.
The young mother to be
stands still, her hands now
grasp her belly.
She smiles wide,
the child inside
kicks his feet as if
suddenly startled by a
burst of starlight
and the sound of bleating sheep.


"Sugared and Spiced"
by Kelly Sargent

Once upon a time, in a wintery, cedar-shingled home seventeen miles north,
I watched you bake gingerbread buddies with Grammy
to take home in the Currier & Ives tin specially reserved for that time of year.

Brushing your glistening oval face with the back of your tiny hand,
flour powdered your cheek lightly.
As pale as it colored you, I could still see your skin flushed peppermint pink
with excitement to first glimpse your round-faced buddy
as he emerged from the cherry-wood cabinet to greet you yet another year.

Grammy, wearing her festive holly and ivy cardigan, chuckled as you spun him around three times to find just the proper placement in the dough for his face that smiled good cheer at you.
When your still-sticky-with-dough fingers separated the sugar-laden mitten from his arm, Grammy assured you with an easy wave that he wouldn’t be in need of it in the oven —it was toasty enough inside.

I noticed a dash of nutmeg in her silver hair,
streaking golden in the warm light that peered through the entryway
to watch curiously from the fireplace aglow.
I remembered how she loved cinnamon sticks in her mug of pressed apple cider,
heated in a kettle instead of a saucepan on the pot-belly stove
that peeled where a belly button might nestle.

Grammy passed you the cranberry-red spatula —
the one with the knick in the handle, used only for baking.
You held it delicately in your fingers, as though you were holding a snowflake between their tips.
Lovingly, you lifted “Mr. G” above your head and slid him —
his belly portly from butter —
onto the crisp white parchment awaiting his arrival.
Eyes level with his feet, you lingered at his toes while standing on your own.

Your amber eyes sparkled like the glitter on your kindergarten creation
hanging on the refrigerator door,
steadfastly held by a magnet that framed your grinning, daisy-painted cheeks
at your school’s Spring carnival that year.
You had invited your “best friend” to be your guest.
Grammy wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Grampy peeked around the corner
as giggles and spice and everything nice wafted through the kitchen.
Holding you in his arms, you both surveyed the tidy village
populating the corner of his kitchen.
He admired handsomely-tanned faces
before abducting and tucking one into his blue flannel pocket
that had been brushed soft by holidays past.
He hummed softly on his way back to his den,
where jolly carolers huddled in his radio and jauntily welcomed his return.

Later, you kissed Grammy goodbye with lips rosy from red sprinkles.
Clutching the tin, lidded with snow-dusted Morgan horses wearing auburn coats —
it was always your favorite —
you waved at Grammy from your own fanciful “sled” in the driveway.
Pressed against a glowing pane, she waved back, already saddened by your absence.

Once home, you climbed out without delay,
your treasured, golden goodies still pressed tightly against your chest.
I spied a few stray crumbs in the backseat, and smiled at your silent stealth.

You waited on the doorstep, hushed by falling snow.
Currier & Ives, if able, would have lithographed you in the doorframe
with ornate snowflakes adorning your auburn mane,
eager to get inside to telephone your best friend
and assure her that you had arrived safely at home with your new buddies,
sugared and spiced
with everything that was nice.


"At the Advent Presbytery Meeting"
by Wendy Jean MacLean

The Presbytery Staff is lighting the Advent candles
at the meeting tonight. I am Voice Three.
Nobody asked me if I wanted to be
but “We always do this skit, every year.”
So they plugged me in.
Maybe I should substitute my line
and use the one I remember from kindergarten:
“What are you trying to tell us, Donkey?”
The Shepherds will splutter and try to ad lib
and the angels (secretaries and clerk)
will grimace through their tin foil haloes.
“And it will come to pass…” (the donkey farted)
and suddenly, the earthy laughter
and rumbling of discontent will come together
to become one voice. The syllables
will form in their startled lips
and everyone in the Presbytery
will find themselves shouting.
And the donkey will swish his tail
and answer my question with a gentle snort.
“Glory has no rules.”


by Alana Speth

In the church, carols —
even the hymns dressed up.
Candles, like an offering, down the pews.

Outside, the night
is cold. There are no stars. The sky has chosen
snow. In Bethlehem, a star

or many. And all that walking – first
Mary and Joseph and a mule,
gift-bearing strangers. The sheep, even, we suppose. Trying,
all of them, to reach the stable.

We move through this month
of ribbons, glitters, sugared fruits. She moved
through nine, lonely but for the growing.

After all the plans, at last the travel home.
Together in the final silent hour
we are waiting for the Light.


"The Father Gives His Son Cells"
by Ryan Keating

Unbroken perfect eternity
Acquires dimensions
Limits, boundaries, edges
Front back top bottom
Inside and outside of everything

Infinite God becoming-
Starting small and getting bigger
Taller, stronger, wiser, better
Tasting, hearing, smelling, feeling
Friendship and decay and death

The omniscient is
Obscure, unknown, unknowing
Sleeping, eating, crying, bleeding
Surprise and sorrow arriving and leaving
The room, the planet, the land

Where he is planting and sowing
Perishable seeds of an undying kingdom
That grows in unbroken dimensions
Getting bigger, closer, wider, deeper
Until the broken undoer of dying cells
Comes home


by Donna Langevin
(after a wire sculpture by Godinez)

Little b***o tethered to a tree,
you wait with a bundle of mesquite logs
tied to your back that gives your spine
a fixed sway, and bows your head
low to the ground.

Borrico, your twisted metal
comes alive for me, saddled as I am
with backache, joint-pain, and nerves
like the barbed wires binding your body.

Resting for a while on a park bench
in the Sedona town plaza, I want
to fetch you a pail of cold water
that spouts from a stone gremlin’s mouth
into the blue-tiled fountain-basin
close to the Vino Uno, and the stall
that sells Navajo jewelry.

Patient, long-suffering b***o
I wish I could unburden you,
rub salve on your sores, offer you
carrots or an apple from a nearby ristorante.

Instead of standing forever
in this murderous sunlight, you deserve
to rest in the shade of the Nativity stable,
feed on hay from Christ’s manger,
lick salt from his palm.

Little b***o, I wish I could lead you there,
but this desert has too many thorns
and my faith is a dried-up stream.
I must leave you to wait here
among tourists snapping your picture,
and children stroking your ears.


"Escape to Egypt"
by Ron Hickerson

Trying to limber my body stiffened from neglected
Practices, I turn on my phone and open my yoga
App - trying not to get distracted in the process. Too
Many times, I’ve opened my phone only to get lost
In a sea of memes when I had a legitimate task.
I move through my poses, breathing into my joints, letting
Suppleness seep into my muscles. Shavasana comes.
I try to lie as still as a co**se on my bedroom floor,
Feeling the carpet fibers poking the skin of my legs.
I look up to the wall on my left, seeing an icon,
Painted by a Ukrainian, depicting the holy
Family escaping to Egypt - sacred refugees.
Their poses prompt my wife to say, “They’re taking a selfie!”

Joseph walks beside Mary and Baby Jesus riding
A donkey. He holds a shining flower in his hand - a
Symbol of the Holy Spirit. The three huddle around
The presence - comfort for the journey. They make me think of
Those seeking aid among neighbors and strangers running from
A would-be king gripped with the fear of losing his power.
It’s always power that inflicts pain and incites bolting.
Refugees flee for dearth of power, but, strangely, wealth of
Power can drive some to seek higher ground. When Constantine
Made Rome great again by co-opting the faith fulfilled by
A refugee toddler, his faith was trusting in Empire.
He shackled all to that stiff-jointed faith upon threat of
Death. So Mothers and Fathers - to save faith, saints, and seekers -
Fled again to Egypt to find the Refugee in their
Silence and found refuge in the silence he gave in turn


By Robert Mayette

It would be the perfect Thanksgiving, but only if Ryan would come.

When you’re pushing middle age and never had and never will have a son, it means that God is telling you to go find one out in the world. Someone that was looking for a missing father.

Ryan was that. We had met at the jiu jitsu gym where we both trained, and within twenty minutes of talking after class one day he’d told me how his own father had committed su***de, abandoning him as just a sixteen year old kid with a drug problem and some self-extinguishing thoughts of his own.

He didn’t have to say it, but he wanted any older man to care enough to step into that emptied role. I did, gladly. I wasn’t the only one at the gym who came to look at Ryan as something of a nephew, but I liked to think that I was doing the best job of it. I had to. Having two young daughters forever into Disney princesses and hanging onto their mother meant that Ryan would be the closest thing I’d ever get to a son of my own.

If only the du***ss would listen.

Especially about the door.

Two doors, actually. Ryan had graduated from a trade school (a carpentry major) instead of a traditional high school, and somehow he thought that that diploma made him a genius. And I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that here in my presence was a DaVinci that no one else in the world had yet to recognize. He would often talk of supports and header beams with an inspired look in his eyes. Thomas Edison was doubted as a young man. So were Einstein and Tesla. This is what I wanted Ryan to be. Someone that just needed someone to recognize him.

It’s also what I wanted to be: the first person to see that genius flourish, the one that could say, “I knew all along!”

And I had these doors in my garage and basement that needed replacing. It was the perfect opportunity.

Until he actually put them in and called me down from my home office to look at them.

I stood before them. “Ah… well…”

They were horrible. Like they belonged in a funhouse.

He smiled. “Good, huh?”

“Well, it’s just that they don’t seem…”

And what followed was every last ounce of reason and coolheadedness that I could muster. I got nowhere. No, they were perfectly plumb, he insisted. What, did I want him to deliberately install them out of plumb in order to have them be whatever way it was that I wanted? Well, he could get three carpenters here in an hour who would agree with him. I just didn’t understand: the whole house was collapsing, and if he installed it the way I wanted then they’d get all screwed up and wouldn’t be able to be opened at all after he brought in the twelve housejacks he’d need to get the whole structure righted again.

I paid him per his hourly rate. I told him I needed some time to think about next steps.

Some weeks passed. I let it drop. So did he.

The doors finally got fixed by a carpenter off of a social media recommendation. (They looked great.)

But now it was Thanksgiving again, coming up. Ryan had come last year. And to Easter. And how I would love having at my table an extended member of my family, this accidental son, that I broke bread with and talked MMA and politics and country music with after the girls disappeared into their world that never seemed to have much room for me.

I texted. Hey, Thanksgiving is next week. You’re invited, of course. Same as last year - come at 1, dinner at 3.

He wrote, Yeah, well…

Well what?

And then no answer.

I let it sit for three days before writing again. Are you coming or not? I need to plan. I don’t want to talk about the doors. But I want you to come.

No answer.

The sensible part of me said to forget about it.

But I knew Ryan.

I was his replacement Dad. I made sure there was enough mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce that he especially liked. It wasn’t like he’d eat that much anyway.

And when his motorcycle pulled into the driveway at 12:45, I had a drink already poured for him.

I knew all along.


"Giving Thanks at Morningside"
by Kathleen McCoy

For the pinecone strumpets
plumping their wicker bed,
the fireplace stuffed with insulation,
pensive bricks towering in silence

and recombinant Marian images,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our
Lady of the Sacred Breasts,
for with them come the soaring ceilings,

wooded vistas, partridge, black snake,
toad, bullfrog, monarch, moth, black fly,
wobbling fawn, lumbering moose,
the forest’s flutes trilling on the breeze,

and more than these—the folks
I’ve yearned to speak with—Catherine’s
in from Siena with Merton, John of the Cross,
Meister Eckhart, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day,

Oscar Romero, Dorothy Stang—gratitude
for a procession of luminaries humble enough
to wait upon their appointed shelves
to change another world.


by C. McCraw

As long ago
as the nineteen sixties
I was an elementary school student.
Every November

the teachers ladled out the story
of the first Thanksgiving.
We did reenactments.
The cafeteria ladies prepared a feast

and we dressed as Pilgrims or Indians.
I always opted to be a Pilgrim.
My mom provided a black blouse,
long black skirt and white apron

and in class we made headpieces
with construction paper.
Bands around the head for the Indians
with construction paper feathers,

bonnets for the girl Pilgrims,
from a pattern of paper
held together with Scotch Tape
and Elmer's Glue.

Now, as a single adult,
I visit friends
for Thanksgiving meals.
I am grateful to God

for the lavish spread,
the conversation, laughter
and glow of candles
from the centerpieces.

But, I'm nostalgic for
the simple story
I learned at ages nine and ten
that omitted the aftermath

of that first feast,
the diseases the Pilgrims brought,
the bloodshed and fights
for territory,

the driving of the Native Americans
into reservations.
I've long had an adult understanding
of sorrow and gray shadows, but

once upon a time
Thanksgiving was
a tale for children,
as black and white

as the Pilgrim costume
I used to wear
for my first
Thanksgiving feasts.


"C-r-a-n, cranberry"

by R. P. Singletary

Mee-Maws loved cranberries fresh. She had sewed new curtains over the last few months, wanted them to match the congealed salad and fresh sauce she served every year. She did not have much, but for some reason she fussed over cranberries every autumn. Years before common, she ordered fresh berries from Down East, saying she never understood the Maine folks.

“Down East up near Beaufort, North Carolina, don't them Yanks know theirs geography?”

I loved my Mee-Maws. She loved me and all of us, but she told me once she loved me best and most. She said I could never tell a cousin that, and I promised. It was the day no one else could drive her to the store, I realized later. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and she'd forgotten to place her cranberry order or the farmers Down East had striked or the postal workers had, I don't rightly recall the why of the matter. I remember being hungry before she started loving on me again.

“Just between us,” she whispered.

For a moment, she stared me in the face like the warted mask that had fallen out of the holiday closet when she went searching for all her fake fall-leaf assemblies earlier that morning.

“Just between us.”

“Yes, ma'am.”

I had to say the two words three times to please her, and like a fairy tale she changed back into the lovable granny we all knew, the woman ever on the ready with hot meals every Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and yes ma'am every Sunday noontime and eventide, if truth be told. All from scratch and nearly all from her garden, everything but the cranberries.

She handed me the keys to her old red sedan. Everyone knew she'd never learned how to drive. I had just passed my driver's test, and she was happier than me over that.

“Let's see if they passed you with good reason, sonny.”

She winked and then pointed to turn left, as if I didn't know the direction of the only store in a day's drive.

“Aren't them red leaves lovely?”

“Yes, ma'am,” I said.

She usually penciled a list before she went to Mrs. Howard's store, but I figured the one item too easy to remember and thought nothing of it when she handed me the couple dollars and nothing else. I still looked odd at her. She waved me to skedaddle as she fingered her watch.

Once inside, maybe I was nervous from driving or the distant kin expected by now from off, I forgot our one item to purchase. Mrs. Howard wanted to play her guessing game. She rattled off butterscotches, heavy cream, tub of lard, festive napkins, pound of flour, cup of sugar?-- I stopped her. She almost cursed me, her nerves frazzled over the last-minute crowd, too many people all at once and everybody's emotions excited with the perfect rush of family festivities. She usually had closed by this hour the day before any holiday.

“Let me go ask Mee-Maws.”

“What wrong, sonny?” she asked as soon as I opened the car door.

“I done forgot what I went inside to get.”

“Cranberry,” she replied.

“Mrs. Howard in one feisty mood, said you to write it down, store too busy for any more back-and-forth today, she about done, ready to close up.”

I thought I had handed Mee-Maws the little scrap of paper and nub of a pencil from Mrs. Howard, but the items dropped on the car floorboard. Her face no longer ruddy, Mee-Maws sat speechless as if robbed of any hope for cranberry. Several shoppers rushed out the store. We saw Mrs. Howard jerk the chain of keys behind the crowd she rushed out. She waved at Mee-Maws, who didn't motion back.

“It's cranberries,” she said to me, “and I can't spell it.”

I don't think she looked me in the eye this time. I was too embarrassed for her to look at her. I reached down for the paper and pencil.

“C-r-a-n-,” I started. I was pretty sure I knew how to spell it. “Not k-r-a-n-.” I tried to joke at myself. “I think c, not k,” I added, not wanting to act schooled in disrespect before elder.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mee-Maws nod her head. By this point, she had waved back at Mrs. Howard, still throwing her key chain around in circles to hurry the final shoppers.

“Just put c-r-a-n,” Mee-Maws said. “She a good woman, always passed her spelling mark.”

She howdied again at Mrs. Howard.

We didn't talk on the way home. Mee-Maws didn't comment on her favorite season or the roadside leaves. Without a “y'all best not dirty up” to the kids in the yard back home, she carried the paper bag of cranberries in the house. More cousins had arrived to spend the night ahead of the bigger feast the next day. They all yelled for me to join them for play in the yard. I felt too old for country child's play, not just because of the new driver's license I felt proud in my pocket, but for other grateful and unspoken reasons of thanksgiving.



Dallas, TX


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Ancient Paths has nominated several poets and writers for the Pushcart Prize, and the magazine was a 2000 Writer's Digest National ‘Zine Publishing Awards Merit Winner. Seventeen issues of Ancient Paths literary magazine have been published in print since 1998. In 2012, Ancient Paths became an online publication. This regularly updated page now brings you quality poetry, short fiction, and art from a variety of contributors. For complete submission guidelines, see the website at and click on Ancient Paths. Be sure to order a discounted copy of a past print issue to get a feel for the types of works we publish. See a poem you like on our page? Click share and show it to your friends.

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by Tolulope Ogedengbe

The day my aunt fell to death,
the house became heavy
with the aura of mouths
sore with grieving songs.
I was asked to sing a dirge in the middle of a rain
as would a soldier to his fallen friend.
I opened my mouth to the void of the night
and a bird in my throat broke free.
today, I felt my dead aunt reincarnated in me,
as I watch a woman surrender to grief, to everything
likened to tears and memories that remind me of a house where relatives burn candles
to mourn the demise of their loved ones.
"Brave Little Things"
by Terri Ruhter

The crocus pushes itself up through
Near-frozen ground,
Purple petals blossoming bravely,
Telling us that winter will end,
Spring will come,
And life will go on.
It doesn’t ask –
Why am I so small
Compared to the other irises in my family?

It doesn’t wonder –
Why do I flower in spring
When my cousins, whose stigmas make saffron,
Bloom in fall?

Like the crocus, we too
Are brave little things.

Most days on this broken earth
We do some small act or another
To right the world.
Reaching out to the lonely,
Feeding the hungry
Caring for the hurting,
Standing up against injustice,
Speaking out in truth and love.

But we are easily disheartened
When our efforts don’t bear fruit.
Our egos insist that we keep trying
To make a difference,
That we measure success
By progress, that if we
Do X or give X, then surely
The desired Y will happen.
And if it doesn’t, if we aren’t rewarded,
Then we have somehow failed.

Yet the crocus, harbinger of new life,
Doesn’t doubt itself or look for praise.
Like Teddy Roosevelt, it is wise,
Knowing that comparison
Is the thief of joy.
The flower just does
What it can, when it can,
Confident its colorful spring debut
Is a symbol of hope.

Why can’t we be the same?
Take a lesson from this humble flower,
Take the longer view, be assured
Whatever brave, small thing you do
Is like the one musical note that follows
A dissonant chord,
Resolving the discordant sound
Into a beautiful harmony
That only God can hear.
by Bryce Christensen

“The vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed . . . .” Isaiah 29:11

“ . . . and the books were opened . . . “ Revelation 20:12

Like spines of books arrayed along a shelf, the stones
That mark mute graves conceal dense texts, now closed
To eyes half-blind to trials that life imposed
On souls who wrote their names on pages shown
To no one, blinder still to what they’ve known
Since death, to Purgatory’s pains exposed,
Their earthy cries to godly chants transposed.
Grim tombs become dumb tomes, their authors prone.
But Easter dawn’s a promise: graveyard books
Will open, chapter after chapter spill
Their secrets into view, long hidden things
At last break open to inquiring looks:
Enigmas bound to lie in silence ‘til,
They’re read aloud by lectors riding wings.
"The Shattered Jars of Spice"
by Judith Krum

Between the dark and light, from night to morn,
The grave clothes placed in empty tomb instead,
The women came with myrrh for body torn.

With fear and terror they came all forlorn.
“Be not afraid. The Lord is ris’n,” he said,
Between the dark and light, from night to morn.

No body there to cleanse or to adorn.
They dropped the jars of spice, revealing dread.
The women came with myrrh for body torn.

No strength remained to help them, so care-worn.
They knew full well that they had seen Him dead
Between the dark and light, from night to morn.

The angel urged; they sped ahead to warn.
Feet flew as on they rushed, the news to spread.
The women came with myrrh for body torn,

But new fire kindled time to be reborn
With new and holy wine and sacred bread.
Between the dark and light, from night to morn
The women came with myrrh for body torn.
Black Nazarene
by Joe Bisicchia

You are far more than make believe,
far more than wood portrayed in suffering,
but the divine embodiment here amidst humanity.
And You make Your way.

You choose, You do, this way of thirst, to carry it,
the cross. You bare Your soul along our streets
through every Quiapo, on the way to crucifixion
seemingly day after day.

Even here, now. Your devotees opine in prayer
and look up to You. You, carved from mesquite,
robed in red sovereignty, hair braided of dyed abaca,
and halo, a golden crown.

And You are far more than this parade.
You are far more than any image, any charade.
Far more than any nativity infant figurine, handmade.
You are real. You are Love.

You, they know. The Filipino knows the passion
and suffering. The cross thou hadst died upon,
very emblem of their salvation. Only wood upon
wood, some may say, having fallen here,

having fallen to Manila via galleon centuries ago,
having fallen to humankind.
But this much we all may know—
this creation of Eden that You so very well carry,

this weight You bear as we all now look up
at You, is simply for all of us. Now, and always.
And in us, for us, the world, You spring forth Love.
For this, You thirst. For this You rise. For each

and every one of us.
Not because of any righteous ritual on humanity’s part.
But by Your mercy. And we of humanity joyfully sing.
Oh, Nazarine, we glorify thee!
"A Round of Resilience"
by Brian McAllister

This too shall pass, though not as fast
As all our strength and faith would hope,
Such anxious waiting that at last
This too shall pass.

Our little lives have such small scope
That all our troubles seem so vast,
But if we see an end, we cope.

And then when all our cares have passed
And we no longer have to grope
In dark, our fears all in the past,
This too shall pass.
"Midnight Swim"
by Sam Barbee

Fireflies celebrate solstice, each starburst
a perfect plunge. Provide pulse, bedazzle outlines
of maple and holly, black fringe against silver midnight.
The night-ocean submerges each silhouette.

Random flickers off each leaf, bats and night birds
breaststroke in moonlight. Rocking behind the porch screen,
we excuse today’s malice. We sway, once fulfilled
to witness little, now witness everything.

Find ballast for each grievous sting. Frogs, buoyant
about a neighbor’s pool, belch, deafen us with their rippling joy –
arouse what we can imagine tomorrow: cloudless
altar and truer tongues dispelling snarls of revision.

We are heroes, backstroking darkness, doing our best
to retain esteem. In the morning we will bury dry bulbs
like beads, plant the seeds and husks for blooms: colorful waves
to cleanse remorse and rhetoric; splice regret with awe we are eager to tread.
"At Jean Beaty Park"
by Jolene Nolte

Vancouver, BC | February 14, 2021

Cascading over the concrete retaining wall,
the green ivy’s encased in a transparent pillar
of ice as if to preserve some proof of life.

Here on the rocky beach the snow’s just now softened
to rain, punctuating the bay’s surface. Container ships,
anchored for now, make me wonder how the rain sounds

from inside. What good are the goods they contain
in an uncertain future? We ramble over rocks, take in
the half-visible scene: To the north, the Coast Mountains’

mist-veiled peaks. To the east, obscured skyscrapers.
To the west, gray ocean blurs with gray horizon, but you
I see clearly in your black hair, black coat.

One arm encircles me, the other holds your wide umbrella
over us, rain drumming steadily on its skin. I wear cut-off
ochre gloves, run my fingertips through your thick, soft hair.

Your ears and cheeks are cold, but your lips are warm.
Dear God, yes, his lips and breath are warm.
I’m all sensation as I take you in.

I’m a vessel you drink from and fill, drink from and fill
as the rain falls and the waves crest and crash.
We pause. I see your brown, gold-flecked eyes

gazing at me. You don’t know it, but all
I can think is, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Dear God, I don’t want to hurt him.

I seal my intention, my prayer with kisses
on your neck, your cheek, your lips.
Neither of us knows the future.

The tide’s coming in.
"Redemption at the Red Lobster"
by Terri Ruhter

Phil hugs me tightly before we’re seated
At the chain restaurant of his choice.
It’s such a viselike squeeze, such an eager embrace
That I am left breathless.
This kid brother of mine - the one I didn’t see
For years, the one my siblings and I didn’t contact
Because he was needy, alcoholic, angry, so high maintenance
That a phone call or text message left us drained -
Is showing a different face.

My husband and I are treating Phil and his girlfriend to dinner,
Checking in on him in a noblesse oblige kind of way
Because Phil is the prodigal son of our family,
The one who drank, overspent, lost his job, lost his driver’s license,
Got evicted and became homeless in Minnesota,
Land of 10,000 lakes where the cold in winter
Hits your face like a frozen fist.
He is the one who squandered his inheritance
And never made it home before his father died,
Leaving it up to us, his brothers and sisters,
To welcome him back.
But we never did.

This is not to say we didn’t have A PLAN.
We gave Phil plenty of advice over the years:
Downsize, cut your expenses, get rid
Of that useless stuff in storage, go into rehab.
We were full of shoulds and incensed when he
Never listened.

But the Phil we met at Red Lobster
Was a man transformed, weepy but
Full of gratitude for his job of six years,
Redefined by the purpose and status it offered,
Redeemed by the most unlikely of saviors,
A middle manager at a top five bank.
This stand-in for the prodigal son’s father, or maybe for Christ himself,
Took a chance on my brother, hiring him and saying:
Phil, I wish I had more employees like you.
Manna from heaven to a man starved for grace.

My takeaway from Phil’s story
Is that you never change a soul
By telling him what to do.
But you might alter him forever
By telling him he’s worth something.

Was the proof in the pudding?
We were all too full for dessert,
But when the bill came
Phil picked up the tab.
by Jim Ryan

A candle flame gives strength enough
Ash Wednesday eve to raise
“the poem of humanity”: Christ’s cross.
The cormorant, ambiguous symbol,
spreads its wings to dry in the sun.
Penobscot Bay washes against the rocks.
There’s poetry there too.
Purple shrouds the crucifix. The candle’s
burden of illumination: dust thou art.
Ashes sign your forehead with black wings.

Other Publishers in Dallas (show all)

Yin&Yay University of Iowa Press Peruvian Newspaper Chithal Pathal Carolyn Dibrell HemispheresforUnited Fidelis Publishing, LLC Belle Point Press JoVi RBmedia Customer Inter-Avtiv The Experiment Bottomless Studio Good Child Music DLR Magazine