Issue 4
Three Poems

Three Poems


We were the older boys and yet I had no
more authority than a receding mist,
mumbling my OK to his apology.

My protest at his breach, his probing, his
possession of me was a slight
disturbance, a wisp of air beneath
breathlessness. It would be expected of a

Oh the desperate whispers after curfew
and “lights-out”… We were the older
We knew what we had to do.

A forty-year old man understood
nothing about twelve-year olds
who considered stealing kitchen
knives to protect themselves.




I’ve changed.
My head has flattened
with only my nose and mouth
protruding.  A hood
extends out
wide, high and deep.

My torso,
once stifling my breath,
is flexible now.
I dance to a music
unheard, feint strikes
with fangs bared.

What you
don’t expect are
two arcs of venom
that shoot straight
from my mouth, to yours.

Making empty sockets
out of your
eyes is not
You are so blind
as it is.

You need to taste
true poison
that corrodes
your pink, fleshy
stinger.  It punctures
deeper than bone.

And now I’ve
prepared you
for a predator
who might
find you
more edible.

This is my gift
to the bush.


I’ve evolved,
growing wings,
my spit a flame
burning down bridges
after years of crossing
the same river.

I climb further up
scorching old grudges and betrayals,
born of a serpent
ill from the dust
the bruised heels kick into my mouth.

When all is scorched
in ashes I go on
another hunt for a life
that is enough
to renew energy
for the next one.

Who is the next prey?
I don’t care enough to know



                                    – John 1:1-18

This is how it began for me.

God spewed me
out of his mouth
and commanded me
to howl a cosmos.

All I knew was one sound,
not even a word.
But then I found
my voice.

Or was it God’s?
for neither God nor I
had ever
spoken before.

Then I spoke again
and could not stop speaking.
The darkness began
to roll, swirl and swell.

Then waters

Circles in the deep
layers of crust
were shaved,
contours smoothed.

I hummed and purred
while matter was
caressing itself

What came next
God called gift.

He molded
and branded himself
into a creation
with outlines and limits.

God wanted identity.
Or was it identification?

So he asked this of me.
And it was too much to ask.
I had no experience of rejection, suffering,
death or birth.

The closest
I had ever
come to life
was wind and mist.

Yet, I knew who was asking.

The rhythm
of his heartbeat
still lingers
in my ears.

So I conformed
to the womb in which
he placed me,
returned to the darkness.

Once born,
I knew
I would have to
go there again.

But bellowing
as I do with
all of those
who need the

plain grace and truth
of a single vowel,
my death which is life
will not be overcome.

John Forbis, originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is an Anglican Benedictine monk of the Order of the Holy Cross, living and working at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. His return to West Park occurred in July 2016 after 18 years at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa. His poems have been published in South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. He won Third Place in the Dalro Poetry Prize in 2013 for the poem “Only This,” published in New Coin magazine. His work has been anthologized in The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear Ltd.), Rhino in a Shrinking World, and To Breathe into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry. His first book, Exposures, was published by Aerial Publishing in 2003.