A Cast of Coins

Time holds its breath,” Phyllis Stowell tells us, something that holds true throughout these compelling divinations, where time and the ordinary are suspended as she follows the coin toss wherever it leads her, reporting back to us with her fearless eye and lyrical tongue.  The result is a series of poems that read like beautifully crafted notes from the unknown, which Stowell makes uncannily knowable as she reveals to us “a World within the world / sending messages.

— Lynne Knight

Darkening of the Light


When hands cast yarrow stalks or coins
the way they fall form ideographic figures
that come from darkening the light

as in a picture – in the foreground blooming peonies
mother behind her dark privet, dark house –
first the image then the judgment, an idea
like unendurability

My question was amorphous an uneasy
sense of need The lines a string of words
to balance all endearments gone with pearls

frame themselves a drape, bottleglass window
her body poised where the light falls
pearl chevrons snaking the braid of her hair

dissolving in the ambiguity of shadows
In an eerie, irreal light a figure standing
under a green hood her robe cracked open

like a lightning-struck tree inky black inside
In dread I stood below behind her mask
she answered me I am death

The Well and The Abyss

A letter arrives, written below your name
Free – prepaid cremation details inside
– a gust of laugh –

Your hand drops it into recycling
alongside a landslide of hearing-aid ads
invitations to luncheons in endless-leisure-homes

communal as the well lasting for generations
till the water salted and the city
reverted to sand the inhabitants left behind

mounds tombs filled with bones laid
gently in fetal positions waiting
sealed-in by great stone slabs

In the obsidian mirror you see
through your face dead gnarled trees
barren ground nothing moves

Unmoving you pace forward and backward
what to do? what! the cast warns danger
pause, wait

Before Completion


Just when I had come to depend
on the coins for a way away from chaos
the cast nears completion

Almost across a frozen river the old fox
goes tentatively right paw left paw
ears perked for cracking ice underfoot

Last night standing at the mouth of a tunnel
I saw the sea withdraw leaving a gungy plain
then surge back monumental

boiling breaching the seawall
and I feared for the young fox behind me
with her bold ways

The time it says is auspicious
In disbelief I cast again Approach it says
be joyous join with friends

and to myself I say appease
these unpredictable gods All life
at this crisis depends

The Return

Then we went out into the night
his arm around my shoulders claiming me
Look he exclaimed pointing

beyond the ebony branched silhouette
of a great tree an immense fiery vermillion
edged in gold where the dark begins

in cosmic inner space
a star that dying explodes
scattering itself in tumultuous display

not a petal gently drifting down
How timely comes this image
from the throne of possibility

that knows no limit
as humans do disheartened at times
by time and extinction

Tenderly we walk hand in hand
when the heart is more than heart can hold
In apprehension I ponder this

Published by Fisher King Press