A collection of poetry
by Patricia Wellingham-Jones
from Mongolian Art Exhibit
I turn a corner, stunned now by faces /
on the wall—masks of deities, shamans, /
in papier-mâché, carved wood, stuffed skin. /
Black brows pull down over glaring eyes, /
red mouths stretch in snarls or gentle smiles.
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Visiting Tirta Empul
This Balinese temple heat
ashy gray paras carved to statues
of Shiva, Garuda, Saraswati
all covered with lichens
ferns and dark green
This holy water
and poured by the priest
and the pilgrims’ prayers upward
Offerings are everywhere
incense and flowers
datura and lotus
cassia and cockscomb
frangipani and firecracker hibiscus
elaborately carved leaves
in a rimmed silver bowl
sweet palm wine and fruit
papaya and mango
mangosteen and salak
with skin like
The sound of a temple bell
The hum of two clear-running streams
Here there is no separate word
for spirit or art
The religion is the religion
of holy water
and everywhere is niskala
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as if it were a lamp…..And the name of this star is called Wormwood…
Revelation 8:10 – 11
The original recipe was purportedly created
in 1792 by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire.
Now outlawed almost everywhere—
Switzerland, Belgium, France, the U.S.—
it can still be made by any industrious lay botanist.
Just take good measures of wormwood—
calamus or sweetflag,
hyssop, star anise, angelica root,
coriander and fennel seeds.
Macerate the dried herbs in alcohol—
wine or grain,
80 proof or better,
for several days
Decant the liquid and distill it.
Part of the distillate turns yellow—
discard this part for
it will taint the drink
and make it far too bitter.
Recolor the remaining liquid by adding
melissa and mint,
wormwood and citron peel.
Steep for a few more days,
filter and bottle.
And finally to the absinthe itself—
aniline emerald in a swirled glass.
Water then drizzled through
a sugar cube and baroque slotted spoon,
turning the drink cloudy,
that Degas-colored distillate—
La Fée Verte, the Green Fairy,
the liquid muse and mystic opaline
of Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Manet,
Baudelaire, Lautrec, Verlaine.
Cheryl Stiles currently works as a university librarian in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poet Lore, The Atlanta Review, Pedestal Magazine, The Awakenings Review, Red River Review, Plainsongs, SLANT, So to Speak, and POEM. She is currently seeking a publisher for her first full-length poetry book manuscript entitled Ball Lightning. Cheryl’s mother was a longtime and devoted fan of Elvis, and every word of her poem is indeed “True.”