By Gail Nielsen


Above a monastery
between cross and sky
she rose and took her place,
sweeping arms
the length of a stratus cloud lining
and she was gone from me

But not at Meteora

Only the fringe of Zeus’s blue heaven
below, olive groves softening
cool moss
under his feet of hot stone

At Meteora
wounded ones could touch down
and heaven would handle them
gently lowing,
and the world would turn up its palms
to form a cradle
to cradle their forms

Still dangling from the god’s skirt,
at least I’ve reached my own longing 
skyward enough to take the edge of the garment 
inside which is sewn a healing’s secret message:
“They stitch us up with golden thread.”

Like the woman waiting
twelve years
didn’t meditate her way into the mind of Jesus
with blood, she hit the ground 
seizing the dusty fold of linen he wore
that morning, slipped from grasp
quick as satin
through rosy fingers and a pale thumb
when he spun round to lay eyes on her,
so in a nearby town
Jairus’ twelve-year-old 
daughter was only sleeping

Above Thessaly
I dream the skies are always clear
except for a current of the finest air, trailing
the Regent of the Evening Winds
no one else
please no,
not at Meteora

The Gentle Shallows

Someday a new island
to make her forget
She wanted to be Sappho for you,
not of the girls,
Sappho of the careful, male lover

Kneeling where the radiant tide 
unfolded her hands
and placed them on a shore,
under a garland crown
she sought the perfect stone for you 
in close waters
with knees pink and raw
from pressing sand, and patience
waiting into waiting 
always the length of two skies

She brought small white shells
she caught through 
the gentle shallows
when she was wringing
with thoughts of you,
the rhythmic Mediterranean 
wrapped around her legs

I would have been her 
and tethered us,
not even a promise holds me now,
no arms stronger than mine,
someone else is a poet in fine linen

If not for you,
then for no man.
Sappho keeps me
twice removed
I belong to her name


I am away
—far enough
and the door to the new room closes
behind me, I leave 
the life
I have chosen

It is safe for thoughts to
surround me here,
thoughts of you
unfold me
despite my scars
and how I resist 
trying to connect them,
decipher a secret trail
into this territory
see how harsh and kind elements
have shaped this place

There is a key to me
but you won’t need it.
Far enough away is where 
the landscape reveals itself to you


thousands at a time
seeds like powder 
wind wisp
through a god’s lips
dusting her
all over with
pink flower

Heroes in the Days of Dragons

These are not the days of fighting
dragons on the outer hills
These are the days of defeating
dragons in the air of breath,
the landscape of your heart,
psyches make the weather
Don’t suit up because “she needs it”
Acknowledge that you do this for yourself
to annihilate something of your own
you see in her 
Don’t try and save her from the pain, 
because as you do
she will waste her energies
fighting you off
and never obliterate
the elusive, ever-roaming dragonfire
Pray for her
Be next to her
Contribute to the temperature in the room,
but be a genuine hero
with a fully disclosed set of keys
and hand them over
so she may be unlocked from your need
to be present at the moment of her salvation, 
that she might rescue herself
and be in proper form for the reunion
with her real savior

Gail Nielsen holds a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Studies from the University of Windsor (Ontario, Canada). She works as a psychotherapist, coach and education consultant and her interests include classical mythology, music, nature and medicine. Having worked in the mental health field for over two decades, Gail spent a number of years as an online counsellor for a large EAP company, offering asynchronous text-based counselling. This allowed her to blend her love of writing with her clinical work and to refine her ability to hear the “person behind the words.”  She co-authored The Control Freak’s Guide™ to Living Lightly which was featured on the national morning show, Canada A.M., and her work has recently been published (or is forthcoming) in WECAN’s Gateways, Kindling Journal, Flights, Visitant Lit. and The Courtship of Winds. Gail is currently working on her first collection of poetry.

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