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Fled the Fire

At first I fled this fire, for
the pain could sear my very soul,
yet in the end I knew I must select it
because it would burn the accuracy
of my life, my voices, into the
conduct of all my people . . .
I meant to teach them hope,
I meant to teach them forgiveness.

A young boy fashioned a crucifix
from two twigs of my kindling,
and I pressed it into my breast;
a priest kindly brought the cross
from the cathedral and lifted
it in front of my eyes as the flames
stunned then pierced my flesh
after my tunic fire-whipped away,
leaving me to burn naked before
this crowd . . . I am a spectacle.

I thought to sink into the fires
to hide my breasts, but the soaring pain
stretched my muscles upward,
scorching the skin from my bones;
my feet were gone, my feet were gone
from this earth, only bones remained to meet
the skies . . . my eyes clouded by tears or worse,
and the priest's cross wavered from the heat;
how can I withstand this rupturing pain,
the enormity of my every nerve scalded on fire?

Even so, I meant to yell out, 'I forgive, I forgive you,'
but in the torment of these flames, I lost my all sense
and instead -- an entire hurt -- screamed the name
of my savior just before I passed, fearing I was the one
who needed to learn forgiveness.

by Ward Kelley

Angel Woman, by Manfred Mueller

"Batik Fairy"
By Manfred Mueller


Artist's note: Joan of Arc (1412-1431) earned, in the words of Louis Kossuth, an imposing distinction: since the writing of human history began, she is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen. Although she achieved many victories for her beloved Dauphin, by age nineteen she had been tried for heresy, then burned at the stake. She was also the only person ever canonized as a saint of the Catholic church who had once been executed as a heretic by the very same church.

Concerning his literary endeavors, Kelley states, "Fairly new to publishing my efforts -- this most challenging of all endeavors -- I have still been fortunate to enjoy some initial successes, and have published 461 pieces since late '96. Current successes are: being nominated for the 1999 Pushcart; completing an interview with Israeli poet Elisha Porat (1996 winner of the Prime Minister Prize for Literature); being accepted by Rattle for the second time; Sunstone, Spillway, Porcupine Literary Magazine; the Ezines Pif, 2River View, Oblique and Offcourse; and by print magazines Potpourri and Skylark -- each for the third time. Also, I was selected as the Featured Poet by the Ezines: Seeker, England's Poetry Life & Times, and Canada's Pyrowords."

Formerly he managed distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Arizona and Illinois. Kelley and his wife now live outside of Indianapolis and are currently, ";...toiling with much determination on our second crop of children, having adopted four wonderful girls and fostered several others."

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