Out Of The Whirl


Loved it! 😍

Excellent use of language, stunning poetry- a prose piece takes most of the space


Out Of The Whirl is a collection of gritty dark verse, running the gamut from social commentary to ruminations on the cosmos--and to the meaning of life itself.

Two books are actually combined in this one volume, consisting of two different genres. Both sections contain strong, effective writing. This review will say more about that latter, but will focus on poetry since that is the classification of the book.

The verse section (the title page includes the prose piece, incidentally) consists of 15 poems spread over 43 pages. That is the length of a chapbook, and they are thematically arranged, which is quite good. They are in a free verse format, yet enough rhyme is deftly included to not only break the flow of the verse, but also to draw the reader’s attention to a point.

Standing out among the poems are “Ascent”, which begins the work, “The Trashman” with its large cast of characters, “I Walk Alone”, and “Sweet Illusion.”

 From “Ascent”:

         In azure and cream the days bleed to gray.
    Life bursts upon life: grace splashes in wood,
   jewels tremble in brine, shadows embark on the wind.
          We are woven in time—
as we harvest and sow, so we slumber and rise.
Night begets day as the sleeper dreams his eyes.
    The light is on, the light is off.


 There is a richness in the words themselves and in the way that they are put together in verse. Sanders knows how to stop short of letting them get into the way of the poetry.  The Whirl is a metaphor for life with all of its challenges and joys. It is something that is common to all humanity, yet something that must be faced individually.

 “Faces” is visually distinct from the rest of the work by colored pages. Unique, but not done to be showy.

Now to “Hero”, the prose piece that comprises over half of the work. The writing is vivid, and the scope covers thousands of miles. Obviously poets/writers can do what they want in a piece. This reviewer knows that and is no exception. So why not present it as such in the Table of Contents? There is really no dialog here, which might have been a nice change from the narration. The sections appear disjointed and leave the reader wondering if something was missed.

Why not produce a chapbook and then the prose piece separately? It will be interesting to see what Sanders produces in the future. 

Reviewed by

I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.


Out Of The Whirl is a collection of gritty dark verse, running the gamut from social commentary to ruminations on the cosmos--and to the meaning of life itself.


(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)


There is a glacier.

Its blue tongue’s tip just tastes a frozen gorge.

There is a gorge, its walls shattered by cold; a once-green thing that, in dying, birthed a thousand aching fissures. It works its jagged way downhill, round ragged rifts and drifts until it comes upon a little frosted wood.

There is a wood, an island locked in ice.

Within this wood the gorge descends. It wanders and it wends; it brakes and all but ends outside a clearing wet with sun. And there, forking, its bent and broken arms embrace a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a glade.

And in this glade the black bears sleep, though salmon leap fat between falls. Here the field mouse draws no shadow, the eagle seeks no prey; they spend their while caressed by rays, and halcyon days are they. Here rabbit and fawn may linger, no longer need they flee. For in this timeless, taintless space, the Wild has ceased to be. (Outside the glade are shadow and prey, are ice and naked death. There blood may run freely. There the eagle, that thief, is a righteous savage, a noble fiend. But once in the glade he is dove, and has no taste for blood, running freely or otherwise).

And in this glade there nests a pool: a dazzling, blue-and-silver jewel; profoundly deep, pristinely clear. All who sip find solace here, for this is the Eye of Being. They lap in peace, assuming blear, not knowing it is seeing. And ever thus this pool shall peer: a silent seer, reflecting on—all that Is, and all Beyond.

(Outside the glade there lies a world where rivers ever run, where ghastly calves in random file revile a bitter sun. East, the day is born in mist. West she dies: her rest, the deep. And North…North the Earth lies mute. Wind gnaws her hide, wind wracks her dreams. Wind screams like a flute in her white, white sleep).

But in the glade are tall, stately grasses, sunning raptly, spinning lore. Roots render the rhythms, blades bend without breeze, as signals ascend from the glade’s tender floor. (In this wise the glade weaves its word, airs its views. All the glade’s flora are bearers of news). They do not wither with fall, for in the glade there is no fall. They do not bind or wilt or brown—they gesture, spreading the mood, the mind; conveying, indeed, the very soul of the glade. As ever they have, as they shall evermore.

Bees do not hum here; they sing. They fatten the dream. Mellow and round are the timbres they sound, sweet is the music they bring. Birds do not sing here—they play. They carry the theme. Dulcet and warm are the strains they perform. Gifted musicians are they. (All in the glade are virtuosi. They were born to create. Here melody, harmony, meter are…innate). Now the performance is lively and bright, now full, now almost still. For, though all in the glade may lean to the light, they must bend to the maestro’s feel.

And yet…there was a day, long ago in a dream, when this ongoing opus was torn. And on that day (so the lullaby goes) the wind brought a scream, and Dissonance was born.

There was a noise.

Moose tensed, their coffee eyes narrowed, their patient brows creased. Bees mauled the tempo, birds lost their place. The grass stood erect, all blades pointing east. There was a crash, and a shriek, and a naked, bleeding beast burst stinking through the fern, fell stumbling on its face.

Moose scattered: unheard of. Sheep brawled, geese burst out of rhyme. The symphony, forever endeavored to soar sublime, fluttered, plunged, and, for all of a measure, ceased.

The pool was appalled…what manner brute—what kind of monster was this? Furless flank to forelimb, hide obscured by blood. As for its face…it had no face; only a look: of shock frozen in time, of horror in amber. A deep welling rift ran temple to chin, halving the mask, caving it in. Such a grievous wound…the pool watched it stagger, on two legs and four, thrashing about till it came to a rise. There it labored for air, wiped the blood from its eyes, lashed at illusion, looked wildly round. Beholding the pool, the beast tumbled down.

And there this wretch plunged his thirst, drank his fill, fell back on his haunches.

The pool became still.

The two traded stares.

The glass read his features: that durable eye pondered the wreckage and probed the debris. Revolted, the pool sought the succor of sky. But that thing remained—that face…in all creation…surely there could be…no other creature so ugly as he.

And he gazed in the glass.

Beneath the surface were…images…swimming in currents of shadow and light. He saw half-shapes and fragments…hideous men, exotic beasts…saw blue worlds of water, saw white worlds of ice…it was all so vague and unreal—yet somehow strangely familiar. Deeper he peered, but, as his mangled face neared, the sun smote the pool and the shapes disappeared. The brute pawed the ground and, dreaming he’d drowned, shook his head sharply and slowly looked round.

There were starlings at arm’s-length, transfixed with suspense, their tail feathers trembling, their dark eyes intense. Fantails and timber wolves, stepping in sync, paused for a sniff, stooped for a drink. Bees, pirouetting, threw light in his eyes.

Seizing the moment, the pool pressed its hold.

And the glade revolved.

The freak watched it spin—saw the ferns’ greedy fingers reach round and close in, saw the tall grass rise high in an emerald sheen, swaying to rhythms from somewhere obscene. This place was madness; he struggled to stand, but, weak as he was, keeled over cold.

And the glade heaved a sigh, and the tall grass reclined, in curious patterns once rendered in whim. Far off in thunder the hard world replied, as iced pines exploded and screamed on the breeze. Down bore the sun, a chill just behind. The pool, grown blood-red, fended frost from its rim. Details dissolved in the oncoming tide. The pool dimmed to black. Night seeped through the trees.

Now flora found slumber while, pulsing below, the pool was infused with a soft ruby glow.

Soon birds bearing beech leaves, and needles of pine, laid down a spread and returned to the limb. But breath from the North blew their blanket aside. The wind grew in earnest, the air seemed to freeze.

And the wolf and the she-bear, of contrary mind, abhorring their task approached, looking grim. They sniffed him for measure, then, loathing his hide, growled their displeasure and dropped to their knees.

All night these glum attendants flanked his naked quaking form. The rising moon drew dreams in gray.

In time the man grew warm.

Morning swept through the glade in one broad stroke of the master’s brush, dappling the foliage with amber and rose. The pool was roused by the sweet pass of light. He opened his eye and the glade came alive: into the whirlpool of life a thousand colors swam, chasing the scattering eddies of night. The magic of morning began.

Bluebird and goldfinch descended in rings, primaries clashing with robin and jay. Dollops of sun, repelled by their wings, spattered anew on the palette of day. Banking as one, the hues struck away.

There was a crowd.

And in this crowd that oddity sat, its chin on its chest, its rear pointing west. Its forepaws lay leaning, upturned and at rest. Vomit and blood messed its muzzle and breast. It had passed overnight. Or perhaps only dozed…tendril by tendril, claw by claw, the crowd decompressed: the ring slowly closed.

And the stranger cried out and shifted his seat. His eyes sought his feet—rounding the arches, and topping the toes, the tall grass was questing. The little brute froze.

And the fauna took pause, and the flora went slack. Leaves followed talons, stems followed claws. Hooves tromped on paws as the crowd drifted back.

Not a breath taken. Not a move made. Stillness, like fog, enveloped the glade.

Now the grass tugged his feet, now the sea of jade splayed. Left hand and right, the slender shafts reared. Gaining momentum, blade followed blade. The green field was torn till a deep swath appeared. The swath hurtled west, reflecting the sun. A hundred yards distant it died. Once more the grass stood, its tips spreading wide. The swath, born again, repeated its run.

Plain was the message, and clearly conveyed. The newcomer gawked. Confusion ensued.

The tall blades were swayed by the pulse of the glade.

But the swath was not renewed.

Something tiny bounced by. He ventured a peek, barely rolling an eye.

A chocolate sparrow, with pinfeathers black, popped past an ankle and paused to look back. The bird cocked its head, rocked in place, hopped ahead. It fluttered. It freaked. It glared and stopped dead. Then, vexed to its limit, it burst into flight.

The sitting thing watched till it passed out of sight.

Now a breeze bent his back, picked him half off his stern. The wind, done its best, grew flustered at last. It trailed to the west, thrilling lilies as it passed. It wound round the willows and didn’t return.

The fauna repaired to the live oak’s shade.

A strange kind of stupor fell over the glade.

From deep in the wood came a shape through the trees—a pronghorn, perhaps, or an elk swift and sure. But up limped a moose, a flyport with fur, low in the belly and wide at the knees. Wizened he was, scarcely able to see. Neither vision, nor vigor, nor velvet had he. He hobbled abreast, then groveled or died, his nose facing west, his tail flung aside.

The brute merely glazed.

But the glade was unfazed.

Those long shafts reshuffled. A tense moment passed.

The ominous shadows of badgers were cast. Three left their holes, as if to attack. They pedaled like moles and the stranger jumped back. He stumbled, fell flailing, and, kicking his guide, threw out his arms and tumbled astride. First he stepped on his tail, then he stepped on his pride. The moose bellowed twice and shook side to side while the little pest clung to his high, homely hide.

And the old moose unbent to his knees by degrees. He reeled like a drunk down the path of the breeze. Together they lurched through a break in the trees. And all morning long, and on through the day, both beggar and bearer would buckle and sway. The moose lost his temper, but never his way.

And the wind blew the sun to its deep ruby rest; the scrub, in obeisance, inclined to the west. Their slow taffy shadow in slinking would seem to slip round the rocks like a snake in a dream.

And the sun became a beacon, and the underbrush a stream. The wide Earth took their weight in stride, and the wind named him Hero.

About the author

Ron Sanders is an L.A.-based author, poet, and illustrator. view profile

Published on July 09, 2020

Published by

20000 words

Genre: Poetry

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