A Poem by Julie Benesh

is the one about passing time: those old movies
where wind blows the calendar pages and clocks
run down; the commercials where kids
grow up in an instant or morph
into their paunchy parents.

But there’s that other poem that stops time
like a snapshot that is not your wedding
or anything designated special. Just a leaf, a tear,
a wave: a moment in its universal uniqueness,
which is also about passing time:

movies; clocks; kids morph parents; time;
wedding, tear, uniqueness
time.

Julie Benesh has published stories, poems, and essays in Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Hobart, Cleaver, and many other places. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Writing and the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant. Read more at juliebenesh.com.

A Poem by Chloe Bausano

As the storm outside hits its stride I feel
that I am sitting inside of an inverse goldfish
bowl. A pink, felt cowboy hat that I bought in
Tennessee watches me peer through the heavy
droplets on the window, pressing me into this

cocoon of peppermint tea, heavy blankets, and
memories. Days like this call for photo albums
that lump your throat with dust, and birthday cards
from childhood, that somehow have made it through

many years of spring cleaning. A to-do-list sits untouched,
save for a doodle which came to life as tasks were initially
sorted, and a crack of thunder calls down hello from the sky.

If an angel were to peer into this fish tank menagerie on
earth, right now, I’m sure I’d look much the way my betta fish
appears when I perceive her each morning, awaiting breakfast.

Chloe Bausano is a New York City poet who holds a degree in English Literature from Cornell University. She has previously been published by Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Cathexis Northwest Press, Eris & Eros, and the Dillydoun Review. Her work centers around nostalgia and childhood, and she enjoys playing with writing form.

A Poem by Anita Nahal

Graphite pencil art by Anthony Gartmond New Jersey, USA

Quietly awaiting my return. Arms crossed, kinda slouched, in grass blades drenched to their core, at the corner of where Arlington and DC shake hands. Puddles around me…tiny pools of hope glistening and swaying, grooving with drops that fall incessantly. Not the stormy kind. Enough to wet me, though leaving me thirsty. Cities are strange creatures. Souls of millions smacked upon each other like cardboard boxes in windowless gowdans without anything to color. That’s why, maybe, perhaps, colors of big cities can be grey, gloomy, and depressing at times, like shades of gloom at funerals. Yet, sometimes, cities when wet are like butter I love spreading on a slice of untoasted bread, sprinkled with sugar granules. Or like caramel evenings in my pointed pumps, I hasten out. Petrichor that comes from ground admixed with cloud spray uplifts me. I see outlines of bodies rejoicing, dripping clothes palpitating, enticing, despite their clinginess. New Delhi monsoon rains also join me as I walk through Arlington and DC rain. Just the petrichor and the olfactory are not buddies here. That’s why I love synesthesia. Dali’s pliable clocks seemed to be sneaking, a bit misty. Many umbrellas had pitched tents around my soul. Some had my parent’s faces on them. Some of friends. Some of school mates with whom I blurted puzzlements of adolescence. Some of my son with whom I drove in and around Arlington streets. Building new lives. I will always love you by Whitney was humming itself to warm bittersweet Thanksgiving kinda rum-spice-apple-cider memories I take along in a mason glass jar filled with tiny lights, iridescent like fireflies waiting for my soul. At the edge of Arlington and Washington DC, its face full of salt from tears. The clocks in Dali’s painting clicking loud and clear.

*Gowdan: A Hindi word denoting a warehouse

Anita Nahal is an Indian American poet, flash fictionist, children’s writer, columnist, and professor. Anita has three books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children and three edited anthologies to her credit. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women, was released by Kelsay Books in August 2021. Anita teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Two of Anita’s books are prescribed in a course on multiculturalism and immigration at the University of the Utrecht, The Netherlands. More on her at: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal

A Poem by Michael Cox-Maldonado

for Fred D’Aguiar

To search online if it’s your prostate?
Petrifying, like spotting
a poison tree frog on your palm.
A lump that pollutes.
My professor, polite and playful,
I will write, just like you.
Us drinking Shock Top at Wolfgang Pucks.
Picture us poeticizing with all the p’s and piss.
Pick up the pace? How with plague and police?
Us! Slices of pie, like a couple of pals,
when life pitches us into garbage pails.
I see my-writer-self, at a bay window.
Now I recall that it was you, having just moved here.
I’m happy that on this earth you’re still here,
where we play like petite princes on this planet here.

Michael Cox-Maldonado went to the University of California, Los Angeles to study English literature and creative writing. A local to Southern California, he now works as a Lighting Technician for film/tv, where he writes on the side. He has poetry published in Westwind and Beyond Words Literary Journal.

A Poem by Nicole Cosme

           My father has a pet snail, he named it One 
Because it has one antenna. When the antenna grows back, 
the name will be ironic.

           My father says, No his name will still be One.
He comes outside for a smoke, 
pulls the snail from its place beneath the stairs. 
It lives in an old take-out container filled 
with dirt, leaves, and shallots. 
Tiny holes perforate the lid,

           My father sits at a table with the container before him. 
It’s my pet, he beams beneath an umbrella, 
beneath his own perforated heaven.
but it’s only mirrors, 
it’s only a hole to catch your breath
He wraps his snail in laurels and honey,  
and my teeth turn to severed stingers, not fangs
Not really, just like a dagger is not a mirror, 
It’s only shattered glass. It’s only a million versions, 
and they’re all mocking each other, 

           My father knows Fibonacci and other snail facts, 
this is a land snail so it needs air, 
he points to the holes, takes a drag.
Look at that palace, watch that container fill,
Its occupant is indifferent to the hand until— watch. 

           My father tells me his snail had a mate but—
He shrugs, says he’ll find another mate for his snail.
To forget its lover’s fragile spiral
It’s only a shell, it’s only a moment
Only significant to some.

           My father puts One on the ground,
Watch your step, he says.

Nicole Cosme is an emerging writer/poet from New England. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Prime Number Magazine and Seisma Magazine. Most recently her work was recognized in the 90th Annual Writer’s Digest Competitions. You can visit nicolemariecosme.com for ongoing updates and information regarding recent publications.

A Poem by Wayne David Hubbard

wanderlust is my middle name
unpenned verbs in the book of longing
alanis morissette crooning irony
through tinny speakers
   at a bar in arizona

i raise a shot glass to you
   and swallow it whole

Wayne David Hubbard is an author and educator. His work appears in Button Poetry, Eloquent, and Wild Word magazine. His first book Mobius: Meditations on Home was published in 2020. He lives in Virginia, works in aviation, and writes creatively about experience, history, and culture.

A Poem by d w Stojek

                              O’ it’s a lonely maypole
                      in three footfall snow,
                      and where may I go
                      without reason, without clothes?
                           
                      By the seat of my bicycle,
                      full of frost and icicles                           
                      let my Fancy sway,
                      unfettered in the winter’s shortened day…

                         “Yes, but well, what are you doing here?”
                      Had you noticed my axe you would not have asked.
                      Well, you wouldn’t now, would you dear?
                      Alas, I whittle with what is Little--                         
                        	    
                      I am tired traffic. A faltering star. 
                      Spring, too distant, too far,                           
                      and where would I go,
                     O’ if not to the lonely maypole?

d w Stojek is a poet, photographer, and general nuisance to those within earshot. He is eagerly awaiting the day when ‘Build-a-Bear’ re-opens as a series of genetic labs that will enliven the blighted strip malls of Suburbia.

A Poem by Susan Miller

It will be like a snow day —
all of us penned in our holes,
yearning to topple onto
barstools, strip off our
winter wool, order rounds
of Jack and uncork
our weather war stories.

Yeh, just like a snow day,
that’s what you said, as
always so rock-solid sure.
You didn’t want to hear
my what-ifs, feel my
clammy palms, see
my screaming phone.

You tried to make me laugh
at your downward dog in
our fuzzy Facetimes,
teach me Crazy Eights
by text, clink cocktail
glasses at laptop screens.
Just like a snow day.

You said the tickle was
nothing, maybe some
sneaky spring pollen
or your hardwoods
belching dust. No worries
at all — just pieces of what
would be one stellar tale.

I wanted to call you to
tell you that I finally made
it outside. How every step
felt slippery and uncertain,
how I dodged sidewalk
slowpokes before I
burrowed back indoors.

How 15 months later,
I peeked into the pub
now electric and pulsing
with people. How you should
be there, we should be there,
hugging and holding court.
Yeh, like after a snow day.

Susan Miller is an editor/reporter for USA TODAY who enjoys writing poetry as a hobby. Her work has appeared in Whimsical Poet, Gemini Magazine, Months to Years, Common Ground Review, Under the Bridges of America, Sandy Paws, Quaranzine, Written in Arlington.

A Poem by Mercury-Marvin Sunderland

today i woke up
at 7 am
so i could sign up
for my fall quarter class
at 8 am

i ate
a quick sandwich
of dollar store white bread
mustard & mayo
kraft singles
garlic baloney
pickles
potato chips

& i grabbed
one (1) pre-made canteen
of morning coffee
from the fridge

poured one (1) mug
& reheated
for three (3) minutes
then put it back
in the canteen

today i told my therapist
that i’ve just started taking legal action

for two (2) years
of stalking and sexual harassment

the title ix
just placed
a no contact order

which is basically
a restraining order

which expires
as soon as i graduate

in december

& i’m not saying
it doesn’t help but
it’ll take three-to-six (3-to-6) months
for the trial to go

& i’m just
so scared

& i know that
i’m taking the right action

but this coffee couldn’t be strong enough
to prepare me for

the reliving
of my trauma

& uncertain futures

i’m all out of creamer
& my hands

are shaking.

Mercury-Marvin Sunderland (he/him) is a transgender autistic gay man with Borderline Personality Disorder. He’s from Seattle and currently attends the Evergreen State College. He’s been published by University of Amsterdam’s Writer’s Block, UC Davis’ Open Ceilings, UC Riverside’s Santa Ana River Review, UC Santa Barbara’s Spectrum, and The New School’s The Inquisitive Eater. His lifelong dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He’s @RomanGodMercury on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A Poem by James Croal Jackson

(Columbus, Ohio, 2018)

Shades of Colorado, bleak
as winter sky packing gear
in the trunk before your
flight, reverberations of
song trapped in guitar
from the blinking purple
show at the grime dive.
I went to exhaust their
pierogi supply, to sit
in crowded silence
watching the people around
me, wondering why I came
here, the question resonating
along the ceiling, silent
as raindrops falling
from the bare rafters.

James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (jamescroaljackson.com)

A Poem by Anita Nahal

Blame It on My Wild Heart, 12×12″, mixed media on canvas by Lorette C. Luzajic
Toronto, Canada

Which might explain why like pieces of bread dunked in hot tea or milk I may fall off suddenly. Pliable and desirous to be held. You’ll try picking up remains metastasizing like kneaded dough gone awry, rolling like a gooey ball stuck. Stuck and stuck, refusing to budge. Not mine nor your peace wanting to smudge. A wholesome life I crave, and craving has a mind of its own, walking behind or eons ahead. It’s not that my heart is not beating love, not that my heart is not oozing desire, not that my heart doesn’t wanna give or receive. If not, why would I be waving it as a flag then? Or place it bejeweled and blushing outside my body, then? I even carry a magician’s hat tossing and turning, conjuring spells out the Book of Shadows.

At twenty-nine I gazed at distant stars gently urging and rubbing shoulders with them, wistfully beseeching voyages. Now stars rubbing shoulders with each other gaze at me, nodding sympathetically at the frayed knots of my virgin romances gone astray. Baggage becomes dense and worn out, yet wheels are not ready to squeak and repose. I let the stilettoes of yesteryears go. Switching to block heels instead. Shorter I appear and the shorter and shorter I become, wider and wider the distances between you and me. On many tongues sit #&’s and the #&’s increase in quantity and volume as they attempt replacing, #buts. A mammoth robotic lottery wheel circles my face becoming one with partitions in my brain. Not many can keep rolling without any moolah coming their way.

*Book of Shadows: A book containing religious text and instructions for magical rituals found within the Neopagan religion of Wicca

* Moolah: slang word for money. Being employed in the poem to denote anything of value.

Anita Nahal is an Indian-American-diasporic poet, flash fictionist, children’s writer and columnist. Anita Nahal has three books of poetry, one book of flash fictions, four for children and three edited anthologies to her credit. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women? was released by Kelsay Books in August 2021. Two of her books are prescribed in a course on multiculturalism and immigration at the University of the Utrecht, The Netherlands. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. More on her at: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal

A Poem by Anna Papadopoulos

She’s twelve —
a faux-leather fringed bag
holds her confidence in place.
The tips of her ballet shoes
peep out like a Labrador’s face
framed by the partially rolled-down
car window.
Her pigtails swish back and forth
and greet the day.

He’s older —
with limbs that have outgrown
their roots
like wild weeds.
His red cap flaps
without saying much.
His Pumas hit the pavement with a groove as he draws closer.

It’s unclear, even years later,
why he pushed her into that well-manicured,
prickly, piercing bush;
tore the bag from her torso
until all that was left
were the bag’s fringes —
hanging on the shrub-like ornaments
and waving the summer goodbye.

Anna Papadopoulos has been a cashier, columnist, wedding photographer, chandelier, marketing professor, and corporate executive. She adores New York City’s gritty beaches and littered streets, where treasures exist everywhere. She and her husband share their home in Staten Island, NY with their twin sons, daughter, a poodle, a Siberian cat, and her mother’s neglected Lenox collection. Her poetry has been featured in The Monterey Poetry Review, Newtown Literary, The Dillydoun Review, The Closed Eye Open, Second Chance Lit, Conestoga Zen, and the Poetry and Covid Project, an initiative funded by the UK Arts and Humanities.

A Poem by Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton

When winter solstice turns
the river slows.
It will slow again.

From the alcove
I watched you:
a disaster of peppermint.

Saints with fractured smiles
trod carpets of clover.

You pressed a silver ring in your palm
I never gave you.

Outside, a pale ferry glides
on ice
across the Ohio

To a shore dotted with lanterns
our grandparents bring
from farms.

I wake you to tell you
something has happened.
You come to

pissed as hell.

A blurred
train sweating diesel
tears me
away:

oak tree rotting
in my hands.

Golden cloud, your hair
fades in the window.

I never make it to shore.

Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton is a Louisville, KY native who migrated to Corpus Christi with his family. Between Kentucky and Texas, he has traveled and lived in several places, including Spain, Appalachia, Panamá, Peru, the Philippines, and the Colorado River. He has two chapbooks: Rain Minnows (Gnashing Teeth Publishing), and Slow Wind (Finishing Line Press), and his poetry appears in such journals as Windward Review, Driftwood, Voices de la Luna, Tiny Seeds Journal, and Sybil Journal

A Poem by Benjamin Rose

In the autumnal mode

The cowards of state have panicked and fled;
The young men lay down their rifles for lost,
For we have betrayed the quick and the dead,
And roots dug in vain are slain by the frost.
Now in the glare of the harsh summer sun
The bullet-bit banner wavers and fades
Corrupt and deserted, scorched in despair;
The skies are vacant and void as the grave.
Dreams dissipate, and the hopes of the young
Fade into nothing. Dissociate, numb,
Frenzied with panic, they take to the air.

The streets of Kabul are filled with grenades
Borne upon shoulders, recalling the scars
Carved through the city when rockets arrayed
The city in terror; when Hekmatyar
Strove with Massoud to portion the spoils
The Mujahideen had won from the Bear
By strength, Stinger, and obstinate valor
Ripped from the Soviet’s maw. But the snare
Of greed and ambition marred the toil,
Till blood flowed current, bitter as oil,
And chaos trailed the contest of power.

The copter’s propellers sever the sky.
What hubris drove us to make such an end?
Turn and bear witness as their nation dies.
The world shall know we abandoned our friends,
Abandoned the young to torment and death,
Abandoned women to murder and rape,
Abandoned the roll–call last and the toll.
Now, for the many there is no escape.
Fanatics will rob the land of its breath,
And garb in oppression those who are left
To bear the long grief arms could not annul.

Benjamin Rose is a poet based in Washington, D.C.

A Poem by Gabby Mijalski-Fahim

Four tires marry the border of two states
while the rain falls with the temperature and
trees trade in their mottled hands for pined hooks,
dipping down to kiss the roof of the car
that soon abandons acres of empty pasture lands,
left to settle in the mirror of its left wing.
Ahead, the road tenses and buckles its neck, producing a stampede of several breeds,
some silver and flat with tinted windows, others auburn and stout,
seesawing within lanes across a bustling plain that spares no time for living.
Tamers at the head of each beast steer semi-trailers with tattooed claws sailing
in the wind while they mouth a song too distant to hear.
I take the exit; a beastless road soon acquiesces to the night’s darkness
as I perch the tips of my lips on the head of my styrofoam cup,
following the dwindling path of light before.

Gabby Mijalski-Fahim is a 22 years-old cat parent, queer poet and karaoke aficionado who lives, breathes and works in the somber state of Oregon. Her work is featured in Passengers Journal, Tempered Runes Press, and Cathexis Northwest Press.

A Poem by Lorrie Ness

Leave room in the duffle
for Velveeta and dryer sheets,
the pool of light below the lamp
and your appetite for chewing
pencils. Toss them in—
a collection of wine-stained corks,
fishhooks and thread. We’ll string them
into a necklace of bobbers, wear it
as a flotation device because shiraz
has always kept our heads above water.
Go ahead and pack the froyo,
the modesty we lost in high school
and a vintage can of Coke.
Strap the hammock to the roof rack
but leave the trees. When we get there
don’t forget to remind me that the cooler
in the trunk is empty, the macaroni is back home
and our Velveeta will never miss it.

Lorrie Ness is a poet working in Virginia. Her work can be found at Palette Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Typishly and various other journals. She was twice nominated for a Best of the Net Award by Sky Island Journal and she was a featured poet at Turtle Island Quarterly in 2021. Her chapbook Anatomy of a Wound is being published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.

A Poem by Anabell Donovan

My friend is dying.

His life is torn
memory brocades
fluttering in arched
window panes
about to be blown
into a dark night,
and no corner
is hidden enough
for me to cover him.

He is lost on a stroll
by crumbling mud walls
on abandoned
tarragon tangled gardens
bitter in the sun.

Where is the undiscovered
healing temple?
I blame it for yesterday’s headlines
and tomorrow’s hauntings.

He’s trapped in
a limbo of tubes
and induced sleep
until prosaic
instruments beep
a prolonged alarm,
his son told me
matter of factly,
as if quoting
today’s weather forecast.

Overhead,
thunder and wind,
hurricane brothers
want rum to run
thick on their tongues.

Anabell Donovan (Anna Eusthacia) is a psychologist and educator dedicated to student success of minorities and under-represented individuals in higher education. She loves words and would always like to “start where language ends.”

A Poem by Wren Donovan

We burn the witch, the old goat
the little old man of the old year
and our scapegoat carries our sin.
We are blameless now, we are forgiven.
We burn the Other for easy atonement, give over the bad ones
surrender the sorceress, conjurer, evil eye
hand over the misfit, misbegotten, miscreant.
Consensual fire cleans bone to white
and dissolves fleshy folly to ashes
while we sleep gently tucked beneath a blanket of snow
by cool white long slender hands.
Come a cold morning those ashes
will mark each clean brow with grey dust
but tonight we dream the blank white screen
while our shadow selves scream in the bonfire.

Wren Donovan (she/her) writes poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Her work is published in The Mark Literary Review and upcoming in Cauldron Anthology and Luna Luna Magazine.  She is also a Tarot reader and meditative dancer who tends to hide in plain sight but likes to wear things that jingle. Wren wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up, but when that didn’t work out she studied literature, Classics, folklore, and psychology at Millsaps College, Chapel Hill, and the University of Southern Mississippi.  She lives in Tennessee among many trees and can be found on Twitter @WrenDonovan.

A Poem by Oakley Ayden

— after Lucinda Williams

Raw heartache is
axed clean by my
prairie smoke love
somewhere deep in
honey wheat Helena.

We stay up eating
up only sweet
truths, potato
plain as pie.

Oakley Ayden (she/her) is an autistic, bisexual writer from North Carolina. Her poems appear in Ghost City Review, The Cabinet of Heed, Maw: Poetry Journal, Not Very Quiet, Blue Bottle Journal, Brave Voices Magazine, Neologism Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in California’s San Bernardino National Forest with her two daughters. Find her at oakleyayden.com, on Twitter (@Oakley_Ayden), or Instagram (@Oakley.Ayden).

A Poem by Sarah Warring

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

Does God create a human’s skill for wit-
Or maybe spiritual enlightenment?
Some cleverness of carpenter’s kit
An analysis and environment

The insight is in adapting to change-
An understanding in the need for shift.
The ingenuity to accept strange-
Athena has wisdom to coexist.

The tidings brought are not always wanted
Cailleach may freeze your mental flow and flux-
While Lakshmi’s brilliance makes one bonded.
Information, by pixies or by pucks.

Words from the cosmos, may never be true
Knowledge leaves, unless you find it in you.

Sarah Warring has a B.A. in English Education, a M.S. in Literacy, and is a New York State certified in English Language Arts. She has been writing for over 20 years, and has been both an unofficial and official English/Literacy/Writing teacher for the past 10 years in classrooms and various organizations. She was accepted to the Inaugural Yale Writers’ Conference. She was accepted to be a speaker for the World Literacy Summit. This talk was published online, but was originally slated to be given at Oxford University. Recently, she has had 2 articles published on the World Literacy Foundation’s blog.

A Poem by Penny Senanarong

I dream of Oðinn upon the towering tree,
Its bone-like branches, a spine jutting through the earth.
Tight throat, choking on a swollen tongue–
How long is nine days and nine nights
When you can’t breathe?
Time constricts and dilates into an eternity.

The Hanged Man says to let go and Four of Swords to rest.
Forget the envious, evil eye that pierces and
Nails you with its gaze.
I pray to the Devil: defend me from those eyes,
Against the people’s eye, against the stranger’s eye,
Let no eye bear witness to my shame.

Let me tell you a secret, sweet one:
The blame is not yours to take.
Thrice-born Zagreus committed no crimes
Yet he too was torn asunder.
May you be an isle in the sea, my love.
May you be a staff to the weak.

Wear an iron coat, iron cap, iron mantle and iron boots.
Snow-white of heart and innocence,
Make the tithe of wrath though the heavens fall.

Penny Senanarong is a Bangkok-born poet whose work can be found in Better Than Starbucks, Burnt Pine Magazine, 50-Word Stories, and ENIGMA Journal. She is a human rights advocate with interests in queer theory, mythology, and the occult. During her free time, she likes to sing to musical show tunes.

A Poem by Benjamin Rose

To himself as he was at six years old

Let me rise from this bed insensate
Where, with inconsolable eyes, I weep;
A child of no–one sobbing in darkness.
Desperate to ease the burden of his fate.
They have gone, they have gone—Damnit, where am I!?
Where is the shining joy of the light?
Of amber candles inflamed in the night
Dappling with splendor the husk of Spring.

O crimson branching Nihon sentinels
Richer in loveliness than blood red wine,
From your shadow I passed to Orodruin
Longing now only to sleep in oblivion.
But the land of my dreams is one of nightmares,
Of Nazgûl shrieks and Ixion pains,
Beaten, blinded, broken and castrated,
A weight of gold suffocating my throat.

All that was green and good in this world
Long since hurled in the furnace of wrath,
I grope across a barren land blindly
Turning on the throats of my friends with a sword.
For I have forgotten the taste of bread,
The sound of wind whistling in the leaves,
Till all that remained was the unfulfilled knell.
Hide me in darkness till I pass away.

They have gone, they have gone—Never to return.
No, spare me your contemptible pity.
For, though it shone with consummate tenderness
I would run horror–stricken from you.
I would render my flesh with the razor,
Quick–shattered shiv of self–flagellation.
But, though I beg through enervated tears,
I am sunken forever in loathing.

Give to me now, O halfling melodist,
Wherever your heartbroken reed may blow,
In tremor beyond all fruitless words
The sanctity to remember and pretend
That I, in my righteous gall, might have spared you
This burden unbearable that degrades.
Now we are far from the light of the Valar.
Beyond all human subscript of grief.

Benjamin Rose is a poet born and raised in Washington, D.C.

A Poem by Noah Sisson

He had the wings of angels that were feathered softly with light. He blessed me with kindness when all I’d known was fright. What did he see in me, a mere mortal void of grace? What worth did he find in my sobbing, tear-streaked face?

He hugged me close and took my hand 
             saying, “Do not be afraid my friend.
	                   This world is cruel to boys like us
	                   And it’s hard to know who you can trust.
	                   But follow me and we’ll see it all.
	                   See, I’m like you and need a friend to call my own.”


So, I took his hand and we soared through the heavens, over green mountains and white puffed clouds. My heart started racing while my mind started guessing, “Ok, what happens now?”

He said, “This planet has more than grief and heartache, my friend, but that’s all you’ve seen.
	        If you want to go back just say the word and we’ll forget everything.”

I grabbed him tighter and gave him a smile
	     I said, “No, I’ll follow your lead.
                          We have the wind at our backs
                          And I promise you, that’s all we’ll ever need.”

Holding him close we soared over oceans, we made our course without worry or care. Because no matter the destination, it was better than the damnation of living alone and scared.

We landed on an oceanside; I heard his soft wings shifting the sand. When I looked in his eyes, I finally realized that this angel, this boy, would take my loving hand.

I said, “Yes this world is cruel
             For boys like me and you
             But we have something they’ll never have.
             A Freak and an Angel,
             All too relatable,
             Seemingly brought together by chance.
             You’ve opened my eyes
             I’ve soared through the skies
             And I’m never turning back!”

There was some time that we traveled. We saw sights that most never see. But in the end every wonder of the world simply could not compete. Not with his kindness nor his wit, though the latter is dryer than reeds. For a simple life together with him, I would give everything.

So we bought a cottage in the country, far from oft traveled paths. In the back I planted a garden, a future to erase my past. The winters we’d spend baking together. He’d make fresh custards, fruit pies, and jams. While I’d create fluffy muffins and tasty gingerbread men.

Then in the cozy firelight, after dinner and the dishes were done, I’d snuggle closely into his chest and with his wings he’d keep us warm.  He’d sing a heavenly ballad about something; anything I didn’t care what. His loving voice was all I needed, all I wanted in the snow and mud.

As gentle snowflakes tiptoed on the window ceil and the scent of evergreen tickled my nose, the world softly waxed by around us, like two squirrels cuddled up close.
                    “Can’t we stay here forever?” I asked,
                    “The two of us snuggling so tight.
                    Let me hold you for an eternity
                    Forgetting about the storm and ice.”

He chuckled warmly at my request while delicately fiddling my curls. As I nuzzled deeper into his neck, his laughter lost its control.
              He laughed, “That’s very tempting dearest
              But despite your persuasive frill,
              I wish to see the whole of you
              Through autumn’s crispness and spring’s swirls.”
So we laid there, two souls -two hearts- by the fire 
Basking in the season of chill.

We must have stayed there a century, 20 years, a decade at least, but when my eyes flickered open the next morning, I still felt his soft hand on my cheek. I could not describe how peaceful he looked or how content with us under his wing. All I knew was that this moment was perfect, even with the weather so bleak. The fire sat dead before us, as winter sunlight pierced through the room. A sleeping house on Christmas morning, it was cold, cozy, and new.

He wouldn’t wake for some time yet, so I snuggled back into his warmth. 
I closed my eyes nodding off into darkness, 
feeling so grateful for the fact I was born.

That afternoon we packed ourselves into layers and placed soft mittens over our ears. We downed two cups of hot chocolate before entering that brisk, December air. Wool gloves concealed our fingers as we held our skates close with care. Behind us our sweet cottage faded, a memory and promise shared.

The pond was neatly frozen over, just perfect for what we had planned. It took me some practice but with his assistance I found I could balance and stand. The circles we skated and laughs we created made me wish to never again step on land. 
                    His gloved hand for me to hold, 
                    That raw December cold;
                    It was perfect, he was perfect,
                    A moment of sparkling gold.

As we slid across the ice, his wingtips, they left their mark. A delicate portrait meant for gods that pierced its way into my heart. We wove ourselves through snowflakes and smiled amidst ice and bark, from now unto forever may we never be apart!







Noah Sisson is a graduate of Beloit College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While completing his degree, Noah also worked as the News Editor for Beloit College’s student newspaper, The Round Table, where he received training and experience in journalism. Noah found his love for poetry in high school after his poem “Tickets” was published from a writing contest in Eloquence. During his time at Beloit College, Noah continued to write poetry and produced several individual poems as well as small poetry portfolios for various classes.

A Poem by Jeffrey Hampton

Youtube education today…
Sitting at home, the video plays
while one stays in their seat.
A presumptive expert (Which he is).
A receptive hard headed pleeb (Which I am).
Enter into a one sided dialogue for two.

The expert is confident that his grand
expertness is essential. He went to
Yale, so he would know. Research,
Preparedness, score reading (He is a
music critic don’t ya know) are all
essential ingredients in his word soup.

The pleeb keeps asking himself…Why?
Does the writer have a six figure student
Loan debt waiting for him at home in a
loveless marriage, founded in passion,
filled with frustration knowing one
can never measure up. Decades of reinforced
abuse about the truthiness in the world.
Where can the pleeb filter out the bullshit
from purple prose from fact.

A cynic’s view needing an optimist’s touch.
One fact gleamed, it seems one has to enjoy
the cooking. A taste whether, good or ill,
is essential. The rest is just salt and pepper.

Jeffrey Hampton is pianist and educator, having went to school for piano performance at Indiana State University. He splits his time performing as well as teaching privately out of his home studio, finding time to write when he can. He currently lives in Vincennes, Indiana, with his wife, Cahtlyn.

A Poem by Alex Dako

Soothing my soul with
aching appetites, with
sad songs, these
soliloquies and screams,
of caffeinated,
sobriety.

Soaking through notepad
assumptions, in a
scoff of slippers, on
late-night,
linoleum.

When all you need is
the world to slow down,
just a little, so
you can catch up, or
slip up, on the same
people, over the
same lines, read aloud,

in the pages of
the soul.

Alex Dako, a Canadian writer residing in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a former columnist for the Niagara Falls Review Editorial Board, with poetry appearing in the Night Picnic Press, Daffodils: A Poetry Chapbook, and The Stirling Spoon Literary Journal. He is a single father and enjoys spending his time listening to music, shadowboxing, or rereading the classics.

A Poem by Allison Lemel

Routines begin
Wash, makeup, try to appear thin.
Designer top, glazed persona
Let’s see who can bring the drama.
Turn on the camera, the lights
So they can capture all the fights.
Miss the old days, when things were normal
Things didn’t always end in turmoil.
They’re back again, time to roll.
Smile, cry, doesn’t matter the toll.
Just make every second matter
And don’t look any fatter.

Allison Lemel is a writer and performer in New York. In addition to writing, Allison has stage managed over 80 productions, as well as assistant directing. She performed her one-woman show, Places Please, in the Plus One Solo Festival with Tongue in Cheek Theater.

A Poem by Anita Nahal

Corrida (Bullfight) by Pablo Picasso

Yes, we let our ego be center stage on occasions and my ego became the Trojan horse. I myself constructed the Gulliverian prop, then willingly revealed the path to the sanctity of my comprehensions. It proved treacherous hastily and it seemed clear I wanted it to be found willingly by my conscience. The necks are twisted, eyes massive and bolting, legs twined and tails growing from navels. Mouth’s grinning, hooves puffing, manes stiff like frightened quills fallen from a porcupine. A few men’s faces focus on the fight, unnerved. Rest appears barren with cardboard cut outs filling the arena. As my Trojan horse fell on its back, the bulls came darting poised for the final denunciation. I upturned my hands to face the sky seeking alms of forgiveness. The bulls transformed into thousands of Ganesha, some airborne, some prancing, and one sitting near me engrossed, observing my expressions. I was able to walk away, ego bruised, subdued and ready to start anew. That night I pushed my Trojan horse into Ganesha’s care to be melted and reused as asphalt binding me to modesty.

Ganesha: Hindu God of prosperity and success

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a professor, poet, short story writer, and children’s writer. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Anita has two books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children, two edited poetry anthologies and one edited nursery rhymes anthology. Her third book of poetry is set for release in August 2021 by Kelsay Books. Originally from New Delhi, India, she is the daughter of novelist Chaman Nahal and educationist Sudarshan Nahal. She lives in the US with her son, daughter-in-law and golden doodle. For more: Visit Anita Here.

A Poem by Colleen Kennedy

Once out of the woods,
my mother began to run

She didn’t stop as I slipped
and lost my footing

She pinched my chubby child’s hand
tighter
but didn’t lift me up

Muddied knees,
gravel embedded in corduroy piping,
arm wrenched

She screamed

Neighbors rushed out
to her aid.
Breathless,
panting

My little hand was free from hers
and an older neighbor pulled me
into her home
–we all lived in small trailers
in a cul-de-sac of working-class poverty and generosity

Drying tears,
cleaning scraped knees,
administering vanilla wafers
and weak tea

Outside, my mother,
thinly waving her arms,
talking to uniformed blue,
a neighbor’s arm around
her narrow and shaking shoulders

I only barely saw the girl,
Her back and limbs,
Shimmering in her azure beauty,
Nude, submerged in the thawing river
Her hair a tangled nest of twigs and algae

And the air outside that morning
was brisk,
watering my eyes

My mother’s fear
stunk of sweat and menthol cigarettes

I couldn’t yet understand the confusion and need to escape—
neither my mother’s urge to flee the woods to safety—
nor the girl’s decision

But I sometimes think about
my mother’s hand dropping mine
once we reached safety
and the hand bobbing in the water

Previously, a university instructor of English and Theatre, Colleen Kennedy is the publicist and managing editor for Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., where she is also a teaching artist. She has published arts and cultural interviews and reviews for District Fray, On Tap, Upstart, and Little Village, and academic essays for Appositions, FORUM, Shakespeare & Beyond, and The Recipes Project.

A Poem by Montgomery Maxton

This morning there is no
Brooklyn Bridge, no
Mannahatta, just shadow
castles encased in sonic fog.

From this thirtieth floor perch
I see no one except
ghosts, whirling about
in all their confusion.

In the villages south
they prepare for the
hurricane, its anger a
guaranteed destruction.

But here, just quiet,
just blank, but I am certain,
somewhere, still,
there is the promised Eden.

Montgomery Maxton is a poet, writer, photographer, and mixed-media artist. His fourth and fifth books will be released in 2021. He lives in New York City.               

A Poem by Lillo Way

Tuesday sunset went baroque, all gold-edged
and filigreed in a frame of holy squiggles.

Yesterday it was high renaissance muscle,
flesh-colored and fingering the clouds.

There’s been a reformation this evening, giving us
hard-edged still life, not a breath of movement.

Until you came leaping up the stairs, parting
the air, dispersing clouds. You grabbed me

by the waist and laughed me onto my palette.
You painted me creamy in broad brushstrokes.

Our borders blurred in your rich impasto.
Adhered and embedded, we heard the rain begin.

Lillo Way
Lillo Way

Lillo Way’s “Dubious Moon” won the Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest. Her poem, “Offering,” won the E.E. Cummings Award from New England Poetry Club., and “Appropriation” was awarded a Florida Review Editors” Prize. Her writing has appeared in RHINO, New Letters, Poet Lore, North American Review, Tampa Review, Louisville Review, Madison Review, Poetry East, among others. Way has received grants from the NEA, NY State Council on the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving poetry. Her collection, “Lend Me Your Wings,” is forthcoming May 2021.

A Poem by Walter Weinschenk

In the afternoon, when sun is king,
I walked along the shore;
Three shadows followed me
Each one longer than the next.

The first was child in adult form
Groping for a hand to hold;
Sinking steps in yellow sand;
The sweater he wore had once been mine;
I buttoned it up so he wouldn’t catch cold
And did my best to arrange his tie;
It made me cry as we walked along.

The second was worldly,
Propelled by the tide
Of habit and experience,
Pale with fear despite the sun,
Furrows deep along the brow,
Creases in the cheek,
Desire dried and cauterized
Long before he had reached the beach;
It made me cry as we walked along.

The third was a shepherd,
Sober eyes, solemn pout,
Crooked neck and head bent forth;
He’d lean upon his walking stick,
Bronze wood scarred by wind and salt;
He lifted it up when the sun turned red
And pointed to the mountain ahead,
Dim blue edifice, azure crest
And, all at once, we all looked up;
It made me cry as we walked along.

Walter Weinschenk
Walter Weinschenk

Walter Weinschenk is an attorney, writer and musician. His writing has appeared in the Carolina Quarterly, Sunspot Literary Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The Gateway Review, A Rose For Lana, Cathexis Northwest Press, Tempered Runes Press, Button Eye Review, East by Northeast Literary Magazine, an anthology entitled Falling Leaves published by Day Eight and forthcoming in The Courtship of Winds, Months to Years, Penumbra, Ponder Review, The Raw Art Review, and Iris Literary Journal.
Walter lives in a suburb just outside Washington, D. C.

A Poem by Rex Wilder

     Since I was locked up and the key dangled 
Like a body from each nurse’s neck,
This gray matter has lost the privilege of shades

And the world is black and white. 
Either I was fucked or it’s just a phase. 
Either you climb from the wreck

     Or you burn in the tangle of the metal.
Only so many flames can fit in a forest,
Have you ever thought about that?

I was hit at 5, at 50, hated, emasculated, 
Locked in/out but low-grade, first-world, 
Not worth moving heaven and earth for

     And if I walked into the sea, the drowning 
Wouldn’t make waves. Abuse gets used
Up, no matter how much hurt’s rained down.

My wife used to spit
On me so who needed tears? Hats off
To Lady Saliva and the horse she rode in on.

     Whether I’ll be back is a matter of fate
But where I’m going is so big and gorgeous 
There’s room enough to recover,

Like the open road of summer
When I was 18, like Georgia, wildflowers 
Bent at the waist like a retinue.

Rex Wilder was a misfit from the good old days whose mind finally forced the issue in 2018 — a nervous breakdown, hospital lockup, the full Sylvia Plath. Before and after that, three books of his have been published, and he has poems in TLSPoetry IrelandPoetryPloughshares, The New CriterionThe NationNational ReviewYale ReviewHarvard Review, and many anthologies, including the celebrated Together in a Sudden Strangeness from Knopf. This poem is from his new book, Faces Around a Room.

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A Poem by Effie Pasagiannis

I like the way we are together now –
compatriots, companions,
clandestine lovers exchanging recipes,
searching for yeast to create

Kneading and breaking bread
in doughy goodness,
we are shattering the silence of our fast
letting our buttered selves slip
through gloved hands
into a new kind of comforting

Is this why I have always loved the rain?
Pelting of glass, windowed song with
blinds open, curtains drawn
for a knowledge that we bathe in it together,
and in this knowing, this being,
a most precious stasis shared,
the NOW that is most certain and
all we will ever have

In this splendor
of exchanging recipes,
we exhaust the noise of all else,
we concentrate while
kneading and breaking bread –
knowing safety in the present
humming our favorite rain day tune,
watching creation rise,
breathing it in.


Effie Pasagiannis is a NYC lawyer, writer & curator. Her poetry has appeared in journals & anthologies, notably in Mantis, Stanford University’s poetry journal (2019). Her first poetry book Anagnorisis was published by Dancing Girl Press in January 2020. Effie is working on a chapbook of villanelles and a short story collection. One of these short stories is being adapted into a feature-length film by Nomadis Images (production slated for Spring 2021). As a curator, Effie brings together artist and writers to collaborate and showcase their work. She looks forward to many more events and readings post-pandemic.

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A Poem by Jonathan Koven

Something blossoming, a star!
For all I see, in stolid smoke
and shadow, weaves
universes all their own.

When I wake from a dream within a dream,
doctors scale my reach,
whispering, to peel
the sky’s clouds like petals.

I love you, I love you not, until only blue.
In wake, feel part of a poem unfurling
that no one reads. I am its metaphor
which mixes, in the end.

Drain the moon its silver; inside wilts a rose
I could watch die, or instead water it
to life, or something beautiful beyond death,
for God knows the moon keeps a greater soul.

I was standing still, with hopeless descent
of the mind, to remember my inner child,
he who remembers my imagined future,
older than anything at all.

Still, our hearts break to recapture under-earth
as constellation, to paint a lake to drown
my sorrows, and maybe someone else’s. I know
not everyone will know what I hope I know.

There is nothing sordid about this scream.
Glory’s demand from outside heaven’s gate
still serenades: You are there
and I are here.

I want to believe this rips out
our roots, to before the dream began.
I finally see the end is the light, the light at the end
of all the walking toward the end of the light.

I have walked longer
than I can remember, agaze
at smoke and shadows, weaving
universes all their own.


Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor and workshop coordinator. He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Read his fiction and poetry at Lindenwood Review, Night Picnic, Iris Literary, and more. His debut chapbook Palm Lines is available now from Toho Publishing.

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A Poem by W. F. Althaus

We walked into this bar
A bit too fancy for four dudes
Looking to put a couple away
Before watching Mad Max in IMAX
But a beer’s a beer, right?

Dark-stained hardwood throughout
Not even a scuff on the floor
The bartenders and waitress
Wear black slacks and ties
Over white shirts, sleeves rolled.

We sat at the bar, cellos rolling
Out vintage harmonies
From hidden speakers and
The woman back there handed
Us the beer list—

A leather-bound volume
With gilded brass at the corners
Listing ales with fancy names,
Leading me to assume they came
From the furthest regions of the Earth,
And man’s experience on it, like all of our
Collective consciousness was brewed
In austere and unknowable locales
Then assembled there for us to tap into,
Assimilate with the rest of history
In one swig—

The King Tut from Egypt
Or the German König Pilsener.
They all found something they wanted
Right away.
“One minute,” I told her.

Something Dutch? A Japanese Sapporo?
My friends watched me, my face red with
Frustration and humiliation and
None of those fancy-lettered titles
Meant a damn thing to me anymore.

I’d drank Sapporo in Sapporo and
Downed pints in Huntingdon and Oslo, but
I don’t know if I would revisit them just then,
Given the chance.

I wanted to walk across a field
Toward a lake, a lost love
The connection to a time
Where everything was clear
When everything was about her
When the cosmos seemed aligned
And alighted to her

You could run all over the world
Looking for something
And find it where you began.

“Excuse me?” I asked the bartender,
And declared what I wanted.
A smirk curled on her lips and she looked
At my friends to see if it was a joke
Then looked at her watch.

“It took you seven-and-a-half minutes
To figure out you wanted Bud Light?”
I only shrugged and my friend explained
That it had taken me a hell of a lot longer to
Figure out much more important things.

“Waiting for him to sort things out is like
Watching a hamster sleep on a wheel.”


W. F. Althaus earned his BA in English (Creative Writing) in 2008 from Wright-State University, and currently lives and works near Colorado Springs with his wife, three kids, dog, cat, and his daughter’s rabbits. His poems have been published in Deadly Writers Patrol, East by Northeast and The Penwood Review.

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A Poem by Michael Lee Johnson

I’m a juice box girl,
squeeze me, play me
like an accordion,
box-shaped, but gagged edges.
Breathe me inside out,
I’m nude, fruity, fractured,
strawberry melon,
nightshade wine.
Chicago, 3:00 a.m.
somewhere stranded
someone’s balcony
memories undefined,
you will find me there
stretched naked, doing
the Electric Slide,
taking morning selfies
upward morning into the sun
then in shutters
closeout pictures
Chiquita bananas,
those Greek lovers
running late,
Little Village, Greektown
so many men’s night faces fading out.
Wash cleanse in me.
I’m no Sylvia Plath
in an oven image of death
I resuscitate; I’m still alive.


Michael Lee Johnson lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  Mr. Johnson published in more than 1092 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites.  Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018. 194 poetry videos are now on YouTube . Editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze; editor-in-chief poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses. Editor-in-chief Warriors with Wings:  the Best in Contemporary Poetry.

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A Poem by Kelsey Erin Shipman

I’ll say to you
what no one ever did:
This is not your fault.

Yes, you pocketed those Tic Tacs while
your mother spoke with the cashier,
and you let slip a lie about your father’s
fortune to those kids at school.

And when your little sister asked
for a drink, you poured hot sauce in her Coke
then laughed as if it were April Fools’ Day
though it was only March.

Sure, you fingered your father’s quarters and
snuck a few in your backpack, like the day
you took another classmate’s foreign coin collection,
just the islands as proof of a larger world.

All lessons in regret —
attempts to right an injustice
you could not yet name.


Kelsey Erin Shipman is a writer and educator. She earned her MFA at Texas State University and is the founder of The Freehand Arts Project, a non-profit that brings creative writing classes Texas jails and prisons. Her work has been widely published in places such as The African American Review, The Austin Chronicle, Sagebrush Review, and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. She served as the 2013-2014 Writer-In-Residence at the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, and was the recipient of the 2007 San Jacinto & Althean Literary Societies’ Grand Prize in Poetry. A native Texan, she loves big dogs and breakfast tacos.

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A Poem by David Rogers

I appeared on Lakeshore Michigan naked and pure
Borne on a golden palanquin by an obedient horde
Of zebra mussels, mumbling their hymn of praise.

Found by South Side maenads, dancing at night in
Empty lots of junk, my slight ethereal size seized them
To rush me to the hospital, ravaged by pre-birth reaving.

Cosseted solo in warm plastic, single blanket, I survived.

Earlier in the world, my mother drank and smoked in secret,
Unsure of this thing growing inside, what responsibilities
Lay on her now, whether it was what she wanted
at all.


First published with a second place in the 2017 Heroes’ Voices National Veterans Poetry Contest, David Rogers has also placed poems in Metonym Literary Journal and Voices de la Luna. A memoir of his time in the anti-war movement while being active duty in the military, “Peaceful Meridian: Sailing Into War, Protesting At Home,” was published in 2020. He lives outside Denver, Colorado.

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A Poem by Nathan Robert Cox

She heard him sing by the water,
Not knowing that the songs he sang were his own;
He sang of the river, its torments, its dark allure;
And what he sang came to pass.

These days
No one dares say his name:
That boy who drowned,
That tramp,
That filthy lad,
The one who stole and swore and spat.
Stolid aldermen shake their heads—
Now just as then—
And yet there are men who gather beside the rough waters
Trying not to remember him
Whose corpse still floats so near their feet.
Brambled crowns weaved in their flaxen hair—
In lieu of laurel’d orbit—
For there are no triumphal days along these muddy banks.
Trembling hands
Pocketed away in shame
Because
At first, they could not hold the ropes;
At last, because they could.

A feral cry
Silences the forest—
The girl remembers him as he once was,
Naked at dusk,
By the river,
Launching his boat,
Which looked like paper in the twilight,
As it slipped into the current…

In the gloaming,
A flock flies
As shadows pour down
And fill the spaces
From which they
Alighted.
She closes her eyes,
Sighs,
And whistles a plaintive song,

A song she learnt from him
So many years ago,
Concealed in the penumbra of these woods,
Riverside.


Nathan Robert Cox lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is an adjunct professor of philosophy. He received his B.A. in philosophy at the University of Tennessee and both his M.A. & Ph.D. at the University of Kansas. His specialty is early modern philosophy, especially the work of David Hume, Spinoza, and Kant. He teaches at Pellissippi State Community College and Thomas Edison State University.

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A Poem by Brigidh Duffey

She took junk shop treasures home to me
like a crow stealing buttons for someone kind:
A porcelain doll in a sunflower apron,
A wicker basket full of miniature linen geese,
A short-sleeved t-shirt with a red hood.
It was an autumn habit—storing up garbage
for a long, long winter at home.
But little girls cannot eat garbage.

Most of the crows died after West Nile,
a consequence of life in swampland.
In summer, the floodwaters would pool up
in the basement past my ankles.
She used to sleep down there, a bed in the corner
by the washing machine. She tacked postcards
to the exposed two-by-fours in the walls
and did loads of laundry poorly.

There’s no one left now to do grandmotherly things;
No constant percolation of foul coffee,
mixed light and sweet with Splenda and half-and-half.
No frightening tins of tiny dead fish in the cupboard.
No slow, lotiony hands with long fingers
to braid the scent of Vicks VapoRub into my hair.
These are small ways to work on a small heart
and they go into the cremation oven with everything else.

I don’t know how much time has to pass
for someone to become long dead.
But it had been years, anyway,
since I had let her touch my arm or feed me a soup
accidentally seasoned with white sugar—
so I don’t know when to start counting, but
now and then I do see the great-great-granddaughter
of a bird who got better.

Brigidh Duffey lives in Brooklyn with two ill-mannered cats. She studied Anthropology and Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College. Her poetry explores gender, spirit, and identity. Her work has appeared in Panoply, The Blood Pudding, and From Whispers to Roars.

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A Poem by Annie Woods

I often think dying is
annoying, like a grade school bully
boinging my curls. And dying is
inappropriate, like laughing in church
when laughter knows there’s a time,
and a place, and it’s not in God’s face.
Mostly I think dying is
embarrassing
because humiliation knows no vessel
like the human body in decline
and when I clutch my chest in
cardiac arrest, I am reminded of
the blood
seeping through my shorts
sophomore year of marching band,
knotting a hoodie around my waist
to conceal my biology.
I think dying is, above all,
a waste of time. I sat, dumb in the limbo
of the living and the dead,
and the waiting, and the pity,
and the looks. Dying is
a desert
where people expect you to swim
and the sand is heavy
and the air is hot
and just when you think
it’s the last breath you’ll take
it’s cruelly followed by another.

Annie Woods is a recipient of the Stephen C. Barr fellowship for Creative Writing from Wichita State University. Her work can be found in Gigantic Sequins, Hobart, A VELVET GIANT, and great weather for media. Her manuscript was accepted to the Tin House 2020 Nonfiction Winter Workshop under Esmé Weijun Wang. Annie is from the heart of Texas; she often writes about illness visibility. In her free time, she likes to wear lipstick and spin in circles.

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A Poem by Nneka Joyce Duru

Work oh work!
Here I lie
Prostrate on my sofa
Tired and all spent
My face,
A freeze of drained energy
My mind billowing in heaviness
Of grief and pain and sorrow
My black purse stare blankly at me
And I wonder when
I shall ever be free
To smile outside this scorching heat
African sun,
O quench your fire!
When will I find succor from this strain
In my spirit?
How can one work
Yet has no reward?
Oh, I look on in hope
That one bright sunny day
I shall smile, smile and smile
And give thanks to you
Dear work!

Nneka Joyce Duru is a wife, mother and a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Rivers State branch, Nigeria. She is currently the winner of the 2020 AWA Award in Poetry in Africa. She is a prolific writer, a teacher and an advocate of African women and children’s rights.

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A Poem by Destiny Bookman

last time I let the sun kiss my skin I was stung
smooth quick and aggressively
my flesh shrieked; acidic Venom spread across my face
the Venom boiled away at the arrival of anger and humiliation
to be stung in private where only walls and dust balls could observe was purgatory
to be stung in public where eyes looked past you, but sympathetically glared at your back was hell

I was stung the last time I let the sun kiss my skin
hot pins and needles itched my cheek, the sun blurred away
anaphylaxis settled in me
my stomach churned restlessly; ears rung into oblivion
underlying rage burned in my biceps down to the very tip of my fingers
twitching with an eagerness I was orchestrated to suppress to avoid being stung again

I stung back for the first time —

my stinger seemed to be much better equipped for retaliation
disastrous cold had returned, low gray clouds buried the defeated yellow jacket
healing skin and revived senses rejoiced
hibernating through the new cold, I prepared for the return of the warm,
prepared with not embarrassment for myself, but with excitement for the sun
I had been stung by a yellow jacket for the last time, I can let the sun kiss my skin

Destiny Bookman is a sophomore college student from Philadelphia. She wants to be a child therapist because children are great and deserve support. Her primary interests are writing, pretty rocks, underrated animated shows, and listening to years old albums she should have listened to sooner. Destiny writes a little of everything. She hates bugs but, when needed, uses them as inspiration to escape writer’s block.

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A Poem by Matthew James Babcock

The people who really impress me

are those transcendents who burn
themselves alive for a cause.
Which locks your lungs? Elfin daredevil
tightroping with Jesus across
the incandescent bowl of a volcano
on prime time, or mild monk
who torches himself on the marble porch
of the emperor’s palace, sealing history
with the melted red wax of his soul?
Tally all test pilots who land
book deals. Count the black-and-white
busloads of social activists
who didn’t end austere careers
couch surfing. Heavyweight champs,
sopranos with golden throats,
laureates with proletarian codes
tattooed in coal dust down both forearms,
the tycoon grinning philanthropy
at the chattering clash of cameras,
Brazilian bull riders, the jailed saint,
princess vowing poverty, hunger strikers—
guys like Gandhi—none compares
in absolute purity of purpose
to the fed-up Tunisian fruit vendor,
obscure Canadian novelist decrying
the wanton destruction of beauty,
the female Iranian soccer buff,
bankrupt Greeks, sad Japanese Esperantists,
the Amherst substitute teacher abhorring
The Gulf War, estranged Czechs
combusting in the city square
to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary
of other Czechs who roasted there,
Rajput concubines under siege,
tyrannized Tibetans blazing
like hundreds of fiery middle fingers
flipped at China, lithe Lithuanian teens
not keen on Soviets, Hindus not cool
with speaking Tamil, grieving Russian
Old Believers, entrenched French Jesuits,
the young Australian heiress
opposed to her family fortune,
Quaker dad on a day trip from Baltimore
with the kids, barbecued below
Bob McNamara’s Pentagon suite,
all ascending in hot apotheosis
with Thich Quang Duc and Kathy Change
in an uproar of kerosene dreams,
the crackling columns of fire and smoke
swabbing the heavens, the frantic mobs
swarming to warm wilting hands
and sing the songs of astonishment
around the human bonfires
in silence and screams. I burned
at sixteen, shirtless in skimpy
orange track shorts, clocking dogged
country miles of bloody dusk
and charred ditchbank weeds,
my body a smoldering sun rising
to singe through the horizons
of clouded mountains in my drowsy
northwestern town of two thousand,
my young revolutions cooling
soon to resolutions of ash.
Now: What icy injustice could make me
touch the final spark to the fuse
of my heart? What wrong
would stake me, the raging candle,
on my deathday cake? Will the sorrows
of tomorrow find me on market day,
smoking a hand-rolled cigarette
in lotus position atop a sawdust pile
soaked in soybean oil, seconds
before the doleful oxcart rumble
and bored hellos erupt in shrieks of horror?
If I charbroiled myself, it would be
to end martyrdom. At the Founder’s Day
summer fundraiser and cookout
in Memorial Park, I would mount
the gazebo—cutting off the mayor’s welcome,
squelching the brass band of veterans
raising a rumpus with “Bill Bailey”—
and, to the rush of relieved sighs,
toss aside my empty gas can
and soggy matchbook, offering not
the terror of my black skeleton
like a scorched scarecrow flailing away
in a jumping-jack inferno,
but a new vision of the world:
our planet covered, as it is, with billions
of troubled pagodas, each housing
a small blue flame that refuses to go out.


Idahoan. Writer. Failed breakdancer.

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A Poem by Anita Nahal




“Meet Jessica Ailith (Ailith means seasoned warrior)”
Says, poet, writer, painter, sculptor, Australian, Elizabeth ‘Lish’ Škec

Petals adorn my broken self and like our Native ancestors I search for the tale in each. Seeking the shadows of animals that stood with us. Seeking the brothers and sisters that fought with us. The crackling of winter fires that sheltered us. Some have roamed the world, seeing, sprouting, waning and passing into dimensions inside us where we go when others treat us different. Don’t shake your head and offer pity over my amputated legs. Ask instead, what, where, why they walked, kicked, dragged and slumped upon. How a warrior I was born. Don’t nod in understanding without looking straight into my eyes which still sparkle in my guillotined head on the butcher block. How a warrior I was re born. Don’t put your arms around mine without feeling the compacted air that extends beyond my shredded joints. How a warrior I was born, again and again and again.

Don’t offer to cover me up with your tainted blanket. With your prude coat. With your carefully sculpted sentences pulling a spoof that you are wise. Don’t smirk at distances between loves. Don’t try walking on my footprint’s ashes still smoldering. Don’t look for my hands to clasp to tell a joint story. Don’t. Don’t. Just watch. Just watch as my remaining petals keep disappearing. Watch the air around you solidify. Watch the ground beneath you harden like metamorphic rocks. Watch till I become a whisper at the end of the last drop of water. And then, you can scream.


Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a professor, poet, short story writer, and children’s writer. She teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Anita has two books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children and two edited poetry anthologies and one edited nursery rhymes anthology. Her third book of poetry is set for release in December 2021 by Kelsay Books. Originally from New Delhi, India, she is the daughter of novelist Chaman Nahal and educationist Sudarshan Nahal. She lives in the US with her son, daughter-in-law and golden doodle. For more: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal

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A Poem by Chinedu Nzere

i deep me in the shallow waters of your heart
it is a familiar sacrament
the one which our bodies are cremated into fine ash
& scattered atop this outer sign
grace is cliché, it is how my name melts like caramel on your tongue
each time you call me from a distance
it reminds me of growing up
of street debris
of little feet on seashores
washed away by the water of our baptism


Chinedu Nzere is a lone writer from the broken streets of Lagos where he picks words off sidewalks and people’s lives. He is pursuing his first degree in Accounting at the National Open University, hoping he doesn’t fill poetry into Balance Sheets. He has his works published in Prose and Poetry Hood Valentine Poetry Competition, Writers Space Africa Magazine where he won the Editor’s Choice, The Dillydoun Review… His works have also appeared or are forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly Review, Origami Poems Project, The Offing, POETRY Magazine and elsewhere.

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A Poem by Maria Berardi

For Soo

The precise day everything wakes up:
the sunshine bright and warm, the breeze cold,
the skin unaccustomed to feeling air again.

Four childrens’ muddy hands
entwined with four garter snakes,
all eight of them stooped over a low-lying creek,

the kids huddled in curiosity,
the snakes dipping and swerving
with yearning for freedom.

They are released simultaneously,
a race of S-es across the surface
of the thin water,

still sleepy with cold,
still dull with burrow-dirt,
but pumping along the bright wet,

all four aimed for the other side
and a rock on which
to curl and bask.

The children are delighted,
proud, dirty, and bright-haired.
It is Sunday afternoon and this is just the beginning.


Maria Berardi‘s poems have appeared online, in print, in university literary journals, meditation magazines, and at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Her first book, Cassandra Gifts, was published in 2013 by Turkey Buzzard Press, and she is currently at work on her second, Pagan, from which these poems are excerpted. She lives in Colorado at precisely 8,888 feet above sea level. Her process is one of listening for transmissions and trying to catch them on paper before they dissipate: the glimpse, the complicated knowledge.

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A Poem by Tim Suermondt

Walking there, my wife and I
talk about writing, the intelligence
of dogs, riding the Orient Express
and what we’ll do for the season,

maintaining our original focus on
the chicken we’ll bring back to fry
Southern style and every ingredient
involved in the tasty project, those

thighs, breasts and legs reminding us
that not everything should be political,
the Congress today will have to carry
on without our participation, if they can.


Tim Suermondt’s sixth full-length book of poems “A Doughnut And The Great Beauty Of The World” will be forthcoming from MadHat Press in 2021. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, On the Seawall, Poet Lore and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.

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A Poem by Susan J. Wurtzburg

Objects associated with my mother: hair pins,
            dish gloves, a pink flamingo.
The plush bird, a humorous birthday gift
            from her crazy daughter.
Hawaii-visit detritus placed in orderly rows,
            top drawer of the dresser.

Handles pulled, a glimpse inside, amusing
            reminders of her presence.
Mixed with heart pulls, muscle memory
            of farm days by her side.
Clasped hands and hugs with my mother,
            across the ocean now.

The only bridge, a telephone cable runs
            deep beneath the sea.
Down the line, breathe and laughter,
            but longing for contact.
A touch of the hand, a walk, shared
            laughter and observations.


Susan J. Wurtzburg is a retired academic, and lives in Hawai‘i. She writes and runs her editing business (Sandy Dog Books LLC), in between water sports, hiking, walking her dog, and socializing online, while she waits for the pandemic to diminish, allowing life to resume.

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A Poem by M. Cornell

I could feel the sidewalk through my
white canvas sneakers, as I paced
in front of the B Green Line station.
The train was going to stop running soon.
I was torn
by visceral feeling and rational thought.
                  He was surprised I waited so long
                  to meet him after work.
We went to a still-open-late Korean place,
and in between soju drowned in beers, we got acquainted
                  It was the least we do could do
                  before sleeping together.
Negra,
he whispered in my ear as his hand smoothed it’s way down my back.
Afterwards, between cigarettes
he told me how his nanny took
his innocence when he was fourteen
and since then
                  (he told me I should know)
he’s not the greatest for any woman.
I stared at his profile and took a long drag
from my cigarette.
                  The next morning I found out he had a girlfriend.
                  I was just another night.

M. Cornell is a 31 year old poet from the Connecticut area. Formerly from New York City, M. Cornell was born in Queens and raised in the Bronx. Her poetry centers around trauma, trauma recovery, general observations of the world, her intense love of New York City, and finding the profound within the mundane.