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A Poem by Nancy White

girls sit down
                           between the rest
we look first
                           one way then
the other did
                           you raise your
hand did you
                           lose your place
did you do
                           good then did
this silence
                           this face go
silent upon
                           a subject silent

Nancy White is the author of three poetry collections: Sun, Moon, Salt (winner of the Washington Prize), Detour, and Ask Again Later. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Review, FIELD, New England Review, Ploughshares, Rhino, and many others. She serves as editor-in-chief at The Word Works in Washington, D. C. and teaches at SUNY Adirondack.

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A Poem by Eve Chilali

I feel a film
not washed off after all these showers
a filth, a bruise I don’t want anyone to see
a consciousness of being
not enough
smart pretty tough
not enough

What do you want, I don’t hit you, do I?
fists up, baby on the seat

Cowering tower not believing
in the bad the evil the lying side
hoping in the wash of good side I saw when we met
the better self you put forward
a hooked soul waiting to be let out
if someone could unlock the purgatory

I don’t care if my father died yesterday,
we’re havin’ a pahty . . .

the day he died you drank yourself to sleep
though you barely knew him
cycle begins again

Believing, believing
you’re not doing dope
didn’t say bad things about me
demanding wife
ball and chain
neck drop lagging up your high

“. . . it’s too bad she has to put up with him
at least he doesn’t hit her . . .”

The essence of the film
the icky lie
that you don’t hit me with words
shake fists
anger disintegrates
my ‘front’
inch inch take
the wall down

each morning before I leave
baby bag packed briefcase over shoulder
baby draped in my arms
out the door off to work
you tear at my self
façade I set to make it
through the days
anything to ruin my
to make damn sure
that icky film stays on

Eve Chilali is a poet and writer living in the Greater New York City area. This poem is part of a forthcoming collection, Some Other Perfect.

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A Poem by Marjorie Levine

You with your constant smell of indifference
And I so hungry for even a sweet side glance.

But it was not to happen.
Maybe it was fate on the snowy evening I sailed
Away from you:
The last night I entered that ferry
The same ferry that always took me back to you
Because I was seduced by silly things
That never mattered.

I must have looked so crumbled, so forlorn,
That a nun stopped reading the Bible and moved
To sit closer to me, to give me comfort
And solace… and she did.

As I drifted the waters to reach my home
You disappeared and grew smaller in every way
Possible, so in many of my later years you
Became a blurred washed memory.

And after a great time, when my forgotten passion
Surfaced and took hold of me,
When the longing that once lived inside of me
Cornered my thoughts and turned you into a rumination,
I tried to find you.

But you were gone.
Really gone.
And there was a heavy stillness in my place.
On cold nights, I remembered the ferry and
All I could hear was the nun,
The nun who so many years ago told me:
“You will still be here
In the morning.”

Marjorie Levine was a teacher for 35 years and she is now 74 years old and retired. In 2009, she was the 1st place winner, in a Beat Poetry Contest, for her poem, “What Way to Go Today”. Her poem, “Coda”, was published in Pinky Thinker Press in February 2021. 

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A Poem by Brett Thompson

My children, I never taught you to destroy; my yearnings are of love.  So what is it to be confronted, to embrace such a deep canary? What is it when you pick yourself apart for a promise, petal by terrible petal?  My desire runs with the heaviest stones in the river.  My desire is a wet leaf carried by the wind.  For the sake of a promise, would you break the root over your chest, would you devour the light and the rain until you yourself were devoured?

Brett Thompson has been writing poetry since his graduate days at the University of New Hampshire where he earned a M.A. in English Writing with a concentration in poetry. He has been published in various journals, including Plainsongs, Tilde, District Lit, The Literary Nest, and the Cobalt Review. He teaches and lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two young daughters.

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A Poem by F. Cade Swanson

“You’re a pretty big wheel, ain’t you?”
my grandfather asks.
Words tossed my way
from a green armchair
in the dark corner of the front room
of his Appalachian home.

It’s like an impromptu game of catch,
his words propelled with disdain
at the soft boy standing in his home.

Maybe it’s my dad’s fault.
Surely it’s my dad’s fault.
Mom has told me it’s my dad’s fault.
Mom uses heavy, sticky words like grandpa does.
This was her dad.

I was nothing like the men my grandfather knew:
strong, dominant brutes with calloused hands
whose days were spent underground
in the dark coal mines of Kentucky,
where the beauty of my grandfather’s otherworldly ice blue eyes
went mercifully unnoticed.

The men he knew lived in perpetual darkness,
entering the mines in the morning before dawn
and exiting at dusk,
the blackness seeping into their lungs
and slowly, painfully robbing them of air.
These men didn’t waste their breath
on unnecessary words.

My dad, the man my mother chose,
relishes the light,
his sensitive hazel eyes perpetually watery from being outside.
His hands are soft,
in spite of years of janitorial work before he joined the military,
reflections of his days working retail
and the brief time he taught high school history.
His words are too plentiful to be heavy or sharp,
like a constant barrage of ping pong balls that,
while irritating if beamed in your direction,
are never dense enough to leave a scar or sting when they hit you.

But the heavy sticky words my grandfather threw at me?
My mom taught me to catch them all
in my small, soft hands,
and not let them fall.
Hold some in my heart.
Hold some in my head.
Hold the weight of others like a hammer or pickaxe,
feel their burn like flares from a stick of dynamite
until my hands, too, became calloused.

I stare at him awkwardly, waiting for direction.
My mother is nowhere to be found
but also deeply present.

I respond to him like my father would.

“I guess I am, Grandpa. I guess I am a pretty big wheel.”

He glares at me,
those blue eyes glowing in the dark corner of the room.
He raises his strong, thick hand
like he’s going to strike me.
Watches me to see if I flinch.
Waits for me to retreat.
Waits for me to fall.

He reaches out, squeezes my shoulder hard,
and expels a deep disappointed sigh
(my mother learned that from him, as well)
as I turn and walk away.

F Cade Swanson is a queer dad who grew up in Southeast Virginia. He runs a community center in Seattle, Washington and his work has appeared in Soliloquies Anthology, Nine Cloud Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, Day Without Art 30, Ailment: Chronicles of Illness Narratives, HIV Here & Now from Indolent Books, and Stonewall’s Legacy Anthology. Check out some of his published works at

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A Poem by Emerson Kurdi

Eunice, MN

deposits her seeds each fall
among barren fields, eager
the sticky cotton coating and crude oil
will fertilize her children better than the
beer and liquid meth mixture she’s
been manufacturing for years.

This May on graduation day,
goddammit, the crop is greasy
rooted, shriveled – again.
So, once more, the black-robed children
beam across the makeshift gymnasium
stage, and she bestows freedom
with a yellow-toothed smile,
and cheap diploma cardstock.

Before my brother and I disappeared,
Eunice whispered about the inhabitants
of old Nancy’s Salon. My mother
tried to color its grey roots
and trim the ends into a home,
but the bristly and rasping doormats
she chose for living room carpet
skinned more knees
than she ever kissed.

The neglect looked like dead
guinea pig crosses
guarding the front lawn,
and an abandoned Bowflex jungle
gym in the bedroom corner
that watched us sweat
out innocence in our sleep.

Each night before we left, Eunice breathed
tension into the midnight fog,
which lowered like a wet blanket
onto the squeaking whines and snarls
from the neighbor’s pit bulls.
Across the fence and the porch,
the dog man’s crooked teeth, illuminated
only by a lit cigarette,
was the only supervisor to our night games.
My baby brother and I blew
away from the Autumn swill
with the wind and germinated
elsewhere. But, our hometown
blood is still oil-slick,
and our teeth still rot
in our dreams.

Emerson Kurdi is a Master’s Student at Texas Tech University, studying Poetry. He is originally from Allen, Texas and spends his time training his dogs, playing guitar, or hanging out with his friends on a restaurant patio.

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A Poem by Nick Trelstad

From the window of my office
I watch her plump brown body
emerge from the snowy underbrush –
carried on legs thin as saplings.
Her’s is a gentle step too soft
to disturb the budless willow branches
frosted from the first snow.

And I, from my office, want nothing
but to step out those doors
and join her there beyond
that border only wild things can cross.
A threshold we carry in our lives
of which we know nothing.

As I watch her disappear just as quick
as she arrived – unexpected, unbound
back into the snow burdened boughs,
I too have something to expiate:
not a pettiness, but a longing.

Nick Trelstad is a poet based out of Northern Minnesota. He was a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee, and his poems have appeared in literary magazines including Sink Hollow Journal, The Blue Marble Review, and The Scriblerus Review.

A Poem by Kari Villanueva

My thoughts carve me hollow like a stream
against limestone. West coast valleys between
my breasts, a highway of mountains down
my spine. There’s a grand canyon forming
in my mind, water licks grains of sand.

It’s persistent, it’s slow like the rain that
gently knocks against my window pane– don’t
ask me when I opened it, but there’s mold on my
walls and beetles in the carpet. I wonder how
Noah liked the rain. Droplets plink the glass

like a broken piano, ivory yellowed and ebony
chipped. I want to love its song like a pianist. I
want to love the world like a doe loves its fawn–
unconditional. I shut the window.

Kari Villanueva is an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing and Public and Professional Writing. Kari has been published once before in Forbes and Fifth Magazine.

A Poem by Kelli Allen

It’s a hidden, lungless stone, this waiting.
Whitebait might be emblematic of an immaturity

you still carry in the bulge of your knees, the way
you swallow after speaking, after nodding in agreement.

Tell me, iron smith, man of coals and grinding,
what did you expect after I took you in, closed

your thin waist with the parenthesis of my thighs?
The reflection between my legs ate you right on up.

We still tell each other into flatness, into a stream
populated with sleeping trout. I am sending you away

with a quilt, a goat’s pure stomach, and rough lapis.
The corpse of our longing gets fed after shutting the door.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals/anthologies in the US and internationally. Allen is the founding editor of Book of Matches Literary Journal. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote, arrived from C&R Press March, 2019.

A Poem by Remi Seamon

He was a man who left spit to congeal
on the roadside. I watched him and knew
we should be kind. We should
take warning. We should forgive each other
the iron in our eyes.
He bent suddenly to his life and walked away

still I stood in the snow.
(I never said it.) In the night
his footsteps filled with silence.

Remi Seamon is a Lower Sixth student in Cambridge, England. She was commended in the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award and has been published in a scattering of small publications. She considers her primary inspiration to be her dog.

A Poem by Rose Strode

There was a moment I hung head-down in the storm-deep creek, knee pinned between a tree
and my bicycle, when all fear went out of me. I mean completely, the way the sea removes debris
from the living purple lace of the body of a sea fan. The current waved me, gently. I felt the light
shining through my porous body. I could look downstream, to my left and right, but not behind
me, at my wrecked bike, the fallen tree, or any other aspect of my life. I remember thinking well,
you always wondered how you would die with a sense of awe and curiosity, which I’ve only ever
known from reading the kind of books that make me forget everything, the kind I wished I could
stay in. This was how I could have lived, in a different life: free of anxious thoughts.  A leaf
tumbled by, a last-winter’s leaf twirled in the current, falling as I must have fallen, end over end.
In the light, every flaw stood out like a jewel.  

Rose Strode is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Poet Lore, and The Broad River Review, and is forthcoming in Sugar House and New Ohio Review. She is a recipient of the Gulick Fellowship at Valparaiso University, a student in the Creative Writing MFA program at George Mason University, and a managing editor at Stillhouse Press.

A Poem by Manjot Singh

this is not the time to despair—
new tides are growing out
of your gutter-mouth slurping
truth however you get it
sideways. currents are flowing

along the malls of reconciliation
holding steady for your belting
elegy. you declare funeral of
past—horizon of tidal compromise
and glass house press conferences.

you scream of renewed mandate yet
wreak of dilution—stewing broth
of platitudinal possibility. i wish you
would mean what you pray lay down
the prickly fern and declare what we

have dreamt for longer than your
gilded commute to commiseration.
the portal will bellow your praise
and you will have to decide in that
flash whether you are a spiller of
ink or a molder of clay.

Manjot Singh is a rising poet living in Los Angeles, CA. He is a political consultant by day and plans to attend law school this fall. He explores issues of diaspora, nature, nostalgia and connection in his dynamic creative writing. He is working on a poetry chapbook which he hopes to publish in the next year.

A Poem by Karen Keltz

You click on “La Grande, Oregon Memories”
And someone has posted a bare brown hill
Sporting a few sparse evergreens
And wants identification
So you write the name and click
Because you remember
The gas station below it
Called Five Corners
Where back behind there was
A dancing bear in a cage
And you asked your dad
For five cents to go
For a closer look
And he said no
Because animals should not
Be caged and it was old and mangy
Which is why the circus sold it
To the gas station owner
Hoping to make a buck
5 cents at a time
and he was damned if he would
add to its misery
so you got in the car now full of gas
and your father drove away,
you looking at the bear in the cage
with clusters of people crowded around
eyeballing it, people who had 5 cents
of their own
and you kept looking until
the road rounded
and that good, long look
is why you remember the hill
but when you look at the post again,
five other people identify the hill their way
and you know they are wrong
but memories, huh? And so you
close your iPad, roll over to go to sleep,
and think of how your father
was right.

Karen Keltz has been published in Global Poemic, The North Coast Squid, Poésie, and Verseweavers, among others. She has won awards for poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and screenwriting. Her middle grades novel, Sally Jo Survives Sixth Grade is available on Amazon. A former journalist and educator, she lives in Tillamook, Oregon.

A Poem by Thomas Reed Willemain

The long, rainy ride
Down to Baltimore
Gave me plenty of time
To wonder how to play it,
Knowing it might be
The last trip but one.

I decided to let him decide.
It was his death not mine.
I would listen hard to see
If he wanted to talk about it.
I never heard the cues
And maybe there were none.

So we played chess in my hotel,
Interrupting ourselves
With trash talk and questions
About kids and politics and cars.
We were two guys circling around
What Saint Francis called
Little Sister Death of the Body.

We sensed the significance.
Seventy-two years before,
Both our fathers had played
At the front in Germany,
Underneath an outgoing
Artillery barrage.
Who won is lost to history.
But they both came home,
And so here we were.

One of us won the game,
Then I dropped him off,
Said a casual goodbye,
And watched him walk
Much too slowly
Up his sidewalk.
I drove back to the hotel
And worked on something
Technical and neutral
So I could pretend
It was only a game of chess.

Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is an emeritus professor of statistics, software entrepreneur, and former intelligence officer. He holds degrees from Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poetry has been published in “Sheila-Na-Gig “, “Typishly”, “Eye Flash Poetry Journal”, “Panoplyzine”, “Idle Ink”, “Constellate Magazine”, “Autumn Sky Poetry Daily” and the “The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.” A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York.

A Poem by Niko Eden

On school nights,
When we bed
Societal masses,
I unmask.

I let myself unwind to you,
Un Recuerdo.

Not enough months have passed
To devour the memory of you.

Un Recuerdo

Devouring me until our scent
Has soaked each other’s skin.

Sabor a mí

“I want to smell you.
I want to taste you.”

And how you leave me with this,
And I leave you with me.

You took up all the room
inside of me,
Hollowed out and entwined.
When you left,
Nothing was left
But a memory.

Un Recuerdo

Niko Eden went from a professional ballroom dancing career, appearing in Assassin’s Creed and Sabado Gigante to joining the US Air Force. She received an achievement medal for her tour in Saudi Arabia. Her photography has been exhibited at Santa Monica College and published in Bahia, Elegant Magazine. Currently, her poetry has been published with Aurora Poetry.

A Poem by Eve Chilali

A soft circle of anger overwhelms me:
Anger cannot be soft,
Anger cannot be round.

I don’t understand the assignment
I don’t want a shaman in on my pain.
None of this makes any sense to me.

Only words make sense to me.
So I will write my Shaman Sand Circle in words
Only in words can I write about my pain.

Around the edges there are words, reactions:

Flailing, hurting, throwing up, overeating, over dieting, running running running
Throwing my heart into others souls, trying to fix them up,
Trying too hard to change the unchangeables. Losing myself too easily.

Laughed at, scoffed at, shunned, pointed at for stupidity – the one, the one, the one
Weirdo. Freak. Divorced person. Beautiful woman. Working woman. Bitch.

I am exercising my rights as a sand circle maker.

Good bye you ass holes – to all the jerks, ass holes and freaks.
You know who you are. Not the kind-hearted souls who stuck by me
But the hardened hearts who thought they were better than me.
The sociopaths who tried to take advantage of me.

I actually don’t even want your names in my Sand Circle.
My sand circle should be mine, not yours.

All encompassing, this anger is, as it grows in me.
The idea of a Sand Circle in a crowded backyard where someone might see,
Seems ludicrous. I cannot share this with anyone. No one can see it.

The idea of a Sand Circle, to me, is a private letting go
I don’t know when and where I will be ready to let go.
How do you l e t I t a l l g o.

That which has defined me, whispered its rasping breath to me each morning.
That telltale terror that rises up in me at night, a chokehold on my heart.
That which has terrorized me for so long I cannot even count.

I want a nice, neat resolution, like a sand circle, yes,
but resolutions are not neat.
They are not clean, they are not binding,
And they do not come with a guarantee.

Eve Chilali is a writer living in New Jersey. Eve is most at home when she is in nature, unless it involves an assignment.

A Poem by J.C. Bratcher

If I could harness my hardness,
Buttress the heart to the carcass,
Rare to quiet the harping of harlots,
Hard to hearken how innocence parted,
Concepts of potential, amiss and abysmal,
Eventual grifter, adrift with a hymnal.
Blood of Christ is brought to life,
Perished in harness, dawning of lies,
Avalanche of souls upon the varnish
Take this cross, The Son is martyred.
On this night, death of a son omits the light,
To sledge my nail til flesh divides,
Albatross-fate, a Peter-crown,
Cursed by weight, a king to clowns,
Betrayal of self, a world let down.
Still and yet, the exit’s essential,
Tears for loss, reprieve for a criminal,
It is now the time to gather vision,
Soul is a chasm of staggering distance,
Spanning a bridge to redemption,
I am the plan, two hands to mend it.
Discard the crutch, Man to purpose,
I am no longer reborn,
I am unburdened.

J.C. Bratcher, educated at Cumberland University of Tennessee and participated in a doctorate program studying human behavior at Tennessee Tech University. Several publications in professional journals. Writer of poetry, prose, parable, and aspiring novelist.

A Poem by Julia Haney

I squeeze sea urchin spines
from my sister’s palm,
diving wine dark
to the breaking
beneath her skin where
cities unfold,
new language
green stars press
against space.
her eyes are pinwheels
and the shore is
a horse
galloping towards
what will be will be.
here, I am grass
I am eucalyptus
just a hymn
to sharpness
you cannot pierce
without a supple landing place
for the shrill,
nocturnal cry,
for the breaking open—
for the sea star.

Julia Haney is the Editor of Digital Content at Ovia Health and the Editor of Fiction & Poetry at Thalia, a magazine dedicated to celebrating creative writers and visual artists. Her poetry was selected by Mass Poetry to be featured on the Boston T and has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, in video poems by the artist, Morgane Richer La Flèche, and in a recent collection entitled, A Lemon Invitation.

A Poem by Sally Badawi

Tonight, I saw your name
You published something
Your face and fiction
You’re still writing and living in the world
With that cheesy grin
You jolted me
D: “I never read his work”
E: “He can suck a crab claw”
I picture your awkward hands and heavy tongue
Slurping on crab
Grad school isn’t for the weak
I knew that
Grad school isn’t for the strong either
Those gray halls pretend impotence
Caves buzzing fluorescent lights
Your wife’s frizzy hair
Do you still have those mahogany wood floors?
They gleamed as if she had spent all day waxing them
I’m 40 now, same age she was back then
But I know better
I look at your piece
I see you
Acting all writerly
Thinking about girls and swamps and plots
And it’s madness, utter madness
You’ve created something worthwhile
I want to write without anger
To evaluate your work fairly
But it is not possible
We all come here with names
I imagine your mother naming you
Wondering if the name was strong
Turns out it was stronger than you
I think of you as Howie or Leonard or Steve
But your name is yours even though you are them
You are eastern standard time
Oblivious your name has caused such disturbance
D & E have stopped texting
Their whirring wings still
I remember the words you said back then
Your tanned fingers clamping your wedding ring
At 21 I heard them without absurdity
“You look like hunger”
Who talks like that?
And why did I think it was tender?
“I like that yellow bracelet”
That faded filthy ribbon wrapped around my wrist
Every time I see dandelions I think of that ribbon
Not of you though
You have been a wax figure in a musty museum
I want to feel lukewarm
To will this 2020 version to carve away at 2004
I experience fleeting joy at this possibility
Maybe after all you are not my epic poem
But a vowel diluted in a 15-letter word
Too sterile for melody

Sally Badawi teaches in Portland, Oregon where she lives with her husband and two children. Her most recent work is published or forthcoming in Neologism Poetry JournalMonths to Years Magazine, and Pink Panther Magazine.

A Poem by Vijaya Sundaram

The old year is dying
And a new one limps around the corner,
And we wait in tired expectation.

Yes, we do our chores,
Wash our dishes, fold our clothes,
Read the news, tell each other
“I love you” every day.

But the old year is dying,
And a new year waits, behind that corner,
Breathing shallowly, breathing fast.

People we knew are gone,
And people we know hold on,
And we, we eat, laugh, sing, weep.

The Zeitgeist looms over us,
But its gaze is elsewhere, while we
Scramble, getting our house in order.
Its concerns are remote,
While we recede from view.

If everyone was propelled by something else,
If everything plays out like it’s meant to,
What of rage and fear, and sorrow, and grief?

To feel now is pointless,
To think, futile.
And yet, we do both –
We know nothing else.

And we think and feel,
Even as we recede from view,
Even as we see ourselves receding,
Even as we know that somewhere else,
We are emerging, though our backs
Are to the future.

But I shall grieve, and I shall smile,
I shall rail, and I shall accept,
I shall hate, and I shall love,
I shall fear, and I shall venture forth
Boldly, sans expectation,
Into that future to which
My back is turned.

The old year is dying.
I shall laugh it into dust.

Vijaya Sundaram is a Massachusetts-based poet, song-writer, singer, and teacher of East Indian origin. Vijaya’s work has been published in publications like The Rising Phoenix Press and the Stardust Review, among others. Poetry, music, reading, teaching at the local community college, and talking long walks in the Fells, are some the things she loves to do. In these perilous times, poetry, music, and nature are restorative to the spirit, but she also loves the theatre, and miss seeing her actor friends. When life is hard, it’s the arts that sustain us (apart from family, food, and shelter).

A Poem by Oliver C. Seneca

out of my mind
into the universe
my thoughts materialize
nothing into something
imagination into creation

I’ve thought of you
now I can hold you

it’s no longer a dream
a wish
you’re here with me

perhaps you’ve always been

Oliver C. Seneca was born and raised in the suburbs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His first foray into storytelling came in high school when he was accepted to the Capital Area School for the Arts where he focused on filmmaking. Oliver is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and, in addition to writing, he works in his family’s law practice.

A Poem by Elizabeth Chung

The slaughterhouse runs like a faithful 
watch, never late or losing time. Cows come in,
steak comes out. As if they understand the bleak 
inevitability of their situation, the cows rarely 
struggle. They walk tamely towards the stench of
blood, their heads swinging low. 

And yet, this old cow is blind to the ending hour. 
It digs its boned feet into the cold ground, it pulls
at the rope held by the tired men. Scared of the
looming black, the cow sweats in futile protest, and
when its red eyes roll back, it sees the green grass
so far away.

Elizabeth Chung is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in English and Media Studies, as well as pursuing a minor in Art History. She has won the 2016 Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Poetry Contest, 2 Silver Keys from the Scholastic Writing Awards in 2019, and been published in Whispers to Roars, a small literary magazine. As of today, she moves between San Francisco and New York.

A Poem by William Frank

To be set in the hottest part of the battle
near to the wall where the archers
throw their murder volley from the sun
while holding on desperately to my strength
in the shouting, dying zigzag of confusion,
the vast, terrible violence of our barest center
killing everything all around me
even as I pressed forward in the crush
only to see a band of valiant men
slowly approach to set themselves upon me,
their tawny hunting dogs on a chain
who I briefly saw in my imagination
curled together quiet around a hearth
until I was awakened by the cold sense
that I am far away
emerging from the finish of a wave
when I turned around and saw
Joab and all his men, all my own,
stare like thieves at me as they withdraw

now laying here hacked to pieces
a corpse on my left and the trunk of a man
I cannot reach crying on my right
I can finally see the summer
the quiet bright blue, the ice cream shop light
that shines over the joy and freedom of children,
over the young men and the young women
meeting in the spray of a fountain
the prisms dripping from their perfumed hair
where the passeggiata is driven like a breeze
only by its own neighborly delight
as I lay here in the time when kings go to war
spattered again and again with blood
like a flower in the rainy field


how my wife is now so far beyond me

how the summer is going everywhere without me

how this sun is so beautiful and intense

look how we’re curled together around its hearth.

William Frank is an author of 6 books of poetry with an extensive list of performances in and around New York City. When not writing poetry, he enjoys long hours of chess, bingeing on 1950’s Japanese Cinema, taking naps with Scrambles his cat, summering with the Devil, press-ganging the elderly and Sadism. Visit him at

A Poem by Pedro Hoffmeister

We are the silence you never wanted
the sitting and the thinking, mouths shut
without a television or a podcast playing

your wrists like something improbable taped
to the ends of your arms, George Washington’s
dentures a collection of animal and human teeth.

I’m staring out the window at the rain
coming across slant, 30-degree-angled
Duraflame log burning in the fireplace

as a crow turns a dark arc through the wet
of the front yard, swimming the rain,
cutting the cedar in half yet it still stands

and I turn to see you no longer there.
This is the best answer I can give you:
I don’t know, and maybe never will.

Pedro Hoffmeister‘s poems have recently appeared in Open: Journal Of Arts & Letters and Writers Resist. His novels have earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and Best Books of 2016 from The American Library Association. Hoffmeister was the writer-in-residence of Joshua Tree National Park in the spring of 2015, writing poems in both English and Spanish, and he tells stories on the Boring Is A Swear Word podcast.

A Poem by John F. McMullen

 Thursday, December 24, Christmas Eve
 Friday, December 25, Christmas
 Saturday, December 26. Day After Christmas
 Sunday, December 27, Two Days After Christmas
 Today is the night of the 26th
 and there is a headache and 
 a tightness is my chest --
 there is only one 
 way to understand it
 It’s the third full day without
 Zoom meetings and I already
 know that there will be none
 tomorrow (my feast day) and 
 probably none the next day 
 It was Zoom meetings that
 have gotten me this far
 My wife and pets have 
 always been here --
 before the lockdown and 
 after – that has not changed
 but they are all busy --with 
 work and eating and sleeping
 And Zoom took the place of
 the many in-person meetings
 that I went to (3 or 4 a week
 and a few monthly) and 
 the Mall, Pet-Smart, CVS,
 and Wal-Mart – but not
 today or yesterday or the
 day before or tomorrow
 I type and then
 is anybody out there?

John F. McMullen, “johnmac the bard”, is the Poet Laureate of the Town of Yorktown, NY, an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, a graduate of Iona College, the holder of two Masters degrees from Marist College, a member of the American Academy of Poets and Poets & Writers, the author of over 2,500 columns and articles and 10 books (8 poetry), and the host of a weekly Internet Radio Show (300 shows to date).

A Poem by John F. McMullen

 I may have violated
 the CDC warnings 
 on holiday travel as
 I went to: 
            the snows of Aspen
            the heat of Acapulco
                          then to
            the monsoons of the South China Sea
                          and finally to 
           the mud and rice paddies of Vietnam
 where I thought on this Christmas Day
 of the tragedies of fifty-plus years ago 
 And I did it all on one day 
 Christmas Eve 2020
 without ever leaving
 Jefferson Valley New York 
 The day that Climate Change
 came to my house  

John F. McMullen, “johnmac the bard”, is the Poet Laureate of the Town of Yorktown, NY, an adjunct professor at Westchester Community College, a graduate of Iona College, the holder of two Masters degrees from Marist College, a member of the American Academy of Poets and Poets & Writers, the author of over 2,500 columns and articles and 10 books (8 poetry), and the host of a weekly Internet Radio Show (300 shows to date).

A Poem by Jeffrey Hampton

I wish I was a poet,
but instead I am a pianist.
With no rhyme schemes…
No clever plots…

Struggling, hoping for an inspired line
or five. Devilishly working,
but I made no deal with
the Devil for words.

My soul was cheap, plucking
notes out that I read on paper,
written by others—
a courageous farce.  

I wish I was a poet,
but instead I am a pianist.
I was told as a boy I had gifts,
a garden full to nurture.

Nature versus nurture…

Nurturing verses was my nature.
Though, never simple, a variety of 
flora and fauna grew in my garden. 
Each needed tending, and
I didn’t heed the care of that flower, 
letting petals wilt. Touching a
beautiful wild rose would taint 
its joyful yield.
Or so I thought…

I wish I was a poet,
but instead I am a pianist.
Graceful facility, turn of phrase, wordless.
Feelings of a divine spark coursing through. 

Poetry did come easy to me—
spinning tales from the existential nothing on the page.
Black dots made more sense than
Love’s language lost.

Did I use existential right?
I am not sure…

I guess it doesn’t matter…

For I am not a poet, 
but instead a pianist.

Jeffrey Hampton is a 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 MK Punky

When the lies and hypocrisies and cruelties comprising the daily news
became too much for her to bear
she disconnected from her networks
and retreated to a grassy meadow
in a thoroughly Thoreauvian gesture of abdication
substituting amorphous clouds for concrete avarice
romping dogs for rambling pundits
birdsong for Supreme Court testimony

Grounding the soil’s electrical charge in her supine spine
she would admit freely to skeptical interlocutors
I too am no scientist
yet her corporeal senses
reliable reporters all these years
told her the truth about our climate
evident to everyone who spends all day outside
staring at the sky
while those who scheme to rob women of their rights
spew foul air from diseased lungs and overstuffed colons
artlessly denying the conflagration
burning down their republic

A founder of the 80’s hardcore band The Clitboys and the poet laureate of Vista Street Community Library in Los Angeles, MK PUNKY is the author of many books, most recently a memoir of housing a homeless man, The Unexpected Guest (Diversion Books). “Inside Out” is an excerpt from MK’s collection The Year of When, 365 daily poems beginning with the same word.

A Poem by Carl Boon

Any fire you see’s a trace
of what you might’ve been.

How lucky you were
to have ambushed the world
when you did; how a sliver
of oxygen accompanied
the coming, the ecstasy.

Fix your gaze upon the mouth
of Wolf Creek, Mount Uludağ,
or Mars. Strips of smoke
carried west by the wind,
the noncompliant voices

of your ancestors—a martyr,
an aunt, a drummer.

Consider your descendants:
their fears, the different ways
they’ll shield themselves
from heat and pain and thought.
Ember’s merely discontinued

form, the maybe-you. Recline.
Place your elbow on the bedside
stand and listen to your mother
in the room below. She waited
for you before you came.

Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.

A Poem by James B. Nicola

It doesn’t really matter what you did
today, what great infraction, what small sin.
What’s more important is that it has gotten
you to now and soon to all tomorrows.

Nor does it matter what I’m doing now,
talking to you about it. Some tomorrow,
all will be forgotten. Really. That’s
the way it is, and is supposed to be.

Don’t get me wrong: it matters, but what matters
even more is that in time, it won’t.

What really matters is what you shall do
next year, or even twenty years from now.

When I’m long gone and equally forgotten.

James B. Nicola is the author of five collections of poetry: Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). His decades of working in the theater as a stage director, composer, lyricist, playwright, and acting teacher culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award. A Yale grad, he hosts the Hell’s Kitchen International Writers’ Roundtable at his library branch in Manhattan: walk-ins welcome.

A Poem by R.T. Castleberry

A drink at The Zero mixes strong.
Shots spill the rim,
cocktails served brimful and burning.
Scent of lime slice, mint sweetly crushed
hovers in the smoke.
Matador and picador swing through,
each precise in his fiesta control.
Coastal painters pull them
to sketch pad, to laptop easel.
Poets sip confessional absinthe,
snipe at journal critique.

At the window tables,
the café blooms like winter lilies.
Tea and tangerines accent each seating.
Lake winds caress the elms.
The random raging wife snares 
a carafe of vino tinto, settles
sipping beside the tugboat quay.
Tremulous over lover’s lyrics,
a strolling soprano warns, “Goodbye, I’ve lost.”

Garnet ring gracing clenched fist
my third adultery instructs, “Don’t marry.
Adopt a string of dogs,
the kids and cognac mothers that come with.”
She gifts me her greyhound—tethered,
dozing at the ballroom door.
Living privilege to its conclusion,
she repudiates crowns of iris, rose, camellia;
denies family pressure, ominous marriage.
Despite all balcony lies,
the horoscope years that lay between us,
if she were to ask, I’d embrace
her children fighting on the river,
her children dicing in the desert.

A Pushcart Prize nominee, R.T. Castleberry is an internationally published poet and critic. He was a co-founder of the Flying Dutchman Writers Troupe, co-editor/publisher of the poetry magazine Curbside Review, an assistant editor for Lily Poetry Review and Ardent. His work has appeared in The Alembic, Blue Collar Review, Misfit, Roanoke Review, Pacific Review, White Wall Review, Silk Road, and Trajectory. Internationally, he’s had poetry published in Canada, Great Britain, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Portugal. the Philippines and Antarctica. He lives and writes in Houston, Texas.

A Poem by Garrett De Temple

in the sicksweet
through the purplish vacancy
of magnetic space

I know

you’re just far enough away
for silence, fingers
your pursed lips

wiping away
that  icedark gloss,

a borealis
split pink from laughing,
I can almost hear you

(a shivering windowglass
against a bright wind)

in this
most vacant hour,

I wonder

how our final nights will ring
with the trumpets we deserve.

Garrett De Temple received his MFA from Manhattanville College in 2014. His work has most recently appeared or is upcoming in Crack the Spine, YO-NewYork, Miracle Monocle, and Permafrost. He is a lyricist for the Brooklyn-based songwriting duo The Point (@thepointsongs) and one-half of the occasional americana band SkyMagik (@SkyMagikBand).

A Poem by Linds Sanders

night swimming
we pass between days

you fell asleep in the passenger seat
as we crossed the border

there are whales in our hearts
coming up for air

Linds Sanders habits in saying “yes” to things that scare her. She yessed herself into whitewater kayaking, working with preteens, and saving house spiders. She’s not frightened by teaching art classes, serving on boards of directors, or living in a 60-square-foot van with her husband. She repurposed her BA in Journalism into an equally underpaying pursuit in poetry and art.

A Poem by Sarah Plummer

We’ve become transient in our daily dealings,
like hobos peddling emotions from dark saddlebags,
casual and lonely.

At night our bodies are cathedrals inhabited by godless tourists —

crowding into each other,
finding symbolism in each breath,
praising the dim fresco of your chest.

“It must have taken years to paint such detail across his heart.”

We are busy and marvelous at nightfall,
but vacant as first light steals into our museum.

Only one Great Pyramid still stands,
and I’d much rather be filled with you and alone
than gilded,
and untouched.

Sarah Plummer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Social and Cultural Thought at Virginia Tech. She is a proud Appalachian who, in former lives, worked in journalism and theater.

A Poem by Michael Lee Johnson

As sure as church bells
Sunday morning, ringing
on Halsted and State Street, Chicago,
these memories will
be soon forgotten.
I stumble in my life with these words like broken sentences.
I hear and denounce myself in the distance,
mumbling chatter off my lips.
Fragments and chips.
Swearing at the parts of me I can’t see;
walking away rapidly from the spiritual thoughts of you.
I am disjointed, separated from my Christian belief.
I feel like I’m at the bottom of sin hill
playing with my fiddle, flat fisted, and busted.
So you sing in the gospel choir; sang in Holland,
sang in Belgium, from top to bottom,
the maps, continents, atlas are all yours.
I detach myself from these love affairs drive straight, swiftly,
to Hollywood Casino Aurora.
Fragments and chips.
I guess we gamble in different casinos,
in different corners of God’s world,
you with church bingo, and I’m a riverboat boy.
No matter how spiritual I’m once a week,
I can’t take you where my poems don’t follow me. Church poems don’t cry.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada, Vietnam era. Today he is a poet in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois, published in 1098 small press magazines in 40 countries; 217 YouTube poetry videos. He 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.

A Poem by Paul Pruitt

 Do I dream the Red King, or am
 I in the Red King’s dream? Do we
 Each the other dream, or do we dream,
 Both, one dream of mutual exercise?
 Am I contained in his dream, free—
 More so than we may be in waking life—
 And have I freed the Red King to dream down
 His small forever? 
                                 Should I now cast him out of mind,
 Turning all my mirrors to the wall, turning his hunched
 Shape—yes, with all that inhabit realms of wonder—into
 A rare form of translucence, a ghost primed to be seen
 In a side glance, registered, then forever dimmed? 
 Or shall I keep a part of my thoughts
 Still working in the twilight, accepting that I
 May meet my proper self trapped there, 
 Half-alive, a would-be actor caught 
 Behind the pages of so many books? 
 First, I will begin with a decision small
 But necessary, all in all, and likely beneficial to my head:
 I will learn to wear this crown—so heavy, so red. 

Paul Pruitt is a law librarian at the University of Alabama. He has published a number of poems over the years, most recently with the Birmingham Arts Journal. He is currently working on a series of poems entitled “Scenes from Childhood.”

A Poem by Julia Ponder

This will not be the last

congregation of sparrows
to gather in the empty winter orchard,

and comb in it for left behind skins and stems;
each picks and plucks

between the muddy aisles of apple trees
scanning the scripture of dirt for

secret thawed places hidden in snow
where their answered prayers lie.

This will not be the last
gust of wind that sends them off again
in search of warmer places and higher things.

Julia Ponder is a poet and teacher living in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Her poetry and creative non-fiction have been published in several print and online publications, including Chronogram, 805Lit, Shawangunk Review, THAT Magazine, and The Sonder Review.

A Poem by Esme Waters

Real poets describe me as artless.
Me, someone who throws words onto the page
with very little grasp of poets past.

Real poets, they craft.
They, artists, have access
to a (the) special place.

I am not allowed to go there.
I am not allowed to pretend
to go there, without permission.

And they never give permission.
Permission is earned, in some ways.
In other ways, permission won.

Probably, no one will ever read this
which is okay, until you consider
that you are not the arbiter of me.

And I will.

Esme Waters is the pen name of a writer who wishes to remain anonymous; a writer who writes because he has to, not necessarily because he wants to.

A Poem by Gina Ferrara

An unknown hour, arrives unassigned,
above crenellated stucco walls,

a flock flies in crown formation,
unbreakable, an avian presence, ominous halo,

dark corona without beginning or end,
their black plumage an honest onyx

holding evidence of moon glow and lifted luminosity
to give sheen, divine shine, nearly oiled, anointed…

they cast no shadows, only bringing hard consonance
in this timid and actual light.

Gina Ferrara lives in New Orleans. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Tar River Poetry, Dovecote, and The Briar Cliff Review among others. Her latest collection of poems, Weight of the Ripened, was published in early 2020 by Dos Madres Press. She teaches English at Delgado Community College.

A Poem by Kendra Leonard

I’m not your lover
and I’m not your girl
and I will leave this house for the wood

and there I’ll make myself
a place
of timber and branch
and mystery.

All the children shall call me the witch
though I haven’t a single spell,
but do walk alone in the night
to watch the bats
go hunting.

I’ll build and build,
my own two hands and a saw,
my own two eyes and a hammer,
and in the spirit-guarded strangler fig,
there’s my very own house,
the world turned upside down.

And in this golden, rosy-fingered tree
I’ll too be golden, a goddess of the dawn
and of stray dogs
and the night

no one’s girl,
a little Hecate of the wild.

Kendra Preston Leonard is a poet, lyricist, and librettist whose work is inspired by the local, historical, and mythopoeic. Her chapbook Making Mythology was published in 2020 by Louisiana Literature Press, and her work has appeared in vox poetica, lunch, The Waggle, and Lily Poetry Review, among other venues. Her novella-in-verse Protectress, about the gorgons in the modern world, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2022. Leonard collaborates regularly with composers on new operas and songs. Follow her on Twitter at @K_Leonard_PhD or visit her site

A Poem by Steve Gerson

“I can find my way,” 
I said, myself at 21, 
my black and white world

aligned at right angles, 
the horizon a crosshair 
centered polestar straight.

“I see a light,” I
said, myself at 41,
“and fly toward it,”

in row-beat meter
to climb steep sky inclines
but glide winded down,

dimmed, a crow molting.
“I’ve been,” I said, myself now
61.  My bifocaled

view more askew, my
gray a teetering cairn, wobbled
on rounded edges.

Steve Gerson, an emeritus English professor from a Midwestern community college, writes poetry and flash about life’s dissonance and dynamism. He’s proud to have published in Panoplyzine (winning an Editor’s Choice award), The Hungry Chimera, Toe Good, The Write Launch, Route 7, Duck Lake, Coffin Bell, Poets Reading the News, Crack the Spine, Riza Press, White Wall Review, Variant, Abstract, Montana Mouthful, the Decadent Review, Indolent, Rainbow Poems, Snapdragon, The Underwood Press, Wingless Dreamer, Gemini Ink, and In Parentheses.