Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Orchard by Andrew Williams

The dainty hand plucks a Gala apple.
Under the tree, I open the bag—
space for one more.

Walking back, the cicada chorus
whirrs, like a biker revving her engine
before speeding off.

Summer is nearly over; fall is imminent,
and yet, the heat continues
to linger.

            As the daylight fades, we stop,
plant ourselves, and eat an apple together,
as dusk turns to darkness.



Andrew Williams is a writer living with his family in Pennsylvania, USA.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Letter to My Mother by Terri Kirby Erickson

If only I had been there to catch you when you fell,
to hold you in my arms and lower you to the ground.

It was September, among the leaves and blossoms
of your yard that I found you—the mother I adore,

in the sleep from which you never again awakened.
I would have done anything to save you, but there

was nothing of you to save—only the body you left
behind like a sweater draped across a chair. Every

day since, I have walked the earth with grief lodged
in my throat like a bone, shouldering the burden of

your sorrows as well my own, as if they belong to me.
The son you lost became my son and my brother, our

misery merged into one. And each disappointment of
your life, every regret, turned into mine. But it is time

now, to stop picking up the pain you have discarded,
trying to heal what has already been healed. I want to

carry, instead, memories of your laughter, and the love
you gave to me—as weightless in my hands as light.



Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and many others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Obits by John Muro

Still as paper-weights, their portraits
Freckle columns in a loose shroud of
Black-ink blot. Most gravely smile
With their breath drawn back,
Swallowing cries, wanting something
More than the disquieting narration
Told in the split and spill of serif.
A curious few may find themselves
Lingering above or below the fold,
Shaking off sadness and making
Certain note of the hard particulars:
Age and place and cause. Laying
The paper down, perhaps they’ll
Take in the sun’s slow rising or
Setting, drifting like crumpled gold
Dust from room to room, grateful for
The scent of paperwhites, the sweet
Muscle still throbbing in the chest,
And brackish blood coursing in
Currents towards the outcroppings
Of fingers – age narrowing eyes
And choices among the daily ads.



A resident of Connecticut, John Muro's professional career has been dedicated to environmental stewardship and conservation. In the Lilac Hour, his first volume of poems, was published last fall by Antrim House. John’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including River Heron, Sheepshead, Moria, Writer Shed, Third Wednesday and The French Literary Review.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Paupers Cemetery by Lorri Ventura

Turkey vultures
Venture beyond a nearby landfill
Circling evocatively above the paupers’ graves 
On Mayflower Hill.

Grave markers resemble key heads
Bearing not names, but numerals
A potter’s field
Stretching from a trash-strewn roadside to a forest

Unnamed graves embrace the insane
Forced to sew their own burial shrouds
While hunched on cots
In the nearby state hospital

Alongside them are infants and children
Resting eternally with strangers
In group plots
To conserve space

The earth comforts the nameless poor
Their dreams curtailed by monsters
Bearing melodic names—
Diphtheria, Dropsy, Dysentery, Dementia, Despair

Beneath numbered iron markers
Lie the forgotten, abandoned, and lost 
Lives perhaps un-noted
But not without value



Lorri Ventura is a retired special education administrator living in Massachusetts. Her poems have been featured in a number of anthologies


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Joe, Shoshauna and Sharon by Sharon Waller Knutson

Arizona must be hot,
Joe says as he stands
under a California redwood
scratching his scruffy beard.

Shoshauna is waiting
in Wisconsin,
I say
as he opens the door
of his trashed truck,

crammed with carpenter
and car fixing tools.
Just in case, he says.
as we head for the highway.

On the 1-80 East passing
through Wyoming we spot
a buxom blonde in skinny
jeans staring at a tire flatter

than roadkill on a Toyota
on the side of the road
and hear a baby crying
from the back seat

piled with blankets, shirts,
boxes and baby clothes.
Joe pulls over, grabs
his lug wrench and jack

and removes the spare
tire from her trunk
as she hands me the blue
eyed baby and a bottle.

She peers down the road
like she’s looking for the man
who left the rainbow
rimming her right eye.

Joe tosses the flat in the trunk,
hands her a fistful of greenbacks.
I’ll pay you back I promise,
she says as she takes the baby.

Shoshauna shows up
in sunglasses in her sedan
at a rest top in Nebraska
and pulls out her picnic basket.

Joe grins under his floppy hat,
Shoshauna smiles, her dark
hair and my blonde hair
blanketing our backs as we chew

chicken and buttermilk biscuits.
Are your poems true stories? I ask.
I have to admit sometimes
I embellish,
says Shoshauna.

Mine are true until the poem
finds its own truth,
Joe says,
What about yours? But before
I can answer I wake up in Idaho

and the bell is ringing
and the clock says 4:30 am
and we race to the hospital
bed to get my mother-in-law up.



Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields by Flutter Press and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her work has also appeared in various journals, most recently in One Art, Mad Swirl, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Waiting for the Uber at the Assisted Living Facility by Sharon Waller Knutson

Those Ukrainians really know
how to satisfy a sweet tooth,

says the man with the gray beard.
The honey in the Koliva tastes
heavenly and the fruit filled
Koliva is to die for. Five stars for sure.


But the hostess’s hair was a disaster.
She looked like Little Orphan Annie
at 100 years old,
states a woman
with wrinkles deep as ditches
and hair blue as the cloudless sky.
The Shepherd’s Pie at the shindig
for the shaggy Scottish gal was delish.


Who can forget the roast pork and cabbage
at the celebration for the bald guy
with the bushy eyebrows from Estonia?

she adds while the beard brags;
The ham glazed with orange juice
and brown sugar at the gala
for the burly Brit was the best.


How do we get an invitation
to these fancy dinner parties?

the white poodle frizz asks.
No invitation necessary, blue hair
replies as the Uber pulls up.
Just read the obituaries. The foreigners
serve the best funeral food.




Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields by Flutter Press and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her work has also appeared in various journals, most recently in One Art, Mad Swirl, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…

Monday, August 23, 2021

Distance by John L. Stanizzi

Side by side in fainting candlelight
a man and a woman in bed
the woman curled up crying
the man flat on his back
motionless
the walls filled with night
and cold

Clothes strewn around the darkening room
their shadows
a crowd of old mourners
viewing the bodies
of two complete strangers



John L. Stanizzi is author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, Sundowning, and POND. Besides Red Eft Review, John’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cortland Review, American Life in Poetry, and others. John’s nonfiction has been in Literature and Belief, Stone Coast Review, and others. John was awarded an Artist Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction, 2021 from the Connecticut Office of the Arts. https://www.johnlstanizzi.com

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Squirrel World by Tamara Madison

One could do worse
Than to be a squirrel in this park
Where each tree is a sovereign country
And the ground between tree continents
A freeway of grass and dirt.
Each of these trees
A navigable land of plenty;
A squirrel can leap from the top of one
To a thin twig at the tip of another
With no fear of falling. Sure,
There are hawks to contend with,
And owls. But we
Have cancer, Covid-19,
A myriad of ills, and each other.
Worst of all, each other.



Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, the Writer’s Almanac, Sheila-Na-Gig and many other publications. More about Tamara can be found at tamaramadisonpoetry.com.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Red Haiku by Howie Good

1
Beyond the window
the sky glows wildfire red

A movie trailer
for the apocalypse

2
The killer’s bloody handprints
Red autumn leaves

3
The hummingbird
spreads a wealth of pollen
among the red flowers

A wandering lunatic
with communistic visions



Howie Good is the author most recently of the poetry collection Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing). His chapbook Famous Long Ago is forthcoming from Laughing Ronin Press.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

My Father’s Last Summers in New England by Robert Demaree

1985

In the ’80s you could fly
Piedmont into Worcester, Mass.
Weary Friday-night salesmen joked,
Helped the attendant pronounce the name.
This was my parents’ penultimate
Summer in New England,
My father agitated,
Convinced they had left
Without packing, and hoping
He could get a shave
At the barbershop in the lobby
Of a Days Inn motel,
My mother, wearied,
Glad someone else would drive
The rest of the way.
The other day I bought a postcard
On eBay, outbidding someone
Who must have wondered
Why anyone else
Would want a souvenir
Of the Worcester Airport.

1986

My dad’s last summer on the pond
I flew up Labor Day
To help close up, drive them home.
The airport bus
Only came as far as Dover.
Somehow they managed to get there,
Him wandering around the restaurant,
Agitated,
My mother with the
Caregiver’s exhausted sadness.
The restaurant is still there,
Different name, different owners:
I pass by that place
And still feel
An unbidden welling up,
How one thing comes
To stand for another.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals, including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Smoke by Stephen Ruffus

          for Kathy

When we first met
you smoked unfiltered Pall Malls.
I watched as you gently spit
the tiny flecks of tobacco

from your lip in a kind of kiss.
Or picked them,
almost as an afterthought,
from the tip of your tongue.

With a quick turn of your head
you’d exhale a gentle breeze
from the side of your mouth
like you were whispering

to a person standing beside you
a secret I might discover,
if I were lucky enough.
Even with your eyes squinted,

I could still see that they were
starkly blue and endless.
You’d take another long drag,
and with the smoke now

swirling around your face
you almost disappeared
until the veil was lifted,
and everything was revealed.



Stephen Ruffus is originally from New York City. He has lived in Colorado and California where he studied at Colorado State University and the University of California at Irvine. Currently, he lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where he fulfilled a career as a college teacher and administrator.

Friday, August 6, 2021

My Mother Climbs Mt. Timpanogos by Stephen Ruffus

She would climb each floor to the top
of the five-story walk-up she lived in
as a girl, slept on the fire escape
and the rooftop in the summer heat,
a whole block of families camped out
under the same dream in one great
breath rising into the evening air.
But now this woman—
visiting her son where mountains
suddenly rise at the edge of the plain,
climbs straight up for an hour
carrying her purse she would never leave,
both of us weak for reasons
we keep to ourselves, as I lead her
by the hand as though up winding stairs.



Stephen Ruffus is originally from New York City. He has lived in Colorado and California where he studied at Colorado State University and the University of California at Irvine. Currently, he lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where he fulfilled a career as a college teacher and administrator.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Across the Web by Julianna McCarthy

Almost light enough to see the color
of the morning cars, windshield wipers
whispering away the dew. A golden orb
weaver picks across his web
to captured damselflies in this last
lavender hour, with your robe on the floor
and mist on the mirror.
It's going to be a hot day.



Julianna McCarthy is a poet based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including in The Antioch Review, Catameran, Hole in the Head, American Journal of Poetry, Nimrod and others. Her collection of poems Night Surgery was just published by Blue Horse Press. She holds an MFA in poetry from New England College

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Round House by Brendan Constantine

My infant son wakes in the night
to recite launch codes for a weapon
buried in a corn field.

Numbers, bits of verse, and silence
while he waits for the coded response
of a stuffed swan.

It’s a swan song, I think. My wife,
who cannot read my thoughts,
who is deeper asleep than oil,

says aloud, Stay away from swans.
Dangerous...
I reach out, smooth
her hair. She settles back

into earth. I yawn and remember
I don’t have a wife and son. And
the swan has never been happy

with me. She glides in place
down the bed, her shadow
a stopped fuse.



Brendan Constantine’s work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, and other journals. His most recent collections are Dementia, My Darling (2016) from Red Hen Press and Bouncy Bounce (2018), a chapbook from Blue Horse Press. He teaches at the Windward School in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A Hundred Trains Leaving by Brendan Constantine

I gave up on acting because I couldn’t cry
on demand / and I was sure someone would
demand it / Every script ever written calls
for crying / especially the comedies / There’s
no way / I said / The director will nod at me
and I’ll make a face like I’m trying to grow
a tree from my forehead / or worse / I’ll try
to make a noise like weeping / which only
works for concert cellists / and it’ll be awful /
just awful / Well / it’s been thirty years /
I’m as many lives away / and brother / I can
cry like a man painting a wall / Where do you
want the tears to fall / How long / How loud /
At any time there’s a hundred movies playing
inside me / a hundred trains leaving as many
painted stations / a hundred lovers waving /
a hundred orchestras playing over each other /
without harmony / I’ve got motivation I can’t
use / This town will never work in me again /
Look at me / Don’t look at me / That's my cue



Brendan Constantine’s work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, and other journals. His most recent collections are Dementia, My Darling (2016) from Red Hen Press and Bouncy Bounce (2018), a chapbook from Blue Horse Press. He teaches at the Windward School in Los Angeles.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Never Have I Ever by Brendan Constantine

          (1 point for each)

Faked a cataclysm
Cheered for a mountain
Got dressed up for an animal
Followed a sleepwalker outside
Forgiven a compliment
Seen the oxen doze in their red yoke
Judged a funeral
Recognized bric-a-brac
Stopped thinking about a particular cloud in 1975
Made out with a statue
Heard back from Jeremy
Misplaced a chariot
Shown you the door
Drank from cupped feet
Watched my own birth video on continuous replay
Flooded the airwaves
Reappeared downstream
Wanted a different word for Zebra
Curled at the edges
Sparkled like a cave



Brendan Constantine’s work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, and other journals. His most recent collections are Dementia, My Darling (2016) from Red Hen Press and Bouncy Bounce (2018), a chapbook from Blue Horse Press. He teaches at the Windward School in Los Angeles.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

After the Storm by Martha Christina

Beside the splintered
apple tree, a pair of robins
gathers grasses, rebuilding.



Martha Christina has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press). Her work appears in earlier issues of Red Eft Review, and recently in Star 82 Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Journal’s Pollinator Project. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Role Reversal by Martha Christina

Outside your window
at the nursing home

a female cardinal opens
her beak like a nestling,

and the male who has landed
beside her at the feeder placed

to entertain you, feeds her
a single sunflower seed.

He does this repeatedly;
an action meant to win her

as a life-long mate. You
open your mouth for your

pureed dinner; I feed you,
spoonful by spoonful.



Martha Christina has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press). Her work appears in earlier issues of Red Eft Review, and recently in Star 82 Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Journal’s Pollinator Project. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Gull Time, Human Time; What Can Be Said? by Martha Christina

Some days like this: a stainless
steel sky, rough water, gusty winds,
gulls refuse stale bread. But today
they’re ravenous and quarrelsome.

I watch from the car, my eyes on one gull.
Insistent on its space, it repeatedly warns
the others off. It attacks and defends, eats
and eats more, completely in the present.

In my fifth grade classroom with its
pastel maps and illustrated books,
I dreamed myself out of the heartland,
into New England, this space and time.

The gull continues its posturing,
its threatening gestures, its eating.
I watch in the present we share,
here, for whatever time remains.



Martha Christina has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press). Her work appears in earlier issues of Red Eft Review, and recently in Star 82 Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Journal’s Pollinator Project. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Bird Watching by Ben Rasnic

My friends
from adolescence
have never aged
in my mind.

I imagine them still
at Cumberland Bowl Park,
swimming or cycling,
soaking in the sun-rays
of perfect cerulean sky
summer days;

some reeling in walleyes
camped beneath Hurricane Bridge;
others grinding out grueling
2 a day workouts
in sweat saturated
helmet & pads
for a chance to star
under Friday Night lights.

Some of them have passed
beyond this dimension,
yet still they remain young
in my mind as well, vibrant &
entertaining & my heart breaks
for their absence.

I am retired now, existing
on Social Security & Disability,
passing a miserably hot summer day
on the back deck canopy swing,
sipping a light beer
against doctor’s orders.

At rest, my entire body
is tinged with pain;
in motion, that pain becomes electric,
shocking my bones
into almost total submission,
a condition I have learned to live with.

I have already outlived
professional medical
& common sense expectations
& although I have become forgetful & sometimes draw blanks in mid-speech,
in many ways I still feel young
in my mind.

I used to look at people
like me
& think ‘there but for the grace
of God go I’
& now here I am

lost in thought,
on my back deck canopy swing
in sweltering summer heat,
reminiscing.

A baby thrush lands
at my feet, tilts
it’s tiny head,
eyeing me curiously
as if it knew me, perhaps
in a previous life,

takes a few clumsy steps
with shaky pipe stem legs,
hesitating, then peers up at me
as if it had something
of importance
to say,

skitters nervously,
unsure of its surroundings
& then with a coarse chirp
of seeming remorse,
shrugs its shoulders,
twitches its tiny wings,

disappears.



Ben Rasnic currently resides in Bowie, Maryland. Author of four published collections (three available from amazon.com), Ben's poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.