Monday, July 22, 2024

Reassurance by Martha Christina

My old cat yowls
loud and long
into the dark.

My sympathetic vet
explains: She wakes
disoriented, uncertain
of where she is, where
you are. You can let her
know, reassure her.

In those first months
when I was learning
my new identity: widow,
half-asleep I sometimes
felt my husband’s weight
against my back. Waking
fully, I’d find this same cat
curled in that space, as if
she could reassure me.

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. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Hot Water by Martha Christina

Widowed and childless,
he married again; his
second wife, my aunt,
also childless, a
professional woman

before that term was
used. Past child-bearing
age, they lavished
affection and attention
on other people’s children
and on each other. Their
favorite drink: hot
water, with a splash
of top milk, a scant
teaspoon of sugar
added to each cup.
Comfortable, they were
also well-past the rural
poverty they’d worked
their way out of. Even
so, with Starbucks
within our means,
as they liked to say,
they drank hot water,
grateful for every
sweetened swallow.

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. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Practicing by Martha Christina

Today the fledged finches
are on their own, practicing
how to feed themselves,
how to fly. The females
dominate the feeder, filling
all six perches, trading places
before the males can land.

Two males practice flight
between the rose canes,
and the wisteria, then cling
to the kitchen window screen,
resting their young wings.

They’re in no danger, ignored
by my old cat, who’s practicing
the sleep she has perfected.

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. Born and raised in Indiana, she now lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Royal Crown by Linda Parsons

As my grandfather’s handkerchiefs stiffened
on the line, she filled a used Royal Crown bottle,
sometimes Dr. Pepper (those sugar tits we craved
at ten, two, and four), to dampen the squares
embroidered with an M for Mac or McClanahan.
I begged nickels to help, aimed the shaker top
at each curled corner. Heat puffed from the iron’s
silver prow, cotton’s thin skin pressed to the board.
Her airless kitchen, a warmth that evaporated
when I left their house. People say more stars
in her crown
for this or that goodness, and it’s true—
she wouldn’t leave him, no matter how many
amber highboys he slid to the side of his chair.
Through the steam, I counted a thousand or more.

Poet, playwright, essayist, and editor, Linda Parsons is the poetry editor for Madville Publishing and the copy editor for Chapter 16, the literary website of Humanities Tennessee. Her sixth collection, Valediction, contains poems and prose. Five of her plays have been produced by Flying Anvil Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Day at the Beach by Terri Kirby Erickson

Slathered with suntan lotion and sitting
under a Shibumi, my husband and I along
with two of our dear friends—all of us

over sixty-five—ate our lunch. Pimento
cheese and turkey sandwiches, potato chips
and chocolate pound cake, made for a grand

picnic as we sweltered in the heat, pressed
bottles of cold water against our sweaty
foreheads. Adding our ailments together,

we’ve had cancer and a heart attack, high
cholesterol and a movement disorder, each
of us taking daily medication. So be it. We

still looked good, if a bit shopworn, in our
beach attire, including billed hats and bare
legs—white, brown, or freckled. Look at

we said a few times while watching
people of all ages do whatever it was they
were doing. There was a lumbering little boy

wearing a thickly padded life jacket, loads
of nearly naked teenagers, and tattoos galore
on both firm and sagging flesh. Couples

strolled by and mothers with babies, dads
with more hair on their legs than their heads.
Most people were stationary, like us, parked

beneath their umbrellas and Shibumis, music
blaring, beverages in hand, soaking up sounds
of the sea, the white-hot glare, and a cloudless

sky the color of blue jeans washed a thousand
times. And despite the occasional temper tan-
trums of hot and tired children, the screaming

gulls fighting over bits of stale bread, and the
blistering heat, we were content to breathe the
humid air and brave those soaring temps for

a few carefree hours with the friends we have
known for years, talking or not talking—just
watching the world go by. We were happy

to be alive on a sunny summer day that will
never come again—but could shine through
the scrim of a poem long after we are gone.

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of seven collections of award-winning poetry, including Night Talks: New & Selected Poems (Press 53), a finalist for the International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Rattle, The SUN, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many others.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Class Outside by Paul Willis

Evening light in the sycamore trees,
the tilting pines, the sandstone
boulders across the lawn. Crows call,
dogs bark, soccer players on a distant field
shout and plead with one another.

But here, the quiet urgency
of a circle of students at their desks
on a patio, each eye pausing
over the path of a wandering pen,
taking direction from the wind.

Paul Willis has published eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which are Somewhere to Follow (Slant Books, 2021) and Losing Streak (Kelsay Books, 2024). Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Christian Century, Southern Poetry Review, and the Best American Poetry series. He is an emeritus professor of English at Westmont College and a former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California, where he lives with his wife, Sharon, near the Old Mission.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Simulacrum by Richard Weaver

          After Modigilani

With one hand he suspends everything
in the framed space of an open window.

He lifts the canvas weight as easily
as her almond-shaped eyes rise to take

pleasure in the wind wrapping itself around
the spine of a tree. Her faith’s a gravity slowly

lowering to earth. There’s a spreading light
beyond this violence. A column supporting

the athlete of the eye, and in the painted figure
of a nude on the beige wall, a one-handed effigy.

The strength of its secret lies in the collusion
of objects, not in the straightforward abstraction.

The red square, the blue circle and yellow triangle
whetting the edge of a voice. Pressed against the wall

rising in short, broken waves, a human head expands
in an arabesque of its own faith which begins in pleasure

and now fades in the autumnal cry of an opaque sun
in the space between the perfect shadow and a fixed sessile light.

Richard Weaver is the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub in Baltimore. Other publications include conjunctions, Louisville Review, Southern Quarterly, Birmingham Arts Journal, Coachella Review, FRIGG, Hollins Critic, Xavier Review, Atlanta Review, Dead Mule, Vanderbilt Poetry Review, and New Orleans Review. He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and wrote the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005). He was one of the founders of the Black Warrior Review and its Poetry Editor for the first four years. Recently, his 204th prose poem was accepted since he began writing them in 2016. (Only 353 remain available as of today).

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

While My Niece Vacuums, Her Daughter Finds the Paper Scissors by Chris Dahl

I cut, she says, I cut, Mama.
As if they were hedging shears
she opens and closes the blades with
both hands, the advice I offer ignored.

The scissors twist in her clenching.
Apparently, my job is to turn the paper
to the blades, feeding it perpendicular,
tightening the flimsy edge until

a portfolio emerges, page after page
with fringed borders, a floor
debauched with nicked scraps.

Fiercely, she metes out the paper’s
punishment, snick after snick, her face
a bud of concentration. By the time
the floor is vacuumed—twice—
she’s embellished seven sheets.

Once I let go of my need to teach.
Once she understands what is possible.

Chris Dahl cups handfuls of murky pond-water hoping to examine another world half-hidden in this one. Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts won Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition. Extensively published, she also serves on the Olympia Poetry Network board and edits their newsletter.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

After Chemo by Maryfrances Wagner

How long have I been like this? she asks,
as though her chemo was a hangover.
Three days, I tell her. She punches
her pillow, a little drool creeping
down her chin, her sigh like my cat
before he gave up. No one should ever
have to live like this,
she says. It’s easier
to die.
I cover her with a quilt. No,
she says, I’m getting up. She wobbles
to the light switch. A devil came out of here.
He imitated me pulling my pain. Never
mind. You wouldn’t understand.
I refresh
her ice water and juice, guide her
back to her bed, fluff her pillow
as she did for me, her cool hand
rescuing me from what hovered
outside my window, waiting.

Maryfrances Wagner co-edits I-70 Review, was Missouri Artist of the Year, and was Missouri’s 6th Poet Laureate. Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn book award and was first runner up for the Eric Hoffer award (2024). Her poems have appeared in New Letters, Laurel Review, Main Street Rag, Rattle, etc.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Thirty-Two Degrees by Hannah Dilday

Laid to rest beneath the All-Seeing Eye,
watched your grand master tie an apron 'round
the mahogany casket, your bloated waist.

You died at the penultimate level,
but I only knew you as Dad, not a
member of some secret society.

So I buried a stranger with the face
of my father, grave decorated with
a compass set to thirty-two degrees.

Hannah Dilday is an emerging American writer currently residing in the Netherlands. She earned her BS in philosophy from The University of Oregon and has been living abroad for the past four years. Hannah's poetry has appeared in ONE ART, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Poem Stellium.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Chamomile by Joey Nicoletti

My mother told me:
five years after World War Two,
the chamomile seeds
that German soldiers spat out
into the seared ground
of her family’s homestead
grew into bushes even
thicker than my Nonno Giovanni’s forearms,
glistening in the sweat of anticipation
as they boarded the S.S. Colombo,
their ship, the silver voices of church bells
shrouding Genoa in mist.
“We will grow like chamomile
in America, my sweet angel,”
Giovanni said. “We will grow.”

Joey Nicoletti's most recent books are Extinction Wednesday: A Memoir (Bordighera Press, 2024) and Breakaway (Broadstone Books, 2023). He is the Reviews Editor of VIA: Voices in Italian Americana and teaches in the College Writing Program at SUNY Buffalo State University.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Umbra by Michelle Reale

On a cold day in June I rocked my granddaughter to sleep. I buried my face in her curls then felt an intense swirl of heat surrounding me. It rested in my throat. This came on the heels of a week of ultramarine dreams, which made me feel out of time. I kept pressing my feet into the floor, trying to ground myself. I emptied out a folder of old photos. I focused on one of my father in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, his hands deep into the pockets of an overcoat with broad shoulders. Common nightingales in various states of flight surrounded him. He looked pensive, much the way his own father tended to look in photos. Always an edge of fear. The colors in the photo were muted with time, much like my father’s memory of that day. The sky was such a pale blue, it looked nearly bereft. It awakened a homesickness in me that had thus far been muted. I tracked the cause of past suffering to indecision and maybe a lack of touch. Emotional investments made me realize that I was made for freedom, but the road was narrow. I must have an ancestor somewhere, whose name, long forgotten, meant something important that could be useful to me, who could help me to survive certain brutalities. The future may make us tremble, but we will walk into it anyway. Once someone loved me and gave me a diamond ring like my very own star, brilliant, but prone to fading over millennia. Love was a miracle in the way that hysteria is: it comes out of nowhere and no one can make sense of it in time enough for it to matter. There is a photograph of me, but it is a creation of my own imagination. I am wearing a light violet dress. The sun is weak. I am pensive, like my father. I am off to the side, leaving most of the photograph empty. But I have a memory and I want to pass it on to the little one in my arms: behind enormous light, there was a raw purple moon. My blood diamond. A far off summer symphony. Now my ring finger is empty save for the scar where it used to sit like a shining star.

Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry and flash collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press), Blood Memory (Idea Press), In the Year of Hurricane Agnes (Alien Buddha Press), and Terra Ballerina (Alien Buddha Press). She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review. She teaches poetry in the MFA program at Arcadia University.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

That Which Was and is Not by Steve Brisendine

to hit the brakes –
but the hamburger joint
where Gary and I ate last March
has closed.

Not all
tombstones are hewn from granite, bear
chiseled names and lifespans;
some simply read

Steve Brisendine lives, works and remains unbeaten against the New York Times crossword puzzle in Mission, Kansas. His work has appeared in I-70 Review, Southern Quill, Modern Haiku and elsewhere, and he is the author of five collections of poetry. In his spare time, he tries to make himself seem far more interesting than he actually is.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

misfit by Steve Brisendine

new calendar,
same old dreams
of broken reading glasses
and unpaired shoes

with somewhere
important to be
five minutes ago --

the last final for the degree
I never finished, maybe,
or a deadline to apply
for the job I already have

(if I could only wake up
and remember)

Steve Brisendine lives, works and remains unbeaten against the New York Times crossword puzzle in Mission, Kansas. His work has appeared in I-70 Review, Southern Quill, Modern Haiku and elsewhere, and he is the author of five collections of poetry. In his spare time, he tries to make himself seem far more interesting than he actually is.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Broken Fiddle by Jason Ryberg

Tonight, the moon is
     a white chrysanthemum and
a lone cricket is
squeaking out a sad country
          tune on a broken fiddle.

Jason Ryberg lives part-time in Kansas City, MO with a rooster named Little Red and a Billy-goat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Wrong Turns by George Nevgodovskyy

laminated roadmap
folded in glove box
your fingers
trace along
black lines tethered
to orange dots
taking all the blame
for leading us astray

now our kids say
cell phones do it for you
but there are days
I don’t want to arrive
take wrong turns
pull over unfold
our outdated map
your fingerprints
on its surface
and no one to blame
but myself

George Nevgodovskyy was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but has lived in Vancouver, Canada for most of his life. He has previously been published in East of the Web, Eunoia Review, trampset, Shot Glass Journal, and others. He does his best writing after everyone has gone to sleep. Check out more of his work at

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pieces of You by Andrea Maxine Recto

A small house with a broken, red back door. The radio station on
in the morning. Cheap cigarettes and stale coffee
by the window. You kept my finger paintings taped to the fridge
and called them art. We had breakfast for dinner.

Five-dollar bills and small teeth tenderly tucked
underneath pillows. Burnt meatloaf and two glasses of milk.
The smell of wood shavings and your gray-blue
leather gloves. Sunday walks sitting on your shoulders, my hands grabbing
your hair to stay warm. Bedtime stories and you giggling in the dark.

Stuffed bras, red lipsticks, and painted black nails. I remember
your nervous laughter when you gave me the sex talk. Movie nights
and truffle and butter popcorn on a brown, beat-up couch.
Finding your blood in the bathroom sink. Doctors, nurses, and words
I don't understand. Wishing I still had my old stuffed bear
with the patched-up leg. Pillows soaked with tears.

Pills, pills, pills. Tidy hospital food trays and sterile sheets.
How terrified I was to hear your voice
in the middle of the night. Your bloodshot eyes. Holding hands
while we fell asleep.

Someone presses a small, silver cross into my hand. I shake
my head, eyes welling up. There are casseroles stacked
on every kitchen surface. Your name is whispered
over and over. Lilies, carnations, and roses are everywhere,
and you are nowhere in sight.

Andrea Maxine Recto is a Spanish-Filipino poet living in Manila. Her work has appeared in the Santa Clara Review and ONE ART, with more forthcoming in the Long River Review and elsewhere.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Time Bomb by Carolynn Kingyens

          The photograph is concerned
          with the power that the past
          has to interfere with the present:
          the time bomb in the cupboard.

          — Penelope Lively

Sometimes complicated emotions,
too heavy to bear, require suspension,
not in a mid-air dangling kind of way
like ribboned mistletoe suspended
over a lone threshold,
or a golf course green colored piƱata
in the shape of an angry T-Rex
suspended over the heads of small children
at the birthday party but rather a suspension
of reality — some faraway, metaphysical place
Where The Wild Things Are, and the emotional
baggage I refuse to feel right now,
you know — painful things
like my estranged mother's suicide,
whom I loved from afar, where it felt safe,
and a nagging dread that history
may repeat itself as only dysfunction can
so I hit an invisible pause button on life:
on CPAP machines and separate bedrooms;
on a daughter, whom I can't reach
no matter how hard I try;
on our mid-century modern home
where the floors are made
entirely of delicate egg shells.

But in this suspension, this pause,
I'm free to binge-watch YouTube videos
under cute animal channel names
like GeoBeats and Cuddle Buddies,
becoming a much-needed comfort
in the tumult like the one about
a lonely black and white yak
named Marge and a lonely
black and white cow
named Maxine that soon become
fast friends under the swath
of bright pink and orange sky,
living out the rest of their days
together on a humane ranch
in the middle of Montana.

Or the video about the quirky,
purple-haired retiree named Pauline,
who rescues a baby squirrel,
she names Earnest,
that falls from its nest, landing
serendipitously in the sanctuary
of her backyard.

Pauline ends up remodeling
half her home to accommodate
the on-going gymnastics
of an indoor pet squirrel;
perhaps filling some kind
of maternal void.

It's amazing what I can keep
at bay while suspended
in this jelly-like grief.

For one, an ocean of emotion
resides just outside myself
wanting full entry the way water
demands — by way of a slow, steady
seep into the depths of my cracked
psyche-boat as I stay afloat — for now
with the help of non-stop amusement
and Starbucks.

Yesterday, my daughter called me
Karen, and right now there's a massive
beehive suspended under my roof's eave
in the shape of a furious, ticking time bomb
about to fall and scatter, changing everything
for good.

Carolynn Kingyens is the author of two books of poetry — Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (2020) and Coupling (2021), both published by Kelsay Books. In addition to poetry, Kingyens writes narrative essays, book / film reviews, and short fiction. Her short stories "Bye Bye, Miss American Pie" and "The Invitation" were selected for Best of Fiction 2021 and 2023 list, respectively, by Across the Margin, a Brooklyn-based arts & culture webzine and podcast.

Friday, May 17, 2024

The Great War by Howie Good

Lt. Wilfred Owen, in a letter home,
described the front with the license
of a modern poet as smelling “like
the breath of cancer.” And as Simon
and Garfunkel fans know, “Silence
like a cancer grows.” I have had cancer.
At my last appointment, the oncologist
fumbled for words in relating the results
of a recheck. Wilfred Owen would be
killed on night patrol in no man’s land.

Howie Good's latest book, Frowny Face (Redhawk Publishing, 2023), is a mix of his prose poems and handmade collages. He co-edits the online journal UnLost, dedicated to found poetry.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Charles and Lydia by John Ziegler

The sepia photo of my great grandparents
is their only record beyond their headstones.

I imagine the soft flesh of her wrists,
her ginger hair curls like a French horn,
Charles as white as a cod without his shirt.

As she lays her smock across the maple rocker,
the casual yellow dog, watches discreetly,
his chin on the braided rug.

They slip beneath the muslin sheet,
exhale and smile.

In this bed she conceived
their ninth child,
the same day she became a grandmother.

John Ziegler is a poet and painter, gardener and traveler, originally from Pennsylvania, he recently migrated to a mountain village in Northern Arizona.