Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Valley Forge by Norma DaCrema

When you drive up the hill at 3 am,
there are no grazing deer,
no sleek foxes streaking
through the underbrush,
no possums emboldened by the dark,
no groundhogs, skunks, no squirrels.
There are only eyes,
little flames of orange and red
like amber gemstones
set in a swirling blue-black cape
or strewn among the tail feathers
of a peacock impossibly vast and
sumptuously studded with eyes.
Hundreds of eyes.



Norma DaCrema is a veteran high-school teacher of Religion and English at an independent girls' school in Pennsylvania. A first-year student in Arcadia's low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing, she has published in The Lyric and SkyWave magazine. She lives in Rosemont with her son and four cats, including Bad Randy.

Monday, April 5, 2021

First Day of School by Norma DaCrema

With a dew-gold sheen
still tossed like a sheet
over the whole sleepy world,
a small sorrow is unfolding
for a mother squirrel--
her nest dislodged,
her young undone,
writhing hairless on the road.
The school bus will stop.
Frantic, all chatter and arms,
she pulls her little ones
–stunned, blind, barely living–
to safety at the curb
until only the still one remains.

In stiff backpacks and fresh sneakers,
our children mull over last traces of breakfast
as in silent confederacy
we arrange ourselves in sad rows,
casting shadows just so
the sad things stay there.

Those lessons can wait.



Norma DaCrema is a veteran high-school teacher of Religion and English at an independent girls' school in Pennsylvania. A first-year student in Arcadia's low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing, she has published in The Lyric and SkyWave magazine. She lives in Rosemont with her son and four cats, including Bad Randy.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Red Bugs by Jessi Lord

“Don’t touch that moss,” Mama said.
“It’s got red bugs in it.
They’ll crawl up under your skin
and live inside you
like the fear of God himself.”

She had her back to the wind
to light a cigarette
and I put the moss on my head
like a Dolly Parton wig.

The red bugs must’ve crawled
into my ears,
cause a couple years later
they started whispering.

I took scalding baths
to drown them,
dumping water on myself
with the same pitcher we used
to make Kool-Aid.

Red bugs don’t mind water.
Moss hangs low from the trees
like a heavy, damp
breeding ground.



Jessi Lord is a creative writing major at the University of Central Florida. An Amelia Island native, Jessi enjoys writing poetry at the beach on her flamingo raft.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Pills Make You Gray by Jessi Lord

Lithium: beige, round, tastes
like the nosebleed in Tommy Linshaw’s pool.
Clonazepam: green, round, tastes
like the airport at 5 a.m.
Olanzapine: white, round, tastes
like dropping out of college.
Swallow each with Glacier Freeze
Gatorade from a Dixie Cup.
Tell your doctor if Russian spies
dance naked in the Target parking lot.
He might adjust your dose.
If Chris Rock and Marilyn Manson narrate your life
(since Thursday after Dad took you to Chili’s),
tell your doctor.
He may switch your meds.
Clozapine: yellow, round, tastes
like the branch in Grandma’s back yard
that grabbed your face like a dead arm.
If you are the second coming of Jesus,
levitate fruit loops in aisle seven,
and tell Mom halfway through Eat Pray Love,
she will tell your doctor.
If you crash Mom’s SUV into a Public Library sign
because (per Chris Rock and Marilyn Manson)
it was a portal to another dimension,
you may go to a treatment center in Tampa.
Paliperidone: gluteal injection, feels
like missing Dad’s 60th birthday,
laceless tennis shoes,
and spreading grape jelly on toast
with a plastic spork.



Jessi Lord is a creative writing major at the University of Central Florida. This is her first time being published! An Amelia Island native, Jessi enjoys writing poetry at the beach on her flamingo raft.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

No Shoes Required by Amy Lerman

When we shared a bedroom, my sister and I loved The Room
Is Mine
, a story of sisters who divided their own bedroom
with a jump rope. Like those sisters, we stretched the rope
vertically, then stood on either side, our toes tickling the shag
carpet, as we repeated their dialogue, “Everything on this
side is mine,” I, the proud owner of a hurricane window
and The Wizard of Oz poster, my sister’s settlement portion,
a small desk and the room’s door. During those separations,
I would pretend to have a bicycle awaiting on the roof—
Dad had shown us how to crawl out the window if ever
there was a fire—so I could still exit, my hair immediately
forming into silky braids despite Florida humidity, my feet
propelling me skyward until landing me in a technicolor
world of endless paths, only the happy parts of Dorothy’s
adventure—no flying monkeys or green-faced witches—,
nor older sister telling me “I won’t be your friend anymore”
if I didn’t bring her cookies, or crew-cutting my Malibu
Barbie’s once-waisted hair when she promised “it would be
a trim,” no—

there would just be me—

singing along with these weird, new friends who didn’t
care how sweat-stained my checkered dress, my bare
feet skipping as far as I could go.



Amy Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, where she is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College. She received her Master’s and Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Kansas, and her poems have appeared in Rattle, Smartish Pace, Common Ground Review, Prime Number, Solstice, and other publications.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Runner Upstairs by Jeanne Julian

After dwelling where the only morning sounds
were squabbling geese, cicadas, purr of a passing
johnboat and its wake wheedling squeaks
from the dock, you’d think this daily pounding,

the rhythmic thump of footfalls from above
accompanied by a soundtrack’s rumbling
bass-notes rattling our lamps—evoking Thor
flat-footed on a thunder-powered treadmill—

would be at best annoying, at worst,
a sign that condo life was a misguided choice.
But no. Nestled in our last (perhaps) haven,
our corner of the sacred hive, we harken
to the hubris of youth, and mildly rejoice.



Jeanne Julian of South Portland, Maine, is co-winner of Reed Magazine's Edwin Markham Prize (2019). Author of Like the O in Hope and two chapbooks, she has published poems in Comstock Review, Kakalak, Poetry Quarterly, Naugatuck River Review and other journals. She reviews books for The Main Street Rag. www.jeannejulian.com

Saturday, March 13, 2021

What We Can Rely On by Angelica Whitehorne

The skins of a pomegranate unfurling in our palms like a lonesome heart, seeds
bursting between our teeth, pleased. Being continually two sunrises away from
the hard throws of a depression, and two more from a perfectly sculpted mania.
Dried spices dusting a full meal, one of which your sweat has seasoned, just a drop
or two, a piece of you in what you eat or feed to others. The simultaneous steps of so
many we’ll never know or walk past, stepping off the ledge, or into their lover’s doorway,
or into the throws of a life we can only imagine or view through our computer screen.



Angelica Whitehorne is a New York artist who writes poems, pieces of fiction, and stanza-formatted rants about the world we’re living in. She’s not creative enough to write about some other world, so this one is all she’s got. She has published or forthcoming work in The Laurel Review, The Cardiff Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mantis, Ruminate, and Hooligan Magazine among others.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Spring Mud by Frank C. Modica

After breakfast I walk my dog.
In the early morning haze,

he hops over fallen tree branches;
Mud and peony petals litter our path.

He bristles at the big dog across the street
I brood over vaccinations, quarantines.

We both seek a safe way home,
face a longer road to serenity.



Frank C. Modica is a retired teacher who taught children with special needs for over 34 years. His writing is animated by interests in history, geography, and sociology. Frank writes to satisfy an itch that never seems to go away. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rat's Ass Review, Dodging the Rain, Blue Mountain Review, and Raconteur Review. Frank's first chapbook is forthcoming from Alabaster Leaves Publishing.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Rainelle, West Virginia by Abby N. Lewis

          —Appalachia Service Project Volunteer Site

We use water-resistant paint
on the concrete stilts;
the house is perched above,
climbing from the flood
that destroyed its shadow.
One set of stilts supports air alone
while the owner lives in a tent nearby.
We are quiet as we paint his.

It rained many times in the week
we were there. We were told
the locals fear the rain.
Most importantly, they told us
the people here are not victims—
we were never to use that word.



Abby N. Lewis is a poet from Dandridge, Tennessee. She is the author of the chapbook This Fluid Journey (2018) and the poetry collection Reticent (2016). Her work has appeared in Timber, The Mockingbird, The Allegheny Review, Sanctuary, and elsewhere. Follow her website: freeairforfish.com.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Picture It by Abby N. Lewis

The college girl who died when her blood sugar
dropped and her car careened off the highway,
her sister writing to the Internet for answers;

my great-grandmother who made angel food cake
taste better than I imagine even the clouds must—
her face in the casket, her red lipstick a final flirtation;

and the boy I loved when we were only children,
the stolen kiss under the dock,
the water up to our chins.
I was so nervous then.

His death a striking image. Picture it:                      We met in elementary school, nap time:
the ceiling                                                                                                                 the floors
the cord, yellow,                                                                                 the mats, blue-red-blue
the noose taut                                                                                           the hand extended
the swaying                                                                                                           the silence.



Abby N. Lewis is a poet from Dandridge, Tennessee. She is the author of the chapbook This Fluid Journey (2018) and the poetry collection Reticent (2016). Her work has appeared in Timber, The Mockingbird, The Allegheny Review, Sanctuary, and elsewhere. Follow her website: freeairforfish.com.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Stained-Glass Colors by William Doreski

Bright winter Sundays, stained-glass
colors draped over the pews.
I ushered the eldest, seating them
so gently their dentures remained
firmly clamped while they sang
tremendous mouthfuls of hymn.

Then home to a roast the color
of fine old English leather.
Pinned to cork bulletin boards,
those Sundays linger in glazed
sermons delivered according
to the latest, greatest theologies.

After sixty years of ennui,
I stay home to hear deities
murmur over the airwaves,
their frequency so high only dogs
can make out every command.
No stained-glass colors puddling

on the floor of my garage where
I crouch before a wood stove
to absorb and savor the heat.
These lonely snow-tinted Sundays
prepare me for the absolute dark
my childhood denied could happen.

The spirits on the radio boast
of creations yet to animate.
The listening dogs bark and howl
in praise or terror while I make out
only a word or two of Greek.
The wood stove crackles and smiles.

I could write a hundred sermons
for myself, all true and glistening
with lard, but no one else
would believe them, the lack of stained-
glass colors indicting me
and the voices I learned to trust.



William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Monday, March 1, 2021

This cannot protect you by Doug Holder

The books you stacked
dusty columns
the entitlement
of their bold titles--
the absolute
authority
of their authors
fall with a shut
of the door.

This cannot protect you.

Your safe harbor...
some flimsy
false, fantasy
that
one
would not
outlast the
other.

This cannot protect you.

Surely,
you said,
"No one dies at the Au Bon Pain"
At least in your favorite cafe
a bagel
a New York Times
the transitory
assurance of the
coffee.

This cannot protect you.

You look to the early morning sun,
you thought this would bring
yet another day
the string of relentless rituals
the list of chores
checked out
in a strict chronological
order.

This cannot protect you.

You assumed
her hand
pressed in yours
finger to finger
veins twisting into veins
the skin between you
a spotted history
surely
this bond
cannot be broken.

This cannot protect you.

The cat curls up to you
it knows the scent
and something pierces the whiskey fog
of your long journey into night
and there is the sweet, ethereal horn
of a long dead jazzman.

All this
will not protect you.



Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His work has appeared in The Worcester Review, Rattle, Caesura, and many others. His latest book of poetry is The Essential Doug Holder: New and Selected Poems (Big Table Books). 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Elements of Winter by M.J. Iuppa

1.
Deep in woods, footsteps muffled
by fresh snow— Yanty Creek sings
its lonesome repair to this year’s un-
ending peril that slips beneath a thin
skin of ice.
2.
In the distance, between two pines,
light snow drifts like feathers—
no bird in sight—to speak of this
literature of loss, this hypnotic
vortex of stars.
3.
Endlessly repeating—waves of
exhale—I think gods are hiding
in tree bark— unblinking eyes
watching me walk to the pond’s
edge—I’m here today.
4.
Lost in reflection— the pond
drinks the sky without clouds,
without hesitation— I want to
catch my breath blossoming
in cold air.



M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 32 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Another Premonition by M.J. Iuppa

Lately, when I stand at the window facing the orchard, I
          stare and stare, at winter’s vague shadows, not realizing

that I’m visualizing a path through these chilly spaces where
          windswept branches could catch hold of my woolen coat

with its loose buttons, and keep me from going deeper in-
          to the hour known for its twitching light— its corridor of

mirrors that reveal my body’s slow ache as it mounts
          each step’s steep incline, moving chamber to chamber

as if I were inside a nautilus lost long ago . . . What has
          become my work before dying? Am I to find my DNA

in Rome’s catacombs and breathe it back to life? I feel my skull’s
          bones beneath soft flesh—this mask waiting to be lifted.



M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 32 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Midnight or Later by Howie Good

I dreamed the other night
I was covered in blood
but couldn’t discover
despite a frantic effort
whether it was my blood
or someone else’s.

Who isn’t secretly afraid
of being dragged off
some rainy night
to an interrogation room

and beaten with fists
and clubs and forced
to answer questions
posed in a language
they don’t understand?

When the 8th-century poet Li Po
had to travel at night,
he carried a cage of fireflies
to light the way.



Howie Good is the author of more than two dozen poetry collections, including most recently The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press), The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro Press), and Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Alphabet by Bonnie Proudfoot

Last night the dog went to the window,
rumbled a growl,
then curled up on the rug
at the foot of my bed.
Awake, I heard barred owls,
deep throated, calling.
Come morning, fresh inches of snow,
icicles fringe the porch roof,
sunlight plays them
like a xylophone.

From the kitchen window
the snow seems
so pristine, but head out,
and tracks appear
as if everything was going
somewhere in the dark.
The neighborhood fox crossed the porch,
a doe and fawn pawed up
a bare spot under the birdfeeder,
a rabbit two-stepped
a dotted line from woodshed
to garden fence.

These marks in the snow,
they could be an alphabet.
Night has written the mystery
of itself, now sunlight
melts it all. What it is
isn’t supposed to
belong to me.



Bonnie Proudfoot lives outside of Athens, Ohio. She has published short stories and poetry in a variety of journals. Goshen Road, her first novel, was published in January of 2020 by Ohio University’s Swallow Press, and is long-listed for the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Doves by Bonnie Proudfoot

Outside my window this morning snow
piles up on porch rails and trees,
the only motion is a pair of doves perched
under the eaves, thin black beaks, clay-colored
round heads pressing together like a valentine,
their coo-coo-coo ocarina calls set off against
a backdrop of silent snowflakes. If they’re
the same pair as the last 3 years, they arrived
early, mid-February instead of April, but maybe
this year they’re trying to get it right.

They’ve had a run of bad luck, no postman-stork
delivering baby doves, instead clutches of eggs
that refuse to hatch or tiny naked chicks that don’t
make it. Long after the wrens, flycatchers
and robins build their nests, dart to the lawn
and head back to a cluster of open mouths,
after those other fledglings stand in a little bird
conga line on the porch railings and work up
the nerve to take first flights, this pair of doves
is still in phase one, trading shifts, nest guarding,
egg sitting, unflinching and inscrutable as buddhas,
their ruby eyes meet mine as I head outside.

I could climb a stepladder, chase them off,
clean out the nest, but I can’t bring myself
to break it to them. Do you know what I mean?
Maybe they don’t see the writing on the wall,
or they could care less about the other birds,
they stay with the thing that matters most,
and I wish I was more like that, after all,
there isn’t a day that doesn’t have its share
of glaring headlines, dire conclusions, so many
wrecking balls aimed at every plan. Even today,
disaster hangs like the wind-chill factor, and here
they are, innocent optimists with work to do,
all hopes and feathers and dreams.



Bonnie Proudfoot lives outside of Athens, Ohio. She has published short stories and poetry in a variety of journals. Goshen Road, her first novel, was published in January of 2020 by Ohio University’s Swallow Press, and is long-listed for the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

House Made of Sound by Steve Klepetar

You toss all night in a bed that sails on a river of dreams.
Someone has left the oven on, but when you go to turn it off,
a light blinks green, and lo! The bread is done!
You find the oven mitts, lift the loaf pan onto a wire rack.
How good everything smells.
And then bells are ringing again, and you climb the stairs,
wondering as you go what the walls will do.
At the top you meet a small boy, drumming with a short stick.
He has no bells, but he points and whispers
“it’s the goat,’ and so it is, a small nanny with a white bell
around her neck. Now there is music everywhere -
horns and cellos and violins.
The roof opens and above there is a river of stars
floating in a black sky. You have bread and milk
and a house made of sound steering you back to that other shore.



Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has received several nominations for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Rosebush by Ginny Wood

I heard the hose running,
pushed through the busted backyard gate
and saw the green snake of it spilling
onto the root bed of a skeletal rosebush,
a puddle at the base of a wraith.
I told her to shut it off. Stop wasting water.
That was the last time I saw my mother.



Ginny Wood is a former English teacher originally from the Carolinas who now resides in Redding, Connecticut. She earned an MAT in Secondary English from University of South Carolina and a Master in School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina. Her favorite pastime--other than writing poetry--is entertaining her Boston terrier, Daisy.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nature Morte by Julia Caroline Knowlton

Sun at dusk, moving across
polished silver. Pieces of fruit
reflect pieces of light. In a painting

I cannot make, we become
perfect color. Our voices still.
Life coming to a hush, a hush.



Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. The author of four books, she has a PhD in French Literature (UNC-Chapel Hill) and an MFA in poetry (Antioch University). In 2018, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year. Her literary achievements include an Academy of American Poets College Prize and a Pushcart nomination.