Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Haiku by Douglas J. Lanzo

kids’ first snorkel
expanding their world
by seventy percent

A featured poet published in 20 journals across the United States, England, Wales, Australia and the Caribbean in 2020, Doug’s award-winning haiku have appeared or are pending in 10 haiku journals, including Frogpond. His 11-year old identical twin sons have published haiku collections in Australia and the United States.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Ballad of Lipstick and Comb by Irena Pasvinter

I remember watching you
as you put on your lipstick,
always the same red color,
too bright for my cautious taste.
Oh come on, Grandma, I thought,
why do you even need this,
in your eighties,
with Grandpa long dead?
It’s not like you’re into
catching another husband.
So really, at your age, why bother?
I kept my mouth shut, of course.
What you did with your lips
was none of my business.

And then in the hospital,
when you insisted
on combing your hair each morning
and god, this red lipstick again...
This time I might have
even said something, to Mom:
“Really, why does she bother,
being so ill? Ridiculous,
this lipstick business.”

But now, as I drag myself
out of bed in the morning,
and glance at my ghost
in the bathroom mirror,
I finally get why you did this:
not for me or for men
or for god or for devil —
for yourself,
to feel whole and alive,
to keep going.

Lipstick is still not my thing,
but never mind, I get the idea:
self-respect is a life-time job.
Thank you, Grandma.

Irena Pasvinter divides her time between software engineering, endless family duties and writing poetry and fiction. Her stories and poems have appeared in many online and print magazines. Her poem "Psalm 3.14159..." has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is currently looking for a publisher for her first novel. Visit Irena at

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Pay It Backward by Janet Carl

Who knew what went through his head,
the man who said,
"I'll pay for the people behind me, too--how much?"

About twelve bucks. Not high
philanthropy, but kindness in a
world that seems not to remember

Some spark jumped from his car to hers, and
hearing that her family's
hamburgers, fries and shakes had been paid for,
she said, "I'll pay for the people behind me."

Nine hundred gifts,
two and a half days, over and
over, in the bleak almost-winter
of Brainerd, Minnesota.

We've been cheated, lied to,
humiliated on the world stage.

We've been profiled, beat up, spit on
and killed.

We've collapsed and died--
more of us than our fathers and uncles who died in
World War II.

We've grown to dislike and distrust each other.

But some guy at a DQ
changed the world,
turned that ice cream parlor into a shrine.
Brought out plain old vanilla

Janet Carl's poetry has appeared in Lyrical Iowa, her children's fiction in Plays and Young and Alive, her nonfiction in Nonprofit World and the Des Moines Register.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Deleting Old Emails by Eileen Curran-Kondrad

While deleting old emails
I came across one
you sent me the year
before you died.
Still there
floating in ether
as though you
are still able
to give me your
big brotherly advice.

I worried that you
hadn’t approved of
my choice of career.
I should have reached
higher than teaching, you implied.
Then I came across a story you sent.
One of those forwards that go
round and round to friends
like lost souls
looking for a place to rest.

Teachers can never tell
where their influence stops, it said.
They affect eternity.

So do you big brother.
So do you.

Eileen Curran-Kondrad is adjunct faculty in the English department at Plymouth State University. Her work has been published in NEATE, Journal of The New England Association for Teachers Of English, Teaching Moments, New Hampshire Business Magazine, Centripetal, Upbeat, Folded Word and Red Eft Review.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Four Fabric Squares from Christo’s Central Park Gates by Patricia Behrens

We waved to each other across Cathedral Parkway,
yours an extravagant wave as if you’d braved perils,
traversed continents, not simply come uptown to meet me

to explore this northern section of the park, festooned
in fluttering orange banners. You led us along snaking
rocky paths, sometimes walked ahead

last year’s chemo-slowed gait now vanquished.
We goaded each other south through the February cold,
smiling at strangers, led on by the saffron-arched walkways,

the distant sightings of orange through branches.
Blue sky, looking up--these were pleasures again, when
so recently they had made us think of too-low planes, falling towers.

It was as if billowing fabric had released our grief,
allowed us to recover breath. You turned back to me, hatless,
pointing to some fresh shimmer, spoke, too far away for me to hear.

Why do certain moments freeze in memory?
When they took down the banners and recycled the fabric
they gave small cloth squares to people who asked.

I have four in a clip on my desk. I picked one up today
and smoothed its curled-up edges, recalling how the show
was made to be a temporary wonder, was never meant to last.

Patricia Behrens grew up in Massachusetts and now lives and writes in New York City. Her poetry has appeared online and in journals such as American Arts Quarterly, Mom Egg Review, Perfume River Review, and The Same and in the anthologies Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse and Vine Leaves Literary Journal: a collection of vignettes from across the globe.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 1961 by Robert Demaree

1. Thanksgiving

Filled with turkey and family,
I recall another late gray November,
An Army post between wars,
Brave comrade clerks
In the Dental Detachment.
We nibble on celery,
Stuffed with cream cheese
And watch the Detroit Lions on TV.
My friend, from Grosse Pointe,
Wonders if his parents are there
This year, the first he has missed.
Our commanding officer,
Who had perhaps expected better,
Has put on his dress blues,
Walks around the room,
Makes himself greet
Each of us
Where are you from, Soldier;
What did you do on the outside?

Later, his wife calls reminding him
To pick up a jar of turkey gravy
On the way home.

2. Summer, Fall, Early Winter

Another friend is just back
From the flight of honor,
Service of a generation greater than mine.
Why do my days seem now unreal,
Six months active duty, actually less,
In a time disguised as peace?
Trainloads of boys from Oklahoma,
Sons of displaced natives;
Slim scraggly pines unable to shade
The sandy South Carolina soil,
Heat you could see rising
From the company street on Tank Hill;
A lingering Army fragrance:
Fatigues with dried sweat,
Aluminum cookware in the side sink,
Scalloped potatoes, detergent,
Spent shells on the firing line;
The empty threats of sergeants ignored.
Crawling the range at night,
Under wire that seemed to be barbed,
Fire we took to be live,
Preparation for the filing of dental records.

There have been no reunions.
I do not recall their names.
We did what we were asked to do.
I drove out of there at midnight
On the day the first American fell.

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.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

They will always be scammers, I tell the bishop by Sharon Waller Knutson

But he disagrees with me: Sinners
can change. We baptized them
and gave him a job in the thrift
store and her counseling for conning
you and all the charities in the county.

I almost believe him when I see
the husband driving off in the Chevy
at dawn without flipping cigarette
butts on the lawn and his wife walking
to town without stopping to complain.

She writes out the rent check, smiling
sweetly in a skirt skimming her calves
and blouse buttoned up to her neck.
But I am skeptical when the bishop
reports strange happenings.

First a Lazy Boy couch and chair
are reported missing from the thrift store
where he worked. Then he turns up dead.

He says she has applied for widow’s
benefits and I agree to go with him

to get the death certificate. Meeting
us at the door, she wipes her eyes
with a Kleenex and explains: the document
was delayed
and invites us to sit on the Lazy Boy
couch next to her brother, a dead

ringer for her late husband. She plops
in the matching Lazy Boy chair
as the bishop and I exchange smirks.
Can’t we skip the paperwork.
I need the money to pay the rent.

Sharon Waller Knutson lives in the Arizona desert where she writes narrative poetry. Her work has appeared in various journals including Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Five-Two, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, The Song Is… and U.S. Worksheets. “They will always be scammers, I tell the bishop” is a sequel to a poem that was posted by Red Eft Review on October 5, 2020. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

What I Might Have Said by Richard Nester

Everything stops.
When I look at my wrist,
I am reminded of the skinny bones
of marriage. That’s how
poetry works.
Something abstract is wedded
to something concrete. When describing
some tender emotion, do it in terms
of something you couldn’t
care less about like a brick or a cloud
or some tree roots.
Or the other way around.
The bigger you want to get, the smaller
you have to start. That way
we get the idea that least things
matter most. To touch deeply,
touch sharply, in one spot,
before your sight fails you altogether.

Richard Nester is the author of 4 books of poems, the most recent Red Truck Bear (Kelsay, 2020). His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Cape Discovery: the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Anthology, Ploughshares, and Seneca Review and on-line in Qarrtsiluni and Inlandia.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Life, in Moments by Natascha Graham

Vita, who sits
Book propped open with a fork
At her Sissinghurst dining table
With jars of pickles and fine preserves,
With real butter on thick-cut bread
And little piles of the milk and brown bones of a pheasant
Would, should it be possible,
Exchange all the champagne in the world
For a glass of Rodmell water
To dine from Virginia’s garden
Off radishes pulled from the ground
Bitten from stalks
In the kitchen
In the late afternoon sunshine
Of September
-A scrambly lunch
With Virginia
Dropping hairpins
Wearing an old silk petticoat with a hole in it
And a dress with a hole in it
And the wind blowing right through her

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as writing for stage and screen. She lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her play, How She Kills, was performed by The Mercury Theatre in August 2020 and broadcast on BBC radio in September. Natascha's second play, Confessions: The Hours, has been performed by Thornhill Theatre London, and both have been selected by Pinewood Studios and Lift-Off Sessions as part of their First Time Filmmakers Festival 2020. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction essays have been previously published by Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Shingle Street (When My Best Friend Died) by Natascha Graham

and she doesn’t look like Gillian at all
when I tell her.
Except her face is all screwed up
in that way that she has
when she’s chewing on her thoughts

She pokes a stick between stones into sand
How’d she die? She asks
up-turning the hollowed-out shell
of the body of a crab
Dunno, I say, then, she killed herself

And we sit, for a while
in old black coats
and wellington boots
with the old grey sea
who was never meant for me, or her
but here we are again,

And when we leave
over ploughed fields
and dust-cracked earth
in the old red Land Rover
that jolts
And the seats that squeak
and bounce
I don’t watch the sea
out of sight

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as writing for stage and screen. She lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her play, How She Kills, was performed by The Mercury Theatre in August 2020 and broadcast on BBC radio in September. Natascha's second play, Confessions: The Hours, has been performed by Thornhill Theatre London, and both have been selected by Pinewood Studios and Lift-Off Sessions as part of their First Time Filmmakers Festival 2020. 
Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction essays have been previously published by Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Mercurochrome by Steve Klepetar

There in shadow, steep stair wells
in brick buildings
around a dying square of grass.
How they chased us, as if
behind those hedges anything would grow.

Curses broke against our backs.
We learned to write them on the walls
in colored chalk,
hopped on sidewalks, leaped off stoops.

Across the street the high school,
immense and brooding and the rocky field
we weren’t allowed to use. We climbed the fence,
They chased us out with curses. We lost our ball.
In weeds we cut ourselves on broken glass,
went home to the kiss of mercurochrome on torn up knees.

Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely in the U.S. and abroad and has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dream of Rain by Jocelyn Olum

california desert cools off in the evening, but heat lingers in the badly ventilated dorm rooms—
new freshman’s first night. still air, and a too-soft mattress,
and the incessant creaking from the boy who will sleep above him
some arizona kid who eats well and snores loud and dreams heavy.

new freshman supposes that he’ll get used to it. everybody must, after all, two whole semesters
in the place which is now to be his home—
his impermanent residence. ten months is just long enough to grow out of the habit
of his own bedroom, but too short and dry and institutionalized for anything but
the scraggliest of desert roots put down

anyway it doesn’t feel like home now. now it feels like standing fan loud against the
cricket-less stillness outside his window
like unfamiliar bed and door and bathroom, and a heavy double weight
hot air and the solid suffocating irrevocability of what life will now hold for him

he sighs out a too-warm breath and rolls over. the sound of his breathing
is muffled by the fan’s whirring and he does his best to lose himself to the unquiet
brush his mind clear like wiping pine needles from a flat rock in the forest
give up time and place for a green homeland serenity he now might only find in dreams

it doesn’t exactly work. when he drifts off finally it is a fitful sleep
disturbed by snores and sweat and the groaning of the bunk beds, but nevertheless
he passes the hours semi-conscious
eventually sometime past midnight a cool breeze wafts in through the window and he settles deeper behind his eyelids
asleep in skin and boxers and the single sheet he pulls up around his torso
the endless hush of the fan turns in his dreaming to the recent, childhood rainstorms
now only present in his mind.

Jocelyn Olum is a writer, a student, and a circus performer. She grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where she was awarded both Gold and Silver Keys from the Regional Scholastic Writing Awards for Poetry.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Soon Enough by Jocelyn Olum

“I can’t help falling in love with you”
two times fast
is still pretty darn slow.

I used to listen to it that way
commuter train home in the evenings
anything to make the darkness outside the window look a little less scary—

you laughed when I told you that.
I played it for you a year later
side by side in those big maroon train seats, which was not quite as romantic as I had imagined
one earbud for each of us, and our sweaty hands separated only by four impossible leather inches.

Jocelyn Olum is a writer, a student, and a circus performer. She grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where she was awarded both Gold and Silver Keys from the Regional Scholastic Writing Awards for Poetry.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Relearned by Martha Christina

When my sister calls
to tell me our last
surviving aunt has died,
she says aunt as though
it were the insect, the same
way our parents and their
siblings said it, the last
of those voices, gone.

I moved away from family,
from their familiar accents;
I learned to say ahnt,
like my new neighbors.

In our weekly keep-in-touch
calls, my sister chides me
for my affectation, as she
calls it. But today, I repeat
our aunt’s name the way
I first learned to say it,
the way my sister says it,
the way we all did, back home.

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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

At the Supermarket by William Blake Brown

I heard the happy footsteps hurrying
behind me, and I steered my shopping
cart to the side of the aisle by the bread
to clear a passing lane.
He looked to be about four, and he was
celebrating a pristine pair of shoes.
With every step, he planted
the sole with a satisfying slap.
His father, trailing in his wake caught
my smile and returned it as we shared
an understanding: it doesn’t take
much to make a kid happy.

A former journalist, William Blake Brown writes poetry and plays and makes photographs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Anticipation Jostles by Diane Webster

Cat paces from door to me,
yowls incessant plea for out
not even a stern “no” pauses
as she hears doves outside feeding
on seed-strewn snow.

Wings flap as each dove vies
for biggest pile of seed
to stand in the middle of
like guarding chicks beneath wings
and twittering protests as pecking order
progresses through flock
until each ends up where it began.

Cat scratches door,
yowls louder until she leaps
into window sill; in unison
all doves fly.
Cat jumps to the floor,
silently waits beside door;
so I let her out.

Diane Webster grew up in Eastern Oregon before she moved to Colorado. She enjoys drives in the mountains and takes amateur photographs. Writing poetry provides a creative outlet exciting in images and phrases Diane thrives in. Her work has appeared in Home Planet News Online, Old Red Kimono, Salt Hill, and other literary magazines.

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Wooden Urn with Carved Daisies by Jean Biegun

Mother began as a tidy person,
hair primped just so for Sundays,
neck scarves tied according to photos
in her high school Home Ec book.

She’d rip out every crooked seam
we sewed on the treadle Singer,
scrubbed our hair three times with kerosene
when we brought home nits,
ironed even the sheets though the wind
flattened them pretty well on the line.

The day young Mel left for Viet Nam,
she washed every window including the cupola,
the high-up little room we never went to:
always told us cleaning something
was the start to fixing everything.

When he came home in a casket,
she let the flower beds go first,
and the daisies spread out helter-skelter.

Took years before her vegetable rows
came back somewhat straight,
for her skirt pleats to be almost crisp.
It was like mud had won out.

While the tumor did its slow dance
(borderline the word during that long turn),
she’d go to the garden,
sit on her short stool and sift the loosened
soil through her fingers.
No gloves.

Said she liked the warmth of it,
the way it anchored everything,
trees and houses and people:
that it was what we lived on.
She laughed every time we pointed out
the dirt under her nails.

Jean Biegun, retired in Sacramento, began writing poetry in 2000 to counter job stress, and it worked. Poems have appeared in After Hours, As It Ought to Be, Mobius: The Poetry Magazine, Mused: BellaOnline Literary Review, Ariel Chart, Goose River Anthology, World Haiku Review, Amethyst Review and other places.

Friday, December 4, 2020

The Harvard Square T by Daryl Muranaka

runaways squat
behind cardboard signs
sipping coffee
smoking cigarettes

Daryl Muranaka lives in the Boston area with his wife and two children. He enjoys aikido and tai chi chuan and exploring his children’s multiple cultures. His poems have appeared in Gyroscope Review, Eunioa Review, and Akitsu Quarterly. He has published one collection and two chapbooks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Up and Away by Shannon Cuthbert

Among my friends,
My claim to fame was being a balloon holder
At the Macy’s Day Parade.
I wanted that to be how I was remembered
If anything should happen.
For instance, if the balloon
Shaped inevitably like a Snoopy or Tweetie
Ran off with me one day.
I wanted the newscasters,
Especially the blonde on Channel Five,
To tear up into the camera,
Tell them what a brave soul I was,
To cross the Pacific holding onto a string.

Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcarts, and have appeared in Plum Tree Tavern, Bangor Literary Review, and The Oddville Press, among others. Her work is forthcoming in The Metaworker, Big Windows Review, and EcoTheo Review, among others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Rocking Chair by Michael Estabrook

I wonder what
my grandfather did every day
in his little room
off the living room at the front of the house.
I know he’d sit in his rocker
read newspapers both The Daily
Home News and the New York Post
but you can’t read newspapers all day long
so what else did he do?
There was nothing else in there
that I could see
no books or hobbies or TV
not even a deck of cards.
Sometimes I’d glance in
and he’d be sitting in his rocker
staring out the window into the street
at nothing in particular.

Michael Estabrook is retired. He is now writing more poems and working more outside. Michael just noticed two Cooper’s hawks staked out in his yard or rather above it, which explains the nerve-wracked chipmunks. The Poet’s Curse: A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019) is a recent collection.