Sunday, December 26, 2021

All I Was Ever Told by Jason Ryberg

Down through the clouds’
raggedy, tattered fabric
and the trees’ veinous limbs,
branches and twigs, the moon
shone blue, sometimes,
on the tin roof of the old
(semi) converted tar-paper
shotgun shack I lived in,
for free (mostly), that year,
out back of the big house
where my somewhat effete
and mildly eccentric friend
lived with his very eccentric
mother, like something straight
the fuck out of a goddamned
Faulkner or Capote novel

another friend was overheard
to say (complete with idiot
man-child kept in the basement
I, myself, often suspected),
and all I was ever told was to
mow the lawn and shovel the snow,
help yourself to the liquor cabinet
and try not to burn the
whole place down.

Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. His latest collection of poems is Are You Sure Kerouac Would Have Done it this Way!? (co-authored with John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2021).

Thursday, December 23, 2021

W. C. Fields, Esq. (William Claude Dukenfield) by Richard Weaver

said many things memorable. Most funny.
He juggled words the same way he did balls 
in the air as a tramp with fake beard and faded
tuxedo. Cigar boxes, canes, tennis balls, hats.
All became part of the Eccentric Juggler’s act.
Masterly. World class. Between pool, cards, 
alcohol, movies, and women, he kept many things
up in the air simultaneously. He once said
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
At the end he said to his mistress of many years,
“God damn the whole friggin’ world
and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.”

Richard Weaver volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and was, until Covid, the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. He remains the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005), performed 4 times to date. Recently, he published his 150th prose poem since 2016.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Threat of Keepsakes by Louis J. Fagan

The quilt survived the flood,
tattered muddied forlorn, I
rescued it from the waist-high
river water in the basement

fly-fishing waders strapped on, I
descended the stairs into the cold
black water staking its claim
to space intended off-limits

the Christmas angel, crockery,
kept books, preserved Barbies,
photos, CDs bobbed like buoys
in my wake as I waded through

the quilt had been neatly draped
across the back of the wooden rocker,
half-submerged it now drifted aimlessly
on currents I couldn’t feel

I’d saved the quilt once already, taken
when my mother-in-law cleaned
our closet during the visit she’d made
to help with our first born, years ago

it lay wadded up next to garbage bags
for pick up at the end of our driveway
when I pulled in from work, what’s my
great-grandmother’s quilt doing out there

I asked my wife when I came in the house,
quilt rolled, tucked beneath my arm, the baby
in her arms, swaddled in a blanket carrying
with it the threat of becoming a keepsake too

fishing in the river water was one thing,
casting a line and pulling out trout,
but reaching into it, surrounded by four
walls, for the quilt chilled my arms, my soul

drenched and cold, material thinned
and frayed from age, it tore away from my touch
when I scooped it up and spread it across
my shoulders, tightening it to my chest

Louis J. Fagan is an English professor at FMCC in Johnstown, NY. He is currently at work on a novel based loosely on his short story, 'Slit,' which was published in Weber: The Contemporary West. More of his short fiction can be found in Typehouse Literary Magazine and Five on the Fifth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Lead Stereos by Ed Ahern

On the deck of our house
are two seventy-pound stereos,
curves opposed, print facing out.
Lead still shiny, headlines still legible
after fifty years of weathering.
The base for a glass-topped table.

They are an obelisk for the
slow death of print newspapers,
and the withering away
of balanced reporting.
The profession I trained for
gone electronic and shrill.

No one misses the smudges
of lamp black and petroleum oil,
or the hassle of recycling,
and in a few more years
no one will care that
newspapers gave us the world.

There was an underpaid nobility
in reporting investigated facts
and recording marriages and deaths,
and the current, fleeting buzz
leaves us all with little sense
of permanence and place.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of nine review editors.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Five Beautiful Words by Lisa Molina

          (elegant, peaceful, inspiration, warm, womb)

The elegant fish swim in the bubbling tank.

The purpose: To provide a peaceful place in this room of bald children
connected to poles of poison, being
into their veins.

All of them weary, and wishing not to be, “An inspiration.”

We follow the pedi onc to the private room. My face, now red,
warm from the fierce flames of my
pounding heart, as he tells us the cancer has returned, to the blood of the babe of my womb.

Lisa Molina is a writer/educator in Austin, Texas. She has three chapbooks forthcoming in 2022, and her poetry has been published in numerous print and online publications, including Beyond Words Magazine, Sparked Literary Magazine, Trouvaille Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Fahmidan Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, and Sledgehammer Literary Review.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Bad folks go to Hell when they die says my... by Gale Acuff

Sunday School teacher, she should know even
though she's not bad, not that I know of, she
works for God and the other Trinity
members, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, and
our church, too, plus she works for free and one
day I'll be a preacher because that will
always remind me of her but I'll get
paid for it, too, probably not much but
a parsonage to go with it and ours
is a mobile home but it's not so mo
-bile anymore, unless when Preacher prays
and no one's around it soars to Heaven
so I asked my teacher if that's so and
she gave me a dreamy smile, then said No.

Gale Acuff has published hundreds of poems in over a dozen countries and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Lost Echo by Howie Good

On the airwaves
of memory floats

the voice of a child
chanting one one

thousand, two one
thousand, nothing

the least menacing
or even remarkable,

unless for you, just
as for me, the voice

lingers like the yellow
green of a faded bruise.

Howie Good is the author of Failed Haiku, a poetry collection that is the co-winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press Chapbook Contest. It is scheduled for publication in summer 2022.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Haiku by Douglas J. Lanzo

crumpled newspaper
lining homeless man’s dreams
with stories of strangers

An award-winning and featured poet and novelist, 187 of Douglas J. Lanzo's poems have been published in 42 journals and 3 anthologies since 2020 across the U.S., Canada, England, Wales, Austria, India, Mauritius, Australia, Japan and the Caribbean. His Author’s Website (with poems, including by his twin sons) is located at

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Mounds Hill by Christine Cock

Is it a good sign or warning
to be compelled to prove

          there are still traces of happiness––
          such as grapefruit, hanging,

dozens of weighted yellow orbs
waiting to be plucked and cored,

          or crossing the hayfield on a cow path
          worn ancient by hooves and moccasins

then sitting alongside the fox atop a burial mound
watching the coming world.

          Is it right to say thanks for Covid 
          even though the neighboring farmer is too ill to plow––

leaving the field fallow, fully ripening for the first time in years
giving meadowlarks a chance to nest, clutch, fledge, and sing?

Christine Cock lives in the woods of Florida and has been a naturalist and Curator of Zoo Conservation. Her degree is in Creative Writing with a Writing Excellence Award from Eckerd College. She has been published in numerous online journals and literary reviews, including Tiny Seed and Sandhill Review.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Monday Morning, Senior English by Jennifer Novotney

He is looking down
then shifting his eyes
to the laughing kids in the classroom
through the doorway facing us
the hall empty after the first period bell.

He towers above me by half a foot
his long, languid body tilting
at the middle like a plant shoot
that has grown too quickly
needing support, wilting
from its own weight.

Wavy, long red hair tumbling
down his face like a mudslide
obscuring his brown eyes
almost too dark, like buttons
stuck into a freckled snowman.

He asks about his grade
through clenched teeth
his body turned away from me
a flag at half-mast.

The tension between us
its own living, breathing being
pumping and palpitating
birthing a new breed
of insolence, coating us

thick like syrupy fingerprints stick
creeping into my consciousness
every time our eyes meet.

Jennifer Novotney’s work appears in Edison Literary Review, The Beatnik Cowboy, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and The Vignette Review, where she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for her novel, Winter in the Soul. She lives in Pennsylvania where she teaches English.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Dream Bounding North by Meghan Elizabeth Kelley

I’m on a train
that bolts only

all sleek windows

and no escape. Blurs
of what I abandoned

dissolve as I arrow through
the alpine

north. I’m white-knuckled,
lockset, roped in by the lure

of completion.
I go

the way a buck bounds
kicking memory

behind him as he chases
the doe. When the tracks

crumble, I belly-crawl
into the trees,

forage for any glimpses
of the past my deer mouth

can catch, devour every
berry, hard

and shriveled,
each one a familiar

snapshot, a bitter bite
I mistook for sweetness

when I didn’t know
I could wake up.

Meghan Elizabeth Kelley is a poet and writer in Jenkintown, PA. Her work has appeared in District Lines, For Women Who Roar, Trouvaille Review, and The Inflectionist Review, among other places. She is also a yoga nidra and meditation facilitator, which helps shape her creative process.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Missing Woman by Heather Sager

In the barnyard grass out back
from her house,
we found her mud boots standing,
open, waiting
for tender feet
to slip into them.

As my friend and I walked,
the field of crows
sounded-out our thrumming recollection
of the woman and her husband—
his rages toward her—
the shouts we heard, the whole
town heard, down the street
that one night.

I called to memory
an afternoon when we met,
her quick-heart, her chapel-mind.
The flash of her brown eyes

In the afternoon, under cirrus-twined sky,
country spires supplicated
and smoke
tended to the ether.

In the barnyard grass out back,
we found her mud boots standing.

Heather Sager lives in Illinois. Her most recent poetry appears in Fahmidan Journal, Magma Poetry, Version (9) Magazine, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Red Wolf, Trouvaille Review, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and more. Recent fiction appears in The Fabulist and elsewhere.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Golden Pines Suite by Robert Demaree

1. So here we all are,
New residents on a new street
Of patio homes at Golden Pines.
We gather around the spinach dip,
Bright, eager exchanges
Like the first social in the freshman dorm:
Threads of things held in common,
Coincidence of childhood streets,
Sons and daughters, stepchildren, grandchildren,
Their schools and games,
Career paths crisscrossing the continent
Over fifty years.
We lived in Boston once, our first child was born there.
We may have left behind along the way
Some furniture, or faith or energy,
Or the spouses we started out with.
What we have in common mostly, though,
Is that these paths have all led here,
This acknowledgement, this choice and throwing-in together
We all have made.

I walk along the pond at dusk;
Low vapor lamps cast a friendly orange glow.
I exchange greetings with the Canada geese.
A cottage we pass by each day
I see is suddenly empty:
Someone else will be there soon.
So here we all are:
It is only a matter of time.

2. To reach our house at Golden Pines
You go across a bridge,
The last bridge, my friend, age 80, calls it.
Don’t say that, I tell him,
Blood pumping, pulsing
Against skin turned to paper by the years.
For it had seemed to me,
Until not long ago, that
We might be exempt
From certain statistical probabilities
And live forever.

3. On the eve of his seventh birthday
Philip and I play bocce at Golden Pines.
I roll the red ball hard, to give him a chance.
A silly game, he thinks he knows who is meant to play.
He considers evidence:
The ramp descending gently into the pool,
That only grandparents seem to live at Golden Pines,
And what might happen next.
We watch the swans nesting by the pond.
Philip’s ball, heavy, deep granite green,
Eases toward the pallino:
This day, I think, will not come again.

4. Morning walk at Golden Pines:
Late February sky deep blue
Through trees for now still leafless
But about to change their minds.
A moving van packs up the contents of a cottage,
Fewer since her husband died,
And takes them to Assisted Living,
As if there were some other kind.
Across the pond, the hink and honk of geese,
Heading north, programmed to care for their own.
An ambulance pulls slowly away
From the Health Care Building,
Siren, blue lights turned off.

5. We’ve brought some wooden chairs,
In pieces, glue dried out,
To the storage shed at Golden Pines,
Metal repository for life’s archives,
A kind of purgatory of possessions.
Their time will come around again:
My mother’s walker, her wheelchair;
The board games our girls once loved—
Philip will be able to enjoy them soon.
The chairs, which could be fixed, I guess,
Join a roomful, floor to ceiling, of
Things one doesn’t feel quite up to
Dealing with just now:
At length, of course, someone will.

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.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Meeting My Father by Greg Watson

I was ten years old when I first met
the man, shaking hands in a shopping mall
parking lot, as my mother looked on,
unimpressed and uncertain as to whether
this was a wise idea for any of us.
He was tall, dressed in a courtroom suit
and tie, saying, "Good afternoon" with
the practiced ease of a natural salesman;
told my mother that I was a good-looking kid,
as if I weren't standing there beside him,
as if he couldn't speak to me directly.
This man I had secretly dreamed of,
who had, by default, become the hero
and villain of all my boyhood tales,
this man who by his absence alone
had all but defined me, seemed to me
in that moment to be unforgivably ordinary.
We had a polite lunch, the three of us,
conversation sporadic and strained.
There was much to avoid, though we were,
all of us, long adept at doing just that.
There were no tears and no explanations.
I sat to his right, at his suggestion,
two left-handed eaters avoiding elbows.
And he was right. We did not touch.
Not that day, or any day yet to come.

Greg Watson's work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. His most recent poetry collection is All the World at Once: New and Selected Poems. He is also co-editor with Richard Broderick of The Road by Heart: Poems of Fatherhood.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Winterizing by Greg Watson

My brother and I pulled the old ladder
from the loft of that damp, falling-down garage,
snapped the cold and grimy storm windows
into place one by one, our mother imploring us
from the earth below not to breaks our necks,
not to slice our fingers on those jagged
pieces not yet repaired, broken by flying balls
or an elbow thrown back in self-defense.
We caulked up the wind-trembling cracks,
closed off the uninsulated storage room,
hoisted great, thick sheets of plastic
over anything else left facing the light.
A new silence took root inside each room,
everything suddenly nearer, muffled.
Sometimes I imagined those sheets to be
sails, as if we were about to set forth
toward a world we could not yet fathom.
But only the darkened edges of trees
shook themselves occasionally, the vague
shapes of winter bodies passing outside.
You had to have faith that something out there
was being created, something both startling
and familiar coming back into focus,
so slowly, so tentatively that none of us
would have noticed, or been able to speak it.

Greg Watson's work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. His most recent poetry collection is All the World at Once: New and Selected Poems. He is also co-editor with Richard Broderick of The Road by Heart: Poems of Fatherhood.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Broken Glass as an Obvious Metaphor by Jen Finstrom

          So many useless things
          which nobody broke
          but which got broken anyway

               -“Ode to Broken Things,” Pablo Neruda

You knew it was a bad idea to stand barefoot on
a folding chair to change the kitchen lightbulb
but worried more about the chair breaking, losing
your balance, than about dropping the rounded
light cover which explodes in tiny pieces
of snow-colored glass, trapping you on the chair
where you simply remain standing, staring at it.
In the end, you climb down in the one clear space
between the refrigerator and the sink and push the chair
forward, climb on it again, reach one of your blue
slippers that isn’t full of tiny shards and hop
through to safety where you can begin to consider
cleaning up. Over the past months it’s become so
tempting to let inertia have its way. Two broken
blinds hang uselessly in their windows, letting in
more sun than you want, and for a second, you
imagine a world where the glass remains on your
floor while you continue to live around it, never
setting foot in your kitchen again, dishes always
undone, half-finished cup of coffee forever out of reach.

Jen Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for 13 years, and recent publications include Atlanta Review and Escape into Life. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Traipsing the Trailer to the Thrift Stores by Sharon Waller Knutson

Our past packed in boxes,
on a maudlin Monday morning
we snake up Seventeenth Street
to Deseret Industries. The gray
building and parking lot
are empty as a mausoleum.
The gate is locked tight.

Google Gal guides us on
Boulevard past the boarded
up buildings where we sipped
fountain sodas in the sixties
on swiveling suede stools
while waiting for a prescription
at the corner drug store.

And the A & W Drive-In
on G street where we
drank root beer
in frosted glass mugs
from bare-legged bunnies
who hopped car to car.
The microphones and trays
still hang from the poles
unused for sixty years.

To the striped and steepled
Salvation Army church
where they still serve soup
to starving strangers.
Sorry, we aren’t taking any
more donations except for food.
Come back in January,
the Santa
Claus look-alike tells us.

We google Goodwill
and head on Holmes
where the store stands
next to the Dollar Tree.
We take anything but tires,
mattresses and bed frames,

says the cheerful worker
who hauls away seventy-
five years of our lives.

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields by Flutter Press and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say (to read a book review click here) and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob now available from Kelsay Books. Her work has also appeared in One Art, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Bar at the End of the World by Vikram Masson

You’ll take the Bergen Avenue
bus and pull the buzzer right around

McGinley Square where they would
have already lifted their third or fourth.

The Budweiser neon sign will flicker
and gasp like death as you enter into

the warmth of the little room, with its murky,
unwashed mirrors, its cigarette machine

that always has the Kools you smoke
because white guys don’t smoke them,

where the men talk the Yankees, Reagan,
and the wounds of the endless wars

their country made them fight. You always
wanted to lift a glass to the great writers

but every time you got sloshed enough
to talk Proust or to sing a song about Rilke

in the German you’d half forgotten
you remembered they would laugh you out

into the street, where the snow whipped
and eddied before crusting up against

the iron railings, where you’d be down
to your last 4 bucks while the leather frayed

off the toe box of your left boot, where old Joe
would find you wheezing with too many

cigarettes, sick with drink, and say,
you’re too young for this pain, go the hell home.

Vikram Masson writes at the intersection of faith, identity and culture. His poems have been featured or are forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Glass, Juked, Prometheus Dreaming, Rust + Moth and Without a Doubt: poems illuminating faith (NYQ Books).

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Let Be by Barbara Daniels

          in memory of John Claps

For a night journey I vow silence.
Tires struggle on asphalt, deer walk

like brown phantoms at the edge
of the parkway, hooves in gravel, teeth

in the grass. The wind itself is an instrument.
Even the stars have something to say.

What died with the man was the clangor
of roller skates down Tasker Avenue.

Night looms over me. At the center of memory:
mystery. After a while I sing along with the radio,

talk back to the Phillies for letting runners steal
bases at the back of a new young pitcher.

A deer starts toward me and jinks
sideways. I pass safely among the trees.

Barbara Daniels’ Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Her poetry has recently been accepted by Permafrost, Westchester Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Coachella Review. She received four fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the most recent in 2020.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Haiku by Barrie Levine

walking with dad
the crunch of leaves
softened by rain

Barrie Levine retired from the practice of law and in her seventies began avidly reading and writing haiku. She participates in virtual open mics and teaches a writing class at her senior center. If anyone asks what she does in her retirement, she proudly identifies herself as a haiku poet.

Friday, December 3, 2021

City Afternoon by Barrie Levine

I saved an outside table
for coffee in October
with you, dear daughter,
our sugar cubes
and conversation
dissolving in laughter

Barrie Levine retired from the practice of law and in her seventies began avidly reading and writing haiku. She participates in virtual open mics and teaches a writing class at her senior center. If anyone asks what she does in her retirement, she proudly identifies herself as a haiku poet.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Monoku by Eric A. Lohman

stripes on the winter fly   referee’s coffin

Eric A. Lohman is a psychiatric social worker in the ER of a large hospital in Atlanta, GA. He lives nearby with his wife, kids and an assortment of animals. His poetry has been widely published and he edits FreshOut Magazine, an online journal of poetry and art.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Haiku by Mona Bedi

leaf blower - 
all my thoughts
here and there

Mona Bedi is a medical doctor in Delhi, India. She has been writing poetry since childhood, but a few years back she started writing the Japanese form of haiku. Mona is the author of two poetry books: they, you and me and dancing moonlight. She has won prizes in many haiku competitions and received honorable mentions at the 2021 Japan Fair as well as the 2021 Autumn Moon Haiku contest.