Monday, 23 November 2020

     I Was A Nineties Girl

by S. J. Stephens

I wanted to be Madonna     with her stacked jelly bracelets and forbidden sexuality     a style of every nineties girl’s dream and every boy’s fantasy            she was more than ambition mocking      virginity and      scoffing the doctrine of her youth     daring to defy the laws of man and church     In my room singing     La Isla Bonita     with little idea of its meaning     A young girl with eyes like the desert     the music moved through my body     sang to my innocence at the first mention  of  wild dreams      and tropical storms gathering      I was touched beneath my skin through my bones     into the marrow     where all secrets are held      and wait  

It was a time of designer Guess jeans and peg rolled pants     high ponytails     and that guy who believed I was     on fire for the lord     and     I was burning in that fire      deeply immersed in the word     but also submerged in Bel Biv Devoe  Do Me Baby and Color me Bad    I Wanna Sex You Up     Boys to Men singing     I’ll Make Love To You

My first kiss, a dead thing flopping     on wet sand        before love          came with a second kiss     and his hand covering my breast     kneading my flesh     a deafening music     tuned to perfection        but boys make lousy lovers on driveways            with clumsy attempts at seduction     even when the stars are clear     warm air cooled by the hour     submerged in feeling     under a spell that resonates through decades of good lovers       and bad lovers   beneath those first moments of bliss        when rational thought lost       to the hum of lust     I want that magic in every kiss     in every touch of lips      and in my lover’s words  

We were     pretty girls with blue eyeshadow and black mascara     pink cheeks and frosted pink lips     teased hair three inches high     and hairspray stuck to the bathroom floor     we were girls on the verge     before cell phones and computers     a dark craze emerged     Madonna posed naked on the street     pushing the limits of virtue     beyond what my experience could beat out in time to the righteous music     playing in the background     a soundtrack to the nineties    

After rock n roll     Ruth Bader Ginsberg     and Madeleine Albright     gave way to the commercialization of my body      tricked into objectifying my sexuality     my body      until we     all women      bleed openly      reduced to sexuality        stripped of power          we slit our own wrists      in unwitted suicide 

I fear that legacy as I am the nineties girl    living proof that progress isn’t always progress      my misspent regrets are worthless in the currency of living     pennies on the dollar in the exchange of memories      at today’s rate     I’ll keep my memories     because I know this wild ride isn’t new      every generation     lives through decades of change     and at least I know        while you exploit          my girlhood                   


I am an unapologetic bad ass feminist bitch.       

     * * * * *

S.J. Stephens lives and writes in the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina.  She is an MFA candidate for poetry at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. In addition to publishing in journals such as The Licking River Review and Sugared Water, she has recently published a chapbook, Where All the Birds Are Dancing, with Finishing Line Press. 


Sunday, 22 November 2020

wrong turn

by Eve Rifkah

I walk into a spa, a bodega, a superette, a groceria
all faces unrecognizable

caught in mid-breath
all eyes focus
I the stranger
more lost than ever

all eyes focus
they wear the same plaid shirt
silence breaks across rows
of cans with muted labels of strange fruits,
coffee, corn meal, dairy creamer from the US

I ask the way beyond twisted streets
that end in dry fountains
blocked doorways
muffled birdsong

all eyes focus
on my confusion
pale skin
short skirt

the silence broken by scratches
as a raven walks across a counter
the motion breaks,
a still life of silent men,  brown roots
bulbous tubers

the men come to life
wave their arms attempt language
caws catch in their mouths
ricochet across the aisles
screech arrows into me

I spin in the doorway
face the blinding light of midday
run past dry fountains
through a stone arch that starts to crumble
stones rolling beneath my feet
gritgrey dust grabs my clothes, my skin 
I run to the next corner
where intersecting streets have no names
turn toward the scent of spices, yeast, perfumes, gasoline
race breath clogged
into crash of sound
rumble of traffic, of people
too many people all    
laughing, yelling, snarling, 
swirling in a ragged dance 

I stumble into a spa, a bodega, a superette, a groceria
all the faces unrecognizable  

* * * * *

Eve Rifkah was co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc. (1998-2012), a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets. Founder and editor of DINER, a literary magazine with a 7-year run. MFA Vermont College.

She is author of Dear Suzanne (WordTech Communications, 2010) and Outcasts: the Penikese Leper Hospital 1905-1921 (Little Pear Press, 2010). Chapbook Scar Tissue (Finishing Line Press, 2017), At the Leprosarium, 2003 winner of the Revelever Chapbook Contest.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

When My Heart Stops, I’ll Float My Boat on a Lake

                                                                       by Dianna MacKinnon Henning

far away. I’ll have my writing pens with me
to spear fish that flaunt their fluidity. When

waves tickle rainbow trout the stars will break
out in laughter. The water won’t be deep.

Just wet.

The shoreline is a girl’s kerchief. She’s bolts
across sand to escape the bronze gilded man
with his bow and arrow. He’s just a tan man
attempting to look like a shape shifter. Mud

fills his tracks.

A gale with a mustache tips my rowboat.
My liver is cast iron. It refuses to sink.

* * * * *

Dianna MacKinnon Henning taught through California Poets in the Schools, received several CAC grants and taught poetry workshops through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program which included Folsom Prison. Henning’s third poetry book Cathedral of the Hand published 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Recent Publications: Pacific PoetryNew American Writing; The Kerf; The Moth, Ireland; Mojave River Reviewthe New Verse News; Sequestrum; VerseVirtual; Your Daily Poem and Naugatuck River Review. Four-time Pushcart nominee.

Friday, 20 November 2020

The Bird

by Holly Day

The tiny bird flaps in the grass near me
watches my approach with eyes like glass beads
opens its mouth as if expecting
random acts of maternal kindness from everything
around it, even me. Overhead

the mother robin peeps in distress, also
watching me with shiny eyes
a look of resolution on its face as if
it’s already decided I am incapable of love.

* * * * *

Holly Day ( has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).


Thursday, 19 November 2020

In the Grip of Sensual Illusion

                                                            by Holly Day

the pop star’s new album comes in the mail and I am uncomfortably aware
that time has passed, the man on the cover has grown older.
There are memories tied up in his musical legacy, indelible fingerprints
on my childhood: my mother humming along at the kitchen sink
my father playing along quietly on his beat-up acoustic guitar

others from when I started calling the music my own: a tiny apartment
with a shitty stereo that I loved, the lights off, the music loud
blissful in my solitude, later: in bed with my first husband, eyes closed
pretending to be asleep, pretending there was nothing wrong
the pop star’s then-new CD playing itself to the end in the background

even later: my son in my arms, face tiny and red, missing the last few words
from a well-worn song that finally put him to sleep.
I take the new album to my office, pull out the various incarnations of media
bearing the pop star’s name: two cassette tapes, four vinyl LPs, seven CDs, lay them out
in chronological order, like portraits of a family member never seen
yet sorely missed.

* * * * *

Holly Day ( has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Spring, Early Summer, 2020

by Nonnie Augustine

Hard to admit I was failing at living.
Too loose. My seams frayed.
Friends knew, but what could they do?
My living brother too far away.

From my recliner I watched the virus take, take, take.
Shocked by the lock-down in Italy—empty piazzas.
Italians gather to eat, drink, argue, love, laugh.
I remember their vivacity, liveliness, pleasure. Now this.

Alone in my home, heart disease dizzy,
I fell often onto tile floors. Bruises, tears.
Then— I broke my leg— then a new deal.
Assisted living they said. Sell the family home.

I resisted, relented, regrouped.
Masked and socially distant in one big building
and our many small apartments we make a go of it.
I’m stronger now and the panic has almost subsided.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Thank you for your patience.”

by Emily Strauss

I have none left, it's all gone
into every classroom I worked.
I want to shake my cell phone hard enough
for its head to come off when it doesn't
give me directions.

Patience? It all leached away
drop by hard mineral drop
in the cracks of limestone
crumbling under a desert sun.
I am too impatient to wait
in a boulder's shadow
for cool evening or your reply,
there is no benefit of doubt
no one will hear my answer
or catch the lizard scurrying away.

The room is empty finally
all the listeners gone
no one waits for me.
It's a mistake to think
time allows a pause now
just when I need to speak
impatient of delays.

* * * * *

Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 500 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. She is interested in the American West and the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.