Monday, 25 September 2017

Learning How to Pray

by Lisa Marguerite Mora

She hands me a china cup, steaming with black tea, sweetened
with condensed milk. At age four, it’s the best thing I have ever tasted.

She is my mother and we have been apart a long time. Outside the rain, 
tiny horse hooves move across a gray sky. The world is good and clean. 

Wet pavement, salt air breath of the ocean close by.  
Its giant sigh does not disturb me.

Living here with my mother brings everything to life.
She’s magic.

She places a round stone into an earthen pot, soon a yellow star flower
lives there, open mouthed as I am at my mother’s abilities.

I will learn more of how the world gives such gifts.
If I wait and watch, soon I will know a lot.

I should have been more specific with God. But no one taught me how to pray properly,
to give thanks for what I had. The earth and God will take their due.

I can’t remember if I prayed for her the day she died. I can’t remember
if I prayed for myself. The rain clattered outside like horse hooves.

There wasn’t much else between me and the life pressing upon me.
But still, I can’t tell you what I’ve learned.

Listen, I will tell you what I do know.

There is a trap door leading to the worn floors of heaven. Once in awhile I catch 
an angel there and its wings brush against the throb of my temple.

It folds its wings and arms and waits for me to either recognize it
or let it go.

So patient. So unrelenting.
So willing to forgive.

* * * * *

"Learning How to Pray" was published previously in a different form by ONTHEBUS Literary Journal.

Lisa Marguerite Mora has had work published in Rattle, ONTHEBUS, Rebelle Society, The Urban Howl, Cultural Weekly, Public Poetry Series, Literary Mama, and California Quarterly, among many others including a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize. Recently she has finished a first novel and is at work on second. Lisa studied with author Carolyn See at UCLA where she received a Bachelors in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis. A story editor and consultant, she also conducts creative writing workshops in the Los Angeles area.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Still Life

by Jill Crainshaw

I am his heart,
  the beat
  beat beating heart.

Perhaps you have seen the photographs.
Such a peaceful visage. Still
              by the beat beat beating
                   of time.

A hawk-moth hummingbird mid-air
        in the picture window
to kiss a moonflower’s awakening ear,
        as nectar of paradise
        thrums through quivering wings.        

A nurse,
eleventh hour of a twelve hour shift,
pauses. Looks out through the window
turns inward. Tender
eyes alight on his face. She touches two fingers
to a small wrist.
        She counts my pulsating surges
              one two,
                           three four
                   thirteen fourteen   fifteen

Mama cradles the child whose
body cradles me. I am
                                    his heart.
Suspended in a tornado’s eye. Still.
          She hears me

as another night ascends and
falling rain begins to
              beat beat   beat
              on the window pane.

* * * * *

Author's Note: "Still Life" is a poem I wrote just prior to Charlie Gard's death. The poem is a kind of persona poem written from the perspective of Charlie's heart. My own heart aches for Charlie's family.

Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She enjoys exploring how words give voice to unexpected ideas, insights and visions.

Saturday, 23 September 2017


by Kathleen Murphey

That’s the crab, right, the fourth sign of the zodiac?
People born at the end of June and into July,
intuitive and sentimental people.
Sadly, no. “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma,”
IDC, a form of Breast Cancer.
Cancer, “a malignant tumor of potentially
unlimited growth that expands locally, by invasion,
and systemically, by metastasis.”
Cancer or “canker,” Old English from the Latin
for “crab or creeping ulcer,” so-called because of
the swollen, inflamed veins around the tumor,
resembling the limbs of a crab.

Hippocrates classified two kinds,
“carcinos,” non-ulcer-forming tumors
and “carcinomas,” ulcer-forming tumors.
Ductal carcinoma starts in the milk ducts
while Lobular carcinoma starts in the
milk-producing glands.
The breast, the giver of life,
milk and sustenance and comfort,
The breast, the taker of life,
with cells mutating and spreading disease.
One in eight American women will have it,
joining legions of women,
some Running or Walking for the Cure,
decked out in pink, at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
with even NFL players sporting pink.

So many terms, I wasn’t familiar with,
Adnocystic, Adenosquamous, Mucinous,
Papillary, Tubular, Metaplastic, Micropapillary,
Inflammatory, Paget Disease of the Nipple,
Phyllodes Tumor, Angiosarcoma.
And cancer has grades.  Not A, B, C,
but Grade 1, 2, 3, 4,
One, the best or least advanced,
and Four, the worst or most advanced.
Within grades, there are scores, 3-9:
Grade 1, Score 3, 4, or 5,
Grade 2, Score 6 or 7,
Grade 3, Score 8 or 9.
I am hoping for Grade 1, Score 3.

Funny, how the Gail Scale,
a Breast Cancer Assessment Tool,
gave me a rating of 11.8% likely of developing
breast cancer, but now that’s all shot to hell.
Bilateral breast biopsies,
and a diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in both breasts.
A surgeon talking double mastectomy or
double lumpectomy with radiation.
Not breasts sacrificed for Amazonian glory,
but ones amputated because of the toxin within.
I want to wake up and just associate cancer
with the zodiac crab, an astrological sign,
but the crab has always been associated with the disease,
tentacles and limbs spreading out, crab-like,
metastasizing and infecting, other organs and systems.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, I’ll do what it takes.
I’m not ready to go down without a fight.

* * * * *

Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia.  Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues.  To learn more about her work, see

Friday, 22 September 2017

My last journey

by Sheena Singh

It rained last night
the smell of wet soil
stuck to my nostrils;
as I lay amidst my folks…

Stuffed in a glass coffin
No more aches,
Nor heart breaks
On my embalmed body…

I’ve turned cold
to the world outside,
Just few minutes away
from my final journey…

The East wind just blew
my head side lamp;
fragrance of sandal
lingering all around…

The white cotton sheet
Falling off my toes
It's cold outside
Cover my toes please.

My voice choked
as I called them;
my dears and nears
weeping in corners…

My golden streaks
Crumbled on the floor…
Let me comb those
Show me the mirror please.

My stern puffy eyelids
refused to budge
The cool sea breeze
Ripped my lips apart...

Alas! They called my name
For, the pyre is being set…
The wait is finally over
for me to embrace fire…

Thursday, 21 September 2017


by Lorri Jackson

Be sure to have enough
friends w/ spare sofas
wake up, quietly put on
the same T-shirt
worn 7 days consecutively
and smellin quite like you
creep out into the mornin
the bones in the bottom
of yer feet and knees
are still achin
from walkin the day before
so head to yer fave diner
where a bowl of soup is less
than a dollar
drink 7 cups of coffee
and the mornin is spent
pick up yer bags
and walk slowly
no sense in hurryin now
sit on a bus bench for a while
and talk a long time
about jesus to the woman
next to you
or the black man in the alley
who says he used to play percussion
with the rollin stones
drink beer on a park bench
if someone else buys it
go back to the diner for more coffee
yer calves ache
and yer knees ache
and the small of yer back aches
and yer belly aches
and yer lungs ache
and yer arms ache
and yer heart aches
ride the train to the end
of the line a couple of times
and if you have the money
see a double B feature
and if it’s rainin
read a book in the library
it’s evenin now
and too cold to sleep in the park
go to a bar
and try to meet a nice man
make sure it’s dark enough
he can’t tell how shabby yer clothes are
maybe he has his own apartment
and a well stocked refrigerator
and he doesn’t have a girlfriend
a sweetheart, a wife
show him yer dimples
even if it hurts
the scars on yer heart
and the bottom of yer feet
when the sun comes up
put on yesterday’s T-shirt
worn 8 days consecutively
yer crusty socks and stuffed boots
creep out into the mornin
the bones in the bottom
of yer feet are still achin
a cupa soup is less
than a dollar
write a letter to yer grandma
while yer waitin for the bus
you never get on
tell her yer fine
and not to worry
but don’t tell her the worst part
of livin day to day
is not havin a place to cry in privacy
don’t tell her the greyhound urinals
suffice for now
don’t tell her the bones
in the bottom of yer feet
ache like you were a hundred years old
just tell yer grandma
yer doin fine

* * * * *

"Things To Do When You Have No Home" is from So What If It's True: From the Notebooks of Lorri Jackson, edited by RW Spryszak and published by Thrice Publishing 2017.

Lorri Jackson died in 1990 at the age of 28. She suffocated after injecting heroin. Some of her powerful work survives and tells her grimy truth without obvious complaint but with merciless accuracy.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


by Lorri Jackson

shed the remnants of the day
the hard bright sun, the grilling heat
blast of a hell ladened year. It is
summer, my friend, are you surfing
as you read this? I am thinking
about you: off go
my shoes, my shirt,
panties. i’ve already smoked
some hash, and eaten a big
meal of noodles, raw cucumbers
feta cheese on the side. see, i am
trying to take care of myself.
and get this; when i can remember
i take vitamins in the morning
to ward off the demons
of yeast infections, fleas, garbage
flies, cotchrot, toto. too much
pestilence leads to thoughts
of retribution. too much
of the white stuff and i am really
starting to hear detectives at the door.
funny, when i was a kid it was
angels. so between the falls
i am really trying
to get up consistently and not feel
like shit. ‘mortality
is reality. and graveyards
a reminder.’ to quote
my own damned self

3:30 this afternoon and it’s 100 degrees
plus, and i’m walking around in a black
dress. sweat pours in rivets, riverlets
rivelets. i think of blanche
dubois and other southern fried graces
sure, i’d like a slow gin fizz, right now
no fan is gonna blow
this grit from my skin
no north wind is gonna breeze
in from the cool sea
one thousand to lick the bottom
of my shoe sucker
the rican boyos in the neighborhood love
the tattoos, something to do with
gangs, prisons, promises
muerto the man with brown bags and
a demon dog with the face of a rat
he did it to himself, in ‘college’
as they like to call the penitentiary
with a stereo needle and an electric razor
              YOUR ARM LIKE DAT
Papo whispers to me JUS TELLEM DATS YORE OLE

now, though, like i said
i’ve been trying to take care of myself
layin low. ‘chillin’ as george says.
he’s the reason i had to get off the phone
and we weren’t doing what my sigh implied; instead
just as i say hello he pulls out
this well over a gram bag singing
no blow no show. suddenly i got the blues
and i can’t help my skin
starts to itch and my asshole stricts up
you feel like the bottoms gonna drop out
and you grin seemingly against your will
and you get this urge to fall
to your knees

so we sat on the back porch and listened
to the el and the alley cats, eyes buggin out
drinkin liquids like crazy
he talked about these old blues guys
from the mississippi delta who sold their souls
to the devil to play with all their heart
how do you know, i ask, blasting

sometimes i feel
i just gotta jump
i don’t like this life right now
i don’t like where it’s going
because it’s going nowhere
all this shuffling from place to place
is pointless, all
this drifting leaves a sticky film
clinging to my memory. i need
to sit and sort out all my lives

this life; cancer of bad memories, want
of revenge, CUT IT OUT, make it clean...

have i complained about the heat and humidity yet?
drains a person, i feel so ill
chewed my lips to pieces yesterday wondering
why i haven’t started bleeding yet
only to discover i miscalculated by a week
everything is dream to me i don’t punish
my nightmares for being nightmares. i love
them too
(i hear my paranoias before i see them
when i was a kid my dad used to call me
cornhead because i had big ears)

the next probable cause of this everyday
nausea bloat is disease. DISease, rotting female
parts, dave the tattoo man says
or you’ll give yourself tumors
pessimistic or realistic, that is
the question. at least
i’m still walking

because really, the underlying reason for every ache
and pain is not the devil shorn spit of frolicking
on the wrong side, paying for excess thru body
malfunctions but is really the very quickly deteriorating
OZONE LAYER. that’s why it’s so incredibly hot.
i remember the twilight zone
i’ve read jg ballard
so can we expect every summer to be as nasty
100 degrees by 10 o’clock
it’s the heat that drags you down
sweat drips, it’s the cause
of the clogged sinus, the numbed left
big toe, the pinched nerves in my back, the way
my legs feel so heavy sometimes
i’m not so sure
i wanna walk – see, i’m doing alright
with this life, grand in its own way
so that big blue minnesota sky
with a lone kite and the distant rumble
of a young boy’s dirtbike
that i keep looking for
on el platforms, walking down milwaukee avenue
always looking for in sunsets, flashing lights
crooked lines, that something
that is always bright, new, inspiring

* * * * *

"Letter to Dawn" is from So What If It's True: From theNotebooks of Lorri Jackson, edited by RW Spryszak and published by Thrice Publishing in 2017.

Lorri Jackson died in 1990 at the age of 28. She suffocated after injecting heroin. Some of her powerful work survives and tells her grimy truth without obvious complaint but with merciless accuracy.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Great Lakes Light House

by Laura Tarasoff

As she patches another gaping hole in her soul
She realizes the warning lights were as bright as
A light house beacon on the Great Lakes.
So sure that she knew how to navigate these waters
The warnings went ignored. Now she sits,
Smashed into the rocks of one shallow soul after another,
Inspecting the damage done by past groundings,
Some still leak, if the conditions are right.
So patch she does, while people stand on the shore pointing out
Where she went wrong or laughing at her.
The laughter is preferred,
It makes better tar for the patch.
With the new tide lifting her up, she sails away.
Not waiting for another’s ship to come in.
She is the captain of her own destiny.
It’s just a matter of keeping her ship a sail
And only her bourbon on the rocks.

* * * * *

"Great Lakes Like House" was previously published at

Monday, 18 September 2017

Investment Lesson

by Laura Tarasoff

“I bought myself a new coat.”
My mother announced
As if she had bought a diamond ring.
“That’s nice.”
I was happy for her
“You don’t understand,”
Distress in her voice,
“I bought MYSELF a NEW coat.”
I got it
My mother hadn’t had a brand new coat
In, what, years? Ever?
“That’s Great, Mom!”
Her smile shone over the phone line.
The lesson was not learned until,
I bought myself a new coat.
I have become my mother.

“Someday we’d like to travel.”
My mother sighed.
“You should go.”
There was never, what?
Money? Time? Health?
They never went.
Lesson learned.
I went, and plan to go again
I will learn from my mother’s mistake
She taught me by example

There will always be reasons not to,
They drain your soul of hope
When you do
You realize the reasons to go
Are the life your soul has been missing
There is joy.
Take the trip.
Buy the coat.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


by Judith Offer

Without any warning
He has broken all our words,
Carried them around his town
Leaving them at doorsteps:  Unattached,
They hop whatever breeze and rustle off,
Unconnected, with nothing to mean by.
Is that why you wander your yard,
Collecting the floating autumn leaves?
            We will basket them with you
            If you show us which ones.

The night that you told us
We burned your pain in our fireplace
And when it was ashes
Buried it in our love. We would have
Slept with you between us like a baby,
And on into the next day
Which grayed over and teared quietly,
Like you, trying not to disturb.
            It’s too late:  We’re long past not caring
            And we have to cry, too.

In the cold sunrises
Your fair child sleeps uneasy
To dreams of Daddy
Coming home. We want to hold her
And tell her he will soon put his clothes
Back in the closet. But last time he came
He lined it with leaves
And told her to sleep in it.
            After a while will we all get used
            To your small daughter on a shelf?

With winter coming in
We could bring you candles by the armload.
But the light you look for
Would come in his eyes. At least we can
All build a fire so the child won’t freeze.
Clean the ash heap from your heath;
We will take it outside
And throw it at the wind.
            Whatever catches in our eyes
            Will wash with tears.

* * * * *

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.