Friday, 23 February 2018

Arctic Vortex Aftermath

by Katherine L. Gordon

There are no gods in the wilderness,
only wolves remain scavenging
in the four corners of the savage winds.
Angels are made of black iron,
refrain from kissing their frozen feet.
In the tangle of crushed trees:
a flurry of fur and tails,
monkeys are returning.

* * * * *

Katherine L. Gordon is a rural Ontario poet, publisher, judge, editor and reviewer, working to promote the voices of women poets around the world, as they are now flowering into acclaim.  She has many books, chapbooks, anthologies and collaborations with fine contemporaries whose work inspires her.  Her poems have been translated and awarded internationally.  Latest book: Piping at the End of Days, Valley Press.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

My Grandmother, the Seamstress

by Roberta Verdant

My grandmother is aching through night-time;
sewing the Nazi's​ ballgown.
If she bends the needle, they'll kill her.
Her needle: silver light
in a darkness that chases her
through history.

* * * * *

Roberta Verdant is a wanderess from the UK. Trained as a psychopomp, she is currently pursuing further study in working with dying and grieving people. By profession, she is an intuitive reader. Roberta harbours an abiding love for the ocean, and can often be found near or in it. At present she is residing short-term on a tropical island. 
Patterns of Breath

by Helen Bar-Lev

It is evening and chilly, I am walking home,
standing now at the intersection of Agron and King George,
waiting for the traffic lights to change,
engaged in nothing more intellectual
than observing the patterns my breath makes
on the night air

An ambulance streaks, its sirens hysterical,
an over-hormoned motorcycle blazes,
a moving van huffs loudly with the strain of its weight
and the reluctant-to-change traffic light
permits me to take in all this vehicular confusion

I am about to cross over to Paris Square
where the women in black stand every Friday,
demanding peace from Jerusalem’s stone ears,
when my eyes are drawn to the left, the east,
down Agron Street, past the taxi stand,
past the Italian convent, the American consulate,
the Isaiah House monastery, the bicycle repair shop,
the Moslem cemetery
towards the silhouette of the Old City

And there emerging from the rooftops
is a full pale orange moon
so huge my perspective is skewed
I mistake it at first for a street lamp
or a spotlight gone dim;
it is special, exquisite, gossamer,
as though hiding its shyness behind a veil

The traffic light has not yet changed –
I want to tap the man next to me
or phone a loved-one, to share my awe –
I will the sirens to be silent, the vehicles to disappear;
it is a sacrilege to view this moon
amidst the heavy noisy traffic as I now do

I need to be alone with this orange moon,
perhaps on a mountain top
with blackness and serenity surrounding me,
perhaps on the seashore
to see it reflected in the water,
or in the forest, tucked into trees, snug in Nature
I need to breathe this moon into my being
to hold on to this beauty forever

The traffic light has now realized it is time to change;
I cross the street and tuck the moon
inside my special file of marvelous memories
and wonder if any other person
in haste to get someplace
has paused for a moment to behold this moon,
mystical graceful, rising magnificent
over Jerusalem

* * * * *

© 2005 Helen Bar-Lev

Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York in 1942.  She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, has lived in Israel for 46 years and has had over 90 exhibitions of her landscape paintings, 34 of which were one-woman shows. Her poems and artwork have appeared in numerous online and print anthologies. Six poetry collections, all illustrated by Helen. She is the Amy Kitchener senior poet laureate. Helen was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013 and is the recipient of the Homer European Medal for Poetry and Art. Helen is Assistant to the President of Voices Israel. She lives in Metulla, Israel.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Where Are You Now Sarastro?

by Helen Bar-Lev

You who speaks in the baritone of God
who rules with gentleness and justice
slays menacing serpents,
you who cast the lawless Moor from your temple
who fights the dark forces of the night

As you shuffle softly in your priestly robes
do you know that evil has beheaded the moon
and the stars have been made slaves?

Come Sarastro, you and your disciples,
come with your magical music,
your lanterns and candles of love
search for the light
bring it back

* * * * *

© 8.2014 Helen Bar-Lev

Helen Bar-Lev was born in New York in 1942.  She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, has lived in Israel for 46 years and has had over 90 exhibitions of her landscape paintings, 34 of which were one-woman shows. Her poems and artwork have appeared in numerous online and print anthologies. Six poetry collections, all illustrated by Helen. She is the Amy Kitchener senior poet laureate. Helen was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013 and is the recipient of the Homer European Medal for Poetry and Art. Helen is Assistant to the President of Voices Israel. She lives in Metulla, Israel.

Monday, 19 February 2018

. / !

by Heather DeAtley

Periods should be called Exclamations!
They flow.
They stretch.
There is nothing about endings. Nothing definitive.
Only that dynamic tribute to life’s continuum.
They can arrive with excitement.
Or relief.
Or the biting edge of disappointment.
Either way, they are life’s greatest proposal.
A crimson contradiction of life and death
Riding on that descending vertical flow.
These quivering wombs we share
Are all connected
Like the roots of trees
We are mightier
When we bleed.

* * * * *

Heather DeAtley, a Virginia native, currently lives in Tel Aviv, where she is actively developing her Body Poetry practice--rooted in her training as an Ilan Lev Method Practitioner, Body Poetry seeks to bridge the realms of somatics, body work, and poetry through anchoring, playing, and discovering language through the body and movement. 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

She thinks of many things in her preparation to write about infinity
 for Natalie Angier

by Grace Grafton

Small and white, hairs from her baby’s head,
she wants to keep them all but
they insist on escape. Clouds
eventually tatter and dissipate. To maintain
memory as though it were a finitude.
The snow keeps falling, it impedes
progress as it tidies up the landscape,
quashes color. Fabric of weather,
lessons of the implacable. She thinks
about bathwater, divisible drops subsumed
in the rushing sound, baby’s soap-slippery
foot, how gradually the baby will grasp
(drop by drop) the relationship of her bath
to falling snow, the rigorous and unknown
calculus her mom – thinking about infinity and
this precious finite entity – must live in.

* * * *

Grace Marie Grafton’s most recent book, Jester, was published by Hip Pocket Press. Six collections of her poetry have been published.  Her poems won first prize in the Soul Making contest (PEN women, San Francisco), in the annual Bellingham Review contest, and The National Women's Book Association, Honorable Mention from Anderbo and Sycamore Review, and have twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  Ms. Grafton has taught for decades with CA Poets in the Schools, and has been awarded twelve CA Arts Council grants for her teaching programs. Recent poems appear in Sin Fronteras, The Cortland Review, Canary, CA Quarterly, Askew, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Basalt and Mezzo Cammin.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Last Girl  

by Donna Hébert

I wait for the next
Whoever he is, it is never the same
Sometimes I try to remember
But it’s better not to

The older women hid me
As long as they could
Rubbed dirt on my skin,
padded my middle
to make me
fat, unattractive
But I must be pretty
so by the time I was seven,
my childhood was over

One of the older women
could read and write
I was ten the year she was caught
with pen and paper
We had to watch
until she begged to die
and was, at last, granted her wish

I bore a child to one man only in my teens
He paid millions for the privilege,
then spayed me so
no other would
inhabit my womb
I nursed my son for three months
before they took him

Male children survive
But only the girls
they judge pretty and stupid
survived to mate
And those who own them
name their price
Now mine is above rubies
but it buys you nothing

Each waking moment I wait
for whatever comes
I no longer think of them as ‘who’
I tell myself I don’t care

Suicide? How many cameras
can you see in the room?

The last girl
The loneliest woman on earth
but never as lonely
as they will be
when I am gone

* * * * *

© 2013 Donna Hébert, all rights reserved

Donna Hébert, a fiddler since 1972, writes, performs, records, and teaches fiddle at Amherst and Smith Colleges. Her latest CD is a poetry and music collaboration, "The Infinite Dark," with Jane Yolen, Lui Collins and Max Cohen.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Tooth Karma  

by Donna Hébert

She saw them enter the restaurant together
in slow motion, her arm tucked through his
where her own had fit so easily

Stuck in the La Brea tar pits of awkwardness,
she bit down hard on a piece of shell,
shattering tooth along with peace of mind

Wrenching her gaze from those elbows,
spitting tooth and shell into her napkin,
she feared she’d pay thrice -
for the meal, the dentist and
of course, the heartache

But fortune smiled
She escaped the sting of fate
The restaurant comped the meal,
covered the dentist fearing a clamshell lawsuit

Then, eventually desensitized
by random sightings
of the happy couple around town for a year,
she barely noticed
when they moved away

But it was much longer
before her tongue stopped
playing with the rebuilt tooth

And she had lost
her taste for clams

* * * * *

"Tooth Karma" © 2013 Donna Hébert, all rights reserved

Donna Hébert, a fiddler since 1972, writes, performs, records, and teaches fiddle at Amherst and Smith Colleges. Her latest CD is a poetry and music collaboration, "The Infinite Dark," with Jane Yolen, Lui Collins and Max Cohen.

Thursday, 15 February 2018


by Lee Nash

Her “legs,” I’d fetch a packet of Cameo Light, then settle in the wheelchair in the bedroom nearest the bathroom, she being not far from bedridden. Flanked by the large-font books that threatened to tip like bombs from a devil’s egg, bifocals greasy, false teeth soaking in a glass of vinegar, she nursed her cold tea under a miasma of stale urine and smoke, and pined for the Dachshund. Her hair refused to go gray and lay as flat as his unopened letters in a drawer. I imagined one brother hurling the butterfly from the roof and another one dying. I breathed in the jasmine on Cairo streets, rejoiced in her wartime whimsy, her simmering beauty. Thank God the fire did not take her, that we heard that old stick tapping. We doused the flaming bed, soaking her swollen joints, her legs

flailing like wet wings
under the sodden covers –
raised as if in prayer

* * * * *

"Kitty" was first published in Pankhearst's Slim Volume: This Body I Live In (2015) and is included in Lee Nash's collection Ash Keys.

Lee Nash lives in France and freelances as an editor and proofreader. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in print and online journals including Acorn, Ambit, Angle, Antiphon, Magma, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Presence, and The Heron's Nest. Her first poetry collection, Ash Keys, has just been released from Flutter Press. You can find a selection of Lee’s poems on her website:

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

82 Miles From The Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café

by Alexis Rhone Fancher

The neon flashes “Lobster” and “Fresh!”
The parking lot is crowded. We’ve been driving since dawn.

The lobster must be good here, you say.

The harried, Korean waitress seats us near the kitchen.
She's somewhere between forty and dead.

I show you the strand of her coarse, black hair
stuck between the pages of my menu.

Undeterred, you order the lobster for two.

I investigate the salad bar.

Yellow grease pools in the dregs of blue cheese dressing;
a small roach skims the edge.

Before the waitress can bring the clam chowder, I kick you under the table.

I’m sorry, I say brightly. We’ve changed our minds.
I’m responsible for the look of defeat on her face.

As I head out, you stop and leave a twenty on the table.

I have never loved you more.

* * * * *

"82 Miles From The Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café" was first published in Slipstream (2017).

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other 
heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here (2017), and
Junkie Wife, (2018). She is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Hobart, Pirene’s 
Fountain, The American Journal of Poetry, Plume, Nashville Review, Diode, Glass, Tinderbox, 
Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Her photos are published worldwide, including River Styx, and the 
covers of Witness, Heyday, The Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy. A multiple Pushcart Prize 
and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

November Widow

by Ruth Lehrer

My neighbor is hiding
never leaving the hilltowns
only going to the dump
once a month surviving
on dry cereal

Her husband died last summer
before the snow and shooting
loss stranding her alone with the news
He might not have
agreed with her anyway

In the wake of the election
she scrawls crayon words of protest—
Trump You’re Fired—
sticks it on the blackberry brambles
near the pothole road

She locks her doors and
suspects the neighbors
She lost her hair from chemo
It never grew back.

* * * * *

Ruth Lehrer is a writer and sign language interpreter in western Massachusetts. She is the author of a poetry chapbook entitled Tiger Laughs When You Push. She is also the author of a 2017 young adult novel, Being Fishkill

Monday, 12 February 2018

Another Summer at the Shore

by Ann Marie Gamble

When the kids were little, the mothers at the four summer houses north of the buoy convened for lunch on the Cartwrights’ dock. They reigned over an expanse of rocky beach, steps down to the swimming so the food and towels didn’t get splashed. Everyone brought something that added up to a meal, and if it seemed like all D. J. Cartwright ever contributed was picnic tables and lemonade mix, no one ever said anything—it was her dock they were appropriating, after all.
Once the sandwiches were made and the grapes sliced in half, the ladies took their glasses of (mostly) iced tea to the shady end of the picnic table and were silently glad that the rule about no swimming for an hour after eating had been exposed as myth. Enforcing that had driven their mothers grey.
“Tim bought a boat,” Kelsey Morgan announced over sandwich remains. She’d brought the loot from a trip with her in-laws to an artisanal bakery a couple of towns north. Joan Biedermann hadn’t made it up yet this summer.
“Where is he going to put it?” Heather Davis asked.
“I thought you nixed that.” D. J. pushed the silverware into triangles. “At least until Joe decides about Princeton.”
“Oh, it’s going to be their project,” Kelsey said. “Did anyone bring anything besides tea?”
“You mean it needs work?” D. J. laughed. “Can we see it?”
“It’s in the driveway. I don’t think it even floats at the moment,” Kelsey said.
 “Is your brother really coming?” D. J. asked Joan. “Isn’t he a carpenter? He can help them.”
“He’s a fishing guide,” said Heather.
“Half-brother,” said Joan. Simon worked in fisheries management in Montana, telling the guides which streams still had fish in them.
“You said he might come this year,” Heather said.
“I’d rather get rid of the boat,” Kelsey said.
“I’d rather see the half-brother,” said D. J. “The guys at Marine Supply get crustier every summer.” The Cartwrights already had a boat, although Russell hadn’t been up enough to get it out of storage.
“When is Russell coming?” Joan asked. Her husband was going to ask about that boat as soon as he got here.
“Blah blah blah, depositions blah blah.” D. J. waved her hand. “Once the other guy blinks, they can get back to the usual summer mucking around.”
They gathered up the lunch things. Tim Morgan and the rest of the boys came up from the water to get Kelsey’s car keys in return for doing her grocery run. The girls had already left for the public beach in town. The children’s attire had changed, from swim diapers to baggy swim trunks for the boys, frilly one pieces for the girls. A few of them were on the swim team and wore the sleek Speedos all season. Several of the girls had switched to bikinis meant for anything but training. They and the boys could be convinced to put on shirts for lunch if they went to town to hang out with the other summering teenagers trying to re-form cliques. The mothers still wore serviceable maillots that could handle boating mishaps or a UPS man in need of a signature.
“Be home by dinner,” Joan told her son.
“I know, Mom,” he said in the exasperated tone that seemed to be the only one she ever heard from either of her children anymore. He did let her kiss his cheek as they left the dock.
Heather craned her face to the sun as they walked back to their houses. “If you were a fishing guide, you wouldn’t have to factor in tanning time.”
“Does he work outside?” Kelsey asked Joan. “If he’s the manager, it could be a desk job.”
“Why do they call them that? Rick is never at his desk, but he sure isn’t outside.” Heather held a branch aside so they could all pass.
“You should buy him a boat. Entice him out.” Kelsey’s tone was dry.
“It’ll have to be one of those party barges,” Heather said. “You can’t dump your project on me. Low maintenance, low chance of seasickness or any other excitement.”
            One by one the women reached their houses as the path continued around the inlet. Joan was last; the Biedermann house was the first one past the channel buoy. Joan put away the remains of her lunch contribution—cold cuts and condiments—and wiped down the counters. She pushed a broom around the first floor as a salvo in the ongoing war on sand and hauled the current book club tome down to their beach, where an Adirondack chaise and an umbrella waited for her. It was warmer to sit on the sand, but the fine lines around her eyes no longer uncrinkled, no matter how silky or expensive the lotion, so shade it was.
She opened the book. She wasn’t going to go into hostess mode, not for a maybe visit, not even if Simon hadn’t been in years. Wherever he lived in Montana, he wouldn’t notice (or care) if the carpets were sandy.
She heard “Mommy” echo across the water but turned back to her book, resolutely keeping her head turned away from the shore. Kevin would be up from the office tomorrow, and her children hardly deigned to address her as “Mom.”

To mark the lap for her swim, Joan used the channel buoy and the buoy where the Cartwrights moored their boat, once Russell came up for his week and got it out of storage. Until then, she had a big orange marker visible from halfway across the bay, if she should ever drift that far. While swimming, she would see it at the top of vigorous strokes and pull harder on the left, to keep her in water over her head and on a line back toward their beach. Today, instead of veering back to the dock, she rolled into a sidestroke and went around the channel marker, scissor kicking until her toes brushed rocks and she could walk the rest of the way.
Andie was waiting for her at the ladder. “I thought you didn’t like swimming when it’s windy.”
“I need the exercise. Martha isn’t coming up till next week, so no tennis.”
“You ought to swim into the wind first, so you get the hard part done before you’re tired.”
“I don’t go that far.”
Andie stood up so her mother could climb the ladder to the dock. Joan got a towel out of the bin she kept there—it was windy, enough that she hadn’t trusted the towel to be on the dock when she got back—and patted herself down. She was warm enough from the swim, but there was no reason to leave a trail of puddles through the house.
“You had a phone call,” Andie said when Joan slung the towel over her shoulder.
“Is your dad on his way?”
 “It was your half-brother. You didn’t say he was coming.”
“Simon? He wasn’t sure of his plans. I should call him back.”
“He’s on the train. I wrote the stuff down.”
“He’s on his way? He’s coming?”
Andie was already on the path. Her abruptness could be due to being forced to take a phone message rather than any sentiment about the impending visit.
Joan mentally inventoried the pantry as she walked. There was no tonic, and Kevin wouldn’t want to start his weekend with the mojitos she’d switched to when Heather Davis brought over the seltzer maker. The chicken she’d gotten out to grill could be stretched to five, likewise the veggies and corn. Was Simon still vegetarian? She thought not, but he’d always managed in those days, even with their steak-and-potatoes father dictating the menu. Breakfast she hadn’t begun to assemble, nor a guest room. She picked up the pace. If she was lucky, she could fit in a trip to the store on the way to the train station. 
She made the shower quick—add shower gel to the shopping list—and pulled on jeans and a flannel shirt. She left her hair damp and met Kevin halfway up the stairs.
“We’re out of tonic.” He pecked her on the cheek. “You’re dressed like you’re going hunting with Simon, not picking him up.”
“Did you talk to him? Andie said he left a message.”
“Typical. Do you want me to get the tonic? If Davis is around, we could hit them up—you don’t have to go all the way to town.”
“She brought me one of those carbonating things. We’ve been having mojitos.”
“Aren’t they rum? Sure, what’s vacation for? A little walk on the wild side.” He ruffled her wet hair. “I’m going to take a quick swim and wash the road off, unless you need help. I’d let your brother deal with the bed in the guest room, though—the wages of short notice.”
“It’s windy,” she told his back.

Joan set a tray of drinks on the coffee table, untangled the throw blankets on the sofa, and moved them into a chest that doubled as a footstool for the club chair by the fireplace. Andie came in, followed by Kevin, already in khakis and polo, his weekend uniform.
He mock-punched Andie’s shoulder. “I’m not going to ask you about college essays because it’s vacation.”
Andie rolled her eyes. “I told Blake he had to come back for dinner since we have company,” she told Joan. “They’re all at the Morgans.”
Kevin took a sip and swirled his glass. “There are leaves in this drink. Eat them? Fish them out?”
“It’s mint.”
“Next you’ll want to take salsa lessons. So your brother really is on his way—from Iowa? Idaho?”
“You forgot Illinois or Indiana,” Andie said.
“Feierhauser said he went heli skiing last winter, but I thought that was in Banff.”
“Which is in Canada.”
“That’s enough, young lady.” Kevin swallowed the cocktail.
The front door banged shut. Blake shouted some greeting and pounded up the stairs.
“Don’t slam the door,” Joan said reflexively as she went back to the kitchen, Andie trailing behind her. When Joan set the pitcher in the sink, Andie washed it and the glasses left over from the afternoon without being asked.
Andie’s circle of summer friends had grown smaller and smaller, or the gaggle of girls hanging around town had grown more noticeable. She spent less time than ever at the public beach and rarely went out in the evenings, even to the other houses on the inlet. Joan needed down time just thinking about Andie’s school schedule, so she didn’t want to press the issue too hard, but the covers on the novels got more lurid as her daughter withdrew.
She looked at the clock. No point in starting charcoal until they knew the train had arrived.
“I don’t see what’s so hard to remember about Montana,” Andie said while she put dishes away.
“Your dad has a lot on his mind.”
“He has all the same stuff on his mind. He can’t get anything else into his mind.” Andie shoved the dishtowel through the loop on which it hung. “If it’s not a bank job or an Ivy League college, he doesn’t know what to do with it.”
Joan watched her vacationing daughter clean the kitchen. Had she also expected Andie to work on college essays while they were here? “What are you thinking about colleges these days?”
“Sorry, but it’s not going to be Princeton.” Andie kept her back to her mother.
“Simon went to college in Montana,” Joan said. “He said it was the only way to make sure he didn’t end up in law school, but I think he knew already that he wanted to be a biologist.”
“I have no idea what I want to do.”
Joan got down her keys from the hook by the back door. “Pick up some shower gel and breakfast rolls at the market. You ought to have enough time before the train arrives. Or you can wait and take Simon—I have no idea what he’ll want for breakfast.”
“You want me to get him?”
Sometimes, Joan thought, it was a question of knowing what you didn’t want. “This way I can get to work on dinner. If you want to give him the tour on the way back, there’s plenty of time.”
“I ought to change.” Andie said thoughtfully.
Joan watched her freshly lanky daughter head for the stairs. She’d never be curvy like the other bikini girls. But there were plenty of things she didn’t have to be.

* * * * *

Ann Marie Gamble is an editor of short pieces at an advertising agency and long works for university presses, and she has previously published at, Devilfish Review, and other venues.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Artist As Bear

by Jane Yolen

In the softness of the year,
she follows green trails.
Stands by the rush of river
drags silver fish into her mouth.
Summer berries spurt
between her long teeth.
Wind tickles her back.
She meets with other bears
in warning and worry.

In the harshness of the year
she travels in dreams,
cave her curtain.
She feasts on her own belly,
gives birth to herself,
nurses without thought.
Dark contains her,
sustains her, keeps her safe.
She slims down to the real,
finds meaning in night.

Bear knows: to journey out,
she must first journey in.
An old story, but a true one.

* * * * *

Jane Yolen, author of 360+ books (actual number) including 8 books of adult poetry. Much of her work is for young readers, but she has a number of novels, essay collections, and pedagogical books for adult as well.