Saturday, 30 November 2019


No One Remembers the Girl

by Tobi Alfier


For 72 seconds in a long long life she wore
the crown of poppies he placed in her hair
as they danced.

She knew she was only borrowing him,
taking a man that wasn’t hers to take.

He was so in love with her, the smell of her neck,
their lovemaking, even just holding her wrist to his lips—
he did not want to live without her.
She completed him.

She knew she would move on to be that girl—
a scent rarely wakened and never thought of,
growing older, wearing the grace of knowing him
like exquisite embroidery on a somber night’s cloak.


* * * * *

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Both “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” and a reprint of “Sanity Among the Wildflowers” were published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Friday, 29 November 2019


chasing artificial light

by Jill Crainshaw


you sit in the night cafe
sipping lukewarm coffee
from a plain white ceramic mug
a half-eaten slaw mustard and chili
cheeseburger and three fries
on a discarded plate in front of you
i saw you there last night too
and the night before that

a neon sign out front beckons
“always open” except for the “o”
that blinks and blinks trying
to stay awake to the promise

what ambitions do you harbor in
that limbo of artificial light or
are you just one of the many chasing
sleepless daydreams of an illuminated life
forgetful that dreams that come true
are nocturnal pollinators
drawn to blossoms
that reveal their mysteries only
to a midnight moon


* * * * *

A word about the poem (written September 2019):  Artificial light has been in the news in recent days alongside Greta Thunberg and her bold words about the climate crisis. Several articles last week explored how artificial light and light pollution are affecting the earth and our future (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/09/light-pollution-destroying-environment/598561/). I happen to be reading Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries these days, and in G Is for Gumshoe (1990), Grafton’s main character describes her experience in a nursing home by asking “what ambitions” can people harbor in that “limbo of artificial light”? The question has stayed with me as I have thought this week about the climate crisis and about light pollution. Grafton’s description also makes me think about the artificial light that persists through the actions of many U.S. leaders, an artificial light that threatens the future of our country. I long for authenticity and dreams that light up the night. 


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.


Thursday, 28 November 2019


Thanksgiving Day Stands Alone with Me in the Kitchen

by Ariana D. Den Bleyker


I.

The way my grandmother pronounced tacchino,
I imagined it bambino, cheeks red
from bearing down hard, or a paper lantern, or

a piece of jewelry tucked away, the pearls strangely gleaming—
bambina—part jewel—a hybrid star punched out
of a puzzle looking to find me in a girl’s creative universe,

little, or a princess in disguise—all shimmer.
We won’t forget the bambina, bambina, bambina, dismissed
from the kitchen, supper—twirling, twirling

as the ballerina I knew I was because of tacchino
suddenly uttered like a magic word.
Though I grew taller & stronger, budding fruit

just waiting for the sun to breathe itself into me,
I never wanted to be a woman—
more importantly—one of these women

holding moss covered stones, ancient wells, trailing vines
entangled in their eyes—their treasures concealed
in canyons where I’d float on their pale hazel-blue waves

or fully immerse myself there, could submerge
myself as the beloved or that vivid hope, molten,
hardened around my youth—

2.

While at the counter preparing Thanksgiving dinner,
these two women speak to me.
I imagine them walking down rocky paths toward me,

strong Italian women returning from fields, graceful women
carrying baskets of figs. What I know
of these women, I know from only what I see, photographs

of San Angelo, of my mother’s childhood stories—
most of them from watching my mother, my grandmother,
her strong arms lifting sheets out of cold water
or from the way she stepped back, wiping her hand
on her apron, her jars of roasted red peppers
suspended in olive oil. I saw who I’d become

in these women as they worked,
matriarchs grinning & happy in fields
spilling their bounty into their arms, giving away

baskets of eggplants, loaves of bread. I see them
in my daughter, the same unending energy,
quick mind, that hand, open & extended to the world.

When I clean the kitchen counter, I turn, laughing
at my daughter, I remember the last time
I said goodbye to my grandmother as my daughter turns

to me now, as I turn & I see my grandmother walking
toward us, through the fields,
behind her hundreds of girls dressed in black.


* * * * *

Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley where she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and every once in a while sleeps. She is the author of three collections, sixteen chapbooks, a novelette, an experimental memoir, and three crime novellas. She hopes you'll fall in love with her words.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019


Leda #MeToo

by Grace Richards


The poets, in their propaganda,
like to dance around the themes of fate
and free will. Ovid and Yeats describe
me as a beautiful young girl, specially
chosen by Zeus, yet unappreciative
and probably ignorant of the fact.
My fate was to be born a woman.
Against God’s will, I don’t stand a chance.
I am staggering and helpless, unable
to push away the swift, cocksure fowl
with my vague, terrified fingers.

I am surprised by the sudden blow,
the swan’s great wings beating still,
as it catches my neck in its sharp beak,
as it lays me out on the damp, fertile ground,
as it presses its bony avian body close
against the softness of my throat and breasts,
that I might feel its strange heart beating
where we lie. Its dark webbed feet part
my unwilling thighs. With hard insistence,
it violates and impregnates me
with wild, Olympian seed.

When it’s over:

I am bloody and bruised, my dress smeared
with green algae drooled from its mouth.
I am unimpressed by the feathered glory
of this god in disguise,
by the deception
and artifice he undertakes
for the act of rape.
The poets say
I was mastered by this brute blood of the air,
but I was there,
and that is only their delusion.


* * * * *

Italicized phrases are quoted from “Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats, 1924.

Grace Richards has worked in the TV and film industry in Los Angeles and taught ESL at the college level in Southern California and at the University of Oregon. During the last few most dramatic years, she has found her poetic voice. Her work has been published by SettingForth.org, Herstryblog.com, Willawaw Journal, and in the anthology Poems on Poems and Poets (Setting Forth Press, 2016). Her first chapbook, Mid-Century Modern and Other Poems, was published in September 2019 by Dancing Girl Press (available for purchase from www.dancinggirlpress.com and from the author).


Tuesday, 26 November 2019


Believing  

by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad


seated at the old Bechstein,
I play Louis Armstrong
amidst the mess hall clatter
of cups and spoons
tantrums and moans,
humming in my head -
‍‍‍trees of green,
red roses too,
I see them bloom,
for me and you.

she steals up behind me,
a living husk
her mind long bleached,
gathering the bulk of my hair
in a coal knot
clenched in a manacled grip
against her breast.

perhaps my mane sparks
a ruptured memory
of something pleasant,
her laughter like a xylophone,
is peppered with mumbling,
slowly dissolving to sniffles.

a carer runs up, apologising,
loosening her fingers
gently freeing my hair,
as the tension in my scalp subsides
the barks and groans grow loud
the room slumping on my shoulders
leaden and godless,
and I keep playing, believing,
Yes I think to myself
What a wonderful world.


* * * * *

 “Believing” is based on the author's experience as a volunteer pianist in a home for the elderly.

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney based artist, poet, and pianist. She holds a Masters in English and is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. Her recent works have been published in Red Eft Review, Glass Poetry Journal’s Poets Resist, Eunoia Review, Underwood Press’ Rue Scribe, The Maier Museum of Art’s Journal of Ekphrastic Poetry, Plum Tree Tavern, and The Rye Whiskey Review. She has poems forthcoming in the Rat’s Ass Review. Oormila regularly performs her poetry and exhibits her art at shows in Sydney.

Monday, 25 November 2019


Tryst

by Sheree La Puma



                                                At 57, she opened the door
                                                To an eagle,
                                                Cupbearer to the Gods,
                                                A boyish beauty.
                                                Without regret they frolicked
                                                Throughout the kitchen, among
                                                The copper cookware, baskets of
                                                Oranges and green plums.
                                                The scent of lilac
                                                On the counter,
                                                Composing together,
                                                A dance of triumph,
                                                Legs entangled as they sang
                                                “Oh ecstasy, oh lover of mine.”
                                                Forgetting for an hour
                                                The holes
                                                In the fisherman’s net.
                                                “Love hath reason, reason none”
                                                And they clenched
                                                Each other
                                                Savoring the intensity
                                                As if it
                                                Was the end,
                                                Knowing her husband
                                                Was due back
                                                Soon.


* * * * *

"Tryst" was originally published in MadSwirl. 

Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in Juxtaprose, Heron River Review, The Ruumpus, and The London Reader among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members. www.shereewrites.com
                                               

Sunday, 24 November 2019

LONE WOMAN LEGEND

by Joanna M. Weston


she lives on the edge of a frozen river
listens for the crack of ice breaking
waits for the loon to call

she hears behind the quiet
the whisper of a long-gone voice
that threaded the tundra with music
until white merged with white
and harmony lisped into fog

coyotes sing through memory
but a howling rings in her ears
and her nightmare wanderings
she cannot recapture the words
that once held her body

she leans over fractured ice
to watch the face that peers at her
from below the darkening surface


* * * * *

Joanna M. Weston. Canada. Has one cat, multiple spiders, a herd of deer, and two derelict hen-houses. Her middle-reader, Frame and The McGuire, published by Tradewind Books 2015; and poetry, A Bedroom of Searchlights, published by Inanna Publications, 2016. Other books listed at her blog: http://www.1960willowtree.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 23 November 2019


FROM MOTHER

by Joanna M. Weston


I fell
from the open womb
of her body

and bled
my own children
into the future

to find
my own bleeding
an unhealed

stream linked
to all the women
I have known



* * * * *

Joanna M. Weston. Canada. Has one cat, multiple spiders, a herd of deer, and two derelict hen-houses. Her middle-reader, Frame and The McGuire, published by Tradewind Books 2015; and poetry, A Bedroom of Searchlights, published by Inanna Publications, 2016. Other books listed at her blog: http://www.1960willowtree.wordpress.com/


Friday, 22 November 2019


To the Boy in My Poetry Class: I’m Writing This for You

by Gracie Phillips


You made me promise to write a short poem just for you
and here it is, limited in its beauty,
because even though I have so many things to say,
I keep myself in check,
tongue in cheek as I grin and silently hope you aren’t pissed
when I let you read this
if I let you read this –
something tells me it will be more fun to dangle this out of your reach,
and let you wonder what I say when I write about you.
I assure you,
there’s a longer draft of this poem lost to time,
a novel’s worth of words I wanted to say but didn’t,
because I swore I’d keep this short.
I keep this poem short like my temper,
when a boy from my poetry class tells me
he didn’t like my poem not for content,
but because it was too long for him to read.
Let me tell you something,
I write long poems because I have so goddamn much to say.
I don’t need you to read it,
I certainly don’t need you to listen.
My poems are long and lilting, they can’t fit down narrow-minded roads.
So even though there’s more I’d like to say,
And lots more I’d like to say to you,
I keep this short, limited, passive, because
I promised the boy in my poetry class
I’d write this one for him.


* * * * *

Gracie Phillips is an emerging poet from Indiana. She has been published in Belle Ombre. She works as the editor-in-chief for her college’s student newspaper as well as the college’s literary magazine, Kennings


Thursday, 21 November 2019


Widow

by Jann Everard


You would be surprised to know
how crowded it is.
That tucked up beside me on the mattress is
a younger me, a younger you.

I throw my leg over the bunched-up duvet
as if it is your thigh,
snake my hand across the sheets
of your skin,
kiss the pillow of
your warmdry lips.

Photos that speak the truth do not shroud
my memories of your body
spread-eagled, sweat-dewed,
ruby glans glinting against the warm white sheet.

I fall asleep with my hand, as your hand,
on my left breast.
Exhaling your name with each breath
And wake in the concave emptiness
of your side of the bed.



* * * * *

Jann Everard's short fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in journals in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. She was the winner of The Malahat Review's 2018 Open Season award for fiction. She divides her time between Toronto and Vancouver Island.



Wednesday, 20 November 2019


The Poem I Am Trying to Write

by Kara Knickerbocker


born on a napkin in Hathaway’s Diner, baptized with black coffee,
it crawls slowly across hotel paper on a cold Cincinnati morning,
then gathers strength on a Greyhound bus, northbound for another city I’ve already forgotten.

It’s getting restless in the window seat, looking out at cornfields stretching route 71.
And I’m carrying this poem in my arms, cautiously like I would a newborn child
across white dotted lines, moonless nights and into another state. 

But the poem starts crying and I’m trying to figure out what it needs
putting the pen to hungry paper like a bottle and now it is screaming
a silenced white so I’m suffocating it against my breast, in my zipped jacket.

I’m holding this poem like my breath in folded prayer in a church pew next to my parents and I’m spoon feeding it with all the words I know and don’t know.
Say something or shut up! I want to scream at the poem,

but it’s no use so I swallow the poem whole until it kicks angrily against my belly
until I deliver it again. This time the poem doesn’t crawl, or cry, but it blinks and it stands.
And it turns and walks away from me.


* * * * *

Kara Knickerbocker is a poet and writer from Pennsylvania and the author of The Shedding Before the Swell (Dancing Girl Press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her most recent poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in print and online publications including: Cabildo Quarterly, The Laurel Review, and the anthology Voices from the Attic Vol XXII. She lives in Pittsburgh where she works at Carnegie Mellon University, writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curates the MadFridays Reading Series.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019


Surrounded By What Bleeds

by Kara Knickerbocker


When Ryan shot his first deer, my father hung it by its hooves from the rafters in the basement, taught him how to gut it. The scarlet river coursed out of its open body, onto the cement floor until my dad hosed it down the drain. The shock of it swinging is still enough to drown me. 

*

My mother bought me a red necklace when I was thirteen. A gift to welcome me to womanhood. She said she thought the color was appropriate. She came home, armed with boxes of pads of varying thickness, ones with and without wings. I wanted to use them to fly to some other body where I didn’t feel this slickness between my legs. Didn’t have crimson stains in my underwear, wet in that dizzying and unfamiliar smell.  

*

There is a name for how I got the mark above my left eye. Excoriation. I have squeezed, popped, ripped open every part of me. Scratched until my t-shirts were splotched and my fingertips tinted that red-orange. I expected the bleeding would happen; picked at scabs so much that the white scars are reminders of everything that has hurt me. I wear them like I chose them for this body. Nobody tells you about the itch of healing.

*

In the backyard my niece mixes blues, yellows, and reds under a Florida sun. A streak here, a great blob there. They drip drop down the canvas, splatter the blades of grass below.  She watches it happen, and then pulls her hand back too quickly. The bright cruel cut curves into a smile. The paper wears her shade of lifeblood red. Not even three years old, she is already learning to not trust what is safe, that even the prettiest colors can bleed.


* * * * *

Kara Knickerbocker is a poet and writer from Pennsylvania and the author of The Shedding Before the Swell (Dancing Girl Press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her most recent poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in print and online publications including: Cabildo Quarterly, The Laurel Review, and the anthology Voices from the Attic Vol XXII. She lives in Pittsburgh where she works at Carnegie Mellon University, writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curates the MadFridays Reading Series.

Monday, 18 November 2019


Things We Do to People and Dogs

by Elise Stuart


Why do we
collar
cage
handcuff
straitjacket
sterilize
shock
lynch
castrate
torture?
It starts with the great worthlessness,
not knowing our own light,
then keeping others in the dark
so they won’t find out how weak,
how afraid . . .
It comes from believing
we are not connected.
Cruelty
feeds the insanity.
Fear
poisons the blood.
Cut their hair off
Cut their tails off
control
punish
dominate
break . . .
This feeds the lie that
we are enemies
not brothers.
We unravel
that rope of hate
each time
we break down a door
to speak our truth.


* * * * *

Elise Stuart is a poet and short story writer. After leaving Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Stamford, Connecticut behind, she was drawn and held by New Mexico’s brilliant light and blue skies.  Passionate about giving voice to young people, she works with youth in the area, giving poetry workshops, a project she began when she was Poet Laureate of Silver City. When she is not teaching piano, dancing, or hiking with her dog, Tom├ís, she is at work on a new book of poetry.

Sunday, 17 November 2019


Trader Joe's, on a Sunday

by Jennifer Donnell


He was in the produce aisle and I was picking out a cucumber,
(the biggest one, of course).
He had brown hair and muscles, the things I used to look for.

And,

I could have stood there like product placement and hoped 
we'd bump carts, then bond over a love 
of organic berries and fancy trail mix.

Maybe I'd consent to an impromptu romp
and he'd drive me away in the grown-up blue sports car
(azure?) I saw him drive in on,
then I'd do him in the front seat
overlooking the Pacific,
free.

But, no. 

Instead, I hightailed it over to the frozen food aisle
to fish out our dinner, tacos with tartar sauce and shredded cabbage.
I came home, cooked and did the dishes… while you napped,
then woke, ate, and read our sons a classic about a wolf
dressed up in someone else's clothing.

Sometimes you're that wolf,
such big eyes.

When you think I'm not looking, I always am.
Do you ever stop to contemplate how they feel
as someone's mother, sister, daughter?
Do they see you with the kids and I
and wonder why you don't love us enough to look away.
Do they use it as a cautionary tale about the kind of guy they don't want,
who fantasizes about fucking them as I hold his hand.

You say it's like nicotine, your best analogy as a non-smoker.
The kind of hit that is hard to live without and isn't it human nature,
you ponder.

I ponder our lives.

Will you check out the bridesmaid at our wedding?
(No, gross.)
What about the waitress at the cake table?
What about other women in bikinis on our honeymoon?
What about our son's girlfriends?
What about your next sexy coworker?
What about when I'm 45 and they're 25.
What about nurses in our eventual nursing home?

How about yourself in the mirror?

He was in the produce aisle and I ignored him.
He went home to his wife and held and kissed her, grateful.
I went home and cried about all the woman you look at
during the three second rule. 


* * * * *

"Trader Joe's, on a Sunday" was first posted on Fictionaut.

Jennifer Donnell is a writer and poet from Southern California. 
She loves being outside, dogs and people who spill the beans. 
She tries to not to be one of those people who texts at dinner and isn’t sure how decaf coffee wakes her up. 
Check out more of her writing by connecting with her on Facebook.