Friday 31 August 2018

Letting Go

by Joneve McCormick

Out of the cave I called my home,
beyond the mere life of this body
the universe is disrobed.
There is no place now to fall,
no desire to shrink.

I see myself burrow into earth,
hover over the sun
or walk down a street —
I can see everything I’ve done,
pretending many roles.
I can transform into a living cross
or a mummy wrapped in white
spiraling in space
if I choose,
as I’ve chosen before.

Beyond this mere life
I’ve traveled many roads
in the all-seeing eye
creating the world;
I was with Homer and Aesop,
in the water Christ walks on,
in hurricanes and harvests.

Don’t say it cannot be,
that these and other things
don’t or didn’t happen;
I know what I know.

And here is my test for truth —
the exact consideration,
and what works:
beyond this body’s walls
where I live
the machinery of bondage
in heaven and on earth
is vanishing.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Orange Cord
(a suicide bomber foresees her death)

by Joneve McCormick

dynamite strapped across her chest
dark hair covered, soft brown eyes,
she steps over raw sewage

cement rocks and broken toys
across fields and into a shop
busy with affluent citizens

her veiled purpose to blow to pieces
those who drove her family
from their land and lives

who degrade without a rest,
stealing mind and body
like vampires feasting

the world watching,
she will not be broken
or pretend to acquiesce to slavery

she will light a fire of hope
with the orange cord held to her heart,
a martyr opening heaven's gates.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Bo go ship uh (I miss you)

by Tanya Ko Hong

I miss you
is not enough

Bo go ship uh
no subject

puffy eyes with red vein
praying before sunlight
putting away a fresh bowl of rice
between blankets to keep warm
waiting contains silence

sorrow could not touch
through DMZ
the divided country

Husband in the North
Wife in the South
Child in her belly

* * * * *

Bo go ship uh (I miss you) was first published in Walt's Corner: The Long-Islander Newspaper in Huntington NY on the occasion of the 30th anniversary for Walt's Corner

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Owl Tales Never Told

by Oonah V. Joslin

Keeky owl
is camouflaged on bark.
He’s cool
collected, unimpaired by dark.
He watches,
listens with his radar face.
Heart of the moon,
with devastating grace.
He always knows
whoo’s who, what’s where,
he swoops
and springs to catch prey
rats, mice, voles,
anything that hides away
in holes.
He’s versatile. He hunts both day
and night.
He never tells the things he sees.
He’s learned
to be majestic as the trees,
cute as survival,
swift and cold as a midnight breeze.

* * * * *

Oonah Joslin is poetry editor at The Linnet’s Wings. She has won prizes for both poetry and micro-fiction. Her book Three Pounds of Cells ISBN: 13: 978-1535486491 is available online from Linnet’s Wings Press and you can see and hear Oonah read in this National Trust video. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam is serialised at Bewildering Stories, along with a large body of her work (see Bibliography). You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at Parallel Oonahverse

Monday 27 August 2018


by Oonah V. Joslin

I wish I could find that place of joy
whelmed in my reservoir of tears.
Sometimes when the sun shines
and the perfect rainbow almost forms,
when birds sing out spring greenery,
when the path turns to expansive scenery
or music soars or water pours
over the rock-face or skips over stones
into the basin of my heart
I see it, feel it, not quite near enough
to yearn for.

* * * * *

Oonah Joslin is poetry editor at The Linnet’s Wings. She has won prizes for both poetry and micro-fiction. Her book Three Pounds of Cells ISBN: 13: 978-1535486491 is available online from Linnet’s Wings Press and you can see and hear Oonah read in this National Trust video. The first part of her novella A Genie in a Jam is serialised at Bewildering Stories, along with a large body of her work (see Bibliography). You can follow Oonah on Facebook or at Parallel Oonahverse

Sunday 26 August 2018

The twenty-seventh Moon Prize on today's full moon goes to Ariana D. Den Bleyker's poem "My Teenage Son Tells Me There’s No Such Thing as Love (or Maybe It’s Just Overrated)."

My Teenage Son Tells Me There’s No Such Thing as Love
(or Maybe It’s Just Overrated)

by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

You know what’s interesting? he says.
You can run your finger through fire
without getting burned but never water

without getting wet. He seeks elements,
symbols, milestones, how to read
smoke signals & flight patterns,

things reaching from the distance.
There are many miles between
flying birds & the ladder he’s descending—

the window I lean from is beyond
what can be seen or reached
without falling forward. He stands

where the landscape ends—
suspended, risen as angel, lofty as star—
levitating, longing. He hovers

above the birds. I fear
dead weight & scattered nest.
I’m slightly above what ripens & falls

in an orchard engulfed by fire.
He’s what burns, slowly dwindling,
feeling thirsty, squeezing his heart

out for what falls away.
I want the man who slides out
from beneath my wings to journey

onward. He says, And what if the poem
about making love isn’t about love,
what if it’s about fucking? If it felt like love,

it was, I say. It’s whatever it wants to be—
sex, love, lust, deliverance.
Love: this territory with no harbor,

no stopping, body with virgin heart.
The blue flesh of sky opens
its mouth for him to hide his grenade.

I tell him to pull the pin—
keep in mind: we all fall once.

* * * * *

"My Teenage Son Tells Me There’s No Such Thing as Love (or Maybe It’s Just Overrated)" is from Ariana D. Den Bleyker's chapbook manuscript Confessions of a Mother Hovering in the Space Where Birds Collide with Windows.

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, fifteen chapbooks, a novelette, an experimental memoir, and two crime novellas. She hopes you'll fall in love with her words.

Saturday 25 August 2018

Deus Sex Machina

by Betsy Mars

You turn her on to turn you on.
Adjust her chin, select her lips
for the most seductive pout.
Large eyes downcast or direct,
noses in harmonious variations.

Her Scottish lilt, with just the right degree
of demure sophistication.
31 faces guaranteed to ease
any lingering trepidation.

She’s oiled like a fine machine
to owner specifications –
use a condom to keep her clean
from any bodily secretions.

Titillating, sparkling wit, scripted to arouse;
14 kinds of labia your erection to house;
perky breasts or pendulous, a number of selections
of body types to choose for mix and match perfection.

You’ll give lip service to her lip service, verbal
strokes to her smooth stroke – she’s gripping
as you slip into the ease with which
there’s no emotional interaction in your action.

No risk of dis-ease or rejection.
No mockery of your cockery
or chance of infection.
Place your order now, satisfaction
guaranteed. You have no skin in this game.

* * * * *

"Deus Sex Machina" was written in response to a news article about a sex robot named Harmony. Here is a link to the article:

Betsy Mars is a southern California poet who is in a perpetual battle with change – finally coming to some kind of a truce, and at times even love and acceptance. She is an educator, mother, animal lover, and over-excited traveler. Her poetry has been published in a number of places, both online and in print, most recently in Sheila-Na-Gig, The Ekphrastic Review, and Red Wolf Journal. Writing has given her a means to explore her preoccupation with mortality and her evolving sense of self.

Friday 24 August 2018

Fresh green flats of fields

by Mary Wescott Riser

Fresh green flats of fields
steal attention from the mountains.
Little Miss Planning and Remembering
is too busy to notice.

The valley ceiling leaden above the winter wheat
until a blast of sun makes it impossible
to notice anything else.

Loose ends of thought
like beetles, scatter.

* * * * *

Mary Wescott Riser worked in Virginia independent schools for 30 years, most recently as Head of School at James River Day School, a K-8 day co-ed day school in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she served as Head for ten years. Mary received her B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Oregon.  She writes the education blog “What’s Best For the Children?” Mary and her husband, George, live in Covesville, Virginia and have two adult children.

Thursday 23 August 2018

White Lady Worries

by Mary Wescott Riser

In the shopping center parking lot
I see two women having a conversation.
One of them is wearing bold, gold shoes.
I can’t stop looking.
I walk past, then turn my head to look back once more.
Now I feel embarrassed. They know I’m looking.
Maybe they think I am condemning, judging, condescending.
So I go back and excuse myself.
I tell them I was admiring the gold shoes.
They relax, and she tells me she found them on sale at Macy’s in Las Vegas.
With their brown skin and her purple hair and piercings,
I wanted them to know I admired the shoes.
I want them to like me.

* * * * *

Mary Wescott Riser worked in Virginia independent schools for 30 years, most recently as Head of School at James River Day School, a K-8 day co-ed day school in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she served as Head for ten years. Mary received her B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Oregon.  She writes the education blog “What’s Best For the Children?” Mary and her husband, George, live in Covesville, Virginia and have two adult children.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Miss Cluny Remembers
by P.A. O’Neil
“Now you sit comfortable-like, Miss Cluny, and talk into this microphone just like you were talking to me,” the smartly dressed young man from Howard University instructed.

I looked at him in disbelief, did he think that, just because I was in my eighties, I was feeble-minded? “I am talking to you.”
“Yes, of course, ma’am. I meant you didn’t have to yell to be heard on the recording.”
I nodded my head, closed my eyes, and let my memory drift back to things and events long since buried.
Autumn had come to the plantation, you know, the time of year when the full moon is so large and bright, the fields can be harvested, as if it were right before supper time instead of time for sleepin’. But there was no moon the night my daddy went away. I’ll always remember the night sky was ever so black, just like the old iron cauldron my mama used to fix our suppers.
There had been a type of excitement in the air that afternoon. All the big folk was hurrying this-ways-and-that, talking in whispers, passing little bundles, which I later learned were food and clothes, to each other.
I was one of the in-betweens, too young and small for working in the fields, too old for being packed around on my mama’s back. Mostly, I just helped with taking care of the little ones, keeping ‘em out of trouble or underfoot of the big folk.
The day was windin’ down and most folks was heading back to their cabins looking forward to a warm supper of boiled greens, hog hocks, and beans. No one wanted to be caught outside after dark, that’s when the Ol’ Hoodoo come ‘round to take you away. I still get the shivers just thinkin’ about it. Mama and the other women had come back to the cabins early, and I, seein’ no reason to stay around to take care of the babies with their mamas there, took off into the woods to play a little before being called to supper.
I didn’t go far into the woods, just far enough so I could hide behind the nut trees so the big folks couldn’t see me, but if I poked my head around, I could see them. Daddy had come in from the field, but instead of washing up like normal, he and some other men gathered to talk. I couldn’t hear what they were sayin’, but I knows it was important, ‘cause he turned back to our place with a look on his face I ain’t never seen before. It was somewhere between the sadness the big folk had when Ol’ Moses died, and the anger I once seen on him when the overseer, Mister Cawl, whipped young Isaac for helpin’ himself to the ripe vegetables in Master’s garden. Soon Mama joined Daddy, her eyes were all red like she had been weeping. He put his arm around her and together they walked back into the cabin.
While I was watchin’ all this, I could feel with my toes the round shells of nuts which had fallen from the trees. Cupping the bottom of my dress, I stooped and started filling it with nuts. I thought if I could bring them to Mama, she wouldn’t be sad no more.
I guess my attention was so focused, I didn’t hear anyone walk up. I was reachin’ for some nuts when I sees a pair of black leather shoes. I looked up to see the soft cotton stockings, a white pinafore of Miss CeCe, the master’s daughter; she was a child like me. I froze in my stooped position looking up at her, but she just smiled wide, her blue eyes twinkling, as she too stooped to the ground and started filling my make-shift basket with nuts.
“Cecelia! Miss Cecelia, where are you?” It was Ol’ Londa, Miss CeCe’s mammy, callin’ for her.
Miss Cece stood up and shrugged. She turned to leave but I called her back, all quiet like. “Here, put some of these nuts in your apron, so as you don’t get in trouble for being out here.”
I placed half my bounty into her make-shift basket, and nodded goodbye. She just smiled and nodded back as she trotted out the other side of the grove.
“There you are, child, why didn’t you come when I called?” Ol’ Londa exclaimed as Miss Cece left the shelter of the nut trees. “What you got there? You been pickin’ up nuts? I declare, your shoes dusty and stockin’s are all snagged.” Her voice grew fainter and fainter as they walked back to the Big House.
“Cluny! Cluny!”
I could hear my daddy callin’, so I balanced my harvest in my dress, using both hands careful like so as not to drop any of the nuts while I walked. I remember I had to walk slow and stooped over so as not to raise my dress higher than was decent. I must’ve looked a sight walking all hunched over, it made my daddy laugh out loud.  I think he had been plannin’ on being mad at me for not being around, but when he saw what I was bringing to the family he just smiled and coached my way to the cabin.
“Careful now, Cluny. You don’t wanna be droppin’ any of your bounty. Makes way, here comes Cluny, an’ she’s got something for us all.”
I know he was probably makin’ fun of me, but I like to think in some small way he was proud of me for trying. At least, that’s the way I want to remember it.
Come night we had a big supper, it included cornbread and honey, just like it was some special occasion. Daddy praised my mamma for her cooking, but she didn’t say much, just set about cleaning up and getting my little sister ready for bed. Daddy sat by the cookin’ fire and hummed a quiet tune and soon it was time for myself to go to bed. Mamma tucked my sister and me into the bed we shared, telling us to go right to sleep.
My mamma never smiled that night. Usually she would tell us to dream of playing in the warm summer days, the sounds of birds singing in the trees, and blessings from the blanket of stars above us, keeping us safe for the night. But that night, there were no blessings, just the command to turn to the wall and go to sleep.
I could hear my parents talking real low and in hushed tones.
“Do you really has to go with the others? Why can’t you jus’ stay here with us?” My mother would plead.
“You know we has to go tonight, Dolly; the moon is right and Cawl been talking for days about how he an’ Master goin’ to town tonight for a meeting. It has to be tonight!” he reaffirmed.
“But Canada, Micah? I don’t even know where that is.”
“Shush now, Dolly, we can’t be lettin’ the girls hear!” His voice was adamant but restrained, “I told you it’s north, that’s all you need to know, it’s north.”
I laid there listening to their conversation, keeping my eyes to the wall. I couldn’t believe my daddy was talking about leaving us. Daddy wouldn’t do somethin’ like that. I looked up at the little piece of sky I could see through the window curtains and silently promised I would be a good girl and not run off to play when I should be workin’, if only my daddy would stay home. The cabin grew silent, and I could see by the shadows from the dying fire, my parents was just standing there holdin’ each other. The silence didn’t last for long, as soon there was a knock.
“Micah, it’s time,” a man’s quiet voice came through the closed door.
“Yeah, I’m comin’,” he replied.
I laid there, quiet like, pretending to be asleep, but I could hear him walking around the room as he gathered his pack of food and extra clothes. His footsteps grew close to our bed as he stopped and sat on the edge. I laid there with my eyes closed, thinking---if I was a good girl, sleeping like I was told---he would change his mind.
“My sweet, sweet, angels,” he whispered. “You take care of your mamma and I promise I will come back and take you to a new home where we all can be free.” He stroked my hair and leaned over to kiss my forehead, then he stood and walked out the door.
My mamma remained by the fireplace, her shadow still cast upon the opposite wall. She never said a word, just stood there. She must have been in a kind of shock, because I remember, as I was silently crying myself to sleep, her lone shadow was the last thing I seen.
I must’ve been crying as I finished my story because the man from Howard reached into his front breast pocket to remove, and offer me his clean pressed handkerchief.
“Thank you, I’ll wash it and get it back you,” was all I could say.

We both sat there in silence for a few moments before he said, with a new sincerity in his voice, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You didn’t child, I just hadn’t thought about what happened that day in … in, well, your lifetime for sure.” I smiled at him, hopin’ my words had lightened the situation, but it only made him more curious.
“I meant, upsetting you about being a slave,” he said in earnest.
His words caught me off guard. I opened my mouth to reply but nothin’ come out. I closed it and turned away, hopin’ not to have looked the fool, and thought about what he had said. How did I feel? How could I make him understand? I turned back to look him in the eye, and with a solemn tone said, “On the day that this all happened, the story I jus’ told you, I wasn’t a slave—I was a child.”
He looked at me, slightly taken aback, “Yes, ma’am, but you were a Negro child on a Maryland plantation, born before 1860.”
“Yes, yes, I was,” I agreed noddin’ my head. “I suppose technically I was, but your question to me was about my recollection of the start of the Civil War, was it not?”
The young man from Howard sat up straight and cleared his throat, “Uh … well, yes, ma’am, but I’m here to talk to you because you are one of the living survivors of the time when we Negroes were slaves.”
I placed my hand, gnarled with arthritis, on his, skin smooth with youth, “Now don’t get me wrong, young man, I am a free woman and very proud of it, but on that day, I was nothin’ more than a child, no different than Miss CeCe was. We both was beholden to the care and generosity of adults for our food and shelter. Neither of us was free to go where we wanted without permission, and if we misbehaved, there was consequences, usually at the end of a strap.
“Now, some might be sayin’ ain’t that what slavery is? And I say, yes, but on that day, it also was what bein’ a child was.”
He nodded his head, seeming to understand what I had said. “Did you ever see your father again?”
“No, never again.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Cluny, but I have to ask, do you know what ever happened to him?”
“I’d like to think he made it to Canada to live as a free man,” I lifted my glasses and wiped my eyes before dabbing my nose, “but it would’ve meant he didn’t mean it when he said he would come back for us.”
“What then do you think really happened?”
“I learned much later, he was right, there was a meeting of the town folk to discuss the start of the war and what the plantation owners should expect. Daddy wasn’t the only man to run away that night, it angered the overseer fiercely when a good portion of the hands didn’t show up the next morning for work. The women folk were questioned and threatened with whippings, or worse yet, being sold off, but none of them said anything. I think they were about to come after us children, but war did indeed come to our county and there was talk soldiers was comin’. I was young, I didn’t really understand ‘til much later.
“There was word about a posse of overseers and bounty hunters out looking right away for the men folk who ran away. Others told me later, a couple of the men drowned in the river as they tried to cross over from Maryland to what is now West Virginia.”
“Do you think your father was one of these men?”
I shook my head from side to side with a measured gait, “I don’t rightly know, but I do know Momma cried every night of her life after Daddy left. I don’t want to think my daddy drowned, but it’s better to think he died trying to reach freedom than thinkin’ he did and deserted us in another country.”
The man from Howard put his hand on my shoulder, “One last question, I promise, what happened to your family, with the war and all, I mean?”
“Mister Cawl and Master both left to join the war leaving their women behind with us folk. Without the threat of penalty, many of the families picked up and left the plantation. If only my father had waited, he could’ve taken all of us with him.
“Instead, a man come by; I didn’t know him, but Mamma did. She said he was her brother, my uncle, who had been sold off to another plantation when they was teens. He had come to get what was left of his family and move us all north”.
I sighed and with a tone of regret finished with, “Sometimes I wonder, if we had stayed behind, at the plantation I mean, Daddy would’ve come back for us, or, if he did indeed come back as promised, just to find we wasn’t there.” I dabbed my eyes again, this time knowing full well the sorrow I was expressin’.
The man from Howard swallowed hard, obviously moved by our discussion. He pulled the microphone closer to his self and said, before turning off his recording machine. “This concludes our interview with Miss Cluny Dafoe, born a slave in western Maryland in the 1850’s, now living in Memphis, Tennessee.”

* * * * *
P.A. O’Neil, spent her early years in southern California before her family moved to a small town in Washington. According to her father, her Mexican and Irish roots qualified for the designation of “Smoked Irish”. Knowledgeable in things urban and rural, young and old, she knows what it means to simultaneously be in both the minority and the majority. She can be reached through her Facebook page: P.A. O’Neil, Storyteller. Her stories have been featured in: Askew Authors’ Anthology Askew Vol. 4 – Communications (October 2017); Relationship Add Vice (Zombie Pirate Publishing, December 2017); Inner Circle Writers’ Group Anthologies Flashpoint (Feb 2018), Storm (Apr 2018), Vortex (May 2018), and Windows (Jun 2018); The Crow Literary Journal (Summer 2018), and on (3 July 2018).

Tuesday 21 August 2018


by Mary O'Melveny

I love you the most of all!
my grandniece said as we splashed
our way around the park pool,
she in her magenta water wings,
me with my blue exercise noodle.
For that moment it was as true
as anything she has ever said.
Her sincerity was as unimpeachable
as a flawless diamond. 
Such love can set a heart aflame
even in the coldest waters.
Tears never spill out
in times of purest belief. 
The day will always end well.

* * * * *

"Declaration of Love" is part of Mary O'Melveny's forthcoming poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age (Finishing Line Press, September 2018).  The poem was first published by Light Poetry Magazine (December 2017). Here is the publisher's link to the forthcoming chapbook: