Sunday 30 September 2018

A New Day

by deb y felio

Clean out the closets that store the old hates
Clean out the drawers of reprobates
Clean out the attic - the stale thoughts and dust
Clean out the dark basement of revenge and lust.

Clean out the spaces that too long have held
injustice and injury - evils thinly veiled.
They’ve been there for years, throw them out the door,
Whatever are you keeping them for?

Open the windows, let the fresh air
Bring in hope, kick out the despair.
Open the drapes and bring in the light,
Feel the sun’s warmth after a very cold night.

It’s a new day - the morning after
It’s time once again to bring in the laughter
Bring in the music, bring in the song
Bring in the courage that’s brought us along.

Bring in the joy with true gratitude
Bring in a world through grace freshly viewed
Bring in the neighbor, bring in the friend
Bring in the stranger, a hand to extend.

The wars may continue, but just for this moment
Let us rejoice and believe that we own it.
Despite difficult times of war and strife
We celebrate today - this most blessed life!

Saturday 29 September 2018

The Call
A Personal Essay
by Lynne Weiss

Shortly before my son began his first semester of college in New York City in 2011, we used our family cell phone plan to get our first smart phones. We tend to be late adopters, but at that point, smart phones were still enough of a luxury item that signs in the Boston subway system warned people to keep their smart phones concealed to avoid having them grabbed when trains pulled into a station.
Our son—our only child—kept in close touch after he left for college. He knew how much we missed him! Even so, I was pleasantly surprised to get a call one sunny afternoon several weeks into his first semester as I walked from the subway to my house.
“Guess where I am?”
Of course I had no idea. I was getting used to having no idea where he was, because he was away at college now, living in another city. And of course he didn’t really want me to guess. He wanted to tell me that he was on his way to visit my grandparents’ graves in Queens.
I had only been to my grandparents’ graves twice myself, and while I knew the name of the cemetery where they were buried, I didn’t know exactly where it was. My father’s parents had grown up in Queens, but my father grew up further out on Long Island. I myself had grown up in a number of places, none of them near New York City.
Another thing: my grandparents were Jewish, and while my father was raised in Judaism, his family was minimally observant, and he had converted to Christianity and married my mother, a Protestant farm girl from Maine, shortly after he turned 21. I was raised Protestant, though I’d often observed certain Jewish holidays—especially Rosh Hashanah and Passover—with friends. I’d taken my son to many of these events as he was growing up, and so I was delighted that he had decided to take a Jewish Studies course during his first semester of college.
On the phone that day, he explained that he was going to the Jewish cemetery as part of a project for that class. He had taken a subway to the end of the line and then caught a bus and he was now walking from where he’d gotten off the bus to the cemetery.
“The neighborhood sure has changed,” he remarked. “Here I am, walking to a Jewish cemetery, and I haven’t seen a single white person since I got off the bus.”
I was about to remark that this transition was similar to what had happened in Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood, when I heard a sort of a thump, and a shout, and the sound of running on the phone.
“Russell?” I called into the phone. “Russell?” I called again, but there was no answer. I shouted into the phone over and over, until suddenly the phone went dead, and the sunny October day seemed to flatten and warp as I realized I had just heard my son being mugged. Shaking and disoriented, I called my husband in his office. “Find the number of the Montefiore Cemetery office on your computer while I call the NYPD,” I said, but the police dispatcher asked me a lot of questions I couldn’t answer. I knew the name of the cemetery, but I didn’t know how many entrances there were, or what street my son was walking on when he was mugged. All I knew was what I had heard—the thump, the sound of running feet, the yelling—and what I feared—that my son was lying broken and bleeding on an unknown street and I could do nothing to help him.
My husband called back. “The office is about to close,” he said. “The guy working there walked out to the entrance but he said he didn’t see anything.”
“Oh, god,” I said, and found the cemetery on a map of Queens. I imagined driving down to Queens that afternoon with my husband, prowling the cemetery’s perimeter, searching for our son.
And then—about an hour after the mugging, my phone rang. The caller ID said Queens NY. I answered, and was relieved to hear Russell’s voice.
“I’m fine,” he said, and he told me that indeed a “kid,” just one kid, had run past him and grabbed his phone.
“I learned that it’s stupid to walk down the street talking on an iPhone,” he said, and then told me that he had chased the mugger for about a mile. “I think he was about 14 or 15,” he said from his advanced perspective of 19 (he had taken a gap year before starting college).
His tone implied that anyone that young was likely to be harmless, but I was thinking about guns. He went on to say that he couldn’t talk at length because he was calling me on the phone a “nice man” who was standing at the bus stop had allowed him to use so he could call me and tell me he was okay—he knew I would be worried—and said he would call me again when he was back in his dorm room in Manhattan.
An hour of hell, but there was a happy ending. Or so I thought. Little did I know that my son had recently read a Facebook post about a guy who invited his young mugger to have dinner with him and got the return of his wallet, and even more important, the satisfaction of making a human connection. So I was stunned when he called again and told me that thanks to Find My Phone on his laptop, he could see what building his phone was in. He said he was going to go to that building to try to talk to his mugger and buy his phone back.
“No,” I said. “Not a good idea.”
“How are we ever going to overcome racism if we don’t break out of our stereotypical ways of responding to these types of events?” he asked, and told me about the article, which described a social worker taking a young mugger out to dinner in a local diner and then pointing out, when the check comes, that he has no money to pay the bill because the mugger has his wallet. “I think this kid mugging me was his way of trying to make a human connection,” he said. I silently cursed all the idealistic books we’d read to him, all the MLK Day observances we’d attended, all the marches we’d marched, and all the earnest discussions about principles and justice, but what I said was that while the article was inspiring, there was a difference between a social worker in his thirties in his own neighborhood and a nineteen-year-old in an unfamiliar neighborhood in an unfamiliar city.
“Obviously, the kid needs money,” he argued. “It would be easier for me to give him the money he wants, and get my phone back than for me to have to get a new phone and import all my contacts.”
We argued about whether or not he should go back to Queens until I said, “If you insist on going, I’ll go with you.” I hoped that the prospect of being accompanied by his mother would deter him, but it did not.
“That would be great!” he said brightly.
I did not look forward to a trip on the cheap bus and a potentially dangerous trek out to Queens, but I got him to promise he would do nothing until we spoke again.
Later that night, as I contemplated bus schedules on my computer, my cell phone buzzed and I saw Queens NY on the caller ID. It was the same ID I’d seen when Russell called to tell me he was okay, so when the man on the other end said, “Sorry, I must have the wrong number,” I quickly said, “I think you loaned your phone to my son after he was mugged so he could call me. Thanks for doing that.”
The man sounded confused for a moment, and then he said, “Oh, right. The kid from Boston.” He asked me if I was in Boston and I said I was, and then he told me he had gone to Boston College for a year and hated it. “Boston’s a really racist city,” he said, and told me about being followed and harassed. I said I was sorry those things had happened to him, and stopped myself from saying I hoped things had changed. They had and they hadn’t.
I told him about my son’s plan to try to find his mugger and buy his phone.
“Your son chased that kid,” he said, and even though I couldn’t see him, I sensed him shaking his head as though to say, ‘what a fool.’ “He doesn’t belong in this neighborhood,” he said. “Tell him not to come back.”
I thanked him for his advice, and we hung up, and when I spoke to my son later, I told him what the man had said.
“Yeah,” he said, “I know,” and then he said he’d told some of his classmates about the mugging. “One of my friends is from that part of Queens, and she told me I shouldn’t be walking around there, either.” He said she told him that the next time he wanted to visit his grandparents’ graves he should tell her, and she would pick him up at the subway and drive him to the cemetery. Then he added that the SIM card must have been removed from the phone because it wasn’t showing up on Find My Phone anymore. There was a note of defeat in his voice. Contrary to what he hoped, the kid who had taken his phone didn’t want to have dinner or break down stereotypes, at least, not that week, but I’m grateful to a black man who loaned his phone to a white boy so he could let his worried mom know that he was okay, and who took the time to offer his advice, even if to him I was only a wrong number.

* * * * *

Lynne Weiss writes and edits high school history and social science materials for the educational publishing industry. She lives outside Boston where she does her part to advance and protect civil liberties and respect for all peoples as a Quaker and a community activist. She loves local theater, music, and art, whether in the Boston area or while traveling to other places. She earned her MFA from UMass Amherst and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals and sites, including Black Warrior ReviewChange SevenThe Common, PANKPloughshares, and Wild Musette. She has won residencies and awards from various organizations, including Glimmer Train, Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Millay Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo.

Friday 28 September 2018

Of Equinoxes

by Oonah V Joslin

Today they say dark and light are equal.
Don’t give me that crap!
Dark moving towards prolonged light is just the prequel
to bright summer but
dark with dwindling light is a very different tale

fat men in red suits
white stuff falling through cold skies
stews and soups
citrus and dried fruits
parents telling comfortable lies

everyone knows
how equinoctial wind blows
the last soft petal from the dying rose. Thief!
So dark and light are equal eh?
Tell it to the falling leaf.

* * * * *

Oonah V 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

Thursday 27 September 2018

Dear girl I used to be

by Shannon Phillips

Your parents thought nothing
of it that you wanted
to write.

They weren’t resigned:
Fine, write.
Never expressed their relief—
she’s quiet, occupied.
Their daughter no distraction
from their road trips,
their unprotected flings,
their pills and powders.

No one told you
what to do.

I’ll tell you what you should do:

Be a doctor. Or an engineer.
A lawyer, if you must argue.
(Lawyers write!)
Learn to code.
(You like language!)
Maintain your French.
Nevermind—study Spanish.

Close your mouth.
Keep your clothes on.
He isn’t worth it.
None are.

Put your clothes on.
It’s not too late.

Observe the animal that sleeps
in a circle, keeping
itself warm.

* * * * *

Shannon Phillips is a freelance editor and aspiring translator (Arabic-English) who earned her MFA in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. She has two chapbooks: Body Parts with dancing girl press and My Favorite Mistake with Arroyo Seco Press. When she isn’t busy reading Nordic noir or letting her tea get cold, she can be found napping with her Russian Blue. She is also the founding editor of Picture Show Press.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

A Puzzle Woman

by Lucia Daramus

the woman is a puzzle
she is feeling blue ----
or mauve
she is feeling in colours
black, blue, red, mauve,
mauve... like a rainbow
because, because she is so, so complex
her feelings have
thousands of holes
coloured holes in her
maze life.
I am a woman
a writer used to be
feeling blue and red
and green
like other women
like Virginia Woolf
'A woman must have (…) a room
of her own if she is to write(...)'
or like Sylvia Plath
with sadness and happiness.
I feel in images
full of colours, I feel.
and you!
you are a woman too
in pieces
pieces of suffering
pieces of joy
of glamorous life
are you like Sappho
full of life, full of love? of poetry, love of man
love of woman
lovers for lovers.
you are so complex
with thousands of holes
coloured holes in your maze life
you cannot change anything
you love another woman
the mother loves her daughter
the daughter loves her friend
the friend loves another friend
another friend loves the grandmother
the grandmother loves other women
it is like a kingdom of love
because all of us are puzzle women.
our hands caress other women's suffering
our lips kiss our daughters
our thoughts think at joy of others
our tears fall in coffee, black coffee
for all women, girls in the world.
we are full of kindness
and joy, peace, and love
because we are women
puzzle women
with thousands of holes,
coloured holes of our maze life
a maze life of empathy.
nobody changes us
ever nobody changes us
we are women, puzzle women.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Dear Janel

by Lynne Zotalis

Greatest Grandma Ever, Most Amazing Mom, Devoted Daughter, Steadfast Sister, Faithful Friend, Committed Caregiver, and my incredible cousin
What happens when we lose someone? What are we supposed to do? How do we live with that void in our lives? When does it become true?
through each and every spirit woven together with hers
our love will feel them [all] still in hearts
that cannot deal
with absence so unreal
Their presence so profound, enduring energy flows,
life is not just gone, but it is beyond
anything we know
I dare to ask and question why
someone so marvelous, wonderful, spectacular,
selfless is taken in her prime,
before her time,
the answer cannot justify the pain
left in those bereft  
we who will ever admire and adore such beauty of soul,
whose laughter rang with happiness and joy,
whose encouragement and support were always at the ready
for everyone except herself
forever amid gatherings of family so precious and integral to her existence
a legacy and example for those of us here
a gift to behold for all who were privileged to have known
our own, our cherished, our dear Janel

* * * * *

As a freelance contributor and member in the Iowa Poetry Association, Lynne Zotalis’s poetry has been published in Lyrical Iowa for ten years running. She is a member of the Peace and Social Justice Writers Group at the Loft in Minneapolis, MN, with contributions to their chapbook and Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times. Her poetry has appeared in Tuck Magazine and Poetic Bond VII, and Lynne was one of six winners of the RH Cunningham short story contest published in the book Life Dances. All available on Amazon.

Monday 24 September 2018

The twenty-eighth Moon Prize on today's full moon goes to Shannon Phillips's poem "Last Call." So few words saying so much. Brilliantly.

Last Call

by Shannon Phillips

Before them—the remnants
of cucumber salad, rice, pita, and yogurt sauce.
There was no meat left. A car race loud
between red lights. Living is easier at night.
The hookah smoke—sweet melon—didn’t dance
like in movies, but she wanted to. Fixate.
He was beautiful; she didn’t think he knew.
She wanted to tell him.

* * * * *

Shannon Phillips is a freelance editor and aspiring translator (Arabic-English) who earned her MFA in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. She has two chapbooks: Body Parts with dancing girl press and My Favorite Mistake with Arroyo Seco Press. When she isn’t busy reading Nordic noir or letting her tea get cold, she can be found napping with her Russian Blue. She is also the founding editor of Picture Show Press.

Sunday 23 September 2018


by Beate Sigriddaughter


There are things we must not say.

There was a time when the law said
a woman who speaks out
against a man shall have her mouth
crushed with fire bricks.

There was a time when the law said
adulterers must be bound
and thrown in the river, even
a woman who was raped.
Her husband could pull her out
of the river, if he so desired,
while the king himself
could save a man he valued.

I am tired and heavy with things
I must not say. This silence slides
like grains of broken brick
between my teeth.

Arthur, with affectionate regret,
did not choose Guinevere
over law or flames. Would you
pull me from the river
if they tossed me there
against my will?
That is the question.

Oh, I remember: I am not
supposed to take things personally.
But I am the daughter of daughters
of women who were miraculously
neither drowned nor burned.
They have trained me with such memory
that you no longer have to crush
my mouth with bricks. All you have
to do is look at me a certain way.

This silence is not easy to undo.
How I hate this silence.

* * * * *

"Bricks" was first published by Blue Lyra Review and is part of Beate Sigriddaughter's 2018 poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends

Saturday 15 September 2018

Writing In A Woman's Voice is now on equinox break from September 16 through September 22, 2018. New voices will resume here on September 23, 2018. Happy equinox to everyone.

Marie and I
by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Sun rises over farm fields, and she piles up dark hair, ties a crisp apron over her work-dress. Born November 1, 1858, brown-eyed, sturdy and tall, Marie, daughter of a Greenville, South Carolina farmer and Civil War soldier and his second wife, Marie assumes care of her father’s home, and her siblings upon her mother’s death.
Marie marries neighbor, John Cox, a prominent farmer. With their own eleven children—among the brood, Frank, my grandfather—they raise Marie’s youngest siblings.
Until searching at forty, I knew nothing of my birth family. As a child, I shadowed my adoptive mother’s mother, my Nana, in her garden; was by her side at her Maytag wringer washer. When I turned eighteen, she gave me an oil lamp, wash board, and patchwork quilt—blessings toward the simple life she shared from her own rural upbringing; one I admired.
Long hair, jeans, granny dresses and sandals—my counter-culture costume. With my tribe, I emulated American life one-hundred-and-twenty-five years earlier. We found liberty close to earth, lit oil lamps, gardened, had babies by natural childbirth, nursed them on demand, hung diapers in the sun. Lived off-grid in an 1800’s farmhouse. Reality encroached and showed we were servile to rusticity.
Marie bakes bread and pies in her wood-fired oven, preserves home garden bounty—okra to beans, and peaches. John contributes wheat and corn. Her daughters ride with her to Simpsonville market in a horse-drawn wagon.
Washdays, boys haul well water to the galvanized tub on a wood fire in the yard. Marie and the older children scrub with washboard and hang laundry on lines. In winter, washing is done at the woodstove, hung to dry in the kitchen.
A photograph of Marie and John taken at one of their children’s weddings shows her standing tall, serene, looking straight at the camera. She wears a long, black wool suit, and white chemise; proud winter garb. She’s fair-skinned with a high forehead and cheekbones, like me, and like mine, her fingers are long. Her left hand rests tenderly on John’s right shoulder, as he sits beside her—partners in business and life.
Marie and John are laid to rest in Antioch Churchyard, Fork Shoals. One bright October Sunday, 1994, I connect with kin in the tiny brick church. My birth mother and I worship in one voice and spirit with Marie.

* * * * *
Mary Ellen Gambutti's work is published or forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, Remembered Arts Journal, Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, NatureWriting, PostCard Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, CarpeArte, Borrowed Solace, Winter Street Writers, Amethyst Review, StoryLand, mac(ro)mic, SoftCartel, Drabble, FewerThan500, BellaMused and Contemporary Haibun Online. Her book is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back. She and her husband reside in Sarasota, FL.

Friday 14 September 2018

Hands of Love: A Tribute

by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Long before I was born, you gathered warm eggs on a Pennsylvania mountain farm. You worked for your widower grandfather, cooked for his farm-hands, gardened and scrubbed. You married Mike, a coal miner, and when the mines closed, you traveled with your two young children to New York City. Mike took work as a mechanic. You were a laundress and housemaid, cooked and cleaned for your own family. You washed mounds of laundry and hung it up to dry on the tar roof.  When you became my Nana, I shadowed you at your antique Maytag, careful around the wringer, dipping whites in bluing. You hung the clothes with wooden pins in the sun-filled garden.

Nana, it was you who showed me how to plant and prune, taught me perennials and annuals, gave me scissors to cut roses from your bountiful arbors. Your soft-leaved African Violets bloomed on windowsills. You rooted leaves in whiskey glasses, for you never imbibed.

You never wore work gloves, but white cotton gloves to church, wool gloves to shovel snow. No rings, except a plain gold band. Fingernails stained yellow from working soil. I cleaned them with great affection, eased out crusted residue. You pumped a splotch of Jergens and rubbed your palms together. I held out my hands and you massaged sweet cherry-almond lotion into mine.

Nana, your hands tamed the steering wheels of Model A, Nash Rambler, Ford Falcon. You hoisted brown paper bags filled with groceries. You coaxed my hair into braids. My hand in yours, we walked to the park. You bathed me in your pink tub, dusted me with powder - a fuzzy puff.

Love shone through your gentle acceptance of work. As you slipped away, I talked to you, held your fine, translucent hands, wrinkled, flaccid, silken. “You have worked so hard for ninety-eight years, Nana. Time for a well-deserved rest.”

arranging my pots -
a child gardening
by Nana's side

* * * * *

"Hands of Love: A Tribute" was first published in Haibun Today.

Mary Ellen's work is published or forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, Remembered Arts Journal, Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, Thousand and One Stories, Halcyon Days, NatureWriting, PostCard Shorts, Memoir Magazine, Haibun Today, CarpeArte, Borrowed Solace, Winter Street Writers, Amethyst Review, StoryLand, mac(ro)mic, SoftCartel, Drabble, FewerThan500, BellaMused and Contemporary Haibun Online. Her book is Stroke Story, My Journey There and Back. She and her husband reside in Sarasota, FL.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Baby Sister

by Shannon Phillips

I can’t comfort you
in your hospital room,
your baby down the hall,
the new velvet of her
with tubes and sensors.

You are no longer
all she knows.

I can’t comfort you
because I don’t know if everything
will be okay. Even as a young child,
I knew okay was a gift, not a guarantee.

I haven’t forgotten my own
pregnancy; the untimely ultrasounds
—too early, I’m sorry, we found a cyst that could be…
—too late, He is breech. You’re due in a week?

I haven’t forgotten
my placenta hovering over
the birth canal, a fleshy barge
bearing signs warning of rupture, hemorrhage.

I can tell you that a healthy child now
does not erase the memory of our time
as stewards of the hall light,
as guardians of breath,
executors of presses
to the bottom of a brand new foot, seeking
that red bloom around our thumbs.

I hug your husband,
but I can’t hold you right now,
can’t come too near
lest you find out that I am afraid, too.
For what use is a big sister fallen

* * * * *

Shannon Phillips is a freelance editor and aspiring translator (Arabic-English) who earned her MFA in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. She has two chapbooks: Body Parts with dancing girl press and My Favorite Mistake with Arroyo Seco Press. When she isn’t busy reading Nordic noir or letting her tea get cold, she can be found napping with her Russian Blue. She is also the founding editor of Picture Show Press.