Tuesday 30 April 2019

Unicorn Spring

by Katherine L. Gordon 

No spring breeze this time,
send me a stallion
with a wicked horn
to tear apart the barriers
between the bold worlds,
take me to a place of ever-youth
where strong arms enfold
rivers can be crossed, woods be breached,
giving up their secrets to a meadow of gold
where flowers opiate.
No angry words or salty tears,
only the milk and honey of creation.

* * * * *

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 latest collection, Caution Deep Water, deals with the shock of leaving one’s home for the cultural phenomenon of retirement homes, expensive ghettoes for the vulnerable elderly. Her poems have been translated and awarded internationally. 

Monday 29 April 2019

They Took Her Away

by Elise Stuart

            It way past suppertime, the first star almost out―and here come the wagon, bumpin’ the same old way down the road. But mama, she ain’t in it. Only Mister Baxter, he drivin’, and no one else. They took her away this mornin’, and I know they musta sold her.

            I go to my daddy and look at him. He knows. Before I say a word, he knows. His eyes get soft for a minute and then he turn away.

            “Hey, Charles, pass that jar over here.” That jar of corn brew, he mean. It smells strong and makes my daddy weak. I call him “snarlin’ man” when he has a hold of that corn liquor. ’Cause that’s what he turns into—his words hurt, just like that whip he hate so much. Worst thing is, my daddy can’t do nothin’ ’bout anything. He can’t stop Mister Jack, the overseer, from hittin’ me. And he can’t get mama back.

The dark pulls me outside. I’m no child. I don’t cry. I’m 12 year old. The blood started last spring—and that means I’m almost growed.

            I see the moon on her back. She’s always there. She stay in the sky, far away, but she always lets me see her, except for a night or two. I figure she needs a rest sometimes. I sing her a song, ask her to watch over me, ’cause my mama gone.

            “Wake up, girl. Come get some corn mush.” It’s Daddy, lookin’ down at me.

            I stand up, brush out my dress. I musta fell asleep watchin’ the moon. The sun, he risin’. Another day of workin’—it looks like a long tunnel stretched out in front of me. All there is is pickin’ cotton, day after day, row by row. There be Sundays off, but by then we all so tired, we just sleep. Sunday nights, though, there is singin’ ’round a fire in the evenin’. That’s the best time. During the week, I hum by myself or sing out in the fields with the others, my voice just startin’ to be my voice.

            Late in the day, I come back to get the water bucket to carry out to the field, and Evan, the oldest boy of Mister Baxter, stop me. He say, “Come here.”

            I don’t want to, but I do. He say, “You’re grown up now, aren’t you, Callie?” And I, proud, say, “Yes, sir.” Then he grabs me and pulls me over to the smokehouse and I know I can’t scream and I don’t like what he is doin, pullin’ up my skirt and puttin’ his thing in me and hurtin’ me bad, and then it’s over and he pushes me down and says: “Don’t you tell.” And buttons up his pants and walks out. I just sit there. A little bit of blood runs out of me and I close my eyes. Then I know I got to get up and get water before Mister Jack notices I am gone too long. It hurts when I walk but I can’t care now. I got to get water.

            There are other times when Evan pulls me off somewhere. When my belly starts to grow, I know what it is.

            Auntie Jo look at me one day when I tying on my apron loose, tryin’ to keep it hid, but she sees. She look me straight in the eye and say: “I’ll help you when it’s time, Callie.” I nod to her and put my head down quick before she sees the tears. My shoulders let go, jus’ knowing someone will be with me.

            It’s almost time. I can feel it. My belly skin stretched tight and I walkin’ slow. Auntie Jo call me over the other day and she tell me what to do in case it happen and she not there.

            It twilight, the time b’tween the bright and the dark, and I on my way home from the field and water starts comin’ down between my legs, surprisin’ me. I see the little patch of woods with trees and a spring and I head that way, to sit a while. When I almost to the old stump, the pains start. Not too bad. Then a sharp one come that make me sit down right on the ground.

            “Oh,” I say, careful not to be too loud. Then it’s as if somethin’ takes over and it isn’t me. There is another big hammerin’ pain and then the baby moves down. Auntie Jo said to squat, so I do, hangin’ onto the old stump with one hand and the ground with the other. Lay my apron on the ground under me. And what else did Auntie Jo tell me? Oh, breathe and pant out like the dogs. Then push. So I do. And I feel somethin’ comin’ and it is comin’ out of my body, and it is big and I cry out, forgettin’ all ’bout careful. Then another pain and then something harder come out and I feel the baby’s head with my ground hand, and almost fall over, so put my hand back and start to push some more. It easier, and then I feel it all out of me and I remember there is more, the afterbirth, she say. So I wait and then push hard, and it wriggles out too.

            Everything connect to that cord―the baby, my life, but I have to separate it now and I have nothin’ so I lean over and bite the cord in two, close to its belly, and pick the baby up. It not cryin’. It lookin’ around, peaceful-like. But then I look closer―it white. White skin and dark brown eyes, with a mole by its mouth, just like the one Evan has. God, no, it white . . . I look away. I don’t want to see it. I can’t keep a white baby. Jesus, what can I do? I look at it and hate it so much I could spit and love it so much I want to hold it to me.

            It look at me. How’m I gonna take care? Mister Baxter would know when he saw it. I breathin’ hard and I bleedin’ and I cryin’. And then I see, clear as day, “Baby, you got to go.” And I crawl back a ways from the stump and I dig a hole, with my hands, and she start to cry and I rip a piece of my apron and stuff it in her mouth, and she just look at me. She don’t hate me. She just look at me and I look at her—for the last time. And I cover her up with dirt and I cover her up with some of my heart, and give her to God.

            I wash myself in the little spring and I say “Good-bye, baby” and I make a little cross of twigs and then I get scared and throw leaves on the grave and more dirt and oh God, I runnin’ out from there, runnin’ until my legs buckle under me and I fall. Still the woods hold me, and I sob and sob and wait–wait for the moon but it is one of the nights she doesn’t show herself. She’s not there.

            It Sunday now, and Auntie Jo give me herbs to drink and help to clean up proper. I tell her what I do and she say, “You not the first. There many girls and womens do what you do.” And she put her arm around me. I look up at her and say: “Really, truly?” And she nod and say, “You did what you had to do.” And then I cry and see she cryin’ too, for all the lost ones.

            Then the singin’ start. I see the fire outside and people around it. Daddy there. The sound comes in the open door and raises me from my bed. “Up above my head” is the one they singin’. I go outside and sit on the step and listen. Sometimes the music is the only thing that make me go on. It take the sad feelin’s and mix it up with the love feelin’s, and things make some kind of sense in my head.

            Sometimes I sing, but tonight I just listen and wait for the moon to show herself. And there she is, my moon. I watch when she come up and ask her to watch over me ’cause my mama gone. The singin’ keeps goin’ and the sweet sound goes inside of me―to fix what is broken.

* * * * *

Elise Stuart became Poet Laureate of Silver City in 2014-2017, holding numerous poetry workshops for youth in schools around Grant County. Students made poem flags or their original poems, which graced libraries, coffee shops, old folks' homes.

Her first collection of poetry, Another Door Calls, came out in the spring 2017, then she published a memoir My Mother and I, We Talk Cat in the fall of the same year. She continues to write poetry and short stories, host an authors' radio show and work with youth, aware of how vital it is their voices be heard in every community.

Sunday 28 April 2019

What She Wore

by Robbi Nester

My mother was so proud
of the graceful way she wore
her clothes. She posed before the three-way
mirror at the store, shopped compulsively,
closets and spare room filled with shirts
and shoes she never wore, still
in bags and boxes. I can see her,
dressed for going out, in a summer
shirtwaist, a poplin print of women
wearing multi-colored gowns, whirling
by themselves before the mirror.
The wide skirt bloomed around her,
patent leather belt cinching her waist.
Her red mouth, perfect teeth, dark skin
beneath a cloud of curls. No wonder
she was popular, a party girl, when she
was young. Always singing, smiling,
proud of her correctness, her perfect
diction, wasted in the God-forsaken
neighborhood where I grew up.
What she didn’t buy, she made herself,
sewing machine whirring, fabric flying
under her fingers.  She loved to dress me too,
made me all the outfits I imagined, like a purple
thigh-high mini-dress with tiny stained-glass buttons,
matching scarf, fringed in silver silk. More than
once, the high school sent me home
for wearing “indecent” outfits she had made.
My mother stood before me as before the mirror,
proud of my lovely shape, so like her own.

* * * * *

"What She Wore" is from Robbi Nester's 2019 collection Narrow Bridge, available at: https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/narrow-bridge-robbi-nester/.

Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry: a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and three collections, including A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014); Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017); and Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited two anthologies-The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an Ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees--celebrating the photography of Beth Moon (published as an issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal).

Saturday 27 April 2019

The Marital Bed

by Carol Alena Aronoff

Alone in the presence of

Married to a ghost
She lay in a flurry of feathers and frills 
Invisible to all but the unintended

Phantom on the other side
At the far edge
Weighted presence

Light years from

Thoughts of another star system 

Birds on the ceiling mourn
Ivy has ceased to vine
Dead leaves on the ficus desperate


She never stirs from

Honeymoon suspended
The only sound is love

* * * * *

Carol Alena Aronoff, Ph.D. is a psychologist, teacher and poet. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and has won several prizes. She was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has published a chapbook (Cornsilk) and 4 books of her poems and photographs: The Nature of Music, CornsilkHer Soup Made the Moon Weep, Blessings From an Unseen World as well as Dreaming Earth’s Body (with artist Betsie Miller-Kusz)Currently, she resides in rural Hawaii.

Friday 26 April 2019

Time’s Dominion

by Carole Mertz

When ancient
buildings crumble,
we cringe.

We want to hold forever
the delights of The Rose
Windows of Chartres.

What if l’Arc de Triomphe
tumbles and Lady Liberty
withers green?

Hagia Sophia,
minaret-laden, no longer

Shall we not convene
to plan a better
use of Now?

* * * * *

"Time’s Dominion," first appeared in Voices on the Wind.

Carole Mertz critiques poetry and prose for various journals, including Eclectica, Mom Egg Review, World Literature Today, and South 85 Journal. Her recent poems are at Eclectica, The Ekphrastic Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Prairie Light Review, Quill & Parchment, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Kind of a Hurricane Press, and Voices de la Luna. Currently ekphrastic poetry takes center place at her writing desk. 

Thursday 25 April 2019

What Is the Function of Physical Beauty?

by Jeannie E. Roberts

                        form ever follows function ~
                        phrase coined by Louis Sullivan, American architect

A principle of twentieth century architecture contends
that the form or shape of a building or object should
follow its intended function. But what of physical

beauty's architecture? What is its function? Independent
of the mind and its internal workings, is beauty merely
ornamental, a pleasing aesthetic for the viewer?

Shelves, cabinets, and other holders of pretty things
display items for their visual appeal, for their capacity
to impress. Take crystal, used occasionally, functional

to some degree, but put back for its intended purpose:  
to be viewed. In time, dust diminishes its gleam,
contributes to its waning luster. Like dust, followers

of physical beauty, those who cling to the pleasures,
attributes, and pleasing components of appearance,
are beholden only until the shine fades.

Once the actual dust of aging arrives, these followers
divorce themselves from their hosts, a death-‘til-beauty-
do-us-part scenario, a parasitic union of sorts.

If uselessness, or nearly so, has its function,
like that of an object strategically shelved for show,
does this also ring true for physical beauty? We wonder.
We’d like to know.                                                                               

* * * * *

Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her second children's book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was recently released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019. She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings. 

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Depression’s Crown 

by Jeannie E. Roberts

              "She conquered her demons and wore her scars like wings." ―Atticus

Have you known the dreary bird―
kissed its ashen lips―
            wept a time or two―
            crossed the dark abyss?

If you've crossed the dark abyss,
you've worn a mournful cape,
            beheld the leaden vault,
            become a somber shape.

As a somber shape,
did you beseech the light―
            plead for its emergence―
            see beyond the night?

If you saw beyond the night,
did you hear an ancient call―
            recognize its whisper―
            fly its hallowed halls?

If you flew its hallowed halls,
did hope release your flight―
            launch your gratitude―
            infuse your wings with sight?
Infused with wings of sight,
you've flown with ashen kiss,  
            wept a time or two,    
            as you crossed the dark abyss.  

* * * * *

Editor's Note: This poem was originally called "Depression’s Crown Sonnet," and posted as such. A hyper-vigilant reader took issue with that, it not being in a traditional sonnet form, so the author offered to re-title the poem and surrender some artistic license in the process.

Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her second children's book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was recently released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, 2019. She is Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.

Tuesday 23 April 2019


by Mary Wescott Riser

Today announce they’re in for one more season:
Forsythia, violets,
Crab apple, cherry, pear,
Dandelions, daffodils,
Red bud, maple
Chick weed, camellia
Grape hyacinth, blue bells
And the palest of pink stars, small as babies’ toenails,
Scattered along the high bank of the creek.
Named or not, each calls out to the world.

* * * * *

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?” www.maryriser.org. Mary and her husband, George, live in Covesville, Virginia and have two adult children.

Monday 22 April 2019


by Terri Muuss

When my mind is a clear, precise thing,
I remember

standing at the stove flipping
buttermilk pancakes
steaming 5 pounds of clams
while melting butter—how they slid
from the mesh bag into the pot
like throated chimes.

(T)his smile—
the one without
sharpened teeth, without
I need to take
things from you           Nothing
more than    I love you
It was
            lips-teeth-gums with soft
edges and it felt—

dare I write it—
and came only when he cooked
which has always been—


my favorite love
language. And he looked at me
as if to say
            Take  t h i s
for the dark passage I will
send you on.

* * * * *

Terri Muuss is a social worker, director, performer, speaker & author whose poetry has received three Pushcart and two Best of the Net nominations. Her first book, Over Exposed, was released in 2013 and in 2016 Terri co-edited an anthology of NY women poets entitled Grabbing the Apple. Terri has performed her one-woman show, Anatomy of a Doll, around the US and Canada since 1998. Her second book, godspine, is forthcoming from 3: A Taos Press. www.terrimuuss.com

Sunday 21 April 2019

Easter Sunday

by Oonah V Joslin

Baptist or Catholic,
the elastic hat strap and white gloves
were with us

and the music
and memories have left
their own mark

sweet as chocolate
credos on the lips
of forever and ever.

* * * * *

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 https://oovj.wordpress.com/.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Trestle and Embankment

by Laura Lee Washburn

The lone whistle proves the buzzing June
just like the sudden light of dusk’s first fireflies.
Every transplanted strawberry wilts in the yard.

I sleep so strong in the heat, it takes a ladder to climb out
again, or no, the soft footholds and handholds in the rift or cliff,
where someone has struggled out before me.  Night
changes everything, even our room
where the sheets are made over in marzipan stars.

The little dog coughs again like a grandmother
who has eaten too much eggplant too late in the evening
so my dreams take me into noise and daylight, a scene
of bees decorating the air with their sound and their swerve
as close to us as the redbud’s gnarled limbs.

Other times awake, I watch you breathe, your eyelids roll.
The train has stopped again in the middle of town.
Someone pressed himself across the tracks and stopped.
Everything is still now
after the train’s lonesome push and the screaming brakes.

Each late night alone before sleep, reading while you sleep,
or fretting over the life’s work unmade, the six chores
undone, I think I would prefer the promise of morning
where my best friend runs six or seven miles
before her children cuddle to her and the eggs cook
sticking in the pan.  She’s seven hours in,
when I wake.  You’re settled in work
when I join the day.  Morning breaks me into pieces
and every organ speaks its subtle resistance.  No
wonder I never embrace the time of the birds and the dew.

Tomorrow the newspaper will explain the waylaid train,
the broken man’s last idea. I will imagine
the conductor’s terror and hopelessness in the night
while you slept in hot air, and I kept watch,
knowing the stars, knowing the lives
that move in darkness, the sphere
that breathes when the sun moves away.

* * * * *

"Trestle and Embankment" was previously published in Whale Road Review.

 Laura Lee Washburn, Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, is the author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, 9th Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women. https://www.facebook.com/sekwhw