Saturday 29 February 2020

The Eyes of a Mother

Memoir by Belinda M. Stoto

Every morning it’s a routine. I grind those organic coffee beans, pour my cup of coffee and add the coffee mate and sugar substitute, the latest of my doctor’s warnings to watch my sugar, though at 57 I am very healthy.

I set my cup of coffee down at my desk and workspace that I designed especially for me, myself and I. I have become myopic in a good sort of way. My workspace is where I can feel organized and where I can focus and think and … write. It also includes all types of “things,” from a glass doorknob reminding me of my real estate adventures and the 40’s and 50’s when those knobs were popular. My grandmother’s farmhouse had them on every door. I now use it as a paper weight. I have a Janome Sewing Machine that quilts as I mentally enter my gramma decade and also, many pictures and portraits, mostly nostalgic.

I write every day, making it one of my intentions to get better with practice. I write every day even if it is a one-line journal entry like … “today sucks,” “today is awesome,” “today I have anxiety,” stuff like that. I started to journal at 12 to sort these emotions I was having and it worked, so I have many, many journals that document my life, long journal entries that probably would make me sob if I reread them, but maybe not. Maybe I would feel a triumph that I survived? I will reread in my old age when I have time. Some days, I set my intentions and do my best and draft, rewrite, draft, rewrite. I have taken many writing classes to hopefully help myself find my genre; there isn’t one that I have defined so far. I do make it a point to edit my raw writing, as the rawness can be frightening and scary! I also do not want to sound flakey. We all have scattered thoughts, but many of them are meaningless and we need to know the difference. Good writing is when your work is met by another individual and they enter with their heart and mind. I do hope upon my death that my grown children understand when they find my journals that I was human with a wild imagination and anxiety disorder. You must take the good with the bad in life. I had a hard time with that … I craved the good always. I know my grown children will cringe when they read those journals. The journaling is where I could be honest, I could be real. They will understand one day, the old cliché that everyone uses, but I don’t know for sure if that is true.

I do have a favorite portrait that I glance at when I take a break from writing and look up at my wall while sipping my coffee. It is a favorite print of mine that was a gift from a friend. If it is famous, she never told me and naively, I do not know. My friend is a childhood friend; we lived completely different lives. She never married or had children. Years ago, these women were called spinsters in a negative way, but today’s spinsters have it made, they can be selfish and self-centered and fuck anyone they want without guilt and strings attached, if they are brave and support themselves.

This print, my favorite print, is a portrait of a beautiful brown-eyed women. She is a curly haired brunette, similar to myself in her hair color, with deeply set eyes. Her skin color was not mine, her skin color is milky white, my skin color is much darker. Genetic from my father and my 10% African American DNA that no one but knew. I laughed when I had to correct my parents. It was not American Indian as I was always told. My skin always handled the sun nicely and I never had to use too much sunscreen. A pleasant benefit in my opinion, and to this day my skin remains healthy and supple.

The lady in my portrait has milky white skin and it contrasted with her deeply set brown eyes, giving her a very tender, delicate, tired and sleepy appearance that made her look romantically and hazily happy. I insist on believing that she is a mother, as true love is captured in those eyes and it cannot be mistaken for anything else. This love is projected and is present in its purest form.

Captured in the portrait, she admires and protects the three children. They are hanging on her as if they belong to her and are her own. They nestle in next to her on a park bench, covered with a crochet blanket. It is known that most women have the amazing capacity to nurture. I will presume those children are her own.

I am comforted by this woman in the portrait. She is great company to me every morning. She shares herself with me. She shares who she is and her story a little at a time with no words at all.

In my imagination, I create her character. She is quite a lady. One with great honor. Her head is held high and slightly tilted as she gazes lovingly at the three children, different ages and genders, that share her park bench. They nestle in close under the crocheted blanket; it is if they were her own.  

In my imagination, she holds herself accountable and is proud of her achievements, though many may seem petty in a modern world of self-consumed identity and consumption. She comes alive and is real to me. The position she holds requires work and the greatest unselfish sacrifice and possible denial of herself for someone else. Her big heart holds the value of her efforts while her dry eyes show a bit of sadness. I look at the portrait and stare at her eyes. She looks right back at me, like looking into a mirror. She is a reflection of myself. She stays seated on the bench with her buttocks planted and rooted for stability. She is durable structurally and balances well while the children cling to her and her bosom for survival and comfort similar to infants. The children want her full attention. She is steadfast in her celebration of life and takes her job seriously. To outsiders, her job seems easy and natural, it must be innate in some women. This quality is desirable for others, especially if they are on the receiving end. A Portrait of Perfection. The receivers can be insensitive, not knowing or aware of her struggles with esteem, anxiety, depression, confidence, or that she is wildly free-spirited and longs to be loved or awakened by the salt water waves splashing up against her naked body, giving her sensations that her body craves, similar to an oxytocin love high making her giddy as if being provoked by a secret lover. She longs for freedom that she is waiting for, and no matter what the price, her soul with lift into the air and bits of freedom are released a little at a time. This portrait is a moment in time, not the portfolio of her many faces and emotions thru the years ... that are defined by many, many moments of role playing.

So, we meet every morning and share, and I am reminded that no matter what the happiness or struggle is that day, that it is not ours alone.  

* * * * *

Belinda M. Stoto lives on her 3-acre organic farm in Portland, CT, where she raised three children and now cares for her two grandchildren part-time. She decided to leave the corporate world approximately 8 years ago to spend more time organic farming, developing and operating her own vending business, and to seek and explore her serious passion for writing. Her writing began at age 12 when she started to journal, finding the exercise of journaling added to her well-being and development in her younger years. The writing continued thru the years whenever she was presented with the opportunity. She presently enters writing competitions and enrolls in writing classes at the local Middlesex Community College and at Gotham Writers out of NYC, both providing excellent on-line writing curriculums. Her favorite writing includes poetry, memoirs and creative nonfiction. She has a love of nature and a personality for nurturing. Her hobbies include real estate blogging, reading, hiking, and yoga.

Friday 28 February 2020

i n t r o s p e c t i o n

by Laura Minning

I look down into the river,
and I see an Old Woman
staring back at Me.

Her hair has been changed
by the elements of time,
and Her cheeks are dampened,
by the bitterness in the air.

But Her eyes glisten in the moonlight,
just the same.

She tells Me, in secret,
that She will never allow Herself
to be hurt like that again.

And so Her mind lives elsewhere,
making plans for the future,
while attempting
to put Her past behind Her.

I try to console Her,
but every time I begin to speak,
She turns away.

You see:
I think She’s as wonderful on the inside,
as She is beautiful on the outside.

And sometimes,
she can appear to be
almost youthful and free.

But she won’t hear My words;
She won’t listen to Me.

* * * * *

i n t r o s p e c t i o n in an excerpt from “dear diary” (Vantage Press, 2003).

As a person with legal blindness, Laura Minning hopes to inspire other creative people with disabilities to never allow anything to hinder them from reaching for the stars and accomplishing their dreams. If you were to ask her about her creative successes, she would tell you that the difficult is but the work of the moment, and the impossible takes a little longer.

For more information about Laura and her work, please feel free to log onto her web-site at

Thursday 27 February 2020


by Christine Liwag Dixon

They called our mothers Maria:
Maria for the stars,
Maria for the sea,
Maria for the rebellion stirring in our wombs,
Maria for the bitterness that binds us across generations.

We named our daughters Maria,
a multitude of Aves in squalling supplication unleashed to the saint whose name
was meant to invoke sustenance,
not eternal memories of bloodshed and terror.

Our names are battle cries
Are prayers
Are lullabies.

We are forever chained to this foreign goddess,
Unable to reclaim our own power.

* * * * *

Christine Liwag Dixon is a writer and musician. She is currently working on her first novel. 

Wednesday 26 February 2020

All I Ask
                                                                       by Victoria Hunter

is for my identity  to be returned
for it to be  tossed out a window
and land  in my warm lap
so he can be driven  away and away
but he acts as if I asked
for a bowl of his blood

This is a man who taught me
words kill women   slowly
they consume their spirits
and they don't even know  it's happening.

I remember I made love  to this man
before my body did  and maybe you have to

I followed him to a nightmare
where dirt sticks to you
no matter how long  you brush it off

Through to the end of it
he said wasn't into me
in the beginning  my beauty
was in a black mask  now it is hostage

Tuesday 25 February 2020

For The Rose That Won't Return

by Victoria Hunter

Didn't I love you  from one end  to another
exactly how  you were created
so wild and wanting  all the attention  all the time

And weren't we together  constantly
moving in sync  all the time
and can you remember  how I tried to control you
hushed the cry  of your rusty chain links
and bent you forward   and down in half
to see how far  you can leave me  without breaking

Oh love  I want to wake up  inside you again
and put my dreams  in you again
I want to fly again with you  into tomorrow
I want to find you  in the early morning  cold
and tangled around yourself
I want to climb inside your soul  and wipe away
the puddle of cold rain  in your heart

Monday 24 February 2020

Light Pouring Through                      

by Nina Rubinstein Alonso                     

We’re approaching touch down when a voice announces, “Doha’s at 49 degrees Celsius, 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring temporary air conditioning cut due to excess heat load.” The cabin temperature’s rising, hard to breathe as wheels hit the tarmac.

After take-off from Heathrow I’m asleep until something bumps my head. Open my eyes to a man’s black leather wingtips, slide out from under, turn around, see one man snoring, the other, in a gray business suit, slouched in his seat, shoes hanging over my headrest.

“Your feet,” I say, as I’m short, and maybe he didn’t notice.

Sharp gaze, oiled sleek hair, silence. Doesn’t he understand or is he ignoring a talking female object?  

I tap Fernando’s hand until he opens his eyes, takes in what’s going on and says, “Excuse me,” in a macho tone, meaning “get your damned feet off my wife.” Without apology, the man takes his feet down, accepting another male’s control of property. 

Too angry to focus on my book, and why did I bring Anna Karenina about a desperate, discarded woman who throws herself under a train? 

Across the aisle two figures sheathed in black carry designer purses and parcels labeled Harrods of London, arms jingling with gold bangles. But their faces are hidden by brown leather ovals, horizontal slits for eyes, nose and mouth. I’ve seen head scarves, veils, hijabs, niqabs, even burqahs, but leather masks?  

Masks must be hot, but do they feel protected or trapped or something else I can’t imagine? Do they think I’m a foolish westerner, face available to every eye? Women in this part of the world can’t drive, can’t vote, can’t go out of the house alone. Did they tour London in leather masks? 

The man who had his feet on my head is striding down the jetway into glaring sun followed by these women, maybe plural wives.
Stewards bolt the aircraft doors, the plane pushes back, taxis into the take-off queue, air conditioning roaring on. Fernando notices my gloom, squeezes my hand, “Don’t let it get you. They can’t keep women captive forever.”

“They’re doing it now, and what if the world slides backward?” 

“Change has to come. Don’t let them destroy your inner peace.”

“Inner peace?”

I’m leaning on his shoulder, know he’s trying to comfort me. The French say, ‘bouleversé,’ flipped upside down, and I want to be strong, able to deal with the next insult better than the last. Hours later the plane lands with skids and bumps, passes rusted hulks, Indira Gandhi airport, New Delhi.

“Why don’t they remove wrecks?” Fernando asks, raising dark angled brows. “No wonder this airport has no stars in the guide book.”

We get through customs, passports stamped, step into Delhi’s polluted heat, heavy air smoky as a deep fryer.

“Stay with the luggage and I’ll get a cab.” I’m leaning forward, not wanting to lose sight of him, when a hand quick-pinches my right breast, a man dashing into the crowd so fast I only see his back.

Fernando returns with a shaggy-turbaned driver who points us to his dented taxi. We lurch into thick traffic, clutch shuddering, dubious brakes squealing, car and truck horns blasting, pass a flower-garlanded wedding elephant, a scooter holding three adults and a baby, a cart pulled by a wide-horned water buffalo, a loaded bus with people hanging off the top.

When a policeman in dark sunglasses stops traffic with his white glove, a scabby-faced woman sticks her hand through our open window, begging, the edge of her faded blue sari wrapped around a sleeping infant. No chance to react as the policeman’s white glove waves us forward.

At the hotel a tall, pink-turbaned guard points toward the gilded front door, which another tall, pink-turbaned guard opens with regal flourish. Our room has high ceilings, wide beds, white linens, air conditioning and a polished marble bathroom. Fernando laughs, “Palatial, especially after what we went through to get here. Sleep first, shower later.”

“I need loose Indian clothes. While you found the taxi, some man pinched my breast so fast I never saw his face.”

“Welcome to Delhi! Stay close, because no matter what you wear, you’re still a white western female.”

“No surprise after that guy on the plane.”
I shower, sit next to Fernando, want to meditate, but hear tapping at the window, a monkey poking through iron bars that protect the glass who stares at me, then leaps across the roof to other monkeys in the trees.                             

Fourteen hours on the train, Delhi to Shahjahanpur, my new peach salwar kameez grimy. Thick darkness, no street lights, but Fernando finds a rickshaw to cycle us to the guru’s compound. Bumping along, we see children playing outside, as people doze through the heat of the day, come out when it’s cooler.

The driver pulls the bell cord by the gate until it swings open. I recognize Babuji from photos, a small elderly man in a white banyan and dhoti.

“We’ve been expecting you,” he says, “but it’s late.” Gentle voice, soft eyes, and my heart pings. “The ashram is a few miles down the road. Go quickly, as dacoits prey on travelers at night. Come back tomorrow morning.” The gate closes and the rickshaw wallah cycles up the lane onto the main road past vendor stalls lit by kerosene lanterns. 

“It’s okay,” says Fernando, seeing my tears. “He said come back tomorrow.”

I’ve never been here before but everything looks familiar, the road, the vendor stalls, like returning home after a long trip, even the fireflies flickering in roadside trees. Another mile, and we ring the ashram bell. A sleepy looking man opens the gate, pointing to his name tag, “I’m N.S.Rao, North South Rao,” chuckling at what must be his standard joke for westerners. He aims his “torch” down the path toward the dining hall, insists on carrying our bags to the dorm, and says, “Go take food.” Can’t remember when we last ate.

We’re at a table in a low-ceilinged room lit by one dangling bulb. The cook brings roti, plates of rice and dal, then starts shaping dough for more roti, making me think he’s given us his supper as we didn’t know when we’d arrive, no way to contact anyone even if we knew. He didn’t ask if we’re hungry, just brought roti fresh from a wood-fired clay oven, smiles watching us eat, tilting his turbaned head.

In the dorm we meet people packing. Quelle bonne chance,” a French woman says, “to be alone with Master.” No idea we’d be the only guests, everyone else leaving on the morning train.

The mattress is thin, but I sleep deeply, no hint of my usual insomnia. Waking I find red marks on my arms, but not itchy, dress watching tiny lizards skitter across the ceiling chasing bugs. Fernando’s still asleep.

The cook’s outside the dining hall with a big kettle pouring hot chai into steel cups. There’s no refrigeration, no air-conditioning, no ice, but hot chai feels strengthening against the heat.

I’m alone in the meditation hall except for birds flying through the open doors to nests in corner ledges. Close my eyes and feel time stop.

Fernando wakes, doesn’t feel like meditating, won’t drink hot chai, refuses the only coffee in the kitchen, Nescafe instant powder, annoyed there’s no espresso, no ice cubes. “Nothing here for me,” he says. I love him, the best man I’ve ever known, and we’ve been together for years, but it seems I’m in heaven, and he’s in hell. He agrees to come to Babuji’s compound with me.
We’re on a wooden seat behind the driver of a tonga, a bumpy horse-drawn cart, Fernando holding a steel container of yogurt the cook sends daily to Babuji’s kitchen. One of Babuji’s granddaughters opens the gate, thanks us for the yogurt and points toward the veranda where we sit on wooden chairs opposite a hookah. We brush away flies, watch people pumping water from the courtyard well, hear “He’ll be coming.”
Fernando’s restless, “hanging around doing nothing.” Finally Babuji comes from his room, sits down, picks up his water pipe, looks at us and says, “Hubble bubble.” With a soft laugh he points to the hookah, which makes that sound when he pulls on it. He looks at us again, as if gazing through us, puffing clouds of silence. I’m drawn in, can’t take my eyes away.

After a long silence he asks, “Where are you from? Are you staying long?”
Where am I from? Why am I here? Who am I? Why am I alive? No idea, but say, “We’re here to see you and have all the time in the world.”

He chuckles at my ridiculous answer, because who knows how much time any of us have? His eyes have cosmic depth, like trying to see where the sky ends.

He says, “Please begin meditation,” and I’m in.

When he says, “That’s all,” I open my eyes, feeling blank, can’t even remember my own name. Slowly my name returns, like one name in a stream of many names from many lives. Babuji asks about my meditation.

 “I couldn’t remember who I was, my name or where I came from.”

He smiles, “That’s what we are looking for.” I’m trying to absorb the idea that forgetting can be positive, not a medical catastrophe.

After more silent minutes, Babuji says he has work to do, and a young man, his grandson, reminds us that the ashram will be serving lunch soon, and hands us the clean yogurt canister to carry back to the cook. A rickshaw is waiting outside the gate, but Fernando wants to walk as we’ve been sitting for hours. When I stand up, I feel light enough to float. “Thank you,” I say, pressing my palms together, namaskar, as I’ve seen others do.

Fernando swings the canister by its squeaky handle as we walk up the lane to the main road, pass a plumbing shop with white toilets stacked outside, then the Allahabad Bank, the guard holding a rifle. We’ll change money here as there’s no other option. Vendors on the street sell vegetables, potatoes, chilies, roasted peanuts in the shell. I open my scarf as there are no bags here, and a small, bow-legged man weighs half a kilo of peanuts with his hand-held metal scale, ties my scarf in a soft knot, and asks a few paise. We pass the river, see a dhobi scrubbing laundry in a suds-filled hollow stone, twisting and beating fabric. I say, “I couldn’t remember who I was.”

“Like waking up fuzzy headed.”

“But I had a sense of other lives, not sure who I was in this body.”

Fernando listens, says nothing about his own meditation, and I can’t ask, as it’s his experience, not mine. Children at the side of the road call, “Hey, hippie, hi hippie,” which draws his smile, the first of the day.

Babuji’s in his upper seventies, radiant as if a soft light’s pouring through him, with a neatly trimmed white beard and immaculate white cotton clothing. This must be why holy beings have been depicted with halos over the centuries.

As we approach the ashram Fernando says, “Babuji’s the real thing, not a phony or a quack, but not sure I’m into it.”

His words sting, as I love him, hope he’ll connect, but can’t make it happen.

Days pass, difficult to verbalize. Some fragments from my journal:

 A rose-peach sunset fills the horizon then suddenly fades to black.

Taste of roti and subji cooked on a wood fire.

Red heat rash on my wrists, can’t wear the red and white bangles N.S.Rao’s wife gave me, but after morning meditation with Babuji, the rash disappears. I ask why, as heat rashes can last for weeks. He says, “Sometimes happens,” as if a cure is of no importance, a minor side effect, not the goal of meditation.

Bugs, beetles, lizards, flies.

Wash my hair under cold tap water with a red plastic scoop. No hot water.

Shashi Dhawan lives in Shahjahanpur and has been meditating for years. She asks if I have problems I’d like her to bring to Babuji, as he’s noticed I’m shy about personal questions. I tell her that when sitting with him I’m so absorbed I can’t think of anything to say, but often struggle with insomnia, though not here. Next day she brings his message.

“When you can’t sleep, Babuji says to make the thought that spirituality is floating down on you like the lightest snow,” perfect for someone who lives where it snows.

Babuji’s granddaughter brings medicine for his stomach pain in a steel cup.  He sips some, too bitter, pushes the cup away. He pulls his knees up, stays quiet for long stretches, turns his gaze on us, takes out uncomfortable false teeth, burps innocently as a baby, smokes his “hubble-bubble” hookah.

Babuji glances at Fernando, working on him despite his obvious resistance. We mention the flooding in Delhi, and he charms us with stories of a flood thirty years back, pointing to stains high on the wall, “The water was up to there, over our heads, everything upside down.”

He talks about death and pain in the world, “So suffering,” he says, “so much suffering,” compassion flowing like pure water in the desert. I’m suspended in luminous space I never want to leave.

One day a blackbird falls dead in the courtyard, and a man who just arrived picks it up and cradles it in his hands with a sad expression. Babuji watches, says nothing. A comment on the man? On death?

The days pass, and I’m trying to accept that my path may not be the same as Fernando’s, though he brought me to his friend Jim to try meditation when I was depressed about losing a job. How to understand?

One night after a rain storm we see newly hatched frogs the size of paper clips leaping in a puddle outside the dining hall, and Fernando says. “Tiny guys jumping like crazy!” He enjoys roti and Indian sweets, says, “Babuji is genuine,” but adds, “maybe I’ll be my own guru. Can’t wait to get back to Delhi, go shopping, find some good weed.” I don’t want to leave at all, and Fernando’s eager to escape and get stoned.

To book a hotel room in Delhi we use the only phone in the ashram office, like shouting through an oatmeal box when I was a kid, yelling and repeating, struggling to hear replies. “Maybe we’ve got a room,” Fernando says when he hangs up.

One morning Babuji mentions, “My grandson will drive you to the train station this afternoon.” The feeling here is timeless, though the clock keeps moving. I’m crying, knowing I must pack.

“It’s not good to have too much tension,” Babuji tells me.

“I don’t want to leave,” sobbing.

“Go have breakfast,” he says, and one of his granddaughters leads us to his dining room, walls discolored by monsoon seepage, a weak lightbulb hanging by a fuzzy cord. She brings us thick slices of buttered toast with sugar sprinkled on top and mugs of hot chai, setting them on a much-scarred wooden table. It’s hard to eat, crying. Babuji is my spiritual home, my center, radiating love with no trace of material desire or selfishness. I’ll keep meditating, come back even if it means traveling alone. 

We put our luggage in the grandson’s car, and Fernando says, “Wonder what we’ll run into this time?”

What would it be like now, waking up to a man’s filthy shoes on my head, though that scene feels remote, an ugly photo.  

The car starts up the lane past dogs barking and children waving. On the main road we follow a flock of goats, a man hauling branches on his back, water buffaloes pulling a cart, women with clay jugs on their heads, trucks blasting horns, a bus overloaded with people, an entire family clinging to one bicycle, everyone heading to the railway station.
“The mad scramble of the material plane,” says Fernando, shaking his head.

“Did Babuji reach you somehow?”

“Maybe,” says Fernando, “Let’s see how it plays out.”

At the station I press my hands in namaskar to thank the grandson for driving us, then shoulder my bag and push into the mob toward a train that may be the wrong one, because it’s too early, unless it’s somehow the right one?  I’m in tears, too open and vulnerable, don’t want to leave. 

“Quick,” Fernando says, pulling me past a man in a green plaid lunghi coughing and spitting, next to a sign that says “Spitting Forbidden” in English and three other languages. 

“We’re back into the whole crazy mess,” I say, but with all the noise, no one hears me, not even Fernando, though he’s gripping my hand, hurrying me toward the train.

* * * * *

Nina Rubinstein Alonso’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, Sumac, Cambridge Artists Cooperative, Ibbetson Street, Bagel Bards Anthology, Muddy River Poetry Review, WomenPoems, Black Poppy Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, New Boston Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, University of Mass. Review, Peacock Literary Review, Southern Women’s Review, etc.  She’s the editor of Constellations a Journal of Poetry and Fiction ( and has degrees from Simmons and Brandeis. Her book This Body was published by David Godine Press.

"Gender Veils" was awarded the 12th Moon Prize by Beate Sigriddaughter, editor of Writing in a Woman’s Voice. This sequence of poems will be included in Riot Wake, a chapbook upcoming from Gloria Mindock’s Cervena Barva Press.

She’s a ballet teacher at her school, Fresh Pond Ballet in Cambridge, MA (, and taught at Boston Ballet for eleven years, where she also performed. She studied ballet with E. Virginia Williams, James Capp, David Shields, Richard Thomas, Barbara Fallis, Sydney Leonard, Bruce Wells, Tatiana Baboushkina, and a number of noted teachers in Boston and New York.

She’s been to India a number of times for Sahaj Marg meditation, also called Heartfulness ( and is grateful for this centering, uplifting practice.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Working Girl

by Mary Chandler Philpott 

I am trying to stay up, up; blue sky and sky high.

I hate everything about this place.

Remember when I was green, so very green? “Tell me about a challenging moment.” I knew nothing and thought I knew everything. I think about that girl in her work skirt and white blouse and blistered feet. “Take me.” Soft, silly girl. I want to shake her and then hold her.

* * * * *

Mary Chandler Philpott is an MA student at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Manassas with her fiancé Brandon and their puppy Edward Rochester. 

Saturday 22 February 2020

What’s Next?

by Mary Chandler Philpott

What’s next is this:
cold and cold and more cold,
and February’s spindly arms,
and March’s house,
its tall and frozen pillars,
and deep echoes from its hollow chest.

I long for April.
Give me a simmer, give me rain.
It hurts to thaw.
It feels like cracking, like splitting apart.
I know this too.

(But what it really is:
We put a hand to the emptiness,
and our warm palms will it away.)

* * * * *

Mary Chandler Philpott is an MA student at the University of Virginia. She currently lives in Manassas with her fiancé Brandon and their puppy Edward Rochester. 

Friday 21 February 2020

My Day

by Oonah V Joslin

My day is
morning grass and gentler than dew,
kinder than a grazing doe.

My day is
soft as lifting cloud, heated from above, held from below
supple as the brush that painted the rainbow.

My day is
stressless, easy-breathing, mild, a symphony
of serenity, a child.

My day
celebrates nothing, keeps on an even keel, sails through
peaceable ‘til sunset and beyond.

My day
other days, maybe not days but endless time, maybe not time
but freedom just to be.

* * * * *

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 20 February 2020

5:00pm Flight

by Tobi Alfier

He takes off his ring sometimes
to hurt.
Leaves it tarnished &
near the coffeepot,
where she will see
among the detritus of
his uncaring cohabitation,
sunflower seeds,
old, gold icon
the umbilicus.

She wears black as a color
and pink leotards.
Smoothes SPF 30 on her
curious face,
turns up the radio,
pours some juice,
avoids the counter,
orders bowling shoes through
a catalog
and wonders what she has to offer.

She tries on eyeshadow
and high heels.
Wonders how it would feel to be free,
unencumbered and
She takes a drink,
tends her garden,
contemplates the 5:00pm flight to Paris,
carries on in spite of
his spite
and creates herself
a lovely day.

* * * * *

"5:00pm Flight" was first published in Poetic Diversity (2005) and is part of Tobi Alfier's poetry collection Sanity Among the Wildflowers (republished by Cholla Needles Press, 2019).

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. Symmetry: earth and sky is forthcoming in May from Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Saturday Afternoon

by Tobi Alfier

Down the long aisle he walks,
past beans, soup, rice, pasta,
canned things better bought fresh
along the outer edges, toward the
woman at the end scooping
chocolate covered peanuts into
a small plastic bag. He sees her
look up. He says hello.
She says hello back. Emboldened,
he says how are you. She says
fine how ‘bout yourself. He says
fine and keeps walking.

She sees the cane in his cart,
notices a small limp as he moves on
to the dairy aisle, she doesn’t know
if it’s permanent or the result
of some dramatic injury. He feels
handsome, and successful that she spoke
to him, even though he is broken. She thinks
about how she cannot feel her toes,
how we all bear one thing or another. She feels
pretty, and desirable because he spoke to her.

She looks for him again but she has a long list, he
must have had a short list. Maybe she shops 
from right to left and he from left to right, she
does not see him in the store again.

She sees him in the parking lot. They both drive Hondas.
But she doesn’t continue the conversation, it will
most probably lead to disappointment.
The handsome man and desirable woman
drive away separately, each congratulating themselves
on a successful shopping excursion.

* * * * *

"Saturday Afternoon" was first published by Hot Metal Press (2006) and is part of Tobi Alfier's poetry collection Sanity Among the Wildflowers (republished by Cholla Needles Press, 2019).

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. Symmetry: earth and sky is forthcoming in May from Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Give Me

by Alethea Eason

Give me the ice cream in the refrigerator.
I want it now! Give me the thundering
afternoon cicadas and the lonely cloud
in the perfect sky. Give me the sigh of my dog
as he sleeps on the cool floor and a million
pills of promise. Watch me swallow them one by one. 

Give me eyes that see the coming rain
and shiny meteors to wear. Give me a pen
to write the fable of winter onto my hands. 
Give me rattlesnake spurs as I drift through
the desert. Give me black and white lizards
with triangular heads as tattoos for my breasts. 

Give me dove wings that lift me to the echoes
of angels perched upon the electric lines,
and then give me bricks to anchor me to earth.
Give me a quick jolt to awaken me from the dead.
Give me telekinetic-dancing feet to walk on.
Give me the smiles I forgot when I lost my soul.

Give me a piercing straight through my heart
and iambs and trochees that have marched
from the wilderness in muddy boots. 
Give me a perfect pearl of a Mississippi night
and voodoo moccasins to wander in the moonlight.
Give me siren wails to wake me at dawn.

Give me sweet water to wash the world’s crying face.
I want to catch the tears and bathe myself tonight.

* * * * *

Alethea Eason is a writer and artist who has found happiness and her true home in the intersection of desert and mountains in southern New Mexico.

Monday 17 February 2020

I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic

by Alethea Eason

I am going to start living like a mystic
Believing with the tender wisdom of the heart
That there is a flame my anger is fueling
Which burns with Ultimate Love.e.
There are places,
Silent places where the sacred sings,
Intersections of faith and time.
My small unlived lives are my mystic tools,
Coal for the diamond deep inside.
I used to want to fly in suspended time.
Be an angel, feathered, brilliant, and wise.
I no longer want to be a messenger,
No matter how many-eyed.
I only desire the light of breaking day,
The empty line of atmosphere
Pale against the dawn -- God
In splendid Silence
Where the day is always new.
There are places,
Silent places, where the sacred sings,
Intersections of faith and time.
My small unlived lives are coal
For the diamond deep inside.

I used to want to fly in suspended time.
Be an angel, feathered, brilliant, and wise.
I no longer want to be a messenger,
No matter how many-eyed.

I only desire the light of breaking day,
The empty line of atmosphere
Pale against the dawn in splendid Silence
Where a new day is always here.

* * * * *

Alethea Eason is a writer and artist who has found happiness and her true home in the intersection of desert and mountains in southern New Mexico.

There are places,
Silent places where the sacred sings,
Intersections of faith and time.
My small unlived lives are my mystic tools,
Coal for the diamond deep inside.
I used to want to fly in suspended time.
Be an angel, feathered, brilliant, and wise.
I no longer want to be a messenger,
No matter how many-eyed.
I only desire the light of breaking day,
The empty line of atmosphere
Pale against the dawn -- God
In splendid Silence
Where the day is always new.
There are places,
Silent places where the sacred sings,
Intersections of faith and time.
My small unlived lives are my mystic tools,
Coal for the diamond deep inside.
I used to want to fly in suspended time.
Be an angel, feathered, brilliant, and wise.
I no longer want to be a messenger,
No matter how many-eyed.
I only desire the light of breaking day,
The empty line of atmosphere
Pale against the dawn -- God
In splendid Silence
Where the day is always new.