Tuesday 30 June 2020

What then?

by Roberta Brown

When stinging tears form but fail to fall
When refugee hearts run hard into walls
When ink flows freely but no words come
When the scale is tipped by the heaviest thumb

When arms extend but do not enclose
When even a boxer cannot bear the blows
When full moons rise behind sheets of rain
When even the air smells and tastes of our pain

When a knock strikes the door but no one’s outside
When an envelope opened is empty inside
When the shoe slips on fine but is missing a lace
When smiles of sadness bemark every face

When you finish the book but know less than before
When you want to get out but fear opening the door
When asleep you feel happy but know it’s a dream
When you wake from a nightmare and can’t even scream

When clock hands sound like gunfire, but time somehow stands still
When you wish to God you wouldn’t, but you know you will
When the shame you’ve well hidden peeks out from a sleeve
When you crave faith like food, but still cannot believe—

What then?

* * * * *

Roberta Brown teaches at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico, where she lives with her family and two retired racing greyhounds.

Monday 29 June 2020


by Katherine West

There were footprints
All the way down the mountain
Starting at the abandoned mine
But leaving the old road
To follow deer paths
Through avenues
Of juniper and pine

They seemed the right size
So I placed my foot in one
Like Cinderella’s slipper
To see if it would fit
To see what I would find
If I followed it

Even the space between steps
Was so well-measured
I nearly danced
Through the forest
A kind of Inca Trail
Step onto it
And the way
Becomes easy

As if I wore magic
Red shoes
That guided me
That pulled me
Drew me on
And through
A silk thread
Through the eye
Of its needle
Needle through cloth
Thin as gauze

On and on
As bluebirds
Eating moths
The sun following
Their sudden
As if in love
I flew

Something old
Something new
I arrived
At the red cabin
Dusty footprints
Across the floor
To a table
By a window
A chair

No bears
No dwarves
No witches
Just a house
Like a glove
A mind
Like a glove
Dropped on the floor
By the back door

A drop of blood
On the step
A dry well
A grave
Without a name
A Siamese cat
A bit of trash

And those bluebirds
Like sisters
Turned to swans
Waiting for me
To tell their story

* * * * *

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness and performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov. She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone TrainScimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as LalitambaBombay Gin, and New Verse News, which recently nominated her poem And Then the Sky for a Pushcart Prize.

Sunday 28 June 2020


by Katherine West

It was a difficult birth--
She had been crushed
In the womb
The left ear
A shell
A fossil
An accident 
Incarnated by time

It was a difficult birth--
The cord around her neck
One foot trapped
As if she had tried
To run
Each contraction
Tightening the noose

But when she finally
She opened like a wild iris
In the meadow
After rain--
She ran everywhere
Climbing the tallest trees

As a woman
She began to wilt
The trapped foot
Turned inward
So she walked with a limp
One shoulder higher
As the spine
Tried to adjust--
She could not run

The phantom cord
Choked her breath
Shut her lungs
The neck
The fossil
At one with stone

Lived only in the eyes
Sharp as an owl’s
With every sister
In the Pleiades
Orion’s nebula
The rabbit in the moon
Lived only in ears
To mice
In dry leaves
Javelinas digging for roots
Ripping up mouthfuls of grass
Lived only
In song--
A low

The owl answered
Taking her away
An egg for its nest
Its warm breast
Of feathers

And when the egg cracked
When she pushed
Her way out
Her wings opened
Long and perfect

And when the owl nudged
Her to the edge
She fell
Like a star

* * * * *

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness and performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov. She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone TrainScimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as LalitambaBombay Gin, and New Verse News, which recently nominated her poem And Then the Sky for a Pushcart Prize.

Saturday 27 June 2020

A Sonata For My Mother

by Dulce Maria Menendez

Because her mother died when she was five.
Because a child should not lose her mother at the age of five.
Because the nuns dressed her as baby Jesus.
Because she wasn't educated past the age of 13.
Because she had to stop going to school to work for her aunt's who beat her and made her wear shoes which were a size too small.
Because she had to give up ballet.
Because she was a lion with green cat yes and her tresses swept past her round
face in the breezes of Havana.
Because she met my father at a bus stop.
Because someone forgot to tell her he was psychofrenic.
Because she was happy for three months before she found out.
Because she left Cuba for US(A).
Because she held my hand as we walked the streets in Miami.
Because she stopped driving after almost killing us in an automobile accident shortly after arriving in Miami.
Because she almost broke her back hunched over a sewing machine.
Because she waited for my father to come home.
Because she waited for my father to come home again.
Because she waited for my father never to return.
Because she left my father.
Because she left my father again.
Because she returned to my father.
Because she loved my father more than me and my sister.
Because she called me hija.
Because she lost her mind.
Because she regained it after my father's death.
Because she wrote poems. 
Because she listened to Rubinstein play Chopin over and over again.
Because she never said a bad word.
Because my sister was her treasure.
Because I was a daddy's girl.
Because she was a work of art.
Because her name was Salome and she carried the beheading of all eternity upon her elegant shoulders as she turned her head to see you as if for the first time.

And why does my mother listen to Chopin?
And why does the sonata bring her comfort?
And why is the sky blue? I asked her once.
Any why did she play Chopin to offer me an answer?
And why does my father leave us again and again? I asked her.
And why am I incarcerated in my own home so far away during this pandemic without my mother?
The sonata plays.
The phone rings.
It is someone from long ago who remembers my mother.
And why does my mother die on the day of the innocents?
Does Chopin have the answer?
I don't know other than at death as in the sonata
we play alone.


For Maria Salome Menendez Planes born October 22, 1932 and died April 1, 2020.

* * * * *

Dulce Maria Menendez publishes artists and poets.

Friday 26 June 2020

Fingers of Expectation

by B. Lynn Goodwin

“We’re multiplying,” Wilma’s fingers say. “We are your fingers of expectation. Do more. Do more!”

 Wilma sighs. She craves retirement from her work-at-home job. Her husband resists retirement and loves productivity. So she works. She makes lists and checks things off.

1. Write the report.
2. Walk Eddie McPuppers.
3. Or let him walk you.
4. Respond to e-mail.
5. Bill and pay bills.
6. Count the stats on the Covid-19 pandemic.

A twelfth finger is now emerging, inching out next to her left pinkie. A perfect finger, complete with polished nail. Magenta, with a dripping black rose near the tip. The eleventh finger came out in her sleep.

7. Breathe, Wilma. Don’t leave your body. 

If she looks at each finger through a magnifying glass, they turn Christmas tree green and she can read the lists of tasks in snowflake white.

8. Study the specs.
9. Channel the messages.
10. Burkle the blurff.

Wilma reads the last one twice. “Burkle the blurff?” What does that even mean? What do all these tasks mean?

“Time’s a-fleeing, Wilma,” the right thumb says in English. It wiggles, and Wilma thinks of Jackie, who will be five on August 6.

Wilma releases the thumb and shakes her fingers. The finger-lists drip away. She breathes in freedom.  Her jingling Grandpad summons her. Jackie wants to show her a new fluffy bunny. “When can you come play with me?” she asks.

“When the moon sets and the sun rises.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I love you and you are always in my heart.”

“Here’s Mama,” says Jackie, who thinks Wilma is her own personal Mother Goose.

That night her husband asks, “What did you do today?”

She shakes her fingertips until they look like spider legs clawing the air and says, “Let go of time and talked to your granddaughter. You?”

He grabs a Coke and a glass of ice. Wilma the Weird he thinks, but he doesn’t say it out loud. He loves her weirdness, even when he doesn’t understand it.

* * * * *

Writer and editor B. Lynn Goodwin owns Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. She’s the author of an award-winning YA, Talent, and an award-winning memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62, plus a collection of journaling prompts, flash pieces, and short articles. Her flash fiction was recently published in NeboCabinet of HeedMurmur of Words, and 100-Word Stories.  

Thursday 25 June 2020

The Garden of Earthly Delights
After Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1500

by Rachel J Fenton

I. The Man in the Bowler Hat

Wounded pictures
wait noiselessly in the field tent
of our bathroom,

open windowed,
where powder light hovers as icing dust
particulates filtered

through the white nylon curtain
hanging like a drunk
from the chrome rail, one foot

in the tub: half the shower rings are bust,
their sickle forms
collected by the trap,

clinical waste.
And usually I'm left alone to tend
my patients but today

you want to know,
today you've ventured in, your thoughts
unmasked to ask:

what's that you're painting?
I load my brush with titanium
acrylic: an answer.

II. Destroyed Object

The artist is a poet.
The artist is all ear, eye and heart.
The artist sits alone to rebuild the moments
from myriad perspectives.
The artist has a partner.
The artist's partner is also a poet: he sits
writes his poems in his head
and keeps them there.

III. Cannibal Feast

When I come to suck fresh raspberries'
juice from your hair
pressing the clasp of my mouth's purse
on the oyster of your ear;

when I bring you morsels dripping syrup
from my mother's lips
to tempt the dormant hunger from the tip-
wrecked freezer of your belly,

know the table is set,
the cupboard's empty.

IV. Four Hours of Summer, Hope

It isn't the loss, it isn't the grief,
it's humiliation,
a joke in the worst taste
when your hopes and dreams, your family,
end up in a yellow bag of clinical waste
along with your mistakes.

* * * * *

Rachel J Fenton is a working-class writer living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her poetry has appeared in EnglishMagmaThe RialtoInk, Sweat & TearsLandfallOverland Journal, various anthologies, and a chapbook of poems, Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York, is forthcoming from Ethel Zine and Micro Press in April 2021.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

To the Fetus, or Its Father, or Both

by Clarice Hare

Alone in the soft darkness of my
delirium, far from the loneliest
tree, you swim without fins, without
limbs: whirling, unaccountable, on or
in some sea. Symbolizing
humanness: its eternal
splitting, that clasp and
penetration that dooms you and
me and all before and any
after to the infinite diversions of a
wounded angel. To the scourges
of inchoate imagination; to the
limitations of the earth’s
reserves of colors and refrains. To
scratch words that would be worlds on
barren flints. That which my hand is
reaching out for, but as yet lacks eyes
to see. Which falls forever from
the sky, without ever wholly
leaving it.

* * * * *

Clarice Hare has been writing her entire life, but is new to publication. Though born in humble circumstances, she received a privileged education and has explored both outer and inner worlds widely. She currently lives in obscurity in the southern United States with an assortment of furry and scaly pets.

Tuesday 23 June 2020


by Marilyn Flower

I'd like to say
I didn't know

he'd die that day,
the morning I fled

my father. I held
his legs against

the palsy,
pressed his jumping

body to the hospital
cot. Early

Monday, the nurse
brings his pill;

he turns
his head away.

I know he’ll be gone
by nightfall.

I kiss him, kiss
Mother (who doesn't

know), race
from the room,

he'll leave

before the airport
bus carries me away.

He waits
until evening

to take that breath

Knowing you knew, Dad,
I sigh, content

we blessed
each other’s flight.

* * * * *
"Flying Home" was first published in Poets and Dreamers Literary Journal (April 2016).  

Marilyn Flower teaches literature in the Emeritus program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. California. She is a strong advocate for parity for part-time faculty.