Friday 31 July 2020

these things we can do to honor those who came before us

by Tree Riesener

collect memorabilia from friends and family
            so we will not forget when they are dead

treasure our angel blood and neanderthal dna
            heavy bones anchor great wings and thus we are
fast until we deliver lunches and lemonade
            to all the child harvesters in scorching fields

stand guard over worms
            when flights of sharp-beaked robins descend

check suburban chimneys for stars and smoke-dried babies
            whisper their names               

give everyone seeds to grow their coffins
            help hold the saw shape the wood carry it home

build little houses for the dying
            where they can cook meals of incense and memory

eat the flesh of fallen angels
            bake rosemary into casseroles for the bereaved

ignore god’s love affair with incurable disease
            this is a lamentable mystery

stand back at mass angels follow the host
            like sharks after a wounded swimmer

revere holy children made of sunlight and blood           

* * * * *

"these things we can do to honor those who came before us" is from Tree Riesener's new poetry collection Quodlibet (Ravenna Press, 2020).

Author's note: Quodlibet is a Latin word meaning “whatever it pleases.” In essence, a quodlibet is a practice whereby a question or proposition (or poem) on any subject may be proposed for thought and discussion (recently often referring to a musical composition that combines several different melodies). The discussive practice of quodlibet originated in medieval universities, where such opportunities allowed teachers, students, passersby, workers, clergy, lay people-anyone-to discuss, disagree, modify. The word is ideal to describe a poetry collection that offers poems on many subjects.

Tree Riesener is the author of Sleepers Awake, a collection of fiction, winner of the Eludia Award (Sowilo Press, Hidden River Arts). She has written The Hubble Cantos, poems inspired by astronomy (Aldrich Press), EK-ekphrastic poems (Cervena Barva Press), Angel Fever/Triple No. 5 (Ravenna Press), and three poetry chapbooks, Liminalog, Angel Poison, and Inscapes. She has published numerous poems in literary magazines and anthologies. Her new collection, Quodlibet (Ravenna Press), is a collection of poems on many subjects under the sun. Her website is  She loves to hear from readers.

Thursday 30 July 2020

On streets that I know

by Elise Stuart

Growing up in Minneapolis,
I walked the streets as a kid on my way to school,
where black and white and brown kids
learned together, where we sang
Beatles songs on the steps,
had paper sales by the big trees in front,
stacks of old papers we collected, tied with twine
leaning against tree trunks.

Remember coming home,
running with my friend, Alice,
the day Kennedy was shot.
Every street seemed tilted,
everything felt different that day.
Nothing was ever the same,
as more of our leaders were killed.

Walking down the streets when
I ran from home at 16.
The streets became home for a while,
became part of me.
Then, the cops harassed us as hippies,
just wanting us to be
afraid of them, a tiny bit of what
the black man and woman have had to
live with for hundreds of years.

When I heard of the murder,
the killing of an innocent man,
knee to neck, while three cops watched
and didn’t stop it.
A man handcuffed, made helpless,
suffocated to death.
I know that street.
And I feel again,
that nothing will ever be the same.
That we have seen the cruelty,
the barbarian, at work,
lying and killing,
on video.

If only he could have stopped,
known that this man was
a father, a son, a brother,
like himself.
I grieve for George Floyd’s family
for the cruel and heartless way he lost his life.
Let this loss make me give voice to justice,
without violence,
that is so long
in coming.

* * * * *

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.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Fifth Graders' Rebellion, 1963

by Peggy Turnbull 

When we saw Mr. G. play foursquare with the boys,
we stopped skipping rope, left blue-haired trolls
in our pockets, joined the game. Slapping balls
into corners, we began to best the boys.
One day Tracy traded her limp skirt for a pair of slacks.
At home for lunch, I modeled her. One by one, saying
nothing among ourselves, girls swapped gingham dresses
for corduroy pants. Told our puzzled mothers no skirt today.  
We awoke sizzling. We galloped to school.

Two and a half days passed before Mr. G.
announced that girls must always dress like ladies.
The game at recess changed to boys chase girls.
Boys shoved us hard, made our skirts flip up.

Girls once glowed like beacons in the fog.
Now we watched our new-found zeal flicker,
low on fuel. We had to bank our fires.

* * * * *

Peggy Turnbull returned to her birthplace in the upper Midwest after living in West Virginia for over 25 years. She began writing poetry after retiring from her work as a university librarian. Her first chapbook, The Joy of Their Holiness, is forthcoming from Kelsay Publishing. Her micro chapbook, Rocking Chair Abstract, is available from the Origami Poems Project. 

Tuesday 28 July 2020


by Nancy E. Allen

We are roaming rows of blue agave,
standing in line to buy tamales,

fiddling with strange coins in our palms.
Our feet are dusty in sandals

and all the sounds around us are words
we barely know. They could be poems.

We have no right to expect kindness
in Mexico and yet the people

are kind, “Don’t worry; we’ve had asshole
presidents too. It’s not your fault.”

They are patient when we mangle
expressions, order food, ask directions.

We vow to study the language, travel
in South America despite fears,

re-read Neruda, Paz, Lorca.
In my mind we are driving south

with a copy of Twenty Love Poems
And A Song Of Despair, en español.

* * * * *

"Mexico" was first published in Gargoyle. 

Nancy E. Allen is a DC based public defender, teaches yoga and owns a yoga studio.  Her poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Tar River Poetry, Sow's Ear Review, and New Millennium Writings among other journals.  She spends most of her time wishing she were somewhere else.

Monday 27 July 2020

Double Shift

by Jill Sharon Kimmelman

Another crazy chaotic work day looms: 24 hours

Can you do it?
perhaps...if you turn a deaf ear to the noisy chatter 
of concerns threatening to topple
every text book...fence post...memorized statistic inside your bleary mind

It's not a day for dreaming dreams and sipping coffee slowly
it's a day for getting through and under and over and out the door

Minute by minute...hour after hour 
they call out your name
hugging the corners...patients with fears
so many lost souls...riddled with grief 
red-rimmed eyes...swimming with tears

Anxious patients wait...not always patiently their buttons
you cannot ignore those ceaseless ringing bells 

Needy people...needing you
each one demanding something different
a break...a meal...change for the bus...a hug 
fighting against their dying...headed for heaven 
some days are just plain hell!

They need you to take them outside their confusion
and miles away from their pain

Thirteen hours to go...welcome back hero
to the the chaos...
to the tiny spark of someone's hope

Do they say the words aloud
or is it enough just to see thanks in their smile 
on a face that hasn't smiled in perhaps a dozen years

So many sounds...too many sounds
by day's end you are ready...more than ready for silence 
yet...when it is too quiet
you lay restless...engulfed in dark and stillness
sleep has become an unanswered prayer

You realize hits you hard
you haven’t heard her voice all day

When at last you make the call
she is half asleep...her words are soft 
you clutch them to you as a prize 
finally can close your eyes

You helped a few souls
you fought the good fight 
another work day fades to black 
as she enters your dreams 
beautiful in resplendent light

* * * * *

Author’s note:  written, with gratitude, while the author was a hospital patient, in appreciation, to the extraordinary first responders and her team of dedicated nurses.

Jill Sharon Kimmelman was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, in poetry, in 2017 and Best Of The Net 2018. Recent publications include, Spillwords Press, Yasou! A Celebration Of Life Ezine and Better Than Starbucks. Current publications are in the works.

She enjoys “cooking from the heart”, theatre, lively book discussions and photography. She lives in Delaware with her husband, Tim.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Seven-Year-Old Girls’ Sleep-over Party, 1970                                             

by Karen Friedland

We went tribal, that night.
It was epic—
Near-naked, we painted flowers around our belly buttons
with a mother’s lipstick

and formed warring camps—
fighting pitched hula-dance battles
until a mother came in,
pleading for mercy,
claiming 2 a.m.

And where, oh where, are those pleasure-drunk,
dancing seven-year-old wild girls now?

Old, with sagging bellies, I imagine—
having been slit open repeatedly
to remove wombs, tumors, babies.

Yet, might we be yearning to break free,
paint flowers around our aging, wrinkled belly buttons
with lipstick, and fight pitched hula battles once more?

We might be.

* * * * *

A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen’s poems have been published in Nixes Mate ReviewWriting in a Women’s Voice, the Lily Poetry ReviewVox Populi and others. Her book of poems, Places That Are Gone, was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books, and she has a chapbook forthcoming in late 2020 from Cervena Barva Press. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats and two dogs.

Saturday 25 July 2020

To the Trees

by Karen Friedland

Mainly, I like your leaves,
and the knowledge that your roots
are everywhere—

burrowing deep through every square inch of soil,
seeking sustenance,
and chatting, apparently, with other beings.

So I let the blow-ins grow,
and now they’re towering,
seeking out the sun
and flowering,

providing us with infinite beauty,
protecting us
from the pitilessness of over-exposure.

* * * * *

A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen’s poems have been published in Nixes Mate ReviewWriting in a Women’s Voice, the Lily Poetry ReviewVox Populi and others. Her book of poems, Places That Are Gone, was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books, and she has a chapbook forthcoming in late 2020 from Cervena Barva Press. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats and two dogs.

Friday 24 July 2020

I Am a Brown Girl

by Anindita Sarkar

You shall never know
about a life under vigilance,
bereft of any thrill
stuffed with cascades of compliance,
vaselined lips sealed
under the authority of conservativeness,
the cocoons of curiosity
are butchered by the parents
through their dim responses.
The gaze of towering men
often slices my hijab
as I clasp my cleavage
under a blanket of cloaks.
I anticipated an escape
re-etching my flight
in the dead-quiet of the night
I was jolted by a withdrawal.
I feel like an unappeased spirit
searching for myself
in fictional characters and
catalogues or magazines.
Maybe in another life
I will be reborn as one of the girls wearing lipstick
brazenly sporting in half-naked tunics,
unaware of their downplay,
the column of insecurities
concealed in their burgundy purse
and the litany of condolences
on the souvenirs of their ex-boyfriends
they bear as scars.
Not everything can be as easy as a nursery verse
it’s complex to unfurl the secrets of this collateral universe.

* * * * *

Anindita Sarkar is pursuing a MPhil degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She is from Kolkata,India. She is also a UGC Junior Research Fellow. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

God of the Mask

by Patrice Boyer Claeys

I wish for the moment when humanity wins—

for I have had too much
pain.       Call up in me
lines depicting simple happiness
tide of voices
hymn to life.

Time and fevers burn away
leaving behind
only this life.

Blessed are the men and women—   

the beauty of them against these odds.

Cento Sources: Mark Jarman, Bodie James, Robert Frost, Mina Loy, Peter Gizzi, Lynda Hull, Timothy Donnelly, W. H. Auden, Martha Collins, Mong-Lan, Anonymous (Odes of Solomon), Aracelis Girmay

* * * * *

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Zone 3, Glassworks Magazine, Literary Mama, Inflectionist Review, Pirene’s Fountain and Aeolian Harp Anthology 5. Patrice was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2019) and Best of the Net (2019, 2014). She lives in Chicago and can be found online at

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Dread, 2020

by Patrice Boyer Claeys

Under the folds of my brain
I caught you sneaking around in my mind
understanding somehow
you are everywhere
with one red eye.


Something as silent as the essential spaces of breath
is descending:
terrible, careless
with unstoppable force. If we
forget for a minute
and drink it in
breath      by      breath
we all become
a migraine in the dark.

Like moths in cotton, panic
twists its veiny neck.

Cento sources:  Brandi Gentry, Kaitlin LaMoine Martin, Martin Mikelberg, Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, Amy Lowell, sam sax, Pattiann Rogers, Sarah E. Barber, Jennifer Grotz, Victoria Kelly, David Wagoner, Dennis Schmitz, Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Fady Joudah, Mike Dockins, Cymelle Leah Edwards

* * * * *

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of two full-length poetry collections, The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Zone 3, Glassworks Magazine, Literary Mama, Inflectionist Review, Pirene’s Fountain and Aeolian Harp Anthology 5. Patrice was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (2019) and Best of the Net (2019, 2014). She lives in Chicago and can be found online at

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Memories of My Father

by Mary Rohrer-Dann

I don’t care if you come home crying, my dad
tells my five-year-old self. Just make sure
the other guy is crying too. The other guy
is also five, also named Mary.

My father throws me from his shoulders
into Sunshine Lake. I plunge into tea-
colored cedar water, rise to droplets
sliding like diamonds down his arms.

Draw five lines, he tells me, any which way.
Then he takes my crayon, sketches a face.
Again! I draw lines even more haphazard.
Goofy, sly, surprised faces crowd the paper.
Someday, my sisters and brother and I
will teach this game to our kids.

He loves telling about being an Army cook,
about baking a general’s favorite cake
in the heaving hold of a troopship
during a typhoon, how he had a pet monkey
on Leyte, saw village women suckling piglets
in Papua, New Guinea. Only sometimes does
he talk about how his regiment was gearing up
to invade Tokyo.
Then, Hiroshima.

Stop yelling at Mom, I shout at him.
His fury, all volume, vanishes like steam
but leaves the rest of us shaking.
I am the only one who yells back.

Long after he quits his Pall Malls and beer,
even after retiring, his baker’s smell
of flour, sugar, and butter lingers
in the lines of his hands, the back of his neck,
his bitten-to-the-quick nails.

Eighty, my dad swings a badminton
racquet at lumbering carpenter bees
that nest in the patio roof. Every
afternoon, he and the bees perform
their inelegant pas de deux.

Near the end, long past midnight, Dad and I
watch the hospital meditation channel.
Molten colors flow and bloom, transform.
I kiss him goodnight. I love you.
            Oh, yeah?

* * * * *

“Memories of My Father" is part or the author's forthcoming book of poems, Taking the Long Way Home, to be published in December 2020 by Kelsay Books.

Mary Rohrer-Dann is a writer, painter, and educator in central PA. Her book of poems, Taking the Long Way Home, will be published by Kelsay Books in December 2020.  Recent work has appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Literary Yard, Literary Heist, Flash Fiction Magazine, San Antonio Review, The Drabble, and others. Two narrative poem projects, La Scaffetta and Accidents of Being, were adapted to stage by Tempest Productions, Inc. and produced in NYC; State College, PA; and Philadelphia.

Monday 20 July 2020

The Weaning Process

by Caitlin Myler

The wait stretches on forever.
You think the life will be 
Sucked out of you for years.
For years upon years.

And you haven't made up your mind yet if that's a

On the one hand,
It's like a shard of glass
Stuck in your breast.

On the other hand, you can sit. 
You can hold him
And he will let you.

One day though, you've had enough!
It's over.
Nothing more.
Nada. Zip. Zilch.

And you buy bananas by the box
And you take out the dresses from storage
And you start to get excited.

Then you feel the pain in your chest
And you realize that it wasn't life being sucked out of you,
But love and peace.

And you cry over the pain of milk being spilled,
One drop at a time,
And the loss of it all.

And then you are empty
And it's all natural
And all the right thing to do.

But you feel you missed...

You always knew this would happen -
Experience has always taught you.

To lead,
To guide,
Is no easy task and full of daily
Sorrows and mourning -
And oh, how I love the sleep.
But, oh, will I ever hold him
While he sleeps again?

* * * * *

Caitlin Myler has written poems for herself and family for a decade. She has recently begun to submit poetry for publication and prizes. She is the mother of four children and lives in Utah.

Sunday 19 July 2020

Cause and Effect

by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

What is this invisible force that hits
so powerful in my life it bends my spine
leaves me doubled over into a permanent
squiggle—hard as any bus or bullet? 
My misfortune is not knowing what
to change or not to change. Scoliosis is

An idiopathic disorder most prevalent
in adolescent girls, teenagers captive to
our anatomies, teens so often belittled
growing up in a culture steeped in
misogyny, assault, and rape. Maybe we
are just trying to make ourselves smaller
uglier in a way, hoping nobody will notice
we are here. Maybe we just needed
at one point, to be held up, like we really
really mattered. 

Or maybe it’s our own internal gravity
weighing us down, asking us to fly
to the moon, all the way past Mars,
beyond everything we’ve ever been told
asking us to escape.

* * * * *

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English speaking poet from Long Beach, California.  Disabled with scoliosis from a young age, her poems often focus on trauma, giving heart to the antiseptic language of hospital intake forms.  She is the author of Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) and founder of the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks.  Kelsey is a Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net nominee, and has had poems accepted by Spillway, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Trailer Park Quarterly, Redshift, Lummox, and Right Hand Pointing.  Moon Tide Press’ Poet of the Month for May 2020, find her at and on Instagram @theexquisitepoet.