Tuesday 30 November 2021


My Body as Rock Creek Park

by Deborah Hefferon


My body meanders through

the city on a sweet braided network

of nectar-reconnaissance:                                               wild,


wooded, quarried, and scrambled.

Smooth as packed sandy soil,

its eroded banks echo a Kingfisher’s scolding.


My body is like the shallow cap

of the red oak’s acorn, a patchwork

of outcroppings, panic grass and nettles,


rising to the crowns of white oaks,

strumming with cicadas,                                             darting

among blue damselflies.


Half a billion-year-old rippled

rock angles through polypody ferns

and paw paw                                         leaping              down to the wooded


stream valley, splashing into clarity.

My body is a therapist, a refuge,

a samara                                               whirling                        in full flower          and in bud.       


* * * * *

Deborah Hefferon is a recently retired cross-cultural communication trainer in Washington DC who morphed into a full time writer during the pandemic. She has had poems and essays published in Prospectus: A Literary Offering (spring 2021), Teach. Write.: A Writing Teachers’ Literary Journal (Spring-Summer 2021), District Lines (Winter 2018, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC), Ekphrastic Review (2020), Story64anderbo.comThe Washington Post Sunday Magazine, and other print and online publications.

Monday 29 November 2021


by Andrea Smith

The crunching snow
The signal to doom
The rings and the clicks
The voice at the other end; tiresome, exasperated
The howling wind
The shoveling grazing the pavement
Tires screech; the shock simmers
the settling slush
or a slip on a patch of ice
purposely or accidentally
Felt in a frantic frenzy
crackling fire cozy for two
or the sound of collapse
Every word topples my faith
The moon blasts a message
I bypass and listen to nonsense
My thoughts grinding into insanity
As the wind picks up
I fear this is my discontent
Half of my heart frozen
Shattered like a felled icicle
The droplets in tune with my broken heart
This is humiliation exposed
Boots dragging through the snow
The whoosh of snowballs
I am assaulted with chilly conversation

* * * * *

Andrea Smith can usually be found telling Alexa to play her favorite songs. She empties her mind by telling stories. The mother of two lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania with her cat (Simba). She is best known for her cooking skills and reading books. She also writes non-fiction on uncomfortable subjects and other topics from books to true crime.  She finds joy in wine and knitting. No blog yet, but stay tuned.

Sunday 28 November 2021


by Reena Kapoor

I have answers for the complacent ones, who lounge in their stupor
Bleating on: What can we do? we are too little, too weak, too far away…
What answers do I give to those who were battered themselves
Whose bones were hacked, lives torn up like secondhand trash
What do we tell those who cry: I was there.
It was me they felled; the rest simply walked away…

I think of you often and wonder what dreams you left unfinished
How much your mother cried, or couldn't—even as she bled
When your father stopped breathing, every breath hurt so much
Whither those you touched now drift, emptied by humanity's betrayal

Yet there were those who simply left you for dead, near dead
"What could have we done?" "We are but helpless..." Indeed!
"It is the system that's so rotten" they most boisterously proclaim
Then secure their homes to rebirth the same wretched filth

Maybe the sleeping wrath you woke will howl unto hell
Maybe the world will move on—unmoved
Maybe one day you'll come back, seek us out for an answer
Was it me or your dharma that was raped that day?

* * * * *

*dharma = duty/ righteousness in Hinduism

Author's note: Originally this poem was written for “Nirbhaya,” who was fatally raped and brutalized in India on December 16, 2012, but applies to any girl or woman who suffered a similar fate while we stood by. Molestation, rape and sexual assault of women in public spaces is often written off rather euphemistically as “eve teasing” in India; while things have marginally improved in terms of awareness, this type of violence continues to shake the country’s conscience all too often.

Growing up an “army brat” in India, Reena Kapoor feels lucky to have lived all over the country. Reena has been muddling with poetry for over a decade. Arrivals & Departures is her debut poetry collection. Her poems take the reader on journeys through a multitude of places and time periods. Reena can be found at her blog https://arrivalsanddepartures.substack.com/. As the 2020-21 playwright-in-residence for EnActe Arts, a Bay Area theatre company, four plays by Reena were produced in April 2021. Reena’s photography can be found on Instagram at @1stardusty.

Saturday 27 November 2021



by Michelle Meyer


I pulled my hand out of her hand
somewhere around Maurice’s, Cinnabon or
possibly Orange Julius.
We were having one of our Mother/Daughter days.
They were always at the mall.
Madonna was always singing Like a Virgin.
It was 1984. I was 14. I was
She reached for my hand to reassure me, to say,
I’m always here for you. To say,
Don’t grow up just yet—don’t go
into that dressing room as my only girl and emerge
as your own woman.
I let go
of her hand.
I let go
of her hand and grabbed a pair of stirrups—
the kind that everyone at school was wearing.
I walked into the dressing room and
I changed.

* * * * *

Michelle Meyer is a freelance copy/content/blog writer specializing in performing arts, boutique, and specialty business. She has written, directed, and produced numerous live theatre skits and plays and her poems have been published in Australia and the Midwestern region of the U.S. When Covid season struck in 2020 she facilitated a 52-week collaborative online installation of women’s visual art based on 52 of her poems from The Book of She, a collection of character vignettes devoted to women. Find the whole book on Instagram @meeshmeyerwrites

Friday 26 November 2021

Sweet Refuge

by Djehane Hassouna

Unable to wrap her small arms completely around me,
She attempts to comfort me as best as she can.
Building a nest for my heart, wiping my tears with
Her tiny hands, she says, “Mina, don’t cry! I love you
And I won’t let anything bad happen to you!”
Throughout the years, constantly encouraging me,
Her sweet smile was my only hope as she whispered
Softly, “May God help me build a palace for you!”
Thankful, I replied, “You are my palace and my crown,
My Heaven and my sunshine! You are my everything!”
Her presence causes sadness to vanish, anxiety to fade,
And problems to disappear! Like a shining star,
She fills my world with light. She has always been
My constant source of joy, my reason for happiness,
My only expectation for the Future! Away from her,
I stop being alive! When I see her, I radiate bliss!
I wish I could grant her every wish, brighten her world,
And give her as much joy as she’s given me!
Tu es mon cadeau du ciel!” I keep repeating,
And I mean every word...

* * * * *

"Sweet Refuge" is part of Djehane Hassouna's poetry collection Rainbow of Emotions (Tellwell Talent, 2020).

Djehane Hassouna began her poetic journey in Egypt. She expresses her feelings thus mirroring her life through poetry in French and English. As she writes, her emotions transform into verse, and Djehane becomes one with her poetry.
Djehane received her BA in French from Catholic University, her MA in Comparative Literature from Vermont College, and her PhD in Romance Languages/Literatures from University of Pittsburgh.
Djehane is patient, resilient, and her creativity has no bounds.  She continues to write poetry despite her struggle with Parkinson's disease… In 2020, she published her first book of poetry, Rainbow of Emotions.

Thursday 25 November 2021



by Shreya Dhital

You appear and
the furrow between my brows 
leaves a grin in its wake 

* * * * *

Shreya was six years old when she first discovered the magic words can create. To further explore words that could be strung together to structure meaningful sentences and captivating stories, Shreya began her journey as a writer. 

Wednesday 24 November 2021


by Rebecca McSwain

In countless photographs, behind the lens,
she was invisible, or at most a shadow to be edited out
as necessary, e.g. from the plaza at Santa Fe, late afternoon. 
She was absent from Bodega Bay, where sea lions swam suspended in crystal waves,
and again not there in Idaho, at the dark lake just south of Coeur d’Alene.
She was not present on a Sonoran desert ridge at twilight,
nor at dawn in a field of Kansas sunflowers.
Then in a too-bright eastern room (Vermont),
one picture that hung on a noncommittal white-washed wall
showed her reflection in the windshield of a truck,
a blurred shiny woman, small camera in hand.
A mistake.  But still, there she was.
That had been the day when
near an escarpment above the Guadalupe River
one of her fellow travelers, a geologist,
casually reached out to touch on something
universal and timeless.
She knows by now that human stories, pictured,
take the eye in unexpected directions.
Solid form and high-gloss color
lead into amorphous shadows, deep and black,
and the missing parts of an image of herself
might finally become clear,
when her eye connects them all,
finding and seeing, leaving nothing out.

* * * * *

Rebecca McSwain has been an archaeologist, an editor, and a medical transcriptionist. Her poem "Normal" was published in The Hiram Poetry Review. Spring 2021. As Madalyne Della, her story "A Hat and a Mirror" was published in Scribble online and nominated for a Pushcart prize.
Shakespeare Festival Sonnet Contest, anthology publication forthcoming.

Tuesday 23 November 2021


by RC deWinter

caught in the snows
swirling down the pike
from amherst

i need a mountain
but there is none nearby
only rolling hills
pocked with gentrified mills

and even greylock
tucked high in the west
is not rarefied enough

though i long to lie
on your lovely summer lawns
and bury myself
in the fragrance
of your gentility
i'm a tiger
i'm a loner

emily dickinson
in fur
with fangs and claws
made for the
prehistoric silence
of high rugged peaks

* * * * *

RC deWinter’s poetry is widely anthologized, notably in New York City Haiku (Universe/NY Times,  2/2017), New Contexts 2 (Coverstory Books, 9/2021), Now We Heal: An Anthology of Hope (Wellworth Publishing, 12/2020), in print in 2River, Event Magazine, Gargoyle Magazine, Genre Urban Arts, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, the minnesota review, Night Picnic Journal, Plainsongs, Prairie Schooner, San Antonio Review, The Ogham Stone, Southword, Twelve Mile Review, Yellow Arrow Journal, The York Literary Review among others and appears in numerous online literary journals.  She’s also a one of winners of the 2021 Connecticut Shakespeare Festival Sonnet Contest, anthology publication forthcoming.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Queen of the Hungarian Mafia

by Gaby Reich-Anderson



 I think my grandmother was Queen of the Hungarian Mafia.

Her apartment in Montreal was Little Budapest, the place to be seen. She served espresso in delicate hand painted cups, and lovingly arranged sugary cakes and pastries on porcelain Herend platters. Ashtrays overflowed, as did information, gossip, and laughter. My sweet, spirited grandmother was the person to know in a large circle of immigrants who fled from hate, war, and political oppression in the 1950s.

These images from my youth remain with me. Beautifully dressed women, men in suits and ties, leaning into the conversation. I know it wasn’t the Mafia, but there was a silent, deafening pact.

At least for the adults. My brother, cousins and I came along in the sixties. We ran about, as kids often do, swept up in the embrace of doting friends and relatives. We were witnesses in these gatherings, future historians whose innocence kept us from comprehending the gratitude those in attendance must have felt for being there. For still being alive.

The chatter, the smell of cigarettes, and the sweetness of a sugar cube dipped in strong coffee on my tongue, colored my personality and saturated my mind with memories.

Their strength, humor and unimaginable pain were the building blocks of everything I am today, and their history sticks to my gut, existing like a layer of emotion under my skin. All of my family, most of them long gone, are forever with me.

As an author, this lovely and tragic past bleeds into my writing. I can’t stop it. I don’t want to. But I have a problem.

Earlier this year, I wrote a serious piece about the misery my mom lived through as a survivor of The Holocaust. The words spilled out of me. But then I hit a wall. One built from the guilt of exploiting or monetizing the misfortune of others. The shame was so overwhelming I deleted the entire work.

Was it the right thing to do? These stories are incredible, terrible. They’re of my grandmother negotiating with a rabbi about the list of women and children, her children, scheduled to be on the train to Auschwitz. About my great-uncle in a prison camp, surviving only because he used ice and snow to clean himself. And tales of my dad hiding in cellars, while the Nazis killed my grandfather for helping two elderly Jewish men walking too slowly in the back of a line.

So what to do? Tuck these tales away or share them by getting the word out and hoping like hell for humanity to bend toward kindness and tolerance instead of hate, power, and greed?

The anxious side of me says to leave it alone, because we’ve all heard so many of these accounts. Does any declaration exist to make the world a better place or cast more shade on how vile it is to discriminate and kill based on, well… anything?

The other side of me, the one fighting to be brave, thinks back to when I was a kid. Listening, transfixed, as my relatives recounted the horrors and triumphs they’d lived through. Were those stories for my ears only, or were they telling me so I can make sure it doesn’t happen again? So I can tell you.


* * * * *

Gaby Reich-Anderson is a first-generation Hungarian Canadian. At age twelve, she became a U.S. citizen, and a hybrid of the tight-knit immigrant community in Montreal, Quebec, and the American Dream. At The University of Denver, she studied business administration, creative writing, and business law. She currently lives in metro Atlanta, where she is employed as a practice consultant for behavioral health providers.
Her hobbies are hanging out with her family, writing, and giving the dogs flea baths. She's been a member of The Atlanta Writers Club and Roswell Critique Group since 2011.


Saturday 20 November 2021


This month, an additional Moon Prize, the 86th, goes to Jen Schneider's poem "fourteen reasons to always say goodbye."

fourteen reasons to always say goodbye

by Jen Schneider

  1. i never got to say goodbye. to the man in the white tank. ribbed cotton. vertical stripes. a smile as wide as the ocean from which he/my love for him grew.
  2. i saw his footprint in the sand today. toes on souls, he’d say.
  3. i placed my sole in his and waited for the crushing wave. the ones we’d wade in, talking about things we’d like to do in/for/of the next five years
  4. scuba dives and cycle rides. travel of various degrees – far north. further west. city hopping. baby popping. tail wagging. down payments. no more basements. upward acknowledgments. butterfly wishes. afternoon kisses. lemon spritzes. sunday drives to nowhere. up coasts. down mountains. in theatres. of books. menus of letters. letters of love. diner specials from everywhere. days of nothing special. evenings of everything.
  5. thought of our lists. sketched on throw away napkins and drive through receipts. doodled on diner placemats. traced on palms of grease and backs of oil.
  6. things that made us happy - hearts of palm. palmetto trees. trees of bees. honeysuckle vines. scrabble lines. slot machine dimes. love. lovely lists. 
  7. the ones we’d compose then compile while consuming things that made our hearts ring – crosswords and curry -- and our voices sing – lennon and mercury
  8. talking about things that made me/us (he often, not always, agreed) angry – incarceration rates, feuding states. states of suspension. days in detention.
  9. pondering things that he/we (I often, not always, agreed) found interesting – me. us. education baits, soulmates. historic dates. unknown fates.
  10. why wait, he’d say. too many reasons to count.
  11. i sat in the sand and counted. waves. gulls. children. shells. grills. sandy hills. unpaid bills.
  12. then counted letters. letters in bottles. on ice cream trucks. on chair backs. on bare backs.
  13. anything to forget when I could only remember.
  14. i never got to say goodbye. to the man in the white tank.


* * * * *

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming Atmosphere Press).

Friday 19 November 2021

This month's Moon Prize, the 85th, goes to Eve Makoff's poem "Hourglass."


by Eve Makoff

The hours flip by on the mud-brown digital clock on my dresser.

Fluorescent red. 
1:21. 2:34. 3:18. 4:25. 
I am awake because I am counting. 
My waist is a 27 but should be 24.
An hourglass. 

Toes dug into the sand, face-down on my towel, whispering under my armpit. 

“I’m so fucking fat.”
I’m 13 years old and I ate 5 brownies.
I should always weigh 125 pounds. 

Peanut butter. 

188 calories in 2 tablespoons. 
16 grams of fat. 
Thickly spread on soft white bread in the cafeteria at the camp under the redwoods. 
No peanut butter for 20 years.

Grade point average 

SAT/AP scores
Class ranking 
Tennis games 
Friends Suitors Colleges

3000 miles away.

The freezing air whips my face on 116th Street and Broadway.
40 degrees and I’m barefoot. 
On my stoop an old man says I had Michelangelo toes.
In 1984 the drinking age in New York is 19.

Married at 32 

9 pounds 11 ounces
8 pounds 7 ounces
8 pounds 15 ounces
Divorced at 42
Married at 49

Carbs Laps Miles 

Degrees Jobs Salaries

[Belly laughs-Soulmates



How much do I have left?

* * * * *

Eve Makoff is an internal medicine and palliative care physician. She is studying narrative medicine at Columbia University and reads and writes in her spare time.

Thursday 18 November 2021


by Marguerite G. Bouvard

After a heavy and prolonged rain
the flowers whose stalks were
bent on the ground like a waterfall
in stasis, are beginning to slowly

rise up, at a time when we all
need to move upward from what
assails us. The trees are making new
shoots, people are reaching out

to each other in small ways;
the quiet ongoing process in Israel
with Sheikh Raed Bader and
Rabbi Michael Melchior working

together for peace in a country
where religions and nationalities
are raging against each other,
showing us that our Creator

does not have only one name,
that we need to honor every
life over the distinctions
that separate us when the colors

of the sunset with its intertwining
clouds bring together the sea,
earth and sky, the light that ushers
each one of us to life.

* * * * *

Marguerite G. Bouvard is the author of 11 poetry books, two of which have won awards including the MassBook Award for Poetry. She has also written a number of non-fiction books on women's rights, human rights, social justice, grief, and has just finished one, Healthcare Workers on the Frontline of the Pandemic. Her poetry collection The Cosmos of the Heart came out fall 2020. Her poetry collection Shades of Meaning will be out late December 2021.

Wednesday 17 November 2021



by Joanne Durham

Her hand steadies
his wobbly neck, his bottom
rests in her curled palm.
For a change, her eyes are shut,
his open,
grazing deep pockets
of space and sound,
sudden drafts and shifting heat
he doesn’t yet know
as the ceiling fan
and slant of morning sun.

He clutches the fold of her sleeve,
seeking the same heartbeat
that sustained him
tucked away in her womb.
His body born
from the thrust of a hard
push, trust born    
from moments
like this.

* * * * *

Joanne Durham is a retired educator lucky to live on the North Carolina coast, with the ocean as her backyard. She has been writing poetry since childhood, but in the last few years has brought it center stage in her life. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Third Wednesday, Juniper Poetry Journal, Evening Street Review, Eunoia and other journals. Please visit https://www.joannedurham.com/ for more about her background and poetry. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Brittany, 1978

by Betsy Mars

If you don’t like it, get out of the car
he said after a week of travelling.
Starting from a darkened garage
in London, hidden like a slightly older Lolita –
I huddled in the backseat of a station wagon
loaded down with provisions
for our continental road trip.
We crossed the Channel wordlessly.
On land again, he drove
and I fended off his suggestive tongue,
his critiques of my eating habits, too.
I watched, wrote in my notebook
all along the Normandy coast.
We slept in the car, on beaches
though neither of us ever rested.
By day, we irritated and repelled,
drew into our corners,
prepared for the next night
in too-close quarters,
both ready for a fight.
On the fifth day, we arrived at dusk
in another gray stone village.
Stopping at a tiny market
I found an apple and a yogurt,
and a freckled cashier
who made me welcome.
In search of a hotel and strengthened
by that moment at the register, her kind face,
when he said
If you don’t like it, get out of the car,
I climbed out and stood unsteadily
on the curb, crying, but free.

* * * * *

"Brittany, 1978" was first published under a different title in the San Pedro River Review

Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press which she founded in 2019. Her poetry has recently appeared in One Art, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Autumn Sky, as well as numerous anthologies and journals. She is a Best of the Net nominee and her photos have been featured in various journals including RATTLE and Spank the Carp. Betsy is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press). 

Monday 15 November 2021

Meta California Dreaming

by Betsy Mars

Walking by the beach watching
a guy about my age
leatherbacked and tan
with salt-stiffened hair –
maybe Duke or Ken 
riding at the beach on his beach cruiser
listening to the Boys of Summer by the Eagles,
wondering if he knows
he's a stereotype, maybe
that's his intention – does anyone else notice,
or are they too busy watching
the volleyball players in their skimpy clothes,
the un-selfconscious
guy dancing down the path, invisible
earbuds blasting his silent soundtrack,
the seagulls spinning overhead,
pelicans plummeting for a snack.
It's only April and we're still masked.
What will come when summer comes
I wonder, walking in solitude, tuned
to the changing mood, unobserved –
another older woman, unattended hair
gone gray this careless year –
monitoring my pedometer, the time,
another season slipping away.

* * * * *

Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press which she founded in 2019. Her poetry has recently appeared in One Art, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Autumn Sky, as well as numerous anthologies and journals. She is a Best of the Net nominee and her photos have been featured in various journals including RATTLE and Spank the Carp. Betsy is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press). 

Sunday 14 November 2021

I saw my ex on LinkedIn

by Nicole Bird

Your picture popped up today
and your hair looks different.
It’s smooth and frames your face,
in a professional way,
Since you’re a VP of marketing now.
When I knew you,
you were a vagabond musician,
equipped with a fro of fire and
anyone could spot you from a mile away,
a dot of rust among the multitudes
and cacophony of Hollywood Boulevard
with icy blue eyes
cold like a lie.
All those moments
flood my mind,
tangled sheets
and soft laughter,
lips grazing,
inhaling your exhale,
so much fiction and warmth.
But, there was nothing like the frigid spike
of your betrayal
after so much truth.

* * * * *

"I saw my ex on LinkedIn" was previously published in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal. 

Nicole's career began with a degree in Creative Writing. Her focus then shifted to garnering degrees in Film Production and Screenwriting. Afterwards, Nicole worked in film, while writing and producing her own short films. Now, Nicole works as a Creative Writing professor and is currently at work on a collection of poetry, as well as honing her gluten free baking skills developed during the 2020 quarantine. Her work has appeared in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal.

Saturday 13 November 2021


On Lineage

by Nicole Bird

I’ve never met my grandmother. She exists
in tall tales and stories to shiver your bones.
The last time my mother saw her,

she chased her out of the house
with a knife she was using to chop onions,
the sour smell infecting my mother’s eyes.

They welled with tears amidst all those
quick movements and heightened senses
necessary to evade cold violence.

My mother sprinted out of the house and
never returned. Now

My grandmother resides in a facility
situated on the side of a mountain
in Puerto Rico, confined to a wheelchair,
prisoner of her own mind.

She’ll never again realize that today is today.

I’ve never met her but,
when I do–because life has that sort of funny inevitability,
I wonder

if the chilling history
will provide context for the ghost
of a grandmother. Or will she be

just another human, dragging her pain behind her,
like chains scratching against concrete, until
they’re nothing but brambles made of rust.

* * * * *

"On Lineage" was previously published in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal. 

Nicole's career began with a degree in Creative Writing. Her focus then shifted to garnering degrees in Film Production and Screenwriting. Afterwards, Nicole worked in film, while writing and producing her own short films. Now, Nicole works as a Creative Writing professor and is currently at work on a collection of poetry, as well as honing her gluten free baking skills developed during the 2020 quarantine. Her work has appeared in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal.

Friday 12 November 2021


On labor: 14 (times 2) (breathe in / out / again) ways to turn on the charm (clean the farm) 

by Jen Schneider


1.     a thin, gold chain, weighted of metal & purchased on a sunday funday whim at a sandy dandy beach souvenir shop (the kind with hermit crabs in cages and three for ten Ts, wholesome sundries too) links an ankle swollen of age (borderline rage) and fluid. the ankle & its attached soul in a delicate position. delicate discussions off limits. 

2.     a solitary charm, an ocean blue and cranberry red enamel dove, brushes & lingers against the pale bone. the bone not unlike a mountain atop a limb lost in labor. angles both acute & obtuse everywhere.  

3.     an orchestra of charms at war with gravity (& in tune with time) plays low notes while voices climb higher. new elevations reached. new thresholds breached. 

4.     a violet heart brushes a white arrow. tiny cupids toil. double-sided, all sides on edge. a green tortoise hugs a brown owl. opposites attract, always attracted. protracted distractions of faux gold & air-stained tarnish everywhere. 

5.     collected at sunday funday fleas & monday markets. time on stand still. still more work to be done. late night discos & pre-dawn vegetable stands. each charm a milestone. each milestone a marker. of tradition, extended labor, & turnips turned timekeepers. ripe. riper. ready to eat. almost there.

6.     some stands one mile south. others thirty miles north. each additional marker simultaneously miraculous & numbing. home both an anchor & a weight. 

7.     minds travel 10 then 20 then 30 miles. more meters. i am of/in/on labor. a teacher. a friend. a cousin. both responsive to others & responsible for others. dust particles of identity lift and swirl, then dissipate in the not insignificant pockets of air between then and now.  

8.     i no longer know who i am. of whom my heart beats. my belly bloats. then bleats. more beeps. i sweat. i crave sleep.  

9.     labor persists. the laundry machine waits. awaits, too. full of suds and unsorted fabric. the world ready to claim a new blue. perhaps pink. pens and check boxes take form.

10.  all forms fade. are you with us? don’t look right. don’t look left. eyes on me.

11.  green eyes focus on pools of aqua. i can’t breathe. i’m in too deep. the no end. i forget how to swim.

12.  push. 1. 2. 3. push. 1. 2. 3. inhale. count. 1. 2. 3. exhale. push.

13.  a small blue velvet box sits on the nearby linoleum bed tray. next to the doctor’s needles.

14.  long needles. long waits. time always linear. new dates. for the rest of the players. mostly audience. all eyes on the protagonist. all the world (the bed) a stage (rage still brewing).

15.  the animals rage with hunger. ice chips on the menu. kitchen closed. eggs un (over) boiled / un (over) laid until morning.

16.  guttural moos, neighs, and bleeps anew. from deep within the belly that continues to rise.

17.  summer heat rises. bands of sweat. beads of soiled stew. stains proliferate.

18.  rubbage runs rampant. garbage tangoes with rubbish as canned peaches turn sour. worry simmers in pots without lids & lads without (s)pots.

19.  concerns for quacks. am I ready. not yet. i am ready. or not. Push. 1. 2. 3. Push. 1. 2. 3.

20.  labor lingers. labor laughs. unfamiliar tunes. too long to remember. too long to forget.

21.  crave memory. cravings blank. collect goldfish. reinvent (and reinvest) in 10 second increments. time always linear.

22.  i’m ready. or not. push. inhale. count. court. voices rise. stomachs fall. 1. 2. 3. push.

23.  farm hands wake early. fields fester. vehicle pumps leak. ladders bladders, too.

24.  eyes widen. seas part. the rooster rises early. come rain. come shine.

25.  labor lingers, then skin simmers. voice boxes cackle while palms crackle. ice chips clink.

26.  chains unlock. eyes lock anew. all silhouettes on. new life charms. in shades of baby blue. shades up. sun (then son) enters. storm greeters, too. welcome to the farm (welcome to my arms). a thin, gold frame, weighted of checklist medals and birthed on a sunday now fun day whim on a fourth-floor room in an out of body class swollen of age (borderline rage) & fluid. ankles & souls in delicate positions. delicate discussions without limits. 

27.  the room an orchestra of soprano and alto notes. notes of doctors and nurses, too. thin paper band on baby’s chubby ankle. toes of new life (& skin stretched of strife) wriggle.

28.  ready. only ready.  

* * * * *

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming Atmosphere Press).

Thursday 11 November 2021



by Mary J. Breen

In 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red opened at the Tower of London. Flowing out of the thick Tower walls and filling the moat were 888,246 hand-made, ceramic, blood-red poppies, one for each military fatality from Britain and the Commonwealth. While The Last Post rang through the warm evening air, this tide of red as far as one could see was harrowing.

I remember well the first time I heard The Last Post. It was 1954, and I was at a Remembrance Day ceremony in our southern Ontario village. I was ten. As a snow-laden wind blew through my thin Brownie uniform, the mournful sound of that bugle burrowed its way past my worries about how long I’d have to stand there in the cold, and planted the first grains of what real loss might mean.

Like big and small communities all across the country, we had a parade every November 11th. People gathered at the bandstand: town officials, band members, and of course veterans. Leading the parade were the flag bearers carrying both the Union Jack and, in those days, the Red Ensign. Then came veterans from the army, navy, and air force all in uniform—some very young, some my father’s age, and some, to me, very old. All men. Following the veterans were the band, the officials, and then we Brownies and Guides, Cubs and Scouts. Some veterans were able to march in formation, but some could only struggle along on canes or leaning on another’s steady arm. I remember how they held their heads high, their chests proud with medals.

It was a short distance to the cenotaph, a simple concrete column about 10 feet tall, with the names of local men who had died in World War I on one side and World War II on another. I walked by that cenotaph four times a day every day for seven years, but I paid it little attention except on those November days when I was ten, eleven and twelve. I didn’t know that the word cenotaph meant an empty tomb, but I knew it was different from the cemetery gravestones where the bodies lay deep in the cold earth below. I knew that the dead remembered here lay in battlefields and cemeteries and ocean depths very far away.

Many townspeople stood waiting in a straggling half-circle, all in dark clothes, the men in fedoras, the women in plain hats. The ceremony began with Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past. Then the minister read from the Bible and thanked God for helping us be victorious over evil, and for giving us the men and women who had suffered to defend our country—both those who returned and those who had made “the ultimate sacrifice.” The names of each of the dead were read aloud. Then came the recitation of In Flanders Fields which everyone, young and old, knew by heart as we’d all memorized it in school. I wish I’d known then that it was a very famous poem read in ceremonies like this all across the country, and I wish I had known it had been written by a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Col. John McCrae, who came from a town only 30 miles away.

Then the wreaths—modest little circles of felt poppies on wire stands—were laid by families, members of the Legion, the village council, and the IODE. There was always one lone woman among them, a mother, guided forward on the arm of a serviceman, carrying a small wreath and walking as if to her doom. Everyone stood very still while she placed her wreath, and then touched it one last time. Just before the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the heart-breaking bugle began The Last Post, and many eyes, including mine, would fill with tears. The sense of sadness and loss was overwhelming. After the two minutes of silence, the bugler played Reveille, and the band played God Save the Queen, and then it was over. I remember little clusters of women huddled together afterwards—the widows, the mothers, the sisters—propping each other up under the heavy sky like all those images of women at gravesides. Some were crying, and some were looking off into the distance, far, far away.

I knew so little. I didn’t know Canadians had fought for four long years during the First War, and five more in the Second. I didn’t know that in the First, almost one tenth of Canada’s population of only eight million enlisted, and over 66,000 didn’t return. I didn’t know that almost three times this number were wounded, many forever broken, physically and emotionally. I didn’t understand that trench warfare meant that men lived in muddy trenches for weeks on end, and I didn’t know that the mud in the battlefields wasn’t like the mud down near the river, but a kind that could swallow men and horses whole. I didn’t know about the hunger and the cold and the fatigue and the terror and the barbed wire and the craters and the rats and the lice and the snipers and the deafening, relentless noise and the awful smell of cordite, rotting carcasses, and poison gas. I didn’t know that every day men saw friends blown up and others terribly disfigured, and I didn’t know about shell-shock and how it broke both soldiers and medics, rendering people mad, sometimes forever after. I didn’t know that in the First War, deserters, often just shell-shocked boys, could be shot at dawn by their own men, right there on the battlefield.

Even though this village of ours had been settled by German immigrants and many people there still spoke German, our teachers and parents made it clear who had been the bad guys and who the good. I was too young to understand how conflicted some people must have felt knowing their sons might have been fighting their own cousins on the battlefields, but I never heard it mentioned. What we heard about were the losses—the millions of soldiers and civilians who’d died “so we could be free,” however numbers like these are unfathomable for anyone, let alone for children. I also don’t remember being frightened by their tales, so they must have kept us from the terrible reality that in wars great harm doesn’t merely fall on soldiers. What the adults really wanted us to see was that these wars had touched everyone, and the losses were still felt in homes and hearts in every single community across the land. They wanted us to understand about sacrifice, to understand what so many people gave for us, and to understand that this enormous debt could never be repaid.

The flat, artificial poppies we wore then were the same size and shape as the ones still sold every November, although then they were flatter and made of duller red felt. I’d never seen a poppy in real life, and I had no idea why poppies were the flowers chosen to make us remember. I didn’t know they are deeply associated with battlefields, that they grow easily on disturbed soil, and after land battles in the Napoleonic wars, people described those battlefields the next spring blooming with blood-red poppies. I didn’t know that these wild poppies in places like Flanders were often the only plants still growing “between the crosses, row on row.”

I decided to take the option of buying one of those Tower of London poppies to be delivered when the display was taken down. Although they weren’t designated, I do wonder whose poppy I got. I know I’m being both fanciful and self-important to think I have any connection at all to this person who gave his or her life so long ago, but still I wonder what they, the dead, would have thought of this lovely, red poppy that was made as an act of remembrance, and now sits in the warmth and sunny comfort of our upstairs hall.

* * * * *

"Lest We Forget" was previously published in Maple Tree Literary Supplement. Issue 21, Aug 2016, and reprinted in Kawartha Now, Nov 2016.

Mary J. Breen is the author of two books about women's health. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in national newspapers, essay collections, travel magazines, health journals, and literary magazines including Brick, The Brevity Blog, The Christian Science Monitor, and JAMA Cardiology, and she was a regular contributor to The Toast. She lives in Peterborough Ontario Canada where, among other things, she teaches writing.

Ceramic poppy, 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, 2014