Tuesday 29 November 2022

Final Poem for an Estranged Friend
                            for S.

by Andrea Potos

My last dream had me chasing you 
along some narrow stone path rising and twisting 
on a Greek island mountainside
while I screamed at you to finally believe
I had not wronged you. Still,
you kept your righteous gait.  

I awoke exhausted from all
my efforts, recent and past,
decided I must rest.
I remembered, in the dream,
in the darkness beside me lay the Mediterranean 
sea of my ancestors, lapis and deep
and dazzling by daylight—
water that knew my innocence.  

* * * * *

"Final Poem for an Estranged Friend" is from Andrea Potos's collection Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books)

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press), Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books), Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and Yaya's Cloth (Iris Press).  Her poems can be found widely in print and online. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Monday 28 November 2022


Still Here

by Marjorie Moorhead

In the morning,
fallen, frozen
apple tree leaves
multicolored, and framed
with frosted edge,
have followed the last
dried apples off their branch,
down to the wood of our deck.
They’ll be blown away
by November winds;
colorful fluttering signs
of a lifecycle stage.

How wonderful
to have witnessed
so many.

* * * * *

"Still Here" was previously published 11/12/2020 in Poems for World AIDS Day 2020, HIV Here &Now

Marjorie Moorhead writes from the VT/NH border, surrounded by mountains in a river valley, with four season change. Her work addresses environment, survival, noticing the “every day”, and how we treat each other. Marjorie’s poems can be found in many anthologies, websites, and her two chapbooks Survival: Trees, Tides, Song (FLP 2019) and Survival Part 2: Trees, Birds, Ocean, Bees (Duck Lake Books 2020). 

Sunday 27 November 2022


by Ajanta Paul

No point in eking out a poem
which has completed its journey,
for those extra lines
will merely prolong its length
not its life.

A complete poem
remains forever unfinished,
beginning new symphonies
in a variety of keys,
and forging epiphanies
through dissonant discoveries.

* * * * *

Dr Ajanta Paul is an academic from Kolkata, India who writes poetry, short stories and literary criticism. A Pushcart nominee, Ajanta has lately been lucky with literary journals such as Verse-Virtual, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Shot Glass Journal and Offcourse. Her latest publications are The Elixir Maker and Other Stories (2019) and American Poetry: Colonial to Contemporary (2021).

Saturday 26 November 2022


by Tina Klimas

I live—unobtrusive,
of the earth—with my
purpose, with my cubs.
I sleep in snow
for what you think
is a long enchanted winter.
amass outside my den
in what appear to you
to be soft, peaceful drifts.
I and this wilderness serve
to inspire your holidays
and your fairy lore.
I allow you to nurture
your infants with plush
replicas of my own.
But dare to jab at me.
Rob me of my dignity
and steal my purpose.
Replace my truth
with your falsehoods.
Wake me up—
and the snow will become
a killing avalanche.
I could bury you, if I choose,
and my roar will be mighty.
Your mountains of steel
will echo with it.
The avalanche will melt
and the deluge
will come for you.
And then,
you will have to face me.

* * * * *

Tina Klimas's poems can be found in THEMA Literary Journal, Bear River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Backchannels, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Willows Wept Review, and Glassworks Magazine. Her short fiction has also been published in several journals. She enjoys her writing life in Redford, MI where she lives with her husband and their dog.  

Friday 25 November 2022


by Tina Klimas

The queen’s reflection
has vanished.
She fears that she
is dead.  But it is worse
even than that.
A ghastly mask floats
from the mirrored depths.
Its gaping pit of a mouth
issues a decree:

From hence forth
you will be invisible.

Time to allow the young
to be beautiful and breed, 
as flowers to bees.
As it should be.
So she does.
She robes herself
in what feels like a disguise.
Elderly. Witch. 
She removes herself
from the ripe work
of the garden. Finds a hut
in a cave to sequester herself.

Because she still believes
she has things to do—
outdated recipes to brew,
unwanted tales to scribe,
irrelevant books to read—
she requires an alarm clock
for her cave-hut.
The mask reappears
in the glass, twisted
into a comic cackle,
taunting her:

This clock. This one. So easy to use
even a grandma can figure it out!

Rage subsumes her
until she believes
she could rip a heart out
with her bare hands,
encase it in a bejeweled box.
Yet, how
to find a beating heart
in a snickering bodiless
ghoul? Who has seeped
into all places. Who
can persuade everyone
that everyone believes a thing
until everyone does.
She will make it flesh,
then tear it apart.

A huntsman awaits,
a youth who desires
to be emboldened.
But, he seizes her arsenal
for himself—her strength,
her experience.
She must surrender all of it.
Even her intellect.
Even her wisdom.
Rage spits her out, then
and leaves her—
a tired old woman
whose clock has ceased.

And that liar’s heart
will keep beating.

* * * * *

Tina Klimas's poems can be found in THEMA Literary Journal, Bear River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Backchannels, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Willows Wept Review, and Glassworks Magazine. Her short fiction has also been published in several journals. She enjoys her writing life in Redford, MI where she lives with her husband and their dog.  

Thursday 24 November 2022

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Thank you for being part of Writing In A Woman's Voice, as audience or contributor. 

Here is a link to a Thanksgiving poem: The Thanksgivings by Harriet Maxwell Converse - Poems | poets.org

Wednesday 23 November 2022


Thanksgiving Bronze   

by Sara Epstein

I am painting myself with bronze 
Before I see you again.
Bronze, from head to toe,
Breathable, bendable bronze, 
The color of the crackly leaves
I see on this November morning.
Bronze, I shine on you:
Brilliant, brazen, beautiful.
I am not juicy watermelon for you to slurp,
To spit out my seeds like they are your garbage.
I don’t think you’ll mind.
If you get lonely
You can rub against me.
All that’ll happen is my outfit will shine more.
So you might see your own reflection
Shimmering, shimmering,
If you keep looking my way.

* * * * *

Sara Epstein is a clinical psychologist from Winchester, Massachusetts, who writes poetry and songs, especially about light and dark places. Her poems have appeared in Mocking Heart Review, Silkworm, Paradise in Limbo, Mom Egg Review, Chest Journal, Literary Mama, and two anthologies: Sacred Waters and Coming of Age. Kelsay Books will publish her collection Bar of Rest in the summer of 2023.  

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Startling beauty and distress

by Sara Epstein

Thin clouds let through light, 
a different filter today.
Tiny stream flows around the heart-
shaped red granite rock, 
green moss glows.
Pine trees, snapped 
in the recent windstorm, 
show golden brown splinters 
big as bookcases. 
Other trees, charcoal statues,
victims of arson, point to the sky 
beyond, to live trees spare 
and temporary.  
Paths, worn down by daily walks
and big-tired bikes,
criss-cross the woods 
with more and more trails.
Erosion by the reservoir:
tall trees, roots shallow,
insufficient, tip over, 
roots still filled with rocks and sand. 
That light shines 
on broken places.
Each branch and tree 
a living, dying body, 
like some kind of animal or person 
who sparks or screams, 

* * * * *

Sara Epstein is a clinical psychologist from Winchester, Massachusetts, who writes poetry and songs, especially about light and dark places. Her poems have appeared in Mocking Heart Review, Silkworm, Paradise in Limbo, Mom Egg Review, Chest Journal, Literary Mama, and two anthologies: Sacred Waters and Coming of Age

Monday 21 November 2022

In the Badlands

by Melanie Choukas-Bradley

This eastern white woman has fallen in love with the badlands
And I wonder what to do with this love
I don’t plant, or drill, or ride; I can’t herd or foretell the weather
My botany skills are rudimentary, my knowledge of medicinal plants mostly gleaned online

I can show you why the cottonwood whispers
And point out yellow rubber rabbitbrush and brick-red clinker topping a butte
I know that prairie dogs have one yip for a person and another for one holding a gun
Or so I’m told
I can tell you the average weight of a bison bull, a cow and a calf
And that’s about the extent of it

Yet with no useful skills or knowledge
I stand here under a trembling cottonwood with my heart as wide as this canyon
With so much badlands love it stretches across the canyon to the Great Plains
And feels as ancient as a petrified forest
This broken land-loving heart goes on breaking
For the losses of the Lakota, the Hidatsa, the Arikara and the Mandan
For the old mako sica

If love alone is enough, I will sit down on these colored stones of the Little Missouri shore 
And just love these buttes and bluffs
With a peculiar late in life fondness I could never explain
Or even fathom

* * * * *

Melanie Choukas-Bradley is a naturalist and award-winning author of seven nature books, including City of Trees, A Year in Rock Creek Park, Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island and The Joy of Forest Bathing. Writing in a Woman’s Voice has featured several of her poems during 2022, including “How to Silence a Woman,” which won the February Moon Prize. Melanie has spent the past year exploring and adoring the Potomac River Gorge, New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the North Dakota badlands.

Sunday 20 November 2022


by Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Coverage of the queen’s funeral procession
Blares across my room at the Badlands Motel
The coffin with crown atop moving slowly through the somber London crowd
A teddy bear in cowboy hat and buckskin coat
Perches beside a note on the motel room dresser:
For sale at the front desk

In the Dakotas to lead a tour of clinker-crowned buttes
And cottonwood canyons
I’m a gawking easterner bringing more of my kind to the badlands

Like TR, who came to shoot a bison,
Stuck around, became a rancher and a conservationist
I must have my reasons and convictions too

Yet those are unclear to me now, as the queen’s procession drags on
And I drag my feet departing the motel for the national park
Where I must study up on flora and fauna before the big bus arrives

I am feeling deracinated and aren’t we all somehow?
Detached from tribe and place
Or else confined like bison roaming only as far as park fencing

What was once the Lakota’s mako sica
And then the wild west no longer breaks an open plain
What is home or horizon to any of us now?

* * * * *

Melanie Choukas-Bradley is a naturalist and award-winning author of seven nature books, including City of Trees, A Year in Rock Creek Park, Finding Solace at Theodore Roosevelt Island and The Joy of Forest Bathing. Writing in a Woman’s Voice has featured several of her poems during 2022, including “How to Silence a Woman,” which won the February Moon Prize. Melanie has spent the past year exploring and adoring the Potomac River Gorge, New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the North Dakota badlands.

Saturday 19 November 2022

Memory Saver

by Margaret Duda

My mother saved everything historical,
especially memories stored on photographs.
Other immigrants brought bulging satchels
filled with clothing and religious mementos.
Mama brought rare photos of her childhood.

I can see Mama as a toddler, a third grader,
dressed for her First Communion. Others
depict her foster family—parents, older sister,
and a theater group where her father acted.
She would point to each and tell me stories.

As a poor immigrant from a small village
in rural Hungary, Mama did not own a camera
until she got pregnant and bought a Kodak Brownie.
Others cried over World War II, but Mama said
we need photos to remember and saved moments.

I see Papa clutching me like a fragile infant,
wheeling me in a carriage with kewpie dolls,
helping me to stand, walk, ride a tricycle. You
can see me feeding chickens, playing with dogs,
holding a ball. A Kodamatic joined the Brownie.

Even in black and white, my blond hair turns dark.
I am seen wearing Shirley Temple curls, pigtails,
short permed hair, all styles adorned with ribbons.
The child in those photos would be another stranger
lost to oblivion if Mama had not saved her on film.

I am shown biking, canoeing, hanging from a swing
set, learning to swim, listening to 45 rpm records.
There I am in a Girl Scout uniform, skating outfit,
a prom gown my date admires. Mama missed little.
Others may scowl or squint, but I am always smiling.

On my fifteenth birthday, Mama smiles and hands
me a package to unwrap. I find a new camera and hear
we need photos to remember. The torch is passed.

* * * * *

"Memory Saver" is part of Margaret Duda's poetry collection I Come From Immigrants, forthcoming from Kelsay Books in May 2023

The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Margaret is a poet, short story writer, author of many articles and five books of non-fiction, and is working on the final draft of a novel. A book of her poetry entitled I Come From Immigrants will be published by Kelsay in 2023. Her poems have been published in Lothlorian, Verse-Virtual, Muddy River Poetry Review, Silver Birch Press, Writing in a Woman's Voice, and numerous anthologies. She also worked as a travel photographer for ten years for the New York Times and has traveled to forty countries. She lives in State College, PA.

Friday 18 November 2022

In the shadow of the mother,                                                by Lorraine Gibson

she tried to know herself. She couldn’t
take her face off long enough to know
just what was what, without
a perpetual slick of raspberry
lip-stick and sooty-vamp mascara.
Her Mother told her:
                                  Pale blonde lashes
                                  don’t attract the boys
                                  you know.
Apparently, just a dab of ivory foundation
would mask her adolescent skin
(An absolute necessity).
                                 Now, isn’t that much better. And
                                 darling, did you know  
                                 that if you wear just little heels
                                your legs will look much longer?

Her Mother’s magazines
insisted women needed alteration:
                                Sit up straight, back-comb your hair
                               it looks much thicker that way.
Adherence to these social norms conferred
potential to be worthy of being draped
like Christmas tinsel
on the arm of someone with a penis.                               
At sixteen years of age Mother saw her
as a rival in a lifetime competition
she had no wish to enter.
Mother hushed her own long-curdled dreams
passed on her own hereditary gift of
                              not quite good enough.
Enough! At 40 years of age 
she rejected history’s poisoned apples and
lifting up her fresh scrubbed face
she turned towards true north and the light
in all young women.

* * * * *

Lorraine Gibson is a Scottish-Australian writer and painter who began writing poetry when she retired from her work as a Cultural Anthropologist. Her poetry is published in journals, magazines and anthologies including: Meniscus Literary Journal, Backstory, The Galway Review, Eureka Street, Booranga fourW, Poetry for the Planet, Live Encounters Hecate, Lothlorien, WordCity and Burrow. Her book: We Don’t Do Dots: Art and Culture in Wilcannia New South Wales, is published by Sean Kingston Press: United Kingdom.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Trial Separation

by Hayley Mitchell Haugen

For two nights, the month before
he moves out the last of his essentials,
I practice being alone/all one, finally,
in my lonesomeness/my oneness. I breathe in
the absence of him and do not sense
the widow’s loss, the jilted lover’s
embarrassment. In this space
I am a green thing waiting to become,
ready to unfurl myself/my self
into this new life. And yet
practicalities/this practice reminds
me of who I am now.
I think of what I should tell
my children––and haven’t––
of all I should be feeling––
but don’t.

* * * * *

Hayley Mitchell Haugen is a Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection, and her chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To is from Finishing Line Press (2016). Her latest chapbook, The Blue Wife Poems, is available from Kelsay Books (September 2022). She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. 

Wednesday 16 November 2022



                                                                                                by Stellasue Lee

    on my back, I look up to identify shapes
that appear out of the concrete ceiling—

a small child holding out her hands,
a puppy with black eyes and a slight

imperfection for its nose. There are
many others to keep me company

as light plays from the cars six stories
below— an old woman, her mouth

round with surprise, a boat,
afloat in ripples made by the pour.

Once, when I was feverous, I saw the
most amazing thing. It was early morning,

I think, and the ceiling became liquid—
waves lapping at walls, but later,

the concrete seemed to have set again                                               
and I didn’t worry enough to sort it out.

That night there were church bells.
I slept in uneven shadows, then woke hungry.

* * * * *

Stellasue Lee was a founding editor of Rattle, a poetry journal, and is now editor Emerita. Two of her books have been entrants for the Pulitzer Prize, Firecracker Red, and Crossing the Double Yellow Line. Her latest publication is New & Selected Poems, Queen of Jacks, available on Amazon or her website: stellasuelee.com. Dr. Lee was winner of the grand prize of Poetry To Aide Humanity in 2013 by Al Falah in Malaysia. She now teaches privately. Dr. Lee received her Ph.D. from Honolulu University. She was born in the year of the dragon.

Tuesday 15 November 2022


by Stellasue Lee

What I like best is hugging him,
that moment, my face buried in his neck,

my arms not meeting around him,
his warmth,

then I put breakfast dishes away, start the washer,
feed cats. I make a list,

list of things that need to be done, clean
everything, everything needs to be cleaned

everyday, and lists, I read those lists
between hugs and coffee, order,

bed made, clean bath, clothes put away
meals, gathering for meals,

lists and bills, mail brings bills
and lists of students, day lists,

night lists, look in through the blinds,
everything orderly, hugs, sleep,

new day of lists. Morning, see how light
avalanches through the tall windows?

* * * * *

Stellasue Lee was a founding editor of Rattle, a poetry journal, and is now editor Emerita. Two of her books have been entrants for the Pulitzer Prize, Firecracker Red, and Crossing the Double Yellow Line. Her latest publication is New & Selected Poems, Queen of Jacks, available on Amazon or her website: stellasuelee.com. Dr. Lee was winner of the grand prize of Poetry To Aide Humanity in 2013 by Al Falah in Malaysia. She now teaches privately. Dr. Lee received her Ph.D. from Honolulu University. She was born in the year of the dragon.

Monday 14 November 2022

(Chilean, Afghani, Ukrainian) Refugee

by Sylvia Maultash Warsh

In a land shrill with
fever sometimes
running is the only survival,
a long-distance poem on the
state of the State when
words are forbidden.
Sometimes running takes your
breath away with the beauty of
the untried, the exotic
treachery of hope until
that moment you remember
where you came from:
the familiar stones of that
ancient street your child’s
feet knew, the friends
whose voices you still
dream about in a tongue
you can understand.
You’ll never see those faces again,
some dead, some running like
you to survive the fever of a place that sets
fire to its past and
surrounds the ashes with
wire. But in a land
laid out in graves sometimes
running is the only survival.

* * * * *

Sylvia Maultash Warsh was born in Germany to Holocaust survivors and came to Canada as a child. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies. She is the author of the Dr. Rebecca Temple novels, the second of which won an Edgar award. Her fourth book, The Queen of Unforgetting, was chosen by Project Bookmark Canada for a plaque installation. She has had a novella as well as numerous short stories published, some of which have been shortlisted for awards. She lives in Toronto and teaches writing to seniors.

Sunday 13 November 2022


Krakow by Night

by Sylvia Maultash Warsh

She travels back to Poland every night,
wafts through the ghetto square
like the perfume of schmalz herring and
yeasty challah that has been absent
these fifty years
like her.
The earth-bred babushkas arrange
turnips in their stalls beneath
the empty vaulted sky
do not see her, feel her, miss her
as she floats down the inevitable lanes
of Kazimierz searching
for the shape of her mother
reclining in the sweet little courtyard,
the gentle arc of her mother
that she yearns to clasp but
which refuses her dream
like the shouts on stone of Jewish children playing,
replaced by silence,
a keen edge of silence that
tears open her heart each night
when she travels back to Poland.

* * * * *

"Krakow by Night" was previously published in Letting Go, an anthology edited by Hugh MacDonald, 2005

Sylvia Maultash Warsh was born in Germany to Holocaust survivors and came to Canada as a child. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies. She is the author of the Dr. Rebecca Temple novels, the second of which won an Edgar award. Her fourth book, The Queen of Unforgetting, was chosen by Project Bookmark Canada for a plaque installation. She has had a novella as well as numerous short stories published, some of which have been shortlisted for awards. She lives in Toronto and teaches writing to seniors.

Saturday 12 November 2022


by Marguerite G. Bouvard

There are ways of responding to
trying times, threads of sunlight,
a handful of wildflowers
picked by your loved one
that have their own luminescence
despite the changes of weather,
and despite what time and events
have wreaked on our lives,
the darkness is suffused with
unexpected moments, and with
handfuls of unexpected brightness.

* * * * *

Marguerite G. Bouvard is the author of 12 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 latest poetry collection Shades of Meaning came out February 2022.

Friday 11 November 2022

Midwest Motel

by Navida Stein

The cicadas’ drone is bursting through the dirty window of the Best Western motel.
My ninety-year-old mother sleeps on top of the striped bedspread, her mouth slack,
her snoring adds a scratch melody to the cicadas’ song.
We are halfway to the famous clinic
the only place she will deign to receive medical help.
I drive and she complains.
I am back in the Midwest, a place I’d sworn never to return
but everyone else has abdicated their responsibility
tired of the jabbing and pricking that springs from our mother’s mouth.
She recites a litany of our failures, comparing us to the brilliant children of her friends.
They own a house in France. They all vacation together.
My mother gives a huge snort. I will never be able to sleep listening to this.
The full moon, pounding out of the open sky sparks an idea for a late-night swim
to let moonlight enter my floating body
unravel the kinks from driving all day.
I call down to the front desk to ask how late the pool is open.
The answer, the pool is cracked and closed for repairs.
There will be no soothing tonight, no gentle placebo
and I have no Valium.

* * * * *

Navida Stein is a New York based storyteller, actress, writer and musician. She writes plays, stories and poetry as well as adapting literature for the stage. For an online arts magazine she reviews theater, opera and cabaret. As an actress, Navida’s worked Off-Broadway and regionally doing new plays, musicals and Shakespeare. Her storytelling/solo performances include both traditional tales and personal stories. She lives in a tiny Hell’s Kitchen studio with her husband, a piano, a violin, and too many books. Recently, she had a poem published in The Pangolin Review. She believes in being perpetually curious.

Thursday 10 November 2022


For Whatever Reason

by Vicki Iorio

Blubbery pink wet lips, fat fingers (I’m betting they sweat in his baby blue

latex gloves), orange-haired Doc—reminds me of the clown-

fish in my dentist’s office. Some say looking at fish is calming, I don’t think so,
nothing good comes from something fishy—is going to scrape out the little fish floating in me.

But first, he adds an ounce of guilt to the anesthesia. I’m not buying it. Now that the get-out-of-jail-

free-card window is closing as fast as a trigger on a gun, some say the only good reasons

are incest and rape. I think any reason is reason enough.  My fault.   His fault.     College.    Alcohol.

Drugs.     Who knows?         Who cares?        Please.     I don’t remember what he looked like or his name.

Am I supposed to spend my life being a mother to his load?  

My son, I just know it would have been a boy, would be a man by now.

My sun, my darkness, my futureless future. And ladies, it was no big deal. Afterwards,

I craved a MacDonald’s fish fillet. With a bulky surfboard of a sanitary napkin

between my legs, a cold vanilla milkshake stanched my thirst.

* * * * *

Vicki Iorio is the author of the poetry collections Poems from the Dirty Couch (Local Gems Press), Not Sorry (Alien Buddha Press), and the chapbooks Send Me a Letter (dancinggirlpress) and Something Fishy (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in numerous print and on-line journals including The Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, poets respond online, The Fem Lit Magazine, and The American Journal of Poetry. Vicki is currently living in Florida, but her heart is in New York.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

This month, an additional Moon Prize, the 107th, goes to Katie Manning's poem "After an Older Man from Church Drunk-Texts to Tell Me I Looked Good Topless in His Dream Last Night."

After an Older Man from Church Drunk-Texts to Tell
Me I Looked Good Topless in His Dream Last Night

by Katie Manning

I wonder if my dream breasts were even close
to accurate: if he imagined the tiny mole like
a third eye between them, the stretch marks
raked across my skin. I wonder if the nude-
beach jokes he sent last week caused this
dream, or if the dream is just a lie he told
because he wants to talk about my breasts.
I wonder if he knows I once called him
handsome after a friend wondered aloud,
soon after his wife left, if he would remarry.
I wonder if I’ll forget this like I’ve forgotten
so many things men have said, or if I’ll think
of this each time I see myself in the mirror
before a shower, the way I often think
of the boy in seventh grade who asked why
my eyes are so close together. I’ve only
ever wondered how that boy could think
my eyes were too close. I don’t remember
his name. Maybe in another two decades,
I won’t remember this man’s name, and I
certainly won’t need him to tell me I look
good with my third eye perfectly placed.
I will see myself and know.

* * * * *

"After an Older Man from Church Drunk-Texts to Tell Me I Looked Good Topless in His Dream Last Night" was first published in Kahini Quarterly.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her sixth chapbook is How to Play (Louisiana Literature Press, 2022). Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Poet Lore, and many other venues, and her poem “What to Expect” was featured on the Poetry Unbound podcast from The On Being Project. Find her online at

Tuesday 8 November 2022


This month's Moon Prize, the 106th, goes to Kathleen Chamberlin's moving story "As Time Goes By"  


Kathleen Chamberlin

     She didn't know why she was nervous as she approached the placard reading Class of 66 Reunion, straight ahead, through the open doors. She gazed into the dimly lit room, taking in the joyful group of people hugging and squealing in delight at being reunited after 25 years. She had been reluctant to attend. But here I am, she thought, for better or worse. She shivered slightly, feeling exposed and vulnerable. A quick glance in the mirror to check her appearance. Satisfied, she took a deep breath and went in.

      Her eyes darted quickly around the room, searching. They stopped on a dark-haired, tall man laughing. Like every cliché in every romance novel, she found the room around him blurred, his the only face she could see. Pulse quickened and blood pounding in her ears, she threaded her way across the room toward Michael, drawn by an irresistible force. Placing her palm on his chest, her lips lightly brushed his cheek.

     “Hey, you.”

     He looked into her eyes and they stood there a moment locked in a sphere of intimacy that belied the passage of time.

     “Hey, you,” he replied.

     A slow song was just beginning and without a word, he led her onto the dance floor. Swaying gently together as Barbra Streisand plaintively sang of the way we were, they were transported to a time when their teenage bodies, innocent but ripe for the passion that would soon overtake them, clung together hungrily, pressed as tightly to one another as possible, trembling with desire and anticipation. Now, in the dimly lit ballroom, they danced with the decorum approved for their ages, remembering the sublime closeness of lovers, though their current lovers weren't one another.   

     As the song reached its crescendo, he drew her closer and whispered, “Takes you back, doesn't it?” It was less a question than a statement of fact, a recognition that their bodies and minds moved to a rhythm established long ago, at school dances or parties in friends' basements, moving to the 45s that dropped one by one onto the turntable. She sighed, allowing her head to briefly rest on his shoulder as Barbra sang out the last mournful notes. “Yes” was all she said. They stepped slightly away from one another drinking in the pleasure of this dance, at this time, in this place.

     Life had given them a plan very different from the one they had dreamed of over long conversations on the phone. Their parents had worried that these children, embryonic adults though they were, needed to be closely monitored.

     All their best efforts had been in vain, as the pair found secret places, hidden from prying eyes, to stoke the smoldering fires growing within them. Tentatively taking a step further each time they came together, their passion grew until it could no longer be contained. They left the supervision of the high school library, and climbed through the window of the auxiliary gym. Once inside, they were heedless of everything but one another, deleriosly freed from constraints.

     “Hey you,” he'd said, “are you okay?”

     “Oh, yes,” she breathed, and reached up to kiss him.

     She had embraced their intimacy because she loved him, believed that he loved her, and that they would spend their lives together. From that time forward, they took every opportunity to bask in the afterglow of sex. And the inevitable happened near the end of senior year.

     She broke the news to her best friend, trembling as she told her that she was “late.” They both knew what that meant. Amid tears and fear and guilt, she had reached a decision. The path forward was perilous, but she would terminate the pregnancy, she told him. In anguish, she explained how difficult the decision was, but that she was determined not to shame her family or force him into a shotgun wedding.

     “We'd grow to hate each other and resent the child and I couldn't bear that, I just couldn't.” Her tears were uncontrollable as she held his hand.

     “Say something, please.”

       He looked at the ground as if he could find the words to say that were right and true. He finally swallowed and faced her.

       “Okay, if that's what you want.”

     “I don't want it. I don't know what else to do! I wish it never happened,” she wailed.

     “Are you blaming me?” he asked, determined to absolve himself of the source of her pain.

      “I blame us both,” she whispered hoarsely, dropping his hand, vulnerable and broken.

     He swallowed hard. “Okay. Do you need money for the...you know?” He squirmed at how cold it sounded. 

     Without looking up she shook her head. “No, I've got enough. I can call you, you know, afterwards, if you want.”

     “Yeah, sure, I guess, yeah, call me.”

     She didn't have to. Two days before her arranged meeting, the cramps began. She waited a few days and then called him. Once the crisis had passed, he acted as if it had never happened. If he didn't want to talk about it, she wouldn't. For the rest of the summer, it remained unacknowledged but lurking just out of sight: the dark secret of what she had been prepared to do.

     When fall approached, the fall that would separate them by hundreds of miles, she grew more melancholy. 

     “Hey, you, what's wrong?” he asked, uncertain if he wanted to hear the answer. She turned to him, eyes glistening with tears threatening to unleash a flood of emotion. He watched apprehensively, but she was able to gain control, offering a weak smile.

     “It's all coming so fast, isn't it? I guess I'm just not ready to,” she shrugged her shoulders and pointed around, “leave. Here. This life. You.” She shifted her weight from her right hip to her left. Shaking her head, she looked up at him. “Silly, isn't it?”

     He drew her in quickly, resting his chin on her head and stroking her hair. “No. Not at all.”

     They'd left for school right after Labor Day, promising to write and call and they did for the first two months. Then the letter came that broke her heart.

     “Hey, you,” it began, as all their letters did. Then it launched into a litany of his classes and dorm life and his decision to pledge a fraternity, but not ending not with “Yours, you know.” Instead, she read the deadening “I think we should go out with other people, to know for sure, if we belong together.”

     There was no misunderstanding his intentions and she clutched the crumpled letter to her chest, aware of what she had to do. That Sunday night, she called him, bravely agreeing how sensible a decision it was and that she wholeheartedly agreed. By mid-term break, they were no longer together.

     That had been twenty-five years ago and though they'd heard about each other's comings and goings over the years, tonight was the first time they were together again. Strange, she thought, as they walked over to the bar, it feels so natural to be here with him. So comfortable, as if the intervening years had never happened. But they had, she reminded herself. They had.

     As they waited for the bar tender to get their drinks, they looked out at their former classmates. The quarterback she had briefly dated had gained a few pounds but was certainly recognizable as he stood together with the other sports team veterans. The class choice for “Most Athletic” still looked it, his 6'5" frame resting easily in a chair. She noticed the Homecoming Queen still held court over a dozen suitors jockeying for her attention, bringing to mind Scarlett O'Hara at Twelve Oaks. The years had been kind to her, at least superficially.

     “A penny for your thoughts,” he said handing her a glass of white wine. 

     “I was just wondering how Sondra always manages to attract men. Do you think she casts spells like Circe? Is there some Siren Song she sings? What do you think it is?”

     He answered without hesitation “There's an unspoken promise in her eyes. An invitation in her smile. Unlimited passion for the right man.”

     She laughed. “Speaking from experience?” she teased. Shaking his head, he pointed to Kevin. “Victim 19 told me. I was immune. You were the one who turned me on.”

     His overt reference to their love affair unbalanced her, caught between a ‘there and then’ when, as a fourteen year old, she'd fallen head over heels for him on the first day of classes sophomore year, and the ‘here and now,’ when as a 41 year old, she was no longer the dewy-eyed innocent she once was.

      The quarterback caught her eye and smiled as she raised her glass in acknowledgment. He edged around the dancers and wrapped himself around her in a growling bear hug, lifting her off her feet. In his unmistakable booming voice, he declared “Katie, Katie, Katie-girl! You look good enough to eat” and pretended to nibble at her neck, lips smacking. Trying not to spill her drink, but caught up in his antics, she couldn't help but laugh, struggling half-heartedly to escape.

     “Billy, stop,” she giggled, drawing her head back in mock resistance before returning his hug. He released her, stepped back and eyed her companion. “My, my, my! What have we here? Don't tell me.” Glass waving, eyes closed briefly, right hand to his brow in imitation of deep thought, he thrummed his fingers. Opening his eyes and smiling, certain he had the solution to the questions that had baffled humanity for ages, he narrowed his gaze, looking from one of them to the other. “I have somehow found a wormhole and been transported to 1966, right? Either that or the single malt is making me hallucinate the same shit head who was always my rival for your affection.

     It was said with Billy's boisterous, over the top laughter as he thrust out his hand to Michael. “Peace, brother. Good to see you.” Then he turned to Katie, lifting her hand to his lips in mock reverence, bowing slightly. “My lady, you owe me a dance for old time's sake and I shall return to collect it.” Then, he turned, crouching and growling like a lion stalking his prey. Sneaking behind an unsuspecting classmate, he buried his face in her ribs. She turned laughing with pleasure. “Oh Billy! Stop it you animal!” and hurled herself into his outstretched arms.

     Some things remain unchanged, Katie thought, casting her eyes around the room populated by former classmates who had traveled many miles from places as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. The girl who had been voted Best Looking still was, elegantly dressed and coiffed but her male counterpart hadn't aged as well, his receding hairline and spreading waistline eroding his former glory. The Class President had continued his interest in politics by running for office on the state level and making a name for himself as a civil rights advocate. The class songstress had had a brief run in an off-Broadway play that received mixed reviews but the class actor had been luckier, catapulting to stardom after his role in The Deer Hunter had received Oscar buzz. She noticed him casually leaning against a balcony, smiling and laughing. To her he was still the Johnny who had suffered stage fright before their 8th grade play, not the Sebastian Summers whose face was plastered on movie billboards. He had kept in touch with her over the years, telling her he needed to remember his roots and stay grounded. She waved at him and mouthed the word “Later.” He gave her a thumbs up and nodded before she felt herself being spun around and crushed in an awkward embrace.

     Pulling back, she found herself looking into the eyes of Richard Torrance, voted Most Likely to Succeed. And, she knew, he had, earning millions as a hedge fund czar. She tried to extricate herself but he wasn't having it and she decided if he didn't let her go, a well-placed knee to the groin might be necessary. It wasn't. At that moment, as if reading her mind, he let go.

     “Katie McCoy, the real McCoy, where have you been hiding yourself these past 25 years?”

     His voice still remained vigorous with a seductive edge. Katie found it repellent, nonetheless. She remembered the day near the end of senior year when he had suggested that what she needed most was a good tumble in the grass beyond the football field and that he would provide her with an unforgettable memory to take away to college. She had stared at him then, wrinkled her nose in disgust and said, “Not in this lifetime,” as she stormed off. Now, here he was, boorish as ever, flaunting his wealth and success, dropping names of his associates and friends as if they could disguise who he was at his core: a cold, ruthless ladder climber, a scoundrel and a cad.

     “Richard, you haven't changed one bit in 25 years, have you?”

     He grinned sheepishly but met the challenge head on. “Yes and no. I'm extraordinarily successful in the business world but still yearning for the one that got away. There really is only one real McCoy, Katie, and it's always been you.”          

     She stared him down, took a sip of wine. “Am I supposed to swoon now and fall into your arms? Seriously, Rich, that's just not happening. I will give you this, though. This gambit is definitely a step above your contemptible proposition senior year when...”

     He groaned in agony, stopping her in mid-sentence.

     “SHIT! I hoped you had forgotten that.” He hung his head in an approximation of sincerity. “I made a fool of myself. And of all the things you could remember about me, I thought you couldn't possibly remember that. I mean, why would you?”

     She didn't hesitate to provide him with the answer. “You did me a favor. You showed me that men can be crude. That sex is just another appetite to be fed and anyone willing to participate is acceptable. Your line is smoother now, I'll give you that. And it seems to have worked. What wife are you on? I forget. Three, four? Not sure about the mistresses but I'm certain they exist. You just can't help yourself, Rich, let's face it. But rest assured,” she said patting him on the arm, “my name will never be added to your list of the conquered and abandoned. Now, excuse me, I see Eleanor.”

     Eleanor, her best friend then and now, had already been heading in her direction and they met half way. “What load of crap was Torrance shoveling your way?” Eleanor asked,  assuming that with Richard Torrance, it was always crap.       

     “Well,” she said after giving Eleanor a quick hug, “he invoked my high school nickname and, after attempting to paw me, told me I was the one that got away.”

     Eleanor laughed. “That's his 5th attempt tonight. He even tried it out on me. There must be a dearth in eligible naive young things impressed by his wallet this time of year.”

     As they continued their conversation, joined every so often by another classmate or two, Katie was reminded of a constantly shifting kaleidoscope, with the sparkling jewelry and various colors worn to show off the best attributes that remained from the glory days of adolescence.

     As the dinner buffet was about to open, she and Eleanor chose their seats at a table just off the dance floor, near the door. They were staying overnight at the hotel, sharing a room across the hall from two other high school friends. The rooms were stocked with late night snacks and a bottle of Jack Daniels. The foursome was planning a post-reunion pajama party, where Eleanor declared they were allowed to be as catty as their alcohol loosened tongues could manage. Katie knew that Eleanor looked forward to Katie casting aside her cautious and circumspect demeanor to let her claws emerge, as Eleanor was accustomed to do without the crutch of alcohol.

     The table for 8 soon squeezed in 10 and Katie McCoy was once again among the people who 25 years ago made her smile and laugh. Being with them was like slipping into a favorite pair of well-worn jeans. They fit so well and were as comfortable as a second skin.

     Michael was seated nearby, joking with the circle of guys who used to be his constant companions but who had faded from his life over the years. But here they all were again, shedding the lives they'd lived, taking their places in the pecking order high school had rigidly demanded. She smiled. Well, hadn't she? Other than Eleanor, most of her friends were one or two phone calls a year along with Christmas and birthday greetings. Yet, here she was, enjoying the banter with friends as if they'd seen each other yesterday.

     “So, El, which one are you tonight, Horatio or Hamlet?”

     It had been during their junior English class when no one would volunteer to read the parts of Hamlet or Horatio that the best friends became linked to the two characters. In exasperation, Mr. Andrews had pointed first at Katie and then at Eleanor, declaring, “You two. Pick a part and I don't care who's Hamlet and who's Horatio.” It had stuck. Throughout their lives, whichever of them was experiencing emotional upheaval would call the other with the greeting, “Horatio? Hamlet here. I seek your counsel.”

     “That remains to be seen,” Eleanor laughed, but as she watched Michael beckon Katie to the dance floor as The Association sang “Cherish,” she had a feeling that she'd be donning the garb of Horatio, the trusted friend to whom Katie's Hamlet would unburden her soul. “The play's the thing,” she thought before being swept onto the dance floor herself.

     Were all eyes on them, Katie wondered, waiting to see if they would seek out the privacy of the garden patio despite the evening's chill? Was she somehow hoping he'd whisper that very thing into her ear as he pulled her into an even closer embrace? Michael softly sang the lyrics, humming when his memory failed to retrieve them, and if Katie closed her eyes, it would be easy to step through the curtain of time and erase the years that separated her from her younger self.

     All too soon, the song ended, leaving couples to untangle from each other as a louder, more animated "Do you Love Me?" blasted out over the sound system and classmates, singing along with enthusiasm, crowded the dance floor. Billy spun her around and, tie loosened and off-center, sport coat abandoned on some table, began to dance with drunken abandon, bellowing at Katie, “do you love me” while twirling her round and round under his arm. She looked at him with real affection, knowing that their friendship would endure. As the song ended, he put both hands around her neck, pressed his forehead against hers and said, “I love you, Katie-girl. I always will.”

     “Back at you, Billy. You're one in a million.”

     He kissed her cheek, stepped back and made an elegant sweeping bow before reacting to Cora Newman who had grabbed him by his loosened tie and dragged him off to the raucous laughter of their friends as he exclaimed, “Sadie Hawkins is alive and well!”

     Looking to replenish her drink, Katie walked over to the nearest bar. Eleanor joined her. “Whew! I just can't dance the way I used to. I'm going to have the worst aching calves tomorrow.”

     Katie nodded. “Tell me about it. But poor Billy!” she said gesturing in his direction. “He's not only not going to be able to move, but his head will most likely not stop pounding for the next three days.”

     “Soooo,” Eleanor asked and although Katie knew exactly what Eleanor was asking, but played dumb.

     “Sooo, what?”

     Eleanor rolled her eyes. “Michael.”

     “Oh, that.”

     “Yes, that.”

     Katie shrugged. “Nothing to tell.”

     That was the truth, wasn't it? They had shared a dance or two, had felt the magic of rapture remembered, ignoring their present reality. That's what reunions were all about, weren't they? A chance to step through time, remembering who they once had been as well as showing off who they were now. Some had shed their former selves, no longer caterpillars, but emerging from the chrysalis as magnificent butterflies anxious to be admired. Others held on to their privileged places in the social hierarchy, climbing still higher in the passing years. Everyone else had simply stayed away.

     “Really, El, nothing to tell.”

     Eleanor let it drop. Now wasn't the time.

     On the evening went, people discarded their shoes and jackets, ties and cameras, in an attempt at comfort. Almost as if they had been locked inside their adult selves, once they had shed those trappings, they were free to just BE. That's how Katie felt, at least. She was enjoying the moment, not thinking about her life beyond these walls, nor of the myriad things that would await her tomorrow and the day after. There was only tonight and she drank it in hungrily.

     As if on cue, the dj selected The Mello-Kings' "Tonight, Tonight" and with the opening chords, the room echoed with the nostalgic sighs of grown women remembering the aching adolescent passions that had accompanied this song. Immediately, she was in Michael's arms again, helpless against the surging emotions she no longer wanted to resist, abandoning herself to the moment.

     They clung to one another, reaching back through all the years, in secret acknowledgment of the intensity they had once shared, resurrected by this song, on this night, in this place, hoping that the night would never reach an end. But both the song and the evening would.

     Later, as she and Eleanor walked to their room, Eleanor observed her friend carefully but Katie wasn't revealing anything. She remained quiet among their friends and their snacks as the others reviewed their evening, even when one of them asked, “Sooo, who got chills dancing with their old flame?” The conversation lasted until everyone's yawns signaled the evening was over.

     “See you at breakfast, ladies,” Eleanor sang out, crossing the hallway to their door, only to hear groaning at the prospect of an early wake up call. Katie hesitated in the doorway. “El,” she said quietly, “I'm not coming in yet. I've got my key so, I'll be back in a bit.” Eleanor didn't have to ask where Katie was going as she watched her friend enter the elevator.

     Some time later, she woke to Katie entering the room, shoes in hand, trying not to wake her friend as she undressed in the dark.

     “Katie?” She probed.

     “Sorry, El. I didn't mean to wake you.”



     “Wanna talk?”

     “Tomorrow. Tonight's not the time.”

     “Okay. Tomorrow.”

     Eleanor rolled over and fell back to sleep while Katie remained awake in the dark, holding the night tightly until she, too, fell asleep.

     Breakfast came and went as did the members of her class, each hug goodbye accompanied by a promise to keep in touch, well-intentioned promises, but promises that would go unfulfilled. She spotted Michael across the room and exchanged smiles with him. They had said their goodbye last night. He waved, then put his hand on his heart before turning and once more walking out of her life.

     “Oh, Horatio,” Katie nodded in his direction but kept a brave face, “what a sad tale I have to tell.” And she did, later, when nearly everyone was gone and she and Eleanor were holding on to their dwindling time together before they caught their rides to the airport. They would return to their present lives, in distant cities, last night becoming one more memory that would fade, despite the prominence it now held. And then it was time to go.

     Eleanor heard the news about Billy first. She dialed Katie. Once Katie answered, Eleanor delivered her message calmly. Billy had been in a serious car accident and had not survived.

     After that, Katie didn't attend the reunions that occurred every five years. When asked why, she said “Because the memory of Billy will be there and another one or more of us will be gone and that will just make me sad. Better to leave the past where it belongs. That's where we're all alive and anticipating our futures.”

     Eleanor did attend and would update Katie on those others who returned like the sparrows of Capistrano. Years passed, lives changed, classmates vanished from their lives. Michael's name came up in their conversations, but Katie wasn't inclined to indulge in self-pity and Eleanor would not pressure her friend to reopen a healed wound.

     Going through her mail one April afternoon while on the phone with Eleanor, Katie came across an envelope with an unfamiliar return address but written in a clear, bold handwriting, addressed to her. Sliding her finger under the flap while balancing the phone on her shoulder, she scanned the contents and cut Eleanor off in mid-sentence. “I'll call you back. I gotta go.” The click signaling she was gone surprised Eleanor. That wasn't like Katie.

     Katie sank onto a kitchen chair, holding the letter in shaking hands and read the letter over again, from the beginning.

     “Dear Ms. McCoy, I am writing to let you know that my father, Michael McCain, passed away last week after a long illness. As his daughter and executrix, I was responsible for settling his estate. In his safety deposit box was the enclosed envelope with your name on it and instructions to deliver it to you upon his death. It has remained sealed as its contents are meant only for you. I found your address and on Dad's behalf, I am sending it to you. Sincerely, Erica Sullivan.”

       Katie could barely breathe. Tears stung her eyes. Michael was dead? Michael was dead? How could that be true?  Her breathing became more erratic as the sobs rose in her chest, bursting forth and shaking her to the core. "Oh, Michael, Michael!  I am so sorry, so, so sorry you're gone.” She whispered the words to the air, overcome by emotion. How could he have left the world and she not known it? Not felt a cosmic shift? Not felt the light in her life flicker and dim, everything forever changed?

     She held the unopened envelope, recognizing Michael's distinctive block printing. Wiping her tears, she struggled to open it, not knowing what she'd find inside, but knowing that this remnant of him was a precious artifact and must be handled with care. She put it down, wrapping her arms around her shoulders, hugging herself tightly. When she felt sufficiently calmed, she picked up the letter again, more carefully this time, managing to open it with only one jagged corner. She took the paper out and read.

     “Hey you,” it began. “I'm writing this to you on the plane while everything about last night is still fresh in my mind and I find myself recalling every minute and smiling. If you're reading this, though, it means I've “shuffled off this mortal coil,” from what I remember of that soliloquy we had to memorize. I try not to dwell on the death part, but I guess it will come to all of us sooner or later. Anyway, here's what I want you to know. I think you and I met too soon. I wasn't ready to be the man you needed. And I regret that. But when I saw you again at this weekend's reunion, I saw a chance of, I guess, redemption, like that movie you made me watch with Humphrey Bogart telling the woman in the big hat--you know who I mean--that they'll always have Paris, that they'd lost it, but got it back again. You cried when he said that, and as she got on the plane. 'They know they love each other,' you said, 'but fate, or time, or whatever keeps them apart.' Like us, I guess, though I didn't know it then. We didn't have Paris, just a glorious night in a modest hotel room on Long Island. And in case I didn't tell you this last night, I want you to know that I love you. And since I am already gone, I am so sorry for not telling you sooner. Maybe our lives would have been different. Anyway, now I've told you. Be happy. Yours, you know, Michael.”

     Katie read the letter over and over, through a veil of tears until she was sure she'd remember every word. She folded it and slowly walked to her bedroom. She opened her jewelry box, removing the top tray to reveal a charm bracelet and an ankle bracelet, both unworn for decades and both from Michael. She placed his letter alongside them, a final gift to be cherished. She replaced the tray and shut the lid. She walked to the kitchen, picked up the phone and dialed. She heard the hello on the other end and with her voice breaking, all she could get out was a tremulous “Horatio?”

     “Katie, what happened?”

     Through her tears, Katie said, “Oh, El...”

* * * * *

Kathleen Chamberlin is a retired educator living in Albany, New York. Her writing has appeared in both print and electronic journals and in several anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Attitude of Gratitude. She enjoys gardening, genealogy, and grandchildren.