Saturday, 31 December 2022


If I have loved you

by Melanie Choukas-Bradley


Aren’t there those who so purely share your stratosphere
That you need not friend them on Facebook
Or even call when you’re in town?
What’s to be gained from rehashing old magic
Reminding you both that you have moved on?
If I have loved you, I hope you know


* * * * *

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. She began writing poetry during the pandemic and had the good fortune to discover Writing in a Woman’s Voice. The site featured several of her poems during 2022, including “How to Silence a Woman,” which won the February Moon Prize. Melanie wishes Beate’s readers a joyous new year!

Friday, 30 December 2022

I Like My Coffee at 3 PM on a Saturday
            after Sei Shonagon’s Hateful Things

by Valerie Frost


When you’re about to make a right turn at a red light and the car in front of you is going straight.

When you choose the shortest checkout line and a manager is summoned for a transaction issue.

When you see the blue Working on updates 0% complete don’t turn off your computer screen.

When you go to Starbucks at a random coffee time and there are twenty cars in the drive-thru.

When clothes not labeled “dry-clean only” shrink 10x their original size after you wash them.

When someone spells your name wrong in an email, but your email address is your name.

When an automated phone system says That’s not an option, goodbye after you press 0.

When someone has decent looking hair on a rainy day (curly girl problems).

When you spend over $5 for a cocktail and don’t taste any alcohol in it.

When every new movie release claims to be the best movie of the year.

When the security fingerprint locks you out of your own phone.

People who argue with you over opinions.

Owing money at tax time.

Overdraft fees.

Potholes.


* * * * *

"
I Like My Coffee at 3 PM on a Saturday
" was first published in Anser Journal.

Valerie Frost is a Garden State native now living in Central Kentucky. Her poems have appeared in Eastern Iowa Review, Thimble Literary Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others. 


Thursday, 29 December 2022

 

In Bo, The Jetty is Called a Groin 

by Terry Donohue



In Bo, the jetty is called a groin. 
At low tide, its base reveals clusters of sea anemones, mussels, and fragments of shells.

I walk to shake away the incompleteness of the workday.
Leave the next chapters to be encountered tomorrow.

A lady sits on a rock smiling at her yappy little dog running around in circles and then down the beach and back. Yappy sees me, then runs up, yapping, growling, and lunging. 
The little bugger aims to get behind me, trying to nip my ankles. 

I turn to face it and say, go away! Yappy growls more.
I am now annoyed, and distrustful.

The smiling lady reluctantly gets up from the rock she had been sitting on, walks over, and says, Oh, don't mind my sweet little Peanut; Peanut is harmless.”

I have heard THAT before! I have been bitten by a so-called harmless dog before. Would you please take Peanut back with you?”

Yappy Peanut grows more fierce. Smiling lady says, Oh! I see! You have a psychological issue.”

I ask her, Do you think my psychological issue is at the root of Peanut's behavior? Peanut is going for my ankles!”

Smiling lady answers, Yes, it is your psychological issue that Peanut senses and I feel sorry for you.”

Calmly, I say, Get your damn dog on a leash! Dogs who bite people with psychological issues can still be picked up.”

My stomach dropped, I walk away. 

The tide has turned, coming in fast, matching the anger I truly feel as the water swallows up the sea anemones, mussels and fragments of the broken day.


* * * * *

Terry Donohue is a poet, a short story writer, an artist, a curator, a real estate broker, and the mother of a grown son. Terry currently lives and works in Bolinas, CA, an enclave of many artists. Passionate about the arts, Terry enjoys photography, writing, poetry, and origami art in her free time. She comes from a strong creative background, having worked in the Chicago theater scene after graduating with honors from SUNY Oneonta and was an Arts Columnist for the Point Reyes Light.  

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

SOUL OF THE MEKONG

by Lorri Ventura


The Mekong River hums 
Happy to host the morning’s floating market
A woman stands tall
In her dilapidated sampan
Sun’s rays dance
Atop her non la hat
Wisps of gray hair wave beneath its cone
She poles deftly
Through a cluster of similar vessels
None look water-worthy
Yet all bob jauntily
Their bows decorated with brightly colored eyeballs
Painted there to ensure a safe homecoming
The woman’s sampan groans
With the weight of baskets made from water hyacinths
Overflowing with freshly-harvested rambutans —-
Red, eyelashed fruits
Vietnamese treasures
Nearby, a boy squats in a sampan laden with chilies and bananas
And a family offers pimply-skinned guavas from a vessel
That wobbles, low and heavy in the river
All nod respectfully as the old woman glides past
She greets no one
Yet blesses everyone she passes
Her skin as silt-colored as the river she commands
The soul of the Mekong shines through her eyes


* * * * *

Lorri Ventura is a retired special education administrator living in Massachusetts. She is new to poetry-writing. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, in Red Eft Journal, and in Quabbin Quills.
She is a two-time winner of Writing In A Woman's Voice's Moon Prize.

Tuesday, 27 December 2022

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

by Lorri Ventura


Daddy shot the family dog
Because it looked at him the wrong way


Mommy’s ribs
Like two rows of broken wishbones
In the x-ray


Shut up, little girl, and swallow the Benadryl
So you can sleep through the yelling
Fifty-five years later
Oral meds still taste like terror and rage


Those are just baby teeth
It’s okay that Daddy knocked them out
You’ll grow new ones
And he had a hard day at work
Poor Daddy


Daddy’s handgun lived on the hutch
Always oiled
Always loaded
Often brandished in our faces
To keep us in our places


Pray, sweet child of mine, Mommy said
You are my little angel
Daddies can’t kill angels
They just like to try
The little girl refused to pray
To a God who sees
Without helping


* * * * *

Lorri Ventura is a retired special education administrator living in Massachusetts. She is new to poetry-writing. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, in Red Eft Journal, and in Quabbin Quills.
She is a two-time winner of Writing In A Woman's Voice's Moon Prize.


Monday, 26 December 2022

Make Believe Love

by Stephanie Shafran


In this story
she is nursed on
fairy tales
big-breasted Barbies
with hourglass figures
wed stiff-shouldered Kens
always a head taller
than their beautiful
blond mates

In her games
Barbie and Ken
hug and kiss
dress and undress
his frozen lips
reach again and again
for the plastic glow
of her rouged cheek

pretend love
tastes sweet to a young girl’s
never-kissed lips

In this story
Barbie never
nags at Ken
the way her mother snarls
at her father at daybreak
“Why can’t you be normal,
stay asleep instead of blasting
the room with light to read those
high-brow books?
It’s two in the morning
for Criminy sake!”

At eight years-old
she wonders
why the word
normal
lingers in the
silence so long
as she prays
for sleep to swallow
the lump swelling in her throat

In this story
she conjures a canopy-covered bed
with rose-colored sheets of silk
where Barbie and Ken
sleep soundly
in each other’s arms
happily ever after


* * * * *

A member of Straw Dog Writers Guild and Florence Poets Society, Stephanie Shafran resides in Northampton. Her writing appears in journals such as Earth’s Daughters, Slant, Persimmon Tree, and Silkworm. Anthologies featuring Stephanie’s writing include A 21st Century Plague:Pandemic Poetry, published in 2021.

Stephanie published the chapbook Awakening in 2020.


Sunday, 25 December 2022

 

One Mother’s Night

by Mary Winters


On the back of a mule
with her child inside
weary from the trip
she continues to ride. 

Past broken down buildings
they move through Shiloh
at Bethel they pray
a few days to go.

As pinnacles of gold
glisten in the sun
only ten more miles
to Jerusalem.

Earth-colored buildings
spill over a hill
there lay Bethlehem
not a soul is still.

Below in the village
crowds line the streets
there’s no place to go
no place to retreat. 

“We’re full for the evening,”
the innkeeper says
“A stable out back
Is all that there is.”

Amidst lowing cows
and bleating sheep
she lays her head down
and begins to weep. 

Up high in the darkness
a star shines so bright
and welcomes a child
on one mother’s night.

 

* * * * *

Mary Winters is a Long Island, New York poet who has been writing poetry since 2004. She is a member of the Farmingdale Poetry Group, the Farmingdale Creative Writing Group, and the Long Island Writer’s Guild. In 2005, she won Honorable Mention for her poem “Elegy of a Slave Girl” in the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society poetry contest. Her poem “Charles of Glen Cove Hardware Store” was recently published in the PPA (Performance Poets Association) Literary Review #26.  

 

Sunday, 18 December 2022

 Writing In A Woman's Voice is on solstice break until December 25, 2022. Happy holidays to everyone. 

Saturday, 17 December 2022

PERSPECTIVE

by Gabrielle Yetter


Too hot
She moans
Smearing a smudge of makeup with a damp rag
And fanning her brow with a sweaty hand.
     While across town,
     A young woman dangles her toes on the edge of a pond
     And turns her face, like a sunflower, toward the sky.

Too cold,
He groans
Tightening his fur-lined jacket and stabbing a finger at the heater
     While along the street
     A young man rolls his wheelchair to the window
     And smiles as he watches snowballs fly.

Too much traffic
,
The businessman grumbles
Honking the horn of his Mercedes and hollering at passersby.
     While in a nearby lane, a woman sits behind the wheel
     Humming to the strains of classical melodies
     And noticing newborn lambs in the meadow.

Too busy
The store owner gripes
Frowning at customers lined up at the door.
     When around the corner
     A nurse wipes another cheek,
     Holds another hand,
     Grateful for the contact of a human soul
     As another and another and another wait outside.

Too long
Mutters the executive
Tapping her foot and huffing loudly in the queue.
     While five steps behind her
     A single mum takes a breath
     Relieved to have a few moments of alone-time
     As she composes a new poem in her mind.

In another town, another space,
A young woman walks,
Head bowed,
Clutching roses,
And lays them on the ground
     For one who
     Will never be too hot, too cold, too busy.
     For him it is
     Too late.


* * * * *

"Perspective" is part of Gabrielle Yetter's new poetry collection And the Clouds Parted. 

Gabrielle Yetter is a former journalist who has lived in Bahrain, South Africa, USA, Cambodia, and the UK. She is author of Whisper of the Lotus, The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia, The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia, Ogden the Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight, and Martha the Blue Sheep and co-author with her husband Skip of Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure. Her poetry collection, And the Clouds Parted, was released in November 2022. She lives in East Sussex, UK and can be contacted at www.GabrielleYetter.com or gabrielle.yetter@gmail.com


Friday, 16 December 2022

 

WHY

by Gabrielle Yetter


She tosses the lipstick-stained stub to the ground
Grinds it into the dirt with the heel of her stiletto
Inhales deeply
And turns back.
To one more man,
One more beer,
One more night of leering, groping, prodding, snorting
In the suffocating blackness
Where her soul vanishes inside an empty shell
And the wounds of her past sink into pits of pretense.

When the artificial smile and the artificial hair and the artificial nails
Reveal artificial canvases of pretend horizons,
All she can ask is
Why?

Then the door slams shut.
The lights go out.
Coins heavy in her pocket, she draws her coat tighter
To keep out the cold,
To keep in the pain,
To cover the scars
From probing eyes that pierce her skin once again.

Guarding her fractured heart, she walks
And walks
Footsteps echoing on the wet pavement
Until the key in her hand fits
And she stumbles down the steps,
Past her snoring neighbour spread out on the sagging couch
To the room where her treasure lies.
Eyes firmly closed with feathery lashes; ebony locks curled around the face of an angel.
A tiny hand.
Reaches out.
Holds, grasps, squeezes, breathes.
And she remembers.
Once again
The answer to the question,
Why?


* * * * *

"Why" is part of Gabrielle Yetter's new poetry collection And the Clouds Parted

Gabrielle Yetter is a former journalist who has lived in Bahrain, South Africa, USA, Cambodia, and the UK. She is author of Whisper of the Lotus, The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia, The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia, Ogden the Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight, and Martha the Blue Sheep and co-author with her husband Skip of Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure. Her poetry collection, And the Clouds Parted, was released in November 2022. She lives in East Sussex, UK and can be contacted at www.GabrielleYetter.com or gabrielle.yetter@gmail.com

Thursday, 15 December 2022

 

DO IT

by Stellasue Lee


When flirting, look directly into the eyes of the man
as if needing to tell him something.
Turn the palm of your left hand out
curling the fingers slightly.

Stand stillas if lost for the moment.
When accepting a drink from your hostess,
take a sip and imagine him unbuttoning
the 14 buttons at the back of your dress,

how his forefinger and thumb work,
each disengagement granting permission.
Feel the warmth from his breath in your hair.
Pause. Understand the space you occupy,

the timber of wood,
the tempered glass.
When he speaks, listen.
Touch his sleeve and concentrate

on the craggy lines that form
around his mouththe feathered wings
sweeping up from his eyes.
If he touches you,

arch your back slightly,
then bend one knee.
Your hips will sway.
Lift your left arm

and touch the back of your curled fingers
to your cheek.
Bring that arm to rest against your breast
applying pressure. Be willing.

When dancing, be fluid in his arms,
dreamy, like floating,
the music hushed like sea water in your ears.
When it ends
                                               
do not step away too quickly.
Stay another moment
as if you are recording
the first grain of sand

on the first beach.
Tremble without his heat.
Don’t speak,
but promise him everything

with your eyes.
When he takes your hand
follow him into midnight.
Youwoman

with your head full of swarming gnats
and your senseless curled fingers
crazy from want;
take what you need.

Do it.


* * * * *

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.




Wednesday, 14 December 2022

 

NOT EVEN THE MOON GIVES ITS MUTE CONCERN

by Stellasue Lee


That noise is my cell phone alert.
The security camera shows two men
working the keypad at our garage door,

the door starting to open, the garage
beginning to brim with light and I
can’t find the speaker to say anything,

can’t shriek at the intruders, scream
I see what you are doing and I’m calling
the police
, but I can’t remember how to dial

911, or who to call for reinforcement.
Fragments of the dream tear through
my bedroom. Night returns wearing

a black shawl. There is no moon,
nothing but neon numbers on a clock
that glow into the silent morning

reproachfully, 2:57 AM.
I leave our bed, walk in darkness
to the bathroom. Cold water rushes

from a faucet, flows through my fingers
until I gather courage enough to bring
a handful up to my face. I think about

those men, how to describe them to police,
how they should be charged with breaking
and entering my dreams. Who are they?

I return to bed to escape the mortuary cold.


* * * * *

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, 13 December 2022

Oh My Stars

by Dagne Forrest


“Oh my stars” says one of my dearest friends,
and I love this. Even when I fail to see them,
they are my stars. Even when I cannot see them
– because I forget my glasses, or clouds
obscure them, or I forget to look up,
they are still my stars, her stars, the stars
of anyone who spends their days beneath them.
There when we need them, there when we don’t.

There is nothing controversial about stars,
even flat-earthers corral them in a dome
above the disc they call Earth, which makes
me think a flat-earther might have invented
snow globes. What does it matter if some believe
stars are just pinpricks of light showing
through a holy cloth or a prop on a darkened stage?
We step outside and they simply are.

My friend and I are so far apart, a whole
continent sprawls, complex, between us –
and it’s blanketed by stars we both see
and fail to see, most of which we can’t name.
Recalling that we both exist under that same dome
seems important somehow, as does knowing
those ancient candles still seem to burn
even without the oxygen of our attention.


* * * * *

Dagne Forrest's poetry has appeared in journals in Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. In 2021 she was one of 15 poets featured in The League of Canadian Poets’ annual Poem in Your Pocket campaign, had a poem shortlisted for the UK's Bridport Prize, and won first prize in the Hammond House Publishing International Literary Prize (Poetry). Her creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Lake Effect, Paper Dragon, and Sky Island Journal. Dagne is an editor with Painted Bride Quarterly, as well a part of its Slush Pile podcast team. Learn more at dagneforrest.com.
 

Monday, 12 December 2022

 

These Fugitive Wings

by Dagne Forrest

 
Once, twin shadows streaking
down the side of a gray office
block seemed visual poetry,
somehow meant only for me. 
But I never really understood 
the birds or their special power, 
never really saw them except 
as an abstraction or echo. 
 
When the children were young
I was aware of only the barest
hint of movement out of
the corner of a distracted eye. 
 
As I walked to the schoolyard
on breezy days, I was certain the
shade that fluttered by me
was from the string of poplars. 
 
It wasn't until we left the city 
that I really saw the birds. Rushing   
overhead at dusk in tight formation 
or spiralling slowly above the fields, 
 
effortless and starkly singular. 
Nothing on the ground moved 
with such perfect geometry or 
seemed so unsullied by humans.   
 
The winter you were housebound
I saw them, flying taut elliptical
orbits as if shoring up our world
with long invisible ribbons. 
 
Just today I spied a pair barrelling
earthward outside the window.   
How do they not embed themselves 
in the ground, ancient sinewy darts? 
 
If I close my eyes, their shadow
is always there, an afterimage
bleeding through from the distant
past, woven through the present:
 
harbingers of a future without us.


* * * * *
 
 
"These Fugitive Wings" was first published by Fenland Poetry Review (Issue Four, Spring 2021) 

 
  
Dagne Forrest's poetry has appeared in journals in Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. In 2021 she was one of 15 poets featured in The League of Canadian Poets’ annual Poem in Your Pocket campaign, had a poem shortlisted for the UK's Bridport Prize, and won first prize in the Hammond House Publishing International Literary Prize (Poetry). Her creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Lake Effect, Paper Dragon, and Sky Island Journal. Dagne is an editor with Painted Bride Quarterly, as well a part of its Slush Pile podcast team. Learn more at dagneforrest.com. 
 

Sunday, 11 December 2022

More Than us, but Less than Wind

by Millicent Borges Accardi

          from a line by—Carmen Giménez Smith


The times when I cannot meet
you halfway, we struggle
you know how to say this word,
migration, immigration, destiny.
The scattering of people, traveling
away from where they were born,
from war, violence, famine, poverty,
disease. The diaspora stretches out
like a fishing net, across the Mexico
Border and California, Texas, Arizona.
Dragging culture across grassy fields,
dragging language around like a knapsack,
emptying familiar phrases as if they were bread
crumbs along the way. How much can we carry?
What do we leave or stay. How much of ourselves
do we remain within our leaving hearts,
the gateway to our lives, our rabbit’s foot,
the pelt worn down to bone and dried blood
that we finger in our nearly closed fist
when we are scared.


* * * * *

"More Than us, but Less than Wind" is from Millicent Borges Accardi's collection Quarantine Highway (Flowersong Press, 2022)

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer has four poetry collections including Only More So (Salmon Poetry Ireland). Among her awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, CantoMundo, Fulbright, Foundation for Contemporary Arts NYC (Covid grant), Creative Capacity, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation, “Money for Women.” She holds degrees in writing from CSULB and USA and currently lives in the hippie-arts community of Topanga, CA where she curates Kale Soup for the Soul and co-curates the Poets & Writers sponsored Loose Lips poetry readings.  


Saturday, 10 December 2022

 

The Undoing

by Millicent Borges Accardi


There is impersonalness
to our touch, working backwards
from intimacy into being
mis-associated strangers,
what activities not to do any more:
touching cold feet in bed
or putting a washcloth to my face.
Are these acceptable gestures
now that we are rewinding into
the opposite of lovers.
We have tried to face the wall
inside the tunnel that is where
we used to travel through on our
way to being together, and we have pressed
in a non-onward direction,
like switching from left to right,
forced to hold the wrong hand,
to relearn how not to. How not to throw
and catch awkwardly. How to face
with the other shoulder, how to bend
the wrong way into a triangle,
into a new limiting direction
that keeps you trapped and strangled
and lost. Everything from scratch
transforming into a scar,
the places when you used to know
things by heart. Time is putting on
your right shoe and steadying
yourself on the left, jumping
around to keep a sort of balance
in an irregular circular way
--as if you are fooling yourself safe,
back on the ground and can protect
the country from falling, becoming
a universal key positioned into
the lock of how new life has become
unremarkable, disappeared and a lot more ugly.


* * * * *

"The Undoing" is from Millicent Borges Accardi's poetry collection Quarantine Highway (FlowerSong Press, 2022).

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer has four poetry collections including Only More So (Salmon Poetry Ireland). Among her awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, CantoMundo, Fulbright, Foundation for Contemporary Arts NYC (Covid grant), Creative Capacity, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation, “Money for Women.” She holds degrees in writing from CSULB and USA and currently lives in the hippie-arts community of Topanga, CA where she curates Kale Soup for the Soul and co-curates the Poets & Writers sponsored Loose Lips poetry readings.  

Friday, 9 December 2022

 

READING BRAILLE

by Mary J. Breen


            In 1952, when I was eight, my mother started calling me a Nosy Parker because I asked
too many questions, and snooped in too many places, and listened in on conversations not meant for me. It didn’t help that I was always literally sticking my nose into things because I was very nearsighted, although no one had figured that out yet. My parents just thought little Mary was much too inclined to pry, and she was probably a bit slow to boot. And she squinted too much.
            Our very small family in our very small house in our very small village gave me a hunger for the greener, more interesting pastures that I knew had to be out there, starting with wanting to know what people in other houses did. I had a feeling they had thrilling games to play and thrilling books to read, and boxes of chocolate-covered Christmas cherries every day of the year. I wanted to know if they prayed or sang or played cards together every evening, and if their mothers made wonderful new desserts every single day, and if any of the kids had had scarlet fever, and if their friends were allowed to stay overnight, and if they got smacked a lot, and if they were ever afraid of their mothers or did they all love each other just like Jesus said we should. There was so much to find out.
            So, my mother was right; I was nosy. I prefer to think I was inquisitive. It all comes down to point of view.
            My curiosity was the reason I loved to go visiting on a summer’s afternoon—getting myself invited into friends’ and neighbours’ homes where I could hear their tales and tell them mine, and look around. Their oatmeal cookies and Canada Dry were good too. I loved seeing all those new rooms—kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms—and all the new things I spotted there.
            For a while, one of my favourite places was a house at
the end of our street. Down past a couple of solid yellow brick houses was a small, Easter egg green wooden cottage where two middle-aged sisters lived. I have no memory of their names, just that one of them was blind. Maybe that was why they often wore the exact same dresses.
            They always made me feel welcome. One afternoon, the blind woman was holding a very large book on her lap. I could see that its pages were pale brown, rough-edged, and thick, thicker even than the construction paper we had at school. Even odder, the pages appeared to be entirely blank. I started asking questions about how it was that her book contained no print at all, so she showed me that the pages were imprinted with rows and rows of tiny bumps. This, she said, was Braille, and via these little Braille bumps, she was able to “read” her book. And if I wanted, she would show me. She placed the fingertips of both of her hands together near the middle of the book, and then, leaving her left hand to mark the beginning of the line, she began to slide her other hand along the row of bumps, her fingers moving up and down just a little as they went. With her fingers guiding her, she began to read aloud. I was astonished. I asked more questions, and when she realized how interested I was, she asked her sister to give me one of the many books she had on a nearby shelf. She also gave me a little card showing the combinations of embossed dots that make up the Braille alphabet. “See if you can figure it out,” she said. I was thrilled. I lugged the book home prepared to set about my task, keen to discover the story literally at my fingertips, a kind of message in a bottle from another universe.
            The book was large and heavy, about fifteen inches high and over two feet wide when open, larger even than the Wizard of Oz books from the library. It was as unwieldy as a book of wallpaper samples, and to try to “read” it, I had to lay it on the kitchen table, stand beside it, and hold down its left half with my whole forearm. It smelled like old ashtrays.
            I soon discovered that I had none of this woman’s talent. Identifying the letters by touch proved impossible, so I was reduced to using my eyes. One-by-one, I did my best to find the letters hidden within the clusters of dots. When I thought I might have one—and I decided the letters really should have more space between them—I printed it in pencil in the little spaces below. I managed only a few words, and they didn’t make any sense. Clearly, there was much more to reading Braille than met the eye.
            Not only was trying to “read” the book not fun, I got it in my head that this nice woman needed my help, and she wanted me to print out the whole book for her. When I realized I was hopeless and this meant I’d be
letting her down, I stopped visiting her and her sister. Kids can get things so wrong.
            Although I never even figured out the book’s title, it was years before I gave it away. I kept thinking that maybe, someday, I might teach myself to read via my fingertips. I think now that some of the appeal of becoming competent in Braille was that it might give me an advantage over my mother: here was a book she could never read. Not that I could either—yet—but I loved the idea of being able to have something completely unreachable by the prying eyes of a mother who, I was convinced, was rather nosy herself.


* * * * *

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

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Secret Language

by Mary McCarthy


When my sister and I talk
it goes fast and low
as if crouching to avoid
incoming fire.
Our stories start and stutter
full of holes that don’t need words
because we already know
what they must be:
punch lines of old jokes
like worn keys to doorways
that let us slip out
from under the assault,
words we can wear
like gas masks filtering
heat and poisons from the air,
our sentences like tattered cloth,
like chains that turn and knot,
and cling like climbing ivy
on a wall we always knew
would be there, daring us to climb.
We talk in an abbreviated code
each pause resonant with tone
like the air around a swinging bell
remembering the same vibrations,
the wild excitement and defiance
past the threat of punishment,
laughter choking through our tears
forever unrepentant, winners
on a broken field
still trying to teach
our voices how to rise
and sing our way to freedom.


* * * * *

Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, and recent issues of Third Wednesday, Earth’s Daughters, Verse Virtual and Gyroscope.


Wednesday, 7 December 2022

 

This month's Moon Prize, the 108th, goes to Eve Louise Makoff for her powerful writing "I wasn't raped."


I wasn’t raped.

by Eve Louise Makoff


But when I see him with his blonde wife on Facebook I go dark somewhere. Shaky and acidic. Back to my young insecure self looking for validation in grey-green eyes.

I was 17 and he was an adult.
In a bathroom at a party we had sex by the olive bathtub.
“You’re cool. Always been cute” he said. 
I went home in damp pants and stupidly waited for his call. 
I think we spoke once and then he disappeared like his ilk in L.A. tended to do. Surfer guys, all salt and beer. Few promises. Few words. But they found willing partners in us, in our bikinis. 

I wasn’t raped, but when I see his face with his perfect family, I disappear in ways I haven’t since back then when I confused desire for interest. 

Then, I didn’t understand the cost of giving myself to someone who didn’t give a shit. 

I’d forgotten until I saw them today. I wonder if she knows.


* * * * *

Eve Louise Makoff is an internal medicine and palliative care physician and a writer.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

I wasn’t raped.

by Eve Louise Makoff


But when I see him with his blonde wife on Facebook I go dark somewhere. Shaky and acidic. Back to my young insecure self looking for validation in grey-green eyes.

I was 17 and he was an adult.
In a bathroom at a party we had sex by the olive bathtub.
“You’re cool. Always been cute” he said. 
I went home in damp pants and stupidly waited for his call. 
I think we spoke once and then he disappeared like his ilk in L.A. tended to do. Surfer guys, all salt and beer. Few promises. Few words. But they found willing partners in us, in our bikinis. 

I wasn’t raped, but when I see his face with his perfect family, I disappear in ways I haven’t since back then when I confused desire for interest. 

Then, I didn’t understand the cost of giving myself to someone who didn’t give a shit. 

I’d forgotten until I saw them today. I wonder if she knows.


* * * * *

Eve Louise Makoff is an internal medicine and palliative care physician and a writer.

Monday, 5 December 2022

 

Girlhood

by Elisabet Sundstrom


Girly petals and
parental cherry blossom

I became a woman
at the age of seven
and my bed was
Noah’s Arc until I turned twelve

No clout in the cloud
In this house
there are no dwellers

International diplomacy
easier than
family reconciliation

Worry is a prayer for chaos
the future has already happened
exiled wounds
live to tell

This sky is bruised
my eye lashes
lashed out

Trespassing
with a global passport
solitude is an alluring currency

God speaks
in the space
of no resistance


* * * * *

Elisabet Sundstrom is a woman, daughter, mother, wife, friend, sister, writer and world servant. She is a recovering Swede residing in Lebanon who is obsessed with human connection and understanding the world.



Sunday, 4 December 2022

Initium

by Elisabet Sundstrom


The scene is this
the world is best observed
from underneath a table

There is a sense of urgency
when
submission is served in fancy glasses
seeping in as core values

Rather an internal rupture than
a crack in the crystal

Unlike animals
we make the same mistakes
repeatedly
for that is our haven

It is fascinating
this understanding
years later
of instant rebellion

Making the case
eyes becoming used to
self-owned radiance

No is a complete sentence
Joy is the new currency

Just like
walks are no longer taken on broken branches
darkness cannot survive the light

Hope is a shortcut to brighter days
tithing the key to prosperity

There is
for us all
that brief pivotal moment in time
when we feel as if life begins
for the first time


* * * * *

Elisabet Sundstrom is a woman, daughter, mother, wife, friend, sister, writer and world servant. She is a recovering Swede residing in Lebanon who is obsessed with human connection and understanding the world.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Memory Postcards

by Michelle Fulkerson


The air smells of lemon and basil.
They have just finished carving
and saw dust settles upon the tabletop. 
Bay windows open to the azure skyline, infinite and free,
where the crepe myrtle sways in the breeze. 
The chestnut wood is sanded and polished;
iced tea set by the back porch swing,
warmed by the sun's golden rays. 
Green grass sways with the wind;
dandelion seeds get carried away.

Lazy summer nights with sweet syrup sunsets
that drip behind the clouds.
Hues of deep orange, burnt red and cotton candy pink 
inked downwards to the horizon.
As darkness descends,
the smell of a campfire lingers in the air,
around a tent pitched under a handful of constellations.

Rickety old boat docks with weathered wood,
beneath black work boots and a fisherman’s net. 
Water ebbs and flows along,
never still, 
as the clouds open 
upon loose boards and rusty nails.

Endless roadways wind through small town streets,
where the air smells of pollen and diner coffee. 
Once ruby red trucks rattle on through,
dashboards covered in fast food wrappers and empty soda cans. 
Dirty pennies litter the floorboard,
while the chatter of the radio in the background 
is drowned out by thoughts of lazy times.

Bustling city streets,
their curbs lined by mustard yellow taxis
from which suits and briefcases rush to and fro.
Time is precious and fleeting;
the air stinks of car exhaust and sorrow.
Clocks tick as stoplights shift.


* * * * *

"Memory Postcards" is from Michelle Fulkerson's collection
I Am from Stargazing on Rooftops, edited posthumously by her mother, Julie Fulkerson (Cerasus Poetry, July 2022).

Michelle Fulkerson fought her way into the world at just 23 weeks gestation. Against the odds, she survived and thrived. Michelle loved reading, writing and music. She began writing poetry and short stories at age 12. Around that same time, Michelle began struggling with anorexia, anxiety, and depression. She kept a journal where she wrote with poignant honesty regarding her mental health struggles. Michelle wrote up until her suicide, just 4 months shy of her 18th birthday.



Friday, 2 December 2022

Future Self

by Michelle Fulkerson


Dear future self, are you happy?
Do you measure life in smiles
instead of calories?

Dear future self, are you lying again?
Lying to yourself.
Lying to friends.
Lying to family…

Dear future self, are you ill?
Have you been claimed by the beast once again,
as it curls around your bones like a house cat?

Dear future self, have you accomplished your goals?
Has that revolutionary fire inside of you dwindled,
or has it flared back with more vigor than before?

Dear future self, are you writing?
Are you a journalist, a poet?
Did you graduate college?
Did you make something of your existence?

Dear future self, are you lonely?
Have the pills looked more enticing as of late?
Have you spoken to your mother,
shared what is in your heart?

Dear future self, are you holy?
Do you walk in faith,
or have you been burdened 
by that devil on your shoulder?

Dear future self,
most of all,
are you whole?


* * * * *

"Future Self" is from Michelle Fulkerson's collection I Am from Stargazing on Rooftops, edited posthumously by her mother, Julie Fulkerson (Cerasus Poetry, July 2022).

Michelle Fulkerson fought her way into the world at just 23 weeks gestation. Against the odds, she survived and thrived. Michelle loved reading, writing and music. She began writing poetry and short stories at age 12. Around that same time, Michelle began struggling with anorexia, anxiety, and depression. She kept a journal where she wrote with poignant honesty regarding her mental health struggles. Michelle wrote up until her suicide, just 4 months shy of her 18th birthday.


Thursday, 1 December 2022

Marcescent*  

by Jean McBee Knox


Throughout New England woods
in winter beech leaves hang above the snow
like ghosts, conversations carried
from one season to another.
No longer the deep bronzes we gathered
in autumn for the mantel,
but withered, nearly transparent,
veins curled in upon themselves.

The leaves maintain an ashen vigil,
as if some bit of DNA leftover
from ancestry with evergreens
forgot to flip a switch and let them fall,
but kept them on to see the season out.

They wear death proudly, like grasses
that toss their black seeds to the wind
or an old barn, its shingles so worn and brittle
you wonder why the structure does not fall.
Dying is hard, and often slow—
winter not reason enough for letting go.


*Marcescent: A withering but not falling off, as
a blossom that persists on a twig after flowering.
 
 The American Heritage Dictionary


* * * * *

As a project manager for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Reading/Language Arts program, Jean McBee Knox wrote many books for elementary readers. She has published four books for young adults with Chelsea House (NY) and articles for The Boston Globe, including The Globe Sunday Magazine. An enthusiastic gardener, she lives in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.