Wednesday 31 May 2023

Losing the Fog

by Cynthia Bernard

The Pacific inhales overnight,
then, shortly before dawn, begins 
crooning her love to the hills nearby.

Her fog-song caresses the beach,
sashays up the hillside,
tucking in between houses,
weaving through bushes, around trees,
seeping down to greet the gophers,
gliding up to tango with the crows.

It’s a relationship renewed each morning,
fertile and productive—
nurturing coastal redwoods, who would not survive 
without the moisture they sip from each morning’s mist,
and salmon, who swim streams
kept alive by fog-drip.

She’s begun to develop shortness of breath, 
fog barely making it beyond the bottom of the hill—
and there’s no inhaler we can offer her, 
no chemotherapy that will cool things down,
no radiation that will stop the spread.

We can’t advise her to quit smoking, either;
we’re the ones who feed the flames.

Less fog… even less fog…
The hillside weeps dried leaves, dead branches, 
as his beloved’s song fades away.

* * * * *

"Losing the Fog" was previously published in Heimat Review, January 2023.

Cynthia Bernard is a woman in her late sixties who is finding her voice as a poet after many decades of silence. A long-time classroom teacher and a spiritual mentor, she lives and writes on a hill overlooking the ocean, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. 

Tuesday 30 May 2023


In Case of Emergency

by Lesley Warren

WARNING: do not attempt alone.
What to do in instances
of sudden loss of love:
determine source of apathy.
Quickly remove pride and spite.
If in doubt, consult bystanders.
Loosen tongue.
In cases of suspicion,
check for foreign bodies.
Measure impetus levels.
If good, attempt resuscitation.
If none found, proceed to next step.
Carefully remove attachments.
Assess the damage.
Continue to breathe.
Remove all visual stimuli
from the immediate vicinity.
Lock doors, initiate Playlist 1.
Exceed recommended listening volume.
Apply ice (creamed) copiously to the affected area.
Stop blaming self.
Repeat as necessary.
DO NOT, under any circumstances,
re-enter burning building.
put on your mask
before facing others.

* * * * *

Lesley Warren lives for language. Born to Filipino and Welsh parents, she now works as a translator in Frankfurt, Germany. Her poetry and prose, which often encompass themes of identity, mental health and "otherness", have appeared in multiple online and print journals and anthologies, including those of the Frankfurt Creative Writing Group. 

Monday 29 May 2023


Tau Herculids

by Christen Lee

Astronomers predicted the Tau Herculids meteor shower
to be an all-or-nothing event,
a once-in-a lifetime sighting that could light up the sky
with as many as 1,000 meteors per hour.
It was Memorial Day.
The kids and I waited until the sun sank low in the west,
imagining how the night would dazzle like never before.
We watched the dusk bleed orange into violet,
stretch long shadows across the wide lawn until full dark.
At ten o’clock, pajamaed and yawning,
we ventured outdoors
walked hand in hand under a
charcoal canvas of black.
We craned our necks, allowing our eyes to adjust as distant dots
of white, faint yellow began to glow.
Look! Look! At the hundreds of pulsing points pulling our eyes
east then west,
south until the trees blocked our view
then north, buttressed by peaked rows of homes.
And while not a single meteor grazed our line of view,
the marvel of the cosmos filled us
poured over into excited gestures
as we pointed, guessing the names and ages of stars
so many million light years away.
And in that hour, the dark receded from our eyes
illuminated by the hope of the unknown.
Finally overcome by sleep, we carried ourselves inside,
our heads falling heavy with so much light and time.
They said it would be an all-or-nothing event
and they weren’t wrong.
Huddled together under that canopy of unyielding light,
we had it all.

* * * * *

Christen Lee is a family nurse practitioner in Cleveland, Ohio. Her writing has been featured in the Literary Cleveland’s Voices from the Edge AnthologyRue ScribeThe Write Launch, Aurora, Humans of the World BlogSad Girls Club2022 New Generation Beats AnthologyWingless Dreamer and is forthcoming in The Voices of Real 7 Compilation.

Sunday 28 May 2023


The Clearcut

by Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Sitting in the clearcut on a mammoth stump
Waiting for moose

Gumball-sized scat in piles the size of eagles’ nests
Are flung across the cut, proof of presence
The mountains are lost in a bank of white cloud

While I wait for moose, small things come
A hummingbird, buzzing past
An orange fritillary nectaring in flat-topped goldenrod
A lithe red squirrel, spruce cone in her mouth

Although bleached-bone branches lie helter-skelter
Across the sick yellow moss
And some stumps in the disaster zone are three feet across

All around me baby spruce and fir
Do what babies do
Spring into a broken world
Limbs lifted, all hope, all luck

* * * * *

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 has featured several of her poems, including “How to Silence a Woman,” and “If I have loved you,” both of which won Moon Prizes. Melanie's poetry has also appeared in The New Verse News. She is working on a nature memoir about the Potomac Gorge.   

Saturday 27 May 2023



by Melanie Choukas-Bradley

It’s hot here in the mountains, hot all over the hemisphere
London train tracks buckling, Sierra sequoias crackling
And where it’s not burning it’s drowning

I walk up the road and take the Short Circuit path
Into the woods
The road is lined with recycling bins

Plastics, glass, papers and cardboard, all methodically sorted
Such conscientious recyclers, fighting to rescue the planet
I take the Short Circuit to the Pasture Path

And down to the Diagonal
I step off the Diagonal to do what most humans do indoors
Into a world of spruce and fir and moss-draped earth

Into a world of unconscious recycling
Birch logs softening into deep decay
Moose scats in piles the size of eagles’ nests drying in the sun

Everything sinking down or rising up, rot and regeneration
Circular resilience
A world apart from rectangular bins

* * * * *

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 has featured several of her poems, including “How to Silence a Woman,” and “If I have loved you,” both of which won Moon Prizes. Melanie's poetry has also appeared in The New Verse News. She is working on a nature memoir about the Potomac Gorge.   

Friday 26 May 2023



by Laura Ann Reed

And now, when I summon up
that hamper in my parents’ room,

what do I seek to resurrect if not
the daydreams I inhabited

in that shadowed space?
I want them back—

those idle thoughts
of the duration I could stay

safely hidden, and of how
good the special silence there.

Good too, those ripe,
familiar smells of my

parents—their underwear co-
mingling without shouts or swearing.

I want it back—that proximity
to my mother’s closet, where  

at least six shirtwaist dresses
waited for me to steal among

them and stow my longing between
plaids and floral patterns. Then,

like an afterthought—behind all
those coats and crisp white blouses—

that taffeta gown with its rainbow
sheen I’d never seen her wear,

its cool, deep folds holding the perfume
of who she’d been before I knew her.

* * * * *

"Inhabited" was first published in MacQueen's Quinterly and is part of Laura Ann Reed's collection Shadows Thrown (Sungold Editions, 2023)

Laura Ann Reed, a San Francisco Bay Area native, taught modern dance and ballet at the University of California, Berkeley before working as a leadership development trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, and Britain. She is the author of the chapbook, Shadows Thrown (2023). Laura and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday 25 May 2023

No Cats
                     after Robert Hayden

by Laura Ann Reed

On Sunday mornings, my father tiptoes
from the room where my mother sleeps
curled into her womb’s secret of losses.
He closes the door, careful not to let it creak.

I follow him into the kitchen where
he spreads old newspapers over the floor.
Sets out tins of polish, a brush
and flannel cloth. Picks up a shoe. Under
his breath he whistles a tune he claims
he listened to on the radio, as a boy—
a happy song, he says. Perhaps
it’s because he whistles off-key
that it sounds sad.

What do I know about the sadness
in this house, the disappointments?
The way sun refuses to stipple
the walls?  I look down at the daubs
of red, yellow, blue, and green
in the linoleum, playing a game:  
If I find a cat in the pattern, I can
make a wish. But the daubs
are haphazard, there is no pattern.
Every week I look, but
there are never any cats.

* * * * *

"No Cats" was first published in Willawaw Journal and is part of Laura Ann Reed's collection Shadows Thrown (Sungold Editions, 2023)


Laura Ann Reed, a San Francisco Bay Area native, taught modern dance and ballet at the
University of California, Berkeley before working as a leadership development trainer at the San
Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her work has
appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, and Britain. She is
the author of the chapbook, Shadows Thrown (2023). Laura and her husband live in the Pacific

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Water into Wine

by Julia Fricke Robinson

the Bible asks us to suspend reality
have faith, believe in miracles,
waters part, commandments come down from heaven
a star leads to a virgin birth by a child bride
a virgin can give birth because the angel Gabriel declared it so?

this baby named Jesus born of this virgin named Mary
goes to a wedding in Cana with his mother
a grown man, past typical marrying age but unmarried
followed by a group of similar young men
what does that tell us?

in the first recorded instance
of helicopter parenting, the Mother Mary
notices that the host is almost out of wine
asks her nearby son Jesus to perform his first miracle
to turn six jars of water into wine

He sasses her, says, “Why me, woman?”
then, compliant and respectful, he consents
whether to distract his mother, who is always at his side
or to impress friends and fellow party-goers
with better wine; the act recorded as Biblical history

Cana of Galilee, now known as Kafr Kanna (kafur Kanah, accent on 2nd syllables)
in the Northern triangle of Israel is
89% Palestinian Muslim, 11% Jewish or Druze Christian
residents speak different languages, worship different gods
children educated in segregated schools

Palestinian poverty and unemployment rampant
tensions high, war always imminent, “a time bomb
waiting to explode if Palestinians (the “others”)
exceed 20%” warns Netanyahu, encourages
Jewish women to have more children

The “melting pot” model rejected
this mosaic community with rigid, grout-like barriers
intermarriage outlawed, inequality and discrimination enshrined 
awaits a new Gabriel to announce a new Savior
a miracle of transmutation, water into wine

* * * * *

Julia Fricke Robinson, author of two memoirs, All I Know and Between the Desert and the Wetlands, divides her time between visiting children and grandchildren in Colorado, Indiana and New York and living, dancing and writing in a community of artists, writers, performers, activists and otherwise interesting people in beautiful Silver City, New Mexico, where the weather is just about perfect.

Tuesday 23 May 2023


On Listening to Sade

by Rebecca M. Ross

When she sings she is

three in the morning
smudged mascara,
the haze of exhausted lovemaking
as night wears off,
unintended consequences of
loneliness, desperation, passion

She is Art Deco angles–
gleaming beams
of metallic permanence
in the moonlit city,
empty streets dotted with pools
of buttery light,
diluted traffic
yolk-yellow cabs catching speeds unknown--

She is sound breaking
into hollow echoes of
a secret bassline
of footsteps on concrete,
the seductive warmth
of breath in saxophone
under the cool vastness of
an expansive night sky,
the familiar click of key in lock,
the sigh of a door swinging heavily on its hinges,
the flip of a hall light switch,
the subtle and strange isolation embracing an empty apartment.

She is anxiety and anticipation shimmering
on the raised eyebrows of expectation--
still in view yet further and further away as you chase her voice
through bars and over chords,
hopping over familiar choruses to reach her,
hoping for a rest in the music so you can finally say


* * * * *

Rebecca M. Ross is originally from Brooklyn but currently lives, hikes, and teaches in New York’s Hudson Valley. She has poetry forthcoming or published in The Voices Project, Live Nude Poems, The Metaworker, Last Leaves, Uppagus, Streetcake Magazine, Whimsical Poet, The Westchester Review, and others. Rebecca’s terrible love for dad jokes and clever puns is the cause of much grinning and groaning for those within earshot–and she’s not sorry.

Monday 22 May 2023

love songs & dusty roads

by Nina Heiser

oh love do you remember
days of rain
by the river
in the woodlands

where we found
laid out the bones of a moose
in the muddy shallows
of the beaver pond on Isabel’s trail

in late summer
when love splashed fresh and cold
against a random tumble
of granite boulders

copper in the sunlight
those pockets where we
let ourselves be
on the east branch

of the river coursing
through virgin forest
in search of sea
here we found

shelter from long
now the dust has settled
because of you

I stand outside 
to see the night 
until if the sky is clear
a star appears      

I hear you tell me
how you love me
and sometimes
I see it

* * * * *

Nina Heiser is a poet, writer and retired journalist currently living in central Florida and
Western New York. Her work has appeared in Tuck Magazine, Cadence, the Florida
State Poets Association Anthology, Vociferous Press anthology Screaming from the
Silence, Embark Literary Journal
, and Gargoyle Magazine. Her poetry and photographs
have been featured in Pendemics Journal and Of Poets & Poetry.

Sunday 21 May 2023

memories thick as mud

                        by Nina Heiser

and then some
lips red as a licked red candy skin
pale as the morning moon
eyes dark as glittered sunshine she
was the altar of his doom she came
in the hours the world goes hiding
where secrets of the heart unfurl she
was his vision his hope his harbor
she was not his girl
her eyes glared like glaze ice
on black roads like a crow’s wing
in a colorless sky her eyes
found his still as frozen-over water
when you are dead she whispered
there will be nothing in that moment
she saw the fear in him the trepidation and she
walked away leaving him alone knowing
he watched as she grew small and smaller and
smaller until the world took her from him
and everything became shadow
after the black flies had their
turn at her she learned to squat
and to like the stretch of picking
in the early morning summer sun
not the white-hot sun she had always
known in the land where colors flowed
like silken robes inside the stench of
poverty and putrid waste where noises
throbbed in pandemonium where he
the photographer from a different world had
zeroed in without a flinch at the inner
harmonium of beauty’s spheres
she was a red-blooded woman in a
black-and-white world in an immobile
time not marked by clocks trapped inside
a crystal-blue cocoon under pricking stars shining and
brittle as an infinity of tiny glass shards sprinkling
down like sugar on ginger like snowflakes on ice like
the guilt of old secrets on newborn joy
shhh she said don’t speak don’t
break the bond silence has forged
between us don’t jinx the spell under
which we labor don’t call bad magic

* * * * *

Nina Heiser is a poet, writer and retired journalist currently living in central Florida and
Western New York. Her work has appeared in Tuck Magazine, Cadence, the Florida
State Poets Association Anthology, Vociferous Press anthology Screaming from the
Silence, Embark Literary Journal
, and Gargoyle Magazine. Her poetry and photographs
have been featured in Pendemics Journal and Of Poets & Poetry.

Saturday 20 May 2023


by Penny Perry

You tell the Helms Bakery driver  
 your mother died. Her account closed.   

You watch the blue and yellow truck
trundle down the street
stealing the last of the sweet smell
of bread and cake.

Your own life has crumbled like the palm-
sized cardboard truck, from a long ago
bakery field trip.
I want to tell you more sweets will come.
Even now Suzie, who you stopped talking to,
her wheat-colored cardigan flapping,
is running up the street to comfort you.

I want to tell you, how years from now
your grown daughter will buy you
a concha at a Mexican market.
Pink coconut will fill your mouth

and you’ll remember those Saturdays
you and your mother stepped timidly
into the bakery truck.

The Helmsman opened the dessert drawer,
showed off glazed and sprinkled donuts.
Some Saturdays you and your mother
chose cream puffs, white cream oozed
from puffs of everyday popover dough.

* * * * *                                                                              

Penny Perry, a seven-time Pushcart nominee, has two collections of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal and Salvage and Woman with Newspaper Shoes both from Garden Oak Press. New work is forthcoming in Lips, The Paterson Literary Review and The San Diego Poetry Annual. She was one of the first female screenwriters at The American Film Institute. She is a fiction and non-fiction editor at Knot Literary Journal.

Friday 19 May 2023


Haiku: soliloquy

by Cynthia Anderson

the raven explains
a dropped feather

* * * * *

"soliloquy" was first published in Presence #74
Cynthia Anderson has published a dozen poetry books, most recently Arrival (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2023) and Full Circle (Cholla Needles Press, 2022). Her poems appear frequently in journals and anthologies, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has lived in California for over 40 years.

Thursday 18 May 2023


Haiku: spring garden

by Cynthia Anderson
spring garden
finding peace in the patience
of seeds

* * * * *

"spring garden" was first published in Haiku in Action, 3.10.22

Cynthia Anderson has published a dozen poetry books, most recently Arrival (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2023) and Full Circle (Cholla Needles Press, 2022). Her poems appear frequently in journals and anthologies, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has lived in California for over 40 years.

Wednesday 17 May 2023



by Ursula Shepherd   

Sometimes there are no choices. 
Life is made of days set one upon another
no thoughts of what might be or how it might be better. 

Just what is: changing soiled sheets, crying in the bath,
listening to stories, not true, holding up the man 
who still – almost – remembers you.

You wish for places you could go: Tahiti, Senegal, 
Rarotonga. But there are no choices; this is the place
you are, and courage is a word best held at bay.

You simply call across the time there is,
cry out exhausted in the tub, “Lord, please. 
Just get me through another day.”

* * * * *

Ursula Shepherd is a biogeographer, ecologist and sometime essayist and poet. She has spent a lifetime exploring, celebrating the wondrous lifeforms found here on planet Earth, and finding joy in the beauty and power of words. She has written a book, Nature Notes (Fulcrum Press) occasional essays, and poems in UnbrokenGrim and Gilded and in Minnow.

Tuesday 16 May 2023


Identity Crisis

by Margaret D. Stetz

This poem used to be a story

before it lost the way toward closure
it was supposed to end with sunrise
a revelation
a dawning in all senses
but the protagonist
stayed up all night
and nothing changed
supporting characters
fell flat
their dialogue no wittier
than lines you’d hear
as people pass
beside an open window
even the natural setting
meant to function as a metaphor
was uncooperative
the rain remaining
merely rain
the wind that should have whistled
never showing up at all
such disappointment
so what was left but poetry
where nothing has to happen
and no one has to learn
(because no one ever does
but just repeats
and carries on)
where lifetimes
come and go
not in an arc
but in an
oscillating moment?

* * * * *

Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae & Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, where she teaches courses that reflect the intersection of the arts. Recently, her poetry has appeared in A Plate of Pandemic, C*nsorship Magazine, Kerning, Mono, Review Americana, Rushing Thru the Dark, West Trestle Review, Hare’s Paw, Existere, Literary CocktailDark Matter, and other journals, as well as in the Washington Post


Monday 15 May 2023


Little Madonna

by K Roberts

She dreams in color. Swirling opal mists,
brilliant scarlet flames with yellow
middles. Her red dress shatters
when bystanders look at it.
Luminous spotlights
halo her in blueish-white.  Magnetic rays
crackle in the sky. She wakes

pillowed under a window, sunlight
burning her cheeks
her younger sister moaning
next to her in bed. Throws her left
arm up to cover her face, rubs
her belly mountain. The slippers
wait in a corner, ready for her
swollen feet and the long
wobbly walk to the bathroom.

* * * * *

K Roberts is a professional non-fiction writer, a published artist, and a first reader for the literary magazines Nunum and After Dinner Conversation. Recent poetry has appeared in VoiceCatcherEthel, Decolonial Passage, and the Journal of Undiscovered Poets.

Sunday 14 May 2023

Sensitive Child

by K Roberts

That one, throwing river stones at railroad ties.
Turned inside out like a pocket.
Train whistle calls: Well! Come on. Now!
Comes every day, the child thinks,
just to take what’s mine.
The world’s the same all over.

* * * * *

K Roberts is a professional non-fiction writer, a published artist, and a first reader for the literary magazines Nunum and After Dinner Conversation. Recent poetry has appeared in VoiceCatcherEthel, Decolonial Passage, and the Journal of Undiscovered Poets.

Saturday 13 May 2023


by Nancy Machlis Rechtman

No one knew where they came from. It seemed they just appeared out of nowhere one day. It was hard to tell at first, but it turned out there were seven of them. Orphans, all of them, though we never did find out if they were all from one family or, if not, how they came to be together.
            When they showed up that day just as the last snow of winter was disappearing, the town went wild. I mean, you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty strange sight to see a string of orphans, all in clothes that didn’t fit properly, suddenly appearing out of the clear blue sky at the edge of town like some ragtag band, and then setting up camp. That’s what my daddy called it - “setting up camp.” But I never did see any tent or anything.
            To tell the truth, no one actually saw where they settled after they arrived. They must have built themselves some kind of shelter deep in those woods because that’s where they disappeared every night. They never let anyone close enough during the day to follow them. And, you better believe that no one was going to follow them into the woods when it was pitch black and you couldn’t even see your own hand in front of your face.
            Folks in town didn’t exactly welcome strangers with open arms. They usually kept pretty much to themselves and regarded outsiders as intruders, to be treated with suspicion and mistrust. That suited the orphans just fine since it was obvious they felt the same way about the folks in town.
            In the beginning, a few of the women clucked about the orphans being “savages” who should be dragged into town, given a good scrubbing and forced to go to school like the rest of us poor miserable kids. They even went to the mayor about it. But since no one in town really wanted the orphans in their midst, the idea died a quiet death and the orphans were left to themselves.
            My family lived on the edge of town, as close to the woods as was possible while still being considered part of the town. My mama said it was positively spooky having those “wild Indians” living so close to us. Daddy just laughed and told her to stop being afraid of poor, homeless children. Mama told me she better not catch me near any of those “barbarians” or else. But I used to sneak out of bed when I knew she and Daddy had fallen asleep and I’d creep outside and look around, trying to see if I could see anything in the moonlight. I never could, but boy, did my imagination run wild.
            I imagined what kind of a home the orphans had made for themselves in the woods and what it must be like not to have any adults around to make you listen to them and tell you when to go to sleep, and what it must be like inside those dark, forbidding woods, and what kind of wild animals must be watching and waiting… I’d finally go back to bed, too wound up to fall asleep and I’d walk around the whole next day like a zombie. Mama always looked at me suspiciously on those mornings, but she kept her mouth shut, thank goodness.
            Although we lived on the outskirts of town, we did have a few neighbors not too far away. The closest was the cat lady. That’s what we called her since no one could pronounce - or even remember - her real name anyway, and she was always taking in strays. All of us kids thought she was the most ancient lady in the world. She never paid any attention to what anyone said or thought, although I wonder if she even knew. Most of the people in town called her “eccentric” when they were being polite.
            One of the cat lady’s peculiarities was her habit of waking before dawn every morning and taking a walk down to the woods. People felt that no person in her right mind would go alone to those woods, especially when it wasn’t fully light. But the cat lady had been doing it for as long as I could remember and nothing had ever happened to her. Secretly, I always wished I could join her. And, rumor had it that the cat lady was bringing food to those “barbarians” on her pre-dawn journeys.
            I sure hoped that the rumor was true because I wondered how in the world the orphans were managing to eat unless they were just living on tree bark and acorns. I guess other folks were wondering the same thing and it was making some of them awfully uneasy. Actually, it was like they were looking for any excuse to make themselves uneasy about the orphans. It was like they knew, deep down, that they should be doing something to help them, but they didn’t do anything so instead, decided that the orphans were trouble and that something had to be done about them.
            Rumors started flying that the orphans were stealing food from the grocer or from “honest, hard-working folks’ homes.” The mayor’s wife swore she had set a hot apple pie to cool on her window ledge and only left the room for a minute. But when she came back, the pie was gone and she insisted that she saw one of those “ruffians” racing down the alley, carrying her fresh apple pie. Didn’t matter if it was true or not. She was the mayor’s wife, and elected herself to be in charge of all the moral behavior in our town.
            People started grumbling and told the mayor that he better do something about the orphans. Of course, they meant that he better get rid of them, but no one would actually come out and say that. And, he was getting all that pressure from his wife which, knowing her, must have been worse than being tied to a chair for several days straight and listening to someone’s nails scraping up and down a chalkboard the whole time. But he couldn’t just go and kick them out of town. Although, as I said, they weren’t really in town.
            So, he decided to give them some kind of an ultimatum. Since he didn’t know exactly how to contact them, he decided to leave a note pinned to a tree at the edge of the woods. He brought the sheriff and his deputy with him since he didn’t want to go near those woods alone. The note said the orphans should appear at the courthouse at 2:00 PM that Friday. Word spread and people took bets on whether or not the orphans would show up.
            Friday came and I’d never seen that courthouse so packed. Seemed as if they’d stuffed the whole town in there like one big can of sardines. Just as the clock struck 2:00, the courthouse door opened and there were the orphans, all seven of them, dressed as raggedy as ever but looking like they had scrubbed themselves as clean as was possible for them. The oldest led them in and, looking at them, their ages probably ranged from fifteen on down to maybe two.
            It was the littlest one that you noticed right away though - he had the face of an angel and his curly hair was so blond, it was as if the sun itself had come to rest on his head. As they walked in, they all looked straight ahead and I swear, I’ve never again seen all of those gossips and loud-mouths from town so quiet.
            The orphans marched themselves to the front of the courthouse where the mayor (who was also the judge) was waiting for them. He motioned for them to sit down, but they stood. The mayor was obviously uncomfortable and he kept clearing his throat. Finally, he came out with it. Basically, it was a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo, but it all boiled down to the fact that since the orphans were all minors, someone needed to take care of them. The mayor said that they couldn’t go on living in the woods - it just wasn’t natural - and besides, rainy season was coming on so what would they do then anyway? And, if they couldn’t find someone to take care of them they’d have to move on, it was as simple as that. He sat back and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The whole town seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking who in the world would want to take care of a pack of orphans.
            But their relief was cut short when the cat lady stood up. She said she’d be happy to take the orphans in if they’d like to stay with her. Somebody yelled out that these weren’t a bunch of her damn stray cats. The cat lady ignored the outburst and told the mayor to let her know what she had to do to make things legal.
            The mayor slumped down in his seat like she had just punched him hard in his gut. His face looked kind of greenish blue. The cat lady walked over to the orphans and asked them if they’d like to come live with her since she wouldn’t mind having some human company for a change. The orphans didn’t hesitate. It’s like they had this instant bond with each other. They saw something in that old lady that they recognized and instinctively knew they belonged with each other. And they had probably figured out that she was the one who was leaving them food every day. The oldest boy nodded his head and that was that. The cat lady said he knew where to find her and she turned and walked out. The orphans followed, like seven little ducklings.
            When the door shut behind them, it was suddenly like the 4th of July in that courtroom - sparks were flying, eyes were flashing, tempers exploding. But there was nothing they could do. No legally, anyway. Well, they consoled themselves, the cat lady lived so far on the edge of town that it really didn’t matter much since no one ever had much dealings with her anyway. Some of the ladies still clucked about how the orphans should be forced to go to school, but no one really cared as long as they kept out of sight and stopped stealing food - although it had never been proved that they were actually taking food from anybody.
            So the orphans moved in with the cat lady and I was glad because the rainy season came on like a bat out of hell and I would have worried about them if they were still living outside in those deep, dark woods. They seemed pretty happy with the cat lady. I’d see them every once in a while and they all looked sturdy and healthy and I was relieved I didn’t have to worry about them anymore. The town seemed to have forgotten about them, too.
            I think the orphans really loved that old lady. After they moved in, they did everything they could to help her. I heard that they cleaned up the house, took care of the yard, repainted the outside, and helped her take care of all those cats. No one knew exactly how many cats she had since she was always taking more strays in. Whenever you passed by that house you could bet that if you saw one of the orphans, there’d be at least one or two cats with him. The strays adopting the strays. That’s how I liked to think about it, although which strays adopting which strays was still a question in my mind.
            As the year wore on, I saw my daddy smiling less and less, and Mama started looking more and more like my sister, always putting her lips together real tight, with the worry lines digging themselves deeper and deeper into her face. I knew something was up even though they kept telling me that everything was just fine. But Daddy got paler and paler and weaker and weaker and I think I knew even though nobody said anything. It took a few months and then one day he was gone. Just like that. But it wasn’t really just like that.
            My sister invited us to stay with her and her husband in town for as long as Mama needed to “readjust herself.” I didn’t want to go, I had never liked my sister - she was always so prim and proper and never smiled at all. Even Mama admitted that she considered herself lucky to have married her off in the first place. But somehow she convinced Mama that it would be good for her to be in town with other people around, so we went. I guess Mama was lonely with just me for company.
            But I was never so miserable in my entire life as I was living with my gnarly old sister. And, I hated living in town - I never thought I’d miss those giant, spooky trees at the edge of our property that led into the woods, but I did. The only decent surprise was that my sister’s husband turned out not to be half bad. That really surprised me since I had never had much respect for him, marrying my sister and all. But after a while we even kind of got to be friends, and life there wasn’t so bad after that.
            No one knew how long she had been dead, but somehow it was discovered that the cat lady had died. The orphans had buried her and all; they just hadn’t bothered to tell anybody. Which kind of makes sense when you think about it. I mean, who would they tell? But it was found out and it turned out that she had left a will, all signed and notarized. Only problem was that she had made it out before she met the orphans and obviously forgot to change it before she died. The house and everything she had were left to some nephew who lived several hundred miles away in the big city. Of course, the will also made sure that the nephew would take care of all her cats.
            So, the lawyer contacted the nephew and he arrived in town with the most expensive shiny black car anyone had ever seen, and the most beautiful wife you could possibly imagine. Everyone stopped dead in their tracks as that car passed them by and pulled up in front of the lawyer’s office. Later that day, the nephew and his wife drove out to the cat lady’s house. The orphans and the cats were all there to greet them. The wife was horrified and asked her husband if there wasn’t something he could do to get those “filthy vermin” out of that house. And she wasn’t talking about the cats. The husband said he’d work on it.
            Word was that the wife decided the house was “quaint” and said she thought it would be quite a lark for them to leave the city and move into the house. She stood in front of the seven orphans and all the cats and ordered them to be out of the house by the next day - or else. The nephew reminded her that the cats would have to stay. On their way back into town, they passed our house which was all boarded up and they decided on the spot that they wanted to buy it in order to own all the land between the two houses. Mama didn’t want to sell at first, but they offered her enough money to fix her for life and since times were as hard as they were, she didn’t have much choice.
            The next week, after settling all of their business in the city, the nephew and his wife moved into the cat lady’s house. They found all the cats still there, but the orphans were gone. The nephew’s wife wanted to get rid of all the cats, but since that was part of the will, she was more or less stuck with them. But she did the very best she could to “encourage” the cats to run away. And, I guess the cats knew they weren’t wanted and eventually they did run off. Some found homes in town, but most just disappeared. The nephew’s wife decided to keep one little kitten which she thought was just the “cutest little thing.” It was just a little fluffy baby and didn’t know any better, so it stayed.
            The nephew hired men to tear down our house. I snuck by one day to see for myself. It looked like someone had dropped a bomb on it, but it was hard to feel sad since it didn’t even look like my house anymore. It didn’t look like anything recognizable - it looked like the woods had taken revenge on it for trespassing and now the woods were reclaiming it as their own.
            The nephew and his wife didn’t associate with the people in town more than was absolutely necessary. They preferred to bring their friends in from the city. They were always having big parties that seemed to last for days on end, and every once in awhile we’d get a glimpse of another shiny black car as it roared down Main Street on its way to or from their house.
            Now that the weather was getting colder again, I was curious to know how the orphans were doing. I figured they were somewhere in the woods, although no one ever saw them anymore. We lived too far away now for me to sneak out at night. But I worried about them. And we had one of the bitterest winters ever that year. The air was so cold it hurt just to breathe. And the snow was piled so high I was afraid I’d disappear into a giant drift one day and never be found. As much as I hate to admit it, it was actually a relief to walk into my sister’s house after being out in that awful cold.
            About that time, the rumors started. I guess the orphans were having a pretty bad time of it, alone in the woods in the middle of that bone-chilling weather. It seems that they figured the nephew might want to help them, that he might have a heart, so they came to him, only asking for blankets and food and that kind of thing. And it wasn’t like the nephew was broke - he had plenty. But the wife would have nothing to do with them. She chased them away with a broom whenever they showed up. Or she slammed the door in their faces. Soon, rumor had it that the orphans were doing poorly - that they were thin and sickly looking and some were having trouble walking. And that the littlest one had gotten a cough that just wouldn’t quit.
            One day when there was finally a break in all that snow, the nephew and his wife decided to take a drive since they were getting cabin fever stuck alone in that house all that time, except for the orphans showing up. But when they got to their car, they discovered that the tires had been slashed. Now, there were lots of people who resented them and all their money while the rest of us were dealing with such hard times, but they immediately blamed the orphans. And, if they had done it, I sure wouldn’t have blamed them.
            The orphans kept trying to get some kind of help from the nephew and his wife. But the wife was so upset about the slashed tires that she screamed that they were dirty filthy animals and they should be rounded up and shot and that one day they just might find a shotgun right between their eyes…
            Winter wore on and rumor now had it that the orphans were slowly starving to death, if not also freezing to death. It was too cold for them to make it to town to try to get anyone else to help them. I asked Mama if there wasn’t something we could do for them and she said not to believe all those rumors since no one ever saw them anyway. I told her I was worried that they were going to starve. She told me to stop talking so much and to go do my homework.
            A few days later, we heard sirens heading toward the edge of town. They were able to save the house - just an upstairs bedroom was damaged since that’s where the fire started. The rest of the house was fine. The nephew said he couldn’t imagine what caused the fire since no one ever used that room. The chief said it looked like faulty wiring. The wife went into hysterics and screamed that it was those “seven devils” in the woods and she wanted justice to be served. And she became even more hysterical when she discovered that her precious little kitten had disappeared. They tried calming her down and told her there was no evidence that the orphans had anything to do with the fire or the kitten. But she knew what she knew, she said.
            Next day, the orphans showed up. From what we heard from my second cousin who was working part-time as a maid for the nephew and his wife, the oldest boy was carrying the littlest one who had become too weak to walk. The wife saw them coming and threw a bucket of ice water in their faces and started screaming about them starting the fire and stealing her precious little kitten. Even though they told her they didn’t know anything about her kitten, as they turned and left, the wife screamed that they were going to pay for what they had done.
            The next day, when the wife looked outside for her newspaper, there was her darling little kitten scratching at the door. She shrieked with delight and let the kitten in, not noticing the orphans shivering at the edge of the woods. As the day drew to a close, she was happier than she had been in ages, relieved that there had been no visit by the orphans. When the nephew arrived at his home, he was awfully surprised to get a big kiss from his wife. She told him she wanted to throw another party, that she needed something “terribly extravagant” to take her mind off all the awful trauma she’d been through. The nephew agreed, anything to keep her happy. So she called all of her fancy friends and told them to come over that Saturday night for the party to end all parties.
            She was so busy that week ordering everyone around and getting ready for her big extravaganza that she actually forgot about the orphans and the fact that they hadn’t shown up at all ever since she had thrown that ice water at them. On Saturday she got herself all dolled up and the nephew was happy to have his beautiful carefree wife back to normal.
            In town, we knew something big was up when we saw lines of shiny black cars making their way down Main Street. We had never seen anything like this before. There was so much music and fun that I’m sure I was able to hear all the celebrating from my room. I was up half the night imagining what it must be like to eat all that fine food and wear those fine clothes and not worry about going hungry…
            I guess it was sometime the next morning that the wife realized that her precious kitten was missing again. She told my second cousin to help her look in the yard and all through the house, but there was just no sign of her little darling. The nephew said that all the noise had probably scared it away and it was probably hiding somewhere, but that it would surely show up now that all was peaceful once again.
            The wife had trouble sleeping that night and woke up very early the next morning. It was a dull grey day, the kind where the clouds are hanging heavy in the sky, making it clear that they’re up to no good. The nephew and the guests who had stayed were all still sleeping and so was my second cousin who had stayed overnight to help out. The wife went downstairs to get the paper. She opened the door and then she screamed. A scream like you hear from a wounded animal, everyone said. A scream that could wake the dead. The nephew and the guests and my second cousin ran to see what happened and found her frozen at the doorway. They looked down and then everyone saw. Lying on the doorstep was the littlest orphan, carefully wrapped in a worn, torn blanket, as dead as can be. And, tucked into his arms was the little kitten, fast asleep.
            The doctor came and gave some kind of sedation to the wife and then the nephew drove the wife back to the city, never to return. They had their belongings sent to them. Rumor has it that the wife had to be put in an institution for a while. The nephew tried selling the house, but had no luck. So it just stood there neglected, at the very edge of the woods. The orphans could have moved in at that point since no one would’ve known or cared. But they just kind of disappeared. I couldn’t really blame them.
            Every once in a while, I gather up my courage and head down that way. It’s hard to tell now that there ever was a house there. Just like my house, the woods reclaimed something that never belonged there in the first place. When I’m there, I always stop right at the edge of those woods, where there’s only a few moss-covered trees, before the dense growth takes over. I’ve never been able to enter those woods to find out their secret. But I still do wonder whatever became of those orphans.

* * * * *

"Hard Times" was originally published in Goat's Milk literary magazine in 2021.

Nancy Machlis Rechtman has had poetry and short stories published in Your Daily Poem, Writing In A Woman's Voice, Grande Dame, Impspired, Trouvaille Review, Fresh Words, The Writing Disorder, Discretionary Love, and more. She wrote freelance Lifestyle stories for a local newspaper, and she was the copy editor for another paper. She writes a blog called Inanities at

Friday 12 May 2023

Sounds of Morning

by Anita S. Pulier

Sleep has infused
his brain with energy
transformed into words.

I watch his mouth moving,
his disheveled silvery hair,
his familiar faraway look.

I try to stay focused
while he lectures
on theories of black holes,

the ninth planet,
evolutionary development,
how the brain works,

religion, politics,
and ultimately,
solutions, not always pretty.
Squinting in the pale light
of early morning
I silently review our numbers,

years behind,
years ahead.

Our feet touch,
rustle the sheets
as he decodes

the puzzle
of the very earth
I simply tread upon.
I used to wonder why
he shares these
early morning rambles with

a woman who hasn’t
read a science book since 6th grade 
until one morning

he pauses and says, Say something.
I raise my eyebrows, ask, Why?
I like hearing your voice, he says tenderly.

* * * * *

"Sounds of Morning" was previously published in Cultural Weekly and in Anita S. Pulier's  chapbook Sounds of Morning (Finishing Line Press).

Anita S. Pulier’s chapbooks Perfect Diet, The Lovely Mundane, and Sounds of Morning and her books The Butchers Diamond and Toast were published by Finishing Line Press. Her new book Paradise Reexamined was published by Kelsay Books (February 2023). Anita’s poems have appeared both online and in print in many journals and anthologies and she has been the featured poet on The Writers Almanac and in Cultural Weekly.

Thursday 11 May 2023



by Donna Dallas

She rides with her pack of wolves on black Harley's. Yellow unkempt hair under a bowl-shaped helmet, flowing over solid shoulders and apple breasts. Her stained-glass makeup covers up days of reckless riding. A blue flame to match her blue eyeshadow. She burns, her heat cannot be contained and that is why she rides. Animal girl, slicked in leather passed down through heavy mileage. A long line of followers wait to share her bike. She can’t have a man without breaking him and when he’s broke, she rides alone.

She smokes cigarettes through her cherry lips with her leather legs spread apart and her beer resting in between. She pees out there in the wilderness, eyes like ripe blueberries, scanning her terrain. She has a tattoo of Jesus Christ on her right arm. Jesus guides her when she fixes her bike. Jesus flexes and stretches on her arm when she works her tools on the bikes’ engine. She knows how to work every part. Her daddy was a biker and she’s traveled more miles than a monarch butterfly.

Daddy raised her on the back of his bike and when she could see over the clutch, he put her on her own. When he died, she sat with him in Washington’s Crossing. She took his place and took his bike. He taught her to move free, a leather panther treading the wild gravel, new leader of the pack. Ode to daddy, never let civilization cut her wheels and contain her habitat.

She won’t stay put for very long. The voices of her people carry over the asphalt of Interstate 66. Her band grows bigger. Laden with leather and worn denim, their primal urge to ride. Animal lust courses through their blood and their scent spreads across the camp like heat out of a furnace. They roll around the devil’s fire, growling through the crackling red flames. Their skins are one and they believe there is no other life truer than theirs.

Her thoughts wander along the black veins of smoke, drifting lazily into the moons’ belly. She recalls a small house in a town she left back east. The man with the crisp clothes and the honey bronzed skin. The one who softened her body to suede. Tamed girl, silly from long kisses that slowed her down and down and melded her into an orb of blue heat. No makeup needed, no leather, just skin wrapped in the scent of his body.

She left one morning before the sun rose, before the bronze god awoke. She heard the roar of the motorcycles, the chanting engines. The walls became too close and the bed too soft for her. Daddy’s breath floated along the carbon monoxide. The air tightened up and she could not breathe any longer unless it was along the wind from her bike in motion. She knew if she stayed, she would lose her freedom, that’s what daddy told her. Never let them tame you. So, she keeps moving, on the bike, with her pack.

* * * * *

Donna Dallas has appeared in a plethora of journals, most recently The Opiate, Beatnik Cowboy, Tribes, Horror Sleaze Trash and Fevers of the Mind. She is the author of Death Sisters, her legacy novel, published by Alien Buddha Press. Her first chapbook, Smoke and Mirrors, launched in 2022 with New York Quarterly. Donna serves on the editorial team of NYQ.


Wednesday 10 May 2023


A Painting of Me by The Muscle Boy in Shorts

by Aaliyah Anderson

            Bell peppers taste like flavored water, our friend reiterates—the same
absolute as God smelling
            like oil paints. You perceive this as kerosene
drips on me: your affection &
            my lungs demanding to be useful
only for you (a man to award).
            Well, how are you? Fucking Blitzed…
whatever that means, I’m sure, will be found written in a dead
            language today
(& “I half-love you” will be shared between our gums).
            How does pity taste high?
Probably the same as it tastes dead.
            I don’t know. At least, you know how to
pronounce my name. Otherwise,
            we’d both be embarrassed!

* * * * *

Aaliyah Anderson (she/her) is a junior majoring in Literary Arts at her high school in Petersburg, VA. Her work is forthcoming in Sour Cherry Mag, miniMAG, coalitionworks, and elsewhere. She's obsessed with storytelling.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Gender Neutral        

by Jane Muschenetz

They’re studying the effects of gendering on language
and cultural norms,
how the moon is feminine in Spanish and Russian
but masculine in German
how this alters
our perception of its qualifications –
whether we believe it to be
beautiful, changeable (f) or
stoic, abrupt (m) –
over 1000 Google links discuss at length

The moon is the moon

Some promote doing away with sex, but I
(having learned gender from my Mother Tongue
and feeling its lack like a missing limb when I try bending English)
am fascinated, mouth-hungry
to embrace each understanding of our world,
uncomfortable and broken as it is
learning to speak again and again –
There is something revealing
about seeing the moon
through every lexiconic, scientific, and artistic notion
and still not having enough
words to fill the sky

* * * * *

"Gender Neutral" was first published in Writers Resist (Winter 2021) and is part of Jane Muschenetz's chapbook All the Bad Girls Wear Russian Accents (Kelsay Books, 2023)

Ukrainian-born, Russian-speaking Jew, Jane Muschenetz came to the US as a child refugee from the USSR. Her first chapbook,
All the Bad Girls Wear Russian Accents, was published in 2023 (Kelsay Books). Connect with Jane at, and in various publications.

Monday 8 May 2023

Separation at Fifty-Five

by Sara Epstein

Late afternoon drive down Mass. Ave.
John Hancock Tower shimmers bright orange
as bright as the leaves and pumpkins.
I loved seeing Sandra Bullock
in Gravity, faced with her earthly losses
in outer space, deciding to live anyway.
My fall leaves me bare
as November trees
with small red berries.
I walk a slow block with my mother
who reminds me how the British
wear scarves this time of year.

* * * * *

"Separation at Fifty-Five" is part of Sara Epstein's first poetry collection Bar of Rest (Kelsay Books, 2023).

In addition to writing poetry and songs, Sara Epstein, PhD is a clinical psychologist who integrates mindfulness practices, including writing, in her psychotherapy work with children and adults.  She also facilitates and teaches generative writing groups and classes.

Sara Epstein’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Quarterly, Amethyst Review, Chest Journal, Nixes Mate Review, Plainsongs, museum of americana, among others.  

Bar of Rest, Sara Epstein’s first book of poetry, has just been released by Kelsay Books.  See Sara’s website at

Sunday 7 May 2023

Before Waking in May

by Andrea Potos

There they are, as if on the stillest pond surface:
your crumpled griefs and nibbling fears,
scenes of the ways you have disappointed yourself,
friendship threads frayed or dissolved.
Yet still, you fold aside the blankets,
fluff your pillows and get up.
There’s no mistaking the resident cardinals
shouting at you through the window screen.
When you raise the shades,
you notice the emerged leaves of late May;
they have only deepened
their green after rain.

* * * * *

"Before Waking in May" 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.