Poetry by Sandy Coomer


Visit from my Lost Child

When he comes, I am sitting on the fallen trunk
of a persimmon tree, waiting for the sun to carve
the mountains from the night.

I catch the scent of pine and smoke before I feel
his hand on my shoulder, before he traces the bones
of my neck and back with his thumb.

He unzips my skin, climbs in, wraps his arms
around my heart, presses down its beat. I feel
the urgent quickening of a newborn star,

the patient settling of a cradle. I tell him how the mirror
shatters every morning, how my feet are paved in scars,
how every time I lift my head from the table of sorrows,

a crow pecks out my eyes. My heart pours oil
from its split chambers and he spins himself out of me.
He sews the bones of my spine with a fishhook and red twine

just as the sun spreads the horizon silver and white.
Stay with me, unborn flower, folded map, broken tune.
He fades at first light, once again too soon.


Between Us

It is February and the rain
that’s been building the clouds for days

reaches a bursting just when
a wide arctic hand scoops low.

My southern town is pelted
with ice. In your northern home

maybe you are sipping coffee
from the handcrafted pottery mug

you bought at the art fair
or making a sandwich, slicing tomatoes

and thinking how less juicy and red
they are than ones from the farmers’ market.

Maybe you hear on the Weather Channel
that the south is bracing for a fierce winter storm,

and already cities as far
as Atlanta are seeing snow and you think of me

and remember I don’t have chains
or snow tires and you hope I’ve been to the grocery.                                                                                                                                                 

You are fond of snow or at any rate
are used to it and rarely notice the cold,

but maybe you picture me
shivering on a cool rainy spring night and maybe

you regret that you didn’t
put your arm around my shoulders,

offer me the elements of your affection
because fear and appearances got the best of you.

I hope if you are still standing
in your small kitchen alone, pouring

another cup, you remember
the time you touched my face when it was dark

and we were alone and we held
each other much too long saying goodbye.

You think of me scraping
my windshield, slipping on my driveway,

my hands red and numb
and maybe you wish you could warm me

in the cave of your arms.
Promise you’ll breathe deeply the fragile air                                                                                 

and check your phone
for my message and send me a smiley face in return,

a small trade for these feelings,
too vast and desperate for the space between us,

and maybe
too beautiful for words.


Available Light

I’ve come to the lake to take pictures,
capture first light lifting off water,
raise an image that is more
than the muted colors of a tired morning,
somber shades
of a world worn dull with sorrow.

It’s hard sometimes to find
a reason to smile when all around me
the final edges of the good I believed in
sink beneath a hard reality. I can’t argue
that the world isn’t sometimes terrible if you listen
to its language, if you stall beneath its weight.

But, watch the lake. It wants nothing
more than to stroke the shore, curl
kinder arms around the sun-shifted bank.
The things I want are simple too – a fingerprint
of the window of understanding,
a thread of faith.

 It’s not memory’s work to hold me
crouched against the brick walls
of my suffering, nor is it the will
of my past to latch the gate
and leave my dreams starving
in the sullen shadows of a narrow field.                                                                                           

The sun rises every morning –
the sun stands to speak at the lectern,
sweating and brimming with light.
So what if my heart is broken.
That’s part of a heart’s job – to break
a thousand times

over the darkness of this world and still
peer through the smallest window at dawn,
ready to leap across the empty lawn
and gather whatever light lies waiting,
like manna, to fuel a single day’s breath.
I take what I need –

a spectrum of color
as photons dance in shimmering waves,
the light brilliant and endless.

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Sandy Coomer is a poet and mixed media artist. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Continuum (Finishing Line Press), The Presence of Absence (Winner of the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry), and the forthcoming Rivers Within Us (Unsolicited Press). Sandy is a poetry mentor in the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, the recipient of fellowships and scholarships to three writers-in-residency programs, and the founding editor of the new online poetry journal Rockvale Review. She lives in Brentwood, TN. 

Veiled Student

Jan Ball

When I first see her in my classroom,
I recoil slightly as I did last week when
I saw the amputated-leg-man on the bus,
his trousers rolled up on one side as if
he were going fishing not protecting
his pants from a snowdrift, and now
I call the roll: Juan Medilla, Seung Kim,
Laetifa Al Kaabi and the veiled woman
responds in a loud, clear voice as the other,
unveiled students have, Here, from Saudi
Arabia. I like to swim.

The next day I give a vocabulary exercise
in which I ask the students to emote the word,
shock. Piphat contorts his mouth into an O
like blowing bubbles and widens his eyes.
Naschelli inhales then grimaces like she has
eaten too many chilis. What will Laetifa do?
I ponder. She raises her eyebrows like bridges
above the green niqab she is wearing today
and twists her neck to the side like the painting
of St. Sebastian with arrows piercing his white
body that I saw at the Prado last year.

In each class, Laetifa volunteers answers
through colorful pieces of cloth stretched
across her face outlining the tip of her nose
which I have become aware of. I accommodate
her wish to not have a male partner for peer-
evaluation of essays. She writes in her journal
how much she enjoys her English classes as
well as eating pizza in Chicago but I can’t
imagine how she can eat with the veil covering
her mouth. Last Tuesday, I walk into the ladies
room before class as she is exiting. She backs
up then asks, Would you like to see my face?
I say, yes.


220 of Jan Ball’s poems appear in journals such as: Atlanta Review, Calyx, Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Nimrod, and Phoebe. Jan’s two chapbooks: accompanying spouse (2011) and Chapter of Faults (2014) were published with Finishing Line Press.


Carl Boon

My daughter points out witches
where the pines used to be, 
where I lost a thousand baseballs
in the ivy in 1982.

We have no sea
to contain us here,
no landmarks
that cannot fall.

The neighbors have died.
All those mornings in November
the wind swirled the pin-oak leaves
and left them alone.

Cups of coffee
on window-sills,
children gone,
the extremes of retreat.

This is August. Sometimes
from the humid south
a thunderstorm comes, heaving
soil, the stone wall my father built.

That was 1992;
he breathed easily then,
planted ivy that persists
past his death.

The crickets remain. The heat
builds on Third Street.
This winter the dogwoods
will all be broken.

Boon photo.jpg

Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently Burnt Pine, Two Peach, Lunch Ticket, and Poetry Quarterly. He is also a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee.

water Washed

John Sierpinski

The water washed white stones
The curve of dark trees
The ticking of the clock…

The hibiscus flowers, the turn
Of the crock, cucumbers,
The Russian sage, the Chinese yew

We drank together in Oakland
We nearly died in Guadalajara
We walked in Peru

We have spent in spades
Away the red-winged blackbird
Knew.  The séance of approaching

Night, the dying day, the promises
Of dreams that praise as a flower
In the dessert rings, a burst of color

The promise forgotten, the dark
Daze.  “Here’s to the children,”
I raise a stout ale, “Here’s to the

Birds and oblivion, here’s to
Waking up when least expected”
The swinging of the pendulum

The movement of the sun
You are leaving
You are fading away

I want an ecstatic dream
Not just pollen and despair
I will run, again, you will

Run toward me, too,
There will be the smell
of clover in the air


John Sierpinski has published poetry widely in literary magazines from Backstreet Quarterly and California Quarterly to North Coast Review and Spectrum as well as many others.  His work is also in three anthologies.  He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013.  He is currently sending out a book length collection of his poetry.  He lives in Plymouth, Wisconsin with his wife Lynn.

He can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn. Or you can Google John Sierpinski to see examples of his writings from the magazines that he is in and a U-Tube video of a reading in Racine, Wisconsin.


Madison Rahner

Youth is not the water spilled from your mother
or the gentle lapping of a rising tide.
Youth is the melted snow of Appalachia
trickling down through Eden’s mossy roots
onto the unrelenting, jagged cliff face.
Youth is beaten about boulders
and poured down ravines.
Youth is choking on the water you didn’t ask for
out of your lungs and onto your bib
or graduation cap
and weeping because yours was not
the river that cut this path
and gravity doesn’t ask for consent.
Youth is mourning the loss of your
leaves or dirt or microbes.
Youth is leaving your flesh behind
on the boulders
you thought would lend you respite
and pouring blood into water
so diluted, pink has become
the color of anguish.

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Madison Rahner is from South Carolina. She's an English major studying at Coastal Carolina University. Twitter: @RahnerNotRainer Instagram:@MadisonRahner

The Habit of Reading

Devon Miller-Duggan

Encountering the word “incline” when I was 9
in the instructions for making a wheeled toy work,
I drew a line—in ink—on a piece of paper.
Toy didn’t work. Snow and rice. It needed wood, pavement, hill, prop.

My grandson’s curious about the K in “knight” and “know.”
He’s 5 and also wants to know why 2 is 2,
and whether children can get sick or hurt enough to die.
Milk and spookies. Nuts and folds.

All through the first days after the blizzard,
while The Book of Outside remains blue-white,
shadows of branches change the story they write across white pages
while the planet moves through the day. And I wonder
who writes this story?


Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall in 2008 and a chapbook, Neither Prayer, Nor Bird in 2013 and Alphabet Year, 2017.

The Man in the River

Catori Sarmiento

Lips split down the center.
From his mouth
he spits at rocks,
a lunatic enraged,
his saliva sticking to naked toes standing at the rocky edges.
Water as opaque as India ink;
colorless sediment churning.
Frosted nails scratch along the current
like a skinning blade on calcium stone.


After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Catori Sarmiento’s world travels have often inspired her unique writing style. When not exploring the many cracks and crags in Japan, Catori Sarmiento spends her time writing poetry and prose. As an author, her works have appeared in numerous literary publications.

Searching the Park for Owls

Linda Dove

The single wing, high in a tree, flaps like a flag.
Bent. Waving. The world is dark, or darkening,
so the bird is a silhouette that outwaits its outlines.

We know it will fly, after we are done
photographing the mountain that is
only sometimes there and the city that is

always there and the stars and their trails that are
continually returning. How do we decide if they are
shooting or falling? When the bird takes off, it will

look like it is falling. The whole time we knew
it might not appear, though it is never not
there. All the double negatives of the trees, and, underneath,

little satchels of fur. Sometimes, we fall like this.
For instance, we walk through the flight paths of birds.
We call to bodies we cannot see.


Linda Dove holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature and teaches college writing. She is also an award-winning poet, and her books include In Defense of Objects (2009), O Dear Deer, (2011), This Too (forthcoming, 2017), and the scholarly collection of essays, Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain (2000). Poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America. She lives with her family and two Jack Russell terriers in the foothills of Los Angeles. More at www.pw.org/content/linda_dove


Doug Van Hooser

there are fireflies now
in my Mother’s mind
the memories glow prior to the war
three years married to a ring
thirty-five until the Master Sergeant
fell on a cancer grenade
even the next thirty-five
alone another marriage life-time

today I could not teach her
how to manage a thermostat
having conceived five children
she can’t conceive three buttons
confused by heat and cool
her memories a blanket she warms herself in
what’s new so cool it must be written down

the firefly I want is the woman
looking beyond me from the frame
sitting on the corner of my desk
the mother of my adolescent book
not the torn pages I read now

last night I wandered in a field
fireflies blinking and winking
flickering embers painting a portrait
remembering when I would catch the glow
and try to hold it in a jar
puncture the lid to keep it alive
provide a leaf a twig
not knowing what to offer
to keep the light glowing


Doug Van Hooser’s poetry has appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Chariton Review, Sheepshead Review, Gravel, and Black Fox Literary Magazine. His short fiction can be found in Red Earth Review, Intrinsick, Crack the Spine, and The Riding Light Review. Doug is a Chicago playwright active at Chicago Dramatists Theatre and Three Cat Productions.



Tom Daley

Across the way, a loose
piece of sheet metal
in a neighbor’s
air conditioner
has been banging all night.

You came home late
and would not speak to me.

I woke up at 3 and read Hopkins
until I fell back to sleep.

They say some who come
from broken homes
take on the marriage project
because they want
to get it right.

This morning, fog
fills the trees
already heavy
with the loneliness
of midsummer birds.

Please—no bended knee.

Just say that part
about in sickness and in health
without drooping
your shoulders
and closing all
the windows.

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Recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry, Tom Daley’s poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Witness, and elsewhere. FutureCycle Press published his first-full length collection of poetry, House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems, in 2015.

Complaints to the Rain

Grant Clauser

Sometimes we wish for more
water, and sometimes less,
that’s the problem with all of us—
tottering this way and that,
light that burns and light
that makes the tomato fat.

I never met an undecided snake.
Creep and curl, strike when ready,
bind and eat. There is no maybe.
When you look one in the eye,
one side at a time, you get nothing
back, and that’s the point. 

If half a conversation is body language,
and half our body’s cells are new
since yesterday, then your tongue
is always a foreign ocean to me,
the way your hands move
like a boat upon the waves.

Come out of the rain now
and dry your hair, your hands.
Every body is mostly water,
especially eyes, and water’s magnet
always draws it to itself.
Waves are infinite you know,
they just get too small to see.


Grant Clauser has published two books: Necessary Myths (2013) and The Trouble with Rivers (2012), and has books forthcoming from PS Books and Cider Press Review Books. Poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tar River Poetry, Southern Poetry Review and others. He also writes about electronics and fishes and teaches when he can. He blogs occasionally at www.unIambic.com. Twitter: @uniambic

drawing / blood

Tayler D. Waring

as though he knows      this story
begins and ends            w/ empty
chests           the fat man fumbles
as he penetrates        skin, sweaty
as though this is       the first time
a man has entered         a woman
only to take her blood     and left
w/ everything           he came for:

unfathomable red         seeps sap
-slow, swelling glass    w/ riddles &
hemoglobin        w/ great cowardice
I reject               the confusion
of needles          (their nominal
violence)           & draw a treasure
map gently, w/ pencil       (it goes
without saying: if you’ve reached
the heart, you’ve gone too far).


Taylor D. Waring is a poet / musician from Oshkosh, Wi. He works as an English Tutor, Bar Tender, and Record Store Clerk. When he's not working, he can be found playing with his bands Baba Yaga and Butte des Morts or at yoga class. His work has appeared in Pacific Review and Coup d'Etat, and is forthcoming in Wisconsin Review.

What have you been watching?

Ace Boggess

[overheard in a restaurant]

News. Hours of it. Each pixel
a bulge of endless blinding flash.
I hate myself for wasting
one free night. I wish
I could shatter the TV with a bottle,
but these wide plasma screens won’t break
just right. I’m stuck
with nothing hopeful,
all of it true, each bad thing
my fault because there weren’t
enough of me to set it straight.

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Ace Boggess is author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. 


Jim Zola

Rattle blurs past; graffiti two feet high
in neon green and orange, a cock
exploding. I'm Biloxi bound,

I'm a bored teen tossing my brother's shoes
skyward. I'm in your car snaking my hand
up your sundress to rest on your inner thigh.

The Buick behind me has someplace to go.
I take one last look at the train disappearing
and think of the engineer as he flicks

an ash and watches the same towns pass.
He thinks about lunch, a nip at the flask
that makes the day fade like a whistle.

I’m the boy kicking dirt by the side
of the tracks, train forgotten, looking up
at sneakers that sway the line.


Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children's librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook -- The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) -- and a full length poetry collection -- What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.

Moonstone Earring Triangle

Dah Helmer

To the wide sky of the south
above winter’s rip,
fiberglass clouds
hardened with ice

Chimney smoke,
lighter than December gray.
Moonstone Beach,
waves peeling like wallpaper

Assuring myself
it’s not thundering,
I look for lightning,
only to hear the sea’s tuba

I see sunrise setting fire
to foggy scenes,
wet sand sucks my feet.
A lone earring, buried
under the breakers

A woman, yogi, forms Triangle.
Covered in mist, she blends
human with ocean with shells.
Straight up, her left arm
gathers moisture

The woman moves into Mountain
fingers plugged into light
Sky floats in hands, her eyes,
fixed with solar beams, remembering


Dah’s fourth poetry collection is The Translator (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015) and his poetry has been published by editors from the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, China, Spain, Australia, Africa, Philippines and India. His poems have recently appeared in Straylight Magazine, Otoliths, The Cape Rock, Acumen Journal, Sandy River Review, Indian River Review, The Linnet’s Wings, and Junto Magazine. Dah lives in Berkeley, California and is working on the manuscript for his sixth poetry book. ‘Harbinger Asylum Magazine’ nominated Dah’s poem “Some god” for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. He is the chief editor of ‘The Lounge’, a poetry critique group, and his fifth book is forthcoming in 2018, also from Transcendent Zero Press. 

Released into the Blue

KB Ballentine

Late August, pears nod from branches
     thick and full. The river licks its banks,
          frogs deep–throating the reeds.
     Upstream, two girls squeal on a trestle,
swimsuits dry as they peek over the edge.


 Reclining under leafy shadows
I witness the courtship song of summer —
               boys circling midstream, urging
     the girls to join them, vouching for the depth,
          the warmth of the current.
Their vigil rewarded, the blonde tucks her elbows
               and leaps away from the pilings.

          Droplets crystal, scatter, and fracture.
The boys whoop as she emerges, vision fogged.
     Mia, come on, she calls the mute statue
          still gripping wooden planks.

     The air ripples with sound.
          Fear sparks the sunburned face —
visions of a train as unimaginable as quarks to a Neanderthal.
               Hectoring crows flap the tree line,
     ragweed dusting the river,
          and the trestle groans and grumbles.
The girl arcs over the water, reflection rising to catch her.


KB Ballentine has a M.A. in Writing and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry. Her latest collection, The Perfume of Leaving, was awarded the 2016 Blue Light Press Book Award. Her work also appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011).

Big mamma's Purse

Branden Janese

Everything stayed in Big Mamma’s purse.
Ass whoopins.
Her extra eyes and kerchief.

Fried chicken wrapped in foil
with a piece of white bread
with the crust
cut off.
Some hot sauce.

for her only grand baby's
ashy ankles.
Pills for her blood
hard candies for her

Coupons, food stamps,
light bills, heat bills,
Flat shoes and old blues.
A sandwich baggie with laundry money.

“Big Mamma, can I have some quarter coins?”
Hand me my purse.
“Big Mamma, you got a smoke?”
Hand me my purse.

She had switches and kisses with red lips she put on in the gypsy cabs.

The purse came with two straps.
She wore the short strap
the night she died.

On a Friday,
she walked home, lit a smoke,
and put the fire back in her purse.

At her house,
on her lawn,
a pink man dressed in blue
kicked and hit her
only grand baby.

Big Mamma ran to her son’s son
and helped him stand.

The pink man
in blue
drew his pistol,
hot to shoot.

“I stole soda from the store.” The little boy confessed.
Let’s get in the house, they got slicker thieves to catch.
“Get on your knees now or I’ll light your black asses up!”

Grand baby wet his pants,
urine streaked his ashy ankles.

Still smoking,
Big Mamma reached in her purse, for a tissue
to wipe her grand baby up.
Before she pulled her hand out,
the law shot her to the ground.
He screamed, “Stop resisting!”  
While he handcuffed her corpse.


I'm a writer and illustrator based in NYC. I study creative writing at The New School, in the Riggio Honors Program, where I'm in my final semester. I love fables and the pages of James Baldwin. I work in book publishing.

Poetry by Elizabeth Vrenios


Practice makes perfect

mother intoned,
thumping time on the side of the piano
with her ruler
while I struggled at the keys.
So I practiced the art of magic
(deception, we shall call it)
like turning water to ice under a silk scarf,
and coaxing my mad dogs under the table
to silence their whimper.
They, accustomed to spaces
dark and deep, began to sleep.

Once in a dream
I carried a dead child on my shoulders
as I crept down the night hall
to the stygian mirror, expecting to see
a snarling beast with plundered eyes,
but there was no image
in the silvered shadows.
The hair on the backs of the dogs
began to rise.

I learned that practice makes
While I practiced the art of the silk scarf,
and perfected the image of coolness,
the mad dogs rose, growled
and shook their chains.



Avgolemono Soup

2 quarts chicken broth
1/2 cup rice
4 - 6 eggs (one egg for each person and one for the pot)
juice of 2 lemons

Cook rice in the chicken broth until done (about 15 minutes). Separate the eggs, beating the egg whites until fluffy (but not dry). Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating constantly. Slowly add the lemon juice as you beat (a tsp at a time). Last, add the broth to the mixture very slowly while you continue to beat the mixture. Mix with the rice and serve with plenty of bread and wine.

Our sorrow
which has been beyond softness
and hunger
and has been too deep to swallow
longed for the taste of avgolemono soup,
to feel inside the deep scour of lemon
gleaming and acrid.

My hands, heavy as prayers
divide the yolks from the whites,
the stirring spoon, a silver sigh.
But I cannot forget
my own son's freshly broken body
as if I had spent the whole day
on my hands and knees
crawling through the hours.

Yet, somehow, tonight,
this difficult task
works its way by accident
to perfection.
Our table set for four,
contains an empty bowl,
for we agree he is
with us still,
lucent in our spoons.

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Ms Kirkpatrick Vrenios received an award from Yellow Chair Review for her chapbook, Special Delivery, and has had poems published in various anthologies including Stories of Music, Love Notes from Humanity: The Love, Lust and Lost collection, A Kind of Hurricane Press: Happy Holidays and Poeming Pidgeon:Poems about Food, and in print and online journals such as Clementine, Kentucky Review, Unsplendid, Scissors and Spackle, Mocking Heart Press, Noble Gas Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, Folliate Oak and Cumberland River Review. She is a Professor Emerita from American University, is artistic director of the Redwoods Opera in Mendocino, California, and has spent most of her life performing as a singing artist across Europe and the United States.

A Fancy

Tamara Miles


I’ve a problem with my eye,
she explained, as the doctor
took his magnifying glass
in hand and solemnly peered
at the open orb, without
judgments of her whole person,
until he saw autumn there.

A tiny piece of reddish
leaf had lodged itself inside.

Madam, you have looked too long
at trees, a childish habit.


Lot’s wife studied the smelling
salts on the doctor’s high shelf,
which breathed themselves too deeply.


Once, a psychic came to town;
he heard golden glitter leaked
from her far too bright young eyes.

She did not want to be cured,
though he offered earnestly.


Nothing but fancy, he wrote
in his book, as if his own
eye held not a silver key
meant to turn a music box
that played a song his childhood
knew, and used to sing by heart.


Tamara Miles teaches English at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in South Carolina.  She was honored to be a 2016 contributor at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a resident at Rivendell Writers Colony in August, 2017.  Her poetry has been published in Fall Lines; Pantheon; Apricity; The Tishman Review; The Rush; Obra/Artifact; Snapdragon; Whatever Our Souls; The Cenacle; and other publications.  She is hosts a radio show called “Where the Most Light Falls” related to the arts, focusing on poetry and music at SpiritPlantsRadio.com.

between two deaths, an accident

mary newell

Slid into on slick uphill turn.
Icy rain clots my hair
while I confer with the other driver.  
No respite there:
man without insurance
mumbling through sardonic lips,
his car cratered from old collisions.    

Trivial bumper compression
exaggerated affect spike                      
jagged amygdala plunge
fish hook twist expunging
tough memories stranded tight—
striated inflame, neural unravel…    

Stopped cold.

Ahead, around the bend,
guarding the forked ramp to the G W bridge,
a cop scrutinizes traffic in the drizzle.                         

I could tell him my story of
misconstrued commute—
I could enumerate minutiae—
but I’d rather tell a mother
who’d pat my back in sync
to muffled sobs, displaced                              
from another saga                    
still too raw to mourn.

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Mary Newell, Ph. D. lives in the lower Hudson Valley. She has taught literature and writing at the college level, most recently at West Point. Her poems have been published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Hopper Literary Magazine, Written River, Earth’s Daughters, Chronogram, About Place, Jivin’ Ladybug, First Literary Review East, and ther journals and anthologies. 

Dr. Newell (MA Columbia, BA Berkeley) received a doctorate from Fordham University in American Literature and the Environment. You can read her published poems at http://manitou-musings.weebly.com/.

My student, late to class

Candice Kelsey

for Kristina

She tosses herself
into my classroom
a few seconds late
not so much a beach ball
as a fistful of dust
colorful and airborne
a quasi-Nepalese celebration.

She asks permission to share
the magical reason
for her tardiness:

A mountainous neon
floral print bean bag
labeled FREE
on the curb of 23rd
she could not refuse.

And while I listen
to this flutter of youth
in all its wild tensions
between task and surprise,
I slowly close my lap top
to forgo today’s PowerPoint
lesson on the beauty of poetry.


CANDICE KELSEY's poems have appeared in such journals as Poet LoreThe Cortland ReviewHobart Pulp, and Wilderness House -- and her work has been incorporated into multiple 3-D art installations. She has been accepted into the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Virginia Quarterly Review's Writer's Conference. A high-school English teacher of 19 years' standing, she lives in Los Angeles and serves as a fiction reader for The New England Review

Poetry by Jack Peterson


Doomsday Clock

Pushed toward midnight and ideal children
slept in unloved wombs

wanted by a world that glues pounds
of cannellini and black

beans on blue paper for first grade
mosaics of Dr. King

and still sings in unison in public
for each candle

laden cupcake carried by the one
who first said

we should do something
to celebrate

given the time, all we could produce
was waiting

pre-made as if the grocer knew
someone today

would need a baked good to stick
a candle in

and set afire.


Murder of Crows

I was out, as I can be
on a day when crows
know most stay in

the murder, so called,
enormous and there
all silent conspiracy

inelegantly handled
in slickened treetops
my running past

diving and flapping
into each other as if
I arrived too early

at my grandmother’s
house, and woke her
from the loud news

and recliner, not
yet equipped to kiss
me hello, or think

of what to tell me
apologetic of the lack
of food to offer

when here she had
so wanted to greet
me in her right self

when here she had
sweet tea and chicken
salad all made up

for my later arrival,
instead of this
silence and confusion


Jack Peterson lives ordinarily in Upland, Indiana with his wife and two children and runs on country roads.

Los Portales

Marzelle Robertson

The courtyard of Los Portales
offered shade trees, the breath
of desert plants, the hum
of bees at the throat of flowers,
a fountain of whispers.  The room –
tiles cool to bare, sore feet,
a roof laid across log beams,
a waterfall shower, white sheets,
a meal of lamb in delicate cream
and quail in a sauce of tempered fire,
a heavy wood door to swing
closed on forged iron rings.


Marzelle Robertson, a retired English teacher and school counselor, lives in East Texas with her husband.  Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Arts and Letters, Borderlands, Cyphers, and The Evansville Review. As for social media, I don’t participate unless you count attendance at happy hour at one of the two happy places on the square in Mt. Vernon, population roughly 2700. The attached photograph was taken in 2015 in the Guadalupe Mountains.  We were on our way to Big Bend National Park and the tiny, historic town of Marathon, where Los Portales was written.



Ellen Roberts Young

The hamster’s wheel and food
end up in the dumpster.
The child loses his faith.
A god who doesn’t listen

is useless as a parent
who can’t restore his pet
to health the way she mended
his torn teddy bear.

As once I came upon a stranded
baby seal, watched, unable to lift it
to the water, stood whispering
“Keep on, you can do it,”

I could not hug away my son’s
grief, could not offer a heaven
to stanch his loss, could not
amend the order of nature.

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Ellen Roberts Young is a member of the writing community in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She has published two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press, Accidents (2004) and The Map of Longing (2009).  Her first full-length book of poetry is Made and Remade, (WordTech Editions, 2014).  She is co-editor of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal and blogs intermittently at www.freethoughtandmetaphor.com.


Raven Cole

Sister, we are 7 years old

I am telling you a story about three little pigs

and a wolf and you are laughing and wanting to be the pig with the brick house

then we are 12 years old and we are bleeding confusion and anger

cursing the feminine parts of ourselves for being too much too soon

and we build straw houses right next to each other because don't know where to find bricks

and we are 17 and we love him

We are 18 and we love ourselves

We are 19 and now we don't love either

We are 20 when we try to be big bad wolves but it feels like too little too late and we don't even know why we care these pigs anyway

We are 21 and I am telling you the story of us and how the women in our family have been building houses with their bodies since forever and how wolves have always come to blow them down

and you

sister, you

are howling


Raven J. Cole is a teacher, YA/poetry writer, and book nerd from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She received her B.A. at Louisiana State University where she studied English and secondary education with concentrations in critical pedagogy and community-based learning spaces.Her poetry can be found in Black Napkin Press, The Fable Online, and at the bottom of most pots of gumbo.

Website: RavenJCole.com 

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @ravenjcole.

Driving into Half Moon Bay

Pat Tompkins

Coastal living: a mile inland from the public beach,
Vista del Mar trailer park, immobile homes crammed
on a paved lot. East of the faded blue single-wide,
a field of brown goats. To the west, an Oddfellows
cemetery, long full and forgotten: south: a two-lane
highway; north: more canned homes. Headstones,
weeds, wooden huts, all washed gray. Across the road,
new condominiums; white trims windows that look
onto neighbors, boxed in by more boxes. A short cast
away, Red and Curly’s Bait Shop sells fresh roast peanuts.
Near the road’s shoulder, ground fog cloaks naked ladies.
Cost of living: kites skitter above the littered beach.


Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Mslexia, KYSO Flash, Thema, and other publications.

If after Days on the same island, then it's our timeline I ask

Laura Madeline Wiseman

in the morning as the final storm clears, the

next   island   glimmers   across   the   water.

Neither sunk by war nor earthquake, neither

grinding with  the energy of  commerce nor

flagging the surrounding  harbor  with ships,

its empty welcomes.  Is   that   the   Island   of

Nothing?  You open the map,  find where  we

are,  and  nod.   Nothing  Island,  you say,  I

forgot.  Then you lie down to sunbathe in the

sand. I try,  We’re  not  far  from  the Pillars of

Hercules.  You begin to snore.  When  I was a

teen,   I  taught  yoga  at  the  downtown   Y,

commuting there by bike. When you were a

teen,  you lifeguarded at the Atlantis  County

pool, taught little  kids to blow bubbles,  and

proctored first swim tests.  You were  a  small

town god,  a maven of the  silent  splash  after

the dive. The  only  place to  disappear was a

human-made lake.  Did  you long to cross into

where most  drown, but some,   like you  could

breathe?   You   murmur  in   your   sleep,   a

broken    string      of      sweets,     Life Savers,

Smarties,   Now and Laters,    old concessions of

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Laura Madeline Wiseman teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetryHer book is Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DrMadWiseman

Twitter https://twitter.com/DrMadWiseman

Goodreads www.goodreads.com/lauramadelinewiseman


Stacy W. Dixon

Childbirth was
a whispered secret,
passed to a long line of young ears
until it no longer resembled itself.

Pushing him out
with the strength of my own muscles,
into the cold open light
of too many voices.

My trembling body
was covered by a warm blanket.
Like the weather outside,
this bleeding went away
after a few weeks.

And I learned to feed him,
but he already knew
how to consume parts of me
with a smile.

What can I give him
that will not be heavy?
It should be the right piece
of myself.
Small enough not to cast
a shadow.


Stacy W. Dixon’s work has appeared in Tiger’s Eye, Pirene’s Fountain, Exponent 11, Sweet Tree Review, Word Fountain, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  Her first chapbook collection A Pebble Thrown in Water was published by Tiger’s Eye Press, and her new chapbook is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.   

She can be found on Facebook @stacydixonsplace


Buffalo Liquor

Greg Rogers

At the end of the day,
You would gather
With the neighborhood drunks
Behind the liquor store,
In the course asphalt lot littered
With beer-bottle caps and tabs of soda cans.
Perched on old milk crates,
Sagging with your burdens,
You sang slurred
Songs of labor and war,
Raised complaints to God
In the forms of Jack and Coke,
Vodka and orange, Schlitz,
Budweiser, and Coors.

Lapping up the poetry of your curses,
We weaved our way
In and out of your hunched shadows,
Stretched long and slender
In the descending California sun.
Then all three at once,
We would spring,
Tug your right arm,
Trying to bend it straight.
“Mighty Mouse,” they
Used to call you, years before,
When you were able to live
Without drink, when your chest
Stuck out beyond your gut,
When you could squat five hundred
And run a mile in under six.       
But still, after all the years
Of turmoil and despair,
Of wreckage and decay,
Your right arm
Would not give,
As if it were your final stand,
Your last resistance,
To all of what life
Offered you.


I am originally from Long Beach, California, but when I was ten, we moved to Bruno, Arkansas, a small isolated town in the Ozark Mountains with a population sign that read simply "Bruno 9." Although the culture-shock was almost unbearable for my older sister, I loved exploring the woods and hills surrounding our small farm. After I graduated high school from Bruno-Pyatt (a consolidated K-12 school of about 350 students), I got bachelor's degree in English from Williams Baptist College and a master's degree in liberal studies from Hollins University, where I had the privilege of taking creative writing courses with Pinckney Benedict. Currently, I teach writing and literature courses in the Lehigh Valley.

Mother Tongue

Laura Forsey

We don’t speak Gaelic here anymore.
I think it died
with my grandfather’s grandmother-
But who thinks to record an absence?

No one presses lost words into the crust of a pie
to feed hungry children who say “thank you” in Canadian English,
or braids the coastline of the Hebrides
into their daughters’ hair.

I dream of my twice-great grandmother
words fall from her lips
to land on a dusty floor
her eyes are cool and deep as the sea
before she turns and walks away.

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Laura Forsey writes free form poetry about the short, stolen moments that catch your breath. She currently lives in Ottawa, and would consume poetry and novels instead of eating if she could. This is her first formally published work.