Saturday, July 1, 2023




Issue            Theme            Deadline

Spring            Growth             February 1-15
Summer         Second POV     May 1-15
Fall                Form Poems      August 1-15
Winter           Winter Solstice   November 1-15

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Unless otherwise indicated, all art is taken from "royalty-free" Internet sources. 

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Table of Contents


Letters From the Editors


Terri L. Cummings



Charles A. Swanson

Associate Editor


Featured Frequent Contributors

Karla Linn Merrifield

“Morning-After Poem”

“JoJo the Poet in Western Boots

“Kill Toy


Vivian Finley Nida

“Michelangelo's David

“Time for You, Granddaughter”

The Chair


Howard F. Stein

“How I Became You”

Short on Staff, or You'd Better Listen

Book Review (listed in Book Review Section)


Other Frequent Contributors


Steve Wittenberg Gordon, MD

“What If You Were Pregnant?”

Former FC James Frederick William Rowe

“Salamander’s Call”


Tyson West

“Vanishing Hitchhiker”

Cone at Lassen


Charles A. Swanson

“Stick Figure Man Shares a Page with Doughboy”

“Art Speaks to His Artist:  Scarecrow in a Cucumber Field”

Terri Lynn Cummings

“Your Love”



Biographies of our editorial staff & frequent contributors may be found on the "Our Staff" page.

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Guest Poets


Natalie Fry



Derek Reinhard


“Smoldering Muse”


Oliver Smith



KB Nelson

“Dominion Over the Dragon”


Ceri Eagling

“Among SchoolChildren: The Nun Gives WB Yeats a Failing Grade”

“The Girls on the Train”


C Naisby


“In Which the Shop Assistant Finally Cracks When Addressing the Rude Customer”


Rosalind Adam

“Market Square”


Colleen Anderson

“Jellyfish People”

Gabby Gilliam

“Birthday Text to My Dead Best Friend's Wife”


Richard Magahiz

“Incoming message”  

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Book Review

Desecrations & Other Poems

  by Jesse Van Horne


Reviewed by

Howard F. Stein

Frequent Contributor

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Frequent Contributor News



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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

       Greetings! In this issue, the editors requested submissions from the second-person point-of-view, an underused and tricky viewpoint. We hope that you, the poet, viewed this theme as an enjoyable exercise in writing poetry.  

       As you study the poems we selected to publish, notice how the pronoun 'you' draws the reader into the story and transforms them into a character. It allows the narrator to distance themself from their own experience while reinforcing the ideas that drive the narrative forward. In the end, the second-person point of view gives the narrator someone to address—you, our reader. We hope you enjoy this issue. 

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A Letter From the Associate Editor


        Second-person point-of-view is very tricky. In a language such as German, the distinction between singular second person and plural second person is marked by identifying pronouns. In English, the pronouns are the same:  both "you" for singular and "you" for plural. Ah, southerners with their "y'alls," parts of Appalachia with "you'uns" or "y'uns," western Pennsylvania with "yin," and Philadelphia with "youse"! They're not wrong to want to clarify.

        And that's what I looked for as I read submissions — clarity. I wanted a second person that revealed a clear audience, not a vague and general "you." Even better was the poem where the speaker was also identifiable. I didn't mind if the audience was the speaker addressing himself/herself, but I wanted the poem, unerringly, to lead me to that realization.

        Second-person point-of-view has a world of practical uses. Sometimes, second person doesn't seem to jibe with literary applications, but a good writer can show how forms such as letters, post-notes, internal monologs, external monologs, etc., can serve the purposes of poetry. Our writers lived up to the challenge, as you'll see below. 

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Featured Frequent Contributors

Morning-After Poem
Karla Linn Merrifield


My pal Jill the Outdoorsy Poet! How you pack up 

a poem like you do your Eureka! tent – a Zen

operation, meditation on the significance

of moveable shelter, its methodology.

You perform a mindful exercise with nylon

and fiberglass, rods, zippers, screen windows.

Roll the poem, lash it, stuff it in its drawstring sack.

You are breaking lines as you break camp.

You brush words away like sand and leaves and spiders.


Poet's Notes: I began writing what I call my “JoJo” (and its variations with Jill and Joet) poems about ten years ago, prompted by poet John Roche who had developed a new poetic form called a “Joe poem.” Such a poem has 10 lines, no more, no less, usually in only one or two longish sentences. Joe himself is a fictional poet/philosopher that John created and anthologized in two of his collections, one of which invited fellow poets to come up with their own type of Joe poems. My answer was to invent JoJo, essentially an alter ego, who could and does do the wildest things I would never dream of doing. Or saying! Her POV is downright refreshing, enlightening, ever surprising. JoJo appeared in John Roche’s collection and went on to be a main character in my book-length poem, Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Selects, 2018). I never leave home without her. 

Editor’s Notes:  I find the developmental process of writing a “Joe poem,” or in this case, a “JoJo poem” intriguing and am working on one of my own. Merrifield’s alter ego shines with humor and fantasy in all three of her “JoJo” poems. TLC


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JoJo the Poet in Western Boots
Karla Linn Merrifield

JoJo the Poet whirls in wearing her tunic 

of dust from herding her cattle poems.

Kelso Station will do for coffee and a nip

from some cowboy’s flask in exchange

for a ticket to Needles. They lasso each other

in the sonnet’s saloon but come up four lines short.

In the Mojave there ain’t no myth of sin.

JoJo the Poet forgives herself the slip.

Desert fantasies whipped up on the spur

of the moment require desert tortoises to attend.


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Kill Toy

Karla Linn Merrifield 

Jo-et the Poet was once a good nurse.

She put her G.I. Joe doll to bed, read aloud 

to him from the funny papers to ease 

his post-traumatic stress disorder in voodoo drag.

She wore camouflage to pacify his plastic self.

Once she got him pinned to her imagination,

she discarded his little to-scale uniform,

ruined anyway by self-inflicted wounds.

Peace. Rest in it, said Jo-et the Poet, R.N.,

as she administered action-figure euthanasia.

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Photograph by Alex Ghizila on Unsplash

Michelangelo’s David

Vivian Finley Nida




David as

thoughtful, confident

before battle with Goliath.

Veins pulse on right hand. Left, graceful at shoulder, holds sling.

Ground jolts. Hero tilts. Ankles crack.

What will time bequeath?






Poet’s Notes:  If you enjoy the challenge of the haiku with its set syllable count, you might also like writing a Fibonacci.  The syllables in each line equal the total number of syllables in the preceding two lines. Then lines decrease, so a 13-line Fibonacci, like this one, has the sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,8,5,3,2,1,1.  

Editors' Notes:  Once I read this poem, I had to know more.  A quick Google search brought me to a fascinating article in The New York Times: “David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue" David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue - The New York Times (  I like for a poem to teach me something I didn’t know.  CAS

This poem has stirred me to attempt a Fibonacci of my own. TLC

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You need a costume—
eight grade 60's day
Photo by Vivian Finley Nida

Time for You, Granddaughter

Vivian Finley Nida


No gloves above the elbow, strapless gown?

No mohair sweater? They do scratch like hay.

You’d better get the Christmas tree skirt down.

Red wrap-around from ’62 should do.

It’s Country Looks by Bobbi Brooks, right size!

Four buttons on the waist adjust for you.

White shirt with collar, starched, you tuck inside.

Wear flats to dance Watusi, Jerk, and Twist. 

Tease hair and spray ’til firm to keep its poof. 

Need more?  This Timex watch self-winds on wrist.

Plus, letter jacket’s ’66 is proof.

From pocket, what’s that pinched by fingers, thumb?

A vintage pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum!


Poet’s Notes:  Yes, this happened, including the Spearmint gum! A fellow student offered our granddaughter $5.00 for the gum.  She declined.

Editor’s Notes:  Vivian’s poem reminds me of an exercise I was once given: Write a poem where every line is a separate sentence.  On that occasion, I, too, wrote a sonnet.  How beautiful that this “love poem” from grandmother to granddaughter is focused on a narrative event, but captured in the pocket of a sonnet.  CAS

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The Chair

Vivian Finley Nida


Your voice resounds through six generations

No one will sit in that chair anymore 

Common ladderback, armless

cowhide seat worn smooth

dusty wood, pocked, scarred

no nails—secured with perfect joints

by you, wood smith


In 1851, your straight-backed chair 

rattles in a horse-drawn wagon 

Mississippi to Louisiana  

It leans against wide porch wall, off kilter 

Back legs bear weight, wear down 

Front legs, out of true, you whittle to match 

over and over, lower and lower, year after year


Three thousand, six hundred, fifty-three times

sun bursts above horizon before bugle wakes to battle

One thousand, five hundred more dawns

fade in heavy air while drummers march 

soldiers charge, fires devour

South surrenders, and you 

scatter ashes to the wind


Poet’s Notes: The denotation of this chair is simple—an upright chair with a back resembling a ladder.  The connotation though reveals social and emotional layers that make this chair more than just a chair.

Editor's Notes: This poem serves as an interesting way to describe the whittling down of a chair's legs on its dark journey through time. TLC

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How I Became You 

Howard F. Stein                  

“If I’ve told you once, 

I’ve told you a thousand times . . .”


Ma, your daily exhortation for

as far back as I can remember,

maybe even in the womb,

in increments so small

I could not notice

I was becoming you— 


Until, by subtraction,

I disappeared, and you were 

The only one of us left... 


Ma, you bestowed 

More commands and prohibitions 

Than the 613 Moses received 

From God on Mt. Sinai. 

Sins of omission and commission, 

Thou shalts and thou shalt nots, 

These, your rudder on a ship 

I could not navigate or steer 

Without you. 


Ma, you died so long ago;  

you left me – though you 

stayed behind as my-self 

to keep me on course. 

Still, I miss you. 

Editor’s Notes:  How many of us have said, “I’ll never be like [so and so] when I grow up,” only to find that we are more like that person than we had ever imagined. Stein’s poem stays the course and delivers in the final line. TLC


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Short on Staff, or You’d Better Listen    
Howard F. Stein



Today the CEO

met with his inner circle

of upper management

and executive board.

They sat silently around

a massive conference table,

in elegantly crafted,

hardwood chairs with

supple leather seats. 


As the CEO took his place 

at the head of the table, 

he scanned them 

with a predator’s eyes, 

then began softly: 

“I’m not telling you

anything you don’t already know.

“We’ve been terribly

short on staff

in every department

since COVID-19 struck

in early 2020. And it

doesn’t seem like it’s

going away soon. So – 

What comes next?


Long pause, then

he continued, “I’ll tell you:

we turn calamity

into opportunity!

You ask: How can that be?

What I am about

to say to you

does not leave

this room: “Worker shortage”

is now our official story,

our policy, our strategy,

our slogan, our secret.

You and I have got to get 

employees to buy into it, 

to believe it as their truth.


You and I need them

to be convinced we’re

doing this for their best interests,

that some vague place down the road,

they’ll reap a bountiful harvest

in wages, overtime,

and increased benefits – 

you and I together, 

must chant this in unison

every day.


“Do you get this great idea?

It’s so simple!” he exclaimed,

almost ecstatic, as he offered

his perfect plot

to the assembled body 

of corporate nobility.

“You around this table,

our company, and most important,

our shareholders, will get more

by giving our workers less – 

lower pay, reduced benefits,

less sick leave, less vacation time.

We demand that they 

show stronger commitment

through more strenuous effort.

What a blessed deception!


You’ve got to admit – 

it’s a sterling idea:

we milk their sacrifice 

and their trust in us that

worker shortage is real.

They would never think that

the cause of the scarcity is 

our own refusal

to hire more employees!


You want them convinced

we’re the good guys and

market forces are the bad guys – 

circumstances are the villain,

and that we would 

rush to their aid,

if only we could. 

They’ll never imagine that 

we’re their “circumstances”!


Well, what do you think of

this Sucker Economics?  

Two-faced is fail-safe! 

You get it now?


You tell me – if people 

don’t realize they’re

being used and cheated,

what harm does the policy bring?

You know – our employees

even believe  they are 

doing something virtuous,

helping fellow workers

contribute to the company – 

so why would you

want to interfere

with such good Samaritans?      


What a gift

To be 

Short on staff!

Editor’s Note:  Stein fills in the blanks with this poetic example about corporate greed and today’s era of ‘it’s okay to lie if you don’t get caught.’ 

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Other Frequent Contributors

What If You Were Pregnant?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


For our purposes you need not be concerned 

About your age or sex

Just suspend your disbelief for a while

As you would when reading a great work of fiction.


So, what if you were pregnant?


And the doctors advise that you should be able

To carry the new life inside you safely to term

And you would bring a unique individual

Human being into the world.


Never mind for this moment that if you are male

The baby would have to be cut out of you

Or that if you are female you might have to have that done

But would most likely give birth in the usual way.


So, what if you were pregnant?


And let’s just say that there are

Plenty of loving people willing to support

You and your baby during and after the pregnancy

If you ever feel overwhelmed.


Would you kill your baby?


Poison, burn, rip, or cut your innocent child out of you?

And if you did murder your baby--

For you must admit that would be murder

Since you define murder as 

Deliberately taking an innocent human life--


What would that make you?

You know the answer.

And where would your soul dwell in the life hereafter?

You know the answer to that question, too.


Do you feel even a modicum of regret, remorse, or shame?

And if you don’t, what does that make you?

Again, you know the answer.


So, what if you were pregnant?


Editor’s Notes:  Gordon sparked a healthy debate with the editors after we had read this poem. I appreciate the imaginative device he used in asking the reader to suspend reality. TLC

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Salamander’s Call

Former FC James Frederick William Rowe

The tongue of flame presents as lover's lips

To those who seek the life of the blaze

They bear the mottled flesh

The shrunken skin

For agony alone suffices to secure success

In magic as much as love

Only those who would be consumed

Who would give their meat to ash

Their bones to blackening

Will learn from Salamander

First soul of fire

That what others take for immutable law

Can become your kindled will


The flame does not give

You must take!




For those who can endure

Alone can truly command

When your instincts cry to be heard

And your will is deaf to their entreaties

Then the flame will heed your call

Then the blaze will live within your soul

You will pour yourself into the living fire

And you shall command the inferno

See how it bows!

See how it dances!

See how it races, revels, and runs!

All that anguish

All that pain

What a cost - what a cost!

To secure such a reward

Salamander's scion


So shall you be called

Editor’s Note:  Rowe pens magic, and its risks, in this poem. The salamander was long believed to be a mythical creature impervious to fire. And the pyromancer had the ability to control fire. An excellent choice for a second-person point of view subject.

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Vanishing Hitchhiker

Tyson West


Susan, had I sensed your slip

pale, diaphanous and jagged into my backseat

before I merged my hybrid’s eggshell into the I-90 blizzard

from Love’s Truck Stop at Ritzville, less

I would have immediately offered you

a bottle of sweet tea and begged you

talk Southern to me as you

leered in our years

dancing the Virginia reel.

Your timing as ever obliques your order of battle

in the skirmish that defined our pairing.

When a card or letter denouncing my birthday card

sent last March never appeared

I worried just a tad but slept sure our perennial 

bickering would send up shoots one odd day

as noxious knap weed blossoms and starling songs rasp careless sky.

Half a century since our vows collapsed

and last I saw you climb the 727 eastward, Angel,

I now like some video game dot on a black screen

tremble home in a circle of headlight beams

clinging to a white line defining

freeway from shoulder in toxic snow swirls.

Perhaps fear of sudden end in mangled metal

leaving so many loose ends

as great tractor trailers rattle and roar through ice crystal puffs around me

prompts me ask; “Why are you here?”

a question never exhaled in our touch

and go cavalcade. 

Since your silence swells, I now answer my own question

in osteoporosis and self acceptance—

I found our meme in dance. 

Not one stepped as if I felt a peeping yellow chick

pop under the ball of my foot

but a tango set in a period movie

—my mind ground fine with gabapentin once watched. 

A series of prance lines lay cut between privileged powdered whites--

rough builders of machines reshaping a new world

spinning stamping slamming to that rhythm interspersed 

with placeholders entitled

from their ancestor’s early arrival and compound interest on inherited railroad bonds. 

Your family hagiography pictured

hoop skirted or riding breeched massas kindly

correct, care, and ward their dark skinned chattels

while my huddled masses left the Tzar’s hinder lands

to callus their arthritis 

sweeping floors and tending yankee looms.

In America, Sugar, it all comes down to race 

which atmospheres this stolen land as

pale gulls, dusky corvids, yellow finches and red warblers

never question the air through which they fly.

Since you no longer own them, they keystone

the triangular conspiracy trade where black votes

for Jewish politicians extract WASP taxes 

to welfare the lazy who survive

traffic stops, fentanyl laced skittles, and fast food french fries.

Blacks abide eternal as sorrowful foundation

to keep your pale skin’s self respect

afloat in warm entitlement as true as your expectation of Jesus’ love.

Though like a red haired heroine in Terry and the Pirates

you travelled to East Asia and beyond

your body returned to rot in Virginia clay.

I have wrestled with the truth of flesh

to learn all shades flow on in grey.

My towhead luck of untannable skin

means I rise in this novus ordo seclorum surpassing your smug lineage

as long as my spine and focus unwrinkle

the horses’ finish.

As jet stream dragged snowflakes

dervish around my headlights

I must do on to forget harlequin schoolyard jokes

and barber shop talk of Floyd Patterson

as a credit to his race and Amos ‘n’ Andy.

I must critique in curlicues American generally accepted accounting principles of color—

octoroon and high yellow columns and equations.

For I have been warped, Susan, collateral damage of your ancestors’ circus mythos

placing pale skin at the top of the tent.

I sit in the cheap seats with my

feeling for my granddaughter.

Her mother’s Caribbean DNA survived the middle passage as

my Baltic and Jewish ancestors dodged the Cossack’s blades—

to lead to the truth

resilience will always finesse noblesse. 

Your ghost, Sugar, each day colors my sunlight

for no matter how strong 

your faith in the lodestar of your place or swarthy Jewish carpenter

you will never be woke even

at his second coming.

I see you vanished in blackout balloons

of squalling snow somewhere past the Medical Lake exit.

My anxiety warms away as I slow at well lit streets of Spokane

knowing I will rise again to struggle

with tomorrow’s gordian knots.

I am not saying I miss you

for as the jimson weed will blossom this July

I know you will be ever standing by my roads ahead

and rest assured, I will always pause to pick you up.


Poet’s Notes:  My first wife and I married June 1, 1974, and last saw each other in January of 1975. Since then, she and I engaged in on again off again sometimes hostile correspondence. 

I would customarily send a birthday card every March. In 2019, my card came back as undelivered with an indication that her post office box had been closed. I was aware that she had several care center stays in the last few years, but I expected a snarky letter or card from her sooner or later. 


In January 2020, I drove to Walla Walla to attend some business involving farm land. Driving back in the dark I ran into a blizzard around Ritzville. In these white out conditions I made it home driving slowly in the right lane focusing on the white line along the side of the road delineating the shoulder. Eventually the snow thinned and I caught up to another car and let its tail lights lead me into Spokane.


In the middle of this frightening journey, the possibility Susan had died suddenly occurred to me. When I reached a computer, I found her obituary. She died August 28, 2019, with no cause given. 

It took her passing for me to work out the vast gulf between our assumptions of her place in the world and mine. 

Editor’s Notes:  This poem drew me into its story, dispassionate at first and then a blur of sparring, fear, dislike, and concern. The question of his ex-wife’s health, her presence or lack of, and the immutable declaration of the obituary are all wrapped in a storm of emotive language. Even the concession in the final line. TLC


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Cinder Cone at Lassen

Tyson West


Had we cast glances circa 1871 among the crusty lava layers

of dark rock flowed and wondrously frozen

crowned with their cinder cone –

an adolescent volcano malleable and muted rising

between then nameless lakes, I would soon

have found myself firmly affixed next

to your family’s Conestoga on the emigrant trail

hoping southward to fertile soils in the Sacramento Valley.

You would have spoken first to my gawk, Edith, as you did 100 years later

in trim Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes 

instead of a long gingham dress and calico bonnet.

Your father would have measured my arms,

my attention towards your feigned falter and my compliance

to corral his kine and roll his wagon’s wheels.

Time bled so much faster then since that century later

when I parked father’s 1968 Volkswagen fastback

stuffed with camping gear and green anger towards his ego

in the park service lot by Snag Lake.

Your father fussed your high school senior bob and calculating 

pout that pulled my grad student gangle

from binoculared study of Lassen Peak.

He wrapped his wary around us to shadow

us shadowing one another on the narrow trail

of shifting stone up the cinder cone to view Fantastic Lava Beds

and dream of distant mountains.

The scoria cone perfectly proportioned staged 

our butterfly flirt gavotte

about its narrow trail spiraling deosil up.

Your preppy poise calculussed my rough

ambition and plasticity as variables

in the equation of our future—your étude

played along our crescendo to the crater’s rim

where Three Sisters unveiled.

My impulse and broad shoulders waltzed your crystals of order

and strong legs into the bubbled stones flooring the crater

and up again to the rim widdershins descending

this cinder cone to ghost our ephemeral bond.

At its base you twinkled

into daughter again and I shy

studious stranger. Thus we sliced

our wafer of geologic time among the sculptured lava garden,

our eruption ending in a world

without smartphone or internet leaving no way to google you again.

Had five years flowed and we found ourselves

on a high place where you, like Satan, could have promised 

we would have bonded and bickered our trails up distant peaks

ripening whether we could fold into their fauna.

Instead your blink lingers forever, my secret what if meme,

haunting my decay amid the Palouse 

of my children’s children’s laughter and the old woman

who chose to age my worries and joy.


Poet’s Notes: As a grad student in my early 20s, my father and I had an argument over a toilet. He was, of course, wrong, but he played the card of “what I say goes.” By bad example he taught me to take my ego out of the equation when making decisions. Our argument left me so angry I grabbed some camping gear and drove to Lassen Park, where I had two very memorable experiences. The first was climbing the cinder cone, where I encountered a high school girl. As she started flirting with me, her family kept an eye on us. We walked up the cone, into the crater, then down again. I cannot recall her name, nor much else about her. In retrospect, I sense she was practicing flirting skills on me, an “older man”, for the real thing in her future. 


The second memorable experience was an abandoned fire lookout with windows broken out and people’s initials carved in the posts and walls. I have no idea if that lookout is still there today, but my recollection of it will likely ferment future poetry. 


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Stick Figure Man Shares a Page with Doughboy

Charles A. Swanson



This is such a pleasure to meet you.

I’m a fan.  Your happiness

gets me off the couch.  I want

to eat crescent rolls and dance.



It’s not all fun and games.  This smile,

it's for appearances.  Try

being pinched on the cheeks or poked

in your soft white under-belly.



That’s just it.  I don’t have cheeks.

I don’t have a belly.

I don’t have anything to hide

these thin stick bones.



I ask you, where are my bones?

I think I’m just a heap

of flour blown out of proportion.

Yeast, yes.  Muscle, no.



Still, you’re pinchable, squeezable,

adorable, loveable.

They could make a pillow out of you.

You could cradle a head.



I tell you, go tire the Michelin Man

with your talk of fat.

Or better yet, grill Stay-Puft.

I say, it just ain’t that great.


Poet’s Notes:  An interview employs 2nd person point of view.  An interview also captures dialog and dialect.  I love how poetry opens wide the book of forms and styles and plucks from that compendium both expected and unexpected ways to create what we dare call poetry.

Editor’s Notes:  I enjoy the conceit of Swanson’s use of an interview between his imaginary Stick figure man and Doughboy. Most readers relate to having something about themselves that they wish were different or better. TLC


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Art Speaks to His Artist: Scarecrow in a Cucumber Field

            Jeremiah 10:5

Charles A. Swanson



It’s too easy.  You think, “Scarecrow.”

So many are nothing more

than a straight stick and a cross beam.

You throw a ragged shirt


across the makeshift shoulders, you have

a Stick Figure Man to scare

whatever needs scaring.  You can make

him funny, too, put a bag


with a marked-up face on the pole.

Tie a scarf around his neck.

If you want, you can give him pants,

snugged with a rope for belt.


I favor, if you’re into all that

to make a blackened necklace

with scorched tin cans.  Such a man

is dusty, musty, crusty.


It’s too easy.  Did you stop to think

how much a scarecrow-pole

is like a cross?  It seems an idol

is an idle thing to make,


but somewhere, that Holy Hand

that shapes all mankind

was drawing a Christ, already ready

to fill the ridiculed pole.


Poet’s Notes:  In my Stick Figure Man series, sometimes the Artist speaks.  He often addresses a class of students and tells them how less is more, how the Stick Figure Man can sing, dance, exult, pray, eat, digress—for all his lack of color, fullness, or accoutrements.  Sometimes, Art speaks—that is, the Stick Figure Man speaks and tells the Artist what he thinks. The more he speaks, the more insistent he gets. Both the Artist and the Poet seem to be losing control.  

Editor’s Notes:  Swanson deftly turns this poem into much more than a Scarecrow on a pole. He gives the reader something to think about.TLC

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Your love

       for my husband

Terri Lynn Cummings

is honest in a life that hurtles

past the past and flings barriers aside

It arrives at the unexpected hour, typed

onto an unwitting timetable. Then

upends, derails, scatters baggage


over the range, twists my tracks

into jumbled lanes. Sometimes, months

pass in a trial where repairs are completed

families mediated, scandals dwindled

passengers pardoned. Then you and I


journey together in a new direction

We wave from balconies, ride mules

up mountains, swim naked in a bay 

foreign as Neptune. Maps redraw

themselves, north now west of south


Air showers every day until sweet

as a garden. Seasons grow intense

mark their places while we live inside

a bubble blown from a child’s hoop

Cold seldom touches us


You care, ready to rescue or defend

always by my side, language flashing

bright and tender as a newborn

What was bland reeks of pepper 

Empty roars like a rock concert


Worry’s acrid sweat surrenders

to lavender’s calm hands. Even your

bones hum in the night as you shape

my dreams, unspool memories 

last to first until altered


I am caught with you in pleasure’s net

soft as feathers floating down from

an angel’s breast, ‘til morning

when we give birth to one another

Love twins itself as we grow

Editor’s Notes:  This love poem reads as honesty.  It is push and pull.  Sweet and sour.  Storm and sunshine.  Overall, it’s growth and gladness, a coming together of two to make one.  CAS

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Terri Lynn Cummings

if something is done

it may not be finished,

like when I said farewell,

let you go with some excuse

other than, I’m bored. You only

led our dance if I begged. I lacked

the patience to teach you how to please

me, dropped you like I dropped off worn-

out clothes at Goodwill. I was full of broken

dishes, stories half-told, apologies sent without

enough postage, old keys still chained that didn't 

open my door. Did you know that I was jilted, too, 

before you? It filled me with an anger that dried the 

Colorado River. Yet the only thing I mourned was the 

chance to shake a finger in his face, say, I’m better off, 

loser. But that’s not nice. And I’m polite, dang it. I’m not

better than anyone else. Maybe if I was a ‘good’ person I’d

have accepted your proposal, no matter. Then we could have

finished our story (in divorce).  Do I miss you?  Not any more

than when my four-door bench-seated ‘62 Ford Galaxie 500 sedan

that guzzled gas like a thirsty volcano ended its life. While I, college

poor, slaved at Ken’s Pizza for a buck-fifty an hour. It was hard to say

so long to my real relationship. You, I mean. All golden and curly headed.

That 22-year-old who gained my parents’ approval. To my dismay, I tried to

imply it wasn’t personal as you choked on a mouthful of ash from the shock.

Bye, you said, the sound like sand that pitted a windshield. Did you feel like me

when I went through my first breakup? If so, I hope you punched your fist through

a wall. No, you would never. For now, I confess the past. First love, our salty tango 

of desire, slick kisses, swollen, red passage to adulthood, was only drifts of snow, melted.

Editor’s Notes:  As the poem unscrolls, the understanding of the speaker deepens.  A readiness to examine an old relationship appears, whereas in an earlier period, avoidance was the answer, not reflection.  I like the growth the poem implies.  CAS

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *   

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Guest Poets

Natalie Fry


You want none of it, the chocolate coconut cake

I weighed out carefully on the kitchen scales.


The house is like a museum, marbled in silence,

as my eight-year-old self thumbs the recipe page


of a Care Bear magazine for this offering.

I hear the dreadful lock on your bedroom door


snap and shut me out as Dad delivers the news

the cake is cooling on the wire rack. These things


scar, you know, but I don’t know what I have done

wrong. Another time, I offend you and hide


in the wardrobe, musty clothes caress my cheeks

and it hurts to breathe in the dark in jerks.


I smell dinner, but I don’t taste fried chicken

that night and it grows cold under the grill. 


You were a big shadow of a monster, but the flesh

and bone of you are not half as solid as I thought.


I cannot recall embraces, rooms full of you,

the sharp of your voice, just a recurring dread


that I was always on the brink of committing

some further wrong that was never intended.


Editor’s Notes: What is unsaid in a poem can be as powerful as what is said, and the same is true for our human interactions.  This poem bristles with the unspoken, hidden in the musty closet with the child who fears what her mother might say, who comes to understand she can never say or do what would please her mother.  CAS

Fry’s poem is a dance between the desire to please and the fear of rejection. Beautifully balanced and executed. Heartbreaking. TLC


About the Poet:  Natalie Fry is an English teacher who lives in Tuscany, Italy. Inspired by nature, walks and finding a quiet spot to sit still and observe the world, she writes for her mental wellbeing and is currently learning about the craft of poetry through online workshops, courses and mentoring. Her poems have been published in a number of journals.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



original drawing by Samantha Lemmer



Derek Reinhard

The aglet is split on your toddler’s sneaker.

Small piece of a small person’s short shoelace

will cause you trouble for weeks:

the tying, the eyelet lacing, the loose-end tripping.


He tripped into your life without warning

amidst the filth and fury of a tenuous marriage,

borne across the unstruck years after

your love-struck wedding.


This little aglet pulled together your unraveling,

holds your loose ends in his little hands,

and ties them together each day.

Tight as love.

Contributed Art:  I invited a friend's teenage daughter, Samantha Lemmer, to submit art for this poem. Her idea for the drawing, a metaphor, captures the dilemma a child may feel when the parents are divided. TLC

Editor’s Notes:  As I came to this poem, I asked myself, “What is an aglet?”  Of course, I googled the definition, but the poet clarifies the meaning.  The poet also takes the little aglet and uses it to bind more than just the tattered and frayed ends of a shoestring.  Thus is the power and delight of a metaphor.  CAS 


I, too, had to look up "aglet." I admire Reinhard's choice of a small, worn aglet to unpack a powerful message. This poem delivers the "unexpected"! TLC


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Smoldering Muse

Derek Reinhard

You sit in your room. It’s in flames. Your desk
awash with conflagratory waves
no smoke, just raw heat, heavy light
shattering windows
disintegrating walls. Ceiling gone.
All heat, light, and flame.

The world, now caught up in your
hurricane torrents, fire mountains
lap up oceans, leveling cities
roaring itself to a climax
the sun casting its own shadow.

Like a magician’s flashpaper
galaxies burst in a shiny sheet of sparks
igniting the universe’s canvas in a moment
where no secrets are hidden
from your nib’s alchemy.


Editor’s Notes:  A poem is a mystery unto itself.  I know I’m not always in control of where a poem will go, and if it will ignite.  When it does, something more marvelous happens than I thought I had the power to produce.  I find truth in this poem, so full of alchemy and metaphor of magic.  CAS

Reinhard mixes science and the art of writing to produce a poem filled with beautiful imagery and metaphor. TLC


About the Poet:  Derek Reinhard is a writer living in Northern Virginia. His journey as a poet began under Jack Myers at Southern Methodist University in the 1970’s and followed him through his career in the USAF. He also publishes productivity articles and books. Learn more at


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


                                         Oliver Smith


Out you stepped, from a fairy ring

as September mizzled our hill.

You called my name, as summer turned

to turbulent fall, soft with rain.  

You danced me under ripe, red fruit;

you danced me over fence and stile,  

through cow cropped grass in sweet, green fields,  

until you danced the world away,

lost in circles of pale-capped folk

sprung from the earth and mold and moss.

I searched for you in coney hole,

under hill, through the fairy door

and down a dark and tortured stair

where the grey mycelium web

threads all the stones, threads all the soil,

threads wood to tree to ancient bone;

root to flower to broch to barrow

to an old straight track, we dreamers walk,

from goblin cave to holy spring

to the giants’ temple in the rocks.

I lost you in the many threads

so, I chose one of golden flesh

that twisted like a broken thought  

among the wood and weirder ways

to where the Toadstool King holds court

among luminous faces garbed

in intricate, soft arabesques,

in musty lace, and the spattered gold

of the autumn’s dry, shriveled leaf.

I sought you in the hide and seek

of creeping tendrils; sprung once more

from puffballs’ brown and mottled sacks;

in bracket and ear, spore and tooth,

in dusty gills; in mad wine sipped

from the wild scarlet elf cup’s lip.

A gnat drawn to the stinkhorn’s scent;

I found where you had grown again;

in a secret grove, in the wood,  

you hid, a gnomish riddle, crouched

beneath the fly-bane’s spotted hood.


Poet’s Notes:  On the morning of my wedding day, my sister went out and gathered a large crop of shaggy parasol mushrooms from the fields on Cooper’s Hill; enough to feed ten people at breakfast. As one moves through the woods, close to our old home, they are filled with the scent of mushrooms, with puffballs and waxcaps and boletes.  Countless species of mushrooms and toadstools grow around the Cotswold woods and fields and their multiplicity of colour and form always astonished and fascinated me. 


There seems something alien about fungi, neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral nor free living microbe but a whole hidden domain of life. They seem quite magical in the way they appear overnight from nothing; raising strange caps from neat green lawns or sprouting in vast clumps from wet wood. 


In his book, Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake describes how the mushroom is only the fruit of the vast underground web of mycelium that binds the natural world together. My poem, “Pixie,” explores our mystical relationship with the land and imagines following those threads into the soil and across the landscape. 


The Pixie is often depicted sat on a toadstool, and traditionally inhabits ancient monuments and significant landscape features. In an episode of pareidolia, Alfred Watkins believed he saw disparate monuments and features significantly laid out in straight lines across the ordnance survey maps; and created a new myth, “ley lines.” 


We dreamers, dream the landscape as containing hidden meanings; legend and myths seep from our collective consciousness and map themselves onto the ground. Near to me there are places on the map named “Paradise” and “Purgatory.” In a limestone outcrop on Cooper’s Hill, perhaps an old quarry working, the horizontal and vertical fissures in the rocks resemble a door in the stone, while under gnarled and twisted tree roots, strange “Goblin” caves are washed out in the flow of water, by flash floods and winterbournes; by the water from the sacred spring, Tile Well, bubbling up from the escarpment near the ruins of Witcombe Roman Villa. 


I’d like to thank Dr. Adrian Morgan, who also once knew those fields and woods, for the many insights into humankind’s relationship with fungi in his wonderful and under-appreciated book Toads and Toadstools: The Natural History, Mythology & Cultural Oddities of this Strange Association.


Editor’s Notes:  I read poetry for many things, but I especially like to read poetry for the music I may find.  I love to read this poem again and again.  The poet does not just tell his tale, he sings it.  CAS

Smith spins magic throughout his lyrical imagery. Beautiful. TLC

About the Poet:  Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK.  He is inspired by Tristan Tzara, J G Ballard, and Max Ernst; by the poetry of chance encounters, by frenzied rocks towering above the silent swamp; by unlikely collisions between place and myth and memory.


His poetry has been published in Abyss & Apex; Ink, Sweat, and TearsStrange Horizons; and Sylvia Magazine and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.


In 2020, he was awarded a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies by the University of Gloucestershire.  For more information see his website:


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Dominion Over the Dragon

KB Nelson

For decades the dragon held you 

in thrall, bound you with grey 

curls of addictive poison 

wrapped round your 

wits and power. 


Elegant beast with history of banal glamour; 

symbol of strength, independence, 

yet prosaic in its familiarity, 

its ubiquitous nicotine. 


With innocent arrogance you thought

to bridle this beguiling dragon, to hold the reins, 

for it would never rule you. 


Until it did.


The heat, the glow, 

the paradoxical cool of it all,

the satisfaction of the first delicious draw 

and every first time 

after that.


By the time the reins changed hands 

and the claws were in, 

you loved them. 


When the love turned to hate 

and disgust and resentment 

your mettle showed itself. 

The scaly beast was 

finally defeated,



but still hovers

almost silent, just out of sight, 

murmuring a siren song from its cage

with a futile ambition to recreate its hold

but though you remember the bliss

of being under its spell 


it will wither 

in its heinous cave

as it fumes at your 

jubilant, unfettered life.


Poet’s Notes: Dominion Over the Dragon was written to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of my closest friend’s cessation of smoking. A wise woman, she held a huge party to mark the milestone, because it’s a big deal. When I look at this poem I am reminded that it’s important to acknowledge ongoing triumphs as well as moments of victory. 


Editor’s Notes:  Sometimes the second person point of view is self-directed.  This ploy works well if the speaker controls the direction of the criticism or encouragement.  Here, the speaker consistently addresses self in the ferocious battle against the dragon.  CAS


About the Poet:   KB Nelson is a Rhysling-nominated writer of poetry and speculative fiction. Her poems have appeared in over two dozen journals including Tiny SpoonGyroscope ReviewBethlehem Writers Roundtable, and Polar Borealis. Her chapbook Muse of Natural History was published in June 2021.  KB has resided from coast to coast in Canada, in Arizona, and in New Zealand. She currently lives, writes, and hikes the beaches and forests on the unceded territory of the Sechelt First Nation on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Among School Children:

The Nun Gives WB Yeats a Failing Grade

                                        Ceri Eagling




Mr. Yeats, I think it fair to say

those gratifying handshakes, that warm flurry

that embraced you at our school today

disposed of any lurking worry

on your part that we’d feel moved to pray

for your misguided soul, sunk in a slurry,

so we’re told, of dissolute desires,

pagan doctrines and expanding gyres.




And yet, if I were licensed to be bold,

I’d make it clear that I, a lowly nun,

your guide today, though old, am not so old

I’ve lost my power of observation—one

honed faculty that’s worth its weight in gold,

I find—and I perceive your daydreams run

on lines quite different from our present aim,

which is… You’ve no idea of my name,




sir, have you? Even though I’ve told you twice.

I’ll put it candidly: Have you come,

as Senator, to learn, and seek advice

on modern Irish teaching methods—plumb

our schemes for your report—or not? It’s nice

you smile a lot, but don’t class me a numb-

skull. Girls whose futures hang on what we’ve taught

are more than backdrop to your private thought.




“Maud,” you murmured when that faltering child

stood up to show you her arithmetic.

“My name is Agnes, sir.” Of course, you smiled

that public smile once more, but showed no lick

of real interest in her; too beguiled

by visions. Which may sound impolitic

for one who took the veil to say; but on

reflection, no. It’s Agnes, not Maud Gonne




who’s here today. We teaching nuns are not

immune to worldly talk. The torch you carry

for Miss Gonne’s old news. Vows don’t rot

our memories: we live before we marry

God. But we’d account it as a blot

on our vocation if we failed to parry

cues that led us to neglect our charge

to educate, and help young minds enlarge.




Bright hair arrests your gaze. Your hand,

unconsciously, it seems, flies up to touch

your own. That wry expression as a strand

hangs loose I know; thin locks are such

betrayers of our youth! I understand—

we two are of an age—but there is much

to do. Before the ending bell is rung,

let’s dwell upon these children we're among.


Editor’s Notes:  I much admire a dramatic monolog, especially one in the style of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.”  Eagling’s poem also gives us a consistent rhyme scheme that does not obscure the nun’s caustic observations.  CAS


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Girls on the Train

Ceri Eagling

Remember the train from Paddington when we were eighteen?

The suitcases we’d lugged to the station hoisted onto the rack,

our arms aching from the weight of them? No such thing

as wheeled luggage then. And those trains still had separate

compartments: little pods, ripe for anarchy, inside a city state

patrolled by guards in British Rail uniform. And ours was full,

remember? Four strangers opposite another four.


Not that you and I were strangers. Tics and foibles

unsuspected at the start of summer barely raised a flicker

after nine weeks stuck together in a shared bedroom.

Gadding late in cheap miniskirts and rising early

for a day of stripping beds and swabbing bathrooms

in a middling hotel were simply extra bonding agents.

We could write a book! we said a million times.


Never did, of course, but even as we pulled away from London,

anecdotes acquired shape and texture in my head. In yours too,

I think, because once that fellow managed, through some

puckish magic, to convert our coterie to boon companions,

out our stories poured: wry exposés of football also-rans

and minor TV personalities whose rooms we’d cleaned,

all tinctured with nostalgia for a time gone by.


They’d have laughed our suave bravado off the stage at home.

But we were calibrating versions of ourselves for other stages,

set on campuses that beckoned from the distance of a month or so.

From where, inexorably, “home” would come to mean a place

we visited between the chapters of our lives. And we were ready!

So that when our chance Svengali left the train at Swindon

and we all fell silent; each a little startled by the things we’d shared,

we (I think I’m right in saying both of us) still vibrated

with the thrill of owning our experience for the first time.


At Bristol Temple Meads, a fresh recruit to our depleted

ranks – a woman old to us, though younger by a mile

than we are now – comprised a droll compendium of the things

we’d vowed to leave behind. Prim hair, trim hat, a brooch

politely fashioned in a bow? God, no! In our luggage,

laid across our dirty washing, paid for by our chambermaiding,

dresses from the Mary Quant boutique convinced us we were free.

But as the Severn Tunnel sucked us back to Wales,

our Mrs. Bland confounded our assumptions. Tears spilled

between her crumpled eyelids spoke of sorrows we had not

conceived her world might hold. And I’ve been wondering,


Do you ever think about her now? Because I do.


Editor’s Notes:  What I love about this poem is how I’m transported to a world I don’t know, but feel compelled to join.  The poet does not break the dream, but invites the reader to ride the train with her.  The “you” addressed is clearly a friend from her days of young adulthood, but I feel included in these reminiscences.  CAS

Eagling invites the reader onto the train and the world it holds. Well done.  TLC


About the Poet:  Ceri Eagling grew up in Wales, lived six years in France and is a long-time resident of the United States. Her writing is influenced by each of these experiences. Her poems have been published in AntiphonAllegro PoetryVerse-VirtualRiggwelter, and The Wild Word. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared elsewhere.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


                        C Naisby

Go on, shove her overboard, you won’t

hear the splash, it’s dark, ferry’s going

too fast, no one will notice. Disembark

at the quayside, look concerned, say:

“Where’s my wife?” Repress your singing—

no bursts of the Hallelujah Chorus. Ignore

the mosaic fishes, floundering towards you,

reciting poetry: “What is this life if full of care

we have no time to stand and stare?”


Ignore them, what do they know? Go

grey, don’t shave. Eat ready-meals. Watch

reality shows. Dress in lycra trunks. It’s easy,

it makes you—made you look sporty

when first you met her, and she ran her

fingers over your body and shivered. Grow

old, grow disgusting. Her fault. Hers!

Stop eating fish. You mustn’t go down

to the docks again. Stop dreaming of

tessellated barnacles, rainbow-flanked sharks.

Learn to swim much, much faster.


Editor’s Notes:  Allusions can do wonderful things for a poem.  I hear in this poem the line from John Masefield’s “Sea Fever,” “I must go down to the seas again.”  Masefield’s poem is about longing, and so is this poem, even though it seems to imply that the person addressed, the “you” in the poem, will give up on dreaming and longing.  CAS


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


In Which the Shop Assistant Finally Cracks When Addressing the Rude Customer

C Naisby

Oh, thou artless apple-john,

thou bawdy beslubbering bootless base-courtbat-fowling beef-witted beetle-headed boil-brained bladderboar-pig,

thou churlish cockered clouted craven currish clapper-clawed clay-brained common-kissing crook-pated clack-dish,

thou dankish dissembling droning dismal-dreaming dizzy-eyed dog-hearted dread-bolted dewberry

thou errant earth-vexing elf-skinned egglet,

thou fawning fobbing froward frothy fat-kidneyed fen-sucked flap-mouthed fly-bittenfolly-fallen fool-bornful-gorged flap-dragon

thou gleeking goatish gorbellied guts-griping giglet

thou half-faced hasty-witted hedge-born hell-hated harpyhedge-pighorn-beast

thou impertinent infectious idle-headed ill-breeding ill-nurtured imbecile

thou jarring jolthead

thou knotty-pated knave

thou loggerheaded lumpish lewdster

thou mammering mangled mewling milk-livered motley-minded measle

thou nut-hook

thou onion

thou paunchy pribbling puking puny plume-plucked pottle-deep pox-marked pignut

thou quailing quacksmith

thou rank reeky roguish ruttish reeling-ripe rough-hewn rude-growing rump-fed ratsbane

thou saucy spleeny spongy surly shard-borne sheep-biting spur-galled swag-bellied scut

thou tottering tardy-gaited tickle-brained toad-spotted toast-bracket

thou unmuzzled urchin-snouted ugli-fruit

thou vain venomed villainous varlet

thou warped wayward weedy weather-bitten whey-face

—may I help thee?


Editor’s Notes:  I’d love to hear Naisby read this one aloud.  A high compliment to a poet—Editor Terri Cummings and I quoted from this poem time and again as we emailed back and forth.  We each shared epithets we particularly found amusing.  CAS

Ditto! This is a fun read. Imaginative use of vocabulary.  TLC


About the Poet:  C Naisby is a writer, artist, and musician whose published works (as ‘Catherine Edmunds’) include two poetry collections, five novels and a Holocaust memoir. She has had numerous publication credits in journals including AestheticaCrannógPoetry Scotland and Ambit; and was the 2020 winner of the Robert Graves Poetry Prize. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


                                   Market Square

                                   Rosalind Adam

You wander across the empty market square,

pulling at the frayed edges of a scarf

that is not there, while the weight

of a threadbare coat

pulls at your shoulders.

Each morning you tread the same path

until the streetlamps dim and die.

The uncanny silence of your footsteps

makes your spirit shiver

as you approach the market stalls.

You watch the traders closely, accusingly,

as they pile up fruit and veg

and stamp their feet to fend off a frost

you no longer feel.

You watch their breath trails mingle

with steam from paper coffee cups

and flasks of piping tea,

with the sizzle of sausage sandwiches,

warm croissants, rich and flaky,

and freshly grilled bacon rolls…

food never to be shared.

As the sun appears above the awnings

its sudden glare stings your eyes.

You raise a hand to shield

but your arm casts no shadow.

The ground rises up towards you.

The market traders fade into dust.

You are a long-forgotten tragedy.


Editor’s Notes:  Such a scene is set in this poem!  I can almost smell the bacon rolls.  Alas, I am as far removed from them as the specter who haunts the food stalls.  CAS


About the Poet:  Rosalind Adam lives in Leicester, England. She is the author of three children's books and has had poetry published in a number of poetry magazines including Allegro, Green InkThe Copperfield ReviewThe Pomegranate London100 words of Solitude, the Ekphrastic Review, and Under the Radar. In 2018 she won the G. S. Fraser poetry prize and was awarded a distinction for her MA in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester.


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Jellyfish People

Colleen Anderson


Mommy, look at all the jellyfish people

You pointed, didn’t know better, I gasped, shushed, pulled you away—you shouldn’t notice, definitely never comment on, give them purchase, I mean, how could you; we don’t talk about jellyfish people, and you love the translucent jellies, splendid orange Man of Wars, pale blue Crystals, Bloodybelly Combs, fibril Flower Hats, so many safely behind glass, not like those on the street that we pass by out of reach of trailing tentacles, their sting never that far away


I couldn’t tell you which affliction made them start to fade, what brought upon their slow transgression, ghosting the periphery, we, blinded to them, uneasy—to touch them would undermine our always teetering world, give them an uncomfortable hold. I wanted to wrap you always, cocoon you, hoped you’d never have to witness someone slowly lose substance, thin away, become little more than air and veneer, which only few ever noticed


I thought I shielded you, that we’d always float within our bubble until the day I noticed my dissolution, edges imperceptible at first, fingertips smoothing, wavering like water I thought it but a touch of gray, a wrinkle, a strange blister I took to wearing more clothes even as summer bathed us. My skin couldn’t take it as the heat ate me from within I sought cool depths and you continued to grow, discovering other avenues, iridescent beetles, the rustling flights of birds, no longer aware of jellyfish people writhing on the outskirts I reached for you as the door swung closed, my tentacles drifting as if seeking sea, hoping to be flamboyant a flame you wouldn’t forget would always love no matter my shape


It hurt to finally understand that as I had schooled you and my mother taught me, that we all created jellyfish people by refusing to let them swim amongst us, remain a part and be seen.


Poet’s Notes:  What is alien? It’s rarely a being from another planet but it’s a being from another culture or area, or mindset. Human beings “other.” We make ourselves feel safe or superior or in some way increase our worth by making others less. It happens in so many ways: you can be the popular one, the normal one, one moment and be the other the next. I work in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and it’s known for the high poverty and drug addiction. These people are seen as undesirables, as the other. The poem started out being about the "street” people we often avoid and how that otherness can infiltrate our own lives. 


Editor’s Notes:  I like the didactic nature of this poem.  Often, a teaching mode does not translate well into poetry, but Anderson instructs with deft skill.  CAS


About the Poet:  Colleen Anderson is a Pushcart, Aurora, Rhysling Dwarf Stars and Elgin Award nominee. Her poems have been published in six countries in such venues as Sunlight PressLucent DreamingThe Future Fire, and HWA Poetry Showcase. She is the author of two fiction collections, and two poetry collections: I Dreamed a World, from LVP Publications, and The Lore of Inscrutable Dreams due in 2023 from Yuriko Publishing. She lives in Vancouver, BC and ponders mold and mermaids.


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Birthday Text to My Dead Best Friend's Wife

Gabby Gilliam


You’d think social awkwardness 

would fade with age 

shed like old skin 

leaving a fresh pink tongue 

that knows exactly what to say 

after years of conversational missteps. 


But I’m still wrapped 

in wrinkles of inappropriate 

behavior, buried beneath layers 

of embarrassment that resurface 

to be relived instead 

of sloughed off and discarded. 


On your first birthday alone 

your widowhood still fresh

I wanted to call 

to hide from the world with you 

so you could find strength 

in our mutual misery. 


I sent a text. 


Hope you have an awesome day. 


And I hope you did. 

But I also hope 

you were able to read 

between the lines 

and know I wish 

I had spent the day 

doing anything with you 

that wasn’t staring at my phone 

thinking of a hundred better things 

I could have sent 

but didn’t.


Editor's Notes:  Although I am a pastor, I find myself in the ticklish spot of searching (sometimes frantically) for the best words in times of distress and loss.  Such uncertainty leads many people to remain empty of condolences when their hearts are full.  Gilliam’s poem captures this dilemma well.  CAS

This poem strikes a chord with me. Even as a writer, there are times when I struggle with words to comfort a grieving friend or relative. TLC

About the Poet:  Gabby Gilliam lives in the DC metro area with her husband and son. Her poetry has most recently appeared in One Art, Plant-Human QuarterlyThe Ekphrastic Review, Pure SlushDeep Overstock, Vermillion, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can find her online at or on Facebook at 

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Incoming message

Richard Magahiz

317585 is your security code.

We have transitioned

to a secure cashless system

passing savings to your survivors.

Tell it to the boatman when he asks,

don't share it with anyone,

not family, not lovers, not pets.

You have 15 minutes to use it

at which time this message

will crumble into cinders

and a hollow taste will arrive.

If you do not recognize this

completely routine request

you might ask one of our harpies

who have by now heard it all

so their attitude makes sense,

or you could wait on the shore

until hope is extinguished.

You tell me how long that is.

There may be other tests

which will not be announced

where compliance is required

even for the very young

or the recently distraught.

Do not mistreat the boatman,

your only hope to advance,

who does not have his own

secret code so do not ask

and do not make one up

the harpies will know you did,

just like that person down there.

This is not a formality

and shame will be as sharp

as what you felt before.

Your attention to all this

is essential to the smooth

operation of our automated

transit system and serves

to orient your shade.


Editor’s Notes:  Yes.  I do believe the powers of evil will use man’s modern technology to grease the way to hell.  CAS

Sadly, I agree.  TLC 

About the Poet:  Richard Magahiz tries to live an ordered life in harmony with all things natural and created but one that follows unexpected paths. He wrangles computers as a day job but imagines a time when life might center around other things. His work has appeared at Star*LineDreams and NightmaresSein und WerdenCall Me [Brackets], Bewildering Stories, and Contemporary Haibun Review. His website is at

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Book Review

Desecrations & Other Poems

by Jesse Van Horne

San Bernardino, CA: Skullflower Books, A Division of Skullflower Publishing & Skullflower Design Studios, LLC, 2018.

Reviewed by Howard F. Stein

        So many poetry books, so many poems, so many clichés. . . . So many leaden look-alikes, sound-alikes. Yet . . . every cliché was once a fresh aperçus. The question becomes whether clichés are hopeless corpses, or whether they can be revived into living, fresh insights. Jesse Van Horne, in his most recent book of poetry, Desecrations, gives me hope that ideas long become frozen into clichés can be revitalized. Van Horne is an author, poet, painter, illustrator, designer, singer/songwriter, and applied anthropologist in Denver, CO. Desecrations is his fourth poetry book.

        The cliché – the central organizing theme – that Desecrations redeems is the universal mythic cycle of decay, death, resurrection, redemption, freedom, a cycle famously addressed by the great scholars Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell. It is the shamanic journey from darkness to light, here, an act of self-redemption by an ordinary mortal.

        In his Preface, Van Horne begins his journey with a sense of mystery, “in awe at this strange human experience” (p.15). His Leitmotif and starting point on his journey – explicitly as an “ordinary life” (p.16), not as hero – is “corrosion or corrosiveness” (p. 15). 

         Desecrations is organized in four parts: Book 1Book 2Book 3, and Other Poems. Poems in Book 1 explore “the shadow or dark side” (p.15) of the inner and outer worlds. In Book 2, “a rambling prose poem” (p. 15), poems explore the “subconscious where anything might occur” (p. 15). The poems are “dreamlike” and open up a world of possibilities. Poems in Book 3 are “a melancholic proclamation of sorts, a coming to grips with the life of freedom, with no safety net, no surety of anything” (p. 16). The poet’s “spiritual liberation” abolishes the unnecessary, binding fetters. 


       The concluding section, Other Poems, explores the poet’s experience of identity on the other side of self-liberation, when he is untethered, and instead “floats” in the possibility of each day (p. 16). Although these other poems stand formally outside of and are distinct from the mythic journey in the first three books, the poet muses “that this uncharted realm is yet another season in the great cycle . . . “(p. 16).

        The poems make it clear that the cycle is no straight line, destined for a state of possibility as a final achievement. It is not an American or Judeo-Christian triumph and success story. Victory is temporary. Eventually, corrosion and decay return, contaminate and sabotage the poet’s blissful floating. The inner world of Book 1 insidiously returns anew (return of the repressed?). The final poem sends the reader off in rousing hope. But in earlier poems in this same section, darkness, doubt, and desecration pollute triumph and hope.  Reality undermines the poet’s imaginative rally.

        The first poem in Book 1, “Flowers Will Fade,” shows how quickly delight collapses into disdain. “He was taught/ to appreciate blossoms,” is soon followed by “Then as seasons fell,/ a beginning to despise,/ for he  saw they dwelt on brink/ of ruin, of death” (p. 21). One moment, disgust; the next moment, defiance. He vows “To find that last road,/ tread the final winding trail,/ consume this universe . . . To burn all words and begin again.” (p. 25).

        Book 2’s architecture consists largely of prose poems that are filled with urgency in the face of fleeting life. “You can, just do it, don’t think . . .”. (p. 51). “Our duty now lies in observation . . . .” (p. 52). The poet exhorts his readers: “Stop! Thief of nature, of that which makes the blood boil, do not linger at the lamp post hoping that one day soon you will taste the rain fresh from the sky! Don’t hope at all but find the water somewhere else . . . .” (p. 60). “. . . run from sea to sea like the fate that chases you, to return once again to the earth, use that whim, ambition, to see this place, for tomorrow you die” (p. 61). The entire Book 2 is anxious admonition – as much of the poet to himself as it is to the reader he addresses.

        Book 3 begins with “emptiness” and journeys toward “pilgrimage.”  “Have learned to let go./ Of everything./ Fall back into nothing,/ nothing catches me.” (p. 73). Book 3 concludes with a Nietzschean paean to freedom. “I have evolved./ Now fear neither death nor life,/ walk unburdened and pray,/ may the nothingness that awaits/ and the fullness that is saturate/ my every pore./ // Have come to be,/ here,/ Now./ // I am here./ // /Watch me soar.”  (p. 75). 

        Other Poems, that follows Book 3, feels like a life-struggle to clasp the illumination, liberation, and sense of floating that he worked so hard toward in the first three Books. Van Horne prefaces this section with: “The poet as illumuiner [sic], shines his words like a flashlight into the dark corners of society, of the soul, and of the human psyche.” (p. 79). Darkness continues to intrude upon his discoveries, wisdom, and light. 

        In “This Eternal  Whirl,” he realizes that he had been “gloating in/ our surety, a myth beheld/ as stone, something/ sure, solid, here,” which he immediately follows with the hard-won insight that “If I told you those/ things that cannot be/seen are the only things/ real, the only things we/ can take with us/ your tears at this hearing/ would serve to/ sanctify, ceremoniously/ cleanse the dirt of/ superstition because/ to fall back into nothing/ is how we know a saint,/ sinners shackled and/ burdened by the weight/ of seen things, objects,/ ideas.” He then admonishes us to “Have great compassion for/ those who walk in chains,/ for those caught in this/ eternal whirl, for those/ who cannot see.” (pp. 106-107).

        Van Horne ends his book with an ecstatic vision, “Lost Inside the Dream,” which knows, as he writes earlier in this concluding section, will corrode, decay, disintegrate. “for artists trapped/ in blocks of stone/ I sharpen my chisel/ for you” (p.115). His final two stanzas, pithy, rhythmic, and rhymed, unleash a surge of hope, resolve, decisive action, and admonition to his reader (projection of himself): “do not focus on/ dying days and/ don’t be clouded/ by that haze . . . . so to all lost inside/ their days, awaken/ now, join the parade/ of us who see it as/ a game, a joyful/ dance inside the pain,/ unchain yourself/ and become true/ or fade inside/ that endless blue/ a gift of wings/ can surely seem/ a shackle when/ inside the dream” (pp. 136-137).

        I placed his final poem here, because I will conclude with excerpts from poems earlier in this section, poems that make me think in this final poem he heroically strives to convince himself, as well as his reader, that a final leap will once and for all propel him out of the darkness that constantly pursues him. In “Blossoms Will Fade Will Bloom,” he writes: “As soon began the bloomin’/ then too began the fadin’/ o’ the marching toward the chasm/ of the failing in sustaining./ // /As the flower tells and shows us/ with a dimming of her chorus,/ there’s a falling to our pieces in/ the cycles of the earth./ //. . . /And though tempting is an answer/ I remind you soul to wonder/ at the sky and all that’s under,/ at the blazing of the Sun./ // /Whether crying, whether dancing,/ living life is to be spinning/ dipping down and flipping, grinning/ breaking free on open sky./ // /But no sooner than you feel it,/ does the mystery conceal it,/ the vastness opens, swallows,/ gulps you back inside the dream. . . ” (p. 88).

        Steeped in end-rhyme and relentless rhythm, the cycle of seasons becomes part of the metaphor of corrosion: “our lives like summer’s solstice brings/ an inching back to dying things” (p. 90).  In “Awakening,” “it’s the same still./ Same incessant roll of drum,/ of cycles, seasons, Christmas again. . . . /. . . my birthday/ already? And you think this special? It’s/ just a day for death, how many die each year/ on your birthday you wonder? . . . ” (p.97). The poet cannot escape the darkness that dwells within. In the stark poem, “Some Other,” he begins, “There is this dark/ in me./ // /All the smiles and sunshine/ cannot wash away. . . ./ // /There is isolation,/ there is ice,/ there is a/ fantasy of warmth./ There is an/ expectancy of/ some other,/ some other/ to fill this void./ // / This void cannot be/ filled by/ other./ // / This void is/ only what I/ see, it is/ not real./ Though the weight/ of it,/ devastating.” (pp. 110-111).  Corrosion triumphs over all striving, is the central theme of this powerful book of poems.

        Desecrations is rich in metaphor, simile, alliteration, riveting imagery, and jarring end- rhyme, all written on life’s razor’s edge. Van Horne is adept at a wide range of styles: free verse, prose poem, meter, and rhyme. And hard-bitten wisdom: “Rivers convey regret/ with too much flow,/ if only I could still / the moving water” (p. 38). I heartily recommend this intense volume of poetry that is at once personal odyssey, social criticism, and universal experience.

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        Songs of Eretz Poetry Review operates at a loss each year and is sustained entirely by our editorial staff, loyal readership, and family of poets and artists.  Our four quarterly issues take hundreds of man-hours to produce.  That is what it takes to be able to offer our readers a quality experience and our featured and guest poets and artists a place where they may be proud to publish their work. We are not registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are a literary blog, and donations are not tax deductible. 

        Please consider making a modest gift in support of our mission, which is “to bring a little more good poetry into the world.”  Those interested should use with as the receiving address.

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Frequent Contributor News

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce up to three publications, awards, and/or presentation credits among current and former Frequent Contributors and staff.

Former FC Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee won the AnLab Readers’ Award for best poem for "Belter Cats" (Analog, July/August 2022).

Her poem "What Fairy Godmothers Read" has been nominated for the Dwarf Stars award. It first appeared in Kaleidotrope

Poem, "The Qilin Visits the Zoo," appeared in Penumbric:

Former FC Lauren McBride

Poem, "waiting for confirmation”, appeared in the Dreams & Nightmares issue 124, May 2023.


Poem, "Snailiens Among Us", appeared in Utopia  (April 2023).


Poem, "I'll Cry Later", a split sequence, appeared in  Abyss & Apex, April 2023.


FC Charles A. Swanson

Charles A. Swanson has three poems in AvantAppal[achia]’s current issue.  He will attend the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop in Hindman, Kentucky, during the week of July 23-28.

 Former FC Alessio Zanelli

Alessio has had numerous publications since our last issue. Two magazines, both published by faculties of Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), will likely publish his poems by the end of 2023. The magazines are The Wallace Stevens Journal (devoted to modernist poetry, in particular, that of Stevens), and Philosophy and Literature (not properly a literary journal as it publishes mostly essays and research studies on the connection between the two humanistic disciplines). Also, Alessio's sixth full collection, titled The Invisible, should be published in 2023 by Greenwich Exchange (London, UK).

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Forthcoming:  Form Poetry

       The next issue's theme is form poetry. The choice is yours, but you must "specify" the form under the title of your poem. For instance, if you write a sonnet, tell us it is a Shakespearean Sonnet, Modern Sonnet, etc. (Any sonnet, including "modern," must have 14 lines.) Or if you write a version of the ghazal, name the type of ghazal, such as "modern" ghazal. The same goes for all other form poem categories, including the examples below:


Blank verse (rather than Free verse)

Sonnet (no matter the type you choose, it must have 14 lines) 










        Writing form poetry is a great way to hone your technique. If you don’t typically practice forms, you may want to draft a few now, well before the next deadline. 


        Remember, specify the exact form you have chosen for each submission and place it under the poem's title. If it is a "modern" sonnet, say so, don't simply name it a sonnet. Make certain all other required information is included in the submission as listed under the GUIDELINES tab (Item #3).

    Please share this with your fellow poets. Everyone is invited to submit!


The August 15 deadline has passed, and the submissions window is closed. 

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