“For Annamarie, on the Death of Her Husband” by Linda Ferguson

“So we grow together
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition…”
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This is for you,
who once took me in
your wide child’s arms,
strawberry wool,
and tea in china cups,
spools of honey,
your little sisters
tumbling
like golden apples
over your bed,
the snowdrops
of your fingertips
on piano keys,
finding silver yearning
of Für Elise, dreams
unfurling from our pillows
like the peach ribbons
of a surprise party
or midsummer picnics
and the plummy pageantry
of Shakespeare’s rhymes
in the rose garden where
we romped and caught
our sleeves on the thorns
of adolescent naïveté.

Now, across a continent,
as your heart gasps
in grief’s cold tunnel
and clusters of friends
offer you tender
apricots of prayer,
may my voice be
a single petal
floating over miles of time
to land like a fingerprint
of sun on your hair,
for my words spring
from a heart that’s one half
of a double cherry
that still grows,
as ever,
next to yours.

 

 

Linda Ferguson is an award-winning, Pushcart-nominated writer of poetry, essays, and fiction. Her poetry chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. As a writing teacher, she has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory.

“The Age of Celebrity” by John Grey

They’re unavoidable:
television. the internet, social media –
celebrities are the air we breathe.

What’s your sister’s baby
compared to the one Beyoncé is having?
And a friend is getting a divorce.
But she’s no Kardashian.

The news is no longer local.
So what if Kate was seen out with Matthew.
They’re not Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
Have to wonder why they even bother.

Home from work
and with you,
I have to wonder if we even exist.
No cameras are flashing.
We’re not being broadcast anywhere.

Even the kiss, the hug,
are not glamorous enough
to matter.

We don’t have followers.
We never go viral.
We’re just ourselves
and where we happen to be at the time.

And we’ll never be featured in People Magazine.
Its pages don’t take kindly to people.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. He was recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review, and Qwerty, with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Clade Song.

“Between Love and Madness” by Deborah L. Staunton

The buzz of my cell phone pulses through my blood,
its vibration a hot coil in my head.
It travels down my neck, shoulders, arms,
settles in my chest,
filling my lungs with a pneumonia of dread.
I silently beg the gods of Motherhood
to let this one be minor.
With each event my own mental health falters
and threatens to join my daughter in this dangerous dance.
I know the steps by heart,
lessons learned at a tender age by my father’s side.
the music of mental illness is the song of my life,
genetics the cruel composer,
chance the foolish gambler.
I was the lucky one.
I escaped its prison,
yet I remain in its grip,
between my father and my daughter.

 

 

Deborah L. Staunton has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Six Hens, The Remembered Arts Journal, Literary Mama, Sheepshead Review, The MacGuffin, and was featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room exhibit in New York City. Her collection of poetry and prose, Untethered, is currently under consideration for publication.

 

 

 

“Wings” by Philip Henry Christopher

for Don Yorty

1

You read Rilke on 15th Street,
oblivious to the traffic,
the disinterested passing by,
the text passing
from your passionate grasp
into the ice-gray grip
of the grim theorist,
full of dedication,
not like devotion
born in the hot bosom
of simplicity,
where poets lie
defenseless
without ideology.

I could not abide the contrast well,
the play of opposites
side by side on the sidewalk,
one muse held fast
between them.
With a pounding head,
I chose coffee in a plastic cup,
caffeine, and relief
from senses pulled apart
in hot Philadelphia sun.

2

He reads a thousand years
of suspecting truths
reads for angels
stripped of wings,
choking in the dust.
No, not angels…
Human, mortal, cursed…
Like a vision
on wings of wax,
beating relentlessly
against the wind,
striving to rise,
to leave cold ground
for warmth of the sun,
to see in the light
truth shadows distort.

And in the heat the poet
is brightly lit for a time,
until the thin seams of wax,
glue binding the act melts…
Feathers gleaned from birds
of all kinds and climes,
wings fashioned like a knife edge
slicing through time,
loose themselves from
the poet’s binding thoughts
to float slowly away,
each in its own direction.
The act ends turning one last
hope-filled look into blinding light
receding into the distance,
then free-falling,
spinning earthward.

That I could hold fast,
freeze the falling poet
one instant,
or embrace him once,
but he flies among clouds
I fear to approach.

 

 

Phillip Henry Christopher is a poet, novelist, and singer/songwriter who spent his early years in France, Germany, and Greece.  His nomadic family then took him to Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, and Vermont, before settling in the steel mill town of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where he grew up in the smokestack shadows of blue collar America. While wandering America he has placed poems and stories in publications across the country and in Europe and Asia, including in such noteworthy journals as The Caribbean Writer, Gargoyle, Lullwater Review, Blue Collar Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Blind Man’s Rainbow, and New York Quarterly.

“New” by Edward Lee

A part of my heart
I never knew existed – if
it existed at all before
that moment – began
to beat the day
you were born.
That first new movement,
a chamber opening, filling
with bright blood,
stilled my breath
and whitened my vision
as you emerged into the world,
all eager lungs and flailing limbs.

Later, your fresh skin wrapped
in layers of blue towels,
I held you and lost myself
in your closed eyes, the cries
which announced your arrival
echoing through the new and tender chamber
of my suddenly meaningful heart.

 

 

Edward Lee‘s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll.  His debut poetry collection Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com

“Bully” by Deborah L. Staunton

She holds the deck of cards between the swollen knuckles of her knobby, arthritic hands, running her fingers across the smooth sheen of their surface.

“Debalah,” she beckons, “come play Bully with me.” The Hungarian form of Gin Rummy is her favorite, a game she rarely loses.

Young adulthood has stolen the enthusiasm from my child-self and replaced it with the boredom of obligatory compliance tinged with guilt. I glance at the hands on the glassy surface of the clock and then at the rivers of wrinkles running over the hills of her cheeks that sit just under the cloudy orbs studying the cards in her hand. Cataracts have dulled the deep brown of her youth but their impish spark persists.

“Bully!” she shouts, followed by the throaty laughter of yet another win.

At dusk, I gently lower her spindly frame onto the bed in the room next to the kitchen. The hulking dialysis machine squats in the corner, commode perched by the bed.

Night has come.

 

 

Deborah L. Staunton has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Six Hens, The Remembered Arts Journal, Literary Mama, Sheepshead Review, The MacGuffin, and was featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room exhibit in New York City. Her collection of poetry and prose, Untethered, is currently under consideration for publication.

“My voice has lost its rasp” by Leslie Lippincott Hidley

My voice has lost its rasp,
Bolt fallen from its hasp,
My claw ungripped my grasp,
My hold has been let go,
There’s nothing more to know,
It’s not my fault and so
I’ll do as I am told.
I’m docile to the heart;
I mind whatever I should do
And raise my wings apart.
The air wafts me aloft.
It loves the way I fly.
We play together, air and me
And tumble in the sky.

 

 

Leslie Lippincott Hidley has been writing prose and poetry for her own amusement and that of her family and friends and others for most of her 73 years. And one of her ten grandchildren is named Kalliope. She has lived in Walla Walla, Washington; Frankfurt and Bremerhaven, Germany; Upper New York State; Enid, Oklahoma; Montgomery and Prattville, Alabama; Lubbock, Texas; Dover, Delaware; West Palm Beach, Florida; Goose Bay, Labrador; Washington, D.C.; Fairfield, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and now resides in Ojai (Nest-of-the-Moon), California, where she continues to write.

Two Sonnets by William Shakespeare

william-shakespeareMore than any other individual, William Shakespeare is the face of classical English Poetry and Literature. In addition to writing some of the most renowned plays in human history, Shakespeare is also the father of the Shakespearean sonnet. Below are two of the most familiar of the 154 sonnets he authored; 116 was most recently in the news as having been recited at the royal wedding of Princess Beatrice of York.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

“Model Village” by Stephen Kingsnorth

Check out Eyam’s story – type it in,
the global village sharing rank;
a plague on all our houses, homes,
our well-being no better dressed.
Our greeting now olecranon,
a process of hail fellow joint,
though also place to catch the cough –
as well our armoury two faced.

Repeat the happy birthday song,
as alcohol breaks covid’s skin;
the viral spread some fakery,
no longer urban myth on-line.
Graced are the stadia, with airs,
the current flow, with streams to breathe,
except the team in quarantine,
so bar is free to percolate.

Plane ailerons lie, taking rest,
and ferries salute Charon’s route,
while more than Styx and stones are thrown
to trip the steps, fantastic light.
Isolated become the norm
both business small and table tops,
the metric measure for our feet,
separate soles keep us on toes.

The masks a front pretending safe,
deceiving us with covered nose,
while empty supermarket shelves
leads panic to protect our stocks.
This checkpoint for our boundaries,
strict curfew on shared risks in life
shows testing times reveal true state,
community risks friends or fate?

 

 

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English and Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by over a dozen on-line poetry sites, including Sparks of Calliope; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines, and Vita Brevis Anthology.  His website is Poetry Kingsnorth.

“Chagall Room” by Charlie Brice

We call it our Chagall Room because of
the six stained glass Chagall reproductions,
Christmas presents from Judy over the years,
embedded in the large windows of our porch.

The couch, too, is covered with a blanket
replete with circles, obelisks, rectangles,
floating cows, chickens, kissing couples, and
menorahs this Russian Jewish master encased

in the blues and crimsons of his dancing heart.
The room glows at dawn with besprent splendor—
spectral hues filtered through these joyous windows.
But when Judy is in the hospital, forced to obey

the tyranny of Crohn’s disease, absent from
this room she designed, windows and couch
lose their lively mottles, dissolve into
duns of longing, desire, despair.

That’s the way with rooms, isn’t it?
The nexus of life we breathe into them
lasts only so long as those inside their
vibrant glory breathe, last, abide.

 

 

 

Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Sunlight Press, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, Mudfish 12, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.