“We’re Cats’ Welcome Mats” by Ken Gosse

A tribute to domestic cats
who drive us crazier than bats
while deftly they bemuse our views
and weave us into welcome mats.

Kittenhood is just a ruse,
a time pre-cats use to confuse
while they beguile with every wile
the natty mats they’ll soon abuse.

In deft, alluring feline style
their large, round eyes entice our smile,
a ruse in their campaign to feign
they haven’t eaten for a while.

“Feed me!” echoes their refrain,
entreaties which are not in vain
for we’ll concede and feed the lot;
their appetites our pet-peeve’s bane.

Dogs are people—cats are not.
A leopard will not change one spot
nor lion trim the vim of mane
advancing their dominion’s plot.

This ensures we’ll act inane
at playtime and we won’t abstain
nor pause the claws with which they style
each tat of ownership’s red stain.

But once we’ve passed their kitten trial
by proving that we’ll spew no bile
and won’t unloose their tightened noose,
a cat may walk us down the aisle.

Many find this quite abstruse—
subdued compliance with abuse.
So coy, they toy with us like rats
and yet, we’ll kiss our cat’s caboose.

That’s how it is—these furry brats
take pleasure winning our combats.
We’re bling, a string-like Gordian knot
which they drop on our welcome mats.

Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional meter, usually filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, Home Planet News Online, Eclectica, and other publications. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.

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“A Mother’s Eyes” by Susan Jarvis Bryant

She burns to bear his burden (take the weight)
But he is far beyond her guiding reach.
Beyond her soothing arms, he meets his fate.
Her heavy heart has nothing left to teach…

For these are not his first steps; they’re his last.
His skin (once kissed and dressed by her) is flayed.
His gouged and bloodied flesh leaves her aghast.
If only they’d embraced his word and prayed.

Bright eyes that mirrored smiles of her raw joy
Now brim with woe for those whose ways aren’t true.
Her soul, it holds the message of her boy–
Forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Her feet, nailed to the spot (instincts denied)

Consumed by pain, she watches… c r u c i f i e d.

Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas. Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On LineThe Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).

“Pole Barn Song” by David Capps

What is love but the desire for unity,
flame that seeks surrounding air
pulled by wind changing form,
which softly lays the oak trees bare

one evening whispered to my ear,
as I was no one in particular, and it
was looking for a mirror, this desire
for unity, the desire to be as one is,

robins sing and take up straw, fly
from perch to perch, not held to limb
or altar, at home in high rafters,
their nests we hear but cannot see.

Still others know but cannot sense,
as when a smile freely given, feathers
ruffled, falls with wing’s growth minus
sounds of machining, the lathe, filings,

outdoors the disparate harmonies
of wind chimes, as if each tone wants
to be the tone that it is, warm birdsong
to ring out despite machining, throat

and belt sputtering chirp in winter
which bring back this same question
to memory: what is love but the desire
for unity?

Impossible, if you are you and I am I.
We place a mattress on the cold cement
as the fledglings dive and fly, and to ask
the reason for it, is like asking why

love desires unity: one thought too many.

David Capps is a philosophy professor at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of three chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), and Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020). His manuscript, Drawn in Evening Light, was a finalist for the 2020 Gasher first book scholarship. He lives in New Haven, CT.

Two Poems by Russel G. Winick


Successful folks may sadly see
Some people who transparently
Imbued with woebegone regret
And caustic bitterness beset,
So jealous of your avenue,
Project their misery on you.
Such pain your fault as they construe it,
With no inkling that they do it.

The Smiling Man

Though you always see him cheerful
Spreading humor far and wide,
From that vantage point may you conclude
He has no other side?

While the smiles are so ubiquitous
The laughter unrestrained,
Can you say what dominates his soul–
Felicity or pain?

Russel G. Winick recently began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after concluding a long career as an attorney.  Langston Hughes’ work is his primary inspiration. Several dozen of Mr. Winick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen online and print venues.

“The City on the Other Side of the Hill” by Ann Christine Tabaka

We climbed the hill together.
We came down one at a time.

The city was on the other side
just beyond our reach.

Are we so different now,
than what we were before?

Or has the city grown too large
to keep us on our path?

Now we wonder the lonely highways
searching for who we were,
           who we are.

The trails have split,
and become overgrown
with tall and rambling weeds of doubt.

Seedy motels are calling
to the rambler in our hearts.

The hill is razed to ashes
that still smolder in the night,

as we watch the glow fade
into the sunset of our lives.

Ann Christine Tabaka, a native of Delaware, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. She won Spillwords Press’s 2020 Publication of the Year, and her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020,” published by Sweetycat Press. Chris has been internationally published and has won poetry awards from numerous publications. Her work has been translated into Sequoyah-Cherokee Syllabics and into Spanish. She is the author of 13 poetry books. Her most recent credits are: The American Writers Review; The PhoenixBurningword Literary Journal; Muddy River Poetry Review; The Scribe, The Silver Blade, Silver Birch Press, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore. Chris lives with her husband and four cats and loves gardening and cooking.


“Epigraph” by D. R. James

Poems are never completed—they are only abandoned. —Paul Valéry

So as I begin this one—
vowing as an experiment
not to give in to the vice

of revision, that sumo
of manipulation I so try
to apply to my life—

I wonder where I’ll leave it.
Will it be in some sun-warmed clearing,
a rocky outcropping in an old pine forest?

And will I have set out
earlier this morning with getting there in mind?
Maybe it will fall out of my pocket

along a downtown sidewalk
and blow a few feet
until it lodges under a parked car,

the puddle there and the dark
intensifying the metaphor:
a poem’s being abandoned.

Thus bookended by country and city,
both speculations in future tense,
the claim neglects the unfolding.

As if completion weren’t
every word as it comes out,
means and ends at once.

The cone is not container
of future tree. It is cone.
Nor is an old cone empty.

D. R. James’s latest of nine collections are Flip Requiem (Dos Madres, 2020), Surreal Expulsion (Poetry Box, 2019), and If god were gentle (Dos Madres, 2017), and his micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at Origami Poems Project. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan.


“Past Death” by Stephen Kingsnorth

I did not know her, here laid out,
a careful combing of the hair
not as I’d known it set before –
forehead laid bare, cleared silver strands;
not of my choosing, frame beside.

But father told he wanted this,
a final farewell to his wife,
though he knew, as did I, full-well,
she long had left; this trolley bare,
enforced that spirit flown the room.

By absence seeping beads drawn down –
the knowledge that we paused alone,
skeletal cage deserted now.
And since, the question posed myself –
should I dissuade through queries raised?

Poor memory’s now fixed in place –
this mask should not replace her face;
some say dread visit reinforced
that shock fires mould of empty clay –
unnecessary proof for me.

For him, for his, I dare not say;
the sixty years entitle him
to linger, lose, yet loose again
the bond and knots that tied them close.
And sons accompany past death.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 180 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Sparks of Calliope, printed journals and anthologies.


“Vera’s Butterflies” by Diane Elayne Dees

For the final day of my career, I dress
in black, save a splash of white in a classic
Vera Neumann scarf. It is a kind of death,
complete with flowers from my final client.
For decades, I listened to stories that broke
my heart, triggered my rage, and made me
wonder how any of us has survived—
stories of cruelty, betrayal, loneliness,
and trauma. The very walls of my office
are sealed with the tears of the abandoned,
the abused, the hopeless, the overwhelmed.
They can never be washed away or painted
over. Grief oozes from the cracks in the door,
where—occasionally—hope creeps in,
reminding me that grief and hope
must blend or there can be no alchemy,
no repair of the torn fabric of our frail lives.
I look down at my scarf, which is covered
with Vera’s abstract butterflies. She sewed
her first scarves from the abandoned
parachutes of war, turning violence into art,
and transmuting hopelessness into beauty.
I am no Vera, but I have done my best.
I close my office door for the last time,
drive home, remove my scarf, and hang it
in my closet, allowing Vera’s butterflies—
elegant, fragile symbols of transformation—
to float freely around my own broken soul.

first appeared in Nine Cloud

Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books) and the forthcoming chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died. Her latest microchap, Pandemic Times, is available for downloading and folding at the Origami Poems Project website. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana–just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans–also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.

“Father John Borgo, S.J.” by J.B. Mulligan

Religion takes on the flavor of the container
into which it is poured. You held out your life
to all who were thirsty, and the water
of your gentleness was a sweet relief
and a recipe of what to serve to those
in need — and to those who are simply present,
available to give to, so themselves a glass
to bear away that common sacrament.
Your aging students are scattered now
like grain, and if some spit gnarled seeds
compared to yours, each points to his tomorrow
with honesty toward a spirit’s needs.
You shared this, and your deep and innocent joy,
with many a blue-blazered, cocky, uncertain boy.

J.B. Mulligan has published more than 1100 poems and stories in various magazines over the past 45 years, and has had two chapbooks: The Stations of the Cross and THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS, as well as 2 e-books: The City of Now and Then, and A Book of Psalms (a loose translation). He has appeared in more than a dozen anthologies, and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize anthology. 

“Song of Husks” by Jennifer Voyles

Today our black walnut opened its underside
to the shadowless light at noon. I never watched
it happen until now—the way the fleshy pale leaves,
like hands, flipped themselves over as if longing

for something to calm them, your presence
now that it’s gone. I’ve heard of plants bending
toward a window, desperate for food in the dark,
but this—with wind, each branch, a new rosary of leaves,

betrayed its body by turning. The leaves will settle
soon. I’m still in that day we pulled out maps of Ireland
and plotted tours of Cork—planned, with a picture,
to capture the same time on each side of St. Anne’s clock,

the Four-Faced Liar— the day we said that the land
wasn’t stationary: stolen and sold, broken, plates
crashing, we agreed everything changes with a whisper.
Erosion. We tried to stop it. Our tree, when we planted it,

was only nut—to give it a chance in the ground,
we stomped the green husks till they cracked, then
peeled back the hulls with our fingers. They stained
our hands for days. It’s that cracking, that constant rattle

of shell against the road, that echoes, an endless
refrain. And when the sound is beginning to fade,
I will press my hand against the bark to listen.

Jennifer Voyles lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she directs the Learning Commons at Laramie County Community College. A graduate of University of Maryland’s MFA program and 2014 Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park, she has worked on several literary journals, including Sakura Review and Third Coast. When she is not working, Jennifer climbs mountains and spends time outdoors with her family. www.jennifer-voyles.com