“The morning after death” by Jeanette Willert

           The sweeping up the heart,
           And putting love away
           We shall not want to use again
           Until eternity.

                —Emily Dickinson

You wonder, don’t you, why the sun rises
yet again, when your world is upside-down?
Yes, there was a “bustle In the house” this morning,
and death did come calling some hours before.

But, as to the “bustle”, vital to
placing us, the living, back into the natural
flow. Natural as in… nature, human nature,
the nature of life from birth to death:
nature as in day and night, the turn
of seasons, the certainty of stars.

We “bustle” not in denial, but affirmation,
not in disrespect but affiliation.
We, too, will be dead, but in the future…
but certainly dead as our forebears,
their stories now dead with them.

The earth goes on, morning bursts
beyond the stand of pines across the lake,
and evening descends like a filmy drape
over those same pliant pines.

Last night, a full moon cast light
across the lake, like a lady
laying a long white glove
atop a glass table.

I think of you;
I think of tomorrow.
I think of when no one
will remember us
and that must be okay.




Jeanette Willert was an Associate Professor of English Education at Canisius College and Director of the Western New York Writing Project. A recent Vice-President of the Alabama State Poetry Society, she was honored as their 2018 Poet of the Year. Her chapbook Appalachia, Amour won the Morris Chapbook Award (2017), Her poems have appeared in Goat’s MilkWINK, Libretto, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and the 2020 Anthology of Appalachian Writers. Her first poetry book will be published by Negative Capability Press this year.

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“Rise and Fall” by Stephen Kingsnorth

Where she bustled, cleaned where cramped,
now covers, not her dusters lift,
in rise and fall, not frisk but slow,
just as slight rasp within her throat.
The rumble snore, heard, nightmare woke,
has given way to lip-drawn gums
and blister tongue, no longer talk.

Though morning star is glowing now
and blushing sky turns indigo,
the tears, which gutter wax have cried,
are globuled marble, beehive gold;
what sense remains, light pheromones.
Though candle stick, sea craters wane,
I hear what passes for the rain,
not patter, drum or timpani,
but sluggish roll, reluctant, pane,
the dribble afterthought refrain,
meniscus holding back, again.

This musty fug in nostril, mouth,
uncertain mix of taste and smell,
both pillow damp, shroud counterpane,
the nit, the gnat, mosquito net,
a threnody from filmy lace,
all wing and mesh and hanging legs;
they flitter past my sweaty lobe.
How can this squadron fill the space?

Awhile we wait, so tired yet wake;
it was more often her, this place.
But now she’s worn and soon at rest,
here listening to my mother lie.




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.

https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/

“Annie” by Robert Nisbet

It seemed in winter that farm girl Annie
was lying fallow. In school she was a quiet
nobody-much, content enough maybe,
but in spring and summer, woof.

“Annie’s in bloom again”, we’d think,
and she’d be barnstorming. She’d flirt,
she’d backchat, sing and yodel in the gym,
whistle in the physics lab. We laughed,
she laughed, and when Annie laughed,
it was a thing of gales and stitches.

Later, I went out with Annie, one November.
She was a gentle girl, good company.
Chastely, we kissed. G’night. G’night.

But Hicksy once, in August, went with Annie
on a day trip to Tenby. Came back teetering.
She’d nearly had his trousers off him on the bus,
he told me. (But just allow a little there
for Hicksy’s storytelling instincts).

But then when I’d meet her, in later years,
in the agricultural shows and markets,
winter and summer, our Annie seemed
to have somehow evened out. She’d be
selling country produce, honey, jams,
her selling line a pretty effervescence,
pattering, chattering, shooting the breeze.




Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and the USA, where he has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

“The Birdman” by Brian Yapko

The morning’s hatch? A meager price to pay.
I earn my catch, drone my noon-songs, pray
To all the lares and penates on my back.
I lift my eyelids open but a crack
And pile my daily duties in a stack.
These I perform with duly reasoned thought.
(Once I saw a hawk and sparrow caught
And kept until each met its time to die)
I leave the cluttered desk, I float. I fly
Enraptured with the spirit of the sky.
      But whose voice calls me back? What altar burns?
      What pressing work awaits? Whose planet turns?
      And the dial, the dial crosses me. Aflight
      I dread the day should e’er be spread with night.

Annunciation of the dark. My flight
Is done. I disconnect the yellow light
And leave for home to force my evening meal.
I toll and chant each vesper as I kneel
Before the lares. Why don’t they hear and feel
What I am suffering? Am I? Am I alone?
Is there time to live? Can a person turn to stone
In just a day, a month, a year? I read.
I pray the night consume my thoughts of human need.
(And if… if I fly… is that not also greed?)
      I am being called back. No altars burn.
      But my work awaits as darkening planets turn.
      And still that damned dial crosses me. Tonight
      I dread that I should e’er again take flight.




Brian Yapko practices law and writes poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Grand Little Things, Society of Classical Poets, Poetica, Chained Muse, Garfield Lake Review, Tempered Runes Press and as a first-prize contest winner in The Abstract Elephant. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

“Speculation of the Partially-Frozen” by Shannon Cuthbert

Skate over the lake at the strike of midnight
It leads to my doorstep
My many-windowed house
Snowbound and pale as a winter rose
Through the glass I watch you like a fish
Unpeel yourself layer by layer 
Until you make of yourself only a figment
By this fire, this stone
This heated wall between us
You are thawing jaw by brow
Tooth to tail without your fur coat 
A sloppy mess on my swept floor
A wolf without the clothes 
To hide yourself, a story of arrogance
Affliction and resolution
Inscribed here in the moon’s own hand




Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcarts, and have appeared in several publications, including: Plum Tree Tavern, Bangor Literary Review, and The Oddville Press. Her work is forthcoming in The Metaworker, Big Windows Review, and EcoTheo Review, among other literary venues.

“In Residence” by Jane Blanchard

A challenge of dividing time between
two homes arises in the middle of
the night. One wakes up questioning the scene
of somnolence. Is there a fan above
the bed? How heavy are the covers on
the body? Answers indicate the floor
plan one must walk to reach the nearest john
while not relying on night vision more
than absolutely necessary. (Eyes
once open rarely want to close again
for hours.) With luck, one’s better half just sighs,
turns over, goes right back to sleep. A win
comes when one’s self succumbs to slumber and
some sprightly man begins to sprinkle sand.




Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia (USA).  Her work has recently appeared in The Asses of ParnassusThe Ekphrastic ReviewThe North American Anglican, and The Spectator.  Her latest collection with Kelsay Books is In or Out of Season (2020).

“The Coincidence in Numbers” by L. B. Sedlacek

The digital
clock
reads

11:11
purely
coincidence or

tricks
played
by the

wind, the
same
on days

that
are the
same

for
a baby’s
birth

a
cousin’s
burial.

The
numbers
keep on

adding
up, the
brain

furtively
seeking the
connection

however
slight.




L. B. Sedlacek has had poetry and fiction appear in different journals and zines.  Her first short story collection came out on Leap Day 2020 entitled Four Thieves of Vinegar published by Alien Buddha Press.  Her latest poetry books are The Poet Next Door (Cyberwit), The Adventures of Stick People on Cars (Alien Buddha Press), The Architect of French Fries (Presa Press), and Words and Bones (Finishing Line Press).  She is a former Poetry Editor for ESC! Magazine and co-hosted the podcast Coffee House to Go. L. B. also enjoys swimming, reading, and playing ukulele.

“Pan de Sal” by Chelsea Samson

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee

When I was a little girl,
My mother told me that pain was a woman’s gift.
I remembered then, she was baking bread.

Her hands fell soft, melodic
and as the flour wove through her fingers
She would hum little sounds that painted my world.

I could never figure her recipe,
but she said that I would know when I was older.
And I have tried and tried since then.

I would never forget the taste of it,
a brown smell and a salty comfort in my mouth
that lingered as I ran outside to play.

Years passed and the days have grown long in me
and many times, I have made her bread,
if only to feel that brown comfort again.

But life always colored mine with its flavors,
at times too light, and thrice too sweet to taste.
Heavy hands made it bitter, and biting to the tongue.

I felt like I would never know her secret,
But the need to feel that comfort, and curiosity,
would not leave my soul.

And so once more I made my mother’s bread,
But the salt of my tears and pain, of age
added to water, sugar, flour, yeast and eggs.

There it was – it finally tasted like my mother’s.




Dr. Chelsea Elizabeth Samson works in the field of health management and technology in the Philippines and advocates for human connections in the healthcare system. Alongside her primary functions, she pursues civic advocacies as a brand ambassador of Kandama indigenous weaves and as a Global Shaper under the World Economic Forum. She has been writing poetry since the age of 12 and has continued a love affair with arts through her painting and poetry. 

“The Night I Died in My Sleep” by John Tustin

The night I died in my sleep last week
I woke up somehow in my old bedroom
With the Spider-man poster on the wall
And the room smelling like the worst of me
Because I always kept my door closed.

I was dizzy when I opened my eyes, lying face up in bed,
And my mother was standing to the left side of me.
I was so thin and straight-legged!
My stereo was right where I remembered it.

“Don’t drink so much or so often,” she said.
“Don’t do too many stupid things.
Follow your dreams, but look before you leap.
I know you hate school but no one cares.
They just care about that piece of paper.
Make sure a woman is good for you and to you before you marry her.
Be good to others. Be a good boy.
Now get up and brush your teeth.”

I closed my eyes again
And when I reopened them I was in this bed again, this room again:
Not a teenage boy but a man leaning toward old age.
I was alive again and my mother was not alive again.
“I’m glad I didn’t get the chance to tell her everything she just said
Was advice given much too late,”
I said to myself: alone in my apartment and wiggling my loose tooth.




John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863) was a poet and academic who is best remembered for the following poem which he claimed to have written for his children. Although he was acknowledged throughout his lifetime as the undisputed author of the poem, which was originally published anonymously in 1823, some modern scholars have suggested a different author actually wrote the poem. What is indisputable is that the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” is one of the most well-known poems ever written by an American poet, and has been singularly responsible for many current conceptions of Santa Claus and Christmas gift-giving in secular American culture.



Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”