NURTURING HOPE ISSUE
Ryan F Love * Sally Sandler * Rachael Inciarte * Kelly Lenox * Lori Levy * Karen George * Annie Morris * Mary Anna Kruch * Judy DeCroce * Janet Ford * Jean Varda * Amy Beth Acker * Dana Sonnenschein * Mary McCarthy * Sheryl Cornett * Pat Phillips West * Catherine D’Andrea * Penny Harter * Amy L George * Rachel Dacus * Kate Meyer-Currey * Kersten Christianson * Paula Schulz * Cheryl Heineman * Mary C Rowin * Karen Warinsky * Jeannie E Roberts * Maryann Hurtt * Melissa Huff * Marilyn Zelke Windau * Stephen Anderson * Thomas A Thrun * Joan Leotta * Cheryl Byler Keeler * Grace Matson * Patricia Carney * Linda Aschbrenner
Kathleen Gunton (Cover Artist) * Janet Ruth * Jeannie E Roberts * Kurt Huebner * Paula Lietz * Karen VandenBos * Sonya Sinha
RYAN F LOVE
March 2020, in New York
On another day we toured the Hudson.
The boat passed a lighthouse
Stark in the waves, its tower brown
With home attached where someone
Breathed and lived and worked,
Worked even when sleeping because
The presence was the work, the guarantee
Of bright circling constancy
Lest a craft drift into rock
And home and island where the keeper
Kept vigil alone.
And what was solitude?
A daily task fulfilled.
And also a kettle whistling in the morning,
Toast beside a window,
A thing maintained and then, perhaps,
A novel or a tune on a guitar, or whistled,
Thoughts and dreams and prayers
On an island thirty feet square.
We must all be keepers, now.
Ryan F Love teaches high school English in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where he earned a degree from Alfred University. He lives with his wife in a Victorian with pairs of daughters, beagles, and guinea pigs. His work has appeared in The Copperfield Review, Blue Lake Review, and Sleet Magazine.
Gift of a Sparrow’s Nest
It’s like a present found under the tree
when everyone’s sound asleep
on Christmas Eve, and the
thrill of trespassing.
The rustic wrapping is full of hope,
a family’s intimate history written
in twisted straw and cursive grass
and sometimes fine sepia print.
There’s the urgency of architecture:
this twig here, then this one
crossed with that one
just so, and a piece of dried leaf,
the inside saved for certain grass
as fine as human hair, neat and
sculpted as the mother’s breast,
and at the center: her luminous eggs.
Here is the brief imprint of life.
The wonder of a mother bird’s
skills, all the timing just right,
her chicks’ complete belief
that their grim orange beaks
would be filled and they
would persist as surely
as mornings in May.
In a world immersed in pandemic and large-scale confusion, Sally Sandler pays close attention to the small voices deeply rooted in nature that give hope to our everyday lives. Sandler’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals in the United States and abroad, and she has multiple books available on Amazon.com. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she has lived in San Diego for over forty years and is a wife, mother, grandmother, and dog lover.
these bodies are exquisite instruments
are fragments of split stars
but the magnet of our blood binds us to Earth
the rushing iron cutting rivers through us
the way magma carves mountains
our nerves are a system of deep roots
are tree branches seeking sky and growing upward
fingers reaching for more and more time in the sun
our hearts open and shut like buds
our dreams float us on salt oceans
our aches seep and dry like marshes in their seasons
and when our children are born they leap
like those slippery fish fighting currents
we are built by land
each honeycomb bone is a pillar
shaped by sand
but these bodies do not fear the rising tide
they rush forward to meet it
how eager they are
to be welcomed
Rachael Inciarte lives in the Southern California desert. Her writing has been nominated for the Best of the Net and has appeared in Juked, Poetry Northwest, Normal School and others.
To the Shadow Self
Stop looking at me for answers—attic, cellar
empty as an open hand, dark as underbridge.
I cannot mend the vein, restitch the skin.
Can’t you see the pain is even worse out here?
Disquiet of a blue dawn. The day holds fire.
Shallow distance—no place to flee.
In your brick refuge, pull the shades.
Break the doorbell. Look inward—find whole
landscapes of heartlife, leafgreen, hoofgallop.
Kelly Lenox’s debut collection, The Brightest Rock (2017), received honorable mention in the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, SWWIM, Hubbub, EcoTheo Review, Split Rock Review, and elsewhere in the U.S and abroad. She has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. Kelly holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. (www.kellylenox.com)
Before and After
Silence had a different feel before.
Used to hang in our back yard
infecting flowers, trees, and grass,
blunting, blurring, muting
till all took on a flattened tone.
A presence, sheer but unmistakable,
that left its mark upon the world—
no human sound beyond our hedge.
Now the silence has a sheen.
Seems to polish every leaf,
draw attention to what’s there—
date and palm, cypress, fig.
Leaves like spikes or fans or hearts.
What was merely green before
now is tinged with blue or purple,
but mostly with a glow of yellow.
The yard that seemed so empty once
grows fuller by the day,
rich as fuchsia bougainvillea.
Look how this after garden blooms.
How fertile this new peace.
Lori Levy’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod International Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry East, Mom Egg Review, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel. Her work has also been published in medical humanities journals. She and her family live in Los Angeles, but “home” has also been Vermont and Israel.
All Night Long I Dream of Paintings
Massive canvases drift past me, hundreds: portraits,
landscapes, abstracts. I want to purchase three but fail
to narrow the choices. A woman with violet hair floats
in a cobalt sky, stars land in her palms. Mist lifts
from a lake near sunrise, outward-expanding ripples
shimmer. Dizzying swirls of triangles, ribbons, teardrops
of turquoise, fuchsia, chartreuse—a vibrating spiral.
To parchment I apply pigment—a watercolor of rhombus,
trapezoid, ellipse latticed like a writhing school of fish
clustered close. I wake, a knee, hip, shoulder aching,
swim back into the sea of color, shape, pattern, texture.
My mother appears, in her mid-teens, light auburn hair.
Seated at an easel, she paints herself playing a piano,
rendition of when she auditioned for Dad’s band. She dabs
silver on the skirt folds of her emerald satin swing dress.
Her fingers curve over ivories arrayed on either side—
the white, open plain of her life.
Karen George is author of five chapbooks, and two poetry collections from Dos Madres Press: Swim Your Way Back (2014) and A Map and One Year (2018). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adirondack Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, SWWIM, Salamander, Stirring, and I-70 Journal. She reviews poetry at Poetry Matters: http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/. Visit her website at: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.
The Grass and I
That day I saw the greenest blade
and on it, shining, happily cried,
seven of morning’s finest tears.
Two who could not bear to part
jumped and with a single heart
fell to an ever-waiting earth.
Then, and surely not by chance,
two found freedom on a barn
swallow’s wings. The last three
nudged, hugged as one. The sun
grew hotter, the tear grew smaller
and, finally, that too disappeared.
But we knew, the grass and I.
Annie Morris lives in SW London. Her poems have appeared in various online and print publications including Minute Magazine, Allegro Poetry, Red Wolf Journal, The Dawntreader, Snapdragon Journal and the anthology Myth & Metamorphosis (Penteract Press).
MARY ANNA KRUCH
If the past calls us
to pull flour from the pantry
eggs from the refrigerator
warm water from the tap
then start now. This is how
Nonna Luisa held hunger
at bay in the old country
as she joined with neighbors
who walked together up the hill
to bake bread in village ovens
bringing eggs and farina
from farms in the foothills—
to relax fears and fingers at the feel
of mixing farina, uova, e acqua*
kneaded and punched down dough
excising each care and every illness
into perfect pasta.
So on this day and in this time
we knead and punch down dough
in hopes our cooking and care of neighbors
may fill an absence of family
blessed by spirits of strong-willed ancestors
who call to us to feed one another.
* farina, uova, e acqua (Italian: flour, eggs, and water)
Mary Anna Kruch is a career educator and writer, supervises student teachers for a state university, and leads a local writing group. Poetry is inspired by family here and in Italy, PTSD, mental illness, and nature. Poetry has appeared recently in Humana Obscura, Wayne Literary Review, Third Wednesday, and Snapdragon. Her first collection, We Draw Breath from the Same Sky, was published in 2019.
One Woman Leads to Another
this slow retreat of you
vanishing like one glove lost
woman to woman
our songs stride in odd moments
watching soft dark not far from here
while you are ending,
simple as an apron—
stronger than night
your feet may stumble
hers will run
older, older, older
I know time has stopped
as another begins
where a spirit has just passed
Judy DeCroce is an internationally published poet, flash fiction writer, educator, and avid reader whose recent works have been published by The BeZine, Brown Bag Online, North of Oxford, The Poet Magazine, Amethyst Review, The Wild Word, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, and many journals and anthologies. As a professional storyteller and teacher of that genre, she also offers workshops for all ages in flash fiction. Judy lives and works in upstate New York with her husband poet/artist, Antoni Ooto.
Learning by Heart
The radiator hissed and hummed
as we solved and spelled
in kept silence;
among the drip-cans, rain pinged
like answers dropped through
cracked ceilings. Here we would learn
who we would become.
In a loose gray dress
and all her ease, Miss Rivers
took the floor, flagship
of our ragtag fleet.
How did the prisoners
of war survive?
The verse they remembered
saved their lives.
There is no frigate like a book …
One by one we floated up
and spoke the poem
as in prayer
till the world at the windows
glittered like a sea
and all our little craft
bobbed off from shore.
We would fall in line
and snake the halls
to bleach-reeked bathrooms,
the clang and stodge of lunch,
and it was all there;
the course before us,
a gleam over water
we would cross.
The hours leaked away
till there was nothing to be done.
The clock dismissed us
and we were on our own,
hungry and game,
the wind in our faces,
a plume of words above us,
swelling like a sail.
Janet Ford lives in the Brushy Mountains of western North Carolina. A Laureate Finalist in the Pinesongs 2020 Awards, she received the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review in 2017. The North Carolina Literary Review, Poetry South and The New Southerner are among publications that have included her work.
Send me a poem you asked;
“To heal me to hold me
in its long thin arms of hope,
to wrap its hair around me and
breathe the scent of cedar and pine.”
Send me a poem you asked,
and I gathered the words like
autumn leaves and rose petals
collected the dim autumn light
placed them on my fingertips
into the space between us.
Jean Varda’s poetry has appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Manzanita Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, California Quarterly, and Third Wednesday. She has taught poetry writing workshops, hosted a poetry radio show, and sponsored poetry events at cafes.
AMY BETH ACKER
I want you to have it, my love. Close your eyes and see
what’s right here for you. Let your bones drink
up the marrow. Here, I have a straw.
Darkness has come and gone
for one of us, but know that darkness can
take many forms:
a girl with a thirst to
be seen, to
be made important, to
rage like a storm-swollen river while
being held tight by the muddy
banks beside her.
Let me tell you about the way the breeze lifts
your hair, dear girl.
It’s all you’ll ever need to know.
Amy Beth Acker is an author, poet, parent, and psychotherapist in private practice, and her poetry has previously been published in Dear Damsels. Additionally, Amy has written the non-fiction book, The Way of the Peaceful Woman, and she has had non-fiction articles published in multiple forums, including Sanctuary Magazine, Tiny Buddha, and Elephant Journal.
Sharing the Apples
The island ponies walk toward us
as if sawgrass I’ve torn
bare-handed, from beyond the fence,
is better than pasture green.
They’re not beautiful. They’re sway-backed
with clumpy forelocks and manes,
though their black shapes look luminous
among fields bleached and blown
by the salty wind we hunch against,
a force that twists branches
and stalks, snaps tails on flanks, slaps hair
sharply across my face.
You hand me two apples we packed
for lunch, and I slice them,
then lick and fold away the blade.
A mare brings her foal for some.
The rest nose in, and the last, old
and cloudy-eyed, gets pushed
to where I hold the pieces out.
She blinks lush eyelashes,
snorts, and nuzzles her bit of fruit.
How small our differences—
both of us curious, reaching out
for one more taste of sweetness.
Dana Sonnenschein is a professor at Southern Connecticut State University, where she teaches literature and creative writing, online now. Her publications include Corvus, No Angels but These, Natural Forms, and Bear Country. Recent work has appeared in Memory House, The Matador Review, The Prachya Review, Feminist Studies, and Terrain.org’s Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy anthology.
Before the storm one bird sang
the same two notes
rising like light
beneath the press of dark.
My life a broken cup
whose cracks I’ve filled with gold,
their lives a diagram
of pain and dislocation.
I’ll keep my tears
for those who need them most—
enough to wash the dust
from dry throats
the ash from hands and faces
enough to flush the stinging gas
from their eyes
to rinse the air clean
enough to breathe
to soothe every wound
and hold them close
waiting for each broken place
to fill with gold.
Mary McCarthy is a retired RN who has had a lifetime fascination with words and visual art. During these dark times writing has been a source of healing and strength for her, even during her own struggle with COVID. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, and the latest issue of Earth’s Daughters.
Cathedral: Arc of the Covenant
(After Rodin’s 1908 Sculpture on Exhibit at North Carolina Museum of Art)
Like an allée, live oaks’ twining fingers make
A canopy of heart and hope. The work
Of human hands, yes, and also of
The intimacy in Natura Divina.
A sabbath of the earth, chapel
Of sky and sea where waves call
To waves from the songs of the deep.
When two or more are gathered,
In breaking bread and conversation,
Sheltering in place near these tree-hands
of life and love, we become Kairos—
a Cathedral in the presence of each other.
Sheryl Cornett teaches at North Carolina State University, where she was the 2014-2019 University Honors Program Author/Creative Scholar-in-Residence. Her recent poems, stories, criticism, and creative non-fiction appear in Image, Art House America, Southern Women’s Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Pembroke Magazine, Mars Hill Review, and The Independent Weekly among other journals and magazines. Work also appears in anthologies such as In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, The Global Jane Austen, Christmas Stories from the South’s Best Writers, and Viral Verses: Poetry During a Pandemic. Sheryl is currently revising a novel about VA/NC coastal communities’ survival and covert operations during the Second World War.
PAT PHILLIPS WEST
Gratitude, Goats and Chickens
Starting here, praise the sunrise,
the alchemy of warm air and earth—
the rich pungent scent
thick with August. The old stray dog
that took up residence under the porch.
Praise cobwebs shimmering
between branches in the orchard,
and the single crow
that flings his black cloak
over bony shoulders,
cawing into the sky,
shattering the early quiet.
Praise the others that descend—
not a flock but a murder of crows—
and crazy folklore telling
us they bring evil. Turn around,
starting here, praise these acres
dubbed Dancing Goats and Singing
Chickens, this upside-down farm life
of labor, loss, and love.
The white clapboard house,
the slack red barn. Huge
yellow heirloom tomatoes,
flesh ready to burst with ripeness,
summer rain. Praise sad—what it took
long ago to live off the land entirely—
those who suffered a confederation
of losses plowing untold sorrow
into the dirt. Praise the path
leading to the orchard
lined with sage and thyme—
the clocks of summer.
The cluster of dinner-plate dahlias—
necks bent from the burden
of giant blooms. Praise the garden
ghosts on weightless feet
hovering above bowed heads—
priests about to bestow a blessing.
Praise the muffled cry of crows
traveling eastward barely audible
yet resonating in my bones.
Pat Phillips West’s work appears in various journals including: Persimmon Tree, The Inquisitive Eater New School Food, Haunted Waters Press, Clover, a Literary Rag, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, and elsewhere. She has received multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations.
From a sliver
of dreamless sleep
on a grey afternoon
I drag out of bed at two
not wanting to do it
not wanting to do
I go to the river
let it carry my mind
as I watch for awhile
then drive alongside it
to a garden shop
down the road
where I find
sweet pea seeds,
some small purpose
Catherine D’Andrea taught French for ten years, raised two children, and studied poetry and nonfiction in the Creative and Professional Writing MFA program at Western Connecticut State University. Her work has appeared in New Verse News, Poor Yorick, and in community publications. She lives in the Northwest Hills of Connecticut with her husband and two cats.
What is flounder watching for with its two
eyes as it lies on the seabed? Food? Predators?
What are we watching for as we flounder
week after week, some of us trapped under
fear or hopelessness? Sometimes I’ve leaned
into grief, been flattened by depression.
Today I almost wish I were a flounder, safe
in the sea unless eaten or caught. I’d drift to
the rhythm of predictable tides, possibly not
knowing that I am fish, not knowing I am
finite, mortal. Last night I ate my filet coated
with flavored flour, crunchy breadcrumbs.
Savoring its fresh-caught taste, I found myself
a child again at the long table in our family
beach cottage, my father heaping platters with
fresh fish and corn, coleslaw, Jersey tomatoes,
and cornbread. We ate to the sough of the surf
and the night sea breeze salting the air.
Tonight I will repeat that meal. The leftover
flounder is warming in the oven, the corn
reheating in a big pot. When we feel ourselves
floundering, perhaps we can find comfort in
remembering good times, knowing we ride
these waves together, regardless of the tide.
Penny Harter’s newest collection is A Prayer the Body Makes (Kelsay Books, 2020). Her more recent collections include The Resonance Around Us, One Bowl, The Night Marsh, and Recycling Starlight. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, and in the anthologies The Poetry of Presence and Healing the Divide, and a poem of hers was featured by Ted Kooser in his column American Life in Poetry. A featured reader at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival, she has won three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the Poetry Society of America; and two residencies from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. For more information, please visit pennyharterpoet.com.
AMY L GEORGE
(for Vice President Kamala Harris)
Today I watched a woman,
with her hand on the Bible,
smash a glass ceiling
under a winter sky.
The shards scattered on the ground,
glittered like the diamonds they
suddenly became, the ones to adorn
the crowns of our daughters.
Amy L George is the author of three chapbooks, the most recent one being The Stopping Places (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her poetry has appeared in various journals such as Kyoto Review, Pennsylvania English, and Pirene’s Fountain. She teaches at a private university in Texas.
A Blue Forever
The tangled oak writhes up
toward the sun. My dog, exasperated
with my sitting on the couch so long,
quietly tears up a tissue, one rip per second,
regular as a clock tick.
When we finally launch ourselves for a walk
we’re under a blue like all shades of ocean.
Every object natural and manmade
glistens with its light.
I can smell its oxygen
kicking my sinuses open, meeting
space to open space.
and what we’ve done to it glitters
under a sky cleared of our emissions
because of a pandemic.
If that isn’t blue, what is.
I bow to the sky’s beautiful void
its promises under the unfathomable dome,
uncertainty and emptiness
a blue forever.
Rachel Dacus is the author of three novels and four poetry collections. Her writing has appeared widely in print and online and in many anthologies. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, which in every season is conducive to hope.
Yesterday was brutal, in its pressure
Of time-bound tasks; jarring bells,
Endless demands. The last day of
A three-day stint. Hell on wheels
For fractious patients and for us
Harried staff. Like winter’s last blast
As January grinds to its dismal halt.
But there is a glimmer of spring light
To be glimpsed around this grey
Corner of the year; the daffs are out,
Nodding and winking like headlights
From roadsides and reservations:
Signalling longer days. I bought the
Last bunch at the garage shop, just
On the verge of blooming; angelica
Stalks trim and tourniqueted by rubber
Bands. They were laid in the boot of
My tired grey car, their petals limp
With longing to reach the day’s end.
Now, they sprawl and bloom in a
Lustre jug, bold against the furled
Clouds of curtains, small suns with
Ochre trumpets, angled like megaphones
Broadcasting with birdsong that
They are back, in technicolour gold.
Kate Meyer-Currey was born in 1969 and moved to Devon in 1973. Landscape, whether urban or rural, shapes her writing. Her varied career in a range of frontline settings has fuelled an interest in gritty urbanism, contrasted with her rural upbringing and which inspired the title of her forthcoming chapbook, County Lines (Dancing Girl Press, due out 2021). Her poem “Family Landscape: Colchester 1957” was published by Not Very Quiet in September 2020. Her ADHD also instils a sense of ‘other’ in her life and writing. Showing this reality and evoking unheard, unrepresented voices drives her urge to write.
In the Cauldron
Vessel, round kettle — tea
leaves, spruce needles, wildness dwell
in the crusted belly
of an iron pot.
Here, residue gathers, forged
by flame and hope.
Blaze the calendar
of a bone-sharp year, of loss,
stay put, and stillness.
Wind, usher new days
from mountain stage left, of hope,
healing; fan the flames.
Kersten Christianson is an Alaskan Poet, Moon Gazer, Raven Watcher, Way-finder, Northern Trekker, and Teacher. Kersten derives inspiration from wild places, wandering ambles, and road trips without any real destination. Kersten serves as poetry editor of the quarterly journal Alaska Women Speak. Her latest collection of poetry is Curating the House of Nostalgia (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020).
Outside your kitchen window,
as far as one can see, a stand of
trees covered with frozen fog
shines like a gather of glass.
They hold their ground in silent solidarity
with the beautiful, bear witness
to the goodness of calm. But they are not
doing nothing. Countess clear pyramids,
like the entrance to the Louvre,
are reaching into the common air.
To respond to cold and haze
with clear grace, to remain
in accord with the beautiful,
let this be our purpose.
Paula Schulz is looking forward to a summer garden of new growth and prosperity, and she wishes this for our nation also.
Just near, just outside this window
small bird-hearted newborns sing,
each with a church in its throat.
Hearing music, although you turn
away to your hurried day,
you recognize these hatchlings
are akin to the stars. Know that
as you see them fledge and soar
there is no need to cry out
another spring will alight
bringing again its chorus
just near this window, just outside.
Cheryl Heineman graduated in 2017 with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. She also has a master’s degree in Jungian Psychology and has published three collections of poetry: Just Getting Started, something to hold onto, and It’s Easy to Kiss a Stranger on a Moving Train.
MARY C ROWIN
To See Beyond the Present
(Turville Bay Radiation Oncology Center)
I sit with my back to the window
bay water bleak in mid-March.
Grey. Still icy. A few broken
reeds poke out from frozen mud.
Across from me, on the wall, a mural
of Madison. I break down the details—
Bascom Hill, the Lincoln statue,
Bucky Badger, a red & white
striped band costume.
To my right are treatment rooms,
one I will enter 28 times.
The young staff so chipper—
How are you? Did you have
a good weekend?
I reply with my own question,
How are you? Forced, hard.
Anything that is not overtly
angry. I get them talking
I learn about their kids and interests,
how they grew up helping someone
who was ill, a grandparent or a sibling,
why they chose this profession.
In April when I am exhausted
and in pain from radiation burns,
a man runs to the waiting room
window. A crane, he says, quiet,
but excited. The cranes are back.
Mary C Rowin’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications. Nominated for a Push Cart, Mary’s poetry awards include prizes from The Nebraska Writers Guild, and Journal from the Heartland. She lives with her husband in Middleton, Wisconsin.
I Came to Watch Birds
I came to watch birds sit at the feeder,
buzz around the yard.
I came to sip hot coffee,
eat a sweet cookie,
feel the icing melt on my tongue.
I came to smell
the sunblock on my skin,
charging up from sunrays
after too long a winter.
I came to see that finch,
yellow and in peril
his brightness a curse.
Gingerly taking a seed,
he eats it,
charily takes another.
I came to meet you.
We laughed for a time,
and your memory has lingered
for a great many years
helping me through these days of trouble,
blessing me in days of peace.
Karen Warinsky began publishing poetry in 2011. Since then her work has appeared in a variety of literature magazines, online publications and anthologies including the 2019 Mizmor Anthology and Nuclear Impact; Broken Atoms in Our Hands (2017). Her first full collection, Gold in Autumn, (Human Error Publishing) was released in 2020.
JEANNIE E ROBERTS
Noticing Arcs, Color, and the Spectral Luster of Hope
Above me, an arcus cloud arches over the lake. Its lucent edge
appears as if an egress, a portal, a slender opening to luminosity.
Beside me, my husband eats breakfast. Steam rises from the slick
surface of scrambled eggs, where slivers of cheese
incandesce on the plate. His coffee cup shines as does his fork.
The advent of an eye-catching arc animates his ash-colored
T-shirt. Across from us, the beveled glass window casts prisms.
I pick up the spectrum, hold it in my mind.
The practice of envisioning radiance lifts my essence; it streams
peace and lambency to my internal well.
I remember how my son drew rainbows as a child. I’ve saved
these winsome offerings. They beam from a plastic bag,
resemble a tidy stack of hope ready to launch their lustrous legs.
The upstairs bedroom brightens with one of his framed
rainbows. Nestled beneath the belt of violet, in capital letters,
he wrote I LOEV MY MOM. Yes, the word love is misspelled
and I loev it that way. In front of me, the critter dish glistens
with feed corn. The yard is active with wildlife.
As I observe the birds, rabbits, and squirrels, how their feathers
and fur gleam, how they mix and mingle, my heart glows
with giddy, little ROY G. BIVs. To this day, my son notices
patterns of light. Some years ago, he photographed a patch
of iridescence on his stovetop. The photo graced his Instagram
page. Inside of me, in that moment, my worrier-warrior-mom spirit
whispered he’ll be okay.
Jeannie E Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She’s authored four poetry collections and two children’s books. As If Labyrinth — Pandemic Inspired Poems is forthcoming in May 2021 from Kelsay Books. She’s listed in Poets & Writers and is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. To learn more, please visit www.jrcreative.biz.
Lullaby in a Time of Anxiety
just one glimpse
to sense the snowy owl
its flash of white
in these dark woods
of ink and light
the whole circle unbroken
the stars never so bright
as when night cradles us
sleep well now
our earth continues to turn
and we rest in her arms
After thirty years working as a hospice nurse, Maryann Hurtt is now retired and reads, bikes, hikes, and writes between the Ice Age Trail and the Elkhart Lake Library in Wisconsin. Much of her poetry celebrates resiliency in hard times. Once Upon a Tar Creek: Mining for Voices, a hybrid book of poetry, history, and environmental issues is coming out in Spring 2021. She is passionate that Tar Creek’s orange water and its stories be remembered.
(“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”
Her spirit lies fallow—
a barren plot of parched ground,
an abandoned lot hemmed in by walls
that feed her darkness. In the shadows
a flute begins to play. Notes flicker and fade
like fragments of ancient music—familiar,
though she’s never heard it before.
She senses movement,
a shift in the flow of air,
a trail of warmth along her wounds.
The music strengthens, seeps
into inner crevices, teases out
strands of her forgotten song.
Notes shape themselves
into droplets of water, form a trickle,
grow into rivulets that run
through thirsty cracks. They find
those seeds of wholeness hidden within,
soften them until they split,
sending green shoots skyward.
Her spirit leafs out,
breathing in the light.
*This poem was written in response to a painting by Tania Blanco, “Healer of the Soul.”
Melissa Huff feeds her poetry from many sources—the power and mystery of the natural world, the way humans everywhere connect and the importance of spirit. She appreciates the value of reading poetry aloud and has won awards in both 2019 and 2020 in the BlackBerry Peach Prizes for Poetry: Spoken and Heard, sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS). Recent and upcoming publishing credits include So It Goes, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, The Pangolin Review, Frogpond, and Northern Colorado Writers’ Chiarascuro: Anthology of Virtue & Vice. She lives in both Chicago and Champaign, IL, and enjoys membership in the Illinois State Poetry Society, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, and Columbine Poets of Colorado.
MARILYN ZELKE WINDAU
A Visit at Arms’ Length
She clasps her hands to her shoulders,
puckers her lips, closes one eye in a wink.
Her brown hair cascades her forehead.
The barrier between us is a glass patio door.
The barrier between us is fear and precaution.
COVID is rampant.
Both her grandfather and I wear masks,
even outside in their yard.
I shape a heart with my hands,
blow a kiss, repeat her motions of hug.
Her little dog, a chihuahua, wriggles,
wags greetings to us, wants pats
and cuddles we dare not give.
Snow mounds in their yard.
Her swing from the maple tree is silent and icy.
Frost-blanketed hostas await, surrounding
and protecting their garage walls.
Ferns have long ago distributed their spores,
long for warmer temperatures
to spread their fans of green.
Crocuses and pansies,
asparagus and walk-over onions
dream now in their gardens—
their gardens of our hope, of renewal,
of life to be continued.
She watches and smiles.
Marilyn Zelke Windau is a Sheboygan Falls, WI poet, a member of WFOP, an author of three full-length manuscripts and a chapbook of free verse poetry. She adds her maiden name when she writes, to honor her father, who also was a WI writer.
Threads of a Dream
Chicago’s little sister-gem of the Rust Belt,
just up the Lake Michigan shore,
south side church spire-sitter of historic
parochial neighborhoods, one proud basilica, a world-class
four-sided clock tower, cradler of a once great
Menomonee tribal culture, home to
beer and iron baron dreams, factories and
German, Polish, and Italian immigrants of the
1800s who forged New World hopes over Old World
fates, city of transformation and melting pot experiment,
a city not yet fully defined, merging with the African American,
the Hmong, and the Hispanic imprints of this century—
Milwaukee is wishing, hoping, a historical incubator of
mind-expanding activism and vision—
igniting now towards take-off
to a new century.
Stephen Anderson is a Milwaukee poet and translator whose work has appeared in Southwest Review, Latin American Literature Today, Verse Wisconsin, Foundling Review, Twist In Time, Tipton Poetry Journal, New Purlieu Review, Free Verse, Poetica Review, Life And Legends, as well as in numerous other print and online journals. Many of his poems have been featured on the Milwaukee NPR affiliate WUWM Lake Effect Program. Anderson is the author of three chapbooks, as well as two full length collections, In the Garden of Angels and Demons (2017) and The Dream Angel Plays The Cello (2019.) In the summer of 2013, six of his poems formed the text for a chamber music song cycle entitled The Privileged Secrets of the Arch performed by some musicians from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and an opera singer. Anderson’s work is being archived in the Stephen Anderson Collection in the Special Collections Section of the Raynor Libraries at Marquette University.
THOMAS A THRUN
Close counts in horseshoes and pandemics
The sun almost shone, today.
It was almost warm. I was
almost happy, though somewhat
guardedly. The vote was close,
and ‘bad’ almost won the day. Shew!
We also are close now, they say, to
getting little vials of medical hope.
At 65, I am closer than most!
I do not know about
the rest of the world, but hope
and pray for them because it is just
the best I can do in this winter’s storm
where the sun hardly shines
when and where it’s hardly ever warm
because many cannot afford
to set the thermostat up
nor pay their rents
without jobs. But here
in my home this morning
I turned our thermostat up and poured
myself a second cup of caffeine
because I can … because we again
made our mortgage payment and
paid for our utilities and food.
All is almost good, because we’re okay
keeping mostly to ourselves
in this damned pandemic
closer and safer at home these days
for the health and wellbeing of all,
kids and grandchildren included.
Yes, the sun almost shone, today.
It was almost warm. I was
almost happy, though somewhat
close counts right now in a pandemic
as much as in horseshoes, and that’s
good enough for me right now.
I am coping and hoping
for the best.
Thomas A Thrun, former newspaper editor and farm boy, is retired in Oconomowoc, WI. Editor of both the campus literary publication and newspaper at UW-Platteville, he first began sharing again his Robert Frost-like literary voice in last year’s summer WFOP’s Bramble and the WFOP’s special Leaves of Peace edition.
Just to the right of
a skeleton tree,
seconds after sun
has shimmied out
from under the horizon,
before its wattage
turns to high,
I spot a star, blazing white
against a part of
the violet blue sky
out of range of
dawn’s orange globe.
This star, this remnant of
sparkles with hope,
and I make a wish.
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, essays, and articles are often about dawn, nature, family, and strong women. Beauty is all around us, given to lighten our steps even on the darkest seeming days.
CHERYL BYLER KEELER
When I bike down Randall Road
I meet a family walking their dog.
The ten-year-old says I’ve never
lived through anything like this before,
when she talks about Covid
and virtual school. My bike
creaks and the dog barks at it;
even us old guys have never
lived through anything like this before,
I say. We wish each other well
and they continue South. I’m pedaling
North, over a graveled road, this bicycle
and I partners for almost sixty years
now, bumping along,
replacing parts when we need,
but still on the road.
Surges of Covid around the world
as I hear a new beat today:
my grandchild, an inch long,
their starting heart skipping on,
166 times per minute, a fraction
of an inch big and yet scampering,
in spite of a pandemic stopping
millions of hearts. Lives end,
lives begin. Way before humans
arrived, it was this way: lives
beginning, lives ending.
Meanwhile, here in Virginia,
a fiber optic cable is clipped,
preventing voter registration
for hours, while voters in Georgia,
wait in day-long lines,
in the land of the free
where the brave stand on.
My inch-long grandchild flutters,
kicks and waves in their safe space,
fingers and toes differentiating,
ears budding, eyes rounding,
the placenta plump,
the tiny heart pumping,
elbows crooking, their big head
a capsule for powerful neurons—
stupendous events happening!
This child—and global others—
in their sheltered places,
inoculate the human race,
deliver vaccines of joy.
Cheryl Byler Keeler lives in a shabby Victorian farmhouse, grows heirloom vegetables, and writes poems that arrive line by line. Some of them have been shared in 5AM, International Psychoanalysis, The Mom Egg Review, Hospital Drive, and BODY. She has an MEd in Early Childhood and an MFA in Poetry, but has spent most of her working life managing a branch public library in the small town where she lives.
Hope is found in any situation, if we only think positively.
Like when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly, but a resolution comes
After a friend suggests an alternative that you never thought about
What was once a burden becomes a positive outcome.
Hope is found when a scary diagnosis is put on hold
And the prognosis, although uncertain, is much more promising
Than you imagined it could be.
Hope is found when a stranger treats you with kindness
Doing you a favor without being asked to
Your faith in humanity is again restored.
And hope is found after a rough day, when you come home
To your pets, giving unconditional love
Seemingly knowing just how stressed out you are
With a cuddle, the stress melts away.
As a serious poet for the past 4 years, Grace Matson writes poetry weekly, submitting to a Central Wisconsin newspaper. She has always loved writing, but the poetry “bug” really caught her in 2017. Poetry gives her an outlet for her emotions, desires, and sometimes, the undesirable.
I wish for an unmasking. The old year of 2020 began with such a clear vision. My grandson, Sam was born on January 6, 2020, day of the Epiphany. I held him one day after his birth, I recall his newborn smell, like a fresh breeze over salt water wrapped in baby oil. Sam’s body was swaddled and his tiny head encased in a cotton shell for warmth; I held him close to my breast as a mother does, my heart nearly leapt from within my chest to beat the welcome drums. Instinctively, I knew he was of my clan—my daughter, Sam’s Mom, forming her egg for Sam within my womb as all eggs of a female are formed in utero. He was mine, too, having carried his egg while carrying his mother for nine months. My tears of joy clouded my vision, salt water too, like the sea of his birth.
But by March, I could no longer hold Sam; I was to hide behind a mask; observe him from a socially acceptable space. I was to miss those precious few months when a little boy allows his matriarchal clan to cuddle, once the tiny boy begins to move into awareness, a mother must unleash her embrace. I settled myself on watching this tiny bud open, like a flower—what will be his gifts? Sam’s bud opened as quickly as that of a fawn losing his spots.
Yet a baby is a harbinger of hope. In the Fall of last year, still warm enough for Sam and me to be outdoors. I watched him observing this new world. With his mother being masked, too, for the visit of a grandmother, Sam decided her mask was a device for playing peek-a-boo, as good as a little blanket that other babies use. Every time Mom tried to return her mask to cover her face, Sam’s pudgy hand pulled it down until all of us were laughing and chanting, peek-a-boo! Sam taught us that hope must be born anew, always changing but always with hope for new beginnings. Having hope, we unmask the worst pandemic. It is little wonder that our greatest myths begin with the birth of a swaddling child. I love you Sam. I can’t wait to see what gifts the Magi brought for you. It will be my Epiphany in the post-pandemic world!
Patricia Carney, Cudahy WI, is a member of WI Fellowship of Poets and South Shore Poets. Her poems are published in many Midwest journals and anthologies, most recent in Bramble, Fall 2020. She is the author of 3 chapbooks, newest published by Kelsay Books, A Kayak Is My Church Pew, Jan. 2021.
The Word Hope at the Neighborhood Thrift Shop
I hope you are finding what you are looking for.
I hope to find a pair of shoes. You see,
my shoes are too tight now and they hurt my feet.
I hope we can find something for you then. How old are you?
I’m seven. My mom and I live a block away.
I like this store of used things, especially your books.
I didn’t want to tell my mom that I needed new shoes.
You see, we don’t have much money.
I hope I can do some work here to pay for a pair of shoes.
Well now, why don’t you try on this pair of shoes?
Oh, they feel good. I like them!
You can wear them home. Could you and your mother
come in together tomorrow? We can talk about your work then.
I’m glad you have jobs for me!
Yes, we have boxes of children’s books that people give us.
You could help us sort them, and you could
take some home to read, and then tell us about them.
I would love this job! I love to read!
I hope I will be of help at this store.
And I had been hoping to find someone like you
to help us. Thank you!
I will see you tomorrow with my mom.
I hope I can work here for a long, long time!
Linda Aschbrenner has published 100 issues of the poetry journal Free Verse in addition to 17 chapbooks for fellow poets (Marsh River Editions). Her poetry, short stories, essays, and book reviews have appeared in Rosebud, Verse Wisconsin, Peninsula Pulse, Yankee, Cats Magazine, and California Quarterly, as well as a number of anthologies. She lives in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
KATHLEEN GUNTON (Cover Artist) ~ Kathleen Gunton is committed to literary publications. Her cover artwork appears on journals such as Thema, Arts & Letters, Steam Ticket, and Flint Hills Review—to name a few.
JANET RUTH ~ Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. She is an artist as well as a poet, whose work focuses on connections with the natural world. Her first book, Feathered Dreams: celebrating birds in poems, stories & images (Mercury HeartLink, 2018), featured her photographs and pen-and-ink drawings as well as poems. It was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. Her photos, drawings and collage have also accompanied her poems in a self-published chapbook, What is the Boiling Point of Clouds?, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, and Unlost: Journal of Found Poetry and Art. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/
JEANNIE E ROBERTS ~ Jeannie E Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She’s authored four poetry collections and two children’s books. As If Labyrinth — Pandemic Inspired Poems is forthcoming in May 2021 from Kelsay Books. She’s listed in Poets & Writers and is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. To learn more, please visit www.jrcreative.biz.
KURT HUEBNER ~ Kurt Huebner shoots macrophotography in the beautiful environs of WI and wherever else dragonflies may be found. He lives in Mukwonago, WI and enjoys taking pictures of nature much more than people because other than humans, critters don’t complain. He is a member of Retzer Camera Club and has earned many awards and recognition for his work.
PAULA LIETZ ~ Paula Lietz is a published artist of various genres and resides in Manitoba’s vast escarpment. Find out more about this artist: https://www.pdlietzphotography.com
KAREN VANDENBOS ~ In 2008, Karen VandenBos completed a PhD in Holistic Health. One of the courses was about Shamanism which influenced her to write her dissertation on the healing power of nature and the importance of finding one’s totem animal(s). In 2014 photography led Karen to a deeper connection with nature which speaks to her heart. Karen’s photographs showcase this connection. When she is not out and about with her camera, Karen can be found pursuing her writing in an online writing group or curled up with a good book and letting her imagination be unleashed.
SONYA SINHA ~ Sonya Sinha is a professional Interior Designer living in New York City with her cat, Glitter. She is also an avid illustrator and photographer. She greatly enjoys capturing and interpreting the world around her through visual media. www.sinhadesignllc.com
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