MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS ISSUE
Poets: Jessica Lee McMillan * Jenna Wysong Filbrun * Annie Marhefka * Bonnie Demerjian * Judith Sanders * Elisabeth Harrahy * Ruth Hoberman * Matt Edgeworth * Hope McLeod * Daye Phillippo * Jess L Parker * John Grey * Karen George * Kelly Jarvis * Nora Snyder * Jeannie E Roberts * John Muro * Penny Harter * Jackie Langetieg * Cheryl Byler Keeler * Janet Ruth * Georgia Ressmeyer * Patrice Boyer Claeys * Emily Bowles * Mary C Rowin * Sandra J Lindow * Lora Keller * Karen Warinsky * Linda Aschbrenner * Ronnie Hess * Paula Schulz * Roseanne Freed
Artists: Janet Ruth (Cover Artist) * Karen A VandenBos * Gail Goepfert * Thomas A Thomas * Derik Hawley
JESSICA LEE MCMILLAN
Transmission of Joy
At the water park, we build light streams
with bodies of unbroken waves
holding hands, affection transmission
prism in heart of the fountain
in water-charged light
we disappear into the spectrum
in wavelength sentience
indifferent to boundaries
So simple when you hold my hand
with the same bright vitality,
shining my scattered beam
into the broadcast
Jessica Lee McMillan is a BC poet with an MA in English. She likes crooked, shiny things. Find her in Pocket Lint (A New Journal), Goat’s Milk Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Dream Pop Magazine, Tiny Spoon, and Blank Spaces among others.
JENNA WYSONG FILBRUN
After Spotting a Barred Owl in the Pine Tree
I dream that dream
where I am upstairs
in the old family house.
I open a bedroom door to find
the whole annex of timbered rooms
and passageways I never knew existed.
Outside, a flock of barred owls
splits the sky in linear formation
and flies toward me.
They land on the window ledge.
I lift the pane and slide
in among them.
Deep, dark stares gleam at me
from their marbled faces
with complete unsurprise and welcome.
I feel the same as I do in the aspen grove
straddling the tree line,
having shed the layers of things,
or in the bed at the end of the day,
having joined the clump
of our breathing.
I lose track of my edges.
Jenna Wysong Filbrun is the author of The Unsaid Words (Finishing Line Press, 2020), a chapbook about life with chronic illness. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Avocet, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Dewdrop, Red Letter Christians, and Wild Roof Journal, and she is a Pushcart nominee. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their dogs, Oliver and Lewis.
A Home Office
The humidity, summer’s mucous-like fog
Has lifted from the air around our house
If only for a short reprieve
Here on our deck atop the tree canopy, we work
He upright under the navy and white striped dining umbrella
Me reclined on the chaise (“feet up,” the midwife had said)
He codes, a laptop the perch for his busy hands
I write, a gold pen against my calloused thumb
A duet of sentences and algorithms
The sounds of the forest engulf our work
The etch of the pen and soft tap of the keypad
Against a harmony of buzzes and chirps and rustling
And the rhythmic thumps, tiny feet pressing
Against the inside of my swollen belly
Pitter patters of a new life inside
We don’t speak
Except to occasionally comment
On how we should work out here more often
Annie Marhefka is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland. She delights in traveling, boating on the Chesapeake Bay, and hiking with her toddler. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Coffee + Crumbs, The Phare, Sledgehammer, Capsule Stories, Cauldron Anthology, The Elpis Pages, For Women Who Roar, Remington Review, and The Hallowzine. Annie is working on a memoir about mother/daughter relationships; you can find her writing on Instagram @anniemarhefka, Twitter @charmcityannie, and at anniemarhefka.com.
Postcard from a Funeral
Dear Sisters, I remember walking behind our mother’s casket. As I stepped into the aisle, I took my place with women of the past, our past too. With measured pace, I joined my Scottish foremothers, solid Dutch fraus, and unremarkable English housewives, all the uncounted women, mostly invisible, often unnamed, who stood beside the ancestral males in the family tree. The weight of generations kept pace behind. I wished that short procession from altar to exit had lasted longer, to tread with dignity through shaded paths and stone-paved streets, to prolong that time-haunted ritual and let the feeling of kinship sink into my heart, for ritual hallows the ordinary. For the same reason, I wanted to walk the distance to the graveyard, not ride, so that my body might recall with each deliberate step, with each flexed muscle, a word of gladness or of regret for those things said and those unsaid. That walk could have begun the summing of our lives together. Too soon, however, the reception table loomed, offering tea and consolation, but in that brief moment on an afternoon in May, I knew my place — daughters honoring mothers, women following caskets.
Bonnie Demerjian, a former teacher and journalist, lives in a small town on a big island in Southeast Alaska. She has a home overlooking the ocean where blue herons fish nearly every day. She has written four books on the human and natural history of the region. Her poetry has appeared in Tidal Echoes and Alaska Women Speak.
The Ferris Wheel
I danced past the hospital playroom
where bald children rode tricycles,
because you, my son, would get well.
You lay comatose on morphine
till the specialist worked his magic.
He pressed the IV connector
and jumpstarted you.
Near home, from your car seat,
while I sang Baby Beluga,
you spotted the annual carnival,
the whirling rides, the colored lights.
So I carried you,
limp in dinosaur pajamas,
your feverish head tucked
into the curve of my neck.
We threaded through
sturdy, scampering children
to the Ferris wheel.
Next year, I whispered
into the perfect shell of your ear,
we’ll ride to the top,
and everything down here
will look small and far away.
Judith Sanders’ poetry collection In Deep is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her writing appears in numerous journals, including Pleiades, The American Scholar, Modern Language Studies, and Calyx; on the websites Vox Populi and Full Grown People; and in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Her poems won the Hart Crane and Wergle Flomp Humor prizes. She lives with her family in Pittsburgh.
The road to you
takes me through former prairie,
past rows of houses in shades of beige,
each street named for a native now gone—
coneflower, bluestem, hollyhock and phlox.
I can just imagine what you,
the ecologist, would have to say
about being placed in hospice
in the midst of such mockery.
From the parking lot,
I spot a lone burr oak
surrounded by lawn,
remnant leaves lingering
on otherwise bare branches.
I refresh my lipstick, wipe away tears
before heading in to find you
alone in a sterile room, your exposed chest
fading into the pale sheet below.
Your plans to retire to Mexico,
to live among rare desert plants
interrupted by a fall, diabetic coma,
the closing of your encyclopedic mind.
I pull a chair to the edge of the bed,
talk to your half-open, cloudy
eye. Your mouth hangs wide and dry.
You need water. But the note
on the chalkboard says to give none.
I am the one who gave you Bukowski
when you were lonely. Words
of one old curmudgeon my gift for another.
I recite one of his raunchy poems out loud
and miraculously, you turn your head toward me,
close your mouth into a pressed smile,
reveal a glint of you in that one eye.
I want to run down the hall, tell them
you are still in there. But the chalkboard
says no. So, I lean in close, and say,
“Hey you! It’s me—Hooray, hooray!”
using the nickname you gave me
when you thought I wasn’t looking.
I try to hold your gaze with mine,
but you retreat behind the haze—
my glimpse of you gone.
I run my hand down your cheek
and under your chin, lean
over the bed, kiss your bald head.
After your funeral,
I visit a tallgrass prairie in bloom,
whisper one last goodbye.
A flock of red-winged blackbirds
murmurs across the sky.
Elisabeth Harrahy’s work has appeared in Zone 3, Constellations, The Café Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Ghost City Review, Blue Heron Review and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She received an Editor’s Choice Award in the Paterson Literary Review’s 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest. Her poem, “Center of the Universe,” was awarded second place in the Jade Ring Writing Contest. She is an associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Out the window specks of snow float, gravity
an afterthought up here on the seventeenth floor,
where black, brick and beige turn space rectangular:
a hundred vertical punch cards, sfumato clouds rising
from the occasional rooftop. I’m as far as you can get
from nature. But something connects us all—wind,
webs, the secret ladders of insects. This morning
a spider turned up on the bathroom wall and yesterday,
her face growing as she neared the screen,
my granddaughter reached for a bear I held
a thousand miles away. How shall I praise
that landscape where our hands failed to meet?
How delicious! I said, when, in return, she
handed me a radiant wooden orange.
Ruth Hoberman is a writer based in Chicago. Her poems and essays have appeared in such journals as RHINO, Smartish Pace, Calyx, Writers Resist, and Ploughshares.
The walk unfolds like a poem
The walk unfolds like a poem,
Each line a valley, or a hill to climb,
Each verse a day, opened by the sun,
Closed again by gathering dusk,
A fire aflame encircled by the night
Cinders flying up among the stars.
Nights enveloped in the other’s arms,
Enfolded in the tent, outside of time,
Pitched on the spur of the dark hillside,
Within the shaded hemisphere of Earth,
Floating in the weightlessness of space,
Dreaming, dreaming, of the day to come.
To arise, still dreaming, and to unfurl
That thin line between the ground and sky,
The muddy path the poem takes
Through a world that is still forming.
To spin the planet with our boots,
Writing Earth’s poem as we go along.
Matt Edgeworth is an archaeologist and writer from Bedford, England. The mud and dust of archaeological sites are as much a part of his world as language is. As a result, his poems are always grounded on solid earth, seeking to connect inner and outer landscapes.
The Year My Husband Died
(A Haiku Song Cycle: 3/19/20-1/1/21)
Between the rasps
Of your death rattle —
The song of the chickadee
After your death
The weight of snow
Collapsed our garden gate
A puzzle on the table
Grey snow in the yard
Trying to put life back together
Come to a halt
At the bird feeder
Stars falling from the sky —
A galaxy of fireflies
Letting go of summer
Letting go of you —
Your face in the dying sunflower
No crickets, sparrows or frogs —
Teaching my pen to sing
Hope McLeod is an award-winning journalist, poet and songwriter from Washburn, WI. She worked as a staff writer from 2012-2018 at the Bayfield County Journal and Ashland Daily Press, where she penned over 750 feature stories, and has two published books: Have I Got a Story for You (a compilation of her best newspaper stories) and The Place We Begin (a poetry collection). Plus, she’s recorded and produced two CDs of original music: Time to Dream and Frozen in Time.
Today I’m settled back into the warren of my house, the rain
and gray skies a larger chamber, holding us close, one room
leading to another the way things always seem to do. Your daylilies,
the starts dug for me—I don’t want you to forget me—as if gravity
could forget to hold us close, or the sun and moon, stars
or spring ephemerals could fail to rise. Buckets of daylilies
transplanted south of our garage just before the cloudburst, then
rain all night, watering the transplants in better than I could, my one
watering can at time, less than godlike, but all I can do, these two
hands, two knees bent to planting, to praying for you. I don’t want
you to suffer or to leave this earth, but one thing leads to another
the way rooms do, the way seasons do, turning strangely now,
but still rounding the wheel, spring leading to bounty, then bounty
wearing as thin as your cancer-ravaged body, as this old earth
is worn to bone. But not your spirit, dear one, full to the brim,
the water-into-wine of walking on, summer day, lilies of the field
and you, young again, laughing, giving St. Peter a pat on the behind
the way you do, telling him what a good man he is, flustering him,
blessing him. He transplants, gladly, every lily you point to.
Daye Phillippo taught English at Purdue University and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Literary Mama, Shenandoah, Presence, Cider Press Review, Natural Bridge, The Windhover, and many others. She lives and writes in a creaky, old farmhouse bordered by farm fields and woods in Indiana. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her debut collection of poems, Thunderhead, was published by Slant Books in 2020.
JESS L PARKER
His forehead was my forehead—
a replica. Nesting doll lay resting
and woke. Early morning.
I grew a moon for him, a new
organ for sleep, encumber.
Waxing, he ran out of space and
meant to yell. Fluid filled one
lung. There were ten less freckles
than I started with. When he was born
with nine, I knew there would be one
more, a morsel. An evening thing
was breathing. Believing this
was easy, like math, His origami
arms unfolding, were open—
a triumph over brokenness.
Our cord was wrapped in coils,
supple neck not folding, wants
to flourish, wants to float.
He was ninety-nine percent mine
and a handful of hyacinth. A grimace—
head was gleaming, spoke his name
which gave him meaning. Thirty-six
hours and one for three. I bend,
in claim and bring him to me.
Jess L Parker lives in Madison, WI with her husband and son. Her poetry collection, Star Things, is winner of the 2020 Dynamo Verlag Book Prize. Jess’ work has appeared in Ariel, Poetry Hall, Millwork, Kosmos, and elsewhere. Jess holds an M.A. of Spanish Literature from UW-Madison and an MBA.
Took the canoe
out onto the lake,
Surface so still,
I paddled like
a series of swishing breaths.
sun slipping down
behind the trees,
but some of its light
crystallizing the surface,
as a mallard emerged,
its green neck aflame,
body slowly gliding,
and mostly drifting
like I was,
because life allows it,
calm waters encourage it,
and we come so close,
we share a wake,
conjoin our ripples.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Leaves On Pages, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline, and International Poetry Review.
Sighting at Mom’s Assisted Living
Heading for her lounger, Mom straightens up
from her walker, adjusts her glasses to stare out
the window past the grass patch to the flower bed
where a birdfeeder hangs from a shepherd hook.
Her voice rises with wonder, Karen, is that a deer?
She lost the forward vision in one eye, the other
not far behind. I hurry to her, confirm the fawn slurping.
Point out the squirrel picking through seeds on the ground,
and the tiny goldfinch waiting its turn on the curved hook.
Can you see them? It’s hard even for me to gaze
through the screen’s crosshatch. Her mouth gapes,
a habit she can’t break though it lets what her lungs
crave escape. Oxygen sluices through tubing,
her arm warm against mine. Yes, she says, I see
that little dollop of yellow, voice awash
with pleasure. She’s not been happy
for so long. I can’t bear for the moment
to end. She turns to me, smiles—the child
I never had, never wanted—
the one I can’t fathom losing.
Karen George is the author of five chapbooks, and three collections from Dos Madres Press: Swim Your Way Back (2014), A Map and One Year (2018), and Where Wind Tastes Like Pears (2021). Her work appears in Adirondack Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Indianapolis Review, Still: The Journal, Poet Lore, Salamander, and I-70 Review. Her website is: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.
My grandmother kept a cookie tin
Filled with old buttons
In the bottom of her bedroom closet,
Collected from a lifetime
Of mending coats and sweaters
Which had torn and frayed from use.
“Good as new,” she would whisper,
Her silver needle moving up and down,
In and out, as she stitched stray buttons into place.
I would let the extra buttons fall through my fingers,
Listening as they plinked back into the tin
Like long-lost jewels telling the stories
Of where they had been,
And how they were lost,
And what soft, wrinkled hands had gathered them like treasure.
I never learned to sew,
But when I ache to mend life’s tattered fragments,
I move my silver pen up and down, in and out,
Staining my fingers blue with bruises of memory,
Until the echoed words that I have stored away
Unspool themselves in threads of ink.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer for Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine where she sews stories, poems, essays, and book reviews. She teaches literature and writing classes at Central Connecticut State University and Tunxis Community College. Her poetry has also appeared in Mermaids Monthly and Eternal Haunted Summer. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and three sons.
I roll over facing
His visage in the aquarium’s glow
Tense as though sleep was a battle won
Knit brow, set jaw
I cup my own cheeks
Noting our twin spirits
There is red ink scrawled across his forehead
I follow its trajectory lightly with my finger—
dipping into his temple and around the back of his ear.
It says “Holding up…”
I scoot forward and kiss his thin lips.
The ink dilutes and drains
and we both share its blush.
Our flushed skin contains the exhaustion and the uncertainty
and the radiant joy of Holding up…
Our small universe
With deep sigh we welcome a return to slumber
Children and pets and work and responsibilities circle our heads
In a fluttering orbit as we dream
Hope and trust in the essential
Nora Snyder is a writer, organizer, and librarian. Her work springs from questioning and elevating the human experience through small moments. Her writing often touches upon issues of mental health, neurodiversity, parenthood, and feminine identity. She is the originator of Cliterally the Best Pleasure Hunt Ever, a yearly scavenger hunt to raise awareness and celebrate feminine body sovereignty. She writes for IlluminousFlux.com, works for the Lodi Whittier Library, facilitates the Writers’ Block Party mutual support group for word artists and organizes literary events in her Ithaca, NY community.
JEANNIE E ROBERTS
Connecting Fragments of Meaningful Moments
Paw tucked. Flaxen waves settle in. Head rests tilted in repose.
He shakes away the fatigue. His coat cascades. Soft currents.
Woodpecker taps. Distant caw of crow. Ice melts. Sodden notes.
Vanishing sparkles. Apples loosen in frozen snow.
The sweetness of discovery. Water trickles. Spring whispers.
Sun’s fervent kiss awakens the world.
Bloom of breeze. Scent of needle. White pine. Bird of prey.
Osprey lifts as it shifts. Dips and turns. A rhythmic spell.
Morning bursts. Sheets of orange blanket the horizon.
Red and yellow coalesce. Cinematic sunset. Indigo sweeps
the sky. A purple frenzy. The hum of nightfall. Hint of moon.
Silver mirrors. Ephemeral echoes.
It flows atop oaks. Slips across maples. As if a caress. It shines.
Streams over roads. Glides along gardens. Where gravel
gleams and stems incandesce. It spills. Slides between branches.
Glows amid heavens. Beams. October’s evening light
as if a caress walks with me. Where leaves stir. Rise as if hands.
As if prayer.
Jeannie E Roberts has authored seven books, five poetry collections and two illustrated children’s books. Her newest collection, As If Labyrinth — Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in April of 2021. She’s an animal lover, a nature enthusiast, a Best of the Net award nominee, and a poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs.
On summer nights, I remember
watching them sway in leafy
tangle, like young women
standing beyond straw-gold
parishes of pasture. Their
long arms extended in casual
scatter towards heaven drawing
down the last of dusk across their
limbs like loose nightshirts, and
the palms of large, hapless leaves
whorled together by a quivering
rush of wind, and how the taller
ones seemed to be lit from within
and wear the stars like ornate necklaces
or bejeweled crowns while others
held the moonlight to their wrists
until morning stammered to window,
giving way to elegiac voices, as
the mar and gnash of the every-day
set upon their limbs in blighted mottle.
A resident of Connecticut and a lover of all things chocolate, John Muro is a graduate of Trinity College, Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. His first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published by Antrim House in the fall of 2020, and it is available on Amazon. A two-time, 2021 nominee for the Pushcart Prize, John’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Barnstorm, Euphony, Grey Sparrow, River Heron, Sky Island Journal and the French Literary Review. His second volume of poems, Pastoral Suite, will be published in spring, 2022. You can contact John on Instagram @johntmuro.
The Stars Are Moving
Last night, thanks to our newest space
telescope Gaia, I saw endless stars moving
on my television screen, whole galaxies
inexorably drawn to one another by gravity.
Gaia is mapping the web of dark matter that
holds it all, accurately measuring the distance
between stars and the movements of galaxies
throughout time, even back to their genesis.
I didn’t know that our neighbor Andromeda
was hurtling toward us at two-hundred and
fifty-thousand miles per second, bound to
merge with the Milky Way in billions of years.
How lovely to drift with the stars for a while,
to not drown in the torrent of horrific pandemic
news, or be swept away in rip-tides of vicious
politics, murderous attacks, natural calamities.
We don’t have our heads in the galactic clouds
enough, don’t even know where we are, too
caught up in the mono-drama-pity-party scripts
we’ve been writing for years.
Too often we blame something or someone
for the stumbles of our days, the sorrows of
our nights. Why can’t we remember where
we came from, and that we are here to love?
So I’m writing this sunrise poem to celebrate
the daily spin of our flotsam planet, the local
star that fuels it, and all of us born from stardust,
afloat in dark matter, and bound together by light.
Penny Harter’s most recent collections are Still-Water Days (2021) and A Prayer the Body Makes (2020). Her work has appeared in Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, and American Life in Poetry, as well as in many journals, anthologies, and earlier collections. An invited reader at the 2010 Dodge Festival, she has won fellowships and awards from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, and VCCA. For more information please visit pennyharterpoet.com.
Love Poem to My Other Son
The way you slather Cool Whip on caramel rolls
and lemon cream pie. The way you criticize
my spending money—knowing I have a buying
addiction. How you pick up food from
the Senior Center between work sessions.
How you speak about the children
who ride on your bus—your voice
lightens and I detect a smile behind your eyes.
How you drove me to Elkhorn for my 65th reunion,
mixed with my classmates whom you didn’t know—
I almost forgot that you took all those pictures.
How mad you get when I fall—mad to cover
your fear that I’m hurt. How you drive me
to my doctor appointments and anywhere
I ask because of my stiff arms and neck.
How you try and keep the new car
clean by putting junk only on the floor
of the passenger side so you can pick it up.
The way you sweep my bathroom floor after
cleaning the kitties’ box so I don’t step on
the gravel they track when they’re through.
How you put the trash out each Tuesday
and bring the barrels back the same day.
How you surprise me with turtle sundaes
from Culver’s and for noticing what music
I like and gift me with their CDs.
How you surprise me with Dr. Fauci
bobble heads to make me smile, And finally
the way you put up with my memory loss
and other old-lady habits. Here’s to
my first born son, here’s to love.
Jackie Langetieg has published short stories and poems in many literary magazines and anthologies. She has won the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest and the Bards Chair, as well as the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Poem of the Year. Jackie has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has written five books of poems and, most recently, a memoir. She is at work putting a new poetry collection together.
CHERYL BYLER KEELER
I want to dig a hole in the poor
soil of me, fill it with humus,
turn it with a well-balanced fork,
I want to sink my roots
into this bed of well-being,
and water deeply.
I want to spread my limbs
into the sunshine and gather warmth.
I want to grow into my own
shape, lovely, and made for me.
I want to fill my space.
All these years I’ve hacked & hewed.
At sixty-two, let me prune
more skillfully, disallow amputation.
Let me live with bad weather, and good,
move skyward. Let me lift
into the air and become beauty.
Cheryl Byler Keeler writes poems that arrive line by line in quiet spaces. Some of them have been shared in International Psychoanalysis, The Mom Egg Review, Hospital Drive, BODY, The Courtship of Winds, and Blue Heron Review. 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 which she opened in the small town where she lives.
Carrying a plastic basket to the porch on a cool summer
morning before the heat—a memory—my mother
and I, with mouthfuls of wooden clothespins,
armfuls of damp towels and sheets, hang
them, draped loose on the tight-stretched line
through our back yard. Smell of freshly-laundered
linens. Even then—the Zen of pinning laundry
against a brightening blue summer
sky, clipped to that heavy wire clothesline,
standing side-by-side with my mother
who, always practical, said that hanging
wash outside, pins from a faded bag of clothespins,
saved energy otherwise consumed by clothes spinning
in the electric dryer, generating heat in our laundry
room. Sunlight shining through that damp hanging,
those bright colors of striped summer
fabrics and the flowers in my mother’s
garden, glimpsed between the lines
of draped sheets. Butterflies made bee-lines
for snapdragons and zinnias, kaleidoscopic colors clothe
the morning before high sun and humidity smother
breath, energy and industry under
that heavier blanket of a summer
afternoon. All it takes is the simple task of hanging
a basketful of clothes to reflect on the changing
years, to know that life is a cycle, not a straight line.
With brightness draped around us, we are the sum
of all our memories, some dark, some light, spinning
and flapping in a hot breeze. No need to launder
stains or scars. They do not mar the bright other—
on the line
long ago. Today my laundry hangs as if draped over bodies,
over memories, pinned to a line out of the past
and the sun-splashed round of summers with my mother.
Janet Ruth is a New Mexico ornithologist. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in Tulip Tree Review, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Ocotillo Review, Sin Fronteras, Ekphrastic Review, and anthologies including Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications, 2021), and New Mexico Remembers 9/11 (Artemesia Publishing, 2020). Her book, Feathered Dreams: celebrating birds in poems, stories & images (Mercury HeartLink, 2018) was a Finalist for the 2018 NM/AZ Book Awards. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/
I have a love
who totters like a child
for the sounds it makes
We read picture books
grieve for bear or bat or
tiny mouse who’s sad
We know a hug would
make it right if
arms could reach across
And she is 83
and I am 9 years less
There is no gulf we
could not bridge
except a fleeing breath
As loss accelerates
I drag my feet I
try to slow the pace
I am not strong enough
to hold us both in place
Georgia Ressmeyer, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, has published two poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections. Her most recent chapbook is Leading a Life (Water’s Edge Press, 2021). Her work has received numerous awards. Please see www.georgiaressmeyer.com for more information.
PATRICE BOYER CLAEYS
I know why we give fruit baskets
to those flattened by life.
It’s to show that beauty lives
in the dimpled orange
and sensuous rump
of the perfect pear.
To the girl with both breasts removed,
the sugared sun-stroke of peach
The kiwi’s humble body,
impossibly jeweled beneath its dun husk,
sweetens hope without words.
Patrice Boyer Claeys has published three poetry collections: The Machinery of Grace (Kelsay Books, 2020), Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (Kelsay Books, 2019) and Honey from the Sun (with Gail Goepfert, Blurb 2020). The collaborative chapbook, This Hard Business of Living (also with Goepfert), is due from Seven Kitchens Press. She lives with her husband in Chicago and has two grown daughters. More at www.patriceboyerclaeys.com.
Patterns that Unmake Me
When I knit, I am untangling the threads of
the stories I tell myself,
the stories I believe—and each fiber holds its own lying truths,
in its fraying as
in its strength, and
the knots I need are not what I have let myself
the automatic negative thinking,
these patterns that make me, until I
unmake them and
a beauty, a magic
in which I can
Emily Bowles’ chapbooks—His Journal, My Stella and The Satisfactory Nothing of Girls (both from Finishing Line Press)—tell the stories of lost women in order to practice/process not losing more women. She has received the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poet’s 2021 Triad Prize in the Poet’s Choice category and has had several poems published in online and print journals including Bramble, Midwest Review, and Minerva Rising.
MARY C ROWIN
Red Tail Hawk: After
After her son died, she’d see a fox at the clearing,
watching her, before it turned into the woods.
In mid-summer, a month or so after you were gone, a hawk
landed on the roof, sat on the SE corner of the house.
One day in autumn, as I was driving in town, a pair of hawks
swooped overhead, chasing one another in play.
The hardest thing about you going was losing us, the spark
of joy when we found one another, the warmth I felt
knowing we’d watch out for and protect one another.
Late afternoon in early December and I see a hawk
in a tree near where I scattered your ashes. The hawk looks
toward the pond, brown arrows on his breast pointing the way.
Mary C Rowin’s work has been published in journals such as Burningword, Blue Heron Review and Solitary Plover. Mary was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her poetry awards include prizes from The Nebraska Writers Guild, and Journal from the Heartland. Mary lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.
SANDRA J LINDOW
The Way that can be named is not the Gator Way.
The name that can be roared is not the forever name.
Nameless is the source of water, sky, and glade.
The sun and the yellow primrose are one.
I am the builder of the raised nest.
I am the layer of the ninety eggs,
I lie above them in deep July heat,
the smell of cypress, magnolia, and mud.
Boundaries of lake and sky become one.
I hear them calling me from within
and open the nest to my warm, wet world.
I am the mother of fifty hatchlings.
I lie like a log in the sawgrass shadows,
protecting them from the heron’s beak.
I am fierce and my needs are simple:
The heedless come near; I snap and swallow.
Not doing and doing are one.
Sandra J Lindow is the longest serving regional vice president in the history of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her most recent collection is Chasing Wild Grief (Kelsay Books, 2021). She lives on a hilltop in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Sister Dorothy’s chalk wand
dolled up the alphabet
like mascara and red
lipstick dressed our moms.
She showed us how to fuse
our clumsy marks into
molten loops and a girl’s
finest friend, curlicues.
I wanted to kiss each swipe
of those linked letters, touch
my tongue to the spaces
between each fluid word.
Even capital letters —
their perilous sweeps and
archaic frills — thrilled me.
I uncapped the crystal
throat of my blue BIC pen and
ravished spiral notebooks
with the sighs and whispers
of my new liquid name.
After growing up in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Lora Keller lived in New York City and Kansas City and has made Milwaukee her home for the past 30 years. After college, she was a scriptwriter, public relations executive, educator, small business owner and now writes full-time. Her poems are published widely and include a Pushcart Prize nomination.
More Than One Goodbye
Lacking confidence, she was not
bold with her love.
Friday nights he played pool by the window in The Shamrock,
wavy dark hair touching his shoulders,
red flannel shirt loose on his frame,
lean from a college diet and too much smoking,
cigarette launched carelessly on his lower lip.
Watching from down in the bar she observed his moves;
the sly smile at something funny,
his calm approach to life.
Sometimes their eyes would smile “hello,”
he’d come over,
buy her a drink.
Over time much was implied,
but then she’d see him with a girl—
a leggy blonde, or some remarkable woman from
the Art Department, and she’d think,
“He’d never really love me.”
So she kept it casual.
Kept that slow, warm burn to herself.
She never told him.
Imagined she could already see the finale,
him walking off with someone else, as she watched.
In the end that happened, repeatedly,
their crossed paths tangling them together
a macrame of moments,
until moves and marriages
and 30 years of life pulled out the knots.
Tonight, she found him on the internet,
wondered at the wisdom of contact till she became
brave with the memory of an afternoon guitar serenade,
he on the floor of her attic apartment
she seated across, stunned by this admission of love,
his voice tender, the song a revelation
the day before he moved to California
on to his first youthful adventure,
she still bound to college books,
later waving what she thought was a final goodbye
from the third floor kitchen window.
Karen Warinsky is a retired reporter/high school English teacher living in Connecticut who now organizes word/poetry events under the name Poets at Large. She has published poetry since 2011 and is a former finalist in the Montreal International Poetry Contest. Her work can be found in various journals and anthologies including Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands, Blue Heron Review, Light: a Journal of Photography and Poetry, the Mizmor Anthology (2019), as well as Deep Wild Journal, Honoring Nature, and her debut collection Gold in Autumn which were all released in 2020. Find out more at: https://karenwarinskypoetry.wordpress.com
At a northern Wisconsin cottage with no phones,
I woke on a June night and stared
at the luminescent alarm clock on the dresser
for three hours, as if waiting for the five a.m.
rush of tires on gravel, footsteps on the porch,
thumps on the door.
Even though all the cottage beds were filled,
I was the only one who heard the pounding.
I opened the kitchen door. My oldest sister
stood there, said flat out,
Dad died last night.
Days ago he had been working in his garden,
had gone fishing. He was never sick—
almost never bothered to see a doctor.
Hours later when my husband, our son, and I
arrived in Ontonagon, Mom informed us
that she and Dad had visited the cemetery
the previous day and had purchased
shaded plots under a tall pine.
This beautiful, idyllic spot wasn’t too far from her siblings.
Mom smiled as she read their mail that afternoon,
holding our Father’s Day card with the announcement
that they would have a new grandchild in January.
I still see us standing there by the hollyhocks
pondering the day’s juxtaposition of death and new life.
Linda Aschbrenner’s writing has appeared in a smattering of publications, including Sheltering with Poems, Ariel Anthology, Bramble, Poetry Hall, Midwest Poetry Review, Milwaukee Sentinel, Verse Wisconsin, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, and the WFOP Museletter. She has also sold gags to a cartoonist and published short stories. She published the poetry journal Free Verse and published 17 chapbooks for others with her press, Marsh River Editions. She is currently stalled on a book, nearly completed, with her two poet sisters, Elda Lepak and Mavis Flegle.
A Casual Conversation Over Breakfast
Which we’d both already eaten,
so just coffee and a day-old blueberry muffin,
not bad for the one-dollar price.
It was just me and my old friend Rita
at the neighborhood café, and after 40 years
we pretty much know everything we need to
about ourselves. But this morning
something’s come up — her chance meeting
with another friend — and I find myself
babbling on, filling in the blanks,
how it was Bill who hired me 50 years back
when I was down, really down. I knew nothing about
the history of Wisconsin but it didn’t seem to matter —
just being able to read horticultural society proceedings
and take notes for a multi-volume project at
the State Historical Society seemed enough.
My cubicle was next to those for an assortment
of other graduate students. More or less, we became
lifelong friends. George was the East Coast frat boy
who got serious and sober after the car accident
that almost killed Ginny, all his vigor charged instead
into research, his brilliance an incandescence, prescient,
really, telling you years later that a young state senator
from Illinois was the one to watch. I’ve never tried
to write about George — he keeled over at a Chicago Cubs
game and didn’t come to. Stanley, Jack and I drove down
for the funeral. It was an open coffin — the kind I hate.
I wouldn’t go up and take a glance at him, pale, wearing
his horn-rimmed glasses. When it came time to sing
I couldn’t do that either, just sat there in the second row
looking down, trying to keep myself together, listening
to Jack’s booming voice, carrying the hymn tunes for all of us.
At the wake, George’s tee-shirts were hanging from the wall,
a testament to all his causes. Stanley said a few words —
he always had a talent for sizing people up: the dolt,
the libertine, the space cadet. He’s gone now, too.
Ginny and I are friends on Facebook. I like her paintings,
she likes my bread. Jack shows up each year at Thanksgiving.
A feast, our reminiscences.
Ronnie Hess is the author of five poetry chapbooks and two culinary travel guides. She lives in Madison, WI. You can contact her at ronniehess.com
Longing for Connection
A clutch of humanity stands looking up
at a van Gogh shining among a group
of other famous paintings. A small child asks,
“Can we touch it?” Her mother answers, “No.”
What a question! Risk the ruin of these
bold-bright colors, this brushwork of abandon?
Never! Still we long for a connection
over time and place and culture and class.
When we see the image and not the image
alone, but the human heart that made it—
that flash of certainty, life of struggle, love
of the beautiful—so strong the artist
had to share it, what other response
can there be but to reach out? I hope
van Gogh loved his paintings for the contour
maps they were. I hope he ran his hands
over each one of them, read them like braille.
And don’t we all want to touch that moment,
feel color push through the blood? Don’t you
want to hold hands with The Artist?
Paula Schulz has loved art and the connections each person has with it since childhood. She lives and writes in Slinger, Wisconsin, with her husband, Greg.
little lollies of sunshine
(—for Mahalia. Zikhronah livrakha—May her memory be for a blessing.)
There isn’t a word in English
or even an ancient language like Hebrew
to describe a parent when her child dies.
Would a word help my grief?
If anyone had told me she’s in a better place,
I’d have punched them.
I’m not hungry. I am hungry.
What am I hungry for? Kuchi sabishii—
my mouth feels lonely and needs to chew.
In the eighth century they wrote
Requiescat in pace on gravestones,
May the person who died rest in peace,
now we say R.I.P
Why do we give flowers when someone dies?
Are thoughts and prayers supposed to comfort us?
There’s a Romanian word.
Dor. Three letters. It means
to long for someone you love.
Like Roar. Or floor. Or Labrador.
It doesn’t quench my longing—
I still feel like an orphan.
So sorry for your loss, she said
Did she mean loss or lost?
Perhaps I don’t need a word—
I could tell the Bees. In Medieval
Europe people believed bees were holy,
were the link between humans and the spirit world,
and were part of the family. When someone died,
the goodwife had to go to the hive to tell the bees
of the loss to prevent further tragedies.
Little bees, our beautiful Mahalia is dead.
Please stay with us in our distress.
I can’t tell the bees—I don’t have a hive,
but I can remind you that the importance of bees
goes beyond superstition, that colony collapse
disorder is causing the deaths of billions of bees.
Should you care? Without bees, crops like
oranges, almonds, avocados, and coffee
would not be pollinated, would disappear.
Forever. Honey too.
Stop spraying your lawns
with chemicals. Let the dandelions be.
Bees and butterflies love them.
So did Mahalia. As an herbalist
she knew Dent-de-lions to be an excellent
source of vitamins and minerals—
and called her clinic Dandelion Naturopathic.
When lawns became a symbol of wealth,
dandelions on a lawn became a sign of neglect,
of poverty, and we called them weeds.
Even so, anyone anywhere in the world
can identify the yellow lollies.
Next time you blow a puffball to make a wish
remember they are flowers
that welcome the bees, and the butterflies
and think of Mahalia, the dandelion crusader.
Poet Roseanne Freed was born in South Africa and lived in Canada before moving to Southern California. She shares her fascination for the natural world with kids by leading them on hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains. Her poetry has been published in Contrary Magazine and Verse-Virtual.
JANET RUTH (Cover Artist) ~ 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, Unlost: Journal of Found Poetry and Art, as well as previously in Blue Heron Review. https://redstartsandravens.com/janets-poetry/
KAREN A VANDENBOS ~ In 2008 Karen A VandenBos completed her PhD in Holistic Health where a course in Shamanism inspired her to write her dissertation on the healing power of nature and the importance of finding ones totem animal(s). In 2014 photography led Karen to a deeper connection with nature. While she has always dabbled in photography, now taking photos has become one of her passions. It is nature that speaks to her heart and Karen’s photographs showcase this connection. Karen has found a home for some of her previous photos in Blue Heron Review. She is also active in two online writing groups and has recently had one of her poems published online in The Ekphrastic Review and also 5 poems in Lothlorien Poetry Journal.
GAIL GOEPFERT ~ Gail Goepfert has two passions—photography and poetry. Her photographs appear online at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Olentangy Review, Storm Cellar, Blue Heron Review, 3Elements Review and on the cover of February 2015 Rattle. In 2020, she published a photoverse book—her photographs illustrate Patrice Boyer Claeys’s fruit centos. She lives, writes, and snaps photos in the Chicagoland area. Her poetry life includes a role as associate editor of RHINO Poetry and many publications including a chapbook, three books of poetry, a collaborative chapbook about the early days of the pandemic, and an early book of poems with her photographs, in gratitude for days gone by.
THOMAS A THOMAS ~ Thomas A Thomas has been making photographs a bit longer than he has been writing poems, though he has practiced both for decades. His photos and poems appear in print and online journals, most recently at The Banyan Review and in the Spanish language journal, Revista Cronopio. His book of poems and photos, Getting Here, is available in print and e-versions on Amazon and other sellers. He has been nominated in recent months for both Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize awards.
DERIK HAWLEY ~ Canadian artist and writer, Derik Hawley is based in Oakville, Ontario. He likes to explore creativity in all aspects. Including theatre and music.
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