William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.
The year is 1994, and we are together. You tell me that you are going to visit a psychic this weekend, the one that operates up the street from my house. I think of the plethora of things she will tell you, two of those being: Your dad will die soon, and your best friend is in love with you. You will brush both of these things off, not believing what she said, but believing that you wasted your paycheck on this. I will laugh and agree that it’s a load of bull. I don’t see the point in psychics anyways. I can predict stuff too. But when your dad kills himself a week after the reading, I’ll become a skeptic. You’ll cry at the funeral, but you will not mean it the way everyone thinks you do. I’ll squeeze your hand and we’ll flee the scene early. Everything is always so screwed up after a funeral. So, I’ll take you to the nearest diner. It’ll be dreary outside and my shoes will squeak from the rain when I enter the building. Everyone will stare at us, almost like they know something about us. They know the way I feel about you. They know where we came from. They’re psychic too.
Hailey Bartlett is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s currently studying creative writing at Chatham University. She’s still trying to figure out if she’s human or not.
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The Witching Hour
In the ungodly hours of the evening,
Oddities trace alongside the cracks of wallpaper, thinned and torn with age.
Traces of moonlight sprinkle between the shuttered blinds.
Darting back and forth, shifting the space from raven to alabaster.
Though, in between the moments of their conflicting dance,
Lies a moderate figure, forcing a calm between forces.
Towards the end of the hall, this figure dwells.
Its looming presence commanding attention,
Of even an atom’s alchemy mingling in the air.
A faint scent of pine and driftwood lingers between such atoms.
Golden-encrusted moulding mimics palace jewels,
Asserting aristocracy over those who dare to listen.
The stiffened silence is broken by its soft ticking.
Oh how the ticking tantalizes,
Each second growing smaller,
Each minute making martyrs,
And each hour damning us to hell.
With each passing of the dreaded hand,
The figure’s ego grows tenfold.
The space quakes with an acquired anguish,
Not a peep can be heard throughout the ink-blotted sky.
The raven nor alabaster dare to continue their ballet.
Ghosts of our former glory,
We dare not interrupt the inevitable.
The figure’s hand materializes a gateway between
Normalcy and the devil’s playground.
Alas the moment grows nearer,
Mere seconds between all that is unholy.
Twelve frightful chimes sound throughout the withered night.
(chime) Everything stills.
(two chimes) A light, thumping pulse.
(three chimes) Warm, dripping blood frosts to sheen.
(four chimes) Jagged fingernails scrape against the aged wallpaper.
(five chimes) Burned out candles pool puddles of wax.
(six chimes) Lucifer’s lucky gambling number.
(seven chimes) A noticeable barometric shift in the air pressure.
(eight chimes) The corridors of our minds crackle and crunch.
(nine chimes) Walls closing in.
(ten chimes) As above, so below.
(eleven chimes) Hell empties, for all the devils are here.
The witching hour is upon us,
May God save our souls.
Madam President, Madam Vice President,
Roots. Reaching into the depths of the earth, coupling the minerals
and memories of the rotting bygone.
In the way the willow tree hums in the wind, its branches brushing against a
supple spring and its
roots too grasp for the knowledge within.
The pine and evergreen, the oak, the birch, the sycamore all singing the songs
of our youth. For the tips of our fingers reach back into the dirt and unearth a
Flecks of sapphire mix with cobalt to make the stars in our eyes, glossed over
with a sheen of light and reason.
We have seen feet pad against the grass, racing to reach a dream just out of
Tasted our mothers’ spoon-fed batter against our tongues, hoping to one day
recreate her perfection.
Listened to our grandmothers’ honeyed and high-pitched tales of swords,
dragons, and the dashing prince racing to rescue a princess.
Touched the brink and brisk of an impenetrable abyss, lingering in the backs of
And smelled the sense of victory amongst champions when we finally broke the
For the perturbed and convulsed earth trickling from our palms, tells the same
I am strong because strong women have raised me.
We have built a livelihood from each individual brick, formed of red clay and
Each passing though the palms of our hands, spackled across generations; today,
we finally lay the last one to rest.
The last piece of the jigsaw, each duck carefully tucked in its row, each
uncracked eggshell lying in a woven basket.
Each convention, each protest, each march just to gain the unalienable rights
gifted to us by our creator.
For his word claims that the roots traced along the lines in our hands,
connected to our heartstrings, give us a spot under our own vine and fig tree.
And that we shall not be afraid.
Each revolutionary, each insubordinate, each subversive movement falling from
the sky, like drops of rain or glistening snowflakes.
For they have broken the shackles that bind women to a simple household.
But well behaved women rarely make history.
Every Audrey Hepburn,
Every Wilma Mankiller,
Every Helen Keller,
Every Amelia Earhart,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Louisa May Alcott,
Every Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Every Gloria Steinem,
Every Kamala Harris,
Every working mother, or loving grandmother, or sagacious great-
And every daughter, amassed in her youth, looking to her predecessors for
Grasp the roots that couple memories and minerals and bind them together in
Interlock images and ancestors to sing out the songs of this great nation.
Of the triumphs and the failures of what it means to be female.
On this momentous day, we call back to the pine and evergreen, the oak, the
birch, the sycamore.
To their deep treaded stories amongst the lush earth,
And to dig just below the surface of soil,
To reach our
Gabrielle is a junior and currently holds the managing editor position for her school’s own literary magazine titled, The Archetype. She has always been involved in the arts, whether it be singing at vocal lessons on Thursdays, continuing her dance education of 14+ years, or acting in her school’s theatre and One Act productions. However, writing and English literature have always been some of her favorite passions! Over the course of her writing career, Gabrielle has entered in as many writing competitions as she can manage; for example, the Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition. She has placed first in district two years in a row for her pieces “Seven Deadly Sins” and Of Heaven and Earth: A Collection of Poetry respectively. She has also entered pieces in the nationally renowned Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, receiving a regional gold key for her critical essay piece, “The Disney Princess Debacle.” In addition, Gabrielle has also been selected as a Communicative Arts major finalist for the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program. She is beyond grateful and excited to attend the intensive program this coming summer! Her seriousness for her writing career has led her to wanting to pursue writing outside of her formal education. In college, Gabrielle hopes to study English, International Studies, or Broadcast Journalism and would love to work for the United Nations in the future.
Caitlin Coey is a queer poet and playwright completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her full-length plays The Language of this World and Careful Girls have been workshopped in Seattle by Parley Productions. Her writing focuses on gender-based violence, mental health, queer love, and the importance of friendship. Shambles is her first publication.
Brian Lutz teaches at Delaware Valley University. In 2003, he was named Poetry Laureate of Bucks County, PA. His poetry has been published in numerous journals including Slate, Potomac Review, Louisville Review, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, Welter, Poetry East, Cider Press Review, Poet Lore, Apple Valley Review and Cimarron Review. Brian lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, two kids and three cats.
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Adventures of Mr. Teddy and I
By Meher Narula
This poem has been inspired by the “dress-up” games played by children, where they let their imagination run wild, imagining themselves as valiant knights or regal queens. Today, I thought maybe we should also let ourselves be swept away in the charming fantasy of one such incident…
Up on my head went a creaky bucket,
And on my feet slid Grandpa’s old boots,
And donning the old bat I decided
That today I was Sir Nicholas Right
Up again with an adventure in sight
My trusted friend Mr.Teddy by my side.
Teddy was as brave as a hundred bears,
And I as strong as a hundred men,
And so it was today that we entered the enemy’s lair
And hoped to save the world once again.
Down the stairs we dashed,
Through the door we jumped,
Tip-toeing across the dew topped grass
To where we knew the garden gnomes snored,
And sat shining with vicious allure.
The gnomes tiny teeth chittered,
And their malicious sticks glittered.
But we held steady and flung upon them,
Determined to crush them!
But our swords who could slice through air
Quailed beneath their pronged snares,
And so we were stuck,
And so our story ended,
Two martyrs who landed a fatal blow
But ended their lives to destroy the gnomes.
Spread eagled on the grass
Was where my mum found me,
With my rickety bucket and my old bat,
And the little gnomes without their little hats.
And so I was dragged back to the house,
Where Teddy and my knight days were doused.
But I swear I can still hear
The garden gnomes laughing
As they glinted in the evening sun.
Meher Narula, a high schooler, almost 16, lives in Noida, India. She is a girl of reason and science, however, she immensely enjoys the euphoria and thrill of writing down her vivid imagination on paper (so beware, one day she might just convince you that chickens can talk!). In her rare free time when she isn’t studying or writing or spending time with her family, she enjoys playing her guitar, cooking, and gardening. She is also a devout disciple of the golden mantra, that singing is an essential part of every activity, preferably loud when alone, much to the dismay of her brother’s ears.
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By Yash Seyedbagheri
Home during quarantine, I rearrange my bedroom.
I’m an editor.
First, I line up my computer. Pull up edits marked in sharp navy
blue. Pepper the desk with half a dozen Diet Pepsis.
I strip my bed of soft moon-themed sheets. Take out the old
train set with switch tracks and the power to crash without
Laughter rises in my mind, squeaky, unfiltered.
I remove Goosebumps splayed across my desk, smile thinking of
psychopathic piano instructors and time-traveling cuckoo clocks.
I carry each item to the closet. Drape blankets over everything.
Tuck edges with tenderness.
Blankets aren’t big enough.
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His stories, “Soon,” “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work has been published or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.
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Dissolving with the heavy edge of light
There is a weight to all tonight, a haze,
The air is thick, the moon is full, the lights,
The lights each fade to nonlight irregular,
Late August blurred and settling on the world.
No leaves too heavy with dampness downtown,
But wetted brick equally oppresses,
No rain but water beads on roofs and hoods,
And I can hear it in the distance falling.
How water wades from pores to air return,
I watch it obscure my world in rising
Protest of its earthly boundary changing
State en mass diffusing in the after-
Rain around a moment, around present,
Dissolving with the heavy edge of light.
Forgive me my lingering
The bed is too big and smells of us
And I feel the fitted sheet creased and patterning
My body beneath me
my body like wax
Spoon heated and poured to seal what memories
I’ve folded into this morning without you
Wrapped in what presses an incantation
In dream-rolled dunes too gentle to notice
Upon my restlessness
my body like fleeing
Glacier over kame and kettle of cotton
Focused telescope imaging ghosts
Of stars that might be like ours
Trevor Moffa is a poet and former coal miner, park ranger, bookseller, and button pusher from Pittsburgh, PA. His poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in 3Elements Review,Stoneboat, Sampsonia Way Magazine, and Nimrod International Journal.
has been through it; tripped on, toppled, dumped out.
Face down clump of dirt beside the front door,
each time repotted once more, another
chance to defy the odds, growing despite
roots exposed to the elements, soil
soaked in dog piss. Pick it up and move it.
Starting all over again from nothing
is a particularly potent form
of progress — the coming Spring will prove it.
THINGS MY INFANT DAUGHTER TAUGHT ME ABOUT LABOR EXPLOITATION
I take no interest in work that disturbs
a sleeping infant.
For there is no work more worthwhile
than maintaining a place of peace
for a mind that cannot comprehend it.
Furthermore that which cannot be done
by choice among the crisp whims of quiet solitude
is not work at all—
it is mark-stepping time; toil
for the vampire class.
I know it well — the way it drains.
And so I will my hands
into knotted clubs of oak, keeping
time in generational circles of grain —
in service not of keeping some ghastly hand at bay
but so the work may be finished when the child awakes.
Michael Conner is an English Literature and New Testament scholar specifically interested in exploring society’s relationship with nature & the climate crisis. His nonfiction work has appeared in Tenderly Magazine. He resides in South Florida with his wife and daughter.