Categories
Poetry

Winter Purple

Winter Purple

By William Doreski

Black ice curses asphalt roads

this morning, the moon a white hole

funneling away our dream lives.

Few sharp edges in nature yet

we bleed from tiny scratches

inflicted by our wandering minds.

The challenge of snow-freighted trees

remains critical. One orange spark

of sun won’t be bright enough

to disburden the nervous landscape.

December’s always the wrong month,

with superstitions running wild

to obviate a year’s worth

of whatever we sought to resolve.

Driving to town on black ice

reminds me that learning to dance

pained me like foolish politics.

I prefer my music sitting down,

like you with your love of ballads

going sepia as you listen

to recordings eighty years old.

Driving slowly, all four wheels

on tiptoe, we arrive and park

by the river, where ice floes

crush over the low dam and birds,

mostly juncos and blue jays,

punctuate the colorless sky.

Where have all the purples gone?

Don’t you remember how bruised

last winter looked when observed

by the bravest local artists?

We haven’t seen them puttering

at their easels for many months.

We haven’t smelled their oil paint

or licked our lips over thick

slathers of acrylic: not since

the pandemic arrived, flaunting

its dread symptoms and snuffing

the gist of our public lives.

We still drink coffee outdoors

seated on a cold stone wall

where our friends can see us and wave

from a safe distance. Not even

black ice can keep us at home

all day. But if we skid and crash

we might, in the fatal instant,

recover those purple visions

upon which winter depends.


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.

Categories
Poetry

Your Reading

Your Reading

By Hailey Bartlett

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.

Categories
Poetry

Two Poems By Gabrielle Gruszynski

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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.

                       Twelve.

The witching hour is upon us,

May God save our souls.

Our Roots

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

story.

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

grip.

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

our brains.

And smelled the sense of victory amongst champions when we finally broke the

unbendable.

For the perturbed and convulsed earth trickling from our palms, tells the same

story:

I am strong because strong women have raised me.

We have built a livelihood from each individual brick, formed of red clay and

desert hills. 

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,

           Ada Lovelace,

Harriet Tubman,

           Frida Kahlo,

Every Wilma Mankiller,

           Every Helen Keller,

Marie Curie,

           Every Amelia Earhart,

Shirley Chisholm,

           Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

Louisa May Alcott,

           Coco Chanel,

Katherine Johnson,

           Every Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

Every Gloria Steinem,

           Michelle Obama,

Every Kamala Harris,

           Every working mother, or loving grandmother, or sagacious great-

grandmother,

And every daughter, amassed in her youth, looking to her predecessors for

answers, 

Preserve.

Grasp the roots that couple memories and minerals and bind them together in

our palms.

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

Roots.


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.

Categories
Poetry

Pandemic Endorphins

Pandemic Endorphins

By Caitlin Coey

When you get tired your breathing

gets shallow. The body releases

endorphins to wake itself up,

takes in air, and yawns. 

These days I am always trying 

to wake up the body,

weights, cacao nibs, stand-up comedy,

calf lifts, standing on tiptoes 

like Rose DeWitt Bukater, glittery gold 

eyelids like 8th grade graduation, 

a dark red lipstick called 

Opinionated,  

an even darker one called 

Everybody Lies.

Instead of courting 

the soft texture of a darkened 

movie theater, the silence 

of snow, 6 pm light after 

the panic attack, I take a small blue

pill to increase my serotonin, 

immerse myself in voices 

like flailing limbs, movies like 

an adrenaline shot,

just to feel

my heart.


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.

http://www.caitlincoeypoet.net

Categories
Poetry

A Poem w/o Ghosts

A Poem w/o Ghosts

By Brian Lutz

Go straight past the kitchen.

Go stand by the mirror. Find

the shape there that doesn’t belong.

Spear it w/ your eyes until it becomes

the standing lamp. Do not mistake

its SHADE and glow for halo.

The door was open, that much we know

like the valves of the heart,

like the tunnels that flee the body. 

Do not include the word SHADOW in

the poem just b/c the moon left

jet puddles behind the hung coat.

Do not find in the hinge’s

scream the wedding band she

hid from the mourners in her eyes. 

The room past the kitchen

was like a room that never had

him in it. Like so many rooms

since his 5th grade heart. Go st-

eal the light behind the curtain b/c

it plays wild like a child. This is not

a HAUNTING. It is a car’s impatient

gaze. At some point, have we not all

thought our eyes headlights that

could cut the dark? Have we not

all conjured, in the ceremony

of loneliness, the dead memories

we hid in television and in books?

We know the door was open.

We know the room was dark.

But the ego still wants to say

it wasn’t this way. We had shut

the door. We had turned on the light.

But, b/c the home moaned we go st-

one still and hope. But this poem, b/c

our minds are wise, has no GHOSTS.


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.

Categories
Poetry

Adventures of Mr. Teddy and I

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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…

One day,

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.

Categories
Poetry

What Is a Pelican?

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What Is a Pelican?

By Matthew James Babcock

      after Susan Elizabeth Howe’s “What Is a Grackle?”

From the ground, a particle wave

crossing humid noon. Stern sage

in repose among the moorings,

tourists murmuring concessions

into coffee cups. In motion,

a Da Vinci diagram streaming

in daydream stage. Pelicans unfurl

more than ascend, launch

like unbound manuscripts

hurled into headwinds. Their wingspans

plane edges from storms.

Presume a uniform procession,

and they assume more roles

than the red horizon holds:

staunch reformer, serene wingman,

ascetic in the senate of sky,

outfitted with the evolutionary wonder

of gold cutlass and swag bag,

the endless sunrise in the mage’s eye.

Adopt one as cosmic consort,

or anoint your dozing confessor.

Recall the stately white male scarcely

audible on the mirror lake— 

lull, charm, and descant: Stay stoic,

came the telepathic trace. You are

the marble before the temple. Always

sculptor and sculpture in the air,

the everlasting space spanning here and there. 

Philosophy of the Pelican

            the three creeds

The needless thought ever encumbers.

The seedless heart never numbers.

The heedless soul forever slumbers.


Idahoan. Writer. Failed breakdancer. Books: Strange Terrain (Mad Hat Press); Four Tales of Troubled Love (Harvard Square Editions); Points of Reference (Folded Word); Heterodoxologies (Educe Press).

Categories
Fiction

Editing Adulthood

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Editing Adulthood

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

consequence.

     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.

Categories
Poetry

Three Poems by John Grey

Lake Ghosts

I love that morning lake fog.

It’s the nearest I ever come

to seeing ghosts.

There is my mother and father,

my three sisters,

misting up in the tranquil transition

of night into day.

We had our disagreements

when they were alive.

But now they’re no longer here,

they walk on water.

A Teenager’s Wheels

I watch my father command the wheel

as he guides the car in and out

of highway traffic

at sixty miles an hour,

eyes and hands and feet

as coordinated as a fencer’s.

Or he’s in the passenger seat,

giving lessons with nothing more

than expression,

as I nervously nudge the vehicle forward

across the expanse

of a college parking lot.

We’re so often in the car together.

Like fishing is for some,

it’s our bondage.

For all the attention paid

to the way ahead,

there’s always a sideways glance involved

and the sense that, like love,

driving is unsuited to solitude.

Yet I can’t wait

to venture out on my own,

license tucked inside my wallet,

every street at my disposal,

one eye on the road,

one eye on the passenger seat

that will look so lost and forlorn

until it’s filled by someone.

Cedar Waxwings

January,

a high, thin cry of zee

draws me to the window.

Cedar waxwings

flash gray velvet feathers

from a nearby bush.

They peck through snow

at barely visible berries,

load up on winter’s chaff

to see them through the lean.

There’s something in a bill,

so small it barely warrants

the lift of a head while swallowing.

But the flock is relentless,

under orders from survival,

pecking furiously

even at nothingness.

My gaze is crystallized

in a window pane,

their essence likewise.

They’re too busy to notice me.

Even if they did,

I doubt that I’d astound their living.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.

Categories
Fiction Uncategorized

The Candle Maker

The Candle Maker

By Theodore Clemens

The roof was giving way. Already, it had begun to collapse in on itself. The lintel above the doors was rotting, the shutters hanging by a wizened nail, swinging with the wind. The timbered support beams too drunk to stand; the stone foundations overrun with lichen, cracked. Clearly, the cabin had sunk into desuetude in the days since the candlemaker left. 

Inside, wax drippings covered everything like bird feces. Counters, benches, stovetop, walls—ubiquitous. Insects snared within, fossilizing, preserved. Obsequious armies of ants never to reach their queen. Grumpy spiders dead, unfed. A bottle solitarily stood: the centerpiece of a wax-laden table. It was empty, but the reek of cheap alcohol lingered. Whatever else had been left behind was gone, the space stripped bare. 

The woman slid her finger through the wax and sniffed. Paraffin, she thought sadly. Refined petroleum. Or coal, or shale oil. Clean energy, yes, but what about clean candles? Beeswax, or better yet, soybeans for the apiphobic. 

A wildcat stalked stealthily across a windowless sill, soundless. Black suit, white tie. Wrong, she thought. Tabby fur, wildcats have tabby coats. It turned its head, as if listening. Its gleaming yellow-green eyes met hers. Suddenly, it disappeared down through some hole in the floorboards. Curious, the woman followed. She inspected the spot of the incident but found nothing. Disconcerted, fear edged into her being: she was not yet afraid, but shivers of terror and panic danced around her, waiting to take over.

Hinges creaked. She jumped. 

To her left, the wildcat was watching, encouraging, urging her without words: follow me, come, join me. And just as suddenly as before, it was out of sight. 

This time she didn’t hesitate. The hole was no wider than an oak tree, and she struggled to fit her body through. Down below, darkness abounded. A subterranean blackness, endless, suffocating. She should have turned back, but she couldn’t. She squeezed herself through and entered freefall. Blindly, she fell. She might have screamed but for the taste in her mouth: a sordid mix of dirt and radish greens. She reached out her hands for support but found some material foreign and spongy. A soft, pliable dough into which her hands sunk readily, alacritously. Hastily, she retrieved her hands and tucked them tight to her chest. Her knees curled, and in a ball she sped through that bottomless blackness. Time stopped. She grew and shrunk and shrunk and grew. Her stomach swallowed itself. She was weightless. She was two-dimensional. Spinning, changing, falling. Blackness engulfed her, an ocean: capsizing, overturning, spilling chests and spreading contents whimsically across the seafloor. She fell, dizzily yet calmly, patient yet anxious, fearful but ready, poised. 

Finally, she slowed and contacted the ground. It was soft, sandlike, but ungraspable, almost like some sort of carpet. Cautiously, she opened her eyes. The light was as blinding as the dark. How long was I spinning? Quickly, she banished the thought. Posted on the ground in front of her were footprints like trail markers deliberately placed to guide the way. She got up and brushed herself off, but she was totally clean. Not even a speck of dust. 

The passageway was uneven, even hazardous with its pitfalls and jagged edges, and the footprints careened left and right to accommodate. She followed as best she could, eyes flashing up and down from trail to surroundings. Thrice did she almost fall, but always she kept her footing. Miles she must have traveled before the path narrowed. It was nearly impassable. Blood filled her body, her heart beat madly, muscles tensed. There’s no turning back. She turned, flattened herself against the passage wall and shimmied through to the other side. Breathing became difficult, her body sandwiched between sheets of unknown rock. But in the end, she succeeded; one step at a time, one foot delicately before the other. 

The trail opened onto a hexagonal field. Flowers, vibrant and variegated, rung the perimeters. A spring flowed around its edges, and there was a ramshackle bridge of rusted iron. 

“Turn back,” a voice warned. “This is not your place.” 

But she knew. She couldn’t turn back now. Not even if she wanted to.

A figure approached, withered and wrinkled, hunched and hooded. Golden rays cloaked them. The air grew cold. 

“Go,” they warned; though the voice was soft, sweet, like honeyed donuts and homemade apple pies. “This place is not for you.” 

But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t go. Not even if she wanted to. 

Face-to-face, the figure unveiled herself. Beneath the glowing robes rested a face aged by death. Pallid skin taut to the bone. Teeth missing, decayed. Eyes sunken. “Go,” she said again.

The woman smiled. Tears welled in her eyes. 

“But I never got to say good-bye.” 

 


Theodore Ludwig Clemens is a local of Buffalo, NY. His interests include avoiding the cold, chasing the sun, and eating with chopsticks. A proud member of the LGBTQIA community, he loves traveling the world.