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.
Disclaimer: When viewing these poems on a mobile device, we recommend turning your phone to the side and view through a chrome browser for the best viewing experience.
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.
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.
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.