Summer 2021 Issue

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The Stranger

By Bailey Cole

“I know it sounds insane.”

“I mean, sure, you’ve seen the girl before. We don’t live in a huge city, so it’s not surprising. But that’s all it is.”

“I don’t know. I feel like I know her.”

“Then just say hi one day.”

It would, under normal circumstances, be easy to ‘just say hi,’ but for some reason, for years, Chloe had refused to say anything to this girl. Rebecca was right, Columbus isn’t a huge city, but seeing the same girl in random places over years? That was strange.

Chloe couldn’t remember when it started, but she had seen the girl a month ago, and then a few days prior to talking to Rebecca about it. She had definitely seen her around, at the Polaris mall in the game store, at the zoo, at random parks, at a Kodaline concert at the A&R bar. It wasn’t necessarily strange, of course, those were places that people who lived in Columbus went, but it was strange that she stuck out. How many other people had Chloe passed over the years and never remembered? What was so special about this woman that she remembered her, and kept an eye out for her everywhere she went?

She seemed like a normal woman, young, maybe mid-twenties. She had dark skin like Rebecca and her hairstyle was different about every time she saw her, but she was definitely the same person. Over the years, they started to nod at each other, or smile like one does at a stranger. Then, the last time she saw her, leaving Schmidt’s restaurant as Chloe was going in, she waved.

Chloe wasn’t necessarily shy, she talked to strangers, asked people in the grocery store their opinion of certain foods, and made small talk on the bus. But for some reason, she couldn’t even say hi to this woman. All attempts to find out who she was by other means turned up useless. It seemed easy to walk up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Chloe, I’ve seen you around a lot, isn’t that strange?’ but it never happened. Chloe even practiced it at home, but to no avail. It’s like she froze up when she saw the woman.

Chloe didn’t see her for a few months, which was normal. She put her guard down and stopped checking every face at every place she went into. Life moved on as it always did.

Now in the fall, Rebecca and Chloe went to New York to see the trees changing color. They were a little late and a lot of the trees had already started to drop their leaves. They stopped at some little restaurant in Poughkeepsie and were eating a dessert when someone walked through the door. There was a bell that rang out; it had happened a handful of times since they were in the place, but this time, for some reason, Chloe turned and looked at the door.

The woman was there. The same woman from Columbus was states over, in a small town, eating at the same random restaurant.

“Oh my god,” Chloe said. The woman looked over as she was just scanning the restaurant, saw Chloe, and smiled the goofiest smile Chloe had ever seen. Chloe did the best she could to wave, which was a bad attempt; she slammed her hand on the table in the process, but ignored the pain to save face. The woman smiled back, then turned towards the other side of the restaurant and started to order food.

“Maybe you guys are connected,” Rebecca said, leaning forward to keep and eye on this woman.

“I told you. It’s like I know her. Like I knew her. I don’t know,” she said. She turned back around to face Rebecca.

“Maybe we were, like, sisters in a past life. Spouses, neighbors,” she said. Rebecca, eyes still on the woman, shrugged.

“You believe in that stuff?”

“I do now. What else would explain it? Why would she be here?” she asked and Rebecca shrugged again.

“I don’t know. It’s really weird,” she said, finally looking away and back to Chloe.

“Or maybe she will be important in my life. Maybe we’re connected in this lifetime,” she said.

“So it’s fate you guys keep running into each other,” Rebecca said. Chloe poked at her slice of yellow cake and bopped her head around, avoiding answering definitively.

“Go say hi.”

“What? No. I’m too nervous,” she said and Rebecca rolled her eyes. Chloe added, “Next time. Next time, I’ll say hi.”

Once back in Columbus, Chloe looked at every single person she walked past. Every woman on the sidewalk as she drove by, sitting in nearby restaurant booths, going into the movie theater she was in, but she never showed. She had vowed to finally say hi, and she never saw the woman again. She wondered if that was all it was meant to be, to let her know that the universe had some control, that she wasn’t completely alone, her and everyone else just wandering aimlessly. There was some sort of connection, something laid out.

Bailey Cole is currently working at a museum in Ohio and writes when she has the time. She’s inspired by the little things around her work and the real life stories she reads online.

In Abject Defiance of Gravity

By Keith Hellard

With her back to the upstairs windows he couldn’t see what she was doing. Even if he went room-to-room, and window-to-window, he still couldn’t tell. He was too high up, and at too steep an angle, to make out the scrap of newspaper in her palm. He’d never understand, she thought, as she surveyed the front yard, the overgrown hedgerow, and the rusted remnants of the wrought-iron fence near the highway. He’d think it, and her, stupid.

For all he knew she was freeing the lawnmower’s discharge of a clump of compacted grass. Maybe she was checking the air filter, or adjusting the carburetor. Those more learned in the ways of machines spoke of those things often. Engines, like people, became persnickety as they aged, and oftentimes downright fickle. They required more attention, more TLC as it were. He couldn’t argue with that, although he undoubtedly would.

Already she felt his disapproval. He was there alright, steely-eyed and stone-faced like the gargoyles in the masonry that held together by sheer obstinacy, the cracked brick and crumbling mortar, shattered slate shingles, and rotting eves in abject defiance of gravity.

No, she reconsidered with a smirk. He was more akin to the crimson-crowned vulture of late seen atop the southern-most gable, mere feet from where he dreamed his vile, angry dreams and glared down upon her now. He could’ve been a vulture in a past life. That seemed apt.

Maybe in her next go around the tables would turn and she’d be the vulture: her penance for insulting the grim, yet noble, work of vultures everywhere. Was that how reincarnation worked? Right now she’d settle for returning as the owner of a lawn tractor. It wouldn’t even need to be a nice one.

Against her sleeve she mopped her dripping forehead and imagined the floodtide of insults collecting on his tongue. “Lay-about,” he’d scold as he wrinkled his crooked nose. “Wastrel.” And though none of his taunts would cut her deeply, if at all, their blunt ends would jab at her relentlessly until she retreated, bruised and somewhat battered, but still living. 

Her attention returned to the scrap of newspaper, and an ad for a theater listing movies of which she’d never heard. Beneath the ad was the photo of an elegant Asian lady with extravagant eyelashes holding between two gloved fingers a long, old-style cigarette holder. Its caption might as well have been written in runes.

From where had the scrap come, she wondered as she recalled the fearsome winds from last night’s thunderstorm. How long was it aloft?

The longer she stared at the ad and the photo, the more she became convinced he was on the front porch behind her. She could almost hear his fragile, uneasy footsteps hissing against the sagging floor slats. The odor of stale sweat, menthols, and off-brand bourbon overwhelmed everything. Not even the freshly-mown grass, the gasoline fumes, or her own perspiration could repulse it. Still, she dared not turn around and acknowledge him, or her own indolence. 

Three half-hearted pulls of the starter later the lawnmower’s engine belched and sputtered back to life. The overgrown hedgerow and the remnants of the rusted wrought-iron fence near the highway seemed further away than ever. Both she eyed suspiciously as she resumed cutting the crisscrossing stripes he favored, and demanded.

Could he do that, she asked as she fought with all her might the urge to glance at the porch and the upstairs windows. So consuming was this notion she roundly ignored the scrap of newspaper abandoned in the grass beside the steps, never mind the million pieces of it scattered in her wake.

Keith Hellard lives and writes in Frankfort, KY. He graduated from Kentucky State University with a degree in English and attended graduate school at Eastern Kentucky University. An internationally published author, his work has appeared in Trajectory Journal, From Pen to Page, and Griffel.

Should I Ever Pass This Way Again

By William T. Blackburn

Under shade of seckel pear tree, juices on my lips

Sun slipping between leaves, breeze disheveled

As songbird wings, flapping, slapping metronome

Green sheaves unfurled in springtime, scrollwork

A record of this season writ

In summer’s youth

Meadow cat peacock strutting, saunters slyly by

To the deep fields, amid folds of earth hunting

Little mousey morsels upon grain seed fed plump

This microcosm of the universe unfolding cycle

The way all things wander

Among summer’s stars

Stage right: graveyard headstones in dark granite

By decades, sun faded, wind and rain exfoliated

Grandad’s gift: shorter walks each Sunday service

Along the border in restive sleep his final home

Visitations every weekend

At summer’s dusk

With uncles, carried there a casket heavy laden

Inter in that sacred soil Grandma’s tiny frame

Mark down another name for those who remember

Bringing flowers as each year rolls slowly by

In my mind alone now

With summer’s passage

Our old farm, left to suburb subdivision lanes

The honeysuckle and sassafras stripped away

A creeping sadness overshadows: memory born

I cannot walk among orchard trees cut down

Laid to rest on hearths

After summer’s gone

My time slipping steady now, years strolling by

Busied surely daily diatribes and pantomimes

In my suburbia trapped as rat in cage on bookshelf

Admired and derided in equal measures panned

Join that happy host

When summer’s passed

Seasons seem to meld year after year progression

Succession in demi-regular heartbeats sounding

This round-trip visitation: a meeting with oneself

For in my own time, my own mind, a universe found

Alone within this grace

As summer’s depth

William T. Blackburn struggles still to find his car keys. He holds a degree in English: Writing/Teaching and Music Composition. His work appears in numerous digital and print publications. He contributed to Adirondack Center for Writing: PoemVillage 2019-21 & Response II. He is an Ageless Authors judge 2020 and Pushcart Prize nominee.

3 Poems By Michael Conner


Having regrettably killed a spider

silently stalking the bedroom dresser,

I began to wonder why I did not

simply let her be, or calmly catch her;

rehome her in a tree. What is it that lurks

in me, defaulting insistently to

violence? — How do I gently set it free?


This little strawberry plant on the stoop

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.


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 —

            building tables,

            foraging mushrooms,

            shoveling snow,

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.

2 Poems By Trevor Moffa

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

Worth missing

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.

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


‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎‎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.

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).

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.

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.

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 


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.

Two Poems By Gabrielle Gruszynski

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.

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


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

our brains.

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

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-


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

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


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.

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.

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.