Raised Beds – a poem by Sarah Clayville

Raised Beds

Some say it’s sacrilege to plant above the earth, but I believe
things can grow wherever there is sun and air.

And rather than bury the seeds like tiny graves I carve out of bark
little boats and punch holes in the base where water can travel through.

I am not a gardener or a creator but rather an inventor of ways
to let the light into dark spaces reserved for claustrophobic fear.

When my plants rise and send their roots down below like Persephone
flaunting her beauty to Hades, they will never for one second feel

That I buried them alive.

Sarah Clayville writes and teaches from the wilds of central Pennsylvania with a particular focus on moments of discovery. Her work can be seen in such journals as The Threepenny Review, Literary Orphans, and The Gravity of the Thing. For more of her writing and her literary adventures with her daughter, head to SarahSaysWrite.com.

Late September – a poem by Janet Krauss

Late September (2020)
There is a solemnity
to late September
as if the air itself is meditating,
You notice a certain stillness.
It is not mournful or abrupt
as after the shofar penetrates
distance calling worshippers
to temple, its measured lament
reaching back to shawled ghosts
swaying as they chant, arms raised
before crumbling heaps of walls.
It is a stillness that sets you
In a place beyond doubt, hurt,
heat, cold or fear where
you welcome the intimacy
of the sun, though you are pleased
to see it go for the clouds assist
the air in its autumnal prayer.

Janet Krauss, who has two books of poetry published, “Borrowed Scenery,” Yuganta Press, and “Through the Trees of Autumn,” Spartina Press, has recently retired from teaching English at Fairfield University. Her mission is to help and guide Bridgeport’s  young children through her teaching creative writing, leading book clubs and reading to and engaging a kindergarten class. As a poet, she co-directs the poetry program of the Black Rock Art Guild.

Autumn Altar – a poem by Susan Charkes

Autumn Altar
“They cry out for an offering of flowers or of fruit”
                                                (after A.V. Christie)
invocation of oregano             mountain radiance
                        scent of moths                         bearing the breath of bards     
black paste     moldered walnut husks
                citric  tang              
henna’s  secret stranger  
wild cucumber pods
            mad prickles mellowed to lacy veils  
the spade-bitten earth 
a chalice   for roots   
to milkweed the memory of Mexico
ash samaras     the curtain lingers                   riddles under wide-eyed bark
never again    
phosphorus of the field    earth lanterns         
            possums    decay before dying 
this our grape              twisting  
(de)pendent  on           the adamant other
pawpaw           just ready when easily bruised 

Susan Charkes, writer and poet, lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her poetry chapbook, sp. was published in 2017. She is a member of Montco Wordshop and Tenth Sky Poets. More at susancharkes.com.

Requiem – a poem by Jo Angela Edwins


Is it animal or simply human
to mourn the loss of what you wish to lose?

Gnats spinning in your steaming face
some bright August afternoon
swing hollow in stippled rows
on abandoned spider webs
in almost cold October wind.

You sweep the mess away. Your eyes water.
Again you are the dust-kneed child
heart-stung in the playground corner,
beguiled by the caterpillar crushed beneath
the careless bounce of a ball.

A teacher tells you life’s like that,
death and birth a cycle spinning
like hoops around your playmates’ bellies.
A tough-minded parent insists
this mad world will squeeze your soul to bursting
if such small things stick hard in your throat.

But they do. Some dim autumn afternoon
you watch dark birds by the dozens dip and rise
in synchronized clouds of motion over
the graying stubble of a farmer’s field.
Past the strange grandeur of the moment,
your first thought as their ranks disappear
is to wonder how many will fall from the air
before reaching some warmer destination.

A friend calls you morbid. Perhaps she’s right,
but you wish to think better of yourself,
so you label this grief for the least of us, fleeting,
an excess of love—soft as silk threads,
wide as a flying thing’s horizon.

Jo Angela Edwins lives and teaches in Florence, SC. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016, and she has poems appearing or set to appear in The A3 ReviewQuarterday ReviewRed Rock Review, and Thimble. She has received awards from Winning Writers, Poetry Super Highway, and the SC Academy of Authors, and she currently serves as poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Aside from poetry, she loves animals, flowers, and far too many television crime shows.

The Color of Orange – a poem by Jen Schneider

The Color of Orange

When I bend legs I no longer know and clench gloved fingers I no longer recognize despite the clear, disposable vinyl, I feel most myself. Neither disposable not invisible. I spent years reading Sherlock Holmes, tracking horoscopes, and streaming vinyl LPs. Always looking for myself, some mysteries solve themselves. Holding a metal shovel that somehow dignifies the task of collecting others’ trash, I reach for artifacts of lives tossed somewhere between Here and There on the Interstate – 95, 295, sometimes 2 – and I remember. Mornings of butter on warm toast. Evenings of secondhand paperbacks and warm vanilla tea. No. 2 pencils on college ruled paper and black and white crosswords. Ruby, olive, and navy-blue polished nails click laptop keys. Streams of thought turned to strings of words. Waiting. Always, for Him.

When I lower my head and tighten my core, I hear – whispers in puddles of oil and water – Don’t mix with Her, Them, Him – words float in the empty spots between Then and Now. As my eyes lock with my own reflection, I wonder about the concept of Self. Self-determination. Self-efficacy. Self-concept. Who are we? Who am I? Clothed in industrial strength cotton, stripped of zippers, buttons, and adjustable waist straps, I am a body in a basket of neon cloth. I am Strong. I am a Survivor.

Greyhounds, pass. Volvos and Chevy’s, too. Some accelerate, others slow. Small children, noses pressed against side windows, watch. They do as I would and allow their eyes the space to linger. I too have questions. I long for answers, as well. Grab your pencil and your lined paper, kids. I’ve got stories to tell. Tales of multi-purpose Easy Bake Ovens and Cabbage Patch dolls. Raggedy Ann aprons and Fisher Price castles, too. Not all mysteries solve themselves. 

The stories linger with the dust in my mind, but my audience has disappeared. Electric wattage everywhere. Dr. Watson always watching. Everyone on speed. So much to do. I too used to be busy. Waiting. Mostly for Him. Now, visiting day is like most others. Pacman on repeat. Asteroids everywhere. Space Invaders Donkey Kong taunts. I wait. For the sun to rise and the plastic eggs – sunny side up – to be served. Orange circles in orange cups. More plastic. Only nothing is perfect. I lose my focus and think of the orange leather clutch in the hallway closet. Gifted on my last birthday. And odd companion to my ruby lipstick in its silver tube. Alien lips, He’d laugh. I wonder if He hid goods there, too. Now, crimson rays clash with orange peel suits. Letters of thirty-six tangerine point font clash with orange cream borders. 

No matter, I’m used to clashes. Like frying-pan grease. Wars of words, too.

  1. Demons, Devils, and/or Dandelions
  2. Gnats, Ghouls, and Goldfish
  3. Droids, Disco Lights, and/or Date Nights
  4. Gooseberry Ice Cream, Game Boards, Gummy Bear.

I push aside _1__ and __2__. 

I make room for __3__ and __4__.

I play games of pinball, chess, and mad libs in my head. Check mates and continue to sweep. Swap nouns with verbs. Aliases, too. Consume gallons of engine fuel, exhaust, and bitter pepper. Pepper spray, too. Toxins, everywhere. Cough and carry-on. As my broom bristles sort through discarded dust and ungloved debris of others’ lives, I sweep the caverns and dark corners of my mind. Inhale the lavender, lilac, and daisies of my dreams. Prehistoric peonies bloom eternal.

Trash, too. I bend and scoop Coca Cola bottles – 5 and 10 cents a pop, Marlboro and Kent cigarette butts, stamped and shredded movie tickets – AMC, Regal, and lipstick stained Starbucks coffee cups. Everything is branded. Me, too. I am a brand of dollar stores, fast-food drive ins, and deep discount mattress stores. Of second-hand video game cartridges, VHS tapes, and metallic blue polish. Of 100 percent cotton T’s, vegetable soup, and create your own adventure stories. Graffiti painted walls, Converse high tops, and Hello Kitty plaid sheets. Of wars lost and words misunderstood. Of unknowing conspiracies and unknown names.

I’m used to clashes. Clocks, too.

No ornaments allowed. No jewelry or memories, either. I mark time by the movement of the sun and sky. Palms up, scorched by orange rays. Palms down, scorched of words. 

I’m frying pan grease. Careful, it’s hot.

When I bend, sweep, scoop, and sniff, I feel simultaneously busy and most at peace. 

Some mysteries solve themselves. 

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Toho Journal, The New Verse News, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals. 

Women’s Circle on a Friday Evening – a poem by Melody Wang

Women’s Circle on a Friday Evening

What do you seek? the sage’s eyes are kind, her voice gentle,
allowing me space to revel in the silence. I am tense, unable
to meet her gaze. Clarity, I finally choke, my eyes closing
I can feel my heart, long burdened with sorrow, opening 
amid a room of strangers, releasing all that had bound me 
for the past decade marking your departure from this earth
Beyond this sanctuary, the sullen rain falls like a mantra.
As if in a dream or perhaps a faded memory, I hear 
the sage’s voice murmur something about eucalyptus trees
I sink into a kinder time of soft sunlight, lemony scent
of crescent leaves permeating the air, the familiar grove 
enveloping me in a warm embrace and at the far end  
I see you, one eye closed and one eye open — a smile
softening your face, you hover between realms, so aware
of both and yet enveloped in the sweetest slumber
See you soon, my smile back is tremulous. I slowly exhale
and linger in the stillness. I know this now: you lived. 
You felt it all and persevered. I will do the same.

Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.  

Drop in a Waterfall – a poem by James Hannon

Drop In A Waterfall

Who tells me 
a drop in a waterfall
is not enough?
Must I shine like a sun
so my planets 
can orbit around me?
Or be an angel at the top 
of the tree?
What is so wrong about
being part of the flow,
one among many?
My sister brother droplets,
what is the ocean
but all of us finally together?

James Hannon is a psychotherapist in Massachusetts where he accompanies adolescents and adults recovering from disappointments, deceptions, and addictions. His poetry and non-fiction have appeared in journals including Amethyst ReviewBlue River, Cold Mountain Review and in Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets.  His collection, The Year I Learned The Backstroke,was published by Aldrich Press.

Silence Heard on San Bernadino Peak – a poem by James Green

The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV) 

Silence Heard on San Bernardino Peak

You will meet winds named the Santa Anas 
on the trail to San Bernardino Peak.

Some say before the Spaniards came 
the Serranos called them Satanas – Devil Winds. 

They gather in the high desert, then vector 
through passes bending limber pines and 

leaving time-hewn boulders polished smooth, 
a path of round-rock moraine strewn 

from San Gorgonio’s crest down 
to the trailhead, witness to power and glory 

riding thunder and lighting, chasing clouds 
back to the coast.

I went there, to the summit, as I was told 
you can hear these winds and rocks speak 

and I made my camp leeward of an outcropping 
then waited and listened, 

hoping for the voice of an archangel, 
maybe Gabriel or Michael or one of the others, 

but no one spoke, only the noise of wind,
but I am used to that, and besides, 

if I were a chosen one, I am not certain 
I could handle it – the weight of it all – 

so I settled in for the night and watched 
first stars appear above the San Andreas, 

a crease that runs through these mountains, 
and I thought about the myth of solid ground 

while the wind grew louder and lights 
from the valley began to flicker like embers. 

I tried not to think about the earth 
swallowing the mountainside, and I slept. 

Sometime during the night the winds, 
by whatever name, calmed and when I woke 

all I heard was a whisper in the pines, 
then silence so utter I was listening 

to my own breath and all thought went the way 
of a star racing across the heavens, falling 

into hushed space.

James Green has published four chapbooks of poetry.  His individual poems have appeared in literary magazines in Ireland, the UK, and the USA.   Formerly a university professor and administrator, he is now retired and resides in Muncie, Indiana. You may contact him through his website at www.jamesgreenpoetry.net

Saint Joseph of Cupertino – a poem by Stephanie V Sears

Saint Joseph of Cupertino 
One unexplained, 
neither cogent nor lost, 
a breeze wedged out of the glooms. 
Of feather blood, hollow bone, 
beaten brainless by seashore wings 
soaring between light and mist, 
an Easter bell pealing  
a requiem to reason. 
Throughout the day  
he paddles clumsily, 
soon billows like a sail 
without keel or rudder 
to hang onto 
for lack of gravity. 
He has few words for himself. 
He blows smoke rings 
from an insubstantial mind. 
Never high enough go 
the unanchored birds or 
night’s orbed highways. 
Rising on currents of sudden feeling,  
he flies  
along widening geodesics 
of beatitude, 
departing for good 
from the confines of himself. 

Stephanie V Sears is a French and American ethnologist (Doctorate EHESS, Paris 1993), free-lance journalist, essayist and poet whose poetry recently appeared in The Deronda Review, The Comstock Review, The Mystic Blue Review, The Big Windows Review, Indefinite Space, The Plum Tree Tavern, Literary Yard, Clementine Unbound, Anti Heroine Chic, DASH, The Dawn Treader, The Strange Travels of Svinhilde Wilson published by Adelaide Book 2020.

Summer at Poetry Camp of the Lord, with Petroglyphs – a poem by Marci Rae Johnson

Summer at Poetry Camp of the Lord, with Petroglyphs

	Santa Fe, Summer 2019

The prickly pear must be prepared properly         Opuntia:

genus cactus.       Paddle nostle        thorns & the shape of a hand
we must use to carve our names into the rock,        the words

that form a poem hiding         in the ridge & cleft.
Eat the flesh        both sweet & strange        subtle

on our tongues & charred with the fire of inscrutable speech,
which each of us must interpret in a song        or prayer.

Magic, the way the wine loosens us to say
what we say in the shack        the black night,

how our mouths pause,       inhabit
the delicate cat-tail       the pine needles simmering
to a fragrant tea       & the unexpected meat 

found on a trail. It’s hard to imagine all the animals
& plants we might eat.        Bodies breaking for us.

In the dark we proclaim each death until the sun
comes slowly behind the mountain in the morning,

illuminating each face as if it were our own.

Marci Rae Johnson works for Legible.com and as a freelance editor. Her poems appear in Image, The Christian Century, Relief, The Other Journal, Main Street Rag, Rhino, Quiddity, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Louisville Review, and 32 Poems, among others. Her most recent book was published by Steel Toe Books.