Herod and Salome: The Dance of the Seven Veils – a poem by Cynthia Pitman

Herod and Salome: The Dance of the Seven Veils

“Dance the Dance of the Seven Veils” begs King Herod. “I will give you anything you desire.”

Salome sways,
and the first veil
floats to the floor.

Eyes half-closed,
she lifts her chin to the molten moon.
The second veil slithers down
her arms,
her hips,
her legs,
and follows the first to the floor.

She lowers her chin,
turns her head,
and, throat pulsating,
she bends her neck back,
shaking her ebony hair.
The third veil falls.

Again, she lowers her chin.
Again, she lifts it.
She parts her lips.
The fourth veil falls,
caressing on its way down
the curve of her throat.

She arches her back,
breathes in, then out again,
again and again.
The fifth veil floats to the floor,
falling to the fourth.

She straightens her back,
rotates her hips,
slow, languid,
around and around.
The sixth veil slides down
to the fifth on the floor.

Now there is one:
the seventh veil.
With the thumb and finger
of each of her hands,
she takes the seventh veil
by the corners.                                                           
Breathless, she pulls the seventh veil down
her face,
her neck,
her breasts,
her body.

It falls.
She stands still,
reflecting the moonlight
with her body of porcelain.

She smiles and says softly,
“Bring me the head of John the Baptist.”

So cold to the touch.
So cold to the touch.

Cynthia Pitman began writing poetry again this past summer after a 30-year hiatus. She has recently had poetry published in Amethyst ReviewVita BrevisRight Hand PointingEkphrastic ReviewLiterary Yard, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Postcard Poems and Prose, and Leaves of Ink. She has had fiction published in Red Fez and has fiction forthcoming in Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art.

Divinity – a poem by Sanjeev Sethi



Quick-tempered or quieted, in
extreme spaces dwells pureness.
When birth is hamartia, sparkle
and sprightliness inch through
fleeting burrows, retaining me
to prep for the next scrutiny. In
my bag desideratum eventuates
in ache. No emotional corpuscles
for me. Without fizz or temporal
festivities, obeisance to His aura
tempers the tune for me.


Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. He is published in more than 25 countries. Recent credits: The Poetry Village,Bonnie’s Crew, The Sandy River Review, Packingtown Review, Modern Poets Magazine,Talking Writing, Shot Glass Journal, Episcopal Café, The PenwoodReview, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.

The Wizard Girl of Waterville – a story by John Zurn

The Wizard Girl of Waterville

The isolated village of Waterville remained dreary and cold all year long. Hidden from the modern world by high, rugged mountains on one side, and a vast, dangerous desert on the other; the villagers lived a dark and lonely existence. These grim inhabitants of this forsaken valley could often be nervous and bad tempered, caring little for strangers or even each other. Because of their agonizing loneliness, they believed in both gossip and superstition.

But by far the strangest thing about Waterville seemed to be its unusual climate. For as long as anyone could remember, a mysterious phenomenon had darkened their unusual sky. From dawn until sunset every day, it rained continually. This peculiar condition included thunderstorms, drizzle, and even hard, steady downpours. Because of this strange weather, the villagers of Waterville spent almost all their time indoors, which made their lives almost unbearable.

Incredibly, the villagers faced yet another bizarre weather calamity every night. Every day at twilight, a howling wind swept through Waterville, completely drying out the entire village. Because of these biting winds, the people of Waterville often became sick easily. Not surprisingly, they rarely left home at night except for emergencies. Ever since the great fires of a century ago, these strange weather conditions had been ceaselessly recurring. It always happened in the same way. Storm clouds gathered at dawn, followed by rain until sunset. Then from sunset until dawn, harsh, freezing winds would slowly cause the rain to recede.

Because of their strange predicament, the people of Waterville began to look for supernatural reasons for their hapless lives. Over time their tendency to trust superstition took control, and the villagers looked for more comprehensive answers for their problems. Eventually the villagers blamed their despair on a lonely old man named, Jeremiah Bard, who lived in a shack at the edge of town. Being suited for the role of sorcerer, he was a bad tempered man who had black rotten teeth, and long, stringy white hair.

Since Jeremiah looked old and seemingly defenseless, the suspicious villagers of Waterville blamed the old man for what they called the “The Waterville Curse” that had frustrated their lives. Labeling Jeremiah Bard as a “wizard”, the villagers stayed away from him, both fearing and loathing him. When the old man slipped into the village once a month to buy supplies, the other customers insulted him and made secret plans to eliminate him. However, in the end, they didn’t have the courage to follow through with their violent threats. Finally, they simply endured the weather and despised Jeremiah.

However, one young teenager named, Lily White, didn’t believe the stories about Jeremiah Bard, and sought answers for herself. She knew about the rumors, but she needed proof, so she frequently spied on the old man from behind a boulder near his hovel. Unbelievably, one day at sunset, she observed for herself that the rumors appeared to be true. From behind the boulder, she witnessed firsthand the wizard’s magic and his spells. The old man’s wild movements and enigmatic words became alluring and powerful. As she secretly watched and listened, his rituals made Lily nervous but she was also deeply stirred.

As Lily observed Jeremiah Bard each day, she became more interested in the old man, until finally she gathered her courage and decided to steal one of the wizard’s magic books. While he shopped in town, Lily grabbed the spells and ran home where she immediately hid the secret volume in her parent’s attic. Understandably afraid of the anger of both Jeremiah and the people of Waterville, she sat alone hidden in the attic and memorized all the spells in the book. When she finally finished, she burned the esoteric book to ashes.

However, despite all her efforts, Lily could not defeat the wizard and his incantations. Whenever she attempted to break the spell, she only managed to make things worse. The rain fell. The wind howled, and even the storms seemed more intense. The wizard easily overshadowed Lily’s naïve attempts to cast spells and the curse dragged on.

Finally, Lily began to panic. She now began to fixate on her wrath for Bard and, one day in desperation, she decided to murder the old man. She imagined that a grateful village would understand her actions, and might even reward her courage. By doing away with the cruel wizard, the village could thrive again. Then, late one night when the old man was drawing water from his well, Lily thrust him over the side, and the wizard collapsed at the bottom. She nervously observed the wizard’s contorted form for several minutes until she was absolutely convinced that he was death.

Normally, one would expect that such a courageous act might elicit praise from a grateful community, but instead the superstitious residents became outraged and vindictive. When Lily told them the news they rebuked her. Fearing the old man would return as a ghost, they quickly sent her away. Lily, alone and confused, returned to the wizard’s shack to think about her future and what she’d done.

But while she sat crying alone in the shack, a miraculous event occurred. The rain stopped. As she looked out the window, the sun appeared and it warmed the village. It then became Lily’s deepest hope that the people of Waterville would at last understand her actions and welcome her back.

It was at that moment that Lily White’s fate became sealed forever. All around the property, a fierce fire suddenly broke out, igniting the yard, and setting the shack ablaze. As the raging flames quickly made their way toward the Waterville road, Lily grew ever more terrified and bewildered. Filled with foreboding, she herself cast the rain spell, until at last a heavy rain storm extinguished the deadly flames. She now understood for the first time that she must replace the old man and protect the village.

Previously ignored by the villagers, Lily, like Jeremiah Bard, was now feared and hated. None of her explanations regarding the fire and the rain sounded believable to the others, so she was banished for good. She now had the onerous title of The Wizard Girl of Waterville. With every new day of rain and every night of fierce winds, the villagers hated her ever more intensely.

As the years passed, Lily White adapted to her role. She let her hair grow long and snarled; let her teeth rot and she often mumbled to herself. The villagers and even her own family would have nothing to do with her. Hoping to make amends for killing old Jeremiah Bard, Lily faithfully cast spells until the day she died. On that day, the village of Waterville burned to the ground.


John Zurn has earned an M.A. in English from Western Illinois University and spent much of his career as a school teacher.  In addition, John has worked at several developmental training centers, where he taught employment readiness skills to mentally challenged teenagers and adults.  Now retired, he continues to write and publish poems and stories.  As one of seven children, his experiences growing up continue to help inspire his art and influence his life.

The House is on Fire – a poem by Sarah Cave

The House is on Fire & I’m searching
for an appropriate emoji
the hand of god
stroking my temples like a lost lover
like a mother with illusions, elisions,
delusions; a blue-black

dog running. Mother, mother;
where did you hide
the sunset? The weather cock
& the blue-black dog
quiet in the nave, on your knees

no sanctuary, no sanctuary
suture scars conceal the bird marks
tittering a muddle of vowels
& a dawn chorus of stars, drunken
elephants, pink orangutans;

skinny dipping, skin-stripped. Rebuild
the cathedral & then build

miniatures of the cathedral
while we wait still,

still, still singing on bridges until
the house is set on fire

Sarah Cave is a poet, academic and editor of Guillemot Press. She is currently working toward a practice-based poetry PhD in Prayerful Poetics. Her publications include like fragile clay (Guillemot Press, 2018), An Arbitrary Line (Broken Sleep Books, 2018) & Perseverance Valley (Knives, Forks and Spoons, September 2019).

Approaching Salisbury Mills the Train Blows Its Whistle – a poem by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

Approaching Salisbury Mills the Train Blows Its Whistle;
People Mind the Stop-Gap Before Rushing to a Seat

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
“Closing Time”—Semisonic

I shiver the breeze of opening doors,
against the onward steps

scurrying for seats facing forward or backward
through swaying cars & narrow aisles.

This is where I board.

On this spring-like morning, I sit backward,
the air cool & a crack of sunrise burning
through frosted windows, brightening

sleepy heads & towns
seeking a city that never sleeps.

The train moves until it’s suspended
atop the Moodna Viaduct, forming a line inscribed in the sky
exposed to the same forces
of gravity & velocity marking the tides.

I succumb to the light, squeeze my eyes shut,
focus on the rails with quiet anticipation—

moments of the deceleration,
movements taking me to the next stop—

(fearing no speed, no derailments
or the beautiful pieces of me tossed from the car.)

Gaining momentum, I listen to learn
of what’s ahead,

a soft, gentle pounding inside hovering above
what must be heard,
clanging, arrivals, departures, measured miles (knowing)—

there’s a vividness dancing this sunrise,
the emerging destination.

Here is where I visit.
Here is where I wish to stay—

sometimes arriving sitting backward
though always moving forward.


Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley where she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and every once in a while sleeps. She is the author of three collections, seventeen chapbooks, three crime novellas, a novelette, and an experimental memoir.

Now and at the hour – a story by Ellen Wade Beals

Now and at the hour

The story begins with my sister in law Sheila, who was married to my brother Tom. Now I loved Tom but he was not the nicest man in the world. He’d never been. Even when we were younger and innocent, Tom always looked out for himself. He died in 1982, killed in the line of duty, which might make you think he was a hero but at the time of his death he was under investigation for police brutality. The papers screamed about the miscarriage of justice. Tom was hard, and he was mean to Sheila, even in the early days of their marriage, not hitting mean but yelling mean. When he died it was quite the controversy, but his name has receded over time. My brother’s son, Tommy, was never the same after the scandal. He was a teenager then. He dropped out of high school, disappeared for years. When he came back he was sick–hepatitis, cirrhosis. He stayed with Sheila and she was just figuring out what to do with him when he got sick and died. This is a couple of years back but it all goes to show that Sheila didn’t have it nice.

Being sisters- in-law, she and I pal-ed around some. We were the seat fillers at various functions (Tom’s and my sister, Mags–she had a boatload of kids). We could be counted on to buy something at Tupperware parties, to spring for a raffle ticket, to crochet a blanket for the baby shower. Trouble was, when those babies grew up, we didn’t really see them. Mags was long dead; her kids lost to the suburbs. Just a few of us are left in the old neighborhood. Sheila lived two blocks over and worked at the archdiocese, retiring before Cardinal Bernadin died. She had friends from church, and a couple of gals from high school she played cards with, but Sheila’s social life was never go-go-go. After my brother died, she didn’t date. I never heard her talk about sex. Geez, she didn’t even wear shorts.

She endured so much pain with such fortitude that she must have been steel at the core. On the outside, she was soft, a matron of the ruffled and powdered variety. Her sweet demeanor was probably even more noticeable next to my sterner disposition. I’m aware that my nickname is “Lill the Pill.” Earlier in my life, when I cared more what others thought of me, the nickname hurt. Now, in what surely are my last years, I don’t resent it. It’s probably this orderly nature that keeps me living quite well alone, able to take care of myself.

In 1989 Sheila had a bout of colon cancer. They took out part of her intestine. It recurred in the ‘90s and they operated again. When it came back this last time, they couldn’t do surgery and she had other treatments for a while but eventually it got her. She was at St. Anthony’s Hospital. After a while the stream of visitors, never big to begin with, became a trickle, with the biggest drip being me. Toward the end I came twice a day.

I’d straighten the get-well cards, open the curtains, make sure the water was cold. I’d turn on the TV and we’d watch The Price Is Right, because Sheila was crazy about Bob Barker. We’d talk about the weather, the family, the neighborhood. Toward the end she was quieter, didn’t care too much if the TV was on.

“I’m here She,” I’d tell her, “do you need anything?”

More often than not she wouldn’t, and I’d sit with her and read my book.

One morning I got there and thought I’d turn on Bob even though Sheila couldn’t really follow it. I went to the little swing table by her bed to get the remote and she opened her eyes, “He came to me last night,” she said.

I forgot about the television. “Who?’

“The Lord Jesus.” She bowed her head,

“God came to you?” I bowed my head too, “I’m glad for you Sheila.” I guessed the end was near.

“Not God,” she said, “Jesus.” When she nodded again I realized she was indicating the crucifix on the opposite wall. She lifted a finger, the nails ragged and the polish worn. I wondered should I bring my manicure kit next time. “Jesus came to me Lill.”

I smiled, folded over the cover and sheet to neaten them.

“Off that cross and over to me.”

“What?” I stopped fussing.

She motioned I should put my ear to her mouth, “He was gentle.”

I stood up, but she wanted to say more so I bent down again, “Lill, He stood where you are now.” She sounded stronger than I heard her in a week. I looked at the crucifix: Our Lord bowing his thorn-crowned head in pain and sacrifice. His feet were particularly poignant; blood weeping from the delicate bones. Her hand grasped my arm. She nodded: yes, it was true.

I stood there quietly, hoping it would pass. After a minute, she continued, “Right there. His hands warm and soft. He touched my cheek,” she put her fingers there as if she could still feel the spot, “put his fingers on my lips and I no longer thirsted.” She let her fingers stay on her mouth.

I didn’t want to hear more. I looked at her eyes; they were clear, not glassy. I put the back of my hand to her forehead. She didn’t seem warm, but she had to be delirious.

On the bus home I considered what I’d heard about dying. I’d been told once that men die with evidence of sexual arousal but I didn’t know if that was true. I’d also heard that it’s likely we’ll leave a mess in our pants. This seemed plausible. And everyone has heard about the white light that engulfs and beckons. That made Jesus’s appearance to a faithful servant not so far-fetched. By the time I got to my stop I guessed it was a good thing Sheila had found such peace.

I went back later that day. The afternoon sun was streaming in the window in Sheila’s room so my first order of business was to close the curtains. I pulled on the fabric and the grommets skittered across the rod. “Hey She,” I turned to the bed.

“He was here again,” she said.

I went to the bed, checked to see how full the little pitcher of water was. I looked down on her face, which probably mirrored my own. Her skin was wrinkled and thin as worn cloth. “Lill,” she said, “he came again.”

I smiled at her, realizing then I had expected this, knew from the way she spoke previously that this was not some fleeting idea. “Right here.”

“Here?” I asked just to make sure.

“Right here,” she said, “and he filled me with his spirit.”

“I don’t know if I understand.”

“He completed me.”

I poured her old glass of water into the azalea on the window, threw out the plastic cup, and poured a fresh one. “In case you need it,” I said.

“There’s the stained glass at church,” she said, “the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

“In the front?”

“Think of that heart,” she said. I could picture it. “The red.”

“Ruby red,” I said.

“That came over me, that red was all around.”

I didn’t know what to say. I had a lot of questions but I could not ask. If this were the end of Sheila, would it be nice to press her? Did I want to hear her answer?

I tucked in the sheets at the foot of her bed. “Need anything?”

“I’m set,” she said and drifted off.

I sat in the leatherette chair off to the side, listened to her breathing, looked at the crucifix on the wall. The curtains eclipsed the light but when I closed my eyes I could see the window’s outline, like an x-ray image, only it was dark red. When the nurse came in, I was startled awake. Sheila kept sleeping so I left.

At the bus stop I prayed the Hail Mary. When I took my seat by the driver I thought of the stained glass window—Jesus in his robes of pale blue and white, the golden flames, the heart in all its ruby anatomy, the crown of thorns piercing, and His fingers at the edge of the wound.

The prayer beneath: “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.” I said these words in my head.

I stopped at the store to get a chop and a spud. Maybe it was the tabloids newspapers lining the checkout that made me think that maybe a man, a janitor or orderly, was going into Sheila’s room. The thought disturbed me.

At home I don’t know how long I chewed things over before I called the hospital and talked to the floor nurse.

Her name was Angela Petit.

“My sister in law,” I started slowly, “in Room 206 said something about a man in her room.”

“Well, she hasn’t had many visitors besides you,” she said, “not any really.”

“I don’t mean a visitor.” I didn’t know how to phrase it.

“No one else has been in her room.”

“An orderly or janitor?”

“No,” she assured, “and never without our knowledge. The nuns here, they run a tight ship.”

There was a moment of silence as we both considered what to say. “And you know,” her voice took on a quieter tone, “at the end, people can say things out of the ordinary.”

It was true. Sheila was serene not disturbed. I thought of what she said–how He filled her with His spirit, completed her; how she thirsted no more; how the red enveloped her; how Jesus touched her.

I considered Sheila’s life; for years she hadn’t had anyone. Who is to say what Jesus would do? He was all things to all people, our Savior, our Shepherd.

When I visited the next day, room 206 was empty. I was steeling myself for bad news when the nurse said Sheila had been moved. She was down the hall.

I popped my head in, “Sheila?”

The woman on the bed was a lot frailer than the one I’d left yesterday.

“Hi hon,” I said. Her white hair was flyaway. I tried to pat it down. Spittle had dried at the corners of her mouth. “You want some water?”

She moved her lips in what she probably thought was a smile. “You,” she said

“How are you? What can I get you—are you tilted up enough?”

She pressed the control to raise the head of her bed.

“I’ll give you some water,” I held the straw to her lips.

“When did they move you?”

“Last night,” she said and motioned me to come closer.

“Jesus came. Filled me with His Glory.”

“Jesus was with you last night?” I smiled as if this were a regular conversation. “I’m glad for you Sheila. I am. I believe He holds you in His hands.”

“We both have wounded hearts.”

Soon one of her roommates was being admitted and the room grew crowded. Sheila slept through the commotion but I felt like an interloper, so I left.

I looked out the bus window the whole ride home. I guess I knew even then I wouldn’t see Sheila again.

At her funeral, a pittance of mourners filled the first row and there weren’t enough pallbearers. The eulogy was by the young priest who never knew Sheila except for when he administered Last Rites. I couldn’t help but stare at the crucifix over the altar, Jesus aggrieved and beseeching. Jesus who needed our love. And we His.

After Communion, my sight went to the stained glass window, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so red you could practically drown in it. Oh Sheila.


Trained as a journalist, Ellen Wade Beals writes poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, in anthologies and on the web. Her poem “Between the sheets” appears in the textbook Everything’s a Text (Pearson 2010). She is editor and publisher of Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words LLC). Her website is: www.solaceinabook.com.

It’s Simple – a poem by Ahrend Torrey

It’s Simple

When the world is unforgiving,
when it tears you
……into the ground
..like a drilling rig,

Things of green, our constant mother, will be there—
that poplar tree, that thought of a roiling river, that little wren
……..on back of a chair, flitting here,

.as you sit outside a cafe, alone:



Ahrend Torrey is a creative writing graduate from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When he is not writing, or working in New Orleans, he enjoys the simpler things in life, like walking around City Park with his husband, Jonathan, and their two rat terriers Dichter and Dova. Forthcoming this year, his collection of poems Small Blue Harbor will be available from The Poetry Box Select imprint.

The Hollow – a poem by Jane Angué

The Hollow

This path that skirts
the cold cluttered shed,
surly-fronted with tasselled
dock and stinging nettle,
slips down into the hollow
where mire and winter’s dregs
seep and settle
in greasy black cakes.

Thick sprouting elder
and brambles throw out limbs
and foot-catching loops along the track.
Bees lose their way
as frothing blossom sinks low;
lazy beetles rummage,
drowsy-drunk on pollen
smelling more of mould than May.

Sombre sagging leaves on leaves,
airless branches, heirless dry
twig-ends stretch out to spike
heads with downcast eyes.
One abreast is all
but all are alone
stepping through
on black thorned thoughts.

Press on. Press on
up the rise. And up.
Light fractures the thick curtain
and polishes the leaves.
Out onto the grassland, looking
round, trees tinselled in the sun,
the hollow softly beards
the quiet face of the down.

After studying French, Jane Angué now lives and works in France, teaching English Language and Literature. She enjoys introducing her students to poetry. She writes in French and English, was longlisted for the Erbacce Prize 2018 and her work has recently appeared in incertain regard, Le Capital des Mots and Dawntreader.


ONION – a poem by Rupert Loydell


The world as places and sounds, a visual music to paint. Hidden layers are stories to be told, ur-texts and brief asides, all referencing each other. It is not a linear progression, our futures do not unfold; we make them, revise them, retell them, practice making others laugh. Then move away and die.

Gaps in the curtain, wing and a prayer, everybody knows


© Rupert M Loydell


Rupert Loydell is a writer, editor and abstract artist. His many books of poetry include Dear Mary (Shearsman, 2017) and The Return of the Man Who Has Everything (Shearsman 2015); and he has edited anthologies such as Yesterday’s Music Today (co-edited with Mike Ferguson, Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2014), and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: manifestos and unmanifestos (Salt, 2010).

Cracked Heart – a poem by Jenny

Cracked Heart

I am meant to be here in the fissure of our
global heart, my own piece of it
still pumping though it could stop at
any moment and I’d just fold into this cycle
of devolving evolution, into
whatever it is that arises
out of what is
no more.
I am meant to weep in stunning grief
at the loss of animal life, habitat,
mounting disappearance we choose not
to stem; the inevitable
apocalypse which may have
already begun.
I am meant to listen through the
clamor of catastrophe, chaos, confounded
to the loudest silence where eternity
waits and watches. The
lacunae between my
breaths and the hum of perception
Inside my cells
hint at the larger song in which
we are sung.
I am meant to flounder in the darkness,
foraging for light like a
a hungry
bat, to then sip deeply and know
something more than
what is seen.
I am meant to stagger in the heartbreak
and bleed sorrow while I
continue to believe
in beauty.


Jenny has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 13 years having moved here from the New York metropolitan area with her family.   By day she is an international tax lawyer, but day and night, a poet, loving to write poems and share with anyone who will read them.  Her work has been in included as part of the yearly Bainbridge Island Poetry Corners celebration in which poems are posted on local storefronts, Ars Poetica, a juried pairing of poems with the work of local artists, several anthologies published by Diversion Press, two publications out of the Grief Dialogues project, “Just a Little More Time” and “Grief Dialogues, the book”, The Cascade Journal Vol. II, of the Washington Poets Association and others.