The Way to Holy Cross – a poem by Roberto Christiano

The Way to Holy Cross
Leaves are changing
as I take Route Seven 
off the Dulles Greenway.
Hills consider their rise 
into mountains while
cows in the valley rest  
by the shaded streams.
Cars slowly lessen  
along the pike, and I 
decrease my persistent 
lean on the accelerator.
Nearing the abbey,
roads like Retreat Lane
and Good Samaritan Vale
saunter into view
without asking for notice.
After a long bridge
over the smooth-faced
Shenandoah River, 
I turn off the highway,
roll my window down.
The road is dirt now.
The river glints
at my side between the trees.
Leaves of red maple,
elm, and oak
petal my windshield.
The sign marked
Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey
is easy to pass, 
but I manage to catch it  
out of the corner of my eye
and bear right onto the gravel road
of Cool Spring Lane,
where ripened wheat 
is waiting for harvest.   
Silence deepens in the shadows
of afternoon fields.
Beyond the expanse of planted acres,
the Blue Ridge ascends
its way into the orange
of Indian Summer.
Bells toll for midday prayer.
Softly, I shut the engine off.
Walking up to the sanctuary,
the sky unfolds 
like a vast blue possibility.
Monks are gathering in 
without haste or worry.
I dip in the holy water,
take my place,
incline my head.
The brothers chant,
“God, come to my assistance,”
and I reply,
“Lord, make haste to help me.”

Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from The Northern Virginia Review for his story, “The Care of Roses.” He received a Pushcart nomination from Prairie Schooner for his poetry and was anthologized in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. His chapbook, Port of Leaving, is currently available through Finishing Line Press. Other work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Sow’s Ear, New Verse News, and Delmarva.

Kites – a poem by Daniel Gustafsson


It’s light that first attracts
my eyes, a glint of fire overhead,
and then the tug of rufous thread
unreeled from earth to air – 
where twinned, entwining helixes			
unite the rhyming pair 		

in soaring dance. Down here,  	
a moor-patterning grid of pylons, masts
and wire-mesh extends its vast
design. The kites, astride
the bypass now, with fourfold wings
and forking tails divide

the sky between them. Swathes
of edgeland caught within their wheeling span,	
I see them scout and circle, scan	
the fields and tonsured hill		
with pinions poised, then pivot there, 		
anticipate the kill

and swoop. As daylight falls
I stand entranced beneath the reddened sky,	
a single figure, steeple-high,
exposed on open ground 
for savage, all-pursuing love
to run its rings around. 

Daniel Gustafsson has published volumes in both English and Swedish, most recently Fordings (Marble Poetry, 2020). New poems appear in Trinity House Review, The Brazen Head, North American Anglican and The York Journal. Daniel lives in York.  Twitter: @PoetGustafsson Website:

Setting Out – a poem by Barbara Daniels

Setting Out
		Ireland, 500 AD

He sings this: wicker boat 
covered with skins, light among 
rocks and out onto seafoam. 

Swans overhead follow each other 
north past the far edge of ocean. 
They know they’ll find land there.

He used to trade without speaking.
Men offered oil, wine, amber. 
He countered—hunting dogs, 

wool, his beautiful slave. Now 
he owns nothing. Who is he 
since he buried his sword 

and shield, his silver bowl 
embossed with the story of Christ 
and the story of Venus? 

He takes bread for a journey, steps 
into a rudderless, oarless boat. 
He may come to an island 

and live there, a hermit, 
or end with the grandeur 
of nothing, the last bit of bread. 

He sings this: Water 
my desert. My wicker boat. 
Swans fly. I follow.

Suns – a poem by Barbara Daniels


An owl that flew from the tundra 
waits on the ground, slowly 

turning its head almost completely 
around. If everything connects, 

owl to song, holly back to a quiet grove, 
can I return through vast galaxies 

to lie on the living room rug 
among fragrant pine needles, Mom 

and Dad asleep, the furnace wheezing? 
The elegant hand of Dad’s record player 

lifts and drops to scratched vinyl, 
Messiah joyously leaping the gaps. 

The sun comes up—beside it 
another sun, another, another.

Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. 

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

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

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.