Afterlife – a poem by Cristina Legarda


My death was not what I thought it would be.
I was expecting tunnels, light, a life
review, and dreading, actually, that thing
you hear about – you feel what everyone
was feeling every moment that you spent 
with them, and every shadowed motive comes 
to light. Instead I got into some sort
of ship, a vessel for a thousand souls.
There was a kind of river, but no need
of pilots, boatswains, ferrymen, or ghosts 
to guide the floating ventricle across 
the void. A holy wind enfolded us in warmth, 
a glow, and seemed to guide our unseen sails.
The bardo, bathed in halos, lay ahead
containing chambers in which each of us,
alone, would face a tilted scale upon 
which lay the iridescent feather that 
would weigh our worth, that mythic, colored plume
composed of all our memories and deeds,
all curling and unfurling on a quill,
the calamus our lifepath formed from birth
on earth to our arrival here. There was
no god or angel there to take our hearts 
and place them on the balance; we just knew
we had to do it for ourselves. And so 
I cupped my hands like one in prayer, felt
my spirit coalesce, a hand, a heart,
a life with just the heft to tip the scale,
the beam’s slow tilt toward eternity
excruciatingly vertiginous
as the feather brushed against me with
what seemed, from here, like dreams – a chance
encounter, lover’s face, a cruel word, 
a secret moment when a kindness shaped
a life, my friends, my enemies, the fears
I’d known. I felt the scale swing up and down
and realized the final test was this, 
the lesson I’d been learning all along:
to choose between the heaviness of fear  
and love that turns our souls to light. I made
my final choice; the tattered feather sank;
and, clothed in light, I started my ascent.

Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared in America magazine, The DewdropPensiveFOLIODappled ThingsHeartWoodCoastal Shelf,  The Good Life Review, and others.

Crows – a poem by Carole Greenfield


Raucous ballet of dark birds, cries sawing cold air, flap
in staggered sequence, landing of one cue for the next

to take heavy flight in brief spaces between branches, feathers
shifting ebony to chrome, chorus of tarnished angels overhead,

miracle of somber, hoarse-voiced beauty, plaintive
threnody stinging me to tears as I turn to see you 

elbows folded on car roof, gaze lifted 
to those gold-and-silver birds.

Not every love is as you'd pictured. Not every gift 
comes wrapped and labelled with your name.

Carole Greenfield grew up in Colombia and lives in Massachusetts.  Her work has appeared in Red Dancefloor, Gulfstream, Women’s Words, Beltway Quarterly Review, and is forthcoming in Eunoia Review and Dodging the Rain.

Sugar Cube – a poem by Aparna Mitra

Sugar Cube
“…if you could squeeze all the empty space out of all the atoms in all the seven billion people in the world, you could indeed fit them in the volume of a sugar cube.”: Marcus Chown in Ten Bonkers Things About the World.
We are mostly empty space. Squash us close
all seven billion of us – redbacksblackknees
yellowelbowsbrowneyeswhitetoes – and we’d fit in a cube
of sugar. A hollow woman, dressed in fingers and toes
I climb these hollow hills heaving with flowers.
Such beauty in empty. Sunlight on the tops of trees
manna gums bleached pink and everywhere
the smell of leaves. How many cubes for these hills?
Squeeze in the green gleam, the leaf-light, the fern’s
carnal curl. Slip in the soft bodies of the mushrooms,
the mountain ashes smooth-arming their white limbs
into the sky. Make room for this small stream, this one –
bubbling and slipping over the brown knees of stones
spanned by stream-stripped sun-bleached limbs of fallen birch
giant-bones left over from long ago
a forest of small births, the press of tiny deaths
mayflies and moss – to measure is moot.
Over the valley, a pair of rosellas dip and bank
a pinch of red, then of blue, opening now, now closing
make space for colour in our cube.
Nothing is lost, say the Upanishads –
fullness abides. I want to remember everything
these soft-spoken buds, the azaleas’ pink shouts,
your hand in mine, the sky leaning in.

Aparna Mitra lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children. Her poetry has twice won the My Brother Jack Awards and been shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize 2021. Aparna grew up in Calcutta, has a Masters in  Business Management and has worked in banking and in micro finance. Her most recent publication was in the Empty House Press. When not writing, you can find her trying to coax temperamental Indian tropical plants to bloom in her suburban Melbourne garden and tweeting @aparnamitra0.

Our Lady Undoer of Knots – a poem by Grace C. Przywara

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

While reflecting on how
knots of ribbon or string
always seem to be so
convoluted, beyond
amend, I remember
one small tug can shift the
entire contortion now.
inch by inch, connections
reveal themselves: to pull
this pulls that then, gaps where
before threads strangled tight.
Serpentine blooms rosettes.
The knot unravelling
spills smoothly down her hand:
disjointed disarray
has always been one strand.

Grace C. Przywara received an English degree from the University of South Carolina. Her poetry has appeared in Ekstasis Magazine and is forthcoming in Rise Up Review, and has placed multiple years in contests hosted by human rights organization Rehumanize International. Grace currently lives in Aiken, South Carolina.

Prayer – a poem by Melaney Poli



What I mean is, the words I was just using—
very fine words, which meant everything—
not so many, potent—all are lying 
like dust about me.
Which one did I just say, the one that was perfect?
Every word is the same, is all wrong. 
I can’t tell one from another,
I’m saying nothing.
What I want to tell you is escapement, beanbag,
pulsar. Nothing can untie my tongue.
The something in me that wants to speak to you
reduces words to ash.
You will understand if I just sit here stupid and mute. 
You can commune with this vast incoherence. 
I won’t understand a thing, but
I’ll listen in.

Melaney Poli is an artist, writer, and Episcopalian nun. She is the author of the accidental book of poems You Teach Me Light: Slightly Dangerous Poems and an accidental novel, Playing a Part.

Eclipse – a poem by Susan Cossette


How long does this moment last?
Cold dust obscures hot hydrogen gas.
Black umbra, lead weight, 
iron anomaly dangling from an invisible thread.
You burn the soul from my eyes.
I belong here no more than I belonged there.
My life compacted into a few family photos,
wedding crystal wrapped in tissue and packed in rubber bins.
A gravitational confinement only found in ancient stars.
You are in the shadow of the moon.
You know what you left behind.
You know you are alone.

You know what hell feels like.

Not fire, not heat,
just paralysis, blackness, the crackling gold corona,
and laughter in another room.

Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and MothVita Brevis, ONE ARTAs it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Tuesdays at Curley’s and After the Equinox.  

Redwing Tseep – a poem by Martin Towers

Redwing Tseep

Tseep of redwing, out of the dark over the high street
Of an autumn seaside town - and again, after one car comes 

then goes away. On the ground, mystery holds the swinging 
Pukka Pie Takeaway sign in a hover just back and away from upright. 

You watch, holding your ticket, the only one out there, outside 
the empty shop, on a chair, in a mask. Hungry but you can wait.

Redwing tseep changes things, you note - in its thinness, in its closeness 
to silence and nothing. It brings in winter. Brings remembrance 

Of responsibilities, to the dark side, to the moon. It slows down steps
To a stroll that will breathe when you go away from there with your food.

As you do, after a while, into night street solitude. Into yourself.  Into slow 
Stride past windows, your boots doing their heel tap, soul whisper on stone.

Martin Towers recently moved from Northern Ireland to Wales where he works as a support worker. Moths are a big thing for him, his favourite being the Angle Shades.

My Sacred Flesh – a story by Joan Bauer

My Sacred Flesh

When the timer goes off, I pick up the phone to call my twin sister Ronnie.  The pie just came out of the oven, I say, and the turkey’s all done.  I roasted it yesterday.  

Why’d you do that? 

Just to be ready, I guess.  And we’ve already set the table, so I’ll just have to mash the potatoes and make the gravy.  Is Charlie still saying mass before you come over?

Yes, at four.  You can probably make it if you hurry.

 This year, my brother Charlie is staying with Ronnie and her husband Lloyd on Hickory Street.  We used to live a block over from Ronnie, on Walnut, until we came out to this house in ’74.  Maggie, our middle child, never did want to move, so when she’s in town, she always likes to get down there.  As a kid, she would race down the sidewalk to walk home with her dad when she saw him drive by at the end of the day—we had room for only one car, so Bob used to park down the street in the neighbor’s garage in exchange for shoveling her driveway all winter.  The tree branches met overhead at that end of the street, and whenever we passed underneath them on our way back from looking at houses, Maggie’s head would pop up in the rear view.  This would be after she’d begged me to let her stay home.  Poor Maggie. She would be on the toilet, reading a book. 

It’s so strange, Maggie says now on the way over to Ronnie’s, that we have Father Charlie all to ourselves today.  Where is everybody?

He’s really not up to a big gathering, I say.

But how did we get him?

Well, he’s staying with Ronnie and Lloyd, so he goes where they’re going. 

But I know what she means.  There used to be forty-two people for Thanksgiving dinner—all of my brothers and sisters, and all of their families.  When Bob was alive, he never came to the mass, so I would just give him a job.  He’s waiting for one more pie to come out of the oven, I’d say, and then he’ll be here.  And they all understood. 

When we arrive, Ronnie greets us in a whisper; Charlie has opened his mass kit already and put on his stole. The house is cool and quiet and smells of White Shoulders and pinto beans and freshly-baked bread.  When Charlie first regained consciousness after the stroke, he spoke only in Latin, and John, Maggie’s husband, who is also a scholar (and also, like Bob, not a Catholic), was so impressed. Years ago, when they first started dating, I said to Charlie, you’ve met him. What do you think?  He’s seven years older.  And Charlie said, don’t worry, Theresa.  Those two are peas in a pod.  

Ronnie’s dining room is in the center of her house, and the other rooms lean up against it like cinnamon rolls in a pan.  There are five of us now for the mass, in addition to Charlie: Ronnie and Lloyd, Maggie and John, and myself.  Under his stole, Charlie is wearing that cardigan sweater we got him last year for his birthday.  It was around that time that he finally left rehab and went back to his room.  Randy, who worked in the kitchen, was so happy to see him again–he was the one who found him, after the stroke.

Charlie recites the entrance antiphon and the penitential rite and then he leans back in his chair, tucking the tips of his fingers into his belt.  Today’s the feast of St. Cecilia, he says.  I can still see Mother sitting at the piano.  She used to play the Polonaise, and Alice Blue Gown. 

Those were the two she taught me to play, I put in.  You had piano lessons, Ronnie, but I never did.

We had such a nice breakfast this morning, Charlie says now, grinning at Ronnie.  

She points her finger at him.  She looks old—older than I do, I think.  You kept asking me, did I want some muskmelon next?

Why muskmelon? Maggie asks. 

We were having such a lovely—

It was grapefruit, Lloyd interjects.  His voice has a bit of a rasp.  We were eating grapefruit, but you kept saying cantaloupe.

We laugh, and Charlie gets on with the mass.  He was always a tease.  When our girls were little, he would capture their wrists in a circle with his thumb and forefinger and challenge them to break their hands loose. They would struggle, twisting their wrists, but they couldn’t get free.  And he would pretend they were hurting him, crying out, “oh! my sacred flesh!” with a huge grin on his face. 

He asks Lloyd to do the readings; he never asks me or Ronnie to do them, and John wouldn’t expect it, though there’s really no reason at all why he couldn’t do it.  Still, I wish he’d ask Maggie for once. Years ago, he would have all the little kids do the communion count, and that was so nice for the girls. 

Lloyd takes the missal from Charlie now and stands up. The first reading is from Revelation—something about a sharp sickle and clusters of grapes being thrown into the wine press of God’s fury.  During the psalm, I think maybe I ought to peel a few more potatoes when we get home, just in case.  But the gospel verse gets my attention:  Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Charlie reads us a gospel about the end times, about the beautiful temple being destroyed with no stone left upon another.  Many will come in my name, so do not be deceived.  Nation will rise against nation. There will be earthquakes and famine and plagues. It’s plenty for us to chew on.  But before Charlie can give us his usual one-minute homily, Ronnie pipes up.

I have a question.

You do?

Yes, I do, Charlie, and I really hope you can answer this one for me.  

All right. What’s on the giant mind?

Ronnie frowns down at her Quaker lace tablecloth.  Lloyd gave her that white cardigan sweater she’s wearing for Christmas some ten years ago, and it’s still in perfect condition.  

I understand that we have to be good, Ronnie says.  But what if you’ve been good all your life, and you maybe slip up a little bit just at the end?  And what if there’s some other person who hasn’t been good, but they have a deathbed conversion?  What if that person gets into heaven, and you don’t?

She sounds plaintive somehow; maybe it’s because of that muskmelon business earlier. We’re all quiet, waiting to hear what Charlie will say.

Well, Ronnie, he says, we all have to persevere to the end–the very end.  

That sounds like Teresa of Avila, Maggie says, leaning toward me.  I read one of her books—The Way of Perfection.

And Ronnie says, well, what about deaths of despair?  And they go back and forth.

Maggie looks rapt; clearly, this mass is much better than she was expecting. I hope they’ll go on talking now, just for her sake.  Because Maggie—well, she wouldn’t come home when Bob died.  She stayed downtown instead with that friend of hers, the one who was only here for a year as a nanny.  The parents were gone, and her friend was afraid to stay alone in that house overnight with the children.  But Maggie, I said, the hospice nurse told us it might even happen tonight.  But I promised, she said.  And I didn’t argue with her, because she would never have promised at all except that she wasn’t thinking about what was going on here.  She couldn’t stand at the foot of the cross for her dad, and that worried me. I went back to the bedroom that day and sat down next to Bob, and I tried to explain.  You understand, I said, though I wasn’t sure he could still hear me.  Our Maggie just has her head in the clouds. 

But when Charlie got sick, Maggie went down to that hospital room every day. This wasn’t the stroke—this was his bypass, five years before.  He was hospitalized a long time after that, the poor man.  She called me one day–it was a Saturday, I remember.  By then, Charlie had been in the ICU for two weeks.  Ronnie and Lloyd and I had been up there to see him right after the surgery, but we couldn’t stay, so I was always so glad that Maggie was there. Visiting hours were only from two to two-thirty, she said, and only one or two people could go in at a time, so she was expecting to wait outside for her turn.  But for some reason, she was the only one there.  And he always said that five minutes was more than enough for a hospital visit.  So, every five minutes, she asked him, shouldn’t I go now, Father?  And he said, no, don’t leave yet, so she stayed the whole time.  He couldn’t say much.  He lay flat in that bed, for hours, it seemed, with no company, nothing but his own thoughts. She had to search around for things to talk about—little things, really.      

Oh, I’m so glad, I told her; even though, knowing him, he might have preferred to be quiet.  And she said, I just felt like I had to do it for you, in your place. I know you’d be here every day if you could.  

Well, you’ve been a good congregation, Charlie says now as he packs up his mass kit.  Ronnie gathers her pitcher and bowl and her tabletop crucifix that she keeps on the windowsill over the sink, and goes into the kitchen.  Everyone’s hurrying now. People are putting on coats.  Lloyd wants to know if Charlie will walk down the steps or if he should bring the car around back. John offers to help. It’s so nice that he comes to church with Maggie.  Bob never did that, though he never threw up any obstacles for us, either.  There were too many rituals, though, that he couldn’t accept.

In the kitchen, Ronnie turns to the stove for the pinto beans, where she stops. With a sigh, she goes out to the dining room table again and sits down.  

What is it, Ronnie?

You go on ahead, Theresa, she says. I’ll have to wait for the pressure cooker to finish.  

Lloyd gives her a look.  What time did you set it for? 

You go on ahead, she repeats, determined to smile. 

As we are leaving, I think about Ronnie, who has to stay here in this house on this steep little street and be treated this way because she wasn’t ready.  Lloyd’s always been good to her; that’s not what I mean.  What I mean is, maybe she would have been ready, except for the mass.And we have no timetable, really.

Maggie goes over to Ronnie and says, thanks for having us.  We’ll see you soon.  She’s always been different from me, and from Bob, and her sisters.  It isn’t just preference, or even nostalgia, for her, coming here; when she was a child, she just needed to follow her own inner promptings.  The reason she begged me to let her stay home from looking at houses was so she could curl up and read.  She has that in common with Ronnie–that life of earnest simplicity, that refusal to budge.  Oh, Bob, I would say.  Our Maggie just has her head in the clouds.

Joan Bauer holds a master’s degree in English and has worked as a trust officer in a bank.  She and her husband Paul live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they have raised three children.  Joan’s novel The Bicycle Messenger was recently longlisted for the 2022 Virginia Prize for Fiction.

The Reformation – a poem by Jessica Khailo

The Reformation

If the cracks in the dome of the temple
are corpus callosum 
and cerebral cortex,
our muted cries for more stability
may finally rupture the cathedral foundations
and open our staring eye to the Sun.
It’s not how we see, but why we see it,
when we penetrate our painted ceilings
and reclaim them from the Demiurge.
This twisting labyrinth
is no longer finite, unbound from its tiles,
as we take our golden spoons 
to the softening walls of crimson chambers,
where new ventricles are created
for rivers of Divine Love
within our Sacred Hearts.

Jessica Khailo (she/her) lives in the state of Washington with her husband, two children, and one very good dog. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys complaining on walks through the woods, knitting, creating dodgy artwork, and singing her heart out like no one is listening. Her work has appeared in The Citron Review.

Sitting Still – a poem by Daniel Niv

Sitting Still 

"And why am I always the one who hears it?" 
Rainer Maria Rilke, "The Neighbor"

It's been blank since my last.
The mind, a void 
that is heavy.  
And I think it's strange that emptiness can be felt,
that one can sense a thing that's missing
and not yet manifested. 
Like the Unseen that no longer gathers around me, 
waiting patiently for an opening – 
Some open wound to caress and press 
until I almost know why. 
It is a curse I pray to keep
                                           (though it does not keep me) 
                                                                                 though it makes me grieve – 
          having it,                               losing it,                                 having it.

It is a wanting I know not how to want
nor give up. It gives all a sense of meaning 
that hides and eludes me. 
And it takes my will out of me as it slides on my body
                                                                          and moves on to another source
as if I have no voice left
I hear a strange violin at a distance, and
someone else’s hand searching for a pen. 

Daniel Niv (She/ Her) is a student at Tel Aviv University. She is double majoring in Literature and Creative Writing in both Hebrew and English. She won the Bar Sagi Award 2021 for her poetry. You can find more of her published works in Phantom Kangaroo, Anti-Heroin Chic, Caesura, and elsewhere. For more information, you can visit her website: