“Balsam Bed” by Charles Weld

To retrigger vigor, my father would break an inch
or two of new growth from a balsam fir, pinch
then roll the needles between his fingers, and holding
this poultice to his nose, breathe in. And when spending
the night in a lean-to, he’d send us out to bring
him armfuls of boughs which he would overlap, needle
end over stick end, row by row, head to toe, like shingle
until the balsam bed had depth and spring
equal to the lean-to’s hard, plank flooring. Hemlock scent
is dry, rising high into the sinuses with a slight burn.
Balsam spirits penetrate, cool as fragrant liniment.
We settled quickly to rest in those needled nests,
not feeling out of place like strangers or guests,
but protected from danger—safe beyond concern.

 

 

Charles Weld has appeared in many literary magazines: Snakeskin, Southern Poetry Review, The Evansville Review, Worcester Review, Tampa Review, CT Review, Friends Journal, Vita Brevis, Better Than Starbucks, etc. Pudding House published a chapbook of his poems, Country I Would Settle In, in 2004. Kattywompus Press published another chapbook, Who Cooks For You? in 2012. His poems were included in FootHills Publishing’s anthology Birdsong in 2017. A retired mental health counselor/administrator now working part-time in an agency treating youth, Charles lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

“Speculation” by Craig Dobson

The whole view grows
in winter’s sunlit vinegar –
hauled up by a blue false sky
behind which, like tombstones,
the stars are waiting.
When I met you, I was similar –
nothing to stand in nothing’s way
under my own false future.
Why you wore spring’s patience,
only you remember.
Turning from the brazen scape,
I see the ice in shadows.
Too old now for our old conjecture,
still some of it, like sunlight, lingers –
like frost will, too, in dark spring corners.

 

 

Craig Dobson has had poems and short fiction published in Agenda, The London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, The Interpreter’s House, Better than Starbucks, Magma, New Welsh Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Lighten Up Online, North, The Rialto, Southword, Stand, Poetry Daily Website, and Neon. He has work forthcoming in THINK, Poetry Salzburg Review, and The Dark Horse. He’s working towards his first collection of poetry. He lives in the UK.

“Those Boys are History Now” by Robert Nisbet

I’ll sing a blues for those two boys,
cycling through their time and place,
a south-west corner of a small island,
thirteen years on from a continent’s vast war.
A tall road, summer-sweet with tarmac,
climbing from a seaside village,
from rock pool to hedgerow, tyre hum –
and the dates, the hopes, that Friday next,
the girls with pony-tails.
They are history now, those boys,
and we might search for them,
the names, the boys, the sentiments,
stacked up in family photos, newspapers,
exam results and names of teams,
postcards from Paris, microfilm.
(Praise, praise, to the stackers and recorders).
Sometimes they seem to fade, that scene, the people,
yet still they haunt that recollected tarmacked road,
evoking, evoking.

 

 

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who once read for an American President, when ex-President and poet Jimmy Carter was guest of honour at the opening of the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea in 1995. Nisbet is a Pushcart Prize nominee for “Cultivation” (Sparks of Calliope, 2019).

“Fall in Massachusetts” by Konstantin Yakimchuk

Truly, I enjoyed pretentious Boston’s autumn
Fallen leaves and puddles, broken branches,
And although I had the hardest working quota,
I remember parks, museums, tasty lunches.

I recall those bridges, stations, mansions,
Gliding wind on snowy, icy roads.
There were rumors that the Cape in stormy weather
Catches on the hook all floating boats.

Far away somewhere, over ocean,
If I am sensing breeze and salty air,
In Atlantic chilly iodine potion
I perceive New England’s subtle flair.

 

 

Konstantin Yakimchuk is a poet, prose writer, and editor. He has published several poetry books. Konstantin writes in various genres of poetry but prefers the classical verse. Moreover, he works as a biomedical scientist and the results of his research have been published in the leading scientific journals. Konstantin lives with his family in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Tools of the Trade” by Bruce McRae

Shovel

It’s what I lean on
in the heat of day.
The goon spoon.
The old banjo,
it’s what I play
and who I am –-
a mover of things:
coal, earth, snow,
nothing shall remain as is.
How else do I make
a hole and fill it?
What other way
can the gravedigger
marry the dead?

Ladder

Without a doubt
a ladder goes both up and down.
Most certainly,
a ladder takes us and all
to where we’re going:
web-riddled attics;
highest deadwood;
unwashed windows.
Absolutely, dear customer,
you can climb
the hatchways into heaven
or cellars of hell.
Wherever you most desire.
However you’re destined.

Saw

I’ve never seen
what the saw has seen.
I’ve never spoke aloud
its secret name
or passed a comment
on its toothy grin.

O bloodless tragedy,
I’ve never cut off
the heads of dolls
in a cold sweat.
There is no tree
I haven’t considered
cutting down
to the ground.
No forest offends me.

Mop

This is no ordinary mop, my starlings.
This is a wand for warding away evil.
It’s a thin man in search of his head.
This is how we divine for well water.

Not just a mop, a consolation prize
in a contest no rational mind would contemplate.
A lever in a mechanical heaven.
A stick you heave at the darkness.

A mop, if only to the unschooled eye.
It’s possibly the last oak on the planet.
It’s the one I love. A comely dancer,
wherever I lead she reluctantly follows.

Hammer

The hammer doesn’t know it’s a hammer.
The hammer has never heard it’s been said
‘every tool is a possible weapon’.
Round nails. Brain pans. Piano wire.
It’s much the same when you’re a hammer.
Gallows. Mansions. A tall ship’s decking.
A hammer doesn’t weigh up potential
or adjudge the concerns of carpenters.
It’s we who make things and take things apart.
That’s our blood that holds us together.

 

 

 

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,600 poems published internationally in magazines such as PoetryRattle and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press); An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press); Like As If (Pski’s Porch); Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

“COVID Dispatch” by Charlie Brice

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee

I sit in my porch room,
a rainy day in Pittsburgh,
and listen to Khachaturian’s
Gayaneh Ballet. I ignore
the lively playful parts, listen
only for yearning and strife.

I absorb melancholy and think about
sand hill cranes on Walloon Lake.
I miss their prehistoric banter, their legs
dragging behind them in flight like
retracted landing gear, their prayerful
umber glimmer at sunset.

At almost 70, my hands covered
with age spots, having cut my face
with scissors while trimming my
shaggy gray beard this morning, and
feeling in my limbs that one day
I won’t be able to rise unassisted
from a chair, I learn that our COVID
quarantine will last for 36 months.

I think about sand hill cranes.
We all fly south, but into the
winter, not away from it.




Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Sunlight Press, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, Mudfish 12, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.

“For Annamarie, on the Death of Her Husband” by Linda Ferguson

“So we grow together
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition…”
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This is for you,
who once took me in
your wide child’s arms,
strawberry wool,
and tea in china cups,
spools of honey,
your little sisters
tumbling
like golden apples
over your bed,
the snowdrops
of your fingertips
on piano keys,
finding silver yearning
of Für Elise, dreams
unfurling from our pillows
like the peach ribbons
of a surprise party
or midsummer picnics
and the plummy pageantry
of Shakespeare’s rhymes
in the rose garden where
we romped and caught
our sleeves on the thorns
of adolescent naïveté.

Now, across a continent,
as your heart gasps
in grief’s cold tunnel
and clusters of friends
offer you tender
apricots of prayer,
may my voice be
a single petal
floating over miles of time
to land like a fingerprint
of sun on your hair,
for my words spring
from a heart that’s one half
of a double cherry
that still grows,
as ever,
next to yours.

 

 

Linda Ferguson is an award-winning, Pushcart-nominated writer of poetry, essays, and fiction. Her poetry chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. As a writing teacher, she has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory.

“The Age of Celebrity” by John Grey

They’re unavoidable:
television. the internet, social media –
celebrities are the air we breathe.

What’s your sister’s baby
compared to the one Beyoncé is having?
And a friend is getting a divorce.
But she’s no Kardashian.

The news is no longer local.
So what if Kate was seen out with Matthew.
They’re not Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
Have to wonder why they even bother.

Home from work
and with you,
I have to wonder if we even exist.
No cameras are flashing.
We’re not being broadcast anywhere.

Even the kiss, the hug,
are not glamorous enough
to matter.

We don’t have followers.
We never go viral.
We’re just ourselves
and where we happen to be at the time.

And we’ll never be featured in People Magazine.
Its pages don’t take kindly to people.

 

 

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. He was recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review, and Qwerty, with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Clade Song.

“Between Love and Madness” by Deborah L. Staunton

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee

The buzz of my cell phone pulses through my blood,
its vibration a hot coil in my head.
It travels down my neck, shoulders, arms,
settles in my chest,
filling my lungs with a pneumonia of dread.
I silently beg the gods of Motherhood
to let this one be minor.
With each event my own mental health falters
and threatens to join my daughter in this dangerous dance.
I know the steps by heart,
lessons learned at a tender age by my father’s side.
the music of mental illness is the song of my life,
genetics the cruel composer,
chance the foolish gambler.
I was the lucky one.
I escaped its prison,
yet I remain in its grip,
between my father and my daughter.




Deborah L. Staunton has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Six Hens, The Remembered Arts Journal, Literary Mama, Sheepshead Review, The MacGuffin, and was featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room exhibit in New York City. Her collection of poetry and prose, Untethered, is currently under consideration for publication.

“Wings” by Philip Henry Christopher

for Don Yorty

1

You read Rilke on 15th Street,
oblivious to the traffic,
the disinterested passing by,
the text passing
from your passionate grasp
into the ice-gray grip
of the grim theorist,
full of dedication,
not like devotion
born in the hot bosom
of simplicity,
where poets lie
defenseless
without ideology.

I could not abide the contrast well,
the play of opposites
side by side on the sidewalk,
one muse held fast
between them.
With a pounding head,
I chose coffee in a plastic cup,
caffeine, and relief
from senses pulled apart
in hot Philadelphia sun.

2

He reads a thousand years
of suspecting truths
reads for angels
stripped of wings,
choking in the dust.
No, not angels…
Human, mortal, cursed…
Like a vision
on wings of wax,
beating relentlessly
against the wind,
striving to rise,
to leave cold ground
for warmth of the sun,
to see in the light
truth shadows distort.

And in the heat the poet
is brightly lit for a time,
until the thin seams of wax,
glue binding the act melts…
Feathers gleaned from birds
of all kinds and climes,
wings fashioned like a knife edge
slicing through time,
loose themselves from
the poet’s binding thoughts
to float slowly away,
each in its own direction.
The act ends turning one last
hope-filled look into blinding light
receding into the distance,
then free-falling,
spinning earthward.

That I could hold fast,
freeze the falling poet
one instant,
or embrace him once,
but he flies among clouds
I fear to approach.

 

 

Phillip Henry Christopher is a poet, novelist, and singer/songwriter who spent his early years in France, Germany, and Greece.  His nomadic family then took him to Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, and Vermont, before settling in the steel mill town of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where he grew up in the smokestack shadows of blue collar America. While wandering America he has placed poems and stories in publications across the country and in Europe and Asia, including in such noteworthy journals as The Caribbean Writer, Gargoyle, Lullwater Review, Blue Collar Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Blind Man’s Rainbow, and New York Quarterly.