“Pan de Sal” by Chelsea Samson

2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee

2021 Best of the Net Nominee

When I was a little girl,
My mother told me that pain was a woman’s gift.
I remembered then, she was baking bread.

Her hands fell soft, melodic
and as the flour wove through her fingers
She would hum little sounds that painted my world.

I could never figure her recipe,
but she said that I would know when I was older.
And I have tried and tried since then.

I would never forget the taste of it,
a brown smell and a salty comfort in my mouth
that lingered as I ran outside to play.

Years passed and the days have grown long in me
and many times, I have made her bread,
if only to feel that brown comfort again.

But life always colored mine with its flavors,
at times too light, and thrice too sweet to taste.
Heavy hands made it bitter, and biting to the tongue.

I felt like I would never know her secret,
But the need to feel that comfort, and curiosity,
would not leave my soul.

And so once more I made my mother’s bread,
But the salt of my tears and pain, of age
added to water, sugar, flour, yeast and eggs.

There it was – it finally tasted like my mother’s.

Dr. Chelsea Elizabeth Samson works in the field of health management and technology in the Philippines and advocates for human connections in the healthcare system. Alongside her primary functions, she pursues civic advocacies as a brand ambassador of Kandama indigenous weaves and as a Global Shaper under the World Economic Forum. She has been writing poetry since the age of 12 and has continued a love affair with arts through her painting and poetry. 

“The Night I Died in My Sleep” by John Tustin

The night I died in my sleep last week
I woke up somehow in my old bedroom
With the Spider-man poster on the wall
And the room smelling like the worst of me
Because I always kept my door closed.

I was dizzy when I opened my eyes, lying face up in bed,
And my mother was standing to the left side of me.
I was so thin and straight-legged!
My stereo was right where I remembered it.

“Don’t drink so much or so often,” she said.
“Don’t do too many stupid things.
Follow your dreams, but look before you leap.
I know you hate school but no one cares.
They just care about that piece of paper.
Make sure a woman is good for you and to you before you marry her.
Be good to others. Be a good boy.
Now get up and brush your teeth.”

I closed my eyes again
And when I reopened them I was in this bed again, this room again:
Not a teenage boy but a man leaning toward old age.
I was alive again and my mother was not alive again.
“I’m glad I didn’t get the chance to tell her everything she just said
Was advice given much too late,”
I said to myself: alone in my apartment and wiggling my loose tooth.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last twelve years. His website contains links to his published poetry online.

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863) was a poet and academic who is best remembered for the following poem which he claimed to have written for his children. Although he was acknowledged throughout his lifetime as the undisputed author of the poem, which was originally published anonymously in 1823, some modern scholars have suggested a different author actually wrote the poem. What is indisputable is that the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” is one of the most well-known poems ever written by an American poet, and has been singularly responsible for many current conceptions of Santa Claus and Christmas gift-giving in secular American culture.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

“Ode to the East Wind” by Carol Casey

You come from where our stark beginnings find
their birth and blow through truth and storm to where
the roots of cold dig deep and make us blind
with tears that freeze on faces wild with care
and make escape from you such great relief
that other burdens seem so light to bear
when we are left with only human grief
to gather up within some sheltered lair
while you go on to taunt the naked trees
And howl your lonely dirges through the air
where sere fates toss about like brittle leaves
that sweep both nerve and landscape into prayer.
For it’s your careless power we resist
and challenged, find the courage to persist.

Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Prairie Journal, BluePepper, Back Channels, Front Porch Review and others, including a number of anthologies, most recently, i am what becomes of broken branch and We Are One: Poems From the Pandemic. Facebook: @ccaseypoetry; Twitter: @ccasey_carol; Webpage: https://learnforlifepotential.com/home-2/poetry/

“Misunderstandings” by Rosemary Lazier

Together exultant
Through lens of gathered friends
Feathering your cap
You announced you wanted to go

Your predictable Canon creaking but ready
I, anticipating focal adjustments
Daily searched for desk full
Of steeping photographs rooting
Lines and depositing forms,
Glacial beginnings manifesting
Perspective from deep-set darkness,
Genesis of incandescent impressions…

One day you came in carrying a carcass.

Hacking and sawing at bone
Devoid of artistry
Disassembling life as if it were
a mechanical fixture alone.

Beneath the giblet and grit,
Pangs ran a gauntlet
Of proclamations,
Resounding as horizon lines, but
Executed, always, as fatal sentences.

Rosemary Lazier resides in Ontario, Canada, where she immerses herself in coffee, amphibian transformations, and shoreline life on the Ottawa River. She is a high school teacher of Special Education, and holds an MA in English Literature from Carleton University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in North, In Words, and Eris & Eros journals.

“The Lion’s Last Act” by Royal Rhodes

Transported in your caravan was fun —
adventures far removed from zoo to zoo,
remembering the grasslands I had run,
a cub when my captivity was new.
Within the center ring that filled the tent,
encircled by the nightly roaring crowd,
I saw the iron bars the strongman bent
and clowns whose frolics made them laugh so loud.
You trained me with a chair and snaking whip
to snarl and shake my Samson-tangled mane,
and placed a cigarette upon your lip,
so calm it drove the audience insane.
They gave a gasp when you spread wide my paws
and placed your head between my ready jaws.

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor who taught classes in global religions, the Classics, religion & the arts, and death & dying. His poetry has appeared online and in a series of art/poetry collaborations for The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. His current project is a poetry/photography collaboration on sacred sites in Italy.

“Ode to The Pastoral” Carol Lynn Grellas

Were I to alter what has been
amending days of life wherein
the years were stolen, love was lost
I’d follow him through icy frost

through verdant covered mountain tops
soft-kissed with snow on coral drops
of flowers swaying left to right
beneath each noble starlit night,

reclaim the path where rivers met
when shadows found each silhouette
together ambling hand in hand
the two of us throughout the land

with days we’d christen under stars
belonging to eternal hours.
Were I to alter Heaven’s clocks
as easily as changing frocks

I’d search the rolling countryside
where daffodils and love abide
then pick the blooms along the way–
and save them for our wedding day.

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is currently enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing program. She is a ten-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a seven-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012, she won the Red Ochre Chapbook Contest, with her manuscript, Before I Go to Sleep. In 2018, her book, In the Making of Goodbyes, was nominated for The CLMP Firecracker award in Poetry and her poem “A Mall in California” took 2nd place for the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize. In 2019, her chapbook An Ode to Hope in the Midst of Pandemonium, was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Her new book, Alice in Ruby Slippers, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press. Her work has most recently been published on Mezzo Cammin and Verse Daily. She is the former Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Tule Review the former Editor-in-Chief of The Orchards Poetry Journal. She is a recent member of the Sacramento Poetry Center Board of Directors.

“Resurrection” by Siri Espy

The photos are old and faded now
like me
the face, familiar, nearly forgotten
the person I once was
and will never be again

She had wisdom tempered with naivete
the world unfolding
in a cloud of anticipation and despair
already battle worn
but fighting on

I look for her sometimes
hidden away in a remote corner
courageous but afraid
her spirit battered by time and expectations

Stay with me, I whisper to her
stay with me
we’ll give it one last try

Silently, wearily, she nods her head

Siri Espy is retired from the corporate world, where her writing included two books, numerous articles, and innumerable reports and bullet points. Her varied career included stints as a psychologist, market researcher, college instructor, consultant and health care planner and marketer. The mother of an awesome daughter, she lives in Greenville, North Carolina with her tolerant husband and three crazy cats. 

“Bridal” by Greg Sendi

As when in summer fauns will peel
acanthus leaves and juniper for food
or crush new eucalyptus under heel
that earthward from each tender shoot

drop balms to scent the fleshy air,
so will the footfalls of the meadow bride,
compressing sage and jasmine, maidenhair
and sparrowgrass, the countryside

exhaling censers down the slope
when she arrives. And so will her advance
express a must of memory and hope
from us, as from the meadow plants,

like sacks of orient spices full
to bursting, cracking open as she comes,
no usury so ravenous but will
be glutted to delirium

when she appears, whose loveliness
itself the gentle liquor of the lands
delivers here in us as austere Pentheus
was ushered to the hilltop dance.

Still when she nears again we feel
what we already know: the world abides
forever, though corruption dance its reel,
there is a garden place inside

whose only holy canon tells
there is no law but love, whose ancient wells
and woodland paths obscure reveal the ways
that we are made of promises and days.

Greg Sendi is a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. His stories and poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including recent appearances in Apricity, CONSEQUENCE, Plume, Pulp Literature, upstreet, and in the ’emerging writers’ collection of The Masters Review.

“she comes, undone” by John Wiley

she has fine,
heavy hair
that slips from bands,
escapes from braids,
unwinds from buns,
needs putting back
and pinning
again and again,
and long-way-home eyes
that steady down on me,
lose their balance,
and slip off;

leave your hair undone,
steady your eyes,
and give your
fine, heavy,
undone heart
to me –
when it slips,

I’ll put it back
again and again.



John Wiley started as a ballet dancer and turned to poetry when his knees finally gave out for good.  His work has appeared in Terror House Magazine, grand little things, and The Writing Disorder among other publications.  He lives in a California beach town, teaches English online, and is the editor of Unpublishable Poetry, a new online magazine coming out soon.