“Gone Fishing” by Shelby Stephenson

I think I cleaned fish before I could walk.
I always knew how, seeing my father
go empty the guano sack full of bream
and bass and eel and pumpkinseed, catfish
(the channel and bullhead too) and so on:
the whistle dick, horse fish, carp, minnow, gar,
you name it, fish from our world, Middle Creek.
And we ate them, the littler, the better:
we fished to eat and ate to fish our catch.
I’d scale the little ones; then going up
with the knife at the tooter-hole, I’d pull
the entrails down through and into the gills,
saving every single bite not attached.
And little or big, I would always gap
the fish’s hole with my sharp pocket knife
to reveal how I feel about bowels,
still wondering about the earth’s rare place,
the seam and stream of eyes, of things global,
my mind losing presences in the found
comfort of measures sitting on burlap
on the bank of the creek, my lead line taut
for a bottom-feeder, my red bobber
a round and slight little boat in water,
my legs a dangle over the greenish
water where my string of growing fins fan
the fabric the water cleanses with ease
of slender waste and flourish of greater
practice without any new-healed passage
where the swell of fox or wolf I hear in
the distance, my walk out of the growth of
gravity and gravy, my mother at
our home sweeping the yard with her broom made
of dogwood (I must remember to cut
down a new one, as I hate to do, on
my way home) – a home in the face and hair
of wishing the fish would bite, for my walk
out to be more than a fisherman’s luck,
a wet tail and a hungry gut, angel
over my shoulder not so ill as to tell
me I shall go home with a few boney
fish I shall see and smell in the popping
oil and pan, my mother frying the catch
for what it’s worth without malice of age
or worry to follow through on matters
of fishing and not get caught up in it
to lose even a dram of scruple fish
always lugged sacredly as toes Jesus
keeps loafing as fish’s great majesty,
plus the charm of hoping the world might bathe
downstream below the Rock Hole where Thread Tom
almost drowned me when I was a little
boy too young to fight the bad bullying
the bigger boys brag about, the fishes
themselves not hurting after the fishhook’s
removed and they flitter their lives along
on a string and loiter while the water
snakes nibble to nudge into lethargy
free of hunger that the wild contention
a horse fish’s head, lips, might really look
like Silver of Lone Ranger fame in a
stratagem to bow down now to say grace

Shelby Stephenson was poet laureate of North Carolina from 2015-2018.  For 32 years he was editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine. His recent book is Shelby’s Lady: The Hog Poems.

“A Trap” by Peter Austin

Graham was at his best
Behind a camera and, best of all,
Roaming around the countryside, in quest
Of bare trees, say, their limbs an inky scrawl
Against the crimsoned west.

His mother cooked and sighed
For him, to her the sorriest of strays,
Who either feared or couldn’t find a bride,
Till, stricken by a terminal malaise,
She, of a sudden, died.

Now he ate cheese and bread,
Searched the garden for death to photograph –
A ravaged rose, the skin a snake had shed,
A fallen fledgling, glad on its behalf,
Being beyond all dread.

How casually they met
(In line at a drugstore), how quickly wed.
Now, he ate okra stew or veal blanquette,
While she was unintendedly misled
That the house was his, free and clear of debt,

Until she learned, by hap,
Of older sibs, each of whom owned a share
And, mad at having strayed into a trap,
Stalked away from the supposititious heir
With, ‘God, you piece of crap!’

Peter Austin‘s poems have appeared in the USA (The Atlanta ReviewAble Muse, Blue Unicorn, Barefoot Muse, The Raintown Review, The New Formalist, Fourteen by FourteenThe Hypertexts, etc.) as well as in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel. Of his second collection, X J Kennedy (winner of the Robert Frost award for lifetime contribution to poetry) said, “I Am Janus is a controlled explosion of strong and colorful stuff, and it’s a joy to read a book in which every poem is splendidly well-made and worth reading.” Peter is a Professor of English (retired) from Seneca College, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA.

“How I Wish….” by Douglas Young

Oh so many scenes rewind in my mind,
Ones I could have stolen, but didn’t try;
Boat loads of chances get gone for good–
Blow them and enter the Land of Should.

All the sweet relatives who showed me only kindness,
I should have told I loved but didn’t due to shyness;
I ponder the gifts of time and love they gave
As I recall memories at each one’s grave.

A parade of pretty faces haunts me still
Of gals I should have asked out but lacked the will;
I wonder if we could have become lovers
And realize several are now grandmothers.

I recall bullies I should have defied,
But looked the other way and sadly sighed;
Yet who struck me then as truly hairy
Strike me now as not nearly so scary.

Such exciting concerts did I forgo
Since they cost “way too much” for just one show
Some of those singers have each become a legend;
They were stupendous performers now long since dead.

How many novels I should have written,
Stories of suspense or lovers smitten,
Literary dreams put on pages,
Not lost hopes from my younger ages.

Shyness is a zealous thief stealing chances,
A cancer of the will halting advances;
On guard to prevent any leap,
Dreams die hard on its large ash heap.

But if you let key moments pass,
And don’t leap through that looking glass,
How regret will throb at what could have been,
For a missed chance is the most lasting sin.

Dr. Douglas Young was reared a faculty brat in Athens, Georgia, before becoming a full-time professional nerd himself. He taught political science and history at Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia, from 1987 to 1999. He then taught at Gainesville State College in Gainesville, Georgia, from 1999 to 2013, and he taught at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville from 2013 to the end of 2020, where he also advised UNG’s multiple award-winning Politically Incorrect and Chess Clubs. His essays and poems have appeared in a variety of publications, and his first novel, Deep in the Forest, is set to be published in 2021. 



Two Poems by Peter J. King


“In September 1914, a man had to stand five feet eight to get into the army. A month later, so great was the need for recruits, the minimum height requirement was lowered to five foot five; in November, after the losses sustained in the First Battle of Ypres, it was lowered again, to five foot three.” (Catherine Bailey, The Secret Rooms, p.248)

When war broke out I was too short;
they shook their heads
showed me the door.
I sat at home and fretted that
I wasn’t five foot eight.

As thousands died, they changed their minds;
I tried again —
but still too short
I cycled home and fretted that
I wasn’t five foot five.

But things were bad along the Front;
third time’s a charm,
they shook my hand,
and I embarked in khaki drab,
a manly five foot three.

I fell for good at Plugstreet Wood1
our guns or theirs,
I wasn’t sure;
my legs were shattered by a shell,
and struggling for one last breath
amid the sounds and smells of hell
I fretted that I’d meet my death
too short once more.

1. Ploegsteert Wood was part of the Ypres salient; it later became a rest and recuperation centre.

first published in Oxford Magazine 374, 2016

1917: Zero Sum

(In the latter stages of WWI, across Europe governments ordered the melting down of church bells and organ pipes for munitions.)

To keep the chill cacophony of Ragnarok
reverberating in the frigid moonlight
riming dugouts, trenches, sentries,
and the troops who twitch in cold, uneasy bunks,
across the fields and forests, villages and towns,
the homes of which the sleeping soldiers dream,
the bells fall silent.

Peter J. King was born and brought up in Boston, Lincolnshire. He was active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s, returning to poetry in 2013. Since then his work (including translations from modern Greek [with Andrea Christofidou] and German poetry, short fiction, and paintings) has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. His currently available collections are Adding Colours to the Chameleon (Wisdom’s Bottom Press) and All What Larkin (Albion Beatnik Press). https://wisdomsbottompress.wordpress.com/

“5am Departure” by Noreen Hennessy

“And I couldn’t escape the waking dream.” –Simon Armitage

Clouds billowing, gathering strength
in a sky ready to
split lightning
spill smoke from its mouth
a creased cheek crushing a pillow
buried there in numb bliss
legs entwined swaddled in sheets warmed
by their bodies’ devotion
to this cradle of comfort they share
holding them as they succumb to
the quiet communion of their dreams
a belly curved into a cave of heat
Lips released open
breathing out the last sigh
of sleep

In a half-moon lit hallway
quick purposeful as a cat’s
dirt ash soot flies at the window
angry unforgiving
burrows inside
arrives on the window sill
in the heel of a sneaker
amidst last night’s bath
towels still damp
on the floor
with dropped toys
clothes scattered
beginning to smolder
the muffled cry of the baby
the quickness of his mother’s eyes
searching the air
streaked with smoke
her lips forming the question
to which she already knows the answer

the scent and muscle of
outstretched arms
skin upon skin
seen now in
scraps of daylight
the heaviness of her
child’s sleeping head drooping
against her wildly beating heart
her blood spiked with panic
then resolve
a world enclosed
in her arms
her lips touch his brow his lips
this small body still
pressed to her belly’s warmth
coupled together
strapped to her ribs

Ribbons of rain
flecked with fire
drench the window
as it opens
to cinders of sycamore leaves
flaming needles of white pine
whistling by furiously singing like
the notes of a cello’s strings
pulling mother and child
out onto the wind
to ride its strength
and set them

Beyond the fire’s turbulence
Beyond their shared tears
as the sheer curtain burns in their memory.

Noreen Hennessy is new to poetry. She has given readings of her writing at Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation and at the 92nd St Y. Recently, one of her poems has been published online by Literary North.  She has been studying poetry in community workshops this past year at UVM and Dartmouth College. She lives in southern Vermont with her husband and son.

“She Spun by Me in Swirling Skirts” by Alena Casey

She spun by me in swirling skirts,
Her hair swung loose and long;
The air breathed music—how my heartstrings
Tingled with our song!

But nary a glance she dropped for me,
Nor passed my palm a note
With words regretful or sincere.
With nothing, she me smote.

Her smiles spilled on other folks,
Her words in other ears.
What whispers will she pass along
When I have disappeared?

Life dances—so she spins—it sweeps
Her on—I know not where.
I dance my own way, not still tangled
In this love, her hair.

Alena Casey is a wife, mother, and writer from Indiana. She is an avid reader, writer, and student of literature and poetry, and sometimes blogs about it at strivingafterink.wordpress.com.

Two Poems by Leslie Dianne


How many places
have I loved?
a languid houseboat in Srinagar
a moto taxi in New Delhi
the duomo in Milano
a Beijing intersection cut into
bicycles, limousines and rickshaws
a corner in Suzhou
where a money change woman
whispered at me for my dollars
the molten ash mountain
leading to Mount Etna
and the fire always burning
its way to the clouds
because I was a quiet witness
to these places
they opened and
let me in
bared their secrets
and I carried them away
my memory stuffed
with their sights,
scents and sounds
my heart longing for
those places that
made me their daughter
and gave me a home

City of Lights

In Paris there is always
the temptation
to eat too much
the city offers me
the soft center
of the baguette
like birdsong exploding
on the tongue
the fat in the hundred layer
croissant capturing mornings
and jam in its folds
the eclairs exclaiming
their devotion to the
cream and offering it
like chimes echoing
through the mouth
other tourists go to the Seine
and the Louvre
I go to the chocolatier
and the patisserie
and eat my way
though the city
of lights

Leslie Dianne is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and performer whose work has been acclaimed internationally in places such as the Harrogate Fringe Festival in Great Britain, The International Arts Festival in Tuscany, Italy, and at La Mama in New York City. Her stage plays have been produced in NYC at The American Theater of Actors, The Raw Space, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, and The Lamb’s Theater.  She holds a BA in French Literature from CUNY and her poems have appeared in The Lake, Ghost City Review, The Literary Yard, About Place Journal, and Kairos and are forthcoming in Hawai’i Review. Her poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Two Poems by George Freek

A Poem About Time (after Liu Yong)

I’m endlessly waiting
to find the words
to express the arrival
of spring’s birds, or for
something that has not yet
come into being, something
which will amaze me.
The moon climbs the sky,
then suddenly dies,
and my thoughts are paralyzed.
I look for the moon
hidden in your eyes.
Life is a mystery to me,
so I wait, and as I wait
I watch a thousand leaves
grow on a hundred trees.
Meanwhile we grow older,
and the stars which
once were young
and full of desire, die,
and slowly sink to their knees.

At Dawn (after Lu Yu)

I dream I’m a butterfly.
I drift without troubles
from flower to flower,
to suck their sweet nectar.
I take no interest in the hour.
But a crack of thunder
wakes me like a blow,
which is followed by an
inundating shower.
The sky is leaden.
There’s no sun.
I’m unable to leave
my bleak, empty room.
We lose our sight, our teeth.
I watch my hair turn white.
Yes, we all grow old.
I thought when it came,
I would be strong.
I was wrong.

George Freek‘s poetry has appeared in numerous poetry journals and reviews, most recently The Ottawa Arts Review, Acumen, North of Oxford, Triggerfish, and Torrid Literature.

Two Poems by Russel G. Winick


So often one sees people
Acting closer than they are.
Excess familiarity
At first just seems bizarre.

But people crave the closeness
That our modern times impede.
Which causes the exaggeration
Many seem to need.

Time-Saving Drivers

Drivers speeding recklessly,
Alarmingly behave.
You wonder what they’ll do with the
Few minutes that they save?

Russel G. Winick recently began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after concluding a long career as an attorney.  Langston Hughes’ work is his primary inspiration. Several dozen of Mr. Winick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen online and print venues.

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), although a prolific writer for such a short life of 38 years, is best known for her sonnet, “The New Colossus,” some lines of which are inscribed on a bronze plaque which was installed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903. While this poem wasn’t widely known in her lifetime, she was a recognized literary figure who was acquainted with many literary and political figures of the day. Ironically, “The New Colossus” later became so famous that it overshadowed her legacy as a whole. Read more about Emma Lazarus here.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’