“Detachment” by John Muro

Because things often come in threes,
I await the conclusion to this trilogy
Where items are accumulated by the
Act of subtraction and there’s a certain
Enchantment found in moments of desperation,
Like the time a plane, slipping into unhurried
Descent, expelled a wheel that rolled, bodiless
And at a blistering speed, down the runway;
Or the time, years later, when a compact car,
Exiting the turnpike near dusk, ambushed
My windshield with a fountain of autumn-
Orange dazzle, the rear tire having lurched
From the axle and fled like a convict, hurdling
Knee-high guard-rails into the underbrush.
And so I await the third and final flourish
That’s taking shape in my mind – where
Fear’s softened and I’m approaching the
Periphery of some other world upon an
Exquisite chariot that’s veered off course,
With only one wheel, having reached the
Right true end of a journey with too
Little recovered and too much lost.

John Muro’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including Moria, River Heron, Sheepshead, Euphony, Clementine Unbound, The French Literary Review, Sparks of Calliope, and others. A life-long resident of Connecticut, John’s professional career has been dedicated to environmental stewardship and conservation. His first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published last fall by Antrim House and is available on Amazon.

“The Crossing” by Phyllis Rittner

I swallow whole without tasting,
scroll for virtual validation.
Water plants, empty trash,
stomp through silent rooms.

Yet I cannot escape the thumping,
belly to throat,
to slog through swamp,
to dredge up buried hope.

It used to be so easy
to masquerade
anonymous under the glow of stage lights.
To become a wicked heiress, a bawdy drunk.
Delicious revenge for an invisible child.

Now, child and adult have merged.
We hide together under a woolen blanket,
curling like a tender embryo.
Inside an impenetrable shell.

I inhale truth, exhale possibility.
Restless, my mind
can sabotage strengths,
dismiss victories.

I have always embraced
the familiar white line of highway,
with its unwavering promise of renewal.
Yet I watch, transfixed to the screen,
the woman with wild, flowing hair
scale the ridge of a cliff-side peak.

I close my eyes, inhale
the reckless beauty
of foamy waves crashing onto jagged rock.
the howl of sea,
the taste of salt.

Last night I dreamed the murky swamp
had transformed into a lush forest.
I followed its dense, convoluted trail for miles,
my bare feet deep in moist, rich soil.

In the distance,
illuminated by beams of setting sun,
stood a battered wooden bridge.
I ran towards it,
thorny branches scratching my knees and elbows.

Halfway across I saw her,
a five-year old in a grassy field.
She was singing to herself,
skipping through crimson wildflowers,
the string of a kite clutched tightly in her fist.

Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction, and creative non-fiction. Her work can be found in HerStry, NAMI.orgThisismybrave.org, Friday Flash Fiction, and Six Sentences. She is the winner of the Grub Street Free Press Summer Fiction Contest and a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective. Phyllis lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/phyllis.rittner.

“Your Sleep” by John Grey

is a ritual of memory and fantasy,
below ground, above water,
a dream with music
the moment you drift off to sleep,
broken here and there
by a bruise of snore,
the past coming in odd shapes,
rolling in like a tide,
darting through the room,
making a dent in the pillow.
floated and falling,
flooding the room
or funneled through the last thought
your head held before dozing;
it’s a sonata
played for you each night
by an orchestra of absent musicians
who make you feel
buoyant and protected,
who imagine you
as much as you imagine them.
You do not know I’m in the room.
I don’t hear the song.
I fade into the blueness
of our small bed.
While your subconscious
fills your mind with metaphor,
I insert myself into sheets,
my weight
against your weightlessness,
address the quiet face in the light
but unable to broach the activity within.
These are your dreams,
your soundtrack,
your willingness to keep good times alive,
to revive the beached bodies,
give flesh to shadow,
like a glimpse of shadow
celebrate birthdays with the ones
who never made it to that precious age,
listening and laughing,
eyes closed
melted in stillness
un-mourning the dead
washing over grief
with bouts of happiness,
time’s parallel blue plate special,
the right notes,
the superb hush,
the giddy surprise,
a game played on the present
that separates you from me.
The moonlight
is the shape of my grief.
The night sounds
are of wounded animals.
Through the window,
I see a child’s hind leg
caught in a trap.
But you know none of this,
your certainty as
white and firm as a shell.
Now and again,
your head makes a slight turn
in my direction.
But my presence goes undetected
unless, that is,
you’re relieving the day we met.

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. His latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon. His work is upcoming in Lana Turner and Held.

Two Poems by Patrick Deeley

The Couple

Though there is the cracked bedroom ceiling
and the scraping front gate,
we give precedence to restoring the garden seat.
It mends us in return. Where flowers

grow or die, how generously the sun shines,
what the whitebeam whispers
and the ivy greening the back wall
hides, are little to do with our restoration,

yet they are all. Seasons swap the weather
about, blend, break, follow;
life’s freshet of sensualities
never quite runs out. Two children claim us

as belonging to them. Their hands
tug at our heartstrings and ankles. They gather
the nature of our garden seat,
how its flakes of rusting wrought iron

allow the earwig in, how lustrous raindrops
sliding off its glossed wood
pave a path for mildew. Our children grow
into ambits of their own, only

to come back, with each time a caught breath
that must belong to us –
as when the full moon stands,
sudden and transformative at a kitchen window.

Quiet again in the evenings
spent alone together, we look each other
full frontally in the eye
when we speak, and touch off old affection.

Children at Woodlawn

Our thoughts jump ahead of us to the dark.
We are led by a candle that tilts,
its flame cuffed by tiny, side-swipe blows.

Along corridors, in and out of cubby-holes
we ghost, while about us surfaces
slide, stretch, form ellipses. We twist corks

off bottles until they squeak or pop, tinkle
our fingers in crystal bowls, open
hoarse cabinet cupboards where jellies set

and apples season. Midnight is to our taste.
Here we parade old-style clothes,
gulp shivers, drown in silver pools of mirrors,

wrestle with wallpaper patterns
of thorn and ivied mansion. Once, ages ago,
fork lightning struck, frenzying us

all the short distance to the thunder.
We don’t say the truth’s clear-cut; or: no use
in being a fool unless you show it;

or: I am given to dreams but what the world
and its mother asks for is a sight
more substantial. We don’t say we are afraid.

Patrick Deeley has published seven collections of poems with Dedalus Press, the latest being The End of the World.  In 2019 he received the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Groundswell: New and Selected.  He has also published a memoir, The Hurley Maker’s Son, with Transworld, and a number of books for children.  He was born in County Galway and currently lives in Dublin.

“Our Moroccan Pouffe” by Charles D. Tarlton

From my chair beside the Moroccan leather pouffe,
                                                            I can see an uncountable
avalanche of objects—and suppose I try to list them—

          an pseudo-antique mahogany Tansu chest topped
          with family photos in cheap gilt frames, an open
          appointment book, three ceramic coasters
          painted by hand in Mexico, two miniature
          carved figurines, a tiny plastic flashlight
          and, alongside the chest, a chinoiserie
          vase in blue and white porcelain and a
          carved wooden Buddha’s bust, bought
          in an Oakland second hand store, once
          painted in now peeling gold and blue…

My aspect has hardly altered. All of this and more crowds
into my single glance, and there’s still the rest of the room
                         and a house made of many other rooms
right after that, and then the whole of the outdoors,
yards and trees, the distant marsh, eventually the sea!
For every green cockatoo imagined there’s an endless reach
of plain hardwood flooring, countless pictures hanging
on the dull walls, carpets and blinds and curtains
and, out beyond those, a world unfolding forever.

Charles D. Tarlton is a retired professor of political theory who lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife, Ann Knickerbocker, an abstract painter. He has been writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006, and a collection of his ekphrastic prosimetra, Touching Fire (Kyso Flash, 2018) is available on Amazon.

“Walking from Buwenge to Mawoito” by Natalie Lester

The red dust of the city fades.
The grey smoke of charcoal
stings my eyes.
The voices of street vendors calling out
dwindles as I shoulder my pack,
fixing my gaze on the road before me.

The sun slips and hangs low in the sky,
prodding me onward, step by step,
as dreams flicker and pull at my eyelids.
The cicadas chorus begins, as town
turns to village, and the songs of the wind
pass through the sugarcane stalks.

At the edge of the sky
a lost dream comes back,
beating its wings beyond the fire.

The many faces of day
ache in my hands,
voices echoing in the dust
become a refrain,
a strange song that enters my blood
and sings through me.

The fields began to shimmer
like a veil through my hands,
my feet light, and the whole world gossamer.
Time, for one moment, becomes still
and rests in me completely.

I watch the tide of bright faces
turning to handfuls of dust,
scattered words descending to quiet.
The burden of confusion lifting,
like a new wing opening its face
between my shoulder blades.

“Walking from Buwenge to Mawoito” was previously published by Spirit Fire Review

Natalie Lester is a poet currently living in Ithaca, NY. Some of her other work has appeared in Spirit Fire Review, Poetic Sun, and Eucalyptus & Rose

“Cathexis” by Alec Solomita

Garnet was my mother’s birthstone
It’s in the semi-precious category,
not as hard, not as bright as a ruby.
Not as precious, not as fine –
a supple red blush.

She wore a largish one in a smallish brooch.
It was rectangular and clawed into place
by the insect legs of some metal –
semi-precious perhaps, but perhaps not,
perhaps gold, a noble metal that endures.

She only wore the brooch when she went out.
I observed her toilette with pious intensity:
two swipes of deep red lipstick on her lower lip
then pressing both lips together with a casual élan.

She’d peer in her compact mirror
then clap it shut, releasing ecstatic clouds of powder,
before holding the compact up to my face
saying, “See the monkey!”

I laughed but was always a little surprised
that I didn’t see her face in the glass but her
pale and timid child shadow.

“Cathexis” was first published by The Lothlorien Poetry Journal

Alec Solomita is a writer and artist working in the Boston (USA) area. His fiction has appeared in the Southwest ReviewThe Mississippi ReviewSouthword Journal, and Peacock, among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal. His poetry has appeared in Poetica, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Litbreak, Driftwood Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Galway Review, The Lake, and elsewhere, including several anthologies. His photographs and drawings can be found in ConviviumFatal FlawYoung Ravens ReviewTell-Tale Inklings, and other publications. He took the cover photo and designed the cover of his poetry chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” which was published in 2017. His full-length poetry book “Hard To Be a Hero,” will be coming out in spring of next year.

Two Poems by Mark B. Hamilton


Thick sheets of ice have moved the dark.
I am unwell from yesterday’s ducking.
J. Fields did return, after some risk,
having made his way across the flowing

to report that people do favor
recent surveys by Captain Mackay
of those granted lands told to comprise
a beautiful and bountiful country.

Yet I remain unwell. All day, indisposed.
McNeal and Ordway were lost all night,
the Missouri impassable in thick slabs
like shuffling like cards — a forceful sight.

My servant has kept the fire so hot
the chimney wattle has caught aflame.
I step out to take a meridian altitude
while men pour water into the frame.

Rivers continue to rise. N. Pryor
arrives from Cahokia with letters.
Our Boat, afloat again, in perfect order.
Although I slept but little, I feel better.

With evening rains, all is dry and tight.
Huddling, we cook the rabbits at mess,
the Mississippi still stoppered with ice
but the warming stew a good success.

Still Very Unwell

Today is warm, but I am unwell this mile.
In cold and frost on Mister Hays’ horse,
I have accompanied the gentlemen for awhile
but now return early as I am feeling worse.

The thaw was fair, but winds have increased.
I take doses of medicine, yet remain sick all day.
To Leakens, a thief, who must be discharged
from our Party, I give a small correction of pay.

The wilding wings of fowl pass briefly overhead,
yet I remain unwell. Dubois River is fastly rising,
sufficiently so the Boat leaves its pries, in stead
taken up creek, all though the day is warming.

A map of lines must inhabit those feathery brains.
York attends and keeps the fire, and Mr. Hanley
sends butter and milk in a wagon of Mr. Koehn’s
whose wife asks if she might better comfort me.

Those gliding wings must be the soul. I am sick.
Captain Lewis sends out Shields for walnut bark.
Winser kills a badger. The ice is 11 inches thick.
The rising river has washed away my water mark.

The whistling swans in silence pass like a dream.
The walnut pills do take effect, and I feel better.
A lost Maumee canoe drifts alone downstream,
and news is delivered from Mr. Hay by messenger.

Two invitations have arrived for Balls at St. Louis.
The Missouri River is spewing a slushy reef
in muddy floes to form its half frozen surface.
The geese and swans do gather in a marshy sheaf.

“Unwell” and “Still Very Unwell” are history-based poems, adapted from “Wintering at Camp Dubois,” Vol. 2, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Gary E. Moulton, editor. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.

Mark B. Hamilton considers himself an environmental neo-structuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. His new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative in two parts (Shanti Arts, 2020), explores the reciprocity between self, culture, history, and the contemporary environment of the polluted Ohio River. Recent work has appeared in Weber—The Contemporary West, North Dakota Quarterly, Copperfield Quarterly Review, Third Wednesday, and Naugatuck River Review, as well as abroad in Oxford Poetry, and Stand Magazine, UK. You can find him at: www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com

“Reading Your Obituary” by Bryce Christensen

I scan the lines, but do not find a clue:
Beneath the lifeless photo of your face,
Mere moldering facts: the date, the time, the place
You died, and why, what work you used to do.
Unanswered here, one question burns anew:
Where are you? Not within the purchased space
Of this obit! I search for any trace,
For any hint, that reconnects with you.
I wonder, Can you see me now from where
You’ve gone? And do you know what is at stake
When I implore you for a sign? My prayer
Is for a whispered word, a ghostly touch,
A brush. Don’t say I’m asking for too much!
Please give me something more than just this ache!

Bryce Christensen was, until recently, professor of English, emeritus, at Southern Utah University, where he taught British and World literature. His poetry has appeared in The Formalist, First Things, Modern Age, Chronicles, Christianity and Literature, and North American Anglican.  He is also the author of ‘The Portals of Sheol’ and Other Poems (White Violet Press).

“The Memory of a Star” by Evita Arakelian

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominee

2022 Best of the Net Nominee

When did we stop seeking reverence amongst stars?
The moment we caught them. I look at you;
the mystery that so befuddled you no more
clouds your half-moon eyes. To speak at all
would be to clear the wonder off your face—
you’ve found another shape you think beautiful.

I wish we knew apart all that is beautiful
from all that like the last surviving stars
fades at the touch of a dawn. The spinning face
of a dining room clock is all that binds to you
the contours of my reverie, and all
that half-heartedly leaves room for more—

more than words which yet again forget us, more
than failed attempts. That day I thought them beautiful,
the chrysanthemums we gave nearly all
our winnings—we had sold those rusty star-
shaped candlesticks—to buy (we were fools!). You
smiled at the one in my hair, nearly the size of my face!

I told you to love the woman, not the face
at that July festival—though it felt more
like May—but you (the first of your kind, you!)
laughed it off, said I was beautiful
said something, too, about the country stars
crowning my eyes in constellations—all

this you said, not burdened by my reality at all.
I let you be the silver sheath that subdues the face
of a battered moon and anoints poets out of stars;
the fire that welds from nothingness, more—
I let you be as I thought you were: beautiful—
I let your glory be the act of being you.

I’ve drummed my heart to the distant tune of you
long enough; you stand before me, all
you are—we should have better defined “beautiful”
before you squandered it upon my face
and I, your soul; I upon you forevermore
and you but for the lifespan of a star

undone, for all you know, just as it lights your face
with all the splendour of a light that is no more;
ephemeral yet beautiful, the memory of a star.

Evita Arakelian has obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Tehran and is currently a student of English in the University of London. She has published her poem “Reverie” in the Summer 2021 issue of Off the Coast literary journal. Among her hobbies is making miniature figurines, including a set of Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes characters, and an upcoming Shakespeare.