Two Poems by Milton P. Ehrlich

My Departed Wife Pays a Visit in a Hypnagogic Hallucination

I feel her reaching out
to me with her warm
silken hands over mine.
She thaws out the ice
of my frozen knuckles.
I watch her cuddle up
to me and know she
will always be absent
but amazingly present
at my side to surround
me with a fathomless love
that will surely endure for
as long as we are attached
in the here and now and
in the world hereafter.

Unforgettable You

You are in my every breath, reminding me
my heart can’t beat without you.
Even though I taught kids how to do
the dead man’s float and learn how to swim,
you showed me how I shouldn’t be treading water,
and just enjoy swimming like a fish.
Demonstrating how to do a cannonball,
you landed with a memorable, Kerploosh!
Living with a smile on your face,
you taught me how to smile, never allowing
any hint of darkness to invade your joyful affirmation of life.
I was lucky you shared the sunlight of sheer delight with me.

Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is a 90-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published many poems in periodicals such as the London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.

Two Poems by Betsy Nelson

Birds in Afghanistan

Siberian Chiffchaffs, Leaf Warblers,
Reed Warblers, Whitethroats,
seek the walnut trees shading Kabul’s parks
for jewels of aphids.
Migrant birds, they avoid the Tree of Heaven.

Sulphur-bellied Warblers hunt insects
on passageway walls tilting over shop stalls, cafes.
They journey from distant cliffs sculpted by erosion
to street canyons chiseled
by fatigue, explosions.

Fugues sung by canaries,
yellow as stars in the dark side alleys,
resonate through the bird market.
Wicker cages dangle from hooks,
birds lift beaks to the sky.

Crested larks wait for troops of boys, camels
in the desert, mists of insects
stirred to air with boots and hooves,
their own feathered bodies
too light for releasing bug clouds or landmines.

Golden Eagles of Afghanistan
soar over drones
as assured, quiet as the raptors above.
Both leave streaming
moonlight shadows.

Dancing with Peacocks

They always cry ‘Oway Oway”
before they sleep
in the dry forest trees
of Myanmar.

Poachers know the peacock’s call,
vibrant as the eyes
on fanned tail feathers,
know their captives bring
pride, resistance, power

to kings, juntas, rebels.

Yellow-eyed Babblers,
White-tailed Stonechats
flit through grassy islands
of the Irrawaddy.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
nest on sandy banks.
White-throated Babblers,
Purple Sunbirds
shine in the thorny savannah

where birds sprayed in colors
follow sun
through crumbled brick
in thousands of pagodas,
alight on towering gilded
Buddhas calling birds
to beams of dusted gold,

lamas, worshippers to holy war,

while children dancing
under far-off forest branches
share the shade with the wild
brilliance of peacocks.

Betsy Nelson writes and illustrates poetry, appearing in Persimmon Tree, PoetryAndCovid, Soul-Lit, Lascaux Review, and at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference.

“Appendectomy” by K. Irene Rieger


I am not she who falls asleep, nor do
I drift to dreamland, no. I’m too inflamed
to fall for it; I curl and clutch and claw
for it, my legs linked ells and ankle-clamped,
my forearms cinched, contorted, clenched, and car-
pal tunnel-tight. I clap at Syncope
With hands that quake with clasping—she: condensed,
compact, hard nut to crack. Hope gleams from gaps
in prayer-palms grasped. Can’t peep—could spook the fick-
le snitch of sleep, nor souse myself—my son
could call me helpless from the hospital.
My son. I wish I were there with him now
that worst has come to worst. But if God’s grant-
ing wishes, I would have him fix him first.


I’m certain that the hospital is where he ought to be— 
My boy’s bile-bloated bowels may have burst and must be mended 
—But though I know it’s toddler talk, I want him here with me. 
His sister needs a parent, though I’m rotten company. 
I feed her, then deposit her with Elmo, unattended. 
I’m not a fool; I realize he’s where he ought to be. 
I’m haunted by the ghost of an umbilical IV. 
If he were home it’d have to span across two states, suspended. 
Ridiculous, it wouldn’t reach!  I want him here with me. 
And though hospital duty’s always been my specialty, 
My husband’s had the shot; I’ve not.  Routines must be amended. 
Yet I can’t shake suspicion that he’s where I ought to be. 
My son, who renders tendered kisses now quite dutifully 
Once giggled when I nibbled on his crepe-sweet ears, so when did 
Dad’s noogies beat my nibbles out?  I want him to need me. 
My baby boy in pain and all our lives again upended 
And Mommy’s just another organ shown to be appended. 
I know that he’s well cared for in the place he ought to be. 

The mind knows, but the body balks.  I want him here with me.


“Make friends with the problems in your life… Approach them with familiarity rather than dread.” ˗˗ Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Sarah says we should view problems more fondly; 
Mine has a certain symmetric appeal. 
Here is the beauty of Gabriel’s quandary: 
Twice intervention has severed the seal 
Of his soft baby skin.  Now stigmatical lesions 
Prevent the peds surgeons from plying their trade. 
Still these same sweet (because saving!) adhesions 
Mean surgery’s vital and can’t be delayed. 
Fool’s errand: seeking the surgical scholar, 
A very Vizzini her logic won’t stop. 
The cons in each column grow taller and taller 
But always incessantly equal at top. 
Congruent conundrum.  What else can I say? 
My problem’s a beautiful one, anyway.

K. Irene Rieger is Associate Professor of English at Bluefield University in Bluefield, Virginia.  A Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing Fellow, she is the First Place winner of the 88th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition in Rhyming Poetry.  Her work has appeared in The College English Association Critic, the Journal for the Liberal Arts and SciencesTalking Writing, and MUSE

“September Soliloquy” by Michael Ceraolo

My name is James Benjamin Parker
and, quite unoriginally,
I was called Big Jim because I was a big man
And I want to say 
that fate,
              or destiny,
or whatever you choose to call it,
is real

I worked many jobs in my life,
and lived in many places
One of those places was Buffalo, New York,
and one of those jobs was at a restaurant
during the Pan-American Exposition
I was laid off from the restaurant job
in early September 1901,
meant I could go to see the President,
who was greeting people at the Exposition
on September 6th

The line to see him moved slowly,
and I tried to talk to the man
standing ahead of me,
he just ignored, I didn't know why at the time,
though I found out when we reached the President:
he pulled his wrapped hand from his pocket
and shot the President

I hit him in the neck and face
and knocked the gun from him
"I am told I broke his nose---
I wish it had been his neck"
"I am sorry
I did not see him four seconds before"

Afterwards, people wanted to sell my photograph,
"I do not think the American people
would like me to make capital
out of the unfortunate circumstances"
I did give some lectures about the event
when asked to do so by various groups,
but I was never the same after that day:
became a vagrant,
               had hallucinations,
was placed in an institution,
and died there a little over five years 
after the assassination
No one claimed my body,
so I was donated to science

I never did get to shake the President's hand

Michael Ceraolo is a 64-year-old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had two full-length books published: Euclid Creek from Deep Cleveland Press and 500 Cleveland Haiku from Writing Knights Press. He has two more in the publication pipeline.

“Spiderwort and Blackberry” by Phoebe Cragon

It’s a start, at least, my mother sighs.

The clueless gardener, summoned in desperation,
rips through vines and kicks something up
into the french door, leaves it fractured and frosted-looking,
hanging like a held breath behind the venetians
that we can’t exactly look out of anymore.

Once dirty work’s done there’s a relief
in surveying the empty agitated earth,
though victory doesn’t feel quite like we expected
with the irises beheaded and weeping indigo,
Great-Grandmother’s hydrangeas dethroned
for daring to sleep through winter.

Victory doesn’t feel like victory when we realize,
too late, that neglect doesn’t kill fast enough.
Guilt is perennial.

Next thing we know it’s summer and we’re sweating again,
on our knees unbraiding lantana and thistle
under an indifferent sun.

It never ends, my mother laments.

Green and dying and ever-narcissistic,
the garden curls away from us.
With no deference to our hands
it rots and flowers and folds in on itself,
antic and unconquerable.

Phoebe Cragon is a student pursuing a degree in English with a focus on creative writing at Centenary College of Louisiana, where she is Senior Literary Editor of Pandora Magazine.