“A New Spring for Poesy” by Steen W. Rasmussen

There, it lay, after centuries
The once-wild beast, beaten
Humiliated and enslaved
Straitjacketed and imprisoned
Paraded around in a carnival cage
With evenly spaced iron bars
And an unpickable lock
Left, it was, in a state of putrefaction

This would have been its demise
Had the South not lost the war
Had New Orleans not had a port
Had a glut of Confederate drums
Not been pawned
Had free men and women
Not marched second line groove
Down to Congo Square
Where Dee Dee Chandler’s pedal bent
The prison bars
Freeing the beast
And with it, lifting poetry
From the bards
Their crime punished, the final sentence:
“Mortem ad rigidus poeta”

As well, the poem had to die
To be resurrected in the ragtime beat
The beat of jig
The beat of jass
Back beat, 4-beat
Rhythms growing in intensity
And eloquence

No longer confined to the mulish minds
Of despotic poets — instead, thriving
In the daring hands and feet
Of Baby Dodds and Earl the Metronome
The word returned to the people
For them to re-imagine
The singers, the dancers
The beaters of drums
The snares, the bass, the tom-toms
Rockin’ around the cell house bonfire
With clash, hi-hat, and splash

And would-be poets
A multitude
The medieval meter
Had run its course
And a New Spring
Of words set to music
Had sprung

Steen Rasmussen is a native of Denmark. His interest in writing, and writing in English specifically, is rooted in many years of songwriting – singing, playing and recording his material with various garage bands. He is a contributing member of ‘Woodside Writers’, a literary forum based in New York City, where he lives and works as a real estate consultant.

Two Poems by James B. Nicola


At dawn they start to disappear
but still there’s not a single one
not over me, and each a sun
    to subjects that live near.
What use are they? If gravity
obtains though they exist so far
away—and there is not one star
    not shining over me—
then each of them is drawing on
me, more or less—the close ones, more.
And likewise I draw on them for
    an imagination.
They twinkle as they talk, I think
like chatty souls of bygone love
who’ve cast each other there, above
    us. Look—another blink.
Personified as we invest
them, only, but what light they give!
And we’ve all day and night to live—
    Let stars have all the rest.

Scott Simon

On Saturdays I dial a faceless voice
on radio from eight a.m. to ten,
the host who bursts in laughter now and then
as free as the most innocent of boys.
Over the years there’ve been occasions when
I’d listen to an interview and pause,
his interest infectious, and because
the guest had flabbergasted him again,
contrary to our ordinary laws.
Surprises, as in love and turmoil, can
impede the voice, but also make the man
whose serendipities, like his guffaws,
seem humble. But as he’s an able host,
the pauses last but moments at the most.

James B. Nicola’s seven full-length poetry collections (2014-22) are Manhattan PlazaStage to Page: Poems from the TheaterWind in the CaveOut of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists, Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond, Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense, and Turns & Twists. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His work has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller’s People’s Choice award, one Best of Net, one Rhysling, and ten Pushcart nominations—for which he feels both stunned and grateful.

Two Poems by Janice Canerdy

It’s Almost Here

It’s almost here; it’s in the air—
that lovely time beyond compare,
when green clothes trees that once were bare
and kids have energy to spare.

Earth has awakened; life is new.
New blooms smell fragrant; skies are blue.
Who could resist this gorgeous view?
The end of winter’s overdue!

We welcome what the warm days bring
when trilling birds are on the wing;
then not just birds but people sing.
It’s just around the corner—SPRING!


What do I mean when I employ this word?
Sometimes I mean you’ve truly captured my
attention and I’m wowed by what I’ve heard.
I love to say this—when it’s not a lie.

Sometimes–to spare your feelings, I confess–
I may say, “That’s so interesting,” though
I’m bored to numbness, hoping you won’t guess
the truth, which you might find a stunning blow.

Some think this word’s evasive, somewhat weak.
Though I agree, I’m sure you’d rather hear
it than some harsh indictment when you speak.
I feel the same. This mild term has no peer!

So in the future when I’m telling you
some rambling story and you’re praying I’ll
shut up, say, “That’s so interesting! Do
tell me some more.” I’ll blabber on a while.

Janice Canerdy is a retired high school English teacher from Potts Camp, Mississippi. She has been writing poetry since childhood, is the author of one book, Expressions of Faith (Christian Faith Publishing, 2016), and has had poems published in many magazines and anthologies. Janice enjoys church life and being involved in church activities and says her grandchildren play a key role in her life, as she does in theirs.

Two Poems by Diane Elayne Dees

Two Women

I see two different women every day
in my mirror. One looks healthy, one looks weak;
one wants to run, the other wants to stay.

One’s put together, one’s in disarray;
one of them seems stable—one’s a freak.
I see two different women. Every day,

I wonder what their younger selves would say,
or would they be too terrified to speak?
One wants to run. The other wants to stay,

though she knows too well the price she’ll have to pay;
life has scarred her, left her landscape bleak.
I see two different women every day—

one’s very essence has begun to fray,
the other still looks vital, strong and chic.
One wants to run, the other wants to stay.

I wish that both of them would find a way
to come to terms with what it is they seek.
I see two different women every day;
one wants to run, the other wants to stay.

Life Cycle

There were storms, and there was Christmas.
The empty spruce, perfect in its bare elegance,
lies next to piles of cracked oak and pine limbs
shaken down by strong winds and relentless rains.
Their juxtaposition is startling. The empty tree—
still green—radiates some of the beauty denied it
by its recent burden of glittery cones, ornaments
and tiny white lights. Now it is just a tree,
tossed out to die and then be hauled away.

When I was a child, my father would chop down
a pine tree, dip pine cones and sweet gum balls
in bright red and green paint and attach them
to the tree to mingle with the glass ornaments.
Christmas was a violent, frightening affair,
but at least there was a tree—something
that represented life in the little house
near the woods where hope had already
relinquished its green potential and quietly died.

It would be decades before I would bring home
my own Christmas tree, an act that nudged me
out of the darkness of the past—
an organic testimony to the power of ritual,
a fragrant symbol of celebration,
my commitment to tribal comfort.
Now, years later, the cats who slept
under the Christmas tree are gone,
the husband who wanted nothing to do
with the Christmas tree is gone.

But I am still here, and my tree,
which may soon be mulch,
or protection for marshland,
gave me gifts of beauty and belonging,
and I honor its brief life.
All our lives are brief, as we struggle
to stay green, with or without decoration.
Like Christmas trees, we are cut down
again and again, exposed just as we are,
imperfect in our bare inelegance.

Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbooks, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books), The Last Time I Saw You (Finishing Line Press), and The Wild Parrots of Marigny (Querencia Press). She is also the author of three Origami Poems Project microchaps, and her poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.

“Underdog” by Gale Acuff

I have two broken legs and my dog has
mange. I can’t walk, and he’s losing his hair,
or fur, or whatever the hell it’s called.
I’ve been bowlegged. My parents agreed
to an operation to straighten them,
my legs, I mean. So at the end of school
and the beginning of the summer of
’71–I’m 15 then–I’m in
the hospital for ten days. Back then, they
straightened legs the old-fashioned way–sawed them
below the knees, reset them, put me in
irons–casts, I mean–all the way up to
my groin. Have to piss, I use a pitcher.
When I need to dump I have a bedpan
that my mother helps me with. A shit job,
for sure. I can hear her emptying it
into the toilet. Wonder if she looks.
If she vomits, I never hear her. She’s
81 now, in 2005; she
lived through me. Once a day my sister sets
Pogo, my mutt, into the bathtub. She
says he never fights the water. She has
some mange shampoo. Not that she has mange, too.
First, she rinses him. Then she lathers him.
Rinses. Repeats. She towels him dry. She brings
him to me on my cot. He drops from her
onto my impenetrable plaster
feet. You stink. It’s those vet’s chemicals.
Fur–hair?–is missing in a large patch on
his left flank. His skin is purpled. I love
him. He’s going to die but not the way
I expect: Father will wheel me outside
–he’s helped me lift myself into my chair
–and sits with me. He has his Atlanta
–“covers Dixie like the dew”–and
“Piney Woods Pete.” Piney Woods Pete says, Dear
Mr. Editor. . . .I can’t see the fine
print. Something about ‘Nam veterans and
hippies. Where’s the dog? I need some codeine
again. The sun is hot. Hell is my cap?
Son, he says, the spread pages of Section
A shielding him, this morning I found your
Pogo, run over. I went and fetched him
and buried him before I left for work.
I’m sorry. A good obituary,
I think. Oh, I say. Well. I see. All right.
Soon I’m asking to go inside again.
I’m on my back when my sister walks in
to say she’s sorry that the dog’s gone. Thanks,
I say. I’m okay. He was a good dog,
she says. I’m sorry that you bathed him
for nothing. Oh, it was not for nothing,
she says. He liked it and it meant something
at the time. What did it mean, I ask. Oh,
you know, she says. We had hope for him. Hope
didn’t have the mange, I say. Hope didn’t
get smashed by a car. True, she says. But we
didn’t know that then and we couldn’t just
do nothing. You can’t give up. I ain’t gave
up, I yell. Sorry. I mean that no one
knows the future and yet we’re all going
there. I mean, zap–Death. What kind of future
is that? Well, she says, it’s like you escape
death . . . by dying. Yeah, I think I get you,
I say. Like death is inevitable–when’s
what scares us. I’d like to die by being
run over. But first I need to get back
on my feet. I don’t wanna leave like this.
You won’t, she says. At least, I say, you don’t
have to wash the dog. Now I’ve got nothing
to do this time of day, she says. Problem
with this family, I say, is that no one
ever dies, except for dogs, cats, and fish.
And that rabbit of yours, and the chicks that drowned
in their water dish. And the frog we found
on the road and rescued and then it croaked.
I mean, if it happened to us, somehow
I’d be happier. Well, you wouldn’t be
happier, she says. Just wiser, maybe.
I reach for my copy of Doom Patrol.
Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and Robot
Man, and their wheelchair-bound chief, Niles Caulder.
They’re braver than I and not even real.
And anything bad that happens to them
doesn’t matter because they have no life.
Why do I feel so low when they go down
and am dissatisfied when they get up
again? They must live in Heaven. I half
expect that dog to leap across the page.
Mange Mutt, maybe. Doom Dog. Patrol Pup–I
keep naming him and he will never die.
Somehow I wish that he had never lived.
Maybe, I repeat. He was a good boy.
Kind of stupid but smart enough to die.
I figure he’s looking down at me now
like he’s waiting for me to throw something
for him to chase. A ball. A stick. A bone.

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in a dozen countries and has authored three books of poetry. His poems have appeared in Ascent, Reed, Arkansas ReviewPoemSlantAethlonFlorida Review, South Carolina ReviewCarolina Quarterly, Roanoke, Danse Macabre, Ohio Journal, Sou’wester, South Dakota ReviewNorth Dakota QuarterlyNew TexasMidwest QuarterlyPoetry MidwestWorcester Review, Adirondack Review, Connecticut River ReviewDelmarva ReviewMaryland Poetry ReviewMaryland Literary Review, George Washington Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Ann Arbor ReviewPlainsongsChiron ReviewMcNeese Review, WeberWar, Literature & the Arts, Poet LoreAble Muse, The Font, Fine Lines, Teach.Write.OracleHamilton Stone Review, Sequential Art Narrative in Education, Cardiff ReviewTokyo ReviewIndian Review, Muse India, Bombay ReviewWesterly, and many other journals.

Two Poems by Nancy Sobanik


In a drawer, your hairbrush.
Under the bed, moccasins.
You would slip into them,
supple like your hand sliding
into my jeans pocket,
molding two into one.

My face is stretched,
taut as a drumhead,
just yesterday crumpled,
a paper balled in the trash.
I think of fish heads,
glazed eyes open.

The sight of your cap
on its hook by the door
has corseted my chest.
If only becomes the hinge,
a fulcrum that splits the boning.
I am undone.

A bedlam of jays
sound behind the blinds.
In your closet pressed
shirts hang in a neat row.
There are many rooms
in which to go. I plunge
into the basement.

Would that I could climb
these stairs on my knees
in pilgrimage to the crack
of light above.
Abandon why
as my first thought.
Replace it with don’t go.

Morning Swim

My brother’s thoughts
have gaps
like the missing planks
of the old pier
since his return
from Afghanistan.

When the tide
is flowing in
he swims
in a rockweed garden
teeming with life.

On the ebb,
a boneyard
of shells shimmer.
His eyes set
in a thin blade
against the relentless sun,
a nystagmus
of watchfulness.

Splayed pilings
of the pier glisten,
trousered in green velvet,
bedecked with barnacles,
the ruined
decking slimed and slippery;
dried blood
and fish scales
sequin the wood.

Below the pier,
snapper blues
scatter shiners in an arc.
Pelicans patrol,
ever watchful
for a mercurial flash.

My brother swims
every morning,
the white noise of the surf
erases the detonations he hears,
the water wraps him
with amniotic comfort.

The sea shuffles and scourges,
but also brings a hush
that surpasses the burden
of endless sorrow,
a buoyancy
that lifts the glimmering
light once more
to his eyes.

Nancy Sobanik is a registered nurse who writes poetry with empathy for life’s challenges and to create meaningful connections for the reader. Her poetry is published in Triggerfish Critical Review Issue # 29, Jan. 2023 and can be found on poetcollectives.org. She resides in Maine, USA.

Two Poems by Phyllis Rittner

I Bring My Mother Flowers

A rag doll
in your wheelchair.
Go away, you command,
eyelids shut.

Paper skin, I touch
a bird-like forearm.
Mom, I murmur–
my name is
long forgotten.

It’s too late
for guessing relatives
in black and white photographs,
for drawing tulips
in worn sketchbooks.

Napkin tucked under blouse,
that braided my hair
around a plastic cup,
juice spilling down
your lap.

Lost to you,
succulent mushroom risotto,
Armstrong’s gravelly croon,
the earthy scent of forest
after rain.

Once, you laid
your head on my
ten-year old shoulder,
murmuring secrets
too mature for my ear.

Always the steam beneath
your tight-lipped smile,
mustn’t slam the door,
reject your denial.

Don’t regret
that drink I tossed,
when you lost
the girl you wished
I could be.

A sunflower towers
then tilts,
its petals shrivel to fade,
as you sink into
your seedling self,
without me.

Om Shanti Mother Yogi

Your ocean eyes winked as you
rose from lotus position,
all five-foot, eighty pounds,
to embrace me—yet again.

For twenty years,
twice a week
we faced each other,
you, murmuring Thich Nhat Hanh,
your tingsha bells cleansed my
fitful mind.

Eyes closed, lulled
by cassette waterfalls,
we began our trance,
our dream-dance of
pandiculation, breath
and release.

Oh Savasana!
Reclaiming my sacral chakra–
to breathe orange sunbursts
into my belly and pelvis.

And when my thoughts
strayed dark,
how you knelt beside me,
laying your warm, wrinkled
hands onto my shoulders.

Unhurried, a gentle,
ancient clock, you
rotated around me,
first hip, then thigh,
then head, propped in
your glowing hands,
chanting Om Namaha Shivaya
into my newborn ears.

Phyllis Rittner writes poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work can be found in the Journal of Expressive WritingBurnt Breakfast, Dragonfly Arts Magazine, Roi Faineant PressPaper DragonVerification, and others. She is a member of The Charles River Writer’s Collective and can be reached on Facebook here.

Two Poems by Teresa Burns Murphy


Discarded detergent boxes
fill trash cans.
Deserted dryers spin.
A lone college girl
in a white cotton shift
sits on a spindly table.
Holding a fat romance novel,
she swings her skinny legs.

I, too, was alone in the laundromat
the afternoon I met you.
The washing machine, jiggling
my empty laundry basket, juddered
through its final cycle. Just as I
looked out the dust-mottled window,
the sun blazed crimson and I
caught my first glimpse of you.

Though you abandoned me,
I think of you
as I watch our daughter twist
a strand of hair around her finger,
the freckles I used to count
barely visible. Now, as I sort our laundry,
she pays close attention to how
I separate light from dark.

An earlier version of “Laundry” appeared in The Tower Journal.

The Things I Take

From the hope chest
that still bears its cedary smell
and limited warranty
against moth damage,
I lift the hard-soled shoes
that housed my daughter’s first steps,
my mother’s string of cultured pearls,
the double wedding ring quilt
my grandmother made with cotton
harvested from her husband’s fields.

Separating my things from his,
I come across a once-white box.
Inside, resting on a cottony pillow,
lies a little silver ball
suspended from a thin chain
fastened to a heart-shaped pin.

I recall how I once admired these bejeweled charms—
knee knockers they were called—
as they dangled from older girls’ skirts.
Wanting what they had,
I eyed this one at a department store downtown.
The scarlet-haired saleslady,
exposing her wrinkled decolletage,
leaned across the counter.
“All the girls are wearing these now,”
she murmured, calculating my naïveté.

Attaching the knee knocker to the hem of my skirt,
I didn’t worry then about the irritating bob of the ball
as I hurried toward boys
in my high school’s hallways—
the up and down movements against my skin
throbbed and thrilled like a heartbeat.

Teresa Burns Murphy is the author of a novel, The Secret to Flying (TigerEye Publications). Her writing has been published in several literary journals, including Chicago Quarterly ReviewEvening Street ReviewGargoyle MagazineLiterary MamaThe Literary NestThe OpiateThe Penmen ReviewSlippery Elm Literary Journal, and Stirring: A Literary Collection. She earned her MFA from George Mason University. Originally from Arkansas, she currently lives in Virginia. Visit her online here.

Two Poems by Stephen House


the rubbish pickers in my Indonesian area
work late every night
searching through bins and rubbish piles
to retrieve plastic
they load on to a cart

i see them if i get home late
or rise early at dawn
sometimes have a chat
or bring out plastic bottles
i save in my room

it has always made sense to take part in their work
as they make money from what i offer
and i’m somehow involved with their recycling
for the garbage situation here is grim

the last month i’ve noticed they now collect paper
i’m sure they didn’t before
so i ask two of them about it one morning at 3am
as i arrive back in my street from a bar

and in our combined two languages
me slightly drunk from beer
they tell me times are tougher than ever before
and the paper helps out a little

it is easy to forget
how difficult life is for some
and i’m reminded as they share
there are days spent hungry
and illness can’t be treated
as a doctor is unaffordable

and so now in my saving up refuse way
i keep all of my scrap paper for them
and take it out with my plastic bottles
as they shuffle in dark for their living

“recycling” first appeared in Dissonance Magazine

dead men’s clothes

dead men’s clothes hang sadly limp
in a world of once-worn wares
beaten by time in her tin shed shell
she rubs her eyes
blinks twice
smeared pink lipstick
pasty rutted face
cloudy eyes in stance of age
acceptance of a sort

into her desert store of only what remains
i have come on my meandering way
threadbare fear of disintegrating middle age
another tick in time on a lonely icy day
muddled from substances
coming down
no room or bed tonight for me
or friend or family near

i try on a humble vest of era long gone
add a coat of wool in olive grandpa green
she smiles slight a knowing hint
at where i may have roamed to be
fingers sleeve with bony stroke
no one comes here anymore she says with only gaze
once it was different she breathes silently

thrift-shop queen won’t see me pay
gives sincerely her woven generosity
holds lost dreams in wrinkled brow
set in stone her quiet tenacity

our brittle selves meet and we freeze within our haze
knowing well our own mortality
reality of humanity probably

i am warm now walking on my never knowing way
through another vacant dustbowl extremity
i slow to stop
glance back
now safe in mothball tweed
she waves from pebbled path
stepped outside of her reality
and in my dead men’s clothes i signal back a simple nod
another moment wise
wandering and alive

“dead men’s clothes” first appeared in The Blue Nib

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright, and actor. He’s had 20 plays produced with many published by Australian Plays Transform. He’s received several international literature residencies from The Australia Council for the Arts, and an Asialink India literature residency. He’s had two chapbooks published by ICOE Press Australia: real and unreal poetry and The Ajoona Guest House monologue. His next book drops soon. He performs his acclaimed monologues widely.

Two Poems by James G. Piatt

As I Search

As I search into memories gone,
the heavens hide those thoughts
which darkness dwells upon
and the evil spirits cast their lots
I pause upon such dark things
for they will surely besmirch
the creative thoughts which sing
and drown them as I search.

Those in Need

Some hear church bells each misty day
Echoing in the misty halls along a street
And mark each saddened face along the way
And mark each cry of misery that they meet,
In every weeping voice of every man,
In every maiden’s tear, they hear
Every sorrowful voice, they scan.
The despondent men that sob,
And the homeless ladies that cry
Causes every church bell to peal
An elegy as saints thunder a sigh.
Sorrow flows through minds that feel
Into shattered allies and broken roads
Where caring people tend to briny tears,
And went to places where sadness flowed
To ease troubles, need, and fears.

James G. Piatt, a retired professor and octogenarian, is a twice Best of Net nominee and four times Pushcart nominee. His Poem, “Teach Me,” published by Long Story Short, was selected as its poem of the year in 2014. He has had five poetry books, The Silent Pond, Ancient Rhythms, LIGHT, Solace Between the Lines, and Serenity, over 1750 poems, five novels, and thirty-five short stories published in scores of national and international literary magazines, anthologies and books, He earned his doctorate from BYU, and his BS and MA from California State Polytechnic University, SLO.