Two Poems by Cameron Morse

My Costume

I am Captain Hook
for Halloween, hook
always because of this
ridiculous left hand,
and the tumor’s chasing me
down with the time
ticking in its belly, the time
left to me. The tumor’s
packed my severed hand in there
too, I imagine, its knuckles
dissolving in a vat of stomach acid,
its hairy digits digitized
as the data by which my son Peter
will remember his old man
with the red beard and the peg-like
limp, his splotchy slab
of meat flapping from its hook.


Naysayer

Late November tumbling
over chimney stacks,
wind swirls in the street.
I can see it in the leaves,
a new kind of augury,
the storytelling of gurneys,
yearnings yay or nay
said by the names we choose
for our children, our transgressions.
Late November vampire
bloodthirsty or bled by the vial
for the panel now that you’ve downed
the first bottle of chemicals
war-fared for your right hemisphere
like a jar of fireflies. The phlebotomist
asks you to hold the cotton ball
over the hole her needle made
in your arm but your left
hand shrivels, clings, but finally
tumbles into the invisible
circles in which the wind dervishes
down the street.




Cameron Morse is Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and the author of eight collections of poetry. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is The Thing Is (Briar Creek Press, 2021). He holds an MFA from the University of Missouri—Kansas City and lives in Independence, Missouri, with his wife Lili and (soon, three) children. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.

Two Poems by Ken Gosse

Our Christmas Guest

There’s a tree in our house that’s been dressed with great care
(not the house, Heavens no! but the tree we brought there,
although not really we, because this year, you see,
I waited at home till a quarter past three
while my wife found the tree on her own, without me,
for the USPS was expected that day
though their tracking site said to expect a delay—
like the five days before, and since then, five days more—
since they’d need a ‘John Hancock’ on reaching our door,
then at twenty past three came my part of the chore:
to bring in the tree that I mentioned before.)

Now where was I? Ah yes! The tree, naked no more,
was propped up in a stand that we placed on the floor.
Well-designed for the task, it had six screws around
its circumference ensuring the tree that we found
would have all due support and not have to resort
to its own missing roots which were once the cohort
of its balance and feeding, which both were still needing
but now were supplied by good people who tried
to ensure its good health to the end of its days—
which were numbered, in deference to our holidays.

Until then, we’ll provide it the very best care
though we burden its boughs with small colored lights’ glare
and a great crowd of ornaments hung heavy there
as remembrance; nostalgia’s soft annual stare
stays attentively watchful to guard against one
who assumes this tradition is all for his fun,
for the dog stays away but the cat loves to play
with the old, beat-up danglers which show signs of fray
from our past Christmas cats whom we never could teach
not to mangle the ornaments placed within reach.

Very soon, many presents encircle its girth
piling up on the floor, wrapped with colorful mirth,
tied with ribbons and bows (though no longer required
“because transparent tape,” yet still highly desired),
with tags attached tightly or taped into place
for the cat, once again, with his delicate grace
assumes anything loose must be his for the taking
(as proof, he’s aloof while it’s visibly shaking
beneath a rogue paw as it plays the outlaw
which precedes the full pounce of his sharply-toothed maw).

And so, once again we prepare for a season
to celebrate life, love, and laughter, the reason
we gather together beneath these strange trees
which we cull from the woods, store, or box (without ease),
but our annual efforts’ results always please
once we’ve finished the task, bought and piled the gifts,
get together with family, when focus shifts
from a dinner-time feast on a table well-set
and we circle around in the warmth we have found
in a raucous enjoyment where joy will abound
as we share our delight in a welcome well-met.


The Moving Window

The UPS has changed its mind.
The window’s closed: I stare but see
no truck—they need more time to find
my house for their delivery.

No roadways here are filled with snow;
the clouds, though deep, are very bright.
The driver knows the way to go—
I hope he’s here before it’s night.

With many promises to keep
along the roads he’ll travel by,
I hope that he’ll postpone his sleep
as I stand vigil with a sigh.

He doesn’t always love this task;
he’ll fence with those who dare complain—
those savages! Do I dare ask
how long I must await in vain?

He’s here at last, so I rejoice!
His mobile app has found the way,
and though fatigued, with friendly voice
his truck drives off like Santa’s sleigh.




Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional meter, usually filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Pure Slush, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Home Planet News Online, Spillwords, and others. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.

Two Poems by Kelly Sargent

My Voice

I am Deaf.
My fingers speak.

A coiffed paintbrush in my grasp,
my voice streaks turquoise and magenta
across a parched canvas.
Vowels coo through thirsty linen.

Click-clacking keys with my mother tongue,
I chew hard consonants
and spit them out.
Sour, a scathing sonnet can be at dusk.

Fingertips pave slick exclamations,
punctuated by nails sinking low into clamminess.
I sculpt hyperboles.


The Mushroom Caves in Madrid

remember when we descended the dank hollow,
hollow like the cool, clay ashtrays cradling the
spent brown butts we found cowering behind the whiskey bottle

that they swilled in the mushroom caves
following the bullfight
and you huddled at the foot of my bed in the tangy orange afghan we shared

after the beast trickled blood uncauterized that night

in the pen dusted crimson.

you liked the banderilla’s pink crêpe paper;
we willed it pretty.

we crawled under the table, sticky
oak legs spread wide,
swollen, soaked, and stiff.
garlic burned more than sangria.

my twin, my deaf mirror,
sign with your tiny hands and
tell me:
what time are we allowed to eat stuffed mushrooms?


“My Voice” and “The Mushroom Caves in Madrid” first appeared in Stone Poetry Journal.




Kelly Sargent‘s poems and artwork in 2021, including a current Best of the Net nominee, appeared or are forthcoming in nearly two dozen literary publications. Her poetry chapbook entitled Seeing Voices: Poetry in Motion is also forthcoming (Kelsay Books, 2022). She serves as Creative Nonfiction Editor of The Bookends Review and an assistant nonfiction editor for Newfound. She also reviews for an organization dedicated to making visible the artistic expression of sexual violence survivors. Born HOH and adopted in Luxembourg with a deaf twin sister, she grew up in Europe and the U.S., and also wrote for a national newspaper for the Deaf. 

“Loving Extremely” by Martin Willitts, Jr.

There is a second when the invisible
is visible. Light tilts, just the right way,
or our prayers intercede,
and we see someone dead that we love.

No one is certain why this happens,
but it happens more often than reported,
because people are afraid of being called crazy.
When we experience this offering,
we stifle the vision, wave it off,
pretend it never happened,
never talk about it again.

But when the dead visit us,
we want the moment to be still,
like a photograph. We want time to cease,
to crease open to spend time reminiscing,
ask questions, be assured, hug them,
never let them go, again.

But they must go,
and we will doubt strongly, again.
We will forget this ever happened.

The contact never lasts long —
a mere glimpse; an eye blink.

I’ve heard, if we love someone extremely,
they will return; we should never question
if or when this will happen.

Just in case, I slow waltz with my wife.

“The Blighted Laureate” by Andrew Benson Brown

Brown beetles plague the laurel tree.
They sit on twigs and dine on leaves,
A throne-usurping peasant mob.
Infested branches, twisted free,
Are shaped into a hollow crown
And given to a gloomy queen.
She reaches for her teeming prize
To make her head renowned,
And fumbles.

The itching starts, the redness swells.
The beetles raise their guillotine:
Crawling, they bite her honeyed scalp
Shampooed with artificial smells
As drooping, pitted bays detach
And fall like birds with broken wings.
Her brittle wreath, now barren, cracks.
As fingers lift to scratch,
It crumbles.




Andrew Benson Brown was a graduate student at George Mason University before taking too many classes outside his discipline coincided with the reality of Debt. He now works as a children’s caseworker in rural Missouri. In his spare time, he reads obscure classics, writes things of little market value, and exercises far more than is befitting for a modern intellectual.

“To My Father Who Immigrated to America” by Miriam Manglani

How scared you must have been
leaving your native Egypt,
the only home you knew,
alone,
leaving your parents,
your seven siblings,
your friends,
by boat at twenty-two
with only sixteen dollars in your pocket,
driven out by antisemitism,
the gang of Arabs
who beat you,
almost killing you for being Jewish.

Perhaps you saw glints of the lives
you would create and change
in the waters of the gleaming Mediterranean
you crossed —

Perhaps you saw in France
beneath the layers of soot
on the copper chimneys you cleaned
for one long dirty year —
to make your way to the states,
glimmers of the trail you burned years later
as a renowned OB/GYN,
reflections of the many women you saved
who regarded you as a quiet hero,
facets of the worlds you helped create
for your future wife, children,
and your grandchildren
who only know your cold grave.

When you stepped on American soil,
did you feel the rush of wind
from the golden doors
of opportunity swinging wide open?

Perhaps you saw and felt none
of those wondrous things,
but you still gave rise to them.




Miriam Manglani is an emerging writer with poetry published in Village Square, Poetry Quarterly, Rushing Thru the DarkVita Brevis, and Cerasus Magazine. Find her at www.miriammanglani.com.

Two Poems by E. C. Traganas

Best Friends

Call me what you will.
Fickle, for instance. I
simply haul in my net
roll up my sails
drop anchor and sling
my ropes on solid land
while frenzied water ebbs
and flows behind me.

Or dull and lackluster.
That’s when I take
the salt and acrid lemon
of your words and rub
the tarnish from
my copper pans
until they gleam.

Call me shallow.
And I reach down
from the submarine depths
of my limitations
and build an arc
shooting past the clouds
through an expanse
that even the orbs
of your eyes
can scarcely fathom
without squinting.

Call me what you will. I
turn your insults into gold.
It’s an amazing thing, this
strange alchemy
between us.


Reckoning

Crystals of ice-flakes. Squalls approach.
The cold-frost numbs my fingers.
Steam escapes the kettle-lid
etching steel-point vines upon the doors.

Crack of dusk. Vapored breath.
Contraction of the stone-like flesh.
My skin retracts as larch-pins snap
from northern gusts of spiking winds.

And what is left of mossy leaves
rank sodden with decay
I pile into a nameless heap
a mound where hardened insects play.

In the Indian Summer of my days
what thoughts of Winter’s Darkness call —
I have been summoned to reflect
that in my youth, my soul grows old.




E. C. Traganas is the author of the acclaimed debut novel Twelfth House. She has published in MöbiusIbbetson Street Press, The Penwood Review, Sacred Journey, and numerous other literary journals. Shaded Pergola, a book of short poems featuring her original illustrations, is set to be released in January.

Two Poems by Fran Schumer

High Summer

I trudged through the day,
figured and refigured
plane routes, train routes
which buses to take
to see my aging parents.

My husband and our neighbor
would figure it out on the spot,
in the station, on the platform
bang bang it’s done — in situ
but I am not an in situ girl.

I plan
I worry.

Different parts of their bodies fail
lungs, livers, my father’s skin so delicate
it tears on the sheets at night.
Only their hearts keep beating
their ancient hearts
their faithful, ancient hearts
keep beating
keep loving us
keep us loving them.

Their kind doctors speak
in numbers, percentages, odds.

At dusk, I finish packing when I notice
the light, low and golden.
It’s high summer, early August
sunset still an hour off
the days warm and lasting.

Why not, I think, and carry my dinner
out to the deck where I listen
to the birds, the flap from the oven vent
tap tap-ing against the wall
watch the golden light
lick every leaf of oak and beech
until they glisten.
And I wonder
What did I ever do to deserve such happiness?


Ghost Writer

Who knew what a good job
it was for me who loved
to pretend I was someone else,
the only way
I knew to be myself.

They told me their stories
and I became a young lawyer
fired for marrying her boss;
an actress who gained and
lost and re-gained weight;
a thief; a bulimic; a druggie.

I slipped into their bodies
like ghosts in old movies,
cast spells to make them
heroes, victims, saints
and martyrs — and writers!

When we finished, I missed
them. But when I tried to
write my own book, the spirit
vanished. All that remained
was a ghost-white page.




Fran Schumer is a journalist and author. Her poetry has been published in The New Verse News, Hole In The Head Review, and Contrary. Another poem is forthcoming in Prospectus. In 2021, she won a second-place poetry fellowship from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She majored in Social Studies at college but wishes she had spent the time studying Keats.

Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

Mina Says No to Hospice

I entered the world with a blast,
Triumphant and ever so loud.
The room was engulfed by my cries.
My mother was weary but proud.
 
And now, although 90 and failing,
I still want to live as I am.
They said I came in like a lion —
I’ll never go out like a lamb.


She’s welcomed and flattered and favored and kissed.
She’s promptly invited; she’s first on the list.
She glides through the envy that always awaits her.
Because she’s so popular, everyone hates her.




Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had about 200 poems published in a wide range of places, including two in Sparks of Calliope last May and two last June.

Two Poems by Judy Lorenzen

Fog

A thick fog rolled in this morning,
and it’s just one of those days
when clouds of memories come in
and eventually move way, as one
picture comes clearly into focus—
now I see my father sitting
in the living-room chair
after cooking in a hot kitchen
all morning and afternoon long
at The Platter on Interstate 80—
his eyes, closed,
his feet and legs aching.
Ronnie Milsap’s “Smoky Mountain Rain”
plays in the background,
and I hear my father’s voice,
“I’ve had a change of dreams,
I’m comin’ home. . .”
I am moved by hearing his voice again
and realize that he was singing from a place
of deep understanding of the song—
the rain, the regret, the homesickness,
the “doing everything I can to get back, but
no one will let me in”—
and for the first time,
I see him.
He harmonizes with Ronnie
and the memory is sweet,
and just like the rain in the song
and the tears
the singer has to wipe back from his eyes,
I’d give anything
to see my father again,
a man whose love
I rejected most of my life
when the fog of resentment obscured my perspective—
then I took his love for granted
like he owed it to me.
But death and memory offer
the sorrows of hindsight,
the blessing of clear vision.
Now I see everything,
and what I see
is all that I failed at,
and what I remember
is goodness,
and the only thing I feel
is mountains of love.


Gratitude

Tonight,
high above the old barn,
which began leaning years ago,
is its Milky Way roof,
starlight shining on rotting boards
and broken hinges. A rush of wings
escapes out the broken door
as I approach.
This is the way I remember
Grandma and Grandpa—
beautiful and falling apart,
grey haired,
arthritic hands and bodies,
sitting in their lawn chairs
in the evening, smiling—
always welcoming.
They felt the years of hard toil
in every joint,
never complained—
and when they couldn’t keep up
any longer,
they learned to let go
and enjoy stars.




Judy Lorenzen is a poet, writer, and English teacher. She holds a BA in English; an MSED in Community Counseling (LMHP); an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK); and a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from UNLHer work appears in Plains Song Review, Relief Literary Journal, PlainsongCelebrate: A Collection of Writings by and About Women (Volume XVI), Nebraska LifeThe Fence Post, The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets, The Grand Island IndependentMisbehavin’ Nebraskans, Voices from the Plains, Vol. 2,Verse-Virtual, and Your Daily Poem, among other publications.