Two Poems by Marlena Maduro Baraf


The losses:
infant daughter
youngest daughter shot at the mall in Miami
beloved husband
second daughter dies in her sleep

You push your head erect
you let it sink to the right
your daughter-in-law plumps a small silk cushion
she tucks it lovingly into the low wooden chair
she rights your head
your son-in-law lifts the woven shawl onto your shoulder
your nephew touches the shawl to your cheek
a grandson strokes your sinuous hand
your first daughter sighs
a granddaughter bends
your son sobs
a niece holds her breath

You push your head erect
you let it sink to the right
your daughter-in-law plumps
your son-in-law lifts
the shawl touches your cheek
sinuous fingers

You push your head
you let it sink
we sob

your daughter
the sweetness of chocolate
she tucks
he lifts
we breathe

Number 14 Blue

She appears in other paintings
clutching her throat
resting her finger on a pearl
The sky above has stained her pearl
The eyes so blue
they’ve bled into their whites
Who thought her eyes and pearl and sky?
What memories bind them?

Marlena Maduro Baraf‘s stories and poems have been published in Sweet Lit, the Ekphrastic Review, On the Seawall, Night Heron Barks, Poets Reading the News, and elsewhere. She immigrated to the United States from her native Panama and is the author of the memoir At the Narrow Waist of the World and co-author of Three Poets/Tres Poetas. She writes the newsletter Breathing in Spanish on the Substack platform.

“The Crows” by Leslie Lippincott Hidley

This tale’s nothing new,
as everyone knows
There’s nothing as sad
as the sorrow of crows.

Other birds sing so sweetly
their music and song
But crows are in mourning
for what has gone wrong.

They remind us of error,
of pride and self-will:
Their sound, so discordant,
no soft little trill;

Their sad, cranky cry,
Their constant complaint,
If they only had thumbs,
they’d have fun, they could paint!

Or play cards or make biscuits
Oh! Biscuits they love!
Toss bits on the lawn
They’ll fly down from above

But won’t stop complaining,
It’s all that they utter –
All the while that they’re eating,
“Where’s the jam? Why no butter?”

They’re never content
in their glossy black clothes
As they perch on the clothesline
in glossy black rows

And complain to each other
what our garden lacks
In the way of large fountains
and licorice snacks.

But we do our best,
if they left we’d miss them
(which isn’t to say that we’d
hug or kiss them!)

For crows are stand-off-ish
if you’re not of their kind,
If not one of their species,
they really would mind.

We live here together,
The best that we’re able
Some of us steady,
Some are unstable.

Crankier birds I don’t
Think you can find
Than the crows that we’ve got
But we really don’t mind

‘Cause the crows don’t mind us
No matter how cheerful
Or chatty or happy or
How much an earful

Of singing and talking
And chirping we might
Beginning at dawn and
Keep up half the night.

Leslie Lippincott Hidley has been writing prose and poetry for her own amusement and that of her family and friends and others for most of her 76 years. And one of her ten grandchildren is named Kalliope. She has lived in Walla Walla, Washington; Frankfurt and Bremerhaven, Germany; Upper New York State; Enid, Oklahoma; Montgomery and Prattville, Alabama; Lubbock, Texas; Dover, Delaware; West Palm Beach, Florida; Goose Bay, Labrador; Washington, D.C.; Fairfield, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and now resides in Ojai (Nest-of-the-Moon), California, where she continues to write.

Two Poems by Sterling Warner

Cedar Chest

Grandma kept her wedding veil
sanctimoniously folded inside
a cedar chest—the Blackford family
heirloom preserved, revered,
always there for a glance back
in time & journey of remembrance;
as passing days fleeced her clarity, she
relived yesteryears…sensually touching,
feeling, smelling tactile mementos
like a lacey veil,
calve skin gloves,
Egyptian tiaras
& flapper beads.

Grandma ensured posterity once
she closed the trunk, imagined
grandchildren reacting to items
that fashioned her life, defined
her world before responsibility
replaced frivolity & duty, undermined
personal exploration, safeguarded
her past by cherishing & maintaining
clothes & keepsakes that chronicled her life,
justified excess,
motivated restraint,
survived into the future
once she passed.

Golden Gate Twilight

In Japanese tea garden shadows
behind a sacred pagoda
where squirrels navigate
various tiered tower eaves, 
a grizzled old man sits
like a 21 th century Buddha
on a hand carved bench
near the arched drum bridge
glancing at bushy tails
twitching in anticipation
watching his spotted knuckles
noting flashes of silver levers
between arthritic digits:
listening, listening, listening.

They jump to his tweed jacket
dig claws in suede elbow patches,
& circle his torso like a red wood
trunk before resting on shoulders
hunched, curved & world weary
eager yet patient, respecting
his ever inviting yet limited range
of emotions; the park regular cracks
open chandler walnuts, tossing shells
on bare earth, holding nut kernels
between his shriveled thumb
& index finger, feeding & nurturing
frenzied red and grey disciples
like St. Francis of Assisi’s birds.

Sterling Warner is a Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee for poetry. His works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as The Ekphrastic ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, The Fib Review, and Sparks of Calliope. Warner has written seven books of poetry, including Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux, Edges, Rags & Feathers, Serpent’s Tooth, Flytraps, and Cracks of Light: Pandemic Poetry & Fiction (2022)—as well as. Masques: Flash Fiction & Short StoriesCurrently, he writes, turns wood, and hosts virtual poetry readings.

Two Poems by Mark Arvid White

Ash Wednesday

New Orleans had thrummed as I stepped from the bus
on a Carnival Monday, the last before Lent.
The city was a cat that purred with the strokings,
always poised to pounce its fat prey–
Shrove Tuesday would come in the morning
With prayers and offerings in the quiet of churches
Where candles would burn through the heat of the night,
And I slept like an angel, flying close to the ground.
I saw you sometime after breakfast
in a peaches and white dress you said you had made,
all alone in the shade at a table for four,
you looked up at me ’till I couldn’t get away.
“Where yat?” you said, Mardi Gras in your eyes.
“What’s your name?” I said — your perpetual smile —
“It don madda,” you said as your fingers took mine,
I squeezed, and you said, “Pass a good time.”
Laissez le Bon temp rouler.
We passed hand in hand through dance and parade,
you laughed at the Maskers and held out your arms,
“Throw me something, Mister” and the treats came clattering.
You caught a bead necklace, slipped it over my head,
kissing me without question, without pause or delay,
to the sands beyond the flickering flambeaux.
Soft drums, your praline body yielding to mine.
Morning, and the sounds of a street sweeper,
sand in my clothes, and the smell of you, gone.
Seven hours on the streets I am searching,
Knowing I will never see you again.
I am the Boeuf Gras, the fatted bull,
last meat taken before the fasting times.
The torches all gone, watched from the bus
the ash-crossed foreheads of each passer-by.

Cycles of Things

She mounted her tricycle, cycling like mad,
Her psyche undaunted in spite of herself.
Not really a good girl, she wasn’t half bad
As she pedaled to the end of the drive.

Her pocketbook bulged with illicit gain
Duly taken by stealth from the man they called “Dad”.
“It’s a small world….” she hummed the refrain,
The ice cream truck’s siren song jingling.

Yet as her legs churned, sweet frozen grail seeking,
One wobbly wheel disengaged from the rest.
Her once tri, now bi-cycle shuddering and shrieking,
Like a sickle she sliced through the neighbor’s hedge.

In her mind she cried out “Oh gods! I’m undone!”
But in the real world she just blubbered and screamed
As legs, tires, handlebars, fused into one,
Visions of popsicles broken and melting.

She did not want him to see her like this,
Though her wail sent him running in spite of it all.
Father bending, untangling, he gave her a kiss
Lifting the thief from her own demise.

The cyclonic dash had demolished her dreams,
No fudge sickles, ice bars, no sundae swirl cups.
Author of her own design, and yet it seems
The pages were still being penned.

“Come on, little fireball, let’s get you a treat.”
Infraction forgotten, the cycle of things,
As the man they called “Dad” took her out to the street,
Her arms to his neck tightly clinging.

Mark Arvid White lives and writes in Alaska.  He has had his poems, stories, articles, and reviews appear in such publications as Permafrost, New Myths, Time of Singing, Modern Haiku, Candelabrum, Cerasus, and many others in pixel or in print.  He is past regional coordinator in Alaska for the Haiku Society in America and creator of the Shin Tao Haiku Retreat in the online virtual community of Second Life.

Two Poems by John Grey

Famous Writer’s Long-Johns

I’m on a tour of a famous writer’s house,
standing behind the rope,
taking in details of his parlor,
bedroom and bath.
Everything is as expected.
Genius is surely not in
his choice of soap-dish.

The kitchen table is set
with plastic food.
I hope it wasn’t like that
in his day.
But the books on the shelves
are real enough.
I notice a couple that were published
after he died.
How prescient of the man.
And there’s a desk in a small study
where he wrote everything long hand.
This was before carpal tunnel syndrome
was invented.

Truth is I can read
whatever of the famous writer is out there
and know so much more of him
than in studying his old coffee mug from a distance.

But the point of these places
is to make the great seem ordinary.
That’s the least their houses can do for them.
For example, I can see
the dull wooden wardrobe,
with a hook to hoist his long-johns.
It’s not a scene he would have written.

Lack of Evidence

It’s the only photograph of my father
that I still possess
and it’s not displayed in some prominent place
in my house
but is shoved inside a drawer
with dozens of other snapshots from the past.
Besides, it’s faded.
I can barely make out his features.
It might even be of one of his brothers.
No one bothered to label it.

We were never a family
for whipping out our cameras
like six-guns.
We didn’t take aim at everything that posed.
But people died or moved away.
Memory wasn’t mighty as expected.
And no one ever imagined the role
regret would play some day.

The man died only months into my life.
And at an age that I have long since passed.
Truth is, I know nothing of him but his name.
The photograph adds nothing to this.
I can’t even tell if he’s smiling
or, like I said before, who’s smiling.

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review, and Floyd County Moonshine. His latest books, Covert, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself, are available through Amazon. He has work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and Open Ceilings.

Two Poems by John Tustin


like the first kiss
with an almost-stranger
you only kissed one early morning,
years ago.
You told yourself
that you kissed her
just to pass a little time
and you’ve believed it
ever since.

You remember the bus station
and sitting there with her
at three A.M.,
just you and her
and an old man dozing
far off in the corner

and you remember
she said something to you
that made you cry
but you don’t remember what

and you don’t know
if she kissed you first
or you kissed her first
and you don’t remember
what it all felt like,
not really.

You just remember
that you liked it,
it felt good.

You wish you could do it again
and if you did
you’d remember her face this time:
her face, her hands,
the way she spoke,
the fluttering in your stomach,
the feeling of her body against yours
and her kisses,
especially her kisses.

You tell yourself
that you’d remember this time –
not like last time
when you forgot
her words, her eyes,
all that tingling,
the way you’ve forgotten almost everything.

I Am a Lake

I am a lake, hidden from the road by trees;
A dense thicket of trees meant to obscure me, meant to isolate me.
I am a lake, small and placid and very cold. No one knows I am here.
There is not much alive and swimming beneath my surface
But it is enough that if you dip in five tenuous toes
You may feel a slight swirl of life around your now frigid foot.

No one knows I am here. I can be your secret place.
Can you feel pleasure spreading out a blanket before my ambivalence
With just a book and a light lunch to bring you comfort and satiety?
It could be deep into the season before my water is warm enough
For you to take a swim. It could be that even the whole season could pass.
You might become frustrated and leave me alone here far from the road,

Obscured by trees. You maybe become impatient and gingerly wade on in.
If you do put both feet in, I implore you not to blame me If your body becomes
Immobile from the cold. I did not ask you
      to venture off the road or dip your toes.
I did not ask you
      to salve your curiosity from the road to beyond the trees to me.
I did not ask you to do anything the way I once begged the sun to more often
Shine upon me and now ask the sun again.

John Tustin has poetry forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Innisfree Poetry Journal, SOFTBLOW, and others. He is also a previous contributor to Sparks of Calliope. Find links to his poetry published online here.

Two Poems by Stephen Mead

The Magpies Cry

Distinct black/white shapes of dignified elegance
in their stance on the bare branch tips
welcome some visitor coming,
in death or tidings good as their bellies
full and plump pipe indigo flint
from throats out and up.
That knife iridescence is amazing against
just a hint of the hazy evening star
dim as a far flashlight
behind gauze blue sky.
Darkness makes the presence prominent,
shadows coalescing so the silhouette’s edge
are penumbras of harkening lit in themselves.
What light through yonder
to ponder with longing and even that nostalgic
prescience for doom until medications juggled chemicals,
that serotonin reuptake tango, all brain juices
balanced. Ah, but the jaded find that laughable
so know indifference is the best defense as in
this too shall pass when the purveyors of pettiness
stir their pots, deaf to how echoes cannot be unsaid
to those left gutted by them again and again.
The wise magpies care for naught of that either,
having laid grass blades, leaves, twigs upon
and beside the fallen of their flock.
They are prepared, attuned as nature
for some sastrugi phenomenon, that art
of elements when wind and whiteness meet,
create waves of drifts to marvel at the marbling of
between the cold snow blinding veils
whipping and blanketing without any knowledge
of which supersedes which.
This is wisdom possibly during wars and epidemics
but our fallen stay inside us simply like persistence
might just be an instinct to grasp, go on and on
as if by accident, whether there is will or not.

Remembering Rain

Other shores, different seas
must travel these slanting expanses,
this sheet upon sheet of showering roars…

Perhaps I could sleep there
as an unperturbed shell
converting howls into whistles, my corridors
a song rearranged by will Weather accepts…

For several seasons, endurance has been
row, row
with occasional floating sweeping into
the drifts…

Sift, sift,
this pool, this puddle.
Let ripples trickle. Let the conductor be
the fluid fluency of silver mercury,
the oars, bright & multi-tongued…

Dip. Paddle. Slip scoops up—–
The waves breaking their refractions
in fountain cascades, in further concentricity…

Yes, born from such storm, the rocking
is still a berth. So I cast off, cast aloft,
hands as sails, face as rudder
to the memory of shelter


Stephen Mead, a resident of New York, is an outsider multi-media artist and writer.  Since the 1990s, he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online.  He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the health insurance. In 2014, he began a web page to gather various links to his published poetry in one place.

Two Poems by Patricia Furstenberg

The Sheep’s Spring Butter Is Medicine

Genuflected in the circular sheepfold, beside a temple,
fir-trees the shepherd’s green church,
footprints and hooves build a mosaic underfoot
the artist, a keeper of time or maybe his sheep
turned kid.
Lock-free door,
‘we guard ‘gainst bears only up ‘ere’,
wind sings or hymns resound,
tea hums, brewed over dried-dung and pine-needle fire.
Time stands still.

Bread made of dew and husks,
baked over excited kindles
sweet steam embracing,
coiled on a stick with a fiery eye that pokes eternity.
The shepherd’s shadow dips smoked bacon in spring butter,
world’s wisdom drips from his fingers
making the fire speak.
‘The sheep’s spring butter ‘s med’cine’, he sounds more to the mutt by the door
who grunts, body asleep, soul and ears ever awake.
Heavy books told me what the shepherd knew, as his forefathers,
spring herbs are potent, filled with life’s juices and earth’s zing,
herbs scoured for spells, for sweet dreams, but gifted for butter and milk.

The sheep’s spring butter is medicine, for the sheep’s from God,
like this earth,
but the goat, the goat’s from the hinder side.
Yet that’s a tale for another time.

Hunger came first

Hunger came first
as day slashed the nightfall with its fiery dagger
and spirits still chased the lost souls.
One last pang
one last hope
Hunger came first.

The goat came next,
nimble on the first rays of sun, as sharp as hell,
a strand of grass sticking out of its mouth,
silvery horns arched backwards, night trailing behind.
The goat came next,
shrouded in its beastly scent–
the promise of a full tummy.

The poet came last,
a night’s last breath into the day,
shadowed existence,
ghostly appearance,
eyes sunken on wobbly feet.
Eyes burning with poetry.
And hunger.

Hunger came first,
The goat came next,
The poet crawled from his misery
The verse of how the goat was the devil’s,
as the lamb belonged to God,
looping through his ear.

Then hunger floated away
from the shadow that had once been a poet,
a poet who chased a goat away.

The hunger and the goat went first.
The poet remained.
For eternity.

Patricia Furstenberg, with a medical degree behind her, has authored 18 books imbued with history, folklore, and legends. The recurrent motives in her writing are unconditional love and war. Her essays and poetry have appeared in various online literary magazines. Romanian-born, she resides with her family in South Africa.

“Ancient Mounds” by Mark B. Hamilton

Collins had found the hog, butchered and hung,
so we left early that morning with our rifles slung
to hunt the prairie fowl with shot, and to explore
Dubois River, hoping our slow and stealthy tour
might surprise a bear at dinner. Approaching near
we fell into a stalk, beneath the rise only to hear
loud caws from the carcass speckled with crows
having devoured the shreds to bone. Above the snow
all was ears, a mask attached to a spine, the thin
shadow of corpse hanging in the wind to spin
its yarn of dying for some hungry farmer’s larder.
So we kept our hunt southeastward, a bit farther
from the bottoms where we spotted prairie fowl
on roosting branches, like silhouettes for owl
as we fired one-by-one taking several, and more
at the foot of berry bushes, until we both wore
the grouse as Indians might wear feathered capes.
Continuing our trek toward some distant shapes
we imagined to be a group of ancient mounds,
the expanse in front was wide and not a sound
was heard as we approached in their field of fire.
Without the ice underfoot an attack would mire
down and deepen into failure, yet we strode in
across that level surface of the pond, frozen
enough to get us committed far into the middle.
Then, at 100 yards, all broke loose into a riddle
of children singing “fat piggies,” we in the moat
up to our thighs, rifles held high, unable to shoot.
The ancients knew well a defense against infantry
building on ground to weaken the attacking enemy.
We had to back out, and come far around south,
staying in the prairie stubble, out of the mouth
of that big frog, to approach their fortification
of 9 mounds in a round—a haven of protection,
an Indian fortress once encircled by a palisade
with whistling wings of two more mounds made
7 feet above the prairie. All were scattered with flint
and earthen ware. An entire safe and dry settlement
below a clearing sky. Northward an immense grave,
a Cahokian woodhenge, had once risen up to save
their loved ones by the sacred motion of the sun.
Returning at sunset, I found my feet well frozen
inside my shoes. My slave rubbed them with snow
and wrapped them both, and set them gently low
on the hearth, slowly to prevent the frost bite.
With westerly winds exceedingly cold that night
York brought firewood and plucked two hens.
“This ‘ill help, Massa. With good luck, and then
hot broth and God ta’ thaw out your feet again.”

History-based verse from: The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Vol. 2, “Wintering at Camp Dubois.” Moulton, Gary E., editor. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1986: 153-54. (Previously published in About Place Journal)

Mark B. Hamilton is an environmental neo-structuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. His second eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River (Shanti Arts, 2020) explores the reciprocity between self, history, and the contemporary environment of the polluted Ohio River.  A third book, Lake, River, Mountain, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin, Cornerstone Press, 2023, and a third chapbook, UPSTREAM, will be published by Finishing Line Press, 2024. His recent work has appeared in such journals as: Blue Unicorn, Albatross, and History Magazine, as well as abroad in Urthona Journal, Amethyst Review, and Stand Magazine, UK. Find more of his work at

Two Poems by Diane Webster

Ancestor Twin

My twin smiles in the lake’s surface,
a mirror where a feisty kitten
peeks behind to find the intruder
speedy to sprint around the corner
no matter how fast one looks.

I duck down to shrink my target,
but as I sneak a look over the weeds,
I am visible again and again
like a prairie dog in a hole
wondering if an eagle still soars.

A trout breaches the façade
into shattering ripples
scattering ashore to dissipate
among the weeds tickling, luring
a moment in disturbance.

My twin smears a blur,
but if I squint, I see
the resemblance in the old photo
of an ancestor cousin
staring into the camera.

Sand Everyone

I feel like sand at the beach
wearing everyone’s footsteps
coming, going against
my grains depressed
by their passings.

I can’t wait for them to leave
taking all their disruptive shovels,
stabbing umbrella poles,
sand castle tumors.

I can’t wait for wind
and surf to rid me
of their ravage
so I can greet
the sunrise pure.

Diane Webster‘s goal is to remain open to poetry ideas in everyday life, nature or an overheard phrase and to write. Diane enjoys the challenge of transforming images into words to fit her poems. Her work has appeared in El Portal, North Dakota Quarterly, Eunoia Review and other literary magazines. She also had a micro-chap published by Origami Poetry Press.