“Lorna” by Patrick Key

I liked how she reminded me of plastic
tablecloths, yellow stained ceilings, and
all-purpose flour. She was smiling, romantic.
In the moonlight with me, resting on the land.
Drinking in the shine distilled illegally.
The path of darkness ended and turned into the heat.
Her warmth gave me hope, because secretly
I saw the bloodstains. Heard her bleat.
There were no footsteps leading to the wood.
I hope. Unlike others before her time.
Wedding bells soon chimed. “I could
wear pastel pink.” I wanted it to be mine,
but such a hue was lost to all of those years.
Memory beckons, even when I blink away the tears.

Patrick Key started writing seriously later in life, thanks to the help of a poetry class during his undergraduate years. His works have appeared in Wine Cellar Press, The Daily Drunk, The Amethyst Review, among others. He is also the founding editor of Grand Little Things. More can be found at https://patrickkeywriter.com/

“The Birdman” by Brian Yapko

The morning’s hatch? A meager price to pay.
I earn my catch, drone my noon-songs, pray
To all the lares and penates on my back.
I lift my eyelids open but a crack
And pile my daily duties in a stack.
These I perform with duly reasoned thought.
(Once I saw a hawk and sparrow caught
And kept until each met its time to die)
I leave the cluttered desk, I float. I fly
Enraptured with the spirit of the sky.
      But whose voice calls me back? What altar burns?
      What pressing work awaits? Whose planet turns?
      And the dial, the dial crosses me. Aflight
      I dread the day should e’er be spread with night.

Annunciation of the dark. My flight
Is done. I disconnect the yellow light
And leave for home to force my evening meal.
I toll and chant each vesper as I kneel
Before the lares. Why don’t they hear and feel
What I am suffering? Am I? Am I alone?
Is there time to live? Can a person turn to stone
In just a day, a month, a year? I read.
I pray the night consume my thoughts of human need.
(And if… if I fly… is that not also greed?)
      I am being called back. No altars burn.
      But my work awaits as darkening planets turn.
      And still that damned dial crosses me. Tonight
      I dread that I should e’er again take flight.

Brian Yapko practices law and writes poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Grand Little Things, Society of Classical Poets, Poetica, Chained Muse, Garfield Lake Review, Tempered Runes Press and as a first-prize contest winner in The Abstract Elephant. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

“In Residence” by Jane Blanchard

A challenge of dividing time between
two homes arises in the middle of
the night. One wakes up questioning the scene
of somnolence. Is there a fan above
the bed? How heavy are the covers on
the body? Answers indicate the floor
plan one must walk to reach the nearest john
while not relying on night vision more
than absolutely necessary. (Eyes
once open rarely want to close again
for hours.) With luck, one’s better half just sighs,
turns over, goes right back to sleep. A win
comes when one’s self succumbs to slumber and
some sprightly man begins to sprinkle sand.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia (USA).  Her work has recently appeared in The Asses of ParnassusThe Ekphrastic ReviewThe North American Anglican, and The Spectator.  Her latest collection with Kelsay Books is In or Out of Season (2020).

“A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

Clement Clark Moore (1779-1863) was a poet and academic who is best remembered for the following poem which he claimed to have written for his children. Although he was acknowledged throughout his lifetime as the undisputed author of the poem, which was originally published anonymously in 1823, some modern scholars have suggested a different author actually wrote the poem. What is indisputable is that the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” is one of the most well-known poems ever written by an American poet, and has been singularly responsible for many current conceptions of Santa Claus and Christmas gift-giving in secular American culture.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

“Ode to the East Wind” by Carol Casey

You come from where our stark beginnings find
their birth and blow through truth and storm to where
the roots of cold dig deep and make us blind
with tears that freeze on faces wild with care
and make escape from you such great relief
that other burdens seem so light to bear
when we are left with only human grief
to gather up within some sheltered lair
while you go on to taunt the naked trees
And howl your lonely dirges through the air
where sere fates toss about like brittle leaves
that sweep both nerve and landscape into prayer.
For it’s your careless power we resist
and challenged, find the courage to persist.

Carol Casey lives in Blyth, Ontario, Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Prairie Journal, BluePepper, Back Channels, Front Porch Review and others, including a number of anthologies, most recently, i am what becomes of broken branch and We Are One: Poems From the Pandemic. Facebook: @ccaseypoetry; Twitter: @ccasey_carol; Webpage: https://learnforlifepotential.com/home-2/poetry/

“The Lion’s Last Act” by Royal Rhodes

Transported in your caravan was fun —
adventures far removed from zoo to zoo,
remembering the grasslands I had run,
a cub when my captivity was new.
Within the center ring that filled the tent,
encircled by the nightly roaring crowd,
I saw the iron bars the strongman bent
and clowns whose frolics made them laugh so loud.
You trained me with a chair and snaking whip
to snarl and shake my Samson-tangled mane,
and placed a cigarette upon your lip,
so calm it drove the audience insane.
They gave a gasp when you spread wide my paws
and placed your head between my ready jaws.

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor who taught classes in global religions, the Classics, religion & the arts, and death & dying. His poetry has appeared online and in a series of art/poetry collaborations for The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. His current project is a poetry/photography collaboration on sacred sites in Italy.

“Ode to The Pastoral” Carol Lynn Grellas

Were I to alter what has been
amending days of life wherein
the years were stolen, love was lost
I’d follow him through icy frost

through verdant covered mountain tops
soft-kissed with snow on coral drops
of flowers swaying left to right
beneath each noble starlit night,

reclaim the path where rivers met
when shadows found each silhouette
together ambling hand in hand
the two of us throughout the land

with days we’d christen under stars
belonging to eternal hours.
Were I to alter Heaven’s clocks
as easily as changing frocks

I’d search the rolling countryside
where daffodils and love abide
then pick the blooms along the way–
and save them for our wedding day.

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is currently enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing program. She is a ten-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a seven-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012, she won the Red Ochre Chapbook Contest, with her manuscript, Before I Go to Sleep. In 2018, her book, In the Making of Goodbyes, was nominated for The CLMP Firecracker award in Poetry and her poem “A Mall in California” took 2nd place for the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize. In 2019, her chapbook An Ode to Hope in the Midst of Pandemonium, was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Her new book, Alice in Ruby Slippers, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press. Her work has most recently been published on Mezzo Cammin and Verse Daily. She is the former Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Tule Review the former Editor-in-Chief of The Orchards Poetry Journal. She is a recent member of the Sacramento Poetry Center Board of Directors.

“Bridal” by Greg Sendi

As when in summer fauns will peel
acanthus leaves and juniper for food
or crush new eucalyptus under heel
that earthward from each tender shoot

drop balms to scent the fleshy air,
so will the footfalls of the meadow bride,
compressing sage and jasmine, maidenhair
and sparrowgrass, the countryside

exhaling censers down the slope
when she arrives. And so will her advance
express a must of memory and hope
from us, as from the meadow plants,

like sacks of orient spices full
to bursting, cracking open as she comes,
no usury so ravenous but will
be glutted to delirium

when she appears, whose loveliness
itself the gentle liquor of the lands
delivers here in us as austere Pentheus
was ushered to the hilltop dance.

Still when she nears again we feel
what we already know: the world abides
forever, though corruption dance its reel,
there is a garden place inside

whose only holy canon tells
there is no law but love, whose ancient wells
and woodland paths obscure reveal the ways
that we are made of promises and days.

Greg Sendi is a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. His stories and poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including recent appearances in Apricity, CONSEQUENCE, Plume, Pulp Literature, upstreet, and in the ’emerging writers’ collection of The Masters Review.

“In Homage to Lord Byron” by Kenneth Vincent Walker

“Mad, bad and dangerous”
Thy silvery tongue smooth,
His angelic countenance
Has now entered the room.

The ladies in waiting, they
Drop to the floor all whilst
The gentlemen are debating
On whom you’ve loved more.

A poet pristine, a catapulted
Commoner to aristocracy.
An overnight sensation, and
Sparkler amongst mediocrity.

An intensely passionate life
Without limits or constraints,
Tho rumors of depravity swirl
Amid insanity and complaints.

“Mad, bad and dangerous”
Thy silvery tongue smooth,
His angelic countenance
Has now exited the room.

Kenneth Vincent Walker is a “New Formalist” poet, spoken word artist, performer, and author of Borderline Absurd (An Exercise in Rhyme and Reason), published by Poem Sugar Press 2015. Kenneth also has two new books that are being published by Poem Sugar Press and Concrete Mist Press respectively, and are slated to be released by the end of the year.

“The Taigs of Jersey City” by Maurice O’Sullivan

When I was young, my neighbors thought
Most politicians could be bought.
The few exceptions to these rules
Were simply seen as naive fools.

So long as we had safe, clean streets
And lots of cops to walk our beats,
A little larceny was fine
And purging graft seemed asinine.

At least it seemed that way each fall
So long as we held City Hall.
But once those others won the votes
Our leaders sounded different notes.

Their politicians were all crooks,
Embezzling funds and cooking books,
A shocking lack of rectitude
(Especially to the new born prude).

Morality is flexible—
What’s right and wrong and ethical—
But tribal loyalty endures
Protecting me and mine from yours.

Maurice O’Sullivan, a former teamster, jail guard and pub owner, is an award-winning teacher, editor, columnist, and film maker who lives in Orlando, Florida. His most recent book, Have You Not Hard of Floryda, is a survey of 300 years of Florida’s colonial literature.