On Growing Old and Discovering Truth

My days are measured

By bottles of discount wine,

My weeks by clean linens;

Each morning

I seek salvation

in a cafe benison.


Sleep, sleep divine,

Why should eternal sleep

not be heaven?


For religion begins

Where knowledge ends.


My little fame in life,

I know,

Will be confined

to a freeway sign:

“Missing Elderly,”

numinous against

a gray morning sky,

Flashing, flashing, flashing

above a highway exit.


The door was closed

and did not open,

So how did the cat

go out again?

But remembering to floss

gives each day

a bright new meaning.


So knowledge ends

Where religion begins.


Italy’s third volcano,

what’s it called?

Not Etna or Vesuvius,

The one in the movie we saw?

I forget, though I should know;

And not Olympus,

with Hera and Zeus

and Jove.


For us mortals what does it signify,

purchasing stain remover

by the gallon?

Pessimism of drooled spaghetti

or long life’s delusive

grand ambition?


All hail Staphylococcus,

with my name on it;

Where fear reigns,

religion gains.


Dough, the financial guru says,

you’ll need ’til you’re ninety five,

or perhaps, I think,

to .38,

Or maybe I’ll rob a bank

or fail to pay my taxes

for a prison bunk

and hospital bed.

But what about the poor teller,

the cop

and the unlucky feller

who has to clean up the mess?


But hark!

The coffee grinder churns,

the espresso machine

still renders,

so why should I surrender?


Yea, verily, I declare

on my life’s embers

that where true knowledge ends

unyielding ignorance begins

and religion wins.


James Garrison

A graduate of the University of North Carolina and Duke Law School, James Garrison practiced law until returning to his first loves: writing and reading good literature. His novel, QL 4 (TouchPoint Press 2017), set in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War, has won awards for literary fiction and military fiction, and it was a Distinguished Favorite for the 2019 Independent Press Awards and a finalist for the 2018 Montaigne Medal. His creative nonfiction works and poems have appeared in online magazines and anthologies. Sheila-Na-Gig nominated his poem “Lost: On the Staten Island Ferry”‘ for a 2018 Pushcart prize.

When the Butterflies Dance

“Momma, where’s Mamaw?”

“I think she’s out in the yard somewhere.”

Regina Woody opened the back screen door and called out, “Mamaw!  Mamaw are you out here?  Then she spotted the old lady down along the fence standing very quiet and still.  She was watching something.  Regina Woody walked down past the peach trees to where her grandmother stood.  “What you doing?” she whispered.

“Look Honey,” said the old lady.


“It’s the Little Yellows.  See?  The Little Yellows are out.”  She pointed to the honeysuckle growing along the fence.  There were eight or ten small yellow butterflies fluttering above the green leaves in the morning sun.  See how the dance,” said the old lady, “Like darting yellow petals.  They are another of the Lords simple gifts.”

The small yellow insects flittered like tiny dancing marionettes in the bright sunshine.  It was as if they moved in time to some sweet melody that only they could hear.  But the old lady must have heard it too.

“They’re beautiful,” said Regina Woody standing very still beside of her grandmother.

“When I was a little girl just about your age my momma made me a Sunday dress out of material with Little Yellows on it.  Oh, how I loved that dress.  Momma told me that they were a reminder of God’s love for us.  They’re only here a short time.  Then they’re gone again for another year.”

As Regina Woody watched the tiny butterflies it seemed to her that the world opened up around her, the clear blue sky, the distant green hills and the sweet smell of the honeysuckle there before her.  It felt as if she and her grandmother were standing at the very center of the universe with the colors and shapes spinning slowly around them.  Is that the gift of God, she wondered?  Is that why the butterflies dance?”


James William Gardner

Author of, “DEEP AUGUST: Short Stories from the American South,” and “THE HEALING GROUND,” James William Gardner writes extensively about the contemporary southland. The writer explores aspects of southern culture often overlooked: the downtrodden, the impoverished and those marginalized by society. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  Gardner is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and lives in Roanoke, Virginia. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Deep South Magazine, Newfound Journal and The Virginia Literary Journal.

Featured Author: Pamela Wax

Chewing the Five Zen Remembrances


               I inherit the results of my actions of body, speech, and mind.

                               the Fifth Remembrance


You’re neither Buddhist nor Hindu, but here you are,
kneeling on a zafu, slack-jawed, fighting sleep.

You watch the breath at the center of your universe—nostrils,
diaphragm, belly, expand/deflate like a real yogi, growling.

When the woman next to you squirms, wheezing, old monkey
mind drops upside down from the ceiling, grilling your motives.

You’re there for nirvana, to disgorge the huddled sentries
from their watchtowers in your mind, perhaps a few enlightened

nights of sleep. You want to stand in tree pose without teetering
and to sit cross-legged without cramps. You ruminate

on those Zen fates one by one, a gastronomic ploy to get you
back to basics like unleavened bread: how you’re of the nature

to grow old or ill, to ingest small deaths—losing, always losing—
before the final one, your own. You know you can’t hold on

to anything for dear life, except for these common-sensicals
that rouse you from your torpor, roaring to be welcomed. Mother

gone, father gone, brother, too, gone. You root your feet, stack
your hips, knees, ankles. You drop your shoulders, tailbone.

You’ll play mountain, unfazed by wind or time. You breathe
for five counts in, I, too, am of the nature to die, then empty out,

I must be parted from all I love. On your knees, you extend
your arms, a child’s pose over their graves. You practice tree,

growing roots so you no longer fall. But monkey rattles
your branches each time you nibble at the fifth

of the Upajjhatthana Sutta. It sticks in your craw, breath trapped,
like when your morning prayer, My soul is pure, would make

you gag. Monkey see. Monkey laugh. Monkey-you skeptical
that the crumbs of your deeds—what’s left of you at the final

tally—can turn your monkey self to mensch. Your lungs fill, empty,
doing their business, and you keep chewing to get yourself right.


Edible Plant Walk


Array sun fern under your
pillow when nightmares trot

unbridled. Down knotweed—
japonica—worthy Samurai

to cross swords with Lyme.
Squeeze jewelweed to detox

poison ivy. Brew creeping
ivy with honey for strep. Steep

Joe Pye weed for gout,
deep breathing, or even fever,

and if you’re Joe, to get it
up for the night shift.

Mugwort—mother of herbs,
perennial, pungent—perverts

the sowing of Joe’s seed,
if you’re female. Or crumble

wild carrot—white, witchy
umbels of Queen Anne’s lace—

on salad to trip up your cycle,
to trick your inner mother.


Pamela Wax, an ordained rabbi, is the author of Walking the Labyrinth (Main Street Rag, 2022) and the forthcoming chapbook, Starter Mothers (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have received a Best of the Net nomination and awards from Crosswinds, Paterson Literary Review, Poets’ BillowOberon, and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House. She has been published in literary journals including Barrow Street, About Place Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Naugatuck River Review, Pedestal, Split Rock Review, Sixfold, and Passengers Journal. She offers spirituality and poetry workshops online from her home in the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Before Winter Exhales

Is death a seed born in us, growing unseen

ripening at some pre-determined moment

a heart stops, a car strikes, cancer takes a final bite


Is it possible to die a little slower or stretch time out

like a sleeping lion

or salt water taffy


Can you bargain with Time, haggling and hammering

out deals like a summit meeting

but holding hardly any chips, only a few memories


Like her first cry or moments of tidal love

that comfort you during the lean years

memories you are willing to exchange


For a minute, an hour, a day

can you wear Time down until, totally exhausted,

setting his scythe aside, consulting his ledger


fiddling with his abacus, doing the math

like your granddaughter struggling with algebra

making sure it adds up, nothing extra


Nothing left over

he looks at you with tunnel eyes, his brow

narrowed and gnarled


I am an old man he sighs, twirling

his white beard, scratching his ears

where rogue hairs have begun to sprout


He brushes away ash from a burned out star

before handing you a scrap of paper

three days


You write your lover’s name on it

postponing phantom pain

written in the black glyph of forever


Claire Scott

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

The Pawn Shop on Putnam Ave.

The pawnshop faced the traffic of Putnam Avenue. The people who went inside usually ducked their heads and moved with quick movements, but my dad liked to go in and wander around and buy things like old VCRs and televisions and dishwashers – a purchase he would forever regret after our house became infested with roaches. But Dad’s biggest regret came not from purchasing from the pawnshop but from selling his most prized possession to it.

I don’t know what lawsuit or worker’s compensation claim landed my dad with the money to buy that Gibson Les Paul. What I do remember is him giving each of us kids $100 when the windfall came down. I held the money in my hand, vowing to save it, but over the course of a week bought $100 worth of pickles instead because those Big Papa pickles were the shit.

He had guitars before but none as beautiful as that dark green Gibson. I watched him open its case and run his hands over the red velvet interior before picking it up and stroking its strings. One thrum and a dreamy sort of faraway look passed over his face.

Dad loved that guitar but pawned it on the regular because on the regular, we were broke. He always managed to round up the cash to get it out of pawn before they kept it. Then one time, he didn’t, and when we drove by the pawnshop, his Gibson was sitting in the window with a for sale sign slung around its neck. One day we drove by again, and the Gibson was gone.

Each time Dad drove by the pawnshop, he cringed a little until eventually, he wouldn’t look at its windows at all.

April Pride Sharp

April Sharp is an English instructor at Felbry College School of Nursing, and a graduate of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. She often writes of her childhood growing up in Southeast Ohio. Her work has been featured in The Devil Strip, Rubber Top Review, and Appalachia Bare. When not writing she can be spotted stomping through the woods with her two dogs.

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