Molly stood at the window
and looked down at the ghostly
street. Flowered gossamer swirled
around her legs—that had barely
seen a newborn sun for ages.
Here and there a solitary walker, but no
crowds waiting at lights, no city traffic.
She lit a menthol cigarette
with regular matches,
the windows closed. Scents
of mint and sulphur—
reminders of nearby parks
and working class yards
behind the buildings stinging her
An ice cream truck parked
in a driveway for little kids
climbing on jungle gyms after
school, and union men on break;
no rule says you have to be under
the age of eight to like a cone.
None of this climbed up to Molly—
just mint, sulphur, and memory.
She was a people painter, believed
grace required the breath of humans.
—a couple peeked down from the terrace
across the way and she knew
she could paint. With one motion
she stubbed the cigarette, set up her easel,
closed her eyes. Molly wouldn’t paint
this couple she’d met casually,
she just needed them. His tapered writer’s
hands, her witty brilliance, their living.
Molly’d saved her heart, her time, her canvas,
painted all the absences this couple could bear.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was just published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
You should never rip off your shirt at a picnic, exposing your breasts
to your second cousin’s children, unless, of course, this is your only
recourse for twenty-seven years of raw-turkey Thanksgivings and rejection.
But if you do, ignore the cloud in your head, clouds everywhere,
in the basket with the mustard and plastic forks. Ignore the sounds around
the cloud, the yells and shouts, the sudden blanket on your shoulders.
You are holding a jar of cornichons, the ones that were supposed to remind
you of France, Paris, the house in the suburbs where the mother-in-law
sent jars and jars to the family whose house you lived in. You ate them all.
You’ve carried each day since then, a beacon beating home, home, home.
But Paris isn’t home. Home isn’t home. You shrug off the blanket,
grab your shirt, struggle to make sense of sleeves and buttons.
What is the point? There’s nothing in your pocket but regret, sorrow
that has stolen your nights. People you thought were part of your heart
threw every last moon at you, leaving only stars to navigate back to yourself,
which you are not now, not at this picnic with all this past and history.
You wish you weren’t waiting for someone to call out as you walk down the hill,
to the lake, out on the path, buoyed, pushed to who knows where. You don’t
know, but you are going, listening to the gulls, holding the cloud, the cornichons,
the blanket, letting go of the past, the old beacon, finding the right direction
that is light, dazzling, seamless, at least for now. You skimmer, go.
Jessica Barksdale’s fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, is forthcoming from TouchPoint Press in 2021. Her poetry collection When We Almost Drowned was published in March 2019 by Finishing Line Press. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Tahoma Review, and So to Speak. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University.
not to want,
though I started to work on it
six years ago,
the course greased
by a new diagnosis
almost any wanting,
but now after all
these years squeaking
by in the 10% sliver
of possible survivors,
now it is harder
not to want,
and today’s call,
how the doctor hesitated
as she inquired
how I’ve been feeling
since the biopsy,
it was then I knew
she had news
that wouldn’t be
nice to hear,
so I’m definitely
Dianne Silvestri is author of the chapbook Necessary Sentiments. Her poems have appeared in The Healing Muse, Barrow Street Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Poetry South, New Limestone Review, The Main Street Rag, Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA Oncology, and elsewhere. A past Pushcart nominee, she leads Natick’s Morse Poetry Group in Massachusetts.
we’ve pressed them
a coarse brush
on cave walls,
and on forgotten
by the greedy
on the odd leaf
to fill the oceans,
on the road
rash of billboards,
a forest of graffiti:
cursive and kanji,
and the enigmatic
that whisper across
and the Roman
through the staccato
music of keys
through a conduit
Robert René Galván
Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His last collection of poems is entitled, Meteors, published by Lux Nova Press. His poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Hispanic Culture Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Prachya Review, Shoreline of Infinity, Somos en Escrito, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and the Winter 2018 issue of UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. Recently, his poems are featured in Puro ChicanX Writers of the 21st Century and in Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought. His forthcoming books of poetry are Undesirable: Race and Remembrance, Somos en Escrito Foundation Press, and The Shadow of Time, Adelaide Books.
My stepfather could be kind
when his hidden demons
did not plague decisions I discerned.
A child can only analyze actions,
shadows reflecting the body,
motions to mimic, wrestling
with the waves causing callous
repercussions, creating chameleon
reactions from what my teen-vision
saw. I observed a man whose hands
painted mastery, Michelangelo’s student
touching his canvas, one could feel
a man’s face. I observed a man
whose voice was soulful enough,
a stranger debating marriage would
buy a wedding ring. I observed
when his hands weren’t moving,
when the theater was empty, echoes
rose of tales he kept to himself. Voices
from the demons that plagued him
gave him his vices, filling glasses,
rising temper, spreading anger,
drinking, puffing, smoking, choking
a life, stagnating work promotions,
taking shallow steps towards goals,
a peeled banana softened, blackened,
losing firm grounding around himself.
Maybe the pressure of military life
and death darkened visions from friends
never forgotten. Maybe the pressure
of social behaviors of blended family
caused misery. Maybe the pressure—
coming to his hometown after two-decades,
finding old friends, riding the same street
corners and blocks became his framework
to live. Maybe. I still may love him; his
decisions left my mother in an unmarked grave.
Mervyn R Seivwright
Mervyn R. Seivwright has appeared or has forthcoming published works in AGNI Literary Magazine, The Trinity Review, African American Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Montana Mouthful Literary Magazine, iō Literary Journal, The Stirling Spoon, The Scribe Literary Journal, Flights Literary Journal, Rigorous Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming Cultural Journal, and Toho Journal. He has received recognition as Second-Runner-Up for Mount Island’s Lucy Terry Prince poetry contest, a Semi-Finalist for the Midwest Review’s Poetry Contest, Z Publishing’s Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets 2019, and has a poem commissioned by the British Museum, Ipswich, United Kingdom. Mervyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, Louisville KY. He is from Jamaican heritage, born in London, England while he currently lives in Schopp, Germany.
As hollow dread overtakes dawn –
I am imprisoned in my bed.
Sleeplessness of despair –
a bird that cannot fly.
Weighted down by wetted feathers of indecision,
Darkness remains the dictator of the hour,
commanding black clouds.
Pain tells my story, oh so well!
Screaming alarm calls my name,
it is for naught!
Chained to my fears by an affliction that will not cease.
It is only the beginning,
yet I want this day to end.
To fly my nest
and soar beyond imagination once more.
Ann Christine Tabaka
Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She is the author of 9 poetry books. She has recently been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications. Christine lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and three cats. Her most recent credits are: Burningword Literary Journal; Muddy River Poetry Review; The Write Connection; Ethos Literary Journal, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, Better Than Starbucks!, The Write Launch, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore. Website: https://annchristinetabaka.com