When you come home
your mother will be silent
like a queen in a new fairy tale.
In once-upon-a-time, you heard her
(first sound to greet
your ears). You grew
to her voice, her counsel
guided you. Perhaps its vibration still pings
against, or within, a secret recess,
which you will rediscover
if only you sit quietly enough.
Her throne reminds you of succession,
of evolution, in its inevitable emptiness.
You might choose it for yourself
and picture how she dropped her shoes
to curl her stocking feet under her on the cushion.
You might take up the paperback
left on the spot, and riffle through it
hopeful for a pressed four-leafed clover,
some further evidence of resonance.
Pamela Hobart Carter
Pamela Hobart Carter earned two degrees in geology (Bryn Mawr College and Indiana University) before becoming a science teacher. After more than thirty years in the classroom, she decided to see what writing full-time was like. Her work has been published by The Ekphrastic Review, The Seattle Star, and Fly on the Wall Press, among others, and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Carter also writes plays, fiction, and non-fiction from her Seattle home.
“May I please have a piece
of candy, grandma, please,
may I?” Water runs in the kitchen.
She doesn’t hear. Little boy’s hand
reaches into green glass bowl,
on the coffee table, waist high.
His fingers grab the golden candy, hold it up
like a trophy, the cellophane crackling. “Young man!
Her lips line up, a race he cannot win.
“Did you ask? Did you say may I?”
His bottom lip quivers, he looks down
at the pink carpet, down
at his Buster Brown shoes, one untied,
at the candy, golden juice
on his sweaty palm. He feels
his lips close around it, smiles
under the shag
of his bowl cut.
“Look at me
when I talk to you.” Her nails
jerk his jaw up. His hair flops back,
the candy too
to the back of his throat
where it sticks. His eyes reflect
the sun above the empty courtyard
outside. She reaches
for his ankles, one in each hand,
pulls him up. His hair brushes
the carpet, a drop of drool runs
over his forehead, lands.
“Spit it out! Spit
it out! Do you hear me?
Do what I say!” Up, down,
up, down. The candy
flies from his mouth, sticks
to the carpet. Up. She lets go.
He lands, forehead, nose, then cheek,
coughs, and cries dark spots onto the rug.
“You just lie there and think
about what you’ve done.” Grandma
knits her hands together, thumbs rub fast
over her fingers. Ten red crescents
bloom on little boy’s ankles.
Shawna Ervin is an MFA candidate at Rainier Writers Workshop through Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state. She is studying nonfiction and poetry and is a recipient of the Carol Houck and Linda Bierds scholarship. Shawna is a Pushcart nominee and attended the Mineral School residency thanks to a fellowship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Recent publications include poetry in Tampa Review, Euphony Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Poetry Review, The Phoenix, and Raw Art Review; and prose in COG, Apalachee Review, Front Porch, The Delmarva Review, Summerset Review, Superstition Review, and Willow Review. Her chapbook Mother Lines was published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Denver with her family.
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.