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
lived next door.
Does that still count?
He was Protestant.
I was Catholic.
We were a hundred sacraments apart.
The kiss was quick, a dry pinched peck.
I didn’t even have time to close my eyes
like the flawless girls in the Saturday movies
Later when I confessed
to my Catholic classmates
there was an audible gasp.
Startlingly, Mary Beth didn’t say:
You KISSED a boy!
She said, you kissed a PROTESANT
as if I had said
I kissed a blind goat
Jerry grew up and moved away,
I grew weary of Catholic boys, apostles,
Catechism. Catechism. Catechism.
Maybe that’s why I married a Hindu.
And the first time I kissed my husband-to-be
it was fierce and long and wet
and I thought
Gail Ghai is a graduate of the University of Alberta and a Fellow in Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals including The Malahat Review, Jama, the Yearbook of American Poetry and The Delhi-London Quarterly. Awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination and a Henry C. Frick scholarship for creative teaching. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry as well as an art/writing poster entitled, “Painted Words. Ghai works as an ESL instructor for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, FL and also serves as the moderator of the Ringling Poets in Sarasota, FL.
It’s so much work to stay alive
but living has its payoffs
sunset so stunning it burns your eyes
mathematical precision in a seashell
an unexpected kind word
in a foreign city
not that any of these will fix
the human condition
after all there’s a graveyard
but such small grace notes
can lighten the load
Like when you teared up
kissing that girl good-bye
in the Yugoslav train station
all those years ago and the men
nearby wiped their eyes as well
and patted your shoulder
in solidarity—no matter
you shared no language
no lived experience, you
a U.S. vagabond surrounded
by Slovenian workers
The station was shabby, squalid
yet the memory of their kindness
lifts your spirits still
Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife (Blue Lyra Press, 2019). She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table. Zakariya blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com.
For fifty years, we lived
at the bend in Spring Creek
where the stream turns
back on itself,
in a shingled Cape Cod
too small for the family
and dreadfully cold.
The creek’s ceaseless song
captained our seasons—
the slow murmur
of half-frozen water
holding tenuously to life
or the great green rush
of an early thaw.
Each spring we bailed
trying to keep our poor boat afloat—
fearing any minute
we might have to swim for it.
How our children learned
to hate that sodden season.
They are grown now
and scattered here and there
like the spray of water on rock.
It seems forever since a visit.
The oldest, Jillie, tells me
it took years to get the creek
out of her head.
I drove past the old place today—
much of the roof is collapsed and jagged.
I like to watch the fly fisherman
pluck rainbows from their hidden holes,
with a grace beyond my understanding.
And then, at sunset,
the creek and I head home.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, San Antonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory will be published by Kelsay in September 2020.
You must build doors
to invite people in
is what they’ve told me
since the funeral,
but these are coddled,
idiots, the open
floor plans of people.
They lust after beige:
nice and wanting
nothing. What I want
is to pause
and talk to them
like we talked
to her in hospice.
You look for twigs
to coax them
to grass, deliver them
from the threat
of neighborhood kids
who love nothing
inside their rooms
and would murder
for candy, or pets
they would let die.
They are too young
to love a better way.
To close these doors
built to nowhere,
doors flung open
just for them
to hurtle through.
Emily Kingery is an Associate Professor of English at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she teaches courses in literature, writing, and linguistics. Her work appears or is forthcoming in multiple literary journals, including Eastern Iowa Review, Gingerbread House, High Shelf Press, New South, PROEM, Prometheus Dreaming, Quercus, and Telepoem Booth, and she has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. She serves on the Board of Directors at the Midwest Writing Center, a non-profit organization that supports writers in the Quad Cities community.