Featured Author-Sharon Chmielarz

Waking at Night


Such a short distance between genius

and shit. Take those elephant turds

Bruce Nauman (1991 Walker Art Center)

stacked in piles on the floor, soft cannon balls,

so appealing to some humans, something we can


all relate to.  In my claustrophobic little corner

(compared to the Milky Way) I am happy,

moon-devotée that I am with a rag of the ancient

floating first hand outside my window. Take

these lines written in the darkness around


my bed. I hope they don’t cross

over themselves creating rows like il-

legible barbed wire some French girls

stood behind at the end of a world war,

brunette and blond collaborators


whose hair was shorn, the sign for bedding up

with a Wehrmacht man who gave them cognac

and nylons they could sell on the black market.

The girls’–women’s– heads, skulls, spat upon,

cross-and-bones thin, reviled little female


christs. It’s just dizziness. It’ll pass. It’s just this

time of night and the room so small. There

are bad dreams and then it’s over and they/

we can go back to sleep again.

But why would anybody


take this shit from the elephant kings,

their balls.  Even the elephants were

astonished that their turds

were sold with their ivory.

Their leftovers.




We Missed the Boat

after Brave Irene by William Steig


Never compare yourself to another,

especially when she’s Irene Bobbin,

at the door to her mother’s little yellow

parlor with its pictures and mannequin.

“Bye! I’ll deliver the gown to the duchess.”


Mrs. Bobbin, a single mom, brimming

with exhaustion called from her bed,

“Don’t go, Irene. A storm’s in full swing.”

But Irene set off with gown in box,

into the darkening winter afternoon.


(You and I set out, too, on a mission.)


Even though the wind tore open

the box, even though the snow

was hip high, even though Irene

thought she was lost, maybe going

in circles, she struggled on.


(Did we quit too early?)


Somewhere past Farmer Bennett’s

pasture the wind was so strong it

blew away two tissue paper ghosts

that sheltered the beautiful pink,

sparkly dress. And the dress, too.


(What went wrong for us?)


Irene had a mission for sure.

She was focused on succeeding,

a matter of food for the cupboards,

wood for her mother’s cold stove,

and something for the pot on it.


(We could’ve tried harder, I guess.)


Irene‘s tasks doubled: now

she must find the lost gown.

Through gangly, primordial woods

where there’s no sense of direction,

she stumbled on, snow blind, from tree


to tree until her little legs protested

they could lift themselves no more.

But there! At wit’s end, there was

the dress, plastered to a tree,

decking the trunk out for a party.


(Maybe the Fates were against us.)


A sight indeed for sore eyes.

And not much farther on, an amber

window light spilled out over the snow.

The palace! Irene huddled before the door.

Like a snow sculpture, but she’d made it!


(And if she hadn’t? That happens, too.)


All good things followed: the Duchess’s

pleasure at the gown, the warm ballroom,

the delicious feast an absolute joy

for porridge-fed Irene. And best of all,

a purse full of money for her mom. The end.


(It almost hurts, others’ triumphs, they feel so good.)


by Sharon Chmielarz

Sharon Chmielarz has had eleven books of poetry published, the latest, “little eternities,” in Sept. 2017. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize seven times and five of her books runners-up for literary awards. Kirkus Reviews named her “The Widow’s House” one of the 100 best books in 2016. She was born in South Dakota but has spent her adult life in Minneapolis, MN.


We are all lined down;

deep and thick in a pit;

so black there is no other color

where pleas and prayers cannot escape

but seep down this jail of flesh.

There is no room to bleed.


Our ghosts scoff, “Show us your chains.

Give us your screams and your wails.

Tell us your stories and tales

of the ocean, of sales,

of fields, of bales,

or we don’t know you.”


Children barter unearned coin

with unmarked hands

and forsake God for gimme and gold

to buy peace from the secret sin.

They covet another color;

any other color.


What I hate about my color is my hate.

What I hate about my color is my sorrow.

What I hate about my color is that color

is so precious to the Beast.


God made us black.

The Beast made it matter.


Still, our ghosts scoff, “Show us your chains.

Give us your screams and your wails.

Tell us your stories and tales

of the ocean, of sales,

of fields, of bales,

or we don’t know you.”


What I love about my color are my mothers.

What I love about my color are my brothers;

sanctuary, survival, solace, and succor.


I may scale the strong walls,

and stronger walls that we build

with guilt, blame and shame.

and exorcise ghosts

that scoff and boast.


by Stuart James Forrest

Stuart James Forrest developed a passion for creative writing while attending the Stanford University Continuing Studies Program. He enjoys writing poetry and short stories and hopes to develop enough skill to be a strong, creative representative of his generation of Black Americans who lived through a very tumultuous period in American history.

The Art of Flying

When Filmore turned thirteen, she took the test and flew. Filmore had no wings, experience, or knowledge of flying. She thought: Take the mandatory test and return home to Mom and Dad. When the examiners watched her fly, immediately they caged her so she could not fly away, and rushed her to the place for girls who fly. Her parents and girlfriends looked on helplessly and cried. In a few years they brought her home, an older and changed person. When the next mandatory test came, she knew how to fail. She also knew when to fly.

by D. D. Renforth

Since 2016, D. D. Renforth has published many short stories, poems and one-act plays in both print and online journals. Renforth graduated from Syracuse University, Duke University and the University of Toronto (Ph.D.).