Gift of the Ghosts by Mary Shanley

Serene in the moment
In a sea of hallowed ghosts.
They come to me
When I despair of life.

It’s easy to die,
everyone can do it.
Not so mysterious,
Another journey awaits.

To be with me at the crossover
point is the gift of the ghosts.

I think of something other
than death and ghosts and my
breath ceases to race.

The sun is out. I step onto the
street and join the other humans
as we negotiate the crowded
sidewalks.

We all wear masks now.
It’s the era of Covid and death
Is lurking any and everywhere.
The virus took my sister in four days.

Dying is more possible now.
I call on my ghost to stay near.


Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller living in NYC with her wife. She has published three books of poetry and one book of short stories. Mary Shanley was The Featured Poet on WBAI FM Radio, NYC and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

My Husband by Marjorie Sadin

His eyes are seashells washed up on the shore.
His nose an anchor stuck in mud.
His head an egg shell broken by a baby bird.
His hair the baby bird’s feathers.
He coughs like a tug boat horn.
He curses like a thousand sneezes.
He complains like a TV commercial.
He walks like a goose ambling.
He sleeps like a man drowning.
He cleans hands like a surgeon.
He forgets like fish where to swim.
His hands grope like nets in the sea.
And he loves like no one else.


Marjorie Sadin is a nationally published poet with poems in such magazines as Chrysanthemum Literary Anthology, Blaze Vox, Big Windows Review, and The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. She has published five books of poems including a chapbook, The Cliff Edge, and a full length book, Vision of Lucha about struggle and survival, love, death, and family. Recently she published a chapbook, In a Closet. She lives in Northern Virginia and reads her poetry in the Washington DC area.

2 Poems by Cliff Saunders

MASTER PLAN

Fill your hot tub with eggs and bounce
shoes for your daughter in front of her

to sweeten her tart tongue. Dress your dog
like a tribute to Jackson Pollock.

Look in the mirror, where you stand
knee-deep in bow ties. Look

in the mirror, where you shed
yellow spiders and even caterpillars

with red faces. Is your kitchen moving
north all the time? You bet your life.

Your job is to seize the world
from a small radio, from a can of tuna.

Fear not the alphabet of your sofa.
Let your children sing questions

to family heirlooms, maybe go around
the house naming roads after pirates.

Ignore the howling in your wall
of allegations. Once it’s located, let

the door hit you on the way out,
empowering you with a limp.


TURBULENT GODDESS

The day that pineapples became the symbol
of civility to a circus, I said to her,

“Let’s gather our wits and fill streets
with an antiseptic aftertaste.

Let’s be less alone together.”
First she laughed, then she called me

a tiny asteroid. She was ruthless,
as majestic as marble on a pedestal.

There was no fear in her. I loved her,
and I still do. It wasn’t long ago

that ghosts made her sleep all the time
inside them. She fell through the cracks

of life like rain through ice,
through the glass of an early spring.

Waking in sunlight, her green-dyed
hair was grass! It was a big moment

for her. I took care of her comfort zone,
and she gave me one last bit of at least

eighteen twisters, took my whole heart
into her with no warning. She needed

a moth with her on that August night
before she went blue as a new body,

ear to her heart. The world’s light
turned her into a pink owl of delight.

She sounded like a Thursday night
in late spring when she found this field

echoing with sign language. I depended
on her to hold me between the hedges

in her own wonderland as she bulldozed
my neighborhood straight to my heart.


Cliff Saunders is the author of several poetry chapbooks, including Mapping the Asphalt Meadows (Slipstream Publications) and This Candescent World (Runaway Spoon Press). His poems have appeared recently in Bryant Literary ReviewAtlanta Review, Qwerty, Lullwater Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Common Ground Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. Originally from Massachusetts, he now lives in Myrtle Beach, SC.

2 Poems by Peter Mladinic

Enchantress

She casts a spell on a man.
She knows how. The secret
is in her dark flashing eyes,
and it is a secret.
She’s not telling anyone.
It’s better kept secret
from all, except herself.
She knows how.

Some things about herself
she doesn’t know. But this one
she knows, for she must
because she does it very well.
What’s her secret?
How does she cast her spell?
She’s not telling.
Better not to whisper

even one word about it.
It happens slowly,
at times quickly, in silence.
It’s good. The spell itself
is good. The man, as if
hypnotized, under her spell,
does what she wants,
which is fine, pleasing
both to him and her.

Enchantress, I imagine
sitting under a tarp
in the woods, out of the rain,
the rain all around me,
falling all around me.
That summer rain
is the nearness of you.


Hair

Ed Craig, the big mystery was we never saw the nuns’ hair.
In classrooms, the convent, the big dark church
their hair stayed hidden.
You were bright, that showed in your grades.
Did you ever wonder what Sister James with her alabaster skin
and aquiline nose looked like with her habit off?
Her Sister of Charity habit’s rim like white accordion pleats
squared her long face,
white pleats at the start of her long black habit.
Take the vow: don’t show your hair,
the deal they made as Christ’s brides. I never saw Sister’s hair,
nor the hair of Sister Carmela or Sister Gerard or Sister Regina.
Sister Vincent, I heard, lives with a woman in New Hampshire.
How many left the convent, the order?
When habits’ white pleats framed their faces the mass
was in Latin. When Latin left the mass the pleats were gone.
A round crescent circled faces different from ones
we answered to and obeyed.
Sister Vincent took off her habit in the convent.
I wanted her hair in my mouth.


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poems: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press.  He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

2 Poems by James Croal Jackson

Countdown

Vodka I would glug from a wound
on my forearm, health preached and instructed.

I said I saw a liver pumping liquid from the sky
but the crowd called it cirrus. I could not differentiate

lust from love, not in the waning daylight,
not when I am trying to make it

the rest of the year wanting to forget
its starting incident (the backyard pond

shimmering in the moonlight amidst televisions
of confetti). The public countdown ends

at zero but I keep counting, never an end in sight,
always with my eye on the next

golden apple to descend into a crowd.


Take the City, Too

you say a package was
stolen from your porch

I am just trying to stay out
of the rain

vent blowing frigid air
through this new home

& you tell me Robert witnessed
the van speeding beyond the jangled suburbs

as if thievery need be
so complicated

stealing happens
on the sidewalk

these blankets of concrete cracked
beneath high-rises

a UPS truck sputters past a pothole
right turn signal blinking, blinking


James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, forthcoming 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), with recent poems in White Wall Review, Subnivean, and Hello America. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com) from Pittsburgh, PA. (jamescroaljackson.com)

2 Poems by Alice Wenzlow

Recital

My mother cried
when I told her
I didn’t believe in God.
She smiled
when I told her
I still believed in fairies.

I like to see my mother smile.

Her eyes light up
into a phosphorescent brown,
sunshine radiating off the pupils
that somehow
still believe in everything
without seeing anything.

So I put on my toy wings
And danced around the living room,
like a monkey
made to perform.

“There is no God” said my feet.

“There is no fate” said my arms.

I twirled round and round
and she laughed and clapped.

And she didn’t hear a thing.


Love story

He caught me at the end of a party
with a cup full of Ava’s parents’ good scotch
I know he wasn’t actually drinking.

“Do you read theory?” he slurred out,
smirking with the confidence
of a boy who occasionally gets told
he looks like Timothee Chalemet.

I stared back at him apathetically.

“Karl Marx.”
He spelled it out for me like a child.
“Fuck Capitalism.”

I smiled
like I thought it did any good
to burn Ayn Rand books
you bought on Amazon.

“Have you read Sylvia Plath?”
I asked through my over-glossed lips.

I only received a jingly laugh
that made me want to punch the freckles
off of his face.

I made out with him anyway.


Alice Wenzlow is a first year student studying English and creative writing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She enjoys re-reading Kurt Vonnegut novels and climbing trees.

Delta by Mahalia Smith

The river tumbled in the wind and lightning, taking our boat along with it. I struggled to pull on my life-vest while Dad scrambled around the slippery deck trying to balance us. A hard wave tipped the boat to the left, and he slid down into the dark water. I screamed out for him, but he never came back up. I fell asleep gripping the rails.

“You’ll love it when we get to the delta,” Dad said when I woke up. He had always wanted to sail this river with me as he did with his family when he was young. It only took two days to get from our town to the ocean.

He was sitting at the wheel, smiling as if nothing had happened. Sunlight filtered through him as if he were a drop of amber. I looked down at my own hands. They were solid as they always were.

I couldn’t tell him.

“When will we get there?” I asked him.

“By sunset,” He said.

“Sunset,” I said. We only had the day.

The river was somber and still. For a while, a small family of ducks paddled behind our boat, quacking softly. Dad put on a playlist of his favorite songs, singing along every now and then. The sky was golden when the river’s mouth opened into small streams. Fireflies dotted the low-hanging trees.

“It’s just like I remember,” Dad said. We stepped out onto the bank. My boots squished the muddy sand, while Dad’s hovered lightly over the ground. He reached out to put his arm around me. We both watched the waning sunlight poked through his arm.

“I’m not going back with you, am I?” Dad asked.

“No,” I whispered, looking down at his transparent hands.


Mahalia Smith is a fiction writer from Nashville, TN. She is a 2021 MFA candidate at Lindenwood University and is currently working on three graphic novels.

Hunger Bitten by Paul Lewellan

The battered ’66 Mustang hugged the road as it came out of the long looping curve and the driver floored it onto the straightaway. Ford glanced into his rearview mirror. The giant black wall behind him continued to advance, blotting out the landscape. “Must be moving sixty-miles-per hour or more,” he figured. The speedometer hoverer at 110. He knew he could outrun it, but he’d been stupid to take the chance by foraging so far from base.

In the back seat were the few treasures he’d salvaged from an abandoned shelter: three cases of canned water, a pouch of tuna, dehydrated vegetables, fruit, and bacon, and a ten-pound bag of rice. The five-gallon gas can beside the portable generator was empty. He’d need to park the Mustang until he could barter his services for another tank from Cliff. Working for the scavenger always had a price.

The straight ribbon of road ahead shimmered in the heat of the Sunday afternoon. Ford knew what was coming. Everyone with a hand crank weather radio or a cell phone that the static electricity hadn’t shorted out, knew a giant duster—The Big One—was steamrolling its way across the prairie. A mass of airborne earth, two thousand feet high, roiled and churned the electrified landscape. Barbed wire fences sparked and cellphone towers flashed blue flames as the cloud approached.

“Ten minutes tops, I’ll be home.” Ford would be safe, or at least as safe as someone could be with the temperature plummeting, the winds howling, and a juggernaut bearing down.

He gripped the steering wheel, focusing on the road ahead as the air darkened and the visibility dimmed. Then, on the roadside in the distance, he saw a stick-figure gradually taking the shape of a woman. Against all sense for his own survival he slowed, braking as little as possible on the shifting dusty roadway, struggling to keep control.

Ford deliberately overshot the mark, getting a glimpse of the young woman in a summer dress and heels, sunglasses, a bag, no water, nothing to cover her face. He stopped, despite the fact that his gut told him not to. Ford put the car in reverse and pulled up even to the startled woman. He flung open the passenger door. “Get in!” he barked.

“I beg your pardon?” she shouted, angry and confused. “Who are you?”

“Get in the car now or die in the dust, your choice. I’m getting the fuck out of here.” The Mustang was already starting to roll forward.

She looked at the black wall bearing down on them and leapt into the vehicle as he accelerated. She struggled to right herself as the ancient muscle car fishtailed on the dusty surface. The driver had marginally gained control by the time she buckled in. She turned back to look out the rear window.

Margo had seen the darkening sky, felt the temperature drop thirty degrees as she stood there, but she’d been powerless to move. There was no place to run, no place to hide. And if Cliff, the man who was once her protector, came back, how would he even find her…?

Cliff wouldn’t return. She knew that. She’d been dropped by the roadside to die, and that’s what she had been determined to do until this beaten down Mustang stopped, offering her one more chance at life. She glanced at the driver.

Ford focused on the road—ten more miles until the bunker—plenty of time later to take in the particulars of the woman.

He’d acted on impulse. The lone figure on the side of the road had awakened enough of his remaining humanity to slow the car. But he wasn’t stupid. He knew that if the stranger had been male instead of female, elderly or infirm instead of shapely, he would have kept driving. That’s what Ford’s world had come to. He was inches away from losing his soul, but what other choice did he have?


Paul Lewellan has published short fiction in over one-hundred literary magazines. He lives and gardens in Davenport, Iowa, sheltering in place with his wife Pamela, his Shi Tzu Mannie, and their ginger tabby Sunny. He keeps a safe social distance from everyone else. He’s recently had work published in Passengers Journal, The Athena Review, October HillKalopsia Literary Journal, and White Wall Review.

Spark of Inspiration by Erick Buendia


Art is a poisonous berry. A delicious, sweet idea can evolve to be rotten and fatal. When the nightshade blossoms to be a poisonous obsession, it can deteriorate one from the inside. It was too late when Elijah Addington came to realize this.

Elijah Addington, 32, likes his coffee black but not too black with a dash of vanilla creamer and exactly a tablespoon of milk. Elijah Addington, always ties his left shoe before his right one. He always has to make an L shape with his index finger and thumb to differentiate between his left and right, even if he already knows which is which. He has to make sure, one can never be too sure. He puts the same white shirt on everyday with rainbows of colors splattered on it, and never washes it. He picks at the tiny hole on the right knee of his jeans when he sits at the window seat in the metro on his way to the art studio. He picks up a bagel at the cafe and pets the orange cat on the windowsill two times. On his way to the studio, he takes notes of people and the way their clothes fold. The way they walk. The subtle changes in people’s expressions. People would give him a weird look for staring too long, but Elijah was too disconnected to notice. The grainy texture of the pavement and the shape of the foliage poking through the cracks of the cement would catch his attention. He noticed the subtle lines running through the bark of a tree and mimicked it in the air with his finger. When he finally arrives at the studio, he warms up by painting the same vase of flowers that sits on top of a stool in the middle of the room. The studio was filled with different genres of paintings and cracked clay sculptures that no other eyes have ever seen besides Elijah’s. Abstract paintings with brains, flowers, and faceless people. Stepping into the room was like stepping into a surreal dream.

That morning, a pile of paper fell to the floor through the mail slot which kicked Elijah out of focus right when he was finishing up the broken stem of the yellow tulip. Flipping through the mail, a yellow flyer caught his attention. He slowly lifted it out of the pile and read “National Art Contest”. He slowly read it over 3 times and raised his eyebrows in intrigue. He then took a seat and his head bowed down staring at the yellow paper. Elijah had never received a direct invitation for an Art competition, he usually had to look for it. He held it carefully in his hand as if it were a prized possession.

“How would I even win this?” He looked up at his rejected paintings that covered the wall from floor to ceiling. “There’s no way I can enter this, it’s not worth it,” he said as he threw the paper in the trash bin.

Elijah paced around the room before retrieving the yellow flyer. “If I do this, it has to be bigger than me. Something completely different than what I’ve been doing. It has to stand out and shock people, even me!”

He lifted up a painting and stared at it before throwing it to the floor. “Something new, something no one would ever think of doing,” He continued to throw and pile up the paintings in the middle of the floor. This had to be grandiose and send a message. Should it be a painting? No, that’s too conventional. Watercolor? No, insufficient material. Clay? Too hard. Copic markers? No. Colored pencils? Crayons?? Elijah looked down at the hill of paintings and a small idea flickered in his mind. Something that could be crazy, but that’s what art is about, right? He lit up a lighter and a small flame flickered, “Everything has an end, time to begin again”. He gave a sigh and tossed the lighter into the pile. “I need to take risks, it’s all about risks right?”. Smoke reached out to the ceiling and filled the chamber before the pile erupted in flames. Sparks of the fire chipped off and floated around Elijah like confetti. Elijah smiled, “this just might be my masterpiece”.


Erick Buendia, from the DC area, is an aspiring artist, filmmaker, and writer. In his free time, he enjoys exploring new places and painting.