person Bob Fern, two poems

Bob Fern is a professor of translational neurobiology whose published short stories include ‘The light at the cat’s spine rocks” in Between the lines press, “Descent of the Capek” in The Ansible and “Pickle-fingered Truffle-snouter” in the Fortnightly Review. Other than that, his publication record to date is purely academic. He lives in Plymouth England with his wife, two good daughters and two bad dogs.


Do it

Sea anemone evert, barb-dangling.
Crystal vase of marbles.
Can love exist without anxiety?
Only through denial, the prerequisite.


The old words

The body may jerk
but the Bundle of His
that rules the heart
has been taken.

Who to hear behind a wall of talk,
who to induct meaning.

Tones on a stave
below what others know


person Robert L Penick, one poem

Robert L. Penick lives in Louisville, KY, with a free-range box turtle, Sheldon, and edits Ristau: A Journal of Being. In 2018, Robert won the Slipstream Press chapbook competition. More his my writing can be found at


23 August

In that other life
That does not admit to knowing,
Speaking of, or hoping for sunlight
You grow tall as God
With your lack of being,
Ingress of dark,
Embarrassment of solitude.

Something grows here
Beneath the still, cloudless
Box, vines its way
Upward through your veins.
Soon it will wrap you up
Extinguish you just
Like the light.


person Pat Tompkins, one poem

Pat Tompkins is an editor. Her poems have appeared in Plainsongs, Modern Haiku,The Hollins Critic, and other publications.


Thinking of You

the sapphire in my mother’s engagement ring, decorating hands
that did so much for me; gem-bright spotted boxfish; the deep,
clear water of Crater Lake; a whale’s tail in the St. Lawrence
River; jeans, reliable as old friends; indigo Japanese quilts
stitched with white; the Madonna’s robe in Renaissance art;
cobalt cornflowers at the coast-side farmers’ market; mussel
shells emptied by gulls; the ocean reflecting azure above;
sweet berries in Sunday morning pancakes; eyes of a Siamese
cat; simple rhythms of songs telling stories everyone knows;
squawks of a jay; two full moons in one month; the sound of
lapis lazuli; Wedgewood’s colored clay; the Jewel Box star
cluster viewed atop Mauna Kea, mid-Pacific.

a restless owl
and singing nightingale
hours of black and white

[published in Meniscus, 2015]


person Megan Wildhood, three poems

Megan Wildhood is a creative writer, scuba diver and saxophone player whose work includes a poetry chapbook Long Division (Finishing Line Press, 2017), which is about sororal estrangement; essays, fiction, poetry and nonfiction that have appeared, among other publications, in The Atlantic, The Sun, and Yes! Magazine and a novel in progress. She’s a guest writer for the blog Women in Theology.


Both Sides

For my week off, I’ll have surgery.
Change out old wounds into new ones.
What history’s all about. I know so much about
Poland’s war years, how my mother and her brothers

never fought with each other, what they had
to eat for every meal, even if it was burnt or
undercooked. I cannot name my daughter’s
favorite food.

The surgery. Where they incise both belly and back
to insert the rods to brace the spine, keep it
from slumping ever further, from crushing my lung.
(Have I not put it off long enough, like cleaning the fridge?)

There’s one sure way to kick a habit: over and over again.
But the war that was exercise and stretching didn’t slow
the droop, the narrowing of the nerve canals around my spine.
(Other words for spine: spike, needle, thorn, bristle.)

Those with the blades think love and judgment are oil on water
but, as we sit for our last dinner before the operation –
my daughter hates cabbage and steak and using a knife –
I get it. One is the face on the coin of the other.


End After End

Time is not like a book
is more like grief
because it can go backwards
and it
is the language there aren’t words in
because it
turns the tongue into an eraser

I read for the relief of chronology
watch the sea unfold its scrolls
on sharp rocks young and old
on recessing coastlines
on surfers
who have to be in the middle of everything
and it
the sea
gets close in on their shoulders

the close that is more than curiosity
is consumption, actually
and really
like time like grief
not like Ping-Pong
not like pinball
because you are alone
without an oar in it
grief maybe time
they both close in on your shoulders

the close that is more
always wants more
and it
the more
finds a way to surf on top of all
your desires
your white-knuckle strength
your sins your books the oceans
who shrug their shoulders
unless you can break their spines
with your tiny paddle hands


How the Church Tells Time

The waitress grins with old professional

Dad, 95, manages the bones of a smile.
“Where is your sister?”

Can I say the truth? It’s the third time this meal
he’s asked where June, 52, is.

Though maybe he didn’t hear the other answers;
I turn his hearing aid to the stethoscope setting.

June hates our father so much he might as well
be God. “God,” I, 61, say.

“Doesn’t this place have excellent Easter sauce?”
That he will remember.

Mom, 1/1/19?? (she was adopted from an orphanage) –
1/1/T – 5, made Hollandaise from scratch for 65 Easters

And only Daisy’s Nook could compare. Their table flowers
last a couple hundred, are more wilted than previous springs;

they’ve stopped origami-ing their napkins into swans.
I’ve never seen a wild swan.

My sight is getting more and more bound to my eyes;
there is no transcending being human.

Food arrives. It is ordinary time. Dad bows.
His prayers are as concentrated as canned juice.

Daisy’s paper mache eggs and overstuffed bunnies
and squiggly strips of paper strewn about like grass

were before Lent around here, but Dad was never fooled.
No Easter sauce until Easter.

We are all scarcely stitched together in the heart.
“And next year, your mom will make it.”


person Janina Aza Karpinska, two poems

Janina Aza Karpinska is an Artist-Poet with an M.A. In Creative Writing & Personal Development from Sussex University, England. She won 1st prize in the Cannon Poets Poetry Competition; has work published in several anthologies incl. Museum Tales 2 & 3, on artefacts in Brighton Art Museum-Gallery; Poetry in the Waiting Room; Write from the Heart: Home, on the theme of exile; and many magazines incl. Psychopoetica; The Third Way; Literary Mama; Here Comes Everyone, and one forthcoming in Willawaw Journal.



He gave me a backbone of stone
as I lay on a beach in Hove.
He focussed a lot on spines back then,
in paintings and constructions,
and now these discs and vertebrae
arranged with scrupulous care,
creating a track of knuckled pebbles
on the curves of my naked back,
making me look like a species of dinosaur.
Was it to meet a need of his own?
To form an illusion of support and connection?
An undulating ripple of art and design?
Or, to supply that which I lacked before then?
Applied and ‘absorbed’ through skin
like a vitamin supplement – to be taken
lying down – in submission, even,
knowing the time would come when
I’d get to my feet, and move on.



We walk under an oil-slick sky in gabardine macs,
shouldering a headwind like seasoned rugby players,
inching along lines of exhausted seaweed
searching for treasure.

I find a whip of a fish: a stiff cord of muscle
the colour of unbleached linen. He finds
a teaspoon from Virgin Atlantic – embedded in sand.

I marvel at the marbled skin of a headless dogfish,
which, he tells me, is a kind of shark.
I run a finger – tail-ward along firm flesh, but
trying to reverse the move, I’m gripped by tiny cells,
astonished at such a feat of paralysis. Is it like
that between us? Is there no going back?

And then we stumble across the unlikely fruit
of a coconut; a footnote from Paradise, perhaps.



person Anointing Obuh, one poem

Anointing Obuh
is an emerging writer from Africa. She enjoys reading, writing & a hearty meal. Her works are forthcoming at The Cabinet of Heed and Honey&Lime. She currently studies English and literature at a Nigerian University.


What was my mother thinking when she named me

There are no humming no mocking
birds here in black Africa where
sounds travel faster than a mother’s voice in my ear
Like the kukuruku on a birds beak
Like the pum pim pum.. I can’t be a trumpet sound if I tried
I can’t be.
Living through war all the time.

My mother called me Omoyeme
& her legs bent into a house
My child is greater, my child is greater than
Makes me want to offer myself up
For sins yet unborn, not ready to be offered

My lover says I carry a nightingale in my mouth
He didn’t ask if it was chewed
I didn’t say if he needed me
to be a trumpet sound I could try
I could be surviving all the time

When mother built a castle on a ship
did she know I would grow into a short spine
Shifty eyed, small hands woman
dreaming of dreaming, saying, doing

My lover is not my lover anymore

My name is incense offered to the gods in a sly kind of begging
My body is a prophet wailing in a child’s voice
Fervent, terrified, stuck in the empty room of my mother’s house, in her mouth
Between her teeth chanting,
My child is greater, my child is greater than

They say it was a slow birth,
It must have been the pain.


person Estrella del Valle, three poems translated by Toshiya Kamei

Born in Córdoba, Veracruz, Estrella del Valle now lives in El Paso, Texas. Her most recent poetry collection, Calima: CAution LIve aniMAls, was published in 2018. Translations of her poems have appeared in various journals, including Burnside Review, Coe Review, Controlled Burn, International Poetry Review, and Pembroke Magazine.

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations of Latin American literature include books by Claudia Apablaza, Liliana Blum, Carlos Bortoni, Selfa Chew, and Leticia Luna. For more information, please visit



The first woman from my line
was a nobody who picked an apple.
Through tears she birthed the love of her man.
Someone foolishly made up a family name.
Since then all women whine;
we were born dim and wicked.
That’s the story my father tells us,
but I know in former times
the first woman who took our name
was the heroine of the forbidden tales
who left my grandfather for a sugar cane cutter.

*Previously published in Burnside Review


La primera mujer que levantó mi estirpe
fue una desconocida que cortó una manzana.
Ella parió con lágrimas el amor de su hombre,
alguien le dio a la estupidez por apellido
y desde entonces, todas gimoteamos el haber
nacido torpes y perversas.
Esa es la historia que nos cuenta mi padre,
pero yo sé que, en otro tiempo,
la primera mujer que llenó nuestro nombre
fue la heroína de los cuentos prohibidos
que abandonó a mi abuelo por un cortador de caña.


The Ravens

We’re four and still pretend
to love each other, fake love at the table
and sit on the porch and tell unusual tales,
while Mother fixes a meal
and hears us devouring flesh.
My father blindfolded my brothers
and before he abandoned us, covered his eyes with his coat.
My brothers swing on my mother’s hand,
they can’t bear to be blind because of Father
and peck at one another to atone
for some sort of sin.
They will peck out my eyes if I go near,
that’s why I cross myself at night
say the Lord’s Prayer for all.

*Previously published in Diner

Los cuervos

Somos cuatro y aún jugamos
a querernos, a simular amor sobre la mesa
y sentarnos al pórtico a platicar de historias anormales,
mientras mamá prepara el alimento
y escucha devorarnos la carne.
Mi padre vendó los ojos de todos mis hermanos
y, antes de abandonarnos, cubrió los suyos con sus ropas.
Mis hermanos se columpian de la mano de mi madre,
no soportan ser ciegos por culpa de papá
y se dan picotazos uno a otro para expiar
no sé que clase de pecado.
Sé que me sacarán los ojos si me acerco,
por eso me santiguo por las noches
y rezo un padre nuestro por todos.


The Sorceress

Because the line is one and I don’t dare
leave the ambiguity that tortures me,
I, the most cowardly of all women,
write between my eyelids
the most secret spells to find you,
to talk about the rain when I burst into your dream.
I draw lines between lines to kill the boredom,
to let space emerge and fill my void,
I make space and make our plot from the vacuum.
In my hands I agree to the script of the spectacle,
and I can be a fairy, a witch, or the greasy virgin of your flesh;
here’s an escapist act, a trick that surprises
the most incredulous; you’re the tiger
who jumps through the burning hoop to escape,
the conjurer of my memory,
the master of this absurd ceremony with my death.

I’m the clawless monster with my mouth
to tell you about the world.
The most cowardly magician in history.

La maga

Como la línea es una y no me atrevo
a dejar la ambigüedad que me atormenta,
yo, la más cobarde de todas las mujeres,
escribo entre mis párpados
los más secretos hechizos para hallarte,
para hablar de la lluvia cuando irrumpo en tu sueño.
Hago líneas entre líneas para borrar el tedio,
para surgir la nada y llenarme el vacío,
hago la nada y hago de la oquedad nuestro argumento.
Entre mis manos pacto el guión de espectáculo
y puedo ser hada, bruja o la virgen untuosa de tu carne;
he aquí un acto escapista, un truco que asombra
al más incrédulo; tú mismo eres el tigre
que pasa el aro abrasador hacia la fuga,
el prestidigitador de mi memoria,
el maestro de esta absurda ceremonia con mi muerte.

Yo soy el monstruo sin más garra que mi boca
para contarte el mundo.
La maga más cobarde de la historia.