issue #4

Query Weary By Lindsey Morrison Grant

Self-identifying as a neurodiverse, two-spirit, elder storyteller deeply rooted in the Pacific Northwest, Lindsey Morrison Grant attributes survival and success (if not salvation) to superlative support, mindfulness meditation, and daily creative expression in words, sounds, and images.

Often I hear poets and poetry labeled as “always dark and depressing,” and for the most part that conception is only a stereotype. Poetry can be lots of things. Poetry can something to uplift us or make us smile. It can laugh with us or shout in riotous anger. It can even give us hope. It can be so many things that are not dark and depressing that I couldn’t begin to list them all… but perhaps that’s not the case in this issue. Herein we focus on the bleakness of Winter: snowstorms, death, bad omens, everything gobbled up and sucked down the drain. But even when poets exist in these cold, dark mental places, through the emptiness they continue keeping vigil for hope and looking to escape the desolation of their current situations, reflecting on the meaning of life, death and suffering as their cold feet crunch along the ground one foot in front of the other.

A foot and a half of ice and wet snow strews
roads and lawns with the bodies
of soaring hemlocks and humble crabapples, alike
in their finite flexibility.
Spun-out cars and jack-knifed semis litter
roads empty and abandoned
like the grocery store shelves picked
clean as whale bones on the shore.
In the blessed light and peculiar fragrance
of assorted Yankee Candles, we mourn
our murdered cherry trees and give thanks
for canned beans and the bulbs we planted last fall.

Jennifer Barricklow is a writer and freelance editor in Lexington KY. Her poetry has appeared regularly in Lexington Poetry Month anthologies and on her blog at dailycompost.wordpress.com. A lifelong gardener, she thinks of poems as seeds that develop uniquely in the soil of each reader’s experience.


Words slowly disappear
under intensive care.

We are the silent 
syllables 
that break down soon
into meanings,

after all dreams
disappear when the eyes 
open 
elsewhere.

(to my father, moments before his death at CMC Hospital Vellore, 25th June 2014)

Sreekanth Kopuri is an Indian English poet from Machilipatnam – a colony – India. He was an alumni Writer in Residence, at Strange Days Books Greece. He recited his poetry and presented his research papers in many countries. His poems and research articles were widely published in journals like Heartland Review, Nebraska Writers Guild, Poetry Centre San Jose, Underground Writers Association, Word Fountain, A New Ulster, to mention a few. His book Poems of the Void was the finalist for the EYELANDS BOOKS AWARD. Kopuri is presently an independent research scholar in Contemporary Poetry, silence, and Holocaust poetry. He lives in his hometown Machilipatnam with his mother teaching and writing.

I told my friend the other day that I saw three crows on my daily walk
Behind my neighborhood
And I usually see five.
Almost always five.
She, being a believer in sorcerous and mystical nonsense,
Told me that three crows were a bad sign
But then said she actually wasn’t sure that that was true.
She may have been getting her mystical crow-counting nonsense mixed up
With some other mystical bird-counting nonsense
Or maybe she was just making the whole thing up.

I see these five crows several times during my daily walks
As if they plan for me, knowing the path I take,
So they wait until I get close and then fly on ahead –
Doing this several times.
Today I got toward the end of my walk and, for the first time,
I saw only two of them
And I only saw these two the one time.
They were perched low, on a bush, very unlike their normal behavior
And they didn’t move until I was almost upon them.
It put a shiver up my spine and I can’t explain why.
Counting the crows is as ridiculous as trying to count the stars
Or almost anything;
It feels futile as I’m only counting the crows I can see.
It bothered me to only see two of them flying away from me
And seeing myself for what I am to them – something that is not food
And does not bring food –
Useless.

I got home and went inside
While two crows went to find the other three
So that an attempted murder
May succeed.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

“Death”
the student teacher writes in black marker (of course)
on the whiteboard.  “This is your writing prompt,”
she says, “Write for ten minutes.”  I was glad
for the capital letter.  I wouldn’t want to write
about small “d” demises—the type we face
every day. No, this was the big enchilada-cash-in –your chips- kick-the-bucket-
hang-up-your-tennies-dirtnap-belly up-into-that- good-night kind
of ending.

The seventh graders
are silent, writing rapidly, heads bowed.
They have a lot to say about life’s ultimate question posed
as a single particular word. Fifth period language arts, just after lunch
they furiously fill the sheets of their “writer’s notebooks”
until the pages begin to buckle  
with dark ink.

Outside in the icy air, rain pelts the windows; inside
heaters beneath them crank, sneakers scuff softly on a linoleum floor,
fluorescent lights hum a soft symphony
exactly synchronized with their breathing.
Perhaps these children are too young to contemplate
the end of everything, but they don’t know it,
and they write anyway.

Meg J. Petersen is a writer and a teacher of writing at Plymouth State University, where she directs the National Writing Project in New Hampshire. Her poems have won prizes with the New England Association of Teachers of English and the Seacoast Writers Association.  She was named as a feature poet by the New Hampshire Arts Council. Her poems have appeared in Concrete Wolf, Entelechy International: A Journal of Contemporary Ideas, Garden Lane, English Journal, The Leaflet, The International Journal for Teaching Writing, and other publications. 

I watched you once, bowlegged discovery
In pink ruffles and baby giggles
Running across Grandma’s floor.

Years between, sandwiched in
pictures, flat on a page:
movie nights cuddled with Mom,
teenage antics with your sisters,
school dances with boyfriend and friends,
Daddy’s arm in yours at Homecoming.

Dreading our last connection–fingertips
tracing your name in granite,
tears and heartbreak distant,
grief as ghost.

Carla Dodd is a former newspaper editor,  freelance writer and current co-coordinator of the Southeast Michigan Poetry Meetup.  She is a member of the Poetry Society of Michigan and a board member of The Power of Girlhood. 

Don’t legendise me after death
Don’t come to my grave
To tell me things I should’ve heard
When I was alive
Don’t parade condolence messages
And shower me with praises
To evoke sympathy ​
For your own hypocrisy
Where was the post sharing?
When I was up and coming
The mentions, as if I didn’t exist then
Didn’t I exist in your top ten?
When I was breathing
Somehow I fit into the hall of fame of death
Now that there’s a coffin on top of me
Are you mad that the earth
Is the only dirt you could find on me?
Hush, now is not the moment
You ruined when I was alive
Now is the moment of silence
As you lay your eyes on me one last time
The only time you can really look down on me

Doreen Rachael Chitondwe is a 23 year old writer, poet, singer, and rapper from Mutare Zimbabwe. In poetry she goes by the pen name ‘’Racheal Chie’’. She has self published three books to her name, Sweet Deceit, The Indians Child and Book Of Poetry under the name Doreen R Chitondwe. Her work has appeared in The Blue Marble Review, Poetry Soup.com,  Eureka Street and africangn.netpoetryplatform. Five of her unpublished poems are set to appear in an upcoming anthology called ‘’Poetry is Life’’ and short story in another upcoming English anthology. She is the receiver of the 2019 Certificate Petal Star Award from Inked with Magic and the 2nd runner up of the Kuchanaya Poetry Contest and one of the first winners of the Fortnight Poetry Competition and 3rd runner up of the of the  Black History Poetry Slam 21 and recently one of the winners of the Kreative Poetry Contest. Please consider my poems for publication in your journal.

The day crumbles and fails
and we’re half-assed Christs
nailed to the cross
of whatever’s left of things.

We drink beer in the Tenderloin
grimace beneath the sun.

The Great American Loneliness
drips from the walls of the sad hotels
where the poets fuck and die

and the latest thing
we thought would save us

we burnt through it in a day.

There’s a guy with a boombox
strapped to his bicycle playing
music from another world

where you could still imagine
something other than
the dreariness at hand.

There’s a man on a corner
leaning on the liquor store

he’s got enough losing tickets
scattered at his feet

to build some kind of  kite or boat
and get the hell away from here.

William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in San Francisco. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The Chiron Review. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award.  Pretty Things to Say, (Six Ft. Swells Press, 2020) is his latest collection of poetry.

I get up to greet the morning glow
On this side of the planet when it’s high
Time for you to go to bed on the other

Or, you rise to embrace the rising sun
Just when I begin to feel lost at twilight
Beyond the pacific.

​​​ Living in opposite
Time-zones, we keep vigil for each other:
While I follow your day like your shadow
Or a true fragment left over from last night
You are always there to prevent darkness
From invading my daydream  
To ensure we both
Have plenty of sunlight even at midnight

Yuan Changming grew up in an isolated village, started to learn the English alphabet in Shanghai at age nineteen and published monographs on translation before leaving China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include eleven Pushcart nominations and appearances in the Best of Best Canadian Poetry & BestNewPoemsOnline, among 1859 others across 47 countries. Recently, Yuan published his eleventh chapbook LIMERENCE, and served on the jury for Canada’s 44th National Magazine Awards (poetry category).

I stand looking out my door’s little window
and the view appears like a stage set,
curtain just opened but no one appears.
what’s happened?  has the first-on forgotten?
odd indeed with all the bright light,

and me with the habitual script in mind.
I know how the restaurant at the end of my street
is usually crowded, people trying to park,
and the main street beyond—now—with rush hour traffic—
is a blue blank, one truck going by.

I know something happened, I can read what,

but it is so hard to not see, to not hear, to go on believing
in fantasy made real, in an invisible villain,
believing this scene will play out okay.
people are dying; I’m not dying—yet.
people are dying; I don’t know them, do I?

people are dying while I only watch
and think somehow somewhere there’s been a miscue,
I’m supposed to enter, I’m supposed to go on
by staying home? by sheltering in place?
by reimagining a world through my window

where I’m commanded to act by not acting?

David Fitch – retired from civil service (State of Michigan); co-organizer with Carla Dodd of the Southeast Michigan Poetry Meetup; a series of short, humorous memoirs published online on The Good Men Project (2019); three prize-winning poems published by the Poetry Society of Michigan (2017-19); recently appeared in The Front Porch Poetry Review

“As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His image blest” –1871 epitaph for Florence Irene Ford in Natchez, Mississippi

Florence Irene Ford, a child
once so frightened of thunder
she clung to her mother whenever it stormed.
Her headstone bears a carved wreath,
at the foot an urn on stacked blocks.

A traditional grave but for a trap door behind it
that gapes, a mechanical maw
with rust on its palate, hinges like teeth
clogged with clumps of dead grass,
and five concrete stairs down its craw
with risers and treads too crumbled with age
to stave off invasion by galinsoga,
gallant-soldier plant, green in a crevice.

A chasm the size of the tomb,
concrete walls dappled with damp
like an abstract of monochrome blots.
A six foot descent to a window of glass
with a view of a little girl’s casket.

A stark anteroom excavated
so a mother could comfort her child  
in the belly of death.

Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.

A teabag is snug 
in an orange rind as it floats
on the brown sewage;

the spinach leaves swirl
as the drain gobbles and sucks, 
and the broccoli 

florets are hurried 
to the steel beast’s growling maw. 
The peach liquid soap 

sponges and perfumes 
the kitchen. Sun-hued butter-
fly wings emerge, lift.

Jennifer Cahill earned a Masters of Science in Administrative Studies from Boston College. She has been a student of Gotham Writers Workshop and the Writers Studio, and is the author of “Majestic Colors” (2020). She lives with her kitten “Tilly” in Massachusetts.

After walking a few yards
you breathe like someone
who has slipped across the border.

I am ahead, you are far
behind. There are no rest stops
on this rocky path to the summit,

no hedgerows to distract
our lack of common interests
or silences broken up with ums

and ers. You wear a jacket
of rain and I nudge you ahead with tuts.
At the top, there is nothing

but what a view. We are at opposite
ends of the plateau with only similar
rocks bringing us closer.

Christian Ward is a UK based writer who can be currently found in Culture MattersImpspiredLiterary Yard and Poetry and Places

A contractor picked up my mom’s ashes
from the funeral home,
heavy in their cheap black metal box, 
her name on a white label,
with a promise to scatter them in the Pacific.
I wonder, though,
if the low, dry hills were still in view
when the boat got to where it was going,
or was it just water and sky,
the horizon blurry in the haze?
Was there a prayer,
or was the crew listening to talk radio 
and thinking of lunch?
And the ocean that day:
was it deep blue, crazed with light,
or grey and dull under winter clouds?
Mostly I like to think of her ashes 
carried on the wind, to somewhere else.

Chris A. Smith is a writer in San Francisco. Though trained as
a journalist–he’s reported on everything from African acid rock to
killer asteroids to revolutionary movements–he also writes fiction
and poetry. Find him at chrisasmith.net.

I am afraid to say/must confess
my feet become deathly cold
in Melbourne winter. Some overseas
friends think all of Oz tropical and
I didn’t know much before migration,
hoping to escape harsh Canadian winters.
You see odd palms but they are imports
like me, the fox, cat, horse and cane toad.
No snow in marvellous Melbourne but
you don’t have to travel far if you miss it.
I don’t. In Canada my feet froze while
I delivered papers or skated or built igloos.
In southern Australia my feet turn icy
inside my draughty apartment.
Too much sitting, no underfloor heating,
no double glazing. Despite clunky heater
and sheepskin slippers, clammy feet chill
till they ache. What does help is a walk
outdoors which solves problem for an hour.
Other remedy –  this side amputation  –  
is preheated bed with its electric blanket
plus that cloth snake full of beans that
gets three microwave minutes before
being applied directly to feet that feel like
they’ve ceased to function as part of body.
They’re not even trying but still
I’m attached to them.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Allan Lake has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton, Ibiza, Tasmania & Melbourne. Poetry Collection: Sand in the Sole (Xlibris, 2014). Lake won Lost Tower Publications (UK) Comp 2017 & Melbourne Spoken Word Poetry Fest 2018 & publication in New Philosopher 2020. Chapbook (Ginninderra Press 2020) My Photos of Sicily.

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