6 AM, by A.C.Cambers

Silver blades slice
Across the ice with all
The habit of morning routine.
There is only the
Shwack shwack of blades
And the hummmm
Of security lights.
The rink is still asleep,
And in the quiet,
I dream.


A.C. Cambers is a graduate of the University of Michigan and New York University. She currently lives in the Midwest, where she spends her time writing plays, poetry, and short stories. Her TYA play, “George and the Hidden Dragon,” was featured in CATCO’s 2021 New Works Festival, and her poem, “Christmas Catastrophe,” was featured in the December 2021 issue of Defenestration.

What if..., by Joanne Gram

What if words were birds and

falling feathers were punctuation?

What if every few poems became

a flock, a gaggle, a murder of emotions

displayed on a wire or even higher

silhouettes etched into the air?

What if every time they pooped

on a statue or in somebody’s hair

a profound and resounding plop

so we would sit in the park on the ground

snapping our fingers and flinging popcorn?

I think I would open the book you wrote

spreading the wings of your pages

to look at twenty-five tiny tongues

into fifty shining eyes to see how alive

you are in the ecstasy of your song

What if I fly along and contrive to become

your nestling for just one hour?

Joanne Gram is a queer woman with a master’s degree living and writing in Lansing, Michigan. A life-long Michigan resident, Joanne often draws inspiration from the natural beauty of the state. Her poetry appears in a variety of publications, including Of Rust and Glass, Peninsula Poets, East Lansing Art Festival Poetry Journal, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, and Tulip Tree Review’s Wild Women.

Playing Violin Parts on the Cello by Louis Girón

It’s quite natural. Some technique,
a lot of chutzpah, and a fair ear will do.
Think jazz players or scat singers.
After all, the cello speaks in the voice of human longing,
in a purr much sultrier than the squeaky violin
could dare hope for. Much sexier, too.

The notes from the lower strings cause chests to resonate,
and so soothe and comfort. A mantra to meditation. At times,
a fitting sounding board to melancholy—but also its antidote.
Then the baritone reedy register lends to earnest cheeriness.

But the highest notes are for bravura display,
(Violins, you can die your death from jealousy now)
for small hands, for the fearless and the bold,
and for those unafraid of being found a glorious fool.

The tubas and basses can have the om-pa-pas,
the drones, the moving base line of the chords,
and the ho-hum marking of the metronome,
the occasional stingy ostinatos, the required harmonies,
the doodle-doodles, the boom-chickees, and the echoes.

It is self-evident. Melodies were meant to be played
by those who were meant to play them
—with gusto, soulfulness, and sweeping bowings,

sprezzatura leaps, aching chromatics, spritely arpeggios, schmaltz,
marcato, staccato, pizzicato, harmonics above the flutes, demonic trills,
glissandos like slurpy slippery, sloppy movie kisses that could outlast
the trailers, the popcorn, and your mother-in-law’s spite;

with gypsy sobs, Italian tears, descents in melodic minor,
double stops, double turns, and vibrato that doesn’t stop,
cantabile beyond your imaging, legato, a spritz
in your ear, con sordino, and mostly in tune.

Of such brilliance is music made for!
Who could ask for more?

Wood Working, by Louis Girón

The craft, as a calling, requires:
          loving the wood and the smell of its dust, also mending mistakes and gashes, 
          and knowing when to ease back, judging best when to put away sharp tools;
          keenness to the contours of driftwood and to the boles and knobs of the trunks; 
          eyes alert for that compelling form, for the contour that reflects the sun
                   and for that surface near the ground, with secrets and crevices, 
                   that nurtures small flowers in its shade.
Only so may we see the wood showing us the shapes it wants to be.
The art also demands of the craft: 
       consummate junctions, 
       appositions so close, so firm, so right,
it is impossible for touch alone to tell 
when one piece begins and the other ends.
Whose breath?
Whose skin?
Louis Girón is a recovering neurologist/neuropharmacologist who came to poetry late when a completed poem dropped without warning into the middle of budget for a research project. What began as a sign of mental infirmity continues as necessity. His poems have appeared in Aji, BathHouse Journal, Chest, Perihelion, Redactions, Revue (Kansas City), Still Point Arts Quarterly, Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, Snapdragon, Songs of Eretz, Sunflower Petals, The Amsterdam Quarterly, The Great Smokies Review, The New Guard Literary Review, The New Millennium, The Potomac, The Same, VietNow, Warscape, and Winning Writers.

Love in Three Parts, by Caroline Bassett

    1. Love Begins
    a. At bedtime my two-year-old grandson, Beacon, watched a Czech video with a mole as the main character and a mouse as his pal. Beacon fell in love with Mouse, not Krtek. He wanted to see Mouse, he missed Mouse when he wasn’t in view, he cared about Mouse, he wanted Mouse with him. During the day he asked when he could see Mouse again.
    b. When I was in Paris last summer, my brother, Tom, who was working in the Netherlands, took the train and visited me for the weekend. We walked; we walked for 7 miles. From the Eiffel Tower we crossed the Seine, sauntered down the Champs-Elysées, strolled past the Louvre to Notre Dame, and ended up at the Place de la Bastille in the midst of a rowdy Gay Pride celebration, resplendent with rainbows. It had become his city.
    Love happened. I saw it.

    2. Love Continues
    With my daughter, her husband, their son, and their newborn. Ten whole days with my child being a mother to her own baby daughter.
    We talked of daily things and laughed the way we always do. Nothing was different: speech did not slow, pauses did not lengthen, touches did not get tenderer, the air did not shimmer and sing. And yet, these happened too.
    As the waves come onto the shore and seep into the sand, that other world flowed into this one, alive as light.
    I felt it.

    3. Love Ends
    He pressed a pillow down on my love and suffocated it, did my former husband.
    Beacon will outgrow his love for Mouse. (But not Tom for Paris.)

    Love leaves. I know it.

    I write these things.
    I do not understand them.


Originally from Hoboken, NJ, Caroline Bassett now lives and writes in Minneapolis. A failed tango dancer, she is perpetually drawn to gardening, winter sports, and biking in snowless seasons.

Fragility of Love, by Paula Frew

Love is like a precious figurine.
You must treat it with utmost care
so as not to damage it.
You must dust it off regularly
to keep it new and fresh.
You must display it proudly
so the world can see it.
You must protect it with all you have
so as not to break it into smithereens.

Being disabled, Paula Frew finds joy in writing poetry and short fiction. She has recently delved into her past to discover memoir. She has had stories published in various anthologies as well as poetry in several journals.

Glimpses, by Angela Hoffman

I’m on a mission to capture those moments—
glimpses of love, so that I can tell him
this is what I mean when I say, Something is missing.

That moment upon entering the redwood forest
when you lower your voice, forgetting the question.
That moment a grandmother and granddaughter are moved to tears
on a cliff in a canyon, singing a song from memory.
That moment the woman who lost her husband asked the question
Will I gain or lose favor with God if I grieve forever?
That moment the old man looks his spouse in the eye
hands her the coin he stooped to pick up. Her smile, wide.
That moment her belly meets his back as they lie in bed
as her silence finds his silence. . .

Angela Hoffman’s poetry collections include Resurrection Lily and Olly Olly Oxen Free (Kelsay Books). She placed third in the WFOP Kay Saunders Memorial Emerging Poet in 2022 and was a runner up in the 2023 Wisconsin Sijo competition. Her poems have been published in Agape Review, Amethyst Review, As Surely As the Sun, Blue Heron Review, Cosmic Daffodil Journal, Moss Piglet, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Muleskinner Journal, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Poetica Review, Solitary Plover, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets’ Museletter and Calendar, Whispers and Echoes, Wilda Morris’s Poetry Challenge, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, and Your Daily Poem. Her poems have also appeared in Amethyst Review Poetry Anthology: All Shall Be Well and The Poet Anthology: Our Changing Earth. She writes a poem a day. Angela lives in rural Wisconsin.

Misericorde, by Joshua Gage

When I pray, do my roiled lungs
become two clenched sanctuaries?
How many pills are enough pills
before my eyes agree to flee
their tears and finally find dreams?
Does God love the thirsty more
than he loves those with water?
Has He molded me from desert sand
into a pilgrim, and will I return
to sand, or have I already passed
the place where I was supposed to sleep?
If I open my body to death
the way a log opens itself
to mushrooms and hungry beetles,
will the choir lullaby me forward
with hymns about ancient miracles and blood?
Will divine fingers peel into my body
and pull out the precise number of feathers
required for one last flight skyward?

Words Are Passing Through Our Lives, by Joshua Gage

After the funeral, you
find me in a book: round vowels
rolling echoes in your ears.
Drink me, now. Sip me like wine
to savor over your tongue.
Hide my linger on your breath
from your husband when you kiss
goodnight. I will wait for you.
You know I know you. I read
you between my lines, cradle
you tightly in my stanzas
when you tremble in your sleep.
Remember, in the bookstore
when you were thirteen, hidden
back there, past the magazines,
when you slid my slick covers
off the shelf and quickly read.
Just words, you’d say, pretending
my images don’t flicker
their grainy syllables past
your screen when you close your eyes.
At any moment, you fear
I’ll flutter away like dust
beneath your mother’s Spring broom
or else I’ll crumble and sink
into the shadows that slant
hungry ghosts through the attic
of your memory. But no.
Not this poem. Never this poem.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His newest chapbook, blips on a screen, is available on Cuttlefish Books. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, Ethiopian coffee, and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.