If Not Devotion, by KB Ballentine
Eggs every morning, though she hated them.
Silent breakfasts before work, before school,
streetlights still probing the darkness.
We’d read at the table each in a separate world,
then she’d send me off to the bus stop,
lunch box in hand.
Mornings measured in math, gym, science,
I’d find a bit of her love
wrapped with peanut butter and jelly,
a bag of chips, a smiling Little Debbie.
But I didn’t think of it
through history, English, or French,
just rolled through the halls after school
into band, into drama—on and offstage.
Back home, guaranteed the chore of clearing,
I set plates and napkins in haphazard fashion.
We ate together—the family whole or divided—
always at the table. No books allowed.
This time reserved to share the day,
to say all we wanted to say,
the most important things left unsaid.
Love is What's Left, by KB Ballentine
Grandmother never let us swim
after lunch. She insisted cramping
stomachs or legs would be the death of us.
My cousins and I would slouch in the shade
of the porch, linger for an hour
while we prodded lizards across the tiles.
We’d lie on our backs and gaze at the clouds
like we would if allowed in the pool,
waiting for time to pass.
Here I am, just finished with dinner
and swimming at my friend’s house. She’s inside,
of course, preferring to swim a la naturelle
in the mornings. How long before she might
look outside and find me in that dead-man’s
glide, arms stretched wide and staring down
into the blue,
into the blue? But all is well
this humid evening as cardinals chip from feeder
to tree, and the neighbor’s cat comes to haunt
the drama. I tuck and roll a few somersaults,
free style to the other side while lights blink
on in the house. Then I drift on my back to watch
the gathering dusk, crescent moon slicing the sky.
KB Ballentine’s seventh collection, Edge of the Echo, was released May 2021 with Iris Press, and her eighth, Spirit of Wild, recently published with Blue Light Press. Her earlier books can be found with Blue Light Press, Middle Creek Publishing, and Celtic Cat Publishing. Published in Atlanta Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others, her work also appears in anthologies including I Heard a Cardinal Sing (2022), The Strategic Poet (2021), and Pandemic Evolution (2021). Learn more at http://www.kbballentine.com.
Fence, Link, Chain by Helga Kidder
Tonight crickets thrum
their electric guitars,
play the music of the past—
mother married father’s needs
until the war was over
and he took his three boys,
grown six years older,
and kicked the dominoes
of mother’s wishes
until all had toppled.
The gash as deep as a ravine
in the Black Forest
she got lost in
for the rest of her life.
Night wind rushes
through stubbled wheatfields
as streets empty themselves
of the past and people
taking their loves
into the night air.
Morning glory closes its eyes
for the night, but tomorrow
it will continue to wrap its fingers
around the gritted chain-link fence,
one rung at a time.
Helga Kidder lives in the Tennessee hills where she lives with her husband. Her poems have been published in Conestoga Zen, Poetry South, American Diversity and others. She has five collections of poetry, Wild Plums, Luckier than the Stars, Blackberry Winter, Loving the Dead which won the Blue Light Press Book Award 2020, and Learning Curve—poems about immigration and assimilation.
Transitory Proposition, by Sarah Rosenblatt
I remember my aunt saying to my dad
how unbelievable it was
that she had gotten so old.
No tears, only a light laugh,
laughing off time.
The handkerchiefs we blow our noses into
won’t remember us for our best qualities.
The fans blow, cars respirate,
leaves sway in wind
but before I make sense of this split second
it slips off
into the stratosphere.
Intergenerational Perseveration, by Sarah Rosenblatt
Given the depths of
of her ancestors’ despair,
she doesn’t have a chance.
There is no one warm, kind, and powerful
to show her a path
through the flowers.
There is no one who loves her dearly
to soothe her sad cries.
with only a few ingredients
to put into her salads.
No one to interrupt
her cyclical thinking
that makes it impossible
for her to get up
Sarah Rosenblatt was born in NYC and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by two artists who spoke frequently about beauty in the world—shadows, colors, trees. Their focus on the visual world continues to impact her poetry and who she is, as does the mysteriousness of being alive, which has haunted her since she was a child. Sarah holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and an MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; she is a poet and therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. Sarah’s poetry has been published in myriad journals including Ploughshares, Poetry East, Heartland, The Portland Review, The Brooklyn Review, and others. She is the author of three books of poetry published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Sarah has a husband, Craig, who is an artist and therapist, two sons currently in college, and a dog named Mitzvah who was bred to be her family’s very, very, very best friend.
Do I Miss My House? by Julie Bolton
Do I miss my house? I do.
I long for the strong oaks with their embracing boughs
bright beauty encircling them.
I yearn for lavender lilacs and crimson cardinals nesting.
The lilies of the valley and violets strewn astray—
humble harbingers of springtime.
The aroma of earth exuding: tomatoes, beans, lettuces,
rouged raspberries running prickly.
To see the patterned wallpaper as we ate together evenings.
Not the slammed table and broken dishes.
My tidy kitchen, created for cooking.
Not angry brawls banging cupboards.
To see the stairway with its banister bedecked
with garland greenery; boys noisily clumping
up and down, sliding on the shine of hardwood floors.
The woody smell, crackling sounds, warmth, and dreamy visions,
a fire in its place. Sometimes stockings hung.
Not the drunken disputes and crazy careening to ER.
A deck with peek-a-boo window, an arbor, a row of four maples
growing straight and strong: one for each son.
I miss my house.
The life that existed. Even the upheavals.
The sons flee, the marriage fails.
I am old as oaks.
Julie Bolton is Professor Emerita at a small liberal arts college where she taught performance courses and directed plays. As an actor she performed with professional theatre companies throughout the Twin Cities as well as doing voiceover and on camera work. She was an Artist-in-Residence in Hawaii where she taught acting and also wrote, performed, and toured a play about Princess Kaiulani. She lives in a Minneapolis suburb, where she raised two sons and two stepsons.
It's in the skin by Maggie Menezes Walcott
I. When you were young, and I mean skin-taut-collagen-filled-youth, you left for junior college or university or to find yourself, and if you were one of the lucky ones, (you were), maybe there was a family who packed up your load, a mom who stacked each shirt by color or a dad whose method relied solely on speed, cramming your teen years into starchy brown boxes and dropping them off neatly in rows, with you, left behind. II. You cut your hand opening the very first box, bled into towels and cleaning supplies and thought to yourself well that’s not a very good start, but the shelter of home had already flown and there you were, lost in a sea of square cardboard, a box of bandages calling your name. III. This was fine until your childhood room became a freshly painted office or comfortable guest room or a room for fine porcelain dolls (how dare they) and it was no longer clear whether home was still yours, or maybe just a place to visit on long weekends or holiday breaks. That’s the way your childhood leaves, if you are lucky, the softest nudge from a well-meaning hand, urging you once to soar. IV. Now the return home means a different loss: the forfeiture of wispy hair from a father’s gradually thinning scalp, his dark skin peeking out below snow white strands, to speak a bashful hello. A mother’s arms once stoutly strong—now peppered with bruises she can’t recall, only paper-thin skin left to tell the tale of how they came to be. Maybe you only gather once or twice a year (if you’re lucky), but it’s often enough to note each change. You face the changes, these gradual transformations that belong to someone else with mounting melancholy, or fear, or sometimes just a mute surprise. V. Now that you are older, and I mean aches-in-the-morning-when-waking-up-old, you finally understand the way the branches of home once formed together, stuffed with down and silly bits of string, holding the skin of you safe and warm.
Deep in the wilds of Northern Michigan, Maggie Menezes Walcott lives with her family in a house they built themselves. She has a grossly unused degree in physical anthropology and has recently returned from a 30-year hiatus to her first calling—creative writing. Her pieces have since been published in Uncomfortable Revolution, The Dunes Review, and Every Day Fiction, among others.
On my drive home, I saw your ghost. by Lacie Semenovich
I see you in the bent back
of a homeless man picking
up a dime from the sidewalk,
in the silver flakes of a scratch
off ticket, in my schemes
to start a business or write
a novel, in my brother’s eyes
rent with untamed sadness.
O father, I am so much older now.
Somewhere between my youth
and your age when you swallowed
a bottle of pills. More than two
decades and no one has found a cure
for a sadness that is not sadness,
for the emptiness that gnaws
with invisible teeth like a dog
working the marrow from a bone.
Our souls should not be food
for a force we cannot see. At least
the cow is fed by the farmer’s hand,
the pig’s haunch patted from time
to time – if only to feel the fatness
growing. Winter is melting but people
are still dying.
These are not the right words. I do
not understand the science so I look
for the right words to understand,
to explain, to see you underneath
an illness more deadly than
cigarettes and sky diving,
to love a memory so old it shudders
with my aging brain, flits about like
a third dimension layered on the present,
to hear your voice where no sound lives,
to feel your lips kiss my forehead once more.
My Body, a Museum by Lacie Semenovich
My grandmother lined
her drawers with newspaper,
lined her shelves with jams
and jellies, canned green beans.
The cool room in her basement,
a trove of edible treasures
plucked from the ground by
Out of time my memories mean
nothing to my niece who just
buried her grandmother.
She will curate her own museum
of image and scent to return
to again and again in all the futures
where she will need the love
of someone who cherished her
when she was small and untouched.
How to remember a memory
of someone who looks
from behind your eyes.
When memory fails and recreates
itself. When the oldest recordings
are the most precious and the most
One picture exists of me at three months
old sitting in my great-grandmother’s
lap. Somewhere, I believe, my body
remembers her hands, the flash of the camera
bulb, the smile she must have given me
before turning me toward the anonymous
photo taker. My mother took her grandmothers’
stories with her into the ground.
When I walk in the dawning
morning light, the air crisp
with beginnings, the houses
coming to life, the raccoons
and opossum scurrying for their
daytime rest, I feel the pull of
memory not quite remembered,
not quite mine, rising from the ground,
memory of something like laughter
and joy spilling from my body.
Lacie Semenovich is a poet and fiction writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has appeared in B O D Y, Sheila-Na-Gig online, Qwerty, Chiron Review, and The Best Small Fictions 2020. She is the author of a chapbook, Legacies (Finishing Line Press).
His Boots by Sharon Hilberer
Smell of coal smoke and metal
winter days a gray ash settling on snow,
the glow at night from the slag dump
an orange fire erasing the stars
because our town made steel for the world.
Steam from boiling cabbage and kidneys
seeped up from the neighbors–
ours the luck, our mom cooked Italian,
still I envied Janet downstairs her only-child status,
her crisp Catholic-school uniform.
We had a Sophia Loren mother
and a part-time James Dean dad.
When he did come in off the road
smelling of sweat, tobacco, peppermint,
smelling of leather and diesel,
three little girls fought to unlace his boots.
Sharon Hilberer grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and attended school in Ohio before landing in Minnesota to work in the Minneapolis Public Schools. A language geek from the get-go, her poems grow from conversations, memories, and the life of the neighborhood.
The Way Home by Mary Sexson
Listening to you
booking the flight
through Hong Kong
and made me
disregard the fact
that I’d do it alone
while you stayed on
at the ashram
with your new wife.
I stood quietly
to be measured
by your lovely Indian friend,
so they can make a wedding sari
for me to look beautiful in,
to say the Shri Ganesh prayers
while you take your wife’s hand
and lift her with your love.
Now I am picturing myself
in the Hong Kong airport
which you describe
as quite stunning
Stunning can be pictured
any way you want to
but this flight home
still gets spelled
the same: a-l-o-n-e.
Mary Sexson is author of the award-winning book, 103 in the Light, Selected Poems 1996-2000 (Restoration Press), and co-author of Company of Women, New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press). Her poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Lion’s Den Press, Laureate, Hoosier Lit, Flying Island, New Verse News, The Indianapolis Review, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Of Rust and Glass: Scars, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others. Finishing Line Press will publish her manuscript, Her Addiction, An Empty Place at the Table in June. Sexson’s poetry is part of the INverse Poetry Archives for Hoosier Poets. One of her poems is in the Polaris Trilogy, part of the Lunar Codex project sending poetry and other works of art to the moon. Nasa will launch this digital anthology on board as a time capsule in 2024, to reside at the Lunar South Pole.