Cloud Burst Queen | Shira Chai

First cloud burst of autumn

First cloud burst of autumn
cleansing the sidewalks
forgiving us our summer rage.

Where do we go from here?
ambling down the same well beaten path again.
or should we prudently muddy our boots
in the soggy overgrowth?

New terrain unexplored.
This poem was previously published in the IAWE journal ARC 25.
First Cloud Burst of Autumn
©2009 Shira Chai

I am the Queen of the Night

I am the Queen of the Night,
a cactus with shallow roots,

Despite my gnarled, knobby stem,
               I permeate ALL oceans,
                  ascend     ALL mountain ranges,
                  infiltrate ALL borders.

the enchanted moment,
      with serenity 
       and courage.

the divine appearance
                            in glory
                           and splendor.
a blossom appears.
against the charcoal night.

Yes, I own it 
The embodiment of time itself.
Me as Queen of the Night
©2019 Shira Chai

In her own words…

The Queen of the Night cactus flower blossoms once a year. It has a distinct vanilla smell. A miraculous event, it is stark against the night sky. It is transplanted all over the world. But it keeps the rare night blooming in accordance with its origin. Like all cacti the Queen of the Night has shallow roots. It’s cultivated in many gardens. But it also thrives in the wild around the Mediterranean.

The Queen of the Night cactus is a migrant cactus. Like me, never quite fitting in her adopted environment. But still she has evolved and developed passed point of origin.

Over forty years ago my husband, Michael, and I came to live on Kibbutz Ein Dor with a group of Americans. On the surface it was an ideal situation. But in reality, we never quite fit in. We accepted our fate. Always being the outsiders, the migrants, not belonging. However, we live in hope that our children and grandchildren find a place to belong here in Israel. 

“The Migrants Salon” exhibition poster

This painting was the subject of a group exhibition that I participated in at the Mabou Gallery, the municipal gallery of HaEmek county, which opened in March 2021. All of the artists migrated to Israel. Thus, the title of the exhibition: “The Migrants Salon.” It also refers to the great French intellectual Salons of the 17th and 18th centuries.

I exhibited this triptych and poem in the exhibition. Here I embody the Queen of the Night flower! I embrace the grace, uniqueness and rarity of the bloom. I included in the background a lesser nose bat, who pollinates the flower.

I offer the rare night bloom of the Queen of the Night flower as a symbol of hope and perseverance for a better future.

Shira Chai with Eynat Kleifeld, curator “The Migrants Salon” exhibition, 2021

Poetry and art ©2009, @2019, and
in combination as presented here, ©2023 Shir Chai
All rights reserved

Shira Chai…

…is a painter, teacher and artist who writes poetry. From an early age she began journaling. The words soon became poetry and part her paintings. She embosses the words into the paint. Ms. Chai has exhibited in Detroit, New York, Tel Aviv and various Kibbutzim, in group and solo exhibitions.

Shira is a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor since 1983. In 1980 Shira made Aliyah with her husband, Michael and a group of Americans to Ein Dor ‘Garin Ein Dor’.  She is the mother of two daughters and a proud grandmother.

In 1982 the kibbutz divided an old chicken coop into studios for the resident artists. The kibbutz renamed the building the ‘Artists Chicken Coop’. There among the cows, horses and chickens is her studio for 40 years.

Between 1972 and75, she participated in the Writers Workshop of Judith McCombs (a published author and poet, ‘The Habit of Fire’).

Shira Chai published poetry in ARC 25 and 26 journals of IAWE (Israeli Association of Writers in English.


Website / Studio

Muddled Matrix | Douglas Colston

A muddled matrix: coffins; coal;
trees; and appreciating the view

Old Trees, ©2023 Miroslava Panayotova
Models, standards, examples,
copying, imitating,
appearances and molds?

A glue or a paste
reminiscent of porridge
or eating gruel to allay one’s 

Timber may be associated with
being emotionless,
withering and dying
or plants, shrubs and trees…
coal with cinders from a fire, 
or carbon.

To establish or cultivate
peace, harmony, kindness or temperance,
admire, appreciate and enjoy
the stage:
observation and investigation;
going sightseeing;
and maybe even Taoist temples.

©2022 Douglas Colston
All rights reserved

Douglas Colston…

…has played in Ska bands, picked up university degrees, supported his parents during terminal  illnesses, experienced chronic mental and physical illnesses consequential to workplace harassment, married  his love, transitioned into Counselling as a vocation, fathered two great children and had his inheritance embezzled. Now, among other things, he is pursuing a PhD.


World Fire | Patrick Connors

The World is On Fire

It’s Hotter Than It’s Ever Been

British Columbia's forests are ablaze
burning centuries of growth
killing innocent animals
threatens the communities
the very fabric of the civilization
that produced the pollution
and caused the greenhouse gases
which raised the temperature of our planet.
Wildfires in Chile, February 03, 2023
(Earth Observatory, NASA)
The wind blows
plumes of acrid smoke
over the Rocky Mountains
across the Prairies
under the waterline
through the 6:00 news
blots the sky with ashen cover
that turns the setting sun into a dire warning.
Wildfires in Chile, Detail from photo above, February 03, 2023
(Earth Observatory, NASA)
California also burns, and Greece, too.
Catastrophic flooding in Africa and Europe
and New York and New Jersey, so-called
500-year events that are happening 
with increased frequency.
Just when it seems it can’t get worse,
Greenland’s ice summit witnesses rain
for the first time in recorded history.

This color-coded map displays a progression of changing global surface temperature anomalies from 1880 through 2018. Higher-than-normal temperatures are shown in red and lower-than-normal temperatures are shown in blue. The final frame represents the global temperatures five-year averaged from 2014 through 2018. Scale in degrees Celsius. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Data provided by Robert B. Schmunk (NASA/GSFC GISS). Jet-Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

©2023 Patrick Connors
All rights reserved

Patrick Connors…

…had his first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, released by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013, and charted on the Toronto Poetry Map. Other publication credits include Blue Collar Poetry, Rabble Review, and The People’s Voice. His first full collection, The Other Life, was released in 2021 by Mosaic Press. His new chapbook, Worth the Wait, will be released this Spring by Cactus Press.

Dream Thread Snow | Carla Scarano D’Antonio

After the dream

Because my soul is a hollow husk today
in search of love
I pocketed my sorrows
the lone pain, insane.

I live in the nothingness of a bramble
immersed in the tangle
surrounded by light
I cannot grasp.

It won’t be me
it won’t be me
to reach for, to absorb the light today,

another day, another time will be different.
I’ll face the old scars
the changing of water in the air.

Tree and Cloud
©2023 Gerry Shepherd

Broken thread

The thread curls


it’s there
loose pieces hang

still there
repeat repeat

renew reshape


Snow haiku

The whiteness descends  
purifying the air 
silence breathes. 

The fragile pavement  
highlights footprints 
tyres stripe the melting road. 

Bushes glitter  
in the moonlight  
shades of silver. 

©2023 Carla Scarano D’Antonio
All rights reserved

Carla Scarano D’Antonio…

…lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in various magazines and reviews. Her collections are Negotiating Caponata (2020, Dempsey & Windle) and Workwear (2022, The High Window). She completed her PhD degree on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading and graduated in April 2021.

Website / Blog

Cursed Havens | Renzo Del Castillo

Pink Sidewalk, 2017
Photograph from Floodzone
©2017 Anastasia Samoylova

What Nature Has Wrought

The brightness of man’s hubris
shines atop uprooted palms reaching for the firmament, 
silent in rebirth.

You and I look out different windows
as if the intransigent panorama would darken less
in one than the other.

The earth will exact its recompense
for the parched ignorance of urban development 
with a flood,

black water swells, etching a path;
driving mediocrity from the face of nature’s perfection,
marred by sidewalks.

As if we needed shoes to walk;
As if we needed stucco, vitrolite, steel, or terracotta
to feel alive.
Inspired by "Pink Sidewalk, 2017," above the ekphrastic poem.

Camouflage, 2017
Photograph from Floodzone
©2017 Anastasia Samoylova

Painted Landscapes

Emboldened by our cities,
we’ve uprooted Nature from the earth
and painted a memorial in her stead;
preferring the artificial to the real,
misplacing our faith in steel and chain-link fences.
Our need for control blinds us to the truth:
we get our strength from the chaos.
Inspired by "Camouflage, 2017," above the ekphrastic poem.

Painted Roots, 2017
Photograph from Floodzone
©2017 Anastasia Samoylova

Hanging Gardens

Above our heads, growing unperturbed, 
Negating the inconvenience of plaster 
And concrete soil, a plant stands in defiance.
Structures of all types are built, but Nature finds ways
To wear them down, to overtake them;
Amassing patience to teach lessons in hubris.
Silent custodians of unwavering purpose 
In a world that chooses domination instead of harmony.
Ancient knowledge that we ignore at our peril:

Seven wonders were gifted to us,
An ascending series of tiered gardens containing
Marvels of mankind’s imagination: trees, shrubs, and vines
Overhanging, a large green mountain of mud bricks among them.
Years from now this white building will be 
Long forgotten, the exact location of this pensile paradise 
Overlooked by cartographers and priests.
Varying accounts will meld into rumor
And still the roots will remain entrenched to the earth.
Inspired by "Painted Roots, 2017," above the ekphrastic and acrostic poem.

©2023 Renzo Del Castillo
All rights reserved

Renzo Del Castillo…

…was born in Lima, Peru. Mr. Del Castillo graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English specializing in Victorian Literature and an M.A. in Mass Communications specializing in Intercultural Communications. He has spent the last 10 years working in the healthcare industry. Mr. Del Castillo has been published in Literary Yard, the Acentos Review, the Scarlet Leaf Review, and the Ekphrastic Review.

Almost Without Sound | Michael J. DeValve

Almost without sound you round the corner and then there 
      you are:
I turn like the gears of a clock, compelled beyond 
     resistance and
Again, I am confronted with a circumstance that 
     defies reason: you
Smile and roll your eyes as I try and fail
To show you the course of heartblood in me
As it traces past my loins, toward my feet and then out,
Tributary to the wide and swift current, a glacier poured,
Almost silent, irresistible, sliding to the sea.

Mere belonging, my belonging is mere.
I was, become, and am, a smear
On a canvas; round strokes rich with indigo thick 
     pigment and
Thin yolk yellow squeaks hold court with angry mud and 
     laser red;
Rusty blood blameworthy waters hopeful green, but 
     The Painter cannot be found.
The painter is found
In silence.     There is no painter, no paint.
But there is color and sorrow.
And hope.     There is hope.
Hope and sorrow are lovers, one inside the other,
Moving deeply.
So entangled they are, hope and sorrow, that only one
Can be seen at a time.

Bodies mangled by choices, smashed by meaning, 
     somehow stand
And move, not knowing
They’re already rotting.
Fear and Reason throw gasoline and acid at the bodies
Never seeing the children they doom to suttee for it.
Fear and Reason, turns out, can’t see children.
I can, because of you, and because of you I do my best
To dry their eyes and hold them, shivered, sobbing.
Fear and Reason throw gasoline and acid into a mirror.
Because of you, tomorrow I will hold them, too.

Oil Painting
©2021 Miroslava Panayotova

Poetry ©2023 Michael J. DeValve
All rights reserved

Michael J. DeValve…

…is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State University. Michael’s scholarly focus is love and justice. His works include A Different Justice: Love and the future of criminal justice practice in America(2015),A Unified Theory of Justice and Crime: Justice that love gives(2018), and Personal Ethics and Ordinary Heroes:The social context of morality(2021),and articles in Contemporary Justice Review, Critical Criminology,Police Quarterly, and the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology.

Two Flowers–Two Sunsets | Ira Director

Like Two Flowers in the Wind

  Like two flowers
blowing in the wind
we touch
eyes open
            we touch
like two      
           in the wind
Artwork: Two flowers in the wind, Ira Director, acrylic on paper

6 Noas and a Sunset

6 Noas and a Sunset

sometimes I think of a name
before I know what it means

6 Noas and a Sunset

I know the 6 Noas
is our time together

but what’s a sunset

I’ve been wondering

is it the end of a day

a transition

or simply     a lot

of bright    


Sunset and tree
Ira Director
acrylic on glass
Stone tired
from the steep climb
and dusty tracks,
one by one 
we clear the ridge
and sit
on flat piled rocks
torn bags rustle
as people find
the last apple
or those crumpled cookies
we’re always saving

slowly it breaks
the final sunset 
of this dirty trip

as the gold and orange 
spill blood on the sharp crags:

but Kathy
                  off to the side
                                       back towards the sunset

©2023 Ira Director
All rights reserved

Ira Director…

…was born in Chicago and is an artist and poet with a BA in Philosophy and MA in English Literature and Poetry. Works have been published in journals and e-zines; exhibited in galleries and in International Mail Art Network projects. Poems and paintings are sometimes combined, with both integral to the pieces.

Exhibit—a Retrospective: 50 years of art and poetry

Veritas Unspoken Larceny | TAK Erzinger


The world gave off a wildness
its body abundant.
Blessed at the end of a long day
with the balance of necessity.

Complex in its simplicity
not taking more than needed.
Universal, a final destination,
death without fear
under the long round shadow
of the sun.

Today most don’t understand what nature says.
It knows how to speak.
So much to share. It calls out again and again.
Telling the truth, but now no one listens.

Orca, Calfornia
© 2021 Gabriel Tovar via Unsplash

Unspoken Pact

We were already here
one in our harmony.
When you arrived
it was early in the day,
you were as vulnerable as we were.

An era no one recalls
lost between sunrises and sunsets
you found your way
searching like us for a place to survive
in a maze of land and water.

Then you discovered
from your very first steps
the sound of your own voice
over flinted fire which burned
as brightly as you did.

Between continents
aglow in discovery,
reproduction seemed to stretch from here to eternity
ravenous for all we had readily shared
now, you consume all in your sight
and have become our adversary.


Of the waves on the sea
its tide dances,
late evening glows
below sunken mysteries.

Plankton on the surface,
moon rising high,
mammals float in a rhythm,
in this place that’s their home.

Plastic pieces
just lifeless souls
interfere with these moments.
invaders robbing what they know.

Quiet dying beasts
vanishing when no one’s looking,
washing upon shores
in this place that’s their home.

©2023 TAK Erzinger
All rights reserved

TAK Erzinger…

…is an award-winning poet. Her collection At the Foot of the Mountain (Floricanto Press California, 2021) won the University of Indianapolis Etching Press, Whirling Prize 2021 for best nature poetry book. It was also a finalist at The International Book Awards 2022, Willow Run Book Awards and Eyelands Book Awards. Erzinger’s forthcoming poetry collection Tourist (Sea Crow Press, Massachusetts) is due out in spring 2023. Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist with a Colombian background. She lives on a foothill of a Swiss alp with her husband and cats.

ice temporal joy | Gabor Gyukicsic

ice dam removal

are there anymore stolen afternoons  
on lovely boardwalks tête-à-tête 
turning into bloody baywalks 
without warning signs of  
stalkers on stilts rounding up slaughtered whales  
and slaughtered pirates  
everyday people are running the bridges 
conning the Milarepa version on lacquered roads 
subsiding the skyline and every cul-de-sac  
with aggressive tendencies 
while fake tv crews  
decimating your beliefs in simple extremities 

rowing the temporal

as if a hundred years ago
and still 
indigenous simplicity is free from longing 
we dive underwater by subway 
from Pest to Buda  
we rest 
in the blinds of reeds on the shore 
an osprey orbits overhead 
speaking with his wings 
a grass snake glides under our feet into the sedge 
invisible frogs watching us 
dragonflies zip past 
we don’t yearn for anything 
in the meantime 
permutations of beauty sway in the breeze 
no command 
no pushing 
no boasting 
our eyes won’t blink at any material expertise

hidden joy

an unstrained person
chopping wood after wood to pieces 
in the swirling heat wave 
shared by a shrinking sun dialing for the moon  
to talk her into swapping 
the day for night 
wanting to set by gliding down a lake 
next to the riparian marsh 
among white warblers, ospreys 
where the mantis is scarce grievously for the gliding
      leaf frogs 
he who is incarcerated under a luminescent circle 
closed to a sublime coastline 
to cheer up the elusive wood chopper  
he who is building a raft at the behest 
of a swashbuckling superior  
he hates  
so, he’ll hide a leak he secretly bilged 
for everyone’s pleasure

Silhouette of Forest with Frogs
Pexels—Pixabay all rights reserved

©2023 Gabor Gyukicsic
All rights reserved

Gabor Gyukicsic…

…is an author of 11 books of poetry, 1 book of prose and 19 books of translations including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József published by Green Integer, an anthology of North American Indigenous poets in Hungarian published in 2015 and a Contemporary Hungarian Poetry Anthology titled They’ll be Good for Seed published by White Pine Press.

Bear Witness | Mary Lee Hahn

Sequential Landscape
Gerry Shepherd

To Be Human is to Bear Witness

Spiral milkweed pushes up green shoots
And dirt is blowing
And turbines are spinning

Oak flowers dream of acorns
And glaciers are melting
And panels are absorbing

Dandelions spread rampant joy
And wildfires are raging
And coal plants are shuttering

Hummingbirds return all abuzz
And extinctions are accelerating
And bald eagles are rebounding

This world within a world within the world
And all the excruciating truths
And every glimmer of hope

To be human is to bear witness.

“Addressing climate change
begins by actually talking about it.”
—Katherine Hayhoe
All We Can Save, p. 106

when i say addressing
i don’t mean an envelope. but if we did send climate
a letter, what could we possibly say to change
our damaged relationship? a letter typically begins
with Dear, but is that being honest? it ends by
saying Love, but we don’t actually
live that truth. maybe instead of writing we should be talking
to climate, giving an honest confession about
all we’ve done wrong, and what we will do to repair it

Witnessing the Insect Apocalypse

The windshield, once coated with bug bodies and
	 	 cleaned at every gas stop on cross country drives;
The grasshoppers, now rare, cupped in small hands and
		 dropped when they spit tobacco juice;
The sparrows on Main Street 
		 no longer cleaning the grills of farm trucks.

No fireworks of green flashes 
		 pulsing above wet ditches at forest’s edge;
No swallows following the mower on the soccer field
		 scooping lunch out of thin air;
No parsley reduced to stems
		 by black swallowtail caterpillars.

Fewer bees, lumbering flower to flower
		 weighed down by gold in their back pockets;
Fewer dragonfly, mayfly, stonefly, caddis fly nymphs
		 growing up underwater in fast-moving rivers;
Fewer trout in the same rivers
		 flashing speckled glory.

The abundance of the natural world
		 fading so slowly
		 that most
		 do not

These three poems are a part of Mary Lee Hahn’s 2022 National Poetry Month Project, “Hope In a Time of Climate Crisis,” and can be found, along with the other 27 poems, at Poetrepository.

©2022 Mary Lee Hahn
All rights reserved

Mary Lee Hahn…

…was a teacher of 4th and 5th graders for 37 years. She currently works at finding the best words for her poems, the best stitches for her embroidery, the best native perennials for her garden, and the best ways to serve her community.

Tug Back Truth | Mark Heathcote

Take and tug back control

When does a butterfly
Take and tug back control
Brutally blown this way and that
Steadily somersaulting 
Under an invisible spell
I sense it's on an explorative
Journey to discover its weft
Its length of silk its weight in gold
Own primordial unfolding goal  
When does a butterfly
Change course with the intent purpose
Knowing what flowers allure
Have the best of all hearts     
My how they flutter about 
Directionless then settle
With such artful aplomb finesse  
Weightless with zero gravity
Through an open-dressed flora door  
Could this be one day, me and you? 
Could I ask to be weightless? 
Have zero-plus gravity one day with you.
Fasten and affix your delicate feet 
Your claws around my flowers- 
Amber sacred heart my love
When does a butterfly
Play out its last tug of war
And pin its heart to the wall 
Never to fall
With such artful aplomb finesse  
Weightless with zero gravity
Settle to find peace,
It will never experience afresh again.

Tiger Swallowtail
©2023 C.L.R.

Truth be known

Our leaders are greedy, deceitful fools
bullies who never fired a gun or threw a punch
yet, take all your pocket money at vestibules
and ate out free every day for lunch 
pockets lined later to sit on a backbench.

You cannot sugar-coat the lies I'm hearing
the truth isn't a cake you can add icing too 
you can't change the height of the ceiling
compensate facts for fiction or sail a canoe
backwards up a waterfall, can you? 

The planet is in trouble but lets all fly 
let's take a jet and later on in a cavalcade 
meet up to discuss global warming and comply 
to make-good pledges made in masquerade, 
make-good nuclear silos, uranium in retrograde.

©2023 Mark Heathcote
All rights reserved

Mark Heathcote…

…is an adult learning-difficulties support worker. He has poems published in journals, magazines, and anthologies both online and in print. He resides in the UK, and is from Manchester. Mark is the author of “In Perpetuity” and “Back on Earth,” two books of poems published by Creative Talents Unleashed.

100 views of West Virginia | Kathleen Hellen

Until the hour came to meet him, asleep in his bed, under
     a drunkard’s quilt 
             a thousand hours he stood with his brush, 
             a hundred iterations

lofted in hay: The snow-
covered church, abandoned. The Woodburn clock tower 
on campus. The tipple that ghosted the tracks. 

When lantern tipped, the flame unextinguished
licked at the bents and slats, licked at the canvas, 

incinerating. Let it burn, he said. Start over.

Originally appeared in Volume Poetry Vol. 3 Iss. 1

©2023 Kathleen Hellen
All rights reserved

Kathleen Hellen…

…has a collection Meet Me at the Bottom forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Her credits include The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin, her award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento


This Gratitude News | Paul Hostovsky

©2023 Miroslava Panayotova

This Tree

I never noticed this tree before.
Was it always here?
Look how huge it is. Even the upper branches
as thick around as grown men—
strongmen in a circus with thigh-thick arms
holding up the canopy. You can’t
miss this tree, and yet I think I’ve been missing it
for years, driving past it on my way to work
without seeing it. Now my car is
running quietly over there where
I pulled over because this tree
was standing here where I never
saw it. I see it now though. I see it all
now: How I couldn’t see before because
of the understory--all those stories I was telling myself
were true. All the grasping and the wanting
and the dying. But now I think
there must have been something dead inside of me
if I couldn’t see this tree. It’s so
beautiful I want to die. I want to live
differently. I want to take this tree
back to my car, back into my life, keep it
always in view. But of course that’s impossible.
That would be as impossible as this tree
being here and yet not being here.
Which is why I can’t stop staring at it.

Late for the Gratitude Meeting

The guy in front of me in traffic
is letting everyone in,
waving at the cars like a policeman
or a pope—
and I really have no patience for all
the indulgence
and magnanimity at my expense

because I’m late for the gratitude meeting,
which is only an hour long.
And if I miss the first ten minutes
of silent meditation I’m going to scream,
because it’s my favorite part and because
it helps me remember to breathe.
And I’m going to throttle this guy

if he doesn’t stop deferring
to all of the trundling humanity
turning left onto Main
at this intersection where I’m fuming,
not feeling the love,
not feeling the gratitude,
feeling only resentment and disdain

because I have the right of way.
Would you rather be right
or have peace? Let go, I can hear them say
at the gratitude meeting three blocks away,
striking the rim of the Tibetan singing bowl,
which begins vibrating,
and keeps on vibrating,
like this steering wheel I can’t stop clenching.

The Good News

The good news is
you’re wrong.
About everything.
The bad news is
not what you thought.
The good news is
not what you thought.
That’s the good news.
And it’s greater
than you know.
And it’s greater
than you can imagine–
you can’t imagine
being wrong about
everything. That’s why
the good news is
so unimaginable.
For starters, you’re wrong
about who you are–
about what you are,
and where you are,
and what you are doing,
and what you think is being
done to you. I don’t
know about you but
for some of us
that’s very good news.
I’m not what I thought.
You’re not what I thought.
You’re not what you thought
either. And neither is
your mother. You needn’t
figure it out. You needn’t
bother. You need do nothing
but plead ignorance
at every turn,
and keep returning,
keep opening
to the great
good news.

©2023 Paul Hostovsky
All rights reserved

Paul Hostovsky…

…has a recent collection of poems, Mostly (FutureCycle Press, 2021). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter

. / Blog Linked

Shadows Within | jsburl

Trees and Sky
©2023 Miroslava Panayotova

chasing shadows

driving this long stretch of road 
chasing shadows 
as the clouds fly 
across the sun. 

leaves dance upon the wind 
forever leaving 
the security of their branch 
to fly free. 

swirling about each other 
on the winds breath 
settling gently on the gray pavement 
weaving a carpet of color. 

red, yellow, orange and brown 
waiting for the moment 
a car passes by to liberate them 
from the ground, to fly again. 

what a cold wind blows 
against my skin 
but when the sun bursts through 
the warmth radiates out to touch all. 

gone are the birds, 
the butterflies. 
grown is the corn 
ready to be cut. 

so as i drive this long stretch of road 
chasing shadows 
of clouds flying fast 
i think of you, and smile.

the tree

To view this larger with zoom, click on text.

©2023 jsburl
All rights reserved


…has an MFA and is a hemorrhagic stroke survivor who lives in Northern NY. She loves her family, the mountains, gardening, writing poetry and stories, oil painting, dragons, and animals large and small. She lives with her partner and her dog Tippy, and has just finished her master’s degree in Creative Writing. She was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta International English Society, and The National Society of Leadership and Success. She has been a journalist and won state and US competitions, and has two children’s books slated for release this year. The stroke took her mobility, but not her creativity. Her favorite thing to tell people is “Make every day an extraordinary day.”


Earth Feather Prayer | Michelle Kogan

Simultaneous Time and Earth Consciousness

Time travels on–and we humans are but a blink in it.
Yet, we are all part of this time continuum,
nature, humans and all on earth.

Fascinate on American Milkweed.
Linnaeus recorded it in 1752, and called it
Asclepius, honoring “the Greek God of healing.”

300 years later 
American Milkweed is still here,
and hopefully will be here 300 years from now.

Monarch butterflies plight depends on
Asclepias’ continuum. It nourishes their larvae,
and without it these amazing butterflies would disappear...
Asclepias’ leaves also nourish additional butterflies.

Bees, moths, and wasps depend on Asclepias’
flower producing nectar, and we humans depend on
pollinating insects for our food and our survival.

Humans and animals wherever we dwell 
     are all interconnected,
and our interconnectedness will assure our continuum. 
     As you pass 
that small gem Asclepias crawling out of 
     a sidewalk crack or between
crops, dwell upon it for a moment or two so we 
     may all continue on...

Variants—Digital Work
©2021 Miroslava Panayotova

Repurpose Feather Turn-Around

African ostrich feathers offer a new birth for ostriches,
It creates ostrich fabric and turns it into textiles, blankets,
     curtains, and clothing.
Help local folks create a sustainable and environmental 
     ostrich industry.

Today the majority of ostriches are farmed for food.
Ostriches farmed for food only live one year, however,
Repurposed African ostrich feathers offer a new birth 
     for ostriches.

Separate African ostrich feathers to create thread.
The thread turns into fabric that’s breathable, washable, 
     soft, and warm; and
It creates ostrich fabric and turns it into textiles, blankets,
     curtains, and clothing.

Rejuvenate a 150-year local Ostrich farming business.
Allow Ostriches to live their entire lives without harm, and
Help local folks create a sustainable and environmental 
     ostrich industry.

Sunflower Prayer

Intertwine petals of passion
and overlap invasion-filled strife
between your petal’s
shoulder-to-shoulder embrace.

Pool from deep inside your centers
Fibonacci pattern floret seeds,
and tenderly touch each other
with multiplying strength and resilience.

Reach all the way out to your
withering outer ring of disc florets.
Guide me, guide us sunflower,
in battle-daily barrage.

Sunflower seed
sprout hope-sprouts as you emerge,
and fill Ukraine fields.

©Michelle Kogan
All rights reserved

Michelle Kogan…

…ponders petals, beauty, nature and humanity as a poet, writer, artist, and instructor. Her poems are published in many child and adult anthologies. She was a semi finalist for the Poet’s Billow 2021 Bermuda Triangle Prize. Her writing and art often respond to social injustice and inequalities for humans and our endangered small planet. Presently she’s working on a poetry and art bird book. /

A Bed, a Bouquet, a Crown | Mary Anna Kruch

Don’t Mess with Fire
©2023 David Gretch

A Bed, a Bouquet, a Crown

Note:  The forest fires in Northern California
have left a teen, who longs for safety and
the return of her young man, homeless.

Inspired by the Napa Valley fires in October, 2018.
Shadows lengthen beneath the lone, live oak
at the edge of the vineyard,
branches spanning the late afternoon
and a girl with no home.
Wind hums through near-bare boughs,
invites owls to sun-warmed nests
as Mara rests at its base 
among the tall, grassy weeds.

Meadow grass and sorrel sprout
throughout the vineyard,
flatten in waves with a breeze 
then spring up as fresh as the roses
that used to punctuate each row of vines.
Since the Napa Valley fires last year,
there had been little work--fruit had shriveled 
on vines, turned to ash, and had long blown away.

Mara’s relatives had moved north 
to other camps, other harvests
while she remains behind,
each day waiting for Diego,
her young man, who searches for work.
She searches for safety and finds it,
like the deer, nestling among the tall, 
grassy weeds at the foot of a lone, live oak.

The sky darkens, showcases 
Andromeda, Princess of Ethiopia, 
and Cassiopeia, the Queen.
Mara sends a prayer to the universe,
floats off to sleep as snug as the owls 
that rest on branches above her.
For now, this is home.
Mara does not know how many nights

she lay dozing beneath the oak,
but each morning fields bloom yellow
with wild mustard. She shakes weeds 
from her hair, walks across fields of gold,
past stands of thistles -- much more than 
crimson weeds rosy as flushed cheeks.
As she nears the meadow’s edge,
her eyes rest upon broadleaf clover, 

dandelion and nutsedge. Collectively, 
these shape rich carpets of wildflowers –
more than enough bouquets to raise her spirits.
Mara pauses, chooses blue cornflowers, 
purple henbit and lovely pampas grass
to weave crowns – one for her, another for Diego;
for his she seeks coarse, blue-green grass,
long and unkempt like his beloved hair -- 

like the meadow grass waving and rustling
during the wait. She turns to walk back,
keeps an eye out for bindweed tangles
on tree trunks to tie bouquets and crowns.
Approaching her lone, live oak at the edge
of the vineyard, she moves toward
her resting place clutching crowns,
just as an old truck rumbles by and stops. 

Pushing aside the tall, grassy weeds,
she waits, wide-eyed, for the dust to clear.
From Grace Notes: a Memoir in Poetry & Prose (Goldfish Press, Seattle: 2021).

©2023 Mary Anna Kruch
All rights reserved

Mary Anna Kruch …

…is a poet inspired by nature, social justice, and her native Italy. She has published two books, We Draw Breath from the Same Sky (2019) and Grace Notes (2021). Recent poetry can be found in Wayne Literary Review and Trinity Review.


Clemency with a Little Dirt | Hassan Melehy

Mexico City
©2019 Edgar Henriquez, LC via Unsplash


I’ve declined help,
leaving it to the lingering green
of the nearby landscape,
removed as I am from
any reliance on others
that might prompt them
to throw sand across
my decisions and desires.

Years at a time have gone by
before any mothers
get a real chance to dole out
the nourishment that filters down,
as eager as they are
to preserve choice goods
for their own children, but
almost as concerned for
their neighbors’ comfort.

Learning passes from soul to soul,
generation to generation,
and it’s inevitable
that all the hard facts
jumble together
with all the vital myths.

What’s left to me is
a handful or two of dry dirt
and barely enough moisture
to form clods out of it,
and seeds I could count
on one hand if they weren’t
scattered just beyond
my flagging grasp.


To the subdued melody of morning
my footsteps cross ashy tiles
under sunrays dampened by a filter
of industrial ugliness—this brightness
still seems, even when nuclear physics
explains it as fusion on a cosmic scale,
like something divine, the furnace
of the world’s first creatures.
In the nooks of my brain the light
powers up memories of zealous forebears,
creating the chiaroscuro effect
of strict judgment on the tiles’ surface,
once rough but over the years
smoother and smoother as feet keep passing.

Along the walkway tendrils and vines 
twist their way between
evenly laid stones, poking into the corral
where cattle and pigs nibble on them,
the butcher’s axe looming above.
It’s a food chain that my
political appetites have hammered
into a tight chain of command.
I can walk these grounds as
countless forebears have, I can tend
to the plants and animals, make sure
every part is in order and in place,
but none of it offers guarantees against
the brisk spawning of a virus.

The Need for a Break

In the field where livestock grazes
I’m digging rocks from the ground, the
right sizes and shapes for
a wall along the garden path
to mark off which part of the land
is mine for leisure and which
I’ll share for work, and then
which part to reserve
for future underlings. If this patch ever
takes off I’ll hire a team
of chroniclers who decades after
I’m gone might concoct the story of
my she-wolf stepmother and
the power her milk drove into my limbs,
which citizens’ll repeat until
they’ve worn it thin and no one
believes it anymore and they realize
how much profit I made from the flesh of
their ancestors and
they tear down every statue of me.
The ragged fate of a founder is
to be turned into a god, and since
it’s my nature to flounder that’s
the last thing I want.

My goals remain modest:
while daylight holds out I’ll
stack the rocks in a straight line
like straight-backed soldiers giving
an impression of force to passersby.
The cattle and pigs watch me
with no thoughts yet of the butcher’s axe,
animals are so lucky they can pack
a moment with the fullness of
a lifetime and I’ll do the same
once I sit under those
huge white magnolia flowers.

©2023 Hassan Melehy
All rights reserved

Hassan Melehy…

…is a writer and teacher living in North Carolina, USA. In addition to books and essays in literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, he has written scenarios for several short films. His verse has appeared in Prelude, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Hat, and BlazeVOX Journal, among other venues.


Mandate | Carolyn Martin

Meditation—June Borders
©2023 Gerry Shepherd

Breaking News: God’s Rewilding Plan Leaked

According to a source high up and anonymous,
God will announce this week He’s rewilding the earth.
He confesses He should have rested on day six
while He was on a cosmic roll, and laments 
He missed the signs: bipeds, blinkered 
by supremacy, would try to tame everything.  

He admits to verte- and invertebrates
His human trial flopped. Therefore, next Sunday
pandas, peacocks, and silverbacks will play
in Times Square and caravans of antelope race
across Pennsylvania Avenue. Every boundary line,
dam, trellis, and mended wall will rumble down. 
Steel, asphalt, and concrete will be banished heretofore.
So will summerizing gardens everywhere.  

Believe what you like about our superiority,	
God made a mistake. He should have advised
Adam and Eve not to procreate and lounged them
beneath the apple tree where they’d spend
their ten-score years in blissful innocence
rather than sweat through parental anxiety.

Between you and me, I’d support a God 
as transparent as this. If His plan succeeds,
find me hanging out—waggishly naked 
and wild—on the edge of some post-paradise
with monkeys, giraffes, dolphins,
elephants, koalas, and birds of every size.
First published in Unearthed, 2019.

Nudging Jesus to Get Help

Come now! It’s obvious. You’re depressed. 
Back in the day, your guys said you wept
when disappointments overwhelmed. 
This week you’re at it again.

Believe me, I understand. Who wouldn’t cry
when polar bears are starving on ice floes 
and children line cages in border towns?
It’s hard to accept you’re not responsible. 
God knows you tried to save us from ourselves,
but humans with their flawed free wills do 
what humans do. It’s time to save yourself.

Maybe a Buddhist or Muslim therapist or,
a last resort, an atheist?
You need someone free from fossilized beliefs 
about who you are and what you tried to teach. 
Let’s Google mental health practitioners. 
The town is filled with them…But wait…  

How about I round some children up?
We have several in the neighborhood: 
Vietnamese, Ethiopian, a few mixed families. 
We’ll invite them to sit at your feet 
and you can entertain with lilies of the field,
sparrows, and mustard seeds.
Throw in a few miracles––like how 
you walked on water to calm your antsy crew 
or busted Lazarus out of his tomb.  
Play up the angle of the walking dead
and how he smelled when his clothes fell off.
Kids like that kind of gross and will take it literally.

Be sure to add how heaven is here––
although I’d chuck any kingdom metaphors.
Focus their unclouded eyes on the glory 
of a slug, a gingko tree, a flock of geese. 
Teach them how they’re connected
each to each and earth’s their fragile playing field. 

If you resurrect your innate charm,
I bet these innocents will check the validity
of your beard and heal your cracking heart.


To those of you who will not die today:
walk through your home and bless the open doors,
the table set, the breadth of sun lounging 
on the Persian rug. Catalog the small
contentments you have earned: eager words vying 
for a poem, work you’ll never have to do
again, backyard squirrels that entertain.
Praise every squill, crocus, and bleeding heart
that dares subvert winter’s calendar.
Invite young mysteries in and seat them
between answers you have no questions for
and ponderables still unclassified. 
It goes with saying: listen attentively.
Then tomorrow, if it arrives, repeat.
First published in Yellow Arrow Journal, 2020 (print).

©2023 Carolyn Martin
All rights reserved

Carolyn Martin…

…is blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red penciled “extremely maudlin,” she is amazed she has continued to write. Her poems have appeared in more than 175 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.