First Day of Winter by Michael Northen

First Day of Winter
           after Jane Kenyon

Orange has fled the marigolds
Sparrows search the remains of sunflower heads.
Fresh bread fills the kitchen

And on the stove soup bubbles
from the last of the turkey bones.
Let winter come.

Ribbons and wrapping paper put away
What can be wrapped is wrapped.
What can be tied is tied.

After fall’s final flourish
What is there left to do
but let winter come?

All is in readiness.
Our heavy coats hang in the hall.
The cane leans by the door.

The husks that rattle in the furrows now
were resting in the corn we sowed in spring.
Let winter come.


Michael Northen is the past editor of Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability and Poetry. He was co-editor of the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, the disability short fiction anthology, The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked, and is currently editing a new anthology of disability poetry.

How It Ends by Joan Mazza

How It Ends

Think of those scenes I’ve wanted to replay,
to talk back, set him straight. Yes, to defend
my outrage without being called defensive.
He wanted me on call all night and day:
Take care of my dogs. Go check on my mother!
I wonder how many patients and other
saps were taken in, apprehensive
of his spouted diagnoses. Who sends
condolences to his beleaguered wife
after a long illness has taken his life?
What about his live-in girlfriend, Kathy?
From photos, you’d guess they all were happy.
Now the argument ends inside my head.
No more obsessing? I know he’s dead.


Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self. Her poetry has appeared in The Comstock Review, Prairie Schooner, Slant, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia and writes every day.

The Pool by Joy Gaines-Friedler

The Pool

Light floats in the maples above the pool.
A pair of mallards we’ve named
Carl & Anita crash-land in the shallow end.

They do us no harm.
We let them swim.

A book lies prone on the swing,
the potted petunias are watered,
a bee hums as it leaves each center.

A mower in the distance hums its work ethic;
We suppose a kind of faith—

when the sun spills through the trees
and spotlights a spider on the coping.

This morning, before first light,
an owl called from the distance.

I went out to the pool, spooked a feral cat,
then sat in the dark to listen.

We’ve lived through the dying. And
there will be more. For now

Carl is happy
to follow Anita to the deep end.
They move easily together.

They are not going anywhere.


Joy Gaines-Friedler’s most recent book, Capture Theory is a Forward Review Indiefab Finalist. Her chapbook Stone on Your Stone is co-winner of the 2021 Friends of Poetry Chapbook Contest. Published in over 80 literary magazines and anthologies, Joy’s work is included in The Path To Kindness Edited by James Crews. Joy teaches Creative Writing for non-profits, and communities at risk, including the prison in Lapeer Michigan where she taught poetry to male-lifers, Freedom House Detroit where she taught refugees from western Africa, Common Ground, where she worked with parents of murdered children.

Two Poems by Douglas Cole

Brakeman Swinging the Lantern Down

On a back street off West Marginal Way, a collision,
red lights, police and aid car driving off, no siren.

He stands in the rain, but he doesn’t feel cold.
People are talking, but their voices are low.

Backed up commuters, windshield wipers going,
radios tuned to the news, to this very situation.

Imagine the frustration lined up and contained
like cancer cells, the guilt he feels, forgotten days,

as he turns in the weeds on the railroad tracks,
the big engine and the light coming fast.



These junk yards at the edge of cities,
towers of wrecks, cars with blood
still on the driver seat, the windshield—
I am looking for a water pump, a new heart.

The raw road, the gravel pit,
the trailer where I get my insurance
from a salesman heavy with gold chains.
No one around here remembers rain.

I am a drive-through ghost.
Aren’t we all? This isn’t even,
now, a little kumquat garden,
an electric pool you can dive into
and feel the eel-tingle of skin.

Throw the couch and the bones
into the dumpster—there is no
universal law that says you must
divulge your whereabouts.

So we fly on—imagine mist
inventing a new identity to escape
the investigators, so that when
a registered letter arrives say
you don’t know, that it’s a mistake
that person hasn’t lived here for years.


Douglas Cole published six poetry collections and the novel The White Field, winner of the American Fiction Award. His work has been anthologized in Best New Writing (Hopewell Publications), Bully Anthology (Kentucky Stories Press) and Coming Off The Line (Main Street Rag Publishing). He is a regular contributor to Mythaxis, providing essays and interviews with notable writers, artists and musicians such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), Darcy Steinke (Suicide Blond, Flash Count Diary) and Tim Reynolds (T3 and The Dave Matthews Band). He also writes a monthly piece called “Trading Fours” for Jerry Jazz Musician and was recently named the editor for “American Poetry” in Read Carpet, an international, multi-lingual journal from Columbia. In addition to the American Fiction Award, he was awarded the Leslie Hunt Memorial prize in poetry, the Editors’ Choice Award for fiction by RiverSedge, and has been nominated three time for a Pushcart and seven times for Best of the Net. He lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. His website is

Three Poems by Beth Oast Williams


Tell me if holding
my breath counts
as silence. I admit
to not crying enough
at graves. And yet,
I suffer with this
aftertaste of eating
embers. What makes
sense at midnight
evaporates into dream.
Frost on the car blocks
my morning view.
I admit that loving
him is hard as January
dirt. Witness my knuckles,
bloody from boxing
with the earth. I confess
this is just another poem
struggling to miss him.



You believe the earth
turns around your words.
But a poem is not space
to fill with stars. Let’s not argue
about rotation. Tonight’s sky
lights up with what
no longer exists. In anger,
you leave the room
like a candle fighting wind
that sneaks in from an open
door. You forget how it all slips
through cracks in the wall.


Eve Is Always The Day Before It Happens

Lost in a forest, our voices
share stories, as if reciting a poem
is evidence I exist. You taste
forgiveness each time you swallow

my name. This is the day mechanical
clocks would have stopped
but we are too in love
with the depths of longing. Admit

there is one way to keep this myth
from dying. Let the world
believe I made its first mistake.
Don’t call this poem a confession.

This stanza is a porch swing.
We sit here, allowing hair on the back
of my neck to bristle. You push us
with one foot, lift it, and we drift

forward. How easy it is to whisper.
A car turning down the road
signals this moment will soon be over.
Gravel like the clearing of a throat.

Listen as time breaks into twigs,
the tenor of tomorrow’s fog.


Beth Oast Williams’s poetry has been accepted for publication in Leon Literary Review, SWWIM Everyday, Wisconsin Review, Glass Mountain, GASHER, Fjords Review, and Rattle’s Poets Respond, among others. Her poems have been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook, Riding Horses in the Harbor, was published in 2020.

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Two Poems by Frances Klein

Guide to Interpreting Dreams

The owl represents your mother.

The cypress in which the owl perches
also represents your mother.

The shadow-veiled snake laying
between the tree’s roots?
That, too, is your mother.

The owl snatching the snake
and bringing it to the branch
to devour is your mother turning
her back on own impending grief.

You are the half-moon, tepid light
settling on the tree’s branches.

You are the field mouse
shivering behind a fence-post,
guilt warring with gratitude
at having been passed over.


Estradiol the Mimic
Estradiol, like many fertility drugs, induces side effects that mimic the symptoms people often feel in early pregnancy.

Like the Milk Snake, robed
in lapping bands of sandstone, salt,
and sable to imitate its cousin Coral,
hiding in plain sight from the hawks
and skunks that would make of it a meal.

Like the Walking Stick, segmented
length blending with the detritus of the forest
floor to offer shelter from the curious birds
and rodents who might spy its movements
and know it to be more than wind.

Like the Robber Fly, camouflaged assassin,
robed in marigold and shade, coiled behind
the flower petals to catch anything
that moves, be it beetle, lacewing, butterfly
no mercy even for its own cousins.

Like the Death’s Head Hawkmoth,
which perfumes itself with the scent
of the bees it robs, waved on
by the hive-guards to the inner sanctum
where it feasts without reproach.

All of this mimicry a drive for survival,
for safety, for sustenance, for one
more moment on this earth. From what,
then, do the chemicals flooding my
body think they are saving me?


Frances Klein (she/her) is a poet and teacher writing at the intersection of disability and gender. She is the 2022 winner of the Robert Golden Poetry Prize, and the author of the chapbooks New and Permanent (Blanket Sea 2022) and The Best Secret (Bottlecap Press 2022). Klein currently serves as assistant editor of Southern Humanities Review. Readers can find more of her work at

Two Poems by Brandon Thein An Vu

Love Language
Before her 2nd shift

She stretches out her arms
gets up from bed. Almost immediately

The kitchen is covered with a smoky haze
Filling the nostril with
Caramelized pork belly
And jasmine rice. Across the table are

Bean sprouts,
green onions, and
For Mi Quảng later. Softly,

She calls
Honey go eat.
Those were the same words
I heard. After

I failed my driver’s test
After my 1st heartbreak
And after small
Disagreements. I’ve been told

There are 5 love languages
she’s taught me
there are six.


Contents of the Curriculum

the educator steps back
carefully observing the room
scanning every student
a kaleidoscope of cultures

his classroom
a symposium of sound
where students celebrate inexperience
and persist with gossip overhear:

Today, we’ll be going over Vietnamese literature.
is what the educator wanted to say.
instead, he lets out a sigh:
Today, we’ll be going over Catcher in the Rye.


Brandon Thein An Vu is an educator who holds an MA in Education from UC Davis and a BA from San Francisco State. He currently teaches in the Bay Area and has a cat named Raymond.

Autumn Migration by Allen Helmstetter

Autumn Migration

Every autumn, flocks of blackbirds sheltered
in the two elms at the corner of my street
until the wind finally blew them south.
When they migrated, I envied them.
They got to go to places I had never been—
and for free; it seemed unfair to me.
Aunt Laura died during last year’s migration.
She had never traveled far from home,
but I knew she traveled inwardly—
to places blackbirds never see.
Then she’d come back and seeing me,
would ask if I, too, had been traveling.


Allen Helmstetter lives in rural Minnesota. He loves the rivers, woods, and fields there, and after hiking the trails is often inspired to write about the relationships between nature, technology, and the human spirit. His poems have been published in North Coast Review, Willawaw Journal, Ariel Chart, and Bulb Culture Collective.

Sixteen at the Spa by Deborah Bacharach

Sixteen at the Spa

In the hushed low
lit locked room, back when
no one but sailors and sluts
strutted with tattoos, I watch a butterfly shimmer
droplets above
the nipple of a stranger’s
pale smooth breast.

The cook sears
meat raw to ready.
Steam fills me before
I bite any flesh.

We all can strip.
From my treasure chest, a thousand
mourning cloaks and monarchs
lift and hum.


Deborah Bacharach is the author of Shake & Tremor (Grayson Books, 2021) and After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her poems, essays and book reviews have been published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry Ireland Review, Vallum, Cimarron Review, New Letters and Poet Lore among many others. She is a college writing instructor, editor, and tutor and teaches poetry workshops for children. Find out more about her at