All Vows by Philip Terman

All Vows

I was not ready to chant the Kol Nidre,
yet nevertheless I was called up
to stand before the open Ark
and find within myself the voice
that was required of me, the voice
hidden in the deep down, below

my errors, my words spoken
in haste, my actions taken
without thought, the hurts I caused.

The fast had begun.
The Ark was open,
the Scriptures revealed,
the worshippers risen
in their white garments,
the cantor nodding it is time,

and, though I was not noble,
or virtuous, and though
my wrongs were a weight
I could barely hold, the way,
at the dawn of my adulthood—

almost another lifetime ago,
my muscles tightened to lift the Torah
and carry it around the shul,
pausing at each row of pews
for the congregants to touch
the scrolls with the fringes
of their tallises then
their tallises to their lips—

something about the circumstances
of my life brought me to face
the sanctuary and the souls
who stood waiting
for me to confess
release from our flaws,
and rejoice, with trembling.


Philip Terman’s most recent books are This Crazy Devotion, Our Portion: New and Selected Poems and, as co-translator with the Syrian writer and translator Saleh Razzouk, Tango Beneath a Narrow Ceiling: The Selected poems of Riad Saleh Hussein. Poems and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry Magazine, The Sun Magazine, 99 Poets for the 99 Percent, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine. He directs The Bridge Literary Arts Center in Franklin, PA, co-directs the Jewish Poets Reading Series, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center at Buffalo, co- directed the writing festival: Poetry Life: Celebrating Heritage in Sarasota, Florida and conducts workshops and writing coaching hither and yon. On occasion, he performs his poetry with the jazz band Catro.

Autumn’s Signal by Terrie Joplin

Autumn’s Signal

Oh yes, I see them—there at the utmost
branch of the maple in the strip between
our yard and our neighbors’—their vibrant
cloak of green just beginning to fade, their
crimson fingernails flicking their tips
against the sky’s cerulean cheek. I see
the reddest leaf. I can’t help watching it
sway, its stem still flexible, color-fed. My
eyes water under the brightness. My throat
closes. I remember when, after twenty-four
years, you said you were unhappy, and tears
sprang from my every pore as if I could
water your love for me, flood our pain, as if
they could absolve my sarcastic slights,
your impatient shoutings, our warped pleasure
in knowing the mortal damage—our tender
shoots dying in darkness. I wrote in journals,
in letters, but the sugars and chlorophyll
of that leaf still flowed red—my anger and
guilt needing to recede, to let the stem harden
over like it does, sealing in the vibrant scarlet.
Then, an amnesty—a bending toward our roots’
pale warmth—our pledge to sheathe our words,
feather our tones, tilt a smile to the other, while
making the week’s grocery list or handing over
the evening cups of Darjeeling. Eight months
of waving in light—of curling around our best
selves in their slow, unwinding gestations—
a set of seasons I’ve watched in this yard,
looking at our full-limbed maple—before
I could paint the words to offer, just like
that topmost crimson leaf to the breeze—


Terrie Joplin has taught language and literature in public schools in Washington, Illinois, and North Carolina. She is a member of the Poetry Craft Collective and currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

The Phone

“There are two types of reactors,”
my grad-school-psych professor said,
“when hearing the phone, one says
yay who’s calling me! The other says
shit who’s bothering me.” But I say
there are three. The third is me.
I say, Who’s dead?


The Wait

I waken to your hand
holding mine,
you, on the floor by the bed,
the morning after I said
we are through.
Your tender vigil coaxed
the buds of love to sprout again
after the dormant season
when I had ceased belief
in anything but grief.


Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Threnody, from Moon Tide Press. Earlier books include Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, One Art, and numerous anthologies. Poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and on Lyric Life. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home, and during residencies at Write On Door County. Learn more at

Kraken by Merie Kirby


From the depths, where no
fingers of sunlight stir water,
1925, two great tentacles
found in the belly of a sperm whale.

Barest evidence that tales
might yet be trusted.
Online, a colossal squid,
mantle mottled blood orange,

largest eyes of any animal,
dead in a shallow tank, defrosting.
Wrecker of ships,
maker of whirlpools,

poor monster.

Swiveling hooks of tentacles
battled for survival,
author of raked scars
across backs of whales,

signs of existence
no one read before.
This new female specimen
weighs 770 pounds,
her mantle full of eggs,

she swam the Southern Ocean
water filling her mantle
as air fills a parachute,
tentacles reaching for toothfish,

large eyes watchful.
The scientists are disappointed.
They hoped to find a male. The Kraken,
they say, escapes again.


Merie Kirby grew up in California and now lives in North Dakota. She teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of two chapbooks, The Dog Runs On and The Thumbelina Poems. Her poems have been published in Mom Egg Review, Whale Road Review, SWWIM, FERAL, Strange Horizons, and other journals. You can find her online at

Conspiracy Theory by Charles Hensler

Conspiracy Theory

Like you I believe in swimming
upstream, even numbers, the colors blue,
orange and gray.

I’m less watchful in the morning. Afternoons
are disappearing chalk. I know you agree.

If you show me a box of crows
I’ll become the shadow of a wing, or shout

like a stone. Already I’m a bag of peeled
sticks, a can of last year’s special oil.

Tell me again the story of the boy
left in the well, a house on fire, the stars
gone missing—I need a thing to grip

in the wet grass, I need strangers in the trees
(you’ll know the right ones by their titanium rings).

When the ground rises, when the current
turns around, we’ll float upriver like children
in a child’s dream:

the stars bright silver coins falling
on black water:

the stars becoming our own.


Charles Hensler lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Shore, West Trade Review, Pidgeonholes, Parentheses, River Heron Review, ballast, boats against the current and others.

Two Poems by Erin Murphy

Ghazal for Irvo Otieno

               For Irvo Otieno who graduated from my high school in
               Richmond, Va. Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital
               workers were charged with second-degree murder in his
               death which occurred during intake at a state mental health
               facility in March 2023.

You and I walked the same halls of a school
named for Douglas Southall Freeman,

famed editor and Pulitzer winner
who chanted “integration never” as a mantra.

Our mascot back then was the Rebel,
a cartoonish blue & gray Confederate man.

And to this day in social media threads,
his replacement—“Maverick”—is mentioned

with scorn by those who miss rooms
filled with likeminded white men.

You were an honor student, musician,
and varsity football defensive lineman.

But naked, shackled, and cuffed, you were
no match for so many armed men.

A scrum of uniforms tackled you
like a rabid animal, not a man.

Irvo Otieno, Irvo Otieno, Irvo Otieno.
Brother, son, fellow alum, fellow human.

Soon your name, like the others, will grow
dim. Which city, which murdered Black man?

Which one had a bag of candy, a cigarette, a toy
gun in his hand? Which one tried to manifest

a long-gone mother? Which one couldn’t
breathe? Which one was not yet even a man?


Dear Rita

               In July 1971, Rita Curran, 24, was found strangled in her
               apartment in Burlington, Vt. More than fifty years later,
               authorities used DNA from a cigarette butt to identify her killer:
               her upstairs neighbor.

You were born the same year as my mother
and like my mother became a schoolteacher,

the language from today’s news frozen in the 70s
like you. One of three careers open to girls—

yes, girls—back then: teacher, secretary, nurse.
Or, for the lucky ones, stewardess with its fantasy of soaring

far from the New England factory town where summers
were spent screwing caps onto toothpaste tubes

for a fraction of minimum wage. Your killer
was cooling off after a fight with his wife

and likely took his rage out on you. Maybe your red hair
reminded him of her. Or maybe any woman would do,

any body he could break. And then what, a smoke
in your room before trudging upstairs to crawl

in bed beside his alibi? He died decades ago, taking
these answers to his grave. In the photo, you wear

a black choker. Choker: a necklace or ornamental band
of fabric that fits closely around the neck. Choker:

one who chokes. If you had lived, you’d be retired
like my mother who texts me pictures of hummingbirds

at her feeder. Always the teacher, she explains
that the male’s ruby throat—gorget—is named

for a knight’s breastplate. The pale wings of females
blur against the gray sky as if they’ve been erased.


Author’s Note: In “Ghazal for Irvo Otieno,” I take liberties with the ghazal form; I like the idea of breaking free of the form the way I wish Otieno had been able to break free.


Erin Murphy’s latest book of poems, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Southern Poetry Review, Ecotone, The Georgia Review, Waxwing, Guesthouse, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her awards include The Normal School Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award. She is editor of three anthologies from the University of Nebraska Press and SUNY Press and serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review. She is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona. Website:

At Kohl’s Jewelry Counter by Eileen Pettycrew

At Kohl’s Jewelry Counter

I want to put them on myself
my mother said of the clip-ons
she beheld like a glittering prophecy,
while I held her purse thick with Kleenex
and the aches and pains of the old.
But she struggled to slide the earrings
onto her lobes and close the clips,
letting them hang halfway, barely,
like spent seed pods,
and the small oh that escaped her mouth
each time one slipped off
was like the faint coo of a distant dove,
as if she had flown toward a horizon
beyond the foothills, and I was alone
on a dirt road listening
for her call. She taught me
how to feel sorry for people,
call them poor things,
like the stocky girl in my class who wore
a miniskirt and knee-high boots,
her thighs like bread dough.
Earrings of loss
falling to the floor, and me,
my mother’s only witness,
the familiar bag of pity ballooning
in my chest, crowding out
anything else I might have felt.


Eileen Pettycrew’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Ohio Review, CALYX Journal, Cave Wall, SWWIM Every Day, and elsewhere. In 2022 she was one of two runners-up for the Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry and a finalist for the New Letters Award for Poetry. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Eileen lives in Portland, Oregon.

Two Poems by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

What I Love About Mondays in the Spring

I love how there is birdsong, urgent and lovely,
as we walk before sunrise, one dog
beside each of us.
I love how the light spreads behind the neighbor’s red pines,
creating incandescent tree silhouettes.
I love how bustle fills our kitchen like an embrace:
dishes clink, cereal rustles, coffee gurgles to its finish.
I love how butter pools into little golden oases
on my dry toast, how you brush your lips on my cheek
when my mouth is full.
And I love how, when you leave,
the silence afterwards is soft, not final.


Mothers Understand Each Other

She wakes, adrift between sad and nostalgic,
happy and anxious.
She thinks of the new wedding dress
her daughter will wear in six months
when all traces of little girl will be scrubbed away.

Outside, her husband and dog
stare at a fox in the driveway.
He whispers through the open bedroom window.

Come here! You need to see this.

She peeks out the window, surfaced from sleep
enough to reach for her camera,
goes outside barefoot in pajamas.

The fox watches them all,
sits tall next to the garden,
bushy tail splayed behind,
swollen teats distinct.
A mama fox.

She leans forward, wishes she could speak fox,
one mother to another.

Your babies will be gone too soon.

She adjusts her camera for low morning light.

They’ll have babies of their own,
mates not of your choosing.
You’ll become irrelevant.

The fox blinks, yawns, stretches out in the grass,
mindful of the two humans, the dog,
the hungry kits hidden nearby.

She takes a few more photos,
tiptoes back inside. Her husband and dog follow.
She glances back, but the fox is gone,
a wild mother who knows exactly when to take her leave.


Kathleen Cassen Mickelson (she/her) co-founded the quarterly poetry journal Gyroscope Review and acted as co-editor until 2020. She is the author of How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths (Gyroscope Press), and her work has appeared in journals in the US, UK, and Canada. Prayer Gardening, a poetry collection co-authored with Constance Brewer, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books at the end of 2023.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Susan Cossette

Wide Sargasso Sea
August 2000, Darien CT

I do not remember my son’s third birthday.

But the photographs stuffed in my mahogany night table
show a too-thin frantic girl with untamed curls
serving drinks and cake to family,
my mother and father in ecstasy.

I was a mother. I was married.
Oh, how I wanted to please them,
their supplicant, their sacrifice.

Look at the crazy girl,
her father’s daughter.
Crazy like her aunt,
crazy like her grandfather,
beat into tacit submission.

She is safe, for now.

Later, my child clutched two tiny wooden trains,
chubby hands, face smeared with sticky cake icing
regarding sailboats in the harbor
and white clapboard mansions by the sea.

My small house was supposed to be
a sanctuary, but the ocean closed in on me–
marooned among twisted seaweed
and ragged grey oyster shells.

Everything was either brightness, or dark.

Floating face up, palms up to the blood moon
illuminating the grey harbor.

Look at the crazy girl,
her father’s daughter.
Crazy like her aunt,
crazy like her grandfather.

Then came the flames,
then my streaming hair,
tangled and strangled.

The girl caught in a gilt frame,
crooked pirate smile.


Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Vita Brevis, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Tuesdays at Curley’s and After the Equinox.

Three Poems by Betsy Mars

The Redeemer
Rio de Janeiro, 1964

From atop the hutch in our rented apartment near Ipanema Beach
a congregation of saints and Jesus figurines attended me.

My father gathered these statues here and there,
who knows why, he an atheist and Jew.

Outside that enormous statue stood above the city,
a lightning rod upon the hunchback hill,
a view of Sugarloaf and the placid bay in his purview.

His wing-like soapstone arms encompassed everything:
the favelas, me at five years old eating fondue
in a honey-lit restaurant like a pharaoh.

We skirted beggars on our way back home,
rats the size of the cat who waited, snug and warm,
never wanting, basking in the shine
of Jesus and his obsidian eyes.


I Play Words With Friends Before Bed

Then I dream of words:
consonants before vowels:
qi, jo, xu, zed. And I build:
dojo, exude, dozed.

And still we play on,
completing each other’s thoughts,
making space or crowding in a corner of the board
until someone makes a sacrifice to open up the game

so we can go on shuffling our tiles,
fitting words to words,
no longer keeping score.


Death and Pedicures*

Once I feared fungi,
hang nails, cuticle clippers,
an overly enthusiastic callous removal;

now it’s breath,
despite the privilege of status,
the ability to look away

at the static on my phone
while someone kneels, pretends
devotion to the anointment of my feet.

I wince
at my newly sensitive heel.
My foot after all

this time
too tender for the touch of a stranger.
No matter how well-intentioned,
how in need of the work.

*written after listening to an interview with Ocean Vuong


Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.