Four Poems by Linda Laderman

My Mother Holds Her Grief

like a collection of precious stones in a plum pouch. I watch her untie its silk strings & spread the stones across her satin sheets. She separates them by color & holds a cerulean blue with faceted edges up to the light. She rubs it over her body & lingers on her thigh, then takes a red thread & wraps it around. She hangs it from her neck, an amulet to hold her grief. She teaches me to hold her grief too, says it’s as easy as making a bed. Hold it there, fold it here, tuck the corners under. Always tuck the corners under. I sit beside her bed. She gives me a turquoise, cool and smooth. When she turns away, I rub it on my thigh & tuck it under the corner.


I should have left you first

but I waited until autumn’s red birds scattered
their seeds, giving way to a bitter winter, expected,

but holding out for a thaw. I waited for the peony,
pale pink, to emerge from the mound of dirt

near our doorstep, dependable, a return to life.
I waited for the blood moon to reveal itself, hopeful

it could be seen through earth’s hazy gaze—
I waited for spring’s rainy season to clear,

though June, being unseasonably stingy,
refused to cede a day without a downpour.

on summer’s cusp, I woke from a half sleep,
my skin drenched in knowing. still, my eyes

stayed shut, until the blue-black night found me.
I waited until the days stretched, the sun set late,

temperatures rose, and the duck in the Hosta
vanished, leaving a gap strewn with leaves and grass,

her batch of eggs hatched and ready to fly. I waited
until the children left, filled with illusions of time,

as if life was forever—a chance to do what I couldn’t.
I waited for your infatuations to wane, but they didn’t.

I waited for the first freeze, then blew my breath
into the icy vapor, kissing winter’s frosted air.

thinking, if I waited long enough, my haunted dreams
would disappear. and you did.


When We Dance

We dance on the hardwood floor. His white hair lays
        bare my memories. The nights that lasted until morning.

The sound of Detroit Jazz pushes us. Belgrave, Franklin, Carter.
        I turn it up. I’m wound. Our arms zig and zag, two old saws.

I hip bump him, snap my fingers. He lets out a surprised
        laugh and twists me around our kitchen. I let him do it.

We twirl. His face is red, shy, like a boy. I want to seduce him,
        but I don’t know. I’ve gotten used to not having.

My breath is hard. My hands sweat. I wonder if he took a Viagra.
        I take his arm. Purple blotches stain his skin. Mottled by time.

In the morning, I ask if he remembers when each day took its time.
        How we craved a chance to hear the silence.

Now, I store time in a stone. I step over its power to fool.
        When I feel regret, I sink into a place with no light.


Fine China

I worry that my last poem will be my last poem. Let’s talk about quatrains. I create a series of prompts, a list of lines. I’m exhausted from nothing. I list nothings. Nothing good can come from this. Can all this be for nothing? She has nothing on you, You know nothing about me. Only lines stacked, like my fine china, packed away, forgotten as the drop of dried cranberry stuck under the rim. I take the place settings out of the basement cabinet, sit on the cold concrete floor, and remove the felt separators. Nothing. I focus on the memories the dishes hold. An ekphrastic after the matching teapot? Nothing. Empty, like the dishes. I bring two place settings upstairs to soak. I shop for a roasting chicken, red potatoes, baby carrots, and a brown sugar pecan pie. If I can’t write, I’ll fill the damn plates.


Linda Laderman is a Michigan writer and poet. She is the 2023 recipient of The Jewish Woman’s Prize from Harbor Review. Her micro-chapbook, “What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know” will be published online at Harbor Review in September, 2023. Her poetry has appeared in The Gyroscope Review, The Jewish Literary Journal, SWWIM, ONE ART, Poetica Magazine, and Rust & Moth, among others. She has work forthcoming in Thimble Literary Magazine and Minyan Magazine. For nearly a decade, she volunteered as a docent at the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Find her at

The end of childhood by Ellen Stone

The end of childhood

Your parent’s tightened
lips, their narrow love—
how it tipped & tilted
like the summer Ferris wheel
all smoke and burnt candy.
You, leaning over the edge
to see it all – old ball field,
swirling night bats, dogs
& beer faced fathers. Where
is your mother? Gone, again?
That question slow burning,
but here the lights
are twinkly, everyone
is gathering, rippled
& holding something
spooled loosely –
giant blue bears, a pinwheel,
caramel apples on sticks, silvery
balloons hovering on the midway.
Empty in this moistness, you
circling around, swooping
& knotted, your stomach,
your sinking heart.


Ellen Stone advises a poetry club at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a co-host for the monthly poetry series, Skazat! and an editor at Public School Poetry which debuts in the fall of 2023. Ellen’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, Cold Mountain Review, The Museum of Americana, and River Heron Review. She is the author of The Solid Living World, Michigan Cooperative Press, 2013, and What Is in the Blood, Mayapple Press, 2020.

What I Loved by Robbi Nester

What I Loved

As a child, I often visited my grandmother and cousins
in West Oak Lane, straight lines of dark brick rowhomes,
old trees, so wide you couldn’t get your arms around them.
In summer, people sat out on the stoop and watched
neighbors in their somber suits and hats parade
to service in the tiny synagogue where my uncle
served as sexton. In the back of each house, there was
an open space, a paradise of gardens, some gated.
I loved the ones with a reflecting ball, precisely
in the center, mirroring the bees and sulfur yellow
butterflies. I thought I saw some other country
there, one that I’d explore on some dull day
when my cousins were busy with their chores
or their piano lessons, and I was left to roller
skate for hours on the cracked concrete behind
their house. I didn’t like the other decorations—
plastic flamingos or painted plaster gnomes,
objects with no mystery about them, far preferred
to peer between the iron filagree or wooden slats,
pretending that I stood on soft green grass
instead of forever banished, on the other side.


Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. She is a retired college educator and elected member of the Academy of American Poets. Her website is at



That’s me behind the lawn mower.
My father is in the background,
shouting orders.
“Hold down the bar!
Pull the cord!”
The grass is not high
but that’s not the point
of this exercise.
Though my head
barely rises over the handle,
he figures I’m old enough
to start the machine
and push it up and down
the back yard.
It’s his job normally.
But, in this photograph,
he’s working at his other job –
making me into
a miniature version of himself.
We’ve done the fishing-rod ritual.
We’ve played catch so much
I feel like a retriever.
And I’ve hammered a nail.
I’ve wielded a screwdriver.
And now it’s time
to mow the lawn.
This picture shows neither
triumph nor failure.
It’s the moment before
both things are possible.
So what happened?
As far as I know,
I did.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Stand, Washington Square Review and Rathalla Review. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.

Elegy for Debbie of My Childhood by Susana Gonzales

Elegy for Debbie of My Childhood

You of the frilly floral dresses
chosen by your mother
before you were old enough
bold enough to say enough
of dresses. You of the silly smiles
and sleep overs over at my house
or yours before time took
over and grew us into women.
You of the popsicle summers
and swimming pools pulling
on rubber bathing caps pulling off
tricks off the diving board.
You I sing you nine years old.
You I praise you fearless running in rain.
You I laugh you cheerless. Who dared
to be the first to try, to climb,
to jump from. So brave the first
to enter the dark. So clever
to hide where I could not seek.


Susana Gonzales was raised in the Air Force and has grown to see the world through multiple lenses. She lives in southern California with her wife Suzanne and German Shepard Kennedy. She has been published in Sheila Na Gig, Gyroscope Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Drunk Monkeys and As You Were: The Military Review.

HALF A CENTURY AGO by Kenneth Pobo


Tom bullied me. Has he
forgotten the cruelty?
Graduation was an eraser.
Maybe he plays with his grandkids,
tells them stories of his childhood.
When he gave his friends
candy cigarettes and licorice whips.


Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose is forthcoming from Brick/House Books.

Four Poems by Sandra Kohler

Having lost it…

When I tell my therapist about having lost it completely three days ago
when my husband gets angry at me because I’ve left a cabinet door open
and he bangs his head on it, says it’s something I’ve done before, I
tell her I don’t understand what set me off so completely, so that
I scream I can’t stand it, threaten to leave, to kill myself, outrageous
unforgivable behavior, and why, all because of his understandable
irritation at the end of a long siege of frustrations, stress, anxiety
in these awful pandemic days.

What was this about, I ask, and she asks me. “My mother,” I say. That
answer that we all come up with in the end, unless it’s “my father.” But
for me, it was her, not him. And somehow, I don’t know how, I have
reached, in these days, a kind of grim unrecognized decision: I reject
her definition of me, my life. I don’t want ever again to feel guilty or
unworthy or incompetent, I am done, finally, with apologizing for my



I’m thinking this morning, as I often
do, of my wish that my husband and I
had known each other decades earlier,
ages before we met, middle-aged, with
years of living behind each of us. But
today for the first time I realize I’ve been
wrong, we do have that knowledge.

Each of us still carries the young self
we were inside, bringing a childhood,
a parentage, family, first marriage, years
of living adult lives. Here and now, in
the present, we see, hear, feel aspects of
that life, that person in the other. Here
and now, in this relationship, we are
each all the selves we’ve ever been.



Climbing a steep hill of iced-over
snow in front of a public building,
library of some kind, I know I have
to extract one book from the depths
of the mound, it’s what I’m here for.
The rest has vanished. We vanish
and don’t. We are alive in the dreams
of others, or dead, dreams which may
be closer to nightmare than dream,
or not. We are strange familiar ghosts
becoming apparitions, visitations.

I lose a hearing aid, the key to my
house, an hour, a morning, a slip of
paper with the name of the nostrum
that could save me, a child’s first all-
accepting love, a friendship that was
never whole but whose fractures still
beckoned. I lose my sense of humor,
my sense of proportion, my way,
my whereabouts, my why.

Do I have anything left to say? Of
course. Do I know how to say it? Of
course not. It’s the not which gives me
the knot to unpick, whose threads can
be woven into patches, forming a
patchwork which can be sewn into
a fabric which will be a statement
of something I don’t know I know.


What Follows

After ten years of living here, I still
don’t know the weather, its patterns,
where it comes from. Or the domestic
weather: my daughter-in-law’s moods.

Talking to her about the garden, I get
what I’ve asked for and then don’t know
what to do with it. I can accept or reject
it. Whatever. What would whatever be?

There are grave limits not on what I
can want but on how much I can have.
The sky says anything can come along
and will, but not what or where. Our

roses are blossoming today as if there
is no tomorrow. If they’re right I should
be attending not to weather but whether:
what can I create from today’s offerings?


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word
Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.