Two Poems by Mark Williams


Thanks to successful cataract surgery, I look into my mirror
and see a sickle-shaped scar I haven’t noticed in years.
But there it is, smiling back as if to say,
I haven’t gone anywhere.

Where I go is to my yard on Lombard Street
in Evansville, Indiana, where my six-year-old buddy
Tommy Weatherby and I are tossing my model TWA Jetstream
back and forth across our shared drive. Only this time,
instead of landing in my yard, it flies into my face,
sending me past my collie, Lassie (it’s 1957,
what did you expect?), into my house, crying.

What are the odds that Tommy’s father, Jim Weatherby,
is interning at the ER down the street, where he stitches me up
and sends me on my way? What are the odds that,
after Tommy dies from Childhood Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,
Jim and June divorce, Jim leaves town, and I grow up
and get a job playing bumper pool, Ping-Pong, and Rook
at a psychiatric hospital in Nashville,
I discover Jim Weatherby is the head man?

In the eighteen months I worked there,
Jim always seemed uneasy around me—
in the elevator, the canteen. I don’t recall
him ever mentioning Tommy or June. Sometimes,
he passed me in the hall without speaking. Now I realize
that when Jim saw me, I took him back to Lombard Street
where Tommy and June stood waiting
for him to come home.



How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flown.
How did it get so late so soon?
—Dr. Seuss

I’d been traveling out West with my father.
We’d hiked in Glacier Park, bathed in Iceberg Lake.
In a campsite near Banff, he’d shouted, “Don’t move!”
as he ran to our car for his camera
and a bear charged the rock where I sat.

We’d taken mountain climbing instructions in the Tetons,
where our classmate, Carol Lawrence (as in
West Side Story Carol Lawrence), what with her small feet,
put Dad and me to shame. We’d climbed Hallet Peak
in Rocky Mountain Park, descended on a glacier.
But Dad had a business to run in Indiana
and I had a summer to spend.

That first night, alone in Denver, I watch Joe Buck
and Ratso Rizzo on their way to Miami.
Not exactly what you want to see, a movie
about friendship when you’re alone. Next morning,
I hitchhike south to Colorado Springs. I’m offered
LSD in the Garden of the Gods (“no, thank you”)
and find a campground a few miles west, empty
but for a few men in hard hats getting into trucks.
“Just be out of here in the morning by seven,”
one man tells me, pointing to a nearby rock face.
“We’re blasting a road through here.”

I don’t sleep well.

The next morning, just after seven, I’m walking
down a gravel road that leads to the highway—
on my way to Buena Vista
to apply for a job at a youth camp—
when at my back, an explosion,
and fifty-two years pass by.


Mark Williams’s poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Nimrod, Rattle, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. Kelsay Books published his collection, Carrying On, in 2022. His fiction has appeared in Eclectica, The First Line, The Write Launch, and Cleaver. He lives in Evansville, Indiana.

December Again by Ona Gritz

December Again

December again,
the radio given over
completely to carols.
My son complains,
Not everyone celebrates
Christmas. We switch
to CDs. Outside, Santa
dances the twist in a storefront.
All around us, the pine and lights.
Two weeks early,
we bring out the menorah,
read the Maccabees’ story
which, of course, he loves.
We’re underdogs and warriors.
A miracle keeps the candles lit.
He gets a present for every
day that it lasts.
How can the birthday
of a long gone rabbi
compete with that?
Still, I catch him looking
with longing at those bejeweled
trees suddenly everywhere.
After all, he’s seven and he’s
not invited. And it’s the biggest
birthday party of the year.


Ona Gritz’s new collection of essays, Present Imperfect, is out now from Poets Wear Prada. She is also the author of Geode, a Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award finalist, and On the Whole: a Story of Mothering and Disability. A longtime columnist at Literary Mama, Ona’s poems and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, The New York Times, River Teeth, The Bellevue Literary Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. Recent honors include two Notable mentions in Best American Essays, a Best Life Story in Salon, and a winning entry in The Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020 project.

Two Poems by Maria Berardi

December, Cutting the Tree

Shadows on canvas of snow
dancing, eye-catching –
winter’s flowers.

No matter how brilliant the sunlight,
in the cold under the trees
night holds its own.

We bring the spruce home
because it carries this darkness:
a green nearly black.


Winter Solstice

Despite the word’s meaning,
the sun does not stop
though we do, into nameless dark:
Here’s the reminder.


Maria Berardi’s poems have appeared online, in print, in university literary journals, meditation magazines, and at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Her first book, Cassandra Gifts, was published in 2013 by Turkey Buzzard Press, and she is currently at work on her second, Pagan, from which these poems are excerpted. She lives in Colorado at precisely 8,888 feet above sea level.