Five Poems by Ann E. Wallace

The Empty Casing

Imagine this: if you have planters
of parsley or dill growing outside
in a sunny spot, odds are good
that you have tossed butterfly eggs
onto your pasta with the garnish
or mixed them into your salad.

Just imagine.

Have you ever seen the egg
of a butterfly? Before caterpillar,
before chrysalis. The miniscule sphere,
a perfect glassy orb deposited
by swallowtail or monarch or fritillary,
and perched so delicately on a leaf
or the whisper-thin stem
of your garden herbs.

I saw my first last summer.
I watched as the brilliant swallowtail—
she visited daily for a spell—found
my bed of parsley. I searched
for a week, leaf by leaf until
I spotted it: one perfect egg.

How small, how fragile.
How large my hands,
my garden shears—the egg stood
such small chance against a quick
snip at mealtime. Small chance
against hot sun that can wither
a wispy herb into the parched earth
over a few dry days of drought.

It is truly a wonder
we have any butterflies at all.
But my patio egg, it defied the odds—
it hatched under my protective gaze,
grew fat off the parsley I did not eat,
spun a home around itself.

I watched and waited as it grew strong
Then one morning I found
the empty dry casing still stuck
to the side of my clay planter.
The butterfly—it was gone, flown
away into its new life.


Note to Self: Two Kindnesses, or One

Do you get as frustrated as I
that some lessons do not come easy
or fast, that there are things we know
deep in our bodies, that we have learned
through trial and error and error
and error, and yet
we must learn them again?

I think you know,
this feeling of carving
out space, of creating
sanctuary within your home,
your body, of finding
the necessary beauty of silence,
but then inviting the noise to rush in
when a friend calls for help.

I struggle here, to find
the line between kindnesses—
between being a good human
and being good to myself. And truly,
why do those things feel at odds,
and how might I lift my eyes
upon myself if I held a line
here, between you and me?

But what I really want to say
is that I think our needs
are mutual and that maybe
this note to self is a reminder
to ask for help in claiming



I think I had the whole thing

Again, again, again.
I thought it was about me,

that I was the end point
of these battles

through chemo and vertigo,
that three decades of knowledge

were meant to save

Turns out, my dry run
held a different purpose:

when first one daughter,
and then a second,

fell sick and sicker,
I should have been ready.


Water World

The dreamy images flashed
in quick succession, on and on,
recognizable but too fast
for reading the endless
pages of fine print.

Awake, but not, I thought
I’d caught myself dreaming,
was sure that this medical flipbook
must be rapid eye movement.
Drifting back to sleep, I told myself,
I must remember this.

My next thought, upon waking—
do other people see medical bills,
one after the other, after the other,
inscribed within their eyes
while they try to sleep,
Do they dream of static images,
of text and debts?

While the numbers
and the fine print spread
before me,
my daughter, still sick
in her bed, dreamed
in fear and senses,
of waking to the pressure
of water trapped within her walls,
of the sheetrock growing soft
and moist to the touch,
of hazy thoughts that she could rest
just a few minutes longer, that she had
more time to act, more time
before the liquid pocket burst
like a balloon all over her bed,
soaking her, as she recounted later,
in dirty wall water.

But she was wrong, time was short,
and the walls in her dream gave way
before she could get out of bed.
And the documents in mine kept scrolling.


In Anticipation of an Elegy

I began mourning
my trees last year
with the first news
of the tall building
to rise behind my yard.

Neighbors fought
for our yards, and won
a stay of execution—
I mean, a rejection
by the planning board

But it was only a matter
of time, and they did not
actually understand
that trees and plants
mean life in this city,

sustain birds and other
creatures but also humans
who cannot fly from yard
to yard in search of sun
but must make do

with the patch of earth
in our small backyards
and beg the planners
to vote as if our lives
depend on the trees.


Ann E. Wallace is Poet Laureate of Jersey City, New Jersey. Her collection Days of Grace and Silence: A Chronicle of COVID’s Long Haul is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2024. She is author of Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag) and has published work in Huffington Post, Wordgathering, Gyroscope Review, Snapdragon and many other journals. You can follow her online at and on Instagram @annwallace409.

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.

Four Poems by Todd Davis

A Very Small History

Fire burns inside the stones
unearthed with a plow. Long dead
is the horse that dragged them
to the cellar hole where the farmer’s sons
stacked a foundation that still clings
to the hillside and the hearth
and chimney where smoke curls
into night. He tells the chair, the one
his wife sat in each morning
as they had coffee, that he’s gathered
this wood from a windthrow
pitched over in a spring storm.
After running the saw all afternoon,
silence is a comfort, and the warmth
of this old flickering calms his mind.
Above the eaves cold descends, helping
to cure five cord he stacked in October.
The moon is absent. The dispassionate stars
provide little light to count the rings.


Angry Elegy

All summer long the forest burns
and the stream above and below frays
like a broken thread.

In the deepest water along the dam
trout settle like silt, just enough cold
to survive beneath ash.

With each step a cloud of cremated bone:
elk and deer who couldn’t outrun fire,
bear engulfed in a den of flame.

Through the open furnace door
wind blows down the valley
and the tyrant says to rake the gold,

to pry it from the teeth
of our fallen dead.



Sky descending
toward black.

Last pink
at the brink
of the western-
most mountain.

A star

A mother’s voice.

Like the sound
of water
at the seep
before it continues
the work
of wearing away
the gap
in the stone.


This is how
you find
your way


The Crabber’s Mother Tells Him about His Birth

Your face looking up
through the water, breaking
the water’s surface,
and your eyes opening,
the sky reflected there,
and also the limbs of trees
that hang over the river,
and the flying bodies
of heron and osprey,
the wing-beats of migrating
thrushes, and the water
washing around
your cheekbones,
the water dripping
from your chin
as you open your mouth
to cry for the first time,
dark hair matted to the skull,
current dragging you
gracefully out
into the estuary,
floating your small body
to the coastal town
where you will be born.


Todd Davis is the author of six full-length collections of poetry, most recently Native Species, Winterkill, and In the Kingdom of the Ditch, all published by Michigan State University Press. His seventh book, Coffin Honey, will be published by Michigan State in February 2022. He has won the Midwest Book Award, the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Bronze and Silver Awards, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Editors Prize, and the Bloomsburg University Book Prize. His poems appear in such noted journals and magazines as Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, Missouri Review, North American Review, Orion, and Poetry Northwest. He teaches environmental studies, American literature, and creative writing at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.