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

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

One Poem by Sally Zakariya

Animal Talk

She used to lie down in the field
and listen to the horses talking—
squeals, snorts, nickers, neighs
plus ear language, turns and twists

They told jokes to each other
made me feel like part of the family
my almost-sister told me years later

I live on an island, she says, literally
but also metaphorically

And still with animals, chickens
and dogs now and a crow named Luis
all talking to her, telling her
stories and secrets

We’re all alive together, she says

I picture her swathed in feathers
and fur, turning an ear to the bubbly
talk of the fish who circle her island
all alive together


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 80 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Something Like a Life (Gyroscope Press). She is also the author of Muslim Wife, The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table. Zakariya blogs at

On a hike up the back mountain by Melody Wang

On a hike up the back mountain

my mother told me a story of a goose
shot down from the sky by a hunter’s single bullet:

its mate, stunned by the death of his beloved,
hurled himself headfirst into the rocks below

at dizzying speed, yielding the hunter two geese —
I can only picture the weight of his bounty that day.

Some of us never know when
just enough becomes too much

exactly how much pressure it requires
to hold a heart in your cupped hands, still

frantic from overuse, cool and slick
with the aftermath of someone else’s longing

Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield by Victoria Melekian

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield

Four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, I’ve driven
three hours to a Best Western in the crappy part of town
for my son’s doctor appointment in the morning.
The desk clerk asks if I’m here on business or pleasure.

I look at the mangled Von’s grocery cart in the empty parking lot
through smudges on the glass lobby door. “Pleasure,” I say,
but the truth is neither. Untreated, my son’s life expectancy
is two point eight years. His disease can be managed,

but not cured, and the cost of medication is near impossible.
The truth is we’ve waited thirteen months for insurance
approval to see this specialist. The truth is I’m a howling
windstorm of fear—my boy is thirty-seven, not even middle aged.

I don’t yet know there is hope, that tomorrow the doctor will reach
into a drawer and toss my son a six-thousand-dollar miracle drug,
a bottle of pills lobbed across his desk like a red and yellow
beach ball sailing through a shimmering summer sky.


Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California where the weather is almost always perfect. She writes poetry and short fiction. You can read her work here:

Two Poems by Rebecca Starks


In those moments I fumbled in the dark
you were the dog from the Atsugewi tale
bringing back fire cupped in coal-black ears,
lop-tips parrying buffets of rain
while you suffered pain sparks to burrow overnight,
pawing the coals out for me to cook with
once morning stole in. Then you disappear
from the telling, like a fire left to burn down:
the people praise the food and go out hunting.
How still you stood, the bright weave behind your eyes
letting no light escape.



Midwinter saw a tug-of-war, my son
pulling me into the womb he wouldn’t leave.
When we first came home I had expected you
to wonder at the miracle—me, baby;
but after one sniff you gave him a wide berth
and lay Sphinx-pawed, back to the open doorway.
Conscientious objector? Ceding your place?
Standing guard? I suspect you didn’t know
yourself what instinct had kicked in, and with it
lassitude, ennui you’d always known
just what to do. Not me.


Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Valparaiso Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.

Unstuck by Brian O’Sullivan


Is there a newsreel, dear?,
Mom asks in the darkened cinema, her voice bubbly,
and I want to tell her there are no newsreels anymore—
Edsels are gone and flying DeLoreans are coming—
but I know for her newsreels are
now, and,
breathing buttered popcorn,
I feel my hand clenching under my seat’s arm,
picking at dried bubble gum, and
I don’t want her to hear sirens, so, as the screen flickers, I, smiling though tightened jaws,
whisper back, No newsreel today, Mom.
              But watch!


Brian O’Sullivan teaches rhetoric and English literature in southern Maryland. He has published in Everyday Fiction and in academic non-fiction periodicals, including KB and Studies in American Humor.

After My Father Died by Sara Backer

After My Father Died

I longed to spend time with him in a dream
but over two years passed without one. I’m afraid I’ll forget
how he whistled Cole Porter and the way he squeezed
his eyes when he stuttered on Ws. When a dream came at last,
I heard his voice—but couldn’t see him.
I looked around: an outdoor festival, stage tents, musicians.
My sister waited in one of the tents. My father, invisible,
said I could continue to hear him or I could be with my sister.
The choice was presented like chicken or fish—no other options,
I couldn’t have both, and it was up to me.
I looked beyond stages to overlapping hills streaked with mist.
Too far to see, I knew a weighty ocean rolled indifferent through its tides.
Nothing more was voiced. As I walked to the tent,
I saw my sister’s thick blue sweater on the seat beside her,
saved for me.

Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus which won the 2015 Turtle Island chapbook award. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and reads for The Maine Review. Recent publications include The Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank and Kenyon Review.

It Takes a Calculator to Count the Dead by Leigh Chadwick

It Takes a Calculator to Count the Dead

The sun bakes an island on the concrete.
I wake up to the smell of sulfur.
The magnolias in the yard are refusing to bloom.
I never know where to rest my hands anymore.
Between starting this poem on a Friday
and finishing it on a Monday, there have been
at least eleven more mass shootings.
I consider praying, but I was never taught how.
I dress my daughter in camouflage
and carry her from room to room. I tell her,
I’m sorry I brought you into this.
I tell her, Pretend a miracle is on its way.
I tell her, Maybe this is how we
learn how to pray.

Leigh Chadwick’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Milk Candy Review, Olney Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Bear Creek Gazette, among others. Her debut poetry collection, Wound Channels, will be published by ELJ Editions in February of 2022. Find her on Twitter at @LeighChadwick5.

A Poet’s Mother Dies from Covid by Le Hinton

A Poet’s Mother Dies from Covid

No one inherits eloquent words nor leases the brilliance
of a perfect sonnet transcribed onto parchment in blue ink.

I speak no language that elevates each syllable so that every
word will be remembered alongside the dead.

It is a myth that poets possess inexhaustible grace
and passion, or feel more deeply than other human bodies.

There is no hidden box, dovetailed jointed, stained and polished,
that holds the perfect magic of metaphor and meter.

There is only a man standing mute over granite,
only a boy who misses his mom.


Le Hinton is the author of six poetry collections including, most recently, Sing Silence (Iris G. Press, 2018). His work can be found or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2014, The Progressive Magazine, the Skinny Poetry Journal, The Baltimore Review, The Pittsburgh Review, and outside Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.