Two Poems by Nicole Caruso Garcia

In Praise of Gray

My graying hair, for now, is free of dye.
There’s darkness plenty in my alibi,
No rage against the youth-obsessed. (I’m vain.)

       I’ve reached the age my mother was if she’d been
       Roused from sleep to go identify
       My body, had I bled it. In sterile light,
       She would have clutched my father as they cried,
       Their firstborn’s hair forever chestnut brown.

My graying hair—
Hurrah!— it grows more wiry and defiant,
A crown to celebrate and testify
I’m here. And though I never can atone
For the crush of dawn they’d nearly known,
Just look: the sunlight can’t deny
My graying hair.


Easy Money

The mother made a point of telling me
that she would leave for work before the dad.
Before he left for work, we’d be alone.
So what? I’d been alone with dads before.
They’d drive me home and wave goodbye.

Easy money, and I knew the drill:
Just watch the kids. Give piggybacks.
Cut crust off PBJs. Tie shoes.
No diaper changing. Kids both potty-trained.
Braid Barbie’s hair and settle squabbles.

The mom and dad stood opposite the sofa,
gestured, Sit. The standard interview,
except arm’s length from where I sat there was
a year of Playboy fanned out on the table.
A cache of skin mags spread out like hors d’oeuvres

unnerves. Like bath time in the Barbie Dreamhouse,
there lay a mansionful of plastic flesh tones,
soaped and oiled. Act casual, I thought.
This was not my parents’ coffee table—
not Family Circle, Road & Track.

The summer of the naked harbingers.
I’d seen the whisper-pouts of lacquered mouths
and faintly heard them: Run.


Nicole Caruso Garcia is Associate Poetry Editor at Able Muse and a Board member at Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference. Her poems appear in Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Light, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, PANK, Plume, The Raintown Review, Rattle, RHINO, Sonora Review, Spillway, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. Visit her at

A Catholic’s Guide to Avoid Going to Hell by Valerie Frost

A Catholic’s Guide to Avoid Going to Hell

Use your manners,
even if the other person doesn’t deserve it.

Smile, a lot, sometimes painfully.
Grit your teeth if you must to really sell it.

Be a generally good person, by society’s standards-
whatever society you happen to be a part of.

Don’t be the person who breaks a pay-it-forward chain
in the Starbucks drive-thru line.

Keep most of your thoughts to yourself,
(people don’t usually take kindly to them).

Always bless people when they sneeze.

Tell white lies to protect other people’s feelings.
But also never lie, it’s wrong.

Maintain impeccable customer service,
no matter how awful the customer is.
It’s your fault, anyway.

Treat all animals better than humans.
Animals are the closest thing to God
(besides the Pope, of course).

Give your money away-
no matter how hard you work for it.
You don’t deserve it.


Valerie Frost is a Garden State native. She lives in Central Kentucky with her twin three-year-olds. Her poems have appeared in the Eastern Iowa Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Thimble Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.