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

My Mother’s Decluttering Is Gumming up the Works by Sarah Carleton

My Mother’s Decluttering Is Gumming up the Works

I get rid of five teapots.
She mails me my great-grandmother’s tea seat, bubbled-wrapped.

I find new homes for plastic bins full of upholstery fabric.
She ships yards of stiff stuff too beautiful to refuse

but destined to sit uncut in a cabinet.
I give her three pairs of earrings

and she sends me three different pairs.
It’s a perfect barter of the things we cling to.

I tell her I don’t want that French clock
and she holds it for me anyway,

anchoring me to the earth’s rotation,
so I get sneaky, knit shawls for her, handmade treasures

she’ll feel obliged to keep, fixing her to this planet-sized
walk-in closet a little longer.


Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and knits obsessively in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, The Wild Word, Valparaiso, and New Ohio Review. Sarah’s poems have received nominations for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.

Three Poems by Lexi Pelle

Ode To My Mother’s Thong

When she’d reach for the bargain bread
or to smooth the fanned bangs Kate cut

with craft scissors playing beauty parlor,
I’d see it: cotton Y peeking over her Levi’s—

I remember being mad that she’d do this,
be beyond me, not my mom, disco

the post-divorce dance of undressing
in front of the Winnie-the-Pooh

stickered mirror. Pink with printed
strawberries. Cotton gusset. Tiny bow.

It love lettered the laundry basket, slingshot
me into my life like the birds

I colored penciled onto computer paper,
arching the single-line strokes

to show they were very far away.
Now she’s behind me in the pink

dressing room while I try one on
for the first time, pull on my leggings,

and look at her in the 3-way mirror,
Are you sure you can’t see anything?


I Try On The Strapless Top

while my mother is at the store, probably
squeezing lemons or searching
in her oversized pocketbook for coupons.
It’s polyester, pop-star purple, and in it
I feel radiant, like the shine that coats Cassie’s
learner’s permit. All week it hung
in my mother’s closet, dangled from the
hanger’s trouser clips. God knows
where she planned on wearing it. I stand
in front of the full-length mirror that hangs
on the back of the closet door and marvel
at what my new breasts can do, can stop
from falling. The plush, perfect physics
of elastic and connective tissue. Two buoys
marking how far out into adulthood I can swim
before some lifeguard calls me back. Bandeau.
Tube top. Tunnel to privacy which I was
surprised to learn did not mean becoming
my mother. The dance of adjustment, lifting
the fabric back up after every breath—
the idea that someone somewhere could look
at a picture of me from the shoulders up
and think I was naked and be wrong about me.


Bleach and Tone

Taylor folds tin foil into my hair while the teenager
to my left talks about her lousy ex. The platinum
blonde on my right says her husband wants to know
what the hell Jessica plans on doing with all those
Irish Step Dancing lessons. In this room we meet
each other’s eyes in the mirror. Should I get a full
or a partial. Taylor doesn’t ask about my fiancé
because I’m not wearing the ring. The air a Bechdel
of bleach. I’m looking at timestamps on my phone
when a 6-ft-something man walks in, brushes past
the receptionist, and kisses me full on the mouth.
Sorry, wrong blonde, he laughs, and looks to my right
for his wife. She looks into her lap. No one says
anything over the blow dryers, the construction
of a new gym across the street, jackhammers
jackhammering. Someone behind me clicks her
acrylics on a counter. I want a full with bangs.


Lexi Pelle (she/her) was the winner of the 2022 Jack McCarthy Book prize. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, FreezeRay Poetry, Mixtape, Abandon Journal, and 3Elements Review. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming with Write Bloody Publishing.

Five Poems by Jennifer L Freed

How to Pack for the Move to Assisted Living

Feel once more the weight
of the little brass elephant
with the missing tusks.
Run your fingers along
the banister, the bedroom curtains. Listen
for the ticking of the antique clock
at the end of the hall.


Yellow Tags

At the parting edge
of ninety-four, my father
wonders what’s the point,
this accumulation of life
unspooling in Assisted Living,
while his home, so close,
a mere two streets away—
its wooded yard, its rooms
lined with books
and treasures—his home
is packed full

of people this very day, strangers
browsing shelves and closets,
burrowing in drawers, finding
the antique clocks and pewter mugs,
the Nikon camera he bought
in 1969, the Navy blanket
and hammock, boxed
in the basement, saved
for who knows what
but saved, nonetheless, a part
of his passing through
this life, and he wonders
how he got here—his past
now stickered with yellow tags.


My Father Helps My Mother with Her Compression Socks

He asks if she’s ready.
She sets her wheelchair brakes.
He kneels and she extends one leg.
He guides her foot to his knee, slides
the cuff of nylon over her heel, then yanks, hard.
The wheelchair wobbles.
Extra material hangs over her toes.
She does not offer her expertise
from years of putting on panty hose: how to
gather the nylon, pull gently, doling out fabric
through delicate fingers.
She thanks him.
He pats her leg, asks if the sock is too tight
below her knee. She always says it’s just fine.
Then they switch—her left foot on his right leg.
Sometimes he helps slide her feet into shoes,
the boxy, wide-mouthed pair with space
for swelling, before putting his hands on her
wheelchair arms, using them to tug himself back
up to standing. She pats his shirt into place
around his belt, makes sure he’s not dizzy
from rising too fast. Then he turns right, to the desk
with his computer, and she wheels herself left, to gaze
out the window while listening to the news.


Remote Control

My father, now 96—still spry, bright, quick-witted,
still learning yoga, climbing stairs, using his computer
to find etymologies, stock prices, names
of temples in ancient Greece—now

he asks me if—and this is not an urgent
request, he adds—but if, as my husband and I pack up
our home of 21 years, we should happen upon
the spare remote control for my parents’ TV,

which, my father explains, I would have found in the drawer
of the hutch by the den door of the house my parents left
two years ago, the house I emptied for them
when they moved into assisted living—

if I should come across that remote control now (I might not
have known it worked, my father says,
since it shared that drawer with other, outdated
remotes and garage door openers), or if I find it

in a few weeks, when my husband and I are unpacking
our lives in new, downsized rooms, then
could I please bring it next time I visit,
since the remote they’ve been using till now

isn’t responding anymore when he presses the buttons,
and he doesn’t think it’s the batteries, but
he’s ordering new batteries on-line, in case that’s all
that’s wrong.


Cutting My Father’s Hair

He’s still tough as leather, but so much shorter now.
He wobbles when he stands too quickly.
Why didn’t I realize sooner?
When I comment on his fringe of hair—a little fluffy,
I say—he waves a crooked hand
toward my mother, now maneuvering from wheelchair
to couch: She likes it that way.
Then, The damned clipper. Can’t get it to work right anyway.
And so I offer.
Why am I surprised that he agrees
so readily? That he brings out the electric clipper
almost immediately? He hands it over,
small and black with its little pronged comb, asks
if I know how to use it, then warns,
You might find it hard though.
It doesn’t cut as well as it used to.
And you can’t even find the damn power button.
Of course. The worsening neuropathy
in his fingers. His failing eyes.
They have the hairdresser here, but
I don’t know her, and why would I pay
all that money? I don’t even have that much hair.
He glances over at my mother, who catches my eye,
and winks. Your Mum always did it, he says. Before
her stroke.
So I sit him in the living room, under the light,
and he lets me turn his head this way and that.
I trim the patchy beard along his jaw, the grey scruff
brushing the back of his collar. He asks me
to thin his moustache, says the hair
curls into his mouth. I use a tiny scissors
for this, my fingers humming along smoothly
between nostril and lip. I think of the fine tuning
of my muscles, joints, nerves. How much
I have not yet lost. My mother
lies on the couch, watching us, smiling. My dead brother
hovers in my father’s face. My father’s eyes close
as I snip the long hairs of his eyebrows,
the fine whisps crowning his skull.


Jennifer L Freed’s full-length collection When Light Shifts (finalist, 2022 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize) explores the aftermath of her mother’s cerebral hemorrhage and the altered relationships that emerge in a family crisis. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Orison Anthology. Other awards include the 2022 Frank O’Hara prize (Worcester County Poetry Association), the 2020 Samuel Washington Allen Prize (New England Poetry Club), and honorable mention for the 2022 Connecticut Poetry Award. Please visit to learn more.

Two Poems by Anna Abraham Gasaway

Not Enough
Never will it be so easy, my sister
said, to calm your child down. She comes bringing
my son to me. I am bleary tired.
It is the first few days, when you sink
or tread water—perfectly flanged lips, just
like Dr. Sears says, he made swallowing
sounds—pulling it out of me—and then milk
in his belly, passed out. I was afraid
to move, he nursed constantly when he
was awake. My husband’s mother came
to visit the first few weeks after his birth.
Mira, she told her sister, rummaging
around in the refrigerator for
the two ounces of milk pumped after I fed
him, Tia shook her head. Both of them clucked
their tongues, Que Flaquito she whispered
to my husband. She’s starving my baby!
my mother-in-law wanted to feed
baby formula from a bottle. Not
enough, not enough my breast pump said.
Too exhausted to explain the benefits—
and how I knew that he would be my only
after the death of his sister at thirty-
six weeks when I wept in the bathtub
and my breasts sprayed in sympathy. I knew
that there would not be another and so
I took him strapped to my chest nursing
all the while to walk the pier just us two.
Now, you wake up in a swamp of sweat. It only happens near the heart,
your beaded sweat could make a necklace. The sweaty curls at on the back
of your neck could launch a thousand ships. Your entire torso
becomes slick every night, doesn’t matter what you have
or haven’t eaten, doesn’t matter if you’ve done yoga or taken a shower
before bed, you wake up crabby, your T-shirt dripping, and change,
twice a night. Maybe the husband has left the bed because you snore, so
you roll on to his side. You sleep in comfort for a time, but then it
starts again. You sleep in a puddle, a stream, Lake Michigan. Did everybody
know except you? Your doctor laughed when you told her that you soaked
the sheets every night. Oh, that. Yes. It’s all part of the change.
Your aunt set out an Our Bodies Ourselves book when you visited
the Bethesda family twice a year, but Dad said it was sin to know
your bodies. The book said masturbation and held forth no shame.
You didn’t know the term, perimenopause. You were shielded
from the knowledge of how your body was going to change. You thought
that period was blue because Florence Henderson soaked an Always pad
with blue liquid in her commercials and when you finally got your period,
asked yourself what the frick is this? (You would have never said fuck
in those days.) Did they talk about these symptoms in the sex ed classes?
The ones that your parents refused to let you go to? You wake up drenched
and change T-shirts and another and another and the sheets are soaked through.
You don’t change them every time, you just pull back the covers and let the fan
have at it because you will only sweat in the clean sheets. Is that horrible? You
can’t change the sheets and risk your back and so you have to rely on your son
who’s sixteen and a love and he will be glad to do it if asked but look these sheets
have just been changed, and already a wet indentation, a drenched pillowcase.
Anna Abraham Gasaway (She/Her) is a stroke-surviving, disabled writer that has been published or has upcoming work in the Los Angeles Review, Literary Mama, Corporeal, The San Diego Poetry Annual and others. She reads for Poetry International at San Diego State University, where she recently received her MFA with an emphasis on Poetry. She can be found on Twitter @Yawp97.

My Mom Dies During a Pandemic by Laurie Rosen

My Mom Dies During a Pandemic

A hospital bed replaces
the one she shared with my father
for over 70 years,
her brain long ravaged
by Alzheimer’s.

She writhes,
the nurse says she’s transitioning.
I stand masked
in her bedroom doorway, immobile,
scared. I leave her dying

to the professionals.
It’s her birthday. I carry a card,
decorated with flowers and sparkles,
nothing more.


A lifelong New Englander, Laurie Rosen’s poetry has appeared in The Muddy River Poetry Review, Peregrine, Oddball Magazine, Zig Zag Lit Mag, Gyroscope Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Inquisitive Eater, a journal of The New School, Pure Haiku and elsewhere. She is a proud member of the Tin Box Poets in Swampscott, MA and was a reader at The Improbable Places Poetry Tour in Beverly, MA.

At Kohl’s Jewelry Counter by Eileen Pettycrew

At Kohl’s Jewelry Counter

I want to put them on myself
my mother said of the clip-ons
she beheld like a glittering prophecy,
while I held her purse thick with Kleenex
and the aches and pains of the old.
But she struggled to slide the earrings
onto her lobes and close the clips,
letting them hang halfway, barely,
like spent seed pods,
and the small oh that escaped her mouth
each time one slipped off
was like the faint coo of a distant dove,
as if she had flown toward a horizon
beyond the foothills, and I was alone
on a dirt road listening
for her call. She taught me
how to feel sorry for people,
call them poor things,
like the stocky girl in my class who wore
a miniskirt and knee-high boots,
her thighs like bread dough.
Earrings of loss
falling to the floor, and me,
my mother’s only witness,
the familiar bag of pity ballooning
in my chest, crowding out
anything else I might have felt.


Eileen Pettycrew’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Ohio Review, CALYX Journal, Cave Wall, SWWIM Every Day, and elsewhere. In 2022 she was one of two runners-up for the Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry and a finalist for the New Letters Award for Poetry. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Eileen lives in Portland, Oregon.

Two Poems by Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

What I Love About Mondays in the Spring

I love how there is birdsong, urgent and lovely,
as we walk before sunrise, one dog
beside each of us.
I love how the light spreads behind the neighbor’s red pines,
creating incandescent tree silhouettes.
I love how bustle fills our kitchen like an embrace:
dishes clink, cereal rustles, coffee gurgles to its finish.
I love how butter pools into little golden oases
on my dry toast, how you brush your lips on my cheek
when my mouth is full.
And I love how, when you leave,
the silence afterwards is soft, not final.


Mothers Understand Each Other

She wakes, adrift between sad and nostalgic,
happy and anxious.
She thinks of the new wedding dress
her daughter will wear in six months
when all traces of little girl will be scrubbed away.

Outside, her husband and dog
stare at a fox in the driveway.
He whispers through the open bedroom window.

Come here! You need to see this.

She peeks out the window, surfaced from sleep
enough to reach for her camera,
goes outside barefoot in pajamas.

The fox watches them all,
sits tall next to the garden,
bushy tail splayed behind,
swollen teats distinct.
A mama fox.

She leans forward, wishes she could speak fox,
one mother to another.

Your babies will be gone too soon.

She adjusts her camera for low morning light.

They’ll have babies of their own,
mates not of your choosing.
You’ll become irrelevant.

The fox blinks, yawns, stretches out in the grass,
mindful of the two humans, the dog,
the hungry kits hidden nearby.

She takes a few more photos,
tiptoes back inside. Her husband and dog follow.
She glances back, but the fox is gone,
a wild mother who knows exactly when to take her leave.


Kathleen Cassen Mickelson (she/her) co-founded the quarterly poetry journal Gyroscope Review and acted as co-editor until 2020. She is the author of How We Learned to Shut Our Own Mouths (Gyroscope Press), and her work has appeared in journals in the US, UK, and Canada. Prayer Gardening, a poetry collection co-authored with Constance Brewer, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books at the end of 2023.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Susan Cossette

Wide Sargasso Sea
August 2000, Darien CT

I do not remember my son’s third birthday.

But the photographs stuffed in my mahogany night table
show a too-thin frantic girl with untamed curls
serving drinks and cake to family,
my mother and father in ecstasy.

I was a mother. I was married.
Oh, how I wanted to please them,
their supplicant, their sacrifice.

Look at the crazy girl,
her father’s daughter.
Crazy like her aunt,
crazy like her grandfather,
beat into tacit submission.

She is safe, for now.

Later, my child clutched two tiny wooden trains,
chubby hands, face smeared with sticky cake icing
regarding sailboats in the harbor
and white clapboard mansions by the sea.

My small house was supposed to be
a sanctuary, but the ocean closed in on me–
marooned among twisted seaweed
and ragged grey oyster shells.

Everything was either brightness, or dark.

Floating face up, palms up to the blood moon
illuminating the grey harbor.

Look at the crazy girl,
her father’s daughter.
Crazy like her aunt,
crazy like her grandfather.

Then came the flames,
then my streaming hair,
tangled and strangled.

The girl caught in a gilt frame,
crooked pirate smile.


Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Vita Brevis, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Tuesdays at Curley’s and After the Equinox.

Four Poems by Luke Johnson


of my mother
with a sponge

and a bucket
of a bleach.

How she’d

while scrubbing

from white tile
my mute

sister scrawled
in crayon

and ask
for a melody,

the pitch
of a bird,

to rise
from my lips

and lead
her out,

into the
radiant snow.



of my sister

like miniature

and my


picking up

But never

the right

right comb,

the wrong

happy instead
of help


of water,
the not

of her

to know.



of my ear against
the ground
& my mother
above me
begging for answers.
How the nest
with a crack
in the concrete
then moved
up the walls,
like fears
in the form
of a question.



of the ghostly
croon of Emmylou

while my mom
clipped mint

and pruned bovine
and collected

peas so sweet
I thought

of the fair
and cold coke

and cotton candy
shared between

my sister’s
hands and mine,

while we circled
sky in summer

and saw nothing
but blue

nothing but birds,

their blurred


Luke Johnson’s poems can be found at Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, Florida Review, Frontier, Cortland Review, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress was recently named a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize, The Levis through Four Way Press, The Vassar Miller Award and is forthcoming fall 2023 from Texas Review Press. You can find more of his poetry at or connect at Twitter at @Lukesrant.