Two poems by Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

It Was Then

It was then when I paused at the driveway’s
entrance and saw the owl perched on the highest

branch of the magnolia tree, far-flung
across the street—

then when clouds tore into soft bits of scalloped
white throughout the sky like jagged tiny bones—

then when my heart felt too full and too empty
at once, when I remembered my mother’s kiss,

and my aunt’s hand on my cheek—
then when it seemed as though I’d fallen back

in time to a place of schooldays, green plaid skirts,
and nuns tapping blackboards with a ruler

for young scofflaws in uniform with disregard
for the rules of convent days—

then when the Korean War was mentioned
by my father, who learned to clean a bazooka

between love letters sent home, saved
in my mother’s nightstand drawer—

then when agapanthus grew rampant across
the unfenced yard, when children played spud

on the blacktop in the center divide,
tiny derelicts without a care—

it was then when I remembered abortion
clinics on 1st street, and protestors lining walks

while standing beside Melanie as she waited
to be seen— then when I took her home

embryo free her womb filled with guilt for becoming
motherless at 17— then when JFK was shot

and Martin Luther King said he had a dream—
then when San Francisco meant stephanotis
in your hair, hitchhikers with torn jeans and antiwar
slogans more prevalent than yellowed mustard seed

on a summer’s hill— then when I learned to say goodbye
to a soldier with bad numbers calling in a lottery

of young men— then while seeing that bird in all
its glory, clap the wind with wings as if infinity

had unclaimed its boundlessness— then when
serenity rustled past me as I sat in the driver’s seat

of my car thinking, I don’t want to be anywhere
but here, knowing as I thought it, as daylight’s breath

traveled from my windpipe to lungs, everything
I’d just mourned and celebrated had moved on,

even the owl, who’d I’d been sharing this moment with,
opened his feathers in silent flight, as if to say,

it’s over. And it was then when he rotated
his head in search of tomorrow’s prey, something

to savor like the tiny cat that crept
beneath that tree—just then, swallowed

whole and regurgitated, with all
that can never be kept.

Homage to This Heart

This heart is half wing and song,
part of each child carried from
womb through daylong

gatherings of gardenias.
This heart is fuller when it doesn’t
have to be—

when no one’s counting on it,
it plays hide and seek with its owner—
and doesn’t cry in public but weeps

on a pillow during nighttime hours,
holds secrets of belladonna remedies
to anyone who can’t be kind— it’s like

a miniaturist’s piece of art but essential
to the rest of me, even when it wills
itself to a piqued state. It thrives

on a lexicon of love, twists in and out
of madness. It’s a scar-filled amputated
bionic thing, with a bright flare inside

and not even the cruelest death
in spring can stop its craving for light

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas lives in the Sierra Foothills (CA) and is currently enrolled in the Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA in Writing program. She is an eleven-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a seven-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012 she won the Red Ochre Chapbook Contest, with her manuscript, Before I Go to Sleep. In 2018 her book In the Making of Goodbyes was nominated for The CLMP Firecracker Award in Poetry, and her poem A Mall in California took 2nd place for the Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize. In 2019 her chapbook An Ode to Hope in the Midst of Pandemonium was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Her latest collection of poems Alice in Ruby Slippers, a book of form, was just released from Aldrich Press and has been selected in Sundress Publication’s, The Wardrobes Best Dressed. Her work can be found online and in print and has been recently featured in Mezzo Cammin and Verse Daily. She has served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Orchards Poetry Journal and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Tule Review Her work has been included in the Saratoga Authors Hall of Fame and according to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her website is clgrellas poetry.com

Two poems by Michael Lee Johnson

Showers & Rain

I’d like to see you in showers,
shadows, memories, final hours
that end this rain.
Daisies reveal your simple secrets,
yellow perverted pleasures, complicated,
often unseen mysteries like
COVID-19 virus.
Forget your sins & dance with me.
All petals at some point fall
in season come to despair
same as a desperate ending.
I focus on memories now
represent all short stories shared,
a poem or two no one will remember,
a Hemingway legacy funeral,
one family member,
one suicide at a time.

Jasper

Old Irving Park,
Chicago neighborhood
Jasper lives in a garret
no bigger than a single bed.
Jasper, 69, clouds of smoke
Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes.
He dips Oreo cookies in skim milk.
Six months ago
the state revoked
his driver’s license-
between the onset
of macular degeneration,
gas at $4.65 a gallon,
and late-stage emphysema,
life for Jasper has stalled out
in the middle lane
like his middle month
social security check, it is gone.
There is nothing academic about Jasper’s life.
Today the mailbox journey is down
the spiraling stairwell; midway,
he leans against the wall.
Deep breathes from his oxygen tank.
Life is annoying with plastic tubes up his nose.
Relief, back in the attic, with just his oxygen tank,
his Chicago Cubs, losers, are playing
on his radio, WGN, 720 AM.
Equipment, enjoyment at last,
Jasper leans back in his La-Z-Boy recliner.
He reaches for a new pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Jasper grabs a lukewarm Budweiser beer from his mini-fridge.
Deep breathes, a match lite, near his oxygen tank.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson is published in more than 2033 new publications. His poems have appeared in 41 countries; he edits and publishes ten poetry sites. He is the administrator of six Facebook poetry groups; he has several new poetry chapbooks coming out soon. He has over 533 published poems to date. Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018. Two hundred thirty-one poetry videos are now on YouTube.

Crush by Marisa Silva-Dunbar

Crush

I want to like the girl with the ukulele;
she’s like pink frosted cupcakes and champagne.
Her red lipstick smeared napkins
are stuck between the pages of
The Portable Dorothy Parker,
she carries in her velvet purse.

She knows how to Charleston with sparklers
in her hands, and I like the shape of her smirk
when she sings in French.

We tangoed on the side of a mountain road,
while the orange sliced moon slid down
a star speckled sky. I kissed her Moulin Rouged lips
even after she smoked her pack of strawberry cigarettes.

I want to wander the cobblestoned streets of Paris
with her, and her ballet soled feet—and I don’t even love the city
(anymore).

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Pink Plastic House, IceFloe Press, Mineral Lit Mag, Rising Phoenix Review, and Ghost Heart Lit. Marisa is the founder and EIC of Neon Mariposa Magazine. She has work forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit, and Better Than Starbucks Magazine and the Eyes Wide Shut anthology “Denmark.” You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @thesweetmaris.

Ten At Night In The Mountains Of New Hampshire by John Grey

Ten At Night In The Mountains Of New Hampshire

Who’d have thought the only bear we’d see
is in the heavens, not rampaging through the brush.
And no cougar, not even scat along the trail,
but a brilliantly-maned lion stalking the sky,
between the virgin and lynx.

Expecting new life, we’re invigorated by the old,
as we lie in perfect stillness, hands for pillow,
meadow grass for mattress, surrounded by woods
too wary for intruders, while the heavens show
no such fear, every creature in their jeweled domain
more than willing to reveal itself to any eye turned upward.

Look, the bull, with Pleiades on his shoulder.
And there, Perseus gripping Medusa’s head.
We fall asleep, under cover of ancient light,
a sky continuously remembering itself,
a night we won’t forget.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

The Grip by Arielle Mara LaBrea, from Issue #40

The grip

You would whisper in my five year old
ear, “If you get lost, I’m not going
to come looking for you” while we
walked hand in hand through Hershey
Park, while my father was in line
buying food for us. It was always a
tenuous grip—your perfectly manicured
fingers around my chubby digits. Your
threat of abandonment is the oldest in
my memory. I was the most disposable
of your creations, the dark haired,
blue eyed picture that resembled nothing
you ever wanted, or needed.