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Civil Unrest
by Melisa Malvin-Middleton

I. Appalachian Fog

In the ’40s, you were the little Jew
with Horns

living in a trailer.
First, Oak Ridge hollers

so grandpa could help, unknowingly,
build the atomic bomb,

a hero, that scorched
generations.

II. Evanston Apartments

Safe outdoor sleep
on Lake Michigan

and neighbors crowded
around George and Gracie,

Benny and HUAC
on the first home screen.

III. Red Scare

Suspicion drove
the union family west

toward the songs of Richie Valens,
poodle skirts, and the scent

of orange blossoms
and smog’s lead veil

over pink houses and cacti,
white rocks on roofs.

IV. De Facto

Segregation spawned
the Pretty Hunger Striker,

who smoked her Virginia Slims,
and bore two under canvas

of burnt bras and grass,
while dreams smoldered.

V. Grandma’s Chevy

Station wagon—
we rode it seatbelt free

in back,
rear window open.

Yet the salmon hibiscus blooms you planted
endure.

IMAGE: “Hibiscus with Plumeria” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1939).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I approached “Civil Unrest” while thinking about how deeply linked we are to our ancestors and how their literal and figurative moves through life can shape our own paths. In particular, I considered how my maternal grandparents’ and my mother’s transitions through significant historical periods in American culture frequently connected to physical moves they made across the United States. Often these moves represented a shift to or from another era or place that signified the contradictions of the turmoil and personal growth they traversed. The moves my maternal grandparents and mother endured have been passed on to me, in that I carry more than the stories they told me of their histories; I carry the weight of their experiences as well; I embody their pain and their evolution. The torch of their moves has been gifted to me as my life progresses and I grieve their losses—in particular, my mother’s—and embrace the memory of them and their endurance in spite of all the obstacles and uncertainty they faced.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Melisa Malvin-Middleton
is a Los Angeles poet, playwright, and musician who teaches writing at California State University, Northridge and College of the Canyons. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ofi Press and Clear Poetry, while her plays have been performed by Fresh Produce’d and Savage Players. This fall, her chapbook will be out with Yak Press. For more information visit melisamalvin.com.

PHOTO: The author at Castle Peak Park in West Hills, California.

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They looked and turned away
by Kim Whysall-Hammond

They looked and turned away
Londoners afraid to interact
With the girl sitting, weeping
On a stinkingly hot day in the city
Exclaiming that she had gone blind
Oversized suitcase abandoned near her feet
My feet
Someone pushed a cold drink into my hand
A woman’s voice comforted me
A stranger joined me on the step, asked where I was going
Told me that a long hot walk carrying a load
Had affected my sight
Sat until, miraculously, my sight returned
Then left
Pulling myself to my feet
I retrieved the offending suitcase
Slowly made my way to the Tube station
Continued my journey, moving from London to Oxford
Changing university, leaving friends and home city
Aiming for a Doctorate, I should have noted the omen
For I found loneliness and failure

IMAGE: “Suitcase full of books” by Garry Gay. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem describes the actions of a unique person in London — a kind stranger. I’m a Londoner and I love my home city, but it can be a brutal place. I was moving a suitcase full of books from London to Oxford, where I hoped to earn a Doctorate in the “Angular momentum of the Earth.”  I didn’t. This is my first published poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kim Whysall-Hammond
is a scientist by training, an IT manager by profession, and a poet by necessity, although until recently her poetry has been covert and hidden away.   She now shares poems at thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com in a rather devil-may-care fashion for an Englishwoman. She has had a poem accepted by Ink, Sweat and Tears.

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Sorry, the choice isn’t mine
by Poojal Mapari

I didn’t know it meant we were moving out,
when you said change was the only way through.

“A better society, a better life”
was all I heard ’round the clock.
So, why these voices in my head
when Change would change my ma and pa’s life?

Maybe change was what I didn’t like;
change symbolizing uncertainty so proudly
it made me want to cry.

Too little to understand
what change preached back then,
So, why these voices in my head
when moving out maybe wasn’t that hard to strive?

Sharjah to Dubai? Fifty thousand steps,
Completely different names,
Isn’t that too much for a little child? was all in mind.

“Don’t over-think it,
you’ll love the place in no time”
easier told than loved;
hate was all I had for The Place.

I didn’t succeed, of course,
to make ma and pa understand
Amy’s Teddy was more important than life.

And in I entered this place;
Dare I say, beautiful,
more than teddy even,
But sshhh, ma and pa should never know
and neither should Teddy ( Please?)

And today right before I’m off to sleep, here I am
penning my little childhood dilemma,
thinking about what my mum meant
when she said Change was the only way through;
through life, through ups and through downs.

IMAGE: “Bear in the sand” found at Favim.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It’s been nine years since I last moved, so this poem is a little excerpt from what was on my mind when I was around five and was told we had to move…

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poojal Mapari, a student in grade 10, identifies her passion as writing. She is almost always writing and if not that, reading. She also loves photography and traveling.

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A New Beginning:  My Move to the Big City
by Wendy Wuchnick-Gibbs

As I watched him walk away that Thursday afternoon in February, dressed in his well-worn jeans and his favorite dark blue sweatshirt pushed up to his elbows, only then did it hit me. I was on my own and about ready to embark on a whole new chapter in my life. My dad, who had driven the almost 1,300 miles from Ohio to Houston with me, was on his way back to the only place I had ever known. My new home was now an exciting city with millions of people of all ethnicities and cultures; what an eye-opener for someone who had grown up in a cookie-cutter community with the proverbial two and a half kids and a dog. The white fence was optional.

I remember thinking as the moving van pulled up with my belongings that there was no going back, figuratively and literally. Consciously deciding to move away from my family and friends was liberating and scary and inviting all at the same time. I was ready to navigate and control my life’s autobiography. Exciting as it was to be on my own there was also a tiny flicker of fear on that day in 2005.

That tiny sputter of fear that I felt on move-in day was nothing compared to the huge tidal wave of fright that I felt a few months later as the imminent threat of Hurricane Rita was upon the city of Houston. As instructed, I evacuated with millions of other Houstonians hoping to flee the devastation of the storm. In the end, the hurricane did not arrive as expected and I made it through my first test of the unknown. There will still be “unknowns” to tackle but never regrets for the place I now call home.

IMAGE: Houston, Texas, postcard available at zazzle.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Wuchnick-Gibbs is a stay-at-home mom who loves date nights with her husband John and cuddling with her daughter, Lillian. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at her daughter’s school, reading, and visiting with family and friends. Originally, from a small town in Ohio, she now calls Houston home. The inspiration for her writing was her Grandma Ellen’s advice to write about what you know.

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Belvedere
by Barbara Ruth

I was twenty when I moved to San Francisco
And began my love affair
with her beaches, 49 hills,
the octopus at the aquarium
and especially the Victorian on Belvedere
where I lived for two months
where I learned for the first time
what it is to love a woman.
For years afterward, when people asked where I was from I’d say,”San Francisco
is my spiritual home.”

At 31, I came again
in a car whose muffler fell out on Market Street.
I wandered back
to the aquarium, the Japanese Tea House,
Land’s End.
Looked out, once more, on the Pacific from Ocean Beach,
walked up Belvedere Street to the Victorian on the corner.
My heart jumped at the “for rent” sign in the window.
I fantasized climbing the steps
paying the rent
leaving behind 1977
trading it in for 1966.
We lived on the road then. We got the car fixed and picked up 101, heading North.

I moved to Berkeley in 1983.
Within a week I checked the house on Belvedere — no sign this time.
The SF lesbian households I tried to join never asked me back
after the first interview.

In 2015, living in San Jose,
my caregiver drove me to the house on Belvedere
a block off Haight Street.
There’s a church across the street now. We thought we could park there on a Saturday.
The pastor shooed us off.
No sign in the window of the Victorian, spiffed up on the outside,
I’ve been unable to climb those steps 30 years.
The City streets get steeper
every time I come.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The house on Belvedere Street where I lived in 1967, taken in 2015. I lived on the third floor, where the top of my head often exploded into sunbeams.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After looking for two years, Barbara Ruth has yet to find a home in the valley of the silicon in the US of A. When she is not searching for housing, she takes photographs, and writes memoirs, feminist theory, fiction, and poetry. Her work can be found in the following recent anthologies, Barking Sycamores Year One, Yellow Chair Review, Year One; Lunessence, Garland of the Goddess, QDA (Queer Disability Anthology,) and Spoon Knife Anthology, and has been published in periodicals from Australia, Canada, India, UK and US.

Author photo by Colleen Hagan. 

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Moving was never easy
by Sunil Sharma

Leaving is always tough…because everything calls.

The walls that were dull and dreary now look different and

suck in with a force = the gravitational pull.

The rooms are stripped — just a jumble of concrete dimensions

and become again a structure of concrete-n-glass hulking over you.

The bare floors echo the lingering footfalls —  amplified, broken symphony of sounds varied

A tread here. A jump there. A skip over there.

A curving sound that ultimately dies down, once the doors are clicked shut.

Navigating the detritus of the past requires skill, patience, otherwise

one can trip, entangled by a protruding wire or the boxes, tiles and papers, forming a sea of crumpled memories, for the new owner/tenant to dispose/ clear.

The staircase, the windows, the uneven roads, the facades, the smog!

Well, every detail fascinates and matters; for the last time, the drab view does not repel.

The eyes wander lustily; ears hear the lost arguments and the clear laughter, now so rare, with everybody glued to gadgets.

The ugly neighbors look so good and agreeable in the last goodbye done with vigor!

The crowded grocers’ and the vendors’ tiny shops appear so cute and magical!

While the packed household waits in the van, each item properly labeled, you stop and give a glance backward at the place that functioned as home/neighbourhood,

The familiar! Soon to be un-familiar. And a new journey to be initiated!

In that precise second is obtained the revelation:

Every moving is an emotional trek across time and space done by the humans for the millennium, along lines predictable.

A move simultaneously transacts loss and gain, stasis and motion, pain and happiness, old and new truths, in that fleeting moment.

IMAGE: “The Melancholy of Departure” by Giorgio de Chirico (1916).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A move takes a toll. Leaving behind is difficult. The everyday is exchanged for another everyday but locations make the transition demanding. Then, slowly, the predictable script falls into a predictable groove. Then comes the epistemic realization: Folks are same every place. Stasis is death. Movement forward is evolution. Moving away and transplanting in another environment is, well, renewal of spirit and mimics the human saga of the last millennia.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mumbai-based, Sunil Sharma writes prose and poetry, apart from doing literary journalism and freelancing. A senior academic, he has been published in some of the leading international journals and anthologies. Sunil has got three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books of poetry, short fiction and literary criticism. Recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012.  Another notable achievement is his select poems were published in the prestigious UN project:  Happiness: The Delight-Tree-2015. He edits English section of the monthly Setu, a bilingual journal from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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I’m Not Moving
by Linda McKenney

Between the ages of eighteen and sixty-six, I moved eleven times.

From childhood home to grandma’s house when I married

To first apartment

To a different apartment

To grandma’s house

To our first home

To an apartment when I got divorced

To the home of my second husband

To a twenty-four-foot recreational vehicle

To an apartment

To a home in Tennessee

Just the thought of this list exhausts me. But not enough to prevent the eleventh move.

From Tennessee to a home in New York State.

We loved living in Tennessee. I remember when we first arrived, knowing no one, I had some trepidation. We’d left a rich life back in New York. Could we recreate it here? I remember thinking, “If I die in Tennessee, will anyone attend my funeral?’

We did make friends. Lots of them. And we acclimated to a somewhat different culture. But there was a huge hole in my life that kept expanding. Every time we visited family back in New York, my heart split open and took weeks to heal.

So despite the almost overwhelming thought of one more move, we went back to New York.

Now every other Friday night, the whole clan comes for dinner. Six children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.   Each meal includes some kind of meat and potatoes, chicken tenders, pizza, pasta and a vegan dish or two. I spend the whole day cooking, and I love it!

Then we have a wonderful gathering of love and kinship. Someone else cleans up the mess, and I just sit back in my chair and count my blessings. I’m not moving!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My daughter-in-law helping me pack when we moved into our RV. I don’t want to let go of my granddaughter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenneyis a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. Her creative nonfiction is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, and Helen: A Literary Magazine.  She also has an alter ego at Susanbanthony.live.

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Moving
by Rhonda Schmidt

At eight years old, I knew bugs and dirt.
I knew bare feet, weeping willows, and sunshine.
My home was the yard behind my house,
the yard where I sat with my brother, my dog, my turtle.
Days passed slowly there, cicadas hummed loudly,
calling attention to the quiet house in front.

Our dog, old and almost blind, was our comfort.
We told him everything, and with one ear cocked sideways,
he listened as we buried our face in his soft fur.

We shared our yard with doodle bugs.
Plump little larvae,
they built homes of sand, perfect little pits,
scattered under the dead oak tree.

There they stayed until they grew and took flight,
we watched them work,
as they flicked sand into the air, moving backwards,
master builders.

Then we gathered little sticks and stirred the sand lightly,
thrilled as we watched them rise to the top of the dirt,
and smiled as they scurried to hide,
sometimes catching one,
feeling the little feet tickle our fingers.

Maybe we set our destiny in motion,
for we would leave our backyard that summer,
our tears and pleading ignored,
our sticks and turtle left behind, the cicada’s silent now.

And so we sat in our father’s Chevy,
his cigarette smoke stung our eyes, his gruff voice offered nothing.
Our eyes wide, our voices silenced,
we pulled deep into ourselves, and waited.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In this photo I am eight years old, in my backyard with my beagle, Babe (Midland Texas, 1968).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In our family, we moved often—every three to four years. This was hard for my brother and me. The memory of digging for doodle bugs is a good one. And even though not everyone has seen doodle bugs, they are interesting little guys.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda Schmidt started writing in her fifties, after working as a Registered Nurse for 30 years. She is a graduate student at Southern Methodist University in the Masters of Liberal Studies program. She is a native Texan, living in Dallas, and  yearns to move to any place where summer does not resemble hell.

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A Moving Experience
by Vincent Van Ross

We felt we had reached
Our final destination
When we moved into
Our own house

That brought to an end
The ordeal of shifting
From one place to another
That became an annual ritual

It is common practice here
For landlords to enter
Into a lease agreement
With the tenant for one year

At the end of the lease period
Either the rent is increased
Or the tenant moves out…
The latter was more common

We used to feel like gypsies
Wheeling our wares
Leading unsettled lives
Without a place to call our own

All that changed
And we bought our own house
Our abode is now anchored
So is our lives

In a rented house
You are dependent
On the landlord
For every little thing

But, when you have
Your own house
You can make alterations
To suit your needs

And life becomes
So much more comfortable
Our final move was indeed
A moving experience

© Vincent Van Ross

IMAGE: “Revolving House” by Paul Klee (1921).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vincent Van Ross is a journalist and editor based at New Delhi, India.  He writes on national and international politics, defense, environment, travel, spirituality, and scores of other topics.  Apart from this, he dabbles in a little bit of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and humorous writings.  His articles and features have appeared in over a dozen newspapers and magazines in India and Bangladesh.  He is also a renowned photographer and an art critic. His poems are littered in anthologies and journals across the world and on numerous Internet poetry sites and facebook groups.

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A Healthy Distance
by Carolyn Divish

Sheila cried when she heard we were moving.

From newlywed days to the arrival of children, Sheila and I spoke daily — usually by phone, but sometimes, if the day needed it, over a tall beer. With window views directly into each other’s houses, we were closer than most neighbors, literally and figuratively.

“I’ll never see you any more,” she sobbed.

“There, there,” I comforted. “We’re just moving across the street.”

My husband had pounced the moment the palatial foursquare came on the market. Twice as big with two full baths and an enormous garage, the new house meant no more scraping icy windshields or scheduling showers.

Later, my husband confessed a deeper motivation. I needed a healthy distance.

The year or so before our move, Sheila had befriended Elaina, a neighbor weathering a tumultuous divorce. After a while, I began seeing Sheila cross my yard to Elaina’s with a pair of wine glasses, skipping our daily call. Other times, Sheila rushed off the phone to greet Elaina who had shown up at her front door.

I felt squeezed out.

No longer an adolescent, I tried to insert myself, but it didn’t work. Conversations stopped when I arrived. Inside jokes couldn’t be explained. Back stories were too long to repeat. It wasn’t about me. They clicked in a way the three of us didn’t. Even so, I couldn’t avoid seeing their daily cocktail hour. Our houses were too close.

Years after the move, Sheila and I see each other less frequently, but the time feels more meaningful, because we are intentional. The extra distance requires extra effort. In our case, a “healthy distance” might only be the width of four houses — barely half a block — but it’s enough space for a healthy friendship.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My old house with Sheila’s house in the background taken just after we moved out and were placing the house up for sale.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In my writing life, I have primarily been focused on works of fiction. Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards creative nonfiction. As I excavate my own life, I am learning to be at peace with the discomfort of seeing myself as a character, especially when I don’t particularly like that person’s actions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Divish, a lifelong Hoosier (except a brief stint in Chicago), currently lives in Indianapolis on the very best block of the whole city. She’s willing to rumble to prove it (but she’s not very strong, so she hopes you won’t take her up on the street fighting thing). She earned an MFA from Butler University. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Jack and Jill, Punchnel’s, Mythic Indy anthology, and elsewhere.