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School’s Out
by Deborah Guzzi

Trying to recapture the joy of those winter days is difficult. School cancelled: sun shining through the sheer, white curtains into an all-too-girlie room, the sound of a teakettle’s whistle, the ice cold feeling of oak boards on bare feet, between scatter rugs; I ran to the kitchen. The transistor radio sounded, still calling out school closings. The snow sifted down.

bright sun
sparkles on snowflakes —
the plow roars

Quick phone calls, punctuated with giggles, roused a gaggle of neighborhood girls. White skates in hand, I burst out the door. I rushed toward the swampy area behind the neighbor’s house. My rubber boots crunching crust above the powdery fluff. At the edge of the watery wood, I stood staring. Boys, I see the boys in there. They have their skates on already. Tommy Maloney, my crush, skated toward me.

his black waves
dusted with snow —
whoops of delight

A hummock of snow-topped grass served as a seat. I removed my boots from beneath the zip sides of snow pants and try to tie laces new white skates. Once done I stood wobbling, weak-ankled. Tommy laughs, as knock-kneed I attempt a glide toward him falling on my butt. Oh how his eyes sparkled, an Irish rogue at twelve. Kneeling, Tommy began to re-lace my skates. I remember wishing, so much, he would kiss me.

SOURCE: First Published in Winter Legends 2014

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age three in Camden, Maine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator specializing in Japanese Shiatsu and Reiki. She writes for massage and aromatherapy magazines. She travels the world to expand her knowledge of healing and seeking writing inspiration. She has walked the Great Wall of China, seen Nepal (during the civil war), Japan, Egypt (two weeks before “The Arab Spring”), Peru, and France during the December 2014 terrorist attacks. Her poetry appears in a variety of international publications: here/there: poetry in the UK, Existere — Journal of Arts and Literature in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha:Asian Literary Review, China, New Zealand, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, mgv2>publishing in France, and Travel by the Book, Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, Emerge Literary Journal, and others in the USA.

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An inseparable friend
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

My childhood memories are laced with
Maths moments, my love for the subject,
passion for it, one-sided private talks

I shared all my feelings with Maths – sorrow,
happiness, doubts, fears, heart aches, conclusions,
all in return for a non-judgmental listening ear

After a tired day Maths consoled me,
cracking a difficult problem in a jiffy
boosted my self-confidence and left a smile

Maths defined me, my friendships with others,
I helped them understand nuances of problem-solving,
love echoed in my voice as I explained solutions

It was my anchor, my identity, it remains
so with all my friends — they remember
me even today, as the girl who loved Maths

Every spare moment was spent with Maths,
from morning to night, seeking solace
in solutions, it remained my strength through
growing up years, my closest companion

Image (detail) by Design Turnpike. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was a shy child when I realized my passion for Maths. Maths, for me, was my outlet, an inseparable friend, my mirror. It gave me my identity, as friends always approached me with their Maths doubts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vijaya Gowrisankar released her first book of poems Inspire in 2014. The book contains 100+ poems on topics such as Nature, Life, Let Go, Positivity, and Change. She is passionate about writing poems from childhood.

9. Battswood College, Wynberg
First day at school
by Julian de Wette

I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane . . . Ciarán Carson

Tables weren’t meant to be sat at
but things to be said out aloud.
My proficiency on the first day
would set me apart from the crowd.

Why did I deserve punishment
for raising my cap to an elderly gent?
Why did the strap make me cry?
Why did it hurt so much I could die?

I’m confused by what is custom,
what’s done for politeness’ sake.
Such confusion is regarded as error
and all that follows in its wake.

Where were the games I was promised?
The see-saw and the swings?
The sandpit to build castles,
the song of Grasshopper Green?

The flowers I picked that morning
wouldn’t calm my teacher’s rage.
Nor would the words impress her
I’d written on a page.

“There is no secret to it, boy.
It amounts to insurrection
when snot fouls your hanky
before handkerchief inspection!

“And should you scuff your shoes
or scrape your knees
you’d also stand to lose
that gold star for appearance.

“So remember, your conduct in this quad
should honour our principal and God.
This is education – reciting verse and solving equations
as you rise up through the ranks.
And never forget to give thanks . . .”

Battswood Practising School, Wynberg 1958.

PHOTOGRAPH: Battswood Practicing School, Wynberg, South Africa.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written some years ago after a chance meeting with my very first school teacher – who changed my enthusiastic attitude towards learning on the very first day of my arrival at school. I wrote it without rancour, but retain a longing for the many interesting things I may have learned had things turned out differently on that day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Julian de Wette
, a U.S. citizen, was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the author of a novel, A Case of Knives published by Umuzi, an imprint of Penguin Random House, South Africa (2010). His play, Sister Priscilla’s Dilemma: Nun with a Gun was published in English and Spanish by Proyecto 34 Degrees South (Theatre in Translation) in Buenos Aires, Argentina (2012). Over the years, he has published poetry in literary journals such a Poetry Australia, New Coin (South America), The Observer (New York) and Contrast (South America). His poetry has also appeared in numerous anthologies. He is now resident in Napier, at the Foot of Africa.

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Last Goodbye
by Oonah V Joslin

That’s me aged five
hanging in shadow by the door
barefoot. The linoleum is January cold;
the kitchen light stark yellow.

It’s still dark.
Mammy clashes dishes in the sink.

Are you really not going to give us a kiss?
He tries. She turns away. He misses.
I have to go to work, you know. I’ll
see you on Friday then.

He shoulders his rucksack
opens the door, looks back,
sees me and smiles. A wee wave
from the threshold.

How long have you been standin’ there? she says.
When it’s time to get up I’ll tell you.
She aims a bussock at my behind
and I run back upstairs.

And that’s me in shadow;
eclipsed forever in goodbye.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age three in her father’s sash.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oonah V Joslin was born in Northern Ireland. She is a poet and writer of short and micro fiction. She is three times winner of MicroHorror’s annual competition and has work in many online sites and anthologies. You may follow her and her work at Parallel OonahverseFormerly Managing Editor of Every Day Poets, Oonah is currently Poetry Editor at The Linnet’s Wings.

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Three More Bags
by Ashley Parker Owens

I am sick
of garden work.

Picking/dropping beans
into gaping plastic bags,
dreading the snap/string

I am not allowed
to talk.

Scratchy hat,
sweat dripping like hot tears,
hands dry from dust.

The heat has leeched my energy
I drift a row away from my stepfather

No complaining.
Earn my keep.

Three more bags of beans
and I’ll be worth the food on my plate.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a young girl.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashley Parker Owens
lives in the hills of Kentucky, where the gnomes are. She has lived in San Francisco in an ashram, and in Chicago where she helped with the Second Underground Press Conference and was the creator and editor of Global Mail. After the successful publication of Gnome Harvest by Double Dragon Publishing, Ashley is writing the next novels in the Gnome Stories Series. She has a MFA in Creative Writing at Eastern Kentucky University and an MFA from Rutgers University in Visual Arts. Ashley is the owner of the indie press KY Story, proud publisher of 15 anthologies celebrating the Kentucky, Appalachian, and Southern voice. Her work has recently appeared in Hogglepot, Rose Red, Egg Poetry, Boston Poetry Magazine, Quail Bell, Imaginarium, Tinderbox Magazine, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Lorelei Signal, and Mystic Signals. Reach her at kystory.net.

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Nightmare
by Kieran McKiel

when I was 6
my bedroom would talk to me at night
it whispered through coat hangers crinkling in the closet like coins in a   dentist’s pocket
fat mosquitos buzzing over lost pink boys in the woods
a viper-haired gorgon would dance outside my window
squalling teary-eyed through the glass
my covers could shield me but couldn’t quiet them

one night
the closet kept quiet but it was jump scare quiet
the quiet where slugs slither down the walls and onto the covers
where a sneering toy dragon pivots its head to watch the bed
where pulsing dark jellyfish hover over the pillow with tendrils dangling
into my eyes and
          they      speak
                              sandpaper shouts
          they      stampede through the house
pounding walls drumming doors
          they      glare
                              pale pale eyes glass eyes
bore each other to protoplasm
          they      accuse
                    “you’ll break it again”
                    in the hall outside my room and then
Mom holds me in a vise grip hug
Dad is in my room, pulling the closet shut
I listen for their voices
but they talk to each other with marble statue frowns

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age seven.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kieran McKiel is fiction writer and poet from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. He is currently in his third year at the University of Victoria. Much of his childhood was spent reading H.G. Wells, watching National Geographic, and hoping desperately that someone would unearth the fossils that proved Godzilla was a real dinosaur.

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Earliest Memory
by Dennis Trujillo

I’m crawling in a wondrous cave.
Silver chair legs astound me
like stalactites. Yellow veneer
from upholstered chairs tinge
the ceiling where I dwell
innocent as a tiny god.
My mother, a humming presence
at the stove, sends up ancient
aromas. Cold surprise of metal
each time I touch the safety pins
that attach my stiff diaper.
I’m the baby. Little brother Steve,
who dies early, isn’t born yet.
On the sticky linoleum,
I spot a mushy bean—my infantine
brain says food, so in it goes.
Now in my sixtieth year, I find
it strange that beans have always been
my favorite food and that among
five sons, I’m still the baby.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Here I am at three months anxious to begin exploring caves. I don’t know why the memory in this poem stayed with me, but it is clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday.

dennis trujillo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dennis Trujillo is a former soldier and middle/high school math teacher who happens to love poetry. Most recent selections are forthcoming or already published with Atlanta Review, Pearl, Slant, THEMA, The Lyric, Talking River, and The Old Red Kimono. He runs and then does yoga every morning to clear his head for reading and writing poetry.

Robbi at 3, 1956, with mom and dad
Musical Chairs
by Robbi Nester

seemed such an innocent game
to everyone but me, though I was six
and should have loved the feel
of moving quickly round the chairs,
stiff rustling party skirts and petticoats
in every color above black patent shoes.

The 45 spun round and round
and we did too, skipping
and singing, pretending
not to care. But soon,
my breath came fast,
heart banging in my chest
as if it wanted out.
I eyed the others,
set to leap
before the jangling music
stopped mid-chord
and knew I’d be the one
left out, too small and slow.

Maybe that’s why
I bit the birthday girl,
making a deep red crescent
in her arm, surprising everyone,
especially myself.
The music stopped, for good
this time, and I went home
without my cake and ice cream.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age three with her parents.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Balance (White Violet, 2012) and A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014) and the editor of The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014).

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The Red Slide
by Sarah Lilius

The metal mountain stood apart
from the other equipment like a god.

It was the 80s and the slide,
fire engine red with a silver mirror front
terrified me in the heat of summer.

Taller than my father, I saw the top
in the clouds made of elephants and rabbits.

If I wore a skirt that day, slid wrong,
it would burn like childhood in hindsight.

The slide would haunt me
like finding new love—

that first hand hold, a small grip similar
to my father’s as we walked back home.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author’s school picture from first grade, around age seven.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There was a park close to my house where I grew up in Illinois. My father would take me frequently there. The big red slide feels like a huge part of my childhood and the memory has become part of me. I think of it often since the passing of my father. I was happy when this bittersweet memory finally became manifested as a poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Lilius lives in Arlington, Virginia, where she’s a poet and an assistant editor for ELJ Publications. Some places her work can be found are Stirring, the Denver Quarterly, and San Pedro River Review. She is also the author of What Becomes Within (ELJ Publications, 2014). Check out her website at sarahlilius.com.

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Christmas 1943
by Christine Saari

“Wake up”! My mother’s voice comes from afar
as I emerge from a deep sleep.
My father stands by my bedside, wearing his uniform.
“I knew he would come,” I say to my mother,
full of reproach. She had refused to believe.
I recite Orion’s poem,
the poem I have learned by heart for him
and go back to sleep.

When the Christ Child rings the bell on Christmas Eve
my happiness is complete:
The candles glow brighter than the year before,
The cookies taste sweeter. My father is home!

It snows on Christmas morning.
Soft flakes settle on my father’s cap and whiten my hair
as we say good bye.
Then he vanishes in the vast whiteness
and I will never see him again.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author and her father during WWII.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The loss of my father on the Eastern Front of WWII has haunted me all my life. I have tried to deal with this loss through writing poetry and a memoir and making visual art. This poem is one of these efforts, the second image above another.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christne Saari grew up on a mountain farm in the foothills of the Austrian Alps. She came to the United States in 1964 and has lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan since 1971, where she works as a visual artist and writer.

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