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If I Didn’t Push You
by Jay Deitcher

If I didn’t push you to be at the top of your class, as though you didn’t put enough pressure on yourself, not sleeping for days, waiting for your grades to come in, thinking you failed although you never received less than an A-,

if your mother and I had gotten you early intervention,

if I didn’t nag you, about the books on your floor, about getting out of the house more, about watching too much Seinfeld, about playing Billy Joel too loud, about helping your mother vacuum, about sleeping for days,

if we called the police the moment you went missing instead of being embarrassed that our Adam ran away, again,

if I didn’t force you to get a job with that crooked lawyer who had no understanding about working with someone autistic,

if I let you stay in school after your masters instead of pushing you into the job market,

if your mother and I didn’t force you to go to that shrink,

if we didn’t let them put those awful diagnoses on you,

if your mother didn’t talk me into putting you on those drugs,

if your brother let you live with him, in San Francisco, like you wanted,

if I didn’t fight with you about cleaning dishes,

if I didn’t let you take the car,

if I didn’t let you leave,

if your friends didn’t use you for rides,

if they cared as much about you when you were alive as they claim to now,

if they were as kind as you were,

if your brother didn’t marry the drunkard who never understood you,

if your grandmother was alive,

if your mother didn’t put you on drugs,

if I didn’t fight with you,

if I didn’t let you drive off,

if I didn’t let you leave . . .

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The “If I” prompt fit perfectly with the thought patterns of someone who loses a loved one to mental illness. I wrote this piece from the perspective of a father who has lost his son, yet it’s a piece I’m very close to as I lost one of my best friends to mental illness. I wanted to show how “if I’s”and “if you’s” can continue to cause the illness to destroy relationships between family members and their communities and each other. I’ve seen it, and I empathize greatly with parents who get caught in endless questions and blame, from society and from themselves. Judaism teaches that it’s a sin to take your life. Modern Judaism also teaches that a sane person cannot take their life, but mental illness can. Therefore, it’s a mental disorder or disease that causes the death, not a person’s sin. May your memory be a blessing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jay Deitcher is a writer and licensed social worker from Albany, New York. He attends Stony Brook’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program. His writing has appeared in the Jewish Literary Journal and his computer.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Taken at Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany, New York, on June, 19, 2016. My friend, who the piece was inspired by, would have loved my jacket. That jacket is awesomely ridiculous.

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If I Could’ve Seen into the Future
by Martina R. Gallegos

If I could go back to my preteen years,
I would be less of a pest to my mom.
I’d show her the love and affection she yearned for
and show her the gratitude she so deserved.

If I could take back all those feelings
that caused my dear mother much grief,
I’d exchange them for lilies instead
and give her a hug every day.

If I could tell Mother one thing,
it’d be that I always did love her
but didn’t know how to show it,
even when my heart screamed to do so.

If I could’ve seen into the future
and had seen roles reversed
with my daughter and me,
I’d have made things better with mom.

If I had learned as a child
that stories would repeat in years to come,
I’d have practiced patience and love with my mom,
so then I could apply the same with my daughter.

If I could’ve learned from my mother
to keep calm when things became tough,
I’d not be putting myself through hell
and dragging my daughter along.

If I could use gentler words with my own daughter,
and still let her see how much I lover her,
and that her happiness is what I fight for,
then we’d be able to communicate better.

If I could tell my daughter I love her,
oh, but I do, although tearfully.
Still, the words don’t come out
like they should, and, damn, that hurts!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: We took this picture June 2015 when my daughter graduated from high school and I received my Masters from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix,  Arizona.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I see my daughter and me having the same experience or relationship I had with my own mother when I was a teen, but my mother was more patient than me, and it truly hurts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martina R. Gallegos came from Mexico and attended Pasadena High School, Oxnard College, and CSUN. She got a Master’s from Grand Canyon University after a massive stroke. She published Grab the Bull by the Horns (Outskirts Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Hometown Pasadena, Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2015, Silver Birch Press, Spectrum, The Girl God, and Basta!


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If I flew (for Joni Mitchell)
by Kerfe Roig

If I flew,
black, a silhouette
against blue,
would I see
outlines of me, abandoned
to endless highways?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve been working on a series of monoprints with collage and stitching.“there’s a crow flying” is inspired by Joni Mitchell’s song “Black Crow.” The poem, also, considers her song.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. You can follow her explorations on the blog she does with her friend Nina: methodtwomadness.wordpress.com.

Self-portrait by the author. 

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Silver Birch Press is pleased to announce the September 2016 release of Grip, Give and Sway, a 104-page poetry collection by Kathleen A. Wakefield.  We hope you will check out this superb collection — the first we’ve released in a year — at Amazon.com. The book is also available in a Kindle version.

“Kathleen A. Wakefield’s poems combine close observations of the natural world with a clear-eyed focus on eternal questions. These luminous poems speak to us soul to soul—and it is the voice of these poems I love best: calm, lyrical and direct, discovering the details of the visible world deep connections between the renewals of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.” PATRICIA HOOPER, author of At the Corner of the Eyeand Aristotle’s Garden

“Kathleen A. Wakefield’s extraordinary poems are made of the lives we must live—including love, family, loneliness, doubt, and loss—and of what we know we cannot be, but aspire toward nevertheless. They embrace the human ache to escape time and the desire to fully inhabit it, the knowledge that we cannot free ourselves from our bodies or our souls.” STAN SANVEL RUBIN, author of Hidden Sequels and Five Colors

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen A. Wakefield’s book Notations on the Visible World (2000) won the 1999 Anhinga Prize for Poetry and was a recipient of the University of Rochester Lillian Fairchild Award. She has received grants from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and Mount Holyoke College. She taught creative writing at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester and has worked as a poet-in-the-schools.

Grip, Give and Sway by Kathleen A. Wakefield is available in paperback and Kindle formats.

Author photo by Steven Spring. 

COVER ART: “Soulfire” by Steve Carpenter

Woodworking
If I Had Only Been More Alert
by Casey Derengowski

If I had paid much better attention
listened to the words he spoke to me
explaining the knots and the grains of woods
the softness of pine, the hardness of oak.

If I had taken more interest in the lessons he taught
how the hand plane glided across the roughness of boards
the angle of the chisel, the tap of the mallet
the depth of the drill bit, the sweep of a curve.

But instead I was distracted by shavings and sawdust
the glint of the hammer, the expanse of the ruler
I completely ignored lumber turning into art
as this Master Craftsmen worked his magic.

If only I had not succumbed to childish whims
boys playing games, girls dancing about
Mom baking cookies, vendors selling taffy
not to mention the ring of the Good Humor truck.

If I could be absolved from the guilt which I feel
for frittering away those precious times
If I could remember every hint he spoke
mimick the movements of his talented hands.

His quest for perfection and nothing less
the finished product so proud to behold
the techniques and rhythms of that skilled woodworker
if only I had treasured that teacher, my Dad.

PHOTO: Woodworking tools.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I especially enjoy writing narrative poetry that addresses morality and the human condition.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Casey Derengowski was born in Chicago, reared in Cicero, Illinois, and presently lives in Southern California with his wife of 50 years. His writing includes publication in the Journal of Modern Poetry, Chicago Press, San Diego Poetry Annual, Summation (the Ekphrastic anthology of the Escondido Municipal Gallery and numerous other anthologies.)

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If I were free of gravity
by Betsy Mars

If I were a rich man, I’d play the fiddle on the roof
like a floating violinist in a painting by Chagall.
I’d elevate myself
above everybody else.
I’d tune out the world, ignoring change,
and live in my cocoon until ready to emerge,
weaving silk from my salivary glands.

Eating the finest mulberry leaves,
I’d live in a cloistered world,
important and cultivated —
white naked vulnerable, tiny horns on my back.

Flightless, I depend on humans for my brief survival.
Inside my cocoon, I thread my prism’s bars.
Mission accomplished,
I’ll be dipped in boiling water
to make my silken treasure easier to unravel.
The world outside revels in my sputum,
dyeing for its glorious sheen and strength.

Feeling the fire rising,
I break my bonds and escape
through a hole of my own making,
turn a new leaf and fly off gently
to the waking moon.
There, alight and in tune,
I’d land in lunar dust
with delicate feet and
plant my silken flag.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken from the roof of the garage in the backyard where I grew up near Inglewood, California. I was around 13, and I guess not quite as afraid of heights as I later became. This is as close to fiddling on a rooftop as I have ever come.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At first, I had intended to follow through on the Fiddler on the Roof theme, and imagine what it would be like to be a wealthy man. Somehow, my wires got crossed and I started to fantasize about the life of a silkworm and how a little, lowly creature like that has played such an important economic role throughout history. In doing some research, I found to my dismay that the silkworms are killed after all their hard work in order to preserve the silk in one long, continuous thread. It seemed a bit ungrateful and cruel, so I created a better fate for it. Maybe I came to relate too much to the silkworm. Sometimes cocoons are not all they’re cracked up to be.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a writer, educator, mother, and animal lover  — including silkworms. She just discovered a name for her underlying philosophy: Ahimsa — the idea of doing no harm, and would like to achieve perfection in this in her daily living. She is currently between jobs and between trips, and is honored to have been published multiple times by Silver Birch Press, as well as in several anthologies.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author the Levitated Mass at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)  while chaperoning a middle school tour group.

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If I Rise
by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

If I rise from the earth
invisibly trussed to a sun
in the ripples of fabric,
unwedged, untangled—
I become a hot air balloon
or a small slice of the moon,
unextinguished in a crowd of stars.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Rising up on the Inca Trail, Peru, 2010.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem emerged from my love of being surprised by a hot air balloon in the sky while I am on a morning bike ride in Vermont and by the moon in all of her phases.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Dickenson Snyder been writing poetry since she knew there was a form with conscious line breaks. Pertinent to her work as a writer, she has been an English teacher for many years, a mother for several, and a participant in poetry workshops. She was selected to be part of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and has had poems published recently in The Comstock Review, Damfino Press, West Trade Review, The Main Street Rag, Passager, and other journals, reviews, and book anthologies. In May of 2016, she was a 30/30 Poet for Tupelo Press.

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Thank you to the 151 writers — from 33 states and 17 countries — who participated in our WHEN I MOVED Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from August 9 – September 27, 2016. Many thanks to the following authors for their moving work!

Reina Adriano (Philippines)
Janet Banks (Massachusetts)
Cynthia Anderson (California)
Prerna Bakshi (China)
Shreerupa Basu Das (England)
Ruth Bavetta (California)
Gary Beck (New York)
Alice Venessa Bever (Wyoming)
RIck Blum (Massachusetts)
Katley Demetria Brown (Massachusetts)
Mary Buchinger (Massachusetts)
Larry Burns (California)
Alex Carr-Malcolm (England)
Susana H. Case (New York)
Abby Chew (California)
Jackie Chou (California)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Sara Clancy (Arizona)
Marion Clarke (Northern Ireland)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Clive Collins (Japan)
Chloe Cotter (Canada)
Neil Creighton (Australia)
Barbara Crooker (Pennsylvania)
Gareth Culshaw (Wales)
Howard Richard Debs (Florida)
Carolyn Divish (Indiana)
Evel Masten Economakis (Greece)
Barbara Eknoian (California)
Kristina England (Massachusetts)
Ruth Evans (Massachusetts)
Peter Faziani (Pennsylvania)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Jane Frank (Australia)
Martina R. Gallegos (California)
Gail Gerwin (New Jersey)
Siwsan Gimprich (New Jersey)
Susan W. Goldstein (Florida)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Elizabeth Greene (Canada)
John Guzlowski (Virginia)
Tina Hacker (Kansas)
Brenda Davis Harsham (Massachusetts)
Penny Harter (New Jersey)
Ken Hartke (New Mexico)
G. Louis Heath (Iowa)
Mark Andrew Heathcote (England)
Heidi Hermanson (Nebraska)
Jennifer Hernandez (Minnesota)
Kevin M. Holgate (Canada)
Karen Paul Holmes (Georgia)
Trish Hopkinson (Utah)
Veronica Hosking (Arizona)
Yi-Wen Huang (New Mexico)
Kyle Hunter (Indiana)
Amanda Janik (California)
Jorge Jefferds (Pennsylvania)
Carol H. Jewell (New York)
Sonja Johanson (Maine)
Joseph Johnston (Michigan)
Derek Kannemeyer (Virginia)
Rose Kelland (England)
James Ross Kelly (California)
Sofia Kioroglou (Greece)
Steve Klepetar (Minnesota)
Tricia Knoll (Oregon)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Emma Lee (England)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
Richard Levesque (Indiana)
Cheryl Levine (Massachusetts)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
j.lewis (California)
Laurinda Lind (New York)
Virginia Lowe (Australia)
Rick Lupert (California)
Christopher Madden (Connecticut)
Marjorie Maddox (Pennsylvania)
Janet Malotky (Minnesota)
Melisa Malvin-Middleton (California)
Poojal Mapari (United Arab Emirates)
Betsy Mars (California)
Patrick Lee Marshall (Texas)
Carolyn Martin (Oregon)
Mary McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
Patricia McGoldrick (Canada)
Teresa Marita McGuire (Mississippi)
Linda McKenney (New York)
Joan McNerney (New York)
Michael Minassian (Texas)
Helen L. Moore (Scotland)
Alice Morris (Delaware)
Eileen Murphy (Florida)
Robbi Nester (California)
Cristina M.R. Norcross (Wisconsin)
Thomas O’Connell (New York)
Mags O’Connor (Ireland)
Robert Okaji (Texas)
Thomas Park (Missouri)
Lee Parpart (Canada)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Tim Philippart (Michigan)
Rosalind Place (Canada)
Frank Pool (Texas)
D.A. Pratt (Canada)
Sarah Pritchard (England)
Edie Ravenelle (Massachusetts)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Kevin Risner (Ohio)
Lisa Rizzo (California)
Jeannie E. Roberts (Wisconsin)
Esther Rohm (Ohio)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
Dave Roskos (New Jersey)
Christina Rothenbeck (Louisiana)
Sarah Russell (Pennsylvania)
Barbara Ruth (California)
Bruce Sager (Maryland)
Jeff Santosuosso (Florida)
Penelope Scamby Schott (Oregon)
Rhonda Schmidt (Texas)
Iris N. Schwartz (New York)
Sheila Scobba Banning (California)
Sunil Sharma (India)
Sheikha A. (Pakistan)
Ginny Short (California)
Lois Paige Simenson (Alaska)
Leslie Sittner (New York
R. H. Slansky (California)
J.L. Smith (Alaska)
Melissa Snider (Wyoming)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
Amanda Tanner (Michigan)
Jonathan Taylor (England)
Alarie Tennille (Missouri)
Marilyn Terhune-Young (California)
Larry D. Thacker (Tennessee)
G. Murray Thomas (California)
Jasmine Tritten (New Mexico)
Vincent Van Ross (India)
Alan Walowitz (New York)
Hannah Ward (Pennsylvania)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Sheila Wellehan (Maine)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Wendy Wuchnick-Gibbs (Texas)
Kim Whysall-Hammond (England)
Jonathan Yungkans (California)
Marilyn Zelke-Windau (Wisconsin)
Joanie HF Zosike (New York)

Please check out our current calls for submissions:

MY PRIZED POSSESSION Poetry & Prose Series (October 15, 2016 deadline)

ME, IN A HAT Poetry & Prose Series (November 15, 2016 deadline)

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Moving Day
by Bruce Sager

I peeled out of that driveway
and made my way over here,
to this new place, this place
you’ve stopped by just now
with a cake in your hands
and a smile on your face, and so
here we are, you and I, smiling,
standing with such fine patience
on this new porch

all of the day
spread before us
like a fresh cloth
over the rooftops.

IMAGE: “Home Sweet Home” cake. Image found at gourmandetcroquant.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Sager, famous for 15 minutes as author of Famous and The Pumping Station, lives in Westminster, Maryland. His work has won publication through contests judged by Billy Collins, Dick Allen and William Stafford. Several new books – four of poetry, one of vaguely hilarious short stories – are forthcoming in 2016-2017 (via Echo Point Books, Hyperborea Publishing and BrickHouse Books).

Greetings From Seaside Heights
A Strange New Cottage in Seaside
by Dave Roskos

moving to Seaside Heights.
a small cottage “on the highest
point of the island” according to
the landlord, who composes classical
music, writes poetry & digs Stockhausen.
somehow, his properties did not flood
during the storm. his brother, our other
new landlord, said it is because he
loves Jesus Christ. They own the pizzeria
in front of the cottage, make really good pie.
whole town was full of drunken yahoos
on Saturday. their Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
is a real booze-fest, “drunken dumb show,”
as Allen Ginsberg would say.
on Sunday it was a ghost town again.

IMAGE: Seaside Heights, New Jersey, postcard, available at cardcow.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Roskos is the editor of Big Hammer & Street Value magazines  & Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books. He has worked as a furniture mover, hod-carrier, flea market vendor, resident-assistant at a Catholic Charities Homeless Shelter, online book-seller, demolition man, factory & warehouse worker, & general factotum & day laborer. For the past several years he has been working in Human Services as a direct care case worker for a non-profit Independent Housing Program which serves people recovering from mental illness & addiction. His work has appeared in Home Planet News, Big Scream, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry & many other print & online publications. Lyrical Grain, Doggerel Chaff & Pedestrian Preoccupations, a 170 page Selected Poems, was recently published by Cat in the Sun Books. He lives in his home state of New Jersey with the poet Jen Dunford and their three cats.

PHOTO: The author (left) with stepdad Skip in Skip’s truck. (1999).