Young Woman Seated (at the Virginals)
by Jennifer G. Knoblock

Daily I dress and sit, touch these keys,
nimble fingers bent to practice a song,
pray music could come from this desire

to sing out strong. What more could I desire
than to sit corseted, cosseted, pressing keys,
waiting for the world to praise my song?

Beneath silken shell a heart beats in song
while I grow old in daily habit, desire
mounting—to shatter this case and its keys.

(Why do I sit at these keys, bursting with song of desire?)

PAINTING: “A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals,” Attributed to Johannes Vermeer, c. 1670.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author practicing at the keyboard in her Illinois home, 2001.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This sedate-looking painting stirred up many thoughts—about the loneliness of practice, the societal value of a young woman’s “accomplishments” (historically and now), the need to express and share our words/songs, the struggle to make the words come out right and the frustration when reality doesn’t live up to expectation. The formality of the painting and the repetition of key words in my free-writing first draft pushed me toward the tritina form.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Knoblock writes, reads, sings, gardens, and tries to take care of her family. She has published two nonfiction books and one YA novel. Some of her poems have recently been set to music by composer Clayton J. Horath. She shares her poetry at

webb-pullmanthe automat 19271
Our last date
by Mercedes Webb-Pullman

I waited hours that day. They passed so slow
until the waiter started stacking chairs
like worn-out hopes. I knew you wouldn’t show.

The people on the street all strolled in pairs
with fingers linked and secrets in their eyes.
I sat alone among them. No one cares.

Alone I listen to the street’s night cries,
the city sounds. Which car, which bus, which train
has taken you, and why no last goodbyes?

Will I recall your touch without this pain,
or understand just why you had to go?
It hurts to learn how love lives on in vain.

I waited hours that day. They passed so slow
like worn-out hopes. I knew you wouldn’t show.

PAINTING: “The Automat” (detail) by Edward Hopper (1927).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author, waiting.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: That was me, the day he stood me up. I waited too long, not wanting to face the truth, even though I knew he wasn’t coming, feeling totally alone in the city. When I first saw this painting I recognized that huge dark emptiness.

 Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from IIML Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Her poems and the odd short story have appeared online and in print, in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, poetryrepairs, Connotations, The Red Room, Silver Birch Press, Otoliths, among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. Visit her at

by Jennifer Lagier

She tilts her head,
gazes through invisible frame,
candlestick visible above one shoulder,
just a hint of brass bed.

Her mouth gives nothing away.
Flat, parted hair, strong jaw,
long nose, narrow lips,
my doppelganger twin.

The fickle mirror reflects
my squinty, off-kilter eyes,
Modigliani neck, now wrinkled,
the same elongated face.

A forceful woman who
impatiently ploughs through obstacles,
pursues what moves her,
time on earth running out.

I determinedly wade into battle,
lead with my chin,
know death is coming,
won’t give an inch.

PAINTING: “Hanka Zborowska with a Candlestick” by Amedeo Modigliani (1919).

PHOTO: Selfie by the author.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits of women bear a strong resemblance to my own facial characteristics as enumerated in my poem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published ten books of poetry and internationally in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. Her latest book, Where We Grew Up, was just issued by FutureCycle Press. She taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains web sites for Homestead Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Ping Pong Literary Journal, misfit magazine and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Website:

Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874)Paul Fericano at nine years old in SF (circa 1960)
Escaping Criticism
by Paul Fericano


The strange picture of the startled boy
Stepping out of the frame and fleeing the scene

Is torn from a book and thumb-tacked to the wall
Above the bathroom sink next to the mirror

This is you my father says buckling his belt
A warning shot aimed at his second son

The little monkey in a disappearing act
Who climbs out second-story bathroom windows

Shimmies up drainpipes and sits alone on rooftops
Late at night to escape the rage of lovers

Screaming and throwing ashtrays and souvenirs
Against the walls that always talk back


I brush my teeth I comb my hair I stare
At this other me this nexus boy

This doppelganger kid who leaps and bounds
From his world into mine

Unaware perhaps like me of what there is
To see or be on this or any other side

Where fathers say our names and sound
The way all fathers do when they dream


One night I surprise us both
I sneak back in through the window

Like a tiny thief caught in the act
And there he sits on the toilet reading Popular

Mechanics his face so startled by my entrance
That I see the wound of his disappointment

The locked bathroom holds me now
There is nowhere to go but into his line of fire

I take the brown leather blows like daily penance
With time enough to flee again tomorrow

On the other side of all this noise and deception
My mother bangs on the door with small fists

PAINTING: “Escaping Criticism” by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at nine years old in San Francisco (circa 1960).


Paul Fericano
’s poetry and prose have appeared since 1970 in such diverse outlets as The Wormwood Review, Second Coming, Jean’s Journal, Saturday Night Live, Vagabond, The Mas Tequila Review, Mother Jones, Poetry Now, Wine Rings, The Café Review, Paul Krassner’s The Realist, and Krokodil (Moscow), Punch (London) and Charlie Hebdo (Paris). In 1983 his work was honored with both the Ambrose Bierce Prize (San Francisco) and the Prix de Voltaire (Paris) for upholding the traditions of socio-political satire. His latest collection of poems, The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), was nominated for a National Book Award.


by Jari Thymian

Can you believe –
          that clever witch called
          me a hussy and a charlatan?

Under my turban
          and Victorian dress
          a shy seventeen-year old,

a bookworm who’d never
          thrown my voice from any stage
          up to the high school balcony.

Before opening night, I didn’t know
          how intoxicating to spin drunk,
          to soothsay, to swallow the drug

of hatching heinous schemes to applause.
          The silly romance I tried to foil
          ended in a kiss and a curtain call.

Now, I am trapped on a white page
          void of script by the real witch
          whose lead role hex

lets me command only your brief gaze.

PAINTING: “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” by Karl Bryullov (1830).

PHOTO: The author in 2015 wearing a turban. Photo by Greg Fischer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I found this painting of woman with a turban, I instantly felt the weight of the turban I wore for the senior class play in high school over 40 years ago. Being on stage with an audience was a rush I’d never experienced before. I had so much fun being someone else totally different — loud, brash, drunk, and dastardly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jari Thymian’s poetry has appeared in both print and online publications including tinywords, FRiGG, Skylark, Cattails, KYSO Flash, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Bamboo Hut. She has poems anthologized in the Stories of Music from Timbre Press and in 2015 Haiku from Modern Haiku.

Hyatt-Blankman (2)1
Letting Go
by Michele Hyatt-Blankman

I was different from the start.
My head was too big.
She’ll never live, mom was told.
I did.
She’ll never walk or talk, mom was told.
I did.
But I wore my pain.
They called me pumpkin head.
They called me an alien,
like the ones you see in old movies.
They tapped me on my head in class.
No one saw. No one believed me.
No one will want me, I thought.
But someone did.
My husband, My soulmate.
He didn’t care, he said.
But I carried the pain.
I was told I’d have no children.
But I did. Two healthy sons.
But I carried the pain.
The pain of a pumpkin head.

And then I saw myself.
In a simple, sweet painting
at the MoMA.
I didn’t laugh at her.
I didn’t judge her.
I didn’t touch her head.
And surrounding me were people.
Including children.
They weren’t laughing. Or pointing.
They asked their parents about her.
They smiled at her beauty.

And I did, too.

IMAGE: The author at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City during 2013.  She is standing in front of the painting “Untitled” by Japanese artist Yoshitoma Nara (2000).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 1953, I was born with hydrocephalus. I was shunted when I was three. All my life I have had an enlarged head, but much more disproportionate to my body when I was young. As a result, throughout school I was mercilessly bullied and teased. A couple of years ago, my husband and I visited my son in New York City, where he works for Houghton-Mifflin. We went with him to the MoMA, where he called my attention to a big portrait, “Untitled,” by Yoshitomo Nara. We laughed and I posed in front of it. I felt at that moment I had gone full-circle…some 59 years later. This poem is based on the moment of seeing the portrait of a life I have since outgrown.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Hyatt-Blankman began writing stories and poetry from a very early age, beginning a lifelong interest in both. She expanded her interests to journalism at Marshall University, where she was a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Following years in public relations and copy editing, she now spends time at home with her husband Jon, a retired school teacher, trying to keep  her four cats out of trouble. She is also a proud mom of two sons — Richard, 31, and Joshua, 29, who live in  New York and Texas, respectively.

madame bovary.jpg
Ever imagine yourself as a character in a book, movie, or mythic tale (or would you like to do so)?  We want to hear all about your fictional musings in poetry or prose, where you appear as a character in an established work of fiction. (You would be, say, Oliver Twist or Emma Bovary, or you could create a new character that appears in the story.)  If available, please send a photo of yourself at any age to accompany your submission.

PROMPT: Tell us how you see yourself in an established work of fiction in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer).

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish on social media and in a potential print edition.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems and prose in the Silver Birch Press ME, IN FICTION Series on our blog starting in late December 2015 or early January 2016 (actual dates to be determined, based on number of submissions). We’ll also feature the submissions on Twitter and Facebook.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or prose piece to as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, contact info (including email address), one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your piece. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name (and only your last name). Write “Fiction” in subject line of email. If available, please send a photo of yourself — at any age — and provide a caption for the photo (when, where).


To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Twist.doc or Bovary.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, mailing address, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include an author’s bio, written in the third person (e.g., Ignatius J. Reilly lives in New Orleans…”).

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. In the same MS Word document, include a caption for your photo (including where, when and/or date taken).

6. If available, send a photo of yourself at any age as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Eyre.jpg).

7. Email to — and put FICTION in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Thursday, December 31, 2015

PHOTO: Mia Wasikowska as the title character in Madame Bovary (2014).

mona lisaMona Lisa_Jeannie E Roberts_2015
Mona Lisa
by Jeannie E. Roberts

sometimes she sits like Mona
practiced in her pose―

with arms
in gentle fold
slight smile
as silent welcome

a pleasant
postured air

in a chair
she’s availed herself
an image

set in prim repose
not recognized―

who knows where love
may lead you
down open roads
or halls

where landscapes change
and rearrange
like paintings hung
on walls―

who knows why
old ways flourish
why rebirth touches few
where veils hang

in closed refrain
in lieu of larger views―
she sits like Mona Lisa
practiced in her pose
when biased eyes

PAINTING: “La Gioconda,” aka Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci (early 1500s), Musée du Louvre, Paris.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author posing like the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Bruce Pecor.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem considers the marginalized human being and demonstrates how the need for acceptance can result in adaptive behaviors and conformity. The minimization of humans based upon race, beliefs, gender, appearance, education, and other factors is an age-old issue. Even today, especially in smaller communities, backlash and shunning is evident for the outspoken person, the person perceived as being different, or the individual considered a threat to the standards of the norm.¶ The “Mona Lisa” was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance period. This cultural movement influenced European intellectual life; it impacted art, music, science, politics, religion, literature, and philosophy. Humanism played an important role during this early modern period; it encompassed an intellectual, philosophical, and ethical stance, embracing the progress and the value of all human beings and their individual and collective human freedoms.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring rural setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her second book of poetry, Beyond Bulrush, a full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in 2015. She is also the author of Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book. She draws, paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Learn more about Jeannie at

moreelse painting1SBPpicture
I Confide in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady” About My Divorce
by Jennifer Finstrom

At the Art Institute, I always visit Gallery 237
first, gaze at the red-haired young woman
across four centuries. She is younger than I am,
looks nothing like me, but we have formed a kinship.
The curators know few details of her life beyond
this moment, assume from the opulence
of her jewelry, the pearls and enamel, the lace
and ribbons and gems, that she was a part of the Court
of Orange-Nassau. We commune together
in silence, and I can imagine any sort of story
for her. In 2002, I wrote a poem called “Girl
in an Imaginary Painting,” and reading it now,
I am astonished at what it knew about my life.
Paintings know as much as poems, and I
continue to admire the frilled ruff, heavy brooch,
and black and red puffed sleeves: this is all armor,
something she must have one day come to know.

PAINTING: “Portrait of a Young Lady” by Paulus Moreelse (c. 1620), Art Institute of Chicago.

PHOTOGRAPH: Recent photo of the author with some of her own favorite accessories.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Over the past several years, I’ve become fascinated with the unnamed young woman in Paulus Moreelse’s “Portrait of a Young Lady.” I’ve written about her before, and I’m sure I will again. The reason for our bond is almost certainly the detailed opulence of her dress and accessories and how they seem to both hide and protect the person within.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), NEAT, and YEW Journal. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in the  The Great Gatsby Anthology  and Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology. 

hemstead house photo 1
Many thanks to The Great Gatsby Anthology authors who participated in the fundraiser for renovations of the Gatsby-era mansion Hempstead House (now a cultural/educational center) on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Pictured from left are: Alan Walowitz, Stefanie Lipsey, Caolan Madden (holding a copy of The Great Gatsby Anthology), Becca Klaver, Rachel Voss, Christina M. Rau, and Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike.

Silver Birch Press was pleased and honored to donate a supply of The Great Gatsby Anthology for the event and for future sale at Hempstead House. For more about the preservation efforts for Hempstead House, check out this recent article from Long Island Pulse.


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