Archives for category: ME, AT 17

by Ryan Stone

The Harley was midnight polished chrome,
three years of saving — a gift to myself
in the spring of seventeen.

I donned leathers as my birthday broke,
left the house that was not home
and rode out into morning. Rode

until I landed, beneath the steely gaze
of a drill sergeant who forged men
from boys of seventeen.

He shaved away my dreadlocks,
found a fractured soul beneath,
broke it down
then built it up,
more complete.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken on my first training exercise in the Northern Territory during my initial posting to the 1st Armoured Regiment.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I bought my first motorcycle from money I’d earned over a few years of paper-rounds and other after-school employment and devotedly saved for that singular purpose. Shortly after I turned 17  I joined the Australian Army and took off around Australia. I learned many valuable lessons about myself that year.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Stone is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has worn many different hats — barman, soldier, cop, firefighter —  but poet is the one he enjoys most of all. His poetry has been widely published online and in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. Most days you can find him running through his forest surrounds with a loyal German Shepherd at his side.

Of Death and Flies and Summer
by d.r. sanchez

The buzzing is back
Fruit flies invade the kitchen
Honey on a little plate
Wine vinegar in a small cup
My desire to kill is strong

Damned little flies make my head spin
Make me gag

Like the summer of flies
The summer the fire-red sunset
Laced its way through the curtain of flies on my bedroom window

The summer I cried myself to sleep most nights
The summer before senior year of high school
The summer my Irish Setter exploded internally after a botched procedure
The summer of divorce
The summer of death

Of my dog
Of the two hundred and seventy-seven flies I smashed on my window
Of my parent’s marriage
Of childhood

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: With Grandma and Mom, at Grandma’s (1978).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes a thought or memory refuses to let me sleep until I coerce it to page. Other times I must delve deep to find it. All too often the fleeting flickers of the ones I most cherish vanish. This particular piece haunted me off and on for decades. It began as an essay to purge a lingering ache. A friend from my writing group insisted that it was something more. After some sleepless nights I was able to face the flies again.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Sanchez has moved over 30 times and has lived in five states in two countries…so far. She leads and attends various writing groups in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and also hosts writing retreats. Her writing has won awards at writers conferences in various genres, including children’s stories, poetry, fantasy, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Several of her plays and monologues have been produced and published. Other works have been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Innocence and white wine
by j a farina

white turtleneck
tight black corduroys
yardley scented
with twiggy eyes
you step towards me
in the basement semi-darkness
of your birthday celebration,
alone — you hold my hand
in my constant dream
of innocence and white wine,
that i repeat , as i walk
the reality of now empty streets
counting the places
that you loved
as i held your hand
Eau de London scented
and sigh shadowed eyes

PHOTO: The author at 17.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: j a farina is a retired lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. He has been published in many anthologies in Canada, Europe, and USA, as well as in numerous poetry journals. He is the author of two published books of poetry, The Cancer Chronicles and The Ghosts of Water Street.


Out of the Depths
by Stephanie Han

Here I learn to sing for love: St. James Church, Florence, Italy, 1982.
Out of the Depths. Aus der Tiefe.
Bach knew that voices peel notes, scatter petals before gods.
In foreign lands, terrain is the body.
Journeys: steps among walls from autumnal kilns,
red wine that stings,
cobblestones that beat boot leather,
dust of clay and time.
Here, an old world of art and gods.
Here, an alabaster youth towers,
crowds gather, transfixed:
The Madonna’s electric blues, the child’s peach fists,
halos, halos everywhere.
This air shouts love and belief.
Passion: the faint bite of a cigarette nipping dusk,
March cold whipping the back of my knees,
a quiver and kiss, a penance for longing.
The thrill and release, crisp smell of hope,
embrace of supple flesh,
passion so wide, skin barely holds it.
Memory is now.
What is Love, but an ancient bridge over an ageless water,
flocks of birds that hurry to the heavens,
a sky that echoes your eyes?
In youth one knows its purpose: the creation of memories,
urgent, desperate, alive.

* * *

Such things follow me to China.
Here, continents and decades away,
I push back memory’s cloying scent and salty sweet
to stay alive. All is half-done.
What to do now, but to sift and store.
My love from the past remains
in a box I will always carry:
This is what it means to have innocence.
And what of love now?
A familiar traveler, a wanderer,
a man of rage and longing,
a rough rock of intelligence.
Poetry is difference, the unknown.
We unfold like origami; the lines remain.
Then was the creation of the map I came to follow.

* * *

The compass rose blooms and points,
directs us to deserts and possibility.
Now I know the gravity of love,
how it breaks and mends,
its flowers and soil,
the cracking of its perfect wood,
the thirst of its jagged roots,
the light it demands and gives or
Death: this ocean surely comes.
I have moved countries again. Again.
Time, time, from one cradle to another.
Love—bound in this place and a man without a country—
began in the hiss of summer’s heat,
through the eye of an Empire’s possession.
This East swallows, and I am one of its minions,
a small snack, a witness, nothing more.
I dreamt of everything then, as I do now.
This, this boat, ferries me over the water
anchors my belief, delivers me on hands and knees
to dreams that pour from my flesh,
to love that awakens again. Again.

IMAGE: Concert program, St. James Church, Florence, Italy (March 21, 1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about being 17, touring Italy with a school choir, and falling in love with a young American backpacker. Years later, he emailed me the choir program. Later, I fell in love again while traveling through Hong Kong, and thus began my peripatetic existence between cities, countries, and places.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Han’s debut short story collection Swimming in Hong Kong was the finalist for the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction as well as the Spokane Prize. She is City University of Hong Kong’s first English literature PhD, and her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literary criticism have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies. She divides her time between Mui Wo, Lantau, Hong Kong, and Honolulu, Hawaii, home of her family since 1904.


A LiveJournal Entry at 17
Daniella Levy

Some things are too sad even for tears.
You just sit there, staring blankly at the wall,
your heart dutifully pumping on
just to spite you.

Sometimes you sit there across from a friend who needs something,
who needs to be cradled in everlasting love and comfort,
and you want her to be happy so much and you just can’t give her that happiness.
Some things are taken away from people…
and some things take themselves away from people,
and what do you say when she’s left there,
heart torn to shreds,
wanting only for things to be normal again
and you know they never will be?

She tells you not to cry,
but as you watch her dissolve into tears you can’t help it,
and there’s nothing in your heart other than her right then—
there’s no you,
no world,
just her and her pain,
and all you want is for that pain to go away
but it doesn’t,
and there’s nothing you can do.

Some people you can know your whole life and never really know.
Some people can turn the tables, just like that,
flip the coin and—
suddenly the rest of the room is drowned in light
and you see something ugly,
something you never wanted to know,
but something she must tell you
because she has been destroyed by it.
And you stand there watching
and she sits there hurting
and you keep telling yourself that you can’t judge,
you can’t judge,
you’re just an observer,
a heartbroken outsider.

And you sit in silence for a while,
and she begs you to make her laugh,
to tell her something happy,
and you dive into that world eagerly just to see her eyes light up once more,
and you feel like the whole world just lit up three thousand watts
and you wish it could stay that way,
but it won’t.
And she looks you in the eye and tells you to please not tell,
that it’s something that has to be kept within the walls of your soul,
and she knows it’s hard to contain such a secret
but I must do it for her.
And I promise
because I know that’s what’s right;
all those who have to know
already do.

Don’t ask me to tell.
Because I won’t.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A selfie before they were called selfies. In my room in Rehovot, Israel, age 17 (June 2004).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was composed from a LiveJournal entry I wrote when I was 17 years old, about a conversation I’d had with a friend. Only line breaks were added. Not a single word was changed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniella Levy is a writer, translator, and educator living in Israel with her husband and three sons. She is the author of Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism, and her debut novel, An Ancient Whisper, is forthcoming from Kasva Press. She blogs about Judaism and life in Israel at, and about resilience in the face of rejection at The Rejection Survival Guide. Her poetry, short fiction, and articles have been published in English and Hebrew in Reckoning, the Jewish Literary Journal, Pnima Magazine, and Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression & Empowerment of Women as well as websites such as Kveller,, and Ynet News. Connect with her at, and follow her on Twitter at @DaniellaNLevy.

by Danna Hobart

Born so beautifully flawed,
like crackleware
before your first breath;
you hit the wall on that birthday.

Eyes like marbles baked and chilled
saw the world with wonder,
but mother greeted you —
like a cat with her back arched.

Encircled with rules —
like antique bottles
not to be broken —
you cringe at the sound of their clinking,
and any movement or growth topples them.

Try to climb
over broken and splintered glass
reaching out
not knowing what you’re reaching for
your chin dips and suspicious eyes follow you.

Hungry for kindness,
you follow anybody who
scratches behind your ears,
only to be kicked aside
as the door slams.

Tomorrow is uncertain
as a Vegas card game;
do you hold at 17?
Or cross your fingers
and take another card?

IMAGE: Blackjack hand 17.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danna Hobart lives in California. Her poetry has been published in Events Quarterly, Problem Child, Zygote in my Coffee, Cadenza, Ink Poet, Ink Angels, Feeling Is First, and other anthologies.

by Joseph Kleponis

post-election blues
silent majority wins
Nixon finally prez

swaggering QB
Broadway Joe leads Jets past Colts
bettors take big hit

our dreams coming true
Neil Armstrong walks on the moon
nothing we can’t do

no acrimony
The Beatles do it again
Abbey Road album

making love, not war
tie dye t-shirts, long hair
except the squares, man

The year was nineteen sixty-nine
Times were oh so wild, we were so fine.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: On the road somewhere a little older, but not by much, than 17.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since the topic was “AT 17” I tried to be quirky and create 17 lines broken into five tercets/haiku lines with seventeen syllables each and a closing couplet of seventeen syllables.


Joseph Kleponis
lives North of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared in Leaflet, the Journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English,  paperwasp, Eucalypt, as well as Boston Literary Magazine and other small publications. He writes a blog Pieces of My Mind: Mendacious Musings.

At 17 I Fell in Love
by Alarie Tennille

with a boy, yes, but this is not
his poem. First I flirted
with writing. I thought both
would last. Silly girl!

Teachers recruited me
for school newspapers. Nyeh.
Dull. Spewing out facts.
As much fun as homework.

Then Journalism’s flashy brother
stepped in. Poetry showed how
my words could flood the page
like a watercolor sunset, stretching
lavender fingers past margins.
They no longer marched like numbers
in drab uniforms.

Writing was ready for commitment.
The boy was not.

PHOTO: The author at 18 and about to leave for college. Her Romeo at the time took the photo.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The summer I was 17, I hadn’t met the mentioned boy. I didn’t know what I’d study in college either, though I was beginning to lean toward English. A five-week summer class in Creative Writing changed my life. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer, no, I knew I WAS a writer…just one with untried wings. A few months later, I’d be applying to the University of Virginia, which was still an all-male institution. Everything was new to me, what did I know about making life more challenging?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She misses the ocean, but loves the writing community she’s found in Kansas City, Missouri. Alarie serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Alarie’s poetry collection, Running Counterclockwise, was First Runner Up for the 2015 Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence.  She’s also written a chapbook, Spiraling into Control, and her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Margie, Poetry East, I-70 Review, Midwest Quarterly Review, and Southern Women’s Review. Visit her at

Summer in London, 1980
by Massimo Soranzio

My first long London summer,
so cold and showery at first—
sounds were strange: H’s were dropped,
T’s vanished, and A’s were I’s—
and I’d have tea.

I’d sip my hot tea with milk—
initially mistaken for coffee—
with pink wafers, ginger nuts,
and Garibaldis, of course,
all new to me.

I saw the Empire strike back
at the Odeon that year,
by Marble Arch—still open,
not even converted yet,
with its big screen—

and Jesus Christ, in his last
Superstar season at the
Palace Theatre—followed
by a visit to Foyles, a
book-buying spree.

I felt London was all mine,
in my teens, hopping on and
off an open bus at red
traffic lights, absorbing all
there was to see.

Everything was exciting,
even Fiat mural ads
for little One-Two-Sevens,
or learning how to call home
with fifty p.

Though of all the things I saw
and did, one I would treasure
above all, that Saturday
in July, forever fixed in
my memory:

twenty days to seventeen,
standing at Centre Court, I
knew that my one-pound banknote
was giving me cheap access
to history.

NOTE ON THE PICTURE: I am still trying to recover most of my old London photographs, buried as they are in some hidden drawer or old cardboard box. But I have found this picture by Tim Plowman online showing Fiat’s macaronic-Italian ad for the 127 model, which you would see anywhere in London in the summer of 1980.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The summer of 1980 was my first long holiday on my own, and in London! It was a memorable summer for a number of reasons, one in particular: 20 days before my seventeenth birthday I got up at dawn and—I can’t remember how—I reached Wimbledon and started queuing. I had been studying my steps for a week, so as I got to the turnstiles I bought my access to the courts for £1 and rushed to Centre Court, finding a good standing place, where I would wait till three p.m. for THE match to begin. Today you would have to spend the whole night in the queue, and I don’t think any form of free access to Centre Court is possible anymore, especially on the last day (which is no longer a Saturday, by the way, but a Sunday). Seeing Bjorn Borg win his fifth (and last) Wimbledon against an equally wonderful John McEnroe was definitely the experience of a lifetime.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio writes on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, about 20 miles from Trieste. He teaches English as a foreign language and English literature in a high school, and has been a journalist, a translator, and a freelance lecturer on Modernist literature and literary translation. He took part in the Found Poetry Review‘s National Poetry Month challenges Oulipost (2014) and PoMoSco (2015), and in a virtual tour around the world with an international group of poets on the Found Poetry Frontiers project between 2015 and 2016. His work appeared in two anthologies in 2016, including Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology.

“she was just”
by Skaidrite Stelzer

contact lenses
didn’t like the football players anymore
liked the Beatles instead
and, like Sherry, wanted to “come out tonight”
didn’t like the formaldehyde squirting from the crayfish eye
dissection in biology class
and has smelled it ever since
some things don’t leave you
did not enjoy the hayride with the short boy
from a rich neighborhood
did not enjoy the winning number
Christmas sourdough

contact lenses
her vision ever clearer
got over the menstrual blood
on the white skirt
got over playing ping-pong
at the school dance
she bought some boots
made for walking
dreamed California
for real

IMAGE:  1970s ad for contact lenses.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thinking back on being 17 in the 1960s, I decided to focus on the invention of the contact lens as a metaphor for the new sense of freedom that many girls were beginning to feel in that decade. I’ve distanced myself a bit by using third person, since these specific experiences which I claim are certainly familiar to many other girls of 17.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Skaidrite Stelzer lives and writes in Toledo, Ohio. Growing up as a post-war refugee and displaced person, she feels connected to the world and other stray planets. Her poetry has been published in Fourth River, Eclipse, Glass, Baltimore Review, and many other literary journals.