Archives for category: My Perfect Vacation


Silver Birch Press was honored to feature poetry and flash fiction from 71 authors — hailing from 11 countries and 18 states — during our My Perfect Vacation Series, which ran from July 19 – August 21, 2015. Thank you to our amazing contributors — it was wonderful to go on this journey with all of you!

Reina Adriano (Philippines)
Kathryn Almy (Michigan)
Sandra Anfang (California)
Stephanie Baird (Massachusetts)
Roberta Beary (Maryland)
Steve Bogdaniec (Illinois)
Cynthia Bryant (California)
Don Kingfisher Campbell (California)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Joanne Corey (New York)
Anthony Costello (United Kingdom)
Yoko Danno (Japan)
Jeremy Dixon (United Kingdom)
Jacqueline Doyle (California)
Karen Eisenbrey (Washington)
J.C. Elkin (Maryland)
Alejandro Escudé (California)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Kate Garrett (United Kingdom)
Lourdes A. Gautier (New York)
Gary Glauber (New York)
Amlanjyoti Goswami (India)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Amanda Hard (Indiana)
Debbie Okun Hill (Canada)
Veronica Hosking (Arizona)
Michele Hyatt-Blankman (Maryland)
Nina Johnson (Indiana)
Oonah V Joslin (United Kingdom)
Christine Kouwenhoven (Maryland)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Richard L. Levesque (Indiana)
Susan Mahan (Massachusetts)
Michael Mark (California)
Betsy Mars (California)
Danielle Matthews (United Kingdom)
Catfish McDaris (Wisconsin)
Elaine Mintzer (California)
Stephanie Joy-Anne Morrissey (Texas)
Robbi Nester (California)
Jay Passer (California)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Ana Prundaru (Switzerland)
Apoorva.B.Raj (India)
Shirani Rajapakse (Sri Lanka)
Julie N. Ramon (Kansas)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Mark Redford (United Kingdom)
Glenis Redmond (North Carolina)
Leslie Richardson (Texas)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
Brad Rose (Massachusetts)
Roslyn Ross (Malawi, Africa)
Sarah Russell (Pennsylvania)
Trish Saunders (Hawaii/Washington)
Marsha Schuh (California)
Crystal Senter-Brown (Tennessee)
Maureen Sudlow (New Zealand)
Marianne Szlyk (Maryland)
Alarie Tennille (Missouri)
G. Murray Thomas (California)
Laura Lee Washburn (Kansas)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Lin Whitehouse (United Kingdom)
Lisa Wiley (New York)
Martin Willitts Jr. (New York)
Abigail Wyatt (United Kingdom)
Yuan Changing (Canada)

by Betsy Mars

My perfect journey: headless.
Heedless of my thoughts, mindful and mindless.
No should or woulds. No sense of unworthiness.
No thought for things done, or not done, or undone.

Strolling through places of beauty sublime,
greenest meadows or fern-floored forests,
leading to peat-filled distilleries where they make
small batches of nectar, transcendent
on craggy outcrops at the end of continents,
with no risk of falling off. No acrophobia or claustrophobia.
No phobia. Safe treks down dry-boned paths
littered with shards of domestic pottery
where the volcano blew
             Life in pieces.

Or time travel to the past, clearing dark places
mined with trigger spots and wrongdoings:
Poorly handled breakups or ill-advised makeups,
child-rearing disasters: the nucleus of neurotic reactors,

Then celebratory trips to champagne caves, riding on riverboats
where movement and stillness coexist. Sober and intoxicated,
as the bank flows by. Or through Rousseau jungles
plentiful with beasts and wildness.
Safari tents are filled with soft scents and the sense of being
embodied in a distant place where light doesn’t leach
away the black from the sky,
and the vast spread of stars is revealed,
terrifying, humbling, and alive.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE IMAGE:  Rather than an actual photo of me on vacation, my poem features a painting by Dave Devenot of the Hawaiian Watercolor Society. He created this based on a photo taken by his wife when we were in Florence many years ago. That’s me in the jeans and red top. I thought, given that my poem is more of a wish fulfillment/fantasy take on the theme, perhaps a painting, being more unrealistic, would capture the feeling more accurately.

betsy mars

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this photo taken in April at LACMA (L.A. County Museum of Art), I am lifting the weight of the world. I am recently starting to  feel myself lightening a little and am hoping to have a more Chagall-like future filled with flight, color, music, and fantastic creatures. Not to mention lots and lots of travel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a poet who lives in Southern California.

Visiting Berne
by Anthony Costello

I remember walking the caverns either/
side of the Gerechtigkeits-gasse,
drinking Rugen Brau at Juggere
and Laphroaig at 15 francs a shot,
small birds pecking at the butt ends
of Romeo y Julietta’s, scattering
the Davidoff seals — TWANG of church bells…
waking by the water to cataracts
or floaters for eyes, colours and shapes
merging as in Klee or Kandinsky,
Einstein’s face on my pillow-zine,
boatmen clanking oars riverside
and Under Dem Vulkan unfinished.

PHOTO: Albert Einstein’s home (Berne, Switzerland).


 Anthony Costello is a poet, writer, and poetry event organizer (for details, see living in Luddendenfoot, West Yorkshire, a couple of kilometres along the valley from where Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd and three kilometres from Heptonstall, a little hamlet above Hebden Bridge, where Sylvia Plath is buried. Anthony is a poetry book reviewer for Sabotage and a blogger on poetry matters at His first poetry collection, The Mask, was published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast, in October 2014.

January Vacation
by Marianne Szlyk

The blonde with the sweetheart neckline
walks up to the mic
for “Stormy Weather”
while the warm fog,
like a heavyset regular at the bar,
settles in outside.

The nearsighted bass player stoops
beneath the low ceiling.
The baby grand takes up space
used for dancing
when couples squeezed together and swayed
at supper clubs throughout the nation.
The saxophonist swings alone.

Servers scurry from table to table,
plying wine, beer, and cocktails,
offering separate desserts for all.

Behind scrubbed brick walls, you cannot hear
the freight train moan and stumble
its way to the coal mines.

PHOTO: “Freight train, Staunton, Virginia” by W. Nathan Simmons.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “January Vacation” is about a recent vacation that my husband and I took in Staunton, Virginia, a city that has intrigued me ever since I first took the Cardinal to Purdue University in 1996. (My husband and I go south for the winter but not that far south since I do not fly.) The poem itself was among several I wrote for a poetry challenge last July by the Ridgeline Literary Alliance. I begin drafting the poem by hand in a notebook. From the second draft on, I type and revise, expanding and then contracting, adding details and sometimes taking them out. This time around I shortened the poem quite a bit from my late drafts.

better picture of marianne

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is...and a professor of English at Montgomery College.  Last fall she published her first chapbook with Kind of a Hurricane Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Silver Birch Press, Long Exposure, Bottlec[r]ap, ken*again, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Carcinogenic Poetry, Flutter Poetry Journal, and Black Poppy Review as well as Kind of a Hurricane Press’ anthologies from Of Sun and Sand on.  She hopes that you will consider sending work to The Song Is blogzine.


Vacation South of the Border
by Catfish McDaris

After the army I drifted through mountains in Mexico, exploring pyramids, fishing rivers, and lakes. Sharing meals with smiling people. Money didn’t matter. Cozumel was paradise and Isla Mujeres, Europeans sunbathed nude. Fish rubbed with garlic, chili, and oregano were grilled. Cerveza was icy cold and the mescal with lime and salt was smoky. A monkey lived in a tree, eating boiled eggs. Tourist buses stopped the monkey would climb down and snatch off the lady’s bikinis and grab their purse and throw stuff all over. Laughter turned into tears and tears turned into laughter.

PHOTO: The author in Guadalajara, Mexico (1976).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s recently been translated into Mandarin, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors are from the Aniwaya Clan of the Cherokee Nation.

Long distance cruising on Tapini
by Mercedes Webb-Pullman

We ran the yacht’s diesel for an hour
morning and evening.
Everything on the water was important.

But we moved
to our own private Montana,
high on a mountain river near
drought-stricken Numeralla.

Lynchy on his crazy mare
popped up above high tussock.
she’s bucking and kicking but he’s still on
you called as they vanished again

then you were gone too.

I dreamed about Tapini last night,
when we bought her and learned to sail.

I dreamed we cruised to Lizard Island
as we’d always planned, and loved it

and we were still there.

PHOTO: Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband and I bought a yacht, a 40’ steel hull multi-chined cutter rigged bilge keeler, built specifically for cruising the Whitsunday Passage. We learned to sail, and planned our perfect holiday, cruising the Australian Great Barrier Reef. But things happened, we moved inland and sold the yacht. Then our marriage fell apart. That was 30 years ago. Last week I dreamed of him, and the yacht, and how happy we were, once. It was awful to wake up, and not be there on Lizard Island with him.


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.

PHOTO: The author on vacation in New Orleans in 2011, about to drink her first Hurricane at Pat O’Briens. Cheers!

Over the Pacific: A Chan Poem
by Yuan Changming

Flying high enough means to
Traveling far enough
To a new realm, where
There is neither borderline
Between sea and sky
Between day and night
Nor distinction
Between yesterday and tomorrow
Where every shape is softly roundish
Every line is tenderly curvy
While all colors become fluffily white
Like dehydrated snow
You would find yourself sailing alone
To an outer Hyperborea
On a heavenly boat
With no more attachments to the earth
There and then, your entire selfhood
Shrinks into a tiny dot of light
One and the same with your soul, your spirit
Gliding, cruising
In perfect pacificity

PHOTO: “Skyline view between two layers of clouds, taken through the window of a Boeing 777 flying over the Pacific Ocean” (2006) by Zuzu.


Yuan Changming
, eight-time Pushcart nominee and author of five chapbooks (including The Origin of Letters, 2015), grew up in rural China, became an ESL student at 19, and published several monographs on translation before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently co-edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan in Vancouver, and, since mid-2005, has had poetry appearing  in 1,039 literary publications across 34 countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Cincinnati Review, and Threepenny Review. 

PHOTO:  The author during his first visit to Hong Kong, the pearl at the Pacific Rim (Sept. 2014).


No Frigate
by Amanda Hard

Monsoon season came early the year of my eleventh birthday. Instead of summer carnivals and fairs, I got my Uncle. An old man in a tweed hat, he came with the rain to collect me from my mother’s house and take me to his. He gave me a heavy suitcase with no rollers, so I had to drag it to the sun porch where I was to sleep.

While Uncle made tea, I opened the case. Inside were paperbacks laid like brickwork, their covers illustrating spaceships and dragons. They smelled of cardamom and earth, spicy and magic. I chose one and turned the first page.

That year, instead of fried bread and snow cones, I ate elven bread and dragon stew, soaking up stories as the black ground soaked up the rains. I read all but one during my stay, but he let me take it home.

Years later I toured the world. I saw a real spaceship in Florida and sailed a wooden dragon boat in Iceland, but I never traveled as far as I did the year the summer rains came early and I read my way through Uncle’s books.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author reading under a sunshade in Southern Indiana.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Even as an adult, I can’t imagine a vacation that doesn’t include an armful of books. I have sometimes marked important places in my life by the books read while I was there. It seemed only fitting to write this piece about the summer I discovered the glory of Rivendell and the grandeur of Barsoom.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Hard is a former journalist and magazine editor who received her BFA in creative writing from the University of Evansville. A 2015 finalist for Glimmer Train’s “New Writer Award,” her fiction has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) Ruthless Peoples Magazine, several flash fiction anthologies from the Daily Nightmare, two volumes of the State of Horror series from Charon Coin Press, and the anthology Idolators of Cthulhu from Alban Lake Press. She lives in the cornfields of southern Indiana, where she still enjoys reading in the rain.

by Crystal Senter-Brown

when I am home, I am seven again
I am dusty pigtails and five best friends
I am hopscotch on hot sidewalks
wearing pink jelly shoes
I am 4th in line at the dollar pool

when I am home,
I am the Christmas parade on main street
I am two tiny bare feet in panther creek
I am a dairy queen chocolate dipped ice cream cone
and Saturday morning cartoons with my big brother jerome

when I am home,
I am tent revival on wednesday nights
I am brass offering plates with the crushed velvet lining
I am amazing grace and the taste of fried chicken
I am red koolaid and switches picked for lickin’s

when I am home,
I am slowed down, whole
I am the daughter of janice and joe
I am miss frances’ granddaughter
and ella’s twin
I am the poet who remembers to stop just to take it all in

when I am home.

PHOTO: The author at age 8.

Crystal Senter Brown Headshot

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although I can travel anywhere in the world, my favorite place to visit is my hometown — Morristown, Tennessee.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Crystal Senter-Brown is a mama, wife, poet, adjunct professor and author of five books.

1980 beach
Permanent Vacation
by Cynthia Bryant

Someday soon
I’m gonna pick myself up
out of this rut I have fashioned
from tawdry bits of life
leave the baggage home
camp out on white sandy beaches
where aqua water laps gently
along the shoreline
sweet subtle scents float on the breeze
and everything I eat
is eaten with hands
savored to last succulent morsel
and I know
if I ever make
that first step towards the door
I will never look back

PHOTO: Southern California beach circa 1980 (Cynthia Bryant photo).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Bryant’s poetry ranges from world news, to poignant pieces closer to her heart: love, family, incest, and injustice. Cynthia has been invited to read her poetry throughout California in diverse venues including coffee shops, fairs, art galleries, schools, battered women’s shelters, and a federal prison. First published in 1997 by two important journals dealing with childhood sexual abuse, Cynthia has since been published in over 30 anthologies. Her books Sojourn, Pebbles in the Shoe, and No Time to Shoot the Poets were accepted into the Ina Coolbrith Circle section in Sacramento State Library’s Special Collections Reading Room.