Archives for category: My Sweet Word

ice cream photo1

A heartfelt thank you to the 98 authors — from 25 states and 13 countries — who contributed their work to our MY SWEET WORD Series, which ran from September 16 – October 31, 2015. We really loved this series! One of the best ever! Many thanks to our authors from around the world!

Steve Luria Ablon (Massachusetts)
Tobi Alfier (California)
Elizabeth Alford (California)
Sandra Anfang (California)
Barbara Bald (New Hampshire)
BAM (Japan)
Anna Lena Phillips Bell (North Carolina)
Tara Betts (Illinois)
Michele Hyatt-Blankman (Maryland)
Jane Boch (Virginia)
Rose Mary Boehm (Peru)
Michèle Alter Brenton (Wales)
Harry Calhoun (North Carolina)
Don Kingfisher Campbell (California)
Alexandra Carr-Malcolm (England)
Adrian Ernesto Cepeda (California)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
SuzAnne C. Cole (Texas)
Joanne Corey (New York)
Chella Courington (California)
Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. (Singapore)
Melanie Dunbar (Michigan)
Lisken Van Pelt Dus (Massachusetts)
Barbara Eknoian (California)
Brian Evans-Jones (Maine)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Rebecca Fremo (Minnesota)
Ryan Friend (Oklahoma)
Kate Garrett (England)
Ana Garza G (California)
liz gonzález (California)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Theo Greenblatt (Rhode Island)
Tina Hacker (Kansas)
Anne Harding Woodworth (DC)
Jennifer Hernandez (Minnesota)
Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike (New York)
Jonathan Michael Hammond (Massachusetts)
Mark Hudson (Illinois)
Claire Ibarra (Colorado)
Rosemarie Horvath Iwasa (Ohio)
Ingrid Jacobs (Wisconsin)
Veronika Hørven Jensen (Norway)
Joseph Johnston (Michigan)
Jessie Keary (Illinois)
Carol Keenan (California)
Linda Kraus (Florida)
Kathryn Kulpa (Massachusetts)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Deborah LeFalle (California)
Mary Leonard (New York)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
Richard L. Levesque (Indiana)
Ellaraine Lockie (California)
Susan Mahan (Massachusetts)
Wade Martin (Texas)
Danielle Matthews (England)
Jill McCabe Johnson (Washington)
Linda McKenney (New York)
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco (California)
Megan Merchant (Arizona)
Sarah Frances Moran (Texas)
Stephanie Joy-Anne Morrissey (Texas)
Kathleen Naureckas (Illinois)
Robbi Nester (California)
Suzanne O’Connell (California)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Venetia Peterson (Canada)
Steve Ramirez (California)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Mark Redford (England)
Jeannie E. Roberts (Wisconsin)
Polly Robinson (England)
Karen Robiscoe (California)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
Ruth Sabath Rosenthal (New York)
Chelsea Rounsley (Ohio / England)
Shloka Shankar (India)
Lynne Shapiro (New Jersey)
J.K. Shawhan (Illinois)
Clinton Siegle (Montana / Bolivia)
Leslie Sittner (New York)
Donna JT Smith (Maine)
Massimo Soranzio (Italy)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
Thomas R. Thomas (California)
Jari Thymian (South Dakota)
Karen Vande Bossche (Washington)
Cindy Veach (Massachusetts)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Martin Willitts Jr (New York)
Andrea Wyatt (Maryland)
Mantz Yorke (England)
Sally Zakariya (Virginia)
Marilyn Zelke-Windau (Wisconsin)
Yvonne Zipter (Illinois)

halloween candy
Halloween 1966
by Thomas R. Thomas

That was the year
Mom and Dad were
at a party and

only Sue and I
were home to pass
out the candy.

Mom and Dad forgot
to buy candy
for the kids.

Eleven is still young
enough to go

but we had a
I dressed up as

a cowboy, soldier,
and anything I could
find in the closet,

going up and down
Robin road each time
to fill the bowl

while Sue passed
out candy
to the kids.

It was the only good
memory in the hell
year of sixth grade

until we moved
to La Verne
in the spring,

the first unselfish
grownup thing
I remember doing,

the best
I ever had.


Thomas R. Thomas publishes the small press Arroyo Seco Press. Publications include Carnival, Pipe Dream, Bank Heavy Press, Chiron Review, Electric Windmill, Marco Polo, and Silver Birch Press. His books are Scorpio (Carnival) and Five Lines (World Parade Books). The art of invisibility is coming in 2015. His website is

mary leonard
Trick or Treating: Crestwood 1953
by Mary Leonard

My older sister did the makeup —
I’m a bum, a hobo, a clown and so proud
to trick or treat with Mary Kay and Carolyn.

We clutch sacks and swish through leaves,
running from house to house — no fear of dangling skeletons
and monster pumpkins. We screech and laugh with

Each box of jujy fruits and milk duds plopped to the bottom
of our bags. We scream wow to candy cigarettes,
laugh at chuckles, tootsie rolls and pop open bubble gum

To chew while running through streets of English Tudors
all lit up, all strewn with orange and black crepe paper
all mothers in apple aprons smiling like June Cleaver.

No street too dark or off limits — hundreds of kids dance
like munchkins, from door to door, a litany of thank yous, thanks.
No knowledge of pedophiles, of pins in chocolate bars,

We jitterbug into the glare of street lights — we
baby boomers — dreaming of Necco wafers, taffy,
Milky Ways, caramels and chocolate kisses.

PHOTO: The author (center) with friends Carolyn and Mary Kay (Halloween, 1953).

mary leonard1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Leonard is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College. She has published four chapbooks of poetry at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press, and RedOchreLit. Her work has appeared in many journals, such as the Naugatuck Review, Red River, Earth’s Daughters, Hubbub, and most recently in Chronogram and Blotterature. She is working on a new chapbook Living In the Hyphen and a novel, Italian Ice.

All Hallows’ Greed
by Richard L. Levesque

We were candy banditos,
suburban monsters on the prowl
for sticky sweets. Our code was
simple. Knock on every door between
Congress Street and Huntington Avenue.
Ignore curfews. Challenge dimly lit doorways.
If no one answers, keep knocking. Persistence
usually scored a quarter from the grim old
men and women who shambled like the living dead
within. Sometimes we would get a half-dollar.
But candy was always the goal. The only goal.

So with our $2.98 Collegeville superhero in a
box costumes and trick or treat bags that went
from waist to shoe, we would slink into the night.
No parents. No guardians. Just cheap plastic
skull and jack-o’-lantern flashlights that would
certainly keep us safe under any circumstance.
One hundred small-fisted raps on doors. One
hundred times we’d screech the mystical phrase,
“Trick or treat!” We’d fill those bags to a third
of our weight one fun-size bar at a time, our arms
trembling with fatigue and the inside of our masks
slick with sweat and condensation.

At home, we’d prioritize the loot:
styrofoam-tasting popcorn balls and rock-hard
caramel-covered apples were immediately relegated
to the trash. Hershey bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and
Snickers got marked for immediate consumption. All Nestlé Crunch,
Milky Way, and 3 Musketeers were stashed for later. Then
came all the off-brand chocolates with their foil-wrapped likenesses
of famous monsters and their odd flavors. At the end of the chain
were the Jujubes, Dots, and concrete slabs of Bit-O-Honey,
the scourges of baby teeth and dentists alike. They
would be the last things consumed as the Autumn chill
grew more pronounced and wandering spirits gave way
to thanks and the promise of apple pie and candy canes beyond
that. It was childhood survival, 1970s style. And we were never
more proud to be greedy.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is me trick or treating at my aunt’s house in 1971. My four-year-old brain had already figured out the whole “the bigger the bag, the bigger the haul” thing.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I had been working on a piece about Swedish Fish when I spotted a blog post from Silver Birch Press prompting the authors to submit photos of themselves trick or treating. This got me to thinking about all the rules and rituals we had as kids when we went out on Halloween. My goal was always to make my candy stash last from Halloween until Thanksgiving. And, as far as I can recall, I only came up short a couple of times.


Richard L. Levesque 
has been writing and publishing poetry since 1991. He is the author of two chapbooks, Bone-Break Psychobilly Stew and Fetal Graceland. He is currently working on a third chapbook, Carriagetown Frogs, about his life growing up in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Lorrie.

Halloween—The Queen of Division
by Joan Leotta

Sometime in my early years
I caught what they called the “Asian flu.”
During the three weeks
erased from my schooling
the nuns taught the rest of the class
the intricate secrets of long division.
I never did catch up.
However, my distinct lack of skills
with divisor and dividend
never held me back on Halloween
where I was the undisputed Queen
of cousinly candy divisions, long and short.

On finishing our separate rounds
of sugary beggary in our
separate neighborhoods
we seven gathered at Grandma’s.
While the grownups talked of
who knows what,
we spilled out our loot
onto her red wool oriental rug.
We stacked our holdings
into categories—in front of us like chips—the
chocolates, the popcorn balls, the nut things.
the boxes of jellied things
good and plenty and the rest.
I knew each cousin’s favorites
and played one against the other
until the chocolate began to flow my way.
By dividing their interests, I conquered.
I am still shaky with long division,
but when my children
come home with pumpkins full
of chocolate bars, my trading instincts
kick in. My current, hidden stash of candies
attests to the fact that I am still
the Queen of Division, long and otherwise —
when it counts.

PHOTO: The author at around age four in a Marie Antoinette costume made by her Aunt Claudia.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This photo comes from a newspaper photo shoot for the Sunday supplement of The Pittsburgh Press, years ago. The supplement honored Aunt Claudia for her gourmet cooking, fabulous parties, and her wonderful artistic skills — which included having just won a prize in a citywide amateur art contest for a portrait of a family friend and doing things like making this Marie Antoinette costume. Aunt Claudia was my godmother. She was the ultimate, real live fairy godmother making costumes, then dresses, painting china, taking me to New York for graduation — we stayed at the Plaza, went to see Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and the next night ate at Luchow’s, the restaurant that inspired part of the show. She went to Egypt not long after making this costume for me and instilled a lifelong love of that land in me. She showed her slides of Egypt and the Holy Land at my school every year. She made birthday cakes in wild shapes for me but most of all, she provided an additional anchor of love in my life and a spur to my own creativity. Although there are many large memories in my heart—like this costume—one of the memories I cherish most is of nestling in her lap as she read stories to me on my Grandma’s front porch. Thank you, Auntie! Claudia Cuda Kraft, 1919-2015.

joan leotta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta is an author and story performer. Her books include Giulia Goes to WarLetters from Korea, and A Bowl of RiceVisit her at


Piñata y Halloween
by Saran Frances Moran

Nearly every party I ever remember growing up included a piñata stuffed with candy (and money if we were lucky.) I remember one year we celebrated my little brother’s birthday late. He is a July baby but Mom and Dad were broke so his birthday got lumped into a Halloween celebration. The piñata was a large jack-o-lantern and heavy like they’d filled it with bricks of tootsie rolls. Know what’s better than getting candy? Getting candy after beating something colorful until it cracks open, rushing to the ground in a frenzy and piling as much candy as you could into your bag, or your shirt or both!

Now that I’m an adult I love watching children go through the traditions I once went through; the excitement that fills their eyes and the way that some of them are nervous and new to the experience but still very eager. The way they stumble after being blindfolded and the attempts at hitting something moving and not knowing where it is. The sound that cuts through the air when the piñata bursts and a horde of children rush the scene, that’s priceless.

Halloween, chocolates and Super Hero costumes are amazing all alone. Add in a piñata and you’ve got party gold.

PHOTO: The author on Halloween 1983.


Sarah Frances Moran
is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming in The No Se Habla Espanol Anthology, Elephant Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Rust+Moth, Maudlin House, Blackheart Magazine, Red Fez, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review. These days you can find her kayaking the Brazos in Waco, Texas, with her partner. You may reach her at

Back to the Future Halloween
by Jari Thymian

Disguising myself as the oldest daughter in the Thymian
family was not easy when the family car pulled into another
farm family’s yard on Halloween night. Most years, due to lack
of costume resources, I wore the default costume. Hobo. Easy.
Dirty old coats my dad wore to the barn or to the fields. A sweaty
and faded seed corn cap. A dry branch from a box elder tree already
bared by Minnesota cold and a red bandana tied at the end. Carried
on one shoulder. What I wanted to be was an elegant Japanese
woman in a kimono or a gypsy fortuneteller. After traveling a few
miles between farms on dark roads, I’d forget my costume downfall,
politely accept Mrs. Holme’s caramel apples or homemade popcorn
balls or Mrs. Storm’s warm cookies. Now in the simplified, wanderer’s
life I’ve claimed for myself, I’m happy to write haiku and tanka, read
about Basho walking on foot through Japan very much like a hobo.

the curve
of petal to wing . . .
doesn’t always travel
in just a straight line

SOURCE: Tanka portion first appeared in Cattails, “Pen this Painting,” Sept. 2015, with art by Cindy Lommasson.

PHOTO:  The author in an eagle costume for a fundraising run/walk event for the DC Booth Historic National Hatchery & Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota (September 2015). Photo by Pat Dufur.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was not compelled to write about any candy until the submission call for Halloween candy arrived from Silver Birch Press. A flood of memories poured out and delivered an epiphany in the last two lines that surprised me.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jari Thymian’s poetry has appeared in publications including tinywords, Skylark, Cattails, KYSO Flash, The Furious Gazelle, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Bamboo Hut. She and her husband live in an RV and travel year-round while volunteering in national parks in the USA. This past summer, they volunteered for four months in Spearfish, South Dakota, at the DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives.

boiled sweets
Finger Licking Hallowe’en
by Polly Robinson

My favourites came in cubes:
Pineapple, Kola,
and other boiled sweets
like toffee crunch
loose in quarters,
weighed out from glass jars
lining the sweet shop shelves.
Square quarter bags
and two ounce triangular paper cones;
right at the base,
where small fingers could firkle,
there lay the sugar
and slivers of sweets,
a delight on the fingertip,
on the tongue.
A memory so sweet
it makes the mouth water,
has lasted as long
as sherbet fountains
and liquorice sticks,
gob stoppers and bubble gum.
And Hallowe’en
brought cinder toffee
and Blackjacks
to stain your tongue.

Hallowe'en Devil & Witch

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is of my friend Di (l’il devil) and me (the witch) at a Hallowe’en event at St John’s Library organised by Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. We volunteered to help in the kitchen and had a marvellous time. The children at the event were excited waiting for their Hallowe’en pumpkins, enjoying a magician, colouring in, and in awe at unusual animals provided by “Animal Magic.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Written for the Silver Birch Press MY SWEET WORD: Halloween Edition with fond memories of Hallowe’ens at St John’s Library in Worcester, UK, where I’ll be behind the counter serving with Di again this year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Polly Robinson is active in the Worcestershire (UK) literary scene and is a resident artist at Croome Court. Writing for both page and performance, her work has been widely published in anthologies. Her publications, Girl’s Got Rhythm and Chatterton, can be found on Amazon. Polly occasionally dabbles with Facebook and posts at and

Halloween Haiku
by Kelley White

Morning after
Halloween—a trail of candy
wrappers down my street.

White AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My first pumpkin, daughter Jenny (October 1984).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Halloween is definitely a big date on the pediatric calendar! Some years I give out pretzels or popcorn balls, some years glow-in-the-dark bats and snakes, other years it’s toothpaste. (Not so popular.) In my village, unless it rains heavily or snows we have at least 400 trick or treaters. Exhausting. By the end I’m giving away anything I can find—stamps, tongue depressors, paperclips.


Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural
 New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals, including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

cat ears
Trick or Treat
by Robbi Nester

All summer we kids would plan
as our mothers stitched and stapled
in preparation for this day in late
October, when the moon burned
orange as maples and the air
turned cool. My mother only hoped
I might accept at last her bows and baubles.
Rather than princesses or gypsies,
I preferred the bizarre
and the original—a lightbulb,
or a pencil capped with pink eraser,
a praying mantis or a fly. But this year,
at eleven, I agreed to let her
dress me as a black cat,
silky ears and whiskers
perched on a black hairband,
slinky leotard and tail
that brushed the ground.
My figure was quite precocious.
Most days, I hid beneath loose blouses,
unbuttoned cardigans.
At last, I let her show me off.
Pins in her teeth, she smiled, and made me
twirl before the mirror, handed me
my coat and flashlight, shopping bag.
They gawked, adults and kids alike,
as I stepped up to each lighted threshold,
bag extended to receive handfuls
of Clark bars, Mary Janes, Nik L Nips,
and Necco Wafers, wax lips
and candy necklaces, Pez charms,
enticing Licorice All-Sorts.
Finally, one woman on a distant block
stepped sternly to the door,
declared me an embarrassment.
Too old for trick or treat.
“Get a bra!” she said,
shadow cowboys blurring
as I fled.


This poem, written to the Silver Birch Press prompt, is one of a series of autobiographical pieces I have written about traumatic events in my youth. Many of these (though not this one) will appear in my new collection of poems, Other-Wise, to be published by Tebot Bach Press.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester lives and writes in Southern California, but grew up in Philadelphia. Her birthday almost coincides with Halloween, so the two are often conflated in her mind.

PHOTO: The author trying on a Brunhilda helmet (complete with braids) at a Southern California costume shop (2015).