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skunk 1
The Importance of Water
by Martin Willitts Jr

I carry water from the well in an old wooden bucket,
swinging loosely from a metal handle,
my face swimming on the water’s surface,
whooshing side to side
like I’m disagreeing with someone.
The slosh-spill water music ripples with light.

I hurry — not shilly-shally —
because grandmother is waiting up for me.

She needs me to fetch this water
to pour into her black kettle pot
from the American Revolution.

She places that huge pot
on the wood-burning Franklin pot-belly stove.

She will pour the near-hot water
on grandfather’s naked body in the wooden bathtub
because he was on the wrong side of a discussion
with a skunk, and stinks so bad,
God complains.

IMAGE: Skunk ceramic tile, available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some of my poems could be considered memoirs, but I am also writing about a time period where some people still used well water, large pots in a fireplace, and wooden bath tubes. My Amish and Mennonite grandparents are a great source about that time period, farming the old way with hand plows, nature, sunrises and sunsets, working with animals, and their silent ways. They are also a great source for my more prayerful poems. This is one of my funny memories. I called it “close encounter with a skunk.” It reminds me that no matter how attentive we are to the land, the land has it own rules. Being ambushed by skunks is one of those hard-to-avoid rules.

Msrtin Willitts Jr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Willitts Jr edits the Comstock Review. He has been nominated for 17 Pushcart and 14 Best of the Net awards. His awards include: Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2015, Editor’s Choice; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, 2016; Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; and Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2020. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections, including 2019 Blue Light Award The Temporary World.  His latest release is All Wars Are the Same War (FutureCycle Press, 2022). Find his books at

Raul Golinelli
by Joe Cottonwood

My neighbor Ellen a single mom
operates an organic farm
nonprofit, the nature of farming,
sells veggies roadside, tractors her field,
comes to church perspiring through dirt,
shows up one day on the restaurant wall
where you can buy burgers and pizza
plus Ellen posed discretely nude, nothing rude,
clothed by corn and kale.

Her paintings won’t win awards
except for courage.
Sales benefit her toil, the soil,
embarrass her preteen son.

Now the whole town sees her astonishing tan lines,
bright stripes on a body stout,
folds of mom chub like ribs on a carrot.

A man of peppery beard out for a mountain drive
in a Ferrari bright red, the midlife car of Silicon Valley
with his preteen daughter looking bored
parks for a pizza, buys one painting.

Next day he returns alone, buys five more,
asks where to find the folk-artist.

Ellen is healing the earth. He is digitizing it.
We hesitate to judge prospects
for art or love, but tell.
May it please go well.

PHOTO: Woman harvesting carrots grown organically in the Bahian backlands in Irece, Bahia, Brazil. Photo by Raul Golinelli

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem inspired by true events but see now it’s also an allegory. Can the sterile algorithms of Silicon Valley help to heal the earth? I hope so.

Cottonwood Joe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

A Grandmother Trying to Help the Planet
by Margaret Duda

With my advanced age and seven grandchildren,
I often worry about the world my generation
is leaving for our descendants and what more
we can do to help them inherit a better one.

Shorter and weaker than I used to be, I still leave
a carbon footprint destroying the planet I love.
Too arthritic to hike, and too unsteady to bike,
I look for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

I limit my driving to necessary trips and events,
and lower thermostats for both heat and cold air.
I am a vegan, trying to save the animals I love from pain
and the environment I love from greenhouse gas emissions.

I refuse to use plastic containers that cannot be recycled
or to spray toxic pesticides linked to cancer on my weeds.
I continually downsize items I no longer want, need or use,
giving them to the less fortunate or to sales for charities.

I travel less, using a train or a bus instead of a plane,
donate to organizations who clean up the oceans,
give clean water to villages in impoverished nations,
and attempt to save animals on the verge of extinction,

But frequent fires and floods still demolish thousands
of acres of forests, vineyards, entire communities
as tornados and hurricanes destroy all in their path
while ice caps melt, sea waters rise, and droughts kill.

How will my grandchildren remember me some day as they sit
beneath the tree I bought each of them for Xmas this year?
Will they enjoy its shade, singing birds, scampering wildlife,
and remember I loved the earth I left them and tried to help?

PAINTING: Birds on Branches by Lin Fengmian.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a senior citizen, I am limited as to how much I can do to help the planet heal, but it is a subject that interests me greatly since I have seven grandchildren and I worry about their future and the future of the planet. The climate changes and disasters have escalated so rapidly and I worry that my grandchildren will not be able to enjoy traveling around the world as much as I did and my children did.  As a travel photographer for the New York Times for 10 years, I traveled to 40 countries and loved the people, scenery, and culture in every single one of them.  I would love to see my grandchildren travel as much as I did,  as I learned so much on those trips and made lifelong friends.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As a poet, Margaret Duda has had numerous poems published during the past year in Silver Birch Press, THE  POET (UK) anthology entitled Friends and Friendships, Around the World: Landscapes and Cityscapes anthology, A Love Letter (or Poem) to... anthology, several poems on Connections and Creativity in Challenging Times, and three poems in Viral Imaginations: Covid-19. As a short story writer, she has had short stories published in The Kansas Quarterly, the University Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review, the South Carolina Review, Fine Arts Discovery, Crosscurrents, Venture, Green River Review, and other journals. One of her short stories made the Distinctive List of Best American Short Stories.  A collection of her short stories is now under consideration in a contest. She has written five books of nonfiction, the latest are Four Centuries of Silver and Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charms. Listed in Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2021, she is currently working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town from 1910 to 1920.

I am waiting, still
by Yvette Viets Flaten

for that rejection I know is coming,
but why so long, I ask? What can
possibly take this long to decide?

I’m waiting, still, for the mousetrap
to spring, and the neighbor to haul
his garbage cans up the driveway,
and get a leash for his nosing dog.

I am still waiting for spring, for
daffodils, for party dresses and favors,
for church bells and peace.

I am still waiting for a decent night’s sleep.
For I’m sorry. For the right moment to get
started on sorting out the boxes of years
that got stacked up, somehow, without labels.
I’m sorry.

I’m still waiting for all the right answers. Still
sorry about all those waiting boxes with no labels.

IMAGE: Yellow Candy Box by Andy Warhol (1983)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am always fascinated by the interweaving of the small and the large issues of life into one day’s fabric, from the scratchings of a mouse to the search for justice, and back again. And the need to be awake to what is in front of our eyes.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yvette Viets Flaten was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in an Air Force family, living in Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington State as well as France, England, and Spain. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (1974) and a Master of Arts in History (1982) from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She writes both fiction and poetry and her award-winning poetry (Muse Prize, Jade Ring, Triad) has appeared in numerous journals, including the Wisconsin Academy Review, Rag Mag, Midwest Review, Free Verse, Red Cedar Review, and Barstow and Grand. In May 2020 she was interviewed by Garrison Keillor as part of his Pandemic Poetry Contest. Yvette’s poem “Riding It Out” was one of 10 winners. Find her interview with Garrison Keillor here.

fox box cimera1
Poetry Box Instructions
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

Like the lamppost in Narnia,
the Poetry Box mysteriously
appears before you.
Who put this here, you wonder
but you don’t need to know that,
just walk up to it on this
quiet leafy side street. Stop.
Look, a poem is in the box.
Read that poem. Read it again.
A light turns on in your mind.
Who is Mary Oliver, you wonder.
What do I plan to do with my
“one wild and precious life”,
you wonder too, gazing
at the Poetry Box that holds
Mary’s poem “The Summer Day,”
and Mary’s question,
just for you, all for you,
because —
you stopped.

Appeared on the Highland Park Poetry website.

PHOTO: The Fox Poetry Box, St. Charles, Illinois, which features poetry from authors around the world. In this photo, the box features two poems by Tricia Marcella Cimera that originally appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic (November 2016). Photo by the author. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written for and about my poetry box, The Fox Poetry Box in St. Charles, Illinois (established in 2016 beside the public sidewalk), as an introduction to what a Poetry Box is and how to approach it. My poetry box was created by and purchased from out of Oregon. It is made of cedar and magic. Please visit TFPB’s Facebook page!

Cimera Author Photograph

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Published works have appeared in places ranging from the Buddhist Poetry Review to The Ekphrastic Review.  Her micro-chapbook called GO SLOW, LEONARD COHEN was released through the Origami Poems Project.  One of her plum poems was pleased to receive a recent Pushcart Prize and another plum was happy to be awarded a Best of the Net nomination. Tricia lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, by a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box (also named Fox) in her front yard. 

Crocheting – Nana’s Voice
by Julie A. Dickson

I can hear Nana’s voice:
crocheting is not knitting,
as she watched my hands struggle
with needles and yarn, dropped
stitches leaving holes everywhere.
Nana tatted lace and crocheted
fine even stitches on doilies,
tablecloths and afghans.
I decided to crochet at age 8.

Picture the finished project,
afghan, lap robe or shawl.

Yarn ready, crochet hook size 6.5
casting on is similar to knitting
single or double crochet — yay!
Much easier so far, keep going;
grab a stitch and catch a loop.
Oh no, my fingers are cramping,
look at the rows building; am I
crocheting an afghan? Mother
asked for afghans each year,
his and hers for their chairs;
how many did I crochet?

Fast forward thirty years.

Nana is gone, Mother is gone;
I’d forgotten how to crochet,
but a grandson on the way —
struggle to recall her voice;
cast on stitches, single, double;
count the rows, edge the sides
like a frame, now you’ve got it.

I cannot stop crocheting now;
baby afghan complete —
lap robes all around! Turquoise
and white, navy and maroon,
soon I’ll be broke from buying
all this yarn

DRAWING: The Crocheting Lesson by Mary Cassatt (1902).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I learned to crochet at age eight years, made countless doilies, pot holders, lap robes, and afghans. I finally stopped in my thirties, too busy with work and family for craft projects. In 2020, I was expecting my first grandchild and remembered back to my Nana, who had crocheted my baby blanket. For the past few months, during Covid, between working and visiting my grandson, I have, through many early attempts, finally achieved a decent afghan, crocheting until my hands hurt, a labor of love.

Dickson_ crochet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie A. Dickson is a crocheting poet whose work addresses nature, environment, captive elephants, teen issues, and human events. Her poetry can be seen in Ekphrastic Review Silver Birch Press, Poetry Quarterly, The Avocet,  among other journals, or on Amazon for full length works. Dickson has two rescued feral cats called Cam and Claire who watch her crochet and play with the yarn.

healing garden

roberts text

NOTE: The Healing Garden, Mayo Clinic, Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thank you to the thoracic surgeons, the surgical team, and the entire medical staff at the Mayo Clinic, Luther Campus, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA. My husband’s CABG was performed on September 4, 2020. Bruce is progressing well in his recovery. This was a shock to us, an unexpected development, for he is a healthy person (ah, genetics). I hold the deepest gratitude for our health-care professionals. They are the angels, the heroes, the bright spots, and the gift-givers. Prime Movers indeed.

PHOTO: The author’s husband at the Mayo Clinic, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored four poetry collections,  including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). In 2019, her second children’s book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, Inc. She is also the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces! (author-published, 2009). An award-winning poet, she is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the StairsWhen she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings.


Patrick T. Reardon discusses his poetry collection, Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press, February 2017) and other writing in a Chicago Sun-Times feature published on July 20, 2017. Find the insightful article here.

Listen to a related podcast at this link.

Photo by Rich Hein, Chicago Sun-Times

Receptionist: Holyoke, Mass
by Janet Bowdan

Summers in high school I worked for my father
as his receptionist, answering phones, writing
appointments into the big datebook, canceling,
rescheduling, filing, transcribing his notes,
the normal stuff.  He’d introduce me to the patients
as his daughter, and they’d smile and tell me
what a good doctor he was (true) or they’d tell him
I was pretty and looked just like him (two comments
I considered mutually contradictory).  All normal.
He’d do rounds at the hospital in his lunch hour,
technically three hours.  Occasionally the ER would call
because someone was having a psychotic episode,
and he’d walk across to take care of it.
In the waiting room they were pretty quiet; maybe
they’d read a magazine, an old Punch or a recent People.
One time he called to say he’d be late; I explained
to the patients that he was in line waiting for gas–
it was the energy crisis, hostages in Iran, long lines
at the pumps.  The patients nodded, understanding
we had this in common, and they started chatting
to each other about prices and lines and these days.
There was a lot of waiting: appointments could run
10 minutes late, half an hour, an hour.  He’d never
shove a patient out in mid-trauma, though it’s true
he’d tell me to adjust the billing for the longer time.
When we got insurance checks, it gave him
a little happy bounce, even though Medicare
would take forever to come in and only be a fraction
of what he’d billed. My mother would get angry:
we have to pay our taxes on time, but they can take
as long as they want!  She did the taxes.  One day
my father came out of the inner office with a big guy,
Vietnam vet, they talked a bit and the vet left.  Come look
at this, my dad said, and I went in to see the toy train
set up in its tracks on the table.  You put it together?
I asked.  The train had a little trick to it; part of the track
was a U and the little train made it revolve in order to
go around the station.  My father could never figure it out.
No, the patient did.  He never talks. But he was sitting
looking at the train, and finally he said, “Why’s that
in pieces?”  I said, because I’m a klutz.  And he asked,
“Can I try?” and he fixed it in 5 seconds.  And then he talked.
Sometimes people called my dad a shrink, but he said,
he’s doesn’t shrink heads.  He expands them.

IMAGE: Portrait of Sigmund Freud by Andy Warhol (1980).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My father is now retired, but at the time I worked for him, he was the only psychiatrist in Western Massachusetts.  Even now I meet doctors who recognize my name because they’ve read his notes in their patient files, and I wonder if those were notes I typed up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janet Bowdan‘s poems have appeared in APR, Crazyhorse, VerseDenver Quarterly, Pinch, Free State Review, Peacock Journal, Best American Poetry 2000Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. The editor of Common Ground Reviewshe teaches at Western New England University and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband, son, and sometimes a lovely stepdaughter or two.

Sam Silvas, author of the short story collection Stanton, California, will appear along with more than 100 authors at LitFest Pasadena, which will take place in Pasadena, California, on May 20 & 21, 2017. For a complete schedule of authors and events, visit