jungle book kipling
Readings
by Geetha Ravichandran

One summer
we managed to finish
a book together,
the boys and I—
The Jungle Book.

I practiced an ethereal patience
to hold them down
to words and sketches,
and wean them away
from their exploding world
of pixelated screens.

They lay on their stomachs
peered over my arm
interrupted often,
asked randomly after crows,
and held me to my promise
to let them go in half an hour.

For even school vacations
were crammed—Pokemon, cricket matches,
holiday homework,
TV shows, wrestling games…

But we carved that little time
to fall in love
with the jungle
and it’s creatures,
meet unlikely friends,
watch out for implacable foes.

Now, the memory of
that summer adventure survives,
in their loaded bookshelves…
“the bare necessities of life.”

IMAGE: Cover of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Puffin Classics).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about the memory of raising two boys, to share with them the stories I loved, including that of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Their world had too many distractions, but it’s heartening that they have also grown up to love books. To quote (out of context) Baloo- the bear, a character in the story, the love of books is one of the “simple bare necessities of life!”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Geetha Ravichandran lives in Mumbai, India. She holds a full-time job and writes poetry on the go. Her recent work has been published in online journals including Borderless, Lothlorien Poetr,y and Verse Virtual and also included in several anthologies. Her first book of poems, Arjavam, was recently published by Red River. It is available on Amazon.

Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh, PA.
i am brave
by Linda M. Crate

fishing through my mind for a good memory,
this one comes to mind: when marcie, alicia,
and i went to pittsburgh;

it was a fun day out in the sun celebrating
the birthdays of alicia and i—

i think my favorite part was the part that
scared me the most,
having a terrible fear of heights the incline
wasn’t the most comfortable of feats for me;

but i faced my fear and showed myself that
i could do difficult things—

sometimes you don’t know the power of
a moment
until it’s gone,

but i will never forget that despite my fear
i pressed on;

so whenever tells me i am a coward
or i am weak
i will steel myself with the knowledge that i am brave.

PHOTO: Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a funicular designed in 1870.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I read through the prompt of “one good memory,” and I thought surely there must be one good memory to think of. As I sat down to think about it, however, I found the process a little more difficult until I saw a picture of me with my friends standing at the top of the incline with the backdrop of Pittsburgh skyscrapers behind us. That was a really good, fun day and so I decided to immortalize that memory in this poem.

PHOTO: The author (center) with her best friend Alicia (left) and their friend Marcie (right). Taken July 2021 at the Monongahela Incline in Pittsburgh, PA.

Crate

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda M. Crate (she/her) is a Pennsylvanian writer whose poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has 11 published chapbooks: A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press, June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon, January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017),  splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019), the samurai (Yellow Arrowing Publishing, October 2020), Follow the Black Raven (Alien Buddha Publishing, July 2021), Unleashing the Archers (Guerilla Genesis Press, August 2021), Hecate’s Child (Alien Buddha Publishing, November 2021) and fat & pretty (Dancing Girl Press, June 2022). She’s also written three micro-chapbooks: Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018), moon mother (Origami Poems Project, March 2020), and & so I believe (Origami Poems Project, April 2021). She is also the author of the novella Mates (Alien Buddha Publishing, March 2022).

Sandy Loxton
Living the Dream
by James Ross Kelly

I entered a fast-food restaurant,
My brand, where they will serve
Breakfast 24-7 & where I’ve never
Been sick afterwards, & this knowledge
Is valuable much like entering
An area in remote Indonesia & figuring out the
Friendly tribes & how to avoid the cannibals,
I & my wife walk up to the counter,
an affable Chicano dude
Takes my order, while giving others in the
Kitchen orders & I ask him how he is doing?
“Living the dream,” he says,
“Living the dream,” he repeats,
& I’ve been around the block & know
This is jail speak for doing the best you can, after you get out
“And you sir?” he asks.
“Wonderful!” I reply, “Wonderful!” I repeat.
I’ve been sitting in my backyard
Remembering this and taking in my
Flowering light lavender purple crepe myrtle,
with finches eating
Thistle seed from the hanging socks,
my wife has tied there,
In this twenty-foot tree the finches are hanging
Upside down on the sock like little yellow monkeys &
Loud red and orange Canna Lilies
in the corner of the yard and now bright
New Red Crepe myrtle, is coming in
beside the compost box, at breast height
Flowering for the first time deep purple red,
I am making small talk with my wife &
We are on a back deck under an umbrella
at 10 am drinking good coffee
& it will be 104 degrees today, but now it is so pleasant &
I am remembering this breakfast two weeks ago &
Thinking about “living the dream,” this gentleman
Had tattoos, and deep scars on his face
& forearms—clearly some of his dreams had been
Nightmares, & there was a humorous good-natured tone of
Sarcasm in his reply, yet
I am living the dream, while the poems
& stories come out & scream out sometimes
or sometimes softly, but I am finally living the dream
& with a small pension and social security
Becoming like a Guggenheim
I never applied for, nor even wanted to apply for,
& this notion of the artist’s life having to have
the day job, & wait,
I did both, I waited, did the bidding of others
for decades now I’m writing
& now I get to fish when I want
Drive this word processor all day
Or fifteen minutes if I want
& I am taking all this in and paying
Attention dutifully to what my wife is saying,
& then she leaves & more
Finches come, a beautiful small red
& blue grosbeak comes to the
Bird feeder & peeks around the foliage,
leaves, comes back leaves again
& comes back and feeds, then I notice robins
in the grape vines on the white picket
Fence & realize they are eating
our grapes that have just ripened, I yell
At them, my wife has come to find out what is going on &
I tell her about the grapes & we both go to inspect, &
Well, they have hammered all fifty or
sixty bunches of table grapes
That we were waiting to pick tomorrow,
my wife is mad
& I’m out on the other side
of the fence laughing at the birds & they picked
Clean clumps that were just yesterday
pumping up their white green
Sugary goodness & are now skeletons
beneath the yellowing leaves
I am living the dream & I too have scars to prove it,
I have escaped death by cancer, car wreck, & war
& like the sweet gone grapes
It is particularly good now this given life
& its mortal expanse &
Last year the neighbors picked the grapes
while we were on holiday—& I laughed about that too

PHOTO: Green bird with green grapes by Sandy Loxton.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem spilled out quite fast, then needed tending like grapes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California, next to the Sacramento River. UnCollected Press published his first book of poetry, Black Ice & Fire. in 2021—a collection that includes “Living the Dream.” He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and has had a score of labor jobs—the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. While in college on the GI Bill, he started writing poetry and short stories in college, and during the 1980s gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest. He worked as an environmental writer for the US Forest Service in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where he retired in 2012. Born in Kansas, he was a long-time resident of Southern Oregon where he grew up. Recent publications include Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles, California), Cargo Literary (Prince Edward Island, Canada), The Galway Review (Ireland), Rock and Sling (Spokane, Washington), Edify (Helena, Alabama), Flash Fiction (San Francisco), Rue Scribe (New Mexico), True Chili (New Mexico), The RawArt Review (Ellicott City, Maryland). and The Purpled Nail (New Mexico). And the Fires We Talked About, published by Uncollected Press in 2020, was his first book of fiction.

Mikhail Dudarev
Sunlight Seas
by Robert Walton

Ripple and surge
Across nylon walls,
And pine-shadow clouds
Drift there, too —
Swaying, soothing —
Just before I doze.
Both sons sleep already,
Free to slow down
In our tent’s dappled warmth,
Free from the cell phone scatter
Of young lives.
Just once
In this year of Covid
We share a nap
In Tuolumne.

PHOTO: Camp in the coniferous forest of the Yosemite National Park at night. Photo by Mikhail Dudarev.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I took my sons to the mountains, especially Yosemite’s mountains, to share beauty and adventure with them. We found more than I can ever say.

Walton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Walton retired from teaching after 36 years of service at San Lorenzo Middle School. He is a lifelong rock climber and mountaineer with ascents in Yosemite and Pinnacles National Park. He’s an experienced writer with published works, including historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and poetry. Walton’s novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. Sockdologizer,  his dramatization of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, won the Saturday Writers 2020 Everything Children contest. Most recently, his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” was published in Cricket Media’s February, 2022 issue of Spider magazine. Visit him at chaosgatebook.wordpress.com.

PHOTO: The author near the summit of Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite (July, 2009).

mexitographer
Out of the Blue
by Carol A. Stephen

September, 2020. Out of the blue,
in my inbox, the words from a man
I haven’t heard from since 1983.

My former husband, reaching out,
wanting reconnection. Hesitant.
Perhaps diffident. He speaks

of unfinished business from a time
when we were too young and foolish.
At a time when so many friends are distant,

closed behind doors to keep the virus out,
this is a door I am up for opening. The virtual
reality of Zoom offers a way.

We see each other on-screen, each of us older
now, hair silver for me, hair missing for him.
My frame smaller now; he has a paunch.

But both of us connect to the new, maturity
of the people we now are. He talks books,
politics, painting. We share opinions, neither

of us concerned where we do not agree. We have
so many points of connection that where we differ
doesn’t matter.

For the next two years, we do this every weekend.
He listens to my ups and downs; I hear his.
No time to worry about those missing years.

We spent that time growing up and growing into ourselves.

PHOTO: Birds flying above the clouds by Mexitographer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Out of the Blue” tells the story of my reconnection with my ex-husband after silence and absence of about 43 years. We would have been married 53 years at the time of his email. At a time when everyone was isolating and I hadn’t seen any of my friends in six months, it was a revelation to meet with Jack, even just on Zoom, and find that we had grown into people who shared many attitudes, people who had, indeed, grown up. We were still children, essentially, when we split up. Perhaps that allowed us to become who we needed to be in order to reconnect so positively.

Stephen

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Stephen’s poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead (June 2017) and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks, Sound Me When I’m Done and Teasing the Tongue.  Her online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words.  She won third prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices.  Carol served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series. She has five chapbooks, two released in 2018—Unhook (catkin press, Carleton Place) and Lost Silence of the Small (Local Gems Press, Long Island, NY). In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile  was published by Crowe Creations.ca. Currently, she is working on the manuscript for her first full-length poetry collection and another about birds of the Corvidae family and their friends. Visit her at quillfyre.wordpress.com.

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Bouncing Between Beds with Song
by Marjorie Maddox

“Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height…” Mary Poppins

See the magnolia bursting
with what could be and the blue-grey
two-story shy beside it? There,
go in now, up the stairs and back too many years

into what could be, into the blue-grey
and stair-stepping into the long hallway of age,
go in now, staring full-face all the many years
that separate adult’s bed from child’s dream.

Two-stepping down the long hallway of age,
here where you cannot stand still—
between adult’s bed and child’s dream—
this is where you learned to fly.

There is a time you cannot stand still,
a time to leap from the blue-grey hall.
This is where your voice learned to fly
bursting from throat through song, through story,

each time leaping from the blue-grey hall,
“up, up into the atmosphere” of movies,
bursting from throat through song, through story,
“up, up where the air is clear,” Mary Poppins humming.

“Up, Up”—the atmosphere expanding as you moved
into each new sphere, past flying the kite, past the kite itself,
“up, up, where the air is clear,” beyond Mary Poppins. Humming
yourself into belief, away from the world below

into each new sphere, past flying the kite, past the kite itself,
into the more real sky, the universe itself, all that was waiting
of yourself. What you believed flew away from the world below
with loud singing past the rooftops and soot-filled chimneys

into the more real sky, the universe itself, all that was waiting.
Dashing down the long hallway, you bounce on one bed, then the other
with loud singing, past the rooftops and soot-filled chimneys,
past the Mary Poppins stories— childhood

dashed. Down the long hallway, past the beds, the other
self waits. There are always two stories. There
the blue-grey of what was. Over there,
what could be, every magnolia bursting.

Previously published in SWWIM, The Orchards Poetry Review, and How to Write a Form Poem, ed. Tania Runyan (T. S. Poetry Press 2020).

PAINTING: Magnolias by Lolame.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Here is  a link to an interview about writing this particular poem:

Maddox Author Photo photo credit Melania Rae

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 13 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize), Begin with a Question (Paraclete, International Book Award Winner), and Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts) — an ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist International Book Awards), A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry; I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (a 2021 NCTE Notable Poetry Book), and Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems , Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor). In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind, based on her daughter’s paintings (www.hafer.work), + works by other artists, is forthcoming in 2023 (Shanti Arts). Visit her at  marjoriemaddox.com.

Author photo by Melania Rae. 

a-murder-of-crows
Forestall
by Jenny Bates

You came so close, Crow.
The empty branch surrendering
to your grip, shuddering in still
minutes after liftoff.
I suppose I live in an idiot’s
false security. Dreaming of Crow
flying to my hand. When really,
all the wild things want or expect
is to be left alone. Live their own
lives the way they were intended
to be lived. If I extend them this
courtesy, they would reciprocate
in kind. Both of us could have
clear conscience.
Shame though. I’d like to spend
the day with Crow. One of ramble
and mischief. Bad manners takes
over — I can’t help sounding out
Wait!
Instead, I’m tossed out flopping
back to my natural element.
Then the whole thing has to start
all over again.

PAINTING: A Murder of Crows by Mildred Anne Butler (1858-1941).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Forestall” the poem came out my emotional indulgence for my local Crow family. Knowing my house may be considered by them a giant “Crow’s nest” in our forest. Longing to communicate with them on the highest level, yet knowing I may just be as close as I’ll ever get. Emerson said, “…nature’s secret is patience…” perhaps that is the greatest friendship lesson Crows teach.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny Bates lives in North Carolina. She is a member of Winston-Salem Writers, NC Poetry Society, and NC Writers Network. Her published books include Coyote with Coffee (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, NC 2014), Visitations (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2019), Slip (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2020). Her newest collection is Where the Deer Sleep (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2022). She is known as a local animal whisperer to Donkeys, Coyotes, and “Crow Folk.”

Ivash
May Ball
by Kim Whysall-Hammond

After the music and breakfasts
for the few awake, we wade, you and I
barefoot through bright grass
along the river, back to my room
tired, footsore, happy

A bird calls by the reeds
notes curl amongst themselves,
spin through summer dawn
tranquillity reigns here yet
distantly, traffic busies itself

After a full night dancing
we walk.

Photo by Volodymyr Ivash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem captures the memory of a May Ball, many years ago. The first time that I had ever seen the love of my life dance. But the dawn walk across the grass back to my room stands clear in my memory—perhaps because of this poem, which was written that very morning.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner who needs to be up among mountains, traipsing across moors or finding lonely tracks in green hills. She now lives deep in splendid countryside. An Astronomer and Telecommunications expert, she finds poetry in deep space and the natural world. She has poems in recent anthologies from Milk and Cake Press, Palewell Press, and Wild Pressed Books. Kim shares poetry at thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com.

david young
Tywyn, 1974
by Cynthia Anderson

There’s magic in being led to a place,
riding the train toward a dot on the map
and seeing what happens. We were two
American girls studying in London,
on spring holiday, Tywyn our first stop—
enchanted by the Welsh elf-land,
damp and quiet under grey clouds.
We carried our bags down empty streets
to a whitewashed B&B—where the proprietor,
a grandmother, brought us into her family
as naturally as breathing. She filled the holes
in our itinerary—insisted we attend church,
coaxed her grown son to take us hiking.
After a snug night in beds with hot water
bottles, and breakfast enough for ten,
we walked the beach to Aberdyfi,
sand wide as the sea, the tide so distant
we barely reached it, ourselves the only
humans in sight. On Sunday, at the old
stone church of St. Cadfan, we were greeted
from the pulpit as “our American friends”
and stood transfixed by Welsh hymns—
ordinary folk with the voices of angels.
Then a ramble in emerald hills, our guide
and his dogs putting us at ease. We knew
nothing would equal the start of our journey—
nearly stayed, but left with regret—strangers
who came with blind luck and rail passes
and received more than we guessed.

PHOTO: Scenery outside Tywyn, Snowdon, Wales by David Young.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve always treasured memories of a trip to Wales that I took with my college friend Ann nearly 50 years ago. Everything was new, unfamiliar, a grand adventure—we took our chances, and we were blessed by the travel gods time and again. I have just two faded photos from that trip—one of Ann on the beach at Aberdyfi, described in the poem—and the other, a bucolic stream where we came upon a young girl and her grandfather as we were hiking. She looked at him with rapt attention as he spun her a story. At some point later on that hike, I realized that I’d lost my wallet while rock-hopping in the stream. Determined to find it, I retraced our steps and sure enough, there it was, sitting on a rock in the middle of the water as though the travel gods had left it there for me to find.

PHOTO: Wales stream by Cynthia Anderson (1974).

Anderson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson has published 11 poetry collections, most recently Full Circle (Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2022) and The Missing Peace (Velvet Dusk Publishing, 2021). Her poems frequently appear in journals and anthologies, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Cynthia is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. She has lived in California for over 40 years.  Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

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Wedge Acres
by John Charles Ryan

in the long claggy days
of summer my father
cleared oaks and pines
from the triangle of sand
that on a shellacked sign
under the front lamppost
he named Wedge Acres

sweat and dust caked his dark
blue dungarees as he wrestled
into Archimedean alignments
a series of pulleys and winches

I sat on the splintering
rim of a newly cut stump,
its concentric twirls burnished
by the hot steel blade—
time-rings gnashed
into a sawdust pile,

cerise with chain grease.

Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My poetry explores human-botanical relationships through the possibility of plants having an innate form of intelligence. My writing also aims to reveal the ways in which human beings mind plants through acts of caring, attachment, and affection. The idea of “the intelligent plant” has enjoyed a revival of late in popular culture. The co-authoring of poetry with plants—and with non-human beings more generally—presents exciting possibilities for better understanding and appreciating the natural world. Viewing poetry as medium of exchange between intelligent beings, I continue to probe the question of collaboration with nature through writing techniques based on sensory immersion and memory provocation. “Wedge Acres” is an outcome of this poetic interest in how plants mediate human recollection.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Charles Ryan is a writer of poetry, nonfiction, and research with an interest in plants, fungi, lichens, and human-nature relationships. Between 2008–20, he lived in Western Australia and New South Wales. His recent work includes the poetry collection Seeing Trees: A Poetic Arboretum (with G. Phillips) and the prose anthology The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence (with P. Vieira and M. Gagliano). In May–June 2022, he was Interdisciplinary Writer-in-Residence at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in the United States. He is also an adjunct associate professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, and adjunct senior research fellow at the Nulungu Institute, Notre Dame University, Australia.