Archives for posts with tag: families

My Life Force
by Vincent Van Ross

My prized possession
Is not the gold chain
I wear around my neck
Nor is it my collection of gems

My prized possession
Is not the sculptures and paintings
I have collected
Over the years

My prized possession
Is not the money
I have in my cash box
Or in my bank account

My prized possession
Is not my house or my car
Nor even the thousands of books
I have in my collection

My prized possessions
Are two frames
That hang from the walls
Of my living room

My prized possessions
Are the two pictures
Of my mother and my father
In those two frames

My mother and father
May not be with me anymore
But, they bless me from that wall
They are my life force which keeps me going

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My father A Van Ross (left) and mother Treasa Van Ross (right).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I lost my mother in 2001 and my father in 2015. But, they are still alive to me. I feel their presence in their photos that are hanging from my living room walls. I still kiss them and seek their blessings every time I leave my home as I used to do when they were alive. I feel as if they are peeping out of those pictures and keeping a watch over me and blessing me all the time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vincent Van Ross is a journalist and editor based at New Delhi, India. He writes on national and international politics, defense, environment, travel, spirituality, and scores of other topics. Apart from this, he dabbles in a little bit of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and humorous writings. Vincent’s articles and features have appeared in over a dozen newspapers and magazines in India and Bangladesh. He is also a renowned photographer and an art critic. His poems are littered in anthologies and journals across the world and on numerous poetry sites and facebook groups on the web.

Sonnet to my Sister: For Minnie Mouse
by Caroline Johnson

A tattooed man hugs a cobra at Disney World.
Jugglers balance on chairs and bottles of wine.
Later, Chloe dances in the sand as waves swirl.
Jacob searches for hermit crabs in the brine.

Their mother leaves footprints along the Tampa beach,
a sister looking for answers after a bitter split.
They stop, turn around, feed seagulls, make believe;
build castles, play freeze tag until the winds quit.

Jack Skellington almost stole Christmas that year.
Despite his ghoulish plot, Minnie collected debris–
feathers, shells, rocks, and silent tears.
All these and more she took from the sea.

Bread crusts slip from young hands as the salt stings.
Just like birds, children love their wings.

SOURCE: Previously published in Encore magazine.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My sister, Brenda, with her two kids Jacob and Chloe in Jamaica. Another vacation with Aunt Caroline, with cornrows.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t usually write sonnets, so I labored on this one. My sister went through a traumatic divorce and this poem came to me when I vacationed with her and her two kids in Florida one year. It went through many revisions to get to this final form.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Johnson has two poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork, and has published poetry in Lunch Ticket, Uproot, Chicago Tribune, Kind of a Hurricane Press, and others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she won first place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row 2012 Poetry Contest. She teaches community college English in the Chicago area.

st. joseph mo pool
Municipal Pool
by Mike Dailey

I remember my mother and her long auburn hair
She wore it in pig-tails way down to there
We’d head for the pool, my sisters and I
Along with our mother when we were small fry
I would turn left cause the boy’s locker’s there
The girls would turn right and they all had to share
I’d get my own basket to store all my clothes
With a safety pin numbered to keep track of those
I’d walk through a shower that I couldn’t avoid
I’d be cold and all wet and a little annoyed
Then I’d meet up with mom and we’d head for the pool
And hope that the water there wasn’t that cool
She’d jump in the pool then coax us all in
We would jump to her arms with a face full of grin
And if we were good and she thought it all right
We’d grab a pigtail as she dove out of sight
We’d hold our breath as she swam towards the drain
And then shoot to the surface like a runaway train
When your turn was up, another held on
And rode with our mother till her strength was all gone
Then we sit by the pool and listen to her
As she told us of stories before we even were
When the pool was larger, much larger by far
And she’d sit at the pool about right where we are
And the boys would show off on the high diving boards
And give her rides home in their Model A Fords
Then when we were tired and our strength was all spent
We get up, get our things, and back home we went
With the promise from mother we’d do it again
My sisters and I end the day with a grin

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of municipal swimming pool in St. Joseph, Missouri.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love a challenge. When I saw the call for submissions I was thinking this was one that I would have to skip as I had nothing in my archives that touched on memories of pools or beaches; at least none from my youth. But I sat here at my computer and thought back on the days when we would go to the big municipal pool in our town and the words just came to me. I hope my sisters read the poem and have the same memories and feelings of our days with mom at the pool. I grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri,  where the Pony Express started and Jesse James ended.  The pool was one of three or four public pools in town but by far the largest.  Even saying that, I have seen pictures of the pool when my mother was a young girl and it was about twice the size.  I guess it became too large to manage efficiently so they filled in about half of it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Dailey lives in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. He is a teller of stories in rhythm and rhyme. He has been writing poetry most of his life and has three published books of his poems with a fourth on the way. He leaves the introspective, deep personal poetry to others while he concentrates his poems on the interesting and often odd happening stories that most people overlook.

rmb.1962.beach copy1
Beach Memories, A Haiku Sequence
by Roberta Beary

at the end
of the hot bus ride
pink seashells

under the boardwalk
the deep timbre
of the cop’s voice

cabana —
brushing the beach
from my hair

beach wedding—
the day dad lost me
in the waves

PHOTO: The author, age eight, at the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was eight, my father took us to Atlantic City, leaving my brother, age nine, in charge. I got lost somewhere between the sand and the shore. As my father lay dying in 2005, he spoke of his fear on that day in 1962. A visit to any beach reminds me of the day I was lost, and then found.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roberta Beary is the haibun editor at Modern Haiku.  Her book The Unworn Necklace, a Poetry Society of America Award Finalist, is in its fourth printing. Her most recent book, Deflection, a collection of prose poems, is an Eric Hoffer book awards finalist. Follow Roberta Beary on twitter @shortpoemz, where she tweets her photoku.


Near Drowning: In Brief(s)
by Leslie Sittner

We walk hand-in-hand down to my cousin’s beach, across the quiet road. Dad’s fully dressed, leaning on the railing overlooking the stairway down to the beach. A dozen people in swimsuits are lying on towels.

I squeeze Dad’s hand, whisper, “Watch me now!”

He nods, smiles, as I run down the stairs, across the sand, and belly flop into the water.

I wave, and start swimming like a pro. When I’ve gone what I think is “far,” I drop my feet down to stand, prepared for praise. There’s no bottom. I can’t touch. I gulp a mouthful of water. I go under again and again, flailing.

Dad and the sunbathers are all gaping at me. Dad runs down the stairs, rapidly removing his shoes, pants, shirt glaring at the onlookers. Not one of them has made a move to rescue me. They even snicker as he disrobes.

He races in to snatch me up before I go under a fourth time. By now I’ve swallowed buckets of water. With uncontrolled hiccuping, I cry with abandon. Dad holds, hugs, and soothes me. Everyone is watching. In his wet semi-transparent briefs, Dad stands shaking with anger, clenching and unclenching his fists.

“Not one of you could rescue a drowning child? You had to wait for me to undress, then laugh? You shouldn’t be allowed to use this beach.”

He hugs me close. Puts on his pants.

“I’m so sorry, Daddy. I thought I was swimming even with the shore. Instead I swam away from the shore, into the deep water.”

When we return to the camp, I announce. “Guess what? I almost drowned! But Daddy saved me!”

He smiles and makes a small bow, then grimaces as the telltale silhouette of the wet briefs in his pants comes into view.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is that same day at Lake Desolation, New York. The extended family is sitting against the beach railing. I’m in the upper right twitching my nose — probably still some water in there somewhere. My brother is next to me with my beautiful mother in front of us. Dad is taking the picture. This was insurance so that he himself wouldn’t appear in a photo lest his wet briefs show through his pants. He was extremely modest in public.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt immediately brought this experience to mind. I tried to capture the speed of the event as well as the fear, anger, and humiliation. Oddly, I didn’t hang onto my fear for long. I went back in swimming right before the photo. And I’ve been a water hound ever since.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. She began this journey two years ago and is just finding her voice in different formats. Two of her stories are now available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and on-line prose at 101Words and 50 Word Challenge. A variety of other prose and poetry can also be seen on-line at Silver Birch Press. She is finishing a book about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her friends do.

by Rona Fitzgerald

Summer days she’d set out with four of us on the bus,
bag laden with cosies, sandwiches, spare clothes.

Infinite blue, sea and sky merging, no frontiers.
Bird beat, waders, oystercatchers, zen-like herons.

We stood on one leg until we fell, splashed about
ate our sand-filled lunch as mother’s nose twitched.

Trudged home across the long bridge trailing
wet wool togs and towels. Back to order.

My heart’s in those grainy dunes
keening sea birds summon me home.

PHOTO: Bull Island Sanctuary, Dublin 1960. The author is the child front left, crossed legs and shading her eye.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote the poem from memory — starting with the infinity idea and the zen-like herons. Part of the prompt for me is living away from Dublin and the sea which was part of my life as a place to swim and walk. I miss the light. Normally my Dad would not be with us, my mother would haul the bags and shepherd us smaller kids to the beach.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rona Fitzgerald was born in Dublin and has been living in Glasgow for 20 years. She is the second youngest of seven children. Her work has been included in a number of magazines and anthologies, including the Dublin-based Stinging Fly, New Voices Press anthologies and The Wait poetry anthology edited by George Sandifer-Smith. Her poem “Nocturne’” was published in Scottish Book Trust publication Journeys. “Solstice” was published as part of the Mid-Winter Special on Three Drops from Cauldron webzine, and “Quest’” was published on the webzine I am not a Silent Poet. Rona is a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland).

If Wishes Were Horses
by Catfish McDaris

After an easy life, I’d like to be a better father,
a good husband, a loyal friend, a decent listener,
I know that I have more money than time. I don’t
want to turn back the clocks, or fly, or paint, or
dance, or sing, or even be a great writer. I want
to remain sober, enjoy my cats, and garden. Maybe
surprise a few people with my poems and stories,
without ever worrying if I’ll become famous or rich.

If I could wish for a special skill, I’d wish to have
been a good son, grandson, nephew, cousin, and to
visit and travel in New Mexico and Old Mexico.
Mostly I wish for my daughter to love and speak
to me and forgive me. Give me guitar skills of Jimi.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, with a bbq pit I built in Clovis, New Mexico. I think that was in 1975 , a year after I finished my 3-year hitch in the army. I was 22 & we ate a BBQed goat & drank lots of beer off that fireplace/grill.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris is an aging New Mexican living near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has four walls, a ceiling, heat, food, a woman, a daughter, two cats, a typing machine, and a mailbox. He writes mostly for himself and sometimes he gets lucky and someone publishes his words.

Long Hair
by Thomas R. Thomas

it was part
part independence

and the High School
had loosened the
dress codes

my Junior year
I grew my
hair long

risking getting
called hippy

and being
mistaken for
my sister
by Uncle Bert

I had grown
five inches
over the summer

so I didn’t
feel fat
and ugly

or too ugly

I had also
alcohol, cigarettes

and any drug
I could set
my hands on

near the end of
the school year
a teacher found

a small rolled
(not tobacco)

in my shirt pocket
giving me a
two week break
from school

Dad and the
Vice Principal
decided that
I should cut
my hair
to teach me
a lesson
or just
to punish

still not
sure which

the punishment
succeeded in
making the hair

more important

than it would
have been if
they had just
ignored the hair

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My Junior Class picture. One of the few pictures without glasses. I got the picture taken, but never saw it. I usually avoided getting my picture taken, and I’m pretty sure I was high that day. Somehow this was in my Senior class Yearbook in the Junior class section. I saw this picture for the first time over 30 years later. There weren’t very many pictures of me as a teenager since I destroyed many of them.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I had to let this one sit and stew for a while. I finally fixed the ending right before I sent it. I guess that leads into my writing process. I start strong, end stronger, don’t bore them in the middle — keep it moving. Don’t over talk. Avoid the word or pick one item in the list. Try not to get too specific, or at least give too many details, so the readers can insert themselves into the poem. Keep out short, don’t be afraid to cut.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 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 forthcoming in 2016 from Dark Heart Press. His website is

Grade 7
School Picture Grade Seven
by Carol A. Stephen

That day I went to school forgetting what day it was,
forgetting to gussy-up for the school pic, that annual event
to freshen up your collection of tiny wallet pics, crammed
in an oversize, 100-photo wallet girls carried back then,
constant companion chronicling the latest dreadful mugshots
and silly poses four for a quarter taken in a photo booth at the fair.
Mine was shiny plastic, blue and white squares, its strap torn,
no longer closing around the wallet’s fat girth.

That day I wore a white sweater, a Black Watch tartan skirt,
my favourite gold pendant with its dark green fake emerald.
Glass, really, but at 11, an emerald to me. I’d have been presentable, but
my goodness! My hair! Not sure now, but I’d probably slept in,
rushed off too quickly to remember to brush those always unruly curls
A few swipes might have saved me the glow of bright red face back then,
and now, to see that hair all these years later as my brother sifts old      pictures
and decides to share the photo one more time on Facebook.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Whenever I think of bad hair days, this particular photo comes to mind. It keeps turning up like a bad penny, even though it was so many years ago. Most recently, my brother, Norm, found a copy of the small, wallet-size one, and brought it back to life again, as described in the poem. But I haven’t forgotten the feeling I had on that day when I realized it was the day for pictures.


Carol A. Stephen 
is a Canadian poet. Her poetry has appeared in Bywords Quarterly Journal and two Tree Press/phaphours press collaborative chapbooks. You can also find Carol’s poems on-line at and in videos at Twice shortlisted,  in 2012 Carol won third place in Canadian Authors Association National Capital Writing Contest. She’s the author of three chapbooks, Above the Hum of Yellow JacketsArchitectural Variations, and Ink Dogs in my Shoes (2014), as well as a new collaborative chapbook with JC Sulzenko, titled Breathing Mutable Air (2015). ). A second collaborative chapbook of ekphrastic poems, Slant of Light, will be forthcoming in Spring, 2016. Visit her at


Tree Fallings
by Kimberly Gotches

Around midnight, I woke to heavy footsteps and a thud. Santa! I tiptoed into the living room. Instead of a pile of presents, our tree covered the floor, flattened like someone sat on it. Our angel topper’s halo was cracked in half, two golden crescents strewn atop a layer of shattered white lights.

“I didn’t do it,” I told Mom. “Maybe Santa knocked it over?”

“Dad lost his balance again.” Mom stared at one of his bottles on the table with the milk and cookies.

That’s when I heard the snoring. Dad was sleeping next to the tree.

I tried to pick it up to make Mom stop crying, but it was so heavy and my hands were too small. I called out for Dad to help, but he didn’t wake up. Shoulders sagging, Mom swept up the broken pieces around Dad.


“I need something to hold it up,” said Mom.

“I don’t know, look in the garage.” I covered my ears before the door slammed behind Dad.

The garage was a scary place. Mice camped out there. My misguided memory is of huge rats the size of my head. But Mom was like Clara in the Nutcracker, braving the Mouse King and his troops. She marched in and returned with thick, white rope. She tied the rope through the curtain hook and secured the tree.


Rick, Mom’s new boyfriend, witnessed the next Tree Falling. I heard Mom cry and covered my ears before the door slammed behind Rick.

When I uncovered my ears, I heard the footsteps return.

There was Rick with a toolbox in one hand and a piece of wood in the other. He drilled the tree stand firmly to the wood.

Although it wobbled, it never fell again.

SOURCE: This piece is drawn from the author’s  in-process memoir on holiday recollections. Follow Kimberly’s website to see when this memoir is available.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We all go through stretches of life where we are wobbly, and sometimes we fall, multiple times. I know if I’m down, I have the strength to pick myself up. I also know I have support when I can’t do it alone. These are lessons my family has taught me.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former youth services librarian from Chicagoland, Kimberly Gotches now writes and performs in New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment. She has nearly 10 years of experience telling stories at libraries, daycare centers, and schools. Before that, she dedicated herself to older adults as a Longterm Care Case Manager, leading original storytelling, improv, and writing workshops. A winner of the Intergeneration 2013 Storytelling Contest, Kimberly writes original stories that celebrate the benefits of intergenerational relationships. She draws from coursework in creative writing, acting, movement/dance, expressive art therapy, and improvisation to offer dynamic stories through both print and performance.

PHOTO: Christmas 2012 in Lombard, Illinois, with the author costumed as a tree and her stepdad, Rick. Rick’s love and support have helped more than just the Christmas tree stand tall!