Archives for posts with tag: families

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!

chocolate dipped strawberries
by J.K. Shawhan

My boyfriend calls me Strawberry
because of the freckles
under my eyes, because
my fingers go knuckle-deep
in sweets, dipping
grocery-store bought fruit
in a vat of chocolate,

because customers complain to me
while nabbing wallets out
of Prada & Vera purses
that $2.95 is ex-PENSIVE—
businessmen in black suits
stare through my stained,
holey apron—Don’t
you have a discount,
for half a dozen?—

No, because the store owner
is broke, & all her money
is in caramel & candy,
& because she can’t afford
a Saturday off & her daughter
has to work here
& her daughter’s daughter has
to work here, dipping
out-of-season fruit
into a vat of chocolate,

getting smudges on elbows
that match the freckles
under her eyes, because
her income & house & college
tuition relies on several
pieces of candy—

or maybe my boyfriend calls me Strawberry
for none of these reasons;
he just likes the taste
of them for breakfast, too.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Strawberry” is about my experience working at my grandmother’s chocolate store. The poem is a part of a collection I began writing recently about the store and what it is like to work with three generations of family. My hope is that this collection will go alongside another collection I am working on about art and travel, and create one large collection about life, relationships, and finding yourself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.K. Shawhan studied business and writing at Illinois Central College and Bradley University. While attending Bradley University, Shawhan won Co-Third Place for the Chester Sipple Poetry Award for a collection of five poems, and she began working on a collection of poems about other art forms. Her work has appeared in Bradley University’s Broadside: Writers and Artists, in the University of California, Riverside’s Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, and in the September 2015 issue of Wordgathering. Shawhan also founded the Little Laureates Writing Club at Illinois Central College and worked as a Cashier/Assistant Manager/Marketing Manager of a family-owned candy store for most of her life.

chocolate milk Sweet Dreams
by Jennifer Hernandez

After a hard day of playing paper dolls, Grandma helped me into my p.j’s and boosted me onto the counter (where I’d never get to sit at home). I watched her pour my bedtime snack, a preschooler’s nightcap, chocolate milk. First, the milk sloshed into a tall glass. Next came the can of Hershey’s syrup from the door of the fridge, yellow lid peeled back to reveal two triangular “eyes.” Grandma tilted the can and liquid chocolate streamed from the “eyes,” swirling into the glass of milk. The clink of the spoon stirred those ribbons, transformed 2% into a treat. Alchemy. She handed me the tall glass. Careful now. Don’t spill. But I never could hold it with both hands. Because drinking chocolate milk was a ritual that required a free hand to twirl a strand of my shoulder-length hair round and round a chubby finger. As I drank the cool richness, my mind was already halfway snuggled into those pink polka dotted sheets in the bed upstairs, a chocolate milk guarantee of sweet dreams on the way.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My Grandma Stella was an excellent baker, and I remember many of her sweet treats fondly. She had a huge freezer in her basement packed full of homemade goodies. Sometimes I baked with her, and she was very proud when I won a blue ribbon at the fair for chocolate chip cookies made with her special recipe (oatmeal and rice krispies were key ingredients). I don’t know why the simple bedtime ritual of chocolate milk is the one that surfaced most strongly when I sat down to write, but it did.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken when I was two years old. Obviously, I have always been a fan of chocolate in all its forms. My Grandma Edith brought homemade chocolate cakes for each of my birthdays. This looks like it might have been a day-after-the-birthday shot. I feel very fortunate to have been nourished with so much chocolate and love from both sides of my family tree.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez lives in the Minneapolis area, where she teaches middle school, wrangles three sons, and writes for her sanity. Her work has appeared in Talking Stick, Red Weather, Verse Virtual and elsewhere. She has recently read her work in the Cracked Walnut Literary Festival and as honorable mention in the Elephant Rock Flash Prose contest.

Angel Food Cake
by Jeannie E. Roberts

          “Out of love I made you a cake. Also out of milk,
          eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla.” ―Jarod Kintz

The food of angels was placed before my feet;
from its center, a single candle rose. Baked
within my frosted celebration: 1¼ cups egg

whites, 1½ cups sugar, 1 cup cake flour, 1¼
teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
extract, ¼ teaspoon almond extract, and ¼

teaspoon salt. My maternal grandmother had
made me an angel food cake, and she made it
out of love. Clinging to her dress, cloth diaper

askew, I sat shyly unaware of my privileged
life and how good I had it. It was October
1957, when men ruled the roost and women

didn’t. My grandma was different; she was
tough as nails and outspoken as hell. Orphaned
at age twelve, she worked as a department store

clerk in Stockholm, Sweden, until she married
and gave birth to my mother. At age twenty-four,
she emigrated to the United States and made

a home for her family in Minnesota, all while
learning English and helping my grandfather
get through high school, college, and then dental

school by doing others’ laundry and shoveling coal.
Later, she did the books for my grandpa’s dental
practice because she had a head for numbers.

I can now appreciate her determined spirit,
practical nature, forthright demeanor, and
her angel food cake.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My maternal grandmother, Edith Malvina Karlsson Smith, and me, celebrating my first birthday with an angel food cake, 3811 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 10, 1957.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first task in writing this poem was finding a photograph of me with something sweet. It took a while, but I found one photo of me sitting on my maternal grandmother’s lap; it was taken on my first birthday, October 10, 1957. Before I could complete the poem, I needed a few facts about my grandmother, which the poem is centered around, so I asked my sister, Mary, for more information. We emailed back-and-forth, and Mary was able to provide quite a bit of detail about our grandmother, Edith Malvina Karlsson Smith, born on April 29, 1900, in Filipstad, Warmland, Sweden.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring rural setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her second book of poetry, Beyond Bulrush, a full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in 2015. She is also the author of Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book. She draws, paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Learn more about Jeannie at

Leaving Garden Court
by Ira Schaeffer

It was spring, when tulips
show their pretty colors
and robins make nests
for small blue eggs.
I was ten, feeling cozy
on the sofa, leafing through
Mad, when comic book violence
came alive.

Driven by another fierce defense
of some imagined line crossed,
my parents had attacked
our upstairs neighbors.
Shrieks and pounding
clashed up and down
our common hall.

Our door slammed shut.
I didn’t want to but saw
my mother’s scratched
face and arms,
my father dripping sweat
and his panting like a dog.
There was no place to hide.

For days, a strange quiet,
my parents were like ghosts.
A letter arrived,
then the cardboard boxes.
Books and jeans were packed
along with scars and ruin.
We were moving to a smaller flat.

On the way we passed a cemetery
with branches of dark trees
hanging above rows of stones.
I pictured myself underground
My stone said something sad;
most of the letters were faded.

After we got to the new place
I thought of surprising my parents
with something funny.
I crayoned a sign, making a blue
R.I.P., black for my name and dates
and red for birds in each corner.
I held the cardboard to my chest,
stretched out on the floor—
shut my eyes and waited.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age 10 in his 5th grade school portrait.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Violence was a constant in my family—I was a witness and unwanted recipient of brute force. Humor was my only defense—sometimes effectual, but mostly not. Anyway, I developed the ability to see the blow coming and get out of the way—fast!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ira Schaeffer, an active member of Ocean State Poets and a proud supporter of the Origami Poems Project, is the current recipient of the Editor’s Choice Loft Chapbook Award. In addition, Ira’s recent poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including, Penumbra, On the Dark Side: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry, Tastes like Pennies, 50 Haiku, and Wising Up Press. In addition, his poem Primavera was a 2014 nomination by The Origami Poems Project for the Pushcart Prize.

Adoption Papers
by Robert Rosenbloom

When our parents
were away, my older
brothers teased me.
They said I was adopted,

that the papers were up
in the kitchen cabinet
with other important papers
we kept beneath the

portable broiler,
which I couldn’t reach
without standing on
the kitchen table—

which I wouldn’t do.
When I asked them to take
the papers down, they said
a judge had ordered

them moved. If I’m ever
recognized for something
important, I’ll deny
I’m related to those morons.

SOURCE: “Adoption Papers” previously appeared in the Paterson Literary Review.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’d have to guess I was 4 or 5 when my father took this posed photo. This was the 1950s. I had a happy childhood. I have two brothers, both older. I’m the baby. Generally, they looked out for me. We did fight. And they liked to tease, which is reflected in the poem.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Rosenbloom is the author of a chapbook, Reunion, published Finishing Line Press, 2010. He lives in Bound Brook, New Jersey, with his wife. He’s a certified civil trial attorney and has an MA (1975) in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. His poems have appeared in the Paterson Literary Review, Tiferet, Edison Literary Review, Home Planet News, Exit 13, US 1 Worksheets, among others.