Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

Summer Reading/Green Mansions
by Mary McCarthy

Tired of the games we played
up and down the cobbled alley:
War, Red Rover, Simon Says,
I quit,
and took my book to the second floor
back porch
where I could read at peace


In a place where trees were scarce,
I was in love with Rima
in her magical forest,
who made her dress of spidersilk
and was the last speaker
of a wondrous language
no one understood.

From the lip of that silence
she turned and looked at me,
just before she fell, burning,
from the burning tree.

And I was caught there with her
so very far away —

when they called me to come in
I couldn’t even hear them.

PHOTO: Audrey Hepburn as Rima the Bird Girl in the film version of Green Mansions (1959).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother gave me a copy of W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions when I was nine, and it was my favorite book for a long time. All the issues I would later see with its colonial and racial attitudes were invisible to me at that age — I just fell for the romance of it all, wanted to be Rima in her enchanted forest!!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has been published in many print and online journals, including Third Wednesday, Earth’s Daughters, Camel Saloon, and Gnarled Oak. Despite the grim realities of the world as it is now, she holds great hopes for the future.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at thirty. A time I’d like to revisit!

anna-karenina_2330122a 2
I’m Not Anna K
by Venetia Peterson

He said, “Never. Never,”
then he walked away.

I watched
his determined stride
and how the curling snow
erased his steps.

I could have shouted,
“You are a two-faced lover!”
He could have turned to face
his dialectic betrayal.

To find love, its synergy
of life, was all I craved then.

Confused and with a clenched fist
I punched the winter sky
then my chest.
He disappeared into the dismantling wind.

But, I’m not his Anna K.
I won’t listen to train whistles,
the damning gossip circles,
the pull of numbing liquids.

I’m not alone.
Desires are cyclic like the seasons.
I am more than, never, never.

PHOTO: Keira Knightley as the title character in the 2012 film version of Anna Karenina.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem was inspired by Tolstoy’s, Anna Karenina. Tolstoy portrayed his protagonist as a doomed woman, who abandoned her nineteenth century social responsibilities of wife and mother in order to flirt with her true desire, to be loved.  My Anna has a broader horizon. She will build  on her self-worth and not on Count Vronsky’s limited and fearful never, never.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Protecting a gang of sparrows from the neighbour’s yellow cat can be exhausting. In between, Venetia Peterson manages to write poetry and short stories in Toronto, Canada.


Weaving the Universe
by Kerfe Roig

I said:
Here are threads,
here is a frame
to anchor them. Here are
the colors of the earth
and the fibers of living:
Weave them into worlds of pattern,
into a mirror, reflected song.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In Navajo stories, Spider Woman, after creating the world, was given the gift of weaving by the Holy People. Instructed by Spider Man, who created the first loom, and Spider Woman, who sings the weaving song, the people of the Navajo nation continue to pass on the ways of fiber work to their descendants.

Illustration by Kerfe Roig


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerfe Roig often uses fiber in her artwork. Inspired by the Navajo myth, she embroidered a Spider Woman doll to serve as companion and spiritual advisor. You can follow her poetic and artistic journey on the blog she does with her friend Nina:

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Spider Woman, my fiber alter ego. (Artwork by Kerfe Roig.)

The Story I Didn’t Tell
by Phyllis Klein

When I married you, a thousand
of your wives’ corpses covered my path
to the altar. My father tried to dissuade me,
I only wanted to save those remaining,
and put an end to your vengeance
if I could. In private I’ll admit I cringe
from your tainted touch, your criminal mind.
My thousand sisters murdered to avenge
your one cheating wife. My dreams overflow
with them when I sleep at all.

That’s how my thousand and one stories help
us both, distract us from your cruelty
and violence. In the book about me,
I am not afraid, but don’t believe it.
How have I done this night after night?
Thought up the genies, the djins, the wandering
mysteries like water drops forming a lake,
forming an ocean, keeping me alive
another day and then another.

Don’t be sad for me. I have used my mind
for peace. I have done what I could in a disaster.
I have travelled in secret, I have altered
the veil of bedtime forever.

PAINTING: “Scheherazade” by Sophie Anderson (c. 1850).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love to hear stories and to tell stories in my poems, and I especially love bedtime stories. My partner reads children’s stories to me at night to help me fall asleep. So when I thought about this prompt, Scheherazade came to mind for me immediately. I wanted to know what it was like to be in the position of extreme self-sacrifice to save others, having to make up stories to survive, and what it felt like on the inside of that. It’s an honor to step a tiny way into the shoes of this heroine.


Phyllis Klein
believes in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Pharos of Alpha Omega Medical Society Journal, Emerge Literary journal, Qarrtsiluni online literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, and The Four Seasons Anthology (Hurricane Press, 2015). She is very interested in the conversation between poets and readers of poetry. She sees artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area as a psychotherapist and poetry therapist. You can learn more at her website,

AUTHOR PHOTO: Phyllis Klein, 2014, taken at Filoli Garden, Woodside, California.

Fairness and Wit
by Rachel Voss

Who wants to live virtuous and die vile?
I think I’d rather be liberal as the north.
“Hang me” for naivete: I like her style.
Wilt not, women of the world, but go forth,
and even die, speaking as you think.
Right the universal order with words,
use that prominent shnoz to sniff out the stink,
cleanse the palate for truth. Chaos girds
us like the ocean round an island. No
lullabies—I only play the swan. Peace
is overrated. Silence is my foe.
Wrongs made right when loyalty’s for lease.
Here, I have a thing for you—it’s a poem
in my outside voice, my refusal to go home.

ILLUSTRATION: “Emilia in Othello” by Hannah Tompkins.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece, a sonnet, is inspired by Emilia from Shakespeare’s Othello. As I say in the poem, I like Emilia’s style. She is, above all, relatably human: pragmatic, complicated, weak, but aware that she is at the whim of forces stronger than she is. Ultimately, like us all, she has the potential for redemption, and accomplishes that with the only tools at her disposal: her voice, and the truth. I imaginatively relate to that struggle as manifested in the part Emilia plays in tragedy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Voss is a high school English teacher living in Queens, New York. She graduated with a degree in creative writing and literature from SUNY Purchase College. Her work has previously appeared in The Ghazal PageHanging Loose MagazineBlast FurnaceThe New Verse News, Unsplendid, Newtown Literary, and Silver Birch Press’s  The Great Gatsby Anthology, among others.

PHOTO: At The New York Botanical Garden. (“Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners.”)

Photo by Lucrezia Alcorn.


Charlotte’s Story: Haiku for Wilbur
by Mary Kendall

“My Words”

my words—
who knew what a story
we’d become?

“First Friend”

a friend—
something my kind
never knew

“The Unexpected”

new friend—
silken parachutes in spring wind
bestow surprises

“Silken Words”

silken words…
hearts woven together
in their own story

“Some Pig”

little did they know
how special you were—
some pig!


a real friend
who accepted me as I am…


just knowing
you have a good friend…
this radiant heart

“I Told You”

out of nowhere
grows the best thing…
kindness of spirit


your kindness of heart
my friend

“The Fair”

harvest moon—
who knew how high
we’d fly?


even a rat
can help a friend..
who knew?

“My Time”

time for rest
my voice a whisper
…alone now


no need to worry—
our memories will live on
in your heart


even webs blow apart
in the wind


grief wells up
from the depth of love—
let it flow

“My Children”

they will glide
into your life on tender threads…
new friends

ILLUSTRATION: Drawing by Garth Williams from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Charlotte A. Cavatica, the beloved orb spider wove words on her web and rescued the little pig, Wilbur. Charlotte might have chosen haiku as her literary form. Although brief (and thus easier to weave), haiku has the beauty of simplicity and the starkness necessary to convey much in few words. Charlotte would, naturally, eschew the 5-7-5 form in favor of the modern more sleek and elegant options of this ancient verse form. This story is told in haiku using Charlotte’s own words, “Some Pig,” “Terrific,” “Radiant,”and, lastly, “Humble.” I have used poetic license to add words Charlotte might have also written given her thoughtful and poetic mind. While traditionally haiku are never titled, this haiku string tells a story through the quoted words.

Mary Kendall as 1 of 3 Blind Mice

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kendall taught reading to children for 34 years. During that time one of her favorite children’s books was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This simple story of friendship between Wilbur (the pig) and Charlotte (the spider) has remained a favorite in her heart. Please visit Mary’s website, A Poet in Time:

PHOTO: Mary Kendall dressed as one of the three blind mice along with two other teachers. Being a “blind mouse” for an afternoon taught her some good lessons in humor, humility, and playfulness in teaching.

Why a Cheshire Cat Grins
by Susan Beall Summers

The Duchess finds morality
in every story she hears and spins.
Her habits do not interest me,
or my characteristic grins.
There’s no judgement from me, you see,
We’re all mad here anyway.
I’ve seen children turn into pigs
when they’re treated a bad way.
I always try to stay ahead
while people play their games
or risk losing my head
because they’re quite insane.
When you’re a Cheshire cat,
there is no dull reality.
and that’s why I wear a smile,
I’m free from cruel duality.

ILLUSTRATION: “The Cheshire Cat” by John Tenniel from The Nursery Alice (1890).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a child, I had two great loves: cats and my wild imagination. It was easy for me to fall down the rabbit hole and enter Wonderland. I never cared for Alice and felt the whole experience was wasted on her chasing that frenetic rabbit, but loved the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, The Hatter, and many of the other characters in the story. Cheshire cat is just one cool cat. He doesn’t get flustered over anything, listens, is a keen observer, and can appear and disappear at will. I’d like to be like him and I always wanted him to have a larger part in the story.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Beall Summers has been writing poetry from a young age and has published a collection of her poetry, Friends, Sins & Possibilities. She is active in the poetry community around Austin including Austin Poets International, Austin Poetry Society, Writer’s League of Texas, and regularly attends several open mics. She has been published in Ilya’s Honey, Texas Poetry Calendar, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga, Harbinger Asylum, Small Canyons & Anthology, Baylor’s Beall House of Poetry, AIPF’s Di-Verse-City, and others.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me dressed as a Cheshire Cat for a Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

alice and sister 3
Little Sister Lost
by Lynn White

I woke in the sunshine
and salvaged my book
from the damp grass.
I stretched..
I looked around..
She wasn’t there.
I looked behind the stone,
then under it.
A pretty blue mouse
from under,
but no little sister.
Then I thought
of the rabbit hole under the tree
where the scraggy, stripy cat
had spat and snarled at us

I found the tree
and the rabbit hole.
Was she down there?
It was too small for me to go.
I shouted down
and scraped
and scraped
and scraped
to make it bigger.
A rabbit would do better
with it’s big feet.
A rabbit,
like the one standing behind me
with such big strong feet.
Help me.
Help me.

He sniffed disdainfully
and removed one hand
from the pocket of his purple fur jacket
to brush the soil I’d splatted
on his white velvet breeches.
Such big strong feet
for digging.
Help me.
Help me.
Help me.
He gave me his spade.

I started to dig
and dig
and dig.
Dig till it was big
enough for me to go
Scrabbling down.
looking for the light
and my little sister.

PHOTO: “Alice, her sister, and the rabbit” sculpture by Edwin Russell (Guildford, Surrey, U.K.).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought myself into the character of Alice in Wonderland’s older sister using snippets from my own recurring dreams.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places, and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. Her poem “A Rose For Gaza” was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition 2014 and has since been published in several journals and anthologies. Poems have also recently been included in Harbinger Asylum’s Literary Journal and A Moment To Live By anthology, Stacey Savage’s We Are Poetry: An Anthology of Love Poems, ITWOW, She Did It Anyway, Community Arts Ink’s Reclaiming Our VoicesThe Border Crossed Us,and a number of online and print journals. Visit her on facebook.

PHOTO: The author possibly taken by her little sister before she got lost…

rose and daisy
Invisible Rose
by Sheikha A.

In the way daisies encircled
the boundaries of your castle,

the absentminded gardener
of my poor-brained heart

dared the feat of growing
myself amidst her,

a one flower, against
the insuperable populous

called daisy, didn’t you see me
wearing the rain

on the day of her visit,
when you deemed worthy
of catching the chills for her,

and dropped me like a coin
on the porch, while pulling out
a handkerchief to wipe

away the breaking sweat for her,
didn’t you see me grow

in the colour of your cheeks,
the burn of your blush found

in me for her, you averted your eyes
from allowing me to learn

the colour that shone like a clean
polished jewel

those that you collected
in many boxes for her

didn’t you see me hang
in your boutonniere, pale

as the blood in your hands
that went cold

in anticipation of her touch,
even on the day your blood flowed

a stream of daisy in your pool
as life defeated your eyes

didn’t you find me
in your sinuous breathing
that shivered

her name on your lips, I was
the fleeting warmth of

your mouth the tongue of which
tasted her escapism

from glittering walls
to wooden casket,

didn’t you see me

clung to your tombstone,
far from your gardens

by which only the smell of rain
and her betrayal fogged

and my weeping body, the petals
shed like an age-long wait

for my whispers to ripple louder
than hers

that called out your name,
for you to look

and find me by the pier, the place
when I first saw you

your eyes like emeralds reflecting
the green of her domain

as I tried becoming the air
that hugged your coats

didn’t you find me

becoming one with your scent —

PHOTO: Rose & Daisy bouquet.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My character is Rose, the girl who yearns for Gatsby [The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald], despite knowing of his undying yearning for Daisy. Earlier, I thought I’d probably have Gatsby respond to Rose’s yearnings but then realized that the beauty of longing is in never quite winning, but in the continuous losing. Since I perceive the book as a quagmire of intense emotions, most of which are probably unspoken, I tried bringing Rose out as part ghostly — because that is exactly what she would’ve been if she were a real character in Gatsby’s life —  never any space for a third. And, perhaps, also my attempt at highlighting the truth how love rarely wins to get what it wants.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheikha A. currently lives in Karachi, Pakistan, after moving there from the United Arab Emirates, and believes the transition has definitely stimulated a different tunnel of thought. She is the author of a short poetry collection titled Spaced [Hammer and Anvil Books, 2013]. Her work appears in numerous publications and anthologies, and she hopes for her poetry to be read and discussed widely. She also edits poetry for eFiction India. Her poems can be tracked via her blog

by James Penha

Dead Poets Society
appalls me. I would
be one of Keating’s
Welton colleagues, not
so tight-assed as most
but one who can take
the man for a beer
on a late Friday afternoon
early in his tenure
and warn him that passion
is the greatest of gifts
for a teacher, but
like literary theory
or atomic energy,
not a force to disseminate
with abandon. I recount
my first year in the classroom,
when a student took my fervor
for “She’s Leaving Home”
as a pass to run away
from his . . . when on a
field trip, another offered
me a joint with an inviting
Teach? Our power
to shock and awe,
I tell John, is profound;
if we invade their lives
outside the halls, we must
do so with delicacy
for although teaching is not open-heart
surgery, John, it is.

And after the boy kills himself,
I argue against firing Keating,
but hear from John no qualms
no doubts no responsibility for a fire
he kindled. “So this must be the day,”
I say, “from which you turn away.”

PHOTO: (Left) Portrait of the poet as a young high school teacher in Astoria, New York. Photo by John Azrak; fiery colorization and photoshopping by Jared Moore. (Right) Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Even decades after Dead Poets Society was released, many of my own students and a surprising number of colleagues saw Robin Williams’ John Keating as the ideal secondary school teacher, iconically enlivening the words of verse and demanding that his charges seize the day and “Break out! Break out! Now is the time!” I have always hated the movie because although there is much to appreciate in Keating’s pedagogical style, the substance of his mission, the manner in which he imposes himself into the complex lives of young people, is horribly careless. Oh, he does say with a line that is rather unremembered by viewers, “There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.” But when the results of his poetic turns turn tragic, Keating never asks himself if he had been wise or dreadfully, dreadfully foolish.