Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

The Lonely Path
by Olufunke Kolapo

Still on this indented seat
Weary watery eyes from this ancient sight
Mine mind craving an escape took a flight
I, the unwilling partner tagged along
We walked hand in hand among
Brushes of treasured moments turned memories

We heard the eerie crunches of bits of our dreams
We gulped the bittersweet taste of our mistakes
We drank the stale milk of our guilts
The sickening stench of stillbirth dreams
Hung in the air ferrying thunderous voices
Of the wrong choices
And slipped chances
We heard the heartrending sob of lost loves
The never-ending groan of their broken hearts
We inhaled the wistful fragrance of their sad love songs
We saw under the sulking moon the ugly scars on our palms souvenirs      from holding too tight
And the ragged residue from letting go
Not for lack of valour
But for loss of vigour
Now, all we are left with are these lonely walks
Down memory lane to the melody
Of a lone nightingale…
“Live while you can
Love while still a man
Sorrow never gives a clue
As to when due nor sickness
Dust beckons fast
No one lives twice”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Taken in March 2014, the day I was certified fit to use my new limb.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written after I read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe for the first time. This was after the automobile accident I had in 2012. While reading it, I imagined myself in an uninhabited island as Crusoe or with him. Coping with the permanent damages I got from the accident was a new territory for me, my island. I learned a lot from his strength, persistence, improvisation, faith, and perseverance. They helped me to conquer my island, too. During my convalescence and rehabilitation, I had a lot of time to reflect on my life before the accident and knew I had to walk through it, walk past it and get over it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Olufunke Kolapo lives in Ibadan in Nigeria. She is an educator, a secondary school teacher. Her poems and short stories have been published in online publications, including Bright Light Cafe, The Writer’s Cafe, UK Poetry Library, also Silver Birch Press, The Reverie Journal, and others. She blogs at

We’re Oakies and Proud
by Sylvia Riojas Vaughn

We Joads swung
into California
to pick fruit, cotton.
I’m bone tired,
no time for tears.
The local folks
don’t care for us,
but I have a family
to feed, one pregnant.
Unholy red dust clouds
buried our crops,
our pastures.
Blinding, suffocating -−
a peek into our graves.
The bank took our farm.
We packed pots,
pans, blankets
into our old truck.
The old folks,
my son Tom,
and the rest of us
squeezed in,
close as kernels
on a corncob.
Before we left,
I laid my earbobs
against my cheeks,
admired them
in the mirror.
I remembered the dance
when my husband,
daring to dip me low, said,
By golly, Mrs. Joad,
you’re stronger
than any diamond.
My smile faded
under the weight
of the unknown.

PHOTOS: (left) the author Plano, Texas, about 11 years ago; (right) Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Ma Joad has been a symbol of strength and optimism for me ever since I read The Grapes of Wrath and saw the movie. Jane Darwell, who played Ma Joad in the movie, will always be the face of Ma Joad for me. Strong, loving, no-nonsense, not even hunger could strip her of her humanity and goodwill. I wanted to capture the intimate moment in the movie when she said goodbye to her home, burning small treasures and pocketing others in her apron, including some shiny earrings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sylvia Riojas Vaughn lives in Plano, Texas. Both her parents were children during the Great Depression, and she grew up listening to their tales of hardship and the will to survive. Her poems have appeared in The Great Gatsby Anthology, Silver Birch Press; Triadæ, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, Texas Poetry Calendar, HOUSEBOAT, Red River Review, The Applicant, Diálogo, Label Me Latina/o, Somos en escrito: The Latino literary online magazine, Desde Hong Kong: Poets in conversation with Octavio Paz, and numerous other anthologies and journals. She has been selected as a Houston Poetry Fest Juried Poet three times. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she belongs to the Dallas Poets Community.

If I Were a James Bond Villain
by J.K. Shawhan

I would have better clothes, a
Chanel suit & Italian loafers.

My hands & lips would be scarred
by some terrible explosion, a
furious childhood trauma.
My parents divorced.
My girlfriend dumped me
for some author or artist or
other nonsense like that. Why

would she leave me? Naturally,
I don’t understand. I’m rich. Desire
for her love turns into desire to kill.
The world. An agent. All the agents.

I would be given the chance to destroy
007. He stumbles, he falls, he
does go to work drunk, & I
could end him with one bullet—

but, if I were a James Bond villain,
I would suddenly gain a taste for tea.
My goons would knock him unconscious.
Without stabbing him dead, they tie
his back to the chair. Set the tea party up.

Wait for Bond to wake. Gift him with
the evil spiel. I hate you, you will die,
I will terminate your family, la la la. . . .

After tea, leave him in the dark.
Alone with his empty cup and finger sandwiches.

If I were a James Bond villain.

PHOTOS: (left) The author; (right) Oddjob, henchman in Goldfinger (1959).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While I was enrolled in poetry workshops at Bradley, I worked on a chapbook of poems related to artwork, plays, movies, and books. I love reading the original James Bond novels, and after a long time of contemplation, I penned a poem putting me in these novels as a classic James Bond villain.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.K. Shawhan studied business and writing at Illinois Central College and Bradley University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bradley University’s Broadside: Writers and Artists, the University of California, Riverside’s Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, Eunoia Review,  Wordgathering, and Silver Birch Press’s My Sweet Words Series. J.K. is an editor and founder of The Basil O’ Flaherty, a literary arts website. The first issue will come out in March 2016. You can read her comedy blog or follow her on Twitter  @JKShawhan or @bo_flaherty.

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If I Was Alice
by Leslie Sittner
based on Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

If I was Alice I’d be 20 years old, not 8 ½.
It would be 1965, not 1865.

If I was Alice I’d have a dog named Exedra
Instead of a cat named Dinah.
I’d gladly take her down the Rabbit Hole with me.
We could cavort in the garden together.

If I was Alice I wouldn’t care how long the tunnel is,
Why the White Rabbit was late.
I would be amused not confused that he thought me his housemaid.
I would befriend the Duchess and make her pig-baby adorably human.

If I was Alice I’d want the little “Drink Me” bottles to hold strawberry wine.
I’d happily join the Blue Caterpillar atop his magic mushroom
And share his hookah of hallucinogenic pleasure.
Then I wouldn’t care what size I was.

If I was Alice I’d want my smile to be as omnipresent as the Cheshire           Cat’s,
The never-ending Tea Party to serve corn chips and cupcakes,
The Mad Hatter, March Hare, Dormouse, Mock Turtle, and Gryphon
To be a rock group that dances the Lobster Quadrille as they sing.

If I was Alice I’d seduce the King of Hearts
And have a masseuse treat the Queen.
I’d cut the deck of soldier cards, shuffle, play a game of hearts instead of           croquet
And then share the tarts.

If I was Alice I wouldn’t argue as all the creatures do,
Never discipline myself or give myself good advice.
Would I challenge my perceptions of class, good manners, order?
Maybe. But it would still be a mad illogical world.

PHOTO (left): This photo was created in 1968 in Rome by my photographer friend who was experimenting with infrared film and superimposition development. It represents their artistic psychedelic efforts together. Me as Alice, would love it.

PHOTO (right): Alice Liddell (1852-1934), who as a child inspired family friend Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron (1872).


PHOTO: My grandmother made this Alice in Wonderland rag doll for me in the 1940s. Alice is original except I finally replaced her tattered blue dotted Swiss dress 40 years ago for my daughter. Alice continues to push the limits of her imagination.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner, returned to retire in upstate New York after living in Manhattan for 20 years. She is a new creative nonfiction writer just finding her voice. Silver Birch Press has been very supportive of her work.

Wanting to be Laura Ingalls
by Jennifer Hernandez

When I devoured the Little House books
one after the other – a childhood obsession –
of course I wanted to be Laura.
Who didn’t?
The spunky sister.
Pa’s favorite
who dared stand up
to that mean Nellie Oleson
when she taunted the Ingalls girls
for wearing dresses too short.

But in my heart of hearts
I knew I was more like Mary.
The unbearably good sister.
Model student.
Ma’s favorite
who tried to shush Laura,
keep her out of trouble,
encourage her to be a lady.

You know how it all turned out,
Laura became a teacher,
married Almanzo,
mothered Rose,
authored novels.

Mary went blind.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION (left): Me at four years old, shortly before my introduction to the world of Little House. I like to think there is a sparkle in my eye which belies my adventurous tendencies to come. I had always wanted a long calico dress and a bonnet, but alas – it was not to be.

PHOTO (right): Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls in the TV series Little House on the Prairie, which ran from 1974-1983. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mom read Little House in the Big Woods aloud to me when I was around six years old, and from there began my obsession. Mom and I were able to attend the 2008 Guthrie Theater production of Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert as Ma Ingalls. To this day, I find myself in a frequent battle between my inner Mary and my inner Laura.


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 recently in Mothers Always Write, Silver Birch Press, Talking Stick and Visual Verse. She first performed this poem as part of the 2015 Cracked Walnut Literary Series in a non-profit garage in close proximity to the MSP airport.

Why I Studied Journalism
by Joan Colby

Stars glittered in the red chiffon
Of Brenda’s hair, in her emerald eyes.
A glamour girl, she stalked stories,
A mystery man with a continental patch.

H was always seeking
A black orchid in the heart of Brazil
That would keep him from losing
His mind. Brenda would begin
To forget him, riding in the white convertible
Of a boyish entrepreneur when the invidious
Odor of black orchids would overtake her.

Thus it was she pursued a career
Never growing older, never learning
Nothing would change. She befriended
The fat and the homely, typical foils
For beauty. Each had a quirk. Brenda
Went after the story. She went
To the ends of the earth
Red haired as a witch,
Her stockings unrun in the Andes,
Her spike heels unscuffed in Afghanistan.

She interviewed the sphinx as to the locale
Of orchids, the black ones that calm madness,
Make love a possibility. She mounted a camel
Wearing a tailored safari-outfit,
Her hair caught in a snood.

Meanwhile the mystery man was steaming
Down the Nile on his endless mission.
He was destined to run into Brenda
Whose surprise was to be expected
As she could never see past the panel
That held her adventures.

A balloon rose over her head
Containing the things that she said
Or lacking a hook, what she thought.
She yearned for the mystery man,
A suit by Chanel, a scoop.

PHOTO: The author (left) and Brenda Starr (right).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize.Colby is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review. .

We Come Bearing Gifts
by R.H. Slansky

Marlys Mullen is a spaz who loves to groove on life. She is a target and a terror. She doesn’t care because she cares too much.

Marlys is the only girl in her class who isn’t invited to Marissa Bato’s birthday party. She swears she doesn’t want to go, anyway, but when her cousin has to stay home sick, Marlys begs for her invitation. At the party, Marissa refuses to take Marlys’s present.

In fifth grade, I’m invited to the birthday party of Amy Lloyd, a popular girl who, until then, had either ignored me or giggled from behind her hand to her best friend over my hand-me-downs and weird hair.

Every girl from our class is at Amy’s party. As Kara unwraps gifts from her huge pile of presents, the other unpopular girls lurk in small subdued clumps at the periphery. That’s what we’re here for, these slump-shouldered girls and me, to make that tower of gifts higher.

Not deigning to talk to those other gift-bearers, I eat cake and ice cream alone, in silence, until Dad picks me up in our beat-up yellow Datsun. Back at school, Amy acts as if I wasn’t just at her house, as if I’m not there at all.

I invite an odd gaggle of mismatching friends to my own birthday party. When I see that everyone is getting along, my anxiety evaporates and nitrogen bubbles of manic joy accumulate in my blood. I rise, too quickly.

Pressurized as a shaken-up soda can, I hop up onto a chair and accidentally smack Beatrice Vega in the face with an out-flung arm, hard enough to make her cry.

My blood flames with feverish shame, fizzing over, then going flat – such a spaz. No wonder Amy doesn’t want me for a friend.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me on a summer afternoon in my favorite jacket, knee-high socks, roller skates (with pompoms), and my mom’s sun visor, eating buttered noodles – one of the four meals I would willingly consume – on the front porch of my childhood home in Portland, Oregon.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I find much to relate to in all of Lynda Barry’s characters, but Marlys, with her expansive and unstable optimism that can so quickly collapse, has always struck a particularly resonant chord in me. Names in this story have been changed because this isn’t about revenge.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R. H. Slansky, a six-time 3-Day Novel Contest entrant, two-time short-lister, and 2013 winner, has been featured in Geist literary magazine,, and the Literary Press Group of Canada’s website All Lit Up. Vancouver-based Anvil Press released her novella, Moss-Haired Girl, the Confessions of a Circus Performer, early this year. Despite what her credits would imply, she is not Canadian (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Raised in Oregon, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her cat, Marlys.

In Mountains
by Donna JT Smith

Garbed in woolen
Socks and coat,
Scaling mountains
Like a goat;
Breezes tossing
Echoed call,
Warming sun rays
Wrap as shawl —

Where I’m lying in the field —

Nibbling cheese and
Hardy bread,
Eagles soaring
Cupping drinks from
Icy rills
Tumbling down the
Rocky hills —

Where dark nights to stars’ light yield —

Retiring to
A cozy loft,
Open rooftop
Sky night-soft;
I can dream no
Better thought
Than to live out
Heidi’s lot —

Where in mountains I am healed.

PHOTO: (Left) The author, all grown up — with Heidi hair and in my log home on a hill…not a mountain…in Maine. (Right) Noley Thornton in Heidi (1993).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a young girl I was an avid reader. With my parents in the antique business, they were able to supply me with many of the classics — Heidi being one of them. I also read two sequels to the Heidi book. I was fascinated by her lunches with Peter up on a mountainside — cheese and homemade bread. It seemed a wonderfully exotic lunch!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Smith is a retired teacher, who now spends most of her time either writing, painting, or walking the dog. She and her husband live in a log home on the coast of Maine, and enjoy coffee dates at SB. Due to a flooded basement and then a house fire in 2007, most of the family pictures were destroyed. Too bad, because she was much better looking before 2007.


Mother Jessamyn
by Donna Hilbert

For Jessamyn West, 1902-1984

I wanted to be Cress,
smart in a new straw hat
and middy dress
strolling the boardwalk
on a summer day.
Cress Delahanty whose parents
thought her perfect,
in every major way,
who let her stay alone
on Sabbath day
to read and dream
and make for supper
a tasty oyster stew.
I wanted to be Cress
and dance the word
in a black lace shawl
and keep a list of phrases:
rainbow locks,
riven waves, aery rocks
not for meaning
but for pleasure.
And, I wanted to kiss
Ms. West, for giving birth
to Cress and thank her
for—in some sweet way—
giving birth to me.

SOURCE: “Mother Jessamyn” from The Congress of Luminous Bodies (Aortic Books, 2013).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I am eleven and living in Reseda, California.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Books played an enormous role in my upbringing. An only child until eleven and a half, with a working mother, I lived as much in books as in the world. At about eleven, Cress Delahanty was my favorite book. I fantasized about what it might be like to be so completely accepted by parents. On rereading this book as an adult, I realized that the much of the appeal was subconscious, as the book was certainly autobiographical account of the childhood of its author Jessamyn West, and it fed my deep desire to live a creative life. I met Jessamyn West shortly before her death, and she was every bit as lovely as I had imagined her to be.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest chapbook, The Democracy of Carbon, is collected in Swallow Dance, from Silver Birch Press. Earlier books include The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books; The Green Season, World Parade Books, a collection of poems, stories and essays, now available in an expanded second edition; Mansions, and Deep Red, from Event Horizon, Transforming Matter, and Traveler in Paradise from PEARL Editions, and the short story collection Women Who Make Money and the Men Who Love Them from Staple First Editions and published in England. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of Chiron Review, Mas Tequila Review, and Nerve Cowboy. She is a frequent contributor to online journals including A Year of Being Here, Cadence Collective, Little Eagle’s Re/Verse, NewVerseNews, Your Daily Poem and every month at Verse-Virtual. Her work is widely anthologized, including The Widows’ Handbook, Kent State University Press. Learn more at

Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life
by Jennifer Finstrom

“Moxie and a good sense of balance are essential when crawling on a      roof.”
Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick

I inspect Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life
with a magnifying glass, hoping to find
the smallest connection between us. But I
don’t know Morse code or how to throw
my voice. I don’t drive a fancy blue roadster.
Nonetheless, the advice that “lipstick is not
just for looking glamorous; it can be used
to signal for help on windows and other
surfaces” convinces me that we are kindred
spirits, as does the notion that “dressing
well will open any doors, even those
connected to a top-secret factory.”

And while I suspect I lack physical courage
and don’t know how resourceful I might be
when faced with kidnappers, jewel thieves,
or smugglers, I’ll keep in mind that
“flowers sent by secret admirers might
be coated with poison” and the pragmatic,
“when confused, sit back and try to arrange
the facts into some kind of order.” I like
to believe I’d have plenty of moxie if I
needed it, that I could crawl on any roof,
no matter how high or how metaphorical.

PHOTO: (Left) Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew in the 2007 TV series. (Right) Recent photo of the author in her favorite cameo earrings.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have long been fascinated with Nancy Drew, but that fascination was revived this past summer when I bought a nearly complete set at a neighborhood-wide garage sale. I’ve since visited Nancy in poems multiple times and hope to continue doing so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and NEAT. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in The Great Gatsby Anthology, the Alice in Wonderland Anthology, and in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks.

NOTE: “Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life” by Jennifer Finstrom inspired Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology, a 212-page collection of poetry, prose, and art released on October 1, 2016.