Archives for posts with tag: Massachusetts

salisbury ma
Riders to the Sea
by Richard L. Levesque

We arrive at the beach
post sunset, after the storm
rolls out into the Atlantic.
The asphalt
has a wet sheen,
almost like a black mirror.

Cigarette butts float
in deep puddles
that reflect neon signs.

At a nearby bar,
a cover band
is trying to be ZZ Top.
I fumble quarters
into an ancient
parking meter.
My friend calls
her son,
checking in.

Sneakers and sandals
come off,
pants are rolled up.
And we walk
on damp sand
behind the old Pavilion building.
The floodlights there
reveal an angry, churning sea
high above wooden pillars.
Against the night sky,
rolling waves rise
and slam against the shoreline.

My friend and I gasp together
and, in that moment,
I don’t think about why I’m there.

I don’t think about
my mother’s diagnosis
or my family’s denial.

I only think about music–
Anna Calvi’s
“Rider to the Sea.”

The instrumental
swells and breaks
just like the waves in front of us.

It’s all feedback
and noise,
then it is silent, calming.

I stare at the waves,
the music in my head
tearing emotion from my heart.

I have never seen
the ocean
in this context before.

we whisper
before walking away.

I tell my friend
my mother probably
has a year.

She predicts
I will be back home
before then.

(It is a prophecy
that comes true
in six months.)

We don’t dwell on this,
but continue up the beach instead,
putting the storm at our backs.

PHOTO: Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts (2010) by 6SN7.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 2013, my mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and I went back to my hometown in Massachusetts to assess the situation. Things were not looking good and it was starting to get overwhelming. One night, just to get away for a minute, I asked a friend to take me to Salisbury Beach. A storm had just blown out to sea and the surf was breathtaking. I’d been going to that spot ever since I was a kid, but never had that kind of reaction before. The memory has haunted me in a good way ever since. Because of it, I can usually find the one good memory in just about any situation these days.

PHOTO: The author at the Blue Ocean Event Center (formerly the Pavilion) on Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts (Sept. 11, 2022).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard L. Levesque is a poet who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife Lorrie. His previous chapbooks are Bone-Break Psychobilly Stew and Fetal Graceland. In his spare time, he enjoys tinkering with computers and watching roller derby.


Safer at Home:
Thank You, Juan and Patrick
by Janet Banks

The scent of disinfectant wafting in the hallways and elevator, a fragrance better than anything Chanel might manufacture, signals that Juan is on the job. As the condo building’s custodian, Juan arrives early every morning, not missing a single day in the last six months, to hand-clean and mop all surfaces, including doorknobs and railings, leaving the common areas in the building spotless. The sound of his vacuum in the hallway is the perfect accompaniment to calm fear of stepping out the door to the world beyond my apartment.

Patrick, our concierge, was furloughed for ten weeks — what a loss. His office remained shuttered during those long weeks. Deliveries were left on the building steps or in the vestibule in a jumble. The lobby was eerily quiet. The dogs living in the building must have been bewildered. Where were their treats from the friendly man downstairs? Patrick would occasionally swing by the building to see how his colleague Juan was holding up. It was a relief to see him visit, to know that he was well, that he hadn’t forgotten us. We’re so happy he is back on the job, welcoming us home with a wave and smiling eyes, masked, of course, as we are—the lobby again, a bright friendly space.

When the Covid-19 virus tore into Boston, the death toll shot through the ceiling at an alarming rate. The city was successful in flattening the curve and is now in Phase 3 of opening up. My husband and I, both 76 years-old, have pre-existing conditions. We aren’t seeing friends and family or eating in restaurants. We’re continuing our lives in Phase 1 mode, waiting for a vaccine and effective treatment for the virus. The two-man team, Juan and Patrick, continue to be indispensable to my sense of well-being.

PHOTO: Patrick Mahoney and Juan Valenzuela at the author’s building in Boston, Massachusetts. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband, Arthur Banks, and I moved into our condo 24 years ago. We’ve had the privilege of knowing Juan Valenzuela for 14 years and Patrick Mahoney for 11 years. They both told me that their favorite things about working at our building is the one-on-one work with the people who live here, and the chance to work with each other. “We’re a team,” Patrick said. ¶ The building has an interesting history. It’s located in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood was built in 1895, originally as an apartment hotel, a six-story steel and terra cotta structure, with a front of Indiana limestone and granite foundations. During the 1930s, under new ownership, it was renovated and renamed as “the only hotel in the United States strictly French in its operation.” In the early 1950s, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston acquired the building and it was transformed into a home for the elderly. Sold during the late 1960s, the site continued to operate as a nursing home for another 10 years. In the early 1980s, the property was sold and converted into 24 condominium units. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Janet Banks is a writer who is exploring memories from her youth as well as the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays have been published by The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, Silver Birch Press, and Persimmon Tree among other on-line sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in the Harvard Business Review and contributed commentary regarding career development to numerous publications.

susan and me
Fish Dinner at the Beach
by Christine Potter

At first, it was architectural: breaded, oblong, the
color of cedar two by fours, from the wee Alaskan

wilderness of a rented cottage’s freezer. And I was
forbidden to erect fish stick log cabins on my plate,

using tartar sauce for mortar. Next, deep sea fishing—
my father and grandfather with new-caught baskets

of glitter and silver eyes. Lord, don’t TOUCH them!
my grandmother said, stooping to run something

white under the broiler: swordfish. It took ten years to
chew, and lemon just made it sour. Didn’t swordfish

have serrated-knife noses and fight underwater duels?
Seafood in my teens: wild paisley, hippie gems. Hot

pink shrimp. Octopus like purple fists. Iridescent
mussel shells black as turtlenecks. No lobster because

my father was allergic. It reddened his face and two
pimples bloomed on his forehead. You are growing

antennae, said my mother, her joke too dangerous
for me to laugh at. Now, sushi, tidy as a new ring

in its pillowed box. So why am I a bear, wading this
cold and noisy river? My mouth is full of salmon.

PHOTO: The author and her sister Susan next to a statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts (early 1960s).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Fish Dinner At the Beach” started out during a National Poetry Month poem-writing spree with a group of online poet friends. I like to write poetry about being a child (same reason I like to write time travel YA fiction, actually). Also: I really, really like fish. My family went to Cape Cod when I was little to hit the beach, but also to eat fish. These days, my husband and I go to Nova Scotia for the same reason. So it was pure joy working on a poem about growing up from fish sticks into a sushi-eating bear-creature! Which reminds me that I have a little smoked Arctic char in the freezer and it’s time for lunch.

me and elvis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christine Potter is a poet and YA novelist who lives in the almost-exurbs of the lower Hudson River Valley. Her two full-length poetry collections are Zero Degrees at First Light (2006) and Sheltering in Place (2013). Christine’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, American Arts Quarterly, Rain Town Review, Eclectica, The Literary Bohemian, The Pedestal, and Fugue. The first book of her young adult time-traveling series, Time Runs Away With Her, was released in the fall of 2015, and the next installment, In Her Own Time, is forthcoming from Evernight Teen.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author with a statue of a young Elvis Presley (Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum, Tupelo, Mississippi).

kelly-square 2a
Learning to Drive at Seventeen
by Kristina England

Criminal lawyer takes me to Kelley Square,
a seven-way intersection
where everyone hits the gas at once.

At sixteen, told my mother I wouldn’t drive,
didn’t want to tow her around,
her blindness not my problem, my choice.

Criminal lawyer a good friend of hers.
I put my foot to the pedal,
hope to make it to the other side,

so I can call my mother and cry.

PHOTO: Kelley Square, Worcester, Massachusetts.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The only thing I can say about this piece, which I hope it shows, is how arrogant and stupid we can be as teenagers. I attempted to write this one as a prose piece, but eventually it found its way into the form of a poem. Silver Birch Press’s prompts seem to inspire memories of my mother when I was younger which is a pleasant break from other themes I’ve been writing on.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristina England lives, bikes, and sails in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in several magazines, including Gargoyle, Moon Pigeon Press, Silver Birch Press, and Yellow Mama. She is a regular contributor to the flash fiction magazine, Story Shack in Germany. Her first chapbook of flash fiction, Stanley Stanley’s Investigative Services, was published in September 2014 by Poet’s Haven Press in Ohio.

Sturbridge, Massachusetts
by Joanne Corey

people envision honeymoons
in romantic cities
tropical islands
             Niagara Falls

we chose an 1830’s living-history museum
             village green with church and general store
             blacksmith, cobbler, potter
             draft horses pulling a hay wagon through a covered bridge
             water-powered sawmill, grist mill, carding mill
             pastures, fields, barns
             farmhouse kitchen with creamery attached

perfect for a pair of New England history buffs
with limited time and budget
on their first-ever vacation together

PHOTOGRAPH: The bride and groom cutting the cake, shortly before leaving for Sturbridge Smith College Alumnae House, Northampton, Massachusetts (June 1982).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Corey lives and writes in Vestal, New York, where she is active with the Binghamton Poetry Project. Her 2015 publications include the spring 2015 anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project, Candles of Hope anthology (GWL Publishing, U.K.), the “All About My Name” poetry series from Silver Birch Press, and Wilderness House Literary Review fall quarterly. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog at

Blizzard Sestina
by Charles Levenstein

We thought the end would be flood, a fire,
maybe something nuclear and quite unspeakable.
Snow, of course, never occurred to us,
not the acres that now blanket our city,
not in breathtaking flurries,
not in smothering blizzard.

Once I imagined cozy Christmas blizzards,
urbane wine mulling on a tended fire,
cosmopolitan laughter sprinkled in flurries;
to be stranded did not mean unspeakable,
whether rolling countryside or sparkling city,
cossetted affluence protected us.

Narcissus never conceived an “us,”
distant from limpid pool was the Arctic blizzard
and the bleak wint’ry streets of the city.
Imagine him drowning in fire!
Imagine sirens speaking the unspeakable!
Completion not with a bang but a flurry!

Real estate speculators were in a flurry –
Prices soared beyond the reach of most of us,
Unspoken deals remained unspeakable,
Ticker tape falling like confetti in a blizzard –
How to explain these snowy dunes set afire
by desperate search for warmth in the city?

As you may know, there can be comfort in the city;
the rush, the lights, even bistros are flurries —
a credit card, some cash, the intimacy of fire –
for the young in urban anonymity there’s an “us”
that overcomes windchill in the blizzard!
For others the streets are unspeakable –

Poets are called to speak the unspeakable!
To comprehend and reveal the cruelty of the city!
If in blind comfort we ignore the blizzard,
imagining the mountains of new ice and snow are flurries
incapable of freezing our friends and families – “us”–
who will interpret simmering revolutionary fire?

We who feel the fire and have learned about the unspeakable,
we perceive a re-discovered “us,” a suffering city:
the cries are not mere flurries, they foretell the blizzard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I live in Brookline, Massachusetts, next to Boston — eight feet of snow and counting!  My daughter has sent me a set of snap-on metal cleats so I can go walking on days that the temperature stays above 10 degrees or so.  It’s beautiful, but I am old.

IMAGE: “Boston Blizzard” (Jan. 27, 2015), Reuters

professor 3

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles (Chuck) Levenstein is a retired professor. Levenstein has been writing poems since he was 15 years old, but burned them every 10 years, some because of shyness about them, some because they were really awful. He began writing poems again in 2000, largely because Internet poetry forums were an easy vehicle for trying out new work and learning from other writers. He also had erratic sleeping habits – exacerbated by sleep apnea – and late-night sessions on the computer were easy. He also became a yoga student of the late Tom Stiles (Mukunda) and that cleared away a lot of debris. In 2001, he published a collection of poems, Lost Baggage, with Loom Press in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the subsequent years, he published poems in a raft of e-zines. He was the winner of some small prizes – from Flashquake and from MiPoesia for poems in a Goya contest and a bonsai contest. His work was featured in Gary Blankenship’s e-zine and in The Hiss Review and Loch Raven Review. He became involved heavily in the now defunct Poetry Niederngasse, an e-zine based in Zurich, became a contributing editor for PN, and wrote a regular poetry/rant called “Poems of World War III.” Many of these poems were collected in a book published with called Poems of World War III. Most recently, he published another smaller collection with called Animal Vegetable.


“As all the world knows, the opportunities in Boston for hearing good music are numerous and excellent, and it had long been Miss Chancellor’s practice to cultivate the best.”

HENRY JAMES, The Bostonians


A Boston-based costume website advises would-be customers to “Capture the Great Gatsby Era.” I have to hand it to the culture-loving folks in Beantown. While revelers in other cities are dressing up as ghouls, zombies, witches, and Honey Boo Boo, Bostonians are celebrating Halloween by dressing as Jay Gatsby, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Nick Carraway. Très elegant…


In Vineyard Haven, on Martha’s Vineyard, mostly I love the soft collision here of harbor and shore, the subtly haunting briny quality that all small towns have when they are situated on the sea.”


The second stop on our summer road trip is Martha’s Vineyard, an 88-square-mile island off the southeast coast of Massachusetts. Long a playground for the rich and famous. the island can only be reached by boat or plane. William Styron (1925-2006), quoted above, author of Sophie’s Choice, spent time on Martha’s Vineyard and found the atmosphere refreshing and rejuvenating. Here’s another Styron quote: “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end.” 

Photo: Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, by Scott Tidlund. (Find him on Flickr here.)