Archives for posts with tag: memoirs

Princess Barbie
by Lindsey Martin-Bowen

Yes, that’s me, masquerading
once more as Barbie.
Running fingers over a velvet,
cobalt-blue bodice, I’m the Prom
Queen I never was in high school.
My mask appears invisible—
not silk or cotton—yet it covers
skin less than creamy,
blushed & smooth.

I arch my back & balance a tiara
on thick, blonde hair, complements
of Clairol. Revlon & Estee Lauder
now masque my face & make mirrors
reflect Barbie. They send my mind
to Au Petit Marché, where I bite
into a Napoleon, sip café au lait.

Sometimes, I wear Ralph Lauren,
fly first class, and imagine
I’m some undiscovered celeb.
Shedding pain that slides away
like scales, I’m free to wander
along a French shoreline
& watch a fading red sun glide
across a calm sea.

PAINTING: “Barbie” by Andy Warhol (1986). Prints available at

Lindsey as Princess Barbi Oct 2013 Neon Gallery copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  For the “Wearing a Mask” Series, I first tried to write about my struggles finding a mask that allowed me to breathe. (Allergies forced me to use a variety of scarves.) Yet the editor’s suggestion about the various masks we don urged me to write about one of my metaphysical (ontology) masks: Barbie. As young girls, we bought and sewed wardrobes for this fashion model whose figure (were she a live human) would likely cause her to fall on her face. Nevertheless, Barbie’s large blue eyes and broad smile haunted me as an image of beauty during my early years — and indeed, influenced my makeup mask. This is a photo of me as Princess Barbie, when I gave a poetry reading at Kansas City’s Neon Gallery on Halloween.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s fourth poetry collection, Where Water Meets the Rock (39 West Press 2017), contains a poem named an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 85th Contest. Her third, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, won Kansas Authors Club’s 2017 “Looks Like a Million” Contest, and was a finalist in the QuillsEdge Press 2015-2016 Contest. Her Inside Virgil’s Garage (Chatter House) was a runner-up in the 2015 Nelson Poetry Book Award. McClatchy Newspapers named her Standing on the Edge of the World  (Woodley Press) one of Ten Top Poetry Books of 2008. Her poems have appeared in New LettersI-70 ReviewThorny LocustFlint Hills ReviewSilver Birch Press, Amethyst ArsenicCoal City ReviewPhantom DriftEkphrastic Review (Egyptian Challenge), The Same, Tittynope ZineBare Root Review Rockhurst Review, 12 anthologies, and other lit zines. Three of her seven novels have been published. Poetry is her way of singing. She taught writing and literature at UMKC for 18 years, MCC-Longview, and teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and other criminal justice classes for Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon. Visit her on Facebook.

by Barbara Bald

Reams of silken material, cascading to the floor,
encased her young body in black-velvet elegance,
enveloped her in a coat lined with white rabbit fur,
soft and alluring.

I remember how its hood encircled her masked face,
long, curled eyelashes glued to eyeholes,
immovable, but inviting.

Her black gloves, cedar-scented from the attic chest,
flicked a rhinestone-studded cigarette holder,
flashed a fake emerald ring.
With her pinky poised in the air,
her jewels captured porch-light glare
as we trick-or-treated our way through the neighborhood.

I remember her stories about how she’d worn the coat
to nightclub gigs, where,
refusing spiked Shirley Temples,
she had danced in sequined heels,
steeled herself against grabbing hands,
smiled through a different kind of disguise.

This night she was a make-believe lady of the evening.
This night she was the mother who held my tiny hand
and carried a bulging bag of candy.

Looking back, I can forgive her
for unbounded love she could not offer.
Years later, I have come to understand
why she lived behind a mask
she could not remove.

Previously published in the author’s collection Drive-Through Window.

PAINTING: “Madame X” by John Singer Sargent (1884).


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There were many masks worn throughout my childhood — those worn on Halloween, those of the Lone Ranger and Zorro, Ben Casey and Doctor Kildare, those we hid behind as teenagers, even those worn by adults trying to hide something too scary to face. I believe most masks are worn to protect somebody. Unfortunately, sometimes the disguise can rob both parties of a chance for intimacy. My poem strives to convey that possibility.

Bald1 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Bald is a retired teacher, educational consultant, and freelance writer. Her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies and her work has been recognized in both national and local contests. She has two full-length books, Drive-Through Window and Other Voices/Other Lives. Her chapbook is entitled Running on Empty. She has written articles for Heart of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Magazine, and other local publications. She lives in Alton, NH, with her cat Catcher and some very personable goldfish.

mccarthy m
The Outside Face
by Mary C. McCarthy

My first mask was automatic
weightless, one I barely felt
but my mother saw it
saying, “Oh, you have your
Outside Face on.”
A face I must have carefully designed
somewhere behind my waking mind,
something I must have needed
to keep me safe
in the open spaces
outside our rooms and windows,
something bland and inoffensive,
tempting no intrusion,
giving nothing up
to anyone who might come looking
for a chink in my armor,
a key to the gate,
a bridge across the dark moat
around my fragile castle,
built of glass and moonlight,
fairytales and dreams.

All the while I waited there
behind my Outside Face
for the good godmother
I hoped would come
to grant my three best wishes
and make me safe forever
a girl too hard to see
too small to find
too fast to catch.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes the masks we most frequently wear aren’t made of anything but the expression we hide behind. Mothers, of course, can always see through them.

mary mccarthy copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary C. McCarthy studied art and literature, and has always been a writer, though she spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many electronic and print journals and anthologies, and she has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.

candy heart mask
by Shontay Luna

The Shy Girl could not believe her luck,
the popular kids were suddenly nice to her
on Valentine’s Day.
After trading cards among themselves,
one of them approached her.
All smiles, pigtails, and bangs.
Shy girl thought the universe had
somehow reversed its axis,
causing everything to be the
opposite of what it normally
And that the bully had a change
of heart and was human,
after all.
Popular girl handed Shy Girl
candy hearts.
The multi pastels like springtime
in her happy hands.
Gleefully, she tasted one.
Savoring the sweetness,
happy that things would
finally change,
until it turned bitter.
Confused, she took it out
to look at the blank
And saw the marks where
it was scraped across
the floor.

Photo found at thefacemaskstore.

luna s

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shontay Luna, a lifelong Chicagoan, is on a personal mission to enlighten others that her city consists of much more than deep dish pizza and Al Capone stories. Not that there is anything wrong with those things. Her poetry has appeared in, Black Book Press, and, most recently, The Literary Nest and The Daily Drunk.

In and Out
by Maria Nestorides

I’ve lived behind many front doors in my lifetime. Some of them welcomed me in, held me in a warm embrace. Others felt restrictive and repressive, and I, like a caged tiger, took any opportunity to escape through them.

My first front door was in London. When I was born, my dad held it open and pushed my pram through it as I slept on like a princess.

The second door was in Oman and it kept the howling desert storms at bay while I played happily within.

One door saw my teenage angst flare and feelings of not belonging grow into monsters.

Yet another door saw me finally finding my place in life, finally belonging.

In my adult life, our front door has opened to let us in and out. It has opened to an endless stream of friends and watched us leave to go meet with them, to go to a restaurant, to have a good time.

In and out.

Today, though, my door is hermetically sealed. No out allowed. It stands closed as a safeguard from the deadly virus around us.

These days, it is closed for the in. Closed to everyone who previously graced its entrance.

Everything is now done within the threshold of my front door: working, exercising, cooking.


My hope is that, soon, my front door will re-open and our friends will spill through once again and we, like bears waking from our winter hibernation, will reconnect with them. We will hug and kiss, talk and laugh with each other.

But for now, we stay behind our front doors, waiting for the day when this dystopian reality will cease and we will walk back into the sunlight and fresh air, without masks, without gloves, without antiseptic.


To live again.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus with her husband. She has two adult children. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2011. Her short stories “Red Letter Day” and “Voodoo Heads” were published online by Five Stop Story, and she contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan. 6, 2009). You can also find her stories Whispers of Love, Sand in my Shoes, Need you Now, and Under Cover on The Story Shack. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Singh - Doors 1
to go in a specified direction change position
by Kashiana Singh

are we not all in exile—
learning to exit doors

Many times, have we moved
goodbye to people at doorways
from the back of a car to friends, dogs
forlorn, following us as they tripped along
maybe just because days were so lazy then
people stood and waved at their front doors

we moved, were removed from doors
entered new doors, watched shut doors
we tiptoed around each other, as we packed
gathered our chaos, contexts
               that had
               settled and scattered around us

Stay with me—
as I move through doors
and into doors
of my childhood years

Years of saved amends left at the front door
in attics, almirahs—locked boxes
some zippered bags, tightly sealed
layered with desiccant packets

Years of mom opening the front door
sores hidden within brick and mortar
strewn into the chipped
mosaic of a front veranda

Years of repair being brought into the door
the freshly painted archway
being embossed into its walls
calligraphed under its roof

Years of puzzles in books hauled through the door
an alchemy of dust and smells
scattered in every new room
bookmarking each argument

Stay with me, as this is not
a poem about leaving a home
about departure from doors
this is just a song about
taking every home along

Stay with me
as I ask again
are we not all in exile—
learning to exit doors
looking endlessly
looking endlessly
for doors that open
for we have been told
that when one door closes
another opens, there is always
a door to keep us safe, however
wherever we may sleep for the night

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem takes the door theme and speaks about doors as representative of moving and accepting change as a constant. What one can do best is to adopt the role of a pilgrim and consider every home a temporary halt, every door a temporary entrance and thus the journey becomes easier. It even becomes more engaging because now “I” is a curious participant but not the controller of every door that is encountered through this journey.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashiana Singh is a management professional by job classification and a work practitioner by personal preference. Kashiana’s TEDx talk was dedicated to Work as Worship. Her poetry collection, Shelling Peanuts and Stringing Words, presents her voice as a participant and an observer. Her poems have been published on various platforms including Poets Reading the News, Visual Verse, Oddball Magazine, Café Dissensus, TurnPike Magazine, Dissident Voice, Feminine Collective, Spillwords, Poetry Super Highway. You can listen to her reciting her work on Rattle Open Mic sessions, Songs of Selah podcast, and Poetry Super Highway episodes. Visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

mccarthy door
Boarded Up
by Mary McCarthy

The door to my house
of memory and dream
that sheltered us so long
from wind and storm
and the hard turns
that catch you unaware
and hold you there
like a bird stuck in ice
when the lake hardens
in a sudden freeze–

that was the door
to all I knew
of fruits and flowers
my lilacs and lilies
raspberries warm
in the sun
and Mayapples on the hill
under the oaks
rising each year
from the dust and leaf duff
shy as young girls
beneath a parasol of leaves–

that was the door
we always came back to
from journey or exile
carrying our weariness and grief
to where rest and comfort waited
like sweet forgiveness–

that was the door we closed
on all our worst intentions
the ones that betrayed us
and the ones we used so well
to wound and cut
what would take years to heal–

that was still the door to home
where we always found
love’s welcome generosity
that kept us coming back
and fueled the engines
of our fine delight–
That door we closed
three years ago
and moved too far
for any of my most
familiar flowers–

And now the stores of memory
like the house behind that door
still so much a part of me
was gutted by a chimney fire
leaving it ruined, empty,
blackened and boarded up
behind police tape–

and I mourn
like an orphan
a widow
the last survivor
of a lost world
the last speaker
of a language full of words
no one will ever sing again

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was surprised by how upset I was to learn my old home, where we had lived for 35 years, had burned and was no longer inhabitable. After all, we had sold the house and would never be returning. Yet I mourned it as a terrible loss, even in my dreams.

mary mccarthy copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, she has been a Pushcart nominee, and has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.

Kelly at door 01
Now These Present Ghosts
by James Ross Kelly

If you walked through the front door
with the thumb latch key &
Took a right you’d walk into the living room
& continue on &
With a left turn before the bedroom
There were worn wooden stairs
& upstairs were rooms of equal size
Sparely furnished &
On a hanger in the east room
My father’s uniform hung festooned as
Staff Sergeant, Eisenhower jacket
& campaign ribbons on the front
A hall a door closed on the attic
That ran half the length of the upstairs,
& if you opened the attic
Door a window from the south kept it pretty hot
I would play in the attic when it was cool
I remember finding Indian head pennies under loose
Floorboards, other than books
I can’t remember any of the contents of
The attic, boxes, I suppose, it was not empty but the
Smell was clean & warm & the two rooms of
The upstairs seemed strange as no one ever slept there
Wooden dressers with no clothes & the east room
Was a scintillating white…
The years I lived in this house, haunt me now
As it did not then, the presentiment of what was to come
I suppose, these years left a hollow place
As I’d be an orphan at nine, we lived by a
Slow running Walnut River,
& the east room’s white walls
Are now these present ghosts from when that house
Bore relevant-to-me lives, & heard my
Grandmother sing arias,
With radio opera, or an old cowboy song
& I remember
The smell my father’s boots
As I longed for
His coming home hour,
When work boots,
& clothes came off on the back porch,
& after a bath & dinner, &
The open door of his
returning good humor.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out in the process of memoir that is still in process, wringing out memory. It is from a collection of poems called Black Ice & Fire that is making the rounds now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California next to the Sacramento River. He has been a journalist for Gannett, a travel book editor, and has had a score of labor jobs—the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. He started writing poetry and short stories in college on the GI Bill, and after college continued and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. Kelly worked as an environmental writer for the Forest Service in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where he retired in 2012. Born in Kansas, Kelly was a long-time resident of Southern Oregon, where he grew up. In the past four years, Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles, California), Cargo Literary (Prince Edward Island, Canada), Fiction Attic, Rock and Sling (Spokane, Washington), Edify (Helena, Alabama), Flash Fiction (San Francisco), Rue Scribe (New Mexico), True Chili (New Mexico), The RawArt Review (Endicott City, Maryland) and  The Purpled Nail (New Mexico), have featured one or more of his stories or poems. Kelly’s first book of fiction, a collection of short stories called And the Fire We Talked About, will be published by Uncollected Press/RawArt Review in 2020. A selection of Kelly’s stories and poems can be found here.

front door

Our Red Front Door
by Linda McKenney

My mother’s choice, our red front door was unique on our block. This solid, wood sentinel served as our blockade for any strangers wishing to gain entry into our home. We’d surreptitiously raise one of the Venetian blind slats to see who was ringing the doorbell. If it was an unwanted caller, we’d pretend we weren’t home.

These types of visitors were an anomaly in our quiet town, where everyone was a trusted neighbor, watching out for one another. We felt safe. Until . . .

It was late afternoon, when my mother would be home preparing dinner. But, not feeling well, my father had taken her to the doctor.

The intruders kicked in our crimson bulwark and lay siege to our home. Upstairs, they found my father’s antique handguns. Shots were fired into one of the pillows in my parents’ bed. In each of the bedrooms, a fire trap was set. A book of matches on the bed, one bent up and lit. It burned down to ignite its fellow matches and all of the bedding. Flames then hungrily consumed the rest of the room. We knew this, because for some reason, this technique failed in one of the bedrooms.

The first thing my brother noticed, when he returned from delivering newspapers, was the large boot print on the destroyed front door. Heading to the back door, the upstairs window exploded with glass shrapnel, barely missing him. He saw flames shooting out and licking the roof. He ran inside, calling our mother’s name. When he verified she wasn’t there, he grabbed the small amount of cash downstairs and his sister’s parakeet.

We lost personal, irreplaceable possessions. But even more, we lost trust, that feeling of safety and my mother’s red front door.

Photo found on Pinterest.

our house

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This fire happened in 1973. The photo of the house is our house today. It has new owners. You can see how close it is to the one next door. That is the alley my brother started down when the window exploded. The red door photo is not our original door.  We don’t have one.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a storyteller, writer and actor, bringing historical women to life. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an alter ego at

screen door
Screen Door
by Robbi Nester

To Leslie

Chipped green door, old grass losing its spring under the foot.
Heavy, too heavy for the frame. Banging each time it closed.
We were 5, two little girls, Play-Doh underneath our fingernails.
The screen door was awkward for a child, not flimsy like the others
on the block—stodgy, dodgy, opening with a shriek. It matched
the green door in its forbidding stiffness. Hard wind lashed, smashing
the screen door, slap, out of your palms, sent it spinning across the lawn,
shards of glass and twisted metal. Cyclone, my father touching down,
sweeping everything away. He grabbed your arm, another person’s
child, no barriers, and whipped you while I watched and wept,
at once grieving and relieved that someone else
could share the burden of his rage.

PHOTO: Mid-century screen door found at

Robbi portrait in brown suit, 2019 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester stays mostly behind her door in Orange County CA. She is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag,2019). She is the editor of two anthologies, The Liberal Media Made Me Do it! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees– celebrating the photography of Beth Moon, which was published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal. Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have appeared widely in journals and anthologies and on websites.