Archives for posts with tag: Reading

jungle book kipling
by Geetha Ravichandran

One summer
we managed to finish
a book together,
the boys and I—
The Jungle Book.

I practiced an ethereal patience
to hold them down
to words and sketches,
and wean them away
from their exploding world
of pixelated screens.

They lay on their stomachs
peered over my arm
interrupted often,
asked randomly after crows,
and held me to my promise
to let them go in half an hour.

For even school vacations
were crammed—Pokemon, cricket matches,
holiday homework,
TV shows, wrestling games…

But we carved that little time
to fall in love
with the jungle
and it’s creatures,
meet unlikely friends,
watch out for implacable foes.

Now, the memory of
that summer adventure survives,
in their loaded bookshelves…
“the bare necessities of life.”

IMAGE: Cover of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Puffin Classics).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about the memory of raising two boys, to share with them the stories I loved, including that of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Their world had too many distractions, but it’s heartening that they have also grown up to love books. To quote (out of context) Baloo- the bear, a character in the story, the love of books is one of the “simple bare necessities of life!”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Geetha Ravichandran lives in Mumbai, India. She holds a full-time job and writes poetry on the go. Her recent work has been published in online journals including Borderless, Lothlorien Poetr,y and Verse Virtual and also included in several anthologies. Her first book of poems, Arjavam, was recently published by Red River. It is available on Amazon.

licensed vitaly edush
A Memory Palace
by J.P. Slote

The impression is of a huge stone pile, a palace of white marble blocks stacked by a giant child from a race of giants. There are bigger buildings, taller atriums in this city, but inside the entrance hall of the New York Public Library’s Manhattan Main Branch on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, one is awed by the massiveness of the entire endeavor.

The eye is deceived—distance is skewed. Tiny little faces of people peer down from behind the stone railings of the stone balcony above; the ant-like proportions of people climbing up and down the massive stone stairs at the two ends of the stone chamber; the massive stone arches through which tiny modern people enter and exit. Escher’s impossible logic—simultaneously ascending and descending, coming and going—materializes for a surreal instant.

Other senses are affected. Sounds are both muffled and amplified—whirr of two archaic fans posted like tall sentinels on either side of the open entrance door (so mid-20th century). The ripeness of bright summer heat blowing in, unfiltered, from the city smells archaic in the vast, hushed, and darkened interior. The ear loses its bearings: echoes echo off stone—through the arches, around the pillars, down the staircases, along corridors seen and unseen.

The enormous hall puts one into an odd associative or dissociative state of mind. Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul. A line of poetry (“The Chambered Nautilus,” Oliver Wendell Holmes) floats to the surface of the mind, from a children’s book (The Diamond in the Window, Jane Langton) read long ago about a brother and sister trapped in a dream, in a seashell, by the ocean’s shore, who discover the doors to their many-chambered prison open as they recite lines of poetry. Ever-grander sentiments release them into ever-grander chambers—until they tumble out onto the sand just in time to escape the rising tide.

A mausoleum, a memory palace, built to hold, encompass interiority (thought, dream, memory, desire). The space is real, finite, concrete—but the dream is illusive and infinite.

PHOTO: New York Public Library, Main Branch, by Vitaly Edush, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A few years ago, I did a summer seminar at The Cullman Center Institute for Teachers, an enrichment program for New York city public school teachers of humanities. My cohort met every morning in The Cullman Center’s offices inside the New York Public Library’s Main Branch on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street to work with a Cullman Writing Fellow, reading and discussing a wide variety of creative nonfiction, and in turn writing pieces of our own. Our first assignment was to choose a location in the building and describe it fully. “A Memory Palace” is the result.

PHOTO: The author inside the New York Public Library, Main Branch.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.P. Slote is a poet, actor, and educator. Co-founder of Loretta Auditorium, a collaboration of theatre artists, she is the author of Loretta Auditorium Presents The Body of Loretta, three plays on the pornography of power, free will on the free market, and arousal in the public realm, published by Fly by Night Press and soon to be available at A native New Yorker, She lives and works on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood of her immigrant grandparents, where she teaches literature and writing to a new generation of young adult immigrants.


Miss Humphrey
by Leslie Sittner

She was tall, broad, quietly forceful. Mostly intimidating. And, as a 17-year-old, I thought, ancient, uncool, and wore dreadful sensible shoes. Definitely not fashionable. I was a freshman at Cornell in the early1960s in the College of Human Ecology. She was the stern taskmaster of the Textiles and Clothing Department.

But I loved the classes she taught. I learned plenty and performed well.

Junior year she invited me to her home for tea. By myself. Nervous? Absolutely. To my surprise she didn’t seem so very old; she was charming. And funny.

After graduating, moving to New Your City, and beginning my first professional fashion designer job, she invited me to return and lecture on my “design experience” in the Big Apple. She was impressed that I, as a children’s sleepwear designer, had several full page ads in the New York Times featuring my creations. I felt like a successful graduate and creative person!

Apparently the lecture was worthwhile because soon she notified me that she’d be coming to the City to visit me at my job. The company was located in the famous Little Singer (sewing machine!) Building on lower Broadway. It’s a magnificent edifice that enjoys landmark status. Even the elevator was remarkable.

When Miss Humphrey arrived at our fifth floor, she was slightly rattled, slightly disheveled, slightly tongue-tied. It was a Friday, payday, and we hadn’t yet been informed that there’d been an armed robbery in the building. She casually mentioned that the elevator exhibited telltale blood spatter. She matter-of-factly related the lobby-police-elevator experience. Then requested to meet my boss and see my design room. Just like that. And here I thought I was the blasé cool city girl.

Suddenly this tough gracious woman wasn’t ancient or uncool; I cared not a whit that she wasn’t fashionable.

IMAGE: Little Singer Building, 561 Broadway, New York City.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As hip1960’s students, we weren’t necessarily kind when discussing Miss Humphrey the Spinster. It was only hindsight that made us appreciate all she’d had to offer us. Most of us went on to successful careers in some field or another.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. Her stories are available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and will be featured in Adirondack Life magazine. On-line prose can be seen at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories as well as many selections of prose and poetry at Silver Birch Press. She has finished a memoir about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.


The Babysitter
by Ellen Evans

When we moved in there, it was far from being a neighborhood. But my dad was job foreman for a company that built houses for those whose white collars fit exceptionally well. It never really dawned on me until just a recently (some 50+ years), that my dad’s was blue.

One of the first families to move in became fast friends with my folks. After knowing them for a while, and being six, maybe seven, I slipped up one day, and instead of calling her Mrs. Leighton, I called her Aunt Shirley (I already had one of those, married to my Uncle Jim). But by the time I was twelve, that informality was gone. She was about to become my employer. When her first daughter turned three months old, I began babysitting. As more neighbors with kids moved in, it just seemed natural for me to watch them as well. And, I was considered “cool,” and could go a little Mary Poppins, which seemed to work well.

I don’t remember what my starting wage was, but by the time I was in ninth grade I was getting referrals from some of my dad’s wealthy clients. I do remember that when asked what I charged, I told them I would accept their judgement based on their satisfaction. I can recall it falling in around $10/hr—not 2017 $10/hr, but 1968 $10/hr. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Copyright © Ellen Evans – 2017

IMAGE: Illustration from Mary Poppins by Mary Shepard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: To write this poem, I went back to memories that I hadn’t really visited for quite a long time. I have thought about other aspects of my past relating to the same general time, but not to the babysitting. They are probably some of my fonder recollections from those years.

Ellen Evans, July, 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ellen Evans lived in Israel for the 12 years prior to the first Gulf War. While there, two of her poems were translated into Hebrew, and appeared embedded in a novel written by David Ben Joseph. She recently has had two poems chosen for the online journal Wild Women’s Medicine Circle, and she has had six poems chosen for an anthology issued by a poetry blog site. In addition, she has had two poems included in the chapbook Porcupine, published by Lost Sparrow Press. She currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is working on a chapbook of poems about migraines, written during migraines. The neurologist treating her has used some of the poems in a lecture. Visit her on Twitter @smilelady51810.


My Newsroom Internship
by Luisa Kay Reyes

When the cameraman with the local news station, where I was doing my first summer internship after graduating from college, expressed his desire to work for National Geographic —  since, after his divorce, he could film in the wilds of Africa unconcerned over whether  he’d end up devoured by a ferociously ravenous thick-maned lion —  I felt bewildered.

For in spite of the professionalism these individuals relayed on the television screen, the focus at the station was on how the other summer intern was trying to break up one of the baseball players at the university from his live-in girlfriend. And how the news assignment editor, who was expecting by one of the married top law enforcement officers in town, was hoping he would leave his wife for her. And how the county news director, after breaking up a couple of marriages, announced she was going to move up in the society of a  locally prominent church — and was even encouraging a full-time reporter, pregnant by one of the owners of the nice Italian restaurant in town, to join  in her church-going mission.

By the end of the summer, I thought I just felt overwhelmed by this professional emptiness, until one of the young technical guys rammed his car into the building out of frustration.  The other summer intern very nobly told me, “Don’t base your future career choice on what you see here,”  which made me feel quite relieved.  Until soon the newsroom was abuzz with her revelation that she had succeeded in busting up the baseball player’s relationship — and was now desperately trying to figure out how to get rid of him.

IMAGE: “Jagged Television or Anti-Cretinization” by Isidore Isou (1989).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in the Fire In Machines, Hofstra University’s The Windmill, Halcyon Days, Fellowship of the King, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, and other literary magazines.  Her piece, “Thank You,”is the winner of the April 2017 memoir contest of The Dead Mule School Of Southern Literature, and her Christmas poem was a first-place winner in the 16th Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Dressed up in my suit for the news station!


Blue Hair and Game Hens
by Karen Sawyer

I was 17 and working as a banquet waitress at a formal event of mostly elderly people. The first course went smoothly, but no one warned me about the slippery main course, Cornish game hens and sautéed vegetables. As I leaned over to serve the plate in my right hand, the hen on the plate in my left hand slipped right off the plate and down the back of a lady whose hair and gown were both a pale shade of blue. We were both shocked and horrified. Not knowing what to do next, I ripped the napkin off her lap and started wiping the greasy mess off her back, then I grabbed the Cornish game hen and ran for the kitchen. My supervisor rushed out and somehow handled the whole situation with grace and charm.

When it was time to serve dessert, my hands had almost stopped shaking and I no longer felt nauseated, so my supervisor sent me back to the scene of the crime. I should have reconsidered when I saw the tall, ice cream-filled parfait glasses sitting on tiny saucers.

Sheepishly, I approached the table of my earlier humiliation. As I set down one saucer, I looked to see an empty saucer in my other hand. I went numb when I realized that the parfait glass was now resting upside down in a woman’s open purse on the floor. She was sitting across the table from my first victim who yelled, “Why is she still here?” I melted into the woodwork and, well, frankly, I don’t remember what happened next but I did get to keep my job.

My boss told me I would look back and laugh. She was right.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at age 17. I don’t have a picture of me at this job but this is the age I was when the incident happened.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What can you say about an incident like this one? As a 17-year-old girl, I thought my life was over.  My parents happened to be dining in the restaurant next door and stopped in after the banquet to say hi. When I saw my dad walk in the door, I completely fell apart.  He didn’t say a word, he just hugged me.  I’m sure he was chuckling under his breath as I sobbed my way through the whole story, but being a good dad, he didn’t say anything except that everything would be okay. I can now see the humor in it and it has made for some good laughs when I’ve shared it with others. It was a character-building night that I will never forget.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Sawyer’s work has appeared in Precious, Precocious Moments, Wounded Women of the Bible, The Secret Place Devotional, guest posts in Mother Inferior blog and Unsent Letters blog, Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend magazine, and MONTROSE ANYTIME magazine. She has contributed numerous articles to ehow, and Demand Media’s other web-based sites. She taught elementary school for seven years before her children were born. Karen lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband of 29 years. They are the parents of two adult children.


Doris and the Bubblin’ Mop Water
by Joseph Johnston

Dinner shift at the college dining hall. Cafeteria trays rocketed down a conveyor belt and my task was to pull the sporks off and toss them into buckets of dishwater at my feet. Then Clarence, Potter, and Bubs scraped the remnants of the trays into a hungry hippo garbage disposal. Ruth nearing retirement placed the empty trays onto a different conveyor belt and everything disappeared into a stainless steel tunnel named Hobart.

First day on the job and once I figured out the protocol I made a game out of trying to guess what animal the entrée came from. Some of the detritus looked like chicken; others something gamy and sinister.

After dishes, I shadowed Doris the custodian. Now you gotta have this water hot or it won’t clean anything she said as she ran hot water into my mop bucket. Then she poured disinfectant in and affixed a mop wringer to the gunwale. We walked over to the range tops where Doris had a cauldron of water boiling. I like my mop water a little hotter than yours. I like it prit’near bubblin’ she said and she grabbed the cauldron and poured it into her mop bucket. She reached into it with these catcher’s mitt hands and started stirring the disinfectant around. I looked closely at the skin blistering off her bare palms. She smiled right through me and grabbed two mops.

We cleaned the cafeteria floor and I couldn’t stop obsessing about the burns on her hands until she told me that Clarence sometimes falls asleep in the breakroom and everyone enjoys giving him a tickle with a broom bristle because he giggles in his sleep. It was all a blur and I tried to punch out but Doris told me the time clock hadn’t worked in years.

IMAGE: “Janitor” by Aloysius Patrimonio. Prints available at


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was 16, a few friends and I got jobs washing dishes at the local college dining hall. I was saving up for a guitar. The shifts were hot and sweaty, the work was tough and fast, and the Hobart dishwasher was a beastly thing. Our minds wandered in and out of the characters employed there, and the situations we were put into. Lotta ghostly stories told. Lotta fun had, too.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I don’t have a photo of myself from those days, but this is the Hobart that we were terrified of getting dragged into.


Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Midwestern GothicArcadia, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where is working on a documentary and book about third-shift lounges.

I never could stay inside the lines
by Jeanne Ellin

Fifty-five years ago this May, I started my first job. Not with the other girls on the shop floor but penned in solitary in a little office. For £2.50 pence I am not a naturally precise or neat person with no affinity for numbers.

I did the books (very badly) for a repairs factory and the six outlets that took in repairs. Every total had to balance to the nearest 2p. With hurried handwriting a 5 could be confused with a 3 causing many reworkings, no calculators then. The shop and factory wages were also my task. Two men had the same last name and I confused their pay.  Only the one who received less than usual complained.

I also got to do any small errands like fetch dry cleaning for my boss and relieve the cashier from her little metal cage for her lunch break.

My lasting regret, not a sin numbered in any catechism, still haunts me.

I succeeded the woman who’d worked in that office for 45 years.  She took pride in the many ledgers she had filled with her small neat (fitting into tiny squares) figures. All those years never a blot and there were dip-ink pens used, certainly never a crossing out or a covering up. Ever.

She dressed soberly, her only treats were a box of Dairy milk and a Mills and Boon every Friday to sweeten her weekend.

When she retired after a few weeks of tutoring me in her tasks she left her last set of books with several blank pages for me to fill.

I blurred, blotted and overran the squares repeatedly. All those careful years and she handed over to a bored teenager without pride nor interest in her work.

IMAGE: “Blue-02” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1916).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  The prompt was timely, as I am approaching the fifty-fifth anniversary of beginning my first job and welcome the chance to explore that memory. As I am now older than the woman I took over from I see events from both perspectives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanne Ellin is an-about-to-be  70-year-old woman of mixed heritage endeavouring to live a creative life in a small space with even smaller resources. She has had a textbook on counseling published, as well as poems in numerous anthologies and one collection, Who asks the Caterpillar? (Peepal Tree Press, 2000).

pregnant woman otto dix

Pregnant Pause
by Linda McKenney

I sat waiting, in a large theater, with hundreds of other high school students who’d passed an exam for state employment.  We were interviewed according to our grade on the test.  I was fourth in line.  The position was beginning office worker, which meant you had to do whatever a superior desired.  Responsibilities included typing, transcription, filing, making copies and other duties as assigned.  I accepted.

My boss had a monotone voice, so I often dozed off while typing up his letters.  The interesting aspect of that was I continued to type.  Of course, the marks on the paper made no sense, so I had to begin all over again.  If there was a need for more than one copy of the document, we used sheets of carbon paper.  The ink would get all over your fingers and sometimes clothes.  More than two copies required a mimeograph.

This printing process used an ink-filled cylinder and ink pad. Documents were prepared on a special wax-covered stencil on a typewriter that had its ribbon disengaged. The typewriter thus made impressions in the stencil, which was filled with ink and squeezed onto paper by the mimeograph’s roller.

I married six months after I graduated from high school.  Shortly after that, I was interviewed for a promotion.  The man who would be my new boss told me that while I was qualified for the position, he wasn’t going to hire me.

“I noticed that you are wearing a wedding ring,” he said.  “In my experience, young married women get pregnant and then quit their jobs.  I don’t want to invest time training you and have you leave.”

What he said made sense to me, so I never questioned his decision.

Six months later I was pregnant and quit my job.

IMAGE: “Pregnant Woman” by Otto Dix (1930).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a Personal Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Writer, specializing in Mindful Living and Eating. She continually reinvents herself, and her new adventure is writing creative nonfiction. 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. You can join Linda on her Mindful journey by visiting her blog –- She also has an alter ego at


Job Candidate
by Steve Bogdaniec

Subject: San Francisco Area – Base + Uncapped Commission with Fortune 500 Company

Job Candidate I Found on’s First Name,

My name is Guy I’m Writing This For—who can sell wonderfully but can’t write for shit, seriously, you should have seen this before I reworked it—and I am actually two people pretending to be one executive recruiter working with an Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By. We would like to prescreen you for an interview with this company, and the “we” here is Headhunting Company That No Longer Exists, not Guy I’m Writing This For PLUS me—Steve—the one who actually found you among the jobless on Monster late at night.

  • Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By, global leader in Document Management, has an Outside Sales position in your area, mostly because the turnover is ungodly and they’re always looking for people
  • Base salary 30-60K, compensation structure of 70k to 150k with car allowance, and uncapped commission, which, judging by how many people we actually got to take these positions back in 2007 and 2008, will not be enough to sway you
  • Successful performance at Territory Sales Representative level earns the opportunity for either a Major Account or Sales Team Manager promotion, though, remember, “successful” is apparently a very subjective term with Actual Company You Will Hopefully Be Impressed By

Please forward me an up-to-date copy of your resume because Steve probably emailed 25 people in three different cities tonight and we can’t keep track of you all. Upon receiving your resume, you will be contacted within 48 hours to schedule an interview. Or 72, depending, we’ll see.

Best Regards,

Guy I’m Writing This For

Executive Recruiter

Headhunting Company That No Longer Exists
Office: Somebody else’s phone number by now

IMAGE: “Fishing” by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For this piece, I have altered an actual email template that I edited and sent out to job candidates. In 2007 and 2008, I worked for a struggling “executive recruiting” firm that had contracts with companies looking for business-to-business salespeople. We found candidates to interview for the positions, and if they were hired and lasted 90 days, we got paid. ¶ A friend of mine brought me in, knowing that I needed work. He would work during the day and do all of the talking—and selling, which I was not good at. I worked at night, finding us qualified candidates on Monster or Career Builder. Because of my writing background, I also either wrote or edited all of our copy. It seemed simplest to represent ourselves as one person, so we did. ¶ It was not technically my first job, but looking back, I can definitely say that it was my first “real” job—my first brush with the humanity and inhumanity of commerce. The work was frustrating because both sides—the companies and the candidates—were too picky, and perfect matches were hard to come by. Still, it was very generous of my friend to hire me in the first place. I will always look back on the job fondly because of him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. HE has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently Eclectica Magazine, Silver Birch Press, One Sentence Poems, and Blood Lotus. His work can also be found in the Nancy Drew Anthology: Writing & Art Inspired by Everyone’s Favorite Female Sleuth.