Archives for posts with tag: Stories

In the Footsteps of Noah
by Matthew Gilbert

Origami book folds construct a child-ark.
Two by two wild dreams claw for bow
as small children embark through floodwater.
Rainstorms don’t always cede to wanting
feet running through concrete alleys,
splashing, splashing through rain puddles
their fathers say to leave for mangy cats.

One runs outside at her father’s blind eye.
In seconds, wind catches the brown paper sail.
She wonders how far the horses go before leaping to shore,
if tigers will learn how swim those stripes of water,
if butterflies conceal those colors when they pass
metallic trashcans where dandelions use to grow.

Her mother would pick one and tell her to blow,
wishes are but starting points. Those seeds must burrow
deep into the soil to draw out the labor.
We measure success by the pairs of bumblebees,
zipping and buzzing sweet honey songs in the ear.
Their wings, too, crack like paper ends, soaking
under waves. The girl draws out a warm island:

caterpillars, newts, and a set of albatrosses.
Markers bleed into sunburst quagmires
drenched through. Water pulls the boat
doorstep to doorstep until it caps starboard.
She maps out its journey with her breath on glass,
wonders when the rain will stop.

Tomorrow, she will collect it from Jimmy’s yard,
bury it with coffee grounds, orange peels, eggshells,
so she can plant an elm. The way her mother taught her,
and her mother’s father taught her. Two by two
birds will swoop in, nabbing seeds in the rain,
colors sinking into the tree.

PHOTO: Origami Boat by Guillaume Bell.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The world is shaped by the next generation. Our adventures become their stories and ripple out. How far will those currents reach?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew Gilbert is a co-founder and poetry editor of Black Moon Magazine. He reads for Orison Books and serves as a poetry editor at Great Lakes Review. He also edits the newsletter for Poetry Society of Tennessee—Northeast Chapter. He enjoys writing that crackles and burns with emotion, works that push the boundaries between writing and lived experience. His works appears in Delta Poetry Review, Eunoia Review, Silver Birch Press, Mildred Haun Review, and Across the Margin, among others, and his work is forthcoming in Scifaikuest and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol IX: Virginia. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

How to submit a piece of prose
by Maria Nestorides

Submissions are open.

Great news. This is going to be your best submission yet. You rub your hands in glee and crack your knuckles in anticipation.

Double-check the submission date.

Excellent. You have plenty of time, and all sorts of wonderful ideas swimming around in your head that you’d love to write about. You’ve got this.

Settle on one idea.

Yes, that’s the one. You can hear the words in your head. They flow perfectly, one word connecting with the next in a colourful necklace of thoughts and experiences. Quickly! Get it onto paper before you forget. Start typing, fast.

Surely, that’s not how it went?

Start deleting.

Try again.

No, no, no! That’s not at all what you wanted to say. It just doesn’t seem to flow, and it doesn’t feel right in your bones.

In your mind’s eye, dramatically throw the A4 piece of paper into the bin. (Just delete the bloody word file.)

Proceed to delete everything you write as soon as you write it.

Rub your temples with your fingers, hoping this will help with your inspiration (and ease your throbbing headache).

Abandon all hope—and your computer—and mutter something to yourself about having to let this submission call go by.

Continue to fume at yourself and try not to look at the computer (treacherous machine) for the next few days.

Wake up and realise that today is the last day for submissions.

Will you, or won’t you? Give up, or persevere?

Reluctantly, turn your computer back on.

The title for the submission you had originally started, blinks up at you with puppy dog eyes, pleading for a final chance.

Inspiration finally hits you and your piece is finished in ten minutes flat.


Wonder when the next call for submissions will be.

PAINTING: Untitled by Keith Haring (1982).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus. She is married and has two adult children. She has an MA in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her short stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, The Sunlight Press, The Story Shack, Inkitt  and she has also 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 visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Do It All
by Paige L. Austin

You wake up to your alarm at 6:30 a.m. after three hours of sleep, your head spinning with everything that needs to get done. Chores, deadlines, errands, school projects pass in front of your mind’s eye while you brush your teeth and check your email on your phone. You walk out of your bedroom with a full laundry basket and let the dog out back, drop the clothes by the garage door, and grab a protein drink from the fridge while you feed the cats meowing after you, put away clean dishes while you mentally prepare for your first staff meeting of the morning. You put the laundry into the washer on your way to your home office. The floor needs to be vacuumed today. You sit down at your desk and turn on both computers. It’s 6:45 a.m.

The kids wake up at 7 a.m., and by then you’ve cleared out your inbox and have a plan, detailed and soothing in an Excel spreadsheet you maintain for just this purpose. You pause your work life to help your husband get the boys ready for school, grabbing the older one’s bag while you chase the one-year-old around the living room to get a shirt on him. He is half-naked and shrieking-gleeful about it. His joy is the highlight of your morning at 7:15 a.m.

You have 20 minutes of complete silence while your husband takes the boys to school. You wash your face and get dressed properly, play a mindless level of Soda Crush in defiance of the day ahead, take a deep breath, and jump back into the fray.

You make a doctor’s appointment while moving between your bathroom and your office. You order groceries while you wait for your meeting to start.

It’s 7:59 a.m.

PHOTO: Spinning plates by Conceptual Motion, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a working mother, I feel very keenly the pressure to succeed at everything, to “do it all.” The truth, of course, is that it’s an impossible task and only sets you up to fail over and over again—but that doesn’t stop me or any other working mother I know from trying anyway, often to the point of utter exhaustion. The above is taken right from a typical start to my day.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paige L. Austin is a professional magazine editor with a Master’s degree in writing and publishing who has recently returned to the creative writing fold. Visit her on Instagram and at

licensed Thomas Carlson
Thank you to the 66 authors from 10 countries and 20 states who participated in the Silver Birch Press PRIME MOVERS Series, which ran from August 28 through October 4, 2020. We extend our appreciation to the writers who expressed their appreciation to essential workers keeping the world moving during the pandemic—or those who would be doing so if they were still with us! Many thanks to…

Janet Banks
Roberta Beary
Shelly Blankman
Rose Mary Boehm
Mary Camarillo
Stephanie Campitelli
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Joe Cottonwood
Howard Richard Debs
Vandita Dharni
Julie Dickson
Dakota Donovan
Sheila A. Donovan
Margaret Duda
Barbara Eknoian
Attracta Fahy
Jennifer Finstrom
Beth Fox
S.M. Geiger
Vince Gotera
Anita Haas
Bridget Harris
Donna Hilbert
Stephen Howarth
Marilyn Humbert
Joseph Johnston
Tricia Knoll
Michelle Kogan
Judy Kronenfeld
Tom Lagasse
Jennifer Lagier
Joan Leotta
Rick Lupert
Marjorie Maddox
Ruthie Marlenée
Betsy Mars
Mary McCarthy
Joan McNerney
Eileen Mish Murphy
Mari Ness
Cristina M.R. Norcross
Jay Passer
Roger Patulny
Marianne Peel
Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad
Patrick T. Reardon
Jeannie E. Roberts
Sarah Russell
Paul Ruth
Wilderness Sarchild
Carol A. Stephen
Dana St. Mary
Leslie Sittner
JC Sulzenko
Ann Christine Tabaka
Jo Taylor
Alarie Tennille
Mary Langer Thompson
Cruz Villarreal
Smitha Vishwanath
Alan Walowitz
Kelley White
Lisa Wiley
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

PHOTO: U.S. Post Office worker, Bisbee, Arizona (April 2020) by Thomas Carlson, used by permission.


Essential Words
by Joan Leotta

When the pandemic closed this county’s library buildings, our librarians still went to work to keep the internet “fires burning” so that those in our area without service could access signals from the parking lot—a literal beacon in Covid’s storm. Essential workers with no contact allowed. No checking out books permitted—at first.

My own bookshelf provided solace in a broad range of offerings for rereading—meetings with old friends that took me to Italy, to the West, to the past—on wings of words, trips not even Covid could cancel.

I began to read and borrow books online, in spite of eye difficulties with computer reading. At last, drive-up service came. We can now roll up to the door, call inside, and Kim or Christie or another librarian, pops out, books in hand. These angels with book carts know us, and often add items to our requests—things we might enjoy, things we may have found if we had browsed or talked with them.

The hallowed halls of my branch where shelves of books take the place of treasured frescoes are made holy by the ministrations of our librarians. The books themselves are secondary. Book clubs can continue by zoom, but the librarians are the beating heart of what makes the library my happy place. Books are important, but it’s the encouraging words (and actions) of our librarians that have been, are, and will be essential during and after the pandemic.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is of the two librarians (Kim WIlson, left, and Christi Iffergan) that I interact with most at the SW Branch of the Brunswick Library system here in Brunswick County, North Carolina.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is more of an homage than prose poem or vignette—a cheer for the librarians who have kept up the sense of community here in rural Brunswick County with their unfailing attention to individuals—expressed as best they could (in emails, in calls) even when the library was closed, and as it opened, like a flowering bud, provided more and more of the aroma of kindness that is essential to all human life. Our librarians are great!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When she is not playing with words on page or stage, Joan Leotta loves nothing more than sitting at table or walking the beach, laughing and talking with family. She spins poems, articles, essays, short stories, and performance pieces most often around her core interests—food, family, nature, travel, and strong women. Her poetry books include  Languid Lusciousness with Lemon (Finishing Line Press), Nature’s Gifts from Stanzaic Stylings (free online), and a mini-book from origami poems (free, but also printable). Another short collection will be released by Origami in 2020. Visit her at and on Facebook.

Marlenee Photo 1
Sea Stories
by Ruthie Marlenée

The old man of the sea stands dockside waiting for his son’s ship to come in. After two weeks guarding our coastline, part of Homeland Security, the USCG Cutter docks for fuel. The old Guard watches as the young Guard nails the landing. That’s my boy, the Captain. Even under his face covering, it’s clear the father’s pride swells higher than an ocean wave.

Marlenee Photo 2

I board with my husband, a USCG Officer, retired after 31 years, bringing chowder, fish and chips, careful to social distance at least one fathom apart on the ship’s fantail. Soon, young crew gather for a chance to hear one of the notorious salty sea stories from this white bearded ancient mariner. He shares about surfing in Samoa and trolling for ahi in the South Pacific. But too soon, it’s time to depart.

Marlenee photo 3

We watch as the ship slips away. My husband wipes a tear, remembering his boy, remembering missing his family while being gone at sea. I know the tales he didn’t have time to share today. The ones he and his son will share someday over a cold beer about all the search and rescue missions, all the lives saved, the countless dangerous boardings and interceptions of panga boats full of drugs along our coastline. My husband will recall the trainings he did in India and Africa, the interdiction of enslaved migrant women and children arriving on rat-infested boats from communist-blocked countries and how he provided food, water, and medical attention.

In the end, they’ll talk about how proud they’ve been to serve in the United States Coast Guard. Always ready, Semper Paratus.

Join me in saluting this father and son and all the other Coasties who’ve served and continue to serve our country during these uncertain times. Thank you for keeping our borders safe and for protecting people from the sea and the sea from people.

PHOTOS: 1) United States Coast Guard Cutter coming in for fuel.  2) The author’s husband, Jeff Gunn, and two USCG crew members listening to his sea stories. 3) The author’s husband in his younger days before retiring after 31 years as a USCG Chief Warrant Officer.  Photos by the author. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruthie Marlenée is a California native, isolating in Los Angeles with her husband. Her novel, Agave Blues, is due in 2021. Her second novel, Curse of the Ninth , nominated for a James Kirkwood Literary Award, published in February 2020, is available wherever books are sold. She earned a Writer’s Certificate “With Distinction” from UCLA. The author of several novels, she is currently working on the sequel to Curse of the Ninth. She is a ghostwriter, screenwriter, novelist. and a poet whose work can be found in a number of literary publications, including Silver Birch Press. Visit her at and

In Service to the People
by Mary Camarillo

After my grandfathers served in WWI, they took the Railway Post Office (RPO) exam. RPO clerks were considered postal service elites at the time. They were a close-knit group. That’s how my parents met—their fathers worked together.

The RPO manual required clerks to “possess more than ordinary intelligence, have a retentive memory and be sound in wind and limb.” My grandfathers knew all the rail junctions, the specific local delivery details and were able to ready a 50-pound mail pouch, stand in an open doorway just before the train passed the station at 70 miles per hour, grab the incoming pouch off a crane, and kick the outbound pouch off to the ground (and hopefully not underneath the train wheels).

My father rode with my grandfather on a few trips and decided he did not want to work for the post office. I wasn’t expecting to either, but when a friend took the exam, I tagged along. When I got hired, I planned to work a few months, save some money, and quit. I stayed for many reasons—five weeks’ vacation, 10 paid holidays, health benefits, the retirement package–but mostly because of the camaraderie of a close-knit group of people working towards a common goal.

Postal employees (my grandfathers, Charles Bukowski, John Prine, my husband, countless friends) miss Christmas celebrations, get bitten by dogs, and lose sleep working graveyard because they are committed to getting the mail out despite snow, rain, heat and now Covid-19, and a new postmaster general intent on cutting service.

The Postal Service mission is to “bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people.” The RPO handbook called this responsibility “a sacred duty.” I can think of nothing more sacred than binding our nation together in these fractured times.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Postal Service is in my DNA. I had a long career with the service, and I find the recent changes in service standards alarming. There is a longer version of this essay on my website.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: These are photographs of my grandfathers, who were both Railway Post Office clerks. Their names are Hubert Adrian Parker (right) and McDonald Wilson Brice (left), both deceased.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Camarillo’s first novel will be published by She Writes Press in June of 2021. She is currently working on a novel told in linked stories. Her prose and poetry have appeared in publications such as The Sonoran Review, Lunch Ticket, and The Ear. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband who plays ukulele and their terrorist cat Riley who has his own Instagram account @marycamel13. Visit her at to read more of her work.

Author’s photo taken at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony.

Behind the Iron Bars
by Vandita Dharni

Every morning I wake up to a familiar clattering sound. It’s the sanitation worker with the black mask. I wince—he always arrives a tad early to collect the garbage.

I flinch at the iron bars that distance me from the macrocosm as I watch him, and yet I don’t, vanishing into its folds. Then in a fleeting second, he reappears, offering biscuits to a black stray dog that eyes them hungrily—well, so do the ravens that perch on a tree above him every day. I know why he does this, for black is always lucky. The garbage van trundles towards the B-2 block where the road forks near the containment zone of our sector. The containment and non-containment zones are distinguished by yellow and black bags used for waste disposal, later transported to a compost yard in Sector 38. Pending electricity bills and crumpled clothes peer at me while I pour a cup of black coffee that has been brewing with my musings.

I often peer into the black bag he carries from a neighbour’s yard each day—the same vegetable peels, crunched paper balls, and household trash. I hear him instructing co-workers about safety guidelines and black bags that must be handpicked from collection bins and yellow bags which contain biomedical waste that needs to be segregated.

Our area has now reported twenty positive cases. The fences frown with boards restricting entry. He also collects trash from these locations. A week later, I notice him coughing incessantly. The iron bars of my heart bleed into ink that reads: “Two sanitation workers in the yellow bag area have tested positive.” My black coffee brews with thoughts whether black is still lucky or not.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There has been an escalation of Covid-19 cases in the city of Chandigarh, with the toll rising to 1092 active cases, according to today’s statistics. Twenty-two cases in my sector have been reported so far, and no fresh cases have been detected for a few days. We adhere to the norms of social distancing and venture out only if it’s really necessary. During these challenging times, I have been confined to my home most of the time and do my work online. A lot of people who provide us with essential services have impacted me, and one such worker is Charanjeet. ¶ This particular sanitation worker has always been very positive and does his duty with a smile. He picks up refuse every day without fail, as do the other sanitation workers in Chandigarh. His family lives with him in Derrabassi, a tiny village on the outskirts of Chandigarh, and he has to support them financially. India is a progressive, yet poverty-stricken country, and Charanjeet is making both ends meet to give his family a respectable life. He had a bout of viral fever recently, but thankfully it was not Covid-19, and is he is back on his feet now, which is a relief for all of us who really salute front-line workers such as him.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Charanjeet’s photograph was clicked outside my gate by me and is used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vandita Dharni is an acclaimed poet, scholar and, a gold medalist from the University of Allahabad, India. She has a Ph.D.  degree in American Literature from the same university. Her articles, poems, and stories have been published in many journals, including Criterion, Ruminations, GNOSIS, HellBound Publishing House, as well as International magazines such as Immagine, Poessia, Synchronised Chaos, Poleart Albani, Sipay, Fasihi, and Guido Gozzano. Her books include The Oyster of Love,  Rippling Overtures, and Quintessential Outpourings, and she is the proud recipient of the Poetic Galaxy Award 2018, the World Poetic Star Award 2019, and the Rabindranath Tagore Award 2020. Her work recently appeared in Our Poetry Archive.

Our travel options have been limited for many months, but we’ve enjoyed an insightful, uplifting, educational, and dynamic virtual vacation through the Silver Birch Press LANDMARKS Series, which ran from June 30-August 27, 2020. In all, we visited 32 countries and 25 U.S. states. Thank you to the 115 authors who led us on this remarkable journey. We will thank the authors by name in a separate post. But here we’d like to celebrate the places we’ve visited during our two-month trip around the world!


Argentina: Santa Cruz Province
Australia: Sydney, Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Cambodia: Angkor Wat
Canada: Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
China: Haikou
Cyprus: Nicosia
England: Aldermaston, Coventry, Keswick, London
France: Avignon, Giverny, Paris
Ghana: Elmina
Greece: Patmos
Iceland: South Region
India: Agra, Karnataka
Indonesia: Anak Krakatoa
Ireland: County Mayo
Israel: Jerusalem
Italy: Florence, Milan, Rome, Trieste, Siena
Japan: Tokyo
Kenya: Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mexico: Isla Mujeres, Tula de Allende
Nepal: Kathmandu
Norway: Oslo
Peru: Machu Picchu
Poland: Auschwitz
Russia: St. Petersburg
Scotland: Edinburgh, Fife, Loch Killin
Shetland: St. Ninian’s Isle
Spain: Barcelona, Figueres, Madrid
Sweden: Eskilstuna 
Thailand: Bangkok
Turkey: Cappadocia, Ephesus
United States:
   Arizona (Grand Canyon)
   California (Allensworth, Anza-Borrego Desert, Catalina Island, Leggett,       Oakland, Placerville, San Francisco, Santa Barbara)
   Colorado (Elk Mountains, Mount Sneffels, Pueblo)
   Florida (Orlando)
   Hawaii (Puʻukoholā Heiau)
   Illinois (Chicago)
   Kansas (Ellis County)
   Maine (Cape Neddick, Penobscot Narrows Bridge) 
   Michigan (Detroit, Silver City, Singapore)
   Mississippi (Yazoo County, Vicksburg)
   Montana (Havre)
   Nebraska (Greenwood)
   Nevada (Valley of Fire State Park)
   New Hampshire (Lost River, White Mountains)
   New Mexico (Albuquerque, Cabezon Peak, Socorro)
   New York (Cooperstown, Elmira, Erie Canal, New York City, Niagara       Falls, Utica)
   North Carolina (Outer Banks)
   Oregon (Portland)
   Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia)
   Tennessee (Great Smoky Mountains)
   Utah (Promontory Summit)
   Virginia (Charlottesville)
   Washington (Ellensburg)
   Washington DC (Lincoln Memorial)
   Wyoming (Yellowstone National Park)
Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls

IMAGE: Landmarks illustration by Katsiaryna Pleshakova, used by permission.

licensed dave allen photo

The Great Smoky Mountains
by Jennifer Su

I trusted that my cousin’s intuition was sharper than mine. I glanced at the path we emerged from, a mix of crushed leaves and twigs that tunneled back into a tangle of branches. Sunlight poured over the canopy, tingling the skin on my shoulders. It had been nearly three hours since we last stepped into broad daylight, and the sun had shifted from its sleepy state to a blazing, unsympathetic glow above us. The only ones that challenged its dominance in the sky were unsuspecting wisps of clouds and the smoky mist cast on mountaintops. My eyes panned away from the sweep of green, turning instead to the new terrain before me. The water lapped up against the pebbles on the shoreline. Its gentle ebb and flow either indicated a sanctuary for a quick prayer or a calm before the storm.

With a leap of faith—figuratively and literally—I jumped from the gravel to a light grey stone peeking out of the water. Once my left sneaker left the shore, my arms began making circles—forwards and backwards and forwards—like airplane wings tipping my balance just when I thought I would fall. My momentum continued thrusting my upper body forward, and desperate, I hobbled off to another slippery stone. My eyes darted from side to side, scrambling to find my next destination—the creases around my eyes wrinkled as I braced myself for the icy waves of the roaring river to submerge me—but there was only a splash. My sneakers were soaked instantly, but my knees were dry. Perhaps I overestimated my athletic feat: we were just five feet from the shore. Our laughter bounced from mountain to mountain, and I honestly didn’t mind if we could be heard from miles away.

PHOTO: The Great Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee .Photo by Dave Allen Photo, used by permission.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, they are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which protects most of the range. The park was established in 1934, and, with over 11 million visits per year, it is the most visited national park in the United States.

PHOTO: Little Pigeon River, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Photo by Darrell Young, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I remember this experience quite vividly during my trip to Tennessee in 2013. This account was inspired by a five to ten minute experience when my cousin and I ventured off to dip our hands in the nearby river. I wrote about the experience in my Smoky Mountains journal almost exactly seven years ago, and I’m glad to retell the moment again with some new life.

PHOTO: The author during her visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (2013).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Su is a high school senior who writes short stories, prose pieces, and speeches. Both her written and artistic work has been featured in magazines and in local libraries. Jennifer enjoys creative writing as a means of documenting stories in her life. She finds inspiration everywhere, from a handwritten sign in a small shop to a summer trip across the continent. She is a member of several literary and Toastmasters groups and looks forward to refining her craft.