Archives for posts with tag: Writing

HOWARTH Silver Birch period photo
Keeping Afloat
by Stephen Howarth

I quit school, or school quit me, and
I needed an income. There was no grand plan
beyond the intention to be a writer,
being sure my career would be with the pen;

but penury demanded pounds and pence.
A chance arose, and within days I was
a milkman, an invisible but essential backbone
of the community. With my alarm set for 3 a.m.,

I was daily in the dairy by 3.30 to load the milk float —
my wagon! — with a ton of fresh-bottled liquid.
My hair was long then, worn carefree in
a ponytail to halfway down my back . . .

. . . and there were bright pearly mornings when
I gazed out over the vale, trees punctuating
the sea of mist below, and at the hilltop, free of traffic,
I released the brake and sped to 70 miles an hour,

propelled by that massive weight of milk in
a float designed to do 20 max. Gliding to a halt, I ran up
the paths, put down the orders, picked up the empties,
and gave so much away: potatoes, bread,

extra items I forgot to record — and when queried,
had to pay for from my hard-earned wage. Once,
reversing inadvertently, I crushed the foot
of a colleague. Once, I was surprised by a sleepy

customer who appeared dreamlike in her nightdress,
reaching to take the milk from my hands.
Once, I was charmed by a little girl who walked
together with her sister as I ran up the path:

“Hello big milkman ponytail man!” I returned her smile —
then, as I ran back to the float, heard her puzzlement:
“But — mans don’t have ponytails!” “Hush,” said her sister.
Now the ponytail’s long gone. The pen delivered.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I’m sorry that no photo exists of me as “Big Milkman Ponytail Man,” one of my proudest titles. The registration plate on this float shows it was operational a year later than my first job, and unlike this lucky milkman I never had an assistant; but otherwise it’s very like the one I used every day. Loading a ton of milk by hand and running to make every delivery was a great way to keep fit — better in that regard than writing . . .

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve often been slightly doubtful that a poem can write itself; an internal voice reminds me that “poiema,” the Ancient Greek root of poem, means “a thing made”: words carefully chosen, stanzas carefully crafted to meet one or another set of rules. But “Keeping Afloat” is an exception — not solitary but unusual for me — and it was instantly evoked by the “My First Job” prompt. It obeys no formal structure and really is a poem that seemed to write itself. The episodes within it are all true; the major one omitted is the recurring nightmare I had at the time — of my milk float crashing through my bedroom door to tell me I was late for work.

HOWARTH Silver Birch current photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and brought up in England, Stephen Howarth is part-English, part-Scottish, and half-Shetland. He has a Master’s degree with Distinction in creative writing from Nottingham Trent University. He has been a professional author of history almost all his working life. His subjects are wide-ranging but he is particularly known for naval history, notably including To Shining Sea, his history of the U.S. Navy. Currently, he has 15 major books and more than 25 minor ones to his credit. His poetry has been published in the English language and in the Shetland dialect. He has a special liking for Southern California and its invigorating poetical community.

gourmet cheese platter

The Art of Cheese
by Jayne Buckland

My first job before I went to Art College was scraping the mould off and rewrapping cheese.

Sixteen years old in a white coat that was too big and a hairnet from my Granny, I was kept in a windowless, whitewashed backroom of a village supermarket doing this illicit activity every Saturday.

There I would spend whole days scraping green furry creatures off the shiny, sometimes sweaty, yellow pieces of cheddar and numerous exotic cheeses for the 1970s’ cheese board. Some of these pieces of cheese became old friends. I would unwrap and scrape them at the beginning of the month and say hello again when they would reappear, sometimes week after week; because I discovered that once the mould had got started it wasn’t going to give up. Its ghost remained, unseen to the human eye.

I would first unwrap the cling-film and place the cheese on the wooden board. If there was mould, I would have to use my wire cheese cutter. The pleasure of this was so satisfying, cutting away through the solid moistness and restoring its original hue. But this enjoyable activity was carefully monitored by the Store Manager to make sure I did not cut too much away. Then it was wrapped in the cling-film and on a heated plate I would seal the plastic and weigh and label it again.

The textures and structures of this most delicious substance, and the joys of cutting, scraping and covering it with a stretchy clear plastic, has never left me. I formed little sculptures to sit on the Deli counter.  Cheddar, Stilton, Gloucester, Apricot Wensleydale, Brie, Chèvre sec, Gorgonzola were part of my new beginning of life in the workplace. They were my small works of Art that would go on sale and bought by Art collectors.

IMAGE: Gourmet cheese plate, found at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jayne Buckland lives in North London with her three cats. She enjoys the stimulation of the City and the peace and quiet of the Green belt to write. In her Day job, she works as a teacher and the evenings are taken up with singing with the local Operatic Society. Her ambition is to become a full-time writer and artist.


My First Boss
by Vincent Francone

My first boss told me to wash dishes, showed me the sink, the hose a hook that I was to position, squeeze out the blustery stream, hunt for flour and red sauce caking the bits of machine.

Years later, I lied—told a girl I was fired for smoking Camels in the kitchen, even said I’d ashed my cigarette into the dishwater.

Truth: I was slow.  It was my first job. I had no drive, no desire to move up to stretching dough or painting with red sauce, making mozzarella rain, counting the precise number of pepperoni discs per uncooked pie, smiling at mall dwellers who condescended to my station having decided against three straight days of Dairy Queen burgers.

The boss had the decency to fire me over the phone.  He saved my mom a trip to the mall.  A week later, I picked up my check.  It wasn’t much, but I deserved less.

IMAGE: “Spoons” by Paul Wonner (1964).


Vincent Francone
 is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015.  He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit to read his work or say hi.

holiday inn soap

A Match “Maid” in Heaven
by Karyl Carmignani

I got kicked out of the house when I was sixteen and had to find a job fast. I needed something within walking distance of my new apartment and high school. Living near an airport with its bevy of hotels and restaurants was about to pay off. I landed a gig cleaning hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn. I enjoyed working after school, as I mostly cleaned rooms of “late check-out” airline people. The pilots barely shed and left their beds politely rumpled. Stewardesses—yes, we called them that in the 70s—left their rooms messier, but with a clean, shampoo-y scent lingering in the air. Sometimes there was even a dollar and some change left next to the TV. Other rooms were used more recreationally, and my adolescent nose would catch a heady whiff of sex haunting the darkened room. But on weekends, families were holed up like wild animals leaving a whirlwind mess, with hide-a-beds, playpens, room service trays, and empty bottles left in their wake. At least they didn’t lick the doorknobs!

Loading my cart with tiny soaps and still-warm linens, there were always foreign tongues wagging around the folding tables to the persistent throb of industrial-sized washers and the twirling of bedsheets behind the glass face of the dryers.

I learned to clean fast—dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, and polishing with great efficiency. My beds were made taut, pillows plumped, with bottom sheets folded tight around the mattress, like a gift for the weary. These days, I make my living in front of a computer. But still, when I put my line-dried sheets on the bed, shaking them out like billowing parachutes and tucking those corners snug, I recall those dim rooms and my first real job.

IMAGE: Wrapped bar of  soap from Holiday Inn (1970s).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As a lover of wildlife, the great outdoors, and writing, Karyl Carmignani is blessed to have a day job at San Diego Zoo Global as a science writer. She grew up in Seattle, traveled the world, and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Anthropology. This led to more traveling and pursuing her fascination with nonhuman primates. She relocated to San Diego in 1999 to find a husband and an animal job and is pleased that both have landed in her world. She is fond of taking writing classes, which provide the perfect excuse to reconnect with her “core stories” and spill her honest, floundering guts on the page. Her writing has won several Press Club awards, and she recently won third place in the Mesa Visions Magazine Creative Writing Contest 2017. If there was one thing she’s like to tell the next generation it would be: follow your dreams, even if you have to wrestle them to the ground. And be kind to animals. And to each other.

Peddling Sweets in the Back Bay
By Sabrina Hicks

I wasn’t allowed to spend the summer
in town, wandering the deluge of low tide
and cotton candy, carousels and stoners, so
I lied about my age and got a job.

I made cookies and ate hunks of dough,
drank from the soda fountain, told friends
to come for free samples but not if they saw
my boss, throwing around his bangs and

shuffling in his flip-flops. He lied about
his age, too, though he made himself
younger. A few weeks after work, he got
stoned and passed me a joint. I came clean

I was only 15. Close enough he said.
He told me I was pretty. I told him I had
two older brothers and a mean streak
and it was best if he just f**ked off.

He left me alone after that to scoop dough
in the back room. At the beach, everything
came in waves: customers, cash, puberty.
People washed up like seashells,

blonds with lemon-streaked hair, smelling
of sugar and sex under a coat of Coppertone.
They’d walk in barefoot, slapping the side
of their head that still held the ocean, order

macadamia nut or chocolate chip cookies
until only a pile of oatmeal and raisin remained,
saved for the old men and toddlers. I gained
five pounds, upped a bra size, read people like

books, watched the parade of posturing and struts,
tattoos and scars, flicking cigarettes with bad form.
No one saw me behind the counter, but I saw the
world that summer in the back bay.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Summer of 1987 (California).


Sabrina Hicks
lives in the Southwest with her family. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Gyroscope Review, Spelk Fiction, Panoply, Poetry Breakfast and The Drabble.


by Patricia Coleman

He sought the perfect bodies of young women. He made a reputation in the 80s art world with this unexceptional predilection. His live-work loft was in a cast iron building on lower Broadway. I went up in a large freight elevator and entered directly into the open space, empty except for paint and canvases, rollers, no brushes. Into the windowless back he squeezed a kitchen, above it a raised bed. He’d drink tea at a little table there after work and tell young models of his depression, his search for failures, his sexless ecstasy with a Japanese woman.

He also explained that he wanted to take the virtuosity out of the art-making process so that the canvas reflected more the models than the artist — the beautiful bodies of young women.

He dipped his roller into a pan of red paint and stroked back and forth, up and down over my t*ts, legs, tops of feet until he covered the entire front of my flesh. He stepped back a few feet holding his paunch to gaze detachedly at a wet body. He led me by my palm to two inches from the canvas, so that he would neither mar his work nor sully his objects. Now his fingers lightly pressed at the small of the back and other places that held their ground, kept their distance. He wanted no voids between object and work. He especially made sure the pelvis and widow’s peak made contact. He tried bodies out in all the primary colors.

After he finished, he’d invite me to the kitchen where he’d spend hours bent over in confession. I listened to his tales of impotence and desire, waiting to get paid. He paid according to mood. Too much or not enough.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION:  The pic is of me in 1980/ Downtown modeling job for a paper — I do not remember which. They were highlighting paper suits like the one I am wearing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patricia Coleman is a writer/director, born and living in Brooklyn.  She has published stories, essays, poems and interviews in Bomb, PAJ, The New Review of Literature, Nedjeljni Vjesnik, Culture Magazine, Maintenant 11, Zoetica, POST Vote, FishFood, and Poetica. She has presented papers on silence, sound, and the disembodied voice at FOOT, ATHE,  Le Son au Theatre. As a director and sometimes as writer/director, she has staged 25+ productions at The Kitchen, Chashama, Here, etc. In 2014 she staged her site-specific adaptation of Euripdes’ Medea  with soundscape by Richard Kamerman at Brooklyn Glass (a glass blowing studio in Gowanus). She received her PhD in Theatre from the Graduate Center. Her dissertation was on the disembodied voice of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater.

by Allison Carvalho

My first job was dull and I did most of my work on the couch
I was a lady of the night
While the parents went off to play.

My first job groomed me for suburbancy
Prepared me for the life my lady lineage had lived
My first job had given me a stamp of adulthood
At 13 years old.

My first job was domestic.

You see,
My first job was riddled with ethics of care
Patronizing fathers
And mothers who couldn’t do it all.

My first job marked the moment between girl and woman,
And yet for so many women
It isn’t considered work.

IMAGE: “Young woman seated” by Amedeo Modlgliani (1918).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allison Carvalho is a student, researcher, and aspiring adult. Her poetry tries to acknowledge how societal constructions/assumptions inform personal experience. Her work ironically covers relationships, gender oppression, emotionality, grief, and the occasional reference to the evils of capitalism. She is always a week behind on her word of the day calendar. She likes using the word “she” a lot. And if you knew her, you might only maybe guess she wrote this poem.


Gender Inequality
by Kerry E.B. Black

As enterprising preteens, my brother and I shoveled neighbors’ driveways every winter to earn a little cash. One winter afternoon, we trudged along, shovels slung over our shoulders, noses and cheeks pinched red by wind and cold. Our feet crinkled in our boots, because our mom made us wear plastic bread bags over our socks to keep dry.

We hunched over heavy piles of accumulated snow, shoulders and backs straining with the effort. We set up a competition. “I’ll get more done than you,” we’d taunt, and the good-natured rivalry helped speed the tasks. In truth, though, our labors pretty much equaled out.

We hurried up the driveway of a widower whose surly reputation preceded him. With some foreboding, I knocked and asked if he needed our services. He narrowed his eyes. Under his scrutiny, I grew conscious of our mismatched outerwear and shabby coats. I squared my shoulders and repeated my question. “Mr. Penney, do you want us to shovel your driveway?”

He pointed his cane at the braids poking from beneath my tassel cap. “You a girl?”

My words puffed out like dragon breaths. “Yes, sir.”

“Well, shovelin’s boy’s work.” He nodded to my brother. “You can clear the snow.” He shoved me in the chest with his cane. “You go home and learn to sew or bake or something.”

I felt as though I’d been slapped. “Sir, my brother and I work together.”

“Go home, girl. I don’t want any of your feminist crap, and don’t you start crying, either.”

Nostrils flaring, blood pumping, I turned homeward. “Let’s go, Chris.”

The old man’s voice quivered. “Pay you double what you’re askin’, son, if you do a good job.”

My brother stayed, and I, indignant and disgusted, huffed home, feeling betrayed and enraged.

IMAGE: The author as a young entrepreneur.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerry E.B. Black writes from a small suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, the eldest of her siblings and a virtual slave to the responsibilities of parenthood and pet ownership. Follow her on Facebook Facebook and Twitter.


by John Hardic

In the seventh grade my brother and I became paperboys. We delivered the evening paper six days a week and the Sunday morning edition.

Saturday was collection. I was out around 10 a.m. to collect my money. In the winter I adjusted and collected while delivering papers. Why be out in the cold more than necessary?

One customer on my route had a mental health history that the entire town knew about. My father told me that Ray was a genius and had gone to Carnegie Mellon University. He had suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital for some time.

Ray was about my father’s age. When he was discharged, Ray worked for the turnpike passing out the toll cards. This was back in the early 1970s before EZ-pass and automatic ticket machines.

Ray lived with his two sisters and every time I went to their house they were eating scrambled eggs. Whether it was ten in the morning or four in the afternoon, I’d knock on the door and whoever opened the door would be chewing on eggs.

Because it was a small community, news traveled fast. Ray was in jail for killing his two sisters. The word on the street was that “Ray blew his top” and killed his sisters because he did not like the way they made his eggs that day. Ray went back to the State Hospital.

About a year later the word buzzed around town that Ray was getting out and coming back home. My parents told me that I would NOT be delivering to him. If he wanted the paper that much he could walk to a store and get it.

IMAGE: “Sad egg,” courtesy of

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I belong to a writers’ group that meets weekly. We critique each other’s work and offer suggestions and opinions. One of the benefits is having creative people around to bounce ideas around and help stimulate and nurture an idea. When the prompt came up for the “My First Job” submission I was initially not interested. “How could being a paperboy be interesting? I delivered papers to people.”. This brought out a discussion among the group and one of my colleagues suggested things that happened while collecting money and delivering papers. Although this was 40 years ago, I began to think of the people on my route and an event immediately came to my mind. I shared my story with the group and was encouraged to submit it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Hardic is a 1978 graduate of Gannon University, where he studied biology and writing. He ascribed to theory of having a backup plan and while writing and perfecting his craft worked in the health care system for over 30 years.  Several of his short stories were recently published in a book about writing titled Prompted, Prodded, Published. John enjoys science fiction/ fantasy and stories that challenge the reader to think. He is influenced by The Twilight Zone, the writings of Albert Camus, and enjoys the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. He is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and brags about being at Three Rivers Stadium for Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception which he did not see. John lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with his wife and four cats.

Newspaper Carrier
by Terri Miller-Carrara

Newspaper carriers in the 70s
were predominantly

I was the first
GIRL carrier in
my district.

Prizes for the most
newspapers sold were:
               hockey sticks
               hockey pucks
               baseball bats and balls

So I got CASH
when I won.

Once I won an
AM Radio, I had this
thru high school.

Oh…how proud I was
of the radio.

To have had my first job.
First Girl Newspaper Carrier.
It has been one major thrill ride.

IMAGE: Papergirl (image found online — does not depict the author).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terri Miller was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She retired to Florida in 2015. She is a country girl at heart. She has been writing since grade school. She has always enjoyed writing.  In 2013, after the death of her brother, her poetry became darkened.  Around 2015, the darkness lifted. She is a lover of life’s simpler things. Her inspiration for poetry is rooted in faith and family, in love, nature, and words.She believes life is poetry waiting to be written!  What she looks at seems to make her write. She can’t wait to get her thoughts written down, but it’s not always at the right time, because there are so many other things that she should be doing. Like anything else, she is a work in progress and is presently under Major Construction. She has recently been published in the Awakened Voices literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Wild Women’s Medicine Circle. Follow along for inspiration or for simple enjoyment at Mia’s Wisdom and My Poetry Express.