River Sprites by Michael Theroux

Fingertips of trees caress the river’s skin
Leaves on the water slowly, slowly spinning
River claims this harvest year out, year in
Forest’s fallen glory, fall’s golden winnings

We go to the river to sit in quiet wonder
To watch the leaf rafts follow one another
Wait upon the setting sun, whose
Slanting rays are the caress of a lover

Remain so still, breathe slowly
Suspend motion, watch closely
There is Magic here, light and fragile
Something shines, something sparkles

The very Aire seems thick

Should we be so blessed
To witness these misty creatures
Riding their sun-splashed spin-craft
Dancing to the river’s rhythms …

Perfect, centered meditation
Will not avail the soul of Man, as
The bliss glimpsed in this moment
Still, calm crystalline

The pools of our Lifesong
Flow deep within our being
Below our darkest fears
Above our brightest joys

A memory, settling, imbedded
Speaking of grand antiquity
Lilting from halls so long forgotten
Only Pan still plays the fanfare

Ah! Now rise, and lead a pure new life
Carrying within you, a precious treasure
None may steal, few even guess
An essence nuanced so deep within

There’s one more thing: a fee
Due, before your dying
To set you indentured soul free
To also dance upon these waters

Take heart! There is a greater a gift
Than even this, that I have now given
For with the treasure’s soul claim
Comes the very gift to free you

Just once, in one special moment
Of golden sunset on still dark waters
In late autumn, leaves a-floating
Bring one fresh soul to the river

To calm them, to heal them
Of wounds of their barbed path
Speak gently, mover slowly
Then, nodding to the River

Feign sleep, breathe gently
Teacher, with all your skill
Guide one soul to knowledge
Of Pan’s most gentle dancer

Ballerina, on stage of alder
Sent to spin upon the water
A twist of mist, a sparkle
A high note in the river’s laughter

Spirit or sprite, water nymph
It matters not to name her
Better to wait in breathless delight
As the light ripples around her

There! That’s payment in full
But understand, that in this moment
In this giving so gently shared
I freely give my dearest treasure

In years to come, Chaos will scream
Stars collide crashing around you
You will walk in peace, depth of soul
Shining love from this, that charms you

Giving, you release that so closely held
To one new soul, then awakening
This requires strength beyond belief
Once given, cannot be retaken

You will learn, as I
The Sprite’s most Magic measure
The greater joy of letting go
Of your soul’s most guarded treasure

Michael Theroux writes from his home in Northern California. His career has spanned botanist, environmental health specialist, green energy developer and resource recovery web site editor. Entering the public-side of the creative writing field late in life, at 73, Michael is now seeking publication of his cache of art writings which may be found, or will soon be seen, in Down in the Dirt, Ariel Chart, 50WS, CafeLit, Poetry Pacific, Last Leaves, Backwards Trajectory, Small Wonders, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Preservation Foundation / Storyhouse, Cerasus, The Acedian Review, the Lothlorien Poetry, City Key, Wild Word, and Fixator Press.

Why Not Like Mummies? by Sharon Kennedy-Nolle

To go down tightly bound
to a stiffened history, a scrolled truth
of seeped ochre, carmen resin
oozed through tunic threads stuck to skin, papyrus crisped,
and tight henna curls tattooed across a leathery scalp,
stenciled gold about the centuried bone specimen…

Deliberate calm prevails in the excavated air
among the compact sarcophagi cache
of cats, crow, a gazelle

all necks wrung, club bound,
and a hundred servants subdued
to do each day’s bidding in faience blue;
spotlight on the offal pickled in canopic jars,
tidied jackal, blanched baboon stare
a moon-bleak answer back,
blanking out the last breath.

Not this frass haven you haunt.

Not this Medusa mess left of us.

A graduate of Vassar College, Sharon Kennedy-Nolle received an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop as well as a doctoral degree in nineteenth-century American literature from the University of Iowa. She also holds MAs from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and New York University. In addition to scholarly publications, her poetry has appeared in many journals. Chosen as the 2020 Chapbook Editor’s Pick by Variant Literature Press, Black Wick: Selected Elegies was published in 2021. Kennedy-Nolle was winner of the New Ohio Review’s 2021 creative writing contest. In 2023 her manuscript Not Waving was a semi-finalist for the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Prize, University of Wisconsin Poetry Series’ Brittingham, and Felix Pollak Prizes, and the Brick Road Poetry Contest. Not Waving has been named a finalist for the Laura Boss Narrative Poetry Award. Recently appointed the Poet Laureate of Sullivan County for 2022-2024, she lives and teaches in New York. Kennedy-Nolle has been awarded a Poet Laureate Fellowship for 2023-2024 from the Academy of American Poets.

Eggs by Jennifer Maloney

At night I curl beneath the quilt, made of silence, darkness,
cotton, embroidery,
I coil against myself under its weight and feel the night upwell
with whatever dreams
I may wade through or sink into like a mound of flowers.
I bend and press my face to them, the scent of Mother’s Day and
funeral homes,
the purple fragrance of Easter, and colors start to spiral like a
spinning egg,
bedecked with bright lacquer and ribbons.
When the eggs start dancing like girls in wooden shoes, tuck
their fists against their hips, tip their heads from side to side and
whistle, kick their carved clogs, kerchiefs bobbing in time, red-
cheeked as Hummel figurines—when the eggs start to dance,
you know they’ve probably gone bad.
Which is too bad because they’re absolutely darling: perfectly fit
to the palm of one’s hand when they aren’t dressed like Hansel
and Gretel.
A dozen elliptical children, white, brown, speckled, smooth,
they’ve been waiting, patient as stones, for weeks in the refrigerator,
waiting to be fried or boiled, scrambled, mixed into cake batter or
fried rice.
Waiting with still solemnity, uniformity, in prayerful rows, bowed
heads, eyes closed, ommmm...until, one day, one of them squints.
Casts a jaundiced eye around the place, mutters what’s it all for,
and sighs in existential ennui, understanding that life, after all, is
not about fulfilling a purpose, but is in fact utterly absurd, devoid
of reason, and so decides why not,
why not and begins to spin in place like a dervish,
scrambling its own brains but at least going out with some sense
of autonomy instead of this endless waiting, for what?
To be used? No—to be of service, murmur its brothers and sisters,
who then return, once again, to their mindful breathing.

A writer of fiction and poetry, Jennifer Maloney is a disabled woman living with chronic illness. Find her work in Litro Magazine, Literally Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Neologism Poetry Journal and many other places. Jennifer is the co-editor of the poetry anthology Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021) and the author of Evidence of Fire, Poems & Stories (Clare Songbirds Publishing, 2023) and Don’t Let God Know You are Singings (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2024). Jennifer is also a parent, a partner, and a very lucky friend, and she is grateful, every day, for all of it.

A Weighted Blanket by Brittani Watkins

Women walk around so heavily,
Bearing the brunt of mankind, dragging expectation & double-standards,
Woven baskets for hands, frayed & worn,
Time has calloused them, stretched thin & hardened under pressure,
Her strands of hair tie the collective, guiding & secure,
Braided with heartbreak & resistance, an intrepid balance that endures,
A weighted scale descends to break - men often conspire, from love to envy,
They intend to take,
The female vigor recoils these attempts with love and infinite prowess,
Lovely tenacious bones, bestowed imprint of strength & pursuit,
A movement within a woman is a movement within time,
We carry generations and ancestral mastery,
Bound & carried - the world shall behold such an honor.

Brittani Watkins is a Freelance Writer hailing from the historic town of Williamsport, Maryland. She enjoys writing poetry, essays, and short stories within the realm of various subjects – such as history, art, travel, politics & philosophy, as well as macabre themes of death, horror, and the supernatural, and the societal structure and theory of feminism, mental health, civil rights, poverty & class. When not writing, Brittani reads voraciously, attempts to paint landscapes & portraits, and daydreams of her ensuing travel adventure with her husband, Barry and their canine companion, Cairo. 

Senorita by Ann Howells

Sashay the Riverwalk.
Sassy. Sizzling. Hot. Hot.
Sundress. Sunglasses.
Sheltered beneath sunhat,
parasol, umbrella, mimosa.
Summertime is here,
right here, right now,
in San Antonio sunshine –
no cool spot, not anywhere.
Sweat tickles, slowly trickles
San Antonio, muy caliente!
Salsa hot. Siracha hot.
Sunrise to sunset – sultry.
Spicy. San Antonio. Saucy.
Sashay, Senorita. Sashay.
Sassy. Sassy. Sexy. Saucy.
Slip in air-conditioned shops.
Sip sangria, sample sopapillas.
Slip out. Stroll. Saunter.
Sidewalks shimmer with heat.
Sage green water sparkles
scintillating silver sequins.
Saucy, sultry San Antonio sizzles.
Steamy, savory, spicy as sirachas –
swirling soft summery skirts.
Singing sweet summer songs.
Sway sweetly, softly, slowly.
Smile a secret smile.
Swing hips. so sensuous.
Strut in strappy sandals,
stiletto heels. Shirred skirt.
Sashay. Sashay, swing hips.
Sassy. Sassy. Muy sassy.
Thermometer on the wall
red lines to one sixteen.
Sweet, sweaty San Antonio.

Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey for eighteen years. Recent books: So Long As We Speak Their Names (Kelsay Books, 2019) and Painting the Pinwheel Sky (Assure Press, 2020). Chapbooks: Black Crow in Flight, Editor’s Choice –Main Street Rag, 2007 and Softly Beating Wings, 2017 William D. Barney winner (Blackbead Books). Her work appears Plainsongs, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and I-70 Review among others. Ann is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. 

Pages of a Dream by Isabelle Kline

Down the yellow brick road and over the fence,
To a world full of dreams where nothing makes sense,
Fiddle-dee and don’t give a damn,
But I do not like green eggs and ham!

Its elementary, my dear, says the man on Baker Street:
If you linger near sewers, Pennywise you will meet.
As I live and breathe, is that Mr. Darcy?
How would I know – it’s written in Farsi!

From cover to cover and from one to another,
There’s a prince, a gorilla and an ugly stepmother!
All the places you’ll go and the hands you will shake,
When you open a book, you can dream while awake!

The Room Maker by Elizabeth Gade

The magic happens when I let go. Step back, make room for
something great to come sweeping its way in to fill the void. I
always feel the most empty and echoing before the magic happens.
Before I can loosen those heavy sledgehammer fists of survival. I
had to learn how to stop walking softly. How to take up space. The
magic happens when I stop apologizing for who I am and start
moving towards myself, the woman I’ve always wanted to be. This
is me becoming magic, the unfolding of authenticity. It happened
in the hurt and the chaos and the brokenness, not despite of, but
because of. The brokenness is how we make room for greatness.
The chaos generated our ability to show up no matter the
circumstances. The hurt is now a bridge to greater empathy and
understanding. I don’t just walk into rooms; I am the room maker.

Elizabeth Gade is a rural Minnesota bisexual poet and human trafficking survivor. Writing is her radical way to connect with survivors. Her poems have been published in View Magazine, The Elevation Review, 300 Days Of Sun, Exist Otherwise & more. Her self-published debut poetry collection “Fawn and Freeze” is available on Amazon. Elizabeth created LEO Literary Journal, an online journal dedicated to women writers affected by incarceration, addiction and/or domestic violence. www.LeoLiteraryJournal.Weebly.com She is creator and host of Survived To Write, a survivor led writing circle for human trafficking survivors. Connect on Instagram @ElizabethGadeThePoet and @SurvivedToWrite

A Rendezvous with my Nightmare by S.B. Fitzgerald

Eerie and desolate, I tread with trepidation,
Each step echoes a racing heartbeat, each step hesitant and unsure,
The path, shrouded in darkness, unwinding, utterly seducing,
Twisting, leading, pulling, to an unknown destination.

A creeping fear, a weight, heavy, suffocating, on my chest,
The burden of memories tearing away at my very being,
bloodied vines and wilting flowers break up the consuming darkness.
Intricately intertwined with a grotesque nature. It consumed parts of me I considered best.

This blanket of darkness forming a mound.
Pulling, gnawing away, the guilt kicking me, bloodied to the ground.
The misery a familiar companion, a distant reprieve,
As I step into the unknown, my heart no longer conceives.

Uncertainty grips me, a vice-like grasp,
As I venture ever onward, into the uncharted vast,
The echoes of emptiness, a haunting refrain,
A reminder of all that I will leave behind in vain.

Yet, I inch forward, withering and decayed,
Through the fear and overwhelming doubt,
For in the unknown, a foreboding destiny grips my intuition.
Dead souls swirled about, leaves in the wind. Just as quickly, they fade.

Chills caress my spine, eyes settle in the distance,
An enormous dark figure patiently awaits,
rejoicing at my suddenly reluctant gait.
Embodiment of menace, enveloping every sense with fear, dread, evoking resistance.

An attempt to scream, frustration, panic,
realization of complete immobility. I fight the urge to be manic.
My voice, taken with flowers, carried away with vines, forced silence.
I tremble at the increased awareness of potential violence.

I am forever bound by the darkness, a familiar companion,
Ink stained soul creating pigment for this vast, dark, expansion.
The darkness turns its forces on me.
No longer living, simply alive, this is what is meant to be.

Stunned, helpless, the path succeeding its takeover. I am deprived.
Here lies a fear struck servant to a nightmare that never seems to end.
A foreign, blood curdling, voice slowly calls out from the patient dark figure,
There you are, I’ve been waiting, look who has finally arrived.

Jolted, chilled, I am now awake.
In the night, a terrible fate devised.
Too terrified to sleep, too terrified to live.
My soul has been blackened. A heavy brand I feel as I wake.

Existing in the waking world, in the crevices of a horror dimension that is the mind,
My consciousness is safe, away from the turmoil and darkness of my subconscious mind.
I open my eyes, psychologically shaken,
I know now that one day I will be taken.

Sarah Fitzgerald is an avid lover of art in all its forms. As a writer and artist herself, she loves reading all genres, writing, painting, photography, film, and the art of gardening. She truly believes one can find beauty in everything. Her house is adorned with plants around every corner, creating a living and breathing atmosphere of comfort and life. She is a collector of board games and enjoys competitive Sorry! matches with her Husband. She often has her nieces and nephews over for all kinds of art projects keeping her reigning title as the “fun Aunt.”

Sounds of Unrequited Love by Jordan Kauffman

In the silent whispers of the night,
Where shadows dance in the pale moonlight,
I find myself lost in a dream's embrace,
Where our sweet song fills every space.

Beneath the stars, we danced as one,
Two souls entwined, the night undone.
Your eyes, like stars, they shine so bright,
Guiding me through the darkest nights.

But dreams are fleeting, soon to fade,
As morning light begins to cascade.
Falling like petals from a rose,
I drift from dreams where our passion grows.

In waking hours, reality calls,
And from my grasp, the dreamland falls.
The ache, the pain, the silent tears,
They’ve echoed through the passing years.

In dreams, I hold you close, so near,
Yet in waking hours, you disappear.
For you're the one I cannot claim,
A love that dances just out of frame.

So I watch you from afar, in silent grace,
A bittersweet smile upon my face.
For though I cannot have you as my own,
In my heart, your love is eternally sewn.

Only now, you're just a ghost,
A figment of dreams, love's cruel hoax.
But still, I dream of your embrace,
Despite these tears upon my face.

Jordan Kauffman is a passionate writer based in Waynesboro, PA. She is currently attending Hagerstown Community College for her associate degree in English and will also be attending South New Hampshire University in the fall to pursue her education further. She is in the process of publishing her first poetry book, “Echoes of Experience” and is finishing up the editing stage of her first novel. She can usually be found cuddling her cat, on a beach, or on a plane headed for adventure where she finds inspiration for her novels.

Apprenticed to the Night by LindaAnn LoSchiavo

“But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste: ... She never tasted such
before, ...”
-“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, 1862

A great horned owl inveigled me to talk
About exploring darkness, persuasive
Till I agreed. Is this where wanderlust
Began? A hoot that hints where wildness feeds?

Its sharp beak pierced a pinhole in the sky.
I wriggled in, beyond benighted dark,
Baptized by stardust thick enough to cleanse
The past, reversing terrors, shame that I’m
Forbidden to announce except in dreams.

Outwalking my long shadow outwalked pain
Whose lexicon’s imprinted on my brain.

Night’s majesty proposed a holiday —
Vacationing from reason, escaping
In midnight’s monochrome and cloud forest,
Relieved to be apprenticed to its king,
Always reliant on his entourage,
Recruiting aides for sunless pageantry.

For this I halted time-wasting shut-eye,
Grew feathers, shed discredited panic,
Committed to my new apprenticeship,
Convinced high altitude’s superior
To earth, its trash cans, crime, graffiti, grime.

But too soon, temperamental owl withdrew,
Unwilling to comply — unlock the sky—
As if to say, “Not what was meant at all!”
Denied, I questioned why it now refused.

Go ask Rossetti’s sweet-tooth
Laura if Removing goblin fruit erased desire.
Ask Aesop’s fox if it still pined for grapes.

Its lunar eyes implored me to retrain
My gaze, accept mundanity, enjoy
Scant years allotted to my fading name.

Abandoned by my feathered friend, released
From night’s immensity, I watched the dull
Sublunary sphere wink. Hurry sundown!

  • A native New Yorker, Elgin Award winner  LindaAnn LoSchiavo (she/her), a four time nominee for The Pushcart Prize, has also been nominated for Best of the Net, Balcones Poetry Prize, an Ippy, a Firecracker Award, the Rhysling Award, and Dwarf Stars. Her memberships include The British Fantasy Society, HWA, SFPA, and The Dramatists Guild. Latest books: “Women Who Were Warned,”  “Messengers of the Macabre: Hallowe’en Poems,” and “Vampire Ventures.”

Forthcoming in 2024: “Apprenticed to the Night” (UniVerse Press) and “Always Haunted: Hallowe’en Poems” (Wild Ink Publishing).