Haunting Daddy by Michele Cacano

Daddy was a preacher,
stern and full of fire,
paranoid of sinners,
adulterers, and liars.
He left when I was five,
Mama nursing little Tommy,
When she cried, I asked her why. She’d say:
“Not for him, but– why, God, me?”

It was hard for Mama, taking care of us,
in a drafty, falling-down home;
the rent was cheap, but nights were cold,
so we never slept alone.

Mama took in sewing.
We raised chickens, selling eggs.
She started working at a bookshop–
no more Bibles, blood and plagues.
The sewing room was vacant,
cleaned and rented out
to the widow, Ginny Meadows,
our new Grandma, just about.

Ms. Ginny made us cookies,
and we learned to help her bake,
We all became a family,
happy, happy, give or take.

That’s the year that Mama
first got sick with cancer.
How to live? was the question,
but only death gave an answer.
Ms. Ginny fretted fiercely
‘bout losing us and home.
State notified our Daddy,
our family’s carcinome.

He came back with a vengeance,
crystallized our grief.
He sent away Ms. Ginny,
as if she were a thief.

He preached about our wickedness,
tried to toughen Tommy up.
He called me names, like Jezebel–
at seventeen, he locked me up.
I’d never even kissed a boy,
but Daddy didn’t care.
He thought all women evil
and wouldn’t chance it on a dare.

The first night he mistook me
for his wife would be my last.
I fought him hard and wished him dead,
which made him damn me fast.

His fists flew with a fury,
bludgeoning my head.
He beat me to the ground,
until I lay there, dead.
“Twas an accident!” he swore;
and the coppers did believe him.
Left Tommy with him there,
to mourn and sing my funeral hymn.

And now I’m trapped, forever,
inside this house of sadness.
Doomed to haunt my dear old Dad,
who lives inside his madness.

“Who’s there?” he’ll say,
as I moan, drifting in the room.
“Tis I,” I cry, in whisper tones,
to drive him to his tomb.
“Let him live in shame,” says Mama,
“tortured by his past.”
“Yes,” I agree, “He’s doomed to live,
in torment, sure to last.”

We roam the house in frightful form,
at night, disturbing sleep;
while Tommy is our precious hope
for life we aim to keep.

We breathe our frigid air at Dad,
watching as he shivers.
Mama flips a crucifix–
religious fear delivers.
Daddy pales and prays to God,
but Mama? She just laughs.
I hope you die in fiery Hell!”
while I rattle photographs.

Daddy has begun to drink
and Mama’s proud of us
for making life unbearable
for that awful blunderbuss.

Poor Tommy has the worst of it–
left in chaos, amid clamour.
We try to give him comfort,
in our cold, unearthly manner.
He seems all right when he’s asleep,
his worry lines relaxing,
but I worry for his sanity,
in this house that keeps collapsing.

Tommy keeps his head down
and listens to the songs
that Mama always sings to him,
trying to right the wrongs.

Still, Mama tries to push him
to grievous acts of harm,
telling Tommy Dad deserves it,
for all whom he’s strong-armed.
I wish she wouldn’t do that,
but I cannot blame her, truly;
since Daddy is a bastard,
slowly killing him’s our duty.

Michele Cacano is a neurodiverse writer, artist, and massage therapist born and raised in Harford County, MD, now settled in Seattle, WA. Her poetry is informed by a love of place, travel, history, words, and language. She is the organizer of the Seattle Writers Meetup, a weekly critique and support group est. 2007, and a founding member of Camp S’more Writers. Her work has been published in anthologies from Bag of Bones Press, Mind’s Eye Publishing, Firbolg Publishing, Thirteen O’Clock Press, as well as magazines such as Penumbra and Haunted Waters Press. She can be found on Chill Subs, Twitter, and Instagram @MicheleCacano, and @SeaWritersMeet. 

HCC Halloween by Alyssa Stickley

In a college town, where shadows creep,
Amidst the autumn’s chilling sweep,
A haunted campus, old and grand,
Where tales of Halloween expand.

The library, a ghostly sight,
Whispers echoing through the night,
Books fluttering on shelves so high,
As students wander, passing by.

In lecture halls, where knowledge thrives,
Phantoms take their seats in rows of fives,
Their wispy forms, once students bright,
Forever bound in spectral plight.

The gym, once filled with youthful cheer,
Now hold a sense of eerie fear,
Footsteps echo in empty halls,
Mysterious whispers against the walls.

The Hilltop Grill prepares a spooky feast.
Where apparitions rise like yeast,
Ghostly hands reach for the fare,
Unseen voices fill the air.

Underneath a moonlit sky,
The student center draws the eye,
Where spiders crawl up the brick walls,
And spirits dance in ghostly thralls.

A professor, long since passed away,
Returns each year on Halloween day,
To teach his class of spectral lore,
As students gasp and question more.

The softball field, an eerie game,
Where phantom players etch their fame,
The cheers and roars, forever heard,
Though players vanished, not a word.

The science lab, a mystic place,
Where experiments took a wicked pace
Bubbling potions, eerie lights,
Creating monsters in the nights.

The Kepler theater, draped in velvet black,
Where actors tread a spectral track,
Their voices echo through the years,
Rehearsing lines that none else hears.

In every corner, every nook,
A haunting tale, a ghostly spook,
The college breathes on Halloween,
A spooky realm, forever seen.

So gather around, both brave and bold,
In this college’s haunted fold,
Embrace the chill, the eerie air,
For Halloween’s enchantment tale.

For in this realm where spirits dwell,
The college’s secrets, they will tell,
A haunting tale, forever told,
Where Halloween and college mold.

Alyssa Stickley is currently a student in HCC’s Marketing program. In addition to her studies, she has been working alongside local and remote companies to expand their businesses to gain valuable experience and knowledge that will allow her to expand her own business on a larger scale in the future.

The Halloween Cat by LaVern Spencer McCarthy

On Halloween nobody knows
where Mr. Golden Whiskers goes.

His eyes of emerald green turn red.
He bounds across the garden bed,

jumps the fence and disappears
with eerie howls and laid-back ears,

then takes a trip across the sky
to scare the clouds and make them cry.

I thought I saw him through the gloom
behind an old witch on her broom.

The north wind told me it believes
he guards the spirits of autumn leaves

and guides the goblins as they pass
through walls and shuttered window glass.

When his long journey is complete,
he wanders home on weary feet.

Mr. Golden Whiskers sighs
and looks at me with haunted eyes.

He’ll never tell the things he’s seen.
He’s had enough of Halloween.

LaVern Spencer McCarthy has written and published twelve books of poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in Writers and Readers Magazine; Meadowlark Reader; Agape Review; Bards Against Hunger;  Down In The Dirt; The Evening Universe; Fresh Words Magazine; Wicked Shadows Press; Midnight Magazine; Pulp Cult Press and others. She is a life member of Poetry Society of Texas. She resides in Blair Oklahoma where she is currently writing her sixth book of short stories.

Portrait of My Fatherland as a Body Eating its Own Skin by Sakariyah Ridwanulla

Shall I say my Fatherland is running mad
after having gone farther in the world of another Land?
Shall I say my Fatherland is loosing the grips
that holds firm the pole holding high the banner of our Land?
Shall I say my Fatherland is spewing forth the DOs
& the DON’Ts after I have aged to father my Father’s land on my Fatherland?
Shall I say my Fatherland’s hand is turning hard
that hard is the muse to imprint the remedy to the young lads’ future hazard?
Shall I say my Fatherland cannot see how hard
the time before, how harder the time present and how
the hardest the time to come might be if the sword’s handle
is not released for the future warriors in the High Land?
If my Fatherland is all ears, all eyes, all sane..
the butcher’s son a victim of hunger should not be.

Ridwanullah Sakariyah is a Nigerian poet who hails from Ilorin, Kwara state. He is currently studying English language at the Lagos State University, Ojo, having obtained NCE in English and Islamic studies at Imam Hazmat College of Education, Ilorin. He is passionate about poetry and his writing interest stems from personal experiences and socio-political trends. His poem ”Beside the Beach” has been published by POEMIFY PUBLISHERS while another poem of his is forthcoming in ILA magazine. He emerged Best Poet of the Year at PFM (insert the year). Ridwanullah holds to the axiom that “The artists are those who give life to arts.”

Mental Constipation by Bobby Z The Junkyard Dog

Seeking the meaning, for a senseless mental constipation.
controlled by the thoughts,
of a forbidden intoxication.
Lost in a void, experiencing a total spiritual contamination,
standing at the altar,
awaiting a complete revelation.
Obsessed by your desire, to fulfill your intention of a secret temptation,
unable to perform,
can't complete a simple fornication.
Condemned by your past, in need of a emotional resuscitation,
looking for relief,
searching for constant medication.
Morally bankrupt, uncontrollable procrastination,
attempting to prevent,
a premature emotional ejaculation.
Total remorse, consumed be an illicit infatuation.
searching for relief,
considering complete isolation.
Confined to your mind, in need of spiritual inspiration.
attempting to prevent,
your total annihilation.
To seek a sanctuary, that is void of exploitation
attempting to resolve,
your Mental Constipation.

Bobby Z is an 83 year old veteran, cancer and covid survivor, and recovering alcoholic (45 years). He is an original Jersey City 50’s bad boy and published author including numerous poems and his book Friday Nite at the Bucket of Blood Bar.

Dreamy Purple Haze by Ryland Strawsburg

In fields of lavender, they sway and dance
The air, though sweet, can lead astray, it seems,
The lands where dreams like whispers weave their seam.
A dreamy haze of purple, in a trance,
The fields of lavender, they waltz and prance.
In realms where twilight softly casts its gleam
Beneath this veil, where fantasies stream,
In twilight’s grasp, they find their sweet romance.

Yet in this maze of dreams, we find at last,
A gentle haze of wonder softly spun.
Each path obscured, but secrets hold steadfast,
In every dream, a journey just begun.
With twilight’s haze, our fantasies amassed,
In dreams, where reality is won.

Reflections of the Lost by Zahara Stranger

I’m not really sure where to start.
I have been living my life in the back seat of my mind.
Aware of the obvious path of destruction,
but unable to do anything.

What I’m doing is not living.
No, disassociation is not living.
I think I have been dead for a while now.
This is lonely.

The closest to passion I get these days is in my anger.
Consuming and unforgiving.
Anxiety contorts.
Head full of doubt.

A deadly combination.
Alas, I am already dead.
So why all the worry?
The clock ticks on.

I watch seasons fly by,
Yet I am still here.
I am still here,
and it is lonely.

Zahara Stranger resides in a world of imagination and beauty. She longs to be a forest dweller, her thoughts pull her there insistently. An adventurer co-existing among the mossy trees. A Dryad living in those groves. Words flow onto each page like a breath of fresh air. Her mind, while writing, transports her back to the trees. Words transport her to the moss and the mushrooms, a beautiful comfort.

18 Years by Holly Day

When we’re apart, I imagine our love connects us
always, that you know what I’m thinking, that we’re in love
we’re always in love. I think about you all day long,
think about what we’re going to say to each other when you get home
tell the imaginary friends I spend my day with that we
are doing just fine.
When you get home there are two seconds that determine the rest of the evening
dependent on how fast I get upstairs to greet you at the door
if I left my shoes in the hallway, if the dog managed to pull my coat down
if there are toys in the living room. If I don’t get to these things fast enough
the rest of the day is full of darkness. There’s no other word for it.
On these days, my imaginary friends tell me I need to try harder
need to find time to do all of the things that need to be done
to make this a happy home for all of us. Those cords of love I felt
tying us together through the day aren’t imaginary, they’re real, they’re real
I can make this work if I can just find the time.

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Analog SF, Cardinal Sins, and New Plains Review, and her published books include Music Theory for Dummies and Music Composition for Dummies. She currently teaches classes at The Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, Hugo House in Washington, and The Muse Writers Center in Virginia.

Little Brother by Jessie Skyes

The agony of becoming a parent to a child who has the same parents I do. 

I held him tightly,
in fear that if I let go he would disintegrate into what my parents wished us to become.
Disappear into the perfect cookie cutter children we were trained to be,
dissolve into the madness of never fitting the role.

I love you to the moon and back, little brother.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
Screams curdling in the back of my throat like the two week old milk no one drank because my sister left it here when she left us.
Cries that get caught in my throat like a heartbeat

The words rang in my head as she walked out the front door.
They mute my sobs, begging her to not leave me in the middle of the warfare
Of my mother and father’s slamming doors and the spitfire of fully automatic insults.
Does your heart still beat for me?

“I love you to the moon and back, little sister.”

Because there is no more “little sister.”
Now I am big,
Now I am grown,
Raising a child that isn't even my own.

We may be the same blood, but what draws the line between matron and sister.
It is the love that expands in my chest with every breath,
I breathe for you, brother.
Every day my heart beats to make it to the moon
And every day, for the rest of my life, my heart will beat to come back to you.

I want to scream.
I love you with every beat of my heart,
with every breath in my lungs,
I will love you until the day I die.”

You will never feel how I feel, little brother.

Lean on me and I shall bring you to the moon and show you the entire galaxy along the way.
Come with me out of this burning house,
Let me bring you home.
Home among the stars and the moon,
Let me keep you in the safest place I know, my arms

Let me hold you through this pain,
Let me hold you as tight as the vines around my heart hold my love for you.
Lean on me, little brother.
Even as the years go by,
I still hold you as tight as the vines around my heart hold my fear in letting you go,
You will always be my little brother.

“But big sister, I see the battles you fight. Let me go, big sister. For I am not so little anymore.”

Our World by Sam Bono

The world engaged within a dream
a made-up world, seen through a seam
Lust, no thought; intense desire
a life result in burning fire
long-lasting taste, a tongue removed
who would have thought,
life unapproved
The poor and rich stand far apart
the poor; no money
the rich; no heart
These wars, the countries, enemies sworn
who to blame, good families torn
Our country built on being free,
Do our oppressors,
Tend you or me?
No thought put into this horrid game
But we all play it so who’s to blame?
Wake up wake up!
But now you see,
This world we live in, is no dream.

Sam Bono is a Freshman at Hagerstown Community College. There he plays baseball and majors in education. He loves going to the beach and hanging out with friends and family.