Kate Garrett: “My mother said never cast a love spell”

My mother said never cast a love spell

Wire wrapped the bottle red and black, suspended on a cord, the sandalwood inside warmed by the constant drumming of my heart, fight or flight primed. This necklace called to me in the crisp of October, when air like apple-bobbing splashed against my face through the window, when my friend confided her sadness—she’d never be a child in the summer again; adulthood would come for her as the sun entered Scorpio. It does make you think, I said. But by then I was simply waiting—not for the best person, but the best time. And I bought the vial from a woman as she breastfed her child; her blue eyes saw through me, over the dead leaves littering her stall at the renaissance festival. And I wore it for a month, for courage. My mother said never cast a love spell, but then, my mother said a lot of things—a witch baby will do as she pleases, left all alone, connected to the moon phase, the right day, the new season. So I burned the red candle, cheap drugstore joss sticks, sickly jasmine, uncorked a bottle charged with my fears. Before the next full moon we drove to the edge of the woods. He accepted my offer, unaware of the illusion.


Kate Garrett is managing editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron and Picaroon Poetry. Her writing appears here and there–most recently in Dying Dahlia Review, Riggwelter, and The Literary Hatchet. She grew up in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives. www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk

Donald E. Gasperson: “the aspens”

the aspens

standing in the glacial till
where the river rocks drift
along the slow seasons

illuminated by vine and leaf
consecrated of root and berry
practicing mindfulness again

and after hard years of becoming
there’s a sad feeling of being
simply awkward and old

but the communion with silence
evokes the quietest of sounds
touchingly and achingly clear

the linen white boles of aspens
spring green leaves


Donald E. Gasperson received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. He has worked primarily with the chronically mentally ill population. He has previously had poems published in the Five Willows Literary Review and is scheduled to be published in Poetry Pacific.

Marina Rubin: “Nefertiti”


For years I’ve had this exuberant bed that looked like The Egyptian Crib for Nefertiti.

A man I was living with in 2001 picked it out, 6 months before we broke up.

I kept the bed.

Last week when I returned from Italy, I was changing the sheets and the bed fell apart, literally crumbled to pieces–one wood panel collapsed, the other became unglued, the footboard dropped to the floor with a loud thud and then the massive headboard plummeted down almost killing my cat…chips and splinters flying everywhere around the room…There was such wonder and magnificence to this spectacle that I just stood there, mesmerized.

Then I tucked each panel under my arm and took the elevator down to the garbage area behind my building. As I tried to maneuver the planks into the dumpster, one of my neighbors–a recently divorced woman with two kids–walked by and asked me what happened. I told her the bed had come undone for no apparent reason.

“You think it ever brought me joy?” I exclaimed, slamming the last panel to the ground.

She paused looking at the mahogany debris scattered all around the yard and then said, “Why don’t you come over to my place tonight for a glass of wine.”

In all the 15 years we had been neighbors, this was the first time she ever spoke to me.

I didn’t even know her name.


Marina Rubin’s work has appeared in over eighty magazines and anthologies, including 13th Warrior Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Dos Passos Review, 5AM, Nano Fiction, Coal City, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Jewish Currents, Lilith, Pearl, Poet Lore, Skidrow Penthouse, The Worcester Review, and many more. She is an editor of Mudfish, the Tribeca literary and art magazine. She is a 2013 recipient of the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship.

Robert L. Penick: “The Empty Poet”

The Empty Poet

He started a poem about how difficult it was to start a poem. Then he gave it up. No one should ever write a poem about writing poetry. It’s like masturbating a corpse. So he looked out the window of the McDonald’s restaurant and searched for a worthy topic. In the next two tables a family was having a reunion with hamburgers and French fries. They talked of Medicare and computer printers and birthdays. This distracted the Poet to no end. He was looking for profundity. Next door, the grandfather urged his wife to finish her coffee. “It’ll put hair on your chest. Then we’ll put you in the circus, make some money.” Grampa will be eighty years old in August, but doesn’t feel it. “Eighty is the new seventy,” the Poet thinks, then scribbles that thought into his notebook.

Outside the window, a young Hispanic man runs a weed trimmer around the perimeter of a small tree. The reaper knocking down life. But wait! The grass isn’t dead, just shortened, so the simile is false. Where have all his grand perceptions gone? Did they ever exist? The Poet blames Facebook and his noisy smartphone for his lack of depth.

Returning home, he will turn on the television and click through countless channels, stopping occasionally to gape at an explosion or an exemplary pair of breasts. Around nightfall it crosses his mind he should adopt a cat from the local shelter. Ten minutes later that notion is forgotten.

As he prepares for bed, a lonely thought wanders into his head:

What becomes of unthought ideas?

Where do they go?


Robert L. Penick‘s work has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, and The California Quarterly. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon, and edits Ristau, a tiny literary annual. More of his writing can be found at www.theartofmercy.net

Devon Miller-Duggan: “Variations”


Looking down
across the
purpled roofs—
I reach out
for your hand.

I clasp air,
which turns to

You are my
church and my
wonders from
books of lists.

The turquoise
St. George glass
in Freiburg’s
we were there
I won’t come
here again
without you.

We are each other’s watchmakers—correcting gears, brushing dust, re-winding springs, then facing each to each and telling time like seven candlesticks. We were each other’s lathes, carving our rough branches to same-length-but-mismatched legs for the table made to hold our feast. We were changelings returned to each other’s waiting arms. We were the Long Day and Antediluvian Longevity compressed into the body of one dove.

Be my friction-pulley, slide me through your gears.
Be my water motor, spill me through your years.
Be my crank-pin-lathe, file me fine as hairs.

Stag and Vine me, darling, I will be your field.
Arrow-shoot my bird’s breast, surely I will yield.
Juno and the Peacock me, I promise to be stilled.

I’m cardamom and nutmeg, so heat me in some butter.
I’m rosemary and thyme and dill—chop me with your cutter.
I’m ginger, summer savory, and sage—steam me in your water.

What clouds assume the most fantastic shapes?
For now, that’s our hearts’-house.

How purple-glowing is our hearts’-home?
Let’s go make up the mushroom bed we’ve gathered from.

What’s the dark?
The heart divided into two unequal, necessary chambers,

How to count depth by dropping torches?
Yet we find the river.

We’ll build all through the time we have—
spruce up our Palace of the Sun, add shine to our new history and histories
and make the country that we are seethe earth-oil.
We’ll build the veranda you’ve always wanted on our house.
Dear husband, I recommend me to you.


Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Neither Prayer, Nor Bird (Finishing Line Press, 2013), Alphabet Year (Wipf & Stock, 2017).

Corey Mesler: “Cleanse Me”

Cleanse Me

Everyone’s back is soiled
except the man in the cave
whose back is a wall.
People arrive daily, con-
fused, in need. They
speak with wee voices, like
squeaks in a broken wheel.
They say, I am alone and
no one will cleanse me.
They say, tell me something
hopeful, we’re all dying.
The man in the cave retires
for five years. When he
returns no one seeks his ad-
vice. There are people in
other caves now. There are
still questions without
answers. There are long lines,
like a genealogy, lines of
applicants who want to re-
place the man in the cave,
who now never speaks, never
speaks. There is a silence,
a lingering silence like rainfall.


Corey Mesler has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published 9 novels, 4 short story collections, 5 full-length poetry collections, and a dozen chapbooks. His novel Memphis Movie attracted kind words from Ann Beattie, Peter Coyote, and William Hjorstberg, among others. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart many times, and 3 of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. With his wife, he runs a 142-year-old bookstore in Memphis. He can be found at https://coreymesler.wordpress.com.

Robert Okaji: “Vesuvius”


When the earth shrugs,
some warnings are better
heeded. A little

smoke, some ash.
A knife point held to the chin.

Why listen at all?
The man in the big house hides in its vastness.
Surrounded, he walks alone.
People speak, but he hears only himself.

the mountain

and the birds fly north
seeking firm ground
upon which to land.


Robert Okaji lives in Texas. The author of three chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wildness, Vox Populi, Birch Gang Review, and elsewhere.

Lowell Jaeger: “Blacktail Deer Road”


Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press, author of seven collections of poems, recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council, and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.

Cliff Saunders: “The Final Storm”

The Final Storm

The day the stars fell, we were looking
at blue sky and losing faith in ourselves.
Our love cracked right in half like a tower
in a cold city that shook the ground
while everyone else panicked.
We spilled into its abyss late into the night.
It was important for us to suffer in our silence.
We wanted something that was us,
that represented us. All we found
were ashes around the drain in the sink.
How did it start? We knew the storm
was coming. The lights dimmed clear
across the country, and a paper ball
that kept on growing floated down sunlit Broadway.
An organ broke, snow fell from within us
out there on the street, where it left too harsh
of a light, including a moon only days from death.
I spent a lot of time praying for you and me,
waiting by the phone for you,
puffed by wind and surrounded by the sea.
All I ever wanted to do was dance
behind the curtain of the big bus
with you, to your heart’s discontent.
At the end of the bus ride, where were we?
I asked God all night to go sliding
down hillsides with me the way the wind
always revels in the final unraveling.
Instead, he gave me a gift, a story of codes,
and the text read: Once upon a time, the boy
who touched your broken heart beside the inlet
made you cry while he slept on your couch.


Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Connecticut River Review, Five 2 One, Avatar Review, Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.