Woman on the Train

by John Hicks

                                                On the 5:32 a.m. BNSF to Chicago

At the Lisle stop, their breath hangs in the air
like empty thought balloons as they shuffle
toward the boarding doors.  She takes the seat
across the aisle from me, slides over to the window. 
At Downers Grove, she checks her watch,
pulls her cell phone from her purse. 

             Hello, Sweetheart.  Are you already awake? 
            How are you feeling?  Good!  Did you sleep well? 
            I laid your school clothes out for you on your chair. 
           Don’t forget to brush your teeth.  Will you do that for Mommy? 
           That’s my girl.                

The Hinsdale station flashes by the window.  We’re an express
to Chicago now.  Everyone around us sleeps, heads pulled into scarves,
into coats against the cold.    

            Your breakfast is on the counter.
             Be sure to put the milk back in the fridge. 
            Yes, I miss Daddy, too. 
            Yes, I know.  Me, too. 
            Me, too.
            You’d better get ready now.  Mrs. Hennipen will be there soon
            to walk you to the bus.  Don’t forget your key.  It’s on your necklace. 

Brookfield passes.     

             I love you, too, Sweetheart. 
            Have a good day at school.  ‘Bye.            

Clutching the phone like a talisman,
she leans her head against the window;
falls asleep, nodding slighting
in the lights of the stations we pass. 

John Hicks is a New Mexico poet. He has been published or accepted for publication by: South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska, Omaha. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Fully Vaccinated

by Sheila Wellehan

Dogs can go feral
when they’re lost a few weeks,
constantly on guard and scared
as they search
for food, water, and shelter.
They stay alive by avoiding danger.
But surviving alone changes them.
Don’t be surprised
if a lost dog flees in panic
when you try to help her.

I’ve been alone more than a year,
diving deeper and deeper
into myself. Isolation
has turned me feral.
I scream. I fight.
I confront strangers
over magnified slights.
They say it’s best
to socialize dogs slowly,
so I just go out at night.

You can smile,
but if you talk to me,
I’ll growl.
Don’t get too close –
I bite.

Sheila Wellehan‘s poetry is featured in The Night Heron BarksRust + MothThimble Literary Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry JournalWhale Road Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Now Hiring, Foodworkers, Everywhere

by Heather Bonea

She shadowed the black apron.

I watched contempt simmer
behind a facade of duty.

             I need this job.
             The tips are good.
             But these shoes are killing me.

She’ll last a month,
Maybe two.

The grey beards behind
their glasses will
mark her round ass and
swirl their wine.

Her feet shuffle under
narrow hips and a 
bulging waistline while
she bats her eyelashes at
the couple occupying
Table Three.

I can see behind her mask.
Terse lips.
Small pride.
But a roar that
whispers in the wings,
waits for the spotlight to drop,

and runs.

Heather Bonea is a poet, painter and photographer in Chico, CA. Her poems have been previously published in the online publication, Califragile, as well as the Chico News and Review. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

The Ordering Impulse

by Stefan Sullivan

I heard a thud. Then several more.

Glossy photo books were tumbling from the shelves.

The Endangered Polar Bear
The Wine Road of Piedmonte
Untouched Appalachia
Ghost Motels of Route 66

Our dinner guests used to leaf through these books
while we lobbed cheerful questions from the kitchen,
while we poured stuffed olives into wooden bowls.

These books had not been touched in a while.

And now, they were scattered on the floor.

My wife looked at me with the wildest eyes. Her hair was everywhere.

“The Appalachia book was sticking over the edge. That’s how it started.”  

“But why’d you throw all the books on the floor?”

A tear slid down her cheeks.  

“It didn’t bother you?”

Stefan Sullivan is the author of a novel set in 1990s Siberia (Die Andere Bibliothek/Berlin) and Marx for a Post-Communist Era: On Poverty, Corruption and Banality (Routledge/London). His poetry has appeared in The Secular Heretic, Barzakh (SUNY Albany), and on the radio with WNYU fm. He lives in Washington DC. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

If you don’t think you do anything right

by Ellen Stone


                                                For John Prine

Make beer bread w/one can of cheap lager.
Consider becoming more flavored yourself.
Eat more bone marrow. Reduce cruciferous
vegetables, especially cabbage. Soak your feet
in well water centered with rind of blood orange.

Remember clubs of cheery types of people who
gather in groups like knitters, coin collectors
& those who like old dolls. Do more meditation
when recycling & garbage has finally been collected
Sing at sunrise or when the dew comes off the grass.

Embrace your household of living beings –
mice, squirrels or your offspring. Find
a handful of fountain pens, freaks & curlers
or the right side of the bed. Ask everyone
one song that makes them cry every day.

Ellen Stone taught special education in public schools in Kansas and Michigan for over 30 years. She advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat!, where she lives with her husband in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ellen is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013). Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

My Singer Contracted COVID

by Elaine Sorrentino

We forged a friendship
when the kids were small, money tight,
the unexpected birthday gift
that screamed of possibility; 

this machine with its basic
straight and basting stitches,
its practical and fun zigzag, 
and other sexier stitches 

I later learned earned names 
such as Scallop, Icicle and Diamond,
all contributing to the creation
of shiny silver knight costumes, 

long-tailed green dragons 
with gold bellies and oversized paws,
quilted Christmas stockings
sporting each child’s name on the cuff,

wide wale corduroy knickers  
for the high school version of Carousel,
all tailored with my reliable
indestructible sewing machine.   

Cancer changed priorities
and my Singer found a home
in the back of the closet
with other abandoned pastimes 

until Covid coaxed it out
to fashion protective masks
but instead, sewed one straight
row, then jammed in reverse. 

Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA. Her work has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, The Writers’ Magazine, Haiku Universe, Failed Haiku, and has won the monthly poetry challenge at wildamorris.blogspot.com. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Sleep Until Noon

by Elisa Subin

The garbage truck, the neighbor’s dog, the drop

of a toilet seat from next door, we share a wall, I wonder what they hear, we don’t yell, in fact, last night you won a gold medal for strongest


Tickling the sheets for an extra hour, watching TV Land reruns, calming the old dog, scolding the late night teen, replaying long forgotten embarrassments, existential worries, stop snoring, give me the blanket,

Cut your ragged jagged toenails already

And still at 5:30am

I am up, slippers, bra (yes, bra) and coffee in that old, stained mug, wearily proclaiming me World’s Best Wife

Yet morning is my only solace

So please dear sleep until noon

Elisa Subin is a poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in 34 Orchard Literary Journal, CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Not One of Us, Jam & Sand and Nebo: A Literary Journal, among others. She won an Honorable Mention in the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. The illustration depicts Emily Dickinson in a cable-knit sweater.

To Outwait the Pandemic

by Jeff Burt

what I wanted was a Ray Griffith sweater,
one with bulk, hand-knitted

by an aunt, decades old and worn,
warm, awkwardly fit yet comforting,

with measured sleeves and cuffs not frayed
though pulled and loose at the elbows

with that little collar that fenced the neck
from cold, that when you pulled out a pen

and paper something warm and witty
spilled onto paper, or a letter glib

with insignificant news, a caricature
or profile of idiosyncrasies,

a letter of comments on the weather,
a teabag like a wet plum on paper.

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California with his wife. He works in mental health. He has contributed to Heartwood, Williwaw Journal, Red Work Journal, and Montana Mouthful. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Narrative Poetry Prize. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. The illustration depicts Emily Dickinson in a cable-knit sweater.

Pandemic Paunch

by Patricia Mosco Holloway

I used to have space,
a place where my stomach
could go–at least 
for the few seconds
I’d try to tuck it in
to achieve that flawless
flatline profile
I knew was mine.

Post pandemic quarantine,
pizza-ed, macaroni-and-cheesed,
fed fresh bread and potatoes mashed,
I am now one solid mass.
No room inside for anything
to inch. Everything’s rounded,
filled to the max. No spaces between
even organs, arteries, nerves.  
Vertebrae?  Packed tight.

But more than the starches, 
the carbos and fat, I’ve swallowed,
sucked up months of virtual
everything: concerts, coffees,
choirs, holidays, birthdays, church.
Too many boarded-up windows
and doors down empty streets.
Tired of all the blue links cramming
my computer, the masks hanging
from everywhere–doorknobs, pockets
lamps, ears, even from my rear view mirror.

I’ve swallowed isolation, which you 
would think might be empty, but
it, too, grows inside me, protruding, pressing
against each inch of my taut drum skin.
I ache for some space
to break

Patricia Mosco Holloway is a writing teacher residing in Denver. Some of her work can be found online at Rattle, The Ekphrastic Review, New Verse News, in The Explicator and in college textbooks teaching writing about literature by Rolf Norgaard and writing about theater by Suzanne Hudson.  She is a 2019 finalist in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Coffee House, December 2020

by Lee Patton

Though fake fire hisses out gas flames
between logs fashioned from steel,
the convivial intent seems real.
Today, the gaseous blaze plays

to an empty alcove inside
an emptied coffee house with seats
taped over. PLEASE ENJOY on first read

The adjacent jazz-worshipping
bar’s taped over too, FUN PREVENTED
Let’s Drink Again, Together, Next Spring

Somebody’s grandmother subs, working
as a barista, aw-hecking when she flubs
another order.  “So sorry, bub!”
Outside, two friends try distant lurking

in puffer jackets, wool hats––darts
of mammal steam with each word more.
You’d think they’d been expelled outdoors,
mere beasts feeding in the cold, apart.

Lee Patton, a native of California’s Mendocino coast, has enjoyed life in Colorado since college. His first poetry collection, In Disturbed Soil, is forthcoming in 2021. Recent poems appear in Heirlock, Impossible Archetype, and New Verse News. His fifth novel, Coming to Life on South High, comes out in 2021. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.