Two Poems by Susan Surette


He presents a silent vigil
isolated like a leper
in a dimly-lit alley
off a mean city street
he sits
back pressing against
cold graffiti-laced cement
wearing soiled ragged jeans
his brows are thick like his
work roughened hands
a stranger to soap
hair without direction
a grimy overcoat
heavily lined with despair


Dust settles anonymously
upon quiet surfaces
where noise is
unwelcome house

Floors creak
clocks tick
windows subtly rattle
corners settle
wind vibrates

Sitting motionless
determined ears
detect the subtle hum
from day’s evaporating energy

a deafening to those
who lay awake


Susan Surette is an avid traveler, bibliophile, grandmother, hand drummer, yogi and poet with work published in The Avocet, Westward Quarterly, The Voices Project, and The Curlew. She recently founded the Not Yet Dead Poets Society in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

One Poem by Randal A Burd, Jr.

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Physician of the Mind

This mannequin—lifeless, demure—
Will keep close secrets told secure,
Unlike that friend who in the end
Is quick to judge and less mature.

What troubles whispered through the years
Have bounced off these unhearing ears,
Unburdening a client’s soul,
Absolving guilt, allaying fears?

This true physician of the mind,
Compassionate, unduly kind,
Is counselor, confessor, priest,
Conservator, and more—combined!


Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator who works with the disadvantaged in rural Missouri. He holds a master’s degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. Randal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sparks of Calliope magazine. His latest collection of poems, Memoirs of a Witness Tree, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in Summer 2020.

One Poem by John Tustin


Cicadas clack prehistoric wings
Like castanets against the leaves.
They mock my morning of coffee, of abject desire,
Of no Valerie.
They laugh as they are captured by birds midflight,
Stalked by yardcats, shedding their skin
As if the new skin is the promise
Of a slick and shiny new life.
They laugh because they don’t need love,
They don’t sit desirous in endless empty hallways,
They laugh as they are eaten, chittering click-clack,
As I sit at my kitchen table
Alone but for their derisive voice.


John Tustin started writing poetry a decade ago after a long hiatus. contains links to his published poetry online.

One Poem by Michael Caines

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

In the back room

She looks just as she looked in 1963 –
              more or less –
and blushes as she blushed the year before.
              Fashion was
as it is: fickle. They chucked her out in 1964.

Her chipped smile adorned her work for charity
              after that;
her lashes still were levelled as they’d been.
              Bearing what
hand-me-downs she had to bravely, she played the mannequin.

“They shut that hard-up shop and, as for me,
              off I went
to a back-room stocked with unsold tableware.
              No, I don’t
miss wigs or coats or evening wear – I miss the view, the air . . .”

The eyes do not adjust, merely degrade. The sea,
              out of sight,
erodes each day, and she, as if entranced,
              listens. It
could all change. It could – again – one day! But she’s not convinced.


Michael Caines lives in London, and has had recent poems commended in the Battered Moons and Culpepper’s Remedy competitions.

Two Poems by Richard Jones


On the coldest day of winter,
I shut off the furnace.
It’s early morning, icy; I’m alone
in the chilled house and glad.
Soon the room is cold enough
that sitting at my writing desk
I can see breath clouds when
I blow on my hands to warm them.
I go upstairs and pile every blanket
in heavy layers on the big bed.
I crawl in and pull the covers
over my head. I want to stay here
until spring comes, when I shall rise
and go out looking for something
to eat. But that’s not how it happens.
My wife and daughter come home
and shake me, telling me the house
is freezing, and asking if I’m crazy.


The white-haired astronomer is walking
across the quad with his colleague, talking
about the universe, the unseen order of things
swirling to the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
His young colleague, a nuclear biologist,
recognizes the molecular constituency of reality,
and sees in the smallest neutron the truth
of his friend’s rhapsodies. They walk along—
talking, gesticulating, excited. People falling in love
should be so excited, eyes bright, full of genius
and madness, knowing they are on the right path,
they can feel it, they believe it, and more importantly,
they can prove it on a blackboard with a piece of chalk.


Richard Jones is the author of sixteen books of poetry, including Country of Air, A Perfect Time, King of Hearts, The Blessing, and Stranger on Earth. Editor since 1980 of the literary journal Poetry East, he curates its many anthologies, such as ParisThe Last Believer in Words, and Bliss.

One Poem by Kate Young

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Life as an Empty Effigy

Sleepy hours sing silent songs,
a jangle of city-binge, waning,
as if wrapped in cellophane.

Time opens its jaws, yawns,
pulls me in to glare in glass,
a painted moon stares back

cheek bones as flawless
as a Major Tom haunting,
words on the tip of tide.

I catch a flash of scarlet,
lips parted, skin stretched taut
on sockets pared to plastic.

My face moulds with mannequin,
scalp smooth, another hollow dame
cold as a stroll on Broadway.


Kate Young lives in Kent and is passionate about poetry and literature. After retiring, she has returned to writing and has had success with poems published in magazines internationally and in Great Britain. She is presently editing her work and writing new material, particularly in response to ekphrastic challenges.

One Poem by Randi Lynn Sanders

A Tinder Moment

She spits in her martini glass.
Harrumphs as the server sweeps it away,
complains DRY means DRY.

Her husband stares at his phone.
His finger hovers over the screen.
I imagine him not as her husband,

but as her date. They wear rings, but
in my mind, they are single, separate,
each with an option to stay or move on.

The wine arrives, I dare not look.
My own glass rests, untouched,
next to my phone. We wait.

This salad has too much
dressing, she says. Nobody
likes a limp Caesar. The steak is tough.

The air is too cold. Can they do something
about the A/C? What about dessert? Do you want
the chocolate volcano cake? How about

the crème brûlée? It’s settled then.
Death by chocolate. I pour my own wine
from the buy-one-get-one carafe.

Two spoons, please. I never hear
him speak. I want him to swipe,
keeping his options open.


Randi Lynn Sanders is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. Randi lives on the gulf coast of Florida, where she maintains her own financial advisory practice while honing her craft in her spare time, usually before or after market close.

One Poem by Lynn White

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A Model Woman

She set out to become a model woman.
It was what her mother taught her.
But her mother’s models
were rooted in the past,
mannequins really
and no longer in vogue,
so her attempts were confused.
Conformity was the issue
but to which age,
which youth
should she conform to
now or then.
It took her a long time,
a lifetime.
A lifetime
of making up,
of trying on and discarding,
a lifetime of self discovery,
a lifetime
to throw away the wigs
and become herself.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Find Lynn at and

One Poem by Daniel Pearson


You come to life
In a wave, polished and accumulated
Digesting and being digested.

The dwellers
Made a bite of the pulse—
Your black cry ebbs in a mouthful

Of fishbone.
Melting and flexing. A strong impulse
To swim against the barrages.

Yellow world crinkles
Through a window of cellophane,
Crisp packets, ring pulls and shopping bags—

Your tourmaline
Mouth, shark tongue pinned
Skin of spears, aggregate of carrion

Plucking sloughed
Flakes of keratin, the sepulchral cyst—
Old drummed off membrane

Mute in the pull
Of jaw and hook, not one wave squandered
For the fossil tugged back with each salt heave.

This is the sea-swell—
The cannibal gut, gourmandising itself.
Your conch ear thinning to a bitten edge.


Daniel Pearson was born in North East England and studied English at Lancaster University. He has spent a lot of time since then living in other countries and currently resides in Vietnam.

One Poem by James Bell

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

seen in a junk shop window

there’s a permanent line from closed eyes
to the end of nose that expresses
an assured aloofness taken from reality

though this is no death mask – cries out
against any kind of morbidity – still
just lives – the place is of another time

for sure – the face fashioned for
a certain kind of eternity hard to ignore
or remonstrate against as painted nonsense

the set flick of an eyelash rails against
dawning or passing of an age – has seen
wigs of desire and danger come and go

disguises only fabricated shut down windows
to the soul in some profound unsaid comment
full of knowledge yet tentative on the lips

a mere chip here and there does not spell
disaster for a head of plaster that has seen
better days and more salubrious surroundings


James Bell – returned to writing poetry over twenty years ago and has not yet left. He is a regular contributor to Nine Muses’ Special Challenges.