Two Poems by Ed Ahern


I am refigured by the missing –
hard scarred by their death,
wounded by their departure,
blotched by my disregard.

Grafted relatives and friends,
often greatly loved,
grow over burns
visible through new skin.

My changing self-appearance
comes with aging realization
that I too will be numbered
among the missing.

The Sand Castle

The waves wash a little further
up my walls with every surge,
cold-peeling sun warmth
and sand in rising strips.
I watch with inert abilities
the crumbling disappearance
of imperfect towers closer than I
to rinsing water, awaiting the wave
that returns me to the beach.


Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and five books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.

One Poem by Judith Steele

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Concluding the deal

The plump woman in the fur-trimmed coat
is going to eat that speckled hen
but she won’t be the one to kill it
any more than she killed the coyote
whose fur she wears.

It’s the Earth-Mother type who’ll kill
the hen she raised from a chick,
the hen whose eggs she ate,
the hen who trusts her,
quite at ease in the arms
of the woman who’ll dispatch her quickly
knowing this is the way of the world
of farming, of humans, of survival
of the fittest.

Times are hard, and getting harder.
No time for sentiment.
The hen was born to be killed,
Her speckled feathers may be used
for stuffing or for ornament.
Dead chooks and coyotes
have their uses
for the fittest.


Judith Steele is Australian. Her poetry or prose has most recently appeared in the print journal Gobshite Quarterly (Oregon USA); and web blog Plum Tree Tavern.

One Poem by Lizzie Ballagher

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

A Rare Breed – Plymouth Rock Rooster

After The Appraisal by Grant Wood

               She’d sent word that she would come to buy
the best Plymouth Rock rooster on my papa’s farm.
Yet somehow, when her driver opened their Cadillac’s
bright door, and she in her furs in the fall sunlight stepped out
with her fancy alligator shoes, buckles gleaming,
embroidered clutch tucked underneath her arm,
I guessed her business had little enough to do with chickens:
maybe she’d gotten word her son and I were sweethearts.

               She’ll fight any match with another farmer’s daughter,
Sam had warned me, unless the farm we hold is land
well plowed and fit for raising golden Iowa corn, fit to breed
more Iowa golden money for those fancy shoes and purses…

               So I clasped our rooster like a child. Out-stared
her stony glares until at last she looked at Chanticleer
and chucked him under the wattles, smiled,
clucked back at him: You’ll do just fine and dandy.

               Our Plymouth Rock rooster had sealed the deal
and now she’d let her Samuel come a-courtin’ me.
What she didn’t know on that fall day (but surely would
before too long) was that the deal was oh so long done—
for I carried not only the handsome Chanticleer
but also, curled within my body, her own grandson.
And I’m no chicken! Yup, I looked her straight back
in the eye, glare for stare: my love for Samuel

               just as solid, just as long to last as that ol’ granite
Plymouth Rock—away out east—in Massachusetts.


Lizzie Ballagher has just finished her first full collection of poetry. Her work has been featured in a variety of magazines and webzines, including Nine Muses Poetry, Words for the Wild, Nitrogen House, South-East Walker Magazine, Poetry Space, the National Poetry Day site, and The Ekphrastic Review.  She blogs at:

Two Poems by David Capps

Lost (after Goethe)

As I walked the clumps of cedar forest
I saw a small shadow by a flower,
an aster. –Me! it cried, cupped in its dry bed, smaller

than a finger. It was so different from my life,
my eyes, my reason, those silent gates
that open from without

and without speech enclose night. I bent low, came up with all
small roots, electric skirt twirling tangles
in the sun. It looked up at me, red maple leaf-

swaddled in green fern, and I brought it to the garden
beside the damned ugly house, and planted it.
You will grow until a river, I said.

Your sorrow will withdraw into a quiet nook.
Your limbs will pierce islands of shade beneath the elms,
your seedlings will grow as stars that breathe

your namesake without hesitation. You will bloom
as ships gathered in the bay, as clouds returned from voyaging
with no shrapnel in their skulls.

You will bloom the same as asters in the grove where I found you.
You will bloom as we do.


Crocuses, snow-oars on a plow-swelled sea,
violet-scorned silver sheen curled up, inward,
under plasma careening orb-like atop a sinking rig
as the plow plows the plow plow plow

                       yet I’m in my apartment dreaming

they breathe small breaths to snow. Still other
crocuses collect, furled ears in downy rain
whispers from the far way, whisperers gone
to a hidden place where spirit meets the sand.


David Capps is a philosophy professor and poet who lives in Hamden, CT. He is the author of two chapbooks: ‘Poems from the First Voyage’ (The Nasiona Press, 2019), and ‘A Non-Grecian Non-Urn’ (Yavanika Press, 2019).

One Poem by Felix Purat

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Nothing Depends

  For William Carlos Williams

Upon a white chicken
This time around, ma’am –

Glazed with warty goosebumps
Beside my tremoring tummy –

As long as it’s alive and
You’re still here gossiping.


Felix hails from Berkeley, CA but lives in the Czech Republic and travels frequently. In addition to four micro-chapbooks (all published by the Origami Poems Project), Felix has been published in numerous outlets and magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have also been translated into Slovak. His webpage is:

One Poem by Kathryn Sadakierski

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

City and Country

The sun filters in through the back porch,
And the morning’s commerce has begun.
They could’ve been sisters,
But by fate, are separated.
A farmer, and Park Avenue royalty,
If, by chance, should meet,
Might haggle over a chicken
After she of the furs and pearls and diamond pin
Pulls up to the farmhouse,
Screen door snapping with the slightest breeze,
White clapboards bright as her whitened teeth,
In a chauffeured limousine,
She is helped out, of course, ceremoniously.

Her country counterpart finishes brewing coffee,
As the dogs bark at their unaccustomed visitor.
Shrugging on her green fleece jacket,
Hat pulled on as an afterthought,
Its worn red pompom bobbing
As she strides out to greet her customer,
Whose coin purse is tucked delicately under her arm,
Waiting frowningly, no red carpet to
Walk upon in the plots where crops grow.

So it’s a chicken you want?
Glancing knowingly at her guest from the city,
She can’t help but smile, holding mirth back,
Though it crinkles her sun-toughened face,
Aware that under a moneyed gaze,
It isn’t only a chicken being appraised.

Well, charming and quaint as this Sunday drive has been,
The comforts of the Plaza beckon,
And so, too, does a chicken française,
Not this paltry poultry you offer me;
I suppose I can do without eggs.
Thus, they part ways,
But from the limousine window,
She looks out at the white clapboard farmhouse,
The mint green door on its last hinges,
Sky of blue, wider and freer than anything,
Remembering something
That deserves to be transfigured in paint:
The quiet serendipity of a country day.


Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in The Bangor Literary JournalThe Ekphrastic ReviewNine Muses Poetry, Teachers of Vision, Dime Show ReviewThe Decadent ReviewVisual Verse, iō Literary Journal, and elsewhere.

One Poem by Robert Nisbet

The Reverend Evan Davies’s Mirror

 The Reverend Evan Davies, minister of Llangloffan Baptist Chapel in Pembrokeshire from 1874 to 1909, was the poet’s great-grandfather

He preached, in Welsh, to congregations of two hundred Baptists. All I have read about him speaks of kindness and of a man in whom there was no guile. His eyes look kind.

So when he would look in the mirror, in the mornings, to trim those handsome whiskers, what would he see?

He would not, I hope, see the kindness, his own, real or thought-of. It is better if we are not really aware of such things about ourselves.

Would he see a mission, a path to God? That I cannot say.

What would he see, moving behind him, in the room, in his age, in the church? Would he not see and sense sometimes the looming of hypocrisy? I’m sure he would. He would need to be aware of that.

Would he see the light of what a Lakeland poet called those little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love? I hope so, very much. I’m sure he would.

The same poet added, the still, sad music of humanity. That too.

Would he see the shadow of those years to come? The cruelties of some of the churches, the worshippers, the hierarchies? The bigotry, the blight? He may well have done.

So would he have seen a mission, a path to God? I hope so, I very much hope so.


Robert Nisbet is a Pembrokeshire poet whose work has been published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA, where he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2019.

One Poem by Irene Cunningham

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

Holding Onto the Bird

I’m here. Grounded. I bother no one,
live a bare naked existence
on the surface, in visible terms
in all weather clutter-free as simple
as an alphabet written on lined paper.

You can’t see through me, inside
this cardigan, hair and skin.
My eyes may be windows but
there are curtains…one-way viewing.
I see you, wanting, assuming.

I don’t do tests or invite
the unexpected in. Everything
on this side of the line belongs –
you are other and your standing
there is an act of oppression.


Irene Cunningham has had many poems published in lit mags. She lives at Loch Lomond, retired from her day job to scribble away the next pile of years. Her two poetry collections on Amazon: FAIRYTALE, and FIONA WAS HERE – all proceeds to Breast Cancer UK.

One Poem by Nawal Kishor Sharma

Written in response to this month’s Special Challenge.

When Town Collides With Country

In this rural allegory of class divide,
The eyes speak what words can’t—
Rustic plainness versus urban pride.

In sync with nature, she holds a hen,
Her homely dress looks old and worn,
While the other looks on with disdain.

To slave and sweat is the lot of hers,
One grows while the other consumes,
The city resides in her furs and purse.

Look at the lack of trust in those eyes!
Two kinds of people live in this world:
One who sells and another who buys.

The worlds of leisure and labour meet
As town travels to the country—
One needs the other to be complete.

A watcher is watched, a gazer is gazed,
The compliment is returned for sure
As eyes scrutinize, the eyes are read.


Nawal Kishor Sharma teaches English at a university in Gujarat, India. He has published poems in Visual Verse, an online anthology of art and words. His areas of interest include comparative literature, translation and history of art.

Two Poems by Julie Sampson

Mothers of the Ancient Moor

Like the standing-stones stretched out endlessly along Merrivale row
my mother’s mothers are long in a line of moor daughters.
They are lost, but I find them everywhere.
I am the last of the line.

I know five others, grandmothers before me –
I’ve tried to disentangle, follow the thread,
discover one long-gone before.
This day of pilgrimage on a stretch of moorland’s green –
my quest to come upon a sign, delicate relic, or curio – say
cameo-brooch set in moss, or yellowed lace-frill from a gown
snagged in a jagged crack in reave’s wall.

No, they’ve not made the archival papers of history books,
or written their lives into the stitches of our past’s celebrated female dramas, nor have I found any mitochondrial mother who has wandered the exotic globe.

Mine were silent.
Reclusive mothers of the ancient moor,
each found a niche inside the shelter of a granite shelf,
a closet cocooned with moss or fern,
there she cosseted, shielded her extended brood.

She tended her land.
Except for one who always stayed,
she sent them and theirs flying out and across her ex-tending lands.
Multiply, go out and multiply, she said
and when, like Dido, she was laid in earth
the one who stayed inherited her place
discovered her own rock-sheltered harbour.

I went down into the deepest woods

to listen to the wisdom of the trees
and stumbled upon the other poets collecting berries,
they were tripping over the intricate hypae-roots,
one against the other,

some twisted high up into swaying oaks –
they were away on far horizons,
distant seas,
others tangled in the hooking briar.

I had to turn,
turn the other way
to return to my quiet home again –
and in my ear,
incessant, the buzzing bee.


Julie Sampson is a widely published poet. She edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman) and has two poetry collections: Tessitura (Shearsman, 2014), and It Was When It Was When It Was (Dempsey and Windle), 2018. She was highly commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, 2019.