Leave of Absence (Summer, 1974)

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Contributor: John P. Tretbar

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The donkey brays the morning sun at dawn.
The rest of us soon follow suit, in thrall.
The "hees" are always followed by the "haw,"
which then repeats a dozen times in all.

There's nothing left for us to do but wait
for bells of Mass however small and poor,
as Sister Mary Margret pulls the chain
and greets the local church mice at the door.

The sermon on the mysteries of God,
through patience, prayer, belief, and sacrifice,
seems lost upon the flock in this synod,
for they, each day, must pay an awful price.

With donkeys for alarm clocks, dirt for floors,
their lives forever guessing what's in store.

The mission in St. Lucia near Vieux Fort
still follows the church dictums and decrees.
But in jungle lurks another morte
as death-by-flatworm brings them to their knees.

The microscope reveals the tiny mutts,
the schistosoma living in the blood.
It eats their meals and then inflates their guts,
because of walking, shoeless, in the mud.

The scourge of poverty the enemy,
our gift of Praziquantel will be used
to kill the worms in their anatomy.
But what they really needed was some shoes.

The donkey brays another day at dawn.
The humans rise to get their prayers on.

Our education, first, to learn patois,
the Pidgin French of settlers long ago,
as early generations break the laws
of grammar, usage, style, and vertigo.

Then comes commitment to the chosen one,
a summer program born at Notre Dame.
It looks like a vacation in the sun,
but changes students as they change their names...

...to Sister Mary, soon to take their vows:
to chastity, and poverty, and God.
We sing a song of charity to you
as we return to study on the quad.

The donkey knows the score and brays its tune
each summer in St. Lucia late in June.


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Retired journalist, musician, actor, age 63. Live in St. Joseph, Missouri, with my wife. Host poetry gathering at her coffee shop once a month. Self-publish work of fellow poets and anthologies from the best of the gatherings.

A Sense of Recognition

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Contributor: Cynthia B Pitman

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A trampled scrap of paper
scoots with the wind across the dry dirt road.
On it are written someone’s last words.
They cannot be read.
The lines of the hand-scrawled letters
bend in the folds of the crushed paper,
mangling the words. To catch the paper,
smooth it flat, straighten the lines
and read the words is no more possible
than it would be to find the writer,
soothe her pain, and reshape her future
that is already past.
But the words are there.
No one need read them for them to be there.


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I am a retired English teacher. I began writing again after 30 years of teaching. My poetry collection, The White Room, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.

A Difficult Farewell

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Contributor: Grace Zong

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I turned back and waved;
tears dripped down my face.
It was the hardest moment,
although you offered your condolence.

Moving so far away from you,
from the place that gave me déjà vu,
left behind my dearest peers
that I’ve bonded with for years.

But you gave me plenty of motivation
to achieve my goals and self satisfaction.
To me, you were the only reason
that I have grown so much this season.

Though you are no longer with me
to guide me to where I need to be,
I have finally discovered my way
to fulfill my life every single day.

It has already been five years,
and I have overcome all my fears.
Thank you, dad, for all that you have done,
for guiding me in the long run.


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Grace Zong was forced to play the piano when she was little. However, she learned to turn it into a relaxing activity to convey her emotions. When her fingers are not flying over the keys, she can be found working with mathematical problems that help her understand the world better.

The End

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Contributor: Jane Briganti

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There he sits day after day
Empty his eyes, they look away
Marriage perhaps is just too long
What once felt right now feels wrong

When she's gone will he wonder why
behind the scenes might he even cry
or will he celebrate her letting go
Maybe yes, but she will never know

Distant is he from dusk to dawn
She finds no reason to carry on
He does not treat her as he should
she is not made of rock or wood

His words are fewer everyday
he turns his back and walks away
What a shame to say goodbye
So many years - should not she cry

The love between them is no more
being together has become a chore
He just wanted someone to claim
she was naive - what a shame

So like a king upon his throne
he will continue all alone
She forgives him, it's OK
She will survive another day

Her love for him was one of a kind
another like hers he will not find
So here is where she says goodbye
Gone with all her reasons why


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A Native New Yorker, her poetry expresses her thoughts about life, love, nature and human emotion.

Within Their Soul

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Contributor: Courtney Mills

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Glimpses of brown, gold, and green
Slips of blue that shine bright
The door that slowly opens
When you stare long enough into the depths
Getting lost deep within
But not wanting to find the way out
Forever staring
Forever gone

Glimpses of smiles or smirks
Slips you see through the facade
The pain you know they hide
When you see deep into their hearts
Getting to wander further in
But scared of losing grasp
Forever wanting
Forever held

Glimpses of past and present
Slips of the future they want
The grasp they have on you
When you get to know everything
Getting held onto
But afraid of when they let go
Forever fearing
Forever hope

Glimpses of their heart and soul
Slips of what makes them
The happiness and joy
When you know its their love
Getting caught in the wave of emotion
But not wanting to let go
Forever clinging
Forever lost


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Persona Killed Personality

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Contributor: Kevin Tai

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Why are our names chosen for us?
From birth, our identities are determined
by the ones who know us best. But,
do they really know who we are, or
do they know who they want us to be?
Do they want us to live our life or
the life they regret they left behind?

All of us have secret identities, hidden,
from the hunger of the judgemental world.
Which of my friends is secretly a superhero?
Teachers are sadists, taking pleasure as
originality becomes conformity. We struggle
to stay afloat in this sea of hectic insanity, and
the heaviest items are our unique personalities.

Multi-dimensional people don’t fit well
in tidy boxes. So, why do stereotypes exist?
Are we not able to comprehend anything
new, and must cram every person into
our preconceived notion of who they
should be? If we’re not careful, we’ll
wander into one of these caskets ourselves.


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Kevin Tai is a lunatic, as he often stays up late to photograph the moon. However, he is down-to-earth and logical when he is building and coding robots. He just wishes he could create one to revise his writing pieces.

One

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Contributor: Bruce Levine

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A new day
A new life
Parting with the old
But never parting
Holding on to golden moments
Like a bee sleeping
In the palm of your hand
Looking toward newly made memories
In a Tiffany setting
Made of silver and platinum
Crafted by the deft
Hand of fate
Intertwining two lives
Like Rococo filigree
And sent off
To find their destiny
Amid the chaos
Of emotions
That can only be resolved
As one


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Bruce Levine, a native Manhattanite, has spent his life as a writer of fiction and poetry and as a music and theatre professional. His literary catalogue includes four novels, short stories, humorous sketches, flash fiction, poetry, essays, magazine articles and a screenplay His works are published in over twenty-five on-line journals, over twenty-five books and his shows have been produced in New York and around the country. His work is dedicated to the loving memory of his late wife, Lydia Franklin. He lives in New York with his dog, Daisy.

Regarding Going Home Again

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Contributor: John Grey

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I'm staying at the old house,
my old room,
single bed,
same posters on the wall,
same tree through the window -

but outside.
a stranger's kids
are throwing up a basketball
into a hoop

and the woman next door
is now the old woman next door -
her once black hair
is goose-feather gray

and the house at the back
has three additions at least.
not counting the barrage
of rose bushes up against the fence -

and I look up
and I'm not even sure
if that's the same sun
that used to shine hereabouts -

and even my mother
wavers between the familiar
and the unrecognizable.

Five in the afternoon may be a different time.
A kitchen and a bathroom
might have traded places.
Eyes may breathe air
and lungs see their way around corners.
And I need to keep away from mirrors.
I may not know who I am.


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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and the Dunes Review.

Corporate Vegetables

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Contributor: Sheshu Babu

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"Onions! Tomatoes!
Potatoes! Sweet potatoes!"
She would yell
Knocking doors or ringing bells
And women would come out to bargain
And purchase her fresh vegetables again and again.

She would go home after a long struggling day
Emptying her overhead basket on the way
And feel elated to count the notes and coins
Earned through enduring unspeakable pains.

Those days are over.

She still starts with weighty basket over her head
Carries all kinds of vegetables meticulously spread
Stares at the doors locked inside and outside
She hears no sounds of vegetable-purchasing women far and wide
As she strolls down the by-lanes and busy cacophony streets,
Crowds of women pass by with vegetable plastic bags sounding rhythmic beats
Purchased from wholesale corporate malls
Or attractively arranged retail stalls

She meanders thru and reaches home
Dreary evening, hunger and thirst welcome
Her with hopeless, uncertain future
And force her reconcile with the grim picture

Her basket is full of vegetables and tears:
The result of impending corporate domination fears
She is one among those petty vegetable vendors
Whose lives have been destroyed by selfish, industrial predators


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Baby Annie

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Contributor: Amanda Phang

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I used to be
a lonely child
since mom and dad
were always busy.

I was left with some toys,
a few coloring books,
and stuffed animals
that were all fuzzy.

But one day they came home
with a tiny person
and they announced,
“This is Baby Annette!”

I was confused;
we already had a fish.
Why did they bring
another pet?

I later understood
that she wasn’t just
another fish
of a different breed.

I helped her walk
I helped her read
and soon she grew
to look a lot like me.

Now “Baby Annie,”
which is what we still call her,
is no longer
a baby anymore.

And after all these years
of her being my companion,
my best friend,
I love her forevermore.


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