Agnostic in Hospice

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
One by one
each brick falls.
No mason now
can fix the wall.

Here comes
another cannonball.
Nowhere now
for him to go.

A prayer can’t hurt,
he tells himself,
if someone’s
on the other side.

For years his friends
have said that’s so.
What if they’re right?
Too soon he’ll know.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nested Woman

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

- -
In my drifting state I imagine my children
as they will soon un-layer me. First--this is easy--
they’ll strip off the husk I became at last; hurl away
the bottles of useless pills, cans of pretend food, all such
hated, well-meant insults. But

inside the husk they’ll find the woman they knew, or
thought they did, who drove them to school when
the mountains echoed with birdsong, endured their
sicknesses and the beatings of their tempers, adored
the ashtrays they made for her in fifth grade--although
she hated smoking, cheered their races, and let them go
when it was time. Hers
are the easy touchstones: mixing bowls and
hiking boots and their kindergarten artwork, and
her fifties-green, round-shouldered electric
Smith Corona. And

under these they’ll confront the woman, unlined
and smooth-lipped, about whose life they never
thought to ask, whose face, even, is a stranger
to them. Perhaps I should have told them
where the little painting came from, and why the box
in the drawer, inlaid with mother of pearl,
is empty, and how my mother, who hated sewing,
made for my child-self the quilt I took from her house
when she was dead. Yes,

I think, maybe I should have told; but
then it hardly seemed to matter, and now
the sky is clearing in the mountains
and I am a rain cloud under the sun.

- - -
I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.


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Contributor: Lynn Nicholas

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Crystal structure:
Three dimensions on a lattice
Ordered perfection
Splitting clean on cleavage planes
Refracting and reflecting light

Human Structure:
Double-stranded molecules
Weakness planes
Pressure from external stresses
Darkening and dimming light

Chemical structure:
Reshuffle signals in the brain
Symmetry lost
Darkening matrix of depression
Extinguishing and snuffing light

- - -
Lynn writes out of Tucson, AZ, supervised by two dog friends and a black cat who loves to straddle her keyboard.


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Contributor: Michael H. Brownstein

- -
You told me graveyards are that loud
and you were right. Noise skittles over crab grass
and dandelion greens, over locust stone and devil's claw
thick with spikes and wooden lures bloody for light.
Passageways of water flow beneath them,
and the voices flow with them gray
and waterproofed, overcast and significantly silent.
We are a people of mourners, Hire us. We cry on cue.
like vultures at the edge of the Ethiopian frontier
or elephants leaving their path to caress
the bones of a sister. We can scream like warplanes,
rend our clothing into scars, draw the tattoo of death
exactly as a battle begins. Remember it was us
who rat bombed the islands off Panama in 2001
and it was us who people bombed
the villages of Central Afghanistan.
We are one hundred sixty pounds of manure,
blood, gravel, fog--not enough
to cover all of the newly dead, but enough
to ensure there will never be silence in the graveyard.

- - -
Michael H. Brownstein has nine poetry chapbooks including A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004) and The Possibility of Sky and Hell (White Knuckle Press, 2013).

Bruce and Lydia

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Contributor: Gordon Lawrie

- -
For someone recently bereaved, who's also a recent contributor to Leaves of Ink.

Who knows how they met?
Across a workplace desk, in a supermarket aisle,
Perhaps at a party, or on the internet,
Or in a crowded room with a quiet smile?
What caused their paths to intertwine
And journey down the crooked road
Together till the end of time?
No matter: the record showed
They overcame each trouble shared
With the strength of a mighty army.
Like wild winter geese paired
They planned their Springtime journey
Northwards home to cooler parts.
They travel now with heavier hearts.

But look! Can't you see them there –
Flying in formation in the skies,
High above in the cold, clear air?
Open your heart, open your eyes,
Up on the freeway they can go anywhere,
Wings beating in time to an open mind
The days will lengthen, the clouds will clear,
And joy and serenity unconfined.

- - -
I'm primarily a fiction writer of all lengths: three novels all the way down to a mountain of 100-word flash fiction. Poetry is only an occasional vice.

Back to Bed

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Contributor: Martina Ysabel Pedrina

- -
It has gone way too long
since my bed has been rested upon.
I can't keep my bed unemployed,
as it is the one that gives me comfort and joy.

Without me, my bed has no purpose.
For I am the one who made the purchase.
At midnight sharp, brain cells regenerate,
which is why I should begin to hibernate.

I could give myself a head start,
as this is an important event that is set apart
from all of my other responsibilities
so please let me sleep in a proper facility.

Sure, you can rest upon a lounging chair,
but when you're in a bed, there is nothing to compare.
I can't just take a nap on a lousy little couch,
because I would wake up and start acting like a grouch.

The only place where I'm truly at peace
and my amount of sleep would finally increase.
It is the only place where I feel relaxed,
as I yearn for the evening when I come back.

- - -
Martina Ysabel Pedrina tries to capture all of the different aspects of her life. Whether it was learning something new or fulfilling long-term goals, she makes sure that she can keep hold of these memories through the art of film. Even if her day wasn't the greatest, she never considers a single moment to be unmemorable.


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Contributor: Tiffany Lee

- -
Scarves wrapped around necks,
Smoke coming out of chimneys,
In the white outside.

Laying on the ground,
My bulldog plays with the ball,
With his paws and mouth.

Thanks for your service,
For being brave and fearless,
This day is for you.

Within the meadow,
The birds chirped and the bees buzzed,
To a melody.

Pumpkins on the ground,
Warm apple cider in mugs,
With ham on the plate.

Under the cool shade,
We sip ice cold lemonade,
To escape the truth.

- - -
Tiffany Lee loves exploring and graphic designing. Every time she looks at a shirt, she’s always wondering how she can make her own design better. When she’s not experimenting with designs on Photoshop, she’s improving her calligraphy and painting with watercolors.


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Contributor: Alex Vuong

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Run. That’s all I can do.
I’m trapped in a labyrinth with a monster.
I book it around corners of the maze
Desperately seeking a way out.

I keep running through the maze,
Following twists and turns, never slowing down,
For if I do, it will catch me.
And there is no escape from the monster once it gets a good hold

Then I see it, the light.
Down a dark corridor shines a white light.
It’s almost surreal, it’s so bright it hurts my eyes,
I run for it, the light is so close I can almost feel it.
The warm glow and sweet relief. I step into the light

Everything is quiet for a second.
Then the light dims and I see where I am at,
Still trapped, in my mind.
And depression is still after me.

But the light gave me hope.
Just for a moment, everything was still.
It was like I had actually escaped.
Like I was loose of depression’s hold

So I keep running,
Not knowing how or when I will be free,
But knowing I will get there as long as
I keep chasing the light

- - -
Alex Vuong lives his life out loud and in vibrant color. He loves to put on his headphones and dance through his room. Alex is always looking for opportunities to learn new music and create more art.

What Was Warm

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Contributor: Annie Lin

- -
The shower doors are fogged
from the water’s steam
I basked in
the soapy rose aroma

My skin was red as a tomato
Pruned from the water
As I left
its warm confines

I’m sorry I’ve taken so long
I know there’s no
hot water left now
But I couldn’t resist the comfort

- - -
Ever since she was young, Annie Lin has been doing all kinds of outdoors activities, including hiking and biking. Drawn to the atmosphere of nature, she keeps busy with figuring out the animal shapes of clouds and learning more about cultures beyond the city life. She is frequently out in the sun, often finding herself to come home with an awful tan.

Her Pine Valley Landscape

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

- -
(Alfred Mitchell, c. 1940)

In the diaspora of her treasures, to me drifts
a tiny painting, very old, backcountry colors
in dots and swirls and sweeps: a scattered village
in a montane valley dozing
on a winter afternoon of green hills
under a snow-laced ridge
and pale sky; an hour trapped,
like a seed in amber. Stories--
hers, the painter’s, mine--braid together
in its silver-gilded frame like colored threads
humming in the wind that knot together
for a moment, before they blow away.

The painter is long since gone. My story
I know. Hers--how this came to her
and why--only teases me in some
nearly-remembered tongue; the words blow
past my ear like a light wind through
a valley on a winter afternoon
and disappear. I listen, but the edges
of her face reverberate, and begin to blur.

- - -
I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.


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Contributor: Stefanie Bennett

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I've played down my stock of years
And kept the improvisation:
For myself:

I designed the first heresiarch.

Mother to stone, feathering atmospheres,
My children hung as pendants...
The genetics of all.

I set the showground going.

The Muse had something to do with it.
The torch-swallower. The giantess
Of 'o' - and the gale that followed.

The tongue? It won't cease there.

- - -
Stefanie Bennett, ex-blues singer and musician, has published several books of poetry, a novel and a libretto, and worked with Arts Action For Peace. Of mixed ancestry
[Italian/Irish/Paugussett-Shawnee] she was born in Qld., Australia.


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Contributor: Judy Moskowitz

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The front line of hell, where silence dwells
through sealed lips
igniting a flame thick as anger
silence hears everything inside its vow
needing to have a voice
whether thin as a whisper or
making noise
silence carries the weight of conscience
when it becomes deaf to cries
inside a slaughter house

- - -
Judy Moskowitz, a professional jazz musician, has been published in Poetry Life And Times, Michael Lee Johnson's anthology, Indiana Voice Journal, Whispers Of The Wind. Her poem Modigliani was nominated best of the net.

Big Walleye for Emma

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
Never a man to dawdle
Gramps got around,
he reminded his Emma,
until gout told his foot
to marry his ottoman.

So he paid for a cab
to visit Doc Morton,
a man he hated to see,
then stayed off his foot
for another two weeks.

Neighbors came over
and Sally next door
brought a big apple pie
and a case of the flu.
Gramps sampled both.

In a matter of days
he developed pneumonia,
went to the hospital,
faded away after
telling his widow-to-be

no reason at all to worry.
He just had a bit of the flu.
Come summer, he’d catch
a mess of big walleye
only his Emma could fry.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Pursuit

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Contributor: Alysia Wong

- -
Gone tomorrow and maybe even within minutes,
for she cannot be bought even by the richest.
Can she be received or must she be achieved?
For her name is Happiness and likes to be a tease.

I open my door to welcome her,
but she likes to make me wait.
I can hear her voice singing in my ears,
but she is nowhere to be seen.
I finally surrender and turn off my lights,
she is not coming tonight.

I slowly make my way to my bedroom,
dragging my feet as my head hung low.
I take a final peek out the window,
and see a silhouette waiting for me on the porch.

I rush to the door as my heart pounds.
Illuminated by the moonlight, our eyes lock together.
I welcome Happiness in and reach out for her.
She slips away from my grasp and tells me
to wait one more night.

- - -
Alysia Wong works part-time at her local optometry center. When she is not learning about hyperbolic paraboloids, she is watching vlogs on YouTube. Alysia hopes to one day visit the Eiffel Tower in person, instead of seeing it from her computer screen.

Horehound Candy

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Contributor: Carl "Papa" Palmer

- -
Seeing it on the country store shelf
reminds me of Dad.
Horehound candy, a name snickered
at when I got older,
a flavor not really to my liking,
a root beer licorice cough drop taste,
but still, it was candy
and what kid would turn down candy.

Dad would always buy one stick,
snap it in two, hand me my half and
say, "too much sugar'll spoil supper,
plus a penny a piece is ridiculous."

I don't remember the first or last
time he bought me a stick,
I just remember he always did,
a sort of father son rite of passage
when horehound was on the shelf.

So I ask for one of the candies,
pay the ridiculous price of a quarter
and put half the stick in my mouth.
It tastes just like it did back then,
but I don't remember when it ever
caused a tear to fall from my eye.

- - -
Carl "Papa" Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, VA now lives in University Place, WA.
He is retired military, retired FAA and now just plain retired without wristwatch, cell phone alarm clock or Face book friend. Carl, Hospice volunteer and president of The Tacoma Writers Club, is a Pushcart Prize and Micro Award nominee.
MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever

Morning, Orcas

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

- -
This is the ritual: stand naked
on the bluff before dawn and watch
the night begin to melt at its edge;
watch the hills across the water emerge
as shapes reflected in glass, for no air moves;
watch a band of light spread coral
at the horizon like a breath of grace;

pretend you are the first human standing, on
the first morning, the uses of air and forest, land
and sea still to be discovered: it’s just you
and the earth, all one, and the smells
of cedar and salt water make you want to run,
shout, be still, all at once;

watch the sun breach the ridge and drift
into the sky, where you can’t look at it
any longer; the breeze that rises
with the day swirls against your skin and
riffles the surface of the water, gusting drops
of sunlight toward you.

Reach for them. Understand you will
never touch, for you are separate now.

Later, run to Diamond Lake and watch the diamonds
skitter across the surface like wind made light,
while two ravens, who have been here since the beginning,
circle in the eddy overhead.

- - -
I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.


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Contributor: Sravani Singampalli

- -
I have seen those
Breathtaking cherry blossoms,
Wonderful cascades, serene woods
And lonely valleys.
I really felt happy seeing
All the beauties of nature.
I never thought of anything
More beautiful than this
But when I heard the laughter
Of those poor innocent children
When I saw them jumping in happiness
After receiving goodies
I changed my mind.
That old man in their street
Is perhaps more fortunate than me.
He can behold this every day
Selling his delicious roasted peanuts
And giving some to these
Poor little kids
At the end of the day.

*Elysium- a place or state of perfect happiness.

- - -
Sravani singampalli is a 22 year old poet from india. She is presently pursuing doctor of pharmacy at JNTU KAKINADA university in Andhra Pradesh, India.


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Contributor: Blake Garlock

- -
It was crisp and cool
But the blood was warm
Gathered in small pools
It led me through the ferns

Not far in I begin to worry
The mahogany red pools fade
Will I lose my quarry?
I lose faith, but morals keep me going

When morale has hit an all time low
A brown blob in the leaves fills me with life
Respect, thankfulness and honor overtake me
But there is no time for that, for the work has just begun

- - -
I am a current college student and emerging writer. I enjoy the outdoors and writing.

Strange Dreams

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Contributor: Peighton Macatuno

- -
I blanked out, about to give up control
What could I do
in a dream I couldn’t understand?

Suddenly the pain began to fade.
I was lying in bed, hearing nothing but the alarm
on the table by my bedside.

Was I still asleep?
Darkness was a recurring
character in these nightmares.

My eyes finally opened
and I wiped away tears
I didn’t know were falling.

Every night I slept
I could not remember
why I couldn’t forget these dreams.

- - -
Peighton Macatuno will eat anything once, as long as it’s at least half-dead. When she’s not eating, she’s practicing the piano or tutoring students in music theory. She chooses to help children over animals because they are easier to communicate with.

Last Slice (after William Carlos Williams)

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Contributor: Noah Kim

- -
I grabbed the very last slice
of the pizza in the box.
I saw your hand reach for it too
but I was much quicker.

From the sigh of sadness,
I felt your disappointment.
But I still held firm onto my slice
as if it was worth a million bucks.

Forgive my selfish deed,
but it was very delicious
with the cheese oozing like lava
and the crust soft and crunchy.

- - -
Noah Kim believes that there is no task in the world more exciting than being on jury duty because judging and punishing people are his two favorite hobbies. Noah has many special skills, ranging from microwaving minute rice in fifty-nine seconds to unwrapping Starbursts in his mouth. If Noah could some up his life in one line, he would die of embarrassment.

A Ticket to Somewhere

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

- -
When I was eight
I jumped off a roof as if
I had a parachute
and broke a leg.
He was there when I landed,
told me to be careful,
said I was too young
and then disappeared.

In a high school game
I went up for a rebound,
came down on my head
and got a concussion.
When I landed
he was there again,
said I was still too young
and had better be careful.

In my late forties
I almost got hit by a truck
but jumped back in time
and landed on the curb.
This time he told me
I was no longer too young
and if I wasn’t careful
I might see him again.

Now decades later
I have been very careful
but I still watch for him
because the last time he said
every one of us has
a ticket to somewhere
with choices to make
and moments to decide.

- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


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Contributor: Stefanie Bennett

- -
Hard facts sleep softly
If you let them:
Grey shepherds
Conjured up
In 'The Good Book'.

Such occurrences
The mind
To itself...
Its humming

- - -
Stefanie Bennett, ex-blues singer and musician, has published several books of poetry, a novel and a libretto, and worked with Arts Action For Peace. Of mixed ancestry
[Italian/Irish/Paugussett-Shawnee] she was born in Qld., Australia.

No One's Calling

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Contributor: Suez

- -
An ominous rumble.
A blue chair
Balancing on two legs
In the dim corner
Against the grey wall.
Dingy yellow curtains
Ruffled edges dangling
Flit in the wind
Coming through the slimmest
Of cracks in the window
That rattles in its wooden frame.
A dead cell phone.
The freedom
Or the prison
To imagine
Almost anything
Or nothing
In pure isolation.

- - -

The Forest’s Not For Seeing Whole

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

- -
it’s for the fabric of bark: ropes
of fir, ribbons of cedar hair, red
madrona peels, alder mosaics
in gray raw silk;

it’s for the way ferns explode like
little green fireworks, branching,
branching, branching--their tiniest
part a fractal mirror of the whole

it’s for the calligraphy of sunlight written
in air, and the glitter of a turquoise
dragonfly in a glow of dust;

it’s for the muffled crackle
of invisible deer, squirrels snarking
at the feast, the giant who breathes
in the upper branches, the patient snore
of a rock weathering;

it’s for the sharp burst of unripe
blackberries, the crumble of rotting
logs, the hum of damp earth living
and dying;

it’s for all the inventions
of green, the perfection
of stillness, the permanent hush
of expectation, a hint of the world
when everything was forest.

- - -
I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.

The Shifters

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Contributor: Ed Ahern

- -
The creatures of the night
don’t lurk in woods and mansions.
They cave in cubicle and condo
until their sunset bat flights
to score drugs and hookups.
They shift not shape but being
into things denied by day.
Their eyes, rheumed at three o’clock
bear witness to misshapings.
Their smiles are the crumpled wrappers
of what they’ve smoked or drunk.
These creatures of the night
skulk outside themselves and simper.
They’ve escaped into the darkness.

- - -
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He's had a hundred eighty poemsand stories published so far, and three books.


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Contributor: Samara Golabuk

- -
Tip the dire ferment of my thoughts on edge
a spinning dime that slows and rests,
at tension with insistent gravity
(an unreasoning beast at best
and almost always right).

Where's this vaunted spell,
the perfect synchronicity of uncertainty and atomic structure
to let me bandit away on a thermal,
laughing breezily among the convections of clouds?
Unbidden skylark am I,
a would-be immigrant of the firmament—
the vault that hoards no windows, only stars.

- - -
Samara is a Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Inklette, Eyedrum Periodically, Anti-Heroin Chic, Eunoia Review and others. She has two children, works in marketing and design, and has returned to university to complete her BA in Poetry.


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