After visiting the cemetery in the snow…

By Michael Dickel

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I’ve restarted many a wood stove’s flames
from sleeping embers when the firebox
remains warm. In the darkening evening,
a faint glow glimmers beneath snowy ash.
We watch it as sleep seeps into our veins.
Some stone tablets I suppose say the
Phoenix rises from ashes. But I cannot
catch those who sleep below the tinder’s
reach, or rekindle those beyond the oak’s
broken trunk that spirits signals into the sky—
all red streamers, white steam, black smoke.

– Michael Dickel

Author’s NoteMy wife and I  visited the too-new grave of my mother-in-law (of blessed memory), along with family and friends. A rare snow had fallen and the air chilled our bones. I listened to Psalms read in Hebrew, recalling the love we felt for her and she for us warmed me. Back in our warm home, reflecting on the visit, a North Woods farmhouse I once owned in the U.S., heated by a wood stove, came to mind. Those memories converged with the visit to yield a poem.…

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Ad Vitam

By Julie Henderson

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You ask
and I say delicious
(that cell/splitting glory that
unfolds until we expire)
            angels on fire
                        come remind us
that this life
is just a prayer

we have been
rendezvousing with the dead
in the small hours
            they say death is nothing
                        but a change of clothes
and setting the stage before
the next act

we are corpsing
our way
through a comedy hour
            so as not to let on
                        that we are amused
so as not to expose ourselves
as alive

while they climb Jacob’s ladder
we drive along the coast and
make waves with
            one hand out the window
                        pushing through air with an open palm
and it is our prayer
(all this living
is just a prayer)

– Julie Henderson

NoteThis piece was previously published by in December 2017.

Author’s Note“Ad Vitam” emerged from a conversation about the meaning of the term “corpsing,” which is typically used in television and film writing to describe the moment when actors break stride from their character and convulse in laughter. The other details seemed to coalesce around that main idea/image somehow to describe how quickly we must all abandon the dead in favor of the living if we are to continue in our journey with any joy or success.…

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Heroes and Villains

By Josh Darling

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Hearing myself snore, I woke. The ice cream truck’s muffled music penetrated the Tudor style walls of the living room. Outside, children spoke, shouted, and demanded over the looping circus theme. Other than ruining my life, why did the truck stop here? The ice cream truck driver knew better as did the neighborhood.

The whooshing of running water chased along the white plaster above me. He’d gotten in the “bath” by himself. From the angle of midsummer sunlight through the windows, he’d started at least an hour late.

Rising off the warm couch, I shivered in the air-conditioned home.

Footfalls pounded, moving away from the shower to the top of the stairs. He cornered banister. Andy, wet and naked, jogged down the stairs. His penis flopping against his thighs as his hairy gut jiggled.       

Yanking the front door open, Andy’s chunky flesh vibrated. He crossed his arms over his chest and stood legs spread –the pose of a superhero defending turf.

Moving up behind him, I replayed slices of what I’d learned in the mandatory Peaceful Restraint class. The truck was off center of the front yard. A hot summer’s day and the Pied Piper had the neighborhood lining up. Mixed in with the children, soccer moms clung to strollers.

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Interview w/ Magdalena Ball

By Carol Smallwood

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Magdalena Ball Ball has an English Literature honors degree from the City University of New York, studied at Oxford, and has business and marketing degrees. Her editorials, short stories, poetry, articles, and reviews, have appeared in many journals and anthologies, winning several awards. Her poetry books include Unmaking Atoms, Repulsion Thrust, and Quark Soup; her novels include Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening. (The Art of Assessment is nonfiction.) She collaborated with Carolyn Howard-Johnson in several poetry books and has a radio show and a review site. Finally, Magdalena is a research support lead for a multinational company.


Tell us about your highly successful review site, Compulsive Reader

I started Compulsive Reader nearly 20 years ago (!), after a website I’d been writing reviews for folded.  I really only intended it as a kind of personal blog—a place where I could put up reviews that I’d written as I was enjoying the review process very much, but it kept growing!  I started a monthly newsletter, the reviews flowed in from others, the subscriber base began to grow, and I’m still at it. 

How do you time manage so many interests?

Time management is always an issue for me—I’m chronically behind on everything, but I do try to be fully present on whatever I’m actually focusing on. 

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Oh, To Be a Cabbage

By Elisabeth Fondell

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In the aftermath of my father’s terminal cancer diagnosis, I “repatriated” myself into small town life in my hometown in rural Minnesota.

Among the major cultural differences between life in downtown Chicago and a prairie town of 1,500 people (population, ethnic food, lack of diversity, etc.) lie a few more insignificant quirks. Everybody knows each other. The same woman has been working at the grocery store since I was a child, my best friends’ parents run many of the businesses in town, people I don’t even recognize call me by name when I see them at the library. And because of this connectedness, one cannot simply mail a package or buy the newspaper or stop in to the butcher for a round tip steak without answering a line of questioning that always began with:

“How is your Dad doing?”…

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