By Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

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That on a day like any other
I walked hand in hand with my mother
away from the rose garden where my father
stood with his hunting rifle pointed towards
the sky; a place of promises, paradise and stars
or unseen angels who watched over the meek
and the wicked and sometimes intervened
if wishes were granted, if enough Hail Marys
were said and if some saintly soul
long dead was watching out for you.

That on that day like any other I heard
my father break my mother’s heart
with his threats of violence to himself
and anyone in close range, where I’d been
mesmerized by two robins who fed their young
as they flew back and forth from their nest
of twigs maybe a hundred times between them,
when my mother pulled me along the cobblestone
path into a grove of trees; our makeshift shelter
where bullets might weave in and out
of leaves and never find the mark or even
that mama bird whose beak was full of berries.

That on a day like any other, I walked hand
in hand with my mother, faster and faster
until we were long past the garden
far beyond the reach of my father
and his gun, when we heard a shot
then another, and I thought about those
baby birds waiting for their mother and how
in the middle of mayhem, they were unaware,
their necks outspread into the heavens,
mouths wide open, without a care.

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The Octopus: A Fable

By Tushar Jain

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Pariya Tenammi suffered from a unique problem that became the source of all his misery. It was this that rendered his life a mess, turning it into a series of unfortunate heartbreaks unfolding one after the other. For as long as anyone can remember, whenever Pariya fell in love, seconds after, he’d turn into a gigantic octopus.

He was all of eight when it first happened. One humid August evening, his new neighbour, Nomi, eagerly tagged along with her mother to make introductions. Pariya, shy, withdrawn, approached the playful Nomi, close to his own age, with some caution and an extended hand. An ageless offering of friendship. So, when Nomi cheekily swatted away the hand and pulled Pariya in an embarrassing embrace, he was flushed with something he’d never felt before.

In a flash, the room turned into a cauldron of screams. The shrieks bounced off the walls and seeped into the carpet, lamps, everything, ensuring no one would forget that day all too easily. A bawling Nomi was hurried out by her horrified mother. She was sternly told to keep her eyes averted from the nightmarish octopus.

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Lighting Candles with JD

By Beth Gordeon

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When you tell me you are writing about your heart, ask me for metaphors in triplicate, I suggest cake, sedimentary rock, the earth’s boiling core, knowing that your sadness is beyond the power of written language.  The chanting of indigenous rainforest tribes might capture the essence of your suffering.

When you drive to Mississippi because your lungs are crowded with Midwestern flora and fauna, persistent mold that grows in viper tongues and slithers into the basement while you sleep, I know your family doctor has pills, breathing treatments, the right tone of voice to assuage the fire in your chest.

When you buzz my phone at five in the morning, with descriptions of coffee, hungry dogs, weather forecasts, admonitions to eat eggs, I breathe easier, knowing that I wait for other words.  Notification that your mother’s genetic disposition towards congenital heart disease caught up with you at last.

When you tell me the story of your birth, I see the Eifel Tower outside your hospital window, a waterfall of nurses who speak with voices so luscious that every sound imitates star shine. You carry it with you for 64 years, you bring it out today, you breathe in la langue de l’amour, and blow out all the candles.

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By Kevin Risner

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On a bike. On a path. In the woods. Just rained.

Mud always sprays all around like the spotted redness of horror films especially when I twist the handlebars, curve the back wheel around at a sharp curve. This isn’t just a digging into the bowels of nature. We spray everything, marking each thing as ours. Every object. A tree, a path, this food, that animal, this person, that person, this idea, that philosophy. If it isn’t ours yet, it will be soon. And everyone acknowledges our conquest.

Our tracks are impossible to hide. If others follow our lead, they will find us. Even if we try to hide. They tread over the tracks. Even after a dry spell, the treads are the most natural pattern we know.

Kevin Risner

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