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Issue 197

This issue features


photograph by Jim Cumming,

poetry by Shakira Croce,

poetry by Paula Goldman,

poetry by John RC Potter,

poetry by Sally Wilder David, and


Jim Cumming


A Total Solar Eclipse Composite – April 8, 2024, Waterville, Quebec, Canada


Copyright © by Jim Cumming.




Darlene P. Campos


My Mother’s Voice


My mother's voice broke all volume rules.

The phrases “speak softly” or “lower your tone”

were never, ever taken seriously.

There were so many times when I could hear her,

especially down the hallways of her workplace

and I would follow the words, the pitch, and the melody

until I found her and then I would remind her to please use

her inside voice because, goodness, Mom,

people in outer space can hear you.

But now my mother's voice is much lower and she tells

me it's only temporary and her doctor echoes the

same message. She needs to exercise those vocal

cords more and more to regain their strength.

One day, she says with hoarse and strained speech,

this too shall pass.

Yet as I walk down empty hallways, I pretend I hear

her signature voice and it's booming and loud, like she’s

an impatient sports coach or a passionate drill sergeant.

“Those people in outer space, Mom,” I whisper to the silence,

“They want to hear you again.”


Copyright © 2024 by Darlene P. Campos.



A Sense of Direction


For five days, I lived in a hospital

as my mother’s caregiver.

I ordered her meals,

buzzed for a nurse whenever she asked,

and elevated her feet upon pillows.

During her afternoon naps, I would walk

around the hospital for two or three

hours without a break and return

right as she was waking up.

You didn’t get lost, she’d ask, in this giant place?

I would answer, of course not,

you have always said I have an excellent

sense of direction.

The day she was discharged, the patient transporter

loaded her onto a wheelchair and constantly made

wrong turns, bumped into walls, and took us in circles.

It’s this way, I finally spoke up, I figured out this

hospital in just one day.

When we reached the parking garage, my mother held

onto my forearm and panted as I led her to the car.

You always know exactly where to go, she said with

a fragile and tired voice. I smiled and didn’t mention

that for the last few months, I have been

completely lost.


Copyright © 2024 by Darlene P. Campos.



About the Author

 Darlene P. Campos earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, exercising, and going to museums. She is Ecuadorian-American and lives in Houston, TX with her husband and their eight rescue cats. Visit her website at



Shakira Croce


Fire Regime


A womb is

an empty space

for the most part, leaving


for rot or new growth.

Scraped into a clearing,

recognize the pattern

when the cycle fractures.

Storms rage and dissipate

now with ever-growing frustration,

unleashing devastation or

simply laying the groundwork

for an alternate habitat or


They whip across

flags spewing from the pole

raised for the open house.

Microaggressions hack

like a nasty cough on a crowded train.

Another wildfire

feeds on ancient trunks.

Some adapt to the frequency and intensity,

develop a thicker exterior,

shed limbs to protect.

Others succumb.

But what’s this?

Dormant buds awake

to the hush of smoke-scouring wind.

Acres of ash

lend to multiple sprouts

within the solitary diameter

one once stood. 


Copyright © 2024 by Shakira Croce.





Silly, no matter

what the subject


and how much we prepared

the talking points


it always ended

in tears.


At first choked back,

a pause


then glistening in infinite

courses across your face, still flesh.


The interviewer, having asked

for a simple response around data


would be forced to take a moment

to breathe, too.


And reconsider the follow-up question,

shift the framing to a dialogue


around your diagnosis.

Voices from the recordings


cascade through the cell’s clouded

speaker as I take notes. 


Your acceptance speech at the summit

is hard to make out through cries.


But your endless joy is clear

in the children


who ran with claps and skips like stardust

as you exited, gold in your fist, to applause. 


Copyright © 2024 by Shakira Croce.



About the Author

Shakira Croce is a poet living in Lynbrook, New York. Her debut poetry collection, Leave It Raw (Finishing Line Press, 2020), has received critical acclaim by New Books Network, Quill and Parchment, Ovunque Siamo, California State Poetry Society, Highland Park Poetry, Poetry Online Radio, and Mom Egg Review. Croce’s poetry has been published widely in literary magazines and journals, including the New Ohio Review, Pilgrimage Press, Shark Reef, Bards Annual, and Permafrost Magazine. She has been a Great Neck Plaza Poetry Contest Winner, a finalist in the Linda Flowers Poetry Award, and a semi-finalist in TulipTree Publishing's Wild Women Contest. After graduating with a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MPA from Pace University, Shakira currently works as Director of Communications and Public Relations at Amida Care, New York's largest Special Needs Health Plan supporting underserved populations affected by HIV.




Paula Goldman


Camille Claudel’s Yearning


                          after The Age of Maturity, 1902, Camille Claudel


“Your fingers slip away from mine in time and here in my sculpture I am on my knees begging you, to come to me, and yet, you cling to your old love, Rose Beuret. I clothed her as Clotho, spinner of destiny until life’s threads are cut. I tried to save you from old age and death. To fall in love deeply, to lose oneself so completely, to know ruin and despair, I gave you all, partaking in your work. Yes, I did the hands and feet in The Gates of Hell, and yet, there is no mention of me. Only a girl to your mature years, I stayed seven years your lover, never to live with you. You went home to Rose. I aborted our child. I could take no more, but I stayed for I had no money after my father died.  I was as good as you, a fact you could never accept. Yes, I learned from you, but you had someone else cast your work in bronze. Who has not wanted as I have cannot know what I’ve suffered, destroying my own works. Paul, brother, were you envious of my talent that you wanted me committed? Thirty years in an asylum, I chose not to leave. Mother didn’t want me; neither did our sister. Of course, I went mad. Auguste, you tried to help, and I spurned you.  Who has not been enthralled only to be disappointed cannot know my yearning.”


Copyright © 2024 by Paula Goldman.


About the Author

Paula Goldman's The Great Canopy won the Gival Press Poetry award. Late Love published by Kelsay Books is her most recent book.  Her work appears in many magazines and several anthologies.  She holds an MA degree in Journalism from Marquette University and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.  Former reporter for The Milwaukee Journal, she served as a docent and lecturer at the Milwaukee Art Museum for 25 years, living in Milwaukee, WI with her husband of 57 years, biking, hiking, and volunteering. Many of her poems revolve around artists’ lives, wanting people to recognize other dimensions of their selves.



Jim Cumming


A Total Solar Eclipse Composite – April 8, 2024, Waterville, Quebec, Canada


Copyright © by Jim Cumming.



 John RC Rotter




All eyes looking upward,

searching the heartless sky,

a darkened day on show;

Moon and sun in a dance, 

blinded by the event.


Voices raised yet not heard,

lives lived only to die,

dreams lined up in a row;

People are in a trance,

not knowing what it meant.


Call it an eclipse,

if you so desire.

Staring at the sun:

it’s a world on fire.


This poem is from the unpublished manuscript titled Walking in the Shadow of Someone’s Soul.

Copyright © 2024 by John RC Rotter.


About the Writer

John RC Potter is an international educator from Canada, living in Istanbul.  He has experienced a revolution (Indonesia), air strikes (Israel), earthquakes (Turkey), boredom (UAE), and blinding snow blizzards (Canada), the last being the subject of his story, Snowbound in the House of God (Memoirist). Recent prose publications include Letter from Istanbul (The Montreal Review) & A Day in May 1965 (Erato Magazine); recent poetry publications include From Vaisler Brothers to Tel Aviv (New English Review) & Chiaroscuro (Strangers and Karma Magazine). His story Ruth’s World (Fiction on the Web) was a Pushcart Prize nominee. His gay-themed children's picture book, The First Adventures of Walli and Magoo, is scheduled for publication. Visit:



Sally Wilder David


 For Lady Liberty on Her 138th Birthday


                The Statue of Liberty, Mother of Exiles; dedicated October 28, 1886




in this harbor of pure beginning,

you do not smile, wince, or shiver

but wait

on our abandon and self-abuse,

green and alone.


It has been years

since that sea-colored gown

first fell from your shoulder         

then rose, bold as an apple

beneath Bartholdi’s palms.


Genius, your face is not beautiful,

your Roman nose colossal.

What was he thinking of

to raise a woman so tall? 


How do you stand with us now, Mother—   

our tongues baffled, arms prodigious,

not what arms once meant—

only what the huddled masses fear? 


We have spoiled you, scuffed you;

made your souvenirs our stature, our self-reliance;

everywhere possibility, yet everywhere

owned by the few, not the many,


forgotten wires or a family torn apart.


Now we must climb inside you again,

tired and poor, filled

with promises of a fabled land. 


Lift us behind your eyes. We are all too short. 


Lady, forgive us.   



Copyright © 2024 by Sally Wilder David.



Stephen Ledesma


Hibiscus in Periwinkle, 24” x 30” oil on canvas, 2021

Copyright © 2021 by Stephen Ledesma.



About the Artist

Stephen Ledesma retired and moved to El Paso in 2016 and began oil painting shortly thereafter. Prior to his retirement he worked for the federal government as a healthcare designer in various locations across the country.  He finds oil painting a welcomed creative outlet without the bureaucratic bounds of working within the government.  El Paso has proven to be a good fit for him and his furry family.



 Sally Wilder David


World Repair (1.)     

For my mother, Dr. Alice Elizabeth Drumm, M.D.



 I wish I could tell you what it’s like here. 1


Gardens blossoming with magnolia, rowan, narcissus

used as remedies for thousands of years

before physicians discovered their wisdom.


Narcissus was my mother’s favorite flower.


The flower of Airmid, goddess of healing,

who, like Alice, knew by its scent it conveyed

   the favor of the gods

   and bathed in its oil.


Others soon did so and became well.

Airmid herself became an immortal flower.


That’s what it’s like here.





I don’t remember if I told you

how one day I rose again

from my bed no longer crippled

and began to use my hips for balance and motion

just as you do.


I learned how to walk without a cane, without

a staff or guǎizhàng.                                                              

You too can do this.


Pity those who laughed when I said I was getting well.

In silence I heard it

as I heard the word for walking stick in Zhuang in my head,

sought its meaning till I found it.


There are many languages besides ours.                                                                                           





Speaking to one, then another                                                               2

     I hear trees singing

            in their roots below, each after each until millions remember



     the wisdom of ancient people

     known to thousands of Cherokee 

                                       who, dying,


of spirits that lived below the earth


and, like trees,

   knew death and rebirth.


  In time all remember

the narcissus blossoms, recall their scent

            that wafts down from above


  forcing us to rise, recall the trees

and every blossom on earth.




How fine it is


that finally I have remembered what you said.                                                         



(1.) World Repair, Tikkun Olam, the ancient idea that each person is obligated to participate

   In changing the world for the better.


Copyright © 2024 by Sally Wilder David.


About the Author

Sally Wilder David (Mrs. Fredric Weinstock) has published in The Worcester Review, Anthology, 3Elements Review, Athena, Voices (international anthology; Israel), Silver Needle Press, Scarlet Leaf Review, Ekphrasis, The Anglican Theological Review, Pensive (Northeastern University), Open Democracy (prose: The Cup of Tears is Overflowing, as Sally David) and other publications. Sally earned Honorable Mention in a Writers’ Digest contest and First Prize in a Worcester County Poetry Association contest judged by Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Oliver.  She studied with David Wojahn, Madeleine DeFrees, Patiann Rogers, Mark Doty and Paul Smyth and corresponded with many notable thinkers & writers, including Bill Knott and Richard Wilbur. Sally lived and taught in Massachusetts for 33 years, where two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Wilbur recommended her to participate in a writers’ retreat at the VCCA in Amherst, Virginia.  Her chapbook and a larger volume of poems are ready for publication in 2024.



Review of 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem

by Nam Le (Knopf, 2024)


In 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem Le contemplates what it is to be Vietnamese because as he states “Whatever I write is / Vietnamese.  I can never not— / You won’t let me not — /” as with any immigrant, the new home / country is always questioning one’s reason for immigrating and loyalty to the new home. In his case, Australia, but with all immigrants, this would be true if it were France, the UK, Italy, or the USA. Yet you, whoever / wherever one might be, “are the living palm, / the wind, the phoenix song,/” For in the blending of the cultures, it’s as if there is always a new birth, perhaps out of the ashes or merely as a result of the blending of the dynamic cultural mixing that has been the case since human descendants left Africa over eons, developed into the plethora of cultures and civilizations that with time developed their own traditions, way of life, and respective values.


In various ways, he lets the reader know that genetic heritage is a real thing and that as much as one might want to ignore or deny it, deep in our molecular structure as humans, in our cells, our DNA will surface or in more common terms our “blood contains it. / What happened to them — / Your parents, theirs, all their kin—” Our present is a result of those who came before us. That their experience be it good or bad as is, is often the case with new in-coming  immigrants who are “picked on, picked last, left out,” and called a number of insulting names for being in the new land—wherever that might be, really, just substitute the people with another group—for all humanity repeats itself and raises its awful racist head be it with even others of similar related cultural groups, i.e., think of Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas—when the majority in the new found land choose to reject or spurn the newbies in the land. And what connects all the immigrants? In his case, it’s the Anglo-linguistic “Mitotic, mitogenic, mitochondrial. / Ceaselessly / Dividing, changing, charging./” dynamic of language that reaches out as if by a cultural spider until its web envelopes its societal bait as it molds its audience / catch (as it were) the “Émigrés./ “Exophones./” that they may in the end write in the “tongue” or as in his case English.


Here we have a philosophical and metaphorical dysection of language invoking Pound, the Romans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians to form/mold/shape the word “Into the lingua franca…/”  Yet is what remains safe or is it a coincidence of what remains for us to read and discern?


But we must not overlook the double talk of language which shapes our existence as with:

collateral damage or spillover they mean rounded-up death.” The cleverness of the language distracts us but its reality hits us as if drenched with freezing water.


As with all languages, people speak in code “everything is code. We know what they are saying / and we know what they are not saying,/” But thankfully as we bury our dead “the earth reseeds.”




Nothing escapes me


                        I am the escape


the vast secular seep   where nothing


need    mean    more than itself



In this seminal work, Le has graced us with a linguistic cornucopia of historical and genetic traces of our global humanity. This is a work that will make you think and rethink and perhaps it will help you uncover reality, the naked truth.


About the Author

Nam Le’s poetry has appeared in Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, Granta, Bomb, Conjunctions, Boston Review, and The Monthly, among other places. He has received awards in the USA and Australia; these include the PEN/Malamud Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award, and the Melbourne Prize for Literature. His short story collection The Boat has been republished and widely translated. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.



About the Reviewer

Robert L. Giron is the founder of Gival Press and is the Editor-in-Chief of ArLiJo. His latest book Songs for the Spirit / Canciones para el Espíritu was released in 2023.


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