Wanda Praisner

Mid-November, Walking Ski Hill Drive

Three days of wind and rain, a forecast
of more bad weather to come, even snow,
I’m out in the sun, sidestepping oak, birch,
and tulip leaves all brown now, brittle,
crepe-like—spines curved, disintegrating.

Then a find. A perfect red maple leaf,
only two pin-sized holes to mar it—
maroon, a matte finish like our leather sofa
where my love sat watching TV, his seat
cracked, sunken, a witness to his absence.

Nearing my house, I stop. A stag stands
motionless on my drive—a twelve-pointer
eyeing me as I’m eyeing him. About to capture
him on my phone, he bounds off, disappears
into the woods, beyond where I can see.

About the author
Wanda S. Praisner, a resident poet for the state, has received 19 Pushcart Prize nominations, First Prize in Poetry at the College of NJ Writers’ Conference, and the 2017 NJ Poets Prize. She’s appeared in Atlanta Review, Lullwater Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her 6th book is To Illuminate the Way (2018).

Wanda Praisner

After Twelve Years

It surprises, the low lament
slowly-rising inside me as I run
my usual mile around Ski Hill.

Hand held to mouth to dam the flow,
I manage a Hi to a young man
and his basset passing on the other side.

Once I knew everyone on the street—
when my son walked his black lab pup
here—the hill by the Heck’s where

he rode his ten-speed bike, the slope
behind Schweizer’s he skied—families
he knew mostly gone. I’ve learned

to keep still. To share, even with his dad,
causes unease, and why summon grief
to a day in no need of it. To remember

his voice and laughter brings despair,
his smile, darkness, the flash of his
green eyes in anger or delight,

bituminous night. I can no longer read
his stories, look at his drawings
or display his photos. Nothing to do

but go on—a new dog bought
just days after he died—twelve years
now, she old and slowed.

I push and poke her bedding
back into its newly-laundered cover.
The fit, never the same.

About the author
Wanda S. Praisner, a resident poet for the state, has received 19 Pushcart Prize nominations, First Prize in Poetry at the College of NJ Writers’ Conference, and the 2017 NJ Poets Prize. She’s appeared in Atlanta Review, Lullwater Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her 6th book is To Illuminate the Way (2018).

Lavinia Kumar

Torn Photograph

Father – your father’s many photos
of hounds and horses
hid one of you and your sister,
a postcard of actress Margery Bryce,
and two sides of a torn photograph –
your mother separated from your father.

I heard – well into my adult-hood –
your mother was put in a bleak
Cork mental hospital.
Did your physician father put her away? 
Old news photos show
mattress-strewn floors, scattered
ragged clothes, toilet-roll-littered courtyards.
No soap, no toilet seats. Mice.

She died there in 1958.
We should have known
we had a grandmother.
Where’s your shame?

I found two 1940s letters,
from that Cork hospital.
In one, plans for your young wife
to visit your mother.
The other, urgent request for money –
your mother’s need of eggs,
milk, tea, rice, sugar,
               I wonder if you sent it.

About the author
Lavinia Kumar
has published 3 books (most recent, No Longer Silent: the Silk and Iron of Women Scientists, 2019) and 4 chapbooks (most recent, Beauty. Salon. Art., Desert Willow Press, 2019). Latest poems are in River Heron Review, Hole in the Head Review, Decolonial Passage, Minerva Rising, Superpresent, & SurVision. Her website is laviniakumar.org.

Kristi Marciano

Family History

I am from gli accerani
leathered farmers sunstruck
and windswept pescatori
breathing salt breeze off the Tyrrhenian.
Women with skin the smell of zucchero
and homes of pommodori
dry calloused hands soaked too long in water
and flour.
Slang is sweet on our tongues and ears;
a language of our own.
Like ancient, cracked bowls
with gold in the seams,
we piece together words like beads
on the necklace of war.
Here we waste nothing for we remember
Lombards Normans Saracens Romans Greeks Etruscans
a village leveled by Hannibal
razed by Vesuvius
slaughtered by Nazis.
My great grandfather at the gates dalla città
Partigiano, Eroe
fighting to protect his home
of three-thousand years.
Vai, andiamo in America.
Fleeing, haunted voices drape
a lingering sable shroud
upon the azure coastline.
I imagine my grandmother
pale, ravaged
cancer twisting through her veins
like roots clasped to bedrock
prayers rolling off her tongue like incense
swirling to the skies
to grieve
a land torn
a home fled
a lineage split
enduring only through stories
and tambourine bells on the wind.

About the author
is a professional content writer specializing in environment and sustainability writing. She is currently earning her master’s degree in science writing from The Johns Hopkins University. You can follow her on Medium @kmarciano and on Twitter @kristi_marciano, or you can reach her at kristimarciano1@gmail.com.

Steve Smith

Like a gray ghost in the cemetery of my memory

the shuttered Alcoa aluminum factory in Edgewater, New Jersey
looms, taking me back to when my friends and I would squeeze
through the chain link fence, past the No Trespassing signs,
climb through cracked windows to explore the stained concrete
rooms and floors strewn with rocks, broken glass, twisted piles
of metal wire, broken palettes and rusted pipes…our noses
seared by the remnant scent of toxic chemicals and dead vermin.

Once the town’s pride, provider of livelihoods, the pounding
aluminum presses resounded throughout town like the stomps
of a dinosaur. Neighbors with gritty faces carried lunch pails
through the gaping maw of the entrance, wearing hard hats,
protective gloves and safety glasses to operate machinery
and furnaces that hissed, thundered, glowed the windows orange,
sprayed them with firestorms of white hot sparks, those workers
came back when their shifts were done dark circles
under their eyes faces charcoaled with metal dust…only
to come down with mysterious illnesses after the company
abandoned town in 1964.

We watched rays of light slant through the broken windows casting
strange angles and figures on the walls as we went from room
to room, exploring, chilled by the echo of our own footsteps
and shadows and by the cold air whistling down the stairwells
like the murmur of something that still squatted there in the vast

About the author
Steve Smith
earned a BFA at the school of visual arts in NYC. Steve’s poems have appeared in the Kelsey Review, US1 Worksheets, The New Jersey Journal of poetry, Paterson Literary Review, Nerve Cowboy, The Barefoot Muse as well as the Mid-West Prairie Review. Steve resides in Pennington N.J. with his wife Fran.

Blake Kilgore


put your fingers down
roll them into your pockets
lock the dragon in silence

now find your children
hold their hands and kiss their cheeks
escape these bonds of violence

About the author
Blake Kilgore
is the author of Leviathan (2021), a collection of poetry. A wanderer, he’s from the South and Midwest and now the Northeast. Blake used to be a preacher but walked away to find his faith. He’s been winding his way back now, and love of his wife and four sons is a balm. A junior high basketball coach and teacher, Blake is also refreshed by the idealism of his young students. His writing has appeared in Barely South Review, BULL, Lunch Ticket, and other fine journals. To find out more, please visit blakekilgore.com

Michael Griffith


In the casket, Pappy’s big hands are unnatural.
They shouldn’t sit that way, there, braided and pretty,
on top that button-up vest. (He never once wore a vest,
not even in that old brown wedding photo where
he and Grammy don’t look happy and don’t look old
and look like they’re holding their breath, where
they’re holding hands like children practicing.)

About the author
Michael A. Griffith
began writing poetry while recovering from a disability-causing injury. Mike teaches at Raritan Valley and Mercer County Community Colleges and hosts poetry workshops for the Princeton Public Library. He lives in Belle Mead, NJ.

Elane Gutterman

An Homage to Franz Kafka

A little girl Liselotte lost her favorite doll, just before Kafka,
hauling his burdens, met her weeping in the park.

Though he looked for the doll, helped Liselotte search again
the next day, the outcome remained stark.

Then Kafka pulled out a letter for Liselotte handwritten
by Belinda her doll saying “Please don’t feel all is dark,

I’ve taken a trip to see the world. Now, I must tell you about eating
cake the size of a castle with His Majesty the King of Denmark.”

At each visit Kafka shared the doll’s animated words. Liselotte grew
transfixed, her brave Belinda was sailing in a sea with sharks.

Finally, Kafka came back bearing the doll (newly bought).
“It doesn’t look like my Belinda at all, her hair, far too dark.”

But Kafka was the wizard of story plots, the wise
brother prodding his little sister’s spirit to spark.

He simply took out another letter. In it Belinda made clear,
“My travels have changed me, left their mark.”

About the author
Elane Gutterman
recently published her first poetry collection, Tides of Expectation: Memoir Poems. Her latest poems have appeared in Kelsey Review, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fib Review, and Shot Glass Journal. She is Chair of the Literary Arts Committee at the West Windsor Arts Center, where she is also a founding board member.

Adam Que

It Happens In The Reward Circuit

You were pressed lips against the jagged edge—
shoes that seesawed across the electric barbed wire.

You were a scarab flying through a tunnel of speeding cars—
a prank that left you to starve with only rancid almonds to eat.

You were a snake charmer tempting the cobra—
a skydiver plunging without a parachute

but something caught you in midair,
was it you had to be a better example

for little eyes, hands, feet—
did that purge your system?

You took the leap to live in another country
where its language sometimes sounds like prejudice—dare I say racism

but its opportunity sounds like if you’re willing to, then have!
And you created prosperity for you and yours;

but how do you stave off the creeps that want to jut up your nose—
the crashes of the rush that is seemingly parallel to self-mercy.

I sometimes witness you lose and grapple
with those demons that look like pirates with an eye-patch

wanting you to come back aboard and be part of the crew again;
though after the looting when you come to, the apologies still hurt.

I can say, you have to do more 
but I can also say, look how far you have come—

and I can say both lines to myself.

We’re not that dissimilar you and I—you and I
who howls at the pirates to stop—

telling them, enough is enough!

About the author
Adam Que
is a writer/creator from Union City, New Jersey. He competed as an amateur mixed martial artist and was working to become a professional fighter/athlete, until he rediscovered a need to share his raw creativity. This has led him down a path and journey that has truly sparked open his soul, which is shown through his work. He has most recently appeared in The Abstract Elephant Magazine LLC, Carcosa Magazine and Wingless Dreamer, as well as The Purpled Nail, GRIFFEL, Rigorous and others.

Carolyn Phillips

January 1

Vowing now
to change
to paint new life
over old
a palimpsest

About the author
CAT Phillips
, a resident of Mercer County, is a retired teacher of English. She has enjoyed publication in several journals, both local and national. She twice won a contest for ekphrastic poems describing sculptures at Grounds for Sculpture. She continues to meet with a group dedicated to reading and writing poetry.