That Wallenda Gal

Wanda Praisner


After a bad practice fall,
she’s back on a tightrope,
says on TV she’s a bit nervous,
practices every day with her brother—
they’ve done the Grand Canyon,
Las Vegas—coming up: Times Square.
I like that she wears false eyelashes
for the coverage. Nice.

You’ve got to keep it all going.
I’m up there with her, pole-balancing—
not where I’d like to be,
afraid of heights and all—
but where my love in his dementia is
these last long four years,
as I learn to not lean to either side
too much, the need for patience,

a belief it will get better, one foot
placed carefully in front of the other,
feeling my way, wary of wind—
I, no high-wire artist, no bearer
of a 200 year wire-walk legacy,
who must get to the other side
without getting to the end of my rope.
She broke every bone in her pretty face.



About the author
Wanda Praisner, a resident poet for the state, is the recipient of the Egan Award, Princemere Prize, Kudzu Award, First Prize in Poetry at the College of NJ Writers’ Conference, and the 2017 New Jersey Poets Prize. She appears in Atlanta Review, Lullwater Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her sixth collection is To Illuminate the Way (2018).

I Was 19 Years Old When I Wrote My Mother’s Obituary

Amelia deGuzman


I wrote in those strange first few days
After. Time crystallized and fractured
And her absence poured in, slowly exploding.
It floated like smoke coating everything with
An ash of bone chalky white

I wrote it in that blank space
Those first few days after she died
It was easy to write –
Dates places people left behind.
What little life I tried to put into it
Was gratitude and irreverence:
I was writing to remind her
I was trying to make her laugh



About the author
Amelia deGuzman is a writer and spoken-word poetry performer, as well as a multimedia visual artist. After a decade-long gap in her education, she returned Mercer County Community College in the Spring of 2020, where she is a student of liberal arts, and the founder of Your Stories literary magazine. Her work has been published in MCCC’s The College Voice and featured with Trenton’s JKC Gallery.

An Abecedarian Conversation Between Two Star-Crossed Lovers

Stevie Voss


“All of life happens in 26 lines,” he says, voice matter of fact but still sincere. 

“But that’s so short,” I say, the air in my chest exits like my rib cage is a building on fire.

“Count that too, only 23 left,” he says not to me but to the ceiling. 

“Don’t speak, maybe we can wait it out,” I lay my head on his bare chest and pull him close.

“Everything ends, even the things we don’t start, our electrons are constantly in motion.” Frozen in place, I stare at him in the dark, suddenly aware of his existence in a way I hadn’t been before.

“Go on, say something,” he requests.

“How?” I ask, searching for a line from Austen or Shakespeare about how to love someone that can never truly be yours. Just borrowed. Kind of like an overdue library book. Like the longer I have him, the more it will cost me in the end.

“Maybe if you loved me less, you could talk about it more,” he says to the ceiling again. 

“Now there’s only 14 lines left” I say after a few minutes, unsure of how to say what I really want to.

Of course he knows what I mean and just says, “I love you too.” Pulling the covers up over my head, I turn away from him and wait. Queerly, he wraps his arms around me. Reluctantly, I pretend to hate it because it is easier. Silently, I wish it would never end.

The darkness of the room envelopes me, I decide it’ll be best if I don’t look at him. Usually that’s the worst part of goodbye: the look on someone’s face when they realize it’s truly over. Vanishing from their life, fossilized as the look on your face the last time they see you.

We sit quietly in each other’s arms when the end begins. X marks the spot where I feel his arms loosen around my waist. Yawning, I feel myself begin to drift. Zealously, the air in my chest exits like my rib cage is a building on fire.



About the author
Stevie Voss is an emerging writer from Manchester Township, New Jersey. Previously, they have been published in The Ekphrastic Review and accepted in the Scarlet Leaf Review. Their work explores queer romance with influences from Greek mythology, young adult fiction, and graphic novels. When not writing, Stevie is a student at Mercer County Community College majoring in Education. More information on their writing can be found on their social media, @Justtstevie.

Naked

Michael Griffith


we approach the bench, the gate,
that deep end of life. Lady J’s blind.
Lady J’s deaf. Her taste is off.
This stink is hers. It touches
all the way ‘round nooses and needles,
lethal viral vaxxer mask optional
super-size binge-watch blood-splatter
the lyric cop-killer WAP whip. TikTok
tic tic tic tic…


About the author
Michael A. Griffith teaches at Mercer County and Raritan Valley Community Colleges in central NJ. His three chapbooks are New Paths to Eden, Bloodline, and Exposed. Recent works have appeared in Kelsey Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, North of Oxford, Page & Spine, and Haiku Journal.

Still

Michael Griffith


For Kathi Paluscio


Lights off, door locked—
The classroom is so still.
Rows of faceless desks, their
empty seats would absorb no sound.
Only red ambient from the EXIT sign
and the stale carpet’s pale odors remain
in her vacant classroom.

                        .

An echo like lark’s song, a shadow,
then a bustle of colors, that swirl of sound
she was, that gust of energy and joy and
words only echo now, only ripples.
The lessons she shared ripple out,
touch beyond her reach, still. Her
classroom now someone else’s.

                        .

The classroom now alive. Voices
fill its air and new sounds pattern.
A spring, a summer, fall, still.


About the author:
Michael A. Griffith teaches at Mercer County and Raritan Valley Community Colleges in central NJ. His three chapbooks are New Paths to Eden, Bloodline, and Exposed. Recent works have appeared in Kelsey Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, North of Oxford, Page & Spine, and Haiku Journal.

Nothing Like that First Cup

Dave Olson

About the artist

Dave Olson has been a construction worker, a school bus driver, a student, and a teacher. He is in his 22nd year in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District where he works as a special educator. He is married and has two grown sons, and his family is everything. He has had drawings published in the Kelsey Review.

Grouchy Moon

Dave Olson

About the artist

Dave Olson has been a construction worker, a school bus driver, a student, and a teacher. He is in his 22nd year in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District where he works as a special educator. He is married and has two grown sons, and his family is everything. He has had drawings published in the Kelsey Review.

Two Sugars Please

Dave Olson

About the artist

Dave Olson has been a construction worker, a school bus driver, a student, and a teacher. He is in his 22nd year in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District where he works as a special educator. He is married and has two grown sons, and his family is everything. He has had drawings published in the Kelsey Review.

One More Month

Lauren Fedorko

About the artist

Lauren Fedorko, M.Ed., is an Adjunct Professor of writing at Rutgers University, teaches AP Literature and Creative Writing, and advises the Gay Straight Alliance for her students. Her passion for writing is longstanding and ongoing, composed mostly of poetry and creative non-fiction. She enjoys exploring, good company, and traveling the world every chance she gets. Her work has previously been published in the Kelsey Review and The Inquirer.

From the Editor…

As I was putting together this issue, I found myself smiling. Not because the pieces in this issue are especially happy—that’s never the case with literature, is it?—but because of the honesty and playfulness and even hope that runs through many of these pieces. From Janus C.’s hilarious and heartfelt horror-comedy to Ilene Dube’s eccentric bather, from Lauren Stanzione’s youthful cry “I Am Meant to Be Here” to Harvey Steinberg who is “Still Reading at Age 88,” these pieces, many of which were written during the pandemic, carry within them a spark to light the darkness. There is a sense that the act of writing these pieces, making meaning out of the moments and memories and pain and strangeness of life, is an act of hope. We may not be able to make sense of it all, but we can make art out of it, and perhaps we can even make it beautiful.

This issue has been woven together by the generous hands of so many people, who I would be remiss not to thank. First and foremost, thank you to my fellow Kelsey Review editors, Roberta Clipper, Luray Gross, and Ellen Jacko, whose artistry and wisdom helped curate this issue. Thank you also to the support of the Liberal Arts Department, including Dr. Dylan Wolfe, former Interim Dean of Liberal Arts during the submission phase of this year’s issue, and Dr. Robert Kleinschmidt, current Dean of Liberal Arts. Finally, thank you to Dr. Jianping Wang, MCCC President, and VPAA Dr. Robert Schreyer for their support of this project. It is more important than ever to support the arts, and these many people have shown their support for Kelsey Review.

Finally, a sad note: we lost an extraordinarily bright light at MCCC this year with the passing of Communications Professor Kathi Paluscio, a creative individual who was an ardent supporter of the arts. Our first poem, written by her colleague Michael Griffith, is a tribute to her, and this issue is dedicated to her memory.

Take care,

Jacqueline Vogtman

Editor