A Love Poem By Elijah Rokos

A mouthful of wildflowers
a mind full of tea leaves,


Sun brewed tea
lavender and lemon,
ice cubes in the swimming
pool, the bird’s song pecking,
off key and off beat.


An open sail
billowing in the breeze
of the Chesapeake Bay,
the smell, the smell,
the salt and the sting.

A mouthful of hornets
a mind full of poison ivy,


Elijah Rokos is an English major. He enjoys tea, gardening, and reading.

Take a Sip By Elijah Rokos

Each grey tree

a sharpened claw to gouge the sun,

every wall of the mountains a brittle
and black paycheck.


     The bears rendezvous

in the dumpster, snouts stuffed
in carry-out, and they don’t close

their eyes anymore.


The elk departed

in the road, too sudden to avoid,
is pummeled by tentative tires

and feverish tears.


Somewhere in the gnarled roots

of the ponderosa pines,
there lies the Fountain of Youth

and someone has pissed in it.


Elijah Rokos is an English major. He enjoys tea, gardening, and reading.


Wind-full Thinking By Emily Waclawski

The wind does not speak

It listens.

The wind can hear every whisper,

Every scream.

The wind can hear every thought,

Every secret.

It listens.

The wind witnesses every heart-felt memory,

Every heartbreak.

It sees.

The wind witnesses every sweet embrace,

Every slam.

It sees.

The wind can hear everything.

And for that reason:

The wind does not speak.

It listens.


Emily Waclawski is a 20-year-old English major at HCC. She has been an active writer and poet since she was 12. Other than writing, Emily enjoys playing guitar and ukulele, singing, and enjoys playing with her two cats: Mabel and Perseus.

Mountain Views By Abigail Miller

Above the tree line, it hits just how alone you are. You’ve traveled so far that the forest who once stood tall beside you, offering shelter from the less inviting elements of nature, no longer accompanies you. There were a few brave souls who tried, but only managed some naked trunks. Miles below on the ground, it looks like a hill lined with toothpicks, or a closely buzzed scalp.

But miles up, standing on top of the peak, is its own kind of beauty. It’s the place where you find snow in a desert, sweltering heat and bitter chill at the same time. The whole atmosphere a confusing and beautiful contradiction, perilous beauty that you could only recognize up close. Anyone can look up from the valley, see the mountain and say it’s beautiful. But what makes the opposite perspective special, looking down at the valley, and looking directly around you, is that fewer know the view.

Colorado “14ers” get their nickname for being over 14,000 feet above sea level, close to three miles in the sky. Even the oxygen cautiously wanes, not yet abandoning you, but just enough to keep you moving. The sun beats down on you to combat the brisk winds trying to knock you back down. But you’ve come too far to turn around, you must finish.

Right on the divide between towering evergreens and snowy sand, it’s a breathtaking scene. The pause between motion and complete stillness. Even the famous evergreens decided they were not strong enough to plant themselves beyond that line, yet there you are accepting the challenge to trek forward. And the reward is well worth it. For eyes who never grow tired of beholding nature’s glories, it’s a breath of fresh air. For the soul who must conquer uphill battles to grow—it’s a victory well won.


Abigail Miller is a Dental Hygiene major who likes to think she’s got a knack for writing. Her hobbies include hiking, sub-par mom van parking, asking to pet strangers’ dogs, and writing about all the above. As she continues exploring her passion for words, she hopes it’ll inspire the joy and humor in others’ lives, one snarky piece at a time.

Unearth By Jody Gerbig

The guy running the “real archeological dig” has me take the Number Nine bus to a non-stop alongside the freeway. He instructs me to tell the driver to pull over at mile-marker six. I wear khaki hiking pants, rolled and buttoned mid-calf, hiking boots, and a black t-shirt. The summer air has an unexpected chill to it, and I wish I’d worn a jacket, or something with pockets for my hands.

“Here we are,” the bus driver says, pulling onto the berm. I emerge from the bus alone, on the berm, with only my cell phone, some cash, and a photo I.D.  I wonder when the others will arrive and notice it’s already 5:35 p.m. I didn’t think to bring a taser or pepper spray, but I wish I had.

A gray Jeep slows on the asphalt and pulls over, its front dipping into the ditch marking the beginning of the field, its sides somewhat obscured from the road by tall grasses. A man steps out, all six-feet-some-inches of him. He wears faded jeans slung low on his lean hips, a hunter-green long-sleeved shirt, a plain baseball cap that covers peppered brown hair, and hiking shoes. I judge him to be somewhere between thirty-five and forty.

“Howdy!” he says, shifting a bag of rattling tools and a large spade to his left hand. “Miriam?”

“Ted? I wasn’t sure I had the right place,” I say. He extends his free hand for me to shake. It is warm and soft. I notice a pair of leather gloves hanging from his back pocket.

“Wow, you’re much prettier than I expected.”

My neck tenses. I have been called ‘pretty’ only a handful of times and never by a stranger. I feel my armpit drip with sweat. Ted is handsome. Not like Harrison Ford handsome. He’s clean shaven and smells like baby laundry detergent. I stare at his perfect row of white teeth as he smiles.

“And the others?” I say, fingering my cell in my back pocket, considering an Uber ride home.


“There are other people on this dig, right?”

“Oh, yeah.” Ted searches the horizon, as though remembering these nameless ‘others’ who had once filled the class. “They had, uh, another engagement.” He turns and smiles, his eyes inviting, like those of a guy passing me on a Sunday hike, out with his black lab, enjoying the stillness of the woods. “Just us.” He winks. “Sorry, not sorry.”

“Oh.” I shrug, letting my hand fall from my phone. “No worries,” I say, like someone else. Like a festival-going hipster.

When I filled out the form linked in the Facebook ad, Ted emailed me within the hour. I considered for a moment that “Ted” is an infamous serial-killer name. He wrote emphatically, Hello, Mariam! I have one spot open for an evening group dig this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Reserve about three hours and wear comfortable outdoor clothing. Please respond if you are interested in signing up and pay via PayPal on the link below!

I had so many questions: Where do I meet Ted? Do I bring my own shovel and brushes? Where do I buy a shovel and brushes? How many people are in the class? Are we digging on private property? His own, maybe?

My co-worker Jen, standing over my shoulder when I got the email, said, “You’re not thinking of doing this, are you?”

“It sounds fun,” I said.

“It sounds stabby. Or rapey,” she said.

“So, I shouldn’t go.”

“I dunno. He might be cute.”

I paid without asking the questions, and Ted sent me instructions with too many exclamation points in them.

But Ted doesn’t seem like an exclamation-point kind of guy in person. Not out here. Even with the teeth. He does seem like a quarter-life-crisis kind of guy, though. I make assumptions: he went to Harvard business school and then dropped off Wall Street two years in to be a rafting guide in Colorado—that is until he realized he kind of sucked at rafting, that he was way better at digging dirt and brushing dust off old poop pots.

Ted turns and walks toward the worn path, whistling a light tune anyone would follow. I know I should call the Uber. I feel like my next step could take me somewhere.

“Coming?” he says, turning only his cheek toward me, a half smile. He waves his hand over his shoulder—he will not wait for me. I take a full breath, clench my fists, step onto the grass path, and walk into the horizon.

Ted’s whistling is beguiling. I don’t even notice we’ve walked about a half-mile on a narrow dirt path, past some full-grown oak trees, until the low sun pierces my eyes.

“What do you expect to find today?” I ask.

“Oh, you know.” He pulls the gloves from his back pocket and slips them on his hands. The shovels and brushes rattle on his back as he strides, clinking together like a hobo’s pan and tin cup. “Sometimes we find native clay pots. An arrow head or two. Maybe something like that.” He turns his head slightly. I see a glint in his eye—the sun’s reflection. “What do you expect to find today?”

It is one of life’s questions. I don’t answer.

“How many times have you done this?” I say instead. I want to ask all the other questions, like whether he’s married, if he has any children, whether he’s close with anyone, but I don’t. I ask interview questions, as though I haven’t already bought the ticket and tromped that first piece of grass off the freeway.

“A few.”

The air is still, save birds fluttering hither and thither. I’ve always wanted to use that phrase, hither and thither. In accounting we use acronyms, like ETA, ULD, AR, LLC. We wear layers of polyester clothing, the office a deathly temperature fit for a sub-species of men. Our throats scratch when we talk, and we don’t talk much. Thus, the acronyms.

“So, what is Miriam like when she’s not following strange men through unmarked fields?” Ted says, glancing back.

“Sitting next to stranger men in cubicles,” I say. He laughs. I can’t help it—I fall for his self-deprecation. He has a nice laugh.

We walk twenty or so more yards, past a sign that reads Private Property, No Trespassing. Ted holds open a loose spot in a barbed-wire fence for me to climb through awkwardly and slowly. I count nine years since my last tetanus inoculation. We enter a clearing, speckled with limestone boulders, hedges, and dirt mounds. About two-hundred yards in the distance lies a line of deciduous trees. I can’t make out any buildings.

“Here we are,” he says. I stop and stretch, making mental notes about the direction we’ve gone (south), how far on foot (approximately a mile), the terrain (mostly flat and open, a dirt trail through tall grasses), should I ever need to remember. The ground on the site has been dug before, in neat four-by-six-foot sections with a flat-edged shovel—I can make out a clean edge—like rows upon rows of fresh graves.

“You sure we’re allowed to be here?” I ask.

“Oh, yeah. No worries.”

“It’s private property.”

“I worked out a deal.” He pulls off his tools and unbinds them. “A couple weeks ago I found some artifacts around here. I was with a few young ladies from the university. They loved it,” he says, like a man who holds forest-bed orgies under super moonlight. He looks up just long enough to wink and smile.  I picture girls in high pony tails, low scoop-neck t-shirts, and Daisy Dukes out here pecking at the dirt with the point of their spades. I shudder, feeling both revolted and jealous. Maybe even a little afraid. I remember some discussion in the spring about a new self-defense startup for such girls, and I wish now that I had taken one of the classes. But I am not a co-ed. I’m a middle-aged woman wearing a loose chignon with frayed grays around her temples.

“What kind of things do you do for fun?” he says, and I bristle, thinking again of the orgies under moonlight. “Dig in the dirt much?”

My mother rented a plot in a community garden once, outside our rented town house. She grew tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce, and I remember her outlining rectangles like these, each to keep track of what she’d planted where. Later I realized the cucumbers take over all of it.  “No, not like this.”

Ted shovels an outline of a new work area, the same rectangle as the surrounding ones, and as he works a bead of sweat forms on his brow. I find myself taking deep breaths, watching his arms flex under his shirt, noticing his back muscles grip cotton with each move.

“Here, sift through this dirt pile I’m making. Make sure there’s nothing interesting in it,” he says, pointing to the growing pile behind him. I squat down, my eyes level with his backside, and grab a handful of dry dirt. It slides out the bottom of my fist, now like an hourglass.  “You just might be a natural,” Ted says, and I blush.

Ted and I talk to pass the time—about high school and first dates, about junker cars and strange pets we’ve owned. He gabs more than I would’ve imagined, growing quiet only when describing a brown-eyed girl who lived next door. I think I should respond, to fill the void.

“You liked her?”

Ted seems not to hear. He bends over and digs a dozen or so strokes. In the middle of a shovel-full he remembers something that sparks the conversation again, a summer spent camping in Wyoming with his uncle. He talks feverishly about butchering his own deer. He is so youthful and excited about it all that I almost forget that he has killed and slaughtered a deer.

“—its entrails fell out like—” I hear before the horizon captures me, its large, jagged rocks and bushes like a rural skyline. A fantasy emerges: A storm has rolled in, and we are trapped in the woods. We need to make shelter. And huddle. We must huddle for warmth. Ted’s scruff has grown. I feel it on my chin as I shiver. He rubs my arms, and—

“I’ve never told anyone that,” Ted says.

“Hmm?” I’ve missed something.

“I mean, no one knows.”

“Oh, wow. Okay,” I say, now trying to remember the last thing he said, wondering if it was something clandestine, illegal even. I nod, but he doesn’t look at me. He digs instead, his sleeves now rolled up his forearms, his pace quickening. He glances at the sky, at the horizon where the sun begins to dip, where I had been staring when he confessed.

He wipes his forehead and meets my gaze.  “You want to trade?” He lifts the spade toward me. I pause, staring at the tip of the blade, maybe studying it for marks or something. I stand, take it from him and hold it like a shot gun, feeling its weight in my hands. I nod, lean over, and dig. It’s more difficult than I imagined, the dirt hard and dry and unforgiving. I feel sweat beading in my cleavage and worry that I smell. I wonder if this is Ted’s workout.

“Does it ever get easier?” I say, leaning in, pushing the spade into the hard, dry soil with my boot heel.

“Easier?” He laughs. “This is fun for me.” He fiddles with his brushes. I am so focused on creating the hole I don’t notice if he’s made any progress.

“I didn’t think it would be so violent,” I say, my arms aching. I have dug a sizeable hole. We haven’t found one artifact.

“Most things are, aren’t they?” He laughs. I don’t understand the joke. I am breathing heavily now: in, out, in, in and out. I feel dizzy. Do I imagine a buzzing sound? Birds, maybe? Hawks overhead? I squint into the sky, getting only an eyeful of sun.

“Hey, why don’t we take a little break?”  he says, leaning over and reaching into his left sock. From it he pulls out a flask. He shakes and uncaps it. I smell whiskey. He takes a long swig and holds it out for me. I could take it—I am only an arm’s-length away—but what then? Would we sit on a boulder and watch the sun set?

Was it too much of an impulse, coming here? I wonder. It was a damned ad on Facebook. An ad! I’d been riding the Number Six bus to work last week, like I had every day for fifteen years, scrolling through my Facebook feed, when a man, holding a morning paper under his arm, climbed aboard. I’d noticed him before, this gray-haired man still riding the bus to work, still reading a physical paper. He passed me and chose a back seat. I made some assumptions about him: he still sits in a cubicle; he often works late; on Tuesdays he eats lunch at Applebees; he has a secret life—some hobby or activity he does—that maybe his wife doesn’t even know about. In the moment I grew jealous.

That’s when I noticed the ad. You, too, can find hidden treasures! I clicked on it. The man with the paper coughed behind me. The bus jerked to the left, and I was forced right. I reached for the seat in front of me. The driver yelled, “Shit, man!” slamming his foot on the brake, leaning back so that his bald spot reveals itself to the dozen passengers behind him. The tires squealed. A woman screamed. In the street, a dog barked and then yelped. It is dead, I thought. I didn’t want to know. I gripped my seat. I took in a quick breath and held. This is it, I think. I will die today, in this rolling coffin of a life.

What did I know, then? Nothing. It was another life. She, a different Miriam.

“Aren’t we running out of time?” I ask.

Ted caps the flask and returns it to his sock, shaking his head. He is disappointed.

“I’m not.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Nothing.” He pulls the flask back. I stand, my arm resting on the planted shovel, my head cocked to one side. I’m tired, but I don’t drop the shovel. In the quiet, I study Ted: the sharp edge of his jaw casting an odd shadow, his pristine hiking boots, the brushes sticking awkwardly from the tool bag that, admittedly, might not be brushes at all. I feel tired. Very tired. I do want to take a break.

“Look,” he says, using his hands to talk, “I just meant that I’ll be back. You aren’t planning on coming back, are you?”

It is one of life’s questions. I don’t answer.

I think about the man with the paper, on the bus. About his secret life. Gambling? Jumping from planes? A girlfriend? A boyfriend? It would’ve been nice to have known him, I think—to have talked to someone through all those red lights between my apartment and the cubicle.

“Give me a swig,” I say, reaching for the flask Ted digs from his sock. I down a large gulp, the alcohol burning my throat, the low sun piercing my lashes—closed now like a Venus Fly Trap. The tonic tastes like death. Like all the countless things that have perished here, some deep and sand-like, some fresh and foul. I wonder which I will be. One of life’s questions.

I don’t answer.

I drink.


Jody Gerbig is a mid-forties, Midwestern woman raising three toddlers and a writing career. Her recent work appears in South 85, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and Litro Sunday.

As the Leaves Turn By Rebecca Embly

The leaves are just beginning to turn,

Yellow, orange, red, brown,

A reminder of the infinite cycle of life.


Dew rests cold on the tips of dying grass,

Worms wiggle on the wet pavement

And the birds chirp at first light.


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

The air feels brisk and our hair hangs,

Free in our face as the temperature drops.


And we fill our bellies at a constant rate,

With hot drinks,

Tea and cocoa warming our insides.


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And we hear our feet scuff against pavement,

And the wind seems more familiar.


The wind rustles the leaves,

And whistles through cracked windows,

Whispering softly in our ears.


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And we start listening,

Sounds speak louder.


The leaves and dew and worms and birds,

And hot drinks and wind and rain,

It seems, you’ve just appeared!


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And we stop to think for a second,

Realizing that life is constant but irregular, too.


These things aren’t seasonal, as we believe,

They are present and welcome all year round,

Why just now do we notice?


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And we know now,

That intensity grows for all things in the fall.


The colors and sounds prick our senses,

And whisper in our ears,

The secret of life everlasting.


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And we want to stay like this forever,

A year is too long to wait.


But what about a day?

Today the leaves are turning,

And tomorrow they will too.


The leaves are just beginning to turn,

And our self-awareness grows,

We know not just our life, but life around us, too.


Life can be blue and grey, low and dim,

But it can be beautiful and lively and colorful,

Yellow, orange, red, and brown.


When the leaves begin to turn.


Greensogreen By Buffy Shutt

Afraid of the pet-store bird who died.

Her sister retrieves the greensogreen


From her bedroom window perch, she watches her sister bury it,

Her father’s shovel from the hook in the garage packs it in.

She sees for the first time, their backyard is a cemetery.

Bones rest in soft shallow graves, a friendly intersection like

Young girls sharing beds at a sleepover,

Tingeing her suburb with loss.

Then life goes silently off track.

Spent, though surely unknown to her

Making up for it.

Trying to get the birds to forgive her

Not the death so much. The fear

Of them, of the greensogreen, of

Her sister.


Buffy lives in Los Angeles where she writes short stories and poems now that her time marketing films is up. In 2017, she was a two-time nominee for the Pushcart Award.

Story Time in the Tent By Kathryn Paulsen

Fireflies lit our way as Jim and I rode back from dinner at a biker bar in Williamsport, Maryland, to our damp and buggy campsite, four miles south on the C & O canal trail.  By 9:30, we were in our tent, reeking with Deet, eager for sleep after close to 60 miles of bicycling. But, although July 4 was still a week away, fireworks were booming all around, and sleep seemed a long way off.

I’d brought along an issue of One Story, a literary magazine that publishes one story per issue, figuring we could read it aloud to each other by flashlight.  I got it out, and Jim said he’d be glad to listen, but I’d have to read the whole thing by myself.

The story, “The Good Word” by Yannick Murphy, proved easy to read.  It was made up mostly of short sentences—the kind of prose, I thought, that would lend itself to being read on the radio. I wondered if it had been.  The style reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, or Raymond Carver.  The phrases “he said” and “she said” were repeated a good bit more than strictly necessarily—for rhythm, I’m guessing.  But the repetitions didn’t stop the story from moving right along.

The story was set in an unnamed tropical place reached by ferry. One of the characters reminded me of a guy from whom I’d rented a tent on the beach at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, years ago.  My first night in that tent, I lay awake in the dark listening to some critter outside crawling around the perimeter.  At dawn, I awoke to find that the critter was inside the tent, looking for a way out, and I had just spent the night with a scorpion.

On the C & O, we were happy to share our tent with a spider that Jim thought might eat mosquitos.

Jim held his flashlight steady as I read, and male fireflies cruised our tent, looking for love.

I read as if hypnotized, heard my voice as if it were somebody else’s—somebody who lived in the world of the story.

In a quiet way, the story turned out to be full of suspense, with surprising twists and a satisfying ending. “I think I was awake for most of it,” Jim told me when it was done.

The next morning, we were both still thinking about the story, and what it was about, deep down, though like most good stories, this one was about more than one thing. The author mentioned several of them on the One Story website, but none reflected our thoughts.

One of these days, maybe we’ll meet her and ask her. And tell her how we shared her story with the spider and fireflies—and the fireworks.


Kathryn’s prose and poetry have been published widely, and she also writes for stage and screen. Kathryn currently lives in New York City, but, having grown up in an Air Force family, has roots in many places, all of which she misses, and suffers from chronic wanderlust.

Rock Piles By Ed Ahern

When I used to hunt for deer

I’d park on a gravel road

and hike in a half mile

on a rusty railroad track.

At a leaning swamp oak

I’d veer into the woods and

brush burrow over a ridge,

to where two deer trails

meandered across each other.



I’d set my folding stool

between two large boulders

with a tree obscured view

of the intersection

and wait.

The deer paths cut through

a long-abandoned farmstead.

A toppling chimney and stone fences

were all that remained.

Most of the stones had

found their way

back to earth

but the pattern abided.



The deer never came.

I’d spent several evenings

watching the light wane

on a monument

that carried no recollection.

The aching hand work,

gathering and stacking rocks

to clear a spot to plow

was for abandoned purpose.

And I’d been relieved

that my presence was transient

and that when I left

there would be no evidence.


Ed resumed writing after forty years in foreign intelligence and international sales. Ed now works on the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories. So far, Ed has had over 200 stories and poems published, as well as three books.

Come Autumn By Brittney Deaton

The first crisp days of autumn, give them to me:

a brisk breeze making you finally reach for a jacket.


Give me the adornment of it: deep orange, rich golds,

trees losing their yearly cloaks, the sounds of birds growing more faint.


To hear the tractor start up again, it’s harvest time.

Apples, grapes, potatoes and pumpkins. The foods of the season.


I’ll take all of it, Father of Winter, the days darkening

as the sun is seen for fewer hours and night falls faster than before.


The first morning frosts, causing you to scrape the windshield

of your car, numbing your fingers until they feel nothing at all.


You see the clouds of fog as you speak and feel the twinges

of pain on your reddened and chilled cheeks. You don your


first sweater, gloves, boots, and a scarf for good measure,

sipping your cider as you carry on through the day as normal.


Now there are Friday night football games and the sounds

of the marching band. Everyone stands and cheers.


It is a season of change and togetherness as we step

into the impending ceaseless dark, keeping close to stay warm.



Brittney is a recent graduate of Central Washington University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English: Professional and Creative Writing. She currently lives is Washington State, where she is a substitute teacher.