Cityscapes By Dimple Shah

We are alone, walking on the street, staring at that particular nothingness that exists just a couple of feet ahead of us, at eye level.

We stand alone in the elevator, surrounded by pressing bodies jutting into us as the door closes on our 10 seconds quarantine. A smorgasbord of cologne and nicotine wafts over us while we observe napes and cowlicks, collars and wingtips.

We sit alone on the large floors with rows of desks, in cubicles and open plan offices, with connections all over the world.  The hum of power and ambition drown out our attempted camaraderie. By ourselves in the coffee shops and smoking zones, in our libraries and chat rooms, we get our fixes in anonymity.

We cruise the aisles of supermarkets and shopping malls, circling like large birds of prey, filling the emptiness. The tomatoes blush at our social awkwardness.

We strive to connect at singles bars and pulsating nightclubs. Music and alcohol conspire to obliterate our thoughts as we sing along to another’s words.

Isolated in our schools and our classrooms, we treat knowledge as currency. Books wish they could organise their own book burning with shame.

We are alone in our gyms and pools, flagellating ourselves to the sound of podcasts and playlists, clad in our Lycra and Velcro armour.

In the dark in movie theatres, and plays and concerts, our singular experiences with art make way for mindless, pretentious chatter during intermission.

We segregate ourselves in our cars, and in our trains and subways, trying to decipher the names on spines of books that others read, watching with interest as the woman seated across applies lipstick without a mirror.

In cafeterias, and restaurants, we peruse elaborate menus and today’s specials on the blackboards, and nitpick on the lighting for that perfect picture of steaming noodles or pink seared meat, served with cursory dialogue on the side.

We pray in secret in our temples and churches, our mosques and synagogues, searching for the heaven that will make sense of our living hell. If we listen closely, we might hear the sound of the universe laughing.

In our parks and in our playgrounds, with our Fitbits and the screens in our hand, we try to catch make believe monsters, bumping into each other like wounded bats.

We are alone on our dates and our dinners. We are alone on our wedding night, our birthdays, and anniversaries. The calendar feels the weight of our self-importance and falls off the nail in the wall.

On our holidays, in the forests and on the beaches, we try to capture our perfect moment of loneliness to share with the world. The list of mountains to climb grows longer, even as our relevance decreases at an exponential rate.

We age and die and go mad.  In our hospices and hospital wards, in our asylums and recreation centres, our limbs shake, like dead leaves on rotting branches, as we try to learn new tricks in the game of survival.

The lady walking in front of us trips and falls. Her shopping bags skitter away from her hands, straining to hold their innards but failing. Her handbag winds up under her hip with the strap half suspended over her shoulder. She is a large woman, and she looks comical, lying there with her legs splayed out, dress hiked above her knees, enough to flash a glimpse of her unattractive underwear, because she didn’t think to wear the lacy black thong just to pick up the milk and bananas.

We are laughing together – bystanders, strangers. The woman grins, sheepish, as she struggles to stand up and pull her dress down and collect her wayward stuff. We coexist in this moment of a mishap.

We come together as skin and lips and tongues and limbs. We shine bright, like stardust, like a thousand million suns, before our radiance eclipses our momentary happiness. A child’s laugh rings out, filling the void.

We cheer as one at football matches, and political rallies, and protests, revelling in shared righteousness and ranting against otherness. Drinking beer is the acceptable way to conclude a lynching.

We stand together behind the sniper’s stock, the wayward missile, the extremist’s explosion. Widows and orphans will be cared for from our collective largesse.

We come together in criticizing, and judging, and denigrating, and discriminating.

We are together when we scream aloud with a strident, binary voice and deafen the world.

I am alone again, walking on the street, staring at that particular nothingness that exists just a couple of feet ahead of me, at eye level.



Dimple Shah arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago and promptly decided to forego a lucrative career in Banking and Finance for the unquantifiable joys of writing. An avid consumer of words all her life, she has only recently officially assumed the mantle of producer of words and spinner of yarns. Read more about her and her work at




A few years back on a winter morning, I walked the north portion of Paradise Church Road.  On this rather cool day, I witnessed the falling of a limb from a large tree in an adjacent pasture.  With no indication of the cause, the limb just dropped from its place of origin. And as it fell, the limb was caught by siblings and remained in their arms.  I was inspired by this event and wrote the following:


In winter, the limb from a large maple tree fell toward the ground;

But not yet, did it fall entirely, for its descent was interrupted

By a sibling limb that reached out to catch the fall.

Now the broken limb lay hanging on its brothers-sisters.

When will it fall again and finally reach the ground?  

 In springtime, perhaps, or during the blaze of a summer sun?  

 Who knows.  But I will watch it as I walk by each day and weep

 When I see it lying dormant on the soil.

 Indeed, life is seasonal.

Trees, O that we might listen to the trees, for they voice a language that surpasses much of the garble of human rhetoric.  A tree’s branches give earth its umbrella to shield a beaming sun, providing earth’s inhabitants with a cool spot on a warm day.  Their arms/limbs reach out to hold up climbing children and the ropes that hold their swings. A tree’s leaves brush with the space they are given, showing evidence of an eternal breath that fans a sweating world.  Even more, the leaves wave to passers-by, clap for joy in gentle breezes, and persuade beholders to be glad in a freedom that only nature can provide.

Trees know of arctic blasts, wintry days, and winds that howl on dark nights.  They can tell us about spring, too, when buds are born and later blossom into a beauty that surpasses all human fabrications.

Trees know about the fierce heat of summer, when the ground is parched and rain is future.  And they rise up to meet the sun, giving pedestrians an umbrella to thwart a thermal advance and give shade to that which is weary.

The trees know about the autumn, too, for they begin preparing to yield their leaves paying homage to the soil that gave them their birth.  And in so doing, this offering gives death its definition and advances a hope that another season awaits.

Suffice it to say, the trees hold a part of the universe’s wisdom, for they can interpret our brutal times when winds, floods, fires, and the ravages caused by human violence.  The trees can tell us how to grow, mature, stand stately amid all that has been and now is, and what might be. Trees can tell us how to age and leave the earth appropriately. G. Manley Hopkins said it long ago: “The earth is charged with the grandeur of God.”  It really is, and the trees are divine exponents.

The arborist in me grieves the passing of all that is, and that includes the falling of trees.  Even more, I grieve when the environment is raped and void of human care. I grieve when the greed of man bulldozes and uproots the good earth not for the nourishment of its contents, but for the advancement of a prevailing economic avarice.

Don Stevenson is a retired UCC clergyman who is also an adjunct instructor of Philosophy, Ethics, and World religions at Hagerstown Community College.

Lithe Hills By Richard King Perkins II

I’ve colonized your outer planets



with grand expressions

and dark portals of insanity.


Mercifully, April prays uncontained

as the sun falls distinctly


in tremulous waves below the horizon

and your discrete aspects are revealed;


lithe hills of ebony, chiseled wings,

and weeping telescopes of imperfection.


You were the dirty child

wandering the boneyards of dead streets,


a shredded web of emptiness

generating the machinery of thought,


clutching fractions

as if they were flyaway moons


and given all that we’ve been

how can you say you’ll never cavort again


gathering figs around

this silent exultation of earth.


Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.


Untitled by Simon Perchik

Easy, this lake
sheds its bark
and each ripple

makes room :birdcalls
and the sky
almost raining

wider and wider
–a great tree
fallen on its roots

and each splash
leafs out dead
rids itself

and those same footsteps
passing you naked
taken away

as shadows and ice
weighted down
holding you back

–simple! you toss
and this tiny stone
is further and further

the deep breath
no longer choking
water and birdsong.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge,Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poemspublished by box of chalk, 2017. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities”please visit his website at

Third Story Roof Sitting By David P. Miller

It’s so geometrical up here.
Our house is flat-topped.
The other summits in view
make a child’s drawing of peaks.
Wedge tops and gable triangles
asphalt-shingled in shades of charcoal,
brick oven browns, forest greens
scarred from exposure. Up above here
a panorama of three-sided tubes.
Seven brick chimneys, sisters
of one hundred twenty-five years,
sit their squareness as sentinels.

Sparrows speed by and lodge
on a twig at my head height.
Watch them breezing out on that limb.
The landscape is pleasure sidekicked with fear.
Vertigo calls from the sudden edge.
Without railings, this viewpoint
is bordered by neckbreak.
We’ve watched fireworks, shoveled snowdrifts
paltry feet from the vacant air.

The summer afternoon is empty.
One dormer window, venetian blind
drawn. Over the turquoise bodega,
another’s tar beach with pergola,
fence, lawn furniture, nobody out.
Sounds of motor growl, tire chafe,
imperative honks. I’m alone,
rubber roof-spread warming my jeans,
with cloud-clustered green,
the maple seed pendants,
and this solo seagull, suspended.

So This Is Starrigavin by Kersten Christianson

The ocean on the western side,

estuary to the east.  Paved road

meanders across the bridge, like

a grandfather with an old story


to unpack. A walking path flanks

the road, gathers broken bits

of mussel shells, deer vertebrae,

alder cones.  Because it is spring,


green spruce pollen marks pavement

in galactic splatters.  Beard lichen

drapes above your head, whispy

to your fingertips when you stretch.


There are crows, ravens, & kingfishers.

Great blue herons fish the tidal zone

shallows, their beady eyes intent, hunting

darting salmon fry at their feet.


So this is Starrigavin. An afternoon walk

with a bag of oyster crackers in your hand

to feed inquisitive corvidae.  You push

into the wind, it lifts your hair to join


fluttering beard moss and you swear,

you swear you could lift your arms,

transformed wings, join the feathered,

and fly.

Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Anchorage) and recently published her first collection of poetry Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017).  Kersten is the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak


Who Gets to Live Here by William Doreski

Cats on the loose, sizzling,

hissing, rubbing each other raw.

You in the kitchen chatting

with a famous Chinese poet

whose work features on scrolls

and reproduction pottery


peddled in gift shops everywhere.

His purely suede expression

suggests he’s forming a lyric

while attending to every nuance

of your perfected malformation.

You ignore my cries for help,


my attempts to corral the cats

and prevent them from savaging

each other’s most comely smiles.

A tiger whacks a tortoise-shell

with a pawful of sheathed claws

while an orange tabby nibbles


a crouching calico’s neck.

With armsful of blustering felines

I hustle into the garage and catch

a stranger rummaging manuscript

I abandoned twenty years ago.

What forces have you compelled


to bear upon the simple life

I’ve cultivated to contain me?

After waving a rake at the burglar

and locking the tangle of cats

into the garage I’m free to shake

the visiting poet’s hand and learn


how little English he speaks,

how little Chinese I speak,

how little any of us understand

the cries and contortions of cats,

essential elements of landscapes

we aren’t allowed to inhabit.

William Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2018).

What the Land Teaches by Chila Woychik

Some mornings, the moon plays off a rising sun, lingers in a lightening sky. In Native American tradition, each month’s full moon was ascribed a name representing a characteristic of that time of year, for example, January’s Wolf Moon and June’s Strawberry Moon.

Morning moons aren’t rare in their ebbing circuit across an early sky. And but for nature’s yawns and stretches, young country days are an exercise in silence. Leaves hang softly; a breeze quivers in the air; the land lays quiet except for a blue jay’s screech and cattle lowing for the disappearing grass.


Twenty years in Milwaukee and I’m more than citified, know urban sprawl and traffic jams. I wish it no more. It’s out of my blood. The desire for anything metropolitan has departed. These days, as the painted wooden plaque in the farm store so aptly admonishes, I “never stand behind a coughing cow.”

At the checkout lane, the cashier has a tattoo and six or eight piercings in each ear. Her hair is short and gray except for one long braid in the back. She’s at least sixty, and adds a modern touch to this decidedly rural mercantile that offers everything from needle syringes for bypassing the vet, to the latest stylish Carhartt clothing, to baby fowl, to tires and Pringles and complimentary popcorn.


Trucks. I began admiring them when I finally got used to the high step-up and rhythmic clatter of our Ford diesel, when I finally mastered the wide front seat and having to scoot farther right so as to be dead center of the steering wheel, and when I finally grasped the fact that such a long wheelbase maneuvers potholes and gravel roads with handy ease.

My truck is a chariot to heaven and Everygirl’s adventure. Now I demand the scenic routes and dust-filled byways, extol the clouds and blink away the busyness. I drag along wonder with each escape, and there’s not a rural setting beyond my scrutiny.


Too much dirt mucks up the cogs. Too many details and the lines drag down. Just bury the stuff in the pasture or dump the junk in the lowlands, old farmers say. So rusty metal bones and industrial fuel tanks and Frigidaire washers fill the gullies next to great slabs of beef roaming acres of what used to be the richest land on earth.

What’s left is our chemical-laden soil, a deathtrap for bees and butterflies, and its runoff sabotages our rivers, lakes, and seas. Runoff from Iowa reaches the Gulf of Mexico. We use plastics too, those filling our oceans and ensnaring the fish. This is our apocalyptic seedbed, our darkening hope, and it envelops this globe.


People do clone best; clone is what we do. We forget that sky is not a clone. Dirt is not a clone. Every animal strides to its own unique rhythm unflustered by the concept of uniformity. When does the light flicker on, when does individuality strike us soundly enough that we finally say, I am, I am, I will be rare and new.


Life is place and setting: how a land feels as it trickles down the gullet of identity. It’s the slipping away of an all-night moon and the slant of an early morning sun piercing the blinds, the speed of clouds carried over a pasty mountain ridge, and rush hour traffic whether a convoy of three hundred sheep marshalled by an attentive shepherd or a swarm of three thousand cars with right-side steering wheels crowding narrow Paris streets. It’s the air we breathe, fresh and wild, or stilted and heavy.


Everyone’s scared when the darkness refuses to lift, but the land brings us light and feeds us. The land teaches us to be more, teaches us to be brave. The land brings us home.


German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in journals including Cimarron, Portland Review, and Silk Road. She won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award & the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review.

Venetian Hands By Timothy B. Dodd


dip into pockets hugging fat

thighs on tourist boats, snatch

loose locks on shop gates

— thief



hold the blowpipe to shape liquid

fire, manipulating elements, a key

from Murano lights transformation




from Conakry to Douala hold up packs

of pirated Guccis following through

dusty alleys to Piazza San Marco

— bag vendor


slide palms down the oar to push

off from docks into busy canals,

old-aged lovebirds in tow




arrange mass-produced ornaments

in the window again this morning;

wrap one in wax paper, English

—shop owner



set plates of pasta on narrow tables,

bringing more olives for a brighter

tip, this is Italian food my friends




pick and choose, seek your spouse

for a second opinion, the right piece

to carry home, credit card critical




at the top of the food chain, consumes

even church and canal — if a bargain;

cut soil, come modern commodes

—tourist #2



of the Veneti, unknown. More than

Pound, Mušič, Nono. Beyond San

Michele. In the sea. Lost. Scarred



Timothy B. Dodd is from Mink Shoals, WV.  His poetry has appeared in The Roanoke Review, Stonecoast Review, Ellipsis, Broad River Review, and elsewhere.  He is currently in the MFA program at the University of Texas El Paso.


The Geometry of Birdland by Karla Linn Merrifield

You dream you would hammer

your scorn into perfect circles

from on high like the iron wheels

of a predatory night hawk.

You would prey on any

isosceles triangle within grip,

rip it into angles of judgment

as acute as a golden eagle’s cocked eye.

Your shadow would be as a vulture’s

mean and dirty parallelogram

in the raw morning sky.


But, you wake instead,

the spoiled caged cockatoo,

clip-winged, inside a square

of domesticity

on a low bamboo perch

of limited horizons,

squawking white with resentment.


Life did not let you fly

into wild cones of power.


Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 600+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel toGodwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. Forthcoming this fall is Psyche’s Scroll, a full-length poem, published by The Poetry Box Selects. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poe Redux, at Google her name to learn more; Tweet @LinnMerrifiel;