My Bones Are Blue by Amber Pierson

My Bones Are Blue

By Amber Pierson

My bones are blue, creaking and
Clacking as I amble my way through
Life, twisting and turning, upside down
And backwards. My blood is green,
Sloshing and toxic, poisonous, seeping
Through my skin, burning any hands
That reach too close. My heart is gray,
Melancholy, thump, bump, beating,
Beating in my chest. Pushing my tainted
Blood and pounding against my ribcage.
My skin is purpled, bruises, bangs, and
Veins trace unreadable patterns along
My body, too tight and too loose, not
Magazine-ready. My lips are yellow,
From too many cigarettes and too much
Coffee, pumping more toxins through
My system. My breath leaves on a gust
Of red, releasing anger and malice, then
Pulling in a breeze of soft pink, love and
Lightness, threatening the sin swirling in me.

About the Writer:
“My Bones Are Blue” is emerging writer Amber Pierson’s fourth published poem. Her goal as a poet is to write poems that inspire unique images and that twist emotions into something new and unexpected. Amber lives and writes in Cortland, New York.

Slip Sliding Away by Pat LaPointe

Slip Sliding Away

By Pat LaPointe

Before every holiday, we’d have what my family called the “boob hunt.” Sounds perverse, but it’s not. It was all about my mom’s famous fried chicken.

Mom believed every holiday should include a dish that celebrated our heritage. While we appreciated the concept, it took the us years to convince her that the Pilgrims didn’t serve lasagna at the first Thanksgiving. With her special fried chicken, she found a way to make the classic Southern dish into something consistent with our ethnic heritage by adding Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs.

A typical boob hunt started with Mom sending Dad out to shop for chicken breasts. Now we’re not talking about just any breasts. Mom specified that she wanted only “Dolly Parton” breasts, not “Twiggy” ones. Dad would often have to shop at several grocery stores before he’d find 24 perfect breasts that would satisfy her requirements.

In his later years, when Dad could no longer drive, I became his boob-hunt partner. We’d check the poultry in each store and quietly (we hoped) comment on whether the breasts were Dolly enough. Of course, Mom was the final decision maker. Any breasts she deemed too small were sent to the freezer and Dad and I went out again.

On the morning of the holiday, Mom always woke at dawn. She would fill three or four bowls with milk and eggs, in which she’d soak her chosen Dollies. After a few hours, she would spread waxed paper on the table and cover it with Italian breadcrumbs. Then she would coat the breasts and arrange them neatly on the sheets of waxed paper until they were ready to fry.

My sister JoAnn and I were in charge of preparing the side dishes: mashed potatoes that Mom insisted must have globs of melting butter on top, sweet potatoes with extra marshmallows, and bowls of buttery corn.

Mom’s kitchen was small, and she wasn’t the neatest cook. Knowing that, JoAnn and I added our own secret tradition to the chicken-frying ritual. On the morning of each holiday, one of us would call the other.

“Have you got your socks?” one sister would ask, on the verge of laughing.

“Wouldn’t go without them,” the other sister would respond, unable to keep from giggling.

By the time JoAnn and I arrived, the whole house smelled like Colonel Sanders’s Italian cousin had moved in. Mom would have chicken frying in several pans, with oil squirting and splattering everywhere. Breadcrumbs fell onto the greasy floor, building a layer of uniquely slippery footing. My sister and I skated around the kitchen creating what we called our “breaded socks” as we slid through the crumbs and grease.  As Mom aged and became more careless in her chicken preparation, there would be actual footprints on a breadcrumb-and-oil “rug” on the floor.

Mom’s gone now. My middle-aged siblings and I, concerned about fats and cholesterol, choose baked chicken breasts that are more Twiggy than Dolly for our holiday dinners. The amount of butter in the potatoes has dropped drastically, the sweet potatoes are often served without marshmallows, and buttery corn has been replaced by green salad.

We congratulate ourselves for making healthy choices, but when we sit down for dinner, we all wish for one more holiday with Mom, her Dollies, and our breaded socks.

About the Writer:
Pat LaPointe
is the editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter. She is also a contributing editor to the anthology The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. She has counseled victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Pat is past president of Story Circle Network and she conducts writing workshops for women online and onsite. Her essays and short stories have been published widely and she is currently completing her first novel (forthcoming in late 2021).

Finding You by Erin Hall

Finding You

By Erin Hall

I come to you when I visit home. I press my index and middle fingers into my lips, and gently touch them against the smooth marble edge. I tell you about the traffic—so many idiots in the left lane, it would have driven you mad—and trace my fingers, sticky from my lip gloss, along the etching.

I wonder if mom notices, but I’m careful. I angle the armoire door just as she always leaves it—slightly, but thoughtfully, open—as if that door was the barrier instead of time.

Stepping onto the patio, I see you outside, sweeping the pool vacuum in melodic, almost therapeutic, strokes up and down the pool’s curved walls, stopping only to slide the loose cuffs of your sweatshirt up your sun-drenched arms.

You’re folded headfirst into the boat’s engine hatch, your legs twitching against the taut, ashen leather of the bench seat, the sharp clang of your tools against the metal hull echoing up the hill.

You’re seated quietly on the deck, legs outstretched on the chair, tasting deep breaths of humid air and sips of iced tea as you survey the backyard with worry drifting far from your shoulders.

I stand there watching, the sounds of summer rising as a choir around you—the soft lap of water against the seawall after a boat cuts the canal, the low groan of its motor lingering, the hum of a mower as a neighbor grooms their yard, and birds whistling into the breeze.

I wiggle my toes against the brick, delighting in the coarseness and warmth from the afternoon sun, and I open my eyes.

The skimmer mounts the pool steps and gurgles, spitting water onto the pavement. The boat hoist is empty—a mass of seaweed, driftwood and trash nesting between the bunks like a heavy, tangled memory. The chair is gone. The iced tea is in the fridge. And you are upstairs, in the armoire, in the marble box.

About the Writer:
Erin Hall
is a writer and communications professional in Royal Oak, Michigan. She’s been hard at the public relations grind for nearly 15 years, but has always considered herself a writer first—ever since she scribbled short stories under the lamp on her childhood nightstand at all hours. She previously wrote for her hometown newspaper, Michigan State University’s (now defunct) Big Green Magazine and Chicago Now’s blog network; she has been recently been published in the Detroit Metro Times. You can find some of her personal musings at

Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans by Maria Smith

Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans

By Maria Smith

Eight pairs of jeans became a source of mental agony for me when I moved from Colorado Springs to South Carolina in 2016. I got fixated on the idea that I needed to fit into a certain size, and I obsessed about it, especially once I could no longer fit into my four pairs of expensive Lucky Brand™ jeans.

The first year I lived in South Carolina, all eight pairs fit, but by my second and third year there, the jeans began making their way from the velvet hangers on the low rack—where I keep all the clothes I wear most often—to the top shelf of my closet. I put the Lucky jeans in one pile and the remaining jeans in a second pile. Every time I was in the closet and looked up, I’d sigh with exasperation. I blamed the problem on the stress of living in the South. My husband and I moved here to be closer to my mom, to make up for all the years we lived far away from her—but I never liked heat and humidity.

By our fourth year in South Carolina, all eight pairs were neatly folded and both piles were stacked together up high in the top shelf of the closet. Every so often, I’d take them down and wonder if I should try them on.

“Should I hang onto them?” I’d ask my husband. I always followed that question with a second one: “Do you think I’ll ever fit in these jeans again?”

My husband would always shake his head and say, “I’m not answering. It’s suicide for a husband to talk about his wife’s weight.”

“Wise man,” I’d mutter underneath my breath.

I admit I got hung up on a few pounds, but I’m four feet and ten inches tall. Three to five pounds might not seem like much, but on a petite woman like me it feels uncomfortable.

It took me the full four years to get somewhat comfortable living in the South. Then, two months ago, I received a phone call on a Sunday morning that my mom had passed away in a tragic car accident. I never got to see her body. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Sadly, that’s what it took for me to stop obsessing about my precious jean collection. I tried them on one more time, but nothing had changed. I still couldn’t zip them up. This time, though, I  threw all those jeans into a black trash bag. The next day, I tossed the bag into the trunk of my car, determined to donate them as quickly as possible.

I gave all eight pairs of jeans to the thrift store of the Palmetto Animal League, a local animal shelter. Bringing them there filled me with overwhelming gratitude. Helping out animals in need by giving up something so material helped me see that, in the grand scheme of things and in my life, those jean were irrelevant.

In the end, I realized the emotional growth fits me far better than the jeans ever would have.

About the Writer:
Maria Smith
is an aspiring writer and artist who spent 16 years serving as an officer in the Air Force Reserve, where she achieved the rank of Major. After being honorably discharged due to illness in 2010, she enrolled in the University of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, CO, completing her doctorate in psychology in March 2014. She earned her MFA from Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction Writing program in July 2019. Maria is originally from western Massachusetts; she currently lives in Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband, Terry.

Two Poems by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Two Poems by Sandeep Kumar Mishra

A Love Letter from Hospital

By Sandeep Kumar Mishra

Hospitals are ideograms of truth
where death has no false tint of life—
pukka pain, pink anguish, but stained hope.
You might see Hoag’s a galaxy
within a galaxy within a galaxy. . .
Once we enter here it seems a black hole,
As if the end of the world, but
one patient, like a phoenix, obtains
new life by rising from the ashes
while another dies in a show of
flames and a combustion of malady

The white wall only once smelled
deserts its petroleum daughter
as we loose our own aroma,
the one we put on every morning,
into this bouquet of different
essences of drugs, syrup, Dettol
or antiseptic with some
of the odorless bones and meat

The ill, so woebegone in their sojourns,
are so true pale blue.
You could not but be brave when you see
these patients, with the patience of the Spartan school,
prove the man is greater than his pain—
You would be a great philosopher,
the first to laugh but the last to complain,
once you came out of the hospital,
where the surgical folk who, though mortals, never see
themselves in that line, are a cheerful green, and
They, with fear and hope in the form of dream,
add a little love potion to every prescription

Someone soulful comes to meet them
and hold one of their hands. At once,
you feel house keys in your hand,
but here no heart is bypassed by love.
When you hug them, their ribs make
a room for your fleshy abdomen,
as you sense the titanic waterfall
of their hearts slowly sinking

When you come to this place,
try to avoid any mirror or self-reflection.
You won’t see the things you usually see—
but your purged soul will peep out of body fabric
like sunlight coming out of a barred window.
You can no longer balance petty yourself,
as the inner burden will be more than your body weight

Let us praise these insomniac beds!
Let us praise the fans that don’t adjust,
praise the room service that doesn’t exist.
Let us praise the hospital staff—
they are angels without wings—
covering under fake masks of joy
they find expired lungs and tired hearts
lying in their paths every day.
They play poker with their lives
in this game with virus and ailment,
as they foster death for other passive parties too

Corona-Vorona, Days-Ways

By Sandeep Kumar Mishra

The humanity is caving in slow corona motion
I, like a sea mouse back to my hidey-hole,
Set an alarm every morn, lay in bed to ignore it—
I stay for what seems like minutes but becomes hours—
Week and weeks in hibernation. Am I a little lonely bear?

Sometimes I feel homesick in my home and
think I’m put in a home jail for not having corona.
It feels like a creepy clown chasing me
or I am being cornered by zombies.
I work from green home but the world is in the red zone

As I log on for socializing and switch on to remote voice
Are vectors we all or postcodes alike?
My body robots repeat eat, sleep, eat—
Is breakfast still breakfast if I have it at 12?
Is dinner still dinner if I have cookies for tea?

Now this thing is nonfiction—health vs. economy.
The virus does not care
for the digits in your bank account
or your total assets or the GDP,
And even the fiction is dark, but there’s still music

The relentless race of traffic and people
has been turned into marathon of conscious breath,
Shopping has become tracking down others’ health,
Sanitizer in the pockets, wearing face masks—
Sneezing is new way to attract attention,
Corona warriors on the front line,
but some people still curse and cry

I blink my eyes, focusing on the horizon
as if concentration itself will transport me to another place.
Did I just see a butterfly land in that flower?
When kookaburras cackle flying over empty streets
When the crickets’ chirp sounds alone,
Do they know what is happening to us?
Am I noticing more than I did before?

The lungs feel clear, birds have replaced planes,
We venture out of the house to the garden and back in again—
it’s made all of us hermits.
The sky is blue now, or is it just me?
Now I understand less means more

COVID-19 is a hydra-headed challenger
to our modern modality to wake up
buying cheap tack from cheap labor,
I wonder why I feel a sense of guilt
when I see others suffering while I am not,
But I am now getting used to my pyjamas

About the Writer:
Sandeep Kumar Mishra
is an outsider artist, poet and lecturer in English Literature and Political Science, and he is the art instructor at Kishlaya Outsider Art Academy. He edited Pearls (2002), a collection of poems by various poets, and he wrote the professional guidebook How to Become a Teacher in Australia and New Zealand: A Complete and Authentic Guide (2016). An original collection of his poetry, One Heart, Many Breaks was published by Indian Poetry Press in August 2020. His website is

Chasing Rainbows by Van Lanigh

Chasing Rainbows

By Van Lanigh

From the Photographer:

Inspired by great masters such as Vrubel and Monet, Van Lanigh creates figurative and landscape pieces. Her unique style is a reaction to abstractionism, an attempt to capture surrealistic yet casual reality.

The series “Chasing Rainbows” is about the perception of the world of feelings. No one feels exactly one emotion at a time—it’s always a crazy waterfall with undertones of sensations. She interprets this rainbow of feelings in her works by running away from the real world of colors to the imaginary universe of impressions.

Sharing artwork is part of her response to the current world situation. “Instead of total isolation,” she says, “let’s keep in touch (in the safest way possible). Although the Internet nowadays may be complicated and overwhelming, let’s use it for roaming around this Brave New Digital World. Somehow we have to rebuild our identities using all these digital profiles and the mediums available to us to continue with social interaction. It’s the only possible way now.”

Chasing Rainbow by Van Lanigh

Chasing Rainbows

About the Photographer:
Artist Van Lanigh’s artwork uses new forms and materials to achieve resonance between the visual effect and message of the each piece. One of her recent experiments involves transitioning Pointillism into 3-D space by making a series of human-face sculptures with small, colorful handcrafted, polymer clay balls. She attended St. Petersburg State Budget Educational Institution of Additional Education “Art School № 3,” and her work is exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. She is based in Haarlem, Nord Holland , Netherlands.

Three Poems by Jane Yolen

Three Poems by Jane Yolen

When I Was a Hunter Gatherer

By Jane Yolen

in the deep cleft of Nature,
watching the stalk of bobcat,
the instant whirr of hummingbird,
the snake-cut grasses,

fear did not rise up
like a clog in my throat
but in cautious passion,
the kind that makes one stay,
fill with wonder,

as I have done
from the moment we met again,
in the old growth forest
of our lives.

The Spin, The Spine

By Jane Yolen

Woman’s work, spinning,
sewing, that spine of family,
that stitch in the time
of a marriage, that snip-snap
of life beginning, life ending.
We do not need a dictionary
to thread that history.
Look at our fingers, our hands,
made for the work, our tongues
glistening on the twist of flax.
We work through hurt, through tears,
through ache, through birth.
We weep, we steep,
we hope, we grow.
Don’t preach, brother,
what we already know.
We are what we sew.

The Quiet House

By Jane Yolen

For once it is quiet here,
no phones ringing to offer me
things I do not want,
have never wanted;
no doors slamming
as tradesmen walk in and out
with paint pots, ladders.
My fingers clattering
on what are supposed to be
silent keys, and you—old man,
beloved found object,
asleep upstairs.
I will not wake you to tear
a hole in this silence
even though your breathing
is the only sound
I really want to hear.

About the Writer:
Jane Yolen
has written nearly 400 books, including The Devil’s Arithmetic, the Commander Toad series, Twelve Impossible Things to Do Before Breakfast, the History Mystery series, the Young Merlin Trilogy, White Jenna, the Pit Dragon Trilogy, Pirates in Petticoats, and her most recent book, Miriam at the River. In 1988 she won the Caldecott Medal for Owl Moon; The Emperor and the Kite was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1968. She has been named a finalist for a Nebula Award five times and has won that honor twice, earning Best Short Story for Sister Emily’s Lightship in 1997 and Best Novelette for Lost Girls in 1998. Her books have won Golden Kite Awards, the Sydney Taylor Jewish Council Awards, the Christopher Medal, the California Young Reader Medal, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Massachusetts YA Book Award, and a National Outdoor Book Award. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 World Fantasy Awards and in 2016 she was named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Jane is a graduate of Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in Hatfield, Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

Bellevue Botanical Garden by Cindy Phan

Bellevue Botanical Gardens

By Cindy Phan

From the Photographer:

These eryngos flowers were captured on Nikon D5500 digital SLR with 18-55 mm lens at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Washington state during springtime. Natural lighting was used and very minimal editing was done.

Bellevue Botanical Garden by Cindy Phan

Bellevue Botanical Garden

About the Photographer:
Cindy Phan 
is an ice skater, inline skater, and outdoor adventurer. She prides herself in being that one friend you’ll never get bored around; she’s full of ideas and always tries to get people out of their comfort zone. Photography, horror, heavy metal, wine, and animals are a few of Cindy’s interests, which are ever-expanding because she literally aspires to do everything. Cindy’s only fears in life are losing the people she loves and leaving this world without satisfying all her curiosities.

Life Akimbo by Caroline Murphy

Life Akimbo

By Caroline Murphy

“Oh, my God,” Mom cried when she saw me.

She clutched my wrist with a bony hand. Tears ran down her wrinkled, hollow cheeks onto the starched white pillowcase beneath her head. “Oh, my God.”

Tears welled in my eyes too. Mom was glad to see me. I hadn’t expected her to be.

“Look,” Mom said to my older sister Helen, who stood on the opposite side of the bed. “Look. It’s my mother. I knew she would come.”

Every time I visited, my 82-year-old mother assigned me a different “persona du jour,” a character she plucked from the tattered memories in her dementia-warped mind. Sometimes I was her sister or one of my own. Other times she saw me as a nasty (but memorable) aunt, or a helpful store clerk, or a childhood friend. Often during my visits, I was a conglomerate character, a fictional patchwork of people from her youth stitched together from the semi-remembered threads of her life.

This was the first time I’d ever been her mother. It was quite an honor.

Mom adored her mother—or at least her idealized version of her mother. My grandmother, Irene Murphy, died of kidney disease when Mom was 10 years old. Grandma passed before adolescence jaded her daughter’s opinion of her, while her daughter was too young to notice her flaws, her failings, her humanity. In my mother’s mind, her own mother remained a beautiful, smart, kind, generous, mythological mother-heroine.

Within minutes of my arrival, Mom subsided into silence. She curled into the fetal position facing me, one skeletal hand clutching my wrist, the other grasping the edge of her favorite green wool blanket. I pulled the blanket over her shoulder; I thought she looked cold. She immediately shook it off and resumed twisting the blanket’s frayed edge, now with both hands.

She was mute, but awake. Her cloudy, dark eyes stared into a far distance only she could see. Her pale, withered lips hung, slightly parted, gently pulsing in and out over toothless gums with each ragged, shallow breath.

I stroked her soft, white hair, running my fingers through its wispy strands the way she used to comb her fingers through my auburn hair when I was little and I’d sit on the floor in front of her chair while the whole family watched Emergency and Adam-12 on TV together.

“You’ve given her a gray fauxhawk,” Helen said.

My sister’s voice brought me back to the Pepto-Bismol-pink living room of Mom’s condo, back to the two tatty couches with their huge blue and purple flowers, both sofas now pushed to the walls to make space for the hospital bed Mom occupied the center of the room. Back to the boxes of pain and anti-anxiety medications on her rolling bedside table. Back to the smell of antiseptics mingled with flowery air freshener intended to mask the smells of age and illness.

I sought refuge on the nearest couch as my sister retrieved a comb from among the medications and meticulously rearranged Mom’s hair.

We were settling in, Helen and Mom and me, putting on our armor and preparing for Mom’s final battle. I was grateful for that shred of peace before the salvos of pain and morphine and fear and sorrow began, glad for a lingering fragment of summer before we had to face the chill of autumn and the bitterness of winter.

I could be a daughter for a little while longer.

Sitting there on the couch, I pulled my knees up to my chest and thought, Parents are supposed to care for children, not the other way around. Parents are supposed to do the hard stuff. Kids are supposed to be able to play.

But roles reverse when the time comes for a child to shepherd a parent through the season of dying. Life turns upside down. Touchstones of logic and order tumble.

I felt like I’d been knocked off my feet by a huge wave that forced me underwater, scraping me along razor-sharp rocks on the bottom of a turbulent sea. I’d been in that undertow before, when Dad died, then again two years later when my mother-in-law passed. I knew the waves would eventually toss me back to the beach—battered, sore, and bruised, but alive. I knew I’d heal and life would go on. I’d recover from my mother’s death.

But once she was gone, every time I looked in the mirror, I’d know that I had joined the oldest generation. Knowing she was gone meant knowing I was next.

What will I remember about my mother 30 years from now, when I am the one laying in the bed? What scraps of my life will remain with me to the end? What memories of me will others carry forward with them when I am gone?

How will my daughter remember me?

Vividly, I hope.

About the Writer:
Caroline Murphy
is a writer and editor who spent nearly a decade ghostwriting middle school science textbooks. She has worked as a blogger, a journalist, and an advertising and marketing copywriter. Recently, Caroline has forayed into memoir and creative nonfiction, where she spends much time seeking the optimum balance between revealing too much and too little.