Preface: Nettle

by Sarah-Jane Crowson

The hollow road’s all snarled with thorns,
fringed with stinging plants, the path
lost in hundred-eyed branches, where roots
are claws, knitting floors of speedwell, bluebell,
stitchwort, nettle, wren, dock, buttercup,
vipers bugloss, thrush, goosegrass, dock
nettle, dock, nettle.

When the Stars Come Out a Billion Miles Away

by Arthur Sadrian

It was cool the night I stole away. My naked feet 
    tiptoed over fissured asphalt, buzzing skin pressed 
between stolid cracks like how our living room 
    illuminated the slumped hillside. Here, our house is
ablaze with mercury windows and humming generators and 
    the time that brother slipped and splashed bright red paint 
across the doorstep. Here, the heartbeat is waning, 
    drowned by the gentle rustle of craning pine needles. 
I am guided by the hair upon my legs – 
    guided from uneven tarmac to moonlit grasslands to silted shores – 
guided until stupored vines outline inky carpets. 
    I feel their breathlessness: stiff like the ripple of daylight hours, 
shimmering like the reflection in my pupils,
    whispering as we unite. And now we wait.  
I watch as they float to the surface in pinpricks of effervescence 
    that fizzle with the truth of a billion mile journey.
I follow as they train their glow upwards, pay recognition 
    to forefathers that spit them into existence 
moon, after moon, after moon. 

Call Me Aster

by Rachel Loughlin

My daughter is reinventing herself
In quarantine
She's chosen a new name
New hair
Is sewing new clothes
From old curtains

I try to honor her wishes
There are so few things in her control
By choosing to name herself
She is taking her stand
Before the yawning chasm
Of uncertainty
And saying
I am here
I am me
Everything may shift
But I remain

Tonight I've promised to dye
Her new hair bright blue
And mine red
Also newly cut
I quietly think
About changing my own name
But I do not tell her that
We will shout together
At harvest moons rising
As women always have
Tell the stories
Say their names
drop by drop
So it isn't a flood that washes her away
She does not understand yet
The long line unbroken
Of women tending each other's wounds
That holds the universe in order

She just knew
Something in her
Needed a new name 

Through the Desert’s Eye
South Mountain, Phoenix

by David Chorlton         

The bones roll loosely underneath
a coyote’s skin, the spine a tangle
with his ribs and every limb
a lightness strong
enough to carry him where
he needs to go.
                           The ice has fallen
from the moon
and South Mountain warms
from a yawn to a smile.
                                             A fallen
saguaro is part memory
part earth, and asks
whether the coyote
was actually here, or turned
from fact to mystery
                                     when he stopped
looking left, right and inward.
There’s hidden chatter
in the mesquites and cholla
of mockingbirds and thrashers
seeking out the starting point
of spring.
               The sky is balanced
on the ridgeline. Each ascending trail
winds its way to where
nobody can follow except the hawk
with shadow
                       for a wingspan
who spirals into nothing
                                           and disappears
the way illusions do
when the Arizona desert blinks.

Spring Moon

by Deborah A. Bennett

grave stone 
over which a white moth passes -
spring moon
the thing that falls away
is myself -
spring moon
forgetting the world 
is only a drop of water -
spring moon

picture of the wind 
the grief it belongs to -
spring moon

Full Moon Over Big Sur

 by Timothy Resau
The pine branches
in the fog—
The moon across
the window.
The moon
in the fog
across the branch.

Summer Holidays

 by Lynn White

We all holidayed in Britain
when I was a child
and no one swam in the seas.
The water was empty beyond it’s edge
even on the warmest of days.
Parents sat in deckchairs closely packed
wearing overcoats for the wind
and a newspaper hat in case of sun.
Paddling was as adventurous as it got.
Nothing wetter was allowed,
nothing wetter was desired
in that cold, cold water.
Affluence and climate change
changed our traditions.
It was the costas for us now
in clothes purpose made 
for playing splash,
for warm water swimming
and stretching out to sunbathe
on closely packed sun loungers.
Then we’re back in Britain.
Sent home by fear
of infection and contamination
carefully keeping our distance
from each other
as we scurry to British beaches
only to be sent home again
as travelling was not allowed
nor was paddling 
even though the sea is warm,
nor was sunbathing,
or beach games
on the warm sands.
Soon we’ll really feel the heat.
We won’t go anywhere then.


by Mona Bedi

billowy clouds 
a red kite struggles
to stay afloat 

A monostitch

by Elancharan Gunasekaran 

dune upon dune sand gales grasping but never catching the hawk in flight


by Ravi Kiran

autumn moon
there is no one left
to blame

Crow City

by Maureen Teresa McCarthy
Light shimmers
Shadows flare 
Ghostly ribbons
Beyond my window
Soaring wing to wing
Dark shining as night sky
Settling on bare trees
Plump rich winter berries
Close community
Stalking ground proud
Calls loud tossing heads
Stars in a dark eye
Young are tended
Old are not exiled
All ride the wind                                                                           
Murder of crows?
Unkindness of ravens?
Earthbound as we are
Strangers to each other
We name them so.         

A Rat is a Rat is a Rat is a Rat

 by Leticia Priebe Rocha
on a lilly boat 400 years ago the genocide rat
fucks and fucks breeds star-spangled rat
nips at chained feet spawns white hooded rat
burns crosses runs for office elephant red rat
tears into black and brown bodies blue rat
gnaws only a tad more politely after all a rat
is a rat is a rat is a rat


by Lara Dolphin

brutish, hungry, unsuspecting 
you helicopter from your superyacht
in Marina di Carrara to my quarter  
we talk of scorched fields and bombed buildings
while I prepare the meal
twisting cords of dough beneath my palms
otto e mezzo plays in the parlor
the table is set, the meal is ready– 
a bottle of wine to chug 
as you shovel forkfuls of pasta
thickly sauced with shavings of Parmesan
followed by salad drenched in balsamic vinegar– 
vapor lock, spasm of the airway
I hope you choke 

Bonneville at Night

by Kevin Maus

Clean night silence offered like an eternal search, a wonder of white, thought as clean as bone laid bare. Calling.

8:50 P.M.

by Jeff Burt

Below a dead cottonwood
snapped in two by lightning
thirty feet up, wind-stirred
preened owl feathers flutter,
lift, loft, drift like ash
from a campfire. Hungry owlets
already own the darkening.

The love-bugs

by Rongili Biswas 
Love-bugs, I call them, though they have nothing to do with love. They come in late Autumn. Hordes of them. And go round and round in circles around a source of light. They want to singe their wings, burn themselves to death, they make the buzz of their circling sound unreal.
Dark moths, I call them. Though they have nothing to do with moths. They come when evening descends. Or at nightfall. Over the shoulder of a neighbouring tree that has splayed its hands towards heaven. As if in votive offerings. Its avid religiosity clasped in a gesture of genuflection that has gone awry.
They live in dark corners in the hounding daylight. In musty leaf litters. Or, in crannies of the bark that nameless trees offer them. Almost whispering, I call them – ‘pappataci’. Though I know more than anyone else that they have nothing to do with those wilful midges. Both my whisper and the soughing of the wind are lost on them.
Their whirls seem an act of atonement, for some wrong they have never done.
I find them stricken with a grief that they do not know how to shake off. And I see grace oozing out of their tiny bodies in the gathering dusk.
I think of an unusually quiet night. A blue one like none other. ‘Over strand and field’. Over the clear sky, the transparent wind, and the forlorn shrubs. Reddened with bruises. Teeming with sighs. And blackened with immured pain.
The love-bugs, going round and round in circles,
                                        move towards eternity.

Rita Hayworth, The Dragon-Slayer
(Line from: Post-Modernism by James Galvin)

by Ingrid Bruck

Cloud Dragon, you wake devils and bring doom.
“Rita Hayworth was taped to the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.”
Big Boy never asked, “Wanna be a destroyer?”
No, it’s, “Pretty Lady, come ride with me.” 
In the name of woman – I call you Monster. 
Fury poisons atoms, even water rebels. 
Ocean Shaker lifts a tsunami. 
Sky Thrasher hurls torrents of rain and floods. 
Strangler traps a catch in a riptide.
Ice Heart churns snow to an avalanche.
Desiccator sips rivers, lakes and streams to desert. 
Fire Breath charges inland on waves. 

Cloud-Lady shape-shifts and rides.
A stallion kicks a mare in the side, 
his hooves pound and drum her ribs, 
beat flesh like a drum skin.  
She cringes at each hollow blow, 
follows each crash and boom. 
Sorrow sings in drumbeat and flute, 
chant and cheramie echo,
rumble shakes the air, 
  vibration courses in raindrops
rivulets stream down her cheeks. 

She-Dragon blesses each day's gratitudes. 
Griefs, she limits hers to three:
one for each story-doll under her pillow,
they work out problems at night.  
Heavy sand lifts on gusts,
sharp edges shave off,
harsh notes sand down, recombine & sweeten. 

Witch. Bitch. Slut.
Life Force. Life Taker. Baby Maker. 
She forgives what she can’t control
but shears Solomon’s hair.
Rita Hayworth sleeps
with angels. 

How To Write A Sentence

by Cielo Jones 

Choose a subject:
the geese at the curb,
the bucket beaters on the street islands,
the cart pushers, the corner sitters,
or the fancy car driver who just sped by.

Choose a predicate:  
cross the streets in single file,
stop traffic with bodacious beats,  
holding up placards, one-sentence life stories
  break my heart,
honks horn at the car in front,
he stops for the geese, or taken by the drummers.

For more complicated sentences, add clauses:  
people should be allowed to hunt the birds,
healthy choice since they’re in the wild,  
What wild? This is the city, for crying out loud. 
No hunting here! 

round up the nuisance, the traffic hazards, find a meadow, 
but this is their meadow we occupied
it’s of no use you know - they’ll be back here, 
they always are.
gather up the unfortunates, find a shelter, a job, a care
or put them in jail, charge them for disturbing the peace,
the fastest way to save them from freezing
find solid solutions or they’ll be back here, they usually do.
ticket the driver for disturbing the peace
charge him  for his impatience, his flamboyance.

Cross your t’s and dot your i’s.  
The geese are there in their wild.
So we leave them be, and that should be.
But the drummer,  the man on the corner,
their predicaments I can’t fathom.
I can’t meet their eyes, I hold no remedies, 
but I should not leave them be, that should not be.
and the fancy car driver?         
He’s a bystander, he’ll go another route next time.

Finally, punctuate. End the sentence but don’t kill it. 
Question mark for all the queries:
How did they get here?
What is tomorrow for their growing population?
Why did they lose their homes?
Where else can they go?
When did it all begin, when does it end?
Who, if not I, can help?

Exclamation point:
the annoyance for these city poopers,
the warnings to choose another path, 
they’ll get run over!
the anger and frustrations,
(because) I want to bring them home
shout it out over the muscle engine.

Period, to close the door.
Complacency or surrender.
No more arguments. 
Your sentence ends here. 

Afterword: crow

by Trishita Das

crow pulls the smell of rot from corpses,
crow cackles into the night's blackness.
crow blots itself into the skin of the sky,