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As if he is holding a sparrow by DS Maolalai


Photograph by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

As if he is holding a sparrow
you would write me these long letters
after you first moved back home
when we had only been together
a month or so
and they’d arrive, pages and yellow pages
looped in tiny hand writing
that spun little circles all along the paper
containing in them these tiny lovely parcels of your mind.
and when we would visit each other
I remember your eyes, big and drunken looking up at me
like something reaching out
and taking my heart in its fingertips.
they were so blue and round and lovely,
as if you were going to start crying
later on, but your mouth then
would be smiling at me.
and now, almost two years from when it started
I see the photographs of you
with this new guy, and your hand is on his shoulder
and his carefully around your waist
as if he is holding a sparrow
and afraid of crushing the bones.
and you look happy with him.
happier than I remember seeing you
for a long time.
it makes me want to knock the radio
onto the floor to see you looking like that.
but you were happy with me too, when it started.
Author Photo
DS Maolalai recently returned to Ireland after four years away, now spending his days working maintenance dispatch for a bank and his nights looking out the window and wishing he had a view. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press

The Clock Marriage by Gareth Culshaw

The Clock Marriage
I watched my husband build clocks his whole life.
Cleaning the centre wheel, connecting the grips
of the escape wheel and third wheel.

He wore a leather apron with a pencil in his mouth,

rested a pivot reaching tool behind an ear.
Sometimes he touched my hand when we sat

on a bus. I never knew why. The pendulum bob
swung between us, and our tongues sometimes
went with the tick tock. I saw his crow foot tool


on the bench. I felt like using it on his chest
to see if his heart had my face on it. He turned
the winding mechanism, set the time for himself,

and I sat in front of the T.V unaware of the hour
hand sinking by. His hands flicked a five prong
clock key. I lay next to him in hope he winds
my parts. But he snored away, lost in the clocks
he had known. I lay with the streetlight haze,
listened to cars thinning with the darkness,
smelt staleness, let my eyelids decide on
when to sleep.
Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He is an aspiring writer who has his first collection by futurecycle in 2018.

Lectures on Poetry by M.V. Montgomery



Loose and Fast Sentences

A loose sentence begins with subject and verb and then drifts off
into a potentially endless series of modifiers and clauses.  Take,
for example, that sentence of Thomas Hardy’s that Monty Python
made such sport of, the one that begins on Saturday afternoon
and doesn’t end, presumably, until Sunday:  “A Saturday afternoon
in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast
tract of land known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment
by moment.”  Subject?  “afternoon”;  verb?  “was approaching.”
But does anyone remember what we were approaching?  Anyone?
While this mystery was playing out in England, a new poetry written
in America by Whitman was reviving the periodic sentence:  “Of Life
immense in passion, pulse, and power,/ Cheerful, for freest action
form’d under the laws divine,/ the Modern Man I sing.”  Hear that?
We build up to verb and subject.  And Whitman is always the subject.


Christ is calling everyone here and I am standing alone in rebellion.
That was the complaint of sixteen-year-old Emily Dickinson during
her year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, where she decided
to be done for good with Puritanism.  She found the atmosphere
of religion thoroughly oppressive — roofed New England churches
that let in little light, Calvinist ministers who uncharitably presumed
the number of the “elect” in their congregations to be very few, and
parishioners who built elaborate mausoleums in the mistaken view
that they were reserving spaces in Heaven.  Even the tonalities of
organ music, Dickinson observed, held some mysterious power to
make sinners feel a “Heavenly Hurt” when they’d done nothing wrong.
And so she retreated to Amherst to write her own therapeutic verses.
She would skewer the Resurrectionists, gentrify sin and death until
they’d lost their terror, and reject predestination in favor of possibility.


Greek sculpture is a highly mimetic art, fashioning its gods in
humankind’s image.  Unlike a two-dimensional painting or
characters on the page, it reminds us directly of our divinity.
You must not walk away from it before your fledgling self
has had a chance to recognize its own like.  Likewise, you must
not walk away if you’ve never heard a work of art speak to you
personally and urgently, and therefore you continue to labor
under a false dichotomy of body and spirit.  Or likewise, mistake
the eyes in the mirror and all of your physical infirmities for
the whole and fail to see the divine essence emergent in yourself,
that same emergence that gives birth to new stars and souls.
Now feel that inner sun burst into flame: Apollo has decreed it.
He was the Almighty God of Poetry, and never to appreciate his
potentiality and power would be to go through life a broken ruin.

Stevens’ Jar

Asking the imagination to summon a forest unassisted is no easy task,
but here’s a little conjuring trick that may help.  Take this Mason jar.
It’s nothing but a prop, a mnemonic — clear and colorless, perhaps a
little grey in the morning light.  But feel its smoothness on all sides.
Contrast that with the unhewn wilds one envisions in Tennessee.
The jar is like nothing else there, man-made, and because it’s empty
it’s a powerful vacuum that sucks in every live thing you can imagine,
from fireflies and frogs to fresh pickled preserves.  Take a minute to
collect unruly specimens.  Then play an association game with sound:
round, around, surround.  Observe how the added letters send ripples
through the imagination until the wilderness shoots up on all sides.
The jar also supplies the necessary topography: to experience this,
turn it face-down on your writing table and press.  Feel the hills rise.
Press down harder, and those hills press back, asserting their dominion.
M.V. Montgomery is an Atlanta professor who writes poetry, fiction, and screenplays.  His website is

Winter Tune-up by Charles Rammelkamp

Winter Tune-up
Coming  up from the basement,
I recognize the doo-doo-do-do-doooo opening bar
of “Strangers in the Night,” whistled
in an absent-minded birdcall.
by the guy from the fuel company,
here to tune up the furnace for the winter.
As far as he goes.  Over and over.
A blast from the furnace
when he jacks up the thermostat.
up and under like a pre-dawn cricket song.
Exchanging glances floats through my brain
in a Sinatra voice. Something something
What were the chances?
A pop song from half a century ago.
Always heard it was about a gay tryst,
but it seemed to me
it could just as easily be a man and a woman.
Gary, the furnace guy,
looks to be in is early thirties,
young enough to be my son.
Odd, I think, he’s whistling that song.
Two lonely people, we were
After an hour, Gary trudges up the steps,
lugging his toolbox and equipment.
“Okay, replaced the oil filter,
installed a new nozzle,
did basic maintenance on the boiler system.
You’re good to go. Sign here and here.”
Our fingers touch when he hands me the pen.
A spark of static electricity.
“Whoa!” Gary apologizes.
“Must be from working on the boiler.”
We exchange a glance.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist(Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts ( Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

The Handheld Mirror of the Mind by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri



Our poetry editor, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s fourth full length poetry collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, is now available from Kelsay Books. You can find the book here:

What others say about The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:

Poetry of global dreaming. Life on earth is under threat and Diane Sahms-Guarnieri makes a poetic call for the survival of humans and all animal species, life on the endangered list. We are all connected and interdependent. Our past teaches us core lessons for the future. Now is the time to take action to preserve life on the global home we share. Diane’s poetry is a celebration of this life, inside and out.

—Martin Chipperfield, 34thParallel Magazine

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is a stunning wordsmith. In her collection, The Handheld Mirror of the Mind, we journey through themes of loss, grief, our shared humanity, and the complexities of the inner life. With great tenderness and lyricism, Guarnieri skillfully navigates these topics. Her graceful descriptions of the natural world provide a vivid magic, as if painting with words. In one poem, Guarnieri refers to stars, “as pinprick diamonds mined out of/night’s cave—luminous studs/riveted through black velvet.” She deals with death and the expectation of loss with care, infusing the life of nature, as in the line, “Your dusty voice rising as spirit leaving mimosa.” There is also great comfort, as in the refrain of the poem, “As long as a heart is beating someone is always alive.” While dealing with human struggles, this collection offers hope. Guarnieri invites us to honor all beings, all creatures, and all understandings of faith by joining together, “as global dreamers in coexistence.”

—Cristina M. R. Norcross, Editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Amnesia and Awakenings and Still Life Stories, among others.

“What does a heart know anyway?” Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s lucid and brave fourth full-length collection The Handheld Mirror of the Mind wrestles with this question, as love and loss pass as naturally as the seasons. Through elegy and aubade, the speaker turns her gaze inward, interrogating the darkness. However, as she sifts through memory’s wreckage, there are patches of light and hope, of song. As the speaker reconciles: “I carry their song inside my body,/inside rhapsody of thoughts….To them I sing this easy truth.”

—Emari DiGiorgio, author of Girl Torpedo and The Things a Body Might Become


The Handheld Mirror of the Mind:


Darwin’s Mother by Sarah Rose Nordgren



By Lynette G. Esposito

The soft cover volume of Darwin’s Mother by Sarah Rose Nordgren published by Pittsburg Press is a delight. It is so good, even the acknowledgements are interesting.

The book is divided into three sections: Origin of Species, Material, and A Moral Animal. I have favorites in each section. In the first section, my favorite is Mitochondrial Eve on page 9. The first two stanzas set up the poem and the last single line closes it. 

                                     Please go down and thank her
                                      under the arched branches
                                      where she sits on her heels


                                      arranging a circle of leaves
                                      for a good bed.  And on the inside
                                      of her skin thank the mosaic.


The seven-stanza  poem is both visual and logical. The structure is regular until the final stanza which stands alone as a single line: always with the door open.  The reader is spoken to in direct address and then is presented with a picture of our original Eve as she puts everything together from the inside out while resting in nature and at the same time being part of nature.

In the second section, Material, my favorite is on pages 28 and 29 entitled Reservoir.  The poem begins It is the nature of data,,,, The poem progresses to discuss

this dry subject in fresh and wonderful images of “things.” Norgren relates data to water and the gathering of it.  In stanza three and four, she presents how this gathering works:

                                        It takes a staff of thousands
                                        traveling on foot with tin buckets
                                        under their arms to collect                                        
                                        even a fraction of it, empting it all
                                        into the reservoir we’re building
                                        for this very purpose.  


She uses the image of water as data through the rest of the poem discussing the uses of information and the broad expanse of it, and ends the poem in two lines: as they stare and say, My God how beautiful. One sees in the poem the digital blue lakes and not the dry numbers of information we observe in landlocked pages. The poem transforms informational data into a lovely useable waterscape.

In A Moral Animal, Nordgren presents poetry with subjects including The Kiss, Moral Animal, Achilles and Mary at the Museum and Simulation. My favorite in this section is

Movie Night on page 54. The title suggests this is a fun poem. If you think watching a horror movie on an Easter Sunday is fun, then add giving birth and trying to stuff the baby back in as a leisure activity and you have a rather twisted vision of what to in your spare time.

The one stanza poem ends with the lines:.

                                      …This time
                                      you play the distant voice while I
                                      heave myself up, heave myself up
                                      from the bitter lake.     


As in her other poems,  Nordgren creates not only visuals, but contrasting perceptions in how reality can affect us and in this poem how an old horror movie affects our Sunday afternoons.

The book feels honest, simple and complex as it explores the exterior and interior of the author’s view of the human condition in a timeless exposure of how the past, present and future intermix.


The book is available from The University of Pittsburgh Press at  www.upress,


Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.