north of oxford poetry

Wild Onions by paul Bluestein

wild onions
Wild Onions
Spring came and, as they always do,
the wild onions
 poked their miserable shoelace shoots
up out of the ground.
Like rude subway riders,
they crowd in close
to my young, delicate flowers,
trying to push them aside
as if they owned the ground in which they grew.
They may not think of themselves as weeds,
but weeds is what they are.
Oh, some people would say
wild onions are vegetables,
like parsnips or beets,
but I say they are weeds
and they will find no comfort in my garden.
I will unsheathe my spade and stainless steel claw
and do battle with the April invaders;
root them out wherever I find them
and let them serve as a lesson
to mint that might be thinking of
becoming delinquent,
wild and uncontrollable.
paul Bluestein is a  physician (no longer practicing) and a blues guitar player (still practicing). he was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, a short walk from the Oxford Circle. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and the two dogs who rescued him. His poetry has appeared in many online and print journals and his first book-length collection  – Time Passages – was published earlier this year by Silver Bow Publishing in Kindle and soft-cover formats.

Two Poems by Judy DeCroce

We Keep the Words
will we forget the darkening summer—
   praise its many colors
and mumble a prayer
regret means nothing to nature
what unnecessary words should we say
as the tree comes down
fingers once brushing sky
the grasses holding flush
its fullness gone
the green arch only scant left
perhaps—the word is
Empty Spaces
understanding in one single push how it goes
eyes into fog                fog into bones
empty spaces choose stories
when there is wind, whisper, or thunder
conversations drift up
and you listen keenly to a crew dead 30 years
and the cadence blowing below and above the waves
while the ocean only sighs
Judy DeCroce, is an educator, poet/flash fiction writer and avid reader whose works have been published by Plato’s Cave online, Pilcrow & Dagger, Amethyst Review, Tigershark Publishing, The BeZine and many others. As a professional storyteller and teacher of that genre, she also offers, workshops in flash fiction. Judy lives and works in upstate New York with her husband poet/artist, Antoni Ooto.

Howard Beach: Queens, NY by Doug Holder

Howard Beach: Queens, NY
Uncle Marty.
eating chickpeas from the strainer
greets me in a t-shirt and underwear
his 90-year-old mother
in her corner
in disrepair.
“I got no regrets,” he said,   “I’ve seen it all,
 I’ve seen Bobby Thompson hit that ball.”
His mother says through her toothless smile:
“He was always good with maps
that’s what they said,
he always had maps
in his head
that’s what they said.”
Marty scratches his crotch
takes another shot
of the cheap scotch.
Marty despises the family barbecues
wears a polyester suit to the beach
often spits
and has a toothpick
in his teeth.
“Yeah,” he said to me,
as he glances out to the sea
“Yeah I seen it all,
I was there
when Bobby Thompson hit
that ball.”
**** One of the most famous moments in baseball history, Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning 1951 blast for the Giants….
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His work has appeared in Rattle,  sPoKe, Harvard Mosiac, The Boston Globe, Artword Quarterly, Hazmat Review, Word Riot and elsewhere. Holder has a new collection of poetry due out this summer from Big Table Books, ” The Essential Doug Holder.”  The “Doug Holder Papers Collection” is being processed at the University at Buffalo.

Strands by Michael A. Griffith

spider 1
Photograph by Diane Sahms
Why deny the obvious necessity for memory?
              l  Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour
Walked through her spider’s web
on my way to take in the sun.
The silkhair strands stick to my skin,
eerie tracings of where her fingers
once slid.
As the sun bakes my flesh.
I feel the strands melting into me,
phantom limbs of amputated desire.
I should move to the healing shade.
(That coolness beckons.)
But baking, simmering in her strands seems
somehow more enticing, more satisfying,
than that soothing shade
I see
inching away.
Griffith Photo
Michael A. Griffith teaches at Raritan Valley and Mercer County Community Colleges in central NJ. He is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, Bloodline, Exposed, and the forthcoming New Paths to Eden. Recent works appear in Ariel Chart, Miletus Literature Review, Ramingo’s Porch, and U.S. 1 Worksheets. Mike lives near Princeton, NJ.

Leave Meeting by Bruce E. Whitacre

Leave Meeting
One of my professor friends posted a screenshot of his seminar,
the one he conducts for good students at a good school.
I can see you there, center row, third from left.
My friend is in the little box next to you.
The famous guest author is the lower right corner.
Wish I could have been on that game show.
If you’re here it means you made it,
that you’re not in permanent couch-surfing mode,
that you stopped drinking after those black outs,
that you don’t have a glove compartment rattling
with glass pipes and lighters,
that you kept a waitress job long enough to pay
a bit of rent and what it takes to join
this array of the bright and the bored.
So many of these students have the same white bookshelves
every influencer sits before these days.
Would they have the same books I read to you,
the ones you threw across the room
when the letters wouldn’t stop dancing,
and that you had to read all over again the next year?
Would the sleeves of that hoody cover your tracks?
This is what I always hoped for you:
to know that not every brick building is a courthouse, or a jail;
not every group is a gang.
Even in this checkerboard you can almost read these lives—
the texts firing off off-line to the BFFs,
the renegotiations with OK, Boomer over
the unexpected homecoming.
You’ve been there, too.
If only you could have learned that not every grown man wants
something from you that takes the light out of your eyes,
the light I see in theirs, box by box,
the light I would see in your eyes
if only they would open in time.
His work has appeared in Cagibi, HIV Here and Now by Indolent Books, North of Oxford, Poets Wear Prada, and World Literature Today.  He has been a featured poetry reader at the Forest Hills Public Library. He has read his work at Poets House, the Zen Mountain Monastery Buddhist Poetry Festival, Kew Willow Books, Lunar Walk, and other venues.  He completed master workshops with Jericho Brown, Alex Dimitrov, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Mark Wunderlich.   He holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is an activist and advocate for the arts and social justice.  He lives in Forest Hills, Queens.

Cast Iron Bookends of Girls in Ladderback Chairs by Katherine Barham

Cast Iron Bookends of Girls in Ladderback Chairs
No doubt your books neatly lined up
between these cast iron chairs
my sister and I occupy
bring you delight
but consider what the sculptor had in mind:
Our hair is tousled from sleep,
our nightgowns wrinkled,
our legs akimbo, our feet bare,
but most of all we sit sidesaddle,
halfway on and halfway off,
rocking back in laughter,
holding on with one hand
to the top of the chair.
My little sister’s kitten
barely rests between her midriff and thigh.
The older cats stay wisely
underneath the chairs.
But the source of our gaze
and reason for our laughter
is ours to know and you
to find out–and reading
is the last thing on our minds.
Katherine Barham has an MFA degree from Warren Wilson Program for Writers and has published poems in the following journals:  The American Poetry Review, The Drunken Boat, Spillway, Hubbub and Mad Poets Review.  Moonstone Press published my chapbook, From the Familiar, in 2015, and forthcoming is my book How It Shone, by atmosphere Press.

Two Poems by Amy Barone

She returned to the place where she first
experienced longing and surrender.
Where past loves had been tangible as mercury,
elusive as ghosts.
By day, butterflies clung to spikes of blue veronica,
crimson azaleas filled in bright green bushes.
At night, dazed and glowing with a moon tan,
she caught the sole pulsing star,
then tossed her shillelagh, vowed to engineer life’s voles
on her own terms.
Medea’s Cameo
I wonder if Medea wore a coral cameo
when she embarked on the journey
with Jason seeking passion and gold.
A brooch revealing Athena on a raised relief,
an ancient campaign button of hope,
an amulet for an enchantress who divined.
Under a watery sky, did she dance
to wind songs on the hunt for treasure?
Did she regret her treatment of the King?
Love is love—it nurtures and heals.
But pride can trample hearts.
And when revenge turns gruesome,
a magical charm can’t stop a blazing rage
that ignited more than her soul.
Amy Barone’s latest poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, was released in early 2018. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing.) Her poetry has appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Philadelphia Poets, Sensitive Skin, and Standpoint (UK), among other publications. She spent five years as Italian correspondent in Milan for Women’s Wear Daily and Advertising Age. She belongs to PEN America Center and the brevitas online poetry community that celebrates the short poem. A native of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Barone lives in New York City.

Skipping Stones by Ed Meek

skipping stones
Skipping Stones
Do you remember keeping your eyes open
For flat, oval rocks to pocket on walks to the pond?
Saving the best for last, you’d lean
To one side and flick your wrist
flinging the stones just off the water.
It isn’t easy to defy gravity
And make a stone skip like a tern
And skim weightless
Soaring without wings
Touching down like a plane
While you count until it sinks
And heads to rest anonymous
On the bottom.
Maybe that’s what we’re after
As we try to stay afloat,
Skimming on the surface,
defying the odds
For the fleeting feeling of flight.
Ed Meek’s new book, High Tide, is available at

Two Poems by Howie Good

train car
Chili Con Carnage
The train was crowded, dirty, excruciatingly slow. I had boarded with the idea of arriving that night in time to be a character in someone else’s dreams. It doesn’t have to make sense, but, for a while, the train ran parallel to an oily black river in which naked corpses floated. None of the passengers traveling with small children even attempted to shield the children’s eyes. And that was fine with me. Growing up, I spent many hours watching TV alone in the basement in the dark.
I said to the doctor, “I’m dying.” He said, “How’s that my fault?” I had been suffering for about a month. The doctor said it was my body attacking itself. “It’ll scald you,” he said with unexpected enthusiasm, “peel the skin and muscle right off your bones.” I wondered if this was a joke of some sort. I decided it must be and climbed down from the exam table. When I opened the door to leave, a man with a bloody face, his hands bound behind his back, was just standing there waiting his turn.
I wake up in bed alone, with drool and sweat and maybe worse on my pillow. History is dead. Scum is all that’s left. The sun keeps showing up regardless.
 ‘Grief Is Love Made Homeless’
I was born shivering in a small Midwestern city named for a now-extinct tribe. As I grew older, I was given platitudes to speak and warned not to mix up the words or mistake their meaning. Occasionally, the sky would brighten, but never for long, and then people would cluster on street corners and in churches and under highway bridges. Some would be crying, having just learned that being guilty was a part of life. This happened again and again and again. It might have been more endurable if the dark wasn’t always so dark.
Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.