in pieces, a puzzle by Annie Stenzel


the light her spirit cast was never
bright enough for even one
to read by, let alone two

in the gathering gloom, peace, uneasy

unfolding her face into smiles
again and again from its package
of wrinkles: one’s flesh is doomed

to forget it was ever smooth

how to contain so much mystery?
time is the shield
so that our worlds

are safe from implosion

if only it were merely
a matter of money spate
of calamities; paroxysms of insufficiency

the truth dulls, flickers

everyone’s life is in pieces
waiting in the shadow
of the Fates, especially Atropos

who carries the scissors



Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts and a couple of other continents at various times in her life. Her book-length collection, The First Home Air After Absence, was published late last year by Big Table. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in a wide range of print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Ambit to Rat’s Ass Review to Whale Road with stops at Catamaran Literary Reader, Eclectica, Gargoyle, Kestrel, Quiddity, Riddled with arrows, and The Lake, among others. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit


Painting, Átropos o Las Parcas, by Francisco Goya.

At the Renwick Gallery’s Exhibit on Burning Man by Marianne Szlyk


Adorned with a headdress
made from bottlecaps,
wearing a white nylon slip
to match the mountains,
I dance in the heat
that I have always shrunk from.

A younger, bare-chested version
of a man in a black t-shirt
stomps to the sound
of empty half-gallon jugs
and cafeteria drums.

In this world,
I ride on the back
of his motorcycle.

Wind chimes gather around,
protecting us.


First published in Ramingo’s Porch, Issue #4.



In the late 1980s, Marianne Szlyk lived in Eugene, Oregon. She wonders every so often what her life would have been like had she stayed out west. She also edits a blog-zine, The Song Is…, for poetry and prose inspired by music (especially jazz), and she publishes poetry here and there. Her latest book, On the Other Side of the Window, is available through Amazon.


Photograph by Scott Sporleder.

Plumming by Betsy Mars

plums, still life, artist unknown plumbing betsy mars

My inheritance of prunes:
one and a half bags, unfinished.
Eaten ritualistically daily
to avoid constipation.

Also dates. Two tubs, Medjool.
Minerals and fiber-rich.
Five prunes and three dates
to start each morning

sweetly, with expectation:
this is how the day will go,
movingly. Dried fruits almost
primal, handed down

with his last possessions.
The things he touched:
now I eat them daily,
tasting only sweetness.


First published in Illya’s Honey.



Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, mostly California-raised poet and educator. Her parents gave her an early appreciation for language and social justice, which her childhood years in Brazil reinforced. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from USC which she puts to no obvious use. A mother, avid traveler, and animal lover, her work has recently appeared in Tuck Magazine, Writing in A Woman’s Voice, and The Ekphrastic Review, as well as in a number of anthologies and the California Quarterly.


Painting: Plums, Still Life, artist unknown.

Gas, Light by Hal Y. Zhang

Gas, light Hal Y Zhang

Last night I sank
into the earth
until compressed into its embrace.
A singular dark smudge
etched in the fossil ledger.

In millions of years
you wake me.
The drills strike my veins;
my oily black blood
gushes into the sand.
You whisper sweet crude nothings.

I dribble into your lamps,
your lathers your perfumes,
your wheels,
the gap between your joints click-clack.

Why so angry–you cry
in the space of my exhalation.
It’s just supply and demand.
Black smoke, dark words.

I shake my head with blazing light,
a million
trillion pieces
freed through the slits between your fingers.
I am terra firma
rendered fire and air,
phoenix and ash,
linked only by ghost weight
of a sarcophagal memory.

One day the rain will rejoin me,
halves unblurring into a whole.
Transmuted. Unfamiliar.
You will curse me again as we
devour the sweet, sweet earth together.



Hal Y. Zhang is an immigrant who picked her second name from a hat. She writes at


Photograph by Eric Kounce.

#CampFire: Cheshire Moon by Catharine Clark-Sayles

cheshire moon catharine clark sayles
your ruddy grin tonight
reflects an awful light
the world is fever sick,
it burns, those with feet
prepare to run, those unfooted
left consumed. Sky and land-
scape merge in ash
familiar comes undone
lottery of flame and wind
spins a wheel of fire
missing, dead: the numbers rise.


Catharine Clark-Sayles is a physician practicing geriatrics in Marin county. She has been writing poetry most of her life with a long hiatus for medical school and the Army. Her latest chapbook, Brats, contains narrative poems of a military childhood. It was published by Finishing Line Press this year. Two prior books: One Breath and Lifeboat, were published by Tebot Bach Press. She is in a MFA program in poetry and narrative medicine at Dominican University in San Rafael.