Poems & Essays

18 Sep


Toddlers to Teens No Response

Ballerinas’ toes are black.

Thorns of lead lace
rose-window tracery.

Marie’s bones burned
from laughing long days
in potato-shed/stable,
Radium salt glowing by her bedside—
and they called her Nobel.

My grandfather baptized
bursts of hands and light and strung
immortal moments in dark clouds
of Sulphur-dioxide.

I think of this when my knees prick
with crumbs and my thumbs wrinkle
like a kitchen-sink Sisyphus.
When I get on eye-level
to find what fell
from a diaper, I swear

there must be a sonnet
in here somewhere.



Melissa Weaver lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she manages to tend to a steady husband, three small children, an unruly backyard garden and occasionally, a poem or two. A former English and ESL teacher, she seeks to be deeply rooted in her neighborhood, building relationships with kids and families who have come from all over the world. Her work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, The Christian Century, The Anabaptist Journal of Australia and New Zealand, Transforming, a publication of Virginia Mennonite Missions, and Anabaptist Witness (forthcoming).

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18 Sep


Toddlers to Teens No Response

I am making progress of a sort; after two days,
my nephew’s dog has settled enough to sneak
into my bed and make himself at home. I awaken

in darkness to hot breath against my face on a night
the mercury has dawdled near a hundred and kiss
his muzzle, knowing it’s been in my toilet. I’ve been

there, too, more proof species aren’t as different
as we claim. We both strain against the leash,
do mischief. He eats my daughter’s bra, my own dog

looking on in wonder. It’s a wise soul that recognizes
what’s extraneous. I only half-chide as I examine the brutal
underwire before chucking it. We’ve battled diarrhea

and damage, but he’s not all bad, eager at each knock
as if it promised his beloved. I’m sure when he leaves,
I’ll value him, like the man who found peace amidst chaos

by following his rabbi’s counsel to dwell
with his livestock awhile. Only after its addition and
deletion, can he appreciate the good he has.


Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found here in MAW as well as in The Cincinnati Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Stillwater Review, Red Earth Review, Psaltery & Lyre,The Ekphrastic Review, Emrys Journal, and more.

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18 Sep


Babyhood No Response

It was the only voice
I’d ever heard
tiny hiccups of sound,

the first note followed by
a vibrato of noise
violin strings of crying,

legs and arms spasming
so thin, they were
almost transparent,

the sticks of bones
composed of glass
and light,

and a heart–
a heart flying,
a heart next to mine.



Alison McBain is an award-winning author with more than sixty short works published, including prose/poetry in Litro, FLAPPERHOUSE, The Gunpowder Review and The Airgonaut. She is the Book Reviews Editor for Bewildering Stories, and a regular contributor to the international literary collective Reader’s Abode. In her spare time, she blogs about local author events and interviews writers at http://www.alisonmcbain.com/.

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18 Sep

White Laurel

Toddlers to Teens No Response

The small branch I put in a vase
white as white were the flowers
didn’t dry or fade. It lingered
bright as an evergreen
though it is known
cut laurels don’t last.

It was meant to celebrate
vacations beginnings
and togetherness with my child.
Things changed.
The boy went.
I spent the summer alone.

In my grief
I left the flowers untouched.
of naïve enthusiasm.
Two months passed
and they didn’t wither.

Among darkness I spotted
curls of tender green.
The laurel was sprouting.
A soft carpet of roots
hiding underwater
laced like a bird nest.

Laurel isn’t aquatic.
This branch chose to stay.
Vagrant? Homeless?
Now a permanent guest
bridging over emptiness.
Harbinger of return.




Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Calamus, Dying Dahlia, Circleshow, and Fire Poetry.

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