Seeing Stars

A house built on sand makes itself felt when a mother

hides glasses of whiskey in the drawers of her vanity table.

That our family was special and blessed was the wishful

fiction read to us children at bedtime. Asteroid and disaster

are linguistic siblings; the Milky Way is a road of milk, a spill

of cream in a black-coffee heaven; and stars, though regarded

as gods by the Greeks, are merely dense balls of gas that spewed

their chemical guts into the galaxy. “Let the stars sit where they will,”

Coyote cries in the Navajo myth, flinging up handfuls of glittering

mica that stick to the sky helter-skelter. My flame-haired mother

saw shades of gray that my father was blind to, yet she projected

her own tortured colors on each of us in turn, her afternoon empathy

sucking me in to be spat upon later. Etymologies tell more truth

about life than the words do themselves, as in the Greek prefix sark

linking “sarcasm” to sarcophagus, literal eater of flesh. Like my mother,

a star in its red giant phase, devouring her innermost planets, the milk

of her human kindness curdled by accusations that ripped me apart

like hyenas tearing the flesh from my bones. A star-crossed ancestral

curse hounded my Janus-faced mother, who winked out at last

like a star.

Sharon Whitehill

 Sharon Whitehill, a retired English professor from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, is currently enjoying her retirement in Port Charlotte, Florida. After years of hard work and dedication, she has achieved her dream of having her poems published in various literary magazines. She has authored two chapbooks titled “The Umbilical Universe” and “Inside Out to the World,” as well as a full collection called “A Dream of Wide Water.” In spring 2024, she will release her third chapbook titled “This Sad and Tender Time.”

Outside their Circle

They finished each other’s sentences about the differences

between ’56 and ’57 Chevies, how they rebuilt transmissions,

how the Hurst shifters needed a hole drilled in the floorboard,

as I sat in the back seat hearing tales of another country.


Their dads knew how to build houses and get the right tools,

took their boys to the seances of men huddled in a circle

who spit as they called forth the spirits of wrenches and vises,

while I slept each night on the living room couch overhearing


Mom and Sis whispering in their beds about curlers and creams.

I learned about how to bounce drops of water on the heated pan

telling what size flame would make the pancake batter not stick,

and to speak about love and hurt, and not bolt it down inside.


The soft voices of poets and writers speaking sadness and joy

let me wander in places far away from that sofa in the night,

and I liked myself knowing the things that other boys didn’t

as they lay under cars with friends finding power in engines.


No dad, I sank lower in the back seat hearing how men loved

mastering gears, electrodes, filters, valves, and carburetors

like there was a way of friendship with the tribe of machines

always scary to me, who hissed I was not one of them.


Glen A. Mazis

Glen A. Mazis taught philosophy for decades at Penn State Harrisburg, retiring in 2020. He has more than 90 poems in literary journals, including Rosebud, The North American Review, Sou’wester, Spoon River Poetry Review, Willow Review, Atlanta Review, Reed Magazine and Asheville Poetry Review, and the collection, The River Bends in Time (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), a chapbook, The Body Is a Dancing Star (Orchard Street Press, 2020), and Bodies of Space and Time (Kelsay Books, 2022). He is the 2019 winner of the Malovrh-Fenlon Poetry Prize (Orchard Street national contest).

Behind the Garden Wall

A cracked skull the constables told me, must have happened when I hit the flagstone walkway. And the bruises, obviously caused by my convulsions. There was no doubt in their minds that I had succumbed to a fit of hysteria, which was perfectly understandable considering the recent spate of molestations in area. The dark stains on my bodice they attributed to a bloody nose, a matter of a weak constitution to be sure. They weren’t concerned about the volume of blood and didn’t seem to notice that there wasn’t any of it around my nostrils. They also didn’t seem to notice the rumpled grass at the edge of the walkway—or that it continued to the garden.

It was an uncivil hour, and he made quite a racket banging on the front gate and yelling that the beast had been seen prowling the lane. He said he followed its curious spring-heeled footprints to our garden wall where they simply stopped, as if it had leaped straight up into the air and over the top. If I could just spare a candle, he could continue the hunt.

From what I could see of him, he wore a long, dark cloak and carried a bullseye lantern that was spent. As I opened the gate, I offered a candle fetched from the kitchen—but instead of accepting it, he threw off his cloak with a sudden jerk revealing a devilish visage and claws that glinted in the moonlight as if made of metal.

He seemed surprised that I didn’t immediately faint at the sight of him or run as he belched out a gout of blue-white flame and clawed at me. He seemed equally surprised at what else I had brought from the kitchen—and at just how much blood a dinner knife could draw.

I wonder if, after I rolled his body off me and began dragging it to the garden, the thought crossed his mind that I might have been expecting him.

Francesco Levato

Francesco Levato is a poet, professor, and writer of speculative fiction. Recent books include SCARLET; Arsenal/Sin Documentos; Endless, Beautiful, Exact; and Elegy for Dead Languages. Recent speculative fiction appears in Savage Planets, Sci-Fi Shorts, and Tales to Terrify. He holds an MFA in Poetry, a Ph.D. in English Studies, and is an Associate Professor of Literature & Writing Studies at California State University San Marcos.

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