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February 2022

On this call for submissions, we will consider the Zuihitsu (随筆 zuih-itsu), a genre of classical Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author's surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning "at will" and "pen."

It is neither prose poem nor essay - though it can resemble both. The translation is to "follow the brush" as in painting, letting the brush take control of the hand. The form implies there will be discovery rather than plan. The creation of order depends on some disorder. 

The usually short entries contain juxtapositions, fragments, contradictions, random materials and pieces of varying lengths. It is often personal writing and contemplation. In longer zuihitsu pieces passages that look more like "poetry" (shorter lines, figurative language) also appear. One article I read called zuihitsu a genre in which the text can drift like a cloud.

Zuihitsu might be best known in its first appearance more than a millennium ago in The Pillow Book written by Sei Shonagon, a courtesan of the court of Empress Sadako/Teshi. Sei was a contemporary and acquaintance of another courtesan, Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote another Japanese classic, The Tale of Genji

Makura no sōshi (The Pillow Book) was written around 1000 and like many old personal diaries and journals it gives us reflections on the customs and usages of the time. Sei Shonagon kept a diary that includes the intrigues, dalliances, and habits of Japan's late tenth-century elite, as well as her personal feelings.

I read an abridged translation by Arthur Waley. There is a little thrill in reading the diary of this very young woman. She writes in a time and place that treated poetry as important as knowledge.

Zuihitsu written today by most Westerners is hybrid. A precise definition is hard to give. I would say that the emphasis is not so much on a subject as it is about the movement between the passages. The passages are interconnected but flow from one to the next more by association than any literary logic. The writing process mirrors the author’s mind. Parts may be in verse if that is the best form for the idea. The form changes the content. Another description I have seen of the form is that it is a "lyric essay." 

The first time I was introduced to the form, the modern poem that came to mind was "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. Looking at it again, it does seem to fit the form. Here are two of Stevens' "ways"

I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after. 

It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.

American poet Kimiko Hahn published her collection The Narrow Road to the Interior and uses this ancient Japanese technique in the writing of her very modern poetry. (Her title is taken from haiku poet Bashō's famous travel diary, Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Interior).

Another modern example is "Zuihitsu" by Jenny Xie. Here are just 3 passages.

A Zen priest once told me that without snagging on a storyline, the body can only take loss for ninety seconds. The physical body has its limits, is what I heard.
The imagination can break through them.

Boiled peanuts. Leather of daybreak. Cotton thinning out into thread. Dried vomit. Ice water from the spigot. The sacred and profane share a border. In the desert, small droppings of unknown origin.

Even when I was young, I loved peering at faces in films. The pleasure of watching and of not being watched.

Tina Chang used the zuihitsu form in her collection Hybrida. Here is an excerpt:

Hybrid forms leave fences open. They are wide fields with snow leopards, wolves, and honey bees. The combustion of imaginings forms a lake, water spreading, explosions on the surface of an oil slick. 

Hybrida is the change of properties. Long ago the earth plates shifted, came together in new permutations. New land. New World. It permits a space to be wounded, sutured, broken again, and untied to float to a beyond. 

This mixed presence is a ghost, converses with the living. What lingers sounds like leaves crushed beneath feet, or the light that remains on after you’ve distinctly shut it, the house in the field over there, the one that keeps living whether you view it or not. Lights in the upstairs room. Shadows move when the wind changes its mind. It seems inhabited, doesn’t it?

All those poet interpretations are worth looking at but as our model this month, I chose some sections from The Pillow Book itself. The author often makes lists under headings that could serve as titles.

We asked poets to write a zuihitsu-inspired poem, collecting a series of random but interconnected thoughts and personal notes about your surroundings. We suggested as a starting place using Shonagon's organizing method of a heading which can become your title or serve as a kind of stanza. You need to decide on some unifying element even if your pen takes you along a stream of consciousness  to some place unexpected. For example, you could write 12 thoughts, one for each month, or have 7 for each day of the week. The sections might resemble haiku. We hoped to receive submissions that were not a pillow book or diary, but that might be an excerpt from one.

There is a free online text version of The Pillow Book if you are looking for more section ideas. 

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.

      "In life there are two things which are dependable.
       The pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of literature."
            from The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

In life, there are two things which are
tenuous: the weight of breath and the weight of sleep
immutable: the traumas of ego and of childhood
unforgettable: of the 98 things you did right, the ones you did wrong

In life, there are two things which
glow: the blush of pride and the blush of embarrassment
grow: the abundance of what you know and void of what you don’t
should always change: the casts of your mind and your opinion

In life, there are two things which are
mysterious: the ache of your unmet desires and the ache of your regrets
true: the animal release of sobs and giggles
steadfast: the foundations of good love and deep care

In life, there are two things which feel
constant: the drones of musts and shoulds
insurmountable: the mountain of laziness and the mountain of fear
impervious: the fortress of shame and the moat of wanton desire

In life, there are two things which remain
remote: the planet of enough and the planet of fulfillment
unobtainable: the birds in the bush
unfeasible: seeing things in black; seeing things in white

In life, there are many things which are
elusive: fleeting glimpses of certainty.

Gina A. Turner


My mother saved all of my letters from camp. When she died I found them in a shoebox in the closet in my 10-year-old hand and voice. I know that voice like the back of a very small hand that used to be mine. And somehow still is.
In that same shoebox I found a cassette tape of my mother talking about her life. The tape is labeled "Reggie" in that hand I would know anywhere, a hand like a kind of face. It's the only record I have of her voice, her laugh, her way of talking. I can hear her begin to say a word, then pause, then choose a different word. I can hear her thinking.
The men who sold shoes in that shoe store all wore ties and jackets. They were professionals. They had wives and children they supported and houses with mortgages they paid with the salaries they earned at the shoe store. They'd kneel before me knowingly, almost scientifically, inch a thumb out onto the promontory of my big toe, then deftly measure the empty space and the time it would take my childhood to fill it.
In those letters from camp there are lots of misspellings. And the recurring theme is winning. "We won the baseball game." "We won the swim meet." "We won the tenis tornamint." Winning is a theme that continued all my life. Winning at school, winning in romance, winning at work, always the need to kill it, to destroy the competition. How despicable I suddenly am to myself. Only the misspellings are endearing, those phonetic, understandable, forgivable mistakes.
On the tape of my mother, I can hear her lip the cigarette, still talking with it unlit in her mouth, lips pressed together like a ventriloquist. Then I hear her light it, the match striking, flaring. I hear her inhale. Exhale. I hear her breathing. I've listened to that tape so many times, and so closely, so much more closely than I ever listened to her when she lived and breathed.

Paul Hostovsky


Kitchen the heart of the home, at least
nutritionally speaking and it is in the middle
tall wall cupboards seem to grow higher as I shrink
breadbin never used for bread (biscuits and snacks)
saucepans never used for sauce (microwave)

iron…well, used for ironing but
only if absolutely necessary
dozens of gadgets, appliances
white goods – even if they are black
and why the red enamel coffee pot?
and why the aluminium hob-top kettle with a red lid?
add the very small (not entirely useless) ancient red saucepan
all older than me. It’s an installation.

artsy metal plate, souvenir of a holiday
in Turkey I didn’t have
but a friend was throwing it out with her memory of it
large canvas on the only blank wall space
oil pastel impressionist koi carp swimming
through seaweed. Ah! They’re freshwater fish
it’s a definite impressionism. Mine

Dining room where we eat
in the evening eat in/dine out
we wanted to call it the morning room
(there’s posh) but it faces the wrong way.
nice sunsets though apart from the cables
dipping in front of the house, weighted
seasonally with starlings, rooks
both lording it over the sparrows
a tightrope for copulating woodpigeons
any time of year

cabinet and sideboard made by ancestral
cabinet makers two dragon trees two peace lilies
enough glasses should we ever decide
to hold a banquet or be granted a royal visit
once there were enough cups and saucers
for thirty-four. I had more energy then
same must have been true of their owners
who left them to me but when there was energy
there was little to energise
and little time

Sitting room where we …sit or …live
living TV reality one end, musical stuff the other
stereo and vinyl from when we could remember
chairs for fourteen people
who never come at the same time
I didn’t know I just counted
in one corner a table,,, my desk where I write
where I write now right now
mirror on the wall I see behind me
and check when I am not writing

Egyptian papyrus papyri? Framed
holiday I (we) did go on
when we were 50 (celebratory treat)
better than using all those glasses
and teacups and saucers
then washing them up,
back to the sink (kitchen)
then to their cupboards (and sideboard)
everything in its place
but not its time

Bedroom too many clothes (mine)
too many shoes (mine)
too much dust
too little time
sleep on it

Julie Anne Gilligan

JANUARY 9-15, 2022
     (an excerpt)

This day-minder has room each day for one sentence of this length in my tiny hand. It's Sunday. Snow beyond the glass. Breath cloud upon it
Work still virtual for many. Almost a million have died. I still go to the shop, taking flowers and arranging them artificially. Sorting out the dead
My mother died this day. Ten years ago. Her grave is far from here. Without snow. Without flowers. I light a candle but there's not enough to
I went out for lunch and dinner. Two treats in one day. And now three glasses of wine. Six white tulips in a vase, completely out of season but
Friday is my week-end. How can two days both be the end of a week? Tomorrow begins the new week with a two-day break. I've no plans
He called to say he's too busy to see me. I'm not busy but say I am. Now I must make plans so that my lie becomes truth. Does writing count
Stayed in bed until 11 AM. I wish someone brought me breakfast here. I may not even shower or get dressed today. Tomorrow I'll write about

Lily Hana Hayashi


Leaving Twin Falls
Coming down off the hills of southern Idaho, two pastures glisten from refracting snow traces.
The absence of cattle, of tracks and tumbleweed makes the emptiness harsh
unlike the pastures just miles due south, just short of Jackpot, Nevada
where the sun has cleared whatever snow had idled on the lustrous green field
bounded by a river that feeds the grassland, which feeds the cattle
which feeds the cattleman’s sons and daughters and your sons and daughters.
Employee of the Month
Jackpot is cold this morning, like all mornings in some way.
In Barton’s Club 93 parking lot the wind rides up my thigh
and down the strings of my hoodie,
pink and stained and missing the sequined S in STAR.
Boot heels sink into the slush of one parking spot after another on my way into work,
where the croupier is distracted as a glint of daylight pulses once and disappears behind me.
High Times
I back my rig into the lot at Mona’s Ranch, where my trailer won’t block their wind-worn sign
and its symmetry with the others is somehow sublime.
Inside, the barroom banquettes wreak of oily Naugahyde.
I doff my Cattleman’s Crease and look past whoever Mona is that day
and mumble my desire. She choreographs the sisters’ entrance to the foyer.
This troop of runaways, meth-heads, and single moms can’t conjure a cure for me.
I tug my uniform on inside the employees lounge at Barton’s and check my nails.
I want to keep their eyes on my fingers
as they grip their cards and scuff the felt hoping they don’t bust.
They lean in, their weight at the edge of the table,
waiting for the right card to turn,
or sitting tight, ready for this daughter to lose.
We stay on 93. Long-haulers split off east and west where Wells meets 80.
Players mark their time in Jackpot, while truckers sound their horns and tip their hats
to fare thee well their brothers.
Ely awaits us, then Pioche and Caliente, where the Meadow Valley Wash glances off the highway.
We head west, then south, collapsing into 15 near Vegas,
where the Jackpot Star cannot go and Mona’s Ranch has no purchase

Rob Friedman


today I am the Moon, not Full, but waxing towards fullness. Oh, I am, as Juliet said,
"the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb" There are worlds
inside this pillow, but no sleep. I spend the day in bed clothes, tea and toast at
noon, berries for dinner on the empty pillow beside mine.

today I am a cloud in a cloud chamber, an antimatter positron annihilating its exact
opposite, not one of those white vapors in the sky outside my window, more inconstant
than any satellite, changing as I watch, as I write in this book with my purple pen
thinking that somehow the recording of these days will preserve these days or
replace my memories one day, matter, antimatter, memory, forgetfulness.

today I am an icicle on a warming day in the midst of a week of freezing days. I drip
into a small puddle that tonight will freeze again but not as an icy spear but a
sheet of glass. A reminder of what has been, what is, and what will come. I pour too
much sweet vermouth over on frozen cube and sip from the crystal all afternoon.
Outside the full sun makes smoke of the ice remaining on a table.

today I am a river on a map, not flowing, a thick, blue line fixed on a page. It is
sad. I am sad. I am addicted to sadness and I almost overdosed today. Too much,
overflow, spilling the banks. I wait for it to soak in, new growth will follow.

today I am a hummingbird, ruby-throated and never stopping to rest, no fear of death,
the death of fear, always moving. A buck scraped its antlers on the tree behind me
last night, marking territory, showing dominance, intimidation, preparing to shed
this reminder of last year. My hand flies over the page. I make my marks, shed words
from the day past. Beneath my head, are feathers to pillow my thoughts.

today I am Greta Garbo. I walk the city for eleven miles, dressed in white with big
sunglasses. I am known and unknown. A gull glides overhead far from the sea,

today I lay my head on my pillow. It is cool, scented with lavender, his hair, my
hair. I am the pillow. I am the book upon that pillow that I am writing in now. No
one can write tomorrow before tomorrow. So many blank pages remaining.

Pamela Milne

    Dedicated to my tongue

You have no taste, he said
before he walked out
for the last time. He was the meat
of my life, sometimes tough as tree bark,
sometimes tender as the first shoots
poking through the March snow.
Ooh, Mommy,
I will have to become
a vegetarian now, or a veterinarian
who knows how to clip claws
and isn’t afraid of blood.
What changed? He used to be so
How sweet it would be
to be a bee
flitting between the black-eyed Susans and goldenrod.
I watch one as it wings its way
back to the hive
where its queen waits.
It feeds Her Majesty
goblet after goblet of nectar
so legions of wee buzzers
can be born.
The sweet of the flower
has morphed into sweat,
as the sea. I don’t like the sea.
It stings my eyes when I venture
into its briny billows, which I rarely do
because I am afraid of sharks.
They are out there waiting to make
a meal of me! Once I had a shark steak
at a beach-front eatery.
It tasted like urine.
Sharks excrete through their flesh,
so if you cook them poorly,
their pee will be trapped in the meat.
I was so
when I realized that the restaurant
was nothing more than an expensive
tourist trap—a dive, really.
I tried to send my shark steak back
after only a few bites,
but the waiter refused to take it.
He was more than happy
to take my credit card, though.
I did not tip him, and as I left,
he gave me a look
as morning breath. Morning
is my favorite time of day,
but only in the summer. In the winter,
it’s still dark as the inside
of a coffin
when I leave the land of dreams
at half past seven. Better
to taste the brand new day
beneath a mesa of blankets.

Susan Spaeth Cherry


January laundry flaps in the dryer, artificial heat inspiriting the
old T-shirt I sleep in, neck unraveling, dingy with dreams. Night
curtains pulled apart to let a full moon through.
Long Winter Moon, Cold Moon, Wolf Moon, we keep our earthly schedules
by such names.
The moon says nothing.

Daylight is frost in the field, a creaky back, crepitus, arthritis in the neck.
Running behind my dog on trail, I’d hear bones keeping rhythm with my step.

The old man fell off the bathroom scales measuring how much of his
body has left him.
He fell when the scales collapsed under him. Fancy new electronic machine.
His pulse hard to read but natural, keeping going.

On TV this morning, the brain-exercise doctor smiling as she boxer-danced –
I did jumping-jacks to keep time, remembering to smile a lifeline to
hold myself together.

Taylor Graham


Spiderlings ballooning on wind gusts, riding electric fields. Children who adorn each other’s faces with their Mother’s only tube of lipstick. Rat turds passed off as salty capers and tossed on restaurant entrees.

Bank robbers running down a dark alley in Sketchers light up shoes; their getaway’s lack of foresight strikes police as troubling and rather stupid.

Discovering erotic love letters one’s father had written to several different women— but never mailed—while serving in a MASH unit during the Korean War.

The pleasurable sensation of mud oozing between toes offset by sudden trepidation as bare feet sink into peatbogs five meters deep.

Slipping into Laredo lizard skin cowboy boots and squishing a dead mouse that had crawled inside and died near the silver wingtip.

Announcing one’s dark past by proudly revealing scars on both wrists to a virtual blind date; such a person confuses intrigue and approval with impending angst.

The anxiety and apprehension felt after stumbling upon a graveyard footstone hidden behind a tool box and jars of nails in grandfather’s workshop closet.

Melancholy clowns that sift sawdust through fingers, smell of greasepaint, and smile menacingly; disquieting circus harlequins distress adults and remain the bane of children

Millionaire sports figures who have contacted a deadly virus twice, refuse to be vaccinated, and yet insist on competing with others who respect human life and have taken health precautions to avoid infecting others.

Sterling Warner


I ride almost daily down a path by my house. It is enjoyable, no matter what the weather. Of course, I don’t ride when it’s raining or freezing. I go very early in the morning in spring and summer, later in the winter. The path meanders, dark gray with the occasional new white blocks, twisting and turning through woods, past parks, houses, fenced yards, village centers, drainage ditches (with water sluggish and black), ponds, lakes, fairways, churches, stores, along streets and roads, strewn with trumpet vines in the summer, yellow-and-brown leaves and pine needles (orange in puddles) in the late fall.

Being an early riser, I sometimes have to wait until it gets light enough to ride. The morning light comes later and later as the year descends while I sit and stare at the black windows, tracing the lucent pattern of shadows thrown on the blinds by the kitchen bulb. I admit I’m addicted to the morning:

I am addicted to morning air,
the subtle touch of softest skin,
breathing in the “pure serene”
of breaking life poised on moist lips.

I am addicted to morning light,
chiseled clarity of intense sight,
colors etched in pristine hues
revealing each petal’s separate presence.

I am addicted to mornings, to becomings,
to searchings, to all that
tumbles into life
at the beginning of another day.

High Cirrus
There is no better weather for riding than early spring. The air is cool and crisp, summer’s high humidity kept at bay. And the sky is a glorious pale blue, with high cirrus clouds streaming across it. Mare’s tails are what my grandmother used to call them, delicate wisps of white fanned out against a crisp morning sky, the air so pure and easy you might breathe them in. Such delicates must be the earthly analogues of believers’ angels, sylphs that ride the wind, bring souls to paradise, sing hosannas in the mystic rose round the everlasting throne of God. They call us to dream, that we might float on air and ascend beyond our grave, terrestrial world where all things fall, where failure dogs our mortal breath till we, too, evaporate.
Spring Shower
It’s fun to ride after a spring shower. Leaves glisten, puddles shrink along edges, birds explode with sound, clouds sail an azure sea and green dazzles, nature once again with promise. Once, like a vision, I saw a goddess in the woods chasing a small dog, her beauty so bright it caused the woods to glow and pulse around her as she floated down the path, causing me to stop and stare in open-mouthed awe; she finally caught the dog and disappeared into a mist soon dissipated, leaving me stock still upon my bike, like Actaeon, thankful she had not been bathing and that I would not be hunted down by a pack of wild dogs, torn apart for seeing her.
August Morning
In the gray early light, I see a water tower, its red light glowing like a cherry atop a fat white onion. As the sun rises, the dense coastal air becomes almost palpable: everything sags, scales & bark & dust build on leaves & lots & drains, and malaise withers branches & trunks & grass under unwashed skies, everything pent & silent & alone, all expectant, stopped still & breathless, empty as old pots, watchful & dark & waiting.
When I ride in the fall brown & yellow oak leaves layer the ground & waft on puffs of errant wind. Acorns crunch under the tires, squirrels frolic on trunks, Cypresses brown & bare their limbs & carmine berries gild Nandina.
I pass a junior-high-school football field on my way out to ride, and there is usually activity on the field, even in the early morning. On this particular day a group of young boys in full uniform stand at attention before their coach. A phalanx, all in white, some so thin they look like Donatello’s David.
There’s also a children’s park I pass every day that is rarely used any more, no matter when I ride. It has a merry-go-round which sits idle, mute swings, and a climbing tree at attention in deep shade, a plastic slide breathless, its tongue out, the wood chips motionless, unruffled by dusty shoes. As I pass a rogue breeze rustles pine needles, squirrels chase one another up a trunk, oak leaves flutter in the early fall sun, a Chickadee perches, fleetingly, on the ladder up the slide, and the merry-go-round maintains its somber peace.
Riding almost always keeps me focused on the present, on the sights, sounds, odors that surround me. Yet my mind wanders. The restless, never-quiet mind ever keeps churning, parsing the past, fabricating the future. It tries to outrun time, the present never enough for its lightening quickness. Our life is fraught with miniscule musts, fractured with needings, burdened under banalities that turn us into drays that plod along, blind to the beauty that beams from every clotted branch, every mottled movement. We live partially, unattuned to the matrices of meaning embedded in the warp of being that trembles on the edge of conscious thought beyond the sill of selfhood, beyond the swarm of myrmidonic tasks that freight our days. So we must learn to lock up the house, throw the key away, face the dawn. Live today.

Robert Miller


Beauty is in the eye
of the beholder— behold
the bluebird and the slug!
Elton sang of blue eyes— I sing
of your dancing browns, heavily lashed
and large, melting me like marshmellows
at camp fire.
It’s said it is easier for camel to go through
a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into
the kingdom of heaven—by what implement,
then, do we measure our chances?
In the animal world, the horned lizard shoots
blood darts at its predator through its peepers—
when you are wronged these days, I become
the horned lizard.
The story goes that the eye can bewitch
and enchant or inflict discomfort and pain
with just one glance—mamas and children
give witness to this phenomenon.
The bard declared the eye of heaven burns
at times too hot—but today it’s winter.
Faith—believing without seeing, trusting without
feeling the nail prints, convinced without touching
the scars.
How do political parties appear to see things
so clearly— yet know not which direction
to go?
The eye can process images viewed
for as little as thirteen milliseconds and see
stars millions of light years away, so—
can I guarantee it to hold you
in its lens for eternity?
We don’t always see in black and white—
sometimes the image is clouded in maybe.
An eye for an eye—
but then what?
Muscles that control the eyes are the most active
in the body. Don’t be confused, though—
the tongue’s are stronger.
Eye opener—you are twenty-one
and have a lifetime to live with your love,
and snap, it’s over.

Jo Taylor

  (an excerpt)

The March super moon
Is only a glow behind
A bank of black clouds.

Our last social event before the quarantine was hosting Willa’s third birthday party in our back yard, right next to the sea wall. Her father, Francis, hired a shave ice truck to drive right up to our front gate and give out free shave ice to all the kids. Wayne bought Willa an inflatable water slide and even set it up and filled it with water, an extravagant gift, but the kids went crazy. Screams of ecstasy all afternoon.

The parents drink beer
While the children scream for joy
On the waterslide.

We had plenty of food that kids love—hamburgers and hot dogs, and lots of beer and poke for the parents. I made the birthday cake, with purple icing of course—Willa’s favorite color. It was March 14, 2020, and some of the kids had runny noses, especially Kaison, the youngest of those three boys whose parents patiently drag them to mass every week, fidgety or not. No more mass for us after March 14. I don’t miss it that much, as Fr. Paolo’s homilies are insufferably long and hopelessly incoherent. He goes on and on about his childhood in Guam as though he were still an adolescent, even though he’s a late middle-aged man who wears his hooded brown Franciscan robe under his vestments at mass but refuses to wear reading glasses, even when he’s trying to navigate the Sacramentary.
Shame on me. Paolo has a good heart. And besides, I know very well that Talk Story, the endless self-generated personal narratives that permeate all aspects of Hawaiian life, are a traditional outgrowth of ancient Polynesian interpersonal relationships. Some sociologists claim that the original intent of these never-ending self-revelations was to discern if the families of the speaker and the listener were friends or foes and if marriages between the two clans would violate any taboos. But I don’t think that’s what Paolo’s up to. He’s more like one of those loud Southern preachers who keeps haranguing his congregation until some exhausted individual finally drags himself up to the front to “get saved.” That feels a bit like bullying.

How different this form of communication is from the Japanese, or even the British traditions. In Japan, excessive talking is socially offensive, and talking about oneself is considered arrogant and egotistical. And I read somewhere that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh’s advice to his sons could be summed up in one sentence, “Don’t talk about yourself.”
Egrets form a line
Above the whitecaps, flying
Home in the gray dusk.

In pale morning sun,
A bee enters the purple
Throat of an orchid.

Rose Anna Higashi


Feint tracks in freshly fallen snow
Signs of a nightly pilgrimage
Between the stand of half-dead maples
And stately pines still ripe with cones
I sit and sip my morning coffee
Safe, inside beside the fire

Paintings hung on naked walls
Brought up from the basement
Where they stood, forgotten since the move
Signs of settling in ... the urge to nest
The scene beyond the full length picture window
Changes constantly ... no need for hooks or picture wire

Face masks worn about the chin
Crowds ignore the warning signs, the pleas, the threats
And still the virus spreads, more dead accumulate
I retreat, behind an amble balance sheet
Hoard TP, subscribe to Prime and Hulu

Skin, parchment paper thin and cracked
Band-aid blunted fingertips, split fingernails
Bulging gut, erratic gait
Signs of the body's inevitable demise
I've outlived ... father, brother and best friend
Still, no clear signs of where or when it ends
... or how
Frank Kelly


At my desk, two windows to my right- Not much to see save an ordinary extraordinary tree in its stark winter beauty
I like the tree. I like trees- all kinds including cypress which I’ve been told some associate with death
In my bedroom are two sepia toned paintings, close ups of you guessed it – trees. After eight years I do not see them anymore
Funny how some things can make you think of not just two things at once but two seemingly opposing things
For some that may be confusing but I like it- like feeling both hot and cold all at once - which I often do and I cannot say during those moments that I am one or the other
at my desk from morning until late evening I look out at the tree. I like knowing it’s there. I like counting on its just being. I wonder who else is looking at my tree
I see no birds nor squirrels taking up residence in the tree nor anywhere else- truly, where do they all go? - New Yorkers often say the same of pigeons unless of course they’ve been crushed beneath some vehicle. Dead birds - a bad omen
There is a woman neither young nor old who sometimes sleeps on a park bench nearby. I don’t know where she sleeps now that it’s too cold to rest uptight on a wooden plank braving wind and other woe. I want to know her, feed her, wrap her in a blanket so warm she’ll never feel cold again. I hate the cold
I wonder how old my tree is and how long it will go on living and who will look out and see it when I am no longer here
People and dogs are often buried under trees. It seems like a good place though I’m not sure why. Maybe for the same reason we bring flowers to the sick and dead . To bring beauty where there is unpleasantness and discomfort. Truth and beauty side by side
My sister visited the graves of my father, grandparents, aunt and uncle. She sent pictures. The once small shrubs now like headstone bookends, have grown like guardians- standing tall shoulder to shoulder – fierce and protective
I wonder if trees and birds, and squirrels in cemeteries are less happy than those outside the granite iron gates
I wonder what lies beneath my tree
If it knows I’m watching
If no birds nor other creatures
wish to share its solemn space

Terri J. Guttilla