Monday, September 18, 2017

"When I had it made I had loose teeth that became nickels under my pillow:" by Mark W. Ó Brien.

 "Oh man, what would you say if I said 
I parked the car in 1965 and couldn't get it back?"
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

When I had it made I had loose teeth that became nickels under my pillow:

Sunday mornings after breakfast were always a race to the bottom of the cellar stairs for boot-black and a good place to stand. If you were lucky you got the old yellow kitchen step-stool with the fold out steps. If you were slow you could be using whatever was left.

It was important to get boot-blacking right the first time or you could be sent back down to do it again. There was no going to church if your shoes weren't properly polished. Or heaven for that matter, and we all wanted that!

A seat in the car was determined by age or whining. But after a curtain point whining only got you laughter and charlie-horses. With all that boot-blacking and reboot-blacking we were almost always late.

There is nothing like the feeling you get when your nose is flattened against the window of the Vista Cruiser Station Wagon, while your entire family (minus yourself) leans into the curve, as you pass through the traffic light, just when it is turning red, because your Dad is the head usher and there is no walking in late ‘cause you didn't get up early enough to blacken your boots in proper time before we were to leave for mass! 

"Slow down Jim! We'll all go to heaven before we get to church!" My mom would say, me knowing full well it had somehow been my fault, because I couldn't balance myself on the woodpile and polish at the same time without falling into the scraps. 

I only wore those shoes on Sundays. Only God knows how they got scuffed up at the back of my closet during the week. My little brother blamed it on the Tooth-fairy. I thought it was the Boogie-man. It probably had something to do with time my brothers and I spent on the playground after church. I didn't think the Tooth-fairy had anything to do with it. He was an alright guy. Especially when he slipped that nickel under my pillow and kissed me good night. In spite of my inability to boot-black and his need for speed.

A good role model
Doesn't know he's teaching you
Even when he is.

© Mark W. Ó Brien

Monday, September 11, 2017

"They met their first resistance here." by Nancy Klepsch.

"They met their first resistance here."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2017

I love a fight - a great righteous fight.  That’s why I settled here.  Someone broke the rules in this town way before I did.  I suspect everyone here has broken the rules at one time or another, because the hills make us.  The trees merge as husband and wife, and, given what life they are in, as brother and sister, lovers, or friends, too. The women I love sometimes join my tribe.  Sleep with me in my head for a night or two and move on to teach others about computers, French, why we write so informally in blogs.  Either way, you see electricity in this stolen gravel sky.  There is current and pulse that bursts and flashes in wild don’t-tread-on-me farmscapes.  The grass moss carpets and flows from pole to pole. There is no doubt that men and women sweated, lived and died here.  That somebody, somewhere stuck out a pole, pointed a bony finger in the face of fear and said, “I don’t like you.” If resistance is measured in Oms, let us all take the passage back to peace.  I can see the road to it.  The hill blocks it.  But, if you close your eyes and hold out your hand, I will take you there.

Blue note granite peak
Taken by war and science
I am a blown switch


© Nancy Klepsch 2017

Nancy Klepsch is the co-host of the Second Sunday@2 open mic in Troy, NY. Her poetry collection "God must be a boogie man." is forthcoming from Recto y Verso Editions

Monday, September 4, 2017

“Season of dusk and fog” by Alan Catlin

"Season Of Dusk And Fog."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

Where dream life and the waking
one intersect, where they coalesce into
shadows that become ghosts of trees overcome
by smoke. Night clings to the undergrowth,
the blackened pitch of a scorched earth. By
morning, the darkness is visible on anything left alive.

redwing blackbirds perch
on stunted marsh trees, splinters
of light through flat clouds.


© Alan Catlin 2017


Alan Catlin has been publishing for five decades. He is the editor of Misfit MagazineHis most recent book of poetry is "Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog" from Presa Press.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A window to my past. by Mark W. Ó Brien

"After Hart." ("A Scene in the Helderbergs near Albany.")
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2017

Recently it was the anniversary of my Mom's death. So it seemed appropriate to take my daughter and granddaughter to one of her favorite places. 

One of the fondest memories of my youth is that of walking through museums with my mother. 

Many was the summer when we wandered through every museum from Glens Falls to Albany to Williamstown Mass. and Bennington Vermont. 

One summer I remember she read someplace about the burgeoning art of gravestone rubbing. The next thing you know she dragged us to Vermont to make a rubbing of Robert Frost's gravestone!

By far Mom's favorite museum was the Albany Museum of History and Art and it was always a highlight of my summer when we went to see "The Albany Mummies." Capped off by seeing The Hudson River School Landscape paintings!

Mom was an amateur landscape painter who never got to fulfill her dream of art college because "Women didn't go to college back then."

So, when I reached college age and wanted to go to art school she happily lived vicariously through me.

When my children were born I did likewise by taking them to museums whenever I got the chance. By then there was also the New York State Museum in the Empire State Plaza. 

My kids still talk about the time I took him to see an exhibit on the making of windows. They sat with me through the most boring slow paced movie about handmade windows ever produced. I loved it! And they enjoyed it just because they were with me.

The other day, for the first time, I went to the Albany institute of history and art with my daughter Sarah and my granddaughter Josephine. Passing on a tradition now four generations long and strong!


I miss my mother
And our walks through museums
She taught me how to see.


© Mark W. Ó Brien 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Orchestra at Sunrise by Aida I. DePascale

"Stovepipe Sunrise."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

Clouds slowly step aside as you peek from behind the sugar maple trees, making sure your winged messengers are awake and announcing this glorious day’s arrival. Such sweet tweets from all your loyal followers. You saunter out, softly caressing my skin.  Splashing colors as you wake up the valley, magically touching every leaf, flower and blade of grass. Spiders quietly await their turn to dine on their webs as your glistening heat transforms their death traps into shimmering inviting lace.  Bees and wasps buzzing joyfully as sweet nectar draws out of the fragrant flowers you helped bloom; all of nature prepares to feast on what you have nurtured.  Everything on this planet is in need of the nourishment you provide.  Your radiance exudes health and happiness. I twirl and sway barefoot in your presence as many of God’s creations line up to perform their concertos in your honor. Every musical composition is beautifully arranged without sheets by these incredible composers.  While absorbing the beauty that you generate, a cleansing warmth showers over us as we rise in strength and stand tall while our energy permeates within until the twilight takes over. What an honor it is to spend this day with you and your band of soaring aficionados.

Soul boosting sunshine
Birds and insects performing
Pure Inspiration

© Aida I. DePascale 2017

Aida I. DePascale is a poet, a writer of short stories and an avid photographer of nature.  She lives in Catskill, New York.

Monday, August 14, 2017

In Sepia. by Carol H. Jewell

"Dancing gives you illusions, 
prayer makes you lose them." 
-Francis Picabia
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

The photographs, taken from afar, taken up close, taken from every possible angle. The tone, sepia. The farm outbuildings in the background, and beyond that, the mountain. Always that mountain. Fortress-strong. Citadel. Bastion. In rain. In snow. In wind. In dreams. Charity, like the mountain, perpetual, eternal. Metapoetry, endless thought. The pen to the page, the camera to the eye.

Told you a story
of a mountain in the mist:
man and camera.


© Carol H. Jewell 2017


Carol is a musician, teacher, librarian, and poet living in Upstate New York with her wife and eight cats. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the College of Saint Rose in 2016.

Monday, August 7, 2017

3 poems by Lorette C. Luzajic.

Just Before It Rained:
 "When The Moon Is On The Hill."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

There was something in the sky that afternoon, like a pinpoint  pale sun in the swirl of clouds. I'd never seen that kind of ice chip moon in summer. The air was low and near, close to the truck, along with that strange kind of low to the ground light that gets trapped under a pending storm.
We had pulled over to figure out where we'd gone wrong. You had a map spread out over your spindly thighs, finger marking where you thought you were, but your attention was outside your window.
After a long time, you came back and told me what I already knew, but had to hear from you. There's no cure this time, you told me. That's what they told me. There was a kind of detached relief in your voice, about the news, about confessing it.   I'm done like dinner, Bobby McGee.
the sky closes in
there are no blues like these ones
the book's last pages

Tea Sandwiches:

"This side of the creek."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2017

Here is the house where I used to stalk you, where I opened my eyes to watch you when our heads were bowed to pray.  Your father always welcomed me to the door, where I appeared, scrubbed and sanitized and ready to be sanctified. Your sweet Ma, always with a tray of tiny egg and mayonnaise sandwiches. Her pickles were the best in town.
Forget what it was that we buried in these hills. Or have you already? I keep coming back. You keep being gone.
the white clapboards are
painted fresh each summer by
people we don't know.

The Poem I Didn't Want to Write:

"Nature always wears the color of the spirit."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

My father is suddenly old. He has never been old. He has never been anything but strong and serene. He is every young girl child's Superman, he is the kind and patient doctor,  the Laughing Buddha, the stern and sensible life raft friend, the man whose prayers are taken seriously by other congregants, and by God.
Here, look. I have dug out of my memory box a picture of Daddy, half my age, in big plastic glasses and a stethoscope. In those days, he worked double shifts at the auto factory, but shows up still in all the pictures where I'm playing. Once for my birthday party with the girls from school, he put "four leaf clover" on a scavenger hunt list to keep us busy for hours and make sure no one would find everything. But there was some kind of mutation in the fields that year, and we found hundreds of them. He was a magician.
If my father was good luck, I was cursed, and learned to weather the worst. When I turned 20, Daddy said, "Your life has already been something out of a country and western song." Johnny Cash was warbling on a cheap cassette player in the kitchen. I was as moody and brittle as I'd ever been, and cast a hostile glare. He was not deterred. Looking straight into me, hand on my shoulder, he said, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
When I was 30 and started burying all my friends, I stood up in my room after a nightmare and thought, since my father had probably never skipped a day, there've been at least 10 950 prayers for me.
The world I know is one that careens between the sun and the pits of the hell with alarming rapidity, and I have found my ways of holding on.
But I do not know this world, this bulldozer barreling the foundation that holds my fragile balance. I do not know what it means to reach to steady myself and find my father frail and uncertain. I do not know what it means to consider a Dad that vitamins and the Lord cannot fix. I do not know whether I am coming or going. I despise the appointments and the pills and the tests and especially, his strange small smile, how it flickers like a dying lightbulb.
This is the poem I didn't ever want to write.
I remember the pink plastic jump rope and the park trail in upper state New York, the rough knit of your palm when you dragged me upright and brushed off my bruised knees. How there was nothing real except the high pitch whine of endless mosquitos.  I remember us putting a little ball of plasticine and a toothpick flag into a dozen half walnut shells we had painted bright with polka dots and stripes, and sending a fleet of little mouse boats down the river.
the bright blue green fields
are waiting for you, Dad, clouds
like cotton candy

Lorette C. Luzajic is the author of four collections of poetry: The Astronaut's Wife, Solace, Aspartame, and The Lords of George Street. She is editor at The Ekphrastic Review, which publishes writing inspired by visual art. Visit her at

Monday, July 31, 2017

"This cloud, the flourish in your Easter Bonnet." By Michael Czarnecki

"This cloud, the flourish in your Easter Bonnet."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015 

Ononta'kahrhon looms in the distance. Clouds hang above, slowly moving away. A road heads toward mountain then curves toward wide open space looming beyond. 

There is a close mountain to explore, to hike on, to delve into its deeper essence. There is also wide open space to discover somewhere beyond mountain’s edge.

How do we choose which terrain to explore? There is landscape close at hand. There is landscape far away. There is interior landscape, there is external landscape. All of this terrain inviting us to get to know, to form a relationship with.

Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” crosses my mind. Do I hike up mountain slopes or drive on into open space, explore what’s beyond?

Either way there is always something to discover, to learn. Whatever path we choose, there is only this moment we are living in.

late winter landscape
remnant snow patches linger
northbound geese wing by

© Michael Czarnecki 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Grandfather’s Place." by Mike Burke

"There was a kind of plenary indulgence to be gained 
in the distant viewing of it's familiar presence." 
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2016

Grandfather built this place back in the 20s barehanded, after he returned from the Great War. After being in the terrible, muddy, deadly trenches he said he need a lot of open space with a grand view. His father had willed him a piece of property that met his needs. His two brothers helped him hauling the materials in the farm wagons with the work horses Duke, Nipper Otis and Shelby.

As he got older he would sit in his lawn chair every chance he got, transfixed, gazing over the fields to the tall silent mountains in the distance. He didn’t want to be disturbed.

When grandfather died he was buried in the field behind the shed along the stone wall facing the mountains he loved, next to his faithful workhorses Duke, Nipper Otis and Shelby.

The mountains hover
Watching all that passes by
They will outlast all.


© Mike Burke 2017


Mike Burke, a blue-collar poet who winters in the nation’s oldest city and summers in a compound nestled in the Helderbergs.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"In Sight." By Catherine Norr

"Let the mountains bring peace to the people." 
Psalm 72:3
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

We were to rendez-vous at the sturdy oak tree I could see towering over the cornfield. No stubbled cornfield then, but full-grown stalks waving in the light wind steadily blowing across from the mountain beyond. What is it? – maybe a quarter-mile? -- maybe even a mile across the field? – I am fit, able to handle that even though my boots are feeling heavy already.

I make my way off the highway, down across the ditch and into the corn. Unbelievable! How can the road be that much higher than here, walking through the cornstalks that are taller than I am by a foot and a half! All I see is a forest of stalks, surrounding me, blocking my view, disorienting me.

So this is what the corn-mazes are all about, I think…only no pathway out. I begin to panic. I’ll wander in circles, lost, for days, weeks – they’ll find my body at harvest time

I begin to take a few steps, then leap up as high as I can. There! A glimpse! The tree – my goal – my target – my destination! Step, step, leap. Step, step, leap. Step, step…

Mockingbird chortles
Accompanies my journey
New dawn clouds hover


© Catherine Norr 2017


Catherine Norr hosts the Arthur's Market Open Mic. in Schenectady, is the author of “Return to Ground” published by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Glenville with her partner Dave.

Monday, July 10, 2017

“Last night I dreamed this would happen” by Alan Catlin

"Last night I dreamed this would happen."
-Adam Tedesco
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2017

    Repressed as memories revealed in a dream.
I am five years old, seeing the world through
a rain smeared window. A tropical rain in a
tropical place. An invasion of wind toppling
massive palm trees and the sound of a
struggling, tethered white horse within
the arc of where the trees are falling.

    In the fever dream of no escape on
an island in an ocean there is nowhere to hide
when the unnamed storms arrive. Nor can there
be a way to describe how it feels to be drowning
in the deep end of a hotel pool while your soon-
to-be mad, unaware, mother smokes unfiltered
cigarettes, lighting one from the other assured,
in her dream, that I am safe among the water

in seas of dusk and fog.

    Or what it feels like to be riding down from 
an island plateau on a no pavement, pothole 
no lights, no shoulders, no seat belts, in army 
issue jeep,
pitching from side to side on ess curves, driving 

    And there, just ahead, beyond a dip in the 
in that place where the rain won’t go, what 
wipers won’t wash away.

    Awake on bad dream beach,
        colonies of bats swarm from
    below seawater-logged decks.

© Alan Catlin 2017


Alan Catlin has been publishing for five decades. He is the editor of Misfit MagazineHis most recent book of poetry is "Walking Among Tombstones in the Fog" from Presa Press.

Monday, July 3, 2017

"They Remain." by Brian Dorn

In hours of darkness, trees deserted by disloyal leaves brace for the torturous winter ahead.  A mountain hardened and trampled shows little mercy for the high-spirited who somehow inhabit it.  The evening shivers as time slows and frosts over.  But the faithful remain in grateful adoration awaiting The Maker's glorious light to shine on His abundantly majestic garden.  They remain (and will always remain) to live one more day on top of the world.

Branches raise their hands
Awake in the night garden
In holy worship


© Brian Dorn 2017

Brian Dorn is a man of his word (which happens to rhyme most of the time).  He's the author of From My Poems To Yours (The Live Versions).  Visit his website at 

Monday, June 26, 2017

"First Hike Up Ononta'kahrhon." by Therese L. Broderick.

"Wolf Hill from the top of Bennett Hill."
© Mark Ó Brien 2016

I wear winter boots because the woods are still wet from days of spring rain. Saturated, the barks of trees have turned ebony-dark, mystical, breathtaking. The blackest trunks are those that, months or years ago, must have burned in a forest fire and fallen to the ground, or have fallen to the ground and then been covered by flames. A crowded colony of attached or unattached branches looks like so many paralyzed chipmunks—bending, looping, curling—as if a lava flow had frozen in a single instant. So much lumber that must be properly tended to! After fire or flood, what can be done with wounded beech, oak, pine? The local Haudenosaunee people must have known how to salvage enough wood for the year ahead: dry it in the sun, shave it, shape it, bless it.

The infant’s first dance—
with his mother’s cradleboard,
to the flaming songs.


© Therese L. Broderick 2017


Therese L. Broderick is a free-wheeling poet residing in Albany, NY. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Wordpress blogs,, or by email at

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Thermodynamics." by Carolee Bennett

" may pass to the golden world..."

-William Blake

© Mark W. Ó Brien 2015

It doesn’t matter what the lovers question. The answers from night are the same: hoot owl, tree frog, twig-snap. A neighbor calls to her dog. A fire siren summons the men. Old songs drift out from a speaker on the porch. The lovers at their fire study each flame as inquiry: what next? what next? Too stubborn to accept they can’t see beyond. Any given ring of light narrow. The boundary quivers. Twelve miles away and three hundred sixty miles away, dystopia suggests itself to officials in the capitals. Signs of it all the way out here. On the lawns, surnames of those staking claim. But no trace of authority on the hill. And what little the creek says on the matter it mumbles. Van Morrison, the one clear voice: We were born before the wind.

His arm around her
shoulder. Her hand on his thigh.
Light on both faces.


© Carolee Bennett 2017


Carolee Bennett is an artist and poet living in Upstate New York, where – after a local, annual poetry competition – she has fun saying she has been the “almost” poet laureate of Smitty’s Tavern. 

plus, i rage against the man (often) & talk poetry (sometimes) on twitter:

Editors Note: Bennett Hill is not named after Carolee but there are those of us who would like to perpetuate that myth. ;););)

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Wearing Nature As Her Veil." by Michael Conner

"Walking in the rainy-day."
© Mark W. Ó Brien 2016

Saturnine mood swings of a regal, revered outcropping, lurking behind the shielding thicket of surrounding brush... Ononta'kahrhon remains demure and aloof yet stalwart in her resolve to keep gawkers at bay.

Wearing nature as a veil to help belie the arrogance of eons of upward thrusting granite, ...perpetually molding, chiseling, sculpting a profile recognized by the constituent inhabitants scattered in her visual wake for miles around.

No bawdy wind whipped, snow capped peaks to scream "mountain"...but rather a more subtle ...and humble posture as one who prostrates themselves in solemn prayer. 
arid plains so flat
writhing in jealous contempt
of Cradle Hill’s poise


©  Michael Conner 2017